An Oxford native who has combined two disciplines – counseling and journalism – has created a blog and side business called The Character Therapist, helping authors psychologically develop their fictional characters.
Jeannie Mood Campbell, a licensed therapist, writing consultant, and University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media alumna, brought the skills and experiences she acquired at UM to her new home in La Grande, Oregon.
Campbell said storytelling has always been important. After her father, Terry Mood, then assistant superintendent with the Oxford School District, hired Beth Fitts as a high school journalism and English teacher, her passion for writing continued to grow.
“Writing was easy for her,” said Barbara Mood, her mother.
Campbell initially decided to major in journalism and English at UM, but after taking psychology under Dr. Kenneth Sufka, she switched her second major to psychology.
“I knew from early on that she liked helping people,” Barbara Mood said. “Whenever I would go to her room to talk with her at night, she would always be on the phone counseling her friends on relationship advice.”
“I believe her want to help people is greatly influenced by her strong Christian morals,” said Terry Mood, her father.
Campbell enjoyed attending Ole Miss basketball games with friends as a member of the “Rod Squad,” a student-led cheer group for the men’s basketball team named after then coach, Rod Barnes. She was involved with activities in the Baptist Student Union and participated in a free throw match to compete for tuition money at UM.
“I have always loved basketball,” she said. “Although one of the only experiences I had playing it was when I was on the eighth-grade basketball team. During one of the games, I was picked to compete in a free throw contest during halftime, and the prize was a free year of tuition. So me and this other girl were neck and neck scoring hoops until we finally got to the three-point line. The other girl ended up missing her last shot, but I was able score the final point. My dad was amazed when he found out I won the contest.”
Although her ACT scholarship paid for the majority of tuition, she used the prize from the free throw contest to cover room and board costs.
As part of her undergraduate thesis for psychology, Campbell wrote a paper about the impact of religion on a student’s ability to adjust to college life. In this study, 111 freshman students enrolled in the Barksdale Honors College were surveyed about their religious affiliation and how much their religion affected their decision-making during stressful situations. The goal of the study was to prove people with a religious background have an easier time coping with high stress levels.
At the end of the semester-long study, it was found that students who used their religious beliefs as an aid to work through difficult situations were, overall, less affected by anxiety and depression. However, in the study, Campbell said it would have been more beneficial to have greater religious diversity, as Christian beliefs were those primarily held by participants.
After completing her undergraduate degrees at Ole Miss, she attended New Orleans Baptist Seminary and studied psychology and counseling where she met her future husband who was stationed there with the United States Coast Guard.
Now residing in La Grande, Oregon, Campbell runs a successful therapy practice specializing in early childhood behavioral counseling. Although she is based in Oregon, she is also licensed to practice in the state of California. Due to the current COVID-19 virus, most of her services are now conducted virtually.
Campbell said there are positive aspects of working virtually.
“Working through teletherapy not only allows me to observe the children without them noticing,” she said, but it also allows me to give instant feedback to the parents.”
Although her primary career focus is not journalism, she said the process of editing patient reports and working on short deadlines is similar to journalism training.
Additionally, her writing consulting business, The Character Therapist, combines her talent for writing with her expertise in psychology. The goal is to help writers develop dynamic characters for their novels.
“If someone has a novel with a mental health component, I can help edit their manuscript to make sure that everything is true to psychological fact,” she said. “In most cases I have been asked to help with suspense novels and women’s fiction.”
Campbell hopes to get a few of her novels published. In her free time, she has been writing a trilogy of romance novels based on Robert Sternberg’s theory of love being dependent on the qualities of intimacy, passion, and commitment.
Though she says that the means of transmitting a message has changed a lot since she studied journalism at Ole Miss, she offers this advice.
“I encourage students to remember that their words are powerful and that they can use their talents to make a difference in people’s lives,” she said.