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Question
I am a student of Psychology with University of Phoenix.  I need to interview an individual who is a psychology professional.  I need a clinical psychologist and another professional in counseling or psychology.  I was hoping you could help with this assignment.  Your help would be greatly appreciated.  Here are the questions that need answered.
In what setting do you practice? How long have you been
practicing?
•What are your specialties or areas of clinical focus?
•What are the most common disorders you treat?
•Do you have any special certifications or training beyond your original graduate coursework?
•How do you approach therapy or treatment? Do you use specific modalities, techniques, or interventions?
•What ethical and legal issues do you think are the most challenging or common?
•Do you have an opinion on where you think the field of psychology is heading?
•What do you enjoy most about your work?
•What advice would you provide an aspiring psychologist or therapist?

Answer
Hi, Tina.  I'll do my best.  Answers below:

In what setting do you practice?

I'm in private practice as a therapist, trainer, supervisor, and organizational consultant.

How long have you been practicing?

I've been in clinical practice for close to 35 years.

What are your specialties or areas of clinical focus?

I have been practicing/teaching solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) for the past 20+ years.

What are the most common disorders you treat?

I don't have conversations with disorders; I have conversations with people. We pretend that the issues that people bring to therapy are analogous to a medical process.  In my opinion this is like trying to fit square pegs into round holes.  The DSM (now in its fifth reincarnation) is nothing more than a list of behaviors.  Unlike medical diagnoses, mental health diagnoses are prescriptive of nothing.  Ask a behaviorist about treating someone with depression and you would get a vary different theory than asking a psychoanalyst.  There is no agreement among the various models and theories (some where between 300 and 500 to date). The only thing I think a diagnosis is useful for is getting me paid by insurance companies that require them.

Do you have any special certifications or training beyond your original graduate coursework?

I am licensed as a clinical social worker (LCSW) in NY State.  I also hold an ACSW (Academy of Certified Social Workers) from the National Association of Social Workers. I am a Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work.  I hold advanced training and certified in Ericksonian hypnotherapy.  All that plus $2.00 would get me a bus ride in Phoenix.    

How do you approach therapy or treatment? Do you use specific modalities, techniques, or interventions?

As stated before, I practice SFBT.  

What ethical and legal issues do you think are the most challenging or common?

For me the ethical issue is those therapists who insist on listening to their theories rather than listening to clients.  I suppose the most prevalent legal issue is probably malpractice although I think that happens less than people expect.  

Do you have an opinion on where you think the field of psychology is heading?

Not sure about psychologists, since I'm not of that ilk.  There's a lot these days about evidenced based practice.  Problem is that evidenced based practice is not the same as research based practice.  EBP is more political than scientific.  The mistake is viewing people through the lens of diagnoses and pretending that all those diagnosed with depression, for example, are homogeneic and therefore should respond similarly to a specific course of treatment.  This ignores the reality that people are different despite what we call their problems and ignores the social systems in which we all live, work and play - the very social systems in which both problems and solution exist. The problem with diagnoses is that they delude us into believing that problems reside within a person rather than problems and solution existing within our social contexts.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

As a therapist, I get excited by watching clients recognize their competencies and then use those very strengths to create their own solutions.  They amaze me every time by their inherent wisdom and capacity for change that makes a difference.  This takes the ability to see beyond our theories and assumptions and look for the small changes that make big differences. It also requires listening to clients and accepting their world views.  As a trainer, I get pleasure in seeing professionals begin to question their own assumptions about themselves, their roles, the clients, the clients' roles, and this process we call therapy.  One of my mentors, Steve de Shazer, a co-developer of SFBT, said that the problem with most therapists is that they don't extend their assumptions to their logical ends.  Once you do that, the illusion of a solid foundation begins to crumble.    

What advice would you provide an aspiring psychologist or therapist?

Get rid of your theories, begin to listen to clients, be curious about their world views, stated goals, and strengths, and learn to be "dumber than dumb" that is, learn what they know rather than tell them what you know.  Finally always come from a "not knowing" stance.

Good luck on your project.  Joel  

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Joel Simon

Expertise

General questions about counseling, psychotherapy and mental health.

Experience

Over 30 years as a therapist, clinical supervisor and solution-focused trainer. I've worked in a variety of settings including adolescent day treatment, inpatient psychiatric hospitals, community mental health clinics, and hospice. Further information is available on my website: www.0to10.net

Organizations
A founding member of the Solution Focused Brief Therapy Association, Academy of Certified Social Workers, Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in New York State.

Publications
Co-authored "Solution-Focused Brief Practice With Long-Term Clients in Mental Health Services: I'm More Than My Label." Authored: "Solution-Focused Practice in End-of-Life and Grief Counseling" Several articles published in professional journals including 2 with Insoo Kim Berg. Further details are available at www.0to10.net

Education/Credentials
Masters of Social Work (Yeshiva University 1978). 5 years training in Transactional Analysis, certified in Advanced Ericksonian Psychotherapy and Hypnosis with the New York Society (NYSEPH), Advanced training and advanced supervision seminar in solution-focused brief therapy with the co-developers of the approach, Insoo Kim Berg and Steve de Shazer

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