Who Should Apply
The Relational Center’s Leadership Institute offers an entry-level clinical training program that is ideal for MSW students and MFT trainees who need to complete their pre-degree practicum. Registered MFT Interns and Associate Clinical Social Workers are also welcome, as are students of organization development, community organizing, leadership development and organizational management. Minorities are strongly encouraged to apply.
If you are seeking post-masters clinical practice hours to submit to the Board of Behavioral Sciences, your training and supervised experience at The Relational Center will also be eligible to be applied toward licensure.
When we don’t receive connection as often as we need, we lose hope. Eventually we can end up settling for unsatisfying relationships that make us feel disconnected. As much as 40% of our country reports feeling lonely most of the time. When that’s our daily reality, research shows that it shortens our lifespans. To live long and healthy lives, we need to improve the way we connect with each other. When we improve connections, we improve health. Yet the mental health field has not responded to the crisis of isolation with solutions that reconnect people to one another. The focus is increasingly on individual change, as if the acquisition of skill or the emergence of insight were a substitute for community.
To adequately respond to humans in distress, we have to ensure they have access to a thriving, healthy community, full of enduring and diverse relationships. That means we need to train mental health professionals to focus on supporting their clients to develop their relational capacities and take action to develop and maintain vital community. Human beings are equipped with inclinations that favor mutual understanding and collaboration. That means it is imperative that mental health clinicians be trained to use effective prevention and intervention tools that engage their clients in tapping into their inherent relational capacities and cultivating connections in the world.
How It Works
This is a three-year comprehensive alternative program of clinical training which has a dual focus: it is designed to build a hybrid workforce competent in both mental health and community organizing practices.
Trainees are assigned to our Community Project for their supervised practicum. The entry-level year builds a coherent relational foundation, offering the following structure:
- A comprehensive curriculum that builds the theoretical ground for a relational approach to counseling and psychotherapy
- An emphasis on collaboration, empathic skills, and community responsiveness and accountability
- Live-time, intensive, and focused supervision in the context of intimate small-group training cohorts
- Planned community activities specifically designed to provoke challenging and complex experience while simultaneously offering coaching and teaching to support expanded awareness and skills-building
- Deliberate exposure to the pressures of emotionally challenging work as well as to the demands associated with navigating a communal system
Graduates of the one-year foundation program may then pursue advanced training (e.g., Community Gestalt Therapy). Opportunities for part-time paid work are also extended to trainees who have demonstrated an exceptional investment in The Relational Center’s mission and vision.
What To Expect
All foundation-year trainees attend weekly group supervision meetings as well as monthly 3-hour clinical training modules with topics such as Foundations of Relational Theory and Practice, Somatics, Trauma, and Power, Privilege and Marginalization. Also, all foundation-year trainees will be expected to provide services in our Community Project (5 direct counseling hours per week and a minimum of 3 hours per week assisting in general community support). Finally, all trainees are also required to complete 2 weekend intensives getting cross-trained in our community building approach, Stories of Connection.
Admissions for the Foundation Year are on a rolling basis. Interested applicants may be asked to participate in a 2-hour workshop and an individual interview. Finalists who are offered a seat must respond within 2 weeks of the offer with a signed letter of agreement and a nonrefundable $200 deposit (required upon admission and is applied to the 12th month of training). Trainees then pay a Clinical Training Site Fee of $200 per month.
Frequently Asked Questions
What makes The Relational Center's Health and Wellness Program unique as a practicum or field site?
It is our assumption that service, training, supervision and organizing are all functions of supporting development: we make no strict distinction among these terms, other than for purposes of identifying which resources match the needs in question. A placement in our organization is an opportunity to participate in a multi-year, extensive, structured training in our model of change work. All of the lectures, readings, discussions, case presentations, supervised practice and consultation consistently support the development of our trainees’ skills from within that specific model. Providing help to our members is just one part of a much larger professional enrichment experience that can last up to 3 years if desired.
The Relational Center is also very much a community, not just in terms of the attitude we have, but also in terms of the way we make important decisions, how responsibilities are allocated, how we share and divide labor, and how we understand and respond to human development. The training approach is not academic per se, though it involves ample teaching and theoretical discussion. But overall, we cultivate a learning community by creating a culture of support, accountability, transparency and adventure.
What theoretical orientation is taught in The Relational Center's clinical training?
As our name implies, we teach a relational perspective on change work. Our version of a relational approach is grounded in phenomenological theory and integrates Gestalt therapy, social construction and social neuroscience perspectives. The approach is developmental (i.e., assumes people are always striving to grow even in the midst of suffering, hardship, illness or poverty), dialogical (i.e., asserts that human contact and relating are the most reliable methods for gaining access to others’ perspectives and experiences) and existential (i.e., understands each human identity to be fluid, emergent and responsive to the compelling tasks confronting us in each given context).
Based on this approach, The Relational Center is committed to positions that are consistent with our mission, values and model of care. For example, our work with participants dealing with problems related to substance use follows a pragmatic, harm reduction approach. This is particularly effective when working with participants who are not able to abstain from using substances (at least 70% of everyone who is substance dependent) or who live with multiple challenges of poverty, physical disability, and emotional distress. Counseling to drug users in line with the harm reduction model is unusual in the current mental health field. This makes The Relational Center even more unique.
How do I know whether I am a good fit for your clinical training?
We are interested in building a diverse workforce, not only at The Relational Center, but in the broader fields of mental health and human development. For this reason we are particularly committed to enrolling a diverse range of students, including those from communities of color and sexual minorities. Nevertheless, we are open to training anyone who is interested in the convergence of community mental health, community organizing and social welfare. We welcome the opportunity to meet with you in person when possible and we invite you to attend our workshops and community events, even to volunteer for a period of time–whatever it takes to help you get a strong sense of the environment, the culture, the values of our community. The decision to enroll for training is arrived at mutually. It is a commitment to share responsibility for your development and ours.
What does training at The Relational Center cost?
The Clinical Training Site fee is $200 per month. Fees can be paid by cash, check, or credit card. If accepted, trainees are required to pay a $200 nonrefundable deposit which will be applied toward their 12th month (if a trainee withdraws from training before the 12th month, the deposit is forfeited). Students who are experiencing economic hardships may also apply for work study arrangements to cover a portion of this fee. Minorities, especially bilingual students, MAY be offered an additional fee reduction.
What kind of time commitment will I be required to give to The Relational Center?
Group supervision lasts 2 hours each week. There are 5 intensive trainings throughout the year, some only one-day, others three-day. When the law requires it, trainees will have access to additional supervision each week. We ask that trainees schedule a minimum of 5 additional hours to meet with clients. We also require a minimum of one 3-hour community service shift per week (which involves providing support in a range of activities that keep our system operating).
How quickly will I accumulate my supervised hours at The Relational Center?
Our primary investment in training new mental health providers is for the purpose of supporting their development. Our Community Mental Health Project generally has a long waiting list of prospective new members. This means opportunities for practice are regularly available at the pace each trainee has requested. Nevertheless, if you find that you are more concerned about accumulating hours than you are about learning and growing, we strongly suggest that you consider a different placement site. Our objective is to teach, train and supervise counselors so that they have the supports and resources they need to engage in effective and collaborative change work with a diverse range of participants. The exact number of hours you accumulate within any given time frame is less important to your development than the quality of support you are given to make good use of that experience. Our trainees consistently report that the quality of their experience at The Relational Center is highly valuable.
How do I apply for clinical training?
The easiest way to start the process of applying for training is to complete our on-line application. Training is offered year-round and applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Interested applicants may be required to participate in a 4-hour workshop in addition to an individual interview. Finalists who are offered a placement must respond within 2 weeks of the offer with a signed letter of agreement and a $200 nonrefundable deposit. We welcome informational interviews or requests for tours of the site. Please feel free to contact Jami Winkel, with any questions you may have about the application procedure.