CURWENSVILLE – Stefanie Supenia’s passion for helping people may only be surpassed by her drive to innovate new ways to aid seniors and families in the community.
A care manager for Mature Resources Area Agency on Aging (MRAAA) since May of 2022, Supenia came to the agency with an Associate degree in health care and earned her Bachelor’s degree in social work this spring from Millerville University of Pennsylvania as a returning adult student, while continuing to work full-time.
“I’m not done yet,” revealed the Madera resident. “I’m currently enrolled and working toward a Master’s degree in counseling, and I want to concentrate on senior care and psychology.
“Then, I want to earn a Doctorate in social work. My eventual goal is to go into my own counseling practice.”
Her motivation to continue her education is rooted in her desire to help people, and in realizing the need for counseling in addition to services such as cognitive and physical assessments, and protective services already offered by MRAAA.
Supenia explained, “Getting people to open up and talk can be challenging. But when a counselor has the time to really get to know someone, and let that person know them, they become more comfortable with the idea and we can get to the bottom what they’re feeling and thinking.”
Unfortunately, funding for mental health services has dwindled across the country, which according to Supenia has left a void.
“A lot of our consumers can’t afford counseling – they can’t even afford food,” Supenia said. “I would love to offer services in counseling for seniors, as well as families and children.
“Hopefully I can find a way to subsidize these services somehow so that they’re not paying out of pocket.
“In addition to all the services the agency already offers, this kind of extended, in-person counseling can increase people’s self-worth, which increases their ability to maintain independent living.”
Supenia credits her opportunity to work at MRAAA with opening the door for her to establish a meaningful career plan.
“Had I not come here and worked with the people I work with here, I wouldn’t be heading where I am. I see the smiles on the faces of consumers when we’re able to help them.
“I see them in bad situations and how much they improve when we help them get into good situations. It fits my ideals and my values. Without being a part of this, hearing the stories, I never would have known this is the way I wanted to go.”
Finding that passion in her work, Supenia said, has been a key to unlocking her drive, and even her own happiness.
She said, “I love it here. This is the first time I haven’t been totally stressed over a job. That’s because other jobs were a means to an end.
“Here, you see some stressful things, but you know you’re helping. You know you’re making a positive change. That’s a job that’s easy to love, and doing what you love makes all the difference.”
Supenia also hopes to one day expand a practice beyond senior care, into full family counseling, helping to reach amical resolutions to such things as custody disputes.
“You should never have to fight to see your child,” she said. “In cases of abuse, yes, the court system needs to step in.
“But often there are personal disputes between parents over things like custody and child support the child suffers. In many such cases, counseling can open doors to a resolution that is much more beneficial to the child.”
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that by 2025, the U.S. will have a shortage of: 10,470 marriage and family therapists (40,250 needed; 29,780 available) 15,400 psychiatrists (60,610 needed; 45,210 available) 26,930 mental health counselors (172,630 needed; 145,700 available). These shortages can be attributed to both dwindling supply and growing demand.