Healing at home Scranton woman returns to area to serve community in mental health field
Times-Tribune - 2/4/2018
Feb. 04--For Dr. Katie Connors, home is where the heart is.
It's also the place she wants to use her heart and mind to do the most good.
The West Scranton resident grew up in the city's East Mountain section. A graduate of Temple University, she recently moved back to the area where her family still resides. Connors earned both a master's degree and a doctorate in clinical psychology from Marywood University. Through clinical psychology, Connors assesses and diagnoses and, together with the client, develops and implements treatment to help them heal.
"It has a perfect blend of everything I like," she said during a recent afternoon at her private practice in Clarks Summit. "I love research and I love to help people. To have the ability to help at home ... First and foremost, I get so much out of this area and I feel so special about getting back to the area and contributing to create opportunities."
Connors feels inspired by the revitalization of the area, not only economically but also for body, mind and spirit. From mental health professionals opening practices to a crop of yoga studios and new opportunities for holistic or alternative therapies, she sees the landscape for mental health and overall well-being changing in Northeast Pennsylvania.
"There's a lot of services being offered and it's showing people it's OK to seek out help when you need it. There's no shame," Connors said. "There can be a stigma that surrounds mental health but we're starting to talk about it more and it's becoming a more common subject. It's more accepting for people to reach out when they need some extra help."
Talking about the way someone feels and using this to work through challenges is paramount to Connors' work. Listening to other people's stories is how she helps.
"When we have to hold on to unpleasant feelings or we keep in things we have to say, it's like holding onto a poison," she said. "It can just make you sick."
Connors also works with women and girls on body image, self-esteem, relationship patterns, disordered eating and sexual assault and harassment.
She worked with Lehigh University'sCounseling Center and served as a liason to Office of Gender Equity during an internship, where she zeroed in on the impact of sexism on students and relating factors. She facilitated outreach, group discussions, workshops and more for the students. She also worked with fraternities and sororities on maintaining healthy relationships.
Through her work, she helps clients recognize the impact outside factors have had on the way women view themselves, socially, culturally and in relationships. Connors wants to then help clients navigate how they want to live their lives.
"Part of what I help young girls and women with is to find their voices and stand in their power," she said.
Connors insists that while she works to help women, the conversation should include men, too. It's important for young boys to know about respect and consent, she said, and teaching boys it's OK to show emotion and be vulnerable.
"I think we need to look at the way we raise our boys just as much as we raise girls," she said. "I truly think that's where we will start to see a shift in the culture."
While the nature of her work can seem overwhelming, Connors tries to focus on how she can be of the most help. If she finds there is a situation she can't leave at the office, Connors knows there are peers who she can talk to. Not about the client or situation, but about how to approach it so she can most effectively make a difference. Otherwise, Connors remains self-assured in her experience and her passion to help others heal.
"I'm in a position to help," she said. "I have to think about what I can do to facilitate an open, welcoming place and just listen."
Connors' benevolence is not limited to clients. A professor at Marywood University, Connors imparts her experience to students in the doctorate in clinical psychology program at her alma mater. Teaching feels meaningful to her because of the connections she makes with the students but also because it extends her reach.
"It feels like I'm contributing to something much larger and making a bigger impact," she said.
Community involvement is next on Connors' list. As a member of United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne County's allocation committee, Connors assists in selecting which nonprofits receive specific funding. This helps her get to know local nonprofits and also provides Connors with a way to give back. After just under a year, she's settling in and hopes to take on more service opportunities, specifically helping women and women's issues, in the coming months.
Connors is already carving out a place where her empathy, knowledge and compassion can help in Northeast Pennsylvania. She can't think of anything better.
"Being able to utilize that and help people in my community in my hometown, that's just exactly what I wanted to do," she said.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT on Twitter
Meet Dr. Katie Herbster Connors
At home: Connors lives in Scranton with her spouse, Patrick Connors. She is the daughter of Mary and Greg Herbster and the daughter-in-law of Ann and Patrick Connors. She has two siblings, Alison and Greg, and five siblings-in-law, Becky, Megan, Brian, Tucker and Stephen.
At work: She is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Clarks Summit and part-time professor in the doctorate in clinical psychology program at Marywood University.
Inspirations: The clients and students she works with; the social justice movements happening worldwide
Aspirations: To have a positive impact on others
Diversions: Spending time with family and friends; enjoying local restaurants and live music; being in nature; reading; Netflix
Aversions: Hatred and injustice. "And horror movies," she laughed.
Quote: "Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness." -- Brenè Brown
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