COE counselor educators develop free podcast, Theory of Change, for general audiences


Pat: After 12 Years of therapy my counselor said something that brought tears to my eyes.

Mike: What did he say?

Pat: “No hablo ingles.”

We all get a laugh from this familiar joke for a number of reasons. The main one, of course, is that we understand the time, money, and pain the patient has put into the relationship with the counselor, but received nothing in return.

In the Auburn University College of Education, however, something like the opposite is taking place. Two professors and a doctoral student — all experts in the fields of counselor education and clinical mental health counseling — have developed an engaging podcast series that showcases topics relevant to counselors, counselor educators, or anyone interested in counseling topics that impact us and the people we love. 

And the cost? Nada. It’s all free and out there for everyone to enjoy. Think of it as yet another way the College of Education is simply engaged in service to others. 

The podcasts are hosted by Dr. Alfredo Palacios, assistant professor of Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and Dylan Gunther, a doctoral student in counseling education. The series also features guest host Dr. Jessica Tyler, assistant clinical professor of Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Tyler also has a private clinical therapy practice at The Wandering Mind in Columbus, GA. 

"This series really started based on our own appreciation of earlier podcasts and how we grew from them as individuals. We now have the opportunity to return the favor and give back by putting forth compelling issues for listeners to learn from and reflect on." | photo of group working on podcast

“What we do in the individual podcasts is host renowned experts on relevant topics and basically just have a conversation about the topic,” Palacios explained. “Certainly the topics would be of interest to counseling students and practitioners, but the way we explore the issues makes them accessible to pretty much anyone who is interested.” 

So far the team has produced 11 episodes, each of which lasts a little less than an hour. 

“This series really started based on our own appreciation of earlier podcasts and how we grew from them as individuals,” Palacios said. “We now have the opportunity to return the favor and give back by putting forth compelling issues for listeners to learn from and reflect on. Thanks to funding support from our college’s National Alumni Council service learning grant and a seed grant from our own department, we are pleased to bring listeners quality episodes with interesting minds.” 

Theory of Change is about … change 

People come to counselors for intentional and essential reasons. They want to be heard and understood by caring, capable professionals. But most often they are also seeking to change something about themselves or their behavior. Hence, the title of the podcast series. Some of the topics are applicable to the basic idea of “how to be a better counselor,” while others are very issue specific. Examples of these would include sessions on environmental justice, the school-to-prison pipeline, or sleep science. 

“We want this series to take listeners back to the days of the 19th century Chautauqua movement, where experts and artists and entertainers and teachers were just sharing what they knew in a public forum with the larger community,” Palacios said. “President Theodore Roosevelt was a big fan of the movement, calling Chautauqua ‘the most American thing in America.’ We love that these topics could engage students and their professors, counselors, family members, social workers, or really anyone in the helping professions. Plus it’s a whole lot of fun and we get to meet fascinating people from all over the country.” 

The hosts all agree that it is also a way to share the many unique things we enjoy at Auburn and in the College of Education. 

“The series allows us to give back to the larger community, to provide a service,” Gunther said. “We have an enormous intellectual and activist capacity here and it’s a good and joyful thing to just put it out there so anyone can benefit. Universities can get a bad rap for staying in the proverbial Ivory Tower, or in splendid isolation. What we’re doing is really the opposite of that.” 

Guest host Jessica Tyler agreed. “This podcast is for anyone who is curious about human behavior and mental health,” she said. “It would be useful for people who want to increase their knowledge about topics that affect us, and could use some tools along the way. It is ideal for both students and educators.” 

“For those unfamiliar with the podcast platform, the format is a mode of disseminating free information to those who seek it,” she continued. “By recording and sharing dialogue in this way, we engage listeners meaningfully in ancestral ways of learning through oral tradition. These dialogues are not formal lectures but rather conversational media that can be used for teaching, enlightenment, and entertainment. We want to start a discussion that continues in our listeners’ homes, work places, and within our relationships. Our goal is to strengthen our understanding of what it takes to be healthy, content, and balanced in a fast-paced world.” 

Putting the hay down where the goats can get to it 

As Dr. Tyler suggests above, many of us are in fact not familiar with the podcast platform, nor are we conversant in the counseling profession. But we at Keystone decided to check out a podcast episode for ourselves, and were delighted with what we found. 

Randomly selecting the topic of “Motivational Interviewing,” which was hosted by Alfredo Palacios, we were able to learn that motivational interviewing is a way to help people come to terms with their ambivalent feelings and insecurities. Through this client-centered “interviewing” process — which was pioneered by Carl Rogers and is really more about deep listening — the person finds the motivation needed to make positive changes to their own behavior. The counseling method acknowledges how difficult it can be to make these changes, which are often tied to behavioral issues or substance abuse and addiction. 

The guest was Dr. William R. Miller, identified as “the architect of motivational interviewing” and a leading innovator in the scholarship of the psychology of change, empathy, and effective clinical relationships. 

In spite of having no previous knowledge of the topic, we found it engaging, easy to understand, and above all useful, insightful, and inspiring. The genuine and genial flow of the discussion between Palacios and Miller made us feel a welcome part of a useful visit. 

In summary, the podcast series is a free and helpful service to the world at large. It showcases topics relevant to counselors, counselor educators, or anyone interested in counseling topics that impact us and the people we love. And it is given in service to others. 

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