Topics 5 & 6: Professional Identity & Experiencing CBT Self-Reflection {by 6/16}

Based on the readings due this week consider the following discussion point:  (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 6/16.  Post your two replies no later than 6/18.  *Please remember to click the “reply” button when posting a reply.  This makes it easier for the reader to follow the blog postings.

18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Monica Teeven
    Jun 13, 2021 @ 13:05:25

    1. When I hear the words professional identity, the first thing that comes to mind is a current graduate student training to become a CBT based mental health clinician with past work experience working in ABA with children who are on the autism spectrum disorder. I have thought about my professional identity before, mainly at my internship site. Meeting other clinicians who are social workers and mental health clinicians, I realized that mentioning CBT is important to me. This is because it indicated that my treatment plans and interventions are CBT based and are empirically supported by research. In addition, I think it is important to mention that I was an RBT (Registered Behavior Technician) because having that past experience and training tells other individuals in the field, that I did experience first-hand what it is like working full-time with children who are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder along with having other physical and mental developmental issues. I realized at my internship that mentioning I have had experience working with children who are on the autism spectrum full-time, can help show other coworkers, but also clients that I am a very patient person. This is because you have to be patient in order to work with that population. In addition, I had an experience where a client of mine at internship had a child who was on the autism spectrum and mentioning that I have worked with children on the autism spectrum, helped our therapeutic relationship. This is because even though it is not the same as being the parent of a child on the autism spectrum, I have worked with children who have the same disorder as their child 5 days a week. This information helped my client realize that I understood and have experienced what it is like to be working with/taking care of a child like their own and how physically and emotionally exhausting it can be.

    2. The exercise from Bennett-Levy et al. (2015) that provided me with the most insight about myself that can affect my therapeutic capability was the My Schedule of Pleasurable Activities and Necessary Activities worksheet (Bennett-Levy et al., 2015). From classes in the graduate program, I have learned how an individual can add pleasurable activities throughout their day on a Daily Activity Sheet or throughout their week on a Weekly Schedule Sheet. However, the name of this particular exercise worksheet had the word “Necessary” in the worksheet title. This helped me realize that I also need to make sure I do other necessary activities that may not be that pleasurable like exercising. Yet, these activities are necessary if I want to remain healthy both physically and mentally. I also liked how on the left side of the worksheet for the 3 sections (morning, afternoon, and evening), it asks “What?” “Where?” “Who?” and “When?”. This is because if I am going to actually follow through with the exercise worksheet, I will need to try my best to identify potential barriers that I may face before attempting to implement these necessary activities. If I try to implement the necessary activities without identifying and creating a plan to handle the potential barriers in the best way possible, the likelihood that I will be successful in implementing the necessary activities is low.


    • Jenna Nikolopoulos
      Jun 18, 2021 @ 00:23:16

      Hi Monica! I liked what you said about mentioning CBT to other clinicians and how you feel it is a part of your professional identity. Even though CBT is at the core of our education in this program, before starting the program, I didn’t really give much thought to the idea of CBT other than knowing this is what our curriculum would be based upon. However, now being in the last semester of the program, I have come to realize how much weight CBT actually has, and not just in terms of an education, but also in terms of what that means in the professional field. Practicing with an empirically based therapy is so important in regards to providing our clients with the best form of treatment we can offer and utilizing CBT is a great way to do that! I think professionally identifying with CBT is a great way to let other clinicians know what kind of practices you engage in with your clients and can lead to other conversations about evidence-based practices. From now on, I will definitely be keeping CBT in mind when thinking about my professional identity!


    • Madison Armstrong
      Jun 18, 2021 @ 13:58:31

      Hi Monica!
      I agree with you that my past experiences in ABA really shines through with my professional identity. Having that background, I see how it impacts my understanding of CBT and especially focusing on behaviorism with clients and caregivers. I have worked with client’s diagnosed with autism and when I tell caregivers that I have worked in ABA, I find that they may be more willing to implement some of the home-based interventions I explain. I agree that by working in ABA it takes significant patience due to the emotional and physical exhaustion that many experience. This definitely helped me have a better understanding of difficulties that caregivers experience in the home when it comes to parenting a child on the autism spectrum or with any other behavioral challenges.


    • Shelby Piekarczyk
      Jun 18, 2021 @ 16:50:06

      Hi Monica,

      I agree that past professional careers have helped shaped the professionals we are today. Just like yourself, I did ABA within the school systems and learned a great deal about this. One major point I took away from this was working with other professionals (teachers) and parents. Working with parents can be a scary thing when first starting off as a professional but through my ABA training and working in the school system I learned a lot about working/ collaborating with parents. Additionally, I agree that I find myself always stating I have a CBT background. I believe that this is a major part of my professional identity and will continue to be through my professional career.


  2. Robert Salvucci
    Jun 15, 2021 @ 13:32:15

    1.Professional identity makes me consider what values and principles I want to bring into my work, and how I want to integrate my personality into my role as a mental health professional. I am becoming involved in a broader system that impacts people in many ways, and engages in practices that I disagree with and practices that I very much agree with. I’ve needed to find ways to follow the guidelines and rules of our agency and broader ethical principles of our profession without sacrificing my own integrity and beliefs. Understanding my professional identity helps me decide how I want to interact with my clients, co-workers, and anyone I interact with while at work, and how I discuss my job away from work. I used to think of my professional identity as something that “stayed at my job”, however I think our professional identity becomes a part of who we are, and it isn’t so simple to separate our professional role from the other roles we play in our life. This realization became especially apparent to me whenever I felt compelled to discuss mental health concepts online and make online content. I have also spent time doing life coaching, and needed to think deeply about what it means to be a coach as opposed to a therapist, and how to integrate those ideas.

    My supervisor Lisa at work, professor Soysa at Worcester state, Dr. V. and Dr. Bozicas have all served as great role models in considering my identity as well. My current supervisor Lisa is very structured and conscientious, things I am not, and her support and guidance has helped me work through many things I struggle with. Working with professor Soysa in research also made me put a lot of thought into what it means to be an academic and represent research authentically. At Assumption Dr. V and Dr. Doerfler in particular have emphasized the value of evidence-based practices which I realize more and more is very important to me. Dr. Bozicas has been incredibly compassionate and wise in discussing our roles as therapists, and helped me be much more self-compassionate and understanding of my shortcomings. I’ve found that Dr. V.’s teaching style has played a large role in motivated me to integrate humor into my own practice and teaching style, practice self-reflection often and reinforce the importance of “walking the walk” so to speak when advocating for evidence based techniques. The input from them and many other professionals has assisted me in developing a stronger sense of identity that feels authentic and confident.

    2. I find the behavior activation/activity scheduling exercises to be the most illuminating. When I take time to plan out my day or my week, what I really feel like I’m doing is saying to myself “What things do you value enough to set time aside for?”. This also allows me to visualize what my life would look like if I was doing everything as well as I reasonably could, which introduces further questions around what it are reasonable goals. I have also struggled tremendously with ADHD in the past, and I was usually very happy and open to journaling but strongly opposed to scheduling and planning, because I was consistently not follow through on my plans and feel overwhelmed. Structuring my day has become a very useful strategy, and allows me to directly confront my impulsive tendencies and negative thoughts and excuses that often come before procrastination.


    • Melanie Sergel
      Jun 17, 2021 @ 20:09:12

      Hi Shelby! I agree that it is important to find out what we are passionate and is likely the beginning of where we form our professional identities. If an individual was to enter a career field that was not what they enjoy, it can be difficult for them to build a great professional identity. I had entered undergrad majoring in business and discovered that this was not something I was passionate about or enjoyed and knew that if I continued down that path I wouldn’t be happy. Similar to you, I think finding this out and changing my major was the beginning of professional identity. I also like the point you make about finding a career path and a professional identity that correlates with you values and beliefs will help diminish burnout. I agree with this because I think it could be very easy to experience burnout if you are doing something 5 days a week that is very different from your preferences, beliefs, and values.


  3. Shelby Piekarczyk
    Jun 15, 2021 @ 15:47:29

    1. When I think of the word professional identity a lot of different things come to mind. When I first graduated from undergrad (2016) I was very confused on the career path I wanted to take. This led me down a road I quickly found would not be my forever career but taught me a great deal. This taught me that professional identity is first finding what you are passionate about so that you can make a difference in whichever career path you decide. We see in a lot of jobs (especially in our field) of ‘burnout’ and individuals leaving these careers because of this. I believe that finding a career path and a professional identity that correlates with your values and beliefs then this will help diminish some of this burnout. Additionally, professional identity to me shows that you hold yourself to a professional standard, whether that be professional boundaries or a different area. I also believe that professional identity is being able to take constructive criticism because you want to become the best you can in that area and take each criticism in a constructive way to better yourself for the future.

    2. The exercise that most impacted me was behavioral activation/scheduling. Life can become very draining and filled with emotional events. Because of this forgetting to do things for yourself or things you may need but don’t want to do can become very easy. Participating in activities like this shows me that first, I have enough time in my day to complete the things that I need to get done but also things that are enjoyable to me. I also learned that not everything needs to be done in one day and it is beneficial to take time to relax or do something for yourself in that is in the best action of your mental health. This activity specifically helped me because in the last few weeks I have been less motivated to complete things that I have done before or things that mean a lot to me. Providing myself with a schedule helps me to complete the things I need too and also take the time for myself to heal and continue to be there for myself through hard times.


    • Jenna Nikolopoulos
      Jun 17, 2021 @ 23:49:44

      Hi Shelby! I liked what you said about professional identity in terms of finding a career you’re passionate about so you can make a difference. From talking with my parents, they grew up with parents who never encouraged them to pursue anything else but business in college. Not because they wanted my parents to only focus on business, but because they never really thought of other options; they were immigrants who wanted what was best for their children and business seemed liked the best option. I see my mom work long hours each and every day at a job she isn’t too passionate about, which makes me wonder why anyone gets into a career that they aren’t passionate about. We go through all the schooling to find a career path we’re most likely going to stay in for the majority of our time working, so why not make it something you actually enjoy!


    • Robert Salvucci
      Jun 18, 2021 @ 19:50:59

      Hey Shelby!

      I agree that taking your values into consideration can considerably reduce the risk of burnout. It makes a big difference if we can connect to the “why” of the effort we’re putting in and feel congruent with the work we’re doing. This also very much the case with doing work that we’re interested in and that motivates us intrinsically.

      It was interesting for me to notice how much time I’ll spend in mindless activities that I don’t even particularly enjoy very much if I don’t take the time to plan. A lot of motivation is definitely momentum and building habits over time. It also makes things less stressful to see events and responsibilities laid out on paper.


  4. Melanie Sergel
    Jun 15, 2021 @ 18:32:40

    1. When I hear “professional identity” I think of the education, knowledge, training, and expertise that an individual has within their career field. Professional identify is something I have thought about, not only during my recent experience during my internship but when I first began looking for a job in this field. I thought it was important for me to gain experience in the field while in undergrad and before graduate school to ensure this was a career I wanted to pursue. At my internship I was able to discuss CBT interventions that I utilized in my sessions with other clinicians and learned that this actually helped some of the clinicians as they were not as familiar with CBT. This is why I think part of your professional identify is your education because I chose to receive a different education versus those clinicians that received a degree in social work. It is clear to me that when I talk with these clinicians that our educations do differ and that it is part of my professional identity. I think my experience working with adolescents in residential and at my internship has helped influence my professional identity development. I think this because I have gained a lot of knowledge about how to work with adolescents with behavioral problems and those children/families involved with DCF. This not only provided me knowledge on behavior management techniques but also how to be patient and how to change my approach when building therapeutic relationships with adolescents. Although I have worked with adults in the past, this experience has shown me that I want to continue to work with adolescents. I also think that my internship supervisor helped influence my professional identity because she was able to help me gain more knowledge in the field but become more aware of myself as a counselor, such as the differences among my beliefs and those of my client. This helped me ensure my beliefs do not transfer into therapy and how to understand my clients better which plays a role in providing the best treatment for them.

    2. The exercise that provided me the most insight about myself was behavioral activation/activity scheduling. I found this to be the most effective because it provides me insight on not only pleasurable activities but the necessary activities that I need to plan for myself that I may be procrastinating. I think that this is very helpful because by planning out my week I am more likely to engage in those activities if I had planned on setting time aside for them. Scheduling pleasurable and necessary activities not only helps me be productive but will help prevent burnout and help me remain healthy.


    • Monica Teeven
      Jun 17, 2021 @ 16:32:05

      Hi Mel! I too found that clinicians who have a masters degree in social work tend to utilize different interventions when writing treatment plans about how the client will reach their goals for a particular mental health disorder. I did not mention this in my post, but I too experienced working with DCF on multiple occasions at my internship. Now thinking about it, it did influence my professional identity development as well. However, I think it influenced my professional identity differently than yours since I worked with the parents who had open cases with DCF, versus you, who worked with the children and the whole family. For example, I had a meeting with my client and their DCF case worker to make sure everyone was on the same page regarding the expectations of the client’s and how to integrate DCF’s goals with the treatment goals in counseling.


    • Shelby Piekarczyk
      Jun 18, 2021 @ 16:52:58

      Hi Mel,

      I agree that the exercise that helped me the most was behavioral activation and identifying necessary tasks to complete. The past month has been the hardest month I have gone through in my life and completing this activity helped me see that I wasn’t even completing simple tasks (eating, grocery shopping). Completing this assignment I felt like the client instead of just completing it for a school assignment. This showed me that what we assign our clients can be challenging depending where they fall in their journey and giving the time needed for them to complete each activity and helping them to feel supported is important.


  5. Jenna Nikolopoulos
    Jun 16, 2021 @ 10:28:54

    1. When I hear the words “professional identity,” I think about creating my identity as an upcoming mental health counselor in the field. This then leads me to start thinking about everything that I have accomplished up until now that has helped me get to this point. In undergrad, I took advantage of any opportunity that I could within the psychology department to become more involved with my major and make connections with faculty members. I was a teacher’s assistant for 2 classes, a peer advisor for 3 semesters, participated in ongoing psychological research studies on campus, and even interned for a guidance counselor at the local high school. Even going beyond the psychology department, I decided to double major in sociology and completed a certificate of social work and social welfare. I feel the idea of professional identity has always been on my mind because I knew from entering college what I wanted to major in and where I wanted to take that in the future. Because of that, I used my time in undergrad to help build a foundation for developing my professional identity, which definitely has influenced my professional identity development the most. Another influence that helped shape my professional identity was my part-time job at Market Basket. I started working there at 16 and continued working there for 7 years; it was my very first job. Even though Market Basket has nothing to do with being a mental health counselor, working there taught me how to be an employee, how to provide customer service, and how to act in a professional environment. It was my first experience in the “working world” and it helped shape me into the worker I am today, which has carried on in other part-time jobs that I have held. Now that I’m finishing up graduate school, I find myself thinking about what I want to do next once I get my degree; what area I want to work in. And as of right now, I’m not too sure. But what I do know is that this is another important step in developing my professional identity as it will be my first job in the counseling field. I want to make sure that whatever job I do end up with, it is a job that feels right to me in and fits in with where I want to take my professional identity next.

    2. The technique/exercise from Bennett-Levy et al. (2015) that provided me the most insight about myself as a person is the Identifying Alternative Pleasurable and Necessary Activities. I feel like I have been pushing pleasurable activities to the side recently as there is always schoolwork that I know I could be doing, so I wanted to take some time to identify activities that I enjoy and activities that are necessary for me to do. I think writing everything out really put into perspective for me that there are many enjoyable activities that I just don’t do anymore because I either don’t have the time to do those activities or I prioritize less enjoyable activities because I know I need to get them done. I’ve been thinking more lately how if I’m not doing schoolwork, I’m either on my phone, eating, sleeping, at my part-time job, or hanging out with my boyfriend. My day-to-day life seems to be engaging in the same activities on a loop, which can get boring at times. Seeing a list of all the enjoyable activities that I don’t do anymore has made me realize that I need to prioritize my schedule better so that I can get all the necessary activities that I have to do done and engage in enjoyable activities to give myself a break and do something for myself. Since doing this activity, I have been making more of an effort to take breaks from my schoolwork to incorporate more activities I enjoy into my daily schedule. For instance, after I get out of class, I have been taking an hour to walk away from my computer and enjoying some of the sun. This has not only helped give my eyes a break, but also lets me recharge a bit before going back to work. I think this technique could also be beneficial for my future clients as it will help them identify activities to put into their daily or weekly activity schedules. This way, they will be able to have a balance of activities that they have to do and activities that they enjoy doing.


    • Madison Armstrong
      Jun 18, 2021 @ 13:56:31

      Hi Jenna!
      I agree with you that the identifying alternative pleasurable and necessary activities exercise was the most beneficial for me. I think that you make a good point that I too tend to push aside more pleasurable activities in favor of getting schoolwork or work done. I also feel like my day-to-day activities have been kind of on a loop the past year and this exercise allowed me to gain some insight into activities that I would like to do more of that I have pushed aside. I been making more of an effort since doing this exercise to do things I enjoy more or even combing necessary activities with pleasurable activities such as doing schoolwork while being outside when I can.


    • Robert Salvucci
      Jun 18, 2021 @ 19:45:32

      Hey Jenna! It’s definitely interesting seeing how our identities develop over time, especially as we accumulate experience in many different areas. I’ve also found that my work in customer service at Cumberland Farms has played a big role in my concept of my professional identity. There’s an interesting interplay between who we want to become professionally and how our actual experiences shape who we are becoming.

      It’s easy to prioritize work and school at the expense of engaging in more enjoyable activities for sure. And when stress builds up we tend to go for low effort and familiar coping strategies like phone use, junk food or TV. I think making sure we take breaks in between working is important and it also allows us to step back and evaluate how we spend our time.


  6. Madison Armstrong
    Jun 16, 2021 @ 12:07:51

    1. When I hear the words “professional identity” I first think of who I am as a professional and how that differs and connects with my own personal identity. Now that I am beginning my chosen career path, I can now think of my professional identity in the scope of the mental health field. Honestly, professional identity is not something I necessarily considered much before graduate school. I think that there a several influence that I have experienced in my life on my professional identity. Working in ABA really helped to develop my professional identity as it was my first job in the mental health field. Doing in-home aba helped me to develop my empathy for parents and caregivers and learn how to effectively communicate and collaborate with a team of professionals. The experience that has most influenced the development of my professional identity was my education. Receiving my graduate education at Assumption has helped me to develop my professional identity through the coursework and professors’ influences. I know that a part of my professional identity will always be grounded in evidence-based practices, specifically CBT.

    2.The exercise that provided me with the most insight about myself was behavior activation. Specifically monitoring my activity and mood and then completing the pleasurable and necessary activity exercise. Although the other activities have great benefits to myself as an individual and as a therapist, I think that this activity helped me the most with my current circumstances of trying to balance a work life, home life, school life, a social life, and self-care. Tracking my activity allows me to see what I am spending a lot of time with and where I could potentially schedule in more pleasurable or necessary activities. I find that whenever I am using screen time would be a great time to do something more enjoyable. Although screen time feels relaxing in the moment it does not bring much pleasure or sense of accomplishment. It helped to provide insight into activities that I view as more pleasurable but for some reason don’t find the time for such as reading, going for walks, or hanging out with friends and family. This activity inspired me to start making more time for things that will benefit myself and my own mood.


    • Monica Teeven
      Jun 17, 2021 @ 16:32:50

      Hi Madi! I worked in ABA in both home services and at a day school for children who were on the autism spectrum. In your blog you stated: “Doing in-home aba helped me to develop my empathy for parents and caregivers…”. This reminded me of my group therapy treatment program that I wrote for Dr. Kuersten-Hogan’s class in Group Therapy. I created a group therapy treatment program for parents who had children who were on the autism spectrum at moderate to severe levels. This is because when I was working in ABA, I saw parents who would have greatly benefitted from some mental health services that integrated skills about how to deal adaptively with the kind of stress that they experience when raising a child who was on the autism spectrum. When I was developing this treatment program, I realized that even though I wanted to become a mental health clinician, my past work in ABA would always be part of my professional identity.


    • Melanie Sergel
      Jun 17, 2021 @ 20:01:02

      Hi Madi! I had also found that behavioral activation was the exercise that provided me the most insight about myself. I like the point you make about how this activity helps with balancing your life, especially now. I think a lot of us have found it hard to engage in pleasurable activities or push them aside because we are so busy with school and other responsibilities. I think it’s a good idea to track our activities to show ourselves what we are spending most of our time doing and where we can make improvements. I also struggle with screen time and like you said, it not really accomplishing anything. I think using behavioral activation will help us be able to replace our screen time with pleasurable activities that are productive.


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Adam M. Volungis, PhD, LMHC

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