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Elizabeth Murphy '11

Alumni: M.A. in Mental Health Counseling

Elizabeth Murphy '11

Elizabeth Murphy says getting laid off in May 2008 rocked her family. "I didn't see it coming," she says. After a few days of shock, Murphy shifted gear and took action. "I couldn't sit on the couch and just wait for something to happen," she explains. She enrolled in Rivier's graduate program in mental health counseling full-time and started her own business, Simply Swimming. 

In addition to American Red Cross-certified swimming lessons and aqua boot camps, Murphy has used what she's learned in her counseling classes to provide adaptive aquatics. "If a child is working with a Licensed Mental Health Counselor or physical therapist, I can bring some of that therapy into the pool," she says.  For example, she created a waterproof show-me board for an autistic child to use in the pool. "Having additional repetition and routine as he's learning to use the board allows him to build confidence and have a way to communicate with instructors and therapists," she says. 

Though Murphy initially started her business to pay for groceries and help save the mortgage on her family's house, her long-term plan was to incorporate her counseling practice into her swimming business once she completed her master's degree. She's combined her passions into a meaningful—and enjoyable—career.

Elizabeth says that her experience at Rivier gave her a lot of confidence in her decision to pursue a degree in mental health counseling. "I know that I learned a lot while I was here—Dr. Langelier was one of the best advisors I encountered in my education," she says. 

Elizabeth appreciates that Rivier's programs offered her real-world opportunities to learn. As an assignment for a cultural diversity class, she interviewed homeless teens in Manchester. "I didn't know there was a hierarchy in homelessness," she says. Many of the teens she spoke with had been abused or neglected; they also had mental health issues. "They don't know about child and family services, places that will give you food and shelter," she says. "I explained to them that this was the what-if: you can go do something about your situation, here are resources available for you." She calls the experience "amazing" and says it solidified her desire to work with teens.