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.
These 12 tips are specific to living through a pandemic (COVID-19) where there are multiple tragic events and crisis occurring at once on a worldwide scale.
A brief overview of the destruction that COVID-19 has caused
• People are ill and dying from a virus.
• People are socially isolated from family and friends.
• People are restricted in where they can go and what they can do.
• People have lost jobs and are financially unstable.
– Connected to all of this is the person’s identity because people identify themselves through going out and participating.
• Political issues, finger pointing and name calling are a big part of this pandemic.
• People wear face masks to reduce spread of the virus, but the mask also hides smiles.
• Anxiety, depression and suicide is on the rise.
• People are silently hurting.
The benefits of these tips are (but not limited to)
• Increased happiness
• Connection to others
• Raising awareness
• Fostering positivity
• Finding value and meaning in life
• Learning coping strategies
• Finding help
Keep in mind that this article isn’t telling you to ignore, dismiss, or minimize what’s going on around us. It is important to sit with the difficult emotions and thoughts, to process, and personally grow from what’s occurring in our lives. We can’t run, there needs to be a resolution to do something about it, but there needs to be a balance and healthy approach.
Let’s cover the tips on getting through
1) Limit your time on social media and watching the news. Be informed and have proper understanding about what’s going on around the world, but don’t allow the information to overwhelm and carry you away. The information on social media and the news shouldn’t occupy a good portion of your day.
2) Mute or unfollow people on social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram if they are posting unhelpful information on the pandemic or are posting frequently on the pandemic. Always check the resource of what they post to make sure it is true and accurate. There is a lot of information being shared that is inaccurate or highly one-sided. Be your own researcher, fact-checker, and it is beneficial to try to see from both sides of an issue. Widening perspective allows us to have a more open mind and gives us a little more breathing room.
3) Use social media and technology to your advantage. Since we have to limit being around others or can’t be around people at all, use social media to connect and to lift up others. Post something kind or funny. Post a beautiful picture. Have an engaging conversation, but leave out the pandemic and political issues surrounding it. You can lift someone’s spirit and your own!
We use video platforms on almost a daily basis now, continue to use it to connect. Talk to a good friend who you haven’t seen in a while. Use video platforms to check-in with a person’s mental health, you don’t know who is suffering in silence.
Are you feeling unsure about how to check-in? This link will lead you to check-in questions:
Do you have a favorite hobby or interest? Join and follow social media groups and pages to motivate and fuel your interests.
4) Virtual tours, adventures and visits. If you are looking for something new and interesting to do without leaving your house, take a virtual trip to a National Park, zoo, museum, etc. Think of somewhere that you’ve never been and would like to go. Read about it, look at pictures, watch videos, and take a virtual tour. This is fun activity to do with kids and it’s educational.
If you’re religious or spiritual, consider attending a virtual service or practice.
5) Teach someone about your hobby or trade. Write, blog, create social media content, and make a video to do so. Engage with people, answer their questions, and provide them with credible resources so they can learn more.
5) Increase your self-care. Do more of what you enjoy and try new things, even if you don’t feel like it. Take care of your body and mind. Try to keep to a normal schedule, this includes proper exercise, diet, and staying hydrated. If you’re overwhelmed with work, schedule in self-care. Slow down, read a book, take a bath, watch a movie, call someone you care about.
6) Make a vision board to stay focused on your long-term goals. Read how here:
8) Practice mindfulness, breathing and or meditation. Find someone who provides these services online if you need help getting started. Create a YouTube playlist of relaxing music and sounds that you can practice to. Don’t give up if these exercises don’t immediately benefit you in an impactful way, it takes time to learn them. It’s a process.
9) Use online presence to raise awareness or funds for a cause that you’re passionate about. Help people learn more, support people who need it the most, connect to others who care about the same thing as you. Feel good!
10) Use positive affirmations and practice them regularly. Read more and find examples here:
11) Have a safety plan and an emergency plan. For the safety plan:
• Write down what triggers maladaptive behaviors.
• Write coping strategies for each trigger that you can participate in right away.
• Write down three positive affirmations or favorite quotes.
• List three people whom you can trust to call and talk to and receive support from (Do ahead of time: make sure that they know they are on your safety plan list and tell them how they can best support you if you contact them.) (Ideas on how they can help: this can range from a phone call to recall favorite memories or to meet up for coffee.).
• If your situation turns into an emergency, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 or your local mental health crisis lifeline. Add these emergency phone numbers to your safety plan.
12) Speak with a professional counselor. They can teach you several coping strategies and powerful tools like cognitive reframing. They are someone who will be present with you, be non-judgmental, listen, and provide feedback. They will support you and give you space for you to process your strongest emotions and thoughts.
Check out these other benefits to seeing a counselor:
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. **
Have you ever wondered the difference between an Emotional Support Animal, Therapy Dog or Service Dog? This article is a brief overview, of the different companions.
Emotional Support Animal (ESA)
The animal provides therapeutic benefits to the owner at home through companionship.
Steps to getting an ESA:
Determine if an ESA is right for you. Ask yourself what are the possible benefits. Understand the work that is involved with owning an animal.
Find a licensed professional mental health therapist who is knowledgeable about ESAs. They will walk you through mental health assessments and other parts of the process. The therapist can write a legitimate letter for you to use and identify your animal as an ESA.
Adopt an animal. Do your research and choose an animal carefully. An animal can come from a rescue, shelter or trusted breeder. Common ESAs: dogs; cats; reptiles; rodents; birds (even chickens!). If you already have a pet that you would like to be your ESA, that’s great! Just be sure that your pet suits your needs.
Train your ESA to behave properly. Only basic animal training is needed, there are no special requirements. You are responsible for your animal’s behavior and if the animal damages property, being responsible paying for the damage.
Use your ESA letter properly.
Enjoy your emotional support companion!
The most common type of therapy animal is a dog, but other animals, like cats and horses can also be supportive.
Used in facilities, such as hospitals and retirement homes to provide affection and comfort.
Not all dog breeds fit being a therapy dog. The dog must be calm, affectionate and friendly to strangers at all times.
Therapy dogs don’t have to be trained for specific tasks like service dogs.
The dog needs to complete obedience training and register to become a certified therapy dog.
Trained to help people with visual impairment, diabetes, mental illnesses, and other disabilities.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and local government gives the option to people with disabilities to have a service dog, and (the ADA) punctuates that the dog is a working animal.
Must be well-trained to complete specific tasks related to the needs of the person with the disability. The dog must be fit to complete jobs that you cannot complete yourself.
Document all of the dog’s training and certificate.
People avoid going to therapy and there are a ton of valid reasons why. I believe that among the top reasons that people avoid seeing a therapist are due to anxiety, having a fear of the unknown, and the stigma around mental health and needing support. I want to see people receive the help that they need. I value the freedom and opportunities we have to reach out for help, it is okay to not be okay and to need to speak with somebody. It is okay to want some support. Feeling anxious or fearful are normal responses when you know that you will be divulging sensitive information to a stranger. This really is a big deal. To remove a little anxiety and stigma, here are some things that you can expect when you meet with me, and I know that all therapists strive to uphold these qualities and standards.
As a therapist, i won’t
Try to fix you.
Give you advice.
Tell you what to do.
Pretend to be the expert on your life.
Assume what is best for you.
Have all the answers.
Make the difficult stuff disappear.
As a therapist, I will
Have a non-judgmental approach.
Provide a fresh perspective.
Remind you that you aren’t broken.
Give you room to access your own wisdom.
Support you in figuring out what to do.
Remember that only you know what is best for you.
Honor that I don’t know it all.
Collaborate with you on how to make the difficult stuff easier to sit with.
There is an overwhelming number of abbreviations, definitions, slang and idioms used in Autism, that it can be hard to keep up with. Use this list as a quick reference, it is in alphabetical order and has plenty of space to add information. This list originated from The Autism Community in Action website, I tweaked and updated it (it contained DSM-IV pieces). I last updated it in February, 2020. * Note: 11 pages in length.