The First Step

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The most difficult thing for many people to do is making their first appointment for counseling. It is very difficult to feel comfortable with the idea of talking to a stranger about your life and everything that has happened to you and everything you feel now. In fact, it is one of the bravest things a person can do when they schedule and come to their first therapy appointment.

Many times, one can feel as if there is no hope for their lives and that nothing can change anything about how they feel or what the have been through. One can feel that an unknown person cannot understand them and their lives. One can feel that this person will judge them or their life choices. One can feel that going to therapy means there is something wrong with you. There are so many feelings that one can have regarding starting therapy and it can sometimes be paralyzing and prevent people from seeking help.

Some of the time, one can make the appointment but then feel as if they are unable to actually go to it. They can cancel and reschedule, or cancel and not reschedule, or not cancel and just not go. Walking into a therapist’s office can be overwhelming and scary. Answering questions about yourself can be extremely difficult. Just picking a therapist can be a difficult task for many.

Picking a therapist can include everything from insurance coverage to the type of therapy they practice and everything in between. You may schedule an initial appointment and meet with the therapist to find out you do not click with them. You may find out that your insurance doesn’t cover as much of the cost as you thought or if you don’t have insurance that the cost to you is a lot. There are a lot of things to consider when picking a therapist and it can require some research. This can also be overwhelming.

Utilizing websites like Psychology Today can be helpful. Asking your primary care provider for recommendations. Talking to friends or family about their own experiences with therapists. If you are in school, talking to a school counselor. Making a list of things that are important to you in a therapist including insurance and cost, schedule availability, location, types of therapy they practice, therapist past experience, and services they offer are just a few considerations.

It can take a little time to make a decision on a therapist. But the first most important decision is to take the first step towards getting help. After the first appointment, you can decide whether to continue with that therapist or try another. It is absolutely okay to shop for a therapist to find the best fit for you. Just as you would shop for any other service or product, you can also try different therapists to see which one you feel most comfortable with.

In any decision, it is the first step that is the most difficult and the most important. The first step when you acknowledge you need help with your mental health and have narrowed your therapist search is to make that initial appointment and go to the appointment. You can do it, take the first step.

Until next time,
Deborah

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Mindful Communication

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One of the main causes of conflict in relationships is problems in communication. The ability to truly listen and speak to others and to truly be heard and understood. Along with the ability to be truly honest with ourselves and others. It is not being able to do these things that causes so much relationship conflict.

The first part of mindful communication is always listening. Most people think they are listening in conversations and/or “arguments” when many times they are just thinking about what they want to say or their next response while the other person is talking. To mindfully listen, we must actively listen to the other person so much so that we are then able to repeat back to them what they said BEFORE we have a response. We must be able to then pause and consider our response carefully taking into account exactly what they said not what we think we heard them say.

Avoid judging the other person when communicating. Many times during communication we make judgments against the other person and what they are saying based on our feelings or perceptions. This judgment then makes it very difficult for us to truly listen and then to understand the other person’s perception and feelings. By judging, our own feelings become foremost in our minds leading to an inability to think clearly.

Instead of immediately responding, we should also pause to validate their feelings and words. By simply saying first, I understand what you are saying, I heard what you have said, I heard you say and then repeat or summarize what they said. By doing this, the other person feels understood, which is what almost everyone is seeking in any communication.

Be completely focused on the conversation at hand. No looking at phones or worse yet using the phone. No watching TV or paying attention to other people who are around. No tuning out or daydreaming during the other person’s speaking. We must practice being fully present in conversations for the other person to feel respected and also to be able to fully listen and understand.

Conversations aren’t competitions. The goal shouldn’t be to win the discussion. It should be to be heard and understood and possibly come to a compromise of understanding or at the very least an understanding of the other person. We don’t have to win to successfully communicate.

Do no harm. In any conversation, words should not be hurtful. Carefully consider what you are saying and how you say it. Consider tone carefully. Try to avoid putting the other person on the defensive by not using the word you and staying with using I. Do not bring up everything from the past, stay with the topic at hand. Do not blame. Do not use profanity or make generalizations. Be specific and speak with truth and love. If you are upset about something, it is best to wait until your emotions have settled before speaking. Be impeccable with your word.

“True communication goes beyond talking and listening. It is about understanding.” ~ Gerald Campbell

Until next time
Deborah

Illusion of Control

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For many trauma survivors, the illusion of control provides a way to feel control so that they balance out feeling out of control when memories, flashbacks, and emotions of their past traumas surface. If they can control as much as possible about their daily lives it can appear to them that they are no longer out of control as a result of their traumas. The more control they have the better able they are to avoid the distress that comes with facing their traumas as described in this study Perceived Control and Avoidance in Posttraumatic Stress.

Many times a trauma survivor will seek out anything they think they can control in order to avoid the distress of their trauma history. The illusion of control is defined as “The illusion of control is the tendency for people to overestimate their ability to control events; for example, it occurs when someone feels a sense of control over outcomes that they demonstrably do not influence.” Many times people with trauma history will feel they can control everything around them and even convince themselves that the control they think they have is real.

If they can hold on to this belief that they are in control, then they do not have to confront the loss of control they feel when they relive their traumas. Even if they believe they control one thing, it is better than feeling as if they control nothing. This control can take many forms and some of them can be very destructive.

Self-harm is a classic trauma control. If someone is cutting, they are in control of the release of their pain. If someone is controlling their family members lives and choices, they are in control of trying to make their life different from what it was during their traumas. If someone is enforcing their control of themselves with drugs and alcohol, they diminish the emotions of their trauma.

The other side of control is avoidance. If someone can feel as if they are in control they can avoid confronting their traumas and the emotions that go with them. The very ways that they exercise control can be avoidance. For many trauma survivors, avoidance is automatic. They would do anything to not have to experience the emotions that come with remembering and talking about their traumas.

The illusion of control can seem very real, but it is false no matter how one might try to convince themselves otherwise. The illusion of control can seem to be real for a long time, years even, but there are points where it is evident that it is not and there will come a time it will not hold in the face of the emotions of trauma. These times usually come when their are anniversary dates involved with traumas, when flashbacks and memories occur, when someone engages in therapy, or when nightmares surface.

The illusion of control is only a covering, like a blanket of snow that remains for a while but eventually starts to melt, have holes, and disappear completely.

Until next time,
Deborah

Hold The Line

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Setting boundaries is one of the hardest things for people to do, especially people with trauma history. Many times, people do not feel that they can set boundaries as they want to do everything they can to make sure everyone else is okay and that everyone else is happy at the expense of their own feelings or needs or rights.

Also, the need to make other people okay or happy starts early, very early usually when people are still young children to win their parents love or attention. By the time most people realize that they are giving others everything and themselves nothing, the need to give up their needs and rights has become automatic. It is then very difficult to start setting those boundaries. It feels uncomfortable, even wrong. People react very badly to it. It is hard, very hard to do. But like anything else in life, it is repetition and reinforcement.

In order to start setting your boundaries you have to ask yourself what are your rights. What are your rights as a human being? The right to be respected as an individual, the right to make your own choices, the right to be find happiness for yourself, the right to manage your own life, the right to say no. Even these can be hard questions to answer for those who have not had boundaries most of their lives.

Start with one question that you answer, let’s say it is the right to make your own choices. Based on this, you then start making your own choices and then holding the line as you confront your own doubts that you can do it and the push back from others who are wondering why you are doing it now when you never have before. You will have to hold the line against opposition and against the negative thoughts in your own mind. And again, it is a daily, sometimes every minute repetition and reinforcement that this is your right and that it is okay for you to do it.

Most of the people who have known you a long time and have been able to treat you in certain ways all your life and have you respond to their needs and demands in certain ways all your life will not be happy that you are now setting these boundaries. They will in fact question why you are doing this. They will in fact look for reasons why so that they can blame this on someone or something else because you certainly cannot do this on your own. They will take it personally that you are not giving them what they want as you always have done and that it must because you don’t love them anymore. This will be your hardest task in holding the line.

Being healthy requires that you consider yourself, your needs, your rights, your emotions on the same level as you do for other people, maybe even more so. If you are not taking care of yourself helping others will drain you of your energy, your health, your emotions and there will be nothing left with which to support yourself. And as long as you are giving all to others they will continue to drain you dry and expect you to continue giving them what they need and want.

Define your rights. Be assertive. Learn to say no. Protect your space. Hold your line. By doing this you will find for yourself better self esteem, conserving your emotional energy, and be more independent. Hold your line.

Until next time,
Deborah

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Keep Trying

There are days and situations where we all feel that we just cannot keep trying. Times when we have tried and failed and tried and failed several times and we become mentally and physically drained. Sometimes, these things can feel overwhelming. Especially, if there are multiple things at once.

Just this past week, the new therapist at our office and I struggled mightily with window cling coverings. Yes, I know, that seems like such a small thing in comparison to some of the things that we can go through, but it was a prime example of how to keep trying. I am really terrible at measuring things, figuring out how things should fit together, anything related to rulers and mechanical application of things. Luckily, the new therapist is much better at it than I am. However, we still struggled over and over to figure out how to cover the windows with these patterned clings so that they mostly matched up and actually covered the bulk of the windows.

It was a lot of doing and redoing. Thinking and thinking again. Failing and failing again. It took a long time each time we attempted it. At times it was very frustrating. It was tiring and draining. It was a constant learning process. But we continued to keep trying.

At the end of the process, the windows looked beautiful. It was well worth the effort. At the time of the struggle though, we wondered if it would be. If we had not continued to keep trying, we would have never ended up with the beauty that is now shining on the windows.

This is the outcome of the struggle to keep trying. The pressure that polishes. The pressure that turns carbon to diamonds. The pressure that changes things including ourselves. The pressure of realizing that you can keep trying and you can come out on the other side better for it.

This week whatever your struggles are keep trying. The struggles do not last forever, though they can seem like it. They will end or change as long as you keep trying. Doing one thing, one piece, one issue at a time even if it is over and over, keep trying. The results can be beautiful.

Until next time,
Deborah
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Moving and Expanding

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Mindful Montana Wellness, LLC is moving and expanding!! We are growing in order to serve more of Billings and the surrounding areas. We are very excited about the new opportunities our move and expansion will provide for us and for the community.

On Monday, September 2, 2019, we will be moving our offices to 926 Main Street Suite 18 in Billings, Montana. We will still be located in the Billings Heights. This location is on Main Street in the Heights in the brown office buildings next to Domino’s across from TireRama. Suite 18 is located on the right side near the back corner.

We are also very excited to be adding a new therapist to our practice. On Monday, September 9, 2019, we will be adding therapist Kirsten Pett, LCSW to our practice. Kirsten has several years of experience working in residential facilities and also in the public schools as a therapist. She utilizes Mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation, and several other therapeutic techniques.

With the addition of a new therapist, we will be accepting new appointments for children, adolescents, and adults. These new appointments will start after September 9, 2019.

We are excited about these new opportunities and being able to continue to provide mental health counseling services in Billings and the surrounding area.

Until next time,
Deborah

Pros and Cons

Many times during therapy sessions I ask clients a question, “What do you want?” It seems simple, straightforward, but in fact it is quite the opposite. The answer is tangled up in emotions, the past, fear, low self esteem, and much more. It can be very difficult to come up with what you want, with what you want to happen or change, with what your goals are. But deep down everyone knows them, fear usually prevents acknowledging what they are and accepting what will have to happen in order to obtain them.

When I talk to clients about what they want, I ask if they have ever made a list of the pros and cons for each one. Usually the answer is no. The only way to weigh them out is to truly see them. Writing is one of the most therapeutic ways available to all of us to analyze different parts of ourselves and our stories. Write out the pros and cons of what you want, what you want to happen or change, and your goals.

For example, if you want to remove yourself from a toxic relationship, what are the pros of that and what are the cons. You may be thinking, how can there be cons when removing something toxic from our lives, but every choice has consequences. Some are good and some are not. Pros – You might be happier, safer, freer, gain more self esteem, find better relationships, not be abused by that person, start a new life, protect others, etc. Cons – You might be alone for some time, you may lose family or people that are important to you but toxic, you might feel badly for the other person’s emotions if you leave, other people may blame you for how the toxic person reacts, you might not be happier or feel safer being alone, you might fear the changes that come with ending a relationship, etc.

But what is your ultimate goal in wanting this change? And if you don’t change will you ever be able to reach that goal? Can you continue the same as you are now and have anything change in yourself, for yourself? Remember we cannot change anyone else. So it is only you in the decision to change.

Fear will be the greatest enemy when weighing the pros and cons. Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision. “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” ~ Jack Canfield Acknowledge what you fear and continue with the pros and cons. Acknowledge the cons, and proceed with the pros. Do not let fear keep you from what you truly want.

Until next time,
Deborah