Special Emphasis Areas

Four hours per week each semester have been set aside for interns or post-docs to individualize their training experience in the form of Special Emphasis Areas (SEA). SEA’s provide level-appropriate training and level-appropriate expectations and are sequential, cumulative, and graded in complexity differentiating the experiences of interns and post-docs. At a minimum, the intern or post-doc will meet individually with the area supervisor on a bi-weekly basis to discuss issues related to the SEA.

Each semester, an intern or post-doc will choose a content area from the descriptions below or they can create their own unique area based on individual interests with the approval of the Training Director. If an intern has an interest in gaining more extensive experience in a particular content area, that area can be chosen for two semesters.

SEA’s are outlined below. Questions regarding the content areas should be directed to the area supervisor or the Training Director.

  • Diversity
  • Administration of a Counseling Center
  • Grief & Loss
  • Suicide Prevention
  • Group Therapy
  • Outreach
  • Eating Disorders
  • Training & Supervision
  • Trauma-Informed Care
  • Mind-Body

Special Emphasis Area: Diversity Area Supervisor: Kenia Fountain, LISW

The SEA in Diversity will focus on the following:

Develop and present outreach programs that increase student or faculty and staff awareness, knowledge, and skills with multicultural interactions and topics, that reach diverse student groups on campus, through offices or programs such as Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA), Student Accessibility Services, Student Support Services (TRIO), International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO), Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success, the Margaret Sloss Center for Women and Gender Equity, the Military-Affiliated Student Center, the George Washington Carver Program, the Academic Program for Excellence (APEX), the McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, or various student organizations.

Maintain a liaison relationship (with senior staff support) with an agency such as Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA); the Margaret Sloss Center for Women and Gender Equity; the Military-Affiliated Student Center; Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success; International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO); Student Accessibility Services; or similar offices or organizations.

Networking to provide an SCS presence at multicultural events on campus. These events may include MSA Welcome and Transition, Lavender Graduation, MSA Graduation and Recognition, Latina/o/x Heritage Month, Disability Awareness month, Women’s History Month, Black History Month, LGBTQIA+ Coming Out and Pride Weeks, Asian Heritage Week, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, or other events.

The post-doc and Special Emphasis supervisor may also arrange other options or opportunities as part of this SEA. For instance, the trainee and Special Emphasis supervisor may decide on readings to review and discuss together, for continuing education and professional development.

Additionally, an intern or post-doc will have the opportunity to attend DEI Committee every other week and assist with monthly activities related to DEI topics during staff meetings.

Special Emphasis Area: Administration of a Counseling Center Area Supervisor: Kristen Sievert, Ph.D., LP

This SEA will include opportunities to learn about the general administration of a counseling center as well as clinical services in a counseling center. Both areas are outlined in further detail below.

Administration of a Counseling Center

The purpose of this part of the SEA is to give an intern or post-doc an understanding of the function of the Director of a large university counseling center. The intern or post-doc will have an opportunity to learn about developing policies and procedures, organizational structure, supporting staff in their work, promoting mental health topics on campus, and working with campus partners. The intern or post-doc will have an opportunity to accompany the Director and/or Associate Director to some university meetings, when appropriate.

Administration of Counseling Center Clinical Services

The purpose of this part of the SEA is to gain an understanding of how clinical services are directed in a counseling center. The intern or post-doc will learn from the Director and Associate/Clinical Director about setting policy and procedures, developing forms, coordinating case review, and setting staff schedules. The intern or post-doc may attend some Clinical Committee and other committee meetings, when appropriate.

Specific topics that may be covered during the semester include the following:

1) Director Introduction to Counseling Center Administration

  • General overview of counseling center administration
  • How to become an administrator
  • Exploring different administrative roles

2) Clinical Director or Director Tasks of a Clinical Director- Overview

  • Monitoring client usage and treatment availability
  • Monitoring disposition and referral decisions
  • Leadership of clinical policy development
  • Collecting clinical usage data

3) Director Setting up the Organization

  • The organizational chart
  • Management team concept
  • Types of organizational problems and how to manage them
  • Performance evaluation

4) Clinical Director or Director Clinical Policies and Procedures

  • Policy Manuals
  • Use of Clinical Committee
  • Input and Communication with Admin and All Staff

5) Director Staff Recruitment & Retainment

  • Professional development opportunities
  • Sustainable work environment
  • Recruiting new staff

6) Clinical Director Clinical Record Keeping

  • Legal and Ethical Issues
  • Structure of PHI notes
  • Disclosure of Information
  • Database issues

7) Director Developing a Budget

  • The structure of budgets
  • Setting up a budget tracking system
  • Doing budget projections

8) Associate Director Accountability Issues

  • Outcome Data
  • Clarity of the Mission
  • Annual Reports to Various Constituents

Additional Possibilities

SCS Administrative Projects and Experiences

  • Getting experience by helping with current projects (e.g., search committee)
  • Attending relevant leadership meetings (e.g., VPSA Cabinet, Unit Leadership, Out of Term Withdrawal Review, etc.)

Special Emphasis Area: Grief and Loss Area Supervisor: Kristen Sievert, Ph.D., LP

This SEA provides the opportunity to focus on grief and loss. Interns or post-docs will collaborate with a senior staff member to create a special emphasis plan based on the opportunities listed below, tailoring the experience to their interests and training needs. In most cases, the special emphasis would involve receiving training and supervision, providing direct grief counseling services and completing outreach. Depending on an intern’s or post-doc’s prior training and experience, opportunities during the semester could include:

  • Maintain at least two individual clients with grief and loss concerns on your caseload throughout the semester. The SEA supervisor will provide consultation.
  • Depending on availability and center need, co-lead a grief group.
  • Assist in facilitating campus debriefings after a student death or emergency.
  • Complete and discuss reading assignments with the Grief SEA supervisor.
    • Topics may include traumatic grief, complicated grief, anticipatory grief, ambiguous loss, and grief reactions within a cultural context.
    • Readings may include Understanding your grief: Ten essential touchstones; Techniques of Grief Therapy; Grief Counseling: A handbook for Mental Health Professionals; Treatment of Complicated Mourning.
  • Present in a practicum class, SCS staff training, or to another department on campus on a grief and loss topic (i.e., providing counseling for bereaved college students, how to support grieving college students, etc.).

Special Emphasis Area: Suicide Prevention Area Supervisor: Jeff Nelson, MS, LMHC

This SEA provides an opportunity to focus on suicide prevention on a college campus. Interns or post-docs will work with the Suicide Prevention Coordinator to create a special emphasis plan based on the opportunities listed below, tailoring the experience to their interests and training needs. In most cases, the intern or post-doc completing this SEA will have an opportunity to support the implementation of suicide prevention programming, participate in campus risk management (e.g., SAFE-T), and provide direct work with students experiencing risk concerns. Support the implementation of a tiered training approach for students, faculty, and staff to effectively respond to students with mental health concerns.

  • Participate on the Suicide Prevention Team with Student Wellness.
  • Maintain a caseload of at least one individual client with risk concerns on our caseload throughout the semester.
  • Attend SAFE-T and Care Management Team meetings.
  • Assist in creating and updating the Suicide Prevention section of the SCS website.
  • Complete and discuss reading assignments with Suicide Prevention Coordinator.
  • Take an active role in suicide prevention awareness events (e.g., Field of Memories, Out of the Darkness Walk) toward expanding our culture of care, connectedness, and belonging to reduce the stigma that is associated with seeking help for mental health and substance use challenges.

Special Emphasis Area: Group Therapy Area Supervisor: Heidi Pontinen, Ph.D., LP

The special emphasis in group therapy will focus on the following areas:

  • Increasing knowledge of group theory and practice: Through reading selected chapters and articles and experience, intern or post-docs will become familiar with group interventions (e.g., bridging, interpersonal feedback). group development (e.g., formation, transition), and other important considerations related to group therapy (e.g., ethics, diversity).
  • Interns or post-docs will also become familiar with the research that supports group therapy and understand the distinct advantages of group therapy compared with other types of treatment.
  • Experience establishing, facilitating, and maintaining a therapy group: In addition to regular intern and post-doc group requirements, intern or post-docs will have the opportunity to co-facilitate with staff and may have the opportunity to establish their own therapy groups. Interns or post-docs will learn to conduct effective group screenings, select members for groups, “sell” group to students and colleagues, and facilitate effective counseling groups with the university population.

Special Emphasis Area: Outreach Area Supervisor: Michelle Roling, Med, LMHC, CEDS-S

An intern or post-doc who chooses the outreach SEA will have experience in developing outreach programming, working to promote center messaging through social media, delivering additional outreach presentations, and promoting SCS connection with campus partners. This SEA explores the importance of outreach and prevention work within a university counseling center.

Outreach Requirements:

  • Involvement in Outreach Committee: This committee meets weekly, and the intern or post-doc involved in the SEA would participate as a member in this committee to both help with the development of our outward facing services and work to align internal services with our external messaging.
  • Developing an outreach presentation and/or social media campaign: This presentation or campaign will hopefully be the culmination of the SEA and should align with center vision and hopefully that of a campus partner or need of the center.

Special Emphasis Area: Eating Disorders Area Supervisor: Jenna Medlin-Ressler, Psy.D., LP

An intern or post-doc selecting the SEA of eating disorders will acquire experience in assessment, consultation, individual and group counseling, and outreach programming. In addition, the intern or post-doc will work with other health professionals and use a treatment team model. Working with eating disorders requires that the intern or post-doc draw from psychological, familial, biological, and sociological knowledge domains. An intern or post-doc successfully completing this area will be able to treat clients with a variety of eating disorder issues, administer eating disorder assessments if needed, and perform eating disorder prevention services as a psychologist in a university counseling center.

  • Maintain at least three individual clients who have disordered eating or body image concerns on your caseload throughout the semester. These clients will vary regarding presenting issues and therapeutic needs (assessment, on-going therapy, etc.). Often this work is supervised by the SEA supervisor but may be designated to another staff member by the coordinator.
  • Depending on availability and your experience, co-lead one ED-focused group. Groups change semester to semester depending on clinical need but may include:
    • a DBT skills-based group, for clients needing to develop strong coping skills and greater awareness of their own dysfunctional patterns related to body, exercise, and eating.
    • a process-oriented eating disorders group for students who have already engaged in the skills group or are more emotionally aware and insightful into their experiences. Appropriate referrals to this group need to be able to engage in emotion-focused, interpersonal, and process-oriented work.
  • Outreach and Consultation Requirements:
    • Participate on the Eating Disorders Treatment Team.
    • Participate in Eating Disorder Awareness Week outreach event planning and implementation.

Discussion topics and readings may include but are not limited to the following topics: Set-Point Theory, biopsychosocial model, sizeism, treatment team model, determining appropriate level of care and making referrals (e.g., outpatient, IOP, PHP, inpatient, residential, etc.), interoceptive awareness, principles of Intuitive Eating, integrating safe exercise and body-focused interventions into ED treatment, and working with special populations such as athletes (e.g., using relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S) as a means of determining health risks and removal/return to play, the use of interdisciplinary teams in sports medicine, etc.). Area supervisor and the intern or post-doc will collaboratively create goals based on interest and training need, which will help determine the specific topics addressed.

Special Emphasis Area: Training & Supervision Area Supervisors: Margaret Cowles, Ph.D., LP and professor from the Counseling Psychology doctoral program

This SEA focuses on the art and science of clinical supervision. The intern or post-doc will work closely with the Training Director, being involved in a variety of supervisory responsibilities. This area offers additional experience for an intern or post-doc with a strong interest in being involved in training activities professionally. An intern or post-doc successfully completing this experience will be knowledgeable about a variety of supervision approaches, will have experience teaching and supervising master’s and doctoral level students, and will be well-prepared to contribute to training activities in a university counseling center setting.

Training & Supervision Requirements:

  • SCS and the Psychology Department will collaborate to provide co-instruction of a doctoral level practicum class. This includes assisting in presenting didactic content, development of assignments, grading, and responding to clinical consultation needs.
  • Participate on the Training Committee (attend weekly meetings).
  • Complete reading assignments and discuss text with the Training Director.
  • Support Training Director with training tasks throughout the semester.
  • Present in a practicum class about clinical issues, techniques, and/or clinical work with a client.

Special Emphasis Area: Trauma-Informed Care Area Supervisor: Margaret Cowles, Ph.D., LP

This SEA will focus on (1) providing trauma-informed assessment and treatment for individuals seeking services at SCS resulting from exposure to an event or series of events that involve actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence with lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, and/or spiritual well-being and (2) promoting a physical, social, and emotional environment that is welcoming to both students and staff that reduces the likelihood of re-traumatization.

Trauma-Informed Care Requirements

  • Maintain at least two individual clients with presenting concerns related to experienced trauma on your caseload throughout the semester. The emphasis supervisor will provide consultation.
  • Co-lead a trauma-related group debriefing or co-lead a professional presentation to SCS staff with the emphasis supervisor.
  • Complete and discuss reading assignments with the emphasis supervisor.
  • Discuss how to practice self-care and self-preservation during trauma work through readings and personal reflection.

Special Emphasis Area: Mind-Body Services Area Supervisor: Leticia Ribeiro, Ph.D., LP

SCS offers a range of mind-body and biofeedback services to ISU students, including a self-guided biofeedback training, a mindfulness skills workshop, and a full library of mindfulness practices through our online self-help resources (Therapy Assistance Online; TAO).

  1. Learning how to conceptualize cases through mind-body lenses.
  2. Training and supervision in mindfulness-based individual psychotherapy
  3. Training in the Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) Protocol with the possibility to co-lead an MBCT skills workshop (4 sessions- three times per semester) or co-lead a mindfulness group.
  4. Training and supervision in how to use biofeedback techniques to enhance clients’ mind-body skills in therapy.
  5. Learn how to use TAO mindfulness practices as part of their work with clients.
  6. Interns or post-docs may be asked to present a case to the staff at the end of their training.
  7. Interns or post-docs may be asked to develop a new mindfulness-based service (e.g., a mindful eating class).
  8. In accordance with MBCT protocol, students will be encouraged to experiment with different mindfulness practices and build their personal mindfulness routine with what best works for them.
  9. Learning how to use mindfulness skills to implement mindful awareness in their work as a therapist.

The training will be based on readings and personal practice of mindfulness. It will involve learning the physiological and cognitive concepts involved in the mind-body perspective. The expectation is that after going through the course of this SEA, the intern or post-doc has developed their personal mindfulness practice experience and feels confident to facilitate mindfulness-based groups/workshops and individual therapy, showing independence to guide practices and debrief experiences with clients.