Blog : counselor

Joe Sanok: An Ambitious Journey

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.

Passion for Psychology

Joe QuoteWhen adults asked young Joe Sanok what he wanted to be when he grew up, he would confidently shoot back: a psychologist. “I’ve always been motivated to help people, and understand the art and science of counseling,” he said. Sanok would eventually grow up to live his dream job, although it wasn’t always what he anticipated. “The first client who tore me apart was a young girl whose mom would prostitute her out to men,” he said. “She had gone through horrific things and was set up for failure. Sitting with this girl whose development was in my hands made the profession real. That’s when I realized the gravity of what I was doing.” Rather than deterring him, hearing clients’ tragedies revealed the value of therapy to Sanok, and inspired him to embrace the counseling field. “The work we do is really important,” he says. “We’re dealing with the world’s toughest issues—the things that nobody else knows how to deal with.”

Mental Wellness Counseling

SAIL Champion 2After working at Child and Family Services, Northwestern Michigan College, and starting two youth experiential education programs—the Muster Project and SAIL Champion Program—Sanok founded his own counseling private practice in 2006. Kick starting his own practice was not easy, as Sanok realized that his graduate training failed to cover basic business/marketing skills. “If you own a private practice, you need business skills to be successful,” he said. “For years I worked a forty-hour job. Then on the weekends, I’d blog and do podcasts while my daughters napped.”

Despite the “years of hustle” it took to develop his two businesses, today Sanok appreciates learning it the hard way. Having started from scratch and emerging successful, he can now instruct other aspiring counselors and entrepreneurs the best way to achieve their business goals. “I didn’t just jump into private practice. I made a profit from day one because of how I structured it,” he said. “One of the biggest takeaways I’ve had from running Practice of the Practice and Mental Wellness Counseling is focusing on the clientele I want to attract, creating products for them, and engaging them in that process, rather than just creating products and hoping people will buy them.”

Practice of the Practice

Joe Working 3
In a typical week, Sanok may be found around Traverse City doing counseling, podcast interviews, writing blog posts, creating webinars, and consulting with private practice owners. He says the key to running a successful private practice is a sense of discovery, “because the things that work right now aren’t going to work in a year. Who knows what the next Facebook will be? If you’re not constantly learning what works in the business world, you won’t stay at the forefront.”

Sanok’s journey into the business/technology world revealed an abundance of professional tools and career knowledge—strategies he shares with other counselors on Practice of Practice. “When I went for my Master’s degree, I thought there was little scope of what I could do in the psychology field,” Sanok said, “but as an entrepreneur, I’ve realized that there’s a whole world of things out there.”

Improving Lives

Regardless of his next business move, Sanok’s ultimate mission since the second grade has not changed: to help people, and enable other counselors to do the same. He is doing just that through Practice of the Practice, where he helps thousands of counselors improve their practices and lifestyles; and at Mental Wellness Counseling, where he sees transformations from “angry kids who are now headed to college, couples on the brink of divorce who are still together, and families who have better relationships with one another.” “Every day people who have never met me walk in and dump their issues on my couch,” Sanok said, “and hopefully every day there’s people who leave and feel that there’s more hope in their life.”

Click here to learn more about Joe or to schedule an appointment.

Traverse City Counselor Joe Sanok
Joe Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC

Want to schedule an intake? Click here.

Want to grow your private practice? Click here.

Anndrea Terry: Inspiring Balance

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.

Nutrition…

Ice creamBasic 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.

Yoga…

YogaAdditionally, 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.”

Healthful Living 

Anndrea T QuoteJust 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.”

Anndrea Traverse City counselor headshot
Anndrea Terry, MA, LPC, NCC, RYT

Click here to learn more about Anndrea or to schedule an appointment.

Want to schedule an intake? Click here.

Jen Kraus: Compassionate Care

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.

Q: How did you first get interested/involved in your particular field?

Young studentA: I became interested social work because I wanted to help kids. I often saw kids struggling in school; they needed somebody to be their advocate. As a undergraduate, I started to focus on early childhood education because I realized that early childhood was when significant changes in the family dynamic happened in order for the child to grow to be a happier, healthier adult. I also wanted to do something more clinical, so my social work has grown into my mental health work. I now work at Northern Lakes Community Mental Health as a home-based therapist. At Mental Wellness Counseling, my focus is children eight years and younger.

Q: What types of issues do you address and how?

A: Often times the people who seek my services have children who are pretty disorganized. Not every parent is going to be perfect, but when a parent makes a mistake, it’s important that they are able to make a repair. Infant mental health deals with bonding and attachment—how to increase markers of secure attachment with the primary care giver. For parents like foster parents or adoptive parents, making that connection is based upon critical education about the child’s needs. For children who have had some type of physical/sexual abuse or trauma in their past, I use trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy.

Q: What are the biggest challenges of your work?

A: Home-based therapy is very different. It’s a wonderful practice to be in the home—to see where moms and dads come from and to see children acting in their environment— but there’s a lot of unknown variables before I go into a session. For example, at one home visit, a stray dog came up, so we took care of it and found its owner. Home visits present some challenges that I may not see in an office setting.

Q: What is the most valuable advice you can offer a beginning social worker?

A: In social work, you see people who are impoverished more than affluent families. You work with people who are at a disadvantage, so it’s important to understand the culture of poverty. I think we’re often quick to judge how people in poverty spend their time and money.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about what you do?

A: I find it really rewarding when parents know that somebody else likes their child. Typically when parents seek out my service, it’s because their child is very outrageous in their behavior. Yet I have never met a child who I did not adore. Also, it’s truly remarkable to see a parent and child fall in love with each other.

Q: Overall, what is the most valuable thing you have learned from your work?

A: It helps you reframe what’s happening to give you a new perspective. For instance, when you see the way an adult is behaving, sometimes it can be really discouraging, but then when you stop to think about their experiences, you realize that they’re doing the best they possibly can. It softens you up to have better parameters of compassion.

Q: Future plans?

A: Right now I’m looking to get my full license and become nationally certified in trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy. I would also like to expand my play therapy and theraplay techniques. There are a lot of things I’m still interested in learning and doing.

Traverse City counselor Jen
Jen Kraus, LLMSW

Click here to learn more about Jen or to schedule an appointment.

Want to schedule an intake? Click here.

Tarah Elhardan: Enhancing Women’s Wellness

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. 

Q: What has been your most impactful work experience? 

A: I worked on a crisis line at Third Level Crisis Center. I was able to develop the unique skill of phone counseling. I didn’t know who the person was and I couldn’t see or interact with them. There was a lot of silence in between and at times, it was very intense. I typically counseled those struggling with suicidal ideation, self harm, and those who were in need of immediate help. It was really impactful, and a great learning experience.

Q: How did you first get interested in your particular field? 

Woman smilingA: I’ve found this passion for women and women’s health. Most of my clients are young women who struggle with depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Unfortunately, I’ve found that it is really common for women to struggle with depression and anxiety. Society has different expectations of women, and women need someone to talk to. During one’s teenage years when identities start to form, it is crucial to develop positive self-esteem, self-worth, confidence, and body image. It’s really important for women to develop a healthy mindset and healthy life physically, mentally, and emotionally.

 Q: What is the most challenging aspect of your work? 

A: Not taking the work home at times. When you’re with someone and they’re sharing a hardship, in that personal space with them, it can be hard not to take it home. If you don’t engage in self-care and find healthy ways to cope, it can all build up and start to really affect you. I try to keep a healthy work-life balance, but it’s challenging because I care about my clients and their struggles. Self-care is key. It’s something I’m continuously working on.

Q: Is there anything you wish you had realized about this profession before you started? 

A: How helpful it is to take care of yourself. To work in the mental health field, you have to be able to take care of yourself or burnout is just inevitable. As a new counselor, you know you’re going to hear people’s stories and struggles, but I don’t think you really understand how heavy that can weigh on a person. It can be so easy to take on their pain. Some people are more prone to it than others, but the people who are prone to it are probably are in this field. That’s why we’re in this field, because we care about people and want to help and make a difference.

Q: What is the most important characteristic of a counselor? 

A: I think that having integrity and being genuine are very important. Clients are looking for someone they can trust, someone who they can feel comfortable around, and relate to. If you don’t have good rapport with a client, you’re not going to have a good therapeutic relationship.

Q: What innovative, new ideas have you or would you like to employ in your practice? Tarah E Quote

A: I look at the person holistically. Nutrition is also definitely an interest of mine. I’ve found it helpful in my personal life and also in the lives of the clients I serve. There are so many mental health benefits that nutrition and a healthy diet can offer. Certain foods can greatly affect one’s mood, mental stability, anxiety levels, etc. Also, if one isn’t eating, that’s going to affect one’s mood, too. I have plans to incorporate nutrition into my practice more.

Traverse City counselor Tara
Tarah K. Elhardan, MA, LLPC

Click here to learn more about Tarah or to schedule an appointment.

Want to schedule an intake? Click here.

Lucy Seefried: Intimate Human Connections

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.

Q: What influenced you to become a counselor?

A: As an undergraduate, I studied abroad in a few different places. I worked with non-profits in the educational and environmental sectors, and eventually found my way to human rights advocacy. I loved doing advocacy work, but it takes a long time for things to change. Part of me realized I needed to find a different way to channel my energy so that I could still help people, but help people in a way that I could actually see change occurring, rather than wait years for something to change. I wanted to have more of a direct impact. I decided to go into counseling because I love working with people one-on-one. I’m fascinated by people’s stories. I’m always inspired and incredibly humbled by people and their experiences, particularly how they get through difficult times.

Q: What techniques have you employed in your practice?

A: When I work with individuals, I like pointing out things they are already doing well and strengths they already have. Often times people come in thinking they’re not doing anything right. Since I’m not the one in the situation, I can listen objectively and see things they’re doing that’s working. I identify strengths that can help them move toward feeling better about themselves.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about what you do?

Lucy loveA: Being a part of people’s lives and seeing them change and grow. The therapeutic relationship is so intimate. When I was new to counseling, I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, people are just opening up to me. It’s crazy.” Now it’s something that I value so much. To be a part of someone’s life in such an intimate way is so gratifying. It’s a privilege to work with people who have faced adversity, to see them realize their potential, begin to make changes, and feel strengthened. I feel very humbled every time I work with someone.

Q: What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned from your work?

A: Being able to relate emotionally is something I learned while abroad. I was working with people with totally different cultural backgrounds. Even though they faced struggles that I couldn’t even comprehend or imagine, they still experienced similar situations and had similar emotional responses to those situations as me, my family, or my friends have.

The most valuable thing I’ve learned is that everybody has internal challenges that impact them on an individual level. While we don’t all go through similar things, we all have a very similar emotional makeup. The way we experience joy, fear, shame, guilt, and happiness is all the same. We may respond to it differently, carry it differently, or deal with it differently, but we all experience it and can connect through it. This is our shared human experience. There is not a person who I’ve worked with, no matter what their walk of life, who I could not relate to because at the end of the day, we’re all human beings. We are way more alike than we are different.

Lucy Traverse City counseling counselor therapist
Lucy Seefried, MA, LLPC

Click here to learn more about Lucy or to schedule an appointment.

Want to schedule an intake? Click here.

Nicole Ball: Empowering Women

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.

Nine Joyless Months

Pregnancy 1

Pregnancy according to Nicole Ball is not always the glowing complexion, framed sonogram photo, flowery baby shower experience that it’s often cracked up to be. “As a society, we expect pregnancy to be this beautiful, joyful experience,” Ball said, “but for some women, pregnancy is the worst time of their lives. For the whole nine months, they’re scared and full of anxiety.”

Meeting pregnant clients in Traverse City who struggle with past or present trauma initially sparked Ball’s interest in pregnancy anxiety. She’s been specializing in it ever since. “From a practice perspective, I feel like pregnancies are really untapped because everybody sees a pregnant woman and assumes she’s so happy,” Ball said. “But you don’t know what that sexual assault she went through at thirteen is doing to the pregnancy. Even for women who have repressed traumas, sometimes pregnancy is when those memories will come back.”

A New Lens

Ball counsels (pregnant) women who have had miscarriages, been subject to sexual assault, domestic violence, or other traumas. Reliving the tragic memories is the biggest challenge for both the client and Ball, albeit a necessary step to healing. “My goal is to feel with the client, not feel for the client,” she said. “That makes a huge difference because clients feel like their story has meaning, whether it’s good or bad.”

For survivors, the path to healing can be arduous. However, through the art of active listening and thoughtful discussion, Ball’s therapeutic approach aims to broaden clients’ perspectives, enabling them to reach new insights about their situation. “We all have a separate lens that we see life through based on our experiences, culture, and how we interact with people,” Ball said. “I’ve learned that not everybody’s lens is the same, and that’s okay. I may see a situation differently than my client, but I can facilitate a conversation in a way that helps them discover new things about themselves and their past. Clients seem to find their own answers through a new perspective.”

Baby Steps to Success

In Ball’s experience, women restore their autonomy when they begin making confident, self decisions and doing things they normally would not do. Even the smallest victories gain positive momentum. “Maybe a woman hasn’t gone to Meijer in five years because her abuser might go there, and now she’s going to Meijer to do her grocery shopping. That’s huge,” Ball said. “We might not see it as a risk, but for her, it was something she was able to conquer. It shows she’s gained some of her power back.”

Ball claims that abusers rob victims of their independence, self-worth, and ultimately power. In the end, whether she is assisting sexual assault/domestic violence support groups, doing one-on-one counseling, or working as a doula, the goal is to help her clients reclaim their lives. “When I work with a woman for a long time, I hope to see her regain that sense of self—feeling like she has control over her life again and isn’t afraid,” she said. “Any time a woman, regardless of her trauma, gains her power back, that’s when I feel most successful.

Nicole trauma abuse domestic violence counselor Traverse City
Nicole Ball, LLMSW

Click here to learn more about Nicole or to schedule an appointment.

Want to schedule an intake? Click here.

Jessica Kelley: Nurturing Love and Growth 

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.

Q: What experiences have you had that make you feel capable of being a counselor?

A: Before my counseling work, I worked at a homeless shelter with women and children. My main job was to make sure everybody was where they needed to be, had what they needed, and resolve guest conflicts. I had a big spread of opportunity to interact with a lot of people with different religious views, cultural backgrounds, and ethnicities. Also, there’s addiction in my family history. My brother dealt with addiction, so I’m able to relate with people on that aspect.

Q: Why are you passionate about working with children?

A: There’s a special place in my heart for kids. They have this wonder about them. They give you a taste of the simpler things in life and remind you of things that don’t matter as much, or things that do.

Q: What is play therapy?

A: Play is a great way for children to express what they’re going through. There’s toys in a room; it’s a free space to let the child create and express what they’re feeling and thinking without words. During the session, the counselor tracks what the child is doing, picking out their actions and emotions.

Q: What is the most important characteristic for a counselor?

A: You have to be a good teacher. An ideal teacher listens, gives information and direction, but also gives the chance to seek solutions. At the homeless shelter and as a teacher’s assistant in a daycare, I tried to help people resolve their problems. Sometimes people really beat themselves up, so I try to convey an atmosphere of “I believe in you, you can do this. You’re not a failure in life; you’re an amazing person.”

Q: What are the challenges or most difficult aspects of your work?

A: Everyone has experienced some trauma in their life to varying degrees. When I’m dealing with trauma, it’s very difficult to keep that separate from my own life, to not take the burden home with me. As a counselor, it’s important to find your own internal validation—feeling good about yourself—not based on your clients’ success or failure.

Q: What is the most satisfying, rewarding thing about what you do?

A: When a client has a lightbulb moment. When you bring up things that you notice in sessions and they’re like, “you’re right, I didn’t notice that.” That’s so powerful, because we don’t always see in ourselves the progress we’re making. When someone else can point it out and when they start to recognize it on their own, it’s so great. They’re noticing, thinking inwardly, and seeing the good in themselves.

Q: Future plans?

A:  I’m starting to build up my practice in Traverse City since I’m new to Mental Wellness and Traverse City. I hope to become a registered play therapist and still do private practice counseling. I would also like to train in EMDR to utilize it in trauma counseling.

Jessicad Kelley Traverse City counselor counseling therapist
Jessica Kelley MA, LLPC

Click here to learn more about Jessica or to schedule an appointment.

Want to schedule an intake? Click here.

Steve Greenman: Fostering Individual Strength

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.

A New Start

The 2008 economic recession catalyzed a life-changing series of events for Steve Greenman. Within eight months, he was forced to close the doors on a business he owned for thirty years; he also lost his home, his marriage, and his father. Along with his two sons, he moved from a roomy house in Traverse City to an apartment with only a handful of rooms. “I remember my oldest son looking around the apartment saying, ‘you know, dad, we had a lot of wasted space at the old place,’” Greenman said. With the support of his sons and a newfound respect for self care, Greenman was able to adapt and grow from all of the sudden changes. “How I’ve been able to get through those circumstances was invaluable. As a counselor, those life experiences have been just as important as my education.”

Years later, memories of his former self became relatable anecdotes to utilize in his counseling practice. “By the time you get to my age, you’ve experienced a lot of different things,” Greenman said. “I probably share with clients more than other therapists. I can give them scenarios that I lived through so they don’t feel isolated, that they’re the only one feeling this way.”

Individual Therapy

With the diversity of clientele that enter his office, the focus of Greenman’s practice is tailoring to each individual. “We’re all wired differently, so my client is the theory,” he said. “Therapists have to be like chameleons. We adapt to each and every person.” To foster a comfortable environment with younger clients, Greenman may donn a T-shirt and shorts. For other clients—like PTSD victims or substance users—adapting may mean trying different therapies such as psychotherapy, cognitive conditioning, or motivational interviewing.

Persistence is Key

However, Greenman says “there are no easy answers” to any type of therapy. His most difficult cases tend to involve working with clients suffering from PTSD. With PTSD and couples counseling, “it can be really difficult because you don’t know if you’re getting anywhere or making it worse.” Making progress requires both Greenman and his clients to persist through the thick of any situation. In other words, “you have to root out the weeds and let the dust settle to be able to patch the new lawn,” Greenman said. In particular, helping clients understand the “underlying currents” to their own behaviors is what encourages change. “Change doesn’t happen from me, it all happens from the client,” he says. Seeing substance users gain sobriety or PTSD victims adopt coping strategies are some of Greenman’s most memorable experiences as a counselor.

“Steve, You’re Fired”

Through attending to each person’s needs, respecting individuality, and helping clients discover strategies for self sustainability, Greenman looks forward to the day that his clients walk out his door and never need to come back. “I tell clients when I first meet them that their goal is to fire me,” he said. “Some clients like a periodic check-in, others fire me after a month. That’s what I want, no matter how long it takes.”

Steve Greenman Traverse City Counselor
Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC

Click here to learn more about Steve or to schedule an appointment.

Want to schedule an intake? Click here.

Joe’s new parenting book

Joe’s new parenting book

Joe’s New Book

Mental Wellness Parenting | A remarkably simple approach to making parenting easier

 

From Mental Wellness Parenting | A remarkably simple approach to making parenting easier:

Control vs. Voice

So how do we use this new information about guiding our kids to help them change their behavior? Ultimately, you have no control over your child. They make decisions every day. They are their own persons.

Webster’s defines “control” as: “To exercise restraining or directing influence over. To have power over. Reduce the incidence or severity of especially to innocuous levels <control an insect population> <control a disease>”

The part of this definition that I like is the “directing influence over”. I would argue that this comes less from control and more from having a voice in your child’s life.

One of Webster’s definitions of “voice” is, “wish, choice, or opinion openly or formally expressed.” So to have a “voice” in your child’s life is for your wishes, choices, and opinions to somehow take root in them.

Think about who has a voice in your life. Who can say to you, “Here is my opinion” and you consider it?

Is it your mom?

Dad?

Best friend?

Wife or husband or significant other?

How did they gain that voice in your life? Did they do something? Did they act a certain way? Is it because you have seen how they live their life and you respect that? Do you aspire to be like them or certain parts of them? What is it that allows them to have that voice, not control, in your life?

I believe that it is trust. They somehow built trust in you. Building a voice comes from trust. For kids, that trust comes from three specific things. To build trust as parents we must demonstrate:

  1. Consistency and love
  2. Set an example
  3. Spur something in our children that brings life

Consistency and Love

In future chapters I will discuss more in-depth what this looks like and ways that you can increase consistency and demonstrate your love. One definition of “consistency” is “agreement or harmony of parts or features to one another or a whole.”

To be a consistent parent, you have to have harmony in what you do. What does this mean? It means that it is better to say nothing at all, rather than a false promise. By false promise I mean not following through on things you say. If you give a warning to a child regarding their behavior, then follow through.

When you start thinking this way, two things will happen inside of you. First, you will slow down the frequency of threats that you make because you know that you need to follow through. Also, you will evaluate the intensity of threats.

One thing about threats: they don’t work.

 

Threats don’t work

Why don’t threats work? Think about it this way. Your boss keeps coming in your office for two weeks reminding you of a date that a report is due. She says, “If it’s not on my desk on November 12th, then I’m writing you up.” November 12 comes and goes, you had some crazy things happen in your family and you just couldn’t get it done.

Then in January she does the same thing for the report due January 29th. Again you miss the mark and it comes and goes, yet no write up. Imagine this happened over 18 years in the company. Sometimes she does write you up sometimes she doesn’t.

Now imagine a different scenario. At a staff meeting she announces that reports need to be timely. To try and help the staff keep it in their mind, if the November 12th report is in on time you will get an overnight at the hotel of your choice and if not, then you will be written up.

No more reminders.

Then she does what she says.

Often parents believe that they have a voice in their child’s life and that is enough, but really a voice is earned through consistency. Your action of giving positive or negative consequences will speak more than anything you could say ahead of time or threaten.

Even when threats do seem to work, it is usually not based on building a long-term voice in your child’s life.

The second part of this is building love. I trust that you love your child deeply; otherwise you would not be reading this book. So it is not how to build your love for your child that is the issue, it is how do children receive love?
Consistency in parenting helps kids feel safe. If you are about to manage a child in a grocery store and help her choose good choices there, then you can definitely take on any monster, bad dream, bully, and tornado. Kids fear all sorts of things.

A psychologist named Maslow created what he called the “Hierarchy of Needs”. His belief was that if basic needs are not met is it is harder or impossible to work toward higher needs. Thus, if safety needs of security aren’t met, it is harder to build feelings of love and belonging.

I had a client recently who had her apartment broken into. She was staying up all night because she was scared someone would break in, then she was sleeping during the day, but her classes were slipping. Her feelings of lack of safety made it harder for her to do more complex thinking like that which is required in school.

The same is true for kids, as they see that you can handle a variety of situations, they will trust that you can protect them…

counselor Traverse City counseling family

 

 

 

 

 

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed counselor and owner of Mental Wellness Counseling. He is also the author of the books Mental Wellness Parenting | A remarkably simple approach to making parenting easier
and Practice of the Practice | A Start-up Guide to Launching a Counseling Private Practice

How to get through the holidays

How to get through the holidays


Traverse City Counseling Private practice

Step 001: know what you want and what makes you happy

        

Step 002: tell yourself that no matter what happens, you are going to do your best

                        

Step 003: prepare your family as best as you can.

 

 

Step 004: do your best to be happier, more helpful, and a better person. Try to let things go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

counselor Traverse City counseling familyJoseph Sanok , MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed counselor in Traverse City, MI, where he helps angry kids, frustrated  parents, and distant couples…and just about everyone else. He loves the holidays and can’t wait to eat pierogies!

The Cancer Effect

The Cancer Effect

cancer counseling thyroid

In July I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Fairly soon I will be having a bunch of additional tests and have a treatment plan. I will soon have my thyroid removed, have a scar on my neck, and be on medicine for the rest of my life. I feel too young for all of this.

On Sunday I was swinging at the beach with my daughter and wife. My wife was pushing my daughter and the sun was bouncing off both of their faces. It was better than any photo. I couldn’t stop thinking about how the two of them deserve to have a husband/dad around. How life in the simplicity is wonderful.

So often in my life, I have thought about my next steps and how to improve, evaluate, and enhance my life. I strategize  and am goal-oriented. I often have a view that if there are improvements to be made, that life will be better when those improvements occur. Maybe it has been in regards to improving the furniture in my house or renovating a room.

When that is done, then I will be happier.

When I start seeing more clients in my private practice, then I will be happier.

When my websites are running more, then I will be happier.

My formula has been that as progress occurs, happiness will develop too. In many ways this is true and reiterated in our lives. When we complete college, we usually get a better job and have more economic freedom. We can choose our career direction more accurately and potentially develop careers that are fulfilling. When I fight with my wife and we work it out, we usually fight less. Fixing often does lead to more happiness.

However, holding out for that happiness or believing that future me will be happier because of those things is a farce. That belief, that is perpetuated by media, friends, and our own internal voices is a falsity. If we are not seeking balance and emotional wellness now, we will not have an easier time tomorrow, next week, or next year. Instead, it will be harder because we then have more time living in the less fulfilled world we have created.

I have been given a gift through telling people about my cancer. When I tell someone those words for the first time, they will hug me, cry, give me encouraging words, tell me that they are praying for me, or sending me positive vibes.

Really they are saying, “Joe, you matter to me. The world would not be the same without you.”

In doing this, I am on the receiving end of experiencing something magnificent, knowing that I matter to people.

How often do we tell people that they matter? It can be a “Wellness Discipline” to build our own health. When we notice that others matter and that they are important to us, it builds that relationship, while also creating a thankful heart. The more that we experiences a feeling of thankfulness in the now, the harder it is for the other mindset to push its way in. We can’t have those mutually exclusive feelings of “I am so thankful for what I have right now” and “I will be thankful and happy when X happens.”

So today, may you grow in your thankfulness and tell people that they matter to you and that the world would be different without them. Tell them and tell yourself that life right now is good and wonderful and full of moments of simplicity with the sun bouncing off people’s faces swinging on the beach.

 

counselor Traverse City counseling familyJoseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor and owner of Mental Wellness Counseling. He is trying his darndest to approach thyroid cancer with an attitude of thankfulness, even though he feels like it really sucks.

Helicopter Parents Gone Wild

Helicopter Parents Gone Wild

traverse city counseling counselor therapist

A “helicopter parent” is a parent who hovers over their child, waiting to catch them before they skin their knee. “Helicopter Parents” schedule, plan, and create a world for their children. They are usually highly involved and deep down want the best for their kids. They are often high achievers or wish they had been high achievers. “Helicopter Parents” also are usually highly involved in their kid’s education, after-school activities, and social lives. Overall, they have great intentions. I may even end up being one, in some area intentionally and in others unintentionally.

The hardest transitions for “helicopter parents” are to stop when they are tired and to allow age-appropriate freedoms. Are you one of these parents?

When you’re sick of flying

When these parents are frustrated with their kids, it is often because they don’t want them to fail. They have a difficult time with skinned knees and broken hearts. They have created a dynamic where they are the safety nets for their children, rather than teaching them how to create their own nets.

This typically creates a dynamic where the parent is blamed for the child’s mistakes. Both the parent and child think that it is mom or dad’s responsibility to get homework done, wake up on time, and not be “bored.” Yet, ultimately, we each are responsible for changing our lives toward what we want.

So how do you land the helicopter?

Daddy needs a drink

When was the last time you took a bath without interruption? What about sitting outside and enjoying the evening? Time with friends without looking at your phone for texts from your kids?

Sometimes, a parent needs to just step back and let the kids experience natural consequences. Whether it is a teen waking up late for work or kids sorting out who gets to play the game system, stepping back will often show you what you kids are capable of. Usually, the worst case scenario is not that bad and the best case is that they will increase their abilities to be responsible.

But they’re not old enough

Every single generation does it. They think they are so dang special. In counseling sessions or even with friends, I’ll ask, “What did you do when you were (insert age here)?” Almost universally friends and client respond, “I did some inapropriate behavior but…

“…it was different in the 60s, 70s, or 80s.”

“…things were safer.”

“…we didn’t have the internet.”

But parents weren’t thinking that then. They were thinking the same thing that parents are thinking now. When we’re a kid, we are oblivious to the dangers, consequences, and ways of the world. How did we learn? Was it when mom said, “No” or was it when we tried it out and formed our own conculsions?

Now I’m not saying take a step back and let “Lord of the Flies” occur in your household. Otherwise, you may come see me in counseling for something else. The main goal is to transition toward the empty nest not to have it be a sudden change.

 

counselor Traverse City counseling familyJoseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed therapist and counseling in Traverse City, MI where he owns Mental Wellness Counseling. He once flew in a helicopter in Nepal, it was a lot of fun.

 

 

 

 

Photo from Creative Commons, thank you JD Hancock