South University, West Palm Beach graduate and 2022 Alumni Achievement Award Winner Dr. Anna Lisa De Lima is changing lives as an educator and as a professional in the counseling field.
Anna Lisa earned her Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in 2015 from South University, but counseling was not her first career. Previously, Anna Lisa ran a successful equestrian facility, where she trained horses and riders as well as rode in competitions around the world. Anna Lisa had been riding horses since the age of 5, but in 2010, doctors found a mass on her colon. After numerous surgeries and treatments, she was told she was unlikely to ride again.
“That news completely devastated me,” she says. “I did not know who I was if I was not a rider. I became extremely depressed, but I also recognized that I was at a crossroads in my life where I could either let the depression take over or I could do something meaningful with my experience.”
Based on her own trauma experiences and encounters with people dealing with mental health and addiction issues, Anna Lisa decided to pursue a career in counseling. After researching schools, Anna Lisa found South University. “I was immediately impressed by the standard of education in the school as well as the diversity of experiences available,” she recalls. Once enrolled, Anna Lisa was happy with her choice.
“The Clinical Mental Health program at South University was demanding, but in the best way possible. It challenged me to be the best version of myself. The professors were such shining examples of what ethical, caring counselors should be,” she shares. “Each and every one modeled the type of counselor I wanted to be.”
Even today, she still uses her professors as benchmarks, asking herself how they would handle the decisions she faces. “I believe the professors at South University are some of the best in the field,” she says. “Most of them are out there working in the field and coming into the classroom to share the most relevant information with their students.”
Around the time she began her master’s program, Anna Lisa took a job as an officers’ assistant at the Palm Beach County Firefighters Union. As she gained insight into the lives of firefighters and paramedics and saw firsthand the impact of on-the-job trauma exposure, she became passionate about supporting individuals who experience trauma. After completing her master’s degree, Anna Lisa continued on to earn a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision with a specialization in trauma and crisis. Her dissertation work explored factors that promote growth from trauma and develop resilience in first responders.
Today, Anna Lisa is a licensed mental health counselor in the state of Florida as well as a National Certified Counselor. She is the Executive Clinical Director at an Origins Behavioral Health addiction recovery center, where she has worked since 2017 when she joined as a Primary Counselor. In her work as a clinician, Anna Lisa utilizes various evidenced-based protocols, including Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and other trauma-informed interventions. She has spoken on trauma and resilience at national conferences and conducted numerous trainings for first responders and their departments.
In addition to this work, Anna Lisa is a supervisor to Clinical Mental Health Counseling student interns and teaches at South University. She was nominated for the South University Alumni Achievement award by one of her students, Erica Krider.
“Dr. De Lima is an amazing professor. Through the delivery of her content, she challenges and motivates graduate students to expand their thinking of how they view the world and others,” says Krider. “When she speaks about her own experience as a mental health counselor, the compassion she has for her patients is exuded by her words.”
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