Learning from Practitioners

Posted on December 03,2013 by aliatmspp

When I was in undergrad, I found that I learned the most from the professors who wove anecdotes from their professional lives through the course material. This seemed to make the research more relevant and helped me to connect with these instructors. As I was looking at graduate programs, I realized that if I wanted to focus on clinical work, I also wanted to be taught by professionals who were active in the field, not only through review boards and academia. MSPP seemed like a natural fit.

Now, nearly a semester in, I realize that the utility of learning from those who are currently treating clients in a variety of settings doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ve absorbed a crash course of therapy or that it makes for Story Time from Your Favorite Instructors. Rather, it has instilled in me the importance of flexibility and an ongoing opportunity for growth. My instructors and supervisors generously give their time in listening to me process a formulation idea or a concept that I’m starting to grasp. While their styles differ, most guide me through a series of questions or exercises to help me make my own decisions, thereby gaining my own set of professional tools. They are there to nudge me back if I get too close to the edge, but they allow me to peek over just to see what I may be missing. They share their experiences in a way that facilitates a conversation, not as a one-sided recounting of cases. When I wrote one of my first emails to an instructor, I had begun with, “Good afternoon, Dr. So-and-So.” In his response, my instructor asked that I call him by his first name. He reminded me that I, too, was a professional educator and that soon I will be his colleague in the field.

I began this process feeling a bit like a fish out of water. I wasn’t sure what to expect as a student of practicing clinicians. I mean, it was only a few months ago when I was singing along with the intro to “Téléfrançais,” a Canadian French-language show from the 80s to which I remained steadfastly loyal as an educator. Would they analyze everything I said in class? Now, I understand that from my supervisors and coworkers at my practicum to my instructors at MSPP, I am a professional colleague in training and my professional opinions are worthy of being heard. C’est formidable!

For those of you unfamiliar with the joy that is Téléfrançais: