Thursday, December 17, 2015

Cyber WHAT?

The Internet continually comes up with new ways for us to use technology, socially and privately. Now there's telemedicine, a developing genre of sites that in the near future may make a trip to the doctor's office unnecessary. Some physicians are already diagnosing and treating online, reaching people in underserved areas who would otherwise have no access to medical help.This particular application may take a few more years to become mainstream, but one health-care specialty in particular has already generated such a large following that a lively competition has emerged among multiple sites, creating its own burgeoning market as it attracts new patients and clinicians daily. 

Call it cybershrink, e-therapy, or online counseling -  it's the new wave of mental and behavioral health care delivery quickly gaining followers in the U.S., Canada, U.K., South Africa, Australia, and generally wherever English is spoken, and even where it's not.

Imagine this scenario - you feel anxious and need someone professional to talk to about it, but you don't have a therapist. You don't want to let anyone know that you think you need a therapist.  You see an ad on Facebook: "Wouldn't you rather be happy? Click here for a licensed counselor you can chat with 24/7."

Too good to be true? The fact is, it is totally true. These sites are not "dating" sites, nor for late-night sultry, suggestive conversations. It's really e-therapy, or online mental health counseling. Some people see it as more like coaching, since there is no diagnosing of mental illness nor any drugs being prescribed.The counselors or therapists (the platform vocabulary differs among sites) are fully credentialed and licensed to practice in an office, and most of them do. But for a lower fee than you would pay if you drove to their office to see them face-to-face, you can be matched with one of those same therapists for on-line texts, live chats, or videos. No appointments necessary - you text whenever you want to. No travel involved. You can even show up in your pajamas!

Does it work? While many people have more faith in the old-fashioned face-to-face kind of therapy setting, many others feel able to open up more freely using the anonymity of the computer, where a client can use a fictitious user name with the counselor, initiate conversations whenever they like, and leave long posts or videos for the counselor at any time of day or night. The process moves along rapidly, just as the phenomenon is doing, like a train so new-age that the regulatory agencies are racing to keep up with it.

Relocating to another part of the country motivated me to examine the options for opening a new practice. I jumped aboard the e-therapy  train and the referrals began rolling in. My new clients, don't need to travel to meet with me. They gain access to all my professional skills, training, and experience, while I get to do more of the work I love.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Why Work?

Did you ever ask someone to explain something they had just said, that made no sense to you, and they responded by repeating it word-for-word, only slower and louder?

“I still don’t get it,” I told him.

“The. Only. Thing. Wrong. With. Work,” he repeated with emphasis, “is that it’s WORK!”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” I said. “What’s bad about work?”

The answer was, of course, that it’s work.

When I was a child, Daddy went to work every day. Mummy stayed home. Daddy dressed up and carried a briefcase, leaving cheerily in the morning and returning cheerfully for dinner in the evening. Mummy dressed down, in an apron over something called a house-dress, and flat heeled, lace-up shoes, and shuttled mounds of laundry from washboard to clothesline to ironing board, made up beds and scrubbed floors, all while preparing, serving, and cleaning up after meals three times every day. After dinner Daddy read the newspaper in the living room while I helped Mummy wash and put away the dishes, pots, and pans.

I knew for sure that I didn’t want to be a housewife when I grew up. I was going to be one of the people who dressed up, carried a briefcase, and had fun all day. And read the newspaper in the evening. I would go to work!

I grew up and got the suits and the briefcase and enjoyed earning a paycheck. But then I lost my job at a very bad time in my life – I was drowning in personal grief, trauma, betrayal, and loneliness –and I needed a lifeline.

I realized that the reason my father had been happy all those years (he worked until past his ninetieth birthday) was that he had work that he loved. He helped lots of people, that was what he did, and it made him happy.

So I stepped out into the darkness, off the edge of a cliff, into a graduate study program that I couldn’t afford, because it was the only route I could see that led to a reason to get up every morning, to go on living.

I became a healer of people, a helper, like my father. I am not very good at housework, as a visit to my home readily shows, but I love getting up in the morning to get to work. My work saves my life every day. And there’s nothing wrong, and everything right, about it!

Right Livelihood. The Buddha taught that it is one of the steps on the Noble Eightfold Path to peace, wisdom, and bliss. I have found it to be true for me.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Better with Time

I’ve spent most of my life feeling homely and insecure. As my feelings of self-worth slowly grew, my body and face aged, and by the time I finally liked myself as a person, I was embarrassed by my body.

A local art school needed an unclothed model for a 6-week sculpture course. They wanted realism, code for “not a centerfold.” Elderly was good.

I was ready for a new experience.

I entered the studio wearing only earrings, a head scarf, and a robe, carrying a small hand drum. I took my seat on the platform and dropped the robe. I didn’t look down at myself, because that would have made me want to cover up and bolt. 

I sat motionless for hours, with short scheduled breaks. “Realism,” I reminded myself. “This is what a woman of my age looks like.” I watched the students study me while their hands worked the clay. At every table, I saw little images of me develop and take on form. Like me, the little figures bulged and drooped, looking like little old ladies. Nude little old ladies, holding drums.

As my eye traveled from figure to figure, I saw that they all looked very much alike, and - they were beautiful. Beautiful little old ladies, sitting with their shoulders back and their heads up, looking proud of who they were.

I fell in love with all of them, and at the end of the course I bought one of the figures, who now sits on a sideboard in my living room - head up and tilted to the side, eyes closed, hands on her drum. She is a mature, giving woman, with a strong back and graceful hands, and a body that bespeaks decades of living.

The poet Robert Burns wrote, “O wud the gods the gif tie gie us, to see oursils as others see us.” A gift, to see ourselves through the eyes of others.

I feel beautiful.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Things That People Say and Do

I hadn't received a response to my application to graduate school and was desperate to learn whether I was in or out. I went to an orientation and looked for clues. After the question-and-answer period I approached one of the deans and introduced myself. Upon hearing my name, she turned away to speak to someone else, and I was left looking at her back.

"Uh-oh," I thought. "I didn't make the cut."

When the meeting broke up a little later, I had just introduced myself to a faculty member. As I gathered my purse, books, handouts, etc.,he said, "Here, let me help you will that."

He walked me all the way out of the building and to my car, asking me questions about myself and my desire to become a social worker, and told me he hoped to see me again.

I was puzzled. The dean had made me feel rejected, but the professor seemed to indicate I was accepted. Which was true?

As it turned out, neither of those actions was really about me. The dean was rude (she lost her job shortly afterward), and the professor was kind (as I got to know later, as a student, when he became my faculty advisor). I have since learned that other people's behavior is almost always an indication of who they are, not about you. People who complain about you are complainers, people who smile when they see you are smilers, those who yell at you are yellers, and those who hug you are huggers.

Watch the behavior of people around you, and see what it tells you about them! The things that people say and do are all about them, and not about you. (I'm sorry that it rhymes, but it does make it easier to remember!)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What’s your least favorite emotion?

In an unpopularity contest among emotions, Grief would probably win hands down. No one wants to feel it, and few want to be around anyone else who is going through it. When someone is dying, most friends and family stop calling or dropping by, not wanting to be where people dwell in the enormous grief of the end of a life.
In case you hate to even read about it, I’ll keep it short:

Grief comes to us all, in different forms, at different points in our lives, and sometimes we feel as though grief itself could kill us. But in life, everything changes. We adapt. We are altered by it, and can choose whether we emerge stronger or permanently damaged  –although that choice may not be apparent to us at first.

The important thing to know is that we eventually come out of it, albeit not unscathed. The scars we bear can ultimately become our greatest strength. I know this because it happened to me.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Confused Emotions

I saw a  mother rush to her young son, who had fallen from a small tree he had climbed. She hauled him up by the arm and spanked him, all the while yelling at him. She was conveying anger, but was actually discharging the fear she had just felt when she had seen him fall. Shouting and hitting felt normal to her, and was how she responded most readily whenever she was upset. The message her child received was probably distorted and humiliating.

When I was younger I feared anger and felt safer with tears, so I wept helplessly when anyone around me was angry. But when I was angry, I drew inward and appeared depressed. I’m sure my behavior baffled people. It’s no wonder I was misunderstood – I was sending contradictory messages!

We confuse each other by substituting more comfortable emotions for real ones which are painful to feel. When confronted by someone’s emotional reaction, including your own, consider that it might be a self-protective cover-up for what is really happening inside.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

How is a "recipe" different from a "formula?"

As a chemist long ago, I worked with formulas, using calibrated containers to create compounds, and instruments to assay, desiccate, and weigh them precisely. Predictably, everyone using the formulas correctly achieved the same results.

 But when cooking, I start with a concept, a recipe - which may be merely an idea or a list of ingredients to start with - and then I make it my own. In rice pudding, for example, I substitute fruit for the sugar and add my favorite spices. It comes out different every time, but I always enjoy it.

 Recipes are adaptable, a creation of the cook. In any good recipe for healing, you are the "cook." Starting with an idea, you can omit or replace "ingredients," and add new ones, to make it yours.

There's no formula for healing, because everyone's pain and needs and dreams and hopes are unique. Life coaching needs to be about you, because it’s your life, to live and enjoy your way.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

What does "support" mean for you?

How many definitions of “support” do you know?

One is “to provide for,” the way the main wage earner supports a family.

Another means “to subsidize,” as in making contributions of time or money to public broadcasting, community theater, local charities  etc.

Office staff, who answer the phones and sort the mail, support the work of the company.

There are many more synonyms and definitions, but the support ingredient in A Recipe for Healing is the kind that friends and family give just by showing up; the kind that comes from the community in the form of get well cards and casseroles; someone who listens to your troubles; a club, church, group or program you belong to that fills a hole in your life; or the neighbor and the nurse, who deliver your groceries and tend to your wounds.

We were never intended to struggle through life alone. 

Whom do you support, and who supports you?

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Recipe for Healing #2: Healing-vs-Curing

Do you know the difference between healing and curing?

To cure is to banish the symptoms of a disease or medical condition. Healing is something else. It means mending, or becoming whole. Applied to the spirit or the soul, it means overcoming suffering. 

Defined this way, healing is the rising above any kind of misery - whether fear, confusion, grief, poverty, boredom, indecisiveness, stress, abuse or mistreatment - whatever may be causing someone unhappiness or dissatisfaction, or holding them back from realizing their dreams.

Today's Recipe for Healing is: Take good care of your body but don't stop there! Tend to your happiness as well. Decide that you are going to stretch yourself, extending your reach, aiming for what will make your life richer in peace, purpose, and joy. This is called setting an intention, and it's easy. Just decide you're going to do it, and you will have taken the first step.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Recipe for Healing #1 - Mental Illness? Not necessarily!

Did you know that much of what society calls mental illness is actually the normal reaction of healthy people to unfortunate or toxic situations?

Some behavioral disorders stem from true mental illness, but what most of us struggle with are just the demands of living. If we are overly criticized, we may develop low self-esteem; if we receive a diagnosis of a serious disease, we may become anxious; someone we love dies, and we grieve. Most of our emotional reactions are sane, normal, and typical of what anyone else might feel under the same circumstances.

Today's Recipe for Healing is this: avoid labeling emotional behavior - yours or anyone else's - as "craziness," or mental illness. Recognize and accept that most personal problems stem from normal needs for being loved, feeling safe, making sense out of disappointment or disaster, and having reasons to hope.

Your comments invited! If you'd like to receive my monthly "Recipes for Healing" and are not already on our mailing list, please e-mail me here.