Presenting at Professional Conferences

Presenting at national or state professional counseling conferences is taxing and sometimes stressful. After all, you are standing up in front of or sitting down at a table with your peers, and there is no more scary or sometimes critical audience (although I have found most counselors to be kind). A second factor besides being in front of your peers is coming up with and talking about new ideas. The ideas may come from research you are conducting, or they may be theoretical or philosophical in nature based on your personal or professional experiences. Regardless, thinking of such ideas takes time and effort. Yet, what I have found is that the more I present at conferences, the more ideas I have. It is a paradox. It is like success building on success, or practice for an athletic event making one more aware ofwhat else can be achieved.

Thus, when I see a call for presentations at counseling conferences, regardless of the level, I almost always respond. It takes time and effort to write up a presentation proposal, and it takes even more time and effort to prepare if one’s proposal is accepted on a conference program. However, the time and effort are well spent, because the payoff is in learning something new and informing others of your discoveries. Because of attending and presenting at conferences, I have become more sensitive to the place of relationships in counseling. I have also gained knowledge about altruism, ethics, humor, creativity, and trauma. My involvement in the last of these concepts allowed me to function well as a Red Cross first responder after

Box 10.1


Upon entering grad school, I had heard that there might be opportunities to conduct research alongside faculty members. It was exciting to think that I may have the chance to make a significant contribution to the research/literature surrounding the world of counseling! I had never anticipated, however, that I would be asked to present alongside faculty at professional conferences. When I was asked to join my research team at both a state counseling conference and another research symposium, I was both nervous and excited. Having the opportunity to present at a professional conference in front of a room of my future peers was intimidating at first, but it instilled a level of confidence in me and reaffirmed my decision to enter the counseling field. I felt incredibly fortunate to stand amongst experts in the field, share my work, and have it come to life in front of me. Hours upon hours of my team poring over literature and interpreting data turned into thought-provoking discussions and enlightening conversations. In addition, I received valuable feedback that helped me greatly improve my presentation skills both in the classroom and at future conferences. Presenting as a student provided me an incredibly unique glimpse into life beyond graduate school as a professional counselor, and I was very grateful for the opportunity.

Kim Lovato, 2015 Master's Graduate and School Counselor

9/11 in New York and also as a professional who was able to provide psychological first aid after the Virginia Tech shootings.

For another perspective on presenting at conferences, see Box 10.1.

Writing in Professional Journals, Newsletters, and Other Professional Forums

While a good deal of learning in counseling occurs through attending or even presenting at professional conferences, this type of activity is not enough if a person really wants to get immersed in a profession such as counseling. The reason is that presenters at conferences may speak fast, skip over information, or not explain what they are talking about thoroughly (I am guilty of all three of those miscues and mistakes). Even listening and taking notes may not be enough to promote the recollection of vital points and the absorbing of subtle processes. Likewise, after a presentation is finished, much of the content is usually forgotten because the points made

Box 10.2


As counselors establish relationships with their clients, knowledge of research related to the practice of counseling is important to ethical, competent practice. By becoming a consumer of counseling research, counselors are able to employ best practices that lead to positive outcomes for clients. By participating in counseling research, either through completing a study or authoring/ co-authoring a study, counselors contribute to the ongoing development of the counseling profession.

An important value with respect to counseling research is accessing and publishing in counseling journals. Counseling journals serve as a primary vehicle for promoting what is innovative, emerging, or important to the counseling profession and the practice of counseling. Although the methods for counseling research may be sophisticated and difficult to understand at times, course work on research methods prepares counselors to be consumers, and eventually producers, of research. Counselors are encouraged to be members of professional counseling associations, such as the American Counseling Association and affiliated divisions, to have continual access to counseling journals and promote their research through presentations and publication.

Dr. Richard S. Batkin, Editor Journal of Counseling and Development

are sometimes spontaneous and not written down. Even if they are written down, many of them may be overlooked or fade in time. That is where writing for professional journals, newsletters, and other forums comes in (see Box 10.2).

I have a rule that I never present something at a conference that I do not later write up in a manuscript and present to a journal that is refereed (that is, evaluated and reviewed by my peers), or to a newsletter or other professional counseling publication outlet. The reason is that writing leaves a paper trail as well as a visual memory. It also sharpens my thinking much more than speaking does. I have to be precise and concise when I write. I have to focus on using specific words in a precise way. The points I wish to make have to be as clear as Windex glass. Only writing emphasizes thinking this way. Written words are stronger in the long run than spoken words because they take on a life of their own on paper or a computer screen and last beyond the moments in which they were verbalized. Regardless of the outlet, writing counseling thoughts can help you think even more and thereby grow.

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