Archive of ‘Counseling’ category

The Practice of Gratitude

With December marking the end of the year, it is natural to reflect on what kind of a year you’ve had. I encourage having reflections that include gratitude’s and appreciations; it is imperative reflect on the positive things that have occurred over the past year. Having that perspective on how you have seen growth and change, or maintenance and consistency, in a positive light can reduce stress and anxiety and make it easier to reflect with a positive outlook in the future.

I’ve heard the different perspectives of positive and negative described as a cloudy lens and a sunshine lens. I love the simplicity that provides as a visual because looking at your past year in a cloudy lens could lead to feeling sad, conflicted, and unmotivated. This cloudy lens has the ability to reach in all areas of life and makes it hard to find those sunshine moments. Looking through a sunshine lens doesn’t mean negative and bad things don’t occur, rather a sunshine lens means choosing to find something that you are grateful for, no matter how big or significant that something is. Examples could be feeling grateful that you survived your day, you went to a concert, hanging out with close friends, or ending your day with a nice hot bath.

To start a gratitude practice, set yourself up for success. Choose a time during your day that you can have 5 minutes to reflect. Once you have your daily time scheduled, reflect on one thing of gratitude. Just one. If you think of more, that’s great! But only start with one, so that way you feel encouraged to continue this gratitude practice. Once you feel like your reflection time has become consistent, then move up to listing three to five items of gratitude.

Practicing gratitude is like building strength in a muscle. It takes time and consistency to see growth and change in how your perspective shifts from a cloudy to sunshine. I hope with the reflection of this past year, you are able to find those moments that you truly appreciate and are grateful for!

Julie Smith MA, LMFT-A under the Supervision of Kirby Sandlin Schroeder, LPC-S, LMFT-S Senior Clinician at Austin Family Counseling


Counseling 101: Part Two

In my initial blog about counseling, titled Counseling 101: Questions You Want Answered…But May be Afraid to Ask, I answer various questions, including:

  • What is counseling?
  • Why do people go to counseling?
  • Can I go if I don’t have a problem?
  • How long should I go?
  • What are the benefits?

While there will certainly be some overlap between the two posts, the intention of this blog is to delve deeper into the world of counseling and to give more insight and answer more questions that people may have.

What is Counseling?  

While counseling looks different (based on the type of counseling you go to–see question below), it is a collaborative effort between a counselor and client.  People who seek counseling do so for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to: seeking guidance for challenging situations (both past and present), improve communication skills and coping skills, increase self-esteem, and promote self-awareness and optimal mental health.

Types of Counseling  
  • Individual counseling is personal opportunity to receive support and experience growth during challenging times in life, although you don’t have to be experiencing something challenging to go to counseling.
    • Individual therapy is a great resource for anyone ages 3+.  Yes–you read that right. Children as young as 3 can be in counseling.  Check out more about play therapy.  Many adolescents and adults are in individual therapy, too.  Personal topics that might be addressed include: depression, anxiety, relationship challenges, parenting problems, school difficulties, etc.  There is no right/wrong reason for seeking individual therapy.
  • Couples counseling…because relationships can be (and often are) tough!
    • Couples counseling can include the following (and then some): premarital counseling, assistance with communication, re-connection, discernment, etc.
  • Family counseling often helps families navigate life changes or stress that is negatively impacting family closeness, family structure (rules and roles), and/or communication.
    • While each family therapy session will be different, sometimes it is best practice for all family members to meet together for sessions; sometimes it will be best to meet with family members individually first, though, to make sure family therapy sessions are effective.  It all varies from family-to-family and session-to-session.
  • Group counseling allows participants to be in a group (with an overarching theme) and helps people find connection with others in their particular life challenge(s).
    • Common group topics might include: anger management, self-esteem, recovery, trauma, etc.  No group is the same.
What About My Therapist?  

Finding the right therapist is KEY–it’s all about finding someone who is a right fit.  Different things people often find important when seeking a therapist include:

  • Therapist Demographics
    • Age, Gender, Culture/Ethnicity, etc.
  • Style of therapy
  • Specialties
  • Background information

What happens if you see a therapist and something just feels off?  This is a great opportunity to advocate for yourself and tell the therapist that something just didn’t feel like the right fit.  This is about YOU (not them). They won’t be offended by it…and chances are, they’ll have some recommendations for you for other clinicians to reach out to.  Hopefully with some research of your own, though, you’ll find someone that you will click with.

What do all those letters mean?  

Licensed Professional Counselor

  • LPC-S
    • If someone has this license, they are licensed as a supervisor and will have interns (see below) work with them throughout their licensure process.
  • LPC
  • LPC-Intern
    • If someone has this license, it does not mean they are an intern (in the general sense we think of interns).  People with the LPC-I licensure are provisionally licensed and are working under a supervisor (an LPC-S) towards full licensure.

Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist

  • LMFT-S
    • If someone has this license, they are licensed as a supervisor and will have associates (see below) work with them throughout their licensure process.
  • LMFT
  • LMFT-A
    • If someone has this license, they are a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist-Associate.  They are provisionally licensed and are working under a supervisor (an LMFT-S) towards full licensure.

Social Workers

  • LCSW-S
    • If someone has this license, they are a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and will have LMSWs (see below) work with them throughout their licensure process.
  • LCSW
  • LMSW
    • If someone has this license, they are a Licensed Master Social Worker.  They are working under a supervisor (an LCSW-S) towards full licensure.

At the end of the day, the difference in these licensures is a result of different master’s programs and classes taken.

A Little About Logistics

Generally counseling sessions last 50 minutes long (although, if needed, you can book an 80 minute session).  When you are beginning counseling, it is best to go on a weekly basis until you and your counselor agree that less sessions are needed.  Think of counseling like going to the gym–consistency is key! In order to see results from exercising, you must go regularly. Counseling is no different.  Additionally, I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked “How long will this take?” or “How many sessions is normal?”  Unfortunately, that’s a question with no concrete answer.  I will say, however, if you seek counseling and believe, “Oh, I’ll just go for a month and things will be resolved by then”…chances are, you’re probably wrong.

Let’s Talk Fees

There are two main options when it comes to paying for therapy.  Austin Family Counseling is a private-pay only counseling office so I’m biased towards private pay, however, I think it’s only fair to list pros and cons of each.

Private Pay

  • Pros
    • There is an unlimited number of sessions you can book with you and your therapist.  This ultimately leads to more flexibility when booking sessions, too.
    • Things truly stay between you and your therapist (with a few limits of confidentiality–should those situations arise–if you have questions about this, feel free to ask!)
    • You do not have to be given a diagnosis.
  • Cons
    • Going to therapy weekly and paying someone’s full fee is expensive.

Insurance

  • Pros
    • Using insurance is more affordable.
  • Cons
      • When a clinician uses your insurance to pay for therapy, you are required to be given a diagnosis–this justifies your reason for services and often dictates the number of sessions you are allowed to have.
      • Insurance coverage may change and you are not notified–so while you have great mental health coverage now, it may not always be the case.
      • Earlier I mentioned the importance and value of finding a therapist that you click with–it is not uncommon for therapists to eventually stop using insurance.
      • Certain types of therapy may not be covered by your insurance provider/plan.

 

Ultimately, counseling can be expensive–it is an investment, after all, but when it is something that promotes self-growth and connection, it is certainly worth it.  If you find a therapist you think would be a great fit, however, they do not accept your insurance or you cannot afford their fee, ask them if they are able to provide fees at a sliding scale.  They may not be able to accommodate that (so know that going in), but it never hurts to ask. Additionally, another potential option is using a superbill. If you have insurance and your provider will honor superbills, they allow you to be partially (or even fully) reimbursed for counseling sessions.  You must pay for the session in full initially, but there is potential for reimbursement–you must call your provider to see if they will honor superbills, though.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments–reach out!  I would love to hear from you.

By: Julie Burke, LPC-Intern
Susan Gonzales, LPC-S

 

 

 


Why Is Therapy Important?

There could be an entire series of books written about why therapy is important. For the sake of time and interest let’s start with some basics; therapy provides a safe space both physically and emotionally, it helps establish a genuine human connection, it can offer you the opportunity to identify your potential, and most importantly therapy is your time to be heard.

It can be challenging to disclose personal information when you are physically tense and uncomfortable. My hope as a therapist, for my office, is to provide a calm and serene environment. It is a physical space that is separate from the chaos of the outside world. When you walk into your therapist’s office, you are not just walking into an office but walking out of the chaos and into order. The office is often dimly lit, smells of calming essential oils, decorated with calming intent, and of course a comfy couch with an assortment of pillows. If you are lucky, there might even be candy. A tranquil office is the first step in fostering a feeling of safety and security.

As human beings, we crave human connection. This is the reason that many of us are addicted to social media (more on this in another post). Human connection is a driving force in our lives; it is the feeling you get when your partner acknowledges a sacrifice you made for the relationship. It is grabbing a beer with a friend after work so that you can vent about the past week. Alternatively, that tiny tear you shed and the fuzzy feeling in your stomach when you watch a romantic comedy at the movies. Unfortunately, many of us do not experience genuine human connection regularly; it might be that you’re lonely and that loneliness drives you to seek seclusion from the rest of the world. It may be the case that you were never taught to have a genuine connection with another person (this is more common than you would think). Therapy is your time to be heard; it is a chance for your therapist to show your capacity for genuine relationships and help you realize your potential for that connection.

What is your potential? I am not sure if I can adequately answer this question, it might be a good question to ask your therapist. Nonetheless, I will give it my best shot. Let us start with the idea that potential is the full capabilities of our future self. First of all, we need to know our present self before we can identify what we are capable of in the future. Ah Ha! Another question for your therapist. Who am I? (this question is also more common than you might think) I believe that by examining our past, including achievements and successes, we can help define who we are presently thus allowing us to map out a future ideal for ourselves. I do not believe I gave sufficient thought to the idea of potential, however, for this post, this explanation should suffice. (I plan to expound on this idea in the future)

You might have heard someone describe therapy as, “I pay some guy to listen to me to talk” and that’s not too far from the truth. The keyword in there is listen; it is astonishing how little time we spend listening to one another. How often do you find yourself waiting to talk rather than listening to someone? I imagine pretty often. Listening is a skill that takes a tremendous amount of effort. To give a person your undivided attention is near to impossible. Not only is almost no one good at it… this world isn’t good at giving us space for it. Therapy is that space. For the hour that you are in therapy, you are the center of our focus. You are what matters most. To be honestly heard is a gift worth giving, maybe consider giving a therapist the opportunity to show you what it is to have someone listen to you with empathy and understanding.

By: Josh Killam, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Michelle Hawn, LPC-S


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