Counselor, Therapist, Coach, or Lifeline

Discover the Niche Life Coaching for Leaders

People need help.  A better tool, more time, less stress, more money, the right word in the closing paragraph of a thesis…humans from time to time get in a pinch.  We ask our spouse, our friends, our parents, our co-workers and the tall person walking down the grocery aisle for help.  Sometimes help is readily available, other times it’s scarce, if accessible at all.  So how is it that people go about getting help?

We evaluate the situation.  What exactly do I need and how much time do I have?

We evaluate our resources.  Who’s available, knowledgeable, and trustworthy?

We evaluate the costs.  What am I giving up, or going to owe, by reaching out?

Some of us don’t ever evaluate costs in a monetary sense as they relate to acquiring help with “life”.  This may be due to a lack of finances, but can also be attributed to a perceived sufficiency of available and free resources.  On the other hand, we often don’t mind paying for other services, even services we can accomplish ourselves (e.g. a car wash).  We use money to pay waiters to bring us food from the kitchen to the table…something we could do ourselves but “it’s just not the way it works.”  We accept these things, most of the time without question.  Why is it then, that so many of us question our own need for counseling, therapy and coaching?  How is taking care of our emotions, feelings, and mental health different?  Let’s look at the aforementioned evaluation process again.

We evaluate the situation.  It’s not that serious.  It’s nothing I can’t handle.  “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

We evaluate our resources.  I don’t know any therapists, counselors or coaches.  Since I don’t know any, how can I possibly assess their knowledge or trustworthiness?

We evaluate the costs.  It’s not remotely feasible for me to pay for this kind of help.  It has to be expensive.

True enough, if we don’t already have a relationship with a helping professional, it proves difficult to just pick up a phone to get help with a situation, especially immediate help.  We already anticipate a long, drawn-out process with a great deal of paperwork and the scheduling of an appointment (which we already believe will occur well past the amelioration of our current conundrum).  These understandings generally leave us fending for ourselves and, more times than not, we get by.  But many of these times we actually are “worse for the wear.”

If you want to avoid learning hard lessons, missing opportunities and wasting time and resources, it may be prudent to take a closer look at some viable resources you’ve been skipping out on.  In reality, counselors, therapists and coaches should be staple, not stigma.  The services offered by these types of professionals are similar to any other services you don’t think twice about paying for…they provide something you want or need and some are better than others.  The key to finding the right kind of help is to look for it when you don’t need it.  Similar to grocery shopping when you’re hungry, what often happens is individuals get into such a bad place before they reach out for these types of services.  At that point, there has not been a solid evaluation of potential service providers, which may mean the individual you reach out to is not the best fit.  Not to mention, whoever that provider is, they are working an uphill battle, late in the game, with no history of you.  These factors lead to a meager success rate and you lacking confidence not only in that person, but oftentimes in the industry as a whole.

So if you’ve ever found yourself in a pinch with “life” and have felt like you haven’t had a person to turn to, take some time to visit a few local helping professionals.  Find out what they do.  Peruse the internet, evaluate the costs, research the accessibility and answer ALL of the questions you have regarding these professionals.  If you do this, you’re most likely going to find that someone for you.  That someone who is relevant, available, knowledgeable, trustworthy, affordable…that lifeline.

Ready to get started researching your options?  Need help distinguishing the differences between the types of helping professionals?  My latest eBook, Discover the Niche: Life Coaching for Leaders, may help.

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.

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Looking for Racial Identity: An Interview with Mary White

Utilizing the Helms White Racial Identity Model created by Janet Helms, the following description of Mary White (pseudonym) is based on the observation of verbal and nonverbal cues from an interview with Mary conducted in the fall of 2011.  Mary White is a 32-year-old, Caucasian American, divorcee with no children.  Keeping in mind the six statuses as proposed by Janet Helms, the interview with Mary set-out to discern her racial identity and attitudes to include her biases, prejudices, conflicts, tolerance, etc.

Mary was an extremely willing participant of the racial identity interview.  Her interest in the interview was shown through her expression as Mary immediately displayed a certain confidence of which I initially could not discern the reasoning.  This confidence, however, was the first of several cues that eventually led to my description of Mary’s identity.  Quickly identifying herself as a White American she explained an abbreviated version of her life history—growing up in South Carolina to a White mother and father and having a “pretty normal, average life.”  She was taught that all people were “equal” and, despite ever feeling that she experienced racism, did acknowledge that it exists.  Through her teen years her contact with races other than her own was limited to casual encounters in public places and exposure through media.  Mary claimed that there were a total of 3 Black people and “maybe ten or so” Hispanics that attended her school (K-12).  She recalls that one of the Black persons who attended her school was an athletic female who came to the school in tenth grade and happened to be in Mary’s class until graduation.  Mary remembered this individual as friendly and when asked about her relationship with the individual stated, “I would consider us to have been friends.  We never really hung out exclusively, but I’d say we were friends.  We held small talk… about to the degree that I had with most of my classmates vice my real good friends.”  She admitted to never having a “real” interest in dating a non-White person, but only considered her lack of interest to be a result of a lack of commonality and physical attraction.  “It’s not that I wouldn’t or won’t date a Black man, it’s just that I don’t typically find them to be attractive.  I have yet to really meet a person of another race that has similar interests as me.  Additionally, I don’t even think I was introduced to a non-White male my age until after I was married.”  I concluded this topic of conversation by asking Mary her opinion concerning interracial dating/marriages.  Shrugging her shoulders, she retorted that the idea doesn’t bother her at all, stating, “it’s really up to the people involved, it’s really none of my business… whatever makes a person happy.”  At this point I had already identified Mary’s Contact Status as well as noticed certain mild characteristics of disintegration.

As the interview progressed, I moved towards probing into Mary’s marriage.  Mary claimed to be “a little shy in school when it came to interacting with boys.”  She remained “single” until she started dating John during her senior year of high school (John was a junior at that time).  John was white and shared similar interests as Mary.  In fact, Mary and John had known each other since John came to Mary’s school a year earlier, as they were members of the girls’ and boys’ tennis teams respectively.  Mary explained that she and John rarely discussed race, but she had always assumed their view of the subject was similar.  She did always notice that, in casual conversation, when John described an individual of another race he always included the person’s race in the description of the person.  Mary said that this cognitive inclusion stood out to her because she felt she rarely ever did that herself.  Mary claimed that her own exclusion of race as a descriptive measure was not purposeful; “it’s just the way I’ve always been” she exclaimed.  It appeared that even at 32-years-old, and despite claiming to acknowledge racism, Mary had not moved into the statuses of Pseudo-Independence, Immersion/Emersion nor Autonomy as described by Helms.

Mary’s relationship and five-year marriage ended with John eight years ago when she was 24-years-old.  She feels that the marriage “fell apart because they had tried hard to have a child with no luck and he (John) had gotten really involved with his job.”  She explained that John claimed they “had grown apart over the years,” whereas her mother claimed that she and John “married too young.”  Since that time, Mary has dated “a few men.”  Not to my surprise, none of these dates were with a person of a non-White race.  Despite her persistence with dating men of her own race, her interaction with members of various races had increased over the last ten or so years.  This increase in interaction began when she attended college, where she saw “several people of a variety of races around campus.”  However, having been married at the time, she commuted to college and only attended classes.  “In general, I only interacted with classmates and that interaction was typically mandated by group projects,” explained Mary.  Mary has worked at her local community bank since college.  She works with mostly white females; however, there is one White male and two Black females who currently work with her in the bank.  Mary claims that “most of our customers are White, but there are people of every race that come to the bank nearly every day.”  It was at this point that I was concerned that, despite Mary’s excitement with participating in the interview, it seemed her state of oblivion limited a complex dissertation regarding her Racial Identity.  Despite my concern, however, it was also during this stage of the interview that the quality of Mary’s racial socialization became evident.

Considering Mary’s limited interaction with non-White races, I began more deliberate questioning regarding her understanding and knowledge of races and, in particular, racism.  Her basic stand on racism was that “slavery was a long time ago but it’s evident that not everyone feels that all races are equal.”  As she continued to claim her own acceptance of all races, she attempted to vet her declaration by stating that she studied about racism in both high school and college.  She experienced classroom debates that often created a great deal of emotion in various classmates.  During these debates she felt a bit removed from emotionality, and Mary was often standoffish in such class discussions.  When asked to explain her opinion of reparations, Mary said, “I know it causes a lot of debate.  Even at my job I’ve heard that the management has to have minorities on the staff.  I don’t really care who I work with as long as they are proficient.”  When I asked her if she had ever heard of anyone being hired simply because they were a member of a minority race despite interviewing against White’s who were more qualified, she said she doesn’t really think that happens.  Mary maintained a naïve attitude regarding the reality of the current level of prejudice and racism present in society.  Despite her potential for Autonomy, being generally knowledgeable of the historical context of racial issues, Mary maintained a very selective perception.  For example, she acknowledged no reason for herself or society to “help non-White races any more than Whites”, showed little vigilance for Immersion/Emersion and was overall inflexible, denying herself the attainment of Autonomy.  In general terms, I concluded that Mary was suspended in the Contact Status.  Despite being knowledgeable of racism, she remained oblivious to and unaware of racism in today’s society.  She explained how she felt as if she was “a fair and impartial person” in regard to race, and claimed that to her “race is not important.”

In conclusion, through the interview with Mary White I was reminded of the various degrees to which persons in society are truly unaware of the issues of racism that exists today.  It is my assertion that with Mary, her life experiences (or lack of) have weighed much heavier in the determination of her Racial Identity than any influence of media, education or publication.  For some people, even direct experiences with racism may remain unacknowledged despite a general knowledge of the subject.  In summation, Mary seemed to be a person who had inadvertently been successful at abandoning racism; however, she lacked any significant development of a nonracist White identity.  In layman’s terms, Mary’s interview suggested she was “obliviously non-racist.”  Due to Mary’s obliviousness to racial dynamics, it proved difficult to assess her methods for coping with such dynamics (thus challenging to assess any status other than Contact), yet Mary in turn was the quintessential reference for the Contact Status.

References

Helms, J.E. (1997). Implications of Behrens for the validity of the White Racial Identity Attitude Scale. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 44, 13-16.

Helms, J.E. (1999). Another meta-analysis of the White Racial Identity Attitude Scale.  Measurement and Evaluations in Counseling and Guidance, 32, 122-137.

Helms, J.E. & Carter, R.T. (1991). Relationships of White and Black racial identity attitudes and demographic similarity to counselor preferences. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 38, 446-457.

Atlas Concepts, LLC_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.

Mental Health for the Impoverished and Unemployed

I can stare in the mirror and recite, “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better,” and I will still experience my life as awful unless I also have opportunities to succeed or I live in a community where, by comparison, I am no worse off than others. Wellbeing is a social phenomenon (Ungar, 2014).

It is no secret that poverty and unemployment are highly correlated; however, it is somewhat less widely known that these factors mediate, and are influenced by, mental health.  Recent research suggests that socio-economic hardship precedes inferior mental health (Heflin & Iceland, 2009).  Commonly, mental health is associated with emotions and feelings including stress, depression and loneliness.  On the other hand, mental illness is reserved by many for diseases and disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, etc.  The reality is that many diagnosable mental disorders are based on criteria regarding the factors considered by many to be a part of everyday life (i.e. stress, anxiety, alcohol, drug and even tobacco use).  The Mayo Clinic estimates that one in five adults experience mental illness in a given year (2015).  Furthermore, Kessler states that forty-six percent of Americans experience at least one mental disorder in their lifetime (as cited in Anakwenze & Zuberi, 2013, p.147).  In either course, the mental state of an individual, and societies at large, have vast socioeconomic implications.  Scholarly contributions from the United Kingdom suggest that the lowest wage-earners are twice more likely to experience mental health issues than average wage-earners and are more likely to experience unemployment (Kronenberg, Jacobs & Zucchelli, 2015).  In 1997, William Julius Wilson found a relationship between poverty and mental health, of which, he concluded that unstable work and low income decrease self-efficacy (as cited in Anakwenze & Zuberi, 2013, p. 148).  However, despite a rather lengthy history of research concerning the topic (which continues to be empirically vetted), there has yet to emerge a viable socio-economic prescription for mental illness.  This review of literature focuses on determining the key socioeconomic factors associated with mental illness, and adds clarity to the relationship between poverty, unemployment and mental health.

Finding a place in society

As a part of the Fair Labor Standards Act in the U.S., the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor [DOL] authorizes employers to pay subminimum wages to individuals who possess disabilities that effect job performance (2008).  Mental illness is included among the list of impairments which qualify for a subminimum wage (DOL, 2008).  Regardless of the intent, these standards imply a degradation of value to those with mental illness.  The chasm between economical and humanistic thinking is evidenced by such government actions.  That is, economically, individuals lose their name and their very identity (i.e. self-efficacy) and are considered in conventional terms, “factors of production”, “government expenses”, “buyers and sellers”, to name a few.  Government intervention that provides a means for employers to pay individuals with mental illness less for jobs which they are less than qualified, does little to fix any economic or mental health dilemma.  Efforts may better be served by providing resources, such as research endeavors purposed with determining suitable employment options for those with specific mental illness.  Employing individuals in positions where their efforts and productivity are economically valuable to employers decreases the need for subminimum wage authorizations, and has potential to improve workers’ mental health and the business’ output.  One challenge to this effort may be that individuals with serious psychological distress are more likely to have less than a high school diploma (Heflin & Iceland, 2009).

Not only do mentally disabled individuals face difficulty fitting into the workforce, they also are more likely to face sub-quality living conditions.  In the United Kingdom, one in three households, housing a disabled person is considered to be substandard (Snell, Bevan & Thomson, 2015).  These substandard conditions not only create a sense of dissatisfaction for those residing in such dwellings but also increase their susceptibility to chronic illness (Snell et al., 2015).  These individuals’ increased susceptibility to illness is, in part, due to rising energy prices and the inability to afford heat and/or air conditioning (Snell et al., 2015).  Because many of these individuals lack employment, it is assessed that more time is spent in the home, thus exacerbating the amount of time they are exposed to substandard conditions (Snell et al., 2015).  Heflin & Iceland (2009) concluded that providing relief for energy costs and eviction prevention may have high social benefits, especially if provisions are extended to those within two hundred percent of the poverty line, as oppose to only those living in poverty.

The individual’s perception of their condition and the associated dissatisfaction both play a role in increasing the individual’s risk of experiencing depression (a degraded or impaired mental state) (Anakwenze & Zuberi, 2013).  Depression can aggravate an existing mental health condition or in itself become a mental illness.  The living conditions available to those with disabilities, including mental illness, is largely impacted by their ability to find and sustain employment providing the necessary income for suitable accommodations.  The condition they find themselves in (i.e. facing mental illness, unemployment and poverty) is a cyclically diminishing one.  It doesn’t take a John Maynard Keynes to understand that this cycle cannot recover itself efficiently.

Affording treatment

Well into the U.S.’s 2015 political debate season, a potential increase in minimum wage remains a pivotal topic.  Many Americans are in favor of increasing the minimum wage standards, suggesting a societal need for increased income.  To be clear, mentally healthy individuals making minimum wage claim to need more money.  How can poor, mentally ill individuals, earning a subminimum wage afford treatment?  The reality is that they likely cannot. But even if provided with income increases, mental health can only be improved by monetary gains if those gains are employed appropriately by the individual.

It has been suggested that an increase in minimum wage would improve mental health.  This is largely based on research which has found positive correlations between income and mental health.  Kronenberg et al. (2015) points out the expenses businesses can attribute to mental illness, such as absenteeism, and suggests that a minimum wage increase could improve mental health and productivity, thus becoming an affordable expense.  While this logic may hold some merit, it is not determined if individuals would invest additional income towards improving their mental health and, moreover, there is a lack of empirical evidence to support such assumptions.  It is determined, however, that disabled individuals, as compared to non-disabled individuals, face proportionally greater increasing living costs, are less likely to be employed, are less likely to be employed full-time (if employed), and receive lower wages (Snell et al., 2015).

In many instances, individual’s mental disorders go untreated.  While this in itself is tragic and sometimes fatal, in impoverished communities it is more likely that a mentally ill parent’s interactions with their children be harmful.  Not only do children in these situations grow up with the same economic insecurities, they are exposed to, and are affected by, the stress, anxiety, and depression present within the household.  These situations have a biological effect on the brain and require treatment (Anakwenze & Zuberi, 2013).  This needed treatment often doesn’t occur.  In many cases, mental illness coupled with poverty leads to criminal activity and imprisonment.  Harding suggests that a physiological mechanism exists by which the violence present within low income neighborhoods yields mental health concerns, such as chronic stress (as cited in Anakwenze & Zuberi, 2013, p. 150).  These mental health problems undermine individual’s self-efficacy and perpetuate further negative consequences.

The socioeconomic issues covered herein do little to scratch the surface of what seems to be a nearly silent epidemic.  Overshadowed by international threats, presidential debates and Hollywood shenanigans, the issue of mental illness has many socioeconomic implications.  I suggest further research is needed in many areas related to mental health reform, to include: the role of mental illness concerning violent and juvenile offenders, neighborhood disorder (i.e. perceived levels of social support and integration), and the relationships between depression, aggression, addiction and trauma.  The relationship between poverty, unemployment and mental health is complex, yet it can be reduced to a simple term, vicious circle.  I conclude that mental health care in the U.S. is a substantial component to economic stability.  Reformation of the economic strategy should include progressive government intervention in impoverished communities, to include crime prevention, education, job training and mental health rehabilitation and sustainment.  Such programs create a demand for jobs and supply qualified job seekers.  Long-term, such programs reduce crime rates and unemployment as well as have the potential to increase gross domestic product.

__________________________

References

Anakwenze, U., & Zuberi, D. d. (2013). Mental Health and Poverty in the Inner City. Health & Social Work, 38(3), 147-157.

Heflin, C. M., & Iceland, J. (2009). Poverty, Material Hardship, and Depression. Social Science Quarterly, 1051.

Kronenberg, C., Jacobs, R., & Zucchelli, E. (2015, Aug). The impact of a wage increase on mental health: Evidence from the UK minimum wage. Retrieved from http://www.york.ac.uk/media/economics/documents/hedg/workingpapers/1508.pdf

Mayo Clinic (2015, Oct 13). Mental Illness: Risk Factors. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/basics/risk-factors/con-20033813

Snell, C., Bevan, M., & Thomson, H. (2015). Welfare reform, disabled people and fuel poverty. Journal Of Poverty & Social Justice, 23(3), 229-244. doi:10.1332/175982715X14349632097764

Ungar, M. (2014, Jan 12). Will a Higher Minimum Wage Make People Happier? [Web log comment]. Psychology Today.  Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/nurturing-resilience/201401/will-higher-minimum-wage-make-people-happier

U.S. Department of Labor (2008, Jul). Fact Sheet #39: The Employment of Workers with Disabilities at Subminimum Wages. Retrieved from http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs39.pdf

Atlas Concepts, LLC_Jordache WilliamsJordache 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.

Well…are they?

I love new information, and it’s especially helpful when that information includes numbers and graphics.  For instance, the American Psychological Association (APA) recently published results from the Center for Workforce Studies via www.apa.org entitled “Are psychologists in the states that have the most mental illness?”  This article included the graphic below.

Fields of Knowledge Blog_APA Mental Illness graphic

APA, November 2014, Vol 45, No. 10

Granted there are over 200 words that accompanied this graphic, but for me this information raised more questions than answers.  I invite you to take a look at the article yourself as it may speak to you differently.  Having personally conducted research, I can attest to the often arduous nature and inevitable error of that process and understand the power of research that prompts questions.  In that light, I am sharing the inquisitions which rose to mind as I perused the information presented.  I do so in part, with the hopes that others, with interests, resources and ability, can take hold of the lit torch.

The easy questions are often “Why?”  If, when you look at the graphic above, you feel that psychologists are not employed where they are needed, or if you are wondering why people are more mentally ill in a distribution, which appears to be a serpent traveling West across the United States, then you may ask, why?  Some of the more powerful questions however often begin with “How.”  How would this graphic look based on criteria specified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-5)?  How do the state boards of psychology collect and record data?  A few other questions that came to mind are: Who reports mental illness to the state boards of psychology?  Psychologists are not the only collective who diagnose these illnesses.  What are the data collection efficiency ratings for each state?  Do state reporting criteria vary from state to state?  Keep in mind also that this study concerns ADULTS with REPORTED mental illness.

The point of all this questioning being an effort to avoid making false generalizations.  For instance, does South Carolina (my state of residence) need more psychologists or better psychologists?  Are we assuming that the presence of psychologists is correlated with a decrease in mental illness?  I would almost guarantee that the numbers reported for licensed psychologists is much more accurate than the percentages shown for adults with mental illness.  This may be the limit of my “admitted” assumptions concerning this study.  I assume this, because reporting and record keeping concerning licensed practitioners strikes me as more manageable information.

Lastly, it is not my desire to poke holes in this valuable information.  This is not David and Goliath.  I was prompted on this particularly day, by this particular article, simply because it provides a great example.  The fact is that social media and the internet at large make information assessable.  Assessable (in most cases) to every internet user. This means that those sharing information have a responsibility but moreoverly those who consume and utilize such information must do so responsibly as well. It is not responsible to accept everything at face value, and it is likewise not responsible to over scrutinize information merely for the sake of doing so.  It is my hope that recipients of quality information strive or maintain a level of responsibility conducive to interpretations that are of the most value to themselves and those they influence.  The mere fact that this study’s title is presented in the form of a question speaks volumes.  From my perspective, there is nothing misleading about the work; however, you must, as an individual, guard your “storage bin” of information and challenge yourself towards greater levels of understanding.  This often means knowing what questions to ask!

 

Jordache WilliamsAtlas Concepts, LLC_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.