Tag Archives: Counseling

594.25 To Go!



For obvious reasons, I won’t go into details about what I am doing, but I can tell you that I am interning at a hospital rotating among three different units.

Most of my first day involved observation of clinicians and fellow interns, but I was also afforded the opportunity to participate somewhat. Me. On the verge of conducting actual counseling.

As I have mentioned in prior posts, I have really been working this year on stepping outside of my comfort zone. In 2013 alone, I may have leaped outside of my comfort zone more times than in my entire life! This experience is by far the biggest leap I have taken.

I was beyond nervous this weekend, but I was able to pick a fellow intern’s brain about random questions most normal people probably wouldn’t dream of. Nevertheless, with a little bit of prayer and a lot of preparation, I made it through. Whew!

There may be 594.25 hours to go, but what matters right now is that I dove head-first into the experience and came out alive! 😉 I am so blessed to have been accepted as an intern at this hospital, and I am truly looking forward to the learning experiences and opportunities this internship will afford me.

Well, I’m off to bed, as I have my first group supervision experience tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. sharp! I just wanted to keep up my resolve of posting at least every other day. Ta ta!

P.S. What was the last thing you did that really pushed you outside of your comfort zone?


Dear Practicum


Dear Practicum,

This parting of the ways is bittersweet. I’ll admit: at first, I wasn’t sure how much we’d learn from each other. I was skeptical about the kind of counselor education lessons you’d teach me. You’re not exactly the type of Practicum everybody else wants, but that’s always been okay with me. In the end, though, I am grateful for the time we have spent together.

Over the past ten weeks, I have learned how to read a child’s body language to determine how he is feeling. I have learned how to anticipate a tantrum, a forceful hug, and a lengthy pout. I have gained a renewed sense of patience and a new perspective. I’m not a naturally patient person, so you really helped me out!

Over the past ten weeks, I have cultivated a compassion I never knew I possessed. I have come to care deeply for those whose stories are difficult to tell, those whose lives may be overflowing with hurt and heartache and deprived of logic, reason, and simplicity. Without you, I might still be wondering about that empty place within me that compassion was meant to fill.

Over the past ten weeks, I have coached myself on how to speak with children who are anguished, who long to feel heard and understood. You provided me with an opportunity I might not have been offered anywhere else in this city.

Over the past ten weeks, I have soaked up every possible moment of training and supervision so that I will feel prepared as you and I part company. You provided me with excellent teachers and colleagues who have each left a unique, indelible mark on my soul.

Over the past ten weeks, I have looked forward to coming in to see you twice a week. I wasn’t sure how I would fit in with our arrangement, especially after I was assigned teenagers with whom to work independently… But we worked nicely together, don’tcha think?

As I said, I wasn’t sure how much you had to teach me in the way of counseling. I mean, how much could I really learn in a hundred hours? Turns out, more than I ever could have imagined. All of these lessons, tidbits, parables, and precious moments have woven themselves together to create a memorable “learning experience,” as they say. Patience, compassion, empathy, positive regard, listening, reflecting… I improved it all; sometimes it’s just hard for me to see the forest through the trees.

Because of you, I’m ready to tackle what’s next. Sure, I’ll still feel nervous on my first day, a small cog unsure of its place in the monstrous mechanics of the machine. I’ll still ask too many questions and doubt myself when the answer isn’t obvious. I’ll still second-guess myself, even though you taught me to be confident in my ability to adapt. But most importantly, I’ll keep going when the going gets tough.

You and I, we may not have fallen in love at first sight, but we’ll always remember each other.

Thanks, Practicum. For everything.

Surrendering: Part 2


This weekend was both busy and relaxing. If that’s even a thing.

Friday, I blew into town, powered by Dayquil, Halls, Ibuprofen, and sheer willpower. I wasn’t crazy about the idea of pizza for lunch because I feel like I’ve eaten far too much of it lately. But, Ian had a gift card that was about to expire for this great little joint across the street from his apartment building, so we had lunch with our friend Mark before he hit the road for Easter weekend. Thankfully, I had time to sneak in a nap!

I was determined that Ian and I were going to conduct our wedding business and then enjoy a nice dinner with my parents at — where else? — Capital Ale House. I literally felt as though someone had stuffed my ears full of cotton, and then was trying to put so much pressure on my head that it would implode. Nevertheless, we had an incredible dinner, and we even popped in at a friend’s birthday party before finally hitting the hay.

Saturday morning, we slept in for the first time in awhile, and it was blissful. We did absolutely nothing the entire day, and it was exactly what I needed to recuperate. Mom made a phenomenal Easter dinner of spiral honey-glazed ham, corn pudding, green bean casserole, biscuits, mashed sweet potatoes, salad, and cream cheese pie for dessert! (I’ve been amazed that through all this cold/allergy business, I haven’t lost my sense of taste.)

We took off about 8:00 to hit this little wine and beer place Ian can’t get enough of, Once Upon a Vine. They carry the Fox Barrel pear cider I like so much at Cap Ale, so I satisfied my craving 😉 We took our libations to our good friends’ new apartment for their housewarming party. It’s always so much fun to reunite college friends and old and new friends. It was a pretty late night, but well worth the journey down to “the Fan.”

Sunday, of course, was Easter! We dressed up in our finery for church, which is one of my favorite services of the year. I love all the bright colors and the decorations. Afterward, we had lunch at the Tobacco Company, a Richmond landmark and one hell of a restaurant. It has a lot of character, but it also has really great food. Sunday, I was back to feeling pretty crappy, and combined with the rainy weather, it was the perfect day for a nice long siesta. Because I don’t have Practicum this week, I was fortunate enough to be able to stay at home one more night.

Despite feeling like utter shit pretty awful most of the weekend, it was a wonderful weekend full of food, family, and the perfect amount of R&R.

Now, on to the real subject of today’s post…

I feel that I would be remiss if I didn’t follow up about my foray into the personal counseling world. To be quite honest, I still have not sought counseling, either at my campus’s counseling center or elsewhere. I know that my counseling experience (or lack thereof, as the case may be) is nobody else’s business, but I believe in an honest and direct approach to blogging. The reason I have not sought counseling is simply because I have been too lazy to do anything about it. I’m not going to make the excuse that I’ve been too busy or tell you that all my stressors have melted away. I fell into the trap that so many adults fall victim to, thus perpetuating the cycle that never ends (at a counselor’s office). If that isn’t firsthand experience of what my future clients will experience, I don’t know what is. I’ve been learning a valuable lesson about the premium people put on their health when they push problems aside instead of dealing with them, and I recognize that I am by no means setting a positive example for those considering seeking counseling.

I still absolutely have every intention of seeking personal counseling, as well as couples counseling prior to Ian’s and my wedding. It’s all part of my journey toward deepening my awareness of myself and areas where I need to focus as I become a counselor. I just wanted to “come clean,” so to speak, and not mislead you in any way. Honesty is the best policy, after all.

P.S. If you’re still reading, thanks for sticking around. If you’re new to SwaSoV, welcome!

Julia Cook


Last night, instead of having our usual interactive lecture session from 7:00-9:30, my professor requested our presence at a speaker the school invited to discuss underachieving children and how parents, schools, teachers, society, and students themselves can change this trend. The speaker, Julia Cook, was quite prolific. I’m not one to voluntarily attend a presentation unless it’s for extra credit or something (#sorrynotsorry), but her presentation was phenomenal — even for a mandated assignment. It had humor, it was fast-paced, it was colorful, it was relevant to work I may encounter in the future, and above all, it was interesting. She used one of the best PowerPoints I’ve ever seen!

I didn’t know what to expect when my professor emailed us last week that instead of having a quiz and a lecture on the particulars of counseling Asian- and Arab-Americans, we’d be attending a speaker known for her published children’s books on bullying…

The best part of the evening was the gift! One of the deans approached two of my classmates and me as we were minding our own about 15 minutes before the presentation began, and asked if we would participate in Julia’s presentation. She said we wouldn’t have to do much, that we wouldn’t have to go up on stage or say anything, and that our involvement would be fast and fun. Okay, fineee.

Surprise! As soon as Julia called for her volunteers from the audience, we were asked to come up on stage. At least I only had to hold a sign up… Amy had to wear a red foam nose, a huge tie, and a clown collar! But, just as the dean promised, we didn’t have to say anything, and we were on stage for fewer than 5 minutes. (I’m not a big standing-up-in-front-of-people type of gal.)

So this is where my gift came into play. As a token of her appreciation for her 4 volunteers’ assistance, each volunteer was allowed to choose one of her books and have it autographed. The children’s books normally sell for about $10 apiece, but I received my very first official counseling resource gratis. I chose this book that Julia had read to the audience during her presentation:

Cliques Book


The dean and one of the office administrators kindly arranged to pay Julia for Amy’s and my books and have them delivered to Amy at her on-campus job, so I’ll have my physical copy in-hand as soon as I see Amy again. I literally cannot wait to use this book as a resource, perhaps before my Practicum experience is over! When I took a Play Therapy class last summer, we discussed how the use of non-human characters (e.g. animals) in stories can help children relate to problems and problem-solving better than if human characters are portrayed. This book just makes cents to me 😉

Well, I’m off and running! I have a lot of cleaning and grocery shopping to do before my better half arrives this afternoon. I just wanted to share with you how excited I am to have my first counseling book!!

Establishing a Routine


As part of individual supervision today, my on-site supervisor at my Practicum and I were discussing self-care with regard to diet, exercise, and weight loss. I divulged that over the past 13 months, I have lost — and maintained the weight-loss of — 35 pounds. She asked me how I had done it with such a busy schedule. (I imagine that she was trying to place my running and strength-training sessions in her daily routine, and having difficulty. Everyone’s busy schedule is unique, so what worked for me won’t necessarily work for her, and vice versa.) She is a licensed professional counselor (LPC), which is my down-the-road aspiration. Her schedule is so action-packed that I wasn’t surprised to hear her say she doesn’t have time to work out, and when she does find time, there are other things she’d rather be doing.

Our conversation got me to thinking…

When I’m out in the real world, I (hopefully) won’t be trying to balance a full courseload, planning a wedding, finding summer employment, establishing an Internship site, traveling back and forth between school and Richmond, managing a somewhat long-distance relationship, carrying out daily-living tasks and classwork assignments, and finding time to exercise and eat well.

However, I will be trying to manage a household, balance my career with my marriage and my social life, and find time to exercise and eat well. Lord only knows what my life will look like when kids are factored into that equation…

This not-so-distant-future got me to thinking:

How valuable it is to establish a routine so that when all of these requirements, time demands, and stressors collide, I will (again, hopefully) already know where treating my body right fits into all of that chaos! I have an established routine now, and even the added 10+ hours of weekly Practicum didn’t disrupt my routine much. Next semester, when I’m in my Internship, I’ll have to re-establish my routine yet again. This is all good practice for Big Girl World and the adult responsibilities that come with it.

That being said, I’m off to the gym for a little QT with my iPod and some weight machines 😉

[Edited to add: For the month of February, I traveled 56.22 miles! In keeping with my 2,013 in 2013 goal, I “should have” traveled 154.42 miles for a total of 325.389 miles in 2013 thus far. Last February, I traveled 41.83 miles. Always improving!]

Trash TV + Running


Question: What do trash TV and running have in common?

Answer: Everything!

I am not ashamed to admit that while I’m watching trash TV, I can run all over creation (figuratively, of course). “Repo Games,” “Judge Judy,” “COPS,” “World’s Wildest Police Videos,” “Jerry Springer,” “Maury”… I watch it all.

This morning, the gym was blissfully empty. There was just little old me, sweating my ass off, watching the “Repo Games” marathon. You know, exercising the same brain cells that are earning my Master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling.

Repo Games


Repo Games 2


Sometimes I also watch “real” TV while I run, but the trashy shows are just so much more entertaining. I particularly like the trivia shows — hence today’s “Repo Games” marathon.

I ran 4 miles while people got their cars repossessed for thinking that California is a territory of the U.S., that the video game acronym GTA stands for “guns thrown around,” that an octogon has two to four sides, and that there is a television show called “That ’90s Show” on which the characters smoke weed 😉

Watching TV while I run may not be the best use of my smarts, but it sure does beat staring out the window, or staring down the time on a long run.


Question: Do you have a guilty-pleasure trash TV show?

Surrendering (And How It Wasn’t as Bad as I Thought It Would Be)


“Mama said there’d be days like this, there’d be days like this, Mama said…”

Okay, I’m done. I’m no songster, anyway. The lyrics just floated through my brain and seemed so appropriate for today’s post 😉

I’m not usually one of those women who willingly admits she can’t do something. Actually, I’m more of one of those I-Am-Woman-Hear-Me-Roar types.

I always try to be straight with you, so I’ll be straight right now – the mixture of activities taking place in my life right now is stressful, and at times, overwhelming. I am completing my Practicum experience, attempting to solidify summer employment, working on securing an Internship site for the next academic year, planning a wedding, trying to fit in regular exercise, and managing my apartment as well as daily living tasks and weekly schoolwork. Whew!

[Please note: I am in no way trying to insinuate that my life is any busier or more action-packed than anyone else’s; in fact, I am trying not to play the comparison game these days. I’m simply stating that my life is chaotic in my world.]

That being said, sometimes I need a little assistance balancing everything. After weeks of debating and weighing the pros and cons, I decided to seek counseling at the college’s counseling center.

I thought I would waltz right in, flash my college ID, and get started discussing stress with one of the counselors. Come to find out, my college’s counseling center requires a record of a recent physical and immunization records, as well as a completed student medical information form before the counselors can see any student—even a graduate student. Hence why I made a trip to Richmond in the middle of the week for a physical.

As I was texting Ian about my difficulty in even establishing an appointment, he said something to me that resonated deeply because it is such a prime controversy in this country right now: This is a ridiculous amount of hoops. I wish it were this difficult to buy a weapon. (That’s a different topic for a different day.)

You might be asking yourself, why would you choose to see a college counseling center when there are “real” counselors all over the place? The answer is, for three reasons. Primarily, the college counseling center is close, and there is no waiting list for new clients. Second, it is a free service afforded to all students, graduate and undergraduate. Private counseling practices can be very pricey. Third, and perhaps most difficult to admit, I don’t hold a particularly positive view of college counseling centers. I say “real” counselors in quotes because the counselors at colleges are real counselors—they have experience and training, and many of them graduated from programs similar or identical to mine. They are often stereotyped as either young, hot-off-the-press graduates with little or no experience in the issues experienced by college students who “don’t really help you,” or antiquated older men who live to prescribe medication. In reality, they are rarely either of these undesirables. Hey, after completing 60 credit hours post-Bachelor’s degree and 700 hours of experience, I won’t appreciate it too much if future prospective clients don’t think of me as a “real” counselor! I’m making the best attempt I know how at overcoming my mental stigma against seeing a counselor on a college campus.

So, here I am, ready to see a counselor for the first time since I was fifteen… and still waiting for the results of my physical to arrive. I kind of doubt the counseling center will turn me away if my blood sugar is too low or my cholesterol is too high. I just want to talk to somebody about my freaking stress level!

Someone asked me recently, “Can’t you use some of the techniques you’ve been taught for helping clients deal with stress?” Well, yes and no. That task is easier said than done. It’s kind of like talking to your best friend about what’s bothering you over and over and receiving the same answer each time, and then finally breathing a sigh of relief when you gain a fresh perspective from talking to someone else about what’s bothering you. Yes, I can apply what I’ve learned to my own life, but I think a fresh perspective is just what I need right now.

For example, my meltdown a few weeks ago was actually not the result of stress over floral arrangements or photographers’ prices or cupcake flavors; it was the result of cumulative stress. Since said meltdown, I’m happy to report that my stress level has been reduced significantly 😉

Again, I’ll be straight with you – it’s not easy admitting to people that you need help managing life stressors that others seem to balance with such ease and grace. When I worry about what people might assume when I tell them I’m seeking counseling, I try to remember that each person has unique stressors in his or her life, each person possesses different coping mechanisms, and each person experiences a different outcome as the result of the stressors and the ways they deal with them.

For the first time in my life, I’m looking forward to the ways counseling can benefit my personal life, let alone my career. Stress can be a difficult animal to harness and subdue, and I’m looking forward to letting someone else help me take the reins for a bit. As always, updates to follow!

I’m off to the gym to sweat out a little stress 😉

Question: How do you cope with life stressors?