Becoming a Voice for the Suffering

Posted by Janae Melvin on August 9, 2016 in counseling, masters, MBA, "Ottawa University" Patt-(13).jpg
Patricia Carrington prepares to receive her Masters of Arts in Counseling hood during Commencement ceremonies

Patricia Carrington ’06/’16 WI has a soft spot in her heart for people. She has worked with children suffering from HIV, those who have been abused, and served as an advocate for families in need of a voice.
 
Knowing she had a calling to serve early in her career, she started off
her educational journey as a pre-med major. This was in the mid-to-late 1980s, at a time when managed care and HMO’s began, and that type of service didn’t mesh with Carrington’s feelings on health care.

“Everyone is entitled to have good health care,” Carrington said. “That’s what I believe. Good health and good mental health care. And if they don’t have it, they need an advocate to help them fight for what they deserve.”

So that’s what she did. Carrington decided to switch majors and become a social worker. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee close to 25 years ago and used her degree to work in the urban areas of Milwaukee helping those who needed help the most.

“To feel good and satisfied with my work, I need to be in the trenches,” Carrington said. “We all have function and dysfunction in our families and our lives. My goal is to show people that if dysfunction is your ‘normal’, we can find a different way for you to live. We can show your children a different way to live their life. You don’t have to stay in the abusive relationship. You don’t have to do drugs. If you have had some bad things happen to you, my goal is to help you figure out how to get past it and to achieve overall wellness. When you feel good, you put good stuff out there for other people to see and enjoy.”
 
As time went on, Carrington began to think about opening her own practice. She realized she needed a little more expertise on the business side of her career, so she began looking at MBA programs in the area and online. She came across Ottawa University and the Health Care Management track of the MBA degree.
 
“I am a parent and needed to work and support my family,” she said. “The program at OU allowed me to do that. I could earn my MBA and take care of my family. I was done in 18 months so I was really excited about that. The program is geared towards adults and adult responsibilities. They worked really hard to make sure school fit in my life and I appreciated that.”
 
A couple years after earning her master’s degree, she realized she was still not satisfied with where she was professionally. She wanted more. She kept thinking about how she could help people. She felt like she was simply a band-aid for people she was helping in the hospital where she was working – fixing them and sending them out. She knew they needed assistance in the long term and she wanted to be the one to help them. She learned about the Master of Arts in Counseling (MAC) program at OU and felt that it was calling her name.
 
“It seemed like a natural progression for me. I already had the MBA skills I needed to open my own practice, now I would be able to get the counseling skills I needed to make a difference in the community. This is exactly what I needed. I was really excited and motivated about getting into the program.”
 
After 17 years of helping people, Carrington knew what she wanted to do for the remainder of her career. She could listen to people and help them until she retired. Carrington returned to OU and began her MAC education.
 
“Patricia was an ideal graduate student,” said Dr. Rhoda Miller, professor of psychology and professor in charge Master of Arts in Counseling. “She integrated her many years of experience as a Certified Social Worker with the foundational concepts and practices of the counseling profession. Classmates looked to her almost like they might look to a teaching assistant for guidance about everything from course content to navigating Blackboard.”
 
For both her OU degrees, her classes were a combination of on ground and online. There were nights she would head to class from work, go home and make dinner for her daughter, help her daughter with her homework, put her to bed and then sit down to work on her own homework. She knew returning to school wouldn’t be easy and talked with her family extensively about her choice and asked for their help and support.
 
“My mother and nieces would help me pick up my daughter when I had to stay late or go to a study group. I missed things because I had a client in crisis or a project I had to complete. It was tough. But, I wanted to teach my daughter that you feel better when you give. What better way to help the world than to help someone be self-sufficient.”
 
During her time at OU, Carrington began an internship with a small, newly opened urban clinic. Before she graduated, she had been offered a job with the clinic.
 
The clinic provides services targeted towards minority groups. According to Carrington, there are different issues in minority groups that make mental health assistance a taboo request. They are concerned about how they will be viewed if they ask for help, so they seek other ways of dealing with the issues they are facing.
 
“I want to get out and make sure we’re giving people the tools so they aren’t suppressing what is wrong but rather learning to process their problems and move forward in life. People have horrific things happen to them and they don’t ask for help – they aren’t able to successfully move forward from the tragedy they experienced. They need to be given the opportunity to function and be healthy, learning to manage their stress, their feelings and their emotions in order to contribute to society in a positive way. The clinic I’m working for now, that is our goal. Anyone who wants our help, we want to be there for them. Sit back and listen. Help them figure out what internal demons they are fighting so they can move forward.”
 
Carrington’s first day on the job was two days after she graduated with her MAC degree; she was asked to represent her class at graduation as the commencement speaker. She is a big fan of Ottawa University and the way they treat students, both in the classroom and in the online class forum.
 
“I love to learn and OU made it possible for me to fulfill that part of my life and the constant curiosity I have,” she said. “The way the program is set up, it works. You can be successful. They give you the tools to achieve excellence in all aspects of your life. This model of learning is perfect because we still have to live. That’s what turned me off from obtaining my graduate degree from a larger university. How would I survive? How would I be able to support my family? The way it is set up and spread out over the 18 months, it was the best possible option for me and my family. The entire university – from Wisconsin to Arizona – they want to see their students succeed. They knew me and they helped me. They really cared about me and wanted to see me be successful both while enrolled and after graduation.”