Is My Kid Using Drugs or Drinking Alcohol? Help for Parents

Here are a few items that can reduce your anxiety if you are worried that your kid may use or is using alcohol or illegal substances.

If you attend to the media, you may think that all kids are using, and that they will all end up with a serious addiction. The statistics on teen substance use do not say that. Most kids experiment, a sizable portion are drinking or drugging periodically, but the addicted kids are a small minority.

Teens are prone to substance use because of curiosity, cultural influences, and impulsivity. Because their brain is developing quickly, it can quickly develop into a lifelong problem.

Be preventative. Spend time with your kids. For example, recent research states that having dinner and doing homework with kids is predictor of kids not using substances. Spend non-structured time, and listen. Everyone wants to tell their story, given they have a person willing to listen without nagging, advice-giving and lecturing.

Is your kid at risk? The three biggest risk factors for teen substance use are trauma, divorce and mental illness. In these cases, professional assistance is highly recommended.

Assess your kids. An easy barometer is acceptable grades, participation in chores, social interests with peers, respect of the parents, and are they involved with substances. Although I believe it should be optional for teens, involvement in spirituality can be very powerful for teen development.

Don’t panic! Despite what others think, teens deeply need us more in this stage of their life. They are facing more challenges than any previous generation. Most kids need grounded, well adjusted parents to make it safely to adulthood. Best thing for an anxious parent is to address their own anxiety, before unknowingly making the kid responsible for that parental anxiety. For example, I have worked with many parents that grew up poor, overindulged their kids, and severely regretted it later.

And how not to panic! Get a consult and do not work alone! A family session with parents with a Certified Addictions Professional that works with teens (see resources at the end of this post) can really alleviate some of the anxiety. Other parents, extended family, church and  school resources can be of invaluable assistance. Often parents find value for themselves to see a therapist. Understanding substance use and our own reactions to our kids is paramount to effective parenting in the substance use issue. Some parents will find NarAnon or AlAnon (see resources,) family support groups, very useful and comforting.

Check your own judgements at the door. The most important development task of a teen is freedom. They are supposed to push against us and take risks. Humans are healthy when they do not accept only one view, and when they take risks. Our biggest responsibility is to love our kids and help them become self-sufficient. Can we love them when they make mistakes? The challenge for parents is to recognize teen development, allow for freedom, growth and risks, and help them keep themselves safe.

Understand substance use. Often parents do not understand substance abuse, and make snap judgements and consequences. Kids are caught in a dilemma of feeling good by using with friends, and parents who send the message that using substances is horrible. Human beings are wired to seek to feel good and to avoid feeling bad. Substance use is often just a symptom of other emotional challenges.

Know signs and symptoms of using behavior. The simple ones are secrecy, isolation, change in friends and interests and unexplained mood swings or bizarre behavior. Know signs and symptoms of drugs of abuse (see NIHDrugsofAbuse .)

Keep your kid safe. The silver lining to finding out your kid is using is that you have an opportunity to remove driving  privileges. You will sleep better at night. You have the right to forbid your child from being with a drug user. Secretly your kid could be relieved that someone drew a line in the sand.

Don’t be scared of drug screens. Not only do we use screens to detect drug use, but they help your teen. Many people do not use because they know they have a screen awaiting them (see resources for Drug Screens.)

Don’t be scared of treatment. Most therapists recommend starting with the lowest level of care which is outpatient counseling. The addictions therapist can recommend the best level of care for your kid. The next levels of care are intensive outpatient and residential treatment. Sometimes kids need residential treatment because they can not extract themselves from their using friends.

Resources (short list for Polk County Florida!)

Addiction therapists:

Joe Martin, LMHC, CAP, 863-808-7416

Andy Quinn, LMHC, CAP, 863-683-9600

Rhett Brandt, Ph.D.,863-606-5922

Intensive Outpatient:

Lifecare of Lakeland,  Donna St. Rock, 863-937-9659

Psychiatrists:

Dr. Curtis Cassidy 863-686-0800, late teens only

Dr. Chris Davenport, 863-646-9600, late teens only

Dr Mark Helm, 863-683-2600

Dr. Karen Teston, 863-647-8043

Drug Screens:

Target drug testing: 863-701-0777

Quest diagnostics: 866-697-8378

Polk county drug court: 863-534-4612

Self help groups:

AlAnon 863-687-3800

NarAnon 1-888-947-8885

Mindfulness of Breathing Meditation Workshop, 8AM-Noon, Saturday September 8, 2018

Where: 215 E. Bay Street, Lakeland, FL 33801

Meditation Graphic LogoLargeWhat: Simple Instruction, followed by practice and discussion.
We will have coffee, tea and simple refreshments

Who: Experienced and Inexperienced Students

Cost: Donation to the teacher, Andy Quinn

Please contact Andy 863-683-9600 or relationshipbuilderslakeland@gmail.com for RSVP and other questions

Please bring cushions if you prefer to meditate sitting on the floor.

Course Taught by Andy Quinn

Andy Quinn has been practicing Insight Meditation for 24 years. He was taught by Peter Carlson, the founding teacher of Orlando Insight Meditation Group. Andy then was an active member of the Vipassana Meditation Community of S.N Goenka for 15 years. There he meditated and served numerous 10 day retreats. Andy has also sat two long retreats at Insight Meditation Society in Barre Massachusetts and a long retreat with Peter’s Orlando group. Andy has recently been under the guidance of Peter for teacher training for the last five years. Currently Andy is engaged in study with the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies.  Andy is the founder and teacher for the Lakeland Meditation Group. Andy and the Lakeland Meditation Group have organized one day and residential Retreats for 15 years.

 

Why Meditate?

Why would you Meditate?

People who are interested in learning meditation for a variety of reasons, such as “I just want improved relationships,” to “I want to witness a kaleidoscope of amazing colors,” or “I have been told that experienced meditators can read minds!” The problem could be a boatload of suffering, such as gut fluttering anxiety, bottomless drinking or explosive tirades, Some folks want to continue accelerating to being that saintly person they destined to be.

There are no bad reasons to learn to meditate, however one’s expectations of interstellar flight will be quickly dashed. For most, meditation does not come easy, but liberation from suffering and an incredible life is worth it. A lot of folks come to meditation practice because they feel as if they are missing something. These folks may say things like “it is never enough,” or “I just don’t seem to fit in.” They can sense the lack of meaning in day to day activities. I call this a lacking pattern. A chronic persistent feeling of something not quite right. Meditation helps us to accept this condition, and the path is includes seeing that everything that we need is within. Love, connection and good will are in reach and there is a such thing as supportive loving community.

So here is a metaphor from the prolific teacher S.N. Goenka. Meditation practice is like surgery. You are given the tools to perform the surgery. Surgery for what? The surgery is to remove the tumors, the defilements. And what is the defilement? In Buddhist psychology it would be the seeds and development of greed, hatred and delusion. In Christian teachings that would be called the seven deadly sins. And what are the tools, the scalpels? Meditation is a very important scalpel, of which there are numerous techniques. For this discussion, we focus on a non sectarian technique called mindfulness meditation. It is important to note there are many meditative techniques, such as Christian based centering prayer, that lead to similar results.

Rosalie Creek, Polk County, Florida

So one benefit is mental purification. Among the long list of other benefits is improved relations with others. When I was a new student of meditation my teacher would say “just observe, just watch, just notice.” Another teacher taught me the value of non reactivity. As we begin to watch, perform the surgery, we see our own challenges, our own mental formations. Meditation trains the mind to be dispassionate towards our mental shenanigans. When we see these mental formations like clouds across the sky, we just don’t take our mental state or narrative as personal. We are less apt to be harsh with ourselves, substituting self denigration with softness. We start to cut ourselves some slack. This training in gentleness gets reflected to others, and life in community becomes more harmonious.

And about reactivity. We cause so much misery to ourselves and others by a lack of awareness and not knowing our motives. Most of us are clueless about what or whom is directing our choices. Modern neurology continues to confirm that our reactions are based on a perception and feeling grounded in previous experience. The surgery has to do with awareness of our particular bearings, which we most often do not question or investigate. Just because we feel a particular way does not mean that I should behave or think a particular way. Meditation helps us to become aware of these inclinations of the mind and make kind well informed decisions. One of the fascinating things that occur is that our choices are much more likely to benefit others and community. More thoughtfulness and love!

Another incredible benefit is intimacy. This intimacy is an interesting expression, leading most of us think of romantic relationships including sexuality. In meditation practice we expand the meaning to include closeness and richness in our daily experience . With training we find richness in even the most mundane of our experiences……such as walking or scrubbing the toilet (am I going too far here?) We experience how this mind of ours is often in the default, checked out mode. Every moment is so rich, every ounce of life is to be cherished. Meditation sharpens the mind to see the subtleties, the nuances, the microscopic movements and tendencies of the mind body system.There are so many amazing things occurring in this mind and body when we walk or scrub. In the beginning of practice, the mind is just too dull or preoccupied to see this. The training is about intimate non reactive awareness. Continuing to bring oneself back to this rich space leads to a natural inquiry to the depth of experience.

 

Chassahowitzka River,  Citrus County

One of the most common reasons people come to meditation is for tranquility, peace of mind. This society is filled with distractions that are seem engaging, attractive and fun. Three of the distractions are electronics, entertainment and media.These entities can also feel comforting, familiar, and exciting. Most of us are aware that they are insubstantial. They often keep us checked out and dissatisfied. What these activities do is to keep our nervous system in a state of hyperarousal. This hyperarousal so epidemic in western countries, it affects lot of people’s sleep and contributes to anxiety.This state of hyperarousal makes it difficult, if not impossible to accomplish the mental training necessary to remove defilements.

For the last few years I did not attend to the news.My intention was a commitment to cultivate tranquility Those years I can recollect a warm sense of peace. Since this recent presidential election, I got hooked on the drama. I noticed more anger, more sense of separation from others. Recently I recommitted to no news. I feel cleaner, lighter, more concentrated. Despite not attending to the news, I still discvoered the flooding in Houston. Compassion for my brothers and sisters in Houston feels a lot better and less deluded than anger and resentment because of political beliefs.

There are many more reasons to meditate. Meditation training is about mental purification. Making a commitment to a code of ethics and morals stabilize the mind allowing for an intimate awareness and a gentle peacefulness. From there we can further purify the mind through become dispassionate about mental contents, which naturally allow for our essence, love, compassion and good will to express itself.

Lovingkindness Meditation Residential Retreat: Friday December 8, 2017 – Sunday December 10, 2017

                                         Loving Oneself and Others                                                    

Lovingkindness Meditation Residential Retreat

730 PM Friday December 8, 2017- Noon Sunday December 10,2017

Saint Leo Abbey, 33601 State Road 52, Saint Leo, Florida 33574

Hosted by Heartland Insight Meditation Group

Saint Leo Abbey will provide a peaceful setting for a weekend of meditation.  Participants will enjoy:

  • Teachings that reverse anger and hatred and bring about compassion for self and others, sympathetic joy and equanimity, with time for questions and answers.
  • Sitting and walking meditation for beginning and experienced meditators.
  • Beautiful outside grounds for walking meditation or contemplation
  • 6 hearty meals provided by the staff at St Leo Abbey.
  • Cost is $205, plus donation to the teacher.

 

Course taught by Peter Carlson

Peter has practiced meditation for more than thirty years and taught Vipassana (Insight) Meditation for more than twenty years. He is the founder of Orlando Insight Meditation Group. His training includes three-month courses at the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, MA.      

 

To register: contact Andy Quinn, 863-683-9600 abquinn2010@gmail.com

 

Refund Policy: Cancel greater than one month prior: Full refund

Cancel greater than one week prior:: 50% refund

Cancel less than one week prior to the retreat: no refund

 

 

 

 

Developing Inner Peace: Meditation Retreat, Bok Tower Gardens, Saturday, April 15, 2017

We return to Bok Tower Gardens this Spring, to provide a peaceful setting to develop inner peace and grow in love. Participants will enjoy:

  • Introduction and meditation instruction with time for questions and discussion
  • Sitting and walking meditation for beginning and experienced meditators
  • Easy access to outside garden space for periods of walking meditation
  • Covered dish vegetarian lunch coordinated by members of the Heartland Insight Meditation Group
  • Admission to Bok Tower Gardens, usable on our long lunch break, or before or after the retreat

              

Course Taught by Peter Carlson

Peter has practiced meditation for more than thirty years and taught Vipassana (Insight) Meditation for more than twenty years. His training includes three-month courses at the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, MA. Peter is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in private practice in Winter Park, Florida.

When: Saturday, April 15, 2017 | 9 AM – 5 PM

Where: The new Discovery Classroom, Bok Tower Gardens, 1151 Tower Boulevard, Lake Wales, Florida 33853

Please bring: Experienced participants can bring a small vegetarian dish to share with the group. Please contact Darek Smith, 863-537-0133 or by email, if you would like to bring a small vegetarian dish. Bring cushions if you prefer to meditate sitting on the floor. The floor is made of hard tile so you may consider a small carpet square or rug.

To register or more information: Contact Jeanette Johnson 321-303-7607 or by email. To reserve your spot, send a $30 check or money order made to:  “Jeanette Johnson” 10465 Montpelier Circle, Orlando, Florida 32821. To confirm your payment, use email to correspond with Jeanette.

Looks are Deceiving…..the Many Faces of Love

Loook at all these happy faces....a backpack trip I led on Cumberland Island

Look at all these lovely faces….a backpack trip I led on Cumberland Island

Facing our Truth?

Years ago I remember finishing an incredible backpacking trip in the Slickrock Creek Wilderness in North Carolina. Stopping at the first available convenience store so the group of us could stuff our faces with junk, I felt rather greedy and ashamed of our wealth in this sparse country.  As I was making my way back to our van, I was struck by the unsightliness of a woman entering the store. It was as if 1/2 of her face had been blown off. The sight of her face stayed with me, and for a few moments I was dumbfounded, and needed to gather myself. Part of me that was grateful that I did not have to deal with her directly. Now I know that in practicing mindfulness I would have been better equip to understand my feelings at the end of this trip.

In Buddhist psychology we are taught to face the truth of our own experience and be honest with ourselves……what this mind of ours is truly up to. I judge. We judge. And I am skeptical about those who say they do not. I wonder if they lack insight. As human beings we have a tendency to judge others often based on superficial information. We are superimposing our narratives upon the circumstances. Telling a story like that to others would have left me feeling all the more shamed and flawed. One story I sometimes share is about how much of a phony I feel to be sometimes. But being mindful-reflecting on my self- has helped me accept and begin to change those unwholesome parts of myself.

We identify with our face and others faces. I do not recognize my friend Bill as his legs, or introduce myself as my arms. We connect or disconnect with our faces. So when I see Bill, I already have my story of what Bill is about. Although the amount that I truly know about him is minuscule, I have filled in the blanks about who he is. An interesting way to practice is to be mindful of faces…take them all in.

We recognize something in every face that we see. People that we love, family friends, lovers this is a very pleasant feeling. We have very pleasant stories about the ones that we love. This is where we have imposed a perception upon the sensory data. When I see our child Lenora a pleasant sensation arises. A warm, agreeable, and heart felt connection. If I see a child that has caused my daughter some pain an unpleasant sensation arises. This perceptual process can lead to dissonance, a non attractive, not safe feeling. Disconnected, averse, distant, unfriendly. And there are those that we find neither pleasant nor unpleasant, invisible, non remarkable, and we may become indifferent, and the mind will become slothful, lazy. In some of these situations, we may try make some sense of the situation, and we fit some dialogue on top of that.  Age, culture, class, and gender has a lot to do with it. The problem is that the mind is deluded when it is becomes indifferent.  Recent research finds that neglect is worse that sexual abuse. Sometimes it seems as though the more unaware we are, the more checked out we are, and the more indifferent we become.

However all three perceptions are lacking….pleasant towards my daughter, unpleasant towards the alleged enemy, indifference towards the  non remarkable person. We sense that we are jumping to conclusions based on incomplete information, and that we really don’t want to make judgements, or assumptions- we really want to give all a fair shot. But sometimes in this frenetic, grasping society we often go to the default mode which has to do with aversion or checking out entirely.

These relationship impairments often lead to dissatisfaction, angst, and emptiness. We are coming to find in the interpersonal neurobiology of Daniel Siegel, and beginning with the attachment therapy of John Bowlby, that our sense of self is created in relationships.

Attachment research is now holding out that our entire concept of self is formulated through relationships. Those who did not have stable warm attached relationships as infants and toddlers, or were subject to trauma at some point in their life,  are likely to have a non attached worldview. Also subject to attachment issues are folks that have addictions, depression or anxiety. Their brains are not integrated; different parts of the brain, particularly the middle prefrontal cortex,  are not entirely wired together.

Mindfulness practice has been shown to lead to integration, wiring the brains’ different sections back together. This gives validation to the notion that spiritual communities and fellowship aid in developing a more healthy; and complete; mind and body.

“I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.”

Mother Teresa

As spiritual or psychological practitioners we need to have some faith and confidence that we are full of love. And that others are full of love also. What gets in the way is our own sense of woundedness, in other words non integration. This is truth for me. I see this when I am consciously connective, warm, intimate, loving. When I feel closed, cold, disconnected, I feel a lack of love, aversion, disgust and there could be a host of other unpleasant descriptors. So when we interact with others, we recognize the disconnect and accept the disconnect with mindfulness. The best place is to accept this within the body. Can I notice the sensations? What are the sensations like? Hard versus soft, hot versus cold, moving versus still etc. Then can I hold this in a space of mindfulness and equanimity? One of the most important tenets of parents who are securely attached is that they are comfortable in their own skin. So what we do is to notice and accept the unpleasant phenomena and create a loving response.

Several years ago I was counseling a young man from a local high school. As is so often the case, I would walk this person to the park and do our session there. My client was aghast when I would freely and happily say hello to anyone who happened in our path. His question was “Why are you doing that”  My response was “to not do that makes no sense!”.

So there is a responsibility with this truth (Dhamma.) How fortunate one is to be exposed to this incredible truth, and have the energy to continue to practice living in this truth. We have the opportunity to have a huge impact on our friends and families, the community and the world through this precious truth.  We can recondition our habitual responses to self and others, and create a more loving world for all.

“Reverence, humility, contentment, gratitude and hearing the good Dhamma, this is the best good luck”

The Buddha

Drugs, Alcohol, Sex- We Can Do Plenty About Addictions. Seminar Saturday January 9, 2016

shutterstock_54830533Are you feeling out of control, anxious, angry, sad and helpless about someone’s compulsive behavior? Are you baffled that despite all evidence they have a debilitating or embarrassing condition, your loved one continues to harm themselves?

Or perhaps despite your best efforts and intentions, you keep going back to behaviors that do not meet your values, do not reflect the best you? Is what you are doing baffling you, and interfering with being a successful and whole human being?

You can help yourself and your loved one with a few simple techniques. Learn to give yourself a chance at happiness by attending this important and worthwhile seminar.

What: A three hour seminar that addresses compulsive behavior such as drugs and alcohol, sex, work, shopping and gambling.  You can expect safety and an emphasis on confidentiality. The leader, Andy Quinn,  has been working with families with compulsions for 25 years.

Who: All family members and/or those struggling with compulsion are welcome. Trust that you will not have to self-disclose or even state why you are present for the seminar.

When and Where: 8AM- 11AM, Saturday January 9, 2015. The building is 215 East Bay St., Suite 5, Lakeland, FL 33801.

What to expect:  Teaching includes

  • The truth about addictions and compulsions
  • What the recent science says about what works to help people recover from addiction
  • How to get help for yourself or your family member who has an addiction or compulsion
  • How to find a reputable treatment program
  • Plenty of question and answer time

How to Register: The seminar cost $50. Space is limited so RSVP soon. Call/text  Andy 863-683-9600 or email abquinn2010@gmail.com

 

One Day Lovingkindness Meditation Retreat, Saturday October 10, 2015

When: October 10, 2015 9 AM—5 PM

Where: Olmsted House, Bok Tower Gardens
1151 Tower Boulevard, Lake Wales, Florida 33853

Bok-TowerLegacy-232x300

Who: Experienced and Inexperienced Students.

Course Taught by Peter Carlson
Peter has practiced meditation for more than thirty years and taught Vipassana (Insight) Meditation for more than twenty years. His training includes three-month courses at the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, MA. Peter is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in private practice in Winter Park, Florida. He is  the founding teacher of Orlando Insight Meditation Group.

To Register: RSVP. Contact Andy Quinn, abquinn2010@gmail.com, 863-683-9600

Fees: $25 includes admission to  the Tower, Meditation Instruction, and lunch provided by experience students. Refreshments provided prior to the start of the course. Please send fees to Andy Quinn, 215 E.Bay St. Suite 5, Lakeland, FL 33801.

What: If you prefer to meditate on the floor bring your own cushions.

 

Help for Families of Addicts, Part I

Andy Quinn 2014Just the word “addict” makes us cringe! Then to think that our child or husband may be an addict is certainly unsettling, even devastating. Despite our best efforts at convincing, controlling and cajoling the addict to quit they keep on. And despite all the tragic events and difficulties they just keep on. Truly we are baffled and most of us in the helping professions have been confused and frustrated by trying to help these people.

So what can you do? I tell folks  that if you are going to cure addiction you have to understand the addict. There are a lot of myths about addiction, that if held onto, can actually can contribute to the problem. Even mental health professionals are still working  on outdated models of assisting families and their loved ones. The culture that we live in devalues asking for assistance,  the idea of helping one another.. Having addiction in the family can cause family members to feel shame. These dynamics can cause families to isolate and control, desperately trying to help in ineffective ways. This can lead to increased shame and more acting out by not just the addict but by family members themselves. So misguided, misinformed methods make things worse!

Most of us are going  to be traumatized by the substance using of our loved one. Susan Johnson, an attachment theorist that developed Emotional Focus Therapy, defined trauma  as a psychological wound that leaves us feeling helpless and hopeless. This is how spouses and parents of addicts often feel. When human beings are traumatized, physically, emotionally,  mentally, the mind contracts to a form of tunnel vision. Our assessment of the situation is inaccurate and our reaction is off the mark. We will spin  into anxiety  and shame and become controlling and reactive. We are often  reliving  some of the same trauma from our childhood. I would not trust such a mind for solid decision making.

Lenora gardener

This sense of losing  everything important, the trauma, reinforces a need to isolate. The isolation will reinforce, make stronger the anxiety around having substance abuse in the family. Our American culture values “being strong,” and devalues being vulnerable. Paradoxically what we are typically running from is fear…..”what will people say? (when they find out my son is an addict)”  or “what does it feel like to me to have no control?” So in a round about way it takes courage to face the pain, and relief that I do not have  to have all the answers.

Working with professionals and support groups like Al Anon leads to the most important part of helping the addict….getting help for yourself. Research consistently confirms that people are happier when they have loving relationships and talk about their problems. So getting help for yourself stabilizes the mind. Once the mind is stable, it can become more malleable, flexible to entertain new concepts about the nature of addiction. The open mind will also become more intuitive about how to help my particular addict. This openness can also be conducive to loving our addict, a powerful force in getting better.

We learn to soften toward the addict when we understand that their destructive behavior has to do with impaired neurological functioning, that may have been genetic or due to childhood experiences. Family members learn that their loved one is not of sound mind, their mind so impaired that they can not control their use. Families can learn that the addicted person is suffering, and deserves compassion like we all do. So the first step in getting help for our addict is to begin the process of understanding, forgiving and loving our addict.

by Andy Quinn

Counseling: 5 to Know Before You Go.

Once upon a time I had never seen a counselor.  But I was getting desperate- my life felt like it was falling apart and things were getting to a scary point. I became grudgingly willing to see someone in case there was any way counseling could help me.  I got a recommendation for a therapist from a friend, made an appointment and went…with my tail between my legs.

There, I blurted out my entire life’s story. And in answer to the therapist’s question, I admitted to smoking some pot. She told me she could not work with me unless I gave that up immediately and entirely.  She might as well have shot me in the chest.  I remember leaving feeling stunned, rejected, completely vulnerable and humiliated. She ‘gave’ me an unwanted hug as I left. I was worse off than when I went in.  I suspected help would never come. I was clearly unworthy.

To shorten up a LONG story, I went to self-help meetings for a while and then tried another therapist, and that time it clicked. She and I developed a rapport, and I went on to work hard at recovery for many months. The experience was transformative and set me on a path of recovery and growth. I am happier and healthier than I could ever have imagined. Now I am a therapist, helping others to grow as well.

I remember those feelings: reluctant, desperate, hopeful before the first appointment. I remember the agony of the first appointment- fearing rejection. I remember the mystery of not knowing what was supposed to happen.

Who says what? Will the therapist tell me what is wrong with me? Will they respect me? Will they tell me what to do? Judge me? Isn’t this stuff written down anywhere?!?

If you are new to therapy, here are a few considerations:

 

  • What is the problem and/or what is your goal?  Put it in one sentence if you can. “we fight all the time”, “I get scary mad”, “I need to get a life”, “I want us to feel romantic and sexual again”.
  • Consider how you want to pay for counseling. With the new healthcare laws, many more people have counseling benefits included in their insurance coverage. Call your insurance provider- the number is on the back of your insurance card, and ask “Do I have counseling benefits? Do I have to pay down a deductible before coverage kicks in? What is my co-pay? Where is the list of people I can see?  Would you reimburse me if I saw Susan Truett?” There are other ways to cover counseling as well. For instance if you work for a larger employer, you may have Employee Assistance Program (EAP) benefits. These can offer up to 7 or 8 sessions for free with very little hassle, and no loss of privacy.
  • Call clinicians and ask about specializations, insurance company contracts and about hours of operation. Counselors rarely work with more than a few insurance companies so do check into the practicalities of payment and scheduling.
  • Meet a few people and look for one you feel good working with.  Therapists are all different and you want to find the one that feels right for you.  You should feel safe, respected, and understood. You should like the therapist.  Don’t be afraid to interview a few and move on  if you don’t feel the connection.
  • Just as therapists are vastly different in temperament, skills, empathy and approaches, people are different as well in the way they receive help.  What feels like help to you is different from what feels like help to another. However you like your help is probably ok. There is help out there for you.