Ying or yang? Finding balance through your inner dialogue.

Picture Courtesy myepiclove.files.wordpress.com

I found a poem about balance that I wrote many years ago.  It is a great lead into the topic of finding balance and appreciation in all aspects of life.

sometimes the sun shines on my life, it makes my whole world glow. 
i love to feel the warmth on my skin, on my soul.
other days the rain pours on my heart and overflows into areas that are saturated.
every part of life needs this balance.
without sunshine, my flowers will not grow.
without rain, my garden would dry out and die.
i am grateful for both the good and the bad. 
those opposite forces bring balance, contentment, appreciation.
~Melissa Cooper

 It may be hard sometimes to find anything positive when unfortunate events occur, but this way of thinking Continue reading

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Having a baby – you want me to do what?

A friend recently asked me to write about expectations of a man and a woman when having a baby. Well, we talked about expectations a bit in my recent blog, so let’s reframe that to, understanding the relationship transition with a newborn. When two people decide to have or are blessed with the joy of children, there is a 9 month delay for good reason. Even with adoptions, the process takes time. Being a parent is an awesome responsibility and
Continue reading

Externalizing the Problem

This is a great activity I learned from one of my amazing professors at University of South Florida, Dr. Ryan Henry.  You can use it with a client or even with yourselves to better understand Continue reading

Creating a Vision for your Future

One of my favorite exercises in the substance abuse IOP group therapy sessions was Life Mapping. My supervisor used to remind our clients that the work we were doing was great work for all people, including folks with addictions. It was just plain old, good therapy! This exercise helps clients create a clear picture for what they want in their lives. It grew out of some work one of my previous supervisors had done with a Covey leadership development class.

So, how does it work? First, you identify your core values. Examples may include family, career, spirituality, integrity, health, education and sobriety. Then you identify how your current behaviors go against those values. How are the choices and decisions I make dishonoring my core values? For example, if family is your value, perhaps your current behavior is isolating you from your family or causing arguments. Or for career, perhaps your lack of follow through or completion of deadlines is inhibiting your career growth.  Here is a worksheet to get you started:  VALUES WORKSHEET

Next, you identify what outcomes you would like to see for each value. What do you want in your life? For family, perhaps it is a closer relationship with loved ones, for spirituality maybe it means a closer relationship with God, and for health perhaps your outcome would be feeling well, reducing risk factors or unhealthy behaviors.

Next, you identify the tasks associated with each outcome. These would be the specific behaviors or actions that are critical to accomplishing your outcomes and staying true to your core values. Examples of tasks for health may be: eat 5 small meals a day, count my calories, exercise 3 days per week for 30 minutes, practice meditation 5 minutes each day. For family, some examples might include: eat dinner together every night at 6pm, spend time as a family outside the home 2 times per month for at least 2 hours doing an activity in which we are engaged with each other (not going to a movie), implement a date night on Fridays with my spouse. For career, tasks may include: get to work 5 minutes early each day, ask for additional training, meet with my supervisor to develop a development plan.  I created this worksheet:  LIFE MAPPING WORKSHEET to assist you in Creating your Vision.

The next phase is consolidating your Life Map into a Vision Statement. This one can take some time, and I recommend doing a talk-through-walk-through first. Pretend I am an old friend and have not seen you for a year, and I see you at the supermarket and say, “Hey there! I haven’t seen you in such a long time. How are you? Tell me what’s new in your life?” Using the information you gathered about what outcomes you want for your life from your Life Map, speak as though you are currently living the life you have envisioned in your diagram. Use the tasks and outcomes to describe the changes that have occurred in your life. An example may be something like this:

Gosh, Missy, so much has happened! Life is great! I feel calm and peaceful, my family relationships are loving and connected and we spend time together having fun and learning. My body is strong and ready for each new day that comes. My career has moved to a new level where I feel proud and motivated each day. My relationship with God grows each day through prayer and meditation.

As I blogged about before, creating clarity is the beginning of the process of change. Iyanla Vanzant said in a speech she gave on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, “Your eyes adjust to the amount of deficiency present.” Think about that.

Read it again….Your eyes….adjust….to the amount of deficiency present.

So you get used to deciphering life through fuzzy eyes, you adapt and compensate, and inevitably miss things. If our vision for our lives is unclear, or we cannot even see an outcome that we would like or need, than we begin to believe that the possibility of our hopes and dreams are unachievable. The deficiency may be the story we tell ourselves, the doubts we allow others to speak into us, or the insecurities that stifle us. Sometimes we let others talk us into or out of what we truly want and sometimes we do not need any help setting ourselves back. We may even begin to believe that the dreams we have are unrealistic. How will you nurture and foster your dreams to create a vision for your future?

“The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can’t are both right. Which one are you?” ~ Henry Ford

Fear…a dirty four letter word!

A few blogs ago we talked a bit about finding love that lasts and how that dirty four letter word – fear – impacts love, decisions, motivation and life in general, so I thought I would share a recent fear of my own. Continue reading

Multicultural Counseling

Becoming a multiculturally competent counselor requires research, understanding the basics about the different populations you serve,  diligence, and the ability to know your limits.  Meet your clients where they are and understand that counseling a multicultural population is not a one size fits all strategy.  It is about being aware of your own biases and prejudices and doing the work to overcome them so that you can be an effective professional.  As much as we want to help everyone, we cannot possibly be a specialist in everything.  When we meet with clients from different cultures, we must consider other aspects of their diversity as an individual that include more than what you see; such as disability, age, sexual orientation and gender, spirituality and mental illness.  The term diversity has seemed over the ages to be viewed as a black or white issue, but to me understanding diversity is about being open to the experience of others that are different from you, and seeing and appreciating them for who they are.  When we are able to meet a client in a place that shows no judgment, that offers unconditional positive regard, genuineness and respect, the opportunity to help them make progress can be limitless. Continue reading

Counseling Theories

What did I learned in my last Counseling class before my field experience?  I thought I knew something about Counseling Theorists, but then Dr. D had this way of showing you the theories in such a way that they really stick.

The class structure was a great format to dissect and dig into theories.  The process of presentation followed by professor overview, then movement into a live role play, and finally into an activity created an environment of learning that leaves room for participation, learning and feedback.  I got the most from the role plays, as these helped me see how different theories can impact individuals and problems.  These experiences have helped me choose the theories that I believe in and trust will work for my style and my view of human nature and development.  I have learned that theory is the second most important part of working with clients. Continue reading