A Sit Down – with Jared Torgerson COVT
This post appears as part of a series called Sit Down – candid conversations with real people detailing their journeys and experiences with Vision Therapy.
A Sit Down – Jared Torgerson COVT
For the benefit of our readers, can you explain how you are involved in Developmental Optometry?
I work as a Vision Therapist at Alderwood Vision Therapy Center in Lynnwood, Washington under Dr. Nancy Torgerson. I’ve been a part of the team there for about three and a half years. Previously, I studied animation and game design and worked as an animator at a videogame developer. I was also your friendly neighborhood latte dealer at a Starbucks. Software and coffee… how much more “Seattle” can I get?
So, about those Superbowl Champion Seattle Seahawks…
About those Seahawks? They’re “just about that action, boss.” This city and this team were as hungry for a championship as anyone has ever been in the history of hunger. You saw it on the field and you heard it from the stands. I just want to warn fans of other teams that there might not be many non-Seahawks Super Bowl wins in the next decade. Now I’m faced with the decision of whether or not I’m brave enough to wear my jersey when I visit San Francisco this weekend…
Regardless: Go ‘Hawks.
How did you first hear of Developmental Optometry?
Well, the first I really knew of it was when I was a patient myself at the age of six. I don’t remember much of it other than I HAD to do it. I went through a second course of therapy few years later when I was 12. Again, I don’t remember much of it, but looking at the pictures from my chart… I was a much grumpier patient as a 12 year old. All this to say, I’ve known about Developmental Optometry only slightly less long than I’ve known about crayons. Whether I was in the office as a patient, hanging around the office watching Mickey Mouse videos, or at home making Brock Strings, I was always around it in one form or another.
Tell us about working with your mom, Dr. Nancy Torgerson?
It’s fam-tastic. I really can’t compliment her enough on how wonderful of a place she has created. She’s always working on ways to make the experience both as an employee and as a patient more rewarding and efficient. It’s always easy to work for someone who really knows their craft. It is certainly a different relationship than I’ve had with other bosses, though. I don’t ever recall leaving work and saying “Love you” to any of my bosses previous to working here, and I don’t ever remember having to repeatedly teach any of my previous bosses how to turn on the TV and cable box…
As someone who recently completed the COVT process, can you describe your preparation in all three phases?
If you asked my mentor, Sam Caldwell, to describe my preparation, she’d probably say “What preparation?” which completely fits if you know her. If you asked my coworkers who were also going through the COVT process, you’d probably get mixed reports of my even-keel manner being either calming or maddening. For the open book questions, I tackled the ones that I thought were easiest first, answering things I was confident in and getting in the swing of writing. As the deadlines passed and I got to writing the prompts that I was less comfortable with, I started asking more questions. I’m very much an “I’ll figure it out” personality type, so my first instinct was to research it independently until I was confident in my answers. I would then submit the paper to my mentor and ask for specific feedback on the areas of the responses in which I was least confident. I got very socratic feedback, which played nicely into my sense of pride in “figuring things out myself.” After the papers came the multiple choice exam…
I’m a good test-taker. Tests are one thing I have absolutely no nerves about. I looked over a provided study-guide that outlined possible areas of questioning in the written exam and was confident in my knowledge of the listed areas. As the day of the exam approached, my attitude was “If I know it, I know it. If I know it and can’t think of it, I’ll figure it out. If I don’t know it by now… then I won’t know it.” I brushed up on the anatomy of the eye and properties of lenses, but other than that… it was smooth sailing.
After that came the oral interview during COVD week in Orlando. When we submitted our papers, part of the process was getting questions back regarding specific areas of interest within what we had written. This bank of questions is what will be drawn from during the oral interview. I went over the questions with my mentor and had her grill me until she, and ultimately I, were satisfied.
Since the COVT process is designed to be a process of learning, how would you qualify and quantify your learning as you progressed through certification?
One of the biggest challenges with the open book questions was the length of the papers. One can write almost indefinitely about any facet of Vision Therapy, so when the length of the paper is limited to three double-spaced pages… things can get a bit cramped. One of the biggest benefits and learning experiences of this whole process for me came from this restriction. It forced me to become more conceptual and theory-based in my expression of what I knew regarding vision therapy. I could list procedures, their benefit, and specify how I do them till my fingers were raw, or… I could write about the criteria for choosing procedures. I came to write not about what things work, but about why they work and the thought process behind every procedure I perform. When I can understand and explain the underlying concepts of vision therapy, the procedures work themselves out. Moving from a procedure-based mindset to a concept-based mindset was invaluable.
One question that seems to repeat itself among aspiring COVT’s is “what will the oral interview be like?” Having recently gone through it, can you describe your experience?
The interview process felt very conversational and relaxed. I sat with two interviewers who went out of their way to make me feel at ease during the process. I felt I was there to elaborate on things that I may have not worded as well as I could have in the paper-writing process, and to clarify any other questions regarding my understanding of what I wrote about. The whole thing felt like it went by very quickly. I think we went longer than our alotted time and only realized it when someone else mistakenly barged into the room looking for a different meeting.
What advice would you offer anyone considering completing their COVT this year, or in years to come?
Have confidence in yourself. Have confidence in your doctor(s). Have confidence in your mentor. Have fun! Trust in the process. COVD has set up an amazing network of people who are all invested in your success. Remember that vision therapy is about changing the lives of our patients and that the COVT certification process is just a great big learning opportunity. It’s about understanding the things that you know and becoming better equipped to pass on the benefits of your knowledge and skill to your patients. What’s better than that??
Many COVT’s interviewed here have acknowledged the value in having a strong mentor. Do you share that sentiment?
Ab-so-lutely. A good mentor is a combination of safety net and cattle prod. They should be confidence inspiring and incredibly motivating.
Aside from the obvious, your mom, were there any other major influences in your path to becoming a COVT?
Dr. Robert Sanet was a huge influence over the last year. A number of therapists from our office took his five-part seminar down in San Diego in 2013. It was an incredibly thought provoking and well designed course. Even when he spoke about something I was already familiar with, there was always a new wrinkle to it; a different angle. The amount of times I said “I hadn’t thought of it like that…” to myself is absurd. He and Linda are doing incredible things for people year in and year out down in San Diego. I can’t recommend the course enough.
Prior to Dr. Sanet’s course, I’d been privledged enough to hear a number of other speakers concerning various topics. Dr. W.C. Maples has supplied me with innumerable pearls of wisdom regarding vision therapy and I think about one or another almost daily.
Another person who I would be remiss to leave out of this list is Dr. Joseph Lao. He came to our office on one of his rotations out of Western College of Optometry and displayed a truly inspiring thirst for knowledge. His mind is always racing and he’s always trying understand why things work in an effort to better create new ways to help people. He’s an unbelievable brainstorming partner.
Samantha “Sam” Caldwell (pictured above) was in your office for over 11 years and was awarded the COVT of the Year award in 2011. As you know, Sam recently moved on from VT to begin a new life. Tell us about the influence Sam had on your learning, as well as the patients who crossed her path?
When I started my training as a therapist, I was basically attached at the hip to Sam. It’s easiest to learn from someone you respect and it didn’t take long at all for me to develop vast amounts of it for her. Rarely have I ever come across someone so dedicated to helping others, and it was this dedication that made her such an amazing therapist. She worked tirelessly to improve her craft and to improve those around her. I consider myself unspeakably fortunate to have been able to spend the better part of six months shadowing her and observing her in my formative stages of becoming a therapist. Day in and day out, she handled patients who, whether diagnostically or behaviorally, would make your hair stand on end. She loved her patients, and I can say with confidence that the most difficult part of stepping away from her job as a therapist was not being able to see those people she cared for so much every week. She changed countless lives and it was incredible to be witness to it. I dream of being half the therapist she was.
Though, to her face, I’d probably just say she’s better at pretending she knows everything than anyone I’ve ever met.
COVD recently concluded another great Annual Meeting in Orlando, and completing your certification has to have been a personal highlight. Beyond your immediate success, what did you enjoy most about the meeting?
There are a few things I thoroughly enjoyed about COVD. One big one was beating a certain Vision Therapy blogger’s team in the combination trivia/puzzle game/scavenger-hunt during the Vision Therapists’ mixer. One thing I can’t recommend enough is the hospitality suite. There are some amazing conversations with amazing people to be had in that room. It’s not to be missed.
Some Closing Thoughts – A great thanks to Jared for taking time out for this interview. His knowledge and humor are much appreciated – except in the last answer where he rubs in a victory over a certain blogging therapist… 🙂 – and his passion for Vision Therapy is obvious. With his mom, Dr. Nancy Torgerson, showing Jared the way, the sky is the limit! Please join me in wishing Jared and his family the absolute best! 🙂