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PCN-622 Topic 1 Lecture
Practicum experiences in the helping professions are designed to:
The practicum is the pinnacle of the graduate counseling curriculum. During the practicum there will be an opportunity and an obligation to critically evaluate and re-evaluate strengths and weaknesses as well as classroom concepts and theory.
Some programs define “practicum” as a different phase from an internship. These programs often consider the practicum to be field experience which accompanies a clinical course, or alternatively, what Grand Canyon University calls the Pre-Practicum course.
In this Pre-Practicum course, students will:
The degree to which students fully take on clinical functions will vary from site to site. In some site settings, it is anticipated that students in the pre-practicum phase may shadow clinical staff members, or follow along as they perform their duties and assist staff in various regards. Students are not permitted to engage clients as if they are the primary counselor or part of a professional caseload. PCN 622 Typhon Logs Terms Discussion Essay
Thinking About Populations Served
Practicum students should assess their level of competence in working with various populations. This can be approached from two different angles. On one hand, there is the natural tendency to seek out a site setting that best matches interests and motives. Students will be well-advised to broaden and deepen their professional preparation and readiness while at their chosen site.
In considering populations of clients, one important variable is the lifespan (age groups), such as pre-teenager, young adolescent, adolescent, and young adult. These age markers are fairly arbitrary and may not line up with categories at the site setting, or even with a personal understanding of what constitutes, for example, an adolescent or a senior.
Consider populations by problem type. Again, being squeamish and having negative feelings about certain populations is normal. However, negative feelings and attitudes that are not addressed will not help the learning process. Professionals have internalized stigmas associated with certain groups—such as methadone clients—and the recognition of internalized stigmas are the beginning of the professional growth process. PCN 622 Typhon Logs Terms Discussion Essay
Thinking About Modalities and Methods
Sites vary considerably in their focus. Is the focus narrow, dealing with one particular issue (e.g., the Long Island College Hospital Rape Crisis Intervention Program), or broad-brush and general (e.g., the Park Slope Center for Mental Health, an outpatient counseling and psychotherapy site). The types of services your site may provide include screening and referral, information; assessment and diagnosis, case management; crisis intervention treatment modalities, such as individual, group, and family treatment, and/or pharmacological interventions such as methadone and buprenorphine or neuroleptics.
The levels of care provided may include:
In previous coursework, students have learned that theoretical orientations tend to emphasize a particular integrative mix, such as cognitive-behavioral, rational-emotive behavioral therapy (REBT) family systems, or simply an eclectic approach. Students may be confused or have difficulty answering questions about the theoretical orientation of their practice when clinical staff members vary according to their training and their treatment ideology or culture of healing. If the site is not informed to any extent by evidence-based practices, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and the stages of change perspective, it is probably not a very good sign.
Recall that in the case of addictions sites, there will be the influence of at least two kinds of treatment cultures: on the one hand, the mutual-help folk therapies of the traditional American therapeutic community and of the 12-step fellowships of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, and on the other hand, that of various professional counseling and psychology schools of thought. These can be mutually reinforcing and beneficial.
Addictions students in particular should also consider not only the abstract treatment philosophies, but also the level of intensity utilized in the site culture. For example, many drug treatment programs traditionally utilized highly confrontational and harsh methods. Although many of these have been considerably modified and toned down in recent years, some students may not be comfortable with aggressive tactics of treatment providers implement and should discuss any concerns with the site supervisor and the GCU faculty supervisor if necessary.
Experience Training Interns
Hopefully your site has a regular practicum training program that has extensive history of taking bachelor’s and master’s level practicum students. It is certainly a risky gamble to have a supervisor who has no experience in directing students.
Credentials of Field Supervisor
Although GCU has approved your field supervisor’s credentials, it is the responsibility of the practicum student to ensure that the supervisor has met the state requirements for clinical supervisors. States vary widely on supervision requirements. For example, the Texas Administrative Code requires that anyone who begins the supervision of an LPC student must either take a national supervisory exam, a graduate course in counselor supervision, a board-approved continuing education course, or have a doctoral degree in a counseling field. The next module will also delve into the supervisory philosophy and style of your site supervisor. If you change your supervisor after the start of practicum it will be the student’s responsibility to inform and gain approval of the new supervisor from the GCU Office of Field Experience.
It is the responsibility of students to make sure that their placement counts toward state licensure or certification requirements at the master’s level as indicated in the practicum manual.
The Master’s Degree in Professional Counseling at GCU leads to the state professional counseling credential and the national certified counselor credential or master’s level alcohol and other drug abuse counselor (terminology varies). The International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium for Alcohol and Drug Abuse (ICRC) is the consortium of independent state credentialing boards.
The credentialing situation for addictions counselors is evolving. Approximately 17 states have started their own licensure boards. These boards may supersede ICRC affiliate boards, incorporate them in some way, and leave them with only testing and course approval functions or leave the ICRC board to credential addictions counselors at lower than a master’s level. Also, when licensure boards come into being in a state, there is often a grandfathering period during which requirements are waived for some individuals. All of this varies considerably from state to state; as of fall 2008, there was no national consortium or directory of state licensing boards to consult. Therefore, students seeking addictions credentialing need to do some research on what precisely is the status of master’s level addictions credentialing in their state.
This pertains to both the facility and the role played within a facility. For example, some certification authorities will accept hours performed in a site at which the primary purpose is not mental health or addictions counseling, provided that the applicant is performing counseling duties under appropriate supervision (e.g., in a prison or school setting). Alternatively, the certification authorities may not consider the site appropriate as a practicum site because an insufficient level of care is provided at the facility. As an example of the latter, one state did not accept the local branch of the Salvation Army men’s residential care facility (basically a shelter) with minimal opportunity for counseling experience. It is important to keep in mind that sites (including the Salvation Army) may vary considerably as to the level and intensity of services provided. If you have questions or concerns about your site after you have started your practicum, please consult your GCU faculty supervisor immediately.
Prior to beginning your practicum experience, it is important to review the ethical guidelines for your field of study. The best way to stay out of trouble is to rigorously follow the standards of practice set forth for professional counselors and addictions counselors.
During practicum, the student counselor must take special care not to disclose client information. All information provided during the discussion forums or in the portfolio must take care to disguise the identity of clients.
It will be important for the student to review the site procedures for reporting with their clinical supervisor. However, the student should note that the duty to report under state and federal regulations ultimately lies with the student. In the event you are instructed by your site supervisor not to report a client’s actions as it pertains to state or federal law, please consult your GCU faculty supervisor for direction. The student has an obligation to report for the following reasons:
Your practicum is an opportunity to stretch your professional knowledge. Many students will find it helpful to access professional journals, periodicals, and books in order to support continual learning while at their sites. Finally, ask questions. The student is not expected to have the same level of knowledge other seasoned professionals at the site have taken years to obtain.
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