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Jaxon Shaffer

  • Jaxon Schaffer
    Nina Johnson
Program / Year

Master of Science ’19
Marriage, Couple, and Family Therapy


San Diego, CA

What led you to enroll at Lewis & Clark's Graduate School of Education and Counseling?

I wanted to move to Portland, Lewis & Clark campus was to die for, it was a top rated school for the program I wanted, and they had a person who looked like me on the welcoming students video which made me feel that it was safe space for LGBTQIA people.

Who or what inspired you to pursue your chosen field of study?

I finished my undergrad degree in Psychology and after that I spent a couple years contemplating whether or not I wanted to be a therapist or a researcher. I was seeing an MFT at the time and she said “you’re incredibly emotionally intelligent, you would make a great therapist.” And that was it for me.

What does social justice mean to you?

Social justice means participation in illuminating power disparities both relationally and societally and advocating for more just relationships and systems. It means equity versus equality; providing people with the resources and empowerment they need to thrive.

How do you hope to apply your social justice education in your chosen career?

As a therapist I am enthusiastic and determined to challenge any and all societal norms that produce shame and inhibition. I will use my knowledge of systemic power and oppression to help my clients notice where they have had privilege and areas where they may be experiencing injustice. My approach to the healing process will incorporate various aspects of the client’s identity and relationships in a journey of the self-discovery and rediscovery of inner strength and resilience.

Where have you been working/interning as a student, and what does that work entail?

I am about to begin my internship at a private practice located in both Portland and Newberg called the Hope Connection. The work will include assessments, treatment planning, counseling for individuals, couples, and families, and learning the ins and outs of building a private practice.

What is the most fun part of your program?

My cohort. I love my cohort; they are my second family. There isn’t much else in the world I get more enjoyment from than showing up to a class where I know they all will be. There is a welcoming, inclusive, empathetic, energizing, familial energy that we share. You really get to know people when you go through this kind of program together, it is unbelievably life changing.

What is the hardest part of your program?

For me, the hardest part of the program is watching relationships outside of my classmates change as I become more aware of who I am and what systems have been disrupting/maintaining my life. As one of my professors said, you become “painfully aware” of what injustices and privileges you and others have experienced in your lives.

Who has been your most influential professor, and why?

Oh man, you’re going to make me choose? Well then, I’ll have to say Carmen Knudson-Martin because her work truly inspires me and she has made me feel very welcomed and valued in this program. I feel very fortunate to have her as the chair of my thesis committee.

What is a unique perspective you bring to your cohort?

I bring a very queer, non-heteronormative perspective to the cohort. As a life long member and activist of the LGBTQIA+ community who minored in queer studies, I have a passion for challenging gender and sexuality norms.

What career will you be pursuing after graduation? Did you intend for this to be your career path when you enrolled?

I will pursue a private practice which is what I intended to do when I began this program.

Describe an "ah-ha" or "right-turn" moment you have experienced here - a time when your perspective, opinion, outlook, or goals changed suddenly due to a specific experience.

An ongoing ah-ha moment for me was realizing how much shame and anxiety can be liberated when a person finds the language to really talk about who they are and what they have experienced.

Anything else you would like to add about your family, background, plans, etc.?

I adore Portland; the Pacific Northwest is gorgeous. I miss the sun in Southern California but living in a microcosm of artistic, fiercely liberal, nature loving coffee snobs who value diversity and get excited when dogs show up to any place of business is a perfect place for me.

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