The best, most meaningful work I do is counseling homeschoolers at an annual summer retreat for teens. The summer of 2009 will be my tenth year on staff at Not Back to School Camp. I keep going back because I love the kids. They inspire me to be creative, energetic, open-minded, and to keep learning and pushing my limits, because that’s what they do. I love how courageously they express themselves in the midst of their confusing and exciting transition to adulthood. My job as advisor and, recently, director, is to be available to them, to form relationships with them, to counsel them when they ask for advice, and to role model as best I can, all of which I do with all my heart.

This is a privileged demographic. They are mostly White and middle to owning class, and they mostly have parents who are home with them, willing to buck the mainstream to give their kids everything they can. Still, there is a lot of pain. I see a fair share of self-harm, eating disorders, anxiety, and depression.

When I started working for NBTSC, I felt helpless in the face of this pain. The co-director and therapist for the camp at that time, Taber, provided a strong role-model for me. I was impressed with his strong, clear attention for the campers, and with his deep compassion and knowledge. I watched him help ease the way for many young people over the years. We formed a strong friendship, and he was my first inspiration to become a family therapist.

I believe that being a family therapist will be the best way for me to put my strengths to a good purpose. First, as much as I love my work at Not Back to School Camp, a few weeks of largely undirected time is not enough to take part in and take a stand for young people’s lives the way I want to. Second, I want to work with young people in the context of their families and communities. It is clear to me that this suffering is not occurring in a vacuum. They are not broken individuals; they are merely participating in the patterns of suffering that exist in their families and society. The same is true of the far more unfortunate clients at Stepping Stone, a residential treatment center for teenage boys transitioning out of detention, where I have interned for several months. This is the crux of my motivation: It is not necessary for them to inherit and pass on this pain. I am aware that this is a bold stand, but I do not take it naively or simplistically, nor do I believe that the work is glamorous. I want to immerse myself in the knowledge of this field. I want to have the best tools, perspectives, training, and mentors I can.

I am excited about the Milan group style. I have seen in my work with teens, in running a marketing department in the publishing industry, and in planning months-long recording projects in the music industry, how a focused group of people can think more creatively and clearly than an individual about people and problems. I also imagine that it helps avoid some of the problems that therapists face, of egotism, of succumbing to guru mentality.

I appreciate your school’s use of postmodern ideas and ideals: the acknowledgement of the therapist as part of the process, awareness of the pitfalls of putting people in boxes and of hierarchical power. (The research I am conducting right now is about the effects of having hierarchical versus non-hierarchical power.) I am also a big fan of systems theory. I view it as a bridge between modernism and postmodernism. I’ve done a significant amount of extracurricular learning about complexity theory and holistic philosophy, and I am fascinated by how those models might map on to human behavior, development, group dynamics, and therapeutic processes.

Finally, I’ve lived in the Eugene area for eight years and I love it here. I love the people, the politics, the weather, the landscape. I have a strong social support network. I was thrilled to discover this cutting edge, highly regarded program for Couples and Family Therapy. Now I stand to participate in a first rate education in the field of my choice, in the home of my choice, at the University of Oregon. Thank you for your consideration.

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