That being said, I have yet to find a school that will transfer in more than 50% of the credits their degree requires. So, my next option is to take classes as a non-degree seeking student. This way, I'm taking the required classes, but the university does not have to hand me a piece of paper saying I went through their program. Fair enough. No school will allow you to take more than 12 credits as a non-degree seeking student. I need exactly 12 more credits. Seems easy enough from there, right? Wrong. One of the more important courses that I'm missing can only be taken by degree-seeking students, or those who represent a university's program. Cool. So, I began researching and making phone calls only to find that one school will allow me to take the course I need. Unfortunately, that Virginia based school is a school I don't respect and one that I don't care to give my money to. Truth be told, I took a class there over the summer last year in order to complete a certain requirement to get my master's faster. The class I need has a required pre-req. This means taking at least two more courses from them. C'est la vie, I suppose.
So, at this point, my options are to take those two classes and move to Illinois (where I would then meet licensure requirements), or take those two classes and then take three others from a more local university and continue to pursue my license here in Arizona. A third option would be to sell all of my personal belongings and catch a flight to Uganda with Piper. Honestly, the third option sounds best right about now. The main problem with taking any and all of these courses is that non-degree seeking students do not qualify for financial aid. This means coming up with about $10,000 up front. Chump change, no?
The good news is, I have a great job doing what the Board of Behavioral Health doesn't want to license me for doing. In AZ, as long as you're working under supervision, you can provide therapy with a master's degree. I feel incredibly thankful to have found this job that I had no clue I would qualify for at this time. In fact, when I got the interview, I thought, "well, at least this will be good experience for the future." It didn't go terribly bad, but I didn't walk out of there feeling super confident as I wasn't familiar with a particular model of therapy. Well, I'm over two months in now and things are going well. I'm learning more and more every day, constantly trying to read and learn new things, taking online training courses through work, and seeking counsel from those I work with who are much more seasoned than I.
The organization I'm working for is called Chicanos Por La Causa (people for the cause). It's a very large non-profit organization serving people in 3 states, offering a wide variety of services. The center where I work offers behavioral health services for youth and adults, including onsite psychiatric care, to a largely low income area. My title is "adult clinician" although I have a few younger clients (17 and 18 years old) from the youth side due to their East African culture and my (minimal) understanding of their culture and lifestyle.
I would be lying if I said I don't have days when I'm frustrated or even clueless, but I'm never shy about seeking help in order to best care for my clients. I serve a very diverse set of diagnoses and often find myself digging through textbooks and other resources to stay fresh and up to date with the best therapies. Most days, I come home exhausted. The mental capacity this job requires is huge and I have a caseload of 65 clients right now, soon to be 80, so it's not going to let up any time soon. Not only do I provide counseling services, but our contract with the medicare provider states that I also provide case management. So I make lots of phone calls, communicate with primary care physicians, the psychiatric nurses, probation officers, etc, not to mention documenting every call made and email or fax sent.
My goal is to get to a place where I don't come home and throw on pajamas at the end of the day and sit mindlessly in front of the tv or something. At one point, I was going to the gym a few times a week on my way home from work, but I've quickly fallen out of that habit. It would be prudent to pick that back up as I don't feel well physically these days. I know I've gained some weight and I just don't feel great. Even Piper has put on a few pounds because we're just less active than we were before.
I admit that I still don't love the idea of sitting behind a desk so much, but meeting with clients and being in conversation much of the day does help a bit. Much like an official ministry position, this job requires that I pour myself out without always (or ever) being poured back into. And so many of my clients have been through the wringer, to say the very least. Confessing their hurt, trauma, grief, etc as the tears flow from their eyes. There have been times at the end of a long day that I weep on my way home over the stories I've heard that day. It's hard, but I thank God for His grace and strength. Jesus' example of compassion and His clear model of service and ministry to all people moves me to tears. It is a privilege to serve the diverse demographic I serve. It is life-giving to "dine with the outcasts and sinners," those that society is so quick to dismiss due to an addiction or a bad life circumstance. I'm certain that I don't act with the kind and caliber of compassion that Christ does, but I try... and some days it's more of a conscious thing than others.
On a completely different note, I am still looking for a strong community of faith. As much as my soul needs some refreshing and renewing, I miss being in official ministry. I'm planning to try a new church after Easter and I'm hopeful.
Other than that, my time has been spent at many Cubs spring training games around the valley. It was so fun while it lasted, but I gotta say... when I first started going to spring training games about 20 years ago, tickets were NOT $28 each, with a $20 parking spot. With it's popularity, comes higher prices... and some of it is just because it's the Cubs and fans come from all over the U.S. to see them. It's shaping up to be an exciting year of baseball!