Alumni Interview

Interview with Carole Flemming, Class of 1989

What's your latest work?

Currently, I'm a Geriatric Counselor and Case Manager with the geriatric team of Highline West Seattle Mental Health Center in Seattle, Washington.

  Carole Flemming, right, with colleague Mary Wright

What work have you done since graduation?

I've done so many interesting things since graduating. I was a part of the Boulder County Mental Health Center's Emergency Psychiatric Services Team. I had a private practice in Boulder from 1990 to 1999, when I moved to the Seattle area. I also worked on several care teams, doing Windhorse work, serving chronically mentally ill and geriatric clients.

I've also worn an array of administrative caps within the MA contemplative psychotherapy department. I've been administrative director, internship coordinator and admissions committee chairperson. I've taught Psychology of Aging as member of the adjunct faculty and I've directed the Maitri Program. I've also been a Group Process leader. I've worked in other areas of Naropa as well, as the admissions committee chair for Transpersonal Psychotherapy Department and as an adjunct faculty member in the Religious Studies Department.

Have you found your work life to be fulfilling?

Yes. Yes. Yes. I particularly enjoyed the admissions committee work I did at Naropa for both the Contemplative Psychotherapy and the Transpersonal programs.

In general, the positions I held in the Contemplative Psychotherapy department were the most rewarding of my life and the most challenging. I find working with elders and end-of-life issues to be very meaningful to me at this point in my career.

What stands out for you about your time as a student at Naropa that most prepared you to work with others?

All of it. I mean that. All of it. If I have to mention a few aspects, they would be: The view of Intrinsic Health presented in the program. That view of unconditional health guides and informs every aspect of my work, especially as I work with frail, ailing elders.

Also, being together for two and a half years with the same people, with nowhere to hide and with no escape. The intensity of that was great preparation for staying with the intensity of working in difficult situations and with difficult clients ? and for living life altogether.

What else stands out for you?

The mindfulness/awareness practice of shamatha/vipashana, in helping one to settle down and appreciate the simplicity of presence and the importance of bringing that quality to relationships and to our interactions with others.

Also, Maitri Space Awareness Practice, which facilitates the recognition of and the appreciation of different styles of expressing neurosis and wisdom in the world and the workability of those styles.

The faculty, who seemed genuinely to care about the development of each student as a distinct individual, also stand out in my mind.

Can you speak about specific clinical tools you learned in the MA Contemplative Psychotherapy program and their relevance to your work?

Yes. I have a particular appreciation for the discipline of Body/Speech/Mind presentations [a technique used chiefly for case presentations and clinical supervision] and the dreaded process notes [a form for recording psychotherapy sessions] which have the effect of providing a clearer picture of what is going on with a client with for oneself. Doing those notes kept us honest. Even though I don't do process notes in that form anymore, I still remember to be mindful of the subtleties of any interaction, and of the information inherent in any experience of being with another.

Any words of wisdom to share with prospective students of the program?

This program, which is dedicated not just to the acquisition of knowledge, but to the development of wisdom in each student, is supremely challenging. I did gain certain knowledge about how to be helpful to others who are suffering mental and physical distress. However, the most precious aspect of my education in the program has to do with what I learned about being willing to be present in the moment, to be open to the experience of the moment and to be fearless in bringing myself to the moment. The experience of my life, whether as a therapist, as a friend, as a mother, as a partner, or as a stranger is fresher, richer, more vibrant as a result of what I learned in my training in the Contemplative Psychotherapy program. It cost a lot of money, but what I received is beyond price.

If you decide to enter such a program, stay with it.Take the whole ride. I have known students who were sorry they entered the program, but I have never known a student who was sorry to have finished it. There is a journey to be made here and it contains a progression; without completing the progression one cannot experience the fruition of the journey. Completing this training is the most satisfying accomplishment of my life and has had a powerful impact on all of my subsequent work.