Aria Ponciroli has been appointed director of The University of New Mexico’s Counseling, Assistance and Referral Services (CARS) by Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs James Holloway.

CARS is the UNM Employee Assistance Program, a department that promotes a healthy work-life balance by providing on-site services to assist faculty and staff in identifying and resolving personal and professional concerns. Ponciroli brings more than 30 years of experience to the position in the fields of clinical social work, behavioral health and employee assistance program services.


”With her background in employee assistance programs across a wide range of different institutions, and her own experience as a faculty member, Aria Ponciroli brings a wonderful commitment to providing excellent services to all UNM employees,” said Holloway. “She also has a strong interest in outreach programs to help UNM employees and managers be more aware of the resources available, to normalize seeking help for the kinds of life challenges that we all face, and to help campus units develop better skills for weathering these dynamic and stressful times.”

Ponciroli, who began her ninth year at UNM this past July, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker providing Counseling and Psychotherapy.  She is a trained mediator and trained in Critical Incident Debriefing. She has provided training on a variety of topics to employees and consultation to supervisors related to performance management. She has experience in organizational development, assisting organizations to respond effectively to challenging dynamics. She’s excited to be a part of the UNM community and welcomes this opportunity to assist the faculty and staff to grow and thrive personally and professionally.

“I am pleased and honored to be offered the position as director,” said Ponciroli. “It is so important that UNM have a strong Employee Assistance Program, particularly given these stressful and turbulent times we are living in. I feel I have the experience, knowledge and vision to effectively move CARS forward.”

Ponciroli is skilled in providing clinical services to adults, couples and families. She has been influenced by literature and the arts, both of which have been a focus of her life and enrich her work as a psychotherapist and counselor. Her clinical approach is holistic aiming to create space for the whole person to emerge and engage in the therapeutic process. Her work draws on psychodynamic, cognitive behavioral, solution focused and mindfulness approaches to therapy and incorporates neurobiological theory.

She is experienced in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) as one approach to assist clients in the integration of traumatic life events. She believes healing is an ongoing process, a bio-psycho-social-spiritual journey, taking twists and turns throughout one's life and she works to assist clients to navigate their path in its unfolding.

Ponciroli has several initiatives and goals planned during the upcoming year including the development of standard operating procedures and addressing infrastructure needs.

“As part of my infrastructure focus this first year, I am working on developing Standard Operating Procedures, as well as enhancing our use of Sharepoint,  as part of an effort to streamline and improve efficiency” said Ponciroli. “I am hiring a clinician to get us back to full staff and hired Administrative Staff as well.  I have initiated much needed building improvements and am coordinating the transition to a new edition of the proprietary software used for client scheduling, clinical encounters and data capture related to clinical and non-clinical services, as well as outcome measures.”

Another important area for Ponciroli and the CARS staff involves outreach to managers, supervisors and the branch campuses.

“I also will focus on outreach to supervisors and managers to increase their awareness of our services and to support them in their vital role as supervisors through consultation and training,” said Ponciroli.

Ponciroli’s previous experience includes working as a Clinical Social Worker for the State of New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department and as a Clinical Social Worker and Acting Director for the State of New Mexico Employee Assistance Program. She has also served as a Counselor and Consultant with Corporate Health Resources, which was the EAP division of Mesa Mental Health and served as Clinical Director there.  She was a Counselor and Consultant with The Solutions Group, a New Mexico statewide Employee Assistance Program located in Albuquerque.  Ponciroli was on the faculty at New Mexico Highlands University School of Social Work and taught in the M.S.W. clinical practice concentration.

Ponciroli graduated from Mundelein College of Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois with a BA in Literature. She received her MSW from New Mexico Highlands University with a concentration in Clinical Social Work.