Family matters: Meet Tami Erickson

Since 1972, the Family Therapy Training Institute of Aurora Family Service has been preparing mental health professionals to guide families through turbulent times.

Meet our new family therapists as they approach their August 17 graduation date.

After obtaining a master’s degree in psychology and pursuing a career as an alcohol and drug counselor, Tami Erickson chose the Family Therapy Training Institute at Aurora Family Service to extend her skill set to a new audience.

What inspired you to become a family therapist?

Joan Olson, our pastor’s wife, better known as the “prison mom,” worked with ex-offenders and their families for years and asked if I would write to a prisoner. She started inviting me to ex-offender meetings and then a Transition of Prisoners conference. There was a need for an ex-offender support group in Waukesha so I started one. I noticed a pattern: almost everyone that came to the support meeting had problems with drinking and/or drugs.  I realized the impact of alcohol and drugs on the whole family and how important it is to include the family in the therapy process.

Why did you choose the Aurora Family Therapy Training Institute?

When I was running the family program at The Lawrence Center, my manager Holly Gardenier told me about the Aurora Family Therapy Training Institute. Since I was already working with families, she thought this might be a good fit for me. I never heard of FTTI before, so I checked it out online, and set up an interview with Ann Marie Starr.  Once I met with Ann, I knew this was the right program for me.  She made the application process easy.

In your opinion, what is the number one challenge that families are facing nowadays?

People have become disconnected and connected with technology. We text, email, leave voice messages, and Skype instead of spending time with our friends and families in person. We are a mobile society via planes, trains, cars, and families are states and countries apart. Churches used to be the social and humanitarian community connections and today many people church shop, aren’t connected to any church or social organization, and don’t know our neighbors.  We are so distracted with technology that we fail to stay connected intimately with our family members. We want a fast-food; drive-through approach to fix our relationships.

Who in your own family has inspired you the most through your life, and how?

My mom, she would be my life line on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. She has been my support and encouragement through my life’s ups and downs.

My uncle, Dr. Richard Erickson is a school and private psychologist, motivational speaker, and author. He has a passion for helping troubled male teens. He has been my inspiration with his educational and family values, and his humanitarian spirit especially with those who can be challenging.  He recently retired and is a missionary in Cambodia. His blog can be followed

My faith in God.   Both sets of my grandparents were actively involved in the church. My grandpa’s worked at the food pantry for decades. Before the passing of my Grandpa Truman Wigdahl it was wonderful to see the look of pride on his face when he received an outstanding volunteerism award.

What’s your most cherished family tradition?

December 23rd is my Grandma Wigdahl’s holiday and we will continue to honor her with a celebration on that day even though she is now passed on.  The Norwegian Christmas cookies that my mom makes every Christmas, and making and eating lefsa to carry on the Norwegian heritage is special to our family.

For family get togethers such as birthdays, I try to make our time together fun. For birthday’s at home I pull out all my questionable musical instruments (gong, tambourines, chimes, children’s accordion, recorders…) and we sing Happy Birthday while playing these instruments out of tune. It doesn’t matter how we sound as long as we are together.

Where do you plan to take your career after graduation?

As a licensed marriage and family therapist, I will practice the techniques and skills I have learned as a systems therapist and incorporate them into my therapy sessions.  I will continue my life long learning and get my doctorate degree. I will give back with my gifts by teaching, writing and giving hope to the hopeless.

What advice or encouragement would you have for someone considering FTTI or a career in family therapy?  

Aurora Family Therapy Training Institute will change your life and your way of thinking about systems and how important and impactful the family is in the therapy process. FTTI has a family-type atmosphere with small classes so one can benefit from individualized and intensive learning.  The instructors are great, with sage field experience and a passion for what they bring to family systems. The team mirror experience can not be duplicated; you will learn and grow as a professional family therapist.

Aurora Family Service helps families overcome challenges, changes and crisis to live well again. We achieve stability and strength for families through counseling, parenting, elder care, financial, career, health and community services.  For more information, visit our website, follow us onFacebook, or call 1-414-342-4560.

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