Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures (via John Muir School Autism Play Project )

Hello. I will return to my regularly scheduled menu of therapy talk very soon. For now, I encourage you to vote and pass along the information.

Thanks so so much!

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures Yes, these are desperate times.  And desperate times call for desperate measures.  And as the contest progresses and we fail to move forward, I have become…desperate.  How desperate, you ask?  Well, here's some of the desperate things I've done. Buying & Discarding Pepsis:  Well, I'm not just buying Pepsi.  I'm buying tons of pepsi, writi … Read More

via John Muir School Autism Play Project

So, I Want to be a Therapist in CA, Part II: The Credentials

Welcome to the chair.

In the previous installment, I discussed the difference between master’s-level and doctoral-level credentialing in California.

Here, I’ll discuss the kinds of non-school-based credentials you might seek and why (or why not), as well as the licensing boards for each.

PhD In Clinical Psychology (CA Board of Psychology)

A PhD tends to be more academic and research-oriented than a PsyD. Students receive intensive training in psych research and assessment. After graduate school, individuals often seek work in hospitals, research organizations, or other arenas where their specialized skills will be put to good use.

Despite the strong academic focus, persons in clinical PhD programs are also expected to gain clinical competency, which means that they complete coursework and do internships (totalling about 3000 hours) that focus on working directly with clients.

PhD students are required to complete a dissertation, participate in an approved internship, and pass a credentialing exam before becoming licensed.

Post-credential, PhDs can work in private practice, as well as agencies, universities, and other research settings.

PsyD in Clinical Psychology (CA Board of Psychology)

PsyD programs are often similar in content and scope to their PhD counterparts. The difference? PsyD programs feature a stronger focus on preparing students to become clinicians instead of research. Although research methodology and assessment are essential elements of a PsyD curriculum, the primary focus is on building clinical knowledge, both theoretical and practical.

Like their PhD counterparts, PsyD students engage in extensive clinical training and supervision. They, too, must complete a dissertation and sit for a licensing exam. Although some PhD students obtain grants and tuition wavers, such is rare for PsyD students. Both tend to take 4-5 years from the first class through completion of the dissertation.

After credentialing, PsyDs work in private practice, agencies, hospitals, academia, and more. Continue reading

Playgrounds for Mental Health (via John Muir School Autism Play Project )

Playgrounds for Mental HealthThe John Muir Playground Project is happy to feature it’s first guest blogger, Alison Panko. A former autism educator and psychotherapist-in-training, Alison is dedicated to working with persons on the spectrum and their loved ones. She is especially interested in helping families accept their “atypical” children. To learn more, please visit Alison’s website: Play is essential to the well-being of all children. As Erik Eri … Read More

via John Muir School Autism Play Project

Could Amanda Knox Have an Autism Spectrum Disorder? (via TIME Healthland)

I still don’t know what ti make of this theory or it’s implications; as such, I’m going to think before I blog.

Amanda Knox, the 23-year-old American college student who was convicted of sexually assaulting and killing her roommate, Meredith Kercher, in Italy in 2007, allegedly after an orgy gone wrong, got good news this week. Independent experts working on her ongoing appeal said that the traces of DNA used to convict Knox may have been contaminated and are “unreliable.” With the DNA evidence excluded, the only substantiation of Knox’s guilt includes a p … Read More

via TIME Healthland

Pepsi Refresh Everything: Vote! Vote! Vote! (via John Muir School Autism Play Project )

This project is close to my heart. Please vote!

Pepsi Refresh Everything: Vote! Vote! Vote! Just a quick post-our project went up on Pepsi Refresh today!  Voting runs from July 1-31.  If we are in the top 15 vote recipients, we'll receive $25,000 for a playground!  You can vote for us every single day, and "boost (get extra votes)" your votes by entering in codes from pepsi bottles marked "Pepsi Refresh."  How to vote: * You can create a log-in with Pepsi, or log in using facebook. … Read More

via John Muir School Autism Play Project

So, I want to be a therapist in CA… What do I need to know?: Part 1

The process of becoming a licensed psychotherapist in CA can be exhausting, time-comsuming, expensive, and very, very confusing. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how to sail through your education and  training with your income and sleep schedule intact. I can, however, help you make informed decisions about your choice to become a graduate-level psychotherapist in CA.

Doctor or Master?

If you want to see clients/patients, you’ll choose between several types of credentials, which I’ll explain below.

At the doctoral level, you’ll apply for either a clinical PhD or Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) programs. If you’re seeking a master’s degree, you’ll apply to Marriage & Family Therapy (MFT), Licensed Practical Clinical Counselor (LPCC), or Master’s in Social Work (MSW) programs*. Some psychiatric nurses and physician’s assistants also see clients. Pre-requisites vary among individual programs, so look carefully before you apply.

All  PhD, PsyD, MFT, LPCC, and MSW students must complete at least 3000 hours of clinical hours (in varying combinations of individual, couples, family, group, and child therapy; as well as training, supervision, advocacy, and more) work before sitting for licensure exams. In addition, much of the course work is similar, as are training sites and supervision. Indeed, students at various levels mingle throughout training and into their professional careers. Continue reading

Homelessness, Children and Families: What You Should Know and How You Can Help (via Trauma & Children)

This blog is a must-read for mental health professionals and educators.

Homelessness, Children and Families: What You Should Know and How You Can Help The statistics on homelessness in the United States are astounding. According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) (2011), more than 1.3 million children are homeless at some time each year and on the average day, at least 800,000 Americans, including 200,000 children are without a home. These individuals have also encountered trauma before becoming homeless and homelessness itself can exacerbate or re-traumatize children and ad … Read More

via Trauma & Children

Series: Autism and the Couch

This is the introduction to a multi-part series about mental health among persons with autism and their loved ones. Check back soon for further installments.

Maybe you’ve watched Rain Man. Perhaps you’ve seen a big-money ad from Autism Speaks or a similar organization. Maybe you’ve perused stories about the largely defunct vaccine debate. Ever heard of Jenny McCarthy?

Autism, it seems, is everywhere. And, in some ways, it is.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, as many as 1 in 110 children in the US have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). How many kids attend your child’s school? Live in your neighborhood, town, or county?

Do the math; autism is all around us.

Your charmingly quirky colleague who knows the city bus schedule inside and out? The silent child who lines up blocks at your son’s day care? Your relative, your friend, your lover? Chances are that you know somebody who has ASD and that person is likely nothing like Rain Man.

Affected individuals vary greatly in their levels of ability and impairment. Woven into this diversity are a few shared traits, which include social impairment, language difficulties and/or delays, and restrictive and repetitive interests.

That said,  persons with ASD are just as diverse as the rest of us.

The above-mentioned triumvirate of impairments can makes the world a challenging place for even the most well-adjusted and competent person with autism. As such, educational, occupational, and psychological support are essential.

Supply, unfortunately, has not caught up with demand.

People on the autism spectrum are especially underserved in the area of mental health. Indeed, I’ve met many children who are booked from morning to night–discrete trial training, psychical therapy, occupational therapy, social groups, tutoring, you name it. These kids are receiving services full-time, often without a careful eye on their psychological health.

Is it anybody’s fault? Not really.

As I mentioned above, need far exceeds resources, which is the crux of this series. Written for practitioners as well as persons affected by autism, this series will provide practical information and resources  along with insight and resources that mental health providers can use to betters serve ASD clients and their loved ones.

Please feel free to leave a comment or send feedback privately to

Welcome to Therapy by the Bay

Hello and welcome.

My name is Alison Panko (Barbara Alison Panko, if you’re the CA Board of Psych) and I’m a psychotherapist-in-training living in sometimes sunny San Francisco. I’m a full-time intern at an agency in the North Bay; there, I see a range of clients, ranging from young people to seniors with dementia.

I’m a psychoanalytic psychotherapist with a relational, interpersonal style (read: not a blank screen). I’m also deeply practical and can see the utility in seeking solutions. I don’t believe that the practical and analytical are antithetical, not a bit.

In addition, I’m a writer, editor, amateur photographer, home cook, and animal lover; I bring all of this with me and more when I work.

Why, might you ask, does the world need yet another therapy blog?  By me? Hmmm, that’s a good question…

I’m here to offer insights about the basics of becoming a psychotherapist here in CA and beyond. I’ll also blog about several issues that are close to my heart, including (but not limited to!) autism, LGBTQI folks and therapy, adoption, depth psychology, managing transitions, and care-taking. Look for news, interviews, and book reviews, as well.

Best, Alison Panko

Disclaimer: I am not a yet a licensed psycotherapist and do not provide psychotherapeutic services via this blog. If you are experiencing a crisis, call your personal therapist, go to you local emergency room, or dial 911. I wish you the best.