Interest in Justice, Especially for Children

I have felt passionate about social oppression since I became aware of it. My earliest memories of those feelings are from watching Roots in the 1970s with my family, and watching footage of White people protesting the integration of the first couple southern schools. I was probably primed for this reaction by growing up with four brothers competing with me for everything, making the concept of fairness particularly salient. I felt outraged at the injustice, stupidity, and pain caused by these White slaveholders and Southerners; I still do, to some extent, but instead of seeing the perpetrators as villains, I’ve come to see them as victims of their own circumstances—confused and ignorant.  I’ve come to think that oppressor patterns are inherited and subject to effective intervention.

Interest in Relationship Dynamics

Getting into and out of romantic relationships has always been scary and often painful for me, and in a couple of cases just being in a relationship has been extremely confusing and painful.  This led me to read about and take experiential workshops in relationship dynamics, stuff like Radical Honesty, Radical Intimacy, Conscious Loving, and Non-Violent Communication.  I used several of these systems and internalized their epistemologies until (I believe) I could go meta on them, see their common factors, and think of them as a network of systems.

Interest in the Therapeutic Relationship

I’ve worked with children and teens since my own teenage years and came to want to be able to help them the way I saw therapists help them.  I became friends with several therapists through this work and decided I could and wanted to be able to do  what they were doing—maybe not for a living, yet, but I wanted to be able to step in and support people I cared about when they were hurting.  I had many conversations with those friends, read several books on the topic, and learned, practiced, and internalized the epistemology of co-counseling. I began to think of myself as someone who could often offer a nonjudgmental, loving perspective.

Interest in the Psychology of Change

About six years ago, I decided that the most interesting question I could think of was about how people change: When someone changes their mind, what has happened? What factors contribute? What are the necessary conditions? I began thinking and talking about it a lot, and read a bunch of psychology books by people like Seligman, Ekman, Czichsentmihalyi, Cialdini, and the authors of A General Theory of Love. I loved them, and this, in addition to my growing desire to become a therapist, led me to a Bachelor’s in psychology at the University of Oregon.

Interest in Service

It began as a nagging question: “Why am I so egocentric?” Why do I still want to be a rock star and not a public servant or an activist? I was a musician and record producer and loved it.  Slowly, I shifted.  I am not certain how it happened. It was gradual, and I am still in the middle of it.  I imagine that it was partly my continuing to grow up and partly a leap of faith.  Eventually, though, the question became, “How can I use my strengths in the most useful way?”  I decided I did want to become a therapist; I am a good listener, a clear thinker, and compassionate.

Dr.  Miller’s Marriage and Family Therapy Class

I loved my psychology classes but I didn’t feel a clear “Yes” on any of the fields I was introduced to until I took Dr. Miller’s undergraduate course, in the spring of 2007.  I loved it, loved hearing about and seeing examples of therapy, taken seriously, after hearing only about psychology as a field of basic research for so long.  I resonated with the ideas: the ecological model; that family therapy came from systems theory; that families are more than just collections of individuals; that painful patterns of behavior, possibly many generations old, can be shifted in a relatively short time, without placing blame anywhere.  I talked to Dr. Miller about it and he encouraged me to apply to the program. Here I am.

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