Counselling Skills/Social Human Services student Caitlin Westhaver is juggling school with working two jobs within industry.
She began working at HomeBridge Youth Society a few weeks ago and has been with the Salvation Army since May.
As a casual residential support worker at the Salvation Army she provides things to her clients such as toiletries, paperwork and any support clients feel they would like to talk about.
“I truly say the epitome of working with the Salvation Army is just meeting an individual where they’re at,” said Westhaver. “That kind of responsibility ranges in all different things. Sometimes it’s just giving them a towel, sometimes it’s listening to someone that’s had a rough day.”
Her work at Homebridge Youth Society is as a youth care worker with children 12-18 who don’t have a great home life and can’t live with either their biological family or who they’ve been placed in care with.
These are individuals struggling with advanced mental health behaviour or non-compliance issues with adult authoritative figures. She assists them with their independence by helping them cook meals, follow recipes, act as a sounding board or answer questions that their educational or family lives have been unable to teach them.
“A lot of it is ministry of presence,” said Westhaver. “Just providing that safety without actually saying anything.”
She went to HomeBridge Youth Society because she wanted to work with different populations and to see how the skills she’s gaining in the program are able to be utilized.
“How you kind of have to maneuver and change the same information, but communicate that to someone with a different education level, a different age group and even a different gender,” said Westhaver.
This is the first time Counselling Skills Social Human Services instructor James Ingram has had a student work there while still being enrolled in the program. He added this shows she has the right attitude for the field.
Westhaver said working at both places at the same time is like going “180 degrees.” She’s juggling that with going to school, raising a child, a partner who has a job that can keep him away six months at a time, maintaining a household and planning a wedding.
“It’s finding comfort in knowing this is where I want to be,” said Westhaver.
“There’s this unconscious type of motivation and determination to be in the field while still learning the information and understanding how impactful this information and knowledge we’re gaining through this program actually applies within the field.”
Ingram said as a student she’s self aware of her own emotions.
“She understands how to prioritize and time management. She’s very mature and doesn’t make any excuses.”
Westhaver was born, raised and went to high school in Bermuda. She is a graduate of Mount Saint Vincent University’s Bachelor of Arts in Psychology program and found her way to Maritime Business College while applying for a master’s program.
She added when choosing a career she wasn’t good at business or math, but had an ability in art and was able to talk to people.
“I wanted to figure out a way to combine the two of those things to make a sustainable and happy life for myself and my career,” she said. “This is what this (program) is providing for me.”
“I always told myself I would never be in a job where I wasn’t helping somebody or at least trying to.”
In the fall Westhaver will do her on-the-job training with the Anchorage Program at the Salvation Army.
After receiving a glimpse into the process of addiction and the barriers it creates individuals this opportunity gives her the ability to add to her knowledge and experience of what the recovery aspect of addiction looks like.
Her career goals are to work in some form of addictions focusing on the male population. She plans on getting some form of art therapy certification in order to incorporate it in her counselling sessions.
She also wants to obtain a master’s degree so she can become a psychologist in hopes of someday opening her own practice.
“Right now I feel working in shelters is where I need to be and I’m happy with where I am,” said Westhaver.
She’s “incredibly appreciative” of being in the counselling skills program and learning from Ingram and fellow instructor Megan Carbray while also being excited for what her future holds following graduation later this year.
“I didn’t know how much potential I would have had if it wasn’t for this.”