Kirsten Lind Seal photoKirsten Lind Seal in her office

Keep dancing

Years of performing-arts experience prepared Kirsten Lind Seal, ’14, to help others persevere

Kirsten Lind Seal’s path to becoming a counselor, teacher, and relationship expert was an unlikely one.

“Ever since I was a small child, I knew I wanted to perform,” she says.

It was that passion that led Lind Seal first to a career in dance, theater, and comedy. Her journey began in New York, but she eventually moved to the Twin Cities for its family-friendly atmosphere and robust theater scene. It was here that she began teaching ballet to teenage girls.

“I remembered very clearly what it was like to be a teenage girl, which made my students feel more connected to me,” she says. Through this work Lind Seal realized, “These girls needed women in their lives—women who weren’t their moms.”

Choreographing a new career

After 25 years of performing everything from modern dance to stand-up comedy, Lind Seal reflected on experiences with her students and began to think about going back to school.

“I wanted to become a licensed psychologist, and the possibilities seemed the greatest at the U of M,” she says.

Lind Seal began her new career as an M.A. student in the Counseling and Student Personnel Psychology program in the Department of Educational Psychology. It wasn’t until her third or fourth class in counseling theory, however, that her path became clearer.

“We started talking about family systems and I thought, ‘This is how I see things!’”she remembers. It was then that she decided to go into family social science, adding a graduate minor and later pursuing her Ph.D.

“Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not going to accomplish something. You don’t always get what you think you want today, but the decisions you make may lead you to where you need to be tomorrow.”

“Through my M.A., I became grounded in everything they teach in counseling psychology—which is foundational to family counseling,” says Lind Seal. “Plus, I was able to obtain a clinical master’s degree, which is required for a Ph.D. in family social science.”

Many roles

Lind Seal’s performing arts background began to intersect with her new career when, as a Ph.D. student, she was invited by professor William Doherty to join his research project. The goal of the community-based project was to help an African immigrant community in the Twin Cities break the silence around war and trauma by creating a traditional African performance piece.

“A group of Liberian youth and I together co-created a theater piece using dance, music, and spoken word,” she explains. “My role was to help these young people tell the story about how their elders refused to talk about the war. My theater background, interest in clinical work and families, and years of working with youth all came together.”

Since finishing her Ph.D., Lind Seal runs a successful private counseling practice, has had findings from her thesis on confiding relationships published in Psychology Today, and teaches counseling ethics to graduate students in marriage and family therapy at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. And, while her audience has changed, she hasn’t stopped performing. She also appears bi-weekly on WCCO-TV’s Midmorning show as a co-host of a segment called “Relationship Reboot.”

Learn more about the Department of Educational Psychology and the Department of Family Social Science.

Connect with Kirsten Lind Seal through her TV segment, Relationship Reboot, every other Wednesday during the WCCO Midmorning show, or tweet with her @drklseal.

Story by Sarah Jergenson | February 2016