By Sara Hinds
Small talk about the weather is at best neutral, at worst awkward.
But with Marysol Cazares ’11 ’17C it’s elevated and deep. And quite comforting.
“There’s beauty in everything,” she replies as she pulls the cord to her window blinds, revealing bare trees so close you can see the near-circle shape of the water droplets hanging off the branches from that morning’s rain.
Recognizing the nuance in everything is her full-time job — part time at her private practice, Cazares Counseling, and part time at Doane University.
She returned to her double alma mater in January 2023, this time as a part-time mental health counselor. (Cazares was a double major in Spanish and psychology and earned her master of arts in counseling in 2017).
She works two days a week on the Crete campus. And the rest of the week, she’s owner and mental health clinician at Cazares Counseling.
The decision to start a private practice was a result of her son Orlando’s birth in late 2020.
Marysol had previously translated counseling sessions at Behaven Kids, but realized her passion and personality held potential for working directly with patients.
After a few years at St. Monica’s — a women rehabilitation facility in Lincoln — she spent four years as a mental health counselor at the Lancaster County Department of Community Corrections. Amidst all that, a pandemic and childbirth.
She wondered how to practice what she preached. What would “promote the best schedule for my life” as a wife, new mom and worker and leave room for self-care?
She opened her private practice in August 2022. When it arose, she couldn’t turn down an opportunity to return to her alma mater.
“Doane was a safe place for me,” the El Paso, Texas, born Cazares said. Two hours after her birth she arrived in Mexico. She lived with her parents in Ciudad Juárez for 10 years until returning to the United States to live with her aunt.
For her, Doane was a Texas-sized stray from her comfort zone. A self-diagnosed city girl in a small town on a campus where no one really looked like her or spoke Spanglish.
Cazares embraced the adventure. And realized she’s right where she’s meant to be.
“My whole goal even before I even came to [work at] Doane was to just help the Hispanic community,” she said.
Through Cazares Counseling, and now Doane, she serves Crete’s Hispanic community — which makes up almost 43 percent of the city’s population.
She’s seen strides in people viewing mental illness more as a disease versus a choice. And awareness in how it can look — someone can be active and involved externally, but struggling internally, she said.
Stress — a common feeling among college students — is enough of a reason to meet with a mental health counselor. And more people need to know that, Cazares said. But mental health is still stigmatized. Especially for students or patients who come from families that aren’t supportive and cultures that embed certain beliefs.
“I always use the example of the Hispanic community,” she said. “They have a lot of machismo.”
(Read: masculine pride.)
“And just because it’s part of my culture, doesn’t mean that I agree with it.”
Cazares has done a lot of self-reflection when it comes to her culture and mental health, and deciding who she is and wants to be. And recognizes the importance of someone walking through such a process with you. (Hint, hint: a mental health counselor like her!)
“I just naturally really love people,” Cazares said. “It's just a part of me. And I just enjoy people for who they are. I don't have to agree with everything or anything like that, but just being able to love a person for who they are, and enjoy that and enhance that, I think that that naturally helps me in the counseling area.”
The aura she’s weaved around her is that of safety, hope and compassion. As she chats, she rakes her miniature zen sand garden on the side table in her office. It’s just sand, but it’s soothing. And it’s symbolic for the larger garden she’s growing of acceptance in the Crete community and at Doane.