Friday, August 29, 2014

5 Ways To Broaden Your Training Experience (Even If You’re In A Single-Focus Internship)

Thrilled with your current position as an intern at a domestic violence shelter, a hospital ER, or a faith-based counseling center, but wishing you had the chance to explore more of the variety that is out there in the counseling field?

Here’s your guide to getting the most out of the time you have in training – no matter what your internship focus is!

1. Multitask. Whatever you’re doing for hours now, think

about how you can get the most possible experience for your time there. Can you spin your work with preschool play therapy into some parent coaching sessions? Can you develop and use different sets of skills with the same group of clients, like trying cognitive-behavioral & EMDR-based methods on your trauma clients?

2. Observe. Other interns in different specialties. Your supervisor. Any other counselor that will allow you to watch them in practice. 

3. Read. Case studies, journal research articles, autobiographies, memoirs, counselor-authored practice books. Here’s some possibilities to get you started:

Journeys To Professional Excellence: Lessons From Leading Counselor Educators And Practitioners 
Ariadne's Thread: Case Studies in the Therapeutic Relationship 
On Being A Therapist 
Inside the Session: What Really Happens in Psychotherapy 

4. Volunteer. Any kind of social services agency will work!

5. Man (or Woman) a Hotline. Sexual assault recovery, crisis pregnancy, suicide prevention, LGBT, domestic violence – there is a hotline for almost any specialty you might want to explore further. While you would likely be a volunteer in this position, it’s still worth your time to pursue if it’s of significant interest to you. 

Right now, you may be feeling stuck, or out of options. But you have more flexibility than you realize. This is literally the only time in your life when you are new to the field of counseling, AND you have the assistance of a trained supervisor to help you with any and all of your counseling-related questions.

And that’s the key that’s going to make the suggestions above work for you. Any of these suggestions on their own might do you some good. But if you consciously filter these new experiences
 that you’re having through that lens of new counselor experience you will have insights you’ve never gained before and some you’ll never have again. If you take notes back from these experiences to discuss with your supervisor, or practice with a fellow intern, you’ll find your intern experience to be both diverse and more rewarding than you ever thought it could be! 

How do you suggest finding diversity in a more narrow internship experience? Comment and share below!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Who Else Wants to Measure Client Success?

Ever wonder if your efforts with clients are getting anywhere? Are you making the difference you hope to with your interventions and techniques, or are they falling flat? 

How do you know if you’re being effective in your client work?

This time in your life (practicum & internship) is all about trying new things. You’re supposed to be experimenting and finding your own personal style. But in order to do that, you need to measure the results of the new things you’re trying.

You can test the effect of your interventions on client’s stated goals by looking for these key signals as a sign that something is happening. You might not know what it means yet, but you will be able to identify that there is a reaction that means something.

The client asks specific questions about your intervention. Example: “How long do we take a time-out? What should I say to my partner when I need a break, so that they don’t feel abandoned?” This means they are engaged with the logic of what you’re suggesting and seriously considering putting it into play. The real test, of course, is to see if they…

Come back and tell you about trying it. Example: “We did this and it really worked! We were able to communicate so much better afterwards.” This is one of the most straightforward and welcome ways for you to recognize the benefits of your work…it helps your confidence a great deal when a client can specifically tell you about what worked and didn’t work. If they do not do this on their own, I encourage you to come right out and ask! It will show them you care and help you monitor your progress as well as theirs.

The client is super-quiet, even still. Example: You suggest something they could try to alleviate a symptom of their problem. A normally chatty, even bubbly person, may become quiet and not move. He/She may look at the wall or their hands. This is a sign of contemplation, obviously, but at another level like a kind of shock, indicating you may have shared with them an idea that is new to them and needs to absorb. When the client does this, consider simply mirroring them until they speak again – if it is quiet for a long while, you might also reflect the situation back to them. “It seems like you got really quiet there. Did something about that hit a nerve?”

The client starts making jokes. Example: You say, “Have you thought about telling your family you’re taking medication now?” They say, “Oh, sure, I’ll can’t wait to tell them I’m on drugs!” While a little dark humor can actually be a healthy way to process (seriously, they’ve done research) it can also be a way to deflect from feelings of fear or confusion. The fact that they want to deflect is a sign you’ve hit on something that matters, so follow up on it with them.

The client gets angry or belligerent. Example: When you suggest something, they say, “That seems like a terrible idea. It doesn’t make any sense. Why would you waste my time?” etc. Like inappropriate humor or sarcasm, this is a way to push you away and get you to focus on something else rather than what you suggested. This aggressive behavior could be physical, verbal, manipulative (passive-aggression) or sexual (flirting or come-ons) but the point of it all is the same. You got to something they want to protect. If at all possible, it’s important to not react and stay focused on the problem they’re covering up. Stay safe, but if you can, try to connect with them before they lead you off the track. 

These are signs that you are making progress in counseling. The ultimate sign of progress, of course, is when you run out of things to talk about. You know they’re not holding back, they’re simply done with their goals. That’s when you can begin to ease them back into a more independent process of self-exploration. But until that point, these clues above can help you know you’re on the right track.

What signs do you look for to measure client successes? Comment below!  

And join me on Sept. 2 for a

Thursday, August 14, 2014

If you could whisper directly in my ear...

What would you say?

It's the time of year again when it's good to evaluate and re-focus as we go into the next school year.

I know you have a lot on your mind as you start another class, finish summer courses, or perhaps even enter your very first practicum.

You're probably excited, and maybe also a little worried. There's a lot that is required of a Beginning Counselor:

  • Finding a practicum site, or a site for a clinical internship.
  • Passing the NCE or NCMHCE.
  • Getting the proper training and credentials. (Should I do a dual LMFT/LPC? What about the certification in Critical Incident Stress Management?) 
  • Finding a good supervisor, or coping with an unhelpful or abusive supervisor.
  • Serving clients well when you're terrified that somehow you'll screw them up. 
  • Having proper boundaries with clients in this busy information age. (Should they be allowed to email me? Text me?)

I WANT TO HELP YOU with all these things and more. I don't want you to EVER feel like you're alone. That's why we have the Beginning Counselor community. 

But in order to help you, I have to know what's most on your mind, and I've created a simple way for you to tell me.

Just click in the box above and answer the three questions in a way that reflects YOUR Beginning Counselor needs. That will tell me what's most important to focus on for you guys in blog posts and other free support in the weeks ahead. 

Click here to view survey as a separate web page. 

You don't have to do it alone. Just click on the link above or fill in the embedded survey form to share with me what's been on your mind. I review each answer, and they're completely anonymous, so I can simply respond to the community needs as a whole without anyone worried about being singled out. 

The best thing I could hope for as a result of your reading this today is that you take 3 minutes, fill out the questions above, and allow me to respond to you with the solutions you've been longing for. 

You have too many people out there that need your help to waste your energy stressing out about this stuff alone when I'm here to help.

With hugs & encouragement,


P.S. I promise, it's really easy. 3 questions. A few dozen words. And you could be on the way to finding the answers you've been seeking. Share your needs with me now!