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From military mom to couples therapist: Graduate looks back at Adler journey

Stories | 10.17.22

For Kayla Crump, life was full of transitions when she first began courses at Adler University in the fall of 2020: after four years in the Army, she was back to civilian life, had just gotten married, was planning to move back to Chicago with her husband — and she just became a new mom.

“I was really scared when I got accepted into my program,” she said. “I had just learned I was pregnant. But I decided to stick with getting my master’s.”

Two years later, Crump is embarking on another significant life event — going from student to clinician. She will be among the 285 graduates to walk across the stage at The Chicago Theatre during Adler’s Nov. 6 commencement ceremony, which celebrates the 375 degrees conferred to students in the Chicago and Online campuses during the 2021-22 academic year.

For Crump, the Chicago Commencement Ceremony allows her to look back at the challenges and acknowledge the full support system — including her family, cohort, and professors — who helped in her graduate school journey.

Kayla Crump in Hawaii

Kayla Crump enjoys the beaches of Hawaii, where she was stationed while serving four years in the Army.

“It was hard being a new mom,” said Crump, who completed the Master of Arts in Couple and Family Therapy program. “It wasn’t easy trying to pay attention in class when I was tired, but everyone gave me the support and resources I needed. Whether it was allowing me to switch dates on presentations or providing a nursing room for when I needed to pump — it just didn’t feel like I was left behind.”

It was while serving in the Army that Crump first became interested in a career in mental health.

“That experience gave me a starting point,” said Crump, a Chicago native who was stationed in Hawaii. “A lot of times, soldiers would come in and end up talking to me about difficult topics, including issues with relationships and sex. I found it natural to help them have these difficult conversations.”

She was still in the military when she decided to pursue her master’s degree. She learned about Adler from a friend and alumnus of the school.

“I went to the website and immediately said this is the right school for me,” she said. “I loved its social justice approach. Two days after I applied, Dr. Brown (Kristina Brown, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Couple and Family Therapy Department) called me. I immediately felt welcomed.”

Her first semester was spent online as she waited for her husband to also complete his service in the Air Force. The following semester, she was back in Chicago with her young family.

Among the courses that stand out during her time in the program include one focused on culture and diversity. As a Black woman, she said the course helped her stay in tune with her identity.

“Therapy is not very common among African-Americans,” Crump said. “Becoming a therapist was a way for me to become another face for my Black relatives and friends to see that therapy is a normal thing and that it is beneficial.”

Crump completed her program this past summer and took a position as a clinician at Phoenix Rising Counseling, a private practice in downtown Chicago, where she’s currently building her caseload.

“I see about four couples along with individuals who are mainly persons of color, and many are women,” she said. “I enjoy it. I feel that Adler prepared me to approach my cases with a social justice lens. I may not be able to connect to someone because of differences in religion and culture. Still, I can do my own work and research that can help me empathize and give me a better understanding of their experiences and perspectives.”

For current and future Adler students, Crump offers some advice to help them make the most out of their educational journey.

“Just be you while continuing to challenge yourself,” she said. “I know that sounds weird, but growth happens when you’re not comfortable. In my first semester, a professor told me, ‘Don’t let anyone dictate how you exist in this space.’ So, I would tell others to be you but challenge yourself to be a better version of you.”

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