Student Spotlight: His Second PCCC Degree is - Chris Sivik
CLASS OF 2015
Spotlight on Our Graduates
Associate in Science Degree in
His Second Degree from PCCC is the First for the Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Treatment Program
This May, Chris Sivik will graduate from PCCC another degree closer to his dream career. The Totowa resident who earned an A.A. Degree in Liberal Arts in 2013 from PCCC will this year receive an A.S. in Science Degree in Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Treatment (PRT).
Chris will also have the distinction of being the first PCCC student to complete his degree in the PRT program, which was introduced two years ago and is offered jointly with Rutgers University School of Health Sciences.
Why two degrees? “A Liberal Arts program gives you everything you will need for most jobs,” explains Chris, who calls that degree “a foundation for my future.” But it was through the PRT program that he determined what his future would be.
“I always had the desire to help others,” said Chris “I just didn’t know how I would help before I took the Psychosocial Rehab program.”
Psychosocial rehab specialists help people with mental or emotional illness learn how to live and function in everyday society. This resonated with Chris, who coped throughout his life with dyslexia.
“Growing up, I had a hard time with school,” he said. “There really was no good help available for me.”
Tutored patiently by his mother, Chris was able to progress, despite his challenge. With that, he had a revelation.
“I realized I wasn’t much different from other people,” he said. “I may have a weakness, but I also discovered I had strengths, and we all have both weaknesses and strengths.”
Chris was drawn to the way PRT counselors seemed to apply a similar philosophy. “We help people with mental illness understand that they don’t have to be defined by their diagnosis,” he explained. “They learn that they have strengths, too.”
Passionate about the PRT program, Chris shared his experiences at a PCCC information session held last April for students interested in the field.
“This program changed my life,” Chris told the group. “I matured as a person, had a great internship, and received amazing support from my professors and other students in the program.”
Describing himself as a former “party person,” Chris said working directly with clients in the PRT program turned him around completely. “The most important thing for me was that I really learned to listen,” he said. “People with mental illness are usually not heard when they want to talk, but we learned to sit with them, listen to their stories, and engage with them.
As part of his program requirement, Chris had spent a period at Greystone Mental Hospital observing practices there. “I knew from that experience I did not want to work in an institution,” he said.
He much preferred the treatment approach he experienced through his three-month internship at My Home, a wellness center in Paterson where patients live in residential settings and meet their counselors in relaxed settings, such as community centers, on an outpatient basis.
“They respected us and appreciated us, because we didn’t label them,” said Chris. “We all worked as a team, peer-to-peer, and this helped them to be able to help themselves and each other.”
Chris equally enjoyed a second internship at On Our Own, a Hackensack facility where interns learned about various types of resources for their clients and how to connect the client with appropriate resources. “The internships were different, but both were valuable,” said Chris.
The second-time PCCC grad plans to eventually continue his education towards a bachelor’s degree and also pursue an advanced degree in counseling.
For now, he is set to take his CPRP (Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner) exam in October and is avidly seeking a full time position to continue the work he finds so fulfilling.
“My dream is to be able to talk to anyone with mental illness and help give them hope that they can do what they would like to do,” said Chris.