It's been almost three months since graduation & my 40th birthday, so I think now is as good a time as any to take stock of some significant changes that both of those events have brought on.
On June 13th I began working as the Older Adult Counselor through Lutheran Social Services at the Thompson Community Center. I have to admit, it would be a lot easier for me to call it a "senior center", but that would be the equivalent of saying my job description is "someone who listens to old people bitch and moan" which is NOT the case. So "community center" it is!
My clients have to meet one of two criteria: they either need to be age 60 or older, or they need to provide care for someone age 60 or older. They also need to either reside in Outagamie, Winnebago, Calumet, or Waupaca county, so I guess there are two of three requirements to sit across the desk from me in my office.
I'm the only Master's trained therapist at the Thompson Center, which means I am responsible for signing the charts of the two AODA counselors whose clients have a dual diagnosis. In non-therapy language, that means that for any of the clients in the alcohol and other drug addiction program with a mental health diagnosis, I have to discuss their status with the AODA counselors, understand and approve the counselor's treatment plan, and then (here it comes) sign the client's chart as the supervising clinician. Cue "dun-dun-dunnnn."
Me? Really? "Supervising clinician"? I guess that's what a Master's degree gets you nowa-days. Our AODA counselors do an incredibly good job of recognizing those clients with a "dual diagnosis" as we call it in the mental health biz, so it's not particularly taxing for me to agree with their treatment plans, but the fact that I have to sign my name in any sort of supervisory capacity kind of makes me giggle. Not because I take the responsibility lightly, but because I generally don't see myself as "knowing" any more than the two experienced clinicians I "supervise." I promise that as I become more comfortable with this process, the quotation marks will disappear.
I flipped through some of the cards I received for graduation and many of them contained inscriptions like, "Congratulations, a Very Proud Great-Aunt", "Congratulations on your accomplishments. You have much to be proud of, as we are all proud of you," and "Enjoy this moment and all the good feelings that come wrapped up in this special time. You deserve it." For some reason, now that I'm a bit removed from the pomp and circumstance of commencement, it doesn't seem that it's really that big of a deal.
What reminds me that it really is that big of a deal is that only 10% of all 4-year degree holders go on to post-undergraduate education. That when I look at the group of my best friends from high school that I'm still incredibly close to, out of the 10 of us, we all graduated with bachelor's degrees, 7 of us have post-undergrad degrees, with 1 of us currently working toward her Master's degree. (I swear that some kind of social study should be done on us because our level of education is way beyond the normal curve.) I think of my great-great-grandmother, Grandma Wilber, whom I never had the privilege of knowing, who had nothing more than a sixth grade education and became a farmer's wife. I've been told by my grandmother and one of my great-aunts that she wouldn't be able to even believe that someone in her family, much less a female member of her family, would reach the academic level that I have achieved. I've also been told that she's looking down at me from Heaven, shaking her head, and in today's parlance, saying, "You go girl."
Those are the things that help me believe I deserve all the responsibility I can get.