Oral History 10.2015: Dr. Kim Hoover, Child Psychiatrist

This is an interview of child psychiatrist Dr. Kim Hoover. It was done by Gloria Hoover on May 2, 2015.

Gloria: Can you begin by explaining a little bit about yourself?

Kim: Well, I am a child psychiatrist and I have a practice in Winston-Salem and am also medical director of nonprofit agency. I am active with a mission organization called CCTI that provides curriculum and training to caregivers of children who have had trauma all around world. I see myself as someone who has a real passion for working with children and for being someone who hears the voices of children when nobody else is listening to them.

G: How do you see being a child psychiatrist as being a peacebuilder?

K: Well I see it at different levels. One is certainly that people who are suffering from mental health problems are not at peace with themselves. I see kids who are very depressed, anxious, and they’re not able to do things kids their age can do because they are so blocked by their mental health issues. So I see it as bringing peace to them by treating their mental health problems they get some internal peace. Another level is conflict, usually what I would see is conflict within families. Often times that is a source that would bring people into mental health treatment, whether its behavior problems or a kid having problems at school. Often times a parent has identified something as being bad and brings their kid in and there’s conflict in that. By helping to identify what it is, you can help bring peace into that system. Another source of conflict for young people is often conflict with peers. I see a lot of children who just have trouble getting along with people and are bullies or are being bullied. Or sometimes they are so angry and upset about situations they’ve had to deal with in their life that they take that anger out on other people in ways that interfere with the ways they make friendships. So sometimes helping kids develop problem solving skills or giving them strategies to deal with anger in different ways turns out to be a peacebuilding tool because they’re able to get along better and establish some friendships. One final way would be if you think about peace as also being something that brings healing to structures in the community or in the world that are unjust, then being an advocate for the mental health needs of children, being an advocate for treating children in countries where children are not even recognized as human beings, becomes part of peace making.

G: What are some of the hardest things about being a peacebuilder, in your experience?

K: Well I think the hardest thing is always to have some respect and appreciation for where people are coming from. Even when you see there need to be changes and even when you have some ideas about types of changes, if you don’t have any respect where they’re starting from, you can’t help them move forward. Another hard part is that often times people will resist change. And even though they’re expressing unhappiness with a situation the way it is, their motivation for change is not strong. There’s a tendency to the same pattern of behavior that they’ve had for a long time. So in that sense, being a peacebuilder is something that you have to recognize is going to take time. Just because I might see how it needs to go or the change that needs to happen, you have to make people see that themselves because they’re the ones that have to make changes.

G: What are some of the best things about being a peacebuilder, in your experience?

K: To me, the best thing about it is feeling like i make a difference in some way. Whether its for an individual or for a family or for a group of caregivers in a third world country who are going to impact numerous children, just being a part of that and feeling I made a difference is the most rewarding. “A hundred years from now... it will not matter what kind of car I drove what kind of house I lived in, now how much money I had in my bank account but the world may be better because I was important in the life of a child” sums up how I feel.

G: What could be done to encourage more peacebuilding?

K: Well I think that in general terms what has to be done is helping people focus on how we’re more alike than different. Because its when people start defining other people by differences, the blocks of peacebuilding come about. So the more we can hold that we are alike and similar, the more we can help others do the same and I think thats what’s really necessary for peacebuilding to occur. I think we also have to be role models as peacebuilders. I believe it was St. Francis who said “preach the gospel and when necessary use words” and what he meant by that was it’s how we live our lives that teaches people. We can’t just think of peacebuilding as, say part of our job, but we have to see it as an entire way of life.

G: What advice do you have for anyone that wants to make a difference in the world?

K: Find your passion. Find what really moves you and follow that and you will definitely make a difference. The way you find your passion is to go through your day being aware of how your experiences through the day make you feel and look at the experiences that either bring you the greatest joy or the greatest anger or the greatest outrage. And that will tell you what you’re passionate about and once you find that you can find ways to use all the gifts you’ve been given to address that issue.

G: What is one of the best memories you have from your work with children?

K: One of the best memories i have is i was seeing a boy who was getting ready to go on vacation with family to Yellowstone and he told me he was going to bring me back something. When he came back he had this little container of water and he said he had brought me back snow from Yellowstone. And I thought that was the most precious thing ever!

G: Everyone has hard times and their morale lowers. How do you pick yourself back up and continue the work, even if it seems like things are working against you? (in general, but are there any specific examples?)

K: I try to keep things in perspective is the first one. Particularly when thinking about children of the world and al the difficulties they have, it’s not really solvable and it’s certainly not anything one person can take on. So I try to keep it in perspective and remember that any impact you make has a ripple effect that can continue on even when you’re gone. The other thing I would say is its really important to have ways to recharge yourself. When you’re doing work that requires you to be passionate and caregiving, it’s really easy to burn out and give up. So things like exercise, hobbies, and spending time with family are all really important.

G: Is there anything else that you would like to share? (stories, advice, anything!)

K: There is a beautiful video of John Michael Talbot singing St. Francis prayer of peace. And to me that prayer, and the images on the video, say a lot, to me, about what peacebuilding is all about and the connection between people that is needed to make a difference on a large scale.