So, you have reached the point in your life where you feel ready to enter the mental health field as a counselor, and you are left with the question of…now what?
You have completed the necessary educational and clinical requirements and are either in the process of pursuing provisional licensure or completing it. However, little is said about what you actually need to do next, particularly once you are fully licensed and essentially on your own.
Therefore, answering “who am I as a counselor” may seem like a daunting question and one that a lot of professionals often find themselves having to answer. Seeking the answer is not as difficult as you may think, but it requires a lot of self-reflection and a good understanding of the expectations and responsibilities the job requires.
Are there any tasks you do as a trainee, intern or psychologist that you did not expect to do before choosing a career in psychology?
One task that may come to mind is writing.
In psychology, efficient writing is a skill that is consistently required of us. Being a successful writer is a necessary proficiency to inform others about clinical matters such as patient care, reports, goals, and treatments, as well as research, statistics, and other forms of data. Oftentimes, we are not trained in professional or clinical writing and default to skills we have developed over time, which may contain common writing mistakes.
The following is a compilation of writing tips that may be helpful for a variety of clinical writing tasks for psychologists.
Graduate students face unique pressures as a part of the typical doctoral experience, including isolation in projects of indeterminate length, disproportionately little pay for excessive amounts of time and effort, and supervisory relationships that can result in the success or failure of a graduate degree.
Graduate students also bear the increased responsibilities of adulthood, such as copious amounts of debt from student loans, providing spousal and/or family support, and the foreknowledge of an uncertain career trajectory following graduation.
Graduate students suffer high rates of mental health issues. A survey of graduate students at the University of California revealed that approximately 50% of graduate students suffer from some form of mental illness . Up to 87% of graduate students report feelings of anxiety, 68% feelings of depression, and up to 19% of cases report suicidal ideation .
Even students without clinically significant levels of depression or anxiety experience symptoms that hinder their work and quality of life.
I want you to think for a minute about all the things you have learned throughout your training experience.
Remember the day that you started your first externship or internship? Do you remember all of the emotions you were feeling, the thoughts running through your head, and that knot in your stomach that wouldn’t go away?
How many times did you ask yourself, “Where do I start?” How many times did you tell your peers, “I just don’t know where to begin”? How many times did a supervisor or professor give you a sly smile and say, “Well, what do you want to do?” leaving you with a perplexed face and even a sense of panic?
In order to excel in graduate school, you may have to start developing certain habits and practices. Some of these include dedication, sacrifice, anxiety, and for many, a dash of perfectionism.
Perfectionism, however, can be both a blessing and a curse.
On the one hand, perfectionism allows you to push yourself farther than perhaps you thought you could go and to produce work that is of a higher caliber.
Unfortunately, perfectionism can also lead you down a dark road. As we all know, nothing is ever perfect, and if you expect your work to be, you will always find it lacking. For many people, this creates a self-destructive cycle of feeling like the work is never going to be good enough.
As a result, people experience anxiety from those worries, and then avoidance to help cope with the feelings of anxiety. This is procrastination.
Regardless of whether graduate school or children became part of your life first, the task of managing them all will reflect upon both how you experienced and successfully completed your program as well as how your children and family experienced it with you.
While you have already thought about your future and the future of your family by committing to completing graduate school while raising children, it is always the right time to be mindful and be connected with the “here and now” – or at least on the immediate task at hand: writing a paper, completing the semester, etc.
The experience of being on task, managing family, and successfully completing the program can be better achieved by following five basic principles…
Previously in this series, we introduced burnout and outlined symptoms of burnout to look out for.
In this article, we will discuss strategies that can help you prevent and treat burnout, so that you can continue to excel in your graduate program and future career as a behavioral health professional (or if you found this article and you’re not in the behavioral health field, these burnout tips can help you regardless of your field).
Oftentimes there are environmental factors (e.g., too few resources, too many responsibilities, too little time) that contribute to the experience of burnout; however, these factors are often outside of our control. Fortunately, there are things you can be doing to cope with environmental stressors and manage your response to frustrations.
Ideally, these strategies should be implemented early on to prevent burnout from occurring. However, even if symptoms of burnout have already reared their ugly head, these strategies can help break the cycle of behavior and thinking patterns that can produce and perpetuate the symptoms of burnout.
Graduate training programs in psychology prepare students for successful careers in academia, research and clinical practice; however, not all training programs offer the type of non-academic professional development support that can help students stand out and excel in their training and future careers.
After all, each student has their own personal strengths, and who wouldn’t want to highlight those strengths?
As a graduate student or early career psychologist, one may never think of how to professionally advance outside of successfully completing program requirements, getting the right placement/job, and obtaining a license. The six areas of non-academic tips for success offered below make up a model of related factors that can lead to success in these processes and build professional relationships along the way.
Do you ever feel like you are moving through grad school like a busy bee? Completely on autopilot?
Externship. Clients. Supervisors. Emails. Research. Class. Professors. Assignments. Dissertation. Family. Friends.
Sometimes it can all seem like one, big blur.
As graduate students in the mental health field, we are tasked with the challenge of helping others achieve mental wellness. However, in focusing on the wellbeing of others, we often completely forget to take care of our own emotional health.
“Being a graduate student is like becoming all of the Seven Dwarves. In the beginning you’re Dopey and Bashful. In the middle, you are usually sick (Sneezy), tired (Sleepy), and irritable (Grumpy). But at the end, they call you Doc, and then you’re Happy.” –Ronald Azuma
Grad school is not meant to be a walk in the park. The responsibilities associated with being a grad student involve completing coursework, providing treatment, conducting testing/assessment evaluations, working on research projects, teaching courses, fulfilling practicum requirements, preparing for supervision meetings, writing your thesis, dissertation, and clinical documentation, and involvement in professional organizations (just to name a few).
These tasks are doable. They require a lot of work and time management skills, but they are doable.
But what if you have a spouse at home who expects your time and wonderful attentive nature? You won’t be the only one who’s Grumpy. Being a spouse requires an even greater commitment.