What is Counseling Exactly?

By | Counseling

When I  meet new people and get the standard question, “so, what do you do?” and tell them I am a therapist, I get a range of responses–people are either fascinated, scared that I’m suddenly diagnosing them (don’t worry, I’m not!), or totally confused.  Through countless conversations I’ve come to realize that many people don’t actually understand what counseling is and what it could offer them.

Counseling is a unique experience that most people don’t find in other relationships, for good reason.

Let’s take a moment to examine some myths about counseling…

  • counseling is for “crazy” people
  • it’s for people who are self-indulgent and need attention
  • a counselor tells you what you should or should do–it’s basically an advice session where you get schooled in how to live your life
  • it’s for weak people who can’t get it together on their own
  • counseling requires a long-term commitment where you’ll lay on a couch and be psycho-“analyzed”

The good news is these myths are false.  Counseling is much more than this.  It is hard to define because it can have different meanings to different people, but if I were forced to write out a definition, it’d be:

Counseling:  A safe experience that can help with any type of stress, discomfort, or problem through an interaction with a trained professional.  

I’ve emphasized the word interaction, because counseling is indeed a shared experience between a counselor and client where both people are working towards a common goal: to make you feel better.  There are over 300 counseling theories and techniques, but the research shows that a positive counseling relationship is the most predictive factor in a person feeling better as a result of counseling.

In the context of this positive counseling relationship where I will always see you through the lens of someone who is simply doing the best they can, counseling can be many different things:

What Counseling is:

  • Counseling schools you in emotions—the tough ones that most of us are conditioned not to talk about or truly feel.  We learn how to express these emotions, process them, and survive them.
  • Counseling can offer a different perspective on your behavior, relationships, communication patterns, and emotions.
  • Counseling can help you examine your fears so that you can quiet them in your life.
  • Counseling can help you get un-stuck so you can achieve your goals, whether they’re personal or professional.
  • Counseling can teach you communication skills to handle conflict with less drama and pain, and can help you get clear on what sets you off to begin with.
  • Counseling can help you identify patterns in your thinking that aren’t working for you.
  • Counseling is a place to address pain and work through losses with support.
  • Counseling can help you get clear on your values, aspirations, and intentions.
  • All of this can add up to alleviating anxiety, depression, anger, discontent, overwhelm, relationship problems, perfectionism, lack of focus … the list goes on and on.

Shall we sum it up?

Counseling is a vehicle for living an empowered, authentic, and values-driven life.

What comes with all of this is a bit of work, of daring to try new things, and to being open to a little change.

If it isn’t clear already, I’ll clear it up now:  counseling is not an advice session.  If I told you what to do, I wouldn’t be doing my job.  I’d be failing you and taking away the strength and power I know is in each of us.  It is also not a long-term commitment (unless you want it to be).

So if you’re nervous about trying counseling, know these truths:

  1. Your counselor will view you in the highest regard with tons of awe and respect–we will hold space for you in a safe, comfortable, and judgement-free environment.  We know you are brave for starting counseling!
  2. Most counselors (myself included) offer free phone or in-person consultations before you get started so you can both make sure that you’re a good fit for each other.  If you don’t feel comfortable with the counselor after this, a good counselor will take time to give you appropriate referrals to other clinicians they trust that might be a better fit for you.
  3. If you start counseling and it’s not working for you, you can stop — no strings attached.
  4. Many counselors (myself included) will work with you on a treatment plan so that you’re both super clear on what your goals are, how to meet those goals, and when those goals will be met by.  This ensures that your precious time, money, trust, courage, and vulnerability don’t go to waste.

Ready to see if counseling is a good fit for you?  Contact me today.

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Intention & Imperfection in Parenting

By | Uncategorized

To The Exhausted Mother Whose Child Throws a Fit When the Wind Blows,

I want you to know you’re not alone.  The other day I was hosting a neighbor for a quick cup of coffee at my house.  When she showed up, she could barely hear my greeting over the screams of my 3-year-old son, who was rolling around on the floor crying.  You see, I had just committed the crime of all crimes—I opened his granola bar WRONG.  He expected it opened in a way that he could keep the bar in the wrapper as he ate, thereby reducing the mess on his hands, but I opened it in a way that necessitated the wrapper be thrown away, ruining his plans.  THE WORLD ENDED.  Or his, world, at least.  This lead to an hour of crying, kicking, hitting me, and throwing things.

tantrum

My child struggles with sensory integration, which often leads to some extreme meltdowns. To survive the meltdowns, I have to remember to use my favorite parenting tools: intention and empathy.

I was mortified by his fit and tried to make a joke about it with my neighbor, explaining that he throws a fit if the wind blows the wrong way.  This is a joke I’ve made a lot over the years of raising two kids that struggle with sensory integration.  It’s an easy way to laugh it off with others.

But here’s the thing, it’s not that funny since it’s actually somewhat true, as you might surmise from the granola bar story.  Lately I’ve been asking myself why I try to laugh off these difficult moments with friends.  I know this is a defense mechanism, as it’s a lot easier to make a joke than to say, “I’m exhausted and this is so freaking hard.”  In an effort to practice what I preach, I’ve tried to be more vulnerable and have found the courage to utter that truth, both to myself and to my friends.  Many of you know I teach Love & Logic parenting classes, which makes it even harder for me to admit how hard it can be.  I have to remind myself that I’m not perfect, and that imperfection is okay.  Inside imperfection, there’s room for grace and growth. I want you to know that I know how hard it is and even as a therapist and parenting coach, I struggle with my reactions too.

I’ve found the best way for me to respond to these meltdowns in an intentional way is to take care of myself first.  If I’ve spent the past several days tending to everyone’s needs but my own, my patience is much lower, leading me to respond to these meltdowns in a frustrated way that leaves me regretting my response later.  If I’ve been filling my own bucket with self-care (be it reading, going to an exercise class, carving out time with friends, or doing my nails), I am much more capable of responding empathetically to my child, which is what they need.  They need to learn that my love for them is unconditional, and that I can respond calmly to stressful situations.

A part of empathy is seeing one’s intentions.  With each melt down, I have to remember that my child’s intentions are not to drive me insane or to see what I will do or how I will respond.  His intentions have nothing to do with me actually, they have to do with him and his little body and brain trying to get their needs met.  I’ve tried to teach my children to use their calm voice and their words to express their needs, but this isn’t always what happens when they are in a sensory overloaded place of overwhelm.  This reminder that they are doing the best they can in that moment helps me to respond with love and understanding, which is not only what they need to actually calm down, but is also what we both need to nurture our relationship.

And you know what’s cool about this?  You’re also doing the best you can, even if you lose your temper after what seems to you like a totally unnecessary meltdown.  You’re doing your best mama – take heart in that fact!

Sincerely,

Brittni

P.S.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your child’s behavior, seek out support, information, and help.  One place to start may be at a workshop I’m leading with the fabulous owner of Honest Occupational Therapy, Jill Loftus.  Jill will teach us what is behind our children’s behavior so we can learn how to better support them.  For more information and to sign up, go to www.kindred-counseling.com/events/.  To learn more about Jill, go to www.honestot.com.

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PostPartum, PPD, Baby Blues, Depression

Guest Blog on PostPartum

By | Post Partum, Post Partum Depression

Guest Blog on Postpartum Depression

From Belly Bliss to Dark Depression

Two minutes can feel like an hour when you’ve just taken a pregnancy test and are waiting for the results. When women see the two lines show up, they’re flooded with a wide range of emotions—from elation and awe to shock and fear. And guess what? All these emotions are okay. For many women, pregnancy isn’t a time of bliss, but fear, anxiety, and depression.

If you fall into that camp, I want you to know you’re not alone. In fact, the national rate for postpartum depression ranges from 10-20%–but get this—fewer than half the cases are recognized. Of these mothers, about half will have symptoms that last longer than one year.

What’s the difference between Postpartum Depression & the Baby Blues?

Giving birth is one of the biggest transitions a woman may face in her lifetime—but it’s also a time in her life where all of her time and energy are devoted to someone else instead of focusing on the self- care she needs. The combination of hormone changes, loss of sleep, and the stress of caring for a newborn are overwhelming to most new moms. It is very common for moms to experience the “baby blues,” a two-week period where many new mothers experience mood instability, exhaustion, sleep problems, and crying episodes.

If the baby blues worsen or last longer than two weeks after delivery, you may be suffering from postpartum depression (PPD). Postpartum Depression is a serious illness and a significant health concern—it’s also not you’re fault.

Women are sometimes a bit freaked out that they’re reacting this way to something as wondrous as the birth of their child, and often they don’t seek help. Please hear me on this—you are not alone, and it’s okay to ask for help.

Why do women get PPD?

The exact cause isn’t known. Many women have depression during pregnancy that worsens after delivery or a past history of depression. In addition, hormone levels that change during pregnancy and right after childbirth may also produce chemical changes in the brain that play a part in causing depression and anxiety. Feeling depressed doesn’t mean that you did something wrong or that you brought this on yourself.

Should I get help?

Absolutely. If you hear anything from this blog post, hear this: help is available and there is hope that you’ll feel better with treatment. Half of all mothers who develop PPD continue to have significant symptoms when their baby turns one, so it’s important to seek help as soon as possible.

How do I get help?

There are many people you can reach out to: your OBGYN/midwife, your child’s pediatrician, or a therapist. At Kindred Counseling, babies are always welcome so that childcare is one less thing to worry about. This is why I offer Walk + Talk Therapy, where your session is taken outside on a walk, where you can easily bring your baby along in the stroller or a carrier. This adds an endorphin boost to your session, decreases the need for childcare, and often increases your comfort level (I totally get that the idea of a therapist’s couch can be nerve-wracking!). Walk + Talk therapy can help you cope with stress and depression, improve your mood, reduce your tension and anxiety, and improve self- esteem and feelings of wellbeing.

What else can I do?

Even if Walk + Talk sessions aren’t your thing, exercise can be something you can try to help with your depression symptoms. Studies show that exercise has many benefits that contribute to wellness:

exercising decreases depression and anxiety, enhances brain plasticity (this is a fancy term for your brain’s ability to learn new things), increases your ability to regulate your emotions, and improves sleep. In addition, studies have shown that just being outside induces positive emotions (in both you and your baby!).

Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your partner, other family members, or friends. Your to-do list is probably a mile long—there’s no shame in asking for help with household chores, errands, or making a meal.

Even though your time and energy is very consumed by your child, try to add in moments of self-care. I’ve always believed nap time should be used for you—to nap, take a relaxing shower or bath, catch up with a friend, listen to music, or peruse social media.

Taking care of yourself in your baby’s first year is one of the best things you can do for both of you: sleep when you can, fuel your body with healthy foods, and ultimately, give yourself grace. Parenting isn’t easy, and there’s no perfect way to get through the first year.

Important: If you are having moments where it seems like you can see or hear things no one else can, if you are feeling paranoid as if others are out to get you, or if you are having thoughts of harming yourself or others, it’s important to reach out for help right now. These symptoms require immediate attention as you could be experiencing Postpartum Psychosis. If you have these symptoms, your illness has the potential to take over and lead you to do things that you wouldn’t normally do. In order to avoid that it is important to reach out for help right away so that trained professionals can help you get stabilized and healthy. There are countless women who have had postpartum psychosis and recovered 100%.

Resources for Assistance or Further Information:

http://postpartumprogress.org/COMMUNITY/


http://www.postpartum.net/


EMERGENCY CALLS: 911

SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

 

Learning the tools to help you love yourself first helps you love others better.

Learn more about Brittni at: www.kindred-counseling.com & www.facebook.com/kindredcounseling

Guest blog on http://happywithbaby.com

 

 

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So What’s my Story?

By | Uncategorized

I’m so glad you’ve stumbled upon my blog. I bet you’re wondering what my story is … In short, it’s that I’m here to hear your story. But the long answer is that I’ve always gravitated to stories—the stories we tell ourselves, the stories we tell others, the stories that both inspire us to be our best selves and the ones that scare us to death. I’ve spent my life’s work studying how to support people as they process their stories through a Master’s degree in Clinical Counseling and School Counseling, becoming a Love & Logic facilitator and parent educator, pursuing training on postpartum depression, eating disorders, anxiety, living wholeheartedly, and a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism too.

For me, my own stories are about mothering—becoming a mother, struggling as a mother, remembering who I was before I was a mother, and wondering if I’m a good enough mother. Even before I was a mother, mothering has always been part of my story. I was often the listening ear my friends and family turned to when their own story got hard. I have held sacred others’ stories of suffering and pain. In these stories I see beauty, hope, and our propensity towards connection. I believe our stories connect us. When we can be vulnerable enough to share them authentically, we have the opportunity to create a kindred connection, the kind that makes you feel validated, cared for, and respected. That’s what Kindred Counseling is all about.

Kindred Counseling exists to support mothers and their families. I know it’s cliche, but I truly believe that being a mom is the most important job in the world. If we want to impact our world in a positive way, I believe we need to support mothers more. If we can support mothers to dare greatly, live authentically, yell a little less and love a little more, then they can be the role model they want to be for their children. It’s a ripple effect. Helping mothers actually helps the family as a whole and has a ripple effect throughout our society. When we are able to take care of ourselves first, nurturing our own story as we grow, we are able to be the rock that our families are depending on.
Our society tells us not to tell our stories of pain, fear, anxiety, and depression. But what a wonderful gift to give yourself and your children—to model that telling your story authentically, while both grappling with the hard parts and celebrating the good parts, can help you to be your truest, best self?
So there you have it—my story in a nutshell. What’s your story? I am eager to support you through your story of hope, pain, suffering, anxiety, whatever it may be.

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