Military and Government Counseling Association

Editor’s note:
Information for each candidate, including biographical information, qualifications and reasons for seeking office is published below and in the December issue of Counseling Today. Online voting for all ACA, division and region elections will begin Dec. 1. The following answers are published as the candidates submitted them. They have not been edited.



Jennifer Sztalkoper

Hi, Everyone! Thank you very much for this opportunity. I am truly honored to be nominated by my fellow MGCA members for this position. Since 2001, I have been a military spouse and currently we are stationed in the Washington, D.C. area. As a spouse, I recognize and understand the importance of connecting to and understanding the positions that our Armed Forces are placed in. Our Armed Forces members and their family members are emotionally and mentally affected by many transitions, such as deployments, moves from duty station to duty station, and retirement. My dissertation focused on the lived experiences of Army wives during a spousal deployment. I dedicate myself to giving back to the Army communities that I live in and this opportunity is another way in which I can give a voice for military families. As MGCA’s Secretary, I made it my mission to ensure our membership received valuable information on topics affecting our military and law enforcement members. For the past year, I have been sending out a weekly update to our membership that includes these topics and information related specifically to MGCA. It is extremely important to me that MGCA continues to connect with its’ current and future members in order to grow as an organization. Thank you so very much for the nomination!


Melinda R. Paige

I have been honored to spend the last twenty years in service of survivors as a trauma clinician. The stories of these courageous men and women fuel my research and advocacy as an assistant professor of clinical mental health counseling. I also serve as the subject matter expert for trauma impact and counseling course work at Argosy University and recently published the first qualitative study investigating the attitude, knowledge and skills of the trauma-competent clinician in the Journal for Individual Counseling this Spring. It was also a privilege to provide training in trauma ethics at the MSGA Professional Development Institute at ACA this year. I enjoy collaborating with other dedicated trauma mental health professionals as a member of the Military and Government Counseling Association. Trauma is ubiquitous and a significant public health concern, therefore this is a critical time for trauma counselors to unite around best practices in trauma mental health. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's TIP 57 report provides leadership for trauma mental health workers, but is still an underutilized resource among counselors lacking the ethical guidelines to support their clinical practice. The Center for PTSD also provides standards and best practices for serving members of the armed forces, but is also an underutilized resource among counselors. While these resources are valuable, trauma competencies are needed, not only in the counseling literature, but listed with other ACA endorsed competencies where fellow counselors and counselors in training can access and utilize them. As director, my vision would be to support the development of such competencies so that counselors would be able to practice ethically within the bounds of their clinical competency and according to established guidelines.

Dannette Patterson

I am responding to the nomination for Director of the Military and Government Counseling Association (MGCA). I have a doctoral degree in Counselor Education and Supervision from Argosy University. I am a Licensed Professional Counselor, a National Board Certified Counselor, and Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor. I have been engaged in providing counseling services for the military community for over 10 years. Supporting the unique needs of the military community is of specific interest to me both personally and professionally. As a former military spouse for over 20 years, I am very passionate about building resiliency within the military community, through advocacy, research, clinical practice, and training. I demonstrate a strong commitment to the mental health profession in the area of enhancing awareness of the unique needs of the military culture. This is evident through my professional affiliations and active participation in the American Counseling Association, National Board for Certified Counselors, and the Military and Government Counseling Association. I am currently serving as the Graduate Student Representative and a board member of the Military and Government Counseling Association (2017-2018). As an NBCC volunteer mentor, I have had the opportunity to serve two military scholars (veterans) and one youth fellow (military spouse). I believe that I am an ideal candidate for Director of the Military and Government Counseling Association. Based on my personal and professional commitment to excellence, I believe in the importance of building collaborative teams that are mission focused. As, the Director of MGCA, my goal would be to support the leaderships’ vision for enhancing the development and growth of the Military and Government Counseling Association. As I continue my service to the military community, I am often seeking diverse opportunities to make an impact in bridging the gap in mental health disparities within the military population.

Andrea Sloan

In 2016 I earned my master's degree in counseling from Capella University. During that time I had served as the Graduate Student Board Member for MGCA for two and a half years, until the end of June 2017. I would love to continue serving on the board as I feel I have a lot to offer still. I am currently pursing my doctorate degree at Capella University in counselor education and supervision. I have been a military spouse for ten years and have worked with both service members and their families. I am a disaster responder for the American Red Cross, as well as part of their Regional Services to Armed Forces division. I have also been a board member with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, South Central Pennsylvania chapter for almost two years which allotted me the opportunity to help present one of educational programs, Talk Saves Live, at a local military installation. This population is my passion and I would be honored to continue my journey with MGCA.

William Martin

Candidate information unavailable.

Norma J. Smith

Norma served as a senior leader in the United States Air Force with more than 20 years of multi-faceted experience. Her experience with combat and military sexual trauma is personal; therefore, she is passionate about military sexual trauma, PTSD, and therapies for such a unique veteran population. While in the Air Force, Norma served as all levels, from the tactical to strategic. In her earlier years she served as a counselor. Later, she served as a Middle East Planner specializing in psychological warfare while assigned to the Joint Special Operations Command. She served in various settings both domestically and internationally. She holds an MBA in International Business from American University, a Master of Arts in Counseling with Northwestern University, and attended seminary at Asbury. She currently serves as a crisis counselor with Youth Villages of American and the West Tennessee Mental Health Institute.

Kristopher G. Hall

I have been connected to MGCA since the beginning of my career but I feel that it is now time for me to take a more active role in the division. From my doctoral program, I have focused on how civilian counselors can be of better service to military personnel. This includes active research with military populations and community service work counseling veterans. It is my desire to help grow the division so that more civilian counselors are prepared to assist our service members. I feel that the best way to achieve this is by taking an integral role in membership outreach. There are many in ACA who work with this population but are not connected with MGCA. It will be beneficial for both the membership and the military personnel and their families if more ACA members are connected to the information that MGCA delivers including weekly newsletters with current breakthroughs in military mental health treatment and the quarterly journal. Additionally, introducing new members to the workshops, webinars, and trainings will be vital in bridging this gap. It is my hope that I will be able to do justice to the position and increase our membership.

Duane K. L. France

Mr. France is a retired Army Noncommissioned Officer, having served 22 years in the military holding leadership positions from Team Leader to First Sergeant, culminating his career as the company Operations NCOIC for the 10th Special Forces Group support element. He has five combat and operational deployments, including one to Iraq and two to Afghanistan. After his retirement in 2014, he obtained his clinical mental health counseling degree and works with veterans in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Mr. France has been working exclusively with veterans in an outpatient clinical setting since January of 2014. He is the primary non-VA clinician for the Colorado 4th Judicial District Veteran Court. He currently serves as the Director of Veteran Services for an outpatient mental health clinic, and as the Executive Director of a 501(c)3 Nonprofit. He was selected as one of five 2015 Military Scholarship recipients by the National Board of Certified Counselors Foundation, and was selected as the sole recipient of the 2016 NBCC Foundation Capacity Building Grant. This grant has been used to establish a program that provides outpatient mental health counseling to veterans and their spouses. The goal of the program is to reduce barriers to treatment including ease of access, lack of ability to pay for services, and stigma associated with treatment in the military population. In addition to his military and clinical experience, Mr. France has demonstrated effectiveness in both program management and nonprofit organizations. He holds an MBA in Public Administration and is currently serving as director of the MGCA. He is also the President of the Board of Directors for the James Irwin Charter School Network, a 501(c)3 nonprofit with an annual budget of over $3.2 million. He hopes to continue to use his experience and expertise to support veterans, service members, and their families.

Monica P. Band

I am grateful for the opportunity to be nominated for the position of an elected director on the MGCA’s board. MGCA serves a purpose which is close to my heart: “…to deliver meaningful guidance, counseling, and educational programs to all members of the Armed Services, their family members and civilian employees…” I was raised in a “law enforcement family,” so I know how distinct the culture is. Its culture is deeply woven and continually intersecting with my identities. It is an identity I take pride in. In fact, I am the only family member in my immediate family that did not choose to serve as a LEO, federal agent, or military officer. However, I believe that my choice to pursue Counselor Education has given me a unique perspective and skills for addressing the mental health needs of our first responders. My upbringing has informed my interest in researching and writing on topics related to LEO well-bring to promote understanding, challenge misconceptions, and destigmatize the first responder identity and community. Additionally, my dissertation was on burnout of law enforcement chaplains. It was this moment that I realized how minimal the existing literature was and I was disheartened by the lack of research. This demonstrated to me that more work needs to be done in our field. Overall, this sparked a motivation in me to contribute to our profession for the betterment of treatment and understanding of the first responder community. I strongly believe that our community relations would be better if we developed ways to bridge the understanding between civilian populations and our first responders. This position and division speaks to my professional interests in culture, advocacy, and social justice. If elected, my cultural perspective, tenacity, and creativity are qualities I would enthusiastically bring to this position.

Elizabeth A. Prosek

My name is Elizabeth Prosek and I am an associate professor of counseling at the University of North Texas. My service-related experience includes Executive Board membership with the Association for Assessment and Research and Texas Association for Counselor Education and Supervision. In my local community, I am the program evaluator for the Denton County Veterans Treatment Court Program. I am honored to be considered for a Director role with the Military and Government Counseling Association (MGCA). If elected to the position, I would like to advocate for more programming in the counseling profession related to military populations. This effort aligns with the mission statement of MGCA, which aims to “deliver meaningful guidance, counseling, and education programs.” Previously, I have served MGCA as the Chair of a Task Force to develop counseling competencies for working with military-connected clients. The competencies align with MGCA’s mission to “develop and promote the highest standards of professional conduct among counselors and educators.” The project is meaningful to me, and hopefully the counseling profession, because it bridges the gap between clinicians and the military community; supporting a long-standing advocacy effort to connect counselors with military clients. I have observed the need for this connection in both my personal and professional lives. If I am chosen to serve in the Director role, I believe there are further efforts to be made to promote the newly developed competencies to the counseling community. Such efforts to endorse the competencies can support ethical and culturally-relevant clinical services to military-connected clients. In the role of Director, I plan to actively participate in advocacy efforts that continue the progress made by MGCA members and the current Executive Board to support community resources for military members, spouses, children, and other family members. Thank you for consideration during this election season.

Larry Ashley

Larry Ashley is Professor Emeritus of Counseling at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He has over 40 years experience as a Research, Therapist, and University Professor in the areas of Addiction and Trauma. He specializes in the treatment of Combat Trauma. He has given presentations on Combat Trauma worldwide and has Trained US Army Therapists in Europe and the US. He is a US Army Vietnam Veteran.

LaTonja Reynolds

Qualifications: 2009: Licensed Professional Counselor 2014: PhD in Professional Counseling 2007: MA in Professional Counseling 23 year veteran: retired from USAF – understand the subtle and extensive challenges unique to military members and families 5 years: Embedded psychological health subject matter expert with the Alabama Air National Guard 5 years: Private practice owner Specialize in trauma-informed, evidence-based, and integrative approaches Focus: veterans, families
I am seeking this office because I believe it is important for the Military Government Counseling Association to also project a clinical perspective beyond counselor education. All facets of the counseling profession are valuable and there should be more of an effort to integrate clinical practice, research, and counselor education in a more intentional way than we have seen recently. I believe I am uniquely qualified to assist in furthering this perspective as a Director because of my qualifications and because I am a clinician who is interested in extending research into private practice while also using counselor education to inform these processes. I would like for more clinicians to fall in love with research and recognize how invigorating rather than boring it can be. Such integrative approaches are important as we seem to be vying for the same forms of revenue. However, looking at these diverse avenues from a lens of curiosity will only serve to further enhance not only the military community, but also the greater population. We know there are some similarities across most demographics, so it makes sense to behave more collaboratively than we ever have, since it seems the dollars may not be available as they have been in times past. From this perspective, we have a better chance of improving the quality of lives, promoting proactivity, succeeding in peer-to-peer intervention, and focusing on helping clients achieve lives well-lived from a research-based perspective.


Natasha Barnes

There are many reasons why I am interested in becoming the secretary for MGCA. I have a great passion for the military culture, as my father is retired from the military, my brother is actively serving as a Colonel in the military, and I have many other family members who have devoted or are currently devoting their time and efforts to the military. I have been a part of the culture my entire life, and it is very close to my heart to do work and give back in any way that I can. One of my research areas is military culture, and my dissertation study was conducted on the adult children of military parents. This research took me through the experiences of the entire military family, as it relates to depression and anxiety. I am looking forward to doing more research regarding military culture in hopes of pushing for more services to assist this population. I feel that I am qualified to be secretary for this division, because I have a passion for the military family. I have knowledge about the population, and a desire to learn more and advocate on behalf of the population. I also have experience as secretary of my church organization, as well as experience holding the office of treasurer for my local chapter of CSI. I have great skills in organization and documentation, that I feel will aid me in doing well in the position of secretary. I would maintain the values of the position if given the opportunity, because I value the premise on which this division stands.

Neil Duchac

I am honored and humbled to be considered for the position of secretary of the Military and Government Counseling Association Division of ACA. From July 2015 through July 2017, I was fortunate to have served on the Board of Directors for MGCA. Additionally, I serve on the review board for the MGCA Journal. Previously, I have served on the ACA Professional Standards Committee and on the Ethics Review panel. As a counselor, I have worked with many veterans during the past twenty years in a variety of settings to include as a Military Family Life Counselor, private practitioner, and as a counselor within the prison system. I am extremely passionate about the impact that effective advocating and treatment has on our active duty service members and veterans. My hope is effectively serve this organization as secretary to the best of my ability. As a veteran of the United States Navy, I am excited at the opportunity to continue my support for MGCA at the next level. I appreciate your consideration and support.

Heather C. Robertson

I would like to present my qualifications for the position of secretary with the Military and Government Counselors Association. I have served as president of the New York State Career Development Association and the American Counseling Association of New York. As the spouse of a 20 year military veteran (including 10 years active duty Marine and 10 years in Navy Reserves), I have been affiliated with military communities, both personally and professionally, as a counselor and counselor educator. I am eager to serve MGCA and to support MGCA to achieve its mission I am a part-time Military Services Counselor in a substance abuse agency, providing substance abuse counseling to military, veterans, and family. I previously volunteered as a career counselor for veterans residing in a Veterans Shelter. I have held several positions in higher education and student affairs, including Regional Director of Military Programs for Old Dominion University, where I oversaw ODU’s education programs on Fort Myer, the Pentagon, Walter Reed, Fort Belvoir, Quantico MCB, and Fort Lee. I am a member of the National Career Development Association (NCDA) Veterans Committee and have been a member of MGCA for the past few years. I would like to assist MGCA expand their reach to all counseling professionals working with military members, veterans and family. I am an Associate Professor of Counselor Education at St. John’s University, and the program coordinator for the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program. I am a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), a Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC), a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC), a Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC), an Approved Clinical Supervisor (ACS), a Distance Credentialed Counselor (DCC) and a formerly-certified NYS School Counselor. My research and publications have focused on military populations, career transition, and substance use.


Tracey Taylor Carter

My active involvement with the military community began in 1999. During my 18 years as a military spouse, I served the military community as a work and family life consultant; a military and family life counselor; and a volunteer for organizations such as the Veterans Administration, the Army Community Service Center, and the Red Cross. These professional and personal experiences exposed me to the mental health challenges present within the military community. Thus, I developed a keen understanding of military specific stressors. My interest in the role of graduate student representative relate to the passion I carry for military families. Counseling military families enhances my cultural thinking through exposure to a diverse population of individuals and families on a daily basis. My goal is to prepare future professional counselors to serve all members of society as culturally competent advocates and ethical mental health practitioners. I believe professional counselors should receive education and training concerning military culture and the mental health needs of Service Members. Competency in this area will help counselors develop clinical skills that specifically address military life. Therefore, I offer presentations at national and regional conferences aimed at promoting awareness and advocacy for military-related issues. I hold credentials as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), a National Certified Counselor, and a Certified Professional Counselor Supervisor. Currently, I am a doctoral candidate at Argosy University, Atlanta, in pursuit of a degree in Counselor Education and Supervision. In addition, I serve the counseling community as the Eastern District Representative for the LPC Association of Georgia and a doctoral fellow for the National Board of Certified Counselors. My academic and leadership background as well as personal and professional experiences enable me to serve the Military and Government Counseling Association in the position of graduate student representative.

Jennifer Todaro

I am seeking office as a student representative as I am passionate about assisting our military members and their families. My husband has been in the military for almost 20 years and I have learned a great deal about the military culture over the years. Additionally I worked at the VA Medical Center in WPB, FL working directly with veterans and their families. I understand the stigma regarding mental illness in the military and the importance of a good support system to overcome the unique challenges this population faces. While my current work experience is not in mental health, I mentor new associates and help ensure they are trained successfully. I am on several committees to enhance procedures and practices at a very large company. With all of this knowledge and experience I hope to help positively influence other students and mental health officials as well as advocate for our veterans. My hope is to build a PTSD group for veterans once I get my license.