Wood's Homes Blog

A balancing act

July 03, 2020
By Wafa Virk, Wood's Homes Family Support Counsellor
A balancing act

When I completed my undergraduate degree, I was excited to see what the world had to offer and passionate about my love for psychology. I knew that getting right into a master’s program would be a difficult task to do while working full-time, but I was determined to push myself and not waste any time. I began my journey in a Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology program and was lucky enough to be hired as a Family Support Counsellor with Wood’s Homes Family Support Network.

Initially, I began to wonder if pursuing my master’s – while simultaneously working full-time – was a good idea, as I was working all day and then studying all night. I eventually took one semester off from my master’s program to focus on my well-being and to ensure that I was able to work to the best of my abilities. I resumed my studies in the following semester and was nervous of what would happen next. I quickly began to recognize the benefits that this special situation was providing, and I found myself applying what I was learning in my studies to my work. Not only was I able to better utilize appropriate techniques while at work, but I was also able to practice and make immediate connections that greatly improved my learning.

The nonjudgmental listening cycle (NLC) is a great example of one of the ‘tools’ I learned about in graduate school that I consistently use in my full-time work. The NLC is a framework of skills that are used between a client and their helper during a discussion of a specific topic, and they are used in the following order: opening question, minimal encourager, door opener, paraphrase, reflection of feeling, reflection of meaning and summary.

This framework is used as a cycle with the intent of making the clients feel understood and heard. At Wood’s Homes Family Support Network, a common concern expressed by parents is that they feel misunderstood and unheard. By being mindful and actively using this framework during meetings with clients, I found that my therapeutic relationships were improving. My clients expressed that they felt heard, while I felt a better sense of their challenges, as well as who they were as people. I also understand the importance of recognizing that I'm a student and still learning, and that I should not utilize skills that I’m not confident in or might be too advanced for me.

Overall, this experience – despite being one that I was nervous and wary about in the beginning – turned out to be very beneficial and helped me succeed. There is a lot to keep in mind if you are considering going back to school, and it’s important to think about finding the right balance between work, school and your personal life. Remember to take care of yourself and indulge in self-care activities. Once you find that perfect balance, the benefits of working hard and being passionate about your school will become very evident.