Beth Toomey, MA '09

Clinical Mental Health Counseling
"Antioch University New England is all about exploring and not just acquiring a degree."

Beth Toomey is the Chief of Police in West Tisbury, Massachusetts, on Martha’s Vineyard. Over the course of her career, she has worked in state hospitals, group homes and has been a foster parent to ninety-one children. She received her MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in the spring of 2009.

Island Police Chief Uses Counseling Skills on the Job

Perhaps the most important factor influencing my decision to attend Antioch University New England was AUNE’s alternative class schedule. I live on an island and my work as a police chief makes it very difficult for me to leave for more than a day at a time. So the fact that I only needed to be on campus one day a week fit my needs perfectly.

I chose to work on a degree in mental health counseling because I’ve been involved in that field for many years. I’ve worked in state hospitals and group homes, and I’ve had ninety-one foster children. As a law-enforcement officer, I’ve always advocated for those with mental health issues, and I’ve been able to divert many people away from the criminal justice system because I approach them with a willingness to listen and understand. I model that approach for the officers under my command, and I’ve seen them gradually adopt it.

I work in a small town where resources are limited. As police officers, we wear many hats: we do everything from investigating crimes and car accidents to getting the cows back in the pasture. There aren’t many local resources for helping those with mental health or substance abuse problems. If a resident needs mental health intervention, it usually falls on the police department to initiate at least the first stages of that process.

When I first came to AUNE, I intended to become a clinical mental health counselor, but my experience at the school has expanded my horizons considerably. For one, I didn’t realize how my graduate experience would directly enhance my job performance. I’m much more “client centered” now and can interact much more effectively with the people I deal with professionally. Antioch has greatly expanded my worldview and made me a much more culturally sensitive and diverse chief of police-and I consider that an invaluable awareness. My studies have also allowed me to make some important professional connections that I expect will prove very useful in the future.

During my first semester at AUNE, we were put through some hefty social and cultural challenges. For most of us, these were eye-opening, life-changing experiences. Antioch University New England is all about exploring and not just acquiring a degree.