Dr. Barbara LoFrisco is not only our site blogger, but a recent PhD graduate from the University of South Florida. Currently, Dr. LoFrisco works as a licensed mental health counselor, licensed marriage and family therapist, and certified sex therapist. She is also an adjunct professor at the University of South Florida. In between her busy schedule, she took some time to share with us her experiences working as a therapist as well as advice on how to choose a master’s degree program in the counseling field.
- To get us started, could you share with our readers what drew you to counseling?
- You recently earned your PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision from the University of South Florida. What an incredible accomplishment! What was the experience like and how was the program structured?
- How has earning a PhD helped your career?
- Prior to earning a PhD, you earned your master’s degree in rehabilitation and mental health counseling. What was the program like in terms of format and instruction?
- You’re very passionate about educating as well as nurturing counseling students and new counselors. What’s it like to work with the future generation of counselors?
- Since you entered the profession, what changes have you seen in the field in the last five years, both academically and professionally?
- You recently started teaching at teaching at the University of South Florida. What classes are you teaching and how’s the experience going so far?
- With so many degree options to choose from, it can be difficult to choose the right program. What advice do you have for those interested in earning a master’s degree in the counseling field?
1) MastersInCounseling.org: To get us started, could you share with our readers what drew you to counseling?
Dr. LoFrisco: I really like talking to people one-on-one, and helping them with their problems. People have always confided in me, so I knew I was a good listener. Formerly (as recently as 2004) I worked in corporate America as a software engineer. I knew I wasn’t happy doing that; and one day while sitting around my husband asked me what I REALLY wanted to do and “counseling” just came out of my mouth.
2) MastersInCounseling.org: You recently earned your PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision from the University of South Florida. What an incredible accomplishment! What was the experience like and how was the program structured?
Dr. LoFrisco: Thank you! It was a difficult but rewarding journey! The first few years were tough, as I had to take full-time classes, teach a class plus run my practice. Honestly it took me a whole year to adjust to the schedule. Then, when I moved into the dissertation phase, the work was much more focused and I only had to be on campus for my committee meetings and whatever class I was teaching. During this phase you really have to be disciplined and a self-starter because the only structure you have is what you create yourself. For me, the flexibility was a blessing.
3) MastersInCounseling.org: How has earning a PhD helped your career?
Dr. LoFrisco: I think it’s given me more respect. Both other people for me and me for myself! It’s possibly opened doors, for example I have a guest spot next week on a radio show in Connecticut, and I don’t think I would have received that if I didn’t have a PhD. I suspect it has brought me more clients, although I cannot say for sure. It just seems that I am busier now. And, of course, it’s allowed me to teach as an adjunct at the graduate level at USF, which was my original goal. Plus it’s just fun being called “doctor.”
4) MastersInCounseling.org: Prior to earning a PhD, you earned your master’s degree in rehabilitation and mental health counseling. What was the program like in terms of format and instruction?
Dr. LoFrisco: The program was 60 credit hours total and accredited by CORE. (I did not know about CACREP at the time). The program was a combination of mental health and rehabilitation classes. Many of our professors were rehab counselors and so there was a definite rehab slant even in the classes that didn’t have rehab in the title. For example, in our Career & Lifestyle Assessment class, we discussed disability quite frequently. For me, this meant two years plus one semester of full time coursework. Two of the courses, Practicum I and II involved part-time (unpaid) counseling work at an agency, in addition to attending the class that went with each one. My last semester was Internship, which was full-time work (started unpaid but I got a job offer half way through) and class time.
5) MastersInCounseling.org: You’re very passionate about educating as well as nurturing counseling students and new counselors. What’s it like to work with the future generation of counselors?
Dr. LoFrisco: It’s so much fun! I especially love supervising practicum students- they are so hungry for knowledge, and struggle with things I know they will overcome, and I know I can help them! They are so nervous at the start of the semester, and as things unfold you can see them start to relax and their skills start to emerge…it’s awesome.
6) MastersInCounseling.org: Since you entered the profession, what changes have you seen in the field in the last five years, both academically and professionally?
Dr. LoFrisco: I’ve seen CACREP grow from being relatively unknown to a rather powerful force. Meaning, it is becoming more and more widely accepted and some places will not hire counselors that did not graduate from a CACREP accredited university. It is also affecting the doctoral level- because I didn’t graduate from a CACREP PhD program many, if not most, of the full-time tenure track assistant professor positions I am technically unqualified for, even though I have almost all of the required coursework. I am not aware of any remedial efforts, meaning any programs were you could take a course or two to transform your degree in to a CACREP approved degree. Clinically, I haven’t seen any major shifts but if I had to predict one, I would say that in 10 years counseling will look completely different. The days of clients being patient and the concept of “counseling is a process” is rapidly losing favor as people seem to be opting, and expecting, quicker fixes.
7) MastersInCounseling.org: You recently started teaching at teaching at the University of South Florida. What classes are you teaching and how’s the experience going so far?
Dr. LoFrisco: I’ve actually either taught or assisted all throughout my doctorate- it is what paid my way. I’ve taught practicum three times now, and Human Sexual Issues for Counselors twice (hope to teach it again this summer). I’ve assisted teaching Trends and Principles of the Counseling Profession twice, Counseling Theories twice. I think that’s it. It’s gotten much easier, when I first started I was very nervous, now I am much more relaxed. I am also much more aware of what my boundaries are, and am much more confident about how I respond to students. I’ve also guest lectured in other departments, for example this semester alone I will have guest lectured no fewer than five times in different places on different subjects: social media, private practice, cognitive behavioral therapy, family systems and human sexuality throughout the lifespan.
8) MastersInCounseling.org: With so many degree options to choose from, it can be difficult to choose the right program. What advice do you have for those interested in earning a master’s degree in the counseling field?
Dr. LoFrisco: I would definitely look for CACREP accreditation, as well as check into the backgrounds of all of the instructors to see if they are well-versed in the area you think you are interested in. If possible, I would speak to a few current students about what the professors are like; personally I’ve had great ones that pushed me but others who really couldn’t answer questions properly or give me what I needed.