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Psychotherapist with a purpose

WVU staff member is passionate about helping students, creating community

WVU Today

For two years, a psychotherapist-turned-administrator at West Virginia University said COVID-19 has necessarily forced members of the University community — students, faculty and staff — along with people all over the world into individual boxes.

“They have been conditioned to stay in their little box,” Eric Murphy said of the effects of prolonged social distancing, a preventative measure implemented to limit virus spread, that is now hitting people in all demographics in different ways as mitigation efforts are lifted.

“People are really separated, and they don’t even realize it. Hence why we’re seeing the mental health issues which largely come from feelings of being alone.”

Murphy brings 20 years of counseling experience to his dual University roles — assistant director in the Office of Housing and Residence Life and his newest position as assistant director for the Center for Fraternal Values and Leadership.

He said learning to reestablish human connections is key.

“My purpose is to create an environment of unconditional, positive regard where students can see their own capacity and allow me to be a resource for them,” he said.

During his State of the University Address in October, President Gordon Gee discussed purpose as a foundational pillar of the University. “We need to lead with purpose rather than follow,” Gee said.

Murphy describes himself as “an inadvertent leader.”

After graduating from Fairmont State University with a liberal arts degree he went on to earn two master’s degrees at WVU in community health promotion and community counseling. Murphy worked in private therapeutic practice in Washington, Pa., before returning to WVU in 2015 to take a job as a WVU Extension agent in Monongalia County, leading later to a position with the WVU Center for Service and Learning which is now part of the Center for Community Engagement.

In his latest position, Murphy’s reach is wide — encompassing work to foster transformative behavior for underserved students of different races and ethnicities, international students, Appalachian students, students with disabilities, students in the LGBTQ+ communities and many others.

“There’s not a group that I don’t touch on campus,” Murphy said. “I try to work with every underserved group that I can. I’m energized to consistently support and nurture the identification of personal purpose in our diverse body of students.”

He’s involved with organizations like the National Pan-Hellenic Council, the governing council for the nine historically African American sororities and fraternities, the Residence Hall Association and the Resident Assistant Council.

He also serves as an advisor to the WVU Collegiate Chapter of the NAACP and the African Student Association; a mentor for the Country Roads Program, an on-campus program for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and an instructor for two Honors courses focused on achievement. Murphy is also a member of the University’s Public Safety Advisory Committee.

“If you live to transform and find a purpose then you can be passionate. You can change society. You can create community,” Murphy said, noting that community and connection are especially important now for students and staff members.

“As long as I’m living a purposeful life, I think that I’m good. My purpose is to help people to recognize their own capacity.”

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