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A Therapist for the Community

I am a social worker. I began my career as a youth and family therapist before moving on to social research. I now spend my time studying social policy and community systems. Over the years, I have learned that the two jobs are much the same. A therapist’s job is to help people come to a broader understanding of themselves so that they can be more intentional about making choices that will bring them closer to the life and future they desire. While each individual is responsible for shaping her own future, the story does not end there. Together, individuals make up communities, and communities make up complex networks of social systems. The struggle to understand the complex interactions within oneself—and the empowerment that occurs from grasping these interconnections—is a microcosm of what happens in larger social systems. A social researcher is a therapist for the community. Her job is to gather stories and connect them together to form a broader perspective. That perspective has the potential to empower communities to be intentional about how they would like to move forward in their future—not as individuals, but as a collective whole.

While it may sound simple, this journey from understanding to acceptance and action is far from easy. Understanding a problem is not the same as accepting the need to change it. Accepting the need to change is not the same as taking action. Taking action does not guarantee one will get the results she seeks. Making change is a difficult process often fraught with unexpected barriers, emotions, habits and resistance that forces the need for further reflection, new understanding, and new strategies. This is true for communities as well as it is for individuals. The good news is that each time one takes action, she learns something new that she can use to help her continue on in the future. My job, both as a researcher and a therapist, is to make sure that lesson does not get lost.

I came to Pulse Wire by chance, really. A friend mentioned the website to me in passing and I decided to look it up. It happened to be on the first day of recruiting for the 2010 Voices of Our Future application. I am inspired by the potential of social media that brings together women because I believe it has the potential to connect people who often get left behind in important discussions about how to move our world forward. I believe that every voice matters. Every truth holds its own perspective; no truth stands alone. Only through understanding many perspectives can we begin to understand our own story, and the story of those around us. Only through understanding these stories can we begin to move forward as individuals and as a society. If one voice is left out; if one story is untold; we run the risk of misunderstanding what we think we’re learning, and we must start again.


Julie Tomlin's picture

A very thoughtful piece

I enjoyed reading about your work and hearing your perspective on what social media can achieve.



sarahgustavus's picture

broader understanding

I really like the theme in your story. The connection between individual healing and community development is very interesting.

Also, I like your proposal to use social media to hear the stories of people who are often left out of discussions. Do you have a specific group of people in mind? Could you share some information about the experiences of some of your clients without revealing confidential information about them? Is there a story you really want people to hear that they are not hearing right now?

I hope you continue to write about this theme and your observations.


cbenkov's picture

a virtual community

Thanks for sharing this journal. It's interesting to think about us all growing together as a community. Sometimes I think we throw this word around too much, and I'm now wondering what we need to do to make sure that this truly does become a learning and growing community for us all.

Best wishes,

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