This week on the text.soul.culture podcast, Shauna Gauthier (MA in Counseling Psychology, ‘10), Alumni Outreach Coordinator, talks with Smruti Desai (MA in Counseling Psychology, ‘09) for our first “From the Field” episode. Shauna begins by sharing her curiosity about how The Seattle School’s alumni are continuing their growth and education long after graduating. In these new, recurring field episodes, Shauna will sit down with alumni to discuss their formation, vocation, and life post-graduate school.

Smruti Desai has developed a thriving private practice and worked as a supervisor and director at community agencies for several years. After 11 years in Seattle, Smruti recently moved to Atlanta, in her home state of Georgia. Before she moved, she sat down with Shauna to talk about her therapeutic work and the decision to move back across the country.

Smruti: “I think helping people is lovely, and for whose sake do you want to help people? And what do you do when you can’t? How do you tolerate that with kindness and strength?”

Having grown up as an Indian woman in Georgia, Smruti shares about early experiences of encountering people from different backgrounds and traditions, and about her journey of faith. Raised Hindu, Smruti, who says that her father encouraged open-mindedness and hospitality to other traditions, learned about Christianity in college and did not see the two worldviews as contradictory.

Smruti: “I don’t know how the Gospel can be not something we’re becoming into. I don’t know how we’re not striving to be people of grace and mercy and redemption and healing. If it’s a fixed concept, I think we’re all kind of screwed.”

Smruti also reflects on what drew her to therapeutic work. She had noticed that therapy is often seen as “a white American thing,” and she wanted to help make it more accessible for other folks. This leads to a conversation about the daily traumas and microaggressions experienced by people of color, and Smruti shares about her vocational call to bear witness to the suffering of clients and to offer a space for them to breathe and care for themselves. She reflects on how The Seattle School helped equip her for that work, and about how she plans to continue it in Atlanta.

Smruti: “A lot of people don’t need more resilience. They need spaces to feel their feeling and name that shit is hard and name that they’re barely getting by. My clients don’t need resilience. What they need is a freaking break.

You can see more from Smruti in this video about the calling of a therapist. We are endlessly grateful for and amazed by our alumni and the work they are doing in the world. Their vocational expressions extend the mission of The Seattle School beyond our walls and continually inform and refine how we train students. Stay tuned to text.soul.culture for future “From the Field” episodes highlighting our alumni and the brave, beautiful work they pursue.

Resources to Go Deeper

Smruti is committed to reading one fiction book, one social justice book, and one therapy book concurrently. Here’s what she was reading at the time of this recording:

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy, a novel about a trans person in India.

Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation, about the intersection of social justice and Buddhism.

Freedom from Pain by Peter Levine and Maggie Phillips, part of a somatic experience training Smruti is participating in.