Jessica Tyler, Ph.D., LPC, has received a major national award from the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision as the Association’s most outstanding counselor supervisor. Dr. Tyler’s award will be presented at the group’s conference on October 7 in Chicago.
Tyler, who serves as an Assistant Clinical Professor in the College of Education’s Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation, and Counseling (SERC), maintains an active counseling practice in nearby Columbus, Georgia.
Dr. Tyler works exclusively with graduate students in her role as a Clinical Professor, and limits her private practice to adults. Her practice areas are diverse, including conditions ranging from adjustment disorders and military trauma, to severe mental illness.
“Treating clients from a myriad of races, ethnicities, socioeconomic levels and backgrounds, gender and sexual orientations, spiritual beliefs, and work-life experiences has taught me great cognitive flexibility and shaped my considerations in working with these diverse populations,” Tyler said. “I infuse this growing understanding into my teaching and supervisory practices.”
Columbus is home to a large military presence through nearby Ft. Benning, and is a corporate home to Aflac and several other large institutions, so she stays very busy.
“In my seven years of practice I have supervised so many counselors, and it is something I really enjoy and grow from,” she said. “I have spent approximately 400 hours in that supervisory role. I feel that experience also helps me be a better professor.”
The national supervisory award was based not only on those hundreds of hours, but on the quality of her supervision. One of her most important letters of support came from SERC Department Head Jamie Carney.
Tyler, a self-proclaimed “Army Brat,” came to Auburn in 2008 for her Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. After graduation from that program, she worked full-time at East Alabama Mental Health as a therapist during her doctoral studies before being promoted to clinical coordinator for adult services. She completed her doctorate in Counselor Education in 2013.
Being a practitioner makes me a better educator and vice versa,” she said. “Here at Auburn I am able to keep up with research and trends, and then see clients and bring those experiences to the classroom. I have helped place our students in internships, and I know how to advocate for them. But once we get them placed they are very successful. We have excellent students in our Counseling programs.
“Being a practitioner makes me a better educator and vice versa,” she said. “Here at Auburn I am able to keep up with research and trends, and then see clients and bring those experiences to the classroom. I have helped place our students in internships, and I know how to advocate for them. But once we get them placed they are very successful. We have excellent students in our Counseling programs.”
Tyler is careful to balance her two careers and focus on the positives of both.
“So many counselors are seeing people in stressful situations, so burn out is a real issue,” she said. “I’m very cautious in that regard, and that’s yet one more reason why my work at Auburn is so refreshing. It allows me to keep my two worlds in a healthy perspective.”
Tyler said few things are as satisfying as watching her clients make progress as she helps them “climb the mountain.”
“Being a witness to people’s pain is difficult. Not many people really want to do that every day. Some of the things our veterans tell me are truly tough to handle. But it’s important for them to have that one person they can talk to. And you know what else I’ve seen over and over? A lot of people in these bad situations didn’t do anything to earn it, so to speak. They were just the victims of bad luck. I see that every day. And life is too complex to expect people to be happy all the time. There are different seasons of life, so I encourage my clients to begin by working toward slices of happiness.”
Growing up, Tyler enjoyed reading her father’s old psychology books. She realized early on that she was deeply interested in human behavior and wanted to work on the front lines.
“Moving around so much as an Army Brat, I had to learn to read my audience as I got to know the kids in my new school,” she said. “Marrying someone from this area, who had always been here, gave me a sense of having roots. It’s all been really interesting how this played out.”
Tyler also gained a sense of being grounded through the guidance she received from her Counseling professors, especially Drs. Jamie Carney, Melanie Iarussi, and Amanda Evans.
“Really, in our field, they are all rock stars,” Tyler exclaimed. “I am energized just being around them. They inspired me during my graduate studies and they have been excellent mentors. I have a new class every semester, which keeps me tuned in to academic trends. A focus in my training of counselors is increasing cognitive complexity, risk assessment skills, and treatment planning to ensure evidence-based practices and ethical care. There’s no better place than here to keep up with the latest research, and then see how it applies to my clinical setting every day. I can’t imagine being in a better situation.”