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.
Many of us may feel constantly confronted with self-care messages. However, maintaining your health can be challenging when you’re balancing a busy schedule. We live in a culture that puts a lot of pressure on us to be our best selves, so it’s no surprise that many people feel overwhelmed as a result and give up altogether.
In this article, we’ll discuss some simple tips on living a balanced life, taking care of ourselves, and looking and feeling fantastic from head-to-toe. Our physical health is just as important as our mental well-being — which professional telemental health counselor Shannon Mick can attest to — but neither works efficiently without the other.
The Connection Between Food and Health
If you feel like you’re always tired, trying to catch up, and can’t seem to get a handle on your mood, your nutrition is a great place to start. It’s easy to pick up fast food when you’re pressed for time. However, this type of food can have a negative effect on your mental health. In fact, when comparing “traditional” Japanese and Mediterranean-style diets (high in seafood, vegetables, fruits, and unprocessed grains) to Western diets (high in processed foods and refined sugar), the result was a 20–35% higher risk of depression in those who observed the latter.
If we don’t feel happy on the inside, we can’t enjoy what we look like on the outside. In the same vein, taking care of our mental fitness is essential if we want to lead fulfilling lives. Nutrient-dense foods are more than building blocks for a beautiful physique — they are critical for our state of mind. Proper nourishment and healthy eating habits can improve your energy, boost your mood, build self-esteem, reduce symptoms of depression, and enhance cognitive function.
Self-Care Varies For Different People
We can’t be great spouses, friends, employees, or parents if we don’t look after ourselves with care. Know that maintaining strong mental health can look different for different people. Additionally, different varieties of stress require different forms of relief. Many extroverts gravitate towards social functions as a means to release stress, while introverts turn inwards and recharge through solitary activities.
But the fact is, many people’s personalities lie somewhere in the middle, and they may enjoy different things on different days. This means that great ways to relieve stress really do vary and may include playing sports or games with friends, teletherapy or counseling with Shannon, going for a walk with a partner, or reading a book (to name just a few). Whatever your needs may be, it’s critical to listen and honor what your body and mind require at any given time.
Feel Great, Look Great
You don’t have to sacrifice style for comfort — there are ways to look great without feeling constricted. Clothes influence how we feel. We all have special outfits we wear when we’re feeling confident, so why not endeavor to feel like that every day?
There are plenty of ways to incorporate comfortable clothing into your daily wardrobe. If you enjoy lounging at home, it’s a great idea to invest in nice lounge pants that let you work out, walk the dog, and run after your kids while still feeling both comfortable and chic. Throwing on a blazer can be a great way to spruce up this loungewear look. Alternatively, treat yourself to a modest purchase like trendy glasses to elevate an outfit.
The Bottom Line
Physical and mental health are hot topics these days. Everyone’s got something to say, which can be overwhelming. However, at the most fundamental level, you simply can’t go wrong with a proper diet and mental health maintenance. Caring for your body with healthy foods and therapeutic discourse will ultimately make for a strong mind, stunning physique, and a better headspace for enjoying life. Get in touch with Shannon for a free initial consultation.
Introduce myself and give a little information on my credentials.
Check your valid photo ID to verify that you are who you say you are.
Review the In Case of Emergency plan. I’ll also review who your emergency contact is with you and jot down your current location address.
Review the housekeeping paperwork that you completed, such as the Notice of Privacy Practices and Informed Consents.
Briefly talk about the SimplePractice platform and what’s available to you through your client portal.
I’ll answer any questions that you may have.
Review the Intake Questionnaire that you completed.
Collaborate on the Treatment Plan, covering issues or symptoms that you’d like to work on, goals and outcomes, and steps towards those goals and managing symptoms.
Discuss anything you could work on in between the initial session and the second session. If appropriate, I’ll probably suggest that you have a private journal or notebook to take notes during sessions and to use throughout the week.
Answer any questions that you may have.
Verify your current location address.
Check-in. Talk about how your week was and how you’re doing.
If we need to, review the Treatment Plan.
Talk about things going on and work towards your goals that reflect the Treatment Plan. How we work towards your goals is 100% unique to you. We will also identify your strengths and interests and where we can use them.
Discuss what you could work on over the next week.
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.
Depression, anxiety, and panic attacks are signs that you should ask for help
It is important to be able to recognize the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and panic attacks in ourselves. When we experience these symptoms frequently, for longer than a few weeks, it is time to ask for help. Take action. We tend to go for far too long, trying to remain strong, that we become weak. The depression, anxiety, and panic attacks can begin to harm multiple areas of our lives. Social, relationships, school, work, etc. A counselor can teach you ways to cope and renew your strength.
It can be challenging and anxiety provoking to find the right counselor. Sometimes it’s difficult knowing how to find the help that you specifically need. This article’s tips will answer some questions, help develop a plan, relieve stress, and lead you to finding the right counselor.
Licensed Professional Counselors
A licensed professional counselor works with people in most areas of life: Reducing anxiety; coping; adjusting to changes; dealing with depression and grief; overcoming trauma; fighting addiction; educating people about mental illnesses; family, marriage, and couples issues; relationships and communication; mental health disorders.
When choosing a counselor, look for someone who seems like they would be a good “fit”
Look at the counselor’s specialties, they should be mentioned or listed on the counselor’s profile and website.
• If you need help taking steps fighting an addiction, look for someone who specializes in addiction counseling.
• If you are going through a divorce, find someone who specializes in marriage and divorce.
• If you’re looking for Christian faith-based counseling, try searching in an online Christian counselor directory if you aren’t sure where the local Christian counselors are.
Approach to Therapy / Theoretical Orientation
Check out the counselor’s approach to therapy and the theories they apply.
Some counselors use a variety and combination of these. Don’t stress on knowing the methods and theories, the counselor can teach you if you’d like to learn. Having a basic understanding that these theories are out there can lend a hand in making a decision about who you see. Certain theories are more appropriate than others when treating certain mental illnesses, the counselor will know these details.
When Using Health Insurance
If you want to use insurance to cover the cost, contact them and inquire about behavioral mental health providers in your area. Find out what your co-pay is. If you’re seeking a teletherapist, check to make sure your insurance covers teletherapy (again, check to see if there’s a co-pay because virtual mental health services might cost different than in-office services.). Once you contact a counselor, double check that they accept your insurance.
Find a Counselor Through an Online Directory
Another way to find a counselor is to check online directories. Some of these directories allow you to filter, which saves time and helps you find a counselor who better suits your needs. Psychology Today is a fantastic place to search for a counselor. TherapyDen is also an awesome site to look at. If you’re looking for a counselor who is plant-based or vegan, try Plant-Based Doctors. Using an online directory is a great way to find exactly what you’re looking for.
Create a List of Counselors and Questions
When you find a counselor that you’re interested in working with, write down their contact information and website. Create a list of five or so counselors and then visit their websites to learn more about them. As you learn more, you may realize that they don’t quite fit your needs, so you can cross them off your list. Jot down any questions that you may have for that counselor about their services.
Learn About the Counselor Through Social Media
You can learn a lot about a counselor’s approach, views, theoretical orientation, personality, vibe, etc, through their business’ social media page and blogs. Check out what they post and write about. Look for pictures of their office, sometimes there are pictures to make clients feel more comfortable in knowing what to expect.
Contacting the Counselor
Whether you’re contacting them through email or a phone call, make sure that you’re in a private space so that your confidentiality won’t be at risk when you share with them a little about what you are seeking help for. Sharing a few sensitive details helps the counselor determine whether they can help you or if they need to lead you to other services.
After learning more about the counselors, call them to have your questions answered or to schedule an appointment. I can’t speak for every counselor, but most offer a free phone consultation. Ask about whether they accept insurance and the cost of session. Ask about what you can expect during a session. Ask about the paperwork process. Ask any other questions that come to mind and that you wrote on your list.
If you’re having difficulty reaching a counselor by calling, consider emailing them. Counselors should have their emails set up safe and secure. Texting a counselor’s phone isn’t secure, so don’t use that method of contact.
Notice Thoughts, Feelings, & Gut Instinct
When you’re talking with the counselor on the phone, briefly check-in with your thoughts, feelings, and gut instinct. Are you comfortable? Do you see yourself sitting across from them? Is your gut feeling telling you that this is the right person? The gut instinct is usually accurate.
Ask Friends and Family
To get a better idea about what to look for in a counselor, ask your friends and family who are seeing one what they like about them. This isn’t a good way to get a referral, but it can give you an idea on counselor personality, traits, and practices to look for.
It can be tough finding the right counselor, but using these tips to create a simple plan will make it easier.