Zora L. Kolkey
Marriage & Family Therapist
Just because it took 15 years for Zora L. Kolkey to get her family therapy degree, doesn't mean she isn't a psychology veteran. After her undergraduate career, Kolkey moved to Israel to work for nearly a decade and picked up a master's degree in social work along the way. Realizing the social work degree was too limiting, Kolkey was lured back to the United States by a Somatics program at Antioch University and she has been focused on family therapy ever since. Now Kolkey has her own practice, Therapy with Zora, and a business coach to help her market herself. Her experiences and enthusiasm for sharing them with others made her an excellent interview candidate and she didn't disappoint, sharing plenty about her journey. Enjoy!
Tell us about your education at Antioch University. What was the total timeline for you to complete undergrad through Master? How long did it take to become a certified MFT?
I returned to school at San Diego State for my undergraduate work in 1970 or 1971 and graduated from Antioch with my MA in 1986. I guess that you could say that it took me fifteen years. It’s not that I was a slow learner. At San Diego State, I kept taking classes that I liked and not just what I should. My undergraduate degree was as a Special Major. It included history, art history and sociology. I graduated from SDS in 1975 and moved to Israel to live and work for nine years. I also got an MSSW in Social Work from Hebrew University in Jerusalem while there.
I came back to the US in 1984 in order to study at Antioch. Will Schutz was there at the time and head of the Holistic program. That’s what interested me. He left just before I arrived and Don H. Johnson headed what became the Somatics program. I was enormously interested in body-based psychotherapies and it was a fabulous program. Probably still is. I graduated from Antioch in Dec., 1986 with a Clinical Psychology degree with an emphasis in Somatics.
How did you first become interested in marriage and family therapy? What caused you to select that niche versus other avenues?
I sort of just fell into the Marriage and Family Therapy license. The Social Work license was too limiting. I had been a Social Worker in Ashkelon, Israel, for six and a half years, and didn't want to do that anymore. Also, at the tine that I completed my studies at Antioch, I didn't want to continue on to a Ph.D. The MFT license allows me to use ethical modalities in which I have expertise. That is, I have studied them and have the skills and knowledge to use them. These would include some of the body=based psychotherapies.
During what part of your education did you know have to make a decision to go full steam ahead toward being an MFT?
I knew when I graduated high school that I wanted to study psychology. I went to UCLA for one year. At that time, psychology was not what it is today, and, no matter what I did, I could not bring myself to care, in any way, shape or form, whether rats ran through the maze or not. I dropped out after the year. I never lost my interest in psychology, however. I knew when I came back from Israel, that I would go full steam ahead and get my MFCC (that’s what it was called at the time) license and I did.
What was the hardest part of your education process? Did you have any setbacks, challenges, or epiphanies along the way?
The hardest part of the process was having to deal with the CA Board of Behavioral Sciences, as it was known at the time. In the middle of our studies, the Board decided to change the requirements for the license. It took a lot of time and energy, contacting Board members, politicians, etc., reminding them that applying changes, ex post facto, was not acceptable. There were other setbacks and challenges. Since I was older than the teachers, and had a great deal of life experience, I didn’t always agree with them and let them know. However, we always worked it out.
There were a number of foreign students in my class, a good number of them from Germany. Since I’m Jewish, sometimes that accent would get to me. I had a wonderful enlightening experience with one of the students which I would be delighted to tell you about. It’s just too much to write and I don’t know how relevant it is to this topic. I did become friends with several of the German students.
Tell us about your work at Therapy with Zora. What are some of the greatest accomplishments thus far?
I love and am passionate about my work. I love working with very difficult people and very challenging issues. I also love working with people and issues that are outside the mainstream including those involved in the kink community and culture, and multi-heritage people and issues. My clients range from teenagers, whom I love because they are generally so rotten, to people in their sixties. I treat individuals, couples and families.
Although it is not my accomplishment, it is my clients’ accomplishments, my heart just sings when my clients reclaim their power. The testimonial on my web site, TherapyWithZora, is from an amazing young woman who turned the tragedy of being a survivor of severe domestic violence into an amazing and successful life. I don’t take credit for her doing this. She allowed me to accompany her on her journey. I have been fortunate enough to have great clients who have allowed me to do this.
I also have been very fortunate when I worked in agencies. I was the Clinical Supervisor in a number of them including the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehab Center, Swords to Plowshares and Jewish Family Service. I supervised interns as well as seeing clients. I love sharing what I have learned and learning from them. There were eighteen interns in one of my groups at the ARC. It was like a miniature United Nations. We had individuals from Mexico, Ecuador, China, Russia, Israel, Palestine, Vietnam, a Japanese-American, a Korean-American, both gay and straight. I loved it and we all learned.
I don’t look at my clients as “sick”. I hate having to label them with a DSM diagnosis. I see them as people with problems and issues which they need help dealing with, and I’m honored that they have asked me to accompany them. I encourage them to look at their problems in the context of what’s going on in society—that in some respects this society is sick.
What aspects of your education and training have been most crucial to your success? Give us some examples of the day to day processes you maintain MFT, researcher, etc.
All aspects of my education and training have contributed to my success. Even when something didn’t go well, or I blew something in some way, I learned from it. I think that it is crucial that I love my work. I couldn’t imagine getting up every day and having to work at something I didn’t like.
As far as day to day processes go, I like to “batch” my work as my business coach, Casey Truffo, says. I see clients on certain days, unless there’s an emergency, of course. I do administrative and marketing work on another day. I feel much more organized and get more done when I work this way. Of course, sometimes things come up that derail this schedule and mostly, it’s the most effective way for me to work.
Who/what are some of your biggest influences? Any recommendations of authors, speakers, or experts you suggest to follow for folks interested in marriage and family therapy as a career?
I have been really lucky. I had friends (dead now) who started a hot line at the YMCA in San Diego in the 60s for teenagers—drug prevention and crisis intervention. One of them asked me if I wanted to be a counselor. Of course, I said, “Yes”. Our basic training was Gestalt and I changed in huge ways. I went from an upper middle class Jewish woman into an older hippie. So that was the start. I had the chance to be in workshops with the founders of family therapy, Sal Minuchin, Carl Whittaker, Virginia Satir, among others. I could have done workshops with Carl Rogers and Fritz Perls and I was having too much fun to travel to Esalen at that time.
After I graduated from Antioch, Don initiated a two year Somatics program which was held at Esalen. Those in the class spent one week each with Charlotte Selver, Emilie Conrad D’’oud, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, Judith Aston, Robert Hall, and Don. Then there was a final week with all of the teachers. It was a series of life-changing events.
My only regret, which I didn’t realize until much later is that the program did not offer any information about the need to market ourselves nor how to do it. Now, again, I have been extremely lucky to have found Casey Truffo, an outstanding business coach for therapists and coaches. I would not be writing this if not for the information she shares with those of us signed up with her.
Can you give examples of the industry research you have performed and how you got involved? What are you working on currently and why?
I’m not doing any industry research. What I am working on now is giving presentations on Staying Sane and Having Fun When Dealing With Difficult People. If you know of any places in the Bay Area that might be interested in hearing me, I’d appreciate any referrals. I have had very positive feedback and people have had fun and still been sane by the time that I finished.
One thing that I work on constantly has to do with my core values. I have a huge amount of curiosity, a passion for justice, and a deep caring for peace and humanity. I am very active in a group, Therapists for Peace and Justice. I also love working with lawyers and/or their clients. I have another web site: BayAreaCounselingWithZora.
If you could go back in time and choose to do your education all over again would you choose the same path?
I would choose the same path. I love what I do. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I would probably be a bag lady if I had to do anything else. What I would have done differently is learned about marketing much sooner. I also would have figured out a way to be a traveling therapist since I do love to travel.
Any final words for the future MFT's who are reading this?
Have a passion for the work and be sure to do your own therapeutic work before starting to see clients.