Since earning his M.A., in counselor education, Eddie Sharpe has made it his mission to help young victims of physical and sexual abuse and neglect.

The Lanett, Ala., native's journey to becoming a counselor began a few years after he earned his undergraduate degree from Auburn University in Montgomery.

Eddie Sharpe

"I had family who lived in Birmingham," says Sharpe, "and since UAB had a counseling program, I decided to start in 2010."

After enrolling in UAB's Counselor Education Program, Sharpe says he carried a full course load while working at a mental health agency. He also tended bar part time at a local restaurant.

"I'm kind of conditioned to know how to manage my time when it comes to school," Sharpe says. "But having a support system from my family helped me out."

As a student in the Counselor Education Program, Sharpe says his professors were accomplished and well published as well as supportive and encouraging.

"They were truly trying to educate students," he says. “I always felt like I was a primary concern. It was good to know that we were working with a lot of professionals in the field who had written books and published papers. Just to have people who were not only in touch with their students, but also prominent in their field was invaluable to me. I've also built strong relationships with students that have continued on through this point."

Besides his classes, Sharpe took an internship in the UAB Community Counseling Clinic. Under the direction of Sean Hall, Ph.D., he worked both as a student clinician and office manager.

"Dr. Hall was awesome," Sharpe says. "He was a great mentor and professor. He knew the field, and to be in the clinic and have him there as we were learning was a great experience. I was comfortable in believing that what I was learning was right. Just having someone who could back up all of their knowledge with evidence helped my confidence level."

Sharpe says UAB faculty members also encouraged him to attend events like the Alabama Counselors Association meetings. One year, he presented a poster at ALCA displaying a summary of his research on the intercultural stigmas, biases and other issues that counselors must consider when working with clients. "Those experiences," says Sharpe, "were very important in helping me to understand the depth of the profession."

After graduating from UAB in December 2013, Sharpe worked briefly as a contract therapist for a local counseling center before opening his own agency, Restoring Hopes LLC, in 2015. The agency provides family and group counseling and mental health consultations for families. It also specializes in aiding children who have experienced severe physical and emotional trauma.

"I wanted my own agency," he says. "As a social justice advocate, I wanted something that would reach a community and not just the individual.

"The counselor education program at UAB really prepared me to help people," he says. "I always thought that I was a great listener. But now, I'm a more intentional listener, and the program gave me the micro skills and techniques needed to do that."