Blog anniversary and giveaway!

Earlier in the month, I saw an alert that said it had been my 4 year anniversary in WordPress. While completely astonished that it had been so long, it made me feel a sense of gratitude to this space I come to when I need to write and express myself.

For that, and to end May, which is Mental Health Awareness Month, I am doing a giveaway!

I am giving away two of the stickers I have on my Society6 store to two lucky winners!

To participate:

  1. Follow the blog via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or WordPress.
  2. Share this post either by sharing to Facebook, Twitter or by reposting the Instagram post. Whatever works for you! Just make sure to do it publicly.
  3. Tag me in the post!

 

Participate before June 14. I will announce the winners on June 15!

Good luck!

 

 

Social media accounts:

Instagram

Twitter

Facebook

 

 


Disclaimer: family members of the writer are not allowed to participate in sweepstake due to a conflict of interest.

Job searching in Chicago, for therapists

Hello all!

After having been job searching for a while, I believe that I could be of use to other professionals in the same position.

The general recommendations and learnings I will share in this post come from the last 9 months of active job search + 3 years of research for opportunities specific to the city of Chicago. It is not a miracle, it is not the only way, it is definitely not a magical solution. Bellow, you will also find a comprehensive list of Chicago based agencies and employers for therapists.

The job seeking candidate would be someone with a master’s level training in counseling. In Illinois, someone eligible or who is an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor). It may also be helpful to social workers, psychologists, and some bachelor level graduates who are looking for behavioral health positions.

Let’s get to it!

Where to start: Specify what you want

Because the field may be really wide in terms of ways to practice I would say the first thing is to know what you want to do. Even if there isn’t a niche or a population with whom you would want to work, try and concrete what type of work is of your interest. As an entry-level therapist, some basic questions can be these:

Do I want to work in the community or in an office setting?

Do I want to work for a social service agency or for a private company?

Do I want to work with children or adults or both?

Is there any specific population that I DON’T want to work with?

Work environment

You are no longer in school, and this is not your internship. Know your worth and know what you are willing to sacrifice and what not. In my case, I knew that I did not want to drive while at work, I did not want to do community work and I did not want to do nights. I was, however, okay with working evenings and weekends, and driving a little further if the agency was worth the while. And it is important that you know these things because they are going to be part of so many hours of your life.

Types of positions

In relation to what I was saying above, there is a variety of positions that you will read about and be offered. What can we do and what is out of our scope?

Doable

It may be needed that you work some evenings or weekends.

Some case management is to be expected as well, but not as the main focus of your work.

Having a large caseload and doing many hours may be needed.

Undoable

We cannot do therapy with sleeping people, so if it’s a night shift, you are just a technician. Please don’t hire someone with a maser’s to do nanny work.

Full time on the phone counseling, not completely undoable, but be suspicious.

Positions that are described with action words like assist, organize, administer usually belong to jobs bellow master’s level.

Use Glassdoor

This is not only in terms of how Glassdoor can help you, but how you can help others. It is important to share our salaries and experiences with other colleagues, as that is the best way we can assure that we are treated fairly.

If you haven’t done so yet, submit your salary anonymously and help others! I have previously shared my experiences while going through the interview processes so that people know what to expect.

Networking

Sure, this is the trick that everybody knows but nobody wants to follow. There are a thousand tricks in regards to this topic that you can find anywhere else, but I won’t go there.

Specific to Chicago, I feel like there are so many fairs. There are health and wellness fairs, student and intern fairs, job fairs, cultural fairs… Most of the times the same group of employers will be there, trying to know and hire recent graduates. Take your resumes or business cards with you and talk to people about what they are looking for. Shoot them an email that night thanking them for their time.

Get trained, licensed, and certified

This is something that we should all be doing regardless, but that will also differentiate you from other candidates. Especially if you are interested in any of the “trendy therapies” like DBT or ACT, show that you have trained in those areas.

At the same time, complete your certification (NCC) or licensure (LPC) so that you are more marketable. Even if not completely required, employers and recruiters value the clarity of those certifications when looking for candidates.

Spanish speaking counselors!

Know your worth! I have kept hearing over an over about how great of a need there is for Spanish speaking counselors. However, because of obvious discriminatory reasons, I believe there is a higher chance that a Latina therapist is underpaid and underemployed. So, overall, know your worth and go for it. 

 

The real meat

Okay, I hear you saying, “all of this is great but where do I apply?” Don’t you worry, I got you.  Here you will be able to download the list of my most thorough research. 

This list includes many Chicago based agencies that will hire mental health clinicians. You will find links to their career page and sometimes a link to their Glassdoor page. These are not all of them but are some of the most relevant. Review each to see what they are looking for and if it fits with what you want.

 

So that’s it! I hope this helps you and if you know someone who is job searching, please share it with them!

And as always, contact me if you have any comments or questions.

 


Donate 🙂

Do you want to support my work? Click here to learn more!

 

 

Types of therapies: Family Systems Therapy

Welcome to another exciting #TheoryThursdays!

Briefly

The most important thing I know about family therapy is that working in therapy with a family does not mean you are having family therapy. The second most important thing I know is that you can use family therapy without a family present.

Family Systems Therapies are the theoretical approaches that use the family system to understand what is not working and to solve it at the same time. The idea that small change can lead to big changes is importantly rooted in this approach.

Therapist

A professor of mine once told us that the greatest family therapy session is that in which family members forget about the therapist being there.

The therapist will remain as objective as possible, without taking sides, and try to intervene as they would do with an individual client, to serve as a sounding board for what the family is bringing.

The use of genograms is fairly common in this approach, although it is not unique to it. A genogram is the graphic description of a family, that may include different generations, important events, and relationships and dynamics among members.

Client

A slight difference with other kinds of approaches is the use of the identified patient or identified client (IP). Usually, when a family attends therapy, they have targeted someone as the patient, the person who needs the help or around whom some problems have developed.

This does not necessarily mean that in the therapeutic journey this is the sole focus of the therapy. While there is an identified patient, the whole family unit, even the members who are refusing to come, are the clients for the therapist.

Additionally, as I was hinting above, an individual can benefit from working within a systems perspective even if they are going to treatment by themselves. Exploring this person’s genograms, generational trauma, focus on client’s relationships with others and how does interact with current difficulties are some of the examples of how that may look like.

 

To be honest, I believe Family Systems to be of particular difficulty to practice in therapy. And it is because of that that I have a great admiration for anyone working within the approach.

What do you all think? Anything I have missed? Any experience with this treatment

 

Resources/More

Corey, G. (2017). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Pi Day!

π Today is Pi Day! π

Whether you celebrate it for its numeral significance, or to get yourself a good piece of dessert, I wish you a happy Pi Day! 

It is also my brother’s birthday, who is a mathematician, so it has always been a great celebration in my family. Maybe because of them as well, I have grown valuing science in its many fields.

I love science and human scientific achievement, and while maybe not completely related to mathematics, the therapeutic field owes a lot to all of the scientists who have devoted their lives into finding ways in which to improve our own. 

I want to send a special shoutout to all the women scientists out there. Yoy may be doing field work, developing new methodologies, elaborating some type of research, you may be working in a lab, or teaching others, but in any case: big thanks for your hard work. 

Take time today to honor those known or unknown scientists who do so much for society, sometimes with so little credit!

Safety Plans

Through my work as a therapist, I have often encountered the need to discuss and develop safety plans with my clients. Safety plans are more commonly used with people that have suicidal ideation, self-harm behaviors, or thoughts related to harming others.

A safety plan is a guide for yourself to have whenever you are not feeling so well. By creating this guide while you have more energy or are more stable, you are making it easier to have some go-to options for when you are not doing so great. A safety plan generally includes different sections that will help you explore what emotions you are dealing with, how to distract yourself or cope and options for you to talk to others.

They can be done by anyone, and often created within a therapeutic setting. While mostly used for the cases mentioned above, I believe they do no harm to people dealing with less severe emotional difficulties.

I have created some documents for you all to download:

Download: Blank Safety Plan

Download: Pocket safety plan an abbreviated smaller version to keep in your wallet or pocket.

Let me know what you think!

 


Disclaimer: These materials and article are not substitutes for medical care. If you are having any suicidal thoughts, talk to your therapist, call the national suicide helpline or go to your nearest emergency room.

On Staying Grounded

Lately, I’ve been finding it harder to be present. When stress hits me, my tendency is to stay in the past or the future.

I get stuck in the past by overthinking what I have done recently, these past days, or previously on the day. I ruminate on difficulties or mistakes and I replay different scenes in my head.

I get stuck in the future by thinking about what I would want to change, what could be different, and how fast I want to get there.

In either one of those situations, I completely forget to be present. I go through my day without enjoying myself, without really BEING there. 

Some years ago, I used a mindfulness bell app that helped me check with myself every so often. I would take a deep breath, reflect on how my body was feeling, and what sort of emotions were more active. Very often I would find myself clenching my teeth, being completely tense, or experiencing some sort of emotion without being aware.

This kind of bell is currently not so attractive to me, mostly because of the difficulties to have something like that at work added to an important layer of cultural appropriation of which I was not so aware some time ago. 

Now, what can we use to keep ourselves grounded? It’s much more difficult to stay present when we have to do it consciously. Whether you do it with an app or try to do it regularly here are some ideas:

Stay connected to your external senses. A classic grounding exercise would be to try to find 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you touch, 2 things you smell, and 1 thing you taste. This simple exercise will quickly bring you back to the present, as the mind is not able to focus on these external cues while worrying.

Listen to your body needs. Am I hungry? Do I need to sleep? Am I thirsty? Do I need to use the bathroom? When we are not grounded we forget about some of this internal signals. Try to consciously check with yourself. It may be more difficult than expected, especially if you are recovering from an eating disorder or addiction, as this connection to your needs may have been erased by other urges and behaviors. Don’t worry, one step at a time.

Literally feel the ground. Without wanting to reduce this notion to a new-age kind of solution, there is some benefit in connecting our physical bodies to the ground. Like in mountain pose in yoga, by standing tall and trying to connect your feet to the ground you may find your inner ground-ness increase.

Move your body. If you have difficulties with connecting to your physical body, try using your body for movement. You can try to go to the gym, practice yoga, go dancing, or stretch at the office among others. If you have mobility difficulties, you can try moving any part of your body, by doing it very consciously. How does it feel? How are you experiencing those body parts after they move? Are you more aware of them than before?

 

Do you all have any ideas to stay grounded that may be helpful for others? I want to hear them! 🙂

IMG_20171025_175443

 

 

 

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the process of bringing awareness to the present moment and experiences, internal or external. More commonly used within the idea of Mindfulness Meditation it’s referencing a type of meditative practice based on Buddhist traditions. It has been brought to western countries in recent decades and considered it to be introduced by John Kabat-Zinn.

Researchers have investigated Mindfulness to be effective to reduce stress, pain, anxiety as well as gaining focus on necessary tasks. Clinicians may use it with patients who suffer from this or related difficulties. The lay people may practice it nowadays thanks to the extension of meditation exercises, workshops or books available out there.


While the use of Mindfulness practices may be a great addition to any kind of treatment, I would not recommend to use it in place of any medical treatment.

Self-care

You’ve all probably heard or read about self-care sometime. The term seems to be gaining momentum lately. Therapists and ‘influencers’ alike are sharing their #selfcare moments with the world, and yet, many people have asked me about what self-care really means.

Image result for hot tea

For me, enjoying some nice hot tea is part of self-care

Often reduced to a synonym for drinking wine, self-care varies in the way it is used, by whom it is used and the situation surrounding it. Audre Lorde described “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare”, and as her, I believe it is rebellious and self-preserving to care for oneself. For any person, self-care would be the practice that helps them ground back to a more desirable state both in mind and body. For someone with mental health difficulties, it could mean understanding specific needs and target them. For someone with psychological trauma, it would start by identifying the triggers and skills to be able to re-stabilize into “normality” after they occur. These are just some ideas, and of course, they will vary much depending on your experience, culture, ability or race.

So how to go about practicing self-care? The first thing I consider to be of great use is to have a Self-Care Plan. You can write up this in a moment when you are feeling at peace and relaxed and when you are at a good mind space.

Your plan can be organized however you like, as it suits you better. It can be organized by areas, situations, moments of the day, or by places, among others. For example, I organize mine by areas (food, exercise, people) because that works better for me, but some people may need to organize it by places (self-care at home, at work, on the bus).

After you make a broad classification, you can go ahead and add activities you will do that make you feel better. Sometimes activities will be individualized “take a bath” and often these behaviors will be specified as situational (if ‘x’ happens, do ‘y’).

If you are under psychological treatment, please talk to your therapist to create together your self-care plan. This plan could include going to therapy, taking your meds, or practicing something related to your treatment.

It is important that you create a plan that is manageable, and always reminding yourself that this isn’t homework. If it feels tiresome, it’s SElfCareprobably not a good self-care activity. Forget about Instagram stars sharing their self-care activities, or even forget about what I said. Write what would make you feel better, more grounded and more comfortable.

Of course, this is not to say that it will be easy to apply it. It’s usually not. Women, and more so, women of color, carry with them this role of the “caregiver”. Under this lens, we’ve
all been taught to care for others, hide weaknesses and be selfless. This has traditionally only created burnout, mental illness, and unhappiness. It will take a hard collective effort to care for ourselves and help others care for themselves.

I would highly recommend having the list of activities and areas close to you at all times, either printed, written down or on your phone on the cloud. Some people also create self-care packages that they keep in their homes for moments of need. They may contain chocolates, bath salts, face masks, color pencils, popcorn… You don’t need to spend a lot of money and time creating these, for example, check out some pinterest ideas for packages.

tumblr_naugd7pNt71stc4yjo1_1280

This may also be a great idea to gift someone who you know may be struggling with mental illness or just a difficult stage. You can even create your boxes together with a friend!

If you are looking for specific tools, I highly recommend this interactive guide to self-care by Jace Harr. It is most appropriate to be used in the moment, meaning it’s not that much of a plan but more of an instant helper. Check it out whenever you are feeling down or not completely grounded. Jace has a patreon page if you feel like checking it out (or you can also donate to their PayPal account).

I hope any of this helped clear some doubts!

 

What do you all think? What do you do for self-care? Please let me know if you would like to know more or ask for more examples of what you can do.

 

 

 

 


Tea picture

Types of therapies: Psychoanalysis

In the last post I was telling you about the mini series of posts that I am creating. For the first post of the series, I have decided to write about psychoanalysis, as it is probably the oldest theory in psychotherapy, and the most known.

It is, however, very misunderstood by the lay people, because of the multiple references to it in pop culture and movies.

Briefly

Sigmund Freud is known as the founder of this theoretical orientation, and he developed it partly practicing with himself. He is most known for his psychosexual development theories, that were, and still are, controversial for many people. However, he did contribute many things to the field of psychology, creating a shift towards therapy that wasn’t so focused on the brain and the science behind our behavior.

I believe one of the most important contributions of psychoanalytic theories was the introduction of the unconscious. The unconscious would be a part of ourselves that we do not know, but that impacts greatly in the way we feel, think and behave. Through analysis, Freud believed, we can start to unwrap some of the mysteries of the unconscious, and create change by learning the truth of ourselves.

He also created the theory of personality, which you have probably heard or read about: the id, ego and superego (click here for extended info).

He and his followers also believed in the importance of childhood and parents. Thus, analysis would focus most of its time in learning about past experiences that might have created problems for our present self.

From Clínica Picazo

If you are thinking about engaging in this kind of therapy you should know that this is generally a long term therapy, with usual meeting sessions every week or twice weekly.

Therapist

The classical psychoanalytic or psychodynamic therapists are trained to be a blank slate and to not self disclose anything. This might come off as coldness, but they believe that by being completely blank, the client will project their own life’s characteristics and problems into the therapist.

Client

What the therapist wants from the client is for them to talk openly all the time. By talking without any context or questions, the client engages in a process of free association, which psychoanalysts believe is important to obtain the information that the unconscious is trying to hide.

*Modern approaches- psychodynamic orientations

After Freudian psychoanalysis, there were many other theories that evolved from it like attachment theories or object relationship theories. The more modern approaches of the practice are not as orthodox regarding self disclosure or being completely blank. What’s more, many therapists of other orientations use psychodynamic understandings for their practice.

Resources

American Psychoanalytic Association

For more info on the theory: APsA.

To find a therapist: find help.

If you have any questions, as always, contact me.