Inside Rehabilitation Counseling

Episode Two: A Conversation with Kyle Walker, MRC, CRC, CRL, CPM & Russ Thelin, M.S., LVRC, CRC, CRL

December 05, 2022 Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification
Inside Rehabilitation Counseling
Episode Two: A Conversation with Kyle Walker, MRC, CRC, CRL, CPM & Russ Thelin, M.S., LVRC, CRC, CRL
Show Notes Transcript

In the next episode of Inside Rehabilitation Counseling, Kyle Walker, MRC, CRC, CRL, CPM & Russ Thelin, M.S., LVRC, CRC, CRL, speak with CRCC Executive Director Pam Shlemon about the National Training Center for Transformational Rehabilitation Leadership Program (TRL) a collaborative partnership between the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMASS Boston, the University of Wisconsin-Stout and the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification. 

Kyle and Russ talk about the need to redefine leadership in rehabilitation counseling, and how the CRL certification will shape the next 100 years of the profession. 

Pam Shlemon (Voiceover):

Hello and welcome to Inside Rehabilitation Counseling, presented by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification. I'm Pam Shleman, executive Director of ccc, and we're so glad to have you here for another conversation about the art and science of rehabilitation counseling. In our second episode, we bring you a discussion with Russ Thelin and Kyle Walker of the Transformational Rehabilitation Leadership Program. Our conversation is all about the concept of leadership and why transformative leadership stands to make an impact on the trajectory of state vocational rehabilitation agencies and the entire field of rehabilitation counseling. We hope you find it as inspirational as we do.

Pam Shlemon, CRCC:

I'd like to introduce today's guest, Russ Thelin Senior Policy Fellow at Institute for Community Inclusion at UMF Boston and Kyle Walker, the executive director at Wisconsin Stout Vocational Rehabilitation Institute. Today we wanna talk about the National Training Center for Transformational Rehabilitation Leadership Program, also known as the TRL, a collaborative partnership between the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMass Boston, the University of Wisconsin Stout, and the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification. We are excited today to bring awareness to the evolution of the program and the impact this program has seen since it launched earlier this year. A lot of people discuss rehabilitation counseling as a calling or a pathway they felt compelled to follow. This indicates purpose. Russ and Kyle, can you tell us how you both got into the field of rehabilitation counseling and what drew you to the work? So, Russ, why don't we begin with you?

Kyle Walker:

Thanks for having us on, Pam. I appreciate this opportunity. I had finished my , um, undergraduate degree and knew that I wanted to go into counseling. I knew nothing about vocational rehabilitation. And , um, a neighbor of mine who , uh, worked in the, what was then called job service, we'd call them workforce services or , um, AJCs. Now, he informed me about a , uh, a counseling position that was open that was not too far from me, and , uh, it sounded very intriguing. And I applied for the job. I interviewed for the job and ended up being selected , um, to fill a rehabilitation counselor role , um, here in Utah within the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation, where I reside quickly, fell madly in love with what it is we do. Disability touches my life pretty quickly. I have family members and others who have disability. And so having this , um, opportunity to be a counselor within a field that , uh, assists and is a resource to individuals with disabilities, I mean, almost immediately became a passion for me as I discovered this new job that I had. So I kind of backed into it in a lot of ways as I've now been in the profession for 32 years , um, in some way or another . It is exactly the type of thing that I would've wanted to do with my life. And for that I will be forever grateful that , uh, I got connected to this profession. And you talk about a calling and a passion for what it is we do. I definitely feel that I have experienced that because of the connection I've been able to make with this profession.

Pam Shlemon, CRCC:

Thank you, Russ. Kyle, how about Yourself?

Russ Thelin:

Well, my primary career path was I , I , I was, after I finished my sociology bachelor's degree, I was working at a youth sex offender treatment program and was interested in advancing within that organization and was looking at opportunities to become a therapist or a mental health counselor. And , um, one of the individuals I was working with that evening said, have you ever looked at vocational rehabilitation counseling? And I, I knew nothing about it. And at the exact same time that I started investigating the program at Utah State University and vocational rehabilitation counseling, my father went , uh, blind with diabetic retinopathy. And what I was learning in my master's program about the fact that work is therapeutic and that it's through our employment that we connect not only with our higher self, we , uh, develop our own sense of self, but it's also through work that we connect with our community and get to know others and , um, become a contributing part of the community. At the same time, I was learning about work being therapeutic and, and that being the essential kind of core value of vocational rehabilitation counseling. My dad lost his eyesight. Um, he lost his connection to the world. He did not adjust to blindness very well and started utilizing a wheelchair for mobility, not because he needed a wheelchair, but because he didn't have mobility skills. And that created deterioration of his muscles. And he ended up , um, passing with , um, renal failure. But in a lot of ways, it was almost like that disability disconnected him from his world. And so, at the same time that I was graduating with my master's degree in rehabilitation counseling , uh, I just passionately got involved with working at the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation as a counselor.

Pam Shlemon, CRCC:

Thank you. I , we see the trajectory of individuals coming into this field. The number one thing that resonates is passion. And you don't see that in a lot of careers , um, and professions. But this field, once you're in it, you stay in it. You're very passionate and very loyal. So thank you. I appreciate that. Hey , you both have been touched by working in or familiarized with state vocational rehabilitation agencies in one way or another. Russ , when I first met you back in 2018, and I think in 19, you talked to me a little bit about some of the challenges with this field. And during that discussion, I think this is what for me started that discussion about this program. Can you tell me how this program came to be and the collaboration that developed from the idea that you

Kyle Walker:

Had? I , I remember when we met in 2018 , I remember that very distinctly. And , uh, the conversation we had, I think it was at an NCR conference , um, or a pre-conference session or something . But at any rate , um, you were new in your role and you were looking at doing some, I forget what you called them , I think tank or a focus group or something along the lines of, of , you know, what can we do for this profession and for certificates in the field, in , in terms of improving and , and continually advancing the rehabilitation profession and the , and the skills of certified rehabilitation counselors. And within that particular think tank, we got into some discussions. And I remember thinking as I was listening to the , to the dialogue and the discussion between all the different folks that were sitting around the table and all the great information that was coming along, and having been a rehabilitation counselor myself, and also having been in supervisory roles. And then, you know, more recent, you know , uh, before coming to , uh, UMass Boston, being in a leadership role as an executive director of a state agency, I started making these little connections of dots. And , and I remember saying in the group to you , to you and to the group , you know, we have this certification for individuals to be rehabilitation counselors, to demonstrate their competencies, their abilities, their professionalism. And you know, that being that , that pinnacle of the profession in providing meaningful services to individuals with disabilities. And I said , you know what we need , it would be great if we had a certification for leaders of rehabilitation counselors, so that there was some level of recognition, certification, some level of, of competency and capacity to be leaders of individuals who are doing the most meaningful counseling to individuals with disabilities to find success in employment and in life, and adjustment on all those types of things. And I remember in the group watching, you know, some light bulbs go off and people were writing , you know, things down and, and we went on and we finished that particular , um, event . And then , uh, a little while later, you contacted me again and said, you know, what you said really resonated and would like to work with you and to develop a training program for leaders of rehabilitation counselors of rehabilitation agencies. Not specific to public vocational rehabilitation, but rehabilitation in general. And so it was that connection maybe that, that connecting of the dots and the comment and then , um, how that comment kind of fit within the larger discussion and your , you know, processing what came out of those think tank , um, series and sessions to bring it back around to let's make this happen. And it was so exciting for me because it was the perfect opportunity, I think, for , um, us as partners and to look at other potential partners to start to bring into reality something that is a , that is specifically about leadership, specifically about transformation, and specifically about finding ways through leadership to , um, continually improve rehabilitation program services in whatever fashion that they exist. And , um, as I started working with you on that , um, it became very clear to me because of some of the work that Kyle and I have done in the past , um, specifically around leadership and around program improvement of , of vocational rehabilitation that I wanted to bring him on board , talked with him. He was relatively new in the position he's in now, and , uh, was , he was super excited about being a part of it , uh, partly because it provided to us a way to kind of build on some of the work that we've done in the past. And, and here we are , you know, we're now working together , um, stout, CCC and the ICI at UMass Boston on this particular

Russ Thelin:

Project. Well , I think what I would add is , um, when I graduated with my master's degree in rehabilitation counseling and got my first job as a VR counselor in a state agency, it was actually the first day on the job that some veteran VR counselors in the office kind of got together with the rookie and said, it's, it's great that you learned all these skills and you've got your crc. Um, but let me tell you what the job's really about. And they quickly enculturated me to the fact that the organization I was working within , um, had a culture that was very bureaucratic, very system process, policy, procedure focused. It was very focused on creating a, a pipeline of outcomes that was very numbers driven rather than individual client by client based . And what I quickly learned was that the organization's needs came first. The bureaucracies needs came first, and my job was to make the client that I was working with fit the system's needs rather than vice versa. And as I grew up within that, that organization , uh, and advanced into management and then , uh, leadership positions, I recognized really quickly that when you, Pam, you , you mentioned people coming to this profession for the passion that they have, Russ and I actually led a group of our leadership in a retreat where we asked them to circle up and talk about the passion that brought them to this profession. And then we asked about what do we do in this organization to either sap that passion out of you or to empower that passion and to build and stoke that passion? And Russ and I heard very clearly that the organization's culture and process and history and our management focus had really , um, sapped the passion from people and had made them not necessarily apathetic, but very much deeply troubled by the fact that they were not able to maximize their skill sets for their clients because they were here to serve the organization. And so that began a process where Russ and I started working on realigning that organization , um, to be more centered on are we, are we fitting the organization to meet the client's needs rather than fitting the clients to meet the organization's needs? Um, that was a great experience for me. And I, I ended up , um, leaving that agency and working for another agency that was a , a blind agency. I applied a lot of the same things because I found the exact same cultural issues there. And then I started recognizing that across the system. As I've worked on different technical assistance center projects and other, other consulting projects, I've just recognized that this is a systemic issue. Um, we've, we have over applied scientific management principles to the point that our organizations are overmanaged and underled. And that has sapped the passion that our folks come to this profession for. And frankly, what makes them successful with clients is that in our personal relationship, based on mutual goals, if we sap that passion out of what the programs meant to do , uh, we're we're gonna continue to see problems with our outcomes.

Kyle Walker:

When we talk about, you know, that activity we did where, you know, what was it that brought you to this profession? And we did this te this this poster session with individuals, and we started talking about what are the things that we do that, that drive this passion from us? It was one of the best experiences in my leadership experience. What I learned that really significant lesson was we inadvertently, and sometimes without really knowing it, within our systems, we do those things that we think are good for the system, but they end up being detrimental sometimes when we award certain types of activities or behaviors or performance within our VR systems. In doing that, we're creating damage on other ends because we're awarding things that maybe are to that scientific process and not necessarily , and it kind steers away inadvertently from our primary customer individuals with disabil . And it was really kind of a aha moment for me to kinda reevaluate what is our culture, what are the pieces that we want to work on? Where is it that we're putting our energy and are we putting our energy into things in a balanced way? Kyle talked about the scientific management , and I , I think that there's a , there is a place for management and there's a place for leadership within agencies, and we wanna maintain that balance . There's goodness in having a healthy tension between leadership and management because you need both of those . But if our balance is principally leaning toward, or , or we're not balanced in leaning toward management, then we're really not doing things that are leadership oriented. And that tends to draw us away from not only the balance , but it draws us toward maintaining the status quo. It draws us toward making sure we're meeting extrinsic rewards, like what we need to report to, you know, whoever we report to. And it reinforces those things. Whereas if we have balance, we're still doing those things, we're taking care of the management business, but we're not solely focused on it, and we can start to talk about how do we need to improve, how do we make sure that we're providing experiences for the people that we're serving in a way that it's energizing, supporting, empowering, creating awareness of their capacities within themselves rather than, you know, fostering dependency on us as we simply manage them through some experience. And I think that that's just, I mean, there , there's a leadership role in creating that environment. And that's a big piece of what we were trying to work on with this particular project, is making sure that we're finding that appropriate balance between management and leadership that moves us forward and provides the culture that is meeting primary customer needs.

Russ Thelin:

You know, right now I'm working with a lot of state agencies and even private rehab firms that are having significant staff turnover issues at the VR counselor level. And when we really get in and start looking at why people are leaving, they feel a disconnect between how they were trained professionally and what their job and their scope of practice is , and what they can do to benefit clients and what the job is actually structured to do. And in , in my feeling, that's a leadership issue, when you start seeing turnover, sometimes our instincts tell us, well, it's low pay or it's, it's benefit issues, or they have better options elsewhere that we just can't keep up with. But really we've taken out all of the intrinsic motivators that stoke the passion of why they came into this profession in the first place. Those are the things that we can lead in a different way to make sure that people are being intrinsically rewarded for the passion that they have for what we do. That takes leadership to get to that level.

Pam Shlemon, CRCC:

For myself being executive leadership for , uh, the last 30 some years and attending various different leadership training courses and programs and after reading. And I just wanna point out, you both are authors to the curriculum of this program, and after reading the different coursework that you both developed, it's very different than the traditional leadership programs. And I think both of you touched upon, and I wanna talk a little bit more about transformational leadership. There's a big difference between leadership and transformational leadership, and so I'm gonna talk a little bit about that. What does leadership mean to you? Can you talk a little bit about that for each of you? Kyle, do you wanna begin?

Russ Thelin:

Basically, organizations have two seemingly conflicting needs. On the one hand, we need rational approaches to managing resources, to making decisions, and managers create order. They preserve the , the status quo by creating that order. They foster stability, they foster creating controls. They're really interested in making sure that there's compliance with your policies and your procedures. They wanna make sure there's checks and balances. They wanna make sure that you have things that are reliable, dependable, predictable, efficient, effective, and their focus is on risk avoidance. And , uh, how do we avoid catastrophic risk? Their energies are directed towards things and tasks and goals and resources and structures, and their, their energy is focused on how do we best manage what we have now to meet the current need? The problem is that organizations also need something else. And what they need is an emotional exploration of new ideas, thinking outside of the norm. They want the , the organizations need people who can identify opportunities that are being created by change. That's happening around us. Leadership is about helping people form a sense of identity. That is one in the same with what the organization's trying to do as, as far as its core purpose. Leadership is focused on relationships where management is focused on tasks, management's focused on transactions that if you do your job, I'm going to reward you if you don't do your job, we're going to take corrective or disciplinary action where leaders are much more interested in what are the value shared values that you and I share? What is our shared purpose? What is the ideals and the principles that we're gonna make decisions off in order to keep pace with the changing world around us and to grow and develop and continuously improve? Those are two conflicting needs that each organization has. And I've been through a lot of leadership training over the years that really was management training or was supervisory training mm-hmm . <affirmative> or was administrator training. And those are all different functions and, and I think sometimes we have to be very careful about the words we use. So leadership to me is more about how do I help the folks that I'm working with emotionally connect with the purpose of what , where we're going and how do I instill in them a set of values that on a Friday at five 30 when I'm not available and a client comes in their door , uh, at the last minute, that they, they can make decisions and behave in a way that's consistent with the organization's values.

Kyle Walker:

I think that when we are in the field of rehabilitation, there's a lot of things that we do. We hear a lot about the, all the tasks and the responsibilities that rehabilitation counselors have now, and, you know, there's, there's a lot that is there for us by mandate or by, you know, policy and procedure and process and, and there's, those are important things to have, but when we talk about management, we're talking about the things that we do. So management is the doing side of rehabilitation. Leadership, I think helps us define beyond the what we do to the who we are . It's that element that says, this is who I am or who we are in how I do what it is we do . And I think there's a real significance to that because if we're simply doing the doing, then we're really taking out the passion, we're taking out the inspiration, we're taking out the , um, the support that helps somebody feel like they can be that critical link to create a meaningful experience for the person they're doing things for. But if we have a sense of who we are in doing what we do, then we're bringing those elements that Kyle talked about into play . We're talking about what is the purpose. And when we talk about purpose, I'm talking about affective purpose of what it is we're doing . It's not just about getting a person through a series of steps or statuses or processes. Yes, we have that, but are we creating an ex , I keep coming back to this , are we presenting things in a way that we're creating experiences for people so that they're empowered because of the empowerment that the people providing help to them are empowered, which comes by leadership, creating the culture and the condition where those staff feel empowered. And I just feel that if we're doing things that are creating intrinsic, purposeful value and purpose and , and vision of what we're trying to create, and we can align that across the board with all of our staff , now we're leading and we're leading in a way where we can position ourselves as leaders to meet whatever their particular needs are , are Sometimes the role of the leader is to be out front leading, kinda putting the charge on, so to speak, once in a while , leadership, if we're doing it in this empowering kind of way. And, and we're helping create this culture where staff can , um, meet needs of individuals. Maybe it's walking alongside them and just encouraging. Sometimes leading might be being behind them and giving a gentle nudge, giving a little bit of a push, letting people risk, kind of stepping outside that risk diversion side that the management tends to find itself in . And so as a leader, we become much more dynamic in what it is that we do, depending on where things are as an organization to help it move into that vision of what it's gonna be in doing what it is it

Pam Shlemon, CRCC:

Does . Thank you so much for sharing that. We're here for one purpose, and that is the Individuals with disabilities. It's an asynchronous, a program with several courses and includes community of practice, learning, collaboratives, ongoing learning, leadership support, and when individuals have completed the coursework and complete the capstone, and once they pass, excuse me, they will earn the Certified Rehabilitation Leadership certification. We'll talk a little bit more about certification, but Kyle and Russ, as we talked about, there's many different types of leadership programs. Talk to me a little bit about this particular program and what transformational rehabilitation leadership training is. We launched this program in January. Are there any goals that from the inception have changed based on what you've learned from our participants?

Russ Thelin:

Well, I'll, I'll start with the , the last part of that question. Are there things that we've learned from the three cohorts that we've , uh, been engaged with in this first year? I think that the answer to that question is on, on the one hand, I think that we've worked with people from private organizations, from public organizations, state agencies, vocational rehabilitation agencies in the federal government. And what what I've learned from that is the profound commonalities that when we talk about the dysfunction of leadership, we're not targeting and saying that it's one industry that has this problem. Um, I've actually become more and more convinced that this is a societal issue that affects all organizations that are out there. Um, we, we tend to think of management as the end all be all of running a good organization no matter what that organization is. And sometimes we forget about that emotional leadership connection and helping innovate and change and grow and develop. So having said that, a lot of what we've learned this year has reinforced what's in the curriculum To me, it , it's told me that we , uh, really hit close to home because we've had people emotionally viscerally react to some of the elements in the curriculum and, and tell us this is true to my experience. So that has been very good for, for me because I, when you write and develop a curriculum like this, you wonder, am I missing anything that I haven't experienced in my life that that might be important Here we divided up the , the curriculum based on six domains of leadership, which we will talk about and kind of explain what those six domains are. But what I've found is that those are the six key elements that I keep getting reinforced from our, our cohort group that really are where our human organizations are going off track when it comes to , um, missing that element of how do you inspire people to do the best work that they can when they come into work. We, we've learned along the way that, that , you know, that you always learn new things and, and really I think that that actually has been one element of leadership that has been taught to me throughout this course is leadership is actually about learning, continuous learning. You're always a student and there's a concept in Zen Buddhism, it's called the beginner's mind. And, and the approaches is that no matter how big of an expert you come on, anything, always approach it with a beginner's mindset like you're a novice. And really that's, that's one of the more powerful things I've seen from the cohort groups is true leadership starts with curiosity. Curiosity to to learn, to grow, to develop. And you never stop trying to grow and develop. And you also make sure that the people you're working with , uh, have that same kind of learning mentality of constantly developing and growing,

Kyle Walker:

Having done, we're we're just completing our, we're we're completing our second and most of the way through our third cohort and changes to the program. Fundamentally, no, because as Kyle said, we're finding that people are really , uh, this information, the content is really resonating and we're watching people have this connection that Kyle talked about. And so I just wanna reinforce that the curriculum is really six module that make up the overall curriculum, and they're done in a very , um, sequential kind of way. One of the things that we try to share with those that are participating is once they get about three or four modules in, we start talking about how the modules are laid out and the fact that they're not just randomly laid out, they're laid out in a very purposeful sequence. We start with obviously purposeful leadership. What is the purpose that you are leading toward? And as you establish that purpose, and you know within that, you start talking about vision and you start talking about values and, and , um, your, your brand, you know, because it's important that your brand be aligned with your purpose because oftentimes a person's purpose and their brand may not be all that synchronous in nature. And then the other part of that is making sure that you have a mission, you know, and we know mission , we know our mission well, but do we know our vision? Do we know our values? Do we know our brand? So that, that builds up on that. Our second module is conscious leadership. The third module touches on cultural leadership. And so if we have our purpose and we , or we're we come to realize our purpose , then we can be conscious about how it's we're leading and does that align with and is it leading us toward fulfilling our purpose , our vision , our values , our brand , our mission . And then once we're conscious about our leadership style, and are we doing it in alignment to meet that purpose , then we start talking about cultural leadership as the third module, which is really the place you wanna be at that third point so that you're consciously leading your purpose to be the culture of your organization and creating and establishing and working through that creation of the culture. And you don't do that in a top down , autocratic kind of way. You let the organization build that, that culture with you leading it so that there's buy-in, so that there's participation so that the passion can come forward and you , um, establish this culture that everyone is aligned to. Because if it's, if they're not aligned to it, it's not their culture. Once you get culture, then you have the flexibility within that culture to start being creative. And that's the fourth module, creative leadership allowing for the ability to break the status quo, to start to be innovative, to start to look at ways that you can do things in a different kind of way that creates more of that environment that you want the , uh, individual to come and thrive within when they come for services. Which leads to the fifth module, which is inspirational leadership. This is that part where leadership is inspired not only from the leader but from each other within that organization. And people start to reconnect and their passion starts to grow from that at that level. And when we start to feel inspired because of the creativity we're provided, that exists because of the culture we're in, because our leaders were conscious. I'm walking backwards, you can tell . Then we get to a point where leadership becomes collaborative and collaborative leadership is where everyone is a leader. Yes , there are roles, yes , there are responsibilities , but when we're collaborative in leadership organizationally, everyone leads in their domain and everyone leads each other in this way that creates synergy for the agency to move forward. Some of the best ideas from , uh, when I was a leader of an agency came from collaborative leadership where an idea came from a counselor in one field or a rehab technician in a , in another part of the state or whatever. When ideas become collaborative, we all benefit and move forward.

Pam Shlemon, CRCC:

So I wanna talk a little bit about , um, certification and why we felt this was important. I I certainly can talk about that, but I'd like to hear from both of you. I , I believe in continual learning , uh, and educating yourself, but it's not a one and done. Um , and the difference between the importance of certification over a certificate program , um, do either one of you wanna talk a little bit about

Russ Thelin:

That? For me, I feel like the Certified Rehabilitation Leader certification is a compliment to the CRC certification. It, it really is about trying to prepare leaders with leadership skills that they can help CRCs implement the full force of our, of our profession and the value that we have for the people that we work with. There's a lot of trainings out there in management, and there are great trainings, and like I said, management is something that is definitely in need of organizations. But my, my concern is there wasn't really anything that I saw that was out there that really got back to the heart of how do you balance that management approach with a leadership approach that really facilitates a CRC being able to practice at the highest level possible. So for me, the c l the goal has always been how do we create a national certification that is complimentary to the crc, that through those leaders, they can develop organizations that are led in such a way that CRCs can maximize their, their professional abilities.

Kyle Walker:

You know, we we're living in a, in a work world right now , um, in an economy and where talent is needed . And one of the ways that this competencies and the skills of those talents are manifest are through industry recognized credentials. I mean , we see that within the rehabilitation , um, program itself , uh, in helping individuals to obtain industry recognized credentials and to have measurable skill gains within their occupations and so forth. And so I think this is very much in alignment with the workforce of today. As Kyle mentioned, you know, we have a certified, there's an industry recognized credential with the crc. Those who lead individuals who are CRC now have an industry recognized credential that provides, I think a skill and a set of skills and competencies for them to know how to meaningfully provide leadership to those highly qualified rehabilitation counseling professionals. And I think that it's in that space where we can start to bring administrative and clinical and, you know, client as well as personal development together to be the fertile field within which everyone can grow from the client or the customer all the way through to that executive for the betterment of the program overall. And that's where I think that the certification really can make a

Pam Shlemon, CRCC:

Difference. Of course, I would agree with both of what you said. State VR agencies are at a critical juncture right now. Uh , there's a lot of obstacles and barriers that are affecting what's taking place in those agencies. The largest employer for CRCs is state VR agencies. And as you both said, folks are leaving those agencies. And so who's gonna be affected the most, our clients with disabilities who are already underserved? So we have to be able to do something to stop this trajectory of what's happening. And I think this program certainly is a stepping stone to get there. We certainly know this is focused on state agencies, who within the state agencies should attend this program. And we also have to remember there's individuals outside of state agencies that can benefit from that. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Russ Thelin:

So we designed this curriculum to be accessed by anybody, anyone can engage in this program because leadership comes from anywhere within an organization. Having said that, I think that there's a lot of value that we've added to people that are in any level of the organization. We do have some peer mentors that we have , uh, employed in this program that have extensive leadership experience in , uh, VR agencies, both private and public and, and state and , and different levels. So you're going to be able to create a network of mentors that, that you can pick their brain. But we've had people from the very , uh, front end of an organization that wanted to develop their leadership to be able to lead up the hierarchy, but we've also had people that, that are leading , uh, down the hierarchy as well. Having said that , um, I also have had conversations with , uh, some big private rehab insurance companies and others that we went through the curriculum with them and they felt like it wasn't, they felt like it was generalizable enough , uh, and not specific to state VR agencies in a way that they felt like it was hugely beneficial. And they're, they're starting the process to engage with us on this. We've also had community rehab programs in private organizations that are , um, in, in other areas like the national , um, clearinghouse for rehabilitation training materials. We had a , an individual go through with that organization and they felt like this was very germane to what they were doing. We had , um, the Helen Keller National Center, we had some , uh, individuals go through with them and they felt like , um, even though they're not a state VR agency, quote unquote , they felt like this very much appeal applied to and, and appealed to some of the issues that they were, they were dealing with. So I would say that even though it was designed , um, kind of with that largest industry employer in mind, it's very much applicable to any setting. Part

Pam Shlemon, CRCC:

Of the call for this certification is transforming the field for the next 100 years. As we all know, over a hundred years ago, rehab counseling was legislated into existence and is the only form of counseling developed this way? What does a training program like this do to shape the future of our field , both for participants and those who've received services?

Kyle Walker:

If you wanna change things better for the future, sometimes you have to go back and find those pieces in the past that are essential for that, that we drifted away from. So much of what the rehabilitation counseling field and what rehabilitation does, whether it's public or private or whatever, is about creating the environment for their capacity to be fulfilled. When you focus on meeting the individual needs for people and you create the culture for people to do what needs to be done for them , the processes all work out , the procedures get followed, the outcomes end up being better than you could have anticipated. And so rather than focusing on the outcomes, focus on meeting the services that our people have and the way that those services can be provided and let the numbers take care of themselves , you still need to pay attention to them . Let's focus on what it is we're doing with the people and track the outcomes rather than just focusing on the outcome.

Russ Thelin:

I think our profession's unique in , in a lot of ways, you mentioned that we were legisla legislated into existence, but I also think that one other important aspect of our profession that maybe contrast a lot with other counseling professions is because of the work of CCC and other groups, we have a very substantial body of knowledge that, of the art and the science of rehabilitation council . And I kind of see this leadership training as maybe my attempt to do two things. The first is to get the profession to reclaim who we are supposed to be and reclaim the basic core values of our profession. That , that the principles that guided our professions development into who we are supposed to be. And then the second piece is to innovate and transform in who we need to become. I

Pam Shlemon, CRCC:

Couldn't agree with you more. Well said. What is one of the most valuable pieces of advice you would offer a new CRC or professional considering this career that maybe you weren't told when you entered the

Russ Thelin:

Field? Don't lose your passion because of the system that you become employed in or the , uh, the environment in which you work in. Um, our clients need you to retain the passion that you came into the field with. And as somebody who's ran different organizations, we desperately need leaders at every single level asking tough questions of why we're doing the things we're doing and how it's actually benefiting our clients. Yes, become enculturated and learn how to, to , uh, be successful in the job, but make sure you're always asking the tough questions about, and , and not just accepting the thought stoppers of, well, we've always done it this way, so we need to continue doing it this way. Or the thought stoppers that you hear that, that , uh, get you out. Always keep in mind that rehabilitation counseling, just like leadership is all about relationship, relationship, relationship, relationship. And if you can focus on good relationships with your client, I know that that's gonna lead to better client outcomes and more satisfaction. I feel like as leaders, if we can focus on those, we lead and focus on that relationship and help them grow and develop, they're going to have better outcomes and better performance. It , to me, it's, it's the same principles, but applied in a different kind of

Kyle Walker:

Direction. Maybe the answer that I'll give if I can just tweak your question just a little bit, Pam, you know, what would I say to someone who is not coming into the profession, but who is considering coming into leadership within the profession? We need you. We need people who are leaders in rehabilitation. We need individuals who can come and build relationships, who can connect with the profession at all levels of the organization, whatever organization that is. So that trust can be generated for uniform and aligned purposes and values to bring rehabilitation forward in a way that individuals get excited to come to rehabilitation so that they know that they are someone when they come here and not just a case or not just a number, or not just the next person that this individual's going to see , but that from when they get off the elevator at the top of the stairs or come in the door, that they feel like they're the most important person in that room at that moment. And if we can have leaders that create that culture and that we can work with those relationships so that that relationship between the leader and the professional is the same kind of relationship between the counselor and the professional and that client , then we're leading things forward in a way that lives are going to be changed significantly . We're going to see a significant return of action for and about and around rehabilitation from everyone who's involved.

Pam Shlemon, CRCC:

Kyle and Ross, I just , uh, thank you so much for your leadership, for your support for the profession and the work that you're doing to make this profession a better place to be. I am so excited to share this podcast with not only our stakeholders , but those outside of our field, because I think this podcast was not only inspiring, motivating, educational as well. So I wanna thank you today for your time and I look forward to the ongoing conversation that we'll have in the near future. Thank you.

Kyle Walker:

Thank you, Pam. It's been a pleasure. Thank you.

Pam Shlemon (Voiceover):

We would like to thank Russ Thelin and Kyle Walker for their time and insights. You can learn more about c certification on our website, crc certification.com. Join us next month for conversation with Dr . James McNeil, director of counseling at Carolina University, who will share with us his perspective as a CRC who has worked with major corporations like Lowe's and Amazon. If you have any questions you'd like us to answer on a future episode, let us know by emailing us at contact us@crccertification.com. Be sure to subscribe to Inside Rehabilitation Counseling on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, or wherever you're listening to us today. And don't forget to give us a like on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn @CRCCert. Until next time, I am CRC Executive Director, Pam Schleman. Thank you for listening to Inside Rehabilitation Counseling.