Thoughts of the Jennifer Hua as a child…

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What were your attitudes toward use of substances when you were a child and an adolescent?

When I was a young teenager I did not know myself. I valued the opinions of others more than my own. My parents own their own business and they work long days. I had a stable family unit, but in my preadolescent years I began to rebel against my parents’ disciplined way of life. I did not fit in my suburban community being Chinese American. The only other Chinese Americans were my cousins and I saw them all of the time. I decided to venture out in the city with my cousin and started hanging out with the city kids. We would take the bus from the suburbs into Philadelphia. We would socialize with the city kids, and even then I still felt out of place because I talked “white,” I did not know what that meant until I started to pick up their accents of English and Chinese mixed together, which is known as  “Chinglish.” 

The kids we started to hang out with drank, smoked, and did what they wanted because their parents were not around. I never felt comfortable enough to do anything so I just abstained. My mom noticed my attitude change and decided it was time for me to work in the family business so she could keep her eyes on me. At the time I was angry but stepping back now, I realize, it was the best decision she could have done as a parent because I could have ended up in terrible situations. 

 

What was your personal and peer group experience of substance use? How are your views the same or different now? What might it feel like to work with clients making different choices, or to encourage choices that you did not make?

Many of my friends started drinking at a young age of 15. Some of them started to have sex at 14 because it was the “in” thing to do. I refused to drink because I did not like the taste. My dad loves to drink Heinken and when I was a small child, I was curious. I asked my dad for a sip and i tasted terrible. I asked my dad why he would drink something so gross and he laughed. I smoked my first cigarette at the age of 8 and it was a terrible experience. My lungs were burning and I could not stop coughing. With all of these previous experiences as a child, it helped me turn away from smoking and drinking because I was not curious. 

 

Who advised you about drugs and alcohol, and when? What was your response? What encouraged or discouraged use in the approaches you encountered? What do you hope to emulate or discard from your models?

The first time I learned about drugs was through the D.A.R.E program. I think it was a program that worked for me because I was convinced if I smoked one joint or snorted one line of cocaine, I would be immediately addicted. We had HBO in my house as a young child so I would watch a lot of movies and some had drugs and addiction. As a child, it scared me that someone’s life could end up like this. Now as an adult, I am aware Hollywood likes to exaggerate the stories but it worked for me! It was enough for me as an adult today to stay away. I know what is on the line if anything happened to me and the devastation it would cause my family, I do not know what I am missing if I have never experienced it. I live a pretty good life now and I do not need something to distract me from my goals. I know who I am and what I enjoy and that makes me happy. It might be different than my peers but that is okay, I know I am different.

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Coping with stress

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If you have been under a lot of stress, resulting in overuse of self-control resources, this fatigue may have led to ineffective coping strategies. Has this ever happened to you? What were the circumstances?

 

Last year was a very tough year for my professional and personal life with ups and downs. In October, one of my colleagues, who was a dear friend of mine, had a stroke due to a hereditary heart disease and passed away. She was 29 and her whole life was ahead of her. From the time she had her stroke to the time of her death was two months.

 

I remembered when she was up and moving around she came by my office to see me. She wanted to check in with her staff and see how things were going. I told her things were fine and I would take care of her duties until she came home, healthy and well. A few days before Thanksgiving she was undergoing a simple surgery and, unexpectedly, passed away a few hours later. This shook the lives of everyone she knew.

 

When I heard this news, life came to a streaking halt. I did not believe it. There was no way it happened. I remember there was a moment of shock when the news came. I remember I was working with our staff taking care of closing down our building for Thanksgiving break. I remember my other co-workers coming together in my office to break the news to the student staff members who were connected with her. This news stopped their joyous laughing faces with tears streaming down their face. For some, it was the first time they have ever experience death with someone they knew.

 

With the new responsibilities of overseeing her staff of 18 as well as my staff of 16 with two other missing professional staff members in our department, it was crisis overload. I remembered staying up until 2am some nights just to finish my own personal homework because, spring of 2014 was the semester I started my program. I did not want to postpone something I was so passionate about. Taking classes was for me and I needed to make time for it.

 

It was a lot to deal with and looking back, I am still dealing with the after effects. I remember becoming a hermit in my apartment from December to March. I rarely left the apartment unless I needed to go out for groceries. Exercise lost its luster and I had trouble sleeping. I tried taking sleeping aids but found out it lead to terrible nightmares. I would binge on junk food to fill my emotional suffering to help cease the stress for a short period. This type of coping was really unhealthy and my family started to notice. My brother was concerned and my mom was worried about my well-being. I told them I could handle it and there isn’t anything to do other than to just put a smile and keep going. Life was not going to stop for my struggles.

 

My temper became more sensitive and I was able to cry at the drop of a hat. I can remember a few times I would just breakdown in front of my boyfriend and he would be so confused as to why I was crying. It was a tough period for me. It is August and I am still recovering from my friend passing away. The extra work created stress and anxiety; homework that seemed like it was never to completed until the last minute. It was compounding issues and when the summer began, it was time to just release all of the stress because my work was over.

 

This upcoming week is the start of a new staff and new beginnings. The new freshmen will arrive in three weeks. I am learning to appreciate my students again and trying to find the joy in my work. I am learning to find my boundaries and learn what I am willing to sacrifice for the team. I know this took a toll on me but I have learned to take the struggles day by day which helps heal the wounds.

12 steps…in life and in counseling

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  • How does 12-Step facilitation of treatment relate to your personal theory of life? What parts could you integrate if desired?

I believe 12 steps could be related to my personal theory to life by admitting my weaknesses and learning how to overcome them. At times, we can get so wound up in our own minds that we forget to realize, there may be someone out there struggling the same as we do. Someone once told me that there is always someone or some group for everyone, I truly believe that. A 12 step program allows a group of people to walk on a journey together to overcome their struggles with those who understand and feel compassion for you.

In AA, God is mentioned many times in the 12 steps. I do believe there is a higher power in my life because it gives me hope as a practicing Buddhist. I do believe there is a greater being or energy that is able to maintain some component of balance for all of us. For my family, our ancestors watch over us and we, as the living, provide items for them to live comfortably in the afterlife. To others, this seems ridiculous to leave our lives up for a higher being to decide. I understand and respect that. I do not throw up my hands and give up because life gets hard, I know there is a purpose and truly believing in there is someone watching over me, being my personal cheerleader helps through the rough days. At the end of the day, who truly knows if there is a higher power? To me, as long as it helps me get though those rough days, that’s all that matters because this is my life. I choose how I want to live it.

 

  • How does 12-Step facilitation of treatment relate to your preferred counseling orientation? What parts do you see that you could utilize for treatment?

I do like the 12 steps because it gives clients a moment to self reflect and realize the damage they do to themselves as well as others. We as people are quick to be self centered because how can we not, this is our life and we need things to sustain it. Sometimes we hurt others without realizing this until it is too late.

I do think this program works if someone is willing to put the work into it. That makes sense for life in general, I am not going to lose weight without a proper diet and exercise. Just because I am sitting on my couch wishing for a lean figure doesn’t mean I am going to get it no matter how hard I think about it, unless I act upon it. I have to put the work in a healthier life style and so does my future clients.

I think the 12 steps allows the clients to seek forgiveness from themselves and from others. It takes a lot of courage to admit when you are wrong and let those around you know, that you are sorry. “I am sorry” are three tough words for some to say even as adults. We expect a child to apologize for taking another child’s toy but if we were to apologize for lying to a friend or loved one, it takes a long time to come to terms with it. As adults, we tend to over fantasize our worse case scenarios, I know I am guilty of that. These steps give clients a structure to be able to overcome their worries and baggage that some have been carrying for a long time.

To use Pharmacotherapy or not to use….that is the question!

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“Do you support the use of pharmacotherapy in the treatment of addictions? If so why? If not, why not?”

I think my personal opinion for this question becomes very gray. I do think there are benefits of using pharmacotherapy but there are drawbacks. To be honest, it depends if the client will benefit from using additional prescriptions to overcome their addictions. As a counselor, I will do my due diligence to make the clients aware of the side effects to make sure they are aware of all the important information needed to make an educated decision. I would continue my research to make sure I am as knowledgeable as I need to in case there are side effects I was unaware of. 

If I was unsure of what the next step is, I would ask my team of colleagues to see what the best solution for the client. I would want to make sure they are taken care of and do more good than harm. Ultimately, the client and their support team needs to make a choice that works best for them, I would not want to add to their struggles. If the prescription puts the client into a potential relapse situation, I would have to closely monitor the client. 

 

Week 6

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A quote from your text states: “… we get so involved in the role of counselor that we sometimes forget the client inside us. It can become habit to separate ourselves from our clients with a sense of self-righteousness that we do not have the problems they do.” Do you see this tendency in yourself? How do you stay in contact with your inner client? What does that mean for you?

Oooooo…a devil’s advocate question. (Good choice professor/the decider of blog questions for class.) While I was reading the chapter, I did pause at this statement because we are counselors and helpers do not realize we are similar to our client. We deal with things that may not be as severe as our clients but we still deal with our own issues in our own way. Our clients will come speak to us about a wide range of topics, some may be as severe as contemplating suicide to biting their finger nails to their nail bed because of anxiety. It may seem small to us, but for the client, it is a big deal because they are dealing with it.

As to trying to relate to my clients/patients on their level, I tend to put myself in other’s shoes. They might to going through something I am not aware of. For example, someone might have cut me off on the highway. Are they are jerk? Yes, for cutting me off but what was the reason? Is someone sick in their family that they are racing home to say goodbye to or are they running late to work? This helps make the “jerk” more of a realistic person to me. Does it work? Most of the time but if it still bothers me later, I ask myself “does it matter anymore?” That usually solves the problem for me, I just “let it go” (insert let it go song here.) To help ease my assumptions with clients, I think “what would I do” if I was that person. I try think about their mindset, their drive and the environment they live in. When I read the book The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, he made a statement that stuck with me. “No one is truly evil, if you stick around long enough, you will see the good.” I truly believe that.

To stay in contact with my inner client, I would have to reflect and ask myself “Hey Jennifer, how are you feeling today?” There are times I forget that I am a person who has valid concerns that demand time to process but I tend to “sweep under the rug” because I have to keep moving. I have to make time to ask myself “how am I doing” and “what do I need for myself?” Off the top of my head, some of those self-care items that cater to me are, sleeping in on the weekend or binging on a tv show after work to turn off my 100 miles a minute mind. There are times I have to put myself in check and notice “hmmm, these pants are getting a little snug.” That means I have to hit the gym and be mindful of what I am eating. Don’t get me wrong, comfort food is awesome for the anxious side of me. My brother said this to me the other day and it stuck. “Jennifer, you are a role model to your students, if you are not taking care of yourself, how can you expect them to follow your lead?” Touché big brother! Touché!

 

What beliefs about yourself do you have that will allow you to find commonalities with your clients so that you do not see it as “us” versus “them”?

To be able to relate to my client, I will need to remind myself that I am no better than the client. The client has come to see me not because I am this “high all mighty person.” I have resources they are unaware of. I have the resources and support they need to get through their struggles. I think if we make the division of “us” vs. “them” we need to ask ourselves “are we in the profession for the right reasons?” If we are able to carry the mentality “I am so much better than the client” or “their problems will never be my own,” the client will feel and see that through our nonverbal behaviors. This will lose the client and the client may be turned off from counselors for good. We need to be mindful of our perceptions and put them “in check.”

To challenge myself, I try to talk to people with a purpose. It is awkward to break the ice but it has to be done. We cannot afford the time to just “dance around” the subject. If the client is willing to share their experience, I make sure I listen intently. I have become better with asking clarifying questions instead of pretending I know what they are talking about. It is difficult for me to do sometimes because I do not want to be rude to the person I am speaking with. Sometimes it is easier to identify the elephant in the room instead of avoiding it. It relieves so much anxiety for the client and yourself!