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Joseph F. Rice School of Law

  • Headshot of Mental Health Counselor Abby DeBorde in School of Law courtyard

Q & A with Abby DeBorde

Get to know the first full-time licensed professional counselor staff member, Abby DeBorde, in her own words. 

When did you first become interested in mental health counseling?  

My first interest spiked in high school, but I initially went into early education. It wasn’t until I was in a classroom filled with kids that I realized, looking around the room, all I cared about was about attending to one kid’s emotional needs. What solidified my interest in mental health counseling was my experience as a neurofeedback technician.

What would you say is your specialty? 

Working with young adults and adolescents. That’s when I had a hard time. In general, it’s a hard time. Having someone to validate and support you is important when you mess up, because you’re supposed to, right? That's how we learn. I think in an age where you’re literally figuring out who you are and maybe feel lost, it’s important that there is someone in your corner that can provide you with a sense of security and stability. 

What qualities do you consider invaluable to your profession, and why? 

Authenticity. Compassion. Empathy. Curiosity. Courage. If you sit with someone and encourage them to be their true selves, how will they do that if you don’t show up authentically yourself? I’m not just a therapist; I’m Abby.  

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

I like to play. I have dogs so I enjoy going outside and playing with them or going on walks. I think dogs are one of the most mindful creatures. I also enjoy going to the lake and I enjoy nothing more than a sunset. Finding time with family and friends is important to me, too.  

What do you consider some of the most important aspects of maintaining one’s mental health?

I think when people tend to lose touch with their mental well-being, or feel burnout or stuck, it may be because they experience an emotion they tell themselves they “shouldn’t” be feeling. Are you taking time to care for yourself so you can show up for other things and people in your life? Attending to yourself and your needs, such as moving your body and connecting with people, or dogs, is essential. 

How do you describe self-care and what suggestions do you have for those who may not know what their self-care looks like? 

Self-care can be anything! It’s what makes you feel good. Self-care can look like going on a walk. Self-care can look like shopping online, filling your virtual cart, and not checking out. Self-care can look like wearing your favorite shoes or trying different make-up looks. It can be saying “I’m going to stay in tonight and watch a movie because I’m super stressed,” or it can look like the opposite, “I’ve been super stressed and I need to get out!” Self-care is saying yes to yourself.  

How do you look after your own mental health? 

I always have a day to myself once a week, one day where I only attend to my needs. Sometimes that’s getting comfortable, dimming the lights, and putting on my favorite Netflix series. Other days it’s going to Trader Joes to try new food and create a bouquet or spending time outside. 

What drew you to this position at South Carolina Law?

I trusted my intuition. When I heard about this position, I got excited. I interned at the Counseling and Psychiatry Services here at the University of South Carolina and loved it. I also believe embedded counselors are a big part of the future and know how important it is for high-stress, high-pressure environments like the law school to have access to resources and professional support.  

What are you hoping the South Carolina Law community knows about you? 

I just want people at the School of Law to know that I’m here and they deserve mental health services. Whether that be a therapy session or resources they can utilize. I hope to offer a safe and supportive environment. 

What is the most important thing you hope students gain from their time with you?

I hope to provide a sense of relief when they walk out the door and to provide a positive experience of therapy if nothing else. I learned the importance of these experiences from my mentors. The relationship you have with a therapist is unlike any other relationship you will have in your life. They’re only there for you. And sometimes therapy makes you feel not so good in the beginning and that’s okay, because we’re going to work through it together. Even when it hurts, know it’s progress.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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