Meet Veronica Acosta, LCSW, who has joined USC Mann as its first on-site wellness counselor, a newly-created, full-time position designed to provide direct, on-campus support to students across degree programs, as well as to collaborate with faculty, staff and other members of the extended USC Mann academic community.
1.) Can you please share a little about yourself and your career to date?
Much of my background is mental health within the medical field. I have worked at hospitals like Hoag, Kaiser, and most recently in the emergency department at St. Francis, a level two trauma hospital. I have also worked with prospective Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners as a preceptor for understanding pharmacotherapy implementation based on a mental health diagnosis. I have my private practice conducting psychotherapy with individuals struggling with stress, anxiety, substance use and sex disorders. I am passionate about therapy.
Working in an Emergency Department through the COVID-19 pandemic allowed me to realize there has to be more supportive counseling or mental health accessibility to those pursuing or in health care. I worked closely with MDs, NPs, RNs, PAs, Trauma MDs, and techs who underwent a global pandemic with their own fears while having to work on the frontlines. COVID affected many of us in an emotional way. Being within a hospital setting at the time really heightened my passion of working with those in or pursuing health care.
2.) How can students and other members of the USC Mann community reach out to you and work with you?
As we begin this journey, I am going to be on campus Monday-Friday 9 am -5 pm. My office is physically located on the USC Health Sciences Campus in SRH Room 307, and my email address is email@example.com. As we begin to understand the needs and times students need me most, my schedule will adjust accordingly (but don’t worry, everyone will always know any updates regarding my schedule). Once we become more aware of needs, direct office hours will be announced for walk-ins. Excitingly, I want students to know I am available via Zoom/Webcam, weekends, and evenings for their convenience. We want to minimize barriers for students to seek me for support so there are plenty of options.
3.) What kind of culture would you like to create at USC Mann around wellness?
One of my favorite words is “normalize.” I want to normalize the stress of being a student, of wanting to succeed, do well, finish on top. All of that is a beautiful story and goal. Let me help you get there from a social/emotional perspective. Let’s normalize that stress sometimes hinders us at times to perform at the best of our ability, but using the resources, like my office, can help you normalize any emotions or feelings one may have about their academic trajectory. The culture I want to create is students’ willingness to ask for help and feel comfortable to reach out during stressful academic moments. More than anything, to not fear that as a Wellness Counselor I am happy to help, and I want to!
4.) Can you share anything about yourself that is not reflected in your CV?
I have always known I wanted to help people. My dad used to jokingly say when I was 7 years old and I first started playing soccer, I cared more about picking up girls who fell on the ground than running after the ball. In some ways I feel that figurative message has always stuck with me and wanting to lend a hand. Growing up in an 8-person home, we lived in poverty and struggled in a variety of ways. I was guided and heard by a special therapist that helped me understand how to cope, how to find motivation, how to overcome barriers, and overall, how to process emotions while dealing with the beautiful yet chaotic aspects of life.
Obtaining this support early on introduced me to my favorite word, resilience. I believe all humans and individuals have the ability to be resilient. We just need support from someone to help us at times, process how to get there. Becoming an LCSW is the greatest act of resilience that I have ever accomplished in my life, and I am happy to share support in any way that I can. I am often running somewhere. I am currently training for the L.A. Marathon (so should anyone also be taking on this feat, let me know!) I have a supportive partner who I enjoy running, cooking, and having funny conversations with. I like to think I am on most people’s “top 5 funniest people they know” list so I really enjoy making others laugh.
5.) What else would you like the USC Mann community to know about you and your work?
I am passionate about wellness, the success of others, and helping others experience resilience personally and mentally. I am here to support the USC Mann School students, faculty and staff, so please never hesitate to reach out and contact me. As a Trojan alum myself, I know the importance we all feel to help one another succeed, no matter what our backgrounds may be. I want to understand what your needs are and how we can fill in the gaps to meet any social or emotional needs.
As this is a new position, the exciting part is we will all be learning together how to make sure this is successful and how students, faculty, and staff can benefit from having an LCSW directly on campus for direct and immediate support. I am here to provide support and time for students who feel overwhelmed, stress and anxiety, unmotivated, and can overall benefit from additional social/emotional support. However, I also want to be here for the high moments, feeling happy, motivated and successful as student or staff member. I am excited to be here for the USC Mann School and to begin this new role for current and future students and staff.
Questions? Veronica Acosta, LCSW can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Office hours will be announced soon.