Just Listen: don’t worry about giving someone the perfect piece of advice

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.

Simply listen

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.”

Read more of this excellent article here.

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.

And more, go here.

Benefits of professional mental health counseling. Bust the myths and check out what counselors actually do.

What therapy actually is:

https://finishstrongercounseling.com/2020/12/22/mental-health-therapy-what-people-think-it-is-vs-what-it-actually-is/

The value of seeing a therapist:

https://finishstrongercounseling.com/2020/07/27/the-value-of-seeing-a-therapist-what-does-your-therapist-do-when-theyre-not-in-session/

Stuck on finding a counselor?

How to find the right counselor.

Consider talking with a counselor…

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.

Harmony Trail, Harmony, PA

Easy Health Strategies From Head-To-Toe


Photo by Pexels

Guest article provided by Lisa Walker of neighborhoodsprout.org

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.

Are You Ready for Change? I’m ready to help.

Coffee, set, go!

I’m ready to help you tackle change.

I help people:

  • Learn how to manage worry and anxiety.
  • Learn how to better regulate emotions.
  • Through life transitions.
  • Learn how to take better care of their mental health.
  • Make positive, lasting change.
  • Get in touch with what’s actually going on underneath the problem.

I’m working with people all over the state of Pennsylvania. If you’d like to learn more about my telemental health services, browse my website or send me an email.

Maybe we’re a good fit to work together?

Be well!

Session Framework: what our sessions might look

Initial session

  • 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.

Regular sessions

  • Hello!
  • 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.

“Unfinished Business” Letter

To help resolve any unfinished business that you have with another person, write a letter. This may be written to a person who has hurt or wronged you, and who is no longer a part of your life. DO NOT ACTUALLY SEND THEM (or anyone) THIS LETTER, this letter is for YOU. Keep it confidential.

I STRONGLY suggest doing this activity with a professional counselor and talking through the situation with them. They can support you.

Writing this letter will help you to:

  • Reflect and process
  • Feel emotions
  • Think more slowly
  • Problem solve
  • Maybe to forgive the wrong-doer
  • Forgive yourself, if you need to
  • Put your thoughts and emotions to paper
  • Release pent up thoughts and strong emotions, like pain, sadness, and anger
  • Find some peace, healing and resolution
  • Empowerment and improve self-esteem
  • Increase self-care and self-love

Format:

There are no set rules for writing this letter. You may find it difficult to start this process, just dive right in. The letter can be edited and re-organized to how you would like. Start with the wrong-doer’s name, like you are writing a letter. If you’re unsure of how long your letter should be, try aiming to write one to three pages just to get an idea. Once you have that, you will better know if the letter should be any longer. The letter is to benefit you and to help resolve any unfinished business, the length of the letter doesn’t matter quite as much. End the letter with your name.

Important things to think about including:

  • Things that you want the wrong-doer to know.
  • Anything that you want to say to them.
  • Talk about what they did to you.
  • Talk about how you feel.
  • Talk about your reaction to what they did.
  • Talk about the impact that it has had on yourself. What areas of your life have been impacted? How has it been changed?
  • Write about what you wish went differently.
  • Write about how you wish things ended with that person.
  • Is there anything that you could have done differently?
  • Allow yourself to be open to writing anything that comes up.

This is a challenging exercise, so take a break if you need to, re-visit it. *Self-care is very important through this process.* Work on acknowledging your thoughts and emotions, know that they are natural and occur for a reason, but let them roll away (not sticking in your mind) as you write. Utilize coping strategies to reduce intense stress, anxiety, emotions, etc. Try to make sure that you’re in a good “mental space,” not overly anxious or panic when you write this. It is helpful to be able to think clearly and be focused. After you finish writing this letter, read it out loud to yourself. Reading it to yourself might be emotional because your brain will be processing the information slightly differently, hearing your own voice read what you wrote is powerful. Read it to a counselor, they will listen and be able to guide you. If you think that it would be beneficial reading it a second or third time, then do so. Notice if your thoughts and emotions changed the next time through. Lastly, when you are ready, you completed the letter and read it out loud, destroy the letter for resolution (and confidentiality). There is symbolism in destroying the letter. It isn’t returning. Allow yourself to be healed and empowered. Love yourself. Notice how you feel while destroying the letter and afterwards. Do you feel physically lighter, like a weight has been lifted off of your shoulders? Do you feel empowered? Did you sigh in relief or smile?

Once again, please talk with someone if you need to, don’t hesitate to reach out. It is rewarding to speak with someone, brain imaging research shows that talk therapy (psychotherapy) can be impactful right away.

Download this exercise here

Red Rock Canyon, NV

Mental health therapy: what people think it is vs. what it actually is

Mental health therapy: what people think it is vs. what it actually is.

What people think it is:

• Talking to a therapist about problems.

What it actually is:

• Talking to a therapist about problems.

• Making changes to thoughts and behaviors.

• Psychoeducation.

• Building awareness of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

• Between session work.

• Learning and practicing coping strategies.

• Working on becoming less judgmental of certain thoughts and emotions.

• Finding a healthy balance while going through difficult life situations and increasing self-care.

• Increasing empowerment and mental strength.

• Improve overall wellness.

• Focus on personal growth.

• Helping to end the stigma of mental health illnesses.

Myths about Telemental Health

• Telemental health is too new.

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.

Struggling to Remain Strong for too Long?

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.

Person-Centered Perspective in Counseling

I use the person-centered perspective when working with clients because it is so important to keep WHO that person is in mind when helping them figure out what they need and how to reach their goals.

A person needs an empowering environment, meaningful relationships, a champion for change, proper facilitation and coordination, and agreed achievements with their counselor.

The person-centered approach is highly effective through the means of telemental health. Counseling is all about the person.

Be well!

How my teletherapy private practice got started

For about nine years, I worked as a counselor in higher level of care settings. A ton professional growth occurred during those years. I taught people how to better cope, apply therapeutic strategies, and believe in their own strengths. Days ranged from 8 to 16 hours long. One month, I took an overnight shift. I battled insomnia due to the crazy hours. What I learned during those times still helps me. And I beat the insomnia.

About a year ago, I felt the desire to go into outpatient private practice. It would be a completely different experience, slower pace, though still always busy. I was interested in business. For almost an entire year, I researched how to properly set up the independent contractor and business details, then chipped away at putting the pieces into action. I was also pregnant, so there was no hurry during this process.

The business didn’t start out as teletherapy. I shared an office with another counselor and saw people in-office. That was alright, but I wasn’t happy with a few of the business aspects that weren’t within my control, nothing counseling related. It felt off. I didn’t feel like I was supposed to be there. In the back of my mind, I was thinking about teletherapy, but I didn’t believe that it could be as secure as in-office and wondered about some ethical aspects. I had a lot of questions. Back while I was researching how to set up the business, teletherapy came up, but I had too many concerns about doing harm or something going wrong. So I didn’t go there.

Well, Coronavirus struck and places went into lockdown. Our office was open because we were essential workers. Coronavirus was my sign to leap into teletherapy. I took a 12.5 hour course on properly running a teletherapy private practice and did more research. No one was inquiring about services due to the lockdown. I jumped ship and into the new waters, I swam.

As everything fell into place, it was rewarding on many levels, personally and professionally. Of course, I was setting everything up from scratch, doing it the hard way to save money because I was just starting out. I created my own documents, made sure everything was HIPAA compliant, secure, and private, and used as much free software as I needed. It ran like clockwork. How about that?!

I completed continuing education and became certified in telemental health and in treating anxiety. My business grew and remained steady over the next year. With my heart full, I wanted to upgrade my business and give more to my clients. I researched practice management software and EHR software, comparing all of the platforms, perks, ease of use, and which one would be the best fit for myself and my clients. I went with SimplePractice because it was intuitive and had a great client portal.

The free trial was handy, I picked through everything that SimplePractice offers and learned about it. When it came to getting the system and paperwork to align with what I already had set up, it was a bit overwhelming and difficult. SimplePractice has good “how to” videos and I was getting daily emails from them to make sure things were going well. After fiddling around during that free period, my business was operating on SimplePractice. So happy!

My small private practice has come a long way within a year, as it started from scratch and now uses a fancy EHR. There’s a lot to be proud of and grateful for in this journey of business ownership. The practice has been fruitful. I look forward to meeting and helping people in the years to come.

Mental health professionals: use this code below to try out SimplePractice, and when you’re ready to sign up for a paid account, receive a $50 discount.

https://www.simplepractice.com/?p=8246d756ca