Counseling Federal Employees

Counseling Federal Employees

Years ago, there was a man on the committee which hired me in San Antonio. He had worked for the federal government since he returned home from military service in World War II. He was my Dad’s age, he had no kids, and my folks lived in Kansas City, so we became family of choice.

You’d have loved his warm smile and bright eyes flowing from his unselfish personality. You’d have respected how he climbed the ladder of GS ratings through devoted hard work. And, you’d have been heart broken when his kidneys failed.

We hear a lot of bad press about bureaucrats and federal employees pursuing and exercising power for selfish reasons. We need to hear more about people like my adoptive father. When he had to retire after 30 years of service, he had accrued a couple of years of vacation and sick time he had not used over his career. After he stopped working, he continued to receive the salary and benefits he had earned over the decades and made life a little easier on his wife during the treatment years.

I miss him.

I want to continue to work with and for people like him. His vocation was a federal employee, but his passion was this country. He served the nation to continue what was good and to solve bad problems. I want to serve such public servants. Your Blue Cross will pay for your services here.

If you need a counselor who is a preferred and experienced provider with your FEP insurance, no matter where you live (we can use Telehealth).

As Paul Harvey used to say, I’ll tell you the rest of the story: 509-466-6632.

Changing the Conversation

We all know the power of words; we have seen it throughout history. If you hear the words “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” you instantly know that this is from Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and his I Have a Dream speech in Washington D.C. Or maybe the words “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country” from a speech made by President John F. Kennedy. These words are often quoted as beacons of hope and mission; they are respected oratory from major figures in American history.

I work in words. I don’t have the ability to intervene in someone’s health with medicine; yet by using the training I’ve had, I can use words to help people see their own potential. It can be an important part of restoring someone to a healthy life, and it can be powerful if done well. Yet we all have the power to use words to make positive change in our world, and destroy it.

Recently in the Spokane Washington area, where I live and work, we had a school shooting. Four students were shot, and one of them was killed. This has been a devastating event to every member of the immediate community where this took place, and the Spokane region in general. As I have begun to see my clients since the incident, I have been checking in with them to see how they are dealing with it. Most of them were shaken initially, but are doing okay now. However, one of the continual things that I have been hearing is the way some young people are making flippant comments regarding suicide and school shootings in their daily lives; I have often heard adolescents tell me that it can be difficult to know who is serious and to get adults in their schools to take them seriously. Even if the school has a zero tolerance to this language, kids are afraid that their peers will figure out who brought it to the attention of the staff in their schools.

While I have been working in private practice for a while now, I still get taken aback when an adolescent gets to my office and describes to me that their peers say things like “I’m gonna shoot this place up” or “Why don’t you just go kill yourself” regularly when they are at school. In most cases kids do not act on these suggestions, but there are young people who are emotionally vulnerable; these words can affect them greatly. Almost no child would ever mean either of those statements as a serious undertaking; yet imagine the feelings of guilt that they would experience should a vulnerable child act upon those words-and what might be the horrible consequences legally.
Yet is there a way for us to put a stop to this behavior? I look to my own experiences as a child and as a parent for those answers. When I was a child, I grew up in the Midwest; the area where I grew up was about as southern as you could be without being in the South. During my childhood in the 70’s and 80’s there was a word that was often used by my peers—that being the “n-word.” On one occasion I was talking to my mother and used that word in conversation; she immediately made it clear that she would not tolerate that word in her home, and that should I ever use that again, there would be prompt washing my mouth out with soap. That word immediately was removed from my vocabulary.

In my own home I do not tolerate using the word “hate” toward a member of the family. If either of my children used it toward each other or me, there was an immediate response of disapproval and dislike. My goal was to help my children understand that this was not an appropriate way to express anger and frustration, and that it can be extremely hurtful and venomous.

There is a way for us to make these sayings inappropriate for adolescents to use toward one another; we must set a standard within our families as to what is acceptable and what is not. It is just as important to teach children from an early age that not only should they use gentle touches toward each other, but gentle words as well. Sometimes the words can be more painful than the physical aggression if left unchecked.

It has never been easy to raise a child, and adjusting to having a teenager can be the most challenging stage of the parenthood journey. Yet it is important to remember that just because our kids have the word “teen” in describing their age does not mean that they don’t need us to help guide them through the last critical years of childhood into the responsibilities of adulthood. Teaching our children how to respect and care for each other, those they love, and those they will meet in their future is one of the most important responsibilities we can have as parents; it is paramount that we make both word and deed a part of that education.

Challenges for Military Veterans in Washington State

Written by Kurt M. Leonard, MSW, LSWAIC, MHP (Healthy Counseling Center; Spokane WA)

We all seem to be much aware that military veterans face daily challenges with managing readjustment back into civilian life following a term or terms of service.  What we commonly overlook, however, is the depth and breadth of this ever increasing trend in our own state.  Current Washington state census data indicates that of our approximately six million residents, roughly 9% have served or are currently serving in one of the five branches of our armed forces.  This places Washington among the top group of states in our nation with common representations of military service.  Our veterans are everywhere among us, and we are all closely proximal to our service men and women within and throughout our communities.

Readjustment from military culture to that of the civilian world is often complex and multi-layered for most veterans.  Many veterans can become somewhat overwhelmed by the difficulties of reintegration back into their families and social spheres.  Moreover, navigating the inscrutable VA system of claims, benefits and opportunities for health care, education and housing, not to mention employment, can be both daunting and disheartening.  Truly, the VA system continues to fall short of meeting the needs of our service men and women.  But that’s just the beginning of the readjustment challenge.

What our veterans most lack, overall, is our genuine support right in our own communities.  This references our patriotic respect and appreciation, and our empathic understanding, patience, and graciousness to really listen to their voiced concerns and inherent frustrations.  It’s popular patriotism to say yes to hiring a vet, but veteran unemployment in our state is hovering around 17%, and yet stands at 8.5% overall.  Veteran unemployment is more than twice what it is for the general population.

Conversations I have had with veterans seeking gainful employment bear common themes of rejection.  They include; being “over-qualified”, having job skills or training that are not notably “transferable” to the civilian sector, and an unmentioned but seemingly ambient fear held by many potential employers that the vet behind the application may not be mentally stable within the workplace.  And of course, such fears are equally unfounded and prejudicial; with an in-your-face smack of profiling.  We can find these fears largely fueled by sensationalized media reports and ignorant conjecture.

Let’s us all put aside any political leanings associated with war and our unfounded fears and really demonstrate supportive attitudes and actions towards our soldiers.  They happen to be our own family, friends and neighbors.  If we deeply value our preserved freedoms and liberties, then we should prove it by how we treat and entreat our national force of protectors.  We do our country and our state the greatest disservice by any indifference to the needs and aspirations of our service men and women.  Let’s not just throw answers at the hard questions our vets ask of us, but rather strive to find tangible solutions through our courageous and decisive actions.      


Anxiety & Stress

Anxiety & Stress

Anxiety and Stress

Everyone experiences anxiety and stress at one time or another. The difference between them is that stress is a response to a threat in a situation. Anxiety is a reaction to the stress.

Whether in good times or bad, most people say that stress interferes at least moderately with their lives. Chronic mental strain can affect your health, causing symptoms from headaches, high blood pressure, and chest pain or heart palpitations, skin rashes, and loss of sleep.

But you can learn how to reduce the impact of mental strains and manage your symptoms. We are here to help you.