Prestigious Oxford University, the first university in the English speaking world, was the site of the 10th annual School-Based Family Counseling Symposium, Aug. 5-10 and Placerville resident Heidi Petrow was there. Petrow not only attended the international symposium, she was invited to present a paper to her fellow attendees.
Petrow, 37, graduated from University of San Francisco in June with a master’s degreee in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis on Marriage and Family Therapy. For one of her graduate classes, Petrow implemented a year-long project with a student from the at-risk high school where she was completing a trainingship as a counselor.
Her paper, “The Case of the Girl Who Believed She Would Never be Good Enough,” was a description of the project in which Petrow worked to reunifiy a gay student at the high school with her mother who was not accepting of her daughter and had been verbally abusive to her for years.
“I worked with different themes with the student each week,” said Petrow. “After diagnosing the issues she was struggling with, I worked on her self-esteem, stress reduction, identifying both her and her mother’s communication types and the best approach for each of the them, assertion training and finally confronting her mother.”
To make the problem more challenging, the student refused to include her mother in any of the sessions. “Usually, the family is involved,” said Petrow, “but she didn’t want to involve her mother.”
Using the skills and confidence gained through her work with Petrow, the student did confront her mother in a positive manner. “Her daughter’s sharing of the effects on her of the verbal abuse and non-acceptance really opened her eyes and she apologized,” said Petrow. “They started jogging together in order to build their relationship and now the student is no longer depressed and cutting herself and she and her mother are celebrating the success of changing their relationship dynamic.”
Petrow’s case study, as she wrote it, was included as a chapter in Dr. Brian Gerrard’s soon-to-be published national textbook for students in school-based counseling programs, “The Handbook for School-Based Family Counseling.” Then, Gerrard, who is the director of the Oxford symposium, invited her to present her paper at the symposium.
“Dr. Gerrard usually chooses doctorates and experts for presentations. He has only invited two other students in 10 years,” said Petrow.
Symposium participants came from Canada, New Zealand, China and England as well as other countries.”It was a wonderful experience to be part of an academic movement in a field I am passionate about with people in a cross-cultural envirionment,” said Petrow, who presented her paper on the final day of the symposium at the nine-century-old campus. “I was a little intimidated on the first day with the extensive resumes and high decoration of fellow presenters, but as the week progressed, I got to know them and they were all so welcoming.”
Petrow was accompanied by her mother, as her husband of three years had work obligations. “She had never been to England, so it was a fun trip to share,” said Petrow. “She was so proud and supportive.”
The two managed to tour the Cotswolds and Burford and see the sights of London. “We saw ‘Billy Elliott’ in London and did some shopping too, ” said Petrow. “The Olympics were going on while we were there and the marathon went right past our hotel on the day we were leaving, so we had to detour up five blocks to catch a taxi to the airport.”
Although the publisher has not yet been chosen, the final draft of Gerrard’s book will be ready in November. “Having a chapter in a national textbook and going to the symposium gave me the opportunity to network with colleagues in the field and broaden my understanding,” said Petrow.
She plans to obtain her Ph.D. with the goal of becoming a child psychologist and is currently working as a counselor at the same at-risk high school in Sacramento where she served her trainingship. “It really helped me in refining my skills and affirmed the direction and path I’ve chosen.”
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530-344-5069 or email@example.com. Follow @WSchultzMtDemo.