Reasons to see a counselor before the breakdown.

By David Joel Miller.

Reasons to seek out a counselor before the breakdown.

Counseling

Counseling or Therapy
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Some people describe the onset of a mental health challenge as a “breakdown.” Breakdown implies that your problem came on suddenly. Most of the time problems develop slowly over time. You get yourself in trouble, not because of a sudden breakdown, but because you pretended you did not have a problem way too long.

You don’t have to wait for your car to break down for you get it serviced. And you don’t need to wait for your life to fall off the rails before you get a check up on your emotional life. High-performing athletes have coaches. Top executives often see life coaches, and many writers have writing coaches. While you can see your life, a therapist sees many people and can be helpful in identifying what you may be going through and how other people have solved that problem

Often people who noticed that they are feeling differently, forgetting more things, go to see a medical doctor. Sometimes that forgetfulness is a medical issue, but often it’s just that you have a lot on your mind. Lack of energy might signal an oncoming medical issue, but it can also be a symptom of depression or other emotional disorders. It’s always a good idea to get your physical health checked out first, but if the doctor doesn’t find anything significant, consider seeing a counselor or therapist to see how your emotions might be affecting your physical health.

What kinds of challenges might benefit from seeking counseling or coaching even when you do not think you have any mental illness?

You feel confused a lot.

Confusion is a good reason to look for help. Assuming you have ruled out medical issues like dementia and fatigue, you may be in a situation where you just do not know what you want to do or what the choices are.

People who are under a lot of stress, find that a large part of their mind is occupied trying to cope with that stress. Stress can be good, or it can be bad. If you find that your life is in transition, seeing a counselor can help you get some of that confusion clarified and make sense of what you’re going through.

Choice – You need to choose between A and B.

Most choices are not clear-cut.  If you pick A, it comes with good and bad parts.  The same for alternative B.  Often both choices involved things you would like to have and things you’d like to avoid.  While a counselor can’t tell you which choice to make, they can help you to sort out the good and bad parts of the two alternatives.  Sometimes it helps to have an outside objective party to talk things over with.

Most of us start off by talking to family and friends. Sometimes they can be very helpful. Everyone needs a support system. Unfortunately, family and friends aren’t always objective. If you’re considering taking a job, this may mean, you’ll leave co-workers who have become friends. They may want you to stay, but this may not be the best thing for your career. Decisions about going to school or back to school, often affect others in our lives. They will have their opinions about what they want you to do, but what you may need is help in sorting out what is best for you

Change can be very difficult.

Now, may be a time when your life needs to change. Change happens whether we want it to or not. Sometimes it’s a good thing; sometimes it’s a bad thing, but many times it just is. Everybody experiences times when their life changes.

You grew up, and it became time to leave home and start your life. You look for a job, or a career. Sometimes you need help finding a job, deciding on a career. Once you have that job, it’s easy to get stuck there. There may come a time when you decide you need to make a change.

Some people make the transition from young adult to parent easily. Other people struggle. There will be challenges and changes as your children grow. Some of these challenges can be made easier by seeing a counselor.

Many people find that the biggest changes in life come in the time’s past children. The children grow up and start their own lives. You may be somewhat involved in their lives and the lives of your grandchildren, but eventually, you should let that go to allow your children to become parents. The change to an empty nest is hard for some people. The change from your working years to retirement can also be difficult.

You may be facing a challenge.

When you are faced with a challenge and do not know if you have the abilities needed to reach your goals it may be helpful to talk with the professional. Sometimes what you need is to identify your strengths and your weaknesses especially in the emotional realm.

Counselors can help you learn the skills you need to face this challenge. Often counselors can see your potential even when you have your doubts.

If you’re struggling with your emotions or your life, now might be the time to enlist the services of a counselor or therapist.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Advertisements

Why do successful people have coaches?

By David Joel Miller.

The more successful you are the more likely you will have a coach.

Coaches

Coaches help you perform better.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Have you ever noticed that the top contenders have the top coaches on their side? You don’t find very many Olympic athletes who will go it alone. Top business executives look for executive coaches to help them take their game to a higher level. So why are people whose lives are not working so resistant to getting help?

In my counseling practice I hear repeatedly that, I don’t need to see a counselor, I am not crazy. People who have serious substance use disorders will tell me they do not need rehab, they can quit on their own.

Couples do not have the time and do not think they need to spend the time on marriage counseling. Latter on they will spend ten times as much money and time on the divorce but till then they are all convinced they can do it alone. They do not see how counseling could help.

Why is it that a coach or in the emotional realm a counselor can so be helpful? Many of my clients are smart, and some are financially stable. What they can’t do is see their own situation accurately. How do counselors help people if you have already tried everything there is and your life is still not working? Here are some ways that counselors or life coaches can help even before your life comes apart.

You can’t see your own swing.

You may be making the same mistakes over and over. If you do not see the areas of your life that could be improved on you may not work on making those changes that could take your life to a whole other level of happiness until something breaks or crashes and burns.

Humans tend to do the same thing over and over. We develop habits because it saves time and keeps us from having to figure out how to get out of bed each morning. Many of these habits just are. Your parents did it that way. You did it that way once and have been doing it that way ever since.

You may not question those entrenched behaviors. You may not recognize ways you can improve what you have been doing. A professional can help you look for improvement opportunities.

You can’t see what is behind you no matter how you turn.

Sometimes we have things from out past that we think we are over but they keep cropping up. Finds may see this but they will be reluctant to tell you. If you hear bad news too soon you may think that other person is jealous. Bad news from a friend can damage the friendship. A counselor has an obligation to tell you.

Sometimes there are patterns in your life. When you tell your life story to someone else that person can see how when you get to a certain situation you give up or make a bad choice. You may be picking bad partners or you may be applying for the wrong kinds of jobs. Getting a second opinion can help you make decisions and plan your future course.

A counselor or coach can give you the straight scoop. You pay them for their ability to give you another point of view. You can take their opinion into consideration or not.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

Identifying those gaps in your life blueprint can help you develop the happy life skills you need. Your parents may have been great, perfect even. But if you are like most students in the school of life you did not get a hundred percent on any of life’s tests. Say you only got an 80%, a coach can point out the places you need to develop.

What if your parents were less than perfect? Whole lot of people came from dysfunctional homes. You may not have learned some life skills because your parents or other caregiver did not know these skills either. Identify the gaps in your life knowledge and work on those gaps.

It can feel uncomfortable to give yourself praise.

Just as we are often blind to our errors we can also fail to identify our strengths. You go farther in any endeavor if you can make the best use possible of your strengths. A good coach can often see that you have talent for a function you have never considered. More than one famous athlete was switched from a position at which they were average to a new position by a coach who saw they had an unrecognized talent. Making that switch took their game and their life to a much higher level.

It helps to know what is ahead.

You are living this life. You probably have limited knowledge about what will happen in your life and when. Not that every life is predictably the same, but most of us have some common experiences.

I see people who graduate from high school and then go looking for work. The only thing they know about the world of work is the kind of part-time jobs a high school student could get and that is where they start their search.

As you move through life at different points that life will change. You start your career and your family. Your children grow up and your career goes where it goes. Then what? Is your career stuck? Do you know how to keep developing it? What will happen when the kids leave the house?

When you retire your life will change. What will happen when you retire? Some people have a great time. Others find that they don’t have the money to do those things they always wanted to do. They may not be healthy enough to do things in their retirement.

Counselors and coaches study a thing called lifespan development, what most people can expect to have happen as they follow their life path. We also talk with a lot of people we hear their life stories, common themes emerge. We don’t tell you those other people’s secrets but a counselor can tell you the patterns of life we see.

Getting some Intel on things that may happen to you, what is normal and what is not, may help you have a better life.

Would seeing a counselor or life coach help you in navigating your life? No you don’t have to be sick to go to see a counselor. You just need to be willing to spend the time that is needed to work on how you are going to live that life.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

How does a counselor help you create a happy life?

By David Joel Miller.

What would a life coach or counselor do to help you?

Skills coaching

Life and Recovery Coaching means learning new skills.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

The traditional way of thinking about things was that you should just automatically be well and happy and that if you were not then you were sick or there was something wrong with you. If you were sick or mentally ill then you went to the doctor and they gave you some pills to make you better.

Over the last hundred years or so new ways of looking at things have emerged. First there was talk therapy, the talking cure that involved going to see a counselor and talking through your issues. Still this was mostly deficit based. You were sick and the professional was supposed to know how to fix you. The sicker you were the more you needed to talk about and the longer you needed to talk.

Recently we have seen some new trends emerging. Health living can keep you physically healthy and thinking more helpful thoughts might prevent the occurrence of a mental illness or at least make it get better faster. There are things you can do to work on yourself and the counselor, sometimes now a “life coach”, can help you learn how to create that better less stressful life you want.

Yes we know that there may be some difficulties that are genetic or the result of trauma or injury, but even for those conditions there are ways you can reduce your stress and help to keep yourself mentally well.

This new emphasis on mental wellness and recovery has gone by several names. Strength based counseling and positive psychology are two of the prominent ones. WRAP also belongs on that list.

If you were to go to a life coach or counselor that worked from a more strength based approach how would they go about helping you?  Also how might you go about preparing to help yourself.

1. Get clear on your values.

A beginning exercise would involve getting clear on your values. Is money important to you? Is family? Which is more important? Lots of people spend time in life pursuing goals only to find out that the things they had to do to get there were not consistent with their values.

There are several good exercises that can help you get clear on your values. You could also spend some time thinking about what is important to you. A good counselor would spend some time with you making sure you know the guiding principles of your life before sending you off on a quest for your happy life.

2. Counselors help you set goals.

Goals are about where you want to go. Values are about how you want to take the trip. Do you want to be wealthy? Why? Are you OK with cheating people to get there or is being honest more important to you than the money.

Now don’t go saying you do not want to be successful you are not all about money. There are lots of other goals that are more important to many people than money. Just if you are working hard to get a good education so you can get a good job so you can make a lot of money is that success if helping the less fortune was your value?

You could use the money to help others or you might choose to work in a program that paid less but that helped the needy.

Do you want to be a great athlete? Or is a writer more your thing? Maybe being a great father or mother is your priority. No one goal is the “best” in and of itself. Just pick the one that speaks to you and check it against the value yardstick you created in step one.

Most people have several goals and find they need to prioritize them. It takes time to reach goals and you need to be sure you work on the big ones rather than leaving those to a someday that never comes. A good counselor or life coach can help you figure this out.

3. Counselors can help you create a plan to reach goals.

Say your goal was to have more friends. Maybe you are shy and meeting people is hard. The counselor could help you devise a plan to stretch your comfort zone and begin to expand your circle of friends.

4. Counselors can aid you in learning needed skills.

Shy people often lack social or people skills. Rather than saying that this is just the way you are, we used to blame that on your being introverted, your counselor might teach you some social skills and help you create opportunities to practice these skills.

5. A counselor can monitor your progress – hold you accountable.

Having to check in each week and let the counselor know how you did on the homework or practice assignments can motivate you to keep working on your skills. Nothing so keeps you accountable as having to pay that other person each week and knowing you will be largely wasting your money if you pay to go in and tell them you didn’t do the work.

If you find you can’t or don’t want to do the required practice, that is important information for your life change project. Talk this part through and see if it is fear or if the goals are wrong or you picked goals that do not match your values. Some people at this point come to the realization that those goals are not really their goals. They are what their parents wanted for them or what they think they should be working towards.

6. Counselors assist in revising the plan as needed.

When plans do not work or when you breeze through them and decide that goal was too easy, you need to revise your plan. A good counselor can help you keep updating your plans and taking your life game to the next level.

From all these points you can see that none of this is about any diagnosable mental illness. It is about creating a happy life. People with a happy life have way less depression or anxiety and stress, well they just eat that for breakfast.

While this happy life planning may not fit well with staying sick so you can get free therapy, still it can beat the heck out of a not-happy life. Consider investing in and working on a life plan that helps you build the happy, well life you are looking for.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

What is non-medical counseling?

By David Joel Miller.

You do not have a mental illness but counseling may still help.

Counseling

Counseling, Coaching or Therapy
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

 

Do you have problems getting along with a spouse? Has it been difficult adjusting to a new job or a new town? Kids won’t mind or you are having financial and legal difficulties? Do you have “anger issues?” All these things and many more may be reasons to seek counseling even through you do not have a diagnosable mental illness. Getting help for these issues early may mean you can live a better life and not have your problems become a mental illness.

There is nothing noble about suffering for long time periods when help is available.

There are a whole slew of life problems that might need working on but they do not rise to the level we would recognize as a mental illness. These issues are listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders (DSM-5 is a registered trademark of the APA.even though they are not mental disorders.

The idea behind including these issues is that they cause significant distress to clients. These issues bring people into the offices of doctors, therapists, counselors and even judges, but they are not at this point in time considered a mental illness.

The result of these distinctions is that while you may want or need help in these areas you will need to look for other sources of help than the doctor and probably your issuance will not cover treatment for them.

EAP’s and Non-Medical Counseling.

Many employee assistance plans will offer you a few sessions with a counselor to work on these issues. They find it is cheaper and better to help employees overcome outside work issues than to let them go and then have to hire and train new employees. So if you have an EAP plan look for help there first.

You may have insurance coverage for some Non-medical counseling issues.

A few medical insurance plans or Behavioral insurance plans, to be more precise, also cover these issues. For some problems of living you can get other help. Most of these problems have such severe impacts on people’s lives they need treating even if your insurance does not cover them. Private therapists and counselors can help here.

About Life Coaches.

Recently we have seen a proliferation of “life coaches” who also can help you work on life issues that need help but are not technically mental illnesses. Some of these coaches have training and can be very helpful, others have minimal training and will miss when you really need to see a trained professional. Until this gets sorted out and there is some kind of licensing for life coaches, I recommend you seek out a licensed person even if what you need is non-medical counseling or coaching. Most professional counselors are happy to work on life coaching issues also.

First some background and then the list of problems.

In the U. S. we have been used to using the DSM (Currently the DSM-5) for mental illnesses. In the rest of the world they use the International Classification of Diseases. As of October 1, 2015 the U.S. is switching to use the numbering system the rest of the world uses. We also updated the names that we use to more closely align with the rest of the world. The result, the numbers and names have changed for some things so you will see multiple names and numbers for those things and some things will get split while others got combined. Do not let the professional’s confusion confuse you.

V Codes and Z Codes.

I have sorted this list to make it easier to write about so the list does not exactly follow the DSM. Things called “V codes” are the old number and the “Z codes” are the new ones. Sometimes two problems had or have one number and others have or had no number.  This is not a full list, for that see the DSM-5. I just wanted you to see the flavor of things that might bring someone to counseling that are not technically mental illnesses.

Relationship issues

Partner Relational V61.10 Z63.0

Parent Child V61.12 Z62.820

Sibling Relational VV61.8 Z62.891

Abuse and neglect (victims) V61.12, V61.21, V62.83

Perpetrators of Abuse get a 995 point something number (now a T number)

Other relational problem V62.81

Bereavement V62.82 Z63.4

Discord with neighbor, lodger or landlord Z59.2

Job – work problems

Occupational problem V62.2 Z56.9

Academic problems V62.3 Z55.9

Adult Antisocial Behavior (Career criminal) V71.01 Z72.811

Legal issues

Financial issues

Incarceration

Life changes

Acculturation V62.4 Z60.3

Phase of life problem V62.89 Z60.0

Situational adjustment – military deployment, moves from job changes

Religious or spiritual problem V62.89 Z65.8

Noncompliance with treatment V15.81 Z91.19 (NOW NON ADHERANCE)

Housing issues

Homelessness Z59.0

Inadequate housing Z59.1

Problems living in a residential institution Z59.3

Living alone Z60.2

Other things that get treated but may be missing or hard to find in the DSM

Caregiver fatigue or burnout

Military sexual trauma

Military deployment Z56.82

Child care issues

Poverty related issues

Lack of food and water Z59.4

Extreme poverty Z59.5

Not enough welfare Z59.7

Other unspecified housing or economic problem Z59.9

Physical health issues – the emotional part

Those problems that are poverty related, school and child related and involve interactions with the government, may have services available from public agencies. Other issues may justify you seeking private treatment.

Hope that somewhat clarifies all the things that counselors, social workers and therapists may work with that are not specifically mental illnesses. If you or someone you know has any of these kinds of issues consider looking for help.  Seeking out help for these issues does not mean you are “crazy” or that you have a mental illness. Not using help when it is available, that is more like stubbornness.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Do you have anger issues?

By David Joel Miller.

When should you seek counseling for your anger issues?

Anger

Anger
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Anger and “anger issues” are one of the more common problems that results in people calling my office for a counseling appointment. Having anger building up inside you can harm you. All those excess stress hormones are really hard on your heart and other organs.

But anger, an excess of that stuff, can also damage relationships with family, friends and those you work with. Untreated anger issues may result in the police being called and you going to jail. Excess anger also results in lost jobs and in divorces.

In extreme cases too much anger will get you locked up and court order to 26 weeks of anger management classes or 52 weeks of batterer’s treatment classes. Out of control anger can make a mess out of your life.

That must mean that anger is one of the more common and major mental illnesses, right? Wrong.

Despite all the problems an excess of anger can bring it is not recognized as a mental illness. Say what? Yes you read that right. We think anger, rather than being any one specific mental or emotional illness is a “secondary” emotion. That is you are feeling one thing but you end up expressing this other feeling as anger. When hurt, emotionally or psychically hurt, many of us express this as anger.

Regardless of what is causing your anger or why you are angry, counseling can help you tame that anger beast.

There are several reasons you might need to go for some anger management counseling.

  1. You do not like the person you become when you are angry.

If your anger is bothering you then it is time to see a counselor. This is true of a whole lot of other unpleasant or negative emotions. You do not need to be mentally ill to seek out counseling. If you do things when angry, sad or anxious you would not do otherwise, that is a bad sign. Just having to live with that anger all the time can make you miserable.

Some of you are thinking that you are in a situation where another person is always “making you angry.” Do not let that stop you from seeking help. You can learn ways to turn the volume down on your anger so you become less angry and angry less often or your counselor may help you with some life coaching to change the situation so that you are not going to get your anger triggered.

  1. Your anger is interfering with your relationships.

Any time an emotional, mental or behavioral issue interferes with you relationships with family and friends that needs attention. This may be an indication of a mental illness or it may just be stress. Either way you need help for anything that is damaging your relationships.

Humans need other people. Having a good group of supportive people around you improves the quality of your life. Do not let anger drive your friends and family away and leave you unsupported.

  1. Anger is affecting your work or schooling.

If you miss work or get in trouble on the job because of anger or other emotional flare ups, this means that your feelings are a problem that needs attention.  If you are not working but are in school then we consider going to school and doing your homework your job. Wish I could convince kids who tell me they don’t want to go to school that school is their job and if they can’t do that one they may need to work on their being homeless skills.

  1. Your anger has interfered with other things you used to like to do.

If you used to play softball or go bowling but because of your anger and fights you got into you can’t go there anymore than your anger has been and continues to be a problem. Letting anger or any other emotional issue cut you off from things that make you happy is a bad idea. Life should be more than working and suffering. Try restructuring your life to make it a life worth living.

That is the short list, you may think of other reasons you need to go see a counselor or life coach. Just remember you do not need to wait until your problems become serious mental illnesses before you seek help. Have you put up with anger for longer than you need to? Is it time for you to get some help, learn some skills, to get that anger creature out of your life?

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

What is life coaching?

By David Joel Miller.

Life Coaching is an exciting and a scary world.

Skills coaching

Life Coaching means learning new skills.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Life coaching is a new development in the counseling, therapy, helping-person field. There are good life coaches out there, who can be very helpful, but finding who you need to see is the challenges. Let’s hope this post will help explain those issues.

Coaching of all kinds has been around for a very long time. We are all mostly familiar with athletic coaches. Most have been players, grown up around the sport they coach or they have taken formal university classes in how to coach a particular sport. A good coach can prepare you for the Olympic trials or help you take your golf game up to a pro level. You do not take a weekend seminar on-line and then coach an NFL team.

Other types of coaches have grown up to meet the needs of particular people for mentoring and development. Executive coaches help executives plan and develop careers. Recovery coaches are often people who have recovered from a particular issue, substance use disorders or alcoholism. They can help take a recovering person through the journey from the land of addiction to recovery land.

One thing we have found in the recovery field is that being in personal recovery can help make you a better coach or substance abuse counselor, but that by itself is not enough. Those peer coaches need more training and they need supervision. To be a good coach you not only need to know how to do something, play a sport or recover from drug use, you also need to know how to pass that knowledge on to the person you are trying to help.

Why life coaches?

Many of the current life coaches have come from the fields of psychology, especially counseling psychology to be specific, or they are from the fields of mental health, marriage and family therapist or professional counselors.

Most mental health therapy and counseling is deficit based. You need to have a mental illness and then we can see you and bill your insurance. But what if you want to be a better person, develop your career or just plan to more effectively reach your goals? Counseling, in the past was not set up to help well people, it was set up to treat ill people.

One school of counseling, we call this a “theoretical orientation” is called “solution focused therapy.” Rather than looking for what makes you sick these therapists look for the things you do that work and then help you plan to do more of these behaviors.

Recently counselors and psychologists have been looking at things called “strength based” counseling. What are you good at and how will we help you do more of that. This led to the field of positive psychology which looks at making life better rather than “pathologizing” people so that we only treat sick people.

Thinking in terms of teaching skills to have a better life is scary to those people who are used to thinking that systems of care should only treat the really – really – sick people. The result is that help in having the life you want and in staying well is not something most healthcare systems pay for. You want help in having a good life, they may thing, you need to go looking for it yourself.

If you plan ahead then you can get sick, get professional help until your problem gets moderate or mild, and then you are back to being on your own.

Many people would rather plan and develop a good life and avoid being sick in the first place. So they seek out coaches that can help them plan a better life. You do not have to be sick to go for coaching.

Now the secret part of life coaching.

Most, maybe all of what coaches are doing has been done by counselors and some psychologists all along. The difference today is not what we do but who pays for what. The result is new fields of counseling psychology and counselors doing “life coaching.” Marriage and Family Therapist have known this for a long time. Come in when you have mild disagreements and we can help you improve communication. Wait till the divorce is in progress and all we can do is keep you from hurting each other while you negotiate the divorce stuff.

Some problems with “life coaches”

Try a web search on life coaching and you will see a vast array of web pages. All life coaches are far from equal. Many of the web pages for life coaching are adds, take this class; send in a check and you can become a life coach and make big money telling people how to live their life. The truth of life coaching is far from this.

Currently there is no set curriculum or standards for life coaches, no license and while there are schools teaching life coaching most are private for-profit enterprises and their degrees are untested and unaccredited.

Some life coaches run ads that sound more like they are psychics or “spiritual healers.” Now if that is what you are looking for all well and good. The rub comes in when people go to these “life coaches” and turns out they have a serious mental illness that should have been treated.

My suggestion is that if you want “life coaching” because you want to improve your life and reduce stress, seek out a licensed mental health professional. I must here disclose my biases. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor. Also in supervising trainees and interns who are new to the field, some of what I do is coach them in how to be the best possible therapists and counselors. So, I do all three and that may make me extra skeptical of those who embark on the life coaching business without getting some serious education and training.

The life coaching conclusion.

If you hate your job and are so depressed you can’t go to work, get therapy for your depression. If you don’t know what kind of job you want, see a career counselor. Not sure how to develop and grow your career as you grow older you may need job or life coaching. Same thing for relationships. Can’t get along with your partner see a couple’s counselor. Scared and having trouble dating and finding a partner? You may want to work with a relationship counselor but on some dating coaching.

In future posts I want to talk to you about strengths based counseling and how you may find it worthwhile to look for someone who will help you have the best life possible.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Preventing mental illness.

By David Joel Miller.

Is it possible to prevent mental illness?

prevention sign

Preventing forest fires seems to be easier than preventing mental illness.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

There was a time when we, we as in society, thought there were two types of people, the normal ones and then those others, the mentally ill.  Today we know it is a lot more complicated than that. There are things that can be done by professionals and by consumers that can make the impact of mental illness less difficult.

This tells us there are things that can be done early on, before someone becomes sick, that can prevent the development of a mental illness or lessen the severity. People with a healthy physical life style get physically ill less often. People who use certain wellness tools are less likely to be debilitated by a mental illness.

Prevention services can reduce the risk of developing an illness in both the physical and the mental health areas. It is easy to see the need for treating an illness once it develops but harder to get systems to offer treatment to prevent an illness. Some physical health systems offer preventative treatment. Unfortunately the mental health systems are far behind the physical health systems in this area. If you want help for an emotional problem before it becomes a mental illness you probably need to seek help on your own.

Most of the things we now call a mental illness are the result of stress and trauma, injuries you accumulate in the process of living. Bad things happen to you. Maybe a lot of them and over time those events wear you down. At first you become sad or discouraged, eventually this sadness could deepen and reach the point of being an episode of Major Depressive Disorder.

People are exposed to trauma and stress, sometimes this develops into Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), for other people this reaction to the stress of life lingers on as excess anxiety or persistent sadness. Those conditions may be severe enough to get diagnosed and treated by a professional. Lots of people spend major chunks of their life struggling with things the professionals and the insurance companies call “sub clinical” cases of emotional issues.

What about people born with a problem, say Schizophrenia, you are asking. Aren’t mental illnesses hereditary things? This continues to be a problematic issue in the mental health field. Two siblings, identical twins, have a family history of schizophrenia, say mom has the disorder. They should both get it to right? Not always. Sometimes one will develop the disease and the other will have much milder symptoms of emotional issues. Why does this happen?

There is a lot of ongoing research in this field. Someday we may have the final answer to this question. Boy if you were a drug company and could develop a med that would keep people from “catching” schizophrenia you could make a lot of money. But for now what we think it I is that there are risk factors and protective factors.

If you were one of those twins you would likely be looking to add some of those protective factors to your life.

If you were doing a stressful job, you might go looking for ways to reduce the stress before it became overwhelming and developed a mental or emotional disorder. People who have a life that is less than they would like, they also might be looking for ways to make that life more fulfilling.

Not everyone who has a lot of stress or sadness in their life goes on to develop a severe mental illness. You may be one of those people who can just take a lot of stress and disappointment. Still the statistics tell us that about half of the U. S. population at some point in their life will develop symptoms that should be treated. Wouldn’t it make sense to take a few doses of a preventative?

Anger management is another area where prevention is better than treatment. You can get help for your anger issues now or wait for the court ordered 52 week program.

If you are under stress, have disappointments or just find that you are irritable and angry a lot, maybe you are using alcohol or drugs to cope, what might you do to keep this from escalating? Do you need to run to see a counselor? That might help, getting a professional opinion can get you started on the right track. But here is a list of possibilities.

  1. Learn self-help skills and stress reduction skills

You will find a number of posts here on counselorssoapbox on stress reduction, self-help and so on. There a lots of other good resources out there.

  1. Develop a personal wellness plan.

WRAP, wellness and recovery action planning is a good one. There are free materials out there and the books are relatively inexpensive. You do not need to wait to develop a mental illness to create a wellness plan.

  1. Read self-help books.

I especially recommend books based on Cognitive Behavioral therapy. They can create the optimum benefit and in less time than many other therapies. David Burns book Feeling Good jumps to mind. There is also a list of recommended books over on the website for my private practice counselorfresno.com

  1. Try some non-medical counseling or life coaching

Many employee assistance plans offer a limited number of sessions, (three, six, maybe twelve sessions), with a counselor or therapist to work on general life issues. This is commonly called non-medical counseling. Stay tuned for a longer post on this topic.

If you child won’t mind, you have excess anger, you are stressed at work or just not sure about what you want to do with your life, these non-medical counseling sessions can be helpful in clarifying where you are at and what you want to do.

Life coaching is a new and evolving field. There are some warnings about this one. Clients tell me that they want coaching not therapy because they are not “crazy” I tell them I agree they are not “crazy” by which I mean they do not have a diagnosable mental illness. Still they could use some counseling. For them it is easier to think of this as coaching.

Most professional counselors and some therapists do this sort of work. Helping you plan the life you want. Seeing them for preventive counseling or coaching is a good idea. A number of people recently are advertising as “life coaches.”  There are no set standards or licenses for coaches in most places. Some are well-trained with degrees in coaching psychology others just took their GED and rented an office expecting to make a lot of money coaching people. If your life coach does not also have a mental health license you need to be extra careful. More on the whole life coaching thing in an upcoming post.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books