Book II:  Getting The Internship You Want:  How to write APPIC essays that get you noticed . . . without completely losing your sanity          (Essay 2:  Your Theoretical Orientation)
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Book II: Getting The Internship You Want: How to write APPIC essays that get you noticed . . . without completely losing your sanity (Essay 2: Your Theoretical Orientation)

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This book helps you to identify and describe your in-born theoretical orientation and discuss how it influences your case conceptualization and approach to intervention.

This book helps you to identify and describe your in-born theoretical orientation and discuss how it influences your case conceptualization and approach to intervention.

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    Book II:  Getting The Internship You Want:  How to write APPIC essays that get you noticed . . . without completely losing your sanity          (Essay 2:  Your Theoretical Orientation) Book II: Getting The Internship You Want: How to write APPIC essays that get you noticed . . . without completely losing your sanity (Essay 2: Your Theoretical Orientation) Document Transcript

    • Getting the Internship You Want: How to write APPIC essays that get you noticed . . . without completely losing your sanity Dr. John T. Carlsen Your Internship CoachBook II: How Do I Make the Most of My Theoretical Orientation?
    • Copyright © 2008, 2011 John T. Carlsen, Psy.D. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.EXCEPT FOR USE IN A REVIEW, THE REPRODUCTION OR USE OF THIS WORK IN ANY FORM OR BY ANY ELECTRONIC, MECHANICAL, OR OTHER MEANS, NOW KNOWN OR HEREAFTER INVENTED, INCLUDING PHOTOCOPYING,RECORDING, AND IN ANY INFORMATION STORAGE AND RETRIEVAL SYSTEM IS FORBIDDEN WITHOUT THE WRITTEN PERMISSION OF THE WRITER AND PUBLISHER PRODUCED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA FOR ORDERING INFORMATION, CONTACT: John T. Carlsen, Psy.D. (773) 975-4297 DrCarlsen@PDI-online.com www.PDI-online.com
    • Chapter 1: How Would You Describe Your Foundation as a Therapist?If you followed the guidelines in Book I, your autobiographical statement hasalready set the stage for your application packet, by telling the story of how youbecame who you are today - the budding new therapist.With that foundation, this second essay invites you to startmoving onto the stage by describing that budding therapist inmore detail. That is, Essay 2 asks you to introduce one of thecentral components of your emerging professional self: YourTheoretical Orientation. It then asks you to describe how yourpreferred theories influence the work you do as a clinician. Inother words, I believe this question is designed to showselection committees:1. how much you have developed your understanding of various psychological models at this point in your training2. how well you can use different theories to integrate what you have learned from an a clinical interview with what you know from your practical experience of interacting with a client,3. how well your can use a theory to outline the essentials of a clinical case (e.g., presenting concerns, areas of focus, likely outcome, etc.).I also believe selection committees value this question very highly for one essentialimportant reason: Your response provides them with their first full glimpse of whatit would actually be like to train you if they were to select you as an intern. Itshows how you think and how you typically use your thinking to understand peopleand guide your work as a clinician.So, I hope you will make sure this first impression is a good one.Not surprisingly, many applicants feel completely stumped when they first read thisquestion. This usually happens because they mistakenly believe either that:1) they should have established a definitive theoretical orientation already or2) there is an ideal or preferred theoretical orientation that they should adopt sothey can compete successfully and increase their chances of matching at theirchosen internship sites. Copyright © 2008-11 by Dr. John T. Carlsen. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized duplication is strictly prohibited.
    • 4 CHAPTER I: DESCRIBE YOUR Inborn THEORETICAL FOUNDATIONFortunately, I believe that What if I Don’t Have a Theoreticalboth of these assumptions Orientation?are wrong. First of all, Many applicants feel completely stumped when theydeveloping a clear and first encounter questions about their theoreticaluseful theoretical orientation. They wonder how they could possiblyorientation is a long-term have one so early in their careers, especially sinceendeavor, not something they have often just begun their therapy practicumthat you can accomplish training a few weeks before they started applying forovernight or in a few internship.months. Having just barely begun to grasp the major components of a few theories, they wonder howThis important clinical tool they could already have formed a coherentwill evolve over time, as theoretical orientation. In reality, you have had ayou gain experience in theoretical orientation, however primitive, since youchoosing which theories entered graduate school: You came into the fieldprovide you with the most with a few basic ideas regarding how you thinkuseful information as you about people and their problems. Now, afterstrive to understand your studying and reading, you have acquired someclients and make sense of theoretical backing for your own ideas.their presenting concerns. Of course, selection committees know you are still in the early stages of your training. So, when they askSo, the idea that you would about your theoretical orientation, they are mostalready have developed likely interested in knowing how much you haveone (unless you have developed your ideas so far. That is, they want yousubstantial previous to show them your ability to integrate what you haveexperience as a therapist) learned with what you know from your practicalis more than a little far- experience.fetched. And, it is one ofthe easiest applicant In other words, even if you do not currently have aanxieties to put to rest. fully-formed, carefully-elaborated theoretical orientation, get a basic one. Delineate what firstSecondly, while some captures your attention when you listen to a client’s description of his/her presenting concerns. Talkinternship sites might have about how you formulate this comments into aa majority of staff who coherent picture of the case and how you will useshare a similar theoretical this picture in designing your interventions. Leaveorientation, the assumption the refinements of this perspective for the comingthat they want only years - when you will have gained enoughtrainees who share their experience to revise and polish your ideas morepreference is very unlikely - thoroughly. Copyright © 2008-11 by Dr. John T. Carlsen. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized duplication is strictly prohibited.
    • CHAPTER I: DESCRIBE YOUR Inborn THEORETICAL FOUNDATION 5and not at all helpful for you as an applicant.Think about it: Even if most of the staff shared a primary theoretical orientation,how interesting would it be for psychologists to train only people like themselves?Even if you could determine a site’s “ideal” or “preferred” theoretical orientation,how would you know when you had successfully convinced selection committeemembers that you share it?Don’t you think you might raise some warning flags? Don’t youthink they might see through your facade or, at least, questionyour motivations as “people-pleasing”? Can you imagine havingto wonder endlessly whether you had reached your goal of“being who they want you to be”? And, how difficult would itbecome for you to continue? (If it did not work well in yourdating or romantic relationships, it probably will not work in aprofessional setting, especially with psychologists. Remember that psychologistsare trained to look for discrepancies between what someone says and what theyexpect)More importantly, what makes you think you could pretend to find a particular setof theories appealing? What makes you so sure that you could convince a grouppsychologists that you treat certain theories as the basis of your work when youactually don’t? How well do you think you could contradict your naturalperspective? And, finally, why would you even want to?Even if you could convince them that you were “one of them” (a card-carryingCognitive-Behaviorist or a devoted Existentialist), what would be the point? Simplyto make sure that you got an offer for an internship slot? What would you do then,spend an entire year pretending you believe you are someone you are not? Howlong could you continue this charade? And, at what cost to your professionaldevelopment and identity? When w ould you finally have the chance to developyour own theoretical orientation...during your post-doctoral year?Ultimately, this focus on trying to uncover and fit into the expectations of selectioncommittees is completely futile: It is an impossible feat (because you will neverknow for sure whether you have uncovered what these training psychologists arelooking for in the trainees they want). More importantly, it raises your already-heightened anxiety unnecessarily by focusing your emotional energy on meetingothers’ expectations rather than on building a solid foundation from your naturaltalents and gift. Copyright © 2008-11 by Dr. John T. Carlsen. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized duplication is strictly prohibited.
    • 6 CHAPTER I: DESCRIBE YOUR Inborn THEORETICAL FOUNDATIONAnd, most importantly, it sets you up for failure by preventing you from getting thetraining you actually want and need to become the therapist you were born tobecome and forcing you to spend your internship year becoming someone else.(For a heavy dose of reality about the risks inherent in this approach, I invite you topause for a few minutes and read “What Can Happen If You Hide Who YouAre” on the following pages. It’s the story of Jeff, an earnest, young, well-meaning, and gifted internship applicant from the West Coast, who hired me forpersonal coaching many years ago after learning this lesson the hard way. Hisstory makes my points more vividly than I ever could by trying to convince you withlogic.) Copyright © 2008-11 by Dr. John T. Carlsen. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized duplication is strictly prohibited.
    • CHAPTER I: DESCRIBE YOUR Inborn THEORETICAL FOUNDATION 7 What Can Happen If You Hide Who You Are: Balancing Your Training Needs with Other People’s ExpectationsA few years ago, a young doctoral student from the West Coast reminded me of thesuffering that can come from trying to be something we are not. He had soughtme out for internship coaching after not matching with the internship he wanted. Afew minutes into our conversation, he revealed that, not only had he failed tomatch with his first-choice internship, but he had also failed to attract even a singleoffer. (This was back when offers came by phone on Match Day rather than simplythrough a computer as they do now.)As he began to uncover his deeply-passionate interest in clinical work and revealedhis gentle, caring style, I struggled to comprehend how this could have happened:Why would such a naturally-gifted new therapist not have had selection committeesbeating down the doors with offers to train him?I asked what he wanted most from his training. As he continued describing hisexperiences of interviewing, he gradually revealed The Truth: He had wanted todevelop his skills in using a particular framework for using Jungian psychology towork with young men in therapy. He described his hopes of applying the conceptsof individuation and the influences of archetypes to help these young men take “theHero’s journey”. He thought they offered an innovative approach for helping theseyoung men to recognize the challenges they faced in overcoming stereotypes toachieve a sense of authentic manhood.Reluctantly, he acknowledged that he had not brought up this interestduring a single interview. He had felt too ashamed to talk about it.Selection committee members had described their clients as a mix ofseriously-disturbed, inner-city adolescents from a wide range ofeconomic circumstances and cultural backgrounds. They described thepreferred approach among staff - mostly former probation officers whohad become clinical psychologists - as cognitive/behavioral methods.This approach had produced consistent results in modifying their clients’delinquent behavior patterns and maintaining order in the group homes.He described to me how he had felt uncomfortable promoting hisinterest in an approach that seemed so "soft" and "abstract," especially to a groupof more traditional males who worked in such an empirically-based setting. So,instead, he had tried to present himself as a dedicated, "card-carrying"cognitive/behaviorist. Copyright © 2008-11 by Dr. John T. Carlsen. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized duplication is strictly prohibited.
    • 8 CHAPTER I: DESCRIBE YOUR Inborn THEORETICAL FOUNDATIONAs our conversation continued, he gradually realized how hehad undermined his best intentions: While trying to fit intowhat he perceived as their ideal intern, he had inadvertentlysold his therapeutic soul and betrayed his deepest professionaldreams. We discussed how, by trying to show that he could "fitin" as a member of the staff, he had inadvertently excludedhimself and his training needs from his own trainingexperience. We finished our session by revising his essays sohe could interview with sites in the clearinghouse.As we summarized what he had learned, I encouraged him to keep the followingprinciples in mind:• Tune into what you truly want from your training. The more specifically you can define it, the more clearly you will be able to communicate to selection committees and the more confidently you will stand up for it.• Focus on your internal passion for this work. This will enable you to ground yourself internally and prevent you from focusing too much on others and their expectations. It will also diminish the anxiety that comes from paying too much attention to other people.• Avoid trying to fit into what you think others want you to be. Although it is tempting to believe this will increase your chances of matching successfully, you will ultimately wind up sabotaging your training experience.• Remember who your audience is. Selection committee members are professional therapists, trained to notice discrepancies and to see through false presentations. You are very unlikely to convince them that you are passionate about something when you are not, because they know intuitively hot to gauge when someone is not being authentic and honest.• Even if you are able to "pull off" this kind of impression to get an offer, you will wind up paying handsomely for your success in the future. Imagine having to spend nine months to an entire year training in a setting in which you have to continue hiding who you actually are and what you actually wanted to learn.Ultimately, presenting an accurate version of who you are will work to your benefit:Not only will you increase your chances of matching with a site you want, you willCopyright © 2008-11 by Dr. John T. Carlsen. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized duplication is strictly prohibited.
    • CHAPTER I: DESCRIBE YOUR Inborn THEORETICAL FOUNDATION 9also demonstrate a level of maturity that most committees want in their trainees.You can always show them that the different experience they offer will complementyour existing knowledge and skills. Nothing is more impressive to most supervisorsthan a trainee who feels passionate about how they approach this work. A goodtherapist knows how to stand strong on his or her own foundation and stand up forhis or her professional viewpoint, whether establishing and maintaining boundarieswith clients or justifying a particular diagnosis or therapeutic intervention.More importantly, there is nothing fun about training someone who already sharesthe supervisor’s perspective - no challenge, no growth, no opportunity for thesupervisor to share his or her expertise. Who knows? You might even wind upbringing something so new that it inspires and stimulates interesting discussionsamong staff - and even reminds them about why they do what they do. Can youimagine anything more powerful in attracting attention from the sites you want?A far stronger approach than “hiding who you are” or “trying to be who you thinkthey want you to be” thus involves becoming much more clear about your actualtheoretical orientation so you can position yourself as a competitive applicant.Fortunately, I believe, we clinicians have very little choice about which theories wefind inherently appealing and useful. That is, I believe theoretical orientation isinborn and hard-wired, much like handedness or photographic memory, leaving uswith few healthy choices but to develop along these lines.Thus, these natural inclinations tolook at the world in certain ways are I also believe that we have verylikely to influence which psychological little choice about how weperspective(s) inherently appeal toyou. They are also likely to influence respond to these inborn ways ofwhich theories will guide you most looking at the world, aside fromnaturally as you attempt to ignoring or trying to overrideunderstand your clients, how they them.became who they are, and whatmakes their presenting concernsespecially challenging for them.So, my primary task in this section is helping you to uncover and articulate this in-born theoretical orientation.I also believe that we also have very little choice about how we respond to theseinborn ways of looking at the world, aside from ignoring or trying to override them. Copyright © 2008-11 by Dr. John T. Carlsen. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized duplication is strictly prohibited.
    • 10 CHAPTER I: DESCRIBE YOUR Inborn THEORETICAL FOUNDATIONI do not mean that you cannot, as a training clinician, add to or modify your clinicalapproach as you gather more information and gain experience but, rather, that youhave a natural tendency to look at your clients and their experiences in certainways that will probably always guide your initial impressions. The key, at thispoint, is to strengthen this inborn foundation so you can find ways of positioningyourself strategically in the application process based on this distinctiveness andyour ability to describe it clearly. Whether you ultimately seek further training inyour preferred orientation or wind up in augmenting it with other theoreticalperspectives, this approach will help you substantially in your efforts to differentiateyourself from your fellow applicants.Our primary task as clinicians is to uncover and cultivate these inborn seeds oftheoretical orientation. We need to nurture and strengthen our curiosity about andfamiliarity with how each theory contributes to our understanding of clinicalmaterial. Your task as an internship applicant is simply to describe your ex istingorientation at this point where it is not in its development.So, again, I encourage you to begin reflecting on your long-standing inclinationstoward thinking about clients in certain ways. I encourage you to begin preparingfor this essay by stepping back and recognizing specifically what you beginthinking about autom atically when a client starts describe his or her presentingconcerns.1. What elements of this case start capturing your attention right away, from the beginning?2. What naturally fascinates you about a his or her presenting concerns or personal background? __ The early interpersonal relationship patterns? Copyright © 2008-11 by Dr. John T. Carlsen. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized duplication is strictly prohibited.
    • CHAPTER I: DESCRIBE YOUR Inborn THEORETICAL FOUNDATION 11 __ The conditioned responses to various stimuli? __ The automatic thoughts? __ The environmental context (systems) in which the client’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior occur?Then, articulate exactly how you start refining your focus to identify and select theinformation you view as essential to understanding this client. By starting with yourmost natural questions and noticing what clinical material captures your attention,you will begin uncovering your inborn theoretical orientation.As a result, you will immediately bypass the anxiety I mentioned earlier, the kindthat creeps in as applicants struggle to write their essay drafts, overwhelming andnearly paralyzing them with writer’s block. Rather than spending inordinateamounts of time trying to ferret out the preferences of different training supervisorsor internship programs for certain theoretical orientations, you will, instead, spendyour time becoming more clear about and confident in your own in-born clinicalperspective.Not surprisingly, this approach will leave you with a great deal of extra time later,when you are revising and polishing your essays and conducting your interviews, tofocus on finding ways to imagine fitting your actual self (and your inborntheoretical orientation) into various internship settings and how best to accomplishthat goal. Thus, rather than trying to fit yourself into a pre-existing internship slot,you will find ways of showing how you would modify that slot so the actual youcan fit into it and describing to selection committees what unique theoreticalperspectives you would bring to their training group. Finally, you will feel able todo this strategic positioning of your application from the perspective of building onyour existing foundation rather than feebly hoping that supervisors will help youfind and establish one.In short, this approach allows the possibility that you could successfully apply to -and make a strong impression at - a psychodynamically-oriented site even (maybeespecially) as a cognitive-behaviorist, especially if the site has some other reasonfor appealing to you (such as particular population it serves). If only Jeff hadknown how much easier it would have been to use this approach.In fact, if you already have a reasonably-developed understanding ofcognitive/behavioral methods, you could show this selection committee how they Copyright © 2008-11 by Dr. John T. Carlsen. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized duplication is strictly prohibited.
    • 12 CHAPTER I: DESCRIBE YOUR Inborn THEORETICAL FOUNDATIONcould help you in broadening your theoretical orientation by learning to augment itwith psychodynamic perspectives. What clinical supervisor would not welcome thechance to teach a motivated trainee how to use his or her preferred theories? Isn’tthis one of the main reasons psychologists become supervisors, to share their loveof what they have already learned and find useful with someone who has a deepdesire to learn it? What role do you think narcissism plays in a professional’s lifeanyway?On the other hand, if you feel more grounded in object relations or self-psychologytheories, you could show strong interest in learning how cognitive-behavioralmethods could translate your insights into concrete actions that your client couldtake to make changes. Thus, rather than simply increasing his/her understandingof how his/her problems developed and how they are related to each other, he/shecould develop the tools to counteract their patterns and effectively address them.These contrasts between your theoretical orientation and those of selectioncommittee members might spark interesting and useful discussions, even duringyour interviews.After all, what selection committee member would not love a break from thetedium of hearing one applicant after another talk about how he or she “wants towork with a culturally-diverse clientele” or “would be a good fit for your site”without being able to elaborate beyond the “buzz” words to say what they mean?Can you imagine how impressive your presentation would be if you show ed themhow you use your theoretical orientation by having a professional-level discussioninstead of simply trying to tell them?Of course, learning to talk about yourself at this level takes some practice. But,there is no better time to start learning how to do this than right now.So, let’s get started. Copyright © 2008-11 by Dr. John T. Carlsen. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized duplication is strictly prohibited.
    • Getting the Internship You Get the full book W ant: (or the entire set) at: How to write APPIC essays The that get you noticed . . . without Internship Resource completely losing your sanity Center Store Dr. John T. Carlsen Your Internship Coach Book II: How Do I Make the Most of My Theoretical Orientation?About the bookFinally, for a generation of doctoral students who are dedicated to becoming highly-competent psychologists but facing unprecedented competition for internshippositions comes “Getting the Internship You Want,” Dr. John T. Carlsen’s provenapproach to distinguishing yourself from your fellow applicants. A completelypractical approach to marketing your qualifications that not only tells you what todo, but also shows you how to do it.