Tag Archives: Students Audience

Students Audience

The pretend professional

By Jamie McNally July 9, 2019

W hen I served in the military, we would call cadence as we marched. Those call-and-response songs helped to build camaraderie amid challenge and established a rhythm that brought comfort and familiarity.

Similarly, in my role as a clinic manager, clinic director and site supervisor, I have heard an exasperated expression of uncertainty repeated by dozens of supervisees and interns — “I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing.” Those nine words have become as familiar and comforting to me as a cadence. In fact, the expression has transformed in my mind from something despondent into an indication of growth because self-doubt is a seemingly necessary step in the taxing process of professional development.

Doubt as part of development

I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. I have come to recognize those words as a sign that the person speaking them understands the gravity of our profession and desperately wants to be able to help the clients in front of them, even if in that moment the person has little to no faith in their ability to do so. Although I empathize with the discomfort of that phase of development and growth, I also celebrate counselors-in-training’s awareness of their internal struggles and their willingness to confront the hard truth that the work we do is as intensely complicated as the human beings we’re called to help. As a supervisor, I’ve learned to cherish the opportunity to meet developing counselors in this place of doubt and help them understand — and even embrace — the normalcy of their insecurity and its role in our profession.

I feel confident in saying that we, as mental health professionals, have all been there — that place where our professional identity intertwines with the hesitancy embodied by those nine words: I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. We so easily get lost within that phrase and the enormity of its implications.

What if I chose the wrong career?

How could I possibly start over in a different field after spending so much time and money on this one?

What if I cause harm to this client because I say the wrong thing? What if they find me out and tell people how awful I am?

In good company

Self-doubt is part of the human condition and can plague professionals in any field. The term impostor syndrome, coined in the late 1970s, encapsulates the idea that regardless of our accomplishments or skill, we can feel fraudulent in our own skin and fear being exposed as such. This fear becomes exacerbated in the counseling profession, where confronting the complexities of the human condition is a daily (OK, an hourly) requirement. In the face of such complicated realities, it is only natural to be uncertain about how to move forward and then to conclude that the confusion one feels is a sign of inadequacy.

During my own five-year supervisory journey, in which time I have trained more than 100 counselors, I can recall encountering two individuals who didn’t admit to having these struggles. Two. That means that, at best, in my small nonempirical sample, roughly 2% of the early career counseling professionals I have supervised have not vocalized doubts indicative of impostor syndrome.

Perhaps those two students just didn’t feel comfortable telling me about their difficulties, or maybe they were too fearful to disclose this truth to anyone, let alone their supervisor. It’s also possible that they truly never had experienced insecurity as a professional, in which case they were the enviable two who genuinely made their way through the early phase of their professional development unscathed. That would make them the exception, of course, and not the rule.

Diversity and discrimination

I find it critically important to also highlight that other aspects of our identities can influence how we experience impostor syndrome. For example, if a person has faced discrimination throughout his or her life, this can have a dramatic impact on the intensity of impostor syndrome’s doubts.

As a white person who has benefited from systemic privilege in certain ways, I may have an entirely different perspective on my accomplishments and credentials than does a colleague who acquired those credentials in the presence of prejudices against them. I therefore recognize that each person’s doubts and identity are affected in very different ways on the basis of cultural differences. For that reason, we cannot assume that impostor syndrome will affect each person similarly, and it is wise to self-reflect on how our personal experiences might mitigate or exacerbate our struggles with impostor syndrome.

Overcoming self-doubt

“I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing.” With this whispering refrain of insecurity in mind, the question now becomes, “How do I unbury myself from the weight of this doubt and find self-confidence?”

To answer this question, it helps to start thinking like a counselor because, let’s be honest, often we have to therapize ourselves and practice what we are preaching to our clients. Remind yourself of the difference between thoughts and feelings, and acknowledge that “I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing” is not actually reflective of a feeling. This gentle challenge reminds us to check in with ourselves and acknowledge the emotion we are actually experiencing, which is almost always the same for everyone: fear. Sometimes intense and paralyzing fear.

Having acknowledged that we are fearful, I find it helpful to then assess one’s perspective — why the fear is present — and test it against reality. This step can be made easier by recalling that all emotions have a purpose. Anxiety’s job is to prepare us for daunting or intimidating situations. Next, I find that a little rudimentary reframing, self-grace and reassurance make the process smoother.

Here are six important reminders to help you reframe your fear and self-doubt and reassure you that what you’re feeling is normal, all in an effort to combat impostor syndrome.

1) You already have the skills to overcome insecurity. Chances are that you experienced doubt before even enrolling in graduate school, yet you found a way to push through and find yourself face-to-face with actual clients. I would assert that simply by arriving at this stage of accomplishment, you have demonstrated the skills needed to overcome whatever doubts you may feel about your abilities as a professional. When a person’s doubts prevent them from even attempting to pursue their ambitions and career goals in the first place, I call this prodromal impostor syndrome. You found a way to get from prodromal to professional, so try to recall what helped you then and use those same skills to help you overcome your current obstacles.

2) You are in the top nine. Did you know that only about 9% of Americans have a master’s degree? That number will vary slightly depending on your source for statistics, but even so, let that number sink in: the top 9%. When it comes to educational and professional achievement, you are an outlier in the most positive sense. That doesn’t happen by accident or luck; you did that. Trust your knowledge and skills. You know what you’re doing.

3) Our normal is someone else’s goal. We often forget that our version of normal is not where a large number of people — including many of our clients — find themselves. That’s because we have worked so hard and long on our own garbage and made it past many of the obstacles that used to prevent us from being relationally healthy. Through that journey alone, we’ve developed skills and understanding that many of our clients just don’t possess yet or are unable to see in themselves. Sometimes by simply showing up and modeling hope and health, we are doing more for our clients in one hour than they are getting anywhere else in their week.

Sure, we all still have our own “stuff,” but we have to remember that we have earned advanced degrees and chosen a profession that, at its very core, is about achieving better emotional and mental health. You have the tools that clients desperately need. Meet them where they are and reassure them that such development takes time. Through a bit of work, they’ll get there too.

4) We don’t always get to see the results. Just because we shared the same moments in the session room with our clients does not mean that we shared the same reality. Our perceptions are often very different from those of our clients, and that is to be expected, because we’re very different people with very different backgrounds.

Strict adherence to a session agenda or a particular intervention is not a requisite for healing or progress. I have come to learn that during those times when I didn’t adhere to my initial plan for our time together or when I didn’t feel that I was a therapeutic master, my clients often felt differently and had takeaways that I wouldn’t have imagined. Our perfectionism is not reflective of our clients’ process. Our self-denigration is not reflective of their growth.

Additionally, we often work with clients who are only at the beginning of a very long journey toward healing and growth. As professionals, it is tempting to set goals or have expectations for our clients that are overly ambitious. Overcoming our own self-doubts often requires removing the pressure we put on ourselves to work unrealistic objectives.

It can help to try to remember that sometimes we are merely planting the initial seeds in clients’ lives and that these seeds will bloom only after clients have left therapy. We may never be aware of clients’ later successes even when we played a pivotal part in making those successes accessible. Learning to accept that results are not always visible to us can dramatically strengthen our ability to trust ourselves and our interventions.

5) See yourself in context. Having a title, a certification or a professional license doesn’t mean that we should compare ourselves (or our perceived shortcomings) to someone who has been doing this work for 40 years. I often see new professionals striving to be just like the counselors they look up to — those with decades of experience — even though they are so fresh out of graduate school that their degrees haven’t even arrived in the mail.

Measuring yourself against someone who is at such a drastically different level of professional development than you inevitably makes you feel like a fraud. It is important to see yourself in the context of your level of experience while remembering that even on day one, you bring value to clients and to the mental health field itself. Take time to celebrate that now and then — and rejoice that you will only move forward and improve from where you are now.

6) Mastery in mental health is a lifelong process. Confidence often coincides with mastery, and yet, in this field, mastery will always be elusive. As counselors, we do not get the advantage of clear-cut problems, let alone clear-cut solutions. Human beings will always be complex, meaning that our jobs will always be difficult.

It’s healthy to continuously strive to improve and learn more about one’s field; that mindset prevents complacency and arrogance. We can be skilled and competent and will always be privileged to do this work, but mastery is always an ongoing process. Being the “best” (as it may look or feel to most of us) isn’t a destination. Rather, it is an ongoing journey of humility and self-improvement that ultimately yields better client care.

The authentic professional

These six reminders can alleviate some of the uncomfortable symptoms of impostor syndrome. They can also highlight the need for us to accept the reality that some of those symptoms may always be present.

No matter what your background or where you are in your professional development, try to enjoy the thrill and uncertainty of this field’s learning curve. It helps to remember too that you are not alone. Your cohort and fellow professionals have experienced — and perhaps still are experiencing — the very same struggles as you.

It is likely that you will periodically allow that worrying impostor to enter your therapy office, but the trick is not letting it take control of the room. That impostor does not dictate your professional development. In fact, you can learn to accept the normalcy of those nine words — “I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing” — as a comforting cadence and an expected step in your professional growth process. Self-grace and compassion are vital. Remind yourself of your strengths and celebrate victories, no matter how small (or big) they may be. You are a lot better than you think you are, and yet, not as good as you can be. And that’s OK.

 

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Jamie McNally is a licensed professional counselor, a limited licensed psychologist, a certified HIPAA compliance officer, and the owner and clinic director of Sycamore Counseling Services (sycamorecc.com). Contact her at jamie.mcnally@sycamorecc.com.

 

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Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

Coalson, Mifsud earn top marks for counseling essays

June 20, 2019

Jessica Coalson and Anabel Mifsud, both of the University of New Orleans, were named grand prizewinners for essays that they submitted to the ACA Future School Counselors Awards and the ACA Tomorrow’s Counselors Awards, respectively.

Coalson received top honors in the Future School Counselors Awards, which recognize graduate counseling students who demonstrate exceptional insight and understanding about the school counseling profession and the work of professional school counselors who interact with elementary, middle school or high school students. The awards are open to counseling graduate students in master’s-degree or doctoral-degree programs who are working toward a career in school counseling. The awards are sponsored by the Roland and Dorothy Ross Trust and the American Counseling Association Foundation.

Mifsud, a doctoral student, was judged to have the best essay among entrants for the Tomorrow’s Counselors Awards. These awards recognize graduate counseling students who show exceptional insight and understanding about the counseling profession and the work of professional counselors in mental health, private practice, community agency, agency, organization or related counseling settings. The awards are open to any counseling student in a master’s-degree or doctoral-degree program who is taking one or more graduate courses at an accredited college or university. The awards are sponsored by Gerald and Marianne Corey, Allen and Mary Bradford Ivey, and the ACA Foundation.

Note: The grand-prize and first-prize essays for each competition are presented here as written. They have not been edited.

 

ACA Future School Counselors Awards (top essays)

Grand prize: Jessica Coalson, University of New Orleans

First prize: Rachel Corso, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania

Second prize: Meghan Bradley, Monmouth University

Honorable mention: Kami Blakeman, Walden University; Feixia Wang, Carson-Newman University

 

Future School Counselors grand prize essay

Jessica Coalson

Jessica Coalson is a student at the University of New Orleans working toward a master’s degree in counselor education with a focus in school counseling. She currently works as a child care provider and has a passion for working with children and supporting them in their development. Jessica has worked with New Orleans students in various academic support capacities during her time with College Track and AmeriCorps. She plans to continue this work as a school counselor providing students with the social, emotional, academic, and career tools and supports they need to overcome barriers and achieve their potential.

 

The effectiveness of school counseling is directly tied to student outcomes. What is the most desirable outcome that counseling can produce in schools, and how can professional school counselors demonstrate that it is happening?

Having worked with students with diverse backgrounds, experiences, abilities, and exceptionalities, I constantly question the ways in which schools support and, at the same time, fail to support all students in reaching their full potential. However, full potential neither begins nor ends with student academic and career achievement. These outcomes, while important indicators, are narrow and incomplete measures of student potential that tend to be more indicative of inequitable access to opportunity and resources than ability. School supports often focus primarily on higher level academic and career goals by tracking student achievement data and post-secondary success rates, before attending to students’ most basic and essential social and emotional needs. By equitably promoting and building social and emotional well-being, students will be well-equipped to reach their potential within and beyond the classroom.

The key foundation for establishing and maintaining well-being is resilience. Resilience is defined by the American Psychological Association [APA] as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.” (APA, n.d.) As more and more studies show the prevalence of childhood stress and the insidious effects it has on wellness and success across the lifespan, the moral and ethical imperative for school counselors to address this issue is paramount. Considering this, increased student resilience may be the most desirable outcome school counseling can produce to mitigate the effects of trauma, teach positive coping skills, and promote well-being.

In order to demonstrate student resilience as an outcome, school counselors must define and measure this multifaceted set of thoughts, behaviors, and actions. The goal is for students to be able to sustain an overall sense of well-being through developing the following key resiliency factors: having caring and supportive relationships, the capacity to make and carry out realistic plans, a positive view of self, confidence in strengths and abilities, communication and problem-solving skills, and the capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses (APA, n.d.).

Using the ASCA model, school counselors can translate primary factors of resilience into measurable skills and competencies to inform the development of effective and evidence-based comprehensive school counseling programs. It is important that school counselors gather and analyze program data to demonstrate correlational, causal, and predictive links between resilience factors and various student success measures in and beyond school. Through these methods we can advocate for systemic changes at local, state, and national levels to better promote the well-being of our students in all aspects of their lives.

School counselors should always be leaders in advocacy and systemic change. However, the immediate task is to equip our students with the skills and competencies to meet and overcome the multitude of systemic barriers and individual adversities they will unquestionably face in order to thrive.

 

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Reference: American Psychological Association. (n.d.). The Road to Resilience. Retrieved from: https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.aspx

 

Future School Counselors first prize essay

Rachel Corso

Rachel Corso received her bachelor’s degree in psychology, with a minor in sociology, from Eastern Connecticut State University (2015). During her time as an undergraduate, she held a position as student leader for the university’s community engagement program, as a mentor for multiple Windham public schools, and as a volunteer for the university and Windham community. She completed her internship at the Joshua Center, where she worked with adolescents in a partial hospitalization program. After graduation, Rachel was a mental health worker on the adult psychiatric unit at Johnson Memorial Hospital and is now a rehabilitation counselor at Community Health Resources in Connecticut. Rachel has experience in suicide prevention training and is an avid advocate for suicide awareness. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in school counseling from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. As a graduate student, Rachel was inducted into Chi Sigma Iota, the international honor society for counseling students. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, cooking, and being with her family and two dogs.

 

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A main purpose of a school counselor is to help students be academically successful and to support the educational piece in schools, all while being culturally competent and ethical. From that aspect, the most desirable outcome for a student would be to excel in class and meet their educational goals and the school’s needs. However, often times there are environmental and mental health barriers that prevent students from achieving these successes, taking the counseling field by storm. The purpose of a school counselor digs into various types of development, social advocacy, treatment, and the removal of systemic barriers. A school counselor’s role goes beyond academics, which is why the most desirable outcome that counseling can produce in schools is a student’s overall well-being, otherwise known as the state of being healthy, happy, and comfortable.

Well-being has been newly acknowledged by counselors and other providers due to a better understanding of mental health, burnout, and the importance of self-care. It differs from wellness which focuses on physical health, but we as professionals know that our state of health includes more than just physical fitness; it takes on a holistic approach. Well-being is the most desirable outcome, contributed by autonomy, constructive relationships, self-acceptance, sense of purpose, and growth. Without these, our youth will underachieve academically which ultimately affects the purpose of a school. School counselors provide guidance and support to allow these variables to mature, and offer resources and opportunities that their students may not have otherwise. They advocate for students whose voices have been lost in oppression or stigma, their main goal being to promote the development of students but to also provide a safe, inclusive, and productive learning environment. Gone are the days where counselor’s make class schedules and wait while a crisis brews. School counselors are the mental health specialist in a school system and are on the front lines of student development/well-being.

School counselors can demonstrate that student well-being is being achieved by developing students into leaders, educating them on how to properly communicate their feelings and needs, aiding in attaining personal and education goals, and encouraging them to make positive transitions into their new stages of life. In order to accomplish this, school counselor must continue to advocate for their students, and provide knowledge, support, and referrals to outsides sources for additional assistance, as well as apply their clinical knowledge and skills and collaborate with the community and other treatment programs. Attending conferences and trainings to further their education, as well as being up to date with current research is also important as there is a huge flux in the mental health field, student needs, and cultural competency. Finally, school counselor’s must be responsible for the recurrent change of their role and the challenges they face as society vicissitudes with it, all in order to adequately serve every student and allow them to develop confidently, to remain happy and healthy individuals as that is not only the most desirable outcome for schools but for life too.

 

 

ACA Tomorrow’s Counselors Awards (top essays)

Grand prize: Anabel Mifsud, University of New Orleans

First prize: Jim Minthorne, California State University, Fullerton

Second prize: Leslie Preveaux, Mercer University

Honorable mention: Jennifer Toof, Chicago School of Professional Psychology; Madelfia Abb, Wake Forest University

 

Tomorrow’s Counselors grand prize essay

Anabel Mifsud

Anabel Mifsud is a doctoral candidate in the counselor education and supervision program at the University of New Orleans. She has a master’s degree in health psychology from University College London and King’s College London, UK. Most of her clinical work has been with people with HIV and people who are homeless. Anabel’s research interests include intergenerational/historical trauma, the internationalization of counseling, social justice and advocacy, the role of counseling in community development and peace building, and psychosocial services for migrants, refugees and people with HIV. She has conducted research with counselor educators, migrants and individuals with HIV, and has presented at conferences in the United States, the United Kingdom and Malta.

 

As integrated care takes hold in the delivery of mental health services, discuss the role of professional counselors in an integrated care system.

As society’s perspective on health and wellness continues to shift toward a more holistic orientation, clinical mental health counselors are increasingly called to be part of multidisciplinary teams in integrated care settings. I believe that counselors can offer a unique and invaluable contribution in integrated care systems. Primarily, as mental health care providers, we have the clinical expertise to work with diverse clients with emotional and mental distress. Furthermore, our approach toward mental health is grounded in wellness, healthy development, optimal functioning, and prevention. All these values are consistent with the precepts of integrated care, whereby individuals are placed at the center of care and treated as a whole by attending to their multiple healthcare needs.

As counselors, we work with individuals with emotional and mental health problems, who at times may be suffering or are at risk of developing chronic illnesses, or who may be faced with situations that adversely affect their welfare, such as unemployment or poor housing. In an integrated care system, counselors have the benefit to collaborate and draw on the expertise of medical and other behavioral health specialists to maximize clients’ overall health outcomes. In this new capacity, we are required to hone our assessment and consultation skills, and to build on our knowledge of psychotropic drugs and their side effects, and signs of physical illness.

On the other hand, because integrated care is inherently a bidirectional process, counselors may work with clients affected by chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or HIV infection, or individuals suffering from physical disabilities following a medical incident or accident. Individuals coping with these conditions are usually forced to grapple with the psychosocial sequelae of their physical ailment, or may have behavioral health issues that can undermine their recovery. In an integrated care setting, our role as mental health counselors can involve supporting clients with the management of their chronic medical condition, including helping them adjust to a new lifestyle, dealing with the stress, loss, and grief precipitated by their illness, or addressing comorbid mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression. In integrated settings, counselors have the opportunity to engage in prevention and early intervention work.

Working within an integrated care system can open up new possibilities to impart our knowledge on multicultural competency to healthcare professionals in other fields. We can rally the support of new allies to advocate for the health and wellbeing of vulnerable groups and underserved populations.

Integrated care enables counselors to take a seat at the table with different healthcare practitioners to ameliorate the quality of life and health of clients. We have the chance to educate other professionals in what we do as counselors and advocate for our profession. Similarly, we have the opportunity to gain insight into how medical and other behavioral health practitioners contribute toward the holistic healthcare of clients. Such an interdisciplinary teamwork can foster respect and trust among different professionals.

 

Tomorrow’s Counselors first prize essay

Jim Minthorne

Jim Minthorne has been a graduate student in the master’s in clinical mental health counseling program at California State University, Fullerton, since 2017. He is completing his practicum at the City of Brea Resource Center, where his clientele consists of adults, minors, couples and families. Populations that are of special interest to him include transitional age youth, men, and individuals who use substances. He prefers to utilize a Gestalt theoretical framework to help clients feel completer and more fulfilled. Jim’s long-term goals include starting a private practice, earning a doctoral degree and teaching at the university level.

 

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“Treatment team” and “continuity of care” are ubiquitous phrases in my work. Prior to becoming a full-time graduate student, I worked as a case manager for a nonprofit mental health agency. I shared an office with a team of peer support specialists, nurses, doctors, and counselors. Sometimes my clients received third-party services. In these cases, I obtained authorizations to communicate with probation officers, homeless shelters, and drug treatment centers. As a case manager, I recognized a fundamental truth which I’ve carried into my work as a future counselor: I’m not the only person my clients will ever know. I cannot expect, therefore, to be the only person involved in my clients’ treatment. I’m only one cog in the proverbial wheel, and I need to collaborate with other care providers. Clients achieve maximal results when gray areas are minimized and all facets of their care are seamlessly integrated.

When I think about conventional integrated care, I think about my role as part of the treatment team to which I’ve alluded. In an effective integrated care system, I need to interact with the various direct service providers involved in my clients’ lives. If clients have symptoms which might be attributed to an organic cause, I need to collaborate with medical doctors to rule out diagnoses which are beyond my scope of practice. If clients present with psychosis, I need to consult with psychiatrists to address medication management. If clients require access to community or government resources, I need to work with case managers to provide linkage services. If clients don’t have access to the aforementioned providers, I need to advocate for them and help them seek additional assistance.

Advocacy, however, shouldn’t just include direct service. I believe we need to engage in broader, institutional advocacy to be the most effective counselors we can be. Such actions can include writing to legislators to support increased mental health funding, serving on committees to implement new ethical practices, supporting initiatives to destigmatize mental health discourse, or conducting research into innovative treatments. These actions don’t directly involve clients; however, institutional advocacy can expand services to traditionally underserved populations and change attitudes about seeking treatment. If we make treatment easier for everyone, we make treatment easier for existing clients in the process.

Although conventional and institutional integrated care are valuable, we need to experience integrated care ourselves in order to care for others. Even the most seemingly well-adjusted counselors are at risk for burnout; if we neglect ourselves, we won’t be present for our clients. We should seek support from our own “treatment teams”: personal therapists, families, friends, significant others, pets. Clients aren’t involved in these relationships, but we bring our own support (or lack thereof) into the therapeutic relationship. We shouldn’t expect clients to seek support all from one source; likewise, we should integrate various sources of care into our own lives. We should personally embody what we aspire to offer lest we offer it ineffectively.

Integration is: collaborative, personal, political, aspirational. It’s nuanced … and necessary.

 

 

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Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

 

Behind the Book: Critical Incidents in School Counseling

Compiled by Bethany Bray April 22, 2019

“There is no amount of preparation that fully prepares you for what happens in the classroom or on the job,” writes Heather J. Fye, co-editor of the third edition of Critical Incidents in School Counseling, in the opening chapter of the book.

A school counselor’s graduate degree and academic training serve only as a base for the continuous learning that happens on the job — in classrooms, via interactions with students, via collaboration with colleagues, and through professional development. Teachable moments, Fye writes, can happen both spontaneously and as planned elements of time spent with students.

As much as school counselors grow, learn and evolve on the job, the discipline itself continues to change. With this in mind, co-editors Tarrell Awe Agahe Portman, Chris Wood and Fye recently updated Critical Incidents in School Counseling to reflect an ever-changing landscape that now includes challenges such as cyberbullying. The American Counseling Association published a third edition of the book in December 2018.

Portman is dean of the College of Education at Winona State University; Wood is an associate professor in the counselor education program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; and Fye is an assistant professor at the University of Alabama.

CT Online sent the trio some questions, via email, to learn more.

 

Q+A: Critical Incidents in School Counseling

Note: Responses co-written by Portman, Wood and Fye.

 

In providing case studies, one of the goals of the book is to bridge the gap between the academic learning that school counselors receive in graduate school and in-the-moment practical experience. Besides using your book, what else do you suggest to help school counselors bring themselves up to speed?

School counselors need to be lifelong learners, continually reading professional literature and attending professional development [opportunities] such as workshops and conferences. One of the added features of the new edition of the book is that a list of resources is included by the authors [of each chapter] in response to the critical incidents. These resources include additional reading on the topic, websites with tools and information on the specific topics, and resources from professional organizations such as ACA and the American School Counselor Association.

Small steps are important. It is important for school counselors to find supports within the counseling community. If school counselors are unfamiliar with other school counseling professionals in their school district or surrounding areas, it may be helpful to reach out to them.

It may be helpful for school counselors to attend a local, regional or national conference or take part in volunteer activities, as time permits, from a counseling organization. If national involvement does not seem possible, start with the local or state chapters [of professional organizations]. State school counseling organizations or chapters often have excellent websites, newsletters and resources available.

Lastly, networking with school counselor educators at the university level may provide engaging and collaborative opportunities between counseling professionals.

 

Fill in the blank: I wish I had known ________ when I was in my first year as a school counselor. What would you want to share with new or soon-to-be school counselors who might be reading this?

Chris Wood: How much I still had to learn.

Much of this is not because of inadequate training. It is just due to the incredible demands on professional school counselors and that the unique and ever-changing needs of students and schools make any new school counselor face a challenging learning curve. So, I would want new school counselors to recognize the importance of constantly improving their knowledge, awareness and skills through professional development.

Heather Fye: How I fit in to making a difference in the lives of students.

Do not just accept the status quo. Change takes time. Remember why you became a school counselor and try to do something — even five minutes each day — that aligns with your passion. You know yourself best.

Tarrell Awe Agahe Portman: More about policies, procedures and standards which directly impacted student success.

I would want new school counselors to feel reassured of their purpose and influence on the lives of generations to come. This can be overwhelming but is really just a part of the circle of life.

 

School counselors might be the only counselor in their building, working with educators and helping professionals who have different licensure and training. What advice would you give to school counselors about remaining true to their counselor identity?

Professional school counselors should draw their identity from their training and certification/licensure, not from how others in the building may perceive them. Certainly, there are many threats to the identity of professional school counselors that could push them into tasks or actions that are inconsistent with their training or even their ethical standards. An obvious example is the fact that school principals may want school counselors to engage in activities that help fulfill some school need but ultimately inhibit the professional school counselor’s effective functioning.

Staying connected to the profession, reading the professional literature — including research — and regularly attending professional development that is specifically targeted toward school counselors can help buffer the negative effects of those who don’t understand a professional school counselor’s role.

Professional school counselors should remember to reflect upon why they wanted to become a school counselor, stay aware of positive changes in schools from their school counselor program, and stay true to their training and self as a professional.

School counselors gain many techniques throughout their graduate training that can help them build professional relationships. Finding supports, staying connected with others who want to make a positive impact in the school setting, and [engaging in] continuous learning through professional development can be integral to self-care as well as professional identity.

 

The last edition of this book was released in 2000. What prompted a new edition? Why is it relevant and needed now?

Societal changes and new demands on school counselors created the demand for the new third edition of the critical incidents text. It was 27 years between the first edition and almost 20 years between the second edition and this newer third edition. So, one of the reasons for a new edition is a need to provide incidents that are more contemporary, embedded in the current school climate, and [which] address incidents based on the current generation of students.

Just the advances in technology since the last book highlight the different world that students live in today. When the second edition of the text came out there, was no Facebook or Myspace — these came several years later — and the word cyberbullying wasn’t a common concept. By 2006, there was some research to suggest that cyberbullying was affecting almost half of all American teens. So, obviously, the rapidly changing world of students in schools warrants a book that can help school counselors respond to critical incidents.

The original rationale for the first two editions is still relevant: to assist school counselors and school counselors-in-training with knowledge, critical thinking and related resources in order to respond to the many critical incidents that they face in their career.

Importantly, in this newest edition, we focused on having school counselors author the incidents and used experts with actual school counseling experience to author the responses. We felt that this would help lend the book toward offering more pragmatic learning and direct application to professional practice.

 

What do you hope readers will take away from the book?

Hopefully, readers will be able to relate their own professional practice to many of the critical incidents in the book and leave with two takeaways.

1) We hope the readers will feel validated in what they are experiencing on the job and benefit from multiple perspectives in addressing professional challenges.

2) We hope the readers will feel greater confidence in relying on their own knowledge [and] awareness and put their skills into direct action that benefits students. Reading the incidents and responses is intended to help school counselors improve their ability to problem-solve situations, advocate for themselves and their profession, build a foundation in peer consultation, and engage in ongoing professional development.

 

The landscape of school counseling is ever-changing. Do you feel graduate programs across the U.S. are keeping up?

Yes, in the case of graduate programs that maintain the highest levels of accreditation, train their students in the most current models of evidence-based practice, and teach students to apply their learning in innovative ways. Such programs are equipping their students to face changes and challenges that we can’t even name yet.

In general, there is a progressive movement happening in graduate programs across the U.S. However, there continues to be a disconnect between schools and universities — counselor or educator. School counselors have many demands, and this is true for university faculty as well. So, there may always be a need to produce books and other resources that can help bridge the knowing-doing gap between what school counselors learn in graduate programs and the practical application of such learning in an ever-changing landscape.

 

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Critical Incidents in School Counseling is available both in print and as an e-book from the American Counseling Association bookstore at counseling.org/publications/bookstore or by calling 800-347-6647 ext. 222.

 

 

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

 

Follow Counseling Today on Twitter @ACA_CTonline and Facebook at facebook.com/CounselingToday.

 

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Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

 

Behind the book: Counselor Education in the 21st Century

By Bethany Bray January 2, 2019

A counselor educator is much more than a hybrid of counselor and professor. The job requires skills from both of these realms, as well as those of an administrator, mentor, researcher, collaborator, gatekeeper and many others.

It can be overwhelming if a person comes into the role unprepared, write Jane E. Atieno Okech and Deborah J. Rubel, co-editors of the American Counseling Association-published book Counselor Education in the 21st Century: Issues and Experiences.

“The life of a counselor educator is made of many roles and responsibilities and they are subject to a variety of relationships and stressors,” they write in the book’s first chapter. “It is not unusual for new faculty to feel somewhat helpless, confused, overwhelmed or disappointed. And it is not unusual for both new and more experienced counselor educators to experience burnout. Yet the counselor educator has many opportunities within these roles and responsibilities both to prosper personally and to effect positive change that can benefit colleagues, students and clients. New professionals who have an understanding of the reality of these roles and responsibilities and the broader context of higher education and their specific institution will be better able to cope, thrive and make positive changes.”

Okech is a professor of counselor education and chair of the Department of Leadership and Developmental Sciences at the University of Vermont, and Rubel is an associate professor and past discipline liaison at Oregon State University. Counseling Today sent the co-editors some questions via email to learn more.

 

Q+A: Counselor Education in the 21st Century

Responses co-written by editors Jane E. Atieno Okech and Deborah J. Rubel

 

You first met in graduate school. What inspired you to collaborate and create this book, years later?

We have collaborated continuously from the time we were in grad school, so there was no real point at which we decided “Let’s collaborate on a book.” The book was a natural outgrowth of our own development, positions in our universities and experiences. We had collaborated extensively on group work and group work supervision projects, and this was a small break from that. We wished to focus on our holistic experiences as counselor educators. It was also a time and opportunity to connect with many valued peers we have met over the years, including former professors, fellow graduate students, professional colleagues and former students, as well as make some new connections.

 

From your perspective, how has the growth of online graduate programs affected counselor education? What are the pros and cons?

Online education has made training as a counselor or counselor educator more accessible to people who might otherwise not be able to pursue these fields. It has forced counselor educators to be creative and forward-thinking in the development and delivery of counselor education curriculum and training experiences.

The financial structures surrounding online education have in some cases shifted counseling programs from marginal performers at universities to being the financial mainstay. This has benefits as well as drawbacks. Traditional counselor training was targeted towards in-person interactions in small groups of students. While there are exemplary models of online counselor education that push the envelope of human connection across distances, in some cases online counselor education means large numbers of students are receiving minimal interaction and oversight with their instructors and trainers.

The research and scholarship regarding counselor education and training modalities are grounded in the face-to-face model, [which] has yet to catch up to the rapidly expanding practice of online counselor education and supervision.

 

What is one thing you’d like counselor practitioners and master’s level students who are considering going into counselor education to know or keep in mind? Are there any misconceptions you’d like to clear up?

We would like them to consider the fact that counselor education is dynamic and complex, with counselor educators playing multifaceted roles within the academy (e.g., teacher, supervisor, advisor, mentor, counselor, administrator, etc.). While the profession is in service to the practice of counseling, counselor education is not counseling. It requires learning skills, roles and functions beyond those needed to be a professional counselor.

One main misconception is that a good counselor automatically becomes a good counselor educator. It does not always work out that way. The two professionals are critically different in role and function, and those aspiring to be counselors and counselor educators may want to be cognizant of that.

 

Why is a book on this topic relevant and needed now?

We noted that there wasn’t a book in the field that covered the broad spectrum of the experiences and tasks of counselor education. There were books and readings on the individual aspects of counselor education but not anything that covered all the aspects, settings and dimensions that we and our peers at other institutions encounter on a daily basis.

We both had memories of our early careers where we [thought], “Why have I not heard about this part of my job before?” and “Why was I not taught about this aspect of university life?” In this day and age, it is increasingly important, too, to understand counselor education in the context of the university or college and the university or college in the broader cultural and societal context.

We think that counselor education is expanding and thriving and is well-positioned to play a role in shaping and influencing the cultural context. And we were excited to lend a voice to that expansion and change process through this book.

 

Counselor educators wear many hats – from mentor and supervisor to researcher and administrator. What are some things that are key to balancing it all?

This is a very complex question and the answer relies upon the individual and their values and own view of balance, as well as the institution they work within. What our book encourages counselor educators to do is to never lose sight of their aspirations as counselor educators. As their roles and responsibilities shift over time, [remember to] lean back on the core principles of counseling, wellness and self-care. Our wish was to provide information and narratives that allow readers to understand their counselor educator roles and responsibilities better and to make better choices while attempting to balance their lives as counselor educators, administrators, advocates and leaders, among others.

Deborah’s key to balancing it all is [knowing] that you can’t take care of it all. To excel one needs to know what one values less and what is more important in the moment. Understanding the societal context, the university and the different roles and responsibilities of counselor education make those compromises easier.

Jane’s key to balancing lies, similarly, in having clear priorities and being willing to compromise.

 

What is your favorite thing about being a counselor educator? What would you want people to know about the work you do?

For Jane, the most exciting part of her job is the transforming and energizing experience of teaching and providing clinical supervision. Years of teaching have taught her that in many cases, the lessons don’t end at the end of the day and that a great class and supervision session continues to deepen and transform in terms of meaning, impact and the insight it provides for the educator and the learner. Many of these interactions with students have stayed with her and significantly influenced her teaching and supervision practice, and current students and alumni on whom she has had the same impact.

Deborah loves teaching and supervision but particularly enjoys advising doctoral students. It is very exciting to share their growth process from master’s level clinician to counselor educator, particularly when they find a research passion.

 

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Counselor Education in the 21st Century: Issues and Experiences is available both in print and as an e-book from the American Counseling Association bookstore at counseling.org/publications/bookstore or by calling 800-347-6647 ext. 222.

 

 

 

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Follow Counseling Today on Twitter @ACA_CTonline and Facebook at facebook.com/CounselingToday.

 

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Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

 

 

Graduate counseling students: What makes you different?

By Sarah Fichtner September 3, 2018

As a counselor master’s student approaching graduation in December, a few lessons have become ingrained in my mind: “Always advocate on behalf of your clients”; “engaging in self-care is essential”; and “practice in accordance with the ACA Code of Ethics.” At times, when I am lying in bed after a long day, I find myself reflecting on these tasks and whether I did my best to adhere to them.

Although these lessons are crucial for counselors-in-training, I wish one other lesson had been emphasized earlier in my graduate studies: the importance, essentiality and ultimate difference of putting yourself out there in the counseling world and making a name for yourself.

According to CACREP, there are more than 800 accredited counseling programs across the United States, which means that thousands of counselors will be graduating at the same time and applying for many of the same positions. As a novice counselor, I was naïve to this concept. When I entered my graduate program, I quickly began mirroring my peer’s habits. I focused on earning top grades, copying down important concepts in class, establishing my counseling skills through role-plays and researching internship sites. It was not until I attended the New Jersey Counseling Association conference at the end of my first year of graduate school that I realized just how important a young counselor’s identity is. From that moment on, my graduate mindset changed.

I started to go above and beyond to create my own unique “brand.” I found myself researching current trends in the counseling field, editing and re-editing my resume and cover letter, reading the most up-to-date articles and journals, and consulting with my professors about counseling-related opportunities that I could participate in outside of the classroom. I constantly asked myself, “What can I do to separate myself from every other counseling master’s student graduating from an accredited university? What makes my resume special? What makes me different?”

This pursuit to create my own personal brand eventually led me to the American Counseling Association (ACA) 2018 Conference & Exposition in Atlanta this past April. One of my professors at Kean University in New Jersey spoke to my multicultural counseling class about the ACA graduate student essay contest. She passed around a handout encouraging my class to submit a proposal. Immediately, I knew that this was the perfect opportunity to define my identity and get my name out into the counseling world. After writing and rewriting my proposal, I finally submitted my essay in December. Because the winners would receive complementary registration to the ACA Conference, I could hardly wait for the winning essays to be announced. Finally, on Feb. 28, I received an email asking for my attendance at the ACA National Awards Ceremony; my essay had been chosen as one of the top entries. I was one step closer to becoming a known face in the counseling world.

Upon arriving at the ACA Conference, I prepared myself to get the most out of my experience. I printed out my resume, picked out my best business attire, scheduled an appointment with the ACA Career Center and promised myself that I would speak to as many people as I could. I was a novice counselor who planned to leave the conference educated on the licensure process, the benefits of a doctorate in counselor education, employment trends, who to contact post-graduation regarding approved supervisors and any other helpful information I could soak up.

Having this goal-oriented mindset opened my eyes to the true kindness and genuineness of the counseling community. Within minutes of entering the conference center in Atlanta, my wildest dreams were exceeded. I was engaging in impromptu, inspirational meetings with fellow master’s students, doctoral candidates, counselor educators and authors. I soon learned that the counseling community is a tightknit group of exceptionally talented and personable individuals. During my four days in Atlanta, the connections I made completely changed my personal and professional life.

There are so many people that made my experience worthwhile, but for the sake of time and space, I will mention just a few. Dedicated representatives from Magnolia Ranch, a rehab facility in Tennessee, engaged in personal conversation with me on multiple occasions. I must have stopped by their expo table at least twice per day, and each time they were just as eager to ask about my professional journey, share their insights on the counseling profession, talk about their contributions to mental health and, of course, answer all my questions about their therapy horses. (I, as a horse owner, could talk about equine-therapy for days.)

Gerald Corey, Michelle Muratori, Jude Austin and Julius Austin, co-authors of the book Counselor Self-Care (published by ACA), each connected with me on a personal level. After attending their presentation on self-care, I was determined to purchase a copy of their new book and get it signed. However, with more than 100 people in attendance at their presentation, I overestimated my chances of purchasing a book. It had quickly sold out. As a Type-A individual, self-care was something I had consistently failed at, and I knew this book would assist me in my quest to accomplish a better self-care plan. Thus, I made it my mission to find a copy of their book.

After stopping by the ACA Bookstore at the conference on multiple occasions, speaking with the authors directly and bargaining with the conference staff to sell me the copy in the display window, I started to feel defeated. It was in that moment that I decided to approach the authors one last time and express my appreciation and gratitude for their work (book or not, the information I had gained from their presentation was priceless). Surprisingly, they thanked me for my kind words, interest in their self-care book, and perseverance and commitment as a counselor-in-training. Then Michelle Muratori dug into her purse and handed me her own personal copy of Counselor Self-Care while all the authors smiled.

I spent the next few minutes chatting with her. We discussed her career as a counselor educator and clinician at Johns Hopkins University. She provided me with such valuable insight, motivation and hope for my future as a professional counselor. Additionally, prior to the book signing, I had the privilege of speaking with Julius Austin. We connected on our similar experiences of being Division I college soccer players and the transition into the counseling profession. He empathized with and understood the many emotions I went through as I left the collegiate world behind.

Finally, during one of the keynote speaker presentations, I sat next to Ed Jacobs. I introduced myself and expressed interest in his role as a program director (at the moment, I didn’t know he was a renowned author and educator in the field of counseling and that he had written the group counseling book used in my graduate program). Our conversation flowed as we talked about his position at West Virginia University, my current clinical work with children and my hopes and dreams for the future. Before we parted ways, he encouraged me to attend his group counseling session, where he would be presenting on group counseling techniques to use with children and adolescents. I made it a point to attend his workshop, and I am so happy that I did.

After the session, I went up to him to thank him for taking the time to speak with me earlier in the day. He smiled and said, “You came.” Then he reached into his bag and pulled out a copy of the book he wrote on individual counseling techniques. He handed it to me and said, “I’m really happy you came and hope we stay in touch.” I was so humbled and touched by his kindness and generosity. I, too, hope our paths will cross again.

When I returned home to New Jersey, I was filled with gratitude, warmth and excitement for my future profession. The conference was more than I could have ever imagined. However, I know that my pursuit to establish a unique identity is an evolving journey. I need to build on the connections I have made. I have reached out to Drs. Muratori, Austin and Jacobs and have been overwhelmed with the thoughtful and efficient responses I have received.

For example, Dr. Jacobs stated that one of his greatest joys is mentoring students and that he would be more than willing to guide me in my journey as a novice counselor. Within days, he had connected me with a counselor educator here in New Jersey; my name was quickly spreading throughout the counseling world. My resume was being reviewed by many professionals, my email inbox was filling up with new messages, and my identity as a counselor-in-training was far greater than that of a master’s student graduating from a CACREP-accredited program. There was a face to my name.

Although this idea of networking may seem like common sense, I cannot tell you how many master’s students leave their graduate programs unsure of what to do next. It is not that they failed to study hard, earn good grades and succeed in their clinical settings, but rather that their identity as novice counselors mirrors that of every other newly graduated student.

So, to all my fellow counseling graduate students, if there is one thing I hope you take away from this article, it is this: Go the extra mile; get involved in as many activities and events as you can; submit journal proposals; do not be afraid to introduce yourself and network with as many professionals as you can; and, lastly, create your own unique brand. Be bold. Be brave.

Understanding this concept early on will only help you in the long run. With the complex social challenges faced by the nation and the world, becoming the best counselor one can be is imperative. By celebrating our uniqueness and crafting our professional brand, we will be best positioned to solve the mental health problems and other social ills that we all face.

 

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Sarah Fichtner is a former Division 1 women’s soccer player for the University of Maryland. She is completing her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling at Kean University in New Jersey and currently works at Hackensack Meridian Behavioral Health as a counselor intern, where she practices from a strengths-based model. Contact her at fichtnes@kean.edu.

 

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  • American Counseling Association members: Advance your career with the resources you need in where you can find hundreds of job listings, complimentary career consultations and other helpful career information and services created specifically for counselors.
  • Find out more about ACA’s 2019 Conference & Expo in New Orleans at counseling.org/conference

 

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Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.