Climate Change and Counseling Psychology

Climate change (i.e., “global warming”) is here, likely to stay, and will most likely get significantly worse within the next 30 years, according to a leading report released by a panel of United Nations (UN) experts (Allen et al., 2018).  This report’s essential take away is this: As the Earth warms, climate systems become unstable and ultimately cause adverse impacts to human health through a variety of natural and human mediated systems. Unfortunately, reports conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA; Clayton, Manning, Krygsman, & Speiser, 2017), United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP; Dodgen et al., 2016) and the UN (Allen et al., 2018) indicate that these adverse health outcomes are more likely to occur within marginalized communities.  Although counseling psychology’s commitment to social justice has often led the field to address other issues facing marginalized communities, counseling psychology’s capacity to contribute to the conversation on climate change as a social justice is ripe for development.  While public concern and awareness toward climate change has been substantially increasing over time (Jones & Saad, 2017), climate change has yet to be explicitly discussed in the counseling psychology literature. This begs the question: what does climate change have to do with counseling psychology? 

The turn of the decade (2009-2011) was a busy time for the APA in regard to understanding and addressing climate change.  In 2008, an APA task force on and global climate change released a report entitled, Psychology & global climate change: Addressing a multifaceted phenomenon and set of challenges (Swim, et al, 2009).  The American Psychologist ran a special issue in 2011 on psychologist’s contributions to global climate change efforts, which provided a strong foundation for better understanding the psychological principles present in climate change.  In tandem with the special issue, the APA released a Resolution on Affirming Psychologists Role in Addressing Global Climate Change that (re)affirmed psychology’s role in addressing behavioral contributions to climate change and recognized that global climate change affects those who are underprivileged and disenfranchised (American Psychological Association, 2011).  These publications, followed by the release of the updated UN climate change reports in 2018, provide a strong foundation for the importance of climate change within psychology and the relationship between health, climate change, and marginalized communities.

So, it turns out that climate change actually has a lot to do with counseling psychology, despite it being an issue that lives in the periphery of our awareness.  The reports named above (Allen et al., 2018; Clayton et al., 2017; Dodgen et al, 2016) provide strong support for the contention that marginalized communities experience negative outcomes in physical and mental health.  Specifically, they find that the impacts to physical health occur along three pathways:  extreme weather (e.g., natural disaster, heatwaves, floods, droughts, and fires), natural systems (e.g., vector-born disease, food and water infections, nutrition and demised air quality), and anthropogenic systems (e.g., occupational hazard, and violence and conflict). Adverse mental health outcomes can be direct such as trauma, shock, loss, and grief or indirect such as increases in aggression, violence, and mental health emergencies; solostalgia (i.e., loss of place attachment); loss of autonomy and control; helplessness; depression; fear; resignation; and eco-anxiety.  Although these physical and mental health impacts occur within non-marginalized communities, research suggests that they are more likely to have greater impact to marginalized communities.

Indeed, although climate change impacts everyone, an insidious characteristic is that the negative outcomes are more likely to be distributed among many different communities (Allen et al., 2018).  For example, longitudinal survey data following Hurricane Katrina found that adverse health outcomes were significantly greater among African Americans, older adults, women, single adults, those with fewer years of education, and with fewer social supports when compared to the general population (Adeolo & Picou, 2014; Picou & Hudson, 2010).  However, when considering the broad-spectrum of climate change, the list of marginalized communities commonly discussed in the literature grows significantly and often includes: children and older adults; women; African Americans; individuals in a lower socioeconomic group; those with developmental or acquired disability; individuals with pre-existing mental and physical health conditions; indigenous communities; immigrant communities; those with limited language proficiency for their current location; and communities in geographic regions prone to specific weather changes.  Clearly, climate change is an issue that places a greater burden among a large portion of (if not all) marginalized populations. 

Fortunately, counseling psychology has worked to balance the injustices found in many complex dilemmas facing marginalized communities.  One must simply recall our intro to counseling psychology course, peruse The Handbook of Social Justice in Counseling Psychology (Toperek, Gerstein, Fouad, & Roysicar, 2006), or grab coffee with a member of the field to learn about a plethora of examples, a discussion beyond the limit and scope of this article.  Despite counseling psychology’s historical commitment to addressing injustice within marginalized communities, we do not know how, or if, counseling psychology will work to address those issues posed by climate change. Further research is needed to better understand what counseling psychologist’s think about climate change and if they believe it should be addressed within the field. 

Currently, we are conducting a qualitative study to better understand the topic discussed in this article.  If you would like to lend your voice to this conversation, have any questions, or would like additional information, please feel free to email at Phil Schulte at pschulte@radford.edu.

Philip Schulte is a doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program at Radford University.

To download the PDF version of this document, click here:

Private Practice Viewpoints from the SCP Section on Professional Practice

I recently opened my passport to look at the growing number of stamps and was reminded, once again, of the many reasons I am thrilled to be in private practice! The private practice setting grants the flexibility in my schedule to maintain a full- or part-time practice seamlessly around my family, travel dreams and dog-walking responsibilities, among many others. As the designer of my own schedule, I am able to be responsive to my own needs (time-off) as well as the needs of my clients (adding appointments as needed or during less traditional hours). It is a unique opportunity to create the right amount of structure and flexibility to suit your lifestyle.

In addition to the personalized scheduling, private practice has allowed me to build a caseload of clients specific to my own personal and clinical strengths.  By doing my own phone-triage and screening, I am able to increase the likelihood that the clients I work with are a good match for my specialty. As a result, I feel I am able to maximize my therapeutic effectiveness and take on new clients as the mix of my current caseload allows. Working with adolescents, I can plan my schedule to avoid awkward waiting room interactions with peers from the same school and plan my continuing education topics to match the therapeutic issues of my community. 

Marcy Rowland, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice in Hollidaysburg, PA.

I find myself loving independent practice because it has really allowed me to tailor my practice to my passions, interests, and values. I control my schedule, and only have meetings with people I choose and topics I am passionate about. My clinical areas of focus have evolved over the years, and I am able to develop new skills and knowledge to serve clients most effectively. I also value working with a truly representative group of clients, and so I am able to choose to work with clients on a pro bono basis, or make other financial arrangements with them. My work with professional organizations and research are priorities for me, and with an independent practice I am able to flex my schedule to allow space for both research teams and working with colleagues on a national and state level.  I look forward to going to work every day and feel very fortunate to feel that way.

In my experience, students and ECPs are far too worried about the business aspect of independent practice. I say that if you can handle a university bureaucracy, then insurance companies and clinical software is super easy! Other students and ECPs I have spoken with say that they choose their employment site because they want to “do it all,” combining clinical work, research, outreach, supervision and professional activities. I have designed my independent practice so that I can “do it all,” but financially I am supported by my clinical work. It works, and I have created a wonderful community of colleagues with whom I collaborate.

Communities are different in terms of independent practice. Some areas are desperate for good clinicians (even more true in more rural and small communities) and some may not welcome new faces. This is important to check out prior to making the plunge. Sometimes people will start independent practice “on the side,” to get a feel for what it is like in a location. I have found in doing independent practice in three communities/states over the years, that both my professional network and my Counseling Psychology training have served me well. After all, even people with more significant psychological issues want to work with someone who views things from a strength-based approach based on non-institutionalized individuals with both cultural and clinical humility. Independent practice? I highly recommend!


Mary O’Leary Wiley, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice in Altoona, PA.

To download the PDF version of this document, click here:

Staying Informed: The Key to Effective Multicultural Counseling

In a time where the news bombards us with a seemingly endless stream of bad news, a desire to disengage from it all is the most tempting solution. One could argue that as budding clinicians we are exposed to enough heavy, and at times, draining stories that keeping up with the toxic news cycle can simply be too much to handle. While on one hand I agree that obsessing over the news and the state of our planet, society, government, etc. has the potential to exacerbate graduate student’s notoriously poor mental health, I argue that it is a necessary evil.

There are a multitude of reasons why it is important that graduate students actively seek to be informed about what is going on in the world outside of their programs. Firstly, though the light at the end of the graduate student tunnel seems far away, there will come a time when we are released back into the world outside. This mythical land has not stopped changing, adapting, struggling, etc. over the course of our programs, and if we have no idea of what has happened the last five years, it will be nearly impossible to be an active member of society. As clinicians it will be our role to advocate for our clients and understand how the world events are affecting their day to day lives, both of which will not be feasible without a working understanding of the bigger picture. In fact, our ability to disengage from the events happening around us during our programs is a reflection of privilege; our clients will not always have the option to ignore sweeping policy changes, events, and societal realities while focusing on their educations. Thus, our ability to provide real empathy and connect with our clients becomes compromised when we lose sight of what is affecting them in the global environment.

There will also come a time when we are the new leaders of psychology, APA, and beyond. We will be expected to continue the momentum of the field into social justice and advocacy for all members of society, regardless of identity. If we choose to ignore the events that have adverse effects on our clients, then we essentially ignore our ethical responsibility to improve their social conditions. Again, though it may seem far off to hold such positions of power, we must remain accountable on the day to day in both our professional and personal lives. At the end of the day we are citizens before we are clinicians, and it is our civic responsibility to care enough to be informed and to make our society a better place for all. We have the power to accomplish this goal through voting, advocacy, spreading awareness, and a variety of other pathways; we must accept such responsibility for the betterment of ourselves, our fellow citizens, and our clients.

That being said, engaging with the world events going outside of our programs does not need to be an “all or nothing” endeavor. It also does not need to be at the detriment to personal mental health. However, committing to a few articles a week, signing a petition here or there, a daily email highlighting the big news, and other attainable actions seems like a reasonable compromise. Personally, I enjoy getting my news from reliable, yet entertaining sources such as “the skimmm” or late night talk show hosts. When the news becomes too upsetting I allow myself the space to disengage for a week or two to re-center myself until I am ready to dive back in. I hope that you reading this will commit to something similar, no matter how seemingly “small”. I promise you it will improve your work as a clinician, and as an agent of change for society at large.

Eleanor McCabe is a doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program at University at Buffalo, State University of New York.

To download the PDF version of this document, click here: The Key to Effective Multicultural Counseling

Thinking Outside the Counseling Psychology Box: Letting Curiosity Lead You to Cross-Discipline Collaboration

I don’t quite fit into the typical box as a counseling psychology student in my program. I haven’t shared many of the experiences other students in my program have had. I am interested in youth mental health so my research experience has been mainly based in schools with school psychologists, and my practicum training has been more connected with the university’s clinical department. Many times in my practicum or on my research team, I am the only counseling psychology student in the room. Occasionally it has felt intimidating and I have felt out of place, not only in settings outside of counseling psych, but also within the program, given I have had different experiences. But reflecting on my training in graduate school thus far, I think these opportunities to work on interdisciplinary teams and collaborate with students, faculty, and professionals in clinical and school psychology as well as in fields outside of psychology have been invaluable to my experience. I am fortunate that my advisor has modelled a value for collaboration in his research as most of his work in prevention science and youth mental health is interdisciplinary with many departments within the university, like clinical psychology and social work, and practitioners in the community. I am grateful to my advisor’s support in exploring these opportunities and to the supervisors who have welcomed me onto their clinical and research teams.

In my experience there are many benefits to having practicum and research experiences with students and faculty outside of counseling psychology. First, it has challenged and expanded my ways of thinking about research and practice. I have had some cool experiences that I would’ve otherwise missed out on—like working in schools, getting exposure to different types of standardized assessment, and teacher consultation that relates to youth mental health at a more systems level. I have also been challenged to come to a better understanding of my own ideas by having the opportunity to discuss things formally and informally with students and faculty from other departments. Second, as a student in counseling psychology, my unique training and expertise brings a valuable perspective to collaborative teams. For example, I’ve found that students from clinical and school psychology look to counseling psychology students as experts in multicultural counseling, and it is beneficial to have the opportunity to share resources and this perspective with other students in psychology who may not have this emphasis as part of their programs. Third, the experience of working with others from different trainings and backgrounds is important preparation for work on internship and after graduation. In many ways there are more similarities than there are differences among the divisions in psychology in terms of the type of things psychologists can do after graduation.  Fourth, I’ve found that working in collaboration is especially helpful for specializing with a particular population or research area. In my experience, this has been the major benefit of seeking opportunities for practicum and research outside of my counseling psychology program. My interest with youth mental health aligns strongly with the work of school psychologists as well as clinical psychologist with a child focus, and in the end we can all do similar types of research and practice with the goal of supporting youth mental health.

My advice to counseling psychology students is to enrich your education with opportunities to develop an identity as a counseling psychologist, but don’t limit yourself to interactions with only those students and faculty in your program. Seek out research and practicum opportunities that involve collaboration and interdisciplinary teams. There may be many different opportunities for collaboration in both research and in practice. Clinical, school, and counseling psychology programs share the science-practitioner model and have unique strengths and perspectives that can provide opportunities for collaboration. There are also other disciplines within psychology like developmental, social, neuropsychology, etc. that could have overlapping areas of focus. Outside the field of psychology, having experience working with psychiatrists, social workers, school counselors, and even policy-makers can support coordination of clinical practice and advocacy, and it can enrich research by having multiple stakeholders involved.

I know in many ways this can be easier said than done. It can be intimidating and overwhelming to find a practicum or research team outside of the traditional avenues for counseling psychology students. My advice would be to just ask – the worse that can happen is someone says no. Not only can it be anxiety-provoking to seek out a new opportunity, but it may be hard to break into a new area as it can be easier to make connections through the counseling psychology department. One suggestion to make connections outside of your program is to attend presentations on campus from different programs and departments or even explore course opportunities and electives outside of your department. As graduate students, we all have a lot going on with courses, clinical work, research, and teaching, and it can be hard to add something else; however, thinking outside of the box can deepen your experience and can be great preparation for a career after graduation. There is not one right way to complete a counseling psychology program – find what works best for you!

Colleen Eddy is a fourth year doctoral candidate in counseling psychology at the University of Missouri, Columbia. She is the SAS regional coordinator for Region 3.

To download the PDF version of this document, click here: Thinking Outside the Counseling Psychology Box

The Trans Military Ban: Why Psychologists Can’t Turn a Blind Eye

Research suggests that nearly 0.6% of the US population, or 1 million people, identify as transgender. Every day, transgender people face societal stressors, called minority stress, that can be detrimental to their mental and physical health. In 2018 alone, 29 transgender identified people were murdered either as a direct result of transphobia or as an indirect result of societal bias and stigma. As a society, we should be working to decrease this statistic by dismantling prejudice ideas and increasing access to affirmative resources for transgender people. Instead, the trans military ban was recently deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court, and as a result, transgender identifying people will no longer be allowed to serve in the US military as of January 22nd, 2019. With few exceptions, this means that the near 9,000 transgender people currently serving in the military will no longer be allowed to serve.

The American Psychological Association’s (2018) multicultural guidelines state that a multicultural psychologist does “…aspire to recognize and understand historical and contemporary experiences with power, privilege and oppression. As such, they seek to address institutional barriers…” The guidelines call psychologists to become aware of systematic barriers that affect our clients, and invites us to take action to reduce those barriers and challenge those oppressive systems.

In opposition to the trans military ban, the APA released a statement acknowledging the negative effects that this ban may have on transgender individuals, and reinforced the idea that, according to psychological research, gender dysphoria is not a mental health condition that infringes a person’s ability to serve in uniform. As psychologists and social justice advocates who understand the detrimental effects of prejudice on mental and physical health, it is important that we not only speak up against this act of discrimination, but that we do something about it.

Here are some suggestions about what we as psychologist-activists can do to help fight against the trans military ban, discrimination, and transphobia:

 

  1. Get involved. Participate in lobbying efforts that are happening in your local communities. Call or write your local governors, senators, and mayors to let them know that you oppose this Supreme Court decision. Sign up for Resistbot, a free service that sends text messages notifications about political organizing, helps construct messages to send directly to politicians, and identifies the nearest polling location during elections. Text “congress” to 50409 to sign up.
  2. Conduct research. Historically, the diagnosis of gender dysphoria and cost of gender reassignment surgery have been used as tools against transgender people, claiming that those individuals who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria are not fit to serve in the military and that gender reassignment surgery is unnecessary. If we can conduct research that acknowledges the resiliency and strength of transgender individuals and confirms that gender reassignment surgery is infact a necessary component of mental and physical health for trans people, we can provide the courts with empirical evidence against their decision.
  3. Protest. Attend pro-LGBTQ rallies and events. Show up to marches. Go to your community PRIDE parade and show your support. It is not enough to be verbally present in person or on social media. It is necessary that we physically show up to support. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We will try to persuade with our words, but if our words fail, we will try to persuade with our acts.”
  4. Donate. In a money conscious society, sometimes we forget how imperative money is for those who are trying to make change. Non-For-Profit organizations such as the Trevor Project or The National Center for Transgender Equality use donated money to provide support services to trans folx and to lobby against bills that deny trans people rights.
  5. Speak up. If you can’t donate, attend a rally, call your local politician, or conduct research, I encourage you to speak up in any way you can. Post about it on Facebook. Tweet about it on Twitter. Tell the mailperson. Talk about it with your students. Acknowledge it with your trans clients. We cannot create change in a bubble. It is so important that we start talking about the things that matter, educating others, and refusing to stay silent in the face of oppression.

 

The decision to ignore this ban is unjust and dehumanizing. As psychologists, it is not enough for us to disagree with these court actions (or lack of action), we must also make waves and fight back. We can only do so much to help our clients when oppressing systems have already stigmatized them. We are doing a disservice to our clients if we only put a band-aid on the problems that they face in society. It is our job as multiculturally competent psychologists to take part in activism, and by doing so, standing up to try to fix these systems, rulings- injustices- so that we can get at the root of the problem instead of dealing with the consequences. 

Jaidelynn K. Rogers is a first-year student in the counseling psychology doctoral program at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

To download the PDF version of this document, click here: The Trans Military Ban

SAS Official Statement on Transgender Military Ban

The Executive Board of the Student Affiliates of Seventeen (SAS) joins the American Psychological Association (APA) in standing against the current policy of the Trump Administration and the U.S. Department of Defense regarding the ban against transgender military service. In light of the recent Supreme Court decision to uphold the administration’s ban, we find it important to publicly oppose the ban on transgender troops and critically question the U.S. Department of Defense’s justification on banning transgender Americans from serving in the United States military. Put no better way than was previously shared by APA:

 

“No scientific evidence has shown that allowing transgender people to serve in the armed forces has an adverse impact on readiness or unit cohesion. What research does show is that discrimination and stigma undermine morale and readiness by creating a significant source of stress for sexual minorities that can harm their health and well-being.”

 

As such, the current administration and Department of Defense refuse to acknowledge the research contradictive to that which they utilize as the foundation of this policy. In enacting this ban they are intentionally failing to accept and feigning ignorance toward the negative consequences that are sure to follow for the mental and physical health of an already marginalized community. What is more, the Trump Administration further demonstrates oppression and incompetence with their overt disregard to differentiate between transgender identity from the experience of having gender dysphoria. The presence of one is not indicative of the other nor are the terms interchangeable. As professionals, we aspire to advocate for the demarcation of these labels and wish to remind all that there is no such thing as “transgender” in the DSM-5. It is with this statement that the SAS Executive Board extends our continued support for all persons afflicted by this abhorrent policy. Know that we stand with you and will continue to strive to advocate for equality for you and all persons who fall victim to the oppression of our society.

To download the PDF version of this document, click here: SAS Statement_Trans Military Ban

American Board of Professional Psychology Certification

Once I get into a doctoral program everything will be fine… After I match on internship, then all will be right in the world…  Once I land that first position, then I can relax.  I wonder how many can identify with these thoughts?  As students, much of what drives our pursuit of the doctoral degree is for our own personal and professional goals.  As selfless as many of us can be, at some core place you entered this field for things that you want and that are important to you.  Just like me (and many of us). There is nothing wrong with that in my view.

 

As a recently board-certified counseling psychologist, I hope to share with you a path that not only may help you continue your journey for meeting your goal toward excelling at your vocational selection, but also a path that helps to preserve a specialty within a profession that is leading the way among psychology professionals in our communities locally, nationally, and globally.   You may or may not know that one of the ways that counseling psychologists continue to receive recognition for our specialty is by having a thriving and growing pool of board-certified psychologists. In other words, without more counseling psychologists motivated toward taking the plunge into board certification, our specialty (counseling psychology) is at risk of being lost.

 

Thankfully, the American Board of Professional Psychology and the American Board of Counseling Psychology have an option to help make it easier for ECPs to step into the board certification process.  You can find details of the early entry program here: https://legacy.abpp.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageID=3558.

 

I participated in the early entry option applying as I finished my internship mainly due to my goal not to disappoint trusted mentors and supervisors whom I looked up to. That was still motivated by self-serving interests I think.  When it came time to follow through (when no one else was looking) several years after I was comfortable, licensed, employed, it was more about what counseling psychology needs from me.  While many employers will provide salary increases or certain states may recognize ABPP certification for licensing/portability purposes, those were not directly applicable to me.  When senior colleagues let me know that pursuing the early entry option was helpful to keep our specialty visible and viable to the public and to other professionals, I felt more drive to complete it.  I also, if I’m honest, still didn’t want to disappoint my mentors, former supervisors, and colleagues so I haven’t fought my way through that completely!

 

While ABPP and ACoP has made it more affordable to pursue board certification, this is still a financial cost so you are encouraged to talk with your academic departments, internship training directors, and mentors to see if institutional support might be available for you or your program to support your $25 early entry application fee which you can submit as a graduate student enrolled in an accredited doctoral program or are not yet licensed.  From there, you can seek out a mentor who can help guide you through the application process; ABPP has a google group where topics are discussed from other early entry applicants and there is a manual that outlines the steps you need to take.

 

Whether you plan to enter a clinical setting where board certification will be the norm (or expectation), you are looking for an edge to impress prospective employers, or you have just enough anxious thinking to invest in the protection of our specialty, I hope you will consider thinking of ways to at least ask questions of other board-certified counseling psychologists.  For other compelling reasons to pursue ABPP certification check out Mary O’Leary Wiley’s post on the division website: http://www.div17.org/scp-connect/general-anouncements/why-become-board-certified-in-counseling-psychology/

 

The American Academy of Counseling Psychology, an organization interested in increasing the visibility of board-certified counseling psychologists, has also partnered with Division 17 to provide reimbursement costs for division members who successfully complete the board certification application.  Advocate to your institution (assuming they appreciate our specialty) to create reimbursement options to pursue the highest credential we can pursue as a counseling psychologist to help the next group of ECPs.  Training directors, you too can benefit by having your application fee waived.

Dominick Scalise Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Avila University, Missouri. 

To download the PDF version of this document, click here: American Board of Professional Psychology Certification

Reclaiming and Redefining Self Care Culture

As professional helpers in training, we are all very familiar with self-care and the culture surrounding it.  We often hear that we should engage in self-care as a means of avoiding burnout, protecting our health, and to avoid providing harmful or ineffective care to our clients.  Throughout various points of my educational career, self-care has, at times, felt like an impossible expectation. I have experienced environments where I was told to make time for myself when I had just been assigned another paper, given an extracurricular task to complete, or been expected to work tireless hours because, “that is just the way graduate school is.”  I often felt juxtapositioned between self-care and finishing my homework or my thesis.  Many say, “self-care can happen in small moments!  You can always make time to relax, even if it is only five minutes!”  While this is true, and this is what many of my peers and myself would do, those small moments of self-care often weren’t sufficient.  It was not solely due to our own failings or ability to manage our time, but largely due to graduate school environments in which you are constantly expected to perform many varied tasks at a high level.  Faculty and graduate students alike often find themselves in this rat race and, although we try to find time for ourselves, scheduling self-care is a challenge in and of itself.

Uncoincidentally, work culture in the United States (U.S.) mirrors a similar dynamic to graduate schools.  U.S. culture continues to encourage longer work days under the guise of self-improvement, despite the deleterious impacts on our well-being.  We are often told to continue working hard to achieve our goals, which makes it difficult to stop to recognize that the pace ebbs and flows rather than merely rests at a stead, manageable pace.  We often place a large emphasis on individuals to perform, without recognizing the constraints the environment poses for many of us.  Yet, we continue at this pace.  We even use our past successes or our past experiences of labor-intensive effort to justify this rapid pace to those that cope after us, encouraging them to persist in sometimes tireless endeavors.

Like many future clinicians, I can appreciate the ethical reasons for engaging in self-care.  It is important to mirror self-care to our clients and to maintain a balance in our lives so that we can be helpful to those we work with. With that being said, I have developed somewhat of a love-hate relationship with the meaning that is embedded into current self-care culture.  So often it seems like self-care is used to provide a cautionary tale related to burnout or a lesson in morality of the “shoulds” of ethical care.  In fact, self-care has appeared as a category on my practicum evaluation forms, placing us in positions where deficiencies in self-care could lead to punishment, despite us having little control over our workload.  However, I feel as if the main purpose of self-care often gets lost in the culture; we neglect to encourage ourselves and others to engage in care for the purpose of being kind to ourselves, not just so we can continue to work long hours.

As I am nearing the end of my graduate career I have found myself wondering several questions:  Why is it that, so often, self-care is only expected to come in isolated moments or to be separate from our working lives?  Why is it that individuals are held accountable for their own self-care, but our environments and society are not held responsible for creating an environment where we can care for ourselves and others?  Why is it that, to be a dedicated professional, conventional definitions of “work” must be placed at the center of our lives, while self-care falls into an extracurricular aspect of living?  Perhaps, most importantly, where can we find the compassion in self-care, rather than continue to demand it so that we can continue at our current, arguably unhealthy paces?  As I progress further in my career, and likely into roles with increasing amounts of power, I am challenging myself and those around me to reclaim the culture of self-care and to seek to redefine it.  Self-care does not only have to be 6 a.m. yoga, hiking, or watching a movie on a weekend prior to working on a manuscript.  Self-care can be integrated into our working lives by being kind in our constructive critiques of one another, by finding leniency in “hard” deadlines, by understanding when we all need time to unwind rather than taking on another project, and by using our power to create environments where others’ boundaries are encouraged and respected.

As we gain power in workplaces we can aim to hold ourselves and others accountable for keeping hours where we can disconnect without the risk of losing financial, social, or professional resources or gain.  I believe that taking care of oneself is extremely important because, after all, we matter.  Just like those we work with, we deserve love, care, and appreciation, and so often we already are doing enough just by being.  Although I hope to continue to finesse my own self-care practices, I also hope that as we move forward we began to recreate a culture in which we can place the value of compassion at the forefront of our lives, including our work, so that self-care does not only have to come in small moments in between working, but that work and self-care can be integrated to create a balanced life.

Brittany Sievers is a doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

To download the PDF version of this document, click here: Reclaiming and Redefining Self Care Culture

Journey of Finding Integrity in Oneself

I have been doubtful in my purposes in my journey of achieving a doctoral degree when I experienced so many adversities: the first time I was treated unequally because of my race and country of origin; the first time spending all days and nights in reading but can barely complete assignments; the first time worrying about graduation and money income as a 28-year-old woman without meeting the expectations of parents: getting married or having a stable job; and the first time struggling so deeply with my own belief but expelled from the fellowship group because I was considered so sinful. I have never met a life period that I come across such intense frustration, discrimination and sadness. I wanted to shout at those who picked on my race and nationality, but I also had to remind myself I don’t treat people in the way they treated me and become someone I hate so much. I wanted to isolate and escape from my work and from the environment filled with racism, sexism, xenophobia, and ignorant hatred; but there were so many uncontrollable things keep me moving forward and outside to get in touch with others.

During the days I internalized voices of doubt and shame, during the days I am confused with what I learned about therapy and intervention, something turned into my conscious awareness and knowledge that I would not pay attention to in the past. Until one day, my advisor looked at me and said, I am sorry that you are in such deep pain, but maybe it will make you a better therapist; until one day, my another advisor who is teaching our practicum said, isn’t pain the best gift of a relationship so that we know we had cared a person so much; until one day, I took a class on health disparity and inequity and truly understood some of the concepts and wished to do something about it. It is such an exciting and enlightening moment and I finally found my research interest in cultural and diversity issues, which took years, besides the fact that this area could be my lifetime career goal! I realized maybe there is a reason why I moved to deep south and experienced microaggressions; and until one day I looked back on my early years in the doctoral program and found the connection between my passion and endeavor on training and supervision and the negative experiences I had in supervision. I found myself being more understanding to marginalized populations as a minority, more insightful and thoughtful of American cultures as an international student, and more respectful and grateful to my own culture as a Chinese. I know I wouldn’t have gained these great qualities if I have not experienced these struggles at this life time. If I have not had deep struggles in my belief, I wouldn’t have known the truth in my Believer or how strong my faith could be. There are reasons leading me to this journey. I would not have met so many people that meant so much in my life, being my teachers, mentors, friends and colleagues. Sometimes it is easy to get lost when I was embedded in an emotional moment and hard to think beyond five days or a semester.

This is not an easy journey; we all want to give up at some point. But the experiences we have are meaningful in many ways, and we will finally get more power when we complete the degree. It is more than a degree; it is an acknowledgment of our efforts. And when we have more power, we will remember how to use it to empower more people, but not to abuse it. Maybe we will have the power to even change things we would like to change and have an influence on things we were negatively impacted. This is also a journey to find the integrity in ourselves: to know what we should do and avoid things we should not do. We don’t have to be influenced by the adversity, to be numb to others or to adapt to the power system or adverse environment, but to protect our honesty, kindness and wise heart; because there is a better place that deserves all these qualities and we don’t want to waste these gifted talents. I am also grateful that because of the struggles I had, I had met people who gave me support, who shared laughter, tears and dreams with me. In many ways we were deeply connected along the journey. I am not grateful for the people who hurt me or the ignorance running around them; but I am grateful for the transformation people and my Believer brought to me and the strengths I was given. Now at the 4th year in my doctoral career, I finally know that I will build confidence and competence one day. I have a sense of how to do great therapy. I discovered a true interest in research areas that is coming from life and reality. And there are many ways I can connect to others and help people who like me in the past.

 

This article has been contributed by Haidi Song, who is a 4th-year doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program at Auburn University. She is the regional coordinator of Region 5 in Division 17 SAS.

To download the PDF version of this document, click here: Journey of Finding Integrity in Oneself

An Exclusive Interview with the SAS Co-Chairs (2018-19)

Ashley Schoener and Sam Colbert are the SAS Co-Chairs for the 2018-2019 term! They are both second year doctoral students at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Read on for some excerpts of their interview!

Why did you want to be the SAS co-chair?

Sam: The main reason is that I believe in social justice. The Society of Counseling Psychology (SCP) and the Student Affiliates of Seventeen (SAS) Executive Board is very oriented towards social justice. Being able to advocate for social justice on a macro level is exciting and the opportunity to effect change is neat! We are both voting members on the SCP Executive Board. The fact that SCP gives students voting rights is a big indication of their social justice orientation! Also, given that we are the host institution, it is a real privilege while also being a large responsibility.

Ashley: It is amazing to have a network of individuals who are likeminded, passionate and have the same goals. Having access to such a large network of people who care about the same things is appealing. This network has given me the opportunity to get really involved in the field, which I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do, otherwise. I think it is wonderful to have the opportunity to have an impact and work towards those goals…it gives you the opportunity to engage in outreach and social justice that we value as professionals.

What is your vision for SAS 2019?

Ashley: My vision for SAS is to improve the connection within the vast network! I would like SAS to be more involved with our members and give our members more opportunities to get involved with SAS. We are trying to offer opportunities for members to be on different committees as to spread the power and privilege that comes along with being part of SAS and Division 17. We are trying to reach out to the community as much as possible even within our own pillars and committees. Lastly, we want to standardize a lot of processes and make them leader-proof so that the transition process becomes easier.

Sam: I really want to see us hand over SAS as a well lubricated machine to the next host institution. Doing this is pivotal! SCP is doing a strategic planning initiative and I am hoping to apply some of those strategies to our own Executive Board. Like Ashley said, the larger goal for me is to distribute the power within SCP and SAS. The way I see that is through resources—we are trying to be fiscally responsible to the organization and the students! Being a voice for students in psychology…that’s a big deal! Even though graduate students are privileged in certain aspects, they are also marginalized in others. We are finding out ways that we can advocate for graduate students and taking that to the SCP Board.

What has SAS accomplished in the last year?

Ashley: SAS has done a lot with connecting our members, it has been extremely active this past year! We created a workshop about SAS, we have program representatives who are hosting events, dinners for their members, and we are also equitably distributing resources. We are providing funding to each of the SAS regions, so members can reach out to us to apply for funding to host events. We did monthly webinars too, which are now available on our Facebook page! Also, at APA we had a SAS social which brought together people from all over the world. This gave people the opportunity to form relationships and strengthen their connections.

Sam: We give out over 2000 dollars in awards every year for students. During APA we have three hospitality suite hours for different programming that we do. We have expanded the SAS Executive Board as well, to inform people about SAS.  We want to be able to continue to engage in webinars, send out letters of support for societal issues, and continue our outreach to communities and members.

What are your goals for SAS 2018-2019?

Sam: A big goal for me is to try and distribute financial resources strategically. We want to use these resources for student awards, projects, and getting resources to students in Counseling Psychology programs.

Ashley: To put it simply, we want to equitably distribute resources: whether that’s financial or power. By distribution of power, we mean we want to provide members with more of a voice on the Executive Board for SAS, and consequently SCP. We want to be the voice of the students on the Executive Board. We are doing this by creating positions on the SAS Executive Board which reach out to graduate students and SAS members, like the Scholarship, Engagement, and Collaboration Pillar and Promotions Chair within SAS.

What are you most excited about, for the upcoming year?

Sam: We have been working on a lot of things lately, and I am excited to see some of those efforts come to fruition! Also, given that we have started multiple initiatives in the past year, I am excited to see the kind of impact they will have…I am also excited about working with our SAS Board because the members have a lot of energy and a lot of experiences, and I want to see what kind of ideas and projects they have and want to implement.

Ashley: I am excited for APA! I am excited to help and make it better from last year…I am also excited for the applications to come in for the next host institution. It will be cool to be a part of the transition of giving other people all this power…it’s kind of like we get to leave our mark on the whole institution of SAS and this is a chance when we get to choose what that is!

What would you like our readers to know?

Sam: We want feedback as well! We have an email address and social media, please write to us!

Ashley: Get involved! An organization starts and ends with its members. The more activity there is all over the country, the more we can do! And the more gets done for our communities and for our members.

What do you want to tell institutes who are applying for hosting SAS?

Sam: It is a fantastic opportunity to have. We have a unique position to advocate for thousands of students… This is very important because we can influence change!

Ashley: It is a different kind of work, but it is unique! And that is what is special about it! It is very meaningful once you get involved and I would highly recommend institutions to apply!

 

Does your university want to be the next host institution for SAS? Click here to find out more!

To download the PDF version of this document, click here: Exclusive Interview with SAS Co-chairs!