Get to know Beth Greivel - Core Faculty, Counseling Psychology Program

Beth Greivel, LMFT, LPCC, recently became a core faculty member with the Wright Institute Counseling Psychology Program. Greivel teaches Counseling Theories and Techniques, Couples Counseling, Sexual Development and Health, and Diagnosis and Empirically Supported Treatments, and serves as the Mentoring Program Coordinator. She sat down with the Wright Institute's Dalton Green to discuss her time as a student at the Wright Institute, her work for LGBTQQIA+ rights in the behavioral health field, and her plans for the future.

Dalton Green: You started here at the Counseling Psychology Program as a student in 2012. What was your career before that?

Beth Greviel: I worked for about 15 years in a mid-sized law firm, supporting attorneys with services like filing and technical support. Before that, I was a high school English teacher back home in Colorado.

DG: What made you want to pursue psychology?

BG: I'd always had an interest in psychology, but I didn't take any psychology classes in my undergrad at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where I studied English.

I went into teaching after graduating, and later moved to California. After Prop 8 passed in 2008, I took it really hard, and my therapist recommended that I work with the LGBT community as a way to heal. I began working for a support hotline and found that I loved it. I discovered that I feel good working with other people when they are in pain, which sounds odd but is true about our field.

DG: How did you decide to attend the Wright Institute?

BG: A lot of therapists that I knew at the time mentioned that Wright Institute students made for good mentees. While in the program, I loved how the faculty members all had a passion for ethics while still getting to be themselves in the classroom. I always had great support and guidance during my time as a student here.

DG: Are there any examples of that guidance that particularly stuck with you?

BG: I really appreciated Stuart Lee's guidance on choosing a practicum site. He gave me all the information about the sites I was considering, but didn't try to steer me towards any site in particular. I ended up choosing Family Works, who offered a private practice model. I was able to accrue a lot of hours working with children, and they let me pilot a program where I went into a private school to work with their students.

DG: Where did your career take you after you graduated in 2015?

BG: After graduation, I did a two-year program as a staff therapist at The Psychotherapy Institute in Berkeley. During that time I became licensed as an MFT, and soon opened my own private practice and began teaching at the Wright Institute Counseling Psychology Program in the fall of 2017.

DG: Was teaching here something you were thinking about while you were a student?

BG: Definitely. I've always liked teaching, and I think it's something that enriches my practice with my clients. When there was an opportunity to teach the Diagnosis and Empirically Supported Treatments (DEST) course in the fall of 2017, I took the position.

I enjoy each of the courses I've taught here because they each portray a different aspect of the profession. I like teaching Couples Counseling, because our entire field is about relationships. I like teaching Counseling Theories and Techniques because I like getting to see the students practice. And I like DEST because it makes both myself and the students think about where we've been and where we're going as a field.

DG: What were some things that made teaching easier for you when you first started here?

BG: My parents were teachers, and I grew up watching them, both at home and in the classroom - I always attended the schools where they taught. I was even my dad's student assistant for a year so I could get credit for the grading I was doing anyway. They both didn't always have all the subject matter down pat, but my parents were excellent teachers because they always had respect for the students and were genuinely interested in the different ways people learn. During my first year teaching at the Wright Institute, I was comfortable since I never felt it was about me - it was always about the students. I also have a degree in teaching, which helps!

DG: Since August, you have served as the Student Mentoring Program Coordinator. What sorts of questions do students entering the field ask you most often?

BG: Since I'm relatively early in my career, I get a lot of questions from students about how best to map out the first few years after graduating from the program.

It's been really gratifying to work with this group of students. This is a program I really would have liked to have had as a student, so I'm grateful to support our student mentors now. I'm really proud of our student mentors. They've piloted two new affinity groups: the LGBTQQIA+ affinity group, and the Wright Institute Alliance for Students with Disabilities.

DG: What's a lesson about the profession that you think is essential to teach students?

BG: I want to get rid of the myth that therapists have to be martyrs. There is an idea that we have to sacrifice our entire lives for the benefit of society, which seems to me like a recipe for burnout. That mindset comes from a place of limited resources, but I don't want us to burn out what resources we do have.

I'm a believer in checking in on my students at the start of every class. In order to help other people, we have to make sure that we ourselves are okay. In this field, we are vessels for care, but focusing on self-care is a way to recognize that that vessel is still a person with needs.

DG: How has it been running your own private practice?

BG: I love it. I have about 20 clients, spread evenly between adults, couples, and teenagers. Ultimately, I just love watching people grow.

DG: In 2015, you led a campaign calling for the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) to officially condemn conversion therapy. What was that process like?

BG: That was a year-long, very extensive project. I individually emailed almost every single person associated with CAMFT at the time, and met with every board member as well as several organizations invested in LGBTQ rights. With some exceptions, I got a mostly lackluster response.

There is a large contingent of people who believe that we have the ability to choose where we are on the spectrum of sexuality, and that clients should be provided the opportunity to "change" their sexual orientation themselves. There are those who interpret the "marriage" aspect of "marriage and family therapists" in a very strict, exclusionary fashion. So, when I was emailing people, I got a lot of pushback from therapists who were upset I was doing this work.

DG: What was the breakthrough in this work?

BG: I got targeted by the Liberty Counsel, which is a right-wing legal firm. Using a president of a Southern California CAMFT chapter, they sent an email to the entire CAMFT mailing list saying that I was unethical and that I had mis-cited one of my sources.

But it turns out that CAMFT members didn't like this organization picking on me, and I got most of my support and signatures on the day that email was sent. After that, CAMFT revised its position to say that those practicing conversion therapy could not continue to practice as members of CAMFT.

DG: How can the mental health field continue to fight discrimination?

BG: At the very least, we have to pay attention to language. With each client, classroom syllabus, and website bio, we have to be as inclusive as possible. Even if it's just a mention, we want to be intentional in acknowledging individual diversity.

DG: What other organizations are you affiliated with?

BG: I'm a member of Gaylesta, the Psychotherapist Association for Gender and Sexual Diversity. It's a lovely organization of therapists, all of whom treat people in gender and sexual minority communities. I've also served on the board and in the advocacy committee within the group.

DG: What goals do you have for your future?

BG: I'm very happy with what I'm doing now. I want to continue to refine the classes I'm working on, and expand the classes that I'm teaching. Another goal of mine is to write. I'd like to write something about the queer community, or perhaps about mentorship - I'm not sure yet. I also really want to design a pre-commitment program that is welcoming and inclusive for gender and sexual minorities.

My wife and I have also spent the last 15 years fixing up our house, which was uninhabitable when we bought it. It hasn't been easy - we almost lost the chimney during a windstorm, and there was a very sad Christmas where we had to gift each other dead termites. Now that we've finished, I'm ready to start over and fix what we did wrong the first time!

Click here to learn more about the Wright Institute's Master of Counseling Psychology program.
Click here to learn more about the Wright Institute's Doctor of Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.) program.