By Mary Hopkins

To help listeners kick off the new year, KWPC features the Wester Drug Health and Wellness Series, hosted by Dr. Cory Garvin. Each week Dr. Garvin welcomes expert guests, introducing the audience to mind and body wholeness concepts. Recently, Angela Dieckman, who has an M.A. in Professional Counseling, was in the studio to discuss mental health. The segment was warmly received by listeners who submitted questions via the text line, wanting to learn more about this often misunderstood topic.

Although an expert, Angela didn’t always dream of being a counselor, initially pursuing education in political science and English. “To be honest, I never considered being a counselor until several other options were no longer available to me. I grew up really wanting to be an attorney or a judge. I had visions of making a difference in a huge and visible way—getting a day of justice for people.”

Following a successful ESL teaching assignment to high school students in Hungary, Angela accepted another assignment in Morocco. The mission went haywire almost immediately and abruptly came to end. As a result, Angela described feeling lost. “I flung caution to the wind and chased my dream of being an attorney.” It did not go well. “On the day of the LSAT, I was horribly sick. I took that monster exam and did so-so.”

Sobered by the realization that the best schools and scholarships wouldn’t be available, she prayed.  While she was researching her options, an ad for Liberty University’s counseling program popped up. “I feel like God very specifically revealed to me that my heart for justice would be best used in a quieter, more behind-the-scenes way. I trusted Him. I applied, was accepted, and started classes in January of 2010.”

Once the decision was made, there was no looking back. “I worked full time at Lutheran Services in Iowa almost the entire time I did graduate classes, until I started my internship at House of Hope in Cedar Rapids. There were many, many times when it was hard. My job was emotionally taxing, but rewarding, and my homework load seemed impossible at times. I truly believe what kept me going is my refusal to fail and my growing belief that counseling is actually what I was made to do in this lifetime.” Angela conceded the pressure demanded honed self-care skills, the foundation of therapy.

Reflecting on the greatest aspect of her trade, she remarked on the diverse array of clients. “I love that I truly get to hear people’s stories; I realize it’s all we really have and that no one is beyond redemption or changing.” Many times, though, the stories are painful and the demand not to be weighed down is high. “It’s a constant balancing act between knowing there is evil in the world and yet deeply believing good wins out.”