Monday, September 24, 2018

The Barmaid Teaches the Young Counselor a Lesson!



The sailors come off the ship after months out at sea. They come to a bar sign, walk down a short flight of concrete steps and enter a dark, dank establishment. There is loud and foul language in the air. The establishment does not smell clean.  An aging barmaid with excessive, perhaps garish make-up, clearly looking older than her real age, is serving shots of booze and beer. When we hear her speak words we detect a crudeness and probable lack of education.

This is the woman that was sitting across from me, on public assistance, needing a plan for reemployment. It was Friday the end of a long work week. It was early in my career.  My experience and skills were very limited. Since she had not finished high school, I ask her if she wanted to attend the Learning Center for a GED.  She laughed and asked me if I was serious. No one had ever offered her further education or even suggested training. I told her, "Of course. You can go over to the community college, take the placement test and begin study on Monday." She took the referral.

When I entered my office Monday morning, the phone rang and the director of the learning center began rattling off reasons why my latest referral could not be accepted. 


  • She is barely reading at a fifth grade level. 
  • Her math skills are extremely limited, despite handling money and making change continually in her past work. 
  • She would be taking up space preventing other students with real potential from getting into the program.
  • She has no chance of being successful.
  • She was not appropriate.

I felt a little anger swell and it prompted me to threaten to pull out all of our business and financial support.  We paid when our customers got into the Center. My client got to start that day.

By the end of the week I was becoming increasingly nervous, thinking the director might talk to my supervisor in the Department of Labor Special Programs Office. I was the newest counselor in the WIN program fresh out of graduate school.  I did not have the power to carry out my threat and I did not want to be chastised for an inappropriate behavior. I visited the learning center to see how my client was doing and found her reading a book that looked much like the ones we used when my son was first learning to read. I made the decision to visit the Learning Center often, so that I could pull her out the moment she got frustrated.

Every time I visited, she was in her chair focusing on her work, day after day, week after week and the journey turned into months. I told her if she was feeling too much stress we could look for other options. She chose to continue the journey and did nothing that would cause removal.  I witnessed a transformation taking place. The Barmaid began to dress better, I suppose because of the environment and increasingly looked more and more like a student. It was nearly eight months after we first met that my client was accepted into Casino Security Guard Training. After passing her High School Equivalency exam, her options had expanded. She was placed easily into an entry level Casino Job and her first year income tripled her best year as a Barmaid. She stopped me on the street in Atlantic City and gave me a big hug.
  
Maybe her counselor experienced second thoughts and the Director was sure she could not succeed. But, not my Barmaid. She had no idea that she was incapable of earning a GED.   
   
I had to make a decision about whether it would impact how I felt about trusting people, and I decided I wasn't going to allow it to impact my outlook on trust, because I believe trust is a choice.  I've always given people the benefit of the doubt until they prove me otherwise. So, it just made me stronger in my conviction about that, but it also taught me never to put anything past anyone.  ~  Boris Kodjoe

Monday, April 9, 2018

A Few Thoughts on Coaching and Counseling


The leaders of the American Counseling Association and its divisions finalized a definition of counseling back in 2010:
“Counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education and career goals.”
My first real job was assistant recreational counselor. My uncle was the counselor and we went to the Ghetto in the nearby big city and delivered an after school program to get the disadvantages kids off the streets. We played basketball with the kids and my uncle offered guidance to those most in distress. The next summer I became a camp counselor for rich kids, taught swimming and played games with kids just a few years younger. I provided peer counseling as needed.
I earned my master’s degree in counseling in 1975 and worked as the only employment counselor in the Atlantic City public employment office before, during and after the advent of casino gambling. Developmentally, I have been doing this for a long, long time.
A HISTORY STORY: When the psychologists wanted to be licensed in the United States the psychiatrists, more or less, said they were not qualified. Later when the social workers wanted to be licensed, the psychologists and psychiatrists said they were not qualified. When the counselors wanted to be licensed the psychiatrist, psychologists and social workers said they were not qualified. Now that the Coaches are on the scene, again many of those who have become licensed say coaches are not qualified. While this is a simplistic story, it is a pattern that I have written about and with counselors, lived through. I was around when the counselor certification process began and all through the quest for a license. There was a time when anyone could call themselves a counselor and hang up a shingle and they did. In the United States now, in all 50 states, counseling is a licensed profession, so Coaches without the "needed credentials" cannot say they do counseling. I think, the day will come when all the coach associations join together to create all that is necessary for increased professional recognition. Right now they are just the new kids on the block. Of course, they are marketing themselves to be different than Counselors and suggesting that their approach is different. 
There is nothing that a Coach does that I have not done during my career. I have worked with homeless people and displaced professionals and everything in between.  How therapeutic or how directive I am depends upon the needs of the individual at my desk. I certainly hold people accountable for the decisions they make. I have provided business advice to employers and mediated disputes at their workplace. Needless to say, I am a far better counselor today than I was in 1975. Lots of formal education, numerous certifications, hundreds of hours of continuing education, presenting workshops and tons of experience, all lead to increased competency. Even at this stage in my career I encounter situations outside my expertise. I do not overstep my boundaries. I refer the person to someone with the required experience and education.
Just because someone owns a credential it does not mean they know what they are doing. The longer it takes to earn a credential, the less is the competition. If we have a natural talent for something or specific experience, that is good. In all cases, the more formal and informal education we have, the better we get.
Counselor Wendy Stubbs presented at a National Employment Counseling Association Conference back in 2002 on "Brief Career Counseling. I had many clients that I saw once or for very brief periods of time and Wendy helped me refine my approach.  Back then Life Coaching and Career Coaching had relatively little national attention.  She is now marketing herself as Dream Career Coaching because Coaching is quite popular and does not have any stigma about being in "therapy."  Look at what she presented and you will see a "Counseling Theory."  Do you also see something very similar to what Career Coaches might be doing today?       

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Michael Managing the One Stop



It is through our compassion that we care for the dignity, well-being and integrity of every person around us. Our capacity to embody this quality, simple as it may seem, is the strength that can change the world around us. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

When I managed my One Stop my employees had three obligations which by the time I retired all of them could quote. In order of preference:


  •       Take care of yourself because I need you to be as healthy as possible.
  •       Take care of the customers because we are paid to serve their needs.
  •       Feed the computer because people who look at numbers determine our funding.

The door to my office was closed only when I needed to speak privately with someone. Anytime an employee came into my office I immediately stopped what I was doing and gave them my full attention (always). I actively listened to them and asked questions for clarification. When I assigned a task I gave the reasons why, expressed the expected outcomes and asked them to devise a plan of action. I assured them I was always available for questions and answers. If someone committed a travesty it was handled in private. If someone excelled they were acknowledged in public. I held a staff meeting every month. They heard what happened in state managers’ meeting, local workforce investment board meetings and local One Stop meetings. Employees were called upon to speak about what they were doing, especially with new programs. I finished every meeting with an inspiration message and thanked them for their efforts and often told them I was honored to be working with them. They heard what I was doing to resolve problems and I let them know if they had any ideas that I was always open for suggestions.

If they encountered a customer that was too difficult that person was brought to me and when appropriate the employee watched while I dealt with the customer. I facilitated groups and demonstrated techniques often, especially with new programs. There were times when we were short staffed and I handled the front desk. There was no task below my dignity. I modeled the expected work ethic and I have very high standards. I asked for a lot. They received a lot of praise and as much help as I could deliver.

When you meet anyone, remember it is a Holy encounter. As you see him you will see yourself. As you treat her you will treat yourself. As you think of him you will think of yourself. Never forget this, for in her you will find yourself or lose yourself. ~ T, 132 A course in miracles

It was very good that a licensed professional counselor was manager of the One Stop. By the end I was nearing 40 years of experience in the system and had held virtually every job on the way up. I had experienced good managers (and supervisors) and bad. I had made plenty of mistakes, but had also received more than my share of accolades. Perhaps most import, I was no longer having any problems with self-worth. Once we learn to love ourselves unconditionally the need to strike out at another human is greatly reduced. Once we are able to love others unconditionally, we have a better chance of getting closer to a truth.

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.~ Marcus Aurelius

Monday, April 11, 2016

Romance on the High Seas 2016 Caribbean Wellness



“The concept of total wellness recognizes that our every thought, word, and behavior affects our greater health and well being. And we, in turn, are affected not only emotionally but also physically and spiritually.”     ~ Greg Anderson (American Wellness Project)


“Romance on the High Seas”  , NECA’s Valentine Cruise, featured two Wellness Presentations in the Sky Light Chapel on Deck 15. Dr. Michael Lazarchick entertained the audience with messages on the interplay of Body, Mind and Spirit and included experiential processes to enhance learning.  Drawn from both eastern and western traditions the purpose was to explore various models of “consciousness”  in a universe  composed of interconnected energies.  

 An opening joke elicited laughter and released endorphin into the body, natural healing drugs.  The group pondered a question extensively researched by Lissa Rankin, M.D.,  “What if you have the power to heal your body just by changing how you think and feel?”  Most counselors would agree that positive thinking and affirmations have long be on the path to healing, but Rankin and others now record actual changes in the body. The group enacted the “Wonder Woman” power  pose, increasing testosterone (strength) and reducing Cortisol (stress) according to Amy Cuddy’s research. 

Pursuing the idea that healing is easier when you engage your body, the group moved, felt energy and experienced a little qi gong. Everyone agreed that walking a half hour each day is now considered to be a good idea, especially as we age. Stretching and lifting a little weight helps our muscles to continue to perform. If something hurts, your body is telling you to stop!

Most believe we can do or eat just about anything if we do so in moderation. Yet, we are each unique and there is significant literature (for example: Albert Ellis ABC Theory)  that tell us our perceptions depend upon our beliefs.  It was suggested that whatever we believe, the universe will prove it to us. Furthermore, the older we get the greater is our tendency to believe that our views are correct.  

Cruises offer lots of food and even the most disciplined are tempted to stray from their normal consumption habits. An ideal diet (to shed excess pounds and avoid western diseases) was described as primarily whole food fruits and vegetables, from local sources we know that do not use pesticides or artificial fertilizers, with some dairy and even less meat (both from grass fed pastured animals) . Absolutely avoid processed foods with added sugars and salt. Understand that eating raw fermented foods revitalizes and restores active good bacteria in the gut. So how did the presenter rationalize eating desert every night after dinner? If you really believe something is good for you it quite likely is and of course, if you really receive happiness and joy from eating something really tasty, isn’t that good for you? The comment elicited laughter and that was healthy.
From a discussion of the energetic body, to mindfulness meditation, chanting the Om and seeing a demonstration of Applied Kinesiology, the presentations covered a wide variety of concepts. The time flew by and no one was expected to accept anything that did not fit into their personal understanding of the universe.  There was one universal truth. Cruising the Caribbean starting on Valentine Day seemed to be a rejuvenating experience for all in attendance.  

  For more links to concepts  See 2016 Wellness Presentations at http://mlazarchick.com

Healthy personality is manifested by individuals who have been able to gratify their basic needs through acceptable behavior such that their own personality is no longer a problem to their self. They can take their self more or less for granted and devote energies and thoughts to socially meaningful interests and problems beyond security or lovability or status.          ~   SIDNEY MARSHALL JOURARD

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Greatest Gift



Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease.   ~   Hippocrates

Especially as we age, we begin to realize our time on this planet is limited. If someone close to you is injured or suffers a catastrophic illness or leaves this planet far too young, certainly your thoughts about the future are forever changed? When I was diagnosed with Cancer shortly after my wife lost her leg during 2006, our outlooks once again shifted dramatically. We had new concepts to research.  Religious friends offered prayers. More scientifically oriented colleagues suggested increased positive thinking.   In common was the suggestion that all great challenges overcome, provide spiritual growth and greater strength.   This is very important if you believe that future obstacles are inevitable.  
  
As if being an amputee was not hard enough, my wife fell at work and suffered a compression fracture of her third lumber vertebrae.  Her mobility became that much harder. Six months later she was in physical therapy and the facility has a gym. I said yes I would give her support and go with her.  We got stronger together. A personal trainer came along with the package. I learned how to use the machines and a lot about how my muscles work.  I knew I was not in bad shape, but had no idea how far away I was from being in good shape!  I was aware that muscle mass continues to degrade especially after age 50. Physical training is about lifting and pumping the heart. But that is not the whole story. 

Jim Fix was author of The Complete Book of Running and undoubtedly influenced all the jogging we see today.   Some suggest he believed the secret was exercise and his biography suggests he was not much concerned with what he ate.   Despite his assumed great physical health, he died of a heart attack at the age of 52 while jogging! 

Diet is a subject to which I have devoted much study.  I have tended  an organic garden for over 40 years.  My soil is alive filled with dozens of minerals, air, water , organic matter, microorganisms and bountiful earthworms.  My fruits and vegetable are as local as it gets, not losing nutrition during weeks of transportation from far away ports.  I am not dependent upon factory farms that use chemicals (artificial fertilizer made only from nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus) and then cover their crops with pesticides to allow production in “dead soil.”  

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.  ~    Hippocrates 

I spend countless hours  in my garden, reaching a meditative state of existence, watching an army of predatory insects keep down the population of plant eaters that are drawn to weaknesses in the growth process.  Do not our own bodies follow a similar pattern?   Disease festers in our weakest places as our antibodies wage war. With each passing year are regenerative abilities are further challenged. Fortunately our wisdom grows. 

I do believe it matters what type of “fuel” we put into our bodies.  I do believe we need to pump our heart and lift weights appropriately. I also believe that laughter produces  natural drugs within and that meditation has tremendous healing  power.  

So what does all this have to do with Employment Counseling? We help people find worthwhile employment. Ideally, they find a job that returns enough money and work that provides true joy and happiness.  We are engaging with them in a process of healing. To do this well we need to help them and ourselves become as healthy as possible in body, mind and spirit. We all need to make the best possible choices. The greatest gift is this magnificent vehicle we each possess that allows us to interact with one another on this glorious planet, albeit for a rather brief moment in time.