Anita Johnston, PhD

Fables, folk tales, and legends have always played a crucial role in the life and work of psychologist Anita Johnston. As a child growing up in a multicultural extended family on the island of Guam, she was nurtured by strong women who taught important values and lessons about life through the stories they told and the songs they sang. Her mother, an American who married a Chamorro man, was a librarian whose personal collection was filled with legends of ancient peoples, accounts of early Spanish explorers, and heroic tales from World War II, including those about her paternal grandmother who led the underground resistance movement during the Japanese occupation of Guam. It was also the traditional tales, told by the Chamorro and Filipina women who cared for Dr. Johnston and her six siblings, that gave her a sense of the power of stories to enlighten and instill change.

Her interest in female psychology and the role of women in contemporary society sprang from her experience as a contestant in the Miss Universe contest when she was 18 years old. Her observations of what society dictated as feminine beauty, as opposed to the lessons learned from the women in her family, were a driving force in her decision to become a psychologist. After getting her B.S. and M.A. in psychology, she received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology in 1980.

In response to the increasing numbers of women with disordered eating, Dr. Johnston cofounded the Anorexia and Bulimia Center of Hawaii in 1982. In addition to her private practice, she lectures widely to professional organizations, universities, medical institutions and the community at large. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Hawaii.