Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment and my seminary, Biblical Seminary, have teamed up to offer a 3 credit course for seminarians on the topic of child sexual abuse prevention and response. This course will run on our Hatfield campus on Monday nights during the month of June. To my knowledge, a course like this has not been offered before. I highly encourage you to send your pastors or church leaders for some continuing education.
Tag Archives: training
Free resource available here (filmed October 2013). (Overlook that maniacal looking pose from the image below)
I’d like to compile a list of mistakes mostly likely to be made by novicecounselors. In the past I’ve written on some of the mistakes or foolish behavior of counselors and some of you have helped contribute stories like the counselor who fell asleep during the session, the counselor who ate a meal, who tried to set the counselee up with a son or daughter, the counselor who took phone calls, etc. Most of these mistakes wouldn’t be made by the typical counselor, even one who had never counseled before.
So, what are the most common mistakes of the novice counselor? Not sure, here are some I’ve observed:
1. Failing to collect enough data during the first sessionto assess matters of suicidality or mental status. Novice counselors tend to either drill too deep on one topic (and so miss other important matters) or stay on the surface and fail to ask questions they think might embarrass the client
2. Promising too much. We want the client to have hope and we hope they don’t see us as novice, so we promise the world. Such temptations lead sometimes to offering our phone number to call at all hours, to agreeing to meet outside of sessions, too allowing sessions to go beyond the planned limit.
3. Encouraging. Beginning Christian counselors sometimes fail to let the counselee sit with their pain. Instead, they trot out verses to comfort and encourage. Often, these passages fall flat without their intended result.
4. Writing too much. Progress notes may look like novellas. When you don’t know what is important, everything is documented.
5. Going along with the parents. Novice counselors often seen kids and their parents. It is easy to become railroaded into allowing the parents to use the session to gang up on the kids. Novice counselors have a hard time managing the parents and the kids in the same session.
What mistakes did you make? Did you experience at the hands of a novice?
When I started, I hated the question about my age (I was 24 but looked younger). I tried all sorts of creative ways to illustrate my experience and to be vague about my actual age. I’m sure I never convinced anyone. They stayed because they didn’t want to start over. I should have just said (nicely), “your right, I’m young. We can either find you another client now or we can try the following intervention and if you don’t like what I’m doing, we can find you someone else then. What would you like to do?”
Since both of these classes are in progress here at Biblical, I thought I’d bring up a rather touchy subject: impaired students. Ruth Palmer, Gwen White, and Walter Chung (a Biblical grad!) all of Eastern University have recently published an article in the Journal of Psychology and Christianity(2007, 27:1, 30-40) entitled, “Deficient Trainees: Gatekeeping in Christian Practitioner Programs.”
Palmer et al surveyed profs in master’s level counseling related departments at Christian colleges and universities to find out, 1. what percentages of students were perceived by the profs to be professionally deficient, to have received help or dismissal. 2. Whether or not the schools have formal gatekeeping procedures. 3. Whether senior level faculty and junior level faculty perceive the pressures of dealing with impaired students differently, and in part, 4. Whether views on grace, calling, and gifting have any effect on how faculty respond to deficient students. Their study replicates one done on secular campuses.
Before I mention the results, it would be good to consider why this is important.
1. Because faculty are obligated to protect the public. The authors quote from the ACA code of ethics, “Counselor educators, throughout on-going evaluation and appraisal, are aware of and address the inability of some students to achieve counseling competencies” (ACA, 2005, Section F.9.b) (p. 31). This is a relatively new topic amongst programs. Previously, we merely taught our students but it was up to licensing boards to weed out incompetency. Not so any longer. And rightly so is this change. We have an obligation to remediate problems before sending folks to their fieldwork sites. When we bless a student with an internship, we are saying they are ready to work at an entry level. When we find students with significant relational, behavioral, motivational problems prior to graduation, the authors remind us that the data are “strongly linked to subsequent poor performance in clinical work. (p. 31)
2. Counseling programs tend to attract people who are working out their problems. In fact, the authors point to a study that reported first year counseling students showing more severity of problems on MMPI scales. (This may be partially explained away by the common tendency of students to think they have all the disorders of the DSM). While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing (could mean that students are more likely to be cognizant and empathetic to the trials of life), it becomes a problem when said students are either unaware of the extent of the problems, unwilling to work on these problems, or so overwhelmed in the moment as to not have the capacities to deal properly with the problem. I find most students very committed to personal growth and change. There are those, however, who are so desirous of the prestige of the position or of looking good that they cannot bear to admit their flaws. The authors point out the crux of the problem. “…there is a tendency of impaired students to resist submitting to ‘the very therapeutic process through which they wish to lead others,’… (p. 31)
3. Finally, turning a blind eye to student problems and/or mismatch in skill/profession/calling is akin to walking around the man and left to die on the side of the Jericho road (Luke 10).
Results of the study? The authors got responses only from 1/3 of the surveyed professors (the surveyees should be ashamed at their lack of cooperation with this important study! They ought to know better having all been through programs that value the research question). But from respondents they found,
- Faculty of CCCU estimate an avg. of 10.9% of impaired students in their program (SD=9.89; I would have liked to see the modal response since the range was from 0% to 50%!! reported). This fits with the prior secular program survey.
- Interventions with these impaired students only happens about 50% of the time (again a big SD with response rates ranging from 0% – 100% (yeah, right!)). 38% of faculty reported interventions less than 20% of the time.
- What are some of the bigger reasons for not addressing these matters formally? Fears of lawsuits, institutional pressures (we need students to survive!), fear of poor teaching evals by junior faculty, and inadequate administrative support.
- They suggest the need to have departments talk regularly about policies, students, and the need to follow-up with potential or actual problems.
Do we ever have impaired students at Biblical? Of course. But I am determined at dept chair to help those in need find help. I remember being a student at another seminary and seeing those that EVERYBODY knew should never be a pastor or a counselor and yet NOBODY (student or teacher) said a word. So, we have 6, 12, and 18 month evals collecting data from the student, profs of each class, peers, mentors, and supervisors to help catch a remediate problems when they exist and to encourage on-going personal growth even when they don’t exist. It still surprises me when I find counseling students balking about getting some of their own counseling. We really do want to be the one who has it together, don’t we. Me included.
Today starts our 3rd trimester of the 2007-8 school year and Cohort 3 begins their Practicum and Professional Orientation course and first fieldwork experiences of the program. Last year I ran across an article (see reference at end) trying to articulate the domains and levels of competence in focus in a psychology practicum experience. Though the article is directed to doctoral level practicums, I think the domains fit for any level of trainee and are a good reminder for both practicum students and their professors. The authors summarize the “Practicum Competencies Outline” and in turn I will quote/summarize/highlight them below. Click here for the whole document.
- Baseline Competencies (for entry to practicum)
- Personality Characteristics
- interpersonal skills (verbal and nonverbal forms of communication, open to feedback, empathic, respectful)
- cognitive skills (intellectual curiosity, flexibility, problem-solving, critical thinking, organizing)
- affective skills (ability to tolerate affect and conflict and ambiguity)
- personality/attitudes (desire to help, openness to new ideas, honesty, courage, valuing ethics)
- expressive skills (ability to communicate ideas, feelings, ideas in multiple forms)
- reflective skills (ability to examine and consider own motives, attitudes and behaviors and recognize one impact on others)
- personal skills (ability to present oneself in a professional manner)
- Knowledge from the classroom
- assessment and interviewing
- ethics and legal issues
- Personality Characteristics
- Skills to Develop during Practicum
- Relationship/interpersonal skills
- Applying research (less so for MA level)
- Psych assessment (not for MA level)
- Consultation/interprofessional collaboration
- Supervisory skills (not for MA level)
This second major bullet point (competencies built during practicum) is fleshed out further by listing levels of competencies. The article illustrates relationship/interpersonal skill competencies by listing how it will show up with clients (e.g., ability to form working alliances), colleagues (e.g., ability to accept feedback nondefensively from peers), supervisors (ability to self-reflect), support staff (respectful of support staff roles), clinical teams (participates fully in team work), community professionals (ability to further the work and mission of the site).
Hatcher, R.L, & Lassiter, K.D. (2007). Initial Training in Professional Psychology: The Practicum Competencies Outline. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 1, 49-63.