Alison Ehlers’ success in the classroom has earned her one of the highest academic awards at California State University, Sacramento.
The Placerville resident is one of four students who earned the Love of Learning scholarship.
Ehlers, who recently graduated with a master’s degree in psychology, received the $500 scholarship for her academic achievements. She was in the top 10 percent of her class is a member of Phi Kappa Phi.
The department extends invitations to students to join Phi Kappa Phi based on the cumulative grade total when they graduate, Ehlers said.
The program is very demanding.
“It’s twice as long as a standard master’s program. The department demands that training be rigorous,” Ehlers said. “The university wants its graduate students to beat the odds and pass both exams, which have a passing rate of 66 percent, on their first attempt. So they require nearly twice as many courses as a standard graduate program.”
Ehlers has logged in 3,000 hours over the last four years in the psychology department. During that time, she counseled groups and individuals.
“I enjoy helping people. I think we should never underestimate the value of chatting with a trained professional and skilled listener. Our society must work at destigmatizing the concept of mental health. The fact is that nearly one in four adults, or 58 million, struggle with a mental disorder in any given year but less than one-third of those receive mental health services,” Ehlers said.
“This is both a result of the stigma we place on mental health services and the egregious cost of such services. The direct and indirect cost of mental health services is about $79 billion. And, despite the fact that getting help early reduces overall costs, improves quality of life, lessens suicide risk, and helps families cope, mental health services are often the first to be cut when budgets are reviewed,” she said.
In order to obtain her license as a marriage and family therapist, Ehlers had to pass two clinical worker exams administered by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences in addition to earning her master’s degree.
Ehlers, 51, balances a full-time college schedule and works multiple jobs. She works as a registered intern at the El Dorado County Mental Health Department in Placerville, is a volunteer registered intern at New Morning Youth and Family Services in Placerville and is a volunteer co-facilitator at the Center for Violence-free Relationships in Placerville. The work at the Center for Violence-free Relationships was part of her 12-week curriculum she created for her thesis.
Last fall, she was director of a stage show sponsored by Soroptimist International of Cameron Park/El Dorado Hills that was performed for girls.
“My cast included five high school girls who performed five sketches in a 60-minute assembly format,” Ehlers said.
The skits were to present options on handling self esteem issues.
In addition, she works as a co-owner of an online retail Website and administrative assistant for a private investigator.
She continues to attend seminars/workshops, doing client-centered advocacy and research and receiving supervision from a licensed therapist.
Prior to her interest in helping people fulltime, Ehlers was the vocalist for a cruise line for 17 years, performing in more than 100 countries to many happy audiences. This helped her “create colorful and creative approaches,” Ehlers said.
Ehlers gives advice to anyone who wants to obtain a college degree — whether they’re starting at a community college to earning a master’s degree.
“It requires time, money and dedication, but it is most definitely possible and rewarding,” Ehlers said. “Make sure you can commit time, money and intellectual dedication, but never assume it is not possible to accomplish. Just take baby steps along the process and it will eventually become a reachable goal.”
Contact Mike Bush at 530-344-5079 or [email protected] Follow @MBushMtDemo on Twitter.