13:32 PM

Waiting Pays Off for UST Graduate

Emma, Jeff, Terri and Bobbi Yanoviak  When Terri Yanoviak decided to contact University of St. Thomas-Houston (UST) after seeing an email for the 100% online Licensed Chemical Dependency Counseling Program, one thing came to mind—“Don’t get too excited. You’ve tried it before and it is either too expensive, or the timing is not right, or something is not going to work out.” Yet, for the 52-year-old therapist, everything fit into place once she enrolled in the program, which guarantees a practicum placement in the state of Texas. Now, she is doing what had felt for decades like an unattainable goal. Yanoviak is sharing her academic journey and new life as a Chemical Dependency Counselor.  

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Tell us about yourself?

I am the mother of two grown daughters, 23 and 24. I am originally from Nebraska and my husband and I moved to Houston 18 years ago. I had always wanted to be a counselor, but my family did not put much importance on education. I tried to pursue becoming a counselor right out of high school, but I did not have the financial support. When my children were small, I attended community college. But once I was ready to transfer to a 4-year college, that is when we moved to Texas! And I had to put my plans on hold.

After all these years, what motivated you to resume your plans to become a therapist?

The fact that I had the constant nagging thought in my mind that I wanted to be a therapist. In order to have a schedule similar to my children’s, I became a secretary at a public school district and became involved in various mentorship programs. In the many emails I received about professional advancement opportunities, I came across an email from UST about this program which was just starting. So, I thought, this may be the time to do it. And, you know? Everything fell into place. I guess the timing was right in my life to do it!

Due to the pandemic, you completed this program online. What was that like?

At first, I was a little nervous. The program was intense, fast, and I was working full time! I thought I was not going to do as well as everyone else. I was one of the only students who did not already have a degree, but I did as well as everyone else because the professors were amazing. At first, the classes were very self-paced. The professors gave assignments and tests, but you did them on your own. But then, we had three hours every week where we were online together. That was awesome to finally get to you know my other classmates who I'd been traveling with throughout the program.  We would talk every week about what was going on in our practicum sites.

Was it intimidating having classmates who were so much younger than you?

Yes, but that became unimportant at one point. We started with a group of 11 or 12, and once we started with the practicum classes, the last semester, I think there were only four or five of us. There were two ladies with master’s degrees, one with a bachelor’s degree.  I just stuck with it and got all A’s.

So, how are things at work now?

I am working at New Dimensions Day Treatment, the same clinic where I did my practicum. I completed an associate degree, which is a state requirement to obtain the license. To be fully licensed, I need more hours of practicum and that is going to take about two years. Right now, I am an intern licensed counselor, which means I work under a supervisor with whom I meet regularly and go over the different cases and situations with the clients. However, I am licensed because I decided to take the test right away and passed it.

How long have you been working and what has that experience been like?

I’ve been working for seven months, and it’s been absolutely amazing. At first it was a little overwhelming trying to figure out all the paperwork and making sure everything was documented correctly because, you know, these are people’s lives. I work with adolescents and adults with chemical dependency issues, and sometimes I can’t believe this is my job. I get to help people with the tools they need to move forward with a life of sobriety. It is amazing. It’s just been amazing. I’m upset with myself that I waited this long. But, I guess, you know, I’ll get to ride out my golden years doing what I love!

How has your family adapted to your new life?

They love it. My oldest daughter has her master’s degree in social work, so we are in similar fields. They think it is pretty cool that I am finally doing what I wanted to.  There are three times a week in which I am at work late doing group therapy. After 27 years of marriage, I’ve learned that my husband can cook! They understand and they love to see that I have gotten to do what I’ve always thought I was passionate about, but I get to do it now.

For more information about the Associate in Drug and Alcohol Counseling Program at the University of St. Thomas, click here.