Beginning Therapy

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It’s not too difficult to  find a therapist but it can be difficult to know if you’ve found one who is right for you.  The first step is often going on the internet and looking at Psychology Today, Therapy for Black Girls or other therapist directories.  After you find a therapist it’s important to see if they are the right fit for you.  Here are some questions to ask yourself  to see if you’ve found the right therapist for yourself.

1. What does it feel like for you to sit with the therapist? Do you feel safe and comfortable?  Is the person down-to-earth and easy to relate to or does he or she feel cold and emotionally removed?  Is the therapist arrogant?   If a therapist  doesn’t feel like a good fit for you, that’s okay; there’s absolutely no contract or rule requiring you to continue working with any therapist. However,  If you find yourself reacting negatively to every therapist you see, then the issue could be yours and may warrant your sticking it out with a therapist in an effort to work through your fears  of beginning therapy.

2. What’s the therapist’s general philosophy and approach to helping? Does your therapist  approach people in a compassionate and optimistic way? Does he or she believe humans are born loving and lovable?

3. Can the therapist clearly define how he or she can help you to solve whatever issue or concern has brought you to therapy?  A therapist should be able to  explain how they can help and  be able  to give you a basic “road map,” to their approach.

4. Can your  therapist accept feedback and admit mistakes? A good therapist  is open to feedback and to learning that something he or she said hurt or offended you. Good therapists are willing to look at themselves and to honestly and openly admit mistakes.

5. Does the therapist  encourage dependence or independence? Therapy doesn’t solve your problems; it helps you to solve your own.  Therapy doesn’t soothe your overwhelming feelings; it helps you learn to soothe your own feelings.  If your therapist never encourages you to access your own resources, it is more likely you will become dependent on your therapist to help you feel better, rather than learning to depend on yourself.

6. Does the therapist have experience helping others with the particular issues for which you are seeking therapy? The more experience a therapist has addressing a particular issue, concern, or problem area, the more expertise they have developed.

9. Does the therapist make guarantees or promises? It’s important for a therapist to provide hope but not give  absolute unconditional guarantees.

10. Is the therapist  licensed? Licensure means  that a therapist has engaged in postgraduate counseling experience which, depending on the state of licensure, may include up to 3,000 hours of required supervised experience. It also means the therapist has passed a licensing exam. There are many unlicensed therapists who have years of experience and do excellent work, but licensed therapists  have (generally but not always) undergone more extensive supervision than unlicensed counselors. You can contact your state professional licensing board to verify the licensure of a provider.

11. Have any complaints been filed with the board? To see if a therapist has a record or is under investigation, you can check with your state licensing board for their profession.

Remember the most important thing is the relationship, if you feel comfortable and have a good rapport with your therapist then you know you’ve found the one for you.

The Story of Transforming Lives Counseling Service

 

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I have been asked many times what made me decide to start my practice and in particular why my practice is centered around providing psychotherapy to women and adolescents of color in particular Black women and girls.   This post will tell you a little about me and what led me down this path.

I’ve been a therapist for 24 years and I’ve worked in various capacities and several agencies as well as at an inpatient psychiatric hospital.    During this time I’ve worked with many different populations and have also been a speaker at different organizations and written articles about therapy with Afro Caribbean families and women.

Working at agencies is very stressful and although I loved my clients I knew I couldn’t be there forever. I had always wanted a private practice but due to several circumstances I didn’t begin the process until 2016.   After my last position as a clinical supervisor at an outpatient substance  abuse clinic in New York City, I decided that it was time to start my practice.  I’ve always been passionate about helping women of color especially Black women who often feel ashamed to seek mental health treatment.   I started Transforming Lives Counseling Service in July 2016, first it was only online and then as I grew I decided to open an office in addition to seeing people online via video.  My practice has grown so much since this time and I’ve expanded and have a wonderful therapist, Jennifer Dorsey, MHC-LP working with me.

People have also asked if it’s discriminatory that my practice focuses on the mental health needs of women and girls of color in particular Black women and girls.  Psychotherapy is often viewed as a luxury for wealthy white people and I wanted to bring culturally competent care to Black women and girls who often don’t get to see people who look like them as therapists.   All my clients are not women and girls of color.  I will work with anyone who feels they need to begin therapy to learn how to live a fulfilling life however my primary goal and focus will always be helping Black women and girls.  If you want to learn more, take a look at my website, Transforming Lives Online.org  .

Be well

Racquel P. Jones, LCSW

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Understanding Anxiety

Do you often worry about stuff or think something bad is going to happen?  I know these feelings because I have also had extreme anxiety.  Everyone worries about things sometimes but anxiety takes worrying to a much higher level.    This post will discuss the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder and what can help you to feel better.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects about 6.8 million American adults, including twice as many women as men.  It usually  develops gradually and can begin at any point in  life  but usually develops between childhood and middle age.  Other anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, depression, or substance abuse often accompany GAD.   It  is commonly treated with medication and/or  cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Symptoms
Generalized anxiety disorder  is characterized by six months or more of chronic, exaggerated worry and tension that is unfounded or  more severe than the normal anxiety most people experience. People with GAD usually:
Can’t control their excessive worrying
Have difficulty falling or staying asleep
Experience muscle tension
Expect the worst
Worry excessively about money, health, family or work, even when there are no signs of trouble
Are unable to relax
Are irritable
Are easily startled
Are easily fatigued
Have difficulty concentrating

Treatments
Generalized anxiety disorder usually responds well to medication and certain types of psychotherapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Mindfulness.  Sometimes medication won’t be needed and anxiety will respond well to psychotherapy.

Antidepressants
A number of medications that were originally approved for treating depression have been found to be effective for anxiety disorders. These must be taken for several weeks before symptoms start to fade, so it is important not to get discouraged and stop taking these medications. They need a chance to work.  This is especially helpful if you have depression and anxiety.   If you have any bothersome side effects, speak to your doctor and he or she will be able to determine if a change is needed in your medication. An adjustment in dosage or a switch to another medication  will usually correct side effects.

Anti-Anxiety Medications
Benzodiazepines relieve symptoms quickly  however they often increase drowsiness. Since many  people can develop a tolerance to them—and would have to continue increasing the dosage to get the same effect—benzodiazepines are generally prescribed for short periods of time. People who have had problems with drug or alcohol abuse are not usually good candidates for these medications because they have a greater likelihood of becoming   dependent.  Some people experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking benzodiazepines abruptly instead of tapering off, and anxiety can return once the medication is stopped. Potential problems with benzodiazepines have led some physicians to shy away from using them.  Buspirone (Buspar),  is an  antianxiety medication used to treat GAD.  Unlike benzodiazepines, buspirone must be taken consistently for at least two weeks to achieve an antianxiety effect.

Cognitive-Behavioral  Therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is very useful in treating anxiety disorders. The cognitive part helps people change the thinking patterns that support their fears, and the behavioral part helps people change the way they react to anxiety-provoking situations.
For example, CBT can help people with panic disorder learn that their panic attacks are not really heart attacks and help people with social phobia learn how to overcome the belief that others are always watching and judging them.

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) combines cognitive behavioral techniques with mindfulness strategies such as meditation and  deep breathing exercises  in order to help you to better understand and manage your  thoughts and emotions in order to achieve relief from feelings of anxiety.

For many people, the best approach to treatment is medication combined with therapy. As stated earlier, it is important to give any treatment a fair trial.   Remember  if one approach doesn’t work, there are others that may be helpful for you.