“I began noticing that the language and conceptual thoughts of how the treatment teams referred and dealt with the residents was pathological and stemming from a deficit vantage,” he said. “During one treatment team meeting, I offered an alternate viewpoint of the problem … my suggestion was met with offensive opposition. I was told that I should let the professionals, who have the education and understand the complexity of the cases, do their job — and for myself to do my job. It was at that moment that I realized the lack of perspective some mental health professionals possessed and how the voices of many marginalized people would never be heard as a result.”
Potter knew it would not be easy, but he decided to do whatever it took to save the funds necessary to return to Morehouse College and complete his education. Nine years and several different full-time and part-time jobs later — at such locations as H & R Block and Emory University Hospital — he returned to class.
“It required a lot of discipline,” he said, “and a lot of education. I had to teach myself how to save while living in a world that likes to spend, spend, spend.”
A full-time student once again, Potter maintained a full-time job as a cook at Emory University Hospital, a part-time job, and a work-study job, all while completing his undergraduate education. He said it was not easy, but he graduated in December 2011 with a Bachelor of Art in psychology and a Bachelor of Art in French. He then continued to work and save as much money as possible to ensure he could afford to attend the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at VSU, which he had learned about during a “surprise” visit by Dr. Kate Warner, a licensed marriage and family therapist, professor, and program director.
“Dr. Warner walked into Morehouse College …,” he said. “She was doing outreach to promote the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at VSU. I listened and thought it sounded like a good program. I talked to her and read more about the program, and I planned a visit. After I saw the program in action, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. It is the No. 1 program of its kind by far. The other programs I researched and even visited, like that at Columbia University and Syracuse University, just did not begin to compare.”
Potter arrived at VSU in August 2012. He was awarded a graduate assistantship to help fund his education.
In May 2013, the Georgia Association of Marriage and Family Therapy presented Potter one of two Christus Powell Minority Fellowship awards. He said that the money could not have come at a better time because he had just emptied his savings account and was worried about having to leave school due to financial issues once again.
“The feeling of astonishment and relief overwhelmed me when I received news that I had been awarded the scholarship because I did not know how I was going to be able to afford summer semester,” he said. He recently accepted a job on weekends to start saving money for the upcoming fall semester, and he often walks several miles to school to save gas money. He would work more, but his class schedule, work as a student therapist and clinic manager at the VSU-based FamilyWorks, and service to the community do not allow him much free time.
“You do what you have to do to get where you want to go,” he said. “This program is everything I thought it would be and more. It has been worth every sacrifice.”
“Anthony has been a godsend,” said Dr. Martha Laughlin, a licensed marriage and family therapist, professor, and director of clinical training for VSU’s Marriage and Family Therapy Program. “With his background experience, his maturity, and his attention to detail, the Marriage and Family Therapy Program faculty have turned the clinic over to him more completely than we have ever done before. We made him clinic manager, and he has done a superb job. In addition to being a topnotch student, Anthony is dedicated to the clinic, and he has taken care of it, from moving furniture to handling the money to keeping more than 20 therapists’ schedules and clients straight. Anthony is usually here in the morning before anyone else, and I often see him coming through when he’s supposed to be home relaxing. He is a marvel of organization, responsibility, and hard work.”
Potter plans to seek licensure in the state of Georgia as an associate marriage and family therapist after graduation.
“It is my expectation to find employment in the mental health field in Atlanta where I can obtain my post-master’s hours in order to obtain full licensure,” he added. “I am committed to search for opportunities to work with underserved populations, as well as with disenfranchised and marginalized individuals, couples, and families. My ultimate goal is to have obtained enough experience and knowledge to be able to practice privately and open a practice that provides affordable services to the aforementioned groups.”
VSU’s Marriage and Family Therapy Program is committed to recruiting, training, and graduating students from diverse backgrounds. The program, which provides students both the academic and clinical training required to practice relationally informed clinical work in a variety of mental health settings, leads to a Master of Science in the field.
Call (229) 219-1281 or visit www.valdosta.edu/soc/mft/ to learn more about VSU’s Marriage and Family Therapy Program.