My Approach to Helping
I became a clinical social worker because I have always been a sensitive person who cares about people and I want to try to help when they're not OK. l know what it's like to see people be happy and I want to help if I can. Since childhood I've known what it's like to feel anxious, sad, insecure, stuck, lonely, etc. and to not have anyone who knew how to help me feel better. Talking helps, when it's with someone you totally trust. Being listened to helps too, as long as it's without judgement or pushing their own agenda, who helps you feel understood, to validate what we're experiencing and to help us have hope. Being able to help people feel like they're not alone, that there is hope, inform them of options they may not have ever thought of, etc. is why I love being a therapist. A lot of people come into therapy thinking they are 'crazy' or weird. I reassure them that is not the case, far from it; that they are brave and smart to seek help for their problems. I focus on positive/healthy vs. unhealthy/dysfunctional behaviors, thoughts and feelings. Much of what is considered 'normal' is common but very unhealthy.
I treat each person as an individual and with unconditional regard, which I learned my first day of graduate school. Talking is therapeutic. So is laughter, aerobic exercise, journaling, music, etc. I consider it a privilege to be entrusted with my client's most personal, private feelings and thoughts. I disclose enough so they know I'm a real person, not someone to idolize or someone who has all the answers. I help them feel safe and as they feel more and more trust we can go to not just what is causing them pain, anxiety, anger, etc. now; but as they progress and are ready to, we visit the past traumatic events that caused those feelings. Then the client can process them, re-frame the experience, express the emotions they've buried and couldn't show at the time. Then they start to recover from their grief.
I teach and model healthy living skills such as being assertive, using I-messages and other communications skills, anger management, productive coping skills, positive self-talk and ways to keep what's in front of them in perspective. I love humor and use it as often as it's therapeutic. It can be useful for keeping things in perspective as it's good to be able to laugh at our somewhat self-defeating habits and some of the silly things we do.
I'm big on developing EQ, especially in men, who've been shamed for even having feelings (except anger), let alone showing or sharing them. I recommend my clients use journaling to get feelings out and increase self-awareness. Balance is key.
Many people have had traumas in their past, usually in childhood, and more recent ones too. Often they don't realize these have anything to do with problems they're having now or that they've had their whole lives. I explain to them that unless they process and thus grieve these losses they will continue carrying around the resulting fear, hurt, anger, confusion,shame, etc. This is hard but critical work and as painful as it is there is also great relief. They need to realize that none of the trauma was their fault, they were helpless and powerless children, and whatever they had to do to survive was OK and necessary. However, the strategies people learn to survive dysfunctional environments become habits that sabotage them and their success in relationships, at work and their well-being. It's important to draw a clear line between then and now. They weren't in control of their lives but they're adults now and they now have the power to be who they want to be. The rest of their life story is up to them to write. So we work on unlearning thinking errors and unhealthy behaviors and learn positive coping skills and more constructive thinking. During this we do a lot of reframing of past experiences, learning problem-ownership and setting healthy boundaries. They decide when they are done with therapy with feedback from me, summarizing their progress, encouragement to continue doing what works for them and letting them know the door's always open if they want to return for a 'tune-up'.
I use techniques based on my clientsÃƒÂ¢?? individual needs. IÃƒÂ¢??m very encouraging and focus on progress. I teach skills such as positive self-talk, progressive relaxation, assertive communication, functional coping skills and keeping a realistic perspective on their issues. I have what I think is a good sense of humor and since humor is therapeutic, I use it as often as itÃƒÂ¢??s appropriate. Other things I encourage clients to try are: writing in a journal, to develop as regular an exercise program as possible, playing music they like to lift their mood, getting outdoors as often as they can, developing a social circle, drinking enough water, eating nutritiously and more often than not, making an appointment to see their doctor. This is to rule out other illnesses as the causes of conditions like irritability, insomnia, anxiety, fatigue, etc., or to diagnose and treat the disorders these are symptoms of, such as Generalized Anxiety, Depression, AD/HD, Bipolar Disorder and so on. I also refer clients to resources that could be helpful to them, N.A.M.I., and groups because they can relate to the others in the group struggling with the same issues.