Making the Most of your Graduate-level Clinical Internship

Atlas Concepts LLCSo you’ve landed the long awaited internship opportunity.  No more showing up at potential sites with yet another fine linen resume, ink barely dry, hoping that the clinician you seek isn’t behind with their case notes for that particular day nor finds your beard particularly disturbing.  You discovered that diamond in the rough, a chance to begin the final chapter of likely your largest financial investment to date.  What now?

Here are a few points to guide you toward the successful completion of your clinical internship, the culminating experience of your mental health degree.

Establishing a plan.  While you will be told this, probably understand its necessity and are likely doing so as a requirement, you should really take the time to thoughtfully plan.  Ideally your plan for your clinical experience is done through conversation with your supervisor.  Items such as schedule availability for client contact as well as individual and group supervision is a must, but also include how supervision will transpire (e.g. video recording, in-person, verbatim, etc.).  One plausible sticking point may be satisfying the CACREP criteria for “some” experience in leading groups.  Discuss this note specifically with your supervisor.

Do the math.  How many hours do you need per week to complete your program in your desired (or required) timeline?  Don’t forget to plan for academic breaks, vacations and other schedule conflicts.

Consider the caseload of the site.  Ask your supervisor if it is feasible to maintain a steady caseload throughout the year.  Many practices see a decrease in clientele during particular times of year.  Don’t believe the minimum is enough, plan for being sick, fluctuating caseloads, no shows and cancellations.  Contemplate the impact of time requirements for endeavors such as school or home visits and coordinating care.

And remember, while you can likely continue to accumulate hours during breaks within the semester, you will most likely not be able to accumulate hours between semesters.  These weeks add up.  In the end, it’s more advantageous to have too many hours than not enough.  The more hours the more experience you have moving forward.  Not enough hours likely results in another academic semester!

Setting goals.  Goals related to competence not simply having the goal of completing the requisite hours.  Having goals related directly to completing your degree and to becoming a better counselor are necessary to get the most out of this phase of your journey.  For example, if you plan to get licensed, you will have to pass a state exam.  Have a resource such as the Encyclopedia of Counseling handy.  Have access to resources related to your theory of choice and research interventions which may relate to your current caseload.

At this stage, you may benefit from reviewing case notes or assessments and relating themes, symptoms, and processes with the material you have learned and are learning in school.  Put your goals on paper, ask for feedback and if your school doesn’t provide a form, find a way to track your progress.  Through discussion, compare your self-evaluation with your supervisor’s observations.

Calculating hours.  Understand how your hours should be counted.  This should meet your academic requirements and also the educational requirements for the state you wish to eventually seek licensure.  This includes distinguishing what, if any, of your academic class time counts as supervision.  Additionally, understand that your administrative proficiency will likely increase over the course of your clinical training experience.  Items such as post-session notes and case management will take up a great deal of your time early on, this may mean less time for client-contact.  However, be abreast of lulls that may occur as your administrative proficiency increases and work with your supervisor to adjust your caseload accordingly.

Understand co-therapy is not merely sitting in observing your supervisor conduct a session.  Get clarity from both your state board and your academic institution regarding distinguishing time being observed, doing observation and engaging in co-therapy.  Calculating your hours is dependent upon your role in the session, not necessarily how you refer to the experience.  I’m sure you know the importance of keeping record of your time, but I’d be remiss not to mention it.  Minding confidentiality, make your records inclusive.  This is not only a requirement, if done particularly can provide you with valuable qualitative and quantitative information for job seeking purposes later on.

Remembering the hierarchy.  Yes, you’re thinking about Maslow which is great, but here I am reminding you the client always comes first.  Early on you may find yourself sitting in during sessions.  Clients’ permission must be obtained prior to sitting in during a counseling session whether or not co-therapy is being performed.  If a client declines to permit you into a session, don’t take it personally.  There are too many possible reasons for such a decision by a client and the overwhelming majority of those possible reasons likely have little to do with you personally.  The client’s needs are above both site and school requirements.

This can be a complex concept or a non-issue, but should remain central to the therapeutic process.  A common reason clients prefer not to introduce you into the session, especially early in the internship, is because they have established rapport with their counselor and are simply comfortable working with that person in the established manner.  As new clients arrive at the site, it becomes easier to integrate you into the process.

Minding your own mental health.  Don’t forget your own mental health.  Counselors in training may be on the extremes concerning time.  Some interns may not have much else going on other than their internship while others are working several jobs and have others who are dependent on them.  In either case, beware of countertransference.  If your emotions are high and/or out of control you may run a risk of losing track of the therapeutic process.  While in itself countertransference is not necessarily a fault, ignorance of its presence can be harmful to the client as well as result in ethical dilemma.  If at any time you feel concerned about your feelings toward or relating to a client a discussion with your supervisor should be in order.  Establishing good routines which include eating appropriately, drinking water, sleeping, and exercising are important.  Also, schedule some “me time” in between your school work, clinical work, and other obligations.

Assuring confidentiality and ethical standards. Client’s names are never presented to individuals at your academic institution; initials are acceptable.  Concerning client information, a good rule of thumb is maintaining a double lock standard.  This relates to traveling to and from the site, storage at home, laptops, audio/video recording devices, etc.  Client paperwork and digital information should be protected and stored until the statute of limitations on malpractice expires or you graduate, whichever occurs last.  In general, when there are competing guidelines always defer to the higher standard.  Remember, guidelines are set by your academic institution, the internship site, state law, associations Codes of Ethics, etc.  You won’t be the first to find it confusing at times.

Furthermore, understand ethics codes generally act as guidelines.  They may lack clarity, conflict with laws, be reactive versus proactive, etc.  Being ethically responsible as a counselor is not necessarily complicated but it takes being educated and appropriately mentored to hone in on best practice.  Some points to remember include the importance of informed consent.  Specifically state your status as a graduate intern, your requirement to be supervised and note how your work with them may be integrated into your scholastic endeavor.  Of course, always get permission (often by way of a Release Form either from your site or academic institution) from clients prior to any type of recording of session content.  For individuals under 18, it is best practice to have both the client and their legal guardian grant written permission.

You may have heard it before, but don’t forget it:

Don’t be on time, be early.

Maintain liability insurance.  You may have to renew this during the course of your training.

Dress appropriately and maintain acceptable grooming standards.

Expect to be introduced as an intern.  Prepare for this.  It may prove more difficult to deal with than you think.

Caring confrontation.  Yes, with your clients but also with your supervisor.  For example, find ways to improve the environment or administrative processes and make suggestions.  As well, it has likely been some time since your supervisor completed her degree.  Offer discussions based on things you are learning in your academic setting.  Be an asset!  You’ll likely be looking for a job and/or supervision after graduation to suffice your state requirements.  Your current site could offer to keep you on if you’re valuable or at the least offer you a solid reference letter.

Concentrate on what you do well, as well as things you don’t.  Use this supervised experience to face what you feel is most challenging and leverage your current skill set to overcome your fears.  Work with silence, work with children, work with the opposite gender, etc.  Do it while you have help readily available.

Additional Resources:

Issues and Ethics in the Helping Professions, Updated with 2014 ACA Codes (Book Only)

Encyclopedia of Counseling: Master Review and Tutorial for the National Counselor Examination, State Counseling Exams, and the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination (Volume 1)


Jordache Williams

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC.  Additionally, he is a Licensed Professional Counselor Intern and Certified Life Coach.

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Dying: The Process of Losing Energy

The energy of life from a biological standpoint is fascinating.  In short, humans receive energy from the sun and exert it mechanically, or as heat.  The easiest way to see death in terms of energy is that the body eventually stops moving and likewise ceases to produce heat.  These facts outlast death in the traditional sense—on a molecular level, energy transference occurs for quite some time after announcements of death.  Bodies require energy to perform cellular breakdown and support the spread of bacteria.

For further thought, decomposition occurring in nature prolongs the body as a source of energy.  The body becomes a host for insects and microbes, and in certain situations, consumed by various animals as well.  Thus after death, the energy continues to be transferred even if simply on a chemical or molecular level.  Leading into natural death there are signs of a change in the level of energy associated with the body; the bowels and blood circulation slow and there is a loss of appetite.  Pain medications consumed in the last days of life tend to exacerbate the symptoms of death.

An informed caregiver knows food and liquids are not welcomed by the dying, and this is a result of the physical changes a person goes through near death.  Those approaching death sleep as if they did when they arrived into the world—in other words, like a baby.  Although sleep requires energy, there is a distinct loss in probability that mechanical energy will be exerted, such as through physical movement.  Death is often associated with hospitals, hospices, and beds.  Though many hospitals and hospices have windows there is factually a reduction in exposure to natural light within the confines of a facility.

Beds are associated with sleep, rest, and a lack of activity.  Think about the term deathbed; a term that extends beyond the frame and mattress to include the last hours of life.  Human’s sleep when they are tired, which may often be referred to as having little or no energy.  The key question being whether the manner by which humans systematically deal with those near death make matters worse?

As humans transfer energy near death, they are likely not receiving energy from a source (e.g. food, liquids, and the sun).  Free energy maintains order and thus the loss of energy creates the aforementioned somatic issues and essentially disorder.  It is this lack of organization which begins to deny organ function and results in death.


Jordache Williams

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC.  He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

Caregivers, Therapists, and Race Cars

“Tires will smoke when you reach the point of volatility or vaporization of the materials in the tread compound,” says Goodyear race-tire engineer Robert Bethea (as quoted in Huffman, 2011).

I know where all the statistically genius minds went but never mind the association of standard deviation and variance with volatility.  This isn’t a composition on research and evaluation, so for the other 98% of you out there, keep reading.  This is actually your invitation to take a vacation this summer.

Why?  To avoid the smoke.  After all, one thing caregivers, therapists, and race cars have in common is the potential for burnout.

There is often a distinction made between burnout and compassion fatigue.  Burnout is recognized as being more predictable, as it occurs over time, and is less treatable.  Marked by chronic stress, irritability, low self-esteem, and exhaustion, burnout symptomatically resembles depression and anxiety.  Compassion fatigue on the other hand, can happen suddenly and is associated with a shock or stress reaction to helping or desiring to help others.  However, similarly, compassion fatigue can result in chronic physical and emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, somatic complaints, irritability and difficulty sleeping.  Both burnout and compassion fatigue occur in situations where the susceptible individual is caring for or desires to assist a person who has experienced trauma or is experiencing emotional distress.  Therapists, lawyers, and nurses are among the individuals who should be concerned with self-monitoring for burnout.

Essentially, in a mental health setting, therapists are subject to burnout if they are affected by their clients’ stories outside of work.  In order to prevent burnout, workloads must be manageable, vacations and time-off must be observed, and sleep should be monitored; journaling as well as exercise are also preventative measures.  As a medical or helping professional, it is necessary to collaborate with peers, mentors, and supervisors throughout one’s career vice simply when a problem is identified.  These long-standing relationships in themselves may very well be the best preventative measure against burnout.  Isolated environments such as private practice increase susceptibility to the aforementioned and other ethical hazards.  Simply put, notwithstanding your experience, or how well you do your job, a level of vulnerability exists.  No matter where you are in your career, it is always a great time to assess the measures you have in place to protect yourself and those you serve.  The less supervision you require, the further removed you become from your formal training, and the more isolated you are from peers—the greater the risk.

So before your office is filled with smoke and you completely breakdown all of your grey matter, take a moment to evaluate the conditions—your condition and those around you.  Be encouraged to create and sustain an atmosphere that is conducive for your work, and concerning the signs of burnout, remain vigilant.

Reference

Huffman, J. P. (2011, February) Burnouts: An Appreciation. Retrieved from http://www.caranddriver.com/features/burnouts-an-appreciation-feature


Jordache Williams

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC, and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC.  He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

 

bowen family systems therapy fieldsofknowledgeblog

Murray Bowen’s Passion

I recently wrote about Murray Bowen’s Family Systems Theory, and while reflecting on his professional achievements I began to marvel at the underlying story his work told.  I find that Bowen’s motivations for his personal and professional goals intertwined and, as a result, propelled him toward success.  I assert that his professional interest in helping families came from his personal observations of his own family of origin.

To me, Bowen epitomizes his own theory.  One of Bowen’s foundational thoughts was that individuals must acknowledge generational patterns and make necessary changes accordingly, in an effort to extinguish the transmission of foul patterns to present and future generations.  In true form, Bowen’s motivation was derived from his own family of origin issues, which provided him the determination to examine and rectify those issues.  In doing so he provided other families, outside of his own, the tools to do the same (in part due to his ability to construct and record the relevant information).  Though some have offered the opinion that portions of Bowen’s work are convoluted, his research and theory paved the way for academicians since their derivation.

I think of Bowen as a person whose passion for his work is reflected in his success.  To me his work speaks for itself, but it is in the light of his recipe for success that I believe he is a beacon for therapists.  Those associated with the helping professions (therapists and academicians alike) should be individuals who have a passion for their work.

In my opinion, passion associated with a therapist consists of several attributes, to include enthusiasm and excitement.  However, therapists with too much passion (better stated as an inappropriate level of passion) for their work may be pushed to make unethical decisions such as diagnosing for the purpose of treatment (concerning health insurance), creating unhealthy client/clinician relationships, or pressing for progression with clients while disregarding the nuances of the process of their particular approach.  Likewise, an academician or researcher may be able to use the extremes of passion to their advantage if the energy is properly harnessed.  But there is often a fine line between working hard at discovery and proving one’s own worth…between fertilizing a mind and molding it.  The progression of the field through theory and research often requires a person to cut against the grain or take a seemingly blind leap.  For these professionals, a heightened sense of passion can prove essential.

While this article is directed towards helping professionals, the points extend to any individual who may be on the journey of self-discovery.  We all from time to time ask ourselves, “Who am I?”   We all wonder about our own level of success and seek to discover purpose.

 

bowen family systems therapy fieldsofknowledgeblog

So I ask you to examine whether you have taken something personal and made it a profession, or simply allowed your profession to overshadow your person?  Are you determined, motivated, enthusiastic and excited about what you do?  Whether you are a Baby Boomer or a Millennial, despite the vast age difference, you are likely looking for significance.  You should look inside and outside.  You should look at the past and the future.  You may start by asking yourself what you have to offer and compare that with what the world around you needs.  Align your passion with your purpose and find the fulfillment you are searching for.

Jordache Williams

 

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

Alcoholism: Disease or Behavior

Criterion A.2. of Alcohol Use Disorder, as presented in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), is the foundation for my conceptualization of alcoholism as either a disease or a behavior.  Obviously a person who meets the criteria for a mental disorder warrants a diagnosis of a mental disorder, right?  Isn’t the DSM gospel?  Okay, so cynicism aside, the criterion of which I am referring is as follows: “There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use.”  In short, if a person is behaving in a manner that they do not wish to behave, and they have put forth significant honest efforts to stop that behavior (or emotion, etc.) then they need help.  If help is most effective by way of mental health intervention, then I believe that the mechanisms should be in place for that assistance to be received (thus a diagnosis be present within the DSM).

It is in the assessment of the criterion of reference where the distinction is made between people who are engaging in an irresponsible manner versus a person who is “ill”.  I would almost go as far as to say that the criterion should be listed separately from the others and be required in addition to “at least two of the others.”  The reality is that due to its subjectability, the criterion is not a foolproof method for determining “disease.”  What a person says they have done to stop, cut down or control alcohol is unfortunately not always factual in nature.  This in itself creates a conflict with therapeutic approaches that the clinician accepts the client’s reality (regardless of truth), similar to the process of dealing with victims of violence or abuse.

Gaining an understanding of the hopelessness a client feels is often a prerequisite for intervention (which sometimes proves therapeutic in itself); however, validation of the hopelessness should not be required of a clinician.  With this thought process in mind, which is often best, clinicians commit due diligence to understanding the problem as the client sees it, and make some efforts to validate the claims the client makes with regard to their unsuccessful efforts to control their alcohol use.

During this validation process it is useful to understand the means by which the client has presented themselves to therapy.  Was it court-ordered, were they pressured or did they come on their own accord?  The reason for a client sitting in your office is oftentimes a predictor of the level of expected success, though asking the client directly may be illuminating as well.

With the work of Michele Weiner-Davis in mind, a therapist should also search for evidence of pretreatment change.  These are all factors that are associated with determining the “classification” of alcoholism and more importantly the need for intervention.  Regardless of how it’s classified, as a clinician, with a client sitting in front of you, you have an obligation.

Consideration of the factors mentioned above may also serve as a guide to a therapist evaluating which approach to intervention may best suit a particular client.  Due to my affinity for Marriage and Family Therapy, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention an assessment of the effects of the alcohol use, regarding the family (if present), should also be a factor in determining the goals of therapy.

Jordache Williams

 

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

 

The Racial Identification Development Model (R/CID)

The purpose of the Racial/Cultural Identification Development model is for therapists to provide the foundation for an individual of a specific culture to positively progress toward their own cultural identity.  The desired end state being that they foster an appreciation for their own cultural lineage while developing their own personal set of beliefs and values.  Clinicians use the R/CID model to distinguish a client’s current stage of cultural identity, and then provide objectives and guidance that the client can use throughout their journey to understanding and accepting their own culture and evolving their personal identity within their culture.

The stages of the model are comprised of the conformity, dissonance, resistance and immersion, introspection, and integrative awareness stages.  The series of stages represent every possible mindset of an individual from the extreme negative to the final acceptance and appreciation of one’s culture.  In the case of African Americans, extremes of their cultural views would include either a complete disregard or shunning of their minority culture, or the opposite, in which they would display a total unacceptance of the majority (White) culture, displaying a significant level of racism toward the majority culture members.  The stages are definitive, and the ideal is for an individual to progress through them; however, it is not required that an individual be in the first stage before they can begin their advancement toward the desired end state.

Although the first stage of the R/CID is the conformity stage, it is not necessary for an individual to be present in this stage to seek and proceed with therapy.  This stage is identifiable in a person by their overt rejection of their own culture.  This occurs by the individual attempting to adopt and uplift the values of White culture, while simultaneously demeaning the value system of their cultural group.  African Americans would depict their presence in the conformity stage by their attitudes regarding themselves.

In my personal life, I have witnessed quite a few instances of this; most notably was a twenty-four year old African American friend of mine who harbored a hatred of all people and things attributed to be African American related.  He was also excessive in his acceptance of all things related to White culture.  He would only wear clothing brands typically associated with Whites, only date White or Asian females, and refused to have any African American friends; and this type of behavior is common in African Americans who are present in this stage.

As an individual, an African American would adopt White cultural aspects such as mannerisms, speech pattern, dress, and goals in an attempt to not only mimic these attributes, but also to make themselves more attractive to the members of the dominant culture.  If their individual “acceptance” is gained, then they can prove to the other members of their minority group that they are “better” than they are.  In this stage, an individual’s perceptions involving the other members of their minority group would include their overall shunning of these persons as they operate on the views of the majority culture.

African Americans, in this instance, would view themselves as the exceptions of their racial group.  To them, they supersede any African American typecasts because they hold differing views than the other group members.  For example, a college-educated, employed black male would hold himself in a higher regard than other members of his group because he is not “lazy, ignorant, unemployed and criminal.”  They would view the members of other minority groups a similar way—as if he were in the majority culture.  In the conformity stage, a minority individual would either rank other minority groups on oppression level, or view them all as equally “below” him.  For instance, an African American’s thought process may be that he is in competition with an Asian American individual to gain majority approval because, “White’s already know an Asian is smart.”  Finally, persons functioning in the conformity stage view the majority group as the ideal culture.  They hold the majority culture in a superior light, and view full acculturation to the majority group as his or her ultimate achievement.

The stage of dissonance is defined by just that, a period of time in which a previously conforming individual is now faced with a disagreement between his or her self-concept and the attitudes of his culture.  It is typical for an event to delegate one’s shift from the conforming stage to the dissonance stage, and this event usually appears in the form of overt racism or discrimination.  An African American male in a professional environment could be participating in a work-related event among White individuals he perceives to be his equal colleagues, and while at the event could be faced with a discriminatory comment (aimed at him) that could immediately begin to alter his views regarding his place in his minority culture group.

In this stage, one’s views regarding themselves would entail a great deal of questioning in reference to why they even desired to be acculturated into White culture since there are clearly aspects of it that are not as positive as they once thought.  Their attitudes towards members of their minority group will begin to take the form of acceptance, and the realization that their views are not as negative as they previously perceived.  It is likely that this individual would experience shame and regret at the thought of their repelling all of their minority group’s values, simply to adopt all White culture ideals.  Their views regarding other minority groups would shift as well, although not as significantly as it would among their own minority group; however, this individual would gain a new sense of acceptance among other minority groups.

Another significant change would be the one between the individual and how they now view the majority culture.  This adjustment would surface in the form of the depreciating value of the majority culture’s ideals.  The dissonant individual now realizes that they were never completely accepted as a member of the majority culture, and that race remains to be a contributor of discrimination, no matter how educated or accomplished the minority culture individual may be.

Resistance and Immersion is the next stage in the sequence.  While in this stage, it is noted that individuals experience a strong gravitation toward their minority culture and begin to dissolve any connection to their previously upheld views of, in this case, White culture.   The individual also dissipates any validity of the majority culture.  The person’s guilt and shame surface as they understand their role of oppressive enabler of the majority culture.  Their reflective attitude regarding their personal role encourages them to begin to seek knowledge regarding their own culture with ferocity.  And by obtaining this new knowledge base, these individuals increasingly experience a sense of pride for their own cultural group.  Their opinions regarding their same minority group shifts in the sense that they now focus on unraveling previous doubts and identifying a sense of connectedness among its members.  This begins the process of upholding their own cultural group’s values as opposed to the majority group.  Among other minority groups, individuals in the resistance and immersion stage begin to seek similarities within the other groups, typically in the form of joining together in a united front with opposition of the racism and oppression exhibited by the majority culture.  For example, African Americans may seek out likenesses between themselves and Hispanics, attempting to forge relationships based on the commonality that they have both experienced a great deal of discrimination from White America.  Their views toward the majority group change significantly in that distrust, anger, and disdain emerge as the individual reasons that the source of discrimination lies in White culture.  Henceforth, the individual vows to function in total opposition to majority culture.

The therapist attempts to guide persons in the Resistance and Immersion stage toward understanding their own functionality, emotionality, and level of differentiation.  This is achieved, in part, by the therapist aiding the individual with creating their own objectives and ideals.  Once this framework is established, one can transition into the Introspection stage.  It is during this stage that a minority individual acknowledges that the energies they have been delegating towards being angry and distrustful of the majority group are futile.  They begin to understand that these emotions are a hindrance to the efforts that could be allocated toward gaining knowledge regarding their own cultural group.  It is during this stage that individuals aspire to create their own autonomy, and are discouraged from defining themselves based specifically on a cultural group.  Their attitude toward their own cultural group changes in that they begin to understand that total immersion or resistance to a certain group may not be the appropriated route.

While gaining a more neutral position, the individual’s allegiance to his own group will begin being questioned by its members.  The introspective person will understand the importance of gaining knowledge regarding other minority groups.  It is in this stage that their focus will not be on oppressive likenesses, but instead will be on the differences.  The individual will be interested to learn more about other minority groups’ discriminatory experiences.  For the African American, the attitude toward White culture would still remain greatly underdeveloped.  In the introspective stage, the individuals are continually seeking more information to validate their acceptance of any White values.  Their disdain for White culture dissipates to form a more curious, knowledge-seeking, and general questioning of the reason for many of the ideals that White culture upholds.

In the final stage of the R/CID model the minority group individual has progressed significantly toward establishing his or her own autonomy within their cultural group, as well as in relation to the majority culture.  In this Integrative Awareness stage the individual possess the ability to identify the benefits as well as disadvantages of the ideals of the majority culture, without concentrating on solely the oppression aspect of, in this instance, White society.  They harbor no discourse with their own minority culture, nor do they hold any disconcerting feelings toward the overall values of the majority culture.  From this point forward, the individual possesses an increasingly strong feeling of empathy toward the cultural group in which they belong, as they have absorbed it’s belonging values and delineated which values they choose not to abide by, without the feeling of discouragement that they are not all-absorbed in the entirety of the culture.  Individuals in the Integrative Awareness stage tend to welcome forging relationships among other minority cultures.  Adhering to the mindset of multicultural awareness, they continue the aspiration to obtain more knowledge regarding other minority cultures as well as the oppression experienced by each group.  They have also evolved into an appreciation of the positive aspects of the majority culture, and have created an inviting attitude toward understanding and identifying with individuals in that culture.  This stage involves finding the likenesses and benefits of multiple aspects of the majority culture.

The potential implications for clinicians involved in using the Racial/Cultural Identity Development model includes the unpredictability regarding when a client is actively transitioning from one stage to the next.  In this light, it is difficult to understand or estimate when a client is emotionally and psychologically prepared to advance from one stage to the next.  This is when the importance of cultural competence and the therapist-client relationship peaks.  When the therapist is functioning at a high level of cultural competence, there is an increased likelihood that the client’s transition between stages becomes seamless.  As the therapist increases his or her own awareness they can identify the client’s culturally objective status, and then proceed to guide them throughout their next transition fluidly.

Jordache Williams

 

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

 

 

Counselor, Therapist, Coach, or Lifeline

Discover the Niche Life Coaching for Leaders

People need help.  A better tool, more time, less stress, more money, the right word in the closing paragraph of a thesis…humans from time to time get in a pinch.  We ask our spouse, our friends, our parents, our co-workers and the tall person walking down the grocery aisle for help.  Sometimes help is readily available, other times it’s scarce, if accessible at all.  So how is it that people go about getting help?

We evaluate the situation.  What exactly do I need and how much time do I have?

We evaluate our resources.  Who’s available, knowledgeable, and trustworthy?

We evaluate the costs.  What am I giving up, or going to owe, by reaching out?

Some of us don’t ever evaluate costs in a monetary sense as they relate to acquiring help with “life”.  This may be due to a lack of finances, but can also be attributed to a perceived sufficiency of available and free resources.  On the other hand, we often don’t mind paying for other services, even services we can accomplish ourselves (e.g. a car wash).  We use money to pay waiters to bring us food from the kitchen to the table…something we could do ourselves but “it’s just not the way it works.”  We accept these things, most of the time without question.  Why is it then, that so many of us question our own need for counseling, therapy and coaching?  How is taking care of our emotions, feelings, and mental health different?  Let’s look at the aforementioned evaluation process again.

We evaluate the situation.  It’s not that serious.  It’s nothing I can’t handle.  “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

We evaluate our resources.  I don’t know any therapists, counselors or coaches.  Since I don’t know any, how can I possibly assess their knowledge or trustworthiness?

We evaluate the costs.  It’s not remotely feasible for me to pay for this kind of help.  It has to be expensive.

True enough, if we don’t already have a relationship with a helping professional, it proves difficult to just pick up a phone to get help with a situation, especially immediate help.  We already anticipate a long, drawn-out process with a great deal of paperwork and the scheduling of an appointment (which we already believe will occur well past the amelioration of our current conundrum).  These understandings generally leave us fending for ourselves and, more times than not, we get by.  But many of these times we actually are “worse for the wear.”

If you want to avoid learning hard lessons, missing opportunities and wasting time and resources, it may be prudent to take a closer look at some viable resources you’ve been skipping out on.  In reality, counselors, therapists and coaches should be staple, not stigma.  The services offered by these types of professionals are similar to any other services you don’t think twice about paying for…they provide something you want or need and some are better than others.  The key to finding the right kind of help is to look for it when you don’t need it.  Similar to grocery shopping when you’re hungry, what often happens is individuals get into such a bad place before they reach out for these types of services.  At that point, there has not been a solid evaluation of potential service providers, which may mean the individual you reach out to is not the best fit.  Not to mention, whoever that provider is, they are working an uphill battle, late in the game, with no history of you.  These factors lead to a meager success rate and you lacking confidence not only in that person, but oftentimes in the industry as a whole.

So if you’ve ever found yourself in a pinch with “life” and have felt like you haven’t had a person to turn to, take some time to visit a few local helping professionals.  Find out what they do.  Peruse the internet, evaluate the costs, research the accessibility and answer ALL of the questions you have regarding these professionals.  If you do this, you’re most likely going to find that someone for you.  That someone who is relevant, available, knowledgeable, trustworthy, affordable…that lifeline.

Ready to get started researching your options?  Need help distinguishing the differences between the types of helping professionals?  My latest eBook, Discover the Niche: Life Coaching for Leaders, may help.

Jordache Williams

 

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

Sharing as a Leader

sharing leader leadership

If You’re Not Sharing these 5 Things, You Could be a More Effective Leader…

Your insecurities.  The competent leader understands dominance is not the same as authority.  Attempting to be perceived as dominant by hiding your insecurities only ensures you won’t receive any aid with them.  When you are overly concerned about your own job security, it is difficult to not make every attempt to avoid being viewed as weak or vulnerable.  Sharing your vulnerabilities allows you to connect with those you lead, and also results in being provided for in ways (and by individuals) you otherwise would not.  The alternative (hiding your insecurities through dominance) actually promotes insecurities in other individuals throughout the organization, which creates an extremely unhealthy environment.

Responsibility.  Often individuals in leadership roles find themselves demanding actions of those structurally subordinate.  Simply articulating these demands in a manner which suggest they are a shared responsibility changes the dynamic of the request (e.g. delegating responsibility).  Your pride may be standing in the way of you allowing yourself to be perceived as sharing your workload.  Here again, those consumed with protecting their job find it difficult to share.  Remember, as a leader your litmus for success is the success of those you lead.

Rewards.  If you are getting them, it’s likely that your team is deserving of them as well.  Even when you are not receiving rewards it is possible that the members of your team are worthy of them.  Be innovative when rewarding productive associates.  If it’s feasible, distribute your own bonuses among your team, or simply use a portion of your income to buy a new Keurig for the office.  Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool useful in promoting achievement and fortifying relationships.

Updates, changes, and notifications.  The flow of information within an organization can be illustrated through the principles of hydraulics.  The confined space at the top of the organization often allows information to flow much more rapidly than the typically more voluminous lower tiers of the same organization.  Considering today’s technology, there is little excuse for the flow of information to become canalized.  Changes affect individuals differently and, as a leader, providing timely information is a great way to foster inclusiveness and afford individuals the necessary time to react.  If knowledge is power, then, as a leader, empower with knowledge.

Your time.  As a leader, you are likely busy undertaking managerial duties and keeping yourself organized, maybe even building processes and analyzing statistics.  You also, as an experienced leader understand the value of those you lead, especially in terms of productivity.  If you do make time for those structurally subordinate, it’s easy to find yourself spending that time protecting and encouraging those who are most productive.  Avoid the projection of favoritism by encouraging comradery.  Do this through spending meaningful time with all of those you lead.

Jordache Williams

 

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

 

 

5 Things to Avoid as a Leader

Losing the confidence of those you lead.  If you, as a leader, have ever been shocked by comments your supervisor reveals were made by your subordinates, you’ve likely made this mistake.  This may mean you have not made yourself available or you have not been accommodating.  In either course, those you lead have lost faith in your ability as a leader and have reached above you for aid.

Referring to those you lead as “people who work for you.”  Those you lead are constituents, associates, coworkers and, above all, individuals with just as much value as you.  Undervaluing those structurally subordinate isn’t a way to validate your authority, and by doing so, you adversely undermine your ability to motivate them.

Tasking those you lead versus sharing responsibility.  This is likely a result of your focus on your own success rather than the success of the team.  A productive environment thrives on inclusiveness, honesty and synergy.  “Making” someone do something creates dissonance, on the other hand, sharing responsibility perpetuates effectiveness and efficiency.

Losing sight of the human element.  Individuals you lead are comprised of more than a job description.  In order to be an effective leader you must possess the 3 Cs: care, concern, compassion.  Don’t believe a hard outer shell establishes your dominance.  There is little that pushes others away more assuredly than neglect.

Not listening.  As a leader, insights come from a variety of sources, none more important than those coming from the individuals you lead.  Feeling pressed for time, being arrogant and, again, undervaluing those you lead are all causes of dismissing recommendations from those structurally subordinate.

Atlas Concepts, LLC_Jordache Williams

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

Looking for Racial Identity: An Interview with Mary White

Utilizing the Helms White Racial Identity Model created by Janet Helms, the following description of Mary White (pseudonym) is based on the observation of verbal and nonverbal cues from an interview with Mary conducted in the fall of 2011.  Mary White is a 32-year-old, Caucasian American, divorcee with no children.  Keeping in mind the six statuses as proposed by Janet Helms, the interview with Mary set-out to discern her racial identity and attitudes to include her biases, prejudices, conflicts, tolerance, etc.

Mary was an extremely willing participant of the racial identity interview.  Her interest in the interview was shown through her expression as Mary immediately displayed a certain confidence of which I initially could not discern the reasoning.  This confidence, however, was the first of several cues that eventually led to my description of Mary’s identity.  Quickly identifying herself as a White American she explained an abbreviated version of her life history—growing up in South Carolina to a White mother and father and having a “pretty normal, average life.”  She was taught that all people were “equal” and, despite ever feeling that she experienced racism, did acknowledge that it exists.  Through her teen years her contact with races other than her own was limited to casual encounters in public places and exposure through media.  Mary claimed that there were a total of 3 Black people and “maybe ten or so” Hispanics that attended her school (K-12).  She recalls that one of the Black persons who attended her school was an athletic female who came to the school in tenth grade and happened to be in Mary’s class until graduation.  Mary remembered this individual as friendly and when asked about her relationship with the individual stated, “I would consider us to have been friends.  We never really hung out exclusively, but I’d say we were friends.  We held small talk… about to the degree that I had with most of my classmates vice my real good friends.”  She admitted to never having a “real” interest in dating a non-White person, but only considered her lack of interest to be a result of a lack of commonality and physical attraction.  “It’s not that I wouldn’t or won’t date a Black man, it’s just that I don’t typically find them to be attractive.  I have yet to really meet a person of another race that has similar interests as me.  Additionally, I don’t even think I was introduced to a non-White male my age until after I was married.”  I concluded this topic of conversation by asking Mary her opinion concerning interracial dating/marriages.  Shrugging her shoulders, she retorted that the idea doesn’t bother her at all, stating, “it’s really up to the people involved, it’s really none of my business… whatever makes a person happy.”  At this point I had already identified Mary’s Contact Status as well as noticed certain mild characteristics of disintegration.

As the interview progressed, I moved towards probing into Mary’s marriage.  Mary claimed to be “a little shy in school when it came to interacting with boys.”  She remained “single” until she started dating John during her senior year of high school (John was a junior at that time).  John was white and shared similar interests as Mary.  In fact, Mary and John had known each other since John came to Mary’s school a year earlier, as they were members of the girls’ and boys’ tennis teams respectively.  Mary explained that she and John rarely discussed race, but she had always assumed their view of the subject was similar.  She did always notice that, in casual conversation, when John described an individual of another race he always included the person’s race in the description of the person.  Mary said that this cognitive inclusion stood out to her because she felt she rarely ever did that herself.  Mary claimed that her own exclusion of race as a descriptive measure was not purposeful; “it’s just the way I’ve always been” she exclaimed.  It appeared that even at 32-years-old, and despite claiming to acknowledge racism, Mary had not moved into the statuses of Pseudo-Independence, Immersion/Emersion nor Autonomy as described by Helms.

Mary’s relationship and five-year marriage ended with John eight years ago when she was 24-years-old.  She feels that the marriage “fell apart because they had tried hard to have a child with no luck and he (John) had gotten really involved with his job.”  She explained that John claimed they “had grown apart over the years,” whereas her mother claimed that she and John “married too young.”  Since that time, Mary has dated “a few men.”  Not to my surprise, none of these dates were with a person of a non-White race.  Despite her persistence with dating men of her own race, her interaction with members of various races had increased over the last ten or so years.  This increase in interaction began when she attended college, where she saw “several people of a variety of races around campus.”  However, having been married at the time, she commuted to college and only attended classes.  “In general, I only interacted with classmates and that interaction was typically mandated by group projects,” explained Mary.  Mary has worked at her local community bank since college.  She works with mostly white females; however, there is one White male and two Black females who currently work with her in the bank.  Mary claims that “most of our customers are White, but there are people of every race that come to the bank nearly every day.”  It was at this point that I was concerned that, despite Mary’s excitement with participating in the interview, it seemed her state of oblivion limited a complex dissertation regarding her Racial Identity.  Despite my concern, however, it was also during this stage of the interview that the quality of Mary’s racial socialization became evident.

Considering Mary’s limited interaction with non-White races, I began more deliberate questioning regarding her understanding and knowledge of races and, in particular, racism.  Her basic stand on racism was that “slavery was a long time ago but it’s evident that not everyone feels that all races are equal.”  As she continued to claim her own acceptance of all races, she attempted to vet her declaration by stating that she studied about racism in both high school and college.  She experienced classroom debates that often created a great deal of emotion in various classmates.  During these debates she felt a bit removed from emotionality, and Mary was often standoffish in such class discussions.  When asked to explain her opinion of reparations, Mary said, “I know it causes a lot of debate.  Even at my job I’ve heard that the management has to have minorities on the staff.  I don’t really care who I work with as long as they are proficient.”  When I asked her if she had ever heard of anyone being hired simply because they were a member of a minority race despite interviewing against White’s who were more qualified, she said she doesn’t really think that happens.  Mary maintained a naïve attitude regarding the reality of the current level of prejudice and racism present in society.  Despite her potential for Autonomy, being generally knowledgeable of the historical context of racial issues, Mary maintained a very selective perception.  For example, she acknowledged no reason for herself or society to “help non-White races any more than Whites”, showed little vigilance for Immersion/Emersion and was overall inflexible, denying herself the attainment of Autonomy.  In general terms, I concluded that Mary was suspended in the Contact Status.  Despite being knowledgeable of racism, she remained oblivious to and unaware of racism in today’s society.  She explained how she felt as if she was “a fair and impartial person” in regard to race, and claimed that to her “race is not important.”

In conclusion, through the interview with Mary White I was reminded of the various degrees to which persons in society are truly unaware of the issues of racism that exists today.  It is my assertion that with Mary, her life experiences (or lack of) have weighed much heavier in the determination of her Racial Identity than any influence of media, education or publication.  For some people, even direct experiences with racism may remain unacknowledged despite a general knowledge of the subject.  In summation, Mary seemed to be a person who had inadvertently been successful at abandoning racism; however, she lacked any significant development of a nonracist White identity.  In layman’s terms, Mary’s interview suggested she was “obliviously non-racist.”  Due to Mary’s obliviousness to racial dynamics, it proved difficult to assess her methods for coping with such dynamics (thus challenging to assess any status other than Contact), yet Mary in turn was the quintessential reference for the Contact Status.

References

Helms, J.E. (1997). Implications of Behrens for the validity of the White Racial Identity Attitude Scale. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 44, 13-16.

Helms, J.E. (1999). Another meta-analysis of the White Racial Identity Attitude Scale.  Measurement and Evaluations in Counseling and Guidance, 32, 122-137.

Helms, J.E. & Carter, R.T. (1991). Relationships of White and Black racial identity attitudes and demographic similarity to counselor preferences. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 38, 446-457.

Atlas Concepts, LLC_Jordache Williams

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.