Thursday, January 30, 2014

Who Are You? Part One.

Have you ever felt afraid that when you start your first counseling gig, that you won't have enough clients? Have you worried about your clients coming to appointments with you and then deciding your work "wasn't worth it?" 

The way I always pictured these scenarios in my head was a bit like Mean Girls. I'd be the new girl trying too hard to impress, and the clients would take one look at me, sigh in disgust, and then show me the hand as they walk out the door. 

When I sit down and spell it out like that, it seems ridiculous! But I'm betting I'm not the only one who has ever felt that way. 

The more I coach Beginning Counselors, the more I'm convinced there a single underlying issue to all Beginning Counselor concerns. Identity.

Whether it's a question of, 'how do I talk to a client who thinks I'm too young,' or 'what do I charge for sessions,' or 'how do I get on EAPs,' what you're all asking underneath that is 'what kind of a counselor am I going to be?'

Each little piece - and there's SO many of them - makes up a small bit of you the practitioner. 

Entering any new career is a point at which a reconstruction has to begin, of yourself as the individual to yourself as the professional. But what is unique to the counseling profession is the very personal nature of our work. 

When a client rejects what you have to offer, it feels like they're rejecting you. 

When they don't complete their homework, you wonder how you could have been more compelling.

When you can't answer a question, you feel like you've let them down.

This is very different from the kind of job in which you only have to communicate that "we're out of the special sauce." That's not to say those kinds of jobs aren't just as hard in a different way, but it's not something you're going to take personally. When you can't offer someone something they want from counseling, however, you take it very personally indeed. 

You feel like you've failed, because you've wrapped up so much of your identity in a multitude of things that change from day to day. How you feel that morning. How a client acts. Whether you keep things on a tight timetable, or know the right words to say. It's exhausting. If your identity as a counselor is in external results then you will be tossed around by the events of the day. 

But many counselors set themselves up this way without even realizing it...especially the new ones. When we're new, we're searching for feedback constantly on how we're doing. And because we don't have the experience yet to balance negative feedback with the bigger picture, we tend to take the worst perspective when it's presented to us.

When a client doesn't come back, we think, "Of course not. I completely screwed up when they dropped that big bombshell. Why would they come back?"

When we list our brand-new practice on Psychology Today, and don't get a single call for a few weeks, we think, "Of course not. Who would want to get help from me?"

Please tell me I'm not the only one who's ever had those dark thoughts. Though thankfully they grow more rare the longer I work in this field, I have to say I thought things like this quite frequently during my early days. 

It sucks to feel that way. This is your dream, and instead of feeling hopeful and useful, you feel like you've made a big mistake thinking you were good enough to enter this field.

Here's the thing. With time, you will see this is not the case. You will see how you were needed and meant to share what you have to offer. 

But that doesn't really help when you're feeling it right now.

Now you just think you're someone who makes idiotic mistakes and you blame yourself for everything that can possibly go wrong in a counseling session.

So how can you help yourself with these feelings right now?

The answer is the same as the problem. Identity.

If you don't know who you are as a counselor, you have nothing to combat the self-doubt that comes. 

When you know who you are and why you're here, though. That's when you're unstoppable. 

Fortunately, you don't have to wait several years to develop this on your own. There is something for you, right now, that helps you move from self-doubt into secure self-confidence.

You're not going to believe what it is.

Tune in next week for the answer....

In the meantime, share with us: have you ever felt doubt in your professional abilities? What did you to that helped it? 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

7 Ways To Start The Search For The Perfect Clinical Supervisor

After graduation, there's one thing standing between you and your dream career - your clinical internship. This internship is made up of two essential ingredients: several thousand hours, and a clinical supervisor. This is a person you will spend 2-5 years with, who will sign off on your license application, and shape your perspective on counseling as a profession. Kind of a big deal. 

Ironically enough, such a big decision often is made for you, as many supervisors "come with" an internship site. Your supervisor is so important to you, it seems crazy that most people get them as a package deal like fries and a Coke. Not that it doesn't make sense - internship sites are hard to come by, and it seems excessive to pay outside fees for a supervisor if you already have one set up. 

But I've found that some people aren't happy with the clinical supervisors they get with their site - sometimes they find out later that the supervisor doesn't have the experience in what they want to learn about, or even in some cases, that the supervisor is unethical. So they have to find a new one.

Some sites, especially nonprofits, don't come with a supervisor at all. They just don't have the means to keep one on staff. 

Any of these situations mean that an intern would have to do their own legwork in finding an independent clinical supervisor. As I discovered when recently asked to help refer an intern to a clinical supervisor, that is not as easy a task as one might think.

To be successful in finding the perfect clinical supervisor, you need several things. 

You need to do your homework and find out what a supervisor wants from you.

You need to know what YOU want in a supervisor and prioritize. 

You need to know how you are going to pay the fees an outside supervisor requires and what you get for those fees

But before all that, you need to know where to start. 

That's what I'm here to help you with today. We're going to talk about seven ways you can get started in your search for the perfect clinical supervisor.

  1. Your University. My school, like many others, keeps a roster of local LPC-S supervisors that have worked with their students before. Usually this includes both outside and site-based supervisors. School bulletin boards in your department might also include advertisements for private clinical supervisors. 
  2. State Rosters. My completely unscientific sampling of several state licensing board showed that each provides a listing of supervisors in their state. There is no further descriptive data on individual supervisors, but it's a place to start. (Examples: Washington, New York) Tip: If your roster is not searchable, download the excel file and sort by city, selecting the column and then "sort." 
  3. Networking. Just as one of you interns asked me, ask another counselor or fellow intern if they know someone who does clinical supervision. Right now, I don't have a huge referral list, but I have a few names I'm happy to share. Someday, I might even be able to refer you to myself! I've been considering getting my supervisor credentials lately...
  4. Supervisor Listing Websites. allows supervisors to list their availability for a low rate, so you're likely to get supervisors of different fee rates if that's important to you. Supervision Today is free for you to search and easy to navigate, for LPCs, LCSWs, and LMFTs.
  5. LinkedIn. Linked in is a surprisingly good and often overlooked resource for finding supervisors, though it won't be as effective if you don't already have some counselor connections. Just type in LPC-S, LMFT-S, etc. into your search box and you'll start coming up with people you are already connected with and people who are connected to potential supervisors.
  6. Psychology Today. This is lower on the list because it's more time-intensive to search. But it's still possible to pull up local listings and scan the credentials of each counselor listed. Some, not all, will list their supervisor credentials here! This is a neat option because you get more information about potential supervisors before you call them. 
  7. Search Engines. This is certainly something that's easy to try, but it's last on the list because it is hard to find the right search term. You're just as likely to get a listing of LPC-S jobs as you are to find LPC-S-es that you can call. But it's worth a shot.
So there you have it. Seven ways to start the search for the perfect clinical supervisor. Try them out and let me know which was most successful for you! But before you do so, will you do one more quick favor for me? 

I've really liked getting to know all of you better, and I think the real strength of Beginning Counselor is in our community. So, in the interest of knowing each other more as well as giving me insight into the kind of referrals you need from me, will you share your experience with me?

If you'll do this quick thing for me, you'll help me jump start a new project I'm working on for all of you. For now, let's just call it the Community Snapshot project...but it can't happen without your help.

I know I have some licensed counselors reading my posts, but this one's just for the students & interns. So you're off the hook.

How did you find your supervisor? What did you learn was important in the search? Share in the comments below!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Life of A Mental Health Professional (Our First Infographic!)


What did you think of your first infographic? Would you like to see more? Comment below!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

PLANNING For Client Success

When was the last time you knew someone who followed their New Year's Resolution? If you can't think of an example, you're in the majority. A mere 8% of people successfully follow their resolutions each year. That leaves all the rest feeling discouraged and down on themselves. 

But this shouldn't be surprising news, right? We know better than anyone. Our job, after all, is change, and change is HARD.

During the course of therapy, our clients will "fail" on the path to achieving their goals in a multitude of ways. 
  • Fall off the wagon.
  • Speak to the destructive ex-partner.
  • Overwork, overeat, or overplan. 
  • Go off the grid. 
  • Hide from the world.
  • Explode in anger.
Or any of a dozen other vices they are in therapy to address. 

We know how hard it is to achieve change, both from our personal experience and from watching many, many clients go down the same path. There is no direct ascension in the path to success. Change is like a game of Chutes and Ladders. One spin moves you way up, and another can bring you back down again.

We know that. But our clients don't often know that. 

How many times have you had a client "apologize" to you for messing up on their therapy goals?

Or stop coming to counseling altogether, only to find out later that they did so because they were ashamed for violating a goal they discussed with you?

It is completely unrealistic to expect perfect success, without any setbacks, from anyone trying to accomplish a change in their lives. But clients often see the completely normal up-and-down path of working towards a goal as their own private failure. 

That is why I believe it's important that we go out of our way to disabuse clients of this unrealistic notion of success. Whether they're working towards a New Year's Resolution or trying to achieve another goal, it's part of our job to let them know that they are only able to affect the now.

We can do that by the simple act of believing in them. If someone has believed in us in the past, we may take the power of that belief for granted. But in reality, many people don't have that. Before they come to counseling, they have probably been struggling with this issue a long time. Their family and friends may be sick of hearing about it. Their family and friends may be part of the problem. The belief you have in their ability to change may genuinely be the only strength of belief they have in their life.

Your belief in them can be the very thing that teaches them by example how to believe in themselves. 

It opens the door to teaching them other tools to self-belief:

  • Creating opportunities to prove your own strengths.
  • "Flipping" the situation: if another person you trusted was facing the same odds, would you be as hard on them as you're being on yourself?
  • Rehearsing self-control before a trigger and increasing your ability to avoid temptation.
  • Reminding yourself that self-belief is something you can learn. 
Our job is a little like New Year's in a bottle - with every new client we're trying to set them up for success with challenges that are staggeringly difficult to achieve. But by believing in their ability to achieve their goals, we teach them that it is possible...even if there are a few bumps along the way. 

What do YOU tell clients to help encourage them success is possible? Comment below!