OLIVIA SCHLAPFER COLMER
At what point in your life did you consider yourself a feminist? Was it an event or a process?
It was definitely more a process and I think it began in my mid twenties. It was mostly events and experiences that heightened my awareness of what it means to be a woman, and the challenges that come with being a woman in modern day culture, society and the workforce.
Who most influenced your awareness of your feminism?
Graduate school, professors, literature, friends, media, and authors (e.g., Chimanda Ngozi Adichie, Sheryl Sandberg).
In what ways has your feminism informed your life choices?
I think the biggest influence feminism has had on my life choices was the decision to go back to school and pursue a masters and doctorate degree. I wanted to do something with my life, and most importantly I wanted to be independent and self-sufficient. Going to graduate school was the biggest gift I could give myself. My profession has changed my relationship with myself. It also gave me confidence, strength, hope, and a new outlook on life. I want my daughter to value education and know that she can do whatever her heart desires in life if she works hard at it and believes in herself.
In what ways do you share your feminism with others?
I try to share it with my children in how I raise them. I try to bring my own awareness into my conversations with my children. When they are little older I plan on openly talking to them about race, gender, sex, poverty, inequality etc.. I also try to share my feminist values in my work, with friends etc.
Describe your vision of a feminist world.
A feminist world would be a place where women are more aware of social and gender injustices. Women would begin to not only believe in their rights, but actually act on these beliefs. Women would stand up for themselves, and think, feel, and believe that they are equals. Until there is equal pay, paid maternity leave, affordable childcare, and shared power in marriage (to mention a few), we have not successfully embraced a feminist world.
How I Define Feminism:
Feminism to me is a woman who believes in equal rights and opportunities, socially, economically, sexually, and professionally. Further, feminism means a woman who is clear about her personal boundaries, and is not forced to conform to rules defined by culture, and history that promote patriarchy. When a woman can express herself freely, without being marginalized, and can live a life to her fullest potential we can slowly call it a feminist world.
I am a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in individual, couples and family therapy with a private practice located in Miami, Florida.
I am a wife, mother and stepchild in a remarried family. I lost my maternal mother to suicide in my early twenties. I am Swiss-American and was raised in a bilingual home, with fluency in Swiss German, German, Spanish and English. I have an understanding, appreciation and sensitivity to the unique challenges individuals and couples in remarried families often face.
For over 10 years, I have worked with individuals and couples of all types who are experiencing a variety of challenges in their lives. My experience includes working with individuals who are separating or divorcing, couples who are in communication gridlock, remarried families who feel stuck in building a new foundation, and people who are searching for some kind of change and personal fulfillment. I help couples reprocess their emotional experiences and restructure their relationship dance, always with an attention to safety, trust and connection.
My approach is interactive, strength based and solution oriented. I assist clients in a supportive and safe environment with identifying their concerns, beliefs, and hopes while setting practical and manageable goals. Together we pinpoint unhelpful interactional patterns and find new and creative ways to resolve problems. I provide guidance for clients to better understand their family and relationship histories and how that history may connect to the larger context of their lives. I encourage clients to revisit old perceptions and assumptions to help break destructive patterns, improve communication, and move forward in a meaningful and positive way.
I always work from a place of genuine curiosity about my clients’ lives and their relationships, respecting and honoring each person’s path as unique and different. I strive for a collaborative and compassionate practice with my clients.
At the beginning of my professional career, I worked at the Nova Southeastern University clinic for four years providing therapy to individuals, couples and families from all walks of life. I interned at various schools in Miami-Dade and Broward County, working with adolescents and their families. I was also part of the anti-bullying program SUPERB, conducting after school programs for children in several middle schools in Broward County. For many years I volunteered at Camp Good Grief, a camp for children who have lost a parent or relative, as a therapist and cabin leader. During my doctoral studies I worked at several community agencies that provided therapeutic services and residential care to at-risk children, offering therapy to teenagers and their families.
I grew up on the countryside in Switzerland with a passion for horses and nature and rode horses for much of my childhood. During the Ph.D program, I became interested in a new innovative and holistic approach to therapy: Equine Assisted Therapy. In collaboration with a professor at my university, I became actively involved in the creation and development of an equine assisted family therapy program (www.stableplace.org). I was trained in the EAGALA model of equine assisted therapy and completed my primary doctoral internship working with individuals, couples, and families doing equine family therapy. I have organized and conducted several workshops and training sessions in South Florida for therapists and students in the community on this specialized therapeutic practice. I was also a teacher assistant to Dr. Shelley Green in the equine family therapy graduate class at Nova Southeastern University for several years. I am currently a staff therapist at the non-profit organization Stable Place where I direct substance abuse groups for individuals in recovery. I also offer equine assisted family therapy to couples and families, and perform consult services in collaboration with other therapists and their clients in this unique setting.
I have a Ph.D in Marriage and Family Therapy from Nova Southeastern University. I received a Bachelors Degree from Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida.
I completed my dissertation, titled The Maternal Bond Cut Too Soon: An Exploration of the Lived Experience of Daughters Who Lost Their Mothers to Suicide, and have done extensive research on suicide and suicide survivors experiences.
I’m a clinical member of the Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).