Prologue: A poem for new grad students

Pen balletI wrote this poem several years ago, and republish it each fall as a welcome to students beginning their graduate studies in the mental health professions.

Every fall, the universities where I teach enroll dozens of new students into our family therapy programs. Our new students tend to be immensely talented, and many of them (as at any school) are also immensely anxious as they begin their journey.

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“Deferred tuition” is betting against yourself

Matthew Henry / Burst / Used under licenseA few years ago, I wrote about income share agreements. ISAs are a novel way of financing higher education. Under this model, rather than paying tuition, a student agrees to pay a percentage of their future earnings back to whatever entity agrees to finance the person’s education now. It’s now called deferred tuition, and it’s still a bad idea.

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The benefits of COAMFTE accreditation for MFT students

Shopify Partners / Burst / Used under licenseWith the exceptions of California and possibly Texas, around the US most graduate degree programs in marriage and family therapy are accredited through the Commission on Accreditation for Marital and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE). Of the 80 or so license-eligible MFT programs in California, only a handful are COAMFTE-accredited MFT programs. Without some background on professional accreditation and what it means, it is perfectly reasonable for prospective MFT students to wonder whether the benefits of COAMFTE accreditation are worth the added challenge of seeking out an accredited program.

Not everyone needs or will especially benefit from attending an accredited program. MFT programs that are not specifically accredited are still generally housed within accredited universities, making their degrees eligible for licensure. (More on that below.) But there are at least four areas where the benefits of program accreditation are likely to be significant for many students:

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How long does it take to become a counselor?

2010-07-20 Black windup alarm clock faceIf you are planning to become a counselor, it is important to give thought to the time and money it will take to work your way to licensure. The timing of steps along the way could impact your choices for when to get married, have children, or maintain employment in another field.

Presented here are the typical steps to a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) license and some common timeframes. [Note: Specific license titles vary by state. LPCC and LCPC are also common, with the first “C” in each standing for “Clinical.”]

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Why good therapists suffer from exploitation

Barry Duncan has an article in the current Psychotherapy Networker asking, “Why would anybody become a therapist?” The job offers low pay compared to other jobs with similar training requirements. Workers in community mental health are often stretched beyond the breaking point. And as we’ve covered here regularly, employer abuses of therapists are unfortunately common. When even a single therapist pushes back against exploitation, it makes a real difference. But that doesn’t happen very often.

Duncan’s article offers some interesting overlaps with our past coverage here. It can explain fairly well why even the best therapists can be easy targets for exploitation at work.

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Senioritis: The last stretch of hours before licensure

Brodie Vissers / Burst / Used under licenseWe all remember the last semester of high school. A new life chapter was approaching. Our childhood was ending. We would soon experience the freedom of the college world.

It was scary to know that we would be on our own, but we were itching to leave. We knew the quality of our work did not reflect what we were capable of, we just wanted it out of the way. I even remember calculating how much I had to do to just barely pass my classes and coast through the rest of my school year. It did not matter that more difficult times and more responsibility were imminently ahead of us, we just wanted to be done with high school. We called it “senioritis.”

Nearing the end of your 3,000 hours towards licensure can be eerily similar.

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Podcast episode 7: Men in therapy, with Angela Caldwell

Psychotherapy Notes podcastThe overwhelming majority of therapists are women. So are most clients. Men are often reluctant to attend therapy voluntarily. As we discussed in the last episode, even well-intentioned therapists and counselors can make men feel unwelcome simply by how they frame men’s presence in the room. Sometimes, changing how you work to better respond to men’s needs and expectations of therapy can make the process a lot more effective.

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Your first clients: How to feel more at ease

Tyra ButlerMy first six months of seeing clients while in graduate school felt pretty crazy, though at the time I didn’t realize how crazy. When we are on a significant growth trajectory and learning curve, it’s challenging to see through the fog of all the factors involved in adjusting to becoming a therapist. It seems whenever we are in an important and difficult phase of life — potentially transformational — it’s hard to see what growth is actually occurring.

Looking back on those first six months of clinical work has taught me some valuable lessons. When I was seeing my first clients, I wish I had known how to intentionally let go of the pressure I felt to make something happen or employ technique.

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