Inspiring Graduate: Zandra Georgakas, M.S. Clinical Mental Health Counseling

‘I am very excited to get into the field and use what I have learned to have a positive impact on others.’
December 26, 2023

Inspiring Graduate: Zandra Georgakas (’23)

Zandra Georgakas was hired before graduation as a preindependently licensed therapist with CARE Counselingan outpatient clinic in Minneapolis.

Her journey to becoming a clinical mental health counselor through UW-Stout’s master’s program was not always easy, though. While helping clients in her two internships, Georgakas also worked through much of her own mental health struggles, said Program Director and Professor John Klem

“Zandra has been a wonderful support and counselor for so many in her internships,” Klem said.

Zandra Georgakas
Zandra Georgakas receiving her master's hood at commencement / UW-Stout

Georgakas earned her M.S. in clinical mental health counseling from UW-Stout on Dec. 16, along with 526 graduates. She plans on pursuing her Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor.

How has your UW-Stout education changed you?

My experience at Stout has definitely impacted me for the better. When I started this program two years ago, I was avoiding everything and making myself so small out of fear of being seen. I was isolating myself from other people and the world without even realizing it. 

Getting to work with John Klem and learn from him, and professors Julie Bates-Maves and Andy Felton has been incredibly helpful in building awareness of my patterns. 

They have helped me feel empowered to begin to make positive changes in my life so that I can help my clients do the same.

While I am still a work in progress, I am finally beginning to believe that I am truly worth the effort it takes to grow. 

Zandra Georgakas
Zandra Georgakas was hired before graduation as a pre-independently licensed therapist / UW-Stout

How well has UW-Stout prepared you to work in your field and why?

I feel like Stout has prepared me to enter the mental health counseling field very well. Each class I have taken has been extremely useful in my understanding of how to work with people. 

There have been constant hands-on opportunities to put what we’ve learned in classes into practice. I completed internships as a school-based mental health counselor working with K-12 students in the Ellsworth School District and as a mental health counselor at the Chippewa Valley Free Clinic.

My professors have given me the tools I need to be successful in the mental health counseling field. They are all incredibly knowledgeable and skilled at teaching students how to become competent counselors. 

Their passion for what they teach is evident in every class I’ve taken with them.

They have gone above and beyond anything I could have hoped for, and I am so grateful to have been able to learn from them. 

How did your involvement impact your experience?

I received the Qualified Treatment Trainee Graduate Student Award. This award is given to Wisconsin graduate students working in unpaid and underpaid internships in the social work, counseling or marriage and family therapy field. 

Receiving this award allowed me to spend more time and energy on my schooling and internship experience, rather than on earning money to make it through school. 

Zandra Georgakas
Zandra Georgakas and Chancellor Katherine Frank at commencement / UW-Stout

What challenges did you face in earning your degree and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge I’ve faced was completing my internship in my hometown schools. Walking down the halls of my old middle and high school never fails to bring up old memories. 

While there are definitely some pretty good things to look back on, it’s hard not to fixate on the negative. I was a very depressed kid, and I consistently struggled with self-harm, suicidal ideation and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. I spent most of my time doing anything I could to cope with the pain, which was usually unhealthy and added to the shame I already felt. 

I threw myself into my studies after leaving high school and largely pushed these memories out of my mind, though the pain remained. Being back in my hometown schools has refreshed everything for me and given me the opportunity to finally address these issues in a healthier way. 

My professor and supervisor, John Klem, has been invaluable to this process. He has been there for me week after week, no matter how hard I’ve tried to keep him at arm’s length. He has believed in my abilities and value as a counselor and person, when I was unable to do so for myself. 

Through John’s guidance and my own personal counseling, I have been able to create new, more positive memories with my clients in these schools to look back on as I finish my degree. 

Zandra Georgakas
Zandra Georgakas at commencement, with Professor John Klem / UW-Stout

What are you most proud of as you finish your degree?

I am most proud of what I have learned about counseling throughout this program. I am very excited to get into the field and use what I have learned to have a positive impact on others.

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