Clinical Training

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.

2016 WLA/MFT Campus Practicum Mentor Fair

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by Rebecca Reed and Her Clinical Training Staff


On Tuesday night, March 15th, 2016, GSEP’s LMFT/LPCC Clinical Training Department hosted an annual Practicum Mentor Fair during the Preparing for Practicum class (Psy 661).  Our WLA pre-practicum students made connections with MFT student mentors from our Practicum  (Psy 662) classes and site Supervisors to learn about 2016 practicum training opportunities. We had a range of practicum sites join us, such as The Maple Counseling Center, Exodus Recovery and Outreach Concern.  There were a total of 10 practicum sites, over 45 students, 6 pizzas and one cooler filled with drinks that showed up to this festive fair.

One student commented that, “I enjoyed learning from more experienced practicum students about their meaningful clinical work at their sites and I was challenged to be open to the type of population I expect to work with.”  Another student reported that she was glad that she came because it inspired her to get her resume out to more practicum supervisors.

Supervisors expressed that they were grateful for the opportunity to meet many potential trainees. They were especially pleased with the turnout and shortly after the fair, some students communicated that they were already being contacted for interviews by our practicum sites. Overall, it can be said that this practicum fair was successful for both students and supervisors. We can expect successful connections from this event.

First Thoughts as a Student Volunteer

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by Akshay Mehta

If you are a woman reading this right now, I’d like you to think about a scenario for a moment. Imagine yourself as a young teen seeking therapy for an unplanned pregnancy. You sit down on a nice comfortable couch in a pleasantly calm room with décor and atmospheric conditions tailored to immediately tone down your anxiety. As you prepare your thoughts, the door opens and a male therapist walks in. Wait…what?

Your first thoughts might be, “How is he going to understand anything I’m going through?”, “Is he a substitute therapist?”, “How do I start talking and what am I comfortable sharing?” Well, in the near future, I may potentially be that male therapist facing an environment dominated by female patients and issues.

I recently began a volunteer position at Claris Health Clinic. Claris’ mission is to empower women and men to make informed and positive choices in regards to their sexual and relational health. Additionally, Claris isn’t controlled by a linear way of thought or a strict religious ideology. Its utmost aim is to just help people make the best productive choices for themselves.

At first, I was a bit skeptical as to how impactful I would really be at this place. But I thought about it and bounced some ideas back and forth with my supervisor at Pepperdine, Rebecca Reed. Through her knowledge about my personal history and experiences, she helped me to see how important I could be. I gained confidence and applied. I was offered an interview. Dr. Route, the Clinical Director at Claris and Stacy Williams, the Client Services Director, conducted my interview. Aside from making the interview as comfortable as possible, they also assured me that they saw the benefits of having a male around the clinic. In fact, they explained that there is a male right now running an outreach program within Claris. It’s called Reality Check. Reality Check aims to proactively help young teens in school settings. Instead of waiting for the teens to come to the clinic, the Reality Check team goes out and talks to students in their schools. They run various activities, presentations and group therapy sessions. I learned that currently they are in a stage of innovating the ways in which they connect with students. Dr. Route and Stacy thought this would be a perfect fit for me.

I have yet to attend a ‘real’ Reality Check workday, so to speak. I have been attending trainings so far. But I am excited to know I am part of a non-profit health organization, which caringly, openly and interactively helps women and men make informed positive choices in their lives. The level of energy at Claris is abundantly clear through the team members’ efforts and enthusiasm. I am thrilled to be a part of Claris’ mission and hope that I can add another piece to their aspirations of becoming an important resource for our society.

My Experience as a Graduate Assistant

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by Akshay Mehta

Should I pursue an MFT, an MA or a Psy.D.? What are the requirements for licensure? When will I begin my internship and how long will it take to complete? What is the best way to network? These are ordinary curiosities for a graduate student. But for many, these questions seem to linger around without ever getting definite answers. It builds up in our minds to such an extent that we might find ourselves thinking of them as essay prompts. Therefore, this forces us to endlessly research about them online and/or attempt to understand them further by scheduling meetings with an expert. Sounds hectic right?

These ‘experts’ are Pepperdine’s faculty, staff and alumni. And luckily for me, I am an assistant to one of these experts. Her name is Rebecca Reed. She is the MFT Clinical Training Coordinator at the West LA Campus. She is a ‘one stop shop’ for anything related to MFT. Her genuine devotion to making sure Pepperdine students succeed easily makes her a critical and valuable resource for someone pursuing an MFT. Although she invests time and effort in everyone equally, I must brag a little about my accessibility to her as her Graduate Assistant. Not only am I able to help her in assisting other students with various needs, but by working next to her I am able to take advantage of her wisdom (stemming from over 25 years of experience at Pepperdine). I consider my assistantship to Rebecca an invaluable opportunity for which I am extremely grateful.

But the flip side of my position brings satisfaction through interaction with the students. Every new semester, Rebecca and I schedule ‘Quick Meets’ with new MA or MFT students. These are short but extremely beneficial presentations, which provide a large number of resources to ultimately help students in getting to know their program better and the various ways they can effectively excel in it. Equipped with information on private practice field trips, Pepperdine MFT workshops, career fairs and career-marketing tools, I am able to really connect with new students and witness the anxiety settle in them.

My work as a Graduate Assistant to Rebecca Reed has provided me with just as much satisfaction, knowledge and confidence as the education I have retained from my classes. With the level of support and accessibility to resources I have in my LMFT/LPCC path, it is now up to me to humbly recognize it and continue making the best of it. Because one day soon, my current experience will be seen as the foundation of my professional life.

Please also note that Quick Meets and Clinical Training Staff are present at every Pepperdine Campus. Please contact Kathleen Wenger, Manager of Clinical Training and Professional Development at the Irvine Campus, Alice Richardson, Clinical Training and Professional Development Coordinator at the Encino Campus, Andrea Lipnicki, at the Malibu Campus or Rebecca Reed, Clinical Training and Professional Development Coordinator at the WLA Campus depending on your specific campus or practicum site preferable locations.