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GSCBlogPic Sep 18, 2019

“Navigating Counseling Conferences as an Introvert”

If you are an introvert (like myself), you might also have a challenging time navigating counseling conferences (particularly those as large in number as the annual ACA conference). While being amongst our colleagues and learning information may be exciting, conferencing requires a LOT of energy. Below are my suggestions for taking care of yourself while attending counseling conferences:

  • Choose your roommate(s) wisely!

    • If you can, be intentional about choosing your roommate during the conference and let them know about your needs. If you are rooming with another introvert, you all may have similar needs when winding down from the day (e.g., giving each other space, sitting in silence). However, if you are rooming with an extrovert, let them know when you may need to be alone to process or to simply recharge from the day. Regardless of your energy compatibility, having these conversations before you arrive at the conference may be helpful.

  • Charge your “introvert battery”.

    • Contrary to popular belief, you DO NOT have to go to every conference session. At the beginning of a conference, I select 4-5 “must attend” sessions (excluding the opening/closing keynotes, welcome receptions, business meetings, etc.). If I have a paper copy of the conference program, I will highlight the sessions that interest me the most (or if I’m using the digital app, I’ll select the few that I want to attend and build those into my schedule). Outside of those pre-selected sessions, I don’t force myself to go to others, unless my “introvert battery” is well-charged that day. If you are starting to feel that your “introvert battery” is draining, resist the urge to push yourself beyond the boundaries of your energy. 

  • Don’t feel pressured to “be on” during the entire conference.

    • While conferencing, many of us, particularly as graduate students, feel that we have to “be on” at all times. However, for many introverts, this simply isn’t practical and it can also contribute to feelings of burnout throughout the conference. Pace yourself and recognize when you may need some time away.

  • Remember that there are many ways to network!

    • Networking is a common source of anxiety for many introverts, particularly while conferencing as a graduate student. “Make sure that you meet people and ask questions!” Sure, making connections and learning with folks are both very important aspects of conferencing. At the same time, there are other ways of maneuvering the pressure of networking in conferencing spaces. Consider approaching a presenter one-on-one, exchanging business cards, and asking if you can email them afterwards. This will you give you an opportunity to prepare what you want to say, without the pressure of an extended “meet and greet”.

  • Practice self-preservation.

    • In addition to building in time to decompress and charge your battery, find other ways to take care of yourself and monitor your energy. It is okay to have a meal by yourself, go for a walk alone, or sit somewhere quiet and just “be”. One of my favorite self-preservation practices, especially while conferencing, is taking naps! This is when communication with my roommate about my needs for the day is super important.

However you decide to navigate counseling conferences, do know that there is space for you! Remember to pace yourself, charge your “introvert battery” as often as possible, and let those who care about you know what you need to be your best self. Also, don’t forget to HAVE FUN (even if you’re having fun spending time alone).

       Contributing Author

Raven K. Cokley, M.Ed., is a fourth-year doctoral candidate in Counseling and Student Personnel Services at the University of Georgia. Raven is also a doctoral clinical intern at C.E.O. Professional Services, LLC., where she provides individual and group counseling services to community members within Gwinnett County, GA. Broadly, Raven’s research interests include: experiences of giftedness among Black girls and women; the social, emotional, and academic concerns of high-achieving Black girls and women; learning and achievement within a Ghanaian learning environment; the role of counselors and counselor educators in the Movement for Black Lives; experiences of Black first-generation doctoral students; and group work experiences among girls of Color. Specifically, her dissertation explores experiences of giftedness among Black girls in middle school in Ghana, West Africa. Raven is an active member of the ACA Graduate Student Committee, the SACES Graduate Student Committee, and she serves as the Newsletter Editor for AMCD. Raven is also a 2018 NBCC Minority Doctoral Fellow.

Graduate Student and New Professional Blog
We are all taking 12-15 credit hours per semester, participating in research opportunities, managing work schedules, maintaining a social/family life, or we just transitioned into our New Professional role and have no idea what we are doing! ACA’s Graduate Student and New Professional Blog offers real life vignettes of life, academics, and how to keep yourself afloat despite your crazy schedule. Any suggestions for what you would like to hear more about, please email the Graduate Student Committee.

Columns can be reprinted in full or in part with attribution to the American Counseling Association’s Graduate Student and New Professional Blog.

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