Category: Counseling

Healing from pain in our life.

We all have suffered pain and hardship in our life at one time or another. Sometimes it might have been unavoidable, and sometimes it is pushed upon us and beyond our control. We don’t always know why it had to happen, but we know with a certainty that it leaves a huge impact on us. For some types of issues, it is a trauma so deep that even years later we cannot utter the words about it. In other cases, it is just a bothersome memory that might have bruised our pride, or perhaps, even our ego. In either case, we know that human beings are quite resilient and capable of moving forward and breaking free from the pain being felt from the negative events that took place in our life. We have examples of these already if we only thing back to times when we have overcome such issues in the past.

So how does one get to a place where they can learn to let go of past hurts and feelings? We learn how to forgive, in a way that sets us free from the bondage of bitterness, resentment, and even hatred. We need to understand what forgiveness is, and what it is not. In the area of mental health, forgiveness can be seen as a release from holding the offending person(s) in our mind as captives for wrongs done to us. Ultimately, the holding on to resentment or bitterness long term is really only causing us damage. The impact of holding on to the these grudges or negative feelings toward other people can result in mental, emotional, physical, and even, spiritual sickness. 

Forgiveness does not mean that the person who committed the offense or wrong against us, is necessarily off the hook. We may not ever want to see the offending party again despite our offering of forgiveness – even if only to ourselves about those who hurt us. What forgiveness does, is it empowers us to set ourselves free from no longer being enslaved to our thoughts and pain. It is also perhaps one of the greatest steps we can take to move into a process of healing. Now, some may say, “No, I will never forgive [name] for [enter offense here] as long as I live.” Well, the end result, is [name] is off and moving forward with life, while you are still at the point (at least mentally) where the offense or wrong doing occurred – and that could have been many years ago. You are effectively holding yourself back, thinking that you are punishing the person(s) who did this offense, but in reality, you are simply perpetuating a cycle of victim/persecutor within your mind.

Now, what if the person who wronged you, came to you and said they were sorry for what happened. Would that change things for you? Would you be more inclined to offer forgiveness, or continue to hold a grudge. Some people might offer forgiveness, but there are still many people who would likely hold on to the grudge. Perhaps as a way to keep someone at a distance from us to avoid being hurt again in the future, or as a weapon against the offending person so as to have something to always hold against them. As if to remind the offender of how you see them with a major imperfection. Again, you are the one holding on to that toxicity, and doing far more damage to yourself than to the other person. What ever the reasons of forgiving or not forgiving in either case, it clearly can be said that one approach certainly seems more healthy than the other.

There are times when we feel stuck in our grief or anger, and need to get a nudge in the right direction to move us into a place of better health and living. Counseling can be helpful with this of course. Seeing a counselor can be effective in helping you process your thoughts and feelings and gain a greater level of perspective about what is troubling you. Consider a counselor if you think that there is a need of help in moving through your pain that you are holding onto in your life. Most times, avoiding the pain doesn’t resolve, the problem it merely gets shoved into a closet. Hopefully this information is helpful as you begin examining people you want to forgive in your own life.

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Creating Balance.

Most of us, when we move through our lives at such a fast pace, find that it is tough to think of ourselves as having time for anything else. We run from one appointment to the next, from one task to the next, and before we know it, we are burned out and exhausted. It is important to focus on finding time to do other things that help us find a balanced focus in living our busy life. The old adage “all work and no play” is quite appropriate here, and gives an important lesson on finding time to do less stressful things that bring joy into our lives (even if doing the work we do does that as well). We need to create a life that is filled with a myriad of experiences, ones that create rest and renewal but also connect us to new adventures, making new friends (or keeping in contact with the old ones), and providing time for healing.

The rat race world for most of us, leads to many different negative healthy issues, and the behavior of always tasking or running from here to there catches up with us sooner or later. Some of us work 80+ hours a week, and find little time for sleep. Some of us sleep for 80 hours a week and work less than a normal day. Some of us shop, or travel excessively. Some of us eat too much out of emotional needs, or eat too little in an effort to lose weight. We do all sort of things to excess – good or bad. Unless we focus on creating a balanced approach to living out lives, we find that the things we are doing are taking control of us, rather than us being in control. Finding moderation in all things can be challenging, but not impossible.

You might be asking, “where do I begin?”. Well, in this kind of situation, it is best to start out making small changes, giving you time to adjust to new routines and ways of doing things. You don’t have to change all your behaviors at once, but you may eventually recognize that that there are many areas that need your attention. Asking yourself some questions like “What is one thing I can do this week, to remove some stress or pressure from my schedule?”, or “Can I cut back a few hours of work to get more sleep?”. How about finding time to just sit and read a book for a half hour, or watch a comedy before rushing into the kitchen to do dishes right after walking in the door? The issues you are facing in your life are yours to address, but to be aware of their impact is hugely important in maintaining your mental, emotional, and even physical health.

When you get to the place where you are adopting new behaviors and changing old ones to reflect more balance, your outlook on life will also change dramatically. You will feel better, eat better, sleep better, enjoy other healthy activities, and find a new joy (or rediscover the one you might have left behind), in living a life that is well balanced. This will take time, and you don’t have to be perfect at it. Creating a balanced life requires patience, flexibility, openness to change, and an awareness of what needs work in your life. Sometimes a counselor or friend can be helpful is identifying those areas that need attention. Seeking out that assistance is great way to gain outside objectivity, and allows others the chance to be open and honest with you as you explore this process. May you find the joy and peace that comes with being in and creating balance for your life.

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Responsibility & Accountability

One of the most important lessons I teach clients stems from a premise that every adult ought to embrace an acknowledgement of consequences from actions. That is, unless a person suffers from mental health or behavioral issues that prevent them from using reasoning or judgment and accepting an outcome in which they are involved, then they are responsible and accountable for everything they say and do in their life. And barring the above condition, there is no escaping this fact. It is a principle upon which all people have a direct relationship to events – from the least, to the greatest. If you are involved or play a part in issue “A”, and because of that involvement a particular outcome occurs (“B”), then you are held to account for your part in that series of events (“C”).

Living a life where there are no consequences to our actions would create societal chaos. Not to mention that we would feel that we could do whatever we want without any form of punishment or a need to make restitution. When I work with clients, I impart to them the lesson of responsibility and accountability, and I have discovered in my clinical practice work that many clients try really hard to remove themselves from their own role of why things were happening in their life. They soon learned that their success, failure, happiness, and overall outcome to anything in their life was directly proportionate to their level of action (or inaction); decisions; behaviors; and in holding (or not holding) themselves responsible and accountable. When a client works to deny that such things do not apply in a situation because of an “X” or “Y” factor (some outside third party or uncontrolled event), I remind them that they are only held responsible and accountable for their part – their role in that situation.

Therapy works with the same principle. It is ineffective for a client to come to therapy with the thought that they will work on themselves but not truly hold themselves accountable and responsible for the success of therapy. The effectiveness of therapy is largely on the client’s shoulders, since it is about their life and personal growth work. Taking a psoition of abdication can hamper the way a client receives counseling skills from the therapist, or affect how the client will make improvements over the course of therapy.

If you as the prospective client are considering therapy with a counselor, you will likely be encouraged to embrace the idea that you are responsible and accountable for your actions. Sure, you can deny this truth within yourself, but the facts will still apply. We cannot move through life with a sense of disregarding our role of the impact we play in our life or in the lives of other people. When we come to the place where we can and do acknowledge that we have a say in what we do or do not do that helps or hurts us, then we can learn to make better decisions and improve our overall level of functioning.

Therapy is meant to provide a supportive environment to build and grow into that acknowledgment and development of awareness of how we run our lives. The therapist is ready and willing to assist you as you reach for your best self, attain the goals that create your highest good, and manifest the changes you desire to that end. Be open and receptive to the truth of accepting responsibility and accountability for what you say and do, and the success of therapy will fall into place. This will in turn create you into a new person that has the ability to recognize the role you play in your own life, and how to make better choices. It will be worth one of the greatest gifts you give yourself.

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Healthy engagements with other people.

Do you have people in your life that give you trouble? Do you often feel that you are not valued by those in your life who are friends, or maybe even family? We form connections with people outside of our family, but sometimes those engagements are not always beneficial to us. Sometimes the relationships we have start out as healthy, but end up being not as healthy as they were when we first met the person. If you find yourself in such a situation, you might find it useful to consider what you need to do to create that healthy space in your life. For some people, this might entail communicating with the person in question and expressing your thoughts and feelings about what isn’t working in your connection with the friend. If there is difficulty in doing this, maybe writing down some free flow thoughts on paper to get to a place where you can center your thoughts on the actual problem you are experiencing. Then having an open and honest conversation with your friend to see if there is mutual agreement or not, and what can be done to work through the challenge.

Communication that is respectful and supportive is central to a healthy interaction with anyone, whether it be family, friends, co-workers, or even neighbors. We want to be valued for who we are and where we are in our life. And if you find yourself in a relationship with someone who is not honoring you, then it becomes important for you to protect yourself emotionally, psychologically, or maybe even physically. For family connections, this becomes a bit more difficult at times. While you might not be able to divorce your family relationships in the strict sense, sometimes we have to distance ourselves from some members in our family who are toxic to us, just to survive. This is okay, as self-preservation of our own comfort and ability to be happy should be paramount. We do not need to sacrifice these things for the sake of family. Other people in our life should be viewed with a more honest examination. Those who do not bring us joy, or who do not give us a sense of being valued and respected, really do not need to be in our life. It is not healthy, and they will often tear us down in multiple ways.

Relationships are built on trust, respect, mutually supportive interactions, and positive regard for the other person. When these components of a healthy relationship are not present, the energy in the relationship is out of balance, and can damage you or the other person. Caring enough to hear the concerns of your friend and honor the friendship in this way, is just as important as being cared for enough to be heard and honored by your friend. So it is a mutually agreed upon connection. If there is a break in that connection, it can damage the way you connect with the person. Sometimes it takes an honest look at why we are in the friendship. What value is the friendship offering us, or what good are we receiving from the person with whom we are engaged? These are questions that become essential for us as individuals, but also reflect our willingness to protect ourselves from abusive interactions.

Many of the clients I have worked with in therapy, seem to have a theme of not knowing how to deal with a particular person in their life. What is central to this question, is to assess the central problem in your engagement with the person; the value of the relationship; the desire to maintain the relationship; what you can control in the relationship (and here’s a hint…it’s just your response and actions you can control); and whether the other person is willing to examine the concerns with you that you feel are important. These take time to consider, and they become the basis to making a decision in whether or not to continue the connection. While not always perfect, all friendships and engagements with other people have rough spots and disagreements. So taking the time to reflect and consider what is wrong and if it can be worked out is crucial. Counseling can help in this regard. Seeking out a therapist who can provide an objective, uninvolved perspective might clear up so many questions, and help you come to a good decision. Allow yourself to be open to seek out the help you need to engage with people around you in healthy ways, and always remember that you have the right to be respected and honored as you seek your highest self and look for those who share those values.

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Self-care.

These two words, represent an idea that few people seem to do effectively. Most people work long hours until they get sick, do not eat well, fail to get adequate rest, and do other things that are not healthy or good in providing positive results in their life. If you find that this might be true in your own life, then I encourage you to keep reading. I too am just as susceptible to this lack of awareness in keeping myself balanced. I tend to try to do too much in one day, and usually end up being ineffective in doing most of it when I don’t take time out to rest, eat, enjoy life, and find balance.

I spoke to a woman today who works 12 hour days, and commutes. I commented that when we get to the place where we forget to take care of ourselves, it becomes a routine not to do it, and that we then run the risk of a whole host of other issues. Poor health, exhaustion, and lack of balance, just to name a few. We need to decide to give ourselves time for ourselves. We need to reflect on our wants and needs and make sure that we can create a balance that offers us a chance to be productive in living our lives, but also finding time for rest and renewal.

This is where going for walks, watching a movie, spending time with friends, playing with our pets, or just sitting and listening to our breath can become spaces of time that we will thank ourselves for later. If you find yourself not able to function and do all the things you are use to do doing, I would encourage you to take a step back and look at where you are putting your energy. Is any of it for yourself? If you are in a toxic relationship for example, consider the impact it has on you and what you need to do to take care of yourself. if the issue is over work or some other matter, what can you do to create peace and harmony in your life. You deserve to have it, and no one else can really give it to you. So it becomes hugely important to take time on a regular basis and look within and without, and find ways to increase self-care. Counseling can be helpful in this was too, and if you find the need to pursue counseling you will likely find a supportive ear as you explore ways to create more balance in your live. May you be willing to take greater care of your life, as a gift to yourself.

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Positive thinking is yours for the taking.

Focusing on the various problems and concerns in our life brings about different results. These results can usually be due to effort we give to a particular goal or problem. Sometimes, they are the manifestation of the ideas and thoughts that dictate where we put our energy. When we want to have a particular outcome, we play a huge role in the what, where, how, and why of focusing our thoughts and energy to obtain a specific result. Many people may have different ways of seeing this concept, but it is really quite simple. Where you put your focus, impacts the result or outcome.

Many people go through life thinking negatively. This is counter-productive to thinking about success. We find it is difficult to gain what we want when we focus on all the things that are wrong in our life, or not working, or just plain broken. Shifting that way of thinking into an approach that is more positive, can actually help reverse the negative flow of energy in our lives. If you find yourself walking around complaining all the time about the things you don’t have, or the bills that are not being paid, or your health, that negativity will drag you down rather quickly. On the other hand, thinking of the things that are going right in your world and finding blessings of health, maybe good friends, and even the ability to enjoy something fun, can create a positive flow of energy that can be built upon for the future.

What we focus on, we tend to receive. Some people call it a law of attraction, when we place our thinking in different places – positive or negative, good or bad. We have a lot of control in how we respond and engage with all the different places where outcomes are possible. We can choose for ourselves what we want in our life. If we need to give up people who are tearing us down, then we might find that to be an important decision to help us move forward. If we need to think about how we will be successful in finding a job, or getting a new house, eventually it will happen when we put out our effort and desire. Doubt and despair play their part, and we are free to embrace that thinking and energy as well. We get to decide for ourselves the story we create. We do not have to be not blown about by the wind unless we have decided to give up. Creating patterns of positive thinking, can change our outlook on living life. We own the power…we should use it.

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Finding the time for silence.

We live in a fast paced world, wouldn’t you agree? We are bombarded by so many things during our day, that it is hard to not be affected by the numerous excessive stimuli coming at us. At some point, we might tell ourselves that we can “handle it”, but how successful are we at actually doing that anyway? I know for myself, that if I don’t find the time to gather my strength to move forward with all that I have to do, I will be impacted by the many different directions of negative energies from events and people. This is where having time for ourselves plays a real part in our ability to deal with day to day life. Most of us tend to ignore such an idea that promotes self-care, and just power through the day. But at what cost? Yeah, sure, we get things done. Yet, we likely tend to feel as if we just fought a battle with the wind and ultimately lost (in whatever way we are keeping score). We may even find ourselves exhausted and occasionally sick. 

The title of this post denotes an important idea in taking care of ourselves. That space of quiet…that time of non-doing, should not be pushed aside. Rather it should be embraced as a way to refuel or connect back to ourselves after a day of constant activity. Whether we call it meditation, a retreat, a camping trip, or even five minutes sitting in our home with the electronics unplugged, we need to be able have some space where we are doing nothing but going within to find our center again. For many people, the concept of seeking that inner sense of balance is quite foreign. Western society does not teach us to take care of ourselves in this way very well. If we want to be successful, we are taught that we have to push ourselves to the limit – and show no signs of weakness or inability to prevail. It is just not practical, nor is it mentally healthy.  Eventually, we face the consequences of that level of engagement with the world, and it is usually not in our favor.

What I have often taught my clients, is to find five minutes each day, or even two five minute periods (one in the morning, and one in the evening), where we find a place of solitude. Even if you have to go out to your car and lock yourself inside. Turn off your radio, phone, and anything else that could distract you from going within yourself during this time. Just be. Allow the silence to come to you. Close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, slowly. Deep slow breaths. Clear your mind of all thoughts, and all concerns. (They will be there when you come back, but for now you are putting them down and giving yourself permission to take time out for your own needs of self-care). Allow your ears to hear the sound of total silence. Silence can in a way be very loud for the first couple of moments. Your mind might feel like it is being deprived of the noise you are use to hearing. You are causing a shift in your level of mental and auditory stimulation levels. This is a gift you are giving to yourself. Some ambient noise will still be heard, but not noise you normally hear like the TV, phone, or screaming kids.

Once you have found that you are relaxed and feeling a little more centered, you can open your eyes and gather your thoughts for the next things you need to do. But the point is that you took time out for yourself, and created a few moments of silence. Your mind and body will thank you if you do this regularly, and you will find that you might be able to add time to this process (10, maybe even 20 minutes per session of quiet time). I have sat with clients for whole sessions in total silence. Sometimes that is what they need that day. It can be a real marker for improving your way of dealing with stress and life as a whole. This is something I suggest to anyone seeking even small ways to increase their level of self-care. I am willing to assist you in developing this coping strategy, if you would like help. Please feel free to reach out to me to explore this opportunity.

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Depression: The energy zapper.

Depression is one of the biggest issues dealt with in therapy. Clients who come to therapy seeking help with this condition, often have a hard time even getting out of bed to attend the session. If you are suffering from depression, you should know that you can overcome it. Between taking prescribed medications and going to sessions to explore the issues that are causing the depressive symptoms, you can learn strategies to bring yourself out of the depressive state of mind. It is challenging to think yourself into a new way of acting – especially when your mind is telling you it isn’t worth it, or shows you all the reasons it will fail. This will only fuel the feelings and emotions that are keeping you at bay from making changes. So rather than listen to those thoughts running in your head that are often dictated by negative feelings, why not try to act your way into a new way of thinking? Rather than sitting around trying to decide if you want to go for a walk (for example), why not simply put one foot in front of the other and begin moving forward? If you can only walk along your neighborhood street, then that’s great! If you can try to go farther, then gently and lovingly push yourself to try a little more. A walking exercise routine can be a great way to clear your mind and help center you as you focus on what needs to be done next.

Depression often comes from feelings of being overwhelmed, or at a loss of knowing what action to take about some concern we hold, or simply not feeling that we have worth. All of these are valid emotions, but they do not have to remain our reality. You and I can choose what we embrace into our minds and hearts. Those beliefs about ourselves and how we see where we are in this life can have a major impact on where we go and what we do. We have choices, to stay where we are and focus on those things that we do not have, or to create movement for achieving better. This too will have an impact in taking down some of the bricks around our feelings that depression creates, allowing us to feel like we can breathe and begin to enjoy a full life again.

Counselors are typically well trained to deal with issues of clients suffering from depression. They recognize that it can be a dangerous condition that can lead to extreme negative actions, like drug use and suicide. If you suffer from depression, counseling can be a supportive place where your thoughts and feelings can be examined in a safe environment. As a counselor who has worked with many clients suffering from depression, the key element in making progress with a prospective client like yourself is the honesty and openness you bring to the sessions about what you are feeling. Don’t be afraid to say, “I feel like harming myself”, if that is how you feel, or “I have no motivation to do the things I use to do” if that is a present feeling. Often times acknowledging that we have these feelings can be a key factor in taking away some of its power from your life that prevent you from living it fully. Consider how counseling might benefit you with an opportunity to explore the effects of depression you might be dealing with now – however mild or severe. Be willing to say “Yes” to the opportunity of having more energy in your life.

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Finding a path to healing.

Therapy can be a place where we allow ourselves to reflect and examine the issues that we have avoided for any length of time. Sometimes we do not know where to begin in this process. Clients in this practice, are treated with unconditional positive regard. You are clinically supported to explore the deepest fears, emotions, concerns, struggles, and even shortcomings in your life. This is not a time to self-ridicule or demoralize yourself. It is a time to find the strength to turn your challenges into moments of growth and change. In therapy, we often think that if we are seeing a counselor, then we must be crazy, or defective, or just plain damaged. This simply isn’t true, and more so not even likely to the extent that you might have created that idea in your own mind. Yes, people go to see a counselor when something is wrong. When was the last time you heard someone say, “Oh, I have no problems at all, but decided to see a counselor anyway”? It doesn’t usually happen. Sure, we have friends and family that can be there for us, and those supports are invaluable. But sometimes, you need to have the insight of someone who has the ability to be objective and clinical in the assessment of your concerns.

When you elect to participate in the therapy process, you are in fact giving yourself permission to chart a path that has the potential (often based on your own effort), to lead you into a life where you see yourself differently, and you see your life differently too. Maybe you quit smoking, or drinking, or gambling. Maybe you find the ability to forgive, to move forward and direct your focus into things that bring you joy. Or perhaps you discover something about yourself that was the one missing piece in your life that answers so many other questions in explaining who you are and how you engage your world. The path of seeking therapy can do those things, if you give yourself the chance to risk yourself in developing a new life of opportunity.

Fear can hold us back from pursuing what we know is of benefit to us. Our inner voice, (call it insight, higher power, deity, or some other word of your choosing), might be trying to speak to you. That inner voice is trying to let you know that there is something good for you if you work at getting out of your own way and can let go of where you are now so that you can arrive at the place that is better. I encourage you to listen to that voice. Follow it, and know that if you can agree with where it wants to take you, and you know that it is for your highest good, then likely it is a road to consider. Call it finding a path to healing, a way to journey into something different that can change you into the person you want to be in life. If you find that therapy can be of benefit in this journey, I stand ready to go on that adventure with you. Reach out. You will indeed find a hand reaching back, ready to help.

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Meeting your therapist for the first time.

Counseling can be a scary proposition for many people. The idea of going to a place to meet with someone you don’t know, and to be expected to open up to that person about who you are and what is going on with you, is no easy task for most people. You want the experience to go well, but fear may hold you back. What might be helpful to keep in mind, is that the counselor by and large is often just as nervous to meet you. They want you to feel comfortable meeting with them, and they are trying to put their best foot forward in providing you with an experience that is warm, friendly, and done with an understanding that you might be scared of being judged or seen as crazy. Counselors are well trained, and many tend to understand what it is like to be a client because they have done their own work in seeing a therapist.

So in coming to therapy for the first time, one of the things you can do, is begin a conversation of what you expect from your counselor and what you need from them in the counseling relationship. This is your time, and since you are often paying for that time, you want your needs to be met by someone who will listen to you, and be guided by your concerns in working with you during the course of therapy. This conversation will also often involve the rules the therapist or counselor has in their practice, so that you know what is expected of you regarding payment, cancelling appointments, scheduling, and other issues. In this way, you and the counselor are developing your interaction, and establishing rapport – a connection, that can build trust and mutual respect.

Counselors want the best for their clients, and clients want a counselor who will listen. When you meet your counselor for the first time, make sure you let them know what you need to help you feel comfortable, and what you need during the course of therapy. The counseling relationship is stronger when there is open communication that is formed by both you and the counselor, working together to meet your mutually set goals.

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