• Dr. Jennifer Sager

    Dr. Jennifer Sager

    Licensed Clinical Psychologist & Clinical Manager, ITM Group

    After Jennifer Sager gets her macchiato fix in the morning, she is off to work as a licensed psychologist who is motivated by helping others make positive changes and doing work that improves the community. As a specialist in sexual trauma and offense, Sager finds it important to empower women and hopes to help others have an easier path than she had by sharing her resources, time and energy. Although Sager has completed many achievements, she continuously strives to create her next goal, which currently includes writing two more books on how to keep children safe from sexual abuse and a guide for adults who are ready to make positive changes in their lives.

    “My personal mantra is to live with intent,” said Sager. “Almost all my decisions in life – family, career, leisure- are thoughtful.  I do not passively go through life.”

    What does it mean to be Fierce?

    My personal manta is to live with intent. I make decisions about what goals I should focus on and who I should let into my personal life, using both my head and my heart. One of my favorite quotes is by Marianne Williamson – “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” Being fierce is letting go of the fear and embracing how powerful we are – whether that is being blunt at work or intensely loving your family. Being fierce is realizing that we cannot make everyone happy and everyone won’t like us but being truly okay with that.

    What does success, achievement, and accomplishment mean to you?

    I’m still trying to sort out the differences between each of those for myself. Psychology has some clear definitions for these terms: achievement measures external standards, whereas accomplishments are internally motivated. Being a good person who treats self and others with respect is my personal definition of success. I have completed my achievements, the typical things such as degree, career, and family. I keep creating the next goal – the next accomplishment that I want to work towards. My next goals are to write two more books: a children’s book on how to keep kids safe from sexual abuse and another book to help guide adults who are ready to make positive changes in their life.

    What motivates you in the morning?

    Starbucks. After my macchiato, I am motivated by helping other people make positive changes or by doing work that improves the community. I am fortunate to speak to a wide range of people, through individual therapy or forensic work and I learn something from every one of them. I combine that information with the psychological research and just want to share this knowledge to make other people’s lives easier. Being an adult is hard. Being a parent is hard. Being an employee, a friend, an adult child of aging parents can be hard. There usually is an easier way and I love helping people find that path.

    What or who is inspiring you right now? Why?

    Given that I work in the field of sexual trauma and sexual offense, the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements are incredibly exciting. Everyone involved makes me encouraged that women’s issues and women’s safety will improve. Those movements still need to learn how to be more racially inclusive, but I’m hopeful that will happen. I also find journalism inspiring right now. I am in awe of every ethical reporter who uncovers the layers of deceit that have allowed sexual abuse to run rampant in our county.

    What was the best decision you’ve made? What’s the worst?

    I let go of having patience, which is probably not what you would expect from a psychologist. To me, patience is waiting around because that’s what someone else wants. It’s hoping that things will one day change. My worst decisions were when I actually waited patiently and was passive. There is a saying: We don’t drown because we are in water; we drown by staying in it. However, my fun answer for the best decision I ever made was learning how to swing dance because that is how I met my husband.

    What has been your biggest obstacle and how have you overcome it?

    My biggest obstacle was completing the editing process of my dissertation. I had a problematic relationship with my dissertation chair and it delayed my graduation for several years. In the fourth year that I was delayed, I realized that my patience was just passivity and I started to be direct. Very direct. I had to take a chance in speaking to others in power, risking retribution. My attitude change is the reason I graduated.

    How do you address negativity in your life and in business?

    My initial reaction to this question was a laugh and “That’s not acceptable.” I asked my best friend, Lauren, how I dealt with negativity and she said I treat it “as if it was a magnet; you push it away from yourself and do not allow it in your sphere.” In all seriousness, if there is consistent negativity then I try to work with someone to change it. Often it is a misunderstanding. However, if there seems to be no change possible, then I start looking to see how I can change my employment or distance myself in the relationship.

    Is there a particular instance or occurrence that you credit for building your confidence and self-esteem?

    On a personal note, I did not care much what peers thought of me as I went through my teens. I was extraverted and even though I was overweight, I realized that my confidence made people notice me in a positive way. There were low points, as all teens and college students have, but I think I had perspective; I knew things would change for the better. Career wise, I had a long list of amazing mentors and some challenging supervisors.

    Similar to my personal life, I did not automatically believe people when they gave me negative feedback. During my Ph.D. program I received some strong feedback that my academic writing style was lacking. This was a devastating blow to my self-esteem, as writing is an essential part to a Ph.D. program. For a few weeks I thought about giving up and quitting the program. Instead, I took a paper that I had received a low grade on and submitted it to a peer-reviewed journal. I also submitted another article to a peer-reviewed book anthology. Within a few months they were both accepted and afterwards published. I did not bother to tell my faculty about this success; I just needed to know that someone liked my writing, even if my supervisor did not.

    How do you empower other women?

    The first thing that I do to empower other women is let go of the adage “well, I had to go through this, so you should also suffer” garbage. I want their path to be easier than mine, so I share resources, time and energy. I also believe that people do things for smart reasons. From their viewpoint, there may only be one road and it might be a poor choice. I make a point to understand how a person made their choices, believe her, validate her past choices and then encourage her to make new choices. I also call women “women.” I do not call females over the age of 18 “girls” and I tend to correct everyone about this. Words have meanings and using “girls” for adult women is disempowering.

    What change do you want to see in your industry?

    I specialize in sexual trauma and I wish that we could talk about sexual issues more openly. As a therapist, it is not enough to ask someone the overview of their trauma. It is important to be a safe space for the horrible details of someone’s pain. I also wish the psychological field, as a whole, would spend more time understanding sexual offending. Unless court ordered, people usually do not share that they have sexually abused someone. Even if they were a child and offended one time on another child, the shame they carry is drowning. I wish the majority of my field knew how to talk about these issues with kindness and expertise, so we could heal this hidden part of people.

    Do you have any advice for young women as they try to achieve their goals?

    I think women tend to get tripped up in their personal lives, before they have problems professionally. As such, my advice is to put energy into other people who are willing to share their energy with you. I often see women, and also men, sacrifice their boundaries early in a relationship because of the promise that it might be meaningful relationship. This applies to friendship and family, not just romance. For instance, I was out at dinner with a close friend one night. We were discussing where he might move after he completed his academic program. I said, “I don’t think you are going to take the time to talk to me if you move.” He replied flatly, “I probably won’t.” I sat for a few minutes and realized that I didn’t want to spend time with someone who saw me as temporary. I put money on the table for dinner, said “okay,” and left the restaurant. He messaged me thirty minutes later with “You left the restaurant! I thought you went to the bathroom.” I explained my thoughts and he listened. We continued to be friends, he moved out of the state after graduation, and he kept in contact. He is one of my best friends today and was a groomsman in my wedding. Our friendship changed for the better because I set a boundary, he listened, and we really talked.

    What do you want to be remembered for?

    My honesty and passion. I want those close to me to remember how I loved them fiercely. I want those around me to know that I desperately tried to facilitate change – with them and with the community.

    How do you defy the current stereotypes, stigmas, and double standards that women have today?

    I just do me. I love science fiction books and have spent more hours than I want to admit playing computer games. I’m not afraid of stereotype threat so I also love glitter and throwing parties. I speak up when I see a misuse of power. I often use my ascribed privilege to have difficult dialogues with peers about race, gender and sexual orientation. For instance, when my first child was born, I had a bib embroidered with “Don’t assume my gender.” I do things because they feel right and are a reflection of my morals and ethics.