Soviet émigré serves others through therapy
Richard Vishnevsky was in his mother’s womb when his parents decided to escape the former Soviet Union and come to America. They saw Los Angeles as an open, diverse and hope-filled place where they could start fresh and where their son could receive a world-class education.
“My parents were Jewish, by religion, and there was so much anti-Semitism back where they were from,” said the second-year student in the Master of Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) program at the USC Rossier School of Education. “They could not freely congregate and express their beliefs, and that is one of the main reasons why we moved to the United States.”
Vishnevsky was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley and cared for by his grandmother while his parents worked multiple jobs. Due to his family’s commitment to education, he attended and excelled in various private, magnet and charter schools.
He chose to pursue family therapy after working with an organization called FACT: Family, Adult, and Child Therapies as an undergraduate at UCLA, where he said he witnessed the power of therapy firsthand working with children and young adults on the autism spectrum.
Vishnevsky enrolled in the MFT program at USC Rossier, for which he received support from the Donald T. Golder Endowed Memorial Scholarship.
The endowed scholarship was established in 2004 by the Golder Family Trust to support USC Rossier students. Golder MS ’47 was a longtime administrator for the Glendale Unified School District, and he served as principal of Glendale High School.
For Vishnevsky, attending USC Rossier has been a life-changing experience. He credits the professors and courses, such as “The Counseling Process” taught by Ginger Clark, with allowing him to see great therapy at work and learn the basic, yet essential, skills of a therapist.
He also learned how his own experiences can help him relate to the diverse clients he sees.
“Not only have I learned a great deal about therapy and my chosen profession, but I have learned more about myself and the world around me,” Vishnevsky said. “Growing up as the child of immigrants has really helped me understand the experience of both immigrants and first-generation Americans.
“I know it can be very challenging to juggle two or more different cultures because I have struggled with that myself,” he explained. “This program has made me grow and think in ways I have never before.”
Vishnevsky currently puts the theories and knowledge he has gained through his studies to practice at the Richstone Family Center in Hawthorne, Calif. As a therapist trainee there, he and fellow USC Rossier MFT student Marie Freschl started a support group focusing on child abuse and domestic violence. The experience has confirmed for him that family therapy is his passion and what he sees himself doing for the rest of his life.
Vishnevsky said the support he received from the Golder scholarship has allowed him to follow his path toward personal fulfillment by serving others.
“This scholarship helps not just me but also every person I will ever counsel during my career,” he said.