Recent Posts

Empowerment Through Education

Posted on August 07,2013 by abrigovmspp

As I mentioned in my last post, at the maternity hospital in Guayaquil, part of the rotation assignment includes delivering HIV/AIDS-related "charlas" or "talks" to pregnant women. Even on Day 2 this task feels somewhat overwhelming when looking at the faces of 50+ very tired and very pregnant women. Fortunately the order of our group's rotations has been quite effective in preparing us for each consecutive placement. After witnessing the women's general receptivity to the "taboo" information we present them with, I am seeing how powerful even informal educational sessions can be. In Ecuador, 98% of the cases of transmission of the HIV virus are spread through some form of unprotected sexual contact (Source: Fundación VIHDA), which is different from transmission trends in the U.S. (Here's a link to the CDC's page on transmission of HIV in the U.S.) This morning in particular, several women seemed to "perk up" at the idea of Mutual Fidelity. I would like to think that some of them even latched onto the concept of improving communication with their partner(s), raising the issue of being tested for HIV and even going as far as to request the use of condoms for each sexual contact and with each partner.

After this week's experiences, I anticipate a substantial shift in some of the work I do this Fall. Back in Brockton, I would like to do some outreach work in HIV/AIDS education based out of the community mental health setting. While these types of programs are certainly available, sometimes they run out of funds to fuel them. Hopefully part of my volunteer work will give me the opportunity to deliver more "charlas" to communities in Massachusetts, an experience that will continue to be enriching long after returning from Ecuador.

Read More

Educating the Educators and Beyond

Posted on August 02,2013 by abrigovmspp

This week in Guayaquil, Ecuador has been a unique experience. At Fundación VIHDA, we were trained in HIV education and prevention. While I have participated in HIV training in the past, these services have been designed to meet the specific needs and address the statistics specific to Ecuador. Education, testing, counseling, treatment/medication and legal aid are provided free of charge by the government to anyone who needs these services. Comprehensive service incentives (such as food baskets) are rendered when an individual closely adheres to her or his treatment guidelines.

Yesterday my group was responsible for helping to facilitate the first session of ¿Cuánto sabes?, an HIV/AIDS education and prevention program designed to train youth to teach their peers in the school setting about how to protect themselves from HIV and AIDS. In Ecuador, the population of individuals ages 15 - 35 is at the highest risk of transmitting the HIV virus through unprotected sexual contact. Today I participated in pre- HIV test and post- HIV test counseling services and was fortunate to deliver a result of "not reactive" to the individual. Watching both of these programs in action, it was evident that stigma and misinformation are quite common amongst Ecuadorians. It was also evident why VIHDA has been successful with their mission thus far. I look forward to working at the maternity hospital next week to deliver HIV/AIDS education and prevention "charlas" to pregnant women. During these sessions we will address the importance of being tested for HIV to avoid possible transmission to the child, as well as teaching women how to protect themselves from contracting the virus in the future. While the subject can be intimidating at first, providing this type of education is a critical step to empowering Ecuadorians to achieve and maintain physical and mental well-being.

Read More

Job Hunting!

Posted on May 19,2013 by abrigovmspp

Now that I know I passed my Capstone course (Woo-hoo!!!), Graduation is pretty much a sure thing. But just as soon as the cortisol levels started to come back down to Earth, here I go spiking them back up again. It's time for me to find work with my soon-to-be graduated self.

Read More

It's the Little Things...

Posted on April 30,2013 by abrigovmspp

... Like peeling grapefruits. Tonight I stood calmly in my kitchen for the first time in a while appreciating that I could do a reasonably simple task without feeling rushed. Of course peeling grapefruits takes a bit of skill, but that comes with practice. It more importantly takes time and willpower to not eat all of the sections before your done peeling the whole thing!
Yesterday afternoon was the deadline to submit my capstone project. I still have an assignment to complete for my internship seminar as well as all of my course evaluations. Regardless, the end is near. This is assuming everything turns out to meet satisfactory standards on the capstone paper, of course.
Even though graduation is set for June 2nd, I have elected to stay at LHI-Brockton right until the Friday before. While it's not quite over yet, I know this journey will soon end with a diploma in hand (I hope!) In these final weeks of wrapping up my caseload, I hope to give my clients everything they need. I know they have certainly taught me more than I ever could have hoped for and I am thankful to have been invited into their lives.

Read More

Processing Away as the End Comes Near

Posted on April 23,2013 by abrigovmspp

Yesterday I gave my Capstone presentation to my (thankfully) very small class and with just a few hiccups and 45 minutes of remembering to take in oxygen, it's over!! While there still remain 2 very important assignments before I can officially jump for joy, the largest obstacle to my diploma has been conquered. If my classmates didn't know anything about resilience in American Latino youth before, they sure do now!

Read More


Posted on April 10,2013 by abrigovmspp

Is that a real thing? I'm not sure! But it sure feels like a real thing when I've been awake so late that now the birds are keeping my eyes open...

Read More

Finding Encouragement

Posted on March 27,2013 by abrigovmspp

Since the start of my academic career at MSPP, the support and encouragement from faculty has never faltered. Whenever there is confusion with an assignment ,or students are just feeling overwhelmed and need some time to debrief, the professors have always shown sensitivity and understanding. One of the biggest risks we take is showing vulnerability in our writing assignments where we reflect on our interactions with clients and explore our growing skills.

Read More

Less Termination Anxiety

Posted on March 18,2013 by abrigovmspp

At the end of last month, I wrote about how one of my clients walked out of our session declaring he would not be returning. I've seen him twice since then. During the last session we met, we ended on a very playful note. He declared, "You are kicking me to the curb today! You made me wait and we started late because you were with another client. Now I realize you forgot my paper work we were supposed to fill out..." I responded playfully, "Okay, ________. Lay it on me. How do you really feel?" I was relieved when he put it out in the air: "You don't care about me. You're abandoning me." That, too, was still said in a playful way. The only thing to do was to admit that terminating therapy with him is not going to be easy for me either. We talked about how it's normal to be upset about ending the counseling relationship. We exchanged thoughts on how hard it is to get to know someone and essentially make yourself vulnerable to that person only to have them walk away from the experience. He wanted to know what the "plan" was for him and I was thankful I had already talked to my supervisor about it. I assured him that a clinician was lined up to receive him for ongoing counseling, a permanent, non-intern clinician who wouldn't be leaving at the end of the next school year.

Read More

Pressing On

Posted on March 02,2013 by abrigovmspp

Every transition is anxiety-provoking. This latest one of transition from the awkward space of young adult to "Hello, you're in the real world now!" is pretty intense. On one hand there is pressure to get it all right now. I've told myself, "Whatever job you land after graduation is going to set the tone for your career." On the other, we're still young and we have time to still explore and see what feels right. I'm finding small ways to push myself to keep going out of that comfort zone of what I *think* I already know. My curiosity and need to be challenged will keep me motivated to keep trying new things. I hope that never, ever goes away!
Read More

Future Planning

Posted on February 27,2013 by abrigovmspp

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!

Read More