The summer of 2015 was momentous. Summers are very busy in our family: We set up my husband’s art booth at Art Festivals every weekend, and I work at Starbucks because I love the diversity and complexity of people and interacting on a regular basis.
Through the course of the summer, I felt a big transition was coming but didn’t know what it was. I had an increasing number of people tell me that I should go back to school and become a counselor. I have heard this all my life, but this time it settled into my body. It filled my soul and spirit and I knew, like I know the color red, that it was time.
Since I was in Bellingham, I looked for schools locally and online. Then I started branching farther out, looking into Canada and Seattle. When I finally came upon The Seattle School, I knew it was a fit. For me, figuring things out at the last minute is my forté, so even though it was the middle of August and I wanted to start in the fall, it was not far-fetched. Now I just needed to get in.
Last year, I finished my third and final year as a Counseling Psychology student at The Seattle School. It was a wild and dangerous ride.
One of the biggest surprises was the gift of the commute. Although arduous, especially with traffic, it was a reprieve to transition between my two worlds. I needed the quiet space to let my mind go as well as listen to my favorite podcast, On Being with Krista Tippett.
There were many challenges over those three years, one being the ability to hold many things at once. Most importantly, I am a mom and a wife. I also have a big extended family and many friends. How do you hold the demands of being in grad school with such a full life?
Putting it lightly, this program brings up a lot. I have scrutinized myself from many angles. Luckily, I like to work through things and get to the bottom of them. The struggle for me was not putting this same level of intensity onto my family. My husband is my biggest cheerleader. He edited all my papers (hurray!), but I am his lover, not his counselor. The process of holding information tightly, like it is my duty to fix or change others with all the amazing information that I am holding, is a farce.
I had to pry open my fingers over and over again, being available when I was needed, and remembering to speak with intention—not an agenda. This was true with my children as well. My daughter, who was eleven at the time, told me that she liked that I was becoming a counselor but she didn’t like it when I get all “counselor” on her. All my kids need to say is, “Mom!!!!!!” and I know that I need to simmer down.
I have to laugh and trust the long journey of life. I have found that it is the little bits of impact that have a long sustaining impact. It is not trying to cram things down my family’s throat. This was one of the biggest lessons I learned about holding both school and family.
This brings me to internship, where I worked with children and their families. This was both challenging and rewarding. Much of my work involved looking at behavior and assessing what it was telling me. I worked through the therapeutic relationship and play therapy, utilizing evidence-based therapies along with Relational Psychotherapy.
Many times, the parents with whom I worked were at their wits’ end. They needed help NOW and could not handle too much pressure back on themselves. Unfortunately, the kids then carried the weight of being the problem, and I felt the pressure to fix the child.
By the end of my internship, I was still finding my way in providing effective attunement, psychoeducation in triage, and communicating well to parents and children. Every family is unique, so what works for one family does not always work for the next. All in all, it still comes back to understanding that life is a journey. I am learning to be more comfortable sitting in what is messy.
Shalom Shreve is an MACP alumna from Bellingham, WA. She lives with her husband and children.