Meet Kristin Bohan

By Leslie Moore

Meet Kristin Bohan

Dr. Kristin Bohan wants to help girls change the way they see themselves – and to ignore the way much of our culture sees them. Kristin, a licensed psychologist with over a decade of clinical experience in helping girls and woman of all ages with eating disorders, body image issues, anxiety and depression, met with Sasee at her lovely Litchfield home to talk about her new non-profit, myTERMS, and her work starting a Montessori Charter School in Georgetown County.

Kristin, what led you to start myTERMS?

I remember exactly when I knew more was needed to help our daughters deal with a culture that sells thong underwear to eight year olds and padded bras to six year olds, bombards girls with highly stereotyped and often degrading images of what it means to be female, and tells them their worth is directly tied to their looks. It was in 2009, the day before Thanksgiving. I was working with a wonderful, bright young girl; the kind of girl I would like my own daughter to grow up to be like – wise, funny, and incredibly talented. But, she was very unhappy and felt that no matter how great her accomplishments, she was not good enough. Her truth about herself was her reality. What I saw in her did not matter. I cannot describe the emotional pain she was in and, for the first time in all these years of doing therapy, a patient’s pain became unbearable to me. I’m sure I slipped from psychologist into mommy mode. I felt incredibly protective of all the goodness in this child that was being destroyed. And I was enraged at the culture that had done this to her – and even though psychologists are encouraged to maintain strict boundaries with patients, I put my arms around her as if she were my own child, and she sobbed. It was then I knew I was not doing enough. That evening, I sat in bed with my laptop and sent an e-mail to about thirty friends and colleagues asking if anyone else was seeing what I was – something was stealing the selves of our daughters. I received more than 200 replies over the next two weeks – all repeating a resounding “Yes.”

That’s when myTERMS was born. I thought if I could take the work I do in my clinical practice and turn it into a prevention program, we could reach out to girls before the problems start and inoculate them against the toxic messages. myTERMS stands for my time, my energy, my rights, my mission, myself. I began to think of it like the flu shot, a sort of immunization against popular culture. Last year was our first big program, a summer camp for girls ages 8 – 16. The two weeks I spent with these girls was hands down the best experience of my professional career. myTERMS camp is basically an antithesis of how girlhood is portrayed in popular culture. We had over thirty women volunteers from the community who more accurately represented the wide variety of choices girls have about who they want to be. Campers learned to be more savvy consumers of the media. They learned about amazing girls in history and did skits. They learned how to support each other and understand the damage inflicted by rumors and gossip. For that session, we had the girls squeeze a small tube of toothpaste onto a paper plate – and then we asked them to put it back in! We had a fascinating impromptu session on the Disney princesses. We examined the culturally-accepted idea that beauty is a woman’s most valuable commodity. We learned about social activism and gave them ways to challenge negative stereotypes in their own communities. Above all, we helped them to look a little more critically at the way girlhood is sold to them by marketers, merchandisers and the mass media. Girls today see more images of unrealistically beautiful women in one day than their mothers saw in a lifetime. What’s worse, many of these images portray girls and women as sex objects. Unfortunately, we are exposed to these images so often, we’ve become desensitized. I want to help our daughters hold on to the confidence they’re born with and give them the freedom to choose what’s important in their own lives.

What is the future of myTERMS?

This summer, we’ll have our second annual myTERMS Summer Camp for girls beginning July 18. And, we would like to make this ongoing throughout the school year with after school sessions. We’re developing a curriculum and working with the Georgetown County YMCA now to make that happen. And, I want to develop a system of measuring the results of our work.

Tell us about your work starting a Montessori Charter School in Georgetown County.

Making Montessori education a public option is another labor of love. The Montessori Method resonates with me as a psychologist because it is so in line with the way children develop naturally. When I saw the impact Montessori was having on my own children, I wanted to find a way to make it accessible to more children in our community. I am the Chair of the Coastal Montessori Charter School Planning Committee, but it is the work of the twenty-plus committee members that has enabled us to come as far as we have. We submitted our application to the S.C. Department of Education earlier this month. We should know if we will receive authorization by mid-August. If approved, we will open with 120 children from first through sixth grade in August 2012. South Carolina is a national leader in public Montessori education. Right now there are 44 public Montessori programs in the state, and, if we are approved, we’ll be the first in Georgetown County. The Georgetown County school district has been so helpful and encouraging. We want to work closely with them to bring families another excellent public school option.

Contact Kristin through her website, www.myterms.org or at www.coastalmontessoricharter.org.

About this writer

  • Leslie Moore Leslie Moore is the editor for Strand Media Group. A 25 year resident of Pawleys Island, she is blessed with a life filled with the love of family and friends and satisfying work to do every day.

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