Catching My Breath

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Goodness gracious it’s been a hectic month! It’s only been 1 month since I started working again, but it feels as if it’s been much longer. Not necessarily in a bad way, it’s just that so much has happened! Starting work again has been exhausting/thrilling/inspiring. I’ve told you all about the exhaustion, and a bit about the thrill of diving back into a field I love. My journey hit an inspirational point when I discovered that our new Head of Mental Health Services is a 3rd waver! He’s a LMFT, and currently in a Buddhist Seminary graduate program! How perfectly this happened to fall into place; at the same time that I’m looking for a practicum site, a 3rd wave supervisor happens to start working at my agency! I’ve already talked to him about the possibility of completing my hours at our agency, and he confirmed that he plans on reestablishing the student trainee program. I’m crossing my fingers, hoping that it happens in time for me to start accruing hours next fall.

School is a bit more challenging this semester than it was last. There’s a lot of memorization in Law & Ethics, and I’m pretty sure I’ve diagnosed myself with about 6 different disorders thanks to Psychopathology. Then there’s Concepts of Family Therapy; we had to create a genogram and write a paper about our family histories and dynamics, and thank goodness I started a month in advance. I spent the first 2 weeks crying as a I wrote, because my family’s history of abuse and trauma just had to be mourned. There’s something so profound about seeing it all depicted on a genogram. Family patterns become unignorable; demanding awareness, proper grievance and more importantly change.

Finally, my home life has been bitter-sweet. I spend so little time at home now, which unfortunately means so little time with my husband. However, our hectic schedules have sort of forced us to cherish every moment that we do get together. We spend our time talking about our upcoming plans to buy a home; letting our imaginations soothe away any lingering fatigue. Once again, he’s proven to be my rock during the most trying times. I’m hoping that the summer brings us some ease. We’ll be moving into our own place and I’ll have a bit of a break from school. For now, I have to keep reminding myself to breathe through the chaos.

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Guess Who’s Back?

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This week I made some exciting moves. The agency that I worked at for 2 years prior to starting grad school recently contacted me with an offer. They needed some extra assistance in the residential department with a lot of the tasks that I previously handled. They wanted to know if I was interested in returning. It was a difficult decision, but I declined. While I loved my previous position and could see the value in continuing to build my knowledge base with that population, I simply couldn’t devote a full 40 hours a week to the job. I had set my mind on completely immersing myself in the grad school process and getting all that I could out of it. I wanted to honor that, and a full time job would hinder my ability to truly apply myself at school. I did, however, let them know that if they were willing to bend the amount of hours per week, I’d be their girl. I was pleasantly surprised when they told me they would be willing to work with my needs. We took some time sorting out the details, and I’ve officially agreed to return as the Residential Treatment Coordinator! The most exciting part is that some of my responsibilities overlap with the Mental Health department. For example, I’ll be facilitating a Day Treatment group on topics such as anger management or seeking safety. This will allow me to start working toward the 3,000 hours that I’ll ultimately need to collect in order to take the licensing test after I finish school. I’ll be getting paid to do something that I would need to do for free otherwise! So, I’m going back to face the minions once again. I’m thrilled to see where this experience takes me this time!

Yoga, Mindfulness and Self-Compassion Seminar

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I just got back from my 2nd day of Mary NurrieStearn’s seminar for Mental Health professionals, and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it. I read her book, Yoga for Emotional Trauma, over my winter break and loved it, so I was very excited to learn from her directly. I will absolutely be applying techniques that I learned there to my own sessions with clients, just as soon as I get some! Mary was such a delightful speaker and managed to get a room full of adults to not only do some light yoga and mindfulness exercises, but also sing, dance and confess our inner demons/greatest gratitude. We spent about 16 hours over the course of 2 days in the same room, but Mary kept us alive and stimulated the entire time. This seminar reinforced my immense love for the field of Psychology and the beauty that mindfulness and yoga can bring to it. I simply cannot satiate my hunger for more knowledge in this area! I am so very thankful to have found my passion ❤

5 Things I learned in My 1st Semester of Grad School

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Now that I’ve had some time to unwind from the stressors of school left behind, I have begun to analyze my performance throughout the semester. Since hindsight is 20/20, my goal is to figure out whether I could have done anything more efficiently and apply that knowledge to the upcoming semester. Here are 5 things that I found extremely important and will be keeping in mind in the spring:

  1. Procrastination is like masturbation; at first it feels good, but in the end you’re only screwing yourself. This one seems fairly obvious, but you’d be surprised how many times I sat trough a procrastination conversation with a fellow student this last semester. So many people feel as if they can only work adequately with an impending deadline, but the reality is you CAN train yourself to break that unhealthy habit. I avoided procrastination by creating a simple Word document with assignment and reading due dates for each class organized on a week by week basis. Having all my responsibilities displayed neatly on one sheet was wonderful for my action planning process. As I completed assignments, I’d simply highlight it on my sheet and move forward to the next one. If ever I fell behind, I’d prioritize my work by focusing on the assignments for the specific week that we were in & work my way backward to unhighlighted items from previous weeks when I found some spare time. That way I wouldn’t continue to fall further behind, and would be able to participate in class discussions as needed.

  2. Evernote (or a similar app) should be your best friend. In grad school your topic of focus should be narrowed, which means that the books you read for one course, can also apply to others. It’s because of this that it is important to save time by taking notes on anything and everything that you read! To make them easily accessible, keep notes in your Evernote app and organize them with tags or by creating separate notebooks for each book. When it comes time to write a paper and references are needed, you can refer back to your notes rather than try to remember what book you got an idea from and search for the info by hand (which you can’t do if you rented the book). To avoid plagiarism I would read a chapter in a book, set it aside and try to summarize the key points in my own words, then open the book back up and add specific quotes to my notes along with page numbers so that I could cite properly in the future. It takes a little longer to do things this way, but it saves sooo much time in the long run if you don’t have to keep searching for new references!

  3. Self-care is as vital as completing readings and assignments – especially as a Marriage and Family Therapy student! It’s no secret that grad school is tough and can weigh down on even the most resilient student; even more so for the students that are learning how to professionally tackle issues that aren’t even their own. I’m lucky enough to be studying at a university that emphasizes the importance of self-care. So when I went through that bought of depression half way through the semester, I knew that the only way to ensure that my work would not be negatively affected was to take care of myself first. It felt wrong to blow off a reading assignment so that I could go for a run or meditate for longer than usual. However, if I didn’t take the time to do those things, I would have continued to spiral downward and the quality of my work would have followed suit. Taking the time to clear my mind helped me stay focused and more importantly, interested in what I was learning. Nothing makes grad school more daunting than a lack of interest for the material being covered. Likewise, an inability to solve my own issues would make me horribly unqualified to help other individuals.

  4. Learn to lean on your cohort. The beautiful thing about a cohort, is that they can have a wonderful, normalizing effect. It’s typical for most grad students to start the program with a bit of imposter syndrome. Then you start getting to know your peers and realize that they have insecurities of their own. They too, are only human; but humans with foreign perspectives and intriguing ideas that will fuse with your own and ultimately enable you to grow. Bounce ideas off of these people, ask all the questions you can think of. They are bright individuals with vastly different backgrounds who are now on a similar path to your own, and these relationships will prove to be invaluable in your professional future. More importantly, they’re invaluable NOW; when you’re being bombarded with heaps of new information and consistently challenged to reach new levels of understanding. They too are facing these stimuli and, as aforementioned, can normalize the experience.

  5. I’m pretty damn resilient! This semester truly challenged me. Leaving work to start grad school is a major stressor in and of itself. I jumped into the new experience at the exact same time that I was also moving out of my parent’s house for the first time and finalizing my wedding plans. 1 month before starting my MFT program I moved in with my fiance. 2 weeks into the program I got married and went on my honeymoon. While it was a blissful getaway, I returned to an intimidating amount of work to catch up on. Then I decided it was time to wean off of my medication, which caused a new wave of difficulties. For a few weeks I was incredibly overwhelmed, kicking myself in the butt for biting off more than I could chew. Yet, I stuck to the check lists that brought me a bit of sanity, and forced myself to find comfort in meditation practices and similar healthy habits. I’m proud to have not only survived the semester, but earned straight A’s while I was at it! Take stock of your own strengths, when things become strained you should know what to cling to and be aware of your ability to make it though the most trying occurrences.

Fin

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I just finished my last assignment for finals week, & winter break has officially begun! That little penguin up there, was me running off campus today to celebrate 🙂

In all seriousness though, this is the first time in my academic career that I can say I’m sad to see the semester come to an end. That’s partially because I’m genuinely fascinated with the topics we’ve covered in my courses, and mostly because I truly believe that I am exactly where I need to be right now. UWest has provided me the opportunity to pursue my dream career, while enabling me to nurture my spirituality along-side incredible, like-minded individuals. In just 3 months I feel like I’ve grown exponentially. What a wonderful feeling, to feel like you belong.

In my enthusiastic state, I’ve already created a list of productive ways to utilize all the free time I’ll have over break. I’ve got a few books I want to read to give me a leg-up next semester, a prospective agency that I’d like to start volunteering at, and a couple of honey-do’s that have begun piling up at home. Also, I’m looking forward to having the time to dabble in photography again and share some of the tips, tricks and things I didn’t have time for mid-semester. Cheers to a lovely break, for all the other students finishing up their semesters!

 

Grad Life

Grad School HumorThis week marks the halfway point of my first semester in grad school. I’ve had wonderful ideas of all the things I wanted to share on my blog about my experience along the way, but the reality is I simply haven’t had time. My days consist of chapter after chapter of reading; it truly never ends. Reflection papers to ensure I’m applying the material, research for an analytical paper, multicultural immersion, practicing clinical skills and volunteer/practicum exploration. Not to mention the activities having nothing to do with school that also keep me busy: the gym, a husband, sleep and some semblance of a social life. Although the latter is quickly starting to fade, because I can no longer hold a conversation without referring to theories and concepts that we’re reviewing in my classes. All in all, I suppose you can say it’s going splendidly. Luckily, I happen to love the field I’m in. All the work that comes with this journey provides a stimulation that I didn’t even realize I had been craving. Furthering your knowledge of something you thoroughly enjoy is a beautiful thing.

Week 1:

My first week of grad school is coming to an end! I’m poor now thanks to tuition & the books I had to buy, but oh am I excited to finish reading them all! Some of the books that have intrigued me the most include: Quiet by Susan Cain, The Wise Heart by Jack Kornfield and Subliminal by Leonard Mlodinow. Only two chapters in to each, I can already tell that I will be inspired. I’m also looking forward to a project I’ll have to complete for my multicultural class in which I’ll be interviewing someone with a different ethnic background than my own in order to gain a thorough understanding of their values, culture, religious beliefs, experiences, etc. This gives me an opportunity to make friends with one of the many international students on campus with wonderful accents & (I’d imagine) adventurous backgrounds. Also, we’ve already started a few classes with some form of meditation, which I think is an absolutely fabulous idea! I love that I’m genuinely interested in my classes & inspired by the professors which will be my mentors for the next few years. I have no doubt that I’ve chosen the right program. & so begins my journey to the MFT!