The purpose of this assignment was to interview a professional counselor who is a USJ alumni that is currently working in the field. I interviewed Joy Zuzel, who has similar interest as I do. She is a licensed professional counselor who works at United Family Community Services (UCFS) in Norwich, CT. The purpose of the interview was to ask questions regarding her career path, specialties, day to day work, a description of her current position, ethics, and any recommendations having to do with training, job search, and ways to decompress, for a counseling student hoping to pursue a career in this field. After conducting the interview, we were to compose a paper with the interviewee’s answers.
Introduction to the Interviewee and Practice
After Zuzel graduated high school, she moved to New York City to purse an acting career. She lived in the city for about 10 years, but she started to feel empty. The mentality surrounding her she described as “shallow and meaningless”. She then did a program in Peru where she did aid work with orphans. After this experience she had a strong desire to contribute to the society around her. She started her undergraduate degree at Eastern Connecticut State University where she originally registered for a degree in education.
During her first semester she took a psychology course. After taking this course she knew she wanted to go into the counseling field and switched. She received a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and then pursed a master’s in clinical mental health counseling at University of Saint Joseph. She did part of her internship at IICAPS and the rest at the Eastern Connecticut State University Counseling Department on campus . In regard to her career path, she has done a variety of work. For about a year she worked in forensic case management. She reviewed cases of those who were deemed insane after their criminal trial and then released into society. For about 4 years, she worked for IICAPS, which is an in-home counseling service for children and adolescents with severe emotional disorders. She described this as an incredible learning experience, but the stress level was high, which started to take a toll on her.
After leaving ICAPS, she pursed a career at UCFS, which is a non-profit organization. UCFS is an outpatient service that provides individual, family, couple, and group therapy. Her office had some paintings, dimmed lighting, pictures of her and her family, along with her degrees hung on the wall. Zuzel has worked at UCFS for the last 3 years, and her current position is a supervising clinician. She loves working at UCFS, she described the organization as having a good structure which has been healing for her.
Her areas of specialty are trauma, bipolar disorder, and working with “tough guys” (veterans, recently incarcerated, etc.). She likes working these types of clients because they are resistant, so it is a challenge, but she eventually is able to get them to open up. She also specializes in EMDR, which did need additional training. EMDR is a form of therapy that I was not familiar with. She really enjoyed explaining the whole process to me. I learned that this therapy is frequently used on clients with trauma. She described that trauma interferes with the right hemisphere and left hemisphere from working effectively with each other.
EMDR stimulates both the right hemisphere and left hemisphere while the client remembers a traumatic memory. She describes this process as the brain healing itself, the clients doing all of the work, and that is takes the sting about of the memory. She uses this therapy on many clients who experienced trauma but describes trauma as being very diverse. For training, she was required to do two weekends (24 hours each). The days are broken up into 6 hours of lecture, and 2 hours of practicum. In addition, had to do supervised hours before getting certified.
Because Zuzel is a supervisor she interacts with other mental health professionals on a regular basis. She helps other clinicians solve problems, supports them, acknowledges their work and strengths. Overall, she loves mentoring other clinicians and seeing their change is powerful. I asked her to describe a typical day in regard to dealing with other mental health professionals. Throughout the day she reviews referrals, reviews cases, gives clinicians suggestions, and attends meeting having to do with vacancies and policy changes.
She described resources as being one of the most difficult parts of her job. Resources are limited. She described that it is hard to help someone become better at parenting when their electricity and water is being cut off. She also informed me that the business part is difficult due to insurance policies and being forced to make the best decision .
I asked her what her future plans are in counseling, and she informed me that she already has a private practice, but she only has 5-7 clients. Private practice gets “lonely”. She enjoys her supervising at UCFS because there is always something exciting and new. Therefore, she does not currently have any future plans .
Zuzel is licensed and certified. She told me it took her about to get a year and a half to get licensed. She did part of her supervised hours at IICAPS, and the rest of UCFS. She is not a member of her professional association because she said she does not have time.
Role of Ethics in Practice
She informed me that ethics plays a role every single day in practice . She explained that there are a lot of grey areas, and its best to check in with other colleagues or a supervisor when unsure on how to proceed. She explained that ethics class was useful in regard to information and facts, which has helped her in ethical decision making. But it is mostly experience driven. Some tips she gave me in regard to ethics is to “always overthink” and “consult if unsure”. She also told me that every counselor is different and for her personally, she will accept small gifts.
For example, “If a client brings me cookies, I’m not going to refuse to take them because that could really offend them”. She explained that you have to think about the situation and its risks vs. rewards. I also asked her about her opinion on human contact, and she responded with “it depends on the case”. She said that there are clients that she has hugged, and others she has gone “nowhere near touching”. She explained that human contact can be healing for some, while confusing or violating for others. Some clients might feel their boundaries have been violated or might view the human contact in a sexual way. She also explained that knowing when and when to not use human contacts come with time and practice within the field.
Advice for Your Success
I asked her if she had any tips on how to not bring work home with her. She explained that having a 25-minute commute home is a nice way for her to decompress. She usually drives in silence. She doesn’t talk about work at home. She also explained the importance of reliable colleagues at work. She likes to do pranks with her colleagues because it adds fun to their work day.
One piece of guidance in regard to my education she gave me was that “no one cares about your GPA once you’re in the working field” and “B’s still get degrees ”. She described graduate school being a stressful at time, especially when you’re working and studying full time. She said she had to miss a minor assignment during her last semester. She also told me that I should do trainings in things that interest me, not to just do them for my CV. It can add on extra stress, but if it is something that I am truly interested in, it will make the learning and training fun and exciting. She recommended that I get trained in EMDR but wait until I am in practice for a couple years. She also urged that I get my loan repayment because that reduces a stress level. Another piece of advice she gave me is to try jobs in different settings. I might realize that working with veterans isn’t for me but working with children is my passion (which I haven’t even thought about working with children).
Reflection on Future
I had been interested in working for UCFS for the past couple months. She highly recommended working there after licensure, because it is structured, a great learning experience, and offers loan repayment. The organization she works for can provide services to all ages who are struggling with a variety of issues including; trauma, abuse, domestic violence, depression, anxiety, social skills, mood swings, parenting issues, life crisis and transition, grief, etc. What I really like about UCFS is that is it a non-profit, so their values are based on helping individuals, vs making a profit. I also like that most insurances are accepted including state insurance. After interviewing Zuzel, I can see myself working at UCFS in the future. I also realized I should try working with children at some point in my career. I enjoyed touring the clinic and learning so much about EMDR. Overall, she told me her job is very rewarding which makes me excited to enter this field.