Making A Difference In Chicago, Congressman Danny Davis

This weekend I had the pleasure to be a part of Congressman Danny Davis Town Hall Meeting to discuss the state of today’s youth. The meeting took place at the Johnnie L. Miller Abundant Life Center on the West Side of Chicago. There was a panel of social workers, law enforcement, and community activists present to hear what the youth had to say about the violence in their communities. The purpose of the event was to come together to brainstorm conflict resolution.

The Town Hall Meeting was interactive and many of the youth in attendance participated by sharing their ideas on how the city can affect change for at risk youth. Immediately when I arrived I felt connected to comments and opinions of all who participated. For me, the take away from the day was that we all need to challenge our perceptions about the violence in our communities. Get involved in the community. Mentor and advocate for youth programs. As the old saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. Violence is often times learned so access to resources and positive activities for children are imperative to affect change. Let’s join Congressman Danny Davis to make a change in Chicago.



The Counseling Profession, Constantly Evolving

This past Friday, I had the privilege of visiting the graduate students of the Northwestern Family Institute to talk about the counseling job market. The graduate students were engaged and had great questions about the field of counseling. Many of the questions addressed the challenges of finding a job in counseling, the importance of setting long-term professional goals, and fears associated with a lack opportunities following graduation.

As a guest at the Family Institute, I was excited about the direction of the counseling field and the new professionals that will soon be making a difference in mental health. The counseling field is constantly evolving and students are being challenged by new curriculum incorporating multiculturalism, empathy skills, and new and improved specializations.

Some of the highlighted points from my visit were:

LinkedIn – Joyce Marter, owner of Urban Balance, says that you should make sure you get endorsements on your LinkedIn when you can and keep it updated.

First impressions – Voicemails may be your first introduction to a possible employer before they meet you face to face. Joyce says, make sure your voicemail is professional. Additionally, the tone of phone interviews should be welcoming.

Your contribution – Think about how you can be an asset to the organization and prepare to talk about it in your face to face interview.

Networking and mentorship – It is very important to network in the field of counseling. Connecting with other professionals in the field can offer support and guidance. However, there is balance between keeping in touch with someone you want to connect with and being intrusive.

Get involved with your professional counseling association. Attend their workshops and networking events. It’s a great way to meet other professionals in the field. The Illinois Counseling Associate (ICA) and Illinois Mental Health Counseling Association (IMHCA) are just two examples of great organizations where you can get involved.

Google yourself. Now in the 2016’s employers are sure to be curious about your online presence.

Do your own work. If you are going to work in the counseling field, it’s imperative that you understand your own work. It’s okay to highlight the personal benefits to counseling and support while keeping boundaries in tact.

Change is hard. Change is anxiety filling and can be uncomfortable. However, it is nice to see new counselors stepping up to the challenge, ready to take the field by storm. I am proud to be a part of their experiences.

Toolbox for Anxiety

When clients visit me for their anxiety, I tell them that having a toolbox to manage their anxiety symptoms is essential. However, techniques to help with anxiety only work when we can accept our symptoms and be present with them instead of fighting against them. This is the first step to introducing tools to help with anxiety.

Incorporating mindfulness is a great tool to practice in order to help with anxiety symptoms. Mindfulness is a meditation technique where the participant practices observing their thoughts and feelings in a nonjudgmental way. Instead of trying to ignore the feelings and thoughts, they are acknowledged and observed so the participant can gain insight and awareness. There are many great books on the topic, as well as mobile apps that you can download. The key is practice, practice, practice! I always tell my clients to think of using mindfulness for their anxiety like training for a marathon, especially if they have an anxiety inducing event coming up. Mindfulness should be practiced until the client is comfortable with the necessary steps to be present and nonjudgmental about their thoughts that may spiral them into a panic attack.

After repeated practice of mindfulness, there are many other tools that can be incorporated with managing anxiety. Some of these include:

-Deep Breathing. While mindfulness meditation incorporates deep breathing, the exercise on its own can also be helpful. Taking slow, long, deep, breaths can ease some of the symptoms of anxiety.

-Counting. Rate your anxiety (1-10, 10 being unbearable) then start counting backwards from 100 and then rate your anxiety again. If your anxiety is an 8 or higher, repeat.

-Spelling. Rate your anxiety (1-10, 10 being unbearable) then browse the environment and start spelling objects backwards. After 3-5 objects rate your anxiety again. If it is an 8 or higher, repeat.

-Envision a safe place. Your safe place should be somewhere you’ve been that you love or somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. After becoming more comfortable with your mindfulness practice you can incorporate a safe place. As you practice, this place should become more detailed. When experiencing your anxiety go to your safe place. Close your eyes and start to focus on the details of this place (i.e. smells, textures, temperatures).

Anxiety is not something that has to take over our lives. It can be managed with practice, patience, and acceptance. It is important for someone experiencing moderate to severe anxiety to share their symptoms with their health care providers and seek the necessary support systems to manage anxiety symptoms.