Posted by: counselorcarmella | June 6, 2011

Insight Without Sight, Part Three

After completing my degree, I decided it was once again time to seek out colleagues who were blind and working as therapists. I had some job-hunting questions that I wanted to talk about. In addition to the contacts I’d made previously, I found out about a mentoring project available through a national organization that provided a variety of services to blind people. Using this system, searches could be performed to find contacts in certain professions. I spent a great deal of time emailing those I located through this service. The American Psychological Association also had a mentoring network for psychologists with disabilities, which I contacted. I also did web searches for news articles about other blind counsellors, thinking I might share these with potential employers at the time of the interview to support some of the things I said about how I would perform job tasks.

At some point during this quest, I finally decided to start an email discussion list for those who were blind and involved in the helping professions. I had benefited from being involved in a number of such lists with other counsellors. Usually, list members had no idea I was blind, as it was not relevant to discussions and I felt no need to announce it for its own sake. I had also often received support and information from being involved in discussion lists for blind students and guide dog users. I felt a need to combine the benefits of both, however. Finding other blind therapists always seemed to involve a lot of research, and I wanted to bring as many as possible together in a central virtual location. For this reason, I created blind-counsellors@topica.com.

I spent a lot of time publicizing it to psychology, counselling, and social work related lists, and to magazines of interest to blind people. The list grew to over forty members in the first month of its existence. As I’d hoped, the membership was diverse, as was the dialogue. Shortly after creating the list, I was contacted by a writer from Counselling Today. She wanted to do an article about me, and the list I’d created, for an upcoming issue. I couldn’t believe so much interest was being generated.

The list is quite diverse. Educational backgrounds range from current undergraduates to PhDs. There are blind people on the list who work in all sorts of counselling settings, from crisis centres to elementary schools. Some work with other people who are blind or disabled in another way, while others do not. Some lead groups. Others work with families, teenagers or the elderly. There are list members who supervise interns, teach classes as adjunct faculty, and lead workshops and seminars. Some counsellors on the list go to clients’ homes while others have private practices. Members work in hospitals, mental health centres, schools, urban areas and rural communities. Some take notes and keep track of time using braille and braille watches. Others have offices full of the most up-to-date technology. Some of us use guide dogs, while others prefer canes. Some have had great experiences with graduate school professors, employers and supervisors. Unfortunately, many can tell horror stories about the misconceptions they have faced from within the helping professions. I am not the only one who has been discouraged from entering the field. Some list members have difficulties because they are required to use computer programs that are not very accessible.

What unites us is that all of us are legally blind, and all of us are involved in the helping professions. List members are able to network, ask questions of one another, share information, and find support. We can do all this without having to arrange for transportation, scan printed materials, or have the help of a sighted reader. Using adaptive technology, list members can easily read and respond to messages. I wish such a list had been around when I was an undergraduate student with questions and concerns. I am always thrilled when students join the list. Through this email list, I can, both directly and indirectly, provide them with the support and encouragement they will need to be successful in the counselling profession.

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  1. […] Insight Without Sight, Part Three (counselorcarmella.wordpress.com) […]


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