Want to Be a Therapist? A Rewarding Career, and We need More

How to become one, perks, and more…

I’m not sure when I decided to be a therapist…I read a book called ‘Dibs’, about a boy who had a one-on-one helper at his school, and that was definitely part of the beginning.

Then I did an internship, once I realized that my psychology degree was teaching me about the brain and not about helping people, which I found fascinating. I had definitely planned to be a psychologist, which I’m not.

Once I finished my master’s degree in 1995, I was ready to work for a while. I wanted to have babies, I was already married, and I was ready to be done with school.

I have been thinking lately that we really need more therapists. The media is encouraging people to go see a therapist, and in Texas, there are certainly a lot more than there were in Indiana.

But still not enough.

I decided to write about it, but first, I thought I’d ask some of my fellow therapists what helped them decide to go into this field.

I sent out some texts to different therapist friends about what has led them to be therapists.

One friend answered me back quickly. She told me that she was working for a place that was understaffed and she was working to balance that with taking care of her kids and her art.

Another friend, who owns her own private practice and provides solely Telehealth, talked about how she had initially planned to be a psychologist and started having children. She’s working on her PhD, but it will be in a different area from psychology.

Another friend I have talked about how she had a very lonely childhood with parents who are less than ideal. She wants to be there for kiddos the way that her therapist was there for her.

I remember another friend talking about the therapy she received as a teen, and how that led her to want to be a therapist. She talked about the positive experience she had, and wanting to provide that to someone else.

Another person I know talked about how she knew of someone with a brain injury who had made some mistakes with his behavior. Her work has led her to want to understand people, particularly those with brain injuries, and to be a person who can provide help to others.

What do you do for a living?

Sometimes I said I supervised people, sometimes I said I did home-based work, other times I just said the name of where I worked.

I learned fairly quickly that telling people that I am a therapist frequently had me listening to a story about someone in that person’s life who had a therapist, or who needed one.

At some point in the last few years, I have realized that it is important to embrace my field and what we do.

When people ask me my profession, I usually state that I am a therapist. I have been asked ‘Physical? Occupational?’

To which I answer ‘mental health’. I am working to say that I am a mental health therapist as a starting point.

You may have heard newscasters, morning show broadcasters, or even your everyday sitcoms start to integrate therapy into their stories and recommendations. We have heard from Michael Phelps, a spokesperson for TalkSpace, talking about the importance of therapy for him. For anyone who watches Ted Lasso, he is seeing a therapist for panic attacks that he is having following a death in his family.

A series on HBO last year with Nicole Kidman, named The Undoing, cast her as a therapist and in one of the early scenes she can be seen providing therapy, and in another one she is hesitantly interacting with someone.

We hear about how important it is to look for a therapist if you need someone to talk with, and ways to go about doing that.

Let’s be a Therapist!

My latest passion has been to work to get more therapists in the field.

There are currently three types of masters level therapists. There are those who have a Masters of Arts in counseling, which is what I have. To go that route, I encourage people to attend a CACREP accredited program.

The CACREP programs meet criteria to ensure that those graduating have been taught a specific number of skills. In Indiana, the accepted test is the NCMHCE, which is a vignette test. The license for masters level therapists in Indiana is LMHC.

In Texas, the accepted test is the NCC, which is a memorization test. The licensure in Texas for those who have passed the NCC test is LPC. In February, 2019, Texas began accepting the NCMHCE test and transitioning licenses from other states.

A second type of masters level degree is a Marriage and Family Therapist. The licensure for that is LMFT. Another route to go is to be a Clinical Social Worker.

All three types of degree have third party reimbursement, meaning that insurance will pay for sessions provided by a person with a license.

Benefits

There are many benefits to being a therapist. The work is fascinating, and there’s no question that you are working to make a difference in people’s lives.

Personal and professional boundaries are important, and I would encourage anyone going into the field to work on these. There is variety in the work, and we are getting more respect as a field by teh day. The stigma of therapy is getting less and less, and I would imagine that the reimbursement rates of insurance companies will follow suit at some point.

Feel free to email me at tparke@terriswritings.com if you are thinking about getting into the field.

It is a 2 year master’s degree, and people of all ages can go to school and get their degree.

Come join us…all the cool kids are doing it 🙂

Covid Recovery: COVID19; Varients, Trauma Effects, and Recovery

Late summer, 2021

I’ve been working on this post for a while.

First a couple of month ago, when vaccines first became available.

Then, variants began to appear by and I’ve started and stopped a few times with edits

This pandemic is frustrating.

So, today, I decide to push through and write again, as I work to track this pandemic and some effects I notice.

In good frustration fashion, I started and stopped this computer 3-4 times, and the blog is continuing to want to open as if I am viewing it instead of working on it.

Now, as I begin to write, I realize the wordpress.com app has an update so I did that and waited.

(that was a very short time, so I’m able to continue to write)

I participate in trauma recovery daily. I work in trauma, as a mental health therapist who listens to stories about trauma.

I am trained and informed to be a trainer in Trauma Informed Care (TIC); and am trained and practice Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral therapy, (TF-CBT).

Recently, I completed Lane Peterson’s course and exam for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) through PESI.

and

I am also living in, through, and working together with those who are trauma affected by the pandemic we are currently experiencing. The pandemic is fairly traumatic, so I’m using the word frequently.

As the pandemic began in March of 2019, the effects were quite unclear to me.

My grandmother lived through the Flu (frequently referred to as the Spanish Flu) in 1919 and talked to me about it, a little bit, when I was a kid and I would ask her about it.

‘Grandma??’ I would say, with a question in my voice to show I wanted her to answer and was pretty curious…

…..’yessss……’, she would say, again, with pleasure in her voice because she talked like that.

‘How come you were born in 1910, but graduated in 1929, but you didn’t repeat a year in school?’

That last quesiton was because those of us born in the first year of the decade (ends in ‘0’) tend to remember our birth year and others’; and, like I said, I was pretty darn curious.

She would then answer me with a little bit of laughter in her voice, a little bit of frustration, and would then again be a little bit misleading; her experience with the pandemic in 1919 was not really my busines, nor did I need to know the answer, but eventually, she told me.

‘I was ill one year, or actually; I was ill later in the year. The schools closed for the first half of the year, and then I got sick.’

So she missed a year of school, which was true; did not repeat a grade, which was also true. And I, the granddaughter of Eva and a child with lots of curiosity and questions, had my answer.

So, I moved on to different questions, different thoughts, and different experiences as I grew up to be just right about 50 years old.

2020 is also a decade year, or ends in zero. And I, as a 50 year old rising, was busy getting ready for things like creating income as a mental health therapist/writer; my children graduating from college; and preparing to make income during the time that was just prior to COVID at the group practice I am contracted with, Blank Slate Therapy. (March 2020)

Emerging and Gathering in Crowds/Groups of People

So, as we begin to get together into bigger groups, the COVID 19 virus is mutating into a more able to travel form. For those who have chosen to be vaccinated, the effects appear to be less deadly. There also tend to be some health conditions which makes the COVID experience quite a bit longer lasting, which has been termed ‘long haul COVID.

Many hospitals are filling with people who have a diagnosis of COVID, many of whom are not vaccinated, from research I am informally conducting through health providers I know.

I’m fairly certain that the cold virus has been mutating and changing like this ever since people began to work to create a vaccination to it.

I see larger crowds, as a resident in Texas, a little more often than people in some other states do.

My son who lives in Wisconsin has had a very different COVID experience than my husband or me, since Wisconsin’s mandates related to the virus have been quite different than ones we experience in Texas.

My son who lives and goes to school in Indianapolis has had a different experience as well, as on-line courses were the norm for some of his classes last year, and professors and students in his law school continue to adjust and change as they work to provide structure/course and a safe learning environment as safely as they can while learning.

Indianapolis is different as well, and the local surrounding counties and farm communities have their own cultures around how wearing masks, being vaccinated, and responding to the pandemic tends to be perceived and acted on.

When I see a crowd of people on television, I al not as surprised as other people may be, who live in an area of fewer people or different. Norms and mandates.

I haven’t been watching much television for several months due to how often the warning voices of the newscasters get my attention. I prefer an upbeat tone, with optimism in it.

Some National newscasters, or perhaps those who guide and write for them, have determined that if you use a very scary, deadly voice people will listen. I do listen, but the fear that the voice induces in me is not pleasurable

I’m noticing that working to adjust and synching back and forth from COVID is as difficult for some people as synching into it was for others.

I would guess that many of the same people struggle with synching back and forth, which is a sensitivity, and also affected by the pandemic, routine shifts, and change.

Highly Sensitive People, (HSP) and Highly Sensitive Children, coined by Elaine Aron, are more sensitive than others and tend to be more affected by routine changes, as well as smells, fabrics, medications and anything else that can be classified as a sensitivity.

Reading Elaine Aron’s books about ‘Highly Sensitive People‘ and her book about ‘Highly Sensitive Children‘ helps with understanding how sensitivities can affect parenting and ourselves.

An Example

I have gmail accounts for different purposes; and this is a complication that can be frustrating to me.

That’s a frustration that I’ve been having at times, but not quite as often as I was, during the quarantining and trauma we’re experiencing during and through this pandemic.

If I log out of my gmail that is logged into one account, I have to take some steps to show gmail that ‘I’m really me’. This causes me to experience an amount of frustration.

The computer that I’m using is particularly impacting my level of frustration, regarding Google Suites and how it affects my MacBook Pro.

The computer example is that g-suites tends to take over and decide that the email owned by me, my place of work, or the place I work on a non-profit board, is my ‘primary email’. Every time that I fairly consistently use each.

What Can You Do

We are all living through this pandemic and have had some changes in our experiences in some ways.

As we work to stay healthy, emerge to experience those all important social connections, and continue to work, parent, and exist, there are some important things to remember.

Remember that we do not all have the same values, upbringings, or set of beliefs about health; whether that be mental, physical, or how we act during and post-pandemic.

It’s important to show respect to each other, and to recognize that each of us needs a level of respect as well.

If you ask an introvert who does not enjoy seeing people in person or interacting with others all that much what they have thought of the pandemic, you may get a very different answer than from someone who is quite social and enjoys moving around and changing their scenery.

As always, we remember the value of children and their own experiences which have been affected by the pandemic; what kind of changes that have been and are still being made to their daily lives and patterns; and their own tendencies to want to be around people or to leave their homes for activities.

I hope you, your family, and your loved ones work to recover from the changes we are continuing to experience, and I hope that you stay as healthy as you are able.

Mental Health: Everyone Makes Mistakes, Anxiety and ADHD

Remember the song from Sesame Street? (you may want to ask a parent if you are under 40)

“Everyone makes mistakes oh yes, they do…..

Your sister and your brother and your dad and mother too…

big people

small people

matter of fact, ALL People…”

well, you get the idea.

We all have a tendency to make mistakes. What we don’t all have the tendency to do, is to be aware of how to be tolerant of others when they make mistakes. Even more importantly, we have to learn to be tolerant of ourselves when WE make mistakes.

Maybe the song should have gone something like this:

“Please remember this when you type on your social media page

Or yell at your spouse

or your child

or….yourself”

I write a lot about leadership and how important it is to foster a trusting relationship. I write about encouraging questions and an environment of learning.

What I haven’t written as much about is how to be OK with our own errors, and to work through those anxious feelings when mistakes happen. For adults with ADHD tendencies, or diagnosed ADHD, those learned behaviors of feeling anxious about behaviors and actions can result in a whole lot of anxiety.

Ever think back on a social event and think ‘why did I say that?? I probably shouldn’t have. I wish I could go back in time and not say it’.

This rumination, or thinking about the same thing over and over again, is a huge part of attention differences. Anxiety co-occurs with ADHD with a really high frequency, and can have a real negative affect on social relationships, sleep, and our own self-talk and self-care.

I’m really fascinated by the ADHD brain.

The ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) brain is different from brains which may be more neurotypical.

ADHD isn’t really about not being able to pay attention.

It is a different wiring of the brain, which can be either over or under-stimulated.

Let’s take an example of someone who has been diagnosed with ADHD.

That person may be able to focus intently on a specific task at times (referred to as hyperfocusing), and struggle to give attention to something they need to focus on at others.

As a parent to a child with those behaviors, it may seem that the child focuses on what they like, or what they want to, but not on what they need to focus on, such as completing chores or schoolwork.

The parent may then experience frustration and express that to their child in a negative way, perhaps by using a loud voice.

The child may then become anxious and worried about forgetting tasks, which creates a cycle of lower success.

Here are a few things that can help a child who has an ADHD brain to have more success:

Provide structure. Have a routine of tasks that need to be completed. The child then has more predictability and may know ‘OK, after dinner I do my homework. After homework I take my bath and get ready for bed’

Another idea is to break tasks into smaller chunks instead of listing everything out at once. A child who hears ‘Take your shoes upstairs, then put these clean clothes away, then I need you to come back down to finish your homework’ may take their clothes upstairs, notice they left out their game from earlier, and begin playing it.

The caregiver may then become upset with the child for not listening, and the child may become more and more anxious as the parent gives them a list of tasks because of their fear of forgetting.

The ADHD brain fires differently, and as with all things, we are still learning about how this works.

I encourage you, as an adult reading this article who may have a brain with ADHD or attention differences, to continue to educate yourself about how your brain may work differently than someone who does not have attention differences.

I encourage you, as a parent who may be reading this who experiences frustration, to give your child structure and provide small chunks of instructions instead of lists of them. To say ‘I need you to go upstairs and do 2 things. Take your shoes up and put your clothes away.’

You have then told the child how many things to do (2), and what those two things are. The child has a better chance of remembering to complete them because they may have focused on the number of things to do, or they may have focused what their tasks are. Having listed both the number of items and the tasks help to increase their chances of completing the requested tasks.

I then encourage you to monitor your child for success. Encourage them to recognize that they did complete a task, and to know you are both seeking and expecting them to have success, and that you are seeking less frustration from both of you.

As you and they continue to make mistakes, as you and they both will, remember the song I referenced at the beginning of this article. In this time of COVID, we’re learning a little more about our own tendencies and our children’s as we spend more time interacting and learning new patterns and habits.

Everyone makes mistakes oh yes they do…..

47 Days: Changing Habits, Creating New Ones, and Social Connections. How the Protective Factor of Social Connections is Being Challenged During COVID

May, 2020

There’s a movie called ‘47 Days’ coming out.

It is a movie scheduled to come out in 2020 about the 47 days it takes to get a correct diagnosis for a woman who has an illness.

There’s another show, that was a television series, called ’24’.

All of the events of each season of the series occurred, in real time, in 24 hours. Jack Bauer was a main character, for those of you who remember the show.

Some episodes showed what was happening from one person’s perspective, and the perspectives would swap back and forth from one characters to another’s to help demonstrate the story, but the clock kept ticking to demonstrate the passage of time.

This social isolation, and change to our habits as we know them, have been ongoing now since Mid-March, 2020. In fact, when I first wrote about how the pandemic has been affecting our lives, I made several comments about March Madness (The NCAA Basketball Tournament), which was scheduled to happen the very next weekend.

In the last few days, as I continue to connect with some friends and family throughout this time of COVID, I have noticed that people have started mentioning where we are at in the timeline of our changes to our daily patterns and routines.

Like the tv series ‘24’, with the ticking clock showing where we are in the span of the 24 hours each season encompassed,

Or the movie ‘47 Days’, which I have not seen but have heard about, which is titled to reflect an amount of time that a diagnosis can take to occur for a health condition.

A friend of mine, with multiple children age 12 and under, texted me back this week when I asked her a couple of questions.

She responded that for ’47 days’, they have been in their house, with both parents attempting to work productively, care for their 3 children, and cook, clean, and take care of all other tasks.

She answered my question, and was able to provide me the help that I was looking for. In her answer, I could both hear and sense her frustration and fatigue about parenting, working, and staying healthy all while being at home, which has been a major disruption to her routine.

Today, I read on social media a post from my cousin about how things have been going for her since this Social Isolation began. She discussed that she hasn’t been able to see her new grandchild except for once, is missing her family and other grandchildren, and multiple other facts specific to her as well as some things that are universal to all of us.

Her love of her family and the fact she has not been able to be physically close to them was reflected in her post. I was also able to sense that she wrote the post to help others in her same situation know that they are not alone.

This time where we work to not spread our germs to each other, so that we can survive and not overwhelm our hospitals so that we may continue to live healthily, wreaks havoc on our Social Connections.

Social connections are the connections we have in our lives which help us get through times of stress, times without stress, and times where we want to enjoy ourselves.

They are the connections we have to help us know we have support when we need it, to help us laugh at something that we find funny, and to get along with others. Our social connections are the people who pick up our kids from day care when we are running late, listen to our story about the guy who scolded us for our driving, and help us decide when it is time for a new haircut (or that letting it grow is a great idea)

The Strengthening Families Institute has identified that there are 5 Protective Factors which help us to get along in life, and to feel better about things, and to be resilient.

The factors are: Parental Resilience, Concrete Support in Times of Need, Social Connections, Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development, and Social and Emotional Competence of Children. I am a National Trainer for them, so this way of thinking is near and dear to my heart.

So here, I want to talk about how our ‘Pause’ has affected our social connections.

21 days establishes a new habit. This means, that with this social distancing and quarrantine, we have all had the chance to establish one new set of habits, which I’ll call ‘the temporary quarantine’ habits, and then to establish a new set of them, which I’ll call the ‘in for the long haul’ habits.

One thing I am wondering is how are you doing with keeping your habit of having social connections, or establishing them if you did not already them?

Many people are starting to think about what it will look like when they get out and about again. Eventually, I will have shorter hair, with a little bit of lighter roots, and I will be getting used to my sons being out of college and into their next steps.

For some, this time has been one of working a ton of hours due to their work role. People who deliver carry-out food from restaurants, people who are grocery shopping for those who are ordering their groceries, medical professionals, and many, many others have had their lives turned upside down in the way of working their jobs differently, whether that is more hours, less patients, or more serious patients when they get them.

For others, this has been a time of extreme financial hardship. Their jobs in society have been ones that may not have the capacity to pay them while their income stream is down, or they may have had to have completely changed the way that they do their job, which may be better, or it may be worse.

But for all of us, whether we generally are at home and go out as we have to, or if we run errands to get around other people and like to have our lives structured, have had to change how we get our social needs met.

Some people are FaceTiming, Some others are spending many, many hours with their kids, and some are teaching others’ kids while they raise their own.

But for all of us, our patterns have changed and that changes how we feel on a day to day basis.

I’ve written previously about the effects on our lives in dealing with and avoiding this virus a couple of times. I wrote about it when it first seemed like things would change, when things really had closed, and now, 45 days in, or 48, or whatever day into or after the pandemic it is today as you read this article.

For some, who rely on social interaction and structure, this time has been really, really isolating.

For those who love to be at home, this time has been one to reduce the number of interactions with others to a level that they are comfortable with, and a way to set boundaries about how they like to talk with friends and family members, and even which hours they like to work.

For myself, my mobility is less because I fell from a bike. I am a mover by nature, and am doing all I can to get this ankle back up and ‘running’, even though running is something I hardly ever do. I am learning to navigate getting around a little differently, so that changes my patterns and everyday connections, in addition to changing how I provide mental health therapy, which prior to now was about 90% in person and face to face, vs Telehealth through a computer screen.

I’d like to think of this time of change and evolving from a few perspectives.

1. How are you adjusting to the changes in your social connections, and how are you working to feel better than you have been during this time of change and stress?

2. What can you do, as you want to talk to others, or even listen to someone else breathe, or to get away from the people in your home, to get that need met?

3. How about those of you who really like structure and routine? When you think about how you get your own needs met, how can you do that as your routines evolve and change? A routine you may have had before the ‘Pause’, is that you woke up, got ready for your day, took the dog out, got the kids ready for school, then left for work.

You may love that routine, but then had to change it to waking up, working quietly while your kids sleep, taking the dog out when he is ready to get up, and then getting the kids up and ready to do their e-learning for school.

Any change in routine can be hard and unsettling. We use our social connections to talk about how these things can be frustrating, and to bond with those close to us about how we are working to get through times of stress.

As I finish this article, I’d like you to think about who your social connections are.

Is it your spouse? Your brother?…..Maybe a best friend from college?

Is it a work friend you no longer see in person as often, or at all?

If you can’t think of any, then I encourage you to start with finding a social connection.

Whoever it is, and however you are used to getting those social needs met, what can you do to make that a little better, and a little easier for you?

What changes to your routine in the last 40+ days would you like to see stick around? Which ones would you like to change back, or to make adjustments to?

I hope that you find something you like to look at today. I love to look at things growing, and can’t get enough of looking at a cactus I planted in early spring.

I’m also hoping to work on expanding my social connections.

Changes: Tele-everything

It’s really interesting to see how companies are changing their norms and the way they do things to adapt to the safe-at-home model.

I am wondering which of these new norms may stay in place, and which of them will go away as our risk for the Coronavirus diminishes over time.

My guess is some things will change, and some things will remain the same. 🙂

I would hope that companies would be more open to their employees doing some work from home. Instead of going into a home visit where there may be germs, bugs, or dangerous people, maybe some companies who previously only allowed in person visits will now allow for some of the tele-health that has been going on during the last few weeks.

My guess is that the platform Zoom will continue to do well. They seem to have the market on teleconferencing, and have allowed some therapists to use their features for free (and other fields is my guess, I’m only familiar with my field).

I’m really wondering about how physical touches when people greet each other will change.

Will the handshake go away? Will we no longer hug friends we haven’t seen in a while, or hug to say goodbye?

Will we start having a 6 feet distance between each other as our social norms?

Only time will tell. I’m hoping that a lot of people are able to stay healthy, including those at risk, those who feel they can live forever, and those of us in between.

What are some things that are helping you get through these times of change and uncertainty?

Are you knitting? My grandma taught me to knit many years ago, and if this continues I may try to pick it back up again. My Aunt Rula taught me to crochet, which seemed a little easier at the time. I macrame-ed in Girl Scouts.

So many options. I’ve been face-timing my mom (and dad), which has been really nice. It is nice to see the person I’m talking with, so I’ll probably keep that up as long as my mom continues to carry her iPhone 5s 🙂

What are some habits you have picked up? What are some things you are thinking about doing, but haven’t done yet?

I’ve read a couple of articles about kids feeling that this time could be a memory that is positive. They spent time at home, which many don’t get a lot of chances to do these days. I call them ‘program’ kids, because they have every minute of their day programmed.

This is certainly a social experiment, and a time to remember how to stay safe while those in the health care field are working harder than ever.

I hope you enjoy your weekend. It’s pretty warm here in Texas. Hope you get some spring weather where you are.

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