PROFile: Teaching through therapy

Mary-Jo Bolton, instructor, Master Marriage and Family Therapy

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Mary-Jo Bolton approaches teaching in a way that incorporates her therapist background.

“I try (to) conduct that class almost the way I would try and conduct a therapy relationship, knowing that people need to feel safe and listened to and valued,” she says. “Some voices need to be encouraged. Others need to be encouraged to listen.”

Bolton says this integrated experience is more authentic, as students learn how to be therapists from the beginning of the program.

A family therapist by training, Bolton is an instructor at the University of Winnipeg in the Master of Marriage and Family Therapy program. Bolton previously worked at Klinic Community Health, where her role included professional training, public education and training staff.

“Teaching and therapy always were kind of done in combination in my job there,” Bolton says.

For the past four years, Bolton has been teaching a course at the U of W called Survey of Family Therapy Theories. She says this is one of the first courses students in the Master of Marriage and Family Therapy Program are required to take.

Coincidentally, she has also had the opportunity to teach a graduate seminar that students typically take at the end of the program.

“When I did the graduate seminar, people seemed a lot more confident in their academic abilities. By then, they had done so much coursework and written so many papers and done a lot of research,” she says.

In the classroom, Bolton strives to cultivate not only a good learning environment, but also “a supportive and just learning and professional community.”

“I try (to) be congruent as a therapist and as a teacher. I don’t see them as that different, actually.”

What is something that you’ve learned from your students?

“Maybe it’s more being reminded, but how much passion and dedication (and) time commitment is required to do a master’s degree.”

What do you like to do in your spare time?

“I have a real passion for woodworking, so I love to build furniture. I love to walk my dogs. I do volunteer work with Palliative Manitoba ... And I (have) a little great-niece who’s just over a year old, so I like spending lots of time with her, too.”

Published in Volume 76, Number 22 of The Uniter (March 23, 2022)

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