August 29, 2011

Walk With Me

Filed under: Grad School: Building a Therapist — Ann @ 1:50 pm

I'll Take You There

I had an appointment to meet with my MFT program adviser on campus this morning at 10 a.m. My destination took me through a small landscaped quad area which, because classes were in session, was deserted except for one young student, sitting on a bench, talking on her cellphone — and sobbing. (Quick aside: I confess that for one fraction of a split second I wondered whether this was some sort of test, a counseling student’s experiential vignette — had she been placed here to see how I would react?) I needed to use the restroom, but decided that if she was off the phone when I came back out, I’d approach her. Sure enough, when I walked out she was standing there, fragile and lost and terribly, terribly sad. I looked her in the eye. “Are you okay?” Instead of answering directly she asked me where Admissions and Records was located because she wanted to drop out immediately and go back home.

Without pushing, I said gently, “You know, we have counselors here; would you be willing to talk to someone there first?” To my great joy and relief, she nodded assent. That’s when I realized I had no idea where psychological services was located on campus. I told her honestly that I was new to the MFT program, was on my way to that department, and invited her to walk with me so we could find Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) together. As we walked, I asked her some questions, found out where the “home” was that she wanted to go back to, determined what her primary concern was, and who she had been talking to on her phone. I wanted to keep her engaged — and with me until I could get her some assistance.

In the department, I recruited someone to take the student over to CAPS while I went into my meeting. Naturally, I told my adviser what had happened and we talked about it. Afterwards, not only did I go in search of CAPS but, once there, I walked around the outside of the building to get a sense of where it’s located with respect to other campus facilities. After all, this is what I’m in school to learn: how to guide someone to mental wellness. In perfect metaphor for my learning process, today I was only able to take that person part of the way. Before too long, I’ll be taking clients the distance. Meanwhile, thanks to the on-campus presence of trained counselors, this morning a lost soul was given some direction. I’m sending her blessings for a positive outcome, because I don’t think I’ll ever forget her. In a way, she was my very first client.

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