Last updated: September 25, 2019

Scarlett Sierra first understood the power of psychology as a teacher. One of her pupils entered class with a wrap sheet of misbehavior, including starting a fire and poking another child in the face with a pencil. After seeing the child’s deplorable home conditions, coupled with parental abuse and neglect, Scarlett longed to help the child and started to feel an itch for counseling.

“After that, I knew how important it was to understand people and how their lives affect who they are and how they interact with others,” Scarlett said. “Much of what they’re going through is shown in their behavior.”

Scarlett asked her father, Javier Sierra, Associate Professor of Counseling on the Florida Dunnam Campus, some ways to help the child. She read the books he recommended and started to use the techniques.

“The child did a 180,” Scarlett said. “Now, he’s 16. Last year he wrote to me on Facebook and keeps in touch. He’s doing well.”

Scarlett scratched the itch and received a bachelor’s degree in psychology in her native country of Honduras. While she was studying, she worked at Hospital Maria, Especialidades Pediatricas when the hospital was just beginning. They asked her to participate in the creation of the clinical psychology area of the hospital in 2014.

All specialty patients at Hospital Maria had to be remitted through psychology. Scarlett learned, even as she was trying to build the program.

“Psychology education in Honduras is more hands on than here in the States,” she said. “When I started my internship [with Asbury Seminary], I wasn’t so nervous because I had already worked with so many people.”

However, it wasn’t until she came to Asbury Seminary that she experienced the integration of her faith with her career. Previously, she had had Bible and religion classes, but it never connected with what she was doing.

“I could see how God was using me to help people, but I didn’t see it in every move that a counselor does,” Scarlett said. “Even your techniques and how you move about with picking your population and the ways you deal with your own stress to avoid burnout—all of it brings your spiritual life and God into it.”

While pursuing her M.A. in Mental Health Counseling, Scarlett interned at Aspire Health Partners. She provided therapy to women who suffered mental health disorders, as well as struggled with substance addictions. Although Scarlett had a curriculum to follow, she was able to add yoga and meditation to her group sessions.

During her internship, Scarlett worked with a woman in her 50s who struggled with an opioid addiction. She didn’t want to be in the program, but stayed because otherwise she would lose her child to the department of child services.

“When I started my rapport with her, you could see hollowness inside of her,” Scarlett said. “As she spoke, it was all about wanting to leave to get drugs and hopelessness of not being able to be helped.”

As she detoxed, she found comfort in Scarlett, who helped her through the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual parts of recovery. The woman went on to complete her program and graduate.

“A big part of her recovery was God,” Scarlett said. “The way I work as an instrument of God in counseling is by modeling what I think God would do or say or by feeling how He wants me to feel with the person who’s in front of me. That way I can give [them a sense of God even without mentioning His name.]”

In the future, Scarlett hopes to get to a job in Mental Health Counseling. Her primary passion is women’s trauma and immigrant struggles. When she’s not counseling, you’ll find her journaling, doing yoga, learning French, or cooking. Scarlett also is starting a counseling service online. You can learn more about her business at this link.

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