Archive for the 'Counseling and Human Services' Category

Welcome, Dr. Lee Za Ong

leeza-ong-2018Dr. Lee Za Ong has joined the Counselor Education Counseling Psychology this fall and will be working extensively with our new Rehabilitation Counseling Masters Degree. We had a chance to speak with Dr. Ong to get to know her better!

Where did you grow up? How long have you lived in Milwaukee?

I was born and grew up in Malaysia. I went to Japan for my undergraduate and came to the US for my graduate degrees. I have lived in the US longer than I lived in Malaysia and have been in Milwaukee for 10 years. Before coming to Milwaukee, my family has lived in New York and California and driven across the country twice due to several job relocations.

What is your favorite educational experience?

When students actively engage in class discussion and add on to my ideas.

What do you see as an exciting opportunity for this upcoming academic year?

I am doing a research project with Dr. Enaya Othman and other colleagues here at  Marquette University. This project focuses on investigating the stigma of disabilities among Muslim women in Milwaukee. I would also like to expand my research project regarding individuals’ attitude toward disability among other ethnicity in Wisconsin or in the nation.

What drew you to Marquette and the College of Education?

The faculty members in the Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology department are diverse, selfless, and engaging with the community. They are collective and are very skilled in lifting up people’s spirits. They are also a group of caring professors who are responsive to students’ needs.

What do you enjoy doing when you are outside of the classroom? 

I have been a board member of IndependenceFirst since 2014, and it has been an honor to be able to promote inclusion and the independent living of individual with disabilities. I have two children in high school and enjoy watching their musicals, band and swim events.  I admire young people’s talents and how they give everything into doing what they love. I hope that the world will be a better place with these passionate students. I also like to build relationship with people who are from different backgrounds. Their life experience and wisdom enhance my personal and professional development. An example could be the stories I listen to on The Moth podcast. The true stories that were told by people in the live show make me cry, laugh and feel in awe during my commute.

Any advice for readers who are interested in learning more?

The quality of the high school’s performing arts and music program are just as good as professional ones. You only spend a fraction of the cost, but you get to enjoy a world class performance by those of ages 14 and up. The children are the hidden treasure of the city. When building relationships with people who are different from you, even the simplest topic (such as food) can help seal a gap. As for The Moth, make sure you have a tissue box nearby. The stories presented in this inspiring podcast can move even the toughest to tears.

Who is your inspiration for your work or your passion?

Individual with disabilities, refugees and immigrants in the community are those who are my inspiration for my work. They have tirelessly demonstrated grit, resilience, endurance, and tolerance so they can build a bright future for next generations.

WEB and 6th grade orientation: Watching my 8th graders become leaders

Blue_lockers_at_IATCSBy Sabrina Bartels

At the end of last school year, we introduced a new concept to our 8th grade students called WEB. WEB, which stands for Where Everyone Belongs, promotes a welcoming environment in schools and encourages students to be leaders in their school community. At my school, we asked teachers to recommend students they thought would be good leaders and help us run the 6th grade student orientation. The results were, in my opinion, amazing.

There were two really great moments that stood out to me as an adult on the WEB team. The first moment was when I looked at the initial list of students being recommended as WEB leaders. There were several students I “expected” to see on the list: the kids who were always polite, responsible, and volunteered for multiple opportunities throughout the year. But there were also a good number of students who I considered “emerging leaders”: students who absolutely had leadership potential, but were not typically picked first for leadership opportunities. I think of some shyer students, or the boy who was a little outspoken during class, or the kind girl who really struggled in terms of attendance. Some of those students never believed in themselves to be leaders. Talking with some of them and giving them an application to be a WEB leader was such a rewarding moment. The smiles on their faces, and the pride they felt when they heard that teachers had suggested them, were amazing.

The second moment was seeing the leaders in action during the 6th grade orientation. I will be honest: I was a little nervous during our training days. Some of our students were still very shy and reserved. There were some students who were reluctant to practice some of the activities because they were embarrassed (we had a lot of activities that required moving, dancing, and doing things in silly voices.) We frequently discussed as a big group how all of us adults were embarrassed as well, but that we had the mindset that we were doing this for the 6th graders. Several of our students took comfort in that fact that we were embarrassed and nervous too! The day of the training, our students were fantastic. They completely surpassed my expectations.

I had students volunteering to run groups on their own instead of in pairs when the number of 6th graders exceeded our estimates (I was especially proud of one of my students with anxiety, who bravely volunteered to run her own group and did amazing with it!) There were 8th graders going out of their way to welcome students who were extremely nervous. I saw my shy students burst out of their shells and participate fully in every activity, which encouraged our 6th grade students to do the same. Many of our leaders even took it upon themselves to organize the 6th graders in the lunch line – something none of us had asked them to do, but man, were their efforts appreciated! In my opinion, the day went smoothly, and my 8th graders impressed me beyond belief.

I am excited to see how WEB transforms our school climate. We will have activities throughout the year that our WEB leaders will run, and I think the 8th graders are just as excited as we are about this. Seeing how WEB has already helped many of my students become stronger leaders makes me excited for the future. I anticipate great things for this year!

Starting the Semester with Intention and Positivity

This post originally appeared on Dr. Lisa Edward’s blog Hopeful Mama on July 9, 2018.


colorful-autumn-leaves-871286965014L8g8By Lisa Edwards

Yes, the Fall semester is upon us. Summer is over and despite all my best intentions to come up with a summer plan to be super productive, I don’t feel like I got enough work done. Now I need to quickly finalize my syllabus, attend college and department back-to-school meetings, and start responding to the emails about reference letters that have already begun to fill my inbox.

It would be easy at a time like this to become sour and start to dread the semester, especially because we know it can be intense. In some ways, semesters are like marathons, where you give more for 15 weeks than you probably ever would during a normal “run.”

If the semester is like a 15-week marathon, it seems like we should be psyching ourselves up with positive thoughts, rather than pessimism and negativity. No-one starts a marathon thinking “this is going to be so awful,” right? They probably think it will be hard, they’re up for the challenge, and they’re going to do their best.

​As I look ahead to my marathon of the Fall semester, I’m going to do all I can to start the race with a positive attitude. I’m not expecting that every day will be positive, or that I’ll be able to maintain my positivity through all of the challenges, but I want to at least have that as my starting point.

 

Below are some strategies for starting the semester off on the right foot:

Intentionality – Rather than watching the semester fly by like a kite being dragged by the wind, I’m going to be a little more intentional about my planning. First, I’m going to try and stop my work early (in other words, not when I’m already 10 minutes late for the daycare pickup), and “take stock” for a second. What priority tasks have to be accomplished the next day, and in what order should I tackle them when I arrive to the office? I’m also going to schedule a coffee or lunch meeting with a colleague every few weeks because I know that type of break will help me stay energized. And if I don’t put something on the calendar in advance, it will be November before I remember to even think about doing it!

Focus on Positive Colleagues and Conversation – I love venting as much as the next person, but I realize that after a while it can bring me down. Not to mention that I can also start to spread my own negativity and bring others down. My goal for this semester is to complain a little less, and to try and get extra time with those colleagues who lift me up (see Intentionality above).  I’m also going to adopt one of Dr. Christine Carter’s 19 ways to reduce workplace stressStop talking about how busy and stressed I am. Dr. Carter reminds us that the more we talk about being busy (even if it’s just in our head), the more we’re actually training our brains to believe we should be freaking out.

Mix Things Up – There are positive things I sometimes want to try but hold back from doing because they sound like they will be too complicated, take up too much time, or adjust the family routine in some challenging way. Ironically, it may be just those things that I need in my month or semester to stay positive. Exercising early one morning while my husband gets the kids ready, scheduling a monthly get-together for drinks with a friend, using that gift card I got three years ago for a massage, or trying a new craft or cooking class. Why not treat one of these like an experiment in my life, and see how it works? Will it be disruptive or time-consuming? Maybe. Will it help with my self-care? Maybe. I’m guessing I’ll really enjoy it and it will give me that burst of positivity I might need, but I won’t know until I try…

What will be your strategies for starting Fall with positivity? 

 

This article originally appeared on hopefulmama.com on 8/28/16.

The Practice of Mindfulness and Self-Care

This post originally appeared on Dr. Karisse Callender’s blog Islander Journey on July 9, 2018.


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Karisse Callender

We hear the words mindfulness and self-care often – at least it seems so. But what does it really mean for you? Let’s take a moment to answer a few questions:

 

 

 

  • How do you practice being mindful in your daily living?
  • What do you do to take care of yourself?
  • How do you cope with stressful situations?
  • What are the signs that you are becoming either overwhelmed or experiencing burnout?
  • When you get up on mornings, what motivates you to begin your day?
  • What do you think about just before bed?

Living a mindful life is so much more than sitting down to meditate or going to a yoga class. It’s about active awareness of what’s happening at the moment, and being able to fully experience what is happening. For example, if someone is talking to you and you are on your phone or laptop at the same time but say you are listening – you’re not being mindful. In this case, being mindful would mean that you put your phone down or turn away from the computer to give that person your undivided attention. While listening to the person, you are aware of what they are saying, how they are feeling, and how you respond to what you hear.

Self-care somewhat speaks for itself – it’s about taking care of your needs in several areas. Here are some examples:

  • physical body: eg., getting your yearly check-up, exercise, nutrition, sleep, medication as prescribed.
  • emotional and mental: eg., taking medication as prescribed, meditation
  • financial: eg., managing debt, keeping a budget, having some savings.
  • spiritual: eg., prayer, meditation, support groups, place of worship.
  • environment/social: eg., safe housing/community, job, community groups, clean environment, social connections/friends.

There are several ways to practice self-care (some are even free!) and the most important thing is to do what works for you. We all have different needs, therefore, our self-care activities may vary. Here are some examples:

  • getting enough sleep
  • journaling
  • going to the beach/lake
  • hanging out with friends/loved ones
  • get yourself a treat
  • have someone you can trust to share when you feel stressed or overwhelmed
  • get some exercise (outdoor walking, gym membership, etc.)
  • listen to your favorite music and you can even make fun playlists!
  • social support
2018-03-11 10.59.43

One of the ways I practice self-care and mindfulness at the same time is when I read. I like being fully absorbed in the book and diving into the words. I like the imagery that my brain creates as I read the stories! Another way I practice mindfulness is when I drink tea. I sip slowly and try to savor the taste of the tea. I try to drink the tea in silence and sometimes I read or watch tv while doing it (oops! ha!).

Mindfulness and self-care are connected as they both represent a way of life. I refer to both as a practice because they require intention, consistency, determination, and the belief that you deserve all good things.

How can you practice mindfulness? What are some things you can do for your self-care?

“Be you, love you. All ways, always.” 
― Alexandra Elle

Let’s Talk About Sleep

This post originally appeared on Dr. Karisse Callender’s blog Islander Journey on June 25, 2018.


By Karisse Callender

I recently attended a presentation on sleep and what lack of sleep does to your body. We got a magazine with information on sleep, a bath bomb, and a lavender roll-on! (jackpot!)

2018-05-22 09.44.09It wasn’t the first time I heard this information, and yet I found myself feeling surprised while the presenter shared the information from the National Sleep Foundation. How come? There’s so much information about the importance of sleep, how much we should get, and developing good sleep hygiene. So why was this information so surprising to me? I think it’s because I take this for granted and just go about my day without thinking about the quality of my sleep unless I feel tired during the day.

Since I attended that presentation, I’ve been thinking about my sleep habits and how I prepare for bedtime. So, random but not random, when I got home from the presentation I cleaned up my night table and put up tips for preparing for bed in a nice frame. I diffused oils, changed the sheets and was excited to get into bed. I could not sleep! I did everything we talked about and just couldn’t sleep! Ha! How ironic, right? Anyways…let’s get back to this sleep talk.

I also experience sleep difficulties on and off. So I decided to pay closer attention to my sleep habits and decided to track my sleep. I also kept a log/journal to track what happened in my day/my mood/food/activities (I know…i’m a little extra). Here’s a look at my sleep chart for one week. I think I may continue keeping a sleep log.

fullsizeoutput_a29It is quite helpful to observe and notice how much I sleep as I can also make connections between the number of hours of sleep and other things that happen in my day.

So, although you may know this information already, I want to share some tips I learned to help with getting a good night’s sleep:

  • Keep your bedroom as comfortably cool as possible (it’s also a good excuse to have lots of cozy blankets and pillows on the bed!)
  • Try to sleep in a dark room (even the light from clocks can disturb your sleep. You can always try using an eye mask or cover the clock, or get room darkening drapes)
  • Avoid eating and exercise at least 2 hours before bed
  • Limit your use of technology (yes, put your phone down and get off social media!) at least 1 hour before bed.
  • Limit liquid intake before bedtime (mostly to avoid getting up several times per night to go to the bathroom).

It’s also a good idea to develop a routine for bedtime – that way you create a habit with activities that pretty much sets you up for classical conditioning. In other words, when you have a consistent routine, once you begin that process your body gets the hint that you are winding down to sleep. Depending on your job or family life, it may be difficult to have an exact bedtime; however, your routine to prepare for bed should be as consistent as possible. When I was completing my master’s degree I had a lot going on especially in the last year of the program. It was difficult for me to have a consistent bedtime (and awake time), mostly because I did overnight shifts. I struggled to get to sleep on the nights I did not work and my body was constantly confused. What I realized was that it was more important for me to have consistency with the routine, and not so much the time. Actually, on those mornings when I came off my shift, if I started the routine I did at night, my body began to relax and I could get to sleep (most times).

My sleep routine has been consistent (mostly), although there are nights when I just cannot sleep and I’ve learned to accept that. Here are some of the things I do to prepare for bed (in no specific order):

  • I meditate. I usually begin and end my day with some kind of meditation, whether it’s a guided meditation with a theme or practicing vipassana (insight meditation). I aim to do this daily but there are days when it doesn’t happen.
  • drink a cup of tea (no caffeine). Ideally, I would drink this tea while doing nothing else. Other times, I drink the tea while watching the news or reading.
  • take a shower. This helps me to relax, especially because I use lavender or mint shower gel. Those scents help me to unwind.
  • diffuse essential oils. My bedtime blend is usually a combination of lavender, lemongrass, eucalyptus, and a protective blend to keep things healthy 🙂
  • I cream my hands when I get into bed with anything that has eucalyptus and or lavender in it (sounds weird….I know ha!)
  • Once I’m settled in bed, I put on an eye mask (most times)

The great thing is that you can make your bedtime routine whatever you would like it to be. The important thing is that it creates a relaxing environment and allows you to unwind.

Do you have a bedtime routine? If not, think about some simple ways that you can begin to create one that is unique to your needs.

“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die.
And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

Counselor Book Review – Mockingbird

books-933333_960_720By Sabrina Bartels

Near the end of the school year, several of the staff members at my school decided to form a book club. However, we did not pick up the latest adult novel and dive in. Instead, we decided to focus on young adult and children’s literature. We compiled a list of books – some old classics and some newer ones as well – and picked those that we thought would help us gain insight into our students. We also chose books that we thought our students would enjoy reading, since getting students to read is crucial to their academic success. And trust me, there were a lot of books to choose from!

The first book we chose was called Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine, and I found myself learning so much from this novel. I’ll start by saying this: I think every educator should read Mockingbird. Anyone who regularly works with kids should buy or borrow a copy. You’ll be so glad you did.

Mockingbird is narrated by ten-year-old Caitlin, who has just lost her brother in a school shooting. What makes Caitlin so incredibly unique as a narrator is that she has Asberger Syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum. Many describe Asberger Syndrome as being part of the higher functioning end of the spectrum. Oftentimes, those with Asberger’s (and autism in general) struggle with social communication. In the book, Caitlin experiences difficulty with understanding people’s emotions based on their facial expressions. She also has very black-or-white thinking; everything is either right or wrong, with no in-between. As you go through the book, you are able to see Caitlin’s thought process for certain events, which had a huge impact on me. It really opened my eyes to how some of my students with autism may be thinking or feeling.

I remember learning a lot about autism during my undergrad years, but you can only learn so much from textbooks. This past year, I started working closely with a student who has autism. Similar to Caitlin, he is high functioning and very intelligent, but struggles with social communication. There are times when he and his teachers — or he and I — don’t see eye to eye, despite all of our best attempts. I remember he and I frequently talked about why he had to complete a certain assignment when he already knew and understood the material. I also remember an incident where he refused to give up his cell phone, even though he was using it in the locker room (where phones are not allowed.) When I explained that we can’t have cell phones in locker rooms for privacy reasons and that people sometimes take inappropriate pictures, he said that he should be allowed to have his phone because he would never do that.

Though Caitlin does not experience the same situations in the book, there are times when I feel like her inner dialogue may explain my own student’s thoughts and feelings. Being able to read how her logic plays out makes me understand my student better. Seeing how Caitlin reacts to situations – and seeing how those situations mirror my student’s situations – really helps me understand what I can do to be a better counselor for my students with autism and Asberger’s. I’ve learned that having a facial expressions chart could be very helpful for my students who struggle labeling their emotions. I can continue to demonstrate and model appropriate social behavior (looking at someone, listening with my whole body, etc.) I can continue to work with parents and outside therapists, which is a huge component to student success. By having everyone on the same page, you are better able to meet the needs of the student and ensure that you are all giving a consistent message. Finally, I learned that patience really is key. If Caitlin’s counselor, father, and teacher were not as patient, I don’t think Caitlin would’ve made the growth she did. It made me feel better to realize that I am not the only one who sometimes struggles with patience, and that I as a counselor am not alone in this.

But this book is not only for adults. I think this book could make a world of difference to a student who has Asberger’s. It shows them that they are not alone. Sometimes, my student believes that he is the only one who experiences what he does, and the only one who has to get through a school day with Asberger’s. This would show him that there are others who go through similar struggles that he does. But it also promotes empathy from other students. Children who read the book will see how Caitlin reacts to various situations. They may then later see a student in their classroom who has a similar reaction. My hope is that they will remember the story Mockingbird and be kinder to others. After all, a little kindness and understanding can go a long way.

Embracing Change

Originally published on Dr. Karisse Callender’s blog “Islander Journey.”

 

flower-2372998_1920By Karisse Callender

I just wrapped up my first academic year as a faculty member and it still seems unreal! So may experiences seem like it happened just yesterday – I remember making the move to begin my doctoral program, all the study groups, comprehensive exam, job interviews, and the move to my current location. I guess time does fly when you are having fun! There were so many changes that seemed to happen in a short space of time and at times I felt very overwhelmed. Sometimes change is a challenge for me (because who likes stepping out of their comfort zone?), but it’s an additional challenge when several changes happen at one time.

So how do you embrace change? How do you practice acceptance of what is and not try to change things to be as you prefer it? I think the answer lies in the ability to practice radical acceptance, self-compassion, and to have genuine people who you can trust to share your struggles.

Radical acceptance: It’s so much easier to want to control how things “should” be instead of accepting what is actually happening. Radical acceptance (which can be difficult at times. I mean..come on) is accepting what is happening in your life as it is. For example, one thing I had to radically accept was that I was at a phase in my life where certain changes were inevitable and there was nothing I could do to change it. I actually wrote “it is what it is and not what I think it should be” on a post-it and placed it where I can see it often. This served as a reminder for me to let go of the need to control everything (let’s face it, that’s exhausting!)

Self-compassion: Saying negative things to myself during the process of change will not make things any better, although, it does seem like the easiest option, right? I mean it’s easier (at least for me) to think “there’s no way you can compete with these people” than to believe “you have skills and knowledge that someone will benefit from.” I had to practice a lot of self-compassion during my transition, especially because I felt (and still feel) that strong imposter syndrome and it was taking over my brain! I confided in a dear friend and was able to share my struggle of comparing myself and having the inadequate button pushed!

Having genuine people to talk with: I just mentioned that I had a friend I confided in and I cannot say enough how helpful it was. What was most helpful was that she validated how I felt and at the same time provided support and encouragement. I also have another friend who happened to be going through the same transition, so it was a relief to go through this with someone. I think the key is to be intentional and careful about who you seek support from – not everyone can give us what we need when we need it (and that’s okay).

Despite the challenges, I’ve learned to embrace these changes with compassion and I am still learning to trust the process. It’s an exciting and anxiety provoking time, and I am grateful for all the experiences!

How do you deal with change? What helps you when you have to make major transitions?

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” 
― Lao Tzu


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