Words: Eliana Chow ’21
Photos: Tony Hughes
After several years conducting public health research among elderly communities in Chicago, Jieyang Zheng M.A. ’23 saw an opportunity to go deeper than gathering statistics on how family dynamics affect elderly health and well-being.
“Through that job, I learned how to provide a welcoming space for research participants to share their stories,” Zheng said. “I wanted to do more for people like them.”
That’s when she found the Wheaton College Graduate School’s Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) program, which integrates Christian theological truth with psychological practice. Alongside her cohort, Zheng has committed to the deep work of processing her own family history and cycles of healing and suffering.
“When you work on walking through your own dark places, you’re better able to lead and empower clients to do the same,” Zheng said. “You know firsthand how much tenderness and support a person needs as they learn to hold their pain with courage and faith.”
Zheng also works closely with her faculty supervisor, Dr. Wendy Smith, Director of Wheaton’s Center for Family and Relational Health (CFRH). Together, they serve once a week at the Roseland Good News Day Care center, where Dr. Smith offers pro bono clinical psychology sessions. Zheng sees several clients of her own at the day care and CFRH, receiving support and training from Dr. Smith. “The faculty here have a lot of trust in us,” Zheng said. “They’re always reminding us, ‘Your presence is enough,’ and that’s the golden line of our program.”
As she finishes her final year in the MFT program, Zheng maintains a posture of openness to her own growth even as she helps others find healing.
“It’s a humbling experience to see how people are willing to share their personal stories and struggles,” she said. “That motivates me to provide a holding space to honor that trust and build hope and growth with clients in that space.”