Brennan Tarvin, LPCA
I remember talking to my grandma (I call her Gigi) when I was young, maybe 11 or 12. While walking around with her, I told her I had a theory about why people look down when they walk. To me, at 11 or 12, it meant they were sad or nervous and didn’t want to talk to other people. However, I did have an add-on to that theory. I said, “Unless they are walking somewhere that might have dog poop, then, of course, you have to look down!” Gigi laughed at me but did say I was on to something there.
It has always been my way to try to understand people and their behaviors. We all act a certain way for a reason. Whether it's learned from our families, friends,
Entertainment or from some other source out there in the world. What I have enjoyed in the field is figuring out where those learned behaviors come from and how we can control them to live a better life.
I got into the counseling field because of a few good counselors I met when I was transitioning out of the United States Air Force.
After four years, two deployments, and plenty of stress it was time to get out. Also, my current girlfriend (now wife) said I would be single again if I stayed in the military!
Transitioning out of the military was stressful due to all the uncertainty I was facing. Not going to lie, I was spinning out of control. I had just gotten back from a deployment and was in a big state of adjustment. The military was secure regarding pay and job security. You don’t have that as a civilian! While I was in I did well too. I got promoted early, won several Airman of the Months (equivalent to an employee of the month) and won Airman of the Year (that one was pretty cool).
Funny to think that being a firefighter in the Air Force after two deployments felt safer than going back into the workforce.
After spending a few days with these counselors, I finally asked one of them, “How do I get where you are?”
The guy told me everything I needed to know about how to become a military family life counselor.
I loved the idea of being a family life counselor for veterans because the counselors I met were empathetic and supportive but also gave me real world advice.
Naturally, when you go through counselor school, you try and psycho-analyze yourself.
Here's my deep Freudian theory about why I joined the military.
I think it was because deep down I knew the life I was living wasn't a life worth living.
As the oldest child of my mom and the only child of my father (who is still an addict), I was the caretaker of many people at a very young age. It wore me out, and for a while, I rebelled, pretty hard.
I was in a pivotal stage of my life when I made this big decision.
Joining the military and leaving my hometown was the most selfish thing I ever did. I left my father to fend for himself, I told my mom she had to handle her emotions without me, and I told my little brother and sister that I was not always going to be there to pick them up when they fell. At the age of 22, I hightailed it out of town to make my life, my way.
From the time I left the military in 2013, I was bound and
determined to become a counselor.
I worked nights at UPS during the holidays, delivered
food, became a soccer coach at an English as a Second
Language School and did just about anything I could to
keep us going while she finished school.
Eventually, my wife was offered a job in Greenville, SC.
Just so happens that Clemson ain’t too far and has a
great counseling program,
hmmm lucky me!
When we moved to Greenville, I was determined not to take just any job. I wanted something in the field. I wanted to learn by doing. After a few months of not working, finally, I caught a break.
The Carolina Center for Behavioral Health had a night position open on the detox unit, helping people get off drugs and alcohol. This is going to sound weird, I loved it. The patients were happy to see me when I came in, they could tell I cared and I spoke their language. Of course, people tried to take advantage of me! They saw a young looking guy that smiled a lot so maybe they could weasel something past me. I got tricked a few times but it did not take me long to learn how to call people out on their crap.
I was able to work part-time in the Electro-Convulsive Therapy unit while I went to Clemson. I later transitioned to the assessment department and trained in the insurance department. Assessment was great for me because it combined my crisis skills from the military and the skills I was picking up in school. It did, however, become too close to my crisis past and stressed me out too much. Then, luckily, I was given the full-time therapist position on the detox unit that I had started at. So I went from the lowest position at nights to a pretty important position of a full-time counselor at normal freaking hours. I felt like I'd finally earned my stripes.
You may not know this, but even after
you graduate with a Master's degree
in counseling, you still have to do two
years of something called supervision.
It's kinda like getting a sponsor in AA.
You ask someone who has been in the
field for a while to mentor you and
make sure you keep your head on
I had heard some good things about
Amber from some people I work with
at the hospital. So I made the decision
that Amber had to be my supervisor.
Mainly because this stuff is important to me.
If you are going to learn, you should learn
from the best! So I called to see if she
would take me on for supervision and…..
got shot down. If you can’t tell by now,
when I make a decision I stick with it!
Lucky for me, Amber's best friend worked at the hospital with me. So for months,I asked her to put in a good word for me. It got to the point that she would just start laughing at me when she saw me in the hallway. Finally, she caved and did tell Amber that I was worth a shot.
Right away, I saw that Amber and I had similar philosophies about helping people.
I truly believe that time is precious. We should spend it with the people we want to be around. Doing things we want to be doing. Making ourselves happy, then once we are able to do that, help make others happy.
I took control over my life at a time I desperately had to. So I focus on control. What can we control? What matters to us? How do we move on from things we can’t control? How can we be selectively selfish while also being mindful of others?
So many questions! It can be done.
Final theory. Everyone has the ability to live the life they want to live. I know, because I am.