Second Story: Leaving the bar for the couch

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

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As Jeff Rogers will point out, lawyers and therapists generally have very different personalities. Yet he’s managed to earn the title “counselor” in both fields.

After graduating from Yale Law School in 1973, Rogers moved to Oregon and began building an impressive resume: working as a public defender and at the U.S. Attorney’s office, starting a private firm and serving 19 years as Portland’s city attorney. But in 2000, Rogers couldn’t shake the urge to pursue an old interest in psychology.

After undergrad, Rogers attended one year of medical school at Harvard with plans to become a doctor. But after a “slight detour” to Vietnam on a Navy hospital ship, a career in law had more appeal. In 2000, he was ready for another change, having added to his experience work with mentally ill patients, a strong knowledge of mental health law and experience as the chair of the Oregon Psychiatric Security Review Board.

“My career all along has had one foot in the door of psychology and law,” Rogers says. So he went back to school, earning a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Lewis & Clark College on nights and weekends. In 2004, he opened his own private counseling practice in Portland, where he sees 50-75 clients on a regular basis. Not surprisingly, most are lawyers.

On top of this, Rogers hooked up with a volunteer organization to counsel war veterans. That area of work grew, and Rogers was hired by the veterans hospital part time. “I have the great advantage at this point in my life of not needing to make a lot of money,” he says, “so I limit my private practice and volunteer.”

Though he enjoyed his 30 years as a lawyer, Rogers says he doesn’t miss it. Although he admits it was scary being a novice at 60 years old, he says he’s confident in his new career. “If I didn’t have those two areas as background, I would feel like much more of an imposter,” he says. “But I don’t anymore.”                                                

AMBER NOBE


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