Crashing and burning…and rebuilding

*grumble grumble*

My professors and classmates and alumni have told me how much personal growth I will have undergone by the time I leave the counseling program, and although I see it sometimes, other times I wonder if I’m doing something wrong. I think now that most of the time, personal growth is happening out of sight, unless it’s something big. I’ll realize it later. I was promised big growth in practicum, though. I think some big growth happened yesterday. It hurt.

A classmate and I run a group. Because of the nature of the setting, this group has several logistical and personal challenges:

  • It is a large group, with constantly changing membership. I have always found group work challenging and exhausting (barring playing in musical ensembles). I really am a one-on-one or small group type of person.
  • There are many children present and it can be chaotic. I am…not good with large groups of children. I don’t hate children at all, I’m just not naturally gifted with them and plan to focus on different ages and types of people in my professional life.

Last week’s group was kind of disastrous. It was definitely a crash and burn, although thankfully, our group members are pretty forgiving and I know they’ll show up next time and be good sports. My co-leader and I both felt horribly inept (well, I know I did and I know she was at least frustrated), so it was our #1 priority to discuss it in supervision the following week.

And this is where my third personal challenge comes in: I hate being criticized. Even if it’s helpful, constructive criticism from our fellow students and professors, I still felt rather attacked for the entire 15 minutes that we discussed what to do. I felt so inadequate–how do these people know what to do with a bunch of kids? Why didn’t I think of that? Why aren’t my classmates having this much trouble with their groups? Why won’t this group just disappear?

My co-leader and I talked it out afterward, and since our next meeting was that afternoon and she didn’t have to work, she graciously offered to plan for the day and we could regroup (so to speak) over the following few days. Okay. I could do this.

And then…I went outside to my car, only to discover that my tire was so flat I’d never make it out of the parking lot, and probably not to our group meeting on time. I called my co-leader and said I’d have to cancel, since I wouldn’t be back in town until right before group. I felt justified in making that call, but I also felt like a big wimp for doing it. Right now, I’m reframing it as “divine intervention,” since I was able to go home, make a healthy dinner, do some homework, and go to sleep early. I also desperately needed some self-care time.

So the growth this week came in a big spurt. First, I’m sure no one in class is the perfect practicum student. I’d bet that each one of us has crashed and burned with a client, but maybe not all of us have shown those tapes in class. It took a lot of strength for me to show the tape and I’m proud to say that, and while it stunk at the time, I dread our group a little less and will continue to grow from the experience. Second, I realized how very much I hate criticism, real or imagined. I know my classmates had the best of intentions, but I still hated taking their suggestions even though I desperately needed them. And third, I can’t beat myself up for eventually canceling. If the tire had been flat some other week, would I have tried harder to make my session on time? Probably. But I would have kept going and not had that evening to care for my life outside of practicum.

This wasn’t my proudest day, for sure. I’m proud to say, though, that I crashed and burned and can now rebuild into something much better. I’ll be more open to criticism because really, my classmates ARE better at some things than me. I can even offer them help in the future, maybe when they’re struggling with an elderly client or a paper or something else I’m really good at. I’ll be more patient and responsive to my group next week and will try my hardest to engage everyone, kids included.

Here’s to some fun, kid-friendly activities and a good group conversation next week!

How did you overcome your “worst day ever” in your practicum or internship? I’m really curious because I’m sure there are more growth experiences to come!

Photo source.

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