Maria Richards, Psy.D., joined the Wilkes Counseling Center as the new campus psychologist earlier this year. A Wilkes psychology grad, Richards earned her Doctor of Psychology from Widener University. Richards brings extensive experience to her new role.
Get to know Maria Richards in the Q&A below:
Where is “home” for you?
Home for me is Northeastern Pennsylvania since I grew up in the Wyoming Valley. I found a strong pull to stay local after high school and decided to attend Wilkes. I then moved to the Philadelphia area for graduate school and ended up staying in that area for eight years. It was nice to be close to the city with all of its attractions and bustle. However, after my husband and I married and started a family, we decided to move back home to be closer to our families. We are fortunate to have a nice support system in the area.
Where did you attend college and what degrees and other formal training do you hold?
I graduated from Wilkes with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a minor in Statistics. I then went on to graduate school at Widener University in Chester, Pa., and earned my Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) in Clinical Psychology. The program at Widener was rigorous, but it gave me a depth and breadth of clinical experience. I had field experience doing therapy and assessment in community mental health, Philadelphia public schools, and a psychiatric hospital.
What position did you hold before joining Wilkes?
Before joining Wilkes, I was primarily working in a group private practice in Kingston. I had the opportunity to provide counseling to a wide age group (children, teens, adults) and to individuals, families, and couples. I had also been working part-time on a consulting basis with Evergreen Behavioral Intervention for Children. Evergreen is a business that was originally started by Dr. Mark Sowcik, who was working as the campus psychologist at Wilkes when he hired me. At Evergreen, I conducted psychological evaluations of school-age children with emotional and behavioral needs.
What drew you to the campus psychologist position at Wilkes University?
I was drawn to the campus psychologist position at Wilkes University because of the opportunity to not only work with students directly, but also to feel part of a bigger community of support. I really enjoy helping people through counseling, but it can be quite isolating at times. Working within a college setting creates a strong sense of connectedness outside of my office. It was also a major draw to return to my alma mater!
Why do you want to help young people?
I want to help young people because they are at a huge crossroads when they are in college. They are starting to venture out on their own and figure out how to integrate the tools they have learned and developed from their families with an emerging sense of independence and personal values. It is a burgeoning time for identity, and it is gratifying to help young people as they navigate this process.
Do you have a favorite show?
Right now I’m watching Top Chef. I enjoy cooking and trying new recipes. I have nowhere near the talent as the chefs on Top Chef, but I love feeling inspired by their creations when it comes to both cooking and eating new things.
Is there anything that people might not know about you?
I was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, in the same hospital that President Barack Obama was born. My parents met while my father was stationed in Okinawa in the Air Force. We lived in Hawaii until I was a year old and then moved to Northeastern Pennsylvania, which was home to my father. My mother left her family in Okinawa and worked hard to acclimate to America. She had pride in Japan as her homeland and in America as her home.
What do you love to do in your free time?
You’ll find me doing something active with my family. I enjoy playing tennis with my daughter and going on hikes with my son. If it’s just me, I enjoy jogging while listening to true crime podcasts. I took up jogging last year as the pandemic started, and I found that it helped me feel better physically and mentally.
It’s been a tough year for many as we grapple with the pandemic, the new school year and stress. What tips can you offer?
- Be kind and patient with yourself. Accept that, as humans, we have periods when we struggle. These moments do not mean that we are inadequate or weak; they make us human. Accept your feelings without judgment.
- Prioritize a balance between things you have to do and things you want to do. You need the fuel that comes from hobbies and relaxation to maintain the energy to work and get things done. Self-care is not selfish.
- Strive for flexibility in thinking, not necessarily positive thinking. Acknowledge that there are different ways to view situations/circumstances/problems.
- Be proactive in creating structure and routine in your day-to-day life, especially with diet, sleep, and exercise. Unpredictability and the unknown can add to stress, so consistency can promote a sense of calm and control.
- Make use of supports, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Resist the urge to avoid and ignore what is causing your stress. The Counseling Center offers free and confidential counseling (570-408-4100) and 24/7 crisis support (570-408-CHAT).
Have questions for Dr. Richards? E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Find out more about Health and Wellness Services at Wilkes.
- View the fall 2021 Counseling Center information and read the Counseling Services Q&A.
- Take a free and confidential online mental health screening.
- Find out more about suicide prevention: training, risk factors and warning signs, 24/7 help, resources and more.