It’s self-care week here at Her Campus Scranton! When sitting down to think of who would be the perfect member of our university community to interview, one person came to mind. Dr. Paul Datti is a professor in the Counseling and Human Services Department (CHS) here, at Scranton. Although I have never had the pleasure of taking one of his classes, I have heard incredible things about him through my friends in the CHS major. I explained to Dr. Datti that the universities Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter has been working on a campaign to help raise awareness for emotional suffering. I was able to have a wonderful conversation with him about his views on emotional suffering, how to help remove the stigma that comes along with it and how he has used his career as a counselor and professor to help raise awareness.
HC: How long have you been working at the University of Scranton?
PD: Officially I have been here 10 years. I started here in August of 2005 and I worked for three years part time as I went for my PhD. and there just happened to be a job available when I finished my PhD. and I got it, so I guess this is my twelfth year.
HC: What are some of your favorite things about teaching here at the university?
PD: I absolutely love my job, I really do. That’s why it is so easy for me because I never don’t want to do it. Some of the things I enjoy, the first being the students. I have a really good relationship with my students, even if there not CHS majors because I fully believe in Jesuit education and cura personalis. I love knowing that they are learning from me and I even learn from them. I know they’re going to leave and they’re going to take what they’ve learned and set the world on fire, as the university wants them to. I get to help students with their career development and what classes or minors are best for them. Number two would be my colleague; we have the best department on campus in my opinion. We’re supportive, we’re friends, when we have a problem we collaborate to figure out what to do to help students in the best possible way. As I said before I fully support Jesuit education and it luckily lines up with exactly what I am doing here as a CHS professor.
HC: What made you want to become a counselor?
PD: I think a lot of us that go into the counseling and human services are trying to figure ourselves out but that really wasn’t my intention. My mother had “my son the doctor” syndrome, you know I was the first one to go to college in the family and she was said, “oh my god, my son is going to be a doctor,” and I thought okay so I guess I have to become a doctor. I was a pre med major at Penn State and I failed miserably at biology and chemistry and I didn’t want to do it and I randomly took a psychology class and I said oh this is really jiving for me I understand why people do certain things and the human mind. I thought it was really cool. I told my mother that I wasn’t doing very well and she said “oh honey you can do anything you want to,” and I was like why didn’t you tell me that before! I ended up becoming a psychology major at Penn State. I got a job after I graduated and I was called a behavioral group leader and was actually doing counseling in a way. I liked working with people in a personal way rather than a scientific way so I decided I wanted to get my masters degree in counseling. I came to Scranton and got my masters in rehabilitation counseling. I walked into this program as a student and walked out as a professional counselor because that is how excellent our program is here. I like people, I like understanding how they work, to see them living better and me getting to be the catalyst. Now I am a counselor educator and do a bit of private practice just to keep myself fresh, so it translated from me being able to help people to training people to be able to do that and talk about spreading the good.
HC: What do you think some of the challenges facing college students with a mental illness are?
PD: Probably the first one is stigma, which starts a lot of the time with however they’ve grown up and society in general. There is still a lot of stigma related to mental illness, which prevents students in many ways from coming out with the fact or even understanding that they have a mental illness. That is what I find most commonly as a counselor and director of students when students come to me with those things. They’re kind of afraid to go to CTLE if they need accommodations or the counseling office because they think they can handle it themselves because there’s a stigma with getting services for that. So stigma is one thing. I think also that on this campus, while we’re an excellent campus, there is not enough education or understanding of mental illness so those who are living with it are often misunderstood by others which means they might not get the services and might not be treated the way they should be and they might not want to talk about it. So those are the challenges, there is some good thing. I think that also we have a lot of good recourses on this campus from wellness, to CHEW, to the counseling center and a lot of programs to spread awareness.
HC: Have you taken any steps to help improve emotional suffering?
PD: All of the time! I do a lot of training on campus, not necessarily all about mental illness but they are related to the counseling profession. I do a lot of work in the LGBT community and again, not necessarily related back but its close. Part of my job is providing service to the university and the community so I do a lot of counseling related readings to help raise awareness. The CHS department has students come to us the entire time saying this is what happened, what do I do. Here on the floor too we work with the counseling center and Leahy center and so many university offices that provide services for students because that is our profession. So I like to think that we add to the education here on campus and to the other resources that folks have.