Book Recommendation: A General Theory of Love By: Adriane Nada, MS, LMFT, LPCC

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I began my psychotherapy career working with victims and survivors of intimate partner abuse. Once I felt more comfortable with the practices of safety planning, educating clients on red flags, and discussing the abusive dynamics of power and control, I started to ask myself deeper questions about the nature of romantic relationships and the patterns that emerge in clients’ lives. More specifically, I wondered why certain individuals would enter into abusive relationships and others would not. I also felt challenged by the complexity of helping clients create healthy relationships when they never had experienced healthy love before. I saw several clients leave toxic relationships only to find new ones that were equally toxic. Many of the clients were just as baffled by their patterns as I was. When I read A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, M.D., Fari Amini, M.D. and Richard Lannon, M.D., I formed a greater understanding of how it is we come to love whom we love and the ways that can be changed.

A General Theory of Love combines the advances in Neuroscience and Interpersonal Neurobiology with Attachment Theory and cultural influences. The book is beautifully written albeit dense with biological and anatomical discussions. After an in-depth look at the structure of the brain, the authors focus on the limbic system and its role in parent-child attachment relationships. Essentially, our early relationships become maps for future intimate relationships. An infant does not know the difference between healthy love and unhealthy love – love is our emotional experience. As the authors in the book state, “If a parent loves him [child] in the healthiest way, wherein his needs are paramount, mistakes are forgiven, patience is plentiful, and hurts are soothed as best as they can be, then that is how he will relate to himself and others. Anomalous love – one where his needs don’t matter, or where love is suffocating or autonomy intolerable – makes its ineradicable limbic stamp. Healthy loving then becomes incomprehensible.” Additionally, our early experiences of love (or lack thereof) tend to be reinforced later in life due to the attractors that have already been established. We are likely to find ourselves in relationships that resemble those with our caregivers and we are likely to behave in ways that extract the traits we expect to see in intimate relationships. Unfortunately, as the authors argue, insight into these patterns is not enough. We need to have the experience of being regulated well in relationships to learn to choose differently moving forward – this is where therapy comes in.

The role of the therapist in this process of change is to become the relationship the client is trying to create. The therapist then uses “the strong template of healthy relatedness within himself” to offer a new way of experiencing communication, boundaries and emotional regulation. The authors argue, “Psychotherapy changes people because one mammal can restructure the limbic brain of another.” This theory places a tremendous burden on the therapist to be healed and healthy enough to provide a different (enough) experience of relating. As the client internalizes these traits, and new neural connections are made, the client is more likely to recognize love in novel ways. These novel ways may take the form of reciprocity, compassion, respect, safety and trust. And so, for those clients who only recognize love as painful and/or chaotic, a new template can be formed by staying close to those people who exemplify the opposite. These people will not engage in those relationship dynamics and so the familiar dance is interrupted and new steps are practiced.

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The Mind-Body-Soul Connection

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As the idea of holistic healing becomes more popular and socially embraced within the United States, many people are left with questions regarding the mind-body-soul connection. Exactly what is it? Where is it? What are its benefits? Current research has found a correlation between the integration of spiritual interventions such as mindfulness and forgiveness and positive therapy outcomes with reduced chance of relapse (Bonelli & Koenig, 2013). We have an extraordinary opportunity as therapists to really help people heal through the maintenance of a solid mind-body-soul connection.

Being a firm believer in the idea that, we as therapists cannot influence others past the degree in which we ourselves have evolved, it is imperative that clinicians first explore their own mind-body-soul connection before implementing spiritually oriented interventions in their work with clients.  The exciting news is that this connection already exists inside each of us; we are born with this connection intact (Miller, 2013).

Most of us are aware of the body that we live in. When it gets sick, we really become conscious of it. Most of us are also aware of the mind- that “thing” in your brain that projects an endless stream of thoughts throughout your day (Chaudhary, 2013).  You may have even noticed that when you are stressed out, you are more vulnerable to catching a cold (2013). The soul is the intangible part of the mind-body-soul system that connects us to something bigger than what we just see in front of us. The soul is consciousness, who you are in essences beyond form. As Deepak Chopra (2012) describes it, “The soul is the core of your being. It is eternal. It doesn’t exist in space/time. It’s a field of infinite possibilities, infinite creativity. It’s your internal reference point with which you should always be in touch.”

It has been my experience that as we mature and evolve spiritually so does our thinking, decision making, and behaviors. This is because the soul resides at the core of the mind-body-soul system. Being conscious of this ever-present connection allows you to use it to your healing and transformational benefit, becoming grounded in your authentic self by embracing your truths and life purpose. Below I am going to discuss how silence can be used as a tool to tap into and deepen your own mind-body-soul connection.

It is through the act of silence that we can shift frequencies and tune into our mind, body, and soul, both separately and collectively. When we shut off all stimulation and distractions and simply sit in silence we allow the space for our soul to speak up and be heard. This is where the greatest insights and “aha” moments occur. Within the silence your soul will answer your deepest prayers and guide you in the direction of your best interest. The more you listen to this inner guidance, the stronger its influence will become in your life.

Through silence we are able to tune into our mind and redirect our thoughts into the present moment. Silence allows the opportunity to become mindful of your thinking patterns so that you can reprogram your mind to work in ways which serve your highest good. When we are overly stimulated and distracted, our minds tend to fire off irrational and unproductive thoughts, causing us to manifest by default. We wonder why we keep attracting more of what we don’t want into our life. Silence helps you to calmly choose good feeling thoughts that serve you, so you can raise your vibrational frequency.

Silence also allows you to become grounded in your body. Within the silence your body will speak to you, letting you know where emotional pain is being held and toxins are needing to be released. Unbalanced energy centers within the body needing healing cannot reveal themselves amongst turbulent conditions. Our bodies can truly be heard, rest and rejuvenate within the calm that is silence.

Goldstein’s (2007) study found that cultivating sacred moments in one’s daily life can have significant effects on an individual’s overall well-being. Silence is more and more being looked at and considered as a new intervention into the field of clinical psychology. You can access the full study to learn more by following the link below.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jclp.20402/pdf

Another article you might enjoy written by Carolyn Gregoire (2016) on why silence is good for your brain can be accessed by following the link below. Gregoire offers four science-backed reasons why in a loud and distracting world, finding pockets of stillness can benefit your brain and body (2016).

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/silence-brain-benefits_us_56d83967e4b0000de4037004

Silence is to our mind-body-soul connection as the sun is needed for plants to grow. It is my hope that you will find clarity, self-awareness, and healing within each silent moment that you gift yourself. Our divine energy is released when we are connected with ourselves, mind, body, and soul.

Resilience: The Biology of Stress & the Science of Hope

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February 9, 2018

It was a hit! RSVPs were coming in at a rate like almost every day or so. We would not have expected close to a full room for the documentary screening event that featured the film, Resilience: The Biology of Stress & the Science of Hope, but all we could say was, [AMAZING] each time someone wanted to sign-up for the showing.

The following is a synopsis of what the film was about: Researchers have recently discovered a dangerous biological syndrome caused by abuse and neglect during childhood. As the new documentary Resilience reveals, toxic stress can trigger hormones that wreak havoc on the brains and bodies of children, putting them at a greater risk for disease, homelessness, prison time, and early death. While the broader impacts of poverty worsen the risk, no segment of society is immune. Resilience, also chronicles the dawn of a movement that is determined to fight back.

The workshop included a pre- and post-discussion on resilience presented by Isabel Velazquez, a Professional Development Coach with Western Youth Services. She supervises and trains other providers through school-based mental health program. She has a vision for creating access to supportive services in the unserved and underserved communities where at-risk children, youth, and families live. She does whatever it takes to help those in need. We were very fortunate to have her as our guest speaker for the screening documentary and workshop, and we thank her for the valuable opportunity!

The workshop introduced a heavy and intense subject–childhood trauma and toxic stress. Toxic stress is chronic activation with no buffering.

The Sundance Festival of 2016 prominently showcased the Resilience Documentary. 2 doctors, Dr. Vincent Felitti and Dr. Robert Anda created the ACEs study that was conducted at Kaiser Permanente in California and in partnership with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). ACEs stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences. As a child, you are at higher risk for physical health issues. If you score 4+ on the ACEs questionnaire, you are more likely to be exposed to one or more traumatic experience during your lifetime. ACEs affect everyone. Scary isn’t it.

We participated in an activity where us attendees partook in the ACEs questionnaire and answered the questions on a personal basis. A comparison table was shown between adults in California and the Pepperdine Community. It was interesting to see a table of the Pepperdine community’s ACEs results, and they were as followed: 0 ACEs = 14%, 1-3 ACEs = 52%, 4+ ACEs = 34%.

The film shown was impactful!

According to the film, ACEs is a risk factor for physical health issues. 28% reported physical abuse, 13% witnessed their Mom in a domestic violence situation, and 1/5 were sexually abused. Now imagine this, a 3/10 ACE score can result in heart disease whereas 4/10 ACE score can result in depression, in later life. In addition, four ACEs score can lead to learning and behavioral problems in school. As you can see, ACEs can literally affect performance such as grades.

Only 5% from the U.S. healthcare budget is spent on preventative medicine–which is saddening to hear.

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, a pediatrician and the founder of the Center for Youth Wellness from San Francisco is also involved in ACEs when examining her patients. Bayview, a neighborhood in San Francisco is reported to have the highest homicide rate and ambulatory care—wow, that is shocking. ACEs is really big in the Bay Area. It is also introduced in medical schools. I think we should have them introduced everywhere, what do you think? Especially in the mental health field—I wonder why we do not see this used more often with our clients and in mental health clinics overall. I highly recommend watching her TEDtalk on How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime

https://www.ted.com/talks/nadine_burke_harris_how_childhood_trauma_affects_health_across_a_lifetime

I also recommend reading her new book on this topic if this subject interests you. The book is titled, The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity

Drama therapy is an intervention that can be used to help individuals such as children to acquire good mannerism/etiquettes. One drama therapy technique is called: Miss Kendra Curriculum. It consists of a Miss Kendra’s List where for example it states that, “No child should be punched or kicked.” The film showed children repeating this statement after the drama therapist. Another technique under Miss Kendra is writing to Miss Kendra about things that worry them, and they receive replies. By schools using this particular curriculum, the film reported that 75% of office referrals went down and 95% of fights went down in one high school. How amazing is that!

Resilience is not something you are born with, but something that gets built over time. Something we may not be aware of is that many people with trauma are in fact, resilient individuals. You may ask, how can we develop resilience or how can we become a resilient individual? Just by having a stable and caring adult relationship.

The presenter mentioned some strategies we can use to apply when helping those who are needing skills or tools to coping with day-to-day struggles, and they are as follows: 1) making the shift from “What’s wrong with you” to “What happened with you?”; 2) No blame/shame/punishment; 3) Understanding, nurturing, and healing; and 4) Compassion/resilience/empathy. Dr. Brene Brown, research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work who studies on vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame, tells us of 4 steps for creating empathy. In her short video clip on empathy, the 4 steps are as follows: 1) perspective taking (i.e., meeting clients where they are at); 2) being non-judgmental and curiosity; 3) recognizing emotions in others (their feelings); and 4) communicating that you recognize their emotion. You can watch her video on youtube, and the link is as follows: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw

Connection, connection, connection—to connect with others is crucial! It is one of life’s most essential sustainer in keeping us going in life, healthily. ☺

The attendees very much enjoyed the film! To learn more about the film, please visit: resiliencemovie.com.

So, the question for all of us to ponder about is: what do we do next? We would like to hear your ideas/suggestions/feedback about this and how we can better help those who are struggling in today’s society. By doing so, I believe we should remove the stigma of–‘not talking about it’ (not talking about our problems to others).

MA Professional Development & Clinical Training Summer 2017 Recap

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Wow! Where has the time gone? Summer 2017 is finished, and we want you to take a look at what the Professional Development & Clinical Training departments did for and with our students at Encino, Irvine, and West LA. From Clinical Connections to Private Practice Visits to New Student Meetings to Practicum Preparation trainings, our department has contributed to the growth of our students with 10 total events held at all campuses. We really love what we do!

The Professional Development and Clinical Training Department continues to focus on planning and executing enriching events for the students in the MACLP and MAP tracks.

Irvine Graduate Campus

 New students were welcomed during the summer to the Irvine Graduate Campus with Quick Meets. It is during these series of one-on-one meetings that students receive an overview of the departments’ role, as well as information about practicum basics for MFT students. The purpose of the meeting is to ignite excitement within the new student, and ensure they feel a part of the Pepperdine community.

Our first event for the summer was a visit from Dr. Bob Hohenstein, who is the Program Director for the PRYDE, which stands for Pepperdine Resource, Youth Diversion, and Education. PRYDE serves as “a prevention, intervention, and counseling program for at-risk youth and their families.” Dr. Hohenstein’s visit allowed students to learn about available practicum opportunities for the fall semester.

As we do every summer, the MA Professional Development & Clinical Training department treated students to annual OC-CAMFT Celebrate Everything MFT luncheon. Students were treated to a beautiful lunch at the Costa Mesa Country. There was representation from all schools with an MFT program in the Orange County, and the Pepperdine delegation represented well. From Compassion Fatigue to Self-Care was the topic for the afternoon, presented by Gina Tabrizy. Gina Tabrizy took the time to interject comedy into her presentation, while encouraging the room full of future MFTs to find space for self-care.

For the month of August, the department extended an invitation to the California Association of Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (CALPCC). Our department partnered with Dr. Jerriann Peters pre-practicum class, providing students the opportunity to gain a greater understandings of obtaining dual licensing. Dr. David Adams, shared his experience with the association from a legislative perspective, as well as identifying the benefits of being an LPCC.

At the end of each summer term, Kathleen Wenger, manager of the Professional Development & Clinical Training department open the doors of her Laguna Beach private practice. Students were able to learn about building a private practice, understanding the challenges and benefits of having a private practice.

The MFT Consortium of Orange County continues to be held at the Irvine Graduate Campus on the third Wednesday of every other month. The next scheduled meetings are scheduled for September 20 and November 15. For the past 20 years, I have been the host and co-chair of the MFT Consortium. This is a collaborative setting that brings together mental health agencies and universities with MFT graduate programs in an effort to foster community partnerships. The meetings serve as a networking opportunity for agencies to be connected with key personnel to discuss MFT employment and practicum training opportunities, programming and clinical training concerns.

West Los Angeles Graduate Campus

 As we do every semester, we held the Practicum Tips Meeting, Pep Pro Demo and the Intern Registration Meeting to help MACLP students along their practicum journey.

Macy Grim, MS, a Professional Clinical Counseling Intern, presented the summer Clinical Connections workshop at the West LA campus on “Play Therapy in Practice.” Macy did a beautiful job of giving a history of pay therapy and the use in modern practice. She provided useful tips and examples that highlighted the efficacy of play therapy. Attendees were grateful for her approach and vast knowledge in the subject. One attendee remarked, “Macy’s presentation was really informative and organized. I could have stayed for many more hours and she would have kept my attention the whole time!”

Encino Graduate Campus

 Summer term started with Quick Meets and the New Student meeting in May. In June and July we had our Practicum Tips meeting, the Intern Registration meeting as well as The Road to Licensure and Licensing Examination information meetings.

For our special event at the end of July, the Encino Graduate Campus invited three Alumni back to speak to current students about their “Life After Pepperdine” and their journey after graduation. Three students who went in three different directions told their story and answered questions from current students. The alumni provided valuable advice about the decisions they made as well as the challenges and opportunities they found in post-degree life. Student feedback: “this was amazing, I learned so much, thank you!”, “my favorite part was hearing about how they managed the details of life and kept it all together”, “I learned so much, thank you for having this”.

On behalf of Alice Richardson, Rebecca Reed, Sheila Sayani, and myself, I thank you for your ongoing support of our department. Please let me know if you are interested in speaking at one of our Clinical Connections events, hosting a Private Practice Visit, or have any other ideas that could benefit our students.

Rediscovering the Soul in Psychology

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By: Seima Diaz, Ed.D, LMFT

Many of us who enter the field of psychology, do so in an attempt to find meaning or gain insight into our own experience. We likely possess a burning desire to help put an end to suffering, our own and others. Throughout my experience working with clients and teaching aspiring therapists studying masters and doctorate level psychology, I have found that I can only influence those around me to the degree in which I myself have evolved.

I hold true to the original definition of the word psychology rooting back to the mid-late 1800s, defining the word psychology as the study of the soul (Goldsmith, 2010). It is only natural then that my work revels in the uncovering of one’s true inner-self as a means of overcoming mental illness and dissatisfaction in life. It has been my experience that a deep exposure of the unconsciousness occurs when an individual seeks spiritual enlightenment. From a therapeutic perspective, the psyche is the segment of us that is most instrumental in achieving behavioral change and improving self-esteem (2010). Lasting change, with limited chance of relapse transpires from an individual diving deep into his darkness and finding his infinite light.

Spirituality means something different for everyone so it is important to allow clients to define and create their own spiritual identity. Think of spirituality as a tool one can use to help their client gain insight, and outgrow what no longer serves them. Below I am going to discuss four techniques that can be used in psychotherapy to reconnect a client with his soul in order to foster self-awareness, insight, positive behavioral change, enhanced self-regulation, and improved interpersonal relationships.

  • Meditation
  • Mirror Self Talk
  • Deep Breathing
  • Mindfulness

Meditation is commonly described as a training of mental attention that awakens us beyond the conditioned mind and habitual thinking (Buddhism for Today, 2017). It induces consciousness and transforms the mind. Meditation practices are techniques that encourage and cultivate focus, clarity, emotional positivity, and a calm seeing of the true nature of things (2017). By helping our clients engage with a particular meditation practice, we give them the opportunity to learn the patterns and habits of their mind. The practice offers a means to develop new, more positive ways of being. Meditating with your client for the first and last 3 minutes of each session can have a transformative effect and can lead to a new understanding of the self and life. I would encourage you to experiment with meditation before utilizing it as a tool in your work with clients. You can find very helpful information on diverse meditation styles here

http://www.liveanddare.com

Mirror Self-Talk is the practice of making a connection with one’s soul through intentional eye contact in a mirror, while saying positive words of support, encouragement, and love to oneself outload. Encouraging clients to connect with themselves in this way, promotes understanding of the mind-body-soul connection while enhancing self-esteem. This can be done in or out of session, ideally as a part of the client’s daily self-care regimen. If you haven’t connected with your own soul in a while, I would encourage you to take a nice long look into your own eyes. As the legendary William Shakespeare once said, “The eyes are the window of the soul.”

Deep Breathing can be important to our health and spiritual development. It is the process of taking a slow deep breath in through the nose, allowing the air to travel all the way to your diaphragm causing your belly to expand, and then exhaling the air slowly through your nose, pulling in your belly toward your spine and exhaling all of the breath in your lungs (Rakal, 2016). The benefits of deep breathing include but are not limited to muscle relaxation, improved functioning of every system in the body, decreased anxiety, a release of endorphins, the detoxification and release of toxins reducing the chance of illness, and a relief of emotional problems (Patel, 2016). Deep breathing also helps foster the mind-body-soul connection by connecting you with the present moment and detaching you from unproductive thoughts and emotions. Encouraging your clients to take deep breaths while processing material in therapy will aid them in their ability to gain insight and heal.

Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present. It is the moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment. Mindful states of being can be achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations without attaching to them (Gunaratana, 2015). A dedicated mindful practice can result in improved physical health (stress reduction, improved sleep, weight loss), emotional health (increased empathy and compassion, decreased anxiety and depression), mental health (increased ability to focus, boots in working memory, increased processing speed), and spiritual health (enhanced self-awareness and a stronger connection to one’s higher self) (2015). After teaching your clients how to practice mindfulness within the therapeutic relationship, you can encourage them to develop mindfulness rituals throughout their day to further support their expansion and growth.

It has been my experience that the aforementioned techniques will do wonders in cultivating the mind-body-soul connection in everyone seeking wellness and a meaningful life. It is my hope that you experiment and master each technique before utilizing it in your therapeutic work. In doing so, you will rediscover your higher-self and transform your own life, thus becoming more effective in your work with others.

MA Professional Development & Clinical Training 2016 Event Recap

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Irvine Graduate Campus

To kick off the Fall 2016 semester, Kathleen Wenger and team hosted a Professional Development & Clinical Training: Open House, where students were invited to obtain information about the department and all of the events being held for their professional growth.

Our first Clinical Connections event for the semester Following the Fall kickoff, the department partnered with the Latino Student Psychological Association hosting an event that focused on Managing Time as a Student & Working Professional.  Students were provided resources that helped them to find ways to balance school, family, and work.  Dr. Rogelio Serrano was the presenter.

Following the time management workshop, students met with Rachel Coleman, LMFT via Coffee Talk and discussed eating disorders and the career opportunities available within the LMFT field.  Rachel, a Pepperdine alumni, facilitated discussions about treatment options as well.

Another exciting Clinical Connections topic that our department highlighted in the fall was the introduction of Liberation Psychology to Navigate a Client’s Religious & Psychological Journey facilitated by Sister Linda Buck, MA, LMFT.  Sister Linda Buck challenged students to have stronger cultural awareness when treating their clients.  Being that the material presented was somewhat provocative, Linda encouraged attendees to be aware of their reactions.  By the end of the session students were requesting that Linda Buck provide a part two.

In addition to the Clinical Connections our department hosted two private practice visits.  Keri Prathers, a Pepperdine alumni opened the doors of her practice in Orange, CA to an intimate group of students and she introduced the students to the different ways she utilizes her therapy dog, Beckett and the benefits of being on an insurance panel.

Towards the end of the semester students gathered in Laguna Beach, CA to meet at the Private Practice Visit of Dr. Lori Aleknavicius.  Dr. Aleknavicius, a popular adjunct faculty member opened her practice up to an intimate group and shared her experience building practices in Minnesota and California.  Also, she discussed the ways she utilizes telehealth for her client’s convenience.

As we do every semester, we held the Practicum Tips Meeting, Pep Pro Demo and the Intern Registration Meeting to help MACLP students along their practicum journey.

The MFT Consortium of Orange County continues to be held at the Irvine Graduate Campus on the third Wednesday of every other month. The next scheduled meetings are scheduled for March 15 and May 17. For the past 20 years, I have been the host and co-chair of the MFT Consortium. This is a collaborative setting that brings together mental health agencies and universities with MFT graduate programs in an effort to foster community partnerships. The meetings serve as a networking opportunity for agencies to be connected with key personnel to discuss MFT employment and practicum training opportunities, programming and clinical training concerns.

West LA Graduate Campus

The fall semester started with QuickMeets and a New Student Meeting, where new students are introduced to the resources available to them, and gave them a chance to see an overview of the MACLP Program, as well as their future practicum process.  The students seemed appreciative of knowing where to go and who to ask when future questions came up.

The first “Clinical Connections” featuring Natalie Moore, MA, focused on Bringing the Body into the picture: Integrating Somatic Experiences into Therapy. Students learned about Somatic approaches to psychotherapy in order to provide clients with the opportunity to connect with their experience of feelings, sensations and memories that underlie the issues they face.  Some comments from students include: “I learned how to guide my clients through their sensation-healing”, “Natalie was very insightful on her approach to somatic experiences. She followed through with many relevant examples”, “I liked how interactive this workshop was.”

This second Clinical Connections event helped students to learn how to refuel after a burnout: what it means to find compassion in fatigue. The workshop addressed the need for awareness of secondary trauma, like compassion fatigue and burnout and to further address the importance of self-care. Participants identified the signs and triggers and developed self-care skills. There were two speakers at this event: Dain Kloner, PsyD, IMFT, and Irene Yaymadjian, PsyD. One student described Dain Kloner and said “he had great charisma about his speaking style. It was entertaining and absorbing for us”. Another student really enjoyed Irene Yaymadjian’s more factual and historical approach to the causes and effects of burning out.

Our Third Fall Clinical Connections focused on Gottman Method Couples Therapy Basics, presented by Adrienne Clements, MA. Adrienne specializes in women’s issues, trauma and couples. She is trained in Level 3 Gottman Method Couple’s Therapy. This workshop was about the struggles couples face with pain and conflict and the assumption that the clinician will referee fights and fix the partners. However, Adrienne’s approach uses a more holistic and positive approach while utilizing Gottman Therapy techniques. One student was quoted as saying, “this has been a very transformative presentation for me. I was not familiar with Gottman Therapy but I’m glad I learned about it. It is helping me in personal matters as well as professional.”  

   Additional Resources

                    Alice Richardson hosted a Coffee Talk which gave students a chance to come by the GSEP Office and relax with a cup of coffee and cookies while asking questions about the program and LPCC licensure. Sheila Sayana, LMFT and Andrew Benkendorf, LCSW co-hosted a private practice visit to Andrew’s private practice office in WLA. The purpose was to provide students with an informal discussion on how to build and succeed in a private practice Rebecca facilitated a PowerPoint meeting in Pre-Practicum class to go over the “Tips for a Successful Practicum Experience” as well as a “Practicum Sites Powerpoint” showcasing about 15 of our most popular training sites.  In addition, WLA has a powerpoint presentation for the students getting ready to graduate called the Intern Registration Meeting. This meeting gave students step-by-step instructions on how to register for their licensure intern numbers.

Encino Graduate Campus

The fall semester started with QuickMeets and a New Student Meeting, where new students are introduced to the resources available to them, and gave them a chance to see an overview of the MACLP Program, as well as their future practicum process.  The students seemed appreciative of knowing where to go and who to ask when future questions came up.

The first “Clinical Connections” featuring Curt Widhelm, LMFT (Pepperdine Alum) focused on Starting and Maintaining a Successful Private Practice.  Students learned about some of the challenges and benefits of running your own private practice.  Curt spoke about various aspects of the business side of private practice, as well as self-care, professional growth, marketing, networking, fees, and specialties in the field.  Some comments from students include:  “I like how he talked about overcoming his obstacles” “Curt was very realistic, practical and honest about his advice” “Curt was an upbeat person and I appreciate his advice on boundaries and humoring yourself” “He really gave some great insight in building a private practice”

This second Clinical Connections event helped students learn as Sheila Sayani, LMFT, Perpperdine Faculty and Staff, demonstrated how to Incorporate the Science and Theory of Attachment into Individual & Couples Therapy.  Sheila gave an overview and history of Attachment Theory, and talked about how attachment styles define a relationship and often become the focus of therapy.  Student comments were: “Informative and useful information to use with all clients and also helpful for self-understanding.” “Handouts, examples and techniques were very helpful”

Our Third Fall Clinical Connections focused on Divorce Mediation, presented by Howard Leavitt, LMFT and Yardenna Hurvitz, JD.  With over 30 years of experience. This presentation covered a short history of mediation, a description of their style of “Team Divorce Mediation” and the business opportunities available to LMFT’s in the field of mediation. In addition, students left with a general overview of the process of divorce in the State of California. Student comments included “Very informative and professional speakers” “This was the best presentation I have seen in a very long time.  I liked their team approach and learning about all of the laws revolving around divorce in California.”

    Additional Resources

                    Alice Richardson hosted a Coffee Talk which gave students a chance to come by the GSEP Office and relax with a cup of coffee and cookies while asking questions about the program and the MFT profession. Alice also facilitated a PowerPoint meeting in Pre-Practicum class to go over the “Tips for a Successful Practicum Experience” as well as a “Practicum Sites Powerpoint” showcasing about 15 of our most popular training sites.  In addition, Encino has two PowerPoint Presentations for the students getting ready to graduate.  “The MFT Exam Process” and the “Intern Registration” meeting.

Why Getting it Wrong Can be the First Step to Getting it Right in Practicum

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By: Aneesah Muhammad, Irvine Graduate Campus

Practicum, it’s the part of our education experience where any graduate student in a marriage and family therapy program, contends with the most anxiety. We anticipate practicum with hopes that our prerequisite courses will have magically transformed us into experts who can fix our client’s lives. Although Anxiety tells us that this is not even remotely possible, we still hope that it is the case. When we reach practicum, we find that anxiety spoke the truth to us. We have not become experts, and our clients cannot be fixed. This is the bad news. The good news is that not being an expert is fertile ground for lots of wonderful things to blossom such as a curiosity about who our clients really are and a burgeoning of ideas about how we can collaborate with them for their treatment. As a first semester, practicum student, I found it refreshing that I was not the only one to bring wisdom into the therapy room. The responsibility to address problems affecting my clients did not rest solely on my shoulders. Clients bring their wisdom, and hopefully agency, to the treatment process. In light of this new insight, I was able to give myself permission to get things wrong and not be perfect.

As students, we can be so afraid of getting it wrong, especially in front of other people. The fear sometimes creeps up on us, beckons to us, and convinces us that we shouldn’t put ourselves out there. “If you reveal your ignorance, you will look like a fool,” it says. But what better time to appear not to know than when we are expected to know the least? Although we will never know everything— even after becoming licensed—practicum is a time to demonstrate what we don’t know as much as what we do know. Our supervisors need to be made clearly aware of what we are doing in the therapy rooms so that that they can offer us guidance and correction when we need it. Sometimes we are being recorded, and sometimes we simply have to tell our supervisors what makes us unsure when sitting with a client, what makes us uncomfortable, what came up for us and what real questions we have. Otherwise, we will be moving around in the dark with no one to help us to see. Ultimately what we want is to become better therapists. In Practicum, we are no longer just graduate students working towards high GPAs, but student therapists applying theories learned and testing out interventions.

My practicum training is in narrative therapy which requires me to think about problems in a vastly different way that I am accustomed to thinking of them. Having a supervisor who is informed by narrative ideas, and is very empathic and collaborative, is just the nurturing environment that I needed to take calculated risks. My goals as a therapist and my chosen practicum site were a perfect fit. The culture at my site gives me the courage to engage and be vulnerable about what I don’t know. This transparent approach enables my supervisors to assist me with aligning my intentions for interventions with postmodern ideas and approaches to treatment. As therapists, it’s not always what we are doing that matters but how we think about what we are doing. That said, I can think of an instance where one of my fellow therapists, at my practicum site, proposed an intervention to help with a couple in conflict. She asked our supervisors for their thoughts about her assigning reading material to the couple: a pop psychology relationship book. At the time, I was sure that she would be told that this is a bad idea based on my knowledge that there are not a lot of books, of that genre, written from a narrative approach. This is not what she was told. Instead of being advised one way or another, she was questioned about her intentions. She was asked how she thinks that the ideas in the chosen book would inform her work with the couple. I suspect that if my colleague were to say that the intent of the book was to discuss dominant ideas about relationships and to give the clients background for deconstructing those ideas, the proposal would have gotten a green light. The approval would have been in spite of the fact that the proposed literature was not likely to come from our chosen theoretical orientation.

The above anecdote is why many supervisors will not tell their student therapists what is right and what is wrong. This might be a source of frustration for students, just starting out, as it was for me. We want to know the correct way to treat our clients. Conversely, the reality is that there are many right answers or right ways to go about treatment; just as there are many “right” ways for our clients to live their lives. To contend with the frustration, we student therapists need to start trusting ourselves. My practicum site is fantastic in teaching theory and interventions, but the art of therapy is learned through trial and error. Based on my practicum experiences, so far, I have concluded that designing therapeutic questions or exercises, with my client’s well-being in mind, ultimately leads to a favorable result. With these collections of positive outcomes, my anxiety over doing the right thing has gone down tremendously. Subsequently, my confidence as a therapist is steadily on the incline.