I intended to write this blog yesterday. My supervisor is out for the week and I had already seen each of my four clients. I has presumed that I would be able to leisurely enjoy a mug of tea while pondering which parts of my life I would share today, and how my roundabout metaphoric way of thinking would come together in a (hopefully) cohesive snapshot.
Just after my first sip, however, a face appeared in the narrow rectangle of a window in the office door. It was a young face, a male face, but most importantly it was an angry face. I opened the door to clenched fists, furious breathing, and a request to speak with my supervisor. After relaying her unavailability I immediately asked him to come in with a door opener “You look angry right now.”
BAM flood gates open. 40 minutes and 5 laps around the school later, we return to “my” office to retrieve his bag having discussed and dissected the situation that had got him so steamed. He had a plan, a good one. With the lowered head half smile that, in high school tough guy lingo, is equivalent to the hug of a five year old he sauntered out of the office and back to class.
I resumed my place in front of the computer, tea cold but brain and fingers running hot with a mixture of adrenaline, pride, and satisfaction in the completion of good work. I had no sooner re opened the file when another face appeared. 30 minutes and a scaffolded consultation with a teacher later, he too headed back to class. This time I decide to re heat my tea in the lounge, and return to the office to find one of my favorite visitors waiting in a chair outside the office. 15 minutes, several smiles, and a reassurance that he is very capable of attending college in the fall later he melts back into the crowd that is ever present in the library.
This pattern continued the remainder of the day. Other school mental health professionals may nod knowingly and think “Ah. The week after a vacation.” I had a rather lengthy email to send to my supervisor by 3 pm, keeping her apprised of my activity for the day, particularly as most of the students I saw are typically “hers”. There was a quick response, mostly of support and thanks, but with a brief “sorry your day was so busy!”. I was surprised: this had to have been the most interesting and rewarding day so far! This is the pace and pattern of my work at Walker, and the reason I believed School Psychology to be a good match for me. I hope tomorrow is just as unpredictable!
I went to a really great liberal arts school for undergrad. At first, I appreciated how much they made us think and question, and then question thinking and question questioning. However, after four years of it, I was kind of done with all the philosophical fluff talk of exploring morality and history and questioning everything. I was ready for practical learning in grad school where I learned how to really help people. All the questioning and fluff is nice and important, but I thought that it was getting in the way of learning how to simply treat people in the field of psychology.
Planning for me can become problematic because life just keeps moving right along without me, whether I am part of the action or not. My fear is that one of these days I am going to be so busy creating lists and reminders that I might actually miss something big. So, for the purposes of my current planning venture, I have enlisted the help of the professionals!
After a whirlwind of six days, I'm finally home again. Glory glory hallelujah, I don't have to sit in a car again for at least 36 hours.
Someone suggested that I write a post in regards to maintaining a personal (esp. romantic) life amidst a hectic academic/work schedule, given that many prospective students have concerns about this. Let me first say that I have my weaknesses - I can't leave a voicemail message without rambling; I have no idea how to rip off a piece of saran wrap without getting it all tangled; I can't turn in a practicum-site contract on time for the life of me - but when it comes to relationship stuff, yo, I got this one.
First off, I'd like to say that, given that my partner Kishore and I are both graduate students and therefore, both have crazy-busy schedules, I think that redefining our notion of "a relationship" was significant. Yes, Kishore and I each have separate time-consuming interests and responsibilities, but how can we work with all this in a way that is fulfilling?
For the most part, we often try to include each other in our academic lives, particularly by helping each other out with work. For instance, Kishore participates as a subject in many of my homework test administrations. For my first-year Psychological Assessment course, he was my subject for the IQ test. This year he served as a subject for a Rorschach administration. (... although he's been driving me a 'lil nuts ever since I told him that the results imply that he's an "over-integrator" of information. Over-intergrate this, Kishore: TOUGH - COOKIES) As Kishore is a biologist, I always proof-read and edit his papers and often go to his lab to help him with "cell contouring" (I actually have no idea what the heck I'm really doing - I just draw circles around a bunch of images of zebrafish ear cells for hours, and then Kishore says "Thanks!" and buys me dinner).
I am back and feeling much more lively than last week! I have successfully completed my Capstone and now just under a week and the rest of my field placement stand between me and my degree!
This week in my Professional Seminar: Issues in Higher Education Service Personnel Administration course, we're discussing Challenges Facing Higher Education.
An acquaintance of mine (who works in education) recently commented that she once thought about studying school psychology but changed her mind – she didn’t want to work only with the “problem kids.” I cringed at the description, but am unfortunately familiar with the stereotype. Students who cannot sit still, who argue with teachers, who don’t finish homework, who hit, who fall asleep in class, who get angry easily, who cry too often, who talk too much or too little, who skip class, are often swiftly labeled “problems.”
My work at MSPP and my field sites has taught me just how complex human development is, and how many factors can play a role in defining students’ behavior and academic performance. Trauma/abuse, poor sleep hygiene, stress, low expectations, misfiring neurological connections in the brain (e.g. ADHD), lack of social or emotional regulation skills, depression, anxieties, learning disabilities, irrelevant curriculum content, and many other challenges may be impacting a child’s ability to participate fully in school – and usually more than one of these obstacles are present, with one exacerbating the other.
"But it's only February!" you say? Well, that's exactly right. It is only February and I have already had a bad test run with my termination skills. During our weekly individual session, one of my clients was processing a number of recent losses. The client did tremendous work (which he sometimes is unwilling to do) and made multiple powerful connections between drug addiction and unhealthy relationships in his life. Towards the end of putting several "pieces" together, he made mention of how he hates counseling and hates working with people because they leave, especially the interns. (This is not the first time he has admitted to hating counseling but comes anyway because he knows he "needs" it.) I observed that when we first started working together, he knew my status as an intern. He gave a sort of non-response so I asked if he remembered when I would be leaving... A big mistake that opened an extra-large-sized can of worms I was unprepared for! I told him I was at the agency through the month of May. He proceeded to enter into a tremendously agitated state in which he used a few colorful words to express himself and declared point-blank, "I'm not coming back."
This year, I've had a serious case of Baby Fever (click that link- Time Magazine says it's a real emotion!). I have been seriously obsessed with babies and toddlers. Maybe it's because I just turned 23 and have hit my "fertile years," or maybe it's because I spend all my time procrastinating my schoolwork by watching videos of babies and kittens. OR, I can pretend to blame school, and say that my classes are talking about infants and adolescents right now. There are quite a few students in my classes that have children, and often use them as examples for discussion.
Tagged Clinical PsyD
My first introduction to linguist/cognitive scientist/political critic Noam Chomsky was through Ali G's prankster interview where he was asked such monumental questions as, "Why don't you create a new language?... you could make a lot of money." Chomsky responded with, "You can do it if you like, and nobody would pay the slightest attention to you because it's a waste of time." (I'd post a link to the interview except Ali G asks some questions that might not be so school-blog-friendly)
Luckily, my latest exposure to Chomsky fostered a more intellectual and - how do you say - IN-PERSON feel. :) Given that Boston is a "college town," the universities often host events, many of which are free, featuring high-profile professors and researchers presenting their thoughts and ideas. On Tuesday, MIT hosted a free screening of the animated documentary Is the Man Who is Tall Happy?, a film based on an interview with Chomsky, followed by a Q&A with the man himself. After practicum, Kishore and I booked it to MIT, stood in line for about 45 minutes, met some MIT student who we really vibed with (I knew she was my kinda people when she dropped the f-bomb like a thousand times), and then finally got seated and had our minds blown.
The interview focused mostly on Chomsky's linguistic work, which is based on a computational-cognitive approach to understanding language. He has a fondness for being skeptical about taken-for-granted knowledge, particularly in regards to language - how is this unbelievably complex verbal code, our primary means for communicating our inner world to others, acquired? How is it that infants and toddlers are able to grasp the structures and rules of language despite such relatively minimal exposure to it? Are we all innately wired with some cognitive blueprint for syntax and linguistic structure? Chomsky's open-mindedness, flexibility of thought, and overall "let's start from scratch" approach inspires me to be okay with looking at psychology with a sense of healthy skepticism.
After having provided such richly complex, abstract responses, Chomsky was then asked, "What makes you happy?" He stumbled for a moment - "uh, uh." As we sat in anticipation of some wow-inducing response that would give us the answer to happiness, he said, "My kids, my grandkids, and my friends." No verbs, prepositions, adjectives. No skepticism about his answer or about the definition of "happiness." Just a cut-to-the-chase certainty: kids, grandkids, friends. After all this intellectual talk, it felt sort of bland (I mean, if that's all he's gonna say, could he at least drop an f-bomb or something to spice it up?).
Once the event was over, Kishore and I walked to Central Square for a bite. On the walk, we talked about the film - debated about language and such - and then grabbed a wrap and smoothie and listened to a live bluegrass show without speaking much. Suddenly I realized that Chomsky had gotten it right - I knew exactly what he meant: we can sit and intellectually search for answers, but, in the end, the only truth of which I am certain is how happy I am spending time, even if just in silence, with a best friend. :)
(Link to the event/movie trailer: http://lsc.mit.edu/schedule/2013.2q/desc-isthemanwhoistallhappy.shtml)
Why do bad things happen all at once? If you've never thought about it, it's absolutely true. For instance, this crazy blizzard that we're just getting over completely screwed me over in so many different ways. Not only did I get stuck at the hospital working ridiculous hours all weekend, but the power was out at my house and at work, leaving me freezing no matter where I went. And the constant driving over ice and snow destroyed my breaks. My car was out of service for two day, leaving me home from school and internship. As you know, these are two very important parts of my education. Missing even one day is just not an option. Not to mention even affording the repairs to my car left me even more broke than I usually am.
I have never really thought much on the phrase “look daggers at”. It was something I glossed over, immediately translating into “gave a dirty look.” Just some sprinkles in the writing, someone having fun with a turn of phrase.
Today, however, I saw the daggers fly. This was no I-hate-you-so-much-right-now glare, or even a you-man-stealing-home-wrecking-so-and-so. This was a full on, hard as steel, sharp edged, I-AM-GOING-TO-END-YOU gaze that was so intense I have nicks and cuts on my own soul. The scariest part? The death stare giver was a sophomore in high school. A girl who weighs in at no more than 110 pounds, just got her driver’s permit, and is dedicated to cheerleading.
Whether or not this post is being written by an author who has been awake for almost 24 hours is irrelevant. Today at internship was hilarious and almost unbearably weird... for more reasons than this writer can count. The fact of the matter is that when ALL clients show up for individual sessions as scheduled (as opposed to 1/2 being No-Show's), it can be exhausting.
This Tuesday feels like a middle-of-the-semester-Tuesday. The type that's cold and gray and a little overwhelming with all of the work to be done.
When I went "away" to college in CowTown, USA, studying was my least favorite pastime as a freshman. Having moved from NYC to a village that had its very own alfalfa plant sending a less-than-stellar aroma into the environment, I figured socializing would be the best way to cope. After finally getting my academic brain in gear (maybe after the first year?) I realized it was time to do some work and make the numbers on my transcript a little more grad school friendly. After 4 years and a few all-nighters, I graduated with my double major.
The snow has been coming down for hours. Despite the fact that I dutifully went out to shovel the driveway and the walk no less than 4 separate times yesterday I can no longer see my husband’s car in the drift: a lone upright windshield wiper barely clears the mound marking where the Camery succumbed to the white powder. The rumble of a cacophony of snowblowers lets me know that my neighbors have begun to dig themselves out. However, the fact that they have been running for no less than 3 hours also tells me the process is long, slow, and feels insurmountable. My dog agrees: the 25 pound mutt who blends in with the snow if she is not wearing her bright red fleece takes one look at the piled snow and refuses to step paw outside. Despite the fact that I demand, then cajole, then beg for her to take the leap of faith required for her to forage through the snow that rises above the tips of her ears she will not go out until I have shoveled her a pathway. I can’t say that I blame her.
My house is warm, my husband made it home at 11 pm last night after patrolling the roads, and I have power. I do not want to go outside to shovel for a fifth and sixth time. There is simply too much. Too much snow. I know it is going to be slow, cold, and unrewarding as the continued wind blows the powder across the patches I’ve already managed to clear. And I think about how some of my clients feel when they come to talk to me about their crushing burdens at school. The juniors who are finally realizing that their grades are important to their college plans. The 2nd semester freshman who thought everything would sort itself out but is now realizing that high school is harder than middle school. How do they recover? Is it too late? Is there just too much to be done?
My commute home yesterday was a tad stressful. With words like “oligodendroglia” and “exocytosis” still churning through my head after our first neuropsychology exam, I was dismayed to find roads blocked by lines of cars outside of gas stations as drivers prepared for the impending nor’easter, Nemo.
I inched forward in my car and the car’s clock ticked towards 9:00 – I began to wonder why so many people needed gas. I mean, if you’re snowed in, where will you be driving? Maybe they need fuel for their snow blowers, was my ultimate conclusion. As I struggled to suppress the frustration and fatigue welling up inside me, I heard drivers honking, and several angry voices yelling choice four-letter words (in true Boston driver fashion). Apparently there was a car turning into the gas station and people became enraged that said vehicle was trying to “cut” the line.
I am part of the Latino Mental Health Program, and my first class in the program is Introduction to Latino Culture. Our first assignment is to create a group presentation on the term "latino." The challenge: we only have 60-seconds to present. How in the world do you define an entire group of rich and unique cultures in one minute? Here's the other difficult part: my group is the only one in the class that is entirely Caucasian. I thought to myself, "this is going to be impossible."
CNN published an article online about a month ago aptly named "Online Courses Need Human Element to Educate" by Douglas Rushkoff (2013). This article discussed the idea of Massive Online Open Classes, or MOOCs, as they've come to be known.
You could say that I was born to be in the Psychology field, but that I didn't realize it until it slapped me in the face right before I started undergrad. Before a very specific moment in time, my goal was to be a writer. I loved writing. Writing was my life. I hadn’t an inkling about the Psychology field or the wonderful things it would offer me. But, like many people on the path to therapy (or some other Psych related avenue), I was touched very personally by mental illness.
My path to MSPP began on my back deck on a sunny April morning, and somewhere between a bad phone call and the classroom where I sit now, I was changed by Psychology. I still don’t know why my heart cried out “be a therapist,” but it did. All through undergrad I did my best to get the fundamentals down, and two years ago I applied to this school and have not looked back.
I wrote in my first ever post about how I chose organizational psychology and MSPP. What I didn't detail was what it was like applying, playing the waiting game, and finally getting accepted!
I know that many people are currently interviewing or considering applying to MSPP, so I figured that today I'd share my "story" (there's really not much of a plot or climax, but you got it) regarding how I ended up in the PsyD program here.