In May 2000, I received my undergraduate degree from The College of New Jersey, in Political Science. While completing my undergraduate studies, as an Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) scholar, my academic interest was geared toward becoming more knowledgeable about public policies and legal issues (such as welfare reform and affirmative action policies) that have a direct impact on ethnic minority populations. Upon graduating with a BA in Political Science, I pursued a Master’s Degree (MA) in Counseling Education with a specialization in Substance Abuse and Addictions Counseling (2001-2004). In an effort to better apply knowledge (course work) and skills (clinical training) to working with ethnic minority populations receiving substance abuse and addictions treatment services, I was also employed as a Senior Substance Abuse Counselor at the Albert “Bo” Robinson Correctional Center. The population at the Center consisted of primarily African American women and men with a history of substance use and drug-related offenses. It became clear to me that certain traditional and procedural approaches used to treat adult substance abusers were (and still are) incongruent with the needs of African Americans. Upon completion of my Master’s Degree, I was awarded Student of Year of Community Counseling at TCNJ, Chi Sigma Iota (Counseling Academic and Professional Honor Society Internship), Certification in Substance Abuse and Addictions, and become a National Certified Counselor (NCC).
From 2004-2006, I pursued my Educational Specialist degree (Ed.S.) in Marriage and Family Therapy, I was able to begin applying my knowledge and experience with substance abuse counseling to working with families dealing with substance abuse issues. My research topic of interest was geared towards the integration of substance abuse counseling with ethnic minority families. Similar to the process of receiving my MA, in an effort to integrate knowledge and skills, I became the coordinator of the Family Service Program at Bo Robinson. I become more interested in the connection between substance abuse counseling and family therapy and its impact on ethnic minority and underserved populations. It was then that I accepted the position of a Family Preservation Services (FPS) Therapist (In-home Family Counselor) at the Family Guidance Center in Trenton, NJ. My primary responsibilities were to conduct in-home assessments, develop case plans, and provide family counseling. In addition to the previously mentioned employment opportunities, I have also served as a Substance Abuse Counselor at the Family Guidance Center and Adolescent Substance Abuse Counselor at Mercer Street Friends (MSF) in Trenton, NJ. At MSF I was instrumental in developing clinical protocols for the Youth Services Department and established a clinical manual currently being used in the department. Although I am no longer employed at MSF, I continue to provide consultation services for the Youth Service Program.
On December 17, 2009, I obtained my Ph.D. at Drexel University in Couple and Family Therapy. My research interests have remained consistent with my previous academic training and clinical experience. The Couple and Family Therapy Program provided me with the opportunity to broaden my research skills and further shape my career goals. Currently I am the Clinical Director at UIH-Family Partners in Trenton, NJ and an adjunct professor and individual supervisor at The College of New Jersey, Counselor Education Program and Marriage and Family Therapy Program. I have taught several courses such as Substance Abuse and Addictions Counseling, Ethics, Legal, and Professional Issues in Marriage and Family Therapy, Multicultural Counseling, and Group Counseling. Additionally, I am also an adjunct professor at the Somerset Christian College in Somerset, NJ. I have taught Introduction to Psychology and Counseling Theory.
As I continue my work in community-based programs, I intend to be instrumental in developing more suitable, culturally appropriate interventions for African American family affected by substance abuse. I plan to continue collaborative partnerships with community-based programs by expanding my dissertation study, in which consisted of exploring the experiences of transporting Functional Family Therapy (FFT) into community based program. The goal of this study was to identify the facilitators and barriers of implementing FFT into community settings from the perspectives of administrators, supervisors and clinicians. My research agenda is to advocate and draw attention to the mental health disparities of ethnic minority families, by exploring how best to adapt clinical interventions so they are culturally sensitive and how to best train culturally competent clinicians.