Arlette Razafimanantsoa: Taking Marriage and Family Therapy to Madagascar
At Fuller's 2004 commencement ceremony, Arlette Razafimanantsoa celebrated the earning of her Master of Science in Marital and Family Therapy. She has a vision for using that degree when she returns to her native Madagascar. "Marriage and family therapy is not developed well yet in my country," she says. "I want to let people know how they can integrate the methods of marriage and family therapy with their faith."
Before coming to Fuller, Arlette worked as dean of students at two different Bible colleges in Madagascar. But that title doesn’t reflect the full extent of her duties. "I went wherever my denominational director needed me to go," she says--which included serving as an interim pastor at five different churches over 10 years.
As she worked with these churches in transition, Arlette saw not only a lot of conflict, but also the deep needs of many who were willing to open up to her as their pastor. "People keep secrets to themselves in our culture, but the one person they feel they can trust is their pastor," she says. "I realized my skills were limited there, and it increased my desire to learn more about counseling."
Arlette came to Pasadena in 1999 with her three children and husband, Edmond, who entered Fuller's PhD program in New Testament. Knowing no English when they came, she spent her first year in language learning, and then started working on her MFT. Arlette does not pretend that any of this was easy, for either her or her family. "Languages do not come easily to me, and it is unbelievable that God helped me learn enough English to complete this master's program," she says. "There were a lot of challenges, but a lot of miracles. God had his hand on it all, and I believe he wants me to take this experience and do something in my country."
When her husband, Edmond, completes his PhD next year, Arlette and her family plan to return to Madagascar. She will make herself available to her denomination for pastoral counseling needs, but her primary goal is to teach at the graduate seminary level. "By teaching, I will have more people to work with me--to look at what is needed in my country and develop solutions, psychologically and spiritually." She feels she has gained important tools through her education at Fuller, but now needs to work out ways to adapt and use those tools in the context of Malagasy culture.
"Faith, medicine, and therapy can all work together for healing," Arlette says. She is concerned about her homeland, and looks forward to exploring the ways she can develop marriage and family therapy there.