Today we spotlight Nosheen Hydari, MFT, class of 2012. In April of this year, Nosheen was honored as a Gun Violence Champion of Change by the White House. As part of this honor, given to Nosheen for her work to reduce gun violence, was able to attend an event at the White House honoring each of the Champions of Change.
We asked Nosheen a few questions about her experiences at The Family Institute, her current career path, and how her time in our MFT program impacted her life as a clinician.
TFI: What is your relationship to and/or history with The Family Institute?
NH: I graduated from the The Family Institute’s MSMFT program in 2012. The program was a great fit for me, as I was changing careers from Marketing to Mental Health. It exceeded my needs in terms of training me to become an adept clinician, and igniting my already-existing passion for direct service work. TFI’s focus on the person and people in therapy humanized the idea of “work” for me in a way I had never experienced in any of my prior jobs. It was a remarkable shift.
TFI: How would you describe your current career path? Where do you work, and what is your clinical focus?
NH: I am a Crisis Therapist for the Emergency Services On-Call (ESOC) team at Community Counseling Centers of Chicago (C4), where I took a position after graduating from TFI. Additionally, I work as a MFT in private practice with Northside Center for Relationship Counseling (NCRC). I feel I have a privileged position of being able to work at different ends of the spectrum with respect to the populations I serve, and the intensity of presenting problems I encounter with my clients. It allows me to keep a perspective about challenges and strengths, about people and their levels of functionality and resourcefulness, that I may have struggled to keep had I been more myopic in my career path. In my crisis work, I have focused on intensified psychiatric distress including suicidality, homicidality, aggression, self-harm, substance use, physical abuse, and psychosis. In my private practice work, I’ve focused on depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, relationship conflict, infidelity, bicultural and multicultural differences, teenage identity development, and Muslim-American issues.
TFI: You were recently honored at the White House. Can you tell us a bit about the work that got you there? Additionally, what was the experience like?
NH: My work as a Therapist has allowed me to gain insight into the severe at-risk populations of Chicagoans experiencing increased depression, anger, loneliness, isolation, disappointment, marginalization, and lack of need-fulfillment. Specifically in my work at C4 as a Crisis Therapist, I come into contact with individuals who are the victims and/or perpetrators of violent acts when their feeling-states cause their insecurities to magnify. This is due to the circumstances and communities in which they live, which are obviously highly under-resourced. The amount of violence prevalent in low-income, inner-city Chicago neighborhoods is astounding, and sometimes I feel most of my clients have been experiencing PTSD on an ongoing basis. The exposure to this population in my crisis work doing assessments for individuals in severe psychiatric distress is what led to my being chosen as a White House Champion of Change in Gun Violence Prevention.
The White House Champions of Change recognizes individuals working at the community level in innovative ways to combat various issues important to the Presidential office. Gun Violence has been a topic of increased importance for the Obama administration since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. In fact, many of the individuals recognized at the White House on April 3rd were those impacted by gun violence personally, and usually in cases of mass shootings.
I feel my selection was based on my differentiated perspective. Though mass shootings are extremely tragic, the majority of gun violence occurs at the inner city level, with the help of secondary market (illegal) gun sales. While at The White House on the panel, there was a lot of talk about gun laws, and gun control in our country in general, and the changes that need to be made. I was coming from a different angle — the guns are already out there, and the problems and circumstances that cause the majority and enormity of the gun violence epidemic to ensue, primarily at the low-income, under-resourced, inner-city level, are exactly what we need to be working to decrease. People are experiencing a crisis because they are unable to manage the overwhelming feelings of anger, or fear, that they are experiencing. When someone is unable to manage that feeling on an ongoing basis, and they have access to a weapon, they are very likely to use that weapon. What we need to do is help those individuals and communities who struggle to manage those feelings of anger and fear while also surviving very difficult life circumstances (poverty, abuse, violence, lack of connection, negative relationships, boredom, low self esteem, lack of value for their future, etc.). And from a macro level, we need to be aiding these communities with more resources than they currently have. I truly believe in this idea of working at the community level as a first line of defense.
The White House Champions of Change event opened up a new world of engagement. When the first panel began, and I was asked for my perspective on gun violence, I talked about the mental state of the individuals behind the gun. When asked about my perspective on what could be done, I talked about the need to heavily increase access to mental health resources, as well as resources in general (school, healthcare, law enforcement, jobs) in the hardest-hit areas. I was surprised as to how much emphasis was put on reforming gun laws, but less so to increasing resources for at-risk communities in a profound way. I was happy to hear the term “mental health” throughout the day at the various panels and round-table discussions. But it feels like there is less organization and understanding of what resources individuals and families in these communities respond best to. I hope this conversation continues to happen, with voices from the field of mental health driving the discussion.
The event was incredibly empowering, as I was able to connect with so many people passionate about gun violence prevention and working in various capacities to combat this issue. Ultimately though, having the chance to express my perspective and the solutions that work best on this tragic issue at an elevated platform like The White House was the most rewarding aspect of the experience. It truly marked a shift in my development as a Therapist, and a human being.
TFI: How would you say your time and training at The Family Institute has influenced your career and/or your relationship to the mental health field at large? In what ways has your training influenced who you are as a clinician?
NH: My training at TFI has influenced me wholly as a person, and shaped the clinician that I am and aim to become. I cannot rest my mind too long on one aspect of a problem, as we were trained to think in terms of gears — everything is part of a system, and all pieces of the system move when one aspect begins to move. As Bill Russell says, “Everything is everything, all the time.”
Notably, my work in the Community Program under Carl Hampton and Chaaze Roberts allowed me to shift my perspective in terms of integrating one’s home life, school, and neighborhood environment into their experiences of life. Space and place are a huge aspect of one’s psychological mindset. They, too, influence who you are and what you want. It is this truly systemic perspective that helped me to better understand my clients, both in my crisis work and my private practice. My supervision under Simona Cirio, Carol Jabs, and Josh Hetherington (both at TFI and currently at NCRC) has been paramount in developing my understanding of one’s internal world, with a logical focus on the external world. I always felt so lucky that my supervisors were so rational, so realistic in considering what people’s struggles and successes are in life, and how they can navigate change. Coming from a past career in the corporate world, it was important for me not to be babied, and not to be misled or taught in a way that felt too “warm and fuzzy”. I wanted to know the reality of the field of mental health, and how I might fit into that reality. My supervisors gave me that from the word go.
TFI: What advice might you give to someone who is considering graduate education in Marriage and Family Therapy? What advice might you give new graduate students at the Institute?
NH: My advice is to push yourself in the real world. My advice is not to focus on theories and grades and stellar academic records, and the pursuit of comfortable jobs. My advice is to put energy into the realistic work of getting yourself into the right rooms, and pushing your way to where the conversations are happening that you have insight and valuable opinions to share on. My advice is to invite yourself to those tables and meetings and panels and conferences, and to push yourself to share what you know. Experience goes a long way in the field of Therapy, we know that. But as it turns out, intuition and courage to speak up sometimes make up for what you lack in years. I have only gotten ahead in my career by remembering to trust and share my intuitive voice.