Heidi Johnson M.A. ’18
Child and Adolescent Therapist
Kids Alive International
Wheaton M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
Currently lives in San Lucas, Sacatépequez, Guatemala
"My desire to be the best servant practitioner I can be comes completely from the Lord and has been refined by the training that I have been blessed to have."
As a child and adolescent therapist in Guatemala, Heidi Johnson ’18 has some challenging days. Working with girls who have been sexually abused isn’t easy.
But she says her work with Kids Alive International—a Christian organization that cares for vulnerable and orphaned children around the world—is deeply meaningful and rewarding.
“My passion for working with youth who have faced traumatic experiences has led me to Guatemala, but my desire to be the best servant practitioner I can be comes completely from the Lord and has been refined by the training that I have been blessed to have.”
After graduating with her bachelor’s in psychology in 2014, Johnson moved to Guatemala to take an internship with Kids Alive International’s Oasis project, a group of family-style homes for Guatemalan girls who are the victims of sexual abuse. But increasingly, she realized she needed more training to effectively fill her role as a therapist for the girls and their families.
As she researched graduate programs, Wheaton’s M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling looked like it would be a great fit. Not only did she value the program’s emphasis on serving underserved people groups, she also looked forward to learning from Dr. Tammy Schultz.
Johnson’s experience at Wheaton didn’t disappoint.
Now that Johnson is back in Guatemala providing holistic counseling, completing home visits, monitoring family visits, and leading trainings, she leans daily into the lessons she learned and the skills she acquired at the College.
“Having the chance to study at Wheaton encouraged my growth as an intellectual, but also pushed me emotionally and spiritually,” Johnson says. “I was pushed to do my best and always be prepared. I was taught not to let anything surprise or scare me. As students and as professionals, we were reminded to stay curious. There will never be a day that I don’t hear my professors’ words in my head.”
Those words have guided her as she’s navigated the challenging and rewarding moments on the job.
“I love my work and can no longer imagine what life would have been like had I not followed the Lord’s leading in this trajectory—had I not attended Wheaton,” she says. “Most of all, I love that my vocation is one that allows me the opportunity to lament with people in the most painful stories, encourage and challenge in setbacks and rejoice as Jesus redeems pieces of their story and their heart.”—Hannah Frankl