Counseling@Northwestern Faculty Spotlight: Tonya Davis

Dr. Tonya Davis

Dr. Tonya Davis is the assistant director of clinical training for The Family Institute at Northwestern University’s Counseling@Northwestern program. She has just celebrated her one-year anniversary in this position. She is a licensed clinical professional counselor in the state of Illinois. Dr. Davis specializes in counselor education and supervision and has a master of science in clinical mental health. Over the years, she has worked at a substance and addictions agency in crisis intervention and stabilization and currently is serving in a private practice.

Dr. Davis recently completed an interview with OnlineCounselingPrograms where she discusses her career, the importance of clinical training, and the program’s unique approach to online learning. The following are highlights from the interview.

Your research ranges from specific counseling experiences to different approaches to therapy and relationships. How has your research around the clinical supervisory relationship supported your role as assistant director of clinical training?

My research regarding the clinical supervisory relationship has been heavily steeped in multicultural competency and awareness. I am always in some capacity looking at my role as an assistant director of clinical training through a cross-racial supervisory lens. The students that I serve in this role, as well as the clients they serve, can benefit from my multicultural competence and awareness. In essence, my students may or may not look racially/ethnically different from me but their clients might. Because this is highly plausible, being knowledgeable of my multicultural competence and awareness, or lack thereof, is essential to being either helpful or hurtful. Identifying and understanding the below-the-surface of awareness type of resistances as well as the highly visible cross-racial resistances potentially occurring within clinical supervision can help bring about a sense of resolution for the supervisee as well as the supervisee’s client.

Would you say that students at Counseling@Northwestern discover which clinical specialties they wish to pursue postgraduation during their Practicum and Internship experiences?

I would say that students discover which clinical specialty they wish to pursue at such varied rates. Some students go into Practicum with a full understanding of what specialty area they would like to pursue. Others may not figure this out until sometime during their Internship experience, while some students may not know until they attend a conference postgraduation.

Currently, you teach Cultural Diversity in Counseling for Counseling@Northwestern. Can you explain the value of this course as a part of counselor education and how it is delivered in an online format?

This course is imperative to embarking upon a journey toward developing cultural discernment. This type of intelligence is essential if students are to gain a genuine and in-depth understanding of self and the people around them. Exactly how this cultural intelligence is obtained has everything to do with how open and willing the student is to it.

The online format engages many learning styles. There are weekly readings along with 90 minutes of asynchronous materials presented every week. On their own time, students spend this time understanding the video lectures with bidirectional learning prompts that are to be completed before the weekly 90-minute live section. During the prescheduled, weekly 90-minute live session, by way of a video conference  platform, we can physically see one another in real time and are able to spend time co-constructing meaning regarding the asynchronous material and readings via class discussions, case presentation, and conceptualization in large- and small-group format, role plays, etc. These aspects of the course elicit discussions, critical thinking, and analysis.

How do you support Counseling@Northwestern students during their Practicum and Internship experiences to help them develop their counseling skills, theoretical orientation, and professional identity as collaborative counselors?

I support Counseling@Northwestern students by way of the many roles I serve. I am an assistant director of clinical training, an academic adviser, core faculty member, capstone mentor during Internship year, an advocate, part of the support system in place for students experiencing their group immersion conference in Practicum year, and a supporter to their university-level preceptor as well as their clinical placement site supervisors for both Practicum and Internship year. I provide these types of support to Counseling@Northwestern students inside the classroom and out. I am all in, with all hands on deck. I believe that because of this type of investment, our students have the full capacity to be self-reflective, authentic, congruent, and multiculturally competent and aware clinicians ready to go forth and be strong social justice advocates and intentionally thoughtful change agents in the field of counseling and beyond.

To read Dr. Davis’s full interview, visit