One of my significant interests in pursuing this degree was to work with biracial/bicultural couples. I had a notion as an aspiring MFT, and have now come to strongly believe that our own epistemology contributes so much to the work that we do. Our compassion, empathy, understanding, and nurturance for our clients is deepened by our own richness of experience. Being married and starting a family with a man outside of my culture has presented itself with challenges I could never have imagined however it has also created a life of opportunities to grow both personally and professionally. As a result I find that in addition to helping families to navigate through their struggles, I have a particular passion for working with those families that are blending cultures as well. There is an element of this for every couple, each person with their own unique upbringing that have to be negotiated as the new family emerges. When couples come together from different cultures however, a number of additional levels of negotiation may arise. When I participated in the Multicultural course as a Fairfield student, we certainly addressed what specific cultural factors should be considered when working with different “groups” of families however we failed to elaborate on how to balance our approach when working to blend cultural influences in one system. I know that the program is always growing and changing as is the field of MFT at large. We are living, working, and practicing in a world where an awareness of cultural competence is steadily increasing. My hope is that I will have the opportunity to expand my own work with bicultural couples and that MFT programs will begin to incorporate this element into their training process more in depth as well.
Virginia is a 2007 graduate of Fairfield University’s Marriage and Family Therapy program. Currently she works as a Clinician at FSW, Inc. in Bridgeport Connecticut and is a part of the Collaborative Counseling Group (CCG) in Trumbull, Connecticut.
Several weeks ago I posted about a friend’s torment leading up to and then following the MFT licensing exam. After having to wait a miserable 45 business days she was stunned to learn that she had indeed passed! Of course her excitment was mitigated by the news that her close friend and study partner who along with her had studied and toiled for many months to prepare for the exam, had failed by less than 10 points. This was devestating news for both women as well as to all of the people who were cheering them on and assurring them that their worst fear would likely never be realized… myself included.
I hear that my friend’s study partner has re-grouped and will take the exam again in September knowing that she now has the advantage of having been exposed to the exam and the way that the questions are posed (which is no small thing!) She’s also more relaxed realizing that her worst fear has already happened. Onward and upward, that’s all that’s left!
I’ve always known that I wanted a career that not only allowed me to interact with other people, but at the end of the day, left me with the feeling that I’ve made a small difference. As a graduate student of this program, I have to be honest and admit that I was very nervous my first semester. Looking around each classroom made me very aware of the qualities that made up my minority status: I was fresh out of undergrad, young, and bi-racial. I was concerned about my own capabilities and began to wonder whether I put both feet in the water too early. My peers and professors noticed the same qualities that I saw myself, and they probably don’t know this, but they helped me see that these same traits can be both benefits and liabilities. Through courses such as ethics and pre-practicum, I feel very prepared for instances in which my experience or age may be questioned.
Working at the Stamford Counseling Center has been a great experience for me. I couldn’t ask for a better way to attain diversity and variety amongst my cases. Working in their probation program has taught me an enormous amount of patience. While many of the clients are mandated by their probation officers to attend therapy, I quickly learned that this doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be present. Thus I make sure that I always have phone calls to make or paperwork to do in case a client does not show up. I’ve also developed relationships with the probation officers, and have been educated on some of the actions that are taken once a person is arrested and on probation. The biggest challenge that I have had at my site, is encouraging probation clients to bring other family members into the therapy room. However, I continue to persevere and use some of the techniques that have been given to me by my professors and my colleagues.
Sara graduated from Fairfield’s MFT program in May 2009. She is a former graduate assistant and currently works as a Clinician at St. Vincent’s Behavioral Health in Westport, CT.
When starting out, I thought I had to do “family therapy” with every client and family I had. I realized however, that that is not always possible. Working in an inpatient psychiatric hospital, I see a lot of different levels of acuity. Some people and family’s I can engage in therapy, while others I simply can not for various reasons (most of the time it is due to severe psychosis or delusional thinking). The question in my mind soon became, how do I best serve these families in a therapeutic way? I realized, through talking to some of my more seasoned colleagues in the field that psycho-education is the best way; and it still is therapeutic for the families as well as the client/patient. I was also happy to learn/realize that it still can be systemic. Through psycho-education a therapist can bring a new level of understanding of/or about the “illness” to a family system. In doing so, we as therapists can change the dynamic of how the family communicates with each other, and with the IP (identified patient); thus (hopefully) changing the dynamic of the system for the better. With the use of psycho-education, I have seen the levels of anxiety drop in families, and literature states that it can also lead to less readmissions of the client/patient. So although it may not be the “classic” form of family therapy, I find it to be an invaluable one, and one that may too often be over-looked. This experience has definitely reinforced the adage that therapy is not a “one size fits all” profession; and although it may not be the most cutting-edge form of therapy families can still benefit from psycho-educaiton in a therapeutically systemic way.