Working as a student assistant first piqued California State University, Northridge alumna Mary Wagner Mikesell’s interest in mental health during the 1960s, when CSUN was still known as San Fernando Valley State College. From 1974 to 1978, Mikesell ’67 (English) worked as a staff member for Stanley Singer,* Ph.D., at CSUN’s Counseling Center after earning her bachelor’s degree. It was there that she discovered her true interest in the mental health of children. “I realized that the kids needed more,” she said. “I’ve always had an affinity for helping children.”
Decades after her time at Valley State, Mikesell’s passion for the well-being of children inspired her to make a planned gift to benefit CSUN’s Mitchell Family Counseling Clinic, which provides counseling services to children, individuals and families. Services include family and group counseling, anger management counseling, grief and loss counseling, depression treatment, art therapy and child abuse recognition training.
Higher education has played a major role in the course of Mikesell’s career. In the early 1980s Mikesell earned her master’s degree in human development with a marriage and family child counseling (MFCC) option at Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena. (Today the MFCC is called the Licensed Marriage Family Therapist (LMFT).) To obtain an LMFT license, a period of supervised clinical internship is required. Mikesell was supervised by William E. Huling,* Ph.D., who was a valued staff member of CSUN’s Counseling Center at the time.
After earning her M.A., Mikesell decided to pursue a Ph.D. at the California Graduate Institute of Psychology in Los Angeles to become a better therapist. Since then, she has dedicated her career to mental health work, spending nearly 30 years providing therapy and related services in both Los Angeles and Ventura Counties to children, adolescents and families from all walks of life in settings ranging from group homes to nonprofit counseling centers.
“I worked my way through each degree and gained lots of valuable experience,” she said. “Those experiences made me a better therapist.”
Mikesell has considered herself semi-retired since 2014. She no longer sees clients as an LMFT on a weekly basis, has withdrawn from professional associations, has retired her National Provider Identifier (NPI) number, withdrawn from active participation in the Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare (CAQH), and is no longer a provider for either Aetna or Blue Shield insurance companies. But she has left the door open to helping former associates and other people (mostly children) who have been referred for diagnosis only of a mental health condition.
“I have kept my BBS (Board of Behavioral Sciences) license, so I am currently listed as an active LMFT — just not seeing clients on an ongoing basis,” she said. “By keeping my license I can diagnose disorders if needed and co-run workshops. I do a little academic tutoring, but not with LMFT clients as this is entirely separate. I don’t plan to do much tutoring now, instead continuing to work on my books, freelance writing and consulting.”
Mikesell believes that her planned gift is part of staying active. “I’m proud to say that I’ve developed 40- to 50-plus years of friendship with some of the best people I’ve met at CSUN,” she said. “A planned gift toward CSUN’s Mitchell Family Counseling Clinic is a good way to repay the university for all it has given me — and will keep me coming back to my alma mater.”
For others considering whether giving back to the university, Mikesell has this advice: “Do it — just do it!”
For more information on CSUN planned giving, please visit csun.edu/plannedgiving.