as you watch the blazing fire
burn down everything
you've ever loved
the ashes will nourish
the barren and
fertilize the soil
you will realize this
as you stroll through
your garden of flowers.
Of course there is a time of afternoon, out there in the yard,
an hour that has never been described.
There is the way the warm air feels
among the flagstones and the tropical plants
with their dark, leathery green leaves.
There is a gap you never noticed,
dug out between the gravel and the rock, where something lives.
There is a bird that can only be heard by someone
who has come to be alone.
Now you are getting used to things that will not be happening again.
Never to be pushed down onto the bed again, laughing,
and have your clothes unbuttoned.
Never to stand up in the rear
of the pickup truck and scream, as you blast out of town.
This life that rushes over everything,
like water or like wind, and wears it down until it shines.
Now you sit on the brick wall in the cloudy afternoon and swing your legs,
happy because there never has been a word for this,
as you continue moving through these days and years
where more and more the message is
not to measure anything.
I am occasionally approached by college students interested in learning more about what it takes to become a licensed psychotherapist. Here is a recent interview; I really enjoyed answering the questions. I thought I would post it in hopes that perhaps it might inspire others thinking of pursuing this career!
1) Why did you choose this career?
It's possible that my childhood had something to do with it. As a kid, I suffered from anxiety (which in my early adult life transformed into depression). At one point I was diagnosed with asthma attacks, even though what I was really having was panic attacks due to anxiety. I was 8 when my parents divorced and engaged in a lengthy and difficult custody battle. I was put into counseling with a court-appointed therapist to help determine the custody ruling and visitation schedule. I hated it. I felt misunderstood and unsupported. I think that was the first seed planted in my mind. I thought, "What if I could do this when I'm older? For kids like me, and actually help them?" I remember thinking that since I had been through it, then I'd know what they'd need. When I graduated college, I became an elementary school teacher. It was fulfilling, but not quite in the way I had hoped. I wanted to be able to dig deeper into a person's life; to learn how our brains work and gain skills to help people emotionally and behaviorally.
2) Describe what you do in a typical work day?
I try to arrive at least 30 mins to 1hr early to get settled in and review the treatment plan and the patients' notes from previous sessions. One thing I feel is important in this career is the ability to leave your own personal "stuff" at the door. I usually say a small prayer of thanks for having the opportunity to do this sacred important work. I light a candle and set my intentions for the day, which includes freeing my mind from any of my own personal baggage that I may have going on at the time.
3) What kind of schedule do you typically have?
Since I own a solo private practice, I get to make my own schedule (which is pretty great, especially since I have kids)! I work two days per week, from about 9am to 8pm. It sounds like a long day, but I have a few breaks midday. Each session is 45-50 minutes long. I typically have about 6-8 clients per day. I see a wide range of folks: children, teens, college-aged students, adults, couples, and families. My niche is in children and families, but I truly enjoy the variety.
4) At this company, what are a few of the entry-level and/or advanced positions?
I currently own a solo practice, but in the future (maybe when my kids are all in school!) I would like to expand to hire other therapists, a receptionist/scheduler, and insurance biller.
5) What do you wish you had known about your career before your started working here?
I didn't realize how long it would take to actually become a licensed therapist able to open a private practice. It took me 9 years from the start of graduate school in psychology, to opening the doors of my private practice. I also didn't realize how difficult this job is. The burn-out rate is high. You have to practice consistent self-care.
6) How well did your education prepare you for this career?
It prepared me fairly well, although most of what it takes to be a good therapist cannot be found in a book, or be taught by a professor. It takes a lot of hands-on practice. I was probably not such a great therapist when I started. I look back at some of the things I said to clients when I first started and I'm embarrassed! It takes a lot of practice, mistakes, good supervision, and mentoring. One thing my schooling did NOT prepare me for is how to open and run my own business. I think counseling psychology programs should require at least one course in business management. I had to figure it all out on my own. I'm still learning!
7) What work–related values are most important for this field?
Support from other therapists in the field is important. Most therapists I know (no matter how long they've been practicing) regularly touch base with a therapist who has been practicing longer than they have for consultation. In this job, making ethical decisions can be tough. It's important to have other therapists on speed-dial that you trust.
8) What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
As a therapist, being emotionally present with a client and going into the dark and difficult places with them is extremely challenging and painful. It's important to do your own work personally, as in, having your own therapist to work through your own inner conflicts and past traumas. No therapist can be effective without doing this. A mentor once told me "you can only take your clients as far as you've been." I've done a lot of work on myself in the past decade, but it's a lifetime process. I see my own therapist every other week!
9) What advice do you have for someone who wants to begin working in your career field?
Make sure you have a fantastic ethics professor and supervisor/mentor (as well as malpractice insurance)! Legal and ethical issues come up all the time. Also, it's important to have someone mentoring you who can help you with boundaries. Keeping appropriate boundaries as a therapist is difficult, and it's tested frequently. In the first several years, you're going to need a lot of good supervision around boundary issues.
10) Can you please include a brief description of your educational path, as well as employment leading up to owning your own business?
My first career was an elementary school teacher, which I did for a few years out of college. I went to graduate school at the University of San Francisco and graduated in 2008 with an M.A. in Counseling Psychology. I completed my 2 year internship as a school counselor. After that, I got a job in a wilderness therapy program counseling teen girls in West Virginia. From there, I worked at an agency providing case management and therapy in Intensive In-Home Services program (a Medicaid-funded program where a team of therapists provide individual and family therapy inside a child's home, most times when the child is at risk for being removed due to violence, substance abuse issues, etc.) From there, I moved and took a job providing counseling services in several schools, as well as a local pediatric office.
The effects of sleep on a child's mental health can sometimes be underrated. Getting an adequate amount of sleep is an integral part of a healthy life, especially when it comes to our emotional and behavioral health. Now that the new school year is upon us, check out these handy charts to help set your child's bedtime!
Throughout my adult years I have developed fairly passionate political views. Yet, I refuse to be so presumptuous as to think that those views will never change. As a psychotherapist, I want to share a few words from my humble point of view that may be of help during this time of political unrest and frustration.
Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. We could all stand to hone our empathy skills right about now.
What can it hurt to step outside of your own personal (insert presidential candidate here) viewbox for a moment and delve into understanding the reasons why others may be supporting a candidate other than the one you do? One of the reasons I refrain from unfriending folks who share posts on Facebook/social media that I don't agree with right off the bat (even though it often makes me REALLY uncomfortable and even downright ANGRY to see these posts I disagree with so passionately), is because attempting to understand them will ultimately make us better, more educated, kind, loving, and joyful people.
Perhaps this personality trait to understand is one of the things that has propelled me toward my profession in psychology; I always held a strong desire to understand the hows and whys of what people around the world think and feel. And throughout all these years, what I've learned is simple: with all of our differences, we're all pretty much the same when you get down to it. You can learn this, too.
I get it-- it's scary to step outside of your comfort zone once you've made your mind up about something, to try and understand an opposing viewpoint can seem downright brutal. I know it feels like you're betraying yourself, your morals, ethics, and even your religion or family.
I want to tell you something we all need to be reminded of: IT'S NOT. Educating yourself about things you do not currently believe is one of the most healthy and positive things you can do for yourself. Notice I said for yourself. Don't do it for your friends, your family, your spouse. Do it for you. Because YOU are the one who will benefit from this newfound way of looking at the world. You will grow. You will become a more loving and happy person.
I know these things because, for one, when I do this, I am happier for it. When I don't, I'm not. I've spent most of my adult life studying the way people think in higher institutions, enveloped in the field of psychology by respected scholars, researchers, and clinical practitioners. Trust me on this for a moment-- it WILL help you grow and change into a better person. And if you don't believe me, do your own research. I encourage it.
Have you ever been faced with a truth about yourself from someone you love and it really ticks you off? After awhile you think about it and realize that perhaps there is some truth to it? One of the reasons we balk at opposing sides is because if we really open up and try to understand a different point of view, we are forced to take a good look at ourselves, too. Our believe system can be challenged, everything we've built our lives on. That can be pretty scary (an understatement!). But listen, in a nutshell, I'm here to tell you that it's okay to be scared. Don't fight against your fear; it is there for a purpose. You can, however, be curious about it. Where does this fear come from? What does it say about me? What would happen if this fear one day came to fruition? What are all the things I do and believe every day that keep me from feeling this fear?
We can't choose our feelings, but we can choose how we respond to them. One choice leads to a life of closed-mindedness, anger, frustration, sadness, and more fear. The other opens the door to a whole new world of possibilities, freedom, and joy. It may be painful at first, but the rewards are immense. The choice is yours.
"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." -Aristotle
Build a bridge
from now to tomorrow.
Sink the piers
deep into the Earth.
Pour in concrete
day by day,
a little at a time,
and let it set.
It takes time to heal.
It may feel very awkward,
as if you're making empty promises,
as if you're simply spanning empty space.
But someday, somehow, somewhere,
you'll find yourself
upon a brand new shore,
glancing back at the bridge
which you alone have built.
It takes time to heal.
In marriage, losing is letting go of the need to fix everything for your partner, listening to their darkest parts with a heartache rather than a solution.
It’s being even more present in the painful moments than in the good times.
It’s finding ways to be humble and open, even when everything in you says that you’re right and they are wrong.
It’s doing what is right and good for your spouse, even when big things need to be sacrificed, like a job, or a relationship, or an ego.
It is forgiveness, quickly and voluntarily.
It is eliminating anything from your life—even the things you love—if they are keeping you from attending, caring, and serving.
It is seeking peace by accepting the healthy but crazy-making things about your partner because, you remember, those were the things you fell in love with in the first place.
It is knowing that your spouse will never fully understand you, will never truly love you unconditionally—because they are a broken creature, too—and loving them to the end anyway.
From "The Marriage Manifesto" by Kelly Flanagan, Ph.D.
Download the free e-book here (I highly recommend it!)
A few days ago a friend asked me what I would do if I won the 1.5 billon dollar Powerball lottery. After thinking about it awhile, I realized that I wouldn't change much.
I know what you're thinking: "Yeah right!" I get it. OK, so I sure would like to buy a huge jet, a fancy yacht, take some fabulous vacation and buy all my friends and family expensive gifts. Thinking about all that sounds ridiculously exciting and fun!
But to be completely honest, not much in my life would change.
I love my life. I'm not saying this because it sounds good; I'm saying it because it's true. I love my children, my husband. I love my home. I love my family and my friends.
My friend then asked, "Would you quit your job?"
And my answer was no. (Although, I might buy a larger office. Maybe even the whole building!?) The truth is, I love my job. I love being in private practice and being my own boss. I love having control over every single thing that goes into my business, right down to the color of the kleenex box. Hah!
What I really love most is having the opportunity to help others dive into themselves, find out who they really are, gain insight into their inner psyche and ultimately live happier lives. I love that I get to travel a unique journey with each client: sharing in pain, joy, frustration, excitement, grief, sorrow, fear, anger, everything. I am grateful to know these individuals who are brave enough to share the intimate details of their lives with me. I am blessed to see firsthand the strength and tenacity of the human spirit. I think, ultimately, I have learned far more from my clients than they have learned from me. I am always changing, a little bit better than the day before, every time I step into my office. And for all this, I could not be more grateful.
It is a privilege, this job.
But as you can imagine, it's not always easy. In fact, it is rarely easy. It is mentally and emotionally challenging work. The 12 hour work day I put in yesterday was exhausting, to be honest. I'll admit I complained about how tired I was when I got home last night.
But would I walk away if I won a billion dollars? Absolutely not.
Nothing good comes easy. Life is inherently difficult, no matter how much money you have. But with a purpose and a passion, we can find true joy.
We can find true joy.
What would you do if you won the lottery? How would your life change? If your immediate response is "everything," that your entire life would change if you won, then I ask you: why? What is wrong with your life now? Let's take a deeper look. What needs to change? Why are you waiting for a billion dollars that you most likely will never win?
Lack of personal fulfillment equals unhappiness. This begs the big questions: What is my purpose? What do I love about life? What makes me truly come alive? Right now, you can start making steps to living a life that aligns more congruently with your answers.
The old idiom is true: winning the lottery sure can buy a whole lot of things, but the best things in life it will never provide: self-love, fulfillment, and joy. And if you have found those, my friends, then you are winning BIG.
Chantal D. Hayes