Counseling Intern Sees Many Re-entering the Work Force

CEW’s core counseling mission thrives, including our commitment to the residents of Ann Arbor and surrounding communities. In order to serve everyone, the Center has re-instituted a partnership with the University’s School of Social Work. As at various times in the past, we are once again an intern field placement site for MSW students focusing on interpersonal practice. Pam Watson, who began seeing CEW participants in Fall 2011, is the first MSW counseling intern participating in this new program. She will be at the Center through August 2012, especially focused on working with women and men from the community.

Pam’s experience at CEW has served as a useful parallel to her coursework at the School of Social Work. CEW is an interest-ing internship site, according to Pam, “It’s not strictly career counseling, as I’d expected–CEW is a place where counselors consider a person’s whole life.” Pam indicated that she’s seen a lot of people who are entering (or re-entering) the workforce and that there are two quite different categories of these participants. Many of these people are experienced professionals but now face a labor market with a surplus rather than the shortage for which they were trained. She points out that much of her work with them is about considering broader opportunities in which to use their skills. On the other hand, she sees young women, newly graduated from U-M, who “have no clue what they want to do or plan to do. Or, they are told they need experience but don’t know how or where to obtain that.”

“I’m amazed that people sometimes travel so far to come to CEW,” Pam says. “They find us through the website, by referral from another University unit, or simply by word of mouth. I love it when participants realize that we can do more than help them find jobs. We’re interested in helping them achieve their full personal and career potential.”
Pam is a perfect fit for the Center and the people we serve. She had been married for 14 years and had two sons when her marriage ended in divorce. “I didn’t see it coming,” she says, “but since then I’ve grown and learned a lot about myself.” Realizing she needed to redirect her life, Pam earned an associate’s degree at Washtenaw Community College in human services and a bachelor’s degree in social work at Eastern Michigan before coming to the University of Michigan for her MSW.

Now she’s able to integrate her learning with her experience working directly with people. As part of the internship, Pam meets with her supervisor weekly to review her appointments and to improve her knowledge and skills; she is then able to bring those insights into classroom discussions. Similarly, she points out that having taken courses on working with families and with adults provides her with the knowledge needed to work on the complex and multi-layered circumstances and concerns of CEW participants. “I felt comfortable from the first time I walked into CEW,” Pam says. “It’s a great experience, and I think I’m a good role model for some of the women I see. Having learned to empower myself, I’m excited to have the chance to help empower others.”

Pam has also become actively involved with several area non-profit agencies, including the Collaborative Autism Center and Ele’s Place and is currently the president of the TLC Adventure Preschool board. During the year between her BSW and her MSW, Pam increased her volunteerism calling it “a gift to myself, something I’ve always wanted to do.” In the future, Pam–who is herself vision impaired–dreams of working with others, especially children and their families, who face vision-related challenges. “I know my parents and I could certainly have used the advice and support of a social worker when my condition was first diagnosed.”

We’re delighted to have Pam Watson as our first new counseling intern. And we look forward to a long and mutually rewarding relationship with the University’s outstanding MSW program: working together to serve the Ann Arbor community.