Margery Zellermaier Lapp '74 majored in psychology at Union College before earning an M.S. in clinical psychology. Today she is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Lafayette, Calif. Her private practice focuses on helping people through challenging transitions in their lives. Margery recently added a new area to her practice, which is to provide emotional support for people who are caregivers for their loved ones. Her extracurricular activities include daily exercise, gardening, reading and (before COVID-19) visiting museums and attending theatrical events. Margery is also writing a standup comedy routine, which she hopes she can perform sometime.
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your career or volunteer activities?
I consider my career a calling. To know that I can make a positive difference in people’s lives gives meaning to my own life. It is an honor to be trusted by my clients. When clients come to see me, they have to be able to face themselves and this is an act of courage. I feel like we form a team because no matter how skilled I may be, my clients need to be open to changing and that can be very difficult. The most challenging part is to know that a client is embroiled in self-destructive patterns and is resistant to change.
Who inspired/inspires you, both professionally and personally?
My late mother, Helen Zellermaier, who changed her life at a critical time in our family, has inspired me. She developed a very successful career in her late 40s. In addition, she bravely endured Parkinson’s disease with Lewy Body Dementia. She taught me about grace, strength and maintaining a sense of humor under tragic circumstances.
What advice would you offer today’s women students, not just at Union, but across the country?
The advice question is my favorite one. I would tell every woman (and I do tell my female clients) to be self-reliant. Do not give away your personal power. The other piece of advice is to work hard to be your best self. We cannot control others’ behaviors. However, we can control our responses. There is room enough for all of us to have a place in the world. One does not need to get it at the expense of others.
What was your most formative experience at Union?
I had so many formative experiences at Union so it is hard to choose. Certainly being one in the first class of women came with varying experiences. There was the special aspect of that. However, there was also some skepticism to manage. Personally, I was able to explore my joy of performing with my involvement with the Mountebanks. In addition, I was able to create an internship at WMHT-TV, which led to my first career in television news production. Union gave me the opportunity to nurture meaningful parts of my life. And, of course, my time at Union brought me lifelong friendships.