Intermountain - Caring Solutions, Strong Families, Healthy Communities

Intermountain Psychology Resident and Child and Family School Therapist, Julian Nolen

IMG_1070It was a long time before I realized that I wanted to become a psychologist. I was four years old when I first considered a long-term vocation. At the time, I was certain that I would grow up to ride dragons and partake in legendary misadventures. By my ninth birthday, I had instead realized that it was my destiny to become a best-selling novelist. At age 13 and in the incredible modesty of adolescence, I finally set aside such childish dreams and settled on “professional snowboarder” as a future job title. Surprisingly enough, this would not be the case. Midway through high school, I volunteered as a part-time mentor at Intermountain Children’s Home (ICH), a residential treatment center for severely abused and neglected youth. In doing so, I hoped that I might make some small difference in the lives of those who had suffered so greatly. Yet in no way had I anticipated the remarkable change that this experience would author into the trajectory of my own life. After volunteering for two years, I would spend three of the following summers as a full-time counselor – a direct witness to the trials and triumphs that these children faced on a daily basis. The first few days were a challenge. Now a paid employee and privy to the narratives that haunted my diminutive charges, the case files I read and the stories that were shared with me tested my young and optimistic faith in humanity. Yet as I continued working at ICH, I was amazed by the incredible resilience of the children that surrounded me. Despite their previous betrayals and the wounds that remained, many of these children maintained an incredible sense of curiosity, wonder, and hope regarding the world around them. Even in such small packages, the light of the human spirit shone brightly from beneath the scars. In my first week at ICH, I worried that I might lose hope. Instead, I found it. And though the years since have continued to confront me with stories of trauma and grief, each of these tales has also had its hero, bravely rallying to combat and overcome the challenges that life set before them. When I first volunteered at ICH, I did so with the expectation that I would encounter the worst of humanity and somehow make a difference. Yet while this is the motive that first drove me to explore the field of counseling, it was my introduction to the very best of humanity that has compelled me to stay. I am now 28, and I no longer dream of dragons. And though the adventures I now face are far different than those I once envisioned, they are no less compelling. As a child, I wished for nothing more than to find a source of real magic in this world. As an adult and as an aspiring psychologist, I have discovered that it resides in the people who surround me. Dragons or not, my four-year-old self would be quite proud.

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