Psychology instructor writes about living with person who has mental illness

Susan Hunter

Susan Hunter

Madison Area Technical College

Psychology Instructor

Susan Hunter likes to remind her Madison College students not too long ago she was sitting where they are now.

 “At 40 years old, I felt it was important that I understand the science of mental disorders not only to help my family but other families who are trying to cope with a mental illness,” Dr. Hunter recalls.

Since her husband was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Dr. Hunter had done a great deal of research on the disease and felt she had much to share with others about living in a bipolar family system. She completed a bachelor’s and master’s degree through Edgewood College and then earned a doctorate in Educational Psychology from Argosy University.

During the summers, Dr. Hunter took classes at Madison College and transferred the credits. She appreciated the diversity among her technical college classmates and says it helped her understand the many family systems. 

Upon completing her masters in marriage and family therapy, Dr. Hunter spent a couple years working with families who were dealing with a variety of psychological issues. Her heart poured out to them and each of their situations. 

“I truly believe in the process of therapy and continue to be amazed at the strength of the family system. Much of the therapy work was co-occurring with educating families, who like me at one time, did not understand mental health. Educating families became a critical and powerful tool.  There are many avenues to pursue in psychology and I hope to try them all but for now I am excited to teach, write, and continue my research,” she explains.

Since 2010 Dr. Hunter has combined private practice in marriage and family therapy with teaching psychology. She has also written a book, “Bipolar By Proxy,” that tells about family life with mental illness.

“I want to sit with them not hover over them,” she says of her teaching style. Hunter feels a great affinity for non-traditional students. Often they are very unsure of themselves at the beginning of the semester, Hunter says. But at the end of the semester they are confident and proud of their hard work.

“Persistence is a big word for me,” she states. “If you keep persisting you will achieve. You make your own boundaries.”

Currently, Dr. Hunter is revising “Bipolar by Proxy,” adding more psychological concepts and theory, and writing a science fiction novel. She calls the novel a fun book with a psychological science fiction twist. “It is something I’ve never done before, a challenge.”