BY JACLYN ROSE –
Upon graduating from Mena High School, as Co-Valedictorian in 1997, Dr. Rachael Hopper, Ph.D., had every intention of entering Henderson State University as a Pre-Law Major. Instead, she stayed up late the night before college registration, anticipating the heavy research and work load that would come with her then chosen career, and watching the Bob Newhart Show. The next morning, she walked in to registration and left a Psychology Major. “I was really anxious before registration and thought what a cool career, just sitting there listening to people talk,” said Hopper with a grin.
After completing her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2000 from Henderson, Hopper went on to obtain a Master of Arts in Psychology from South Eastern Louisiana University in 2003, and a Master of Science in Psychology from Oklahoma State University in 2005 and after completing a one year internship at Arkansas State Hospital, completed her education with a Ph.D. from Oklahoma State University in 2008. “I focused on a lot of alcohol and addiction research. I loved working at the State Hospital. They are the sickest 1% in the State. They genuinely needed and wanted help,” Hopper explained. Additionally, for her Ph.D. dissertation, Hopper created an online intervention for gambling that showed some success.
Hopper met her husband, Linden, in November of 2005. “We decided to get married eight days after we met, but we knew that was extreme so we decided to wait a whole 10 weeks before getting engaged,” Hopper said with a laugh. “We were married 10 months after we met. But we were pretty sure from the very beginning.”
The Hoppers moved back to Mena in July of 2008, and their first child, Ruby, was born one month later. In 2010 they added their son, Remington, “Remi” for short, to their family. “Being a parent is the best thing ever. The biggest thing I tell my patients and clients is that, as much as I love my job, and I do feel like this is my calling, I work to live. My family comes first. God has blessed me with intelligent, verbal children who keep me on my toes,” Hopper explained.
When Hopper moved back to Polk County with her Ph.D., there were only two places in her field to work. She interviewed at both and was hired by Western Arkansas Counseling and Guidance Center where she began as a staff Psychologist. In 2011, she was promoted to Regional Coordinator of Polk and Scott Counties and now spends a lot of time in Waldron and Fort Smith. While still seeing clients, she supervises all therapists and case managers in both clinics. She is also very involved in the Wellness Center at Ouachita Rivers’ Acorn Campus. “The Wellness Center is a really neat thing. There are a lot of changes in health care and part of the alliance is dedicated to continuing healthcare for the schools. We focus on bringing everyone together, mental health, physical health, and their teachers, so that we can see the whole child,” explained Hopper. Additionally, in January of 2014, Hopper was certified to be a drug and alcohol abuse counselor.
“I know growing up, a lot of people couldn’t wait to get out of Polk County, but I wasn’t like that. I didn’t want to leave,” Hooper explained. “My entire family is here and my friends from high school, which are like family to me. I’ve lived in a big city but I love it here. I want my parents to be involved in our lives and to able to attend my kids’ t-ball games and dance recitals. I also love how safe it is here.”