Hello! My name is Jessica Bardenheier and I am a second year graduate student at Longwood University in the Counselor Education program, Mental Health Counseling Track. I recently attended the VCA Annual Convention in Norfolk, Virginia. It was an incredible experience! Many current students from the cohort attended as well as professors and alumni. I felt right at home with all the friendly faces!

The convention offered a wide variety of sessions, covering diverse topics in the field of counseling. As well, I attended an awards ceremony to be recognized by the Virginia Counselors Association Foundation as a 2018 Pete Warren Fellows. I got to receive the award from my current professor and Department Chair, Dr. Kevin Doyle. This made the whole experience feel like it came full-circle because of all the Lancer representation at the convention and awards ceremony! We filled two big tables!

My favorite sessions at the convention focused on trauma-informed care, self-care for clinicians, and utilizing the concept of “positive triggers” and compassion in crisis situations, in order to re-frame cognitions, and minimize traumatization on clients. I felt that everyone at the conference was like-minded in that there was a palpable passion for this helping profession being expressed and felt throughout. It was energizing to be around so many well-versed counselors from all over the Commonwealth of Virginia and to be able to learn and grow with them.

Specifically, it was especially refreshing to see so many sessions being presented by other graduate students, not just professors. This allowed me to see the depth of work that is being done at all levels of this profession and how many amazing, well-rounded Counselor Education programs there are in the state. I saw sessions from students at JMU, Virginia Tech, and others. Longwood was in good company at this convention! This also made me start thinking about doctoral programs once I graduate because of all the growth opportunities in this field.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to have received a travel grant from Longwood for this event. Without it, I would not have been able to engage in this caliber of professional development in such an intentional and meaningful way. I highly recommend seeking out professional development opportunities and avenues to represent the graduate cohorts within Longwood Graduate Studies! This opportunity allowed me to grown in my professional and therapeutic identity as a counselor and graduate student. I am looking forward to VCA’s 2019 convention and to have an even great Longwood turnout!