Topic 6: Professional Identity {2/27}

Based on the readings due this week consider the following two discussion points:  (1) When you hear the words “professional identity,” what comes to mind?  Is this something you have ever thought about before?  Who/what has most influenced your professional identity development?  (2) What technique/exercise from Bennett-Levy et al. (2015) provided you the most insight about yourself as a person or therapist (please only share information within your range of comfort; if it helps, focus on process rather than content)?  Explain.  Your original post should be posted by the beginning of class 2/27.  Post your two replies no later than 2/29.  *Please remember to click the “reply” button when posting a reply.  This makes it easier for the reader to follow the blog postings.

34 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Amanda Russo-Folco
    Feb 24, 2020 @ 12:27:03

    When I hear the words “Professional Identity” I think of work ethic and my beliefs and values in a professional setting. I have heard of professional identity before, but I never really gave much thought about this. Before the readings due this week, I had no idea what this entailed. This is something that was interesting for me to read because I did not know that having a strong professional identity included “accurately describing their graduate program and explaining key similarities and differences between their profession and other similar professions etc…”. It never came to mind that the words “professional identity” had many factors included in this term. It’s true that various mental health counselors have many different backgrounds in terms of education and training, but I never realized how this was all connected to professional identity. Personally, I feel that my education in receiving a master’s degree has most influenced my professional identity development because education is really important to me and I have learned so much these past few years being in this program. I enjoyed how the program is set up and the curriculum that it entails and the variety of classes we get to take. Being able to complete this program definitely has contributed to my professional identity development and I look forward to continuing my education later down the road.

    The technique/exercise from Bennett-Levy et al. (2015) that provided me the most insight about myself as a person and therapist is the exercise: My Unhelpful Repetitive Thinking. This exercise is under the topic of Unhelpful Repetitive Thinking (Rumination, Worry, Obsessive Thinking). I am a person that overthinks situations often and constantly worries and ruminates about the situation. I have a difficult time letting go of what has already happened. This exercise has helped me step out of my own mind and has helped me go through the process of my thought. In this exercise I first identified the thought/process/bias, then I chose a Socratic question (that was used in the exercise) which was “Is it helpful to keep thinking/worrying/ruminating about this?” and “What could I do that would be more helpful?”. Using Socratic questioning and challenging my own thoughts put my thoughts and feelings into perspective and helped me to realize that worrying and ruminating on a situation is not helpful or beneficial and that if I continue to worry, it will not change anything. Once I was able to go through the process of identifying and challenging my thought, it helped me to modify my thought process and I felt a lot better after the exercise.

    Reply

    • Mikala Korbey
      Feb 28, 2020 @ 09:51:40

      Amanda, I too found that activity helpful. Yo have known be long enough by now to know I worry about everything and this exercise helped me feel like I had a little more control over my worry. I too liked Socratic questions“Is it helpful to keep thinking/worrying/ruminating about this?” and “What could I do that would be more helpful?” because they helped me reason through the worry a little bit easier. I definitely could see myself using this exercise on a regular basis!

      Reply

    • Nicole Plona
      Feb 29, 2020 @ 22:58:24

      Amanda,
      I also greatly benefited from the “my unhelpful thinking” exercise. It was challenging but insightful to get the chance to challenge my own maladaptive thought processes. I also enjoyed the questions that asked me to think about whether or not my ways of thinking was helpful. This exercise was difficult for me at times and definitely helped me gain empathy for clients in the future who may be struggling with similar activities.

      Reply

  2. Dee
    Feb 26, 2020 @ 13:44:58

    Amanda, you make an excellent point about unhelpful repetitive thinking patterns. Similar to you I find myself overthinking and ruminating, especially when I am anxious. Not dissimilar from our clients. Clearly not helpful because it gets us stuck in a maladaptive thinking loop increasing our anxiety. I guess one of the main sells of CBT and related strategies for me was that it is effective AND replaces the maladaptive thinking with challenges to the unhelpful thoughts and more helpful thinking. Meaning, as you were saying, the Socratic techniques help us to challenge our thoughts and “get out of our own head” and do something productive and helpful with our thinking rather than making ourselves more anxious. Similar to you, being solution focused really helps decrease my anxiety by focusing on things I can do to help my anxiety or even what to replace my unhelpful thoughts with. I enjoyed reading your post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Reply

  3. Dee
    Feb 26, 2020 @ 14:42:51

    (1) When I hear “professional identity”, many things come to mind. I have thought about this before, in terms of who I want to become, and how I feel I am working towards that. Essentially, I find professional identity to mean all of the factors and components that led to the development of an individual within their career and practice. Professional identity to me is who you are in your career. What education did you receive? Not just degrees and credits, but experiences and insights and clinical practice. What beliefs in your filed do you hold or value? How do you exercise those values? How do you execute that which you learned from your education and practice? What are your focuses in your profession, simply put, what do you do and who do you serve? Who are you in the field? What distinguishes you from other professionals in the same field? What do you want to contribute to the field or focus on? How do you relate to those around you and those you serve? To me, my summarized professional identity is a soon to be Master’s level Clinician (the first in her multi-generation family to receive a Master’s), integrating evidenced based interventions within her practice, focusing on serving children, young adults, and families, with various presenting problems and diagnoses. That’s the short of it. To explain more in depth what I believe my professional identity to be, would take much more than a blog post to address. But I will say that there are many values I hold most important in my professional identity.
    In all, what I find most important in my professional identity is integrity. I can’t take credit for developing that belief on my own. From a young age my parents taught me to be honest about yourself and your abilities, hold your values strongly, don’t be afraid to admit fault or weakness and needing help. These lessons have melded with my professional beliefs in the mental health field especially. They have given me the opportunity to learn more, be accurate about my abilities, and gain even more satisfaction from my growth in the field. All of my professors in the graduate program have also helped to develop my professional identity by teaching and preparing me for the field, but also by challenging me to be a better clinician. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

    (2) The technique that gave me more insight as both a person and therapist was Bennett-Levy et al. (2015) “Using Behavioral Activation to Change Patterns of Behavior”. I will openly disclose that I have struggled with depression in various stages of my life. Most severely in middle school and high school, but it certainly has resurfaced in various points in current years. One of the biggest struggles is reshaping your behavior from maladaptive patterns to adaptive patterns. When depressed, motivation can be low, it can be hard to identify what you should do to help yourself, or even bring yourself to do it (You mean its not helpful to lay in bed all day??). As a therapist now, using Behavioral Activation interventions has given me so much insight on how to help my clients, as well as my own experiences have helped give me a lens on the techniques and know in advance the types of struggles clients may have when starting such techniques. Within the BA technique described, identifying the patterns of behavior that can be unhelpful, can be the easier part for most clients, but many clients struggle with thinking of new adaptive behaviors and even engaging in those behaviors. This too has been my struggle, but these types of techniques, whether Beck’s form of BA, or the way Bennett-Levy et al. (2015) inform clients what behaviors are unhelpful and why, and what to do instead, rather than get stuck in patterns. I really enjoy both how Beck and Bennett-Levy et al. (2015) organize BA techniques, as the organization for a depressed person, can work wonders to be a tool to go back to when remembering how to address depressive behaviors and symptoms. The easier to read, understand, and follow, the better.

    Reply

    • Jayson
      Feb 26, 2020 @ 19:35:32

      Hi Dee,
      I agree with your statement, “One of the biggest struggles is reshaping your behavior from maladaptive patterns to adaptive patterns. When depressed, motivation can be low, it can be hard to identify what you should do to help yourself, or even bring yourself to do it”. Something that I learned as an intern working with clients with sad moods is that they often struggle to figure out what activity they should do to enhance their mood. Based on my conversation with another clinician at my internship, deciding which behavioral activity is important, but if they struggle with identifying an action to do, simply doing anything can fix the sad mood. For instance, getting out of bed and cleaning your room, sure it may not be something you like to do, but simply doing something will affect that sad mood and you might realize that maybe you aren’t as sad as you were before cleaning your room.

      Reply

    • Alyce Almeida
      Feb 26, 2020 @ 20:10:11

      Dee,

      Loved the Ted talk! A lot you said about what you find important in your professional identity are all aspects I hold as important for my own professional identity. Being comfortable with talking about your weaknesses, but also admiring your strengths is important for growth and makes this experience worth it.

      Reply

  4. Marissa Martufi
    Feb 26, 2020 @ 19:09:52

    When I hear the words “professional identity”, I think of who I am as a professional or the type of person I am within my profession. I consider things like my values, beliefs, work ethic, and education relating to my profession and how these impact who I am as an individual and also as a clinician. I feel like we often hear the term, and sort of think of it as something that we ‘know’ what it means but may be unable to really define it. When I think of my own “professional identity”, I associate this with my education in clinical counseling psychology as well as the type of professional I aspire to be within the field. I think my education and training has mostly influenced my professional identity development. As I have learned and gained new skills throughout this program in clinical counseling, I was able to learn new things about myself including my strengths, weaknesses, areas I need improvement upon, and areas that I enjoy or dislike within the field of clinical counseling. The various courses allowed me to find my areas of interest and learn skills to be an effective, ethical, and strong clinician. I think this education has also helped me to learn what my values are and also the type of clinician or professional I want to be based on skills and interactions with different professors/professionals in the field.

    The technique/exercise from Bennett-Levy et al. (2015) that provided me with the most insight both about myself as a person and as a therapist was the one regarding unhelpful repetitive thinking. I think as many of us have pointed out throughout class discussions, overthinking and worrying about the future and our work as professionals are common themes. For myself, I have always struggled with challenging my own thoughts and sometimes allowing my overthinking to get the best of me in various situations. In reviewing this topic, I realized I do have a habit of ruminating and worrying about a number of things both related to myself as a professional in the field and just in life in general, so I thought this would be most beneficial for me. Last class Dr. Doerfler pointed out how many of us experience anxiety or worry and we teach our clients how to deal with these things and manage anxiety, but we rarely implement these techniques for ourselves. I know I am certainly guilty of that! The exercise allows you to question your thoughts, and in doing this, I realized that it isn’t helpful or beneficial to constantly worry or ruminate about some of the thoughts that I have been. I rarely question or challenge my thoughts and this exercise forced me to do so even if it was a bit uncomfortable. It was beneficial to complete this exercise because it provided me with the insight and ability to question myself and think about more helpful thoughts rather than dwelling or ruminating. Dr. Doerfler mentioned, it is so important to do these types of exercises as clinicians, especially if it is something we want our clients to do.

    Reply

    • Jayson
      Feb 26, 2020 @ 19:26:59

      Hi Marissa,
      I agree with your comment about, “When I think of my own “professional identity”, I associate this with the type of professional I aspire to be within the field”. Sure, we can identify ourselves using these professional titles such as LPC or LMHC, but what separates or differs us from each other is our own interest and the type of professional we want to be. This can involve the types of interest we each have towards a specific population and our chosen theoretical approaches to counseling too.

      Reply

    • Amanda Russo-Folco
      Feb 27, 2020 @ 09:43:04

      Marissa,

      I completely agree with the way you think about professional identity because that is exactly what I thought as well. I honestly didn’t even consider learning my strengths and weaknesses being in this program and that is something I should have thought about because it’s true. We learned so much and were able to grow, not just as an individual but as a counselor as well. I also believe that the exercise about unhelpful repetitive thinking was the most helpful but don’t worry, you’re not alone with that because that happens to me all the time too!

      Reply

    • Becca Green
      Mar 01, 2020 @ 10:49:59

      Hi Marissa! Until reading your post and then our class discussion I really didn’t think about all of my own values as a human and how that is reflected in the work that I do. I also am now thinking about my own general personality and how that represented in the workplace. I tend to use humor a lot, as you have seen in class many times. I like to still use humor while at work in staff meetings and such when appropriate. I also like to incorporate humor with clients when its appropriate as well. Also, you are not alone in not using the tools we have learned to challenge your own negative automatic thoughts. From these posts, it seems like almost all of us are guilty of that!! It just means we all have room to grow.

      Reply

  5. Jayson
    Feb 26, 2020 @ 19:21:17

    1. When I hear the words “professional identity”, I think of how one should represent themselves in their profession, specifically in the mental health field. For instance, factors that can influence what a person stands for is the type of interest they have for the type of population they are working with, their theoretical approach in counseling, and simply their title such as LMCH, MD, or PhD. I never really put too much thought into what my professional identity is because I simply did not even think about how I represent myself to others. Currently, my time at my internship is influencing my professional identity because my interest in working with the substance use has changed dramatically when I first began working at Spectrum. I can confidently say that my professional identity involves my interest in working in the substance use field. Within my internship, I am exposed to a variety of different counselors or professions such as social workers, nurses, and psychiatrists, and due to speaking with them, they helped me develop other interest within the counseling field. For instance, every now and then, I catch myself saying similar things to what I heard another clinician say during group sessions and I am adopting this clinician’s interest as well such as their interest in 12-Step. Overall, whenever I speak with anyone at my internship, they influence my professional identity by either me developing interest in their interest or me simply not developing interest in their interest which will eventually shape my professional identity of the type of counselor I will be.

    2. The behavioral activation gave me some insight about myself as a person and therapist. Doing this exercise allowed me to understand as a therapist of how beneficial it can be to simply start to be more active and once becoming a little more active and in a better mood, being able to focus on the thoughts afterwards is a little easier. Regarding my clients who tend to show depressive symptoms, I realized the difference with them being able to speak about their thoughts and feelings easily after beginning an activity which allows me to tackle their negative thoughts easier too. Regarding myself doing the exercise, most of my days are usually staying indoors either in my apartment or at work, and thus I rarely tend to do any outdoor activities. Doing this exercise, I wanted to be more active outside and thus I began to explore Worcester like I used to do and essentially, I became in a better mood and was able to identify my negative thinking.

    Reply

    • Alyce Almeida
      Feb 26, 2020 @ 20:06:05

      Jayson I liked that you discussed the behavioral activation exercise – I too liked how it made you think of ways to push yourself to be more active within your life. I myself realized I need to prioritize doing more for myself and things I enjoy, because once we get that ball rolling it makes it easier to complete our responsibilities and tasks of life in general and of course our mood overall!

      Reply

    • Rachel DiLima
      Feb 27, 2020 @ 12:28:43

      Jayson,

      I am glad that the behavioral activation exercise helped you! I have found that getting up and “doing the thing” helps me enormously with my anxiety and depression. On multiple occasions, I have found myself coming up with excuses not to run (my favorite method of exercise and stress relief) because I do not have enough time to do that, AND everything else I want to accomplish in the day. I have to literally list the reasons why it will help with my day rather than hinder it (focus, anti-anxiety, endorphins, etc.), and I always feel more clear-headed and optimistic after I run. Get out there and continue to explore Worcester!

      Reply

  6. Alyce Almeida
    Feb 26, 2020 @ 20:01:35

    1. When I think of “Professional Identity” I think of simply who you are as a professional. Your identity determines how you carry yourself, your values, morals, personality and more. Therefore, your professional identity is all of those things but more specific to what you do so characteristics like your work ethic, knowledge, experience and more. After reading the chapter I noticed the focus of education and understanding differences between professions as an integral factor for professional identity. But I still believe that your beliefs and education are as equally important for your professional identity. I have actually thought about my professional identity a lot because I have struggled with really finding myself as I took on the therapist role and how to exactly maneuver who I am as a person, but also who I am as a therapist, and be confidence in my knowledge. I struggled with being authentic to myself which I think goes hand and hand with also developing your professional identity, because realistically how can we be therapists if we aren’t being ourselves and highlighting parts of our identity that help us strive in this field (like our empathy, passion, skills, etc.). But I also struggled with being confident and trusting that I do have the education to put my knowledge into practice. I’ve thankfully learned and have grown a lot from my internship experience and been able to understand myself better, trust myself and knowledge, continue to learn as much as I can, and also understand what this profession expects from me as well. In regards to what influences me for my professional identity I think of all the staff I’ve worked or interned with that have impacted me in some way. I think of my past co-workers who seemed like superhero’s because they were just THAT good at what they did, whether it be their relationship with the client, their advocacy, knowledge, and willingness to support and guide others. Thats the kind of therapist and person I strive to be everyday and hope I can impact anyone to the amount they have for me.

    2. It’s no surprise here that I too got the most insight from the Unhelpful Repetitive Thinking exercise from Bennett-Levy et al. (2015). If there could be a competition for overthinking I’d be there because I struggle with this constantly. I’m a worrier and honestly struggle with letting go and ruminate heavily on just about everything. I actually enjoyed the exercise because it made me call myself out on this, and made me challenge myself. I like the various socratic questioning because it makes the experience realistic and honest and identifies the bias in our thoughts. This is a technique I love to use with patients because in my perspective it tends to be quite impactful for them, which is something I need at times. It makes me ask myself bluntly are these thoughts accurate and how exactly are such thoughts impacting me? It honestly motivated me after the exercise to want to focus more on improving my struggle with over thinking and excessive worrying.

    Reply

    • Dee
      Feb 29, 2020 @ 21:08:36

      Alyce,
      I totally agree with you on the importance of challenging ourselves. More often than not we really do need to call ourselves out on our thoughts. We are certainly not above this just because we are therapists. If anything these exercises can be totally helpful and give us more experience with challenging these types of irrational and harmful thoughts!

      Reply

  7. Liisa Biltcliffe
    Feb 26, 2020 @ 21:56:52

    1. When I think of professional identity, I think of myself as a soon-to-be licensed mental health counselor; however, I find that I do not separate my personal identity from my professional identity to a great extent. What I mean is that there is a definite boundary there between working in the professional field and living my personal life, but that I am who I am and that obviously spills over into all aspects of my life. I feel as if I am compassionate, patient, kind, and a good listener, and these things are hopefully apparent in both my professional identity and personal identity. Hopefully that made sense. What helped form who I am today is complicated and without revealing my entire life story, I will just say that I have overcome many obstacles to get to where I am today. I am personally familiar with mental health issues, not just individually, but with family and friends as well. Additionally I have a strong never give up attitude that I feel I learned from my Mom along with the value of a good education. So even though I raised my kids first (for the most part), I knew I always wanted to go back to college and get my degree, and I never gave up on that dream. When I was applying to colleges for my undergraduate degree, I was told by a couple of people that I shouldn’t try, that I wouldn’t have a chance of getting in, that I shouldn’t get my hopes up. Luckily I didn’t listen to them.

    2. The activity that I wound up doing in the book was the behavioral activation where I kept track of my activities for 4 days (although I only did one day) and kept track of 3 prominent emotions. I noticed from this activity that a) I did homework for most the day I chose to monitor and that b) while doing the homework, my anxiety was high because I was so overwhelmed and stressed by all I had to do. But as the day went on and I accomplished two assignments and moved onto a leisure activity (writing a pen pal), my anxiety gradually subsided. This was eye-opening to me because I didn’t realize that this was causing me so much anxiety. So I am thinking that I need to work on lowering my anxiety level in relation to doing schoolwork…finding a way (through mindfulness or relaxation techniques) to lower my stress level. Overall I think it’s an interesting book and I originally did Module 1 (because I forgot that we had to do an activity from Modules 3, 4, or 5), and I think it could be beneficial, especially if done with a therapist or someone else.

    Reply

    • Shannon O'Brien
      Feb 29, 2020 @ 01:09:05

      Liisa – I was really interested to read about your experience with the behavioral activation activity as I did not choose to do that one. It sounds like it was insightful for you to figure out that homework specifically seems to make you most anxious throughout the day. You then went on to that after discovering this, you know better how to implement some relaxation techniques to help you distress (or at least you have a better idea of where to start!) Also like you said, it is important for us a therapists to understand what it is like to gain this insight so we can properly explain activities to clients and what they will gain from completing them.

      Reply

  8. Mikala Korbey
    Feb 27, 2020 @ 08:00:21

    1. Before reading the chapter, I had always just thought of professional identity as kind of life your resume, personal approach to your career, and the things you think are important. Meaning, what experience do you have, the personal style you use in your field, and the things you value. After reading the chapter, I realized it is so much more than that. I never considered that so many other factors are at play that make up your professional identity. I think that my education has influenced by professional identity because it has help to shape how I think about and approach cases, but I also think your placement and supervisor can influence your professional identity. Your supervisor is kind of like your model for how you “should” act in your particular placement. I think my supervisor has taught more about what I don’t agree with and how I would do things differently if I was “in charge” of the program I am interning in. I also think that your professional identity is something that grows and is changing all of the time, as you learn new things and are in new agencies/placements. As we learn new skills or get more comfortable with other styles of treatment, those can be further incorporated into practice. Thinking back to my summer placement versus my placement now, I think my “professional identity” would look different because it was a inpatient hospital setting versus a school setting because of the role, the setting, and the expectations. Overall, I think professional identity is something that changes with you over time.

    2. I like a couple of the activities in the Bennett-Levy et al. (2015) book, but the one I found most helpful was the Unhelpful Thinking and Behavior activity. I personally really enjoy doing thought records and find them very helpful to go through the situation systematically. I think the focus on processes underlying the problem is key. Without understanding what is underlying the behaviors and thoughts, you will have a harder time truly tackling the problem. I also found it helpful to think about some of the biases because I definitely have a tendency to catastrophize initially until my rational brain kicks in and helps me reason through the situation.

    Reply

    • Sarah Mombourquette
      Mar 07, 2020 @ 12:23:08

      Hi Mikala, I can definitely relate to how a supervisor can mold your professional identity. Having already had three supervisors at internship, I have been given the opportunity to grow in various ways that I didn’t expect due to different supervision experiences. Each supervisor has guided me to a new understanding of how to work with client and to implement interventions. I completely agree that professional identity is consistently evolving.

      Reply

  9. Becca Green
    Feb 27, 2020 @ 08:11:01

    Before I read the chapter on professional identity the only thing I really thought about was the style of therapy that I would be practicing. Most clinicians that I’ve worked with at my internship look to me as the “CBT person” because of being an Assumption grad student. After reading the chapter I realized that there is so much more that goes into a professional identity. During undergrad I had a few professors who taught and practiced therapy. Most of them worked with children but one of them in particular worked with adults. I personally have always wanted to work with adults so she was a mentor for me and was a great support while deciding which grad schools to apply to. As I have started practicing therapy I have continued to utilize Dr. V’s book as well as Dr. Bozicas’s book, both have been extremely beneficial and have guided me as I grow my professional identity. Dr. Bozicas has been very influential to me throughout this program. I look forward to post-graduate connections and becoming affiliated to professional organizations such as the ACA and AMHCA (although that is another added expense on top of all the other things we have to pay for annually).

    I personally connected with the unhelpful repetitive thinking section from Bennett-Levy et al. (2015). I have been fairly open about my own struggles with mental health and the benefits I have personally gotten from therapy. It is a lifelong commitment to mental health recovery and these tools don’t go away. The reminder to refresh my ability to use the Socratic questioning to challenge my own negative automatic thoughts was really helpful, especially at this point in grad school. The content of my negative thoughts have changed over the years and I have noticed (with the assistance of Bennett-Levy) that a lot of my negative repetitive thoughts are in regards to my ability to be a good clinician and do the best I can to support each person that comes in for therapy. Part of this I noticed is how one of my supervisors provides feedback as well, which I didn’t realize until I was analyzing some of the environmental factors to these thoughts.

    Reply

    • Amanda Russo-Folco
      Feb 27, 2020 @ 09:52:35

      Becca,

      I am in the same boat as you in terms of being the “CBT person” because of being a graduate student at Assumption. People automatically think since were from Assumption, we’re the people to go too for CBT. But I also agree that Dr. V’s book is super helpful and that is probably the only book I actually bought and saved in this program because it helped me a lot in terms of CBT. Also, I agree with you that Socratic questioning is super helpful to challenge negative automatic thoughts and I sometimes just use Socratic questioning automatically when I am having a negative automatic thought and it also has helped me a lot.

      Reply

  10. Sarah Mombourquette
    Feb 27, 2020 @ 10:17:04

    When I think of the words “professional identity,” I often think about the way that various experiences in my life have led me to pursue this career. Although I have not specifically thought of those words before, I feel that I have regularly processed themes that have worked towards the development of my professional identity. I believe my experiences in service are what have most influenced my professional identity. Growing up, my parents regularly had me signed up for service participation in areas where I could be immersed in other cultures and other ways of living. Through these experiences, I learned that the influence of social injustices on development and behavior are pivotal in understanding those who are typically misunderstood. These experiences led me to the pursuit of working with children who have experienced trauma, in the hopes that the processing of that trauma will be one less barrier for those who are already disadvantaged financially and/or socially. I also believe that my current supervisor in my graduate assistant position has guided my professional development. I have worked with this supervisor since undergrad and have learned so much in terms of learning to make my own informed decisions following research and science, despite what the media or peers say. I believe this is integral in my professional identity because it is what led me to choose a program that focuses on evidence-based treatment.

    I also found that the behavioral activation technique offered me a lot of insight into my own patterns of behavior. I like to have a very structured and scheduled routine. I often have each hour of the day from when I wake up (5am) to when I go to sleep (10:30pm) completely set. I have always felt that this allows me to maintain organization in my life and work. I have always been proud of myself for being able to maintain such great routines, but this activity taught me that I am not always as good at it as I think I am. I discovered that, although I am good on most days, I can have an all-or-nothing mentality that enacts unhelpful patterns of behavior. Therefore, if my morning routine gets messed up, I will lack the motivation to engage in the rest of my routine for the day. This can be unhelpful for me because it leads me to engage in unhealthy habits like skipping the gym, procrastinating, or eating unhealthy food. Engaging in this activity held me more accountable to sticking to my schedule even if I had strayed off task earlier in the day. By keeping track of and engaging in the activation activities, I was able to get back on task and did not allow the one derailment to interfere with my entire routine.

    Reply

    • Rachel DiLima
      Feb 27, 2020 @ 13:33:09

      Sarah,

      I really respect your drive towards identifying and understanding how social injustice affects children, and how your desire to treat the population you want to serve has directed you towards a career that is evidence-informed. Being in this program unites us all in this goal to be evidence-informed professionals, and I like how that unites us in a shared aspect of our professional identities. Keep trusting the research!

      Reply

  11. Nicole Plona
    Feb 27, 2020 @ 12:27:06

    I have to admit, I had never really thought of my professional identity too often before entering this program. It was definitely a new topic for me to explore and really develop an understanding of. As of right now, when I hear the words “professional identity” I think of my beliefs, experiences, skills, and values in a work setting. After the reading, I was able to acknowledge other aspects of someone’s professional identity. It is not only understanding how the individual identifies in their profession but actually the specific description of the actual profession itself. Professional identities are what can link others in the same profession together and create a connection. My soon to be professional identity will be a “Masters level clinician”. This title will connect me to all others with the same identity or title in some way. I feel like the greatest influencer in developing that title would be my schooling and going through this graduate program. I would have never been able to successfully obtain that identity without this degree so; it definitely has the most weight in the development of my professional identity. This program has benefited me in so many ways over the past two years and has provided me with the tools and skills I will need in the future to become successful.

    It didn’t come as a surprise to me that “My Unhelpful Repetitive Thinking” was the exercise that I most closely connected with. All of Bennett-Levy et al. (2015) techniques/exercises provided me with a lot of insight about myself as a person and therapist, however as a historically anxious person, this one definitely came out on top. I am more than comfortable disclosing that since 7th grade (ish) I have struggled with constant and continuous worrying and rumination on just about everything in my life. This exercise focused heavily on those topics which for me was super helpful. I am easily able to remember and overthink conversations that I may have had recently or even years ago and wondering what I could have said or done better in the situation. Through the My Unhelpful Repetitive Thinking exercise, I was able to challenge my negative thought processes and constant rumination on things I no longer had any control over. During this exercise I used Socratic questioning to help me identify that staying stuck on these former situations is not helpful to me in any way and it would be more beneficial to just move forward/learn from these thoughts. I can’t say that this is ever going to be an easy task for myself moving forward but it provided me with insight on areas in myself I need to work on. It also allows me to become more empathetic with clients that may be struggling with changing/challenging their own negative behavior patterns.

    Reply

    • Shannon O'Brien
      Feb 29, 2020 @ 01:01:08

      Nicole – I like that you mentioned your belief system when writing about your professional identity. I think that is so important! I also like that you wrote about kind of “fitting in” more with your peers at work after officially being deems a “master’s level clinician.” We hopefully will be able to identify better with the people around us at our jobs once we obtain our degree because we will be more confident and actually be able to say we are true professionals! What a powerful piece of paper this degree is, huh?

      Reply

  12. Rachel DiLima
    Feb 27, 2020 @ 13:23:39

    1. Upon initially reflecting on what I understood professional development to mean, I realized rather quickly that I had NO IDEA what professional development means. I drew a complete blank. Thinking about it, I realized that I had always considered “professional identity” to indicate one’s job title. Developing a professional identity seemed to be an abstract concept, wherein one basically made it up as they went (“fake it till you make it”, if you will.) Therefore, doing the readings for this week was illuminating. Overwhelming, but illuminating nonetheless. It also felt…empowering. It felt like the decisions I have made thus far regarding the trajectory of my career had been validated. Like everyone here, I made a very conscientious decision to attend Assumption College over other programs. Hell, I moved several states to come here. And that was because I wanted a program that would educate me with the most evidence-informed treatments that are available. Even the program name – clinical counseling psychology – was a decision. I didn’t want just counseling, or school counseling, or just psychology. I remember agonizing over deciding on a program name because I didn’t understand the fundamental differences between them, or why there wasn’t a more clear-cut path to what I wanted to be. Now I realize that every decision I have made is cultivating my professional identity. My undergraduate professors were a true inspiration to me, and they helped to encourage my scientific mind through research opportunities and an emphasis on the importance of quality research. Without that encouragement and guidance, I’m not sure that evidence-based treatments would have been as important to my professional development as they currently are. As I continue to cultivate my professional identity, the integrity of the services that I provide will always be a cornerstone.
    2. Similar to others, I also found the Unhelpful Repetitive Thinking exercise from Bennett-Levy et al. (2015) to be the most insightful. As someone who has used thought trackers and other automatic-thought challenging techniques, I enjoyed the emphasis on “repetitive” thoughts in these exercises. I have (and sometimes still do) deal with depression and anxiety. Through my own therapy and through understanding where my negative thoughts come from, I have been able to challenge these thoughts when they come up and have (for the most part) been able to evaluate the evidence for and against the thought and come up with something more helpful. As a professional, I believe that it is not only important for my own mental health to practice techniques like this regularly, but it helps provide empathy for my clients when they say things like “it just feels that way, there are no thoughts”, “I can’t find any evidence against my thought”, and “Keeping track is a pain in the ass!” I get it, dude. You still gotta do it. Trust me, it can get better.

    Reply

    • Liisa Biltcliffe
      Feb 29, 2020 @ 11:04:40

      Rachel, like you I also moved quite far to come to this program. I chose this program specifically for the CBT aspect of it and did my research on it and I never really thought about how it would help form my professional identity, and yet it does. I also had really great undergraduate professors and came from a research-based university (University of California, Santa Cruz). I remember my Clinical Psychology professor actually held a “group therapy” session with a class of almost 100 students just so we would get a “feel” for what group therapy was like. It was quite the experience. And because of the research-based atmosphere, I too, developed a strong affinity (? not sure that’s the right word) for evidence-based practices. I also like what you said at the end of your post about how you get it about not wanting to do the practices, but that you just gotta do it. That empathy and understanding is so important.

      Reply

    • Nicole Plona
      Feb 29, 2020 @ 23:07:23

      Rachel,
      I greatly appreciate that you stated you really had no clue what a professional identity was. I also never really thought about this topic before this program or more specifically this class. It was harder for me to develop a true description of what a professional identity was. In the end I defined it as the connection between all others in the same profession as well as the factors that influenced you gaining that title. So for me the greatest influencer would be my education and this program.

      Reply

    • Becca Green
      Mar 01, 2020 @ 11:22:13

      Hi Rachel! I really liked the authenticity of your post. I agree that the chapter was overwhelming yet empowering. I talked about this in class, but I agree that it was a well thought out decision to apply and decide to attend this program. I appreciate the effort to provide evidence-based treatment to the people that we support. I wanted to know that I was providing a service that would actually help someone feel better and confident in their ability to take control of their life. I can tell that you strive to be the best clinician and person you can be so I’m happy that this section was empowering and validating for you.

      Reply

  13. Shannon O'Brien
    Feb 27, 2020 @ 17:53:04

    Professional identity to me means who I am as a clinician or who I am in whatever role I am in occupationally. I do think they there are certain personality traits that cross over from my personal to my professional life (punctuality, conscientiousness, compassion, etc…) but maybe I utilize these traits in different ways when working with clients. I also think finding your own style as a professional is important to your identify. Kind of like, what sets me apart from others or makes me marketable in my field? More specifically, I think about how I want to run my groups, what boundaries do I make clear, what am I comfortable sharing with clients, what kind of in-session activities do I utilize during all stages of therapy? All of what goes into “style” also makes up professional identify. Additionally, I also think about how my academics and continuing education will play into my professional identity. How will what I have learned shape me and continue to shape me throughout my career?
    For me, the most helpful exercise from Bennet-Levy et al (2015) was the Maintenance Cycles one. I wasn’t surprised at all that this exercise was helpful to me. I am and always have been a worrier. I definitely seek approval from others and have a huge fear of failing or appearing incompetent. I also set high standards for myself, most of the time too high, so I feel like I am letting myself down when I don’t live up to everything I am expecting of myself. The combination of these things causes me to worry or ruminate about a lot that I am inadequate. I have conversations in my head and play out scenarios with myself before they even happen. I also think about how I could have handled a situation differently after the fact. I definitely have a hard time challenging my thoughts and examining the evidence for and against them and what I am doing to actually maintain them, so I was interested to see this new exercise! I focused mostly on my maintenance cycle for perfectionism. Seeing my thoughts and actions on paper as well as thinking about them for a while really made me feel terrible about how awful I was being to myself and the need for change towards more self-compassion. I started to understand how my high/impossible to achieve standards were reinforced by my beliefs that I am incompetent and vice versa.

    Reply

    • Mikala Korbey
      Feb 28, 2020 @ 09:56:14

      Shannon, I did not try the Maintenance Cycle one, but after hearing your experience and why it worked for you, it seems like something that might work for me too! My family always calls me a “worry wart” because I worry about everything especially about needing to do well and about what others have think of me. Although I’ve gotten good at hiding it over the years, this exercise seems like it might help me tackle some of this worry and I definitely plan to try it! Thank you for sharing your experience!

      Reply

    • Liisa Biltcliffe
      Feb 29, 2020 @ 11:20:59

      Shannon, I agree with you about how certain personality traits cross over to our professional roles. That’s actually what I wrote about as well. I think, though, that I kind of misunderstood what this was asking because as I read through everyone’s responses, I got a better feel for what Dr. V. was asking about our professional identity. Also I am always thinking about boundaries and what, if any, personal info I want to share with clients as well. I am like you in that I tend to set high standards for myself, and then I feel let down if I cannot live up to them. Additionally I tend to overthink everything. For example, I will have sessions with clients and for a little while afterwards, I worry I’ve said something that isn’t “correct” or therapeutic “enough.” And when I first started out my confidence was very low…it has since gotten better, but I still struggle with it. Maybe I will try that exercise out that you tried in the book.

      Reply

    • Sarah Mombourquette
      Mar 07, 2020 @ 12:19:45

      Hi Shannon, I agree with your point about finding style as an important aspect of identity. I don’t often think about counseling style in a categorical way, but your post made me think more deeply about how that aspect can evolve both in practice with clients and in collaboration with peers and co-workers. I agree that I have many questions about continuing education. I think it can be overwhelming because we have so many opportunities to pursue!

      Reply

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Adam M. Volungis, PhD, LMHC

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