To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Brandeis PCC planning ‘Healing HeArts’ event

Though Brandeis is a comparatively small university with about 3,500 undergraduates and 1,000 staff members, it is still a large community in a sense. If you think about it, it is almost impossible for any single undergraduate to know all the staff, though they may become very close to a handful of professors over their time at the university. Despite the fact that many of Brandeis’ staff are exemplary in many ways, there are those precious jewels that remain hidden and unknown to students over four years. Even so, their exceptionality shines through and catches our eye. Joy von Steiger is one of those glistening jewels.

Von Steiger is the senior associate director and clinical director of Brandeis’ Psychological Counseling Center (PCC). She earned her doctorate from Berner Institute at Adelphi University, and trained at Beth Israel Hospital and McLean Hospital in Massachusetts. In those places, she treated children, adolescents, adults, couples and families, developed a specialization in the treatment of bipolar disorder and gained a lot of experience counseling women who have experienced trauma. She is an extremely devoted staff member here at Brandeis, and provides psychological counseling services for both undergraduates and graduates alike.

In an exclusive interview with The Brandeis Hoot, the psychologist recounted her academic journey. “I always knew I wanted to be a psychologist as far back as high school. I found psychology fascinating, and I was the person all of my friends came to with their problems. I was very interested in what motivates people, people’s relationships and how people develop from children into adults.” Though many students change their majors and minors as they meander through their undergraduate years of college, von Steiger was one of those few who discovered at a younger age—early adulthood—what she was meant to do. Or at the very least, what interested her the most. It was this initial curiosity and interest that would define her college years and life beyond.

For von Steiger, one particular point of intrigue led her on a trip of discovery. Even though her interests began in a very specific place, she allowed them to develop and grow over time: “I dabbled in a wide range of psychological pursuits through college and graduate school, from research with rats to teaching children with autism, but finally settled on an interest in trauma and childhood development. “I expanded my areas of interest during my post-doctoral training to adolescent and family treatment and developed an expertise in young adults and bipolar illness.” Her varied experience makes her incredibly well-rounded and shows her versatility in the field. Von Steiger explored so many potential avenues, so many side streets and boulevards, only later determining her focus and her intended career.

Von Steiger is one of those people who really likes their job. In a world overrun by feelings of inadequacy, this is really a rare find. Actually, she feels incredibly at home in Brandeis’ community, and recounts her smooth transition from academia to the working world. “It was a natural progression for me to come to a college counseling center where I might be able to use the range of my experience to continue to work with young adults. The exciting thing about this job is that I am able to work with students as a psychotherapist, but I am also able to spend time with students doing workshops and other outreach efforts.”

Von Steiger’s talents, however, don’t end there. Von Steiger is planning an upcoming event called “Healing HeArts,” which focuses on the ability of art to express that which words fail to.

The event calls students from around campus to submit their visual artwork, which will be displayed at the PCC on Friday, April 24 from 4 to 7 p.m. According to her, the purpose of the event is to encourage people to be creative as a way to detox and encourage mental health. “‘Healing HeArts’ was conceived of as an opportunity for students to share with others their expressions of growth and change or what mental health means to them. We are hoping that this exhibit will be an opportunity to share with the community the diverse expressions of growth, change and mental health/illness and will help to reduce the stigma of mental health care and the range of the human emotional experience.” “Healing HeArts” gives students the opportunity to display their work and impact the lives of other people—art is a truly amazing medium to express oneself and question the things we only naturally believe are true.

Acceptable forms of visual art for submission include music, video and poetry. If you’re interested in submitting work, email jvonst@brandeis.edu by April 2. Depending on the artist’s wishes, artwork may be exhibited throughout the year.

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