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Outside the Classroom: Pennsylvania Counseling Association Conference

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Posted on November 26, 2018 by Caitlin O’Brien '19, a Delaware Valley University counseling psychology major.

Courtesy: Stephanie Nolan ‘19 A group from Delaware Valley University attended the Pennsylvania Counseling Association Conference.

From Nov. 9 through Nov. 11, the Pennsylvania Counseling Association had their 50th Annual Conference in Pittsburgh. Delaware Valley University's Psychology Club attended the conference with graduate counseling psychology students who presented and Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology Dr. Matthew Mutchler, LMFT. This was my third year attending the PCA Conference. Each year, the conference never fails to teach me about different ways we can interact and help others. These conferences have been a great way to step outside of the classroom and delve deeper into the counseling field. There were many talks and discussions to choose from.

The conference began with a lecture called “The Importance of Counselor Self-Care,” presented by American Counseling Association CEO Dr. Richard Yep. Dr. Yep talked about how as counselors, there is a belief that we can “heal ourselves.” However, burnout will take place if counselors do not take care of themselves, leading to such symptoms as physical and mental fatigue, anxiety, apathy, and depression. He also discussed how self-care is a priority and part of the ethical code of becoming a counselor. Some tips Dr. Yep recommended were: connecting with colleagues and peers outside of work, journaling, and scheduling only 90 percent of the day.

I attended two talks from Indiana University of Pennsylvania Professor Dr. John McCarthy and Cortney Seltman. Both talks looked into creativity and how we can incorporate creativity into counseling. The first talk involved looking into the challenges that come with being creative and different activities to help us look into our creative sides. We tend to have thoughts that prevent us from sharing ideas due to fear of judgment of “not being creative enough.” The second talk had another speaker, Emma Shannon. The talk explored how questions are meant to: stir attention or interest, challenge conversation to be meaningful, and ignite creativity. It was acknowledged that there is no such thing as a stupid question and we should embrace the questions we ask. We also looked into the importance of asking unique questions to get more open answers from others.

Another talk I attended run by Hsiu-Yin Chen and Netti Cambria looked into the concept of movement-based mindfulness. This type of mindfulness is meant to help bring awareness of the present. This can help people avoid being overly reactive to their environments. There are many benefits of participating in movement-based mindfulness, including increasing coping, problem-solving skills, and prosocial behaviors. The speakers allowed members to try this mindfulness technique. It was all very natural; many were swaying, stretching, sighing, sitting, and walking around. After practicing the technique, the members felt more relaxed and at peace.

I also attended a talk by Sydney Stephenson that was focused on the benefits of drum circles. The talk was meant to focus not on the product, but the process. Drum circles are most helpful for people who have: trauma, anxiety, autism, behavioral issues, depression, or, addictions. Sydney led a drum circle for the members to join in, playing with different types of drums and shakers. Many were smiling, working towards playing different rhythms and beats. While it was meant to be a demonstration, I found it to be a unique way of expressing the self and coping with stress.

Overall, the conference was a great experience that I would love to participate in after graduation. It was interesting to look into concepts and techniques that are not typically discussed in class. Attending the conference was a great way to network and interact with other counselors, business representatives, and students. I’m glad that I was able to continue learning more about counseling and how I can improve my interactions with others.

About the Author

Courtesy: Caitlin O’Brien ’19. Caitlin O’Brien ’19.

Caitlin O’Brien ’19 is a Delaware Valley University counseling psychology major and English minor. She is a current member of the co-ed fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega. She is also a writing tutor at the University's Writing Center.