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EKU Counseling Class Focuses on Mindfulness

EKU Graduate class: Mindfulness-Based Practices for Counselors and Clients

Mindfulness-Based Practices for Counselors and Clients (COU 865), a new graduate class, was offered by EKU’s Dr. Carol Sommer as an option in the master’s level clinical mental health and school counseling programs in Spring 2020. This innovative course was especially appropriate for the times as a world-wide pandemic unfolded. As on-campus classes shifted to virtual Zoom class meetings, Dr. Sommer and her students practiced various methods of meditation and other mindfulness-based practices.  

Class participants performed wellness checks with one another. Several of the graduate students were reeling from lost jobs in the service industry; others were K-12 teachers learning to teach on-line. Some students were also schooling their own children at home or dealing with family members who were ill with COVID-19. Students shared how they valued the ongoing practice of mindfulness in the face of these challenges. Dr. Sommer set up regular check-ins with the class and this was helpful as well. Over the semester, the class created what their textbook described: a mindfulness community where members practiced together and supported one another. Students developed projects showcasing a variety of personal applications of mindfulness or how they used mindfulness with clinical populations such as addiction recovery, chronic pain, or anxiety. 

Dr. Sommer was inspired to offer this class long before the pandemic when she studied the topic of mindfulness during her 2019 sabbatical. She discovered two benefits of mindfulness especially relevant to the field of counseling. First, counseling is challenging work and counselors often experience mental, emotional, and physical symptoms related to the ongoing exposure to their clients’ stories. Mindfulness practices have been proven reliable tools to help counselors develop an effective self-care plan. Second, research demonstrates that mindfulness practices lead to better development of the skills essential to the therapeutic relationship such as better attention and focus, a calm and even presence, and non-judgment and acceptance of client disclosures. 

As a follow-up to the successful completion of the graduate course, Dr. Sommer began work with three of the graduate students in the class, Michelle Berendsen, Emily Bundy, and Cynthia Jones, to write an article for publication.  Dr. Angela Spiers, also of EKU’s counseling program faculty, joined the project. The article, currently being reviewed by a professional counseling journal, describes applications of informal mindfulness including yoga, immersion in nature, t’ai chi, and intuitive painting. The group has also submitted their scholarship for presentations at national conferences.   

The collaborative effort among faculty and students is just one example of the advantages of EKU’s programs in counseling and counselor education. "The chance to bring students into the creation of scholarly work is exciting for me and the students. The process allows them to see how scholarship informs education but also how what happens in the classroom can contribute to scholarship,” said Dr. Sommer.

To learn more about EKU’s nationally accredited counseling programs, visit https://coecounseling.eku.edu/.

  • Contact Dr. Mi-hee Jeon for more information about master’s degrees in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling.
  • Contact Dr. Carol Sommer for more information about the nationally accredited doctoral concentration in Counselor Education and Supervision. 

Published on March 10, 2021

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