Did you have a pen pal as a kid? I loved sitting down, writing and sharing something from my heart, funny or serious. I was able to share my authentic self to someone else in a meaningful way. I remembered how excited I was when my letter arrived in the mail. It was a wonderful experience to hold a letter that someone else took the time and thought to write just for me.
My first pen pal was assigned to me in the 5th grade. She was another 5th grader from Alabama. In the 6th grade, I was assigned my second pen pal from Germany. Both pen pals added so much to my learning because of their cultures as they were different from mines growing up in Illinois.
Writing a letter provides time for us to be ourselves, honest, dream, listen and understanding. It can be hard to embrace ourselves, especially if we’ve been taught that we need to change based on so-called norms in our society and/or culture. Meaningful connections with others have been lost due to our overuse of social media and texting. I love technology and its benefits, but nothing will ever replace the human connection needed within ourselves or from others.
Ways to embrace yourself and connect with others now:
There are many things in life we try to control on our own. We try to control what other people do, say and feel about us. Sometimes, we internalize these things. There are also times where we don’t control the things we can. Some days, we just don’t feel like it because it appears as though everything is falling apart in the middle of a life-storm creating a flight or flee response. But even in difficult times, we can get through life-changing events.
As life happens, try to be honest for what’s true for you. Remind yourself, you have power no matter the circumstances that comes your way and with the help of a therapist; you can cultivate a meaningful, fulfilling and compassionate life for yourself. It is empowering to keep in mind that you are not alone.
Here are 12 ways therapy can be helpful in navigating life.
When life gives you lemons, they say to make lemon-aide.
How about when life comes at you fast and throws several curve balls?
You just got a new job, more money so now you revisit your finances and find ways to keep more money in your savings account; home-run!
Your daughter just made #1 on the charter school lottery for the upcoming school year; home-run!
Your sister just had her first baby and you are super excited to be an aunt; home-run!
After flying through green pastures, celebrating these homeruns, you grab a seat and close your eyes to stay in the present and relish on the beauty of it all.
As soon as you open your eyes, the fastest curve ball you have ever witnessed is now coming towards you.
The basement is flooded with the view and stench of feces leaving you to now wash clothes at the laundromat as it will cost over $300 to get the pipes in the basement unclogged.
You call to follow up on the first day your daughter starts the new school to be told, they made a typo on the letter you received and she will not be attending their school this year.
You hang up the phone with the curve ball now stuck in your throat.
On your way out the front door, heading to see your newborn niece, the phone rings! Your grandmother died.
You sit! You began to feel a tingle of pain in your chest, so you breathe although the air seems uncooperative because you cannot seem to calm yourself and the curve balls are now stuck in various parts of your body.
So you stand and begin to walk from one end of the room to the next. Now, the pounding in your head matches the sensation in your chest. The sound of the mailman placing the mail in your mailbox snaps you out of your head and for that split second, you are now focused on the task of reading the mail in hopes of a distraction.
You open the first piece of mail to read you are being fined $300 by the city for having the police dispatched to your home too many times for false alarms. You open the second piece of mail and it’s a notice stating your mortgage has increased $400 because your mortgage company failed to take out enough money to cover last year’s escrow.
The money you meticulously budgeted every month to go into your savings is now gone.
Now, the room is spinning and all those curve balls have knocked you on your ass. And it’s only Tuesday!
How are you going to make it through today? The rest of the week?
Eat comfort food…or not.
Well, whatever you do…stand still and catch those curve balls.
Life is always testing you! Your perception of events can be good or bad; own it!
With each curve ball, be present and feel those uncomfortable feelings. Do not try to move away from the discomfort of those curve balls. Go with the ebb of each one, but stay grounded. With every season, winter, spring, summer and fall – as humans we adapt and you can too when life throws you a curve ball or three!
Staying present is the only way to find a solution to current problems and fully go with the ebb of life’s curve balls! Once you solve the problem, you can move on. Another curve ball will come, and that is fine just like when one season ends, we prepare for another.
For every curve ball is a homerun waiting to be hit out the park!
Graduating from high school is such an exciting time for many seniors! It can also be stressful when planning for prom, a graduation party, attending college out of state, etc. Going away to a new city or town can seem like an adventure for some, while others may experience some anxiety behind leaving home and their family. This can be a time for parents to develop a schedule around how often they will be face-timing their young adult. Face-timing is key because it provides a visual parents' can use as a tool to notice if something is not right.
Colleges and Universities market and promote the beauty of their campus, how well particular programs rank throughout the nation and state, their extra-curricular activities, etc! Institutions do not promote the use of alcohol and/or drugs, yet it is expected and is the misperceived campus norm when attending college. Some college students develop an opioid dependence from misusing their prescriptions or obtaining them from friends on campus.
What happens when your young adult suffers from substance abuse or worse, dies from someone else's use or their own? It can be very difficult to admit having a substance abuse problem when living in an environment that accepts substance use. Educators are usually in a position where they have minimal leverage to help students with substance abuse problems. By the time the issue does come to surface, the student suffers because of the lack of support provided by their institution.
Young adults should be able to have a recovery system in place for when they are experiencing their life spiraling out of control due to misusing a substance. Some institutions have mental health counselors readily available, yet what about substance abuse counselors?
Institutions can provide support with the expertise of substance abuse counselors as to how it can build a campus-based infrastructure that works with students to prevent substance abuse and relapse, while promoting academic performance. This effort should be community based for the entire student population and institution as a collegiate recovery community or community of recovery professionals on campus. This type of community will enable students to learn how to create a new circle of friends and not return to the same friends who sold and/or used drugs with them. The institution can set up additional support for students, helping them navigate campus resources and maintain their recovery in the face of misperceived campus norms. Students can be treated on an outpatient basis to avoid having to withdraw from school and retake the classes upon their return. If a student does need inpatient care, institutions may consider implementing a drug return program. Not all college counseling centers provide opioid addiction treatment and are referred out to local doctors, but colleges can have Narcan (Naloxone) nasal spray on hand to reverse overdoses of opioids including prescription painkillers and heroin.
Students that are opioid-dependent can be safely and effectively treated with buprenorphine (Suboxone) in their institution's counseling center, but some students may perceive that their taking Suboxone has cured their addiction so they stop treatment (counseling, 12-step meetings, sponsorship, etc). Another option for students can be sustained-release Naltrexone (Vivitrol). Vivitrol is administered as a shot, once a month, which can help with the student not having to taper or stop treatment when they are ready. Vivitrol blocks opiod receptors in the brain and does not activate them, blocking the effects of opioids. Students cannot get high on Vivitrol, but they have to detox from opioids about a week before they can start it, which can be a disadvantage.
Substance abuse happens at college and although this is not new news, ignoring substance abuse at college does not make it go away. Collegiate recovery, having support for students in recovery attending college, should be the new norm across the nation and not an afterthought when institution's public relations department fail to revive the school's reputation from several tragic substance abuse incidents. Institutions have to consider their specific circumstances and student's needs when setting up its recovery efforts. Admitting substance abuse is becoming more prevalent can be the first step. Early intervention matters as prescription drug abuse become more prevalent!
I am in clinical supervision for my license in professional counseling (LPC). Supervision can be costly and it can be hard to identify the right “fit” for a clinical supervisor.
I contacted LCSWs and LMFTs, but after learning their prices, location and availability, I decided to get all of my hours with a LPC. The particular LPC I found offered group supervision after work hours. I utilized her group supervision only because I could not afford her for individual clinical supervision. Upon our initial contact, I asked questions about the process, yet very little was asked of me.
After attending several months of group supervision, I felt as though I was missing something. The office was fancy and my peers were very nice, yet I walked away adding nothing to my professional growth or development as a therapist. When I had questions, response via email was hardly ever returned until the day I ended our business relationship. I also learned that although I enjoyed the peers I met during that time, group supervision was not for me. Last, I was not simply looking for someone to sign off on my paperwork. In this case, I was not getting my money’s worth.
I started my search again. This time, I searched LinkedIn and Psychology Today. I was a little bit more adept at identifying what I needed in a clinical supervisor. I started asking people I knew in the field if they knew of licensed professionals that were offering clinical supervision. I was given several lists. While going through the lists, I had to break down them into manageable pieces of information that would help me find the right “fit.”
I considered these 6 things:
What are some characteristics you look for in clinical supervision and supervisor?
First published on LinkedIn - 4/4/17
My quest to finding a mentor was not easy. I would identify women whom I thought would be a “good” fit, but for many reasons, they were not. I did not have all the answers during the first couple of times I met with several potential mentors, but I learned to at least have these basics ready for discussion. We both had to be clear on the amount of time we were both willing to put into the mentor/mentee relationship. We both had to be clear on what we had to offer each other. After all, the mentor/mentee relationship is a two-way street.
I have used LinkedIn and professional conferences to identify potential mentors. I was told NO and would often take it personal. Although it was a letdown to my ego, it turned out to not be the end of the world. In the long run, those rejections saved me time and mental anguish from a professional relationship that would have added nothing to my success.
I learned that having a mentor is just one piece to my success. Instead, I have surrounded myself with people that represent where I would like to be – today, tomorrow, 5 or 10 years from now. The 6 Essential People You Need in Your Network, (Bucklan, 2014) are:
Bucklan (2014) suggest that you want to assemble a diverse group of talent that is known as “social capital” in order for your network to really have an impact on your success. It is great to have a social media presence and “friends” in your circle, but quality counts over quantity.
Having these six types of people in my life has allowed me a well-rounded journey to success.
Do you have any of these people in your circle?
First published on LinkedIn - 4/1/17
As a therapist, I am constantly finding ways to evolve not only professionally, but as a human being. My evolving process is holistic – spiritual, mental, physical and emotional. Being mindful requires me to be in the present, live in the now and sit with whatever emotion I may be experiencing based on something I perceive as negative at that moment.
When I am not practicing mindfulness, my mind wanders between the past and future instead of focusing on what is happening right in front of me. This can trigger an unproductive, negative reaction.
For example, you go on a job interview and leave feeling like you aced it. Your mind begins to think about the future and all the things the new job can bring. A couple of days goes by and you hear nothing. Your mind now goes to the past, replaying the interview and asking yourself what did “I do wrong?” Since you really wanted “this” job, emotions are running high from not knowing if you got the job or not. Now, you retreat without having all the facts. With all of this going on, it can be hard to be present in your life, flexible in your thinking or not controlled by your emotions. Instead, you are stuck in last week when you had the interview.
When I find myself in this or any related situation, I find a space to sit and do a self-check. I identify what I am feeling mentally (anger, frustration, irritation, etc.). Next, I do a body scan. I ask myself what I feel inside out. I take deep breathes and sit with the emotions instead of fleeing or distracting myself. I do not judge what is going on or what I am feeling as right or wrong. When I do not want to sit with my painful feelings, it is okay! At the least, I recognize them and what they are/mean so that in the event it happens again, I am better equipped at handling myself inside out.
This is definitely easier said than done because the mind can wander, so what I like to do is vent to a nonjudgmental friend &/or instantly write my thoughts down. Every day, I write 30 things that I am grateful for. This helps me stay present.
For every negative, find a positive.Focusing too much on the future causes worry and staying in the past creates guilt and/or regret. None of these emotions add to my well-being although pain is a part of life. However, mental, emotional and physical pain can be reshaped by practicing mindfulness.
No one can change yesterday and tomorrow is not promised. Constantly going between the past and future can be draining and daunting. You deserve peace within your body, mind and spirit.
How mindful are you?
First published on LinkedIn - 4/3/17
I am a determined, loving, loyal and perceptive therapist that helps professional women of color build their self-confidence to build a career and live a life worth living. I listen quietly and attentively remembering details to tell truths that need to be spoken.