Wait, we’ve been at this for 10 years? Huh. Guess so. Well, happy birthday to PsychotherapyNotes! This little blog is turning 10 years old. We now boast more than 300 articles, many of which are even good! (Some of mine are questionable.) Here are some of my favorites from over the years. They’re still worth a read, I think.
In response to mass shootings and California’s recent wildfires, many therapists and counselors have sought to support impacted areas. One way they’re doing so is with free services. Marketing therapy after disasters can be difficult, though. Done well, it reinforces our roles as community caregivers. It shows off the best of who we are as professionals. With some common mistakes, it can instead come off as a tacky form of marketing, accidentally pushing people in need away from help. Here’s how to tastefully and effectively offer counseling and therapy services to those in need.
When the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF) started in 2007, mental health professionals all over the country expressed optimism and relief. Student debt is crushing younger mental health professionals — hear two stories, in their own words, here. The PSLF program promised those working in nonprofit agencies and in public service that if they just stuck it out for 10 years, the remainder of their direct student loans would be forgiven.
Any kind of mental health work is challenging, but nonprofit clinics and public systems are notoriously difficult to work in. They offer low pay, low-functioning clients, a ton of paperwork, and often, little support. It’s no wonder that many counties struggle to fill those jobs at all.
For those clinicians who experience the work as a calling, though, the PSLF program offered a lifeline. It would be a reward for staying put in positions that most therapists understandably leave. For those who otherwise faced a possible lifetime of debt, PSLF suggested a way out.
It’s not going well so far.
Licensing exams are a major milestone in the development of a professional counselor (specific license titles vary, but LPC, LPCC, and LMHC are common). While there are differences from state to state, most states use one or both of the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Exam and National Counselor Exam, and most states require that the exam be taken at the completion of at least two years of full-time, post-masters experience in supervised practice. As you approach completion of the experience necessary to take counselor licensing exams, how can you best prepare? Here are five things that can help:
A little more than two years ago now, I left my position as an Associate Professor at Alliant International University in Los Angeles. Many people have asked me since then why I left full time academic work. The position was relatively well-paid, with good job security. I had good colleagues, many of whom are friends to this day. I had the closest thing to tenure that the university offered: A five-year rolling contract. And I was teaching and doing research, both of which I love.
I’ve gotten used to providing a diplomatic answer to that question. My wife and I were starting a family, and the time had come for me to make a change. That’s true, it’s just purposefully incomplete. Here’s the full story.
“Shame” is now a verb in therapist circles. It’s usually one we use pejoratively. We scold others for shaming, apparently with no sense of irony. We shame people for shaming other people.
As a noun, shame refers to a sense of sadness and embarrassment upon recognizing (or being told) that you’ve done something wrong. Cultures around the world understand the concept. We can safely say that experiencing shame is part of being human.
A couple of years ago, I appeared on an episode of the Talking Therapy podcast. I love the show. RJ Thomas and John Webber are good guys and good hosts, and I’ve thought that since before they invited me on. Their show is rightly popular. They’ve even featured one of the world’s most prominent therapists: Dr. Susan Johnson.
Johnson developed Emotionally Focused Therapy, which I use in my own practice with distressed couples. As you can imagine, a lot of her interview focused on couples and couple therapy. Almost as an aside, early in the interview, Webber noted that half of US marriages end in divorce. That’s flat wrong.
So I went back on the show to yell at him about it.
Graduate programs around the state use Basics of California Law for LMFTs, LPCCs, and LCSWs to teach their students. If you’re a grad student in California, and your program doesn’t use it, they should. It’s a good desk reference for clinicians as well, considering how often the law changes. If you’re licensed, you can now meet your license renewal requirement for CE in Law and Ethics by reading Basics.
This Friday and Saturday, I will be presenting at the Therapy Reimagined conference in Los Angeles. It’s a different kind of conference from any I’ve spoken at before, and I can’t wait. You should be there.
Different by design
Academic and professional conferences tend to focus on research and clinical application. Those are obviously critically important for keeping your practice up to date. But those conferences don’t tend to talk broadly about what it means to work in mental health. In other words, most conferences are more about doing therapy, and less about being a therapist.
If you’re a counselor or therapist, there’s a good chance you’ve had at least one client ask you for a letter that would designate their pet as an Emotional Support Animal (ESA). There’s also a good chance they didn’t really need it.
ESAs are allowed in airplane cabins and in housing situations that otherwise do not allow pets or charge extra fees. Beyond that, very few standards govern what an ESA is or does. ESAs are not service animals and do not need any training or certification. All someone needs to have their pet be an ESA is a letter from a qualified therapist. But there’s no law or standard to help a therapist determine whether to write that letter.