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Student Spotlight: Lauren Vader

By on July 25, 2019 in General, Spotlights with 0 Comments

ACU Onlilne - Lauren Vadar - MFT

“I’ve always been interested in how the mind works and with helping people,” says Lauren Vader, a student in ACU’s online Master of Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) program. Lauren has completed one year in her MFT program and is quick to credit her autistic future step-son with being a prime source of inspiration.

“I’m engaged, and my step-son is going to be 10 years old. He actually went through some pretty horrible stuff when he was little. His emotions are a little bit different than any other child that I’ve experienced. And so that really drove me to look further into mental health and how mental health can help people.”

How Lauren found her calling to be a therapist

Lauren earned her Bachelor of Arts in Art at Texas Lutheran University in Seguin, Texas. She recalls, “I was not really sure what I wanted to do with my life for a long time. And so, I changed my major about three or four times. I wanted to do art history, but that school didn’t have an art history program at the time. I wanted some way to be able to get into the museum industry so that I could write curriculum for schools, so that they would be able to take their kids to museums for field trips.”

After discovering how hard it was to break into the museum industry, Lauren realized she’d need to shift gears. “I had always thought about getting my master’s, but I never knew what I would get it in. ne day I was driving down the road, and it hit me that I needed to take one of those career aptitude tests, so I took like five of them. And they all said therapist.”

Lauren started reflecting on her own challenges in preparing to join her family with her fiancé’s while taking on the role of co-parent to Richard’s son. She felt called to help make the process easier for other people in her situation. Lauren states that fiancé, Richard, “was actually a real integral part in helping me decide that I wanted to continue my education. I talked to him, and he said ‘Pray about it. See where God leads you.’ And I prayed about it, and I found ACU that night on the computer. I applied the next day.”

Choosing ACU Online for her Master of Marriage and Family Therapy

Lauren started exploring a few online schools and began looking in nearby San Antonio, as well. But she wanted a Christian-based education, and she didn’t want to have to travel for her internship.

“My emotional reason for picking ACU was actually the admissions person I talked to, Tory. She was so great. And she was so patient and answered every single one of my 1,500 questions,” Lauren says. “She just made me feel so welcome. I hung up the phone, and I was satisfied. I didn’t have anything else I wanted to know.”

Lauren continues, “Tory talked to me about the religious aspect of ACU, and I really love that. That it is really present within the classes. She relayed that information perfectly, helping me feel safe in choosing ACU.

Lauren’s experience as an online MFT student

When asked how the distance-learning graduate program is going for her, Lauren replies, “I wasn’t sure how online school was going to be. At first it made me very nervous, because although the professors say that they’re there for you, you know there’s still that lack of a face-to-face connection. But ACU really, really puts some major effort into making sure they communicate with students and that we feel involved.”

She also enjoys the relationships she’s forming with classmates. “I feel like I’ve developed some really good friendships. I communicate with them on a daily basis, and we communicate throughout the day about topics in class. And we’ve never met in person. So, I think ACU does a really good job of making sure the students connect through group projects, video chat, and discussion questions.”

Lauren has found the professors to be very gracious, responsive, and prompt in communicating with her, adding, “Especially my professor now, Dr. Halsted. She is amazing. Really on the ball.”

Interestingly, the hardest part of the experience for Lauren is having to talk about herself so much in therapy classes. But she says that being more candid with others about her own feelings “has inspired me to volunteer for talking events through my church that I never would have dreamed of doing before. ”

Putting it into practice now

Lauren Vadar's Family

Lauren with her fiancé and step-son

Lauren reflects on how helpful what she’s studying in her MFT program has been in her relationship with her soon-to-be son. Her fiancé is a police officer that works the late afternoon/evening shift. This means Lauren is “parent during the week — full-on support.”

“I think what’s really helped so far is how to ask questions in a way that allows him to answer me in his words. So many times, when we try to talk to kids, we put words in their mouths, and they use our feelings to say their words. And it doesn’t always get the point across.”

She continues, “So I ask him, ‘How are you feeling?’ And he’ll say, ‘Well, my tummy hurts.’ And I say, ‘What does it feel like?’ And so, he’ll describe it to me in his own words. And that gives you insight into him and what he thinks of things. What emotions mean to him. And how I can help him process those emotions. It also helps behavior-wise too, because if they can explain to you why they did something, it helps you understand it and helps you correct the problem, or find a solution that works for both you and the child. So, it’s really helped out a lot in that sense.”

What does she see for her future?

Lauren credits the online MFT program with helping her realize how much she was missing “the presence of Christ in my life. And not only that but preparing me for a career where I can keep that present as well. And to be doing the work of Christ, and just loving people for who they are, like He did. That has really brought new meaning to my goals and life and what I see for my future.”

Lauren feels very drawn to working with children. “Part of me wants to work with cancer patients and their families to help them cope with what’s going on.” She shares that her own mother died of cancer when Lauren was 20.

With another year and a half of school, her internship, and a role as a therapist associate still ahead of her, Lauren figures she’s got plenty of time to decide. Until then, Lauren Vader, (soon-to-be Esquivel), will continue to serve as office manager/“momma bear” to everyone in her father’s metal and processing company while serving as compassionate and committed stepmother-in-training at home.

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