Take your counseling skills to the next level

Do you want to enhance your person-centered skills but wonder how to go about it?

Counseling is a core aspect of audiology services – and your approach can greatly influence how successful you are in addressing your patients’ concerns. 

However, if you’re unsure how to effectively provide person-centered care (PCC), you’re not alone. For instance, clinical educators who haven’t received this type of training themselves often find it a challenge to teach the skills to students.

To address this issue, faculty members at the Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education Department at Utah State University (USU) are working together to integrate PCC into their curriculum and clinical training. Key to their success is a recognition that they need to engage in a professional development journey – along with their students – in order to become effective mentors in PCC. To have a common foundation, their audiology educational team and academic and clinical professors all completed the Inspired by Ida program. 

Growing as a clinician

Andrea Page recently joined USU as a clinical educator. With this role, she decided to strengthen her person-centered approach and make it explicit. “When I first joined USU, I felt confident in my clinical skills, but I also felt stagnant and unsure what I could do to improve and take my skills to the next level. Because USU focuses on PCC, I had renewed motivation, direction, and the tools I needed to start growing again as a clinician.”

The following six steps helped Page on her PCC journey:

  1. Self-reflection
    Page took time to reflect on her own skills and pay attention to what other clinicians were doing: “I started to mimic the PCC behaviors I was seeing in others – and I loved it. I knew I needed structured training if I was really going to master PCC, so I started to dig deeper and develop a plan. This involved taking a few courses from the Ida Institute, setting goals to improve in certain areas, reflecting on progress, and asking for feedback from an experienced mentor.”
  2. Identifying the gaps
    Once she’d taken a few Ida courses, Page began to understand PCC better – and she discovered gaps in her own skillset that needed improvement: “At first, I was a little surprised to learn how much I could improve my approach to PCC. I honestly thought I was doing solid PCC before I came to USU and, while it’s true that I was doing some things, actually studying PCC and seeing it modeled in a clinical setting helped me to realize I still had a lot to learn.

    “Tweaking a few simple things, such as asking more open-ended questions and engaging in shared decision-making, made a big difference. It felt daunting at first to realize that I needed work in this area, but once I started trying to improve, I saw great progress.”
  3. Naming the barriers
    By explicitly naming her internal barriers, Page could work to reduce them, so they didn’t get in the way of her progress: “One significant barrier was the feeling that there’s always something new to improve on, and that was overwhelming. When I first began this process, I thought I could study it deeply for a few months, master it, and then be done. I’ve now come to understand that’s not the case. I think that I will always be learning, reflecting, and fine-tuning things.  

    “This sometimes feels a bit discouraging to me as I really like the feeling of finishing a task. To combat this mentality, I’ve started to think about my PCC learning as a checklist of items instead of crossing a big finish line.

    “Another barrier I faced was feeling vulnerable about my need to improve. It was scary for me to admit that I didn’t have everything all figured out and ask other people for their help and support. I think this is a normal, very human feeling, and I’m so glad that I didn’t let this stop me from learning and growing.”
  4. Asking for feedback
    One of the most powerful tools during this process was to ask for feedback from a trusted mentor: “I invited my department head, Dr Karen Muñoz, to evaluate me during an appointment. I had her review me on the six areas of PCC and give me suggestions for improvement. I’ve found these observation sessions to be very valuable. Every time I feel stuck and unsure what to work on next, I have Dr Muñoz observe a session. She has come back with some great and specific suggestions on what and how to improve.” 
  5. Reminders to practice
    One of the hardest things about the process was to remember to practice during clinic time: “To combat this issue, I’d select an area I wanted to improve on and write it on a sticky note. I’d then stick that note on my clipboard and carry it with me during my appointments. It was nice to always have a handy reminder on me. As time went on, I would jot down notes on the sticky with ideas on how to improve in this area. When I felt like I’d grown enough in that area, I’d pick a new topic.”
  6. Learn more
    Page plans to continue learning and growing over the next few months through continued workshops with Dr Muñoz. “I’ve also started reading Motivational Interviewing in Health Care: Helping Patients Change Behavior. This has really helped me dive deeper into the world of PCC.” 

If you’ve been inspired by Page’s journey and wish to take your own PCC skills to the next level, Ida's free resources might be helpful. 

Page’s recommendation to others is to make a plan and take it one step at a time: “The first step can be the hardest, but you’ll be glad you did and so will your patients!”