Warm Wishes for the New Year

2019 is just around the corner. To all my clients, colleagues and friends – I wish you warmth, hope, and connection as we enter into a new year!

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To Begin Again

It’s raw and delicate

to begin again

Sometimes I write poetry. It might not be great – in fact, most of it is probably terrible – but I like to play with words. And it’s okay for us to do things imperfectly, even messily (myself included).
Anyway, I share these lines from a recent poem I was working on. I was thinking about how it can feel raw and delicate to begin again. For example, after a medical event, we transition from healing up inside a safe and cozy cocoon to joining back into the real world. It happens in trauma recovery, too, when we move from the initial stages to re-joining the world in a new way. There’s relief, but also there’s reduced stamina. We might feel less strong, or even impatient to skip a few steps on the road to healing.
I think this is also true when we are recovering from a mental health episode of anxiety, depression, or grief. I think it’s true when we make a personal choice – a job, moving, choosing to end or begin a relationship.  I think it’s true when we vote and our country takes a step to begin again, each election cycle.
There is vulnerability in beginning again. Sometimes it is vulnerability to ourselves and our own hopes, sometimes it is vulnerability as we let others in to assist us in our healing.

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.

Awkward and Strong

At a yoga class recently, I was reminded in the midst of a holding a very difficult pose that what we need we carry with us. The instructor went on to discuss how we have the ability to cope with difficult situations. Deep stuff, right?

This doesn’t mean I held the pose. I certainly didn’t look the picture of the strength and grace I aspire to be. I was awkward, and shaky, and exited out of the pose before the teacher told me to do so. I may have even rolled my eyes a bit at the instructor’s words.

But it made me think. Not necessarily to agree with the instructor about what we carry internally, and whether it is enough. No, it made me think about how the things we need to grow come from within us, instead of from the material things around us.

I realized that my physical practice of yoga depended on me. Not the room I was in, not the clothes I was wearing, or even the yoga mat beneath my feet. My awkward, strong engagement in physical movement using my own body… that depended on me.

The instructor was right. I didn’t have the tools to bend and contort into a crazy pose, but I did have the ability to engage my body in the practice and own my movements. I didn’t need anything but myself to do yoga.

I often say in counseling sessions that you are the only one who is in your body and your mind 24/7. (It’s a great thing – and sometimes a very difficult thing!). That self is all you need to challenge yourself to grow.

And in my office, all we really need is you (the person who is in your body and your mind), and me (the person who will sit with you). Counseling depends on the relationship between myself and you, the client.

It is nice to have chairs to sit in, pictures to look at, and a window to let the light in; but the real work comes from the connection in the therapeutic relationship. That’s all we really need. It may be awkward at times, it may be shaky, and it will be strong. The real work comes from the changing perspective you develop for yourself and take out of the office with you.

What we need to grow we carry within us.

In yoga, the things we need come from physical movement. In counseling, it comes from the counseling relationship. In both cases it is the internal parts of self and relationship that lead to growth.

Good-bye snow bank, Hello recycling bin

After over a month, my recycling bin has emerged from the midst of a snow bank. Sometime in February, I’d set the recycling bin by the curb and a snowstorm buried it overnight. Just this week, the snow melted enough for my blue bin to reappear, equally full of snow as recyclables. I left the bin out by the curb. It was finally ready to be emptied.

When it comes time for spring, I think we’re all a bit like that recycling bin. We may have things we’ve been holding onto that have no more use; we may have been buried (or been hiding!) in a snow bank; we may be emerging from a long winter, standing alone on the grass where there used to be snow.

A new season is heading towards us – spring. With change comes stress, and new growth, and opportunity.

What do you need to empty from your recycling bin? What are your hopes for spring? What might you still be holding onto? What do you need help sorting through?

As always, I’m a phone call away if you find you need another perspective as you dive into your own emotional spring cleaning – (585)406-3012.

Q&A with Johanna

You’ve been in private practice for a few years now. What’s changed? What hasn’t?

Well, first off there are now two locations, one in Brighton and one in Webster. Something else that has changed is my own growth as a therapist and deepening interest in areas of specialty, including medical trauma, gender identity exploration, social anxiety, and grief. I also work with more adolescents in my practice than when I first opened.

I’m continuing to also see clients with general anxiety, grief, trauma, and depression, as well as areas of specialty. What has stayed the same is my interest in hearing people’s stories and witnessing positive change in their lives.

What helps to keep your practice sustainable?

Community! While I practice individually and the business itself is just me, I could not do this without community. In my physical office locations, I share community with the other professionals in the space. In the therapist community, I collaborate and learn from other local therapists (and with such varied strengths here in Rochester, there is always something to learn!). And more broadly, collaborating with other disciplines such as spiritual leaders and medical providers is hugely important both for the health of my practice and for the health of my clients.

I would also say continued learning is important. The more I am engaged in learning, the more I can share with my clients the most relevant and recent research on why we do what we do in therapy. There’s always something new to learn.

And finally, focusing on the most important part – the growth and the healing that happens in the office with a client. That’s the best part of the practice, without a doubt.

Second Location!

Johanna is now offering services in both Webster and Brighton. In addition to her Webster office at 721 Ridge Road, she is now offering counseling services at 2561 Lac de Ville Boulevard in Brighton!

Please contact Johanna for further information or to set up an appointment.