Friendship is powerful and has been shown to improve people’s overall mental well-being — and in honor of the International Day of Friendship on July 30, crisis support specialist and drug policy activist Jeanne Porges, a Chicago Campus student in the Adler University Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.) program, generously shared her insight on what friendship means to her, how she finds time with her friends during a busy school schedule, and how her clinical work has impacted her friendships.
Who is your best friend, and what makes them such a great friend?
My best friend’s name is Mariana, and she and I have been friends for almost 11 years. We met in middle school, we both went to DePaul University, where we ended up as roommates and now she is about to start her master’s program at Adler. We will be at school together for two more years while I work on my Psy.D. program, and she works on her master’s program. She is a great friend because she listens to me and supports me, understands what I have been through, and she is someone who I can fully be myself around. (Top photo: Jeanne attends Mariana’s master’s degree graduation in June)
What does being a friend mean to you?
Being a friend means not always being able to talk or get together but nonetheless supporting and being there for one another throughout time. I have friends where we haven’t seen each other for months, but when we get together, it is as if nothing has changed. And while we are not together physically, we still find ways to connect through texts, Facetime, gift exchanges, Netflix/watch parties, etc.
How do you think your friends would describe you?
My friends would describe me as a passionate old soul who is beyond her years in knowing what she wants to do and is persistent in achieving her goals and dreams. My friends also describe me as intelligent and driven in my work and caring and thoughtful in my communication with those in my life.
How has your clinical work informed your friendships?
My clinical work has helped me learn how to communicate in healthy ways with friends. It has also taught me how to navigate conflict with friends in a way that brings meaningful change and does not harm my friends or myself. My clinical work has also helped me develop more patience and empathy during moments when my friends are struggling with challenges, and I have gained many tools for listening and being a support system for my friends.
How have your friendships informed your clinical work?
My friends have helped me learn about all the different perspectives that exist in this world, that my perspective is not the only perspective, and that it may not be the right perspective. This helps me to avoid making harmful assumptions during clinical work. I am constantly asking my friends for their thoughts so that I can make choices in my life based on a holistic variety of perspectives. This is similar to seeking consultation as a clinician and how peers/colleagues can be supportive when making challenging decisions in the field.
Tell me about your work as chair of the Board of Directors for Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP)? What impact has this work had on affected individuals? Have you seen this impact extend to any personal friends of yours?
I have only been the chair of SSDP’s Board of Directors for a few months now, but when I became chair, a lot of our board and staff were supportive of me and excited for me in a way that I was not expecting. I do not engage in drama or unnecessary toxicity in my everyday life. I am very mindful of how I engage with conflict, and my friendships reflect this. I aim to use this same mindset and philosophy when engaging with the Board, executive director, staff, and chapter members. So far, I believe it improves trust within Board and staff friendships. SSDP is a very unique organization because many members become friends as students. Then along the way, they start working with one another as either a Board member, staff, or contractor. It can create a complex working dynamic when working with your friends, but it is also very meaningful to collaborate with friends and people who share your values and goals. There is always a needed balance between being a friend to my colleagues and simultaneously holding them accountable for their responsibilities as chair of the Board. I fear coming off as the “bad guy” when holding people accountable, but I am coming to terms with the fact that I cannot always be someone’s friend when engaging with chair responsibilities. What matters most is being supportive, compassionate, and empathetic in holding people accountable and when engaging in challenging situations where I act as chair and not as a friend.
As a busy doctoral student, how do you find time for your friends?
As a busy doctoral student in the Psy.D. program, the balance between taking time off from doing work and spending time with friends is challenging at times for me. As an introvert, I need time to recharge after spending time with others, even in a classroom setting. This means I sometimes choose not to go out with my friends because it serves me best. Even as an introvert, I engage with many friend groups, and my friends mean the world to me. I can complete a lot of my class work before I see friends, which helps me be fully present in enjoying my time with them. This is not always realistic, though. This year, I have been working on not beating myself up when I don’t finish all my work. It is still OK to take a break and hang out with friends. It is OK not to be doing class work all the time. In fact, it is a form of self-care and necessary to survive a doctorate program. As my Adler mentor Ilona Nemeth learned from her mentor (both SSDP members/alum), “the work always gets done.” I remind myself of this when I need a day to focus on hanging out with my friends. Holding yourself accountable for seeing friends and having fun outside of class is just as important as holding yourself accountable for doing your classwork.