Dr. Carlos Del Rio: Paying it Forward, One Engagement at a Time
By Jessica Fleming
He’s engaged. Well, he’s married, but Dr. Carlos Del Rio does not hesitate to make connections or to have open conversations with his students or his colleagues at Bellevue University. In his current role as an Associate Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences Clinical Counseling program, he has instructed various courses like research methods, ethics, group therapy, and couples and family therapy, which is a specialty area for him. In fact, Dr. Del Rio met his wife at a counseling center after a difficult time following his mother’s death. She essentially loved him back to life in that environment. “Therapy,” he states, “means healing,” and he is happy he has become a therapist.
Dr. Del Rio has paid his gratitude forward, even prior to entering the education field, through several years spent working in the pastoral ministry. When he was called in the mid-1980s to work at the Vatican, he spent time working with both U.S. Navy personnel stationed in Italy, as well as the reigning Catholic pontiff at the time, Pope John Paul II. It was during this time he lost his mother, found his wife, and settled in southern Illinois for 30 years before coming to Bellevue University.
His life has not ceased to be multidisciplinary, his inspiration coming mostly from his wife, a mental health practitioner who he describes as his hero with a good soul and pragmatic parameters, and also Carl Sagan, who taught him that through education everything is possible, including coming to know the vast universe. When recalling the additional experiences that have shaped his life, he includes his daily 5K, or as he describes it “a simple three-mile routine.” This routine began when he raised money for a fundraiser in which he ran the length of the country around his neighborhood for a friend with cystic fibrosis who eventually passed away from complications. The routine he began as a gesture to his friend helped him discover the value of running as mind, body, and spiritual healing, and it is now a practice he does for health and wellness benefits.
Values are what motivated Dr. Del Rio to come to Bellevue University. The “Real Learning for Real Life” motto was very important to him, as well as the support the University gives to the military. His daughter, is now a cadet at West Point.
While directing another psychology program, Dr. Del Rio desired a more personal role outside of administration, and came to Bellevue University. The Clinical Counseling department’s work toward the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) accreditation, a gold standard in the clinical counseling field that the University’s Clinical Counseling program has recently obtained, was a large motivator in this decision. Dr. Del Rio stated that the genuine, committed, and open-minded faculty of the Clinical Counseling program is why he has stayed, and why he hopes to become a permanent professor.
When asked what words of encouragement he would share with young scholars, he stated that it is most important to be yourself, but to be open to the transformation that follows through education. “Always remain curious about learning and seek balance in your life,” he said. “Go beyond what is expected academically and make education your personal goal.”
Dr. Del Rio is living his own advice. He is currently implementing research on the best practices of online group work and its benefits, has published a chapter in a book focused on teaching therapeutic approaches, and has editorially reviewed several books on clinical mental health counseling. Next up? He would like to publish a textbook on human functioning and its relation to therapeutic approaches. “How we define human nature impacts everything we do as professionals, so teaching people about humanity is essential.”
Dr. Del Rio is sharing his humanity in his work at the University’s Military and Veterans Services Center, where he shares office space with another Clinical Counseling Professor, Dr. Jon Kayne. While offering counseling services to veterans at the center, they hope to add staff and be able to provide therapeutic assistance to both military and other students on campus. Their vision is to create a resource that meets the needs of mental health consumers and, which eventually will serve as a professional training institute for mental health practitioners in the region. In the meantime, Dr. Del Rio is always here, as a professor, a counselor, as a human being -- ready to engage.