Notes from Carolyn: Just a quick example of how we could put the newsletters up on the site for the "Read More" from the email. This would be behind the membership login. We could have left column of "In this Issue" and below that links for Previous Issues. We could lay this out any way you want.
The subpoena: An experience of a young counselor intern
Three weeks into my first job as a Professional Clinical Counselor Intern I received the dreaded subpoena. I secured an internship at a Los Angeles based community mental health clinic immediately upon graduating from my masters program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I was grateful to have a job, and to be accruing my hours in a full time paid position. My pink cloud was quickly challenged as I began to understand the complexities of the cases we addressed. Not only were the clients in need of frequent crisis counseling, but also many were court involved in some capacity. The position required me to assume the majority of another employee’s caseload, which included clients actively involved with Child Protective Services and/or a Family Mediation Therapy Program.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff officer walked through the front door of the clinic and handed the secretary an envelope stating that I have been subpoenaed to the Children’s Court of Los Angeles to discuss the status of a current client. It was an awakening experience—receiving an official document from the court requiring my attendance was both intimidating and stressful. Flashbacks of my Law & Ethics professor ran through my head. CONSULT, CONSULT, CONSULT! Discuss ethical and legal dilemmas with a minimum of three people immediately upon encountering them he would say! I immediately consulted with my clinical on-site supervisor and the director of the program, my former Law and Ethics professor, and with my Professional Liability Insurance company attorney (free legal advice through HPSO is always a plus in our profession!). In the simplest sense, in order to navigate the subpoena I needed to understand how the ethics of our profession interacted with California law for this specific dilemma. Ultimately, I was counseled to respond to the subpoena in writing that I will attend the hearing in person. No documents or notes were requested. Now that the ethical and legal components had been settled through my consultations, I needed to ensure to address the situation in a clinically responsive manner with my client.
The client that the court wanted me to discuss was a middle school aged youth that I had been providing counseling to for nine sessions; however, the client had been receiving mental health services for over one year at the clinic. The guardians of the client had lost custody several years prior, and were separately completing the court-mandated requirements to receive full custody over their child again. The client and I processed the meaning of the subpoena, and the role I would play in the CPS case. The adolescent was eager to be reunited with his biological parents, and was nervous to attend the court hearing; however, we were both prepared after a few more sessions together.
After being sworn in, I took the stand. The judge asked me simple questions regarding my schooling, credentials, and experience working with youth. The first question I received from the county attorney, “Is this child ready to go back with his biological parents?” The second question came, “Which parent do you believe would be more fit for the child to live with based upon your conversations with him?” They kept coming. Motions were filed in legal jargon, crying of the other children and guardians ensued, and the judge finally called order to the court. I thankfully didn’t have to respond to any of those difficult questions as they were all dismissed. She modestly asked me: “Do you believe the child needs more psychotherapy to process the trauma of abandonment” I simply replied “that continuing therapy could be beneficial” and stated exact reasons why. The judge ordered ten more individual sessions for the child, ten sessions of family therapy, and allowed supervised visitations. Her gavel slammed on the bench and my role in the subpoena was over.
This experience taught me the importance of timely consultation when encountering ethical or legal questions in our field. As a mental health clinician I have to maintain humility to ask questions when I am unsure of an action—this helps mitigate any anxiety I have that could impact care. My fidelity is to provide quality services to the client. As a clinician I regularly reflect on the progress of my clients in treatment, and I now ensure to incorporate three components in this reflection: clinical, ethical, and legal. I now welcome the opportunity to interact with the legal system on behalf of my clients!
Pivoting the Dream: My Experiences with Online Counselor Education
The year I graduated college, I had big dreams. My meticulously detailed 10-year plan included graduate school, a PhD, joining the peace corps, and settling down to teach psychology in a quiet town by a river. Just months before graduation, I developed a severe autoimmune disease and was advised to accept a different, more practical dream that would work around my illness. Then, ten years later, a counselor stopped by my hospital room and inspired me to want more. I found a CACREP accredited online program and read up on the new LPCC license. All at once, there it was-- the chance to pivot my dreams around the disease rather than allowing it to crush them. I knew then that I wanted to use what I had learned to help people like me to pursue their dreams, whether it be from the classroom or from the hospital bed.
Online programs make graduate school possible for millions of people from a wide range of lifestyles who need its flexibility. The advisors help set the pace of the classes to match the needs of the students and can offer a variety of webinar tutoring and supplementary class services to re-integrate those returning after years in the workforce. These online programs are not simply replacements to in-person classes, but offer an alternative and complementary learning style. One key benefit is the high level of technology training provided by incorporating interactive media programs, video lessons, face-to-face webinars, recorded mock sessions, and virtual tutoring seminars. Another advantage is that fieldwork takes place within community organizations, familiarizing students with their local facilities and resources rather than being relegated to a campus clinic. This also allows for a broader range of mental health clients than a traditional university setting. The virtual course room provides students more detailed feedback, faster email replies, and additional peer assistance from the class forums. Yet, despite the advantages, a survey of online learning reveals that 1 in 4 academic leaders believe online degrees are inferior to face-to-face degrees. I encourage all counselors to advocate for the acceptance of technology learning to make higher education an accessible dream for all.
Obtaining Your Professional Clinical Counselor Intern Number
Congratulations to our Class of 2017! Graduating from graduate school is one of the most exciting moments of your professional career. Yet, it can be hectic and stressful. You are trying to complete your academic career without too much of a meltdown while dealing with the demands of job-hunting, interviewing, and facing the reality of the end of schooling. One of the stressful tasks may be applying for your intern number through BBS. The following flow chart is an effort to help our California In-State applicants to go through the LPCC intern Licensure Application step-by-step.
Again, congratulations on your graduation. Have fun with your new professional journey!