graduate school

I am moving away from Eugene after more than ten years, and that means saying a lot of goodbyes to close friends and family. Last night I had dinner with my experiential support group from my couples & family therapy grad school cohort, Ryan and Debra. In family therapy, “experiential” means very generally that you take a humanistic stance in your therapy and believe that emotions are as important as behavior and thinking. (I wrote a piece on it here if you want more details.) We called ourselves “Experiential Lunch” because we met every week for lunch for a year and a half, to discuss how our understanding and application of family theory was evolving throughout the program. It was super helpful and we came to feel quite close and supported each other through some difficult times. I am going to miss them.

Nathen, Ryan, Debra: Experiential Lunch, 10/27/2011

Debra is a Zen meditation teacher and a farmer as well as now a therapist in private practice, and I can highly recommend her in all capacities. If you need a therapist for individual, couple, or family work, you can reach her at (541) 844-4917.

Ryan is working with at-risk children and families at the Oregon Social Learning Center. When he starts a private practice, I will recommend him to you as well.

2011 Cohort (I love these people!) by Hillary Nadeau (I'm at the top right, hatless)

Jeff, Deanna, Christian, (Faculty) In Regalia, photographer unknown

Post-Graduation With Reanna's Family, Dad, & Robert, by Aly

Post-Graduation With Reanna's Family, Aly & Robert, by Steve Lester

Faked Post-Graduation Shot With Pikes, Including Grandpa Bob

Goofy Faked Graduation Photo With Pikes

Sealing the Deal by Dunking in the Willamette, by Steve Lester

Leaving my last doctor visit, I had a chance to check myself on their eye chart. It was not official–I just backed up 20 one-foot floor tiles and looked at the chart. For the first time ever I was not able to make out some of the letters in the bottom, smallest row. That means my eyesight is now 20/13 instead of 20/10, or however small the denominator was before I started grad school. (The numerator is distance in feet (in the US) and the denominator has to do, in a way that I don’t quite get, with the size of the letters.) If you can see better than 20/10, you generally never find out: 20/10 is good enough. And so is 20/13–I am not complaining. Not much, at least.

I’m more concerned with my focal length, which has moved out at least an inch during the last four years, to a solid 8.5 inches. This happens with aging, of course, but I am willing to bet it is accelerated by reading 30+ hours a week. It is inconvenient not to be able to see my spoonful of food clearly while I am blowing on it. It is also inconvenient that Reanna and I have no overlap in clear vision. When we are looking into each other’s eyes, we have to choose who gets to see clearly, or else she has to wear her contacts. I know it will someday be inconvenient when my focal length exceeds my reach, and I will need glasses to read a book. Ah, aging. As my friend Robert says, “Getting old is very inconvenient. It is better, however, than the alternative.”

It has been four years of sitting in hundreds of hours of lectures, reading thousands of pages of theory and research, writing hundreds of pages, and seeing clients for hundreds of hours. It has been long weeks, late nights, steep learning curves, and lots and lots of thinking. It is amazing how much learning you can do in four years of 60-80 hour weeks!  In 2009 I finished a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology, with a research assistant position in Sara Hodges’ social cognition lab, a practicum position at a residential treatment facility for teenage sex offenders, an honors thesis entitled “Differentiating the Effects of Social and Personal Power,” and a GPA of 4.23. Yesterday I graduated with a Master of Education degree, Couples and Family Therapy specialization, 455 client-contact hours at the Center for Family Therapy and Looking Glass Counseling Services, one term as a counselor for the University of Oregon Crisis Line, four terms volunteering for the UO Men’s Center, a GPA of 4.19, and a “Pass With Distinction” on my final Formal Client Presentation. It has been a wonderful, exhilarating, exhausting four years.

It has also taken a bit of a toll on my health, but the major loss was in community. If you do not live in Eugene and we have not made a point of a regular visit, I probably have not spoken or even written to you much, if anything, since 2007. For that I sincerely apologize. It is not how I prefer to live but I could not seem to do this any other way. Know that I miss you. Let’s reconnect. Call me up, write, send me your unfinished song, your idea for a book, something to read and talk about. Let’s go for a walk, go swimming, have lunch, see a show. I am looking forward to it.

Couples & Family Therapy 2011 Cohort

Me & My Dad, June 14, 2011

The first time I worked for money outside of my parents’ home I was 12 years old.  The Morongo Basin Ambulance Association hired me and my best friend John to move a pile of gravel from one spot to another with shovels.  I think we got paid a dollar an hour.  It was summer in Joshua Tree, and so around 100 F (maybe 45 C for Canadians), and the pile of gravel was huge.  After a couple hours I still could not see that we had made a dent in the pile and I complained that we would never finish this job.

John was bigger and stronger than me and remained more in touch with his logical faculties.  He said, “It doesn’t matter if we can’t see a dent.  As long as we keep shoveling gravel, we know that we are making progress, and that we will eventually be done.”

It is hard to argue against that, so I am thinking of John while I am working on my Formal Client Presentation, which is the Master’s thesis of my Couples and Family Therapy program: a monster paper incorporating all of the theory and practice that we have learned in two years, plus a presentation of video of me using all of that during therapy sessions.  It is going so slowly that each time I come back to it, I feel as if I had made no progress. But I know as long as I am typing new words each time I must be making progress, and that means eventually I will be done.

Thanks John!

I’m studying Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, or EFT, this term in my Couples and Family Therapy master’s program. In her book for therapists, Susan Johnson writes that many people, especially those with histories of trauma, have strong fears about expressing strong emotions. She gives five common examples. These are directly quoted from her book, Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, p. 73:

We may fear that if emotions are unleashed, they will go on forever.

We may fear that we will be taken over by such emotions and our ability to organize our experience, our very sense of self, will disappear.

We fear that we will lose control and be slaves to the impulses inherent in these emotions, and so we may make things worse or actively harm ourselves or others.

We fear we will not be able to tolerate these emotions and will go “crazy.”

We fear that if we express certain emotions, others will see us as strange and/or unacceptable.

I turned 39 at 8:50 this morning. I’m on the cusp of middle age! As usual, I used my flights to and from Not Back to School Camp to brainstorm about my 40th year. Camp is a great end-of-year celebration and source of inspiration. I’m going to do a lot this year–finish my Master’s degree and see clients for at least 400 hours, for example–but I’ve decided not to put that stuff on my list. I want to concentrate on how I do it. I just watched the outgoing cohort finish up my program and they seemed really stressed out. I want to do it without overwhelming myself, in good health. I want to enjoy it. So I came up with one intention that sums it all up:

This year, I intend to take exquisitely good care of myself.

To me, that means that I think about myself like I do my best friends, with affection and optimism, with care. I am not a slave to being productive.

When I touch myself, I do so gently, with attention, not mechanically or absent-mindedly. Like I would someone I love.

I don’t eat crap.

I meditate 30 minutes every day.

I exercise 45 minutes every day.

I do my physiotherapy daily and get health care whenever I need it.

I get good attention, from friends, co-counselors, or a therapist, when I need it.

I take a day off every week.

I say yes to social invitations.

I sleep a bare minimum of 8 hours a night. That means giving myself an hour to chill out with nothing electric and no reading before bed, and an hour to lie in bed before I need to be asleep, so I don’t get worried about falling asleep quickly enough.

I keep my living space looking nice.

I have some ritual (yet to be designed) which helps me stop thinking about my clients when I leave the clinic.

I’ve also put a lot of thought into how I will prioritize my commitments. They will probably often conflict with each other and I’d like to be able to make choices about what to do and what to leave out with minimal stress. That part will be a work in progress for a while

If you’re in grad school or going to start soon, consider getting engaged to an amazing woman. I have had the good fortune to do that, and believe me you won’t regret it. I could (and maybe will at some point) write long into the night about the qualities that I am talking about, but for now I’ll just focus on one telling detail.

In graduate school, you do a lot of reading. Many, many, many hours and hours of reading. Few people do all the reading that they are assigned in a grad program. The eyes and attention can’t take it. I have the advantage of being engaged to Reanna. She reads a chunk of my assigned reading to me each term. Understand that this is mostly dry, academic stuff, interesting if you really want to be a family therapist, but otherwise only tolerable if you are extremely intelligent, curious, and dedicated. Understand also that she doesn’t even get social time with me out of it. I live in Oregon and she lives in British Columbia. She reads my assignments into a voice recorder and emails the files to me. I get to do the dishes or whatever while hearing her voice and getting reading done. She gets to sit in front of a computer screen, reading. (Well, she does get to criticize the bad writing, of which there is plenty, but that’s not much of a payoff, especially for a professional editor.)

She also reads relevant books that she finds that I have not been assigned. How cool is that? I’m going to have a term on Susan Johnson’s emotionally-focused couples therapy next fall, and she’s already read me Johnson’s popularization, Hold Me Tight.

Here is a partial list of what she’s read, from my iTunes. Some of the times didn’t copy out (Open Office couldn’t recognize them, apparently, and made them into times of day), but take my word for it, this is about 50 hours of reading.

A Walk Down the Aisle – Prologue Kate Cohen 17:05
A Walk Down the Aisle – Pt 1 Kate Cohen 22:06
A Walk Down the Aisle – pt 10 Reanna A Walk Down the Aisle 23:01
A Walk Down the Aisle – pt 11 Reanna A Walk Down the Aisle 16:11
A Walk Down the Aisle – pt 12 – ch 8 Reanna A Walk Down the Aisle 43:12:00
A Walk Down the Aisle – Pt 13 – ch 9 Reanna A Walk Down the Aisle 30:41:00
A Walk Down the Aisle – pt 14a – ch 9 Kate Cohen 7:32
A Walk down the Aisle – Pt 14b – ch 9 Reanna A Walk Down the Aisle 1:28
A Walk Down the Aisle – pt 15 – ch 10 Kate Cohen 1:26
A Walk Down the Aisle – pt 16 – ch 10 Kate Cohen 1:47
A Walk Down the Aisle – pt 17 – ch 10 Reanna A Walk Down the Aisle 29:18:00
A Walk Down the Aisle – Pt 2 Kate Cohen 10:18
A Walk Down the Aisle – Pt 3 Kate Cohen 10:25
A Walk Down the Aisle – Pt 4 Kate Cohen 41:25:00
A Walk Down the Aisle – Pt 5 Kate Cohen 7:51
A Walk Down the Aisle – Pt 6 Kate Cohen 12:49
A Walk Down the Aisle – Pt 7 Kate Cohen 11:07
A Walk Down the Aisle – Pt 7 Kate Cohen 10:24
A Walk Down the Aisle – pt 8 Kate Cohen 45:32:00
A Walk Down the Aisle – pt 9 Kate Cohen 1:08:43
Pt 1 – Chapter 3 – Emotional Responsiveness Dr. Sue Johnson Hold Me Tight 34:40:00
Pt 2 – Conversation 1 – Recognizing the Demon Dialogue Dr. Sue Johnson Hold Me Tight 41:25:00
Pt 2 – Conversation 2 – Finding the Raw Spots Dr. Sue Johnson Hold Me Tight 35:02:00
Pt 2 – Conversation 6 – Bonding through Sex & Touch Dr. Sue Johnson Hold Me Tight 47:05:00
Pt 2 – Conversation 7 – Keeping the Love Alive Dr. Sue Johnson Hold Me Tight 23:59
Chapter 1, Part 1 Why Don’t Zebra’s Get Ulcers, ch1 Reading Aloud to Nathen 10:06:00 PM
Chapter 1, Part 2 Why Don’t Zebra’s Get Ulcers, ch1 Reading Aloud to Nathen 07:21:00 AM
Chapter 1, Part 3 Why Don’t Zebra’s Get Ulcers, ch1 Reading Aloud to Nathen 06:10:00 PM
Children’s Attachment Relationships Phillis Booth Reading Aloud to Nathen 30:05:00
Circle of Security – Terminology CoS Reading Aloud to Nathen 12:46:00 PM
Committed Ch 5 (pt 2) Marriage and Women Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 03:52:00 AM
Committed Ch 5 (pt 3) Marriage and Women Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 08:07:00 AM
Committed Ch 5 (pt 4) Marriage and Women Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 04:13:00 AM
Committed Ch 5 (pt 5) Marriage and Women Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 09:02:00 AM
Committed Ch 5 (Pt 7) – Marriage and Women Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 06:22:00 PM
Committed Ch 7 (pt 1) – Marriage and Subversion Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 10:21:00 AM
Committed Ch 7 (pt 2) – Marriage and Subversion Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 42:02:00
Committed Ch 7 (pt 3) – Marriage and Subversion Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 05:21:00 PM
Committed Ch 7 (pt 4) – Marriage and Subversion Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 12:34:00 PM
Committed Ch 8 – Marriage and Ceremony Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 08:25:00 PM
Committed: Ch 1 Marriage and Surprises Elizabeth Gilbert Reading Aloud to Nathen 50:31:00
Committed: Ch 2 (pt. 1) Marriage and Expectation Elizabeth Gilbert Reading Aloud to Nathen 35:17:00
Committed: Ch 2 (pt. 2) Marriage and Expectation Elizabeth Gilbert Reading Aloud to Nathen 08:50:00 PM
Committed: Ch 3 (pt. 1) Marriage and History Elizabeth Gilbert Reading Aloud to Nathen 01:05:07 AM
Committed: Ch 3 (pt. 2) Marriage and History Elizabeth Gilbert Reading Aloud to Nathen 03:38:00 PM
Committed: Ch 4 (pt 1) Marriage and Infatuation Elizabeth Gilbert Reading Aloud to Nathen 01:34:14 AM
Committed: Ch 4 (pt 2) Marriage and Infatuation Elizabeth Gilbert Reading Aloud to Nathen 07:37:00 PM
Death on a horse’s back Robert J Barrett Reading Aloud to Nathen 168:00:00
Dharma Punx Noah Levine Reading Aloud to Nathen 05:33:00 PM
The End of Innocence 1 Dusty Miller Reading Aloud to Nathen 12:45:00 AM
The End of Innocence 2 Dusty Miller Reading Aloud to Nathen 42:08:00
Family Process // The Language of Becoming Ellen Wachtel Reading Aloud to Nathen 01:04:24 AM
Feminism & Family Therapy 1 Virginia Goldner, PhD Reading Aloud to Nathen 34:43:00
Feminism & Family Therapy 2 Virginia Goldner, PhD Reading Aloud to Nathen 01:03:00 AM
Feminism & Family Therapy 3 Virginia Goldner, PhD Reading Aloud to Nathen 28:33:00
Feminism & Family Therapy 4 Virginia Goldner, PhD Reading Aloud to Nathen 03:49:00 AM
Fixed (New Yorker) Jill Lapore Reading Aloud to Nathen 32:04:00
Impact on Family Therapist of a focus on death, dying Becvar Reading Aloud to Nathen 06:41:00 PM
Impact, pt 2 Becvar Reading Aloud to Nathen 10:59:00 PM
Introduction, 1 Appetites Reading Aloud to Nathen 05:36:00 AM
Introduction, 2 Appetites Reading Aloud to Nathen 04:32:00 AM
Introduction, 3 Appetites Reading Aloud to Nathen 06:34:00 AM
Introduction, 4 Appetites Reading Aloud to Nathen 37:26:00
The last time I wore a dress – CH 11 Daphne Scholinski Reading Aloud to Nathen 08:28:00 PM
The Last Time I wore a dress – Ch 12 Daphne Scholinski Reading Aloud to Nathen 38:52:00
The Lobotomist Jack El-Hai Reading Aloud to Nathen 24:06:00
Marry Me St. Vincent Marry Me 04:41:00 AM
Minnie Mouse and Gunfire, Lucky Child Luong Ung Reading Aloud to Nathen 29:49:00
My Angel Rocks Back and Forth Four Tet Rounds 05:07:00 AM
My Lobotomy Howard Dully Reading Aloud to Nathen 32:41:00
Paris is the cruelest month Alan Alda Reading Aloud to Nathen 09:32:00 PM
Passionate Marriage David Schnarch Reading Aloud to Nathen 42:45:00
Prozac Nation Elizabeth Wurtzel Reading Aloud to Nathen 42:05:00
Real Weddings Media Hill Publication Reading Aloud to Nathen 06:44:00 AM
Running With Scissors Augustin Burroughs Reading Aloud to Nathen 38:30:00
Solution Focused Therapy – A Molnar & Shazer 1987 Reading Aloud to Nathen 10:01:00 PM
Solution Focused Therapy – B Molnar & Shazer 1987 Reading Aloud to Nathen 12:49:00 AM
Solution Focused Therapy – C Molnar & Shazer 1987 Reading Aloud to Nathen 05:39:00 AM
Stubborn Twig Lauren Kessler Reading Aloud to Nathen 52:15:00
Sybil, CH 7 Flora Rheta Schrieber Reading Aloud to Nathen 37:47:00
Truth Telling Candib Reading Aloud to Nathen 39:31:00
Truth Telling, pt 2 Candib Reading Aloud to Nathen 08:22:00 PM
Understanding the Rainforest Mind Paula Prober Reading Aloud to Nathen 09:36:00 PM
An Unquiet Mind Kay Jamison Reading Aloud to Nathen 38:33:00
The Voices of Children – 1 Sandra Stith Reading Aloud to Nathen 04:45:00 AM
The Voices of Children – 2 Sandra Stith Reading Aloud to Nathen 03:06:00 PM
The Voices of Children – 3 Sandra Stith Reading Aloud to Nathen 36:03:00
Where is the Mango Princess Cathy Crimmins Reading Aloud to Nathen 30:07:00
You Ain’t Got No Easter Clothes Laura Love Reading Aloud to Nathen 38:06:00

My parents forwarded me an email from a family friend, Lauren (musician and poet), who is going off email for six months. She’s concerned about distraction (including in her email the quote “It’s commonly believed and understood that it takes about 4 minutes to recover from any interruption. If the computer dings at you and you look 30 times, that’s 120 minutes of recovery time. That’s the crisis.” —Marsha Egan, Author of Inbox Detox), concern over what seems like addictive behavior, valuing face-to-face or at least voice-to-voice communication, and this article about a study which found that emailing reduced productivity more than pot.

She had a series of questions about it email and her project, which I answered. By email. I think she’s starting on April 14, but if she’s already started,she can read my answers in six months.

1.     How many times a day do you check your email?
I don’t know. It varies between one and many–20?–depending on the style of my day. There have been days that I don’t check–camping, procrastinating. If I need to concentrate, I do not check email or even keep a browser open until I’m done.
2.     How many times a day do you send or receive a text?
Zero. I sent one text in my life, just to try it out, and I strongly encourage my friends not to text me. It doesn’t appeal to me. I’m also vaguely offended by the use of “text” as a verb.
3.     Have you ever had a miscommunication via email or text?
Yep, at least a few. It took a while to realize that the pragmatic (i.e. non-verbal) context of communication really does not come across in email.
4.     Do you feel anxious over the thought of not having email for
six months? Do you feel anything negative at all? Happy? Just tell me
how you think you would feel.
Hmm. It would be tough. First of all, I’m in grad school and email is how all of my profs and peers communicate important info. We often get our reading over email, and turn in our papers, too. Second, I’m in a long distance relationship, and email is helpful in keeping a sense of connection. We depend mostly on Skype, which is allowed in your plan, but I wouldn’t want to give up email before Reanna and I are living in the same house. Plus, she emails me mp3s of her reading articles I’ve been assigned, so I can “read” while cleaning my kitchen. Plus, she edits my writing over email. Third, I’m so busy that losing the super quick, no-strings-attached communication ability would mean isolating myself even more from my geographically dispersed family and community. Last, as I understand it you are going off of Facebook, blogging, texting, messaging, and chatting as well as email. That all sounds fine except for blogging. I’m pretty attached to my blog. It’s my most consistent form of creative expression these days.
On the other hand, I feel relieved and relaxed when the power goes out, and a big part of that is losing the computer. I went to a lecture years ago by a woman whose name I can’t remember who said “You’re not ‘connected,’ you’re ‘tethered.’ She recommended taking vacations from the leash–phone included. That appeals to me. When I climbed Mt. Whitney, ten years ago, two behaviors really confused me, seeming to miss the point: At the summit, a few people lit up a cigarette and many people immediately called home. It seemed like in sharing their moment they were also missing it. At least they weren’t texting, I guess.
 5.     Do you think there is anything important to be learned/gained
by not having email for six months?
6.     Do you use email more for work related messages or for
family/friend correspondence?
Mostly school. Family and friends second. Work a distant third.
7.     How do you feel about me not emailing you for 6 months?
Well, we haven’t communicated in years, so I don’t feel much about it. If we were close I might have feelings.
8.     Are you sitting with a Bluetooth in your ear, reading and
sending a text with one hand, eating soup with the other, glancing
frequently at your To Do list, all on your twenty minute lunch break?
Don’t feel bad. While writing this letter I checked my email 3 times,
ate handfuls of dry Panda Puff cereal, and listened to my sweetheart
talk about his online class.
No, actually, I’m sitting at my first shift on the University of Oregon Crisis Line, waiting for someone with a crisis to call me. I do have my cell phone with me (and will almost certainly use it at least once), I am (obviously) using email, and have a to-do list that you wouldn’t believe, but I doubt that I’ll check my email more than three times today. Mostly I’ll be reading about counseling gifted children, assessing families, and conducting group therapy.

April 9, 2010

Dear Nathen,

We are very pleased to inform you that you passed the comprehensive exam. Our standard in grading this exam is high; your work was of a very high quality. Congratulations!

You have worked very hard and you have demonstrated excellent understanding of core course material. We look forward to working with you as you move into your clinical work. In the Beginning Practicum course Dr. Tiffany Brown will continue to inform you about the Advanced Practicum course, about internship options throughout the community, and about orientation dates and plans for beginning at the Center for Family Therapy.

The vast majority of your cohort received a passing score this year. This is a statement of both your individual abilities and the support you give each other.

Again, congratulations.

Deanna Linville, Ph.D., LMFT

CFT Program & Clinical Director

Assistant Professor

Couples and Family Therapy Program

University of Oregon

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