Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Feel Good About Feeling Bad

     People come into therapy for many reasons, but underlying those reasons is usually an emotion of some sort.  In fact, it's a specific kind of emotion because let's face it, no one sees a therapist because they're feeling happy and well-adjusted.  We come to therapy because we feel depressed or anxious or unworthy or dejected.  We come to therapy to get rid of the emotions we deem to be negative.  But are they really?

    I would say that emotions are just emotions.  They are temporary states that clue us in to what is going on in our lives.  And I would say the reason one emotion is thought of as positive and another negative is a result of our culture.  In America, we're told (or sold) the idea that we are supposed to always be happy.  The fact that we're not allows companies to sell us things to help us achieve happiness.  But happiness, like all other emotions, is a temporary state.

   Our emotions developed over eons of human history.  Their purpose is to provide the motivation and perception needed to interact with others and survive in our environment.  Therefore, all of our emotions, including the negative ones, are essential to our lives.  So it's not that we have these emotions that is the problem, it's what we choose to do with them.

    Take anger for instance.  It can be destructive or productive depending on its user.  It can destroy us or motivate us depending on our perception of ourselves.  Anger tells us that all is not right in our world.  It helps us avoid being exploited or undervalued and it can put power back in our hands.  It calls on us to take some kind of action and prevents stagnation.

    Shame, guilt and embarrassment teach us it may be time to look inward.  Yes, they're uncomfortable feelings because looking clearly at oneself is inherently uncomfortable.  These are feelings that are often the result of us doing something we shouldn't have done.  Without these feelings, who would ever learn from their mistakes?

   So maybe it's time to embrace your emotions and take the time to hear what they're trying to teach you.  Maybe it's time to forgive yourself for feeling what humans are supposed to feel?

Monday, May 11, 2015

It's that celebration time of year again!

It’s that time of year again.  A time of saying good-bye to old experiences and saying hello to the new.  It’s the time of year that embodies all the symbols of springtime that we love - starting something new, rebirth, transformation.  It’s graduation time and will soon be the peak of wedding season.  With that in mind, it’s a good time to talk about the factors that will set us up for success. 

Weddings and graduations are both times of great optimism.  Just think about the speeches given at each event.  They’re full of hope and wishes for greatness.  So much so, that they can leave us feeling like these events are supposed to be the happiest, most important events of our lives.  So how do we make the most of them?

The first thing is to reduce the pressure on yourself.  True, these are some of the biggest milestones of a person’s life, but you are not defined by a single day.  Instead, these events symbolize the hard work you have already put in with graduation representing your scholastic achievements and a wedding symbolizing your ability to commit to a grown up relationship.  Too often, these events get reduced to the “perfect” dress or cake or venue.  Studies show that people who just roll with it and look to enjoy themselves will have more fun and a better longterm outcome.  In fact, one study by two psychologists with the National Marriage Project showed that the most successful couples focused on celebrating their nuptials with the most people, focusing on fun and joining their guests for a good time.   

Associate professor of psychology, Jaime Kurtz of James Madison University believes that focusing on activities that take you out of your own head enhances your enjoyment of these events.  For example, spending the majority of time on the dance floor with your family and friends or telling spontaneous stories about your experiences in school.  

It’s also not about the dough!  In fact, studies by economists have shown that the less a couple spends on a wedding, the higher their chances of a happy marriage.  The study report that those who spend more than $20,000 on their wedding were 32% more likely to get divorced.  

Bottom line, we remember experiences far more than pomp and circumstance.  So perhaps the best way to embody rebirth and transformation is to honor the path you took to get to this moment and share your gratitude with those who helped you get there.      

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Little Bit About Myself

Hi there! Welcome to the Forward Recovery blog. Some people know I’ve been around a while. I started up my practice shortly after beginning my post masters internship almost 3 years ago. Now that I’m fully licensed and completed my training, I have decided to relaunch my practice. I got an awesome new office:

And I’ve rolled out a new website.  And now you can even log into my online portal for scheduling and journaling and all kinds of great stuff.  I am even launching a brand new endeavor – corporate mental health coaching.  I will get into more of that in a minute.
I want to share a little bit of my story first – my journey to becoming a therapist and coach.  It started out several years ago when I was working at a Tampa law office.  What I will say about that is it wasn’t for me.  Perhaps it was the style of the firm, I don’t know, but I felt dirty doing the work.  It seemed our job was to try to prevent people who had gotten hurt from getting the help they needed.  My particular job was to type correspondence.  So imagine daily typing letter after letter of ways our firm could justify keeping a person who was injured from getting medical care or money for daily living.  I realized early into that position that I would rather be helping people.  So, I went back to school and got my mental health counseling degree.
Now becoming a licensed counselor is a long process.  It starts with the degree, which includes a year-long internship.  It took me a while to find a position.  I ended up at a substance abuse clinic working in their court-ordered program.  I remember feeling a bit nervous about working with addicts.  I didn’t know what to expect and I had actually seen myself being more of a marriage counselor or helping out families.  I guess it’s like most people in a medical-type field – the specialty finds you, you don’t find it.  But I worried about this experience.  See, I had a picture in my mind of what my clients would be like and I am still amazed today at how wrong I was.  I thought they would be rough and aggressive and dirty.  I worried about whether I would have to deal with violence.  None of that proved true.  In fact, to this day the people I met and helped have my total admiration and respect.  After the first day, my first group, I knew this is where I was supposed to be.  I learned that people in recovery have a lot of courage and generosity.  I learned that if you show them you expect good things from them and prove to them that you support them, they can change their whole lives around.  But what I also learned early on was I needed better skills.  I learned addiction is not its own disease, but is often a symptom of a traumatic past.
After my internship and graduation, I got to work with an amazing counselor who taught me about EMDR.  For the next two years, I worked to learn how to do this amazing style of therapy.  EMDR helps people get past negative experiences that are preventing them from functioning in a healthy way in the present.  It’s the piece that I feel is often missing in traditional substance abuse treatment.  I have used this therapy to help people in recovery, people who are transitioning out of prison, people who have struggled with low-self esteem for years and years, people who were sexually and physically abused.  Later, I trained in a variation of EMDR that can help reduce or eliminate cravings for addictive substances and behaviors.
My favorite thing about being a counselor and coach is watching people change.  Sometimes the change is small and hardly noticeable by others, but I always see it.  I also believe this journey has helped me grow as a person.  I am more grateful for my family, which has always provided me with support and unconditional love.  I am less judgmental, as I know the stories behind some of the strange and destructive behaviors I have seen in my clients.  I am more at peace with myself, as I have learned that we’re all just trying to survive our lives the best way we can.  Anyway,  Welcome to Forward Recovery and I hope to see you soon!