How did you hear about Outreach? I first heard of Outreach Concern when I was a graduate student at Mount Saint Mary’s College. Outreach was listed as one of our options for a practicum site. I was especially interested in Outreach because I enjoy working with children and have worked with them in school settings and areas of academia my whole professional life as a volunteer, teacher’s assistant, academic tutor and special needs aide.
What are some other roles you play in life you would like to share? When I am not working I enjoy many activities such as hiking, running, doing yoga and Pilates, spending time with family and friends, reading, researching (anything!), writing poetry, writing about my life, recycling, volunteering, advocating for different causes, visiting museums and attending concerts, trying different multiethnic foods, designing clothing, sewing, working on do-it-yourself projects and the list can go on and on; I am a person of many interests.
What led to your decision to be a school counselor with us? My initial career was in sociology. My training at the Master’s level was to develop studies to affect policy change. I found myself unable to obtain a job in my field because of the economy; there weren’t a lot of jobs in the field for neophytes with no real world experience. The main reason I studied sociology was because I knew I wanted to be in a helping profession and because I wanted to advocate for my community on a large scale. I picked up two part time jobs as a special needs aide for LAUSD and an academic tutor. When I interacted with children I found that they (and their parents) opened up to me about their many issues; I found myself feeling stuck because I did not know how to respond to their issues. This is when I decided to look into counseling, I thought, what better way to make my community a better place than by working individually with children and families so that they can improve their quality of life thereby improving the community and society as a whole.
What are some key elements needed while working with children and adolescents in this role? I think some key things that we need to recognize, as a counselor working with children in the school setting is that not any one child is the same. All children and adolescents are their own individual person, and so we must be flexible in our interventions and ensure that we modify interventions for students based on their individual needs. I also think that seeing students in a school setting should be goal oriented, and that as counselors we must be mindful of the fact that children must go back into the classroom after each session. Therefore, we must not explore too much with children, but rather help them find solutions that work. Lastly, I think that it is very important not to have a relationship with students where they foster a dependency towards the counselor. I want all of my students to find their own inner advocate.
How do you identify change in clients? The way I identify change in clients is when we discuss interventions and they make the effort to try to implement them in their lives. This is when I know that what we have talked about has impacted them and they are self aware enough to want to try the interventions. Once they consistently use the interventions we talk about and begin to self-monitor without my help, this is when I know that the student has gained a sense of awareness and can now use interventions on their own without my help.
How can this practicum/internship experience help you in your future working in the mental health field? I think this internship is an excellent opportunity to put to use the education and skills one has learned in their training as a student in the real world with the help of clinical supervisors and the extra support of a Regional Field Supervisor. With that said, this placement gives an intern the opportunity to learn and grown without feeling restricted by their agency to explore effective interventions and seek out their personal style. Because of this, interns grow more confident in their work and become clinically sound in one’s own area of interest.
What words of wisdom can you share with future candidates of Outreach Concern? What I would say to future candidates would be to put your best foot forward because you never know whom you will meet and what position they may hold in your professional future. I would also advise to have personal therapist throughout this process because sometimes as students we think we can take everything on and do not plan ahead for self-care time. I think working with someone that helps you identify your issues and struggles along the way will help you grow clinically, will give you a framework for how to be a therapist, and will give you an outlet to take on school, work, internship and life. One thing I will say is be prepared to practice what you preach, because only then will you truly impact your clients.