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Copyright © 2017 Connexion Psychological Practice Ltd.

Training Mental Health Professionals

Mental health is one of the most important components that make up our well being. In our present world however, many people do not know how to manage their feelings. From long work hours causing stressful days, they do not know how to say ‘enough is enough’, or ‘I need a break’. As stress, addictions, and or depression are a cause of many of today’s mental health issues, people still do not know the cure. They have the tendency to hide the matter as it is more convenient to them. Studies show that sixty one million Americans today suffer from mental illness with depression being one of the greatest causes.

 

In this ever competitive and quickly evolving world, we must know how to manage our mental stability in order to keep ourselves away from tragedy. Many people seek the answer to manage their everyday stress and workload and usually turn to medication such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety pills; but that is simply not always the answer.  It is not only people with careers who share this stress, but many university students also share this same kind of battle. From constant papers and reports to be handed in, to midterms, to keeping up with the gpa, students are usually easily mentally beaten by these challenges. All in all, these people who choose not to manage their stress will often eventually have suicidal thoughts as they can no longer bear the constant anxiousness or fear of keeping on top of everything. To prevent this, we cannot always turn to medication, but learning about ourselves more. We should look towards keeping up with everyday habits such as nutrition, lifestyle, and emotional support from family and friends. Medication should always be used carefully according to your own needs. It is important to keep up with life, but most importantly mental health which is the key to our well being and health.

Different ways of managing mental health:

I. Having a healthy diet:

Of course a healthy diet can be good for our physicality, but it is also a very important component of our mental health. Eating and drinking too many sugary foods may cause health problems within the small intestine, while a lack of foods with amino acids can decrease the amount of neurotransmitters, causing depression. It is important to eat lots of healthy foods most of the time such as drinking more water, eating vegetables and fruits, and a healthy dose of meats and carbohydrates. It is the best to keep a healthy diet especially for children as they need a good development of their brains during their adolescence.

 

II. Getting enough sleep:

The problem to many students or workers stress and anxiety is simply a lack of sleep. Depression or anxiety can actually worsen with an irregular sleep cycle which is why we should always manage our schedules right so we can go to bed on time. Without proper sleep, we would always be tired during the day and not have enough energy or even optimism to do things properly such as focusing in class or getting that last job done. Make sure that you get the required amount of sleep every night for at least five days of the week so that you are awake and ready to take on everyday tasks.

 

III. Quality of life

It is important to always re-evaluate how satisfied you are with your life from time to time. Ask yourself if you enjoy your current job, or if you are satisfied with all your relationships from partner to family to friends. Ask yourself if you have met all your current goals and whether you would want to achieve more in the future. Reflection is one of the most important keys to maintaining a healthy mental condition. We should always look back on how we feel about things and whether they feel right. Sometimes this reflection will help push us forward and let us reach hidden feelings and achieve things that we might not have known about before. It will also strengthen our relationships if we feel that they are not strong enough already.

 

IV. Social Support

Having people to rely on to talk to about personal feelings and problems is very important if you don’t want to share your true feelings and problems with everyone. You should always keep a close relationship with friends, family, or people you feel that you can trust to disclose personal feelings to. Many people who are stressed out or feel miserable do not have anyone to talk to about their problems thus it gets worse and builds up inside until they can no longer take it. Letting people know our problems is the best way to feel better about the situation and know that we have someone to go to for advice and help. We are always seeking for understanding and acceptance and this is always the best way to get it. It is also a great way to maintain your mental health so that you do not accumulate negative feelings.

V. Working through your stresses/trauma triggered by your professional work

Work that involves supporting people through difficult times can be highly rewarding — it can also be very exhausting.  It’s not uncommon for support workers to experience their own stress when helping other people through personal trauma. Supporting people who have experienced trauma requires empathy and compassion. The stress and demands of this type of work can become overwhelming and can result in work-induced stress and trauma. The effects of work-induced stress and trauma can also vary from person to person. Some people experience 'burnout' or ‘compassion fatigue’ which may express itself as negativity or disinterest towards clients, or exhaustion. When the symptoms become more severe, it turns into 'vicarious trauma', which can produce nightmares, sleep problems, depression, fearfulness and complete withdrawal, similar to post traumatic stress reactions. If these things are not addressed, they can take have serious effects, both at work and in your personal life.

The effects of work-induced stress and trauma can manifest itself in various ways in the workplace following the symptoms below.  It can be triggered or exacerbated by the work environment. The list is abbreviated as each individual has his or her own reactions, coping skills, as well as work environment:

  • Memory problems

  • Lack of concentration

  • Difficulty retaining information

  • Feelings of fear or anxiety

  • Physical problems

  • Poor interactions with coworkers

  • Unreasonable reactions to situations that trigger memories

  • Absenteeism

  • Interruptions if employee is still in an abusive relationship, harassing phone calls, etc.

  • Trouble staying awake

  • Panic attacks

 

VI. Professional Supervision

It is crucial important to find peer support and clinical supervision to your work with your clients as dynamics of human behaviour can be very intricate and sometimes we may have our own blind spot and may easily got lost in the midst of helping the person. Clinical supervision is emerging as the crucible in which counselors acquire knowledge and skills for the substance abuse treatment profession, providing a bridge between the classroom and the clinic. Supervision is necessary to improve client care, develop the professionalism of clinical personnel, and impart and maintain ethical standards in the field.  In recent years, especially in the clinical supervision has become the cornerstone of quality improvement and assurance.

1. Functions of a Clinical Supervisor

You, the clinical supervisor, wear several important “hats.” You facilitate the integration of counselor self-awareness, theoretical grounding, and development of clinical knowledge and skills; and you improve functional skills and professional practices. These roles often overlap and are fluid within the context of the supervisory relationship. Hence, the supervisor is in a unique position as an advocate for the agency, the counselor, and the client. You are the primary link between administration and front line staff, interpreting and monitoring compliance with agency goals, policies, and procedures and communicating staff and client needs to administrators. Central to the supervisor’s function is the alliance between the supervisor and supervisee (Rigazio-DiGilio, 1997).

As shown in below diagram, your roles as a clinical supervisor in the context of the supervisory relationship include:

 

 

 

 

 

2. Roles of the Clinical Supervisor 

  • Teacher: Assist in the development of counseling knowledge and skills by identifying learning needs, determining counselor strengths, promoting self-awareness, and transmitting knowledge for practical use and professional growth. Supervisors are teachers, trainers, and professional role models.

  • Consultant:Bernard and Goodyear (2004) incorporate the supervisory consulting role of case consultation and review, monitoring performance, counseling the counselor regarding job performance, and assessing counselors. In this role, supervisors also provide alternative case conceptualizations, oversight of counselor work to achieve mutually agreed upon goals, and professional gatekeeping for the organization and discipline (e.g., recognizing and addressing counselor impairment).

  • Coach: In this supportive role, supervisors provide morale building, assess strengths and needs, suggest varying clinical approaches, model, cheerlead, and prevent burnout. For entry-level counselors, the supportive function is critical.

  • Mentor/Role Model: The experienced supervisor mentors and teaches the supervisee through role modeling, facilitates the counselor’s overall professional development and sense of professional identity, and trains the next generation of supervisors.

Developmental Stages of Counselors

Counselors are at different stages of professional development. Thus, regardless of the model of supervision you choose, you must take into account the supervisee’s level of training, experience, and proficiency. Different supervisory approaches are appropriate for counselors at different stages of development. An understanding of the supervisee’s (and supervisor’s) developmental needs is an essential ingredient for any model of supervision.

Various paradigms or classifications of developmental stages of clinicians have been developed (Ivey, 1997; Rigazio-DiGilio, 1997Skolvolt & Ronnestrand, 1992; Todd and Storn, 1997). This TIP has adopted the Integrated Developmental Model (IDM) of Stoltenberg, McNeill, and Delworth (1998) (see figure 2, p. 10). This schema uses a three-stage approach. The three stages of development have different characteristics and appropriate supervisory methods. Further application of the IDM to the substance abuse field is needed. (For additional information, see Anderson, 2001.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is important to keep in mind several general cautions and principles about counselor development, including:

  • There is a beginning but not an end point for learning clinical skills; be careful of counselors who think they “know it all.”

  • Take into account the individual learning styles and personalities of your supervisees and fit the supervisory approach to the developmental stage of each counselor.

  • There is a logical sequence to development, although it is not always predictable or rigid; some counselors may have been in the field for years but remain at an early stage of professional development, whereas others may progress quickly through the stages.

  • Counselors at an advanced developmental level have different learning needs and require different supervisory approaches from those at Level 1; and

  • The developmental level can be applied for different aspects of a counselor’s overall competence (e.g., Level 2 mastery for individual counseling and Level 1 for couples counseling).

If you feel the need of getting more clinical supervision or help working through your work stresses or trauma, please feel free to call us to consult how we can support you further in your professional work: