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

Pushing Through Anxiety

Posted by: Jennifer Morrison on January 26, 2016 2:47 pm

We know there seems to be a higher rate of anxiety and panic disorders then there was just a decade ago. Whether that is true, or whether it is just being diagnosed more is uncertain to me. Either way, anxiety seems to the driving force for student absenteeism. I currently have a few students who leave class and wander the hallways looking for places to hide, hopinAnxietyg the teacher forgets they are gone so they do not have to go back to class. Often times those students end up at my door. Sometime they are crying, shaking, trying to get out of the school, making excuses to leave, etc. I have built a habit of being very kind at first when a new student comes in who seems to be anxious. I let them talk, pace, draw or whatever they need to do to calm down for the time being. I have light hearted questions about family, friends, activities, favorite anything, whatever will keep them in my office and not wandering the halls again. I am usually pretty successful in this area and students start to come back to see me willingly.

For me, when students come to me because they want to, the real work begins. I must now do the careful dance of keeping up with the students’ feels, fears, ideas and thoughts without stepping on their toes. I want them to believe that I truly get it because I do. I live around anxiety everyday, at home with my husband and son and at work with staff and students. Working with my own loved ones’ anxiety disorder has helped me to see how it affects people and as a result I think it has made me a “you have to be cruel to be kind” kind of person. I go through a process where students are given tools to make it through and they need to learn them because I will not always be there for them, and sometimes I send them back to class after reminding them of all the resources they have at their disposable (just not me). I request that parents take their kids to school even on the hardest days. I ask teachers to not let my students out of class unless necessary and I send students back to class as soon as possible, whenever possible. I get strange looks from parents and staff but I tell them, “If you want this to get better sometimes they need to do the things that cause anxiety”. A person who is afraid of spiders will not be able to avoid them for the rest of their lives and those with school anxiety cannot avoid school either. They need to be in that moment and experience the uncomfortable, heart pounding moments when anxiety sets in. Feeling and surviving those emotions is part of the battle. Soon those feelings start to diminish and the more you face it and think and talk about it, the easier it gets. It may not ever go away in its entirety but you can learn how to deal with it day by day, minute by minute, hour by hour.




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

Millennials

Posted by: Trudi Strasberg on January 18, 2016 1:29 pm

Increasingly in my practice in Toronto’s Financial District, some of my “baby boomer” clients, roughly defined as individuals aged 51 to 69 years old (1), are noticing and wondering about the possible differences between them and “millennials,” roughly defined as individuals aged 18 to 34 years old (2). For example, do millennials and baby boomers have different perspectives on taking time off work for mental health, and/or on working overtime.

Coincidentally, I have also recently noticed 2 magazine articles related to these questions, so I have created this blog post to explore them a little further.

The first, Millennials at Work (2), suggests that in addition to money, millennials also assign high importance to workplace flexibility, being coached/mentored, and autonomy, as well as to collaboration with rather than competition between colleagues.

The second, Healthy Minds (3), cites an increased demand for mental health services at the University of Toronto (U of T), such as a tripling of mental health presenting as a disability at Accessibility Services, as well as a general increased rate of mental illness among university-aged individuals. Healthy Minds focuses on an October 2015 U of T report that included a list of recommendations to address mental health on campus, and that generally encouraged the whole university community to embrace support of students’ mental health needs. Among the recommendation themes were calls to:

  • Promote prevention/resilience by promoting sleep, nutrition, exercise, social life, and strengths.
  • Promote peer support.
  • Locate counsellors right in day-to-day environments, so as to improve accessibility and confidentiality.
  • Provide quick access to a psychiatrist if needed.
  • Tap into community resources outside of the university, though the article points out that “’We do offer health services, but we do not see ourselves as health-care providers… We are an educational institution… We can’t do it all ourselves.”

In conclusion, perhaps the answer is yes, that millennials are different–that they are for example more aware of their mental health and resilience needs than previous generations. If so, then hopefully this translates into a healthier and happier future!!

Sources

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baby_boomers (accessed 10Jan2016)
  2. Millennials at Work (https://www.cultureamp.com/zine/010-millennials.html), in CareerWise 22Dec2015 (https://contactpoint.ca/careerwisesecure/2015/12/employability-vs-employment-millenials-at-work-employment-challenges-for-syrian-refugees/) cited in CERIC (Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling) email 22Dec2015.
  3. U of T Magazine, Winter 2016, pp.26-31, Healthy Minds: As U of T responds to a rise in mental health needs on campus, a powerful source of help emerges: students themselves. By Cynthia Macdonald.

Trudi Strasberg, MA, RP, CCC is a Registered Psychotherapist and Canadian Certified Counsellor in Private Practice in downtown Toronto. She has been practising for almost 7 years and currently works with individual adults on a variety of life challenges such as depression, anxiety, anger, trauma issues, and career choices.




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

Selective Mutism

Posted by: Jennifer Morrison on January 12, 2016 1:25 pm

I have a new student that I am working with who has selective mutism (SM). She is a very bright girl, lots of talent but does not speak in school. I have only just started to get mutismto know her a little and I sense this is going to be a long journey for her. At present, her sister and her friend both speak for her at school. This dependency started long ago and was not discouraged in any way. As a result she is now in grade 8 and says absolutely nothing in school.

The Anxiety BC website suggests that SM is maintained through a process of negative reinforcement. It is a cycle which looks like this: I am asked a question > I am too afraid to answer > the person with me gets anxious and answers for me > we both feel better and anxiety decreases. This interaction continues each time and the person with SM no longer needs to speak for themselves.

So how do you help someone overcome an obstacle such as SM when a dependency has been allowed to grow for so long? Do I suggest that we let her be since she is actually doing very well in school? She has friends, she does her work, she has great marks, she just does not speak. Teachers do not push her to speak and in fact most don’t try to get her to talk at all. Is this good or should I be requesting that they begin with one word answers, or speaking to a classmate first? I have not had this issue before and frankly I am a bit uncertain of what it is I can do to support her. All those supports and ideas that could have helped at a young age seem to be too late now. How do you start speaking in school when you have not done so for 9 years and how do I as the guidance counsellor proceed with this? My plan at this point is to do more research on the topic and possibly use pictures as cues for her. I look forward to learning more about SM and I am sure another student will come along, and when they do, I will be ready, or at least more prepared.

Anxiety BC has a great video on how to work with students with SM. The website is http://www.anxietybc.com/parenting/selective-mutism.




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

Counselling in the Outdoors

Posted by: Jennifer Morrison on November 9, 2015 1:30 pm

playgroundThis will be a short and to the point blog. I have been recently asked by my schools to work with students outside during lunch hours as a way of interacting with those students who may not be candidates for my services, but could still use a positive role model in an unstructured environment. I was apprehensive of this at first as I felt that my time would be better applied doing group work with students. Two days outside and I already find myself reaping the benefits of the all-student interactions. I do miss eating and chatting with my colleagues but I have students coming up to me to chat, walk around, hang out and ask for advice. What a great unobtrusive and informal way of getting work done. I was stuck with this idea that we work in our offices, one on one or small groups, doing lesson plans and talking to teachers about ways to help children. All that is great and I am very comfortable with that, but perhaps it is time for me to see and try other ways to counsel students.

I admit that change is not an easy thing for me and I do tend to get anxious when expectations of me change. However, change can be a very good thing and in this case it has given me the opportunity to look at my job in a different way. School counsellors are moving away from the ‘office’ and into the classrooms and playgrounds. This is a good thing and I plan to do my best to embrace it. I know there will be times when I will want to stay inside on the cold winter days, huddled in the staff room with my fellow teachers. When these thoughts creep up I will have to remember that the benefits of working with students in their own space while at the same time getting fresh air and shaking out my own cobwebs is well worth the 30 minute change in my schedule.




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

Compulsive Texting

Posted by: Dawn Schell on November 4, 2015 2:52 pm

It started out innocently enough. A teacher asking students to put their phones away and focus on what was happening in the class. One of the students said she felt “anxious” about not having access to her phone.   Other students echoed her sentiment. The teacher was flexible enough to engage in the conversation and ask them to explain.   The conclusion – some students said not being able to text at any given moment or to check their messages left them feeling nervous, anxious, worried. Naturally this concerned the teacher.

Now I don’t mean this to come across as yet another adult shaking her finger at the younger generation and saying they have it all wrong.   When someone says NOT doing something leaves them feeling anxious I think it merits further exploration.

CompulsiveTextingA recent study published in the Psychology of Popular Media Culture journal (http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/ppm-ppm0000100.pdf) looked at the role “compulsive texting behaviour” plays in students’ academic functioning. The research focused on assessing what counts as “compulsive texting” as well as three components of academic functioning (grades, social bonding and perceived academic competence). While the study was conducted with a relatively small number of Grade 8 & 11 students (n=403) and is based on self-reporting it’s worth having a closer look at their results.

The first step was to create a measure for compulsive texting that is similar to one used for Compulsive Internet Use (Young, K.S. 1998). They wanted to assess for: interference with tasks, cognitive preoccupation and concealment, all potential indicators of compulsivity.   Their research showed a high internal consistency for their Compulsive Texting Scale.

The authors measured frequency of texting, compulsive texting, academic adjustment, and gender differences.   They found:

  • Females had higher levels of compulsive texting than males (12% vs. 3%)
  • “It appears it is the compulsive nature of texting – not the sheer frequency – that is problematic”
  • There is a relationship between compulsive texting and poorer academic functioning for females and not for males

Hmm. Now that is interesting!

The authors go on to speculate about potential explanations for females being more susceptible to compulsive texting behaviour.   They point to research that indicates “females are more likely than males to engage in rumination or obsessive, preoccupied thinking” (see study for details). They also are “more likely to focus their intimacy in interpersonal relationships than males”. Which may mean the content of their texts may be more “distracting or interfering than the texts males receive”.

The researchers discuss the limitations of their study and conclude with a reminder that texting can have potential benefits as well. It’s like anything really – when the use becomes compulsive that’s when we need to find ways to address it.

Dawn M. Schell, MA, CCC, CCDP is an affiliate of Worldwide Therapy Online, Inc. http://www.therapyonline.ca




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

Pinterest Strikes again

Posted by: Dawn Schell on October 26, 2015 5:00 am

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Picture this.   There are four teams of three eleven year olds each gathered around a table.   Each team has a piece of paper with four parallel lines, a plastic knife and a tube of toothpaste. Their mission? In 20 seconds squeeze as much toothpaste as possible out of the tube to cover the lines.

Thirty other students are there to watch and cheerlead.

The excitement of having a “squeeze the toothpaste out of the tube to cover the lines” contest was superseded only by the second instruction – “Now put the toothpaste back in the tube with the plastic knife”.   I heard one of them say, “You’ve got to be kidding”.

What could possibly go wrong?

If you don’t count the students who ate the toothpaste it all went well.

There was a point to this.   And I’m sure, thanks to the viral nature of social networking, that you already know what it is.

When we speak it’s like squeezing out the toothpaste. Our words are out there and, like trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube, words are hard to take back once they’ve been spoken.

Moments later I was blowing up a balloon – a breath into the balloon for each negative way to resolve a conflict that a child could think of.   Of course the inevitable happened.   There was a huge noise as the balloon popped and lots of delighted laughter.   As I blew up another balloon and let out air each time the students named a positive way to resolve a conflict everyone was paying attention.   No mean feat in a room full of 44 eleven year olds.

Why would I be doing these types of activities? Well, this is where Pinterest came to the rescue again.   I needed lessons for grade five students about treating each other well and finding ways to resolve their issues more peacefully.   As I have mentioned previously on this blog, I follow a number of other counsellors on Pinterest and they never fail to inspire me with wonderfully engaging activities that made serious points.

It’s not just activities. It’s ideas for group sessions, ways to organize my files, communicate with parents, and fabulous ideas for promoting positive mental health on campus. Whether it’s the elementary school or the university I work at.

 

Next up on my list?

Erasing Meanness.

http://www.erasemeanness.org/the-lesson.html

I can’t wait to see how that one turns out.

Dawn M. Schell, MA, CCC, CCDP is a school counsellor and an affiliate of Worldwide Therapy Online Inc. http://www.therapyonline.ca




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

Freshman’s survival guide

Posted by: Mike Peirce on September 29, 2015 9:00 am

In preparation for the university adventures my graduating students were heading off to in September, for many years I would invite last year’s graduating class back to talk about their first year experience. Passing on their words of wisdom to the current graduating class became an annual tradition. With orientation week over for the 2015 incoming university freshmen, I felt it would be a good time to review some of the pearls of wisdom my graduates have passed on to students heading off to university for the first time.

While this one really is a no-brainer, my graduates stressed the importance of getting to those lectures. This is where professors give all kinds of clues to how to succeed in their courses. I always suggested going one step further. I recommend that students visit each professor during office hours with a question regarding the material in the course. Since so few students actually do this, it is remarkable how well a professor will remember you. In your favorite courses, this may provide the opportunity to develop a relationship which will lead to the possibility of using this professor as a reference for graduate studies or employment down the road. I always told my class that if they have to come back to me, their high school counsellor, for an academic reference following their undergraduate degree, they really haven’t done their job. Continue reading




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

Parental Permission

Posted by: Jennifer Morrison on September 23, 2015 12:54 pm

 

 

In school counselling we often work with children who need support due to issues in school or at home. These issues run the spectrum just as any other group would. The one major difficulty I have in working with elementary children is the need for parental consent. I do understand why we need consent from parents as not all children are developmentally prepared to understand my role as a guidance counsellor and how we can help.  In those cases it is important for a parent to be able to say “Yes, I feel my child needs help in their social/ emotional development and Yes I think the guidance counsellor can help”.  For those reasons parental consent is vital. However, I worry about the group of young children who deal with serious issues at home and parents/guardians are not willing to allow their child the support they need through counselling. Parental arguments, alcoholism, neglect, divorce and separation and unstable home lives can have major impacts on a child.

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But what do we do when parents will not give consent, or asking parents for consent may cause even more harm? I also must have consent from both parents if the situation involves separation/divorce and there is shared custody. In many cases one or both will deny consent. Where I work, any child under the age of 12 must have parental consent for counselling after the initial session.  Many of the students who are in the most desperate need are denied services due to the lack of parental consent.  What do we do in these situations? How do we go about providing a service that is being turned down by parents, even when we know the service is necessary?

In the past I have used my judgement with older students whom I feel need my help and have the ability to recognize they need help. However, I only see them for short periods of time and more than likely on a quick ‘one time only’ situation. I always let staff know if they are worried about someone to let me know and I will see them once without consent and then determine what the next step will be after the initial contact. At this point I have been using my judgement if I believe the student is capable of making that decision, but children between the ages of 4 and 10 really are not ready for that. Continue reading




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

Starting Anew

Posted by: Jennifer Morrison on September 4, 2015 12:15 pm

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I have very recently began a new position as a guidance counsellor in three schools, all of which have never had a guidance counsellor before. Although all schools are extremely grateful to have me, there are still some challenges surrounding the creation of a brand new position. Where are they going to locate me, will there be a private space, private phone line, filing cabinet to store confidential files, a space that is suitable for counselling? How will staff, parents and students react to this new role? Some of this is out of my control and I must live with that. However, there is still a lot I can do to make this an easier transition for everyone.

At this point in the game I am simply trying to allow students and staff to see me in the school. I am walking around before school, talking to students, going into the staff room to meet teachers. Overall, I want them to know that I am here. Now is not the time to come into their classrooms and start pulling out students. They have only been back to class for two days and I am unfamiliar to everyone. I feel that staff must first get to know me and what it is I do, before they will be willing to send their students to see me. I think that is reasonable. I feel it will be a while before they are comfortable enough to send students my way, and that is OK. Continue reading




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