Who are we?



Connect=Karen Hixson and Jenna Goldin

Karen: I started my social service career as a sexual assault advocate-counselor. After 14 months, I was so burnt out and traumatized I could not do it anymore. I immediately began to question the work environment, dynamics and policies that contributed to this destructive state of being. Many people agree that it is normal to get burnt out. Without a doubt social service and activist work is extremely difficult, but I question our acceptance of unhealthy work environments, conditions and dynamics that manifest more negative symptoms in an already oppressive system. Currently, I am a counselor in private practice in Portland. This education, training and experience has given me access to theories and knowledge that have huge implications for social justice and activist work. I am often drawn to the roles of educator and activist, which motivates me to share this information with my community to support healthier environments and groups in which to get our work done.

Jenna: At twenty, I moved three thousand miles away from home to explore who I was, away from the direct influence of my family and their expectations.  I joined a political collective in an attempt to establish community.  Initially, the group worked well; we shared ideas, goals and strategies for social change.  Within months, the enthusiasm faded and my sense of frustration grew.  At the time, I blamed myself for not being “radical enough,” or not knowing the “right” theory.  Reflecting on the experience, I realize that the group’s dysfunctional interpersonal dynamics played a significant role in transforming my passion into cynicism.  We should have spent time developing tools to deal with conflict, checking-in about our personal lives, roles in the group and expectations.  Instead, we put energy into the product, ignored the process and allowed our discomforts to fester.  This awareness compelled me to draw parallels to other organizations where burnout, isolation and infighting emerged.  Throughout history, it seems that groups with the best intentions have crumbled due to problematic relationships, rather than conflicting analyses.  I want to explore ways to create and maintain authentic connections as a means to support myself and others in our personal lives and work.

During late summer 2006, we began meeting to share ideas about radical therapy. Our casual chat turned into a discussion about personal experiences with disconnection and burnout as activists, social workers and humans.  Rather than being discouraged by our similar histories, we were inspired to explore ways to support individuals and groups in pursuing their goals.  Since then, we began Connect, a collective that offers educational outreach, workshops, support groups and consultation to assist individuals and groups in building authentic, mutually-empowering relationships.




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