Practicum

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.

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2016 WLA/MFT Campus Practicum Mentor Fair

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by Rebecca Reed and Her Clinical Training Staff

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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.

Recap of This Year So Far — See You At Our Fall Events!

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by Kathleen Wenger, M.A., LMFT, LPCC, Manager M.A. Psychology Professional Development and Clinical Training

Summer is relatively slow in the M.A. Psychology Department of Professional Development and Clinical Training as we plan for an exciting series of fall events. So I wanted to take this opportunity to fill you in about some of the enriching events for students in the MAP and MACLP tracks that we’ve had so far this year and encourage you to attend the events that we host this fall! In addition to these events, there are several resources that help guide you through the practicum experience. You can make an appointment for a Quick Meet to receive a personalized explanation of the events and services offered by the department and to have any questions about practicum answered. If you want more information about an agency, you can stop by the GA’s office to read through students’ practicum site reviews (strengths and challenges). We also encourage you to use the Mentor Program, which puts you in contact with a student who has experience at a site you are interested in.

Irvine Graduate Campus

As we do each semester, we welcomed new students to the Irvine Graduate Campus with Quick Meets, our series of one-on-one meetings with new students. These personalized explanations of our departments’ events and services, as well as an overview of practicum basics for MFT students and other subjects of concern for individuals new to the program help our new students to dive right into their program prepared for success.

In February we hosted a Clinical Connections event with George Nalbach, Ph.D. and Connie Saindon, author of The Murder Survivor’s Handbook. Dr. Nalbach introduced a couple whose son was tragically murdered several years ago to share their experience with the grief and loss process. Connie provided clinical strategies for working with clients who have experienced similar tragedies. Attendees felt honored to hear the couple’s story and to receive valuable tips for working with clients who have experienced the violent loss of loved ones. One individual summed up the evening’s event by stating that “While the content and discussion was heavy, saddening, and emotional, I felt most impacted and moved by the display of human resiliency and growth. It was inspiring to hear this couple’s journey through their grief and loss, what they have learned about the process, and what they have learned about themselves.”

In February we also hosted the annual GSEP Career and Practicum Fair: Career Connections. This event gave our current students and alumni an opportunity to meet with potential practicum and internship employers. We had an outstanding turnout in terms of attendees as well as agencies – approximately 50-60 students and alums met with fifteen of the top mental health agencies in Orange County! We followed this event with the annual Practicum Mentor Fair in March. At the Mentor Fair, students ready to begin practicum had an opportunity to hear about the experiences current practicum students have had at their agencies.

Our popular Private Practice and Agency Visit series continued with two events in Orange County in March. I hosted a visit at my practice in Laguna Beach and Chris Hoff, LMFT, hosted one at his agency in Costa Mesa, the California Family Institute. One attendee at my event commented that he felt “put right at ease to ask many questions about the nuts and bolts of starting, managing, and maintaining a private practice such as this. We were also able to discuss other business aspects such as marketing tools, networking, and even google analytics to ensure that we will have enough clients to keep our businesses afloat, yet not so many that we ourselves start to drown and lose our effectiveness.”

As we do every semester, we held a New Student Meeting, the Practicum Tips Meeting, and the Intern Registration Meeting to help MACLP students along their practicum journey. Students have responded to this semester’s series of meetings by telling us things like “it is so great that the program goes the extra mile for us like this” compared to other similar programs! It’s a great vote of confidence to know the impact that we’re having on our current students.

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 16 and November 18. 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

West LA started its spring semester with a Clinical Connections topic that we all need to visit often. Alumna Juanita Frassini Goode, MA, presented, “Self-Love Your Way through Life: The Clinical Value of Practicing Self-Love for Yourself and Clients.” Juanita’s workshop was very fun and interactive. Attendees engaged in a variety of self-love activities with the multitude of art supplies that Juanita provided. Juanita shared her unique approach to practicing with clients, which included her approach from her license in spiritual psychology.  Participants left feeling excited to try out some of these new ideas and approaches with clients.

Following Juanita’s workshop on self-love, premarital counseling guru, Debbi Molnar, MA, LMFT, LPCC, spoke about, “Premarital Counseling versus Couples Therapy: Understanding the Difference and Making it Work in Your Practice.” With a beautiful manual that Debbi put together, she very clearly explained the differences between the two. Debbi shared with the audience how her sessions with couples therapy look, versus how her sessions with premarital counseling look.  She also spoke about the programs for couples that she has put together, which she often holds as weekend workshops. Debbi’s impressive experience and background was very apparent and attendees walked away with an organized and clear-cut way to practice premarital counseling versus couples therapy.

Jody Echegaray, Psy.D, presented the last of the Clinical Connections workshops. Jody’s workshop, entitled “Mass Media—Its Effects, Motivations for Use, and Media-based Clinical Interventions” proved to be a very important topic amongst clinicians. Jody gave a quick historical timeline on the development of media and how it has come to play a part in the practice of psychotherapy. Jody also provided great examples of interventions he has used with his own clients. The workshop addressed some very poignant issues that media can both harm and help in the practice of psychotherapy. Participants were very impressed by the amount of information and were very intrigued by the topic.

West LA’s other professional development events included a Coffee Talk by Alice Richardson, MA, LMFT, LPCC and a Private Practice Visit to alum Curt Widhalm’s practice. For the Coffee Talk, Alice answered questions about pursuing the LPCC. While the development of the license in California is still new, many students and alums struggle with knowing much about it. Alice, who has pursued the license, shared her impressive knowledge about the license and its benefits. Students who attended felt grateful for the clarifications.  Later in March, students and alums visited Curt’s practice to learn about the development and running of a private practice. The room was full as Curt spoke about his process to private practice and laying it out straight for how it goes. Attendees felt very informed and lucky to have attended this private practice field trip.

Encino Graduate Campus

This spring, the Encino Graduate Campus was pleased to have Kent Toussaint, LMFT, LPCC, speak at a Clinical Connections about “The 1-2-3’s for Treating Resistant Teens.” Kent gave attendees a better understanding of how to build rapport, earn trust, and create alliances with teens.  He also spoke about the developmental needs of teens, and how unconditional positive regard helps with this age group.  At the end of Kent’s presentation, the attendees had a hands-on demonstration of the games and toys Kent uses for ice-breakers and rapport building.

In March, Dr. Dennis Lowe graciously gave a 3-hour presentation about “What’s New in the DSM-5” for Pepperdine Alumni who are studying for the licensing exam.  This presentation was held on a Saturday afternoon, and was well received by all attendees.  Many alumni attended and seemed engaged and interested in this presentation, and some alumni even sent emails and notes of appreciation.

March is National Gambling Awareness Month, and the Encino Graduate Campus was fortunate to have an Alumna who specializes in Gambling Addiction. Audrey Johnson, PsyD, LMFT, spoke about the differences between recreational gambling and gambling addictions.  Between 3% and 6% of the general population is impacted by some degree of problem gambling.  Audrey spoke about helpful tools, assessment inventories and treatment plans she uses with her problem gambling clients.

Also in March, Sheila Sayani and Alice Richardson organized a Practicum Mentor Fair “Mixer” where seasoned students who are near graduating spoke with students taking the Pre-Practicum class.  The students enjoyed this event immensely and we plan to continue doing these mixers in future semesters.

Alice Richardson, Clinical Training & Professional Development Coordinator, spoke about the LPCC License at “Coffee Talks” at both Encino and WLA Campuses.  Encino also presented New Student Meetings, Tips for Practicum Meetings and an Intern Registration Meeting, which all three campuses present every semester to keep students as informed as we can.

Meet Your Clinical Training Coordinators!

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Have questions about the clinical training process, wonder about a site, trying to figure out how to fill out those BBS forms, or just want a kind ear to listen? Get to know the Clinical Training Coordinator at your campus!

Irvine: Kathleen Wenger, M.A., LMFT, LPCC, Manager of M.A. Psychology Professional Development and Clinical Training

Kays Professional Photo

Kathleen Wenger has been with Pepperdine since 1989 and is the Manager of M.A Clinical Training and Professional Development for the Pepperdine University MA Psychology Program. In 1994 Kathleen became the founding chair of MFT Consortium of Orange County, and still serves as co-chair. The consortium represents mental health clinical training agencies and university psychology programs in order to discuss programming and training issues.

West Los Angeles: Rebecca Reed, M.A., West LA Clinical Training and Professional Development Coordinator

rebecca reed

Rebecca Reed has been the MA Psychology Clinical Training and Professional Development Coordinator at the West Los Angeles Graduate campus for over 25 years and is a Pepperdine Alumna. She has developed relationships with LMFT/LPCC Practicum sites and also devotedly assists students in successfully securing Traineeship positions.  Rebecca is also a founding member of the Southern California Consortium of MFT Educators, and coordinates and cohosts professional psychology events.

Encino: Alice Richardson, M.A., LMFT, LPCC, Encino Clinical Training and Professional Development Coordinator

alice richardson

Alice Richardson graduated from Pepperdine GSEP in May 2005. She became licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist in 2008. She started working as the Clinical Training and Professional Development Coordinator at the Encino Graduate Campus, and loves helping students achieve their goals. Alice has been supervising interns in private practice and non-profit agencies since 2010.

MFT Practicum Agencies Pack the 2015 Career and Practicum Fair

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by Katie Copeland
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This year’s Spring Career Fair at the West LA campus had a great turnout in the MFT Trainee / Practicum room (210). Thirteen highly esteemed MFT Practicum Training Agencies eagerly came to meet Pepperdine students and discuss their volunteer and training opportunities. These training sites included:
  • Airport Marina
  • Center for Individual and Family Counseling
  • Counseling Partners of Los Angeles
  • Crenshaw Christian ~ Betty Price Counseling Center
  • Didi Hirsch
  • Los Angeles City College
  • Mychal’s Learning Place
  • OPICA Adult Day Care
  • Outreach Concern
  • PUC Schools
  • Richstone Family Center
  • San Fernando Valley Homebound Program
  • Southern California Counseling Center
There was also a great turnout on behalf of Pepperdine psychology students, many of whom even made sure to stop by during their break if they had class that night. Students seems to be especially interested in the opportunity to network and learn about training sites this year, resulting in a constant inflow of students and a filled room of students making connections with the representatives.
The MFT Clinical Training department was thrilled to hear the positive and enthusiastic feedback from many of these practicum sites during and after the fair, including “it was great, there were so many students so passionate about what they want to do,” among many other similar insights.
So, with a great showing of both Pepperdine students and MFT Practicum Training Agencies the Clinical Training Department is happy to call this year’s career fair a major success.

Searching for an Internship at the 2015 Career and Practicum Fair

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by An Anonymous Attendee

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I always look forward to Pepperdine University’s Career Fair at the West Los Angeles campus because it brings hope and provides possible rewards to all of the hard work that goes into the planning, set up and participation of the events. This year was also wonderful. I attended a couple of workshops that gave insight to finding ways to collaborate one’s hobbies, passions and skills into the field of psychology. At this stage in my education I have finished practicum and search for possible internships and jobs, therefore, I explored the Career Fair room in 203. There were a few sites looking to hire interns from the MFT and PsyD programs as well as plenty of volunteer opportunities at most of the sites. I had wonderful conversations with representatives from SFV CAMFT, The Help Center, Otis College, as well as many others and have been contacted by a few of the sites looking for employees, trainees and interns. There were not a lot of sites that advertised paid internships and only one private practice that offered low pay. This year’s Career Fair was also very small in comparison to the past couple of years.