I have known I would go into counseling and mental health from sometime around the 6th grade. I also knew my focus would be in education and processing the learning experiences presented by real-life. When I arrived at YIS after 13 years of full-time work in these three areas, it was with excitement that I received, then YIS head of school, Neil Richard’s and, current head of school, James MacDonald’s suggestion that I pursue a master’s degree in counseling. The discussion arose out of the way my role at YIS was naturally unfolding and the direction the school was headed. I’m not sure what reaction Neil and James were expecting from me, but they looked relieved when they heard it was something I had always thought I’d do.

I began to research different distance learning programs and found a half dozen viable options. I was open to studying programs based in the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK. The Masters in Counselling (Click) program offered by the Graduate Centre for Applied Psychology (GCAP) from Athabasca University, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, was by far the most comprehensive. Furthermore, while many wonderful contributions to the field of counseling originate in the US, as a long-time expatriate, I also knew the benefits of learning from a different professional, cultural, and historical perspective. GCAP satisfied all of my requirements and I hoped I would satisfy theirs.

Over the course of 2007-2008 I took several prerequisite courses because my undergraduate work in psychology was more than 10 years out of date. I applied to the program, was accepted and enrolled in October of 2008. I would later both simultaneously love the learning offered and, on more than one occasion, struggle with the demands it placed on me and the tireless support from my family. Just over four years later, I have had the benefit of learning from extremely talented professors, a challenging 500 hour minimum practicum, insightful classmates, nearly 2,000 recent journal articles, almost 20 literature reviews or other papers I have written on topics directly related to my role as a counselor and the lives of my students. The combination of work and study over the past five years since this began has been as near as I can imagine to the perfect opportunity to develop expertise in counseling with international school students.

Courses Taken:

GCAP 500 – Student Orientation 10/09/2008 31/12/2008
GCAP 631 – Models of Counselling 07/01/2009 07/04/2009
GCAP 671 – Developing a Working Alliance 29/04/2009 28/07/2009
GCAP 632 – Professional Ethics 29/04/2009 28/07/2009
GCAP 633 – Culture-infused Counselling 09/09/2009 08/12/2009
GCAP 643 – Health Psychology 08/01/2010 06/04/2010
GCAP 634 – Assessment Processes 28/04/2010 27/07/2010
GCAP 635 – Intervening for Client Change 29/04/2010 04/08/2010
GCAP 685 – Advanced Counselling Practicum 08/09/2010 28/04/2011
GCAP 654 – Family Therapy: Theory & Practicum 27/04/2011 26/07/2011
GCAP 691 – Methods of Inquiry 07/09/2011 06/12/2011
GCAP 695 – Specialization Seminar Knowledge Transfer 04/01/2012 03/04/2012


Future Direction:

As part of the final specialization seminar I wrote a manuscript entitled “Advocating for an Emotion-Focused Approach to Develop Resiliency in Third Culture Kids”. My plan is to submit this for publication, utilize the ideas further in practice within our counseling program at YIS and then develop several presentations and workshops to help other international schools and  students benefit from the opportunities I have had as a result of this course of study. While I don’t yet miss the endless task list of things I had to do each day, I do miss the constant stimulation and thoughtfully constructed influx of new ideas. Of course with the momentum this program generated, it is not possible for me to slow down much so I diligently follow mental health research via the RSS feed that fuels the syndicated news on my blog (click) and participate in the mental health/school counseling related activity on Twitter @adamclark71.

I will also be attending the Third International Emotion Focused Therapy Summit (click) this summer in New York City to further pursue the potential I have begun to explore in that approach helping Third Culture Kids (TCK) face the unique challenges of highly mobile international communities. I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunities I have had and am inspired for where this suggests the future is headed. – AC