Author: Hanna Gilley

Your mental and emotional health directly affects your ability to provide quality care to your clients. Healthcare professionals in various industries—and mostly due to factors of the coronavirus pandemic—are feeling guilt, shame and exhaustion, all symptoms of burnout. But are you experiencing something more complicated?

What is Burnout?

First, let’s discuss what burnout is. Burnout is a non-medical diagnosis characterized as a specific type of work-related stress. Burnout causes physical or emotional exhaustion (or both) that typically includes a feeling that you’ve lost your personal identity and sense of accomplishment.
Experts don’t know the cause of burnout, but some believe that depression and other individual factors may be involved.

Signs of Burnout

One person may experience burnout entirely differently from another. Take a few moments to consider these work scenarios to see if you’re experiencing burnout:

  • You feel pessimistic, critical and/or irritable
  • You feel unmotivated, easily distracted, and less productive
  • You don’t feel satisfied by your achievements or your work
  • Your sleep habits have changed (extreme fatigue, insomnia, sleep disturbances)
  • You’re experiencing headaches, stomach aches or other physical ailments
  • You’re using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to not feel at all
  • You no longer have energy for the people or things you enjoy

Possible Reasons You May Experience Burnout

Again, reasons of burnout will be different for each individual. Common factors include:

  • Lack of support
  • Unclear job expectations
  • Toxic or dysfunctional workplace environment
  • Lack of work/life balance

You may also be experiencing a heavy workload, excessive or long hours, or having little control over your work or schedule. Unfortunately, if you work in a helping profession, you may be more susceptible to burnout. If you suspect burnout, discuss your feelings and possible options with your supervisor or an HR resource.

You can also seek the advice of a healthcare professional to help address and alleviate any physical or emotional effects that are troubling you. Without intervention, burnout could lead to excessive stress, sleep issues, substance misuse, high blood pressure and higher risk of other health-related conditions.

Identifying with typical job burnout may not be sufficient for those in the helping professions, particularly in the years of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is where moral injury is increasingly getting brought into the conversation.

What is Moral Injury?

Moral injury involves the stressful social, psychological, and/or spiritual effects of having witnessed or participated in behaviors that go against a person’s core beliefs and values.

The term was developed in the 1990s to describe the moral conflicts military professionals were feeling after returning from war zones. Later, it was used to describe healthcare professionals facing similar distressing environments.

In a healthcare setting, burnout is described as a type of “chronic work stress” while moral injury is explained as the “suffering that occurs in response to moral adversity.” Having our beliefs or ethics repeatedly dishonored at our workplace can create undue psychological injury including disrupting how we feel about our individual selves and how we show up in the world.

What does moral injury look like in the helping professions?

Moral injury can occur in any profession but is on the rise in the healthcare industry. Here are some examples of what that may look like:

Feeling a sense of responsibility to make decisions that entail conflicting morals, ethics and values. For example, taking on more clients to meet the needs of your community, despite the caseload size exceeding your typical self-care standard.

Doing something that goes against your beliefs (referred to as an act of commission). Behavioral health care workers may be faced with situations where they need to decide how best to prioritize clients in need of a session (e.g., which clients receive less/more frequent sessions and how to best use limited time when multiple clients need help or when many are waiting for services).

Failing to do something in line with your beliefs (referred to as an act of omission). Moral injury can also develop in behavioral health care workers when they feel unable to provide the type of care requested by the client (e.g., in person session) for sake of their own safety or their families.

Witnessing or learning about an act that goes against your ethics and beliefs.Some may feel guilt and shame because they felt numb in the face of suffering and death. Behavioral health care workers may also witness what they perceive to be unjustifiable or unfair acts or policies that they feel powerless to confront.

Experiencing betrayal by someone you trust. A person who experiences betrayal may also feel anger, resentment, and/or diminished confidence in peers, leaders or organizations.

In behavioral health and mental health professions specifically, moral injury is a common occurrence. However, neither moral injury nor burnout is the fault of an individual, and self-care alone will not eliminate them. If you’re experiencing or have experienced moral injury, consider the following:

  • If you don’t already, attend therapy sessions regularly
  • Connect with colleagues who feel or have felt similarly
  • Take the time to self-reflect often (journal, prayer, meditation, etc.)
  • Stay connected to your true self, beliefs and values
  • Align your personal values with your business’ values
  • If you’re not self-employed, look for a workplace that prioritizes care over quotas and encourages a work/life balance

Clinicians, therapists, and other behavioral health workers are in their line of work because they truly want to help others—but remember that being an impactful, successful, and respected healthcare professional doesn’t need to come at a personal cost.

Self-care for moral injury can be particularly challenging for people working in behavioral health care given that those in the field strongly value caring for others and may prioritize the needs of others over their own. It is often only in conversations with others that we can hear a different, more helpful way to think about or make meaning from morally distressing situations.

On the positive side, there is also evidence that indicates after potentially morally injurious experiences some people develop a redefined meaning in life and, with time and support, begin to incorporate the experience into growth or helping others. Further, some develop new insights about how to help the systems in which they work or that can help them grow in their own work or lives.

Behavioral health care workers, their colleagues, and leaders can use strategies to take care of themselves and each other both during and after potential morally injurious situations, to support recovery and growth.

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Parts & People: An Overview of the Internal Family Systems Model

Presented by HAM affiliate Karen Hardy, LCPC, CADC 
Six CEUs (contact hours) 

Monday, March 14
Friday, March 25
8:30 am – 4:00 pm 

About This Training:

An evidence-based model of psychotherapy, Internal Family Systems is a way for people to understand themselves in a deeper way and offer insight about their relationships with others.

This interactive workshop will provide an overview of the Internal Family Systems model. Participants will have the opportunity to do some meditative, introspection work using this model, have the opportunity to ask questions, engage in discussion, and observe a recorded session.

If times allows, a live demonstration may be held for a member to experience the model first-hand while others observe.

Training Details:

Location: Online Event
Time: 8:30 am – 4:00 pm
Dates: Monday, March 14, 2022 OR Friday, March 25, 2022
Cost: $59; FREE for HAM affiliates


Register here for the Monday, March 14 session!

Register here for the Friday, March 25 session!

About the Presenter:

Karen Hardy, LCPC, CADC, worked as a counselor for 20 years at the Connecticut Department of Corrections. Upon her retirement in 2011, she began a Master’s program at Cambridge College in Springfield, MA. She now holds a M.Ed. in counseling psychology.

Much of Karen’s work has been related to addiction and trauma treatments, as she believes there’s a strong correlation between the two issues. She also works with family members affected by a loved one’s addictive behaviors. Her personal experiences offer a unique perspective to her clients; she values each individual as they are and helps them envision an empowered future.

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Thinking about opening your own private practice? Way to go! Health Affiliates Maine is proud to help behavioral health professionals as they venture into entrepreneurship, making that potentially overwhelming experience a little easier to navigate.

Signs You’re Ready to Run Your Own Business

Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. However, odds are that if you’ve been thinking about it, you know deep down that you can do this! Here are some signs to look out for when considering if the time is right to strike out on your own:

  • You can think of better, more efficient ways of doing things
  • Your values no longer align with your employer’s or company’s values
  • You feel limited at your current position
  • You want more freedom and flexibility in your lifestyle
  • There’s a strong market or need for your unique services and abilities
  • You’ve outlined or thought about a business plan
  • You have support or know where to find it, such as creating a network of colleagues
  • You believe in yourself and are excited by the idea of owning your own business

Characteristics of an Entrepreneur

Although not everyone wants to run their own business (and that’s okay!), there also isn’t only “one type” of person who would be successful at it. Here’s a list of a few common attributes in entrepreneurs:

  • You’re passionate
  • You’re independent
  • You’re organized
  • You’re not risk-averse
  • You’re resilient
  • You’re not afraid to go it alone or ask for help

If you don’t immediately identify with any of those characteristics, it doesn’t mean that you couldn’t run your own practice if you wanted to. We suggest taking time to reflect inward on why you want your own business, what you would offer and how you would start taking steps to get there.

Feeling ready to open your own private practice? Take a look at five ways you can market your new business. Marketing yourself and your business may sound unnecessary (you already have clients!) but it’s important for maintaining your professional relationships, attracting potential clients, and keeping your new business relevant.

How Not to Become Overwhelmed When Starting a Business

We won’t lie—your private practice won’t happen overnight, and you’ll likely face challenges and hard decisions along the way. When you feel overwhelmed or stressed, try the following:

  • Take a walk or do an exercise workout
  • Try yoga or mediation to calm your nervous system
  • Turn on “do not disturb” on all your devices to limit distractions
  • Consider reaching out to someone in your network for advice or support
  • Mark a day on your calendar that’s just for you (take yourself out to lunch, do errands, go shopping, go the spa, anything to distract yourself from overwhelm and allow yourself to reset)

When running your own private practice, there will be days when you’re firing on all cylinders and other days when you may question your business decisions. Both are normal and a part of being an entrepreneur! Take a few moments to remember your why. Why did you leave your previous employer? Why did you want to be your own boss? Why did you decide to serve clients your way? These answers will remind you of the vision you have for your private practice and will re-inspire you.

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Running your own practice allows you to determine your caseload, clients, and your schedule so that your business aligns with your principles. However, if you’ve had your private practice for a while (or even if you’re just starting out) you may have experienced seasons of isolation or loneliness.

Being a solo entrepreneur has its advantages, but having workplace relationships can offer needed support, camaraderie, and guidance. We know you can go it alone, but you don’t have to for your practice to be successful! Consider our advice on building your community:

Attend trainings, workshops, and other CE opportunities. They will keep you learning and up to date with best practice standards and clinical intervention methods which will benefit your practice. They will also connect you with other mental health professionals that you can bounce thoughts and ideas off with.

Join professional organizations from local, regional, and national chapters. Reach out to small business owners via email, connect with mental health professionals with a similar niche and network during events. Don’t be afraid to make and maintain connections.

Offer consulting services to local businesses and organizations. Think employeeworkshops on interpersonal communications or HR topics such as diversity and inclusion among peers. This will grow your public speaking skills, grow your business, and expand your network and opportunities for referrals.

Submit advice to a local publication or website. Perhaps there’s an expert’s section where readers submit questions looking for professional advice or maybe it’s a monthly column with a guest speaker. Think of the audience of the publication and offer a proposed article that would benefit them.

Teach a class or workshop at a childcare center, community college or corporate event. Important and common topics are stress management, establishing boundaries, and effective communication.

Lean on one another and use colleagues for support. If there’s an individual needing help, but at the moment you are unable to take on new clients, refer them to another in your network. And let them do the same for you!

You started your private practice to serve clients your way. But when you have a community of colleagues lifting you up, your wellbeing, your clients, and your practice will thrive.

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Presented by John Yasenchak, Ed.D.

Friday, November 5, 2021 or Friday, November 19, 2021

8:30am-4:00pm

About This Training

There is no doubt that the pandemic has pushed helping professionals toward new levels of technological competence. Every advance in technology raises new levels of ethical awareness. Often, technology seems to outpace the development of ethical standards. Bots, apps, AI, avatars, telehealth—how do we keep up with it all? 



In this workshop, we will look toward the future of the helping professions and examine the impact that technology will have on our practice. We will review basic professional ethical norms, apply them to emerging trends and present a model for ethical decision making. We will also explore the philosophy of transhumanism and how its assumptions impact the fundamental questions our profession has been asking since its inception: “What does it mean to be human? Why should I be ethical?”



Ultimately, this will be an opportunity to reflect on our relationship to technology and its application to mental health and substance use counseling. It will also be an opportunity to reflect on how we view the service we provide in the context of our rapidly changing techno-culture. 

Training Details 

Registration now open!


Location: Online event 

Time: 8:30 am – 4:00 pm

Dates: Friday, November 5, 2021 OR Friday, November 19, 2021 

Cost: FREE for Health Affiliates Maine affiliates
$59 for clinicians not affiliated with HAM

Register here for Friday, November 5 session!

Register here for Friday, November 19 session!

About the Presenter 

John Yasenchak, Ed.D., holds a doctorate in Counselor Education from the University of Maine as well as a masters degree in philosophy, a course he also taught from 1982-1985. He has been teaching graduate counseling courses since 1996 and has been a practicing clinical counselor and supervisor in a variety of clinical settings since 1985. His expertise is in clinical mental health counseling.

Dr. Yasenchak’s experience includes inner city work with co-occurring disorders, university student development, and 20 years as clinical supervisor for a Native American counseling facility. Currently, he provides consultation and training services and is a contributing faculty member of Walden University.

Dr. Yasenchak’s primary areas of interest are in mental health and addictions counseling. He also has specific interests in spirituality and religion in the practice of counseling, as well as in digital ethics.

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This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on October 1, 2021, by Mary Gagnon, LMFT, and Clinical Development and Training Specialist for Health Affiliates Maine. 

Question: I have three children ages 4, 3, and 6 months. How do I get my 4- and 3-year-olds to listen without raising my voice and losing my temper? My 4-year-old is sensitive and doesn’t respond well to anger.

Answer: Ah, those early years are certainly a challenge! So much growth, so little attention span and capacity for self-regulation.

You’re off to a great start. Self-awareness is one of the most important tools in your parenting toolbox. An awareness of your child’s unique personality traits and tolerances is another. And, of course, most people don’t respond well to anger, nor do you want to spend your time with your children feeling angry. So, what else can you do?

Let’s start with you. Are you taking care of yourself? Having three children under five is a great deal of work, and it absorbs a lot of your time and energy. Make sure that you’re meeting some basic self-care needs: nutrition, exercise, sleep (a tough one with young children, I know), time with family and friends, engagement in meaningful activities (paid or unpaid, hobbies, spiritual fulfillment, etc.), whatever you think you need to feel whole and healthy. You may need to ask for help in getting your needs met. You may feel selfish or like you don’t want to “burden” anyone else, but time for yourself helps you to be a better parent, friend, partner, and so on. It’s a win for everyone.

Envisioning and setting intentions for the day can be very helpful. Knowing what you want out of the day and how you want to be as a parent that day helps your mind walk that path. So, for example, you can say to yourself at the beginning of the day, “Today I want to show my children that they are loved. I’m going to make cookies with them.” If things go awry, remind yourself that plans don’t always work out as you hope, and grant yourself and your children grace and the benefit of the doubt, and that even if the cookies don’t get made, there are many ways to show your children that they are loved.

Now, about your children. They’re in exciting times in their development. The world is a big place, an interesting place, an unknown and sometimes even scary place. They’re newbies in this world, newbies even to their own bodies and minds, and they don’t know how to read the map. It’s our job as parents to help them navigate this brave new world, to help them feel secure enough to explore. If we’re doing our job, then they’ll do just that…and sometimes they’ll go too far and we must pull them in. They won’t always like it (just as we don’t like it when our desires are thwarted), and we’ll have to endure the inevitable challenges to our limit-setting—tantrums. Young children have less experience in the world, less understanding and control of their emotions and bodies, and though we may not appreciate their outbursts, they’re perfectly normal.

Young children, too, aren’t known for their high attention spans. Developmentally, their brains are absorbing many, many things, and they don’t know what to pay attention to. It’s a parent’s job to help them learn what to pay attention to and how to act, physically and emotionally, in the world.

So, how do you do that? Here are a few concrete tips:

  • Speak to them at their level. This is both physical and mental. Get down onto your knees when you talk to them, so that you are eye-to-eye with them. Use words that they understand. Use short sentences that don’t have multiple commands in them (“You need to get dressed, pick up your toys, and eat your breakfast” is a lot for a young brain to process).
  • Use a firm but loving voice. Your voice should be calm and loving, but also confident and firm. You’re their teacher, and you’re teaching them how to act.
  • Touch (or not). Some children find touch comforting and grounding, others find it overstimulating. Look for clues that tell you how your child feels about touch.
  • Warn them of consequences. Tell them what behavior you don’t like and warn them that if the behavior continues, what consequence will occur as a result. Consequences should relate to the behavior when possible (“If you keep pulling the dog’s fur, you won’t be allowed to pat the dog anymore. Use gentle hands, please. Let’s do it together.”).
  • Calmly follow through with consequences. Again, you’re teaching them. Their education should be calm and matter-of-fact.
  • Talk about it later. None of us can talk about an issue when we’re still overly emotional about it. When everyone has calmed down and is more focused, that’s the time to review what happened. Keep it simple (“You pulled the dog’s fur again, and that hurts the dog, so you couldn’t pat the dog anymore. Next time, please use gentle hands with the dog so you don’t hurt him.”)
  • Repetition is your friend. Kids (and adults, too) don’t typically learn something the very first time. They need lots of practice and repetition. This might be a bit tiring for parents, but it’s vitally important to understand that they’re not trying to upset you; they just need more time to learn what you’re trying to teach them.

Remember that everyone has a bad day, children and parents alike. If you do end up raising your voice and losing your temper, take time to apologize to your child and speak calmly about what happened. They may not understand everything you’re saying, but they’ll remember how it felt to have their parent speak to them kindly and acknowledge their mistakes. It’s a wonderful lesson for when they make their own mistakes, giving them both the blueprint for how to handle those situations and a safe space with you to admit them and try again.

Raising children is a marathon, not a sprint, and you’re bound to get a charley horse or two along the way. What’s most important is that your children know how much you love them. Best of luck to you!

Mary Gagnon is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Clinical Development and Training Specialist at Health Affiliates Maine.

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An estimated 22 million Americans among every gender, race, and social class are currently in recovery. For those in recovery, it is not a one-size-fits-all situation but one completely unique to one’s life experiences and circumstances.

What does “in recovery” mean?

It’s a common misconception that abstinence and sobriety alone equates to being in recovery. The definition provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is as follows: Recovery is “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach
their full potential.” While in recovery, it’s important to also recognize the significance of focusing on one’s physical and mental health. Continued success is more likely once an individual has gained insight regarding any unresolved trauma, or underlying emotional and mental health issues in order to better understand how these factors may have impact on their recovery process.

Recovery varies by person, but may include:

  • 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous
  • In-patient treatment, Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) or an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
  • Avoiding triggering situations
  • Meditation and prayer
  • Regular counseling sessions
  • Trying a new hobby or resuming an old one
  • Building strong + positive support systems
  • Being physically active on a regular basis
  • Developing structure and routines
  • Focusing on nutrition, sleep, and stress management

How do I support a loved one in recovery?

When you discover that a friend or loved one is in recovery, you may be nervous or unsure of how to act or speak around them. Remember, people in recovery are humans just like you! If someone discloses that they’re in recovery, you can say the following:

  • “How’s it going?”
  • “I’m proud of you!”
  • “That’s great! You deserve to live a happy and fulfilling life.”
  • “How can I support you in your recovery?”

The statements above show your genuine support of their health. A simple phrase of encouragement and recognition can go a long way for someone in recovery. If someone discloses that they’re in recovery, avoid the following statements:

  • “You don’t look like an addict.”
  • “How do you know you’re an addict?”
  • “When did you hit rock bottom?” or “How do you know you hit bottom?”
  • “If you were addicted to drugs, can you still drink alcohol?”

The statements have the potential to result in hurt or upset feelings for a person in recovery. While you may be curious about their recovery process, it’s essential to allow the person in recovery to share their perspective on their own terms.

Health Affiliates Maine continuously strives to address the stigma associated with mental health and substance use. We work to increase access to supportive services for all Mainers so that they have a successful journey to recovery. We have a network of counselors, LADCs, and community resources (such as our telehealth IOP) that aims to help anyone in need of treatment. While you can’t force anyone to get help (only they can make that decision), you can offer validation and encouragement. If you’re equipped with resources and education, you’re already supporting them in their journey to recovery.

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As a nation and throughout Maine communities, there is an ever-increasing need for mental health services. To continue providing quality care during the pandemic, many clinicians, agencies, and mental health workers quickly pivoted from their normal day-to-day operations to include an underused technology—telehealth. The following are three benefits of telehealth services to consider in order to better reach your clients and grow your practice.

Access. If patients have access to a phone, computer and/or WiFi internet, telehealth services may be a great option for continuity of care. Clients who live in a rural setting, don’t have reliable transportation, or have limited mobility, can utilize telehealth right from the comfort of their home without the need or cost to travel. Telehealth sessions may also offer more availability when scheduling, and provide access to health care for those who may be vulnerable to isolation.

Flexibility. Telehealth offers flexibility for both patients and clinicians. With remote and hybrid learning options becoming more prevalent at schools, telehealth may assist those with childcare challenges. With work-from-home policies becoming more popular among organizations, patients and clinicians may be able to schedule their sessions during a part of the day where they couldn’t before. Telehealth services may also be convenient during inclement weather and reaching those with emergency healthcare needs.

Savings. Providing telehealth services to your patients can save time and money. Patients will save money on transportation, childcare costs, and potential health insurance costs and will save time commuting and waiting in the office. As a clinician, you may realize these same benefits, in addition to lower overhead costs, patient retention/new clients, and the ability to be productive in other areas of your practice’s growth.

To get started with telehealth options in your practice, it’s important to consider the following:

  • Find a HIPAA compliant platform. A free, HIPAA-compliant option that we often recommend is Doxy.me. There is also a list available here, with popular options including certain subscriptions from Zoom, Skype for Business, Webex and Microsoft teams.
  • Establish a BAA (business associate agreement) with your chosen platform vendor. This agreement describes each party’s responsibilities and safeguards used and can enable and ensure HIPAA compliancy.
  • Private space. Make sure you and your clients have a safe, private place to conduct your session.
  • Secure network. It’s best to ensure that your internet connection is private and secure and you’re able to use encryption where possible.
  • Informed Consent Form. You may already use this form at your practice, but it’s wise to include specific instructions, guidelines, and boundaries regarding telehealth.

Providing telehealth services may seem daunting for some clinicians because of lack of technical familiarity, concern regarding quality of clinical care with telehealth versus in- person sessions, or simply being overwhelmed with where to begin. It’s important to note that each clinician and client relationship is unique, and some patients may or may not like this method of providing care. Telehealth is not meant to replace in-person sessions, rather supplement an already existing method of care.

At Health Affiliates Maine, it’s part of our mission to expand access to health care and increase the quality of life for all Mainers. Although not a requirement for affiliation, many of our affiliates are finding that offering telehealth services has greatly impacted their practice in a profound way.

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This class meets the requirements for Domain 1, Behavioral, Psychological and Rehabilitation Intervention Models of the Maine MHRT/Community curriculum.

  • Tickets: $300
  • Location: Online Event
  • Presented By: Mary Gagnon, LMFT
  • Registration: Register Online
  • Refund Policy: Refunds up to 7 days before event

Do I Need This Training?

The MHRT/C certification is a Maine-based certification for mental health professionals wishing to work directly in patient care. Consider this MHRT/C training if:

  • You wish to work in Maine as a case worker, in a group home, or community support work
  • You currently do not have a college degree that included all accredited coursework
  • You need continuing education credits relating to ethics and professional conduct
  • You are working towards a provisional or full MHRT/C and need priority domain training

About this Event

This course will examine the knowledge, attitudes, and skills Mental Health Technicians need to establish rapport, communicate effectively and respectfully, and work collaboratively with consumers regarding their care to support recovery, with awareness of changing needs across the lifespan.

The following training objectives will be studied:

  1. Explain the concept of community inclusion and the use of natural supports to enhance recovery.
  2. Relate human development theory, including the interaction of social, psychosocial development across the lifespan./li>
  3. Give examples of evidence‐based models and approaches that integrate treatment and rehabilitation.
  4. Demonstrate general knowledge of the current diagnostic manual and be able to name basic diagnostic categories.
  5. Define the treatment complexities for co‐occurring disorders and addictions within vulnerable populations.
  6. Identify community resources to assist in the recovery process for individuals who have co‐occurring mental health and substance use disorders.
  7. Recognize the consumer’s development and life stage, and where they are in relation to the Stages of Change Model, in order to develop individualized treatment plans.
  8. Be aware of common strengths‐based assessments, including instruments that identify or screen for co‐occurring disorders and/or trauma history, and tools that evaluate the level of care needs.
  9. Demonstrate a collaborative, person‐centered, recovery‐oriented, shared decision‐making approach to working with consumers. Identify strengths and challenges and how to incorporate natural supports into individualized treatment plans.
  10. Describe common factors of effective helping strategies when working with consumers, e.g., therapeutic relationship, empowerment, consumer choice, and respect for the consumer.
  11. Demonstrate active listening skills, basic interviewing skills, and demonstrate respect for the consumer at all times.
  12. Illustrate an understanding of crisis planning, advance directives, crisis intervention strategies, and use of a warm line.

Course Expectations

1. Attendance:

Students must attend each day of class and receive an 80% or above on the final exam to earn a certificate of completion.

2. Make‐up work:

Students must attend all classes as stated above and complete and submit any missed assignments.

3. Class size:

The standardized MHRT/C curricula are interactive. The recommendation is that classes have no fewer than 6 participants and no more than 20./p>

4. Class participation guidelines:

  1. Students will arrive on time and stay until the end
  2. Students will demonstrate respect for others.
  3. Use first person language, such as “I” messages. [For example, “I didn’t understand his response to my question” as opposed to “He overreacted to my question.”] This allows students to take responsibility for their feelings and experiences rather than blame them on someone else.
  4. Cell phones should be placed on vibrate or silenced at all times during the class.
  5. Students are expected to participate in all activities.

5. Course evaluations

Participants will receive a link to complete an online evaluation the last day of their training.

About the Presenter:

Mary Gagnon, LMFT, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the Training and Clinical Development Specialist for Health Affiliates Maine. Mary has worked in private practice as well as a variety of community mental health settings throughout her career. Her most recent work at Health Affiliates Maine includes oversight of clinicians in private practice and development and facilitation of trainings for schools and conferences throughout the state. She is a certified trainer for Domains 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 for the MHRT/C Non-Academic Curriculum.

Register Online

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This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on July 1, 2021, by Lindsay McKeen, LCSW, CCS, Outpatient Therapy Supervisor, Health Affiliates Maine. 

Question: My husband and I divorced last year and while initially our daughter (11) was adjusting well to the big change in her life, she seems to be struggling more and more. We want to find a counselor for her to talk with. I’m wondering if you can suggest what types of questions are good ones to ask when trying to find the right counselor? My ex and I want to be sure it’s a good fit. Thank you so much.

Answer: It can be difficult to take that first step in getting yourself or a loved one into counseling, and even more so when you are navigating a new family dynamic and trying to find that support for your child. It is important that you and your ex-husband are on the same page here. In sharing this awareness of her needs and interest in finding a counselor that is a good fit for her, you are off to a good start.

Before looking at what to ask of the counselor, it is important to be sure the right questions have been asked within the family. While your child may not be hands-on in the search for a counselor, it will end up being her service and provider and so including her voice early on may help enhance her connection and engagement. What is her understanding of counseling? Is she agreeable to seeing a counselor? Are there any questions she would like answered before seeing the counselor? Does she have any questions for you? While parents are the decision makers, children value being heard and having a sense of control where appropriate. Giving her this voice before starting the counseling relationship can set a good tone for creating a trusting environment where she feels she can be open about the struggles she has been having.

Then, when it comes time to ask questions of the potential counselor, it may also be helpful to ensure you and your ex-husband have similar definitions of what a “good fit” would look like. You may have already had this dialogue, or you might try answering the questions below with one another to see if your definitions align. Many counselors also have online profiles and viewing these together could be another way to get a sense for what you both are looking for in a counselor for your daughter. Here are some topics and questions to consider when looking for a counselor:

Experience: While it is possible for counselors to work with people of all ages, many counselors find their niche in working with certain client populations. This niche may be developed around age group, diagnoses or presenting concerns, and/or specialized treatment approaches. Asking about the counselor’s experience may help you feel more comfortable with their ability to support your daughter with her needs.

  • Does the counselor have experience working with children or your child’s particular age group?
  • Does the counselor have experience working with families, especially those navigating divorce?
  • What is the counselor’s therapeutic modality or approach to working with children?

If you have spiritual beliefs or other cultural considerations you would like considered by the counselor:

  • What is the counselor’s understanding of that belief/culture?
  • How does the counselor manage differences in beliefs/culture and/or how does the counselor understand the ways in which the belief/culture may impact a child’s mental health care?

Potential Scenarios: In learning about the counselor’s experience and approach in therapy, you may get a sense for how the clinician will interact with the child and family, or you may want to ask more questions to get a better understanding. You might try thinking ahead to potential scenarios that might arise using the questions below:

  • How will the counselor navigate confidentiality and privacy for the child in relation to parental involvement?
  • How will the counselor handle concerns that they themselves or the parent(s) have identified?
  • How does the counselor foresee handling differences in opinion that may arise between parent(s), child, and/or counselor?

Logistics: Though the counselor’s experience and approach are likely most influential in selecting the right provider, the logistics are important too. Having discussions about the logistics upfront can help clarify expectations of both parties and minimize disruptions to the counseling relationship once it has begun.

  • Does the counselor provide in-person or telehealth-based services?
  • Does the counselor have the availability to offer a standing appointment? Or is their scheduling flexible/varying depending on the week?
  • Does the counselor have any policies in place around attendance or payment?

  • What are the counselor’s practices for communicating information to parents?
  • Are there expectations for parental involvement?
  • What is the best way to communicate with the counselor?


Though this article presents many questions and considerations for finding the right counselor, know that this is not all-inclusive. Having conversations with your ex-husband and child may expand or narrow this list to what feels most relevant to her needs. Most important in this process is open communication, with one another and the counselor, keeping in mind that the common goal is to support your child, and that the search can continue if you find yourselves feeling like the counselor is not a good fit.

 

Lindsey McKeen, LCSW, CCS is a clinical social worker and Outpatient Therapy Supervisor at Health Affiliates Maine.

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