Erin Richerson may have started her career as a teacher, but it was during a life-changing experience abroad that she began to rethink her initial plan.
An educational mission trip to Kenya with Africa Inland Mission International sowed the seeds of Erin’s career change. Initially a teacher and dorm parent at Rift Valley Academy in Kijabe, Kenya, Erin progressed to become the counselor in residence at the Academy for the remainder of her time in the country.
“While living overseas,” Erin relates, “I discovered my passion for counseling. In 2008, I completed my master’s degree online in Biblical Counseling through Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary while in Kijabe, Kenya. I love connecting with the teenagers there, and I found that they were dealing with the same types of issues as those in the United States, such as relationships, body image, anxiety and depression.”
With a new career focus in hand, Erin returned to the U.S. and began to seek additional knowledge about the current mental health topics that affect adolescents.
Why Our Professional Program
“After living in Kenya for 10 years, I realized that I was lacking knowledge about current best practices, techniques and interventions,” she says. “The mental health field is constantly changing and evolving, and I knew that I needed to catch up on current research in order to be an effective therapist here.
“My training was dated and, although totally functional overseas, I needed a comprehensive program instead of individual classes.”
Because children and adolescents have unique issues that require treatment tailored to their specific emotional needs, developmental issues and family circumstances, the Professional Program in Child and Adolescent Treatment offers a series of advanced and topical workshops designed to help mental health professionals stay current in their work with children, adolescents and their families.
“The courses were easily accessible and relevant,” Erin affirms.
“I was in classes with people from different backgrounds, ages and experiences. I expected the experience to be somewhat intimidating, but there was a collaborative element to each of my classes and I felt respected as a peer in the mental health field. I did a lot of learning but also felt like I added value to other people’s classroom experience, as well.”
One instructor, in particular, stood out to Erin: Daniela Owen, Ph.D.
“Daniela Owen was extremely personable and relatable,” says Erin. “I felt that her content [in Treatments That Work: Evidence-Based Psychotherapy for Children and Adolescents] was straightforward and practical. She taught us how to incorporate cognitive-behavior therapy in our work with depressed adolescents. I was able to use what I learned immediately.”
But it was in Using Age-Appropriate Expressive Art Interventions With Children and Adolescents with Janet K. Long that Erin discovered a new approach to providing therapy for her clients.
“The expressive arts course was also extremely interesting, and I still use the materials that I purchased when taking the course,” she effuses. “I had never used sand tray or play therapy in my practice before, but as a result of taking that course, I took a more extensive weekend course on child-centered play therapy in Oakland.”
How She Is Preparing for Her Future
Erin completed our program in 2018, which was a big year for the graduate.
The first half of 2018 saw Erin working as the mental health coordinator with the Institute for Children’s Aid and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. There, she worked with unaccompanied refugee minors who were granted refugee status coming into the United States and who were then being placed in foster homes.
“Through that position, I knew that I needed to go back to graduate school to continue a career as a therapist,” she says.
So she applied and gained admittance to Eisner Institute for Professional Studies, and began studying online to become a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT).
Then in September, she was offered a psychotherapist position with Life Compass Coaching and Counseling in Davis, Calif., where she still works today. “Life Compass Counseling became my practicum site after I began the MFT program. And because it was such a great fit for me and an incredible organization, I have remained with them as a therapist while I finish my degree towards licensure.
“Our organization’s purpose is to provide high-quality, affordable psychotherapy and counseling services to individuals, couples and families,” she continues.
Working with children is central to Erin’s long-term career goal.
“I am looking forward to graduating this June and am hoping to become an LMFT in the next two years. Beyond that, I see myself working in my own therapy practice or working with refugee children in a national organization.”