Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Siena and May 28th Sessions

This morning we had two presentations: another one by Dr. Remley and one by a UAB graduate and current Auburn doctoral student Asha. 

Asha’s presentation was on multicultural counseling and more specifically counseling African American women.  The subject of immigration arose and I learned something new about Alabama’s immigration law.  She shared with us that Fellowship House (a substance abuse services facility in Birmingham and her place of employment) cannot provide services to individuals who do not have Alabama licenses.  Fellowship House could lose their certification if they decided to ignore this law.

She also had us do the Privilege Walk, which is one of my favorite activities.  Every time I participate I get something new out of the experience.  It is a great activity to raise awareness and open a discussion of culture, social justice, privilege, discrimination, etc.

Dr. Remley had us begin by reflecting on our observations of Italian culture since his first presentation.  It was interesting to hear our different experiences.  He then shared some of his experiences in some other countries: Bhutan and Oman.  This was very interesting as I knew next to nothing about these two places.  Then, a doctoral student, Rachel, shared her experience about her living in China for the past five years.  She shared with us that the earthquake Chengdu raised the need for crisis counseling.  In China women have a higher success rate for suicide, which is different from in the U.S. The divorce rate is also rising.

Siena was such an interesting city!! It is divided into neighborhoods named for various animals like pandas, dragons, unicorns, owls, etc.  The tradition is centuries old.  The dragons colors are red, green, and yellow, and they had just had a celebration so those are the flags you see in one of the pictures below.  The first bank in the world is located here as well.  We toured a cathedral and that was heavily influenced by Muslim design. The final photograph is of the library of the cathedral (it is of the ceiling).  A wonderful woman named Roberta gave us a 2 hour tour and shared much of the city’s history!

Here are some photographs:

May 26th Sessions: San Gimignano & Vallombrosa

Dr. Becky Michel started off our day with a presentation on multicultural awareness, career, and personal strengths.  I really enjoyed her style or presenting and the topics covered.  She introduced a concept centered on strengths and weaknesses and posed the question: as Americans do we tend to focus more on building our weaknesses to average instead of enhancing our strengths? What could happen if we focused more on our strengths?  In Italy we are constantly surrounded by exquisite art and definitely makes you ponder how our world has shifted over the centuries.

After Dr. Becky’s presentation, two women who work with human trafficking in Italy came to Casa Cares to speak to us about their experiences.  In Italy prostitution is not illegal, but exploiting prostitutes is illegal.  When the presenters go out into the streets, the work under the disguise of a doctor.

One woman is from Nigeria and works with Nigerian people. The other woman is from Romania and works with Eastern European people.  They provided a plethora of information and described many differences between nations and tendencies of traffickers.  In Nigeria, women are generally tricked into coming and once they arrive must pay traffickers 50,000 to 60,000 euros until they are considered free.  By the time the women pay off the debt, there is some instance of them changing roles and becoming the traffickers.  I am focusing on women, because the presenter focused on women, but she mentioned a rise in young boys being trafficked. 

The Romanian women are generally coerced by “boyfriends” and are held not by violence and fear, but by psychological manipulation.  Some women even knew they were coming to Italy to make money for having sex.  In the past, exploiters used torture and rape, but in the presenters words, “became more clever due to arrests and only started recruiting women who knew they were coming to prostitute.”  The exploiters do not allow women to have clients who are of the same nationality or speak the same language for fear that bad things will be said to them in their own language (which is interesting, considering they are already causing them pain…)

At the end of the session, the Romanian commented on how “the world is not the same” after working with human trafficking victims.  She commented on her tendency to pay attention to certain people, behaviors, etc. when she visits new cities, because of what she has seen.  I appreciated her honestly and reflection, because I have definitely felt this way with my work with sexual assault and domestic violence. 

Two cities I visited around this time were San Gimignano and Vallombrosa.  I did not do much in San Gimignano compared to other cities, but I did attend a torture museum (these are big there).  It was creepy.  Sierra and I found a cute little restaurant/coffee shop and went back before the bus ride to enjoy some vino and music!

Vallombrosa was beautiful and had a lot of camping land and forestry.  We had the opportunity to attend a mass in Latin, but I chickened out so Sierra and I just walked around some more. 

Here are some photographs from some of the trips: 

Sessions on May 24 and Assisi Trip

We had the pleasure of listening to Eugenio Bacchini, a counselor in Italy.  He explained that as a counselor he focuses on improvement and empowerment.  Counseling in Italy is more similar to life coaching than what we are trained to do as counselors in the U.S.  He was the first representative nominated from Italy for the European Union counseling association.  Most of the clients he sees have anxiety over the current economic conditions.

After speaking about counseling, he spoke on some common differences among Americans and Italians (he is married to a woman from Boston).  He cleared up something I had been wondering: it is common for Italians to stare.  I have had many instances where I wonder why someone is so intently looking at me.  He talked about alcohol as well and reiterated the common practice to pour a few drops into water glasses of children in order to get the accustomed to the taste.  He said in Italy you do not have to show that you drink a lot in order to be a man.  If Italians get drunk, it is usually a mistake and not on purpose.  His quote on weapons, “in Italy weapons are for police officers and gangsters; the state has to protect me not myself.”

After Eugenio a woman named Amy Klien presented.  She was very entertaining!  She is an ex-Patriot and came over here in her college days.  Now she works as the Assistant Director of Health and Wellness at Syracuse University in Italy.  The word counselor was once in her title, but this changed because of the litigation climate in the U.S.  She helps students and employees.

Dr. Tyson (my advisor at UAB) presented in the afternoon.  He had us dialogue on whether or not counseling programs should require personal counseling for students.  I was unaware that UAB's policy was fairly new and came about because of his experiences in Italy.  In Italy students are required to complete 50 hours of personal counseling, but at UAB we are required to complete 8.  I personally agree with the decision, but it was interesting to hear different sides. 

Like I mentioned earlier, Assisi was such a wonderful experience!  Sierra and I climbed the rocca. We were in the highest tower when Sierra noticed a couple kissing down below.  Before we knew it the man pulled out a ring and placed it on the woman’s finger.  Before we really thought about it, we yelled out congratulations!  To get out of the rocca, we had to walk through a tunnel and reflected on how creepy that probably was because the couple probably thought they were alone (oops!!) But then we passed them and she showed us her ring and they said thank you! It was such a sweet event to witness!!

Here are some pictures from the trip!  The amazing view photographs are from various towers in the rocca! 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Day 6

Our first presentation was completed by Dott. Andrew Cicogni, a psychiatrist of Azienda Sanitaria di Firenze (National Health Service).  His presentation was refreshing in his description of his services.  He provides art therapy, music therapy, theatre therapy, social skills training and seems to approach his sessions from a wellness approach.  He commented that “It is not how to cure; what can I do to stay well?”

He also covered some of the history of psychiatry in Italy.  A law in 1978 outlawed asylums.  During the last portion of his presentation, he spoke about domestic violence.  He works with domestic violence perpetrators.  He reported that domestic violence is very prevalent and some men justified their assaults or murders of their wives if the wife had cheated.

A counselor named Lorenzo, who is part of a prominent counseling school in Italy, presented our next session.  He explained the educational process of counseling.  In UAB’s counseling program, we are required to complete 8 sessions of counseling as a client.  In Italy, it is common for instructors to counsel their students!  A minimum of 50 hours of personal counseling is required. He reiterated Paola’s claim that two types of students exist: students who want to become counselors and students who are taking counseling classes to better themselves.

In the afternoon, Dr. Paul offered a walking tour of the area surrounding Casa Cares.  We visited an olive press and a wine cellar.  The family decided to stop producing wine, but the enormous barrels are still present.  There are small holes in the barrels through which workers would go inside.  Some of our smaller participants were encouraged to enter through the holes, but they decided to just take a picture and pretend!

The building rents out apartments for people visiting Italy and even owns a peacock!  Unfortunately, I think we scared the peacock as we crowded around.

Some photographs from the tour:

After our tour, a man named Salvatore came to demonstrate how he makes cheese from sheep milk.  I tried the cheese!

My next blog post will be about the city of Assisi, which I believe has surpassed Lucca in favoritism… J

Pace e bene!


On Tuesday, we took our first trip to Florence!  I had been waiting for this day, because I had heard so much about the sites available to explore.  We took a bus to the train station and took a train into Florence.  Dr. Krieg guided us through parts of the city before stopping to have a coffee.  Sierra decide to ride a carousel and explore some more instead of sitting down.

 We first went to the Uffizi.  If you love art, you will love this! I was enthralled by the differences between the paintings and how the artists decided to portray certain Christian stories.  Some paintings displayed people of various hair color, skin color, body shape, etc. while others displayed people looking the same.  I was surprised at how many paintings displayed people with strawberry blonde to red hair.  Pictures were not allowed in the Ufizzi :(.

After the Ufizzi, we followed Dr. Krieg to a sit down restaurant and enjoyed some fellowship with one another.  Then, he took us to the Ponte Vecchio (a section of Florence known for its jewelry shopping).  The jewelry was beautiful, but a tad to high for an AmeriCorps member!

For the rest of the day, we ended up just enjoyed some cafe and vino with some other participants and then just walked around through the city.  We will have a few more chances to go back during which I hope to see the duomo!

Here are some more pictures from Florence: