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By R. Paul Johnson
When I look back on my experience in Berlin, I first think about what one of the Saybrook administrators said to me:
“This experience will be transformative,” she said.
I remember that very distinctly because I was skeptical. I mean, I’m not some youngster, I have had many experiences in my life—some of them profound and what I would consider transformative. However, in retrospect I had no concept of the journey I was about to undertake.
Arriving in Berlin was an exciting time, meeting other students and faculty from across the TCS Education System network of universities and getting settled in. The energy of the city was palpable, and the people were fantastic. We had the opportunity to tour neighborhoods and museums, and meet politicians and community organizers. I was so impressed with what was being done for the new and current citizens of Germany.
The day came that we were going to “the balloon,” the camp that international refugees were calling home for the time being. I was nervous and wondered what it would be like. Practically speaking, the only exposure I had up to that point was through national media. I wanted to be sure to keep my expectations in check. I remember someone saying this exchange is about empathy not sympathy, which only caused my anxiety to grow even higher!
We walked for what seemed like many miles and came around a corner to see a very large building that did in fact look a bit like a big silver balloon. It was very cold and misty, and a few residents were milling around outside. Our group moved in a pack, clearly all of us sharing similar emotions and wonder. We were let into the camp in small groups, as to accommodate the pressure doors that were in place to keep the balloon inflated. It was warm and very bright inside—security guards sat at the front desk, checking for badges and signing people in and out.
I can’t forget the noise—not from crying, yelling, or other sounds of distress—but from people laughing and talking and children playing. It was a place where humans were simply being human. I knew then that my expectations had been much skewed, and I realized that while there was little doubt as to the stories these people had to tell about their reasons for fleeing, all I felt in that moment was a sense of shared humanity.
They were not asking for anything special, they only wanted to feel safe and have the opportunity to live and take care of their families, no different than us. Even though they had been through so much, when I looked into their eyes, I saw joy and love alongside the pain and fear. It was the whole of humanity right in front of me.
“Transformative” was exactly what this was. This experience afforded me the opportunity to change my perspective on how I work, how I live, and how I see the rest of the world and those that live in it. My goals have also changed. Because of this experience, I hope to become more involved with international psychology.
We are all in this together, we all have something to offer and if we remain open to change and open to each other we can all transform—we can all experience a change in perspective. Perhaps we’ve had different paths to get where we are, but we are all the same nonetheless. Just a few words and a balloon full of beautiful people, and my life is forever changed.
Paul Johnson is currently working toward his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at Saybrook University and works at a community-based counseling agency that serves low-income individuals and families, as well as offers traineeships for both masters and doctoral-level clinicians
by Allison Winters, MA, MS, BC-DMT, LCAT, RYT
As a Ph.D. student in Saybrook University’s Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences, I was recently asked to write a blog piece about my experience as a dance therapist that treats military and veteran patients. As I reflected on where I am, I realized that it is just as important to understand the roots of my journey.
When I started pursuing a career as a dance therapist, I didn’t know that I wanted to work with this population. I knew very little about veterans or military life, other than the fact that both of my grandfathers and two of my uncles had served. Yet when I began working with veterans, I felt this connection that I could not ignore. I may not be serving in the military in the traditional sense, but it is my hope that I am able to help veterans find a sense of peace and healing.
My first job as a dance/movement therapist was facilitating groups on inpatient psychiatric units in a hospital in New York City. It was exhausting but fulfilling. I had the privilege of sharing in patients’ most intimate and darkest experiences. Joining them on their journey taught me how to be empathic—not only in therapeutic relationships, but with all beings. In short, they taught me much of what I understand today about the human condition.
I remember one patient in particular who had been on the unit for months. He was chronically schizophrenic and homeless. Finding a more permanent placement for him was proving to be a challenge. He spent the days pacing the unit and mumbling to himself—visibly responding to internal stimuli through gestures, facial expressions, and physical postures.
I always invited him into the groups, even though he never indicated any signs of being interested. He never made eye contact with me, or anyone on the unit. Sometimes he would come into the group space and sit for a little while, but it didn’t take long before he was up and pacing again. Although he would come and go, I always made sure to welcome him warmly and greet him by his name.
The day finally came when a placement had been found for him, and a discharge date had been decided. During our time together, I noticed that one of the things that kept him going was the few cups of coffee that he received with his meals. So a few days before he left, I asked the psychiatrist if she would mind if I gave the patient a really good cup of coffee from a local coffee shop to bid him farewell and celebrate his moving on from the hospital. She agreed and the patient happily accepted his large cup of non-hospital cafeteria coffee.
The day the patient left, I went to say goodbye and wish him well. He looked me in the eyes for the first time in four months and spoke the only words he ever said during that time, “You saved my life.” He then quickly leaned forward and kissed me on the cheek before hurrying away.
He left behind a very stunned therapist.
It would’ve been easy for me to ignore this man as he paced and mumbled to himself all day. Instead I treated him as I did everyone else, and guess what? There was a living, breathing, feeling human being inside that rough exterior.
I reflect back on this experience often, carrying these deeply embedded lessons with me into every new therapeutic relationship.
1) Don’t make assumptions about others; you can never truly know what is going on inside of them.
2) Be your authentic self with people, and most of the time that is what you will receive in return.
A couple of years into my work on the psych units, I became aware of a job opening at a local Veterans Affairs (VA) medical center. As I stated before, I knew very little about veterans or military life. For some reason, however, I felt drawn to the job, so I applied. Shortly thereafter I was called in for an interview.
Initially, I felt entirely undeserving to be asking for a job to treat veterans, and was overwhelmed as I entered the “official-looking” entryway to the VA. Yet, there was a part of me that felt comfortable among the camouflaged and weapon-laden guards. Eventually, I was hired as a creative arts therapist working in their Community Living Center (CLC), a nursing home.
The patients were mostly confined to wheelchairs, and many were suffering from dementia as well as other comorbidities—such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and Parkinson’s Disease. These were World War II and Korean War Veterans: Soldiers who had long since seen a battlefield, but whose war stories were still very much alive in their bodies and minds.
You might be wondering how I engaged these patients in dance. Let’s start by clarifying a few things about dance/movement therapy (DMT).
It is a common misconception that DMT has to do with dance in the traditional sense—that is learning a specific sequence of movements within the style of a particular dance technique such as ballet or modern dance. While a DMT session may incorporate dance technique, it is more likely that it won’t look like a dance class at all.
What happens in a DMT session largely depends on the person or group of people in the session: It is the patients’ needs that drive the session. A dance/movement therapist is trained to use movement as a means of both analysis and treatment.
There was a man at the CLC who spent the entirety of his day in a Broda chair (similar to a reclined wheelchair). I started by sitting with him and attempting various ways of communicating. He couldn’t speak very well, had limited range of movement, and diminished muscle capacity. After a few sessions together and trying a few different stimuli, I discovered that he could toss a ball back and forth with some force. I will never forget the look on the nurses’ faces when they walked by and saw this man moving with power and intention.
Upon further exploration, I found that this same man loved music and expressed his adoration by rhythmically tapping his big toe along to the beat. Sometimes, I would help accentuate the feeling for him by gently tapping the same rhythm on his leg or arm so that he could feel it more completely.
DMT is about being with the patient—wherever they are—and moving with them in a way that is meaningful. What makes it therapy, and not just dance, is the relationship between the patient and the dance/movement therapist.
As this man’s therapist, I was aware of his diagnoses, psycho-social history, and physical limitations. I kept all this information in mind when I interacted with him, but what elicited his movement responses was the fact that I was being present with both his mind and his body.
To an outsider it may seem that his movements were subtle and perhaps inconsequential, but to those that knew him, those movements were as extraordinary as a grand jete by Barishnikov himself.
While working at the VA CLC, I met a man who happened to be on the same aircraft carrier as my grandfather during World War II. I wasn’t able to share this amazing connection with my grandfather as he recently passed away. But I was able to deepen my connection with him through my conversations with this veteran.
In fact, meeting this man who served alongside my grandfather made me feel connected across generations of warriors. I suddenly understood my own duty to serve and to continue passing this honor on to future generations. It was at that moment that I understood my calling was to serve those who have served.
The time came to move on from the Community Living Center when I received a job offer from a military medical facility in San Diego, CA.
It was difficult to leave these Veterans behind as I had grown to truly care for them. At the same time, I was excited to work with active duty military members—to learn about another area of the spectrum of military life. San Diego also happened to be the port that my grandfather’s ship deployed from: The thread of personal meaning would continue as I journeyed to the other side of the country.
The patient population that I was assigned to work with were receiving treatment for multiple diagnoses, including substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Although joined by their military experience, these men and women were facing a whole different set of challenges than the CLC Veterans. As active duty service members, their primary goal was still the mission. Recovery was important but only for the sake of being ready for their next order. Their needs were also different than the CLC patients from a physical perspective.
Just as I did with the CLC Veterans, I met them where they were at, but with these soldiers I had to be prepared to respond to them with a different kind of readiness. The CLC veterans were in their last stages of life and my goal was to support them in finding moments of contentment, peace, connection, and relief from pain. With the active duty members, I supported their therapeutic goals by teaching them mind-body skills that they could carry with them and continue to utilize wherever the mission may take them.
This was also the time in my career when Saybrook University and I found each other. At the same time I was moving, breathing, and exploring with military soldiers, I was undergoing my own training, deepening my knowledge and understanding of mind-body skills alongside my own army of wellness warriors.
During my time in San Diego, I was asked by the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) to participate in their ADTA Talks.
The project was based on the popular TED Talk series and the result was several dance/movement therapists coming together to talk about how they utilize their skills with various patient populations.
Being one of the very few dance/movement therapists that had the opportunity to work with the military and veteran population, I suddenly found myself as the expert in this niche field. One of the things I discussed in my talk was about how I “get a bunch of soldiers to dance.”
As you might imagine, this is a question I am asked often.
What I said in the talk and what I continue to tell people today is that when provided with a safe space and given the permission to move in their own way and in their own time, walls of resistance come down quickly. DMT isn’t about forcing anyone to dance, it is about allowing space for people to feel comfortable in their own skin. It is about empowering them to make meaningful choices for their health and wellbeing.
A service member once told me that he hadn’t found much room for creativity in his experience in the military, and he was grateful to be given the opportunity to express himself again. Another told me that he never realized the breathing technique he used for shooting could also help him relax and find more balance in his life. Still another, after a group session involving rigorous shaking movement and more open-ended expressive movement said, “That was transformational.”
There’s an importance in keeping it simple, yet still remaining authentic—coming back to the DMT mantra of “being with.” One of the simplest, most authentic practices we engaged in was walking. Once a week we would take a walk and just talk—no agenda, no goal setting, no therapy—just moving in our bodies together. It was one of the most popular groups in the program. Why? Because there was no judgment. We were all just “being with.”
It wasn’t about teaching dance moves, but about moving with each other in a meaningful way. Sometimes it might be adjusting your own pace to walk alongside someone or sitting with someone in silence. Once the service members allowed themselves to be in their bodies, they understood dance/movement therapy.
I eventually parted ways with San Diego, but before leaving, I spent some time looking out at the San Diego Bay—watching the Navy ships and submarines come and go. I wondered if, as his ship deployed to the Pacific Islands, my grandfather took a moment to look back to the shore—gazing at the same place where I was sitting.
The next stop on my journey was a little farther north at another Veterans Affairs CLC in Palo Alto, Calif. (VAPAHCS).
During my time there I continued to use my DMT skills to help increase the quality of veterans’ end of life experiences. It was also during this time that Michelle Obama challenged America to dance as part of her “Gimme Five” initiative.
She performed a short piece of choreography with Ellen DeGeneres on the Ellen Show and encouraged people to film themselves performing the dance and then to share it on social media. I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to encourage both patients and staff to dance. With some help from my student intern and some other dedicated colleagues, we were able to capture footage of patients and staff taking the First Lady’s challenge. Our message was that every BODY can dance, even if you are confined to a wheelchair. The resulting video was released on the VA’s Facebook page and still lives there today.
I am now back on the East Coast working with active duty service members again as the wellness coordinator in an integrative traumatic brain injury treatment program. I have had the opportunity to create and implement a mind-body program, focused on providing service members with the skills to manage and maintain their health and wellness regardless of where the mission may take them next. As I help service members build their skills, I continue to build my own as well as I move toward the end of my doctoral studies at Saybrook.
I may not have experienced war firsthand, but I have certainly felt the range of human emotion. This is why the story of the man on the psych unit in New York stays with me. Our emotions are what connect us, and we all feel our emotions in our bodies.
Whether you are a homeless man with schizophrenia or an Army Colonel, we are all living, breathing, moving human beings. These commonalities are something that we should all be reminded of, particularly during this time of unrest in our world. In the wise words of Barack Obama, “The theater is necessary. Dance is necessary. Song is necessary. The arts are necessary—they are a necessary part of our lives.”
Allison Winters is a Ph.D. student in Saybrook University’s Mind-Body Medicine program. Currently, she works as the Wellness Coordinator at an integrative traumatic brain injury program, where she uses Dance/Movement Therapy to help veterans manage and maintain wellness. She and her life dance partner, Doug, are currently cutting loose in Silver Spring, MD with their two tiny dancers, Charlie and Lily.
The post My Journey: How I Learned to Use Dance/Movement Therapy to Help Military Veterans appeared first on Saybrook University.
Dear Saybrook Community:
I want to directly address the Executive Order President Trump signed on Friday restricting people from seven countries from entering the U.S. As we wait with the rest of the world to understand the impact of this order, my first concern is our international students that may be affected.
We are vigilantly following updates as they evolve to ensure that we are offering the best support for our international students and scholars. The Offices of Student Affairs and Global Engagement will continue to offer support and are working closely with me as we partner with the broader academic community to monitor and respond to the situation. If you have specific questions, please contact Jennifer Fullick, Director of Global Engagement.
As has always been a part of our mission, at Saybrook University we believe that every living being has the right to thrive in a just, inclusive, and sustainable world; that will not change. I will be in touch directly as news unfolds.
Dr. Nathan Long, President
Oakland, CA and Bellevue, WA
Are you considering a career as a licensed mental health professional? Does pursuing a career as a licensed counselor seem overwhelming?
You’re not alone. The field of psychology, in particular counseling psychology, can be difficult to navigate. There are a host of different programs, degrees, and paths that can lead you toward becoming a licensed mental health professional. However, if you’re interested in helping individuals, children, or families—bettering their lives overall—then there are very few careers that will be as rewarding as Licensed Mental Health Professional.
Let’s consider the basic elements involved with becoming a licensed mental health professional.
At a glance:
Now, let’s look at these a little more closely.
Counselor licensing is made difficult by the fact that each state in the U.S. has its own specific requirements for licensure, and these requirements can oftentimes be difficult to find and confusing to unravel. However confusing licensure may be, there are two attributes that are vitally important if you are interested in becoming a licensed counselor.
First, it’s important to find a university that is accredited. This may be the most important factor in determining which school and what program to choose when pursuing a career as a licensed mental health professional. Accreditation is given to universities by accreditation bodies that are recognized by the U.S. government. For example, Saybrook University is accredited by the Senior Commission of Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), and has been since 1984.
Second, the program necessarily needs to meet the standards of whatever state you plan to practice in. Saybrook University’s Master’s in Psychology program: Counseling Specialization meets the degree and coursework requirements to become a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) or licensed marital and family therapist (MFT) in the State of Washington.
Additionally, Saybrook offers specific tracks for students who wish to practice in Oregon. If you wish to practice in a different state, there may be additional requirements that you will need to complete in order to sit for the licensure exam.
After you have completed your program and received your degree, you will need to gain post-graduate supervised experience. Once that is complete, you may sit for the licensure exam of that state. After passing the exam, and a background check, you can apply for licensure of that your state.
Once you’ve found an accredited university and a program that will prepare you for the exam, your next step is to find a program that is right for you—one that will best prepare you for a career as a licensed mental health professional. Start by looking at these questions:
If you are uncertain on your ultimate career plans—or if you want to be a generalist—then it may be in your best interest to find a program that offers a wide variety of options. The Master’s in Psychology: Counseling Specialization at Saybrook University in Seattle offers a strong foundation in various areas of counseling. In addition, Saybrook offers both in-house study options, an online model that has been ranked in the top twenty for online counseling degrees, and a hybrid model that allows you to mix and match as best fits your lifestyle.
In conclusion, the field of psychology can certainly be difficult to navigate, particularly for those interested in careers as licensed practitioners in counseling psychology. However, provided that you are able to locate a program that is both accredited and flexible, you can begin the process of discovering which path is best for you to become a licensed mental health professional.
The post How to Become a Licensed Mental Health Professional appeared first on Saybrook University.
By Kent Becker, Ed.D.
Dean, College of Social Sciences
Education Beyond Borders: Immigration in Contexts provided students and faculty the opportunity to take part in a study abroad course that examined global topics from a multi-disciplinary lens. Dr. Kent Becker reflects on how this experience in Berlin impacted him by highlighting the challenges that refugees face and providing clarity to the connections that all human beings share.
The image was brilliant. To help tell her story, she captured a photo through the lenses of a pair of eye glasses. Everything through the lenses were in black and white while the rest of the image was in vivid color.
I was invited to reflect on how life can be seen in different ways.
His story began with a compelling image of a sculpture of two individuals, riddled with holes. They were caught in intense conflict, clutched in each other’s grip, and unaware that they were both drowning.
I was drawn into a civil war in which neither side wins and both sides lose precious lives.
What do they have in common? Both told the stories of a refugee. Both stories challenged my limited understanding of a “refugee.” Both stories were shared with grace, confidence, and passion. And, both stories unfolded inside the Balloon.
The Balloon, as they call it, is the home for approximately 250-300 refugees or newcomers to Berlin. Having arrived from a variety of countries, each refugee and newcomer has a unique yet interconnected story. And for a brief period, I was blessed to be a part of their journeys.
As one of five faculty members for our first cross-affiliate study abroad course, my primary task was to teach students, faculty, and shelter residents how to use photovoice as a tool to share one’s story—facilitating the telling and sharing of their stories through personal photographs and narratives. Their lives. Their images. Their words.
Prior to our first photovoice session inside the Balloon, the shelter manager (Majdi) and I met with our cross-college group. Majdi provided the group with a deeper understanding of the shelter and those it served. He emphasized that the shelter residents desired to share who they were as human beings—beyond their current identity as refugees.
After providing a quick overview of the photovoice process, I stressed two points:
At this point, I would guess that most of the group understood our role but in an abstract way.
That was soon to change.
Over the course of five sessions across a twelve-day period, students from diverse disciplines (psychology, law, education, marriage and family therapy, etc.) and shelter residents from diverse lands (Syria, Afghanistan, Africa, etc.) stepped into relationship with total strangers. Limited by language barriers, they connected through photos and stories of the past and hopes for the future.
However, it was not until our final session that I allowed myself to witness these connections. I had lost myself in the details and pressures of the project (not my first time). While right in front of me the true work—the meaning of our trip—was filling the room. Finally, I allowed myself to sit back, breathe, and take in what was unfolding all around me.
Within the Balloon, our students connected and listened as shelter residents shared their stories. At Saybrook we often discuss the importance of the relationship and the critical need of demonstrating compassionate presence in the lives of others. As the residents stood beside their photovoice projects and shared their stories, those listening and viewing the stories were completely present.
And so was I.
On the evening before our final session and celebration, a terrorist attacked a Berlin Christmas market by driving through the crowd with a stolen truck. Tragically, he killed twelve people and injured 56 others. It was a somber night as we confirmed the safety of our students, and all of us reconnected with loved ones back home. For a moment, I experienced what the shelter residents had experienced in their home countries.
For a moment, I feared what might come next. That line between refugee and non-refugee faded. That line between American and non-American faded. And as these lines faded, the purpose of becoming globally engaged surfaced with absolute clarity.
by Shannon McLain, M.S.
Shannon McLain, a Saybrook University student, explores the concepts of mindfulness, optimism, and gratitude, and how each of these can offer a path to maintaining positivity even in the most challenging situations.
Viktor Frankl once said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
A positive mindset is about what you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, and how you’re approaching the world in terms of things that happen in the past, present, and future. Preserving a positive mindset can be difficult—particularly during challenging situations—but it is attainable through maintaining mindfulness, optimism, and gratitude.
Mindfulness is not necessarily thinking or feeling—in some ways it’s the absence of thinking or feeling. It’s a complete focusing on the present moment. We know from research that mindfulness has positive benefits on health and wellness. Mindfulness, basically, is the practice of being fully present in each moment with a receptive, curious, and open attitude towards the experience you’re having at the moment.
Doing yoga or having a regular meditation practice is not the only means by which we can cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness can even be incorporated into the most mundane activities, like washing the dishes, brushing our teeth, or even just being mindful of a single breath.
Optimism is a projection towards the future. It is also a very positive mindset to have. When thinking about upcoming events, optimism is thinking with positivity and thinking with hope. There are many benefits for having a sunny outlook on life:
The last piece of a positive mindset is gratitude—particularly around situations that have occurred in the past.
In our Western culture, it seems that we, as a culture, place a greater emphasis on complaining rather than gratitude. We often feel gratitude towards another person when we think of how they have enriched our lives—emotionally, socially, etc. It’s an emotion that occurs across many different cultures, and people experience it similarly. As we reflect, past emotions are often captured by gratitude. When we’re grateful for events that have occurred in our lives—even challenging situations—that can be an expression of gratitude.
What are three things you’re grateful for today? There’s a lot of research on gratitude journaling, some of it is mixed on extent of the benefits it can have on well-being. What we do know, however, is that it certainly doesn’t hurt us. One of the ways to impact your well-being—and cultivate a positive mindset—is to try to think of new things to be grateful for. You do not need to engage in this activity every day, but even doing this activity every couple of days will greatly help you maintain positivity.
As a scholar-practitioner, Shannon McLain is committed to helping individuals reach their full potential and achieve a balanced and meaningful lifestyle by attending to all areas of wellness. Shannon earned her M.S. in Mind-Body Medicine at Saybrook University as well as certification as a Health and Wellness Coach. Additionally, she has completed the Professional Training Program through the Center for Mind-Body Medicine, located in Washington, D.C. She is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. in Mind-body Medicine: Healthcare Practice Specialization program and is pursuing certification in Integrative and Functional Nutrition.
The post The Happiness Habit: Cultivating a Positive Mindset Through Mindfulness, Optimism, and Gratitude appeared first on Saybrook University.
By Nathan Long, Ed.D.
President, Saybrook Unviersity
As many of you may know, Saybrook is going global through a partnership with TCS Education System and its colleges and universities. Our inaugural trip for Education Beyond Borders will take us to Berlin to examine the issues of immigration from a global context. Even though this experience has just begun, it has already been a breathtaking experience. One that I will surely never forget.
My daughter Simone and I are now in Berlin after what has proven to be such important bonding time between the two of us. As she begins to prepare for the next phase of her life, we thought we might take the opportunity of this Berlin experience to also extend our trip to see some of the major sights of London and Paris beforehand. From a fatherly perspective, I have treasured this time together.
Coincidentally, while walking the streets of Paris the other evening, we saw a sign hanging from a building that read “Please support the Syrian refugees”. In the midst of our privilege of spending quality time together, we were thrust back to what is happening in our world, most importantly what is happening to thinking, feeling, breathing human beings who are at the center of what has become a cultural-political storm not just in Europe but worldwide. And so it is with this important trip connecting the five colleges and universities. This thrusting back to an important and vital reality offering us the invaluable opportunity to explore various aspects of the immigrant-refugee experience: Social-political, economic, and cultural experiences that intersect with the varied, complex psychodynamics affecting whole refugee camps, families, and individuals.
Over the last few weeks, we have been reading alongside with students, faculty, administrators, and trustees about the various forms of supporting immigrant-refugee communities. Despite our best efforts at being informed educators, practitioners, and clinicians, these support processes pose challenges. Additionally, we have discovered a panoply of research outlining the various ways in which we can better understand the experience of immigrant-refugee families and individuals, especially in light of the trauma that is often experienced both in their country of origin and in the new country where they seek asylum. This process of discovery has led to a clearer understanding that one-size-does-not-fit-all with regard to how we support individuals seeking pathways to healing and integration. As a humanistic institution, we fully embrace this notion as well as the importance of working collaboratively with clients and community members in their pathway to actualize their own full potential.
We join our students from across the System in less than twenty-four hours, with readings and discussions framing what will likely be a transformative experience beyond our imaginations. Together, we will experience first-hand the work that educators, legal and healthcare practitioners, therapists, and government agencies are immersed in. Exploring the many challenges and opportunities in supporting Syrian and other immigrant-refugees, I am greatly anticipating hearing both the first- and second-hand stories of those who have been living the reality so that I might be able to understand how we as a community can offer additional layers of institutional and system-wide support. Lastly, following this experience I am hopeful that in the spirit of Saybrook University as well as TCS, we take what we have learned and turn it into further action both at home in the U.S and abroad through coursework and community engagement. We must also recognize our efforts are not the final answer; instead, our contributions hopefully will add to the global community’s efforts in support of refugees here and around the globe.
This is more than just a trip to Berlin. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime. It is the start of a journey that begins at the nexus point of several cultures, institutions, and individuals coming together to explore ways of being and continues long past our arrival back in the States where we have the opportunity to educate and advance positive transformational change.
Before I conclude, I want to stress how grateful we are for our faculty and students who have been immersed in coursework these last few weeks of the semester. I anticipate learning both with them and from them as they bring incredible intellect and skills to this international table. Lastly, our trip would not have been possible without the incredible work done by TCS Education System’s Global Engagement team led by Emily Karem, Jennifer Fullick, and several others. Their tireless efforts to make this experience a reality has already had an impact on the lives of so many people.
Nathan Long, President
By Nathan Long, Ed.D.
President, Saybrook Unviersity
Now more than ever, globally engaged individuals can become the critically needed leaders our communities need. When we look back on this point in history, it will become increasingly apparent that our institution’s commitment to developing learners with a global focus and interdisciplinary approach is essential.
International Education Week (Nov. 14-18), a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education, is an opportunity to “prepare Americans for a global environment, and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences.”
In honor of International Education Week, we look at two ways Saybrook University is going global.
These grants provide our faculty members the opportunity to conduct cross-disciplinary research on a global scale. The recipients of our inaugural grant are:
Dr. Luann Drolc Fortune, College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences
The Academy of Integrative Medicine (AIM) – Amsterdam
Dr. Drolc Fortune will partner with The Academy of Integrative Medicine (AIM) in the Netherlands, creating community forums that will focus on mind-body approaches to integrative medicine.
Dr. Patrick Steffen, Mind Body Medicine
University of Derby – England
Dr. Steffen will pursue training and mentorship with Paul Gilbert at the University of Derby in England, who is a world leader and international expert in mindfulness and compassion-based approaches to psychotherapy.
Dr. Eric Willmarth & Dr. Donald Moss, College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences
The American University in Cairo and Blue Lotus Wellness Foundation—Cairo, Egypt
Drs. Willmarth and Moss will create a 4-day hypnosis workshop for the Blue Lotus Wellness Foundation, providing an initial introduction to the use of hypnosis for improved motivation, health improvement, and life coaching.
Two landmark study abroad opportunities are currently being offered at Saybrook, with more to come.
Immigration in Context: Examination of Germany takes a unique cross-disciplinary approach to exploring immigration in our world today. Saybrook has partnered with our TCS affiliate institutions to teach and lead a study abroad course that pairs online didactic learning with an immersion program in Berlin.
With both students and faculty from five different institutions, Dr. Kent Becker is our faculty lead and will draw on his experiences with Photovoice to create a unique learning experience for our students. I will join Dr. Becker and our students in Berlin this December and am delighted to share this journey.
“Global Networking & Cultural Intelligence in Context: Examination in Austria,” is our first International Residency and Study Abroad hybrid experience for Saybrook students. Led by Dr. Charles Piazza, the course will partner with Krems University in Krems, Austria and provides an opportunity for students to participate in Krems University’s Business Week.
This course commences in January 2017 and will be considered to fulfil residential conference requirements in an international setting. Additional study abroad opportunities of this sort will be offered on a more consistent basis moving forward as well.
Through thought and action, we are honored to report on all that our community is doing to expand our global perspective here and abroad. To learn more about how to join the Saybrook community, request information today.
In an ideal world, democracy is conducted in a civil manner with the rights of individuals respected and preserved. But the behavior of politicians and voters alike in the months leading up to the current presidential election has been anything but civil.
As the often raucous public debates between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump have come to a close, we turned to two of Saybrook University’s most prominent humanistic voices—legendary Dr. Stanley Krippner and noted author Dr. Kirk Schneider—to discuss the political fractures that have divided our society.
Our round table discussion opened with some sage words of perspective from Dr. Krippner himself: “Humanistic behavior has many components, two of which are respect and humor.”
SAYBROOK: Ah yes, humor. We often forget that. How have you seen these things play out in the current campaigns?
KRIPPNER: Neither candidate did so well with the humor part, but there was one brief moment of respect. At the end of the second debate when the moderator asked each candidate if they could make a positive statement about their rival, Clinton praised Trump’s children—and justifiably so. Trump granted that Clinton was a fighter who never gives up. That was the most humanistic part of all three debates.
SAYBROOK: That’s not saying a lot though, is it?
SCHNEIDER: Not at all. The debates have been glaring examples of polarization, where inflammatory accusations, sweeping generalizations, and “us/them” extremes are dominant, whereas deliberative, more personally secure attempts at engagement with substantive issues have been muted. That said, the debates still provide a vital function of giving the American people a vivid sense of their candidates as people, and hence their inclinations to act as the people they show themselves to be. It is evident to me as both citizen and psychologist that our candidates, as with our country, are in deep emotional trouble. Without the right treatment or intervention, this will only intensify their polarization, and hence likelihood of destructiveness.
This country, and much of the world, needs an army of deeply attuned psychological facilitators of dialogue—as much if not more than its present army of military combatants. To the extent we ignore that imperative, we edge ever closer to self and world extinction. It’s that serious.
KRIPPNER: Yes, it is serious. Kirk’s book, The Polarized Mind, spells it out loud and clear.
SAYBROOK: How has that concept of the polarized mind played out in this election?
SCHNEIDER: The polarized mind operates on both an individual and societal level. It seems to me that Donald Trump and many of the constituents he reflects have been on parallel paths of perceived disenfranchisement, depersonalization, and outrage for a very long time. They form an almost perfect storm of anti-establishment fervor that resonates with a very notable swath of American electorate, some liberals notwithstanding.
KRIPPNER: Of course Trump continues to garner support. His hard-core supporters have had it with both the Democratic and GOP establishment. Republicans are in control of the House and the Senate, yet are governing no differently than did Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.
SCHNEIDER: The problem is that, as with many fear-based movements throughout history both liberal and conservative, there is a tendency to become militant, single issue stakeholders in reaction—to throw the baby out with the bathwater and to block out alternative points of view. It is very hard to be deliberative when one is in a panic, and it seems to me that Trump and many of his supporters are living out a low-level panic that manifests as defensive, reactive militancy. In Trump’s case, this militancy has too often exacerbated into reckless imperiousness.
On the other hand, at a deeper level, I think our social structures have also failed Trump, his followers, and most of us living in this world. As a society we have placed too little premium on the humanistic practices, such as “I Thou” dialogues that could counter or at least delimit polarized mentalities. As a result, we too often feed the very polarizations that we later decry. We have done this in family settings, job sites, religious and spiritual settings, and international-governmental settings, wherever polarized minds prevail. Hence, it is no wonder that we have so many polarizing and outraged citizens, they/we have had very few models of depolarized leadership.
KRIPPNER: Kirk is on target. Neither Trump nor Clinton are examples of “I Thou” dialogue. Clinton does better than Trump, but she ranted on and on during the third debate, often veering far away from the question. When Bill Clinton said “I feel your pain,” most people tended to believe him. They could forgive his womanizing because he was able to communicate.
SAYBROOK: Low-level panic is the right word for the mood right now, with the election just days away. How did we get to this point?
KRIPPNER: This country has been politically fractured for years. At most, 60 percent of the population votes in presidential elections. Those missing 40 percent are finally making some noise. And many of them are going to vote for Trump. Many others have given up on the political process and will not vote at all. They say “a plague on both your houses.”
SCHNEIDER: Exactly, and that again speaks to the historical dynamics of the polarized mind. Many people today feel that they don’t count. They have been disenfranchised economically, racially, and religiously. But added to these experiences of devaluation is the too little recognized depersonalization of our socio-economic system, which tends to prize profits over personally and socially meaningful service or innovation—which frankly, for many people in many sectors of our society, is a physical and emotional grind. As long as we prize the “quick fix,” efficiency-oriented culture, we will be operating at a very devitalized and emotionally volatile level.
SAYBROOK: What needs to happen from here? How will we move forward after this election is over?
SCHNEIDER: In the long run, we urgently need the equivalent of a public works program of psychologically attuned facilitators and mediators to help humanize the many fractured groups and individuals in our polarized world. This is needed at the level of education, the work setting, the spiritual and religious setting, and the communal/governmental setting.
In the short term, pilot studies could be done with the few courageous souls on contrasting sides of issues who would be willing to engage in such a personal, competently facilitated encounter. The results may not be some storybook idea of peace or harmony, but are likely to be notable in their facilitation of greater personal understanding, empathy, and increased probability for common ground.
KRIPPNER: I am very pessimistic at this point. But Kirk’s suggestion of psychologically attuned facilitators is actually being tried in Beijing, China, where 500 psychologists are being trained to improve the mental health of the city. I do not think Congress would ever appropriate money for the public works program Kirk calls for, but I suggest the new administration and the new Congress revive President George H.W. Bush’s “thousand points of light”. They could keep that title to insure bipartisan support, and then recognize and reward programs that engage in these encounters.
SAYBROOK: Any final thoughts or observations on these candidates or the election at hand?
KRIPPNER: Yes, I have one final point, and that is that humanistic psychology does not label people. Donald Trump is called a narcissist, but how can someone diagnose a person without knowing that person? One can say that he engages in narcissistic behavior, and that is as far as we can go.
In the same way, Clinton has been called a pathological liar. Again, that is a diagnosis. If a statement of hers failed verification, that is fair game. And if several statements do not match the facts, that should be brought to voters’ attention. But humanistic psychology would opt out of at-a-distance diagnoses.
SCHNEIDER: Thanks very much for your rejoinder, Stan. I see your point about labeling, and humanism is right to be very circumspect about it. On the other hand, our dilemma is that so many through history who have been labeled mentally ill have been the poor and powerless, while others who have been many times more destructive—in politics, religion, and even professions, have not only been spared of such disparaging labels but actually celebrated. The whole thing is rather topsy turvy.
Partly my idea of a polarized mind is a provocation for all of us to think more seriously about the potentially destructive traits we all harbor and to call them out—particularly when the stakes are high both individually and collectively. As long as we go about this in a comparatively egalitarian way, we’ll be in a better position to address our problems holistically rather than from whatever parochial standpoint seems to be in fashion.
The post Election 2016: Politics in The Age of Polarization appeared first on Saybrook University.
I have had some significant time to think about a great deal with respect to our wonderful Saybrook University. As a non-profit, private, regionally accredited institution conceived in 1964 and officially launched in the mid-1970s, the original idea put forward by established scholars like Rollo May, Abraham Maslow, and Charlotte Buehler was to reimagine higher education, focusing on creating a new means of accessing graduate study, particularly in the field of psychology. This entailed at-a-distance graduate work with luminaries in the field. And for more than 45 years, Saybrook has been making good on that original concept while expanding across several disciplines.
Heading into the next few years, we are setting out on an ambitious strategic plan, which as of late has caused me to reflect on a few of key questions: Why Saybrook University? Why do students, faculty, and staff come to this institution? Moreover, what is it that we do that is making a difference? And, ultimately, how do we continue to provide excellent graduate education in a day and age where competition is fierce, and when institutions of similar size are struggling and in some cases collapsing?
Mission comes first.
Saybrook’s mission is what draws faculty, students, and staff in the first place. The focus on rigorous graduate education steeped in humanistic philosophy and practice with the goal of spurring positive social change speaks to our intellectual leanings and pulls at our heartstrings. And while mission is vital, it is essentially the idea of what we hope to accomplish. In the end, students come to graduate school to immerse themselves in deep study with scholars who have established themselves in their particular field of interest. Additionally, our students embrace the fact that our faculty eschew the Ivory Tower stereotype plaguing much of higher education today. Many of our faculty are practicing their scholarship, making substantial contributions in their disciplines, their clinical and consulting practices, their organizations, and their communities.
Our academic programs nurture humanistic scholar-practitioners.
When considering the question of why, I think of our various programs, including Mind-Body Medicine, Integrative and Functional Nutrition, Humanistic and Clinical Psychology, Counseling, Leadership and Management, and Transformative Social Change. Each program embraces our humanistic legacy, weaving in the importance of understanding the individual, his or her unique strengths and challenges, his or her role within the greater community and society, and helping him or her to actualize their full potential.
We are promoting change in these fields.
Real-life examples of Saybrook faculty, students, and alumni abound.
Ginger Charles, a retired police officer and alumna, is working to change how police officers interact with their communities, thus improving morale and reducing police-citizen violence.
Dr. Kaffia Jones, alumna and retired Brigadier General, is dedicating her next career phase to helping veterans with PTSD
Faculty Dan Leahy and Jeff McAuliffe are helping transform organizations like SoundTransit.
Our student interns are working with Girls, Inc., in Oakland, supporting and helping young women and men actualize their full human potential.
Faculty Dr. Theopia Jackson is creating community healing networks in concert with the Association of Black Psychologists.
The list goes on. Our students and faculty, as evidenced above, are people making a difference locally and globally. Ultimately, those of us here or who are coming to Saybrook University want to make that difference, because we believe in the power of taking what we learn, applying it, and changing lives for the better. The power of what we are working to achieve now will definitely enable us to accomplish and expand Saybrook‘s mission well into the future.
Providing an excellent student experience is our continual priority.
In addition to excellent faculty, our online and residential learning environments must reflect 21st century best practices and innovate beyond the “what is”. My numerous conversations with students point to a pervasive theme: students expect connectivity and meaning. Online learning around the country has become unnecessarily disembodied, with few exceptions. Finding new ways to expand the human-virtual experience that promotes academic engagement as well as close-knit bonds will be how Saybrook defines itself.
For me, all of the above answer the “why” and “how” of Saybrook University. Together, we are making a difference each and every day, locally and around the globe.