Notable Women of Austin: The encouraging words of Erin Karasek

Published 5:26 am Tuesday, December 3, 2019

By Carolyn Bogott

American Association of University Women

If you were a middle school aged girl whose life was so troubled that you had been placed in residential care, what would you want to hear from your therapist?   I think I would love to hear the things that Erin Karasek tells her young clients. 

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“You have walked in here with everything you need to work out your problems.  It is our job together to figure out how to use that.”

“Your strengths are hidden, but I have a big flashlight.”

“I will walk with you through whatever it takes to give you back your voice.”

“You have lots of power. It is your choice whether to act on a feeling or not act.”

Those are strengthening statements!

Erin Karasek

Erin started out to be a physical therapist. She was assigned to work with a seven-year-old with severe Attention Deficit–Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and that experience made her realize that  she should use her gift “of being present for people and honoring what they share” by helping kids achieve  change.  She switched her major to psychology and sociology.

It was a somewhat winding path to her current position as Clinical Supervisor for a unit at Gerard Academy.  First she worked in chemical dependency for adolescents before attending graduate school at St. Mary’s University to become a licensed professional clinical counselor. Her internship for her graduate degree was at an alternative school in the Anoka-Hennepin District. That internship turned into a job there and for 10 years Erin did individual and group therapy, mediation, restorative justice, plus advocacy for homeless youth. She says it was a “cheerleading job,” helping these young people figure out who they were and who they could be.”

That position ended and Mounds View was Erin’s next stop, working in the schools there with children with mental health diagnoses who required multiple modifications to the educational setting.

Erin, her husband and their two sons wanted to move closer to Erin’s parents in Rochester, so Erin took a job at John Marshall High School. There, she did school- based mental health services. 

In May of 2018, her present position became open and she began at Gerard Academy here in Austin.  Erin’s current responsibilities are supervising a unit of 16 middle school girl residents and the staff that cares for them, including two therapists, as well as having her own therapy clients.  She also supervises one Masters Degree student’s clinical internship.

According to Jenni Linnet, Erin’s supervisor and mentor, “Erin’s skill level is superseded only by her level of caring and compassion for children.  She is a natural leader and team player who expresses her thoughts and ideas in a transparent and courageous manner that ultimately has the best interest of the youth and families she works so closely with each and every day.  Her humor and natural ability to connect to others makes her fun to work with and easy to approach.  We at Gerard are grateful to have her in a leadership role.”

Erin said, “I try to approach life with the grace that I have been given. I consider it courageous that these girls share their pain with me and I want to honor them by listening. Being vulnerable is brave. The kids are my inspiration with their bravery to tackle very tough situations. I feel very blessed to do this work.”

And we are very blessed to have Erin working with these struggling young women!

For more information about the Austin Branch of AAUW, contact Sue Grove  or Carolyn Bogott The American Association of University Women, now AAUW, is open to anyone who has completed a two-year degree or beyond.  AAUW welcomes men who support our objectives and there are student memberships available. AAUW has been empowering women since 1881.  We support equity and education for women.  Scholarships are offered, as well as help in litigation in cases dealing with sex discrimination.  We are the most important and highly respected research and lobbying organization dealing with women’s issues such as equal opportunity and job equality.