Topic 1: Your Career after Graduation and Licensure {by 5/31}

Based on last week’s readings (5/24) and the topics for this week’s class (5/31) consider the following two discussion points: (1) What are your initial thoughts and feelings when you think about your next professional/career steps after graduating? (2) Simply share any thoughts or concerns you may have about obtaining licensure (e.g., licensure exam, application) as a mental health professional.  Please see the three links under “LMHC Prep” on my website homepage – bottom of right-hand column.  Also, please review (and print if you want to review in class) the “Regulating Mental Health Service Delivery” documents under “Class Handouts.”  Your original post should be posted by the beginning of class 5/31.  Post your two replies no later than 6/2.  *Please remember to click the “reply” button when posting a reply.  This makes it easier for the reader to follow the blog postings.

17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Allison Shea
    May 30, 2018 @ 16:35:48

    1.) After reviewing last week’s readings and the handouts for this week’s topic, I have some ambivalent feelings about my next career steps after graduation. I feel anxious about not knowing where I’ll be in just a few short months. Bolles’s first chapter talks about how it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to get a job. He also discussed how it’s important to know oneself when applying for jobs. I’m getting a lot of questions from family members and friends as the program gets closer to an end about what population and setting I’d like to work with. I don’t feel like I have a set idea about where I’d like to work. I’m not sure if this not knowing is normal since I don’t have experience at multiple settings, or if Bolles would say that it’s a lack of awareness. I do know that wherever I end up, it is important to me to have a good CBT supervisor. At my internship this year, my initial supervisor left after Practicum, leaving 6 interns without a permanent supervisor for a period of time. Continued supervision after graduation and hopefully consultation with other clinicians is something I’m looking forward to. Besides feeling anxious, I do feel excited about being out in the field. I feel ready and think this program has prepared us to do good work with empirically supported treatments.

    2.) A concern I have about the licensing exam is getting used to the question format of the test. I’m nervous that I’ll do a lot of second guessing on the exam knowing that there could be several right answers for a given question. After looking over the handouts with licensure information, I found a website that offers some practice questions. Even though I felt confident doing these practice questions, my score came back that I had failed. I realized after practicing that it’s important to consider each answer rather than just selecting the ideal answers. After I figured this out, I took another set of practice questions and passed which lowered my anxiety about the testing format. In addition, a practical concern I have about the test is wondering when the best time to take it is–early or late in the 2 year period following graduation? I’ve heard varying opinions about this question. Besides the exam, going through the licensing application in general was a bit overwhelming since there are so many parts. Again, I’m hoping to have a good supervisor for my post-graduate hours for some guidance on the application.

    Reply

    • William Nall
      May 31, 2018 @ 12:00:21

      Allison,

      I’m empathetic towards your current supervisor situation. I think I would be a bit stressed out if I was you as well.Supervision is integral to the growth of any professional and having a good CBT supervisor is a concern of mine as well. After hearing a lot of the “fake CBT” people out there it makes one wonder how to spot the fakes. I think continuing to have a CBT supervisor is necessary to be an effective counselor and it would be a shame to find a job you are excited about only to find out your supervisor is unaware of the principals of CBT.

      PS. I think it is normal for us to fail our first practice exam for the LMHC. I currently think I would not pass, but that’s why we get a bout 2 years to prep, right?

      Reply

    • Liz Bradley
      May 31, 2018 @ 12:23:37

      Allie,
      I definitely relate to the anxiety you are feeling about not knowing where we will be in a few months! Particularly when thinking about the student loans that will be coming due shortly thereafter…. ($$$!!!) I do think it’s pretty normal to be unsure of where your best fit will be. We are all so early in our careers still that I think it’s pretty normal to still be working out what each of our niches are. You really persevered throughout your internship when you were left without a permanent supervisor for so long, so I have confidence that you will succeed no matter the odds you face in the months/years to come. The supervisor I have been working with at Lahey has been vital for me in navigating the tough scenarios; so I definitely agree that making sure you have a good supervisor at your future job is really important.

      In terms of your comments about preparing for licensing, I have had the same question in regards to the best timing for taking the exam. My initial thought is that I want to get it out of the way, and I also want to try to take the exam while my brain is still somewhat in “academic mode.” But I am looking forward to hearing others’ opinions on this as well. I also agree that the licensing application is pretty overwhelming to sift through initially. I definitely feel a lot of anxiety about making sure I don’t mess up the application!

      Reply

  2. Tinh
    May 31, 2018 @ 10:18:45

    1. I feel a little scared when I think about my next career steps after graduating. I am still not sure what direction I really like to go. Being a full time employment is very different from being a full time student! Searching for a job that fits my interest can be challenging. My first step is to be patient and to be prepared, especially if my job may not involve my major in a major way! Bolles (2017) gives me hope. As he suggested in his book, I feel that knowing who I am, what I like and do best, and what enables I to do my best work are some important steps that I should not ignore when I begin my new career. Even though starting my career after graduation can be challenging, I somehow feel excited to go forward.
    2. I feel that steps to obtain a licensed professional counselor seem complex. As a student who is soon going to gratuate, I feel overwhelmed with the required steps toward licensure and in what order to approach these steps. Each state has its own requirements for mental health counselors to obtain licensure. Some states have similar requirements while other states may be different. Taking a licensing examination and fulfill a supervised practice requirement are some of my challenges. As an international student, I am also aware that obtaining licensure as a mental helath professional in my hometown is entirely diffrent from the U.S. Even though they provide some ncessary information regarding their requirements to practice as a counselor, the material can however often times be tricky to find.

    Reply

    • Allison Shea
      May 31, 2018 @ 20:19:43

      Tinh,

      I also have mixed feelings about our next career steps–scared as we don’t know where we’ll end up but also excited! You made a similar point as I had regarding Bolles’s discussion. We need to be aware of our own likes and dislikes during our job search. When we first graduate we might not get to be as selective about where we want to work. However, knowing ourselves is still important as we sift through job postings. It may not be as challenging to find a job than it is in other fields, but it’s probably still challenging to find a job that matches our interests. I agree with you also that the steps for licensure seem overwhelming. You make a good point that it is important to be aware of the licensing requirements in each state. I eventually want to get licensed in Rhode Island as well as Mass. I can’t imagine being in your position and going to another country to practice what you’ve learned here in the U.S. I was so impressed by you in class as you talked about the stigma of mental illness in your own country and how you want to go back and do your work there.

      Reply

    • William Nall
      May 31, 2018 @ 20:56:29

      Tihn,

      I think you make a really good point about being patient. To be honest with you, patience has never crossed my mind when the thought of “choosing a career after school” comes up. However, after hearing you stating it I think it is an important aspect in this decision process. As I would like to jump start into the field, being patient will allow me to weigh options more critically and make decisions more effectively. I thank you for bringing up this concept.

      Reply

  3. William Nall
    May 31, 2018 @ 11:54:36

    1. My initial thoughts about the next steps about graduating are “am I going to do this right?”. I have faith in my training and knowledge that I have acquired but have anxiety about making the correct professional decisions for myself. My first concern is will I pick the correct job after graduating? From what I have heard, each site has many different nuances in treatment, supervision, and payment plans. Being able to weed through each position and decide which one is best suited for me will be challenging because I myself am not sure of what is best for me. Also, after reading Boles I felt a bit surprised about just how difficult it was to find a job. Although, the chapter seems to be tailored to those who are uncertain of their career, after reading the chapter I felt confident in my ability to sell myself to jobs given our specificity. Another thought that elicits some worry is being “stuck” in a certain population. For example, my internship way in working with adults with schizophrenia using a CBT based treatment program that was “out of the office” in its nature. My worry is that employers will see this as a weakness in that I may not have as much “in office” therapy experience. Additionally, what if an employer believes my experience with this population will not allow me to work effectively with another population. I feel a bit unsure about the future but more excited. I am looking forward to see what experiences life after graduate school holds, I’m eager to learn more about other populations, and hope to sharpen my CBT skills.
    2. After reviewing the licensure requirements page in the “Regulating Mental Health Service Delivery” section, I feel confident that we have been well prepared to apply to take the exam. Reviewing some of the educational requirements and clinical experience and supervisions Pre- Master’s degree was anxiety relieving because of how familiar it was. However, the application itself does seem a bit daunting. The thing that stuck out to me was the $117 it costs to even take the test. Part of me knew it was going to cost money but once I Saw the amount my first thought was “that’s a lot of money just to fail a test”. Now I realize that is quite the defeatist belief but it was the first thing that came to mind. I had a bit of a difficult time navigating through some of the links on the “LMHC Prep” section. For instance, the first link “National Board for Certified Counselors Link to NCMHCE Exam (required for LMHC in MA)” is a dead link. Also, I could not find this practice test! I searched the MaMHCA page for a while and am even a member of the organization but could not find the link. I suppose my biggest concern is what to study and how to study it. I think if I knew a bit more of the content and style (which may become clear in the practice test) I would feel less anxious about the exam itself.

    Reply

    • Kat Rondina
      Jun 01, 2018 @ 19:55:23

      In my limited experience (specific to the health care inpatient), the ability to work well with individuals with schizophrenia is seen as a really special, impressive skill. Often individuals with schizophrenia are seen as particularly difficult and often hopeless cases, and just the word “schizophrenia” will scare people away. You really showed in our presentation last semester that you know your material you’re doing now well. I feel like you’re eloquent enough to explain how techniques used in treatment of schizophrenia have applications across different disorders with similar presentations.

      Reply

    • Tinh Tran
      Jun 02, 2018 @ 21:31:46

      William,
      I have a lot of concerns that are similar to yours. So, you are not alone, William! I think that it is normal for us to have such anxiety in regards with our career after graduation. We are unsure about future but still feel excited to go forward. In your post, you mentioned that some worry is being “stuck” in a certain population. I feel the same way sometimes. I think that in order to avoid it, sometimes we have to look for (or even ask our employers for) an opportunities to work with different populations in order to see what type of population that really fits us. I think we may sometimes need to take a risk to “test” our ability as well as our interests.

      Reply

  4. Liz Bradley
    May 31, 2018 @ 12:13:57

    1.) In thinking about my next career steps after graduating, I feel a mixture of excitement and nervousness. I have found an organization that I love working for. I have a lot of respect for my coworkers, and see them as an invaluable resource. Knowing so many others have not been as lucky in their internship placements and in their first jobs, I fear entering the working world without being in such a supportive environment as what I have found at Lahey. While I hope to be hired on after completing my internship, there is no guarantee that this will be the case. I recognize that there are important characteristics that my site is looking for in potential candidates that I do not meet, though there are also many that I do fulfill. In particular, my site is looking for someone who can take on more of our Spanish-speaking population, which is not something I can provide. Knowing myself, as Bolles suggests, has made me both very aware of my strengths as a therapist, as well as the areas that I am still lacking in.

    2.) When I think about the licensing exam, I’m still pretty overwhelmed. I definitely feel I know more about the process than I did a year ago, but there is still so much that seems mysterious about the exam. I have heard mixed reviews from different clinicians who have taken the exam: some say it was super easy and they passed on their first try; while others say that the exam is really difficult, they try to trip you up with the questions, and it took them multiple tries to pass the exam. It’s hard to decipher where the middle ground is, and what is most realistic about the exam. I was also really surprised in reading through all the provided materials that the length of the exam is only mentioned once or twice throughout all the documentation and it is not easily found. I’m hoping that working through some of the practice scenarios in class will be helpful in easing some of my anxieties about the licensing exam.

    Reply

    • Kat Rondina
      Jun 01, 2018 @ 19:10:53

      Hearing about your positive experiences at your organization in class, though it seems to put extra work on you, has made me feel a little more optimistic about finding placement that’s a good fit and seems to seek out strong workers by providing incentives. It’s good to hear that at least in some organizations this isn’t a “just be happy you have a job at all” field. I hope that you’re feeling a little more confident about the exam now that we’ve gone over the format a little bit. I’m hoping when we review more about the exam next week it becomes even more clear. It was really reassuring to hear that other students from the program have done well on the exam. Hopefully we can all keep the trend going.

      Reply

    • Taylor
      Jun 03, 2018 @ 17:02:40

      Liz,
      I can totally understand your concern regarding whether your placement will hire you after graduation. It seems as though you have found a great fit for yourself with an organization that really values you and what you have to offer. I wholeheartedly hope that things come together and that your organization recognizes the time and effort you’ve put in. However, if you should have to leave and potentially find another organization it may not be the worst outcome. Sometimes we get comfortable with where we’re at and don’t want to leave for fear that we won’t find something as good (similar to the why fix something that isn’t broken mindset). While it is certainly a possibility that you could work at an organization that does not measure up to what you’ve become accustomed to at Lahey, something tells me that will not be the case. I think now that you’ve seen what a quality agency can offer, it seems likely that you would seek out those same qualities at a different organization. Moreover, should you happen to “choose incorrectly” and take a job that doesn’t meet the standards you’ve set for yourself and your workplace, you gained experience and ideally a reference at the very least. Again, hoping it pans out and they allow you to stay as a full-time clinician, but should they not, prospects are not as bleak as you may think (:

      Reply

  5. Kat Rondina
    May 31, 2018 @ 12:21:27

    1) One of my main concerns post graduation is my ability to find an in-field career where I will be making more money than my current job that also supplies medical benefits and the other essential benefits of a “good” job. It took me almost five years after graduating from college to find work that provided medical benefits and paid a decent wage after the benefits were deducted. Bolles mentioned that in bad financial times employers offer less pay and fewer benefits, and it feels like when I read the news there are constant predictions of another impending recession. Also, with the expansion of the gig economy, it feels like the expectation to be accepting of a more private contractor type position is expanding.
    Also, when I look at possible positions, many of them want between 2-5 years of in-field experience. I can remember when I left undergrad places suggesting that if I wanted to eventually get a job, I would have to do time as an unpaid intern and hope that I’d get hired there once I built up enough experience. With what look to be entry level jobs that require multiple years of experience with specific populations, I worry I’m going to have to essentially start from below the bottom and work my way up to a living wage.
    Also, some of the information I’ve received from friends in related fields (mainly ABA programs) is that many organizations are not necessarily working in ways that same safe or reasonable. I have heard stories about not being able to find supervision or even peer collaboration on difficult cases. I’ve also heard stories of going 5+ years without a raise and difficulty receiving reimbursement for travel for home visits. I’m afraid I may not be able to identify in the short span of time an interview takes place if an organization is a poor fit or unsafe environment.

    2) I found when I was reviewing the paperwork for this week’s course that the practice couple of questions were in a format I really didn’t seem to grasp. Maybe with the interactive computer interface it will make more sense, but looking at it on paper left me a little confused. I’m also concerned that since I am a slow test taker and tend to ask a lot of questions (which this format isn’t going to allow for) that I may not do well on the exam. With the prep classes appearing pretty expensive and each time you take the test costing money as well (in addition to the cost of the license itself) that it’s going to be another big money sink to get licensed. Though, I do suppose it’s less than the cost of a course here at Assumption.

    Reply

    • Taylor Schiff
      Jun 03, 2018 @ 23:58:07

      Kat,

      I hope after our class chat you are feeling a little more optimistic about future employment prospects. I think all of your concerns are completely valid and appear to be many of the same ones everyone else is also expressing. However, it’s to be a bit too easy to just point out of the negatives and call it a day. Don’t get me wrong, all of those you mentioned certainly do hold some truth, but if we fail to also see some of the strengths we hold, the future seems a bit too grim for my liking. You’ve got several things in your corner that will not only help you to secure a job, but presumably one that pays well and offers reasonable benefits. I have to believe those types of positions are out there. It just becomes our job to do some thorough research and find the right match. We got this!

      Reply

  6. Taylor Schiff
    May 31, 2018 @ 13:21:42

    I have been in school for as long as I can remember. School is familiar, it’s something I know and it is something that I have been fairly good at throughout my life (which is one of the reasons I chose to continue my education following my undergraduate career.) The ‘workforce’ on the other hand represents a bit of the unknown, especially when speaking of the professional counseling field. The only real experience I’ve been able to acquire in this regard has been within the context of an internship. Now, while I am eternally grateful for that experience and what it provided me in terms of skills and knowledge, it was only a 9 month stint (a small fraction of time in the grand scheme of things). So with this in mind, I guess my main concern moving forward is lack of experience and how that will affect my ability to secure a job. Despite the assets I have in comparison to graduates from different schools and other working professionals (e.g., the reputation of Assumption, knowledge of evidence-based treatments, CBT concentration, working with co-occurring disorders), experience seems to carry a great deal of weight regarding minimal qualifications, and understandably so. However, based on what I’ve learned thus far, the entire system seems to be one large, unwavering circle. You are hard-pressed to get a job with little to no experience, but cannot gain such experience unless an organization chooses to overlook that standard. How do you go about overcoming that? What can I do to make the small amount of of experience I do have more appealing? These are just a few of the many questions that come to mind. Overall, I would venture to say I am just as anxious and excited as everyone else to complete my degree, although there is some degree of hesitation and trepidation as I begin to think about the road that follows graduation.

    As far as licensure and post-graduation are concerned, I admittedly feel a bit clueless. Up until about a year ago, I was foolishly under the impression that after one finishes the ever-so-coveted master’s degree, he or she takes takes the exam required for licensure, ideally passes, and thereby becomes a licensed professional. Super easy, right? I’ve since come to find that is far from reality. Unfortunately, it feels as though there is a general lack of communication in relaying the requirements and stipulations of licensure to up-and-coming counselors that will soon be entering the field. Without the addition of this class, I would have no idea how to go about obtaining such information or even what to do with it once found. Moreover, despite my appreciation for the guidance this class will provide, it seems a little late in the game to be receiving such necessary information. Yes, I realize it is a rather difficult task to inform and transmit important material to an already overwhelmed, incoming graduate student. There is a tidal wave of information about classes, scheduling, expenses, and various other things coming at you during this time that it is almost laughable to think about adding anything related to post-graduation (not to mention when it is something that is presumably so far off of his or her radar.) However, in hindsight, being aware of this kind of information and having the opportunity to take it into consideration before we are in this deep so to speak, would have been something I appreciated (not even for the fact that the information would have necessarily changed my mind regarding whether I continued with this career path, but more so to have an idea of what post-graduation truly looked like).

    Reply

    • Allison Shea
      May 31, 2018 @ 20:39:35

      Taylor,

      I can totally resonate with your comment that being a student seems safe and normal because it’s what we’ve done our whole lives, but being in the workforce sounds scary! There’s so much uncertainty that comes with life after grad school that it can be anxiety-provoking. I also appreciate your concern about not having a lot of experience. It can be frustrating that job postings require a certain amount of experience that we just don’t have. However, as Dr. V. pointed out in class, there do seem to be a lot of “license eligible” or “license preferred” postings out there, and I’m thinking these agencies have to know that if they accept license eligible candidates that we’re not going to have a ton of experience. I think it’s awesome that you had so much experience with co-occurring disorders. I’m sure that will be very marketable! When it comes to getting licensed, I was just as clueless about what that actually required before this program and am just really starting to comprehend what it entails. I love your comment that it would be helpful to have this information towards the beginning of the program. Of course, we can always research the requirements ourselves but even now as I look up the requirements for RI it can still get confusing. Like you, I’m grateful to have a class like this one but think it could also be beneficial to have this knowledge at the beginning or even just before Practicum/Internship.

      Reply

    • Tinh Tran
      Jun 02, 2018 @ 21:07:10

      Taylor,
      Your comments about professional experiences in the counseling field remind me of my clinical experiences as well. Just like you, my only experiences that related to the counseling field was my internship in the past 12 months. However, I believe that these experiences and knowledge that each one of us has acquired in this program will be valuable for us when we encounter “the real world” after our graduation. Another point that really impresses me is that you have been at school for long and you have been fairly good throughout your life. In a sense, this tells me that you are really eager for learning and thirst for knowledge. Thus, I have no doubts that you always can gain knowledge and experiences through self-study in a case you decide to take a break from school and go to work in the counseling field after your graduation at Assumption College. I think that we can gain skills and experiences day after day. In fact, some organizations/agencies want to look for “experienced employees,” but there are still other agencies that offer new graduate employment opportunities.

      Reply

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Adam M. Volungis, PhD, LMHC

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