Archive for July 2015

Therapy for the Uninitiated and Intimidated: 9 Things to Expect in Counseling – Gideon Killion

If you’ve never tried counseling or psychotherapy before, you may be a little worried about what it will be like. You may even be a lot worried. Will it be awful? Like a job interview, but with more crying?

You do not have to cry. Not if you don’t want to. But if you do, it’s okay. Counseling is certainly a good place for crying; your counselor won’t think less of you (and has a box of tissues ready). But… crying is not a requirement.

So, what can you expect?

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There are many different sorts of counselors, and many different sorts of therapy, but you can be fairly certain of a few things:

 1. There will be a counselor.

2. There will be a chair. Or a couch. Something for you to sit on, anyway.

3. There will be some talking.

Feel better? Not yet? Ok, here are some more things to know about counseling:

 4.You do not have to do anything you do not want to do.

Everything that happens in counseling is voluntary. The counselor may ask you questions, or suggest that you do things, but it’s up to you. You can say “Yes,” and you can say “No.” Of course, how much you get out of counseling will depend on how much you participate.

5. You can ask questions.

If you’re wondering why the counselor is asking certain questions, or suggesting certain activities, or if you want to understand your counselor’s methods in general, ask! By law, you have the right to ask for and receive information about the theory, process, and methods your counselor uses, as well as his or her qualifications.

6. The counselor will ask you questions.

The counselor will ask you about the issue that brings you to counseling. He or she will probably ask you talk about its history and impact on your life, as well as the steps you have already taken to resolve it. The counselor may ask about many different parts of your life, such as work, income, education, ethnicity, medical history, substance use, family history, relationships, and so on. It may seem nosy, but the counselor is asking because your issue is probably connected to other parts of your life. To serve you well, the counselor needs to discover these connections.

 7. The counselor will probably want to talk about feelings.

The counselor will probably want to discuss many things that go on inside you, such as thoughts, beliefs, physical sensations — and yes — emotions. Some counselors will focus on them more, some less, but you’ll end up talking about emotions at some point during counseling. Whether you think emotions are what make life beautiful, or are the only things stopping you from becoming Spock, your counselor will see them as information about what is important and meaningful to you.

8. The counselor may suggest exercises or activities.

Counseling is not just talking. Many kinds of therapy involve specific exercises that are intended to create insight or foster change. For example, a counselor using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy may ask you to keep a “thought journal,” while a counselor trained in Gestalt techniques may ask you to speak to an imaginary person sitting in an empty chair.

9. The counselor will listen to you and care about what you are going through.

It may seem strange that a person you have only just met would actually care about you, but it’s probably true. Most counselors do what they do because they find satisfaction in supporting and caring about other people. You should expect genuine empathy, understanding, and support from your counselor.

 

Gideon Killion is an intern counselor in the People House Affordable Counseling Program. He also has a private counseling practice at www.lifecraftcounseling.net.

This Is Bigger Than Me Today – Lydia Taft

So things are changing again.  That’s all they ever do. Once I get comfortable, or at least somewhat comfortable with the direction I am traveling, I find that life gets all stirred up again.  And I am left to face the upheaval as it is and to once again find my place within the chaos.

I had once thought that I was meant to reorganize the chaos, but now I believe I am only meant to find where my next foot hold is, so I might ride the wave of change and see which shore I land on.  As I wrote that out, I became aware of my conditions.  I hear myself say, “But I don’t want it to look like this or that.”  “But I don’t want to lose my job,” was one very loud and clear statement.  “But I don’t want to move,” was another. 

But I don’t want to…  But I don’t want to… I hear myself whining in my own head about the many things that I don’t want.

I realize I have a very narrow picture of what I think all things ought to look like.  And while I am committing myself to riding that wave, there’s this part of me that wants to direct the wave to a particular shore and a particular outcome.  I find humor in this because I really thought I was in a place of surrender.  Turns out I am fooling myself once again!

When I’m fully honest with myself, I realize I have life plans laid out for at least the next 10 years.  And those plans have very particular sets of events that are expected to flow one after the other. 

It’s almost terrifying to think of what life might look like if it doesn’t go according Untitled-1to this 10 year plan of mine. 

I soothe myself by thinking that I am at least aware of my discomfort.  I am more aware than in the past of the conditions I’ve created.  I’m catching things earlier and earlier.  I’m getting better at this stuff.  I’m willing to keep trying. 

As I find some comfort in those thoughts, I realize there’s a higher part of my consciousness that understands there are bigger plans in store for me. 

I’ve had a lifetime of asking for things and the only way to achieve all that I’ve dreamed is to allow change to happen. 

My 10 year plan doesn’t account for the many things I’ve imagined.  It doesn’t account for personal growth and expansion.  It doesn’t include the bigger picture of myself as a dynamic being whose understanding is enhanced by every life experience I face. 

I realize that there’s going to be a point in time as early as the next moment, and as far away as 10 years from now, that includes a greater understanding of my place in this world.  And as I carry myself forward in this growth, I know that I can achieve and accomplish more than I can imagine from this particular point in time, with this very particular “now” understanding of who I am. 

Tomorrow’s understanding is greater and can accomplish more than I can imagine today. 

And I refuse to be afraid of that next thing that will take me to that next place, to live that next bigger and greater dream of mine. 

So I will find peace in surrendering to this change, because I know that it will propel me to achieving dreams I’ve yet to imagine.  I am reminded once again, that this experience is something bigger than I have the ability to imagine today. 

Therapy for the Uninitiated & Intimidated: How to Choose a Counselor – Gideon Killion

Whether you’ve decided to find a counselor (or some other kind of psychotherapist), or are still thinking about it, you are probably wondering how to go about finding and choosing one. There are a lot of counselors and psychotherapists offering many different kinds of therapies. How do you find one that is right for you? It seems daunting. Last week I had to find a plumber to unclog a drain and that was hard enough, even though I am fairly certain that most drain unclogging boils down to snake tools, wrenches, and P-traps.

 

Here are some steps to make the process easier.

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Step 1: Define your goal.

It may be tempting to gloss over this step, but don’t. Give it some attention. You may already be aware of the problem: “I feel depressed,” “I am terrified of poodles,” etc. Spend some time translating the problem into a goal. For example, “I feel depressed” could become “I want to feel joy, purpose, and connection with other people.” This step is important in three ways. First, it will make it easier to choose a counselor, later in the process. A practitioner who has expertise or interest in your goal will probably be a better fit than one who doesn’t. Second, you’ll be ready when the therapist asks, “How can I help you?” Third — and most important — identifying your goal is therapeutic on its own. It sets the stage for successful change.

 

Step 2: Do some research.

There are many different kinds of psychotherapy. You may have heard of some of them: CBT, DBT, Gestalt, Psychoanalysis, just to name a few. The good news is that, in general, your motivation and your relationship with the psychotherapist are more important that the particular type of therapy. But you may find that a particular type of therapy fits you better and makes it easier for you to stay motivated and connected to your therapist. So, if you can, do a little research online or in your local library on some of the different kinds of therapies that are available, and see which ones appeal to you. For example, this Wikipedia entry lists some common types of psychotherapy. Certain therapies are known to be effective for specific problems, so you may also want to do some research about your problem or goal, too.

 

Step 3: List your requirements.

Realistically, your financial resources and availability will limit your options for counseling or other psychotherapy. Identifying these up front can guide your choices. Some psychotherapists take insurance while others do not. (If you pay for therapy or counseling out-of-pocket, you may still be able to file forms with your insurance company in order to be reimbursed, later. Just be sure to check with them in advance to make sure that the practitioner and treatment are covered by your policy.) There are practitioners and programs that offer reduced or sliding scale rates for those with limited financial resources. (The People House Affordable Counseling Program is one of these.) Ask yourself how you will pay for counseling and how much you can afford to pay, as well as when you can make yourself available. Also consider whether you need individual counseling, couple counseling, or family therapy. And don’t overlook group counseling: it can be powerful and is often more affordable.

 

Step 4: Gather a list of possible practitioners.

Once you’ve established your goal, done a little research, and listed your requirements, it’s time to begin looking for a handful of counselors or psychotherapists from whom to choose. If you are comfortable doing so, ask friends or family members if they have any recommendations. Your doctor / minister / rabbi / guru / herbalist / yoga teacher may also be able to suggest someone. Use an internet search engine, such as Google, and try different search terms, such as “couple counseling sliding scale Denver”, “cognitive behavioral therapy Colorado”, or “poodle phobia counselor Denver”. Many therapists pay to be listed in online professional directories that you can search directly, too. One of the most popular is at PsychologyToday.com. Finally, psychotherapists in your area will often leave cards, flyers, or newsletters on bulletin boards in local coffee shops and other business establishments. Keep your eyes open when you’re out and about.

 

Step 5: Contact them.

Once you have a handful of names, call or email them. Explain what you are looking for and ask whether it is something they can help with. Ask for information about their fees, available appointments, credentials, and the methodology they use. Ask if they would be willing to do a free initial consultation, either over the phone or in person. Some do, and it is a good opportunity to tell them about your goal and to ask how they would help you achieve it.

Step 6: Decide.

Once you’ve contacted the people on your list, it’s time to decide. Rule out the ones that won’t work for practical reasons, and decide between the rest. And remember, it’s not permanent: you can change therapists if it doesn’t work out. Good luck!

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Gideon Killion is an intern counselor in the People House Affordable Counseling Program. He also has a private counseling practice at www.lifecraftcounseling.net

Thinking, Feeling, Free – Lydia Taft

This morning I have allowed the fear of “what is” to stalk me.  I have allowed myself to become lost in terrible thoughts that do not serve my peace of mind.  I have allowed the stories I retell about my life and myself to torment me, and now I find myself entering worry.  

These are my choices I remind myself… I can decide to feel a little better than I do right now, or I can continue to recall, retell, and re-experience this fearful feeling,  letting it all get worse.  That is all that I must decide.  I allow myself a few deep and centering breaths, while visualizing the worry falling off my shoulders.  This choice is my own.  The choice is always my own.

I am reminded of the Course in Miracles Lesson #34, “I Can See Peace Instead of This.”  I can choose peace.

The world does not need to dictate what I feel.  I get to deliberately determine what I am feeling in any given moment. 

No, this is not always easy, but, it is always necessary.  If the goal is to be peaceful, then I must figure out how to feel peaceful.  I must remind myself about what peace feels like. 

Peace is within me.  I know this because I have felt it before. 

I only have to allow myself to experience it.  I decide to refocus my attention toward things that feel peaceful to me.  I must reset my receptivity toward anything that helps me feel better.  What is a better feeling?  What do I prefer?  My mind is so lost in negativity that I realize I need to use a focus tool that is easy to implement.  I know that it is relatively easy to think of better feeling words.  I start there and begin with finding an “A” word. 

Appreciation.  Yes.  What does appreciation feel like?  I explore the feeling of appreciation and become settled into it. I then refocus my attention on finding another word.  Awareness comes to mind.  I settle into what awareness feels like.  I search next for a “B” word, but stumble a bit, so I move right on to “C.” I allow myself to experience Connection. When I am connected, I am clear.  This leads me to Clarity.  Eventually I get to Delighted and At Ease.  I notice I am feeling free.  Free is fun.  And on and on this game goes, until I find that I feel relief in the better thoughts and feelings that flow through me. 

After a little time spent playing this game, I realize that I have opened myself up to better feelings.  I am now receptive to experiencing relief.  My simple search for better feeling words has allowed me to step into a feeling of peace, despite the things that are happening outside of myself.


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Therapy for the Uninitiated and Intimidated: 5 Good Reasons to Try Counseling or Therapy – Gideon Killion

Let’s be honest. If you’re like most people, you’re uncomfortable with the idea of counseling. Isn’t counseling just for crazy people, you wonder? How could it possibly help to just sit there and talk to someone? Is it worth the money? Well, here are five ways counseling can help.

1. Sometimes, we just need someone to listen

Humans are relational beings. We cannot be healthy without connection to other people. Yet our modern, fast-paced society leaves many of us feeling disconnected and lonely. If we are fortunate enough to have close friends, they are often as busy as we are and they may not have the time, energy, or relational skill to listen to us in the way that we need. A counselor or therapist is trained to listen with patience and compassion. They offer the freedom to tell our stories without the fear that we will overwhelm or be rejected by our listener.

2. Sometimes, we need to work through unfinished business

Everyone has unresolved emotional baggage from the past. Maybe it’s something we needed but didn’t get from a parent. Maybe we carry wounds from bad relationships. Regardless of the cause, unfinished business can affect the way we see the world and hold us back from the lives we want to live. Because humans are relational, sometimes we cannot fully process the unfinished business alone. We need to work with someone, like a counselor, who has the training to help us do this.

3. Sometimes, we need treatment for mental health problems

The human brain is an organ, and like other organs, it doesn’t function perfectly. It can develop conditions that make it difficult for the person attached to it to live well. Proven and effective therapies have been created for anxiety, depression, PTSD, and many other conditions. Many of us feel shame about needing this kind of help, but finding the courage to contact a counselor is often the first step toward healing.

 4. Sometimes, we need to learn to relate to others better

Relationships are one of the most important parts of a healthy, meaningful, and satisfying life. But good relationships do not happen naturally. Often, the more important a relationship is, the more difficult it becomes. Our culture does not do a good job of teaching most of us the skills and habits that make good relationships possible. Counselors can help us discover and change the patterns and habits that prevent us from creating good relationships and they can help us develop the skills for maintaining them.

5. Sometimes, we need help to grow

Many people reach a point in life where they realize they are not satisfied or fulfilled. They sense that they need to grow or develop in some way, but aren’t sure how. They think about it inwardly, or discuss it with friends, but still aren’t sure where they are headed or how to get there. That’s when it’s time to call a counselor. A trained counselor can listen to our stories and help uncover the needs and desires that long to be satisfied, the wounds and fears that hold us back, and the values and beliefs that guide our choices. A counselor can help us identify the actions we must take in order to grow and reach the next level of our lives.

 

Gideon Killion is an intern counselor in the People House Affordable Counseling Program. He also has a private counseling practice at www.lifecraftcounseling.net

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth