So, I’ve been putting this post off for a while. It hasn’t been on purpose. I’ve just been busy and have continually forgotten to put the words on the screen. But here we are. First, I want to apologize to Sandi over at Flip Flops Everyday, who asked me several weeks ago to explain what it is I do for a living. And then I never did. Sorry about that!
I know I’ve posted a lot of stories about my time as a bank teller. But I haven’t been a bank teller for nearly four years. So any of those “Legends of the Bank Teller” that you read must be read in the past tense (even though some of them might be written in the present… I should get an editor). Anyway, I currently spend my days working as a Therapeutic Day Treatment Counselor.I won’t tell you what company I work for or what school I work in, but I will give you a pretty good idea about what I do. There’s got to be some level of secrecy to all this stuff, what with the confidentiality that goes hand in hand with the job and all. And the espionage. Can’t forget about that.
As a TDT Counselor, I spend my days within the hallowed halls of a local elementary school. Now, I’m gonna ask you not to confuse me with the Guidance Counselor. That’s a position that requires a masters degree, which is something I do not have. And the Guidance Counselor has to deal with all the kids in the entire school. I have a caseload of six at the most.The kids that I work with can be referred to my agency by either their teachers, the principal, or their parents/guardians. Why would someone refer their student to me? Uh, because I’m awesome and super fun to hang out with. Duh. No… referrals come my way when a student is having a difficult time maintaining appropriate behavior in the classroom. This means that they’re acting out in some way, being defiant and/or disrespectful toward their teacher(s), being sent to the principal’s office on a regular basis, etc.But they’re not just referred because they’re misbehaving. If that was the case, there would be a lot more people like me hanging out in the schools. On top of the behavior, there needs to be a reason for these negative behaviors to have started manifesting in the classroom. That could mean that the kid has ADHD… they could have anxiety issues… they could be Oppositional Defiant… There’s just a plethora of psychological reasons why they could be acting out at school.
What is it that I do, exactly? A great deal of my time is spent in the classroom with my clients. Depending on my caseload, this could mean that I’m bouncing from classroom to classroom throughout the school all day long. I’ve had it easy in the past where all of my clients were split between only two classrooms. That makes it fairly simple to do my job. But it’s not always that easy. While I’m in the classroom, I mostly observe and take notes on behaviors that I’m seeing. I also provide encouragement whenever I can and redirection whenever necessary. And there are times when things get bad, and I’m asked to remove a client to process something that’s going on one-on-one.
But I don’t just hang out in the classroom all day long. I also pull the kids out to have individual and group counseling sessions. This is where the heavy lifting happens. At least, this is where I attempt to do the heavy lifting. A lot of it depends on what kind of cooperation I can expect from my students.
When I begin working with a client, I work with them and their parents to come up with appropriate goals for them to work toward. These goals are tailored to each child’s needs and each goal is accompanied by a number of objectives which are designed to help them achieve their goals. So those individual sessions and group meetings with other students are (in theory) the times when we’re able to work on those specific goals and objectives. But, like I said, a lot of that depends on the cooperation I get from the kids.
I try to make these sessions as fun as possible. Working with elementary aged children, you can’t expect them to just come in and sit in a comfy chair or lie down on a couch and start telling you about what’s bothering them. A lot of them are dealing with very grown up emotions, yet their minds aren’t developed enough to allow them to appropriately express those emotions. A kid gets pissed off and throws a chair across the room. You know he’s mad, but you can’t expect him to explain to you why he’s mad. And there’s even a good chance that he’ll deny he’s even angry at all.The lack of cooperation from the kids can be a very frustrating thing to deal with when doing this job. There are no magic words that will convince a kid to do what’s expected of them. No matter what you do or how long you work with a kid, you can’t force them to care about what they’re doing. They have to make that decision for themselves. It’s like that old joke… How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? Just one, but the light bulb has to want to change.
I say it’s frustrating. And it can, at times, be the most frustrating job I’ve ever had in my life. But it’s also the only job that I can honestly say that I’ve ever loved before. And I really do love what I do. I love working with the kids I work with. I’ve thought about what it would be like to move away or take on another position with another company or even get out of counseling, and for some reason I think about how much I’d actually miss those kids that I work with. And then I shake my head in disbelief because I don’t get attached to people. Clearly, I do get attached… I just usually don’t allow myself to get attached.So that’s about the it of it. I hope I covered all the key points. If you have further questions about my career choices, please feel free to ask. Just don’t be offended if I can’t answer all questions on a specific level. You know, confidentiality and all.