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.

Co-Worker Stress Relief

I am working with three clients right now who entered counseling due to a toxic relationship with a coworker. I have been reminded of a time when my father had to deal with a toxic supervisor. Dad had spent his career on the railroad, retired, then was given an opportunity to help a neighbor by working as a security guard. While on the railroad, Dad had been involved with many coworkers who struggled with addictions and interpersonal relations problems. Even there, he had not worked for anyone as toxic as his new supervisor.

He called me one day and discussed all that he had tried and how frustrated he was dealing with this man every day. He said, “You’re a counselor, so what should I do, quit?”

My father had read through the Bible more times than anyone I’ve ever known, including my professors in seminary, who were very familiar with the Bible.

So, I asked, “Dad, what does the Good Book say about dealing with your enemies?”

He mumbled his reply, “pray for them.”

“What did you say?” I confronted.

“Pray for them,” he replied a little louder.

“Let’s just do that,” I suggested. He agreed. I started praying every morning for his boss.

A couple of weeks later, we were talking again, and I brought the subject up, “have you been praying for your supervisor?”

“Yes, twice each day,” Dad answered.

“Has anything changed?” I asked him.

“Well, yes it has,” he admitted. Dad described some of the changes he had noticed over the last two weeks that were big improvements in the attitudes and behaviors of his supervisor.

“That’s great!” I congratulated.

“It’s not just that,” Dad continued. “I’m not sure that all of the changes were from my boss.” Dad elaborated that praying twice a day for his supervisor may have also changed my Dad. My father thought our Heavenly Father must have also changed Dad’s perceptions of the man he was praying for.

Perhaps that is what Reinhold Niebuhr had in mind with his serenity prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

It’s difficult enough to change ourselves, much less others. My father accepted that his co-worker had things that needed to change. I am glad that he had the courage to recruit help and that he took Biblical advice.

If you are going to work every day and spending more waking hours with coworkers than with your family, then recruit help like my father was humble enough to do. You might try what my father tried and pray for the most toxic employee. Observe what changes in your coworker and in you. You will at least be proud of yourself for doing something courageously and you’ll become more compassionate through your prayers. If you need more help, then call us at (509) 466-6632.

GPS and Life

GPS and Life

I have a car and enjoy driving it. In the old days when I needed help finding my way, I used a paper map. Now I use GPS. If I want someone else to do the driving and find the way to the destination, I can hire a taxi or Uber.

When you want to find your way emotionally or relationally, you might want a guide. Our counseling center is a GPS: Guide Providing Solutions.

You have a life and enjoy living it. Even a hero like King Arthur used Merlin for a guide to provide solutions. If you want a guide for your quest, then please give us a call at 509-466-6632.

Living Inconsistent with Our Values and Paying the Cost

Living Inconsistent with Our Values and Paying the Cost

If you ask most any adult in America today about his or her values, you will find some very familiar and even predictable responses regardless of the usual demographics; age, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, race, religion, occupation, or location in the country.  Our values are those essential priorities and high ideals we deem to be most important to us, so naturally they include; good health (mind, body, and spirit), close relationships within the family, with loved ones, and within our vital friendships, a fulfilling social life, healthy self-esteem and self-respect, quality education, gainful employment, a satisfying career, financial security, and opportunities for growth and self-improvement, etc.  These are the kinds of things we believe to be enriching. 

Nevertheless, millions upon millions of us live grossly inconsistent with what is most valuable to us.  In other words, our “lifestyle” does not cultivate, support, or advance what is truly most important to us.  And because of this disparity, we pay the cost with poor health, broken relationships, compromising “friendships”, spiritual bankruptcy, poor self-esteem, and little self-respect.  We lack for quality education and progressive self-learning and we fall short of maintaining meaningful and gainful employment and career satisfaction.  Furthermore, instead of realizing steady and upward personal growth and encouraging self-improvement we find ourselves stagnating or regressing.  Frustration and anger become common to us.  We too often feel anxious and depressed.  And in deficit of healthy self-respect and reasonable impulse control, we are then prone to cope with stress by any number of self-destructive habits and dangerous addictions.

Just look around and you will see this to be true and widespread.  The greater collective of modern American society lives in compromise of values which are enriched with, and fortified by integrity and virtue; that which is morally uplifting to our manifested civility and humanity.  Truly, far too many of us are over-fed, over-medicated, and over-stimulated with shallow information and hollow entertainment and recreation.  We are largely sleep deprived, and too often ridden with tension that we carry in our neck, shoulders, and back.  Our stomachs churn and minds ache with stress.  Too often we amble through life uninspired and feeling disoriented, disconnected, and discouraged.  We are dissatisfied with mediocrity, and we should be.

How has this happened to us in our modern American culture?  There are a few explanations.  The most obvious one is that we are so easily programed and “brain-washed” into believing that our self-indulgent pleasures with bring us fulfillment.  We are force-fed the “American dream” which promotes hyper-consumerism, and so we buy things we don’t really need with money we don’t really have.  We are programed to be ever entertained, and so we spend liberally of our time and money to “enjoy” life, but maybe at the high cost of overlooking more essential needs and greater priorities.  

We tell ourselves we can’t afford to eat healthy, get a better education, join a health club, but we easily buy junk food and fast food, or buy and consume beverages and substances that don’t support our health whatsoever.  We “afford” cable TV service, but not the gym membership.  We purchase expensive recreational vehicles and boats, etc. but we don’t want to invest in our own mental health through a series of high-impact counseling/therapy programs that can really make a profound difference in how we think, feel, and perform; with great potential to actualize real and lasting positive change.  We buy the latest and greatest smart phones, but believe that we can’t afford a bicycle or a good pair of hiking shoes that we might actually use instead of being sedentary and getting sucked-into a non-stop frenzy of social media that is likely to be far more superficial than beneficial.  Does any of this sound personally familiar?

So what can we do to live consistently with our values and reap the benefits inherent of being in alignment with them?  Remember, we identified our “lifestyle” as the key element in this concern.  I believe that our lifestyle is a culmination of the patterns and habits of even our simplest choices, day in and day out.  Choices always begin with questions and options.  This is what I like to do to strive towards living in harmony with my values.  First I take a close look at my values and the belief systems that explain them and support them.  I want to be very clear and I want to aim high.

Next, I ask questions and examine my options.  I like to begin with simple yes or no requests.  Example: “Does this purchase support any of my critical values?”  “What are my reasonable options?”  A few more yes or no questions ~ “Can I afford to spend this money on this……. right now?”  “Am I being impulsive, self-indulgent, irresponsible, reckless, etc.?”  “Will this bring me closer to my goal of……(insert the relevance of the important value)?”  I can’t fake-myself-out because I know better, and I won’t want to fool myself into believing that I can better manage this system of healthy choosing at some other time in the future, because I care too much about my values right now.

Let’s all do better to get clear on our values, and choose actions which will protect, support, and advance them.  This is what living with balance and harmony and being at peace with self looks like.  Let’s not let all of the enticements within our modern American ~ consumer-driven culture provide the defining influences on how we live our lives.  Let’s be thoughtful and disciplined consumers.  Let’s invest in our health (mind, body, and spirit).  Let’s cultivate empowering self-respect, and then let this be the catalyst for how we treat others respectfully.  Let’s not compromise our cherished morals, integrity, virtues, and fine human character.  Let’s make our humanity beautifully human through how we live in consistency with our inspiring and encouraging values.  

 

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

Positivity

Positivity

I’ve heard a lot about negativity all of my life, and a little about the power of positive thinking to correct it (and, when I was in Houston, Mickey Gilley’s song about drowning negativity through the power of positive drinking, which I am not endorsing).

The first time I heard the term, “Positivity” was at a John Gottman training for therapists. His research found that relationships need a healthy ratio of positive interactions to negative ones. He says the “magic ratio” is 5:1. If we compliment five times more than we complain, smile more than frown, be soft and vulnerable instead of hard and volatile, then we have more positivity and satisfaction.

Ken Blanchard and his team at the One Minute Manager training limited negativity even more. They teach the secret of setting a goal with others, then catch them doing things right, and give them a praising. They do not allow reprimands unless the one receiving it is a proven performer, otherwise, the response to a mistake is more training and encouragement toward the goal.

When my two sons were boys, they did not like playing catch with each other. When either of them played with me, I said something encouraging with each throw or attempt to catch the ball: “nice try” or “you almost got it that time!” Their remarks to each other needed more positivity and less name-calling and negative labeling.

If you would like more information about positivity: https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-positive-perspective-dr-gottmans-magic-ratio/