Grad Profile: Future therapist learned healing power of counseling first-hand

After therapy helped her overcome an eating disorder, Lindsey Watkins pursued a master’s in counseling psychology so she can help people “the way my life was saved,” she said.

Lindsey Watkins
MS Counseling Psychology

Psychology was never a subject Lindsey Watkins thought she’d go into. Even though her mother has a Ph.D. in psychology and teaches neuroscience research at CSUB, Watkins wanted to find her own path in life.

She went to University of North Texas – a large school with about 35,000 students – and declared chemistry as her major. But she felt unknown among the sea of students and, after ending an unhealthy relationship, she fell into a deep depression and stopped eating.

“Maybe I was seeking control after feeling so lost. At first I just wasn’t hungry. Then I remember a distinct point when I decided I was going to continue to not eat,” Watkins said.

Meanwhile, her mother, Isabel Sumaya, knew something was wrong. Sumaya packed her bags and traveled with her sister, mother and niece to bring her daughter back to California.

“When she opened the door, I wanted to cry, but didn’t,” Sumaya said. “I didn’t want Lindsey to know how bad she looked. She was skin and bones and I knew if I didn’t take her home with me that day she was going to die there.”

Watkins returned to Bakersfield and began a journey to recovery and self-discovery. She found a therapist who not only helped her overcome her depression, but inspired her to help others as well. The band of strong women in her family also held her accountable and didn’t let her fall into old patterns.

“From then on, I knew, if I can help one person the way my life was saved, then I’m good,” Watkins said. “Knowing the healing purpose of therapy, I knew that was my passion.”

“Ironically, it took her struggle for life to find her passion in life,” her mother said.

Watkins enrolled at CSUB and majored in psychology, graduating with her bachelor’s in 2009. Then she began the Master’s in Counseling Psychology program, where she got her first taste of working one-on-one with real clients in the University Counseling Training Clinic. She says she was both terrified and elated the first time she saw a client, but that very soon counseling others “felt like home, like where I was meant to be.”

Clinic director and psychology professor Dr. Kathleen Ritter is impressed by Watkins’ sparkle, enthusiasm and desire to learn – just a few of the reasons she was chosen as the Outstanding Graduate of the program.

“Virtually every client she’s had has returned to see her. Her clients respond very well to her,” Ritter said. “And she’s willing to help her colleagues. She’s often the person who will reach out to someone who’s struggling and who will bring snacks or treats to cheer us all up. She reaches out to her fellow students like she does to her clients.”

Watkins’ next step is to find an internship so that she can complete the 3,000 hours required to take the exam to become a licensed marriage and family therapist. Eventually she’d like to open a low-cost counseling clinic similar to the clinic at CSUB that serves uninsured and under-insured Kern County residents.

Watkins says CSUB has played a huge role in her personal and professional growth.

“I came in so frail, but I’m coming out so confident,” she said. “It was apparent very early on that all of my professors cared about my success and growth in such a way that inspired me to be a better me. I can’t thank all of my professors and CSUB enough for all the knowledge, wisdom and growth they have instilled in me through this program.”