Funny Therapy

by Leigh Kunkle- Communications Chair

At the risk of losing you right off the bat, I’m going to start this post off with a cliché and say I am a huge believer that laughter is the best medicine. I know some of you might be rolling your eyes, but in all seriousness, I think there is a place for humor in nearly all of our most difficult moments. The situation itself may not be funny but being able to laugh about something when things are hard can be extremely powerful. And I don’t know about you, but nothing cheers me up faster than a good laugh.

I believe I have a pretty healthy sense of humor and it has in many ways shaped my relationship with friends and family and how I cope. While humor is not the sole way I connect with others or manage my stress, I’d be lying if I said it was not towards the top of the list. However, when I started grad school, I was not sure how it was supposed to fit into my clinical work. I spent most of my first year treading too lightly when it came to letting my sense of humor show in session. Part of the reason is that doing so actually felt pretty vulnerable, like a self-disclosure of sorts. Now none of us want to feel like therapy robots to our clients, but one’s sense of humor can be a very personal thing and sometimes it is much easier to hide it away than figure out an appropriate way to share it with them. No surprise, this muffling of a big part of myself got in the way of connecting with my clients. When I finally started to learn how to bring my sense of humor into the room is when I felt like I was really showing up.

Now I’m sure there are people on both sides of this coin; they either always or never use humor with a client. In my experience; like the answer to nearly every other question I’ve ever asked in this program; it depends. There are clients who are not inclined to make a joke during session, with whom I have connected in ways unrelated to my sense of humor. Others tend more easily towards laughter, even in difficult times.  So, for me the real task of incorporating humor into the therapy session is sorting out if either of us are using it as a defense or something more productive. That is sometimes easier said that done but I will say that my clients who acknowledge the full weight of their problems and find humor in them tend to be more resilient. And I see that in my personal life too; my strongest moments are not when I laugh off my pain as nothing but when I can fully sit with it and also have a laugh.

In a field where we ask a great deal of our clients in terms of vulnerability, opening up the part of ourselves designed to find lightness and comedy in every day situations feels like the least we can do. And I’ve found there are few things more humbling and meaningful than when a client invites you into their heaviest moment and cracks a joke.


January Blog Post

By: Klarissa Garcia Orellana- Diversity Chair

Throughout my training in the United States (U.S.) to become a psychologist, I have often viewed the U.S. as a role model when it comes to mental health training and services. We constantly hear that the U.S. has the best hospitals, universities, professionals, researchers and programs. In fact, I decided to move to the U.S. to receive my education because I believed it was where I was going to receive the best training. As part of the Latino Specialty Program that the Graduate School of Professional Psychology (GSPP) offers, I went to an immersion trip to Chile (Santiago and Concepcion) in December of 2017. As a Latina, I was excited to learn the role of psychologists and how mental health services work in a country, and a culture, more similar to mine. However, due to my belief that the U.S. is more advanced than Latin America, I found myself automatically assuming that the mental health services in Chile were going to be less than – less efficient, less advanced, less organized – than services in the U.S. However, it only took a couple of days in Chile to realize I was wrong.

Chile provides amazing mental health services from which the U.S. has plenty to learn. Some of the things that caught my attention were the benefits of a warm and more expressive culture, the systemic approach of mental health programs and the interdisciplinary contribution of a variety of professionals to the delivery of patient care.

Hospital Padre Urtado’s cardiology rehabilitation program incorporates the patient’s family and community in the care by providing workshops including cooking classes, lessons about how to support the patient, family therapy, and other opportunities. Moreover, the collaborative contribution of providers across various specialties (i.e., psychologist, psychiatrist, kinesiologist, nurse, cardiologist and social worker) to the treatment was incredible. They all worked as an integrated team and were well aware that none of their expertise was enough to provide the best care possible to the patient. The appreciation shown of mental health from non-mental health professionals was refreshing. In the U.S., I have interacted with multiple non-mental health providers that undermine the importance of mental health and the effect it has on patients. However, in Chile I saw the complete opposite. My professor and I shadowed a medical intake conducted by a nurse at the cardiology rehabilitation center, and by the end of the intake my professor told the nurse, “you are a psychologist without even realizing it.” The sensitivity of the nurse to the patient’s emotional state and situation was incredible, even though she was the one in charge of conducting “only” the medical intake and not the mental health one.

At the dementia center in Concepcion, this multidisciplinary and systemic approach was also seen. I shadowed a patient’s appointment with a neurologist, and even though the purpose of the appointment was neurological, the psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, and geriatrician were also present. When the patient left the room, all professionals discussed the patient’s situation as a group. The contribution of their area of expertise to the conversation was incredible, exchanging points of views and appreciating the contribution of each other’s expertise. This interdisciplinary approach was also beneficial for the patient since she was able to see all of her providers in one appointment instead of going to separate appointments that, in the U.S., may have been many month apart and much more costly.

The warm nature of Latin American culture made patients feel at home and cared for. Interactions that would be considered unethical in the U.S., such as hugging and kissing were crucial in building rapport between professionals and patients as well as critical to the patients’ feelings of belonging. From my perspective, this warm and extrovert nature of the culture also contributed to a more kind and caring delivery of services not only from mental health professionals but also from professionals of other areas.

This caring, systemic and interdisciplinary care that was seen at the hospital and the dementia center was also seen in the prison, university clinics, forensic evaluation settings and all other centers we visited.

Upon arriving back to the U.S. after this trip, it has become clear to me that the U.S. provision of care has much to learn from this systemic, multidisciplinary, and warm approach. Moving away from, and ultimately beyond, the individualistic provision of care, health care providers would be able to more holistically provide a higher standard of care for their patients. We, in both Latin America and the U.S., are so used to thinking that the U.S. is more advanced than other countries, especially Latin American and other non-developed countries, that we forget that there is so much to learn from them. When anyone believes they are the best of the best they stop listening, learning, and being critical of their actions. The realizations that I had while traveling and studying in Chile do not have implications for just every patient professionals treat, but I believe these ideas are particularly important when considering the provision of culturally appropriate services to immigrants and individuals with different backgrounds in the U.S.

Hey “Good” Looking

By Sally McGregor, MC, NCC, LPCC

COPAGS Programming Chair


“Do you want to look good, or do you want to be good?” This is a question one of my supervisors asks regularly. I often find myself reflecting on this idea in the context of being a doctoral student in our field.

We spend a significant amount of time trying to look good. We want to look good to clinical supervisors, academic supervisors, and university faculty. Heck, our careers live and die by these people’s evaluations and letters of reference. We spend tremendous amounts of time tweaking our CVs to cater to the needs of a particular externship or internship site. I have attended so many grad school and field placement interviews at this point, I could practically write a book – How to Convince an Interviewer that You Have Leadership Skills but Aren’t Too Bossy to Work Collaboratively. Or, my FAVORITE – How to Dodge Declaring a Theoretical Orientation in an Interview, while also Avoiding Using the word “Eclectic”.

We also spend time trying to look good in front of our peers and early career psychologists. One day, the people sitting next to you in Rorschach class complaining about how difficult it is to score determinants, will be called “doctor” and could refer their next client to your private practice. Next, there are our non-school peers and family. They often expect us to function like on-duty psychologists at all times, rather than humans who wear multiple hats.  If you haven’t heard, “Are you psychoanalyzing me right now?” from a non-clinician before, you need to get out more. My knee jerk response: “No, Susan, I am actually eating a sandwich, and thinking about taping the Real Housewives Reunion when I get home.”

My purpose for focusing on the topic of looking good versus being good is that I think we all enter this profession with the intention to be good. A required entrance essay for applicants to my current doctoral program includes the instructions, “Avoid writing about the wish to help others or about how you want to contribute to society.” Otherwise, all personal statements would read as plagiarized statements about helping people. Then, we enter this pressure cooker of a doctoral program where looking good ostensibly takes a front seat. My personal aim is to never forget why I entered this field in the first place. It is a career priority for me to sit alongside people who are in a lot of pain. In pursuing this end goal, I want to be intentional about leaning in to being good. So, I created my own TODO list.


  • Show your supervisors the worst parts of your tape. Select that five-minute clip where you rambled incoherently about some concept you thought was profoundly life changing, and the client stared at you as if you had three heads. Show the clip where you practiced affectively attuning to your client and completely missed the mark. Don’t you always cue up the parts where you feel like you shined. Show them where you are struggling with your client, and get the help you need in order to develop your skills and to help your client. A good supervisor will appreciate this rather than chastise you.
  • Help with case management. Often students avoid this work because it cannot be counted as direct client hours (looking good). Also, some psychologists consider themselves superior to tasks traditionally delegated to social workers. Frankly, I find that incredibly pretentious. Social workers who primarily conduct case management have one of the most taxing professions in the field. I know you are busy, but roll up your sleeves and do some research into outside resources for your client if it is reasonable for you to do so. If you don’t have time, at the very least, consult with a case manager about your client’s particular needs. If you are the client’s regular therapist, you likely know them better than anyone else at your agency.
  • Advocate for your clients outside of work. It is easy to engage in social justice advocacy in order to appear attractive on a resume. Be very intentional about what you choose. Does this cause pull on your heart strings? If so, the experience will be more meaningful. Is your client struggling because they are homeless? The next time you decide to volunteer, perhaps it will be with a shelter.
  • Above all – Be… Your… Self. Your clients will benefit from this, and you will benefit from this. There are two people in that therapy room, and your client should experience you as another human. Be someone who focuses on being authentic, rather than being right.




One Psychology Grad Student’s Thoughts about Self-Compassion (Care)

Elizabeth Shum

University of Denver


I like to think of myself as someone who doesn’t care too much about self-care. I feel like that term gets thrown around so often that it loses meaning and becomes one of those ironic sayings that you use pseudo-intellectually but that in the back of your mind you know has some merit. For the sake of writing this sincerely, I will substitute for self-care the term: identity wardship. Kidding, I cheated and thesaurus-ed dat. Let’s call it, self-compassion. Actually, I’ve been feeling like I don’t necessarily need to prioritize self-compassion. As I recently had a close friend point out to me, I am admirable in my ability to take care of myself (and modest too.) I usually have little trouble compartmentalizing life’s responsibilities from activities related to my own personal relaxation and enjoyment, and that ability (or trait) has served me well.

I haven’t always been good at practicing self-compassion; in college I almost felt like the pressure I put myself under could have been considered self-injurious behavior. I remember crying from stress and feeling alone. It was awful, and I was resolute in my desire to avoid feeling that way again. I think this is where my capacity for self-compassion originated, and it has served me well.

I am applying for internship this year. I am starting to feel things slipping out of my grasp while I desperately claw at the air to catch hold. Activities related to self-compassion are beginning to fade away and I feel powerless to stop them. The only difference between me and my hapless adolescent self is my increased capacity for self-reflection. (Yeah, I’m in grad school.)

Truthfully, I do credit my graduate training for my increased self-awareness. It’s changed me because it’s encouraged me to critically yet kindly examine the logistics of my behavior. I have confronted difficult self-criticism and rewarding self-realization. I have literally expanded my range and depth of thought. I’m not really sure where I’m going with this except that I think to write it was one attempt at self-compassion. And to entertain the ambivalence about graduate school that I often feel. I don’t know, maybe it was just to see how many times I could use the prefix “self-” in a single blog post.

Election Announcement

Hi All,

We’re very excited to announce that COPAGS elections are right around the corner! We have several positions on our board that will be opening up, so this is a great chance to get more involved with our organization. Positions include Chair-Elect, Diversity Chair, Research Chair, Programming Chair, and Communications Chair. The deadlines for applications is May 15th, so be quick! All that you need to include in your application is your CV and a one-page cover letter. You do need to be a member of CPA to be on our board. You can apply for membership when you apply for the board position, so don’t let that hold you back if you haven’t joined us yet! For more details, check this out: Election announcement

Don’t Be Afraid of Your Anger – Use It

By Shane Saenz

Disclaimer: Opinions and some humor below

My whole life, I have been known as “the nice guy.” There’s nothing more pitiful than being called “the nice guy.” Society taught me at a young age that girls don’t date the nice guy- they settle for the nice guy. For starters, there is the saying that never seems to die: “Nice guys finish last.” Although it has been debunked time and time again, it also seems to arise at the sign of any danger- real or imagined. The current political climate seems to suggest that a person who bullies others and creates an image of himself as someone who does not take flak from anyone is suited to be our President. Although I do not support this abusive platform, it got my wheels turning nonetheless. Is anger always such a bad thing?

I pride myself on only ever getting into one fist fight as a child. There were many opportunities to fight, but I consider myself a pacifist. I do not feel as though I missed an opportunity to get my ass kicked, but I do feel as though I suppressed my anger because I was too nice to fight. I thought to myself, if I was not nice, I clearly had to be angry. Funny enough, I found a job as a bouncer my last couple years of college. (I’m secretly hoping Larry David reads this post and makes a sitcom about me being the world’s first pacifist bouncer.) It was a cool job to say the least. It helped pay the bills, it was a fun place to work, and it served as a great pick-up line. When I tell people now that I used to bounce, I often get chuckles because they “could never see that happen;” I am “too NICE.” Well, it did happen. It was a great job for what it was and I learned a hell of a lot about therapy by working at a college-town dive bar. Although I came close to many altercations, some of which could have been life-threatening, I learned that there is a level of respect (and sometimes anger) that comes with positions of authority. I never really enjoyed monitoring the inside of the bar. It was muggy and loud, and I often felt uncomfortable with so many people surrounding me while they were inebriated. I enjoyed working the door because I could schmooze people as they came in, they often tipped me for being nice, as I was the gatekeeper to the place they all wanted to enter. I “controlled” the entrance to the $2 PBR’s and $3 Margarita slushies. In our position as therapists, we are also perceived as the gatekeepers to what clients want – insight into whatever brought them to therapy. We don’t actually have the answers that they are looking for, but we have the tools to help explore what it is they are seeking.

Anger is always such a touchy emotion to discuss in therapy because it is commonly referred to as a mask for other emotions. As the kids in my socialization group would say, it is the “Anger Iceberg” where you only see a bit on the surface, but there is so much more below. What is wrong with solely being angry? Do we need another justification besides that emotion or are we too subconsciously fearful of being  thought of as being insensitive or malicious? Anger can be relieving. It can be the catalyst to accomplish the thing we said we would never do, and it can also be the spark to change what we need. Anger can be a good thing. The most important question that must be addressed is: where we should draw the line with anger?

Of course, many people take anger too far. We see this as professionals in the field. People are unjustly abused (e.g. physically, emotionally, and sexually), they will use a variety of substances to try and suppress their anger, and others will solely deny any emotions at all. The list goes on and on. In my opinion, there is never an excuse for violently attacking another person. Anger cannot and should not be the excuse to be used for abusing other people. There are too many in-person and online resources that can assist with the control of such blinding temper. However, beyond being psychological professionals, we are also unfortunately human and have the ability to succumb to such debilitating temper.

What can we, as therapists, do about our own anger? I mean, I mentioned that there are countless resources. I personally love Mindful meditation to release anger that is unwanted and it becomes a nice tool for any type of emotion that is sitting with you uneasily. But even after a while, I still have that anger that arises both emotionally and physically. Thankfully, I have a classmate who reached out to me after a particularly anger-inducing day and asked, “Do you want to go hit something?” The answer, of course, was yes. I have collected and held onto so much aggression that it began to impact my work negatively. He showed me some techniques and spent about the next 30 minutes punching and kicking a bag as hard as we could and I do not think I have felt better since becoming a graduate student therapist. All the long hours, the sitting, the emotions, the annoyance. I punched away all the rejections, the “nice guy” comments, and made peace with my anger. I channeled it and released it like Mindfulness teachings expect. So, there you have it; the sage-like advice from this lowly graduate student: go hit something. Or do something within your limits that is physically different than sitting in a chair with one leg crossed over the other, nodding your head, making your face appear inquisitive, and saying “mmhmm” repeatedly. You know, everything you learned in your intro to Counseling Skills course.

Thus, when it comes to anger, use it toward something productive. For my Behavioral folks, consider this an activity more aligned with one’s values. For my Psychodynamic folks, consider this another example of Sublimation. However, in all seriousness, it will be beneficial for you and the clients you work with. After all, we are only human. We are integrated wholes and should not avoid thoughts and feelings that may arise in us as if we are anything more. If you take only one lesson away from this blog post, remember this: temper blocks insight.

The Wait

By Andrea Alvarado

Waiting to hear back from internship sites is really difficult. It’s not the waiting really, but the rejections. Did you know that you could get waitlisted for an interview? If not, now you do. What’s even worse is the waiting for Match

Day and the fate that waits you. This year, Match Day for psychology internships is February 17th. Since I am waiting, I have decided to enlighten you on my experience of the interview process and provide you with some helpful tips.

First of all, just know that you are going to be tired. Traveling to and from your interview sites, all the while maintaining your various jobs back home, will make you exhausted. You may forget what day it is, and even maybe what city or state you are in. I met a few people who had this happen to them. By the end of the interview process most people have the same worn out-always stressed look on their face. Don’t worry, as your regular face will return soon.

During the interview process, make sure to pay attention to how you physically feel at the sites. Are you getting a stressed out feeling from the current interns? Do they seem overworked and too tired to function? When you interview with staff psychologists (who may one day be your supervisors) pay attention to how supportive they feel to you. You will get a flavor of the site and the people who make up the internship. I don’t think this was stressed enough to me. I know that at one site I was nervous the whole time and the interviewers all seemed on edge. At another site, I felt welcomed and relax as soon as I walked in. I personally don’t want to intern at a site that make me feel uncomfortable all the time or that uses me as a work mule. I want a site that will help me grow as a psychologist and will support me in that journey.

You may have to submit to a group interview. I only had one of these, but I thoroughly did not enjoy it. However, you can really see the personalities of people come out. I think I interviewed with 11 other people. We all had to answer and in no particular order. That means that there people who were always jumping to answer first and then there were ones who waited more towards the end. I think it’s best to mix it up and demonstrate that you are well rounded and can lead and follow in a group setting. I found it annoying when an intern candidate would say their answer and the next person would say, “to piggy back off of that…” and then continued to pretty much say the same thing. There were a lot of answers that were just repeats. I think it’s helpful to use real world examples in your explanation. There usually was not a right or wrong answer. The interviewers want to see how you interact in a group and the perspectives you can bring. Some people would also tack on to the end of their answer “and this is why this site is a great fit” or stress that they really wanted the site because it was APA approved. I think mentioning this once or twice is ok. I think it’s better to mention that the site is a great fit in your individual interview.

Now onto clothing. Wear something that is comfortable and professional. However, I found it helpful to put a little personality with my outfit. Many of my interviews I attended seemed like the sites had ordered interview candidates from a factory. Each person wore black slacks, a black blazer, a blouse, and black flats or short heels. Everyone looked exactly the same. Even wearing a gray suit set people a part from the masses. I wore a tie to two of my interviews. I was comfortable and still professional, but I stood out a little bit. Not too much. In one of my interviews, I was complemented on it by the training director as soon we all filed into the conference room.  It was unique but not in a bad way. So find something that can make you stand out a little, but not too much. That can make you memorable. One of my friends was asked during their interview, how the site would be able to remember them from everyone else. Wear something a little unique, or wear a piece of jewelry or clothing item that has a story with it.

My last tip is to make sure you have support. There are so many people that are rooting for me, many of which I did not think would care that much. I keep all of my 4 supervisors informed, as well as my family, close friends, and girlfriend. Even if you don’t want to tell them about the rejections, I found that they help keep my spirits up and encourage me. Especially after I receive bad news.

Overall, I think that applying for APA internships and going through the process has been the most challenging part of graduate school. I hope I have shed some light on the process and hope some of these tips help.

Finding the right place for you

By Hannah Katz

As many graduate students start to interview for internship, others are getting ready to apply for practicum sites, and then there are undergraduate students applying for graduate school or starting to search for schools to apply to next year. With all of these there is a lot that goes into applying. One must think about what they want to get out of the experience. The best advice I was given is find the place that is the best match for you. Looking back at my graduate school experience and my practicum experiences I grew most from the sites that best matched my goals for graduate school. While I certainly learned from the experiences that didn’t match my goals, the experiences that best matched my goals pushed me to grow as a psychotherapist, to think outside the box, to become a better leader, and to leave that experience more developed.

So when you are looking at applying here are some things to keep in mind:

*Did you enjoy your interview/ visit at the school or site?
*Were there faculty or supervisors you felt like you could grow and learn from?
*Did you feel like you could be challenged?
*Does the school or site help you with your career goals?
*Could you see yourself in that site/ city for a year?
*Will the site build my confidence and create a leader in the field?

And most important, could you feel supported in your journey?

Thinking about all of these questions is important. But most important is staying true to yourself. Find what you are passionate about and express that passion. If you are still finding your passion explore as many things as possible.

Good luck to everyone as your approach your next step in your journey to become a psychologist.


One Psychology Grad Student’s Thoughts on Election 2016

By Elizabeth Shum

Disclaimer: these are my opinions and are not intended to offend.

Let me start this post by saying, I don’t consider myself to be politically-minded. In fact, I often find myself confused by American politics and am frequently the person in a group talking politics who nods my head knowingly while secretly wondering what super delegates are. In a sense, this campaign season has been a relief for me. I have been able to reasonably follow the happenings, and have been able to interject my views (at times passionately) into political conversations. On the one hand, I’m grateful that this election has been so straightforward to me (to summarize my views, I hate Trump…for lots a’ reasons.) On the other, I feel as though this race has stripped me of my democratic liberty. I don’t feel like I have a choice: vote for a racist or don’t, that’s my choice.

Again, I want to reiterate that I am not political. I don’t mean for this post to be a declaration of my party values or an invitation for an online debate. I want to jot down some of my feelings about this election, if for no other reason than to have an outlet. Another aspect of my personality that I feel inclined to share is that I do not anger easily, about the political or personal. However, Trump makes me angry. This election makes me angry. And I can’t shake it. I know you don’t know me, but that alone tells me something is wrong.

Trump is a narcissist. You know it, I know it, what else is new? He’s diagnosable. I won’t bore you with the DSM-5 criteria, but he meets them all and then some. And if the DSM included a specifier “with antisocial features” I would throw that in too for good measure. Thinking about what Trump has said about women, Latina/os, and Islam gives me a visceral reaction of hatred, which, like I said, is a feeling that is relatively foreign to me. I grew up believing that America was a utopic melting pot, a place where tolerance and acceptance of differences was the norm (although I become more disillusioned with this conception as I get older, I think many Americans would still paint our country this way despite our various social and political missteps.) Unfortunately, Trump’s nomination as the Republican candidate paints a different picture. Yes, Trump as a candidate enrages me, but he didn’t get to where he is by being unlikeable or by causing the same rage in others that I feel in myself. For many, he is an icon of hope and change, which any presidential candidate should aspire to be. For the life of me I am struggling to understand why.

The conclusion that I have reached is this: Trump is a charismatic (albeit pompous) speaker who has a knack for exacerbating our natural fear of the unknown. By using buzz words and toting traditional American values (think exceptionalism, isolationism, and capitalism), Trump has become for many the potential life raft for a flood he has started. It’s human nature to fear the unknown and to search for answers where there are none. It’s apparent everyday in our attempts to classify each other into racial, sexual, and political categories, and our resistance to the idea that a person does not neatly adhere to our social constructions. As a student of psychology, I get that (or I like to think I do.) What I see occurring with many Trump supporters is a textbook example of cognitive dissonance. People think, “hey this guy Trump has some good ideas.” Cue Trump’s racist and/or sexist comments; person (subconsciously) thinks, “I like Trump, but I don’t feel racist…hmm…discomfort.” The resolution of this conflict results in a person justifying Trump’s behavior and grow in their support of him, unconsciously engaging in a self-sustaining feedback loop of dissonance reduction.

I sound very intellectual don’t I? Thanks, I try. I think another reason for me writing this post is the hope that some other quasi-intellectual comes along, reads what I wrote, and maybe thinks “huh, maybe I should reconsider voting for Trump. I mean, he’s a guy with great hair, sure, but what else does he have to offer besides fear-induced panic? Let me ponder that some more.” That’s the goal. I started this post by saying that I don’t feel like I have a choice in this election. However, there is always the choice to be more thoughtful rather than thoughtless, to be more deliberate rather than impulsive, and to choose one’s own path rather than blindly follow (inspired yet?) If you are a Trump supporter with a logical rationale and a clear vision of how he will serve your needs, more power to you. My only hope is that fear and indifference are not the driving forces behind our votes as young adults, and that we are able to employ careful consideration in how we choose to write our own history.

My Very First External Practicum

Kiersten Eberle

I have officially started my first external practicum (aka ‘externship’ or ‘field placement’). There are a dozen ways to say it, but the deal is as a UNC doctoral student, I am now working off campus at a university counseling center.

First things first – the application process was insanely stressful, probably more stressful than it needed to be because I was coming off of comprehensive exams and awaiting my results throughout the entire process. Shockingly, I was still a bit stressed from that. On top of this, there is no match process for external practicums and this means applications are due whenever, interviews scheduled across multiple months, and offers being made before other interviews may have even been scheduled. But that is a whole other conversation. I want to talk about the other side of the process, the practicum that I got!

I’ll start off with the negatives – because I want to get them out of the way and there are not many. Well really—there is only one. I wake up at 5:30 twice a week to ensure I get to my site on time. I get home those days at 7:30 and proceed to collapse on my couch when I get home. In order to only have to commute two days, it required that I work 10 hours both days. Add to this over an hour of commuting and you’ve got yourself an exhausted grad student who now needs to get some more work done before bed (yeah—that doesn’t always happen). On the other hand, I have my back to sunrise and sunset during both ends of my commute and get a view of the sunrise on the Rockies each morning. It’s the small pleasures.

But I dread winter commuting.

Ignoring the commute and the exhaustion that has become my permanent companion, I love my site. And I’m not just saying it because they could totally find this online by googling my name (Hi!). But there is something truly wonderful about getting off campus, away from the place where I am “student” and “teacher” and “clinician” and “researcher,” and going to a place where I am just … “counselor.” I am part of an amazing team, doing exactly what I’ve been wanting to since middle school – and only that! There are no papers or reading assignments, just work. On top of this, the culture at my site is welcoming and I truly feel like I belong on the team.

There are some things I have learned though, leaving my campus for the first time (like literally, it feels like I never leave UNC!). For one thing, the whole system is completely different. The electronic medical record system is different (and gives me a bit of a headache), the note templates are different, and the session limits and types of sessions you have are new. I am also being supervised by a whole new set of people. There is a difference between changing between professors/supervisors who all fall under the same umbrella and going into a completely new program/system. It feels weird and you are bound to make mistakes—trust me.

Even seeing clients feels different. I never expected to be so nervous for my first client at my external practicum. I have now been doing this for years! And yet, I was sweating and shaking and trying to remember everything I had to ask and do. I was painfully aware of the camera taping me. Yet, thanks to this practicum, I have also already been exposed to clients and presenting concerns I have never dealt with before. And I am learning to work with them in new ways and from new perspectives.

I believe these new experiences have stretched me and challenged me in so many ways. And they will continue to do so as I move through my experience. And it has been completely worth it. It is making me a strong clinician and a stronger note writer J.

The fact is, there is something simply unique about leaving the shelter of your program clinic and entering – for all intents and purposes – the real world. Nothing can mimic the experience gained simply from leaving your bubble. My advice: be ready for the newness, accept that you are going to make mistakes and stumble, and be ready to take feedback. New place, new rules.

Also, make sure you are willing to make the commute you sign up for! And find a good podcast, or six.