Before I started my graduate program in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling just over 2 years ago, I had the opportunity to attend another student’s final presentation- the culmination of his journey through the program. It was illuminating- the materials presented thought-provoking, inspiring, and macabre in equal parts. He had worked with people addicted to opiates in the local hospital, on the unit where they performed heart surgeries. He had personally lost a brother to addiction. He had suffered, and he had worked with many who were currently struggling- many fighting for their lives. As I watched his presentation, for my own reasons, I related to him. I was familiar with what it felt like to stare into a chasm of pain and darkness. So, when he played a large washtub base amid the backdrop of his artwork, it conjured solemn images in my mind of ships passing one-another in the night, never knowing the other existed. He ended his presentation with a revelation- he planned to send a massive heart-shaped balloon creation over Aroostook county, an area hard-hit by Maine’s opioid epidemic, to raise awareness for opioid recovery. A creative twist in a story of suffering and pain. It was a profoundly inspiring experience for me.
My journey through the Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling program has been one that has challenged me to better understand own self- as both an aspiring professional, and as a creative human. I have felt increasingly pulled, ever-deeper, into the world of creative and artistic exploration as a method of counseling treatment and intervention. Volunteerism has taken me to a local service agency’s art program for individuals with severe, persistent mental illness, as well as the Maine Correctional Center Upholstery shop, giving me opportunities to work with vulnerable populations in settings of creativity and skill. I have made art-based therapies the basis of several academic papers, and have begun working on a large personal endeavor in painting and textile work.
I plan to attend post-graduate education in Expressive Art Therapy, and to open a studio space in the Portland area to offer group counseling paired with visual arts and dance therapies. I hope to work with diverse demographics- including veterans, elders, and adolescents. It is my dream to gain the experience, skills, and educational background that will allow me to competently offer my services to populations that may benefit from such an outlet.
We all contain a universe of both darkness and light within. Life, in its dynamism, is messy that way. Some of us find the darkness inescapable- unbearable. The task of living is hard-won without support and connection. My deepest wish, both professionally and personally, is to be there for many of those who are struggling, and to provide an empty canvas, page, work bench, or stage onto which they can safely pour out their pain, problems, and struggles. Our creative selves allow us to make visible that which we may not have words for. It gives us both a close, intimate bond with our subject matter, as well as the distance which affords healing. It gives us connection- through the eyes of others, and through our own ability to express our internal world.
At present, I work as a Mental Health Rehabilitation Technician The facility I work in has an elder population comprised of 8 residents. The residents have all struggled with severe, persistent mental illness and homelessness across their lives. In addition to my duties of cleaning, cooking, outings, and paperwork, I strive to make people laugh, and to listen to their rich personal stories on a daily basis. Academically, I am enrolled in my Practicum course, and Diagnosis and Treatment Planning. I provide counseling 2 days per week with several residents of a transitional housing facility in the greater Portland area. My clients are veterans who have experienced PTSD, hospitalizations, SUDx, and chronic homelessness. They have faced tremendous adversity and hardship, and yet they remain some of the strongest people I have ever met. I have provided them with journals and hope we will make use of their musings and writings as our sessions go by.
In the Spring term of 2020, I will begin my Internship work with a local service agency, developing my skills in group counseling, and gaining valuable insight into the application of several therapeutic modalities. Many of the residents of the home I will be based in have also struggled with severe, persistent mental illness, substance-use disorder, and have endured trauma in their lives. I will work 3 days per week as an intern, and maintain my current employment 3 days per week.
Finally, I aspire to maintain a healthy work-life balance during this period, and plan to make time as often as possible be with my 7-year-old son, husband, and our two silly dogs. I also plan to continue to build my portfolio of visual, textile, and other creative works- to scaffold my post-graduate educational pursuits, for personal enjoyment, and to use in my own graduate presentation next winter.
Before I began my journey in this program, I was given an opportunity to see into the world of another student and professional at the end of his. And when his ship passed me by, I knew it well. I knew what he saw when he looked at darkness, because in my own life, I had seen it, too. And somehow, even through the pain and suffering, we have both seen the light from a creative spark. As I progress along this path, I hope to share that spark with others.
I’m looking for funding to help balance finances, and so that I don’t have to take out so much in student loans (with which I am already overloaded.)
If you are somehow still reading this- thank you for your time.