Lucas Volini ’10, M’12 knows his priorities. When penning acknowledgements for his new book, “The National Licensing Exam for Marriage & Family Therapy: An Independent Study Guide,” he first credited his wife, Lauren (Mazzuca) ’10.

Then, he credited the Psychology Department at Saint Mary’s University.

Smart move for a marriage and family therapist—as well as dedicated husband and father.

When Volini first came to Saint Mary’s, he had a strong desire to play soccer and a broad curiosity about people and the world. But, coming from a large public high school in Chicago, he struggled at adapting to college life and developing good study habits; suddenly good grades didn’t come as easily as they had in high school.

The Marriage & Family Therapy doctoral-candidate, soon-to-be graduate school Marriage & Family Therapy instructor, and successful practicing therapist tells people he got a C- in general psychology. “People really get a kick out of that,” he said.

It was faculty at Saint Mary’s who changed his academic path, instilling in him a correlation between his goals, his passion, and his need for improving his GPA. “Saint Mary’s is where I fell in love with learning,” he said. “The Psychology Department helped me to get excited about my studies. They have such enthusiasm, and enthusiasm is so contagious. It was really a great experience.”

Volini went on to get his master’s degree from Saint Mary’s in 2012 and is currently in the early stages of his dissertation process to obtain his Doctor of Marriage & Family Therapy degree from Argosy University.

His dissertation, about taking an existential approach to therapy, is based on Terror-Management Theory and the concept that our fear of death is the primary anxiety that drives our behavior and motivations.

He calls it “Global Family Therapy” and said the practice is not only beneficial within the field but also lends itself to examining conflicts between cultures, particularly important considering recent world events.

More than a year ago, through Carver County Social Services, Volini was able to co-develop an adolescent day treatment program in Chanhassen, and results have been positive.

Volini works with youth in grades 7-12 with significant trauma, major depression, and severe anxiety. He integrates principles from interpersonal neurobiology, Buddhist and existential philosophy, developmental theories, and general systems theory and calls it “The Anicca Program.” He’s taken immense satisfaction in watching his clients engage in the therapeutic process and improve during their stay.

Volini is now in a position to pass along that enthusiasm for psychology with new learners. He established a master’s-level practicum experience at the day treatment program, through which he only takes graduate student interns from Saint Mary’s. “We do co-therapy in the groups, and family therapy with our clients’ families, and I provide individual supervision while overseeing their professional development,” he said.

This summer, he will also begin inviting bachelor’s-level students from Saint Mary’s to intern with him as well.

Volini interned at Family & Children’s Center in Winona while he was an undergraduate and he appreciated that real-life learning opportunity. It’s his goal to share those kinds of experiences with Saint Mary’s undergraduates.

It was his desire to help others taking the National Licensing Exam for Marriage & Family Therapy that ignited his desire to write a how-to book, published in September. “When I was taking the exam, I was frustrated that there weren’t accessible and affordable options to prepare,” he said. “The National Licensing Exam for Marriage & Family Therapy: An Independent Study Guide,” has already sold to marriage and family therapy students in 26 different states with growing demand.

This January, he will begin teaching in Saint Mary’s Marriage & Family Therapy master’s program. “I had opportunities to teach at other universities, but when an opportunity arose at Saint Mary’s, I was quick to jump on that,” he said.

Volini also enjoys his part-time private practice. It’s a lot to juggle, but Volini is passionate about his profession.

“None of it has really felt like work. That makes it easy,” he said.

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