Behavioral health panelists inspire students
By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
Seth Strawn was asked in front of a group of Grand Canyon University students when he felt like a real professional therapist.
“People are trusting me with the deepest things they’ve ever gone through, that they’ve never opened up to anybody else,” said Strawn, who works for Southwest Behavioral and Health Services in Phoenix and got his master’s degree at GCU. “Dealing with the weight of that responsibility and honor sunk in. It hit me. ‘I’m a professional. I’m not in school anymore.’
“You are doing your work with real people. I try to never take that for granted.”
A lot of students question what they can do with their degrees, especially as an undergraduate. Then events such as the Behavioral Health Science Career Panel Thursday help answer their questions, said Dr. Chris McBride, an instructor in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Five guests in the behavioral field gave advice, such as taking care of yourself by not bringing your client’s troubles home and being flexible because you never stop learning.
Mostly they heard passion about helping others.
“I work with some of the highest-risk kids in the Valley, and just being able to see them heal and transform, move forward, make goals, I love watching that growth and feel honored to be a part of it,” said Elizabeth Fisher of Southwest Behavorial and Health Services.
Strawn said that being able to help people recognize what their strengths are is rewarding.
“Everyone’s got problems, everyone’s got issues. Most of us here at some point in our lives felt pretty crappy about ourselves. Just being able to encourage people to see within themselves, ‘I am enough. I do have these positive qualities.’ Watching them realize that and seeing them go out on their own is really a great thing,” he said.
It inspired students who are studying behavioral health careers at GCU.
Mashal Jones said she had long wanted to be a counselor but just that day had decided to seek a minor in it. The presentation sealed the deal.
“I want to help others,” she said. “To me, knowing I’m going to do a job — not just proclaiming by faith but going out and practicing it – I liked that he talked about that. Sometimes counseling is too much all about science. I pray for people in my life, even if I don’t know them.”
Strawn said that “it’s not about us.”
“I’m a Christian, but I’m not projecting my faith on them. But I get to show them the value of my faith. I get to show people every day the love of Christ.”
Added Fisher: “I get to spend my day loving on people. Through service. Through kind words. Some days I get to hang out with kids and just play cards and have one-on-one conversations, really deep, emotional conversations. It’s really cool that they confide in me and tell me their story.”
But often you don’t know if you can help them, so it’s a roller-coaster. She worked with a child for a year, playing cards every day, and one day he just opened up.
“He shared things with us and we kind of inched forward with him,” she said. “But there are days when it was down and I have things thrown at me or am called all kinds of words. But at the end of the day I care about them.”
Freshman Makayla Anderson was encouraged to hear Melissa Baker of Jewish Family and Children’s Services talk about opportunities in case management and administration.
“I want to help, but I always knew one-on-one sitting in an office is not right for me,” she said. “I like hearing that she offers support to those who are doing that.”
One word can’t describe what it means to work with clients, Strawn said.
“It’s an honor, it’s a responsibility, it’s rewarding, it’s challenging, its discouraging, it’s a storm of different emotions. It’s real.
“And you as well are human. You are encouraged. You see results. It’s amazing to see our clients making progress.
“You get to bear witness to the journeys they are on. You get to validate that you get to assure your clients that — guess what? — you are not alone.”
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.