Venturing into the professional world for the first time is nerve-wracking enough, but imagine venturing into a career that didn't exist less than a year ago.
Luckily for Lidija (pronounced “Lydia”) Situm, much of what she does as IPFW's first clinical director for the university's Community Counseling Center is expecting the unexpected.
“Anytime you work with a variety of people, there's always going to be something that wasn't in the book,” Situm said. “You learn to handle these things.”
Situm, 28, joined the counseling education program nine months ago to oversee the Community Counseling Center, a training facility for the program's students. Situm, who earned her master's degree in counseling in 2012 from Indiana University while attending IPFW, said she wanted be involved with the program after graduation.
As the counseling program grew, so did the need for someone to manage the center and reach out to the community about its services.
“I think that this program has a really high quality with really great faculty members, and I think we do a really good job in terms of the experiences our students get,” Situm said. “I was really lucky that this opportunity came up.”
Situm manages students and their weekly caseloads at the counseling center; every counseling student must train at the center for two to three semesters before beginning an internship.
She also helps students who are pursuing internships or their professional licensing, and she works with faculty and practicing counselors who are supervisors in the clinic.
Assistant professor Benjamin Houltberg said he knew of Situm's work ethic as a student, which he said made her a fitting choice for any professional position. Her passion confirmed that she was prepared to take on this particular job.
“You're really working with a lot of difficult situations,” Houltberg said. “(Situm) has a calm demeanor and an empathetic presence with people. She genuinely cares for people and wants to help people, and she communicates that very strongly.”
Situm said one of the most important aspects of her job is reaching out to the community about the program's free counseling services for the community.
“It is really important that the community knows we're here,” she said. “Although we are a training facility, we offer a really good quality of care, and we ensure that by having the appropriate people supervise.”
Houltberg said Situm's responsibilities have given the clinic the support and attention it needed, and the influx of clients proves it.
“She always has been good in what she does, but it's been really cool to see her transition into a role as a colleague,” he said. “She has hit the ground running this year and has done a really nice job of taking this role, making it her own and expanding what we have to offer.”
Situm, who is originally from Bosnia, moved to the U.S. with her parents and sister when she was 11. The family settled in Dallas for a year before heading north to Fort Wayne. As she grew up, Situm said, she knew she wanted a career that would help people.
“I think life experiences had a lot to do with it,” she said. “There's a lot that goes into moving from a different country, and different people were definitely involved in helping my family get acclimated to a new culture, and that experience was pretty profound.”
Situm is working on balancing her family life with her husband,Dane, and their 1-year-old son, Liam, with her full-time position at IPFW and her appointment to the Indiana Association for Marriage and Family Therapy as an associate representative.
As a licensed marriage and family therapist associate, she must complete 2,000 post-degree clinical hours toward her licensure; she has completed half of her hours as a part-time marriage and family therapist at a local private practice.
Situm believes the reason why counseling students are required to have so much supervised training is because that profession requires students to be able to analyze and discuss their own behaviors as well.
“The process of becoming a counselor is an interesting one in that you have to have the educational experience, but there is also a personal experience component to it,” she said.
“You have to really try to find the balance of work and personal life. There are times when different stories and different cases hit you harder than other ones, for various reasons.
“I like to be really mindful of what I'm experiencing at any moment, and when I'm driving home from work, I practice staying mindful of what is consuming my thoughts, and just work through letting those thoughts go.
“By doing it on my way home, I can walk through the door and be a mom, a wife and a person,” she said.
Focus on newcomers