half a tank is all you need…


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

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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Back to Basics

I’ve been privileged enough to have had several interesting conversations in the past few days. Strangely, they all seemed to have common threads dealing with acceptance and happiness. I ended up with a couple of questions that feel very relevant.
1) Am I accepting of my place in the present moment? and 2) Am I happy or not?
The nuances in the answers to those questions CAN be vast…but for a second I put all of that aside and gave myself the old elementary-style quiz.

happy or not

Life is undeniably more complicated than this. I’m as guilty as anyone of getting wrapped up in the nuances, the expectations, and the anxieties. I know too well the feelings of confusion, frustration, and muddled sense of self that sneaks in even while sprinting down the “path to success”. The simplicity of those questions and boiling it down to the basics helped push aside all of the “should, could, musts” that come along with this existence and helped me tap into the most primary feelings and motivations. In asking myself these questions and allowing myself to sit with the answer without analysis or expectation, things became just a little bit clearer in the moment.

Isn’t that what most of us strive for anyway? A little slice of clarity and simplicity one moment at a time?


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.

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“Who are you?”

As a neophyte counselor there are still a slew of issues and topics that I’m getting used to.  I was lucky enough to continue my work with ex-offenders during which I’ve grown more comfortable dealing with issues of probation, prison experiences, blush-worthy sex topics, and a gamut of experiences that pull on the full range of emotions.  Still,  it’s the personal questions directed towards me that make me freeze up.

“Do you want kids?”

“Why aren’t you married?”

“Do you believe in God?”

While I have answers and explanations for each of those questions that I would normally be happy to spout over a drink at the bar, in the counseling chair I feel just like…

deer in headlights

While there are a number of reasons they might be asking those questions, I realize that sometimes it’s just a humanizing method.  These questions are just leading to the bigger question clients might have: “Who are you?”

Who Are You – Alice in Wonderland

How much of who I am is important in session and I still struggle with determining when it might be appropriate to answer any questions the client might have; disclosure isn’t always cut and dry.

I try to determine whether disclosure would have any therapeutic usefulness.  Does it matter if I pray to one God, pray to several gods, don’t pray at all?   What value does the answer have and if it does have value, what is the best way to express it and where do we go from there?   Is it unreasonable that some would want to know more?  To feel less like they’re coming in for therapy and more like they’re meeting with someone they know?  It’s tricky ground this therapeutic relationship stuff and the rules around disclosure do not seem to be “one size fits all.”

I tend to err on the side of caution, not giving too much, volunteering virtually nothing, and when I do answer, it may be the bare minimum.  Would it be so bad to share a real answer to any of their questions?  The answer for me is, “yes, sometimes.”   The balance of private and professional feels precarious at times, disingenuous at others.  I’ve seen the damage that it can do to have a hard-fast rule that removes the person from the experience.  The “It’s Not About Me, It’s About You,” approach.  I’ve also seen what happens to counselors that cannot seem to hold their tongue – their usefulness quickly comes into question.  From personal experience, I’ve enjoyed the bond that can take place when a therapist discloses; I know that it is a decision they made to do so and that when made correctly it can add something invaluable to the therapeutic experience.  Maintaining boundaries is important to me and in the profession.  Disclosure is part of that, but learning how to navigate the nuances is still a work in progress.

How to others navigate self-disclosures?

“Damn, and just when I was starting to get it.”  ~Edgar Degas

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Befuddlement #1 and a Chart: Offenders, Employment & Compliance

There’s something that continues to befuddle me in my still very small clinical world.  I work primarily with individuals that have been convicted of having committed a sexual offense and I have many questions about why things are the way they are.  The chart below shows a piece of my befuddlement related to offenders, employment, and compliance with mandated treatment.

Befuddlement #1
Roads to Non-Compliance

There are quite a few factors I’m leaving out, of course.  Generally speaking, I find it difficult to understand how we can demand compliance for treatment that they have to pay for, at the same time making it incredibly difficult for those with a felony – particularly those with a felony in for a sexual offense – to find gainful employment that would allow them to remain in compliance.  There are many more roads leading to non-compliance which seems counter-productive to…well…everything.  This crude chart doesn’t even begin to address the issues of counselor burn-out and lack of support for agencies that do this type of work.  What exactly is the end-goal I wonder?  Is it really to successfully reintegrate offenders back into communities and guide them towards being pro-social and productive members of society?  The more I see this patterns in the system that lead away from this end-goal and lean towards  failure, the deeper my befuddlement.

In my mind, a more useful chart might be something like this:

Employment & Empowerment

I’m interested in how other countries work with their offenders and treatment mandated populations on issues of reintegration. Next stop…Canada.

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