Getting to know one of our therapists, Christina Jacob, MSW, LCSW.
What is your educational background and how did you come to enter this field?
I come from a family of helping professionals; my father was an Internist in private practice and my mother was a nurse. They both brought home stories of their patients – their struggles and their successes. Our family of six was active in our Episcopal church, which provided me with the opportunity to learn more about the needs of others, as well as a point of entry for my evolving self to explore issues of morality, spirituality and mortality. In addition, my mother was an activist in our community involved in voter registration efforts, food drives, historical preservation and health advocacy, among other causes. From an early age I was “volun-told” for a host of civic and church projects in which she was involved. All this instilled in me empathy and awareness about the needs and challenges folks outside of our family might face.
I studied anthropology and sociology at West Virginia University, and received a certification in gerontology. During my college years, I wrote and provided copy-editing for the college newspaper. I also took a semester off to volunteer as a live-in activities director at a small retirement home in rural Vermont. After graduation, I participated in a documentary field studies program in Portland, Maine, in which I focused on a rural community land trust and its leader and recipients.
I eventually landed in Washington, D.C. where I worked for the Aspen Institute, culling the Wall St. Journal and other publications for articles related to rural life, planning seminars, communicating with grant applicants and editing publications. Through my contacts and experiences in D.C., and my prior experiences and influences, I determined that social work was an appropriate path to take toward a professional career.
I entered the MSW program at UNC-CH with a macro-focused concentration in services for the aged and their families. I did my MSW internships at a large retirement facility in Raleigh and with the Family Support Program at Duke University. I became licensed as a clinical social worker soon after graduation more out of the greater marketability I knew the license would provide than from a desire to provide therapy, but my future had other plans for me.
Although my work post-graduation centered on meeting the needs of older adults and their caregivers in a programmatic sense much of the time, I found myself often providing counseling to my clients. I continued in this vein for some years, until my husband and I and another couple opened a small mental health services agency in Asheville. One of my responsibilities there was to provide therapy to some of our Assertive Community Treatment Team (ACTT) clients. In my next job, that was all I did. Social work has indeed been a great avenue for me to try on many vocational “hats.” The clinical license that I initially earned for practical reasons has become the center of my social work career. Having it has enabled me to do many interesting things, but mostly it has enabled me to learn about the most effective, creative and compassionate ways to help my clients support their values and work toward their goals.
Do you have a specialization or a focus in your therapy, maybe a clinical approach or philosophy? If so, what drew you to it?
I look at each person as being on a journey to become their best self. Some people get to that goal more easily than others. Everyone deserves a chance. We have different perspectives and values, but we are all human and worthy of respect and support. I endeavor to find a connection with each person and meet them where they are. I have become increasingly interested in helping my clients explore their values rather than static goals. I try to help my clients understand the effects of trauma on the brain and body, and the positive effects different kinds of mindfulness can have on one’s experience of trauma. I have an abiding interest in finding ways to incorporate poetry, literature and philosophy into therapy. I also try whenever possible to utilize humor to help clients ground themselves and to provide levity and connection.
Can you outline your work history leading up to CooperRiis?
Since earning my MSW and becoming a licensed clinical therapist, I have worked in a variety of jobs. As an eldercare specialist with the Council on Aging in the Chapel Hill area, I provided case management, designed and oversaw programs, facilitated support groups and provided outreach. I have been a medical social worker for a home health agency. I have worked as both a Community Support Program and ACTT team case manager and therapist. I was employed as a clinical therapist for Jewish Family Services in Asheville prior to coming to Cooper Riis.
Can you share your thoughts on the new program? Anything you are particularly excited about?
During this time, with many people suffering perhaps more than usual, I am heartened to be part of an organization that is offering mental health support. Although the addition of insurance as an option for payment will enable us to offer our services to a wider client base, it also poses a unique challenge. How to continue to offer person-centered, wholistic and compassionate care within the strictures of an insurance-driven model? I am confident that the group of dedicated professionals with whom I work can make that happen, and I am excited to be part of that team.
Where you are from? Any family information you’d like to share? What are your passions/hobbies?
I am originally from northern West “by God” Virginia and still travel there at least annually to visit family. I have also lived in D.C. and New England. My husband and I spent 10 months in New Zealand before settling permanently in NC around 2000. We have three children between the ages of 8 and 19 (I had my youngest child when I was 46 – phew!), two dogs, two cats, two fish, an Airbnb, and a house that always requires attention. In my spare time, I love flower gardening, hiking, trail running, swimming, reading, puzzling, laughing, and spending time with family and friends.