The individuals who work for the United States Secret Service sit on the sidelines of history. Charged with protecting the country’s highest elected officials in an environment with increasing security threats, employment in the Secret Service is arguably one of the most stressful jobs in the nation.
While these men and women support the nation’s leaders, CEHS alumna Andrea Fata supports the Secret Service. A counselor in the Secret Service’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Fata provides counseling and consultation services to those men and women to help cope with the stresses of the profession.
“I’ve had the opportunity to have some very interesting experiences,” Fata said. “I’ve worked with highly trained and dedicated people who protect the president, the vice president and other foreign dignitaries.”
As a Morgantown native, enrolling at WVU was always the obvious choice; however, becoming a counselor was not.
Before launching her career in counseling, Fata hoped to land a job combining her love for the physicality of dance with her undergraduate work in sport and exercise studies. Following a brief move to New York City, she returned to Morgantown to earn a graduate degree.
“I landed on counseling when I was flipping through WVU’s graduate course catalogue,” Fata said. “Friends often said that I’d be a good counselor because I’m a good listener.”
Once she enrolled in CEHS’ master’s program in counseling, everything fell into place. According to Fata, the most significant lessons that she learned while studying at CEHS all took place outside of the classroom. The real-world significance of her internships and job shadowing experiences helped her find her way to the EAP arena, and then into EAP work within military and law enforcement environments.
“I encourage students to get as many placement experiences as they can, regardless of whether or not they know what population they want to work with,” Fata said. “All of those real-world experiences help you learn about the many facets of human behavior and work environments in real time. This can also help someone to fine-tune skills and get an idea for what fits their temperament and personality.”
Since beginning her career with the Secret Service in 2010, Fata has had opportunities to assist Secret Service personnel at major national events such as the United Nations Summit, the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, various White House events, and select presidential speaking events.
Witnessing the professionalism of the employees while often working in high energy events has helped inform her work.
“We live in a tense national security environment,” Fata said. “It’s difficult for these individuals because they can never let their guard down. Combine a high-level operational tempo with a family or other personal challenge, and it can put a significant strain on a person.”
In addition to her work with the Secret Service, Fata has a private practice where she offers training and management consultations, along with individual psychotherapy. She sees a general adult population, along with military veterans and first responders.
“I’ve learned so much in this profession,” Fata said. “The counseling program at WVU was a pivotal point in changing the course of my life. Assisting others in a personal way is a calling for me. I always find a meaningful nugget of truth from each experience, whether I’m training a large group, consulting with a leader or helping someone in crisis because I know it adds to my own growth potential.”