Nicole Walker, MACC Program

“God has used my life experience and my pain to teach others and especially to help others through counseling.” That, in a nutshell, is why Nicole Walker is pursuing her Master of Arts in Clinical Counseling (MACC) degree. Thanks to the incredible healing God has achieved in her own life, Nicole now wishes to come alongside others in their pain and offer the incredible comfort, revelation, and transformation she knows is available through the power of the Holy Spirit.

This summer, Nicole is in the home stretch of Winebrenner’s intense MACC degree, which for her, includes an internship at a social service agency in Toledo, Ohio. Prior to the arrival of COVID-19, Nicole enjoyed meeting with clients one-on-one in person and she facilitated two group sessions, one for anger management and the other for domestic violence. Once COVID-19 reached Ohio, most clients were not comfortable coming into the facility, even with strict safety protocols in place. Not only that, but the majority of the clients did not have the technology to meet via video conference. As such, “telephonic therapy” became Nicole’s only connection to her clients. She divulges, “We were all unsure how to do this!” Her education had trained her to watch body language and facial expressions, and she herself relied on body posture and empathetic movements to communicate compassion. Take all those cues away and you have a very different kind of counseling experience!

With no other available options, Nicole began telephonic therapy with her clients. One blessing in disguise was that those who were formerly in her group sessions now qualified for one-on-one counseling. This shift allowed Nicole to go deeper with each individual than she normally could in a group setting. She explains that she employed the same techniques over the phone that she used in person, encouraging clients to engage in mindfulness, deep breathing, reflection, etc. Although she had to work “harder” to discern what was happening in a person’s life, she made the most of the situation.

Nicole definitely grieves for those clients who were “at risk” when the pandemic hit. Add a pandemic to their already tumultuous lives and a once a week telephonic session was simply not enough. Her more “tender” clients needed the intangible benefits provided by face-to-face contact. Naturally, people were concerned about their safety and their finances. How would they pay for counseling, which they desperately needed to meet the requirements of their probation? A few clients’ anxiety levels increased to the point that they were leaving her voicemail messages every day. Now that society has opened up a bit more, anxiety levels are decreasing. Clients can once again meet at the facility and receive the face-to-face care they prefer.

When Nicole considers her life after graduation from Winebrenner, she hopes to specialize in trauma. Because of her own difficult childhood, she feels led to help adults who are still in bondage to the traumas they lived through in their youth. Her second passion is mental health in the African American community. Nicole has witnessed firsthand the stigma and embarrassment associated with mental illness and wishes to educate the African American community and church on what mental illness is (and is not) and how it can be properly treated. She has deep gratitude for her church and for Winebrenner, both who are seeking to address this gap and yet, she realizes there is much work to be done.