My new internship

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mindfulness challenge

I've recently started practicing yoga on a regular basis, and the benefits have been great! I feel so much more centered, relaxed, open-minded, thoughtful, and clear-headed since starting. So, instead of just making it about keeping my physical body fit, I've decided to also continue to dive deeper into the mindfulness realm and to begin to incorporate more of medication into my daily practice.

Mindfulness is -
"awareness without judgment of what is, via direct and immediate experience. Meeting each moment as it presents itself." 

Like a new, untrained puppy, our mind can become easily distracted. As your working with your puppy, you might tell him/her to sit. But, more than likely, they tend not to listen at first. Instead, they run to chew on the leg of a chair or start knocking a toy around, or even jump into your lap. You may get frustrated at times your pup, but its always helpful to remember that they just don't how to listen and focus yet, so it's up to you to train them to do so. 

Like the puppy analogy, our untrained minds easily become distracted. In addition, our minds tend to go through life on an automatic-pilot drive. It definitely has its advantages. By doing things without too much thought, we'r able to do like five things at once. Society today tends to be so focused on being productive, that we try to do things quickly. Also, it helps us to avoid feelings that we want to avoid, such as anger, frustration, sadness, loneliness. 

However, by living life this way, we tend to let the moments pass us. Therefore, mindfulness is all about slowing it mentally down, and really focusing on your moment-to-moment interactions. We do this by training our minds (i.e. puppy story) to only focus on the here-and-now. It's definitely not something that comes easily and has to be something you commit to work on a little each day. 

I am beginning my journey into mindfulness by practicing meditation. 

Today was my first attempt to actually putting it into action. I sat on the couch and got into a comfortable position, legs crossed, arms resting on my lap, and back and head leaning back. I hadn't seen anywhere where you actually have to sit straight up, but after today's session, I could see how it could help you not to fall asleep in the process. 

I set my phone alarm to go off in 20 minutes. The articles I've been reading say 20 minutes is an ideal length of time to set aside for yourself in the beginning. Since I wanted to hear the alarm go off, I left my phone volume on. However, as you'll see, I'll have to find another way to time myself. 

I closed my eyes and started to breath. Something I've recently learned about the practice is not to put too much pressure on yourself to breath a certain way. Yes, you should focus on your breathing, but jus focus on it. Take it into account and listen to yourself breath in and out. Eventually, it should level out on its own. A BIG theme is not to judge anything about what your doing in this process. If your mind starts to wander, don't get upset at yourself for it. Just like the breathing, make note of whatever thought/feeling your mind wandered to, and try to gently bring yourself back to the present. 

Some of the tricks to help you come back mentioned in some articles are: 

Count your breathing. As your breathing in, count (one, one, one, one) and as your breathing out, count (two, two, two) and so on. 

Try to think about how long you've been sitting for. For example, as your mind starts to wander, think, "hmm...I think I've been sitting here for about five minutes now" or "I was meditating until I hear the sound of the air-conditioner shutting off." Then, gently bring your mind back to the feelings in your body and your moment-to-moment sensations. 

This first time went pretty well, although I think I made myself too comfortable, so I was afraid I was going to fall asleep. Also, my boyfriend called at minute 15. I definitely found myself thinking about: things I had to get done, how I wanted to start a blog entry on this subject and what I was going to put, how much longer I had 'till my laundry was done, BUT like I mentioned above, I tried not to feel frustrated at myself for it. Instead I acknowledged the thoughts and feelings that came along with them (anxiousness, excitement) and reminded myself to focus on my breathing and body. 

I can't wait to try it again!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tele-therapy? Is it really the wave of the 'therapy future'?

Im graduating with my Master in Social Work in August (let the countdown begin...) with my LMSW (once I pass the exam). What to do next is the a question that plaques me each day. My boyfriend, Rob, a computer junkie, asked me what I thought about the idea of being able to offer therapy through a face-to-face communication, computer-based program, such as Skype, enabling me to be much more mobile, since being with him will entail lots of moving around.

I first wrote the idea off. I just didn't think it would work. However, I found a couple of articles today that discussed the "wave of the future"- tele-therapy. It has mostly been done with individuals who are either unable to or have difficulty leaving their homes (elderly, individuals suffering from depression, anxiety) or people in rural areas that have little or no resources available to them.

Very few studies have been done to measure the effects of tele-therapy, especially in relation to in-the-flesh therapy.

A study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, "Randomized Trial of Telephone Psychotherapy and Pharmacotherapy for Depression: Continuation and Durability of Effects", studied the effects of over-the-phone psychotherapy combined with antidepressant medications versus individuals that just receive antidepressants and found that they scored lower on the depression scales for 6 to 18 months compared to the group that only received medications.

This study was only comparing over-the-phone therapy, versus in-person, which only enables the therapist  to be able to hear the client's voice. I would assume that tele-therapy, which involves actual face-to-face interaction, would have much greater positive effect since it would allow the therapist to see the clients facial expressions, gestures, and other forms non-verbal communication.

Of course, there are some arguments against this type of therapy.

Some therapist would argue that although the therapist can still see their client, some of those non-verbal cues are too subtle to be able to pick up over the computer. I would agree with this. However, although we would surely miss out on some tell-tell clues, we would still be seeing clients that wouldn't have sought and/or received therapy at all. This form of therapy would definitely be opening up the doors of counseling to a whole new group of people.

David Lester wrote an article on the topic of E-therapy as he puts it, called "E-therapy: Caveats from experiences with telephone therapy" in which he argues that doing therapy through a medium, such as the internet, takes away from the formality of therapy, and that it is no longer considered therapy but  a conversation. He mentions that by taking away things from the session such as a waiting room, the therapist's chair, and whatever else the therapist would use to put  the therapist in a higher position of authority and power, would possibly "eliminate the therapeutic process" (Lester, D., 2006, p. 894).

This really depends on your school of thought and how you practice. As a therapist, I use a strengths-based, Solution-Focused framework, in which the client is the expert on their own lives and therapists are only there as facilitators of change.  Therefore, I find his argument to be irrelevant, since I would actually find this to be a pro of therapy. Studies have found that what is most beneficial for clients is relationship they build with their therapist, therefore, lessening the power gap between the client and therapist, would actually help to build and strengthen rapport.

The rest of Lester's arguments in his article do not really pertain to this topic, since he is basing it on the client only being able to communicate via typing, i.e. instant messaging. E-therapy obviously has come a long way since then, since we now have the capability to be able to have face-to-face communication.

So for now, I am definitely planning on doing more research into this new therapy. What was once just used for talking with grandma once a week, can become a new way of seeking out ways in which to improve yourself.

Monday, January 31, 2011

A New Middle East?

First of all, I'd like to start out by saying that my thoughts and prayers are with the people of Egypt. Over the last week, I have been trying to stay abreast of all the information pouring in from the Middle East, specifically the protests occurring in Cairo.  For someone like me who up to two years ago had little knowledge about the area and its multiple layers of conflict, its very difficult to fully understand the complexities and century-long disagreements that have ensued between the people of the Middle East. I will humbly admit that up until two years ago, I did not know the true difference between Iran and Iraq, had absolutely no knowledge of  the Israeli and Palestinian war. However, even with my limited and newly acquired knowledge, its plain to see what is happening right now is a huge monumental turning point in Middle Eastern affairs.

My summary:
The people of Egypt, after enduring 30 years of autocratic rule under a man by the name of Mubarak, have come together to protest in the streets for his resignation. Mubarak was put into power in the early 1980's after his predecessor (name?) was assassinated, approx. three years after he signed the Camp David Peace Treaty with Israel. Mubarak, who at the time was the vice-president, took over and has continued to honor the peace treaty with Israel, and has also maintained positive ties with the US. Therefore, although the people of Egypt have been under an oppressive rule for the last 3 decades, the United States feels that it is in a very difficult situation and that decisions shouldn't be made too hastily. First, if Mubarak is ousted, the US is concerned about who will take over control, since as of now, the only other stable party is the extremist Muslim Brotherhood. Secondly, what would it mean for Egypt's peace treaty with Israel, since the Muslim Brotherhood has been known to support the Hamas, who are associated with the Palestinian people's war. In addition, half of Israel's natural gas comes from Israel.

Time will tell...

Monday, January 24, 2011

More on self care...

One of my friends reposted this article this morning on Facebook: How Much Do We Spend On Our Bodies
which says that Austin residents spend the most on self-care every month ($143) versus 100 of the largest cities in the U.S.. Washington, DC,  and San Francisco, CA, also ranked highest on the amount of money spent. All three cities have also been shown to be three of the healthiest cities in the U.S..
The people of Detroit, on the other hand, spend an average of $18/month, to which Detroit is also one of the fattest cities in the US. So, there apparently is a correlation between the amount of money spent on your self and the healthier you are as a person.
This makes sense, since people who are spending more money on themselves, be it gym memberships, massages, mani/pedis, also seem to be more into their physical appearance, so they are going to spend more time/investment into their bodies.

Well, with that said, I obviously don't think that you need to spend a lot of money to look good.
There are plenty of things you can for free or little money to be able to take care of yourself.
Some of the things I'v been doing lately are: using FREE Yoga class videos on, giving myself manis/pedis, relaxation techniques you can also find online, the gym at UT (which is included in my tuition), etc.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Importance of Self Care

This my third and final semester in graduate school (well, I still have a summer term, but I try not to think about it), and I feel like I am finally getting the hang of what they refer to in social work as "self care." From day one, our professors have really tried to pound it into us the importance of taking the time to take care of yourself since our profession requires us to give so much of ourselves to others. You would think anyone would love to be given the excuse to "spoil" yourself, however, it was something I've definitely struggled with. Grad school is supposed to hard and mentally exhausting, so I accepted the weekends with no breaks from reading journals, writing papers, meeting with groups, to the 12 hour days of class combined with my babysitting jobs. However, I soon realized that I continued going at this pace, I wouldn't live to graduate. Ok, so maybe a little exaggerated but, I knew that I might make it to graduation but then I might be at the point where I would be so "over" social work, that I might not want to work in it field at all.  Hence, run away to an exotic location, hide from my student loans, and work some mundane yet extremely low-stress job.
So I've decided to take "self care" seriously and am taking the necessary steps to do so. 1.) only booking about 10-15 hours of babysitting jobs a week. 2.) exercise, including more yoga and relaxation exercises and 3.) Doing more things I enjoy, such as reading for fun, watching movies, hanging out with friends, drinking more wine, and knitting (although my boyfriend will laugh about the last one, since he says that knitting, at this point, actually makes me more stressed).

Steps I have taken so far:

I reached out to my University Yoga club about joining for free classes. and have checked out some books of interest. Also, I have so far only booked myself for a regular babysitting gig, one day a week for about 5 hours. Let's see if I can keep it up!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Another lazy Monday...

I Have a Dream speech
Had a three day weekend due to Martin Luther King Day. I decided this year that I would use this day in a way that honors Dr. King's life. So I pulled up his famous I have a dream speech and read it for the first time all the way through. I've heard the speech many times, but actually sitting down and reading it gives it a whole new meaning.

This morning I awoke early and headed out to DSW to pick up a pair of new shoes, Nike's Eclipses II. As usual, they didn't have my size (sz 10) so then for the heck of it I opted to try their 9.5's. There was only one shoe in the box. The saleswomen and I looked everywhere and couldn't find that shoe. How does one shoe just disappear?! I took that as an omen that I wasn't supposed to own the shoes (being that I already felt guilty about spending the money) but then in a last ditch attempt I tried the "Academy" store and they had my color in my size!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Beginning of the End

In my last semester of school. Cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am to almost be finished! Yes, there comes a lot of fears and uncertainties with graduation, but I am so ready to move on to the next chapter in my life.

I started my internship this week. So far, its only been a training for learning the rules and procedures of the agency. This next week, I'll begin to observe the other counselors, which will put my one step closer to seeing my own clients.