Welcome back to the Clinicians’ Corner! I am Kathleen Hawks, academic advisor for the CalSouthern School of Behavioral Sciences.
Each installment of the Clinicians’ Corner highlights clinically relevant news of interest to School of Behavioral Sciences learners, faculty and alumni. So come here to stay “in the loop” for any clinically oriented information.
Last month, we celebrated CalSouthern’s 36th annual commencement. It was the most attended ceremony yet! Five hundred-plus guests, graduates, alumni and staff attended to celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates. Student speaker Katheryn Whittaker represented you all so well; she made us all laugh and cry with her inspiring speech. Each and every graduate will be missed, but we know you are going on to accomplish great things. We hope that you will continue to keep in touch with your CalSouthern family. Please give me a call or drop me a line at key points in your journey. I’d love to celebrate your landing that great job, bolster your confidence before you sit for that licensing exam, or simply to be your partner in the “happy dance” at each milestone on your career path. I might even include you in the Clinicians’ Corner!
United States Air Force Chaplain (Lt. Col.) William (Willie) Toguchi, a learner in CalSouthern’s Doctor of Psychology program, was honored this last month for his steadfast service and commitment to his country. Willie joined the Army on, appropriately, July 4, 1969 at the Iolani Palace grounds, Hawaii. He later joined the Air Force where he served as a chaplain. Willie served for a combined 44 years, 4 months between the United States Army and Air Force. He retired on July 1 of this year, with an informal ceremony at the same place where his journey began in Hawaii. Willie is the last Vietnam veteran to retire from active duty! Although Willie is very discreet about his service, we are so proud of him. Thank you, Willie, on behalf of your CalSouthern family and a grateful nation!
Recent CalSouthern MA graduate Veronika Stutz wrote in to recount her practicum experience with Homeless Health Care of Los Angeles:
Los Angeles’s Homeless Health Care (HHCLA) presents an integrated treatment approach, which means that several departments work together to provide drug and alcohol rehabilitation for the homeless “Skid Row” population. The clinic includes in-house social workers, drug and alcohol counselors, case workers, psychotherapists, psychiatrists and a nurse on-staff. Treatment programs are developed and integrated by a multidisciplinary team, and therapists focus on providing therapy in accordance with the client's goals. Paperwork is kept to a minimum and limited to progress notes, which aids in gaining client contact hours.
Homeless Health Care's philosophy is essentially humanistic, and may be summarized by their slogan, "We're meeting you where you are at." Their belief is that the point of relapse—which is part of the process of recovery—is where clients need help the most, and the staff meets them there. Homeless Health Care practices harm reduction; clients are not required to abstain from drug use, but are accommodated in their unique process of recovery. The clinic has four different centers. The needle exchange is modeled on the Netherlands’ approach to drug rehabilitation and is considered very progressive, perhaps even radical, in the United States.
I enjoyed my practicum experience greatly because clients are met with true compassion and empathy. No matter their personal circumstances, the dignity of their person is visibly honored. In this supportive and non-judgmental environment, clients can find refuge from the streets, get clothing and medical services, and safely address their mental health issues without a pending threat of expulsion if they should falter in their process. In my experience, clients responded with gratitude. Most of them eventually commit to the program and when they do, it is rewarding to watch them get back on their feet. In fact, I saw clients weep with gratitude.
This caring and compassionate approach is extended to interns and trainees as well, which is an important part of what makes HHCLA such a rewarding practicum site. Unlike many other facilities, HHCLA does not require a one-year commitment from trainees, but allows trainees to complete their required hours without demanding an additional commitment of unpaid labor. When I needed unexpected time off, I was easily accommodated—this is not the norm everywhere. My scheduling needs were readily accommodated, which is also not the norm (I applied at 29 other facilities!).
My supervisor Rachel Spencer was outstandingly supportive, wise, knowledgeable, nurturing and at times fiercely protective of me, which made navigating the demands of the practicum much easier than it was at a different facility where I first began accumulating my hours. I would wish for everyone who starts out with a bit of performance anxiety to have a supervisor like her.
Internships are paid above the standard of the Department of Mental Health, which further makes HHCLA a desirable placement for internship. HHCLA offers good flexibility and great potential for earning practicum hours. The amount of hours that can be gained during the week is only limited by the availability of supervision. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are group therapy days, during which up to 9 practicum hours can be gained. After that, the influx of clients seeking therapy is very high. On a typical day, three hours of group therapy can be earned, and an additional four clients can be seen afterward.
Unlike at most other clinics, it does not take months to build up a client caseload, since there are many individuals in line for services. I achieved a full client load almost immediately. I would initiate contact with new clients during group therapy, which allowed for rapport building before individual therapy began. In addition to group and individual therapy, there are educational groups such as mindfulness meditation, anger management and parenting or job-hunting skills, all of which are open for trainees to attend and represent yet another opportunity to build relationships with clients.
The engagement process is informal, yet structured, and fosters a sense of cooperation and trust before beginning therapy. As a therapist, there is great flexibility in incorporating varied approaches—I incorporated Gestalt and Rational-Emotive Therapy learned during a previous master's degree. Therapists are not required to practice a given approach. Overall, I highly recommend HHCLA as an outstanding practicum placement.
Have you had an exceptional experience at your practicum or intern placement that you would like to share with others? Please ask your placement for permission, and then email me the information for possible inclusion in an upcoming issue of the CalSouthern Sun!