A new mental health resource for professionals and students is now available in the State College community – and it grew out of a Penn State class assignment.
AutumnSpring Counseling, a private practice, focuses on ‘the strategic integration of work / school and mental health topics to help clients explore new ideas about themselves, their careers and how to do good. “being in one area supports well-being in the other,” according to its website.
The firm opened on October 15 at the office located at 315 S. Allen Street, Suite 121.
Joshua Kirby, owner of the firm, said he has a mix of academic and professional backgrounds in education, mental health and technology, which allows him to serve clients at the intersection career services and mental health services. Part of his education and professional experiences took place at Penn State.
Kirby was a student at Penn State in the 2000s, completing a doctorate in educational systems and a master’s degree in educational psychology at the College of Education.
Kirby then worked as an assistant professor at Ohio State University and moved to Wyoming for his wife’s work before returning to State College as an assistant professor and program coordinator with the online learning programs, design and technology from the Penn State College of Education.
His time as a professor at Penn State officially ended in August 2021 – just over a week before AutumnSpring officially opened to clients on September 1.
Kirby’s most recent career change to opening a private practice was based on decisions about personal happiness and stability, as well as a willingness to meet the needs of the community.
“I felt that a career change would be both an opportunity to be happier and to contribute to the community in a little more critical and meaningful way,” Kirby said. “But also, it gave me the opportunity to give myself a little more stability to move forward.”
Although Kirby said he recently made more direct decisions to start AutumnSpring, his idea of opening a private practice gained strength a few years ago after major life experience.
“The idea to go into counseling was around the start of my sophomore year as a professor at Penn State,” he said. “Probably one of the biggest motivations for considering a career change was the birth of my first child, my daughter. “
Kirby and his wife, Rebecca, now have two children: a 6-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old son. But when he first became a father, Kirby said he had the opportunity to reflect.
“As a young father, for the first time you are starting to take stock,” he said. “And I knew I had to be happy and content to give the best of myself to my kids. “
Rebecca agreed to bring a child to the family to change their world. The couple met as graduate students when it was “just the two of us, not having to think of another human being.”
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Rebecca highlighted Joshua’s commitment to his family while preparing to pursue the growing dream of opening a private practice.
“Josh has always intended to do his schooling and experiences after his day’s work and after the kids are in bed,” she said. “It’s a lot of sacrifice, but he was very concerned about trying to be the best he can be.”
Rebecca, who is a school psychologist, explained how she was “on board” with Joshua’s idea for his private practice, even at the start.
“That’s the beauty of our partnership and our marriage – we’re very good at saying to each other, ‘OK, let’s get this done,'” she said. “Let’s do it together – we know it’s worth it even when it’s hard.”
Joshua resumed taking classes at Penn State “very close to the week” his son was born. A class project in the spring of 2018 challenged Joshua to think about how a private practice focused on the intersection of career and mental health services might ideally work.
His idea for this project was the seed that became AutumnSpring, he said.
The process of transitioning from a class assignment to a functional business began in a meeting with Kristen Nadermann, assistant professor and clinic coordinator at the Dr. Edwin L. Herr Clinic at Penn State and at the time, Joshua’s supervisor.
Joshua said he opened the meeting by telling Nadermann he had the “nagging idea” that he should start his private practice as soon as possible.
Nadermann responded with a “thank goodness” – she told Joshua that she had thought the exact same thing and was wondering how to present the idea to him before the meeting.
Today, just over a month after AutumnSpring officially began its existence, Nadermann said she was proud to have been “one of the first people to help her move forward. ‘before in starting a private practice “.
“I am really optimistic that the impact will be huge. I think there is a huge need in the community, ”Nadermann said. “I think especially in this moment where we are now – with people who want to change careers, labor shortages [and] career shortages – I think there is a huge need to be able to be flexible in your future goals and future plans.
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Although Joshua spoke well of the counseling and career services available to Penn State students – as he completed his training with Penn State Career Services and the Herr Clinic – he noted that his private practice may meet the needs of more complex customer situations with service provision. And he has time for individual care, which sometimes involves a little “hard love”.
“I want to appeal to people who have never even considered counseling before,” Joshua said. “I don’t want to be threatening, but I want to be someone they can trust to tell them something they might not have wanted to hear.”
Her private practice approach, which emphasizes making changes for the sake of improvement, requires clients to be prepared to do the job for themselves, Joshua said.
“My responsibility is the well-being and success of my clients, but in order to do that I may have to question what they think is the norm for them and for the company,” he said. . “My goal is to advise, encourage and support people to make the changes they want to make in order to live better and well. “
Joshua said he hopes to work with “students aged 14 to 94”, and his services extend to high school, deliberating what to study in college, professional age average looking to make a career jump or those in retirement looking for ways to feel productive.
The connection between work and feelings of usefulness and happiness is one Joshua said he finds particularly interesting.
“We all have to work – even if we had all the wealth in the world, eventually we would find ourselves working or collapsing,” he said. “Having a way to apply regularly to contribute, build, create, connect – without it you are not a full person.”
Joshua and his wife have big dreams for the future of AutumnSpring, but a primary goal, according to Rebecca, is to be “a resource to continue to have a healthy and thriving community.”
Rebecca said she hopes AutumnSpring will be part of a cycle that involves people who “want to be healthier and stronger” and return to careers to “give back to the community”.
“This is what I hope: that we become a beacon of hope and health and a place where people can say, ‘Yes, this is a safe resource, which makes you healthier and allows you to give back. ‘ “
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