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MA Counseling Faculty and Students Gather for Residency Week

Residency Week Group Shot

Last month, Palo Alto University (PAU) Counseling students from around the world gathered for a week-long residency focused on training and community building. Two in-person residencies were held for distance-learning (online) students as part of the MA Counseling degree requirement. These residencies required students to travel to the Bay Area for a week of intensive experiential learning and training with peers and faculty on counseling and clinical skills development. With many of their classes held virtually, these residencies provided invaluable in-person opportunities to demonstrate and practice basic and advanced skills.

What happened at Residencies This Year?

The two residencies – Residency I and II – catered to students at different stages of the program.

Residency I was tailored for first-year students, focusing on building fundamental counseling skills like conducting intake processes, establishing trust with clients, and utilizing effective questioning techniques to gather information. "Residency I is such an amazing experience for our students," said faculty member Kelly Coker, PhD "It's where they're putting together those foundational counseling skills. How do you sit with a client? How do you really learn to listen? How do you engage and hear their stories? And how do you begin to develop your own professional counseling identity?"

Residency II, on the other hand, was the capstone to the Crisis and Trauma class and Group Counseling class for second-year students. Students focus on advanced counseling skills, such as risk assessment for suicidal ideation, goal setting, and advanced theory. “Residency 2 is a great experience. We focus on building on the skills learned in Residency 1. You also get to be a group participant and co-lead a group with one of your peers.” said faculty member LaToya Smith, PhD

Residency Week Group Shot

Experiential Learning and Community Building Activities

The residency schedules featured large group activities, small breakout sessions, counseling demonstrations, and role-playing scenarios. Lighthearted activities were also part of the week, such as Technique Speed Dating, Tacos with the Provost, Pasta with the President, and a game night sponsored by Chi Sigma Iota, the Counseling Honors Society.

"The residency program offered students a profoundly enriching experience, blending rigorous academic work with meaningful opportunities to forge community ties," said faculty member and Residency Coordinator Rachel Jacoby, PhD. “It facilitates invaluable face-to-face interactions among faculty and students, fostering a sense of cohesion within cohorts and strengthening interpersonal connections within the PAU Counseling Community. While we emphasize the importance of honing professional skills, we also recognize the significance of integrating enjoyable and engaging elements into the counseling process.”

Student Reflections

Students shared their impactful experiences from Residency I. "My Residency 1 experiences grounded me in a deepened sense of purpose as a developing counselor, with increased clarity about my own areas of growth and immense gratitude and respect for my classmates and the faculty & staff. The opportunity to observe & learn from others and practice different skills in an immersive, collaborative context added so much to my expanding understanding of this journey," shared student Monika Nagy.

Student Jason Hodson echoed similar sentiments, "Residency 1 was such a combination of fear, anxiety, and excitement. Then, I left feeling like I belonged. I couldn't get to the Sonesta fast enough for my second residency. I've grown to love my cohort. It was so marvelous to see counseling skills really start to coalesce in a magical way with my peers as well as within myself."  

"I left Residency I feeling more competent in my skills and empowered as a counselor in training. It also strengthened the connection among cohort members. The shared understanding that 'we are in this together' provided comfort that made practicing in front of peers and faculty less daunting and more enriching," shared student Roque Neto.

Residency Week

Faculty Reflections

Faculty members also shared their perspectives on the residency experience. Jorge Lopez, PhD, said, "The biggest thing that stood out was how appreciative the students were with the in-person connection with faculty and other students. Many said they did not know they needed this but were very grateful to have been in that space with everyone. I echo that same feeling and really appreciated the space it created for professional and personal growth!"

Faculty member Karen Roller, PhD, remarked, "I am always so touched by how much more deeply embodied the student relationships and skills became over the course of the residential week. It is one thing to exchange information and learn knowledge through discussion; what the students realized from within is how vital our ancient evolutionary attunement and resonance is for their clinical skills to truly blossom."

Faculty member Cristen Wathen, PhD, shared, "One of my students shared how wonderful it was to be around people with similar interests and worldviews, and I agree; seeing the connections being made among students from all backgrounds renewed my hope in the good there is in the world. I'm so thankful to be part of a faculty that was just as happy to see each other as we were to support our students. Connecting with my PAU colleagues in person is rejuvenating and fun and reminds me why I love being a counselor educator - the laughter, support, visioning, working together, and doing what we love. By the end of the week, I was smiling with pride at the students' confidence, skills, growth, and connections formed. I'm honored to be part of their counselor development, and watching it happen is my favorite part."

Regina Moro, PhD, shared, "My first residency experience was wonderful! As a new faculty member at PAU this year, it was great to spend so much time with students in my class, meet advisees in person, and spend quality time with colleagues. That dedicated time together made me feel more a part of the campus community, and I'm excited for the next residency experience!"

MA in Counseling residency week will continue to be an exciting time at PAU filled with focused training and community building! For more fun photos from the week captured by the students, faculty, and staff, please click the link below. 

Residency Week Photo Album