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Talcherkar decided to take sobriety into her own hands in July 2012. But in order to do so, she not only had to permanently turn her back on drugs and alcohol. She also had to stand up to her own psychiatrist.
“I’m coming up on five years clean and sober,” says Talcherkar, who will turn 39 this year. “July 2012 was the last time I had any type of alcohol or drug substance, so that’s my sobriety date. I was on antidepressants for a long time because that’s how psychiatrists were treating me. For many years, I visited practitioners who treat primarily through psychotropics and who don’t really incorporate holistic medicine. They had diagnosed me as bipolar with chronic depression. But, in 2012, I finally weaned myself off of all mind-altering substances, including psychotropic medications.”
Talcherkar developed her own routine, which included the 12 Steps, Ayurveda, yoga, meditation, and the Sudarshan Kriya breathing technique. The Saybrook student, who is currently a third-year Ph.D. candidate in Mind-Body Medicine: Integrative Mental Health, has not been afraid to confront her own past during her education either. While focusing on addiction studies to earn her master’s degree in psychology, she freely admits that she was still using drugs. After completing a few credits in 2007, she left Antioch University and did not return until she was sober and ready to complete the program.
“I was in psychotherapy at the time,” Talcherkar says. “I just became fascinated by the field of psychology. It was a combination of interests, and I’ve also been very academically inclined so I tend to just continue to learn and educate myself.”
She’s just as receptive to learning even when she identifies with the population a study is focused on. As a research assistant at Harvard University in 2016, and continuing to collaborate with the Division on Addiction, she’s currently studying gambling addiction and driving under the influence (DUIs).
“Ironically, as a repeat DUI offender, there was no way for me to separate my personal experience from Harvard’s data on repeat DUI offenders,” Talcherkar says, who started drinking alcohol at the age of 15. “My biggest takeaway from this research program was that I could be more compassionate working with that challenged population. There’s immediate empathy there. Of course, most researchers don’t necessarily have the same prolonged addictive history as I do.”
“The Division on Addiction at Harvard conducts primarily quantitative-based research,” Talcherkar says. “They focus on the numbers and data, important in its own right, but sometimes there is a disagreement between qualitative versus quantitative schools. Coming from Saybrook and having the double experience of having been a repeat DUI offender, I have a level of compassion and empathy, which could be considered a personal bias or a personal strength, depending on what school you come from. My experiences at Saybrook and Harvard have taught me that there is a need and place for both. Personal anecdotes and stories are as informative as quantitative data.”
Proclaiming that “Saybrook found me,” Talcherkar learned about the university while browsing around online for an editor, who turned out to be a Saybrook student. But it was the humanistic philosophy from the professors and in the classes that made her apply and pursue her Ph.D. with Saybrook over several other programs.
“If I have an idea for a paper in a class and it’s a little unconventional, nine times out of 10, I’ve felt supported to do what I want to do,” Talcherkar says. “You don’t find that in a lot of academic institutions. Other universities have the academic rigor, guidelines, and structure. But I feel like Saybrook truly believes in the student and that humanistic philosophy. The potential of the student is their greatest asset so they really work to support you in whatever you want to be. At Saybrook, you’re going to grow and expand beyond your known mental confines.”
Talcherkar plans to use her educational growth to teach and research mind-body practices as a practitioner.
“One of my main goals is to make mindfulness-based practices more mainstream,” Talcherkar says. “In a couple of my blogs, I’ve mentioned the Sudarshan Kriya breathing practice. It’s taught by the International Association for Human Values (a sister organization of the Art of Living foundation) to different populations now. It’s a controlled rhythmic breathing practice, and it helps you ease into meditation and balance out emotions. There is some research on the practice currently that may help alcohol-dependent individuals. I’d like to contribute more research on the practice within addiction populations.”
From her experiences with the 12 Step Anonymous programs, she shies away from the belief “that we’re born fundamentally diseased and broken. I believe that people struggling with addiction can recover completely. Unfortunately, the mindset throughout the 12 Step program reinforces a disease model—a chronic condition that you’ll live with for the rest of your life. I don’t resonate with ideology driven by fear.”
Initially believing that her multiple relapses at an abstinence-based treatment center were failures, Talcherkar now looks back on that time period as a way to learn and grow into who she is today. And while she realizes that the techniques she’s used to overcome addiction may not work the same for others, she certainly plans to advocate for them.
The post Sudarshan Kriya and yoga: Saybrook student chooses new way to overcome addiction appeared first on Saybrook University.
For Saybrook student Rundle, enrolling in the “Global Leadership & Culture Intelligence in Context: Examination in Austria” course was threefold. The course gave her the opportunity to visit Europe for the first time, study alongside students in Austria who she’d spent two months getting to know virtually, and expand her global leadership and cross communication skills.
“I have a lot of passion around cultural pieces,” says Rundle, a Seattle-based student who is pursuing an M.A. in Management: Specialization in Global Workforce Collaboration. “In this field, I get to dig into what it takes to be a cross-cultural communicator, all the ins and outs, including cross competency and cultural intelligence.”
Global economics and immigration views from America to Austria
Rundle, who currently holds a B.A. in Psychology and an M.A. in Applied Behavioral Science, wanted to learn from people who had a wealth of knowledge in global leadership and business management. But there was another area that intrigued her, too.
“There was a lot in the course around global economics and what’s happening politically and globally that affects organizations,” she says.
Rundle, who studies white privilege and behavioral health within American society, was intrigued to find that there were similar political and employment debates between urban and rural communities in Austria when it comes to embracing or shying away from immigration in terms of employment.
“We studied regulations around the EU, agriculture, exports and imports, and issues around immigration,” Rundle says. “Those all are very different if you live in small villages versus a big city such as Vienna or Berlin. For example, a lot of people in the urban area see an influx of immigration and migration as a good thing. Their viewpoint is that diversity expands the pool of talent for their companies, whereas in a rural place they don’t want a lot of immigration and people coming in from different countries. They want to be able to keep things the same and have a lot of stability and predictability. They don’t want a lot of competition for jobs. So it’s two different, diverse aspects that affect a lot of how people do business.”
Saybrook’s synergy with IMC Krems management programs in Austria
The first-time course studied collaborative workplace environments that draw upon the strengths of the students’ approaches to leadership, work relationships, problem-solving skills, professional ethics, lifestyles, and sense of recreation.
Piazza, the program director and chair of the CSS Leadership and Management Department, chose Austria as the first global location after one of the students from Saybrook introduced him to key administrators and faculty at IMC University of Applied Sciences in Krems.
“There was a real synergy between their international business-related programs and graduate and doctoral programs, which are very human centered,” Piazza says. “They also fit well with organizational systems and organizational development, so that synergy drove us to develop a partnership with them.
“We wanted to be able to expose our students to international business in the European Union,” Piazza continues. “We have American professionals interacting with Austrian professionals, and in that space, they learn how to work together. Today in the business arena, professionals have to be able to work with individuals and companies from other countries.”
The distance-learning course itself was 16 weeks and had students nationwide—from Washington D.C., Washington State, California, Illinois, Arizona, and beyond. Austrian students from IMC Krems and Saybrook students initially got to know each other virtually, then the two groups came together for nine days to meet and work together in a collocated manner.
Immersion Week: From physical presentations to entrepreneurial discussions
In addition to visiting tourist spots—such as Vienna’s historical sites, the Heuriger Stoiber, Oberer Weinzierlberg 22 winery and restaurant, and the opera house—the students got down to business for Immersion Week, which consisted of discussions on conducting business in the EU, global management practices and issues, virtual international business operations and global sustainability issues.
Rundle, who met an Austrian student who plans to network with her during an upcoming move to Seattle, found the discussion on startups to be especially helpful as a future consultant for her company Kelly Rundle Executive Coaching LLC.
“As part of the practical professional development component of the course, Austrian and American students came together to create a presentation for other students as well as other lecturers who were there for the business symposium,” Rundle says. “It was all excellent because I got to see all of the different ways that other people lecture, teach, and present. But there was one guy who talked about startups that stood out for me because I’m actually in the startup world right now.”
One other standout speaker in Austria included an international business leader who conducted a workshop on distributed and virtual international business dynamics, processes, and challenges.
“What made him stand out was that he is an international business person working in a class with different companies and in different countries,” Piazza says in reference to the latter speaker. “He talked about what we call the global supply chain and global operations.”
In addition to hearing from international professionals, Piazza proudly boasts that the students in the course “became global leaders because they stepped out onto that global stage.” The Austrian and American students created and presented their own workshop on global leadership and cultural intelligence to each other and other Master Day presenters and attendees. The students were assigned to plan their own presentations, create learning activities, and implement them by the end of the course.
Cultural intelligence for global leaders
As with most managers, networking and communicating with a variety of personalities comes with the business territory. From a global leadership standpoint though, it is all but certain that international professionals will have to learn to dialogue on a larger scale.
“In Austrian culture, it seems that they were very detail-oriented and very conscientious,” Rundle says. “They also were less likely to ask questions or engage with professors or lecturers. There’s a little more of a strict hierarchy there. And the U.S. students were much freer to be engaging, dialoguing, asking questions, pushing back, and sharing information. Austrian students weren’t used to seeing so many people ask questions and be engaged at that level. They would sit back and take notes and listen. It was interesting to observe the differences in cultural mannerisms.”
Interestingly, Piazza observed the hierarchical viewpoint from a different perspective regarding business negotiations.
“What was key was how global leaders operate and work with other companies that are not necessarily their national origin,” Piazza says. “Oftentimes in Germany and in Austria, they’re going to be very straightforward. If there’s something that is needed or they have a particular point of view, they’re going to tell you point-blank, whereas Americans will usually soften their stance. There was one paper that presented as an illustration of differences between Americans and Austrians. For Austrians, if the answer is no, they’re going to say ‘no.’ Americans may be more likely to negotiate and speak in a manner that is not as direct.”
“This is why learning about cultural intelligence and global leadership are so significant,” he continues. “How do you really lead in a way where you can engage with professionals that are highly talented but have a different worldview, have a different way of understanding leadership, and have a different way of operating? That’s what the course is really about.”
Rundle happily points out that she “learned a ton” during the course, and “it’s been really outside of my comfort zone.” And if all goes well, according to Piazza, future courses may head to South America or India next.
The post Saybrook students collaborate with Austria’s IMC Krems for global leadership course appeared first on Saybrook University.
After graduation and at a landmark age of 21, most college graduates are thinking: “Now what?” Michelle Stevens was already answering that question. With a new bachelor’s degree in writing, she was going to use her talent to become a TV writer for the soap opera “Days of Our Lives.” But instead of writing about scripted drama, she was slowly coming to grips with another realization—upheaval about her own childhood that she’d buried in the back of her memory.
“I had moved 3,000 miles away from my abuser and was living on my own,” says Michelle Stevens, Ph.D., the author of “Scared Selfless: My Journey from Abuse and Madness to Surviving and Thriving.” “I came out to California to be a TV writer but started to have these memories that threw me into a horrible crisis. You can imagine what it would be like to think you have a normal life and then find out you’ve been abused and don’t even remember it.”
When childhood memories become adulthood nightmares
From the time Stevens was 8 years old, her 33-year-old stepfather, Gary Lundquist, had allegedly made her into a sex slave. The third grader at Delaware Township School, where Lundquist taught fifth grade, was ordered to come to his after-school club with a few other carefully selected “gifted” children to do a range of things, such as multiple-choice tests, drama club acting, and talent show performances. Around the house, she received lessons in typing and table manners.
To a casual observer, the solo and group activities may have looked like innocent favoritism: always choosing Stevens to be the lead in school plays he directed or being one of the judges who awarded her with the first prize. Her mother started to notice what looked like a bond between the two with their weekend trips to the flea market and picked a fight with Lundquist that they were spending too much time together.
However, there were signs around their home that something else was going on: a harness, a rope, nails and hooks attached to ceiling beams, a stun gun, and a dog cage. Lessons in the basement transitioned to the bedroom for what Stevens referred to as a “lovers’ tryst,” but with a lover “who was just under four feet tall and weighed less than 60 pounds.”
When Stevens went to college, she escaped the trauma physically but not mentally. Developing dissociative amnesia, “a very common thing for anyone who has ever experienced trauma,” and dissociative identity disorder, memories she’d buried deep down started “coming back around out of nowhere.”
Turning bad memories into motivation
Instead of burying the memories, she chose to use them to find out more about herself, devouring books on trauma, child abuse, and psychology for approximately 15 years. Two books she highly recommends are “Trauma and Recovery” by Judith Herman and “Too Scared to Cry” by Lenore Terr.
She also opted to find a professional therapist while she was taking on this self-learning. Finding the right therapist for herself included “kiss[ing] a lot of therapist frogs before [she found] the right therapist prince.” Sometimes that was because she just wasn’t ready. Other times it was because the psychologists may have not been trained to talk to someone with this level of trauma. While she was learning so much about herself within these readings and visits, she decided to become the therapist that she’d been looking for and chose Saybrook University to earn her master’s and doctorate in psychology.
“I specifically decided on Saybrook because it was small and it was a humanistic school, which was important to me,” Stevens says. “The therapist that I finally ended up with, who was a wonderful therapist, is trained in humanistic psychology, so I became interested in studying that. I also knew that I wanted to do qualitative research, and that Saybrook would let me do that. I was interested in writing about my own experience and studying it.”
How ‘Scared Selfless’ came to be
Her memoir, “Scared Selfless,” was actually her dissertation while working on her Ph.D. at Saybrook. Unfortunately, she found that it is extremely difficult to find psychology programs that included a trauma psychology course. With this being an obstacle (that is still ongoing in the psychology field nationwide), she did her best to find a workaround.
“My dissertation was a method called autoethnography, which is a qualitative method,” she says. “If you are studying something that would be incredibly difficult to find a subject for, you can use yourself. In my case, I was part of a pretty organized child sex ring growing up. And it’s hard to really find people who you can study in depth for something like that.”
Writing the book wasn’t exactly therapeutic for her, but she does admit that it was helpful for her to learn more about herself. And “Scared Selfless” has also helped other readers to explore their own voices.
“Trauma has psychological consequences,” Stevens says. “People don’t realize it, but it does. Alcoholic parents. Parents on drugs. Being abandoned. Traumatic situations such as this may create all sorts of problems in a person’s adult life. But sometimes people will have no understanding of how the problems in their adult life are directly related to how they were raised. People email me every day saying, ‘Wow, I had no idea how much it affected me. Now I understand.’”
How strangers and loved ones reacted, or not
The most jarring responses to her book were the dozens of emails she received from Lundquist’s former students, who confessed that he’d also done similar things to them. She also received emails from Lundquist’s former colleagues who said they knew the abuse was going on but said nothing. Stevens could only say that it was very hard to read those messages.
Lundquist was sentenced to three years’ probation in 1985 for engaging in sexual conduct with two girls at the school where he taught. However, he died in 1997 without ever answering for the alleged abuse against Stevens. Stevens’ mother is still alive but “really suffers from denial,” according to Stevens. The two do have a relationship, but as far as the author knows, her mother has never read the dissertation or book.
While Stevens may not yet get that form of closure, being able to help others and potentially be the fire that psychology departments need to create trauma courses could be further inspiration for her. And there’s one more piece of advice she has for aspiring psychologists and current psychologists, with or without trauma as a concentration area.
“Teachers can sit in a classroom with other teachers, but psychologists don’t sit in on other people’s sessions,” Stevens says. “When I started doing practicums, I was amazed by how few of my colleagues went to therapy. I couldn’t believe it. To be a good therapist, find other good therapists. Deal with your own stuff and set yourself free before you work on others.”
The post ‘Scared Selfless’ author finds inspiration about trauma at Saybrook University appeared first on Saybrook University.
I was already in my fourth year of business school at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil when I came to the conclusion that I should have gone into psychology instead. In Brazil, it takes five years to earn a business degree, and I was almost at the finish line. But that didn’t stop me from attending a psychology-related conference with my mother and her friend, where I met Stanley Krippner, legendary professor from Saybrook University. While I don’t remember everything about the conference, what stood out were the talking points related to Humanistic Psychology and the significance of spirituality. That’s when I made the decision to pursue a psychology degree in California.
Pursuing the career I didn’t know I wanted
Saybrook was pretty small at the time, which was a bonus for me considering I’d never studied in the United States and was self-conscious about my writing and language skills. So after completing my business degree and a yearlong internship with the marketing department of American Express, I arrived at Saybrook in January 1990. I earned my master’s degree in Psychology in 1992 from Saybrook and went on to receive a Ph.D. in Psychology from Meridian University in Petaluma, Calif., in 2003. That was around the time I also developed an interest in working on a multi-disciplinary team with psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, and other health care providers in the field of transplantation.
How clinical hypnosis entered the equation
Some of my most recent work includes assisting a team with evaluating patients for left ventricular assist device implants and for heart transplants, and presenting at centers of excellence; working on a feasibility study that focuses on a cognitive behavioral therapy protocol adapted for post-heart transplant patients; and pursuing certification in the clinical hypnosis certification program from Saybrook to add to my toolbox of interventions to help address complex issues faced by heart failure, left ventricular assist device, and post-heart patients, with whom I work.
Clinical hypnosis is an evidence-based psychological intervention that may help improve anxiety, depression, pain, nausea, and emotional distress, among other issues. I’m hoping that clinical hypnosis will help my patients manage the physical and psychological symptoms they struggle with, such as depression and anxiety, and improving their quality of life.
Attending the ASCH workshop
When I recently attended the advanced track of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) Annual Scientific Meeting & Workshop in Phoenix, Arizona, as a first-timer, I must admit I was apprehensive.
I was about to meet new colleagues from a number of health disciplines who were likely more seasoned hypnosis practitioners than me. To my delight, I could have not asked for a more welcoming professional crowd, such as the one I met at the ASCH conference.
I am a mid-career licensed psychologist, and clinical hypnosis student working under the mentorship of Dr. Willmarth, who was installed as president of ASCH at the same meeting. Professionals and students at the ASCH conference are eligible to participate as beginner, intermediate, or advanced, according to prior clinical hypnosis training programs. In the advanced course I was in, taught by G. Elkins and other well-known hypnosis researchers and clinicians, I met a number of friendly professionals, eager to share knowledge and experiences with each other and myself from events focused on clinical hypnosis, integrative medicine conferences, and mind-body medicine. Working as a psychologist in transplantation, I attend a number of international multidisciplinary conferences every year. Honestly, none of them are as welcoming.
But just as I have earned my own accomplishments, I’m always seeking to be around those who are as goal-oriented as me—but in an atmosphere that is not isolating or overly competitive. The ASCH conference was exactly that. I bonded with group members in just a few hours after my flight from San Francisco. I took a tour of Dr. Milton Erickson’s family home the first evening, met Dr. Erickson’s wife’s companion and the companion’s close friend, shared an Uber ride to our hotel, made lunch plans with the group, and chatted amicably with many participants at the different workshops.
I think that I have found my professional home, which has been my quest for many years. I encourage more students and professionals to join ASCH for the invaluable bonding and resources.
And if you’re interested in treating the whole person—not just the symptoms—Saybrook’s College of Integrative Medicine has top-notch professors and the integrative approach that I (and you) may be looking for.
The post Why one psychologist took clinical hypnosis to ‘heart’ appeared first on Saybrook University.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) reportedly affects approximately 7.7 million American adults, with members of the military as one of the high-risk groups. After experiencing severe trauma or life-threatening events, the mind and body will either go into mobilization mode (fight-or-flight) or immobilization. When the nervous system is unable to return to its normal state of balance, PTSD occurs. Depression, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders are often connected to instances of PTSD, particularly for veterans returning from war.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the reported cases of PTSD are jarring and continue to rise. A range of 12 to 30 percent of veterans were diagnosed with PTSD in a given year, including those from Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF), the Gulf War (Desert Storm), and the Vietnam War.
Susan Quaglietti, who is currently in the Ph.D. in Psychology: Creativity Studies Specialization program at Saybrook, has been a nurse since 1978 and identified a need to do something creative to help the mental state of veterans.
The 2016 film “Visions of Warriors”—showing at the Vail Film Festival on March 31 and April 1, and the 15th Oakland International Film Festival on April 5—features Quaglietti’s work to develop the Veteran Photo Recovery Project, which uses photography to help veterans cope with PTSD and other mental illness diagnoses.
We sat down with her to discuss her background, her most memorable moments with veterans in the program, and what drew her to Saybrook later in life.
Saybrook: How did you get introduced to the director/writer/producer of “Visions of Warriors,” Ming Lai?
Quaglietti: I asked the editor over at the Washington VA if they would post a story about the Veteran Photo Recovery Project, and they agreed to it. They interviewed me along with a few veterans. Ming actually saw that link, tried to contact me and ended up sending a letter.
Saybrook: What was your initial reaction to the idea of a feature documentary about the Veteran Photo Recovery Project?
Quaglietti: I couldn’t imagine who would want me on film! But I took it as a great opportunity. You just never know where life’s going to take you.
Saybrook: You have been a nurse for 40 years, but what is your connection to photography?
Quaglietti: In my 20s, I thought about majoring in art and eventually took a few photography classes in the late-2000s, but I never thought I could combine art and nursing together as a professional goal. However, after 30 years at the VA, I noticed the need to address mental health issues with veterans and coordinate this treatment with chronic care. As providers, we must include the impact of coping with substance abuse, PTSD, and other psychological challenges on the outcomes of overall health.
I ended up doing a post-graduate fellowship at the Menlo Park VA that focused on Psychosocial Rehabilitation for people with severe mental illness as I was working as a nurse practitioner in Cardiology. The fellowship, in part, inspired me to integrate medical care with the creative outlet of photography as a form of recovery. The Veteran Photo Recovery Project was born, and the rest is history!
Saybrook: What topics are included in the five workshops that make up the Veteran Photo Recovery Project?
Quaglietti: The five sessions cover focusing, framing, processing, viewing. The sixth session is a presentation to the community, including other members of the class, friends, family members, and hospital staff members.
It’s an opportunity for them to use photography to showcase their emotional journey and to get insights to continue to grow as a person during their recovery process.
Saybrook: What is the most memorable piece of art you’ve seen from a participant?
Quaglietti: I have three. The first one was from a female veteran with a history of PTSD who chose to display her six images in the shape of a cross. During her presentation with three horizontal and three vertical photos, she commented that she had to cope with “the cross she had to bear,” but was eventually resurrected with recovery. With the intention of making the spirit of the photos rise from the ashes, the art actually helped her transform and ascend into a better place.
The second one is from a veteran who is highlighted in the film. He spent half of his life in jail. He divided his six pictures equally into “old life,” “transition,” and “new life.”
The last one was a Vietnam veteran who has severe PTSD. He used colors and images metaphorically and symbolically to show his PTSD experience, and the horrific things he witnessed while in combat in Vietnam. In one particular image, he used the roots of a tree but changed the color to bright blue to resemble the neural pathways of his brain. He was trying to show what his brain felt like having PTSD—cold, blue, and dark.
Saybrook: What do you hope people come away with after seeing “Visions of Warriors”?
Quaglietti: Change is possible if you’re open to it. Creativity isn’t just used with art, but you have to be creative in order to map your own life course. Art and photography can be an avenue to explore that.
Saybrook: And now you are pursuing your Ph.D. at Saybrook—what inspired you to enroll?
Quaglietti: I chose Saybrook for the program’s creativity specialization within the Psychology PhD program. And I, to this day, have not found any other university that offers something similar. Being creative can impact your psychological perspective. I really believe in interdisciplinary, integrated care. As an advanced practice nurse, I’ve had to negotiate being a liaison for a lot of different disciplines: medicine, psychology, nutrition, pharmacy, and more.
I’ve had to represent and be a champion for veterans. So now I’m moving into understanding more of the psychological issues as a primary focus of my profession, knowing that I already have an excellent background in chronic illness. I’m completing the circle so that I have a broader scope of services I can offer patients. My goal is to be a bridge between the worlds of medicine and psychology for holistic patient care. Saybrook is helping me get there.
The post ‘Visions of Warriors’ brings attention to ongoing PTSD concerns for veterans appeared first on Saybrook University.
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.
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.
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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.
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