My name is Kristi Cash White, a licensed counselor and PhD candidate. My goal is to provide a place of listening and learning for those who have been in the field for 25 years, like myself, or for recent graduates considering starting a Master’s program. This will also be a great resource for those who are counseling-adjacent - those who are interested in topics related to counseling and psychology or who are a cheerleader for someone in the field.
I will be interviewing intelligent, engaged professionals to help us learn and wrestle with these issues and more this season:
- Burnout & Self-care
- Counseling as a Minority (culture, gender, sexuality, etc.)
- Mindfulness for Counselors
- Teaching the Next Generation of Counselors
- Laws & Policy Impacting Therapy
- Therapists in Specializations (e.g. prisons, schools, A/D)
- Leadership & Advocacy
- Social Justice
This will also be a great resource for those who are counseling-adjacent — those who are interested in topics related to counseling and psychology, know someone studying to be a counselor, or just want to know what's really going on with therapists.
Join me weekly as I ask, "Are Your Notes Finished Yet?"
In the dark days of the election and early pandemic, I began cultivating my Twitter feed to voices that brought me joy… or at least not dread. One day I realized that my narrowed-down Twitter feed was primarily made up of therapists and those in the mental health field. These are my people.
These voices filled a void that I was desperately missing from connecting with my coworkers in the hallways and from the greater therapy community through my doctoral program and at conferences and classes.
These community of therapists on Twitter know the unique struggle of being a counselor in a dumpster fire. That reminds me of a meme that was going around with a picture of the string quartet playing on the deck of the Titanic with the caption “Counselors trying to teach mindfulness in 2020.” There are messages every day where counselors question if they can maintain this pace, where some joke about the absurdity of managed care, encouragement galore, and endless ribbing about unfinished progress notes.
Out of that grew the idea for this podcast. I am Kristi Cash White and this is the podcast, “Are Your Notes Finished Yet?: Conversations for today’s mental health professionals”. I am so thankful that you have chosen to join me today. I am excited, and a tad nervous, to be doing this. Setting those nerves aside, though, it is my goal to produce a quality, meaningful source of information and connection.
It is a hard time to be a therapist. We are professional mental health counselors who are facing the unique challenge of helping people through trauma that we ourselves are experiencing. You’re feeling isolated from the pandemic? Hey - me, too! You have issues with family members who think differently than you about politics or the vaccine? Yep, I’ve got those, too! You’re trying to figure out how to work your job, educate your kids, and overcome Zoom fatigue? Uh-huh! You find yourself staring at yourself in the mirror as you are overwhelmed by existential dread? Tell me about it! The opening lines from a USA Today article written by Alia E. Dastagir titled, Mental health professionals are the ones taking care of us: Who’s taking care of them? says, “When a world in pandemic shuts down, the mental health professionals did not. They kept working, many more than ever, counseling patients on how to survive something they'd never seen before, something they feared themselves. They counseled while the virus ravaged their neighborhoods, with their children in the background, through months of racial unrest and a presidential election that was the most polarizing in many of our lifetimes.”
How will a podcast help this? I want to have a space where counselors and others come and chat about these issues that are important to them. Some of the topics I will cover this season: Burnout & Self-care, Counseling as a Minority (culture, gender, sexuality, etc.), Mindfulness for Counselors, Teaching the Next Generation of Counselors, Laws Impacting Therapy, Therapists in Specializations (e.g. prisons, schools, A/D), Leadership & Advocacy, and Social Justice.
My hope is to provide a place of listening and learning for those who have been in the field for 25 years, like myself, or for those fresh out of undergrad who are looking to start their Master’s program. This will also be a great resource for those who are counseling-adjacent - those who are interested in topics related to counseling and psychology or who are a cheerleader for someone in the field.
A little about myself
I knew I was going to be a counselor well before I went to college, so I was on the psychology track from day one. I earned my Master’s Degree in counseling education back in the previous century from a university in Portland, OR—my lifelong hometown. I worked in the field for the next 25 years at a nonprofit, at schools, and in private practice, primarily doing play therapy with children and working with teens. I supervised Master’s level counseling students and taught as an adjunct professor for about a decade. I am currently in my fourth year of my doctoral program, pursuing a PhD in Counseling Education & Supervision as well as working full-time. I now work mostly with teens and adults around issues related to anxiety, depression, grief & loss, ADHD, bipolar, identity development, and more. My husband, Allan, and I still live in the Portland area where we are working diligently to launch our three children, ages 15-21.
What is it like to be a therapist in 2021?
Of course there are many variations in the format, the clientele, and the struggles of being a counselor right now. But I thought I’d give an example of what it looks like from my angle.
If you have tried to find a counselor this past year or two, you know that it is a frustrating and difficult endeavor. I was looking for a referral for someone and made dozens of inquiries without any success. Therapists are stretched thin. There have been a couple of really great articles about this. Tara Parker-Pope, Christina Caron and Mónica Cordero Sancho wrote in the New York Times this past December, an article not-creatively-titled *Why 1,320 Therapists Are Worried About Mental Health in America Right Now. *They highlight the stress that counselors are bearing with 9 out of 10 therapists stating that they have seen a surge in calls for appointments, longer waiting lists, and difficulties meeting client demand. One in 3 say that the wait is 3 months or longer, if they are even open to new clients. I know very few counselors open for new clients. Saying no and putting people on waitlists brings a hefty dose of guilt to many counselors. We are used to helping people, and it tears us up to turn people away, especially when there are not a lot of referral sources to provide.
I generally see six clients per day Monday - Thursday and reserve Friday for paperwork and school. That’s about all I can manage while feeling balanced and providing my best service.
The organization I work for closed its onsite counseling offices in March, 2020; much to the dismay of some of my clients, we have not been back in the office since. That seems so crazy! I have a cozy, pretty office that I hardly remember at this point! Like so many others, that March of 2020 sent us into an overwhelming scenario of learning to do online counseling on the fly. Thankfully, my doctorate program had online teaching and counseling classes that I had already completed, so I at least had some introduction into the nuances and ethics of it. But, dang, if that adjustment wasn’t a challenge! My kids were all home, with their schools & colleges moving online, so my office was a little corner of my bedroom. Figuring out the blurred boundaries of where work ended and home began took some deliberate effort. Two years later, with one of my kids back at college and another going to the high school, I have my own room set aside for counseling and school, and we’re all in better routines.
As I touch base with colleagues and read from peers online, counselors seem to be collectively struggling at this point, two years into the pandemic, as much or more than when it first sent us home. So I thought we should talk about that. What are counselors and counselor educators struggling with? What can we do to be healthy and resilient so that we can continue to bring excellent services to those we work with? It’s not enough to just take a periodic bubble bath; how do we truly live in a state of self-care, of peace, contentment, and gratitude? Then how, in turn, do we make bigger changes in the world? How do we train the next generation of therapists to prepare for a career with challenges we don’t fully understand? How do we adjust the ways that we advocate for laws that support the field of counseling? And help those who would be held back from mental health services through social justice work? Those are big questions.
Over the next few weeks I will be interviewing intelligent, engaged professionals to help us wrestle with some of these issues. I’ll be talking to a professor about her work with Master’s level students, with a marketing professional who has become a cheerleader and advocate for the counseling profession, with a trauma therapist who is working deep in the trenches of human experience, and a professor and author who has literally written the book on being a resilient therapist.
I truly hope you’ll join me in these conversations. If you have anything to share - a topic you think should be explored or someone you think would be a great resource - or if you have any questions or feedback, you can find me on twitter or you can send me an email.
However you managed to come to this podcast, I appreciate you, and I think you should come back for more. To quote the beautiful Erik Erickson, “Life doesn’t make any sense without interdependence. We need each other, and the sooner we learn that, the better for us all.”
And I have to ask, “Are your notes finished yet?”