Counselors Are Just People

Counselors and therapists are simply people that have spent time working on their emotional and mental health. The work of looking inward can impart wonderful healing, which compels counselors to share that gift with the world.  It’s a beautiful cycle…

One can find healing in a friendship, a counseling relationship, a spiritual journey, or even through reading a book in which the reader identifies with the hero or heroine and adopts healing by proxy.

Healing creates a “pay-it-forward” cycle.  “I was healed and now I want to bring others to such a point.  In turn, I hope their healing will affect those around them.”

Counselors are just people.  They have families and friends that they love and sometimes argue with. They may have inner conflict about a situation and worry about it or get frustrated with it. Counselors have learned many tools to cope with difficulties, but prior to using those tools, they are human and experience the same human emotions as everyone else.

I wrote this piece because sometimes clients feel as if I have all of the answers, that I never experience anger or anxiety, and that my life is easy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Counselors are just people that want to help people with being… “people”.

Posted in: Counseling, Michelle Browning, Relationships

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Write letters for Valentine’s Day

For as long as I can remember, I have always loved sending and receiving mail. I didn’t fully understand the concept of mail until I was in 3rd grade. My grandmother worked at the first Hallmark store in our little hometown and she always gave the perfect card with her gifts. In her cards, she took a moment to write a little something, a special message from her to the recipient. Her writing intrigued me. Her thoughtfulness was so special.

When I went away to college, “Momo” became my pen pal. She wrote every 2 weeks, asking how I liked school and telling me about home. I don’t think she ever knew how special her letters were to me. It was like I had a private part of her, secret conversations that would never be spoken out loud. I cherished the letters even more once her hearing began to fail.

She taught me how people communicate through writing. She taught me to respect anyone willing to share themselves through a silent, ink-filled voice. Holding the paper that she wrote on meant something. I imagined her stopping in the middle of her day to write to me, which made me feel special.

If you could write a short note to someone, what would you say? What if it made their day? What if they cherished it? What if they marveled that the paper they were holding was once in your hands? If you could write, “You are special”, or “You make me smile”, to your child, niece, nephew, sister, husband, neighbor, or someone small, so they could read it as many times as they wanted, would you do it?

In marriage and family counseling, I often find myself suggesting letter writing. When a client has lost someone, we discuss writing a letter to that person to say the things that they didn’t get to say. When a couple is at an impasse, we practice writing in a shared journal to communicate more deeply. When a teenager is at odds with his parents, we write a structured letter, organizing feelings from desires.

Consider your relationships – all of them. To appeal on a grander scale allow me to ask, what would be your last conversation with one of those persons be about? If you somehow knew that circumstances were about to change and you would not be able to say another word to someone, what would you say? It might be something really wonderful and special. My grandmother had no idea she touched my heart at such a young age. She merely wanted to have a connection with me.

I think about her letters every Valentine’s Day.

Posted in: Michelle Browning, Relationships

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Back to School Transitions

Adults and children everywhere are in back-to-school mode! It’s an exciting and stressful time for many. Exciting because it means a fresh start, new teachers and friends, new books, new clothes and embarking on a new step in life. Stressful because it involves many changes in routine, decisions, and potential for success or failure. Whether you’re a parent, a college student, or trying to help a loved one through this normal but still challenging transition, follow these tips to have your best year yet and avoid burnout!

  • Remember what works and what’s important, and put those at the top of your daily priority list. If you know that you need morning prayer time, having lunches packed the night before, getting enough sleep, or taking 5 minutes to sketch out tomorrow’s to-do list to stay sane, do it and don’t get distracted. Whatever distracts you can probably wait, and won’t help you to maintain balance.
  • Limit outside or extracurricular commitments to a specific time or day – don’t let the temptations of every sports team tryout, play audition, volunteer opportunity, or happy hour take over your schedule. One extracurricular or volunteer activity per person in the household per week is usually plenty, and still allows you to do those things that you identified as “works and is important” (see #1).
  • Keep overwhelm at bay by setting daily goals and encouraging children to do the same. For example, “I’m going to call to set up that appointment I’ve been putting off” or “I will complete my math drills before time runs out.” If possible, share goals as a family over breakfast or dinner, or while traveling to/from school or extracurricular events. Setting and achieving small goals builds motivation and confidence for moving toward long-term goals.
  • Sketch out an approximate schedule for the week. Now that you probably know recurring obligations, classes, and extracurricular activities, sketch them all out (on paper or electronically) so you can see it all together. Don’t forget to include time for homework, and maintaining self, health, and home. Let this be your guide for making decisions on spontaneous or additional activities.
  • Take time to listen and connect. Relationships often suffer when we get stressed or overwhelmed, but with a little effort they can fill us and keep us going. Make it a priority to truly connect with someone important to you each day – maybe it’s a phone call to a family member, pillow-talk with your spouse, 1:1 time with your child, or spending time in prayer.
  • Don’t ignore problems that arise – act on them prudently, but quickly. If a teacher or professor doesn’t seem to be a good fit, schedule a conference to discuss concerns and see if the situation can be remedied before everyone gets too frustrated. If you or your child seem to be struggling, arrange tutoring, peer mediation, or counseling to help get back on track.

Posted in: Jennifer Madere

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Is Intensive Therapy for You?

Recently we have begun offering couples, family, and individual intensives. This approach can be helpful for busy people and those wishing to work through a specific experience or concern. Please contact us to discuss your specific needs after reviewing this Q&A.

What is intensive therapy? Intensive therapy is when we meet for three or four sessions in one day, sometimes for subsequent days, to address and resolve an identified issue. For example, if a family or individual has experienced a crisis or disaster, a couple has identified an issue that keeps their marriage in conflict, or and individual wishes to resolve a past disturbing or traumatic experience. One or more clinicians may be involved in the sessions depending on the needs of the client (family, couple, or individual).

Is intensive therapy for me? Do you have difficulty fitting weekly appointments into your schedule, travel frequently for work, or want issues to resolve more quickly than can be accomplished in one session per week? If so, an intensive may be a good option for you. At least one intake session with your counselor will be necessary to determine the appropriateness and focus of a therapy intensive for your situation.

When does an intensive happen? It can happen at the beginning of therapy (after an intake assessment), or during the course of more long-term therapy. Scheduling depends on the counselor(s) involved, however, weekend intensives are possible.

EMDR and intensive therapy: Many professionals and organizations offer intensive therapy days or weekends using many approaches. Our training and the nature of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy allows us to address and resolve many issues and patterns quite efficiently during extended sessions or an intensive, especially since EDMR does not require practice or “homework” to effect change.

Contact us for more information or to set up an assessment appointment.

Posted in: Jennifer Madere

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