Archive of ‘Priorities’ category

Building a Strong Long-Distance Military Relationship

I personally didn’t ever expect myself to marry a military soldier due to being afraid of the possible distance. It is emotionally draining being away from your partner for months or maybe even years. No matter how many times the separation occurs, it seems to be just as intimidating. Here are some helpful hints to get in a positive groove with your military spouse or even a long distance partner. 

1. Talk about the upcoming separation

Before it even happens, it’s extremely important to sit together and share what your fears are about the soon-to-be distance. Allow each partner to share without interruption and brainstorm ideas together to make them feel less scary. Throughout the separation continue talking and bringing up new fears and emotions that pop up before they become a bigger problem. 

2. Keep active and stay busy

Whether that’s picking up a new hobby, being outside with nature, surrounding yourself with loved ones, or creating a daily routine, do whatever you can to distract yourself so you don’t feel alone at your own home.

3. Discuss how you will stay in touch

Schedule a daily or weekly time to talk on the phone or video sessions. It gives you a positive part of your day to connect and look forward to together. Even talk about the type of communication you would feel closest to.

4. Continue to make plans together

Plan vacations that you will take together once reunited again. Plan smaller activities you took for granted and want to do together again, such as biking, kayaking, or taking the dog on a walk. This really helps with providing reassurance that life will be back to normal again some day.

5. Kicking it back to pen pals

Write letters to each other and send care packages. Share about your day or how much they mean to you or what emotions are coming up for you as you’re writing. Receiving mail from your partner is a way to make anyone smile and think of you. 

6. Seek support if needed

This could mean staying at a family’s house or seeing friends over the weekends. This could also mean seeking a therapist for an additional safe space to process.

7. Distance gives you the opportunity for the heart to grow fonder

This is the chance to really test your communication skills and prove yourself as a couple. You will learn how to communicate about aspects that haven’t come up before. This distance is also a reminder of the good times and how thankful you are for them.

8. Be flexible and open-minded

The military will control your partner’s schedule and it will be frustrating when you just want to see or talk to them. If you don’t already know, ask and understand why your partner is in the military and how it benefits both of you. 

9. Have shared experiences together

Read the same book or listen to the same music playlists and compare notes and opinions. Use technology to watch movies or shows together or even play games online at the same time. This provides some type of normalcy of being together even if it’s through a screen.

10. Acknowledge this is not easy

This is an experience not everyone goes through and is extremely hard. The best way to get through this time is to work together as a couple. Establish mutual trust, honesty, respect, and remember you are both going through a challenging time. Remind your partner that you love them.

Written By: Sumayah Downey, MA, LPC-Associate, NCC Supervised by Cristy Ragland, LPC-S, LMFT-S, RPT-S


Adversity is a Great Teacher

As I am sitting here writing this blog, it is hard to believe that we are already in 2021!  I am sure many people will agree with me that 2020 has been quite a challenging year to remember.  It was a year filled with sorrow, laughter, anger, hope, frustration, surprises, despair, love, just to name a few.  Can you believe we have survived all that?  We always hear people saying that life is full of ups and downs – to say that for year 2020 is just an understatement.  For me, personally, I have learned how to accept the ups and downs, embrace emotions (both positive and negative), and adapt to the environment with intention and meaning.  I have learned not to be afraid of challenges but instead acknowledge them, take care of them and ask ourselves how we can turn these experiences into valuable life lessons.  I would like to share with you some of the things I have learned in 2020:

Accepting the Uncertainty

Life is uncertain.  There is never a time, even before the pandemic, when we can have any certainty of what is going to happen in the next minute.  The only thing certain is the present moment and our actual experience of the moment.  As Eckhart Tolle puts it: “People don’t realize that now is all there ever is; there is no past or future except as memory or anticipation in your mind.”  It is only natural to feel stress in the face of uncertainty. Staying in the moment and be present has helped me face and accept uncertainty, and manage the stress of uncertainty.  Do not be afraid of uncertainty, learn to accept and face uncertainty with resilience and ease.  Together, let’s find peace in uncertain times.

Power of Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness has helped me turn my attention to the present moment.  We should not dwell on the past or worry about the future, instead, we should focus on the present moment.  Practicing breathing exercises and meditation throughout the day have helped me tremendously in the past year, these practices truly taught me how to be present with a non-reactive mind.  I am also discovering how to incorporate mindfulness in daily living – mindful eating, mindful parenting, and mindful exercising.  If we practice focusing on the present moment, it empowers us to be with it, and we start to find ease of living.  I invite you to try these practices, even for just 2-minutes a time, you will see a difference!

The Importance of Connection

Separation is definitely one of the most challenging things we had to face in year 2020.  The pandemic has kept us all physically distanced from one another.  Many of us felt isolated and frustrated in our social distancing, but many found new meaning and connection with each other.  We have learned to make connection with each other in many different ways — saying hi to our neighbors from a distance underneath a mask, having “zoom” holiday meals with our friends and relatives, sending kisses to our elderly relatives at a nursing home through the windows, seeing clients via telehealth, etc.  As human beings, we instinctively need to connect with others, but to be able to build solid human connection, you have to first connect with yourself.  Doing mindful check-ins throughout the day to get in touch with my own feelings where I pause, take a deep breath, acknowledge how I am feeling right here and right now and how I would like to proceed with this moment have really helped.  Make space for self-reflection each day, it can bring clarity to the moment.

Practice Positive Mindset

Every cloud has its silver lining, but whether you see it or not is a choice you make. Focus on what you control, do not stress over things you cannot control. The year 2020 can be a difficult year to love, but if we just look on the positive side of things, I promise you can find something you are grateful for.  Just as importantly, whatever does not kill you makes you stronger. 

It Is Okay to Reach Out for Help

Believe this, we are all in this together.  You are not the only one suffering, you don’t have to do this alone.  Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you trust, or seek therapy if you need to.  Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.  Take care of your whole body, inside and out.

Create Your Own Happiness

Take responsibility of your own happiness, never count on someone or something to make you happy.  You don’t find happiness, you create it.  Many people think that only if the pandemic is over then things will get back to normal and they will be happy.  No.  If you think that way, you will never be happy.  Happiness can be created, under any circumstances, by you.  If you take charge, you will find your own happiness.

Resilience

You are more resilient than you think.  We went through a lot in 2020 – the pandemic, economic crisis, lockdowns, the politically polarized election, the racial justice movement, RBG death, just to name a few. We all have the strengths inside us to overcome life challenges.  “It is worth remembering that the time of greatest gain in terms of wisdom and inner strength is often that of greatest difficulty.” – Dalai Lama

Make Self-Care a Priority

We are always busy helping and taking care of others that we often forget to take care of ourselves.  Get to know yourself, be truthful to yourself and find out what your true needs are.  Only when you take care of yourself you can then have the capacity to take care of others and be able to get through tough times.

Thank you, 2020, for all you have taught me!  Hello, 2021, I am ready to take on challenges that you are sending my way this year!  I look forward to learning and growing to be a better person one moment at a time.  “No one has ever lived in the past or the future, only the now.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Life can be challenging at times, but it can also be amazing!

“Life gives you plenty of time to do whatever you want to do if you stay in the present moment.” – Deepak Chopra

What have you learned in 2020, and how you are going to move forward in 2021?

Written by: Catherine Mok, M.A., LMSW Supervised by Melissa Haney, LCSW-S

Life Coaching vs. Therapy

Who do I choose?!

One of the many questions I get from the parents of my teen clients and my adult clients is: what is the difference between therapy and life coaching, and which one do I (or my child/loved one) need? It’s a great question, and my honest answer is… it depends! Good therapy and life coaching will undoubtedly overlap, as they are both very similar in many ways while also being distinctly different. Clear as mud… right?! And let’s be honest… teasing the two professions apart can start to become a little fuzzy and confusing. The more research you do, the more confusing it gets. In this blog, I will highlight the three biggest differences between mental health therapy and life coaching, including a few important factors that one should consider before making a final decision.  

License to Practice

This is one of the most important factors to consider when it comes to deciding between a therapist and a life coach. The biggest difference between the two professions boils down to having a license to practice. I often use the example of your primary care provider. Would you prefer to work with: 

Doctor #1: they have graduated from medical school, received proper clinical training, and works under a board who holds them accountable. 

Doctor #2: they did not graduate from medical school, they do not have a license to practice, but they’ve obtained medical knowledge based on their own independent research and personal experience.

If you prefer Doctor #1, then I would point you in the direction of a licensed mental health therapist. If you prefer Doctor #2, then I would inquire more about what the focus of your work will be, as this will make a difference in which professional is better suited for you.

The Mental Health Therapist is licensed by the state in which they reside to legally provide mental health treatment and services. There is a state and national board that holds therapists accountable for their actions, treatment, and services. If a therapist breaks a state law or violates the Code of Ethics, then that therapist can have their license revoked. In order to keep their license, therapists must obtain a certain amount of CEUs (continuing education units) in order to stay up to date with the latest research and therapeutic modalities. If the therapist fails to meet the CEU requirements, they can have their license revoked. It takes effort to obtain and hold an active license! One cannot label themselves as a mental health therapist without having successfully completed all of the education requirements, clinical training, and ongoing education units.

At this time, There is currently no license required for Life Coaching. Life coaches have the option to obtain a certificate in life coaching, however, this certificate is optional and not required. That being said, anyone can technically label themselves as a life coach and provide services, including those who have not received any educational training. Unfortunately, this has led to the life coaching field becoming largely unregulated. However, if having a license is not important to you, then I would recommend being very picky with choosing a life coach. It would be worth it to spend some time ensuring that you work with someone who, at the very least, has gone through a life coaching certification program.

Different Education Paths

Another important factor to consider when deciding between therapy and life coaching is to look at the difference in the educational paths of both professions. Mental health counselors have obtained a Bachelor’s degree, a Masters degree in mental health counseling, and must accumulate 3,000 clinical hours under the supervision of a licensed supervisor for a minimum of 18 months. In addition, there are a few national and state exams scattered throughout this process which the counselor must successfully pass before becoming licensed by the state to provide mental health services. It’s a very intense process, as it should be!

The field of life coaching has an optional certification program and little to no educational requirements. Don’t get me wrong, there are programs out there that offer education and training for life coaching, and again, these programs are optional. For this reason, life coaches are unable to provide treatment for mental health, as training to provide such services requires one to take a long educational journey through graduate school. 

The Focus of the Work

What are you looking to accomplish during your time with a professional? What is the presenting concern that is bringing you to a life coach or therapist? If your concern(s) involves mental health symptoms that are causing distress in your life (i.e. anxiety, depression, bipolar, eating disorders, trauma, etc.), then it would be most appropriate to work with a licensed mental health therapist before beginning life coaching. Life coaches cannot diagnose or provide treatment for mental health concerns, as one must obtain a license to do so. 

In short, therapy focuses on emotional healing and mental health; life coaching focuses on setting and achieving goals. Therapy sessions can be structured or unstructured depending on the therapeutic approach; life coaching sessions are structured in order to facilitate progress. Therapists are going to help you heal and assist you in getting to a place where you are ready to make changes and reach goals; life coaches are going to help you make moves to achieve those goals. If you’re in a good place with your mental health and you’re wanting to chase your dreams, longing for change, and want to embrace personal empowerment, then reaching out to a [certified] life coach might be helpful. If you have found a therapist who you love working with, then it could be worthwhile to ask your therapist if they are licensed in life coaching, if they have any life coach referrals, or if they can assist you with these goals.

There is beauty in both of these professions and both compliment each other quite well. Regardless of the type of professional you choose, the best thing that you can do is ensure that you work with someone who you have a connection with and you look forward to seeing every week. Once you find that person, do a little bit of research on them to make sure that they have some education in the area in which they are assisting you with. Be picky, be particular, and always trust your instincts… because you are worth it and you know what is best for yourself and/or your loved ones! 

Additional Resources

If you’re interested in learning more, check out The Coach’s Circle Podcast – brought to you by Life Coach Path, an online resource for anyone who is curious about the field of coaching and would like to learn more about turning their passion for helping others into a career as a coach. Their blog is full of valuable information on topics like certification, becoming an entrepreneur, and real-world interviews with coaches who are making it happen every day. You can check out their latest blog post here.

I had the privilege of having a great conversation with the host of Life Coach Path, Brandon Baker, regarding therapy for teens, sandtray therapy, and much more! Check it out here

If you and your family are in the Austin, TX area or you are a resident of Texas, I highly recommend checking out Barb Steinberg’s website. Barb is a LMSW, tween/teen girl expert, parent coach, and speaker. Click here for Barb’s detailed description of the differences between life coaching and therapy. 

Written by: Taylor Vest, LPC-Associate Supervised by Karen Burke LPC-S, RPT-S


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