Point Of View


Mary Pipher on Activism: Applying our Healing Skills in the Wider World

May/June 2012


Should therapists be activists? To be sure, we’re typically more at home waging our battles against defense mechanisms, irrational beliefs, dysfunctional family systems, and, when we’re at our bravest, insurance companies. Rare is the therapist who openly takes on political causes or corporate conglomerates. Many of us think those battles are reserved for people who studied in a different building in grad school.

Not so, says activist Mary Pipher, retired therapist and bestselling author of Reviving Ophelia and Writing to Change the World. In fact, she believes therapists are perfectly equipped to organize communities for a common cause. A keynote speaker at this year’s 35th-anniversary Networker Symposium, she took a moment to describe her own reawakening to activism as part of the battle against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, designed to bring new supplies of oil down from the north of Canada to America’s heartland with—what its opponents argue—potentially devastating environmental consequences.

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RH: Tell me about the evolution of activism in your life.

PIPHER: I remember when I read Anne Frank as a child and realized the great injustice in the world. I found I was someone who cared about that. I have a long history of involvement and of trying to make things better. I was an activist in Berkeley in the ’60s, but like most people, I’ve been pretty quiet for the last 20 or 30…

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