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Vicki Michels' professional trifecta: teacher, researcher, consultant

Tucked in a corner office of busy Memorial Hall, Vicki Michels is immersed in a busyness of her own making. As MSU's director of addiction studies, Michels finds more than enough work to fill her days. However, she thinks research and clinical consulting is what keeps her teaching current for future counselors.

Michels, a Mohall native, received her bachelor's in psychology at Minot State and was mentored by Don Burke. She completed her doctorate in clinical psychology at the University of Wyoming. During her pre-doctoral internship at a Veteran's Administration hospital in Maine, she discovered her calling in working with post-traumatic stress, co-occurring diagnosis with addiction and geriatrics. She returned to Minot and worked as a clinical psychologist at Trinity Health for five years before joining Minot State University's psychology department in 2001. She remains on staff part-time for Trinity.

"Continuing to see clients helps me maintain my skills and stay current with clinical practice methods which improves my teaching," she said. "I really enjoy working with clients."

Michels also has a penchant for research. Over the years, she has been involved in many research projects, and recently she teamed with Terry Eckmann, professor of physical education, to compare improved cognitive ability in super seniors (70+) who participated in one of two different exercise programs. Last spring they studied 50 to 70 year olds.

In an ongoing study, Michels collaborated with Amy Canevello, a social psychologist at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, researching how flood survivors develop post-traumatic growth.

"Approximately 70 couples agreed to participate, and each person was asked to complete a pretty extensive survey about how they interacted under stress," she said. "They completed one survey at the study's beginning and again six months later.

" We want to know what couples are doing together that helps them not only recover but flourish, so in the future we can help other people who have experienced similar trauma do the same."

Michels also hopes to detect a connection between positive stress management and fewer health issues. Study results will be available in late spring 2014.

Research aside, what Michels really hopes to influence is the availability of addiction counselors in North Dakota. MSU has the only nationally accredited bachelor's program in the state and is one of very few accredited programs in the country.

"Addiction counselors are in high demand," she said. "Older counselors are aging out of the profession, and we can't replace them fast enough. It's a good job that can be very rewarding."