Counseling Today, Online Exclusives

Who influences today’s counselors?

Compiled by Bethany Bray March 3, 2016

WWYD_1Who are the major influences on today’s counseling professionals? What voices, both within and outside of the profession, are counselors listening to and intently following?

Recently, Counseling Today posed these questions to a random assortment of American Counseling Association members and a few select counseling leaders. The responses were as diverse as the association’s membership. From personal mentors and supervisors to eminent thinkers and authors, from human rights champions to neuroscientists and others on the cutting edge of research, today’s counselors are influenced by a wide variety of voices.

 

Editor’s note: This online exclusive article is an addendum to Counseling Today’s March cover story on influential thinkers. Many thanks to the numerous counselors across ACA who contributed to this project.

 

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The counselor who has had the biggest impact on me is my clinical supervisor, Kim Kelley. She taught me the value of truly practicing self-care, rather than just giving lip service to it. She also helped me with patience and self-compassion. She is a shining example of what an ethical, humane practitioner is like.

Brad Reedy, a psychologist whom I have had the pleasure of knowing well, has also had a profound influence on the way I work with clients. He once said to me “the way you hold the client in your mind matters.” Having seen how well he holds clients in his mind, I have tried to emulate this.

James Hollis has written terrific books that compel a deeper examination of the human condition. He taught me that psychotherapy means “listening to the soul,” according to the Greek roots of those words.

Outside the profession, I have been most influenced by my parents, who together taught me the value of equality, generosity and the balance between a worldly life and a spiritual life. They believe that fortunate people have a responsibility to help those less fortunate, and I try to carry this idea from them in my daily life and work.

One of my biggest inspirations in life comes from the founder of Aikido, a man named Morihei Ueshiba. He was a very disciplined, thoughtful man and he developed this martial art to serve humanity. Aikido teaches self-control, patience, poise, relaxation, harmony and care for all beings. I have been profoundly influenced by his teachings and writings.

The author Hermann Hesse has deeply affected my thinking through his books, most notably Siddhartha and Steppenwolf. He writes with such heart, and he captures the beauty and struggle of humanity so well. — Peter Allen, program director for College Excel in Bend, Oregon

 

 

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Aaron and Judith Beck’s version of cognitive behavioral therapy is by far the most influential to my practice. This model can be applied to a wide variety of problems and offers a strong framework for me, as a counselor, to conceptualize my clients’ problems. It also provides a multifaceted framework for client improvement. Behavioral techniques (e.g., relaxation) can be used to bring about rapid improvement in symptoms. This allows for more long-term cognitive change to occur as clients are able to gain relief from overwhelming emotional states. The model just makes sense to me.

Richard Ryan and Edward Deci are also currently large influences for me. They are in the world of psychology as a whole, but not heard about much in what we do as counselors. Their self-determination theory is important to my practice. This theory informs a great deal of my work with criminal justice clients, but I would encourage any counselor to investigate this approach to understanding human behavior and motivation. I believe self-determination theory can help us wrap our heads around client problems and, most importantly, solutions. — Jason E. Newsome, licensed professional counselor (LPC), approved licensed professional supervisor (ALPS) and president of Dayspring Counseling Center in Dunbar, West Virginia

 

 

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I am a psychologist who has been a school teacher and principal. The people who influence me most and allow me to grow as a professional and as a person are my patients. Each of the people I meet with has a unique story and have chosen to include me in one of their chapters. I view that as a great honor to accompany them in those pages and listen to them as the writers. I listen to what motivates them and their style of writing. I listen for how they choose to express themselves and the pictures they paint with their words. I try to imagine their characters in their lives and how they have contributed to their growth. I help them recreate timelines, settings and plots. I listen and help them process what they believe to be the climax of their story and I guide them to use different points of view. They are the writers and I learn from their life stories and sometimes, if we are lucky, there are happy endings but I always know there is suspense and adventure in every one of my patient’ s stories. — Robyn Glickman, school and clinical psychologist in Michigan 

 

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I rely on the works of brilliant psychiatrists who are neuroscientists such as Bruce Perry, Daniel Siegel and Bessel van der Kolk. Without understanding the brain, it is difficult to be effective as a counselor. The brain and mind impact each other which means at a minimum, the two are intertwined with thoughts, emotions, chemicals, genetic predisposition, previous experiences and misfiring neurons — which means that focusing on the psychology of the client alone is not enough. I am a licensed professional counselor in Macomb County, Michigan and most of my experience has been with children and adolescents; predominantly those with an array of anxiety and mood disorders and (who) often come with a history of abuse, neglect or trauma. In addition to an eclectic approach to counseling based on the popular theorists of our field, I use modalities such as neurofeedback and animal assisted therapy in my work. — Amy Johnson, LPC, unit marketing manager and director of the animal assisted therapy certificate at Oakland University School of Nursing, Rochester, Michigan

 

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Paulo Freire has tremendously influenced my work as a counselor educator. Freire was a Brazilian educator who focused on the educational experiences of the most marginalized members of Brazilian society. His book Pedagogy of the Oppressed transformed how I view education and inspired my work with marginalized communities to foster critical consciousness. In my courses I avoid lecturing, reduce power differentials, encourage dialogue and questioning and promote critical consciousness in my students. Inspired by Freire, my research focuses on the oppression of marginalized groups; I study the negative impacts of racism and internalized racism. Freire’s teachings also inspired my research on strategies that promote critical consciousness and sociopolitical development in counseling students and K-16 (kindergarten through college) students. Freire’s notion of praxis (a circular marriage of theory and practice) is also a major influence. I am co-founder of a charter school that uses my work on sociopolitical development to foster the empowerment of marginalized students. — Carlos P. Hipolito-Delgado, associate professor and program leader in the counseling program at the University of Colorado Denver and chairman of the ACA Foundation

 

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Within the counseling profession, my work has been most influenced by three specific theorists who have informed how I practice, how I believe mental health issues develop and how they are best resolved: Carl Rogers, William Glasser and Albert Ellis. I use one or a combination of the three approaches when treating clients. Rogers taught me how to treat clients that simply need a safe space to process and express. Glasser taught me how to help clients who make poor decisions. Finally, Ellis taught me how to resolve depression, anxiety and other mental health diagnoses and symptoms. Together, the three approaches can be used to treat almost any client that I would see.

Outside of the counseling field, the Dalai Lama has most influenced my views and my work. There are many things I appreciate about his views. Obviously, he has lived a life focused on helping others. He presents with very clear themes in his life: non-violence, appreciating the moment and spiritual harmony. He instilled in me the idea of living a principled life, one where we focus on ourselves as people and being harmonious with nature, instead of being focused on the past, the present or material gains. He has also modeled activism, a key facet of being human and being a counselor who advocates for my clients. — Patrick Powell, licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) in Florida, Licensed Professional Counselor-Mental Health Service Provider (LPC-MHSP) in Tennessee and assistant professor and director of the Counselor Education and Supervision Program in the College of Counseling, Psychology and Social Sciences at Argosy University in Sarasota, Florida as well as president of the Florida Association of Counselor Education and Supervision

 

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Oprah Winfrey is the preeminent voice that influences my counseling practice with athletes. Her personal and professional life stories provide both an example and game plan for how to become your best in your own life. The athletes that I encounter at all levels are expected to perform at their physical peak before they have fully completed their development as a person. I view my role in performance enhancement as helping athletes develop other strengths to help improve their sports performance. Oprah has created a world through her interaction with other leaders where being who you are, right where you are, is okay. But she stresses to start the work of personal growth from there! — Vonetta Kalieta, LPC, instructor in the Graduate Department of Psychological Counseling at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey and practitioner at Learned Excellence for Athletes in Tinton Fall, New Jersey

 

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The caregivers and children (that I work with) have shown me the immense potential for global change held within attachment relationships. They have taught me to trust the process, especially the parallel process. In genuine, therapeutic relationships support of the primary caregiver (and) the caregiver’s attachment relationship with that child can heal and grow. The growth often spills over into positive behaviors, self-esteem and healthier relationships with others. It is remarkable. — Anna Van Wyck, LPC and infant and family specialist in Mears, Michigan

 

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I, like many counselors, use different approaches to my counseling. I work with college students, and find that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), positive psychology and the solution-focused [approach] work well. For traditional aged college students this is often the age when depression and anxiety are first showing up, so I feel it’s helpful to use methods that will give them tools to learn how to cope and help themselves. CBT is also one of the most widely studied therapies for depression and anxiety and it also works well with various cultures.

As a college counselor I also do career counseling. I use some of the work by Mark Savickas, which is more narrative in approach. For students, it is often helpful to work with them in career counseling to help them connect with prior life experiences and interests to help assist in the career decision-making process. — Amy Lenhart, LPC, a counselor at Collin College in Frisco, Texas and president of the American College Counseling Association, a division of ACA

 

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Rarely does a client come to us without some type of crisis in process. As counselors, we thrive on helping people make meaning of the challenging events that may overtake their lives or rewrite dysfunctional beliefs that may improve their life stories. Yet, these efforts take a remarkable toll if the “givers” do not replenish their minds, bodies and souls. Robert Wicks, psychologist, prolific author, speaker and sage has spent his career exploring how resilience is nurtured and sustained to promote growth post-trauma. Of particular note is his concentration on how caregivers can help themselves by finding crumbs of alone time, conducting daily debriefings, jettisoning false personal beliefs and practicing mindfulness. My personal favorite is his theme of “being faithful in the moment” with clients, family, friends and self. Crises will come, but it is how we handle them personally and with our clients that will be remembered. — Tina Buck, a licensed graduate professional counselor at Carroll County Youth Service Bureau in Westminster, Maryland

 

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Resilience theory has been influential to my counseling practice, including the ideas of Steven M. Southwick, George A. Bonanno, Ann S. Masten, Catherine Panter-Brick and Rachel Yehuda (co-authors of the 2014 journal article Resilience definitions, theory, and challenges: interdisciplinary perspectives). As I work with children and adults who experienced trauma, a key factor is guiding the development of resilience. Masten noted “positive assets” in the individual provide strong potential for resilience, and recognized spirituality and religious beliefs as important. With great amount of effort to counsel and help those who are experiencing negative effects following a trauma event, Bonanno suggests the need to focus on “what goes right in people who negotiate potentially traumatic events with equanimity.” Resilience theory changes perspectives noting, “the experience of trauma does not only yield pathology.” In counseling, I want to provide clients with support and clinical perspective integrated with elements that spawn and develop resilience.

Outside of the counseling profession, the greatest influence on my work comes from strong religious leaders. Speakers such as Ravi Zacharias (Ravi Zacharias International Ministries), John Ortberg (Menlo Park Presbyterian Church) and Josh McDowell (Josh McDowell Ministry) emphasize the importance of maintaining faith, hope and prayerfulness. They encourage compassion and forgiveness as important to healing and healthy living, which are attributes supported by research (Baskin and Enright, 2004). Many individuals who seek counseling note that faith-based practices are desirable and soothing. Faith-based characteristics reflect counseling ethical practice such as genuine caring, non-judgmental acceptance and kindness. Ideas from a faith-based perspective strengthen counseling focus, empathy and compassion as well as serve to provide a means of self-care for the counselor and healing properties to clients. For these reasons, gleaning from religious leaders inspires counseling work that is wholesome, passionate, fully engaging, client centered and self-supportive.

Susan Luck, a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) in New York and Virginia and instructor of graduate counseling and human services courses at Liberty University Online

 

 

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There are many influential individuals within the counseling realm that have influenced my work. One such individual is Brené Brown (research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work) who has helped shape me into a better counselor but as an individual as well. Her research on imperfection, shame, courage, living whole-heartedly, self-compassion and living authentically have started to become the bedrock of my approach. These principles, when applied with Dialectical and Cognitive Behavioral Therapies, have made a strong impact on my clients. These principles are important because if we can pull out our thoughts, behaviors, secrets and whatever we don’t talk about, the fear of shame and guilt can be put out there with people that we trust and know that trust wouldn’t be violated. Brown explores the importance of talking about these things in our lives, which allows us to be vulnerable and really connect with each other on a whole-heartedness level. — Noor Pinna, LMHC and owner of a private practice in Fishkill, New York

 

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Over the 50+ years of my connection to counseling, there have been significant changes. In the beginning, we studied core philosophies of theorists such as Carl Rogers and Albert Ellis. There was a tendency, even then, to skip study of the core philosophies and jump to use of the responses (e.g., techniques) emerging from those theorists — a flawed practice since attempting to emulate another without being that person is inevitably faulty.

The contemporary influence of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs has made that “practice-sans-theory” approach become even more extensive. I can even download an app that will send a daily note of encouragement to a client — and I don’t even have to know what it says. I’ll be interested to listen to ACA conference discussions to see if practice emerges from philosophy. I suppose I could just Google my question — or ask Cortana. — Brooke B. Collison, professor emeritus of counselor education at Oregon State University and ACA past president (1987-1988)

 

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I have been drawn to the social equality philosophy and individual psychology of Alfred Adler as represented principally in the works of Rudolph Dreikurs, whom I had the pleasure of knowing for a brief time before his death. Child and classroom guidance, parent education and the influence of one’s early life experiences as revealed in early memories first got my attention as “common sense” and teachable.

As a practitioner, Dreikurs’ empathy was based upon insight into the human condition. He had little time for contributing to anyone staying in a state of emotional upheaval. Both Dreikurs and Adler were strategists who gently invited clients to enter into a dialogue. Then they used their unique skills to uncover and challenge mistakes in one’s private logic and guide clients to new approaches in their life tasks at work, in their families and friendships, identity and spirituality. Their practical methods based upon a sound philosophy won me over. — Thomas Sweeney, professor emeritus of counselor education at Ohio University, executive director emeritus of Chi Sigma Iota International and ACA past president (1980-1981) who lives in Lexington, North Carolina

 

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Richard James has worked for more than 30 years developing training, prevention and intervention programs for law enforcement, military and community agencies to address the timely issue involving the intersection of mental illness with law enforcement/corrections/military veterans in crisis situations. I’ve had the honor of studying under Richard James as a student and currently work as a junior faculty under his mentorship co-leading the Crisis Research Team (at the University of Memphis) in engaged research projects. His thorough text on crisis intervention strategies outlines the (crisis intervention) training he pioneered 30 years ago to train law enforcement to identify and de-escalate people with mental illness in the field, which is used in thousands of jurisdictions on three continents. Although he is at the end of his career, he exhibits incredible passion for mentoring junior faculty and masters and doctoral students in engaged research towards helping discover viable solutions for improving the treatment of mentally ill offenders.

As a play therapist and someone who works with offenders and addictions, I am also influenced by several clinicians/researchers who together help me practice neurobiologically-informed counseling. Paul Wachtel articulates relational psychoanalysis as it is practiced in contemporary settings. He describes a therapeutic approach that is flexible, technically eclectic (including behavioral therapy) and connects with the emerging evidence of interpersonal neurobiology that helps me conceptualize client-therapist dynamics. Bruce Perry’s work in interpersonal neurobiology as it relates to trauma and the concept of neurosequential interventions has influenced my continuous assessment and choice of intervention strategies with addiction and offender clients from a developmental perspective. I have found this to be most effective in engaging challenging clients to really work in treatment. Finally, the creators of Theraplay, Phylilis Booth and Ann Jernberg, provide a framework for an object-relations/attachment approach to working with interpersonal trauma that has helped me improve outcomes with challenging populations. — Leigh Falls Holman, licensed professional counselor-mental health service provider (LPC-MHSP), registered play therapy supervisor (RPTS), clinical mental health counselor (CMHC, assistant professor in the Counseling, Educational Psychology and Research program at the University of Memphis, associate editor of the Journal of Mental Health Counseling and president of the International Association of Addictions and Offender Counselors (IAAOC), an ACA division

 

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For me, the most influential figure for establishing and developing a positive counseling relationship by the use of empathy and unconditional positive regard is Carl Rogers, augmented by the work of Gerald Gladstein, a pioneer of non-verbal communication and Howard Kirschenbaum, who tirelessly advanced knowledge of Carl Rogers as a person, philosopher, practitioner and giant in the counseling field. He kept Roger’s work fresh and more relevant to newer generations of counselors. The most influential person for providing assessment tools and strategies for helping clients know who they are, and how vocational personality informs decisions related to choosing a college major or program of study and occupation is John Holland, as augmented and advanced by Janet Lenz and Robert Reardon (co-authors of Handbook for using the Self-Directed Search: Integrating RIASEC and CIP theories in practice). Reardon and Lenz integrated these two theories of vocational choice with the self-directed search, and nestled it into college career and counseling centers where it can maximize Holland’s influence. — Peter A. Manzi, national certified career counselor (NCCC) and master career counselor (MCC) who lives in Rochester, New York. He is also contributing faculty in the School of Counseling, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Walden University

 

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Wow. This is a tough question! I would have to say (my influence) is Jon Carlson. There are two specific reasons for this. First, as a clinician—specifically an Adlerian, Jon’s scholarship in the work of Alfred Adler and his approach is seminal. He has been an ambassador of Adlerian therapy to the counseling field, and has influenced the wider recognition and acceptance of Adler’s ideas and practice in schools and in mental health settings. As a counselor educator, Jon Carlson has been influential to me through his vast library of video recordings that he has produced with the acknowledged masters in the field for over 20 years. These videos have a simple, yet overwhelmingly effective formula that I feel is invaluable to educators and trainees: Use real clients in live settings, and watch the entire interaction without interruption. And while it might be easier to use actors and more efficient to use scripts, I have found no better tool to help illustrate the processes of effective counseling. Truly, this is his gift to the field, and we are the beneficiaries.

Also, I would have to say I am influenced by the work of John Gottman (and his wife, Julie Schwartz Gottman). As one of the foremost researchers in couples and couples counseling, John Gottman’s approach has utilized observational methods to painstakingly study the relationships of well-functioning and poorly functioning couples. He has observed the key sequences in ordinary, everyday interactions that have allowed for old myths to be shattered. In addition, Gottman employs cutting-edge mathematical modeling to derive some of the essential dynamics of the couple relationship that I have modified in my own research on the therapeutic relationship. I am using his affective coding schemes and mathematical modeling equations to look at novice and master clinicians to decode the key sequences in the therapeutic relationship, and hope to uncover the key elements to successful counseling endeavors. In addition, as clinicians, the Gottmans have put their research efforts into a training program that is impacting thousands of therapists and even more couples to work through complex issues and lead better lives. — Paul R. Peluso, LMHC, LMFT, professor and chairman of the Department of Counselor Education at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton and president of the International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors (IAMFC), an ACA division

 

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The late, great Viktor Frankl Holocaust survivor, psychiatrist, neurologist and author of the prolific Man’s Search for Meaning is my go-to source for inspiration and guidance when it comes to troubleshooting irrational thinking and behaviors. Frankl believed that dysfunction is driven by the lack of an individual to perceive the meaning and purpose they have in life. Rather than enhancing the self through an internal locus of control, people focus more on their external locus of control to make themselves feel valued. In the 1960’s, Frankl stated that the U.S. population was far more materialistic than the German population. This can be the result of the onslaught of commercialism that emerged in the mid 20th century that conditioned people to move their beliefs to wanting material things rather than procuring items they actually needed. It is not things that nurture a true sense of belonging, but the procurement of non-material cognitions. — Vanessa L. Dahn, LPC and adjunct professor of sociology and psychology at Colorado State University-Pueblo, Pikes Peak Community College and Southern New Hampshire University as well as executive director of Safe Landing Group Center, a facility for at-risk youth in Calhan, Colorado

 

 

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Like many counselors, I apply an eclectic approach to therapy and it seems that regardless of the presenting problems, way in which information is gathered, treatment goals are established and interventions are implemented, the theories that tend to drive these processes for me almost always come back to Fritz Perls, Carl Rogers and Albert Ellis. The importance of self-awareness emphasized by Perls, as well as the humanistic perspective on self-actualization influenced by Rogers and Ellis’s practice of cognitive restructuring in an effort to challenge self-defeating irrational thoughts are all foundational concepts to my practice that weave their way in and out of sessions throughout the entire therapeutic process. — Alyson Carr, LMHC, qualified supervisor and doctoral candidate at the University of South Florida in Tampa

 

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Because I specialize in neurological cases, I like the work of Daniel Siegel. He gives beneficial information about counseling and the brain. I like psychiatrist John Ratey for bringing our attention to exercise and mental health. Norman Doidge and Jeffrey Schwartz are impressive with their work on neuroplasticity, which explains how change is attained biologically through therapy. I also like the work of M. Scott Peck, who was one of the most brilliant minds in psychiatry and psychotherapy in the 20th century, in my mind. Every counseling professional and student should read (Peck’s book) The Road Less Traveled. Cardiologist Herbert Benson discovered the relaxation response in the 1970’s and really changed the way medicine views the person. Instead of viewing the human being as dichotomous, we found out the human being is really integrated system. — Kevin Wreghitt, a mental health clinician counseling people with disabilities in day habilitation and college settings in Massachusetts

 

 

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From within the profession two men have influenced my thinking greatly, and I cannot say one more than another because both have been creative visionaries: Gilbert Wrenn and David Tiedeman. Each was each was ahead of his time in foreseeing the usefulness of the computer and the advances technology would bring to the counseling professional. Yet both were holists, humanists and poets. I was fortunate enough to meet each of them before I was president of ACA and both communicated with me in poetry and prose throughout my presidency, sending encouragement and inspiration.

Two women also have influenced me professionally. The first, Katherine “Kitty” Cole, and I met at a conference. She was president of the National Career Development Association (NCDA) at the time. I was barely involved. She said that she thought I had talent. Whether I did or not is moot. She put me on a committee. I was hooked. Thelma Daily (ACA president 1975-1976) is the other woman. Never had I met someone so encouraging. Model par excellence, as she did for so many, she mentored me. — Lee Richmond, professor of education at Loyola University in Baltimore and ACA past president (1992-1993)

 

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My clinical work is informed by the legendary Irvin Yalom. Author to a plethora of fiction and nonfiction writing, Yalom has been instrumental in promoting therapeutic transparency and embracing the humanity of self and relationship. He suggests that when we dare to confront (what he calls) the four “givens” of existence (inevitable death, aloneness, free will and the need for meaning construction), it is possible to experience personal growth and change. All of Yalom’s work centers around the authenticity of relationship and to this, I am indebted.

Last year when my article “What Would Yalom Do” (a tribute to his work When Nietzsche Wept) was published, Irvin Yalom emailed me his gratitude in observing his work. He is not a man who needs my endorsement. Yet, he took the time to thank me. This is a man who exceeds his scholar, he is an artist. — Cheryl Fisher, a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) in private practice in Annapolis, Maryland and visiting full-time faculty member in the Pastoral Counseling Program for Loyola University Maryland

 

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We invite you, in turn, to consider who influences your work as a counselor. The exercise may spur some self-reflection on what methods and philosophies you place value on and how you have learned and evolved over the course of your career. We encourage you to share your responses in the comments section below.

 

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Bethany Bray is a staff writer and social media coordinator for Counseling Today. Contact her at bbray@counseling.org.

 

Letters to the editor: ct@counseling.org

 

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