Sandy Richardson had been working in marketing at a treatment center for women with eating disorders. A major responsibility was public speaking about the issue. “But I couldn't speak before groups of clinically-trained therapists because I wasn't licensed in the field. It felt like I was being held back from something I really loved,” she said.
Because licensure was the goal, Richardson was attracted to Capella's CACREP accreditation for its Mental Health Counseling specialization at the master's level. “I knew I needed that accreditation to go for my license,” she says.
Because she was changing fields, the ability to interact with other learners who were already practitioners in the field was invaluable. They gave her a taste of what was “out there” and inspired her to do further research on her own.
“I started a new path later than some. And sometimes I see my colleagues who have been in the field a long time because they started their careers much earlier in their professional lives, and I wish I could have more clinical experience under my belt,” she says. “But when an opportunity comes like it did for me, you have to make the choice to act or not. I would say to anyone thinking of starting a new career—it's definitely worth it.”
Immediately relevant learning
Richardson discovered that what she learned in her courses could immediately be put to work in her job as a speaker. “Even before I graduated, I became better at what I was doing professionally,” she said.
Richardson learned how much credibility a degree from Capella carries. When she began taking the first steps toward licensure, she understood the importance of Capella's approval in Arizona for her specialization. “They had obviously done their homework on Capella and my application was accepted with no questions asked,” she said.
To become a licensed professional counselor, she is working on two years (4,000 hours) of field experience, which she is acquiring at a drug and alcohol treatment facility for youth and young adults.
A future with options
“Now I have options. My long-term goal, after I get my license, is to go back to speaking in the field—which is my first love—and to set up a private practice.
“I have the ability to use my talents and skills. The opportunity to put my talent to use makes me better at what I do—it's a reinforcing circle,” Sandy said. “I believe in what I do and I feel blessed to be able to do something that I love.”
"When an opportunity comes, you have to make a choice to act or not. I would say to anyone thinking of a new career—it's definitely worth it."