Combining Mission Experiences with Psychology to Help Others Reach Their Full Potential

Grant Johnson at graduation.
Grant Johnson (’24)

When Grant Johnson (‘24) first arrived on campus in 2019, he had no idea how much his life would be changed by his peer’s examples, his mission, and a psychology class at Southern Virginia University.

“Five years ago I was embraced by Southern Virginia University as an Esports competitor,” said Johnson. “Now I have been launched out of Southern Virginia with a clear, meaningful vision to pursue and the education to pursue it.”

In the first half of his freshman year, Johnson found himself placing less emphasis on his education and spiritual growth and realized something needed to change.

“My roommate at the time was preparing to serve a mission, and my ministering companion had already served and was also engaged,” said Johnson. “They not only helped me stay involved in church, but also got me thinking about where I wanted my life long-term. Things I wanted to accomplish in my life, my relationship with God, and my long-term goals.”

As he ministered to members in his ward, Johnson experienced an increase in his desire to grow spiritually, serve a mission, and have a family. Despite his fears of leaving what he was comfortable with, he submitted his recommendation papers and served a mission in Mesa, Arizona from 2020–22. 

Grant Johnson during his missionary service in Arizona.

“My mission fulfilled all my hopes,” Johnson said. “Being in a new environment, I had time to reset my brain and learn to love hard work. More than that though, it gave me an opportunity to grow spiritually, and I learned that I could change much faster as I relied on Jesus Christ. My desire to engage in my old, instantly gratifying lifestyle diminished.”

Wanting to help others learn to become their best selves, Johnson decided to continue his education by pursuing psychology to become a therapist. While taking a class with Dr. Alison Caldwell-Andrews, he learned about the power of overcoming addiction and dove in headfirst.

“Learning the science behind addiction, habit, behavior change, and goal setting was exactly what I was looking for,” said Johnson. “And having many of my professors be members of the Church was cool because I was able to combine my missionary experiences with what I was learning in psychology.”

To share what he was learning, Johnson developed a free coaching program and mini-course called Balance Dopamine to help others create healthy and productive habits and live their best lives.

“Dr. Allison’s classes really inspired me and helped me realize what I enjoyed and loved about this topic of overcoming addiction and growing as a person,” Johnson said. “I took her health psychology, behavioral therapy, and lots of other classes, and they motivated me to learn more outside of school and figure out exactly how I want to help people.”

Johnson married Tayma Vanek (‘24) in 2023 and recently graduated with a degree in psychology. He plans to continue growing his coaching program and attend graduate school to become a therapist.

Grant (’24) and Tayma (’24) Johnson.