Meet the Staff
Ian C. Edwards, Ph.D.
Assistant Vice President for Student Wellbeing & Director of Counseling Services
I approach counseling from a predominantly integrative perspective, which means that I rely upon a wide range of theories and therapies (psychological, philosophical, scientific, and spiritual) to inform my work with students. I treat sadness, depression, worry and anxiety as well as other typically afflictive emotions (anger, jealousy, fear, etc.) by helping students come to the awareness that their experiences of such emotions are meaningful (in that they say something powerful about aspects of the self that need attention, compassion, and care), purposeful, and can be worked through and successfully regulated within the context of a healing therapeutic relationship. I am interested in helping students realize that they have the ability to experience and respond to thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories, as well as events in ways that facilitate psychological growth and even neurological change. And, I greatly value helping students recognize their strengths, develop positive traits, cultivate optimism, and live meaningful lives that lead to happiness.
Thomas J. Smith, Ph.D.
Assistant Director / Training Coordinator
My specialty and interest is in working with college students. I have completed my practicum training and my predoctoral/postdoctoral internship training at two other university counseling centers. I'm an integrative therapist, which means that I incorporate different psychological approaches based on my impression and knowledge about what works for whom. I draw heavily from the existential-phenomenological tradition. What phenomenology is about for me is honoring a student's experience and suffering over any preconceptions I may have about a student. For me, existentialism is about paying attention to the unique ways a student attempts to make his or her life meaningful. In this way, I am interested in the process of self-discovery and identity fulfillment, as well as the place religion and spirituality may (or may not) have in this process. I also draw heavily from the psychodynamic-psychoanalytic tradition. Through a psychodynamic-psychoanalytic lens, I take notice of the importance of current and past relationships with friends, partners, and family members in order to help a student gain more awareness of themselves and others. In addition to relationship issues, I believe that therapy is a space for a student to possibly talk with another person about his or her experiences of human suffering; be it anger, sadness, depressed moods, guilt, grief, shame, stress, worry, or anxiety. As an integrative therapist, I may address your difficulties from a variety of different perspectives; whether that is looking at what you're doing (behavioral), looking at what you're thinking (cognitive), or just good old fashioned problem solving. Regardless of the psychological traditions from which I draw, I think that therapy is about forming a unique sort of relationship with another person who is curious about you and wants to help you.
Laurie Kessler, Ph.D.
Assistant Director / Groups Coordinator
I'm Laurie Kessler, a licensed psychologist. I am a generalist, meaning that I work with clients who are culturally diverse and with different background experiences, presenting issues, and symptoms. I approach my work with the awareness that many clients whom I see in the university setting are experiencing significant life adjustments and relational issues, and working to expand their self-concepts, or sense of "who they are." Also, many clients are facing environmental stressors and challenges (e.g., new responsibilities and expectations, "unknown" futures, prejudice/discrimination, culture shock), as well as some internal obstacles (e.g., low self-esteem, depression, anxiety). Some clients may also be working to overcome the impact of abusive or traumatic pasts or patterns of eating disordered behaviors. I am particularly interested in helping clients reprocess (e.g., grow, make new meaning from) their life experiences and narratives. In this way the past informs, but no longer dictates a person's present and future. In addition to helping clients learn new ways to manage and reduce distressing symptoms (from racing thoughts and lack of motivation to suicidal thoughts) I believe it is important to help clients explore what their symptoms are trying to tell them (e.g., what needs to change in their lives.) I find the process of helping clients to build resilience and self-confidence as they learn to cope with, tolerate, and eventually accept and transcend the less comfortable and often very painful aspects of their lives to be an extremely rewarding part of the therapeutic process.
Matthew J. Walsh, Ph.D., NCC
Licensed Professional Counselor
Assistant Director / Community Engagement Coordinator
My approach to counseling is based on an authentic encounter between the student and counselor. The hope of entering into an authentic encounter during the therapeutic process is that it will lead to a more authentic or substantive exploration of self-discovery and healing. I use an integrated approach in therapy, which draws from a variety of theoretical perspectives (i.e., psychological, spiritual, philosophical) and therapeutic techniques, as well as a recognition and respect of the inherent dignity that exists in every person. My belief is that the therapeutic encounter and relationship can provide an environment where creativity (potential for new ways of thinking and being) and spontaneity can exist within the context of having negative emotions, relational conflicts, low self-esteem, worry thoughts, fears and doubts, exploration of sexual orientation, identity issues, or a traumatic history. This recognition of one's potential to be creative and spontaneous can lead to being more open to the possible invitation that may exist from an experience, emotion, or anxiety making room for new insight, meaning-making, and ultimately healing and a more authentic you.
Samantha Taylor, LSW
Assistant Director/ Triage Coordinator
Quincy Stephenson, LSW
Assistant Director / Outreach Coordinator
My approach to treatment is compassionate and holistic. I believe compassion is at the core of our ability to practice wellbeing. I believe in clients having an opportunity to explore their beliefs, fears, and truths in a safe space to hopefully obtain clarity, change, healing, and potentially their solution. I recognize change as the act or process or becoming different. Three non-negotiables to change are action, the process, and our ability to let go in order to become different. Change is consistently happening, with or without our permission. Counseling is a tool that can be used to assist us with navigating the challenges of change, especially in moments when we are not sure which way to go.
Amal Kouttab, Ph.D.
Fundamentally, I believe that effective therapy begins with establishing a basic foundation of trust. This process can take time, particularly for those who have experienced betrayal, trauma, and interpersonal loss. During therapy, I work with individuals to identify recurring themes in their narrative, moving back and forth between the past and present, gradually uncovering threads that connect temporal experience. A focus of therapy, particularly for those who are experiencing relational difficulties, involves identifying current and past relational patterns and how these may have developed as a result of lived-experience. I also attend to ecological factors that may be contributing to distress, such as experiences of marginalization and systemic oppression. I tend to draw upon a variety of therapeutic techniques, such as mindfulness-based and self-compassion approaches to help individuals develop present awareness of internal states, abide with primary emotions, and refrain from self-judgment. While I do not believe that insight alone is sufficient to produce change, I do believe it motivates change. Insight that is truly transformative includes not only intellectual awareness, but also the experience of associated emotions. Thus, creating a space that facilitates the expression of emotion is also a critical component of my work.Jayme J Jenkins, MA
Jayme J Jenkins, M.A.
Ashley James, M.A. Marriage and Family Counseling
Triage and Intake Coordinator
Practicum and Internship Therapist
Information in this site is not intended to replace a one-on-one consultation with a licensed mental health worker. If you are a student having problems, we urge you to contact us at 412.396.6204 to schedule an appointment.