03/01/2005

A Day in the Life of a Delegate

by Amy Benedict-Augustine

 
 
"Dear Ms. Benedict-Augustine:

I am honored to invite you to participate in an international professional and cultural program. People to People Ambassador Programs is developing a delegation of counselors to meet in China in October 2004. As the appointed delegation leader, I believe you would contribute valued expertise to the mission, while gaining immeasurably from the experience."
 
Thus read the January 29, 2004 invitation letter from David Kaplan, Ph.D., Immediate Past President of the American Counseling Association. It proved to be the beginning of a delightful journey.

As I later learned, members of the American Counseling Association were invited to participate in this delegation whose initial goals included promote international learning, build relationships between professional counselors and counselor educators, discuss issues related to the profession, and increase global awareness. Proposed discussion topics were comparison of the counseling profession in China and the United States; counseling specialties, certifications, and licenses; training of counselors; professional counseling organizations; counseling theories, approaches, and techniques utilized in China; focus of counseling by population; influence of cultural values on counseling; innovative counseling research topics; counseling approach to counseling ethics; and utilization of assessment instruments. Based on delegate's individual interests, additional topics were added.

On Friday, October 1, I began to meet my fellow delegates and new "best friends" for the next two weeks. They represented a variety of counseling backgrounds as well as geographic locations. We all experienced lots of confusion as "first timers" on a trans-Pacific flight but that actually assisted the group bonding process. The 13-hour flight was l-o-n-g but the Cathay Pacific staff made it as comfortable as possible; food and drink were available around the clock as well as a good selection of movies (Glenn Close and Nichole Kidman in the "Stepford Wives" made the last two hours bearable!).

There was more "first timer" confusion once we landed at the Hong Kong airport. Feeling rather dazed, I found that brushing my teeth and doing a little shopping with my fellow delegates helped tremendously.

Once we arrived in Beijing on Sunday, October 3 (after 35 hours in transit) and were met outside the baggage claim by our People to People National Guide, Leonard Wang, every detail was complete. My toughest decisions were what to wear each day and what dish to eat first at each meal.

Rather than give day by day details of every professional and cultural activity, I am including a journal-like overview of the delegation's itinerary:

      Monday, October 4 - walking tour of the Forbidden City; tour and lunch at cloisonn, factory; Great Wall of China



      Tuesday, October 5 - meeting in a hotel conference room with president of the China Association for Mental Health; presentation "Counseling in the UK" by Dr. Gabrielle Syme and Robert Ibberson; afternoon tour of the Psychological Counseling Center of Tongren Hospital; visit to Tianamen Square; Peking duck dinner



      Wednesday, October 6 - Beijing Normal University Psychological Counseling Center; tour of Old Beijing's hutong, including rickshaw ride; tea ceremony at the bell tower; Beijing Opera performance



      Thursday, October 7 - flight to Shanghai (my suitcase did not arrive with me!); tour of Jade Buddha Temple



      Friday, October 8 - visit Shanghai Mental Health Center; visit Mental Health Center, Hong Kou District; attend Shanghai acrobatic show



      Saturday, October 9 - visit Jin Cai Middle School; afternoon tour of Shanghai Museum



      Sunday, October 10 - tour of carpet factory; lunch at home of a local family; tour of Yu Garden; shopping at the Bazaar; farewell banquet



    Monday, October 11 - flight to Hong Kong, back to San Francisco for some, optional extension in Hong Kong for others

As I reflect back on the initial goals of the delegation,"promote international learning, build relationships between professional counselors and counselor educators, discuss issues related to the profession, and increase global awareness"; I am amazed at how successfully the goals were achieved in such a short amount of time. For example, I got a glimpse of the Chinese system for training counselors and providing services and was able to discuss with these colleagues the differences and similarities between our two countries. Through a contact made during the meeting at Beijing Normal University, I have begun exchanging e-mails with faculty member Jean Hou and hope to do some collaborative cross-cultural research. A colleague at the Shanghai Mental Health Center lived in the same part of Boston during a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard as I did during my graduate work at Boston College. And I saw that babies and young children are a universal connector for complete strangers who only share the language of admiring smiles. It really is a very small world.

David Kaplan, PhD, delegation leader and past president of the American Counseling Association, summarized the experience in the delegation's recently published journal:"China is timeless and has many centuries of history and rich traditions from which to draw upon. At the same time, many changes have occurred since the death of Mao Zedong. A new sense of openness and freedom and the one-child policy have combined to unbalance the homeostasis of Chinese society. The Chinese have looked to counseling as part of the solution to both deal with the new problems that have occurred and to help restore equilibrium. The Chinese counselors that we met were very open to learning about Western approaches that might assist them; in fact they seemed at times like sponges taking it all in (as we also were learning from their culture, techniques and approaches). Because counseling is so new in China, little seems to have been done yet to integrate Western theories (which emphasize the individual) into a comprehensive approach that best serves the relational approaches of the Chinese culture. There has also been little corresponding planning for comprehensive training and credentialing. Perhaps these issues will emerge over the next decade as Chinese counseling continues to grow and develop."
There is so much more that I could share, so many details, great pictures, too - are you intrigued? Do you want to know more? Would you like to go? Details regarding a November 2005 career development professionals' delegation can be found on the People to People Ambassador's website at http://www.ambassadorprograms.org. Also feel free to contact me, Amy Benedict-Augustine via e-mail at alb44@cornell.edu or by phone at 607/255-2215.




Amy Benedict-Augustine ,NCCC, is currently working as the Director of Career Development at NYS, College of Agriculture & Life Sciences at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. She received her MA in Counseling Psychology from Boston College, and BA from Elmira College. She can be reached at Email: alb44@cornell.edu


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