A very special interview with our intern, Callie! Callie just returned from a trip to Ukraine providing mental health support to the people there. We invited her to share more about herself, her internship and the experience! Thank you, Callie!
1. What initially drew you to AATPC?
I grew up on a farm and worked for years both in volunteer and paid positions for various animal shelters. . From my own life experiences, I always knew animals could offer the unconditional acceptance and nonjudgmental support I was so desperate for that I had a hard time finding or accepting with other people. I always knew I loved animals but wanted a profession where I could help people. When I found out about animal-assisted therapy I thought it could be a way to pursue both my passions. I actually pursued a volunteer role with AATPC before I was even officially accepted to the MA Counseling program at Regis.
2. What is your role at AATPC?
I started volunteering with AATPC during the early winter of 2019, just several months before the restrictions imposed by COVID-19 limited the number of people who could be at the farm. When things began to ease up, and volunteers were allowed back, my graduate program was already in full swing; I was working full-time at a hospital and volunteering with several community organizations; I had also just entered one of my own deepest depressive episodes after the loss of my own beloved dog. The culmination of all these things resulted in me recognizing my own capacity and finally acknowledging the fact that if I didn't help myself, I would never be able to help others. I used that time to prioritize my own wellness and ended up having to pull back from a lot of previous commitments. This reevaluation allowed me to understand how I could best help with the time and mental capacity I had, and I was fortunate to be received back as a volunteer on an as-needed basis. I filled in on open shifts when I was able, and in the fall of 2022, I was interviewed for and accepted a position as a graduate-level clinical mental health counseling intern.
3. Is there anything you're particularly excited to learn/experience/grow during your internship with AATPC?
I'm so excited to learn more about and become certified in animal-assisted therapy. Ever since I found out AAT was an option, I knew that was my end-goal in working with clients.
4. What are you most passionate about in this type of work?
Beyond the incorporation of animals, I really love working with adolescents and kids! This surprised me because early on, I never thought I would want to work with kids or teens--I think this development came from working to heal my own wounded inner child. In working with this population, there is a chance to do proactive work instead of waiting until decades later when there may be so much more to repair. I'm currently working towards my play therapy certification.
Furthermore, I've always been drawn to nonprofit work and appreciate AATPC's mission; I see the profound impact it has on the community, and value how much work they do to provide easily accessible care for a diverse client population.
5. What are your specialties and/or what specialties are on your wish list?
Kids and teens-- I really enjoy the incorporation of creative-expression (art) interventions and play therapy. Adults don't always understand the benefits of these things, but when young folks don't have the cognitive ability to formulate words for their feelings, these techniques provide an outlet to communicate their inner thoughts and feelings. It can be really powerful!
I also want to pursue certification through the Green Cross Academy of Traumatology program. When people think of trauma they often think of big "T" trauma but often don't realize the long-term implications of chronic traumas such as bullying, poverty, racism, and familial mental health problems, and the like. I am privileged to be a perpetual student and lifelong learner, which will serve me providing the best possible care I can for clients.
Tell us about your recent trip!
I was recently invited to and participated in a service trip to western Ukraine to help provide counseling and psychoeducation for attendants of a conference organized by Calvary Global Network. The focus of the conference was to provide holistic support for mind, body and soul, and was geared towards ministry and aid workers and refugees from all over Ukraine. While they were anticipating around 100 attendants, the actual turnout was closer to 150 people. It was such a privilege in being considered, and a wonderful experience—it still hasn’t sunk in that any of it was real!
While I was able to help provide co-therapy for individuals with my supervisor, Dr. Joshua Kreimeyer, much of my days involved working with the kids. We incorporated some interventions teaching mindful breathing but a large part of the time focused on allowing the kids an opportunity to be kids. Much of the “work” came through creative expression (non-directive art) that provided an outlet for the children to process what was on their minds.
Did you learn anything new?
When I was preparing for the trip, I had built up this idea in my mind that it was going to be a nonstop barrage of heavy war TRAUMA. I grossly underestimated folks there, humans are more complex than that. Yes, there was an element of that in what I heard and saw, but most of what I witnessed was the hope and resilience of the people. They were merely trying to reconcile normal life experiences during an abnormal time in life where they are forced to survive. It also made me think about the extreme and thus far unrecognized impacts that the war will have on those families for generations to come.
What did you accomplish?
It’s easy for me to lose focus of what we accomplished… We were there for such a limited time and when it was over we had the privilege of returning to our relatively cushy lives. Everyone that we had met and worked with there had to return to the uncertainty of surviving in unsafe places that they call home during times of war. It is heartbreaking to think about… but then I remember that I also was the recipient of so much love and gratitude for just being there, letting people know they aren’t alone in what they’re experiencing. I’m confident that while we helped in small ways, we created ripples of change with potential for long-term impact.
What is your most meaningful experience?
One of the interventions we did with the younger kids is something called “mindful breathing sticks”. They’re really simple to make—you just put some beads on a pipe cleaner and bend both the ends so the beads don’t fall off. The purpose of this activity is to teach kids deep breathing by moving one bead at a time each time they take a deep breath (deep breathing is one of the easiest coping skills we can utilize when we are dysregulated, stressed, scared, angry, etc.). After we finished this activity, we had several kids come over asking to make more to give to their loved ones, so that felt pretty cool. I also connected with a young Ukrainian artist with whom I’ve been in touch with trying to develop ways to market her art to help her support herself and the war efforts. It’s wild to think that building connections with people and listening can be called a vocation, it’s such a beautiful thing!
Did you walk away with inspiration to do/explore anything new as a result of the trip?
I’ve always tried to live with a heart of service and desire for helping others. I think this trip just reiterated that for me. Although I’d really like to go back to Ukraine sometime and support mental healthcare there, my current priority is to provide the best support possible for the folks I’m currently working with. I graduate my program later this year, so I’m just excited to see what life has in store.
Callie went with a team of people from Calvary Chapel. You can learn more about Calvary Chapel and this mission here.
Roughly translates, " Of course it's shining. Putin is running.
Sniper is on the ground. Putin is laying down."