A Minute With... Dr. Philip Henry

Dr. Philip Henry loves the creative process, often comparing his work in counseling to art. Just as an artist changes mediums for different effects, he said that accepting the position as director of SU’s Counseling Center provided him with an opportunity to reinvent himself. Henry worked in private practice for about fifteen years then taught counseling at the graduate level for about
twelve years before coming to Ship in 2004.

At that time, he said the Counseling Center was in transition, providing him with a chance to rejuvenate it. He helped design the center when it moved to its new location in the lower level of Naugle Hall in 2013.

After forty years in counseling, Henry admits that working with young clients on a college campus proves challenging at times. He jokes that he “reserves the right to tell bad jokes at the wrong time!” He added, “What is great is their openness to creating a working relationship; it’s nice to be accepted.

“A big part of this process is being accepted by a student. If a student can’t imagine that I, or any of my staff, can’t appreciate their world, then any opportunity or hope that we might have to assist them gets a little more difficult. This is a trust process.”

Why did you pursue a counseling career?

I can answer that on several levels. On the broader level is my fascination with human behavior in general; my curiosity about the change process and how you help a person go from point A to point B, C, or D. On a deeper level, I become more fascinated with counseling from the artistic point of view. The work that I do is an art form, and it takes a unique set of skills that are based not just on academic experience, but also awareness of one’s own unique style, unique vision of the world, and how one puts those into operation in order to assist a person to help them make the changes that they would like to make. The counseling relationship reminds me of jazz musicians improvising. Each person is responding to the other’s style as they try to create a coherent exchange.

Have you always been an art collector?

I’ve always been fascinated by how others view the world and how they construct their world view. As an undergraduate, I collected art. I bought my first piece as an undergrad at Slippery Rock University from a very famous Japanese woodblock artist, very well known in the world of abstract art. There were art companies in the United States that would come to campus and you could buy original works of art for next to nothing. As I recall, I might have paid $20 for that, and that would’ve been like my entire life savings at the time.

Do you have favorite artists?

I’m a real sculpture fan. I’m a fan of (Alberto) Giacometti, (Andrew) Calder, Henry Moore, Louise Nevelson. I’m fascinated with sculpture in general. I love paintings, I love photography, I love printmaking… I love what strikes me. I’m just fascinated by the creative process, whether that be the written word, the artistic endeavor, or musical creations.

What is it that you like about counseling at a university?

I see working with students as a developmental sculpting process. It’s a pleasant experience for me to see a student walk through the door having one kind of mindset that might not be particularly useful to them and then leave at some point down the road with a way of thinking, a way of operating that helps them to manage life in a more positive, enlightened way. Being a part of the reshaping process is a very pleasant thing for me.

How do you de-stress?

I love to read books. If you were to come to my house you’d probably find a couple thousand books laying around.

What is one of your favorite parenting moments from raising two girls?

They wanted a pet. What could we possibly get that wouldn’t require much time to manage? We went to the pet store, the owner said, “I’ll tell you what. I have two dwarf hamsters here I need to get rid of. I’ll give you a good deal. I’ll give you the aquarium they’re in, all the toys, give me $10, and it’s yours.” And he’s assuring me it’s two males. Needless to say, they weren’t two males. Within a matter of weeks, two became twenty. The girls were in their bedroom, and when I came in, they had them all out of the aquarium and were playing hide and go seek with the poor hamsters. That was quite amazing.

Do you have a favorite place to travel?

Spain. I taught at the medical school there years ago. A group of us went over and taught a series of workshops for a week or so. Madrid is an amazing city… Loved Australia. I have a pen pal I’ve been corresponding with since I was fifteen. I just wrote her a letter last night. She lives in Queensland.