I didn’t always want to work with individuals suffering from traumatic experiences.
No, not at all in fact. When I was younger I wanted to be a lawyer specializing in divorce disputes. Oh how the times have changed.
My passion for psychology started in university when I took an introduction to psychology class and fell in love with all the little facets of introductory psychology. I would come home everyday and talk to my family about what I had learned. It wasn’t until I nearly graduated that I began thinking of psychology as a career. However, the school I wanted to attend was taking a year off to revamp their program. Subsequently, I applied and deferred my acceptance so that I could do a business degree in the interim. Although, a love for business grew I still felt passionate about counselling psychology and thus began my Masters in counselling psychology after completing my business degree.
From the very first class of my masters we were being taught skills on how to work as a counsellor or psychologist. It freaked me out! I felt as if I had no idea what I was doing and that perhaps I had made a big mistake in choosing psychology as a career. Despite these doubts I really enjoyed my program and the interactive learning throughout the curriculum.
Towards the end of the program I felt more competent in my skills. At this point, I was thinking of either doing sports psychology or industrial psychology because it seemed to be a good fit with my business background. And then everything changed!
My program required me to do 250 practicum hours of face-to-face interventions. Since there are very few opportunities for sports or industrial psychology in Edmonton I carried out my practicum at; Boyle Street Community Services, The Armory Youth Center, Hope Mission and the Herb Jamieson center. The majority of individuals I saw at these agencies had experienced severe interpersonal trauma. To date this has been one of the most humbling experiences of my life. The amount of resiliency and courage that the people I met with had, was astronomical. It blew me away and I was shocked to hear that such devastating things could happen to people and yet they kept on living their lives. My practicum work opened my eyes to a whole new world that I admittedly was very ignorant about. I had thought that my work in the inner city was a means to an end until 1 client came along and changed my life.
A woman who had been severely sexually assaulted came to me for counselling. Since her attack she felt uneasy around men and was afraid to be around them, yet alone touch them. She could not even stand the thought of her boyfriend holding or hugging her. In one of our sessions she was crying after an emotional discussion, still unable to stand the thought of human touch she reached out and grabbed my hand…
In one clarifying instant this woman had changed my life. Her touch showed me how special it is to be a person of safety and trust. It felt so incredible to help someone overcome such a devastating experience. It affirmed within me that I could be someone worth trusting. I am not doing this incident justice, yet all I can say is that her reaching out to me showed me that the work we had been doing together served a purpose. From that point on I have felt such unconditional empathy for survivors of abuse. In essence my work with trauma psychology now, is an attempt to replicate that moment with all my clients and help them get over whatever is troubling them.