Blog : therapy

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.

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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.

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.

The Teen Brain

The Teen Brain

“All teenagers are risk-takers, moody, and get embarrassed by their parents.”

“They are angry and hate adults.”

“They only listen to their friends.”

Are these statements really true?

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore discusses why teenagers seem more impulsive and less self-aware than grown-ups. She compares the prefrontal cortex in adolescents to adults. Often typically “teenage” behavior is caused by the expanding development of the brain. Within the context of my counseling practice, parents often view their children through an adult lens.

As I watched this video at my Traverse City office, I liked the idea of synapse pruning. This is where the adolescent brain is working to fine tune brain tissue that is important and that which is not needed. Functional MRIs help to discover aspects that are more or less important and to view what assists teenagers through this process.

Further, the limbic system is more sensitive to the emotional rewards and feelings of risky behavior. It is heightened during adolescence so that risky behavior feels more exciting and fulfilling. However, the pre-frontal cortex  is the section that stops risky behavior and helps to connect behavior and consequences. That section is not as developed. So there is a deeper sense of excitement without the stop-gap measures.

 



So what can parents do to help their teenagers?

  • Understand the teenage brain and learn more to develop a working knowledge of what natural barriers they may experience.
  • Realize that frustrating behavior is often part of teens learning how to appropriately be independent.
  • Environment can play a substantial role in which synapse connect. Work to create an environment that helps your teen to have a realistic understanding of the world.
  • Don’t fear giving positive and negative consequences. Seek to have them relate to the inappropriate behavior. You don’t need to assist in funding behavior that you do not agree with, but do it with love and understanding.
  • Work to allow family discussion so that your teen feels heard.
  • Get counseling or therapy as a family if you feel that you have hit a roadblock.

counselor Traverse City counseling family

 

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is the owner and a counselor at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He does therapy with families, teens, and couples to grow through all of the phases of life. He is interested in the neuro-development of people over a lifetime.

 

 

 

 

Counseling Traverse City therapist