2016 PFIG Recipient Arden Johnson
Journal Entry #1
This summer I have the opportunity of working in Nashville, Tennessee at the Oasis Center in their Emergency Shelter. Being from Houston, I have never been in Nashville for more than a weekend at a time. This is also my first real internship relating to my psychology major (and career path of choice) so I finding myself facing quite a few new and exciting challenges. That said, I have been working at the Shelter for just over a week now and I could not have chosen a better place to spend the summer.
The Shelter is a free, two week long residential program with six weeks of follow up counseling for teens coming from crisis situations. The Shelter can hold up to 12 teens at a time and so far I have worked with 11 different youths. I have started crisis call phone training already and will be trained to handle crisis walk ins, youth interviews for intake into the program, and group counseling sessions with and without the family. I learned this week that there are four types of calls: basic transfers, calls for youth in the Shelter, crisis calls (which can be anything from someone asking about resources in the area to a suicide call) and referral calls from someone wanting to get a youth involved in the Shelter.
Not only have I been blessed with a perfect staff, I also started out at Oasis with a great group of teens. Going into the Shelter, I was honestly expecting a group of unruly and unstable kids but so far they have only proved me wrong. Most of the kids that I have worked with so far are at the Shelter because of domestic violence, homelessness, depression, or some combination. Meeting and talking to a few of them has already changed my life and the way that I see this job and their age group. When I accepted this internship, I was not sure what age group I would want to work with in my future in psychology. I have realized already how much I love working with this age group (13-17 yrs). They are old enough that they expect you to speak to them the way that you would another adult, but they are young enough that their views and personalities are still developing. I think of it as a hopeful age despite the hardship that these kids live with. I hope that in the coming weeks, I can make an impact on their lives the way that they have already impacted mine and continue to learn the ins and outs of the Shelter environment.
Journal Entry #2
It is amazing to think that I have been working at the Shelter for 6 weeks now. It feels like I have been there for ages and simultaneously it seems impossible that so much time has already passed. I have been speeding through my Shelter training. I have already taken three referrals (30 minute, very personal phone interviews with a guardian who wants their youth involved in the Shelter) and sat in on one youth interview (the next step for admission after the referral call in which we speak directly to the youth to get their perspective of their situation). This is by far the most clinical job and the most fun job that I have ever had. I find myself sad to only have a few brief weeks left at Oasis.
I love working with the kids who come to the Shelter. At first we had a rowdy mix of boys and girls. After that, we had small groups of girls one after the other for weeks. Now we have 7 boys. I can safely say that I have had a taste of everything. It is amazing what one person does to change the entire group dynamic. I always miss the youth when they leave. I worry about them and care about them so it is hard to see them daily and to talk to them about everything and then find them gone the next day. I have worked with over 30 youth by now. I remember every name and I can’t help but pray for them and send them good thoughts. The most amazing thing about people their age (in my opinion) is their amazing resilience. I have had kids get in hostile fight with one another that you would think would end the relationship between the two of them. Instead, 30 minutes later, one will invite the other to play xbox and it is as if nothing ever happened. Similarly, I will have a youth ask to sit and talk to me about their home situation. I will hear gruesome stories of abuse and hurt and then moments/a few deep breaths later they just want to play Just Dance or paint. Of course, it isn’t always easy that way. That is why we try to do what we do. I am surer every day that this is something I want to pursue long term and I couldn’t be more excited.
Journal Entry #3
In case it wasn’t evident from my previous posts, I have really loved my internship this summer. After spending my final day at Oasis, I can’t help but feel a little sad about leaving. The staff threw a party on my last day with ice cream and cupcakes and lemonade (something we do for the youth when they are being discharged from the program) and it all felt like it came full circle. We shared stories and they gave me an Oasis tumbler which I filled with coffee for my 13 hour drive back to Houston. I am going to miss the staff but I promised them post cards and emails from Denmark in the fall. Or rather, in just a week.
In my time at Oasis, I had some pretty exciting and sometimes frightening things happen. I dealt with a girl blowing up and becoming very verbally aggressive toward staff. I had to answer a suicide call from a former resident after he returned home (he’s okay). I had to clear the living space of anything sharp: utensils, pencils, paintbrushes, etc. and then wave down an ambulance to have a girl in the program taken to psychiatric for fear of violent instability. I also got to sing the song that a boy wrote in our writing workshop. He wrote the lyrics and melody as well as accompaniment on violin, piano, cello and guitar. It was beautiful! Because of confidentiality, I can’t reveal his name but I have no doubt that you will all one day know it. I also got to talk to a 15 year old mother about her son and actually learn a thing or two about maturity and wisdom from her. I talked a boy into applying for UVA as well as Duke and UNC. I hope that I get to see him around here when he gets old enough in just a few short years. I have an endless list of memories and I have to say that most of them are happy or hopeful. I have learned not only about the differences between degrees in counseling and social work, what Master’s programs can get paid for and how to excuse your student loans. I have also learned about trauma informed care, patience, and how to help handle other people’s past and future alongside them if they are willing to ask for your help.
I can’t thank the Shelter team enough for taking me in and training me. I would love to go back there some day and I just might, since my wonderful supervisor told me that I have a job there any time I am back in Nashville. I just might take them up on it. I feel so much stronger as a psychology student and human being now and I credit so much of that to this experience.