Natalie Alderson was working in automotive product sales and repair (the family business) but had always thought about becoming a therapist.
“I had a therapist growing up who helped me in so many ways,” she said. That therapist attended Antioch University Los Angeles.
At the same time, her mother studied spiritual and depth psychology, and Alderson remembers picking up her school books and reading them.
While taking some of her general course requirements at Santa Barbara City College, she continued to talk to her regular therapist about pursuing a career in the same arena.
“It was always in the back of my mind,” said Natalie of her career goal, adding that she was attracted to the “social justice aspect” of Antioch’s programs and writing-based curriculum.
“I’m not a great test-taker but I love to write,” she said.
When she transferred to a bachelor of arts program at Antioch University Santa Barbara in 2014, she decided on a concentration in applied psychology.
She was still working full-time then in the automotive industry.
“I started taking classes at night and realized I wanted to put my efforts into school, so I stopped working,” she said.
At this point, she knew she wanted a degree in clinical psychology but she wasn’t sure if she’d pursue her master’s or doctorate. As she took more courses, and realized she wanted to get out and start working, her goal began to emerge: a master’s in Clinical Psychology, which she received in December.
“I came to Antioch in this very interesting way,” said Natalie. “I knew I wanted to be a therapist but I didn’t know what it meant. I knew I wanted to write in some capacity. The culture here has given me support and freedom to figure that out through exposure to a lot of topics and different kinds of writing and forms of therapy.”
Those topics included healing from trauma with Gina Bell; and shamanism and mindfulness with Anne-Marie Charest.
“It changed my perspective on how even in the therapy world other perspectives can be beneficial for people,” she said Charest’s course. “It also put me on a different path outside Antioch looking at indigenous healing and spiritual practices and how people use them.”
Alderson learned global perspectives on stress with Stuart Light.
“We focused on how our culture looks at individualism and workaholism,” she said. “I gained a diverse sense of how other cultures look at and approach stress.”
She was able to do the writing she longed to do thanks to Zack De Piero, former director of Antioch University Santa Barbara’s writing center and adjunct writing instructor.
Alderson took a course in academic writing with him, and he suggested she work as a peer writing tutor in the writing center – a position she held for three years until this June.
During her time working at the writing center, she guided students toward improving their writing in many genres, including research, dissertations, thesis, resumes, cover letters, and presentations. She also designed marketing materials and writing resources for students and our website.
“I got a chance to do what I love, which is helping people,” she said. “I like academic writing a lot – I’m looking into ways to continue.”
Another role Alderson assumed was MACP Student Council President. During her tenure, she organized events for students in the Clinical Psychology master’s program and introduced membership in the California Board of Marriage and Family Therapists, which provides job postings and college continuing education credits.
“I wanted to make the student experience and this program better,” she said. “I think we’ve done a fairly good job. We’ll all be in the field together, so we created more opportunities to get to know each other; we strengthened bonds and offered networking opportunities. We built strong relationships with faculty.”
Since last fall, Natalie has been in training to become a marriage and family therapist and licensed professional clinical counselor, working in case management and therapeutic service on the acute psychiatric and addiction unit at Cottage Hospital Santa Barbara. Since last summer, she has practiced individual and couples therapy with clients (also as an MFT and LPCC trainee) at the Community Counseling and Education Center.
Recently she was hired as a case manager at Good Heart Recovery, which provides outpatient rehab addiction treatment and mental health programs utilizing humanistic psychology.
Her goal is to work as a therapist mostly in recoveries, namely substance, and dual diagnosis and with LBGTQ+ populations.
The level of support – which is continued – she received in her master’s program from the chair, the clinical director, teaching and non-teaching faculty she said is unparalleled.
“I gained such confidence from faculty and students at Antioch,” said Natalie. “I love the open discussion and debate format where all opinions are welcome to discuss the things you’re passionate about. The social justice aspect made me realize how important it is for all of us to speak up for what we believe in.”