Masters Matter: Dr. Nickolas Jordan and Bel Vasquez, Marriage and Family Therapy

Dr. Nickolas Jordan, assistant professor and director of the marriage and family program, and second-year student Bel Vasquez discuss the Master of Arts in marriage and family therapy, as well as the systemic multicultural counseling certificate at Appalachian State University. These programs are housed in the Reich College of Education's Department of Human Development and Psychological Counseling.


  • Nickolas Jordan: My name is Jordan and I am an associate professor and program director of the Marriage and Family program in the Reich College of Education.

    Bel Vasquez: My name is Bel. I am a second year Marriage and Family Therapy graduate student. I am also getting the Systemic Multicultural Counseling certificate.

    NJ: I'm primarily interested in relationships created, maintained and terminated in the online space so that's through social media and online video games. Right now I’m working particularly on a study looking at aggressive behavior and violent video game playing; whether or not the two are actually connected. So Bel is in the Systemic Multicultural Counseling certificate program and what that certificate is designed for is to train clinicians to better work with underrepresented populations, oppressed populations and minority populations. Bel is a graduate student in the Marriage and Family Therapy program but you also don't have to be a graduate student to take the certificate program. You can be in any helping profession and it can help you work with underrepresented populations. The Marriage and Family Therapy program is focused primarily on creating good clinicians. There is research involved and if you’d like to get more research and have more of that experience there's a thesis track you can be a part of however, we focus primarily on the clinical aspect; training good clinicians, clinicians that are culturally competent and can go out into the world and work with diverse populations and get good jobs all over the nation. Bel and I haven't done research together however, we have done some work in that vein of cultural competency and things like that with our study abroad trip to Ethiopia and we had a great time.

    BV: We did, it was really interesting to see just a whole new country that is nothing like your own.

    NJ: We visited the other universities, we looked at how their understanding of-- they're trying to build a counseling center over there. We worked with the Health and Wholeness Foundation of Ethiopia. They do work with commercial sex workers-- we did some presentations.

    BV: We gave them a workshop on how to talk to these women who have been through pretty traumatic experiences. We also worked with a school that takes in women, prostitutes and their children and gives them a place to stay and provides them with education and work. It's kind of a little community. We just got to know a bunch of really cool organizations that do a lot of really great work for the community.

    NJ: Our program focus is on the outside internship experience. We have a 500-hour clinical internship in their second year; that's what Bel is doing right now. That is our primary focus.

    BV: And everything that we do in our first year is preparing us for the second year when we go into the field and do our internship. We definitely start applying what we learned in class and we take courses right along side of the internship and everything I learn in class, I go in the next day and I’m able to use it in real life with people, helping people. I do my internship at Daymark Recovery Services, a community mental health agency. They do all sorts of things; substance abuse counseling, they go into the schools and do school based therapy, they do a lot of mental health groups. Not so much individual therapy because that's not their model but the interns do have the opportunity to do individual therapy with their clients because it’s free-- because we’re interns. If people need that support we can provide it to them for free, it's a really cool way to reach out.

    NJ: I was Bel’s supervisor in her first semester of her second year. I had a great time with her; she's super cool and a very gifted clinician. I give her and all of my students a hard time but that's because I want them to be the best that they can be. I know I drive them crazy and Bel can speak to that definitely.

    BV: He does push us. It comes from a place of love. He's always available to us, we know that he cares about what we’re doing and about us growing as clinicians and becoming the best that we can be. It might seem like tough love at some points but it gets us through. There's a lot of support in this program from every direction. We never feel alone; we’ve gone through some rocky roads. In my internship experience and with the internship experiences of other students in my cohort, we have never felt alone because there is so much support from the entire faculty.

    NJ: I think that the Appalachian State Marriage and Family Therapy program is really great. One of those reasons is because we have a very diverse student body and we have diverse faculty. When I say diverse in the student body I mean racially, there are sexual minorities and religious minorities and that's really something that is very important to us. We really push the multicultural perspective and multicultural family therapy. I think the faculty are very different, we could not be more different in terms of our research interests, our personal interests, our lifestyles-- everything. And I think that makes us really great together.

    BV: I interviewed at three different schools but this is the only place that I instantly clicked with. I felt like a peer with the people who were interviewing--the faculty that were interviewing us. All my nerves were calmed, it was a casual chat, we laughed, we joked, and it was just a program I knew I wanted to be a part of because they treated us like people. App’s Marriage and Family Therapy program was a great choice, I remember the first email we ever got from you before we even started class was, “You’re going to get your money’s worth!” It terrified me but it was great. We really do get our money’s worth. It is such a good program, you learn so much about yourself and you come out a great therapist. I've had so many ups and downs along the way but our faculty has been here to support us and really make sure that they’re not sending us out into the world without knowing what we need to know to help others. It's been a great program, I don't regret it one bit, and App is great. Boone is great. It's a small town with gorgeous scenery. Why not?