She’s listening

Judith Mathews

Photo By Dennis Myers

On July 30, Reno family therapist Judith Mathews will begin monthly co-hosting of KNPR’s High Desert Forum program with fellow therapist Nancy Evans of Truckee. Mathews is a former journalist who worked as a reporter/anchor at all three Reno network affiliates and rose to news director at KOLO.

Right at midlife, you changed careers. Why?

Because TV news didn’t fit me anymore. The business had changed, and I had changed, and the thing that I loved about it wasn’t there anymore, so I decided I needed to be doing something different.

What was not there for you anymore?

I originally was attracted to the business because I love the idea of telling stories… And that story-telling element has kind of fallen by the wayside over the 10 years that I was in the business from ‘86 to ‘96. During that period, the business changed a lot. It became less picture-oriented. It was more about cranking out an endless series of the same stories day after day and year after year. The amount of news we were producing every day went up, but resources were not increasing at the same time, and so we were all expected to do more, and so the quality of the stories was suffering. The other thing that I always had a hard time reconciling is that I’ve always been interested in people, curious about people. I have an affinity for people, and that is not really incompatible with becoming a psychotherapist. That actually makes some sense, but [as a journalist] I often felt like, at the end of the day, I was exploiting people. Even if I was respectful toward them and kind toward them, at the end of the day, the stuff they showed me, the emotions they expressed on camera were a commodity, and I didn’t feel OK about that.

When you decided to get out of the business, why did you make the choice you did?

Well, I’d done my own therapy, and I believe in the process of therapy. And when I was in my early 20s, I’d actually looked into becoming a counselor. I looked at the different possibilities, like for example clinical psychology, but I got kind of carried away with journalism, and I did that instead. So it was something that had always been in the back of my mind. And so, I thought, well, I can give this a trial, just put my toe in the water, and so I worked as a volunteer at the Crisis Call Center to see, “Well gee, do I really want to listen to people tell their stories and talk about their problems all day?” And I found out that yes, I really liked it. It felt OK. So I went back to school and got my second master’s in counseling and educational psychology at UNR, and I graduated in ‘98 … What I do now is important and it’s meaningful to me, and it feels meaningful in a way that what I did before did not. And the reason it’s important work is that I get to participate in people’s growth process. And there’s nothing that’s more moving to me than watching somebody really do their work … working on becoming a healthier and more whole human being. And I get to participate in that, even just a little bit—that’s a huge privilege.

Tell me about the radio program.

My understanding is it’s going to be part of the High Desert Forum, which is a rotating series of programs on KUNR at 4 o’clock on Friday, and I am going to be doing my piece with a Truckee school counselor named Nancy Evans … And this isn’t necessarily going to be about people calling in with their problems. It’s going to be about—Let’s talk about anger, let’s talk about love, let’s talk about grief, let’s talk about all these things that make up the human experience.

Do you watch Frasier?

I do not. I feel like the only one on the planet that has never actually seen Frasier. I guess I’ve lost my shot at it, huh?