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Bohlinger Counseling


When I was an undergrad at Concordia University in Saint Paul, MN, my adviser was an older male named Dr. Bredehoft. His last name threw me for a loop more than a couple of times: was it pronounced Bred-EH-hoft or Bread-hoff or something else? In the end, he and I settled on Dr. B. Dr. B was only my adviser for one year, but he was great one.

I remember towards the end of my last spring semester at CSP, I sat down with him to talk about my future. I was looking at applying to grad school and I wanted to know if I should even consider looking at schools that were “competitive.” I don’t remember my exact phrasing, but I’m fairly certain that I asked him in a truly Minnesotan way, “Should I look at the cream-of-the-crop-type schools?” (That’s right, US News and World Report, forget Division 1 or Research 1 institutions let’s go with “cream-of-the-crop-type.”) He looked me square in the eye and told me “You are the cream of the crop. Of course you should.”

I went on a worked for a few years in residential treatment, completed one of the best Marriage and Family Therapy masters programs in the Midwest and decided to apply for my Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota. Truth be told, I was not expecting to get in. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a great student, hard-working, and really want to be a systems-healing researcher, educator and clinician. That said, the University of Minnesota is a big deal around here. The MFT specialization in the Family Social Science Ph.D. at the U is a particularly big deal. I applied and did my best and absolutely had back up plans.

Turns out though, I didn’t need them. When I got the call from Dr. Shonda Craft in the middle of January, I was working in the brick and stucco main building at Boys Totem Town and my phone kept cutting in and out. I thought she said that I got in, but just to be sure, I asked her to hold on while I ran outside to confirm that yes, she was calling from the University and yes, I had gotten in. In my excitement, I left my keys on the desk and locked myself out of the building that night.

So now, here I am. I’m nearing the end of my first semester as a Ph.D student at the University of Minnesota in Family Social Science, specializing in Marriage and Family Therapy. My days and evenings (and some nights) are way more busy than I was anticipating, but I’m finding all of these delicious pearls (or kernels?) of goodness, joy, productivity and hope in all of the work.

I’m participating in this great research work for marginalized and minimized families. I’m getting to engage with community organizations and colleagues who are working in these beautifully integrative ways- where we, individually and collectively, see our own hurt, see our community’s and world’s hurt, and work to heal for the next generation of clinicians, scientists, researchers, educators, students, institutions and people. We work to heal. Those days, evenings, nights spent working for something better make the hours worth it.

The next generation of people and the next generation of institutions will know that there are systems like theirs, that there are frameworks that describe and predict what they are experiencing, and that hurts can be healed. For the hurts that I and my colleagues don’t or can’t anticipate, they will have a more solid framework to work from, because we will have spent our time building and solidifying those frameworks.

While I am still adjusting to how many hours it takes to build that something good, durable and long-lasting, I’m convinced that it will be worth it.

In this small way, I’m working towards being someone who can contribute in a unique way to building something better. I’m getting my Ph.D. My last name, “Bohlinger,” can also be difficult to pronounce.

I’m on my way to becoming another Dr. B.

An boy dealing with autism interviews his mother.

In my mind, becoming a parent is an inherently hopeful process. What happens, though, when things don’t turn out as expected? Emily Rapp writes beautifully about her journey as a parent of a child with a terminal disease.

“My son, Ronan, looks at me and raises one eyebrow. His eyes are bright and focused. Ronan means “little seal” in Irish and it suits him.

I want to stop here, before the dreadful hitch: my son is 18 months old and will likely die before his third birthday. Ronan was born with Tay-Sachs, a rare genetic disorder. He is slowly regressing into a vegetative state.  He’ll become paralyzed, experience seizures, lose all of his senses before he dies. There is no treatment and no cure.

How do you parent without a net, without a future, knowing that you will lose your child, bit by torturous bit?

Depressing? Sure. But not without wisdom, not without a profound understanding of the human experience or without hard-won lessons, forged through grief and helplessness and deeply committed love about how to be not just a mother or a father but how to be human.

Parenting advice is, by its nature, future-directed…”

Read the rest here.

What makes a good leader? How do you know?

Can you buy intelligence?

Joseph Nowinski recently wrote an article for “The Psychotherapy Networker” on the effects advances in medical technology have had on the grief process. Life continues while quality of life may dissipate and for the first time in history, death sneaks and and stays awhile before stealing away. An excerpt from the article is below:

…The grief we experience today results directly from the increasing ability of modern medicine to arrest or slow terminal illness and stave off death, even as the body and mind progressively shut down. I lost my grandfather whole, in one fell swoop; I lost my grandmother piece by piece.

The essence of the new grief is the gritty business of living with slow death…

How do you think quality of life is related to grief?

Diana Laufenberg presents a TED talk on teaching kids to learn.

I have completed my thesis, entitled “Metaphorical Language and the Nature of Hope Among Mothers of Children who Deal with Mental Illness.” If you are interested in a complete copy, please email me.

A qualitative study of mothers’ experiences raising a child who dealt with mental illness is presented. Twelve (n=12) mothers participated in this grounded theory study. Metaphorical analysis was used to understand how mothers conceptualized mental illness and hope. Mothers described mental illness in both static and dynamic terms, meaning that for some mental illness was primarily a fixed entity, or a “fact of life,” whereas for others, mental illness was an active entity that maneuvered to change their children’s and their own lives. Mothers described hope in terms of striving for presence, “normality” and productivity. Emotional experiences of mental illness, grief and loss, and stigma were also discussed. Recommendations for further research are made.

December 2019
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