Developing Counselors' Skills in Shanghai

THEORY TO PRACTICE, ISSUE NO. 8, FALL '16

With the emergence of counseling psychology as a profession in China, Lehigh's Office of Global Online Graduate Degrees has partnered with Nanjia (Shanghai) Culture Communication Ltd. to provide workshops in Shanghai for practicing professionals.

For the second consecutive year, Arnold Spokane, professor of Counseling Psychology at Lehigh, and doctoral student Ge Song '13G teamed up to conduct the workshops, which focus on developing counselors' therapeutic skills in helping people cope with mental health issues.

Three-day workshops held in 2015 focused on basic clinical and therapeutic skills. Workshops in 2016 focused on the treatment of depression/anxiety and trauma. Another program scheduled for January 2017 will focus on the treatment of personality disorders.

In the past decade or so, China has been moving toward certifying professional counselors, Spokane said. Prior to that, mental illness had historically been viewed as "improper thinking." And so, he said, as long as people were "thinking properly," the belief was that they'd be fine.

"That's changed now," he said. "China is coming into the modern economy and culture, and it is much more open to Western approaches, with modification and consideration of Chinese culture. There's been heavy emphasis there now on emotionally focused approaches and cognitive behavioral approaches to therapeutic interaction."

In May and July, 38 practicing counselors participated in the workshops, which are taught in English and Mandarin. Participants were from urban and rural areas of Eastern China, and they included professionals who are working as counselors in community agencies, universities, the military and private practice.

The workshops aim to provide participants with new perspectives on how to be most effective in mental health intervention, Spokane said. Skills of exploration and action come from a model developed by Clara Hill, professor of Psychology at the University of Maryland. The material has been translated into Mandarin.

Participants are responsible for pre-course readings, and they have to construct case examples that are appropriate to their practices. Spokane and Song work together on the assignments, exercises and case reviews. Role playing is part of the instruction.

"It's important to the social sciences to reconsider theory, research and practice outside of strictly Western ideas and theories," said Spokane, addressing the significance of the program.

By: Mary Ellen Alu