American Counseling Association of
New York (ACA-NY)

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Below please find the candidate biographies for the positions up for election for the 2017-2018 year. Voting will take place at the following link.

Candidates for President Elect:

Sarah F. Spiegelhoff, Ph.D., LMHC, NCC

As far back as I can recall, I always had an interest in human development and the psyche. From the start of my master’s studies at Rider University, I knew I was on the right path. My education at Rider University, opened doors for me to work as a professional counselor, providing specialized mental health care for families with an identified parent and child with diagnosed mental illness. My work with these families not only allowed me to grow as a mental health counselor, but also deepened my understanding of the complexities and ethical dilemmas that counselors face when working clients whose well-being is effected by the challenging intersections of medical, psychological, and socially constructed issues. My continued education as doctoral student at Syracuse University reignited my passion for higher education and my role as an agent of change. Throughout my studies, I had amazing opportunities to provide counseling to college students, support the professional development of counseling students through teaching and supervision, and strengthen my clinical understanding of holistic wellness through practice and research. 

As a licensed mental health counselor, I believe it is my role to empower clients to make informed choices about their well-being. I work together with clients to provide therapeutic care to enhance their mental health and holistic wellness, as well as by taking an integrated approach to treatment by collaborating with other healthcare providers. Many of my clients come to me during a time in which they feel stuck and are struggling with anxiety, depression, stress, and identity development. My role is to provide support and understanding, while promoting their strengths and overall wellness. 

I currently serve as the Associate Director for Counseling Services at New York Chiropractic College. In this role, I oversee clinical and administrative operations of the counseling office, supervise counselors, provide graduate instruction for chiropractic students on topics related to mental health and clinical communication, and serve on the Care Team and the Research Committee. Additionally, I work as an adjunct instructor for SUNY Oswego, having taught courses on the foundations of mental health counseling, multicultural counseling, and psychopathology. I am a member of the American Counseling Association (ACA), the New York Mental Health Counselors Association (NYMHCA), Chi Sigma Iota (CSI), the American College Counseling Association (ACCA), the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors (AUCCCD), the Syracuse Psychoanalytic Study Group, and serve on the leadership committee for ACA’s Integrated Care Interest Network.

As President-Elect for ACA-NY, I will advocate for the counseling profession. I will strengthen our professional body and our professional identity in all specialty areas, by fighting for legislative change to empower our professional roles. Mental health counselors continue to experience challenges with the scope of practice in NY. It is necessary for ACA-NY to provide knowledge and awareness to the governing bodies, demonstrating the skills and qualifications of clinical mental health counselors, highlighting their ability to diagnose. I am aware of this ability, as I taught these skills to my students in the psychopathology course at Oswego. It is important that our government and mental health colleagues understand as well. 

Equally important is for our schools and communities to recognize the value of school counseling. School counselors can work with students to provide support, recognize their potential, and make them feel like they belong in an environment that sometimes can present with challenges. Yet more and more, this value is being overlooked and positions are being cut. School counselors can enhance students’ chances for success and this is something that we must appreciate and value in our educational systems. As President-Elect, I will work to reinforce the positive role that school counselors have on students and schools. 

It is imperative that we support the growth and development of one another. Our continued advancement within the specialties of counseling, will not only have a beneficial impact on clients we serve, but also help to bolster the importance and worth of our profession. I will assess and promote our organization and its work in providing exceptional opportunities for professional development, peer engagement, and mentorship. Finally, as President-Elect, I will challenge counselors to strive towards social justice. We can speak up for social inequalities and give a voice to the voiceless. It is essential that we use our knowledge and power through social activism to combat and prevent racism, sexism, homophobia, violence, ableism, and all other forms of social oppression. I am grateful for all the dedication and hard work from past leaders and hope to continue to champion for all counseling professionals.

John M. Randall 

My name is John Randall and I am asking for your vote for the position of ACA – NY President Elect.

I have been in the position of Upstate Chair for 2 years and I want to take on more responsibility in this organization where I can do more to help advocate for our profession. I was able to attend the ACA leadership training last year that helped to inspire me to do more as does attending the ACA national conferences each year.

I made a lot of connections this year and have a lot of ideas on continuing the progress that has been made this past year. I am a New York Licensed Mental Health Counselor and working at Fort Drum with Soldiers and their families. I am in the final phase of completing my qualification to be a Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC) also this summer.

My education includes graduating from the University of Maryland with my bachelor’s degree in psychology and SUNY Oswego where I received my master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling in 2014. I retired after 27 plus years active duty in the Army in 2014 and stayed here near Fort Drum to work with Soldiers. I completed the master’s Trauma Program at SUNY Oswego and my goal is to eventually work for the VA with veterans and their families (When we change the LMHC scope of practice). I worked at Credo Community Center in Watertown as an Integrated Treatment Therapist. Where I have over a year’s experience working with clients on their substance abuse issues and mental health issues together. I also specialized in the vocational field as the Vocational Rehabilitation Coordinator for CREDO covering Jefferson and Lewis County.

On the side I am the Director for the Harleys Owners Group at FX Caprara Harley Davidson and an EMT where I hold the position of EMS Coordinator for the Sackets Harbor Fire Department.

I am passionate about getting the scope of practice changed for the counselors in our profession and I learned a lot on how the ACA operates this past year that will be beneficial moving forward. I want to help unite the NY counselors and build a network for students and professionals and ACA-NY is a big part of that vision. I am convinced I can be an asset to ACA-NY and an advocate for the Counselors in New York if given the opportunity. Thank you.

Legislative and Advocacy Chair Candidates: 

Allison Parry Gurak

My name is Allison Parry-Gurak I am a graduate student at the College at Brockport, State University of New York. Currently, I am matriculated in the school counseling track where I have a cumulative GPA of 3.85. I plan to graduate from the school counseling program with my CASAC-T and then complete my education to the bridge program at the College at Brockport, State University of New York for mental health counseling. Upon completion of my work at the College at Brockport, I aspire to continue my education and obtain my PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision and one day become a college professor. My undergraduate degree is from Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester, N.Y. where I graduated with a 4.0 GPA and obtained a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Organizational Management. Additionally, I have an Associate of Applied Science degree in Business Administration from Genesee Community College, Batavia, N.Y., where I graduated with a 3.66 GPA. In addition to my formal education, I have held numerous leadership positions for my formal employers which often included management roles, I am the current programming chair of Nu Chapter of Chi Sigma Iota, and I am the current graduate student chair for ACA-NY. I am have a strong passion for leadership and advocacy, LGBTQ related issues, at-risk youth, and alcohol and substance abuse.

Treasurer: If you are interested in running for Treasurer please contact Cassandra Fleck at [email protected] 

Upstate Region Chair Candidates: 

Jordan Oathout

My name is Jordan Oathout and I am an alumnus of Le Moyne College, and also of SUNY Oswego. I received my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2012 from Le Moyne and I received my masters in Mental Health Counseling in August of 2014 from SUNY Oswego. While in my programs I joined Chi Sigma Iota National Honors Society, as well as Psi Chi National Honor’s Society. After completing my masters, I intended to work in a mental health counseling position working towards licensure; however, In March of 2015, I was offered a position at Credo Community Center, an outpatient substance abuse treatment facility in Watertown, NY and Lowville, NY. It was never my intentions to work in the field of addictions; however, two years later I find myself still completely in love with my job. Credo has allowed me to grow and begin working towards not only my CASAC but also my mental health licensure by changing my position to an Integrated Treatment Therapist. Currently I have my limited permit for mental health and hope to have my license by the end of 2017. In my current position, I am uniquely able to work with clients in one-on-one and in group settings on addressing both their substance use and their mental health simultaneously. I am also lucky enough to be the adolescent therapist in our Lowville clinic. I currently sit on a coalition called YEAH (Youth Empowerment and Health) that works on the side of prevention as well.

After attending ACA San Francisco and having the opportunity to sit in on meetings for the northern region and ACA-NY, I find a renewed energy and desire to get actively involved in our field outside of my job. I currently do a lot of outreach to community partners for my position so that I can have healthy working relationships with our local agencies to best serve our clients. I believe that being able to connect agencies across our region as well as being able to better unite counselors in our area serves not only our profession but the people we serve as well. I heard from other attendees at this year’s conference a desire to have more community team work and the best way to do this is to have relationships with each other and support one another. I hope that I can be involved in ACA-NY in the upcoming year and be a part of the great work the board is already doing.

Central Region Chair Candidates: 

Melanie Jennings  

My name is Melanie Jennings. I am currently the Central Region Chair and on the Advocacy Committee for ACA-NY. I am excited to run for the Central Region Chair position again. I am currently a license-eligible mental health counselor (awaiting my license any day now!), and am working as School-Based Mental Health Counselor for Cayuga Counseling Services in Auburn. I am also a National Outreach Network Member for Suicide Awareness Voices of Education's first US charter, SAVE Central NY. Through this position, I work to plan and execute the annual  Stride to SAVE Lives Walk in Oswego, NY that yields approximately 500-700 people, as well as work to educate Central NY on suicide to help prevent suicides, serving as an advocate and resource for the community (through events, workshops, outreach events, and public awareness campaigns).
      Serving as the Central Region Chair for the 2016-2017 year has been such an enriching and exciting experience. I have enjoyed working with a collaborative and dynamic group of individuals to help connect, empower, and educate mental health counselors in New York. I organized an event relating to Trauma and Wellness in March that was extremely well-attended and received. I enjoyed the process of organizing and executing the event, and being able to connect with fellow counselors in New York to provide them with a training that they felt was necessary and influential in their clinical practices and in their lives. I also worked to secure with Maggie on the Advocacy Event in April and secured two speakers for the event. I am excited at the prospect of continuing to be able to work with this group and fulfill the tasks of the Central Region Chair for the following year, and growing this position to further-develop connections with universities in the central region.

Western Region Chair Candidates:  If you are interested in running for Western Region Chair please contact Cassandra Fleck at [email protected] 

Downstate Region Chair Candidates

Stephanie Sanz

My name is Stephanie Sanz. I am a graduate student at CUNY Hunter College and will be graduating this May. I attended the ACA New York meeting during the conference and expo. I am interested in the ACA New York downstate region chair position.

Neuroscience has always a passion of mine. I began to pursue a degree in neuroscience and behavior however I discovered along the way that my calling was more towards helping people face-to-face and in real time. I enjoyed the laboratory life and doing research but I enjoyed applying neuroscience and witnessing the changes within the client even more. That is how I ended up in the counseling field, specifically, in the neurocounseling interest network.

I am graduating at the end of May and have begun the IRB process to have my research proposal to study an art therapy intervention approved. I am currently looking for a neurofeedback practitioner in the New York City area who would be willing to take me on as a limited permit mental health counselor and neurofeedback student.

I would like to be considered for the Regional Chair position that is presently available in ACA New York. I have a history of being a student leader and attended leadership workshops and conferences. I believe that my leadership training paired with my education and excitement of being in the counseling field renders me a good candidate for the position. Please let me know what other information you need for you consideration.

Ms. Nannan Liu

Ms. Nannan Liu served as the Downstate Chair of ACA-NY for the 2016-2017 year.  Ms. Liu is an experienced clinician with nine years of senior management and supervisory experience.   Currently, Ms. Liu is the Program Director of the OnTrackNY (First Episode Psychosis) Clinic at New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University Medical Center.  OnTrackNY is an innovative, evidence-based team approach to providing recovery-oriented treatment to adolescents and young people (age 16-30) who have recently begun experiencing psychotic symptoms.  The multi-disciplinary team-based Coordinated Specialty Care (CSC) model integrates psychiatric care and medication, psychosocial therapies and skills training, suicide prevention, family psycho-education and support, rehabilitation services, supported education and employment, trauma and peer informed services, all aimed at promoting symptom reduction and improving life functioning.  Ms. Liu has been invited to speak at state and national conferences, about evidenced-based, person-centered and recovery-oriented approach to treating psychiatric disorders.

Ms. Liu oversees the clinical and operational needs of the OnTrackNY clinic, and provides clinical supervision to the treatment team.  Treatment team includes psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, mental health counselors, social workers, nurses, and trainees.  In addition, Ms. Liu is involved in administrative responsibilities at the hospital, including managing program budget, hiring and firing of staff, program development and working closely with federal (SAMHSA, NIMH) and state (New York State Office of Mental Health) stakeholders to ensure program fidelity.  Ms. Liu is passionate about advocating for the Mental Health Counseling profession, and has created many clinical training and employment opportunities for mental health counselors in her clinic.

Prior to joining the OnTrackNY team, Ms. Liu developed and directed community mental health programs in New York City, serving marginalized client populations with serious and persistent mental illness. 

Ms. Liu is a New York State Licensed Mental Health Counselor, and a member of the American Counseling Association and New York Mental Health Counselors Association.  She received a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Columbia University and is a doctoral candidate in Counseling and Education at Johns Hopkins University. 

Graduate Student Chair Candidates

Mary Price

Mary Price is a Master’s candidate in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at Medaille College. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in Psychology from Medaille College. In between these endeavors she has experience as an intern in Mental Health Counseling at Erie County Medical Center, a Mental Health Technician at BryLin Behavioral Health System, and as a Graduate Assistant in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Medaille College. Mary received the Medaille College Faculty Athletic Representative (FAR) award in 2015 for both her academic performance and performance with the college NCAA Division III Softball team. She is also a member of Chi Sigma Iota, the Counseling Academic & Professional Honor Society International.

Thomas Ward 

Thomas Ward is currently a graduate student at CUNY Hunter College in Manhattan seeking degrees in mental health and in rehabilitation counseling.

He has had a good amount of experience working with patients with depression and psychosis on a volunteer basis. He is currently an intern at Samaritan Village in Harlem, primarily counseling patients who are dealing with the criminal justice system or the NYC Agency for Child Services.

He is a B.A. graduate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (where he was a Morehead scholar) and a MBA graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. He currently lives in New York City.

His plans are to graduate in 2018 from Hunter and then work towards getting his license in an inpatient or outpatient setting.

He would like to be elected to the Chair position to help ACA-NY work closely with all types of counseling graduate students.  He also would like to leverage the platform to help graduate NY counseling students network better and learn more about getting internships, getting jobs and sharing their experiences.