UNT graduate student receives $20,000 stipend for research

UNT graduate student receives $20,000 stipend for research

UNT graduate student receives $20,000 stipend for research
June 14
12:30 2018

A UNT graduate student was awarded a $20,000 stipend for her research by the National Board of Certified Counselors Minority Fellowship Program Doctroal Fellow and was selected as a 2018-19 fellow.

Charmaine Conner is studying the effective nature of play therapy on black transracial adoptees.

Along with monetary reward, Conner also received an invite to attend the program’s foundation Bridging the Gap Symposium in Washington, D.C., in May 2017.

“This award means I can carry out my dissertation without worry, and that is so meaningful to me,” Conner told UNT News.

Conner began her education at Arkansas State University where she received her bachelor’s degree in psychology. After receiving her degree, she decided to change her career path after talking to her psychology professors and began studying clinical mental health counseling.

“In our conversations, we came to the conclusion that I identify more with the roles of a counselor,” Conner said. “Really wanting to have a hands-on approach with clients and being there in the day to day experiences to listen to them was really important to my professional identity.”

After earning her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from the University of Memphis, Conner realized she wanted to center her next degree and research around children.

“That’s when I started looking at counselor education programs,” Conner said. “UNT came up, and I was interested in play therapy because I was always wanted to work with kids. Kids have always been my focus.”

While at UNT, Conner is studying under the mentorship of Natalya Lindo, counseling and higher education associate professor, who has guided Conner through both professional and personal struggles.

“She has been a key mentor for me in my entire doctoral process,” Conner said. “I have experienced quite a few trials. Back in my first year, my grandmother died and my car blew up. I’ve experienced a lot of crises over the last few years, and she has been the most supportive person.”

Lindo met Conner for the first time when Conner interviewed with her for the doctoral program and has since been in awe of Conner’s character and achievements.

“From the beginning, I was impressed by Ms. Conner’s poise, professionalism and clear counselor and research-practitioner identity,” Lindo said. “Conner is one of the most effective student leaders that I have known. She has channeled her passion for community engagement, advocacy and mentorship and has set a precedent for organizational level impact.”

Conner said that as well as offering supportive mentors like Lindo, UNT also offers her the ability to utilize their play therapy training program and center, which is the largest in the world. The program and center studies the effectiveness of play therapy — which is counseling for children that incorporates the use of play to help them convey their emotions, according to the UNT Center for Play Therapy website. It is also the birthplace of the phrase play therapy which is a term coined by Garry Landreth who established the Center for Play Therapy at UNT.

For her dissertation, Conner plans to research the effect of child-centered play therapy on black transracially adopted children.

“Transracial adoption is a child who has been adopted by parents who are of a different race then they are,” Conner said. “So, my focus is going to be looking at child-centered play therapy which is an intervention and see how effective it is with black transracial adoptees.”

Conner believes the transracial adoptee community is highly neglected despite how crucially they might require help.

“Post-adoption services are not heavily utilized by adoption families, yet there are so needed,” Conner said. “This is especially true with transracial adoptees who experience racism, discrimination and a lack of sense of belonging.”

Sociology professor George Yancey who studies race relations at UNT agrees that transracial adoption includes some difficulties, but he also considers the practice to be a crucial part to the development of society.

“Some people fear [transracial adoption] will steal the culture of people of color who are raised in white homes,” Yancey wrote. “I believe it will affect society because it can help us to understand those in different racial groups since they may become members of our families.”

From previous research, Conner has concluded play therapy to be quite helpful. She hopes the results of her study will prove the same for black transracial adoptees.

“Play therapy has been proven to be effective with these types of issues — [self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and aggression] — in the past, and I want to see how effective it is with this population,” Conner said.

With the aid of her award stipend, Conner plans to attend adoption conferences, develop a training for professional counselors pertaining to transracial adoption and visit Ghana for research into orphanages and mental health.

“That’s the next step in my research agenda,” Conner said. “I want to take what’s happening domestically and apply it to what is done internationally to make sure people are on the same page.”

Featured Image: Courtesy Facebook

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Vanessa McTillmon

Vanessa McTillmon

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