Pawsitive Outcomes.

nomao-saeki-59109.jpg

If you’re having a ruff day, don’t terrier self up about it. There’s sure to be a pawsitive outcome.

Ok, but really…….

Incorporating animals into therapy has amazing research-supported results including (but not limited to):

Increases in:

·      Rapport with the counselor         

·      Empathy and nurturing skills

·      Outward focus and positivity

·      Emotional regulation

·      Trust

·      Forgiveness

·      Tolerance of pain/shame/guilt

·      Ego Strength

·      Opportunities for insight

Working with an animal in-session affords the opportunity to reflect on the client’s interaction patterns. For example, does the client trust the dog immediately and run to hug the dog? Or stiffen when the dog tries to lick him? This provides insight into relating patterns, boundary issues, and/or insecurities not just with animals, but in general. It is a real-time opportunity to explore those in action and generate insight that may not naturally occur otherwise.

I see a number of children within my practice and a major goal of mine throughout our time together is to work on empathy-building. Incorporating a therapy animal allows me to model positive interpersonal behavior. Children (and adults) watch how the therapist interacts and cares for the therapy animal as a model. Demonstrating love in front of the client can produce a powerful corrective emotional experience, especially if he/she has a trauma and/or abuse history. Using the trauma narratives of rescue animals can also give clients hope for change.

The above examples demonstrate the use of a therapy animal as a bridge for insight and reflection, but there are also more hands-on techniques. Interventions such as bilateral stimulation can be used between the client and animal to help regulate the sympathetic nervous system in-session. They can then practice this at home with their own pets. The ultimate goal is to find ways for such skills to transfer outside the therapy room.

My goal is to incorporate animal-assisted interventions into my practice within the next year or so. In the meantime, sharing and practicing techniques with clients is something I am excited for. If you are interested in animal-assisted therapy or think it might be a purrr-fect fit for you ; ) reach out!!

How To Afford Therapy Without Insurance Benefits

One of the most common reasons people do not start or continue therapy is money.

You might see the going rates ($100-225) and stop there, believing that therapy is just simply not something you can afford to do for yourself. In this blog post, my colleague, Tabitha Westbrook LPCA, LMFTA, challenges that notion by providing cost-effective ways to afford therapy even without insurance. When you put your mental health and happiness first, it pays. 

Attention: Military Members & Families

This week I attended the LPCANC 2016 Annual Conference held in Concord. It was a great opportunity to connect with professionals from around the state and to explore Charlotte, NC, nearby.

Although, my main objective was to take part in the Certified Clinical Military credential training in order to further serve a population very near and dear to me.

More than 2 million American troops have deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, and the Global War on Terror. North Carolina alone has deployed 50,886 of them. In addition, military members account for 36% of North Carolina’s population, which demonstrates the high need for competent services.

If there is one thing I know for sure, it is that providing clinical mental health services to active duty service personnel, veterans, and military family members requires a clear understanding of military culture. Prior to becoming personally connected with military life and culture, I did not fully grasp this importance and how vital this is to treatment and client outcomes. Developing a therapeutic relationship with a counselor that understands this is essential.

There are notable differences between military and civilian clients in:

·      Culture and Mindset

·      Mental Health Resources and Stigma

·      Medical, Psychosocial, and Family Aspects

·      Vocational Rehabilitation, Assessment, and Career Transition

·      The Grieving Process and Cultivation of Resiliency

There are also distinct norms, values, and stressors faced by military families and children during deployment phases (pre-deployment, deployment, post-deployment, and community reintegration). Rarely are these understood fully by civilians with no military background or involvement.

Common Barriers to Military Members Seeking Services

·      Fear of how seeking help may affect their career, for example, their ability to obtain a top-secret security clearance.

·      Fear of being labeled as crazy or weak.

·      Lack of trust in a therapist.

·      Having been taught through established social norms to avoid discussions of emotions related to traumatic events.

·      “I’m relocating again soon so there’s no point in starting if I can’t finish.”

·      The idea/adoption of selfless service and consequently, lack of self-care.

If one of these barriers is stopping you, or a military member you know, I would be happy to address any concerns related to confidentiality, and to encourage seeking treatment regardless of time limitations.

Harmful Myth:

“If you commit suicide, you’re weak. If you get help, you’re weak.”

Truth:

If you seek help, you are brave and responsible.

 

As a certified clinical military counselor, it is my duty to put best practices into play with my clients.

·      I am committed to staying current on aspects of military life that contribute to client issues and stressors.

·      I am experienced in the treatment of trauma, combat stress, PTSD, and family stressors.

·      I am able to assess, diagnose, and treat social, psychological, and behavioral issues impacting mental health and wellbeing.

·      I can provide therapy both in-person and virtually, for those located further away at Fort Bragg, Camp Lejeune, etc. 

Wear Your Label

Very excited to partner with Wear Your Label to promote The Bracelet Project

Did you know that 1 in every 5 people lives with some form of mental illness?

Each color bracelet Wear Your Label provides symbolizes a different mental health challenge ad puts the conversation in your hands (literally) to end the stigma surrounding mental illness. It's a subtle way to connect through struggles and support one another. AND, even cooler, a percentage of profits go to deserving mental health organizations like Jack.org, Project 375, Project UROK, and The Jed Foundation

Wear Your Label doesn't just make bracelets. They also make necklaces and clothing, & have even been featured at New York Fashion Week. They're pretty awesome.

Check them out! 

5 Myths about Mental Illness You Need to Unlearn (quoted in Medical Daily).

There are many myths and stigmas out there surrounding mental illness. Here is my effort to set them straight.

(See the full article with quotes from me at: Medical Daily). 

Myth #1: Mental Illness is a Sign of Weakness

1.) Mental illness is not a sign of weakness. It is an intersection of biology and experience that creates it. Every individual has a different biological makeup and phenomenological reality. Therefore, different individuals are just less prone than others, often by luck or chance. Many times, symptoms of mental illness are the body’s natural, and healthy response to a form of trauma. For instance, a survivor of domestic violence may be diagnosed with depression, PTSD, or anxiety. This is not a sign of weakness. In fact, the individual is probably very strong considering that he or she is a survivor. The diagnoses in this case are a normative and adaptive response to situational trauma.

Myth #2: Mental Illness is an Adult Problem

2.) As a psychotherapist that specializes largely in children, I can attest to this being false. Mental health issues are not solely restricted to the adult population. Children are absolutely capable of experiencing anxiety, depression, and a whole slew of issues. The percentage of children that suffer from mental illness is much higher than we believe it to be. I have worked closely with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) to create psychoeducation and support groups for parents of children with mental illness to bring awareness to this very subject. 

Myth #3: Therapy is a Waste of Time and Money

3.) Therapy is far from a waste. I have witnessed clients completely turn their lives around as a result of their time in therapy. Many individuals that come to therapy simply do not possess the psycho-education to understand the etiology and root causes of the issues they are suffering from. Therapy provides reassurance that what the person is experiencing is actually probably normative given the circumstances. Validation and self-awareness in a supportive context can be incredibly healing.

Myth #4: People with Mental Illness Never Get Better

4.) Firstly, you do not need to have a mental illness to engage in therapy. I recommend therapy for everyone. It is a workout for the mind, and the mind needs exercise to stay healthy just as much as the body does. Just as you can recover from a physical injury, it is possible to recover from an emotional one. There are indeed some mental illnesses with poor prognoses. In these cases it is less important to look at the term “cure” as a synonym with “completely normative” and more important to look at being cured on a continuum of wellness vs. despair. The cure is relative to the condition, but will almost undoubtedly improve with therapeutic intervention.

Myth #5: People with Mental Illness Can't Work

5.) This stereotype exists because it is believed that those with mental illness may be less fit or less stable to work in certain jobs. This is a common misconception because psycho-education regarding the effects of mental illness is not widely understood. Mental illness can range from virtually undetectable to highly severe. Thus, this cannot be used as such a sweeping generalization. 

Medical Daily adds a 6th myth. Click here to see what it is. 

Source: http://www.medicaldaily.com/mental-illness...

Present Over Perfect

Loving Shauna Neiquist's NYTimes Best Seller, Present Over Perfect, for the message it sends about intentionality in our everyday lives. 

In a world largely focused on efficiency and the hustle, it's easy to let our worth become lost in those ideals, and it's harder to be truly present. 

In an authentic, encouraging, and affirming way, this book reminds us that "hustle is the opposite of heart" (p.74). 

Excerpt: "My regrets: how many years I bruised people with my fragmented, anxious presence. How many moments of connection I missed-- too busy, too tired, too frantic and strung out on the drug of efficiency. Now I know there's another way. You don't have to damage your body and your soul and the people you love most in order to get done what you think you have to get done. You don't have to live like this." 

Age & Expectation

Life will not fall into place simply because you have reached a certain age. It is also not a good idea to rush something that may not be the best fit, just to check the box. Open up to what life is meant to be, rather than the script you, or outside influences, may have written for it. When we become caught up in the numbers game, we lose sight of the present space we are in and all of its potential. 

Read More