Name: Meggie Purpura
Title: Master’s in Clinical Psychology, MFTI
University: Antioch University Los Angeles
School: Notre Dame Academy high school for girls
How did you hear about Outreach? The Clinical Training office at Antioch recommended that I look into Outreach Concern, given my interest in working with adolescents.
What are some other roles you play in life you would like to share? I am currently interning as a counselor at Southern California Counseling Center (www.sccc-la.org), providing affordable therapy to a diverse population of individuals, couples, and families. Throughout my graduate school career and as I continue to work towards licensure, I’ve worked in the restaurant industry at Gjelina in Venice. It’s been my very fun second home for the past five years, and it’s deepened my love for food and cooking. Despite my obvious bias, I truly believe it’s the best restaurant in Los Angeles!
What led to your decision to be a school counselor with us? I knew I wanted to work with adolescent and teen girls. There is such a strong need for counseling and advocacy with that specific population. Outreach provides the opportunity to work full school days as the only counselor on-staff, which felt like a great foray into the world of school counseling. I immediately clicked with Anna (my Regional Field Supervisor) during my interview, and she felt that Notre Dame would be a great fit for me. I trusted her, and her instincts were right!
What are some key elements needed while working with children and adolescents in this role? It’s important for me to avoid taking an expert stance, and to always remain curious about the behavior and feeling states of the students. While it’s crucial to set strong boundaries at the outset, it’s equally important to avoid stepping into the parent or teacher role. The last thing these kids need is another adult in their life telling them what to do. The other key element to working in a school is FLEXIBILITY! Your schedule is rarely predictable, and you have to be ready every day to manage crises, parents, student conflicts, or all of the above!
How do you identify change in clients? There are the obvious indicators like increasing grades, greater mood stability, or more harmony in familial relationships. But I like to also take note of more subtle changes in the therapeutic relationship. Is the student more trusting of me in the session? Are they communicating their feelings more clearly, following through with therapeutic commitments, or sharing more vulnerable parts of themselves? I’ve found that being able to mirror and process these shifts in the session can be very healing and beneficial to the work.
How can this practicum/internship experience help you in your future working in the mental health field? This experience has been invaluable. I’ve learned how to juggle relationships not only with clients, but also with parents, teachers, administrators, outside therapists, psychiatrists, etc. Teamwork and group collaboration are crucial to the mental health community, and I now feel confident that I could work well in any agency or school setting.
What words of wisdom can you share with future candidates of Outreach Concern? Try not to worry about “doing therapy” so much! The more authentic you can be (that means not always knowing what to do!) the more trust will build. More than any theory, you are the greatest tool you can use with these kids. I learned the hard way that SELF CARE is not just an arbitrary term that is thrown around in grad school. If you don’t prioritize it, your strength, confidence, and efficacy as a counselor will be jeopardized. So carve out time to do whatever relaxes and rejuvenates you. AND….have fun with your students! Make jokes, and laugh at theirs. These kids are awesome and inspiring, so enjoy the time you have sitting across from them!