Holy Small-Town Ethics, Batman! Navigating Community Spaces and Experiences as a Counsellor in a Northern, Remote, Small City

Posted by: Robyn Steinke, MC, CCC on March 25, 2019 9:06 am

I live in the interesting community of Grande Prairie, Alberta. Technically it is a small city with a population of around 65,000 and it is technically situated in an intermediate northern part of the province. I say “technically” because by way of feel and experience, Grande Prairie still holds to “small town,” we receive Northern Living Allowance and incentives to live here though not as fully as those say in the Territories, and the population fluctuates up to 125,000 on weekends because of Costco, Walmart, and the Prairie Mall. I should note that when my family moved to this community in 1995 the population was roughly 28,000. While the community has changed, the core remains the same, and when it comes to the professional counselling community, it’s a small one. Back to that small-town feel, experience, and all the conundrums of small-town ethics.

It is well-recorded that small town counsellors face unique challenges such as multiple relationships, limited resources and competence, and geographic and professional isolation (Schank, 1998). Luckily there are ethical codes and standards of practice established by the CCPA that provide guidance. Unluckily ethics are not black-and-white and one-size-fits-all. So, what have we got?

“Counsellors should discuss confidentiality with their clients and any third party payers prior to beginning counselling and discuss limits throughout the counselling process with clients, as necessary” (CCPA, 2015, p. 11).

Check.

“People are more likely to know each other in small communities and the counsellor is more likely to meet up with clients in non-professional situations. Practitioners in small communities protect private knowledge, and ensure confidentiality in the face of intricate social networks and lines of communication that lead to the availability of informally-gained knowledge” (CCPA, 2015, p. 11).

Check check.

“Counsellors, whenever possible, avoid entering into social, financial, business, or other relationships with current or former clients that are likely to place the counsellor and/or client in a conflict of interest and/or compromise the counselling relationship. This includes relationships via social media” (CCPA, 2015, p. 24).

Getting a little trickier, check.

“In rural communities, and in certain other workplace circumstances, such as in closed communities or remote, northern, and isolated areas, it may be impossible or unreasonable for counsellors to avoid social or other non-counselling contact with clients, students, supervisees, or research participants. Counsellors should manage such circumstances with care to avoid confusion on behalf of such individuals and to avoid conflicts of interest. Lack of anonymity requires rural counsellors to think carefully as they develop new social networks. Boundary management is a challenge in small communities as multiple relationships are inevitable.” (CCPA, 2015, p. 25).

Now we’re really into the weeds, especially considering people (myself included) with history in the communities they counsel in, but check.

If CCPA’s ethics codes seem straightforward and yet challenging, you are not alone. What do we do? How do we navigate the code? Professionally, one of my favourite research pieces includes a practical to-do list by Schank (1998), which can be found in full PDF version online. Of the 13-item list, I have found the particular items listed below integral, though all of Schank’s (1998) recommendations are worth knowing as a rural or remote counsellor:

  • Recognize that ethics codes and or standards are necessary, but not sufficient (Schank, 1998, p. 279).
  • Know relevant codes, regulations, and laws (Schank, 1998, p. 280).
  • Talk directly with clients about the likelihood of out-of-therapy contact (Schank, 1998, p. 280).
  • Set clear boundaries, both within yourself and with clients (Schank, 1998, p. 280).
  • Be especially aware of issues of confidentiality (Schank, 1998, p. 280).
  • Participate in ongoing consultation and discussion (Schank, 1998, p. 281).
  • Know when to stop (Schank, 1998, p. 281).

Further I would like to add some personal tips that have helped me navigate these moments when your feet are on the ground, your eyes are open, you are not in the office, and a client or former client has been seen.

  • Strive to maintain your natural facial expression upon sighting the individual. Internally I refer to this as my “poker face”, though it is not a single expression.
  • Find a comfortable distance, if possible. For example, I often spot clients or former clients at the community gym and library, my eyes are looking for a space with an amount of distance to allow the individual their freedom to engage the environment while allowing myself to do the same.
  • Use community sightings as a way to review informed consent and build the working alliance in follow-up sessions. I found a great value in discussing these sightings and interactions at the next session to review important client rights and touch in to the counselling relationship following these interactions.
  • Be polite.
  • Isolation is not the solution, exploring the community, finding comfortable spaces, and social connections are necessary components of therapist self-care that are not to be underestimated in importance.

To my fellow counsellors in your unique communities with your unique challenges, I wish you well and I hope you have found a helpful tip or two.

-Robyn

Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association. Standards of Practice, 5th Edition, April 2015.
Schank, J. (1998). Ethical issues in rural counselling practice. Canadian Journal of Counselling, 32(4), 270-283.

https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ581163.pdf




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

Managing Your Career While Going Through Cancer Treatment

Posted by: Mark Franklin on September 23, 2016 3:46 pm

Listen to this episode of CareerBuzz at CareerCycles.com

Cancer strikes without prejudice – but people from all walks of life and within all levels of the cancer community can be united in a common goal of coping with this life-altering event. People living with cancer can and do play a significant and powerful role in their own journey. Kim Adlard has first hand experience witnessing how involvement impacts experience. And involvement starts with developing awareness of what’s available in terms of support, services, programs and activities. Hear Kim share her story and the new resource she founded, One Access Space, Kim also shared these valuable resources: Cancer and Careers and Working with Cancer

CareerBuzz is hosted by Mark Franklin, president and practice leader of CareerCycles.




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

Don’t Make Any Assumptions: Inside U of T Mississauga’s Career Centre

Posted by: Mark Franklin on August 26, 2016 11:44 am

Listen to this episode of CareerBuzz at CareerCycles.com

“Don’t make any assumptions,” said self-confessed career geek, Felicity Morgan, “about what you think about any career area.” Felicity is director of the career center at the University of Toronto at Mississauga. The UTM career centre serves over 13,000 students, with 15 staff. When we make assumptions we risk “not see your own biases and not identify career opportunities.” Instead, Felicity recommended career exploration: “Check it out, talk to people, check yourself out internally if it’s the right thing for you. You can only make the best decision with the info you have in front of you. So get that info in front of you.” Hear the whole interview with Felicity Morgan.

CareerBuzz is hosted by Mark Franklin, president and practice leader of CareerCycles.




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

6 Easy Steps to Optimize your LinkedIn Profile: Tell your Story and Own your Brand

Posted by: Mark Franklin on August 23, 2016 12:29 pm

Listen to this episode of CareerBuzz at CareerCycles.com

“LinkedIn is the site where we’re investing time, not wasting time,” Leslie Hughes, LinkedIn optimization specialist and owner of PunchMedia, told Career Buzz listeners. “Linkedin is not the sexy social media site, it’s not the one everyone goes to gleefully every morning,” said Leslie, but it is the business network, so it pays to make it good. How?

Leslie highlighted 6 steps to start optimizing your online presence and improving your LinkedIn profile:

  1. Do a digital audit. Find out your “online first impression,” Leslie recommended. Conduct a search on yourself to see how you are being perceived by potential hiring managers or clients. Make changes to remove unflattering content.
  2. Get a professional head shot. “If you do nothing else, focus on a really good head shot so you appear confident, smiling and approachable.”
  3. Craft a strong headline that’s not your job title. Bypass LinkedIn’s default headline which is your most recent job title, and go for this formula: _[descriptive title]_ helping _[these clients]_ deliver _[these results]_, for example, Career management leader helping individuals and employees manage their careers for the future
  4. Understand the Summary is the most important content. “You have 2000 characters to effectively tell your story.” Need ideas? Leslie recommended watching Simon Senik’s TEDTalk, Start with Why.
  5. Go long on copy. In your Experience and Volunteer and other sections, “long copy outperforms short copy,” Leslie said.
  6. “Put the ‘social’ in social media.” Don’t just rely on a static profile, engage with others through Shares, Posts, and interactions in Groups.

Leslie Hughes recommended listeners use these social media tools and steps “to own their brand and to become their own digital media agency.”

Also in the show Denise Raposa discusses the careers of older adults in our changing work environment.

CareerBuzz is hosted by Mark Franklin, president and practice leader of CareerCycles.




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

Inspiring Motivation For Career Growth/Change

Posted by: Jamie Dovedoff on August 23, 2016 11:22 am

ChangeisprocessIf you ask someone if they like their job, truthfully of untruthfully the majority of the time they are going to say they love or like their position. But just how often are we actually being truthful? Where my parents have stayed in the same career their entire work lives, I have changed careers and jobs frequently throughout my relatively short time in my work because I was bored and needed something new to inspire me. However, I know many people (professionally and personally) who have stayed so long in an occupation they despise, that they have lost touch with what they are motivated to spend 40 hours/week and 52 weeks/year doing. They go to work for the paycheck and hate every minute of it!

I participated in a workshop with Mr. Michael Kerr in June 2016 on creating inspiring workplaces/cultures and he addressed the topic of the “Six Powerful P’s of Motivation and Engagement”. Though his lecture was on workplaces, these concepts are also applicable to the individual and may be particularly important to our clients (or even ourselves) who are so dissatisfied with their career that this dissatisfaction has crept into their personal lives, perhaps even in the form of mental illness.

1) Passion: The destination. If they could have any position, what would it be? Finding passion may take some real digging and involves exploring core belief systems to determine what it is that your client is truly driven by, what do they ultimately want in a job?

2) Purpose:  If passion is the destination, purpose is the journey toward that destination. The purpose is building the pathway towards their passion. The tasks they complete and the challenges they maneuver to “follow the yellow brick road” to their purpose.

3) Progress: Achievement. This concept involves creating measurable short term goals so that they can acknowledge the actions they have taken toward reaching their passion. Acknowledging their achievements, creates motivation to continue on the purpose/journey toward the purpose/destination.

4) Pride: The engine. Pride is an intrinsic motivator which fuels the journey and keeps your client’s moving along their path towards their purpose.

5) Play: This adventure should be fun!!!Any change throws the equilibrium off balance which is not always fun and can be downright stressful. However, when your client is working towards their passion, they should be enjoying the path to get there. If they aren’t, perhaps they haven’t dug deep enough into their core beliefs to find their true driving force.

6) Personal: To cultivate daily motivation to make changes in their life, the journey should be theirs and theirs alone. Not a journey they “should” take but one they have chosen to take. If they “own” the journey, their motivation will continue despite being met with challenges/obstacles along the way.




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

Starting Over at 35 – Inspiring Story of Career Change

Posted by: Mark Franklin on July 6, 2016 12:40 pm

Listen to this episode of CareerBuzz at CareerCycles.com

On the surface Melissa Hughes had it all. In her words “On the outside, my life at 35 looked great  —  a promising career, a doting partner, an elegant home, things, vacations, a big engagement ring, money in the bank… There was just one problem: I wasn’t happy.”

After a series of career error corrections Melissa sums up her career aspirations as “…wanting to do meaningful things with good people”. Melissa, a communications professional with past careers in journalism and classical music, publicized her tumultuous story of Career & Life change in her Huffington Post article Starting Over at 35.

In this episode of Career Buzz we talk to Melissa about her inspiring story and learn about her mantra on career & life.

Also in this episode; we speak with David Bowman, founder of TTG consulting, a consultancy specialized in corporate career change & transition, about Career Management in organizations and the importance taking control of your own career.

CareerBuzz is hosted by Mark Franklin, president and practice leader of CareerCycles.




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

Importance Of Toys and Play In Learning and 3 Immigrants Share Their Secrets Of Success In Canada – CareerBuzz Podcast

Posted by: Mark Franklin on July 6, 2016 12:39 pm

Listen to this episode of CareerBuzz at CareerCycles.com

Ever wonder what it’s like to immigrate to Canada? In this episode of CareerBuzz Mark interviews 3 immigrants from the Toronto Region Immigration Employment Counsel (TRIEC) about the strategies they used to find success and ways immigrants can make new connections, integrate into the Canadian workforce and learn to love their new home.

Also on the show Ilana Ben-Ari, founder of 21 Toys discusses her growing start-up company, the importance of toys and play in learning and her company’s new game The Failure Toy, which teaches how to reframe failure as feedback.

CareerBuzz is hosted by Mark Franklin, president and practice leader of CareerCycles.




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

Storylistening

Posted by: Mark Franklin on April 19, 2016 3:24 pm

wali-shah“What makes most speakers memorable is their ability to tell stories,” Wali Shah told Career Buzz listeners (March, 16, 2016). “One of the things I feel I am able to do well is tell stories.”

One of Canada’s Top 20 Under 20, Wali Shah is a South Asian speaker, poet, and advocate for Bullying Prevention and Mental Wellness through Bell Let’s Talk. Listen to the podcast for Wali’s inspiring story, and storytelling.

How it applies to you. Storytelling doesn’t have to be from the stage. You can emphasize your message in work meetings or friendly conversations by sharing a story. You get good at storytelling by “storylistening.” Over the next 2 days, listen for other people’s stories of things that happened. Then, use 1 of your own stories to help you make a point.




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

Hot careers in welding & fintech

Posted by: Mark Franklin on February 25, 2016 9:15 am

metalHow does a so-so summer job lead to a 10-year cool career in fintech*? Learn how from Jameel Somji’s Career Buzz interview (Feb.3,2016). Jameel’s story illustrates the lucrative and in-demand world of *Financial Technology.

“I adore metal – and I want to go bigger with it!” said Meredith Kucey on Career Buzz. Hear how Meredith’s jewellery-making career expanded when she studied the art and science of welding. Meredith shares insights about the lucrative and in-demand world of welding careers.




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

Turning Empathy Into Impact Through Leadership Education

Posted by: Mark Franklin on January 19, 2016 12:24 pm

Hear the Podcast

engineering

Sure, engineers have great technical skills but how do you empower the whole engineer to maximize their potential and contribution?

The Institute for Leadership Education in Engineering (ILead) at U of Toronto does just that with “transformative learning opportunities” including for-credit courses like Concepts and Applications of Authentic Leadership and a course I’ve been honoured to teach, Engineering Careers – Theories and Strategies to Manage your Career for the Future. To explain how students learn to turn empathy into impact, and share their own fascinating career stories, I was joined by ILead team members Assistant Director, Annie Simpson, and Leadership Education Specialists, Jordan Daniow and Albert Huynh. Hear the whole Dec. 17, 2015 podcast.




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