Meet the Staff
Ian C. Edwards, PhD
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, PhD
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, PhD
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, PhD, NCC
Licensed Professional Counselor
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.
Shawn Francis-Coleman, M.S P.C
Assistant Director / Outreach Coordinator
Being privileged to work in the college setting, I combine my passion and zeal for the improvement of humanity with my educational background in existentialism and phenomenology. My approach tends to be eclectic when needed, however, I usually function within from the existential approach and search for meaning in the dynamics of what is happening in the students life as well as what is occurring in the counseling room. Upon triage of a student, I use phenomenology and to turn symptoms into symbols, allowing the student and me to turn their stress into strength and problems into power. I also aim to help align the students physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental bodies towards achieving self-actualization.
Elizabeth Bendick, PsyD
Lauren Manning, PsyD
I approach therapy from an integrated perspective and view human connections through a systemic lens. To me, this means being attuned to both the systems that a student chooses to be a part of (e.g., friend groups) and those that are imposed (e.g., societal ideologies). In this way, one can be seen not only as an individual, but as a person in relationships and groups such as families, communities, and cultures. Through this awareness, we can work together to find patterns of how you relate to yourself and others, as well as possibilities for change and growth. As an integrative therapist, I work from a variety of approaches to helps students gain a sense of peace with the various parts of their experience. This may involve working through past experiences, focusing on current ways of relating, or creative problem solving. Regardless of approach, a general theme among my work is to resist pathologizing symptoms but instead using them as signals that may be calling for additional exploration and compassion. It is in this spirit that people can foster resilience, courage, and confidence to engage in authentic ways and move towards a greater sense of fulfillment.
Ashley James, M.A. Marriage and Family Counseling
Triage and Intake Coordinator
Samantha Pringle, L.S.W.
Assistant to the Director
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.