My Life: An Evolving Story
Who am I? — a quiet rebel with a pioneering spirit.
When I was quietly growing up in Illinois and Indiana or even during the 20 years of my marriage with five children, never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be making a major life shift ending up in my coming to New York City where I have been for over 30 years.
Serendipitous meetings change our lives. In the early 1970’s, as I was leaving my faculty office in Indiana, I had one of those serendipitous meetings with a colleague who, in passing, handed me Dr. Martha E. Rogers’ book, An Introduction to the Theoretical Basis of Nursing, saying “I think you’ll find this interesting.” Little did either one of us know, that book would shift the entire direction of my life. Rogers’ thinking pulled me into a whole new world of ideas like a powerful magnet. One day, a few years later after I was divorced, as I was upstairs dusting the bedroom furniture, I suddenly realized that as my children were entering college I was free to live anywhere in the world. Where would I want to go, I asked myself? Immediately, in a flash, I knew I wanted to study nursing science with Martha E. Rogers, RN; ScD; FAAN, at New York University. Martha was a radical, innovative thinker who created the science of unitary human beings that reflected a different worldview, both scientifically and spiritually, of people and their world.
A year later in 1976 I was living in New York City in Greenwich Village and Martha was my teacher, then my mentor, then my colleague, and eventually also my friend until her passing in 1994. The wisdom of her new paradigm thinking has guided the development of my own work.
Ten years before, when my youngest child was in first grade, I returned to college. From the first nursing class in my freshman year, I realized nursing would be far more than I had ever dreamed it could be, and it has turned out to be just that way. Nursing has given me so much and my intention has continuously been to give something in return. In Indiana I had both worked on psychiatric units as an RN and taught psychiatric nursing at the University of Evansville, yet practice has always been my first love. So simultaneous with studying for the PhD, I enrolled in a four year post-graduate psychotherapy training program in gestalt therapy and obtained certification as a gestalt therapist.
In 1980 I opened my part-time private practice in Health Patterning, a term I coined as an alternative to traditional psychotherapy, and pursued two careers simultaneously until 2001, when Health Patterning practice became my full-time focus. Until then, after five years as a nursing administrator at The Mount Sinai Medical Center, I returned to the world of academia for 15 years at Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing, Hunter College of the City University of New York Currently, in addition to my practice and occasional research consultation, I am writing what I am tentatively calling “The Power-as-Freedom Book” for the public, which you can learn about by clicking here. I also have co-authored with Gerald N. Epstein, MD, the Power-Imagery Process, and the Power Imagery Program.
Interestingly through another serendipitous meeting that changed my life, I discovered Dr. Epstein. Martha Rogers, who gave the five of us who were invited to be members of her “think tank” a copy of his 1986 article, “The Image in Medicine: Notes of a Clinician” along with the directive, “This is the way we need to be using imagery with the people we care for in nursing practice.” Later, I studied with Jerry at the American Institute for Mental Imagery and earned certification in mental imagery, imagination, and phenomenology. Like Martha, he too has been my teacher, mentor, colleague, and friend. Rosemarie Rizzo Parse, RN; PhD; FAAN, and John R. Phillips, RN; PhD, have also been instrumental is helping me shape my career.
Although I have been honored to teach and lecture both nationally and internationally, the highlight of my career was attending, as the honoree, the conference organized by some of my colleagues whom had used the power theory in their research. “A Celebration of 25 Years of Barrett’s Power Theory” was held at Baruch College, City University of New York, June 8, 2008. That’s me at the podium holding a commemorative gift. Arlene Farren, RN; PhD, was the conference chairperson.
The picture of me with my wonderful five children was taken there; Joe (Joseph B. Shetler III), Jeff (Jeffrey F. Shetler), Paula (Paula Grace), Pamela (Pamela Martha Temple), and Scott (Scott D. Shetler) have also blessed me with 15 grandchildren and five great grandchildren.