Posts written by SoCo Admin

New Administration for Licensed Social Workers

Sunset commission report came out after Texas Professional Examiners Boards were investigated. Read the report and decide for yourself – should regulation of these boards no longer be administered by the Department of State Health Services (DSHS)? The suggestions made by the Sunset Advisory Commission are very good, and anyone who is licensed under one of these professional titles in Texas knows that change needed to happen. One just has to wonder if the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) will be able to do precisely what the commission recommends.

As a Social Work Supervisor, I interact with the Board (whichever one it will be) on a regular basis, not just at license renewal time. The past two years have seen an increased delay in processing of supervision plans and new licensure paperwork for LMSW’s, LPC Interns and LMFT Associates, or anyone in the process of becoming licensed as a social worker, or changing the status of a social work license. While it does seem odd, compared to many other states, that we won’t be regulated by the department of health, there is little room to argue that nothing needed fixing.

Some have noted that it seems inappropriate for non mental health professionals to be administering licenses and regulating the work of those who are educated and trained in mental health and wellbeing. Even under DSHS, the people approving supervision plans for social workers were not professional social workers. They were guided by the Board of Social Work Examiners, some of whom are professional Social Workers. That part will likely stay the same, there are just a different non professional SW’s and PC’s and MFT’s doing the administering.

Let’s hope TDLR can deliver on their promise. Their first step is to catch up on a lot of backlog of work from all three boards. If you are operating under one of these professional licenses in Texas, might as well start to get familiar with TDLR. Change is coming!

About Counseling Professionals – LCSW, LMFT, LPC

So you’re thinking about getting some counseling, or doing talk therapy, or what some call psychotherapy. In seeking services you will run across an alphabet soup of different letters behind the names of professionals who all perform very similar functions. What is the big difference?

Psychotherapy, or “the talking cure” is historically thought to be the domain of Psychiatrists, who are MD’s or DO’s who have done extensive training and residency in psychiatry. In current practice, most psychiatrists do a lot of prescribing of medication, and spend far less time doing therapy or counseling. They are the only mental health professionals who are authorized to prescribe medication (though physicians and other medical doctors can prescribe psychoactive medication as well). There are some psychiatrists who still do therapy in combination with prescribing medication. This combination approach to coping with mental health issues has been determined (in numerous studies) to be the most effective form of treatment. It is rare and often expensive to get both kinds of treatment from the same person.

For talk therapy, most people find themselves seeking the services of a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), a Licensed Master or Clincial Social Worker (LMSW or LCSW), or a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). These professionals do the same thing but come from slightly different training backgrounds and perspectives. Note the similarity in the legal descriptions of these professions in Texas:

The practice of Professional Counseling includes: the application of mental health, psychotherapeutic, and human development principles to: facilitate human development and adjustment throughout life; prevent, assess, evaluate, and treat mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders and associated distresses that interfere with mental health; conduct assessments and evaluations to establish treatment goals and objectives; and plan, implement, and evaluate treatment plans using counseling treatment interventions that include: counseling; assessment; consulting; and referral.

The practice of Marriage and Family Therapy involves providing therapy services to individuals, families, or couples, alone or in groups by applying family systems theories and techniques. Practitioners evaluate and remediate cognitive, affective, behavioral, or relational dysfunction in the context of marriage or family systems.

The practice of Social Work requires applying social work theory, knowledge, methods, ethics, and the professional use of self to restore or enhance social, psychosocial, or bio-psychosocial functioning of individuals, couples, families, groups, and/or persons who are adversely affected by social or psychosocial stress or health impairment. The practice of Clinical Social Work requires applying specialized clinical knowledge and advanced clinical skills in assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders, conditions and addictions, including severe mental illness and serious emotional disturbances in adults, adolescents, and children. Clinical treatment methods may include but are not limited to providing individual, marital, couple, family, and group therapy, mediation, counseling, supportive counseling, direct practice, and psychotherapy. Clinical social workers are qualified and authorized to use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) Codes, and other diagnostic classification systems in assessment, diagnosis, treatment and other practice activities.

BTW, LPC’s are authorized to use the DSM and ICD too, as are Psychologists. Wait, then what else do Psychologists (PhD or PsyD) do? Well, they too do the work of the other counseling professionals, and again come from a slightly different training perspective. In addition to psychotherapy, psychologists do lots of evaluation and administration of tests. They do not prescribe medication.

Ultimately, you probably want to know which is the best? All of them. The best mental health provider for you, when it comes to psychotherapy, is the one with whom you feel most comfortable and confident, despite the letters behind the name. Study after study has demonstrated that the relationship between the client and professional is the strongest predictor of good therapy outcomes.

Welcoming the New Year

Winter is finally here, which means each day from now until the equinox, we get a few more moments more of daylight than we did the day before. This is good news for the many people whose moods have tended to darken as the days have grown shorter. If you have experienced an episode of depressive disorder, you might notice a pattern of mood shifting each year. The end of year holidays are a busy and stressful time for everyone, even those who don’t recognize or celebrate a major religious holiday at this time of year. The business of others, and the interruption of regular routines can add stress. Even those who enjoy celebrating the holidays experience added stress at this time of year – positive or negative, the body experiences stress in similar ways.

For those who experience a darkening of moods as the days grow shorter and the holidays draw near, hang in there. This is a good time to remember the importance of self-care routines, and finding time for recharging. As we settle into winter months, the sun is out for just a bit longer each day. Allow yourself to get as much sun exposure as you can, even while indoors. Open blinds and curtains when the sun comes out. You might consider waking with the sunrise and easing into the day, to ensure maximum light exposure. When used regularly, non-harmful UV lamps have proven to be a mood lifter people with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

If you find you are just a bit more gloomy than usual during the past few weeks, consider whether you notice a pattern from years past. It may be that you are more affected by the seasons than you realized. Be sure you are getting enough vitamins in your diet, including B-vitamins, which help with energy levels, and vitamin-D, which we get from the sun. If your mood is really low, consider talking to your doctor or mental health professional about getting some help with getting back to your base line. Seasonal affectation is no myth, but you don’t have to endure it alone. In the meantime, look forward to the new year, and the upcoming Austin Spring days!

How to Combat Depression – Simple Steps

People who are showing early signs of depression may notice one or two of the following symptoms:

  • It seems more difficult to get out of bed, you are having a hard time facing the day.
  • There’s a decrease in your overall level of motivation, maybe even for things you normally enjoy.
  • You’ve become more likely to pass on social engagements or opportunities.
  • You might see an increase in use of mind or mood altering substances, like alcohol, marijuana, or medication.
  • Sleep habits have changed – you may feel sleepy more often or have a hard time sleeping at night, or both.
  • You find yourself eating when you aren’t really hungry (stress eating), or you’ve lost your appetite all together.
  • Negative thoughts and feelings about yourself increase. You may feel more guilty, self-critical, or pessimistic than usual.
  • It has become harder to stick to routines, like cooking meals at home, participating in hobbies, or following an exercise routine.
  • Life has just lost a bit of its color, everything is just a bit more dull.

If you find a few things on this list that apply to you, you might be experiencing early stages of depression. Taking preventative measures can keep it from getting worse, or turn things around for you. Depression is a real disease and you can’t “just cheer up” or “pull yourself out of it” without taking action. Early detection and treatment may prevent a full blow major depressive episode.

There is nothing new to these prevention strategies. Most of us have heard all of our lives that exercise, healthy eating, and sound sleep are keys to good health. These rumors keep circulating because they’re true! The new part about it is that neuroscience has become better at determining why they work. Here are some simple steps you can take to prevent or treat early signs of depression:

Talk to Someone — If you haven’t told any of the people closet to you that you aren’t feeling so hot, let someone know. Sharing your experience with even one person in your support system can help you feel less alone. Nobody wants to be a complainer, but it is important for others to know how you’re feeling. Those who care about you most will want to help, and there’s a good chance someone has already noticed that something is off. Think of the person or people who are most likely to be able to be supportive of you and just let them know what’s going on. Human beings are social animals, and we need to feel connected in order to thrive. Read More

Finding a Therapist in the Internet Age

Congratulations! If you are reading this, you have probably found it through SoCo Counseling’s “on-line presence,” via website blog, Google+ page, or some other means of cross posting. Perhaps you are reading this because you are shopping for a professional therapist. If that is the case, read on, my friend. I hope to be able to talk you into a different way of going about your search.

We’re all familiar with the way the Internet has revolutionized shopping for all kinds of goods and services. We can see ratings and reviews on the landscaper or plumber we are thinking of hiring. And an Internet search is very useful if you are looking for the closest place to have a key duplicated, or pick up a new coffee pot. I’d like to argue that you will benefit from being more selective about shopping when it comes to certain kinds of services – specifically, individual therapy, couples counseling or family therapy.

Those who recall relying on the Yellow Pages to find goods and services may remember that certain consumer decisions were considered too important to base on who had the largest ad, or which business happened to be a half-mile closer to home. Wise consumers of legal, financial, medical, or mental health services were more likely to ask around for a personal reference from a trusted friend, family member, or colleague, than to rely on advertising alone. We would ask our banker if he could recommend an accountant, or ask our doctor if she could recommend a counselor or psychotherapist.

With all the good and convenience the Internet has brought, much of it is, after all, one big advertisement. In selecting some consumer services, it may be ok to chose a plumber or electrician on the basis of on line reviews, if there are enough to offer a reasonable sample size. When it comes to selecting healthcare services, including mental health care, reviews can be misleading. Most health care practitioners don’t have a significant number of reviews to offer a reasonable sampling. In this field, it is unwise to solicit on-line reviews from those who know us best, out clients, because it would constitute asking those who trust us to breach their own confidentiality (exceptions include health care specific review sites, e.g. www.healthgrades.com and others like it).

As therapy Business Coach Lynn Grodzki says, “Thanks to the Internet, therapy is now increasingly accessible . . . Google can find a therapist in any zip code in just a few clicks, opening doors for potential clients seeking therapists and leveling the playing field for therapists seeking clients.” This level playing field is one in which any therapist can put up a decent web site. Therapists no longer have to rely on referrals from doctors with whom we have established a relationship, or former clients who might tell a friend how they liked our work. Unfortunately, Grodzki is right. I fear what this means for perspective clients who seek out individual or couples therapy based on who comes up first in a Google search, or which family therapy practitioner is closest to the kids’ school. The playing field is more level, but you can’t judge the quality of a counselor or therapist by his or her on line presence.

In seeking therapy or counseling services, I encourage you to do it the old fashioned way. Do some research. Ask around if you can. If you do need to rely on the Internet to find a mental health professional, ask if they will offer a free phone or face-to-face consultation before you commit to starting therapy sessions. There is a good chance you will be able to tell if you will be comfortable with the person over the course of a conversation. Once you’ve made the choice to seek professional counseling services to sort out some life issues, make a wise choice about who you trust to provide that service. It will pay off in better results in the end.

Help For Your Relationship

Wouldn’t relationships be easier if there were just a list of rules to go by, and everyone knew the rules? When it comes to our closest relationships I’ve got GOOD NEWS! Below you’ll find a list of just those rules. Share these with your partner and challenge yourself to stick to them. Mastering these guidelines has helped many SoCo clients get their relationship on the right track:

Rules of Effective Arguing
When couples start to argue it is easy to forget that from the start both people have a common goal – to come to some resolution on an issue. While the goal is the same, the focus of the argument is the disagreement about how to come to that resolution. In order for the common goal to be reached, it is important that each person hears the other side of the argument. Here are some things you can do that will help ensure that your message will be heard. Making sure you hear your partner’s message is up to you.
  • Remember that you have a common goal.
  • To allow your partner to hear what you’re saying, use “I” statements, and practice active listening skills.
  • Avoid bringing up the past; discuss your current needs and the present situation.
  • Make suggestions for resolution, and be willing to be flexible to find a win-win arrangement.
  • Don’t make threats (to leave your partner, to get drunk, to cheat, to move out, etc.).
  • Cursing, voice raising and name-calling are out of the question!
  • Avoid absolutes, like “always” and “never,” or other inflammatory words, like “whatever.”
  • Postpone an argument if it comes up in the presence of friends, family, guests, children.
  • Carefully choose a mutually agreeable time and place to discuss sensitive issues.
  • Don’t bring in third parties, e.g. “your mom even agrees with me…” “my friends say…”.
  • Stick to one topic; it’s almost impossible to agree on a moving target.
  • Never, never discuss important issues while under the influence of drugs, including alcohol.
  • Never bring up potentially emotionally loaded topics or ask serious questions via text message.
  • If an argument gets heated, call a time-out to cool down and think clearly. Once you are calm again, finish the discussion.
  • Don’t insist on continuing to argue if your partner has called a time-out – allow yourselves some time, whether 5 minutes or 24 hours.
  • Before going to bed or being separated for an extended period, if you haven’t resolved an issue, at least agree to disagree for the time being.

Communication is one of the most important aspects of a healthy relationship. If either you or your partner is having trouble following one or more of the guidelines above, talk about it! If you feel you can’t talk to your partner, consider talking to a professional counselor. Our close human relationships are too rare and valuable to be left untended.  –Mary B. Mattis, LCSW, LCDC

Mental Illness Can Shorten Lives More Than Chain-Smoking : Shots – Health News : NPR

Mental Illness Can Shorten Lives More Than Chain-Smoking

Mental disorders can reduce life expectancy by 10 to 20 years, as much as or even more than smoking over 20 cigarettes a day, a study finds.

via Mental Illness Can Shorten Lives More Than Chain-Smoking : Shots – Health News : NPR.