My first experience was working in the YMCA with hundreds of children and teens while I was attending Augusta College. I served as Gym and Swimming Instructor, supervising three other young men in caring for and teaching the youth. It was amazing what we taught those so young about life.
From there I served as a YMCA team builder in the communities, organizing football and baseball teams and coaching them to win many a game against other community teams.
Next I served as Camp Counselor at the YMCA summer camp. My first six weeks was working with eight juvenile delinquent boys. Let me tell you that was a challenge just to keep them from fighting, not to mention the struggle of teaching them how to organize their clothes, make their beds and walk in line to the mess hall. Every night we had cabin devotions and at meals I taught them table manners. Can you believe that? Would you pass the potatoes—-please? But my eight boys learned cabin organization and cleanliness so they were first to eat at most every meal. They were the only group to have all eight swim the entire half-mile in the lake for graduation.
The second six weeks was as challenging. I traded my best performers to other counselors for their misfits. It wasn’t as scary teaching them as it was the delinquents, but certainly as rewarding. Like the others, they won the right every day to be first to eat and swam the half-mile at graduation. But teaching misfits to fit was the challenge. They were all bullied so I had to teach each his own way of stopping the bullying. I taught most psychological ways to defend themselves. Only one had to be taught to box, but nobody bullied him after that. Besides the bullying aspect, there were countless other spontaneous teaching opportunities.
During the school year I was a Sunday School teacher for nine and ten year old boys. Not as exciting, but certainly as fulfilling for both my boys and me. I continued as Gym and Swim Instructor at the Augusta YMCA.
During my last two years at UGA, I worked as a Camp Counselor at Camp Carolina in Brevard, NC. I was the archery instructor and had eight nine and ten year olds. That camp had more activities than the YMCA camp in Augusta, like horseback riding, golf, mountain runs and hikes. I gained recognition for helping the angry children from other cabins to get along with the rest. I found my kids to be quite mature in the way they helped with the problem kids.
After UGA I served in the USAF for four years. There I was fortunate enough to work with children and teen groups associated with the Chaplaincy Programs. The difference was that many of the fathers of the kids were shot down and killed in Viet Nam, so leading youth groups entailed dealing with grief as well.
After the Air Force I returned to enter Theology School expecting to return to the military as a chaplain. Things happened and I ended up a pastor in three small churches in Ga. The work I got to do in organizing and leading youth groups was very fruitful and rewarding for all of us.
I left the ministry to pursue professional counseling. First there was my practicum at a mental health facility. There I was counselor to girls who had just been raped as well as older ones trying to deal with their rapes. Many of my patients were ADHD. Convincing parents to give them medication was a big challenge. Some were delusional, schizophrenic, or psychotic. One had been brought in for trying to stab his sleeping father. But for the most part, my job to was to gain their confidence and talk to them about how to live with others, to share, to fit in, to be accepted and the many challenges all youth have to go through.
After graduation as an LPC one notable job I had was serving as a camp counselor in an outdoor psychiatric facility. That was like nothing I had ever experienced. I served as group counselor seven nights a week for a year having group therapy around a camp fire. The main frustration on rainy or snowy nights was trying to start the fire. These were troubled teens ages 14 to 19, some violent or suicidal. I had to sleep with one eye open at night to protect myself. And the issues I had to resolve were in many cases different from anything I had ever experienced. Bullying, rape, parental violence and mental illness, alcoholic and drug addicted parents, all my kids had been on drugs. One had been a drug dealer. One had stolen cars and even an eighteen wheeler, which he hid in a neighborhood cul-de-sac. Another was a sadistic psychopath that had tortured housecats and dogs. Most were Anti-Social as we call them now, Sociopaths as we called them then. Things got tense around the campfire, like when one of the boys picked up a log and threatened to hit all of us with it. But once I got their confidence and they started talking, I could have written books about the hell they had gone through at home, school, community before they were fifteen. It was a working camp, so every day I supervised them in loading big rocks, or cutting trees and hauling them or building pathways with the rocks. They arrived angry and ready to fight. I had to work that anger out during the day. What I was able to teach them in how to get along, how to work together, table manners, how to talk to girls on occasion and their parents, how to handle bullying, and much more. It was all an incredible experience.
When I finally made it into private practice, most of my clients were adults. I did see children and teens and young adults for a number of different issues. Most of the issues have been ADHD, suicide thoughts and attempts, drug problems, communication, parental conflicts, pervasive sadness due to bullying, bullying, anger and other emotional issues, divorce, separation anxiety, all kinds of anxieties, panic disorders, depression, early detection of Bipolar Disorders, early detection of Narcissistic tendencies, violence, ideations of homicide, and the list goes on and on. For one boy, I taught him how to use his panic attacks to win races.
One things is for certain, I love working with children, teens and young adults. I love teaching single parents how to communicate with their children or teens. I love teaching parents and children and teens how to love each other through conversation and outings together. And I love working with adults. I just love using who I am and what I know to help others.