One of the scariest unacknowledged parts of being a graduate student is dealing with the feelings of isolation, uncertainty, and ambiguity that we sometimes willingly evoke within ourselves. As Marriage and Family Therapy students, we learn about the importance of connection and communication between people, as well as from within us as therapists, as a means to plant the seeds of change. These seeds have the potential to instill positive aspects for growth, such as confidence, resilience, and humility, which are shared not only among our clients, but among ourselves as therapists. What this means is that we must grow with others in order to flourish ourselves.
One day, I spoke with some of my peers about the challenges of determining what an MFT does exactly and who they ‘look like.’ We noted the daunting task of navigating the vast and seemingly unconquered world of Marriage and Family Therapy, as well as the everyday misconceptions our friends and family ask in the form of questions like, “So, you can help me fix my marriage, right?” or “You can make someone change their mind pretty well (i.e. manipulate them), can’t you?” or “You’re like a Jedi, aren’t you?” After talking with various people at different points in their MFT career throughout this year and watching Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi, it dawned on me: an MFT looked like me, thought like me, and talked like me, but also was not anything like me. A person who was ‘both-and.’
Moving into the new year, I am grateful to know that those who have been on this journey before me, those on the journey with me now, and those who will follow have a community whose core beliefs foster connection. We often surround ourselves with people who we want to be like and emulate. It is important to do this, but it is also important to understand who you are not in order to avoid making the same mistakes our mentors have of being caught up in the ‘community identity’ that is the ‘therapist.’ To quote bell hooks from her book, Killing Rage: Ending Racism, “Beloved community is formed not by the eradication of difference but by its affirmation, by each of us claiming the identities and cultural legacies that shape who we are and how we live in the world.” For everyone, student and master alike, it is all too easy to get lost in the race, forgetting where we come from in order to get to where we want to be.
Casey is a Marriage and Family Therapy Master’s Candidate at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and a practicum intern at Anicca: Adolescent Day Treatment.
Casey specializes in Gender and Sexuality, Dysfunctions of Identity, as well as the application of Existential and Narrative Psychotherapies. With a background in Sociolinguistics and Asian Studies, Casey is inspired by the abilities of story telling and language as a means to construct and empower.