Igniting Hope – Inocente Izucar

Inocente IzucarInocente Izucar’s life was documented in a film for which she earned an Oscar.  She moved over 30 times in 9 years as a child with her mom and three brothers, and her father was deported back to Mexico for domestic abuse.  Inocente is also an artist, living in San Diego and was found at the age of 15 and featured in the documentary.  She was found because of a non-profit organization called ARTS: A Reason to Survive, which provides therapeutic arts and education, and college and career preparation for young people dealing with homelessness, domestic violence, illness and other major life challenges.  Inocente started going there when she was 12 years old.

The documentary, titled “Inocente,” follows her as she completes 30 pieces of art in three months for an annual art show.  This young woman, now 19, has a website where she can sell her art.

"The Lost Planet 2013"

“The Lost Planet 2013” by Inocente Izucar

Self-Esteem and Self-Doubt

This post was originally published in November 2013 and is one of the highest viewed posts of mine to date.  I decided to create a YouTube video which addresses some of the same content below but includes some additional things to think about.  I welcome you to watch!

Recently I was talking to a client of mine about her low self-esteem and self-doubt as she has labeled herself a slow learner.  When she spoke about her work related tasks it seemed her striving for perfection is actually what caused her self-doubt and therefore slowing her down on completing tasks she saw her colleagues finishing quickly.  Other friends of mine have talked at length about their own self-doubt.  I decided to dig into this a little bit more.

One article I read pointed out six main causes of self-doubt, including:

  • A lack of self-acceptance
  • An inner critic that encourages negative self-talk
  • Low self-esteem
  • A negative attitude about self
  • Self-limiting beliefs
  • Excessive criticism during childhood.

Karyl McBride, Ph.D. writes on Psychology Today about many adults possessing self-doubt who have been raised by a Narcissistic Parent.   The parent’s questioning of the child develops that inner critic.  There is a long list of signs including self-doubt, including anger, fear, anxiety, perfectionism, feeling misunderstood by others, second guessing yourself, dominating conversations, excuse making, self-promotion, lack of achievement, defensiveness, frustration, poor listening skills, bragging/boasting/name dropping in social situations, and discomfort in social situations.  While self-doubt and low self-esteem don’t always go hand in hand, it is still common to find them existing together.  Additionally, some of the tips for addressing both of these issues are similar.

1. First is to become aware of your self-talk.  Negative self-talk reinforces self-doubt and also can lead to depression.  Trying to reframe negative thinking can be really helpful.  For instance perhaps you had to prepare a large report for work and you spent many hours on it but had to race through the last portion to meet the deadline.  You read this report later and think “I blew this report; it looks like crap.”  It is possible the last few pages had spelling errors; however, the substance of the report was spot on.  Thinking this over you could reframe your thoughts by saying, “this is a thorough report with necessary information; I know I can do better next time by allowing for more time for editing so that the report is more polished.”

Journaling can release negative thoughts and highlight positive experiences.2. Keep a journal.  Putting thoughts down on paper can be helpful because keeping them in your head only allows them to get bigger.  Additionally, if you take the time to write down the things in your day that went poorly — as well as the things you accomplished — perhaps you’ll find the positive outweigh the negative.

3. Develop a support system that encourages you and acknowledges your strengths; this can help solidify positive thinking.

4. Find ways to boost your day whether it be finding inspirational quotes or images to surround yourself with or reading books, calendars, or websites that provide this kind of encouragement, inspiration, and support.

5. Soothe yourself by finding some quiet time, playing your favorite music, or enjoying a cup of hot chocolate/tea/coffee.  Being able to appreciate what you have rather than what you desire allows you to nurture yourself.

6. Discover and pursue your passions.  Finding things you love to do and can spend time doing is so important.  This allows for the creative juices to flow, and often times these things come somewhat naturally, so you may not take as much time out for self-doubt.  Doing this can boost confidence and provide a sense of purpose.

7. Lastly redefine failure and keep trying.  Failure doesn’t characterize you as a person or determine your worth as a person.  There are countless stories of people getting rejection after rejection before they accomplish what they had intended.  Perhaps you were rejected by 6 colleges but accepted by 1, you succeeded by getting the chance to attend college.

Building up self-esteem and lowering self-doubt can be a large task.  Find ways to continue to work on this and utilizing a counselor can be a great way to strengthen your self-esteem.

Combating Depression, the Change of Seasons

I’ve noticed recently the marked changes in daylight as summer has ended.  While some folks have been looking forward to their pumpkin spice lattes, others dread the lack of extended sunlight.  For those with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), some professionals have proposed it may stem from too much mPhoto by Glenda Oteroelatonin, which is produced naturally.  Light therapy can work if melatonin is the main cause of SAD, because light controls melatonin levels.  Some people still try antidepressants; however, they are not specific to winter depression.  Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder are weight gain and increased appetite; sleepiness and sleeping longer hours; lack of focus or ability to concentrate; decreased energy; withdrawing from social events; and feeling unhappy and irritable.  If you are interested in light therapy, talk to your primary care physician about how the light boxes work.  Psychotherapy is also recommended as it can help you identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that may be making you feel worse. With therapy you can also learn healthy ways to cope with SAD and manage daily stress.

Great tips to help combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD):

  1. Exercise: including this in a daily routine has been shown to reduce depression, anxiety, and symptoms of SAD.  Exercising outdoors is even more beneficial.
  2. Spending time outside: Being outside in the natural sunlight.
  3. Keep your eating habits in mind: With SAD you may find yourself wanting to snack more on junk food.  Try to keep your kitchen stocked with fresh fruit, vegetables, berries, nuts and foods made with whole grains.
  4. Avoid alcohol:  There is a strong link between alcohol and depression; even one drink can leave you feeling down.
  5. Sit near a window to increase your exposure to natural light.
  6. Participate in social activities at least once a week.

Follow a routine sleep schedule and try not to take naps so that your regular night time routine is not disrupted.

Online Counseling

Why Online Counseling is Effective

Photo by Michaela Kobyakov

Online counseling also can benefit those with a range of disabilities for whom transportation is difficult or may not have access to the counseling space itself.

Recently, I came across a new study out of the University of Zurich that looked at groups of people suffering from moderate depression, comparing traditional face-to-face counseling with online counseling. Those clients who participated in online counseling had larger decreases of depression.  I am fascinated by this topic, as I completed my masters of social work online at the University of Southern California.  This past May I finally got the chance to meet many of my classmates and professors, and I can honestly say their personalities, values, and passions had definitely come across online and in meeting face to face – the only surprise was that we could all see who was taller than who.

Back to the study — participants from the online group found they were able to review feedback from their therapist after the sessions were over, as opposed to face-to-face counseling, where insights from a therapist can quickly be forgotten.  The article I read didn’t really highlight any other possible explanations for the benefits of online counseling; however, I will elaborate on why I think this may be the case.  Online counseling is convenient. No longer do clients have to drive to appointments or commute long distances. This also enables clients to find a therapist who comes highly recommended, even if they live outside of the therapist’s area. Online counseling also can benefit those with a range of disabilities for whom transportation is difficult or may not have access to the counseling space itself.

Another possible benefit of online counseling is that some people may disclose more personal information if they have a little more physical distance, which can allow for more in-depth therapeutic work.  It also may provide a people with access to counseling during a wider range of hours.  For instance, I am sharing an office space with a colleague.  Providing sessions online will allow me to meet with people during the days she needs the office. Also, it allows the client and me to better select a time that works for both of us – optimizing the client’s experience.

Online consultation can allow more opportunity to reflect on what is being said, to think about it and ask further questions.  However like anything, there are also disadvantages to online counseling.  Being online has its confidentiality risks due to the potential for a computer security breach.  There is a greater chance of miscommunication between client and therapist, as the therapist does not have the same access to body language information and other non-verbal cues.  Online counselors are not ethically able to work with people in immediate crisis or with serious psychiatric illness.  Additionally, an unreliable internet connection may interrupt the flow and delivery of therapy.

For those who understand the risks and benefits of online counseling, this could be a viable option when trying to find time for counseling with a professional of your choice.  I look forward to working with clients via Skype and will stay informed of current research on this type of support and welcome feedback from current and future clients and colleagues.

Igniting Hope – A Personal Challenge

I am going to challenge myself to find a story about a real person in the world that I feel has overcome challenging circumstances. I will highlight this person in my monthly email update. I have studied the negative effects of reading the news online, in print, or on television due to the focus on crime, violence, and other negative human behaviors. I hope by focusing on real people who are doing something positive, perhaps I can counteract the negative effects of too much news exposure.

Let me introduce you to Operation Fly. This non-profit organization was started by Timothy Hwang and Minsoo Han when they were in high school. In an effort to address the growing poverty rate in Washington, DC, their organization serves disadvantaged inner city populations across the U.S. by coordinating events for the homeless, as well as programs for underprivileged students. They’ve held picnics to raise money for the organization, book drives to collect books for shelters, meal preparations for several communities in need, clothing drives, and much more. These two young men have organized over 800 volunteers in their efforts.

Visit Operationfly.org to read more.

Counseling Private Practice Opens

I am very excited to start my own counseling private practice in Eugene, Oregon. My new office is located on Country Club Road, just past First American Title Company, and I’m sharing office space with colleague Michelle Hogan. Right now I am accepting new clients, with a focus on teens, grief and loss, and those with mental illness. I can work with individuals, couples, and families both short and long term. Additionally, I am offering counseling services via Skype for clients who live outside of Lane County.

My previous experience includes working for a summer school and employment program for low-income teens, a shelter for families who are homeless and adults with severe and persistent mental illness, a non-profit publishing company whose focus was on adolescent development, and working with families through a hospice agency. My school-required field work included working at a group home for teen girls with mental illness, at a center which provides case management, counseling, classes, and support for low-income adults with mental illness and addiction recovery. I currently work at PeaceHealth Hospital as a medical social worker.

I am working on completing my license, meeting weekly with a supervisor individually and also in a group. Until I complete my license, I am unable to bill insurance. However, to make my services affordable I am offering a sliding scale fee.