My practicum semester felt like a new beginning of this rewarding profession, one that consisted of continuous learning, acceptance towards me and my clients, and resiliency. This experience was different compared to others I have had in the program, for several reasons. Several reasons are managing to survive supervision, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the loss of my lifelong superhero, my father. Practicum consisted of a lot of self-doubts that transformed into new skill sets able to be applied in my professional career of Guidance and Counseling. I was able to note when clients were struggling with allowing themselves to progress and ones who dominated during counseling sessions. Priceless sightings of what can be accomplished when one is open to change deem some of the most precious moments of this experience.
During the practicum, I learned that individuals who sought counseling intuitively know when the counselor is active and attentive, entities one cannot pretend to have. One of the many rewarding moments during the practicum experience came when a client voiced “this is the first time in my entire life I have spoken about my father abandoning me. I feel I have lifted a thousand-pound weight off my shoulders, and I thank you for this”. It felt amazing to believe that in just four sessions and my first attempt utilizing Gestalt’s empty chair technique, we were able to break through barriers of distrust and begin to heal her hurts of disappointment. I was humbled in many ways by the trust my clients put in my competence in counseling, a perfect stranger whom they continuously chose to sit with for fifty minutes once a week, for at least six to eight weeks of their time.
They believed I would listen and understand their unique stories, and guide them toward walking a new path in life, which is what I was told by my clients I did. Furthermore, I never expected the role technology would primarily play in how individuals communicate with one another, especially during the explosion of the COVID-19 pandemic. Counseling is defined as essential, UTRGV’s counseling training clinic transitioned quickly towards relying on Telehealth for clients to resume receiving services. Although expected most of our clients to be on board with receiving counseling services from the comfort of their own home, it was quite the opposite. About forty percent of our caseloads chose to use Telehealth, and the remaining sixty percent were willing to be put on a waitlist to possibly be seen face-to-face when COVID restrictions were lifted.
As many voiced to be in angst and worry about this transition and interference of direct hours being met, I perceived this experience as a new subset of skills the cohorts of the year 2020 are able to graduate with to apply in our counseling careers. The program provided plenty of opportunities in which hours could be made up if needed due to this crisis, that along with constant reassurance, the cohort climbed yet another mountain together. During consultation with my supervisors, I have been acknowledged of great assets I was not aware of acquiring. In the clinical supervision realm, some of those compliments consisted of having a strong establishment of rapport with my clients using great usage of humor. Another strength brought to my attention is having an inviting demeanor that allows the client to feel comfortable enough to disclose their life stories with me almost immediately. And on a personal basis, I was constantly reminded of the gift I possess for the counseling profession and the strength I acquire for continuing with the semester after losing my father so quickly and unexpectedly.
Whilst this heartbreak, so many arms have been extended by my cohort and supervisors during the biggest challenge I have faced during my lifetime. I am fortunate to have such a great genuine support system; no words can do justice to the amount of appreciation I have for these individuals. Upon further reflection, I have the most resilient and supportive individuals that surround me with care and motivation when I thought all would be lost. I perceived this significant adversity as an additional source of motivation and strength for my personal development. This is not just any ordinary milestone; besides receiving my Masters degree in a field I am immensely passionate for, it means I also made my father proud for achieving my proudest goal and still managing doing so after losing him.
I am grateful for the instilled principles he left behind as they continue to play a huge role in my life today. These experiences and continuous personal therapeutic work got me to the place I am today, a safe place where I can be of utmost help to others which in return, helps me. It has been a long, difficult, yet also rewarding journey as I work to achieve graduation, and that has made me all the more empathetic to the struggles my current/future clients can encounter. I must confess, one of the most important lessons gained from this experience is that it is okay to not have a rigid plan and to go where the client needs to go. Prior to every counseling session, I had a tentative outline written to serve as both a guide and safety net when treating my clients.
I learned that you cannot plan how each session with your clients can go which seemed to have added to my confidence levels as sessions proceeded. Another realization I now possess is although reframing is imperative in many situations, the primary goal of counseling is life improvement. I have always been one to find truth and typically do not advocate on behalf of misconceptions and lies. However, the client’s truth is not a lie but is perception. Because of my clients, I was able to gain perspective on what is essential in life and how fortunate I truly am. I continue to accept the truths of those I love, although their truths may not align with my perception. I acknowledge that I will continue to make mistakes, both professionally and personally, but understand that this is solely a contribution toward personal growth.
I learned that counseling is definitely an art and, with practice and taking initiative for opportunities, even the most difficult tasks can be eventually mastered. Although our significant issues may not look similar, the human condition of working towards triumph over adversity is the ultimatum. There were many successful leaps during my Practicum semester’s obstacle course, as well as some falls. However, without these falls, I was not aware of all the success made so far. . I am certain that I will continuously obtain more insight and experiences as I reach licensure, and moreover. These are the current truths upon which will be used for professional and personal development, which allows me to earn the privilege of meeting someone where they are and joining them on their personal journey.