In my last post, I shared about my first full-time counseling job, which started on July 8. Well, I’m now almost a month into it. Nothing my supervisor could have said would have prepared me for this job. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s good–I may not have accepted it. Here’s what’s been going on.
Week 1: Orientation. I’ve never worked in a hospital setting, much less a psych hospital, so I was grateful for all the training on everything from infection control to the intercom codes used during emergency situations. I was less grateful for the TB test and hepatitis B vaccine, during which I (humiliatingly) almost passed out. I blame the fact that first-day nerves kept me up the night before and I was incredibly tired. Yup. Since I was the only social services staff member in orientation, they let me go early. I’m kind of sad/relieved that I didn’t have to learn how to use restraints. (For the record, they rarely get used, as the staff relies heavily on verbal de-escalation). I had a few days of training with the person I replaced, then time to go out on my own!
Weekend 1: I laid on the couch and felt really down and irritable for two and a half days. My poor husband. I think we watched like 6 episodes of The X Files (which is a lot of TV for me). Honestly, I can’t remember. Not sure where the awful mood came from, although probably from not learning how to process work properly and compartmentalize.
Week 2: On my own. This week was SO TOUGH. On any given day, I run one group for approximately 12 people, arrange discharge plans for my caseload of 10, make phone calls to family members, and see patients individually as needed. Our patients generally stay 7-14 days, so the pace is much faster than my internship. Somehow, all that has to fit into the span of about 8 hours, which means time management is key. I would get to work at 7 a.m. and not leave till 5 or 5:30. Louie and I argued a bit. I got chewed out by stressed out family members. I got a little panicked about prioritizing work. My supervisor, thankfully, has worked in inpatient for years and helped sort out most of these issues (minus the at-home bickering, that’s not her job). She is incredibly encouraging and patient. I also experienced the joy of sending patients home to heal and get on with life. It’s incredible and humbling to work together to help them stabilize and take off for that next step.
Weekend 2: Still exhausted and crabby, but a little better. Household chores were HARD. Thankfully, a dear friend invited me over for a drink and chat on Saturday while our husbands hung out together. Even though she was also exhausted, I can’t thank her enough for that little bit of company!
Week 3: Something magical happened before Monday morning and suddenly, everything seemed much easier. I worked from 7 a.m. to 4 or 4:30 (trust me, an improvement), sent quite a few patients on their way, navigated relationships with the medical staff, and even reached my goal of doing all my weekly 1:1 sessions instead of leaving them for the weekend counselor. Groups have been going incredibly well, which surprises me because I hated group class so, so much. It’s fascinating to watch my patients essentially counsel each other!
My first supervision meeting also took place on Thursday. My supervisor has worked as a counselor for years. We see eye-to-eye on using a person-centered approach as a foundation, and has a generally calming, caring persona in addition to being challenging. I appreciate all these things about her and look forward to our work together for the next few years. She’ll be good for my career as well as for my spirit. Well, I still spent Friday in front of the TV, but it was a different, happier tired.
Weekend 3: I woke up early on Saturday, had a walk around the University Lakes, and shopped at the Farmer’s Market. My weekend blues didn’t roll in until about noon (about the same time a huge thunderstorm rolled in). Again, seeing some friends in the evening helped immensely, and I feel back to normal today. Hopefully I won’t feel blue at all next weekend–and I can talk about this in supervision in two weeks. It certainly is odd and doesn’t feel good, and I have a feeling it’s connected to work.
Week 4 begins tomorrow. I’m excited to see my patients, meet the new ones, and get started. I’m also excited to come home and have the time to take care of myself–there are big plans to reorganize some closets, take walks, read, write, and maybe even craft. It’s going to be a great week!
If you’re a counselor, what was your first week like? Did you face a significant learning curve?
In sad news, our guinea pig Marcy passed away this week. She was a funny, shy, and hilariously hairy little thing. Guinea pigs live longer than many small critters (6-8 years), so we get pretty attached to them. They’re also social creatures, meaning I’ve been spending extra time with Lucy because we’ve decided not to get another piggy for now. Our little family system is now down a member–and the others definitely noticed. Marcy, you are sorely missed!