Christopher McGuire '22 will graduate with a bachelor of arts degree in psychology and a pre-professional certificate in mental health as part of his counseling sequence. Inspired by his father's work in crisis counseling, McGuire interned with the Samaritans Southcoast suicide prevention hotline. He will continue working for the organization remotely this fall while attending Antioch University of New England for a doctor of psychology degree in clinical psychology. He is considering a career in crisis work.
How was your experience in the Honors College?
Inspiring and rewarding. Working with like-minded students and being mentored by dedicated faculty are some of the best aspects of being in the Honors College. Having a faculty mentor has allowed me to learn and develop new research and professional skills. I have stepped out of my comfort zone and taken on challenges that have greatly prepared me for graduate school and my career.
What did you study in your research projct?
I have worked with my APEX project mentor, Dr. Brian Ayotte, on a series of projects studying mental health outcomes of nurses working directly with COVID-19 patients. I focused specifically on how self-care behaviors (such as diet, exercise, relaxation, etc.) can mediate health anxiety for such nurses. It was amazing to me that something so simple as basic self-care made such a huge difference for nurses working in chaotic environments.
I had the opportunity to present my work at the Eastern Psychological Association’s annual research conference in New York City, which was a great experience and made my hard work worth it.
Tell us about the pre-professional certificate your earned in mental health and your internship with Samaritans Southcoast
I am a part of the counseling sequence, which is available for psychology majors beginning in the spring of junior year. The sequence requires you to have an internship for two semesters working directly in the field. The certificate prepares students interested in mental health work to be very competitive graduate school applicants who wish to pursue a variety of counseling work.
I interned at Samaritans Southcoast suicide prevention hotline over the past two semesters. I spoke to callers in need of emotional support and who are considering suicide. It was a nerve-racking experience at first, however it has been truly enlightening speaking to these callers and helping them find hope during their darkest times. Hope can come in many forms but can sometimes get lost when strong emotions build up. I try to help callers identify these sources of hope for themselves and highlight the qualities that make them strong.
I have since accepted a full-time job with the organization as a helpline manager that I will begin shortly after graduation. It will fit perfectly with my graduate class schedule this fall. I'll be taking calls, supervsing other callers, and training.
The best advice I can give to someone trying to help a friend or family member is simply to listen and put yourself in their shoes. Oftentimes, people aren’t looking for advice and just want to feel heard and understood. This experience has taught me valuable clinical skills and further solidified my desire to work in the mental health field while helping those in need.
Why did you choose to attend UMassD? How was your experience here?
I primarily chose UMass Dartmouth for financial reasons, as UMassD provides students with a quality and affordable undergraduate education compared to other four-year schools. Since I have always planned on graduate school, I knew this would make a huge difference in the long run. Also, UMassD provides plenty of extracurricular activities, opportunities to work directly with professors, and is a diverse and accepting community that really spoke to me.
Why did you choose a psychology major?
My father has always been my primary influence to major in psychology. He has worked in multiple roles for the Department of Mental Health for those in crisis. I have always admired the work he does and how he goes about it, which sparked my decision to major in psychology. From there, I have found my own calling to the field and hope to serve my community as he has done for so long.
Do you feel well prepared for your career based on the education you received here?
UMass has provided me with so many opportunities to develop professional skills and real work experience that I am fully prepared to take the next step in my career.
Do you have a favorite class or professor at UMassD?
By far my two favorite professors are Dr. Ayotte and Dr. Schierberl Scherr. They have done so much for me and my development over the past few years that I honestly would not be in the position I am without them. I bug them on a weekly basis asking for advice on grad school, career decisions, research projects and they are always willing to sit with me and talk. These relationships will be some of my biggest takeaways from my UMassD experience.
What advice would you give to future UMassD students?
My advice is to try not to put too much pressure on yourself, try new things, gain any kind of experience you can. Even if you end up not liking it, it can be just as valuable to realize what you DON’T want to do than what you DO want to do. Narrowing down options is a great way to figure out what kind of career path you wish to take.