It was a success!

Yesterday, was our first Happy Hour Meet & Greet event. We enjoyed meeting, and learning the specialties of, each member that attended. It was a pleasure connecting and networking with other counselors. We each walked away with valuable information for referrals and new supportive connections.

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Thanks to all who attended yesterday’s event and for making it a success. If you were unable to make this event, we hope to see you at our next event.

Tiffany, Tracy, & Virginia

P.S. Check out the positive reviews from your fellow members on Facebook about this event!

Images taken by Photography by Tracy

Interview with Pamela Milam, LPC

Medium Logo 3 Sepia Headshots 7 4 2011 016Today, we interview Pamela Milam, LPC. She is a member of the New York Chapter of the WNBA, is a reader, author, and therapist living part-time in Dallas and New York.  Represented by Jim Levine at the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, she is the author of a new book, What Your Therapist Really Thinks About You, which takes a closer look at what happens inside the therapy office and is the author of “Premarital Counseling for Gays & Lesbians: Case Studies and Helpful Questions.”

Can you describe what a normal day looks like for you as you do your job?

Yes, I live in Dallas and New York – live half-time in both cities, so my life is different depending on where I am.

When I’m in Dallas: I wake up, get ready for work, and leave for a ten-minute drive to my private practice counseling office. When I get there, I open my laptop and begin to review my charting from the sessions in the prior week.  I make a quick set of notes for the sessions on my calendar that day – reminding myself to ask….for instance….”John” how his dad’s surgery went or “Suzie” whether she completed her homework assignment or “Helen” what her mom said after she confessed that she was planning to marry a woman.  I get an overview of where each client is in his or her process and then wait for the first session.

After that, the first client arrives and I do counseling.  I see clients one after another, scheduling them – usually – twenty-five minutes apart.  I do not usher one person in immediately as the other is leaving.  I have a “Couch Cooling Period,” if you will.  I don’t like for one client to sit down on the couch and experience sitting in the warm spot left by the last client’s behind.  If that happens, then I’m running sessions too close together. I make time in between each appointment to think about what happened in session, to document it, and – if needed – to go to the bathroom or get a sip of club soda.

At the end of the day, I make sure I’ve done all of my charting and billing, and I go home.

When I’m in NYC:  It’s different.  I’ve been doing distance counseling with my clients in Texas, which means I schedule the occasional phone session, but now with the new HIPAA/HITECH rules, I’m implementing a new system using www.counsol.com –and I’m not ready to use it yet.  Therefore, when I’m in NYC, I focus on my writing and teaching.  I write articles for http://www.rewireme.com/author/pamela-milam/ and I create continuing education courses (CEU classes) on www.mentalhealthclasses.com. I enjoy doing all of this work immensely – counseling, writing, and teaching.

What theory (or theories) inform your practice and why?

I think of myself as an existential counselor.  I don’t use a fixed structure or set of absolute rules for how I conduct counseling, but I do rest on certain principles. I believe in both freedom and responsibility.

Existential counseling utilizes the uniqueness of the individual along with the universality of specific life problems. This approach reminds the client that freedom, choice, and responsibility play a large role in most conflicts. Through the use of existential thought and exploration, the client will discover areas of greater strength, control, and resolve.

However, our counseling sessions are guided by the client, not by my philosophies or ideologies. I ask questions to make the client think more deeply about his or her place in the world – We talk about the larger life questions, “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “What is my purpose?” “What is happiness?” and from there we move toward the specifics and find ways to address the client’s presenting problem.

Reflect on how you determine when you need to seek consultation or supervision. Can you provide me with a specific example of each?

When I was still under ongoing supervision, I regularly called on my supervisor for guidance.  Now that I’m a seasoned professional, there’s a fair amount of give and take. Colleagues call on me for support and I call on them.  We always de-identify the case if we need to talk about a question regarding a client.

Recently, when I had a client who was having trouble making progress, I went to my peer group and sought consultation.  I have a group of 6-10 therapists who meet once or twice a month to provide each other with encouragement, consultation, and support.  It is very helpful in regard to getting constructive feedback, creative ideas, and it’s also great for networking.

What do you do to maintain self-care and wellness?

At the beginning of my career, I wasn’t so great at this part.  I worked long hours, skipped meals, and kept my phone on all of the time.  I was perpetually available, frequently working, and I got tired.  That’s when I realized that all of the training about self-care (during grad school) was no joke.  It was serious business.

I lightened my caseload, joined a peer group, took on a couple of new hobbies that recharged me, and I made more time for fun things like hiking, reading, theater-going, and spending time with my spouse.

My life is balanced and I feel like I’m offered a more centered approach to my counseling practice.

What are the most significant personal development issues you face as a counselor? How have you addressed personal and professional growth and development?

One of the ways I have grown is by realizing that I cannot help every client. I remember being cavalier and thinking that I could shoot from the hip and figure things out as I went.  Not true.  Training is important.  There is a reason for those required continuing education classes. It was a relief, in a way, when it hit me that there really some clients with issues outside my area of expertise.

I can grow by taking classes and training programs to gain those skills, or I can grow by knowing my own limits and being willing to refer clients to the appropriate counselor.

I have grown personally and professionally by trying new things.  I wrote a book, taught a class, traveled to Russia and Estonia, and recently, I attended a theatre workshop just to learn more about the inner workings of the acting and directing community.  If I have clients who are performers, I’ll be ahead of the game, understanding more about what they experience.

It’s important not to stagnate – not to sit inside the counseling office only listening to stories of how other people live their lives and neglecting to live my own life.  I want to live and experience life and to hear more about the lives of other people of all kinds. Curiosity is the best way to cure inertia and spark ongoing growth.

There are so many aspects of beginning a counseling career that can feel confusing and overwhelming. What would you say should be the top 3 priorities for a beginning counselor?

  • Get a system in place for handling billing and tracking your income.  (you don’t want to get your taxes into a mess)
  • Find a network of colleagues for support, encouragement and guidance
  • Know your specialty areas – do not stray into doing counseling without proper training.

What are your thoughts and feelings regarding the difficulty we (young professionals) have with job placement, the flooded counselor market, and underpaid positions.  This job is wonderful and difficult and it feels like we cannot get paid well or find positive supportive working conditions.

I’m not sure what the answer is.  It is tough.  I’ve made the comment before that the social services profession tends to be highly rewarding in many ways, but less so in regard to financial security.

With that said, I believe that counselors who are motivated and determined can find good jobs and establish financial security.  Networking helps immensely.  Professional friendships make all the difference.

What resource (book, person, website, and or blog) helped you the most when establishing your private practice?

I don’t remember reading a book to help with that.  What helped the most for me back then was that I made a decision to build a private practice and I pressed forward to make it happen.  I was surprised at how easy it was to get help building a website.  Then, I took phone calls from potential clients and set up appointments. There was that “Field of Dreams” feeling about it back then.  “If you build it, they will come…” and they did.  I was delighted by that.  My practice built to the point that I had too many clients and started referring them out to my colleagues.  I don’t know if that’s how it works these days.

From what source do you receive the majority of your referrals? 

First, my website.  Second, “word of mouth” –former clients who tell people about my practice.

What led you to the decision to create a premarital CEU course? 

I thought it was only fair for lesbian and gay couples to have premarital counseling too – and I wanted to customize the sessions in particular for the LGB community.  I’m leaving off the “T,” because I believe there’s an entire book waiting to be written for the Transgendered Community.  They will have issues particular to their lives and there should be a book to address those issues.

Tell us about your books… 

ASD Publishing guided me through the process of publishing my book Premarital Counseling for Gays & Lesbians: Case Studies and Helpful Questions. It’s a simple handbook for couples and for counselors – a quick 100 pages looking at issues specific to gay couples and issues common to all couples. The link is here: http://www.amazon.com/Premarital-Counseling-Lesbians-Pamela-Milam/dp/0983604959/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1331474255&sr=8-2

I have a second book represented by the Levine Greenberg Agency.  It’s called What Your Therapist Really Thinks About You.  It explores the therapeutic relationship between counselor and client, common pitfalls, and thorny situations, offering an inside look at what happens in therapy.  The literary agency is here: http://www.levinegreenberg.com/

My e-article is on Amazon:  Ten Rules for Successful Coping During the Divorce Process. It provides tips and insight for managing life before, during, and after a divorce.  The link is here: http://www.amazon.com/Successful-Coping-Divorce-Process-ebook/dp/B006FL9VAS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1331474255&sr=8-1

Where can we purchase your books?

My book and e-article are both available on Amazon.com or you can buy them through my publisher’s website: http://asdpublishing.com/counselors-corner.htm

Networking Event

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We are pleased to announce our next networking event!

This event will focus on brief therapy approaches as previously decided by our members. We are hoping to get a turnout of 10 members to this event. The format of this event will be a discussion group. This means that each person attending should be prepared to contribute their thoughts and experience regarding brief therapy approaches.

These events are designed to provide both support and opportunities to network yourself in our field. Don’t miss out on this chance to connect with others, increase your support system, and build your name in the counseling field!

This event will be held on Saturday 6/22/13 from 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM at Novian Counseling & Neuroeducation Center.  Please email us at SACounselors@gmail.com to register for this event.

(photo found here)

Counselor Interview Series

As you may have noticed, we here at SA Counselors Networking Group headquarters like to support our fellow counselors with advice provided by other counselors.  Our motto probably should be something like “by counselors for counselors.”  One way to promote the viewpoints of our colleagues is to continue featuring interviews with people from all areas of the field.

Today we would like to share our interview with LPC-Intern Tamara Kiss.  Tamara recently moved to Texas from Florida. When I had the pleasure of meeting Tamara this year, she had yet to make many professional contacts here in San Antonio. In mere months, she has managed to gain provisional licensure in Texas, find a supervisor, gain employment, and become active in our networking group. Talk about a go-getter!

photo for Zeiders

Can you please share with the group your credentials and supervisor’s information?

My name is Tamara Kiss, I am an LPC Intern in Texas and Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern in Florida.  My supervisor is Sonia Dimas, PhD, LPC-S, NCC from Alba Wellness Center.

How far along are you in the licensure process?  When do you expect to be fully licensed?

I already completed 300 hundred face-to-face hours and 100 hours of admin time in FL, however I expect to be fully licensed in 18 months in Texas.

What is your preferred theoretical orientation? What is your preferred issues and populations?

My theoretical approach is eclectic.  I work with cognitive behavioral, cognitive processing, object relations, brief solution focused intervention techniques most of the time.  I am very open and excited to learn more about different approaches and techniques as I grow and advance as a mental health professional.  I enjoy working with adults the most. I counseled clients with anxiety, depression, bipolar and other mood disorders, schizophrenia, substance abuse related issues and various personality disorders.  I also have extensive experience in working with the military population.

Where do you currently work?

I work at a private practice called Alba Wellness Center.  At the practice counseling services are provided for: Anxiety, Depression, Relationship Difficulties, Loss & Grief, Family Conflict, Behavioral Problems, Self Esteem, Life Coaching, Military Life/Transition/Deployment, Anger Management, Coping Skills, Sexual Identity, Immigration/Psychiatric Evaluations.  The practice`s website is http://www.albawellness.net.  I am thrilled to learn from Dr. Dimas. In the near future I am planning on starting a Mood Disorder Support Group as my first endeavor at the practice.  I also have a part time government contracting job as a SECO Career and Education Counselor.

You have recently relocated to Texas, can you tell us a little about the challenges that came along with that experience?

Relocating from FL to TX as an intern was quiet challenging.  In Florida I was a Mental Health Counselor Registered Intern and I had my own case load at a private practice.  In TX I had to take the NCC in order to be able to obtain the LPC Intern license.  With the processing time of my application the relocation put me 6 months behind on my progress toward licensure.

What has been the most positive professional aspect of your relocation?

There are many positive professional aspects of relocating to San Antonio, but the most positive aspect is the abundance of CEU classes, certification programs and seminars that allow me to learn more about our profession.  In February I participated in the “Understanding the Gut Brain” seminar and I learned invaluable information about the connection between our food consumption and emotional well-being.  I really appreciate the educational opportunities this area has to offer.

What resources have you found to be most helpful for your professional development? 

Since I moved here the most helpful resources have been the SA Counselors Networking Group blog and Facebook page, as well as the monthly peer group meetings.  I found my supervisor through the Facebook page and I learned about other exciting employment and educational opportunities through the network.  As a member of the American Counseling Association I regularly read the Counseling Today magazine.  I often read the SAMSHA website/resources and do research on the web on professional matters and recent studies.

You used to work at a psychiatrist’s office, what did you learn about the roles of medication and counseling while there?

I believe that medication has it`s place in mental health care.  If a client is suffering from an organic problem, talk therapy by itself is probably not going to be efficient enough.  I believe in the combination of counseling and medication, if it is needed, in order for the client to get better.

What has been the most valuable and difficult lesson you have learned thus far in your career?

Always meet the client wherever they are at.  Create therapeutic goals with the client not for the client.

Most counselors are trying to build referral sources and stable clientele bases; do you have any ideas how we as a group may be able to support each other through that process?

I think it could be very beneficial to keep a database that can serve as referral system with a list of providers, if they are taking new clients or not, specialties, locations and availability.  Also, exchanging ideas on outreach opportunities can be very helpful as well. I strongly believe in the power of networking when it comes to business development.

We want to thank Tamara for participating in our interview. We hope you find it helpful.  Please feel free to give us suggestions for future interviews.

-Tiffany Frias, MA, LPC-Intern

Tiffanyfriascounseling.com / tiffanyfriascounseling.wordpress.com

 

Networking Event Success

We had another successful networking event! Thanks to all who attended and for sharing your personal means of self care and burn-out. Here are a few articles shared on self care and burnout:

http://ct.counseling.org/2013/01/whos-taking-care-of-superman/

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/3790568/Unravelling2013.pdf

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/01/13/6-ways-you-can-have-a-healthy-relationship-with-yourself/

Compassion Satisfaction/Fatigue Assessment

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The photo above was a part of this article, http://www.livehiup.com/2012/08/25/natural-self-care-series-laughter/, which poses another interesting means of self-care.

If you were unable to attend this event, please share with us what you do for your own self care.

Remember to take care of YOU and we hope to see you at our next event!

Tiffany, Tracy & Virginia

Networking Event

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We are excited to announce that it is almost time for our next networking event!

After receiving feedback from our members it was decided that our next event will focus on self care and burnout.  We are hoping to get a turnout of 10 members to this event.  The format of this event will be discussion group. This means that each person attending should be prepared to contribute their thoughts and experience regarding self care and burnout. We think it would be especially beneficial if attendees would be able to share their personal experience with self-care and burnout.  What are the signs that you are spreading yourself too thin?  How have you handled seeing burnout in colleagues?  What strategies do you or your organization use to keep self care a priority?  

 These events are designed to provide both support and opportunities to network yourself in our field. Don’t miss out on this chance to connect with others, increase your support system, and build your name in the counseling field!

This event will be held on Saturday 2/09/13 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM at Novian Counseling & Neuroeducation Center.  Please email us at SACounselors@gmail.com to register for this event.

(image found here)