Counseling Can Be Fun! Using Humor to Heal

Can counseling be fun?

Can counseling be fun?

Fun! Counseling is not the first thing people think of when they think of having fun.  Yes counseling is a serious business and it takes some serious work if you want to change.  But does that mean there’s nothing fun about counseling?  No it doesn’t!  I’ve had some really great laughs with my clients over the years.  I’ve laughed so hard with my clients that I’ve cried!  When I think back at some of my favorite clients, they’re my favorite because they had a sense of humor and we could laugh together in between the serious hard work we did.  Humor and laughter are very useful and appropriate tool in counseling.  Laughter reduces anxiety, tension and depression, thereby, mitigating several serious diseases such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, in which anxiety and tension are predisposing factors.   Humans life in general can be funny, life can be ironic, PUNS!  Puns can be funny.  Here’s a great example of a silly pun, this is actually my husband.  It was hilarious at the moment he did it, but I know to others it’s just silly.

My point is a well-timed pun in counseling can be down right hilarious.  Humor should be used in a culturally sensitive way especially in a counseling session.  In counseling humor should not be used to exert superiority over the client, to make fun of light of any mental illness or serious symptoms.   I often use myself as a source of humor because I can laugh at myself and I generally find others don’t mind laughing at me if I’m poking fun at myself.  Sexual and racial jokes are never okay in counseling.  Jokes about silly misunderstandings can be funny.

So if you think counseling is all serious and there can’t be periods of stress relieving laughter, well you are mistaken!  You’ve either let Hollywood convince you counseling is no fun or maybe you just need to find a therapist that realizes how healing a good laugh can be!

 

Who’s Your Counselor’s Counselor?

Who's Your Counselor's Counselor

As I near the end of collecting my state LPC-Intern hours, I have realized the importance of the question: Who’s your counselor’s counselor?  At first, I found it easy to compartmentalized the traumas that I was hearing on a daily basis from my clients and not allowing their stories to effect me.  However, after two plus years (not including when I was in school gaining my internship hours) of stories upon stories, I found myself becoming anxious and depressed.

Becoming a counselor is not the easiest career, since you allow yourself to absorb some one else’s traumatic events and keep their story confidential.  I am a secret of vaults that not even truth serum could penetrate.  With all of the traumatic events that I took in, I began to obtain somewhat a cynical view of the world.  I started to believe that things are horrible and would not change.  I began a routine of working long hours and coming home to “zombie out” in front of the TV.  I gave up reading an enjoyable book, walking the dogs around the neighborhood and enjoying “me time” at a local restaurant.  As days turned into weeks into months on end with this routine and lack of hobbies, I became depressed.  There were times when I would go without a shower for two days, be too tired to brush my teeth at night and oversleeping on the weekend.

As my depression grew, I realized my anxiety was increasing too.  I began to question my capabilities as a counselor, had paranoid thoughts and became more susceptible to illnesses.  Just in three months, I was sick twice!  I was living in fear and wanted to find excuses to not attend work or anything for that matter.  As a counselor, I know a multitude of coping skills, yet I chose not to participate in them.  I felt hollow and yet, somehow, I was still functioning as a counselor to my clients.  I began to notice that my clients were doing better than me!

Enough was enough – I knew something had to change: me.  How was I ever to promote self-care to my clients without taking care of myself?  I began take slow steps towards recovery… started with journaling my thoughts and emotions.  I found that I was able to sleep a little bit better after emptying my mind.  I started openly discussing my struggle with supportive colleagues, where they provided a sound board for me.  I asked for a two-week hiatus from facilitating night groups to reduce my over-worked work load – which was granted.  I began reading the book The Four Agreements that a colleague provided for me and I’m taking it to heart.  I even received some of my creativity spark back from doing all of these self-care acts.

But of course, the largest step that I took in recovery was this: contacting a counselor!  I am currently waiting for the counselor to contact me back to schedule my first session, but I am feeling a multitude of feelings – scared, nervousness, relief and excitement.  Out of all those emotions, excitement is the greatest.  I am excited to rediscover who I am.  And that in a nutshell is why even I as a counselor requires a counselor!  So, who’s your counselor’s counselor?

The Cost of Professional Counseling

The Cost of Counseling

Many people in our society forgo the cost of counseling in a effort to save time and money.  Can you put a cost on your mental and physical health?  Can you place a cost of the emotional well being of your children?  Can you place a cost on your marriage?  Most of these things cannot be broken down to a monetary amount.  Let’s take a quick look at the cost to most people when they a deal with a serious issue which needs the assistance a professional counselor.

Let’s suppose you’re suffering from anxiety and depression.  Often times a resulting symptom of anxiety (worry) and depression is insomnia.  Insomnia leads to decreased productivity at work because you’re too exhausted to function well.  You’re not doing your best at work as a result of numerous nights of poor sleep, which can cost you that promotion that you had your eye on.  Insomnia leads to multiple health problems which then leads you to your doctor’s office, then not only are you missing work that day or part of the day but you’re also paying for the office copay.  Then you pay the prescription copay for the medication that is often prescribed by primary care physicians to treat insomnia and depression.   I’m not even going to go into possible side effects of various prescription sleep medications and antidepressants, that’s another blog post.  Let’s briefly look at how the manage health care companies want you to treat your anxiety and depression.

The American Psychology Association quoted Psychiatrist Jay M. Pomerantz, MD who knows first hand the pressure to prescribe medications.  He stated:

The behavioral health management companies that now dominate the field have a good reason to prefer medication to psychotherapy:  They don’t have to pay for patients’ pills.
Managed-care companies typically “carve out” the mental health portion of patients’ medical care, assigning that responsibility to specialized behavioral health companies.  These companies, however, cover only the cost of providing patients with access to mental health providers and facilities.  Responsibility for paying prescription drug costs lies with the original managed-care companies.  Since behavioral health companies must squeeze psychotherapy costs out of tight budgets, it’s not surprising that they favor general practitioners over psychotherapists and psychopharmacological solutions over psychotherapeutic ones.  By doing so, they shift costs back to the managed-care companies themselves.
Even more importantly, behavioral health carve-outs typically have a short-term perspective when they consider their bottom lines.  While medication gets doled out over long stretches of time, psychotherapy is typically provided in short but intensive periods. Because health plans’ budgets focus on expenses in a given year, medication has an obvious short-term advantage no matter what the eventual long-term cost.
Just do the math, pharmacotherapists may keep depressed patients on expensive antidepressants for the rest of their lives.  If you can get with four months of psychotherapy the same benefits you get from a year and a half to two years of continuous medication, you begin to break even after about a year’s time even though it’s more expensive upfront to provide psychotherapy.  If the benefits extend over a half-decade or decade, your savings really start piling up.  But managed-care folks don’t think that way.”
To read this full article go to: http://www.apa.org/monitor/jan00/pr2.aspx

So does professional counseling really work?

The CEO of The American Psychology Association, Dr. Norman B. Anderson stated

“the American Psychological Association studied the peer-reviewed literature examining the effectiveness of psychotherapy.  The research showed that psychotherapy is indeed effective, that it helps reduce the overall need for health services and that it produces long-term health improvements.  Psychotherapy can teach people coping skills they can continue to use throughout their lives.
Yet, the use of psychotherapy to treat mental and behavioral health issues decreased over the last decade, while the use of drugs to address such problems has increased, according to government and insurance industry data.  For some problems, such as anxiety and mild to moderate depression, psychotherapy alone is often the best first treatment option.”
To read this full article go to: http://www.apa.org/research/action/this-is-psychology/psychotherapy.aspx

Let’s look at the cost of counseling versus other negative things that can happen in your life.  You can Google these figures for yourself, these costs are averages across the nation although I attempted to find average cost in Texas when those figures were available.

COST STATISTICS
Problem Low Cost Average Cost High Cost Emotional Cost
Divorce $1,500 $15,000 $40,000+ High
Drinking &

Driving

$2,000 $4,000 $24,000+ High
Cost of child not completing high school unknown  $13,706 in state expenditures

 

Costs our nation about $260,000 in lost wages, taxes, and productivity per drop out. High
Individual Counseling $900

(8 sessions,

2 assessments)

$1,740

(16 sessions,

2 assessments)

$3,420

(32 sessions,

2 assessments)

Healing

When you take a serious look at what various alternatives to counseling can cost you counseling can begin to look cheap in comparison!  Think of the emotional pay off when you can finally have a fulfilling relationship with your spouse or an estranged parent.  Or have better communication with your teenager who has shut you out of their life and you see a dark future looming in front of them. Professional counselors want to assist you in becoming the best version of you based upon your goals, not ours.  We don’t want to throw another pill at you, or give you some nice little saying to stick on your Facebook wall.  We want to go on a journey with you to improve your relationship with others and with yourself!

                                                                                        couples-counseling-happy-outcome-16170697

Counseling vs Advice

FaithOutTheWindsow

Many people believe that counseling is a quick fix. Although counseling has taken strides in the science and mental health community it is still worlds behind the other sciences. I have learned that when education people on the importance of counseling and advice. So many people come to counseling with a ‘fix me’ attitude. As counselors we are not in a position to ‘fix’ people. When giving advice you give a person a solution to a problem. The problem with advice is that people expect you to take full responsibility when things go wrong. As counselors, we serve as an educated sounding board equipped with skills to share with clients to help towards better coping and happier living. An unhealthy mental state is similar to obesity. In many cases it did not happen overnight and cannot be fixed overnight either. It is important that people understand that counseling is built on a relationship between client and counselor and just as in any other relationship, there is work to be done. I like to view counseling as an herbal remedy. It does not require any pharmaceuticals and it works over a period of time. In counseling we do not give advice as an end all be all, but rather guide clients towards conclusion that they may have overlooked on their own. Counseling is an outlet for an individual by a neutral person to work toward a healthier mental state.

Change: Is It Possible?

 

Change Is It Possible

“Suppose I decide I want to be a great singer.  I rent a concert hall, and advertise in all the papers:  Come and hear the concert.  The time comes for the concert to begin.  I go out onto the platform, and the piano gives the introduction.  I open my mouth.  My voice squeaks and cracks and fades away, and above the shouts of laughter and derision, I make my way offstage.  I have chosen to be a great singer, but I can’t perform.”  Faith That Works by Morris L. Venden

Have you ever made a good choice in your life but still struggle with your performance?  You have taken the first step.  You made a choice to change, but knowing how to make the changes remains a mystery.  Change and pinpointing what affects your performance is a process that takes time.  We can help you maneuver and make steps towards a better performance.  Contact us!

Control

control

Treat others the same way you want them to treat you (Luke 6:31)

There are some things that we can control, and some things that are just out of our control. The things that we have control over are our words, actions, ideas, efforts, and behavior. Things that we do not have control over are other people’s actions and words. We also have not control over other people’s feelings, behavior, or ideas. Regardless of what other people say to you choose to respond to them the way you want to be treated. It is not about them, but about you and your character. Do not break your integrity when others choose to be ignorant or disrespectful. If you do they win. Treat others the way you want to be treated is and has been the golden rule for a long time, we just don’t put it into practice too often. The pebble, dropped in a pool, can make ripples to the furthest shore.

The way to happiness
is made much brighter by
applying the precept, “Try to treat
others as you would want them
to treat you.”