Adler Graduate School (AGS) is always excited to hear about what our graduates have pursued after graduation. Our team was able to catch Beth McNally and Adam Arnold, the dynamic duo, who graduated in 2011 and 2009. They spilled the beans to our team on how they met, their experiences at AGS, and what they have been up to since graduating.
Adam: We’re instant messaging right now.
Beth: We are! Kind of like how we got to know each other before dating. So, we’re here chatting about Adler Graduate School and our work as mental health professionals?
Adam: We are! I’ll ask you the first question: What inspired you to go to school to be a mental health professional?
Beth: Hahaha. Well pretty simple: My mom died when I was 21 years old. The pain and grief I went through, along with coming-out of that grief, made me want to help others who are in pain.
Adam: Always gut-punching when I hear that story, even though I've heard it before in various ways. Something my mom's pastor once told her was to apply one's skills ‘where you have been wounded’.
Beth: Yeah, totally. What about you?
Adam: What about me?
Beth: What inspired you to work as a mental health professional?
Adam: Coming-out of college, I was working as a theater director with kids. Many of my relationships, I noticed, were turning into deeper relationships than just actor/director. I was nudged by one of my mentors, noticing the same relationship dynamics with the children, to consider becoming a mental health professional who works with kids. I had a meeting with admissions at Adler Graduate School, and decided then and there to cultivate my courage to risk failure.
Beth: Huh! What has been your journey as a mental health professional who works with kids since finishing at AGS?
Adam: I continued working with kids to create theater pieces focusing on mental health and social justice issues during and after my time at AGS. I went into private practice right after graduate school working in various treatment centers for kids along the way. I also met a smart, powerful woman during the graduate school process…
Beth: Say more about the smart, powerful woman……………..
Adam: I met my future wife (YOU) while taking Couples Counseling at AGS!
Beth: I knew of ‘Adam Arnold’ because he had flyers for his plays at the school. Then, I ended-up in class with him; but, I never talked to him. Roughly 3 years later, he ended-up living in the same building as my sister, and we ran into each other. That sparked us into chatting on Facebook almost every night.
Adam: Ah yes, the flyers. For over 10 years, my days were spent handing-out and hanging-up flyers promoting our plays. I remember seeing you walking out of the elevator in my (and your sister’s) building. I knew it was ‘Beth McNally’ from AGS, but I got scared and didn't say anything to your face. I messaged you later, right? And yeah, we chatted on Facebook every night until we finally went on a date. I still swear to this day you were carrying a guitar, in a case, on your back when walking-out of that elevator, but you claim to have never played guitar…
Beth: Yeah, I have no idea what that pack would have been other than maybe helping someone with their guitar.
Adam: It's possible that you had a backpack that I mistook as a guitar.
Beth: A big back pack! Yeah, we chatted for hours and hours until 3am most nights.
Adam: So much fun! We learned a lot about each other. We eventually dated, got engaged in 2011, and married in 2012.
Adam: We haven’t talked about your professional journey since starting graduate school.
Beth: Right! I worked as an ARMHS worker for a couple years which was part of getting my internship hours. Then, I was hired at a private practice and started working with individuals, couples, and families in 2011 – right after we started dating. That’s where I stayed until we opened-up our practice, Enliven. I was super lucky to do that kind of psychotherapy work right away.
Adam: Yes, lucky. I remember how excited you were when these developments were occurring. We're married, and we run a mental health clinic together. How does that work?!?
Beth: You mean how does it work running a clinic together?
Adam: And, how do we stand spending so much time together!
Beth: Luckily, we like to spend a lot of time together! The business aspect is easy. We keep well balanced boundaries with our home life verses work life. What do you think?
Adam: I like spending time with you when you're nice to me! The boundaries are key. We will label a conversation "work" prior to talking. Then, we both go into a different “work mode.” People often ask us what it's like to be married to each other and both be mental health professionals. I say our marital conflicts are just the same as other marriages except we use clinical words during our conflicts.
Beth: “You're not being very attuning right now.”
Adam: “That was very invalidating.”
Beth: “I feel frustrated when you don't do the dishes. Would you be willing to be more diligent?”
Adam: “I'm noticing you're dysregulated right now. What is one thing from your calming plan that you can do right now?” (Yes, we both have calming plans.)
Beth: Hahaha. Yeah, it can sound so silly.
Adam: Silly, especially when the phrases are delivered in an aggressive manner.
Beth: But, I think the reason it’s like that for us is we both value doing what we ask our clients to do.
Beth: So, if I’m telling my clients to be gentler to their spouse, then I need to do that as well.
Beth: I think most clinicians would say that they learned a lot about themselves in graduate school. AGS, especially, made us focus on ourselves in our assignments. I think because of those self-reflections we are pretty good at knowing how to talk about feelings, about how our past informs us now, and how to understand each other more deeply. This is an advantage we have in our marriage.
Adam: I think it's an advantage for sure. I think we have a vibrant, fun, authentic marriage. We've also had some tremendously challenging times individually and relationally. It's been beneficial, for sure, having learned those skills. We have both benefited from continuing to seek professional therapeutic support for ourselves when needed.
Beth: We are not shy about seeking psychotherapy for ourselves when needed. We are not exempt from life’s challenges.
Adam: Wait, we forgot to mention another member of our family who is involved at our clinic.
Beth: I was thinking that too! We have a therapy dog named Doogie.
Adam: Doogie was abandoned in Georgia and brought-up to Minnesota by an animal non-profit. Beth found him in a foster home for dogs. We adopted him 5 years ago. Beth, you want to talk about Animal Assisted Therapy?
Beth: My final graduate project at AGS was on Animal Assisted Therapy; it was what I wanted as an integral part of my work with clients.
Adam: How so?
Beth: I believe animals can help people in ways a person can’t. People feel less anxious and comfortable when Doogie is around. He is attuning to my clients’ emotions and is very gentle. He too has a “work mode” because at home he is loud and naughty. Verses at Enliven, he’s calm and gentle.
Adam: It is remarkable how different he is at work. Hey, how about an Adlerian principle that has stuck with you into your professional career?
Beth: Of course, the theory of Lifestyle Assessment has stuck with me in terms of how our family dynamics impact a sense of self.
Adam: Another topic we are constantly talking about in our marriage: How our families of origin are informing our marriage.
Beth: Oh, and I do address mistaken beliefs with my clients.
Adam: I appreciated the Adlerian emphasis on understanding the purpose of the child's behavior. I am constantly thinking about that emphasis while working with kids in my office.
Beth: Tell me the best part of your job and the hardest part of your job?
Adam: Best - getting to experience the mind-blowing wisdom and curiosity of kids. Hardest part - kids telling me spoilers from movies that just came out that I have yet to see.
Beth: Hahaha. Yes, you hate spoilers. You would rather a kid trash your office than hear a movie spoiler.
Adam: Indeed. Your turn.
Beth: Best part of my job is doing what I love: seeing my clients getting better and improve is why I show-up every day. The hardest part of my job is when a client’s hill to climb is steep - unfairly steep. I just wish I could wave a wand to help them.
Adam: Do you still like me?
At Adler Graduate School, we love to see our alumni in action. The stories of how they became apart of AGS to what they have accomplished since graduation inspire all of us to continue developing human services professionals. To learn more about our programs or discover what you can do with Adler Graduate School click here.