Using their backgrounds in the mental health field, Marci Ober and her daughter Courtney have worked to make a positive impact on the people around them.
Marci has been a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) for 30 years, switching from a career in sales to a career in therapy when she became a mom.
In 1979, Marci took her first psychology class at Ramapo College of New Jersey, and it changed her life. Though she did not enter the field right away, she was always interested in the subject.
After college, Marci became a traveling saleswoman teaching people about fax machines and later went back to school for her Master’s in marriage and family therapy.
“The real reason I did that, besides the fact that I always loved psychology and I wanted to do it, was that I knew that if I created a private practice, I’d be able to be a mom and have a career.
I made the switch and [I have] no regrets whatsoever,” Marci says.
It has been incredibly rewarding for Marci to help her clients to better their lives and make a real difference.
Inspired by her mother’s work and her own mental health challenges, Courtney also attended Ramapo College where she studied social work. She is currently working on her master’s degree in social work at New York University with the goal of earning her PhD. She recently began working as a school social work intern.
“Having struggled with mental health challenges since I was a kid, I always had a feeling that I wanted to help people in some way, especially younger people. I was very inspired by my mom. I knew while I could never sit in the therapists’ chair, I wanted to make a difference just as she was making a difference,” says Courtney.
Courtney has adored the work she has been able to do as a social worker. Before starting her current position, she worked at a free preschool program for economically disadvantaged families.
“That work was just amazing, being able to work with children, hang out with them and be a smiling positive face for them, while also working with the parents helping them work through their mental health challenges and economic stress,” she says.
During the COVID lockdown, Courtney also started her own small business called “Courtney’s Kids,” where she tutored kids who were learning virtually. She was the lead teacher of a small group of first-graders and aided them with their online lessons.
“How can you expect a first grader to sit in a chair for eight hours on a screen? I felt so much empathy for them. Every opportunity I had to bring them outside or do dance moves and stuff like that was just so impactful for them,” she says.
Within the past few years, this dynamic mother-daughter duo have created their own nonprofit organization called The KrazyGirl Project. Their mission is to break the stigmas associated with mental health and to offer resources and hope for anyone dealing with mental health issues.
The two also wrote a book together titled The KrazyGirl (& Guy) Parent Survival Guide, which came out earlier this year. It is a tool for parents to help their kids who may be facing difficult mental health challenges.
The inspiration for this book began when Courtney was going through a rough patch with her mental health.
“I believe there’s this concept called ‘learn, heal, teach’ where you go through your own struggles and you learn about what you’re dealing with and then you heal,” Marci says. “I figured writing a book together would move [Courtney] into teaching mode.”
Courtney and Marci are proud to say that the proceeds from this book, along with other fundraiser events, have funded a scholarship for Ramapo College students entering the mental health field.
“It’s really exciting that we can give back to our alma mater. That book can do good things that don’t benefit us personally. We can take what we’ve experienced, and we’ve learned that we could do good things in the world and education,” Marci says.
In the future, Marci hopes to publish a second book, based on The KrazyGirl (& Guy) Parent Survival Guide. It will be a workbook, giving readers activities and tools to better their mental health.
Courtney has also published in academic research journals, a proud accomplishment for her.
“[Research] drove me to want to get my PhD and that’s something that’s really scary to me, rightfully so. It’s scary to so many people, but that’s often why people shy away from doing it. I’m really proud I found this passion and then I cultivated it. I know I’m going for my dreams and really going for it,” Courtney says.
School can be tough, but Courtney says that if you’re doing something you love, it will truly benefit you throughout your life.
Outside of her academic work, Courtney has a passion for yoga. She is a certified yoga instructor and started a program teaching free yoga classes to organizations and people who may not be able to afford these classes and services.
She plans to teach at a women’s shelter near her, where she has volunteered before, to help survivors of violence and abuse. She is also going back to her alma mater to teach her sorority.
“I feel like we’re very used to working out to get fit or get skinny, but we often ignore that yoga can actually have so many more benefits. I just can’t say enough about the benefits of yoga and mindfulness and it’s transformed me as a human being,” she says.
Through all of their successes, Marci and Courtney have faced their own individual challenges.
“For me,” Marci says, “[a challenge has been] learning how to not let stress get the better of me. Courtney has really taught me a lot about this. I work to be a better person so that I can be a better parent. And I would say that that is not an easy thing.”
It can be difficult for Courtney to remain hopeful while facing mental health challenges. There were many times when she wanted to give up and leave school completely.
“Something that I’ve been challenged with is not not letting those bad days define me and run my life. I think it’s something that I’m going to continue to be challenged with, keeping hope,” she says.
“I realized, struggling with mental health issues at eight [years old] that I was going to have bad days for so long, I just let those bad days, bad months, bad years define me, like I was my mental illness. I’d say in the last two years, I really separated myself [from those struggles.] I am a functional, lovely, smart human being, and I do go through things but they don’t define me.”
For Courtney, “she can be both” means that she can be an academic, a writer, and also a human with her own interests and passions.
“I just don’t think [this message] is advocated for and acknowledged enough. People are trapped into these tiny boxes, especially women. But you can be whatever you want to be, and that’s wonderful. I’m so excited about this mission, truthfully,” she says.
This message definitely connects with Marci as well. “She can be both — she can be more than both. There are multiple truths that exist at the same time, and I think the more we open up to that, the better human beings we can be.”
You can find Marci on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Check out Courtney’s Instagram and LinkedIn.
Follow the KrazyGirl Project Facebook Group and Instagram page!