Shared Stories

I first heard Darden Smith on a local radio program as I was leaving town for the weekend.  Darden was on the radio promoting his newest album and I have not been able to stop thinking about Darden and the stories he shared since, that was over 6 weeks ago.

In this TED Talk Darden shares a song he co-wrote with Radney Foster, and which was likely my first time to hear Darden and his gift.

Also in this talk, and the reason I share it with you today, is he talks about the fear and excitement in using our gifts.  Darden’s gift is songwriting and he talks about some of the creative ways he is using his gift.

In many ways Darden’s story is like many of our own stories.  He shares being in an unfamiliar place sharing his songwriting and thinking he has nothing in common with those he is around.  So often we find ourselves in a group of people and may have the same thoughts, “Do I have anything in common with these people?”  “Does anyone know I am here?”  We do have something in common with those around us and we share stories with those in our space, sometimes in the most unlikely of places.  Sometimes finding the commonalities may require a little digging to find.  This past week I was sitting at the car shop all day for three days in a row.  Although I was in an unfamiliar community the shared stories of the other customers who were waiting for their repairs continue to excite me. Some of the customers shared their stories of their search for meaningful relationships, their passion to travel and find their career aspirations.  We talked of shared tastes in music and film and places to travel.

In the video Darden also shares some of the unconventional ways he shares his gifts.  He pursued life as a rock star for many years.  He has written and recorded several songs that resonate with me and have become part of my life script.  One of current ventures is using the stories soldiers share and helping them write songs.  One of the unconventional ways I have used my gifts in the past was as a Volunteer Coordinator with Grace Hospice.  Through that experience I grew and was shaped by the lives I crossed paths with.  Working with Volunteers was not something I had set out to do and in many ways felt unqualified to do.

One of the things I enjoy most about providing Career Counseling is helping clients expand their search to include career paths and opportunities they may not have considered.  Helping them find unconventional ways to use their gifts and interests and I think that is why this video is so powerful for me at this time.



The end of sexual violence and domestic abuse? A resource list of organizations working toward this

This is a great list of resources for encouraging healthy masculinity, gender equality and resources for domestic and sexual abuse victims. Some of the resources mentioned are regional, but many are national. I wish I would have had this information available several years ago, Thanks for sharing!

TED Blog

Why is it that, when we talk about sexual violence and domestic abuse, we talk about the women involved and erase the men from the conversation?[ted_talkteaser id=1753]In his TED talk, violence-prevention educator Jackson Katz explains why sentences like “Mary is a battered woman” are far more common than ones like “John beat Mary.” The takeaway of Katz’s talk: That we have to stop thinking of violence against women as a women’s issue. He urges men to look at the various institutions in society that help produce violent behavior, and to become leaders in calling out behavior that’s entwined with violence against women.

We asked Katz to compile a list of resources for those invigorated by the conversation on how we can shift cultural norms, as well as for those who want more information on organizations that tackle sexual violence and domestic abuse. Here, Katz’s incredibly comprehensive list.

Men’s organizations working to…

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Use of Cinema in Therapy

For well over a year I have been interested in the use of Cinema in Therapy.

While pursuing my graduate studies one of my professors assigned at least three movies for the use with Career Counseling Clients.  As I recall this was the first time I recall seriously contemplating using movies in this format.  The professor, John Garcia, PhD assigned us “The Office” , “A River Runs Through It”, “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” “Cinema Paradiso” .  I had already seen half of these movies but watching them again from the perspective of someone who may be looking for a career and exploring career options was energizing.  These are movies and others have mimicked slices of my life, or parts of my life.

Movies can challenge us.  One of the movies that has challenged me at different times in my life has been “Men of Honor” with Cuba Gooding, Jr ( ).  It is historical non-fiction movie that challenges me, as Charles Brashear, the main character, dealt with many significant challenges and was successful.

Cinema can help bring definition to aspects of our lives, for example Careers.  Sometimes I find myself referring to movies to describe to students a particular career.  I know and describe for clients that sometimes these roles are dramatized and may not give accurate reflections, but it gives us an idea of a person in a role.  Often times students ask me what a Child Life Specialist does and I refer to the movie “Patch Adams” with Robin Williams.

A group of friends and I get together once a week and watch a movie.  They take turns choosing a movie for the group.  Sometimes a member may have already seen the movie, but we try to choose movies the others have not seen.  One of the rules of the group is you have to watch the movie, regardless of any preconceived notions.  Another guideline in choosing a movie to share with the group is that it needs to be a movie that inspires or moves you. These friends tend to be literary and can easily find the analogy in the story line.  It has been fun to meet with a group of non-counseling friends and watch a movie and then talk about it.  Most of the movies have been ones I have never heard of before and I often contemplate how I might build it into a counseling practice.  This past week we watched “Stranger than Fiction” where one of the main characters is having his life dictated to him.  One of the quotes that has struck me is “Art mimics life and life mimics art.”  At least that is the way I remember the quote.  I see this time and time again in counseling practice as well.

Earlier this week I was having a conversation with a counselor about putting together a database for movies that could be used in therapy and what populations they would be appropriate for.  In looking at the populations to use a particular movie looking at age groups, counseling issues, racial/ethnicity dialogue, etc.  Prior to this discussion I had begun a database with movies I want to watch that may be specific for certain counseling issues.  It is a work in progress and I will share it when it is more developed.

I invite you to share your thoughts and suggestions with me.  Feel free to contact me if you have a movie that inspires you, motivates you or that you think addresses an issue that may be addressed in a counseling setting.  I have not attended any training on the use of cinema therapy and if you become aware of one invite you to let me know about it.

Resources for Undocumented College Students

Working at University Career Services the past three years has offered me the opportunity to work with students who immigrated to the United States with their parents at a young age.  Often they ask questions about how to represent their work history on a resume and what are some of the entities that would sponsor them in obtaining a HB-1 Visa so they can continue to build skills and move along their career paths.  This motivated me to attend a professional training at Texas State University for staff and faculty on the issues faced by this population and the resources available to them (both on campus and off).

I do not ask students whether they are documented or not, but allow them to share such if they are comfortable.  As a university entity I am bound by rules and legislation to keep that information confidential and I would not want to violate this and the student’s trust.

Conversations about how to help college students who are undocumented began long ago.  We as a nation first began talking about The Dream Act in 2001.  The DREAM Act stands for Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors.  These are children who immigrated to the United States with their parents and are currently attending college.  We continue to talk about The DREAM Act, and as of today it has yet to pass legislation.  This act would allow for a six year conditional residency status for undocumented individuals who met specific criteria, including receipt of a high school diploma or GED and must be between 12 and 35 years old at the time of application.  Currently ten states have passed laws allowing undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition and Texas is one of them.  None of these states have experienced an influx of enrollment in higher education.  The DREAM Act is not amnesty.

This act would allow students to work legally in the United States, attend school and/or join the military.  These students would have the opportunity to not be forced into work as domestic workers, as day laborers or sweatshop factory workers.

If these students waited for documents like “everyone else” they would be waiting a long time and it could result in their career paths being put on hold.  The average wait time for a Green Card for a skilled worker is over 5 years.  For those who are siblings of US Citizens, the wait is 11-12 years.  I cannot imaging putting my career on hold for this long, can you?  The fee for hiring a skilled foreign-born professional is more than $3,000 for each individual.  When an entity agrees to sponsor a visa of this nature they are making an investment.  They must first prove a non-US Citizen is able to fill this position.

There is a movie that came out in 2009 that I would like to see, Papers.

As a result of today’s training I have more understanding of the challenges the students face and have some valuable resources to share with them.

Healthy Marriage Workshop

Today I assisted with a workshop on “Keeping Marriages Healthy”.

The workshop is part of the organization Love Gives First

The workshop is free for participants who sign up on-line.  If the couple is planning for marriage the workshop gives them the 8 hours required for a $60 discount on their marriage license, which means in some areas the license is free.

“Keeping Marriages Healthy” helps individuals identify their needs and the needs of their partner and then communicate these with each other.  We also spend some time talking about comforting each other in our hurts.  This is valuable information for new couples and for those who have been together for a long time.

The time is spent in short presentations, individual and couple reflection and some group discussion as the individuals are comfortable.  It is valuable information in a format that is comfortable for couples.

Music and it’s impact on our culture and economics

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Texas State University Center for Sociology Inquiry symposium Hill Country Music Scenes.  There were two presenters and several members of a panel.  The first speaker, Dr Bryce Merrill, presented on the impact music has on our economics.  Although I did not study Economics in school I found this very enlightening.  He spoke about not only musicians, but publishers, recorders, and the other crew members and how they bring tourism, travel, and support the economy when people buy merchandise (CD’s, T-shirts, etc).

The Second presentation, by Dr. David Grazian, was on the impact of music on culture.  He spoke specifically of urban areas where buildings are repurposed for music and gave a specific example of a church.

Living in the Austin Area for the past 13 years I have seen how the community is impacted by musicians.  I see a community that is very creative, not only in writing and playing music, but stretching dollars.  We spoke about how unfortunately many who enjoy music in this community do not tip the musicians, but simply enjoy a “free” show.  How unfortunate! Is there any other profession that is asked to share their skills for free?  There are also creative people who design album covers and take photos of the musicians for publication.  Then there’s always a critic, who writes about the experience.

In 1999 SIMS Foundation was created in Austin.  It is a local non-profit that provides mental health services for local musicians.  I have always been fascinated with this agency.  They provide personal (individual) counseling, family, substance abuse and also band therapy in the past.  So often a band operates and interacts like a family.  The foundation was created after at least two musicians experienced a mental health crisis. Earlier this week the national news covered a story about a musician who completed suicide.  In light of the symposium and my experience with SIMS Foundation I wondered if this musician had reached out for help recently.  I hope to have the opportunity to work with some local musicians in the future.