I am… or is it I…?
It has been a struggle to redefine and describe what I do. Starting with credentials and experience; an undergraduate degree in interpersonal and small group communication, a minor in psychology, a master’s in education specializing in counseling psychology and a licensed mental health counselor. Experience of 37 years in mental health, ranging from inpatient, outpatient treatment, emergency services, court liaisons, involuntary treatment evaluator and crisis consultant for 25 years.
Counseling is about the past, its influence on a person’s current situation and leading them to insight. A coach is part cheerleader, sets goals, directs tasks and focuses on results that are posted on a scoreboard. And a consultant “trouble shoots a situation.” Which involves determining the problem, figuring out the primary dynamics or causes and then suggests a solution. My experience was actually moving a person from being stuck in the past; to becoming aware of their present situation. And then showing them a path to get them to where they wanted, if they so chose. All the while, respecting and believing that they have the sovereign ability, resources and responsibility to be self-determined. The essence of the crisis experience was dealing with a hot mess of clinical, medical, ethical, legal, criminal, advocacy, family, community and the client’s interests. This work is shrouded in mystery because of confidentiality, professional protocols and is invisible to 99.9% of folks. Also part of this experience was being a home plate umpire. It is rare to find this experience elsewhere.
Counseling and therapy are regulated and with good intention. But it also has unintended consequences in that it can stigmatize. The mental health system has social, economic and political tyrants which has caused it to become an expensive mind-boggling labyrinth.
In the end, most folks are not crazy, but find themselves in crazy situations. They are intelligent but have become overwhelmed and stressed. Feelings are raw, confidence is unsure and thinking becomes limited, which leads to acting unreasonably. The common life situations such as: Moving to a new community, birth of a child, divorce, physical, emotional, verbal abuse, sexual assault, death of a loved one, bankruptcy, job loss, taking care of an elderly parent, medical condition, a car accident, a new unfamiliar challenge, etc.; can set off a downward spiral. It is often some unanticipated disruption that will knock, out of whack, a routine that has been working. Sometimes a significant life event results in becoming aware that there is lack or a change that needs to occur of meaning, purpose and direction. Realizing that you are not living your life, your purpose and your passion. But have just been too busy to notice or your focus has been elsewhere.
Being forged in experience of a crisis consultant brought an awareness of my particular strengths, weaknesses and opportunities (threats are misperceived opportunities). Having said this, my talents are not in the longer-term connections required for therapy or coaching.
I educate. In the past I have been seen as a fixer, trouble shooter and consultant. My expertise is to step-in, gather information about the situation, investigate concerns and figure out the dynamics (how and why) of what is happening. Then ask questions of what is a possible fix? Pointing out areas that need attention and suggesting an approach or work around which might be possible or at least something to consider. It’s not about providing remedies or treatment. But helping a person to think about and consider better strategies that align with their dreams, passions and joys. Basically to offer skillful means or conceptual way to get on with life. I believe folks have the resources, discernment and sovereign free-will to decide their best course of action and the path for themselves. Ultimately, it is their life and thus their responsibility.
The events of 2021 challenged me to figure out something else to do. Stepping away from a 37-year career that had been rewarding, challenging, fun, difficult, inspiring and deeply humbling. I have come to the point where it is important to share the skills, tips, tricks, secrets that were discovered. The stepping away from the mental health realm, opened up an opportunity to share the legacy of this odd job. A freeing experience, no longer fearing censure of doing the right thing while conducting high-risk evaluations. Instead, discovering the opportunity to teach a strategy to help others navigate their change. Love Change Grow is a teaching and education endeavor that offers a master strategy to live life on your terms.
Peace, love and light!