Skip to main content

Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology

Meet some of our current students!

Taylor Allen

Photo of Taylor Allen

Hometown: Tampa, FL

I chose the Counseling Psychology program at WVU because I want to enhance my competency in working with clients in a therapeutic setting and continue developing my skills as a researcher. The Counseling Psychology program at WVU does a great job at integrating hands-on training and research. In addition, my interview for this program allowed me to see how welcoming faculty and students are in this program and I am excited to begin the Counseling Psychology program at WVU this fall. My career goals include counseling adults and children with anxiety disorders and eating disorders in an outpatient setting, while establishing my own private practice. I would also like to work with athletes suffering from eating disorders.My research interests include: (1) Examining how the coach-athlete relationship affects various aspects of an athlete’s life; (2) Examining how athletes and non-athletes may differ regarding body image and weight-related attitudes/behaviors; and (3) Examining the interpersonal and environmental factors that may be associated with unhealthy weight loss behaviors in athletes and non-athletes.


Mary Burkhart Polk

Photo of Mary Burkhart Polk

Hometown: Hallowell, ME

I was first drawn to the Counseling Psychology program at WVU when I learned of the flexibility given to students in regards to their research interests. I was excited to learn that students are not required to "match" with a specific faculty member and the program follows a cohort model. I also appreciated the first year in the program being focused on course work and ensuring the cohort is ready to start practicums. Upon meeting the faculty and students in the program, I immediately felt welcomed. Everyone I met was prepared to help answer any questions I had and provide any information they thought I may need. My career goals include running my own private practice specializing in providing holistic care, as well as training therapy dogs for use in the private practice and community. I also hope to create outreach programs designed provide enriched learning experiences and counseling to undeserved populations, specifically local schools. My current research interests include the effects of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) on levels of discrimination and openness to diversity. I am also interested in the growing research on animal assisted therapy. Specifically the use of therapy dogs with children diagnosed with a learning disability.   


Christian Carey

Christian Carey in a yellow tie and blue sweater

Hometown: Wheeling, WV

There are many professional and personal reasons why WVU was the best fit for me. On a personal level, aspects of finances, location, and opportunities made West Virginia University an ideal school. On a professional level, the program offered a collaborative cohort experience with a focus on research, advocacy, and practice from supportive, knowledgeable faculty. The balanced nature of the program and the countless opportunities available at a large school like West Virginia University promote a well-rounded, adaptable psychologist who can succeed in any professional setting. 

I often say my career goal is to be happy when I am working. From my perspective, that falls into the activities I do at work more so than my job title. With this in mind, I hope to find a career that provides opportunities to do a mix of teaching, practice, and research. This may look like a position at a university hospital, within an academic department, or at a community mental health center, but I am excited for the opportunity to explore settings that promote the balance I am looking for. My research interests include mental health accessibility for individuals with disabilities, self-determination and interventions for college students with disabilities, interventions for children with disabilities, and professional development and training for practitioners who work with individuals with disabilities. I am excited to continuing exploring my research interests as I learn more about the relationship between counseling psychology and disability.


Ben Darling

Ben Darling

Hometown: Suttons Bay, MI

I chose the counseling psychology program at WVU because of my experiences at interview day. Faculty, staff, and students welcomed applicants wholeheartedly and exemplified the supportive and friendly environment in our department. Students then went above and beyond to answer questions and to share their experiences in the program, making themselves available by phone and email in the weeks to follow. It was these early relationships that made me feel immediately connected to WVU. Another factor in my decision was the opportunity to live in Morgantown and join the WVU campus community. As an outdoor recreation enthusiast and avid sports fan, I have the opportunity to explore Wild and Wonderful West Virginia and sing Country Roads following a victory with 65,000 of my fellow Mountaineers. WVU is the perfect place for me to learn, and have fun doing it.  My career goals include working as a staff psychologist at a university counselor center. I aspire to work with college students and student-athletes in the areas of psychological assessment and cognitive enhancement.  My research interests include the psychometric quality of standardized measures of ADHD in adult populations. The aim of my dissertation is to validate an assessment of attentional functioning and to provide empirical support for a neurocognitive model of attention.


Connor Fais

Connor Fais

Hometown: Dublin, OH

I chose the counseling psychology program at West Virginia University for a variety of reasons. However, the program’s commitment to their students, and the importance the program places on the values of counseling psychology (e.g., strengths-based, developmental, and multicultural approaches) serve as major reasons for attending. Furthermore, the program offered a balanced approach to both research and practice. The curriculum and faculty have helped me to better understand myself, both personally, and as a future counseling psychologist. Finally, the program has also aided me in the development of my theoretical orientation as a therapist, which serves as an integral part of my career identity. My career goals include working as a supervising psychologist and executive director for a non-profit mental health services organization. My research interests include examining levels of hope, along with parent-child relationship quality, and their potential association with youth trauma symptom severity.


Sandra Fanning

portrait of sandra fanning

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

I had heard a lot of good things about the program from my advisor of my masters program, (a WVU Counseling Psychology alum), and was encouraged to apply. After meeting with the current students of the program, I found them to be welcoming and helpful; especially during the interview process. They were open and honest about the experiences and how they compared to their expectations before beginning the program. Additionally, the faculty’s commitment to tailoring my time in the program to fit my career and academic needs made choosing WVU one of the easiest decisions I’ve made concerning my career. Ultimately, I would like to teach. But before making my way to academia, I would like to work in a community-based setting helping underserved populations. I also hope to use research to help inform my practice and develop culturally appropriate modalities of treatment. I have found that it was much easier for me to learn new information from professors who were genuinely interested in the information they were teaching and had contributed to the area in some fashion. I hope to use my passion to shift the negative views of mental health often expressed by minorities while also inspiring future students. My research interests include: the effects of racism, gender discrimination, anxiety and stress management, cross-cultural psychology, intersections in identity, and trauma.


Craig Foster

Craig Foster

Hometown: Thomason, GA

I chose the WVU Counseling Psychology program because I felt the faculty provided the individual attention I desired. The program at WVU allows students to pursue their own interests and encourages students to think critically about issues facing the field of psychology.  My goal immediately after internship is to work at a large university in the Southeast, enabling me to work with individuals who are at an important time in their development. Long term, I would like to join a private practice which will allow me have a diverse schedule through both assessment and therapy.  My main research interest is non-pharmacological treatments for ADHD based on growing concerns surrounding stimulant abuse. I hope to continue this line of research after I graduate and incorporate it in my own practice as a professional.


Courtney Hull

Photo of Courtney Hull

Hometown: Terra Haute, IN

I chose the Counseling Psychology program at WVU for many reasons. The program offered training opportunities and experiences that aligned with my career goals. Additionally, the students made me feel at home. The program had a collaborative, supportive atmosphere, which was something that I valued when looking for a doctoral program.  My career goal is to work as a psychologist in a correctional setting. I also hope to be involved in advocacy, and community outreach work during my career. My research interests include correctional officer perceptions of offenders with mental illness, the intersection of crime, poverty, and education, and dementia caregiver issues.


Cassandra Homick

cassandra in a red shirt

Hometown: Canfield, OH

In addition to hosting faculty with whom my future research interests match, the doctoral counseling program at West Virginia University adheres to the scientist-practitioner model of training to which I am highly committed. Throughout doctoral level training, it is my goal to learn, exercise, and improve my skills in the integration of practice and science, and WVU’s program provides me with an array of opportunities to broaden and strengthen both my research and clinical interests. Furthermore, I highly appreciate the emphasis that the program places on multiculturalism and diversity.

Upon completion of my doctorate, my immediate employment objective is a position in a hospital or outpatient setting. I ultimately hope to work in private practice. My research interests include investigating multicultural psychology with a concentration on sexual orientation and gender diversity topics. Additionally, the majority of my graduate research focused on the study of risk factors and resilience in adolescent girls and first-year college women, and I am very interested in pursuing further research in this area.


Whitney Hyatt

Whitney Hyatt wearing a blue green dress in front of a wooded background

Hometown: Chester, VA

There were several characteristics of the Counseling Psychology program that led me to choose WVU. The APA-accreditation was the first checked box, along with the high licensure rates. I was then attracted to the internship placement sites in hospitals, university counseling centers, and inpatient settings allowing a variety of field experience. My research interests were similar to one of the faculty members which made me zone in on WVU's Counseling Psych program. Lastly, even though I was unable to attend the interview day in person, I was able to have a phone interview with every faculty member present. The phone interview made me feel relaxed and comfortable as if I were having a casual conversation with a group of colleagues, which was a key signal to me that I would fit in well here. 

I received my Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Counselor Education focused on K-12 school counseling. While I enjoyed counseling children and adolescents in the school setting, my career goals have re-focused to practicing in an inpatient or university setting. I hope to gain field experience as a psychologist before pursuing teaching as well. My research interests include school violence, such as shootings, are prevalent research questions in our country today. My research interests align with Dr. Jeff Daniels on violence and hostage taking.


Catherine Kepner

catherine kepner in a blue striped t-shirt

Hometown: Altoona, PA

I chose the counseling psychology program at WVU because the cohort model is great and fosters a sense of belonging. In addition, Morgantown is a city that reminds me a lot of my hometown and is a great college town. My career goal is to end up in a hospital setting, working with both inpatient and outpatient clients. My research interests include sexual assault, violence against women, gender, and LGBTQ+ issues. 



Alex Kinder

Photo of Alex Kinder

Hometown: Uncasville, CT

I chose the Counseling Psychology program at WVU because of the cohort model. It really fosters a community atmosphere and everyone, fellow students and faculty, are incredibly supportive. My career goals are twofold. I would like to be a clinician at a college counseling center and be an adjunct professor for a psychology department as well. I am interested in researching collegiate athletes, psychological resilience and have just recently developed an interest in career counseling and career development.



Chelsea Latorre

chelsea latorre wearing a grey sweater in front of a wooded background

Hometown: Tujunga, CA

One of the reasons I chose WVU's counseling psychology program was because of the environment. Being from California, I knew West Virginia was going to be a long way from home, but the program was definitely worth applying for. During interviews, the faculty made me feel very comfortable, the students made me feel welcome, and the department as a whole made me feel as if I belonged there. This sense of community has remained since I began the program in 2015, and the supportive environment continues to foster growth, curiosity, and achievement in students. Upon graduation, I hope to be employed at a university counseling center. I also have interest in opening a private practice later in my career. My research focuses on the effects of mindfulness and self-compassion on perceived competence and self-efficacy in counseling trainees.


Claire McCown

claire mccowan in flowered blouse

Hometown: Leesburgh, VA

I chose WVU because of the close alignment between my research endeavors and those of the faculty. When applying for doctoral programs, I wanted to attend a university that emphasized culture and diversity as a foundation to guide students’ understanding of psychological phenomena, clinical skills, and research practices. My interview day at WVU was very welcoming and I felt a strong sense of community and camaraderie in the counseling department. After earning my doctoral degree, I intend to gain employment at a university conducting research and teaching. I also intend to provide low-cost therapy services to transgender and gender nonconforming youth and adolescents. Additionally, I want to utilize my degree to better advocate for the equitable treatment of the LGBTQ community through policy change and targeted public health efforts. 

Broadly, my research focuses on understanding health disparities related to systemic inequities in resource access for transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) populations. My master’s capstone explored the relation between verbal victimization in childhood and relational aggression in intimate adult relationships for TGNC individuals. I hope to expand this research at WVU to better understand pathways to intimate partner violence (IPV) specific to the TGNC community and to provide equitable resources for survivors and perpetrators.

I am also interested in understanding TGNC relationship dynamics. As a doctoral student, I aim to explore the ways in which identity salience, partner gender identity and sexual orientation identity, and community connectedness relate to relationship health. Through this research, I hope to gain insight into best practices for clinicians working with TGNC clients and partners.

Finally, I am interested in the concept of dead naming and how this impacts TGNC youth and young adults. Specifically, I intend to explore how the digital footprint of dead naming on parental social media impacts familial relationships, perceptions of safety, outness, and mental health among TGNC youth. Through this line of work, I hope to provide greater understanding of TGNC family dynamics and assist parents in fostering an affirming environment for their gender variant children.


Sarah Milam

Sarah Milam

Hometown: Annapolis, MD

I chose the Counseling Psychology Doctoral Program at WVU because of the warm and inviting atmosphere fostered by the faculty and students in the program. I was excited by the programs of research being conducted here and was impressed by the varied and unique practicum opportunities offered in this area including the ability to work with rural populations, children, adults, college students, and at hospitals, universities, community centers, and VAs. In addition, as an avid lover of the outdoors I was drawn by West Virginia's numerous offerings of outdoor pursuits such as hiking, skiing, whitewater rafting and paddling, and more. I hope to pursue a position conducting research and teaching as a tenure-track faculty member at a university. I am also interested in pursuing a position at a college or university counseling center. My research interests include multiculturalism, diversity, social justice, and positive psychological principals such as post-traumatic growth and forgiveness.


Kristin Montalvo

kristin montalvo in orange sweater

Hometown: Houston, TX

At the end of the interview process, I ultimately chose WVU because of the students, faculty, and Vicki! During my interview weekend at WVU I was able to see firsthand how warm and welcoming everyone truly was. I was able to witness the collaborative atmosphere of the entire program. In addition, as a runner and explorer, the numerous opportunities for outdoor activities was so appealing to me! WV is gorgeous and there are so many aspects to appreciate. I knew leaving Texas would be tough, but I felt I would be in good company at WVU! 

My career goals include working in a clinical setting in which I would have the opportunity to work with trauma victims. In conjunction, I would like to explore academia with a position as a clinical professor. Ultimately, I plan to develop a private practice in Texas. Throughout my career I plan to strive to remain active in community outreach and advocacy for under served populations. My research interests currently include trauma and how it relates to substance use. After working with adolescents in the education system, I have always had an interest in college success in first generation students. I hope to be able to explore these interests further in the future.


Jonathan Nauser

Photo of Jonathan Nauser

Hometown: Poplar Bluff, MO

I chose the Counseling Psychology program at WVU because it presented the best opportunity for me to not only broaden my education, but also expand into different settings in which my skills and knowledge would be put to use. The program allowed myself to further develop my practical experience and also encouraged the development of my research skills to benefit the field and my future therapeutic practice. My career goals include practicing in a general hospital for the treatment of presenting pathology. Other career goals would be practicing the assessment of clients for presenting clinical pathology under the the federal government. My research interests currently include the contributing factors to drug relapse as well as methods to prevent relapse by measuring self compassion and self efficacy.


Olivia Scott

Photo of Olivia Scott

Hometown: Falls Church, VA
Many factors informed my decision to attend West Virginia University for my Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. Location and finances were considerations, but what truly solidified my choice was my experience on interview day. The department seemed to create the optimal holding environment for the personal and professional development of its students. As a current fourth year, I can say that I have not been disappointed. I have felt the perfect balance of support and independence within the program. But most importantly, I have received the necessary empowerment to excel as a psychologist.



Kalo Sokoto

kalo sokoto

Hometown: Morgantown, WV

When I pursued Counselling Psychology in my undergraduate back home in Kenya, my goal was to learn more about myself with the hope that I will become a better citizen of the globe. After graduating, my first job had me working with the refugee population and, during my time there, I discovered practitioners require the skill and tools to advocate for their clients in addition to counselling them. I have since taken an interest in marginalized groups and advocacy from a mental health standpoint. It is for this reason that WVU's Counselling Psychology program whose focus is on diversity, social justice and multiculturalism felt like the right fit for me. My plan is to use my platform as a trained psychologist to increase awareness regarding mental heath. I plan to use my acquired research skills to document and draw attention to the experiences of marginalized groups in my home country, Kenya and the African continent at large. I am interested in the life experiences of women of color, the use of fiction to enhance well-being , childhood trauma among women and resilience among women.


Tim Swiger

Photo of Tim Swiger

Hometown: Glenville, WV

I chose Counseling Psychology at West Virginia University because of their dedication to researching provider competencies and curriculum development aimed at serving the Veteran population. Although accreditation and reputability of the faculty were key elements in my selection process, their focus on social justice and multiculturalism were significant contributing factors for me attending school in the mountain state. As a native West Virginian and Veteran of the United States Marine Corps, the importance of culture among both populations are important strengths and challenges for mental health providers, and West Virginia University does an outstanding job of illuminating and addressing the needs of both. Finally, the counseling psychology program's match rate with American Psychological Association approved sites is impeccable in recent years, with many students matching within Veteran Health Administration facilities. I sought a program that would train me to become a culturally competent psychologist in my home state, that knew what I needed, and ensured that I was as good a match for them as they were for me, I found West Virginia University. My career goal is to become a staff psychologist with the Department of Veteran Affairs. My research interest include moral injury and combat trauma.