By caring for the whole person, PsyD student Manesha Ram leads people to a place of healing and peace.

Manesha Ram was intent on pursuing a career in nursing until she changed somebody’s life simply by listening.

In high school, one of Manesha’s friends was caught in an abusive relationship, and she didn’t feel like anyone cared. But Manesha made it a point to compassionately listen to everything she had to say, without offering any judgment or criticism. 

“I was someone who walked with her through that experience and was there for her and continued to be there for her in her life,” says Manesha, a fourth-year PsyD student at George Fox. “She told me that through being present and never judging her or turning her away, I had essentially saved her life. She said she wasn’t sure she’d still be here if I hadn’t been there to listen.”

That’s when Manesha realized that a career in medicine wasn’t the only way she could serve others.

“That changed my entire perspective on who I was and who I could be because I’d always wanted to be in a helping profession,” Manesha says. “I’d been interested in nursing and hadn’t really enjoyed the briefings and shadowing experiences I’d had. But when I heard that, I was like, ‘Oh, this is something I’m already doing and this is something I could continue to do and get better at.’” 

manesha meeting with a student

With this realization, she turned her attention from medicine to psychology. 

“I realized just how powerful being someone who is available to people is, and how life-changing that can be,” she says.

Manesha will always be thankful for that friend. She probably wouldn't be pursuing a doctorate in psychology now if it wasn’t for her. 

“We changed each other’s lives, and I’m very grateful not only to have been present in her life, but for her presence and influence in my life as well,” she says.

When she graduated high school, Manesha already had a decent amount of college credit; after taking one year to wrap up some general education courses, she transferred into George Fox’s undergraduate psychology program as a junior.

“My decision to come to Fox was largely informed by my desire to integrate psychology and faith,” Manesha says. 

Manesha comes from a strong spiritual background, and her father is a pastor. She recognizes that faith and spirituality are fundamental pieces of what it means to be human, and she believes that, to study human psychology, one must be willing to address spirituality.

“We need to care for every aspect of a person,” Manesha says. “If we skip over their faith background, whatever that may be, we completely miss a huge part of who that person is, what they’re coming in for, and what they’re looking for. I can speak from my own experiences – being in therapy and having that part of me warmly accepted is so important.”

George Fox is committed to teaching aspiring therapists and counselors how to holistically treat their clients, even if other programs tend to shy away from the more nuanced parts of their clients’ identity. 

“There is a lot of stigma in the field about keeping psychology and faith separate, and there’s also a lot of stigma in faith circles toward psychology,” Manesha says. “I really want to be part of creating a safe space that allows people to authentically and wholly be themselves. Sometimes providers gloss over parts of an individual when they say, ‘Oh, your faith isn’t really what we’re here for. We’re here to focus on your depression or the habits you want to change.’ That misses a crucial part of a person, and faith integration can help us see everyone holistically for who they are.”

Manesha listening to a student

George Fox’s curriculum and approach to this subject provides Manesha with a place to work toward these goals as she grows alongside others who feel the same way. She wants to both practice and teach psychology and counseling in the future, and there are mentors and professors at Fox who do just that. 

“Not only do I get clinical experience while I’m in the program, but I also have been able to teach in classes and TA for classes where I’m in a teaching role,” she says.

The mentorship and guidance Manesha has found within the program has proved to be invaluable. When she needs help or advice, there is always someone she can turn to. 

“What I really love about George Fox is that I’ve gotten not only professional mentorship, but I’ve also gotten mentorship from my professors and my supervisors,” she says. “I get academic and clinical mentorship, and it is fascinating to see how these two compare and contrast with each other in real time. I get theory on one hand and I get practice on another, and I have people supporting me in all of those things.”

The faculty are just as dedicated to Manesha’s learning as she is, and they are ready and willing to help her whenever they can – inside and outside of the classroom.

“The faculty at George Fox care, and that changes everything,” she says. “You can have someone who’s brilliant, but if they’re not going to take the time to meet with you, then all their knowledge goes to waste because they’re not sharing it with anybody outside of a classroom setting. A lot of people need more individualized support than that.”

manesha walking with a student

Manesha is already using the knowledge and skills she has learned from her professors and mentors out in the field during clinical rotations. Her first clinical rotation was at a local elementary school during the tail end of the pandemic, which was an incredibly tough time for kids who were forced to wear masks and take precautions they didn’t fully understand.

“I would host small groups with students who had been pointed out as struggling,” Manesha says. “I was able to meet with these kids really consistently throughout the year, which was so rewarding and not something you always get.”

But just because the work was rewarding didn’t mean it was easy. These kids were still going through a lot of difficult changes, and it was apparent in the conversations Manesha had with them.

“It was hard,” she says. “I’m not going to lie. It was really, really hard to sit in that and see how sad a lot of these kids were and how confused and hopeless a lot of them felt. They went through so much at such a young age – far too much for where they were at in their lives.”

Manesha saw how much these children were struggling, and she took it upon herself to end her clinical rotation at the school by pulling in each group separately, spending time to say goodbye to each individual and speak words of affirmation and encouragement over them. 

One particular pair of boys were known for being rowdy and difficult to work with, but they became silent as Manesha spoke. That’s when she saw the fruits of her labor: These kids had been through a lot, but they were moving forward. 

“In this moment when I was telling them these things, they both became quiet, thoughtful and contemplative,” she says. “I saw one of them begin to cry, and neither of them really said anything. I think the emotions were really big for them, but they both came up to me afterwards and hugged me. I was just floored.”

Manesha is confident in her calling and where she’s headed. Her mission is to care for others so that they reach the point where they can see their intrinsic, God-given value. 

“Psychology for me is so, so valuable, and it is my dream to be able to work in this field as a person who instills value in others and helps them achieve that sense of ‘I matter just because I am.’”

Guiding others in this healing process is rarely easy. But it is always worth it, and Manesha isn’t scared of a challenge.

“These last couple of years have made me see the world a little more realistically,” she says. “I have had to take off my rose-colored glasses, but I have also found that there is still hope. Even when it gets dark, there is still hope.”

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