Ashley Mohesky, born with cerebral palsy, is a graduate student at Angelo State University. She is in her third and final year of her program studying counseling psychology to become a licensed professional counselor.
Ashley is a wheelchair user and uses an eye track communication device to communicate with others. She opens up about her graduate school experience below in an exclusive interview with AbleThrive.
Why do you want to become a mental health clinician?
I chose this field because I experience more stressors than the “average” person, so I know what it is like for my difficulties to affect me emotionally and mentally I live a great life and I would not trade it for the world, but occasionally I do experience frustration from certain components of cerebral palsy. Therefore, I want to help others find the strength within themselves when they feel like all hope is gone.
What has your grad school experience been like as a student with a disability?
Grad school has been one of the hardest things I have been through, and I have endured a lot of hard things in life. Similar to other students, I experience the same stress that grad school brings, but since I am the only student in my program who cannot speak, my stress level is higher because I, sometimes, feel alone in this journey. However, the amount of support I have from classmates, friends, and family is amazing. One person, in particular, is my program director. He has been so supportive throughout this process and I am so thankful. He does not focus on my disability. Instead, he sees me as a person and believes in my ability to be a therapist, even though I cannot speak.
What advice do you have for other people with disabilities who want to pursue higher education?
Research the disability services center and determine if they are willing to work with you to ensure that you are successful. Thankfully the disability coordinator at my university is amazing and goes above and beyond to make sure that every student with a disability has a chance to pursue their dreams. Also, just because higher education may be harder for you, does not mean that it is impossible. The greatest things in life are meant to be difficult. If it were easy, everyone would do it.
Has anyone ever doubted your capabilities as a professional? If so, how did you handle it?
Unfortunately, yes. I often think of myself as a rare breed since I am going into a talking profession when I cannot talk, but I do not let it stop me from pursuing my goals. While negative comments are hurtful, I am learning not to let them affect me. I cannot control opinions about me, and that is okay. My life and choices do not need anyone’s approval, but my own.
What are some of your future goals?
I hope to obtain my counseling intern license in 2021 and work with individuals who struggle in all walks of life. I also plan to specialize in working with parents who have children with disabilities, as there is a higher rate of mental health issues in this population. Lastly, I hope to be published in psychology journals with the research I have conducted.
What is one take away you want people to have after a session with you?
While I will not have any experience working with clients until summer 2020, I hope that each person knows that they are safe and comfortable talking with me about their difficulties, even though I communicate differently. My wish is that the communication barrier will not propose obstacles in building a therapeutic relationship.
What does it mean to live life to the fullest?
Do not let a diagnosis steal your joy, even on the tough days when you want to give up. Disability does not mean that nothing is achievable, it just means that you have to find an alternative to pursuing your goals. Lastly, do not allow anyone to tell you that you cannot do anything. Instead, let the negativity fuel your fire and show the world what you are made of.
Best of luck to Ashley in her future endeavors!
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