Jonathan Dator, Ph.D. ’14, associate director of training at Providence College’s Personal Counseling Center, was drawn to working with college students partly because of his own experience: He lost 80 percent of his eyesight to a rare genetic disease in his sophomore year.
Eighteen years later, he provides therapy to college-age clients who are dealing with issues at home and adjustments to their own life. He can recall his own struggles in college as he became legally blind and had to figure out how to move forward.
His interest in college counseling developed during his doctoral studies at Seton Hall. Dator recalls a moment when one of his training directors described her role as the best job at the counseling center. Dator took it to heart, and now trains future psychologists and supervises them as they see clients. He continues to mentor his trainees beyond their training year, supporting their development as psychologists.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Dator has been grateful to clients for reminding him of the importance of connection. “For me, it’s about initiating and reconnecting and also forming new relationships, and so it really is all about relationships. … That’s an opportunity to form closer bonds thereby creating more strength within yourself.”
Dator’s connections stretch far beyond his school. Last summer, he helped a man from Afghanistan whom he had met when he was a volunteer for a nonprofit organization that helped translators come to the United States. After the man arrived in the U.S., he chose to live near Dator due to their friendship. And when the pandemic allows, Dator will extend his reach by hosting a mental-health and wellness radio show on Juice 89.9 FM that features guests with stories of struggle and resilience.
When others comment that he is an inspiration, Dator says there is nothing special about being legally blind and doing his work. He can feel a person’s presence in the room and pick up on someone’s tone of voice.
“The beautiful part about [counseling work] is that I’m in a field where diversity and inclusion are being valued. … I’m fortunate for that because I know in certain other work settings, I could be seen as a liability. Here [it is] of value to be of a different ability status.”