Go to Therapy, Get a Counselor – It’s Healthy

When we find out that a friend or loved one has started to work out, or gone to a physical therapist, our response is usually not a disapproving,  “Oh, you’re one of those people who has to go to the gym… sounds like things are pretty rough for you.” Nor is the response, “You had to get a personal trainer? You couldn’t take care of that on your own?” But, often these are the types of reactions that people get, or at least are deathly afraid of receiving, when they confide in someone that they recently started seeing a counselor.

Now, I realize that people aren’t going to start taking selfies with their counselor, but I do believe that we, as a culture, need to start rethinking the purpose of therapy. Instead of it being an act of last resort to avoid psychological collapse, it would better serve us to think about therapy as healthy activity and counselors as personal trainers who are there to assist and encourage us along the way.

If we saw therapy much more like working out, we would understand that the purpose is to grow stronger and live well.


I am not the most disciplined soul when it comes to physical exertion; especially when running a counseling practice, doing home projects, and attempting to be a decent dad and husband take up so much time. (To be honest, I also know how to scroll through Instagram, read copious amounts of whatever I can get my hands on, listen to podcasts, and I know my way around Netflix too). But, about 3 months ago, this all changed, and I started regularly working out again. I would like to say that I gathered up my will and resolved to make a healthier lifestyle choice and just went out and did it. The truth of the matter is that I started to go to the gym because I couldn’t move my elbow or arm without immense pain and some of my normal movements were restricted. I also didn’t figure out how to heal myself. I went to a physical therapist for help.


What I came to find out was that I had been overcompensating for a long time for a weak back by using my shoulders, arm, and elbow too much when I played sports, swam sometimes, and moved around in every day life. I remember when my physical therapist had me do my first pull down and told me to be aware of what muscles I was using to pull with. I noticed how much the muscles in my shoulder, arm, and elbow were engaged. She then had me try it again, but this time she told me to focus on my back muscles. She put her hand on the muscle I was supposed to use as I pulled down, and it was like a light went off. I was able to pull the weight through in a different way and it seemed to take away the pressure on my shoulders and arm.

Over the last 17 years, hundreds of patients have sat down in their first session, and in so many words asked me to help “fix” them.

But the purpose of good therapy is not to “fix” someone.

The goal of good therapy is an awareness of self.

We are preconditioned to make the same self destructive choices over and over again. I had been using my shoulder, arm, and elbow in such a way to avoid the weakness of my back. So too we as humans participate in a myriad of harmful strategies to protect ourselves from some type of pain. (Or shame, or other unenjoyable emotional/physical state.)

So, in the same way that I needed help to become aware of how I was not using my back, we need help to see how what we’re doing is actually hurting us.

we often need the help of another to become aware of the self-protective ways that we are hurting ourselves and the people around us.  

Awareness of self creates the opportunity for choosing something different. When my physical therapist made me aware of how I was using my shoulder and arm and not my back, I was able to try something new. If you are experiencing pain in the deep recesses of your heart, something might be off and having someone else gently and kindly mirror back to you what might be going on can make all the difference in learning how to do life differently.


This process of becoming aware is often emotionally painful and difficult. There were a number of excruciatingly painful moments with my physical therapist as well, but in the end the relief from the chronic pain was well worth the effort. And, the beauty of therapy is that you do not have to do it all on your own – the counselor is there to be a kind guide along the way.


My hope is that when you and I hear that a loved one is seeing a counselor, that our initial reaction is, “Well, that seems pretty healthy.”

If you’re ready to start your mental health work, please feel free to contact us. We’d love to walk alongside you.

Peace,

-Caleb

Photo by Mitchell Hollander on Unsplash

Do Therapists go to Therapy?

DO therapists go to their own therapy?

Yep, at least, here at Phoenix Counseling Collective we do. In fact, many therapists do, and we aren't the only ones who think it's a good idea.  We want you to know that there's no stigma for us about going to counseling or therapy. We do it ourselves because we see how it can benefit everyone! Here, we share with you some of the lessons we've learned in our own therapy. We've done individual therapy, couples therapy, and even family therapy. We have gained valuable lessons from it and wanted to share our experience with you.


These ideas might sound familiar to you, or perhaps in your own therapy you've worked on something different- that's perfectly okay! Each experience with a therapist is different for every person. 

18 Lessons from a therapist’s own therapy:

Lesson #1- The way I was raised and the environment I grew up in still impacts the way that I live my life today. I still have residual stuff that comes up. Therapy helps me recognize it when it shows up. It helps me accept it. Then it helps me choose how I want it to influence me. These things are going to influence me, it's not a question of "If" but "How." I get to work on the how part in therapy. 


Lesson #2- I've grasped some understanding about my own parts. We do parts work at the Collective, and I've learned that I put them on the shelf sometimes, so I've been getting to know them and their needs as well. 

Lesson #3- We all can use a safe space with no judgment. In my own therapy, I get a safe space to allow all the parts of me to process whatever is there. There's no judgment in therapy for me, which has been a lesson I needed to learn for myself. My therapist doesn't judge me or the parts of me, and it's helped me to accept all the parts of me as well. 

Lesson #4- Things aren’t as black and white as I thought. There isn't always a clear right or wrong decision. Instead, I've learned that every decision has utility. If I choose and don’t like the outcome, it is feedback to learn from for next time


Lesson #5- Much of my personality is grown out of my childhood, family cycles, and act as coping mechanisms for self-preservation. It's okay to give myself some credit where credit is due. My actions make sense in context. 

I’m not broken.

Lesson #6- My wants and needs aren’t “too much.” They are valid. Knowing this gives me permission to look at how to get these needs met by myself and others. 


Lesson #7- I've gotten insight into the cycles of my relationships. I've learned to recognize my own patterns, and the patterns I create with the people in my life. Learning about these gives me the choice to change them. 


Lesson #8- I've practiced more coping skills. No single graduate program can teach you every skill or exercise. It's great to learn mindfulness, coping skills, how to slow down, say no, and improve communication from another clinician's perspective. 


Lesson #9 - I've learned better how my clients feel. My own counseling has given me more compassion and empathy for how my clients might experience sessions. I have to deal with my own anxiety and nervousness as I wait to enter into the counseling room. This gives me understanding on how my clients might experience their own anxiety as they sit in the counseling office. 

Lesson #10- I have determined to trust the therapeutic process. Sometimes I don’t know what exactly I want to talk about and that is okay. Sometimes I have a lot to talk about, but other times I just need a space to process less heavy stuff that is going on in my life. Not every session is meant to be "life transforming."

Lesson #11- I realized that I need to feel a connection with my therapist. I have been in counseling where I didn’t feel like my therapist showed up on time, kept their word, and understood my unique struggle (most of the session was me showing up for them.) It is refreshing then to find another therapist who is competent and confident in their ability to help me and one that I can feel safe and connected with. 

Lesson #12- Change takes time...a long time. And usually that change looks different than anticipated. 


Lesson #13- Growth, freedom, and contentment are possible. 


Lesson #14- My mom always said "slow down and enjoy the journey." Her words never seemed to sink in, but during two different bouts of therapy (with different therapists) I came to better understand my desires & longings that drove me to keep seeking more and more. It was taking a look inside, tuning in to my self, my body, my stories, my own traumas that I was able to bring my unconscious motivations to the conscious where I could make more mindful choices of how to move about in my life.

Ultimately, I learned the process of slowing down and enjoying the journey. 

Lesson #15- "Small" traumas have lasting effects. I have had a privileged, good, nice, happy upbringing, AND loneliness, harm, and trauma were still present. The idea of both/and helped with my ability to hold the ambivalence of the good and heartache of my childhood and adolescents. 

Lesson #16- Living and being present in our bodies is one of the most difficult and fulfilling ways to be. 


Lesson #17- I’m primarily a relational being. Without deep relationships, life loses a lot of meaning and worth.

Lesson #18- Being “good enough” beats trying to run the rat race of being perfect. 


If you have interest in experiencing your own therapy and learning the lessons that are out there for you, please feel free to reach out to us. We'd love to walk alongside you in this journey. 


Take Care,


-The Phoenix Counseling Collective Team

Caleb, Elisa, Andy, Kim, & Molly

Photo by The Roaming Platypus on Unsplash

Time Mapping - Blending Sabbath Practice and Goal Setting

I am a person who enjoys setting goals and making lists. Even better than making lists is checking them off.  I don't know where I picked up the term "Time Mapping," but somewhere along the way I started using this practice.

I call it "Time Mapping" because I create a map of the week that I envision having.

I map out where time goes, and what gets done. My inspiration to start this practice was Whitney English, Founder of Day Designer.

Since I am an avid user of the Day Designer planner, I was curious about their founder. So I did a little research and I stumbled upon this particular blog.  


Ever since I read this blog I decided to make "Time Mapping" a weekly discipline. In this article, the author outlines a practice that is now a big part of my Sabbath routine. I am intentional about resting on Sundays. Sundays are a very unique day of the week. On Sundays, I carve out special time to map out my time. I review my past 6 days, and then I look over the next 6 days. It is an opportunity for me to appraise what was accomplished (or NOT accomplished) over the last week, and helps me consider what I want to accomplish in the coming week.   And maybe "accomplish" is the wrong word. What I really mean is, I’m intentional about what it is I want to spend my time on.


At the beginning of 2019, I realized that I had reached almost every goal that I had set out to accomplish in 2018. Some were specific and some were general. 

But every single goal that I had written down at the beginning of the year, and then deliberately made time for every week- resulted in significant progress.

More than 90% of my goals were achieved.  These goals were important to me. They were ambitious to me. They were relevant to my life. Yours could be totally different. What matters is not the difficulty level for you- it's what you want your life to look like this year.  If you want your life to look and feel more peaceful, then your goal might be just saying "No" to things that don't bring you peace. Maybe you'd like to perfect a handstand - set that goal! Whatever goals you set, you must give it the time it deserves in order to receive the prize. Put that time into every week. Enough of the goal speak, here's how I map out my time every Sunday. 


  1. I write in my planner "Time Mapping and Highlight of the Week" on my Sunday slot. 

  2. I look at my planner over the weekend, and see that on my Sunday. 

  3. On Sunday, I get out my journal, my work calendar, my paper planner, and my erasable pens. I put them all on the table in front of me and I get comfy. 

  4. I begin with looking back at the past week. Did I hit my weekly goals for workouts, journaling/reading, my budget, and my career? I track progress either mentally or in writing. Some things, like journaling for example, I just tally how many days of the week I actually journaled. This gives me a little boost if I hit my goal of journaling 5 days a week, and it also gives me a little nudge if I didn't. 

  5. Then, I check the planner for any things that didn't get done. At this point, I decide if it this thing is worth my time, if so, I'll transfer it to the following week. If I decide that it is not worth my time I'll either let it go, or delegate it. (For example, I absolutely needed to clean my humidifier out. I did not get it done two weeks ago, and I went ahead and transferred it to last week, because it felt important to my health. I decided it was worth my time. It was SO MUCH WORK. But now that I've done it, I know how much time it takes, and if it is worth that time.)

  6. I then review the last week with my gratitude glasses on. What was the highlight of my week? I write that down, and put it into a jar. 

  7. I then begin to write in what I envision the next week to look like, with my color-coded pens. Work hours go in pink. Workouts go in green. Volunteer goes in light blue. Journaling time goes in indigo. Personal plans I write in purple. When I am doing it at my best, I also write in the meal plans for each meal to keep me on track. 

  8. Finally, to ensure that I'll keep it up, I'll write in "Time Mapping and Highlight of the Week" in the Sunday spot for next week. This helps me anticipate anything that might get in the way of this time, and plan accordingly. 


So, that's it! This system is what I credit with helping me achieve the majority of my goals in 2018. These are the things that work for me- you’ll have different priorities and color-coding. Keep in mind with this- we’re still human. I definitely make mistakes or fail to Time Map, and then I pay for it. For example, *True Confession, I failed to put this blog into my Time Map. So, even though I had the idea for this blog a long time ago, it didn't get finished a month ago. Just an example of how time so easily gets lost into anything and everything. This is why I like things to have their place in my planner, which means they have a place in my life. (I should really create a blogging time slot for next week!) 

We’d love to help you reach your goals at the Phoenix Counseling Collective. If you’re interested in learning more or becoming a client, feel free to contact us.

Take good care of your time,

~Molly J

Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash

What Can You Learn From Your Anxiety?

I always ask my clients what their anxiety looks like.

Sometimes they look at me with a look of “aren’t you supposed to be the expert?” But I can’t be the expert on their anxiety. Only they can be that. And so, we begin the process of looking at what their anxiety looks like emotionally, bodily, and cognitively.

Anxiety looks different for each person. Sure, there is the DSM-V diagnostic criteria for General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and those can be helpful categories to look at, but if we stop there we miss the person, the story, and everything else beneath the anxiety.

One of my professors in graduate school talked about anxiety and depression as being different sides of the same coin. I find this to be very true in my own life and in my clients’ lives. When something is “off” in my life sometimes my symptoms manifest in more anxious behaviors or thoughts (irritability, flighty thoughts, sleep disruption), but other times my symptoms look much more depressive (muted mood, tired, quick to anger). Now, if I just stay on the surface and try to figure out if I’m depressed or anxious, it doesn’t do me much good. And, if I just try and appease my symptoms, that may alleviate some discomfort momentarily, but no real change happens. If I can look beyond the symptoms, behaviors, and tendencies, I will usually find much more. My symptoms become a gateway to understanding what is really going on versus just something to manage. Most of us want our symptoms to go away without realizing they actually have so much to offer us.

Have you heard of the dashboard analogy? Picture the dashboard of a car. The lights that routinely or randomly light up are there to indicate to you that something needs to be addressed. Sometimes it is a signal to find a gas station and fill up with gas. Other times it’s the indicator to change your oil. And then sometimes, the really obscure light pops up that we have never seen before. Do we need to drive straight to a mechanic because our car is about to explode? Is our tire pressure off? Does the engine need to be looked at? When this happens, we have a choice. We can choose to investigate and address the problem (i.e. filling up with gas, getting an oil change, pulling out the manual and determining what’s going on), or we can ignore the light. If we ignore the light, the car will ultimately stop working at some point or great damage will be done. Our anxiety symptoms are like the lights on our dashboard; they are there to give us a glimpse into acknowledging that something needs some care. If we choose to ignore, or mute, the symptoms, the problem doesn’t go away. You may have turned off the light, but the car will still run out of gas or oil or worse.

Therapy can be a place to begin to look at those symptoms with curiosity and grace. In participating in the therapeutic process we can learn how to manage symptoms in the short term, but to find lasting benefits we want to learn from what our bodies and brains are telling us.

Lots of therapeutic modalities are used to address anxiety. And there are lots of tools and skills out there to help with decreasing symptoms of anxiety. A tool I find helpful for myself and some of my clients is the Meta Fi app. It was created by therapists to help individuals learn more about what their body and mind are telling them. I often find it difficult to name (in the moment) what is going on (i.e. How I’m feeling, what I need, etc.). This app is really helpful in asking poignant questions to help us focus in on what’s going on. The app offers a lot more (like making connections with those emotions and bodily sensations, tracking patterns, journal options, etc.), but I find just simply taking the 1-2 mins to pause and enter some info in the app is incredibly helpful.

We can’t really start to address our anxiety until we begin to actually understand more about it. I realize that this doesn’t really sound “fun.” Most of us just want to rid ourselves of the symptoms, but I believe you can find much more freedom and choice if you risk stepping into your anxiety and asking it what it has to offer you.

Peace and grace to you and me as we hold our anxiety with care and curiosity,

Elisa