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Should you stay or should you go?

April brings showers, visions of spring, and the beginning of the end of your field year experience. What are the benefits to staying or saying good bye? Here are some things to consider as you begin the process of winding down your field experience.

“Should I stay or should I go…” ~ The Clash

Termination
Go: While it may seem counterintuitive to begin with the end in mind, this is precisely what fieldwork students should be thinking. A large part of the learning process during the internship experience is learning how to terminate with your clients. Clients will (and should) move on. Knowing how to say goodbye and prepare them for either your departure is just as important as the very first session.

Stay: Even if you decide to stay, termination is one of those phases of treatment that is inevitable and unavoidable. Stay tuned for tips on how to terminate with clients.

New Faces, New Spaces
Go: Experience a different environment, coworkers, supervisors, client population. Building and growing your skill set is an important part of your career. You can use the end of your internship to explore a different side of yourself while practicing and enhancing your skills as a counselor.

Stay: If you decide to stay, be sure to make clear your new role as a professional. Perhaps there are new responsibilities you can add or change so that you are not continuing in the same role that you were in as an intern.

Taking Time Off
Go: If you’re graduating and completing internship concurrently, it might be a good time to take a much needed break. Processing doesn’t stop just because there’s no professor after you for that reflection journal. Taking a break allows you to process your whole experience and the experience of being a graduate. Journal, dream, meet and greet other professionals. You can still be productive in your career outside of the office.

Stay: If you decide to stay, be sure that you’re building in self-care and discuss new work schedule options with your agency.

“If I go there will be trouble…”

Staying On

They love you and they want you to stay. Congratulations! Use the “Stay” strategies above to really define yourself as a professional counselor in your new role. Seek opportunities to grow within your position. You’re in a prime position to help new interns acclimate to the fieldwork experience. Utilize your skills, share what you know, and please do not forget to schedule your first vacation!

“If I stay there will be double…”

Saying Goodbye

Remember to always give a clear ending date and remind your supervisors and colleagues at least two weeks before you end. Treat it like a job, put in your notice and make time to wrap up loose ends before you depart. Maintain the partnership once the internship comes to an end. Connect on your social media and professional networks. YOu can stay up to date with them and they with you. As you job hunt, they may even endorse some of your skills. It never hurts.

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The Power of Social Media

I will be the first to say that I do not quite get social media. I typically un-tag myself in Facebook photos. I’ve been known to make mistakes when using the past tense of tweet that would make one blush. For a long time, I thought LinkedIn referred to a concept as opposed to an actual website and online community. Over time and with a lot of help from some amazing and patient people, I’ve been able to get a handle on how to use use social media to both delight and connect with others. But, nothing that I had engaged in thus far prepared me for what I was going to encounter at SMARMIE.

Funny acronym right? When I first heard of it, my imagination ran wild with all the things each letter could stand for. What I did not expect was that this conference of a peculiar name would be so singularly powerful and educational that it could very well change the way that I view social media and its powers forever. Now, I realize this this sounds very dramatic but it wasn’t until the presentation by the keynote speaker (blew my mind) that it really hit me.

Social media is crucial in the development of a global community of volunteers and it directly contributes to and enhances our ability to respond to those in crisis.

For counselors and counseling students, it is so important for us to be aware of the ways in which we can be involved in the creation and maintenance of this burgeoning movement. Humanitarianism is going digital and if you are a counselor YOU are engaged in humanitarian work.

Below are a few things I took away from the conference. I invite and urge you to check these sites out. Sign up for updates. Be involved. Get connected.

iRevolution – This blog features short thought pieces on how innovation and technology are revolutionizing the power of the individual through radical self-sufficiency, self-determination, independence, survival and resilience. While you’re at it, follow the incredible Patrick Meier.

Standby Task Force – Tired of feeling like you could be doing more when crisis hits? STF organizes digital volunteers into a flexible, trained and prepared network ready to deploy in crises.

Crisis Mappers – The largest and most active international community of experts, practitioners, policymakers, technologists, researchers, journalists, scholars, hackers and skilled volunteers engaged at the intersection between humanitarian crises, technology, crowd-sourcing, and crisis mapping.

iDisaster – The amazing Kim Stephens heads up this blog that seeks to provide exemplary practices, news and information about applications of new media, with the longer-term objective of improving practice and outcomes in emergency management.

Geofeedia – Identify “hot spots” by quickly performing situational awareness on impacted communities, prioritize resource allocation and logistical efforts using real-time intelligence from Geofeedia, and communicate with impacted populations using social media.

I’d also highly recommend keeping your eye on what’s coming out of Dr. Mark Dredze’s team at JSU. Social media for public health: very much here and now.


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When the going gets tough…what can you do?

We’ve all experienced it. It’s that moment after the adrenaline of beginning your internship has worn off, the novelty of your coworkers and fellow interns is becoming rote, and your readings and papers for school are creeping up fast and furiously. Some of you may also hold a part-time or full-time job while juggling school and the internship. Your rose-colored glasses get darker and suddenly, you can’t remember the last time you smiled, laughed or ate something. Welcome to the Dark Days.

I only mildly exaggerate but there will come a point in time when things feel completely overwhelming. I wish there were a salve to rid us all of these days but this post exists to remind you that a) it’s normal and b) make time for self-care.

If you’re in the middle of it now, you may be rolling your eyes and thinking, what does she know? Trust me, I know! I was a full-time professional and student with a caseload of clients that demanded an immense amount of time and energy…I know what it feels like to not have the time to breathe. I also know that when you are experiencing exhaustion and the first signs of burnout, not only are you not doing any good for yourself but your work in the field may also suffer. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of self-care. It’s not just a concept in your textbook; it’s an important aspect of your development as a professional.

Self-care doesn’t always mean a two week stay at a beach resort with a Bahama-Mama at your side (though it sounds great!). It could mean taking 30 minutes in your day to do something for you. Stretch, journal, watch an episode of a funny show. Engage in anything that helps you reconnect to you and your interests outside of the counseling realm. (For more ideas, see this post featuring Shawn Achor)

Lastly, for those of us based in NY and surrounding states, Sandy has disrupted many of our lives. There are a number of resources available to help you and your clients address stress and trauma related to the storm.


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*New* Resources Page!

I’ve been excited to publish this Internship Series featuring resources to help you find, track time, and make the most of your experiences. There’s more to come!

If you missed resources mentioned in the last few posts, check out the new resources page. Not only will you find internship resources there but you will also have access to resources on other topics and links to noteworthy sites. Check back often for new content.

If you have ideas or links that you think might be helpful, please contact me! I look forward to hearing from you!


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Track Your Time

Internship hours account for the bulk of the final year in a Counseling or Social Work program.  Most of us need to complete anywhere from 600 – 1500 hours of counseling hours, supervision, and indirect service (reports, paperwork, etc).  As if seeing clients, writing reports, finding your place at your agency, and finding an orientation that “fits” isn’t enough, your school will most likely ask you to turn in a break down of your time.  This type of paperwork can be time consuming and frustrating if you wait until the last minute to get it done.

I’m loving the TimetoTrack website which helps clinicians easily track hours and provides a handy printout sheet.  They also post a blog series that’s extremely useful to newbies in the field.  Check out their latest here: Internship Application Season has Begun!

If you decide not use their service (1 year costs $36.95 but they offer a free trial), you can choose the DIY approach.  Excel is extremely handy and you can personalize the columns and let the sheet do the tally.  Here’s a sample of what you can do: Hours_Blank  (If you like the template, feel free to email me and I’ll help you customize it).

Developing a quick and efficient system of tracking your internship hours will help

you when you are working towards your hours for your license.  Remember, you’re responsible for tracking those – not your job, supervisor, and certainly not the state!

Good luck!!


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So, you want to be an intern?

Entering the second year of your counseling program is a thrilling time.  You’ve gotten through the first year (congratulations!) and now, it’s time to think about working towards the internship/ fieldwork hours for graduation.  The task can seem daunting, but we have all been there and it is doable.

Outside of recommending an early start, I’ve put together a quick list of six steps you can take to guide your search.  

Access them here: Tips_Obtaining an Internship

Good luck!

Stay tuned for more tips and ideas about the internship experience.


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Was it something I said?

Sometimes, interacting with clients feels a little like speed-dating. We meet, we chat for a bit, and suddenly I find myself wondering and worrying about whether or not they’ll call me again. Did they find our session helpful enough for round two? Am I the type of counselor they can see themselves with?

After a first meeting or particularly difficult session, a client cancellation or no-show prompts me to rewind back through the session in slow motion, searching for clues that might answer that persistent nagging question: “Was it something I said?”

I’m embarrassed that a missed session can so quickly bring down my carefully constructed fort of self-confidence.   The cancellation/ no-show kicks up those still too-fresh grad school feelings of self-doubt and uncertainty.  At best, I feel a little rejected.  At worst, I fear I’ve scared them away from counseling altogether.

I had to face this recently when Calm Client missed not one, but two sessions in a row.  Complete no-shows.  No call, no text, no pigeon carrying a calligraphic notice.  So, I did the normal thing and placed a phone call.  No answering machine and no client.  Then I did the abnormal thing and conjured up the last session (and the one before that) for a mental re-run.  By the time I was done  – none of it yielding any clues – the second week had come and again, a no-show.  Well, I thought, I’ve really done it now.  I called again but this time the number was no longer in service. I must have scared Calm Client right out of the state!

The following week, I was shocked to see Calm Client was waiting for me, a full 15 min before the scheduled session. The wave of relief that Calm Client was a) physically fine and b) present was overwhelming.  I felt greedy to know what had caused the no-shows and I prayed it had nothing to do with me.  The explanation was one of the best I could have ever hoped to hear.  Calm Client had landed a new job and the change in schedule caused the missed sessions.  Calm Client meant to call, but had not.  And my second call attempt failed due to a change in phone service.  The words from Carly’s song came to mind, “You’re so vain…” and yes, I did think that the no-show was about me. It wasn’t.

My take home lessons:

1. The cancellation/ no-show might not be about you.

2. Self-confidence is still a weak spot. As a new professional, it’s easy to fall into the mindset that perhaps you did something wrong or that you’re not very good.  Keep building that brick house of self-confidence.

3. The cancellation might indeed be because of you…and now how do you prevent those negative feelings from causing you to run screaming from the profession?

While I work on the internal aspect of cancellations, I’m trying to take a proactive approach to managing cancellations.

Client Responsibility – When I meet with clients for the first time I stress the importance of calling in at least 24 hrs before the session if they cannot make it.  Not only does it put some of the responsibility on the client but it serves as a way for me to check in on the client. I’m far less likely to feel anxious and get lost in the world of self-doubt if I can hear the client’s voice (their tone can tell you quite a bit) and provide a positive statement like: “I’m sorry we will not meet today but I look forward to seeing you next week.”

Assigning Homework – I don’t do this in every session, but sometimes a well-timed homework assignment can give clients that extra push to make it next week.  Sometimes something as simple as, “You mentioned XX during the session and perhaps next week you can tell me more about it,” can provide the impetus for a client to return.

Charge a Fee – I’m not in private practice so I can’t implement this for my clients but some private practitioners and agencies will charge a fee for a no-show or cancellation less than 24-48 hours before the session.  It’s not about beating the client over the head with fees but rather making it very clear that counseling services are indeed a service and a missed session without prior notification may cause a counselor to miss providing that service to another paying client.  Charging a no-show or late cancellation fee certainly makes one reconsider blowing off the counselor for that re-run of any-old reality show.

End it with Positivity – Therapy can be tough. Anyone who has ever been a client can tell you there are days that you want to just melt into the couch and be done with the whole thing.  I make it a point to leave some time at the end of a hard session to summarize and pull together pieces for the client, to acknowledge the difficulties faced during the session, and to appreciate the courage it took to engage fully. It instills a sense of accomplishment for sifting through the issues and as a reminder that therapy is a process and it’s not always easy but sticking with it can yield life changing results.

How do others proactively (or retroactively) deal with clients that cancel, don’t show, or simply never return?