Building the Practice of Your Dreams: Selecting the Right Space and Paying For It

Posted by: Doc Warren on July 12, 2019 12:34 pm

Selecting space is one of the most important aspects of a practice, whether it is your first location, an additional location or if you are considering relocating an existing practice. Just as in politics and religion, there are many philosophies and schools of thought on this. This article seeks to explore some, but definitely not all the options and considerations. It should help to provide a good framework to build upon, however, it cannot replace what you could expect from hiring a business professional or consultant that can help you develop a comprehensive business plan.

It’s time to find a location and if you are like most folks, you may be feeling just a bit overwhelmed. Should you buy, should you rent, or should you do a long-term lease? You might ask such questions as, how close do I want the office to be to my house? Could my house be converted into two spaces, one to live in and one to use as my office? Would I be allowed to convert my house by law or would I have issued with the local authorities? How big a space do I need? What is my plan for future expansion? How do I come up with a budget and stick to it? How much remodeling will be needed and will they allow me to do it or do I have to hire trades? What’s my ability handy wise? The lists seems endless and your head begins to spin like a dreidel.

Rent\Lease
While I personally am not big on renting or leasing, I have done it while in the process of buying a property or two. There are many advantages and disadvantages to not owning. I’ll start with the common disadvantages of renting/leasing so we can end on a high note:

  • Lack of control over aesthetics: You don’t own it so you are limited in what you can do to change the office. Depending on the agreement, you may or may not be able to change paint colours, may be limited in how you can decorate and what you can hang on the walls (some owners forbid nails or other mechanical hangers on their walls due to the potential need to fill in the holes and make other repairs once you leave). You may have no control over updating dated flooring, wall colors or other aspects of the office. You cannot make structural changes, change door sizes or door locations. Also, depending on when it was last updated, this property may not comply with accessibility standards. Depending on the owner, they may or may not voluntarily make the upgrades. Some property owners may refuse the upgrades which puts the renter in a tough space, others may refuse to pay for the upgrades but allow the renter to do so. It’s best to explore this before signing contracts. It should be noted that is you purchase the property, it all falls on you to make the improvements.
  • You will not build equity: When you own a property you will typically build equity as in most cases real property such as an office building, home, land etc. will increase in value as time passes. Upgrades, additions and other improvements made to the property typically will increase the appeal and resale price of a property. If you do not own the property though, every cent you pay to the owner is traded for the time you used it, it will not ever have a chance to earn you anything in the future.
  • No control over neighbors: This is most crucial in a larger building with multiple office suites for rent. As a tenant, you have little to no say in who your neighbors are. Over the years I have consulted with folks who have found that competitors rented space in their same building. Other times they found that an influx of new neighbors changed the feel of the building and became a detraction for them. One example was when a wellness and recovery program found themselves sharing space with a bar and microbrewery. While there is nothing wrong with bars or breweries, it proved to be a huge trigger for clients who were trying to stay sober. Had they owned the building, they could have done more to make sure that the renters all complimented one another.
  • Your contract may not be renewed: Many folks have found themselves having to relocate from a spot that they held for years and had grown to love due to changes in the ownership of the building, or changes in the use of the building. Once your agreement expires, neither you nor the owner is compelled to sign a new one. Should the owner have a new plan for the space, you may find yourself looking for a new location at the most inconvenient time.

Advantages of Renting/Leasing:

  • Repairs: depending on your contract you may find that you are not responsible for any repairs to the office. This reduces the need for maintenance staff and repairs (though these are often factored in the rental fees).
  • Mobility: As you do not own the property, you are free to leave when you want, though if you are still in an active contract you may receive some financial penalties.  Whereas if you owned the property, you would need to pay and maintain it until you found a new buyer.
  • Remodeling/renovations: Depending on your contract you may find an owner that is willing to build or remodel the office to your needs for no additional cost (though expect this to be a factor when they consider the monthly rental fee). Should this be the case, expect them to want to have you sign a lengthy agreement than 1 year. There may also be a penalty should you try to leave within the life of the agreement.
  • Size of practice: Many times when starting out or adding a location, you will need a minimal space, far less than an entire building. Renting may allow you to rent as little as a few hundred square feet of space and also allow you to expand in the future. Purchasing a property allows you to own it all or nothing. By renting just what you need as you need it, it can be far cheaper than having to buy much more than you will use.

Disadvantages of Buying:

  • Cost: The initial costs of purchasing a property can be daunting to say the least. Whereas renting may cost you a few thousand per month depending on size, location, etc., purchasing a property unless you are able to pay cash or have a super high down payment, will often cost you thousands a month for decades. This may be more than you can afford at the moment.
  • Repairs/ maintenance/ remodeling: As an owner, you will be responsible for all costs associated with the upkeep and improvements of a property. This may require hiring additional staffing and or having various trades on your speed dial.
  • Lack of mobility: Should you decide to relocate your office, you cannot simply move on once a contract has been completed as you could with a rental. Instead, you will offset need to either sell the property or find someone to lease it from you to help offset the expenses of keeping that property and opening elsewhere.
  • Availability: Depending on the market, it may be difficult to find your ideal property in the area that you wish to be located in. In some markets there is a very low inventory of specialty properties for sale. In our case, it took 4 years for us to find the right property, in the right area for a price we were willing and able to pay. This can sometimes be an issue when renting as well.

Advantages of Buying:

  • Building equity: Equity may help fund other projects or give leverage to better interest rates on a loan should you need funding. Some see equity as a nest egg in case an emergency should arise.
  • Build and remodel to suit your changing needs: As the owner of a building you have the ability to change it to suit your needs so long as you can afford to do so and you stay within government regulations. This can help you to totally transform a location as your practice develops.
  • Control your immediate neighbors: Should you own a larger building than you need and decide to rent out other areas, you can have control over who moves in so that they can complement, not compete with one another. This is not usually possible in a rental situation.

How close do I want the office to be to my house?
One of the most common questions that I am asked is how close is too close to have an office? Again, there is no right answer here. Each has its own pros and cons. Close to home offices are easier to get to in bad weather, offer short commutes and familiarity for sure. They can allow you to tap into a community that you already know, which may help with initial referrals but they also can cost you some much needed privacy and make it harder to keep firmer boundaries. I worked and lived in the same town for years and though overall I loved it, I have had some strange encounters such as when a few clients seemed to know my background better than I did. A few knew exes of mine and attempted to discuss the relationship before I reminded them that this was their session, not mine. I’ve also been “spotted” by clients when I was dressed in my worst outfit and trying to find a key part at the local hardware. Others new of my background and were inspired by it. You really need to explore this fully and decide what works best for you. In the end, I only moved my office because I found my dream location and it happened to be in the next town (about 4 miles from the office I had been using).

Is virtual counseling an option for you?
With the ever changing climate and the advancement of technology, more and more clinicians are considering tele-health and virtual counseling as their mainstay in practice. Though regulations vary depending on the country, state, province etc. that you are located, this area promises to be lucrative to those that decide to take it on. It requires that you have the specialized training in the area (many of these trainings can be had via online courses), equipment with the proper privacy software and a quiet room in which to conduct your sessions. I’ve known some clinicians that did this in a spare room and at least one that did it in their bed room; they put a screen behind them to hide the bed and other “private” items. However, virtual counseling is not for everyone. More and more folks are indeed giving it a go, so it is worth exploring. Here in the states, payment for these types of sessions is an issue with only certain insurance companies being willing to cover such care. Be sure to check in your area.

Could my house be converted into two spaces, one to live in and one to use as my office? Would I be allowed to convert my house by law or would I have issued with the local authorities?
Many people are remodeling their existing homes in order to build an office on site. This offers a very low overhead as it typically results in possibly a bit more insurance and an increase in utilities but little else other than the cost of the remodel. It’s important to work with local government agencies however to make sure that this type of use is allowed in your neighborhood. If it is, a separate entrance, separate bathroom and an office area that is separate from your living space is recommended.  Speaking with a tax specialist may be key here as well as there may be tax considerations that may make it more or less enticing. If you hold a mortgage, be sure to make sure that there are no provisions prohibiting the use of the property on a commercial basis as well. It is best to head into this with eyes fully open. Lastly, be sure to be considerate of your neighbors. Be sure that target population, hours of operation etc. will go well within the exiting neighborhood. For instance, working with violent populations such as sex offenders, those with histories of violent crimes etc. would not set well with most suburban neighborhoods. Should this be your population, much may need to be done in terms of educating and working with the neighborhood prior to opening so that you may avoid vocal and legal opposition. Being open and honest with the neighbors is typically the best policy. Please note however that this does not mean that you would ever disclose information on any particular client, just that if your program is to specialize with the above mentioned clientele, it is best to make sure the local laws and those around you are aware so you can calm things prior to opening. For general practices, this is not needed but it is wise to always properly screen clients for proper placement.

How big a space do I need? What is my plan for future expansion?
These questions will help steer the search for sure. How big do you want your office to get? Do you want to have many clinicians or just yourself? For me, I would like to see that every clinician get an office that is at least 12ft by 12ft. There needs to be a bathroom, waiting area and reception/ medical records area (even if you are all electronic, there will be a need for certain forms and other resources.

How do I come up with a budget and stick to it?
Most of us have not won the mega bucks so we need to make sure that we keep our costs affordable. If you are not great with budgets it may make sense to hire a consultant that can assist you with making a basic budget and teach you how to stick to it. Many places that have failed have done so in large part by spending beyond their means. Be realistic with cost projections as well as with income projections. Personally speaking, I try to be ultra conservative when planning on income to fund a project so that I do not find myself overextended. You can always increase your budget later should you have the ready cash. When doing an expansion, I never count on an increase in income as a result of the new space or programming and only spend what I can afford at that time. Many will disagree with this premise of course and may recommend a more aggressive approach. Their way may indeed bring faster growth but it also brings more risk than I personally care to take on. I’d rather grow slowly and surely than risk overextending and closing down after financial failure.

How much remodeling will be needed, and will they allow me to do it or do I have to hire trades? What’s my ability handy wise?
No matter if you rent, lease, own or borrow space, it is helpful to have a solid idea as to what your abilities are remodeling wise. Some projects are expensive to hire out but require little in the way of special tools or advanced skills. Taking these projects on may help you save thousands of dollars. It is imperative however to check with local codes to make sure that you are allowed to do this without a license. Also check with the property owner and get all the permission required. In the case of my program since we owned the buildings and grounds, we were allowed to build a bathroom with a composting toilet system but were not allowed to install our own septic system. We were allowed to do much of the electrical, structural, sheetrock, windows etc. based on our ability. Local codes will vary however.

Case study:
For the first office of the charity I founded, we looked for office space all around our target town. We found that the quality and the price of each rented space varied greatly, with some of the cheaper ones appearing to have better quality. Each office space we looked at however left us saying that we wish it had the feel of the neighborhood where we lived. Eventually, we decided to look into the local laws and found that we could indeed have an office out of our home. Our home offered two floors, each with a bathroom. Instead of paying up to $15 per square foot in rent for 1200 square feet, we elected to remodel our existing space. As we owned the building, we were able to move walls, enlarge the bathroom, paint, and do flooring etc. by ourselves. This enabled us to keep costs low while still being in our target neighborhood. The fact that we still had our own private living area was a real plus.

We kept that space for years, expanding it once to add another office (we remodeled an attached garage into an office) and changing the interior from time to time. The space served us well until finally it became obvious that we needed far more space than the building could offer us. We started looking for a space to purchase as we had grown accustom to having the final say on what we did with our space. After much search and a false start or two (somethings look good on paper or in person but not vice versa) we found what we felt was a diamond in the rough just a few miles up the road from us.

We were able to negotiate a better than prime interest mortgage with only 10% down and to purchase the property well below its estimated value. Thankfully, at closing we had 40-50% equity in the property which gave us a safety net should we ever have to take out a loan for repairs or to help the charity get over a trying time. The building and grounds were rough to say the least and required a ton of work before we could move into it. We started by building a working bathroom, using a composting system, as we did not have access to city sewers and the property lacked a septic system. We then framed the building out for offices and a waiting area and installed basic heating. We opened on a limited basis, a day or two per week at first and made a slow transition with our existing clients. Most made the move without issue though a few were upset with the additional 4 mile commute and were referred elsewhere.

Over time we made more and more improvements to the building and grounds. We added two large greenhouses, added hiking trails, gardens, “pocket areas” that became attractions in their own right, including an interactive animal sanctuary area, meditation spaces, benches, orchard areas and other items of interest. In time the original building which we still owned, became the administrative building and also served as a location that had back up offices should there ever be a catastrophic event the necessitated the short term closure of the main location. The building is currently about 7800 square feet over 3 floors. It contains many offices, a few large community rooms, shop space for occupational training, art based therapy space and several clinical offices. We have elected not to subdivide and to enjoy all the space for ourselves. We initially bought about 24 acres but recently purchased the neighboring 25 acres, this combined with right of way land gives us 50 acres for programming.

Due to careful financial management, we have been able to renovate the property in stages without incurring mountains of additional debt beyond that of the mortgage. The mortgage we took out only covered the purchase price. We elected to pay for the remodeling as we went along in order to keep our monthly payments. Low. As of today, our only outstanding non-mortgage debt is what is left of the HVAC system bill. That amounts to about fifteen thousand US.

In consulting with other programs in the area, we have found that our combined mortgage payments (the main property and the new acreage) are typically far less than some folks are paying for rent on offices that are only a fraction the size of ours and offer little to no outside space.  While our model would not work for everyone, it has enabled us to grow year to year since we were founded. By keeping overhead low but program quality high, we have thrived at a time when many other programs have closed. We have also been able to do so with no formal advertising other than a website and signs for the office.

A dream practice is possible if you are willing and able to put in the effort. I’m rooting for ya.

Be safe, do good

-Doc Warren
“Doc Warren” Corson III is a counselor, educator, writer and the founder, developer, clinical & executive director of Community Counseling of Central CT Inc. (www.docwarren.org) and Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm (www.pillwillop.org). He is internationally certified as a Counsellor and Counsellor Supervisor in the USA and Canada (C.C.C., C.C.C.-S, NCC, ACS). He can be contacted at [email protected]




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

What Happened to Rites of Passage?

Posted by: Grant M. Waldman, MA, CCC, CIAS III on July 4, 2019 1:54 pm

When was the last time you heard of a bunch of boys being taken out to the wilderness by the men of a village to experience a Rites of Passage? My guess is that not many of you have. Fortunately for this writer, I have been involved in this work for both boys and men over the past dozen years.

My first exposure to this work came through a men’s group that I joined in Indianapolis (of all places). It was a safe place for men to gather to share their truth without judgement. I later learned that the man who founded the group was initially involved with a larger organization that was then called: “The New Warriors”.  It would take me seven years until I met up with this organization again. By that time, it had changed its name to: “The Mankind Project” (MKP) – an organization based in the mid-western United States that has spread to many parts of the globe.

Once I connected with MKP, I was invited to attend a Rites of Passage weekend for men called: “The New Warrior Training Adventure”.  This was a very powerful rites of passage experience that invited me to take a deeper look at my life.  Since going through my weekend, I have invited many men to experience the weekend and it has changed many lives and rippled out into the world.

After being involved with MKP, I realized that I wish I had experienced this rites of passage when I was much younger, and was hopeful that my son could experience this for himself. Low and behold, I came across Boys to Men, a rites of passage experience for boys.  I wasted no time in bringing my son to a weekend and, following that, organized several men in my community in order to bring the weekend to us. We  ended up delivering the rites of passage several times in our own community!

This is powerful healing work for boys and men that I would invite therapists to investigate for clients with whom they believe would benefit from this empowering experience. There are a number of YouTube videos that are worth watching for further insights.




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Additional Insights into Preserving Client Confidentiality

Posted by: Lakawthra Cox, M.A., MAPC, LPC, NCC, CCC on June 12, 2019 8:38 am

Glenn Sheppard wrote the article, Notebook on Ethics, Standards of Practice, and Legal Issues for Counselors and Psychotherapists in Cognica’s Winter 2018 Edition. His article reviewed ethical considerations for mental health service providers to uphold privacy and confidentially. I believe that he provided good merit and I wanted to continue and augment the dialogue to address other ways to uphold privacy and confidentiality when confronted with antagonistic attempts to gain unprivileged information.

I wanted to share my personal professional experiences. While acting as a regional director of one of the largest non-profit organizations in the US, both officials and family members made several attempts to gain unprivileged information.

Family Members
The instance that I recall most vividly were the attempts made by a few people to gain information on a domestic violence victim. Initially, the first caller claimed to be a family member. As for anyone without a signed disclosure or a warrant, we were neither able to confirm nor deny providing services to a client. I reminded my staff that even when family members make inquires that we cannot provide information and breach a client’s confidentiality.

Investigators
I believe that we had three attempts to gain information on the same client within a 1-2 week period. On one of the final attempts, a man claimed to be an investigator. Despite the inquirer’s credentials, my or my staff’s responsibility to maintain confidentiality had not changed. Fortunately, I had sat down with my staff and requested that they be vigilant during this time, because it appeared that requests for confidential information had increased.

I too was a domestic violent survivor who had to flee an unsafe situation. I had personally experienced service providers who did not understand the scope in which to preserve my or my children’s confidentiality. Unfortunately, officials were oftentimes the worst at maintaining my family’s confidentiality. I learned how to put safety features in place for me and children and my clients later benefited, as I understand firsthand the scope of avoiding breaching confidentiality.

Attorneys
Whenever an attorney would call, my staff would forward the call to me. Some attorneys were seeking information on behalf of their client. Nonetheless, my client would still need to sign a release prior to my submitting any information to their attorney. Another attorney sent over a court order not signed by a judge. We were not required to respond to any request by attorneys that do not have a proper endorsement by a judge.

Oklahoma State Laws
Oklahoma State Board of Behavioral Health, Licensed Public Counselor Rules (2016). Title 86, State Board of Behavioral Health Licensure, Chapter 10, Licensed Professional Counselors; Subchapter 3. Rules of Professional Conduct.

Confidentiality

LPCs shall maintain the confidentiality of any information received from any person or source about a client, unless authorized in writing by the client or otherwise authorized or required by law or court order

American Counseling Association
Code of Ethics Section B, Confidentiality and Privacy
B.1.c. Respect for Confidentiality

Counselors protect the confidential information of prospective and current clients. Counselors disclose information only with appropriate consent or with sound legal or ethical justification. p.6

Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association
Standards of Practice, B. Counselling Relationships, Confidentiality

Counsellors have a fundamental ethical responsibility to take every reasonable precaution to respect and to safeguard their clients’ right to confidentiality, and to protect from inappropriate disclosure, any information generated within the counselling relationship. This responsibility begins during the initial informed consent process before commencing work with the client, continues after a client’s death, and extends to disclosing whether or not a particular individual is in fact a client. p.10

It is important that as mental health professionals we are aware of the guidelines of our prospective licensing, certification, and professional boards. National professional organizations, such as the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association and the American Counseling Association also provide guidelines for us to follow. In addition, if there is ever any question as to what you should do when confronted with such a situation, consider 1) Consulting with a colleague and 2) Researching your laws and regulating bodies of your profession. You may also consider finding out the requirements of horizontal mental health professions. For example, I am a Licensed Public Counselor but I may want to keep in mind requirements of Social Workers, Licensed Marriage and Family Counselor, and Psychologist who may have a more stringent state requirement.

Lakawthra Cox, MA, MAPC, LPC, NCC, CCC

References
Oklahoma State Board of Behavioral Health, Licensed Public Counselor Rules (2016). Title 86, State Board of Behavioral Health Licensure, Chapter 10, Licensed Professional Counselors; Subchapter 3. Rules of Professional Conduct. https://www.ok.gov/behavioralhealth/documents/Permanent%20Rules%20-%20LPC%20-%209-11-2016.pdf
American Counseling Association. (2014). Code of Ethics: Section B, Confidentiality and Privacy. B.1.c. Respect for Confidentiality. p.6. https://www.counseling.org/resources/aca-code-of-ethics.pdf.
Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy: Association. Standards of Practice, 5th Ed. (2015). B. Counseling Relationships, Confidentiality, p.10. https://www.ccpa-accp.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/StandardsOfPractice_en_June2015.pdf

 




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Mothering Others…

Posted by: Gloria Pynn BA, BEd, MEd, CCC, RPsych on May 31, 2019 4:07 pm

Recently, I have been reflecting a lot on May as Mental Health Month and also on Mother’s Day. This is typically a day of celebration, but for some individuals Mother’s Day is a day of mourning, and triggers much grief, loss and trauma – most definitely a very complex and multifaceted day to say the least. There can be huge love associated with being or having a mother but also much trauma associated with having, being or trying to become a mother. An awareness of these unique experiences is necessary for therapists in helping clients cope with these “special occasions”. I wanted to highlight just a few interesting mental health initiatives or ideas related to maternal and caregiver mental health.

The Lloydminster Region Health Foundation  and My Why are partnered to highlight many mental health concerns but in particular, and more recently, maternal mental health and women facing postpartum depression. The effect of PPD on women and their families is far reaching and the Lloydminster Region Health Foundation  and My Why are jointly sharing these women’s stories to raise awareness, validate their lived experiences and reduce stigma. The following is a link to this project and wonderful work:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHpuesp_A3w

Locally on the east coast, we see new mental health initiatives that are to be commended and aim to bring mothers out of the shadows and stigma, such as Newfoundland’s own Stella’s Circle. One of their innovative support programs has targeted incarcerated mothers and their separation from their children. The staff at Just Us Women’s Centre (at Stella’s Circle) works with mothers and the NL Correctional Facility for Women to record a storybook. The book is then delivered to the child, offering them something all children like – to have a story read to them by their mother: https://www.instagram.com/p/BxXQUsvhVaR/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Even in daily living, we can find important reflection about parenting and mothering insights. On my most recent trip to Costco, I found a wonderful new read and finished the book ironically on Mother’s Day: Jann Arden’s Feeding My Mother: Comfort and Laughter in the Kitchen as a Daughter lives with her Mom’s Memory Loss.  It is an intimate look into the artist’s not perfect but very authentic relationship with her parents, and especially her mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s. In my mind, it really captures one lived experience of becoming your “mother’s mother” that I’m sure hits home with many caregivers:

Arden, J. (2019). Feeding My Mother Comfort and Laughter in the Kitchen as a Daughter lives with her Mom’s Memory Loss. Toronto, Ontario: Vintage Canada Penguin Random House Canada.

So, wandering back to my own thoughts… I have always loved words (hence my dual BA degree Psychology and English). The older I get, the more I think of “mother” as a verb, not a noun. It’s the act of mothering that’s key and the connection this act creates is magical and humanly vital to teach empathy and love in our world.

Looking at “Mothers” in this way, allows us to appreciate every person that has ever mothered and truly loved children – biological, adoptive, stepmothers, teachers, aunts, neighbors, godmothers, angel mothers (I love this phrase a friend of mine uses), foster-moms, two Mom families, single dads who have double duty as Mom and Dad, and everyone who choose to not have, or could not have or lost children but have selflessly been mother to countless others with hugs and acts of love daily to those who need it. Happy Mother’s Day every day and love to all who have ever “mothered others”.

Think, talk and always take care,

Gloria
B.A. B.Ed. Dip. Behavior Therapy M. Ed C.C.C. R. Psych




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Artificial Narrow Intelligence and its Impact on Jobs

Posted by: Jeff Landine and John Stewart on May 24, 2019 12:43 pm

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is typically divided into Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI) and Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). ANI deals with machines or robots that can perform a task or function such as welding on a manufacturing assembly line. These robots/machines are designed to perform one task and are not able to adapt to other tasks unless they are programmed specifically. Conversely, AGI deals with computers that are able to perform different levels of human intelligence, such as perceiving, reasoning, problem solving, and interacting in the context with some creativity. Additionally, AGI computers can make decisions to move information between databases.  Presently, much of thinking behind AGI involves future projections based on theory and some recent innovations in deep learning, one of the main Canadian focuses in AI research. In this blog, we want to focus on ANI and its implications for jobs going forward.

The influence of ANI has already been felt in the workplace. For example, during the recessions of the 1980s and 1990s, the manufacturing industry replaced many line workers with robots. Today, there are computer programs with the abilities to do word processing, perform translations, and numerous smart phone Apps that execute many functions via the internet. These innovations are already impacting the way information is accessed and business is transacted.  Predictions are that narrow intelligence will eliminate jobs that require repetitive manual labour, and jobs characterized by standardized tasks. For example, some have forecasted that as many as 42% of all jobs in Canada are in danger of being automated. The degree to which these jobs can be automated will influence their availability in the workplace.

However, due to innovations, new jobs have been and will be created. For example, there are 845 jobs listed under the AI title on LinkedIn Canada’s website, including engineers, technologists and technicians with specific specialities in AI. Due to the structural unemployment created, workers will need to either quickly reskill in AI competencies or transition to other jobs in the workplace. Workers who seek AI jobs will need to acquire new hard skills: problem-solving and analytical thinking skills; skills that enable them to build, maintain and repair software programs and machines; and, the ability to look for technological innovations that enable businesses to remain competitive. Additionally, they need soft skills, such as competent languages skills to explain technical information, and empathy to understand the stress others experience due to work transitions.

It seems quite certain that the number of jobs characterized by repetitive tasks and requiring low cognitive skills will continue to decrease.  This decrease has several implications. Career counsellors will need to understand the scope of AI educational programs, their availability and entrance requirements. Further, counsellors will need labor market information to benefit their clients. For example, individuals, aspiring to jobs in AI and those already in the workforce will need to have had formative education in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) or acquire it to complete technician and technology programs in computer design, operations, and maintenance. Those currently in school will need to master STEM courses if they intend to choose educational paths leading to careers in AI. AI specialists in the workforce will need to upgrade continually to keep up with innovations in their field. And, employers will need to develop policies that enable workers to take educational leaves regularly to master changes issuing from technological innovations.

Jeff Landine and John Stewart
Faculty of Education, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, N.B.

Suggested Readings
Retrieved on March 20, at: www.cifar.ca.
Retrieved on March 20, at: www.cifar.ca/ai/”pan-canadian-artificial-intelligence-strategy.”
Retrieved March 20, at: www.+RG-“CPA-Introduction-to-AI-What-You-Need-to-Know”-February-2019.pd.
Retrieved March 20, at: sencanada.ca/content/sen/committee/421/SOCI/reports/”RoboticsAI3D”Final_Web_e.pdf.
Retrieved on March 20, at: www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/09/”4-ways-ai-artificial-intelligence-impact-financial-job-market.”



*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

“I’m friends with a Counsellor, I’ll ask them and get back to you.” aka Being That Friend

Posted by: Robyn Steinke, MC, CCC on May 13, 2019 10:07 am

Without hearing the title sentence spoken verbatim, I think we as counsellors have all been in a situation where we have been asked very specific questions with very specific details for the sake of a friend of a friend and their mental well-being. It is a difficult spot to be in. So difficult that, what we as counsellors do about it, goes back to Watergate, you know, the thing that made Richard Nixon (“Tricky Dicky” if you will) resign his presidency. More specifically, the “Goldwater Rule” is the informal name given to the American Psychological Association’s guideline that it is unethical for a psychologist to offer a diagnosis in the media of a living public figure they have not examined (American Psychological Association, 2003). How Nixon gets involved is during his presidential candidacy and also during the era of Watergate numerous psychologists and psychiatrists publicly diagnosed Nixon without ever setting clinical eyes on him.

So, what does this have to do with getting asked a counselling-type question for a friend of a friend? Simply, I think the Goldwater Rule should be extended to any living person a counselling therapist has not clinically assessed. Setting boundaries is crucial to not finding ourselves behaving unethically. My friends are getting pretty used to hearing me say, “Well I can’t actually evaluate this person, and if I had, I wouldn’t be able to tell you, but maybe there’s some general information about _____ I can give you?” I can tell by their facial expressions that I am probably not giving them everything they want from me, but I am bound by our code. As a Canadian Certified Counsellor (C.C.C.), I mentally sneak the Goldwater Rule into the sections pertaining to confidentiality, evaluation, and assessment.

There is a plethora of different situations where the maintenance of this boundary is crucial for family, friendships, relationships, parenting, and it goes on. Truth be told, sometimes the hard part of this boundary is not enforcing it with others, but with ourselves when a clinical insight springs to mind mid-dinner, conversation, observation, minding a friend’s child, and the list goes on. Times like this lead me to question the boundary between being my personal and professional self. Often what comes is the type of self-care that gives me release and the ability to “shake off” the sense of murkiness that inevitably comes. While we all likely have a great prepared statement to help us immediately get out of these situations, we will continue to be challenged by the questions, concerns, and care of others close to us. I wish us all grace through these challenges.

American Psychological Association. (2003). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. Retrieved from: https://www.apa.org/ethics/code/



*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Building the Practice of Your Dreams

Posted by: Doc Warren on May 6, 2019 11:50 am

Having consulted with folks from around the globe about building a practice of their dreams I have learned many things. First, dream practices vary greatly from person to person, which is great for the dreamer and the client as it allows for such a wide array of options. Second, funding opportunities vary globally, regionally, and locally so it is a sound practice to investigate options that may be unique to your particular area as no one expert can know it all. In some cases, a town may have money available should you qualify. Third, there are people who are willing to spend a great deal of money buying gimmicks and even more people willing to sell them. Please be sure to do your own homework to help you decide before you buy. Much of what is being sold can be found for free with just a little legwork.

A case in point is that of sample documentation. There are tons of places that are happy to charge you upwards of $1500 or more for a set of sample documentation but you can view and print free versions at sites as well. https://www.docwarren.org/clinician-resources happens to be my page but there are many more to be found as well that also have free information and samples.

There are many reasons for starting your own practice, one of the most common is the desire to offer the public something that is lacking in your area. A chance to make your mark while giving back to your area can help give one the drive needed to tackle such a large task. For this writing, the focus is on developing the key framework for the design of the practice. Future writings will cover documentation, selecting the right space, is it better to buy or rent, maintaining safety in small and large practices etc.

What is your dream?

The first step for most of us is trying to figure out just what it is that you want your practice to look like. Will it be corporate, will it be rural, will it offer a sterile, stainless steel and concrete environment or more of a down home feel; the options are almost limitless.  For me, I typically ask people to think about the practice that they personally would want to go to. What would it look like? Start sketching things out. Once you know what your dream place to go to treatment would look like, think about the population you prefer to work with. Would the two be compatible? If not, what would you need to do to modify it to work? What would be your dream environment to work in? Would this blend in well with the population you wish to serve and the type of place you would want to go to? The more commonalities you find, chances are the closer you are to your dream practice. Don’t be afraid to go outside your normal comfort zone and do not hesitate to do things differently than you are used to. Innovation often takes risks and so long as you stay within the bounds of laws, ethics and consider best practices you should be fine.

As you continue to build that dream practice and have a general idea of the treatment setting you would prefer it is important to make sure you find an area where there is a need. It will be very difficult or nearly impossible to succeed if you open your practice in an oversaturated area. Do some homework. Consider the population you are targeting, the overall population of the area and the number of providers. Though some very large cities appear to have a provider every few feet, the dense population allows for them all to grow their practices but take a small town and add more clinicians and you may find that covering your costs, let alone excelling may be beyond difficult.

Some folks find that relocating will be the best option for them once they flesh out their dream practice. If this appears to be your best option as well, consider the costs of relocation in your start up projections. You need to remember that, making ends meet during the first several months to the first 5 years of your practice can be problematic. The first five years of any business can be viewed as the “bloodletting” stage as the business will have some of its highest outlays of cash and its lowest influx of funds during the time (some exceptions may apply).

Sadly, we have all likely seen some very talented clinical professionals go out on their own only to run out of funds before they are able to lay the proper foundation. Some of the equipment and supplies that are in use at the programs I run have come from “fire sales” held by other programs that failed to thrive. In most cases it had nothing to do with the quality of care provided but more to do with the financial realities that the founders were ill equipped to deal with.  (I’ll be writing about budgeting a practice in later blogs).

Before opening a practice it is important to look at your credentials to make sure you meet the statutory requirements for private, group or community based programs in your province. Some folks have grown comfortable working for other programs and fail to realize that credential requirements may have changed for independent or other programming and that they may not meet the requirements. Should this happen to you it is important to remember that you have options. You may find that you simply fall a few credits short of the credential needed and can take the classes prior to opening or you may be able to hire someone to join your program that has the credentials needed. Whatever the case, be sure that you only practice in a capacity that is allowed in your area.

One of the biggest issues found in new programming is that you get a dedicated clinical professional that decides to open a practice or that is promoted in an existing one to a supervisory role but they lack any training or education in this area. Being a good clinician does not mean one can be a good administrator. Getting training, education and experience in this area can make the difference between success and failure when supervising others. To this writer, a credential as a supervisor is as important to a clinical supervisor as a credential in counselling is to a clinician.

You have a rough idea of the practice that you want. You are ready to write your business plan when you realize that the initial outlay of your practice greatly outnumbers the available cash that you have for this endeavor. Feeling discouraged at this level often leads folks to abandon their dream practice and either stay where they are or to look for a job at another facility. It’s often far easier to work for someone else than it is to build something from scratch and it often costs far more to try to buy an existing program and to make it your own than most clinicians can afford. Here again is where creativity can lend a hand. Can your dream practice be built in stages? Look to what a bare boned plan would look like for you and your dream practice. What can you do to get started on a shoe string budget and what would you need to do to see it blossom in time? Are you willing and able to make the necessary sacrifices? Can you negotiate rates that you can afford to pay your expenses? Think. What do you absolutely need before you open your doors? What can you get after your practice starts to collect fees? Do you know how to break thins down to manageable pieces? If not, this may be a good time to find a fairly priced consultant to help you flesh things out. Do be careful on how much you pay them however as it will likely be coming out of your already limited war chest.

Case study: Community Counseling Centers of Central CT Inc. – Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm.

I’m writing this as I take a break between cutting wood and doing clinical sessions at the therapeutic farm that I founded and that is owned by the charity that I created in 2005 with a war chest of just seven thousand dollars. From the founding of the charity we knew that we wanted to incorporate nature with our therapeutic work and hoped to one day get land to do it on. For the start however we settled for the first floor of our home which I had remodeled into an office (the house is set up much like a two family home. I removed the kitchen and reconfigured the rest of the first floor to work as an office. We still use it till this day). Years before I built a second floor onto the house so we were lucky enough to have a space at the ready for this endeavor, if we did not, we would have had to be more creative.

We did not select this space at first however, as we looked at several options but found ourselves always comparing it to what we already had. Once decided, we used that seed money to do all the paperwork and pay all the fees required to be a charity. I researched the requirements and with the help of a colleague or two I wrote the bylaws and filled out the legal documents. I had a lawyer review them prior to submission. Thankfully, this lawyer had served on a committee with me previously and reviewed the documents on a pro bono basis.

We started with mostly old furniture and a computer that I had used for school. We lacked a fax machine or a fancy office type phone system and instead used a decent home system that allowed for up to 6 cordless phones. We bought a small sign for the front and sent out some press releases that we had opened. Other than cards and pens, we never did any real advertising: we still don’t actually.

Over the years we have changed some of our focus client wise but overall we are true to the day when the plan was first drafted. As income came in we upgraded furniture, bought a fax machine which was required to have by some of our insurance plans and spruced up the office as needed. We always kept costs low and did most all of the construction and remodeling work ourselves.

As time went on we tried to lease or buy land but were often too late. Developers often bought the land before we could get the financing in place. Cash can be king as they say. Still, we were undaunted.  In time we had outgrown our space even though we had added to the original floor plan. We needed a second, larger location.

A family farmer had been thinking of making his farm a nonprofit and we attempted to help him make it happen. After a time he approached us with an offer to sell us his farm one deed at a time. He was more interested in seeing the farm that had been in the same family since 1860 go to the right buyer than to the buyer with the deepest pockets. The farm was overgrown due to a lack of available hands but it had good bones. We bought the first section that was about 25 acres, give or take and it also had a large shell of a building that had been started in the 1990’s but never finished.  That would one day become our main space, offering about 7800 square feet of space. We began by cleaning it out, framing the offices, building a bathroom, fixing the electrical that was there and adding a great deal of new as needed. In time we insulated, sheet rocked, painted and did flooring. We started off with electric heat and then added a pellet stove while finding funding for our HVAC system.  We added a well, two seasonal high tunnels (greenhouses) and some equipment.

We opened the offices when we had just one small section ready and we’ve added areas as they were completed. We now have 6 clinical offices including one that also doubles as an art based therapy area (about 900 square ft). We have two large shop areas and a community hall that is awaiting insulation and sheet rock as we speak.

The program has much left to do before we call it complete, the list actually grows as we check off items. Plans for a large pavilion and additional hiking trails are in the works as our plans to add additional fruit groves and Christmas tree fields. As of today, our attorneys are working out the final details for the purchase of 25 additional acres that are part of the farm. The original farm house and 2 acres of land will be the final purchase that we make from the original owners. Who knows what we may add in the future.

There have been many steps and several setbacks but we are as close to our original plans as we could possibly be.  One of the best parts is that we are not mired in debt. In fact, other than our mortgage, we have less than fifteen thousand dollars of debt and that is due to the fact that we recently purchased 4 new furnaces, ac units and ductwork.

Never let the reality of low funds prevent you from building your dream practice…

Be safe, do good

-Doc Warren
”Doc Warren” Corson III is a counselor, educator, writer and the founder, developer, clinical & executive director of Community Counseling of Central CT Inc. (www.docwarren.org) and Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm (www.pillwillop.org). He is internationally certified as a Counsellor and Counsellor Supervisor in the USA and Canada (C.C.C., C.C.C.-S, NCC, ACS). He can be contacted at [email protected]




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Horrible Placement

Posted by: Lakawthra Cox, M.A., MAPC, LPC, NCC, CCC on April 29, 2019 2:21 pm

My girls had an Arts Festival and talent show at school one year. Lenay placed 1st & 2nd for her art in her age and grade category. Monet placed 2nd and 3rd for her art. The girls told me some kids had received, “horrible,” hand-written on their ribbons. I told them that that could not be true.

Apparently, one of the young girls who received the horrible placement ribbon, started to cry over her status. I saw the horrible placement ribbons on several art pieces, written in cursive; they actually read “honorable mentions”.

Sometimes you perceive a horrible placement for a challenge in your life. This perception keeps you from trying things that you would otherwise attempt. For example, you want to  model but you are not the height of a runway model. You want your degree in business administration but plan to settle for a management degree because you have poor math skills. Perhaps, you want to become a psychologist but there are no available psychology programs in your area. Do you just give up because you are in, what you believe to be, a horrible placement? Happiness comes from doing what you love and what motivates you (Anderson, 2004). To experience happiness, you deserve to have a career or hobby that inspires you, within the confines of morality, of course. Turn your horrible placement into an honorable mention. Decide to improve your situation by viewing and perceiving your situation differently.

Reference
Anderson, N. (2004). Work with passion: How to do what you love for a living. Novato, CA: New world Library.



*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Mandatory Career Planning

Posted by: Derek Collins on April 26, 2019 8:21 am

In the beginning, I did not like career counselling. I saw it as the “fluffy” part of a school counsellor’s job. Compared to cognitive behavioural therapy or grief counselling, it did not dive deeper into the inner person. I thought that anyone could do career counselling. All a person needed was a working knowledge of the post-secondary world, some insight into scholarships and willingness to take some time and help a student look at requirements on a university website. Most of this information could be gathered through web pages and college catalogues.

I have come to realize how wrong this view was. I took on a new role ten years ago at an outreach school. These are alternative high schools for students who have not experienced success in traditional “brick and mortar” schools. The previous counsellor of the school did extensive career planning with his students. It did not take me long to understand why. For students who had dropped out of school, there was a need to find a new purpose for attending. Career exploration activities was a way to find that purpose. It built a motivating vision of the future. And it was essential for helping students choose appropriate and meaningful courses. Career planning is now mandatory for all the students at the outreach school.

As I mentioned, my primary reason for incorporating career counselling with all my students is to help them find a purpose for school. Most of my students experience stress around school. Career planning has been found to reduce the academic stress of school. (Sharma, 2014) I have also found that there is an interesting gap when it comes to career planning. Often schools may feel that parents will help their children explore careers and post-secondary options. Levine (2013) found that parents themselves are unsure how to help their children.

Parents assume that their children are capable of finding information about post-secondary programs and related careers on their own. This is too bad because parent expectation is the second most important determinant as to whether a student will attend post-secondary study or not. Proper academic preparation is the most important factor. And if we lower a student’s stress, they are more likely to engage in their work. Helping students carry out career planning ends this cycle.

-Derek Collins

References:
Levine, K. A. (2013). History Repeats Itself : Parental Involvement in Children ’ s Career Exploration L ’ histoire se répète : La participation des parents dans l ’ exploration de carrière pour enfants, 47(2), 239–255.
Sharma, V. (2014). Role of Career Decision-Making in the Development of Academic Stress among Adolescents. International Journal for Research in Education, 3(6), 58–67.



*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

The Impending Impact of Artificial Intelligence on the Work Force

Posted by: Jeff Landine and John Stewart on April 23, 2019 2:50 pm

Throughout our research, we have found that there is nothing more embedded into our lives than career.  As we contribute to the Counselling Connect Blog, our intention is to explicate, using a mix of research and reflective opinions, some of the dynamics that impact career. We start with a consideration of Artificial Intelligence (AI).  AI is a branch of computer science that focuses on programing computers with the ability to resemble intelligent behaviors including learning, reasoning, planning, observing and/or processing language.  We think this blog, plus several future blogs, will inform career counsellors in two ways: understanding the impact of AI on careers; and counselling clients entering the workforce, or who are displaced due to AI innovations. As a disclaimer, our expertise lies in the realm of Career Psychology and not in AI; however, we are doing a lot of reading on the subject.  In this blog, we want to examine some of the proposed advantages and disadvantages concerning the impact of AI on future job availability.

Recent advancements in AI suggest that we are in a “fourth industrial revolution,” but with significantly more implications than previous revolutions. We think there is no doubt that AI will take over some jobs due to such technological innovations as robotics, machine learning, and 3-D printing; and through the impact of AI on manufacturing, retail jobs, and in other domains such as legal and medical.  It seems that the question is not when, but how rapidly and profoundly automation will change the workplace.  Many think that AI will displace most jobs requiring manual and routine labour – machines can do it faster and with more accuracy. Further, with the advent of self-driving vehicles, many truck drivers, couriers and taxis will be displaced. Recent developments in diagnostic work using computers will impact the medical profession. Currently computers can diagnose abnormalities in x-rays with as much accuracy as radiologists.

On the positive side, AI can be an aid to workers.  Instead of fearing that robots and AI might reach a “singularity” and replace workers, “multiplicity” proposes that humans will work with machines to solve problems and develop leading-edge technology.  Automation will create new jobs not presently conceived of, just as personal computers did in the past. For example, in Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI, Paul Daugherty and Jim Wilson envision two categories of workers – explainers and trainers, both illustrating the idea of intelligence augmentation, that AI systems can be designed to augment human work behavior.  Explainers will help humans work with machines and trainers will develop AI systems to do workplace tasks.  For example, explainers will work in clarifying decisions made by computer algorithms and explaining them to supervisors and executives. And presently, trainers are developing chatbots that, in response to human consumers, will continue to improve on language recognition to better serve them.

In conclusion, we think that the outlook will be more favourable than bleak. Certainly, there will be job changes and job loss.  However, jobs taken over by machines will not diminish the work to be done. Quite the contrary, just as electronics and information technology created more jobs than were lost, AI will do the same.  We see several implications for career counsellors and their practice.  At the present we do not see counsellors being replaced by chatbots/robots due to the need for client empathy, something that AI has not been able to simulate yet. However, it is our opinion that the information that informs the practice will need to be upgraded on a regular basis.  Most likely, this information will be dispensed by a chatbot or other a computer programmed to process human speech. Counsellors will need some degree of understanding to help clients process the changing aspects of the skills/tasks need in some work domains such as business, management, medicine, and law.  Counsellors will need to upgrade regularly their knowledge of new jobs created from advances in AI, including their location, and the entrance requirements of educational programs and their costs leading to employment in these jobs.

Jeff Landine and John Stewart
Faculty of Education, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, N.B.

Footnote:
The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. The Fourth is fusing together technologies that are blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.
Suggested Readings:
Daughterty, P. R. and H. J. Wilson (2018). Human + machine: reimaging work in the age of AI. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.
Retrieved on February 13, at: https://www.wired.com/wiredinsider/2018/04/ai-future-work.
Retrieved on February 13 at: https://www.zdnet.com/article/what-is-ai-everything-you-need-to-know-about-artificial-intelligence/
Retrieved on February 13 at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/washingtonbytes/2018/08/18/there-is-work-to-be-done-ai-and-the-future-of-work/#441a32032665



*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA