Candidates Reflections

Michelle Ambalu, LCSW

Michelle Ambalu, LCSW
SIPP First Year Candidate

I was in my twelfth session with a nine-year-old boy who was diagnosed with ADHD, just like almost every other young boy in treatment, it seemed to me. He had spent the last few sessions trying to prove to me what a bad kid he was by trying everything he could to make himself unwanted. This session he started with something different.  He took a moment to examine some objects in my room, stared into my eyes for about seven seconds and then said, “Your purse is bigger today.”  Before I could respond, he took out his handball and began hitting it against the wall, which is something he knew was 'against the rules'. 

Before attempting to put a stop to the pounding, I took a moment to think about what had occurred before the handball made its appearance. He was curious about the room and made a comment about my purse.  I also thought of his jealousy of his younger brother who is the biological son of their mother, unlike my client whose birth mother died when he was a baby.  In my response to him, I took a risk and said, "You mentioned my purse was bigger. What do you imagine might be in there?"  He missed the ball which was on its way back to him from the wall, and sat on the floor with the ball rolling slowly to him.  He looked up and said, "A new kid is in your purse, and you don't want me anymore." This was the day the therapy really began. It was also a day that solidified my decision to pursue post-graduate analytic training.

I wanted to continue to work analytically and to do so with more preparation, information, theoretical background, supervision, understanding, and confidence.  I wanted to learn with people who were interested in this type of work and knew I needed to dedicate time and invest myself fully in this process.  I also wanted to develop my own private practice, an exciting but intimidating venture which can be overwhelming without the opportunity to share this experience with others working towards the same goal. 

I had heard about institutes that were offering what I wanted and went to several open houses in Long Island and Manhattan. Most of my visits, however, left me feeling lost in an environment that I experienced as overly formal and somewhat competitive with many wearing suits and handing out business cards.  They restated what was already on their brochures, and I think I would have had a warmer welcome at a workshop or seminar. 

When I went to SIPP's open house, which was actually in someone’s house, there was no suit in sight and I was greeted with smiles by everyone despite my anxiety and shyness in an unknown environment.  I’d gotten my warm welcome, and now it was time to see if the program was right for me.  SIPP was unique in having an open house where a candidate presented a case and received live supervision.  Not only was the experience fascinating to me, but I had fun too.
I decided that SIPP was right for me based not only on their program but because I liked what I observed, which was a bunch of therapists hanging around and discussing their work deeply with vitality and a bit humor. I am now a candidate in my first year at SIPP and am on my way to discovering myself, and learning how to deepen and expand the work that I love to do.