The Future of Counseling

Counseling Questions

The future of counseling, therapy, and coaching.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

The Future of Counseling

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Counselor.

The fields of counseling, therapy, and coaching are changing.

I had already seen some changes in the field starting to happen even before Covid. But because of the emergence of the new virus and the measures we had to take to cope with that virus, not only the field of counseling but society, in general, has undergone some significant changes. Reminds me of some of the other changes I’ve seen in my lifetime. People may bemoan the loss of a simpler life, but once you’ve installed running water and electricity in your home, there’s no going back.

Most of what I am talking about here applies primarily to mental health counseling and therapy. But some of the changes are starting to spill over both from and into substance abuse counseling and life coaching. Some of what I am observing may simply be the result of where I practice and the clients I see. But what I hear from other practitioners seems to convince me that the changes I’m seeing are spreading throughout the country and the fields of counseling and therapy.

Some of these changes started even before Covid.

There’s a common conception that therapy, the talking cure, was primarily designed for upper- and middle-class white people. However, many people of color or those of lower socioeconomic status have experienced counseling as something done to them rather than with them.

Recently, I have noticed an increase in clients who reported they were skeptical of counseling until a family member or friend talked them into it. Their previous experience with therapy had often been mandated and unpleasant. If you are forced to go for therapy with a school counselor who tried to convince you to change your behavior because you had gotten into trouble, it’s hard to look on counselors in the future as your ally.

There’s an increasing diversity among counselors.

When I went through the graduate program, it was unusual to have more than one or two male students in the class. Traditionally the helping profession was largely the province of social workers, who tended to be primarily female. Even among marriage and family therapists, it always seemed to me that the preponderance of the practitioners were female. However, the number of male counselors entering the field has recently noticed an increase.

Clients are becoming more diverse also.

During the last few years, starting even before Covid, I’ve noticed an increase in client diversity. It appears to me that there are a lot more African American clients coming to voluntary counseling. I’m also seeing a slight increase in the acceptance of counseling and therapy by people of Asian ancestry. As with all other innovations, it appears that the younger the person, the more likely they are to accept new alternatives.

Distance or remote counseling is here to stay.

When I first went to graduate school, the idea of doing counseling in any other way than a forty-five-minute session in an office would have been looked at as downright unethical. There were always a few radical therapists who might do “in vivo” sessions. They might take a client for a bus or train ride to help them overcome their anxiety. But in general, all sessions had to be done in the office.

At the beginning of Covid, I encountered a lot of clients who wanted to make appointments but only if they could have in-person sessions. As a result, many therapists were reluctant to try to conduct sessions by any means other than in person. But across the last three years, the acceptance of using technology as an alternative to in-person sessions has grown.

The use of distance counseling is now so common that beginning in 2023; counselors will need to take a continuing education class focused on the laws and ethics of distance counseling.

The business of therapy has changed.

How therapy is conducted, who conducts it, and how it’s paid for have all been changing. The things we call counseling, therapy, and coaching have diverse roots. Medicine, psychology, social work, systems theory, and self-help groups all contributed to this confusing thing we now call counseling and therapy.

Who does the work of talking with people, and what qualifications they need have been changing at an ever-increasing rate? Here in California, where I work and practice, marriage, and family therapists were first licensed in 1963. Before that, social workers were the only one of the three “sister professions” working in this state. The situation in other states has progressed in various orders.

Most of what we now call counseling or therapy stems from medical doctors following in the tradition of Sigmund Freud of attempting to solve thinking, feeling, and behaving problems using a thing called “the talking cure.” Some of the ways this work is done today have also been informed by the field of psychology and self-help groups, notably Alcoholics Anonymous.

The traditional model was one professional working with one client in a small treatment room, typically hidden from everyone else in an effort to maintain that thing we call confidentiality. However, recently that model has been seriously disrupted as insurance companies have funded treatment, group counseling and self-help groups have become more common, and technology has offered options to the one patient, one treatment provider pattern.

In an upcoming post, I want to talk more about how the business of counseling has changed and how I expect to see it continue to change in the future. Thanks for reading my writing, and here is wishing you a happy life full of meaning and purpose.

Does David Joel Miller see clients for counseling and coaching?

Yes, I do. I can see private pay clients if they live in California, where I am licensed. If you’re interested in information about that, please email me or use the contact me form.

Staying in touch with David Joel Miller.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For more information about my writing journey, my books, and other creative activities, please subscribe to my blog at davidjoelmillerwriter.com

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available on Amazon now! And more are on the way.

For these and my upcoming books, please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

For information about my work in mental health, substance abuse, and having a happy life, please check out counselorssoapbox.com

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

2021 First-Foot.

2018 First-Foot.

By David Joel Miller.

1st foot.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

The first-foot through the door each year sets the tone for the rest of the year.

There’s an old tradition; they say it comes from Scotland, that the first person through the door each new year sets the tone for the rest of that year.  Because of that, I wanted this to be my first post for the new year.

If this is your first time reading counselorssoapbox.com, I hope this post will start off your year in a good direction.  Longtime readers will know that this blog’s premise is having a happy life.

Life can have its struggles.  At some point in their life, everyone is likely to experience a mental, emotional, or behavioral issue.  Because of this, I write a lot about mental health, mental illness, substance use disorders, and overcoming the bumps on the road of life.  Here is hoping that this new year will bring happiness to you and yours.

Throughout this year on counselorssoapbox.com I plan to bring you tips about having a happy life, coping with emotional and mental issues, and the impact that using and abusing substances might have on your mental and emotional health.

We will also present posts to help you with being a success. However, you define that success.  With over 1800 posts on counselorssoapbox.com so far, you’ll find plenty of tips in the past posts with more to come this year.  You might even want to consider subscribing to counselorssoapbox.com.

Thanks for being my lucky first-foot this year.

P.S.  If it takes you a while to get around to reading this post I will understand.  Whenever you get to it, please drop me a line.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seems like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and they want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

The Differences between Coaching, Mental Health Counseling, and Therapy

Counseling and therapy

Therapy, Counseling, or Coaching?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

The Differences between Coaching, Mental Health Counseling, and Therapy.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Counselor.

There are some significant differences between coaching, counseling, and therapy.

Therapists, along with clinical psychologists and social workers, all need to be licensed and can diagnose mental illnesses. As a result, they can bill insurance when someone has a diagnosable mental or emotional illness. Mental health counselors, or clinical counselors, as they are called in California, fall into this category. There are other types of counselors who may or may not be licensed but who do not diagnose or treat mental illness.

Coaches can have virtually any training or function. There’s a world of difference between coaching an athletic team, coaching a business executive to be more productive, or coaching someone through the process of discovering life’s meaning and purpose. While there are programs for training and credentialing some types of coaches, anyone who wants to describe themselves as a life or self-improvement coach can do so.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am licensed in California as a Marriage and Family Therapist and as a Professional Clinical Counselor. I’ve also completed a training to become a certified life coach.

Most mental illnesses are defined by their symptoms.

The process of diagnosing most mental illnesses involves counting up the number of mental, emotional, or behavioral symptoms the client experiences. There are a few exceptions, but generally, there is no requirement to discover the cause of the illness. Depression, for example, can be endogenous within the person and have no specific cause, or it can be reactive depression in which some particular life circumstance or problem has affected the client excessively.

For a group of symptoms to be defined as a mental illness, it must impair occupational functioning, social functioning, cause subjective distress, or impair another important area of functioning. Deciding if something is an impairment may be the judgment of the treating professional, or it may be because the client defines it as an impairment.

Problems of living aren’t always mental illnesses.

Towards the back of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders (DSM-5–TR) or a list of problems that may be affecting someone’s mental health but which are not specifically considered a mental illness. These can include such things as low income, failed school examinations, other housing problem, phase of life problem, problem related to living alone, parent-child relational problems, partner relational problems, and so on. Some people struggle with these problems without developing the symptoms of a serious mental illness, while other people may become severely depressed, anxious, or develop some other mental illness.

Some problems are treated by both therapists and coaches.

Many of these problems of living may be covered by a company’s employee assistance program. People with these issues are referred to licensed practitioners. Marriage and family therapists frequently work with couples or families. There are also frequent “couples relationship boot camps” or marriage encounter seminars conducted by coaches or even volunteers.

Therapists and coaches both use interventions.

Therapists, in their training, develop a theoretical orientation which tells them what they think caused the problem and, therefore, how they should go about correcting it. The corrective part involves using interventions.

A therapist might work on self-esteem issues to help the client with severe major depressive disorder. The coach might work on those very same self-esteem issues to help someone become more assertive at work or better able to conduct work-related trainings or seminars.

Two people might both have low-paid jobs and wish they had better career prospects. One might become seriously depressed and unable to get out of bed to go to work because of their working conditions. As a result, they have developed major depressive disorder.

The other might seek help from a coach to develop a career search strategy to take them to a better-paying job. There is a specialty among mental health counselors called “career counseling,” but many life coaches also spend time focused on developing a plan to help the client to land their ideal job.

The difference is not the intervention but the problem being addressed.

Treatment of mental illness doesn’t mean you will have a happy, productive life.

Mental health professionals often treat a client until the symptoms of depression or anxiety a reduced to the point that they no longer interfere with the client’s jobs, friendships, or keep the client from doing other things they would like to do. Once those symptoms are reduced and the client no longer meets the criteria for the illness, the treating therapist or mental health counselor can no longer bill medical insurance for treatment. There can be some benefits to continuing to work with the client even after symptoms disappear in order to build sufficient skills to prevent a relapse into depression or anxiety. Keeping a client out of the psychiatric hospital can be a legitimate goal of treatment even if the client no longer has enough symptoms to meet the full criterion for a particular mental illness.

Does David Joel Miller see clients for counseling and coaching?

Yes, I do. I can see private pay clients if they live in California, where I am licensed. If you’re interested in information about that, please email me or use the contact me form.

Staying in touch with David Joel Miller.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For more information about my writing journey, my books, and other creative activities, please subscribe to my blog at davidjoelmillerwriter.com

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available on Amazon now! And more are on the way.

For these and my upcoming books, please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

For information about my work in mental health, substance abuse, and having a happy life, please check out counselorssoapbox.com

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Changes are picking up speed.

Changes are picking up speed.

Changes are picking up speed.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Counselor.

There have been a lot of changes over the last three years.

Over the last three years, my life has felt like someone took everything I knew and everything I do, put it in a box, and tossed it up in the air. I’m still waiting to see where all the pieces fall. I suspect you’re feeling a little unsettled, also.

Regardless of how you feel about things politically or how you were affected by Covid and society’s effort to adjust to a new virus, this experience has changed a lot of the things we do and has fundamentally changed some of us.

We can’t go back to the past.

No matter how much you miss the “good old days,” once things change, we can’t put them back the way they used to be. Trying to cling to the past can rip your arm right out of the socket. I know many “old people” miss the good old days. I know that’s not a politically correct term, but I think I get to say that because I’m one of those “old people.” I can see my seventy-fifth birthday approaching with the speed of a flying bullet. While I can keep up with some of the young folks these days, my philosophy tells me the best way to stay ahead of the Grim Reaper is to keep moving forward.

I’m not sure the good old days were all that good.

A lot of people are talking about the good old days, by which they mean four years ago before Covid happened. I’m old enough to remember when we didn’t have to deal with all this modern technology and its constant change. But then I remember using an outhouse instead of the bathroom and having television for only an hour or two in the evening if the weather was good. I also remember when getting polio meant paralysis or maybe the rest of your life in an iron lung.

You have to take the bad with the good.

Some days my cell phone can be a downright annoyance. People call me all day long. And there are those text messages, along with a trillion notifications about new emails. It can be frustrating. But I remember breaking down along the freeway and having to walk for several miles to find a phone. I sure like having a communicator device in my pocket when there’s an emergency. I just wish the technology people would stop changing things just for the sake of change.

Which direction is all this change going?

Predicting the future is never certain. I have a crystal ball, several of them, as a matter of fact. They look pretty, sitting on the shelf. But all of mine are far too cloudy to see much of anything, especially when it comes to the future. Still, I have some thoughts about what’s going to happen in the future. I’m going to briefly outline the changes I expect us to grapple with, but it’s also my intention to write some additional blog posts about these changes in more detail. My to-do list has been growing far faster than my ability to do.

The way we interact with other people will continue to change.

Across my lifespan, I have gone from a home with only one crank phone on the kitchen wall to a world where preschool kids are carrying around cell phones and tablets. The computer used to be a man in an office, down at the end of the hall, who added things up with a manual gear-driven adding machine. My first “modern” computer was one of those RadioShack TRS-80 model 2 with a whopping 64K of memory. Please don’t tell the technology police, but the desktop computer I’m using today, with its terabytes of external memory, may shortly be a candidate for a museum.

Does anyone besides me remember when you had to wait a week or maybe two for a letter to go from the Midwest to California? My mother would wait for a letter from my grandmother and then write a reply. We then had to take it to the post office and pay extra to have it sent “airmail.” Today people in other countries all over the world can call you instantly. Unfortunately, the scam artists and the telemarketers can also call you at virtually any time of the day or night. The ease of communication comes with its challenges.

The world of work is changing.

The term “remote work” meant something totally different only a few short years ago. For example, remote work might have involved a news reporter or correspondent sending in his dispatches from another country. If the company wanted you to work remotely, they put you on a boat or, more recently, an airplane and sent you there. Because of Covid, many people are working remotely either by computer and email or virtual communication.

A warning here to “Zoom.” You’ve done such a good job of allowing people to do simultaneous video and audio communication you’re in danger of the name of your company becoming a generic term for any video and audio conferencing platform. But then Coke had that problem when everyone wanted to refer to all soft drinks as a Coke. And I think most people still refer to all tissues as “Kleenex.”

The impact of Covid on the world work has not ended.

I think we’re in for some struggles ahead. Some companies and people are embracing remote work. Some worksites are marching to the flag of “everyone needs to get back in the office.” The issue of remote work is likely to reshape not just the way we work but the kind of work we do.

I see the same thing going on in education. I teach at a couple of different colleges and had to go through the frantic move to online education and now the move back. Some students and, more importantly, some schools, do better when education is delivered in the classroom. But some students do better when they learn online and online schools are flourishing.

There’s also the question of whether remote work and learning impair people’s social skills or do they require us to develop a whole new set of social skills.

We need to address the problem of burnout.

When the concept of burnout was first explored it was related to social work and was called “compassion fatigue.” We now know that it happens in a lot of other professions. If it’s caught in the early stages, burnout can be treatable. But most of the time, people simply soldier on until they can’t. I think we will see a loss of talent in several fields due to burnout from the stresses people experienced during Covid.

Creativity is changing.

The rapidly accelerating progress of technology is also impacting how we do many creative things. For example, video production and graphic design can be done far more easily from the kitchen table than they used to be done at commercial enterprises. The increase in e-books has opened the field of writing and publishing in ways we don’t yet even fully understand. And, of course, the chance to express your opinions by writing a blog, creating a podcast, or making a video is far more common than ever.

More to come.

Having said all this, I just wanted to let you know there will be more posts on these topics.

Also, I decided to separate my blog posts about mental health and having a happy life from the posts about my creative endeavors, including writing and making videos. You’ll see the links to my new writer blog (davidjoelmillerwriter.com) and my YouTube channel below. I am making all these changes in preparation for the rapidly approaching new year.

Best wishes, and please be happy and healthy.

Does David Joel Miller see clients for counseling and coaching?

Yes, I do. I can see private pay clients if they live in California, where I am licensed. If you’re interested in information about that, please email me or use the contact me form.

Staying in touch with David Joel Miller.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For more information about my writing journey, my books, and other creative activities, please subscribe to my blog at davidjoelmillerwriter.com

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available on Amazon now! And more are on the way.

For these and my upcoming books, please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

For information about my work in mental health, substance abuse, and having a happy life, please check out counselorssoapbox.com

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Ten thoughts that are holding you back.

Woman thinking

Unhelpful Negative Thoughts.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Ten thoughts that are holding you back.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

1. Second place is the first loser.

The idea that if you’re not first place, you’re a loser is known in cognitive behavioral therapy as All-or-Nothing Thinking. Among students, there is a particularly troubling belief that if you don’t get an A, you’re a failure. This type of thinking leads to perfectionism. People tell themselves that they’re not perfect, then they are worthless. The result is that any minor flaw or failure to succeed can lead to overwhelming depression. Believing that one flaw in your appearance or one mistake in life means you are worthless sets up an impossible task. No one is totally perfect, and everyone makes mistakes from time to time.

2. Bad things are always happening to me.

You’re on your way to work when you get a flat tire. You interpret this as a sign that nothing in your life will go the way you want it to. Realistically, if you think about things, you’ve made dozens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of trips to and from work without getting a flat tire. But you leap to the conclusion because something happened once; it will always happen.

Some people believe because they went out on one date with someone they met on an online dating site, and it ended badly, that you can’t meet an honest person through a dating site despite the large number of other people who have met their current partner through that very same site.

The technical term for all of these thinking errors is overgeneralization. Believing that because something undesirable happened to you once, it will continue to happen no matter what you do. I’ve seen people who lost a job either by being laid off or being fired who told themselves because they lost that one job, they would never be able to hold a job again. This kind of thinking leads to deep depressions. Giving up after one failure is guaranteed to keep you from ever reaching your goal.

3. Dirty glasses.

When you’re wearing dirty glasses, the whole world looks filthy. One rude person can convince you that the world as a whole is cruel and insensitive. The technical name for this issue is mental filter. People with this way of thinking cannot see anything positive and see only the negative. Just because you can only see the negative does not mean the world is without its positive. Cleaning your glasses, which includes a change in thinking, means that the positive then life begins to get through.

4. Not counting the points you make.

People with depression fail to give themselves credit for what they accomplish. The only thing that counts in their reckoning is the shots they take that miss. The technical name for this is disqualifying the positive. This kind of unhelpful thought involves only tallying up your shortcomings while minimizing or ignoring completely all of your accomplishments.

People with the habit of disqualifying the positive always find a way to turn their successes and failures. Should they manage to get a job, they dismiss this as pure luck. They’re likely to tell themselves the only reason they got the job was because no one else must’ve applied. They’re able to dismiss the sunshine by telling themselves the storm must be on its way.

In this condition, every positive is dismissed, saying it doesn’t count. While every time and negative experience happens, this only confirms the pessimistic person’s view of themselves, others, and the future.

5. Leaping over the facts.

This unhelpful thought involves moving from limited information directly to a conclusion. One example of this trait is people who believe that they can discern what the other person means even when they don’t say it. The practice is a form of mind-reading in which they attribute a whole different meaning to what the other person said.

Another form of ignoring the facts involves making pessimistic predictions. In this form of fortune-telling, you act as if you had a crystal ball and predict such things as “there’s no use in trying because nothing will ever turn out all right anyway.” Once you learn to predict only negative outcomes, there’s no point in trying.

6. Pole vaulting over mouse droppings.

In this form of unhealthy thinking, people turn the smallest possible problems into catastrophic outcomes. This thinking distortion is perfect for people given to catastrophizing. You forgot to do something at work. Your magic magnifying mind turns this into a whole series of events, from your boss being mad at you to getting fired. Once you develop this habit, you can turn the slightest mistake or error into an insurmountable obstacle.

The reverse of this is certainly possible. You tell yourself that whatever you’ve done can’t possibly be good enough, and therefore none of your accomplishments in life mean anything.

These two tendencies to blow minor problems into major disasters and to turn significant accomplishments into dust bunnies blowing in the wind are sometimes called magnifying and minimizing.

7. Believing everything your emotions tell you.

Feelings, also known as emotions, are messengers that come to tell you something. They don’t always get the story correctly, and sometimes they exaggerate or minimize. Just because something feels scary and dangerous does not mean it is. Emotional reasoning, believing because you have a feeling that it must be true, can lead you down a lot of wrong paths. Focusing only on emotional reasoning is likely to take you in the direction of either chronic depression or debilitating anxiety.

8. Ordering yourself around.

Constantly telling yourself that you should do something, or you must do something

Albert Ellis, one of the founders of CBT therapy, referred to this as “Shoulding on yourself, and musturbation.”  A life full of shoulds and musts is a life that is overwhelming. Telling yourself that you must do things can leave you feeling stressed and angry. Too many things you must do leave you overwhelmed and may ultimately end in apathy and lack of motivation. If you examine your shoulds and musts carefully, you’ll find that you do many things not because you want to but only because you feel you have to. Reducing the shoulds and musts in your life can lead to a much happier and more contented life.

9. Incorrect labeling.

Some labeling, to my way of thinking, can be helpful. I’m left-handed, for example. Being aware of this explains why some things are easy for me to do while other things which were designed for right-handed people are more difficult.

Labeling becomes a problem when one incident is generalized to your core being. One mistake in life doesn’t doom you to be a failure. Losing a tennis match or round of golf doesn’t turn you into a “loser.” Calling yourself these kinds of derogatory names encourages your brain to make those self-statements come true. Things you say to yourself for good or bad frequently come true. Telling yourself, you need to learn about something encourages you to study. Labeling yourself stupid because you don’t yet know how to do something interferes with your ability to ever learn that new skill.

10. Taking everything personally.

Remind yourself that not everything that goes wrong in the world is your fault. While you can influence other people, you generally can’t control their behavior. When someone else doesn’t do what you want them to, you assume that it’s because they don’t like you. This thinking error of taking everything personally results in you taking on responsibility for the universe. Taking things personally leads to guilt, shame, and many mental health problems.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now! And more are on the way.

For these and my upcoming books, please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

2021 First-Foot.

2018 First-Foot.

By David Joel Miller.

1st foot.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

The first-foot through the door each year sets the tone for the rest of the year.

There’s an old tradition; they say it comes from Scotland, that the first person through the door each new year sets the tone for the rest of that year.  Because of that, I wanted this to be my first post for the new year.

If this is your first time reading counselorssoapbox.com, I hope this post will start off your year in a good direction.  Longtime readers will know that this blog’s premise is having a happy life.

Life can have its struggles.  At some point in their life, everyone is likely to experience a mental, emotional, or behavioral issue.  Because of this, I write a lot about mental health, mental illness, substance use disorders, and overcoming the bumps on the road of life.  Here is hoping that this new year will bring happiness to you and yours.

Throughout this year on counselorssoapbox.com I plan to bring you tips about having a happy life, coping with emotional and mental issues, and the impact that using and abusing substances might have on your mental and emotional health.

We will also present posts to help you with being a success. However, you define that success.  With over 1800 posts on counselorssoapbox.com so far, you’ll find plenty of tips in the past posts with more to come this year.  You might even want to consider subscribing to counselorssoapbox.com.

Thanks for being my lucky first-foot this year.

P.S.  If it takes you a while to get around to reading this post I will understand.  Whenever you get to it, please drop me a line.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seems like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and they want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy improves your life.

Woman thinking

Unhelpful Negative Thoughts create depression.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy improves your life.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

CBT is more than just a therapy.

CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT has proven effective in treating severe mental illnesses, including depression and generalized anxiety. In some controlled studies, CBT therapy has been more effective than medication for treating various mental illnesses. CBT is so effective for treating even the most severe depression that it has become the treatment of choice for depression. For now, I’ll focus on how CBT reduces depression and increases subjective feelings of well-being which we sometimes call happiness or contentment. Just remember that cognitive-behavioral therapy can be highly effective for many other problems of living.

CBT can help you create your good life.

CBT goes beyond simply being a professional treatment for severe mental illness. CBT is effective for treating mild or even subclinical illnesses. The principles of CBT are also effective for helping people with low self-esteem and low self-confidence. In addition, cognitive-behavioral therapy principles are helpful in treating a variety of problems of everyday living, including frustration, guilt, and apathy. While CBT is a theory used by counselors and therapists, many people have been helped simply by reading books and hopefully blog posts that explain the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy.

The origins of CBT.

CBT began in the late 1950s and early 1960s, though its roots go all the way back to the ancient Greeks. Before CBT, therapy was primarily divided into two distinct camps. Traditional Freudian psychoanalysis was long, involved, expensive, and focused mainly on exploring unconscious drives.

The other major therapeutic camp is the behavioral scientists, who believe that it was possible to shape behavior by reward and punishment. In a strictly behavioral model, the role of what you’re thinking is disregarded as either unknowable or irrelevant. While the stick and the carrot are still popular with some bosses and some educators, we have learned that human behavior sometimes defies the effects of rewards and punishment.

Today over three hundred different therapy theories have been described. Most are either focused on feelings, thoughts, or behaviors. CBT and related counseling theories have become the treatment of choice for depression and are helpful for many other problems.

What are the primary components of CBT therapy?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on the relationships between your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. By examining your thoughts, you can learn to alter your feelings and your behavior. Once you know the basic principles of CBT, you will also find that a change in behavior can change feelings and, therefore, your thoughts about the situation. By two different routes, changes in thinking can result in changes in feelings. By following this thinking, your feelings are no longer controlled by outside influences. Now you can choose how you wish to feel about various situations.

How do thoughts play a role in your mental health?

Your cognitions are made up largely of your thoughts and beliefs and your perceptions. Your thoughts create your moods. This process happens very rapidly and goes almost unnoticed. For example, when most people are angry, they believe that someone or something externally made them angry. But when we study the phenomenon of anger more closely, we find that what you believe about what that other person did causes you to become angry. I’ve written more about this connection in some blog posts about anger and anger management.

Don’t fall into the trap of assuming just because you think something it must be true. Not everything you think is true. If you’ve ever seen something on the ground ahead of you, gone to pick it up, and then discovered that it wasn’t what you thought it was, you’ve experienced an example of how thoughts can appear very real even when they are just mistaken beliefs.

There’s also a particular connection between thoughts and the chemistry in your brain. Because of the prevalence of the use of some psychiatric medicines, some people have come to believe that depression is the result of a shortage of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. As we’ve learned more about brain chemistry, we come to find that thoughts are moved in the brain from one neuron to another chemically. Simply having more depressing thoughts reduces the prevalence of certain neurotransmitters, while more happy thoughts increase the prevalence of those neurotransmitters.

Don’t misunderstand. CBT does not propose to change the brain simply by thinking happy thoughts. In addition to a handful of prominent thoughts in your brain at any one moment, there are a host of other automatic thoughts taking place in the background. Humans are cognitive misers. We don’t think out each movement of our hands before we reach for a cup of coffee. The same thing happens when it comes to thoughts about life events. People get into the habit of automatic thoughts, which results in them interpreting life events as either positive or negative. CBT therapy seeks to find those recurring “unhelpful thoughts” and teach you to reevaluate them and dispute those that are not helpful.

People with depression have characteristic patterns of thinking.

Depression in all its various shades and flavors is caused by patterns of pervasive negativity. In general, pessimists are more likely to be depressed, while optimists are more likely to be content with their life. We used to think that personality was pretty well fixed at birth. You were born either a pessimist or an optimist. Research across the lifespan has shown that personality does change, usually at a slow rate, but there are things that you can do to become more optimistic. We can debate whether the pessimist or the optimist sees the world more realistically, but what happens is that the optimist is happier and often more successful.

The negative thoughts which create and maintain depression are often distorted, inaccurate, and unrealistic. Unfortunately, depressed people rarely think to challenge these negative, unhelpful thoughts. Most negative thoughts are distorted, inaccurate, and unrealistic.

So, what can you do if your brain continues to replay negative, unhelpful thoughts?

The first step in the process of defeating depression, anxiety, and other life problems is learning to recognize when you have slipped into a pattern of negative, unhelpful thoughts and then, having recognized them begin to dispute those thoughts.

In some future posts, I want to walk you through the steps of recognizing and disputing unhelpful beliefs, improving your optimism and your outlook on life, and creating the happy, contented, well-functioning life we all deserve.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now! And more are on the way.

For these and my upcoming books, please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

It’s been a challenging couple of years

Challenging.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

It’s been a challenging couple of years

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

The last two years have been a time of overwhelming change.

As the end of 2021 rapidly approaches, I think it’s a good time to look back at all the things we’ve been through. I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions, but I do think the holiday season is a good time to reflect on what’s happened over the last year and what direction I want to take for the year to come.

I lump the last two years together because 2020 and 2021 have been a blur in my head. I suspect these two years will blend together as we move forward. A lot of the things I think of as the sixties actually happened in the early nineteen seventies.

The pandemic certainly has affected everyone regardless of their feelings about Covid or the vaccine. What we have been through has changed a lot of people and changed the way we do things.

I’ve become convinced that some of those changes are likely to be permanent. I’ve made many changes in my life over the last two years. Some were because of Covid, and some for other reasons. Many of these changes were already in the works even before the pandemic. I want to summarize those events briefly here. Some of these I’ll write about in more detail in future blog posts.

Online education has become a viable option.

Over the years, I have taught five separate classes at two different colleges. Over the last two years, I have taught online classes for both colleges. Moving in-class material into an online format turned out to be quite a bit of work. Some students struggled with the online instruction. But a great many of them reported that it was preferable to the way we used to do it. I taught all but one of my online classes as an asynchronous class. Many said that they benefited from being able to do the work on their own schedule.

The feedback I’ve gotten from teachers who are working at the lower grade levels has been more mixed than my experience at the college level. Some students worked enthusiastically on their own and completed more assignments in less time than they would have in class. Other students struggled with discipline and fell behind. I’ve also heard multiple reports that students with anxiety disorders frequently turn off their cameras or refuse to attend online classes if they must be on camera. It will be interesting to see how the shift to distance education plays out.

I am now certified as an online teacher.

The early shift to online education was a rapid movement out of necessity. Then, as it continued over a longer time, the colleges began to emphasize distance education. Over the last two years, I have taken a series of classes and become fully certified to teach online courses. Personally, I prefer teaching online classes. It takes me a lot more work to create the materials. Still, it allows both the students and myself to go online and work on things whenever we have the time available rather than all of us having to make the long commute and fight for parking spots in order to be in a small classroom for the same three hours each week.

Both faculty and administration seem to be divided over whether we should continue to offer classes in the online distance education format. While some students will continue to benefit from the discipline of studying while a teacher stands over them, I think most college students would greatly benefit from the online format.

Counselorssoapbox is now a YouTube channel.

Part of the shift to teaching an online class was converting my PowerPoints and lecture material into a series of videos. I’ve learned a lot, and the quality of my videos continues to improve. One of the things I want to do in the coming year is become even more proficient at creating videos for the counselorssoapbox YouTube channel.

Some of my in-person trainings may become online classes.

In addition to academic classes of the last few years, I’ve done several in-person trainings for various groups. Putting on a training involves a lot of travel and leaves me tired for a week after. I have become increasingly aware of the number of online trainings or classes people are taking, many of which are taken for the knowledge rather than for college units or CE’s.

Over the last two years, readership on my blog has declined, while viewership on my YouTube videos has continued to increase. While I’ve been a lifelong reader, I find myself watching more and more videos. If there’s a topic you think I should cover in a video, please leave a comment.

The way we do therapy is changing.

When I first became a counselor, there was one predominant paradigm. Therapy should be done with one therapist and one client in their room behind a closed door. Many people avoided therapy believing that it was only for the seriously mentally ill. Today more and more people are going to see therapists for help with solving life’s problems.

Those who read my blog in the past are probably aware that I am engaged in a great many activities. For example, I do group supervision for a local nonprofit. Because of Covid, group supervision was moved to an online format. Although a few of the trainees reported missing the human interaction we had when we met in person, most report they prefer the online format for supervision. While a few long for a return to the days when we met in person, most enthusiastically want to continue meeting remotely.

It has been interesting to see the various reactions that beginning counselors and therapists have had to see clients online. While I think we were all initially skeptical most of us have developed the skills to work effectively using distance methods. For some clients, talking to their therapist over the Internet or by phone has made therapy more effective and more readily available.

More people are interested in mental health than in mental illness.

During the pandemic, I’ve done some work for several online counseling and therapy companies. This online practice of counseling seems to be moving in two separate directions. First, therapy that is paid for by an insurance company is becoming more medicalized. There’s an increasing emphasis on making sure the client meets the full criteria for a mental disease. I’m seeing more of an emphasis on having the therapist talks the client into taking medication. Insurance companies are also trying to reduce the number of therapy sessions the client may have unless they have been diagnosed by a psychiatrist or medical doctor and are on medications.

People who self-pay are more interested in reaching their goals.

To get treatment by a counselor or therapist paid for by an insurance company, you pretty much need to have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Most of the people who voluntarily seek counseling are looking at solving the problems of everyday living.

Several counselors have asked me whether it is okay to continue seeing the client who no longer meets the criteria for a particular mental illness but just really needs someone to talk to. My answer is that it’s not okay to bill medical insurance if the client no longer has a mental illness. However, I believe it is okay for a counselor to talk to a client each week if the client is paying and finding the sessions helpful. Sometimes this gets close to being coaching rather than counseling.

There’s a difference between being discouraged and being depressed.

They are having a problem finding a job; they would like to be more productive or better at reaching their goals. Medical insurance pays to treat someone who is depressed until they’re not depressed. Unfortunately, there’s a whole lot of distance between being not depressed and having a fulfilling, happy or contented life. As a result of working with clients who are not mentally ill but do want to have a more fulfilling life, I’ve shifted away from taking on more insurance clients and seeing more clients who are willing to pay for private counseling. If you live in California and think that talking with me might be helpful, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. Besides being licensed in California as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT.) I recently took a class to get certified as a life coach. In future posts, I want to talk more about the differences in what those three professions do.

I’ve concluded there’s too much focus on illness and not enough on happiness.

Over the last ten years, I’ve written over 1900 blog posts. Many, but not all, of those posts, have focused on specific diagnosable mental illnesses and their treatment. I’ve also written a lot about substance use disorders and how those interact with mental illnesses, a condition known as co-occurring disorders or dual diagnoses. In future posts, I want to focus more on how to have a better, more productive life. If there’s a topic that you would like to see covered, please email me using the contact me form.

Were you wondering what happened to my fiction books?

Getting through the pandemic and making this career pivot derailed my plans for writing more novels. I have one nonfiction book and six fiction books, which continue to be available from Amazon. I’ve taken a couple of classes in fiction writing over the last two years and hope to get back to a series of novels I had planned to write, which got crowded out by learning to be an online teacher, learning to make videos, and all the other skills I’ve been developing over the last two years.

Increasing my emphasis on personal relationships.

Over the last two years, I have spent less time in the classroom, office, and consulting room. Instead, I have found it important to put more time and effort into maintaining my friendships and close relationships. As I have gotten older, a handful of close personal relationships have become increasingly important to me. I hope that all of you are putting effort into maintaining your relationships with those who are the most important in your life.

Sorry for the long post. Stay tuned for more to come.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now! And more are on the way.

For these and my upcoming books, please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel