Back in April 2005 a group of about 30 people met at Humboldt State University for the interviews and weeding process for faculty to choose who would attend the Masters in Counseling program the following Fall. We had all submitted transcripts, letters of recommendation, given a resume of interests and experience, and given written answers about why we wanted to be therapists, so some of the weeding process had already occurred. (I understand there were about 50 applicants.) For most of the interviews that day, they broke us up into two groups. The group format created some pressure (“Wow! He gave a great answer! Now what will I say when they ask me?”), but also allowed the staff to view how we would work in groups. That day gave us a hint of how those who made it into the program would survive the next two years — as a group.
Eleven people were invited to participate in the program — ten accepted. Turned out we had all attended HSU in the past, so we had some idea of what the professors were like, and some of us had shared classes. There were three men and seven women, ranging in age from 22 to 53. We are all able-bodied (mostly), English speaking, Euro-Americans, but we represent different SESs, gender orientations, political orientations, spiritual standpoints, hometown backgrounds, educational experience, work experience, relationship experience, and probably other categories I haven’t thought of. During that first semester we were trying to handle the pressures of grad school, AND learning about each other. One woman dropped out because of home relationship problems. By the end of Fall 2005, we had experience working together as a group. We discovered we could disagree agreeably, and laugh, and keep each other’s secrets, and learn a lot from each other. We had respect for each other, and knew we could turn to each other for help, or for an understanding ear.
We began Spring 2006 with nine people. An experience in one class, where some ethical issues were at stake, brought us together in a way that left no doubt as to our cohesion (which we had learned was the most important aspect of any group). People were choosing or honing their choice of thesis topics, and we had great discussions about a variety of topics in psychology. We sat outside the South Campus Marketplace and discussed life experiences and how they related to psychology. The first year had been rough (LOTS of reading, and our first clients), so it was with a sense of relief and a certain amount of missing people that we spent the Summer apart.
Fall 2006 we were down to eight people — one woman temporarily (I hope) dropped out because of her child’s illness. I still miss her voice in discussions. We learned about and discussed psychomeds, and couples therapy, and how our thesis work was coming along (or not). Most of us now had 3-5 clients at Davis House, which was both rewarding and challenging. We rejoiced in each other’s victories, and commiserated with difficulties. Now it felt like family — people who know us, and we can talk with, and who care.
During Spring 2007 we dropped down to seven, at least in class. One of the men has a serious health issue, but he says he’s come too far in the program to give up now. 🙂 So we are still a cohort of eight. Again, there were difficulties that drew us together, and as the semester became more stressful we listened to each other and provided that necessary safety valve.
Tomorrow is graduation at HSU. Five (or six?) of our cohort will be walking the walk out there under (probably) overcast skies, while two of us cheer wildly from the stands. (We are not quite as far along on our theses as they are.) Three of those walking are actually done with their theses (HOORAY!), and will be going on to additional education and/or work. The other two or three will finish their theses and graduation requirements this Fall. This Summer many of our cohort are traveling, but we have all agreed we want to get together again in the Fall. We want to continue this peer group of people to share ideas and advice with. We have already begun to miss each other.
To my cohort, my sincere thanks and affection. I have learned from all of you, and will continue to hear your voices in my head twenty years from now. (No, I’m not talking schizophrenia here. 🙂 ) You have enriched my life and my learning experience exponentially. I appreciate each of you.