The first word of this compound word says it all “psycho”. No one wants to be associated with something that is strange, difficult to handle, and perhaps the worst of all: a scary, new experience. If you were to ask a friend or family member what psychotherapy is, they would most likely say something about paying a lot of money to talk about problems (and that’s putting it nicely). If you were to ask a counselor or therapist, we would describe it as a chance to be heard, without judgment through the ears and eyes of a professional, in the comfort and safety of a confidential session. The talking part might be easy…or hard depending on how you view your problems. If providing a safe place where clients can talk about whatever it is that is troubling them is the job of the counselor, what is your job as a client in psychotherapy? What do you have to know before you even walk through the door? Most first time clients wonder how we expect you to tell everything that you are thinking and feeling after just meeting.
These are common questions that can be answered. A client simply has to make the appointment with a counselor or therapist and come ready for the experience. Okay…that may seem a bit more intimidating than helpful, but it’s the truth. If you are open to the experience of psychotherapy as something completely different and refreshing you are on the road to understanding what it is and how it works. Before you walk through the door, you should know that you are not alone. Every single person you pass on the street has a past, a story, a journey. That road is paved with troubles, hardships, and bumps that throw off your sense of balance as you walk the road. This is where you have to believe that there are trained professionals ready to help and to listen to you. Why would a counselor want to listen to all of the “bumps” along the way in your life? Because we are trained to provide the safe haven for you to explore the inner workings of what is really going on in your life. There is no façade, just a real and honest experience with another person to ensure that you don’t trip on the bumps of life and walk, silent and hurting, through the rest of life.
If you are working through the bumps in your life and decide that the word psychotherapy is not as scary as facing it on your own…that is what we are here for.
For the past several weeks and months we have been hearing a lot about the problems caused by substance abuse and addiction. The people that have died, the bizarre and sometimes offensive behavior, and those having legal and professional issues seem to be in the news. We hear and talk about them but rarely hear and talk about those that have had success in recovery from substance abuse. Substance abuse treatment works.
Here is one person’s story:
He was 17 and had a good life. He loved school, sports, church, fishing, hunting, and most of all his family. He loved life and all it brought to him. Then shortly before high school graduation his world changed. His mother died in an auto accident, he was driving. The trauma, grief and guilt were so overwhelming. Within a month he drank alcohol for the first time and it brought the relief he was seeking. Finally he could cope with life again, just have a drink.
College started in the fall and his drinking increased. Alcohol helped him cope with the change and it took away the pain he was feeling. When he went home for winter break he again experienced the unexpected. His father died of a heart attack as he was giving him CPR in the family home. The emotions were extreme and confusing. Alcohol was there to help.
He moved back to the family home to live with his sisters so they would be able to live as a family. The effects of emotional pain, grief, trauma, and guilt led to the experimentation with marijuana. It was great! The pain would go away, for while.
For the next decades this is how he dealt with life’s complications, with alcohol and drugs. Even though he was able to complete college, hold down jobs, get married, have children the emotions that come with trauma and loss were never addressed. He was living an unhealthy life filled with lies, deceptions, alcohol, drugs, shame and guilt.
After 27 years of using unhealthy coping skills, drugs and alcohol, and denial that he needed help he accepted the family support and encouragement (ultimatum) to get that help. Dealing with the issues in his life was now to take a different course.
Changing course in his life included going to an outpatient treatment program for his substance abuse. He accepted that he did not want alcohol and drugs to dictate his feelings and behavior. For the 6 months in outpatient treatment he received the understanding, guidance and support that he needed. He started to network with others and participated in support groups. He changed his course in life.
He will be the first to tell you that change is not easy and not everything gets better quickly. He will tell you that if you can be honest, open-minded, and willing, life does get much better. Recovery is a process not an event, some things change quickly and others need more work. His life continues to evolve by doing so. It has been seventeen years since entering that treatment program and by getting the counseling and using the recovery tools, he has not used alcohol or drugs since. He feels life is great again. Treatment works! Recovery saved his life.
This is my story, a true story of life and the story of changing course. I am Gary Nelson a person in long term recovery since 1997. I accepted help in dealing with the unexpected events in life, facing the addiction and co-occurring issues. I now again love life and all it brings to me, the outdoors, golf, church, time with friends, and helping others seeking recovery. I am a sober husband, dad and Papa. There’s nothing better than that! There are approximately 23 million other people with long term recovery in the United States today. We are the anonymous people, your neighbors, employers, your healthcare workers, and your friends.
Substance abuse treatment today includes addressing co-occurring issues in life. These may include mental health issues of depression or anxiety, relationship issues, or additional behavioral addictions. Research has provided an understanding of why the disease is so destructive to our brain and how miraculous the healing process is. For more information on the disease of addiction go to: http://www.drugabuse.gov/ http://www.samhsa.gov/
Gary Nelson, CCDP
The present moment always feels to us the most vital, the most important, and the most essential. This is the nature of time. It is our nature. We will all experience great joy and great sadness as me move through life. This too is our nature. During periods of great sadness, it may be beneficial to remind ourselves that our lives are more than the moment of our experience at any given time.
This does not mean that what we are feeling is not real. Feelings are always real. What it means is that we have within us the power to perceive our loss, or grief, in the way of our choosing. We have the power to determine what our feelings mean.
Changes occur all day long. An appointment gets cancelled, you encounter a detour on the way home, you were anticipating roast beef for dinner and you got chicken. It’s what life is and while you might get a bit frustrated, you learn to roll with it. But what about the big changes? Job transfers, marriage, divorce, children, medical changes and the death of someone you love. How do you learn to adapt with the changes that will affect the rest of your life?
Whether you’re leaving the community that you’ve built strong relations with or having to bury a loved one, you will feel anger because it wasn’t your choice for this to happen to you. Healthy coping skills result in better emotional stability. Poor coping skills result in anger and resentment.
First, it is helpful to recognize that you are in the midst of change and that change is part of you. Instead of thinking about all the negative issues, try making a list of all the positive benefits of this change. Visualize all the possibilities and write them down. Make up a “to do” list if there are things you need to accomplish before the change happens. Call a friend and discuss your fears and ask for their advice. If you feel that you can’t get past your fear, anger and resentment you may need to talk to a professional. In talking with a therapist you will get an unbiased opinion and they will be able to give you some insight and the coping tools so that you can move on and embrace your changes.
“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” ~ Jim Rohn
Suppressed grief suffocates, it rages within the breast, and it is forced to multiply its strength. ~~ Ovid
The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But what is happening inside the body after a significant loss? Whether it is the loss of a job you loved, a home, a beloved pet, a good friend, a child, or your partner in life you will go through the grieving process and you will feel the changes in your body.
The grief process is similar to the aging process:
Love really does hurt according to evidence from new brain scanning technologies. Researchers have found that the same area of the brain processes both physical and emotional pain and like physical pain, emotional pain can become chronic and move into what is known as “complex grief” causing debilitating depression. To combat the physical changes you need to get up and move! Join a gym, try yoga, water aerobics, or take up golf. You’re working your body and you’re being with other people, both of which you need at this time.
Humans are survivors and we’re social, so the single most important factor in healing is having the support of other people. Even if you’re not comfortable talking about your feelings under normal circumstances, it’s important to express them when you are grieving because sharing your loss makes the burden easier to carry. There are bereavement support groups in your community that you can be part of. Find the one that addresses your type of loss. Sharing your sorrow with others who have experienced similar losses can help. Also, seeking professional counseling is a healthy choice.
Grief can be a roller coaster. Your emotions can be up and down, a mix of good days and bad days. Even in the middle of the grieving process, you will have moments of pleasure or happiness. With complex grief and depression, on the other hand, the feeling of emptiness and despair are constant and you need to seek professional help.
Grieving is a necessary passage and a difficult transition to finally letting go of sorrow~~it is not a permanent rest stop. ~~ Dodinsky
Pinnacle Counseling is proudly going green in support of National Mental Illness Awareness Week from Monday, October 7th – Friday, October 11th. Although there are many things you can do to show your support for National Mental Illness Awareness Week, the number one thing every single person can do is to help spread awareness to stop the stigma of mental illness. Starting the conversation is the first step to reaching out and supporting your loved ones as they seek help in a struggle with any sort of mental illness or mental health issue can be remarkably beneficial. At Pinnacle Counseling, we are ready to help you on your journey to becoming more mentally healthy. Check back throughout the week for more posts to help spread the word about the importance of mental health awareness.