Alum Embraces Antioch’s “Mindfulness” in her Professional and Personal Life
One of Ashley Miller’s (CMHC, ’18) earliest childhood school memories is taking a clipboard and a pencil to the bleachers during recess, in order to sit with a friend and listen to her struggles. Already at an early age, she had the passion to help – and the inclination to take notes – but she credits her time at Antioch University for helping her to ultimately focus that calling and prepare her for the real-world challenges of her present vocation as the Student Support Counselor at Stevens High School in Claremont, New Hampshire.
“Before graduate school, I was sure about my chosen career path but confused about my therapeutic orientation,” Miller remembers, “though I largely identify with an eclectic orientation–meaning that I utilize aspects of many different therapies – I now feel grounded in a mindfulness-based approach. This frames how I view my clients and the world around me; it is crucial to have this understanding of one’s work.”
Antioch’s social justice focus also had an impact on Miller. “I had little exposure to social justice and advocacy before Antioch. Truthfully, I was unaware of the school’s social justice focus even when I applied. This quickly became an important part of my counseling identity. I aspire to always provide culturally appropriate care and to continue expanding my awareness of diversity.” Pressed for specifics, Miller obliged, “In particular, the group counseling and social-cultural diversity courses greatly impacted my growth and development. These classes (and their instructors) pushed me to explore personal and professional identity and to utilize a social justice perspective.”
Miller also credited her early internship placement, “I was fortunate to have two wonderful sites: Merry Meadow Farm in Bradford, Vermont and the VA Hospital in White River Junction, Vermont. Supervision at both of these sites was strong and impactful.” But she gives the lion’s share of credit to her colleagues, “Perhaps most important to my experience at Antioch, however, was my cohort. From the first semester to the last, I felt an indescribable bond to the other members of the CMHC program, especially to those also in my group counseling class.”
Miller hopes to eventually open up a private practice after she gains her state licensure, but she loves her time at Stevens High and is looking forward to expanding her role there in the very near future, “I plan to implement a greater focus on prevention next year; this includes bringing awareness to such issues as suicidal ideation, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorders, and domestic violence.”
Miller’s capstone project explored the efficacy of mindfulness-based therapies on co-occurring PTSD and Substance Use Disorders, since that time she has fully embraced the “mindful life” seeing the value personally, and professionally: “The self-reflective process must occur, and it must occur continuously, if an individual hopes to be a good counselor. We can’t ask or expect our clients to explore their innermost felt experiences if we cannot do the same.”
In that spirit, Miller offers some advice for the next generation of counselors and mental health professionals who are building their own foundation for the future: “Be intentional in your pursuit of greater self-awareness and work to understand your biases. As you do this, remember to also be gentle and compassionate with yourself, just as you would be with others. Lean on your supports when you need to. Ask for help. Practice self-care. Breathe. We come to know and empathize with our clients best when we do the same for ourselves.”