Thursday, July 12, 2012

Spotlight on Externs: Courtney Zazzali

New Ackerman Graduate, Courtney Zazzali
Courtney Zazzali, an outstanding second-year extern here at Ackerman, is graduating this year from the program. Besides being a student, she also has spent the past several months working as the Intake Coordinator. In this interview she provides her unique perspective on what it is like being an extern, and how she balances this with her administrative responsibilities in the Intake Department.

Can you talk about your dual role at Ackerman?
Although I have been at Ackerman for the past four years as a student and extern, I recently joined the Institute as the Intake Coordinator, following in the footsteps of other Ackerman grads. I was already accustomed to juggling a full time job and the externship program, so moving into an employee role while being a student has been fairly seamless in how I have balanced my time.  It has been great because the position also has allowed me to get to know other faculty members, administrative staff, and students in the program beyond my supervision group and fellow 2nd/3rd year externs. The small challenge for me is to have boundaries during the day I am in supervision, so that I can stay focused on my time to learn.  But, all in all, it has been a wonderful transition, and the duality allows me insight to what fellow externs may be experiencing, so that I can better guide them as it relates to their caseloads.

What do you value most about your externship experience?
This is difficult because I have to choose one – that said, I value the clients’ vulnerability and willingness to be here, the way we train, and the friendships I formed during the four years with my peers. But what I appreciate the most is the faculty. Every teacher I have had here, even the guest speakers during our Didactic Seminars, has been crucial in helping my clinical development and expanding my critical thinking skills. They have a balanced way of challenging and expecting quality work while also being supportive and nurturing. There is a special dedication that comes from each of them imparting the Ackerman approach enabling professionals like me to do quality work with families and couples in the community. There is a feeling of “passing it forward” in the way that they educate. That is a gift.

What are your plans for after graduation?
My plan post-graduation is to continue on in the Intake Coordinator job, while also beginning my part-time private practice. I also anticipate shadowing the faculty teaching Foundations in Family Therapy course, so at some point I will also have the opportunity to teach and continue imparting the AIF approach to future clinicians. Additionally, I hope to participate in one of Ackerman’s Special Projects/Centers to continue to add to and fine-tune my clinical skills.

What advice would you give to new externs here at Ackerman?
My advice is to delve into the material presented to you and always ask questions. Be humble and open in your learning, but confident that your experience and skills are unique and will coalesce with that learning.  And breathe! It is unnerving doing therapy in front of the one-way mirror with your peers and faculty and wanting to do everything right and successfully. But if you are patient and attuned to the process, it will unfold naturally and what you learn will be invaluable wherever your career takes you.

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