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Therapeutic Journey

Psychology major seeks to help others, as she helps herself

For Johanne Barthold, ’25, higher education is about much more than understanding an academic discipline. Johanne is using it to learn about herself. 

Diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2018, she is now a psychology major with dreams of becoming a therapist who supports others facing mental illnesses. 

“I wanted to learn more,” said Johanne, a Brockton resident and transfer student from Massasoit Community College. “My mental condition had me in a state of confusion. I really wanted to get more perspective on my life.” 

Johanne, who is 41 years old and has two children, didn’t think it was logistically or financially possible to pursue a bachelor’s degree earlier in life. But, after losing her longtime job as a medical biller, she seized the opportunity to go back to school. With the encouragement of her own therapist, she’s now pursuing a career rooted in her personal experience. 

In addition to bipolar disorder, Johanne has sickle cell disease, an inherited blood disorder that causes bouts of pain. At BSU, she’s found understanding faculty who offer flexibility when the disorders affect her schoolwork.  

And being a Bridgewater State student, she said, is a form of therapy in itself. 

“Studying has helped my condition because it keeps my mind on something. It keeps my mind busy,” Johanne said. “It helps me think rationally.” 

Johanne also works with students with intellectual disabilities as an education coach in BSU’s EXCEL program.  

“I struggle with anxiety, and I wanted to be able to help other students navigate their way,” she said.  

Off-campus, she’s a yoga instructor and works on a Boston Medical Center study exploring if writing about trauma helps people with PTSD. She praised classes in cultural and social psychology for helping her better connect with study participants.

As a future therapist, she plans to rely on her personal challenges and the academic foundation of a Bridgewater degree to continue her mission of helping others.

“It’s made me feel that I can do this,” she said of being a Bear. “The support that I’ve gotten has given me a lot of hope. Everyone has been so kind since I’ve gotten here. I feel at home.” 

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