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Heather Duke
Feb 14, 2018

A support system is needed for grad students that are studying to become Counselors

          Graduate school requires a lot of reading and synthesizing of knowledge of terms, techniques, and concepts that hinge upon theoretical orientation. Once graduate students leave the classroom, the students' worldview is very important. With that being said, graduate students need to practice mindfulness concerning their surroundings such as being more attentive to the needs of their friends and family. For example, scheduling a day to have coffee with a friend or attending a Sunday family dinner. These two activities are essential to nurturing a grad student's worldview because they are stimulating and strengthen their physical connection with loved ones. Corey, Corey, and Callanan (2011)  There are other less formal avenues to personal and professional development, such as reflecting on and evaluating the meaning of your work and life, remaining open to the reactions of significant people in your life, traveling to experience different cultures, meditating, engaging in spiritual activities, enjoying physical exercise, spending time with friends and family, and paying attention to the areas and situations that make you feel uncomfortable.

            Next, completing a rigorous counseling graduate program is lonely because for a certain number of hours, a student's mind is absorbing Freud, Insoo Kim Berg, and David Epston theories just to name a few.  These theories allow us to work through mock cases of families, couples, and individuals. However, there is no physical connection to these mock cases.  Reading the mock cases of clients creates a desire to connect with individuals on a deeper level. If a counseling graduate student's schedule only consists of working, school, and taking care of their family, they may suffer from burnout because in the midst of those three activities, it is difficult to carve out time to develop a support system. In order to avoid burnout while being a counseling graduate student, these are the proper steps to develop your support system.

  • lBuild solid friendships - It is healing and important to share a genuine connection with a friend, especially during the pressing times of attending graduate school.Supportive friendships allow an individual to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance.
  • lFind two mentors in the field of counseling - Mentors can provide insightful and useful advice to help graduate students navigate their internship phase and provide opportunities to shadow and observe them working with various populations, whether it be couples, families or individuals.
  • lConnect with a classmate or an alumnus from your university who is working in the counseling field. Classmates can serve as powerful allies, even if it is as simple as inquiring about notes or which chapters to review for exam. Eventually, the association can evolve into a future partnership (whether business, personal or social). Classmates can also sometimes become a source of great physical comfort while navigating through rigorous coursework.Connecting with an alumnus is an insightful connection into the field of counseling. Alumni from counseling programs can offer job connections, keep students abreast on industry trends (i.e. what is expected as a counselor in today's times).Lastly, connecting with alumni provides a sense of hope to students that it is a possibility to graduate with a degree in counseling and secure a position as an LMFT or LPC.

            These three steps will help serve as a solid system for graduate students because each provides students with an opportunity to laugh, listen, and have genuine fun as well as hear the stories of empowerment /encouragement from mentors. Hopefully, these stories help graduate students to better navigate through the turbulent times of practicum, test preparation, or composing a final paper. Having a mentor in one’s field of study is very effective because the mentor models a behavior of success and momentum for inspiring graduate students.

            Hopefully, this post has provided insight into how to successfully develop and sustain a healthy support system while in a counseling graduate program.

Corey, G., Corey, M. S., & Callanan, P. (2011). Issues and Ethics in the Helping Professions (8th ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing.
Heather B Duke is a marriage and family counselor in training.  She will be completing her internship this summer in Chicago, Illinois.  It is her passion to work with couples  that are experiencing relational issues from marriage, divorce or custody arrangements.

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1 Comment

  1. 1 Warren Schaeffer 15 Feb
    As a recent graduate of the counseling program at Rider University, I was fortunate that the faculty at Rider gave us the tools to know what it takes to be a clinical and mental health counselor as well as a school counselor. In my course work, I worked with my fellow  peers in the field, faculty and supervisors who gave me insights, as well as inspiration. 


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