Member Spotlight: Ezra Lockhart

By Membership

Imagine being born in the most Northern remote town in the United States with no affordable way out. Now picture waiting for solo planes to fly in your mail, groceries, and occasionally, a couple of individuals in extreme weather conditions. This isolated town is where AAMFT member, Dr. Ezra Lockhart, found himself working and researching to shape his passions and career. Born in almost the complete opposite climate, and raised in Hawaii, he often saw his heritage symbolized as luaus and souvenirs, but it wasn’t until his mother experienced a life-changing accident that his perspective of his own culture and mental health forever changed.

Lockhart’s mother was in an accident that blinded her for life. This forced him to get involved in health and human services to find her the support which she needed. He educated himself and started in the human services field by simply buying groceries for those who were unable to do it themselves. As time progressed, he started working in in-home settings and as he worked with individuals, he noticed that the general health and human services system often identified the person as the center of the problem. He noted that “it was a very individually focused [approach] and therefore [the system expected the individual to] own the problem,” but he knew better. Lockhart decided that this was not the way to look at those who are in need of help. He believed that individuals are influenced and are connected to a greater system, and this is what led him to his valued membership with AAMFT.

Lockhart was no stranger to thinking in a systems-oriented way. Starting his career in informational technology or IT, he had a pragmatic way of solving problems in general. He found that people at large felt more supported when problems were looked at as a whole rather than solving each obstacle one at a time, and he took this approach with him to Alaska, where he lived for over 20 years! Since his career took off, Lockhart has conducted over 14,000 risk and suicide assessments, and continues to do research on process addictions, with a focus on online gaming. AAMFT had the opportunity to sit down and speak with him regarding various topics, but specifically working within the indigenous communities of Alaska.

He was clear when he suggested that MFTs should advocate for the indigenous communities by addressing the conflicts of jurisdictions and the “not it approaches” that have caused this population to suffer greatly. “[Indigenous populations] are told you need to support yourself but then when they access their warranted assistance, they are told to raise their own funds or to figure it out. We need more representation at the federal level with more resources. [So many people ask], don’t tribes have access to casino money? Yes, but they don’t have access to that money for the things they need. There are no funds for community development, [or] regulating alcohol or substance use…”

Lockhart has found that addressing those with substance use disorders by helping them think generationally and systemically has helped those individuals build a new sense of self and feeling of self-worth. Having lived in an isolated village of 3,000 people for eight and half years, he had first-hand exposure to how a community which has ancestry from 14,000 years ago has internalized loneliness and now uses substances to cope with cluster symptoms of ADHD, Major Depressive Disorder, and other anxiety disorders as a way of life. His goal was and is to break these patterns and show each individual that there is power in their heritage and that each person is unique. He believes that the best way to help individuals know themselves is to help them with self-esteem or identity… [and] helping link the individual and [their] culture; “I find across my practice, that this is the intervention.”

Lockhart hopes that by educating other mental health professionals, there will be a shift from cultural competency to cultural humility… “There has been this recent adoption of cultural competency because we know minorities are not well represented within the [mental health] field but [minorities] are accessing most of the supports. Using cultural competency is problematic, I want a shift towards cultural humility… I want to learn about who you are.” Lockhart, now having found the true origins of his culture, believes that if MFTs and other healthcare workers want to aid this effort, they must have a genuine interest in delving beyond the luaus, and societal stigmas of others, and focus on really understanding true origins of culture.

Dr. Ezra Lockhart is an advocate for societal acceptance of diversity. He demonstrates a servant-leadership style with the natural inclination to serve first. He has a disposition towards listening and discerning, forgiveness and restorative justice, foresight and strategy, systems thinking, and building community. Ezra is kānaka ʻōiwi (aboriginal Hawaiian) born on the island of Oʻahu and currently residing in Denver, Colorado.

Look for Dr. Lockhart’s article in Family Therapy magazine titled “The Motivation Behind Problematic Online Gaming,” coming soon.

Spotlight: A Member’s Journey is a Family Therap-eNews feature that showcases AAMFT members and their unique stories that shape them as people and as therapists. This profile appeared in the September 24, 2021 edition of AAMFT’s Family Therap-eNews. 

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