Mental Health Care with Holistic Flair

© Western New Mexico University

Mustangs now have access to counseling services with the arrival of WNMU Mental Health Therapist Orlando Zapata, who is focused on not only providing access to quality mental health services for students but creating opportunities for academic advancement and opportunity.

Arriving from Austin, TX, Zapata began his career in 2008 working in domestic violence and sexual assault centers, eventually working in group practice settings prior to his arrival to WNMU. With a focus on the student population, Zapata will provide one-on-one counseling, work to reestablish the Counseling Mental Health Center, which has been dormant for six years, as well as taking on the role of the university’s on-call mental health therapist.

Eventually, Zapata would like to see the creation of a telemental health service for students attending classes online, providing greater access to counseling beyond the immediate campus boundaries. Also part of his long-term plan would see the university’s Counseling Mental Health Center double as a practicum site from master’s level students in social work and counseling, increasing access and academic opportunities for WNMU students.

Zapata is no stranger to the education setting as in addition to his mental health responsibilities to the Mustang community, he works as an adjunct faculty member for an acupuncture school in Texas. Holding a master’s degree in acupuncture and working to complete his doctorate, Zapata brings a unique perspective toward wellness. “I grew up in a curandero background going back to my Mexican grandmother who prepared herbal remedies for us when we were sick,” Zapata said.

Through a broad background that includes both traditional methods of care and what he refers to as “complimentary alternative medicine,” Zapata views a person from a holistic perspective and believes there is a connection to the wellness of the body and health of the mind. “I look at a person from a holistic point-of-view and when I see someone new, I look at the whole to see what their body may be telling me that could be impacting how they feel, which enhances my understanding of what may be going on in their mind,” Zapata said.

And not to be outdone, while working to establish himself on campus, Zapata is working on opening a small business off campus with a focus on alternative medicine, herbs and teas as well as a small art space. “Art can be very expressive, not just visually but emotionally and for me, it’s an opportunity for people to get out what they may be feeling,” Zapata said.

Eager to get to know his new community, Zapata has availed himself to exploring the area, recently visiting the City of Rocks, and looking forward to greater outdoor excursions. “I’m looking forward to experiencing the outdoors and even purchased a tent, but I’ve been more of a glamper than a camper,” Zapata said.

Students can make an appointment with the WNMU student mental health therapist by calling 575-538-6339.

Photo caption: Orlando Zapata (pictured), as the new WNMU Mental Health Therapist, is restarting one-on-one counseling with students and will work toward increasing access to mental health services to eventually include virtual offerings.

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