Meet boomer Susan Coe. With a smile that tells me there is a bit of whimsy in her statement, she described herself as the “black sheep” and the “odd one out” in her family. I believe many people become the proverbial black sheep not by being negative, but by simply being different and forging a new and positive path. Dr. Coe proves my point.
She was born into a family of academic high achievers. Her father had his doctorate in geography. He taught and served as the vice chancellor at the University of Wisconsin – White Water. Her mother had a master’s degree in geography. Following the same path, her younger sister also earned a master’s degree in geography.
Our “rebel” Susan, however, took a different route. She followed a pre-med track as an undergraduate until it became apparent it was less about treating people and more about treating disease. Being a people person, she needed a change. She switched to social work, pursuing it all the way to the doctorate level. Today, she continues to be an evolving and growing person.
I wondered what may have influenced her in her choices. Of course, the academic success of both parents is obvious. But, on another level, a family tragedy also helped shape her course. At age 30, her mother contracted polio, a debilitating disease with lifelong effects and limitations.
Susan was 4, so the memories of that critical time are foggy. But the lesson she learned from seeing her mother negotiate life as a polio victim stays with her today. What she learned was the power one person can have in caring for another. Sometimes we cannot make the problem or condition go away, but caring can make all the difference in getting through or living with a problem.
Today, Dr. Coe is a practicing social worker in a small group practice with Dr. Tim Hayes, C and H Counseling Solutions in Crystal Lake. Dr. Coe is one of the few local social workers who works with young children. Of course, this always involves working with the parents, as well. She also sees adults of all ages and teenagers. While many clients come by word of mouth referrals, others are referred by their physician, lawyers, family members or judges. Depression, anxiety, family strife, loss, domestic violence and trauma can lead to seeking help. But often, the issue is a life situation that comes up for which the client is seeking coaching.
While every situation is different and every client is different, Dr. Coe finds some common threads that run through each person’s life. First, they have met a stumbling block in meeting their desire for purpose, happiness and fulfillment. Second, they have hope for change. That second point is the bright spot in her work.
Earlier in her career, Dr. Coe taught social work at the University of Illinois while having a private practice to see clients. Lessons from her academic studies gave her new tools for helping, while the experience of working with clients provided a way to give her students a real-life perspective on a mental health career. These days, her clinical work alone is enough to keep her active and satisfied.
She offers traditional counseling out of her office, but she has also incorporated other tools. Two of them are Emotional Freedom Training (EFT) and Neuro Emotional Technique (NET). Some of her work incorporates lessons learned from Eastern medicine.
She explains a general term for these methods is mind-body work. This practice understands the mind and body are not two separate problem areas. Rather, they work together. Often working with the body can bring unexpected benefits to the health of the mind and vice versa.
Mental and physical energy work together, Dr. Coe said, to help the person realize his or her hopes. From an 80-year-old with MS to an elementary school student who retreated into silence in the classroom, to a woman trapped in a toxic relationship, these tools, Dr. Coe said, have helped hopes be realized.
Outside of her work, Susan’s life is full. She and Doug have been married for 37 years and have two sons and a daughter-in-love. No, that was not a misprint. She sees her daughter-in-law as her daughter-in-love. (Pretty cool, right?) Family is her greatest joy. After that, she said, comes music (she plays piano and sings), reading, book discussions, choir, swimming and hand-work.
• Sue Neuschel shares her experiences as a Baby Boomer, offers unique places to visit in and around McHenry County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.