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.

 

 

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Case Notes: Task or Tool?

Fields of Knowledge_Case Notes

If you have been providing therapy to clients with any longevity you have at some point questioned whether your approach to a given case was the culprit responsible for therapeutic stagnation. You may have chosen to switch your approach, integrate tenants of other models or refer the client(s) elsewhere.

You’re not alone in your desire to be the one who gets to witness a client’s transformation. However, most therapists understand that there is inevitably a time where they are not adequately equipped to handle a specific case. Unless there is an ethical dilemma with a particular client, therapists should (using good judgment) accept the clients that arrive for help.

I believe this because the person seeking help is present and in action. Any time a client leaves there is no guarantee that they will be back. Likewise, once a client is turned-away there is no guarantee they will contribute a similar effort again.

With this said, it is incumbent upon therapists to be equipped to supply the demand. At the least, the consultation process should include active listening, empathy and the sharing of hope and optimism. Whether the next step is session number two or a referral, therapists should feel that they have done everything possible to leave the client with a realistic impression of the therapeutic process.

Sometimes it’s further along than the initial consultation when therapists come to the realization that they are in over their head. Before throwing in the towel, therapists may seek guidance and advice from colleagues, mentors and other helping professionals.

Therapists can often learn a great deal from understanding how their colleagues’ approaches differ from their own. Even when colleagues share that their approach would have been the same, they may still be able to provide suggestions for your consideration.

I suggest that this dialogue, which is essentially a version of professional development, involve evaluating the effectiveness of your approach to tell the client’s story. In essence, this is a method for understanding how your therapeutic approach depicts your client(s). If your approach does not tell the client’s story, perhaps you can make a special effort to address the gaps in future sessions.

With the permission of your client(s), have a colleague review a version of your case notes, which outlines what approach and tools you have used and the effects that you hoped to, have gained. Have your colleague explain (back brief) the family’s situation as they see it as described by your notes, almost as if they were introducing you to the client(s) or transferring the case to you.

The picture they paint of the family may give you insights on the validity of the therapeutic model and techniques you have employed. Here are two examples using differing therapeutic approaches addressing a single vignette. Do the respective approaches to therapy tell the same story about the family? As we all know, there is rarely a single approach that can be considered “best”. However, you are always making the right decision when you approach a given case ethically, efficiently and effectively.

So while the model of therapy you have chosen to work with may not be wrong, you may be employing it ineffectively and thus having little effect assisting the client with positive change. These types of reviews assist clinicians with evaluating the effectiveness of their approach, and can be accomplished with a colleague or alone.

Example Case Notes – A

By implementing a structural approach, I understood that the relationship hierarchy needed to adjust significantly before the family’s optimal functionality could be attained. As a combined result of Jack devoting so much of his time at work, and Jill being the parent who has been more consistently present, of course Johnny would develop a more closely emotional relationship with his mother. However, this relationship is magnified because Jill has spousified Johnny in order for her to fill the emotional vacancy caused by Jack’s frequent absence, so obviously a large portion of Johnny’s anxiety results from his mother’s “need” for him to be present for her own functionality in the family. Also, a possibility for John’s extended absence could be the result of the fact that, with all of the children now away at school, he is experiencing his own anxiety as this will be the first time in twenty four years that he and Jill have been the sole members of the household.

The primary objective has been to eliminate Johnny’s panic attacks regarding his beginning college by minimizing his anxiety about being separated from the home. With the ideal situation being that the foundation is established for all relationships in this system to progress toward a healthy functionality. To accomplish this, a restructuring of the family is necessary. The relationship between Jack and Jill must become more developed. Jill must allow Jack to fill his spousal role—the role that she has encouraged Johnny to occupy. This will be done by basically reacquainting Jack and Jill, as well as reestablishing what their needs and goals are in their marital relationship, not simply their roles as parents. Boundaries should then be determined in order to stabilize each newly restructured role. An aspect of this technique that would be beneficial to use regarding Johnny’s anxiety would be to strengthen his relationships with his siblings. Since both Sue and Carl have years of experience away from home and in a college environment, their guidance would be tremendously helpful for Johnny’s elimination of his separation anxiety.

Example Case Notes – B

I have chosen to utilize Psychodynamic/Family of Origin therapy with this particular family. In the most basic triangle of this family, Johnny and Jill are the closest relationship with Jack as the outsider. By having knowledge of Jill’s position in her family of origin, it is understood that her own emotional over-involvement with Johnny has resulted from her attachment to her own mother, whom she could never obtain an ideal relationship with as she was consistently vying for her mother’s attention against her step-father and other siblings, so she is now severely attached to Johnny—the most constant figure in the home. Jack’s position in his family of origin placed him as a likely caregiver and source of support for his younger siblings, so he most likely feels a strong sense of responsibility to provide adequately for his nuclear family. Thus, he allows himself to spend an increasing amount of time involved with work.

The overall goal would be to establish positive functionality for this system by developing each member’s differentiation of self, and adjusting the emotional triangles. The initial technique to implement would be to sketch a comprehensive genogram in order for each member to understand the origins of the system’s emotionality. This would allow Johnny, Sue, and Carl to objectively view Jill and Jack’s familial positions and relationships with their respective families of origin, and provide them with a new understanding behind their current system’s functionality. Jack, Jill, and Johnny will all need treatment to improve their levels of differentiation in order to prevent their emotional dependencies from creating a multigenerational pattern. I plan to have Jack, Jill, and Johnny voice what their wishes are for their relationships and then be confronted with aspects of their situation which they may be oblivious. I believe that this will be an effective technique for this family as it seems apparent that they may not currently acknowledge to themselves what their needs are in each of the relationships.

—–

You can see how, despite the use of varying approaches to working with this family, that items such as the family dynamics are synonymous in each. Adversely, the priorities, techniques and goals differ and in such light, differing details regarding the family are presented in each set of notes. These types of notes give enough detail to your colleague to enable them to relay back to you “how they see the clients,” and may spur a discussion involving “what I would try is….”

At any course, your colleague is immediately able to pick up on your therapeutic hypothesis and the techniques you have, or plan to employ, as well as the family dynamics, presenting problems, and direction of therapy.

It is through the dialogue that follows where you may learn from the assumptions about the family that your colleague makes based on your notes. Likewise, you may find that their concerns for the client(s) may not align with your own. Perhaps your colleague has questions for you regarding the client(s) of which you don’t have answers.

You may also be enlightened to the fact that your colleague or mentor would prioritize the goals of therapy different than you and the client(s) have. In addition to being used as a tool to garner support from other professionals, these types of notes are a great way to provide yourself with a summation of your and your client’s work.

Atlas Concepts, LLC_Jordache WilliamsJordache 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.

Understanding the Clinical Training Required for your MFT Degree

That moment you realize that finding an internship site is much more of a daunting process than you imagined…

You feel like you have exhausted all options and the demands of life haven’t slowed down a bit. If you’re like me, you’ve amassed a great deal of lemonade from what seems to be an orchard of lemons. Now, if an opportunity actually does present itself, you’re worried that you’re too involved in other endeavors to attend to the demands of an internship with the necessary zeal. You are continuing to accomplish so many things, but the void left by what you ultimately equate to failure is notwithstanding.

As I continue in my effort to locate a site to complete the clinical requirements of the Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) graduate program I attend, I can’t help but to question my own efforts as I reflect on the experience. It is my hope that in some way the information I present hereafter will prove useful to those wishing to pursue a graduate degree requiring a concomitant residency, others similarly situated and additionally serve as a calling to those positioned to supply the necessities of this demand.

Similar to most careers, becoming a helping professional is possible through a variety of avenues. Despite the source of your motivation, the resources and support you have accumulated and the advantages of your genetics, you can be assured that the licensure process will create challenges that, despite any preparation, will test your fortitude.

The licensure process is the stretch of the pursuit that canalizes candidates to evaluate competency.

In many cases, the consideration of a graduate program is one of the first steps towards garnering the competency necessary to embark on your journey. While you carefully consider your options you may be taking into consideration the programs offered, the institutions proximity to your home or place of employment, tuition and associated costs and even the school’s reputation.

This thought process is normal, and is closely related to the process you went through during undergrad; however, consideration of a graduate program (especially a counseling related program with a clinical training requirement) requires specialized thought.

So, while you’re mapping out the coffee shops on campus, make sure that you take a moment to get your hands on some extremely relevant information.

Clearly understand the following:

The accreditation(s) held by the academic institution. Regional accreditation by one of the regional accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, ensures that specific standards are upheld at the institution, and that credits earned are more likely to be transferrable to another institution. Furthermore, the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) is a specialized accrediting body within the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) which accredits MFT programs at academic institutions. The COAMFTE is purposed with evaluating the level of competence of the graduates of institutions which volunteer for accreditation.

The requirements for internship sites and supervisors as set forth by your institution. You may find that aligning these requirements for a particular site is more difficult than you imagined. You may have to compromise concerning one or the other, or both. For instance, you would ultimately prefer to work with an approved AAMFT Supervisor but may find that there are few, if any, located within a reasonable distance.

Often when you do locate such an individual you find that they cannot take on any more interns or limit their expertise to interns who already possess the requisite degree. Though as a graduate student you are obviously striving for excellence, understanding your academic organizations minimal requirements for both the site and the supervisor is key to complete and careful consideration of potential sites.

If the academic institution has partnered with local organizations to provide clinical sites for its graduate students, you should spend some time learning about those sites and what is offered and expected. Understand that many academic institutions cannot guarantee placement at an internship site even in cases where partnered organizations exist. Also note that it is not farfetched to intern at a qualified site under the supervision of a qualified professional who is not affiliated with the site you are located.

The expectations concerning competency and the academic requirements of the clinical experience. The academic institution likely requires both clinical experience hours and supervision hours for completion of your clinical training. Understand that the site you choose should be able to provide the hours you need for your degree within the confines of your academic semester. During this planning process you must consider the likelihood of the unforeseen such as no-shows, changes in personnel at your site and the stability of specific programs at your site which may affect your ability to accomplish your academic requirements. You may find that, in order to meet your goals and the academic requirements, you may require support from multiple internship sites concurrently.

Your state’s licensure board requirements. In many cases state licensure requirements are similar; however, it is critical that you understand the requirements in the state(s) which you plan to practice. Consider the application process and transferability of licensure in reference to neighboring states and states you may plan to reside in the future.

Don’t save a review of these requirements for a later date, thinking that they only concern those who already possess a degree and are seeking licensure. The reality is that states often have educational requirements that specifically pertain to your graduate work. Through careful consideration, it is possible to align yourself with an organization and/or supervisor which can support you, not only through your graduate experience, but also throughout the post-graduate licensure process as well.

While this information is structured for those seeking a MFT graduate program, the processes and structures are similar to those associated with other helping professions as well. If you have read this and are wondering why such a review and careful consideration is necessary by the student, it may prove helpful to understand that my MFT academic experience has been online.

Thus, in my case, the pursuit of a site and supervisor includes a great deal of footwork, phone calls, emails and, ultimately, networking. I chose to attend an online program during active duty with the military, and this approach was the best (and realistically only) method for continuing my education at the graduate level concurrently with my military obligations. I do not regret taking the time to pursue a higher education while serving in the military.

I will admit that there were challenges during the pursuit; none greater than having left service with only the clinical portion of my degree remaining. Despite the rise in popularity of online courses, certifications and degree programs and the growing acceptance of these forms of education, clinical degrees present specific, unique challenges regardless of the institutions mode of education.

Continue to follow this blog to learn more about finding an internship site, approaching potential supervisors, the advantages provided through innovative technology and the unforeseen challenges of completing the clinical training requirements of your online MFT graduate degree.

 

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.

 

Finding a Good Therapist

Fields of Knowledge_Choose a Therapist

Though they have dissipated in the last decade to a degree, there are still stigmas regarding the world of mental health. Of those exists the thoughts that therapy is for “crazy people”, “individuals who need medication” or “those who have way too much to say and no one else to talk to”. The reality is that therapy may or may not be for any of those individuals and likewise may be effective for those who are often considered normally (mentally) healthy. Growing up in South Carolina I am very familiar with the phrase, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. While this maxim has proven very true in many instances, there are times when it doesn’t necessarily apply. I believe therapy to be included in this list.

Let’s switch gears for a moment and think about a scenario involving an automobile mechanic (pardon the pun). You speak to a mechanic over the phone and discuss with him the fact that your headlights do not work. The mechanic schedules you an appointment. When your car is returned to you, you are told that the issue with the lights has been repaired, so you render thanks (i.e. $). Before you leave you ask the mechanic what the issue was and he tells you that the problem was corrosion in your car’s fuse box.

Hold on a minute…you came for your headlights and he spent the last hour working on your fuse box? The point here is that while there are common issues that arise with individuals and families, those “in the mix” may not clearly understand the root of those problems. The mechanic could have changed the light bulbs, installed new wires and even changed your tires, but until he fixed the actual problem with the fuse box, the headlights would have never operated properly.

Yes, as a client, therapy at times may seem like a process that involves “going around your hip to get to your elbow.” So how do you find a therapist? In all actuality, many people go about it very similarly to how they arrive at finding “their” mechanic. People often consider items like location, reputation and cost(s). And while this process is understandable, it may not be inclusive. All therapists are not created equal.

The mechanic analogy is a great one, because it applies in so many ways. Another example is that many auto mechanics have specialties, whether it’s a specific make of vehicle, a specific component, etc. This holds true for therapy as well, though there are some “jack of all trades” out there, therapists may be better suited to work with clients with certain concerns or issues. When seeking a therapist, I encourage you to conduct some amount of research pertaining to the specialties of the practitioner. This may include contacting them directly.

Some therapists have the ability to utilize objectivity and empathy with a nearly artful balance, allowing “hard truths” to descend at the rate of the feather on Forest Gump (1994). Therapists can be practical, eccentric, rigid, playful, exotic…you name it. A therapist’s “style” is typically a mixture of their personality and the model(s) of therapy they practice. As a client, it is critical that you are comfortable with your therapist but you must understand that while personable may be comfortable, it does not necessarily mean therapeutic.

Let’s face it, a person seeking therapy is looking for something which they perceive they cannot offer themselves. The client’s goal going into therapy is, to at the end of the session or through the course of therapy, feel better…BE better. Unfortunately, the best understanding a client will get of what a particular therapist can offer is to participate in the process. This means paying for something that may or may not work. Here are a few tips for narrowing your options through conducting research, telephonic inquiries or attending a consultation.

  1. Trained – Often you can learn a great deal about a therapist’s level of training from the internet. Company websites, business review pages, LinkedIn and other social media sites may offer insight into the level and type of training a therapist has attended. Consider the scholastic reputation of institutions of which the therapist is affiliated. Programs which are evaluated and accredited by notable organizations and entities may elude to the quality of the educational and training experiences thereof. In general, therapists are required to participate in continued education annually in order to maintain licensure. Because these educational experiences are chosen by the therapist, such experiences can reveal some of the therapist’s recent interests and/or concerns.

 

  1. Experienced – Not to be confused with how long a therapist has been in the profession. Time and experience can often be uncorrelated concepts. To determine the type of experience a therapist has consider what they claim as “specialties”. Experience in itself does not make a therapist suited for all clients; however, it may allude to a level of comfort and proficiency with their work, an ability to adapt and generally represent their “brand”. Therapists are as diverse as their experiences, a key to aligning yourself with an appropriate therapist is to discover their success with issues similar to your own. Experience is a progressive step from the training environment which leads to the next topic…

 

  1. Competent – Very easy to agree with but possibly not as easy to identify as one would imagine. Competence can initially be masked by accolades, fast talk and promises of success. While a clean and inviting office environment, polite administrative staff, short wait times and a nice business suit may allude to a professional environment, these may not necessarily be clues of therapeutic competence. Competence speaks directly to the therapist ability to use therapeutic intervention to assist a client with attaining goals. Testimonials and reputation are great gauges of competence.

 

  1. Culturally appropriate – While it is incumbent for therapists to be attentive to ethnic and multicultural diversity, the truth is that some therapists are more suited for a specific gender, race or ethnic group. This is not to say that you should strive to find a therapist who is similar to you because that is not necessarily the best fit based simply on racial identity. There are indeed individuals who are not “of” the group of which they work with best. Go beyond the surface when looking for a therapist, the best therapist for you may not look like you and may not be located on a side of town you frequent.

 

  1. Ethical – There is no greater must in therapy. The ethical considerations of the therapist should be outlined and discussed as a part of an informed consent process which precedes therapy. Though your personal ideals may not be directly aligned with those of the therapist, it is the therapist’s responsibility to conduct therapy in a manner that is not offensive or harmful to you (the client). The counseling professional you choose will likely be affiliated with a licensing body based on the credentials they hold. These licensing and professional organizations set the minimal standards for ethical conduct. Find more on ethics from the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association and the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy.

 

  1. Credentialed – Often mistakenly equated with competence, in actuality, credentials more closely relate to training. I am adding a note regarding credentials because the list of acronyms associated with many of these professionals can be confusing. The truth is that the credentials of a therapist are more relevant to other counseling professionals than they should be to clients. These credentials essentially align counselors with specific governing agencies and/or organizations. As a client, you are protected by the organizations with which licensed and credentialed therapists are affiliated. Don’t be confused by credentials, or get bogged down trying to sort them all out. For clients, the most relevancy of a therapist’s credentials may be the limitations regarding insurance coverage or reimbursement. Additionally, clients should understand that they may contact relevant credentialing bodies to report unethical conduct of a therapist.

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.

Therapist Self-disclosure

The matter of self-disclosure in the professional therapeutic setting is one that can be daunting to understand.  Foremost, disclosure in therapy is most identified as originating from the client.  Many of us picture a somewhat small, dimly lit office where the client is lying down with their eyes closed telling their personal secrets.  In many instances, however, this is not so.

Therapy has become so diverse that a generalization such as this can be very far from the reality a client faces when they enter the therapeutic setting.  So aside from not really knowing what to expect regarding the physical environment, clients are also leery about the process of therapy.

It is helpful for clients to understand that therapists have also undergone similar thought processes, such as the internal debate regarding how much of themselves they are to share.

Therapists teeter between disclosing too much and not enough about themselves to clients.  As a therapist, where do you draw the line? As a client, what are your expectations?

In general, self-disclosure should be used at the discretion of therapists with the intention of promoting wellness while avoiding harm at all costs (i.e. primum non nocere).  Self-disclosure is a natural (or promoted…or even integral) part of several models of individual and group therapy, thus for therapists practicing such models it is necessary in many cases.

Other models of therapy do not require therapist’s self-disclosure, and may even work more effectively if such disclosure is avoided.  So for therapists, the answer is to understand your model, and work within that frame…be comfortable and be authentic.

Hint: As a client, if you have the opportunity to research and select a therapist, you should consider what you perceive to be your presenting problem and evaluate the approaches of the potential therapists.

Not all therapists are created equally and some therapeutic models have been evidenced to work well with specific issues.  You also want to consider qualifications, credentials and reputation, but this will be covered more extensively in another blog.

As a client, you should expect therapists to be forthcoming with their particular intentions regarding the progression of the therapeutic experience, which may or may not include their intentions regarding self-disclosure.  At any case, therapists’ disclosure should be in keeping with the intent of the therapeutic experience as outlined during the process of informed consent.

The process of therapist self-disclosure is unique to each therapist, and clients who may have had previous experiences must understand that their own expectations can make their experience more or less productive.  If, as a client, you were forced to change therapists (e.g. because you relocated), you may be jaded.  If you discontinued seeing a therapist in search of a better experience, you may be disheartened by having to start over again (i.e. the administrative processes and the initial “introduction” sessions).

If you are completely new to therapy then your understanding of the uniqueness of therapists will prove helpful.  You are making an important decision in your life, and, in that regard, being informed is a process which you can directly influence…being informed is also something you should expect during the course of therapy.

In other words, be informed going in and be even more informed coming out.

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, holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services, and is an aspiring therapist.