Completed My Counseling Residency

One of the most exciting things that I’m looking forward to in 2018 is becoming a licensed professional counselor! That’s right despite my 3.5 month break from work, I was able to complete all of my 3,500 residency hours.

I submitted my paperwork to the board just a few weeks ago. And you can bet I was happy to snap that picture!

They email replied that my paperwork was received, but they stated that it can be up to 3 months before they approve me to sit for my test (which is $250 and intense pressure to pass it!). I’m not necessarily in a hurry to take the test…I need to figure out which program I am going to use to study for it.

I turned in my paperwork before Christmas, and also had the added bonus of celebrating the agency wide Christmas party with my team, as well as our own small team hang out including Secret Santa.

I got a little excited about moscato being served at the agency event…it just makes me feel like an adult, lol!

We even snuck in some fun Christmasey activities with our clients. I learned how to make slime (after failing terribly the first time)

It’s been a long journey with amazing people, and I can’t believe an official paperwork part is almost over :0)

Made Peace With The Highs and Lows

I’m still trooping through the year trying to figure out what PEACE is, what it looks life in my life, and how to let more of it in, and let the bad stuff out.

Something I’ve come to recognize (okay, really, just be honest with myself) these past few months are my struggles with the ups and downs of life. In high school I used to joke with my friends that I didn’t need to do drugs because I was already so “high on life.” A large aspect of my personality is this effervescent bubbly-ness. The bottom line is I DESPERATELY want to be happy, so I seek these things out. This could look like being easily entertained, or enjoying the simple things in life (like a cupcake in a classroom because its a kids birthday).

I started this blog in one of those low times after I got married. I’d gotten married and graduated and quickly learned that neither one of those things were going to bring me the complete happiness I was looking for. I felt purposeless not having a course syllabus to guide my life, and I realized all of my poisonous relationship insecurities. So, this blog became a redirection (a counseling term, basically distracting yourself) to focus on the little things in life, and maybe I’d figure out the big things later.

I really am just so addicted to being happy. I want the high energy levels. Those are the times when I’m able to follow through with this thing that I hate in my life (chores). I want my spirit to soar.

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Sometimes in little bad times, I’m able to just sort of “positive attitude” myself out of them. My personality type (ENFP) LOVES those moments, sees them as challenges to rise above. But, after awhile we can get drained. That far reaching telescope of brightness easily reverses to inspect all of the tiny minutiae of my life, pointing out everything that is “wrong.”

This has probably been the most intense this past week. I was on the high of having completed my first year at the local community service board. In discussing my progress with my supervisor she reflected how much I’d grown, and I easily agreed with her. I could -feel- the gained experience, especially the ability to be more present with my clients.

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Then, I had a rough week. A couple of things came up. Basically, it boils down to not being present with those two cases. I didn’t meet those teens where they were. It was crushing to hear this in their self reports. One of them I thought we’d have a great therapeutic relationship, but it turned out that I annoyed her. At the end of the day I was thankful for the diverse personality among my teammates, that is the point, we are all different. BUT, and I really did let that BUT be bigger than any other truths. I FELT crushed thinking that I was sucking at the fundamentals of counseling (you know, being a good listener).  It led to deep reflection, not all of it as healthy as I’d like to admit.

BUT (see let’s use some of those for the positive!)

I did a vision board earlier this year as part of Ali Edward’s One Little Word prompts. I always enjoy the freeing ability in these types of projects, saving magazines that I find all the time. (I also got to use my amazing folding table in my amazing new craft room!!!)

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This theme of finding peace by thru emotional balance can easily be observed. (And is represented by the pictures of various seasons, oh I just LOVE how it came together)

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One of my favorite magazine cut out finds is this quote, “If you are only happy at the summit you aren’t going to be happy very often” Its from an adventure magazine interview with someone who ACTUALLY scales mountains. (It makes me wish I still had the rest of the article to see if there is more wisdom there). The vision board sits on my desk next to my computer and I see this statement often. Its true, if we are only happy when we are succeeding at the very top of whatever our mountains are, we will be happy like 1% of the time. We love movies about people overcoming the odds, in the harsh realities of life, because the majority of life is the struggle.

Isaiah 26:3 says “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (See! there’s that BUT being used for the power of GOOD!)

So, I want to learn to find lasting peace in the struggle. I want to learn to focus on Christ in all things.

Seen the End of the Journey

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Once upon a time I began my counseling career after my internship. It was challenging phsyically, emotionally, in all the ways. I desperately wanted to reach these kids who were known to be some of the most aggressive and tough. I hurt because of their hurts, wondering how I could better help them. I cried in our break area so many times, only to hear from other hardened staff, “oh you just need to toughen up,” as I nursed bruises, and frustrations at being ineffective.

After a grueling summer, each supervisor wanted me on their team, I praise God for my displayed work ethic and passion. I accepted the alternative school placement.

I went on my annual beach vacation, and returned to school politics and an agency that didn’t defend me, giving the position away. I was broken hearted and betrayed professionally. I later cried to my supervisor who was going to be my team lead at the alternative school. I think that I was the most broken hearted because of how much I wanted to partner with this school. The teachers were wonderful, and had amazing structure for these behaviorally challenged children. I was going to be successful at this location. Then this dream was suddenly ripped away from me. (Ironically some of the structure at the school bent under the pressures of intense kids and more politics, so likely God was sparing me from something).

I stepped down from this agency and chilled out for awhile, scared to restart my career, not knowing if I could trust employers not to put
me in such risky positions only to be betrayed by politics.

Then, last year, in my month of living courageously and stepping out of my comfort zone, I followed up with the recommendation to apply at the local community service board. I applied for any position I was qualified for, including crisis services even though individual outpatient and daytreatment were things I’d done before.

I got hired to this team with amazing people and management. I met the CEO the first week, was provided the resources to do my job. We were even given a new building recently to better serve our rural community.

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But one of the coolest things was to see God tie some of the threads of my life together this week!

An assignment came up in the city, which we always enjoy. I met the client, he was familiar, and I recognized the names of the teachers. I explained that I’d worked for the previous organization. Later that day I discovered that even though the alternative program was at a different base school, it was still the same amazing program I’d longed to partner with! In an unexpected twist I was back at this school, working with these incredibly understanding teachers helping this kid stay in their school location! So many things were similar, including this map carpet that I had been all too fascinated with.

I worry much more than I ever have need to about the future. I want to know how things will end, how meaningless choices affect the outcomes. In these moments, seeing God reveal His hand it is easy to believe and to trust. I’ll revel in those gifts, but I really want to focus on the ways God has revealed Himself in the past the next time something uncertain happens.

Isaiah 26:3- You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Counted Down to 2016 Twice

When you work with kids you take EVERY opportunity to do fun things like celebrate the holidays. This meant that my coworker and I planned to have them celebrate the New Year’s festivities with making pizza, art projects, noise makers, and counting down at noon. They really seemed to enjoy it.

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Later I went to a party with people my own age to do another count down. While at the party it was a nice chance to catch up, and people were asking me about my job, what I do, and the differences between this job and another. One new friend asked about the kinds of kids we work with, basically asking how we know if we are effective. Honestly, since I work such short term programs either 15 or 30 days, I only know the middle of their stories and don’t usually know how things work out. Because my agency is so large sometimes I’m able to get a short update from a case manager who still works with them, but there are several dear to me cases that have been closed that I have no idea how their lives are going now.

Randomly, as I was returning the borrowed work vehicle to one of our offices I saw a former client and his family. His mom bragged about how well he’d done on his 9 weeks tests, and I discovered that he was still enrolled in his public school. I was surprised by this given how fed up the teachers were during his struggle to adjust, but he was able to pull through, and even admitted that he hadn’t received in school suspension in a couple of months. In was an unanticipated short encounter with a former client whom I’d labeled resistant and hadn’t been able to progress much work with, but he was beginning to thrive. That, is why I do what I do :0)

When discussing the differences between my first attempts at starting this career at the place where the children were out of control as compared to where I work now, another friend offered an insight that reflects on this professional development for the past year. She said that she noticed how at the last job my posts were usually dealing with so many frustrations, of getting through, but that now my posts are much happier, really enjoying what I do.

I’m incredibly thankful to have this job, at this agency, in this particular country, with my awesome supervisor and coworkers. Do I grumble each and every morning and say something to the husband like, “Please, can I just quit? Can I just not work” Yes, pretty much almost every single morning, because I want more time to do fun things like blogging, but I’m incredibly blessed and so excited to see where this career and upcoming year takes me!

Cheers to 2016!

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(This may or may not be my champagne and raspberries before I manage to dump it all over myself, which is doubly ironic as it is just due to clumsiness. Maybe coordination should be a goal in the new year?)

Lived In a Glass Snow Globe (My struggle with social anxiety )

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Here I am, awake at 5am, reflecting on my struggles with social anxiety. They weren’t what woke my up (curse the results of trying to hydrate more!) but they are certainly on my mind.

I went to easily one of my most enjoyable weddings ever yesterday. Our table was filled with people we know well and hangout with regularly. And the wedding reception was long, but incredibly entertaining, probably from the determination of the bride and groom to just have fun and enjoy themselves. They were on the dance floor inspiring everyone to just be goofy! I wanted so much to be a part of that world.

I will qualify this, in counseling we rate people’s level of mental health struggles by measuring how much the struggle affects their life. I’m lucky, because I’m truly high functioning. There are people with such high levels of social anxiety that they never leave their houses let alone make new friends.
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My anxiety begins within me as an increased sensitivity towards social dynamics/emotions. This can be a gift in reading people for counseling, but often flares up inaccurately when trying to ascertain how people see me. Its why I’ve been confused as to where I am on the introvert/extrovert scale. I’ve come to accept the description of a friend that I am an “insecure extrovert” because I am filled up by interactions with others….just when I have security that this person literally likes me. In a funny contrast in my life, my husband is easily described as “disgustingly extroverted.” (Oh gosh, if I could fearlessly love people the way that he does!) I’ve come to appreciate this so much in our married life, going into big social events I can count on him to lead, and I coast off of him. This works so long as he isn’t randomly shut down, or isn’t flitting around like a hummingbird with too many people to love. (I mean he is allowed to have off times as well). This wedding was the latter.

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I “should” feel grateful watching him easily dance around when others would never do this, but my anxiety heightens when I’m left alone (or perceive this). I’m sure most people with social anxiety feel heightened physiological symptoms during the entire encounter, like sweaty palms, increased heart rate, etc. For me its like I have this UV light that reveals social rules/steps/boundaries/guidelines. My level of anxiety is related to perceived self preservation that keeps me entombed.

I jumped on the dance floor because I love letting loose and dancing. We all kind of group danced for the most part. I would do well until my husband would get distracted by someone else to love. Then for me my anxiety escalates a situation that is small “oh hey husband can you finish the song with me? ” to “oh my gosh, I’m alone, I’m out of the circle, they think I’m the weird stalker girl, they want me to go away, everyone watching can see that I’m obviously not wanted into this group, I should sit down and stop embarrassing myself”

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And I would try to fake it for a little while, laughing, smiling, dancing, till pushing myself drained me too much. Then, I would sit down, in my glass globe, watching the snow of my false insecure thoughts swirl between me and these people I wanted to be with. Its worse, sitting at the table right next to the dance floor, but it feeling a world away.

I’m not sure if it’s better being a therapist or not. It’s better because I have the skills to help myself, but it’s harder because I fail to use them so often. I tried to change my thoughts with minimal results, especially after hubby accidentally left me alone on the slow dance.

I hated sitting on at the table, having been so broken this summer at my sometimes shallow relationships. I want to connect with people with every fiber of my being. I want to love and be loved. I want to love others selflessly, not asking to be loved in return because Christ first loved me. I want to give the big giant hug, not worrying how it is received.

I saw everyone dancing, so close, so far away, knowing and seeing every possibility to turn it around, knowing that joining is how you start and build relationships. I didn’t know the bride well, and I hated knowing I could join her, but I was too afraid….then I guilted myself, catastrophizing, cursing myself to always being in this glass prison. I’m so afraid it will always be this way, that my newer relationships will always stay shallow.

I think it’s more tiring, knowing how much I’ve worked to overcome it. But one thing that did click last night is that this isn’t just going to be a one time hurdle. Like people who struggle with depression, with the fog ever looming around them, so my glass cylinder will need to be broken in most if not every group social event. Its just something I’m going to have to fight, replacing my negative anxious thoughts, with healthy thoughts that push me forward.

I write this to acknowledge that awkward space between us. I write to say I’m sorry that I don’t love you better. I write to say that I regret being so focused on my inner turmoil that I don’t see your hurt to give you the hug to help you make it in this broken world. I cry out from the stifling safety of my transparent cell; I don’t want to be here any more.

Become a Counseling Resident

Sorry I’ve disappeared over the past few months, work/life balance is hard for me. A few months ago I accepted a position with the local community service board.

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In another blog post later I’ll share about the journey that day. Long story short I was struggling on April 1st. I felt defeated thinking about how I was supposed to be starting a job in January where I’d be working as an in home therapist. I wondered how long I’d be waiting, what that next step even was. I prayed, journaled, and redirected my attitude determined to soar through all of the things I was waiting on in my life (apartment restructures, a house, job/career etc).

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Then, around 5pm I got a call from HR offering me the position! I was told that I was the cream of the crop and they were excited to have me. I teased him about making me an offer on April Fool’s day and he laughed.

Starting with this company I had flash backs to my last job. I was honestly scared of it being terrible and soul sucking again. But from the moment of my first training session I was treated like a professional, like I inherently had value. I even met the CEO on the first day.

I was given an office.

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A work laptop.

I got a name plate for that office.

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Got a work phone.

And I know those are just physical things but they represent resources this company is willing to invest in me.

My supervisor and coworkers have been incredible. They are legit Christians with passions for missions. It’s neat to discuss the mental health issues of our clients from a Biblical worldview in our secular organization. After a difficult case with a client a coworker and I actually prayed in her office :). Let alone they are just fun spirited and we do fun things like make sushi for fun friday.

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As for my job I’m a Crisis counselor who works with kids and teens. We often work with individuals who are coming out of residential treatment for attempting to hurt themselves or others, to make sure they don’t go back to the hospital. Or we work with kids that have behavior problems in the school and are in danger of being removed from the school. It’s stressful, long hours but I really so love it. And trust me the honeymoon period is over.

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At the beginning of June I applied to begin working towards licensure. Today I received an email saying my paperwork was accepted. I’m a counseling resident. (Only like 3,400 hours to go…) My professional title changed to LMHP-R!

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So we celebrated with yummy crab legs.

This approval came at such a timely moment. I’ve been struggling with a defiant client that won’t let me help him. I’ve often felt discouraged wondering if I’ll ever be good at this job. But I learned some more behavior tricks and gained some ground with my little buddy. I’m beginning/continuing something pretty awesome! I know that God will finish what he started.

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Told God He Could Take It

DaisyI’m not sure where the programming came from. Blame Disney and my favorite princesses’ day dreams of adventure, blame feminism in my public education and type A personality, blame my Christian university that told me I could dream big, because my God is bigger.

Unexpectedly, after my annual beach week vacation, I resigned from my job. The decision itself was a tumultuous few days of prayer, tears, and acceptance. Post decision, I told myself I’d give myself time, to think, pray, and seek God’s will.

I searched craigslist, indeed, and other job posting sites. I daydreamed about what I was interested in, and pictured my passions coming together.

Throughout my graduate education I’ve felt called to counsel missionaries. During my second intensive I heard about the need for those brave soldiers at the front lines. This passion/desire never diminished. It was paused when there were no locations near me. I even met with a few professionals in the field, who praised my interest, verified the need, and stressed the importance of living overseas long term to be able to relate to them. Basically, doors shut in my face. This dream was on pause while I sought for an internship.

Finally, with God’s help and providence I graduated with all of the hours that I needed (plus one!).

Though I doubt people who are disciplined in prayer brag about it, it is definitely one of my weakest disciplines. Which, it should be easier given my proclivity for talking, but its different when you’re talking to the creator of the universe and you can’t always sense His presence.

But, there have been a few moments when I have monumental prayer moments. Usually over fairly large decisions in my life. I had another recently.

I was running on the treadmill, wrestling with these feelings. I know this is a godly calling on my life. It fits. I love languages and travel. I don’t want to tell them to stay on the field. I want to hold their hands, hold their tears and hurts as they confess how hard their life is. I want to tell them that it is okay, that God loves them, and normalize their feelings. I want to be there with them. Like it breaks my heart to think of them in pain alone, when life is hard enough being a Christian not on the mission field. I crave being used by God.

While running, I wondered if this is a dream I’ve ever truly surrendered. I realized that I’ve put it on pause and the flame of passion has returned, but that I’ve never completely given it to God. So, in spunky words in my head, I told God He could have it. I told Him that I was done wrestling with the tears and anxieties. I told Him, that if it wasn’t truly “about me” that He would do whatever He wanted, whenever He wanted. I told Him that I was going to read His word to know what He wanted, but that He was also big enough to get through my tiny brain, so that I wouldn’t miss the bus. I gave it all to Him, and I was filled with incredible peace.

Of course that peace fades, I have to keep surrendering. We are living sacrifices that crawl off of the altar. This past weekend I confessed to my Husband that I felt like I’ve been benched. That everyone else is playing, there are spots open, there are needs, and I’m sitting on the bench, watching, waiting, looking for the coach to call me in.

So, I surrender again. I remember that moment. I remember that God is Great. I remember that He’s bigger than everything. I remember that it’s all about Him, and it’s not about me. I remember that He hears our prayers, and I keep going.

Not About Me Daisy

Begun My Counseling Career

Obviously, in April I disappeared from the face of the Earth.

I began my counseling career!

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I interviewed and accepted their offer to be a day treatment counselor for behavioral and emotionally challenged children. Basically, everything that I’ve been doing for the past 5 months can be summed up in this quote:

The kids who need the most love, will ask for it in the most unloving ways.

Daily, moment by moment, I’m challenged by these kids with their temper tantrums, anger outbursts, verbal and physical assaults. But, when I pursue through that ugliness there is the chance to see these beautiful vulnerable children who are really thirsting for someone to notice them and love them.

The school year was the hardest, being thrown in during the last two months, when the students were ready for the year to be over. I learned to redefine what it meant to be successful in my job. I learned that even if I tried to use all of my best redirection skills, the kids could still decide to make bad decisions. Honestly, the reason I held on through it was knowing that I’d do more harm to quit on them, and as a counselor I’ve promised not to harm them.

June came around, and with it our intensive summer program. During the summer I didn’t have to fight with them to do schoolwork that they didn’t want to do. I just had to plan 5 hours of programming…which is a LONG day with 4-6 of these time bombs waiting to go off. And each bomb is diffused in a different way, and if not diffused quick enough will probably trigger other bombs. It was a physically and emotionally draining summer.

In preparing for the school year, one of my supervisors took me to another one of our sites to tour. She asked me in the parking lot, “Do you like kids?”

Asking me a few years ago, I would have laughed in her face. I was studying youth ministry, I wanted to have deep and meaningful conversations with teenagers. When church leaders suggested I work with children, I’d be offended, believing that they were sterotyping me as a woman, when I never even spent much time babysitting.

Truth is, I love working with the kids. As much as these kids make me cry over their foul words, behaviors, and punches at me, I’ve also teared up as they happily sung “Let it Go” on the way to camp. I enjoy playing with them on such a deep level. It is exciting to see them make positive decisions.

Its the hardest job I’ve ever had, but one where I felt I’ve been challenged to be the most like Christ. Daily, moment by moment I’m granted the opportunity to love these unloved children in a way they don’t deserve, because HE loves me in a way I don’t deserve.

Here’s to the first day of school tomorrow!

Entered the Final Quarter of Internship

keepcalmandcounselon It’s been awhile since I posted about my internship progress, some of it was due to wanting to avoid ethical entanglements, making sure I wasn’t actually discussing my clients, etc.

Now, I’m in final quarter of my final semester of internship…I can’t believe I’m at this point! Here are the stats: 191.25 F2F, 24.5 Individual Supervision, 22.75 Group Supervision, 401.25 Related Activities hours for a grand total of 639.75!! In total we are supposed to have 600 hours, but its about getting the “right” 600 hours. At this point I need 48.75 face to face hours left (9.5 of which can be observations) to reach by Dec. 14th. It’ll still be close, but I’m averaging more like 7-10 hours per week now.

Entering this last stretch is cause for reflection at the rest of the journey. Beginning my 3rd semester placed me in the role of Office Manager again unexpectedly…but I felt more confident in that position. Oddly, I liked the symmetry at beginning and ending my internship in the same way. One of the biggest difficulties in my internship has been the problem of “no shows.” Due to having fewer of my own clients I participated more in cotherapy. This meant that I was able to see other types of therapies: family therapy, EMDR, play therapy, premarital and other styles of doing therapy.

Counseling is teased as a “social non serious science” but in my opinion that makes it more challenging! Gravity and other physical laws will always behave in those ways, whereas each depressed person will respond differently to the same technique! Cotherapy has been an enriching experience that I’m grateful for, as I know many others are unable to sample such variety of counseling.

At this point I can confidently say that I know that I click in counseling. There is nothing more fulfilling than being able to be Jesus to these people as they go through trials in their lives, and hoping to help them develop coping skills. As difficult, challenging, and infuriating as aspects of being a counselor can be, I know that I was made to do this.

I know that I want to pursue residency to obtain licensure to open more doors in the future. I have no idea where this will be, but I know that God will show me in His time. At this point I’m focusing on 240 hours, going to veg the last two weeks of December. Then, in January I’ll figure out my “next steps.”

Used Social Media at Work

Week #30 total into internship and over halfway into my 2nd semester. Here are the hour counts: 103.75 face to face hours, 15.25 individual supervision, 13 group supervision hours, and 289 related activities hours for a grand total of 421 hours. I’m getting sooo close, but the bane of my existence is that I’m not even halfway there with regards to my face to face hours.

The summer has been much slower than I anticipated. There is an overall reduction in cases, and specifically there have been very few non insurance clients to begin, all of the non-licensed folk are struggling at my office. In my area there are several organizations/churches that offer free counseling. The counselors at my office speculate that that is why they’ve seen less clients for the interns here over the past few years.

However, the slowness, and only having 2 individual clients (with another 2 or so cotherapy clients) turned out to be very convenient when I fractured my spine in an accident a few weeks ago. I stayed home to rest for a week, and I only missed a few cotherapy appointments.

This lent an interesting experience in learning what is appropriate to share with clients and what is not. I asked my supervisor for guidance, knowing that my clients would notice me hobbling around and ask what was wrong. My supervisor and I discussed how I could share this to update them, without “making it all about me.”

When I’m not stalking the other counselors to see their upcoming sessions to do cotherapy, I’ve been working on increasing our social media presence. We only have one standard social media outlet currently, and I have been explaining to my supervisor that using it regularly will help create traffic and get our clients “talking.” I did not major in communication, but I would say I’ve learned as a member of the “social media” generation.

My thoughts are that if we use the page more frequently, people may share our articles which helps other people visit our page and either attend counseling for themselves or recommend to others. Of course, social media use in the counseling profession is different from other products in that most people prefer to remain anonymous. However, some do not; their “liking” of our page is on a volunteer basis. The goal is to create a regular schedule to share inspirational pictures, share articles/pictures from other counseling sites, and write our own articles and book reviews. Social media is a free advertising source to take advantage of.

Meanwhile, I’m praying that God will open up the flood gates come August (I figure a few more weeks to give my back to heal to adjust to such a busy schedule ;0) ).