June 12, 2019
This blog features stories about the Wheaton College Graduate School. In this blog post, Dr. David Van Dyke of the M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy program shares his reflections on his past year as a Fulbright Scholar in Hungary.
Fulbright Reflections from Dr. David Van Dyke
I have been teaching at Wheaton for a while. I had just received tenure and was planning my sabbatical. As I have the opportunity of training Christian Mental Health Specialists in Central and Eastern Europe each year, I thought, ‘I ought to live there to fully understand the needs.’
Thus began my Hungarian adventure. I sought and received a Fulbright Scholar position in Hungary. I taught Hungarian, Finnish, Italian, Turkish, Mongolian, Slovakian, Romanian, and Ukrainian students around issues of communication, conflict management, and family therapy. It was eye-opening. I ran into cross-cultural challenges and personal missteps from the very first lecture.
This time in Eastern Europe was humbling, and challenged my assumptions about teaching and clinical training, but further enriched how and what I teach.
Our Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) program at Wheaton College Graduate School involves heavy doses of experiential learning. This was a strange idea for the students in Hungary, as much of the educational process there is content-focused and primarily provided by the professor through lectures. In stark contrast to this, I started that initial class period using my usual experiential pedagogical methods, which involves two students role-playing a couple relationship while the others practice possible therapeutic interventions.
Needless to say, we all struggled that day. The students, who had been raised within a totally different cultural, political, and educational context that focuses on the professor’s lectures delivering the content, found it easy to comply with my authority as the professor, but were anxious due to this “odd” teaching style that so contrasted with their style of learning and turned the spotlight on them. This day reminded me of how deeply each of our histories influence family and relational dynamics, as well as our experiences of teaching and supervision. So, my time in Europe was a time of experiential learning for me, too! I had the chance to learn how to adapt my concept of what I believe we, as a Wheaton MFT faculty, teach extremely well at Wheaton into a new cultural context!
On an even deeper level, this brings into focus the big picture of what the Marriage and Family Therapist’s approach to communication, conflict management, and family therapy is all about. Every time a therapist walks into that therapy room, they face a unique relational system where there is no cookie-cutter answer; getting to know the system is the vital first step that must occur before making interventions into that system.
The MFT faculty at Wheaton provides an excellent education in systems theory, developing each person in their relationships, integrating our foundational Christian faith, and supervising clinical experience. From my time in Hungary, I am continuing to challenge the deep preconceived ways of relating that are grounded in our collective history and unique experiences. I look forward to collaborating with our diverse student body within the MFT program and growing deeper in our relationships with each other as professionals and in our faith.