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Opening Doors: Grad & Fitness Instructor Develops Career in Counseling

Samantha LeeSamantha Lee

Licensed Mental Health Counselor Associate, Private Practice in Association with Seattle Psychology

After earning her undergraduate degree in psychology from Pepperdine University, Samantha Lee moved back home to Seattle. She taught barre and spin classes for fun while searching for graduate programs in the area.

Her experience babysitting and volunteering at preschools and the Boys and Girls Club inspired her to look into degree programs geared toward helping children. The University of Washington master’s in Applied Child & Adolescent Psychology program opened its first round of applications in 2017, and Samantha knew it was the right fit.

“The timing aligned where UW was having this program, and it just really drew me in,” Samantha said.

Samantha was accepted into the program as a full-time student and graduated in 2018. She became a licensed mental health counselor associate with a private practice in association with Seattle Psychology, and she accepted an opportunity to work as an interim high school counselor at Lakeside School.

“I like the work that I do because I'm a people person,” Samantha said. “It's nice being in a career that allows me to interact with people every day.”

Here, Samantha discusses why she chose the program and how earning her UW master’s degree opened the door for new opportunities.


What sparked your interest in the program?   

UW has a very strong reputation in academia. Being in downtown Seattle was also very appealing to me. I know there are a bunch of online courses out there that are very strong, but I really liked the idea that this was in-person, and I could network with professors and colleagues face-to-face.

What made you decide to apply?

I attended an information session, and the way that Dr. Katz and Dr. Sedlar pitched the program and who they are as people really appealed to me. I think it’s so important to learn from people who love the work that they do, are really good at it and are awesome at sharing not only their own enthusiasm but their knowledge about the field.

What lessons in the program did you find valuable for your current role?

At the beginning of the program, I took classes on the modalities of treatment and therapies to help the noncompliant child. It was my first time really being able to learn and practice clinical skills. I think a lot of students who are looking into this program should know that even though you’re going into a classroom, writing papers and taking tests, you will get a ton of real clinical experience.

Where did you gain your clinical experience?

I gained clinical experience at Seattle Children’s Autism Center and spent an entire year learning from my supervisors and being face-to-face with real people.

My supervisors taught me the protocols of the hospital — to make sure everyone was getting the best care and best experience. Whenever I was with a client, they observed part of each session and once the session was over, provided me feedback.

What did you do after graduation?

Since graduation, I opened a part-time private practice in association with Seattle Psychology over in Wallingford. I opened a private practice because I learned about the need for outpatient care due to the long wait lists at hospitals and clinics.

I also accepted the opportunity to work as an interim high school counselor at Lakeside School. The school environment is a really cool place to work because you are plugged into the community kids spend so much of their time at.

I am very open to new experiences. My goal is to work at the school, then work at an inpatient or outpatient clinic and then see what other kind of work is out there.

Do you have advice for anyone interested in the program?

My biggest advice for anyone is to just take the time to network with as many people as you can. Professors, students, supervisors — just meet people. Introduce yourself, be bold, talk to people, make connections and stay connected. I think that’s so important, especially since UW is such a networking hub.