Counseling graduate student wants to make helping people his career

Christopher Dacanay

Distribution Manager

Walking around campus in a button-down shirt and khakis, clutching a rosary and sporting fiery-red, curly hair is Christopher Mancini.

Mancini is a second-year graduate student in Franciscan University of Steubenville’s clinical mental health counseling program. He is in the accelerated program, meaning he will graduate this semester.

Ever since taking an AP Psychology course in high school, Mancini has been passionate about the field. Counseling was not always a part of Mancini’s plan, but he became more inclined to it as he progressed through his undergraduate years.

“I knew that I wanted to help people (in my career),” Mancini said, “I just didn’t know how. I thought (psychology) would be worth taking a shot at. The more I stuck with it in undergrad, the more I came to enjoy it.”

Mancini said Franciscan’s undergraduate program gives its students a broad understanding of the theory of psychology. This includes an overview of anatomy, cognitive behavioral therapy and personality development.

The clinical mental health counseling graduate program, on the other hand, is primarily concerned with the application of the theory, Mancini said. Graduate students are taught how to put the theories of psychology into practice with clients.

Among his all-time favorite classes is the graduate class on theories and techniques of counseling. In this class, students split into groups of two, counsel each other using skills from the lectures, and eventually review a video of the session in front of the whole class. Mancini said this helped him grow thick skin and put into practice the theory of counseling.

Mancini is particularly fond of the Catholic aspect that Franciscan brings to its counseling program. He said this is far superior to other schools’ counseling programs, which are overwhelmingly relativistic when it comes to diagnosing patients.

Mancini said that in Franciscan’s program “everything is taught from a philosophically sound perspective. … Franciscan does a very good job of presenting disorders and our psychological wellbeing as rooted in either truth or falsehood and trying to guide our clients into the truth with charity.”

The Catholic faith has been a critical part of Mancini’s life since he started attending Steubenville East conferences in high school. This, paired with attending youth group, spurred Mancini into taking his faith more seriously. He credits his pastor in particular for being a role model for the faith.

“My pastor ran the youth group,” Mancini said, “and he was always so good with relating to the teens, which is funny ‘cause he’s in his 60s. … His care and his fatherly heart were so apparent. … He gave us the truth, but he also did it in a gentle and compassionate way.”

Mancini said, “It’s been awesome to see how I can serve people (through counseling) in a way that’s very different from how I ever would’ve predicted I’d be serving them (while) growing up. I can definitely say that I’ve developed a passion for helping people (through) the mental health field that I didn’t expect myself to have as a teenager.”

His faith has grown significantly since high school, Mancini said. After he began attending Franciscan University, Mancini joined the Fishers of Men household, which helped him to grow in his relationship with the Blessed Virgin Mary and the rest of the holy family.

Mancini calls household life the most impactful developer of his character. He said the Fishers of Men were not merely a club for him; rather, they inspired in him a daily devotion to the rosary.

Furthermore, Mancini, who served as coordinator during his senior year, said the brotherhood brought him out of his shell and gave him people to intimately confide in.

Before attending Franciscan, Mancini grew up in Westerly, Rhode Island, as the oldest of four kids. Mancini describes his early life as centered on “faith, family and fun.” He was a rambunctious child who gave his parents “a run for their money,” he said.

In his free time, Mancini said, he loves to draw, read fantasy novels, work out, play volleyball and practice video editing, sometimes for his YouTube channel. Mancini said he is also in the editing stages of a Catholic “postmodern, dystopian, superhero” fiction novel that he has been writing since high school.

“To live life means to live in adventure,” Mancini said. “(I try to) incorporate that into the videos and stories I write. Also, life without laughter is so sad, so I love to incorporate that goofy, humorous element into the things I do as well.”

Graduation from the master’s program is soon approaching for Mancini. He said that his next steps include plenty of work.

Mancini said he already has a job offer that he is likely going to accept. He will be doing in-home family visitation services, which consists of performing counseling within others’ homes. Beyond that, only time will tell where Mancini’s future will take him.

Speaking to anyone else pursuing psychology, Mancini said, “Stick with it. … Don’t stress out too much about it. You don’t have to have your whole life figured out right now — I still don’t.”