Saraswati Dhakal G’24 Embraces Role as Mental Health Counselor and Advocate

Before pursuing a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from the School of Education, Saraswati Dhakal G’24 served as a transplant coordinator and operation theatre nurse at the Human Organ Transplant Centre in Bhaktapur, Nepal.

Portrait of Saraswati Dhakal
Saraswati Dhakal G’24 plans to utilize her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling to create a safe, accessible environment for everyone seeking help.

In that role, Dhakal coordinated the center’s renal transplant services, delivering care and treatment to patients, while providing counseling and guidance to both the recipients and the family members of the donors.

Dhakal experienced the challenging hardships of working with patients with terminal illness, and she saw firsthand the psychological impact it can have on a family watching a loved one go through their health battle.

Those interactions reinforced to Dhakal the importance of holistic health care while setting her on a path to become a professional counselor and mental health advocate once she graduates.

“Witnessing the impact of mental health challenges on individuals close to me sparked a desire to understand and support those struggling with such issues. Those experiences as a nurse and transplant coordinator further ignited my curiosity to learn more about mental health, which stems from a desire to better understand individuals’ experiences, motivations, and resilience in the face of adversity,” Dhakal says. “I am continuously intrigued by the complexities of human behavior and the role of counseling in promoting well-being.”

During her time on campus, Dhakal was the graduate assistant at the Center for International Services, working with the staff to offer programming and services that support the well-being and overall success of the international student population while contributing to the center’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. She also was active with the Sigma Upsilon chapter of Chi Sigma Iota, the counseling academic and professional honor society, serving as secretary during the 2023-2024 academic year.

Dhakal participated in the 48th Annual School of Education Convocation Ceremony on Saturday, May 11, 2024, in the John A. Lally Athletics Complex.

Leading up to convocation, Dhakal sat down with SU News to discuss the challenges facing mental health care professionals and how she plans to utilize her degree to create a safe, accessible environment for everyone seeking help with their mental health.

“The rigorous coursework, with its extensive practicum and internship requirements, along with other experiential learning opportunities have provided me with the opportunity to learn and grow in my clinical areas.”

What are the greatest issues/challenges facing mental health care patients?

From my understanding, the challenges include access to care, integration of mental health services into primary care, and insurance coverage. Factors such as financial constraints and provider shortages are also contributing to disparities in access.

Challenges persist in ensuring that individuals have adequate insurance coverage for mental health treatment. High out-of-pocket costs, limited coverage for certain types of therapy or medications, and complex insurance policies impede access to care.

Also, the stigma around mental illness is still huge and seems to be preventing a lot of individuals from seeking help. Limited resources in integrating mental health care into primary care settings also seems to be playing a role in the ease of access to care.

Why did you choose to attend Syracuse University for your master’s degree?

Syracuse University has a degree-specific program, which is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. Being in an accredited master’s program assured me that appropriate knowledge and skill areas are included and that the program’s content and quality has been evaluated. Plus, graduating from an accredited program will help me get a license, which is required for the clinical practice after I graduate.

How has Syracuse University enhanced your skills and prepared you for career success?

The rigorous coursework, with its extensive practicum and internship requirements, along with other experiential learning opportunities have provided me with the opportunity to learn and grow in my clinical areas. I am currently doing my internship in a community-based integrated care clinic in Syracuse, which has allowed me to apply theoretical knowledge in real-world settings.

Besides that, the on-campus resources, career center, and events have helped me create a network within and beyond the counseling community that I hope will be very fulfilling and enhance my career.

How do you plan on utilizing your degree?

I plan to pursue licensure as a mental health counselor after I graduate and continue working in the field of mental health counseling. I aim to utilize my degree to provide counseling services, contribute to the development of culturally responsive mental health programs, and advocate for mental health awareness, especially for marginalized populations.

Originally published by SU News.

Learn more about the master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling or contact