Just being a listener is powerful. Depending on the person who needs listened to and the situation, listening can be the only thing needed to help somebody. We’re bombarded with messages about listening and responding in a particular way. That we must follow A, B, and C or we aren’t being effective or that we might cause harm to the speaker. While we should aim to listen skillfully and to do no harm, we still can’t forget [or minimize] that just listening is impactful. We don’t always need to know what to say, that should relieve some pressure, all you have to do is listen and be present.
If you have a friend or family member who is experiencing issues and concerns, consider just listening to them first, rather than listening and offering up advice. While listening, practice being an active (non-distracted) listener, paying attention to nonverbal messages, listening to understand, making some eye contact, and being empathetic.
Keep in mind, that the speaker might not need an in-depth conversation. They may just need someone to listen and be there for them. The act of sharing out loud helps lift weight off of shoulders and problem solve. The brain processes differently while speaking out loud, as opposed to keeping your thoughts to yourself.
Ivy, mentor and mental health advocate, wrote about the power of listening. She says, “I have always emphasized that it is important even if you don’t agree with or understand how someone is feeling, to simply just listen to them and what they are going through. Simply asking someone if they are okay and letting them know you are there for them, is something so simple, yet so extremely powerful. Too often we feel like we won’t have the right words to say to people who reach out to us in need, so we keep our distance as a safer alternative. But you can make such a huge difference by just listening to someone’s story.”
Ivy continues, “When we listen to others, we let them know without even saying the words that their feelings are valid, that they themselves are valid and that we care about them. When we listen to other people’s story and allow them to be vulnerable and honest with us, the unexpected benefit is that we too can feel empowered to tell our own story and feel confident that someone will also listen to us when we are struggling.”
Listen to someone’s story and let them know that you’re there for them.
When you want to help, but feel like you can’t
Have you ever felt overwhelmed or stressed out by feeling like you need to help that someone who is coming to you about their problems? Maybe you have your own things that you’re going through and don’t have enough space to hold what they’re going through, as well. Perhaps, you’re feeling burnt out and need to practice self-care. You shouldn’t try to help another person when your glass is empty. Nothing comes out of an empty cup when you try to pour from it. [Even if your glass is full, practice daily self-care.] Whatever your situation, if you still want to be there for them, then just being a listener takes some pressure off of you. You can be present for the other person, but not hold as much responsibility in giving advice.
When to suggest that someone considers talking to a professional counselor
Know when to suggest that someone needs to go seek a mental health professional’s services. Topics like abuse, neglect, addiction, suicidal ideation, and suicide are red flags. Report abuse and neglect when you suspect something serious is going on, so that it can be looked into. Know the signs of suicide in order to prevent it and know what to do. Non-Judgmentally, ask open-ended questions to see what’s going on. Gently suggest that they speak with a mental health professional. Mention two or three benefits of speaking with a professional.
For information on lifeline contacts and resources, visit here.
Other times when a person should talk with a professional is when what they’re going through has impacted their life in such a way that they have difficulty functioning and maintaining a normal routine. Their job, family, social life, sleep, eating, major areas like that have been impacted. Especially, if this has been going on for a few weeks or longer, but really anyone, at anytime should go talk with a professional. It’s easier to fix something before it gets out of hand. This distress scale can help keep tabs on the impact that what you’re going through has on you.
Final words on just listening
Mindy Pierce, MA, LPC of Grow Counseling adds this to help us think further as listeners.
“Here are a few questions to help us think further about the powerful importance of listening and how well we listen:
• Who is the best listener you know?
• What makes that person a good listener?
• How do you feel when you are with that person?
• What can you learn from that person that would make you a better listener?
• What do you hesitate to talk to your partner about? Why?
• What happens to those withheld thoughts and feelings?
• What are the consequences of that withholding for you? For the relationship?
• What conversations would you like to go differently?
• If people think you aren’t listening to them, what will they assume it means? What will this lead to?
The next time something is really bothering you, notice if something holds you back from sharing that with someone. What fears or expectations do you have about what would happen if you shared? And if you do share, what happens?”
The rest of Mindy’s thoughtful article can be found here.
Being present and listening can be helpful to someone. Your friend or family member might just need someone to talk to, so they can empty part of what they’re carrying, a way to problem solve, or process what they’re going through. As a listener, a response isn’t always required. Be there for someone by listening to their story and letting them know that you care. Don’t underestimate the power of just listening, it’s helpful.
Telemental health has actually been around for several years.
• Telemental health is only for the underserved and those who live in rural areas.
Anyone can use telemental health. It saves travel time, gas money, and can more easily fit into a busy schedule.
• You miss out on nonverbal cues with telemental health.
During video chat, nonverbal cues can still be picked up. Proper room lighting, camera placement, and having a strong internet / wifi connection play an important role in this. The mental health professional will let you know if they can’t see you.
• It takes longer to develop rapport with telemental health.
It takes the same amount of time as in-office sessions to develop rapport, keeping in mind that the counselor should be a good fit to work with.
• Telemental health is not secure.
Telemental health can be set up HIPAA compliant and secure to the standard of ethics. There are multiple safeguards in place.
As a professional counselor, diagnosing is necessary and guides how we help people. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is the universal guide on mental illnesses, housing all of the criteria and statical relevance. The manual is updated every few years, as the mental health field changes and research backs any new findings.
Basic things to know and my thoughts:
▪︎ I am a fan of the DSM-5. If I have a question, I can usually find the answer there.
▪︎ Diagnosis allows professionals to figure out how to effectively treat someone and to stay up-to-date with treatment solutions. A diagnosis is a baseline, where we can learn and build information upon, or dig below the baseline to find a root cause to an issue. A counselor can customize the treatment plan, fitting the unique client.
▪︎ Diagnosis is necessary and can be beneficial to the client when the counselor properly explains it. I think that the client should have an understanding and gain insight to what is going on. – Of course, it starts with the client telling the counselor the perceived problem, and they go from there.
▪︎ Sometimes when a person receives a diagnosis, they feel a sense of relief because they have an answer or insight, and a direction towards treatment. On the other hand, does someone really want a diagnosis? No. Because people would rather not have the underlying issue to deal with in the first place. This makes total sense!
▪ The client should understand that this is a GUIDE, not a total reflection of WHO a person is. If the client has a concern over the diagnosis as it relates to their identity, then they should let their counselor know. Sometimes people allow their diagnosis to become a role in their life, a part of their identity. A diagnosis or illness is NOT the person, it is something that they are experiencing. A person is not their anxiety, though anxiety may be front and center, impacting multiple areas of life, but it is not who they are.
Those are my main thoughts, along with some information that I think that people should know about diagnosis. Whether you’re giving or receiving a diagnosis, it’s important to understand it and understand the treatment approach. Above all, the client should take care when it comes to thinking and speaking about a diagnosis because it is what they’re going through, not meant to become part of their identity.
The purpose of my YouTube channel is to provide you with information on mental health and tips to help you get through everyday life. Since I’m passionate about running and the outdoors, you may also see that as it relates to mental health.
To help raise awareness for mental health and suicide, I will be doing 25 pushups a day, for the next 25 days. Towards the bottom of this page is a YouTube video that I created of the challenge. The video contains snippets of the 25 days and statistics on mental health and suicide.
I was nominated by a friend to do this challenge because I’m all about fitness and taking on challenges (not to mention, I’m a mental health counselor).
I’m INVITING YOU to do something to help raise awareness for mental health and suicide, as well! Whether you choose to do this push up challenge, another awesome challenge, or share this post, I’d be *so excited* to have you participate!! Please share with me how you’re raising awareness!
Here are the rules for the pushup challenge
*Your 25 days starts tomorrow. *Everyday, record yourself doing 25 pushups. *Everyday, you must invite a different person to participate. — modified pushups (from the knees) count! — just do your best! —
If you are struggling and need someone to talk to, contact me or find a counselor through Psychology Today or Therapy Den (there are many other platforms, too.) If you’re in a situation where you need to talk with someone immediately, please call the number below.
This pushup challenge has been: 1) challenging. 2) a joy. 3) a blessing. • I’ve gotten to share two things that I’m passionate about, fitness and mental health. • It has been great having chats with people about the importance of supporting one another’s mental health, and most paramount, raising awareness for and preventing suicide. • There’s a lot to be grateful for.
** Please consider doing the pushup challenge or raise awareness in another way. You WILL make a positive impact on someone’s life! ** Share about what you are doing to raise awareness with me and those around you! ** You can and WILL make a difference. **
“Like” and “follow” my mental health page on Facebook if you are interested in psychology and all things that are therapeutic and healthy lifestyle. I post mental health articles, blogs and free downloadable worksheets (blogs and worksheets are also available here on my website). My favorite things to share are inspirational and motivational quotes, random mental health facts and trail running photos that I took myself. You will occasionally see something about my favorite sport, running… and specifically, ultramarathon running. An ultramarathon is a distance further than a marathon. Running is about mental strength just as much as it is about physical strength. Running can teach us lessons that carry into everyday life, I like to integrate these things into my work in the mental health field.