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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Student-made podcast aims to offer ‘fresh perspective’ on mental health 

Damian Montañéz, Alec Dulaney, Timber Keller and Greg Chewning pose for a photo during a recording session for their mental health podcast on Sunday, Feb. 25. The four are all clinical mental health counseling students at Wichita State. Photo courtesy of the group.

As clinical mental health counseling students, Greg Chewning and his friends would often discuss mental health while in coffee shops and restaurants — and strangers would join them.

“They’re hearing things discussed in a way that I think kind of opens their eyes,” Chewning said. “That was revealing to us, and I thought one day, ‘We’ve really got something going on here, and so why don’t we make this more public?’”

Drawing on his past experiences, Chewning suggested starting a podcast, and his friends Alec Dulaney, Damian Montañéz and Timber Keller were on board.

“Are You Theorious?”

“Are You Theorious?” explores mental health, counseling theories and the group’s experiences as counseling students at Wichita State. Topics have ranged from self-care and body language to the diagnostic manual and Sigmund Freud.

Chewning aims for the podcast to “increase people’s wonder at human emotions and relationships” while also providing a “fresh perspective” on mental health discussions.

“I knew right away that we had something that was for anyone,” Chewning said. “We’re talking about mental health disorders, or we’re talking about anxiety and depression, spirituality — things that everybody knows about (or) has felt or experienced.”

The podcast members incorporate the magnetic energy from their everyday conversations into their weekly episodes. According to the group, these discussions are usually “free-flowing” and natural. 

The four chat every other Sunday for about two hours, which Chewning later edits and splits into four episodes, which vary in length but are usually around 30 minutes.

“Once we all got together and participated in talking about things we cared about around each other … it just turned out to be too much fun to stop,” Dulaney said.

Montañéz said the group’s authentic dynamic is apparent to their professors listening to the podcast.

“They always say — because they can tell just from listening to it — that we all have a very good connection, and that’s something that they strive for with men (in the counseling program) in general,” Montañéz said.

The four graduate students said their podcast has gained traction within their graduate program. When Montañéz and Keller attended orientation for their practicum, several attendees recognized them.

“I was talking to Timber, and the guy stops and turns around, he goes, ‘I know your voice,’” Montañéz said. “He’s like, ‘I listen to your podcast, I think it’s great.’ And literally, four people after him came in and said the same thing.”

Dulaney hopes the podcast can continue to be a resource for fellow counseling students, whether at Wichita State or elsewhere.

“It might be just fun to listen to someone finding their way through it, and we’d love it,” Dulaney said. “We all love the program and the field, so there’s very much a contagious, encouraging energy to be found.”

The podcast has also expanded to hosting special guests, including a marriage and family therapist as well as Jody Fiorini, the department head of Wichita State’s counseling program. All four enjoyed conversing with the guests and learning more about Fiorini beyond their previous interactions.

“It was fascinating because she’s got so much background with working with those with disabilities,” Chewning said. “That was a whole aspect of her that we never really got to learn much about in class.”

During their time with Fiorini, the discussion touched on how the podcast group is all men “open to expressing themselves.” Montañéz said professors have called the podcasters a positive model because they are expressive men discussing mental health.

Chewning hopes the podcast can break down stereotypes and encourage men to become more reflective, while Keller would like men to realize they can ask for help when needed.

“Men often seek to be independent rather than going and advocating for themselves and getting social support,” Keller said. “It’s really beneficial to have those role models and those experiences with other males that have gone and sought help and have ‘survived’ it.”

Keller, Dulaney and Montañéz took this goal beyond the podcast. They presented research on supporting men in counseling at the Kansas Counselors Association annual conference on March 1. 

The podcasters say their mental health clinical program consists of predominantly female students, and Dulaney said the group all being male also “glues” them together as a result. Their friendship goes beyond podcast recordings, from their Super Bowl watch night to their group chat filled with what Montañéz calls the “most horrendous, bad dad jokes.”

That group energy that looped strangers into their coffee shop conversations still resonates with students and professors alike, with some professors even interested in snagging a three-hour ride with them to their research presentation.

“The professors are always like, ‘Oh my gosh, you guys and your podcast,’” Keller said. “The professors were even wanting to go in the car with us on the way up there because they’re like, ‘Your interactions are so fun — and so invigorating.’

“Are You Theorious?” is available on Spotify; new episodes are released on Saturdays.

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About the Contributor
Courtney Brown
Courtney Brown, News Editor
Courtney Brown is one of the news editors for The Sunflower. She previously worked as a reporter and assistant news editor. Brown uses she/her pronouns.

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