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Human Services

Is Counseling For You



Have you been in counseling or therapy? If not, have you ever hesitated in seeing a counselor, or wondered why you felt so wary? Studies show about 20-35% of Americans having attended some form of counseling and psychotherapy compared to approximately 80% of mental health professionals.

Believing that counseling and psychotherapy could be helpful for anyone in alleviating problems, improving relationships, and developing a more positive outlook toward life, a Journal for Human Services research study explores why some people attend counseling or therapy while others do not.

Researchers, Ed Neukrug, Mike Kalkbrenner, and Sandy Griffith wondered why it was that some people seemed readily to attend counseling while others hesitate or who don’t attend often to their own detriment. Their research on attendance in counseling of helping professionals and their upcoming research on attendance in counseling of the public in general offers a thoughtful analysis which will hopefully shed some light on this important concern.

After an exhaustive review of the literature, researchers independently looked at over 60 potential barriers to attendance in counseling and eventually reduced this number down to 32 specific items. Their research found three broad areas or reasons likely to affect individuals who tend to avoid counseling and therapy. They identified these areas as “Fit,” “Stigma,” and “Value” to reflect the areas they represent.

Factor 1: Fit

Fit has to do with one’s sense of comfort with being in counseling and whether one has the ability to trust the process of counseling will be beneficial. Some typical fit questions were related to whether a potential client believed a counselor would feel comfortable with the potential client’s sexuality, disability, or other aspects of the client’s identity. Other questions in this area assessed whether a potential client believed a counselor could understand him or her, was competent enough to deal with the client’s problem and could keep the client’s concerns confidential. In addition, other “fit” questions queried whether potential clients had a bad experience with a counselor in the past and if they thought they could find a counselor near to where they lived

Factor 2: Stigma

Stigma is the feeling of shame or embarrassment some people experience when they consider entering a counseling relationship. Some of the stigma questions highlighted whether a potential client believed their friends, family, peers, colleagues, or supervisors might view them negatively if they knew the individual was in counseling. Other questions focused on how some potential clients might consider themselves weak, embarrassed, or unstable if they were in counseling. Often, those with high scores on stigma believed others would judge them, and thus, they would feel badly if they were to enter counseling.

Factor 3: Value

Value is the perceived benefit or worth one believes he or she is receiving from attendance in counseling. Potential clients who would score high in this area often believed the financial cost of counseling was not worth its benefits. Participants in this category simply could not afford counseling or they didn’t have time for it. Many participants in this category believed counseling wasn’t necessary because problems usually resolve on their own, or that counseling was simply not an effective use of their time. These individuals simply did not embrace the counseling process because the financial costs in their mind are hard to justify over meeting basic needs and/or having to take time off from work.

Although some individuals cannot find a counselor to their liking, participants worried whether counseling would be worthwhile, or they were ashamed or embarrassed about going to counseling. Most people believe that when faced with difficult life problems, counseling could be helpful.

It is hoped through research like this, people can better understand why they might be hesitant to seek a counselor and  maybe overcome some of their fears. Additionally, this research can help national organizations, in the helping fields, find ways to help clients overcome these barriers.

Edward Neukrug is a Professor of Counseling and Human Services at Old Dominion University. In addition to teaching, Dr. Neukrug has worked as a counselor at a crisis center, an outpatient therapist at a mental health center, an associate school psychologist, a school counselor, and as a private practice psychologist and licensed professional counselor.

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Study Suggests Why Food Assistance for Homeless Young Adults is Inadequate



Though young homeless adults make use of available food programs, these support structures still often fail to provide reliable and consistent access to nutritious food, according to the results of a new study by a University at Buffalo social work researcher.

The findings, which fill an important gap in the research literature, can help refine policies and programs to better serve people experiencing homelessness, particularly those between the ages of 18-24.

“It may be tempting to think of food pantries, soup kitchens and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as the solution,” says Elizabeth Bowen, an assistant professor in UB’s School of Social Work and lead author of the study with Andrew Irish, a UB graduate student in the School of Social Work, published in the journal Public Health Nutrition. But these supports are not enough. “We’re still seeing high levels of food insecurity, literal hunger, where people go a whole day without eating anything.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as “multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.” Hunger is a “potential consequence of food insecurity [that] results in discomfort, illness, weakness or pain.” In Bowen’s study, 80 percent of participants were considered to be severely food insecure.

“There has been recent research about housing and shelter use for homeless young adults, as well as work on drug use and sexual risk behaviors for this same population, but I found that not much had been done on the issue of food access,” says Bowen. “It’s hard to even think about housing and health needs if we don’t know how people are eating, or not eating.”

It’s not surprising see a relationship between homelessness and food insecurity, but Bowen warns of oversimplifying what is in fact a more nuanced problem.

“This research is important because we’re establishing a clear indication of food insecurity in this population, which we did not previously have,” she says. “If we’re going to design programs and services that better address food insecurity, along with addressing housing, education and employment, we need to know about the access strategies: How and what are homeless young adults eating? Where are they finding food? What do they have to do to get it? And how does that affect other parts of their lives?”

For her qualitative study, Bowen conducted in-depth interviews with 30 young adults between the ages of 18-24 who were experiencing homelessness in Buffalo, New York.

“Working with this small group gives us insights into the lived experience,” says Bowen. “It’s a way of setting a knowledge foundation and understanding of the topic in the context of people’s lives, and what goes on with their health, housing, relationships, education and trying to get out of homelessness.”

In Bowen’s study, 70 percent of young adults were receiving SNAP benefits, also known as food stamps. But actually getting these benefits can be difficult.

SNAP covers dependent children under their parent’s benefits until the child’s 22nd birthday. But the program administers benefits based on the parents’ address and assumes that parents and children of a single family are living together.

“This is clearly a problem for young people experiencing homelessness since many of them are under 22 and obviously aren’t living at the same address as their parents,” says Bowen. “The young people in this case can’t get SNAP on their own because they’re already listed on their parents’ open application for those same benefits – and the burden of proof is on the young person to demonstrate they don’t live with their parents.”

Documentation is required as proof that the family is no longer together, according to Bowen, but in many cases getting the necessary paperwork is difficult because of strained family relationships.

“That’s one avenue for a policy change,” says Bowen.

But even with revised eligibility guidelines, food stamps sometimes are not enough, particularly for homeless young people who have no way to store or prepare food. Bowen notes that this problem would be greatly exacerbated by a change proposed in the 2019 federal budget to convert part of a household’s SNAP benefits from electronic benefits to a box of canned goods and other commodities.

Homeless young adults’ food access challenges are further compounded by the fact that young people are sometimes reluctant to use resources like soup kitchens, or have trouble accessing these places due to transportation barriers and limited hours. This finding mirrors prior research showing how young adults are not comfortable in places meant for the general homeless adult population, according to Bowen.

For instance, where shelter is concerned, an 18-year-old in the city of Buffalo is considered an adult and would go to an adult shelter, which can feel discouraging and unsafe.

“What I found in this study is that people were saying the same things about places to get food. They know about these soup kitchens, but the places feel institutional and stigmatized to young people,” says Bowen. “If we want to develop food programs to be engaging to young people we have to think about breaking down some barriers. For example, because of food insecurity among students, many college campuses are now offering food pantries. I would like to think about how to integrate food pantries and other services into places where young people are going anyway.”

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Child Welfare

Getting Care Right for All Children – Free Online Course




Join over 5,000 learners from across 172 countries who now understand just how important the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children are when caring and protecting vulnerable children.

Now is your chance to register to be part of this FREE global online course. Starting on 19 February, it is open to everyone who is interested in or responsible for children’s care and protection.

It only takes a maximum of 4 hours a week to take part in this six-week truly interactive course. Allowing you to learn wherever and whenever it suits you.

By the end of it, you’ll better understand the key principals, pillars and implications of the UN Guidelines. You’ll also connect and learn from people throughout the world.

What to expect?

During this course, you’ll have access to a mixture of learning materials including:

  • A film following a family moving through the care system.
  • Filmed lectures, articles and reports from world leading experts.
  • Online discussions to debate, ask questions and share opinions.
  • Quizzes.

Commissioned by leading international agencies, the course is run by CELCIS and delivered through FutureLearn, the digital education platform.

Course materials delivered in English, with some course materials available in French and Spanish. Don’t miss your chance to take part!

This course is designed for practitioners and policymakers from both state and non-state bodies (such as NGOs, CBOs and private service providers) and anyone working in providing services around children’s care.

This might include social workers, para-social workers, community support workers, lawyers, psychologists, child protection professionals, teachers, medical workers and care workers, including those in family-based and residential settings.

The course will also be accessible for people not working directly in this field and others with an interest or responsibility in the field of child protection and child care.

The course will be conducted in English with some course materials (including text and videos) also accessible in Spanish and French, reflecting the truly global nature of this issue.

What previous participants said:

‘I really enjoyed this course and gained a lot from what has been shared in articles, videos and other learners’ posts. This has already impacted my work.’ – Participant from Togo

‘I have learned so much about what happens in other countries around the world. I will continue to reflect on my current practice.’ – Participant from Swaziland

To get access to this free resources, sign up here.

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Child Welfare

Tracking the Impact of Early Abuse and Neglect



Children who experience abuse and neglect early in life are more likely to have problems in social relationships and underachieve academically as adults.

Maltreatment experienced before age 5 can have negative effects that continue to be seen nearly three decades later, according to a new study led by Lee Raby, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Utah.

“It is not a controversial statement to say abuse and neglect can have harmful consequences,” Raby said. “This study adds to that by showing that these effects are long term and don’t weaken with time. They persist from childhood across adolescence and into adulthood.”

The journal Child Development published the study. Co-authors are: Glenn I. Roisman and Madelyn H. Labella, Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota; Jodi Martin, Department of Psychology, York University; R. Chris Fraley, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Jeffry A. Simpson, Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota.

Raby said his team wanted to know two things: Does maltreatment early in life have long-term associations that extend into adulthood and do those effects remain stable or weaken over time?

The researchers used data from the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation, which has followed participants since their births in the mid-1970s. The U study looked at data on 267 individuals who had reached ages between 32 and 34.

Information about the participants’ exposure to physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect was gathered from multiple sources during two age periods: 0-5 years and 6-17.5 years. Throughout childhood and adolescence, teachers reported on the children’s functioning with peers. The children also completed standardized tests on academic achievement. The participants were interviewed again during their 20s and 30s, during which they discussed romantic experiences and educational attainment.

Unlike studies based on adults’ retrospective accounts of their childhood experiences, the data used here were collected in real-time. In addition, because data on the participants has been collected throughout their lifetimes, the researchers were able to disentangle the effects of maltreatment that occurred in their early years from experiences of abuse and neglect during later childhood.

“The design allows us to ask our two questions in a way no other study has before,” Raby said.

Raby said the findings showed those who experienced abuse or neglect early in life consistently were less successful in their social relationships and academic performance during childhood, adolescence and even during adulthood. The effects of maltreatment did not weaken as the participants got older.

“The harmful effect of early abuse and neglect was just as important when we were looking at outcomes at age 32 years as when we looked at outcomes at age 5,” he said.

The researchers found abuse and neglect in later childhood also impacted these competencies in adulthood, but that later maltreatment did not fully account for persistent and long-term influences attributed to abuse and neglect experienced in early childhood. They also found long-term difficulties with social functioning — but not academic achievement — occurred independent of such factors as gender, ethnicity and early socioeconomic status.

“These findings add more evidence for the importance of identifying high-risk families and attempting to intervene before experiences of abuse and neglect occur,” Raby said.

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Human Services

Unlocking Homeless Women’s Potential – The Blossom Project




The city of San Francisco has more than 7,000 homeless people, and 35% (2,400) of these are women between 20 and 50 years old. Homeless women face challenges such as being overlooked, disregarded, ignored and looked down upon. Also, homeless women are far more likely to experience violence of all sorts, than American women in general, when living on the streets.

According to ”The Experience of Violence in the Lives of Homeless Women: A Research Report 2005”, a study of 800 homeless women in several Florida cities, the most significant risk factor for violent victimization as an adult, is a pattern of physical, emotional and sexual abuse as a child. Many young girls are destined to become homeless adult women, as they have been permanently scarred by their childhood victimizations and have an extremely warped sense of what is normal and acceptable in their relationships to men.

The study shows that the homeless women endured various combinations of victimization, homelessness and other traumatic life events and that in many cases, these experiences led the women to feel inconsequential, worthless, isolated and alone.

Many homeless women are homeless because of violence. This does not make homelessness easy to resolve, but it does, we think, make the resolution all that more urgent. And it is important to find the right way to approach these very vulnerable women.

Individual women and girls are invisible in a very different way compared to homeless men. The majority of the services and programs set up to help the homeless is made in response to the larger homeless men population.

As a result, service providers have noted that many women, as a minority in mixed shelters or housing programs, feel unsafe in these environments. The staff at these homeless shelters or programs may also not be able to address the specific challenges women face or be able to provide a safe space.

Axel Honneth a German professor and philosopher known for his recognition theory describes recognition as an important factor for the individual’s ability to develop self-esteem and self-respect. Recognition is about respecting the individual. Without recognition, you will feel invisible and inferior. Honneth describes recognition in the three spheres: the private sphere, the judicial sphere and the social sphere. According to Honneth, women, if they fail to gain recognition and emotional support, they risk losing a positive self-image.

Blossom Locker Room Project

The latest initiative from Blossom Project is to establish a locker room for homeless women in San Francisco.

The idea behind the project is to provide a locker room for homeless women, a secure place to store their personal belongings in. In addition to providing secure storage, the Locker Room will provide a safe space for women who are homeless to find a community to interact with and help address life’s challenges. Empower the women to gain control over and take responsibility for their own life and situation.

The locker room itself is more than just a place to store belongings – it is a physical space that is conducive to establishing a connection between the caseworker and the homeless women. The importance of this relationship cannot be overstated – it is symbiotic, and restores a sense of hope. It is a way to respect the women, see them as equal dignity and also empower the women.

Blossom Project is in the process of securing funding and working with City of San Francisco and other organizations to find an appropriate location for the project.

Feel free to reach out to Tine Christensen and her team if you would like to volunteer or get your company involved in supporting homeless women in the Bay Area.

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Child Welfare

Bipartisan Task Force Hosts Discussion on Effects of the Opioid Epidemic on the Child Welfare System



The Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth and the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force teamed up to host a dinner highlighting the effects that the opioid epidemic has had on the country’s child welfare system. This epidemic has impacted countless lives throughout the country and has already had a specifically insidious impact on children.

“The opioid crisis is devastating families and our already over-burdened child welfare system,” said Rep. Karen Bass, Co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth. “We have learned so much from the crack cocaine epidemic and how it affected those in the child welfare system. Now, we have to apply those lessons to the epidemic at hand. Last night’s bipartisan dinner was a step in that direction and I look forward to working with my colleagues in both caucuses that participated tonight on this incredibly important issue.”

More than 20 Members of Congress from the two caucuses came together Tuesday night to work with experts — individuals who grew up in the child welfare system and individuals who have dedicated their life’s work to children in the child welfare system — to identify tangible ways Congress could assist the overflowing child welfare system and also take meaningful action in bringing this epidemic to an end.

“I was pleased to join my colleagues last night at a bipartisan dinner that addressed our country’s opioid epidemic,” said Rep. Marino, Co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth. “This epidemic has affected countless children in the foster care system and it is up to Congress to come together to find a solution to end this horrible tragedy in our nation. I look forward to having more productive discussions on this issue and will continue to work tirelessly with Congress to ensure that our children are protected from this crisis.”

Ideas presented ranged from reforming law enforcement’s ability to respond to on-scene overdoses, to overhauling relapse protocol in court orders, to creating an entire cabinet position to address the issue of drug epidemics in our country. Experts and Members were quick to caution that there will be no one quick fix to this expansive issue, but agreed that conversations like the one held last night will bring us closer to a better future for these communities affected by this epidemic.

“The opioid epidemic has had a devastating impact on communities in New Hampshire and across the country,” said Congresswoman Kuster, the founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force. “That impact has been acutely felt by families and children who so often bear the brunt of substance use disorder. I’m pleased that the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force and the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth have come together for this constructive conversation about how we can better support children as we take on the opioid crisis.”

“The opioid epidemic continues to destroy communities and families across my home state of New Jersey and throughout our nation,” said Republican Chairman of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, Congressman MacArthur. “More and more children are ending up in foster care because of this crisis and straining our already burdened child welfare system.  I’ll continue to work with my colleagues on the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force and the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth to combat the opioid crisis and help children impacted by it.”

The dinner featured three panelists, all of whom have been directly impacted by the child welfare system, addiction or both. Linda Watts serves as the Acting Commissioner for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and provided detailed analysis regarding her work at both an administrative level as well as in the field.

Angelique Salizan is a former foster youth who is currently serving as a legislative correspondent in United States Senator Sherrod Brown’s D.C. office and a part-time consultant for the Capacity Building Center for States, an initiative of the Children’s Bureau. China Krys Darrington has been a trainer for the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program since 2010 and a provider of Recovery Support Services through XIX Recovery Support Services since 2007.

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Human Services

Disruptive Leadership: Maximizing Inclusion, Invention, and Innovation in Human Services



“Disruptive leadership” is an approach to management that entails new ways of thinking, creative problem-solving, and utilizing innovative techniques to approach major issues in unprecedented ways. It involves building products, markets, and networks that jolt the status quo. In an increasingly competitive environment, human services leaders stand to benefit from generating and investing in groundbreaking ideas.

Through disruptive leadership, human services managers can maximize inclusion by consciously elevating voices that have often been unheard, diversifying perspectives in human services management. A disruptive leader seeks solutions outside of the norm, presents new ideas, and broadens the reach and scope of agencies and programs. Disruptive leadership, through inclusion, invention, and innovation, drives greater impact, outcomes, and overall quality of services.

Proposal Review Criteria

Workshops, Panels, Papers, and Poster proposals will be assessed based on their relevance to the conference theme and human services management practice, contributions to the knowledge base, and strength of evidence (e.g., theory, single case, multiple cases, time series designs, control or comparison groups, and statistical significance). Proposals will also be assessed based on the extent to which they can help ensure social workers and human service professionals drive greater impact, promote conscious efforts related to diversity and inclusion, and encourage innovations in products, markets, and values networks. Additionally, presentations should address at least one of the conference sub-themes highlighting the domains of The Network for Social Work Management’s human services management competencies summarized below.

All proposal submissions should be 500 words maximum with an abstract of 50-100 words.  Presenter contact information including credentials, workshop title, aims, objectives (e.g., knowledge or skills outcomes), and optimal number of participants must be included and are not included in the word counts. All accepted presenters must submit electronic material such as Power Point Slides or a paper before the conference.

Each proposal must indicate the following:

Sub-theme (choose one): Leadership, Strategic Management, Resource Management, or Community Collaboration.

Audience Track (choose targeted audience levels/tracks): Aspiring & Emerging, Middle & Senior, or Executive.

Proposals are invited in the formats listed below:

60-Minute Workshops: Workshops are designed to introduce the audience to strategies, methods, skills, or practice orientations. Workshops may include demonstrations and time for skill practice and acquisition.

60-Minute Panels: Panelists present a series of up to three papers focused on a common theme exploring multiple perspectives and experts. The panel is organized by a primary presenter who will introduce the topic and panelists. Each panelist must submit an abstract (as described above) for their topic, including the names of other panel members.

Individual 30-Minute Presentations of a Paper: These are 20-minute presentations allowing for 10 additional minutes for questions and discussion. Presentations on similar topics will be paired so each session will include two individual presentations.

In your proposal application, please indicate if you are willing to present your material as a poster presentation if it is not accepted for a session presentation.

Poster Presentations: Poster sessions will occur at scheduled times, with the authors present to discuss their work. Posters will also be available for viewing at other times during the conference.

SUBMIT: ALL proposals must be submitted online to the Call for Proposals submission portal.

NOTIFICATIONS of acceptance will be made by March 1, 2018. All selected presenters will need to confirm acceptance and submit a résumé or curriculum vitae by March 9, 2018. Presenters must register and pay for conference attendance.

All presenters will receive a discounted registration fee. Fees for presenters are: Early Bird Registrations (deadline March 24, 2018): 2-day $225, 1 day $175; Regular Registrations:  2-day $275, 1 day $200. If you have any questions about submissions, please e-mail Program Committee Co-Chair Tom Packard at [email protected]

PROPOSALS ARE DUE January 22, 2018

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