Alumnus of the Month – Roy Huggins

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Roy Huggins has had an interesting path to becoming a counselor. His professional career started when he and a couple of friends tried to start a video game development company, which led to Roy getting involved in web design for various clients. Roy says this experience taught him important lessons about how interacting with people was just as important as writing quality code. After several years as a web developer, Roy decided to follow his passion and make a major career change to become a counselor.

Roy came to the GSE to pursue a master’s in mental health counseling. After completing the program, Roy started his own private practice. However, his experience in IT is not forgotten as Roy currently serves as the webmaster for the Oregon Mental Health Counselors Association (OMHCA), and has led presentations on “digital confidentiality” at their annual meetings. As a consultant and educator, he leads NBCC-Approved continuing education workshops that teach counselors about the ethics of counseling and patient confidentiality on a national level.

How did you break into the field?
My counseling education from the GSE prepared me for a career as a mental health counselor. Guidance and support from my then-professor and now-supervisor, Rick Johnson, combined with a personal history of self-employment, allowed me to start my career in private practice.

In 2010, the OMHCA board asked me to resuscitate my former IT life to help the organization move forward. My career as a digital ethics trainer and consultant started there, with a simple one-hour continuing education presentation during OMHCA’s 2011 annual meeting on what I call “digital confidentiality.” Following that, with the encouragement and guidance of OMHCA president Larry Conner, it blossomed into full-day ethics trainings. My company is now an NBCC-Approved Continuing Education Provider, and our services are starting to reach a national level. 

What has proven to be the most useful thing you learned while at the GSE?
PSU’s counseling program is, in my opinion, a little ahead of the curve in some important ways, including national accreditation and a humanistic orientation in the style of therapy that gets taught.

The focus on national standards has proven to be far more important than I realized when I was a student. One of the Oregon Counseling Association’s (ORCA) important missions at this time is advocating for counselors in Salem. With healthcare reform quickly changing our working landscape, counselors are in a weak position because of our historically low interest in national standards. PSU’s approach has not only better prepared me for the future of healthcare, but also given me a perspective that serves me well in my role with ORCA.

Something that helps me stand out from other digital ethics educators is not just my IT background, but also my focus on a client-centered approach to IT security and privacy. I credit my professors at PSU for helping me gain a nuanced and functional sense of the balance between law and ethics, rigorous research, and being attuned to the needs of the human beings with whom we work. 

What is the accomplishment in your career that you are most proud of?
Honestly, the accomplishments I’m most proud of are confidential! 

The GSE strives to make an impact on our community through the work of our students, faculty, and alumni, what does the term “impact on the community” mean to you?
I see my personal work mission as impacting the greater community from two angles:

When I help my clients to be healthier, I know I am helping them relate to their world and important people in their lives in a healthier way. I see this as one way that counseling contributes to the greater world: we help our clients make their own contributions as best they can.

I also see myself as having a mission to improve conditions for my colleagues – especially in counseling but also in social work and psychology. This is why I am active with our state legislative advocacy organization. It is also why I am working to spread my client-centered security and privacy curriculum as far as I can. 

How do you try to incorporate this concept into your daily work?
My therapy approach is very relational. I am always oriented as to how my clients are relating to important others as well as with their inner world. In my training and consulting work, I have a system of checking myself to make sure I haven’t shifted into “fearmongering.” When I speak to people about HIPAA standards or the structure of the Internet, it’s easy to start finding ways to impress people with how scary it all is. In those moments, I try to stop myself and reconsider what’s important.

Did you have a favorite course/professor/project while at the GSE?
I honestly have fond memories of all my professors. Grad school was one of my favorite periods in life. 

What advice would you give students currently enrolled or recently graduated?
Be courageous. Fear never got anyone anywhere interesting!

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