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Meet our newest clinician! At the beginning of May, Dr. Lisa Finlay joined our team as a consulting psychologist. Lisa will help us provide more clinical support to humanitarian staff, and she may work on developing some new online resources. We’re excited about adding someone new to our team, and we hope you will be too.
Why did you want to work in the field of psychology?
My path toward a career in psychology is one of those things that seems surprising and inevitable at the same time. It feels unexpected because I never pictured myself as a psychologist when I was younger, and even at university I decided not to double major in psychology after meeting with an academic advisor who pointed out that there was no real advantage to doing that unless I wanted to go to graduate school in psychology! The idea to pursue graduate work in psychology came after I had spent about 15 months in the Peace Corps, and when the thought occurred to me it seemed like a new idea. But on the other hand, several people I love have been affected by mental illness directly or indirectly. I have always sought understanding and deep connection with other people, and I think I saw psychology as a field where I would be able to use that to help people thrive.
What is it about our work that caught your interest?
The vision and mission of Headington Institute are exciting for me professionally—that is, research on resilience is fascinating, helping people work through traumatic experiences is inherently meaningful, and promoting resilience at both individual and organizational levels, particularly in international contexts where we need to be culturally relevant and creative about use of limited resources, is challenging and engaging. But the vision and mission of Headington Institute is also very important for me personally. During my time in the Peace Corps I saw the need for the work that Headington Institute does firsthand. Humanitarian aid workers all over the world are doing such important work, often at great personal cost. It really feels like an honor to serve and support them.
What does your self-care plan involve?
Thus far my personal experience aligns with current research, which is that social support is absolutely critical for self-care. My husband and I have an amazing group of friends and mentors who really help me stay centered and motivated. But self-care is different for everybody, and one of the things I have to be mindful about is not over-scheduling myself. There are a lot of people and things I care about, but I need “down time,” and sometimes I have to reserve a weekend where I don’t have anywhere to be. Finally, I have to mention exercise because I’m a real convert. Growing up I did a lot of dance, but when I got older that suddenly became much more difficult and expensive, so I stopped exercising regularly. I didn’t love working out but the bigger problem was that I could never seem to fit it into my schedule. Three years ago a friend of mine passed away. He had run some 100-mile races, and I decided to run a half-marathon in his honor. Training for that was the beginning, and now I get up early to run five miles every day. I still never enjoy the 20 minutes between waking up and running the first mile, but after that I feel great for the rest of the day.
What are some specific ways you engage with your spirituality?
I go to a wonderful, quirky, socially progressive, peace and justice oriented church. I read theology sometimes, although a lot of the fiction I read is also spiritually rich. I also go on walks—preferably on a wooded path next to a stream, or along a coastline at sunset—but I go with what I’ve got most of the time.
Who do you most admire in life?
I really admire people who are willing to inconvenience themselves for justice. We have great leaders in this category, but I also hold a lot of respect for people who do this in their neighborhoods, in schools and workplaces, and as consumers and caretakers. I use the word inconvenience because it really takes time and effort, from almost any place of privilege, to recognize the systems that contribute to injustice and find ways to work around or dismantle them.
How many countries have you been to? Which city/country would you want to re-visit?
I have visited 24 countries (I don’t count airport stops). I can think of a good reason to revisit each of them, but for practical purposes I’ll say Zimbabwe, which is where my husband is from. He still has some good friends there, as well as some family nearby.
How many languages do you speak?
I speak English quite well most of the time. I speak Portuguese at a beginner level and Spanish at an intermediate level.
What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?
After university I had a few months before my assignment with Peace Corps started, so I borrowed my mom’s car and took a road-trip from southern Texas up the western coast to Seattle, then across to Glacier National Park and down to Colorado. I find this particularly “adventurous” looking back, because I used a paper atlas, bought food based on its ratio of calories to dollars, and spent most nights sleeping in the back of the car!
Describe your dream vacation.
The essential elements of my dream vacation are hiking, watching exotic animals in the wild, natural hot springs, and really good food. I can often get three out of the four.
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