Twas the night before Christmas.
More like the night before my first client.
Before and After. Two words full of curious meaning. Often I am anxious for the “after” and disregard the importance of before.
Before. Before I have seen my first client.
I guess I don't expect there to be magic. I don't expect rainbows or light to fall from heaven. But I don't really know what to expect. I had my first couple days at the high school this last week. This high school is the last stop to juvie. These kids got kicked out of the regular public high school for behavioral and learning issues. The goal is to rehabilitate them back to regular high school. That or Juvenile Hall. I came to set up my office. I can't believe I have my own office! Complete with a window (that faces a fenced in dumpster, shed, white truck and garbage cans) Still it's a window. I have a desk and I have a table for art. It was pretty dusty when I came in and cluttered so I'm trying to organize. I'm trying to bring in some color. Some paintings, books, pictures. There are 3 chairs I might add some pillows. The white walls and old chairs make it look very archaic and dull. I am in the far back of the library. My supervisor mentioned I should keep my chair closest to the door.
My roommate, Janice told me these first couple weeks are sacred and to really utilize them because things get crazy. I won't have as many clients these first couple weeks and can focus more on their case, research their problems and do better diagnosing.
I'm not sure what I'll do when my first client walks in the door. I'm afraid I'll freeze and say something super inappropriate or un-therapeutic. Will we do art? Play games? Will I say “What brings you in here” with a fake voice? Will I laugh if they say a dirty joke? Am I going to cry when they tell me their sad story? I hope I have good boundaries. It was weird walking onto the campus this week. I mean the kids are in high school. They look old. I could easily blend into them I feel like. Hopefully they know I am the therapist. This week I felt unproductive because I couldn't fill out the emergency cards and I couldn't get online and my phone in the office wasn't working. I don't know who to ask, who to call or what to do. My supervisor just got back from his trip and had to go straight into emergency surgery with his wife for her knees apparently. Soooo I called my friend who is also starting practicum but at a different high school. He said it's weird no one knows who you are and what you're doing and you don't even know what you should be doing. He said he was going to hang up some posters. HAHA.
Today my roommates went with me to get some professional clothes. That way it is clear I am the therapist and NOT a high school student. My supervisor has already pounded into my head that the guys who have not seen the best life has to offer will fall in love with me considering me the ideal of everything they lost, or never had.
This week I also went through all my potential client/student's files and case notes from previous therapists. It was exciting till I started to read the stories. I sat in my office tears coming to my eyes, sincerely hoping the guy I met across the hall didn't see me wiping my eyes. Part of me doesn't feel experienced enough at all to know how to be there for kids in and out of foster homes, group homes, prostitution, cutting, drugs, fights, suspension. I obviously have not dealt with much conduct disorder in my day. I fear my inexperience and innocence will get in the way.
What I can relate to in their vulnerable files is the feelings of wanting your family near you but them also driving you crazy at moments, being terrified of an ex-boyfriend, wanting to do the right thing but not knowing how. I can relate to the feelings of anxiety and fear. I can relate to doing things to numb the pain in life. I can empathize with deep wounds. While their acting out symptoms are extreme, I resonate with their loss because loss comes in different forms and comes from different places. However it does feel similar.
I don't know what's going to happen in this office I will reside in this next year. But I pray it's sacred ground. I pray my clients feel genuine love and warmth. I pray that they would be able to change. I pray that even though life has dealt them a rough hand of cards they would be brave enough to pursue and push for new cards, and to make the best of the cards they have. I wish I was in a place where I could yell, "YES GOD CHANGED ME AND I AM ON FIRE FOR HIM!!!" But I am in a place of need still. A place of skepticism. A place of doubt. I am begging my insides to know God is real. I am clinging vigorously to a gut feeling that Jesus does change me. You. Us.
I'm not sure I feel big or brave enough to foster such a change or even an environment for that kind of change. But I really do think that change isn't always external and if someone feels genuinely accepted and cared for, a bit of their broken heart begins to transform. So I pray that. I pray for healing. When I look back on the therapists that affected me the most they were not the ones who knew the Christian language, who gave me a speech on theology or told me I was not Biblically sound. They held me in my pain. I saw my tears in their eyes. I saw them believe in me. This is sacred. It is then I have found Jesus in this space.
I want my clients to feel love. I don't want to just believe the idea of spirituality is simply great for coping. I want my clients to be overwhelmed by a Presence that is extremely good.
Twas the night before my first client. And all through the house, not a "Heather Sherwood" was sleeping, for her brain was a leaping.(give me a break. I tried!)