An advocate, an author, and a mother; Michelle Alden is a recent Capella University graduate, with an MS in Human Services.

Alden has used her degree to immerse herself in working with adoptive families and helping parents with children who are challenged due to trauma and attachment issues.

She shares how she has applied her studies and research at Capella to her post graduate work, the correlation between her studies and the publication of her three books, and what the future holds for her academic and professional career.


Q. Can you tell us a bit about your background?

A. Prior to enrolling at Capella, I was raising my children and also working for my local school district as a paraprofessional in special education. In addition, I founded and was the director of The Isaiah Foundation, a non-profit organization that provided recreational, educational, and spiritual activities for kids in our community. One of my most meaningful associations was my involvement with an international camp for abused children in foster care.


Q. What influenced your decision to pursue a Master’s in Human Services?

A. I was looking at several options that would enhance my community work, deepen my involvement with the families in my neighborhood, and also allow me to train caregivers and parents on how to deal with behavioral challenges, especially related to trauma. I planned to continue running the non-profit organization, but I also wanted to broaden my education and begin looking at what I would need to get my master’s. To determine which field of study would be most aligned to my goals, I decided to look at the course work. I found the marriage and family counseling/therapy offering in the Human Services program had the right combination of classes I needed to further my career.


Q. Why did you choose to study at Capella?

A. I chose Capella over the other options because it had the marriage and family counseling/therapy emphasis. [Note: this emphasis is no longer available; a comparable degree program is the Master’s in Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy.] Studying online was appealing as I was still running the non-profit, working, and raising my kids, while also living an hour away from our local university. Furthermore, the enrollment counselor at Capella was by far the most helpful in guiding me through several education possibilities and ultimately placing me on the right course. Once I started taking the classes, I really liked the way the courses were run, the program, the instructors, and especially the residencies.


Q. How have your studies at Capella contributed to your three published books?

A. I started writing the first two books – Southern Blend and From the Inside Out – at the end of my master’s program. I think my studies and the research helped contribute to both books. The process of writing enabled me to put my studies and ideas into a kind of fictional case study. It was a great outlet for synthesizing my learning.

My degree program was definitely a motivating factor in writing these books. I would already be on the computer doing school work, and I would challenge myself to get my work done first before turning my attention to the books. Having the flexibility to study online also contributed a great deal because it freed up time to write. It was much more difficult to find the time to write A Soft Place to Land once I finished school. I feel the success I had at Capella motivated me to publish the books and also gave me the confidence to keep writing.


Q. What’s next for you in your career?

A. That is the million dollar question! I am considering several options for the future. I will continue to grow my private practice and also pursue additional training in adoption and attachment therapy. I’m also interested in continuing to work with families using equine therapy, and eventually I would like to have a ranch where families can come for family therapy camps or events to promote healing from trauma, therapeutic parenting, and greater attachment. On top of that, I am also in the process of obtaining the hours needed for my license in marriage and family therapy (LMFT).

In 2011 I was honored to be Idaho’s Angel in Adoption, an award given by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. That opened my eyes to the need for change in foster care and adoption policies on a greater scale—an area I might pursue in the future.

Furthermore, as an author I have done very little to promote my books, and I would like to develop a stronger reader base. Although I am still writing, I’m not sure at this point if writing is part of my career or just a hobby. Finally, I am considering pursuing a PhD at some point in the future, but I haven’t decided on that just yet.


Want to strengthen your ability to make a difference in your community? Learn more about Capella’s Master of Science in Human Services program.