My coworkers and I were recently stressed out about the relocation and reconfiguration of our (now much smaller/less cozy) clinic. Would our teen clients still utilize us for services? A teen came in shortly after we got settled and simply said "it's okay guys, we can work with this." Sometimes we think teens need a lot more (stuff) than they do. It doesn't matter where you are, as long as all of the important people are still with you.
Gratitude- the quality of being thankful. Much has been written on gratitude over the years. If you google "gratitude" a ton of articles will come up citing how studies have shown that, in order to increase happiness, one can intentionally cultivate gratitude. Many people keep gratitude journals for exactly this reason. I love the concept of this, but it never quite worked for me. By the end of the day, when I would try to write down three things I was thankful for, it would almost always be, family, friends, health etc... the very obvious ones that always come to my mind first. It was harder for me to remember the millions of little things that I had to feel thankful for throughout the day. Truthfully, I've always felt that gratitude can be very elusive. Begin speaking, thinking or planning and it can be gone in an instant. Our consumer culture makes it very difficult to notice what we have to be thankful for, without the tendency to immediately move on to more wants, more goals.
It took me years to realize that my experience of gratitude is very visceral. It would feel like my heart was swelling, and I would say, "my heart feels big" and it took a while for me to realize that that feeling was gratitude. Now, when that big heart feeling comes over me, I'll simply think "hold onto this, hold onto this.." and it helps. Rather than keep a gratitude journal, I try to cultivate gratitude by increasing mindfulness and focusing on the present as much as possible. Of course, I fail at this all. the. time. BUT the act of simply trying, helps me slow down enough to notice the simple things I have to be thankful for everyday.
... "The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human " by V.S. Ramachandran. This book has been a fascinating read. Ramachandran uses case studies to illustrate which areas, and which specific neurons, in our brains are responsible for the most basic, and most extraordinary qualities and functions that make human beings unique. He hypothesizes the interactions of neurons that may be responsible for everything from Autism to Schizophrenia as well as qualities like empathy and creativity.
I've been thinking about this book a lot lately, and you know when you learn about something and all of a sudden you hear about it everywhere? That is happening for me bug time with "mirror neurons." I first read about "mirror neurons" in this book. My take away was that they are the neurons of empathy. These little babies fire off in your brain even if you are watching someone experience something, and not experiencing it yourself. For instance, if someone smashes their thumb with a hammer, the same neurons that fire off in their brain will fire off, to a degree, in yours. I love this concept. It makes me feel like we are all truly connected. After reading about this, I have continued to hear about mirror neurons seemingly everywhere. There is a whole episode of Invisibilia (an NPR podcast that I've been loving lately) on the subject. The episode is called "Entanglement" and I highly recommend it and Ramachandran's book.
Back to Basics
"When I go into the garden with a spade and dig a bed, I feel such an exhilaration and health, that I discover that I have been defrauding myself all this time in letting others do for me what I should have done with my own hands." - Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Sometimes the simplest things bring the most joy. Getting ones hands dirty (literally in this case) and not outsourcing all seemingly mundane tasks, can be so rejuvenating and yet we often overlook these moments in search of a more complicated "fulfilling" experience. Today I opted to buy a whole butternut squash, rather than buying the already cubed, prepared version. To peel it, scoop out the insides, and cut it myself was curiously satisfying. I'm going to try to channel this feeling while folding one million loads of laundry later on.
A friend and I were discussing this last night: how it can be so difficult to just bite the bullet, pull the trigger (or what have you) and find a therapist and make an appointment. There are so many barriers, it seems. First, figuring out what your insurance can provide, and which therapists take your insurance. Then, possibly searching through a massive (or not so massive) database of options with little to go on other than a tiny, cropped photo and a brief blurb. Maybe you also have to start looking over your finances, to figure out what you can afford out of pocket. All the while, time is going by and perhaps midway through the search you decide, maybe your problems aren't so bad... maybe it's too much of a hassle and you don't need therapy after all.
My advice in four parts:
1) Referrals from friends, colleagues, or ANYONE who has actually worked with the therapist, are gold. You might want to take note of these referred therapists, even if you aren't in crisis, or ready to commit to the self-care of therapy. Take down the name and save it for a rainy day, or the bright sunny day that you decide to prioritize this part of your overall wellness. You never know when you'll be in a pinch and wish you could call and immediately make an appointment with someone you heard was amazing.
2) It's totally fine and normal to call a couple of different therapists. You can always call, ask about rates, and try to get a feel for the therapist and their style over the phone. Not ready to commit yet? That's fine. You can be honest and say that you have a couple more people to call before you schedule a session. Some people "shop" for a therapist by actually scheduling a session with one or two therapists in order to get the feel of an entire session. This is also normal. Many of us go to a couple of hairdressers or trainers before finding one we really like. The same can be true of therapy. If your first experience wasn't what you were hoping for it may just be that it's not a good match- don't give up!
3) Don't think you can afford it? There are many different options that can make therapy affordable for anyone. For instance, some schools run clinics where therapists in training can see clients at a very reduced rate. Many insurance providers will reimburse you for a certain percentage of what you pay out of pocket - you have to call your carrier to find out their policy. Also, many therapists offer a certain number of "sliding scale" spaces for clients who can't pay the full fee. Don't let finances get in the way of finding a therapist. Be up front about what you are able to pay, and if the therapist you call is out of your range, they will be able to refer you to someone else.
4) Just do it. Many people say that going to therapy is something they want to do for themselves, but they continue to put it off. Sometimes the hardest part is making that initial appointment. Remind yourself of this. Carve out some time, make some phone calls and get in touch with someone. Often if the first therapist you call isn't able to fit you in they can recommend someone who they think will be a good match. Also, asking around can often yield some of the best, most reliable referrals.