My Speech Pathology Externship in Puerto Rico

By Arielle Mayer
With the support of the graduate Communication Sciences and Disorders department, I was fortunate enough to recently complete a five-week externship in Puerto Rico. The opportunity was appealing to me because my ultimate professional goal is to be able to work as a bilingual speech pathologist. My Spanish experience has been primarily academic — I obtained a second major in Spanish Language Literature and Culture at Molloy — so I wanted to gain more experience speaking the language in the clinical setting. During this externship, I worked with adults in several settings including acute care, inpatient rehab, and a private practice.

My experience in Puerto Rico exposed me firsthand to the cultural differences as well the differences between the healthcare systems there and in the United States. Puerto Rico is considered a commonwealth and therefore part of the U.S.; however, many Puerto Ricans identify more with the Latin culture than with that of the mainland. The majority of doctors in Puerto Rico receive their education and training in the United States. Additionally, all of the medical facilities in Puerto Rico are required to meet the same healthcare standards as U.S. facilities. However, due to lack of resources, many healthcare professionals are unable to perform procedures utilizing the newer techniques in which they have been trained. Thus, they rely on older methods in order to treat their patients.

As a speech language pathologist, I was affected by the lack of medical resources as well. At Molloy’s Speech, Language, and Hearing Center, we have access to some of the most cutting edge instrumentation available. Not many clinicians in the U.S. have access to technology such as an ultrasound; however, I was fortunate enough to have spent an entire semester utilizing this instrument while treating clients. In Puerto Rico, I ultimately ended up learning how to diagnose and treat clients without being able to rely on these materials. Many of the standardized tests used to diagnose speech and language disorders are not normed in Spanish. Norm referenced tests are designed so that you can compare your current patient to the performance of other test takers in order to determine the severity/presence of their deficits. The fact that these tests aren’t normed in Spanish presents a problem because it won’t give you an entirely accurate diagnosis of your client. Therefore, I was required to become much more resourceful. My supervisor created all of his treatment materials by himself, often on the spot in front of a patient. As a result, I was required to do the same. While this was extremely daunting at first, I realized that it eventually helped me hone my clinical judgment and become a more adaptable clinician.

I feel that this experience completely pushed me out of my comfort zone. In addition to this being my first experience working with adults in the hospital setting, I was required to practice in a nonnative language. I learned so much about myself and about my profession in the process. I am so thankful to the Communications Sciences and Disorders department for supporting me throughout the entire externship process, and to the Modern Languages department for helping me develop enough proficiency in Spanish so that I could experience such an amazing professional opportunity.

Image courtesy of Arielle Mayer

Researching the Creative Aspect of Understanding Existentialism

By Lori McAndrew and Bari Glickman 

CMHC blog image HPW

We can’t believe we are already considered “second years” in the Graduate Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. So far our program director, Dr. Kestemberg, and faculty members, such as Dr. Wood, have given us a personalized learning experience that continues to support us in becoming the best counselors in training we can be.

When Dr. Wood announced in class last year that she was looking for two students to work with her on a research project for an upcoming conference and on-going research continuing into Fall 2016, we both knew it would be a unique opportunity. We are happy to share: It has been! This work has allowed each of us to enrich our learning experience in our chosen career, exposing us to new and unfamiliar territory within our master’s program. In addition, the chance to work with our professor in a more intimate setting has enhanced what we are already learning in the classroom setting.

We met several times in the Fall 2015 semester and brainstormed about various topics and ideas. Through a collaborative team effort, we decided to look at the creative aspect of learning and understanding the concept of existentialism. Existentialism is a counseling approach that empowers clients to make meaning of their life experiences and emphasizes the existence of the individual person as having free will in making decisions in their life in relationship to themselves and others. In the classroom, some existential topics in regards to counseling that we had learned about had been complicated for us and our fellow students, so coming up with a creative solution and researching it to hopefully help other graduate students understand and appreciate Victor Frankl’s existential theory was an exciting prospect!

We learned through our research that most young clinicians do not have experience with utilizing existential concepts in their practice and that there is a belief that existentialism “does not easily fit into a therapist’s toolbox” (Shumaker, 2008, p.377). This led us to develop our theory that using music might help to support the learning of the existential concepts, allowing these concepts to be more tangible and relatable, and in return, help them improve their application of existential concepts with clients in the clinical realm.

It was a team effort creating a diagram which was designed to show the inter-connection of existential core concepts. We then began to build a music catalog that would help exemplify these concepts. We spent several hours listening to music, reading lyrics and categorizing the songs into the existential concepts. This was ultimately transferred to a flash drive that we used as a handout for our poster presentation.

One of the most exciting moments occurred when a conference participant made a special effort to come see our poster presentation. Knowing that the project we are working on is as interesting to others as it is to us provided us with a feeling of confidence and success. This, coupled with the guidance that our professor provided us, helped to put our nerves at ease and enabled us to discuss our poster with confidence and enthusiasm.

We are in the process of developing goals to move forward with our research. One of our goals is to test pilot this research with the new cohort of students in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Master’s program that started this fall. We are looking to have our research published in the Journal of Creative Counseling and ultimately present our research at future conferences.

As the first cohort in Molloy College Master’s Program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, we have a great deal of enthusiasm and excitement. The comradery we share as a cohort allows us to be a community of learners, a group that supports each other in our studies and celebrates each other in our accomplishments.