The first time I worked with a physician was during my training as a suicide risk assessment consultant in a hospital.
My job was simple: give the nice doctor a brief run-through of the patient presentation and make recommendations for treatment. I walked into the doctor’s office, smiled, took a deep breath, and I began to regale them with the tale of my time with the patient and how they made me feel.
After about thirty seconds, my story was cut short.
The doctor shook his head, raised his hand, and said “you’re burning my time buddy, just tell me what I need to do.” Caught off guard and sweating profusely, I managed to stumble through some recommendations before the physician said “sounds great” and turned back to his notes.
In my book, The Beginning Counselor’s Survival Guide, my main goal is to simplify the difficult-to-understand. For a career that is all about helping people, we certainly do make it complicated to get into sometimes! As the co-founder of Beginning Counselor: Building Your Ideal Internship I get questions all the time, many of them starting with, “What do they mean by _______?”
The fact is, with counseling licensure, as well as with counseling practice, there are a lot of gray areas. “This means this if this is the case…unless of course, this happens.”
That’s why I wanted to take this opportunity to clear up some of the confusion, specifically about the concept of HOURS. By that I mean the specific number of hours we as counselors (or psychologists, marriage and family therapists, or other behavioral health professionals) are required to earn in order to switch from a provisionally licensed mental health professional to the real deal.
Hospitals are their own worlds, and psychiatric units even more so. Most of us don’t know much of what happens in these mysterious places, leaving us to pop culture and our own imaginations to try to figure it out.
For example, will these units be like Girl, Interrupted, or look like one of Carrie Mathison’s hospital stays on Homeland?
Psychiatric units are generally locked, but you, dear reader, have the keys – and you’re headed in. Here are six tips they don’t teach you in school.
Imagine that you are nervously sitting in class as your professor begins to hand back your graded midterm. You wait in anticipation as she slides your upside down paper toward you. You take a deep breath as you flip the paper over to see that you passed. Just as you breathe a sigh of relief, you begin to look around and wonder, “What did everyone else get?”
You get a feeling of unease as you ponder this question. You scan the room, wondering whether or not to ask your classmates what they received on the test. You cannot explain why you are so eager to know, yet the desire is there. The need to know where you are in comparison to others is strong, and you do not know why.
I have the answer, and it is one word: Competition.
Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is youer than you! – Dr. Seuss
There are many lessons I learned from Dr. Seuss: try new things, respect others, and know that making mistakes helps you grow. When I look back over my graduate school career, I have no doubt that I went right along with the Doctor’s orders. I was true to myself and tailored each year of my practicum experiences to cater to my strengths and interests.
As a result, I was able to stand out on my internship applications and develop an area of specialization as an early career psychologist.
With this article, I hope to impart some knowledge and suggestions that may help you on that path in tailoring your training experiences and building a competitive CV.
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?
I recently defended my dissertation before going on internship. I set this goal during my 3rd year of graduate school. I really wanted to be 100% focused on internship when I began my rotation, and I wanted to be able to become immersed in as many opportunities as possible, including research and attending extra didactics and seminars.
However, I knew that with my dissertation looming over my head, this would be much more difficult to do and I would be left with no down time at all.
I’ve had a lot of people ask me how I accomplished this, so I thought I’d share some tips. Of course there are always unforeseen roadblocks that complicate the process, and defending prior to internship is not always possible, but here is how I did it…
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.
Can’t you just feel the tension of this year’s political climate?
Look at you, reading a blog post about politics on a psychology website.
And who can blame you? Only about 24 million people may have tuned in to the live presidential debate between Clinton and Trump , but everyone is talking about it. With the presidential election coming up, you can bet your clipboard that your clients are going to bring this into session.
Most clinicians can agree that political conversations have little place in the therapy room. Angsting about presidential prospects and governmental goings-on appears to have limited healing power for our clients. Regardless, our clients continue to ask us where we stand on gun control, whether we are pro-life or pro-choice, and for whom we plan to vote.
So, what do we do when our clients want to talk politics?