Skip to content

The Beauty of Together

The Beauty of Together: The importance of face-to-face therapy in an era when technology is king.

Recently I saw a commercial which featured famed Olympic athlete Michael Phelps talking about his transformative experience in counseling. It’s truly a remarkable plug for therapy coming from such a prominent figure. He states something to the effect of: his success wasn’t enough. He was unhappy. He needed to get out of his own head and learn to truly connect with those around him. Beautiful. Awesome. I love this message so much!

The commercial was actually for an app-based therapy service where you can pay a flat fee per week and instantly have access to a licensed therapist at your finger tips through messages or video. (And for the record, Mr. Phelps didn’t say whether he used this method of therapy vs. a traditional therapy model.)

You’re never going to hear me discourage anyone from getting the help they need, by whatever form they have access to. I’m sure for some, an app-based therapy service is a wonderful means for therapeutic support. But I think we need to be careful when considering options that further encourage our connection to the outside world to be primarily through our smart phones.

The research is clear that our connection with our smart phones and particularly our connections with each other through social media lead to increased symptoms of anxiety and depression. It’s this simple: unfettered access to unlimited people on our electronic devices is not the answer to our deepest needs for connection and closeness. What we all need to feel truly known and connected is to put down our phones and connect with those around us.

Therapy is no different. There is no substitute for a face-to-face connection in therapy.

Here are seven truths worth considering when it comes to face-to-face therapy:

  1. The relationship itself is healing.
    Despite what therapy model a therapist uses (and I have written about my preferred models here) a degree of healing, freedom, and forward progress comes through your connection with your therapist. This is why I always say in intake sessions, “sometimes finding the right therapist for you can feel a bit like test-driving cars. If, after this session, for whatever reason you feel like you’re ready for therapy but you’re not sure if I’m the right fit for you, then I’ll work with you to find someone who would better meet your needs.” The quality of the connection between you and your therapist goes a long way to foster health and healing in the therapy process.
  2. When you’re really upset, you are probably going to want someone in the room.
    One thing that’s unusual about being a therapist is that people cry with me…a lot. Having someone stay present with you in your pain can be really validating. Someone else is seeing first hand the hurt you’ve experienced. It’s remarkable what healing a silent presence can bring to deep sorrow. And I’m not talking about the silence of your phone between text alerts.
  3. Many issues aren’t safe to handle over the phone. For therapists, the safety of the people we work with is priority. The reality is that safety issues regarding mental health and physical health may need to be addressed with some clients. There are certain safety precautions that simply can not be provided when you’re not in the same room as someone.
  4. A therapist models healthy interaction with others. A common reason people present for counseling is anxiety, specifically social anxiety. While doing the work of therapy, a good therapist will be demonstrating first hand what healthy and proper connection with others looks like: listening skills, attunement cues, body language, proper question asking, and more. To experience a reduction in anxiety while in the presence of another live human goes a long way in overcoming social anxiety. The same can be said for depression. The therapy room functions as a safe place to try new things socially which can result in a boost of confidence as well as a reduction of symptoms.
  5. There is value in actually getting dressed and having some place to be.
    While having a therapy session in your pj’s may sound inviting to some, for those struggling with depression for instance, there is intrinsic value in having something to do that will get you outside of our isolation, even if just for an hour.
  6. A lot goes on in the therapy room that can be missed on the screen.
    Body language, quick glances to others, etc. as well as physical signs of health or lifestyle. If you’re a hundred pounds over weight, this is an important thing for your therapist to know and see. Does a client appear bored in session? Is the client subtly laughing at something they said to the therapist? Turning red? Breathing quickly like they’re starting to get nervous? I need to observe that and respond accordingly. You can’t always trust people to report that accurately or even to know that type of physiological or non-verbal sign needs to be reported to a therapist.
  7. Your story deserves to be experienced, not just read or heard through a medium.
    Our wounds occur in relationships. Our healing comes through relationships as well. And our deep hurts and negative experiences deserve more than a technology-based therapy process. They deserve face to face, eyeball to eyeball, soul to soul care and connection.

As stated above, my intention is never to discourage anyone from getting the help that they have access to. If you live in a remote location or have some sort of extenuating circumstance, a media-based therapy relationship may best fit your needs. But for the rest of us, there is no substitute for face-to-face connection. We don’t need more media based relationships through our phones. We are all desiring and deserving to be known in person!

If you’re ready for a face-to-face therapeutic relationship, contact me today! Offices in Walker, Louisiana and Baton Rouge.

Is it You or is it Me? Finding Your Best Therapeutic Fit

Is it You or is it Me? Finding Your Best Therapeutic Fit.

Whether it’s while we are scheduling our initial visit or during our intake session, I frequently get asked this question: How will I know if you’re the right counselor for me?

That is a FANTASTIC Question. The simple fact that you’re even asking that question is a good sign that you’re ready to do great therapeutic work!

RAPPORT

In an ideal world, you would strike gold on your first therapy appointment and have awesome rapport from “hello.” In reality, it may end up being more like test driving cars before deciding which make/model you actually want to end up with for the therapeutic journey.

Beginning therapy can be nerve-racking enough already. The last thing you need is to commit to counseling with someone who makes you feel like the therapeutic equivalent of buying a compact car when what you really need is enough leg room to stretch out.

So how can you tell that you’re on the right path with picking a therapist?

There are two questions you’ll want to keep in mind during your first session:

  1. Does your therapist give you the impression that she knows what she is talking about?
  2. Can you see yourself being comfortable sharing the ins and outs of your life with them?

If the answer to either of those questions is “no,” it may be an indicator that you haven’t quite found the right fit, therapeutically speaking. And that’s totally ok. There is someone for everyone. It’s not really even personal. Stay loyal to your goals and instincts and keep looking.

I truly want you to be with someone who feels “right” to you, and if something in your gut is telling you that it’s not me, I’d be more than happy to give you some great referrals who may better fit your needs and goals!

If the answer to both of the above questions is “yes,” it’s a good sign that you’re on the right path in finding a good therapeutic fit. You probably won’t be leaving the first session feeling like you’re 100% sure about your therapist. But you should have a good sense that you could see it working out well.

Other Considerations:

  • You shouldn’t leave your first session feeling judged, preached to, or confused.
  • You should have a good idea of how the therapy process works and an estimation of how long the process usually takes for goals similar to yours.
  • You should feel like your questions were answered and that you’ve found your way into the office of a person who isn’t shocked by what you’re saying.
  • You want to feel like you’re sitting with someone who has been down this road before.
  • Within a few sessions, you should understand what therapeutic framework your therapist uses and how your goals may be met through that framework.
  • Before too long, you’ll start to get a feel for the therapist’s personality and communication style.

For me, I like to be very collaborative in the therapeutic process. I want to hear how you respond to things. You’re a full partner in this process.

I like to be goal-directed in therapy. We will have a clear understanding of what you’d like to address in your past or change about your current life before we really begin the work of therapy. I’m going to want to know where exactly you want to go before we put the car in drive.

I tend to be very plain speaking and cut to the chase. And I shoot for discussing really difficult topics in really accessible ways.

With most people, I’m not exceedingly maternal. And no one has ever accused me of coddling.

Not every therapist is like me, and not every client wants my style. Stylistic preferences may be dealbreakers for some clients. And that’s 100% okay. Stay true to your gut and preferences!

Therapy Models:

Other people may care less about personality/style, but instead are looking for a specific therapeutic framework. Within a few sessions, you ought to be able to understand what therapeutic framework your therapist primarily uses and how it will fit with your goals.

For individual work, I typically use EMDR and CBT. For couples work, I tend to use more of an EFT approach (though I am less model driven with couple work than individual work). To me, the lack of a strong therapeutic framework can lead to an endless string of putting out fires in your personal life, instead of addressing root causes. I find these therapeutic models to be the best fit both for my strengths as a therapist and for the types of clients that I see in my practice.

The bottom line is: the therapy process should work for YOU. You owe it to yourself to find the right person for you, your personality and your needs. Trust your gut and your instincts. You know what “yes” feels like to you, and a good therapist will always support that, even if it means you end up in someone else’s office.

Check out this article for additional FAQ’s about my practice and therapy in general. If you have any specific questions for me regarding therapy or my practice, please contact me here! I have offices in Baton Rouge and Walker, Louisiana.

Transitioning from Work to Home: How to set your night up for success.

Transitioning from Work to Home: How to set your night up for success.

The Question

How do you transition from work to home each day? Do you have a particular routine you use to help you go from employer/employee to spouse mode?

The Problem

Like we discussed last post, the transition moment is either seamless or it’s very rocky. If it’s rocky, it might be because you’re having trouble “shaking off” work as you enter into your home environment. The transition from work to home is rough for a lot of people. Maybe your job is very stressful, very labor intensive or very people driven. If you live alone, you may not think much about the transition from work to home, but I’d suggest that it’s chiefly important for you to not blur the line between the two, and consider your home life entirely separate from your work life. If you have a spouse and/or family, walking in to a house full of people who need things from you can feel pretty overwhelming after a tough day at work! It’s so important that everyone in the house is getting their needs met. It’s possible. It just takes some honest reflection and a strategy.

The Plan

If you struggle with decompressing after a stressful work day, here are a few ideas:

  1. Pick a transition point. On your commute home, give yourself time to process the work day mentally, but at a certain landmark of your choosing, switch trains of thought and start thinking about home. Anything. Stuff on the agenda for the night. Things you like about your spouse and kids. Whatever. Just transition at a planned point so that you can be prepared when you walk in the door.
  2. Write down important things from work. Something you need to do tomorrow? Particularly frustrating conversation with your boss? Write it down. And leave it in your vehicle. You’ll get it out of your system just enough to be able to turn your attention to other things.
  3. Ask for/Give space. Sometimes I distract our toddler so my husband can sneak in without being noticed and take a quick power nap in our bed. (When he comes out later: Surprise! Daddy’s home already!) This way, he’s a little more refreshed and ready to engage. Some people like to take a shower to help them transition from work mode to home mode. Others like to watch the news in relative peace and quiet. Whatever you need, figure it out and make it known.
    • This is particularly important if you’re especially introverted or extroverted. You have needs for either connection or an intentional alone time. These are both legit needs and you shouldn’t minimize them. This need has to be met in order for you to be able to give what your family needs. But, you shouldn’t take all night for this need to be met. Do what you’ve gotta do to decompress the necessary amount, but then be available and presentphysically and emotionally.

In conclusion, consider what you need to really be “off the clock.”

If you live alone…don’t blur the line between “work” and “home” just because you can and no one will complain about it. You’ll burn out eventually and plus, it’s just no fun. You owe it to yourself to maintain/create an identity separate from your work, and this transition point of your day goes a long way to support that part of who you are.

If you’re married, don’t let the transition home moment each day pass you by without considering how you’re approaching it and how you can redeem it for better connection and relational satisfaction! It’s an easy moment to enter into and make a big impact on your relationship. You can do this!

As always, I’d love to set up a time to discuss this issue or anything else for which you’d like to receive counseling support. To learn more about the counseling process, check out this article.

Offices in Livingston Parish and EBR.

How To Negotiate Sex

A Sexy Series: Part Two
How to Negotiate Sex

Many people feel like when it comes to the question of “sex?” the answers are “yes” and “no.” But the truth is that there are lots of options along the continuum and a savvy sex partner will be aware of those choices and know how to negotiate with them.

Part One of this series took a quick overview of topics clients frequently discuss in counseling regarding sex. In today’s post, we will look at a few suggestions for negotiating sex that can help increase satisfaction with that component of your relationship. After all, if the sexual aspect of your relationship is on point, it’s a good indication that the other aspects of your life together are rocking and rolling, too.

Rules for Negotiating Sex

  1. Never give a “no” without providing an alternative solution.
    • This seems easy but it goes a long way for reducing the sting of being turned down. “I’m not really feeling up for it right now but how about before work in the morning?” No one likes to be turned down, but if the answer is essentially, “yes but not right now,” then it keeps hurt feelings or resentments at bay.
  2. One says “when,” one says “what.”
    • This idea came from a book I like to recommend frequently to clients. What I like about this suggestion is that it gives everyone a voice in the process. Example: Person A says, “I’d like to connect physically after we get done watching this show.” Person B gets to say, “Awesome! I could be up for _______________.”
  3. Initiate sometimes.
    • If this is an issue for you, and there is a big discrepancy of how often you each initiate, my advice would be to just pick a ratio that is better than you’re doing now, and stick with it. If he initiates three times in a row, you initiate once. Or something to that end. No rules here…just looking for improvement.
    • If you’re a woman, don’t initiate all the time…most men find that emasculating. If you currently initiate all of the time, hold back on that and let him initiate. I know…I know. You’re thinking, “if I quit initiating, we will NEVER have sex.” Just trust me here…it may take longer than you want, but it’ll be a positive move for the power structure of your relationship. If this continues to be an issue, let’s talk about it.
    • If you NEVER initiate, I realize that it’ll feel like a BIG step to do so. But…generally speaking, this is the type of risk with immediate positive results!
  4. Broaden the smorgasbord of options.
    • I believe that there are a LOT of options along the continuum of healthy and holy physical intimacy choices between spouses. We do our relationships a disservice to limit physical intimacy to one or two options. Think in terms of amount of involvement. I could get a lot more specific, but for the purposes of this blog, I’ll just leave it here. This approach is especially helpful in instances like pregnancy or as we age and begin dealing with physical limitations and hormonal changes.

I hope these negotiating tips can serve to spark in you some ideas on how you can answer the “sex?” question with more than just two choices. Next time you feel a “no” bubbling up within you, consider one of these options so that you can move from a “lose/lose” to a “lose/win” with your mate. You’ll both be glad you did!

As always, if you’d like to discuss this topic or any other with me in counseling in Walker or Baton Rouge, this is how to get ahold of me.

Check back soon! Next post we will look at reasons for low sex drive. Feel free to “subscribe” to posts if you don’t want to miss a blog from your favorite therapist. 😉

A Sexy Series

Let’s Talk About Sex
Here’s what you need to know: I talk about sex quite a lot.
In counseling, sex is something clients want to address more often than not. Why? Because people have so many quirks and questions about physical intimacy that need to be addressed, and counseling is a great place to process and find solutions!
I really value sex and its role in relationships. In fact, I can give you quite a good case on how highly God values sex. He created it, after all, and it’s not exclusively for procreation either. (Example: the clitoris. Praise God for his creative care of us. Go ahead and give God a high five and a wink.)
If you’ve got a sex question or issue, we can trouble shoot it together.
Here are some aspects of sex that I regularly discuss with clients:
  • Negotiating sex (the what, when, where, why & how).
  • Making sex a priority in your marriage.
  • What to do with mis-matched sexual interests or levels of desire.
  • Establishing a healthy and biblical theology of sex.
  • Getting the “shame” and “should” out of your sex life.
  • How you can desire sex more.
  • Why it’s always a good time to have sex.
  • Jump starting a flat-lined libido.
  • Processing through negative associations you’ve made regarding sex.
  • Sexual trauma.
  • Sex after menopause.
  • Sex after pregnancy.
  • Body image issues reducing sexual interest.
  • Male and female sexual dysfunction.
  • Reasons you should say “no” to sex (short list).
  • Reasons you should say “yes” to sex (looooooong list).
  • Establishing healthy sexual boundaries.
Over the next few weeks, we will unpack a few of these topics. If you’d like to request a certain topic be covered, feel free to email me here!
If any of this sounds like something you are working through, I’d be glad to set up a time to figure out some solutions. After all, if the sexual component of your relationship is going strong, it brings a lot of positivity to the rest of your relationship.
Daytime and evening counseling sessions are available in Walker, Louisiana and 2 locations in Baton Rouge.

A Wife’s Guide to Valentine’s Day Success

Why Valentines Day, Mothers Day and your Birthday became your worst days of the year…and how to fix it.

After counseling hundreds of clients over the last ten years, I’ve picked up more than a few quirky insights into American marriages. One of them is this: nothing brings on a good fight like a big one-sided holiday. I’m talking Valentine’s Day, Mothers Day, and your birthday.

Let me explain… Christmas is easy because you can focus on others. Other people’s birthdays or special holidays aren’t an issue because you are in the giving role. But one-sided holidays tend to reek havoc on a woman’s sense of relational satisfaction.

In two words:
Unmet Expectations.

Wives, does this sound familiar? Your first holiday in the relationship was probably pretty painless. Maybe even enjoyable. You weren’t sure what to expect and men usually take the occasion to show off. This trend often continues through dating and engagement.

It’s the first big holiday after you’re married that tends to fall a little flat. Expectations have been set by this point. You’re expecting the celebration to have taken some planning or a degree of thoughtfulness…like he did when you were dating.
Instead, you get gifts bought on the way home and an invite to eat “wherever you’d like.”
The result: you probably resemble a cross between the hungry velociraptor from Jurassic Park and Medusa before her morning coffee.

Your strategy: You take matters into your own hands and instruct. This is the “let me teach you how to be awesome at gift giving like I am” move. For Father’s Day or his birthday you plan the most amazing gift he’d never even dream of fulfilling for himself. You think (or even say? Bless your heart), “see how easy this is?! Just PLAN! Just PAY ATTENTION to what I like.”

Next holiday, the assumption is, “surely he learned his lesson from last time and plus I taught him how to do it since then.”
The result: he didn’t remember or take your instruction. Rage blackout…take 2.

Your strategy: For the next holiday, you try to get out ahead of it. You think, “I will tell him exactly what I want him to do so that I won’t be so disappointed.” Still shell shocked from last time, he thinks, “she doesn’t want EXACTLY what she said…there’d be no surprise.” Or perhaps the more classic, “I don’t want to be told how to love my wife. I will give her what I want to give her.”
The result: that random coffee mug you mentioned liking at Starbucks one time last summer. You aren’t even drinking hot coffee anymore. You only drink cold brew because of the low acidity is better for your IBS. Hasn’t he noticed you stopped drinking hot coffee?!?!

The next holiday…if you make it that far…you decide to proactively kill off the part of you that wants attention. You say, “just don’t buy me anything.”
The result: he knows that’s a trick. He buys you another coffee mug. Because he still doesn’t remember that you don’t drink hot coffee any more, he just remembers that last time he bought you a mug you liked from before and that makes him feel smart. He doesn’t remember the other mug fiasco. For him, that situation just went into the category of “vague sense of failure and disappointment.”
The result: sobbing for a month. Your poor IBS. The coffee mug symbolizes all that is wrong in your marriage and the world at large.

Henceforth, you will find other things to do on holidays that are supposed to be about you or you continue in vain to kill off that part of you that still hopes for him to finally come through on these special events. You disengage to self-protect. (This feels like a safe move but it only leads to isolation.) When the holidays roll around, no one makes any sudden moves and the day comes and goes with a sense of frustration, loneliness, dread, and resentments going both ways. “I can’t ever make her happy. Nothing I do is good enough. Her expectations are like moving targets. I might as well not even try.”

Here’s how to fix it.

  • Meet efforts with enthusiasm.
    • Appreciate the small things.
  • Understand that you’re not married to a woman so he’s never going to think and feel like you do. And that’s ok.
    • Different isn’t wrong.
  • Find something to praise. You’ll get more of it.
    • If a man feels like a failure in what he’s already attempting to do for you, why would he take the risk of doing even more? He doesn’t want to feel like a bigger failure and disappointment. Instead, he will do less. This serves to protect himself and the relationship from further injury. The more you criticize, the more you encourage this mindset. Praise works the opposite way.
  • Approximations of the goals count.
    • You won’t see a total transformation in one step. But steps towards the desired outcome count for a lot and should be praised accordingly. Praise in a way he’ll remember. 😉 You’ll ease up the tensions and focus on the positive between the two of you. Before you know it, your bad gift giver will be unafraid to put efforts in because you have changed the environment by being pleased with his attempts. That’s key. If you can arrive at this sweet spot, things will only get progressively better.

A man who already feels like he’s made you happy will want to do more to make you happy.
A man who feels like he’s already disappointed you won’t do anything more because he won’t risk feeling more like a disappointment than he already feels.

So this Valentine’s Day, capitalize on praise in the small things, a positive attitude, and finding a memorable way to encourage his efforts. It’s good for your man. It’s good for your relationship. It’s good for you.

Contact me for any relationship or individual counseling needs. Offices in Walker and Baton Rouge.

Photo credit goes to my friend, Katie Barnett of Vivid Dream Photography, LLC

Four Ways to Detox After the Holidays

Photo by Ashleigh Amoroso Photography

Well we made it! Whew. That was a close one! But in fact, we are on the other side of holiday season (except Mardi Gras, of course) and we are also on the other side of the-year-we-do-not-speak-of. Let’s pause and give ourselves a pat on the back!! Yay Us!

The end of the year often feels like a mad dash between holiday parties and buying presents and road trips to Grandma’s house and making sure it’s the hap-hap-happiest season of all. Lot’s of people set aside January to focus on healthy physical changes, which I am ALL ABOUT! And on another day I will write a blog about the connection between physical health and mental health! But today I want to look at things we can do to detox from the “stuff” that effected our emotional well-being through the holiday season.

Detox from hurry. If 2017 is truly going to be any different than 2016, now is the time to create some intentional space and consider what you’d like to see change over the course of the next year. Let’s let January be a time where we say “no” to some stuff so that we can day dream a bit, make a few goal lists, and really consider how we’d like to see growth unfold in ourselves over the next 365. My husband and I have an ongoing discussion to this end and two things that have surfaced strongly for us both is that we intentionally disconnect from our phones when we are together and that we spend a full day on the weekend not working but focusing on quality time and special activities as a family. When I look back on the movie of my life, I don’t want to see myself running around town all the time in my car to unnecessary stuff or staring at the rectangle in my hand like it is giving me life.

Detox from the myth that “more is more.” If you’re like most people, you spent extra money on purchases throughout the holiday season and you received some new possessions. I hope that you spent and received things mindfully and it wasn’t done out of compulsion or obligation. But whatever the case, the focus almost always is on “more.” Unless we’re talking about coffee or dark chocolate, I’m actually a believer that LESS is more. To that end, I recently watched a documentary on Netflix called Minimalism that was another step on the journey for me towards simplifying my life. I actually wrote a blog about this topic this time last year, but little did I know how good August would be at clearing out my material possessions. (Thanks for that hard-fought lesson, Amite River.) After a season of “more” I just think it’s a great palate cleanser to pair down, clean out, and make more space for what really matters in life.

Detox from unhealthy people. Did your family treat you like your 16 year old self this Christmas? Did you find yourself acting like a person you barely recognized when you got around your siblings or in-laws? Did Aunt Linda shame you for not being married yet or the extra weight or your unruly kids? Was it all you could do to not tell Aunt Linda where she can shove it?! Whether it’s people wanting to put their expectations on your life, or political discussion that made you forget to chew your spiral cut ham, we have all had the experience where being around certain people just brought out the worst in us. To some people, the best thing about the holidays is that it only comes once a year!

Use January to remember who you really are. How you’ve changed. What you’ve overcome. Why you’ve left some people behind and embraced others. Don’t let being around old “triggers” cause you to slip into old patterns of behavior or thinking. If you need some extra help in this area, I can’t recommend this book enough. And of course, lots of people reach out for counseling at this time of year to discuss family issues that have come to light or brought back into sight. If you want to make an appointment to get help with this type of thing or something else, contact me here.

Detox from unhealthy food. Now I said at the beginning of this post that I’d save this topic for another day. But because I just can’t help myself, here is a plan that I really believe in. While I’m a mental health professional and not at all a dietician, this is what my husband and I like to do a few times a year (with vary degrees of “success”…sometimes it send up being a “Whole 14,” in all honesty). What I believe is that the simple acts of eating mindfully, having to think ahead, get creative and, yes, deny yourself things that aren’t helpful for your health, are exponentially good for your health in surprising ways. Discipline begets discipline. And when you add more discipline to your life, the ripple effects are many and varied.

So there you have it. What is January good for if not a fresh start? Take a minute. Press pause. Don’t let this month pass by without considering and planning towards how you want your life to look this time next year.

 

When God Gives You Crumbs

A belief that is inextricably part of who I am is how, with God, nothing is wasted. This doesn’t mean that everything is intentional or planned, but that nothing will be without purpose to one degree or another.

I think we can go a little overboard on the meanings we ascribe to things, but just hang with me here: God is not random. Nothing is wasted.Sometimes in my life, and I bet I’m not the only one, God will plant a seed of an idea…it will have the hallmarks of the Father…but it goes untouched for years, often forgotten, until the moment that God resurrects it.

I had one such experience when my husband proposed marriage to me. Something quietly spoken over my heart when I was 13 and had just started getting to know God on my own, that I never told to anyone, was lived out right before me in the certain way he asked me to marry him. To me, it was this message of, “it’s always been me and you, and it’ll always be me and you, but I’m bringing you two together to follow me side by side.”

Another instance that’s happened to me lately was when I was asked to teach a class at a women’s prison. As random as this is, the little seed for this idea was planted in me nearly 20 years ago. I was in high school and we spent a whole semester writing an in-depth research paper. The topic was of our choosing. I couldn’t really decide on a topic but kept coming back to the issue of the importance of providing educational opportunities to people in the penal system to reduce recidivism rates. No one…and I mean No. One. saw this idea as a natural fit for me. My friends questioned me about it. My teacher questioned me about it. Even I questioned myself about it. Was there Any other topic I wanted to write on? Was this something I was passionate about and just hadn’t mentioned to anyone yet? Honestly, I couldn’t tell you what possessed me to pick the topic other than to say that it was very clear to me that that’s what I was to write on. So I spent a whole semester researching the role education plays in keeping people from returning to crime and ending up back in prison. Random.

Flash forward all these years later and a friend asked me to teach a psychology and counseling college level class at a women’s prison. I honestly didn’t feel like I had the time to give to it. I went back and forth about what my answer should be. But ultimately I just felt the sense from the Lord that it was something to say “yes” to.

I agreed to do it and taught the class this summer. I poured out my best for the women and enjoyed my time doing so. I can’t say it changed my life or opened up this new calling of my life…nor was I expecting it to do so. It was obedience. I felt like God was glorified in my obedience, that I was used by God to facilitate growth and healing, and I happened to enjoy it, which is always a bonus.

It wasn’t until after I said “yes” to that opportunity did I remember that random paper from years ago.

I felt like the whole point of this little exercise in obedience was this sweet message of the Lord again to my soul:

“You’ve always heard me and followed me for a long time until now. This is another breadcrumb. Keep walking with me.”

What about you? Has God spoken something to you that you’re still waiting to see why or how it will come to fulfillment? Pray today for God to give you eyes to see His activity in your life. I challenge you to write down the things you feel like God has spoken so that you won’t miss the blessing of noticing God’s subtle leading over time.

As always…for further discussion on this or any counseling topic, I’m reachable here!

Questions to Ask When Choosing A Therapist

By the time people are sitting across from me, they’ve already chosen to open up their lives to a therapist and try something new in order to achieve their goals and make the changes they desire. The decision of whether or not to go to therapy is a hard one. Some people struggle with their decision for months or even years. I wrote on this topic last week, so feel free to hop on over to that post if you haven’t read it yet.

Once you decide that A) therapy is right for you and B) “now” is the time to pursue counseling, picking a therapist who will be a good fit for you is crucial to your therapeutic process. There is empirical data to back this up, but the common sense speaks just as well: if you don’t feel comfortable with your therapist, you’re not going to get much out of it. Your money, your time, not to mention you STORY…who you are, how you came to be who you are, and who you’d like to become…are arguably the most important things about you. So, who you share these things with deserves some forethought.

Sharing what is most sacred about you with a total stranger will always feel a little awkward at first. The more you get to know your therapist, the more you’ll feel comfortable with him/her…just like any new relationship. But right away (during the first visit) you should start to get a sense of 2 important things: 1) my therapist is actually listening to me and makes me feel understood and 2) I get the sense that she/he knows what he’s talking about and can handle my story.

While the therapy process is not always very comfortable, you should absolutely feel comfortable with your therapist. One client with a smile on her face put it to me this way, “I hate coming but I love seeing you!” What you talk about in therapy can often be pretty difficult, but having a good connection with your therapist goes a long way.

Other than finding a good personality fit, here are some questions you should ask/research when choosing a therapist:

  • What are some things I want to see change in my life (or “work through”) in therapy?  Would this require a therapist who is more specialized in a specific field of study?
  • Do I want to use my insurance to help cover the costs of therapy? (If so, start with your insurance first and look at their list of in-network providers. Also, inquire if your mental health/behavioral health deductible is separate from your medical deductible, and assess if it meets your needs to still utilize your insurance.)
  • What kind of training/degree should my therapist have?
    • Licensed professional counselors (which is what I am), marriage and family therapist (which is what my degree is in), licensed clinical social workers…these 3 licenses will will generally offer the same type of treatment for outpatient psychotherapy and have all received masters degrees (or more), passed their board exams, and had to complete several thousand hours of therapy after graduating before they are fully licensed.
    • Mental health nurse practitioners (which is a master’s level nurse, specializing in mental health), psychiatrists (which is a full MD who specializes in mental health) typically do more mental health medication management than direct therapy.
    • Psychologists have Ph.D.’s or Psy. D’s in psychology, have the ability to practice psychotherapy and in some states they have the ability to write prescriptions as well.
  • How much experience should my therapist have? Are you ok with a student intern or do you feel like your goals are better suited for someone with more experience? If you’re limited on budget, a masters-level student intern may be a great choice, as they have a lot of supervision (so you benefit from a “two heads are better than one” therapy experience) and they tend to offer lower fees.
  • Is the faith of your therapist important to you? It’s ok to ask about this type of thing when you make your initial contact!

You totally owe it to yourself to find the right therapist for you. Your time, money, and story are valuable to you and to me! I’d love to answer any questions you may have regarding this process, and if you need help finding a referral other than me in the greater Baton Rouge area, I’m always happy to help.

Spring Life Counseling, LLC has offices in Baton Rouge off of Government, right of I-12 in Walker and in Denham Springs near Florida and River Road.

 

 

What Chip and Joanna Gaines Can Teach Us About Our Calling in Life

It’s May again and we all know what that means. ‘Tis the season of graduation. A time for stressing out and searching for God’s will for your life. (Jokes…kinda.)

Whether you’ve been out of school for a while or you’ve just crossed the finish line, finding your place in this world (yes, that was a Michael W. Smith reference) can be frustrating and confusing to say the least. It’s a crossroads of life that is so easy to over-complicate, over-spiritualize, and over-analyze. What if there was an easier way to get clarity? While some people have callings that maximize our weaknesses (think: Moses, the stutterer, leading a nation…before social media could disseminate a message in milliseconds), most of us will find that our strengths, our gut/instincts and people who care about us are God-given guides to lead us towards the way we can be most engaged in uncovering the Kingdom of God on earth.
Have no fear! Chip and Joanna Gaines are here! 
If you don’t know who this sweet couple is, you’re missing out. They are an uber talented construction/interior design duo with a plethora of other entrepreneurial endeavors, some great kids, a rich faith, and, oh yeah…their own reality TV show on HGTV. And while I honestly think that there’s nothing worse than being a famous Christian, they somehow seem to be handling it all in stride.
What can we learn about “calling” and finding our niche from the incredibly creative and hilarious Gaineses?
Take stock in what makes you come alive and figure out a way to make a living doing that. 
Chip and JoJo have found their lane. They know what they’re good at and what they’re not so good at. Taking inventory of your strengths and weaknesses should be one of your first steps in uncovering what your calling in life is.
Questions for reflection: What do you do that seems to be easier to you than most other people? What is it that you consistently get positive feedback on? What did you want to do when you were younger? What do you still like about that? Check out Strengths Finders if you’re still having trouble pin-pointing what you’re good at. (Pro-tip: Don’t buy it used, because there’s an assessment measurement code that can’t be reused.)
Work your tail off. Malcolm Gladwell sites 10,000 hours as the threshold for excellence in fine-tuning your craft. Do the math. That’s a long time! Chip and Joanna didn’t just stumble into their success. They’ve been honing their skills for close to 20 years, full-time, before their business exploded. Never under-estimate the season of life where you learn, learn, learn some more, try, fail, figure out what you don’t know, succeed and repeat. Not only are your skills grown and mastered in this season, your character is grown as well. Good character and hard work will always have a payoff in this life and in the one to come. Check out a post of mine about “How to Give A Rip” if you’re struggling in this area.
Find the spiritual in the mundane. What if the sacred/secular divide is totally made up? Q: If anything (legal) done to the best of your ability is an embodiment of the glory of God, what possibilities does that open up for you? A: Tons.
There are lots of ways to let the kingdom come near. Don’t over-spiritualize so much that you miss the obvious. Jesus did manual labor (carpentry) to the glory of God. That’s how the son of God spent close to 15 years of his life. Why? Because anything done to the best of your ability is an embodiment of the glory of God.
Chip and Joanna don’t do anything particularly spiritual for a living. They build and design to the best of their abilities, taking created elements and revealing their beauty…bringing order out of chaos and revealing the heart of God, the most creative one of all. Even if they didn’t hold a marriage discipleship clinic on the sly in their show (which is so awesome, by the way), they still reveal the heart of God to the world because they unveil beauty, creativity, form, function, design, ingenuity and all these elements that God so deeply loves. (For more thoughts on this topic of work in terms of the kingdom of God, check out John Mark Comer.)
The bottom line about finding your calling is this: don’t stress out about it. God knows how to communicate with you. He made you. He’s just as intentional about what he reveals as what he withholds. God gave you a lot of practical tools to discover what makes you come alive and anything done to the best of your ability brings glory to God and advances the kingdom. Enjoy the ride, as it’s the journey, not only the destination that counts.
I absolutely love talking about career counseling in therapy session! If this is a topic that interests you or someone you love, or it would be helpful for you to talk through the topic with an uninvolved third party, please contact me and let’s set up a time to meet together at my office in Baton Rouge, Walker, or Denham Springs, Louisiana.