Taking a multicultural approach to therapy

sophomore symposium smile, Marguerite Pierre '11“There are so many things that we as humans overlook, such as having communication skills and the ability to express different emotions,” says Marguerite Pierre ’11. “I have realized that many people need additional support for the attainment of these ‘simple’ skills.”

Pierre, who works as an in-home therapist for the Multicultural Wellness Center in Worcester, Mass., works with families to help them develop the skills they need to be happy and healthy.

At the Multicultural Wellness Center, where she has worked since May 2012, therapists place an important emphasis on a family’s cultural background.

“It is critically important to be understanding of the cultures of the people I am serving,” she says. “There are many therapeutic approaches that aren’t appropriate for clients of certain cultural backgrounds. For example, I have families in which verbalizing emotions isn’t a part of their culture. As a counselor, I have to accommodate and respect the values of my clients.”

Pierre also strives to make therapy a fun experience for families, and encourages clients to set their own goals. She says, “What I love about my job is that I am able to help people find more meaningful and fulfilling lives. It’s profoundly gratifying to help people shift from their restrictions—whether from circumstantial events or mental disorders— to leading an optimal life. It’s almost like watching a caterpillar become a butterfly or a flower unfold.”

The psychology major knows from her own experience how challenging a transformation can be. In her early years at Wheaton, shyness often kept her from speaking up in class.

She recalls, “The best part of Wheaton is that you are not just a number; professors know you by name, know your weaknesses and strengths. When I verbalized my fear of public speaking to my professors, not only did they make time for me to discuss my fear, but they helped me overcome it.”

Currently earning her graduate degree in mental health counseling at Assumption College, Pierre still found the time in her busy schedule to return to Wheaton as a speaker for the Sophomore Symposium in 2012.

“Not only did I enjoy sharing my own experience, but I felt like I was helping the students become knowledgeable about the different resources offered at Wheaton.”

For example, she gained valuable experience at Wheaton’s Elisabeth Amen Nursery School as a research assistant, and through study abroad and internships that she found with the help of the Filene Center for Academic Advising and Career Services.

“Speaking at Sophomore Symposium was a rewarding experience because Wheaton has paved the way for my successes,” she says. “This felt like my way of giving back.”