Viewing entries tagged
Michelle Harwell Therapy

Failure: An Expected Guest

Failure: An Expected Guest

...losing taught me freedom.

When I was in college, I was a sprinter (for you track fans out there, the 400m dash was my main event). Many, many training sessions, pairs of shoes, taped feet, and ice baths later, one of the most valuable things I gained was getting used to failure.

I’m actually pretty competitive, so don’t be misled into thinking I don’t care about winning. (Ha!) But while the drive to win taught me discipline, confidence, and focus, losing taught me freedom.

Regular public failure required me to develop a sense of security beyond success, and once I had it, I was able to freely find the edge of my capacity and risk stepping beyond it.

In my post college years, I have looked back on my experience with failure in athletics as a season of “training wheels.” The risks and failures I ventured into in that season had few real world consequences.

...I was able to freely find the edge of my capacity and risk stepping beyond it.

These days, I find that my failures often carry a much bigger ripple effect, affecting the lives of those I care about. It’s challenged me to again develop a sense of security beyond perfection. Really, no system that depends on me to be perfect is very secure, though I think it can have that illusion. “If I could just perform perfectly, things will be alright in my own life and the lives of those I care for.”

But really, things became much more secure when I got honest with myself and others about the reality of failure as part of my existence and my best efforts to help. That honesty allowed me to think of responding to my own failures as part of “normal life.” Not something to be rigidly prevented or defended against, but allowed in as an expected guest.


Allison (Allie) Ramsey is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Therapist. Allie works with individuals on a broad range of issues, including anxiety, depression, relational challenges, faith integration, divorce, and aging. 

On Failing and Making Awesome Happen: An Interview with Jessica Rosen, Owner of One Down Dog

On Failing and Making Awesome Happen: An Interview with Jessica Rosen, Owner of One Down Dog

Lauren Ziel: Thank you, first and foremost, for agreeing to chit-chat. I think Michelle and I had you in mind because it’s the new year — beginning of 2019 — and really thick with rebirth, change, growth and resolutions. Even though that’s exciting; such a positive spin - I think sometimes we can overlook the hard, non-linear path towards success and how usually that road is paved in failure. With Michelle and I both knowing you and your success in growing your business One Down Dog - from an outsider perspective, you’re f*&#in rocking it. And yet, we also know that you have worked your ass off and there’s been struggle and failure in the process— and you’ve been so open and honest with that. So, we thought you’d be a really good person to comment on what it means to fail and why that can be a great and integral thing in the process of becoming successful. So, again, thank you. 

Jessica Rosen: Thank you!

LZ: So, we wanted to know in the context of your business [running multiple yoga studios] and in how you’ve grown over the years, what would you say is your greatest failure?

I’m trying to really show up for myself.

JR: Oh man, there are so many little ones. It’s hard to think of the biggest one. Okay…so, I think my biggest failure…maybe failure isn’t the right word…but we’ll go this one: it has been in my own ability to get shit done. Which, I know like you said, from the outside everything looks amazing, but I have a tendency to put things off, to get really overwhelmed and bogged down by the details and by the minutiae, by my email inbox, and in little things that take away from my bigger picture. I have this tendency to spin in circles and then at the end of every single day say, “I didn’t get anything done today.” 

What I’ve realized in the last few month is…I set myself up for failure in that way. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I say “I can’t get anything done.” And, therefore, I don’t get anything done. So, I’m trying to really show up for myself. I don’t really know if failure is the right word for all of this. But it feels like a failure when I go home and feel that sense of self-defeat. I’m shifting that, and I’m working hard on chunking things and giving myself projects. Because that feels more successful when I take things in chunks instead of trying to do everything all at one time. 

LZ: Yeah, we might want to play with that — can we reframe failure with a different word? But what I’m hearing in your process is that you’re coming home at the end of the day with a certain sense. And because of that sense and wanting to change, then you’re pivoting and finding a different way to attack something. It’s almost like you have to learn from the failure…you have to get to the point of feeling this certain way in order for that to be the impetus for you to innovate, pivot, change direction, scrap, go, etc. I think that is maybe what we’re getting at — the failures are these small or big chances…opportunities…to really hone in on what’s important and what will lead to either a growth or a success or something of that nature. How do you think failure has been a part of One Down Dog’s success?

JR: It’s a big part. It’s a constant learning of “Okay, I tried that. Okay, that didn’t work. Let’s try this..” In figuring out our hiring process. In our on-boarding process. In negotiating lease agreements. With our schedule. Trying a class and then it not doing well. And then having to figure out the right time for it or the right teacher with the right class type. It’s a constant evolution. Without those moments of things not working or “failing,” there’s no way we could have gotten to where we’re at today. I started in a temporary shared space and somehow now there’s three locations with two yoga rooms in each of them. That whole process was a series of throwing a ton of spaghetti at a wall and seeing what sticks. 

LZ: You’re doing the Make Awesome Happen workshop. Is failure woven into that? 

JR: Yes, absolutely. The biggest thing that I’ve noticed in my own life and I’ve seen it in others’ lives that stops us from making awesome happen, whether that’s making our biggest, wildest dreams come true or with the smaller stuff like personal interactions in our head….a big piece is our own negative self-talk, self-doubt, and our fear of failing. The fear of doing it wrong. The fear of it not working. And then like I mentioned before…this self-fulfilling prophecy where I’ll think that something isn’t gonna work or that I’m not getting shit done…whatever the case….and then it will be. Because I set myself up for it. That’s a big part of what I talk about in the workshop. How do we overcome those fears of failure? How can we reframe what failure is in our lives? Because ultimately, as corny as it is, failures are lessons and opportunities for growth. Every time something doesn’t work, it’s guiding us in the direction of what’s going to…if there’s a willingness to look at it and allow space for it. It can very easily turn into “Well, that didn’t work and that proves my point. Therefore, it’s never gonna happen.” Or it can be, “Well, that didn’t work but I learned something so wonderful from that experience and now there’s potential for something else” - which is amazing.

Without those moments of things not working or “failing,” there’s no way we could have gotten to where we’re at today.

LZ: Yeah. So, rather than foreclosing and shutting down. It’s the door closing and the window opening metaphor. 

JR: Yes, exactly.

 LZ: You’re the OG bosslady. One person can facilitate a culture in an organization of celebrating failure or in the very least saying that it’s okay. How do you think you have fostered that at One Down Dog?

JR: My initial response is that I could a lot better in fostering that. As I mentioned earlier, I have a tendency to be really hard on myself, and I’m certain that bleeds into the rest of my company to a certain extent. There’s a level of ask for forgiveness, not permission. And an understanding that just because something didn’t work the way we expected that doesn’t mean we throw it out. We’ve had events where we thought “Oh, this is going to be amazing and we’re going to have so many people show up” and then there will be two people who attend. I don’t want to just throw it away because there’s a reason why we thought it was going to be amazing. So, how do we do a sort of SWOT analysis? For those that don’t know, SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and…what does the “T” stand for?** (We’ll find out…). Anyway, so, we’ll look at: where are the opportunities in this experience? How can we reframe, re-shift, regroup, and keep the momentum going? Because a good idea is something to cherish and hold onto. It’s like clay. You gotta re-work it a little.

LZ: A good idea in one scenario won’t be the greatest idea in the next. Yeah, and you gotta mold and shape it as it goes. I like that metaphor. That’s a nice metaphor as we close. Thank you, Jess. I really appreciate your time. Yes, we will figure out the “T”!

JR: Yeah, I’m sure I’ll remember as soon as we hang up. 

LZ: Thank you very much. 

JS: Thank you!


**Note: The “T” in SWOT Analysis stands for “Threats.”


Jessica Rosen is a yoga teacher and an entrepreneur. She is the owner of One Down Dog (ODD), a community of three yoga studios in Northeast Los Angeles. Check out this post on ODD’s Blog for more about this awesome woman.


Lauren Ziel, MSW is a Registered Associate Clinical Social Worker, ASW #76483, working under the supervision of Gabrielle Taylor, PhD. Through the use of movement and mindfulness, Lauren develops specialized treatment for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, challenges in life-stage transitions, relational difficulties, and identity/intrapersonal development.


Women are Creators

Women are Creators

An embodied woman...has access to her appetite, her desire...a woman who can act, who can harness her creative energies, an alive and fertile mind, ready to give birth to many things.

Recently, I hung a piece of art in one of our therapy rooms that elicited strong reactions from our staff; feelings of embarrassment, discomfort, and mild disgust were expressed. One staff even admitted to turning the piece around when working in that room. What was the subject of such an evocative image? Breasts.

IMG_6045.jpg

As a group of all-female therapists, I found these responses to be both curious and illuminating. It got me thinking about the internal dialogue we women are often having with our bodies, our sexuality, and the outside world. It strikes me that part of what is so dysregulating in viewing such a straight-forward image of breasts is the potency of desire it has the capacity to evoke, the immediacy of arousal and the direct awareness of the power we women carry just in our form. It feels dangerous.

So what does all of this have to do with a woman’s creativity or the embrace of women as creators? It is my belief that the disavowal of our sexuality is, in part, a disavowal of our creative selves. Sexuality or eros is not simply about sex but about appetite; what we crave, what we desire. To me, a foundational element of creative energy; a basic requirement in troubling the rough and unknown terrain between imagination and manifestation. Audre Lorde describes this energy as, “a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings.” To say it another way, eros is about vitality, life-force and the importance in learning to trust, shape, and share our self-knowledge and self-expression. Sensuality is about the embodiment of this energy; about an ability to inhabit and own oneself and utilize that energy in the process of creation. A powerful elixir.  An embodied woman who has access to her appetite, her desire, is a woman who can act, who can harness her creative energies, an alive and fertile mind, ready to give birth to many things.

 I return to image of the breasts but this time I imagine them as part of a whole, a full body of an alive and vital woman. A small act of rebellion to the discomfort and internalized patriarchy that has taught me to fear myself, to view my body and sexuality through the exclusive lens as an object of another’s desire. This woman I imagine has a subjectivity and a sexuality that is part of the whole, a sexuality that is deeply embedded in the story of woman.

So the picture remains. It hangs in testimony of the dialogue and tension we seek to hold as an all female staff. We are nurturers, comforters, and caretakers, we are also vitalized, embodied selves with the ability to dream, make, and do big things in this world.


HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. We will be documenting our fierce fashion choices but our deepest intention is to empower and educate.

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising campaign page.


Michelle Harwell, PsyD, LMFT is an expert trainer, respected speaker, and licensed therapist in trauma and attachment. She is noted for her specialization in areas of development, attachment, trauma, and neuroscience, and her ability to communicate complex topics with clarity and humor. 

Women are NOT Property

Women are NOT Property

I’ve recently found myself privy to one too many conversations where women are spoken of in ways that objectify, minimize, and commercialize their womanhood. Sometimes it’s subtle. And other times I’m left dumbfounded at the blatant and aggressive misogyny that motivates such rhetoric and/or behavior.

I know womanhood and gender politics can be complicated, but let’s make one thing simple and clear: WE ARE NOT PROPERTY.

Being a woman means having pride and acceptance for who you are (even if that changes day to day). For so long I wanted to fit into what society told me was feminine. I wanted to be slender, beautiful, giving, and like-able. These acculturated gender stereotypes dominated my conception and expression of self.

After much work and self-exploration, I’ve redefined MY understanding of femininity – it means I have physical and mental fortitude. It means my body can be athletic and strong. I can shave my legs because I love the way my calves feel sans hair and not because some commercial tells me to. It demands that I admit my vulnerabilities and/or shortcomings without letting them define me. It means showing up for myself and my fellow women by accepting others exactly where they are in their journey.


HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. We will be documenting our fierce fashion choices but our deepest intention is to empower and educate.

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising campaign page.


Lauren Ziel, MSW is a Registered Associate Clinical Social Worker, ASW #76483, working under the supervision of Gabrielle Taylor, PhD. Through the use of movement and mindfulness, Lauren develops specialized treatment for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, challenges in life-stage transitions, relational difficulties, and identity/intrapersonal development.

What is Dressember?

What is Dressember?

Brighid Quinn wearing her “Women are Resilient” t-shirt inspired by one of our Instagram followers! Thank you @raejus!  Photo by  Even Keel Imagery  -  Miriam Brummel .

Brighid Quinn wearing her “Women are Resilient” t-shirt inspired by one of our Instagram followers! Thank you @raejus!

Photo by Even Keel Imagery - Miriam Brummel.

There’s a common misconception that human trafficking happens “somewhere else” or “overseas.” According to Annalisa Enrile, clinical associate professor in the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work: “Human trafficking occurs in every country—even in first-world countries such as the United States.” In fact, in 2017, 26,557 calls were answered by the National Human Trafficking Hotline (U.S.). We’ve also learned that Los Angeles has been identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) as one of the thirteen high intensity hubs for Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Youth (CSECY).

It surely can be overwhelming to come across such alarming statistics. Blythe Hill, the founder of Dressember, is no stranger to that feeling when you became passionate about making waves and yet simultaneously reminded of your limitations. In an interview with Starfish Project, Hill remarked that she first learned about human trafficking as a teenager, and “For years, I felt a sense of personal urgency to do something but I also felt powerless. I’m not a cop, a lawyer, a social worker, or a psychologist….I felt helpless. Then, as Dressember grew, I felt compelled to use it as a way to engage in the fight.”

So, what is Dressember?

Dressember is a month-long campaign where people wear dresses or ties/bow ties every day in December as a way to raise awareness and money for human trafficking programs.

It started in 2009 as a personal style challenge with no cause or fundraising element to it. As it grew, and Hill saw people she didn’t even know personally who wanted to join in, she realized it was a good idea and started dreaming about using it as a way to bring attention to the issue of human trafficking. In 2013, Hill aligned Dressember with its first grant partner, International Justice Mission (IJM), and set what felt like an ambitious goal of $25,000. They hit that goal on day 3, and then proceeded to raise over $165,000. Since then, Dressember has extended it reach and now partners with 12 organizations, including IJM, A21, CAST Los Angeles, Love146, Saving Innocence, and Olive Crest, that are leading the charge in their respective areas of expertise to end modern-day slavery.

Since 2016, the team at Michelle Harwell Therapy have advocated for Dressember while putting their own creative spin on it. Women and girls historically have been the most vulnerable to human trafficking, and we have wanted to draw attention to this fact by challenging stale, one-dimensional notions and images of femininity. This year is no different except we’ve raised the bar for our fundraising goal — setting it to $6,719, which will fund a full rescue operation to bring victims safely into freedom and begin the process of recovery and restoration.

It’s incredible how far a small donation can go - contributions in the range between $20 and $50 can secure a survivor with vital services, such as a night in a shelter, a care package, or a therapy session.

Will you consider standing with us?


-Brighid Quinn, Marketing Intern at MHT


HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. We will be documenting our fierce fashion choices but our deepest intention is to empower and educate.

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising campaign page.

Women are Powerful

Women are Powerful

Owning our voices safely is not always easy to do. We cannot do that alone by sheer will. We are social beings through and through. We are deeply influenced and affected by one another, and therefore, deeply vulnerable in one another’s company...When we feel we lose our power, it is as if we are boxed in.

WOMEN ARE POWERFUL. This phrase was inspired by a young client who is not yet an adult woman. It has special meaning for her because she has experienced bullying and yet is a strong, bright, and compassionate girl. She is finding healing in the midst of the messiness and owning her voice – her vulnerability, her fierceness, her unflinching sense of justice, her laughter, her grace, and her ability to say what is true for the sheer simple reason that it IS true. What she knew of women and girls was that we have a voice AND that each voice is strong - this IS powerful.

Owning our voices safely is not always easy to do. We cannot do that alone by sheer will. We are social beings through and through. We are deeply influenced and affected by one another, and therefore, deeply vulnerable in one another’s company. We have a whole field of social psychology that has shown us this. When we feel we lose our power, it is as if we are boxed in.

What I found fascinating, and also frustrating, while searching for a word to describe what women are to me, is that words have often have the unintentional effect of boxing us in. Each word has a cultural connotation and means something different to the person hearing it. Now, THIS is powerful, too. For example, women are POWERFUL. Maybe I mean that women are strong and able to connect deeply to themselves and others; are able to unarm someone’s defenses with a smile and a few words spoken in the right tone at the right time. That is powerful, that is beautiful, and that is love in a sense.

Now, but what does POWERFUL mean in a cultural context? Perhaps a powerful person is seen as domineering, controlling, and ruthless. And we have heard, at times, that strong and/or powerful woman can be intimidating or worse…

So, I ask myself, what kind of power has most value to me, in my world? How do I want to show up or stand up?

I want my power to come through in my listening, in my attuning to myself, to others, to my family, to my friends, to the tree outside my window, and to the sand beneath my feet when the ocean water flows gently around my legs from it’s source. The power of love I feel when I look at the night sky with the moon and the stars reflecting in my eyes. And the power to say no, to stand up, to not back down, the power to fight – all when necessary. Power to discriminate or to discern.

“They” say we are at a crossroads in our humanity on this planet. And maybe that is true. I ask you, what is real power? What does it mean to be powerful in the most beautiful interpretation of the word?

For me, what is powerful is both my vulnerability and my fierceness. BOTH are necessary.

I bow to you, to us, to our humanity, to what makes us the same, so we may support each other in our differences and in our sameness. To not give up on ourselves, to remember to use the power that is our birthright. The power of our hands, of our voice, of our heart, of our minds, and of our feelings of connection.


HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. We will be documenting our fierce fashion choices but our deepest intention is to empower and educate.

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising campaign page.


Michelle Levy, PhD, is a Registered Psychological Assistant #PSB94024010 working under the supervision of Gabrielle Taylor, PhD. Dr. Levy’s clinical interests focus on parenting practices, attachment, child mental health and developmental concerns as well as the effects of trauma on youth, families and communities. 

Women are Bold

Women are Bold

All humans are capable of bold acts, but being a woman requires it daily.  

Being a woman means many different things to the wide-world of self-identifying women. For me, being a woman takes a certain amount of boldness to be oneself and to honor the unique value of our more feminine traits, even in the face of misogyny and patriarchal structures. Bold may not be a word that readily comes to mind for some people when they think about women, especially considering that historically women have been considered more submissive, polite, and accommodating. However, inherent in being bold is a courage to take risks and be seen.

Without getting too political, I must say that bold was a word that came to mind after listening to the Kavanaugh hearing as I considered the enormous risk that Christine Blasey Ford was taking to have her voice heard. As a therapist and someone who has made a career of listening to people’s stories, I was particularly struck by the bold conviction she had to be heard and to voice injustices against women that can be all too cavalier. To speak of justice at the hearing of a supreme court justice nominee was a bold decision. Despite facing public ridicule and overwhelming threats on the safety of her and her family, she boldly went forward in a room full of predominantly high-powered men and spoke her truth.    

This act of boldness reminded me of the everyday struggle for women to be heard, to be accepted as ‘credible,’ and to be themselves in a societal structure designed to make them fight for their rights time and time again. The risks we take every day even in deciding what to wear in a world that has been known to blame survivors of sexual assault based on their personal expression of style, takes an inborn boldness to carry on and demand that we be treated fairly.  All humans are capable of bold acts, but being a woman requires it daily.  


HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. We will be documenting our fierce fashion choices but our deepest intention is to empower and educate.

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising campaign page.


Erika Mitchell, MA, is a Registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist #109385, working under the professional supervision of Michelle Harwell, PsyD, LMFT 50732. Erika specializes in helping her clients bring mindful, attuned awareness to their sensations and emotions.

Women are NOT their Genitalia

Women are NOT their Genitalia

One is not born, but rather becomes, woman.
— Simone de Beauvoir

Filling in the statement “women are….” with “not their genitalia” was a move rather out of character. There’s something about it that’s a little risky, a little provocative, perhaps even a little exhibitionistic — qualities that aren’t completely foreign to me but not readily accessed and even less so in a public forum. I tend to take the road of making myself palatable — and more and more I’m realizing* that it isn’t only a matter of temperament but also something that has been shaped by cultural messages about how a woman should be (*with thanks to women like Adrienne Harris who write so eloquently on the complexity and fluidity of gender and its cultural situatedness). 

That all said, I must admit that the statement on my t-shirt didn’t originate from me. It was essentially stolen (with permission) from my friend M — who is one of the most badass women I’ve ever known. When I asked her to complete the sentence at hand, she responded without hesitation: “Not their genitalia.”

I felt a resounding YES. The phrase somehow distilled and articulated so many disparate thoughts into one phrase. It spoke to my desire to make space for transwomen in this conversation about what it means to be a woman — and to be sensitive to the fact that not every woman has a vagina. And as we here at MHT raise awareness about human trafficking this month, it feels important to note that transgender youth are particularly vulnerable to labor and sexual exploitation

And it brings to mind Simone de Beauvoir’s declaration that “One is not born, but rather becomes, woman.”

It spoke to the trauma of being a woman — and to something about the word pussy showing up in mainstream media during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

And it spoke to reclamations of womanhood that allowed for rage and joy. To all the pussy hats at women’s marches. To Pussy Riot. To Janelle Monáe’s music video for Pynk. To female sexuality as an embodied space for varied experience. 

We aren’t used to seeing bold celebrations of the mighty yoni. And for that matter…the same could be said about menstruation, menopause, or the “fourth trimester.” 

The sentiment is women are not ONLY their genitalia. We aren’t only pussies to be grabbed. 

We OWN our own genitalia. We OWN our own sexuality. We OWN how we define ourselves. 

My hope for the future is that we all begin to tell a more inclusive and expansive story about womanhood. And, I believe, that will require you and me to show up to the conversation with our whole selves, armed with creativity, openness toward fumbling around, and willingness to take risks. 


HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. We will be documenting our fierce fashion choices but our deepest intention is to empower and educate.

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising campaign page.


Taz MorganMA, is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, IMF #99714, working under the supervision of Gabrielle Taylor, PhD. She has trained in Depth-oriented psychotherapy and works with adolescents, adults, and couples. 

Here We Are

Here We Are

Photos by  Even Keel Imagery
I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.
— Maya Angelou

Hello, Dressember. We have arrived.

Every year the women of MHT band together to use our feminine power and fashionable prowess to raise awareness and funds for the Dressember Foundation and for issues impacting the inherent dignity of women, specifically, women vulnerable to sexual exploitation and trafficking. This year we decided to expand our impact and our fundraising goal. We wanted to dig even deeper; to utilize our creative energy, personal stories and style, to inspire you, educate you, and possibly move you to give.

Given that this has been both a difficult and empowering year for women, we wanted to use our creativity, presence, and voice to continue to challenge the boundaries of how women are defined. Enter MHT's Women Are campaign. In December, as we are raising money for the Dressember Foundation, you will hear from each our clinicians on just what they think WOMEN ARE.

In addition, our team has upped our fundraising goal to $6000. I'm sweating just thinking about it. But then again, with this group of mighty women, what's to fear? Follow along and help us smash our goals!

Why?

Because the issue of human and sex trafficking is both a pervasive and deeply local issue. California and specifically, Los Angeles County, houses the largest foster care system in the US. In 2012, studies estimate that between 50 and 80 percent of commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC) in California are or were formally involved with the child welfare system. 58% of 72 sexually trafficked girls in Los Angeles County’s STARS Court in 2012 were foster care kids. This is an issue deeply personal to me as adoptive parent, as a foster/adoption professional, and as a female business owner in Los Angeles. I'm grateful to be teaming with the strong-minded women of MHT to do something about it.

Here's how you can participate:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. Of course, we will be documenting our fierce fashion choices but our deepest intention is to empower and educate. We will be resurrecting our #badasswomenofhistory series on Instagram. We are also starting a new series called “Women Are” where you will hear from some of our therapists who participated in a photo shoot embodying the statement "Women Are...". Personally, I found this to be such a deeply intimate and inspiring project to work on with my team. We really hope you enjoy.

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising campaign page.

Here’s to another year of fierce fashion and deep musings from badass women getting the job done. Let’s do this!

-Michelle


Michelle Harwell, PsyD, LMFT is an expert trainer, respected speaker, and licensed therapist in trauma and attachment. She is noted for her specialization in areas of development, attachment, trauma, and neuroscience, and her ability to communicate complex topics with clarity and humor. 

Mindfully Living and Parenting in the Digital Age: An Interview with Technology Expert Jeff Harwell

Mindfully Living and Parenting in the Digital Age: An Interview with Technology Expert Jeff Harwell

Taz Morgan: I’m here with Jeff Harwell. He is our guest this month. We’re centering our theme around social media and technology. With any theme that we are exploring, we don’t just wanna say “Oh, this thing is all bad. Or this thing is all good.” We are interested in the nuances. This is a huge topic that we are trying to grapple with, but we’re interested in how both social media and technology in general are impacting our lives and our client’s lives. In prepping for this interview, I was thinking through episodes of Black Mirror that I’ve watched. [Laughs]. But why don’t you, Jeff, start with telling us about what you do for work?

Jeff Harwell: I’m the Chief Technology Officer at Fuller Theological Seminary…I’ve been in that role for about two years. Prior to that, I was the IT Director. I’ve been at Fuller since 2003 in various capacities within the IT Department. My undergraduate degree is in Engineering Physics and that’s when I got into computers.

I love to build things…I think the reason I ended up in management is because I love to build systems, build processes, build organizations. There’s magic if you can get people working together, believing in a cause and when all the piece are in place…it’s amazing.

[Edited out video due to tech issues with the sound!]

Taz: I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about how your role as a parent has impacted your understanding of technology, in general, and social media, specifically. I think a lot of the news stories I read too [about social media] are about teens and “digital natives.” Yeah, I think a lot more therapists are seeing [considering the implications of] social media being part of a teen’s life. I know a lot of…or I feel like I’ve read that a lot of teens….their dream job now is to be a YouTube star or to be a vlogger. What are your thoughts on all of this? (Laughs).

Jeff: I’m gonna throw a couple of things at you and then we’ll see if they cohere at all. And my soon-to-be teenage daughter is sitting here on the couch. I’ll be telling her…I’ll give her all my secrets. I think, oh,…she’s got headphones on, and she’s watching YouTube, so… (Laughs). But probably listening….

…I’m an adoptive parent. And I think one of the things that…being an adoptive parent does, especially being international when you adopt, when they’re older, it drives home the point that you’re not in control. As much as we want to be in control, as much as we feel like…I think there can be an illusion of control in a lot of ways in parenting…we’re not in control. (Laughs). 

One of the really interesting effects of technology…and you see this facet of technology is driving a lot of [technology] adoption, like widely-used technology is so big in the financial industry because of this fact. Technology makes…you can make everything auditable. So, your phone knows where you, it knows every interaction you make, every email, every text, every place you visit, how many steps you take. I’ve got my FitBit. It knows what I eat; it knows when I sleep. All that information is going off to the cloud somewhere. In theory, if someone put the data stream together, they would know everything I do. Everything I read. Everywhere I go. Everything I eat. When I get up. When I go to bed. 

Taz: And who are the people that you talk to the most. Yeah, it’s all trackable.

Jeff: And then once you combine other people’s phones, you know who I’m with; when I’m with them. So, that is incredibly alluring. We won’t get into the privacy debate or the Orwellian aspects of this. There’s a lot that is very concerning. And you combine that with big data.…and the kinds of things that you can learn from correlating things together can be very surprising and unnerving. But to the case in point, so, my daughter has an iPad. We live in L.A., so it’s not like she goes out and plays because (laughs) you know…somehow getting hit by a car is the least terrifying thing I can imagine. So, she’s either in the house with an adult, or she’s at school, or she’s at some structured social event. That’s how we roll in Los Angeles. Now, I can see all her interactions. 

I think one of the really important things to realize when parenting in the age of technology is that there is a temptation to micro-manage because you can.

So, twenty years ago or more…I’m older now…more like thirty…my parents had nowhere near that much insight into my life. They didn’t know all my interactions. I’d go rode my bike; you’d get into all sorts of things. You know…talking to people you hear stories. Parents learn so many years later…(laughs) they would have totally freaked if they had known what we did and what we had gotten into. I think one of the really important things to realize when parenting in the age of technology is that there is a temptation to micro-manage because you can. We now have as parents in the digital age unprecedented insight and control that no generation has had before. I’ll tell you…when you look at growing up under a microscope, it’s pretty terrifying. This idea that…even when we look back at our own lives…when you’re out there on limb, when we got into situations that were hard, when we made mistakes, when we tripped up, there were consequences and that’s where you learn and grow. 

social media and parenting

I think the idea of parenting with the end in mind…that when they are turn eighteen, they will go out and have unfettered access to everything we’re scared about as parents. So this idea…Deprivation, I think, is not a good strategy. But I think that we need to kind of realize our own bias for control, realize the unparalleled insight that we have now, that we didn’t have before, and use that to offset….you know, there’s some serious stuff out there; some serious stuff could happen. There are things where we don’t know if the influence is good or bad. And there are some things we definitely know are bad. And we can’t protect them from everything. I do think that understanding technology and creating meaningfully boundaries…like my daughter doesn’t a phone. She’s eleven. She uses my phone a lot. She has an understanding that her mom and I have got all of her accounts, so sometimes we’ll drop in and look at what’s going in. When we see things, we’re gonna talk about it. But I don’t want to fall into the temptation to try to control everything. I want to keep an eye on it and then use things as teaching opportunities when they come up. And parent towards coaching them in how these interactions made them feel, what should they have done, what do they wish they would have done better. When they get to be young adults, they should be savvy. They should know what’s happening; know how to avoid the dangers

...when we have this all power and control as parents amplified by the technology, it requires a lot more wisdom to know when to apply it. And I think it demands more of us as parents to be in community...

Taz: I appreciate the angle you took in answering this question. Yeah, thinking about how trackable this all is. And how alluring it could be to control…and how that would impact a child to be under the microscope like you said. I love that point that growth usually happens at the edge…when we’re taking risks, when we make a mistake and learn from the consequences.

Jeff: I think it’s really hard for parents. I mean, just personally to watch your child…and you can see they’re getting ready to step off the cliff. That’s where the judgment comes in. You always want to balance as a parent. You want the consequences to be enough that they learn. But you don’t want the consequences to be so great that it breaks their lives. I’m a lot more controlling about when it comes to looking both ways before you cross the street because you only get one mistake. You know, versus learning how to cook or something like that. It’s hard not to correct them every time they’re doing something that you know will lead them to a bad outcome. But you gotta let them run; let them enjoy; let them make mistakes; let them learn. Those are two really extreme examples of really drastic consequences versus almost non-existent. 

I think it’s interesting that working with technology as much as I do as a practitioner, and then also as a manager and as an executive and as a parent…I do think the hardest parts are still the human parts.

Taz: But they are illustrative. And your comment about this illusion of control that any parent has [is illustrative, too]…Your kid is a whole other person. (Laughs).

Jeff: I think it’s really difficult as parents….This requires growth for us as parents. I think as parents we would probably tend to squelch the most promising learning opportunities our kids ever have if we could because they are gonna hurt so much. 

So, if you can see those things coming…do you step in and rob the kid of the opportunity to grow? How do you judge how much difficulty they’re ready for? And I think the kind of wisdom and introspective…and the community it takes….I’ve found so much out of talking with older parents. Like, “Okay, this thing I’m so worried about, that I’m freaking out about - not that big of deal.” You can roll with this one and it’s fine. Versus “This is a thing I’m not really worried about…Oh, that doesn’t go well if you don’t address it.” Yeah, in generalities…but this idea that when we have this all power and control as parents amplified by the technology, it requires a lot more wisdom to know when to apply it. And I think it demands more of us as parents to be in community with people with more experience. The hardest thing about parenting is not projecting your self onto your child and making your child’s issues your issues. And as with everything else, technology just amplifies the tendency. 

Taz: And that reminds of what you were saying before about the importance of awareness; having the dialogue around it; some kind of reflective functioning…not to fall into something. 

Jeff: I wouldn’t want to minimize the real, significant dangers online…I mean, predators, child trafficking. I wouldn’t ever want to be heard saying, “Yeah, yeah, let them go online. It’ll be fine if they get solicited but they’ll learn from it.” That’s not at all what I’m saying. But I do think out of fear of that, we can really go in and…so, we can either say “This is uncontrollable” and let them run into dangers that we should protect them from; let them encounter things they’re not mature enough to metabolize or we say “Oh, we have all these controls and all these dangers, let’s clamp it all down.” I think that’s equally detrimental. So, that it is really a matter of finding that balance and being aware on both sides. There’s a strong draw to do one or either. I think you mess up as a parent if you do either of the extremes. 

...technology can be a microscope or a magnifying glass that points back to the human condition and what it means to be human and what it means to relate to one another....when we see a technological problem, I think you can often and maybe always go one step deeper, and say ‘What is that telling us about ourselves? What does that tell us about what we want? What we need? How we relate?’

Taz: Well, I want to be conscious of time, but do you have any closing thoughts or things that you’d want to say? Anything coming to mind from the conversation, anything that makes you think like, “Oh, I want to add this point?”

Jeff: (Laughs) Thank you for listening.

Taz: I feel like so much has come up! (Laughs). Some of the reason that we like to interview people in different fields is that it’s so generative. Hopefully! And also for our community and for people who find our blog. 

Jeff: I mean…I think it’s interesting that working with technology as much as I do as a practitioner, and then also as a manager and as an executive and as a parent…I do think the hardest parts are still the human parts. I laugh, you know, I can talk to my phone and it can write down what I say, which is this close to a miracle…and it does it so well now…it’s amazing. I can tell it “Open this app. Or open that app.” Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Which is interesting. I use Android. Maybe Apple has got this one. But what’s interesting about that is that it’s an integration problem. So, we’ve solved this massively difficult computer science problem of listening to speech and turning it into writing. Really difficult. 

But integration is in the end…it’s the way that technology built by different groups of people can talk to each other. So, when I have this piece of technology and I want it to work with this other piece of technology and it doesn’t work, it’s because the people who built it had different ideas, they had different ways to approaching things, and they didn’t communicate well. They interpreted a standard in a different way. So, the idea that even inside your phone as you’re trying to use it - the things that it struggles with are a reflection of what’s so hard about being in a relationship; working together. I always laugh. I’ve run IT project after IT project - the hardest part is always the communication. How do I help people hear about what is happening? How do we solicit feedback? How are we responsive? How are we working together? (Laughs). You see that pattern over and over again. If anything technology can be a microscope or a magnifying glass that points back to the human condition and what it means to be human and what it means to relate to one another. I think I would always encourage us…when we see a technological problem, I think you can often and maybe always go one step deeper, and say “What is that telling us about ourselves? What does that tell us about what we want? What we need? How we relate?” And I think it can be very enlightening…and it becomes an opportunity to reflect on what our values are and how we want to be different in the world. And an opportunity to act on that in a very concrete way. I mean, it’s part of what I love about technology. 

Taz: Yeah, it almost sounds like a mirror then.

Jeff: Uh huh, it’s not a perfect mirror, but it’s a very informative one.

Taz: I think I want to end on those points. Wow, yeah, it’s such a reflective relationship…technology and humans. Yeah. Well, thank you so much, Jeff. I really appreciate your time. It’s been very illuminating…this conversation has been illuminating. 

Jeff: Thank you. I really appreciate the opportunity to do it. Thanks for taking the time yourself. I really appreciate it. 


Jeff Harwell is Chief Technology Officer at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, and a PhD candidate in Information Systems and Technology at Claremont Graduate University. He has worked in the field of information systems and technology for over 15 years and has a background in Engineering Physics.


Taz Morgan, MA, is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, IMF #99714, working under the supervision of Gabrielle Taylor, PhD. She has trained in Depth-oriented psychotherapy and works with adolescents, adults, and couples.