Revamp: Uncomplicated Considerations for Therapists

Atlas Concepts LLC | Rock Hill SC | Mental Health

Regardless of your experience as a therapist, you should well know there is value in both consistency and flexibility. Like most professions, the field of counseling is ever-changing. Conversely, the acknowledgement of the impact consoling words and encouragement have on humans is well-known; a conservative historical reference dates back to at least ancient Greece. So while digital software, phone apps, advancements in neuroscience, as well as, electro this-and-that keep things fresh, it is difficult for therapists to be confident they are doing all they can to provide any given service. Arguably, there is always a better, more efficient, or more innovative way to provide therapeutic healing. On the other hand, somewhere in the middle of my degree pursuit I concluded a great counselor can perform effective therapy inside a cardboard box. While I still believe this statement (and share it with others often) I am not without understanding the weight of social constructs on myself and my clients. In that light, the following will address some of my thoughts on engaging therapy outside of the box.

Consider the wave of holistic treatment. An effort similar to self-actualization of which achievement lies in understanding of the insolubility. In our plight as helping professionals we push through the marring of our ego to eventually find we can make a difference. We discover in the moment we work with a client we are best served by leveraging the skills, tools, and environment we are allotted in that instance. Moreover, we harness the capabilities and capacities of our clients. Within ethical and legal borders, there is something to be said for simply a method or an approach that works. So while you continually hone your craft, I hope to offer a few uncomplicated considerations that may bolster your effort. At the least the following points may serve as a periodic self-check or perhaps a starting point for your next self as the therapist remodeling.

The Traditional Five Senses

You don’t have to be an ecotherapist to harness the power of the environment; however, many therapists overlook ways to integrate stimulation of all the five senses and create a healthy space.

Ever run across the term biophilia? As I understand, the term is used in reference to human connection to nature. While there is a perception the use of natural products in any environment reduces toxins, these statements may often be reduced to bold claims grounded mainly in marketing. In truth, natural toxins exist as well. The difference boils down to selecting natural non-toxic materials in lieu of manufactured off-gassing materials (Kennedy, Smith, & Wanek, 2015). What is more important are the benefits of being connected to nature such as positive emotional experiences and increases in overall well-being (Lumber, Richardson, & Sheffield, 2017). Items such as wood, silk, wool, and cotton are easily integrated. Living plants add a number of benefits and offer great metaphors related to growth and life. A low maintenance indoor planting of lavender may be a great starting place.

If you have the latitude to change the wall, ceiling or floor colors in the place you provide mental health services, do so with some level of insight on the effects of color on human emotion and cognition. A discussion with an art therapist may be worth your time. Beyond the color of the more permanent aspects of the room, colors can be integrated in several ways including pillows, rugs, therapist clothing, pictures and other decorations, etc. Keep in mind that various shades and tones may hold different meanings.

A bottle of water, healthy snacks, candies and mints are options to intrigue the sense of taste. This effort must be minded carefully as clients may be dealing with shame related to body image, have emotional eating tendencies, or allergies. Being mindful of the issues clients are facing is critical, as there is a difference in supporting a bad habit and giving a client an opportunity to choose a healthy alternative. Keep in mind organic or natural foods have sensory and emotional appeal and can create feelings of tradition, comfort and safety (Franco, Shanahan, & Fuller, 2017).

Diffusing essential oils is becoming increasingly popular in therapy and healthcare settings. The trick here is to know both what you’re buying and the impact. Quality matters as the benefit is not simply fragrance. The effects of essential oils are driven by chemical makeup and concentration (Cardia et al., 2018). A bit of knowledge goes a long way in this area; for instance, some oils which promote stress relief and relaxation also promote sleep. Unless you’re a hypnotherapist this may not be an intended result. I mentioned lavender earlier regarding live plants; lavender is also a popular essential oil. In both cases, there should be caution when using lavender as allergies and skin irritation are both possible (Cardia et al.). By many accounts, the jury is still out on the effects of essential oils as much of the information available is conflicting though the evidence is chiefly anecdotal (Franco, Shanahan, & Fuller, 2017).

I would be remiss in not mentioning lighting. Especially considering the success (however short-lived or debatable) light therapy has evidenced concerning Seasonal Affective Disorder (Moscovici, 2006). In general counseling offices, I don’t suggest anything near the 10,000-lux associated with light therapy, but there is science behind “good lighting.” It’s safe to say the age of fluorescent lighting is nearing its end in most settings. But what of the amount of light? Studies suggest dimly-lit therapy settings result in a more positive experience for clients, increasing disclosure as well as feelings of safety and comfort. While low lighting can cause your eyes to tire/strain, it’s not linked to permanent harm.

We’ve all tried those noise makers outside of our doors at one time or another. In many cases they work well. Most people will believe if they can hear someone else, they themselves can be heard and if this occurs during your session it’s a problem. Aside from keeping the session private and without distraction, there are other ways to mind the auditory sense. Have you ever asked a client if you can play a musical request? Perhaps disrupt the monotony of your voice with a relevant and insightful video. Additionally, a simple internet search can offer relaxing sounds of nature which may also be leveraged in a session. In fact, a great deal of evidence supports human preference of natural sounds such as wind and water over industrial noises and sounds related to traffic (Franco, Shanahan, & Fuller, 2017).

What about a quote of the day? These have been inspiring people for ages, but are easily overlooked by therapists as a tool in practice. Sure if a client mentions a quote or cliché they thought of during their long day at work that helped them push through, you’ll acknowledge it. But what if you put your own quote on a dry erase board or easel each day or week? The avenues this tactic opens are endless. Before you know it, you’ll have clients offer you quotes and those same clients will be validated when their quote ends up on your wall. If there’s no room for an easel, or you don’t want to tie up your only dry erase board, quotes can be printed on small slivers of paper and given to clients.

These “practice boosters” can be truly refreshing to you and your practice. Your clients recognize both your consistency and irregularity in addition to your flexibility and rigidity. Modeling is an age-old technique; however, it doesn’t have to occur in a rehearsed or traditional sense and likely works better when it’s simply a display of who you are. If you aren’t willing to change, don’t expect your clients to be.


References

Cardia, G. F. E., Silva-Filho, S. E., Silva, E. L., Uchida, N. S., Cavalcante, H. A. O., Cassarotti, L. L., … Cuman, R. K. N. (2018). Effect of Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) Essential Oil on Acute Inflammatory Response. Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine (ECAM), 2018, 1–10.

Franco, L. S., Shanahan, D. F., & Fuller, R. A. (2017). A Review of the Benefits of Nature Experiences: More Than Meets the Eye. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(8).

Kennedy, J. F., Smith, M. G., & Wanek, C. (2015). The Art of Natural Building : Design, Construction, Resources (Vol. Second editon, completely revised expanded & updated). Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers.

Lumber, R., Richardson, M., & Sheffield, D. (2017). Beyond knowing nature: Contact, emotion, compassion, meaning, and beauty are pathways to nature connection. Plos One, 12(5), e0177186.

Moscovici, L. (2006). Bright light therapy for seasonal affective disorder in Israel (latitude 32.6 degrees N): a single case placebo-controlled study. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 114(3), 216–218.


Jordache Williams

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the CEO for Atlas Concepts, LLC. Additionally, he is a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate and Certified Life Coach.

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Tie Goes to a Winner

children of the world

My tie was just a tie.  I had worn the same tie to the same event for the past two years, as I gathered my clothes for this year’s event, I made a particular effort to locate a different tie, telling myself that maybe I had one that would look better—I ended up wearing the same ol’ tie. Why not anyway?  The tie was perfect for the occasion, a celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Though the picture above is not of my actual tie, the two look the same.  In short, this is the story of why after nearly twenty years of ownership, I no longer have this tie.  With that in mind, let’s move forward.  The event went on as normal, a great inspiring occasion.  For some reason, this year, the longtime pastor of the church where the event is held, noticed my tie.  It was when the event had come to an end, and as the musical postlude poured from the choir loft.  The pastor, who had been seated on the opposing side of the podium from me, made his way across the stage where he and I eventually exchanged sentiments.  The last words he said to me were, “That’s a great tie.”  I replied to him with, “It takes a special person to recognize a special tie.”

I’m not sure why he noticed my tie this year, I had shaken his hand with the same tie on for the two prior events.  Maybe it was the difference in the lighting on the stage.  You see, the previous years I was an usher for the event, this year I was seated on stage—yes, maybe it was the light.  Nonetheless, at this point, my tie became a great tie.

As the event wrapped up and the rumble of capacity lulled, I found myself waiting for the guest speaker to finish exchanging dialogue with all of those interested.  He took time with each one, smiled, and offered meaningful exchanges.  My work was done—but I lingered. In my mind I believed it prudent to “see him off” and to make sure nothing more could be done for him before he left.  I could tell at this point he had arrived alone.  When he had shaken every hand, taken every picture, and signed every autograph, we walked together, engaged in conversation on the way to his vehicle.  While he situated the items from the event for transport.  I stood close, near the driver’s side mirror, he opened the driver’s door, put some items in, closed it, opened the rear door, placed some items inside and closed it.  As he moved back toward me he lightly tapped my tie with the knuckle of his forefinger and said, “You know we use to have this thing called [tie-take].”  He explained this as a matter of exchanging ties with others as a networking tool.  “We should bring that back,” he said, and as he spoke he looked down and touched his own tie—purple with a pattern of small orange dots.

To this day I don’t know the “we” he was referring to, but I turned my tie over to expose the keeper loop and shared with him the tie was from The Children’s Foundation—a novelty item meant to inspire the calling to “save the children.”  To me the tie represented unity despite difference.  It always put the song Jesus Loves the Little Children of the World in my head.

As I write this now, I am reminded of when my five year old daughter recalled what she had learned at school last week.  She said, “I learned about Martin Luther King, Jr.”  My wife responded inquisitively with, “And what did he do?” “He dreamed,” my daughter responded.  “And what did he dream?”  “He dreamed we were all the same.”

I am not sure why, but in that moment, as my hands reached up to the knot in my tie, I explained to him that I had worn that tie to (now) the last three of these annual events.  I told him I wouldn’t be a part of the event in the future, at least not in the capacity I was that day.  And I said, “You know what…I want you to have this tie.”  “You sure?” he asked.  I responded with “Yeah, I think you can use it.”

It was at this point my tie morphed from a great tie, to something much more special.  Yes, for me the gesture brought closure to my role concerning the event.  But moreover, in that moment, I meant to inspire the person who had just moments before inspired over six hundred others, who over his lifetime and on many occasions performed in front of tens of thousands, and who will likely forever be remembered.  I meant to make real to him that there is no other time, only now.  The words I had just moments before spoken to the pastor came to life.  And with a feeling I cannot explain, we parted ways.

It wasn’t a tie-trade—I didn’t get his tie.  In the instance it didn’t remotely cross my mind.  I wanted him to know he was special in a real way.  As we inhabited that particular space on earth it was as if all around us stood still.  I wanted him to know that despite our differences, we were the same.  To me, my tie became a moment in time.  A piece of history.  From time to time, I wonder what it meant to him.

Originally written January 2017, this article is finally published and dedicated to a true superstar.  To him, I say once more “We will see each other again.”

Jordache Williams

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the CEO for Atlas Concepts, LLC.  Additionally, he is a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate and Certified Life Coach.

Making the Most of your Graduate-level Clinical Internship

Atlas Concepts LLCSo you’ve landed the long awaited internship opportunity.  No more showing up at potential sites with yet another fine linen resume, ink barely dry, hoping that the clinician you seek isn’t behind with their case notes for that particular day nor finds your beard particularly disturbing.  You discovered that diamond in the rough, a chance to begin the final chapter of likely your largest financial investment to date.  What now?

Here are a few points to guide you toward the successful completion of your clinical internship, the culminating experience of your mental health degree.

Establishing a plan.  While you will be told this, probably understand its necessity and are likely doing so as a requirement, you should really take the time to thoughtfully plan.  Ideally your plan for your clinical experience is done through conversation with your supervisor.  Items such as schedule availability for client contact as well as individual and group supervision is a must, but also include how supervision will transpire (e.g. video recording, in-person, verbatim, etc.).  One plausible sticking point may be satisfying the CACREP criteria for “some” experience in leading groups.  Discuss this note specifically with your supervisor.

Do the math.  How many hours do you need per week to complete your program in your desired (or required) timeline?  Don’t forget to plan for academic breaks, vacations and other schedule conflicts.

Consider the caseload of the site.  Ask your supervisor if it is feasible to maintain a steady caseload throughout the year.  Many practices see a decrease in clientele during particular times of year.  Don’t believe the minimum is enough, plan for being sick, fluctuating caseloads, no shows and cancellations.  Contemplate the impact of time requirements for endeavors such as school or home visits and coordinating care.

And remember, while you can likely continue to accumulate hours during breaks within the semester, you will most likely not be able to accumulate hours between semesters.  These weeks add up.  In the end, it’s more advantageous to have too many hours than not enough.  The more hours the more experience you have moving forward.  Not enough hours likely results in another academic semester!

Setting goals.  Goals related to competence not simply having the goal of completing the requisite hours.  Having goals related directly to completing your degree and to becoming a better counselor are necessary to get the most out of this phase of your journey.  For example, if you plan to get licensed, you will have to pass a state exam.  Have a resource such as the Encyclopedia of Counseling handy.  Have access to resources related to your theory of choice and research interventions which may relate to your current caseload.

At this stage, you may benefit from reviewing case notes or assessments and relating themes, symptoms, and processes with the material you have learned and are learning in school.  Put your goals on paper, ask for feedback and if your school doesn’t provide a form, find a way to track your progress.  Through discussion, compare your self-evaluation with your supervisor’s observations.

Calculating hours.  Understand how your hours should be counted.  This should meet your academic requirements and also the educational requirements for the state you wish to eventually seek licensure.  This includes distinguishing what, if any, of your academic class time counts as supervision.  Additionally, understand that your administrative proficiency will likely increase over the course of your clinical training experience.  Items such as post-session notes and case management will take up a great deal of your time early on, this may mean less time for client-contact.  However, be abreast of lulls that may occur as your administrative proficiency increases and work with your supervisor to adjust your caseload accordingly.

Understand co-therapy is not merely sitting in observing your supervisor conduct a session.  Get clarity from both your state board and your academic institution regarding distinguishing time being observed, doing observation and engaging in co-therapy.  Calculating your hours is dependent upon your role in the session, not necessarily how you refer to the experience.  I’m sure you know the importance of keeping record of your time, but I’d be remiss not to mention it.  Minding confidentiality, make your records inclusive.  This is not only a requirement, if done particularly can provide you with valuable qualitative and quantitative information for job seeking purposes later on.

Remembering the hierarchy.  Yes, you’re thinking about Maslow which is great, but here I am reminding you the client always comes first.  Early on you may find yourself sitting in during sessions.  Clients’ permission must be obtained prior to sitting in during a counseling session whether or not co-therapy is being performed.  If a client declines to permit you into a session, don’t take it personally.  There are too many possible reasons for such a decision by a client and the overwhelming majority of those possible reasons likely have little to do with you personally.  The client’s needs are above both site and school requirements.

This can be a complex concept or a non-issue, but should remain central to the therapeutic process.  A common reason clients prefer not to introduce you into the session, especially early in the internship, is because they have established rapport with their counselor and are simply comfortable working with that person in the established manner.  As new clients arrive at the site, it becomes easier to integrate you into the process.

Minding your own mental health.  Don’t forget your own mental health.  Counselors in training may be on the extremes concerning time.  Some interns may not have much else going on other than their internship while others are working several jobs and have others who are dependent on them.  In either case, beware of countertransference.  If your emotions are high and/or out of control you may run a risk of losing track of the therapeutic process.  While in itself countertransference is not necessarily a fault, ignorance of its presence can be harmful to the client as well as result in ethical dilemma.  If at any time you feel concerned about your feelings toward or relating to a client a discussion with your supervisor should be in order.  Establishing good routines which include eating appropriately, drinking water, sleeping, and exercising are important.  Also, schedule some “me time” in between your school work, clinical work, and other obligations.

Assuring confidentiality and ethical standards. Client’s names are never presented to individuals at your academic institution; initials are acceptable.  Concerning client information, a good rule of thumb is maintaining a double lock standard.  This relates to traveling to and from the site, storage at home, laptops, audio/video recording devices, etc.  Client paperwork and digital information should be protected and stored until the statute of limitations on malpractice expires or you graduate, whichever occurs last.  In general, when there are competing guidelines always defer to the higher standard.  Remember, guidelines are set by your academic institution, the internship site, state law, associations Codes of Ethics, etc.  You won’t be the first to find it confusing at times.

Furthermore, understand ethics codes generally act as guidelines.  They may lack clarity, conflict with laws, be reactive versus proactive, etc.  Being ethically responsible as a counselor is not necessarily complicated but it takes being educated and appropriately mentored to hone in on best practice.  Some points to remember include the importance of informed consent.  Specifically state your status as a graduate intern, your requirement to be supervised and note how your work with them may be integrated into your scholastic endeavor.  Of course, always get permission (often by way of a Release Form either from your site or academic institution) from clients prior to any type of recording of session content.  For individuals under 18, it is best practice to have both the client and their legal guardian grant written permission.

You may have heard it before, but don’t forget it:

Don’t be on time, be early.

Maintain liability insurance.  You may have to renew this during the course of your training.

Dress appropriately and maintain acceptable grooming standards.

Expect to be introduced as an intern.  Prepare for this.  It may prove more difficult to deal with than you think.

Caring confrontation.  Yes, with your clients but also with your supervisor.  For example, find ways to improve the environment or administrative processes and make suggestions.  As well, it has likely been some time since your supervisor completed her degree.  Offer discussions based on things you are learning in your academic setting.  Be an asset!  You’ll likely be looking for a job and/or supervision after graduation to suffice your state requirements.  Your current site could offer to keep you on if you’re valuable or at the least offer you a solid reference letter.

Concentrate on what you do well, as well as things you don’t.  Use this supervised experience to face what you feel is most challenging and leverage your current skill set to overcome your fears.  Work with silence, work with children, work with the opposite gender, etc.  Do it while you have help readily available.

Additional Resources:

Issues and Ethics in the Helping Professions, Updated with 2014 ACA Codes (Book Only)

Encyclopedia of Counseling: Master Review and Tutorial for the National Counselor Examination, State Counseling Exams, and the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination (Volume 1)


Jordache Williams

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC.  Additionally, he is a Licensed Professional Counselor Intern and Certified Life Coach.

Dying: The Process of Losing Energy

The energy of life from a biological standpoint is fascinating.  In short, humans receive energy from the sun and exert it mechanically, or as heat.  The easiest way to see death in terms of energy is that the body eventually stops moving and likewise ceases to produce heat.  These facts outlast death in the traditional sense—on a molecular level, energy transference occurs for quite some time after announcements of death.  Bodies require energy to perform cellular breakdown and support the spread of bacteria.

For further thought, decomposition occurring in nature prolongs the body as a source of energy.  The body becomes a host for insects and microbes, and in certain situations, consumed by various animals as well.  Thus after death, the energy continues to be transferred even if simply on a chemical or molecular level.  Leading into natural death there are signs of a change in the level of energy associated with the body; the bowels and blood circulation slow and there is a loss of appetite.  Pain medications consumed in the last days of life tend to exacerbate the symptoms of death.

An informed caregiver knows food and liquids are not welcomed by the dying, and this is a result of the physical changes a person goes through near death.  Those approaching death sleep as if they did when they arrived into the world—in other words, like a baby.  Although sleep requires energy, there is a distinct loss in probability that mechanical energy will be exerted, such as through physical movement.  Death is often associated with hospitals, hospices, and beds.  Though many hospitals and hospices have windows there is factually a reduction in exposure to natural light within the confines of a facility.

Beds are associated with sleep, rest, and a lack of activity.  Think about the term deathbed; a term that extends beyond the frame and mattress to include the last hours of life.  Human’s sleep when they are tired, which may often be referred to as having little or no energy.  The key question being whether the manner by which humans systematically deal with those near death make matters worse?

As humans transfer energy near death, they are likely not receiving energy from a source (e.g. food, liquids, and the sun).  Free energy maintains order and thus the loss of energy creates the aforementioned somatic issues and essentially disorder.  It is this lack of organization which begins to deny organ function and results in death.


Jordache Williams

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC.  He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

Caregivers, Therapists, and Race Cars

“Tires will smoke when you reach the point of volatility or vaporization of the materials in the tread compound,” says Goodyear race-tire engineer Robert Bethea (as quoted in Huffman, 2011).

I know where all the statistically genius minds went but never mind the association of standard deviation and variance with volatility.  This isn’t a composition on research and evaluation, so for the other 98% of you out there, keep reading.  This is actually your invitation to take a vacation this summer.

Why?  To avoid the smoke.  After all, one thing caregivers, therapists, and race cars have in common is the potential for burnout.

There is often a distinction made between burnout and compassion fatigue.  Burnout is recognized as being more predictable, as it occurs over time, and is less treatable.  Marked by chronic stress, irritability, low self-esteem, and exhaustion, burnout symptomatically resembles depression and anxiety.  Compassion fatigue on the other hand, can happen suddenly and is associated with a shock or stress reaction to helping or desiring to help others.  However, similarly, compassion fatigue can result in chronic physical and emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, somatic complaints, irritability and difficulty sleeping.  Both burnout and compassion fatigue occur in situations where the susceptible individual is caring for or desires to assist a person who has experienced trauma or is experiencing emotional distress.  Therapists, lawyers, and nurses are among the individuals who should be concerned with self-monitoring for burnout.

Essentially, in a mental health setting, therapists are subject to burnout if they are affected by their clients’ stories outside of work.  In order to prevent burnout, workloads must be manageable, vacations and time-off must be observed, and sleep should be monitored; journaling as well as exercise are also preventative measures.  As a medical or helping professional, it is necessary to collaborate with peers, mentors, and supervisors throughout one’s career vice simply when a problem is identified.  These long-standing relationships in themselves may very well be the best preventative measure against burnout.  Isolated environments such as private practice increase susceptibility to the aforementioned and other ethical hazards.  Simply put, notwithstanding your experience, or how well you do your job, a level of vulnerability exists.  No matter where you are in your career, it is always a great time to assess the measures you have in place to protect yourself and those you serve.  The less supervision you require, the further removed you become from your formal training, and the more isolated you are from peers—the greater the risk.

So before your office is filled with smoke and you completely breakdown all of your grey matter, take a moment to evaluate the conditions—your condition and those around you.  Be encouraged to create and sustain an atmosphere that is conducive for your work, and concerning the signs of burnout, remain vigilant.

Reference

Huffman, J. P. (2011, February) Burnouts: An Appreciation. Retrieved from http://www.caranddriver.com/features/burnouts-an-appreciation-feature


Jordache Williams

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC, and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC.  He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

 

Preparing for the Fall

Jordache Williams | Atlas Concepts | fieldsofknowledgeblog.com

In December of 2016 I was fortunate to have the story of Freddie shared with me.  I encourage our followers to take some time to review the video The Fall of Freddie the Leaf, and utilize this blog to contrast your own reflections.  Feel free to interact in the comments section below with your observations, especially those that may differ from my perspective or address aspects of the story which I do not.  Valued reader, I look forward to this opportunity to learn from you.

Freddie was a wide and strong leaf; this speaks to his existence, self-perception, and perceptions of others.  He acknowledges his surroundings, noting the differences and similarities between himself and the other leaves—his life is shared with the lives of others.  Daniel, the wise and experienced leaf, helps Freddie understand life.  The relationship between Freddie and Daniel illuminates the hierarchical nature of existence.  Additionally, it is important to note Freddie enjoys life, his relationship with Daniel, and the interconnection between himself and the other leaves with which he shares proximity.

Daniel explains to Freddie that part of Daniel’s purpose or reason for existing is to help others feel better about their existence.  Freddie shows great insight as well, understanding that despite the faults of others it is self-satisfying to assist them and it is still possible to enjoy their presence.

The frost represents the acknowledgement of the change in season and despite not knowing exactly what would take place, Freddie has Daniel to turn to for wisdom and insight.  Freddie notices he has begun to change color and so did the leaves around him; he recognizes the colors are different.  This aspect of the story represents the differences in how death is approached and the relevance of life concerning the process of death.  In essence, how one lives is not too dissimilar from how one dies.

The breeze represents the change in perspective occurring during the process of aging and specifically following the acknowledgement of the imminence of death.  Things once enjoyed may become challenging and even detrimental and frightening.  The season of fall represents the change which occurs in relation to the lifespan, in the story it is referred to as a change in one’s home.  This season is marked by the realization of death.  Freddie must understand everything dies and thus may better come to terms with his own death.  Freddie goes through a period of denial of death but eventually receives more insight from Daniel.  Insight including understanding everything approaches death differently, there is no manner to exactly predict the moment of death, life is not forever, life after death is a mystery, and the transition to death is natural.  When these thoughts are acknowledged, one begins to question the purpose or reason for life—iterating that life is about life.  This point rationalizes the natural tendency for questions of life to be a concern of death and in the moment of death life cannot be changed.  This concept, if grasped early in life, provides a guide for life itself.  Unfortunately, many do not come to terms with these matters before the season of fall, and are left to question if they capitalized on the previous seasons.

As Daniel falls, he smiles peacefully, and Freddie has lost a dear friend.  The days began to shorten and the snow weighs heavy.  In the days leading to natural death occurring in old age, the days do shorten and the grief of losing others weighs heavy.  The loss of those dear is a reminder that we will follow and we will undergo death without those who are already dead.  As Freddie falls it is the first time he sees the whole tree.  He seemed to finally obtain an understanding of the vastness of the world, he acknowledged there was much he did not experience and much he did not know.  In that moment, he conceptualized his existence in a new way, as a part of something much bigger than he had ever imagined.  In Freddie’s last moments he recognizes he will certainly die, and he does not know what manner of life exists beyond death.

My hope for you is holistic acknowledgement of your current season through the lens of both the past and future.


Jordache Williams

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

The Improbable Therapeutic Relationship

Jordache Williams | Therapy | Fields of Knowledge

How does a therapist appear inviting, even friendly, when they don’t know who you are?  When you don’t know them?  How do they encourage you to tell them every single deep, dark secret in your life?  How can you tell them things you have never told anyone else?

MYTH: If I see a therapist, I will have to tell them things I don’t want to share with anyone.

TRUTH: Effective therapy does not always consist of digging into your past.  If this is something you are worried about, it’s simply not a valid excuse for avoiding counseling services.  However, since this is a common practice in several models of therapy, it is best to share your concerns with any potential therapist early in the process.  This allows the clinician to determine if they are skilled to work within your comfort zone.

For more myths, take a look at Margaria Tartakovsky’s Therapists Spill: 11 Myths About Therapy.

What things effect you prior to your first therapeutic encounter with a particular therapist?

Past experiences with therapy.  “I’ve tried this before and it didn’t work.”  Whether you have bad, or even good, recollections of past therapeutic encounters, these expectations may prove to be obstacles in your current effort.

Baggage being brought to therapy.  The intensity of the presenting problem(s) at the time you arrive is likely heightened.  The final straw has landed on the camel’s back, so to speak.

Starting over.  You may feel like you already know your problems and having to relay information about them requires starting back at step one.

The journey to the office.  Most people experience anxiety in some form or fashion—bad traffic, you’re running late, or the simple fact you’re missing work (i.e. “Things are going to pile up before I get back” or “I need that money”).

Paperwork.  The amount of paperwork you fill out beforehand and how much or what type of information is requested may leave an impression.

Fees.  You are anticipating paying for a service in some form or fashion, which you are not entirely sure is worth it.

So what happens when you see the therapist for the first time?

You’re looking to be wowed.  You’re evaluating the environment, the therapist’s clothes, and the way they present themselves.  You expect their presentation to be on point, and you expect to see several framed degrees perfectly positioned on the wall.  In a way, you want to feel better by simply being in their presence.

You’re looking for them to be relatable.  You make judgements based on things you perceive: race, ethnicity, mannerisms, and level of attractiveness.  You’re looking for any religious symbology in the office, a golf bag in the corner, maybe photos of their family.

Ultimately how do you know if you and a particular therapist are a match?

The therapist’s experience.  It is your right to ask the clinician if they have experience working with clients of your race, gender, and general perspective.  It’s a good idea to ask if they have experience assisting others with issues similar to yours.

Observation.  Evaluate whether the therapist appears to show genuine concern and a willingness to be present in the moment.  Understand that therapists must inform you of their experience and credentials but they are not required to pontificate.

Are they “working?”  Oftentimes, therapist don’t work by doing all of the talking.  In most settings, if therapy is going well, you are the one doing the majority of the work.  Therapist work may include: enabling you to express yourself openly, asking questions you can’t answer with one word, using words you have introduced into the session, and asking how you feel about certain things you describe.

You leave with a shopping bag.  When you walk away you may leave some things behind, but you should also exit understanding what you should be doing prior to your next appointment.  Whether or not the counselor has specifically told you to do something (i.e. homework) or you’ve gained a certain clarity, you should feel like you have work to do.

Here are a few things you may have to get over—they may not mean what you perceive them to mean.

The therapist doesn’t stand to greet you, they don’t walk you out, they don’t shake your hand or hug you, they don’t open doors for you, they sit beside you, they don’t sit beside you, they offer you drinks or snacks, they look at you over the top of their glasses, they write notes while you talk, or they type on a computer during the session or intake process.

The point is, that it’s okay to not like everything about a therapist.  While most clinicians have been trained in some form or fashion on cultural competence, you must understand that each client is different and most of the time a counselor is just being themselves.  Many times, if you ask about a particular nuance which bothers you, the clinician may be able to make accommodations for you.  If things aren’t adding up for you as the client, express yourself, and make a determination on whether you would like to continue seeking the services of that particular therapist.

The more important point is that you should not write-off the mental health industry because of one bad experience (or several for that matter).  For more information on how therapists may differ, take a look at Therapists Differ and so do Their Approaches.

Finally…

It is an expectation of therapists to establish trust.  Many do this well which creates an unrealistic view of the splendor of its accomplishment.  Factors exist outside of the control of the clinician, but others they do direct: the physical environment, the way they dress, talk, act, and present themselves, and sometimes the administrative processes.  As interaction increases, the use of “I” statements, being present in the moment, active listening, rapport building, joining, and even the manner they orchestrate therapeutic transitions can all affect trust.  It’s difficult in itself to build someone’s trust in you, because trust is a personal process—they’ve just met you.  Trust is more probable over time and through shared experiences.  If there are barriers to trust based on superficial things such as gender and race, these barriers can only be overcome through conversation—conversation which is relatable.  Finding common ground may be an effective way, in the early stages of counseling, to achieve trust.  This can be done through acknowledging similarities and the clinician proving motivational.  Establishing individualized and agreeable goals as well as serving as a beacon of hope, also assist the formation of a therapeutic alliance.  When you land across the room from a therapist for the first time, understand the number one objective may very well be the establishment of a relationship between the two of you.  Engaging this process with an open mind is one of the best things you can do to get the most from the experience.

Additional resources:

Rosen, D. C., Nakash, O., & Alegría, M. (2016). The impact of computer use on therapeutic alliance and continuance in care during the mental health intake. Psychotherapy, 53(1), 117-123. doi:10.1037/pst0000022

Smith-Hansen, L. (2016). The therapeutic alliance: From correlational studies to training models. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 26(3), 217-229. doi:10.1037/int0000012

Wiarda, N. R., McMinn, M. R., Peterson, M. A., & Gregor, J. A. (2014). Use of technology for note taking and therapeutic alliance. Psychotherapy, 51(3), 443-446. doi:10.1037/a0035075


Jordache Williams

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

Facing the Sun: Tomorrow’s Counselor

Jordache Williams | Counseling | fields of knowledge

Among a sparse excerpt within President Donald J. Trump’s position on healthcare reform he states, “Families, without the ability to get the information needed to help those who are ailing, are too often not given the tools to help their loved ones.”  Let us ignore, for a moment, the larger issue being less than five percent of said paper addresses mental healthcare to assess the beneficiary of effective mental healthcare reform.  Undoubtedly, individuals with mental health degradation, their family and friends, and the mental health industry benefit; however, America is the ultimate heiress.  Furthermore, if there is only one, a case exists for mental healthcare as the preeminent global solution.

The mental health professional is the information and tool needed for individuals, families, and communities to achieve sustained functionality across the life span.  Each year, over fifty million adults in the United States suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder.  Among the largest difficulties is the tendency for mental health issues to occur on a continuum, ranging from severe disorders to temporary, undiagnosible mental dilemmas.  Essential federal policy reform includes: standardization of clinical assessments, access to quality care across the life span, and the extension of care to underserved populations, as well as beyond the bounds of severe mental health diagnosis.  Additionally, reform must address deficits in the career-long training, education, and supervision of mental healthcare providers.

Physical and mental wounds are alike as both heal from the inside out.  The difference between medical and mental healthcare is the former often focuses on cure and the latter care.  America is a culture built on bleeding hearts and weary minds.  Outfit the surgeon to stop the bleeding but forget not the solicitation of counsel to repair cognition.  Federally funded research must remain prioritized; however, an overdue effort includes incentivizing collaborative efforts across the various sectors of mental healthcare.  Strength results from collaboration, bolstering the resilience of the helping community concerning emotional fatigue, moral distress, and grief.

Mental health is a cumulative lifelong phenomenon and human susceptibility to discernable mental disorders persists from birth to death; for example, consider trauma and grief.  Increased provisions for school counselors, employment assistance programs, and private practice as well as integration of mental health clinicians in government, hospital, and hospice settings ensures individuals and families are afforded continual relevant mental health support.  Regardless of America’s leadership, achieving greatness is agreeable; notwithstanding, as a culture, the efforts remain unpalatable and above all the measure of greatness requires discernment.  The potential for America to be great likens the potential for individuals with mental health issues to be great—the capacity exists but requires cognitive changes, emotional healing, and alternate behaviors.  Remember in the darkest hour, when hope seems lost, counselors remain affixed on the glimmer of hope.  Invest well America.


Jordache Williams

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

4 Types of Leaders

There is a vast array of leadership styles, which result from a myriad of leader values and attributes.  The relationships between these aspects of leading define leaders within their respective context.  The following four types of leaders are described comparatively as a means of highlighting the importance of viewing leader effectiveness in the context of specific leadership roles, vice against collective assumptions regarding successful leadership.  For the purposes of this composition, leadership is considered the power or ability to lead a group.

Lead through example.  The Captain.

This leader embodies team spirit and provides a great example of the personal qualities which are agreeably desired by the group.  These qualities typically equate to success and warrant moral applause.  Although considered a leader, this individual is as much a member of the group as any other.  With a talent for recognizing values and deficits of group members this leader may directly train or instruct group members and is actively engaged.  Often, this leader sincerely wants members of the group to improve and ultimately aspires for group success.  This leader is competent with tasks and confident in purpose; by doing well, others conspire to contribute and succeed.  Concerning these types of leaders you will often hear versions of the following expressions: “She gets her hands dirty,” “He’s always the first one on the field and the last one off,” and “She motivates me.”  The Captain displays relatability, emotion congruent to context, empathy, drive, determination, will, assertiveness, composure, and compassion.

Lead through knowledge or expertise. The Brain.

This type of leader is a subject matter expert who inspires others toward accomplishment, purpose, or knowledge.  This leader is rational, efficient, and intelligent.  As a part of a group this individual provides insight and inherently gives the group an advantage.  It is helpful to be relatable; however, relatability is not a requirement as long as others can see the value in this person as a part of the group.  Often this person is simply good at what they do.  They may be perceived by others as “cutting edge” or “leading the way.”  This leader remains future-oriented and ahead of the curve.  Their contribution is not only beneficial to the group but frequently bears regional or global implications.  Members of the group may believe this leader is irreplaceable.  Furthermore, this type of leader may or may not be humble or even seen or heard.  This leader leads by accomplishment and through setting standards for others.  Thus it is this person’s contribution which warrants the individual’s status.  This type of leader includes both thought leaders and innovators, with the essence of this leader being influence.

Lead through management.  The Manager.

This leader makes you want to be great, foremost, by providing opportunity.  The Manager conceptualizes the group’s goals, and, though not necessarily possessing the skills to accomplish the tasks of the group, provides group members adequate time, resources, and compensation or incentive.  Relatability is helpful but not necessary, though it is essential for this leader to remain pragmatic and their ideas and actions justifiable.  This leader can effectively lead from the front or the rear and may use a top-down or bottom-up approach.  Regardless of the method, the key component is maintaining a harmonious atmosphere, where individuals are not simply told what to do, but are given standards which they perform against.  This leader may perform routine and impartial evaluations as well as compensate individuals in accordance with prescribed policy.  This leader doesn’t necessarily have to care about each individual on a personal level, but must understand group member’s concerns regarding their respective role within the group.  This leader does not have to be seen or heard as long as agreeable responsive actions transcend.   The Manager is successful through organizational skills, structure, delegation, and the fair and equal balance of reward and punishment.  Ultimately, this leader is respected, trusted, and viewed as preserving equilibrium.

Lead through leading.  The One.

This category is reserved for those individuals who seem to be born to lead.  The key component of this leader is balance.  If the individual members of a group, relatively equal in all other functionality (e.g. skill, knowledge, and motivation), were stranded on a desolate island, this individual would emerge as the leader.  This leader is charismatic, confident, empathetic, humble, and possesses a firm but relatable command presence.  This leader may be modestly physically attractive and is generally able to balance: compassion and authority, structure and freedom, communication and isolation, needs and wants, emotion and logic, resources and crutches, personal achievement and motivating others, leading from the front and leading from the rear as well as with consistency and flexibility.  This leader is thoughtful and prepared; preventative, yet reacts well under pressure and catastrophe.  It is not necessary for this leader to coerce or obligate the group; this person, despite being otherwise equal and despite being flawed, is accepted as the best person to lead…the one.

In closing, imagine the settings where these leaders may emerge.  From your experiences, identify the personalities and qualities of the individuals occupying these roles and begin to consider the contrasts.  Though we are not all considered leaders by others or ourselves, we often lead in some manner based on the roles we play.  Contemplate the roles you play and what it would take to be a leader in those roles.  Then ask yourself, “Am I a leader?”  If the answer is yes, I encourage you to share what it is that makes you a leader in the comments below.


Jordache Williams

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

body image

What does it take to be beautiful?

Individuals with a high level of self-compassion are mindful and typically kind as well as nurturing toward themselves.  Essentially, self-compassion allows individuals to be okay with imperfections and resistant to threats of inadequacy.  Self-compassion is a holistic concept, which correlates to individuals’ frequency of body comparison, level of body appreciation, and appearance of self-worth.  When an individual frequently compares their body to others and/or allows their appearance to weigh-in on their self-worth, they are less likely to have an appreciation for their body.  However, high self-compassion helps individuals appreciate their bodies and curbs the negative effects of both body-related social comparisons and self-worth contingent on appearance.

Many of us value and enjoy attraction—physically, socially, and psychologically.  Indeed, culture and media play a role in the development of what we are attracted to, but that influence should not negate our sense of ownership of our attractions.  Likewise, external influences affect our view on care, concern, compassion, and acceptance.  If we looked differently than we currently do, we would consequently think, behave, and feel differently.  This understanding should allow us to remain cognizant of the influence of society.  The fact is, others’ acceptance of us shapes who we are.  Think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  Aside from the simple fact that “belonging” is a human need, self-actualization is not likely to occur during our pre-teen and teen years (and can arguably never be fully attained).  Thus if verbal instruction, imitation, and prosociality positively correlate with performance and success, as children and teenagers, we are influenced to be acceptable to others.

Before any of us begin the process of self-actualization, we have embarked on the navigation of self-compassion and sought esteem through recognition and/or achievement.  What is commonly not addressed concerning the relationship between the media, self-compassion, and body image, is the simple fact that our bodies are one of the best indicators of the fulfillment of physiological needs.  Parenting and family dynamics play a substantial role in the progression of one’s self-compassion.  Beyond all of the research and barring psychological abnormalities, parents are responsible for being responsible, which means understanding the negative influences of life, including those stemming from society at large, and educating and empowering their children.  Though as a society we continue to “advance” in our understandings of the world, we often get wrapped up in “what’s next” versus tradition.  We often think of “how things use to be” as simplistic, unenlightened artifacts; in reality, your grandmother pronouncing delight in how “plump” you looked was likely an expression of her contentment based on you appearing healthy.

As a society, we seem to be more and more conscious of how others feel.  The voices of the masses are being heard through social media at a rate I am not sure we are ready for.  This is likely due to those voices rarely telling us to look inside of ourselves.  Those voices seldom blaming themselves or taking responsibility.  Those voices all too often resemble a cantilever towards a problem they can’t change versus projected inward, at the one thing they matter-of-factly can (change).  Is it realistic or helpful to blame candy bar commercials for obesity, the clever design of a cigarette package for cancer, or someone who is fit for an unhealthy person’s shame?  By the end of every day, until the end of time, individuals will be faced with external factors and in each instance, each individual has a choice.  Until we accept responsibility we will find it very difficult to achieve self-compassion and nearly impossible to obtain self-actualization.  I am not suggesting any other steps or efforts are unnecessary, rather merely highlighting where we should begin.

Additional Resources

Dean, L. G., Kendal, R. L., Schapiro, S. J., Thierry, B., & Laland, K. N. (2012). Identification of the social and cognitive processes underlying human cumulative culture. Science, 335(6072), 1114-1118. doi:10.1126/science.1213969

Homan, K. J., & Tylka, T. L. (2015). Self-compassion moderates body comparison and appearance self-worth’s inverse relationships with body appreciation. Body Image, 151-7. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2015.04.007

Koltko-Rivera, M. E. (2006). Rediscovering the later version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: Self-transcendence and opportunities for theory, research, and unification. Review of General Psychology, 10(4), 302-317. doi:10.1037/1089-2680.10.4.302


Jordache Williams

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.