mental health Archives - Community | Union Institute & University

Yolanda Villa

Mental Health Check-in – Free Webinar Wednesday, May 13

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Union Institute & University is pleased to present a free webinar on COVID-19 and its impact on mental and physical health, Wednesday, May 13 at 8:00 p.m. EST/5:00 p.m. PST.

Host Yolanda Villa, LPC, Union alumna and faculty in the M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program, will facilitate a discussion centered on these questions:

  • What is the state of your mental health during the quarantine?
  • Have you or someone close to you been impacted?
  • What are some coping methods you have used to deal with the stress and anxiety you may be experiencing?

The presentation will be presented through Zoom call and limited to the first 50 participants. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting on May 13. Registering is fast, easy and free

Date: Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Time: 8:00 pm EST / 5:00 pm PST

Host: Yolanda Villa, LPC - Union Clinical Mental Health Counseling Faculty

Where: Zoom call limited to the first 50 participants. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting May 13.

Registering is fast, easy and free.

Meet the host

Yolanda Villa, M.Div., LPC (or Reverend. ‘Yo,Yolanda Villa’ as she is affectionately called by some) is an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church and licensed psychotherapist. She earned her master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Union Institute & University. She combines her love of teaching, consultation, and training in the health sector, academic and corporate settings, as well as religious organizations. Her areas of expertise include compassion fatigue/burnout, neuro-counseling, addiction/substance abuse, co-dependency, trauma, informed parenting, women and children sexual assault, spirituality and the journey to overall well-being. Her private counseling practice is in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her work leads individuals, couples, families and groups to a fully embodied awareness of what it means to embrace healthy, holistic living. Learn more about Yolanda Villa at this link.

Janet K. Kempf

Pay it 1964ward – My scholarship will help me plant seeds of hope to combat mental illness

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The Changing the Faces of Education – Pay it 1964ward campaign is underway and is already making a difference in the lives of our students. At Union, 100 percent of funds that donors designate to scholarships goes directly to the student.

Janet K. Kempf

Janet K. Kempf

In the Q & A below, Janet K. Kempf discusses how her scholarship that provides support as she pursues a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling will allow her to provide hope and collaboration toward life-enhancing outcomes for the mentally ill.

Q. How has the scholarship you received impacted your academic career?
A. Receiving the David P. Finks Scholarship was a true honor. Because of the scholarship, I have been able to continue to pursue my Master of Arts degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with less financial burden. This is significant because a main barrier for students pursing higher education degrees is how to pay for the high cost of the training. I was able to decrease my work hours and devote my attention to a full load of class work and my internship.

Q. Union’s goal is to transform lives and communities. Can you share how this goal impacts you and your community?
A. Part of the reason I returned to school after 20 years in the mental health profession was to better understand theories and practices in the treatment of individuals living with mental illness. In our community, mental illness affects one out of five people. That means a lot of people are struggling to live a peaceful and satisfying life. With my degree, I can work with such individuals to provide hope and collaborate with them toward life-enhancing outcomes. In turn, these individuals will spread hope and contribute to the community by sharing their talents. Hope then multiplies.

Q. Union is known for its commitment to social justice. How will social justice be interwoven in your career plans?
A. Social justice is not only interwoven, but integral to the practice of counseling. In order to be an effective counselor, I must display empathy and form a therapeutic relationship with the individual. To be empathetic, I must be fully present with the individual and gain an appreciation of their culture and life. Everyone deserves the same treatment regardless of present or past struggles. As a counselor, I am perhaps more aware of the struggles because I sit with individuals who are actively experiencing the pain that comes with mental illness. I have a unique opportunity to share with others the reality of this pain and advocate for their treatment needs.

Q. What are your plans after you earn your degree?
A. After earning this degree, I will be able to assist individuals make life-enhancing outcomes, helping will better society. I also hope to continue my education by earning a Doctorate in Clinical Counseling Education so I will be able to help plant the seed of hope in the lives of the individuals I counsel and also in students who will be the next generation of counselors. Everyone in society has the ability to contribute to social change. I am fortunate that the seed was planted in me years ago; now through my work the number of empowered individuals will grow, positively impacting society.

Support the next generation of leaders with your donation. Changing the Faces of Education – Pay it 1964WARD today. Click here to donate.

Dr. Berry

Alumnus elected to the Board of World Federation for Mental Health – advocates for mental health awareness as the Regional Vice President for North America

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Welcome to the “Alumni Spotlight” monthly series. Learn how our Union Institute & University (UI&U) graduates are living the UI&U mission of engagement, enlightenment, and empowerment.

Featured this month: Dr. Andrew Berry
Dr. BerryEducation: UI&U Ph.D. 1998
Profession: Psychologist and psychoanalyst

You might say that Dr. Berry took the long road to his chosen profession as a psychologist and psychoanalyst.

“I barely got by academically in high school,” said Dr. Berry. “I didn’t think I was smart.”

He credits a professor he met through luck as the motivator for his career. “I found my way to Harvard through the back door. Harvard was offering an open admission for a summer extension program and I met Dr. George W. Goethals II. “I got an A-. He convinced me I wasn’t dumb, but I was different. He recognized my passion for psychoanalysis. He influenced me so greatly that I named my son after him.”

When looking for an advanced degree, Union opened a door for him to pursue his academic journey that led to his career.

“Union offered the flexibility of scheduling and gave me the permission to refuse to adhere to conventional thinking. I also remember my fellow students and my committee members; they were wonderful.” After Union, Dr. Berry attended the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology where he earned a second master’s degree and a Psy.D. and later a certificate in psychoanalysis from the William Alanson White Institute of Psychiatry.

Now a part of a successful practice, Dr. Berry specializes in anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder issues in adults, adolescent males, GLBT and veterans. He has advanced training in psychodynamic therapy and psychoanalysis. He has been licensed since 2002 and has practiced in Kansas and New York.

Dr. Berry was elected to the National Academies of Practice as a Distinguished Practitioner and Fellow. He works on mental health and national health care policy issues.

Recently, Dr. Berry was elected to the position of Regional Vice President of North America of the World Federation for Mental Health, where he continues to advocate for mental health issues suffered by veterans and first responders and to learn from his colleagues around the world to promote the advancement of mental health awareness, prevention of mental disorders, advocacy, and best practice recovery-focused interventions worldwide.

Learn more about Dr. Berry in the Q&A below.

Q. What is it about the human psyche that you find fascinating?

A. The infiniteness of the human psyche is fascinating. When you stop listening to what people are saying, and focus more on how they are saying it, that’s the moment you realize that the human psyche truly is infinite and constantly changing.

Q. Union’s mission is to engage, enlighten, and empower. You engage, enlighten, and empower veterans and first responders. Where does that interest stem from?

A. My father served stateside right after World War II, and my maternal grandfather served in combat. I was fascinated with their stories and I started reading about veterans and what they have gone through.

Q. You did something rarely seen in academic or research conferences. What was it?

A. Normally in a psychoanalytic presentation, another analyst is the discussant. Instead I chose a veteran, which makes the presentation much more experiential than academic, Captain Nate Emery, USMC (Ret’d). We presented “The Interpersonal Psychoanalytic Approach to Working with Veterans” that was published a year ago in Division Review. We have delivered the presentation13 times across the country at analytic institutes and both national and international conferences.

Q. What do you wish people understood about mental health?

A. “I wish everybody could understand that mental health issues are the rule not the exception. Everybody fights with some form or level of anxiety and/or depression throughout their lives. What people need to understand about mental health issues is that the stigma needs to be removed.”

Q. If you could give advice to a Union student, what would it be?

A. My advice to students is to stick with it. Follow your bliss. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and cannot do.

Q. What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment?

A. Because I barely made it out of high school in 1982 and then getting my first master’s degree from Harvard ten years later, and my second master’s degree and two doctorates after that, these are my greatest accomplishments.

Q. What is your passion away from work?

A. My passions are music, and serving as a volunteer firefighter and EMT. And, I am a proud Freemason.


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Pam Shannon

Helping Others is a Way of Life

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Welcome to the “Alumni Spotlight” series. Learn how our Union Institute & University (UI&U) graduates are living the UI&U mission of engagement, enlightenment, and empowerment.

Featured this month: Pam Shannon

Education: Bachelor of Science Healthcare Management 1989

Profession: Executive Director of St. Aloysius and retired health professional

Pam ShannonGrowing up, Pam Shannon knew she wanted to help people. That desire led her into a nursing career. But soon administration came calling. Pam, like so many Union alumni, found a calling in helping others, not only in her career, but also in her volunteer work. Read her story:

“I loved nursing but I was also drawn to administration where I thought I might be able to have a broader impact. The expectation for management was an additional degree. That’s when I discovered Union,” said Pam.. “Union allowed me the flexibility to work fulltime in my job where I traveled extensively, and get my degree in health care administration.” She went on to earn a master’s degree from Xavier University, also in Cincinnati.

In 2018, Pam was contemplating a slower work pace when St. Aloysius, approached her about a consulting role to reorganize and hire a new executive director. Six months later, she was asked to take the job herself. St. Aloysius, referred to as “St. Al’s” in the community, is a former orphanage founded in 1832, as a result of the cholera outbreak that left large numbers of children throughout Cincinnati orphaned. The orphanage evolved in the 20th century, and began to focus by the 1980s on children impacted by abuse and neglect. St. Al’s has continued to adapt to needs of children and families with new evidence-based treatment strategies that helps children in our community overcome their challenges by providing the education, counseling, mental health care, and resources they need to heal and grow.

Q: What do you want people to know about community-based mental health?

A: We must get over the stigma of mental health challenges. We are all impacted. But there is hope. With therapy and coping skills children and adults can live happy and productive lives.

Q: What was your Union experience like?

A: My experience was great. The curriculum was rigorous and I received a theoretical education. My experience was taken into consideration and I had to demonstrate my knowledge. The semesters were concentrated and fast-paced and at the end of the semester I knew what I had to deliver. The small group settings were helpful and I received a great deal of attention from my professors, almost one-on-one.

Q: What has your UI&U degree meant to you professionally?

A: My Union degree set me on a 40-year career in health care.

Q: If you could give advice to a Union student, what would it be?

A: My advice is to engage with the instructors. Open up about your challenges and look for their advice. The instructors wrote assessments of my work which gave me a wealth of information later as I worked on my master’s degree.

Q: What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment?

A: Having the good sense to recognize when an opportunity has been given to me to take the opportunity.

Q: What is your passion away from work?

A: I love my family and being with my family. I have been a big sister for years. I also love to travel. Another passion is an annual medical mission to Belize.

Q. Much like Union’s mission to engage, enlighten, and empower you will soon make your ninth trip to Belize. What was the inspiration to use your time and talent to give back by going to Belize to help people?

A. I really did feel a calling to do something like a medical mission trip many years ago. I had the typical fears that most people feel about going to a developing country; should I spend the money, use my vacation time, will I be safe, and can I really help and make a difference? Well, the answer was it has always worked out perfectly each year for me to go. I have found very meaningful work to do each year with my mission team. The very best part is that I have made deep and lasting friendships with families I have come to know and love in Belize. Belizeans are wonderful, hardworking, fun-loving people. I have been very blessed to travel to Belize each year and serve in many capacities, but always, always, I return home with so much more in friendships and inspiration than I ever give in time or resources.


Union Institute & University is guided by its core mission to educate highly motivated adults who seek academic programs to engage, enlighten, and empower them to pursue professional goals and a lifetime of learning, service, and social responsibility.

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