Thursday, May 19, 2011

24 Reasons I Love My Therapy Sessions

Blogger's note: A client recently shared* that their therapy sessions are a highlight of their week.  They were surprised that I was surprised!  Upon reading the list of reasons I was moved and gratified.  Life-giving care that helps our clients to improve relationship with God, themselves and others is the reason we exist. 

Why I love my therapy sessions...
1.  It improves my outlook on life.
2.  I feel better about my faults.
3.  It helps me to see fallacies in my thought processes.
4.  It is a scheduled time in my week where I am committed to working on my mental health.
5.  I am accepted just as I am, no matter what.
6.  There is almost always something to laugh about, or at least enjoy.
7.  It makes me REALLY think about my relationships with God, family and friends.
8.  I can set priorities in my life better after talking them out with someone trained to walk me through my convoluted thinking.
9.  Mutual respect and sharing.
10.  I learn something new each time.
11.  It motivates me to improve myself.
12.  I am encouraged to be my true self and to be true to myself.
13.  It strengthens my faith as I see prayers answered.
14.  I learn a new way of thinking and perceiving myself and those around me.
15.  The things I learn are things that I can take with me and share with others.
16.  It allows me to give encouragement and hope to others.
17.  It refreshes me and strengthens me for another week.
18.  The prayers.
19.  The laughter and the tears; the emotional involvement in my life from the very beginning.
20.  Godly counsel and wisdom.
21.  I don’t just feel loved, I know I am.
22.  It is a place where the impossible is possible.
23.  Healing my mind is just a stepping stone to healing my heart.
24.  The way my relationship with my Father has blossomed as a result of advice, example, and relationship.

*Used by permission
**Do you need assistance achieving similar results?  We would love to have an opportunity to help!
Call 937-717-5591 for an appointment 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

My Journey: From Suicidal Despair to Wholeness and Hope

Check out this true account of a miraculous journey.  What one woman can do, others can do.

Click HERE to read this inspiring story.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

When to Ask for Help

Ask for help when you don't know how to help yourself, or the information and assistance provided by an expert will expedite resolution of your problems.

I was impressed by the wisdom of the young man in my office. "Why did you ask for counseling?" I asked. "Some of the brightest people in history had breakdowns; Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein for instance", he said.  Instantly I realized that this case had a good prognosis.  Wisdom to ask for assistance is often accompanied by humility, a teachable spirit, and motivation to do whatever is necessary to resolve painful problems...and it is a mark of great leaders. 

Leaders, you ask?  Yes, leaders, as in we are each responsible to lead our own lives, and if we influence only one other person, then we are a leader per one popular definition, "Leadership is influence."

So, this young man is serious about living a life of impact, commensurate with his God-given intellect and creativity.  And, he is already evincing a key quality of effective leadership; wisdom regarding when to ask for help.

Great leaders make great decisions by gathering as much information as possible before the decision deadline.  That's why we see a multiplicity of advisers around Presidents, and numerous consultants employed by business executives.  Great leaders turn to experts for information and perspective as an essential part of their process of executive decision-making.

And so it is for you, and me; leaders of our own lives.

When to ask for help?  When you don't know the answer, or when information and perspective provided by an expert could hasten the solution.

"Of course I'll try what you've suggested" the young man said.  "You've got the degrees" he said as he pointed to the wall.  "That's why I'm here; to learn from you how to help myself".  

As a counselor I couldn't ask for a better scenario.

By the way, do you now how many counselor's it takes to change a light bulb?

Just one, but the light bulb has to really want to change....

blessings, Jeff

Jeffrey J. Williams is licensed as a Professional Clinical Counsleor and Supervising Counselor in the State of Ohio, License #E-3098

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Pay to Talk because Talking Pays Off

The New York times posted a series of articles this past week about how the majority of U.S. Psychiatrists (approx. 48,00) have decided that it doesn't pay to talk to patients about their problems.  It's not that they don't believe it doesn't help, but rather that they can get paid more for three 15 minute medication sessions, than one 45 minute therapy session. 

Check out the response from the Chief Executive of the American Psychological Association:

"As “Talk Doesn’t Pay, So Psychiatry Turns Instead to Drug Therapy” (“Doctors Inc.” series, front page, March 6) noted, decades of research have shown that psychotherapy, now eschewed for financial reasons by many practicing psychiatrists, is often as effective as psychotropic drugs — if not more so, as in the treatment for depression. 

There is something inherently wrong with a health care system that allows a practitioner to earn more for three 15-minute prescription-writing sessions than for a 45-minute therapy session that teaches patients lifelong coping skills and has no adverse physical side effects. 

What is of great concern with the current treatment situation, driven in large measure by the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries, is the diminished quality of care provided to patients. While many of the new psychotropic drugs have proved effective, taking a pill is not always the answer to a mental health problem..."(read more of Dr. Anderson's comments here).

This is exactly why I think we are seeing an increase in referrals at Grace and Truth.  More and more people realize two things:

1. Pills don't solve problems, though they can be an essential part of recovery from disabling and painful mental and emotional disorders.

2. Skillful talking about painful and challenging issues, relationships and circumstances that can lead to miraculous resolution is priceless.  As one client said, "Can I afford it? I can't afford not to. It's my life, and I have to get it back on track!"

As Dr. Anderson said above, decades of research have shown that psychotherapy is as effective if not more effective than psychotropic drugs in the treatment of clinical depression (the most common emotional disorder that affects upwards of 40% of Americans at some point in their life).  The point we'd like to make to the potential counseling client is this: Great treatment for mental, emotional and relationship problems is out there.  Don't be deluded by the push for medication solutions.  Sometimes it is indicated and necessary, but it is rarely the sole solution, even if insurance companies have decided that it is the most expedient and cost effective (if only partial and short-term) solution.

Remember Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)? Soma was the drug given to the masses to make them happy, dull their senses, and to solve angst about anything from their personal life circumstances to concerns about the political situation.  We're not far away from that scenario when insurance companies push doctors to push pills. 

Will you need medication as part of your treatment plan for the problems that bring you to Grace and Truth?  Maybe.  But let's talk about it and other potential solutions before you choose.


Jeffrey J. Williams
Professional Clinical Counselor - Supervising Counselor
Ohio License #E-3098


Thursday, February 3, 2011

How Much to Remember: The Balance Between Looking Back and Looking Forward

"Do I really have to talk about that?"  "It's painful to remember those things."  "I'd prefer to focus on the future.  Can I move forward without having to go back?"

Clients often fear that their counselor is going to insist that they talk about unpleasant things from the past. Sadly, this is misunderstood.  Counseling by definition is a process always guided by client choice.  Clients always have the right and freedom to refuse any recommended treatment process or intervention.

But there can be advantage to looking back. Consider this analogy:

You live in a house that has a first floor, second floor and a basement.  Imagine that they sink on the second floor is clogged.  You get a plumbers snake from the tool box that is long enough to run through the pipes to the basement.  How far do you run it down from the sink on the second floor?

Some of you answer "all the way", but some answered, "As far as you need to in order unclog the drain."  That's my answer in counseling.  Look as far back as necessary in order that you can go forward.

Many clients have reasonable resistance to looking back because they've experienced trauma, which is defined as events beyond normal human experience; events such as near death experiences in which they thought that they or someone they love was going to die or be seriously injured, or they were the victim of sadistic abuse by a spouse, parent or stranger (e.g. rape).  The dilemma such clients sometimes have is that intrusive thoughts of the past interfere with the present, but intentionally thinking about those events is extremely painful.  What to do?

The conversation I've had with innumerable clients goes like this, "Why am I remembering all of these things now?"  Two explanations seem to bear out: 1. Triggers to those memories have been happening; similar dynamics or occurences in a new relationship, a season of the year, sounds, sights, smells that bring back a specific memory, person or period of time, and 2. Your subconscious mind has assessed correctly that are in a position to be able to handle remembering.  You are in safe relationships, including our therapeutic relationship, and your mind knows that you can remember and be cared about by me, your spouse, and good friends.  Your mind wants closure on things you've suppressed (conscious pushing away of unpleasant thoughts and feelings), and repressed (subconscious hiding of thoughts and feelings so that they are beyond conscious awareness). 

My consistent recommendation to clients that have intrusive thoughts of trauma in their lives is to take control of the process, "Set specific times, including our sessions, that you will intentionally go there to the extent that you are willing.  Yes, this may be uncomfortable, but what you are doing is sending a message to your subconscious mind that it doesn't need to keep knocking at the door with intrusive thoughts or flashbacks to get your attention; that you are going there of your own volition." 

Clients who take a long-term slow paced approach to thinking about and grieving traumatic past experiences eventually experience freedom from being emotionally terrorized and overwhelmed, AND they move forward in life w/out symptoms that interfere with their adaptive functioning.  They are once again able to concentrate on work, to be emotionally and mentally present in family relationships, and/or focus on and perform on par with their academic abilities.  

How much to remember?  As much as you need to in order to move forward.  But remember, it should go at your pace as you are willing to push yourself to tolerate unpleasant memories and experiences that your mind once protected you from by denial, numbing and repression.  Those defenses are a gift from God as I see them, but aren't band-aids to be left in place forever.  Complete healing and restoration comes when bandages are peeled back, wounds exposed tended and submitted to the Great Physician and Wonderful Counselor for restoration.

May God bless you on your journey,

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

Monday, January 24, 2011

Assessment: Understanding What's Wrong is the First Step to Making it Better

What can you expect if you come to Grace and Truth for Counseling? Assessment is the first endeavor; we need to discover what's wrong, when it went wrong and how bad things are in order to begin the process of helping you to make things better. We also ask what's right, but that's a topic for another blog.

  • What's wrong? 
  • How did you decide to seek counseling?
  • What would you like to get better? 
  • What will we talk about in our last session if you get everything you want from this process? 
  • What results from counseling will help be worth the time, effort and finances you invest in it?
  • If a miracle happens tonight that solves all of your problems, what will be better tomorrow?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your life right now?  Explain your answer.
  • If you answer is a (2, 4, 6, etc.) share what is happening that you are glad about and what isn't happening that you would like to begin happening or happen more?
  • Symptoms are things you experience. and signs are what others see.  What are the most difficult symptoms you are experiencing?  What signs of problems are others concerned about?
  • When did the problem(s) begin? What was happening in your life at that time? 
  • What have you done to try to solve your problems? What has worked? What hasn't? 
  • Who has been most helpful to you? How did they help? 
  • If you could solve only one problem through counseling, what would it be? 
  • The main contributors to the beginning and continuation of mental and emotional difficulties are the body, the mind and relationships. 
    • We refer to this as the bio-psycho-social model
      • Bio is of the body and includes how your body works, physical predisposition to mood disorders, anxiety, addictions, etc. In other words, your family history.  How do others bodies work in your family.  If there is proneness to mental and/or emotional disorders, what shows up in your family tree?
      • Psycho is of the mind; what you think about and how you think about it and how those thoughts affect your emotions.
      • Social is your relationships. What is happening and what has happened in your closest and most influential relationships?  What is happening now? Are your relationships overall a source of stress or a blessing? 
        • Which area seems to be most responsible for the difficulties you are having? 
        • What is happening in each area that could contribute to your difficulties? 
This was pretty quick and pretty simple, but hopefully you will find it helpful to reflect on these questions before you come for your first appointment.  Our experience is that together we will solve the mystery of why problems are problems and how to make them better.

More next time on treatment collaborative treatment planning; how together we can efficiently resolve problems and some of the activities outside of session that are helpful in this process.


Jeff Williams

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Why Leadership Coaching Might Frustrate You (and ulitimately benefit you)

Recently,  a coaching client asked my opinion about some decisions they are facing.  While part of me wanted to give my opinion, I knew I couldn't because I was wearing my Leadership Coaching hat which requires honoring the fact that this gentleman is responsible to steward his own life and that giving advise would cheat him of the opportunity to build his own decision-making muscles.  Thus, I launched into the following reminder about the uniqueness of coaching, and why it might sometimes be frustrating.  The re-orientation I wrote to him is below.

Coaching might frustrate you because I might often answer questions with questions.  The reason for this is the uniqueness of Leadership Coaching which is “The discipline of believing in people that engages where they are motivated to grow, change or to accomplish goals, that keeps them responsible for the process.” 

Not only do I not have a right to tell you what I think you should do, I also don’t know.  Seriously.  I believe more in your ability to hear God than my ability to hear for you.  Plus, a core value in Christian Leadership Coaching is “Own Life Responsibility”.  If I tell you what I think you should do then I usurp your right to steward your life.  Does this make sense? 

The furthest I should ever go as a coach is to share what I have done or would do in a set of circumstances, but that only after you have exhausted your own analysis of options for a decision, and only if you ask for it or give me permission to share. After all, part of the reason you’ve chosen me as a coach is because I do have a background of unique life and professional experiences.  I won’t cheat you of perspective or learning from those experiences, but I won’t lead with it.  Focus on your life, your perspective and your goals and action-strategies will ultimately build you as a better leader of your own life rather than cloning you after me. 

Sometimes business executives (and ministry leaders/executives) become frustrated with the coach approach because they are used to hierarchical command and control from bosses/supervisors, or receiving advice from consultants.  Coaching takes more time because the leader is the one doing the hard work of critical thinking and reflection.  I’ve had more than one coaching client become exasperated and say, “Just tell me what to do!”  If I did it would be akin to taking the wheel out of the hand of a student driver, or taking the hammer away from an apprentice carpenter.  The leader who is learning to lead more effectively (in all domains of their life) needs to be the one to rack their brain for phrasing of goals, to generate action-steps and to trouble-shoot challenges.  It’s like weight-lifting; the athlete doesn’t become stronger if the coach lifts the weight. 

I’ve also heard from more than one leadership team that I’ve trained in coaching that they don’t have time to coach their employees or volunteers because it would do one or both of the following:

  1. Change the culture from hierarchical command and control which could reduce their value as a decision-maker and supervisor.
  2. Take too much time which could hinder the bottom line of the company or ministry in the short-run, (e.g., “It’s quicker and safer to tell people what to do, especially when quotas are at stake.”)
 Both of these are true!  Integration of a coach approach into one's life or organization CHANGES EVERYTHING!  People listen with heart and skill, share more transparently, envision ideal future outcomes, collaborate in problem-solving and much much more.  What could be bad about all of that?  Well, that's a topic for another blog, but let's leave it at this.  Change is challenging.  New ways of thinking and relating might ultimately be good, but making changes comes with a price; namely, time, energy, and grief about a way of being that is no longer.

Now, this isn’t all there is to be said about the uniqueness of coaching, but it’s a fair introduction to what you can expect if you hire a Christian Leadership Coach.  Oh, and by the way.  Give it a fair shot.  A minimum trial of seven sixty minute sessions over a period of three months is a reasonable span of life to sample the unique potency of this approach to building you as a better leader of your life.

God bless, Jeff

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Recipe for Wellness

Clients come for counseling to talk about what's wrong.  It really throws them when I ask, "What's right?  What's going well in your life that you wouldn't want the counseling process to change?"

It's one thing to assess and diagnose problems.  Understanding of what the problems are and how they became problems is a necessary first step in the treatment process.  But things only get better when solutions to the problems are discovered and applied.  It's what I call "A Recipe for Wellness" 

Think about the essential ingredients for your favorite recipe.  Perhaps it's pizza, or lasagna, apple pie or homemade ice cream (am I having some cravings?).  There are very specific ingredients in very specific quantities, combined in order through a process that will render a tasty product...if you follow the recipe.  The counseling process can work in a similar way, though it might take a bit longer than preparing your favorite meal.

Research has demonstrated that there are three basic categories of variables that can cause, sustain and potentially cure mental and emotional disorders: 1. Biological (the physical component), 2. Psychological (what you think about and how you think about things), and 3. Social (relationships).

Biological includes genetic heritage, illness or enduring conditions.  Predisposition to mood disorders, anxiety, addictions are real.  But one's genetics isn't destiny.  Our biological blueprint isn't always what will be seen in reality because other variables are powerful enough to produce different results.

Psychological includes our characteristic way of thinking about ourselves, others and the world in general.  It is shaped by a variety of factors including formative relationships (with parents, siblings and other influential family members), life experiences (losses, traumas and successes).  Cognitive Behavioral treatment approaches target this area by altering what we think about and HOW we think about things.  Such changes result in changes in emotions and perspective.

Social is our relationships.  Are they life-giving or stressful: a source of pain or pleasure; helpful or harmful?  How do the most important people in our lives view us? 

This is a quick over-simplification of the basic categories of life that contribute to overall mental health (or can erode it). Why have I written about this?  Grace and Truth values a collaborative relationship with our clients.  The more you understand about how we think, the more you will be prepared to participate in the process, and the quicker you will get the results that you want.  And whether you get counseling at Grace and Truth or elsewhere, you can begin now to identify the factors that contribute to or detract from your mental and emotional health.

Let me give a quick illustration about how this works in diagnosis and treatment planning:

A 40 year old woman* comes complaining of episodes of tightness in her chest, shortness of breath, perspiration, racing heartbeat.  These began after a particularly stressful season at work where she is responsible to produce a quota of time-sensitive reviews of client applications.  She grew up with parents who didn't have a very happy marriage, and who talked out loud about their unhappiness with each other and their children.  Admittedly, she has never felt very good about herself.  To top it all off, her best friend recently began acting squirrely, like something is wrong between them, but won't tell her what it is.  Her husband might be having an affair, and her once obedient children have hit the teen years and their personalities have changed.  They are not as pleasant as they used to be. And she feels like her relationship with God is strained.

What's wrong?
  • Panic disorder (anxiety symptoms) or heart problems?
  • Negative self-worth and self-image based on how she thinks about herself?
  • Grief and loss in significant relationships? 
Again, this is over-simplification, to make a point.  It is clear that there are plenty of factors in the bio-psycho-social model to produce a painful experience.  After a thorough assessment of all of the contributing variables (ingredients) is completed, it is possible to begin working cooperatively with this client to make adjustments.  A medical physical would be in order to rule out other physical factors producing or mimicking the anxiety symptoms.  If panic disorder, medication might be indicated.  A clear understanding about how she thinks about herself and others (self-talk) would be needed before adjustments could be recommended.  And boundaries and other decisions about how to handle relationships would be part of the therapy.

I'm sure you get this breakdown of factors intuitively.  When things go awry in life most of us "assess" what it wrong and why it is wrong.  I just wanted to give you and model to break down your understanding of the key areas that counselors are looking at in assessment.

We see good outcomes at Grace and Truth when clients fully engage the assessment and treatment process.  We help this along by providing education about variables that contribute to and erode mental and emotional health, and then ask our clients to examine their lives and share with us about the balance of these factors in their life.  The overall goal is to reduce or eliminate the ingredients of pain and displeasure, and to increase the ones that contribute to a sense of physical, emotional and relational well-being.  It's a process of identifying and combining ingredients, just like a recipe.

We hope this helps.  If you or someone you love could use some help to sort this out, please call. We'd love to try to be helpful.


Jeff Williams
Professional Clinical Counselor - Supervising Counselor
State of Ohio, #E-3098
*This is a fictional scenario.  Any resemblance to any person living or dead is entirely coincidental.