Summer 2018 Member Spotlight
I recently caught up with a colleague and friend that I have a great deal of respect for, Dr. Laurel Bluntzer. Dr. Bluntzer is an early career psychologist who has taken the leap into private practice! Her practice is unique, however, because she spends 50% of her time completing immigration evaluations. She works with individuals fleeing violence and persecution, petitioning for asylum and extreme hardship waivers, and filing for the Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA). Dr. Bluntzer explained that this work combines her training in Spanish – she began studying the language in 8th grade and went on to minor in it in college – and her psychological assessment skills. She described working with clients experiencing fear as they worry about separation from their loved ones and how she gets to “put to paper the benefits for keeping their families together…that is sacred work.” She spends the other 50% of her time in private practice working with young women who have experienced trauma, using a narrative and feminist framework. She described noticing what types of sessions left her feeling effective and fulfilled early on in her practice. While seeking supervision and mentorship she was encouraged to hone these strengths in the development of a specific area of focus. Through careful personal reflection and consultation, Dr. Bluntzer gave herself permission to identify her unique strengths in the areas of trauma, women’s issues, and psychological evaluation and make them the focus of her practice. Dr. Bluntzer plans to begin training other mental health professionals to complete immigration evaluations, recognizing the need for more clinicians to be able to understand the legal issues surrounding these cases and the nuances of each specific case.
Because so many early career psychologists are balancing work with family, I was interested to hear how Dr. Bluntzer is managing the “working mom life.” She is married to a partner who also works full-time and they have three young, active children. Dr. Bluntzer suggested finding mentorship from women who are successfully balancing work and motherhood. She explained that seeing clinicians in private practice who were working just as hard as those keeping a traditional schedule but getting to decide when and how they worked was appealing. This encouraged her as she began to think about her own career as a working mom. Shedding the expectation of the 8-5 schedule has allowed her to create a work-life balance that fits for her and her family. But, because private practice work can be isolating, Dr. Bluntzer recognizes the importance of seeking out consultation at times and accessing a peer support network she has built in person and through social media pages.
Dr. Bluntzer also supervises and teaches masters and doctoral level students at Our Lady of the Lake University, where practicum experiences are provided via live supervision. But, if she wasn’t a psychologist, she said she would be doing environmental work, probably as a marine biologist. She enjoys scuba diving and swimming, and she has been doing yoga as long as I’ve known her. I learned that Dr. Bluntzer is “working towards a green thumb” these days and has a plumeria garden at home. Mother, partner, Psychologist, social justice advocate, and outdoor enthusiast, Dr. Bluntzer really does seem to have found the balance that works for her both personally and professionally. If you are interested in learning more about Dr. Bluntzer, you can visit her website at https://www.laurelbluntzer.com/.