|Beyond the Consulting Room - Page 5|
Once you've identified an issue you care deeply about and have connected it with the public sphere, you're ready to join with a community. The first community I recommend is at least one fellow therapist with whom you can share your journey. Start conversations on what each of you feels passionate about and see whether you get charged up about the same issues.
For me, this process began with a series of conversations with my colleague Patrick Dougherty. Over numerous lunches at a local cafe, we brooded, brainstormed, and hatched ideas about how to engage with the world outside our offices. Patrick then introduced me to two political scholars and community organizers: Harry Boyte and Nan Kari, who became my mentors. Eventually, I pulled together several colleagues and students into an ongoing group for mutual support and mentoring. Like most therapists, I'm not a good Lone Ranger: I do community work only with buddies behind or alongside me.
Connect with a Community
The next step is pivotal: finding a community to work with outside your professional world. This isn't as hard as it sounds. Ask yourself what communities you're already connected to. It might be the neighborhood you work in, the schools your kids attend and where you've given talks to PTA groups, or your faith community.
For me, finding a community was initially difficult because of my assumption, common among therapists, that community work is needed only in low-income neighborhoods. As I saw it, my problem was that most of my contacts were in middle-class communities, so it was mostly suburban and well-off urban folks who invited me to speak on my favorite topic—overscheduled kids and reclaiming family time. People in struggling urban neighborhoods didn't seem to have overscheduled kids. Feeling stymied, I felt tempted to revert to save-the-world strategy number 1: stay in your office and support the best candidates and causes, venturing forth every four years to get out the vote.