The following article was published in our Fall 2023 Communique. Read the Communique here!
The next time you see Terence “Terry” Houlihan walking around the academic wing, be sure to ask him how he’s doing today. His answer will always be the same, just one word: “Salubrious!” Most students – and even some staff – have no idea what the word means. Already, they’re forced to do some homework.
“I learned it from one of my mentors,” Terry says. “He used to say it all the time. So one day, I finally worked up the nerve to ask him about it, and he said he learned it from his butcher. And I just found that so fascinating that I began to use it every day. Now, take a moment to think about the quintessential teenager’s response to ‘how are you doing?’ Typically, it’s also just one word: ‘fine’. But when I respond with ‘salubrious’, I give them a moment to pause and reflect on what that word means - it gets them thinking differently. Not just about the word but about the emotion behind it; about the words that they are able to use to express their own response.”
Thinking differently is exactly how we’d describe Terry’s holistic approach to College & School Counseling – creating an environment where not only the students, but his fellow Counselors, parents, and staff can flourish and succeed.
Terry holds a double-major degree in Philosophy and Religious Studies with a minor in Psychology. He began as a classroom teacher at Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx, working as a Theology teacher with freshman and sophomore students. But Terry soon found himself becoming more interested in the content of his students’ lives rather than the content of his lessons plans.
“I began to think more about how students process information – why are some students more interested? More excited? More irritable? That’s what drew me into the social-emotional aspect of education and led me to pursue my Masters in School Counseling.”
As a School Counselor at Iona Prep in New Rochelle, NY, Terry realized that his passion wasn’t contained to simply working with the students.
“I loved working with adults as well and I found that I could have more of a global impact by working with the entire parent community, as well as the teachers, staff, and administration.”
Terry began working as an Adjunct Professor at Lehman College in New York, teaching Counselor Education and Educational Leadership. He currently teaches as an Adjunct at Fairfield University, teaching and training soon-to-be school counselors who will enter the field.
“While I love my work with future counselors,” Terry adds, “there is no other stage of human life that fascinates me more than adolescence. I have the great privilege of being able to create an environment where each students’ individual self can flourish. They’re only here for four years – this is where they figure it out.
It’s kind of like sleeping. You cannot force sleep. But what you can do is change the temperature in the room, flip your pillow, sleep on your side. It’s all about the environment. That’s my responsibility at SJ – to create an environment where our students will grow into the person they want to be.”
Terry also views his role as going beyond the students; working with their parents is equally as important.
“Sometimes, we as parents, fear that we’re not doing a good enough job. Or that we did something wrong. And that might result in fear-based behaviors, such as overprotectiveness. Or it might lead to the complete opposite – where you’re not curious enough.”
Terry has already begun working on a plan to make adolescent development a part of his team’s work; inviting our SJ parents to discuss not just their child’s development, but the relationship between them and their child. This is particularly important when it comes to finding the right college for their student.
“Parents can sometimes have expectations that are based on their own experiences. But the college landscape has changed. Who a college might have accepted twenty or ten years ago is not who they are accepting now. The essay, the SAT or ACT, a students’ GPA, they are all valued differently now than they were before.”
Terry’s plan is to use more tech-savvy techniques to help both parents and students find the right college fit for them. Software such as Scoir helps students narrow their search; YouTube videos from the Counselors provide additional information in an accessible way; and utilizing SJ’s website to post scholarship opportunities and the latest educational research are all ways Terry plans to help SJ students find their right path after graduation.
But he also remains clear on one thing, “a Counselor’s role is not to inform students on where they ought to apply. Our role is to arm families with as much information as possible so that their students can make the best decision — academically, financially, psychologically, geographically — for their family. The goal is to, again, create an environment that is safe and allows for exploration. We do not do it for them. We do it with them.”
Since College Counselors are seen as mentors, we asked Terry who he views as a mentor. His answer: author and motivational speaker, Brené Brown.
“Brené certainly wasn’t the first person to speak about shame, empathy, and leadership,” he said, “but she has helped me and so many others shape the importance of authenticity in all of our relationships. And the thing – to connect it back to SJ teenagers – is that they have an uncanny ability to smell someone’s lack of authenticity.”
SJ students certainly won’t have to worry about that with Terry as he will continue to inspire them, guide them, and ensure that they have a salubrious day.