Welcome to Edition 237 of Institute Inbrief! November 16th is “International Day for Tolerance” and November 21-29 is “Social Inclusion Week”. So what can we one of us do to promote a tolerant and inclusive society? That’s the focus of this edition’s featured article.
Also in this edition:
- Latest news and updates
- Articles and CPD information
- Wellness and counselling practice tips
- Social media review
Enjoy your reading!
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We’ve been training qualified Counsellors for over 24 years. Overwhelmingly, the number one reason people cite as why they became a Counsellor – to start loving what they do. They were stuck in a rut doing something they had no passion for, and it was dragging them down.
If you want a deeper understanding of yourself, and to use that knowledge to assist others overcome their challenges and start enjoying life again – then counselling is likely for you.
Too often we get drawn into a career that offers little personal satisfaction. Counsellors are passionate about the important work they do. They’re often someone that friends and family naturally come to for assistance. And they get immense personal reward helping others.
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Empathetic Teachers Boost Kids’ Academic Scores, Motivation to Learn
Warm teachers who express empathy in the classroom boost students’ academic skills, such as reading, writing, and arithmetic skills. A positive atmosphere created by the teacher also safeguards and increases children’s motivation for learning, according to the Finnish First Steps study currently being conducted at the University of Eastern Finland, the University of Jyväskylä and the University of Turku.
There have been few studies on the significance of empathy and a warm disposition in classroom. However, research has shown that the interaction between the teacher and the pupil is more important for learning outcomes than structural factors such as educational materials and class sizes.
Tolerance and Social Inclusion: Calling All Individuals
November 16th is “International Day for Tolerance”, for which U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared: "I call on all people and governments to actively combat fear, hatred and extremism with dialogue, understanding and mutual respect. Let us advance against the forces of division and unite for our shared future."
November 21-29 is “Social Inclusion Week”, which aims to ensure all Australians feel included and valued, with opportunities to participate fully in society. It connects local communities, workmates, family, and friends in order to build and strengthen relationships and networks, addressing isolation and exclusion by supporting people who may be unable to help themselves.
You might wonder why we are focusing on these topics. After all, as mental health helpers we are typically looking into how individuals may be able to enhance their wellbeing, but internet searches reveal mostly what governmental and community agencies advocate doing to achieve social integration. So is this Mission Impossible, or are there things each one of us, individually, can do to promote a tolerant and inclusive society? Even if we discover some points of action, how will taking them improve our wellbeing and that of our clients? Let us explain.
What is social inclusion?
First, let’s agree that when we say “social inclusion”, we mean the process by which we try to ensure equal opportunities for all, regardless of background or present status, so that they can achieve their full potential in life. The goal is that every member of our society be able to participate actively in all aspects of life, including civic, social, economic, and political activities and decision-making processes. When we behave more tolerantly of other languages, cultures, ways of doing life and work, and even physical and socio-emotional needs, we foster inclusion.
Who is at risk of social exclusion?
The surprisingly long list of vulnerable groups in our society means that, at one time or other, most of us will have needs that thrust us into an at-risk group and thus put us in danger of being excluded by the mainstream. You are unlikely to have been a mental health helper for very long if you have not ever been involved with at least one of these: homeless, mentally ill, prisoners, minorities/ethnic groups, indigenous persons, youth, older people, migrants, those with disabilities, migrants, people with HIV-AIDS, LGBT community members, and women.
How does embracing social inclusion help us?
The wellbeing factors are subtle and the rewards for adopting an inclusive stance not always immediate, but they are real. Apart from the fact that equality is the law and most of us feel better when we obey it, we know that the diversity created by social inclusion is valuable in the world now evolving. Tolerant, inclusive attitudes create prosperous, stable societies, although such communities are also better prepared for change. Many cultures contributing to the economy is good for business. When all groups truly participate, the breadth of opinions provides the checks and balances crucial for continued development of the society. When all contribute to positive narratives for an inclusive society of the future, the stories act like a powerful magnet drawing all of society toward its envisioned future through the shared vision embraced by all stakeholders.
What you can do
Admittedly, much of the heavy lifting towards social inclusion is done by governments and agencies through policy, legislation, social programs, and inclusiveness-generating infrastructure – but not all of it. There is much you can do as a mental health practitioner and as an individual; here are a few ideas.
As a counsellor, social worker, psychologist, teacher, doctor, or other helper:
- Be aware of the backgrounds and particular needs of students/clients/patients in your classroom or consultation rooms (for example, people from some cultures may be uncomfortable to undress for an examination, or in counselling rooms, to discuss certain topics; students from some cultures may need some school days off for religious observances).
- Note the possible need to modify the environment to enable physical access and/or to supplement materials or techniques of interaction for the hearing- or vision-impaired.
- Ensure that language in the environment is bias-free, respectful, inclusive, and dignity-preserving for any whose cultures, socio-economic backgrounds, or religious beliefs are different from yours: Use individuals’ preferred terms, names, and pronouns; Avoid offensive slang term; Help inform/educate colleagues about appropriate language usage (e.g., “children with Down’s syndrome”, not “Down’s kids”).
- Provide good role modelling whenever referring to other cultures, religions, lifestyles; watch for any comments/jokes/attitudes that are intolerant, hateful, or disrespectful of non-mainstream groups.
As a neighbour:
- Invite an older person who’s alone over for a meal, or include the person in your next dinner party.
- Ask a person with disabilities if he or she would like to come along for your weekly shop, getting their groceries at the same time.
- Organise a street-wide get-together (morning tea, anyone?) for all the neighbours to meet the new family from another country.
- Include any same-age immigrant children in your child’s birthday parties or other gatherings.
As a coach or sports enthusiast:
- Can you bring together individuals from different cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds for a sporting event?
- Can you organise a league to give those with disabilities a chance to play?
- If you live in a remote Indigenous community, could you put together a structured event for young residents there?
Ideas abound for practical ways to foster tolerance and social inclusiveness. Beyond logical reasons to be pro-active in this arena, there is the feel-good factor. It’s just fun to interact with different others and find out what makes them tick!
Written by Dr. Meg Carbonatto
Curatolo, J. (2014). The benefits of team sport to promote social inclusion amongst the disadvantaged. Right Now. Retrieved on 13 October, 2015, from: hyperlink.
DESA. (2009). Creating an inclusive society: Practical strategies to promote social integration. DESA. Retrieved on 13 October, 2015, from: hyperlink.
Earlychildhood News. (2008). Inclusion: Integrating special kids in a childcare setting. Excelligence Learning Corporation. Retrieved on 13 October, 2015, from: hyperlink.
Inclusion in Child Care. (n.d.). Inclusion in centre-based child care services. Jillys.com.au. Retrieved on 13 October, 2015, from: hyperlink.
Staley, K. (2014). Being tolerant when you’re not affirming. LEARN NC. Retrieved on 13 October, 2015, from: hyperlink.
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How to deal with disappointment
You miss out on that plum position you wanted. You lose the court case. Your best mate announces a move to another state. Life is rife with disappointments. Many of them are out of our control, so if we want to be happy, the only option is to learn how to deal with them.
What is disappointment, and is it good for us?
Let’s define disappointment as the gap between our expectations and the outcome which resulted: the larger the gap, the stronger the disappointment. When things don’t work out as we hoped, the unfulfilled desires fester, filling us with negative thoughts and emotions. We may criticise ourselves, saying that we’re just not good enough, or that things never work out for us. We can become stuck in all the “d” states: doubt, discouragement, despondency, despair, and depression. So what’s the best way to not only move on but actually turn things to our favour when disappointment deals us a lousy hand in the card game of life? I have six simple steps.
Step One: Acknowledge your feelings
Disappointment is painful, but can you be more specific about what you’re feeling? Maybe underneath the hurt of being dumped from the team, you feel resentment. Behind the post-breakup weeping, are you angry at how you were treated? Feeling vengeful toward the business partner who betrayed you? Ask yourself if you are blaming yourself, others, or circumstances for what happened. Are you caught up in making excuses, shifting blame, or not taking responsibility? These reactions are normal after a disappointment, but they can hold you back. Clarifying why you are disappointed (i.e., identifying the gap between what happened and what “should” have happened) can help you identify expectations you had, preparing you for the next step.
Step Two: Bury unrealistic expectations
Here you evaluate the expectations you had of yourself and others. Were they fair and realistic? Flexible? Or did you see the situation narrowly (i.e., like a donkey with blinders on)? Were you thinking in a petty or selfish manner? Ask yourself, “Do my expectations need to be adjusted for next time?” If necessary, get a reality check from a trusted friend, because if you can’t acknowledge unrealistic hopes, the next step will not be do-able.
Step Three: Connect to your purpose; re-commit to your vision
Disappointment knocks us about. We realise that we lost the battle. But we are far more capable of hanging in to win the war if we take a moment to re-connect with our overall purpose: why were we pursuing the goal in the first place? How does it fit in with our vision for our life? Coming back into relationship with the “why” of whatever we were seeking gives us the patience and courage to stare down the disappointment and start again. Do we need a new strategic vision – or just a new way of approaching what still seems to be the right thing for us? What if Edison had given up on his vision for an electric light bulb before his 2000th (and finally successful) attempt? Persevering in the face of apparent failure allows us to get to the next phase of the process.
Step Four: Disidentify from the disappointment
Remember those drawings that looked like so many dots until you stood back – and then the “hidden” picture became apparent? Disappointment functions similarly. It is not until we stand back and disidentify from our painful feelings that we can see the big picture of the situation, including the possibilities and potentials that are embedded within the disappointment. With a disidentified perspective, we can see what we are being asked to learn from the situation – and get a glimpse of what else we could do, or what could happen differently in future. We suddenly realise that the job would not have suited our lifestyle, or the person who left us was often not there for us even when with us. Separating illusion and imagination from clear-headed reality primes us for the fifth step.
Step Five: Exploit opportunities by identifying strengths and supports
Up to this point you may have felt disempowered, but here you identify skills and strengths which help you to turn the situation to your advantage. What knowledge do you now have which can drive successful future efforts? What tools are at your disposal? What support can you garner from others? The lost court case gives valuable experience of how the justice system operates; the close friend shifting away gives the opportunity to utilise our own resources. A poor interview sharpens our skills of self-presentation for a job which may be more suitable.
Step Six: Flexibly re-set objectives and expectations
Moving through disappointment requires a re-appraisal of expectations which life has not met. To avoid future disappointment, we can ask ourselves how we may be able to pursue our objectives realistically, with less rigidity, and not lose hope. Maybe we can still keep the bar set at the high level, but approach it with more, smaller steps. What helps now is a genuine acceptance of what happened along with an equally solid commitment to moving forward. Creative and wise people tend to see how what they have already experienced has given them the capacity to engage the next battle, where they often win the war.
Thus disappointing outcomes become gifts; we just need to learn to unwrap them.
Written by Dr Meg Carbonatto B.S., M.A., and Ph.D.
This article was originally published in Asteron Life’s Balance Blog. AIPC regularly contributes to Balance’s wellbeing blog category.
Social Anxiety Disorder: The Core Patterns and Symptoms
Said to be the most common of the anxiety disorders, impacting people from all walks of life, SAD is estimated to affect tens of millions of people worldwide. The nature of the condition, however, makes it difficult for people to speak up about their problem, so experts suspect that up to 80 percent of people with SAD do not receive therapy for it. Of course, nearly everyone experiences occasional anxiety in certain social settings or at some social events. Were we never to own moments of awkwardness, embarrassment, or a sense of being inhibited in public, we might have a disorder of a different type! The question for diagnosing SAD is: how extreme must the fear and stress in social situations be and how severely do such situations need to impact on a person’s life before the person is considered to suffer from SAD?
Counselling Strategies for Dealing with the Lonely Client
The level of loneliness a client experiences can be changed. It is important for the counsellor to recognise this. It is also important for the counsellor to be aware that loneliness is a common human experience. Loneliness does not have to be a negative or permanent state. Rather, it should be viewed as an indicator that important needs of the client are not being met (Peplau, 1998). A client will engage in counselling when they become overtly aware that their needs aren’t being met. The counsellor can help the client to identify which needs are not being met in the client’s situation.
Q&A with Toula Gordillo (Clinical Psychologist)
Q. How can we use role-models to teach resilience skills to young clients?
A. Teens and pre-teens can be strongly motivated by stories of success, especially when they are able to relate to a role-model e.g. someone who had to face adversity – much like their own – before reaching success. As a positive psychology and positive futures advocate, I know we can teach resilience-enhancing skills to our youth... to help create positive future ‘champions’. So how do we do it? Consider the stories of resilience, individuals who are champions in their chosen field, who have overcome significant adversity. Sigmund Freud, a pioneer in psychological science, aptly described himself “not as a man of science, not an observer, not an experimenter and not a thinker…nothing but an adventurer…a conquistador with the boldness and tenacity of that type of being” (Snyder, 2014: xvii). The intrinsic quality of ‘bloody-mindedness’ or as Professor Snyder calls it, ‘a champion-mindset’. A single-mindedness of purpose, their belief in themselves or their cause is so strong that it overshadows their present set of circumstances. Their skills are transferable, meaning they can be transferred into any situation, and their stories are inspirational.
Consider Churchill’s bouts of depression, Roosevelt’s crippling polio, Darwin’s daily vomiting attacks, Lincoln’s election losses – history is full of stories of individuals who have risen to great heights through overcoming adversity. Tell these stories to your teens and preteens. Make the stories as vivid and detailed as possible – help them to imagine the person and their life story. Show them the picture of the individual and while looking at the image, ask the young person what they think it is about these individuals that kept them going, when everyone and everything around them said they couldn’t. Use real-life case examples of people the young person may be familiar with, or are somehow relevant, in their world:
Colonel Sanders, the founder of KFC, started his dream at 65, driving around the country knocking on doors, sleeping in his car, and wearing his white suit. People said “no” 1009 times before he got a “yes”.
Walt Disney: the man who gave us Disney World and Mickey Mouse, whose first animation company went bankrupt and was fired by a news editor because he lacked imagination. He was turned down 302 times before he got financing to create Disney World.
Albert Einstein didn’t speak until he was four and didn’t read until he was seven. His parents and teachers thought he had low intellect but he eventually won a Nobel Prize and is now considered the founder of modern physics.
Steven Spielberg applied twice to the prestigious University of Southern California film school and was rejected. He went on to direct some of the biggest movie blockbusters in history. Now he’s worth $2.7 billion and in 1994 received an honorary degree from the film school that rejected him.
Stephanie Meyer wrote the Twilight series, inspired from a dream. She finished it in three months but never intended to publish it until a friend suggested she should. She wrote 15 letters to literary agencies: five didn’t reply, nine rejected it and one gave her a chance. In 2010, Forbes reported she earned $40 million.
Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. He turned out to be the greatest basketball player and is quoted as saying… “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Discuss the stories, the quotes, the champion mindset applied in everyday circumstances. These are the stories of resilience. These are the stories of champions.
Snyder, A. What Makes a Champion! Over Fifty Extraordinary Individuals Share Their Insights. 1st Edition. World Scientific: London.
Toula Gordillo is a Clinical Psychologist, AIPC private assessor/tutor and regular contributor for Institute Inbrief. Toula has an extensive work history as a Clinical Psychologist, Teacher, and Guidance Officer. For more information, visit www.talktoteens.com.au.
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Your guide to overcoming the ‘imposter syndrome’
You hear the MC describing your achievements as you wait to speak. You feel sick, but it’s not just pre-performance jitters; you “know” that you do not deserve the praise you are receiving. “This is it,” you think. “Now they will find out that I am a fraud, that I don’t really know anything.” Sound familiar? If your answer is “yes”, you are in good company. The “Imposter Syndrome” – the chronic sense that we are a fake about to be exposed – occurs to 70 percent of us.
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"You are not responsible for your first thought. But you are responsible for your second thought and your first action. That is where your power lies."
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