Life After the Program

Scott Laskey, PPS Graduate, 2009

This has been an incredible year. I feel insanely lucky to be where I am today (currently on summer vacation in Taiwan). I of course would not be here without the help of my friends, family, and those who have purposely or incidentally guided me down this path.

So first and foremost, thank you. Thank you for encouraging me to step outside my comfort zone and take the leap into the unknown. Over the past year I have felt fear, excitement, loneliness, pride, growth, and incredible joy. The people I have encountered have made this a priceless experience. I have met some amazing teachers in Dubai who have opened my eyes to the endless opportunities while working abroad. I have met many magical children who day in and day out were able to put a smile on my face. The diversity of both the staff and students is unlike anywhere else on the planet. We have over 70 nationalities represented at Dubai American Academy! They have taught me a great deal, not only in the professional arena, but also on a personal level. I have done things and gone places that I had never dreamt of before. Oh the places you’ll go is absolutely correct. Greece, Oman, Spain, France, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Thailand, Taiwan – check, check, check. Ride a camel, dune bashing, see the tallest and second tallest buildings in the world, snowboard in an indoor ski resort, go to the World Cup, go on an African safari, wrestle with lion cubs – check, check, check. How can someone do this on a teacher’s salary? Insane!

One of my best friends in Dubai left Canada for Taiwan 11 years ago after he finished college. He wanted to travel abroad and hoped that teaching English would fund his travels. With no credential, no money, and no contract, he set out into the unknown. Like me, it was very difficult at first. Feeling homesick and a bit nervous that maybe I made a mistake in taking that leap of faith. Having to adjust to the different climate, customs, faux pas, and not knowing where to go to buy specific things can be pretty draining. However, after a few months go by, a rhythm develops. Confidence builds and suddenly I am no longer an outcast, but someone who is able to go with the flow along with everyone else. A foreign country is no longer foreign. It feels comfortable. It begins to be known as a home away from home. My friend spent ten years teaching English to children and adults in Taiwan. He fell in love with the country, the people, and the friends that surrounded him. When he knew that he needed a change, he set out for a new adventure in Dubai. He just finished his first year teaching grade 3 and now has his teaching credential and Master’s in Education. Teaching abroad is truly a gift.

When I first came to Dubai I was not quite sure I would make it. I felt young, inexperienced, osolated, and a bit naive. In completing my first year as a professional, I feel wiser, more confident, and excited for what lays ahead. Oh the place you'll go!

Manisha Hall, PPS Graduate, 2007

With handing in the last assignments, completing finals, internship hours, and the much rehearsed presentations, a sense of relief and great exhaustion takes over my entire self. The reality of officially obtaining graduate status from the Masters Program in Counseling, here at SSU, quickly sinks in.

My original plan of attack was to get an internship within a district in which I could later see myself working, and in the end, this had worked to my advantage. To my relief, upon graduation I could relax throughout the entire summer, knowing that I had a job in place for the upcoming school year of '07-'08.

While working at Sonoma Valley High, I have come to realize how my internship experiences have guided me in successfully transitioning into my role as a High School Counselor, with much confidence and vision for the direction in which I wish to tread. In attempting to follow the ASCA model, while aligning myself with the overall school mission, I find myself with much energy, and enthusiasm, which my colleagues, administrators, parents, and students alike thrive.

I truly know that I have a gift to offer, the gift of a mentor, a knowledgeable resource, and a heart of gold. I sincerely care about each and every one of my students, and in them I see characteristics that exemplify vulnerability yet strength; uncertainty yet underlying goals, which for many have yet to be discovered; lost, yet many will eventually find themselves, within the larger population; a will, hope and vision of their individual future endeavors. I am so grateful, and honored to be a part of their lives, to witness such transitions, and to be able to guide my students toward their individual successes. Going to work, each and every day, is a delight as I know that I have the potential, and opportunity to aid in such changes. I have arrived!

Matt Eustice, PPS Graduate, 2007

The Masters in Counseling Program at Sonoma State University has provided me with multiple employment opportunities. Through this program, I gained a firm base of knowledge to build upon. I created a working portfolio, which helped me secure a position at a local high school.

I also developed the skills necessary to adapt to the complex environment of a school setting. I appreciated the opportunity to network and collaborate with others in the field. My current success is greatly due to the experiences I had in graduate school.

Darci Kosmal, MFT Graduate, 2007

I always enjoyed being a grad student in the Counseling Department, but I didn't realize how much the program meant to me until I hear myself boasting about "my counseling program" and why it was/is so great. Maybe I am biased, but I do feel it was a perfect fit for me.

I think with the supporting faculty and the coolest fellow grad students around, I was able to create a nice little bubble to survive some of the difficult grad school moments. I had to compartmentalize my life to survive my crazy schedule, and this little bubble turned out to be my refuge in many ways.

Because I had already had an educational background, I thought to apply for the PPS degree, but I decided to apply for the MFT program. I thought the MFT would provide more job opportunities, and if not, maybe it would serve as some form of personal therapy (there is something therapeutic about this experience, in some odd way). I eventually graduated and did find many new encouraging job opportunities, however they all believed in a ridiculous work schedule. I needed to return to the educational work force and enjoy a saner, European work style (aka summer vacation). Most American institutions have this crazy idea of two weeks vacation or maybe three if you have some seniority, so I began remembering why I initially wanted a PPS degree. Perhaps I am of an odd species who really enjoyed my previous high school teaching experience, so my new plan was to be a high school counselor. Some schools want the official PPS, but a MFT-oriented degree may suffice for some school settings, and some experience always helps. I found the job I was looking for, and I am happy to say that I am still very pleased with all the decisions I have made thus far.

Point of story, I felt very prepared for the job market with our curriculum and internship experiences, and I have a job that utilizes the knowledge I attained and the experiences I was witness to. If I could do it commuting from the east bay to SSU, pregnant and eventually parenting three kids, and working part time, you can too. Sometimes (ok, many times) I felt as though I was flailing about, but it must've worked, because I think I made it to where I was hoping to land. Suerte con todo!

Dylan Ross, MFT Graduate, 2006

Prior to beginning my studies in the Masters in Counseling program at Sonoma State University, I was working in a social work-related capacity with high-risk youth in a wilderness setting. Here I learned that if I was going to be effective in my work then I would require the clinical skills necessary to address the special needs of populations similar to this.

My two-year experience in the Masters in Counseling at Sonoma State provided me with the clinical training that I needed to continue my work as a therapist in the healing profession. Sonoma State's program is unique with its small class size, its dedicated faculty, and its holistic approach to treating the whole person. The cohort of students that shared in my training experience, coupled with my professors challenged me to develop both personally and professionally. One of the program's many gifts is its community.The program's milieu provided a safe and supportive environment where I developed as a therapist. The friendships I made with my fellow peers and now colleagues, continue to fuel me as I work in the community.

Since graduating in 2006 I have gained a position working for Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco within their Chemical Dependency Recovery Program. Here I work with a high level of acuteness and often with dually diagnosed individuals. I call upon my skills gained at Sonoma State daily, providing crisis counseling, individual and group therapy to chemically dependent individuals. While working as a professional in this field I continue to meet others who have also attended the Masters in Counseling program at Sonoma State University. I am often am struck by the unique demeanor of a fellow graduate. The therapists that this program helps develop and individuals that it attracts are compassionate, hold a holistic approach to their work, and are dedicated to the healing profession. I am grateful for the learning experience that I had while in the program and would recommend it to anyone interested in this rewarding field.

Emilie Cate, MFT Graduate, 2004

My original career goals as a student in the Masters in Counseling (Marriage and Family Therapy program) were to become a licenced MFT and private practitioner after graduation in 2004. However, as I continued to take classes and talk with my professors in the Counseling Department, I discovered a strong interest in the integration of academic theory and research into practice and intervention.

Relatively quickly, my goals expanded beyond practitioner training to include doctoral study and hopefully a university-based academic and counseling career. With superior mentorship and guidance from the faculty at SSU, I applied to doctoral programs. I am about to enter my fourth year in the Counseling Psychology doctoral program at the University of Oregon. In this time, I have completed several additional years of practicum training; fulfilled additional course requirements that supplement my education at SSU; been involved as a research assistant on several projects; presented at several national conferences; and I will be completing my dissertation research on adoption and transracial adoption issues in counselor training programs. I am also currently employed as an instructor and supervisor of undergraduate students at the University of Oregon, and a crisis counselor at our local community college. In two years I will earn my Ph.D., and although it has been hard work, I am endlessly grateful for the training and mentorship I received at SSU. I often reflect on how well the quality of education, training and mentorship prepared me to pursue a doctoral degree and a future career as a licensed psychologist.

Matt Moore, PPS Graduate, 2004

The Masters in Counseling Program at Sonoma gave me the opportunity to develop professional relationships with future colleagues, exposed me to the breadth of professional experience available in the field of counseling, and helped me to hone in on my ideal professional environment.

Now in my fourth year as a high school counselor at Terra Linda High School in San Rafael, I am very much enjoying the dynamic and always-challenging nature of my position; whether facilitating student-teacher communication, working with administration to address systemic concerns/deficits, helping individual students with the travails of adolescence, working with administration and parents to bring in much-needed programs, advising parents about preparation for college or other post-secondary options (ad infinitum!), I feel very satisfied with my decision to become a school counselor, and with the preparation afforded me by the faculty at Sonoma.

Anne Marie Sebastiani, PPS Graduate, 2003

Life after SSU program for me includes working as a school counselor in a dual immersion elementary school here in Sonoma. I was hired full time in 2004 and implemented/ran a comprehensive counseling program. I took time off in 2005 because of pregnancy and having twin babies- who are now 20 months.

I worked half the year in 2006 as a high school counselor under ab1802. It was a very cool experience because it's completely different than elementary school. This year (2007/2008) I decided to only work 2 days a week back at my original site- Flowery Elementary, and continue strengthening the counseling program. I job share w/another counselor and it's perfect for my life situation right now, b/c I want to be with my kids but keep my foot in the counseling/educational world. I would love any students to observe me/my school too!

Zoe Lockert, MA, MFTI MFT Graduate, 2003

I graduated from Sonoma State University in 2003 with my Master's in Counseling. I am raising four sons. It was challenging studying around them during graduate school. One of my sons attended the preschool on-site at SSU which was a gift for me as a student.

The pre-school made it easier to go to school and complete my internship hours at Sutter VNA & Hospice. Since my graduation, I have been earning my MFT Hours in a private practice setting.

Currently, I specialize in infertility counseling and infant and pregnancy loss in my private practice. I facilitate a support group for couples participating in IVF treatment for infertility and provide individual support for couples in my private practice as well. People going through the challenges of infertility can be very isolated and having a place to talk about their feelings can help alleviate some of the pain and anxiety regarding treatment choices.

I also work with couples seeking ovum donation. Choosing to build a family by using egg donation needs careful consideration as well as time to explore the many issues and feelings involved in this decision. Egg donation can be a wonderful option for many families. I provide a supportive environment that allows recipients and donors to explore a fuller range of the feelings and issues regarding this hopeful, but complex family building option.

Brian Jensen, MFT Graduate, 1999

I began my studies in the Counseling Department in 1997, after first attending another graduate school, which I was very disappointed in. The Counseling Department at Sonoma state University provided me with not only a first class education in the field of counseling, but it also provided me with a solid experiential foundation to be a counselor!

I learned how to be present with many different people and the situations that they brought.

In addition, my peers were just a pleasure to spend time with, building some life long friendships, and there are some instructors who have remained favorites of mine. Currently, I work as a community college counselor and Instructor (at the community college level, counselors are faculty) teaching course in Effective Study Habits, Group Process, and Alternative Therapies. I work with students for academic, career, or personal situations, and I enjoy the combination. Also, five of the counselors on our staff graduated the Counseling Department at SSU.I plan to take my oral exams for my MFT license in Oct 2002 and open a private practice at the beginning of next year. The areas I focus on are Somatics (mind-body connection), Sandplay therapy and Bereavement, especially for people who have lost loved one to suicide.

In addition, I continued on in my education and have just about completed my dissertation for a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. Finally, if it wasn't for the first class educational and experiential foundation that I received in the counseling department at Sonoma State University, I would not have developed the skills necessary to work in a college setting, attain a psychotherapist license or continue on with my education.

Jo Anne Bressick, Graduated May, 2001

I look back and think, "I can't believe that I really went to school to do school counseling and I am actually doing it! Life after the Counseling program is really stimulating and sometimes lonely.

Going through the program was fun, social and hard work. There was so much support and a sense of cameraderie I doubt I will find in the workplace! That is not to discount the benefits of the real work. There's the paycheck and the professional status, there's personal growth and partnership with fellow workers. But, I can't help thinking that even with all that good stuff there is a part of me that would still love to be sitting in an unattractive looking room, eating and talking with people I have learned so much from, people I have so very much in common with. I will always miss a part of what I had during the Grad program. Working as an elementary school counselor feels different than I thought it would. As I said to someone earlier this week, "there is no way anyone could ever get bored or tired of doing this work, it holds variety and balance. There are very serious moments mixed with very silly moments. I am so utterly gratified when I see improvement in people's situations and very frustrated when I don't. This type of work is so me! I waited a long time to be able to say that.