Tag Archives: therapist

Tearful? Racing Thoughts? Unable to Concentrate? Consider this:

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Maybe you are normal!

Those happy people

Life is often hard. Reactions to stress or disappointment  may include tears, racing thoughts, and trouble concentrating. We do not feel like ourselves at those times and wish we could be normal like other folks.

They smile, laugh,  and accomplish plenty seemingly without excess strain.  Even when aware of the troubles others suffer, we still tend to assume they are handling life with strength and courage.  We however, are falling apart.

Consider two facts. please

1) Everyone presents strength. It is what we do.  Deflection (“I’m alright, you?”), dismissal (“no worries”), and bravado (“I’m pulling through”) are often viewed as acceptable forms of suffering.  An honest, “I’m falling apart” or “I need your support” may be met with skepticism and withdrawal.

In this social atmosphere, is it any wonder we wear masks? Brave people reveal the truth but pay a price, too. By many they are accepted and embraced.  Some will judge them with ignorance and stigma.

Much of what we assume about the happiness of others is subjective at best. Perhaps nearly each person is hiding difficulty as we tend to do.

2). Comparing our insides with the outsides of others accomplishes nothing healthy.  Any guess as to the wellbeing of another person is inadequate. We judge from bias based on our experiences and interpretation of what we observe.

Carol greets guests with a vibrant smile in her job as hotel manager.  Sims goes about his work with typical reliability.  Keisha continues to chauffeur her children to activities. Upon first glance would you suspect Carol doubts her worth, Sims feels he is waiting to die, or that  Keisha battles horrific flashbacks?

In our misery we may see what others present and think, “I wish I was happy like they are.”

True courage

Again I suggest, maybe your tearfulness, racing thoughts, and inability to concentrate are normal.  What would not be so common is courage to reach out for wise counsel.  Even one visit with a competent therapist may improve your point of view.  Further sessions can include skills for handling similar challenges in the future.

Are you normal?  Wisdom admits imperfection and the need for each other.  Go ahead, give professional counsel a try.  Support groups too are terrific for proving just how well we fit in with the rest of the human race. 

 **********COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

Sloooow Dowwwwn. Your Impatience Will Not Help Someone’s Depression Go Away

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

I guess it is simple enough.  People struggling with depression want it to go away. People watching others struggle with depression want them well.

So, we all agree.

Depression is yucky.

Frustration

Bryan wanted to return to work.  His boss was growing impatient. His wife was arguing for him to get off the couch.  His therapist warned him moving too fast could cause a set-back.  Bryan was sick of it all, and especially sick of himself.

Why couldn’t he work like normal people? He hated the stupid mistakes he was making – like drinking too much last night and fighting with a friend.  He was neglecting his wife and children, staring into the television 14 hours a day.  In his negative thinking, fueled by fierce major depression, his life was a waste.  Maybe everyone would be better off if he was gone.

Bryan never attempted suicide. If he had, it would have been no one’s fault. His boss, wife, friend, children, and Bryan had reason to feel frustrated and impatient. A sense of normalcy was challenged. Their needs were unmet. It hurt to suffer and watch suffering, however they did not know what to do.

Fragility

The therapist encouraged him to take small steps forward. “Go ahead, get off the couch and eat dinner with your family. Then the next day, maybe do the dishes or go for a short walk.”

In the midst of a major depressive episode even little tasks can seem overwhelming.  Exhaustion comes quickly. Eating dinner or taking a shower can, in many cases, be all a person can handle each day for a while.

Bryan tried.  I saw him begin to feel more like himself. Eventually he worked half days, and then returned to his old schedule. Here’s the truth – no one was able to make his depression heal faster. Depression ran its course, and Bryan had to take it slow.

Another man pushed himself too hard and ended back in the hospital.  I too tried to sign up for too much too soon. It is frustrating being so fragile. All the while, depression is fueling  negativity and self-loathing.

No “Fixing” 

When you want to “fix” your depressed loved one, or express anger at someone’s slow recovery, take a step back. Maybe go for a walk yourself. Learn about depression; ask your loved one what they are feeling. Practice careful acceptance and avoid judgment.

Anger does not produce what we all agree is best – putting depression behind us.  Yes, depression is yucky. It challenges all involved. Patience is how to beat it.

 **********COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

*MOTORCYCLE by SULACO229 and SLOW by ALBION on rgbstock.com

 

From Emotional Rags to Riches

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2017 Nancy Virden

I was spoiled. Living in the western suburbs of Philadelphia for six years, certain comforts like full-serve gas stations, free valet parking at doctors’ offices, and grocery home delivery are privileges which trickled down to average folks, and I took advantage. Now Cleveland is home again, where none of these are available. Poor me (back of hand to forehead with a pout).  I have to pump gasoline, park my car, and carry groceries like most Americans.

Sigh.

Pity party over, truth is, even when change is simple and positive, it is at least a tad stressful. A major move, death of a loved one, leaving home to go to school, getting married… these are heavy challenges. Changing a worldview and lifelong core beliefs is grueling.

Believe the best

Switching out a negative and hopeless mindset to one of embracing life involves daily courage. Due to abuse, neglect, and myriad reasons, some people question their worth from childhood forward.  False messages collected from what was heard and seen in a family of origin need to be compared to real evidence. We must confront our ignorance and denial. Beliefs can hold us hostage; beliefs can change.

A therapist said, “…please believe the best of yourself too. If there is another reasonable explanation, take that one, and don’t beat yourself up.” She was referring to a tendency toward guilt and shame when one’s core belief is “I am always wrong.”  No one is always wrong. Looking for another reasonable explanation is wise. Taking it in is admirable. Changing one’s view of self is brave.

I am not heroic by shopping for groceries and filling my car’s tank. However, working hard to garner a wealth of insight and newfound understanding is my emotional rags to riches story. With God’s help, patient professional care, and a teachable spirit, my life has turned a full 180 degrees.  

Beliefs can change, and so can you.

girl lookingToday’s Helpful Word

Philippians 4:8

 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

-1st picture from Qualitystockphotos.com; 2nd pic from rgbstock.com

 

 

Some Dos and Don’ts for Supporting Your Loved One with Depression

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2014 Nancy Virden

photo-24768393-old-man-raising-his-eye-browA husband is having a depressive episode and it may be major. He feels spiritually dead, and lack of motivation and energy pin him to the couch. It’s likely that emotional pain is a hundred times worse than any physical suffering he has experienced.

It is extremely important your loved one be seen by a medical doctor of mental health- a psychiatrist – to ascertain what is wrong and offer appropriate treatment. Talk therapy and medication combined may be what helps best.

Effectively supporting your loved one who is living with depression, does not have to be complicated.  Here are some suggestions based on personal (not professional) experience with major depression.

Begin by gently asking what he needs in the moment. He may not know, however believe what he says.

Do not try to “fix” him. You may not intend to harass him, but repeatedly demanding he go for a walk or help around the house is not helpful. Try instead, “I’m going for a walk and I’d like you to come with me if you want to” or “Can you dry the dishes while I wash them? I’d like to have your company.” This type of approach is accepting.

If there is anything (non-patronizing) that you can do or say to let him know he is valuable, do or say it. Avoid guilt trips. Hearing you are wanted and needed is different from being told you are failing.

Anything he can do to help himself is good. Even climbing out of bed for a few minutes counts. Help him see he is making progress, that you enjoyed the few minutes he was up, and that it matters.

More than anything else you can offer, just be there. That’s huge. In his depression he may not think anyone cares about him. You say you do, but maybe he believes you are mistaken. Also, he may fear you will not care much longer because he is unproductive and “useless”.

If you can just be there, completely accepting him for who is in the moment  (sitting beside his bed reading a book silently, making his favorite meal, chattering with small talk even if he’s quiet), these ordinary little things can mean more than you know.

I highly recommend the book (also in audio), “When You Can’t Snap Out of It: Finding Your Way Through Depression” by Dr. Louis Bevilacqua. Many of Dr. Bevilacqua’s simple exercises have been and continue to be useful for me.  If possible, do them together.  Don’t carry high expectations for fast relief. Depression is often difficult to overcome.

Do something nice for yourself. Keep talking to friends or professionals about what you are going through, because if you do not have your own support you will suffer too.

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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

*picture from qualitystockphotos

Where is Good Counsel to be Found? Story 6

Compassionate Love:Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2014 Nancy Virden

nr7rjpiI titled this Story 6 because it is doubtless not the last. There will be more to say on this topic in the future, however I expect it to be positive. Why? Because great mental health care is available and can be found.

We are all “abnormal” in the sense no one is like another; our needs are unique. In the earlier parts of this series my point is we can avoid pitfalls in searching for professional mental health care that is right for us.

For example, I may struggle with vulnerability if a therapist is very disorganized. It affects my trust level. How about you? What characteristics in a therapist might have detrimental or positive influences on your healing?

It’s an understatement to say I was not in my strongest emotional condition as I looked for help. I had waited until desperation set in before reaching out. While it is ideal to hire a therapist when healthy, it is not common. Professionals know this about clients, and are responsible to act accordingly. If one does not, keep moving.

This is where a friend or family member can get involved and be effective. Tell them what kind of person you hope to find. Your support can make calls, search out the information referred to in this series, and lead you to your first meeting.

One of my initial criteria was that I wanted to see this person twice a week. Unfortunately I had to settle for once per week which was difficult for me at the time. Compromises are ok if you can live with them.

Gentleness is most important to me. Yell, and I will likely not trust you again.  Affirmations like, “Proud of you” and “You’ve come a long way” stir my confidence. What do you need?

My son asked me recently, “Don’t you get tired of working on yourself?”

That made me laugh and still does. Fact is, I do grow tired of working on myself, extremely tired,  and want to give up often. However, these people are teaching me how to live in the present. I’m learning why I want to stay alive and how to experience that abundant life Jesus talked about.

The success of a therapist is a client who leaves their care able to carry on in a healthy manner. Maybe you will not need so many years to reach this goal, or perhaps you will need more time. Remember, all that is required for forward movement is one step at a time. Slow progress is progress.

Maybe you or someone in your life believes psychology and therapy are for weak losers. Here is the good news I promised in the last of this series. Since completely giving up on life…

  • I have had two books published with a third going to the publisher this week.
  • I am traveling and sharing my story of recovery with young adults who have largely been marginalized by society.
  • Opportunity to teach at church and in seminars has come my way seven times so far.
  • There is a small group of women who consider me a support and friend.
  • I’m more honest, working on being both honest and gentle simultaneously, and learning how to be a true friend.
  • I’ve forgiven persons who caused me harm, and am creating distance between me and those who would continue to do so.
  • I’m slowly learning I count.

Is this weakness? Your opinion is up to you. I see it as the fight of my life, and that is saying a lot. The bravest thing I have ever done is stay alive when I wanted to be dead.

I do this for God, for my sons, and hope one day to do this for me. That is why I still get help, and am so grateful to have found it even though it took so long.

You don’t have to have my experiences. Pay attention to the guidance in this series. It will lead you to good counsel that fits you just right.

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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline   1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

 

Where is Good Counsel to be Found? Story 5

Compassionate Love:Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2014 Nancy Virden

photo-24800380-a-shocked-woman

Following a move to Philadelphia from Cleveland, I grew deeply depressed. In November of  2010, someone inadvertently recommended a nearby mental health organization where I found my current doctor. This is also the place that introduced me to Kelly.*

Kelly did not want to work with me, and rolled her eyes when she heard what I had to say. As I was walking out of her office, she said “Whew!” as if no one could hear her.  It became clear that the help I wanted does not exist, and so I settled. She told me to leave town and go visit someone nurturing. It did not occur to me she wanted me out of her hair.

During the month of December I was home maybe six days. In January she put me in an IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) and told me insurance would not simultaneously pay for visits with her. 

Days later, I attempted suicide. Months went by during which I was hospitalized and completed the IOP.  Finally, I was back in Kelly’s office.  

This time she wanted to talk about where to buy groceries in the area. I checked the clock. Out of my allotted (and paid for) 45 minutes,  15 she talked incessantly about shopping, 10 she used to run my credit card, and 5 she used to search for my file. Unable to find it, she grabbed a small piece of scrap paper and said, “This will do.”

I got it! In IOP I’d learned it is okay to  find ways to get my needs met, and Kelly was definitely not one of those ways. Once again, I gave up on therapists and assumed I’d go it alone.  

An unexpected email from the IOP doctor asking a financial question, changed all that. He inquired how I was doing.  It was that very morning I’d told Kelly I wasn’t coming back (she probably danced a jig). The doctor said he would find a therapist for me.

He wanted to know if I had any criteria for a therapist?  YES! I asked for someone affirming, a woman, who listens before speaking and is careful with words. You see, I translate statements in a literal fashion and miss most hints and nuances. It took about three weeks, and then I finally met Lynne.*

Lynne is kind, patient, adjusts to my personality, readily says what I need to hear, listens, and in her office I slowly learned to feel safe sharing secrets. She doesn’t lie to me, accuse, insult, gossip, or try to get rid of me like some previous caretakers I’ve told you about in this series.

Just the opposite, she has agreed to see me as many times as I feel I need. Lynne knows how to do her job in a professional manner.  She validates how I feel, offers a different perspective,  and did I mention listens? She hears me.

This is what I hope you will take from this series:

  1. Know you deserve to find appropriate help.
  2. Ask the hard questions.
  3. Trust your instincts.
  4. Find the kind of professional who will walk you through change to a better life.

Pay attention to the processes I recommend for finding good counsel. You do not need to repeat my experiences. Remember, anyone who wishes to can hang out a shingle and call themselves “counselor”.  Look for evidence they have earned that title.

There is ONE MORE part to this series. Stay tuned for the good news!

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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline     1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

– picture from qualitystockphotos.com

*names are changed

 

Where is Good Counsel to be Found? Story 4

Compassionate Love:Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2014 Nancy Virden

photo-24743417-two-people-shaking-handsIf you are following this series, you may be thinking you could never handle what happened to me. However, everything happens for a reason.

It was exasperating at the time, yes. Now I have opportunity to show countless people how to avoid pitfalls while searching for professional help.

My pastor in 2005 was kind and extremely vigilant over my well-being.  He was young, and had limited experience with anyone who was suicidal. He would see me, but insisted I visit  a professional therapist as well.

He knew when to say “I cannot help,” and was humble enough to admit it. Contrary to what seems a popular opinion, therapy is not about having a person tell you what to do, or offer advice from the Bible. It is a patient occupation, or should be, and guides the client toward discovering answers for themselves. Specifically trained professionals are generally better-equipped to do this.  

Obviously, I’ve not met every therapist in the world. Nevertheless, the self-called Bible-based counselor I found this time remains the worst I’ve met in my world. “Bible-based” does not automatically mean wise. Proud and controlling people call themselves whatever they like.

At the beginning of our first session, immediately Connie* said I make all my decisions based on emotions, and she would fix that. She told me I am not attractive (hence my marriage troubles). Once I offered her a carefully written letter in hopes of discussing it. She pitched it onto her desk without looking at it, and turned back to face me. When I said I wanted her to read it, she indicated it was unimportant.

Once again, as previously described in these stories, I ignored my instincts. Ok, I thought. Give it time. 

Connie illegally gossiped. Through her (if she told the truth) I found out someone I know had an affair. On two occasions she pointed out specific clients I had seen in the waiting room, and complained about their issues.  

She tried to follow up with,  “So, what’s your problem today?”

Did this woman honestly expect me to open up to her after that?  “It’s the same stuff. Nothing new,” I said week after week. I was only there to meet my pastor’s requirement.  As ill as I was, stupidity was not a problem.

When he announced he was moving away, I did share that painful disappointment with Connie. She knew what date he would be saying goodbye. The week he left, Connie said she didn’t need to see me for another three weeks because in her opinion,  I was all better. She bragged, “Thanks to the work I’ve been doing with you.”

It was ridiculous. Free from any agreement, I canceled all future appointments and never looked back.

By the end of 2005, 18 months after reaching out (story 1), there had been little mental health care. I was alone again in my fight against despair. Medication continued, and after my experience with Connie, my psychiatrist agreed to see me more than 1/2 hour every few weeks. She was a gift.

Kind and talented mental health care providers who could be a great fit for you are out there. There are many more good ones than bad. Most are trying to the right thing by their clients. Here are some crucial points to consider before you trust someone with your fragile emotions. 

  • Does she have a good reputation? 
  • Is his chosen therapeutic approach highly rated?
  • Is she licensed? 
  • What experience does he have?  
  • Is she a specialist in your area of diagnosis or need? 

Ask questions pertinent to you.  Do you work better with people who tend to offer advice or who mostly listen?  Are you tolerant of disorganized offices? Are you one who needs lots of verbal encouragement, or is once in a while enough to keep you energized for weeks? Is the therapist prejudiced against race, gender, sexuality, age, religion, or size? It’s ok to ask this ahead of time. (“Are you able to work without judgement with…”)  Ask yourself too, if you prefer to work with a particular gender, age, etc.

Five years later, I desperately reached out once again for help. This time, results were very different.

There is MORE to this story. Stay tuned.

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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline     1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

– picture from qualitystockphotos

*Names are changed

 

Where is Good Counsel to Be Found? Story 1

Compassionate Love:Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2014 Nancy Virden

Today’s blog begins a series of stories I’ve hesitated to tell publicly.  I do not want to discourage you or anyone from seeking help for mental health problems. Those who ask for it deserve wise counsel. Many, skilled, talented, and caring people work in the mental healthcare professions.  

Regardless of how or why we end up in a psychiatrist’s or therapist’s office,  it takes time to get to know and trust those persons with whom we want to discuss some of the most difficult parts of our lives. That is reality. 

Try not to let this series scare you out of trying. Instead, use it as a guide for finding a skilled counselor that fits you just right. 

In 2004,  the previous 18 months had included the funerals of my mother and both parental in-laws. I’d cleaned up two estates largely by myself.  Prior to his death I was my father-in-law’s advocate in his nursing home. My brother walked out of my life and I hadn’t heard from him since our mother’s passing. My marriage was in shambles, and it was becoming harder to pretend it wasn’t.   

It was too much. I had very few skills for handling difficult emotions, and my mood began to drop.  I believed it was in my best interest to find a Christian or “Biblical” counselor. This kind of professional was surprisingly difficult to find. Finally, I stumbled upon a woman who had set up an office in her home.

Her greeting was less than warm and gave me pause. However I excused it as her busyness, or an accident. She collected paperwork while I waited. Her warmth had not risen a notch when she invited me to sit down on her office couch. 

I’m telling you this detail because I want you to see how my instincts were right. In the world of coulda-shouldas I wish I’d listened to my gut.

I was struggling with depression. It took effort to mention my work in the community because after recent losses, it was all I had. Self-doubt swirled in my head and it seemed nothing I did was good enough.

I told her anyway, speaking of children precious to me, and recent visits to their homes.

She interrupted. Leaning forward and locking her eyes on mine, she said, “You do know Nancy, God cannot use you because you are fat.”

Each time I have shared that story, the reaction goes something like this.  “What????? That’s terrible!!”  

And I agree. I went from struggling and looking for help to having my one sense of purpose destroyed. In my fragile state, her words were poison.  

I did not return to see her and there was not strength to seek someone else. 6 months later I was hospitalized for severe depression for the first time.

Listen to your gut, trust your judgment when meeting a therapist or counselor. Call ahead and ask a few questions. If I had, I may have picked up on that lack of warmth.

Do not quit trying to find professional support – many good people are out there! Consider whether someone is licensed, reputable, seems to fit your personality, and above all is experienced in your specific area of need. The next five parts to this series will explain more. 

I’ll pick up the saga in story 2. Stay tuned.

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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline     1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

*picture from greyman on rgbstock.com

Compassionate Boundaries: Refer to the Experts (Eighth of Series)

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who fight mental illness, addiction, and abuse (c)2013  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry 

24896256 young woman in a conversation with a consultant or psyc

Most of us are not mental or behavoral health specialists in a qualified position to diagnose. We may however, suggest to a hurting loved one or friend that they reach out to somebody who can help them more than we.

Earlier in this series, I said to avoid taking on a role that is not yours to fill. This boundary protects both the one you want to help, and you. 

Imagine walking into a small creek in search of a stone. It is an easy and fun challenge.  Let us upgrade the small creek to a small river.  This time you are to retrieve a certain type of stone. Ah, now it’s tougher. 

Finally, the river is a vast whirlpool. Water spins you up to your neck, and you must find a specific stone.  How long before you admit you are in too deep? 

Responding to hurting people by trying to meet their every need is dangerous.  For one thing,  we are not experts. Trained specialists know how to find what we cannot see. They have a better grasp on the human psyche, and the tools to try and meet specific needs. 

One simple statement has the potential to change a life.  “I’ll help you find good professional care.”  It is kind to say, “Others can help you better than I.”

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Other posts in this series: Friendship (1) ; God’s Example (2)Values and Family (3) ; Self-Care (4) ;  How to Say No (5) ; Motives Beware! (6)Refuse Blame (7) ;  How to Say Yes (9)

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***** COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental and behavioral health challenges.  In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

 

Where is Wise and Effective Counsel to be Found?

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2012  Nancy Virden

Cartoon psychiatrist sitting on his chair. Isolated on white

Good counsel. The qualifying word is “good”.  No end to free yet costly counsel, expensive yet cheap therapy, affordable yet misguided advice is in sight.

It is important to compare therapists as evidenced in multiple stories I have heard and my own. There are so many stories in fact,  it is scary to think how recklessly we can abandon our instincts when faced with this decision.

Let me share just a few of those outcomes.

Outcome #1 – A personal experience

In 2004, grief over the loss of my mother and both in-laws in a short span of time,  clearing up two estates,  an already overloaded lifestyle of volunteerism, and strained family relationships fueled a major depressive episode. 

When I finally acknowledged that counseling would be a good idea, the name of a church-affiliated woman came to my attention.

During my second session with her, as I explained working with children and their families, she leaned forward, looked me in the eye, and said, “You know God cannot use you because you are fat.”

Looking back, I see how wrong she was; God will use any willing person to help others.

However, because I was depressed, her words sucked any remaining sense of purpose out of me. Within a few months I was hospitalized for the first time, having rejected help until near the emotional point of no return.

Outcome #2 – Enrique

Marriage had surprised Enrique. He had entered it believing his wife would meet his every need.  After a few years, he decided to seek counseling for himself and tackle his incorrect way of handling relationships.

His therapist listened to his story… and listened…and listened. Weeks, months went by and no counsel was forthcoming. Enrique thought, “If I were capable of figuring this out myself, I could talk for free at home.”

Four full years passed before he decided to give up on this counselor.  He found another man who gave structured guidance, offered reading material, and asked good questions.

Enrique is now receiving the help he needs, but at a loss of four years as his marriage struggled and bills piled.

Outcome # 3 – Helen

Helen’s husband suffered from a trying mental illness. There were lengths of time when he was so depressed he would not get off the couch, leaving his wife to care for the children, home, and financial issues. Other periods were filled with aggressive and abusive behavior. He called her names, wrecked the house, and the children watched helplessly as he threw away their personal possessions.

Helen was able to drag him to marriage counseling in exasperation. She listened politely as her at-that-moment charming spouse described their relationship. He was beguiling, witty, and easily laid blame for their troubles on her.  She felt confused, angry at his misrepresentation, and when asked for her point of view, she blurted, “He sabotages our family!”

The misinformed therapist did not comprehend the bigger picture. Apparently he missed the signs of abuse. He said to her, “You need to stop being so controlling.” 

No more did she try to reach out for help. 

Happier outcomes exist!

Some simple criteria I have learned to consider are personality, theoretical approach, specific experience, and professional license. 

It is wise to interview therapists. Ask about their approach. Take control over your health by finding out whose demeanor will fit your needs. Because I tend to think literally, I will receive more help from a counselor who does not hint. Homework and clear instructions work well with my personality.  

No one would ask an oncologist to tackle eye surgery. When we have serious mental illnesses, it is best to seek specialists in our area of need. For example, talking to an addictions counselor may not be so helpful if one has schizophrenia.

State licensing requires experience to earn it, and shows that a counselor has more than good intentions. Yes, there are talented people in the field who do not have a license, but how would you know? License is no guarantee either. It remains a good idea to interview therapists.  

Unfortunately, as thoughtful and talented as are clergy, medical personnel, school teachers, and others whose jobs place them in guidance positions, they do not usually have any or much training in this regard. The skills needed to manage specific disorders require more than a theological, medical, or education degree.

You deserve to find the kind of help that works for you. Go ahead and ask for help when you need it. I had to try and try again before finding the well-trained, licensed,  and experienced people whose personalities met my needs.  It was worth it.

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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

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