Ahou Line has always known she wanted a career in a helping profession. After earning an undergraduate degree in psychology and child development, the recipient of the 2020 NBCC Foundation Dr. Nicholas Vacc Scholarship worked as a middle school teacher in a Title I school in Oklahoma while also discerning her next educational steps. During her time as a classroom teacher, she saw students with many needs that reached beyond the scope that educators could provide in a classroom setting. These included the social and emotional needs of students as well as more complex mental and behavioral health needs that many faced.
After a few years in the classroom, she decided to return to school to pursue her master’s in clinical mental health counseling from Southern Methodist University (SMU). She was also working for Teach For America during this time, and although she was able to still be involved in many aspects of education, she missed the direct interaction with students she experienced while in the classroom.
While earning her master’s degree, she continued to realize her dreams of providing more in-depth and personalized care for students and others in various counseling settings. She shares that from an early stage in her own educational journey, becoming an educator and helping to motivate others was always at the center of her passion and work.
After graduating from SMU and while becoming fully licensed, Ahou worked in private practice, regularly seeing a wide range of clients, before deciding to return to school to pursue her PhD in counselor education and supervision at the University of North Texas (UNT). While seeing clients in private practice, she was able to use a person-centered care approach to counseling, fueling her passion for counseling and empowering individuals to reach their fullest potential.
As a doctoral candidate at UNT, Ahou has concentrated her studies on play therapy and has had several opportunities to teach and supervise while continuing her research and writing. A recent highlight of her teaching experience centered around a course she developed for undergraduate education students at UNT on culture-centered social and emotional learning. One activity she has each class do is break up into pairs or small groups and share about certain experiences they have faced in life and how their own identity has shaped them and their lens, both positively and negatively. Engaging in activities like this throughout the course helps these future educators gain skills to eventually practice cultural humility and understanding in their own vocational settings.
Ahou shares that for many undergraduate students, this course is one of the first places where they’ve been challenged to consider the background or experiences that a classmate, who is culturally different from them, may bring to the table. She has seen this approach bring about deeper empathy from student to student, and the hope then is that these students carry this knowledge with them into their future classrooms and as they interact with students or fellow educators.
Much of Ahou’s course development again stems from her strong belief in person-centered care and that a person-centered approach to teaching or working with clients helps them progress by using their own developed tools and experiences. This mindset continues to be a driving force as she looks toward opportunities after earning her PhD.
In a perfect world, she says she would love to be able to both teach and practice in a clinical setting. She is also currently navigating the experience of being a PhD student and a new mom, as she and her husband recently welcomed their first child.
One of Ahou’s passions around play therapy focuses specifically on children and families who have immigrated to the United States. She is interested in ensuring that a family’s cultural identity remains at the forefront as clinicians work to provide the best services possible for both children and their family members. Her dissertation will focus specifically on the self-efficacy of play therapists and their work with parents. She has also contributed a book chapter on this topic called “Cultural Opportunities With Middle Eastern Populations,” which is due to be published in early April in the book Multicultural Play Therapy: Making the Most of Cultural Opportunities With Children.
When asked about those in the counseling profession she looks up to, Ahou shares that her dissertation chair, Dr. Dee Ray, is someone she admires for her work with students and her contributions to the world of play therapy through research, writing, and practice. She also admires a professor from her master’s program at SMU, Dr. Misty Solt. Ahou shares that Dr. Solt is proof that you can succeed in many areas of practice and in the profession. She is grateful to both women as leaders in the field and in play therapy and shares that both have helped her develop her self-confidence and encouraged her to have pride in the work that she has done and will continue to accomplish.
As Ahou works toward completing her doctoral degree in 2023, her advocacy for children, students, and families continues to contribute to the legacy of Dr. Vacc and the scholarship endowed in his memory. Her genuine passion for others is what drives her teaching, research, and clinical application as she works to ensure that the best practices found in the classroom directly make their way to those children, students, and families in need of services.
The next application period for NBCC Foundation scholarships and CCE-funded scholarships awarded through the NBCC Foundation will begin in May 2022. To view current eligibility requirements as well as a list of the current awards offered, visit nbccf.org/programs/scholarships.