Counselor Education

Creating Stories to Explore Trauma and Recovery in Post WW-II London and France

study abroadI recently took a study abroad class and traveled to London, Normandy, and Paris. It was really interesting to me to learn more about World War II and also to do a cultural comparison of sorts between the United States and the places we visited. In touring London, we were shown churches that still have visible exterior damage from the war and were told vivid stories of times when the city was under attack as we visited Winston Churchill’s underground command post for example. In the region of Normandy, we visited the American Cemetery and Omaha Beach and to the extent possible, were able to reflect on the profound sacrifices made by all of the soldiers who fought on the beach and were laid to rest in the cemetery as well as the hundreds of thousands of others who fought and sacrificed themselves as well.  In Paris, it was very interesting as I noticed the somewhat stark contrast between my experience there and in London. The language barrier aside, I found it less comforting to be around a group of people whom I could not truly relate to, unlike Londoners who spoke my language, follow soccer just as I do, have seen NFL games, etc. However, I think this experience is the very essence of studying abroad. I spoke to a number of citizens while abroad; some of whom had similar thoughts as my own about some issues and others whose experience was entirely different from what I have encountered in my life. In reflecting on the great trauma and impact that World War II had on the places we visited, I really did find a great sense of appreciation and fortune to have the opportunities I have been afforded in no small part due to the actions of the many individuals who played a part in the war. Also, in truly being a foreigner for the first time in my life, I thought about how fortunate I have been to be able to grow up the way I have in my environment. I am glad that I had this experience because it helped me get outside of my comfort zone and hopefully, has helped me gain a different insight that will allow me to relate to different individuals in their varied experiences.

Supporting Gender Diverse Youth

20160304_130842I attended the Supporting Diverse Gender Youth training at Lynchburg College. This training was sponsored by the Virginia Counseling Association. The facilitator was Dr. Laura Farmer, Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech and the President of the VA-ALGBTIC which is a sub group of the Virginia Counseling Association. Dr. Farmer teaches ethics courses at Virginia Tech so she made that the foundation of the training that she presented. The training featured faculty members, graduate students, community providers, and school counselors. The training allowed us to look at gender issues from a number of different elements. We first focused on laying the foundation. In laying the foundation Dr. Farmer made sure that we all had a base understanding of gender related terminology. We each were given a sheet and encouraged to get into groups to link definitions to various terms. With this activity even seasoned professionals had their struggles. It made me realize that no matter how long we spend in the profession there is always room to learn and better ourselves. Next we talked about the areas of competence that we would need as professionals in our work with gender diverse students. The final elements that helped to tie things together included a discussion of best practices, ethical considerations, and ways in which we can improve our school and work environments. This was the most beneficial element of the day as it allowed many folks in the room to share experiences specific to their work environment.

Supporting Gender Diverse Youth

grad travelI recently attended the conference Supporting Gender Diverse Youth which was held at Lynchburg College and facilitated by Dr. Laura Farmer. The points of focus that were really helpful to me were introduction to terminology, ethical and values-based considerations, and best counseling practices as they pertained to counselors and their interaction with youth who identify as LGBTQ. It’s important to have a working knowledge of LGBTQ issues and concerns but it’s also important to work towards developing an appropriate manner of interacting with LGBTQ individuals so as to contribute to an overall accepting environment.

I found the introduction to terminology to be very important because I identified with the notion that was discussed in that many people are unaware of how to speak to individuals who identify or may be considering identifying as members of the LGBTQ population. We discussed terms that are no longer appropriate and a breadth of terms that recognize individuals with identities that I have never been introduced to before. Most importantly in my opinion, we discussed the value of merely asking individuals “how do you identify?” if we are unsure of how to speak to them or are unsure of how they identify. Sometimes, it may not be as vital to be well-versed in LGBTQ terminology so much as it is to show positive regard towards individuals and a willingness to learn.

Much of the conference was directed with consideration to the practice of school counseling but the implications can be applied to multiple settings. Practices that support LGBTQ youth include respecting their gender identity and expression, using their chosen names, ensuring they are allowed to fully participate in school in ways that are consistent with their gender identity, and to prioritize student privacy. These practices reinforce the need to allow individuals to choose how they are to be a part of their environment and for the people around them to not make impositions upon them instead. For all people who interact with LGBTQ individuals, it is critical to allow them to express themselves and not impose our values upon them if we are to truly create an inclusive environment.

At the conclusion of the conference, we all talked about what we learned and how we can advocate for members of the LGBTQ population whether or not we are in direct contact with LGBTQ individuals in our roles as counselors. Attending this conference was very helpful because it gave me exposure to a population that I did not have much knowledge about but it also helped me learn how best to help this population and advocate on their behalf. Having the basic knowledge that I now have from attending this conference, I feel much more comfortable in terms of my ability to interact with LGBTQ individuals in a counseling role and feel that through continued education, I can really strengthen my competence in this area.

VCA 2015

FB_IMG_1448372601090I was fortunate to have the chance to travel to the 2015 Virginia Counselors Association Conference. It was truly a pleasure to share this time with the many Longwood students, professors, and alumnus in attendance, as you can see in this photo. There were two significant highlights of the presentations for me. The first was getting a chance to hear Dr. David Kaplan from the ACA talk about the profession as we move forward and the many changes that are coming in accreditation and licensure.  This was a reassurance that Longwood is moving in the right direction without leaving behind our alums and current students. Secondly, I was intrigued by how brain development and the biology of the brain was interwoven into so many of the presentations I was able to attend. This is a particular area of interest for me, and seeing that it is becoming a focus of the profession is propelling me to learn more going forward.

Virginia Counselors Association Convention

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I recently had the opportunity to attend the Virginia Counselors Association Annual Convention for the second year in a row. The convention was held at The Homestead in Hot Springs, VA. At the convention, I attended several sessions on topics such as bully prevention programs, non-suicidal self-harm, overcoming tragedies, using students as leaders in counseling, having a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset, how counselors and attorneys work together, and using board games and computer games in counseling. The keynote speaker, Sherene McHenry, delivered an inspiring and informative address on love languages and how we can use them to strengthen relationships in both our personal and professional lives.

Aside from learning and expanding my counseling knowledge, my favorite part of the convention was networking with classmates, alumni, and professors from Longwood, along with my internship supervisor and other colleagues and professionals. Once again, the Virginia Counselors Association Convention left me feeling refreshed and even more excited and prepared to begin my career as a professional school counselor.

VCA 2015

vca2015grouppic-300x168I had the great opportunity to attend the 2015 Virginia Counseling Association Conference at the beautiful Homestead in Hot Springs, VA.
I attended presentations about mindfulness and yoga, attachment and trauma, international students and counseling efforts, emergency custody procedures, starting a private practice, moral injury in veterans and many more.
While I am passionate about learning all that I can about trauma and PTSD, the concept of “post traumatic growth” was new to me and was explored in a few breakout sessions.
It was wonderful meeting professionals in the field from all over the state. I enjoyed learning about various counseling settings and received advice from experienced professional counselors. It was fun to connect with Longwood professors, alumni, and classmates outside of the classroom as well! Thank you, Longwood University!

– Amy Kennel

VCA Conference 2015- Getting back to the Basics

IMG_20151106_090125I signed up as a volunteer at the VCA convention, because I wanted an opportunity to meet ANYONE I could. Well that and I love working, I honestly can’t sit still. My classmate and I started our journey to The Homestead after a riveting lecture on the DSM 5! The drive up added meaning to the song “over hills and through the woods”. However, we made it safely to the hotel and welcomed the jaw dropping view. 

Eagerly, I hit my alarm at 6:15 a.m. to get ready for a day. I headed downstairs to meet a nice older gentlemen, who quickly shows me “the ropes”. In no time I was checking people in, before heading to a 7:30 morning mediation session. For people who know me, sitting quietly is hard. My mind goes a thousand miles per hour and I’m already thinking about what to do next after I write this blog! Even though I struggled in morning mediation, I did learn to “touch my thought”. The instructor told us that it will take some work to meditate, but if you acknowledge the thought (touch it) and move on, you won’t be tied down by it. I know that he meant for us to use it for medication, however I am using it in my day to day interactions. Instead of letting negative thoughts or feelings control my day, I acknowledge the thought/feeling and let it go.

After breakfast, I head back up to the registration table to help out until Professor Doyle’s presentation. His presentation was on Interdisciplinary Teamwork, specifically the counselor and the lawyer relationship. I also attending Professor Wynne’s presentation on The Power of Peers: Utilizing Students in Classroom Guidance Delivery. She also talked about using interdisciplinary teamwork, not with regard to the student, but in regard to working with teachers. However, now that I think about it, the students added a level of teamwork as well. Both of our Longwood professors did an excellent job and had great turnout! #golongwood I spent the rest of my afternoon in Relationship 101 and I am not Jason, I’m Jessica. They both were very interesting and I learned a lot. 

I was not for sure what to expect from my first conference, but what I did learn is to get back to the basics. We all have busy lives and are sometimes forgetful of the small things. Some of us over-analyze, when all we really need to do is stop, take a deep breath and go back to what we know. I feel that conferences can be a place for you to learn new knowledge, catch up with your past, refocus your future and leave ready to fight another day. Maybe that is an overly optimistic viewpoint, but it’s what I took from the whole process. Since I am still working on my basics in Counseling, I will take what I learned and continue studying.

Wish me luck!


VCA Conference at the Homestead 2015

Conference photoI had the great pleasure of being able to attend the annual Virginia Counselors Association conference this past weekend. I was able to network with fellow graduate students in the counselor education program and meet professionals who were able to answer my questions and teach me more about the counseling field. The presentations were excellent and very informative for a graduate student to listen too. I learned so much during my attendance and would encourage all graduate students to seek such experiences during their studies!

VSCA Fall 2015 Conference

VSCA Conference PicThe VSCA Conference was extremely beneficial.  The breakout sessions gave pertinent information to school counseling.  I really enjoyed the sessions regarding data and using Google Drive to make our jobs easier.  Also the session regarding eating disorders was very informative.  The conference itself was well-organized.  I cannot wait to attend future VSCA Conferences.  Thank you for the opportunity to travel to this event.


The Virginia School Counseling Association conference was a wonderful time of confirmation, learning, and renewal. It was excellent to be around other school counselors from around the state and to really feel like I belonged there. I related to the information being presented and really felt like it pertained to me and would be useful for my future career. This year I have taken an interest in topics that I don’t have much knowledge in and will inevitably be faced with in my career such as suicide, self harm, and eating disorders. I was so excited to see these topics in the breakout sessions as an opportunity to learn more about them and to connect to them on a more personal level. I felt like I left the conference more equipped with information and useful resources to use in addressing these issues in my counseling career. While I spent a lot of time learning, it was also a great time of renewal as we learned a lot about self care. Although I hear all the time that it’s important to take care of yourself first so that you can be an effective counselor it was great to hear tips on how to do that and to see examples of how well it really works and the impact that it can have not only on ourselves but on our students and our families! The two days I spent at the VSCA conference gave me tools that I will be able to stow away in my toolbox for future use in my career and I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to attend. I definitely look forward to going back!

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