Sue Clifford, LPC-S
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Professional Philosophy


LPC SUPERVISION: A PROFESSIONAL PHILOSOPHY FOR COUNSELORS SEEKING COACHING OR SUPERVISION


   I consider myself blessed to be able to mentor junior members of the profession as a state licensed clinical supervisor during the postgraduate LPC Internship. This is a time of integrating the spirit that calls all of us into this profession with the brain-based knowledge that our clinical training, education, and licensing examinations provides. Having a safe space to explore beliefs and values in relation to our counseling work is my foundation for supervision. Reflecting on why we do what we do, why we choose our interventions, and how our morals and ethics match to the world of work following graduation, are just a few of the focus areas in supervision. Our licenses last a lifetime over a vast array of settings and clients. In supervision with me, we focus on strengthening a solid foundation to build the lifetime practice of counseling upon, using the lens of our current workplace (which may or may not be where we practice once licensed) and not on creating a "mini-me" or only exploring the minutia of site-specific policies. LPC Internship is about the supervisee coming to know and understand who they are and what they do. Supervisees I have the honor of walking with come away from the clinical supervisory time of professional development, with a stronger sense of self in relation to clients and the work, in order to continue to grow and be the most ethical counselor. For more specifics about my LPC Supervision, please visit the Services Provided page.

My Personal Theory and Professional Growth: A Reflection
(The following is a paper prepared for and presented at The University of Texas at San Antonio, 2009)


    My professional developmental growth has been a series of twists and turns on a well-planned straight path. I have come to understand that my professional journey follows a map that I may not fully see or have control of the direction it runs. However, I have come to appreciate the unmapped forks in that road as opportunities for growth. More often than not, the unexpected detours have led to change within myself and a strengthening of my identity as “counselor.” Throughout this journey as counselor, I have come to depend on my theoretical and ethical foundation as a compass that keeps me headed in the right direction.

        I am a theoretically integrated clinician and supervisor. My theoretical orientation continues to form as I grow, respond to, and be influenced by the life I am living. It is a philosophy of self-acceptance and acceptance of others that resonates within the theories I choose. I believe humans can change and hold the power to choose. These beliefs tie my religious philosophy of “free will” to my counseling theoretical perspective about change. I find my belief system more closely aligned with the postmodern view; specifically, as a unique perception of truth, defined by each and every one of us. Therefore, there is no "universal" truth, but as many truths as there are human beings to conceptualize it. As a postmodernist counselor, I help the client discover and understand their perception of reality and truth. I hold up a metaphorical mirror in their journey.

        At the core of who I am as a person and a clinician are the Relational-Cultural, Humanistic, and Person-Centered philosophies. Carl Roger’s description of potato plants reaching toward distant light to survive in a dark basement resonates most with me: "But under the most adverse circumstances they were striving to become. Life would not give up even if it could not flourish" (Rogers, 1979, p. 100). To re-conceptualize human interpretations of being "weak" or "victim" into "strong, survivalist" is empowering and cathartic to me. I support via my life’s work and daily living a commitment to the power of the human spirit; the human ability to wipe out those negative self-views with this new paradigm and focus on choices that enhance that inner strength which makes us strive for "light," for "becoming." I believe rather than seeking growth through independence, humans yearn for and stride toward  growth-fostering, mutually empathic connection with others (Miller, 1976).

        I believe human beings are made in God's perfect image of love and unconditional acceptance. However, I believe we will always be imperfect - human - and striving to be Good. I believe we are given the gift of free will - the freedom to choose our own thoughts, feelings, and actions - and the cognitive ability to make these choices. Even choosing not to make a choice is a choice. I believe our limitations come from external factors (e.g., other's free will exercised) and/or internal limitations (e.g., thoughts, feelings). In my individual, group, and family sessions, I see my values and beliefs about humanity, choice, and power to change are firmly grounded in Cognitive-Behavioral theory. Within the safe and therapeutic environment, as counselor, I help clients recognize their own power to change their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors (Corsini & Wedding, 2005). I celebrate this ownership of self-power. I mourn with the client the possible pain and limitations of change.

        As a human being, I have limitations.  I strive to take personal responsibility for my own thoughts and feelings. I will give them to no other as best I can while on this earth. I face my sadness, weakness, and injustices and exercise my free will to choose meaning; to choose me. To choose honoring others being who they are. Because I accept and embrace both the joys and pain of my humanness, I can empathize with and understand others have struggles, joys, and beliefs that could be different or the same as mine. The fact that we all have these human experiences brings me to a place of acceptance and love for self and others. Because I can be authentic and genuine in being myself, I want to help others feel the same. Sometimes all I have to offer is that authenticity and the willingness to let them just “be.”

        When I first read Rogers (1979) description of that precious moment in therapy when we are fully present and connect with the other person - our client - in the room, I thought "This is it exactly!" Rogers captures feeling the magic of the counseling process: "At those moments it seems my inner spirit has reached out and touched the inner spirit of the other. Our relationship transcends itself and has become part of something larger. Profound growth and healing energy are present" (Rogers, 1979, p. 105). I think this faith in the ability for clients and supervisees to connect and find meaning and purpose in life is why Lew Losoncy’s description of Encouragement therapy (Corsini, 2001) spoke strongly to me. Call it depression, stress, adjusting to life, etc..., but I am always amazed and saddened by how hopeless and helpless humans can feel. I say, "Ok, my cheerleader pom-poms are coming out now" because I sit in wonder at the courageous victories and yet the human iinclination to not recognize our bravery and triumphs. As humans, we minimize victories and focus on the small set-backs. I think my clients and supervisees can benefit from a "glass is half full" perspective.

        I am touched by many of the Actualizing therapy concepts described by Shostrom and Montgomery such as: creative synthesis, grace, polarities, and core (as cited in Corsini, 2001). I am especially impressed, and admittedly felt validated when the authors conceptualized less than ideal life choices as "...represent[ing] survival tactics for trying to get along in the world when one has been hurt and frightened" (Corsini, 2001, p. 5). This is truly how I see addiction and other counseling issues. I see addiction and other choices as a human's demonstration of strength of survival; a belief that says, “Let me find SOME way to cope, some way to deal with the pain and hurt.” As humans, we make choices that do not work; choices that cause more hurt and pain. Additionally, I believe the choice came from a basic instinct to survive. I find this view of addiction is empowering to clients and to me as a clinician.

          In their explanation of the tenets of Actualizing therapy, Shostrom and Montgomery captured my ideal of congruency: "Experiencing one's self within and expressing one's self without: This is the process of actualization” (as cited in Corsini, 2001, p. 1). This is how I conceptualize being "real" and "congruent" in life. We remove the masks of how we "should" be/appear and present who we are. This is such a risky way to live life as we put our "core" out there for others to mock, judge, reject. Yet, turn the lens and we also put our "core" out there for others to love, honor, and respect - the ultimate form of mutually empathic, growth-fostering connectivity (Miller, 1976). I believe in honoring my clients' bravery when they remove their masks or shields.

          Unforeseen by me, my life has truly been focused on areas of advocacy and social injustice in counseling. Proceeding through the master’s and doctoral programs, I never could have envisioned the significance and passion these areas would illicit from me. As my professional development began to mold into a counseling model geared toward women and I became aware of vast differences in the experience of women and particularly motherhood, I found myself in an activist role. Specifically, within the world of postpartum depression and the lack of understanding or acknowledgement from the medical community and society at large propelled me from the role of a clinician to a teacher to an advocate for change. I joined Postpartum Support International to learn more about the link between mental health and gender and found myself transformed to an active agent for change; change in the Alice in Wonderland type world of state legislation and medical insurance reform.

             I found myself replicating the role of advocate when I wanted to become a supervisor for Licensed Professional Counselor Interns. At the time, all of the training programs were either far from San Antonio or geared for the school counseling setting. I saw a need for LPC supervisors in our community, but lack of a community-counseling based supervision training course. A simple call to the state LPC board to ask a question about supervisor training for a friend turned into creating a 40 hour certification course to train Texas LPCs to become counselor supervisors. I learned that sitting back and moaning does not bring about change but small tentative steps forward can. Being an LPC Supervisor is one of the most rewarding challenges I have experienced as a counselor. I want to continue encouraging and teaching future counselors and counselor supervisors. I want to pass along the passion for our profession and what we do that I feel so deeply. I am concerned for our profession as I see new graduates focusing on how paperwork is done or what policies need to be adhered to at post-graduate sites. Although these areas are important, it is my belief that this is not the purpose of postgraduate supervision. It is seeking the mentorship of a senior member of the profession to bridge the world of education to the world of  practice. Integrating these professional polarities will center the counselor core, allowing for best practice along the professional path, far after supervisory oversight are required.

             Through my journey with the Counselor Education and Supervision doctoral program at The University of Texas at San Antonio, I have become more acquainted with areas I would like to study further. For example, Feminist and Narrative therapies seem relevant to who I am and the type of counseling I provide. I would like to examine these therapies more as it relates to my work with females. I believe issues of sex and gender roles are an area of intense stress for our culture right now. I have witnessed the stories my clients and supervisees have been told, interpreted, and believe that serve as powerful deterrents to change. For instance, I find males are expected to be much different from previous generations of males (more emotional, more vulnerable, and more nurturing in the family with less emphasis on the provider-only role.) Females continue to struggle with a balance of self-life, family-life, and work-life issues. I would like to continue to provide a voice in the discourse of change as well as learn more about the Feminist and Narrative counseling perspectives. Additionally, I want to learn more about self-identity in a cultural-relational context so I can better empathize with my clients as well as be aware of any countertransference issues I may have. Overall, I consider myself to be a Relational-Cultural therapist as my main, "umbrella" theoretical orientation; embracing concepts of authenticity, connection, empathy, and vulnerability as the cornerstones of all my counseling, supervisory, and teaching endeavors.

          My main reason for returning to school via the UTSA doctoral program is to become a better counselor and educator. Whether I work with individuals, families, or groups, I am integratively grounded in Relational-Cultural, Humanistic, Cognitive-Behavioral, and Person-Centered theories. Person, place, or issue dynamics (e.g., managed care limiting sessions) may influence which techniques I use, but I have trust in my beliefs and skill. As a counselor, I have worn many additional professional hats: administrator, business manager, social worker, teacher, and advocate. I look forward to adding the “counselor educator” hat to my counselor wardrobe. Each and everyday I wake up and think, “I can’t believe I am so blessed to love what I am doing in my life.” I want to continue experiencing this passion for my profession as well as infuse it in others. I find what we do as counselors incredibly necessary and powerful as well as purposeful and rewarding. I want to keep and expand upon these tenets as I progress through my professional developmental journey grounded solidly in the theories and ethics that define me as “counselor.”


References

Corsini, R. J. (Ed.). (2001). Handbook of innovative therapy (2nd ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Corsini, R. J., & Wedding, D. (2005). Current psychotherapies (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks.

Miller, J. B. (1976). Toward a new psychology of women. Boston: Beacon Press.                         

Rogers, C. R. (1979). The foundations of the person-centered approach. Education, 100, 98-107. 

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