By: Mary Leigh Howell

NORTH CAROLINA – Catherine Johnson MS/EdS ’09 moved to sunny Florida for her undergraduate degree, but she looked closer to home for graduate school.

“Little did I know that UNCG had one of the top counseling programs in the country.”

It’s No. 2, between University of Maryland’s program and Georgia’s, in the recent U.S. News & World Report rankings.

While studying in the couples and family track in UNCG’s Department of Counseling and Educational Development, UNCG faculty began to notice her strengths. “The field of family violence found me, not the other way around,” says Johnson.

“They said I’m calm and good at listening and that I should hone in on that skill.”

As she explored that area, the department was by her side. “Dr. Craig Cashwell and Dr. Christine Murray championed me.”

“Dr. Murray is a huge proponent of domestic violence work, and at the end of her class she tells students not to worry, that she’ll keep in touch. And she has. She’s kept me in the loop because her passion is domestic violence, and that’s been a great bridge into the field.”

Johnson describes her experience at UNCG as exceptional. “UNCG prepared me as a professional. I really value the school’s emphasis on professional training and being ready to work in the community when we graduated.”

After graduation, she spent the first five years of her counseling career in Davidson County, where she became director of crisis services, supervising shelter, transitional housing and crisis counseling services for victims of abuse.

In July 2014, she was named director of the new Guilford Family Justice Center, which works to protect the vulnerable and hold offenders accountable. It is a single point of access to services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse and neglect, and elder abuse.

“My counseling skills learned at UNCG come into play every day.”

Johnson is still connected to UNCG as a member of UNCG’s Counseling and Educational Development Advisory Board, and through her work with the UNCG Nicholas Vacc Counseling and Consulting Clinic. Murray works on initiatives with her at the Family Justice Center as well.

Johnson will be a guest lecturer in Murray’s course on family violence later this summer, and she is working closely with several UNCG students at the graduate and undergraduate level to support the center’s data management and operations.

The center recently marked its one year anniversary, featured in the News & Record and in Yes Weekly. During the first year, nearly 5,000 victims entered the center and received support from agencies who provide coordinated legal, social and health services.

The center and her leadership are receiving honors for innovative work.

Johnson was named the North Carolina Association of Marriage and Family Therapist Distinguished Practitioner of the Year in February. The center was recently awarded a National Association of County Commissioners Achievement Award in the category of Public Safety and Justice.

To view original article, click here: Tools to Take on Domestic Violence