thepathNY

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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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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.

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?

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Work/Life (im)balance

For the next few months, the end goal is fairly straight forward: reclaim life.  Being a student and a working professional has created an unhealthy work monster with no sense of what *down-time* means.  The word relax only serves to bring up memories of an 80s era full of synthesizers and classic music videos.

Somehow, I got it into my head that filling up every hour with “productive” tasks would be just the thing that would help me accomplish career and personal goals quickerfaster thus leading to a great big dose of Happy.  Instead what I’ve earned are poor sleeping and eating habits, silent wishes for germ inhabitants so that I can have a valid excuse not to do anything, and a blank-eyed expression when asked the question, “So, when are you free?”

Where is the Happy in that??

I’m not the only one who experiences the work/ life imbalance and I’m often one of the first to chastise others for not taking enough time for themselves.  Just a little hypocritical, perhaps.  So, I’m working on taking my own advice and the words of wisdom from a TEDx Talk: Shawn Achor: The Happy Secret to Better Work.  This time around, I’m not just nodding emphatically to the concept of change but seeking to implement a true change in behavior and in mindset to create more room for Happy.

Could I… Carve out some time for a positive journal writing session?  Make time for exercise?  Take a drive to a nearby park for some outdoor meditation?  The answer is a simple “yes.”  There’s time for work; why not find time for writing, sweating, meditating?  The tips are simple enough yet so often they get pushed to the sidelines by the idea that working longerharderfaster will ultimately lead to some pleasurable sense of being.  The truth?  It doesn’t.  Having a positive outlook and an internal sense of well-being are the things that happiness is made of and more happiness leads to far more productivity, creativity, and success than all the 16 oz cups of coffee and multitasking devices in the world could ever bring.

Change the lens through which you view the world and change your life?  What a novel idea.

“[It’s] the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality. And if we can change the lens, not only can we change your happiness, we can change every single educational and business outcome at the same time.” — Shawn Achor


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Said the tortoise to the hare…

It’s January.  As soon as the new year hits, I have a tendency to hit the ground running.  Ten days later I find myself listless and drained of the energy I worked so hard to cultivate during the holiday break.  We’ve all heard the phrase, slow and steady wins the race, but it seems untrue in a society where everything screams at us to be quick     and fast or risk missing out.

Perhaps it’s another year of getting older that causes me to slow down, but I’m beginning to better understand this old adage.  I’ve updated it to the simple mantra: Pace Yourself.

While I am excited for what the new year could bring and eager to tackle head first the many goals I’ve set for myself this year, pacing myself becomes ever more important.  I hope to keep the following in mind to help with keeping the pace.

Setting checkpoints.  I consider these my opportunity to check-in and celebrate where I am in terms of achieving a larger goal.  It’s easy to get lost in the rat race of striving towards the golden egg goal, but without checkpoints, it’s hard to chart your process and ultimately becomes harder to achieve the goal you originally set for yourself.  Appreciating what I have accomplished and knowing the distance left to go helps keep me motivated and on track.

Make it daily.  I am no stranger to procrastination but it’s starting to sink in that waiting until the last minute to push towards a goal is more stress-inducing than exhilarating.  Setting  a daily schedule that incorporates goal objectives keeps me in the habit of working consistently towards the end goal.

Take a break.  It’s not always easy to schedule in time to relax but making an effort to take a pause at each checkpoint to figure out what went well and what I might need to change in order to meet my end goal.  Taking a break enables new ways of moving forward to emerge; I often find some of my better ideas come when I raise my head for air.

I’m committed to getting my goals accomplished this year which include things like joining and making meaningful contributions to professional organizations like ATSA, ACA, and AMHCA, opening a website, creating partnerships with other professionals, and growing myself professionally.  I’ve also factored in travel, being more active, and reading more as goals.  Though the later do not directly mean anything for me professionally, they allow a time to refresh, rejuvenate, and will allow me to be at my best self for the months ahead.

With 12 months in the year, it’s not worth burning out in the first two weeks.  Slow and steady may just “win” the race after all.


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Holidays…

The holidays are truly one of the most wonderful yet most challenging times of the year for many individuals.  If you’re a student, it means finals are over, you can reconnect with the family and friends who have waited patiently (hopefully) for you to emerge from your books.  However, as some of you may have experienced, it can be a trying a time for our clients.  The holidays often bring up memories of loss and feelings of sadness, loneliness, and depression.

I have found that while memories evoked around the holidays can be painful, working through the thick of it and providing a supportive environment to explore the loss can be extremely powerful.  No one likes to hear, “It will all be okay” when struggling through a difficult time.  Finding a way to acknowledge the feelings (positive or negative) and forming a meaningful relationship in session can be the ticket to lifting a client’s spirits.  It’s your ability to connect that makes you important, not your ability to wash away pain.

Much like they tell you on an airplane, you must put the mask to your face before you attempt to help the person next to you.  In other words, take some time for yourself this holiday to reflect on the people and tangible goodies that make it worth your while to get up and go in the morning.  What moves you?  What makes you smile?  If you can find these things for yourself, you will be more adept at navigating a client through the same process of identifying, feeling and connecting.