Interview with Dr. Nate Perron, Director of Clinical Training for Counseling@Northwestern

About Dr. Nate Perron: Since the summer of 2015, Dr. Nate Perron has been a full-time core faculty member of Northwestern University The Family Institute’s Counseling@Northwestern program, a 2U powered program. Dr. Perron has obtained his Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision. During his time as a professional counselor, he has worked in a variety of mental health settings for over 12 years, teaching for more than eight. Dr. Perron was excited to engage in the clinical training role where he could participate to ensure that Counseling@Northwestern students receive “excellent supervision that will support their growth into the counseling profession”.

Currently, Dr. Perron teaches Advanced Topics in Counseling, a final course requirement for students which launches them into the counseling profession. He has also taught and designed the child and adolescent counseling, psychotherapy, and the Bridges program introductory courses.

In his free time, Dr. Perron loves to spend time with his family and be outdoors. He and his wife have five children and enjoy spending their time biking, hiking, camping, and being outdoors. Dr. Perron also enjoys music, both playing and listening.

[] For some students, their concern with pursuing an online counseling degree is the fieldwork experience and support that they will receive. How does Counseling@Northwestern help their online counseling students with fieldwork placement, support, and process their clinical site experiences?

[Dr. Nate Perron] This makes complete sense because I will admit that clinical training can be one of the most stressful components of any masters in counseling program. I can say that we have devoted much time, energy and resources into making the clinical training experience here at Counseling@Northwestern as seamless as possible. We have a team of clinical training directors that support students with their hours and placement in both practicum and internship. We also have a wonderful placement team that provides support for students to obtain placement wherever they live throughout the United States.

[] Counseling@Northwestern requires students to complete a 200-hour practicum. Other counseling degree programs require 100. Can you explain the benefit of the hourly requirements for clinical training?

[Dr. Perron] A core value of our program is clinical practice. This stems from the stellar reputation of The Family Institute, which has served the northern Chicago area with counseling services and training for decades. It is true that CACREP requirements indicate 100 hours are necessary for practicum but our program provides more focus on clinical skills and counselor development by extending it over three quarters. This allows students to glean from a number of experiences, both personally and with other students who are placed throughout the country, but share the same supervision group.

[] Does your experience as a staff therapist with The Family Institute at Northwestern support your role as director of clinical training? If so, how?

[Dr. Perron] My time as a staff therapist with The Family Institute at Northwestern was truly valuable and productive. I have experienced a high level of collaboration and dedication to excellence throughout the program. I believe it had helped me to appreciate the commitment to clinical expertise that I now pass onto our students in practicum and internship. Although I no longer serve as an active staff therapist on-site, in order to devote more time to my role as clinical director, I resonate strongly with the values of The Family Institute and continue to infuse them into the fabric of the clinical training experiences of our students online.

[] One of your certifications is a Master Trainer for Mental Health Facilitator programs from the international division of the National Board for Certified Counselors. How does Counseling@Northwestern’s online counseling program prepare students for international mental health advocacy?

[Dr. Perron] International counseling is truly an area of tremendous passion for me. While the Counseling@Northwestern program does not serve students outside of the United States at this time, I have hopes that as our program grows, we can continue to expand our reach to the international community. I currently have students working with me on research in international counseling as graduate assistants and I am hopeful to bring the Mental Health Facilitator program to the Counseling@Northwestern program sometime in the future. I trust there will be more to say in this area down the road. In the meantime, I believe our students are exposed to important content in the program that challenges the status quo. Students are encouraged to think and practice multiculturally and to advocate for the needs of individuals and communities as core elements of the counseling profession. International counseling is a tremendous venue for advocacy due to the vast populations of people throughout the world that go without any mental healthcare support. I am hopeful that the Counseling@Northwestern program facilitates both insightful and global reflection on how we can leave a truly positive impact as counseling professionals.

[] Your involvement with the development of the Counseling@Northwestern online program stretches from curriculum planning to CACREP accreditation. What are some core requirements that you believe online counseling programs should have to best prepare future counselors?

[Dr. Perron] It has been a real joy to observe the growth of our program and the addition of wonderful faculty that strengthen and diversify our teaching platform. One key element of any program is the responsiveness and attentiveness of faculty to student needs. This is especially true with online programs because we cannot simply bump into students in the hall for a quick conversation. We have to be vigilant with responding to student questions and let them know when we don’t have the answers. As a program, we have continued to develop a greater and more meaningful organization that streamlines this process for students. Often this may come with mistakes and lessons with what we need to improve, but I would like to think we continue to advance our abilities to meet the needs of our online students all over the country. Another benefit of our online program is that our faculty is largely practicing throughout the country as well. This places us directly in the field and engaged with clients, both for the benefit of our clinical skill, our clients and the students that we serve.

[] Being a member of professional counseling organizations often supports students in their counselor education. You are a member of more than five! Do you recommend or require students to pursue membership in professional organizations?

[Dr. Perron] I highly recommend that students become involved in professional organizations and continue to be involved in the professional development of our profession. Not only is this a wonderful way to give back, but it is very practical in the sense that our associations support legislative efforts to make counseling more available to individuals, families, and communities. It also helps us to preserve the strength of our profession by addressing important issues in licensing, practice and in shaping the necessary approaches to clients that protect the public. Students are required to become student members of the American Counseling Association (ACA) when they enter our program, but that serves a twofold purpose. ACA provides counseling students with free liability insurance just for being members and it exposes students to the greater world of counseling beyond the Counseling@Northwestern program, all at their fingertips. Since having student liability insurance would be a necessity anyway, it makes sense to get them connected with ACA early on in the program with hopes that they will maintain this professional association and continue contributing to the field. Other ways we try to get them involved with associations is through conference presentations and writing. I have worked with a number of students either with presenting, researching or writing on a variety of topics pertinent to the counseling field.

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