Second Quarter of Grad School!

“Shit really feels like it’s getting real this quarter,” I said to my therapist this morning.

“Did it feel like you were ‘playing school’ last quarter and just taking some classes?”


(If you missed it, I’m going back to school to become a therapist myself. Eep! Here’s what I wrote at the beginning of my first quarter.)

Last quarter, my classes were largely more theoretical—one about psychoanalysis, one about culture and one that was a bit more practical, about psychopathology. My quarter ended two days before California began shutting things down. My last day of classes got canceled that morning. It was a weird time.

my very serious student face

Right now, of course, everything is online. It’s amazing to me how quickly some of this can become our new normal. Like how it’s weird now to see a crowded place on TV. I had some Zoom anxiety, but once we all logged in (I’m in a cohort), it was SO nice to see my classmates again.

The first quarter felt like an introduction to psychology and grad school; it feels very clear now that I am definitely in grad school to become a therapist. There’s more papers (two out of my four classes have a paper due every week), we’re going to begin therapist-client roleplays (EEEEEP) in one class, we’re diving into examining family systems. It is scary in some ways to begin to really dive into what it will like to be a therapist, but I’m also really excited—and honored that this is something I will get to do starting as a trainee next year.

The classes I’m taking:

Process of Interpersonal Psychotherapy: This is what I’m calling the How to Be a Therapist 101 class. It is, quite literally, about the process of therapy from initial consultation through to ending a relationship with a client. This is the class where we’ll begin to roleplay being therapists. For that reason, this isn’t really an ideal class to be taking virtually, but um, nothing is really ideal right now, so. The idea of roleplaying makes me nauseous, but I’m told it’s normal to be nervous. With this class, I think it will be fascinating to learn about the process of therapy while I am simultaneously in therapy. I can’t wait to learn why my therapist chooses different approaches. (We’re actually required to be in therapy for two quarters out of our eight, but unfortunately I can’t get extra credit for being in therapy all eight quarters!)

Professional Ethics and the Law: This class brings me the most calm. I love ethics classes. I am a rules-following nerd, and I love me a good framework to follow to uphold a chosen career. (Journalism ethics was one of my favorite classes in college, and not just because my professor was really hot, but he was.)

Systems Theory and the Family: Even though I’m not interested in working with families (and I’m leaning towards the LPCC license, not the LMFT license), this is a core class I have to take. And…it makes sense. Even if you are working with an individual, they still came from a family of origin. We’ll be doing a lot of examining our own families (HOOOO BOY) to understand how family dynamics play out.

Field Study: This is another one that will be challenging given our online-only world right now. We each choose three different communities/populations to learn about, in order to understand communities we might serve in the future. Usually, this is through site visits, in-person interviews, etc, but given social distancing, this will all be virtual. We’ll be doing things like attending webinars or doing phone/Zoom interviews. (As a sidenote, if Zoom goes down, we are collectively fucked.)

It’s a lot of work, but I’m both nervous and excited. I’m also so happy for school to be back in session to bring some semblance of normalcy back into my life. Take it where we can get it these days, right?

Some Thoughts on Our Collective Grief

I keep telling myself that the one constant we have right now is that the sun will always rise and set.

After my mom died, I was on an emotional rollercoaster. Some days I was sad and scared. Some days I was angry. Some days I was in denial.

And some days, I was just fine until something reminded me that she was no longer here.

Sound familiar? That’s because we are going through a collective grief right now.

There’s a great interview on Harvard Business Review with David Kessler, who co-wrote the famous On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss. He explains that it’s real to be grieving the loss of normalcy while also feeling anticipatory grief for what may happen.

I want to take a second to thank everyone from healthcare workers to grocery store workers to Amazon delivery people for the massive sacrifices they are all making every day to save lives or to keep us stocked with normalcy.

But to everyone else, your feelings matter, too, and are not to be minimized. (If I’ve learned anything throughout the years, it’s that minimizing and burying feelings only magnifies them later.) Anything you’re feeling right now is valid.

And if you’ve lost someone close to you, you’re likely feeling that extra layer of grief. I’m not sure I’ve had a therapy session since this all began where my mom hasn’t come up. I wish I could call her right now and she could tell me everything will be OK. I wish she could give me a hug, and we could talk together about how scary this is. I wish I could hear her say “a little bug is causing all this trouble?” (I know for a fact that is what she’d say.)

Seeing all these hospital scenes is also bringing back intense flashbacks of the times I spent in the hospital with her, sometimes racing there, afraid I’d be too late. She also suffered a number of respiratory issues as her health declined, so that’s triggering to me as well. I’ve had all kinds of dreams like this lately.

And depression thrives in isolation, so if you’ve dealt with depression, make sure that you’re physically distanced right now, not socially distanced. Make Zoom or FaceTime dates with friends. Find an online group to join or some kind of digital content to consume like you’re going to some kind of lecture. My former therapist, Claire Bidwell Smith, is doing weekly live calls about this collective grief and anxiety we’re all facing.

My promise to you is that you are not alone, even if it feels that way right now. (This is also a reminder to myself.)

How are you doing? What are you doing to cope right now? What’s a bright spot in your life right now?