Counseling program evolving with dedicated students, new club

September 12, 2014 / by / 0 Comment

By Michael Ferraresi
GCU News Bureau

After the 2002 accident in which he lost the use of his legs, Jared Monroe felt he had hit rock bottom. The frame of a new house on which Monroe had been working at a Gilbert construction site had fallen, crushing his shoulder, breaking his back and leaving him in the hospital for a month.

He was learning to use his wheelchair. But just in his mid-20s, Monroe no longer was able to work as a framer, his life seemed too much of a struggle, and he thought his future was limited because he wasn’t in college. As a result, he turned to drugs and alcohol.

Jared Monroe (left) and Reisto Belovich lead the Canyon Counselors club for GCU counseling students. (Photo by Darryl Webb)

Senior Jared Monroe (left) and junior Reisto Belovich lead the Canyon Counselors club for GCU counseling students. (Photo by Darryl Webb)

But eventually, through substance-abuse recovery and counseling that helped him deal with his repressed emotions of the traumatic event, Monroe decided to dedicate the rest of his life to helping people who are experiencing similar substance-abuse challenges.

Today, Monroe is working on a bachelor’s degree in counseling with an emphasis in addiction, chemical dependency and substance abuse from Grand Canyon University. The 38-year-old senior also is president of GCU’s new Canyon Counselors club.

“I love all my teachers,” he said. “They’re very professional, they have a lot of knowledge in their fields, they have good teaching skills and they’re available. They try to help us get into the field and they’re always there for us.”

Monroe, who has played wheelchair basketball for years, said he plans to move into a master’s program in professional counseling after graduating with his bachelor’s degree this spring. He plans to become a licensed counselor.

GCU offers master’s degrees in professional counseling and addiction counseling through the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. The University recently updated the curriculum for its bachelor’s degree program in counseling with an emphasis in addiction, chemical dependency and substance abuse. Two master’s degrees in Christian counseling were added in April for students who want to incorporate faith into their counseling practice.

“The campus is really accessible for me,” said Monroe, who commutes from his home in Avondale. “But I just like the connections I’ve built here. I’m just trying to trudge through and get into the field.”

Monroe is running the Canyon Counselors club with vice president Reisto Belovich, a junior who’s double majoring in counseling and music, in addition to officers Mariah Allen and Leera Tripp, both juniors. The club is open to counseling students and to psychology majors who may want to study counseling at the master’s level.

GCU counseling instructor Denise Krupp, who also serves as clinical consultant for GCU’s Office of Field Experience, is the faculty adviser to Canyon Counselors. She said the club will expose students to mental-health topics and help them understand the steps necessary to enter a master’s degree program.

Krupp said many GCU students, like Monroe, are motivated to study addiction counseling based on personal experiences or family situations that have led them to learn to help others victimized by substance abuse.

“(Jared) really understands what addiction is about because that’s what he lived for many years of his life,” said Krupp, who has 25 years of counseling experience and still works with clients in Phoenix. “He’s just really motivated, at least in the classes I’ve had him in. He’s not just about getting an ‘A.’ He really sees that bigger picture … he wants to help his clients someday.”

Belovich, 19, said Canyon Counselors plans to expose students to mental-health issues and professionals working in the field through community outreach and events on campus. He said he is interested in counseling because he feels drawn to helping people who are in conflict.

“I was always the peacekeeper in every social circle I was in,” he said. “I just want to help people. That’s my end game in life.”

Reach Michael Ferraresi at 602-639-7030 or [email protected].

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