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Alumna returns after abroad experience

February 28, 2018

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Cristina Carter, MCFT ’15, recently returned home after an almost two-year experience in New Zealand. Carter’s decision to travel to NZ was inspired by the reflections about social justice and decolonizing practices that are a part of the Lewis & Clark Graduate School’s curriculum.

“I have always had an interest in working with folks impacted by what I was calling historical community trauma, and I found out that New Zealand has a document that acknowledges it’s colonization history,” Carter said.  At first, she was hopeful that this treaty, between early governing settlers from Europe and local tribal (iwi) chiefs, would result in the better treatment of indigenous peoples. However, she learned that the treaty had a relatively low impact on the success of the Maori population in NZ.

Equipped with this knowledge, Carter spent most of her time in NZ working for a nonprofit, Stand Children’s Services-Tu Maia Whanau, based in Wellington. She describes the service as integrative, requiring collaboration with other services, agencies, and schools. This collaboration proved to be an essential asset.  Family therapy is not formally recognized by the NZ practicing boards, leaving Carter as the only formally trained family therapist on the team. The other professionals had backgrounds in social work and counseling, and thus, their combined experiences aided the success of their work.

Her experience in NZ had a significant impact on her individual growth and global perspective, which will present itself in her clinical practice.

“I experienced the portability of family therapy across countries but also encountered difficulties maneuvering cultural nuances that impacted the clinical trajectory,” Carter said. “I was able to reflect on my ‘Americanness’ and what that means for me individually and for my interactions with others.”

Now back in the United States Carter lives in San Francisco, CA working with the YMCA Urban Services program where she provides in-home therapeutic services, similar to those she offered in NZ, for probationary youth in the area.

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