Rafael Joseph had plenty of options when it came to where he would pursue a master’s degree in counseling. He knew that there would be numerous similarities between programs when it came to curriculum. For Joseph, his decision to attend West Virginia University was based on the in-class education and the level of care and support from faculty.
The guidance he received helped lead Joseph to land one of 30 spots as a National Board for Certified Counselors Minority Fellow for Mental Health Counselors for 2022-23. The fellowship provides financial support to attend professional development trainings, seminars and symposiums throughout the country. The programing centers on mental health issues for underserved populations.
“The fellowship will allow me to be able to learn and interact with people in the field who are working with minority groups like LGBTQ+, rural, ethnic, veterans and others,” Joseph said. “I can be informed on the latest research and connect with leaders from places around the country. I think this will help slingshot me into my career.”
As a Haitian American who grew up in Boston, Joseph knows the importance of helping these communities. He is passionate about how he can have an impact.
“It is important to me to be able to reach out to communities where mental health isn’t taken seriously all of the time,” Joseph said. “Working in crisis situations and providing psychological first aid is important because people need to feel safe in those critical moments. Often, underserved populations don’t know what ‘feeling safe’ looks like.”
While his focus is clear, Joseph wasn’t confident when it came to apply for the fellowship. However, program faculty and staff encouraged him.
“Applying for the fellowship was a risk because I wasn’t entirely confident in myself,” Joseph said. “The support from the counseling program faculty pushed me to apply and accept the position."
“I believe the professors in my program are unlike any other that I would’ve met at any other university,” Joseph said. “I approached graduate school as being serious and professional, and that I should carry myself as such. However, the impact of the personal growth was something that I couldn’t have anticipated. The staff encouraged and supported a higher order of thinking for me that allows me to take the material, apply it to myself and helps me improve as a professional and as a person.”
At the conclusion of the fellowship and graduation in 2023, Joseph hopes to work in the underserved communities he will explore through the fellowship while he pursues his licensure.
Joseph earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Elmira College with a minor in biology (2021) before coming to WVU to pursue his master’s degree in counseling. He is a WELLWVU emotional and mental wellness graduate assistant. He was an officer for the WVU Counseling Student Organization and served on the WVU Wellness and Mental Health Student Advisory Board last academic year.
“I wouldn’t have had this fellowship opportunity without my cohort, family and the faculty and professors at WVU,” Joseph said. “I hope to represent everyone as best I can to the best of my abilities.”