This blog will feature regularly updated posts of relevance to beginning counselors, including Beginning Counselor Q & A: Email questions to me at Stephanieadamscounseling@gmail.com or through "Contact Us" on the website.
|Posted by Stephanie Adams on May 4, 2013 at 11:40 AM||comments (1)|
I don't know about you, but one of my biggest problems in getting things done is my annoying inner conviction that in order to start working on it, it's got to be perfect.
The perfect idea.The perfect plan.The perfect tool. That conviction - The 'Gotta-Be-Perfects' - gets me exactly nowhere. That's because it's not centered in sharing, or educating, or learning myself. It's centered in fear. And that's not a very inspiring emotion.
You know what is an inspiring emotion? Need. Creating need, tied into a sense of urgency, can go a long way towards curing the "Gotta-Be-Perfects." Here's 10 ways to get out of your own way and start getting things done rather than waiting until the perfect idea hits you.
Give yourself a time limit. Deliberately start a project 45 minutes before you have to leave to go somewhere. Then just get as much done as you can get done.
Keep the stakes in mind. Look at your daily budget vs. your daily income. How much is your gotta-be-perfect delay costing you each day?
Engage an accountability partner with similarly high stakes. If it matters to each of you, you will make sure it matters to each other.
Give yourself an hourly schedule. Make a plan for when you will do what so that you accomplished your desired goals within a set amount of time.
Try something you know won't work, but is relatively harmless. It will get that failure you're so afraid of out of the way.
Get everything ready to do your project right before bed, and then roll out of bed and start doing it before you're fully awake. Then you're already committed and it feels that much harder to stop.
Picture a particular client when working on your marketing, creating your e-book, or whatever obstacle is in your way. It's much harder to given into the "gotta-be-perfects" when you are faced with one client's urgent need.
Pick up on your half-finished projects. Case in point? This blog post had four bullet points when I picked it up today. Decided to MAKE it appropriate for today's blog post rather than wait around for that magic message to come to me.
Reward yourself. Or, keep yourself from rewards. (It's a perspective thing.) Point is, you don't get the cookie until you perform the trick. It's called behaviorism, and it works.
Have an inspiration in mind that matters to you. For me, unfortunately, picturing the hot pink bridesmaid's dress I will be wearing in a month wasn't enough to get me to exercise. But preventing my puppy from acting insane at night was enough to get me walking him in the morning 4-5 times a week.
What matters to you that you want to get done? What have you been putting off to grow your business or your clinical expertise? What dream have you not yet realized? Go start on it. And then let us know about it! Write below!
If you're still stuck, you might enjoy this book:
|Posted by Stephanie Adams on December 3, 2012 at 10:30 AM||comments (1)|
I remember sweating bullets before taking the SAT and then, later on, the GRE. I was petrified both times.
And when I graduated from my counseling program, I felt the same way about the National Counseling Exam (NCE). I was so worried I wouldn’t pass!
But it turns out this exam wasn’t quite as scary as I thought. And I've found some really great ways to prepare effectively for this test. I'm going to show you how: we will start with the basics, cover some test prep tips, and finish up with some good news.
So pull up a chair. Let’s get acquainted with this sloppy stack of questions.
(What can I say? I find irreverence to be one effective way of coping with anxiety.)
National Counseling Exam: The Basics
This test has 200 questions. Of those, 160 will count towards your score. The other 40 are questions that the test developers are norming for future versions of the test. Sorry, you don’t know which questions are which, so you obviously have to give your best effort on all of them.
All the questions are multiple-choice. And these aren’t those freakish a-through-j option multiple choice questions. Just options a-d.
The test costs $195. Depending on your state, you may have to pay additional fees to sit for the exam. To find out the testing requirements for your state, visit www.nbcc.org/Directory
Test content is based on eight subject areas. Chances are quite high that you had a class in your graduate program that was devoted to each one of these topics.
Test Prep Products
I’m going to kick this part off by saying that I’m not getting any kind of commission for endorsing the book I mention here. I used it—it was great. And I’ve received feedback from many other very happy students who used it as well. So, this recommendation is based on personal experience.
Howard Rosenthal’s Encyclopedia of Counseling is the best method I know to study for the exam. Here’s why this book is so cool:
1) It has a great format. This book contains over 1,000 multiple choice questions. They are just like the questions on the NCE! That’s a lot of great practice.
2) It explains just about everything. Each question has a thorough explanation of why the right answer’s right, and why the wrong options are wrong.
3) It is thorough. Every chapter has 100 questions on a particular content area, so you won’t miss any of the core content that’s likely to be on the test.
4) It is cheap. Test prep materials can be really expensive. This book costs less than $50 on Amazon.
Test Prep Tips
There are a few things to consider when preparing for the test itself.
1) Set a study schedule. It’s easy for something like this to get crowded out in your day to day life. So put it in your planner to keep yourself honest and on track.
2) Think about what kind of learner you are. The Encyclopedia of Counseling is great, but it’s a lot of reading. Some people prefer to learn by listening—and it turns out that Rosenthal has review CDs that cover lots of great content, too. Pick your study materials based on your learning style.
3) Don’t wait until the last minute to study. There is simply too much material to cover in a week’s time. Everyone prepares differently, but most folks I know who passed this test the first time took at least a few weeks to really commit to their test prep.
Lots of Good News
(It never hurts to look on the bright side of things!)
1) You have four hours to take the exam. That comes out to more than a minute per question. I have yet to hear of anyone running out of time on the test.
2) The right answer is always in front of you. That’s the beauty of multiple choice questions. Even if you’re not sure what the right answer is, if you rule out the wrong ones, you’re all set.
3) Some standardized tests have tricky point systems, where you are penalized a portion of a point for each question you get wrong (instead of leaving the question blank). Not so with the NCE! So, there’s no reason to leave any questions blank—you aren’t penalized for guessing, so if you’re not sure, guess!
4) The passing score varies depending on the version of the test, but it usually ranges between 60-70%. You don’t need to ace this thing. In fact, no one cares if you do. You just have to scoop up enough points to pass. You need a D to pass.
5) This test cannot tell if you are a good therapist or not. It is an attempt to protect and standardize our profession. So, if you do not pass, it is not some sort of pronouncement about your ability as a therapist.
A Final Tip
Lots of people have comforting rituals to help them gear up for an exam. Me? I like to wear fuzzy, silly socks to the test site under my very business-like black boots.
It helps me keep perspective, and I feel like my feet and I have a secret.
Maybe that’s strange (ok, it’s definitely strange, I know)—but it gives me the confidence I need to keep a clear head and do my very best.
So if you don’t already have a ritual, make one up-- it’s important.
Best of luck with your exam!
Ann Stonebraker is a counselor in Austin, Texas who helps folks quit people-pleasing. She writes weekly for her own practice blog at Labyrinth Healing, as well as at her latest project, counselinginterns.com, a resource site for counseling students and interns. Don't forget to enroll in her next workshop, there are still some spots available!
|Posted by Stephanie Adams on September 25, 2012 at 3:40 PM||comments (8)|
Have you ever encountered this?
Recently, I was informed that a lawyer wished to discuss one of my clients with me. Of course, while not confirming or denying that I knew that client, I told the lawyer that any alleged client would have to theoretically sign a release with me before I could speak to anyone about his/her situation. If such a client existed. But after I hung up the phone, a thought burrowed into my brain and wouldn't release.
What might I be asked to say about this client in front of his/her lawyer...or in front of a court? In the state of Texas, a judge can waive confidentiality. And if I receive a subpoena to appear or to surrender my notes, I must respond. Even without a subpoena, a client could sign away more of his/her rights than I would deem appropriate...and I would have only so much control over how I responded to it.
The reason I was so concerned about this is that my case notes for this particular client contained details of discussions we had had that had nothing to do with the person's legal case...whatsoever. But if this person's notes were requested and released, their private and personal details - some extremely painful - would be laid bare. I was overwhelmed with guilt at the thought. I did not want to be a part, even retroactively, of embarassing my client.
But before this case came up, it had never occurred to me that my words could be exposed in a public manner. I was chiefly concerned with making sure my client's story would be immediately accessible to a future therapist on their case, so that the client would experience the least amount of disruption if my notes were requested from another treatment provider, or if the client left therapy for a time and came back, as often happens.
Thankfully, this story seems to have a happy ending so far. It doesn't appear that my notes will be required for the case. But it got me to thinking: which is the greater service to my client - writing detailed notes that will help him or her if they were to read it or to share it with another treatment provider - or protecting their information as much as possible and keeping the notes really brief, while sacrificing possibly relevant information?
What do you think?
|Posted by Stephanie Adams on August 6, 2012 at 9:35 AM||comments (2)|
If there is one thing I've discovered in being an online therapist, it's that there is no typical day in the life of an online therapist. Fortunately, that's just how I like it!
As the independent business owner of Beginnings Counseling and Consulting, on any given day I'm the staff counselor, life coach, accountant, marketing director, PR representative, administrative assistant, IT person and more. Though that might sound really intimidating, I like that it gives me incredible freedom to create the business I think will serve my clients best.
Though there are many different ways to conduct online therapy, I operate through 4 means: live videoconference, live chat, phone, and email. All these methods are facilitated by the online practice management and therapy tool I use, counsol.com. You may recognize the name, they've recentlybeen verified by OTI! I've been using counsol.com for months now, and it's the only system I've ever seen that completely includes everything I need for a session: PayPal support, note-taking applications, intake forms, client session reminder emails, quality video feed and more. It even stores securely old chat sessions so that I can review them before a client meeting!
Although I don't have a client session on every given day, most days, if not all, I have a client email or call to respond to. My advertising hasn't changed much since my pre-online practice days. I list my practice in Psychology Today much like many brick-and-mortar counselors, butinstead of a local address, I give my website address and write "Online-Only Practice." Though I still get a lot of confused calls looking for my building, I also get a lot of people that call to say, "I hear your practice is online. Can you tell me more about that?
Most days, I also try to apply to my work a few principles that have defined my online-only practice.
1) When talking to potential clients, I emphasize the benefits of online therapy for their particular demographic. Since online therapy is somewhat new, people want to know why they should use it as opposed to what else is out there. My online practice is focused on emerging adults - those people that are just beyond their parent's complete supervision but not yet wholly on their own. So, every time I get a call from a parent or a potential young adult client, I explain: my generation and the ones since have grown up on technology. Because of this, many times I can elicit more from my clients with the use of online tools than I could sitting face-to-face in a room with them. Older teenagers and young adults communicate by email, by chat, by phone. It's more client-focused and more respectful to offer them the option of therapy on their own terms.
2) I create systems for myself to more easily address problems that arrive. For example: Usually, if I have technology failure issue, it's not with my computer or counsol.com, because I check frequently to make sure everything is running properly! So a project I'm working on right now is creating an automatic email that I can send to clients the day before our first session, reminding them to do all software updates on their computer, update their flash player, and restart their computer before we meet for the first time. Since I'm the sole proprietor, I know if I implement a system, it will save me trouble later on.
3) I don't allow myself to apologize for what I have to offer. For a while, I felt a little guilty because I couldn't offer private counseling at a physical location as well as an online location. I focused on the fact that offering online therapy was convenient for me and blamed myself for not finding a way to offer a physical location to the clients that called requesting it.
But the fact was, those people that called looking for a physical location weren't yet my clients, and so I had no obligations to them. I have many fine local places to refer callers to when I cannot work with them. When I don't focus on what my practice can't do, I can focus on the many benefits it has to offer instead, for example, to college students who don't have cars to come see me, or moms who can't pay for both babysitters and therapy sessions.
Online therapy has helped me grow in both my therapy skills and in my confidence as a practitioner. I believe the healthier and happier the therapist, the better that they are able to help their clients! I have been in online practice for over a year now, and I don't see a point in my life in which it will not be at least part of what I have to offer clients.
Article originially published as Adams, Stephanie. (2012). A Day In The Life Of An Online Therapist. TILT Magazine, 2(5). pp. 46-48.
|Posted by Stephanie Adams on June 4, 2012 at 12:20 PM||comments (12)|
In my book I ask you to define for yourself why you became a counselor. The reason I ask you to do that is so that you know when you are successful in your goals. If you've accomplished your "why" of becoming a counselor = you have success.
But I have to say that while I still believe in that statement, it's not as simple as see it - do it - done.
Can I be honest with you here? I've been in a time in my life for quite a while now in which I'm not feeling successful.
I don't mean to be ungrateful when I say that. I love talking to all of your on a regular basis. I love hearing of your triumphs and encouraging you in your journey. I love writing for you. I am so thrilled I accomplished a major tick on my "bucket list" - I published a book! I am very, very fortunate, and I don't want to downplay that in the least.
But nurturing Beginning Counselors is not the only aspect of my definition of success. The other aspect, of course, is seeing clients on a regular basis and pouring myself into their lives.
There have been many occasions this year in which I have not been able to do that to the degree I would like to be doing so. I moved from a full practice in one area of the state to an area literally overflowing with counselors. After it became clear it would not be possible to simply pick up at the pace I left off, I started my own business counseling online. This has been very rewarding, but it's in a still-growing area of the market. Not everyone's sure that they want counseling online. In my business, I've had weeks stuffed with client calls...and a month at a time without anyone calling. Anyone at all.
I've been wanting to keep my struggles to myself, because of two things. First, I worried that you all needed a "fearless leader" who always knew what she was doing. (Arrogant, right?) But I was truly afraid that if I shared my challenges, I would scare you out of the field. Second, I was ashamed. I was ashamed that I didn't have it all figured out yet. That I started a business with mixed results. That I might have - failed.
This perspective started to change when I did two things in response. First, I listened to a lot of great teaching and found out that some level of "failure" is extremely normal. I had no idea. Additonally, it wasn't failure until you gave up. It couldn't be! It stops being failure and starts becoming experimentation when you look back and use what happened to form a new plan.
The second, and more sobering, realization came when I realized that by keeping my fears to myself, I was robbing you all of learning that exact same truth. It took me years into the business before I was able to conceptualize so-called "failure" as simply experimentation. And when I got there, it changed everything. How selfish was I then, to take away from you the opportunityto experience this same understanding...to protect my own pride?
"Success," however you define it, is a definition constantly in flux. It is perfectly fulfilled some days and too far away to grasp on others. But, if you keep the big picture in mind, the "why" of it all, you will hold on to success - in all its' forms.
If you're going through a time in your life when failure seems to define you and success is out of reach, don't give up. This is not the end unless you let it be. At this point in my life I have a broader definition of success, and learning that has not only freed me of fear of failure, it seems to have invited new opportunities into my life to be successful. It's amazing what you are able to let in when you've stopped being so busy shutting down.
This was not an easy post for me to write, so I'd appreciate it if you'd leave me some feedback and let me know if hearing this has made any difference in your perspective. I think it would be good for our relationship to interact with each other at greater depth, and if you agree I will keep up a more open dialogue about what's going on in all our lives. I'd love to hear from you about your successes, your ultimate goals, and your concerns about "failure."
I would bet, no matter what that is, you're not as far away from "success" as you'd think.
|Posted by Stephanie Adams on May 30, 2012 at 3:30 PM||comments (0)|
Next on the blog book tour: a stop to see my friend, Elizabeth Doherty Thomas, The Internet Evangelist for Therapists! Elizabeth has a fun, funky sense of humor and she really knows her stuff. I have been impressed over and over again by her generosity and just plain cool factor. So be SURE to subscribe to her blog, you don't want to miss a thing she has to say!
And here's the link to the post:
I can't wait to hear what you think of it!!!
|Posted by Stephanie Adams on May 11, 2012 at 9:20 AM||comments (0)|
Wow! I am so excited and honored to be Time2Track.com's FIRST-EVER guest blogger!
Time2Track is a one-stop shop for documentation of clinical experience during school and internship and indispensable for licensure applications. It's ideal for graduate students, interns, professors, training directors and more. After you've finished reading my guest post, What Counts? Tracking Hours, check out what they can do for you!
Don't forget to leave me your comments, and have a great weekend!
|Posted by Stephanie Adams on April 24, 2012 at 11:45 AM||comments (0)|
Beth Hayden is a WordPress and blogging consultant I originally became acquainted with through her amazing free e-book and video series Private Practice Online Survival Guide with Tamara Suttle, whom you will remember as one of my original book reviewers. Beth Hayden is funny, smart and genuine. She really just cares about helping people share their message with the world. Her main website, Blogging With Beth contains a wealth of networking, social media, and especially blogging tips. Sign up for her mailing list and receive access to her library of blogging tips & her newsletter!
In the spirit of Beth’s expertise, my guest post for the blog book tour is “Are You Afraid of the Big Bad Blog (Comment)?: An Introduction to Comment Etiquette.” Check it out, and be sure to test your commenting skills by leaving Beth & I a message!
|Posted by Stephanie Adams on April 23, 2012 at 11:45 AM||comments (4)|
Fear? Why fear?
I've been devouring this amazing book called, Protecting The Fear: Keeping Children And Teenagers Safe (And Parents Sane) by Gavin de Becker. It's a sort-of sequel to his bestselling book The Gift of Fear, which teaches us to trust our instincts when it comes to protecting ourselves from violence.
So, I don't have kids, and my primary market right now is emerging adults, not children or teenagers. Why am I so fascinated by this?
Because I think it focuses on two really significant principles we ALL can learn from: 1) Trust your instincts and 2) Overcome fear through knowledge and practice.
Why trust our instincts? Doesn't everybody know that? Think about it, though. We tell kids "don't talk to strangers" and then say, "don't be rude, given Mrs. So-and-so a hug back" even if the child is uncomfortable with that. We erode their natural protective instincts. It's counterproductive, but that's human politeness. Gavin writes about how parents need to teach their children that sometimes it's okay not to be "nice."
What can we as counselors learn about this, to apply to our professional safety? Don't worry about being nice when it takes away from our natural instincts. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable in a counseling session, protect yourself! If you feel manipulated by a client or a colleague, you probably are being manipulated. Think about your job, which is reading people. You are good at this, so don't let YOU talk yourself out of your feelings. Trust your instincts.
Does that mean when need to point fingers when a client is manipulating us to say, give in to their "need" for hugs, or the "need" for our personal cell phone numbers? No, there's no need to be confrontational in that situation. But it's okay to be firm and say, "that crosses a professional boundary for me."
Similarly, if a female counselor hears alarm bells when a male client continues making comments about her physical appearance, take action. Overcome fear through knowledge and practice. The best action is prevention: always have someone else in the building. Have a "panic button" in the room with you. Crack the door whenever possible. (If you have a within-office confidentiality agreement, then you are not breaking confidentiality if only the receptionist overhears you.) Talk to your colleagues about how they protect themselves and have a clear plan in place to avoid potential danger.
Don't worry about "hurting someone's feelings" when it comes to protecting yourself. First, because there are ways to do it firmly but appropriately, and secondly because you won't be any help to other clients if you have been traumatized or killed by an unstable client.
It's an important question. How do you protect yourself while on the job? Comment below - you never know. Your tip may save another new counselor's life!
|Posted by Stephanie Adams on April 9, 2012 at 3:00 PM||comments (0)|
We've recently had a great forum topic come up about how to leave emotions from work at work, and what to do when an issue with a client triggers something about your past.
First of all, I want you to remember: THAT'S NORMAL. We're human beings, we have feelings.
But when things like this happen, remember also WHO YOU ARE.
You are not the client.
You are the counselor.
You are not God.
You are not a robot.
Do you know who you are? Or are there some unhealthy ideas about who you are that you might need to get rid of in order to be a happy, healthy new counselor?