DESCRIPTION OF THE EXPERIENCE
Working as a school psychologist, I’ve noticed a common pattern, when it comes to interacting with students. Usually, the first time when a student visits a school psychologist he doesn’t approach sensitive matters and prefers to invoke a plausible reason for his visit – the wish to know more about his abilities, to find out which job is suitable for him. If he feels he can trust the counselor, he will soon get to the core of the problem, the real reason that made him contact the psychologist in the first place.
When I was working as a school psychologist at Grigore Ghica National College, Dorohoi, a student in his last year visited me at the cabinet, expressing her wish to know more about her cognitive abilities, in order to make the right career decision after graduation, in the summer of 2011. Previously, one of her classmates completed a series of tests, part of an assessment instrument called BTPAC, and recommended it to her.
After test completion she started talking about the problem that bothered her the most: having a bad opinion about herself and feeling a constant pressure because of this. To this day, I remember a statement she made to underline her inner conflict: “I feel I am not the person I’m supposed to be”.
Because of her hypersensibility to rejection, she had real concentration issues and failed miserably during Math classes, for instance, when she had to solve an exercise in front of the blackboard.
One of the main “culprits” for her avoidant personality was the perfectionism induced by the parents, which in its turn led to procrastination. Her anxiety was augmented by her mother’s health problems.
The first thing I did was to enhance her self-esteem using, among others, the diamond metaphor, trying to convey the fact that everybody has a particular shining, but sometimes we need to polish the diamond to get to our authentic self. I told the student that she needed to let go at the person she thought she was supposed to be, if she wanted to stop harming the beautiful person she already was.
During counselling sessions we’ve compiled a list with the things she feared the most and commenced a desensitization.
Because of the fact her anxiety made her voice shaking when talking in public, I’ve tried to implement an immediate solution and a long term one.
The immediate solution implied learning basic relaxation techniques. I noticed that the autogenic training was the most effective in her case.
The long term solution implied discovering the cognitions which predisposed the student to self-loathing and to her inferiority complex and teaching ways to control those cognitions, using REBT philosophy.
Overall her ability to focus during tests improved and she graduated. However, because of time constraints I did not implement more the systematic desensitization, to confront the student more with her fears. This is why I recommended her to continue counselling at the university she wanted to go, in Suceava.