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Work the Cube: multidimensional cultural competency

I am looking at you,
You at him,
Kabir asks, how to solve
This puzzle —
You, he and I?

(Philosopher, 1440-1518)


I’m trying to write a post about my multicultural experience during my internship and I’m finding that I don’t know where to begin.  This is not surprising.  I think it’s fairly common “not to know where to begin” when dealing with these issues of culture, the -isms, and clients.

I walked into the agency armed with my Multiculturalism in Counseling Resources and an abstract understanding of what might take place in the room.  I also walked in feeling worried that I might say something silly, or worse yet, insulting.  I’d had many classes that provoked thought, required self-reflective journaling and processing, demanded experiential activities, and imbued the theories of identify formation and multicultural counseling competencies – but putting it all together in a new environment with real clients was something entirely more challenging.

The key thing I made myself remember during my internship was that it’s a learning experience.  As a mental health counseling intern, I was there to grow, to contribute, to practice the skills and begin to make the transition from theory to practice.  Becoming a culturally competent counselor follows a similar path.

A few weeks into the internship, I returned to the Cube (see below).   I’d had an array of clients at that point – many with cultural norms, religious beliefs, and race, class, and educational experiences that differed from my own.  The Cube served the same purposes then as it does for me now.

The Cube reminds me of the interlocking components that lead to the development of cultural competence.  Using the Cube, I can determine which component (skills, awareness, knowledge) I need to focus on, for which group, and at what level.  Working the Cube reminds me that acquiring cultural competency is an ongoing and proactive process.

So, while honing your interviewing skills, learning the fine art of identifying discrepancies and mastering interventions, take some time to Work the Cube and flex that cultural competency muscle.  As counseling goes global and our society continues to evolve (Counseling Today, Aug 2012) we need to be equipped to deal with with clients and colleagues from all walks of life.

A multidimensional model of developing cultural competence (Sue, 2001)

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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!!

Fall Reboot @ Acadia National Park

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Fall is not my favorite season.  I dread the upcoming cold and long for more days of summer heat, green grass, and balmy evenings.  But, this fall, my partner and I decided to kick off the season with a trip to Maine.  A chance to reconnect with nature, with ourselves, and bid a sweet farewell to the last days of summer.  I’m more of a beach-goer and would happily spend each and every day counting sand grains and listening to the waves roll in.  But, every once and a while, there’s a place so beautiful that it almost makes me think I could opt for a woodsy retreat as a viable beach alternative.  This was my experience at Acadia National Park.  The park is full of trails for hikers/ climbers or all levels and there’s enough beautiful landscape to keep everyone happy.  We had a chance to hike the Beehive Trail (a fun trail but not for the vertigo-afflicted) and take in the most beautiful views from the top.

What do you do to welcome the fall and reboot?

This gallery contains 15 photos

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Make the most of your internship experience

The process of finding an internship can be daunting.  Perhaps you had to find one on your own, or maybe you were assigned a site by your school.  In my case, I had to find my own internship and I needed it to coordinate with my full-time work hours.  Hard?  Yes!  Impossible?  Not at all.

Reflecting back on the internship experience brings me to this series of posts.  Check out tips on securing your internship, and once you’ve secured one, here are some ways that you can make the best of your experience.

Try It On: Internships are not just a degree requirement; they’re a great way to try on your new role as a Mental Health Counselor.  Convinced you want to work with adolescents?  Try it on for size in your internship.  Internship sites might have a defined role for you, but there’s no harm done in citing your interests.  Conversely, try challenging yourself by working with a population you are not familiar with.  Not only will you broaden your skill-set but working with a different population may open you up to new interests and aspirations.

Do the Prep: When I learned that I got the internship I wanted, the first thing I did was yelp with joy and relief.   Hooray, I get to counsel offenders.  Ummm…what does that mean exactly?  I trotted right on over to my school’s library and checked out a few books/ articles on exactly that subject.  Preparing is not about mastering a subject before you start it (and if you think you’ll master anything during your internship, think again!); instead it’s about coming to the table with a level of understanding that will ultimately help you better comprehend what you learn at your site and help you better facilitate conversations with the site’s staff and supervisor.  It also does a world of good in relieving the first client jitters.

Fill the Gaps: Want to make an impression?  Good interns follow the rules and do their work well.  Great interns do all of that and find ways to enhance the agency.  Are you good at organizing?  Maybe you can recommend a new filing system that will help staff and other interns do their work more effectively.  Or create a new orientation manual to help future interns begin their work at the agency.  Or create a library where articles and books are readily available for interns and staff.  Many of my fellow classmates started brand new groups and workshops for clients.  They recognized a gap, a need, and took initiative to create something new (I should also mention that many of those classmates were offered positions post-graduation.)

Ask Away: Wherever you are, don’t forget that you are there to learn.  What better way to learn than to ASK QUESTIONS.  Ask them of your supervisor, of your peers, and of the site staff.  As an intern, I was full of questions.  At least 30% of my supervision consisted of me rattling off a list I’d prepared.  What I found was that I started to get answers and a deeper understanding of the work of counseling.  I also found that other interns had the same questions (and those that are less vocal appreciate when their unasked question gets answered!)  Be fearless – ask away.

What are some ways other interns have enhanced their internship experience?

Stay tuned for more on the topic of internships…

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ICTJ: Transitional Justice and Displacement

Newly released from the ICTJ and I had to share.

Individuals and families are displaced from their homes at alarming rates.  Becoming a socially conscious counselor means a) knowing about the issues they face and b) doing our best to contribute to their mental well-being.  We can all learn more, do more, be more.

See, read, listen here:  

International Center for Transitional Justice.


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.