Alumni, Community and Student Engagement Initiatives

About MFT

Death of a Parent in Childhood

One of the most stressful events for a young child to experience is the death of a parent. This type of loss often triggers an intense grief reaction that must be properly worked through in order for the child to continue developing in a healthy way. It is important to understand that there are differences between adult and childhood grief and that each child reacts to grief in his or her own way. Also, parentally bereaved children may exhibit symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in addition to the typical grief reaction; PTSD must be treated before the child can work through the grieving process successfully. Group therapy, camp-based interventions, art therapy, family, and individual therapy are all treatment methods that have been proven successful when working with parentally bereaved children. It is imperative to be aware that not all parentally bereaved children need professional intervention and that exhibiting grief is a natural reaction to the death of a loved one; however, it is also important for parents and therapists to be aware of the warning signs that signal that a grieving child may need professional intervention and increased family support.

Amanda Sperandio is a marriage and family therapy graduate student at Fairfield University.

 


Opening of the Koslow Center for Marriage and Family Therapy Creates Flurry of Activity for MFT Department

April 8th will mark the ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of the new Kathryn P. Koslow Center for Marriage and Family Therapy. Fairfield University President, Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J. will lead the ceremony, which will be followed by an open house and reception.

Through a generous donation by alumna Kathryn P. Koslow ’05, who is also a member of the GSEAP and Marriage and Family Therapy Advisory Boards, the University renovated Southwell Hall and installed state-of-the-art technology to create a new training facility for Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) graduate students. Under the supervision of professional faculty and supervisors, advanced graduate candidates provide clinical mental health services to individuals, couples and families from the greater Fairfield community.

The official opening for the Koslow Center is also getting attention from campus and local newspapers :  http://fairfieldmirror.com/2011/03/16/marriage-and-family-therapy-training-center-brings-opportunities-to-fairfield/), which has produced a steady stream of interest from the greater Fairfield community.

In addition to the activity surrounding the Koslow Center, some marriage and family therapy graduates have been highlighted on campus. The Fairfield University Magazine recently published an article about Loren Smith ‘08 and Michael Becker ’10 integration of the MFT degree and their divorce mediation practices. To learn more about Loren and Michael, you can read the full article at: http://blog.fairfield.edu/magazine/?p=1322


Conversations in Marriage and Family Therapy

Conversations in Marriage and Family Therapy

Date:                    Friday, March 4

Time:                    5-7pm

Location:             Program in Alumni House, reception to follow

Presenter:            Fairfield University Alumna: Trevor Crow

Topic:                   Emotionally Focused Therapy with Couples

Trevor Crow is a Certified Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist.  Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is the only clinically proven therapy for couples.  After 20 years of empirical research, researchers have proven the effectiveness of EFT.  For example, research studies find that 70-75% of couples move from distress to recovery and approximately 90% show significant improvements after receiving counseling from trained Emotionally Focused Therapists.  EFT is based in a clear, well-defined conceptualization of adult love and marital distress.  Research shows that emotionally fulfilling relationships are fundamental components of both physical and mental health and that emotionally focused counseling can re-establish supportive bonds among couples.  Through a structured use of systemic and experiential interventions, EFT allows couples to expand and shift their view of themselves and their partners.

Strengths of Emotionally Focused Therapy

  • EFT is based on clear, explicit conceptualizations of marital distress and adult love. These conceptualizations are supported by empirical research on the nature of marital distress and adult attachment.
  • EFT is collaborative and respectful of clients combining experiential Rogerian techniques with structural systemic interventions.
  • Change strategies and interventions are specified.
  • Key moves and moments in the change process have been mapped into nine steps and three change events.
  • EFT has been validated by over 20 years of empirical research. There is also research on the change processes and predictors of success.
  • EFT has been applied to many different kinds of problems and populations.

Goals of Emotionally Focused Therapy

  • To expand and re-organize key emotional responses – the music of the attachment dance.
  • To create a shift in partners’ interactional positions and initiate new cycles of interaction.
  • To foster the creation of a secure bond between partners.

This is a wonderful opportunity to learn and network – free of charge!

Please rsvp to mftgrad@fairfield.edu or 203-254-4000 x2306

We hope to see you there!


Scary Statistics

The United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, School Crime & Safety Statistics show that

-1 out of 4 children is Bullied.

-1 out of 5 children admits to being a bully, or doing some “Bullying.”

-8% of students miss 1 day of class per month for fear of Bullies.

-100,000 students carry a gun to school.

-28% of youths who carry weapons have witnessed violence at home.

-282,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools each month.

-More youth violence occurs on school grounds as opposed to on the way to school.

-1 out of 5 teens knows someone who brings a gun to school.

-Playground statistics: Every 7 minutes a child is bullied.

-When Bullying behavior is witnessed  adults intervene 4% of the time; peers intervene 11% of the time and 85% of the time there is no intervention.


Networking Breakfast

We are excited to invite you to come to campus for a Networking Breakfast and Meeting with other students, alumni, professionals and the CTAMFT Board of Directors.


Date:   February 11, 2011
Time: 8:30 am – 10:00 am
Place: Alumni House at the Fairfield University
R.S.V.P.: Ada Faugno at
admin.mngr@ctamft.org <mailto:admin.mngr@ctamft.org>  no later than February 8th!

Dorothy Timmerman, CTAMFT Board President, extends this invitation to meet and network with each other and the CTAMFT Board Members:

“You will have the opportunity to hear about some very exciting news about our new website, which we are continuing to expand, the launch of our new Facebook page as a means of communicating with members as well as promoting our field to the public, important legislative updates, information about our Annual Conference scheduled for April 8th, 2011 including the addition of a new Poster Session, and much more. This is also a wonderful opportunity to learn how you can be involved in our Professional Organization in a way that helps you meet your goals.”


Therapeutic Change

Determining the primary mechanisms contributing to therapeutic change is a central topic within marriage and family therapy (MFT), and psychotherapy literature.  The MFT concept of therapeutic change is the transition from a pathological to a functional family system through the therapist’s interventions.  Research studies show virtually every type of psychotherapy, including MFT, has proven to be more effective than no treatment.  Efficacy research demonstrates that although MFT works, we know little about why it is effective.

In the current era of accountability, an adequate explanation of the process and mechanisms that contribute to the complex process of change is particularly relevant.  A main component of accountability in MFT practice is unification within the field on the fundamental question of how the therapy MFTs provide leads to client change.  Determining a common set of factors to explain successful therapy would be a major breakthrough; serving to simplify and focus practice, training and research.  Identifying common ingredients to explain the complexity of MFT practice holds potential to unify competing theoretical schools.

Carissa D’Aniello is a graduate of  Fairfield’s Marriage and Family Therapy Program.


The Importance of Empathy

The marriage and family therapy literature recognizes, almost universally, that empathy is the cornerstone of an effective therapeutic alliance. Empathy is summarized in the literature as the ability to empathize with others: the ability to sense another’s world as if it were their world – a critical process to all human relationships and an essential ingredient. According to researchers, when empathy is operating on three levels – interpersonal, cognitive and affective – it is one of the most powerful tools therapists have at their disposal since it helps clients pay attention and value their experiencing, see earlier experiences in new ways, modify their perceptions of themselves, others and the world, and increase their confidence in making choices and pursuing a course of action. It is the therapist’s ability to ‘reflect’ the experiences of clients then, that helps produce in clients’ self-understanding and clarification of their beliefs and worldviews.


Poverty, Family Stress and Family Therapy

Family therapy researchers and clinicians have demonstrated, for close to fifty years, how increased levels of family poverty lead to increased levels of family stress, which, if not managed optimally through a sound family structure, family resilience, and effective support networks, could contribute to familial and individual dysfunction (Minuchin, 1967; Aponte, 1994; Minuchin, 1998). In the mid to late 1960s Malone (1963) and Minuchin (1967) found that poorly structured disorganized families had children who showed predictors of chronic acting out and impulse disorder (i.e. low levels of frustration tolerance). It is important to note that family structure in the field of family therapy refers to transactional patterns among interrelated subsystems within the larger family system. This definition diverges from the often-utilized conceptualization of family structure, which relies heavily on physical membership of the family system (i.e. single parent family, intact family, extended family, etc.).

Family therapists believe that restructuring a family system will increase the functionality of all members of the system and the system as a whole Contemporary research has validated this belief. For example, there has been extensive research that shows that an optimized family structure has a significant impact in reducing adolescent delinquent behaviors, conduct disorder, and alcohol abuse (Sexton and Alexander, 2003). It has also been found to be effective in decreasing truancy and out of home placements, and increasing school performance (Henggeler, Sheidow, and Lee, 2007). Family therapy interventions have been found to be both effective and efficient in diminishing negative developmental outcomes in minors.


Searching for a Clinical Position- Searching

The day after I posted my last blog, I got a phone call from a friend from school.  “There is a position at my job, I already told the clinical Director about you” she said.   I didn’t even remember telling her that I was looking!  This is what networking is about, letting other people help you in your search.  It works.  So keep it up.  Tell everyone you know!   In addition, try making new connections, reach out and introduce yourself to new people. 

So lets network more indirectly with the internet and search for company advertisements for open positions.   You can begin your search broadly to see what is out in the market or a more narrow focus if you know an exact direction you would like your career to take, for example “only hospitals”.  Taking a broad view here are a bunch of sites that are some of my favorites:

 www.careerbuilders.com

www.monster.com

www.fairfieldcountyjobs.com

www.westchestercountyjobs.com

www.ihiresocialservices.com

www.das.gov

www.yahoo.hotjobs.com

www.craigslist.com

www.aamft.org 

www.indeed.com

There are many titles to search try “clinician, family therapist, therapist, social worker, marriage and family therapist”.  At most sites you can search, set up email alerts to let you know of recent postings and in some places post your resume for employers can search you.   I have alerts coming to my email all the time, even when I am not looking I like to know which employers are hiring.

Lets say you know a particular place you want to work, go directly to that site.  Figure out the management team, see if you know anyone that works there and search for a way to make an introduction through a connection.  Even without a connection still apply.  Most emails are on the website.  Even if they aren’t looking now they may be later or they haven’t advertised yet and you resume came across someone’s desk. 

You recall in my first post, your resume and cover letter may get a 30 second look. When you apply for a position you are thinking of the reader.  You want to make it as easy as possible for them.  If the advertisement states we are looking for X, Y and Z.  Don’t let them try to figure out how you qualify.  In your cover letter you state, here is how X, Y and Z are presented in my resume.  Remember your cover letter is the first impression the company has of you, make it a good professional one.

Reach out to me at the email below with questions/comments or wanting to make in introduction!

Susan E. Kotulsky graduated Fairfield’s MFT program in May 2009 and is currently working per diem for Horizon’s in Bridgeport, CT.  Horizon’s is an inpatient substance abuse facility for individuals with a primary diagnosis of substance dependence.  She is also an HR Consultant and worked in the Human Resources profession for 20 years.  She can be reached at susankotulsky@aol.com.

Searching for a Clinical Position Pt. II

Finished your resume?  I received an email from someone who read my previous blog entry, what a nice feeling it was to be asked a question!  Thank you JD!  I really do welcome your comments/questions.

Now that your resume is ready and you are prepared to provide it when opportunity knocks, what steps do you take to begin to search for a new job? First step, tell everyone you know that you are looking for a new opportunity.  Everyone? You think.  But not everyone I know is in the mental health field? Is your second thought. The book the Tipping Point, by Malcom Gladwell describes the statics that most people have about 180 social connections and we know everyone else by six degrees (the study Six Degrees of Separation in 1967) or six human connections.  Another known statistic is you often get a position through networking more frequently rather than by responding to advertisements.  Therefore, you want to get your network of people you know informed that you are seeking new opportunities.

How do you inform them?  Do you have a facebook account? Linked in?  Create them.  Call people.  Email. Reach out to everyone letting him or her know and also letting them know you are available to assist them should they need it.  You are looking for introductions, them keeping you in mind should they hear of an opportunity or pointing you in a direction. In the book Networking Magic by Frisman, (2004), the art of networking is examined more closely.  It is really a life long skill.  Some important items on the checklist from the book are as follows:

Believe it will work

Make a strong first impression

Network those you emulate

Talk to everyone you meet. 

Be genuinely friendly. 

Be willing to help.      

Be prepared.

Bring value.

Be honest, courteous and fair.

Follow-up.

Keep referrers informed.

Do you know and believe the value you bring to a company?  Review your resume and be able to speak about the value you bring to an organization.  Can you articulate your talents, skills and values.  It’s harder than you think.  Practice. I stopped for a moment and updated my facebook and LinkedIn status to tell people I am looking for a part time clinical opportunity.  Then I am going to write individual emails to everyone.  What are you going to do?  Remember I am here to help you, contact me at my email below.

Susan E. Kotulsky graduated Fairfield’s MFT program in May 2009 and is currently working per diem for Horizon’s in Bridgeport, CT.  Horizon’s is an inpatient substance abuse facility for individuals with a primary diagnosis of substance dependence.  She is also an HR Consultant and worked in the Human Resources profession for 20 years.  She can be reached at susankotulsky@aol.com.

Congratulations to the MFT Profession!

Marriage and Family Therapy was voted one of the 50 best careers in 2010 by US News and World Report! Obviously others have discovered what we already know. Click the link below to read what USNews & World Report had to say about the benefits of becoming an MFT.

http://www.usnews.com/money/careers/articles/2009/12/28/marriage-and-family-therapist.html


Searching for a Clinical Position

If you are like me, you are excited about 2010.  At new beginnings, people often think of resolutions.  If one of your resolutions involves a career goal, this article is for you!  I am writing a series of articles to provide you with tips on finding that new clinical position, as I look for an additional one myself. 

 

Let’s begin with our resume.  Is it up to date?  Your resume is a marketing tool that represents YOU as the product.  It has been said that hiring managers and/or HR will give your resume less than a 30 second look.  You need to make those seconds count.  There are plenty of resources online and at the library for more detailed explanations on each section but for the most part your resume should have the following:

 

Contact Information, Objective or Summary Statement, Education and Training, Experience, Skills.

 

Optional: Activities, Organizations, Honor and Awards

 

Once you have put it together.  Take a step back and look at it through a different lens, this time how it looks not the words. How is the format? How is the appearance? Does it look balanced on the page? Can someone scan it and pick up important elements?  As a recent graduate your resume should be one page, more seasoned therapist two pages.  Never more than two pages!  Print it out to be sure. Check your spelling and ask others to proof read it for you.   Your resume will evolve overtime and you may consider several different resumes based on the position you seek.   

 

Make a commitment to sections at a time. It may seem a daunting task but you have and will have more challenging tasks.  If you need assistance or someone to proof, feel free to send it to me at the email address below.

 

When you are confident your resume is a strong reflection of YOU, you can begin the search!  More on the search next time…

Susan E. Kotulsky graduated Fairfield’s MFT program in May 2009 and is currently working per diem for Horizon’s in Bridgeport, CT.  Horizon’s is an inpatient substance abuse facility for individuals with a primary diagnosis of substance dependence.  She is also an HR Consultant and worked in the Human Resources profession for 20 years.  She can be reached at susankotulsky@aol.com.

 

 

 

 


The Holiday Blues

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”  For many the holiday season ushers in excitment around family gatherings and traditions; however for many others those same thoughts bring reminders of loss, traumatic experiences, grief and seasonal depression.

When working with this population it is important to support clients in managing their symptoms. Clients who struggle with low or moderate levels of depression often decompensate to becoming severely depressed during the holiday season. Helping clients to anticipate and visualize the difficult moments or events that they may face during the holiday season and working them to develop coping strategies for getting through them is an invaluable intervention. Often clients will be empowered to move through those difficult moments with more confidence as they can use those coping strategies to help get through them.

For other clients, overwhelming female, seasonal depression has nothing to due with loss or trauma and may be related to their body’s natural chemical makeup. According to the Mayo Clinic, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can be caused when reduced levels of sunlight interrupt the body’s internal clock or “ circadian rhythm” and create feelings of depression. Other causes include a disruption in Melatonin levels caused by the change of seasons as well as a drop in Serotonin levels which can result from reduced amounts of sunlight.  The most common treatment for SAD is light therapy, psychotherapy and medication in some combination. More information about SAD can be found on the Mayo Clinic’s website at the following link http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/seasonal-affective-disorder/DS00195.

Whatever the form, seasonal depression is no less debilitating or dangerous than depression at any other time of year; many would argue the very opposite. As many agencies close around the holidays, leaving clients with less access to their clinicians, it is all the more important to start working with them early on their coping strategies. Make sure they are compliant with their medication and that they have enough refills to get them though to their next medication management appointments. Preparation  and helping to manage clients’ expectations can be surprisigly effective in helping depressed clients make it through the holiday season closer to their baseline levels of functioning rather than in the hospital. For many of the clients that we work with that’s a huge win.


Building a Private Practice

Going Solo / Part 4: The Therapist/Entrepreneur

Great! You have the desire, the vision and the plan to create your own practice, but where do the clients come from?

A pretty office is great, but it’s better if it’s filled with clients. Networking is key, but where, with whom? Remember that key I gave you 2 weeks ago, shameless self-promotion? Well here we go. The number one mistake that companies make is that they have an initial flood of “pressing the flesh” and networking, resulting in some new clients, and then they stop.

Law #1: You Are Never Done.

Every place you go, every person you meet, every gathering of your potential client profile is a mandatory for promotion. Put business cards up in the local supermarkets and restaurants, and replenish them regularly. Have cards with you at all times, you never know when someone you meet might know someone who needs a therapist. Be proud. Be proactive. You will not shrink your way to greatness (or self-sufficiency).

Katherine Allen is a graduate of Fairfield University’s MFT program. She has worked in several agency settings; namely FSW Bridgeport, Family & Children’s Agency in Norwalk, and Family ReEntry in Norwalk and Bridgeport. Katherine also brings 16 years of leadership, advertising and design experience to her private group practice, Marriage & Family Therapy of Trumbull (MFT3) http://www.mft3.com. Check out the blog at http://blog.mft3.com.

You can find Katherine on LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/in/katherineallen), PsychologyToday.com, Twitter (@mft3), Facebook (katal1967), and Social Networking for Therapists and Mental Health Professionals (http://marketing4therapists.ning.com/). She is a member of Ladies Who Launch, Fairfield County. Katherine has appeared on WGCH 1490 AM on the “One Smart Mother” show (http://blog.mft3.com/2009/08/04/domestic-violence-info/) and will be a guest again on September 29, at 9am.

Contact Katherine at k@ktherapy.com if you’d like her to consult with you in opening or building your private practice.

 

 

 

 


Building a Private Practice

Going Solo / Part 3: Your Practice’s Business Plan

Business plan? Remember: this isn’t a lemonade stand, this is your livelihood, your career.

Now that you’ve decided that you’re ready to create a practice, have talked to just about everyone who will lend an ear, and have all of the “nuts and bolts” taken care of, just what does this “company” that I am creating need?

It needs a path. Like all paths, it will have twists and turns, blind spots and dips, but having a comprehensive future-looking plan will help weather those dips and rough spots. It will need to detail the financial aspects of the company, the practical things like rent and phone but also soft costs like water bottles for the reception area and cleaning services (once you are so busy you can no longer do it yourself). It will keep your vision focused, your mission clear. It will let you set and then measure goals and benchmarks to track your growth and progress.

Here are some great resources to get started:

Online tips and templates: http://www.bplans.com/

SCORE: http://www.score.org/template_gallery.html

Small Business Administration: http://www.sba.gov/smallbusinessplanner/

And my favorite, the “Business Plans Kit for Dummies”: http://tinyurl.com/bp4fdummies (currently available on Google Books)

A business plan is a fluid and dynamic document, once you are up and running. Until then, it is the guide to make sure that you are clear and unemotional in your purpose and direction. Be it a solo venture or a group practice, a business plan is a necessity.

One last note, how comfortable are you with money? Are you comfortable in knowing that your service is of value and worth the money you are asking to be paid? This can be a real hurdle for some therapists. Your training makes you an “expert” and therefore worthy of financial compensation. Set your fees and stick to them.

Tune in next week for the final segment, Going Solo / Part 4: The Therapist/Entrepreneur

Katherine Allen is a graduate of Fairfield University’s MFT program. She has worked in several agency settings; namely FSW Bridgeport, Family & Children’s Agency in Norwalk, and Family ReEntry in Norwalk and Bridgeport. Katherine also brings 16 years of leadership, advertising and design experience to her private group practice, Marriage & Family Therapy of Trumbull (MFT3) http://www.mft3.com. Check out the blog at http://blog.mft3.com.

You can find Katherine on LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/in/katherineallen), PsychologyToday.com, Twitter (@mft3), Facebook (katal1967), and Social Networking for Therapists and Mental Health Professionals (http://marketing4therapists.ning.com/). She is a member of Ladies Who Launch, Fairfield County. Katherine has appeared on WGCH 1490 AM on the “One Smart Mother” show (http://blog.mft3.com/2009/08/04/domestic-violence-info/) and will be a guest again on September 29, at 9am.

Contact Katherine at k@ktherapy.com if you’d like her to consult with you in opening or building your private practice.

 


Building a Private Practice

Going Solo / Part 2: Introduction to Practical Aspects

So you’ve decided that indeed, you are ready to go into private practice. You need to be concerned about the nuts and bolts of business… just because you’re a therapist doesn’t mean that you’re insulated from the concerns of any entrepreneur. You’ll need an office, a telephone number, a web site, and most importantly, a strategy to promote yourself.

You will need to become comfortable with shamelessly promoting yourself and your therapy practice. When you’re on your own, you will quickly realize that, unlike working in established agencies that insulate you (as a therapist) from marketing concerns, you’ll now be doing all of this yourself.

And what about insurance? Liability? Supervision? Marketing? Advertising? All of these should be covered in your business plan. Business plan? Yes: this isn’t a lemonade stand, this is your livelihood, your career (tune in next week for more on that).

Next begins the task of setting appointments and viewing office spaces. Price-per-square-foot, triple-net vs. gross leases (typically a minimum of 5 years) are all terms that you will need to become comfortable with. We lost 2 spaces before we secured the one we have – be ready for change and disappointment.

During this time, keep developing your business plan. As the details flesh out around time commitment, niche, space and financial needs and limitations, you will be better able to assess the appropriateness of the spaces you are seeing. Do you need a group room? A one-way mirror? A reception area?

You’ll probably be establishing a limited liability company (LLC) for your business, creating NPI and tax ID numbers, and insulating your personal finances from risk should your venture fail (it happens).

And finally, you need to promote the business. A web site is a must, but worthless if nobody knows about it. Your marketing plan should include a budget for developing the site, a budget for business cards and brochures, fliers, ads, radio. Also, prepare some free seminars and workshops, to put you in front of your potential client base.

Tune in next week for Going Solo / Part 3: Your Practice’s Business Plan

Katherine Allen is a graduate of Fairfield University’s MFT program. She has worked in several agency settings; namely FSW Bridgeport, Family & Children’s Agency in Norwalk, and Family ReEntry in Norwalk and Bridgeport. Katherine also brings 16 years of leadership, advertising and design experience to her private group practice, Marriage & Family Therapy of Trumbull (MFT3) http://www.mft3.com. Check out the blog at http://blog.mft3.com.

You can find Katherine on LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/in/katherineallen), PsychologyToday.com, Twitter (@mft3), Facebook (katal1967), and Social Networking for Therapists and Mental Health Professionals (http://marketing4therapists.ning.com/). She is a member of Ladies Who Launch, Fairfield County. Katherine has appeared on WGCH 1490 AM on the “One Smart Mother” show (http://blog.mft3.com/2009/08/04/domestic-violence-info/) and will be a guest again on September 29, at 9am.

Contact Katherine at k@ktherapy.com if you’d like her to consult with you in opening or building your private practice.

 


CTAMFT is Seeking Committee Members!

The CTAMFT Membership committee is looking for people who are interested in marketing, advertising, blogging, or people who are simply interested in getting involved to join the Membership committee!

The goal of the membership committee is to increase our membership (our aim is by 10% this year) and to create and foster community  within and among our members. Achieving this goal can take many forms and we are looking for a dedicated and creative group of committee members from across the state to help facilitate this effort.

If you are interested in becoming more active in ctamft and would like to participate. Please send an email to the BOD Membership committee liaison at ctamftadmin@gmail.com.


Building a Private Practice

 Katherine Allen, M.A.

Going Solo / Part 1: Am I Ready?

When I was completing my MFT studies at Fairfield, I thought I was going to graduate, sharpen my therapy skills with <sigh> maybe an entry-level job and then—watch out world—private practice here I come! Yes folks, as you may have guessed, that was a rose-colored view… after two years doing less-than-glamorous but important agency work, I knew I was ready to move on.

So, how will you know when you’re “ready”?  The 2-year rule of thumb is certainly reasonable. It’s the same kind of advice we give our clients when they encounter a life-changing event. In that time, you will probably have accumulated enough experience, created a large enough network of colleagues, received some extra training and honed your personal style enough to do it.

Let’s say you’re ready to go solo. Now what? You’ll be on your own: how will clients find you? Where will they come from? And, ironically, as clients succeed and move on, how do you replace them? Do you sublease in an established group? Build your own group? Hang out a solo shingle?

I recommend first assessing how much you know about the other practices out there. Which ones A) do you know and readily can list, B) have you been to and have a feel for the environment, and C) are doing well, at least in your perception.

Then I would assess your own personal needs and comfort with risk. Do I need a full-time salary? Do I need health benefits? Am I a good self-starter, organized and able to multitask? Do I need to work part-time and still build a private practice?

In building Marriage & Family Therapy of Trumbull (MFT3), many months of work went in before we started. Be ready for course corrections and unforeseen circumstances. But were we ready? Mostly. Were we a year before? No way. Do we leverage every available asset, i.e., the skills of our friends, family, and colleagues? You bet. Do we have sleepless nights? Not as many as we had 6 months ago!

I personally wouldn’t trade it for anything. But I also know beyond a shadow of doubt that I am better for all of the experience I gained prior to opening MFT3.  We’re a better team, and our clients are getting better clinical care because of the tough post-graduation experience, as well as the planning that went into building the practice.

Tune in next week for Going Solo / Part 2: Introduction to Practical Aspects

Katherine Allen is a graduate of Fairfield University’s MFT program. She has worked in several agency settings; namely FSW Bridgeport, Family & Children’s Agency in Norwalk, and Family ReEntry in Norwalk and Bridgeport. Katherine also brings 16 years of leadership, advertising and design experience to her private group practice, Marriage & Family Therapy of Trumbull (MFT3) http://www.mft3.com. Check out the blog at http://blog.mft3.com.

You can find Katherine on LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/in/katherineallen), PsychologyToday.com, Twitter (@mft3), Facebook (katal1967), and Social Networking for Therapists and Mental Health Professionals (http://marketing4therapists.ning.com/). She is a member of Ladies Who Launch, Fairfield County. Katherine has appeared on WGCH 1490 AM on the “One Smart Mother” show (http://blog.mft3.com/2009/08/04/domestic-violence-info/) and will be a guest again on September 29, at 9am.

Contact Katherine at k@ktherapy.com if you’d like her to consult with you in opening or building your private practice.

 

 

 


Licensing Exam Hell…the conclusion

Several weeks ago I posted about a friend’s torment leading up to and then following the MFT licensing exam. After having to wait a miserable 45 business days she was stunned to learn that she had indeed passed! Of course her excitment was mitigated by the news that her close friend and study partner who along with her had studied and toiled for many months  to prepare for the exam, had failed by less than 10 points. This was devestating news for both women as well as to all of the people who were cheering them on and assurring them that their worst fear would likely never be realized… myself included.

Silver Lining…

I hear that my friend’s study partner has re-grouped and will take the exam again in September knowing that she now has the advantage of having been exposed to the exam and the way that the questions are posed (which is no small thing!)  She’s also more relaxed realizing that her worst fear has already happened. Onward and upward,  that’s all that’s left!


In Their own Words…

Tiffany Harris

I’ve always known that I wanted a career that not only allowed me to interact with other people, but at the end of the day, left me with the feeling that I’ve made a small difference. As a graduate student of this program, I have to be honest and admit that I was very nervous my first semester. Looking around each classroom made me very aware of the qualities that made up my minority status: I was fresh out of undergrad, young, and bi-racial. I was concerned about my own capabilities and began to wonder whether I put both feet in the water too early. My peers and professors noticed the same qualities that I saw myself, and they probably don’t know this, but they helped me see that these same traits can be both benefits and liabilities. Through courses such as ethics and pre-practicum, I feel very prepared for instances in which my experience or age may be questioned.

Working at the Stamford Counseling Center has been a great experience for me. I couldn’t ask for a better way to attain diversity and variety amongst my cases. Working in their probation program has taught me an enormous amount of patience. While many of the clients are mandated by their probation officers to attend therapy, I quickly learned that this doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be present. Thus I make sure that I always have phone calls to make or paperwork to do in case a client does not show up. I’ve also developed relationships with the probation officers, and have been educated on some of the actions that are taken once a person is arrested and on probation. The biggest challenge that I have had at my site, is encouraging probation clients to bring other family members into the therapy room. However, I continue to persevere and use some of the techniques that have been given to me by my professors and my colleagues.


With Experience Comes Professional Confidence

I’ve been working with a couple lately that I’m really enjoying.  They’re a young attractive couple with two young children and when they first came for therapy it seemed that there was very little hope for their marriage. Of course it’s never enjoyable to see people in pain or on the edge of divorce, but I think what I’m enjoying  is feeling very competent and knowledgeable in working with them and designing interventions and homework assignments that so far seem to be working and receiving positive feedback from the clients.

As a student  I remember asking a professor about how long post master’s degree it would be before I really felt like I knew what I was doing? She said about three years and that feels about right. What is reinforced in my work every day is while every individual, couple and family are different, people are generally longing for the same things… to be heard and understood, to be validated and valued, to have meaning and purpose in their lives, to feel special, wanted and safe.

Many people marry the person they believe understands and values them the most, but by the time they seek out couples therapy they are often disillusioned and lonely. In my experience with couples, the ones that fare best are the ones where each member of the couple is willing to own their role in creating their circumstances, is willing to risk being hurt in the positive pursuit of a more fulfilling relationship, and is willing to re-negotiate long held beliefs or expectations about how their relationship or their partner “should” be.

Very often couples therapy gets a bad rap, but when an experienced clinician meets a willing couple and it works, it really works and few professional outcomes are more gratifying.


Licensing Exam Hell

I recently spoke with a friend who’d just taken the MFT licensing exam. Having taken it already I gave her my study materials and my insights into the domain areas and the way that the questions were worded (that I could remember) in her preparation for the exam. After countless hours of preparation, trepidation and angst, she took the exam and was devastated to find that she felt completely ill prepared. She’d known someone who had failed it by one point and was petrified of having the same fate. Worse, she felt that she likely could have put in one quarter of the preparation time and done just as well (that remains to be seen). After finishing the exam she was an emotional wreck, angry, defeated, and despondent at the prospect of waiting the 45 torturous business days before getting the results. When I spoke with her a few days later she had largely recovered but felt strongly that the exam was in no way a reflection of her abilities as a clinician and that under no circumstances would she take it again if she didn’t pass. Having been in the very same place less than a year earlier I completely understood where she was coming from, I too had been an emotional wreck after taking the exam; so I said to her what I’ve said to each of my friends who have left that exam devastated and believing that they had failed. The exam is not designed to test our knowledge, it is designed to test our application of that knowledge in real life situations. The licensing exam experience is a parallel process, it leaves us unsure, confused and questioning whether or not we did the right thing; emotions we often experience when working with clients. I also told her that everyone that I know passed the exam despite having a similar experience. Of course she won’t rest until she learns her fate, but my education at Fairfield prepared me well for the exam, after that your guess is as good as mine.


2009 Consortium Conference

Dan Hughes, PhD, spoke at the Southwest CT Regional Consortium conference on May 8. His topic, attachment-focused family therapy, uses attachment research theory to build parent-child bonds to “co-regulate” affect, integrating traumatic history and building an ongoing template of safety and exploration. Therapist stance with both children and parents is “playful, accepting, curious and empathic.” He ended his talk with a quote from the Inuit storytelling tradition ” To love a child is to learn the song within their heart and sing it back to them when they forget it.” Hughes is based in Pennsylvania and has written several books that bridge psychodynamic and relational principles.

For more information about Dan Hughes you can visit his website at http://www.danielhughes.org/


Mindfulness in Family Therapy Workshop

Fairfield University is pleased to offer the latest in a series of workshops for Human Service Professionals:”Cutting Edge Approaches: Mindfulness in Family Therapy” on May 29, 2009 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00p.m. Dr. Eric McCollum of Virginia Tech will conduct the workshop which will introduce therapists and educators to the concept and history of mindfulness, aspects of its Buddhist roots that are being integrated inclinical and educational models, its research base, and specific implications for utilization. Particular attention will be paid to the benefits of therapists’ and educators’ own practice of  mindfulness to ground their professional work. Participants will have ample opportunities to learn and practice a variety of mindfulness techniques. Friday, May 29, 2009 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Kelley Center Presentation Room Cost: $100 (professional) $65 (student) 6 CEU’s – MFT

Hope you can join us!

 MFT Mindfulness flyer 09_2.pdf?(146KB)?