Meet Tristan Bartsch, MSMHC’21

Tristan (she/her/hers) is a full-time student in the MS in Mental Health Counseling (MSMHC) program. She graduated from Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and is originally from New Haven, VT, although she’s lived in Boston, MA for about eight years now. Below, you’ll find additional information about Tristan’s experience in the MHC program.

View the MSMHC curriculum

Tristan, was there a moment during the process of applying to graduate school you knew Suffolk was the right program for you?

During my interview at Suffolk I was struck by the kindness of the faculty and was surprised (in a good way!) by the almost laid-back nature they all embodied. They made me feel more at ease about returning to school after several years. Though I didn’t doubt it would be tough, I felt a warm and welcoming acceptance for all people from all places and all backgrounds. Prior to the interview I wondered, would I be rusty? How would I fit in with the rest of my cohort? I believe the MHC program faculty artfully uphold program rigor while respecting the challenges of what it means to be an adult working full-time in graduate school. This balance is one that I have valued greatly throughout my time at Suffolk.

You’ve mentioned faculty members that teach in the MHC program. Would you mind speaking more about the faculty and the mentorship you’ve received?

Dr. Medvide has been a wonderful support during my time at Suffolk. I sought her help often during office hours my first two semesters, and she played a major role in helping me prepare for the internship application process. I have always felt welcomed by all MHC faculty but feel that Dr. Medvide truly went out of her way to make herself available to me (and my peers) as a mentor and role model. Dr. Medvide cares deeply about the success of her students and works especially hard to help us reach our goals. I really appreciate her leadership and encouragement.

I would also say that Dr. Smolinsky has played an instrumental role in the development of my clinical skills and identity as a counselor. Dr. Smolinsky constantly challenges me to look at the world in new ways, and I appreciate his emphasis on community and connectedness as essential aspects of mental wellness. I believe these concepts are relevant in our current world more than ever!

"The MHC program at Suffolk has set me up for future success. My professors have motivated and inspired me throughout my time at Suffolk, and I feel privileged to have learned from this special group of educators."

Tristan Bartsch, MSMHC ‘21

Building off of that thought – talk to me a little about your coursework. Is there any class you’d like to highlight for students considering the program?

I have truly enjoyed all of my Suffolk courses. The course that stands out to me most was Counseling Theory and Practice with Dr. Smolinsky. This class made a lasting impression on me, because we got to learn and discuss many different counseling approaches in detail. The Theories class inspired us to contemplate which theorists or ideas with which we might identify and allowed us to take a deep dive in to the historical and theoretical diversity that exists in the counseling world. Since, I have taken multiple courses with Dr. Smolinsky and I greatly appreciate and enjoy his discussion-based teaching style. I often return to the ideas posed in his classes when I reflect on sessions with my current clients and as I work to establish a counseling identity of my own.

In my Psychological Testing class with Dr. Medvide my first semester, we were asked to write two papers related to disparities in access to higher education and standardized testing for disadvantaged racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. These papers really stuck with me, because we were able to apply our knowledge of psychological testing to real world experiences and to examine the structural failures in our society that lead to systematic and enduring inequality. These brilliant and challenging assignments drove me to actively expand my cultural competence and to become a more engaged advocate for social justice, as Mental Health Counselors must always be.

I’d like to return to your point on the sessions that you’ve had with your current clients and how you’ve worked on establishing your own counseling identity. I’m sure many of our prospective students would like to know – what have your practicum and internship experiences been like?

I completed my practicum experience off-campus at Walker Inc. Walker is a school and residential program in Needham, MA for children with complex social, emotional, and behavioral challenges. My experience at Walker was wonderful – I loved the opportunity to hit the ground running, to dive in to the clinical work, and to have this experience parallel to my classes at Suffolk, which further supported and enriched my understanding of the work.

This year, I am completing my internship at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Student Development and Counseling Center (SDCC). I have truly loved my experience at the SDCC so far and have found my passion in working with college students. The SDCC is amazing, and I feel fortunate to work with the most dedicated and caring team. Just like practicum, I feel like my internship experience is enhanced by my classes at Suffolk and vice versa. To be both in school learning and in the community practicing is an invaluable way to study and grow.

Many MHC first years may choose to complete the on-campus role-play practicum option. I decided that the right thing for me was to be off-campus, gaining first-hand experience as a mental health clinician. I have been blessed with wonderful supervisors at both locations, who have further solidified my love of this field and my aspiration to be an effective instrument of change.

Alongside the faculty, your practicum and internship, and your coursework, what else do you think would be helpful for interested students to know?

I am happy to say that I have connected with a wonderful group of friends from my cohort. Additionally, I love the small size of the program overall. I enjoy having classes with the same group every day. At first, I was worried it might be a bit repetitive, but rather, it has given us the ability to really get to know one another and connect better in and outside of class. They are all so smart, compassionate, and inspiring, and I hope we stay connected long after graduation.

When I was applying to graduate school, I wish I had known how quickly it flies by. I encourage incoming students to savor each moment, each class, and actively access the expertise of the faculty. There is so much to do, learn, and accomplish in a few short years and it is vital to be mindful and connected throughout, or it will escape you.

The MHC program faculty have motivated and inspired me throughout my time at Suffolk, and I feel privileged to have learned from this special group of educators. The intimacy of the program has enabled me to feel exceptionally supported, and I would not trade this experience for any other.