December 18, 2015
For two weeks this summer, 15 students engaged in experiential workshops and classes toward earning a Certificate in Techniques of Integral Counseling.
Among them were an aerospace engineer, a banker, a city planner, two entrepreneurs, and several psychologists, students, and professors-one of whom is a visiting scholar from Harvard and another from the University of Virginia. They came to CIIS to be better therapists, "to learn about East-West spiritual awakening," and "for the integral atmosphere-a specialty at CIIS," they said in a survey.
They came from 10 cities in China, the majority from Shanghai. Many were brought together on WeChat through Jeremy Caiphong Zhu (EWP '11), director of CIIS China Programs in China.
Students came to "study advanced approaches and techniques used in counseling psychology, and "to experience the clinical style of American therapists."
And because, as one student said, "since the 1980 economic reform of China, there has been a major shift in societal systems.Everyone is wrapped in an energy of anxiety, suppression, stress, and competition. It's causing people to push harder, carrying a fatigued body and mind."
The inaugural summer Certificate is one of several several initiatives of CIIS' China Projects that have come to fruition this year, including the education and professional development of counseling
psychologists in China, and academic collaborations that bring Chinese students to CIIS to study psychology.
Designed by Academic Vice President Emerita Judie Wexler and ICP's Ling Lam, the Certificate offered a carefully chosen curriculum with "a variety of approaches addressing the need for hands-on, person-to-person training, and sessions on topics underrepresented in China, such as substance abuse and sexuality," says Wexler.
Richard Buggs, who taught the class on sexuality, says "Though it is not openly discussed and was not part of their training, students nonetheless, embraced the topic fully, asking for further contact and instruction." In December, Buggs will travel to Beijing to give two workshops on the topic.
Especially salient were sessions on trauma, crisis, and grief and loss, which addressed what students said were the most prevalent issues in China: aging populations, academic pressure on children, anxiety and depression,
marriage and family conflict, and high suicide rates.
Natural disasters, such as earthquakes, droughts, and floods, have taken a devastating toll on China. "Of the greatest concern is trauma after natural disaster. There aren't enough therapists to assist inthis healing," said a student.
Tools to Take Home
All students said they came away with a new self-awareness and mindfulness that they would immediately put into both personal and professional practice.
"Listening, acceptance of self, and trying to be unbiased," "feeling free," "feeling pain and sadness," "the release of grief," "being able to be in the present with myself," "visualization, especially with children," "the integration of aikido philosophy into everyday life," "more dialogue," "more dancing and music and art!" were experiences, ideas, and tools that they were most excited about.
Kate Donahue, who introduced two days of expressive arts therapy to the students, believes that "the process opens and provides the Chinese students a vehicle for deep expression of personal feelings that reach into their intergenerational and cultural wounds and allow healing."
Students especially appreciated the "sincerity and authenticity of professors," their "integrity" and "sagacity," and "the sharing of their experiences." They also noted the "honest exchange of ideas" and "the emotional support present in the CIIS community. Along with "spontaneity and hugs," students also noted "strict theory and analysis"--and many commented on "the safe, open environment," which fostered trust.
"With the summer Certificate, CIIS not only has responded to China's need for experts in counseling psychology but also has offered something truly helpful to many Chinese students from a wide
range of professional backgrounds," says Jody O'Connor, Associate Director of Student Affairs-International Student Recruitment and Services. "CIIS reached out," she says, "and these students have
now brought parts of CIIS back home with them."
Cultural Exchange Continues
As with the best of cross-cultural dialogue and exploration, the learning was mutual. One student hoped that through the exchange her "psychology colleagues in the U.S. understand Eastern history and culture, the current
environment in China, and the unique challenges they present for therapists."
Several students expressed a strong desire to study counseling psychology at CIIS. One, who hopes to enroll in 2016, said, "My experience at CIIS left a great impression on me. It opened new ways
of seeing and many new possibilities. I am in a much better, more peaceful state and have gained great strength in facing future life challenges."
Faculty were moved by their experiences as well, many commenting that students were a joy to teach, and grateful for how deeply they entered into the learning.
"It was exciting to extend the CIIS community in this way and to see how much these students appreciated our integral approach to learning," says Wexler. "We were all enriched by the dialogue and the opportunity to connect
meaningfully across language and cultural differences."
Many thanks to translators Luna Yue Ren (EWP '15) and Clark Shi-Chen Hsu (EXA '14).