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Susan Smith Brightman
Artist, Teacher, Mentor

Serving others is among my highest goals. We are in community, one with the other, and our task is to live and relate with acceptance and compassion. Being helpful and supportive brings us to an intimate realization of our interconnectedness. I have devoted my life to the helping professions. In my serving I know that helpers often burn out and need respite and nurture. Many of us are ‘wounded healers’. Who helps the helper?

Spiritual growth has gone hand-in-hand with my years in education, counseling and service. My spiritual evolution has deepened with each step. It is clear that my ten years of teaching led me to counseling. I now understand how my seven years of counseling led me even more deeply into the spiritual aspects of healing. I continue to discern how my years as ordained clergy was just one more step in helping myself and others with their spiritual journey. Many are moving away from the institutionalized church. They are hungry for new forms of expressing their connection with God and others. So am I. Currently, I am Atelierista, the Artist /Teacher in residence at the first art-centered public charter school in Baltimore City.

Growth through multi-faceted service brings me to this time of being a mentor. My professional preparation began with a 1975 Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Towson State University. In 1986, I completed a Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology at Johns Hopkins University. In 1997, I completed a Master’s Degree in Divinity from Wesley Seminary. I continue to pursue non-degree education in the field of fine arts.

I am a National Board Certified Counselor (NBCC). I have been a workshop leader in the field of educational counseling. I co-authored a manual for self-esteem activities for children and teachers. I directed and promoted ‘Wellness Day’ workshops for teachers, instructional aides, counselors and clergy, highlighting the value of self-care.

Healing and every other step of my personal journey has been a continuing quest for spiritual awareness and wholeness. My own pain from dysfunctional family issues led me to look within myself in order to survive my years of physical and emotional abuse. Finding the source of my inner joy gives me the insight to assist others in finding theirs.

As an elementary school teacher, I worked within the system to provide the most nurturing learning environment possible. However, the system could only go so far in addressing the hidden challenges to learning that were imposed on children by their families of origin. I watched their learning struggle because of family issues and abuses. I came to believe that counseling within the educational setting would give me the opportunity to more effectively serve these children. I believed that addressing spiritual and emotional issues would benefit these children and their families.

Values and spiritual concerns are, however, not permitted to be addressed within the educational system, as I soon discovered. I worked primarily with elementary age students, teachers and parents to reveal the importance of emotional nurture and extended care to the emerging spirit. As my work progressed in this area, I found even more hindrances to the growth of spirit.

I concluded that people of all ages have a need for spiritual healing. I became ordained clergy and worked in various ways to promote the healing of mind, body and spirit that Jesus modeled. After 15 years of lay and clergy effort, I was led to make yet another choice. The institutionalized churches contain many of the same limitations found in schools. I now seek to meet these needs as mentor and workshop leader.

Community is needed. Family is important. Institutions are necessary. So how are we to reconnect the individual, the family and our institutions? Workshop participants continually report a loss of community and abandonment by family and institutions.

My continuing education and preparation begins anew with every sunrise and all of the experiences that present themselves each day of my life. I am glad to be alive. I am glad to be of service. I am glad to be ever renewing my spirit with daily healing and service as Artist, Teacher and Life Strategist.