Jude Austin on Wisdom for Counseling Students and Educators

Jude Austin on Wisdom for Counseling Students and Educators

by Lawrence Rubin
Counselor educator/clinician Jude Austin offers wisdom and survival tips for both student and teacher from the trenches of graduate school.

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Into the Wilderness

Lawrence Rubin: Why did you entitle your latest book “Surviving and Thriving in Your Counseling Program?” It sounds like you’re sending them out into the wilderness with a backpack and a knife and saying, “Good luck. Let me know how you’re doing in three years.”
Jude Austin: When my brother Julius, who is also my writing partner, and I were thinking about the title for this book, that’s the image we had in our minds. You get equipped in graduate school with these different tools, skills, and attitudes and then go off and get your Ph.D., and you think you’re prepared.

But when you’re sitting in that first session unsupervised, you just feel this sense of, “I need an adult and a Swiss Army knife of some type.” So, that’s kind of what we wanted this book to be—a Swiss Army knife for counseling students and counselor educators who were reading it and feeling out of touch with their students like, “Hey, this is what they’re going through!" So yeah, we wanted it to come across as if this was your guide to surviving but also thriving in your counseling program.
LR:
when you’re sitting in that first session unsupervised, you just feel this sense of, “I need an adult
Sort of a field guide to counselor educators and counseling students and an army knife with different utilities. Can graduate counseling programs ever adequately prepare students for what’s to come?
JA:  That’s the million-dollar question. It depends on the type of program—and there are different types. You have programs that train clinicians, and then you have programs that train people who become clinicians. The counseling program that I teach in at the University of Mary Hardin Baylor focuses on the person of the therapist.

When beginning therapists (interns) are out there in the clinical wilderness, and all their practiced techniques fail, we want them to fall back on themselves as the tool. If a counseling program focuses on developing the person, their attitudes, awareness, and then helps them to develop some skills along the way, then I think that person has something solid to fall back on.
LR: What happens when you have a counselor educator who understands the importance of building self, self-esteem, and relational, not just technical, skills, paired with a student who thinks that they’re the finished product? Or perhaps an older student whose cup is already too full or a younger one who hasn’t yet been put in a position where they’ve been tested either interpersonally or emotionally?
JA: I struggle with that sometimes. We get students who come in with already-filled cups because they’ve had a successful career or currently have many competing obligations including family. They may feel like, “I know this. All I really need is for you to give me that paper at the end of this, and I’ll be fine.

I see that as an invitation to build a relationship with that student so that we can model the relationship we want them to have with clients
I see that as an invitation to build a relationship with that student so that we can model the relationship we want them to have with clients. I don’t see that confidence or arrogance as a threat, and I don’t want to humble them. I feel like that’s what a lot of counselor educators tend to do anyway; something like “We’ve got to do something that will break them down.”
LR: Drop them to their knees.
JA: Yeah, drop them to their knees! I feel like a better approach—or at least one that’s helpful for me, is to help that student understand what they do know and what they don’t know. It’s not about bringing them down to where they can sit humbly with a client. It’s about saying, “Okay, what do you have that works for you? And what do you have that doesn’t work? And how can we work around that and use it to build a better counselor?”

Getting What They Need

LR: Have you encountered such students or those who are clearly trying to work through their own issues either early on in training or while they are actually providing therapy?
JA: That’s OK, because it gives us an opportunity to help the student learn boundaries, because counseling is like that. I mean we get the clients we need, and so this isn’t going to be the first time they’re going through these kinds of issues and those issues come up. So, our job, or my job as the counselor educator, is to help that student understand that boundary.

That counseling student is actually in a good position to use the issues that they have experienced or are currently experiencing to build a better relationship with a client. And when the student is at that boundary and it is hindering the therapeutic relationship, the teaching moment is right there in front of them, as is the teaching tool for their supervisor. What you don’t want to do is set the stage where a student feels like, “I’ve got to get my shit together, or I can’t do this.” That’s just not sustainable.
LR: I like the idea that we help students understand that sometimes they get the clients they need. Try as I might to selectively place interns in facilities where they’re not going to be thrown to the lions, they invariably end up not only with clients they need but also with those who are very complex and well-beyond their skill and experience levels.
JA:
what you don’t want to do is set the stage where a student feels like, “I’ve got to get my shit together, or I can’t do this”
As far as I do it in supervision, it’s really just helping them navigate those multiple and often complex relationships. I try to do my best to encourage students to chew on things before they swallow it. We start them in practicum at our free, university-based community clinic before sending them on to internship at an outside site.

During internship, we tell them something like, “Hey, you’re going to be hearing some stuff and be asked to do some things at the site that may run counter to what we said or what we’ve trained you to do. And so, you’re out there in the world.” And so, they begin to learn, “How do I integrate some of the things I learned in school with what I’ll learn here and not allow it to negatively impact my development as a counselor?” I think the key is helping students recognize and take ownership over their own development, so they can’t be manipulated or pushed or pulled when a supervisor asks them to do something different from what they have been taught or experienced while in school.
I’ve seen many a student who goes off into a site with a supervisor who is overwhelmed or unprepared or not trained to be a supervisor because they are first and foremost a clinician. And so, students lose confidence and get set back. We as clinical educators have to help them take ownership over and protect their own personal and professional development.
LR: And we have to protect students from supervisors who might be overwhelmed, overwhelming, and/or incompetent.
JA:
we as clinical educators have to help them take ownership over and protect their own personal and professional development
Up to a point, I don’t want to rob them of the learning experience of being next to somebody who may be incompetent, unavailable, unhealthy, or who may be just not be a good role model. I want them to learn that. It’s kind of like when my son is climbing up stairs for the first time, I don’t want to be next to him and holding his hand. I want him to struggle and wait for him to ask for help.

Similarly, it’s about teaching that student when they need to come and tell me that something is beyond their capabilities, especially when they’re in internship. Because when they’re in internship, we need to make sure that they know how to strike that balance between knowing when it is necessary to ask for help and when it is not. Otherwise, they won’t build strong roots.
LR: They have to have their own immune system.
JA: Yeah, exactly.
LR: So, being a clinical educator/supervisor requires that we also strike a balance; between protecting and...
JA: ...letting them struggle.
LR: Just like the APA Code of Ethics says…promoting autonomy while also making sure that they’re not a danger to themselves or others.
JA: I’ve had many supervision sessions where we’re just like, “This sucks.” You also have to build a relationship with their site supervisor. Sort of like co-parenting.

Rising or Falling

LR: If you were called on by the ACA to write a formula for predicting failure of a graduate counseling student, what would go into that equation?
JA: I had two thoughts but will share my second one first, which is about counselor educators. I’m a big believer that oftentimes our limitations as counselor educators can then become our student’s limitations. And so, if a student is failing—or failing to thrive—for some reason, then I merely have to look inward and be congruent and be healthy about the responsibility I take in that student’s failure and think, “Wow, is this a support issue? Maybe I didn’t prepare them enough. Maybe we didn’t have a big enough informed consent around what this would mean for them,” right?
LR:
our limitations as counselor educators can then become our student’s limitations
So, the second part of your answer, which comes first, is that if a student is on a track to fail or is failing to thrive, then it is the counselor educator’s job to look within to ask, as a parent might, “How have I failed to support this student’s thriving?”
JA: Yes. What are my limitations here?
LR: What’s the other part of your answer?
JA: I think sometimes they can’t be helped. And sometimes students come in not expecting how challenging the program is, not giving the challenge of this enough respect. If I were to create a formula for predicting a counseling student’s failure, I would probably say it has something to do with lack of awareness or acknowledgement of how challenging this program is, plus maybe a lack of support. They know it’s going to be hard, because it’s graduate school. But I don’t think they know how hard graduate counseling is, graduate psychology is. It asks a bunch of questions of you that, if you aren’t prepared to answer, it can have a domino effect in your relationships and your mental health and your ability to process things.
LR: Conversely, what do you think are some of the characteristics of the counseling graduate student who will thrive not only in graduate school but in their career, in their personhood, in their lives?
JA: The #1 characteristic for me is humility.
LR: Yeah, amen.
JA: And not just humility in the sense of self-deprecation. I mean this humbleness around the idea that maybe their reality isn’t the correct reality, and their willingness to allow their client’s reality to be correct for that client. It’s about cultural humility, to be able to come in and say, “Oh, man. There are some things that I don’t know. There are some things that I don’t perceive about the world like everyone else does, but I’m willing to learn.”

it’s not like people who are wounded or hurting can’t do this work. It’s just they have to work on the stuff that they need to work on
I think that’s the humility that I’m talking about, to be able to say, “Okay. Here’s my stuff. I’m going to work on my stuff.” And I think that’s the clear thing. It’s not like people who are wounded or hurting can’t do this work. It’s just they have to work on the stuff that they need to work on. And when students are aware of that and they’re doing that parallel kind of process, then it’s a beautiful thing. I feel like that’s when students can be successful.

So humility, for me, is the thing that we’re trying to foster in counseling students. And to be honest with you, a lot of the students that we accept are already good at this. We just give them skills and tools in the hopes that when they get to internship, they’ll remember who they were when they first started the program. And then when they remember that person, they can be that person with some skills and attitudes and knowledge. And so, if you can go through that process humbly, I feel like you can stay grounded and remember who you are. That’s kind of my perspective.
LR: So, it’s the counselor educator’s job to teach counseling students to hold onto who they are and maybe shave off or trim those parts of themselves that are going to get in the way, so they can become more psychologically lean but hopefully learn to become the person who is a counselor, not a counselor who is not sure who they are as a person.
JA: Yeah. Now, that sounds easier said than done. And I think that also means that as counselor educators, we have to do that too. We have to model that for students. We have to let them into our experience and our journey of becoming, step-by-step, more and more ourselves in supervision, in class. Let them into that process and show appreciation. One of the things that I say after each class is, “Thank you for letting me be myself.” And I invite students to do the same. When I mess up, when I forget my keys and I have to walk back to my car or when it’s just like it’s not a good lecture, owning that and showing them that this is what we want you to do in session.

Healer, Heal Thyself

LR: In the context of this piece of the conversation, what are your thoughts about counseling as a mandatory part of counseling training?
JA: You know, it’s strongly suggested in our program, strongly suggested. I feel like we build a culture of support in the sense that we have alumni who are now working in the field who kind of understand a little bit of what students are going through. And so we try our best to refer them out to clinicians in the area that can help. But mandatory? If I could make it mandatory, I think I would be at least a couple sessions. Just so you can see how it feels.

But making it mandatory? I feel it could be detrimental for students who aren’t ready to process their stuff. I mean if they’re not ready, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be good counselors, but here’s the thing. If you’re not working on your stuff, if you don’t go to counseling, you may become a really good technician but not a clinician. You can go and do skills, you can go and do theories, you can go in and do techniques and activities. But can you really connect with somebody? Can you have a therapeutic presence that allows that client to feel pulled toward you and can you evoke your client’s awareness? I don’t know if you can do that without working.

one of the things that I say after each class is, “Thank you for letting me be myself.” And I invite students to do the same
Yeah, it’s a dilemma. In a lot of ways, it’s safer to do rather than be, right? How can you cultivate a therapeutic environment where you feel safe enough to be? Most counseling students are going to graduate and feel like, “I know some stuff now.” But I think what makes our program special is that we really focus on training students to be, but not every student is ready for that, and that, too, is a dilemma. I notice it sometimes in clients with whom I am trying to connect on a deeper level, and they don’t want it.

They want... “Give me the coping skills. I don’t want to talk about...” And so, you have to meet that client where they are. And it’s the same thing with students and the same thing with the field, like allowing students to hear, “Hey. This is where the field is. This is what we’re trying to get you to do. We’re trying to find a balance between doing and being.”
LR: So if a student is not ready for internship for emotional, psychological reasons, what do they do instead? How do you work with a student who just is not ready for internship by all your standards but is insistent or demanding or even litigious about it?
JA: We go through this a lot. We have a couple of different options. This is not like a plug for our program, because I think most programs have this. By the time they get to internship, we want them to have a really good idea about how we feel about their potential to succeed or fail. We don’t want it to be a surprise. And so, by the time they get to internship, we’ve had that conversation where it’s like, “Hey. There’s a lot of things that you… There’s a lot of hang-ups. There’s a lot of things that could limit your success there. If you want to do it, we can’t stop you, but it may behoove you to take some time and then come back and start internship.” And if students are like, “No. I’m good. I want to do internship,” then we help them find an internship and a supervisor that could support that student’s limitations.

So, sometimes we’ll have students who are veterans, and maybe they experienced a TBI and they struggle with death work. And they acknowledge it, they know it. And so, we work with them to say, “Okay. What kind of work can you do? Where can you serve your community?" And so we try to guide them into the place where they could be most successful. But sometimes, rarely perhaps, I have students who are not ready to integrate it, and we just have to kind of let them survive… or not, you know? And when they don’t, we’re there to support them.

The Right to Fail

LR: I had a supervisor once, a very wise older woman who loved the metaphor of a safari guide. Her idea was that “As we walk through the terrain, I’ll point out the quicksand. I’ll point out the thickets and the brambles. If you choose to go into the quicksand, I’ll be waiting on the edge if I can help you.”
JA: Absolutely. And students have a right to fail. They very much have a right. And I think that’s the thing that we try to get students to understand. It’s like they’re not paying for this degree, they’re paying for an opportunity to get a degree. And if they destroy that opportunity because they go into an internship site when they’re not prepared to do so, there’s nothing that we can do about it. Those internship sites can hire you and fire you. If you get fired, there’s consequences. We’re very open about that.
LR: Do you ever experience transference/countertransference relationships with your students?
JA: I think I can answer this question in a way that’s most favorable for me [smiling]. I just genuinely care about the students and their success. When we accept a student into our program, when I’m working with a student, I see the impact they can have in their community, the ripple effect that they can have. And all I want for them is to be successful.

watching them struggle is the hardest part
And so it’s triggering because it’s like watching someone doing something that is going to hurt them but allowing them to get hurt so they learn the lesson. I think that’s the hardest part about being a counselor educator. I think that’s the countertransference, especially because I’m a relatively new dad of a two-year-old and a four-month-old. It’s like that same process of watching them go through it and identifying with that struggle.

So you just have this sense of ownership over that person’s development. And then when they get to internship, you’re letting it go and that ownership transitions to someone else—their site supervisor. And so, watching them struggle is the hardest part. And we go through that every year, because there isn’t an internship cohort that doesn’t have one or two students who is realizing at that moment like, “Oh, crap,” as they fall behind. It’s brutal because they have to watch their cohort members move forward.
LR: You clearly have a heart for your students and want them to succeed, but I want to push you on this one. What about those counseling students that you don’t like? You know, the ones that burrow under your skin or those that you simply don’t care about or like?
JA: I just try to put obstacles in their way, which means that I have to have that conversation that I don’t want to have but I know I need to have with that student earlier than other students. Like with that student that is burrowing under your skin, I very much experience a parallel process where I’m saying, “If this person is affecting me this way, they’re probably going to affect clients this way as well.”

that’s what I mean by obstacles, like slowing down their process so that they can gain awareness of how they affect other people
And so, before they even get to apply techniques, which is the second semester where they first learn how to do mock sessions, we need to have a conversation. We need to have that talk like, “Hey, you know that thing that you do in class? That’s annoying, man.” And what I try to do is say, “Whenever you...” Like if a student has a loud laugh, that’s saying like, “Pay attention to me,” right? What I try to get them to do is, “When you laugh, pay attention to everyone else’s reaction. Pay attention. Feel how you affect other people.” That’s what I mean by obstacles, like slowing down their process so that they can gain awareness of how they affect other people. Because if they’re affecting me, they’re going to affect other people.
LR: So, what you’re trying to do is not simply model empathy or pray to God that they sort it out through osmosis or some other way. Sometimes, you have to really just actively teach them what it means to be empathetic because in therapy, the audience is watching. The audience is listening
JA: Worst-case scenario, you’re doing it live in class and the student does something and you have to say, “Hey, pay attention to how everyone is feeling around you. Would anybody like to share how this person is affecting you right now?" And then sometimes I may say something like, “This is how I’m experiencing you right now. You don’t have to respond to it. This is just how I’m experiencing it. Do you want to be experienced in that way? Is that what you’re trying to get me to experience you?" And I think that’s kind of the learning that we need them to get.
LR: So, counselor educators need to manage their triggers so they can be most present for their counseling students, just as we ask counseling students to have those qualities with their clients.
JA: Exactly.

Straddling Two Worlds

LR: How do you balance on that tightrope separating the supervisory and therapeutic aspects of your role as a counselor educator?
JA: I straddle that line as carefully as possible, because that’s probably one of the most unexpected challenges my doctoral program prepared me for. And they can’t really prepare you for that. So, the way that I keep a boundary around it is that when I’m with a student, I’m always thinking about learning opportunities. I’m always thinking about teachable moments. And so, there’s times when I go there with a student, especially when we’re processing deep stuff. But there is a stopping point when it gets to, “Okay. We’ve got to stop because I feel like this is what you need to process in therapy. This is what’s affecting the client, that you need to process that in therapy.”

I’m always thinking about teachable moments
But when I can cultivate a relationship with the student or supervisee that is safe, then sometimes in supervision I may feel like being open about, “Okay. We need to work through this so that you can better work with clients,” then, “Here’s where we’re going to work, and here’s where we’re going to stop.” Does that make sense? It’s almost like an instinctual knowing of when I’m going too far, when we’re getting too deep. And I can feel that with students. I may see them becoming uncomfortable. So, I want it to be a wisdom-based engine, and I don’t want that engine to spoil over into fear, because then they’ll push away.
LR: In this context, many counselor educators are also practicing clinicians, and I wonder if that is beneficial or detrimental.
JA: I have a small private practice here in Temple, and I don’t know how I would be able to do this job without seeing a client or two a week. And it’s mainly because sometimes when I haven’t worked with clients and I’m in front of the class with the alphabet behind my name, I feel like I am The Guy. And then I go into a session, and I’m humbled and reminded, “Oh, yeah. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing,” or, “This session got away from me.”

I feel like it becomes hard to manage whenever my practice hinders my health, when I’m scheduling, managing things when it’s overwhelming, when I’m burnt out, and my students become a secondary priority. That’s when I know, okay, something’s going on. But, yeah, I work with individuals, couples, families. And I usually have about four or five clients that I’m seeing in a semester.

Lifespan Issues

LR: How, as a parent to young children and also in a sense a parent to young, evolving clinicians, do you teach them about the uncertainty and our limited ability to influence others?
JA: I think you put them in situations intentionally where it’s grey and uncertain and watch them go through it. What we try to do is have a healthy balance between safety and ambiguity. We want clinical trainees to feel safe enough to be able to feel okay floating in the wilderness somewhere. We know where they’re at. They may not know where they’re at, but we want them to feel safe to be lost a little bit.

we want clinical trainees to feel safe enough to be able to feel okay floating in the wilderness somewhere
And so, I think that’s how you train them. It’s like you intentionally scaffold and build into your program situations, places, activities where students can get a healthy dose of “I’m just going to go with it, and I’m okay because I know I have a healthy attachment to my faculty.” It’s the same thing as a new parent. It’s like I know my relationship is strong when my son can play independently and then come back and check in and then play independently and then come back and check in.

It’s like he knows that he can wander and it’s safe to come back. Same thing with students, right? We want them to go off and explore a theory, a technique or try this out or bring this into session or bring this into practice and then come back and say, “I don’t know what I did.” You know what I mean? So yeah, building that in intentionally.
LR: You’re in a unique position, Jude, because you’re learning what it means to be a parent while you are shepherding counseling students into their professional identities. It makes me wonder—what are some of the challenges that clinical educators have who are later on in their life, who are no longer dealing with raising young children but perhaps launching teenagers, or have children who are getting married, or are dealing with their own mortality? How do counselor educators separate or merge the challenges in their own personal lives with what it is their students need in theirs?
JA: I feel like the challenges that the more-experienced clinician or the counselor educator may have are the same issues that the students may have who come in as they begin a second career. It’s arrogance, you know? It’s that idea that you know everything. You don’t see yourself as a student anymore. And I think that is the downfall of a good counselor educator, is when they feel like they know all there is to know.

I think the way that they can combat that is integrating the experiences that they have but not relying solely on those experiences. I think that’s the difference—if you’re integrating them, you say, “Gosh. I remember what it was like when my kid was two or when my kid was four. I remember when my kid was 13.” That’s the emotional age of some of these students. What did I do when my kid was 13, and what did I want to do that I didn’t do that I wish I could’ve done and I can do now with this student? I feel like those are the ways that you can kind of integrate those experiences into raising students.
LR:
we as counselor educators/clinicians have to continue to evolve, to look inside
So, it goes back to sort of a thread that’s woven its way through this interview, which is that we as counselor educators/clinicians have to continue to evolve, to look inside. We have to impose that challenge on our counseling students. We can expect no less from our counseling students than we can for ourselves.
JA: And we’ve got to have the courage to let them into our journey with that. You know, we’ve got to have the courage to say, “This is life. I’m tired. I’m exhausted.” We don’t have to put on that front. Because then students will do that, and then the clients will do that, and there’d be that butterfly effect where nobody’s really being themselves.
LR: Do clinical educators get the students they need?
JA: It’s that butterfly effect, right? It’s like this parallel process where my relationship to my supervisee will impact my supervisee’s relationship to their client, which will then impact that client’s relationship to their environment. And so, a lot of the times when I’m in supervision and we’re having that come-to-Jesus moment like, “Why do you have this client,” I also have to ask myself, “Why do I need this supervisee to have that client?”

And then I may start thinking, “What do I need to do in my life in order to be able to better support this student so that they can better support this client?” That becomes the question, right? But then the beauty of supervision is that you can outwardly process that with a student so that they can learn how to do that for themselves with a client. You can say, “Gosh, man. When you’re working with this client, this is what it brings up for me. This is my hang-up, and this is where I struggle to support you. Where in your life do you feel like this client is kind of poking?" This processing and processing is a beautiful thing when it’s done right. In a lot of ways, it can feel like inception. Sometimes you’re in supervision like trying to spin a top asking, “Are we in reality, or is this a dream?”

True Cultural Awareness

LR: This next question could probably stand as its own interview, but I can’t help but ask. What are the challenges that counselor educators face in really effectively teaching these students what cultural awareness means?
JA: The first thing that comes to my mind is that we’ve got to be mindful of our fragility as counselor educators and be willing to address things that make us uncomfortable talking about, things that make us squeamish. I feel like we’ve got to be aware of that. We’ve got to be aware of our political stances and how that influences our work and how it influences our teaching. We’ve got to be aware of our perspective, our biases, our thoughts, our perceptions of individuals who don’t look like us, don’t like the same people we like, don’t pray like we pray.

we’ve got to be mindful of our fragility as counselor educators
I think the key to fostering culturally humble students and clinicians is for us as counselor educators to be humble, to be mindful of our fragility, and be courageous enough to have those conversations in class. Each diversity class that I teach feels like Thanksgiving, because a lot of people’s families are uncomfortable around that Thanksgiving table. That’s what diversity class feels like.

I feel like what we have to do is to foster this atmosphere of openness around these discussions and safety in the classrooms. What we don’t want is for students to feel the tension or the discomfort, and that hinders their ability to go there. We need them to go there. And so, we have to be aware. We have to be humble. We have to be courageous. I think those three qualities can really help develop culturally-competent students.
LR: We recently released a three-video series, Counseling African American Men, featuring Darrick Tovar-Murray from DePaul University. In the conversations between Darrick and Victor Yalom, Psychotherapy.net’s founder, the idea came up that counselors need to learn to be comfortable with discomfort, which sounds like exactly what you’re talking about.
JA: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. We’ve got it steeped in our program. We’ve got it steeped in security and safety with a little bit of ambiguity and discomfort. It has to be equal measures. We have to steep the students in there for two years and two semesters, you know?
LR: I’ve heard of the notion of “White Fragility.” What did you mean by fragility?
JA: You know, like those developmental stages. Like whether or not you’re in the early stages of identity development. Then you’re experiencing a lot of anger, right? Because that’s fragility too, right? We talk about this in diversity class. Sometimes, as a man of color, as an African American male, I have anger toward White men, White people, especially when I feel unsafe.

sometimes we can give off the impression as counselor educators that if you are a White counselor, then you can’t do culturally sensitive work
And so, when clients come in, sometimes that anger leeches into the therapeutic relationship. And I think that’s what I mean by fragility. It’s not that you can’t be angry. It’s that you have to be mindful of “How is this going to impact my therapeutic relationship, my work, my relationship with my peers, my relationship with my supervisor? What do I need to do to work through that?
LR: When I started at the university 32 years ago, the student body was White, and I have learned to be more aware of the privilege that comes with whiteness. And I have been put in very uncomfortable situations with my students. So, this idea of a counselor educator being comfortable with discomfort and modeling it is very important.
JA: Absolutely! And a lot of that has to do with just acknowledging when “This is uncomfortable.” Like, look around the room. What have we done as a program, as an organization? What have you done individually as a student to perpetuate this sameness? Let’s have that discussion. Because I think sometimes we can give off the impression as counselor educators that if you are a White counselor, then you can’t do culturally sensitive work.

I feel like that impression is dangerous, especially for White students. There’s so much opportunity for corrective emotional experiences for clients. If we train White counselor educators well, they can go out into their communities into the field and build strong relationships and repair relationships with clients. I mean, speaking for myself as a supervisor, it meant a lot to me to work with a supervisor, like when I was a student, who was White but who came into the relationship humble, aware, willing to acknowledge things. It was kind of like, oh, okay. Okay, we can do this. And it was even more impactful sometimes when that happened.
LR: Yeah. Do you think there’s an implicit expectation that, because you are a Black man, that you have a deeper sensitivity to cultural oppression and unfairness?
JA: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That’s the work we don’t get paid for. That’s fine with me, you know? That’s the stuff that they don’t add to the tenure packet. They don’t have a box for that on your year-end evaluation. It’s how many times you’re stopped in the hall and, “Hey. I’m trying to do this diversity thing.” It’s like, I’m going to Google it just as you, just as much as you.

sometimes it’s just hard. It’s like, “Man, I don’t have the bandwidth to do this when I also have to do other things”
You know, it’s that extra work that you do to support a community, the calls you get, the students that you’re supporting, the organizations you’re connected with. Sometimes you do have a deeper understanding of these diversity issues, because you have to. But sometimes it’s just hard. It’s like, “Man, I don’t have the bandwidth to do this when I also have to do other things.”

I feel like what I love the most about my faculty is that we all take equal responsibility in having those conversations. So, it doesn’t just feel like it relies on one person. But I’m blessed. My program is diverse. We have two White men, and the rest of the faculty are people of color, women of color.
We very much match our student population demographics. But, yeah, that’s the stuff you don’t get paid for. And that expectation gets you voluntold to be on committees. And I’m just like, “Gosh, man. I’m struggling too, you know?”
LR: I think we’ll stop there Jude. I want to thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and experiences from the trenches of graduate school.
JA: I hope this was meaningful for students or for whoever’s reading it.


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Jude Austin Jude Austin, PhD, has a doctorate in Counselor Education and Supervision, and is an LPC, LMFT, NCC, and a CCMHC. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Professional Counseling Program at the University of Mary Hardin Baylor and serves as the program’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling Track Coordinator. He is also in private practice in Temple, Texas. His research focuses on counselor education pedagogy, specifically finding ways to help counseling students develop therapeutic presence in session. He was a 2021 American Counseling Association conference Keynote Speaker and is the co-author of the books Counselor Self-Care published by the American Counseling Association, Surviving and Thriving in your Counseling Program published by the American Counseling Association, and The Counselor Educator’s Guide: Practical In-Class Strategies and Activities published by Springer Publishing Company. He is currently under contract with the American Counseling Association to publish the book A Guide to Doing Counseling.
Lawrence Rubin Lawrence 'Larry' Rubin, PhD, LMHC, ABPP, RPT-S is a Florida-based Psychologist, Mental Health Counselor and Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor, who directs the Counseling programs at St. Thomas University and is on the clinical faculty of Capella University. He specializes in the assessment and treatment of children, teens, and their families. Larry is on the editorial board of the International Journal of Play and has published several popular books including Handbook of Medical Play Therapy and Child Life: Interventions in Clinical and Medical Settings, Diagnosis and Treatment Planning Skills: A Popular Culture Casebook Approach, and Using Superheroes and Villains in Counseling and Play Therapy: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals.

CE credits: 1

Learning Objectives:

  • describe the challenges counseling students experience in graduate school
  • explain the responsibilities counselor educators have in training emerging clinicians
  • discuss issues related to professional counseling identity development

Articles are not approved by Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) for CE. See complete list of CE approvals here