MH professionals, thought I’d share my current favorite books and resources.

Meaning

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

[Check out his other books!]


Relationships

The Gaslighting Recovery Workbook: Healing from Emotional Abuse by Amy Marlow-MaCoy, LPC


Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Journal


Christian

Quick Scripture Reference for Counseling extended edition by John G. Kruis


Habits

Atomic Habits by James Clear


Mindful Eating

The Mindful Eating Workbook by Vincci Tsui, RD


Anxiety

Rewire Your Anxious Brain by Catherine M. Pittman, Ph.D. and Elizabeth M. Karle, MLIS


Trauma

Trauma-Informed Yoga: A Toolbox for Therapists by Joanne Spence, MA, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT


Transforming the Living Legacy of Trauma: A Workbook for Survivors and Therapists by Janina Fisher, PhD

Do you have a favorite from this list or a recommendation?

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

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.

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

How to Get Through the Day When the World Seems to be Falling Apart

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:

https://finishstrongercounseling.com/2020/05/29/just-checking-in/

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:

https://finishstrongercounseling.com/2020/04/02/vision-board/

7) Journal. Read about journaling here if it interests you:

https://finishstrongercounseling.com/2020/04/10/the-benefits-of-keeping-a-journal-and-journal-prompts/

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:

https://finishstrongercounseling.com/2020/05/05/positive-affirmations-to-get-through-a-crisis-or-difficult-time/

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.

Here’s a simple example of a safety plan:

https://finishstrongercounseling.com/2020/02/11/safety-plan-on-an-index-card/

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:

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

Give teletherapy a try, it is convenient and you receive the same mental health benefits as you would during an in-office session.

If you’re not sure where to find a counselor, use a directory like Psychology Today or TherapyDen. There are several other counselor directories out there.

These are only a dozen tips on getting through a pandemic and crisis. Share your ideas and tips below. Please share this article to reach others.

Be well!

Baker Trail, Cook Forest State Park, PA

The Value of Seeing a Therapist: what does your therapist do when they’re not in session?

About My YouTube Channel

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.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdZ4XeHJRt4qBMfo2pwehpQ

Liggett Trail, Cook Forest State Park, PA

25 Pushups for 25 Days Raising Awareness

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.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Believe that you can find hope.

Happy pushup-ing!

25 Pushups for 25 Days Challenge to Raise Awareness for Mental Health and Suicide

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. **

Emotional Support Animals VS Therapy Animals VS Service Dogs

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!

Therapy Animal

  • The most common type of therapy animal is a dog, but other animals, like cats and horses can also be supportive.

Therapy Dog

  • 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.

Service 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.
  • Follow the service dog laws.

Resources

https://www.caninejournal.com/service-dog-vs-therapy-dog-vs-emotional-support-dogs/

A short Equine Therapy article

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/ending-addiction-good/201708/the-therapeutic-value-horses

Download the information from this article below, the resources are included.

Beaver County, PA