The Mental Wellness Counseling “Meet the Counselors” series offers a deeper look into each counselor’s background, experiences, motivations, values, and philosophies. In this series, I put counselors on the couch to learn why and how they do what they do.
Survival of the Sickest
As a 21-year-old undergrad, Anndrea Terry’s life was changed forever at a pool hall. When a broken bar stool collapsed under her, Terry crashed face-first into the metal pocket of a pool table. “My top row of teeth were shattered and twisted up into my gums,” she said. “My face was so swollen that you couldn’t see my nose to my cheeks—it was like a wall.” After eight hours of oral surgery, doctors were able to save Terry’s teeth. With the looming threat of infection, however, she received twice-a-week dental examinations, five root canals, and a “laundry list” of antibiotics for one year. During this time, Terry was in “straight-up survival mode.” “All I could think was to eat, take my pills, and clean my stitches,” she said.
Basic needs like sleeping and eating became taxing challenges. Since she couldn’t chew solids, Terry swallowed milkshakes, applesauce, jello, or noodles at meal times. “I still felt hungry all the time,” Terry said. “The ability to chew has a psychological aspect. I could dump liquid down my throat all day and still feel starved.” Unfortunately, her heavy diet of milkshakes, ice cream, and junk foods induced digestive issues and a dairy allergy. “My body was in shock all the time. My stomach was constantly upset and I got really sick,” she said. Terry’s dietary battle drew her attention toward proper nutrition.
Additionally, Terry started practicing yoga, which allowed her to process her emotional and bodily trauma. “When I was in a particular stretch, I would feel a weird sensation in my body, and then all of a sudden I was crying,” she said. “It was all the tension I had bottled up in my body. Yoga was a way to start peeling back those layers of emotion.” Terry’s yoga teacher encouraged students to express their feeling freely, something she desperately needed to do. “That was a really big moment for me,” Terry said. “People would always say ‘don’t worry, you’ll get better,’ but at that point, no one had said “just let it out, whatever needs to come out.’”
and Therapy, oh my!
While continuing yoga and meditation, Terry discovered another emotional outlet in counseling. After undergoing therapy herself, she decided to make a career of it. “My recovery inspired me to pursue counseling because I realized how powerful being able to talk to people was,” Terry said. “In the Western medical world, we generally look at particular areas of the person, but we don’t look at the whole picture. For instance, for weight loss, we prescribe a plan to cut calories and work out, but we don’t necessarily look at our relationship with food.”
Just as her full recovery involved a combination of health factors—nutrition, sleep, exercise, and therapy—Terry wanted to counsel the same way. “I realized I could have approached my healing differently with everything that was encompassed with my accident,” she said. “Being mindful of the things we do in our daily lives all affect how we feel emotionally and mentally.” Terry’s “360-degree” model of wellness is based on the interconnectedness among physical, mental, and emotional health. In sessions, she not only relies on therapeutic techniques like motivational interviewing, but also yoga, meditation, and mindfulness—all while taking into consideration her clients’ diet, sleep, exercise/movement, self care, and lifestyle habits. For clients struggling with anxiety or depression, a few deep breathing exercises can reduce symptoms and “give them back a sense of control over their body.” “Mindfulness is cool that way,” Terry says. “It opens a lot more doors as opposed to necessarily always going into the deep end of the pool. In the long run, I think it gives counseling a better name because people don’t think you’re just laying on a couch for six hours a week.”
“I Live What I Love”
Terry is enthusiastic about expanding her counseling approach through more holistic practices and experiential therapy. She teaches stand up paddle board yoga/meditation in Traverse City and hopes to organize more group counseling sessions in the future, such as women’s self care retreats. With the lessons learned from her accident, Terry aims to equip people with the knowledge and skills of wellness so they can live all-around healthy lives. “The most rewarding thing is seeing people change—being free of something that used to confine them and just watching them blossom into their full potential,” Terry said. “Counseling gave that to me when I was going through my accident, so if I can offer that back in any way, that’s the greatest thing ever.”
Click here to learn more about Anndrea or to schedule an appointment.