Managing Family Relationships Amidst Political and Pandemic Turmoil

In the midst of political and pandemic turmoil, chasms have developed in many families.

How can we manage a divide in our own relationships caused by a difference in political beliefs or approach to handling the pandemic, while maintaining personal mental health?

Focus on what you value in the relationship

What is most important to you about the relationship? If a simple connection over pictures of the kids maintains a relationship with a lot of history, light connections on a surface-level might be the most important. If deep discussion of ideas and reflective listening are at the core of the relationship, truly hearing and engaging may be the top priority. Keeping in mind what matters most can guide your decisions.

What you value may change. If you discover your loved one has vastly different beliefs or voted in a way that devalues your personhood, your view of the person – and what you value most about the relationship – may change.

Match your actions to your values

Once you know what you value, it’s easier to match your actions to the values. This can also lead to less guilt down the line, since guilt can occur when your actions and values don’t line up. Have in mind what you hope to get out of the conversation before it happens, to make sure your actions and values are in parallel. Do you want to voice your opinion? Do you hope for meaningful discussion? Or are you hoping to not rock the boat and simply maintain a pleasant connection?

What are you willing to risk?

Recognize your own internal conflict

You may have more than one emotion towards a person; that’s okay. You also may have more than one internal part that is active when considering politics and loved ones. You may have an informed political voice that wants to be heard, and there may be parts of yourself that have always been integral to the relationship (such as being a good sister, or a fun uncle). It’s useful to acknowledge all of these parts and emotional responses, though you may not choose to act from them.

Set boundaries where needed

Oh, boundaries. Not all relationships and interactions are healthy, or productive. If you know that a conversation (or a person) is going to cause harm, emotional pain, or abuse, setting a boundary can protect your own mental health. This could be as simple as steering the conversation away from an uncomfortable topic, or more broadly deciding not to interact with a person at all. You can set boundaries through the time spent with a person; the type of media used to communicate with a person; and setting consequences (such as leaving a conversation) when a loved one crosses a boundary you’ve already tried to set.

Connect where you can, if you can

If it is healthy to continue to engage in the relationship, consider what points of connection you would like to focus on. We can’t control other people’s actions, but we can control how we respond to them and what we initiate ourselves. Keeping in mind what you want to focus on in the relationship will help guide you to the connection points that feel safe and healthy.

Acknowledge the other person’s humanity, even when it’s not healthy to connect

Sometimes acknowledging someone’s humanity means hearing the person out; sometimes it means connecting on a deep level. It might also mean considering the person’s viewpoint (such as an unkind response based in fear) even when you decide not to continue engaging in a conversation or with a particular person.

The trend in our country recently has been towards hate. When trying to stay true to your own values (while also not engaging in hateful behaviors towards those you love), considering your values and your actions may help to sort out the path ahead.

And if sorting through these things on your own gets too murky, stop scrolling social media and start scrolling for your new psychotherapist, or reach out to your therapist if you already have one. They can join you in the mud and help you lift up your boots to figure out a path forward.

Celebrating 5 Years in Business

Five years ago today, I opened the doors to Perspectives for the first time. My office was a little smaller, and my schedule a little more open. I had spent months preparing the office to open and years preparing my clinical skills before taking the step to become a small business owner.

Here we are at June 1st, 2020. I’m currently working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and my heart goes out to all those who are struggling in these times due to the virus and due to the burden of systemic racism in our country. These are tough times. I miss being in the physical office, but am so grateful to be able to connect with my clients via telehealth. And I look forward to sharing space in the office at 46 Prince Street again someday soon.

As I think back to my opening day and all that has happened since, I’m aware that although I’m a solo practitioner, this work is anything but solo. The work itself is grounded in connection.

I’m grateful for all the individuals who have walked into my office, brave enough to bear the vulnerability of therapy and to trust me to sit alongside them. I’m grateful for my colleagues who work alongside me, inspiring me with the good work they do and elevating us all. We are a community of helpers. I’m grateful for my supervisors and mentors, and my business coach, who give me something to aspire to while simultaneously cultivating the capacity for success. And I’m grateful for my dear friends and family who share my heart and make it possible for me to do the work.

There are a lot of things that go into maintaining a business. Along with the therapy itself, I am continuously looking forward to see what needs I can meet in our community, and reflecting back on what has worked so far.

Five years into business, Perspectives Mental Health Counseling, PLLC, is just getting started.

COVID-19 and Telehealth

Dearest clients,

There have been a lot of changes in our community over the past week due to COVID-19, which can be unsettling. I want you to know first and foremost that I am here for you. Your health and well-being is my top priority at Perspectives Mental Health Counseling. With the increasing area closures, I encourage you to engage in safe practices for yourself and your community such as social distancing. I also encourage you to maintain healthy coping strategies as you are able, to care for your mental health. We can discuss these in more depth during your session, especially if your usual strategies are not currently possible.

At this time, I am taking a proactive approach in order to be responsible to the community and to minimize exposure in my office. I will temporarily be moving all appointments to a telehealth platform, beginning Monday, 3/16/20. While I enjoy spending time with each of you in person, research shows that telehealth sessions can be just as effective as in-person appointments. My hope is to continue to provide quality care in a manner that does not contribute to the spread of illness for our community and for those of you with medical issues or decreased immune function.

At the time of your appointment, please go to https://doxy.me/perspectivesroc, where you will meet me in the “waiting room.” Please make sure your computer or tablet microphone and camera are on and that your volume is up. It is also strongly suggested that you set yourself up in a private space if possible. If our call is disconnected for any reason, I will attempt to reach you via phone or email. If we are unable to continue the call, we will reschedule for a time as soon as possible.

Please refer to the Center for Disease Control and World Health Organization for official communications and updates on COVID-19. You can also reach out to me with questions and concerns, either about this decision or about how telehealth sessions will go. I will do my best to get back to you as quickly as I can. I value your thoughts, opinions, and your health. I look forward to continuing our work together, and returning to in-person appointments as soon as it is safe to do so.

Finally, I ask that you confirm that you have received this communication and plan to keep your upcoming telehealth appointment (or if you are unable, or prefer not to keep your appointment at this time). I will also be offering short supportive videos, to be shared on the business Facebook page. If you would like these emailed to you, please let me know when you respond to this letter.

Warmly,

Johanna

When to go to therapy?

How do you know when it’s time to start or return to therapy?

In a first session, I often will ask a client how they knew it was time to come in. Sometimes people are coming in at the encouragement of a friend or family member; sometimes they know they need an outside perspective to explore an issue; sometimes it is clear that anxiety, depression or other symptoms are getting in the way of day-to-day life.

For therapists, it is easy to know when we need to go to therapy. When our own stuff starts coming up for us in the midst of counseling others, or if it’s at all getting in the way of facilitating psychotherapy, we know we need to talk to colleagues or get our own therapy. It’s like how doctors need to be healthy in order to treat their patients; counselors need to be emotionally healthy in order to treat our clients.

For everyone else, it can be harder to answer this question. Generally, I encourage someone to come to counseling when they have issues that are getting in the way of living their life the way they want to. (This could be due to any number of things: a stress response that is out of proportion to the stressor; difficulty sleeping; low mood; overwhelming thoughts; relationship difficulties; adjusting to a traumatic medical diagnosis or event).

When you feel you need a safe person to talk to, to process recent events or explore a part of your identity, it’s a good time to come to therapy. When you need to voice the loss you’ve experienced or the secrets that weigh on you, it’s a good time to come to therapy. When you feel ready to build on the strengths you’ve got and develop additional coping skills to face the challenges or burdens of your life, it’s a good time to come to therapy.

I always tell my clients that therapy is about balancing challenge and support. So, when you feel you need extra support in your life and you are ready to be challenged to grow – that is the time to come to therapy!

Mindfulness Exercise

Mindfulness involves observing and accepting the things around and within us in the present moment, without judgment.  In therapy, Johanna may involve mindfulness skills to build awareness of various issues and to develop coping strategies to reach optimal wellness.   The exercise below is not individualized to your needs as it may be in therapy, but is rather intended as a general exercise that you may find useful.

January’s Mindfulness Exercise:

It’s a new year, so let’s go back to the basics – starting with the breath.

Sit or stand as comfortable as you can, allowing your arms to rest at your side. Take a nice inhale through your nose, and exhale through pursed lips. Notice the feeling of expansion as you breathe in, and release as you exhale. Pay attention to the air as it passes through either your nose or your mouth.

Notice also how the rest of your body shifts with each breath in and out. Do your shoulders go up and down? Does your chest rise, or your belly expand? Bring your awareness inward to notice the details of each breath. Check in also with the muscles that might be holding tension, such as your jaw or shoulders. Do they shift when you inhale, or exhale?

As best you can, focus solely on the minute details of each breath – you have been breathing all day, perhaps without noticing it. Try to take 5 to 10 intentional breaths with this level of awareness.

 

Today’s exercise is intended to increase your emotional awareness, both regarding what you are experiencing emotionally as well as what you do with it. As always, if this feels overwhelming, please call Johanna to set up an appointment.

 

NOTE: This is not intended to replace therapy.  Please contact Johanna at (585)406-3012 if you are interested in engaging in counseling for optimal wellness.

The Helper’s Humanity

Together with Amy Andrews, MFA, LMHC, Johanna will be running a series of workshops on the humanity of the helper. Each workshop will use a different aspect of creative writing to explore your sense of humanity as a helping professional. Johanna and Amy will lead various exercises to deepen your curiosity and validate your vulnerability as a human and as a helper. Each exercise will involve personal time for writing as well as group discussion for processing.

The goals of the workshop are to provide creative writing tools for self-care and personal exploration, and to validate all the aspects of your humanity!

The first workshop is coming up in a few weeks on September 22nd. Each workshop will run from 8am-12pm, and coffee and light snacks will be provided. Spots are limited, so sign up soon!

Workshops are open to all, but are geared towards those individuals currently working in the helping professions (medical, mental health, religion and spirituality, teaching, etc).

Sign up for one retreat or for all four: $75 per retreat or $250 for all four.

To sign up, email Johanna at jbondperspectives@gmail.com or Amy at andrews.counseling@gmail.com. Please feel free to reach out with any questions you may have, as well.

Johanna and Amy are incredibly excited to collaborate on this project and can’t wait for the first workshop, titled “Developing identity through character.”

 

Well-adjusted and in therapy

Not long ago, a friend of mine (not a therapist) mentioned her thoughts on therapy. When I mentioned that some of my own friends are in therapy, she said, “Wow, they must be really well-adjusted.”

I love that statement. Not “there’s something wrong with them” or “what do they need to fix.” The underlying sentiment was that these people are well-adjusted because they know when they need help and they seek it out.

The language we use is powerful. When I tell someone I’m a therapist and they say with a laugh, “oh, my friend here might need to see you!”, they are implying that a) they would not need to see a therapist themselves and b) there must be something wrong with the other person that they would need a therapist. My response is often, “I think we all need a little therapy sometimes.”

People often think the job of a therapist is to label you as “crazy” or “not crazy.” Let me tell you, that is not my job. My job is to support you and to challenge you.

When my friend made that statement, I liked that she assumed going to therapy was a positive thing. Not a sign of weakness or trouble, but something truly positive that people can do for themselves.

There are often negative life events or situations that lead to individuals coming to therapy, but having the strength to be vulnerable in seeking out and accepting help is a powerful and positive action.

Hello, Prince Street!

As of this Saturday, 8/18/18, Perspectives has a fresh new location at 46 Prince Street. Right around the corner from the Memorial Art Gallery, this office has great neighbors, more space, a beautiful view, plenty of parking, and the same great quality therapy.

Please call Johanna with any questions you may have about the new space! (585)406-3012.