Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How to Handle the Holidays (before they handle you!)

If the holidays go as well as possible, what will you be able to celebrate after they’re over?  In other words, what are you hoping for, and what (or who) do you hope to avoid?

Holidays seasons are usually mixed experiences for most of us.  We have wishes, hopes and dreams about how they will go, and what we will do.  Some desires end up being fulfilled but some aren’t.  Proactive planning can increase the probability of getting what we want. 

Our suggestion for Happy and fulfilling holidays is to specify desires.  You can do this individually and as a family.  Ask yourself, “What do I want?”  This is a relatively simple, yet powerful exercise. Try it now.  See how many bullet points you can come up with.

For example:

Jeff: What do you want for the Christmas Season, Jill?
Jill: I’d like to have an open house for friends and family before schedules get too crazy.
Jeff: What else would you like?
Jill: I’d like to plan an evening we could take Gabby (granddaughter) to the Clifton Mill to see the lights, and have hot chocolate by the waterfalls
Jeff: What else would you like?

You get the idea.  You keep asking your spouse and other family members what they would like.  Pretty soon, you have a great list of everyone’s desires.  Now you can begin to discuss and negotiate how to make these a reality.

This same exercise can be done to identify what you don’t want or what you would like less of.

Jeff: What do you not want for the Christmas Season?
Jill: I don’t want to be so busy that we don’t have time to enjoy it.
Jeff: What else do you not want?
Jill: I don’t want to get exhausted shopping.  I want to be strategic about the times and places I go, and get shopping done early in the season.

Sometimes emotional topics surface, such as strained or difficult relationships with people you’ll see at holiday celebrations.  A great question to ask yourself or each other is “If your interactions with _____ go as well as possible, what would you like to be able to say afterwards about how you did your part to be pleasant.”

Once desires have been shared and discussed, the next step is to brainstorm action-steps to accomplish them.  This can be done efficiently by coming up with and evaluating options.

Could's (could do's) What could you do? What ideas have you thought of? What have you considered? Try to list 5 options for each desire that you would like to become reality.

The task in step #1 is to generate as many ideas as possible. This is green-light brainstorming. Everything is on the table. No idea is too ridiculous to mention. Often an idea that isn't realistic gives birth to an idea that will work.

Wants (want to's) - The second step is to evaluate the list of options from step #1.  . Which ones do you like, and why? What do you like about them? Which do you not like? What are the advantages or disadvantages to each one? What are obstacles or barriers? Which would you like to try? Which do you think have the best chance of being helpful?

The idea with #2 is to check in with your heart and mind. Which ones are you motivated to try, and which ones do you think will work? Scratch the options from #1 that don't make the cut.

Will's (will do's)- Now that the list of possible solutions has been shortened, it's time to make a decision about what you will do. Which of the possible action-steps/solutions do you want to do?

The best way to handle the holidays is to get out in front of them by thinking about what would like and what you would like to avoid; forethought in other words.  The simple questions suggested above surface desires and the brainstorming process leads to potential strategies, solutions and action-steps.  This is the essence of the coaching process for any life circumstance.  Begin with the end in mind by thinking about the ideal outcome, then explore your thoughts, feelings and desires around that outcome.  Finally, brainstorm possible action-steps to make your desires a reality.

We hope this helps!

Happy Holidays, Jeff and Jill Williams

Thursday, November 11, 2010

How to Make the Most of Counseling

It's a big decision to get some counseling. Usually, by the time a client makes the first call, they've thought a lot about how to solve problems and conflicts, and find themselves at a loss for ideas about how to make things better. It's not uncommon to hear strong emotion and tears on the phone. The first step toward relief is to schedule an appointment, but lasting relief comes through an ongoing commitment to the process.

It's one thing to get relief by making a call, taking a step to "get some help", and something quite different to commit to a series of appointments that will help to secure lasting relief and solutions.

Here are some tips to make the most of counseling:

1. Come to your first appointment prepared
  • Review information and consent documents sent by email
  • Bring notes/journal about what you want from counseling
    • What would you like to be different by the time counseling ends?
2. Expect to invest time and finances in 4-6 sessions for the first 6 weeks
  • It takes time for a counselor to "get on board" with you.  We need a lot of information to accurately conceptualize what is happening and why.  Then we can diagnose and recommend a treatment plan.
  • The issues that led you to seek counseling probably didn't develop overnight.  Give yourself (and your counselor) time to begin unraveling the complexities of your circumstances.
3. Do homework between sessions to extend the value of therapy
  • Growth and change from counseling doesn't just happen in the counselor's office; it happens any time a client(s) intentionally think, write and talk about their issues between sessions.
  • Some counselors welcome correspondence between sessions
    • Send journal entries, copies of therapeutic letters, etc.
    • Grace and Truth policy is to read everything a client send, and to respond as possible to questions and concerns that arise between sessions.  Generally this is value-added service, and not billable time (note: privacy of electronic correspondence isn't guaranteed; clients send such communications with this understanding; it is an option, not a requirement.)
4. Be direct with your counselor about what is helpful and what isn't.
  • Remember that a counselor is your servant.  You are compensating them for their time and expertise.  Don't be afraid to give feedback about the effectiveness of the process
  • Good counselors ask for feedback on a regular basis.  It is part of our ethic to measure progress, and it is unethical to continue a counseling relationship if progress isn't being made.
    • Here are some of the questions I regularly ask, "Has this been helpful? Are you getting what you hoped for? What would you like more or less from me?"
5. Expect to take a break from counseling at some point
  • The duration of counseling varies from weeks to months (rarely does it take place weekly for years on end).
  • Growth and change takes place in cycles.  Expect to take a break after resolving your presenting problems, and/or reaching a plateau en route to your end goal(s)
  • Most counselors welcome breaks, and return to counseling at some point of felt need in the future.
6. Don't be afraid to ask to transition to a coach approach to goals once pain and problems are resolved.
  • The relationship you have with a dually trained provider and the history you have together can provide a comfortable foundation for continuing work together on life goals (personal and professional).
  • At Grace and Truth, we sometimes begin with counseling, and end up with coaching.
  • Remember, counseling is generally about problems and pain, and coaching about goals, growth and change
Ultimately, counseling works if you work it.  To get the most from it requires significant investment of time and energy beyond scheduled counseling appointments.  It also requires commitment on the part of counselor and client to learn to work together in the most helpful way.  This happens best through honest exchanges about what is working and what isn't, with willingness to adjust on the part of the counselor and client.

Hopefully this will help you to make the most of counseling when you make the big decision to ask for some help.


Jeff Williams 
Professional Clinical Counselor
State of Ohio License E-#3098

Monday, October 25, 2010

Could's, Want's and Will's: Three Steps to Creative Solutions for Complex Problems

"If I knew how to solve these problems, I wouldn't be here!" My client was aggravated, but they'd misunderstood my question, which was, "What have you thought about doing to solve this?" I understood their frustration, and was sorry that I'd contributed to it, but still, I always want to work collaboratively with counseling clients. As I see it, I'm their servant with expertise to diagnose and suggest a treatment plan according to proven best practices that research has demonstrated to be effective. Still, a collaborative approach empowers them to actively participate in the process instead of passively awaiting direction.

True, counselors have expert knowledge and experience in mental and emotional disorders, complex marital and family situations, addictions, etc., but still the client has to live with the results of their choices. Thus, the ethic under informed consent is always that they have the right to refuse any recommendation from the counselor, and/or to terminate services at any point. The way I make this arrangement with clients is to generate solutions together. Sure, I offer ideas based on research and experience, but ultimately what they choose to do is up to them.

Here is an efficient brain-storming and evaluation process to develop and select solutions:

1. Could's (could do's)
What could you do to work toward a solution? What ideas have you thought of? What have you considered? If I have some ideas would you like to hear them?

The task in step #1 is to generate as many ideas as possible. This is green-light brainstorming. Everything is on the table. No idea is too ridiculous to mention. Often an idea that isn't realistic gives birth to an idea that will work.

2. Wants (want to's) - The second step is to evaluate the list of could's. Which ones do you like, and why? What do you like about them? Which one's do you not like? What are the advantages or disadvantages to each one? What are obstacles or barriers? Which would you like to try? Which do you think have the best chance of being helpful?

The idea with #2 is to check in with your heart and mind. Which ones are you motivated to try, and which ones do you think will work? Scratch the options from #1 that don't make the cut.

3. Will's (will do's)- Now that the list of possible solutions has been shortened, it's time to make a decision about what you will do. Which of the want to's do you want to do?

The premise of this last step is that people are more likely to do what they want to do than what you tell them to do. However, different than coaching, in counseling there are some choices that a client makes that are a deal-breaker for the counseling relationship; such as repeated no-show's, delinquency with fees, AND the Big One, not coming for appointments per the frequency recommended per the assessment of the acuity of their problems. Just as in medicine, if a client doesn't comply with a minimum treatment format (prescribed frequency of sessions), the counselor can't be responsible for their welfare.

Okay, back to the commitment phase for solutions. What will you do? What will you commit to doing? An action-step toward solution of problems isn't legitimate until a client specifies the date and time they are going to do the step. In counseling these can include talking with a spouse about the truth in a situation, making an appointment with their doctor to be evaluated for medication, setting a limit or boundary with a child or extended family member, journaling about a traumatic experience, etc.

In summary, effective solutions to problems can be efficiently generated through three steps. Consider what you could do, evaluate this list according to your desire, "Which of these do you want to do?", and finally, which one's will you commit to doing?

FYI, this post was a result of such a process. "I could write a blog to educate current and potential clients about an effective problem-solving process. I want to do that because I want it to be in writing so that I can reference it and make it a hand-out. I'm going to do it this morning while the idea is fresh." Voila, done in 30 minutes!

Continuing the journey in His Grace and by His Truth,

Jeff Williams
Professional Clinical Counselor
State of Ohio, License #E-3098

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Change Takes Time (and requires investment)

Pain motivates people, but only for a short time. When in distress, people will do about anything you ask if they think you can help them to alleviate their discomfort.

"Could you come for an appointment at ________?" Client, "Sure, whenever you say. Nothing is more important than this right now." But, get a few weeks down the road, and scheduling becomes a challenge. "Things are just so busy right now. I'll have to wait a few weeks before scheduling my next appointment."

Social Psychology has proven that we humans are creatures of habit, and that the inertia of our psyche is to keep doing the same things and thinking the same ways, even if they are unhealthy. We need look no further than to those who live in codependent relationships or repeatedly subject themselves to spousal abuse (domestic violence) to illustrate this sad truth.

At Grace and Truth we proclaim the truth that with God all things are possible, but they might not come easily. We say this to our clients like this, "The good news is that (your marriage can be saved/you can learn healthier ways to relate to your spouse/children, you can learn to live sober and clean, your depression/anxiety can be alleviated...BUT the bad news is that it is going to take time and require significant effort on your part."

After a few years of taking calls from potential clients in crisis, I usually have a pretty good idea which ones will follow through with time, effort and financial investment in a counseling or coaching process designed to help them live more pleasurably and productively. They are the ones that lead with statements like this, "We know that things didn't get this way overnight, and we don't expect them to get better overnight. We're prepared to invest in this process as long as it takes, because we can't go on living like this any longer." They lead with a description of their difficulties, ask if I'm experienced in helping with such issues, and treat the opportunity to be helped as a privilege.

Those that aren't apt to follow through lead with statements about how difficult it will be to say no to their current schedule of activities (the kids have this and that, I'm a volunteer here or there), and disclosure that they are shopping for the most cost effective option.

I'll close with an observation by Hugh Hewitt,from his book, "In But Not Of: A Guide to Christian Ambition". (paraphrase) "I know of a retired officer (a Colonel) in the French Army. He wanted to be a General, and could have been, but I guarantee you that if you take a look at his career, there was a time when he was faced with the choice to pay the price to become a General, and he said no. It's not enough to say that you want to accomplish something, you must also be willing to pay the price."

Sustainable motivation is a function of clear vision about what can be, sober understanding that realizing our goals and dreams will be costly, and sustained effort in the process.

What do you want? And, are you willing to pay the price?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Understanding, Insight and Ownership: Three Keys to Managing Mental and Emotional IIllnesses

"How can I support my friend with a mental illness?"
It's a great question, and one I get often from pastors, spouses, and friends of my clients who come to appointments to support their loved ones.

1. Ask them. Ask how you can be helpful. Answers are likely to range from "I don't know", to very specific requests, "Keep being my friend", "Check with me if I'm keeping my appointments, exercising, eating well, taking my medication, etc." Remember, just because a person is struggling with a mental or emotional disorder doesn't mean that they are incompetent or irresponsible. Treat them with respect and allow them dignity by asking them how you can be helpful.

2. Learn about the illness or disorder. There is plenty of information available on most conditions on the internet. Search the term and read up from reputable sources. Information is power. Check out what you learn with the person who has the condition. Ask them to teach you about it. This is also a great way to evaluate the extent to which they have accepted responsibility to care for themselves. Clients who learn everything they can about their illness, and act on recommendations to manage it are very different than those in denial or unwilling to take good care of themselves.

3. Plan for worst case scenarios. What if your loved one has a condition that is prone to relapse after periods of remission? Have a discussion with them while they are rational and responsible. Well-known Family Coach, Dr. Gary Rosberg publicly tells the story how his good friend Steve Farrar flew across the country to drag Gary out of his bedroom when he relapsed into severe depression. "That's what a good friend will do" Gary said. "I'd told Steve to come after me if ever I refused his calls, and my wife confirmed her concern for me. The first night he arrived, I refused to see him and told him to go home. He stayed through the night and confronted me the next morning. It meant everything that someone cared enough to come after me when I was in a bad place, and even was impolite to them."*

In my experience, those that do best in recovery from mental and emotional disorders understand the nature and severity of their illness and how to manage it, have insight into the effect of the disorder on their loved ones, and take ownership over their illness to do everything in their power to manage it.

Persons who have a disorder but don't take responsibility to learn about it, who don't take responsibility to manage it, and don't consider how it affects their loved ones unnecessarily extend the effects of their condition onto others. And, through their irresponsibility they ask for others to take responsibility. For instance, if it is critical for a person with Bipolar Disorder to take their medication on a regular basis to maintain a stable mood and rational behavior, whose responsibility is it to remember to take the medication? Ideally, a person with such a disorder will take the same level of responsibility that a person with diabetes takes to measure their blood sugar and to inject proper doses of insulin.

How can you help your loved one? Begin by asking how you can help. Educate yourself about the illness, and collaborate on a plan of action if a disabling relapse occurs.

And remember, keep giving the grace to try again, and truth spoken in love to help them be successful!

blessings, Jeff

*Personal conversation with Dr. Rosberg, July 2006

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Perseverance - The Way the Turtle Walked

He's trying to earn trust. She's watching skeptically after years of deception. He wants to save their marriage. She's not sure her heart can take the possibility of more disappointment. He's being diligent in counseling and working a "program"* She's mildly hopeful, but still wary. "It's going to take time to regain my trust", she said.

Suddenly this phrase popped into my mind, "The way the turtle walked." I tried it out with the couple and it made sense.

The turtle (tortoise) in Aesop's fable, "The Tortoise and the Hare" ran the race very slowly. He went as fast as he could, which was pretty slow, but he never stopped. Step by step he plodded toward the finish. And you know the rest of the story...he finished before the hare. Why? Because the impetuous and undisciplined rabbit ran the race in fits and starts. He went lickety-split one moment and collapsed in exhaustion the next.

When I see a new client for counseling I always wonder if they are going to be more like the tortoise or the hare, especially if they come in crisis...and many come in crisis. "Will they persist in doing all that they need to do, over time, to grow, to heal, to resolve their relational discord?" I wonder.

Often, clients muster the courage to ask an important question at the end of their first or second appointment. "Is there any hope for me (i.e., my marriage, my future, etc.)?" The question is akin to asking a medical doctor, "Am I going to live?"

My answer is nearly always the same, and I mean it because I've seen miracles.


"Do this God's way, and persist in doing all that you need to, and you will be surprised by the outcome."

In the natural, past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.
People will generally tend to continue doing what they have always done. Habits of thinking and ways of relating and getting needs met are hard to break, but break the must, and be replaced by new habits in order to improve quality of life and relationships when they are broken.

But for the person willing to walk in faith, who will dare to envision and believe for what is not yet reality, what they cannot see (Hebrews 11:1), the impossible is possible. This is the x-factor for the Christ-follower who wants to develop new and healthier ways of thinking and relating. And, it's my privilege as a Christian Counselor to believe in faith for the possibility of such outcomes.

Can you be well? Can your marriage be saved? Can your family relationships be restored? YES! If you will believe in faith for such outcome and then pay due diligence over time, just like the tortoise who persevered!

God's way works, and perseverance wins the race!

Jeff and Jill Williams
Co-founders, Grace and Truth Counseling and Coaching

*Program refers to recovery from addiction. Today, many addictions have been defined. Recovery usually involves participation in some form of a 12-step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Celebrate recovery, Overeaters Anonymous, etc.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Recovering Me: The Process of Restoring Your Life

One of the saddest situations I've ever witnessed during my career as a Professional Clinical Counselor was in an hospital emergency room. The patient was unkempt, bandaged and alone. His wrists were bandaged due to self-inflicted wounds. His "suicide attempt" wasn't lethal, but it was a cry for help and attention. After being debriefed by the ER physician about this gentleman's repeated visits to the hospital I called his parents to ask them to come to take him home.

"We're done with him", they said. "He's done this so many times, and we've given so much. We actually consider him dead. I'm sorry. We're not willing to do anything."

Ummm....beyond hope, beyond help?

Initially I was angry with the parents. "How could they?" But then I realized that this man was the proverbial 'boy who cried wolf' or the 'prodigal's son'. Time after time he'd been offered the best in life (His family said so), but he'd lied, stolen, and otherwise squandered the opportunities he'd been offered. Sad.

I left the ER that night wondering what might happen to this man. It seemed that there was no one there for him. I called churches and most shelters were full. The ones that had space said no after hearing his history.

While I'd like to believe that people can have an infinite number of opportunities to "be whole" and to "get well", it simply isn't true. After a person defiles and degrades themselves enough times, it becomes nearly impossible for them to crawl out of the garbage dump they've created. Addictions, abuse, lies, broken relationships...at any point the harder decision to live clean in healthier relationships and with integrity could be made...but none of us can make such decision for another. We can only invite, suggest, support, hope and pray.

The reality is that each of us has "own life responsibility"; we are responsible for our own lives. And, there is a point at which we, and no one else, must shoulder at least a portion of the burden by ourselves. We must be the one to say yes to the counseling appointment, the recovery group, the friendship that is offered by a caring friend, or the supportive love of a family member.

Jesus asked several if they wanted to be well. When they said yes, He gave instruction, "Stand up". Notice that He didn't lift them to their feet against their will. He won't do that, and neither should we.

People helpers can become frustrated and tempted to compromise healthy boundaries when those they are trying to help don't cooperate with their efforts. The rule of thumb is to never work harder than the one who says they want help. That doesn't mean that we won't work hard. We will. But we mustn't work harder than the one who "owns" the problem; the desire to recover their life.

I like to give responsibility to my clients for their recovery and healing process. This puts responsibility where it belongs, builds their self-esteem, and ultimately strengthens them as a better leader of their own life. One practical way to do this is to have a client draft a comprehensive plan for their treatment. "List all of the issues you want to work on and the desired outcome. Include all of the people that you would like to involve to support and encourage you and the services that you know of that could be helpful." This isn't abdication of responsibility by the professional, but rather appropriate challenge to the client to dig deep for the resources and opportunities of which they are aware. Then, I collaborate with them to form a plan that we both think will work and that they are excited to pursue.

It is possible to recover from the depths of despair and to be free from psychological trauma, emotional entanglements, and debilitating symptoms of emotional and mental disorders. Is the process easy? No. Is it worth it? Absolutely.

Working as hard as you will,


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How to Handle Relational Hit and Runs

“Hey Coach, do you have a minute? I have a few questions about the game?” I stopped walking toward the bus with my football team, and turned to prepare to honor the gentleman’s request. My Vice-Principal knew better. “Keep walking Jeff. This won’t be good.” Because I was confused by his counsel to refuse the conversation, and because I was trained to respond politely to requests, I turned to the man to indicate my willingness to hear his questions. “Sure, what’s on your mind?” This angry heckler proceeded to ask rhetorical questions to make several points of disagreement about how I’d handled the game. After a few failed attempts to respond (the heckler didn’t play fair by giving me an opportunity to be heard), the Vice-Principal put his hand in my back to move me away, and said, “I told you. He doesn’t want to have a conversation. He only wants to take his anger out on you.”

Coaching that Jr. High football team between 1992-95 was an eye-opener. Looking back, I was naïve about some things. When people asked to converse I assumed they came with good-will. But that experience as well as some others has provided reason for caution.

Have you had the experience of having your words taken out of context, being unfairly accused or receiving a verbal or written account of the way things really are and then being blocked from responding? That’s what I’m calling a Relational Hit and Run; when someone makes their point but then leaves the scene by refusing dialogue to clarify and resolve the disagreement. It’s anything but healthy, but it can be handled well. Wisdom and self-control are two of the key components in deciding how to respond.

Such an incident happened to me again recently. The offender fired their salvos in writing and concluded, “Do not contact me.” Jill was privy to it, and it infuriated her. “Are you going to tell _____” she asked. “No, I’m not going to respond at all. What’s there to say? And why add more fuel to the fire. I could have the best intentions and still things are probably going to be twisted and thrown back at me. I know what’s been in my heart, and what I’ve done."

It takes two to make a relationship work. That’s obvious, eh? But what isn’t as clear is how often and how long to reach out to do your part. It’s like handshake. How long do you leave your hand dangling in thin air to await the other person’s grasp? You can do your part to reach out, but if they don’t reciprocate, there’s no connection.

Unjust accusations, refusals to engage conversation, absence of openness to clarification; they are all indications of an absence of good-will, and killers of relationships. How sad. It doesn’t have to be this way. Give and take, speak and listen, struggle through misunderstandings…when both parties are willing. When one is and the other isn’t willing is an untenable situation.

Consider Jesus.
Thankfully He provides a stellar example in such circumstances. Remember, he was a man familiar acquainted with suffering, even relational suffering. How he handled accusations and maltreatment gave us a great template for responding to hit runs in relationships.

I Peter 2:23 (NIV) - When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

Have you been hit recently? Did the hitter run from the scene? Are you left to recover after the assault, without clear recourse to further engage the relationship in a helpful way? Keep your eyes open. Don’t become hardened by the offense. Remember, hurt people hurt people, and God may give you an effective way to engage the person who left the scene. In the meantime, my counsel is to ask God to set a guard on your lips and to respond like Jesus who did not retaliate and who made no threats. Rather, entrust yourself to Him who judges justly.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Three Types of Counseling Clients: Customers, Complainants and Visitors

Not everyone who comes for counseling wants help for themselves. Some come to complain about others, and some come to satisfy the mandate of their spouse, employer or the court. Job #1 for the counselor is to determine which type of client is in their office.

Customers really want help. They're motivated to grow and change or to figure out a solution for a complicated situation because they are in emotional and/or physical distress. They are experiencing uncomfortable symptoms that might indicate an emotional or mental disorder, grief or some type of transition. They WANT help, and they are willing to do almost anything the counselor recommends to alleviate their distress or to make progress through a relational or vocational dilemma. We counselors love to serve this type of client. Why? They cooperate with our purpose, which is to help people. Unfortunately, other types are not as easy.

Complainants come to counseling appointments to inform the counselor of all the bad things that their spouse, child or employer has done. "It's about time they get some help" is their not so subtle pronouncement when they enter the office. The point is usually lost on them that they might be part of the problem, either in the way that they are responding to their loved one (who isn't feeling their love), or because they actually precipitated the circumstance by some injurious attitude, words or behavior. The task of the counselor with complainants is to facilitate their catharsis with good-will and respect, while praying and waiting for them to indict themselves as part of the "identified client's" problems, or they invite the counselor to opine. "You've heard the way I see things. How do you see things?" Effective listening with sincerity and respect often earns the right to be heard. At that juncture it becomes possible to transition the "complainant" to a "customer" who is willing to work on something to help the "identified client", or to improve the situation.

Visitors are clients that have been mandated to attend counseling. Either their spouse, employer or a good friend has somehow given an ultimatum or leveraged them "to at least try counseling before you ________ (divorce, quit your job, continue your addiction, etc.)." The classic visitor sits mostly silent with arms crossed, daring the "shrink" to "get me to talk". This is where the psychologically trained professional earns the full fee. While a temptation is to refuse to play the game, compassion and discernment usually reveals that the visitor is scared. Why else would they respond to pressure of ultimatum? There must be something they fear worse than counseling, such as loss of relationship, job, or freedom (e.g., counseling in lieu of incarceration). Once that is discovered, it becomes possible to transition the visitor to the posture of a customer. There must be something they want. One of my most effective questions is this, "What's the least amount of change that _____ (the one that mandated counseling) wants to see that would get them off your back?" This makes possible the development of a therapeutic alliance with the visitor. Now you can start working on something together. The clients experiences the counselor as being in their corner. Once the objective they chose is satisfied, it is not uncommon for such clients to identify other objectives. "Hey, you helped me with that. Maybe you can help me with ____." That's pay-dirt in a therapeutic relationship; an invitation to be helpful.

Whether you are making a referral or going for counseling yourself, this taxonomy of clients can be helpful. When making a referral, consider how you see the client. Are they highly motivated and willing to take responsibility? Are they blind to their part of the situation, but willing to attend counseling with a loved one? Or are you having to cash in all your relational equity chips to get them to "go to counseling" or else lose their job or relationship with you? With the training above you can figure out which is which, and provide the receiving counselor with a bit more information that will help them to be effective.

God bless,


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What do you mean they need counseling?

I wish I had a dollar for every time I've had a conversation like this:

"What do you do for a living?"

Me - "I'm a professional counselor. I help people that have mental or emotional disorders."

"Oh, I know someone who really needs your help."

Me - "Do they know it?"

"No, not really. How could we get them to see you? Will you call them?"

Me - "No."

"Why not?"

Me - "It really doesn't work very well for me to call people to tell them that they need help. They need to see it for themselves or to hear it from people that care for them. And, it needs to be concern in love, such as, 'I really care about you and I see you struggling with some difficult things in life right now. Would you consider seeing a professional to help you to understand what's happening and how to make things better?'"

"Oh, okay. Maybe I'll have that conversation. What's your number?"

Me - "Here's a card. I would be happy to talk with your friend briefly before even scheduling an appointment. Some people are pretty nervous about counseling. They fear that they're going to be diagnosed and told what's wrong with them, or like going to a Dr. that they're going to find out that they have a problem that can't be fixed. Sometimes meeting me briefly and hearing how I approach counseling can help to put them at ease enough that they are willing to schedule an appointment."

What it means when someone says, "They need counseling."

1. They care about someone that is going through a really hard and they don't know how to help them.

2. They see someone making bad decisions that are going to have negative consequences. They've tried to get them to stop, but haven't been successful.

3. They know someone that is very annoying or disruptive, but that person either doesn't know it or isn't willing to change.

Getting People to Counseling

1. Offer to go with them.

This is a highly effective way to get someone over the hump of anxiety about counseling, especially if they've never gone before. In addition to your comforting presence, you are conveying that they are worth your time and that their situation warrants your sacrifice.
2. Disclose that you once sought counseling and how it was helpful.
My list of client testimonies includes disclosure from a community leader about the benefits of my counseling for him and his entire family. It is really powerful and puts people at ease when high functioning people that are respected in the community normalize counseling as a ministry God has provided for the health and strengthening of the Body of Christ!

3. Promise to stay alongside as they go through the process.
I celebrate supportive pastors and friends that are willing to attend sessions, and spend extra time to listen and to encourage. At best, counseling catalyzed growth and change in person's life. In crisis, a client may have 2-3 hours of counseling each week (although 1 hour is more common). This is a very small fraction of the hours in a week (168). That's a lot of life to be lived between appointments. Those that continue to live in the midst of a supportive social and faith community get through their difficulties more quickly.

What do YOU mean, "They need counseling"?
The next time the thought crosses your mind, "They need counseling" think through it with these questions:

1. Why do I think that? What do I mean?

2. What outcome would I like to see or that I think is possible if they get effective counseling? What will be happening or won't be happening after they've been counseled effectively?

3. How can I help in the process? What role would God have me play in getting some help for them and/or supporting them in the process?

4. What would I want from friends, pastors, and others if I were going through a time like this?

When you think, "They need counseling" it's a pretty serious thought. Some disorders have mortality rate associated with them. And some life circumstances put otherwise normally functioning people at risk to commit suicide or homicide. And many people needlessly suffer prolonged bouts of depression and anxiety because they haven't had access to state of the art diagnosis and treatment. It's better to err on the side of caution by consulting with a professional about your concerns and how to get a person into treatment than to have something happen and live with regret.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

How Grace and Truth was Born

How did Grace and Truth Counseling get its name?

In 2002 Jill and I perched on the precipice of a dream; our own Christian Counseling practice. The journey was long, beginning in 1987 with a Master's degree, 1990-91 for supplementary graduate classes (all the while practicing counseling in community mental health setting), and culminating with 30 more graduate hours in diagnosis and treatment between 1997-99. Finally! Sept 17, 1999 it was official, Jeffrey J. Williams, Professional Clinical Counselor, State of Ohio License, #E-0003098. Now what?

There was a bridge between 1999-2002 through a therapeutic Foster Care Agency, Lifeway for Youth (now Benchmark, Inc.). It was from there that Mike Berner, founder and CEO, graciously launched us into our dream. "It's been a blessing to have you here, but it is clear that it is time to go to do what you were made to do." Prophetically, Mike declared that what we were to do was more than we thought, but that launching a private practice was part of it. So, off we went...

"If you build it, they will come" was a frequent exhortation from friends, colleagues and former clients. "Don't worry about having enough business. You've been gifted to do this. You'll be fine." Still, rookie anxieties flooded my mind. "Do I have what it takes? "Will people really want to receive counseling from me and be willing to compensate me for it?"

After making the decision to establish a private practice, leasing an office and telling a few people, the question was, "What do we call it?" Boy, was that ever a prayerful challenge.

Fortuitously (and providentially), Jill and I were reading "Changes That Heal" by Henry Cloud, at the time. One of the first chapters of the book extensively discusses the Grace/Truth continuum based on John 1:14, "The Son of Man came full of grace and truth." Cloud's assertion was that while Jesus was the perfectly balanced embodiment of these two qualities, that the rest of us are apt to live on one side of the continuum more than the other. Diagnosis of our team of two was quick for Jill and me; she was grace and I was truth. Oops!

At the same time we were praying and discussing names for our counseling ministry. "What do you we want people to get from our ministry?" We discussed how dealing with reality of their lives, their choices and the circumstances in which they found themselves due to the choices of others was essential. "We have to deal with reality, even when it isn't pretty." "But, we also must compassionately hold them in kind, gentle, affirming relationship through which they will feel cared about and believed in." We believed that no one was beyond help...no one beyond salvation...no one destined to forever be a victim of their choices or circumstances. So, what do we call it?

Jesus is the most potent figure of history, we reasoned, exactly because He was full of both Grace and Truth. Ultimately we wanted our clients to receive Jesus, to experience Jesus, and in so much as we and our staff could embody grace and truth for our clients they WOULD receive Jesus in person, through our ministry to them. YES, that was it. We wanted to be like Him and embody Him in the way we interacted with them and the quality of input and ministry they received...Grace and Truth.

And now you know how Grace and Truth was born.

Grace - unmerited favor; not earned, and undeserved
Truth - the body of real things, events, facts

At Grace and Truth, "The Grace to try (again), and the truth to be successful."

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Perfect Storms: Why Everyone is Vulnerable to Clinical Depression , and what to do about it

By Jeff Williams, Supervising Professional Clinical Counselor*

Did you see the movie A Perfect Storm? If you did, you know that an otherwise sturdy commercial fishing boat and experienced crew was overcome (capsized and drowned) by a powerful combination of conditions that produced unprecedented weather conditions. It’s a tragic story that leaves the viewer unsettled because it seems that if that experienced crew and sturdy vessel could be overcome, then anyone could.

The same is true in each of our lives. If one could create the perfect combination of disappointments, discouragements and disillusioning experiences for a person’s life they will be hard-pressed to avoid a bout of clinical depression. Place anyone in an emotionally and psychologically overwhelming situation, and they are vulnerable to be overcome; to be capsized and left adrift in a stormy sea fighting to stay afloat.

Clinical Counselors look for three D’s when person says that they have been feeling depressed. These are questions you can ask yourself, your friends, employees, etc.

1. Disappointments – What has happened recently that disappointed you?
2. Discouragements – What has felt discouraging to you recently?
3. Disillusionments - What did you think was going to happen, but didn’t?

Answers to these questions provide clues to what a person has been experiencing and how they have been experiencing it. Now, how have these experiences affected them? Are they having difficulty functioning in their primary life roles? For adults this usually means as an employee at work and for youth it is usually as a student, at school.

What to do when D’s are discovered and functioning is compromised?
Forty percent of Americans will experience an episode of clinical depression at some point during their lifetime. Symptoms range from mild to severe and are usually debilitating to some extent as evidenced by compromised functioning at work, at school and/or at home. Symptoms include the following:

• Loss of interest in normal daily activities
• Feeling sad or down
• Feeling hopeless
• Crying spells for no apparent reason
• Problems sleeping
• Trouble focusing or concentrating
• Difficulty making decisions
• Unintentional weight gain or loss
• Irritability
• Restlessness
• Being easily annoyed
• Feeling fatigued or weak
• Feeling worthless
• Loss of interest in sex
• Thoughts of suicide or suicidal behavior
• Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

Treatment options include talking therapy and medication. Sometimes both are necessary to alleviate symptoms.

If you or a loved one is experiencing the symptoms described above seek a professional’s perspective. It doesn’t mean that you are spiritually weak or sinful. You might just be responding very reasonably to overwhelming conditions.

I’ve chosen to write this first blog on the most common mental and emotional condition experienced by the general population. The bad news is that it is so prevalent. The good news is that good treatments exist and aren’t all that difficult to arrange.

Interested in exploring options or scheduling an appointment? Give us a call or write: 937.717.5591, or write, info@graceandtruthrelationship.com, or visit our website

* Jeffrey J. Williams is licensed as a Supervising Professional Clinical Counselor, E-000398 – SUPV (State of Ohio), license verification, https://license.ohio.gov/Lookup/SearchDetail.asp?ContactIdnt=3606566&DivisionIdnt=97&Type=L