Lennis Echterling, Ph.D. (Rockhurst ’70)
Lennis Echterling (Ph.D., Purdue University, ‘76) is a Professor of Counseling at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Inspired by his Jesuit college education, he has pursued a career of service, particularly during crises and disasters. He has served as an intervener, consultant, and trainer following many traumatic events, including tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, the tsunami in India, the 9/11 attacks at the Pentagon, the shootings at Virginia Tech, and landmine explosions in the Middle East. One of his projects involved developing programs that promoted landmine safety for over 15,000 children. He also developed Pathways to Resilience, a program for survivors of war-related violence. For seven years, he was a volunteer therapist for the children of Virginia National Guard members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, Dr. Echterling created public education documents on promoting psychological resilience. These were sent to thousands of school counselors, teachers, therapists, mental health counselors, leaders of faith groups, parents, and other concerned individuals.
In 1986, Dr. Echterling founded the Critical Incident Stress Management Team in the Shenandoah Valley. In this volunteer role, he has provided crisis services to hundreds of first responders following traumatic incidents. He regularly trains law enforcement officers in suicide prevention. In Texas, he has supported social workers, counselors, clergy, volunteers, and psychologists who worked in programs overwhelmed with immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.
Dr. Echterling’s scholarship projects, which often emerged from his service work, include such books as "Crisis Intervention: Building Resilience in Troubled Times,” “Thriving: A Manual for Students in the Helping Professions,” and “Beyond Brief Counseling.” These texts are used in graduate counseling and therapy programs around the country. He also has written 16 book chapters and 48 professional journal articles on such topics as PTSD, neuroscience, play therapy, and supervision.
Dr. Echterling’s approach to teaching has been to reduce the barriers between the classroom and the community, between theory and practice. Over the decades, he has involved his counseling students in providing thousands of hours of service by applying psychology to real-world problems. He also has trained thousands of counselors, psychologists, social workers, therapists, teachers, nurses, clergy, and volunteers in numerous workshops throughout the world. Dr. Echterling sees potential in his students that they often cannot see in themselves, inspiring them to reach beyond their professional goals and to move into positions of service and leadership.
A parishioner of the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church of Harrisonburg for over four decades, Dr. Echterling has pursued the mission of Alpha Sigma Nu that encourages the “lifetime pursuit of intellectual development, deepening Ignatian spirituality, service to others, and a commitment to the core principles of Jesuit education.”