Inspiring Graduate: Aaron Hendricks, M.S. Clinical Mental Health Counseling

'At Stout, from the very beginning, my experience was applied.'
December 26, 2023

Inspiring Graduate: Aaron Hendricks (’23)

With a young family at home, work and two college degrees to his name, Aaron Hendricks decided to return to school to pursue another passion.

Hendricks has a bachelor’s degree in natural resources from UW-Madison and a master’s in natural resource economics from the State University of New York. He has worked as a wildland firefighter in Montana, environmental educator, and camp counselor and has promoted economic development in rural areas.

He returned to graduate school in counseling online at Divine Mercy University before pursuing his master’s in clinical mental health counseling at UW-Stout.

Aaron Hendricks
Aaron Hendricks receiving his master's hood at commencement / UW-Stout

Hendricks earned his M.S. in clinical mental health counseling from UW-Stout on Dec. 16, along with 526 graduates.

He was hired before graduation by his internship site, Randall Therapeutic Services, serving Barron County-based clients and focusing on early childhood trauma. 

Aaron embodies Stout’s mission of applied learning and being job-ready. He joined our program highly motivated to become an effective mental health counselor and embraced any opportunity he could to incorporate what he learned into his life and career. He made an impact at his internship and in his community by bringing specialized training on trauma, families and play therapy,” said Associate Professor Andy Felton, counseling, rehabilitation and human services department.

How has your UW-Stout education changed you and prepared you for your career?

Stout offers the unique ability to practically apply theory. The other three schools I attended were distant, theoretical, and I often wondered how my studies would serve those around me. 

At Stout, from the very beginning, my experience was applied.

We were hands-on, gaining skills with each other, the first week. By the time my internship began, I felt comfortable applying counseling theory and engaging with the client in front of me.

Aaron Hendricks
Aaron Hendricks was hired before graduation as a counselor with Randall Therapeutic Services / UW-Stout

The Stout experience has given me significant, vulnerable encounters with those who think and experience life differently than me. I live in a mostly conservative Christian community and was nervous re-engaging with a secular school after numerous years away. 

My faculty and my peers respected my worldview yet challenged me to hear and consider the diverse range of their worldviews and life experiences.

This further prepared me for counseling as it taught me the joy of diversity, the joy of walking with someone who lives in a different reality and learning how to connect as fellow humans on a journey toward happiness together. 

What stands out about your UW-Stout experience?

The faculty stand out. I took on a large caseload when I began my internship and was committed to excellence. I had thousands of questions, cases to staff and theories to try out. Dr. Andy Felton went above and beyond, providing me direction and support on a one-on-one basis every week. Dr. John Klem answered long emails and engaged in weekly classroom discussions as I engaged with the course content. Dr. Julie Bates-Maves stayed with me after class, gave me numerous resources and supported me through a very difficult personal struggle. 

I was selected, along with Dr. Andy Felton, to give a presentation at the Department of Public Instruction summit at Stout to early childhood educators on the basics of play therapy and how to help children heal after trauma. This experience really challenged me to grow and take the applied knowledge I gained at Stout and extend it to those on the front lines of education. 

What challenges did you face in earning your degree and what are you most proud of?

One of the main challenges I faced was balancing work 30 hours a week, school, marriage and family life. I have been married 10 years and have four young children. My work was phenomenal at supporting my education, but it was fully reciprocated by the faculty at Stout. 

When I had sick kids or conflicts with family life or work, I felt like the faculty truly came alongside me to find a way for me to succeed. Above all, I knew, unconditionally, that the faculty and my peers supported my success. I never had a fear of failing or getting overwhelmed because I knew everyone would do whatever it took to help me succeed. 

I am most proud of the fact that I never had to sacrifice being a husband or a dad to get my degree and pursue my dream. 

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