San Antonio Sabbatical

Classes Have Begun

Posted on: August 25, 2010

School is now in session.  This is the first week of school for the local children; I’ve seen and heard several yellow school buses outside of my window.  Monday was also the start of the fall semester at Our Lady of the Lake University

I am auditing two graduate-level courses, (1) Language and Psychosocial Variables in Interviews and Assessments with Latinos (PSYC 8331) and (2) Practicum 1 (PSYC 8390) where I serve as an observer on the Spanish treatment team at OLLU’s Community Counseling Service.  My lecture class meets on Monday evenings from 6:00-8:45 p.m., and my clinic practicum meets on Tuesday afternoons from 1:00-5:00 p.m.  So, I’ve been to both classes already.  It looks like it will be an exciting semester.

My Language and Psychosocial Variables class has 12 students (including me), most of whom are Latino (not me; I’m African-American), and a very experienced Latina instructor/psychologist.  In this blog I will refer to her as Classroom Professor.  She provided an introduction to the course and background information on herself.  We were then asked to provide our own brief introductions in Spanish.  For example, I said, “Me llamo Sybil.  Soy psicologa…”  [There should be an accent mark over the first ‘o’ in ‘psicologa’, but I haven’t figured out how to insert these within the blog post.]  Classroom Professor then distributed and discussed the course syllabus.  An additional required textbook was listed.  It is Hispanics and the Future of America by the Committee on Transforming Our Common Destiny and the National Research Council and edited by Marta Tienda and Faith Mitchell (The National Academic Press, 2006).  I ordered the book from Amazon.com since their prices are often cheaper than those of bookstores.

This course has four student academic outcomes:

  • (1)  Increase awareness of the variables that impact service delivery. 
  • (2)  Explore methods and techniques for overcoming barriers to service delivery.
  • (3)  Increase ability to providing professional communication in Spanish.
  • (4)  Explore individual skills for conducting interviews, communicating technical information, and exploring assessment needs with Latino clients.

Although the class meets only once per week, there is plenty of work expected — assigned readings and discussions, interview role plays in Spanish, research paper and presentation, ongoing glossary and journal documenting awareness in personal/professional development, and a final exam.  The textbook readings are in English, but the class will be conducted primarily in Spanish and the oral and written assignments will be in Spanish.  The Instructor’s Manual is available online so I reviewed it prior to attending class in order to better understand the structure and goals of the course.  The challenge for me will be learning the technical terms that pertain to counseling.  I think I’m really going to like this class.

My clinic practicum has six students (all Latino I think, five of whom for which this is their first practicum) plus me and an experienced Latino faculty member/psychologist.  In this blog I will refer to him as Clinic Team Supervisor.  He described the requirements of the practicum and distributed a six-page handout on clinic procedures.  Clinic Team Supervisor had previously e-mailed the practicum students the complete Clinic Manual which I had read prior to attending yesterday’s clinic team meeting.  We then made introductions (in Spanish, of course) and mentioned our expectations for this practicum experience.  We had previously received a tour of this outpatient mental health facility.  Yesterday we received an explanation on how to prepare the necessary paperwork for documenting client sessions and payment.  Additionally, we were given a demonstration on how to use the TheraScribe computer software for writing case notes of client sessions.  (I’ve seen ads for TheraScribe in psychology publications but have never used it; I prefer to write my session notes by hand) .  Reminders were given about confidentiality and professional ethics. 

Given the population being served by the Community Counseling Service, the theoretical approach to training here is somewhat unique.  There is an emphasis on postmodern approaches to Spanish-Language psychotherapy and solution-oriented methods.  Student therapists, working in pairs, are encouraged to use a nondirective style and to refrain from forced interventions.  Instead, the clients are encouraged to focus on their strengths and discover their own remedies with the support of the therapists.  Initially, some time is spent on small talk (chit-chat) in order to put clients at ease and develop trust.  Live supervision is provided by the clinic team who is viewing the session on a video screen in a nearby room.  Clients have also consented to have the sessions recorded for training purposes.  The reflecting team approach with periodic consultations is familiar to me as it is how I was trained during graduate school twenty years ago. 

Two clients were seen during this first clinic team meeting, a couple with relationship problems and a male with depression.  The student therapists in training had good first sessions with their clients which we processed afterward as a team.  Clinic Team Supervisor has a supportive and comfortable supervision style.  I found that the clients and the team members spoke quickly and used some unfamiliar words so I gathered only bits and pieces of the conversation.  I certainly hope that my comprehension increases as the semester progresses.  This practicum is a nice complement to my lecture class and will allow for integration of theory and practice.  It will provide me with valuable experience.

Earlier this week I began reading The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow.  I saw the author on Oprah a couple of years ago and was inspired by his positive attitude and courage while dealing with his terminal illness.  It seemed appropriate to start the semester with Randy’s uplifting message of enjoying life and pursuing one’s dreams.  One of mine is to learn Spanish.  That is why I am here in San Antonio.

My box of books (sent via parcel post, the cheapest way to ship them) has still not arrived.  I’m hoping it arrives soon as it contains my Vox Compact Spanish and English Dictionary and Medical Spanish:  A Psychologist’s Guide by Craig Alan Sinkinson.  These items will be of great help to me as I attempt to translate words and sentences.

Finally, my car arrived last night at 9:30 p.m.  I’m happy and relieved.  Over the past week I’ve spent almost $200 on taxis (airport pickup plus three roundtrips to OLLU).  Taxis were cheaper than renting a car for the week (which I did during my July visit), but this mode of transportation came with limited flexibility and high inconvenience.  Now that I have my car, I have more freedom and can do the errands that need to be done — grocery store, bank, library, pharmacy, etc.  This afternoon I spent almost three hours at the grocery store (H.E.B. Foods is the big chain here) stocking up on a variety of items needed for setting up a home.  It’s great to have my car again and to now have a full refrigerator/freezer and pantry.

(Slightly Off Topic) —  During the semester I will continue to mention the recent accomplishments of Spanish speakers and their countries (e.g., World Cup, Dora the Explorer, etc.).  In particular, I will focus on those of Hispanics/Latinos as this is the population I am studying this semester.  Here’s a recent victory for Mexico.  Two nights ago the Miss Universe Pageant took place in Las Vegas, Nevada and Miss Mexico (Jimena Navarrete from Guadalajara) was crowned the winner.  This is a nice victory especially given all of the recent controversy in the United States regarding immigration issues (with an emphasis on Mexicans).  Congratulations, Miss Mexico!!!

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