Posts tagged ‘Mental Health’

Whatever You Need ll By Rich Brodt

Among my efforts to help my clients take better care of themselves, I have run into barriers with getting clients to buy into the idea of self-care. For whatever reason, many people hear those words and immediately think I am trying to convince them to pick up some athletic activity that will be difficult to enjoy. This narrow view often leads individuals to blow off the idea of finding activities that will be beneficial to their physical and mental well being.

The truth is, self-care can be just about anything, and long as you are doing it to actively meet one of your needs.

Self-care is picking up that book of poems you have had your eye on for the past couple months, it is buying that latte at the fancy coffee shop once in a while, it is texting that friend who always makes you laugh, it is scheduling that massage youve been wanting. Self-care does not require you to force yourself to do things you dont enjoy simply because they are good for you. It is about finding relaxation, and mental peace – and treating it like a chore becomes counterproductive.

Look, having a self-care routine can be great. Ive had routines that I maintained in the past, which were extremely helpful, until the circumstances changed and the routine became more difficult to maintain.

When we become overly strict with ourselves about maintaining the routine, we can end up feeling guilt and shame when we are unable to follow through.

Each time we miss a workout, morning meditation or some other event we had scheduled into our routine, we feel upset with ourselves. This is the opposite of what a good self-care routine is supposed to accomplish. That is not to say that routines are bad, or that self-discipline isnt a quality worth striving for. But when an inability to follow through on that routine leads to feelings of shame, we probably need to take a closer look at what is happening. If the idea of self-care is making you more upset, you might be doing it wrong.

Instead of a routine or set of particular repeated behaviors, some people might find it helpful to look at the idea of self-care as more of a shift in mindset.

A mindset where ones needs are regularly assessed and addressed, where one gives themselves permission to do the things they enjoy.

Maybe that means getting up extra early on a Saturday to go hiking in the mountains before the crowds arrive, maybe it means stopping at the bakery for a doughnut on your way home from work, or grabbing that cocktail with a friend you havent seen in months. If it feels good, doesnt cause you harm, and helps you find your center, it is self-care and whatever it is, is necessary for you in that moment.

Often times, perfectionists have the hardest time with self-care. Perfectionists tend to resist the idea of self-care because they feel their time could be spent more productively.

Often they will spend weeks or months without giving themselves a break or treating themselves to anything they truly enjoy. Instead, they see things as black and white. When they are working they work, and when the work is done they can enjoy themselves. This self-denial along the way often leads to problems. When things have built up for so long, perfectionists need a release, the inability to stop along the way can lead to things boiling over into impulsive, unhealthy behaviors. This is why I encourage an approach to self-care that is not perfectionistic, but instead makes space for whatever needs pop up along the way.


About Rich Brodt

I provide therapy and counseling for individuals. My style integrates various techniques, but I tailor my approach to each client’s unique needs. I am committed to helping people that experience anxiety resulting from trauma, work-related stress, legal issues or major life transitions. Together, we will work to calm your mind and create lasting change.

Erasing Shame ll Rich Brodt

Erasing Shame

By: Rich Brodt

            The Oxford English Dictionary defines darkness as both an absence of light, and as wickedness or evil. I take the former to refer to an overall state of literal or figurative darkness. One might say that America is in a time of darkness. Trust in the system is at an all time low due to the actions of our leaders, and people are figuratively in the dark as a result of the media’s inability to consistently report accurate facts. The first definition is easy enough to take at face value, but the second definition gives me pause. Under that second definition, “wickedness or evil,” the Dictionary lists several sub-definitions such as “[u]nhappiness or gloom,” “[s]ecrecy or mystery,” and “[l]ack of spiritual or intellectual enlightenment; ignorance.”

            These definitions are fascinating. They explain the definition of darkness as “wickedness or evil.”

These definitions indicate that unhappiness, gloom, secrecy, and a lack of enlightenment are essentially evil or wicked. Some of the purportedly evil things are the same words we might use to describe mental health issues. “Gloom” or “unhappiness” could easily refer to a depressed individual’s state of mind – and this is how we are defining wickedness or evil. 

            The stigma of mental illness has improved somewhat over the years, however, these are still the messages that society sends to unhappy people. If you are unhappy, something within you must be flawed. The definition treats the negative feelings more like unwanted interlopers than valid emotion. Yet the definition merely reflects what is readily observable in American culture. We are taught to praise the image of a person who is ascending, succeeding, working hard, living a “happy” life. Depression is not depicted as a natural part of life, instead it is portrayed as a defect, a character flaw. I believe this is because we are made uncomfortable by another’s pain.

So on top of sending the message that it is not okay to be depressed, we are also asking depressed individuals to hide their true emotions in order to make us more comfortable.

            These messages force people into hiding, severing connections that are essential to individual growth and positive thinking. By avoiding these uncomfortable topics, we send the message that they are taboo. As a result, negative feelings are suppressed. It seems that this is often followed by detachment and aloofness. Our discomfort with another’s pain causes them to suppress further. Others, sensitive to these messages from an early age, may adopt a false persona to blend in with the people they perceive as normal. This can be dangerous. The continued effort of suppressing one’s true self around other people is exhausting. When an individual suppresses their feelings to this extent it eventually leads to worsening levels of depression, self-harm, and isolation.          

            As a culture, we want people to be “happy.” However, happiness is not meant to be a permanent state. If happiness was permanent, there would be no drive to grow or to improve one’s self. A state of bliss is a nice vacation, but if we stayed there we would probably have far fewer chances to evolve. Stress, anxiety, tragedy, grief and trauma are all a part of the process of becoming who we are. The more we shut ourselves off from the darkness that life challenges us with, the less we are able to accommodate and appreciate moments of light.

            This is largely why I feel that therapists need to spend time working through the taboo thoughts that their client may be having, normalizing them and allowing the individual to understand the reasons for them. For example, at some point, most of us will counsel someone on the verge of losing a loved one. Sometimes, the client will shamefully reveal that the relative’s suffering is so difficult to bare that they would prefer if their loved one would die already. While the statement is impactful, it is not bad or wrong. It can be shocking since the statement is inherently hopeless. However, this shows me that the individual is open to their feelings and not detaching from them. The individual usually feels shame and guilt around even having such thoughts. When they do, I try to remind them that what they are thinking is natural. The mind tries to find a way to relieve itself from suffering. Fantasizing that this person has already passed does exactly that – allows the mind to envision a situation where the suffering has ceased. It provides a comfort.

It is important to normalize this thought process, allowing the client to see there is no reason to feel shame.

            This process can be used to facilitate the processing of other similarly taboo thoughts a client may experience. I believe that there is a reason for every thought; for negative/dark/taboo thought, the reason is usually related to some kind of emotional or physical pain that the individual needs escape from. If that unwanted thought can be traced to something distressing, the individual can begin to understand why the dark thoughts started to emerge. This helps to relieve feelings of shame, and keeps the client moving forward free of judgment.


References

Darkness. (2017). In Oxford.  Retrieved from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/darkness.


About the Author: Rich Brodt is a Registered Psychotherapist and former attorney with over 7 years of mental health treatment experience. He is especially interested in working with trauma, grief, existential themes in counseling, and the link between psychology and philosophy. He is currently in private practice conducting group and individual therapy at Elevated Counseling, PLLC 2727 Bryant Street Suite 550, Denver, CO 80211 and can be reached at (720) 295-1352 for scheduling inquiries.

The Art of Darkness ll Rich Brodt

The Art of Darkness

By: Rich Brodt

     I sat across the aisle from my classmate, Kyle, on a bus filled with counseling students from our master’s degree program. We were heading back to campus from a day trip to Taos, NM. Kyle and I were engaged a lively discussion about our favorite horror movies. As our conversation turned to some more obscure titles and topics, another student eventually turned around to express that our conversation was a bit morbid. With seeming disgust, the student questioned why someone would be drawn to such dark topics as a source of entertainment.

     I was familiar with this tone. It rang with both curiosity and mild disgust. My tastes in the darker side of art had been questioned by friends, romantic partners, teachers, parents and others throughout my life. Truthfully, I had not seriously questioned these interests until after the brief incident on the bus. I did, however, observe that most of the people in my life looked at some of my interests in a negative light. On that bus, I also observed that many individuals working towards a career in the counseling profession, where judgment is frowned upon, had no problem chiming in to let us know that the subject matter was a bit offensive to their sensibilities. As I continue to consider the idea of why some of us are drawn to darkness, the answer seems simple. These pursuits are therapeutic.

     When watching a horror movie, one is faced with the uncanny, the mysterious, the obscene and the paranormal. In a sense, these are concepts of unreality in that what we see in horror movies does not reflect the world’s present reality, except in rare circumstances. As a result, the movie creates a world that is separate from our own. It is a fantastical surrogate, used to represent the atrocities of our world without forcing us to witness those atrocities in a reality that is too familiar to us. It is inhabited by fictitious people and entities playing out fictitious stories. In this alternate reality, the viewer can safely engage in fantasy and take on any role from hero to perpetrator of evil. This feels permissible because the fantasy takes place in a setting so removed from reality. The viewer has a safe place to explore their most distressing, unwanted desires without slipping into a place of self-judgment, and without inflicting harm on others. This is cathartic. 

     Catharsis is not without value, but there is deeper work to do. This is where both art and therapy can play a larger role in allowing the individual to process the emotions related to horrific or scary thoughts.

     Personally, poetry was the medium I chose to explore darkness. The lens of the poet allowed me to take my most negative thoughts and twist them into beautiful language. Using this lens to explore my psyche, I could see light and dark integrate to form a more complete picture. I saw myself expressed on the page and accepted the positive and negative as equally important parts of my personal narrative. They were not good thoughts and bad thoughts, they were simply different thoughts, the integration of which allowed me to feel whole, and the denial of which made me feel disconnected. Poetry was a door to vulnerability that allowed me share myself with others on a deep level. I no longer needed to live in denial of what I believed were unacceptable feelings and thoughts. It was a starting point to self-awareness and self-acceptance.

     Writing worked well for me and has become an essential part of my mental health, but counselors can foster the same kind of exploration in their sessions if they are willing to go there with clients, fostering an atmosphere where these thoughts can be explored, imagined, experienced and processed.

     The clinician can use a variety of skills to accomplish this. If the clinician senses that a client is keeping something hidden, they may inquire about this, maintaining a non-judgmental stance, the clinician can ask the individual about songs or other movies they may be connecting with at present. Jungian depth work would also be helpful in helping a client connect to some of their thoughts that they may shy away from. Having the option to provide the clinician with an image or metaphor representing a thought should let clients feel safer disclosing and processing. This creates separation from the client’s inner thoughts, allowing them to process a representation of their thought when the thought itself is too difficult to swallow. That being said, it is not necessarily the method that will make a difference, but the willingness to dialog with the client about these thoughts creates a space where self-acceptance is possible amid unacceptable thoughts. Without a route to accept and process such thoughts, an individual may avoid or deny these thoughts, seeing them as taboo. This closes an individual off to vulnerability and can lead to destructive behaviors, such as self-harm, substance abuse and various other unwanted behaviors.


Rich Brodt is a former intern at People House, and is currently a co-owner and private practitioner at Elevated Counseling, PLLC in the Highlands area of Denver. Prior to training to become a therapist, Rich practiced as a mental health litigation attorney in New York City, where he first became passionate about the field. Rich draws on knowledge of law, philosophy and poetry, bringing a unique perspective to his sessions. 

Rich’s current practice utilizes a client-centered approach, integrating Gestalt, existential and depth approaches. He focuses his practice trauma and anxiety-related issues, including PTSD, high-stress careers, life transitions and other major stressors. Rich’s first priority in counseling is to create a safe, non-judgmental space, where clients can feel comfortable sharing and processing their most difficult thoughts. 

Elevated Counseling, PLLC
2727 Bryant Street Suite 550
Denver, CO 80211
ElevatedCounseling.org
Ph: (720) 295-1352

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

Think you can’t Afford Counseling? Low Cost Therapy is Available

From the maxed-out mom who finds comfort in a community support group to the recent retiree who needs help pinpointing the source of his blues, access to adequate, affordable treatment and support is essential for millions of American with mental health concerns. But with state budget cuts threatening local services and programs across the country, the people who need these services most could see their support systems disappear.

A recent report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found that more than half of Americans with mental and emotional issues don’t get help – and that number is only expected to grow as states slash their mental health care budgets in response to growing deficits.

But if you need mental health attention and you can’t afford it, the last thing you should do is nothing.


If you are in the situation where you are financially unable to get treatment through large care providers, then there are some things to consider. The first is whether you have health insurance. Sometimes insurance can be more of a burden than a help since it will disqualify you from certain programs. Add in high deductibles, large co-pays, and large premiums and you may find yourself still not being able to afford treatment.

If you don’t have insurance and don’t qualify for a financial assistance program, your options diminish. There is a large group of people who fall into this category. Usually your income will fall in a range that disqualifies you for government assistance and other private assistance programs while also being unable to afford costly insurance payments. Worried? Don’t be.

You’re not out of options.


In this situation you will need to find private free clinics or mental health centers that offer a sliding scaleGo grassroots. Mental health organizations, such as NAMI and Mental Health America (MHA), have made it their mission to help every American find a mental health care solution. These grassroots advocacy organizations have local affiliates spanning all states — they’re generally small groups that can assist you in identifying local, low-cost, high quality care.

So if you can’t afford traditionally priced therapy, know that other options are available. Your mental health does matter and having the courage to reach out is hard enough without having to feel as though you can’t access the help you need. It takes a little digging sometimes, but it’s well worth it, because you can’t afford to do nothing.

People House has a program that offers low cost therapy, it operates on a sliding fee scale with rates between $20-$40. It is a cost effective option, check out the counselors in our Affordable Counseling Program here 

Where to start?

NAMI and MHA are great resources. You can find information on your local state chapter online, as well as contact information and further resource lists. There are many therapists, social workers, and other mental health professionals offering slide scale and low-cost services. You can also look for support groups and process groups, many of which you can find offered for a low fee, on a donation basis, and even free.

Starting Therapy

If you’ve done your research and decided that you want to see a therapist, the next step is to contact the professionals you’re interested in working with to set up an initial appointment. If you found the therapist online, there is probably contact information listed.

Emailing or calling the therapist is normal and expected – that is how they get clients!


Making the first phone call can be the hardest part, but it will be well worth the benefit! Prepare what you want to say before making the call so that you can be clear about your needs, even if you’re nervous or anxious to talk about them. Some things to consider are: why you’re seeking counseling, what you want to work on with a therapist, what you can afford to pay, and what your availability is. You might also consider asking questions about the therapist’s practice and areas of focus.

You can decide whether you want to feel confident about your connection with a therapist before making a first appointment or if you want to wait and see how things go in person. Some therapists offer a free short consultation! They understand that the relationship between the therapist and client (you) is of the utmost importance, so it is important to them that you two are the right match. Don’t be afraid to ask the therapist if they offer a free (or discounted) consultation/initial meeting.

It’s important to remember that finding a therapist is a unique process and you should never feel like you have to work with the first person you reach. You get to advocate for yourself. If you don’t feel like it’s a good match, it’s okay to thank the therapist for their time and find someone else.

Some Tips for Surviving Your First Session:

  • Don’t schedule something for immediately after your appointment. You might want some time to decompress and think through what came up for you in your session.
  • Write down a list of what you’d like to tell the therapist. If, during the session, you get too anxious, you can give this list to the therapist to give her a starting point.
  • If you’re unsure where to start, tell your therapist that you need some help or guidance.
  • Only say what you’re comfortable with saying – you don’t have to go into everything in your first session.
  • If you can’t bring yourself to say something, ask the therapist if you can write it down. Many therapists have pen and paper for this exact purpose!
  • Remember that you are always in control of what and how much you say.
  • Bring a comfort object with you.
  • Find a comfortable sitting position. If you don’t like where the pillows are, move them!
  • Be gentle with yourself. You are making a huge step in your healing process.
  • Treat yourself to something special after your appointment. You deserve it.

 

 

Resources

http://www.bandbacktogether.com/what-to-expect-therapist-visit/

http://www.everydayhealth.com/emotional-health/0329/ways-to-get-cheap-mental-health-care.aspx

http://jaredwilmer.com/i-cant-afford-mental-health-care/

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth