Leslie Korn, PhD, MPH, MA, is a Capella University core faculty member in the Harold Abel School of Social and Behavioral Sciences Department of Counseling.
She is also the author of several books, including Rhythms of Recovery: Trauma, Nature and the Body. The work she does with students in Capella’s mental health counseling programs is a direct result of the years she spent both operating a school and working in rural health care programs in the Mexican jungle.
Q. Why do you teach at Capella?
A. When I started teaching mental health counseling programs at Capella in 2002, I was interested in asynchronous learning. I wanted to teach at the graduate level, but I’ve lived and worked in Mexico for 40 years and wanted to continue to travel, consult, and do clinical work. Capella was a great match. I’m very happy about the quality of the teaching. Having done both online and brick-and-mortar, the way Capella structures our interactions is superior—we’re required to make qualitative contact with students daily or weekly.
Q. What is your teaching philosophy?
A. I place a high priority on interpersonal relationships with my students. It’s about understanding each student’s needs. We have a very diverse student body, and I value different learning styles. Some students do better with the written word, some with voice learning, some kinesthetically. I also act as coach or cheerleader, whatever the students need to reach their highest level and not just settle.
Q. Please share a bit about your background.
A. Truthfully, I hated school when I was young! I traveled to the Mexican jungle at age 20 and opened my own school there, the school I always wanted to go to: one room in the jungle. I used lots of approaches, including experiential. I spent 10 years there and became involved in health care and indigenous medicines as well. Eventually I pursued further study in traditional/indigenous and alternative medicines and had a fellowship at Harvard in psychology and religion. I’ve always been fascinated in the intersection of cultural practices and beliefs, self-care and treatment, and focused on trauma and how the body reacts to it.
Q. Why did you go into your field?
A. I just fell into it. Serendipity! Just by traveling. After initially hating school, I loved grad school. My less conventional path gives me insight into our students, who may be less conventional as well, such as those who are changing careers.
Q. What led to writing your book “Rhythms of Recovery”?
A. I wanted to write about the treatment of traumatic stress through the body for mental health professionals, and to share it with physicians, RNs, and physical therapists to help them understand the physical effects of trauma. I started it in 1996, but the publisher at the time thought it was too feminist. By 2013, that view had changed.
Q. Did your work at Capella influence the writing of the book, and/or vice versa?
A. Much of the book had been written by the time I became full time at Capella in 2010. My students have influenced me in terms of how to explain novel concepts like mind/body work and to find a language to explain this for fieldwork.
Q. What do you enjoy most about your job?
A. The contact with my students and my diverse workload. I’m teaching at the first and last stages of learning, and with research, too. I can’t say enough about how much I love interacting with my departmental colleagues. There’s a tremendous amount of brain and heart power there.
Q. What is the single biggest challenge facing your field right now?
A. The biggest challenge in mental health counseling is the homogenization and focus on evidence-based research, to the exclusion of methods that may not have been funded for research and thus don’t have evidence other than anecdotal. And the need to spend time with people—to help someone, it takes time, sometimes years. How do we say, “You get six sessions?”
Q. What do you like to do when you’re not working?
A. I’m a big dog person. I lost my golden and my lab last year—the golden was a therapy dog. But there’s a new dog in my life now. And I love working out.
Q. What is one thing your colleagues would be surprised to know about you?
A. That I spent 25 years in the jungle!