Friday, September 15, 2017

National Suicide Prevention Week

September 10-16, 2017 is National Suicide Prevention Week.
    We are advised to be aware of the warning signs that might help us to intervene and many times, individuals who are contemplating suicide ask for help or indicate by their actions and/or words that they have been considering ending their lives.  Yet, there are too many of us who have experienced losing someone by suicide, where no such early warning occurred.  We are left wondering what we missed, because surely this person "told us" in some way.  We go through the checklists of the typical warning signs and come up empty.  We blame ourselves because we didn't pay closer attention.  We feel guilty because we didn't spend those few extra minutes we had with the person we lost.  We didn't tell them we loved them often enough...
     When I worked as a high school counselor, my experiences losing students was especially devastating.  The high school I worked at lost several teens who chose to end their own lives. Feelings of shock and disbelief and overwhelming grief were expressed by students and staff alike. As a school counselor, it was particularly difficult to comfort others while I too was grieving.  
     During my work as a Licensed Professional Counselor, I started seeing one young lady, after her first attempt.  I thought we were making progress, yet after only three sessions, she hung herself. I questioned my effectiveness and doubted my ability to be able to help my clients. I felt as though I had not earned the trust and hope her parents placed in me to help their daughter. 
    Although there are some who plan their suicide, the students we lost acted impulsively.  In a moment of desperation, when they felt as though no one could help or nothing would ever change, they were gone.  Our lives were forever changed by their actions.  Immediately, any of us would have traded that for an opportunity to help, to listen, to care.
How do we learn to bounce back from disappointments?  How do we learn to take things in stride?  How do we learn that it is OK to make a mistake? How do we learn that we will have our hearts broken? How do we learn to tolerate being teased, rejected, and that we won’t always get what we want?
     The Survivors of Suicide and Loss group I meet with monthly (Community for Hope at agree that starting at a very young age, children must learn to be resilient.  They must have their feelings validated as well as experience disappointments so they learn, in incremental steps, how to navigate the full range of our emotions.  They must learn that they don’t have to “take something” to feel better.  Children learn that things can help us feel better by seeing us have that drink when we get home from work, or that cigarette when stressed. The group members also believe the pace of our lives limit our direct interactions with each other and see the impersonal and somewhat shallow relationships that are developed via electronic media. 

     Yes, it is important to be aware of the warning signs of suicide.  But before someone ever considers that suicide is an option, it is more important to be an early and constant loving, supportive, caring, and accepting presence in each other’s lives.   

Kathy is passionate about using the therapeutic relationship to help you achieve your personal goals. 

She is proficient in multiple approaches and will work with you to find that which is best suited to your needs.  
Kathy is skilled in working with many issues.  She has extensive experience helping individuals with depression, anxiety, grief, and the development of interpersonal skills that foster growth and esteem.  
Prior to her counseling career, Kathy was a high school teacher and a school counselor, which gives her a unique perspective and insight related to adolescents as well as parenting.  She worked with suicide prevention groups and also founded the first LGBTQ group (Gay Straight Alliance) at her high school. 
Kathy is a state certified Licensed Professional Counselor, earning her Master’s Degree in     
Counseling from Western Illinois University.
In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, including those with four legs.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The "Firsts"

There are so many firsts in people’s lives. Do you remember when you first entered kindergarten and wondered if you would have any friends?  I cannot remember my exact thoughts that day but I do remember feeling nervous and clinging to my mom’s leg.  Then going to college, same worry!  Or how about the first time you entered the world of work?  Those worries might be, “will my boss and coworkers like me?” or wondering, “can I do this job?”  There are many firsts with buying a house and not knowing the steps to getting a mortgage or hiring a realtor.  Other firsts in day to day tasks can also create anxiety like calling a doctor or picking a bank.  Every day we are faced with new experiences or firsts.

I have recently had some firsts in my life and it made me think about how it must be for our clients at Esprit to pick a counselor for the first time not to mention picking up the phone and scheduling that first appointment.  There is no guidebook to picking a counselor.  Some of it is based on trusting yourself and having a gut feeling about a counselor’s professional online bio  or some sort of connection to the voice you are talking to over the phone.  But what if you don’t always trust yourself or your anxiety spikes because of all of the unknowns with establishing a counseling relationship?

Here are just a few helpful hints to taking the next steps with counselors anywhere and some specifics with our Esprit staff.

1.      Start by setting some time aside to explore options in your area.  Ask yourself if you want someone close to your home or further away to create distance.  There are many options online today to help with your initial exploring.  One website is Psychology Today.  This website categorizes therapists by location, specialty and more.
2.      To help narrow down your search, look for the counselors’ biographies on clinics’ websites to see if a counselor specializes in what type of counseling you are looking for.
3.      The next step may be the most challenging:  Placing a call or scheduling an appointment.  One nice thing about Esprit is that you can schedule directly online and never have to pick up the phone.  Some people like that and others prefer to talk with someone directly.  At Esprit we offer both.  Here is Esprit’s website:
4.      Sometimes just getting that date set takes the anxiety down drastically.  For some, having that appointment as soon as possible is helpful.  Typically, when people are ready to schedule, they want to see someone right away.  Esprit can get people in to see a counselor within the same week.
5.      Paperwork can seem overwhelming for some people.  If you prefer, our therapists will walk you through and explain all of the specifics.  When you register with a therapist, we automatically email the intake paperwork to you and you can fill it out prior to the appointment and not feel rushed on the day of your session.  We also have intake paperwork available for you to complete in our waiting room prior to your appointment.  Allow about 20 minutes to complete it.
6.      Then, the next step is showing up for your appointment.  This might be the biggest “first.”  We want this to be a helpful and pleasant process for you.  Therapists are here to hear your story and help walk the journey with you.  We can help explain our role in more detail during that first session.

In summary, the first time you experience anything, there are many unknowns, and perhaps some anxiety.  We are here to help!  Give us a call!

Hannah Episcopo graduated from Trinity International University with a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling. She enjoys working with individuals, couples and families. Hannah specializes in anxiety, depression, co-dependency, faith and self-esteem issues. Hannah’s work includes walking beside clients as they journey through self-exploration, understanding and healthy communication. She values helping clients identify their strengths and create positive coping skills to meet their goals. Hannah also has experience working with children and adolescents and often incorporates play therapy into sessions.  She also enjoys spending her down time exploring and traveling with her husband and daughter.