Alumni Spotlight


Lauren Geier, M.S.

What are you doing now, and where?

  • As of August, I am the State Director of CASA which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. I am a state employee within the Juvenile Division of the Administrative Office of the Courts and am responsible for oversight of the 23 local CASA agencies around our state. CASA is a National program module that trains volunteers to be appointed by Juvenile Judges to advocate for children involved in the foster care system. Each advocate is assigned to 1 or 2 children and works to build relationships with the child and collect information from the various stakeholders (ie. foster parents, biological family, therapists, physicians, educators, child welfare, etc.) and report to the judge an opinion related to the child’s needs. There are currently over 4,000 children in foster care in our state and while DCFS is making strides to lower caseloads and improve conditions, volunteer advocates have the unique ability to spend more dedicated time to the children as they only have a caseload of 1 or 2 and stay with those children from assignment to permanent placement, whether that is a story of reunification, adoption, or aging out of the system. My role as state director is to be a resource hub and technical assistance stop for the local programs. I also bridge from the local programs to our state legislature and National CASA. I serve on multiple multidisciplinary work groups focused within the child welfare scope.
  •  My new role as State Director of CASA is a bit of a departure from my long career in community mental health. I remain a therapist at heart but after 15+ years, I was ready to take a step back and work on systemic changes that will hopefully impact children who are in foster care and who have experienced trauma for the better. I believe my education, professional experience, and passion for creating trauma-informed systems for children in foster care combine to make me a good fit for this role.
  •  Additionally, I own Geier Counseling and Consultation PLLC in which I provide clinical supervision for new LAC’s. In the future, I may take on a few private practice clients but at present I am focused on my full time job and supporting my supervisees.

What is your current title?

  • State Director of CASA

Tell us about your experience at UCA’s Psychology and Counseling program.

  • I earned both my Bachelor’s in Psychology and my Master’s in Community Counseling from UCA. I later returned to complete the Supervision course, as well. I loved my time at UCA and felt connected to those in my cohort and to my professors. Looking back, I appreciate the size of the program as well. The professors were sometimes intimidating but always approachable. Being able to meet individually with various professors and advisors prepared me to feel comfortable staffing difficult cases with psychiatrists and present cases in court settings. The fear of so many is whether what they are learning in the program will translate into the working field. After graduating with my master’s, my husband’s Army career took us to Georgia and Tennessee. I found myself working alongside graduates of big name institutions but always had just as much, if not more, competency than my colleagues. In fact, UCA’s focus on exploration of various theoretical orientations, aided me in being able to adapt well to service on multi-disciplinary team settings.

Please share any recent accomplishments, honors, or good news.

  • I have only been in my current position since August 15. Hopefully by this time next year, CASA will have more accomplishments to list!

What advice do you have for current students?

  • My biggest piece of advice is to not limit your experience to one area while in school. I remember that on the first day of my first class of grad school, Dr. Rowell asked us to write down one population which we never expected to work. I confidently wrote that I couldn’t/wouldn’t work with young children who had been sexually abused. I’ve found this to be some of the most meaningful work I’ve ever done. I am fortunate that my practicums and internships were broad in scope. I would also add that, if possible, find employment or volunteer opportunities that aid in skill building. I worked for UCA housing during undergrad and graduate school and found no better training in being able to manage a large “caseload”, deal with crises, and work within diverse teams. Additionally, time as a camp counselor and at the Conway Human Development Center aided in my personal and professional development.
  • Another piece of advice is to continue skill building outside of the program’s scope. While my degrees built my counseling foundation, I found other opportunities to help me develop necessary parallel skills including technical writing, management, public speaking, grant writing, and advocacy.
  • As an avid reader, I will also emphasize the importance of reading both fiction and nonfiction books about the populations you serve. Learning does not end with a diploma. Let me know if you want a book list!
  • Finally, at the risk of sounding self serving, I will mention that finding a competent clinical supervisor is essential to your development as a practitioner and as a professional who is prepared to defy the high burnout rates in our field. My clinical supervisors (the Georgia licensure process required two supervisors) remain some of the most influential people in my professional and personal life. From them I learned how to ask difficult questions about my practice as a therapist and attribute their influence as preparing me for a successful career. (Thanks Terry and Dr. Mary!)

 



Elizabeth Stout, Ph.D.

What are you doing now, and where?

  • I am the Training Director for Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. My team and I develop, manage, and maintain our multi-level training program which includes practicum students and masters interns from a variety of disciplines, as well as doctoral students from Counseling Education and Health Service Psychology. When I am not training, I have a special clinical interest in issues of gender and sexuality. I am also proud to be working on the board of the Arkansas Psychological Association to help bring education and advocacy to psychologists (including psychologists-in-training) and psych examiners across the state. If you are not already a member, I strongly encourage you to consider joining (shameless plug).

What is your current title?

  • Assistant Director/Training Director

Tell us about your experience at UCA’s Psychology and Counseling program.

  • I was in the very first cohort of the Training Program. As a first generation college student, it seems I have been destined for a lot of firsts. I was the first to go on internship, the first to defend a dissertation, and the first to graduate. I imagine that makes my experience quite unique. As with all firsts, there were a lot of growing pains. Finding new practicum sites was a challenge (especially assessment sites), there were zero alum to look to for support around Qualifying Exams, and research labs were still being developed. On the other hand, I had the ability to co-create my experience with my wonderful cohort in collaboration with the UCA faculty. For instance, we were aware of the growing emphasis in Integrated Behavioral Health (IBH) and were able to successfully advocate for course training in IBH. I also loved being able to do a mental health study abroad in China with Dr. Xie! Being trusted to build the foundation for a newly developing doctoral program was an honor. Even today, my education is my most valuable possession and my biggest accomplishment.

Please share any recent accomplishments, honors, or good news.

1. I just got a corgi, which I have always wanted. His name is Hagrid because he is a giant at almost 50 pounds!
2. I was promoted to Training Director in 2017 and began developing a doctoral internship program. In 2018 we became members of APPIC.
3. I recently submitted a self-study for our internship program and have been granted a site visit for December. For those who are unfamiliar, a self-study is essentially an application for APA accreditation. Fingers crossed for us that it goes well!
4. Last spring I was awarded a grant to develop a training library for the internship program.

What advice do you have for current students?

1. Seek mentorship where you can expect to safely share your vulnerability and be held accountable for personal and professional growth.
2. Diversify your clinical experience. Take as many practicum experiences as you can across a wide variety of sites (i.e., community mental health, hospitals, assessment settings, private practice) and with as many presenting concerns as you can (i.e., trauma, gender and sexuality concerns, substance abuse, serious mental illness, etc.). As a TD, I one of the things I am looking for is versatility and adaptablity.
3. Take this time to really work on yourself. Question your privileges’ and any ways that you might participate in oppression. Observe your own reactions to conflict and be curious about that. A high degree of self-awareness and insight is one of the most impressive things you can demonstrate in internship and job interviews. This is where you might circle back to number one.