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Mental Health and Substance Use

Posted By Eve Rogerson, Monday, June 24, 2019

Seeing the daily challenges associated with managing mental health through our client’s eyes is the center of our work. Sometimes, the therapy room is a person’s first experience without judgement or stigma. Whether that be related to a diagnosis or the way in which the client experiences the world around them, it is our role to provide the individual or family with what they need to feel accepted, valued, and, safe.

One of my favorite quotes depicts the importance of the counselor in a person’s life:

“Always remember that for each patient you see, you may be the only person in their life capable of both hearing and holding their pain. If that isn’t sacred, I don’t know what is.” -Author unknown

The stigma from society that our clients carry with them, is extremely burdensome. Enrooted in decreasing that stigma is total acceptance which starts first with us. As mental health professionals, we have power. The power to change how society views mental health. We have the resources to help support and promote growth within various populations. This starts a chain reaction of total acceptance one interaction at a time.

Let’s take substance use an example:

As common as substance misuse is, clients struggling with addictions often report that they delay seeking therapy because of the stigma around substance use. Generally speaking, we know that substance use stems from many different life experiences for individuals. Perhaps they are using the substance as a coping skill to alleviate or numb the emotional/physical pain they are experiencing from past trauma, current life challenges, or stress related to physical and mental health diagnoses. Additionally substance misuse could run in families where individuals are introduced to it early on in life. Overall, it is important to recognize that substance use is not influenced by one specific determining factor. It is a combination of multiple contextual factors that influence the client’s level of psychosocial well-being related to their sense of self, intrapersonal functioning, and intrapersonal functioning.

Clients often reference substance use as an avalanche to overcome in their mind, versus the actual mountain in front of them due to society’s misunderstanding. They are used to hearing ‘you can’t’ and ‘it is your fault’ which only pushes them further into the dark pit they feel like they are in not having support around them. Ultimately, support from the counselor can provide individuals with a corrective emotional experience by helping them to develop healthy relationship patterns with people in their life. As counselors, we can help them establish support networks. Though we also need to be aware of their relational patterns to better aide them in establishing and maintaining healthy relationships through their journey of recovery. 

Healthy, supportive, and consistent relationships allows the client to become more self-aware and understand the importance of accountability and responsibility. It provides the individual with tools to promote their self-efficacy during this process. Programs such as Alcohol Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and Cocaine Anonymous (CA) to name a few, provide individuals with a supportive, nonjudgmental, and accepting environment to help them identify their challenges through the process of dealing with substance use. These self-help groups can be an essential part of a client’s treatment approach in that it helps them navigate the stigma society projects onto their situations. As well as, empowering individual’s to increase their self-autonomy towards deciding to accept help and seeking out supports in their life. During these times, the therapeutic relationship between the client and the counselor is essential to the well-being of individual’s struggling with substance use. By providing them with a consistent, nonjudgmental, accepting, and secure therapeutic relationship, they can begin to learn how to form those types of relationships outside of counseling. Or identify those existing relationships and feel comfortable reaching out to those already-existing relationships as they continue to work through the various stages of their substance use. 



Tags:  counse  graduate student  LPCANC  mental health  substance use 

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Welcome to the LPCANC Graduate Student Member Blog

Posted By Eve Rogerson, Sunday, April 14, 2019
Updated: Sunday, April 14, 2019

Hello and welcome to the very first LPCANC Graduate Student member blog post. We are delighted to be able to bring to you a monthly post. Over the course of the year, we will explore connections between graduate student interests, needs alongside current national themes, counseling-specific trends, and ways to empower our clients. As a team, we have curated a year’s worth of blog topics ranging from expert interviews, skills for working with specific populations, counselor identity, preparation for internship, and the importance of self-care (just to name a few.)


I am Eve Rogerson, the Graduate Student Representative on the LPCANC Board, and I am very happy to be introducing the blog topic for March/April: Women in Counselor Training. This month, in honor of International Women’s Day, we wanted to highlight the experiences of women training to be counseling professionals across the US and bring some of those lived accounts to you. We asked four women who are counselors-in-training to share their story of pursuing this vocation and how they feel their identity as women, as well as other intersecting identities, have been a part of their journeys in empowering clients and enhancing their own sense of self. Their stories follow below.

 


"I have pretty much always thought that my purpose in life was to help people; I just didn’t always have the how down. I thought about being a librarian, a doctor, and even a lawyer, but none of those really seemed to fit. It wasn’t until I took a Psychology class that I realized I loved the mind and how it worked. Being a counselor became a goal when I learned that African Americans have a higher unmet need with regards to seeking and receiving treatment for mental health issues. It was even more cemented when I learned about the health impacts of the stress that women face every day. For me, my race and womanhood are intrinsically tied to my reasons for wanting to become a counselor. I want to be the bridge for my people seeking help. I want my people to know that there is help out there that can understand where they are coming from. I believe that a nurturing spirit has always been encouraged in me by my family. Counseling is the medium through which I hope to one day use my naturally caring spirit and my love of the mind to help people in this world. As long as I can change one life in a meaningful way and have that change ripple outward, then my life’s work will be complete. It is that thought that keeps me striving and engaged in my master’s program."  

  • Phylicia, GA


"As a minority and a woman living in America, I can’t help but notice clients relate with me at a whole different level. Especially, as a woman who is pregnant, practicing at the Pregnancy Assistant Center, I feel like my intersecting identity as a pregnant female, minority resonates with many of those who walk in these doors. Pregnant clients are able to talk to me about their anxiety, pains and suffering without having to ask questions such as, “Do you know how it feels like being pregnant”, or “Do you know how it feels like having pregnancy anxiety”. Clients come into therapy feeling like they already know me, which is great because rapport building comes quite naturally.

Women these days go through a slew of challenges namely: pay inequality, sexual harassment, self-image, postpartum depression, you name it. Most clients I see are young and have been challenged by life circumstances and deprived of the opportunity to receive education. My role as their counselor is to empower them, and help them be the best version of themselves. I often inform my clients that they are in charge of their lives and only they themselves hold the key to their own destiny.

I often encourage my clients to look inside themselves and find their true voice - their true identity. Often times, I hear all too much about a caregiver who has wronged them and stripped them off their self worth during their most innocent, childhood years, of no fault of their own! My client “pays the price” by baring this “guilt” throughout their entire life. My heart goes out to them and I try my best, as their counselor, to genuinely instill hope and remind them of the resiliency and strength they have, that has brought them to where they are today. I continue to encourage them to “fight the good fight”; and eventually, help them identify, acknowledge and own their true identity as a woman."

  • Stephanie, TX

 

"I was drawn to the field of counseling due to internal and external reasons. I have always been naturally inclined towards helping others through a psychological path. I was born in Bethlehem, Palestine to hard-working parents who made endless sacrifices to give my siblings and me the best life possible. Living under the occupation introduced me to the human struggles that accompany survival from a very young age. Once we arrived in America, I experienced culture shock which then made it difficult for me to connect with others. I felt marginalized due to my struggle assimilate and acculturate which led to a clash in my different identities. My experience as a counselor-in-training has been one filled with exponential growth and self-awareness. My program places substantial emphasis, not only on training through academic education, but also the incorporation of a self-reflective model throughout the curriculum. As a result, I have been challenged with understanding my various intersecting identities and to discover how they may coexist. I identify as a cisgender Muslim woman of color (WOC) who is also a Palestinian-American immigrant. Understanding what it means for me to exist with my identities has helped me connect more effectively and empathically with others, including my clients. I have come to understand intergenerational trauma and how mine has shaped me, which then improved my connection with my family members; especially the women in my family. I understood that I also inherited their resilience and will to survive which then empowered me to express myself in my own unique way. As a consequence, this has helped me construct boundaries, trust, and empathy with my clients. Additionally, I have been able to become a better advocate for my clients through becoming a vocal advocate for myself and my loved ones. Being a woman in counseling has helped me build a healthier relationship with the myself which has resulted in a stronger connection with others, particularly with my clients."

  • Saba, IL


"This profession is a second career for me, and has ultimately rounded out who I am as an individual and as a woman. Having felt like there was something missing in my life as a natural helper which I just assumed was part of being female, still drove me to want  to connect to people and inspire growth everywhere. My motto in life is that if we are doing as much as we can to better the lives of those around us, then we can all thrive together. Putting a little extra effort into my life and my personal success, I can now do more for others so that they can do the same. Not only does this go with what I believe as a professional, but the thread weaves through who I am as an individual as well. Despite moving through my education and training in a wonderfully supportive program, there were challenges around being assertive and advocating for myself and my clients. As a woman, I found that it is appropriate to be a natural helper in a gentle way, but not so much when it meant being direct and asking for what I needed when it came to the other parts of caring for clients. The indirect part of working with clients is the supervision component, learning more about yourself so you can best treat your clients is a valuable and vulnerable experience. These are the things that cannot be taught so much as practiced and fine-tuned. Having a number of other women instructors and clinicians showing their true authentic selves, helped me to see that being assertive is a big part of who I am and that has helped me get to where I am today. I am still learning how to use my assertiveness because it is not for everyone, this is a place for me to continue growing as a professional and as a strong woman."

  • Abby, IL


We hope you enjoyed our first blog and look forward to connecting with you! Thank you to all of our contributors this month. Please feel free to leave comments or email Eve with feedback, suggestions, or just to say hi at gs@lpcanc.org.

We would also like to take this opportunity to remind our graduate student members about LPCANC's upcoming Advocacy Day on Tuesday, June 11. This event is free, and open to everyone who has an interest in the profession - members of LPCANC and non-members, both. You can register for Advocacy Day here. We hope to see you then! 


Tags:  counselor-in-training  graduate student  LPCANC  welcome  women  women in counseling 

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