Veteran Kylie Higgins is on a mission to help veterans overcome addiction through counseling.
“Veterans paved the way for me and now I am paying it forward. I am dedicated to their mental health and erasing the stigma that comes with seeking counseling,” said former Air Force Senior Airman and current VA mental health professional.
Counseling offers a safe place to find ways to cope.
“Too often veterans wait to seek help for fear of it ruining their careers,” said Higgins. “Nothing could be further from the truth. It is a myth that records are public and everyone knows their business.”
Her passion for mental wellness began in college as she watched a friend in the throes of addiction.
“I watched helplessly as she went down a dark hole. I knew right then I would dedicate my life to helping others overcome personal obstacles,” said Higgins.
Higgins graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychobiology specializing in Behavioral Neuroscience, but job prospects were limited because she had no practical or real world experience.
A friend told her the Air Force offered unprecedented career training.
“The Air Force gave me a chance that I could never have received in the business world. I experienced hands-on patient care. I developed the skills to work autonomously or in a team-based setting. I became a seasoned technician with a demonstrated track-record of successfully working with diverse client populations in one-on-one and group settings and gained in-depth knowledge of principles, methods and procedures for diagnosis and treatment, said Higgins. “I come from a military family. My mother, cousins, and grandparents served. It seemed like a natural evolution.”
She hasn’t looked back since.
The new mother is a mental health professional at Wright Patterson Air Force Base and student at Union Institute & University pursuing her Master of Arts with a major in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.
“I am a new mom and work fulltime. I had to find a university that would respect my professional and personal schedule,” said Higgins. “I googled mental health online education and Union popped up. The first thing I noticed on Union’s web page was the veterans resource center. I called Geri Maples, the veterans services coordinator, and Geri explained the university is committed to helping veterans complete their education and career goals through the Veterans in Union program,” said Higgins. “Admissions counselor Casey Walker explained that Union offers a flexible schedule, online coursework, face-to-face academic experiences, and best of all, a cohort with other veterans.”
Higgins also was drawn to Union’s focus on adults and the nonprofit university’s mission to engage, enlighten, and empower them to pursue professional goals and a lifetime of learning, service, and social responsibility.
“I had to find a university that understood my priorities and goals, and I have” said Higgins.
Her experience in the military will always help her focus her efforts. As she says, “Veterans fought for me and now I am fighting for them.”
The reward is not about money. It is about saving lives.
“Having a patient say I saved his life is the only reward I will ever need.”