Craig Isenberg, LMFT
I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Washington State. I earned an MA in Psychology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy from Chapman University and a BA from Colorado College.
Differing from most therapists, my journey into this fulfilling career began with a backpack on my back and a group of not-so-sweet smelling adolescents at my heels. My undergraduate training was not in the social sciences–but rather–the hard science of geology. I endured hours of chipping away, hammer in hand, along rock outcrops on the side of desolate backcountry roads and staring bleary-eyed into polarizing microscopes late into the pre-dawn hours in the basement of a geology lab. My plan was to study the thing that was most likely to fuel my desire to work outside. I wanted to "play" in the outdoors and get paid to do it, and providing a safe wilderness experience for others seemed like a perfect fit. Teaching young students in nature's classroom was a dream come true. But as the novelty of working away from a desk, confined only by walls of granite and raging mountain streams gradually faded, I began to take notice of something bigger.
My interest was less on where I was and what I was doing and more on the impact these experiences had on the students with whom I worked. Together we endured physical and mental challenges, overcame conflict, and worked as a team in reaching the goals we set. It was not uncommon shortly after their return home, that a student's parent would excitedly ask, "what have you done to my child, and can you do it again next summer?" Seeing the immense change these experiences had on my students fueled the next 20 years of my work in the field of experiential and outdoor education. From temperate rainforest to Antarctic plateau, I worked in a diversity of environments with an even greater diversity of people.
My career inevitably progressed from its inherently therapeutic nature to more "traditional" wilderness therapy. I spent 8 years managing and leading trips for a well known wilderness therapy program for chemically dependent young men, and it was there that I learned that while wilderness was an extremely effective tool for change, the change ultimately happened from within. Inspired, I began a path to expand my knowledge and become a more effective educator and therapist for my clients. Graduate study in psychology filled gaps and connected dots to a greater understanding of the complexity of factors influencing the people we become. I learned that despite the many things that seemingly happen out of our control, there is a great bank of untapped control many of us carry around and rarely use either because we don't know it's there or we don't know how to access it.
Following my graduate training, I worked in a community mental health setting addressing a variety of individual issues ranging from mood disorders to anger management to trauma. After nearly two decades of experience working with groups prior to becoming a therapist, I felt limited by individual counseling. Experience had shown that humans are social creatures and affixing an individual with a diagnostic label and treating the presenting symptoms was not addressing some key pieces to the puzzle. I found that working within the context of the family system defined by my clients (whether or not the family is present), positive change appeared to happen with fewer sessions and demonstrate greater resiliency to relapse.
In 2012, I formed Port Townsend Family Therapy to better serve families, couples, and individuals in Jefferson County. Currently Port Townsend Family Therapy is one of 300+ agencies providing Functional Family Therapy (FFT) to over 20,000 families a year and holds the FFT contract for Juvenile and Family Court Services in Jefferson County and DSHS-Department of Child & Family Services in Port Townsend. I choose to balance FFT with a small private practice where I work with individuals, couples, and families. The people with whom I work keep me inspired both professionally and personally and are a constant reminder of the change that is possible.
While there are stringent training and education requirements to practice as an MFT in Washington State, I believe sometimes the best training comes from life. I am happy to disclose that in my personal life I also fill the role of husband, dad, son, brother, uncle, nephew, and begrudging dog owner.