Clinical mental health counselors diagnose, treat, and test psychological disorders as well as support and teach clients skills needed for positive behavior changes. According to the 2012 American Mental Health Counselors Association’s (AMHCA) code of ethics “Mental health counselors believe in the dignity and worth of the individual. They are committed to increasing knowledge of human behavior and understanding of themselves and others. They use their skills only for purposes consistent with these values and do not knowingly permit their misuse by others.While demanding for themselves freedom of inquiry and community, mental health counselors accept the responsibility this freedom confers: competence, objectivity in the application of skills, and concern for the best interest of clients, colleagues, and society in general”. They promote clients well-being on multiple levels by providing prevention services and treatments for a wide range of clients in diverse settings (Gladding & Newsome, 2010). According to the AMHCA, “mental health counselors have a primary obligation to safeguard information about individuals obtained in the course of practice, teaching, or research.
Personal information is communicated to others only with the person's written consent or in those circumstances where there is clear and imminent danger to the client, to others or to society. Disclosure of counseling information is restricted to what is necessary, relevant and verifiable”. Another role of mental health counselors would be to actively learn and promote as well as be sensitive to the different cultural, ethnic, and diverse backgrounds of their clients. Continuous education, research, and self-awareness are the competent counselor’s key to effective, safe, diverse, accepting, and empowering counseling treatment and career.
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With the growing diversity of the U. S. population, counselors are increasingly called on to make their services more widely available in racially and ethnically diverse localities. Ethnic and racial disparities in mental health are driven by social factors such as housing, education, and income (Vasquez, 2007). According to Vasquez, providing services to specific populations and building a niche practice can help a counselor remain competitive, gain new experiences and clients, and become recognized as an expert in working with particular populations.
“Developing awareness of cultural values — such as reliance on family support systems, collective decision making, spirituality and respect for peers — is paramount in reaching out to diverse populations. The ability to understand and respect a prospective client's belief system is crucial” (Vasquez, 2007). Cultural factors such as counselors’ gender and office environment (like artwork and furniture arrangement) may have a bearing on the demand for as well as the delivery of services.
Counselor education faculty often urge students to celebrate diversity, but the average student is not equipped with knowledge of the components of the RESPECTFUL Counseling Cube (D’Andrea & Daniels, 2001). These include religion and spirituality (R), economic class background (E), sexual identity (S), psychological maturity (P), ethnic and racial identity (E), chronological stage (C), trauma (T), family background (F), unique physical characteristics (U), and geographical location (L).
Assessing the differing views of the above domains by diverse clients will affect the counseling process and can be used as a guide to accommodate culturally diverse clients. It is time for the counseling profession not only to recognize multicultural and diversity issues, but to develop systematic and practical approaches for helping counselors address and adapt counseling practices with culturally diverse clients (LeBeauf, Smaby & Maddux, 2009).
According to the American Mental Health Counseling Association (AMHCA), Clinical Mental Health Counselors who deliver clinical services must comply with state statutes and regulations governing the practice of clinical mental health counseling and adhere to all state laws governing the practice of clinical mental health counseling. In addition, they must also abide by all administrative rules, ethical standards, and other requirements of state clinical mental health counseling or other regulatory boards (AMHCA, 2012).
Mental health counselors promote clients well-being on multiple levels by providing prevention services and treatments for a wide range of clients in diverse settings (Gladding & Newsome, 2010). The profession of mental health counseling is continuously changing and evolving. Some of those changes are pleasantly welcomed, while others are not so much. Mental health counselors must stay updated, educated, and involved in all aspects of the profession in order to best serve their clients.
State and national policies on mental health counseling are there to protect everyone involved. State policies are designed to regulate the professional practice of mental health counseling. This regulation serves to protect the consumer by ensuring that their rights and dignity are not violated (Ford, 2006). Licensing and credentialing are essential to the profession of mental health counseling (Gladding & Newsome, 2010). Counselors must have the competencies to not only keep up with the constant change in public policies but to fight for the rights of their clients as well.
Mental health counselors must possess a strong desire to help others as well as the ability to inspire confidence, trust, and respect. Wellness and self-care activities are essential to a counselor’s well-being and professional longevity. Knowledge of human behavior, social systems, self-awareness, diversity, and respect for human dignity are all required qualifications of a mental health counselor. Self-awareness is one of the most important qualities and behaviors of an effective counselor because it is a way to explore their personalities, value systems, beliefs, natural inclinations, and tendencies.
To become self-aware is to become familiar with one’s worldviews and is often the first step for many in becoming self-improved through personal goal setting. Self-awareness is also empowering and therefore brings the counselor a better understanding of themselves and their clients. Morrisette (2002) describes how self-awareness impacts the counselor’s identity by helping them understand a myriad of situations from many different perspectives. This understanding enables them to seek out solutions with multiple approaches, and to understand and evaluate the consequences and outcomes of those approaches.
Self-awareness is a critical component to the development and success of a counselor because it the key to ethical decision making in counseling (Remley & Herlihy, 2010). A counselor that is self-aware not only understands their clients but also empathizes with them which in turn helps in building trust and developing a more therapeutic relationship. Clinical mental Health Counselors help clients work through a wide range of personal issues from career changes to relationship problems, anger management, depression, self-image, stress, parenting, addiction, and suicidal thoughts.
They have many different roles and responsibilities that it is almost impossible to identify them all, but most importantly they are obligated to develop and maintain a safe, trusting, and comfortable relationship for their clients at all times in order for the therapy to work. The mission of the American Counseling Association is to enhance the quality of life in society by promoting the development of professional counselors, advancing the counseling profession, and using the profession and practice of counseling to promote respect for human dignity and diversity (ACA, 2005).
I believe that my past experiences, diverse cultural background, and education will play a major role in my success as a mental health counselor. They have equipped me with the necessary tools to be an effective counselor. My familial experiences taught me to appreciate, respect, and love others. My cultural background taught me to never judge a book by its cover and to accept others for whom they are. My educational background in Medicine taught me how the human body works, and especially how genetics plays a major role on the development of the individual.
As a future mental health counselor I would like to help those that have gone through or shared similar experiences as I have. My families’ refuge experience taught me immensely and shaped me into the person that I am today. Some of those life lessons are but not limited to: perseverance, patience, self-efficacy, acculturation, love, forgiveness, cultural diversity, advocacy, and respect for one’s self and others. I view my past hardships and challenges as tools that will guide me to fulfill what may possibly be my calling in life which is to counsel, educate, and empower those that went through similar situations as my family and I did.
I would like to work in a private practice as a family therapist, or a refugee counselor, even for an advocacy group that would allow me to utilize my knowledge in the subject areas of refugee counseling, cultural/ethnic diversity, and immigrant counseling. As a refugee counselor I would not only focus on immigrants' time in the United States, but also on their reasons for leaving their homeland, their experience of migration, their resources to function in unfamiliar environments, and the receptiveness of the new country (both politically and socially) to their presence.
My diverse background, education, and personal experience will allow me to understand and relate to my clients on a deeper level. Sue & Sue (2003) state that in order to be a culturally competent professional, one must first be aware of his or her own values and biases and how they may affect minorities. I believe that my personal life lessons have equipped me with the necessary tools to become an effective and culturally competent mental health counselor. The aim of counseling supervision should be supervision of the counselors own self supervision.
As Confucius said, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you feed him for a hundred years" (O'Hanlon & Wilk, 1987, p. 264). One of the most important qualities that I learned as a result of my family’s migratory experience would be that of self-confidence and self-efficacy. Fostering students’ confidence in their abilities to effectively work with the clients they intend to serve has been a longstanding goal of most counselor education programs (Bernard & Goodyear, 2004; Hensley, Smith, & Thompson, 2003).
In general, those counselors who are more confident in their ability to use their clinical skills in real life settings often provide a higher quality of counseling services to the clients they serve (Barnes, 2004; Bradley & Fiorini, 1999). One of the major approaches often used when investigating the process of gaining competence and self-confidence in particular domains of behavior has been self-efficacy theory (Bandura, 1989).
Also called perceived ability, self-efficacy refers to the confidence people have in their abilities to successfully perform a particular task (Bandura, 1986). Counseling self-efficacy (CSE), according to Larson (1998), is best described as the beliefs or judgments an individual has about his or her capability to effectively counsel a client in the near future. It is an important factor related to the level of anxiety novice counselors experience as well as the amount of effort they put forth to learn advanced counseling behaviors (Larson, 1998).
As a result, some counselor educators and researchers have suggested that increasing counseling trainees’ self-efficacy is a worthwhile training goal (Larson, 1998) and that examinations of this construct should be included in both the research and evaluation of counselor competency and training effectiveness (Yuen, Chan, Lau, Lam, & Shek, 2004). Koob (1998) stated that “Therapist burnout and career changes, even after several years of being a therapist, can be traced back to ineffective supervision and that traditional models of supervision have been ineffective in promoting positive perceived self-efficacy in therapists in training.
Therefore, the lack of self-efficacy greatly impacts the counselor’s effectiveness and competence levels. A supervision model that builds confidence and self-efficacy is needed for counselor success and career longevity. Such supervisory model would be the solution-focused which “emphasizes competence, strengths, and possibilities rather than deficits, weaknesses, and limitations” (Morrissette, 2002). Solution-focused supervision, in parallel with therapeutic practice, is about collaborating in a partnership which pays attention to, and develops, the supervisee's interests, best intentions, and goals for their work (De Shazer, 1988).
Solution-focused supervision focuses on abilities, learning, and strengths that the therapist already has. It also allows the therapist to acknowledge what services work best with their clients such as their skills, abilities, and creative ideas. Another area of strength would be developing the supervisee's preferred future or outcome and collaborating with the counselors and the clients regarding their work together where they focus on the goals and the solutions versus the problem.
It also allows the counselors to take a ‘not-knowing’ position as well as uses scales to measure and develop progress while offering appropriate, evidenced compliments respectfully. On the other hand, solution-focused supervision requires the problem or challenge to be clearly identified in order for it to be successful; must present a problem in order to seek resolution. Identifying the problem sometimes may present challenges to the counselor‘s self-supervision model.
This type of model allows the supervisees to evaluate themselves and identify and improve their own strengths and weaknesses which promote positive behavioral changes. Helping a refuge family of four adapt to their new surroundings is an example of solution focused supervision; guiding them through their acculturation process, where becoming competent of the family’s cultural beliefs, backgrounds, and worldviews through community resources and support groups.
The counselor can research and educate themselves about all aspects of the client’s culture giving the counselor self-confidence to conduct effective counseling sessions. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) defines counselor supervision as: A form of instruction where by a supervisor monitors and evaluates an internship or practicum student’s performance and quality of service provided, facilitating associated learning and skill development experiences (CACREP, 2009).
According to the American Psychological Association, supervision covers a vast and diverse collection of responsibilities, including but not limited to: monitoring, evaluating, instructing, advising, modeling, consulting, supporting, foster autonomy within the supervisee and a responsibility to the patient, profession, system and society. Supervision also addresses legal and ethical issues that may arise, thus further emphasizing the importance of effective training within the mental health profession (www. apa. org).
It is necessary to improve client care, develop the professionalism of clinical personnel, and impart and maintain ethical standards in the field. The quality and focus of supervision may have a direct impact on counselor development, service delivery, and, most important, client care; and therefore should not be taken lightly. Supervision is a key component of counselor growth and ongoing development (Campbell, 2006) and impacts counselors’ attitudes, clinical style, and practice (Allen, Szollos, & Williams, 1986; Magnuson, Norem & Wilcoxon, 2002).
The type of supervision can vary depending on various aspects such as the supervisee’s place of internship and work environment, client population, financial resource, and diversity of clients. What appeals to some supervisees may not appeal to others? Some may not feel comfortable using the solutions focused supervision model as much as I do. This model stresses growth through increasing one’s self efficacy and boosting self-confidence which are vital aspects for me as a future mental health counselor that aspires to work with immigrant and refugee youth self-efficacy is.
Supervision of counselors has been described as an on-going, essential, mutually advantageous, and impossible task (Borders & Brown, 2005; Bernard & Goodyear, 2004; Zinkin, 1989). Counselor supervision has undergone a variety of transformations since its emergence, however, the main goal of supervision remained the same which is to help guide counselors provide a better service to their clients which promotes growth and positive way of living.
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