Termination: or, why I cried in my car on the way home from work

Last Tuesday was my last day on the job.

Let’s go back to March of 2011. I was 22, had not heard back from any graduate programs, and was in a state of constant anxiety about the next phase of life while simultaneously denying that my senior year of college was coming to an end. Desperately attempting to find alternate solutions and avoid moving back in with my parents (no offense to my dear ol’ mom and dad), I obsessively patrolled the job boards. And one day, I found a hidden gem on Craigslist.

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The other side of the couch

Some self-disclosure: I’ve never been on the other side of the couch.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. I went to a child psychologist when I was three or four – my parents regale me with tales of my “weirdness” as a child (apparently speaking entirely in quotes from Winnie the Pooh is “abnormal”…but really, what do they know?), but I only have a few vivid memories from my childhood (someone can analyze me on that one). There was the time in 10th grade, when I got sent to the guidance counselor after my grandfather died. And there was my one-therapy-stand in college to deal with re-adjusting after studying abroad, where my therapist’s coldness and judgmental attitude only strengthened my desire to enter this field.

But since then, I’ve only been the therapist, rather than the client. And as I begin to establish a career in the mental health world, I’m realizing how problematic that is.

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The Life Cycle of the Grad School Graduate’s job hunt for something in the mental health field

Even the father of psychoanalysis had to go to job interviews (photo credit to Nicolas C. Grey – http://www.nicolascgrey.com/sigmund-fried)

I was walking out of the stadium, clad in a cap and gown, when my father yelled “GET A JOB!” from the stands. While my dad was only kidding (here’s hoping anyway), it illustrated the pressure and necessity of getting a job as soon as possible after graduation. Maybe you’re taking a summer position or working at your part-time job you had in graduate school. Or maybe you were lucky enough to land a full-time, paid position at your internship and be the envy of everyone in your graduating class. Or maybe you decided, “hey, writing a dissertation sounds fun, maybe I’ll spend my next 5-7 years in a Ph.D/Psy.D program!” (If I wasn’t so burnt out from school, I’d envy you all). Or perhaps you were smart and started applying for jobs in February and got one before you graduated. In any case, this life cycle is primarily intended for those of us who are not currently in school or employed full-time.

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Things I have learned in graduate school, part two

Last week, my name was called, and as I walked across the stage, I received a Master’s of Philosophy in Education. A couple days later, I woke up disturbingly early, put on my cap and gown, stormed down to the field with 6,000 other graduates, heard the vice president speak, and had my degree officially conferred. This past week has been a whirlwind of celebration and emotion. As I begin to finally hunker down and email my CV to every open position I can find, I reflect on what I’ve gotten out of these past two years. While I’ve learned specific techniques and facts regarding the counseling profession, there has been an abundance of life lessons that I hope will get me towards LPC licensure and beyond.

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Things I have learned in graduate school, part one

Walking out of my Human Development class tonight, I came to that daunting realization that I will be graduating with a master’s degree in two weeks. This particular class ended a week earlier than my other classes, and experiencing my first last class of graduate school is a strange feeling. Denial is my favorite defense mechanism, and it’s difficult coming to terms with the fact that for the first time since I was two years old, I will no longer be a student. So instead of being productive and doing things like job searching, tailoring my cover letters, or working on the three papers I have left, I’ve chosen to do some self-reflection and impart my words of wisdom regarding the journey that is a graduate school counseling program.

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