One step forward – three steps back

In my last post I was hopeful and frankly, floored that this one practicum prospect all but rolled out the red carpet for me.

However, the carpet is gone because they got cold feet. They gave reasons but the main one was that they decided not to have an intern for the next school year. I got the impression that there were politics at work, but I couldn’t be sure.

So since that time I have been sending out email after email after email, following up with phone calls and more phone calls, and so far it’s been rejection after rejection … after rejection. :-/

One of the non-negotiable requirements of my distance education university is to allow me (not the client, just me) to be videotaped when I am counselling. Not every time of course; only occasionally. The reason for this is so that my professor, who will be likely on the other end of the country, can see me in action and evaluate my performance!  Unfortunately, the policy of many counselling agencies is to not allow recording of any kind (video OR audio!) so many of the rejections had to do with that. But the biggest hurdle lately has been space.

I have heard from a local social worker who is willing to be my supervisor; however, the only problem she has is that she has an office with a door and a desk … for HER. She has no extra space for me to see clients. So she told me that if I could find a place that had a clientele I could use, and a space for me to see them, and they DIDN’T have a Master’s level supervisor for me, she would supervise me from “off site.”

Getting other organizations here to understand and agree to even that kind of arrangement has been very difficult. It has gotten to the point that, after countless rejections from this and that and the other agency, I have started to reach out to counselling organizations and agencies outside of my own province.

It really is unbelievable that a province that is reputed to be “crying” for counsellors does not seem to want to invest the time and space that it will take to essentially get pro-bono counselling for under a year (eight to nine months), as long as someone is there to guide me at times. They seem to only want to get people who already have their degrees or their certification – a classic catch-22 situation. Yet the folks with whom I have spoken in a neighbouring province have tried to find solutions for me that would inconvenience them just so that I can have the opportunity to practice.

Of course, I don’t want to have to do the commute. I don’t mind the driving so much, but every trip would cost me nearly $100 for gas and bridge toll alone, so it would be very expensive – especially on a reduced income that I would have to be (at 40%) for the duration of my practicum, not to mention super-stressful to be away from my family. They are supportive, but I would really prefer to stay here with them if I could.

So I keep trying.

And trying.


(stay tuned)


Ready … Steady … Go!

When I was a kid, I would participate in Sunday School picnics and they would have egg and spoon races, three-legged races, and sack races. The superintendent of the Sunday School would always start the races by saying her little rhyme:

One to get Ready … Two to get Steady ….. GO!

That’s where I feel like I am right now.  I’m at the starting line, and my body and mind are preparing for the “qualifying” rounds – pardon the pun!

Four more days until I start my winter semester for my 2nd to last course before my practicum.

I only have 114 days until my practicum plan must be approved by my university. By that time I will have finished my last course before the practicum.

And there are just under 242 days between today and the day I start my practicum! (Can you tell I’m excited?  Keep reading!!)

I had been “courting” this one spot for my practicum placement for the last several months, corresponding back and forth with one of the counsellors there, a really nice fellow.

This past Thursday morning, (to give a bit of context to what’s coming next) I had had a particularly challenging meeting with my manager at work regarding my request for the leave I wanted to take in September to do my practicum.  The leave was denied for various reasons.  However, I had worked out (and presented) an alternate plan during that meeting for working part-time two days a week from September to April inclusive, and she was much more open to that. It was disappointing because of the decrease in money and the increase in stress from juggling two “jobs” (one of them unpaid), but I suppose it is better than having to make a choice between them.

That same afternoon, after I got home from work, I decided to re-contact the fellow at the potential practicum spot again to let him know that I would be available three days a week in September if they were still interested.  The site is at the local university in the Student Services department.

Yesterday evening, I received an email from this gentleman after I turned on my computer. In his email, he said that he was glad that I had indicated my continued interest, since two people had changed their plans for this year, and that the next step for me would be to sit down with (a) the director of Student Services and (b) the person who would be my supervisor. He gave both their names and took the liberty of copying them on the email, and said he’d be backing out of the conversation at this point. Then he said what absolutely floored me: that, after we met and discussed our expectations, if the three of us agreed that it was a good fit, (and I quote), “you will be our intern for the 2018-2019 academic year.”

The Green Way For Start Bike In Park by ArPleum at

Photo “The Green Way For Start Bike In Park” courtesy of ArPleum at

Boom! No carefully worded escape clauses – just – if you like us, we want to work with you and learn together.

I’m still totally floored.

Within 24 hours of that email (just about an hour ago, in fact), my daughter also got an email from the same university (this time, from admissions). She’d been on a waiting list to take a course in Sociology (she was 21st on the waiting list) and all of a sudden, they told her that a spot had opened up for her, and she could register for the course. She did, almost right away, and is even now looking at her course requirements, readings, assignments, and exam schedules for the semester. (She’s not even behind on any readings because they haven’t assigned those yet.)


So the atmosphere in the house is one of stunned and grateful silence, broken by the occasional, “Wow.” In fact, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said that word. Wow.

Oh yes, just to follow up on the email I received, I wrote back to the director and the supervisor. I thanked them and told them I was looking forward to meeting with them, and gave my availability dates and times for the next two or three weeks.  In fact, just now I took a break from typing this and sent a private email to that gentleman and thanked him for his encouragement and guidance, letting him know how thrilled I was to get his email.

And as I mentioned to him, my feet haven’t quite yet touched planet Earth since that moment.

Can you blame me??

Full Circle

As I write this, I’m enjoying a grande half-caff, chestnut-praline latte. My first order ever from Starbucks!! What has that got to do with anything in this post? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Well, just that I’m enjoying being able to take care of myself.

I’ve taken the last four months off from my grad program to recharge my batteries and get a renewed zest for my life. And I must say that aside from the first month thinking, “What am I going to DO with all this free time?” I soon found some projects that I’d been meaning to accomplish – crocheting for Christmas presents, for one – and have been busily doing that, plus tending to my family’s needs. (I might save that for a later post.)

Today, I have 31days of freedom left, 31 days to do what I like when I like (aside from my job, that is.) And in the last week, so much has happened that has both floored and elated me that I am still reeling from it all.

You see, my oldest daughter has been trying to do some upgrading of her GED so she can go to university. A week or so ago, she sat with someone in the Registrar’s office of the local university and realized that she could “ladder in” to the program she wants to take by taking a couple of courses as an unclassified student and then taking some upgrading courses they have available for people to prepare for degrees in the sciences and mathematics. She wants to get a Bachelor of Science with a major in Kinesiology. A perfect fit!!

What’s more, she can start in January 2018. So she starts her university class(es) on January 3, and I resume my program on January 10. So weird! So wonderful!

There’s more. She is physically disabled and she has PTSD as well as other psychological disorders, so she went to see Student Services yesterday with photocopies of her diagnoses from her medical file, taking her dad along for moral support while I was at work. By the end of that appointment, she had forms for student loans, a signed agreement to provide ergonomic seating, a note-taker if she needs one, a computer with voice-recognition software if she needs it, a disabled parking pass, and much, much more – all in the space of that one appointment. Essentially, that one hour alleviated every single fear she had about going back to school: absences due to sickness, inability to take notes due to her fibromyalgia, etc. What a relief to know that they have that (and more) covered!

A Water Drop Splash by Mister GC at

Photo “A Water Drop Splash” by Mister GC at

Monday, she sits down with her contact in the Registrar’s office and hammers out the course(s) she will be taking. Everyone has been so respectful and accommodating to her – and she has felt so comfortable with these people that she has taken the lead in the conversations rather than letting one of us be her mouthpiece, as she has typically done with people in authority (especially doctors). Words can’t express how proud I am of her, how far she has come, and how she has faced her monsters and is starting to move forward with her life.

I know that she will blossom in the academic environment.  There is no doubt in my mind she will excel.

What’s more, there is a possibility that I will be doing my practicum on campus in September 2018… Is that surreal or what?  So, if she wants to, we can have our lunches together at the cafeteria. 🙂

But – back to January 2018. I will be taking a Family Therapy course and I am looking forward (not dreading) the return to the academic routine – a testimony to my need for a break and to the fact that I have now recharged my own personal resources to the point where I can dive in to my studies again! Once I get into classes again (online of course), I will be able to contact the fellow with whom I’ve been corresponding about the September practicum.  At the same time, I’ve been in conversations with Labour Relations at my job to see whether I can take an 11-month leave of absence so that I can not only do my practicum but also take my culminating course afterward, which will require a lot of hours a week to complete.

Yes, there is a lot happening, even though nothing is happening. I feel like I’m starting all over again (hence the title, Full Circle) but this time, with my feet under me and a clear path ahead. Plus, while I’m doing the most important part of my own learning (the practicum) my daughter will be embarking on her academic journey too, in that she will be able to launch herself into her chosen program around that time – another circle just starting.

Exciting stuff. I can’t wait to see what’s ahead. 😀

Treading Water

Yes. I am surviving (see my last post.) And no, I still have not capsized. So far, so good!

At the moment, I am in Calgary Alberta, and doing the face-to-face portion of my course. In a week, I will be heading back home, but in that week, I know that I will become a better person and a better counsellor. (And yes, in Canada, that’s spelled with two Ls, haha).

This coming Tuesday, I will be facilitating a portion of one of the sessions from my 6-session program (again, see my last post). I got marks in the 90s on both the program outline and the manual (a monstrous document 25 pages long, single-spaced…. gulp!) While I am nervous about my session, and the resulting assignment that will come out of it, what I believe is most transformational about the past week is getting to know these people very well in such a short time. One of the components of our classroom time is to be able to participate as members of a counselling group facilitated by our instructors, and to spend time reflecting on what that process is like for us as future counsellors. What our prof and instructional assistant are trying to do is to model how a counsellor works in a group, working with the raw material of the things we talk about and co-constructing meaning in the midst of all of that, and getting us in touch with how we are feeling and what those feelings tell us.

You will recall that in my last post, I referred to sailing through a gale not knowing how to swim.  Well, I don’t know quite how to “swim” yet, but I have learned that I can tread water – and I won’t sink. The water is still quite choppy, but I think I can see a light in the harbour, and someone – well, several someones – have thrown me a lifeline in case I need it. I know I switched metaphors there, but you get the idea. 🙂

Having this opportunity to be away from the pressures of the office and to focus solely on my studies has been a Godsend… I have even had some time for some much-needed self-care … and to my surprise, I am learning self-compassion. Just yesterday morning, I called my mother at the hospital where she is awaiting placement in a nursing home for dementia. She still thinks she is there for “a rest” and that she will soon be going back home. While we were speaking and she was telling me that so-and-so never visits, when I know full well they go and see her at least 4 times a week, I found myself thinking that she probably tells folks that I never even call her, and that they would believe her and think I was a horrible daughter. That notion would have bothered me a lot even a few months ago. But as I thought about it, I began to understand that it doesn’t matter what she thinks of me, or what anyone thinks of me. It doesn’t even mater that 30 seconds after she hangs up the phone, she’s forgotten I even called. What matters is that I know I have brightened her day, even only ten or twenty minutes out of that day.

And that is okay. I don’t know when it started to be okay, but I know that it is – that I have grown into it in tiny increments over the last few months and finally, throughout this week, it’s like I have given myself permission to be human and not to be able to do it all or do it perfectly. (WOW.)

Does that mean I’m growing up?  I guess it does… it has taken me a while though. Oh well. That’s one more proof that I’m human, and knowing that helps me let others off the hook when they make mistakes too.

So it’s all good. I’m treading water, and I’m okay with that. Maybe by this time next week, I’ll have done a little dog-paddling. 😉

Not knowing

There has been a recurring theme in my graduate studies in counselling. I keep coming back to what my professor called a “not knowing stance” when I was at Summer Institute in 2016. Every course I take, every experience I have in this program, keeps circling me back to this one inescapable truth, a certainty that bases itself in not being certain … of anything.

When counselling, when researching, even when faced with an ethical dilemma, it all boils down to this: I don’t know.  I might think, or believe, or even suspect, but I don’t know.  I am not the expert; I am not even AN expert!  Guess who is?  The client!! The client is the expert in the room, the expert in whatever situation or problem brought them into counselling.

I am learning to take that stance, to not have my mind made up, to be curious and compassionate, to gather more information, to encourage the other person to fully be who they are and feel safe in doing so.  Does this mean that I have chosen a theoretical orientation, as psychology graduate students have been expected to do for generations? Absolutely not!  Even regarding theory, I am on the proverbial fence.  I can see good in almost all therapeutic approaches, and I think that each of them would work best in different situations for different types of people with different backgrounds.  One person might need to explore their family-of-origin dynamics, delve into their childhood issues to uncover something in them that affects today’s functioning.  Others might find more help in a short-term solution-focused approach to a specific problem. Many people respond to identifying and countering their negative thoughts with positive ones.  Still others could be looking for a way to relieve stress in the moment and would respond to a mindfulness-based thrust.

“Man Lying on Chaise Lounge” courtesy of Ambro at

Regardless of where I end up on that spectrum, or whether I just take an eclectic approach, I know one thing: I don’t know.  Not knowing has become something of a pattern, a habit, a rhythm of life for me. It doesn’t mean that I won’t be qualified to be a counsellor.  In fact, it might mean that I’m better qualified than I ever thought possible.  Not knowing will force me to ask questions, really listen to the answers, and then ask more questions. It will help me to understand my clients’ experience from their own perspective.  I won’t assume that I know about someone’s life just because it might look like they belong to this or that group; instead, I will ask them to help me understand how it is from their point of view.

This not knowing mentality has so many applications, not just in counselling but also in relationships, work, and family.  When people understand that I am not prejudging them, when they know that they are safe with me, they will feel more free to open up and share their experience.  It feels good to be with someone who accepts you unconditionally, and who creates that atmosphere of caring and respect.  I want to become that someone.

In my last post, I spoke about health issues from pre-cancer in my uterus, in addition to my brother’s colon cancer.  I am happy to report that they got all of my brother’s colon cancer, literally saving his life, and I underwent a hysterectomy in early January, saving mine.  I feel very grateful, and even more so now that my winter term is done and I got a great mark on Professional Ethics.  I have plans to practice a fair bit of self-care over the next couple of weeks, and I hope to squeeze in a visit to see my brother and my mother; it will be the first time since his surgery.

There’s a lot that is up in the air of late.  I’ve been acting as a team lead at work since October, and the employer has been conducting interviews to fill that role on a permanent basis.  So, I’m waiting for the results of that, at the same time as I am reaching almost the half-way point of my degree.  I decided to slow down my degree so that I could do my practicum in September of 2018, so I am hoping to be a little less stressed than I would have been going full bore.  And even making all these plans, I still don’t know what will happen.  All I can do is take each day as it comes, do the best I can, and keep asking questions.

Outside my comfort zone

My first course at Athabasca was great!  It did challenge me to think in new ways, but in another way it opened new vistas for me in thinking critically about what I learn.  Plus, it made me think about where  I want to go on this learning journey.

This term, it’s completely different.  I am taking a course in multicultural counseling.  And, since I am part of a privileged culture (white, Anglo-Saxon, and Protestant), of Loyalist descent, cisfemale, heterosexual, and steeped in Judeo-Christian values since birth, this is a difficult course for me because there is no way that I can fully relate to someone of another race, religion, or gender / sexual identity.

I am distinctly outside my comfort zone.  I am hovering above myself, keenly aware that anything I say can be perceived in any number of ways, and I don’t want to offend anyone…. which, I guess, is as good a place as any to start.

I’ve spent the better part of the last four years or so coming to terms with the fact that one of my children is on the LGBTQIA spectrum (I had to learn what each of those letters stood for and why they are there, because I was – and still am to a great degree – so green to all of it).  And for those who (like me) are still learning, the acronym above is for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Twin-spirited, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual.  I am learning and understanding terms I never thought I would, like “cis” as a prefix for male or female (meaning a person identifies as the gender for which their body was born with the parts).

The knowledge that my daughter is on “the spectrum” was not nearly as scary for me as the fear I had that she would end up being bullied or ostracized for who she was… particularly by people very much like I once was.  I have become extremely sensitized to the issue of accepting people for who they are instead of brandishing placards decrying it as “unnatural” or “a choice.”  I hardly think that my little girl chose to be ON the spectrum, much less at the “A” end of the spectrum; she just never, EVER, had any interest in sex – or romance, for that matter.  And truth be told, she has been instrumental in teaching me that someone is not less of a person because he or she is different.

Anyway, I am finding that I am treading a very fine line as I stick-handle my way through this class, mostly because I am so afraid of saying something unintentionally that would offend a classmate or the professor. However, I do think that this is a learning experience for me, so perhaps my fears are normal, my attitude is at least teachable, and I will do well.

Time will tell.  Time will tell.

Meet me here

I’ve just been accepted as a student in the Masters in Counselling program at Athabasca University. There, I’ve said it. It’s REAL!

This means that I’m officially in a transition phase between my current career as a public servant and a new one as a servant of the public. I was in Yorkville University’s Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology (MACP) program from September 2013 to August 2014 – until I discovered that my province doesn’t accept degrees from Yorkville U as sufficient for a person to go into private practice.

That’s when I discovered Athabasca. My experience with this school has been wonderful ever since my first communication with them back in January of this year when I started to get my credentials together for my application.

So, due to that one-year delay, and the time difference in how long it takes to get a degree, as well as the fact that I need to continue working while I go to school, my career plans have been set back by a few years. However, I believe I’m now on the right road and that within four years, I will be a Canadian Certified Counsellor.

I’m sure that I will learn so very much in this process. Hopefully that will make me a better counsellor. 🙂