Faculty Spotlight on Dr. Christie Jenkins
As a core faculty member in Walden University’s online MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree program, Dr. Christie Jenkins is a role model for students on numerous levels.
From Dr. Jenkins, students learn the value of higher education. Her dedication to counseling domestic violence survivors led her to earn a PhD, so that she might teach and inspire master’s- and PhD-level students. And as a licensed clinical mental health counselor and educator, she works to empower the greater good. From Dr. Jenkins, students learn to live Walden’s mission: to transform themselves as scholar-practitioners to effect positive social change in their communities.
Dr. Jenkins is well-known for her work within the professional counseling community, serving on the boards of state and national organizations. And in addition to the courses she teaches, Dr. Jenkins is also the faculty advisor to Walden’s student organization, LGBTQ+/PRIDE.
We sat down with Dr. Jenkins recently to learn more about her career in counseling and hear her views on some of the vital issues facing society today.
You’re a very strong voice in the LGBTQ+ community. What are some of the topics or issues you’re most passionate about?
The issues that I feel most passionate about right now are LGBTQ+ rights, trans issues in counseling, and domestic violence and sexual abuse in the LGBTQ+ populations.
Can you tell me about the work you do as president-elect of the Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues in Counseling (ALGBTIC) board?
This year, I am the president of the Ohio chapter of ALGBTIC. My platform involves awareness of, training for, and outreach to the LGBTQ+ population. I have been elected the ALGBTIC (now SAIGE, the Society for Sexual, Affectional, Intersex, and Gender Expansive Identities) national president-elect for July 2020–June 2021 and will be taking over as national president of SAIGE in July 2021.
How do think the issues facing clinical mental health counselors have changed or evolved over the years?
If we just look within the past couple of years, we see many issues brought to the forefront. For example, there was a case in Tennessee where a counselor did not want to counsel a person from the LGBTQ+ community. This led to a law where a counselor in Tennessee could deny services to anyone based on the counselor’s “sincerely held principles.” This goes against our Code of Ethics and the American Counseling Association actually removed their nationally held conference and moved it [from Tennessee] to San Francisco.
In Ohio (my state), proposed legislation (House Bill 658) would allow a counselor to be charged with a felony if a youth came to the counselor to discuss gender identity and [the counselor] did not disclose this information to their parent/guardian. The LGBTQ+ population already has an astronomical rate of self-harm and suicide. We would essentially be forcing youth to keep their identity a secret for fear that they may have to endure such things as conversion therapy, a treatment that has no empirical data to support it and actually has evidence to show that it is extremely harmful.
I am licensed in both Ohio and Michigan. This past year, Michigan counselors were under fire when a law was being presented that would limit their scope of practice. The legislation was an attempt to ensure that counselors could not diagnose and identify problems. This would have made their licenses obsolete. What happened next was a resurgence of the counselor spirit. Counselors from all over the state banded together and fought the legislation and helped to formulate legislation that spoke to the breadth and depth of counseling in Michigan. It is a cautionary tale for counselors in every state to not become complacent. It is imperative that you remain connected to state counseling organizations and remain knowledgeable about legislation.
In line with Walden’s mission, how do you incorporate social change into what you teach?
I try to be a role model for my students. I tell them that when I received my bachelor’s degree, I was working in a safe house for survivors of domestic violence. I felt like if I was going to make a big impact on this community, I needed to get a master’s degree and counsel survivors of abuse. After I received my master’s degree, I decided that I could make an even bigger impact if I received my PhD and I was able to teach many master’s-level counselors to work effectively with domestic violence survivors.
Then, I found Walden and not only was I able to teach master’s and PhD-level counselors to work effectively with domestic violence survivors (just in the state of Ohio), I was able to effect social change globally! I have taught students as far away as Cairo, Egypt, skills to help survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Now, my work has no bounds!
I also attend the National Leadership Conference every year in June. Each year for the past decade, I have traveled to Washington, D.C., and have spoken with many legislators about continued funding for child abuse and mental health issues. I show my students not only what social change looks like, but also advocacy in action.
How do you think Walden supports the LGBTQ+ community?
Walden has been a great proponent of getting the LGBTQ+/PRIDE student organization off the ground. During our last on-ground residency in December 2019, we were able to host our first LGBTQ+/PRIDE mixer. We had over 100 students in attendance and at least half of them signed up to be a part of the movement! That is incredible and shows the commitment that Walden is providing to make this a successful support system for the LGBTQ+ community.
What advice would you give to a graduating student about to go into counseling?
You may not make millions, but you will change lives. What you do is provide the skills necessary for someone to find their worth and mental health. With that being said, we are far better at taking care of others than ourselves. Remember to always be enriching your self-care. Otherwise, you run the risk of burnout. You cannot pour from an empty cup, so make sure that you are continually filling your cup back up. You also need to find something that you are passionate about, so you can elicit social change in your community. We have a unique position to help others and we need to use those powers to help folks who may not have a voice or a choice.
Do you have any advice to help people cope during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Everyone needs to keep their social support connections—it is vital, even if you have to meet via Zoom. I have routine Zoom meetings with my faculty family at Walden. It truly warms my heart. They say that we are all in this together, but we are going through this somewhat solo. It is imperative that we know that we are not alone and that we are all struggling on some level with these pieces.
Remember to ask for help, if you need it. I have been counseling clients via telehealth. If you need to talk to someone, Walden has counseling resources that you can still access during the coronavirus pandemic and in the future for faculty, staff, and students. Being inside all the time can be very depressing. Try to get outside, get some sunshine and fresh air, and be active. That helps get those endorphins up.
What suggestions do you have for celebrating Pride Month virtually this year?
We can celebrate in many different ways. We can adopt a local agency that helps the LGBTQ+ population. We can help support an entity that is making a difference. We can provide donations, our time and talents, or even monetary gifts. It is whatever you can provide and whatever you feel comfortable doing during this time. Even sending a card of support for staff who are on the front lines or going out and helping homeless LGBTQ+ youth can be incredibly powerful.
How can I be an LGBTQ+ ally?
This is such an important question. There are many ways to be supportive. You can get training regarding LGBTQ+ issues. It is not enough in 2020 to say that you are LGBTQ+ “friendly.” You can be a great person, but not have the knowledge to truly be of help. It is imperative that you know what you are doing when you are reaching out to folks from this community. You can place stickers, flags, etc. in your office/workspace. I have “discrimination-free zone” stickers and flags up in my office. It allows people to know that this is a safe space for the LGBTQ+ population. You can volunteer your time and talents and/or donate to an LGBTQ+ cause that compels you.
What do you wish for the LGBTQ+ community?
I wish that the LGBTQ+ community can feel supported and whole. It is what I wish for everyone, but few populations have felt the hated, bigotry, and immense marginalization as this group of people has felt over the years. I wish that everyone could be kind and educated on LGBTQ+ issues.
Earn an MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
Diversity is at the heart of Walden University, where students from across the U.S. and more than 120 countries are pursuing bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees online. In Walden’s MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree program, you’ll gain multicultural insights from expert faculty that will help inform your work with the client population you plan to serve.
Walden’s MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling online degree program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and prepares you for licensure as a mental health professional.
Walden’s online clinical mental health master’s program gives you the flexibility to tailor your study to your career goals. Choose the general program or one of five specializations: Addiction Counseling; Forensic Counseling; Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling; Military Families and Culture, or Trauma and Crisis Counseling.
A master’s program in clinical mental health counseling can help you change lives, beginning with your own. Start your journey to becoming a licensed mental health professional and a career of challenge and fulfillment.
Dr. Christie Jenkins, a core faculty member in Walden’s MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree program, has been working in the social service field for over 25 years. She began working in domestic violence safe houses as a child advocate, life skills trainer, crisis intervention specialist, and court advocate. Dr. Jenkins has been working as a counselor for over 15 years. She is independently licensed in two states and has a supervisory designation in the state of Ohio. She is also a nationally certified counselor.
Dr. Jenkins has been the CEO, associate director, and supervisor for the Family and Child Abuse Prevention Center and the Children’s Advocacy Center. She has over 15 years of experience working with a vast array of clientele in inner-city Toledo. She has presented at the local, state, and national levels on various topics affecting counselors and their clients. Dr. Jenkins is also very active in professional organizations for counselors. Her primary research interests are in animal-assisted therapy and domestic violence.
In August of 2019, she was awarded the Helping Hands Award by the School of Counseling GLUE Committee. She was awarded the Public Policy and Legislation Award from the Ohio Counseling Association in 2017. She was also named Counselor Educator of the Year in 2017 by the Ohio Association for Counselor Education and Supervision. She was awarded the Innovation and Excellence Award for Excellence in a Large Nonprofit, from Northwest Ohio Non-Profit: Toledo Community Foundation and honored by the Ohio Senate for this work. She was previously named 2013 Ohio Counselor of the Year by the Ohio Counseling Association and 2012 Clinical Supervisor of the Year and 2012 Clinical Counselor of the Year from the Northwest Ohio Counseling Association. In 2015, Dr. Jenkins was the president of the Ohio Association for Counselor Education and Supervision. In 2016, she was the president of the Ohio Association for Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Values in Counseling. Dr. Jenkins is the past president of the Ohio Counseling Association's Political Action Committee. She is the current president of ALGBTIC (Ohio) and the past president of Ohio Mental Health Counselors Association. She is the ALGBTIC (national) president-elect. She is also the current president of the Ohio Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers. Dr. Jenkins is also the faculty advisor for LGBTQ+/PRIDE at Walden.
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