This blog post is an encouragement for those students in non-traditional programs everywhere. This blog will hopefully help you gain the confidence of leaving anonymity behind and recognizing that regardless of your school format, what you have to say is relevant and important –be it via email- to continuing building a great counselor community.
Ever since I joined the ACA, a couple of years ago, I have been diligently working towards getting involved with the various chapters and divisions in order to grow and offer my support to the wonderful counseling community. The task of getting involved in our professional organization can be quite challenging, especially if you are like me, a non-traditional student. The lack of face to face interaction in a brick and mortar institution can pose certain limitations, particularly if the only time spent networking must revolve around conferences. Still, it was the non-traditional format of learning that helped me become more resourceful to find creative ways of giving back to a community that does so much for me (us).
I had to rely extensively on email in order to build and maintain relationships that otherwise could have been lost, as soon as a conference was over; finding common interests and engaging someone via email can be quite difficult particularly if you believe that email is an artificial media of communication. Nevertheless, I managed to get past my initial awkwardness while keeping in mind that 1) there is no way of failing if I will not try, and 2) building a community does not happen over night, but in time. At the same time, I became convinced –through these email interactions- that what I have to say is important, not because I am saying it, but because my concerns were shared by others, I was not alone in thinking or feeling in a certain way.
Aside from the projects I could work on from home, I also wanted to start presenting at professional conferences on topics that interest me, that I have a passion for. It was through one of the contacts I made at TCA, with whom I maintained contact over time, that invited me to present at a local conference (RGVCA). It was then, that I was truly able to see the ways in which I was creating obstacles for myself: non-traditional school, communicating via email is not effective, etc.
I took these lessons with me and during the conference I presented at, I was able to network more and start new relationships with like-minded, like-passionate people that are as eager to foster growth within the counseling community as I am.
This is not a recipe book or how to post on becoming involved in the counseling profession; this is an encouragement from one non-traditional student to another that if we stop coming up with excuses to defend our introversion, or simply say that what we have to say is not worthy of hearing, we are truly doing a disservice to our community, by depriving it from ideas that are worth following up on.
Diana C. Pitaru is a counselor-in-training, and a student at Walden University. Her theoretical interests are in Gestalt, Art, and Narrative therapy while focusing on multicultural issues and eating disorders.