Thoughts from a new SWC Grad Student, who happens to be a veteran

After finishing my first week into the first quarter of grad school, I can confidently say Southwestern College is not like other schools. For example, I have meditation for homework in my Altruism class.

From the first day of Orientation, we got to know each other and the staff pretty quickly. Of course, the staff introduced themselves. Then, it came time for all of the new students to introduce ourselves. I punched out a laugh in a silence and I said, “Can we go hide?” Luckily, everybody laughed with me and understood where I was coming from. However, in my mind, I still wondered if they really understood as an Introvert, and INFj, how much strength it takes. Alas – I feel confident that I did well.

There are a few things that made me feel like I am the only one of 50 students. For example, in this class, I am the only student from Kentucky. Also, we didn’t all specifically say our art of choice, but in this class, I am the only photojournalist. However, I am the only United States Veteran in this entering class. Luckily, so far, I have been able to meet one other veteran who is in his second year.

In a helping and service profession such as Art Therapy and Counseling, one would think that there would be more veterans. After all, veterans do take an oath and we are service minded. From the first day of training, we are yelled at, that there is no more “I” and we are a team. As we should have that mindset, in most jobs in the military and in most practices, we rely on our coworkers to help us get the mission done. So how can a veteran’s skills contribute to being a better Art Therapist and Counselor? I’m glad you asked.

First, briefly, I’ll let you in on my story – For the better part of my adult life and all of my education – I am a photojournalist. However, when I enlisted, it’s the needs of the Air Force – I became an Aerospace Medical Service Technician, also known as a Medic. When I got out of the military, I found myself at a crossroads with a passion and education in the arts; but my experience in the medical field. BAM! Art Therapy and Counseling!

Now, I can confidently say that the best thing that the military taught me that is probably engrained in me forever, is initiative and just the “get it done” attitude. This is part of me already since I come from a blue-collar family. Either do it 200% and do it right, or don’t do it at all. How can this initiative really help in the helping profession when we need to take care of the patient? Well, I do believe in following-thru, closing the loop, advocating, and overall making sure the client gets what they need.

Here comes the fun and challenging part – the journey to redefine myself, which also includes the transformative part of my eduction. I have already been on my own journey, but it has taken longer than expected to shed the military skin. I am hoping I can share some history or insights in class, or with friends. I have already given examples of current practices at the VA. However, now I need to improve upon my own personality, while learning and becoming the Art Therapist/Counselor unique of me. After all, I can’t truly help someone else, until I know myself.

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