Being A Crisis Counselor: It Could Change You
Life as a crisis counselor is interesting. I work in public schools in the county or Riverside, and currently have schools from two different districts on my caseload. I see kids as young as kindergarten and as old as high school seniors. I talk with kids, parents, school administrators, teachers, and even playground monitors as part of my every day routine. My job is to explain to be there for students who are in crisis, which means anything that is hindering them from having a healthy child hood that can be detected at school.
This February will mark my second year with my company, and two years of helping bring hope and stability to the lives of kids. Two years of seeing the effects of the world on various families and their kids, and trying to help them make sense of it. Two years of reporting child abuse or neglect, and hoping that something is done that will not have even more lasting negative effects on the kids that come to me in my office. When you work with kids, no matter what the capacity, it changes you. And not just because of the bad stuff.
I’ll never forget my first day on the job. I was not cleared to work in schools, because my fingerprints had not yet cleared the FBI database. I had worked with kids before in the random ministry opportunities I had at my Christian College, and when I was in high school. The first thing they train you for is child abuse reporting. As a person working in a school in California, I was now mandated by law to report “any suspicion of child abuse” that I had while at work. The next thing I was trained for was how to handle a kid who was suicidal. After three days of training my background check came back clean, and I was released on a school in a rural area of Riverside county. I remember feeling scared, ill prepared, under resourced, and like I was on my own. I would work at the school while my boss was thirty six miles away at the home office.
My first day on site at me new school was unforgettable. It would be nice to say that I remember my first day because the school was so welcoming, or because I felt like I was in a place that I could be part of a great team. While this was true, that is not why I will remember the first day at work. After I had settled into the small office they school had set aside for me, and figured out how the school ran things, I was ready to start introducing myself to students. While in the middle of my first presentation of who I am and what I do to my first class, the Vice Principle came in and asked me to speak with him outside. There was a “situation” in the boys’ locker room he needed me help with.
The boy was an eighth grader, who was held up in one of the shower stalls. He had a knife, and was crying because he did not have the courage to use it on himself. He had cut himself already on one of his writs, and the paramedics were on the way as well as the police. The Principal was hoping I could get him to put the knife down, and get him to come to the Nurse’s office, before the police arrived and it got to be worse for the kid.
I talked the boy down, I’m not sure how I actually did it. He put down the knife, and we got him to go to the Nurse’s office. Paramedics came, and so did the boy’s father. Before they all arrived I had time with the boy while the Nurse saw to his cut on his wrist, which was not bad. You see, the kid’s mother had died the week before and that is why he wanted to die. He just wanted to be with her. He went to the hospital, and got a counselor that he saw on a regular basis after that.
I remember calling my boss at different times during the whole situation, as was our protocol. My boss was trying to get out to the site to help me out with anything, but she was stuck in traffic and would take a while. The adrenaline was pouring though me system like I had never before felt, and I was scared. My boss told me not to go back to work the next day, and I went home and held my fiancé really tight as if doing so would make the world a better place.
Almost two years latter, I was faced with another kid who was suicidal. This was not nearly as dramatic, she simply had a plan that was very well thought out and very plausible. But she had the same kind of cold, dead look in her eyes as that boy had, and it cut me right to the heart. She was a third grader, who got good grades and had what appeared to be a good life. But she was tired of living up to what everyone wanted her to be. She was sick of her mom and step-dad giving all their attention to the newborn sister, and knew that if she tried to kill herself she would either end it all or at least get their attention.
What is it about our world that puts so much pressure on kids that they want to end their lives? The boy from my first day on the job made sense, his mother had died in his lap of a brain aneurysm and her last words to him were, “I love you.” But this other girl had decided that her life was so worthless that she was going to end it because her parents, at least in her eyes, did not love her as much as they had until her sister came along. Other counselors that I work with have stories that are just as sad, and a lot of them worse.
I used to think my job was to help kids solve their problems, so they could be empowered to change their own lives. Now I’m no so inclined to think that is my job. After seeing my fair share of kids who have been abused, kids who have wanted to die, and the families they come from, I’ve come to a new conclusion of what my job is. I’m here to offer support and encouragement to kids who never get it. I’m not a psychologist, I’m a counselor. My place is to come along side these kids and be an person who tells them that they are smart enough, strong enough, and that no matter what anyone tries to tell them, they are going to get through life as a success. Some of my kids have never been told that they are smart, some have never been told that they are good at anything at all. Some of my kids think that they are ok, but that they are nothing special so why should anyone care about them. I’m the person who helps them find the parts of them worth celebrating so that they can find the strength to become the people they are becoming.
Do I love my job? There are times when I come home and feel like I have the best job in the world. I also have days where I come home and need a stiff drink or three in order to shake off the heaviness I feel after bearing these kids’ burdens with them. This job is not for the faint of heart, but if you have the strength for it, it could just change you into a whole new person you never knew you were capable of being. I am now a person who can get up in front of a group of people and not feel afraid of making a fool of myself. I am now a person who not only can listen to a person, but hold my tongue until they have said what they want to say. I would never had learned to be any other these things if I had not worked with these kids. While I am ready for this chapter in my life to close and open on a new one, I do not regret for one minuet ever day that I spent working with these kids.