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Their answers were striking.
What quickly emerged from our conversations was that Saybrook was an experience more than an education. Everyone we spoke to pointed to the transformation that they experienced at Saybrook University, and how that transformation has prepared them to make a significant positive change in the world.
In a setting built on support, sharing, and understanding the other, Saybrook helps create connections between students and faculty. Building a community that seeks to understand the interconnectedness of things, this shared connection leads to positive transformation both inside oneself as well as in diverse communities and organizations around the world.
Transformation is not always easy. To that, Saybrook University’s president, Dr. Nathan Long, calls on students to be ready for change and to be brave. “It’s going to impact your life and community you’re going to serve,” he says.
Learn more about Saybrook University.
Kelly Hudson is a graduate of Saybrook’s Ph.D. Psychology Program. After acquiring her M.A. Marriage and Family Therapy/Counseling degree at Saybrook, she knew she needed to go further. Through the support of the faculty at Saybrook, she acquired a degree that could help her with her clients—teaching children how to communicate and get along with each other. In addition to her work as an online professor, Kelly is the Co-Owner/Director of Precious Little Ones Child Development Academy, LLC.
Chad Cryder is currently a student in the Ph.D. Clinical Psychology program at Saybrook University. He is also a relationship coach, author, and speaker. As a gay man, he recognizes the challenges that members of the LGBTQ community face in society as well as in their personal relationships. While he intends to counsel relationships from all populations, Chad wishes to focus on helping gay men deal with the stigma of advanced age.
Dr. Kent Becker is the Dean of Social Sciences at Saybrook University. With over 20 years of experience in higher education, Dr. Becker is currently working with mental health clients through the use of photovoice. As a research and advocacy tool, photovoice helps individuals share their stories through photographs and narratives—helping them confront societal challenges as well as work through mental health issues.
Dan Leahy is the Director of the Seattle Campus. With over 20 years of leadership development experience and 16 years as a clinical therapist, Dan is dedicated to preparing students meet the challenges that they face holistically and effectively.
Ben Trelease is an adjunct faculty for Saybrook University’s Seattle campus. Teaching subjects that include helping skills, group leadership, and couples counseling, Ben believes that Saybrook University helps create a unique connection between students and faculty that extends beyond the classroom. In addition to teaching, Ben also maintains his own private counseling practice serving couples and individuals.
Nathan Long is the president of Saybrook University. Understanding the need for significant change in the world, he sees Saybrook as a university that offers a progressive education where students can learn to address challenges holistically—changing personally to bring about social transformation.
Carolyn Trasko is a doctoral student in the College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences, and was recently awarded a FERB research grant for dissertation research.
Understanding the connections between cumulative stress and disease is an essential component of integrative medicine. Carolyn Trasko, doctoral student in Saybrook University’s College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences, selected this program because it offered her a unique educational opportunity to deepen her knowledge of how mind, body, and spirit impact psychological and medical health. Twenty-five years as a psychotherapist has provided Carolyn with the clinical opportunity to work with individuals who present with co-morbid behavioral health and medical issues, specifically chronic diseases. Often these individuals share histories of traumatic life events and cumulative stress. She came to ask herself: Could chronic psychological and physiological stress make these individuals more susceptible to develop chronic illness or diseases, specifically autoimmune diseases?
Over 50 million Americans suffer from autoimmune diseases and 75% of them are women. Such chronic conditions take an enormous physical, emotional, and financial toll resulting in $100 billion annually in healthcare costs. Working directly with women who experience these chronic conditions has fueled Carolyn with a deep passion and commitment to identify strategies that could alleviate or even prevent their suffering. Specific mind-body interventions used for stress management may impact the immune response by reducing systemic inflammation thereby helping the body to improve its ability to self-heal.
Carolyn has noticed that many of these individuals in their therapeutic work have shared anecdotal evidence of the benefits of relaxation breathing, guided imagery, or yoga that helped decrease stress levels. Could mind-body interventions, specifically relaxation breathing and guided imagery, work by calming the over-activated stress response? For these techniques to become more widely recognized and recommended within the medical community, there is a need for quantifiable proof that these methods are effective.
With assistance from a Foundation for Education and Research in Biofeedback and Related Sciences (FERB) grant award, Carolyn’s proposed research study will look at the potential clinical implications of specific relaxation techniques. This study, through the use of a one-time session of training, will measure and compare the biopsychosocial impact of paced diaphragmatic breathing to that of guided imagery, within a sample of adult women who have been diagnosed with Autoimmune Thyroid Diseases.
The study will further include 1) the biological marker of salivary interleukin-1 (IL-1) as a measure of the inflammatory response, 2) the psychophysiological measures of heart rate variability (HRV) and respiration rate, and 3) psychological measures of positive and negative mood states. Carolyn remarked that these findings could provide support for the promotion of using such mind-body techniques within a medical population. This could result in improved health, wellness, and overall quality of life for those who suffer from these chronic conditions.
The post Saybrook Doctoral Student Wins Research Grant on Trauma & Chronic Illness appeared first on Saybrook University.
Leila Kozak, PhD,is the Director of Integrative Medicine in Palliative Care for Paliativos Sin Fronteras (Palliative Care Providers Without Borders). She is a Saybrook University graduate and an instructor in the Saybrook University College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences. Dr. Kozak is currently a “Clinical Champion” at the Office of Patient-Centered Care and Culture Transformation at the Veterans Administration Central Office and works locally with VA Puget Sound Health Care System in advancing patient-centered care and integrative health for Veterans. She will be delivering a keynote address and conducting a breakout session at the Palliative Care Institute Spring Conference, May 13-14, 2016 at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington.
Palliative care providers are increasingly seeking non-pharmacological supportive interventions to increase comfort and quality of life, which has led to the integration of complementary therapies within palliative care environments. A variety of complementary therapies have been shown to reduce suffering and improve quality of life in palliative care populations. This emerging field of integrative palliative care brings wonderful opportunities as well as challenges.
In her keynote, Dr. Kozak will discuss the opportunities and challenges related to the use of integrative modalities in palliative care, including acupuncture, aromatherapy, biofield therapies (Healing Touch, Therapeutic Touch, and Reiki), expressive arts therapies (art, writing, and music methods), massage, mind-body interventions, and movement approaches.
Dr. Kozak’s break out session will discuss “The Role of Touch Therapies in Enhancing the Patient Experience.” Her presentation was inspired by a video interview describing the implementation of touch therapies at VA hospitals, in which a Veteran undergoing palliative care described his experience receiving massage: “It makes you feel that you are not just a thing, you are a person.” During the 90 minute session, Dr. Kozak will introduce participants to various touch therapies, describing affordability and costs and emphasizing evidence and the role of these modalities in symptom management and quality of life. The session will also provide practical strategies that participants can use to implement touch therapies at their medical facilities.
Readers may register for the conference at:
The post Saybrook Instructor speaks on integrative approaches to palliative care appeared first on Saybrook University.
Add your voice to the creation process of a Saybrook-wide student-led organization!
In response to broad enthusiasm for the creation of a student-led organization, a committee of students formed to discuss how we all might provide for the emergence of such.
This committee has met with the intention of providing means by which every student may lend their voice in the creation of this organization.
If you are energized by the thought of participating in the forging of this group please accept this invitation to join an online meeting to be held TUESDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2015 at 5:30-7:30 pm PST where the design of this organization will be discussed.
Check your Saybrook email for the full invitation and to access the registration link.
Dr. Roland Carlstedt, a Saybrook University alumnus (MA, 1998; Ph.D., 2001) living in New York City and Boston, is a finalist in the Partners Healthcare Connected Health “15 Pitch-Off: Emotion Sensing” contest. The finalists were chosen by a combination of crowd voting and expert judge scoring from among the 14 online submissions received. Dr. Carlstedt finished first in the total voting. A live event will be held on October 28 at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston, where the finalists will compete in front of an audience and a panel of expert judges to determine the winners.
Dr. Carlstedt is a licensed clinical psychologist and board certified sport psychologist. He is a research associate in psychology in McLean Hospital’s Developmental Biopsychiatry Research Program, a research associate in psychology in Harvard Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry, and currently the chairman and chief sport psychologist of the American Board of Sport Psychology. He is also the clinical and research director for Integrative Psychological Services of New York City.
His contest entry, titled: Bio-marker guided integrative behavioral medicine in the APP era: Accountability analytics, extends on Dr. Carlstedt’s research on the Dual Placebo Effect, a phenomenon in which both the clinician’s and the patient’s perceptions of therapy outcomes are incongruent with underlying psychophysiology. “This can lead to faulty beliefs regarding the effectiveness of the intervention that can mask insidious disease trajectories continuing to advance on a subliminal level,” he said. Using advanced monitoring instrumentation and computer applications (APPs), Dr. Carlstedt said that practitioners are positioned to assess patient biomarker responses in the real world to better determine to what extent “perceived” therapeutic gains actually carry over into a patient’s daily life. However, he said this is only possible if “rigorous methodologies and analytics” are integrated with biomedical monitoring devices to ensure that acquired data is valid and reliable.
“New APPs should be designed to incorporate advanced analytics and used in the context of a longitudinal repeated measures design to acquire sufficient, quality information on autonomic nervous system activity, with heart rate variability offering the most robust signal and analytic capabilities,” said Dr. Carlstedt. He is currently organizing a multi-site Universal Clinical Trial to advance APP-guided biomarker-based behavioral medicine, health psychology and psychotherapy. Clinicians are currently being recruited to participate in this large nationwide research project.
Since being appointed to McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Dr. Carlstedt has initiated a number of research collaborations worldwide, including a study of brain imaging of hypnotizability in placebo responders in clinical trials and the impact of repressive coping as part of a five-year National Institutes of Health-funded investigation of the neurobiology of substance abuse in maltreated/abused individuals (P.I., Martin Teicher, M.D., Ph.D.). An additional project involving his clinical denial hypothesis in the context of late-stage cardiologic and oncologic patient presentation is in the conceptualization stage in collaboration with Deepak Bhatt, MD, Director of Interventional Cardiovascular programs at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Professor of Medicine at Harvard University Medical School.
Dr. Carlstedt’s academic advisor while at Saybrook was Dr. Stanley Krippner. His dissertation was awarded the 2001 Dissertation Award of the American Psychological Association’s Division 47 (Exercise and Sport Psychology) under the supervision of Dr. Auke Tellegen of the University of Minnesota.
More information on Dr. Carlstedt’s project and the Boston contest can be found here. For more on Dr. Carlstedt visit his Facebook page. If you are in Boston on October 28th, please stop by the Seaport WTC and say hello to Dr. Carlstedt.
A book launch with Professor Marc Pilisuk, PhD and a panel discussion on Ending War and Poverty.
Co-sponsored by the Democratic World Federalists and Saybrook University, please join us Monday September 21st from 6:00-8:00 pm for an exciting evening of community, networking, the launch of Marc Pilisuk’s book, The Hidden Structure of Violence, and a panel discussion on topics of transforming violence, and ending war and poverty. (September 21st is also International World Peace Day).
FB Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/466642546829545/
Featuring: Professor Marc Pilisuk, PhD
Emcee: Professor Robert Flax, PhD
Panelists: Michael Nagler, PhD, Theopia Jackson, PhD, and others
When: 6:00 to 8:30 pm, September 21 (International World Peace Day)
Where: Saybrook University, 9th Floor, 475 14th Street (at Broadway) in Oakland
What: A potluck (6:00 to 6:45 pm), followed by a lecture and panel discussion
PART I: BOOK LAUNCH WITH MARC PILISUK
The event begins with the launch of Dr. Pilisuk’s penetrating new work, The Hidden Structure of Violence: Who Benefits from Global Violence and War (Monthly Review Press, July 2015). Marc will speak on “The Violent Network: How It Operates, and How We Can Transform It.”
PART II: PANEL DISCUSSION ON ENDING WAR AND POVERTY
In response to Dr. Pilisuk’s talk, a panel representing distinguished peace innovators will be on hand to comment and address the question: how do we end the scourge of war and poverty?
6:00-6:45 pm – Potluck & Networking Opportunity
6:45-8:15 pm – Talk & Panel Discussion
8:15-8:30 pm – Book-signing by Dr. Pilisuk
*Books will be available for purchase
$10-$20 sliding scale donation; no one turned away
Tickets must be purchased at the door
TRANSPORTATION AND PARKING:
Close to 12th Street BART station / street parking
The post Ending Mass Violence and Poverty in our Time: Pathways to Creating a Peaceful and Thriving Planet appeared first on Saybrook University.
Her eyes become half-moons when she smiles. Her whole face lights up, as if to convey her happiness and impart it upon all those around her. She is the newest addition to the Saybrook University faculty and she broadens the dimensions of the new MA in Counseling program, which expands the current MFT program to greater heights. Her name is Hridaya Sivalingam, PhD, and her passion is in creating a mindful, humanistic approach for developing humanistic counselors.
Dr. Sivalingam attended Elmira College where she received a BA in Psychology, then progressed to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she received an MS in Counseling and Educational Development, as well as a PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision. Her spiritual meditation practice shapes her counseling approach and she brings this rich background to Saybrook. Here, she plans to integrate the tools of breath therapy, dance movement and spiritual contemplation into talk therapy in an experiential method for her students.
Saybrook is not the first to benefit from the laser-vision ideals of contemplative pedagogy in educating future counselors. Dr. Sivalingam previously worked at the college counseling center at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, as well as Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, where she became the clinical program director by her second year.
She has presented for the Center for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education conference and is a member of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. She embraces mind-body therapies, co-facilitated a certification in Breath Therapy and used her internship experience with a dance movement therapist to give greater understanding to how body carriage movement connects with psychological well-being. She integrates all these elements into her teaching, to create a rich, diverse counselor preparation education program.
Dr. Sivalingam is deeply committed to helping counselors understand their identity and to become more at ease with that identity while being careful not to superimpose their own values and narrative on their clients. Contemplation and mindfulness in the therapeutic presence is a key focus for her. She is dedicated to creating supportive and creative learning environments for her students in order to assist them in developing their identity, while teaching empathy for clients in order to reduce therapist burnout.
In particular, Dr. Sivalingam finds that compassion for the client mitigates professional exhaustion. She gives an example of this by mentioning how visualizing the client as healthy can aide the counselor in finding alternative and creative ways to assist the client. She believes this can be accomplished through a contemplative approach. “Our own knowing, hunches and ideas can guide counseling,” she said. This leads to a new way of considering the client, and consequently, empowering the client into healing.
To do this, Dr. Sivalingam uses contemplative pedagogy to prepare the person of the counselor. The tools and strategies she uses are evidence-based, self-reflective and experiential teaching oriented toward learning as a community. Her goal is to build a climate where people feel comfortable and safe enough to bring their full selves into the classroom, in order to facilitate disclosure with the rest of the class, a familiar milieu for Saybrook students.
When asked about one particular client in which she had made a memorable impact, Dr. Sivalingam recounted the story of a student working on her undergraduate degree. The client came from a very chaotic home and was challenged to feel stability in her environment. “She was so used to that chaos, it seemed to follow her. She found it in her dorm relationships. She found it in her sorority relationships and her academic relationships,” said Dr. Sivalingam. “One of the things I feel really excited about is having been able to be a steady person to see and value her; something she hadn’t experienced.” Through counseling over several semesters and years, the student began to value who she was and what she brought without expectation from others. It was a good example of the humanistic ideal of valuing the person as self-healing. It helped the client transform herself through steady confidence, which allowed her to go from being withdrawn and nearly abandoning her academic goals, to obtaining leadership roles in the academic community by the end of her undergraduate education. She became more self-reflective and open to more authentic and valuable relationships with others. “That was one client I was really proud of,” she said.
Although Dr. Sivalingam loves the face-to-face method of teaching, the Saybrook technology allows so much more flexibility for encountering students at a distance. “We are at a point now where the technology can work closely as true, interpersonal interaction, rather than relying on email or text or audio, so the new ideas of working with this technology. I’m excited for Saybrook to be one of the places that has a really rich learning environment that just happens to be using technology to create it. That’s one of the things I’m excited about… to join my colleagues in putting our creative minds together to let this be a really awesome learning experience,” she said.
Along with co-creating the new MA in Counseling program with Saybrook, Dr. Sivalingam has been busy co-creating in a real, tangible way. She is the new mother of a three month-old son! She lives with her husband and infant son in Tempe, Arizona.
Jennifer Preston, PhD, NCC, LPC, is one of Saybrook University’s new faculty for the MA in Counseling program (formerly known as MFT). She joins the community from Minnesota State University, Mankato where she served as a professor for masters and doctorate level students for the last nine years.
Dr. Preston discovered that there is often overlap in the skills of a good teacher and of a good clinician, and that she had the ability to bridge from one to the other. For example, she worked for several years serving high-risk populations in various settings prior to obtaining her doctorate in counselor education. This work included serving traumatized youth in shelters, where each session could easily be the last with any particular client. She observed that being able to be really present, to really listen, and honor what some call small successes, laid a foundation for future gains in awareness and success for these clients. In Dr. Preston’s experience, many helping professionals would have missed these small successes, having expectations of what the success should look like. Dr. Preston found this to be similar to the demands of a graduate degree. Many institutions require a degree so the clinician is certified to serve clients, but becoming a good clinician, therapist or even researcher requires understanding and competence well beyond the academic theory. Obtaining her doctorate allowed Dr. Preston to expand her contribution as an agent of change by translating this capacity to attune, guide and relate to her students’ journeys of professional development. She has used her abilities to help her students increase their awareness of themselves and their clients through both academic theory and exploration of skills. In this way, Dr. Preston guides students to discover their unique capacity to contribute while gaining stamina for continuously honing and shaping themselves into better clinicians.
Dr. Preston has discovered that Saybrook’s mission and core values are strongly aligned with her own values and professional identity. She brings her passion for advocacy, and skill in working with the whole person within the traumatic experience. At MSU, Dr. Preston shared her expertise in the many facets of these interrelated areas through courses in substance abuse, multi-cultural counseling, crisis and trauma, and gender-related issues. Dr. Preston will bring her love of and experience with these issues to any course she teaches, because the need for these courses permeate so much of fundamental theory and practice. But she understands something even more vital: studying the theory often reveals growth potential in the personal aspects of professional development. Studying the theories can activate leaps of awareness of who one needs to be in order to use the theory well. “Take a student who does not know why a certain class matters,” she describes[JP1] . “Let’s say a class in multi-culturalism, and a student from the dominant culture comes to understand there are even cultures within the dominant culture. They’ve awakened to something new, and that new awareness of themselves and others changes their relationship to the world around them.” She adds, “Teaching students to advocate for their clients, then hearing about how it actually went–those moments are very rich.”
Dr. Preston’s passion for and accountability to the graduate student’s journey of professional development makes her a good fit for and welcome addition to the Saybrook community. Recognizing that there is no clear separation between personal growth, academic accomplishment and development of professional identity is vital, but how does she help students synthesize this into who a therapist should be? She describes three basic components to this alchemical process: “The first thing I think about is just be really open. Often as clinicians we have assumptions or guesses about what things mean to a client. Really reigning that in to be truly available to what that person is actually saying is key,” she says. “Second, be really curious. Genuinely curious. And third, be able to be honest with yourself. Attending to [your] internal dialogue, being grounded in who you are but able to be fully present to the other person is so essential. This includes being honest about when you feel vulnerable or are struggling,” she concludes.
These are the key ingredients Dr. Preston finds useful in guiding students to become excellent scholars, helping them awaken to the multidimensional nature of their own world, and assisting them to grow more aware of the rich variety of worlds expressed through the lives of others around them. Accomplishing this balance often seems to be a process of encouraging and nurturing small changes with each student she encounters, but for her, this is the joy of the journey.
Veronica Lac is a United Kingdom-licensed psychotherapist who specializes in Gestalt psychotherapy, but her journey with Saybrook University has been much more than Ph.D. coursework in psychology. It has been the merging of passions that most people would not first combine in thought: existential-humanistic psychotherapy and horses.
When Veronica began her journey with Saybrook, she was already providing equine assisted psychotherapy for people with eating disorders. She also teaches children with special needs how to ride horses, especially children on the autism spectrum. While on the surface it seems she uses the horses as a therapy tool, a closer look reveals the real interaction. The way the horses respond to her clients embodies the essence of humanistic values. They do not judge and they do not apply labels. They offer assistance and their interaction with the clients helps Veronica to identify and address issues that are relevant to the therapy session, allowing her to intuit from the horses the information she requires to address a client’s issues. One might say the horses provide a vehicle for healing. Consequently, she is doing her dissertation work on the embodied experience of equine assisted psychotherapy.
Veronica has a smooth, familiar British accent that sparkles when she speaks, much as a person’s eyes twinkle when they begin to discuss their kids, or a favorite pet. She attributes the way in which she was encouraged and supported by the Saybrook faculty as the basis of her decision to choose this subject for her dissertation research. Unlike other schools that are predominantly driven by faculty interests, Saybrook’s faculty strongly supports the students to pursue their own passions, something Veronica identified as the “little bit of crazy I bring to the therapy session.” This unconventional, or student-centered approach to research is one of the biggest reasons why Veronica and other students come to Saybrook. The value faculty place on this creative approach is what Veronica credits for an enriching and fulfilling journey at Saybrook, which seamlessly blends her existing work with her graduate educational goals. Veronica declared, “At Saybrook you have free range to go explore your own thing and you’ll have support. Because my own thing is so different from the mainstream, I felt a real freedom in that, and so I quite often did my own thing,” she said.
Veronica’s journey has been supported by Saybrook professors, particularly Louis Hoffman, and the international outreach that the university offers. She traveled to China in 2014 and presented on equine assisted psychotherapy as it relates to body language and cultural differences, which then led to the presentation at the APA Division 32 Society of Humanistic Psychology 2015 Conference on the same subject, also strongly encouraged by Saybrook faculty. Most recently, she was invited to present at the first ever Existential Therapy World Congress in London in early June 2015. To fund her trip back home to her native United Kingdom, Veronica offered a workshop there right before the Congress on equine assisted therapy, which sold out in advance quickly enough for her to purchase her airline tickets and plan her presentation for the Congress. Veronica was especially excited about the workshop because a member of Saybrook faculty and a fellow student were going to attend, bringing together the different threads of her professional life.
Veronica co-authored a presentation at the London Existential Congress with fellow student Monica Monsilla on the Saybrook Tribe, and also did a solo presentation on equine-assisted therapy. She related how she changed the solo presentation right before the conference. It was originally to be on the theory of equine assisted psychotherapy, but Veronica opted to change it after her experience in her workshop the previous weekend. The reason why illustrates the nuanced way existential humanistic values, imparted on Saybrook students from day one, allows flexibility for the profound to enter into their work.
An old school friend of Veronica’s heard that she would be presenting at the Congress and agreed to be Veronica’s pseudo-client for the private workshop. This friend had endured breast cancer, a stroke, heart surgery and a plethora of other physical illnesses which had a tremendous emotional impact on her. Consequently, Veronica supported her as she spoke about her fears of dying and leaving her young son behind, as well as her friend’s own grief at the loss of her mother to cancer, which then extended to the greater audience when an attendee related her experience of losing a child to cancer. In addition, Veronica’s friend had endured an accident while riding a horse, so the process of facing her fear of riding again was manifested into a process of facing the journey of dying. “The synchronicity in the workshop was magical,” Veronica exclaimed. The friend’s husband, who happens to be a professional photographer, captured the entire session on camera, and that footage became the basis of Veronica’s adapted presentation for the London Congress. Just watching that footage was so moving to Congress participants that Kleenex was subsequently required. The whole experience exemplified to Veronica the beautiful way that living in the moment and humanistic existential methods can create a space for healing that eclipses traditional psychotherapy. Her journey through her friend’s fears brought the entire community to a new place of understanding.
Veronica describes Saybrook as a “tribe.” “Saybrook sees the gifts that each student brings to the greater extended family or tribe, and cherishes the diversity of each member,” she said. With Veronica, it is a unique way of reaching a very challenging population of people. Yet perhaps it is the very substance of the Saybrook mission that Veronica represents: doing equine assisted psychotherapy with existential and humanistic values allows the transformational change in each client she serves to progress toward a more just, humane and sustainable world.
By Maria Taheny
The post Synchronized Passions – Saybrook Student Profile of Veronica Lac appeared first on Saybrook University.
Four current Saybrook psychology students accompanied faculty members Louis Hoffman, Ph.D. and Mark Yang, Psy.D., on a week-long trip to China in late April where they helped the faculty members to teach psychology students from all over that country. Kristen Beau Howard, Anne Hsu, Monica Mansilla, and Jenna Noah all made the long trip then shared a conference call interview in May to relate their experiences.
In Beijing the students encountered a group of more than 45 students from all over China enrolled in classes leading to a certificate in existential psychology by Professors Hoffman and Yang. Some Chinese students had extensive psychology backgrounds, many were practicing therapists, some already had group experience, and about half of them had completed a two week-long certificate focused on humanistic psychology. While the four Saybrook students are studying psychology as well, they found themselves with a lot more experience than their Chinese counterparts and were expected to give presentations, do demonstrations, and even mock supervision sessions. “We four are also students but we were placed in a type of teacher role because of the presentations that we made, and from being farther along in our educational processes as graduate students,” said Jenna.
It was seven full days of presentations and interaction, certainly an intensive learning experience. That intensity created a rich experience that all four women shared, and that richness translated into motivation to study harder once back home. “I found a new form of motivation for academia, for presenting and just being near and around different academics. Now I’m more inspired to write papers than I ever thought possible before!” exclaimed Jenna. “It was an unexpected advantage of the trip for me–my dedication and my interest in East-West Psychology, but the academic process in general!” she said.
It was a paradoxical experience going over there right in the middle of the semester, according to Kristen. “We were right in the middle of writing papers and I was traveling all the way over there, experiencing jet lag and taking all this energy. While it was so exhausting, I GAINED so much energy and empowerment from it that it seems like a paradox…of joy!” she said. Another element that made the experience wonderful for her was seeing the similarities they shared with the Chinese students. “We were all connecting to other human beings on that real level. It was just wonderful!” she said.
Monica said, “The richness of the experience gets translated into the academic work we do at Saybrook.” She shared that she was taking the Rollo May course that semester with Dr. Ed Mendelowitz and there were many complex concepts that were difficult to understand. After returning from China, “I actually had chats with him that I came back understanding many things that I didn’t understand before. That felt really beautiful,” she said.
One of the other sentiments that all four students shared following the China experience was the paradoxical feeling of a sense of a community, even on the other side of the world. “With Saybrook we can forget that we actually have classmates!” said Anne. “There is that particular aspect of Saybrook that we’re all out on our own and we’re doing that heavy work in psychology. But one of the highlights of this trip for me was getting to know and spend so much time with these three other women”, said Kristen.
Listening to Louis Hoffman open the workshop and introduce the history of Saybrook interwoven with the history of humanistic and existential psychology, several of the women remarked that they wished they had had this same type of introduction at their Residential Orientation. “I walked into Saybrook thinking I was going to graduate school, but not knowing much about Saybrook itself. Now I feel very proud to be at Saybrook, and I wish that more students knew what Saybrook really is,” said Monica.
“Everybody was really wanting to learn,” said Kristen. “They’re incredibly well read, but they don’t have access to all our texts in English—only those that have been translated.” She also noted a huge willingness to engage on the part of the Chinese students, even despite all the differences. “Yet with this willingness on the whole of the group to engage in those differences, in the end all you could see was our sameness—human beings connecting together on a human level,” said Kristen.
All four women were adamant about the impact the China trip has had on their studies and professional growth in general, and all four advocate for other students to take part in the trip in future years. Anne said that attending the Third International Conference in Existential Psychology in Guangzhou, China last year and meeting Louis and Mark was what had her decide to enroll at Saybrook this past fall. She now considers herself an advocate for Saybrook’s presence at conferences like these in order to build connections around the world. “It’s about the sense of community when you are removed from home and your comfort zone and you put a bunch of people together who share only one thing in common and that is a love for existential psychology,” she said. “That helps reinforce why you are in this field in the first place and encourages you to pursue it further.”
Monica added, “the cost of the trip, after I made all the calculations, was almost equal to what I spend coming to RCs!” Depending on your degree program, attending and participating in this week-long conference can be substituted for the Saybrook Residential Conference in that semester. For more information regarding the International Existential Psychology certificate and the annual China trip, please contact Louis Hoffman (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Mark Yang (email@example.com).
The post Saybrook Students Find Community and Inspiration on the Other Side of the World appeared first on Saybrook University.