Category Archives: therapy

When It’s Hard to Hope

I recently had coffee with a good friend and we discussed marriage, travel, ideas for an upcoming talk I have; the normal things between long-standing friends. We laughed about memories and made plans for us and our spouses to get together. I knew we had connected to discuss a recent loss in my life and yet talking about the normal things felt safe. I wasn’t exactly intentionally avoiding, but I wasn’t just letting things out.

And then she asked how I was doing.

Not good, ok, heart-broken, better… they were all the truth. It depended on the hour and who I was with. It depended on the last time I had cried and what I was doing. Sometimes even I didn’t know how I was doing because sometimes life throws you a curveball that you don’t see coming. And while you want to talk about the struggle, sometimes you want to just talk about the other stuff and pretend your world is normal.

The pain that occurs with loss can be overwhelming. You wrestle with your reality throughout the day and perhaps finally come to terms with it only to go to bed and awaken with the pressure to reaccept it once more. The world continues to turn, to celebrate birthdays and baseball games, to gather and go to school and work. No one seems to pause and take note of your grief. And the heartache makes it hard to move forward with hope.

So, what do we do and where do we turn when heartache makes it hard to hope?

In the days following the news I alluded to, I noticed my dueling desires. I wanted to be alone, watch TV, and not face the rising sun and incoming day. This was alongside my longing to connect, to have someone reach out and ask how I was doing, to gaze into friends lives on social media, and constantly check my email and texts. I wanted to exercise, to run, sweat and push myself. I also wanted to stay in bed and not even move so far as to the living room. I wanted to cry and I longed to laugh. I wanted to give up and I was desperate for hope.

And somedays I didn’t know what I wanted or where to turn. But I did know this: Whatever you do, Linds, keep on going. For it was necessary to be together and necessary to be alone. It was important to laugh and important to cry. It was helpful to push myself physically and helpful to give myself grace. And it was essential to continue on, both continuing routine and creating space to pause. Even amid the truth of it being hard to hope, we have to keep going.

And as we keep going and allowing for the different twists and turns our heart takes us on, we turn to God, to friends, and to those who have walked a similar journey. We let others know of the ache and risk being a burden to allow others the gift of caring for us well. Slowly an hour turns into an afternoon and an afternoon into a day and we realize we are still going. We become less annoyed at the morning and more willing to step out and show up. As we hold onto our basic values and practices, share with others, and allow space for feelings, heartbreak slowly gives way for hope to return.

However, hopes return is not without going through the mess, the feels, the ups and downs, and the risks. Hope is a scary thing. Hope has the potential to let us fall and fall hard. Hope has the ability to leave us embarrassed, hurt, lonely, sad, and wrecked. When it’s hard to hope, we may be tempted to throw in the towel, but little is to be gained from giving in and giving up. Hope, even when it’s hard, must return to propel us on onward.

A life without hope is simply no way to live. We have to have hope. And ultimately, when it is hard to hope we must connect. This may be to others and is most fully with God. Hope in things and outcomes, like all hope, has the potential to leave us heartbroken. Yet hope in something bigger than ourselves allows us to get out of our own disappointment and pain to a hope that sustains. We accept we are not alone, we navigate the pain and sorrow, and we show up to answer the question, “how are you doing?” and we make way for hope once more — because hope embodied does not disappoint.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC

Three Thoughts On Choosing A Therapist

Last week, a dear friend of mine in another city inquired about what sorts of things to ask for and learn about when trying to find a therapist. She sent me the following message: “‘I got three counseling referrals from my pastor/friend, but I don’t really know what questions to ask to know which one is the right fit. Explain exactly what I want to learn more about with anxiety support?”

It was such a great, simple and yet actually complex question; one that many first time therapy seeking folks must navigate. I was eager to assist because not only do I love my friend, but I also love the therapy process and think the right fit and right relationship are essential. And though this is not an exhaustive list, it is a few thoughts on what you may want to ask a therapist before working together.

  • How do you view change? Most folks are headed into therapy because something isn’t working. If you are able to identify what it is in you that you would like to change — be it how you feel, relationship patterns, anxious thoughts, etc — that’s a huge first step. Getting curious about how the therapist views change is then the next. Personally, I view change as a longer, relational process. I have learned to be upfront with clients that while I can offer some quick skills and possibly even help with this or that, I believe true change only comes in long-term (think a year+) work where the therapeutic relationship has space to work on the roots issues.
  • What’s your approach? Not only is this a question regarding what theory or practices a counselor uses, but also one in which to get curious about them as a person. Some therapists allow clients to talk while giving minimal feedback and others are more directive and take the lead. Ask if he or she is more directive if you want that sort of engagement. Additionally, consider asking the counselor what he or she thinks a good therapeutic relationship looks like and see if you agree. If you don’t know what you want, perhaps think of the friends and folks you turn to when you are struggling and think about how they respond to you.
  • Ask yourself: How do I feel in and after this conversation? As you talk to a potential counselor, notice how you feel. Feeling a bit anxious is absolutely normal, but does it seem like the therapist “gets you?” Do you feel like you could tell them things and they would listen well? Do they make you laugh, do you feel safe, are their words comforting? Do you feel respected? In some ways, trust your gut. Feeling nervous, uncertain, and a bit uncomfortable is common. But if in the midst of that you think and feel like the person on the other end can help with those, give it a try. Most therapists want a good fit and are happy to help you find that if things don’t work with them.

Be aware of counselors who make big promises and speak into your situation without much information. Learn what your referring friend liked and disliked about their work with the counselor in consideration. There are techniques, experience, and style that all play a role in great therapy, but without relationship, I believe little is to be gained. At the end of the day, I hold fast to the following: They won’t care what you show them until you show them that you care.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.

 

 

Why Therapists Love the Word “Journey”

It was recently brought to my attention that “journey” is a therapy word; that those outside the walls of the office can often miss the meaning that we as practitioners are trying to bring to light.

Fair.

It is rare that anyone would eagerly long to embark upon a “journey” of unknown length, time, and degree of difficulty. And all that with a virtual stranger leading and inquiring about the most intimate parts of your life. Therapy-wise, perhaps you are willing to do a few sessions to teach you how to better interact with your boss or touch upon the loss of your parent, but a “journey….”

And yet, that is exactly what I do.

I admit, I do love the word “journey.” Simply look at the tag line of this website. Journey holds so much truth to the work I offer my clients. Similar to a journey, we prepare by using what we know. We continue together by reflecting on the past and look into the unknown future. Together we trek untravelled paths; you gain healing as you interact with your possibly painful history and gather insight on ways to navigate your future. On our journey, you learn new skills and together we practice them. With one another, we weather the uncontrollable storms of life and you come out stronger and more confident in yourself.

While sprints with pre-determined finish lines are great, I view therapy as longer than a sprint. Journey’s take time and relay the idea of growth and change, adventure and excitement, and they intentionally account for more than the finish line. Therapeutically, we address not only the surface behavioral changes, but I invite you into relationship that allows for deeper, more sustainable change. I am honored to journey alongside you and allow time for struggle, change, and lasting celebration.

Best of all, this journey is completely yours and no one can take it from you. You are empowered and encouraged try new paths, new ideas, new behaviors, and new thoughts. You experience changes and take those changes into your world, knowing the work it took for you to get there while finding rest in the comfort of having someone in your corner and someone who is for you, someone safe and someone willing to stand with you. And like the tagline says, there is meaning you will find that is unknown to you in the moment.

If this excites, intrigues, invites, or even scares you a little, I invite a conversation and ask you…when shall we embark?

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.

If you’re interested in a journey, contact Lindsay today.

Looking for Our Silver Bullet — A Blog Series

Sometimes we read a book or a quote and it becomes sticky. It’s ideas and words rattle around in our mind and won’t seem to leave us alone. Books like When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, The Gift of Being Yourself by David Benner, The Problem With Pain by C.S. Lewis, and Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle are some that quickly come to mind for me. They captivate, challenge, and invite the reader to cultivate new ways of thinking and possibly new ways of going through the world.

Additionally, some quotes do this. In grad school, a professor shared one such quote that I memorized enough to go back and find. “If words are to enter men’s minds and bear fruit, they must be the right words shaped cunningly to pass men’s defenses and explode silently and effectually within their minds.” -J. B. Phillips. What a great thought! It is so powerful and articulate, helping to frame the kind of writer, speaker, and therapist I desire to be.

If you’ve read many of my blogs, you will see quotes and ideas that have stuck with me sprinkled throughout. One quote, however, feels more deserving of intentionality than a mere mention.  And so I decided to make this lengthier quote into more of an event that hones in on the specifics of each sentiment. Over the coming 18 weeks, I will be writing a blog series entitled Looking for Our Silver Bullet based on the following quote by former Starbucks CEO, Howard Shultz.

Grow with discipline. Balance intuition with rigor. Innovate around the core. Don’t embrace the status quo. Find new ways to see. Never expect a silver bullet. Get your hands dirty. Listen with empathy and over communicate with transparency. Tell your story, refusing to let others define you. Use authentic experiences to inspire. Stick to your values, they are your foundation. Hold people accountable but give them the tools to succeed. Make tough choices; it’s how you execute that counts. Be decisive in times of crisis. Be nimble. Find truth in trials and lessons in mistakes. Be responsible for what you see, hear, and do. Believe.

—Howard Shultz, Onward

I read this book 7+ years ago and still to this day, I find myself recalling pieces of it in my weekly interactions. It holds simplicity alongside complexity and invites us in. I hope to do the same as each week I will address one of the short statements in the quote and discuss it’s application in our lives. I hope you’ll join me for the series!

And I hope to make Shultz proud.

Maybe even get a coffee out of it.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC

To subscribe to the blog series, please click the link on your right or sign up by email! As always, contact me with any questions.