Archive for the 'Counseling and Human Services' Category

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

Keeping the counselor: Why We are Important

296-1246152442owjrBy Sabrina Bartels

One of my best friends came back to Wisconsin for a quick visit, and I managed to catch her for a “girls afternoon” before she returned home to Colorado. Over lunch and a quick trip to the mall, my friend reminded me that I was always welcome to come out to visit her and her family in Colorado. Inspired by this thought, I googled Colorado to see what exciting things I could do. One of the first things that popped up today was an article from The Hechinger Report, which submitted their writings to U.S. News & World Report.

The article was entitled “Colorado Boosts Funding for School Counselors,” which I immediately began to peruse. It talks about how Colorado is spending more money to hire 270 more counselors, in addition to providing professional development training for their middle and high schools. Since the school started increasing funding for counselors and their related services, graduation rates have increased, dropout rates have declined, and more students are completing financial aid and going on to some sort of education or training beyond high school. Finally, the article touches on how many districts have school counselors on the chopping block when budgets become tight, because what they do is not always well known.

It made me proud to see that Colorado is making a move to increase the number of counselors in their schools. I may be a little biased, but what counselors do is extremely important. Between building relationships, helping teach students critical life skills, and being available for any kind of crisis imaginable, we wear so many different hats and play so many different roles that it’s hard to imagine what would happen without us! But I also understand where people are coming from in the sense that they may not know what a counselor’s job is. And from experience, there is a big discrepancy between the “typical” job description for a counselor and what you actually get to do, which makes our roles even more enigmatic.

So what is it counselors do? Well, here’s a brief list of what my coworkers and I do throughout the school year:

  • Conflict resolution (this may make up the majority of our days)
  • Coordinating 6thgrade orientation
  • Coordinating 8thgrade completion ceremony
  • Over 100 8thgrade planning conferences in two months!
  • Teach social/emotional lessons on a variety of topics: drug education, anti-bullying, safety, use of technology, and mindfulness (just to name a few)
  • Recommendation letters for many different reasons – high school scholarships, music programs, etc.
  • Crisis response interventions
  • Response interventions – students just need to talk to someone!
  • Help with standardized testing
  • Manage 504 plans
  • Teach a college and career readiness class to 7th grade students
  • Create behavior plans for students
  • Sit in on IEPs, parent meetings, and staff meetings
  • Chaperone field trips
  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling / running small groups
  • Other committees and groups that we do! (coaching volleyball, PBIS, etc.)
  • And more!

It’s a lot of work being a counselor! But what a rewarding occupation it is. Even though I may not see/hear my success stories for years, it is empowering to know that I am helping students gain skills and knowledge that will help them as they continue into adulthood.

If you want to check out the article, click here.

Reflecting on Loss

digital_graphics_candle_flame_grief_light_dark_mood-1193516By Sabrina Bartels

This past month, I really struggled with inspiration to write something. Our family suffered a heartbreaking tragedy when my father-in-law unexpectedly passed away. My husband’s dad was a proud Marquette graduate; he was happy to be a “Warrior.” He had many great stories about his time at Marquette: Marquette winning the NCAA championship, “camping out” for season tickets, and meeting my mother-in-law, to name a few.

Oftentimes, death makes you reexamine life and get a completely new perspective. You start to re-evaluate many different things and re-prioritize your life. I remember pledging to spend more time with my parents, and enjoying every moment I get with them. Suddenly, things that seemed extremely important were not so crucial. I think everyone in our family walked around in a daze for the week between my father-in-law’s death and his funeral.

Seeing death up-close like this was a major shock. It also provided me with some interesting insight for when I talk to my students about death and grief. Here are some of my take-away points.

What is right for one isn’t right for everyone. The day after the funeral, I went back to work. For me, I definitely needed to get back into that routine. It was comforting for me to wake up early, drive to work, sit in my office, and chat with my students. Not being at work made me disoriented. However, it was a completely different story for my husband. Work was not the distraction that it was for me. When it comes to students, I always tell parents that sometimes, routine is the best thing for a student. But if that routine only causes more stress, we can find a different way to cope.

Grief looks different for everyone. Some people cry. Some do their best to keep busy, while others are more comforted sitting still. Some people choose to block everything out entirely. Some aren’t ready to discuss their feelings; some need another person to just listen to them. It varies. Just because someone in mourning doesn’t react the way you expect them to doesn’t mean they aren’t grieving. Grief can come out in all sorts of different ways, whether it’s crying in the halls or behavior issues in the classroom.

It takes time. Really, it does. Remember that the student you are speaking with has just had their world completely shaken up. Things will not be the same ever again for them. Some of my students bounce back quickly once they are back in school, but there are also those who struggle. My husband describes it as this “fog” that is always present in his mind. Sometimes, he can rise above it, but some days, he’s just in a daze. There’s no set time limit on long you can – and will – grieve. Give everyone the time and space he or she needs.

Questioning isn’t always a good thing. I used to ask my students how they were feeling, what was going through their mind, but after going through this whole process, I’m rethinking my approach. When my husband, his siblings, and all the spouses went with my mother-in-law to the funeral home, we were overwhelmed by the sheer number of questions we were asked. They asked about flowers, a casket, the obituary, if we wanted a luncheon after, what we wanted for the luncheon, etc. They needed everything right that day. I never realized how exhausting questions can be after you’ve lost someone. I think going forward, I’ll ask if there is anything they want to share. I’ll do more listening than questioning. I think it’ll work out.

It’s okay to lean on people. So many times, people think they need to be “strong” when someone dies. I see my students doing that too. They don’t want to be sad or upset because their family members “need them to be strong.” It’s really tough to do that! I tell them that it’s okay if they are sad because someone died. I encourage them to talk to their families and friends if they are sad and need some cheering up. No one can be strong 100% of the time, and that is why we have family and friends to support us.


Getting to Know Laura Bolger

bolger-3The College of Education is excited to continue allowing students to better know its faculty and staff. Ms. Laura Bolger is the Director of Development for the College of Ed. Read on to learn more about Laura!

Tell us about yourself!

I am the Director of Development for the College of Education and the Graduate School. I am also a proud alum of MU’s Grad School as a student in the Master’s level Community Counseling program. I am a “Fur Mom” and a crazy auntie to three nephews and two nieces!

So where did you grow up and how long have you lived in Milwaukee?

I grew up in Crystal Lake, IL, where I lived in the same home for 22 years. After completing my bachelor’s degree, I moved to Milwaukee to start my graduate program at Marquette University. It’s hard to believe I’ve been a Milwaukeean for 12 years!

It sounds like you’ve had many years in school! What is your favorite educational experience?

I miss naptime as a kindergartener… those were the days.

Naptimes were the best! What drew you to Marquette and the COED?

As a student, I loved the Jesuit mission of Marquette University, which was especially apparent in the Counseling program  I would say the same is true as an alumna returned to work at MU.

We’re glad Marquette was a good fit for you! What do you do when you are outside of the office?

I’m a volunteer at the Wisconsin Humane Society -Animal care volunteer- as a cat/dog walker and helper for special events. I am an Alumnae Advisor for my sorority- Alpha Omicron Pi, a beginning knitter, and a fur mom to 3 cats and a miniature dachshund.

That’s amazing! Tell us more about what these mean to you!

I love volunteering, it’s the best!

So you have any advice for readers who are interested in your hobbies?

Find your passion and go for it. Adopt, don’t shop, for your pets.

You can learn more about the College of Education along with our undergraduate and graduate programs by visiting us online!

Getting to Know Dr. Sarah Knox

sarah_knoxThe College of Education is excited to continue allowing students to better know its faculty and staff. Dr. Sarah Knox is a professor for our Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology (CECP) program. Read on to learn more about Dr. Knox!

Tell us about yourself!

I am a Professor in the Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology department of the College of Education, having been at Marquette since 1999. Born and raised in central Ohio, I enjoy the Midwest (though the winters can be a bit of a drag), and am an avid Ohio State fan . . . GO BUCKEYES! I did my undergraduate work in Secondary English Education at the University of Virginia, and taught high school English in Howard County, MD, for 11 years. While teaching, I completed a Master’s in Liberal Arts at Johns Hopkins, and later completed both a master’s and doctoral degree in counseling psychology at the University of Maryland. My mother and brother live in Ohio, and I am mom to a two-year-old furry feline.

Wow, sounds like you’ve had many educational experiences! What was your favorite?

As a student, my favorite experience was in my doctoral program. For the first time in my academic career, I felt that the program wanted, and was deeply invested in, me as a student . . . I was not just a social security number or an anonymous face in a lecture hall. The smaller classes, and my cohort of 8, really provided a nurturing and supportive learning environment, and I was extremely fortunate to work with an amazing advisor.

So what drew you to Marquette and the COED?

I was excited about the opportunity to contribute to a department that was undergoing very promising transitions. I could have gone to other institutions where I would have plugged myself into a very solid existing system, but I was intrigued by the opportunity to contribute to the development and evolution of our programs.

I’m glad you were able to find ways to contribute to our department! What do you see as an exciting opportunity for this upcoming academic year?

I am excited to see how the next several years unfold for our department. Lots of growth is on the horizon, and I am eager to see how these developments enable us to serve our students and the communities with which they interact even better.

We’ve gotten to know quite a bit about Dr. Knox, the professor. What do you do when you are outside of the classroom?

I am quite involved in both choral music and exercise. Music-wise, I sing with two groups (an Episcopal choir; a small group of women who specialize in early music), and each brings connection and joy. As for exercise, I run and bike as often as I can, occasionally hike and swim, and am indeed grateful that my health allows me to do so.

You can learn more about the College of Education along with our undergraduate and graduate programs by visiting us online!

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