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Advocacy & Counseling Experience in Preparation for GC Grad School

Advocacy and counseling experiences are required by many Genetic Counseling Programs (GCPs). Review each GCPs application requirements on their webpage to understand how they define advocacy and counseling and what experiences are recommended and required for applicants. Some experiences will provide the opportunity for counseling & advocacy- two-for-one!

Roles in advocacy and counseling help applicants appreciate and develop interpersonal communication skills, gain different perspectives, and have a better understanding of the healthcare system or other public service system.

So what actually qualifies as advocacy?

After reviewing all 53 GCP websites, I would define advocacy (in the scope of gaining experience for GC grad school applications as: Working or volunteering for, with, or on behalf of individuals/groups who have different experiences or backgrounds than you or supporting a marginalized group or cause. Advocacy experiences typically give the applicant sufficient opportunity to work with a variety of individuals seeking information, resources, guidance, counseling, or other support services made available through the sponsoring agency or organization.

My advocacy experiences include:

  1. Volunteering in the UW in-patient psychiatric unit. I volunteered every Wednesday night for 2-3 hours for about a year and a half. I would plan and bring crafts and activities to do with the patients and just talk with them.

  2. Volunteering at the Canopy Center Child Abuse Prevention and Counseling Center for about six months. I developed activities and participated in group therapy with children living in abusive or unfavorable environments and discussed abuse prevention techniques and recommendations for abusive and struggling parents with center therapists and counselors.

  3. Volunteering with Project Worthmore as a family partner. My family was paired with a refugee family in Colorado. The goal of the program was to develop friendship, provide a sense of inclusion, and inspire cross-cultural understanding.

  4. Tutoring English for Spanish Speakers weekly for the Building Skills Partnership in Palo Alto for approximately six months.

What qualifies as counseling experience?

Counseling is the provision of assistance and guidance in resolving personal, social, or psychological problems and difficulties. Counseling opportunities that require supervision and training are ideal

My counseling experiences include:

  1. Volunteered with Student Spill at UW- Madison for three years. I provided students struggling with substance abuse and other stressors with peer support and guidance attaining appropriate campus resources.

  2. I worked full-time as a mobile crisis support counselor in the Bay Area after completing undergrad. I provided support services for individuals with developmental disabilities, mental health diagnoses or behavioral challenges.

Be sure to start looking for volunteer positions early as training may only be offered monthly or quarterly, depending on the role. Next week, I will share tips to find unique and enjoyable advocacy roles!

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