Canadian Therapist Praises Diversity
Diversity often goes beyond appearances. Andrew Sofin of Montreal grew up in a family swirling with cultural differences. His background shaped his life by showing him the beauty of adapting and adjusting, honoring and embracing variation. Raised by a mother from a long line of prominent Anglo-Saxon Protestants and a Jewish father who emigrated from the Ukraine, Andrew says he grew up seeing the world through multiple lenses.
From Club Med to Grad School
True to form, Andrew came to Antioch seeking a different kind of master’s degree and a different approach to counseling than he had seen in Canada. After graduating from Queens College and skipping off to the Caribbean for two years as a DJ for Club Med, he set his sights on graduate school. But first he went to work in deafness research and took an acute interest in how deaf clients related to their families and the other systems they needed to navigate. From that point, he knew he wanted to do more than research and he wanted the hands-on experience that goes beyond research-based graduate programs.
The systemic approach to therapy practiced in Antioch’s masters degree program in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) caught his eye.
“Antioch was in the vanguard of experiential education and I was impressed, coming from Canada, where learning had been so rote. The faculty was open and helpful. And I was working in a psychiatric hospital from day one.”
To be nearer his internship site, he moved to Boston and immersed himself in his studies and work. “Because of that immediate experience, to this day I am much better able to determine whether a patient needs to be hospitalized than most of my colleagues who went to Canadian programs. I really got proper training.”
Upon graduation, Andrew, considered two offers and chose The Children’s Community Collaborative in Boston. He married his fiance, who holds an MBA and works for a multi-national consulting firm. They stayed in Boston for five years as Andrew went to work for an eating disorders program and accepted an invitation into a private practice. But soon thereafter, his wife’s job ended, and her employer offered her a transfer back to Montreal.
Happy to be near their families again, and with two daughters of their own, Andrew and his wife reestablished themselves. He opened a clinic with two partners, and is astounded by its growth. “Canada’s so-called ‘socialized medicine’ is a lot more entrepreneurial than the States’ system,” he said. “In mental health there is more competition here and there is much more of a free-market setup.”
He explains that, “without managed care, patients who don’t need hospitalization (which is covered by national health care) can choose where they go for treatment. Some pay out of pocket, others have private insurance and submit the claims themselves. I don’t need a staff, a billing person, or a secretary. I don’t have to deal with managed care companies. And I don’t get paid three months later.”
Growing a Successful Business Back Home in Canada
Comparing his practice in Montreal to his experience in Boston, Andrew says low managed care rates made him struggle to make a living in the U.S. “Coming back to Canada, my income doubled and tripled, because, if you’re good, you get paid. Here’s the grand irony: it’s better for the client and the provider.”
His improved situation has also allowed him to pursue particular interests within the field. In an effort to help Canadians understand the role of Marriage and Family Therapy he became active in the Quebec Association of MFT and now serves as its president. MFT in Montreal has a strong future, because the choice is up to the consumers. They can and often do choose such specialists. Andrew has also taken some of his experience in Boston with treating eating disorders and joined the eating disorder team at the Argyle Institute, a nonprofit that provides treatment and post-graduate training programs.
For all of the difference Andrew relishes and continues to seek, he looks back at his choice of Antioch as another example of his taste for diversity.
“Look, I’m a guy in female-dominated profession, I knew I would have a different perspective, simply because of my gender. And that experience taught him that like-mindedness can challenge open-mindedness. I’m very grateful for the diversity of my upbringing; yet, as a therapist, I must keep asking myself how I can be more open to everyone I’m treating. And that means I have to look at myself and my own biases. That work goes on forever.”