Why Choose Counseling?

I came across a blog post by Jodie Gale, MA, BSW, in which she explores both the reasons why a person should consider counseling and the long term benefits counseling can provide.  I’m going to elaborate on some of the benefits (and tweak a few that I think can be combined) that she mentions in her post.

  1. Receive support, empathy and compassion from someone who is objective.  That’s not to say friends and family are not great support, but sometimes those close to us can feel we tell them what we think they want to hear.  Having an objective person who doesn’t have the same sort of history as you can be very affirming.
  2. Heal from early childhood wounding and abuse.  Oftentimes we can get stuck living in the past, which then results in letting that past overtake your present time.  Finding ways to share these difficult memories and then letting go can be freeing.
  3. Find resolution and freedom from the pervasive underlying causes of problems, which often include self-destructive thoughts and behaviors.  We don’t always take the time to understand why we do the things we do, or we get caught in the same loop as a result of some of the problems that began a long time ago.  Working with a counselor can help folks make new plans to break old patterns that are no longer helpful in our present lives.
  4. Reduce stress, anxiety, depression and other symptoms of distress.  There are so many harmful effects of stress including headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, and sleeping difficulties. Additionally, research suggests that stress also can bring on or worsen certain symptoms of diseases.  Stress also is harmful when a person starts using illicit substances to relieve stress, which can lead to addictions and other health problems and behaviors.
  5. Learn how to manage, accept and see the value in a wide range of feelings.  One helpful tool I’ve learned about is that often people believe they are their emotion and become so connected to that emotion they allow it to take over and influence harmful behaviors.  For instance a person may get angry at their colleague for taking credit for something they did, perhaps this isn’t the first time it’s happened.  You become angry and frustrated and would like to cuss that person out.  Instead, take a step back.  Own your anger, but understand that it is only an emotion that does not need to rule your day or week.  Take the time to figure out a proactive way to address this, whether it be talking to a supervisor or finding a time to confront this person about how their actions affect you.  Now you’ve felt the range of emotions from anger, hurt/sadness, to nervous (maybe from having to address this), relief, and then maybe a sense of hopefulness that this issue can be resolved.
  6. Enhance emotional intelligence and build  a strong foundation for healthy relationships.  Learn how to build support systems and increase social skills.  We can all benefit from having these and looking at these as life goes on.
  7. Increase self-awareness, self-acceptance, self-compassion, self-worth and self-confidence.  Become more intuitive and unleash creativity.  Experience self-actualization and self-realization.  Who doesn’t want these in their life?
  8. Gain a greater sense of clarity, focus and concentration.  It can get so easy to become inundated with the obligations and responsibilities of our school, careers, family, friends, interests, groups, etc.  Finding ways to focus in and concentrate on what matters to us most can be very beneficial and self-preserving.
  9. Have a more conscious relationship with money, food, career or whatever else it is that you may be struggling with.  Money, food and careers can all be overwhelming and sometimes can cause us to freeze into holding patterns that aren’t healthy and can cause huge amounts of stress.  Counseling can help you gain perspective and build new plans to address problematic stressors.
  10. Build a toolbox of self-care, coping and life skills.  What we’ve tried before might not work the same at this point in our lives.  Find new ways to address old obstacles!  Apply newfound awareness and skills to all areas of your life.
  11. Discover value, meaning and purpose in life and out of past suffering.  Take time to dream about your life again.  And don’t stop at one dream, dream dreams!
  12. Develop compassion, kindness and gratitude towards self and others.  This can add to an overall positive outlook that can lift spirits and feed the soul.
  13. Experience a sense of inner peacefulness and calm.
  14. Live a conscious life.  Know why you are doing what you are doing and believe in what you are doing.

Benefits of Using a Sliding Scale

While not billing insurance for counseling services can result in more out-of-pocket expenses, there are benefits to using a sliding scale for services. My hope is to accept both insurance and sliding-scale payment for services in the future; however, while I am working on my LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) using the sliding scale is my only option.

There are perks to this type fee scale:

  1. The number of therapy sessions is not limited. Insurance companies require a mental health diagnosis, and based on that diagnosis they approve a certain number of sessions. Recently I spoke with someone who was in counseling whose insurance only covered 6 sessions; she feels she could benefit from more. This also means a person can really structure counseling sessions around a timeline that works best for them, and start and stop the process during times they feel they could most benefit from this.
  2. Privacy. Billing your employer’s insurance means your employer or benefits person may know you are seeking counseling services.
  3. Case by case affordability. Using the sliding scale allows your counselor (if they would like) to create a fee schedule that is affordable on a case by case basis. With insurance, there is often a required copay amount the therapist has no control over.
  4. It helps those that don’t have insurance or don’t have insurance that covers counseling. For some, billing insurance is just not an option. This means they must find a clinician that will accept private pay.

I hope this sliding scale fee option works for my clients and appreciate being able to provide these services while I continue working towards my license.

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.