I know people in the corporate world who brag that they’ve done everything on their own to achieve success.
In my world, it takes a village.
In public service, and in the helping professions, it often takes many to reach one.
I am reminded of this every day in my new career, far from business.
As a rehabilitation counselor working with wounded warriors, I carry a toolbox of strategies to help soldiers recover from their physical and psychological injuries.
And every time I sift through a theory of approach or practice, I think of who led me there — a professor, a mentor at one of my internships, a long-time professional.
I learned from them at school and internships and post-graduate positions in government and at non-profits. To my joy and surprise, I continue to learn from them every day in this new career.
I puzzle over a way of reaching someone, and hear the voice of my earliest mentor, Dr. Patricia Becker.
I recall her quiet guidance: Surrounded by boisterous, confident interns, she would patiently ask the most simple questions to draw complex responses. She challenged us in Socratic huddles. She challenged us with difficult, psychological cases. She challenged our assumptions, our oh-so-confident positions, and our privileged class values and beliefs.
Dr. Becker’s reading list was the most difficult I have encountered in any pursuit. Not one text could be understood at one reading. Often, it would take all the interns — almost all psychologists today — to puzzle over a single reading, just to grasp a concept.
Dr. Becker supported interns in ways that weren’t always evident at the time. I would never have attempted couples counseling without her encouragement. Always a professional, she insisted on extra supervision with another psychologist, to guide us in starting group counseling.
I learned more from the people I worked with alongside Dr. Becker, perhaps, than anything I have done through years of graduate study and early practice.
This Berkeley, CA professional introduced us to a new way of thinking about disability, of adjustment and acceptance and, toughest of all, public stigma. She showed, through graceful example, how wisdom and compassion can reach and hold those who are struggling. She introduced me to a culture that I would never have encountered in the corporate world.
It took a village to teach me to walk from that world to this, and I am grateful every day for all those who have been with me on this journey.
Thank you, especially, to Dr. Becker.
Kathleen Kenna is a vocational rehabilitation counselor with Veterans Affairs.