Tag Archive | Athabasca University

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 freedigitalphotos.net

Photo “The Green Way For Start Bike In Park” courtesy of ArPleum at www.freedigitalphotos.net

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.)

Whaaaa???

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??

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Uncharted waters

Here I am, in the last trimester of my second of four years in my Master’s program at AU. In another 3.5 months, I will be half-way through the program and a year away from starting my practicum. You’d think that by now, I’d be more confident in my abilities as a grad student. While in a certain sense I do have more confidence than I did starting out, I still feel as though I am sailing in a gale (not knowing how to swim) through uncharted waters.

At the moment, I am taking a course in group counselling. Someone told me that this was the “Kum-Ba-Yah” course – referring to the summer institute in July when we meet face to face, and we all (metaphorically) join hands and sing “Kum-Ba-Yah”, which gave me a picture of a course that would be somewhat easy – but they were wrong. So far, the reading has been overwhelming, the first assignment has been a challenge to complete, and my anxiety is growing!

Part of the problem is that I took the course to “stretch” me because I am uncomfortable in groups, but I know that it will be important for me to know how to facilitate groups, especially for my Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC) designation, a pre-requisite to registration as a registered psychotherapist candidate in my province. Another part is that I did not anticipate the newness, the unfamiliarity, of the material I would be studying. I am starting to catch on now, but it took me off guard at first.

Image “Rushing River” courtesy of        Maggie Smith at www.freedigitalphotos.net

On top of all of that, there have been some … upheavals … in my family of origin, who live out of province. A medical emergency for my brother, followed by a temporarily unsupervised mother with dementia, and someone contacting Social Services, led to her hospitalization. Because of that, the whole process led to the court (province) becoming involved, removing power of attorney from my brother (through no fault of his own), and deciding to place my mother in long term care. She is now waiting in hospital for a spot to open up in a nursing home close to where her home is, wanting with every ounce of her being to just go home and fix dinner for my brother … and not realizing that she will never be allowed to do that. My brother has been facing destitution and is trying to obtain assistance while he waits for his CPP disability pension to be adjudicated on. I have been calming him down for the last month while he faces the most anxiety-producing experience of his life. Fortunately, my professor was sympathetic and granted me an extension on my first assignment – but that means I’m a week or two behind on everything else, and I need to play catch-up.

Like I said, sailing in a gale, through uncharted waters, not knowing how to swim. But today, I managed to finish my first draft of my first paper – a proposal for a 6-session group counselling program for adult survivors of childhood physical and emotional abuse. I have no idea whether it will be acceptable, but I suppose that I will find out soon enough. 😉

At least, so far, I have not capsized.

Putting first things first

I think that I’m safe in saying that so far in my graduate program in counselling, the course for which I just submitted my final assignment earlier this evening has been the most technically difficult one so far – it was on research methodology and made it necessary for me to use something that I abhor: statistics. But … let’s not go there tonight, except to say that two weekends ago, I got a brand new book: Statistics for Dummies. And I plan to read it!

All that drama aside – there is something so satisfying about passing in a final paper. No more schoolwork for four weeks! And you can bet that I’ll be squeezing as much enjoyment out of those four weeks as possible!

The course taught me a lot of things, and not just about research design and how I am drawn to qualitative rather than quantitative research (the latter being about numbers – numbers being about statistics – and here we are back at the boogey-man again!) In the course, I worked in a small group to conduct a tiny research project over the course of the term, and the topic we chose was the relationship between burnout and self-care in online graduate students. Learning more about the factors in burnout made me re-think the pace of my education plan. (Of course, there were other reasons for re-thinking it as well!)

oil-massage-by-samuiblue-at-www-freedigitalphotos-net

Photo “Oil Massage” courtesy of samuiblue at www.freedigitalphotos.net

In fact, there were four major reasons for me deciding to turn my program from a 3.3-year program to a 4.5 year program.  The first was purely practical and self-serving: I have an opportunity to get a good practicum if I defer it to September 2018 rather than 2017.  That was the first domino, so to speak. Then I figured that if I were to defer the practicum, I could stand to slow down the pace from a  total of four courses per year (over three terms) to a schedule of three courses per year (one per term). Doing this allows me to take more electives as well, which I am enjoying the thought of doing. The pace of the online program being more manageable is reducing my stress levels and making it more possible for me to sleep at night.

My physical health is another reason why I’m slowing down my program. I believe you know that I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes last May.  But after a procedure to test me for cervical and uterine cancer, and the lab finding that I have pre-cancerous cells in my uterus, I am scheduled for abdominal surgery on January 9, 2017. Yes, that’s right – a hysterectomy.  This will mean a three to six-week recovery period at home, and the less stress I pile on myself, the better my body will be able to recover.  I will be able to do my schoolwork but not much more during my recovery period – and it will be good to get away from such a hectic pace and to regroup.

One more reason I’m spreading my courses out is that there are some possible opportunities at work that I may be able to benefit from – and pushing forward on my practicum date to 2018 instead of 2017 gives me the time and space I need to explore those. That has meant that I haven’t been able to avail myself of that volunteer opportunity, at least not yet. Perhaps in time…

And finally, my brother was just diagnosed with stage one colon cancer this past month. His surgery to resect a section of bowel (major abdominal surgery) is set for around the end of December. Hopefully, with me spending a bit less time with my nose in the books, we will be able to spend a bit more time together, especially as our mother’s dementia is getting worse.

Self-care takes many forms. Sometimes it means going for a massage, a manicure, or a spa treatment. But for me lately, it means making every moment count with family and friends, looking after my health, and being able to sleep without stressing about deadlines, and it also means not falling asleep in front of the computer screen.

It means putting first things first. Prioritizing my life makes for there being more room for the important things and then, if there’s room, adding in some nice-to-haves. It means having it all, but not all at once: each thing in its own time. And it means being satisfied with what I have for as long as I have it. That’s something that I think I could get behind.

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. 🙂