What to Look For in a Christian Counselor.

When approaching a point in life that is chaotic enough, painful enough, or overwhelming enough to seek counseling, it may seem far too daunting to make a search in general, let alone searching for help from someone in the area of Christian spiritual growth. If you were to search on the internet for a therapist that meets the criteria of a Christian counselor in a well populated city, at least three prospects would probably pop up. This most likely means that these counselors or agencies are advertising as Christian counselors. That’s great! Right? Wait a second, what differentiates a regular counselor from a Christian one? Are they a Christian counselor because they have a Jesus fish bumper sticker on their car? Is it because they go to church or at least they use to? Or, do they teach Sunday school at their church and they are currently working on their doctorate in theology?  Does any of this really matter? Just because I sit in a garage all day, it doesn’t make me a car. So let’s take a look at what to look for in a Christian counselor.

First, is authenticity. Make sure when you talk to the therapist for your consult that you can sense that they are being real with you and most importantly, themselves. Assess the counselor’s ability for self-reflection and feel free to ask questions concerning the counselor’s faith statement, walk, and spiritual journey. Maybe even ask how they came to the faith and how their life changed when they did. Sharing spiritual testimonies is wonderful way to see the genuine heart of fellow Christians whether a counselor or not.  

Next, discuss the counselor’s knowledge of the Bible, biblical worldview, and the application of each in the counselor’s life. Ask them how they know the Bible, what their education is and if it included learning how to live from a biblical worldview. Don’t be afraid to ask enough questions to help you discern if the therapist is living a Christian life outside of the therapist office. 

Last and most importantly, discuss with the counselor what their process and application is of the Christian faith within the therapeutic process.  Let’s just be honest here, not many of us have a desire to walk into a therapist’s office lost and broken to then be beaten profusely by the distortions of the words and book that are meant to bring us hope, healing, and joy. 

Kristy Palacios, LPCC

Kristy is a counselor from the Northern Denver Metro area that specializes in providing counseling for women that are struggling with depression and anxiety and trying to find direction and purpose in life.

Life Hack: Therapy Exercises You Can Do At Home

Counselors and therapist, in most cases, have spent a huge number of hours learning ways to help those who are hurting and/or those who are trying to find a better way to do life. Unfortunately, counselors usually do not have space in their schedule for immediate same day bookings, to help those who need immediate relief. Therefore, make sure to leave a message. So then, what’s a frazzled, desperate soul to do? Below are some therapy exercises you can do at home while waiting for that next appointment.

First, don’t hesitate to lock yourself in your bedroom or bathroom and just cry. Cry loud! Loud, sobbing tears that release that pent up energy that is causing you so much anxiety. Now, if you are like many of us who feel as though we have cried our last tear and just have no more left, keep reading. Unfortunately, the anxious energy is still present even though crying seems impossible, so go for a walk, a speed walk, a jog, an all out run. Do something (that will not harm yourself or others) to release that tension. If moving feels impossible, then scream, as loud as you can while tensing up your entire body. Now, let your muscles relax, slowly, while taking three deep breathes in through your nose and out through your mouth.  Feel the air fill and leave your lungs and feel your muscles let go, one by one from your toes all the way to the top of your head. With a slight bit relief, let’s move on to exercise number two.

Next, take a notebook, your favorite journal, or if you don’t have one, borrow your kids notebook, they should have one somewhere. Go ahead and start writing all the stuff that’s in your head. The good, the bad, the ugly. Just write it all down. It doesn’t have to be pretty or even make sense. In fact, it can go all over the page in big letters or small. In cursive or print, you can even write it in short hand if you know how to do that. When you’re finished you then have a choice. You can read it, throw it away, burn it, save it, tear it to pieces, or all of the above. Whatever makes you feel the best. At this point, you should feel slightly more relaxed, and your head may even be a little clearer. Which brings you to the best part. Personal self care.

Do something for you. Take a bath, give yourself or go get a pedicure. Paint your nails. Cook something. Sit on the back porch and eat an ice cream bar. Just do something that brings you (even a slight bit) of joy in this overwhelming time. Know that you are not alone and that there is at least one person who thinks about you once a day.  You are loved, you are strong, hold on to hope and embrace the fact that your victory is right around the corner.

Kristy Palacios, LPCC

Kristy is a counselor from the Northern Denver Metro area that specializes in providing counseling for women that are struggling with depression and anxiety and trying to find direction and purpose in life.

 

3 Ways to Increase Freedom

Freedom is defined in different ways, especially here in the United States. Most often freedom is seen as free will, to do what we want when we want. The other definition of freedom is what I am going to talk about today, it is reducing or eliminating those thoughts and beliefs about ourselves and about life that limit us and keep us in bondage at an emotional level. For instance, if I have spent the majority of my life believing that I cannot speak in front of others, I most likely won’t, despite any desire that I may have to do so. This desire to speak and the belief that I have that I cannot is creating conflict within myself, which is in fact limiting, and devaluing me and keeping me in bondage from living up to my full potential. This is not freedom. In the following, I will provide three ways to increase freedom in your life.

First, recognize that you have choices. Make a list of the things that you have to do each day. Now, make a list of things that you like to do. Are they similar?  Why not? I understand, the laundry needs to be done, the house needs to be cleaned, the groceries need to be shopped for, and the gas needs to be pumped, but who is saying that you have to?  Who says when you have to? Probably you.  You have the choice to do it now, later, or not at all. Nonetheless, you have the power to choose. Therefore, recognize that you have a choice and sometimes choose the fun and leave the laundry.

Next, be of service to someone else. Admit it, your focus many times is on yourself. How am I going to get this all done?  I am so mad right now! That guy just cut me off! I’m so tired. Lots and lots of self focus goes on, which in turn causes overwhelm and then creates even more focus on ourselves. So get outside of yourself. Consciously decide to smile at everyone that passes by and try to brighten their day. Thank a person in military uniform for serving our country. Pull that huge thistle out of the neighbors flower bed. Go ahead and give that guy on the corner your last dollar. At the end of the day, instead of reflecting on how tough life can get, you can focus on how you can add joy to someone else’s life.

Last, do it afraid. Opportunities knock and the what if’s knock louder. The fear of not knowing the outcome can become paralyzing and at the same time depressing. Thereby limiting us from living the abundant, joy filled life we have always wanted. We only get one shot at this thing called life, so take some risks. Whether it’s signing up for an obstacle course, running a 5k, taking a few cooking classes at the local college, or even finishing that entire degree that you’ve been putting off. Take a chance, live large, make a choice to be the best you, that you can be and just do it afraid!

The power is within each of us to reduce or eliminate thoughts and beliefs about ourselves and about life that limit us and keep us in bondage. Therefore, change your mind. Choose to do something you enjoy, add joy to someone else’s life, take a risk and then just see how much your freedom increases.

What No One Tells You About Communication!

I feel as though you are…,  I feel like she is being…, You make me feel so …, You hurt my feelings…  These common “feel” statements seem to happen more times than not in any one conversation throughout the day. Have you ever stopped to think about these kind of statements? Despite the fact that I correct myself many times when I hear myself make such statements, I find them quite convincing. Think about it, how many times have you felt strongly about another persons actions and threw out one of the common “feel” statements? I believe that subconsciously, we tell ourselves that feelings are so very important that when we include the indication of a feeling in a statement, then what is being said must be justified.

Let’s get technical just for a moment and look at those statements a little closer. What is the feeling in each of those statements and who has given the power to the other person to influence the feelings of the one making the statement? For heaven sake, there has got to be a better way. Gratefully, there is. Many times with clients, I will try to help them to differentiate the difference between what they are thinking about a situation and what feelings they are having about a situation. This past week I was given an even deeper more concise perspective of differentiating thinking and feeling by breaking it down into  three parts: data, judgment, and feeling.

A better understanding can be created by taking a better look at these three parts . First, data is the facts or the information in and information out. Ultimately, data is the unequivocal truth that can be recorded and acknowledged as evidence.  Next, judgment is the opinion, assessment, conclusion, or story drawn about the data.  Last, feelings, these are the primary feelings that are stirred up when we receive the data and create a judgment/assessment. As a result, without proper delivery of these three parts, a common statement can be stated as “You make me so mad!” Such a statement as this places the blame and responsibility on another person for invoking feelings without including data or the judgment drafted from the data. Therefore, let’s take a look at these three parts a little closer.

Data: You didn’t do the dishes after I asked you to do them this morning.                   Judgement/Assessment: You prioritized other things over doing what I requested of you and I think that what I say is not important to you.                                                                           Feelings: I am sad and disappointed based on my assessment.                                                A sentence based on the three parts: “You didn’t do the dishes after I asked you to do them this morning. The story I am telling myself is that you prioritized other things over doing what I requested of you and therefore, I don’t believe what I say to you is important and so I feel sad and disappointed.”

As you can see, the person isn’t really mad at all. However, upon relaying the data, assessment, and feelings discovers that he is actually sad and disappointed. Therefore, when we learn to communicate in a healthy manner, defensiveness is decreased and understanding is increased. 

Shadows of Regret

“Regrets are a waste of time. They’re the past crippling you in the present.” (Federico Fellini (1920 – 1993)). It’s a great thought that regrets could be dismissed so easily. The technical definition I understand of regret is that it is the feeling of sadness or disappointed that something happened or that some opportunity was missed. Another definition that I think many more of us can identify with is; CRAP! I screwed up, I made a bad choice, this was NOT how my life was suppose to be, this was NOT suppose to happen. These feelings can manifest from many different circumstances in our lives, from such events as a negative business or financial decisions, quitting a job or from such events as divorce, infidelity, multiple marriages, having children out of wedlock. Which brings me to my belief that along side feelings of regret are feelings of shame and humiliation.

Shame, that painful deep seated feeling of foolishness and self blame which occurs along side the aching knowledge that if anyone found out the truth, they would think one to be as stupid as one feels. Unfortunately, counter-intuitively, many then move forward in life pretending as if the regret is not there. Thereby, accumulating more regret, while then proceeding to inadvertently build up a wall of deflection. In fact, many have learned to strategically avoid regrets all together in thought, word, or deed. However, the most alarming part, is that if many of us take a closer look, we can recognize that we have not avoided the regret at all. In fact, the truth is, the regret has become a shadow that has been following us through life and effecting our processes in building relationships, having conversations, and putting ourselves out into the world to be the best that we can be.

Gratefully, there is help available to alleviate shadows of regret. Regrets, can be elusive. Therefore, if the shadow is not immediately recognizable, yet you suspect that there is a possibility,  you can begin on your own to try to uncover the regrets by thinking about events or circumstances that you have been avoiding that bring up feelings of anxiety, anger, and or shame. Then, ask yourself if you can see patterns of avoidance that have occurred since these events or circumstances have taken place. Most importantly, I suggest seeking out a counselor in your area that can help you with this process.  At minimum, compile a few names of counselors that you can call if or when you discover how extremely controlling the shadow of regret has been in your life.

Kristy Palacios, LPCC

Should I go to counseling?

Should I go to counseling? Yes! Now, this answer may seem biased based on the fact that I am a counselor who is writing a blog trying to educate the world about the benefits of seeing a counselor. However, years, (ok, maybe decades) before I was a counselor, I was the one seeking the counseling and it was my choice.

Admittedly, I first chose to seek a counselor in hopes of saving a dying relationship. Sometimes, even the greatest therapy can’t help. Nevertheless, many years later, after my first experience with counseling, I chose to seek a counselor, just for me and it changed my life.  At first, it was difficult and seemed tedious as I showed up week after week chipping away, slowly but surely, at the habits I had created that seemed to work for me to survive in a world that seemed to hurt too much, too often. Keep in mind, this was my choice. I chose to delve into the past and untie the culmination of what seemed to be unending knots that knotted themselves into a giant ball of knots. On the other hand, I could have chosen just to process through the hiccup in my life that I chose to seek a counselor about in the first place. My other choice, I could have decided to just keep doing life the same way I always had, the only way I knew how. Which, I think is the key to why I think anyone should go to counseling.   You see, how do you know if you are doing it right or wrong, if you don’t even know if there is another way.

So again, the question is should I go to counseling? Yes! Why? Because although you think you can handle it on your own or it’s really not that bad or someone else is the one with the problem, there is a chance that you may not know that there is another way and counselors, they can help you figure out if there is another way. Good, bad, or indifferent, if you have ever wanted someone to bounce something off of and just help out with a hiccup in your life or want someone to help you expose and re-purpose those areas of your life that just don’t seem to work as well as they use to, then choose to go to counseling.

Kristy Palacios, LPCC

 

Is my relationship toxic?

What is toxic in a relationship? and for heaven sake how do I know if I’m in or getting into a relationship that is toxic?

The definition of toxic as it relates to relationships, can be defined as unhealthy behaviors derived from a person being wounded and never learning how to take responsibility or control for their own actions. Therefore, they participate in manipulative behaviors to try to control the other person.

Toxic relationships are not always easy to identify, at first. Learning and identifying red flags is the first step to prevention.  Many times, comments, controlling behaviors, and negative feelings about interactions are just ignored by those experiencing these red flags, justified if you will.  This is the start.  I tell my clients that abuse, such as verbal or mental abuse is usually underhanded and silent. Especially, for many of us that have had less then stellar modeling of healthy relationships.  This silent abuse can be compared to a faucet that is turned on to just a drip and if a rock is placed under the drip, it takes a while to leave a dent.  Nevertheless, the erosion has begun.

I’m sure many of us have heard it before, that we can only control ourselves and we cannot control others. Well, it’s true! Therefore, here are three steps you can take no matter what scenario you are in at the moment. 1) Begin by asking friends, colleagues, or family members that you believe are in pretty healthy relationships, or even ask yourself,  if there are concerns about your idea of or the partners you most commonly seek out. 2) Make a list of what you don’t want in a relationship as well as what you do want and then share this list with the person you trust. 3) If you believe that your perspectives needs changing or you know someone who gravitates toward toxic relationships, seek out a therapist/counselor in your area that can help.

So whether you or someone you know have been in a relationship that you believe to have been toxic, are in a relationship that is toxic, or want to prevent EVER getting into a relationship that is toxic, remember, the process for change begins with YOU.

Kristy Palacios, LPCC

Starting is always the hard part…

Today I begin a blog (Smile). I have been in private practice now for approximately two years. On a side note (pun intended), if you would like to know the specifics of my practice please see the “about” section of this blog or look to the hours & info section to the left (side) of this page. In these two years, I have discovered that the fundamentals of beginning a business are not the most difficult compared to getting myself out there in the public arena. Especially in a large metropolitan as Denver, it can be daunting to know that there is a lot of other therapists slash counselors, life coaches, and others wanting to help people find hope, direction, purpose, themselves etc. Nevertheless, I now begin down this path of entering the public arena to say hello, welcome, and I look forward to building as many alliances as possible for hope, healing, & purpose.