Angela Hayes* had a bachelor’s degree in English and was working for the Social Security Administration when the stress of a divorce caused her to seek counseling—and it changed her life.
“[The counselor] did so much for me,” Hayes says. “I wondered how I could do that for others.”
Finding a Program that Fit
Hayes knew she’d need an advanced degree, so she began researching her options. At first, she looked into brick-and-mortar schools in her area of Birmingham, Alabama, but she was concerned about balancing work and family along with an in-person academic program. “Then I found Capella University,” she says. “Capella made everything so easy for me, right from the first encounter. I could not have planned a better program if I’d tried.”
Hayes enrolled in the Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling program in 2010 and graduated in 2014. Along the way, she says, Capella staff helped her find an internship, where she worked until 2016, in addition to her own private practice.
Open for Business
Hayes wants to make her counseling services accessible to as many people as she can, so she offers a sliding-scale fee arrangement. “I’m on private pay now, but I’m looking into insurance boards,” she says. Her practice encompasses premarital, relationship, family, and marital counseling. “I work with kids as young as eight years old, adolescents, and adults,” she says.
Hayes also offers unusual hours in an effort to be more approachable for people, including regular Sunday hours. It’s a strategy that has paid off. “My business has increased steadily since I opened the practice in 2015.”
Going forward, besides considering working with health insurance companies, Hayes has some other strategies to continue developing her practice. “I’d like to lead more parent education workshops for schools,” she says. “And more lunch-and-learns and visits to doctors’ offices to inform them of the services I offer.”
Succeeding in the Master’s Program
When she started the master’s, Hayes was remarried, had three children between the ages of one and 12, and was still working full-time. Fortunately, her boss at the Social Security Administration helped her arrange a part-time schedule that gave her more time for school.
But it took more than part-time hours to help her succeed. “I really had to learn how to allocate my time,” she says. “I had to work around not just myself, but my husband and my kids. So I preplanned everything. I’d put the entire syllabus on my calendar. There were different ways to tackle it every week, but having it there kept it front of mind for me.”
It also helped that her family was understanding. “My husband does pastoral counseling, and he knew this was my dream,” she says. “Now our family offers both types of counseling.”
Learn more about Capella’s MS in Mental Health Counseling program.