Jiaqing Wilson-Yang has been working at SACHA since January as a student in SACHA’s Counselling and Advocacy program. We asked her to write about her experiences and what other placement students at SACHA might expect.
Hi there, my name is Jiaqing Wilson-Yang, and I have just completed my BSW Student Placement at SACHA, and I loved it. It was a huge learning experience and being here has greatly increased my skills as a Social Worker.
Some things to know about SACHA — It’s a modified collective. That means, that decisions are made by the staff as a group. No staff member has greater authority over another staff member. Which means you can not only ask questions about why a decision is being made, but you can be a part of making the decision. For those of us looking for organizations that embed anti racist/anti oppressive practices into their structure and work, SACHA is a great example.
In the collective structure, the organization is build with conversation and critical thinking in mind. There is room for change and conflicting opinion. For me, this has translated into a much more respectful and thoughtful work place. There is consideration of the limits of workers in terms of caseload and workload. When I was determining the caseload that I would carry as a student, I was repeatedly asked what I thought I could handle, and encouraged to revisit that as time passed. Which leads me to my next point: a SACHA, as a student, you carry a caseload.
I was privileged to work with about 15 service users in an ongoing way, and many many more in a short term way. I took people’s name off the counselling wait-list, and with the support and supervision of the other counsellors here, I worked with people through the 16 appointments that are offered to them at SACHA. In these sessions I was alone with the service user, providing actual counselling. I had regular supervision with the other counsellors and frequently would drop by the offices of the other counsellors for feedback and to debrief the sessions. At SACHA you have three counsellors who provide supervision, which might sound like a lot, but it’s actually great. No one will tell you exactly what to do, you’ll have to work that out on your own, but you will have three (and sometimes more) perspectives to draw from. This encourages you to develop your own skill and to seek out support when you need it, which means you need to be self-reflexive enough to know when you need help.
As well as counselling, I:
- did intakes in person and over the phone,
- provided one-time emergency support appointments,
- worked with other service providers to coordinate supports,
- accompanied survivors to report violence to the police,
- attended the volunteer crisis support line training,
- spoke at city hall about their trans inclusion protocol
- went to a number of community events and trainings.
I also attended the meeting of the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres and see how the SACHA fits into a larger network of organizations. I attended staff meetings and anti racist/anti oppressive practice meetings.
A placement at SACHA is a lot of work, but it’s an incredible skill building experience. You need to be comfortable being independent, but be assured you will have support, you just need to seek it out. SACHA is very different than other social services that I’ve worked in. It’s welcoming, it’s self motivated, and it employs anti racist and anti oppressive practice rather than simply talking about it in policy. I wanted to do my placement here because I knew that as a trans woman of colour, I would be respected and able to develop my skills as a Social Worker.
If all of that sounds good to you, SACHA is definitely a placement you should consider.