Annetta holds two degrees from Marymount – an undergraduate degree in Psychology from 2004, and a graduate degree in Pastoral Counseling from 2007. She took a moment out of her hectic schedule to share how she came to be a student at Marymount, and how Marymount has influenced her life post-graduation.
Annetta began her collegiate career at Carlow University (then Carlow College) in Pittsburgh, PA. She was recruited to play basketball and received both an athletic and academic scholarship to attend the school. After being at Carlow for three semesters, a former AAU teammate, who was playing basketball for Marymount, encouraged her to transfer and join the MU team. After talking with then-coach Bill Finney, she transferred and started at MU in the spring semester of 2002.
Annetta said, “My MU experience definitely lead me to where I am today – I wouldn’t be in the same place if it weren’t for Marymount.” She added that she loved the family atmosphere, and through her counseling work, some of her professors are now her colleagues. She participated in Psychology club and Campus Ministry, which she said was key for her, and knew she wouldn’t have had the same opportunities elsewhere.
Annetta’s mother, Asta Benjamin, played a significant part in her return to campus for her graduate degree. She had intended to go overseas to play basketball after completing her undergraduate degree, but her mom found out about an assistantship for a Graduate program and encouraged her to apply. She took a semester off, and then joined the Pastoral Counseling program only a semester before her mother passed away. “I had a number of key experiences at MU, but being in the Pastoral Counseling program after my mom’s death was one of the most fortunate. I was exactly where I needed to be to grieve – I took classes about spiritual and grief counseling which helped me to grieve and grow,” Annetta said.
Annetta jumped into her career path while still completing her graduate studies. Her graduate internship was at a hospice which hired her during the end of her internship; she worked at the hospice for three years while working on her counseling licensure and working part time at a private counseling center. When the hospice cut back staff, she had a short stay at another job, but finally decided it was time for her to start her own practice. Earlier this year, she opened Benjamin Counseling Center, LLC, in Woodbridge, VA, and is working hard to grow the practice.
“I see 20-25 clients per week; 65% of my patients are children, in addition to that I also conduct social skills groups. We work on improving self-esteem, coping skills, anger management, depression, and various other issues. The goal is for both cognitive and behavioral improvement,” Annetta said. “The center is currently linked up with major insurance companies, and hoping to add more therapists next year.” She currently has a Marymount student as an intern, and she is planning to add more interns from MU as the center expands.
Annetta said she knows counseling is what she’s meant to do, and likes the idea of reaching many people at once, particularly through speaking engagements and workshops. “I love to work with individuals, but I’ve always wanted to reach people on a larger scale. I think workshops and seminars are great ways to reach a larger group all at once,” said Annetta. While cultivating the center and her patients, Annetta is looking forward to what’s down the road. “I could see myself getting the center going, and then retiring and letting it grow on its own. I’m always trying to do new things,” Annetta said.
In addition to cultivating the center, Annetta is juggling an online marketing business, and her three year old son, Jayden. She works hard to maintain a work-life balance so she can spend as much time with Jayden as possible. She owns to being a workout buff, going to the gym everyday not only for the health benefits, but for the mood boost and a type of team atmosphere.
In her leftover spare time, Annetta often tries to give back; she is a volunteer for her former hospice job. She has also come back to MU to speak to current students during career days. “It’s all about investing back in Marymount for what they gave me,” Annetta said. More information about Benjamin Counseling, LLC, is available on their website.