Distinguished Graduate Teaching Award
Chair of Counselor Education and School Psychology
Professor of Counselor Education
Gail Mears ’76 hadn’t originally planned on a career as a counselor and an educator, but after earning her BA in psychology from Plymouth State, she wanted to continue her education and chose to pursue her master’s degree in counseling. It didn’t take long for Mears to see that counseling was her calling. “I realized what a privilege it was to be allowed into another person’s emotional space, to witness another person’s growth process,” she recalls. “I learned that counseling was something I really loved.”
After earning her master’s degree, Mears joined the Twin Rivers Counseling Center as coordinator of its community support program, working with people with severe or persistent mental illness. “This was in the heyday of deinstitutionalization, when community mental health centers were on the rise,” Mears says. “It was a tremendous learning opportunity.”
After 18 years in clinical mental health counseling, Mears felt the time was right to pursue her doctorate in clinical psychology. Her search for work that would accommodate her rigorous study schedule led her back to PSU, where she worked part-time in the Counseling Center, a job she continues to hold today. At the same time, Mears began teaching in the graduate Counselor Education Program and realized that she loved teaching. As she completed her doctoral work, a faculty position became available at PSU. Eleven years later, Mears still marvels at the fortuitous timing. “I left my going away party at my doctoral internship site to attend my faculty orientation meeting,” she says.
Today, Mears greatly enjoys her career teaching and mentoring future counselors. “The students have such passion and energy,” she says. “It’s amazing to be part of guiding their understanding of what the field is and their development as counselors.”
But Mears’s contributions to PSU go beyond counseling and teaching. She assisted her colleague Gary Goodnough, a professor of counselor education, in the process that led to the national accreditation of the Master of Education in the Counselor Education, School Counseling, and Mental Health Counseling concentrations, making it the only program in the state accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). With Goodnough and Professor of Education Patricia Lindberg, Mears co-founded TIGER (Theatre Integrating Guidance Education and Responsibility), a professional theatre company designed to help children, schools, parents, and communities deal proactively and positively with social issues.
An active member of her professional community, Mears has held numerous leadership positions on the state, regional, and national level. She has served as the president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) and the New Hampshire Mental Health Counselors Association, and she serves as the mental health representative on the New Hampshire Board of Mental Health Practice. She has also received numerous awards for her work, among them the AMHCA Mental Health Counselor Educator of the Year in 2003.
Mears may not have set out to be a counselor or an educator, but she couldn’t be more pleased with the evolution of her career. She says, “Doing work that I love, with people I admire, in a community that really supports me—it’s hard to imagine anything better than this.”