I was abandoned by my mother at birth spent my early years in a children's home and was later adopted into a family where I was abused and neglected I was smart shy withdrawn and grew up struggling with same sex attraction In school I was bullied beaten and ostracized for being different Childhood counseling became my lifeline and helped me avoid suicide as a teen focusing me instead on positive things I could do for myself such as scouting scholastics sports and finding creative ways to support myself financially Later in life counseling helped me through a difficult divorce separation from my children bankruptcy and homelessness Counseling helped me come to terms with my sexual orientation and come out as a healthy well adapted gay man at age 28 survive the AIDS epidemic and cope with grief loss and survivor s guilt as everyone I knew perished around me Counseling helped me cope with physical injuries I sustained in the military and rebuild my life as a disabled service connected veteran Counseling helped me survive drug related incarceration reintegrate successfully into the community avoid recidivism overcome substance abuse and kept me stable in recovery for the past 18 years
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Recently vocational rehabilitation counseling has helped me find new purpose in my life and reinvent myself allowing me to return to school complete a Bachelor's Degree and work toward a Master's Degree in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling Throughout all these struggles the therapeutic relationships I developed with my counselors allowed me to gain perspective change grow heal problem solve set new goals and work toward a healthier vision of my life I have survived so much and while my life is not perfect the challenges I have faced have given me a passion for helping others I dedicated the first half of my life to service as a soldier and a nurse My passion for the next chapter in my life is to give something back by sharing the gift of therapy with others who are struggling I want to give hope and practical support to those who are determined to overcome their disabilities and rebuild their lives using my experience and training to help them achieve their education career and personal goals Professional counselors are uniquely situated to understand the negative effects of oppression and social injustice on an individual s health and well being Counselors provide a safe place for clients to process emotions related to their life circumstances but they must also be on the forefront of the fight for social justice and equity as an agent of social change within their communities Counselors must recognize when therapeutic processing alone may not be sufficient to help a client recover from the marginalization discrimination and stigma they experience because of race ethnicity age socioeconomic status religion disability gender gender identity or sexual orientation Helping a client recognize that their problems are the result of social injustice rather than their own personal failings is essential to overcoming internalized oppression self blame and shame
Treatment plans must include with the client s permission modalities that teach and empower the client to use personal advocacy skills Counselors can support the larger effort of system wide social justice through public policy work and education at the local regional and national levels regarding the needs of marginalized communities Counselors can work individually or collaboratively to implement and evaluate preventive mental health strategies and programs designed to protect vulnerable individuals and communities from the negative effects of social inequality by establishing and strengthening support networks that foster resilience facilitate independence and empower self advocacy Rehabilitation counselors demonstrate a commitment to social justice when they work to change attitudes and remove environmental or systemic barriers that impede equal access to education and employment opportunities paving the way for disabled persons to integrate fully into their communities While I enjoy privilege as a white male I have also endured significant discrimination I have been fired from jobs evicted from housing victimized by law enforcement and violently attacked because I am gay My education employment and housing opportunities are severely limited due to my history of addiction and incarceration disability status and sexual orientation I know firsthand how difficult it can be to reintegrate into society and begin a new chapter in one s life following prison I could not have rehabilitated myself and achieved my dream of earning a Bachelor s Degree without the assistance and guidance of dedicated Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors I am passionate about giving back the help I have received I intend to use my experience and training to assist others especially veterans and former inmates to overcome barriers and achieve their reintegration education and employment goals I recognize that the barriers to achieving one s goals are often not the result of personal failings but rather the product of systemic social and cultural biases
For years I have worked as a community advocate and political activist lobbying for prison reform elimination of sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses drug treatment as an alternative to incarceration a comprehensive overhaul of our medical and mental health systems and development of a coordinated regional solution to homelessness in the tri-county area Completing my Masters in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling will qualify me to pursue my passion of working one on one with clients and provide the professional credentials I need to advocate and lobby more effectively for equity on a systemic level I plan to pursue the additional course necessary to qualify for my Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Certificate I am also interested in exploring work as a job developer engaging with local employers to create new job opportunities and working with clients who fill those positions to ensure their long term success following placement
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