My "Valedictorian" Graduation Speech
For those of you out of the loop, I finished - two years ago - an Advanced Clinical Training in Couples and Family Therapy at the Family Institue at Neve Yerushalayaim. As I was collecting all my diplomas to have them framed for my office, it occured to me that I never received my certificate from the Institute. So I called to inquire, just to make sure I hadn't missed a graduation. They thanked me for nudging them, which made them organize a lovely morning graduation ceremony today. It was nice to reconnect with collegues I haven't seen in awhile.
Last week, the head supervisor called to ask if I would speak on behalf of the other 9 graduates.
The following is what I said, cotton-mouthed and shaking:
When I made aliyah almost 5 1/2 years ago, I had no professional expectations. I knew my energy would be entirely committed to settling my children into their schools and social lives. I spent the first 2 years of aliyah – when I wasn’t in ulpan trying to learn Hebrew in Ulpan Alef – waiting for them to return from school, giving out hugs, wiping tears of frustration and holding their hands. I felt an itch to be working, but wiped it away with little more than a light scratch.
After those two years, though, I decided it was time – time to focus on me.
I have learned that the most important word in this field is not “feelings” or “understanding”, although they are an important part of the service we provide. But as a professional, the word, networking has been the key to what has brought me to this point, to where I am, professionally, today.
Since my days in graduate school, I have been an active participant in each NEFESH International professional conference. At the conferences I would meet interesting therapists and seasoned clinicians with whom I would share my interest in the therapeutic world. Time after time, I would recognize more and more of the participants, until we began to look forward to seeing each other, each year. When I knew it would be my last conference in America, before making aliyah, I made it a point to meet the Israeli representatives attending the conference that year.
And so, when I finally made it to Israel and heard there was going to be a NEFESH conference in the Holy City of Jerusalem, I used my earlier introduction to Dr. Judi Gedalia, the chairperson for NEFESH Israel, to ask if there was any help they needed in planning the conference.
That one phone call, using my networking skills, is what has allowed me to stand here today. I joined the planning committee meetings, where I met Dr. Levitz. And either, I called you or you contacted me – that I don’t clearly remember – about becoming a part of the Family Institute.
I met with Rachel and Roni about how I could be helpful at the clinic and found myself registering for the internship program. Although I had the clinical group skills from my work in the States, my experience working with families and couples was limited. And I knew, as well, that I would benefit greatly from working with individuals, while receiving my own individual and group supervision.
The training I received at the clinic was challenging and scary, fun and exciting, worthwhile and rewarding. Challenging and scary bc I was not only facing clinical cases I had never dealt with before, but also the counter transference that was constantly forcing me to face my own self and my own insecurities. I was scared to death of making a fool out of myself; or even worse, not being able to help my assigned clients.
Fun and exciting bc I was learning new things all the time – both professionally, clinically and personally. When I could walk out of a therapy session and be able to say “Yes!”, I felt good about that, and it became fun.
And Worthwhile bc I was learning, sharpening my skills, and meeting – networking – with superbly talented, professional people. It was difficult to be away from my family as they continued to acclimate to life here in Israel, but their support allowed me to continue my work. And for that I felt rewarded by all our successes.
I remember the day Dr. Levitz stopped me in the waiting room and asked me how I was doing, which I always appreciated him asking. And, of course, I always told him. That day, I was frustrated that there was limited access to art supplies, which I wanted to use with my clients. In short, he very strongly suggested that I not use the arts in sessions and begin to learn and try other forms of therapy. At the time I felt as if he had taken away my security blanket. But in time, I understood what he was asking me to do. And I did it.
With my wonderfully understanding colleagues and supportive supervisors, each one pushing me beyond my comfort areas of doing and understanding, I was able to leave my clients with a feeling of my knowing that I had helped them to the best of my ability.
Being a part of the Family Institute did not only support me in my advanced clinical training, but has also allowed me to access the beginning of my private practice – all due to networking. My first private clients came from referrals from colleagues here. And my training gave me the confidence to continue my private work even to today.
I was being abit facetious when I said that the most important word in this field was networking. Because really I believe the most important word is “Siyata dishmaya”. My clients humble me. I am thankful that Hashem has given me the talent and ability to connect with people in their pain, and I clearly see myself as a kli, for Hashem to use me to help people find their own healing and happiness in their lives.
So as we go out into the professional world, I believe the consistent message is for us ask Hashem for the tools and the words to be able to help our clients honestly and practically.
I thank you all for the encouragement, support and caring. I thank you for helping me to jump start a career I believe in, in helping others. I thank my family and friends for their love and encouragement. And mostly, I thank Hashem for showing me the way and giving me the tools.
Thank you and mazal tov