Clinician's Corner: Julie: Take Care of You: You Are the Only One We've Got!

Mental health. Everyone’s favorite topic to do nothing about. 

 

Mental health has such a stigma attached to it despite the knowledge that we need to take care of ours, of others’. But why? We all have our stuff to work through and without that extra help it can become a beast. I have recently started back up my own journey of self-care which includes a weekly dose of therapy. We, in the helping profession, cannot help others before helping ourselves. Hence, don’t put others’ oxygen mask on before yours is on!!

 

Throughout my education I was asked to read a variety of books to help gain a better understanding of a variety of mental illnesses. After all, someday these could be the clients I am working with, right?! Those books turned into so much more than that. Here is a list of the ones that helped me the most. Even though I myself am not diagnosed with any of the topics the books cover they all left something behind, something for me to learn and understand about a person who isdiagnosed with borderline, bipolar, PTSD… 

 

·      “Crazy” by Peter Earley:Former Washington Post reporter Pete Earley had written extensively about the criminal justice system. But it was only when his own son- in the throes of a manic episode-broke into a neighbor's house that he learned what happens to mentally ill people who break a law. This is the Earley family's compelling story, a troubling look at bureaucratic apathy and the countless thousands who suffer confinement instead of care, brutal conditions instead of treatment, in the "revolving doors" between hospital and jail. With mass deinstitutionalization, large numbers of state mental patients are homeless or in jail-an experience little better than the horrors of a century ago. Earley takes us directly into that experience-and into that of a father and award-winning journalist trying to fight for a better way.

·      “The Buddha and the Borderline” by Kiera Van Gelder:Kiera Van Gelder's first suicide attempt at the age of twelve marked the onset of her struggles with drug addiction, depression, post-traumatic stress, self-harm, and chaotic romantic relationships-all of which eventually led to doctors' belated diagnosis of borderline personality disorder twenty years later. The Buddha and the Borderline is a window into this mysterious and debilitating condition, an unblinking portrayal of one woman's fight against the emotional devastation of borderline personality disorder. This haunting, intimate memoir chronicles both the devastating period that led to Kiera's eventual diagnosis and her inspirational recovery through therapy, Buddhist spirituality, and a few online dates gone wrong. Kiera's story sheds light on the private struggle to transform suffering into compassion for herself and others, and is essential reading for all seeking to understand what it truly means to recover and reclaim the desire to live.

·      “Tribe” by Sebastian Junger:Decades before the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin lamented that English settlers were constantly fleeing over to the Indians-but Indians almost never did the same. Tribal society has been exerting an almost gravitational pull on Westerners for hundreds of years, and the reason lies deep in our evolutionary past as a communal species. The most recent example of that attraction is combat veterans who come home to find themselves missing the incredibly intimate bonds of platoon life. The loss of closeness that comes at the end of deployment may explain the high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by military veterans today. Combining history, psychology, and anthropology, TRIBE explores what we can learn from tribal societies about loyalty, belonging, and the eternal human quest for meaning. It explains the irony that-for many veterans as well as civilians-war feels better than peace, adversity can turn out to be a blessing, and disasters are sometimes remembered more fondly than weddings or tropical vacations. TRIBE explains why we are stronger when we come together, and how that can be achieved even in today's divided world.

·      How to Deal with a Crisis: I just came across this video, and it amazing. Especially for my deafies! Watch it, learn from it, do it.

 

Here is a book that may help those who are lovin’ on someone with a mental illness: When Someone You Love has a Mental Illness by Rebecca Woolis

 

Sometimes you just need to know you are on the right path, that you are doing the best you can despite all of the obstacles life has thrown at you. I often look to Pintrest for inspirational quotes when I need a little pick-me-up, just to remind myself that I am doing a-okay. Here are a couple of favorites from my Pintrest board:

 

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Please reach out for help when you feel like life is too much. We are here to enjoy life and live it to the fullest. If you ever feel that you or someone you know is no longer doing that, do something. Go for a walk, talk to your friend, call your mother. We only get this one life, let’s have a great time while we are here!

I can be reached by phone at 860-431-3825 and email at Juliana@mhccholistichealth.hush.com. Let’s chat!

 Until next time--

Julie Wood, MA, LPC Candidate

How Therapy Helps Unlearn Procedural Learning

Previously in a social media post, I touched very briefly about procedural learning and its implications with trauma. I realize that can sound like a death sentence, and I wanted the chance to explain a little more as someone who works with this material every day. Basically, procedural learning can work both ways- negative things can be unlearned, and then new learning can be put in its place. 

For a solid example and recap of how general procedural learning works, follow this link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFzDaBzBlL0

 

As we become adults, our brains are less plastic than they were when we were kids, meaning it’s somewhat harder to learn new things because our brains are fully formed. Basically, due to our ages as adults, there’s more information to sift through and unlearn. There has to be more time to reinforce that which we know, which means the negative procedural learning of trauma patterns have had more time to be ingrained into our brains.

 

How does the process of unlearning procedural learning begin? Well, we do it small ways fairly often on our own. When we’re trying to do something one way and it doesn’t work, we try a new sequence or new approach until we are able to achieve the results we want.

 

Like the guy in the backwards brain bike video, our brains need time to make new connections. As with the man in the video, this can take months, or even years, with daily practice. The same principles apply in therapy when addressing anxiety and trauma.

 

In sessions, I generally frame it like this: I like to identify a moment when a client had a panic/anxiety attack that had them feeling triggered. We then break down, moment-by-moment, what triggered the reaction and what the steps are to their reaction buildup. We look for patterns, and we discuss which parts feel the worst or most outside of the client’s control. Then, depending on the client’s treatment plan and our already established goals, we either do some sort of talk therapy to identify possible shifts in thinking and behavior that can be made while the client is still feeling like they can manage their response to the trigger. The other option I use is EMDR to reprocess the trigger and the feeling of not being in control. The eye movements in EMDR (more information at www.emdria.org) can help make new neural connections to change where certain procedural memories are stored in the brain, so that the memories can be recalled with an appropriate amount of feeling in a voluntary basis as opposed to involuntary and disproportionate reactions from re-living a trauma.

 

With something like attachment trauma, which is where I specialize, the procedural learning of the trauma reaction (anxiety, dissociation, physical reactions) often happens before the age at which a child is able to speak, and long before they can articulate what they are experiencing. This is usually before the corpus callossum is developed enough for the child to be able to self-soothe. You can imagine that the same patterns throughout that child’s lifetime can create a long, difficult, but very possible road for unlearning reactions to triggers. This process is extremely difficult, but the payoff is beyond worthwhile. It takes patience, daily practice outside of therapy appointments, strong rapport with a good clinician, solid natural supports, and the biggest undertaking of all for those who have attachment trauma- extra kindness toward oneself throughout the entire process.

Procedural learning is just that- learning. While it may take a long time and lots of patience, it can be unlearned and then re-learned. It should be noted that adults often become frustrated during the process because they forget that they are trying to unlearn one thing and re-learn something else simultaneously. I just want you to know, dear reader, that it is NEVER too late, and there is no issue that is “too far gone” if you’re willing to commit to healing and creating a strong relationship with the right therapist. If you’re ready to learn something new that feels more empowering than your usual response to triggers, if you’re ready to commit to a new practice that includes lots of self-love and patience, reach out to a therapist!

Rebecca L. Toner, MA, LPC

Freer of Souls. Connector to Purpose. Healer of Lives.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Spotlight on: Julie Wood, MA. LPC Candidate

It’s my pleasure to introduce Julie Wood, who is this month’s Friday Features clinician! Julie is my supervisee at MHCC, and is in the process of becoming EMDR trained. She sees self-pay clients only, at a low sliding scale, and later this month will be running two groups for Deaf and Hard of Hearing young adults! I am so thrilled to have her on board, and anyone who spends five minutes in the same room as Julie can feel her compassion, sensitivity, and awesome sense of humor. I thought it would be fun to have Julie answer some questions about herself so you all can get to know her better, and I was definitely not disappointed!

1.) When you were a kid, what did you tell people you wanted to be when you grew up?

·     A penguin washer. You know, the people that wash the penguins at the aquarium or go to help out when there is an oil spill!

2.) When did you first know you wanted to be a therapist?

·     During graduate school. I got into the program because it was going to provide me the tools to work with the deaf population. While taking counseling classes, I realized that is what I wanted to do, mental health counseling.

3.) What is one way being a therapist has changed you?

·      I think it has made me more aware. What I mean by that is maybe more understanding to what others may be going through, or that someone may be going through something and that is why they act the way they do. When I am out driving, and someone gives me the finger because they perceive that I cut them off, I am able to remember that that is their stuff, not mine.

4.) What is a population you’re passionate about working with?

·     The deaf, especially youth transitioning from high school to college or work

5.) How did working with that population come to be a passion for you (no client details, please)?

·      I worked for the state as a Vocation Rehabilitation counselor and witnessed the lack of counseling and support that students receive while they go through the transition and when they graduate is appalling. I want to help these kids realize what they can do, what the “real world” means and how to navigate their disability while in it.

6.) What’s one challenge in your life that you’re proud of overcoming?

·     Depression. It is still something I struggle with, but I have survived a particularly terrible episode when it seemed like there was no way out.

7.) What is the best client feedback you’ve ever received?

·     That I took the time to listen and follow through for the client, when no one else did.

8.) What do you wish clients would ask you in an intake?

·     What will be expected from them, or how can they make the most out of their work with me? 

9.) What is the funniest thing you’ve ever said in session that you never thought you would say?

·      I love using humor and personal anecdotes to connect with clients. There is very little I will not say, if I feel that the person is in a place to hear it. I had a client who worked at a gym that my friend went to. He happened to be in one of her pictures she posted on Facebook. When I told him I saw the picture he said something about me coming to workout there. I told him, “Screw that! My wedding is over, I am done with the gym and on to carbs.”  

10.) What is your favorite food/flavor of ice cream?

·     Tacos are life in the Wood household. We celebrate every Tuesday! I do not really like ice cream. Before you gather your pitchforks, I am lactose intolerant and ice cream is one of the foods I really CANNOT tolerate! 

11.) What is your favorite self-care activity?

·     Shopping! But when it is not pay week, I love reading!

12.) What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not at work?

·      I love going to the movies. My husband and I always wear comfy clothes, get popcorn and candy and only go to theaters with the comfy seats so we can really relax. 

13.) What is your favorite book?

·      I have read so many, it is hard to pick!

14.) What is your most recommended book to clients?

·      I would recommend Crazy by Peter Earley. He talks about the societal issues with mental illness, and what we are not doing to help those who experience it. I love what he has to say and how he says it.

15.) Finally, what is a meaningful/favorite quote you’d like to leave our audience with?

·     The quote that I live by, whether in my personal life or professional life, is a Polish proverb, “Not my circus, not my monkeys”. Simply put it means “not my problem”. We spend so much time worrying about what we are doing and how we can help others. I am going to help my clients to the best of my ability, but I can only do so much. I urge everyone to remember these words when there is something that is out of your control, even though you want to do all you can to help. Sometimes, you simply can’t. 

Julie loves working with hearing clients as well! If you like what you read, please contact Julie directly at Juliana@mhccholistichealth.hush.com or 860-431-3825!  Julie is a Licensed Professional Counselor Candidate, under the direct supervision of Rebecca L. Toner, MA, LPC who can be reached at rebecca@mhccholistichealth.hush.com

Julie loves working with hearing clients as well! If you like what you read, please contact Julie directly at Juliana@mhccholistichealth.hush.com or 860-431-3825!

Julie is a Licensed Professional Counselor Candidate, under the direct supervision of Rebecca L. Toner, MA, LPC who can be reached at rebecca@mhccholistichealth.hush.com

Ritual vs. Routine, Part II

Last week, I talked about routine and asked you to write out your daily tasks to be completed, or block off your schedule on your calendar to get a visual idea of how much of your day your routine, or pursuit thereof, actually takes up. I asked you to notice what your mind does and what your body feels during that activity. Where did/does your energy want to go when writing it out and looking at it? Are you making time for yourself?

The answers to these questions may have surprised you, but also are excellent tools to consider ritual. Ritual should be some series of behaviors or activities geared towards a specific goal. Rituals can be small, daily rituals, such as prayers before bedtime to clear the mind, meditating for a few minutes before getting up in the morning, wearing a specific pair of socks to every hockey game because it may draw more luck to help your team win, or taking a power or yin yoga class. Rituals can also be more community-based and bigger or occur less frequently, such as eating turkey with family and friends on Thanksgiving while discussing what we are thankful for, or the funerals and death rituals of any culture. The point isn’t so much the activity, although that definitely matters. The true importance is the intention behind the activity, and connection to self as well as community. For example, Catholic people have funerals when a loved one dies, as a means of saying an individual goodbye, communing with Spirit, and sending off the spirit of their loved one while recapitulating and grieving together. Every culture and religion in the world has rituals around birth or death, and they exist for a reason. These rituals are obviously much bigger than what I’m addressing in the average person’s everyday life, but the takeaway message is the same- we intentionally take time out of our day to connect with ourselves and possibly others, and there may or may not be a spiritual component.

The same ritual mindset is applied to mindfulness and meditation practices, but can be applied to basically everything we do so that we are more present in the moment, and can be aware of the needs of our bodies, minds, and souls- besides only when it feels like something is lacking or there’s a crisis. Rituals can mark the passage of time, and mindful connection to even our small, mundane daily rituals can lead to a greater sense of satisfaction than simply checking items off a to-do list because we feel like we should.

While I don’t want to sound preachy, I do like to use myself as an example in this blog (good and bad, because I’m human and at the end of the day I can only ethically speak to my experience). So, if you’re looking for some ideas for how to incorporate positive rituals into your day, here are some of my favorites:

Morning coffee or other hot beverage- make sure you’re not multitasking and distracting yourself while doing this. Actually sit with yourself, notice each level of flavor, the warmth (or cold if that’s more your thing), maybe find a mantra/quote/intention for your day and think on it for a few, uninterrupted minutes. And don’t do it while you’re driving. Actually make time for yourself the way you would a beloved friend.

Yoga- different classes exist for different purposes. I like to take a power yoga class in the beginning of the day to start positive conversations with my body, and for strength/empowerment, working out anger/other lingering emotions, etc. I like yin classes at the end of my day for deep emotional release, flexibility, and relaxation after a stressful/high activity day or impactful yoga class.

Cooking- can often be like a moving meditation. When considering a meal, don’t just listen to what your taste buds are craving (which is totally one of my biggest struggles, I will admit openly!). Asking myself “what does my body need to refuel?” is a huge help, as des finding something delicious and nourishing. Then, the process of cooking the meal feels almost meditative and I can get lost in the multi-sensory experience. When I don’t have an abundance of time and energy to make food, I usually make sure I’ve prepped enough leftovers to heat up, or I’ll sometimes even treat myself to a nutritious meal out. I know that feeding myself an over-abundance of junk food won’t make me feel energized. But a small treat here or there is OK, as long as I avoid trigger foods for my immune system.

Also, I like to make sure I take care of the day-to-day stuff, like drinking my smoothies, taking my new vitamin regimen (it works miracles, I swear), and drink plenty of water and stretch throughout the day!

Exercise- walking, hiking, some weight lifting, spin classes, yoga classes, whatever! I just take extra care to make sure I’m doing these activities with the intention of loving and caring for my body, rather than punishing and hurting it or being angry at it.

Journaling- every day, even when I don’t know what to write about. Where do you think I find inspiration for blogs? Sometimes, I’ll even do a card pull from my favorite oracle decks, find an inspirational quote online, listen to an audiobook, read a poem, shamanic journey, or meditate for a few minutes for inspiration. Sometimes, tension I didn’t even realize I had gets released and things I didn’t realize I was hanging on to gets processed along the way. 

Body/Energy Work-I cannot recommend massage enough! Along with aromatherapy, energy healing/Reiki, shamanic healing session if I’m feeling off. 

I hope that this two-part series has clarified the importance of ritual within our daily routines, and how it doesn’t necessarily require a major shift in behavior, but more mindful awareness, in order to have a better connection with yourself. If you’re interested in connecting with others who are also looking to connect with themselves, there’s still time to join my Goddess group starting next week! We will be meeting for two hours on Saturdays, for six weeks, discussing our inner goddesses, learning about our needs, how to meet them in our daily lives, and journaling outside of the group to notice the changes in our lives! Contact me directly at rebecca@nestcoaching.org!

Rebecca L. Toner, MA, LPC

Freer of Souls. Connector to Purpose. Healer of Lives.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Ritual vs. Routine: Revitalize Your Mind by Shifting Your Approach to What You're Already Doing

Lifestyle changes don’t always have to be some massive life overhaul. You don’t have to completely change everything all at once- all of a sudden changing everything in your diet, spending two hours a day doing cardio, and cutting everyone out of your life isn’t rewarding or sustainable, so it’s not likely you’ll have incentive to do it for very long. Radical changes all at once can deplete energy and are overall less sustainable than small adjustments to mindset that inspire lasting changes, because of the small rituals and the self-awareness derived from them. This can inspire other small changes, which, over time, can give you a chance to notice the benefits of the small changes and leave your life looking totally different than it used to. 

This next mini-series is meant to help you become aware of your daily routine, how you’re prioritizing and talking to yourself throughout that routine, or how completely checked out from yourself you may actually be while you’re doing all the things you’re supposed to do for your own self-care. For example, you may be spending time working out and prepping/eating healthy food, but you could be doing it out of anger and non-acceptance of your body rather than recognition of the nurturance your body needs to maintain your overall health.

Let’s start with looking at routine. Routine refers to your daily schedule, the things that must be accomplished in order to feel like your day is complete and you were successful. Too often, however, we get bogged down in the stress and to-do list, rushing around. We often lose sight of why we’re actually doing the things that are part of our routines. For instance, we get stuck in rushing the kids to school, activities, doctor appointments, and scouts. But we never ask ourselves why, other than ‘it’s for my kid’ or ‘I committed to it,’ rather than ‘it’s my purpose to give my kid a variety experiences’ or ‘it’s important to me to follow through on my commitments,’ which are more honest statements connecting us to our purposes. The main purpose in the example is fulfilling the purpose in our culture, if the individual is called to do so. 

It’s easy to let our routine run away with us, especially if we feel stuck in a rut because our routine doesn’t deviate much day-to-day. I know I’m someone who thrives from the same routine day-to-day, and it’s easy for me to also check out and get things done. I also know that my body craves routine, as evidenced by my naturally waking up before 6 am every day unless I’m sick. 

I also know how disempowering routine can be. While routine is necessary for me to get things done, stay organized, and be able to focus and stay present in my work and practices, I am also very sensitive to shifts in my routine. I just feel “off” if I wake up late and I feel more pressured to run around and get things done. This throws me way off balance, because I’m left feeling like a victim of time, I’m often angry/frustrated, have a hard time focusing, and I know I’m not doing my best work. I feel like I’m just running around rushing for no clear purpose, and I just mess things up and spend more time doing damage control for everything that gets messed up along the way, which just adds to my frustration. Therefore, it’s vital to me to have rituals and practices to incorporate into and balance out my routine. Often, this simply looks like stopping for a moment, checking in with myself, and asking myself why I’m doing what I’m doing, what I feel like I need mentally, spiritually, and physically, and seeing if I can make a little time to make that happen. Pretty soon, it’s easy to let go of the things that don’t have a clear purpose in my life because I have no true connection to them. 

I’ll get more into rituals and practices next week, but the takeaway message for today is an invitation to look at your daily routine (or, perhaps, lack thereof). When you write out what has to get done each day, or try to block off time for tasks in your calendar, what is your mind doing? What is your body feeling? Where does your energy want to go? Are you making time for yourself? If so, where are you prioritizing yourself?

We’ll build on these in the next blog in this series, but you’d be surprised at the information you may receive and benefits you may notice in just making time to ask yourself these questions.

Rebecca L. Toner, MA, LPC

Freer of Souls. Connector to Purpose. Healer of Lives.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Types of Therapy Groups

With our discussion of the benefits of group work last week, I thought it might make sense to discuss the different types of groups that are out there so that you may better decide if group therapy is for you, and if so, what type of group appeals most to your needs. Here is a brief outline of most of the types of groups that are run by mental health professionals (and some run by non-professionals) to hopefully help you navigate!

 

Psychoeducational Groups

Psychoeducational groups tend to have a more structured learning format. It may look like a small workshop, and the goal of the facilitator is to teach new skills or information through lectures and/or experiential learning. According to mentalhelp.net contributor Carrie Steckl, Ph.D., people who do well in psychoeducational groups are usually highly functional, but “have an information deficit in a certain area” (https://www.mentalhelp.net/blogs/which-type-of-therapeutic-group-is-right-for-you/). The group leader specializes in this area and therefore functions in a more directive role. These tend to include anger management groups, coping/social skills groups, and my colleague Juliana Woods’ group for parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. There may be some discussion about how this particular information deficit is impacting individuals within the group, but the point of the group is not to create a healing process. Rather, it’s to provide information so that individuals can choose to pursue their own healing outside of the group. These groups tend to have a time limit (i.e., “8-week coping skills group for teens”), but not always.

 

Process Groups

These are also sometimes called “psychotherapy” groups or “counseling” groups. Typically, the facilitator focuses more on interpersonal issues or concerns that each member of the group may be facing to some degree. The group itself is treated as an organism, and each member of the group works together towards common group goals. The rules are usually mutually agreed-upon with each member and the facilitator, and the goals are usually geared towards something each individual has identified wanting to work in their own lives as well. Therefore, the individual interpretation of the goals usually differs from member-to-member. The group will teach members new skills in relating to other people in their personal lives by experiences within the group. A great example of a process group is Erica Wilcox’s Women’s Trauma and Healing Group in Southington, CT (www.wilcoxwellness.com for more info- she’s amazing!). The group members have various forms of trauma but a common goal for each member is to take back their power and take charge of their life stories again. 

These groups tend to require some ground work on the part of the therapist to ensure that the group will work well together, so if you go into a process group expect the therapist to want to meet with you for an individual intake beforehand. They also tend to be “closed” groups, meaning that members are expected to commit to the full time period of the group (example, all six weeks of my Goddess group) and there won’t be people just “dropping in” for a session 

or two. 

 

 

 

Support Groups

These groups tend to be more open and running indefinitely- examples include twelve-step groups such as NA or AA. They tend to differ depending on the type of group being offered, and can be run by trained therapists but not always. For instance, AA and NA both value anonymity, however encourage sharing of details so that members can feel as though they are part of a group/community of other individuals struggling similarly or who have struggled similarly in the past. Support groups can exist for virtually any issue, such as substance abuse, parenting, breastfeeding, general trauma, traumatic loss, etc. and the possibilities are endless. 

 

Hybrid Groups

Hybrid groups may include a combination of any of the above listed types of groups. My Goddess group is an example of a Hybrid group- we will have some psychoeducation regarding the Goddess archetypes and how to identify the goddesses active within each of us, and the goddesses we would like to invoke to realign with our values and goals. However, we will also be doing plenty of processing and supporting each other, so it’s a combination between a psychoeducational group and a process group. 

 

Finding these groups, if you’re interested in one, may prove to be a challenge. While the Internet is a highly useful tool in getting us connected, and you might find some of these groups advertised on Facebook ads or in email marketing newsletters. I encourage you to reach out to your therapist if you have one, to get connected with the right groups for you. Most therapists, especially those in private practice, have a network of other local therapists and might be able to connect you to the right group for you. And if the ideal group for you doesn’t exist, maybe someone will be inspired to create one! Other non-Internet places to find groups can include churches, community boards, your physician, yoga studios, schools, community agencies, local libraries, or your friends!

If you’re interested in learning more about my Goddess Group, please contact me directly at rebecca@nestcoaching.org

 

Rebecca L. Toner, MA, LPC

Freer of Souls. Connector to Purpose. Healer of Lives.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Benefits of Group Work

When most people think of going into therapy or coaching, they may be assuming that the best work for them is on an individual-only basis. However, there is significant evidence to suggest that various types of group work can be beneficial and in fact lend extra support to supercharge whatever therapy/coaching goals the individual may have. Group work can even help uncover new goals that otherwise may have been overlooked on an individual basis. If you’ve ever thought about getting into group work, or perhaps someone in your life has suggested it at one time or another, here is some helpful information about the benefits!

            One of my favorite aspects of group work is the same thing that initially intimidated me and made me feel guarded about doing it. It’s the community connection. Whether it’s a trauma healing group, a spiritual group, a social skills group for kids, a twelve-step group, or a coaching group, everyone present is there for a reason. Not only are they seeking something for themselves as individuals, but they were brought there by their own spiritual intervention for their own healing. When I attended Dharma School, I was scared as hell of sharing my story and the worst things I’ve ever believed about myself in front of a room full of strangers. But it was a requirement, and I trusted the process so I did it. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. For the first time, I allowed myself to be cradled by fellow healing souls who all showed up authentically to heal as well. I also got a chance to help and witness them in their own healing journey, which only amplified the power of my experience. According to Erica Wilcox, owner of Wilcox Wellness, LLC and leader of a women’s trauma recovery group, When a group of trauma survivors gather together for the purpose recovery, it is their unspeakable pain that initially binds them together. It is like being a part of a secret club that nobody wants to be a part of, but yet they are.They gather in their vulnerability, their bravery, their hurt.  There is a deep knowing and connection between trauma survivors that is also unspeakable. A profound dichotomy takes place at the start of any trauma recovery group. Silence is what perpetuates their pain yet it i It is their silence that also initially connects them.They know, "Me Too".  They must honor, hold space and bear witness to the pain in order to create purpose out of it so that they then can begin to re-write the story. Then, a  beautifully powerful shift starts to root itself. When they can put words their experience and know, I mean TRULY KNOW. that they are not alone, this becomes the new normal because, afterall, knowledge is power. And the power of knowing that you are not alone, that what you have experienced was indeed trauma, that your trauma is valid, that that there is hope for healing, , then, beautiful soul, then you can rebuild. Their trust in themselves and others can be restored and their lives can be renewed.” (You should check out her group, she’s amazing! Her website is www.wilcoxwellness.com)

            The sense of community in a group allows members to feel held and also to do the holding, You are a valuable, skilled individual just looking for a community of similar people to bond with- we all are. You have incredible insights and skills to offer. Group work allows you to do this!

            In a group setting, you may also learn about yourself while someone else is processing or discussing something you may not have thought to consider. For example, if you’re more of an intellectual thinker, they may approach the same topic in a very different and thought-provoking way. You may also present a practical and intellectual approach to something others may not have considered.

            Groups are also microcosms of the world at large. Conflicts that may arise between members (which is a majorly POSITIVE thing when handled correctly by the facilitator) provide a chance for two or more members to pause, consider their thoughts/feelings, communicate, and be heard. A skilled group leader will help the situation rather than allow members to berate and abuse one another, and will use the tool of conflict to help promote everyone’s healing.

            There are countless other benefits depending on the type of group and the members of it, as well as the structure of the group. The best advice I can give is to educate yourself about the group you’re considering or that is being recommended, and assess how it lines up with your values and goals.  I also strongly encourage you to talk with the facilitators and give it a try!

            In January, I will be running a women’s Goddess group, which will help members identify the goddess archetypes alive within them, what the devolved and evolved states of those archetypes look like, and how to invoke the most positive qualities of those archetypes through good self-awareness and self-care. We will have experiential exercises, sacred space, and take-home journaling exercises in this six-week group which will meet on Saturday afternoons. If you’re interested in learning more, please contact me directly at rebecca@nestcoaching.orgor rebecca@mhccholistichealth.hush.com!

 

Rebecca L. Toner, MA, LPC

Freer of Souls. Connector to Purpose. Healer of Lives.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Self-Care Guilt- How Does it Impact You?

I’m storytelling in this one, in hopes that some of you may be able to identify some harmful patterns in your own lives that you’re absolutely able to take control of now!

So, in last week’s blog post we discussed the difference between self-love and self-care. Today I want to piggyback on those ideas and discuss the unspoken guilt about self-care in our society.

            I don’t know about you, but I know that in the past when I’ve needed a day off from work or school for the purpose of preserving my own mental health, I’ve had to lie. Is it not just as important to ensure that my mind and spirit are healthy, the way I would need to ensure my body was healthy before returning to life as usual after the flu or a cold? I recall never being able to understand this even as a teenager, and was disappointed to see that it carried through my years in college, graduate school, and every job I’ve ever had (even while working in the mental health field!). While I certainly had some bosses who would have been more than understanding if I had just said I needed a mental health day (and some were- one would even set an example and take a mental health day now and again), I still had coworkers, clients, or upper-level administration whom would not have been so gracious. This often made me feel as though I needed validation from others that I was “ill enough” to justify missing a shift at work. This got me thinking- why should I be putting work ahead of my own well-being, especially when I’m preaching self-care to my clients?

            This is the depth of disregard for mental health and self-care our work has. I know everyone’s experience is their own, but I’ll go ahead and use myself as an example hoping that others can relate. The day-to-day reality of internalized shame patterns around my own self-care looked something like this: 

·     Ignore and repress my own feelings until they reached a boiling point, at which time I would have a meltdown. This would often result in me not taking good care of myself until I got sick or injured, which was essentially my body trying to get my attention and tell me I needed to slow down.

·     Completely shut down for a day or two, because I couldn’t focus on anything else, but I wasn’t doing anything to recharge either.

·     While I was in that shut down state, I wasn’t even able to fully recharge my battery because I was vacillating between checking out and being anxious about the things I wasn’t doing because I just didn’t have the energy or mental capacity. My body, mind, and soul felt completely separate from each other and I had no clue how to begin bringing them back together and restoring a sense of normalcy. I thus would sink further into helplessness, which just made me want to shut down more. It would also take significantly more energy to repress whatever emotions were coming up, which they were more often because I was so burnt out.

·      I thus became irritable, and got to a point where I didn’t know what to do with myself outside of work. I allowed people to treat me in ways I didn’t deserve to be treated, because I was too exhausted and shut off from myself to demand or seek something better. The actions of those people just reinforced my belief that something was wrong with me. And guess what? Something WAS wrong with me. Guilt and negative self-beliefs were getting in the way of engaging in useful, productive self-care.

 

With a significant amount of my own work in therapy and dharma school, meeting with life and business coaches, biting the bullet and getting out of toxic work environments and into self-employment, a daily yoga practice, breaks from social media, reading, audiobooks/podcasts, and regular journaling and meditation, I’ve been able to engage in much better self-care. But it was not overnight, and it was in spite of the cultural messages I was receiving about self-care both at work and outside of work. To most of my friends throughout my twenties, “self-care” looked like thinly veiled binge drinking or just checking out on Netflix for hours and taking naps. While these things can sometimes help us shut our brains off to recharge, I couldn’t do it all the time. I knew I needed more.

            This is an invitation to you to pay attention to your own self-care: is it actually recharging you? What messages are your receiving in your daily life about self-care? Are they congruent with your values around self-care? While it’s certainly noble to work hard and make ends meet, there’s no glory in completely draining yourself and becoming irritable and reactive towards the people around you, or withdrawing into victimhood. This means you’re hurting people by lashing out at them, and hurting the community by not sharing your gifts.

            If you’re a woman who is local to Central CT and want to change your self-care, January 2019 is the time for you! I will be running a six-week Goddess group designed around the Goddess archetypes, how they apply to the modern woman, and how women can come together in community. We will specifically be addressing how self-care guilt is culturally passed on to women in the USA, and how to make small mindset/realistic lifestyle changes to live a life connected to purpose. If you’re interested in learning more, please contact me directly at rebecca@mhccholistichealth.hush.com.

Rebecca L. Toner, MA, LPC

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Mindful Monday!

On Mondays from here on out, I will be sharing resources about mindfulness in hopes that it will help you start your week on the right foot and remember to take a few minutes to just do NOTHING. Here’s one of my favorite TED talks demystifying how to “do” mindfulness, from one of the co-founders of Headspace (a meditation and mindfulness app that you can try out for free!)

Hope this helps!

Supervision and Consultation Membership!

I am thrilled to announce my expansion into clinical supervision! I have always been passionate about education, and now I am taking an opportunity to educate other counselors as they go through their graduate and post-graduation journeys. I am excited to introduce my supervision monthly membership package!

Who is this for ?

Current graduate-level Counseling students, upcoming grads, or recent grads! If you’re frustrated by what you feel are gaping holes in your education, aren’t feeling heard at your institution, or have fear that working in the counseling field won’t align with your dream of helping others, you have a home with us!

What will we be doing?

We will be going through case consultations to identify ways in which to build rapport, create a differential diagnosis, and build treatment goals and measurable plans in case simulations. We will also be learning some specific interventions by example and identifying our own barriers to confidence and smashing them together! We will also discuss niching and private practice, networking, and I will be providing resources, my expertise, and experience in agencies, risk assessment, private practice, and group practice ownership.

What do I get?

With the basic package, you will get

-one two-hour group supervision session (they will run each week, and you can drop in on the session of your choice)

-one individual supervision/consultation session with me per year

-discounts on group and individual sessions beyond the ones included in the membership, FOR LIFE!!!

-discounted rates on future trainings, workshops, and groups, FOR LIFE!!!

-I will sign off on licensure hours if applicable

-access to our super-secret Facebook group where further resources, inspiration, and discussions will be shared (note that it violates our policy to post clinical information on this platform), where I will respond to every post

-a network of friends that feel more like family

-coaching through writing resumes, cover letters, and interviewing within the counseling field

-access to every resource I know about

-opportunities to be a guest blogger/be included in my social media presence and marketing, which would promote you and increase your likelihood of being seen by your ideal clients.

-inspiration, encouragement, and empowerment as you enter the field as a new clinician!

Who else will be there?

Other supervises of mine, counselors-in-training who demand the best out of their educational experience, and are driven by a passion to help others learn how to heal themselves! And me. I will be there facilitating the whole thing!

What does it cost?

Monthly Cost of Supervision Group Basic Package:

Before February 1, 2019: $75

After February 1, 2019: $100

Please know that there is no minimum monthly requirement, however cancellation is required as billing is automatic.

Non-Member Supervision Pricing:

EMDR Individual Consultation:*Please note that I am an EMDRIA consultant-in-training until October 2019, at which point my rates will increase: $40 per hour per person (for both individual and group)

Non-EMDR Individual Supervision/Consultation: $100 per hour

Non-EMDR Group (3 or more) Supervision/Consultation: $60 per hour per person

Member Supervision Pricing:

EMDR Individual Consultation:*Please note that I am an EMDRIA consultant-in-training until October 2019, at which point my rates will increase: $40 per hour per person (for both individual and group), separate from monthly membership fee

Non-EMDR Individual Supervision/Consultation: $80 per hour after the free annual individual session, unlimited for life

Non-EMDR Group (3 or more) Supervision/Consultation: $40 per hour per person after the first two-hour group session included in membership

**note: if you are looking to have me sign off on licensure hours for you, please ensure that your state’s requirements allow me to do so as a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Connecticut.

If you would like to obtain this membership before prices increase, please contact me directly at rebecca@mhccholistichealth.hush.com!

Rebecca Toner 10-17-18_0089 EDIT-WEB.jpg

Self-Care vs. Self-Love

I’m trying to write this blog post without sounding preachy, but this is a big soapbox issue for me. Our culture, while many individuals are trying to make changes, almost doesn’t even value self-love of self-care. In the USA, it’s almost a badge of honor contest to see who can be the most exhausted. We laugh at and glorify binge drinking, pumping our bodies full of toxic crap, getting poor sleep, and we act like it will all be fine until we have major, irreversible health issues. These health issues are happening on an epidemic level, and it’s almost as if there’s some sort of romance in being overworked and feeling trapped in a constant cycle of racing and working hard with no clear payoff or goal in mind. So, I’d like to try to do my part in dispelling some myths about self-love and self-care, reminding my amazing audience of the importance of both, and use my platform in contributing to a cultural shift towards better self-love and self-care.

 

What is Self-Care?

Self-care is an action term, and should be the basis of reasoning for anything you do, no matter how big or small. If you know your purpose in life, everything you do in accordance with that purpose counts as self-care. For example, I know that my dharma type is educator, and I live that purpose through being a therapist and life coach. I thrive off of lea ring new things so that I can use the skills and information to empower and heal others. However, if we don’t balance out with other types of self-care, constantly immersing ourselves in our purpose 100% of the time can be extremely draining. So it’s out of self-awareness that we must constantly assess our bodies, luminous energy fields, emotional and mental well-being, and energy levels.

            When we’re drained and in need of a little bit “more”- energy, love, relaxation, tyime, or anything that replenishes us, self-care mustshift. On days when I need to recharge, I have to add extra things into my daily practice to supplement the output of the energy. Things like playing with my dog, or my friends’ toddlers, some extra yoga, journaling, an oracle card reading, getting a massage/energy healing session, listening to an inspiring audiobook/podcast, or listening to the legends of my Celtic and M’iqmaq heritages all help to replenish my energy on tougher days. Sometimes, we have to allow ourselves time to actively check out to shut our brains off temporarily. This is self-care as well, but only if we are aware of why we are doing it, what we’re looking to get out of it, and when we plan to check back in. If we just totally check out and binge-watch Game of Thrones for hours or days, with no real purpose other than avoiding life, this is not replenishment or self-care, and I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t feel better afterward. 

            We do what fulfills our purpose, and sometimes check out to take a break, ideally because we love ourselves. Anything that falls under that umbrella counts as self-care. For example, sometimes I forego my early morning workout or yoga (yup I do it too!) because even though those things are for my own self-care and the well-being of my body, sometimes my body also needs more sleep and rest. So I’m still engaging in self-care if I let myself go back to sleep for a couple more hours, so that I’m rested and able to be more fully present for my clients and all the other things I have to do that day.

            Boundaries are another very important form of self-care. Setting boundaries with those in our lives isn’t out of punishment or malicious intent towards them, but rather to preserve our own well-being based on the bare minimum we know we require in order to feel well. People often feel guilty about setting boundaries, especially those with a long-history of people-pleasing. I plan to talk more about that in a later blog post, but if you have specific questions and would like some help with setting boundaries, please get into contact with me directly.

 

So, What is Self-Love?

Self-love is the intention with which we engage in any of our self-care activities. So if self-care is the action, self-love is the emotion and intention driving the action.

            Self-love is often hard for us to access. We don’t live in a society that wants us to know our true value and step into our power- rather, our society wants us to conform and not make waves. In indigenous tribes, the belief is that each member of the community is born with incredible gifts, and it’s the community’s collective responsibility to love and foster that person and their gifts, so that the whole community can benefit. This fosters the individual’s sense of themselves and their own identity, which is fluid throughout the journey of their lives. The person is thus able to acquire new skills and gifts to give because of this community value of self-love and self-awareness.

            In our society, self-love is anything that keeps passion and energy going, so that you can fulfill your purpose and keep doing your self-care activities with vigor. We have become more individualistic, especially as volatile political climates have shown many marginalized or more introverted people that being part of a community can be unsafe. The result is we don’t have the self-awareness that membership in a community can foster, and we believe we need to be selfish with our gifts because the world doesn’t know how to appreciate them. If you want the world to change, the first place you have to look is within yourself- how do you feel about how you show up to the world, and what gifts do you have to offer? How generous are you in sharing those gifts? How nurturing are you in encouraging others to share their gifts? What would help you to be more giving with your gifts, and nurturing of others?

            This is an invitation to you to engage in all your daily activities and practices with a new awareness of why, and assess whether now feels like a good time to identify and make any changes you may feel called to make. How connected with your own purpose, your energy, and your physical and emotional feelings are you on a day to day basis? What about your soul? What are you in need of changing in your own self-care or self-love regimen?

Rebecca L. Toner, MA, LPC

Freer of Souls. Connector to Purpose. Healer of Lives.

** if you would like to revamp your self-care routine, join me in January for my Goddess group! Contact me directly at rebecca@nestcoaching.org!

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Are They The One For Me? Finding the Right Therapist

Questions to Ask Yourself to Find Out if Your Therapist is the Right Fit

 This is the third of a three-part blog installment designed to help you get started with the right therapist!

Entering into a therapy relationship can be tense and sometimes uncomfortable, even in the best situations. Here are some helpful tools to help you decide if your therapist is the one for you! Of course, this is not an exhaustive list and everyone’s experience is different, so please understand these are just guidelines and you must use your own judgment. If you’re having doubts, the best thing you can do is discuss them with your therapist! How they respond will definitely tell you what you need to know. Remember, my suggestion is to give it at least 3-5 sessions with your therapist to get past the initial housekeeping and goal setting and get into rapport building and deeper work- unless you’re feeling truly threatened, unsafe, gaslit, or invalidated during your sessions. Then you should leave immediately!

 

Are they empowering you with the questions they ask?

Are they inspiring you to continue working outside of sessions?

Do you get a sense that they want to help you heal, or do you feel as if they want you to be dependent on them for emotional validation? Is it because of something they’re doing, or because of where you need to work?

Are they challenging and pushing you, or are they smiling and nodding?

Are they supportively challenging, or are they hostile and blaming?

Are you just venting? Or is actual work getting done?While venting occasionally has therapeutic value, therapy should be more goal-directed. A good therapist should be empowering you to handle the situations that are stressing you out, so that you won’t need to vent because you’ll feel capable of handling it (probably not going to be evident in the first 3-5 sessions). Your therapist should be respectful of your investment of time, energy, and finances to help you keep your goals in mind and start working towards them.

 

Body Language Awareness

Are they engaged with you? How is their eye contact?

Are they leaning in, legs pointed towards you, open arms?

Are they leaning back, legs open, taking up space?

How do you find yourself reacting to their body language?

What is your body language communicating in sessions? Does this apply to other areas of your life?

What does your energy want to do in sessions? Does it feel comfortable and relaxed, like you can actually be calm enough to do work? Or does it feel bottled up and tense? Does your body want to do something?

Do you feel they are physically close to you? Do you feel they are too close to you?

Will they be receptive to feedback if you communicate what you need or do what your body feels like it needs to do?

How is their tone of voice? How do you find yourself reacting to it?

 

Again, this is a short list just meant to generate thought and honest self-assessment as well as awareness of the therapist and what they are or are not communicating during sessions. Please use your own discretion and judgment, journal on these questions and challenge yourself to come up with more. And I cannot stress this enough- if you’re having doubts or concerns, have the courage to bring them up to your therapist. They will be receptive and it is TOTALLY OKAY for a therapist to not always be the best fit for you! They are ethically bound to help you, and sometimes that may mean helping you find the therapist with the “right stuff” for you. Maybe if it doesn’t work after the first several sessions, they may have a good enough idea about what you’re struggling with, your needs, and your communication style to be able to refer you to a trusted friend or colleague! You don’t get what you don’t ask for, so challenge yourself to discuss it with them!

Rebecca L. Toner, MA, LPC

Freer of Souls. Connector to Purpose. Healer of Lives.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Preparing For Your First Therapy Session: Part 2

This is the second in a three-part blog series geared to help you prepare for your first session in therapy ever, or just with a new therapist for the first time in a while. This article will cover what to expect from your first session (also called an intake), as well as some things the therapist is assessing for during an intake.

(Bet you didn’t think there was so much to consider before you even walk in the door for your first session! But, you’ve made it this far. So, let’s say you’ve followed some of the advice laid out in the first edition of this topic, you’ve found one or more therapists who seem like they might be the right fit, and maybe you’ve even reached out and scheduled an intake or two. What’s next?

What to Expect in an Intake:

Your therapist is going to have a LOT to get through within the first session. They have to cover intake documents, informed consent, limitations of privacy laws, and tell you all about how they tend to operate and what the attendance expectations are. Then there’s the fact that they have to get an idea of what you’d like to achieve in therapy, and assess your supports, strengths, coping skills, safety, connection to community resources, your day-to-day life, and establish rapport while simultaneously being as genuine as possible and starting to formulate rough ideas for goals and treatment plans if you choose to continue beyond the intake. They also have to make sure they get releases to talk to doctors/lawyers/agencies/other providers if necessary, and assess whether they are the best fit for you and your needs. That’s a TON to get through! Needless to say, it often takes two or three sessions to get a basic idea of what therapy with the clinician would actually be like. To help with some of the time management, many practices are starting to require electronic signatures of paperwork prior to the first session, then quickly covering the necessary points during the intake. My practice does this, and requires the paperwork to be completed with insurance and credit card information submitted electronically a minimum of 24 hours prior to the scheduled appointment, or the appointment will be cancelled. 

            For the rest of the rapport building, treatment planning, clinical assessment, and collaboration on goals- the process can be several sessions long. I have many clients on my caseload for several months where we focus on establishing trust, rapport, and safety- often because there is significant attachment trauma and they need to experience me as consistent and nurturing for a length of time before they’ll truly feel safe exploring further and doing some of the deeper work. Be patient, trust the process, and don’t expect to be cured or even given an idea of how many sessions need to happen before you feel relief from your symptoms. You get out of therapy what you put into it. Don’t give up on the potential right fit therapist before you have a chance to actually start doing the real work to meet your goals. 

 

What Your Therapist is Assessing for:

This is going to vary depending on the type of therapist you’re seeing and the type of therapy you’re looking to do. But some general topics I usually assess for include:

Safety:Is this person going to be able to tolerate deep work? Are they likely to continue their work through daily practices outside of treatment appointments? Do they have the distress tolerance to handle it, or should we first focus on resourcing and rapport building through various interventions before we do the trauma work? What community and natural resources are needed outside of therapy, and how accessible are these things? Does the person need a higher level of care than I’m able to offer? What are their needs, and do they have healthy insight into some ways to get those needs met, or are they too traumatized and invested in more comfortable/maladaptive ways of meeting those needs? Who are supportive people they can turn to? Can we make a plan for when they’re feeling close to a crisis, so that they can call on those people? Are they familiar/in contact with local crisis services?

 

Goodness of Fit:

As a Licensed Professional Counselor, my licensing board and the American Counseling Association, as well as the EMDR International Association all have various versions of the same ethical requirement that states I need to refer clients elsewhere if they’re not a good fit for what I feel able to provide. Most behavioral health governing bodies have some version of this same guideline. If I feel as though my relational style or specialty is very different from what I perceive the client’s needs to be, it’s my duty to best serve the client by referring them to someone much more suited to handling that specific issue than I am. For example, while my license allows me to work with children and I have done so as a pre-licensed therapist, this is not my passion and I have not had continuing education in working with children. I know that I can probably do decent work with children, and that I have before, but I also know that there are some excellent colleagues of mine whom I would feel much more comfortable referring minor clients to (and for the record, I’m more than OK with this- I know I excel at the work I do with my adult clients and I am highly specialized in something I am passionate about). So, rather than taking on minor clients anyway, I refer them to the colleagues whose work I am familiar with, whom I trust and who specialize in working with populations I don’t. The client’s needs are thus met by a provider more equipped to give them what they need. If your new therapist is making it seem like they’re a jack of all trades but a master of none, they may be skilled and intelligent but may not be the best fit for what you specifically need. 

 

From here, the therapist’s assessment will really start to depend on the therapist you’re meeting with. For example, I am a strengths-based, person-centered trauma therapist specializing in attachment trauma and dissociation. So, I’m assessing for trauma, especially hidden or repressed trauma, certain buzzwords and telling phrases, trauma narratives, symptoms and how they are presenting in daily life, what those symptoms are interfering with that caused the client to want to meet with me in the first place, what about me stood out for them in selecting me as their therapist, feelings of being “checked out” or not being able to remember significant periods of time, and ego strength/distress tolerance. If there needs to be some ego strengthening, I’m getting an idea of how we can collaborate on that together in order to set a strong foundation for the deeper trauma work. I’m also assessing for strengths and skills because I believe those are going to provide the foundation to build up some of the things that are in need of improvement to facilitate healing. 

            Other therapists, however, will have different approaches and specialties and will be assessing along those lines. A substance abuse counselor, for example, will want to know about length of use, substances of choice, any periods of sobriety, positives that would help the client maintain sobriety, etc. Those who specialize in working with children will be looking for some indication of boundaries and expectations in the home and at school, social engagement, and possible reasons behind behavioral disturbances (depending on age). 

 

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of what each therapist assesses for or how they operate during intake sessions, but I hope it has provided some useful information that will help you prepare for your first intake. It’s also totally fine to write down some thoughts/lists of things you want to work on, and maybe make some mention of the work you’ve done to start trying to address this stuff on your own. It’s helpful for the therapist to get an idea of what’s realistically going to translate from therapy into your daily life, so this would definitely be a great tool!

Rebecca L. Toner, MA, LPC

Freer of Souls. Connector to Purpose. Healer of Lives.

 

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Preparing for Your First Therapy Session: The Search (Part 1)

This is the first in a three-part series to help you in the process of beginning therapy, maybe for the first time, or maybe you’re looking for a different approach to freshen or build on therapy you’ve already been involved in. So, you may be toying with the idea of “talking to someone” in a professional capacity to handle some stressors, life adjustments, or struggles that can be going on in your life. Or, you may be feeling checked out, disconnected, or have some traumas that might need to be addressed. Either way, maybe you’re wondering now how you should go about finding a therapist. There’s a ton of information out there, and so many different kinds of therapists who do amazing work. It can be overwhelming, to say the least. So here’s your go-to guide for some of the main things you should consider in finding a therapist for yourself!

 

The Search:

Google and Psychology Today are probably some of the best guaranteed places to find a listing of local therapists who specialize in certain areas and take your insurance (if you’re choosing to use an insurance). It’s a quick way to generate a list of therapists to get into contact with, but please understand that what’s in someone’s Psychology Today profile is limited through character counts, so there’s not always the chance to capture exactly who they are as a therapist and how they work. It’s wise to continue your research into a possible therapist candidate through their websites, blogs, YouTube channels, business social media posts, etc. The whole point of therapists working so hard to create that content is so that you have a chance to connect with them and their communication style before actually reaching out to them, so use the content to your advantage! Do you feel like they’re speaking directly to you through this content? Therapists who are well-niched in private practice have worked hard to identify and market to their ideal clients. Feeling like they’ve connected with you before you’ve even spoken to them is a vital part of how they run their business and will let you know how invested and passionate the therapist would be in working with you. Somewhere there is a therapist who specializes in exactly what you need (even if you’re not fully clear on what that is yet yourself)!

Don’t: It’s poor boundaries to try to find out personal information about your therapist. Don’t try to comb through their personal social media profiles, don’t try to connect with them on LinkedIn, don’t show up at the office without an appointment (we don’t appreciate drop-ins and many therapists view this behavior as aggressive. This is the fastest way to guarantee you’ll be referred out to a clinic with security staff on hand). Don’t get too bogged down in client reviews (or lack thereof) online. Many governing bodies and licensing boards forbid solicitation of testimonials (even anonymous ones), and often clients (or former clients) leave negative reviews on social media despite warnings about their protected health information being compromised, as a passive-aggressive attack for the therapist setting a necessary boundary (such as not allowing the client to schedule with a significant balance that they haven’t made any effort to pay on, nonadherence to the attendance policy, refusal to accept clients due to inappropriate or threatening behavior on behalf of the client, etc.). Each client’s experience is their own! Be open to the possibility that someone can help you, which brings me to my next point…

Remember…

You are the consumer. You’re free to “shop around” to find the right fit for you. The first therapist(s) you meet with might not be “the one.” Or, you may meet with one for years and just find that they no longer meet your needs because you’ve grown and your needs have changed. Just keep in mind that if you’re using insurance, you may only be allotted a certain number of intakes within a discrete period of time, and additional intakes might not be approved (resulting in out-of-pocket balances that you’re required to pay). That said, I encourage a minimum of 3-5 sessions with the therapist to really determine together if you’re ready for therapy, if it seems likely this therapist can support you in reaching your goals, and if their therapeutic style matches up with your needs and your communication style. A worthwhile therapist is likely to be forthcoming with you regarding your diagnosis (at least in the field of trauma work), and they should be keen to collaborate with you on treatment goals and formulating a clear treatment plan with measurable outcomes and actionable steps, alongside their clients. 

 

Also, don’t forget to keep in mind basic therapist attributes. It’s perfectly acceptable to only want to meet with therapists of a certain gender, age, race, religion, etc. You may know, for example, that you relate to females better than males, or vice versa. Just know that this may limit your search, and sometimes being open-minded to something different can yield amazing results. So have a general idea of who your ideal therapist would be, but be open to some variations within those ideas. 

 

These are just some of the guidelines to consider when searching for a therapist, and certainly is not an all-encompassing checklist of things to consider. Any of these factors can be influenced by location, insurance, schedule, etc. and these are also valid concerns. The goal of this blog post is to discuss some of the points which many clients who are reaching out for the first time may be unaware of!

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC

Freer of Souls. Connector to Purpose. Healer of Lives.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.