Things to Know About Professional Counselors

10 things to know about professional counselors:

1) Counselors have a Master’s or Doctoral degree in counseling. Graduate school programs offer courses for specializing in school, clinical, marriage and family, addictions, etc. It is highly beneficial to find a counselor who specializes in what you are seeking help for, however, isn’t necessary in all cases because counselors have a wide variety of training and experience treating issues.

2) Counselors emphasize multicultural competence and respect for diverse worldviews.

3) They focus on wellness, career development and client empowerment in a proactive approach to mental health.

4) Encourage people to be genuine and to work to find their own authentic self, even if that authentic self is somewhat different than dominant culture norms.

5) Assist with issues caused by typical life stressors, such as grief and loss, relationship problems, trauma and disasters, transition from military life to civilian life, etc. Counselors can also point you into the direction of other, non-therapy services by networking and through referrals.

6) Can diagnose and or treat mental disorders. Personally, when appropriate, I like to discuss with my clients about the stigma and labels of mental health, in order to break barriers and help people see that it is okay to talk with a counselor.

7) Serve as a frontline resource in schools, as the eyes and ears for early signs of emotional distress caused by bullying, harassment and other forms of abuse and trauma. It is terrible when schools don’t recognize signs or take enough action against bullying. School counselors are well-equipped to serve students and reduce these issues. Large schools should hire more than one counselor, so that there is a smaller ratio of students to counselors.

8) Provide assistance in various settings with diverse populations, such as college campuses, agencies and hospitals, to help them address issues that may have effect on their mental health and overall well-being.

9) Adhere to the updated American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics. This is the standard code that most states have adopted. It’s the first code that speaks to the ethics of using social media with clients.

10) Are passionate, diverse and committed to helping people from all walks of life and all depths of despair to survive and thrive in today’s world. Since there is a diversity of counselors, before choosing one to work with, it is best to look into their specialties and approach to therapy. Find a counselor who seems best fitted to your needs and whom you will feel comfortable speaking with.

Red Rock Canyon, CA

Wellness Tips for the Busy Person

Busy

“Busy” definitions: having a great deal to do; occupied with or concentrating on a particular activity or object of attention; excessively detailed or decorated.

People are immersed in projects and activities for a number of reasons. One, is simply because life becomes chaotic. With multiple things occurring at once, a person must act before losing control. Another, is because it is in human nature. People prefer to be busy because achievement feels good. Whatever the reason is, remember that wellness is paramount. It is easy for wellness to become buried underneath the busyness, but if someone doesn’t take care of themselves, then they can’t take care of business. These tips are easy to apply to the busy person’s schedule and will promote well-being.

Goal Setting, Prioritize and Be Realistic

Busy people have a tendency to set too many goals at once because they feel there is a ton to accomplish in just a short amount of time. When focus is spread too thin, the outcomes are negative. Work on fewer goals at a time, less is more. Having less goals will reduce stress and will help increase productivity because it is easier to focus on less tasks at a time. A person can still multi-task, and see positive outcomes.

In order to decide which goals to tackle first, examine the priority of each goal and rank them from most to least important. Work on two or three of the higher priority goals, first. Stay mindful that the number of goals that is worked on at a time should depend on the difficulty of the goal, itself. Lofty goals tend to be more time consuming, stressful and taxing. If three high priority goals are lofty, then consider working on one or two at a time.

Goals can be broken down into steps and written on a calendar to help stay on target of completing the goal on time. This method can be less stressful and taxing. When taking a lofty goal step by step, then one or two simpler goals that are higher priority can be added. Watch for lofty goals that are unrealistic because it is easier to become overwhelmed or discouraged before a work groove settles in. With the correct approach, taking smaller steps will still lead one to reach their goals.

Journal Regularly

Keeping a journal aids mental well-being. Journaling allows for time to unwind and relax. Jotting things down, instead of hoarding them inside of the mind can help decompress. The person is freed-up from remembering things if they are written down, and it can jog the memory of something they needed or wanted to do. In fact, journaling helps improve memory because the person is more likely to remember something if they physically write it down. They can better recall the information, even at times when it isn’t visually in front of their face.

Journal to track and explore thoughts, emotions and beliefs. Watch for patterns of reactions to situations. Realizing behaviors and feelings can lead to problem solving. Having a little extra insight can help one become more self-aware. Write in a journal once or twice a day. Find a time that works best. Try part way through the day (lunch time), and then towards the end of the day (before the bedtime routine).

Receive Feedback

The busy person can ask someone whom they are comfortable with for feedback on how they are emotionally perceived. Someone else’s perspective on a particular situation is a tool. Ask a trustworthy friend or family member. The person can learn from friends or family whether they are taking on too many projects and activities at a time. When a person is overly busy, they become more sensitive or emotional, stress takes a toll. If this occurs for a lengthy amount of time, the person becomes burnt out. Burn out is physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. When burnt out, it is more difficult to function normally. How a person reacts to burn out can impact others around them. Burn out is a sign that it is time to take a break and work on one’s wellness to rejuvenate and reset.

Asking for feedback might be the most difficult task of these three because it involves being vulnerable. People don’t always like to hear what another person has to say about them, but this is why it is important to chose someone whom they are comfortable with. It is challenging to receive constructive criticism. Listening to another person’s perception provides more insight and needed information to help foster their well-being.

Implementing, Practice and Patience

Goal setting, journaling and receiving feedback from others, are effective wellness tips for the busy person. It takes practice to learn something new and for it to become routine and habit. Hang in there, be patient. Practicing these tips will nurture overall well-being, increase organization and insight, help practice self-awareness, reduce stress, and promote productivity. Don’t let busyness overtake wellness,.

Mount Vernon Trail, Alexandria, VA

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Reflect More On Everything That You Are

Sometimes we spend too much time wishing we were at a different place in our lives or wishing we were more like somebody else. We’re not content with how things are going or with who we are. We long for things to come, instead of living in the present. Setting goals, chasing dreams, having high hopes, and working on self-improvement are healthy habits, but our focus can too heavily be on thinking about everything we are not.

It is easy to fall into a negative thinking pattern. When stuck in that negative-like pattern, “I’m not good enough,” we usually become bogged down. We may even struggle with low self-esteem or depression if self-defeating thoughts take hold. Take time to reflect on everything that you are. There are great things about yourself to reflect upon, like personality, characteristics and things that you have already accomplished. When we spend time reflecting on everything that we are, we feel and function better, we are happier, and maybe in less of a hurry to get to where we’re going. Live in the present and be thankful.

Reflect on everything that you are, instead of obsessively thinking about everything that you are not.

Mount Vernon Trail, Arlington County, VA

Western Pennsylvania Nonprofit Organizations and Charities (Directories)

Resources, resources, resources!
“Knowledge is like a garden; if it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested.” African Proverb

I want to help provide people with the tools to cultivate their own gardens. Below are links to directories for nonprofit organizations and charities.

The Pittsburgh region is blessed by over 3,000 nonprofit organizations. Services and opportunities are right around the bend.

Great Nonprofits (rated):
https://greatnonprofits.org/city/pittsburgh/PA

Charity Navigator (rated):
https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.metro&metroid=19&linkback=1

Together We Flourish (by county):
https://togetherweflourish.com/nonprofits-by-interests/

Nonprofit Talent: find a job, internship or volunteer opportunity:
https://jobs.nonprofittalent.com/

Pittsburgh Gives: search for nonprofits:
https://www.pittsburghgives.org/nonprofits

Connoquenessing Creek, Harmony, PA

“Finish Stronger”

I came up with the name Finish Stronger Counseling from my experience and passion for running. To “finish stronger” means to end the session better than when it began. Think about training for a marathon. During training runs, sometimes the goal is to have negative splits (a faster pace per mile) and to push harder as the run progresses. “Hanging on” or maintaining mental toughness for the final stretch is also considered finishing strong. Keep in mind that finishing strong can look different for everyone.

Through these experiences, there is opportunity to learn something new about oneself and about running. The runner can gain empowerment, self confidence and strength. “I can because I did!” “I can do it again.”

If the session didn’t go quite as the runner hoped it would, they may consider the attempt a failure, but there are still things to take away from the experience. The runner has to CHOOSE to have a positive outlook and approach in what they take away from that training session. This bump in the road or “failure” is not an “end all” experience, it does not define the runner. Having that positive outlook and approach leans into the concept of finishing strong.

Runners can learn how to adjust and tweak weak areas and how to challenge themselves more. There is always room for improvement. When practicing pushing beyond the comfort zone, one can begin to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable. The runner becomes more familiar with feeling uncomfortable and gets into the habit of finishing strong, which then transfers into other parts of life.

Just as finishing strong is to running, it can be applied to counseling. Through having hard work ethic, positive thinking, resilience, and appropriate interventions and treatment, a person may leave their counseling session feeling better, more knowledgeable and well-equipped than when it began.

Badwater Cape Fear Ultramarathon, Bald Head Island, NC