By Madison Boboltz , Staff Writer
This past summer, Dr. Sherry Rosenblad, assistant professor of psychology and director of the Clinical Counseling & Marriage and Family Therapy Graduate Programaccompanied students from the program on a trip to New York and Ireland.
The trip was intended to provide graduate students with real-world experience counseling in other cultures.
Rosenblad explained through an email interview why both New York and Ireland were advantageous locations for the students to visit in order to accomplish some of the objectives for the class course the trip was meant to enhance. “The class we coordinated this mission trip with is counseling diverse populations. I wanted to go to New York to give students a broad diversity of populations to observe and interact with. I felt like New York fulfilled more of the course objectives. But Northern Ireland provided a great experience for the students to offer counseling to teens from another culture. We have developed a strong relationship with RIOT Ministries there. I felt like Northern Ireland fulfilled more of the goals of a counseling mission trip,” Dr. Rosenblad wrote.
Overall, it seemed that the trip was successful in challenging the CCMF students to learn and grow in the field. “I was able to see the graduate students take everything they have learned throughout their two-year CCMF program, synthesize it and apply it in a very different setting,” Dr. Rosenblad wrote.
Dr. Rosenblad explained some of the particular challenges that the clients in Northern Ireland have been facing. “The youth in Northern Ireland are plagued by high rates of substance abuse, depression and suicide. In addition, because of the religious turmoil of the past decades, church is not necessarily a safe or positive place for them,” Dr. Rosenblad wrote.
The students were able to help these teens by sharing their own stories and connecting with the teens. “My CCMF students gave their testimony about how they worked through these issues in their own lives in addition to helping clients work through them. They were also able to talk one-on-one with different teens about individual issues they are facing. The students were able to offer hope and guidance,” Dr. Rosenblad wrote.
Despite this ability to connect, Dr. Rosenblad mentioned that the students had to overcome some false assumptions. “The CCMF students believed that there would not be many differences between themselves and the teens in Northern Ireland. They learned how false this assumption was. They discovered many differences, and yet, some universal similarities as well. In counseling, the basic principles apply to almost any age or culture. They learned a different way of counseling while in N. Ireland but saw how it was similar to theories they learned in school. In addition, they are provided the opportunity to grow personally and spiritually, which can be difficult but also rewarding,” Dr. Rosenblad wrote.
For Dr. Rosenblad, the most rewarding part of the trip was seeing the students branch out of their comfort zone and demonstrate their capabilities. “The highlight of the trip for me is to see my students realize how much they know and have learned and that they can apply those lessons and skills in so many different settings; to witness the self-confidence and empowerment they exhibit throughout the trip was great,” Dr. Rosenblad wrote.
As with any trip, there were also obstacles that she and the students had to overcome. “The greatest obstacle was navigating the transportation systems in New York and London – which are similar yet different. Finding your way in another country without Google Maps can be very challenging! In New York, getting that many people to stay together amidst the packed subways and crowds of people is something altogether different,” Dr. Rosenblad wrote.
In the future, Dr. Rosenblad hopes to coordinate more trips with students in the program. “I have considered going to other countries with CCMF cohorts in the future. However, we have developed a very strong relationship with RIOT House in Northern Ireland, and I feel like it is such a mutually positive experience, that I believe we will return there each year,” Dr. Rosenblad wrote.