Daily Archives: July 8, 2014

Diving into the Mind of a Licensed Professional Counselor

If you’re just joining us, feel free to check out the first portion of our interview with Tracy Busse by clicking HERE.

Tracy, you mentioned that you (as a counselor) frequently see another counselor. This is intriguing and also reminds me of Proverbs 13:20: “walk with the wise and become wise”. Can you expand on why you choose to see a counselor? 

For two primary reasons. Practically speaking, I spend a lot of time training new counselors. Usually I tell them that if they’ve never had counseling themselves, they need to get counseling simply to have the experience. To honor the clients that we serve, we need to experience the opposite side of the room and sit in the other chair to understand the process. Counseling has a vulnerability to it, and in order to honor the courage that it takes for our clients and their hard work, we need to be in it ourselves.

The other reason is that I think it’s great self-care. Counseling has helped me to grow. The woman that I receive therapy from is incredibly wise. In many ways, I feel I’m being mentored, and I admire what my counselor has done.  As an individual, I’ve grown from her counsel, and also as a therapist.

As counselors, we can encounter similar situations that are seen in other people-helper professions: doctors, nurses, social workers, or ministers – those whose careers revolve around helping people. As such, we naturally want to carry other people’s burdens, but releasing them can be difficult. For me, counseling has been one way to release those burdens.

Allow me to follow up on the concept of “people-helpers.” In an ideal world, do you believe that all “people-helpers” should invest in counseling for themselves? 

If they can find a counselor that’s a good fit for them, then yes. But not every counselor is going to be a good fit for mentoring. Readers should know that it’s okay if you don’t (or didn’t) like a particular counselor. For some people, having one bad experience with a counselor that wasn’t a good fit for them becomes an unfortunate roadblock, preventing them from seeking help again.

If you are in ministry, or a full-time healthcare professional, you likely see things in your field of work that are traumatizing (meaning that they create significant stress – you repeatedly think about crises). When I was working with trafficking victims and my phone would ring, my heartbeat skyrocketed because of the potential for any call to be a crisis with a girl  – that is trauma. Trauma causes people-helpers to burn out and even leave their fields because they don’t know what to do with the burdens.

For people who face these situations regularly, counseling (maybe once or twice a month) can be a great option. Having someone who is wise and trained in trauma can help you navigate through traumatic situations so that you can stay healthy and keep helping people.

A good therapist will teach you how to release the burdens of traumatic situations so that you can continue to effectively serve. As Christian counselors and people helpers, we also want to do exactly that for ourselves – release our burdens to Jesus and be a vessel  for Him. Helping people work through hardship is really a gift. I always think of how Corrie ten Boom described that when someone gives her a flower, she looks at the flower, admires the flower, and then she hands the flower to Jesus.

Many of us in today’s society hear the term trauma. Can you briefly define trauma and describe how situations can be traumatic? Are there specific emotions or thoughts that would signal trauma?

To me, trauma is anything that causes tremendous stress to a person, but there’s no one answer because everyone may react differently to a situation. For instance, I’ll never forget an art teacher that I had as a child that yelled at me for talking when I wasn’t talking. Although this thought did not cripple me, for a long time I carried the belief that my teacher’s yelling really was about me. What I eventually had to accept was that the art teacher was having a bad day and decided to yell at me for no reason. That’s a small example that many would never even think of as traumatic, but to me that exemplifies trauma.

In a book I recently read by Anne Lamott, she metaphorically describes how we each have an acre of land around us. It’s our personal acre that we tend to; there’s a fence around it and one gate through which we decide to let people in (or not). But then there are some people who try to intrude, messing up our acre, littering it, and dishonoring it. Trauma captures that idea of someone coming into our land, abusing it, and causing stress. We have the right to tell these people to get off of our land.

And obviously, traumatic events can occur in anyone’s life. Car accidents are an example of common trauma. Abuse is a serious form of trauma – sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse – anything where someone violates you.

Another helpful way to look at trauma is as something that happens to you to make you feel that the world is not safe. Often we assume that  trauma must be a big, horrible, dramatic event. In reality, trauma can happen in living a normal, everyday life. Everyone has experienced trauma on some level or another (as evidenced by nightmares, anxiety, or sadness). Trauma changes what we believe about the world and what we believe about ourselves.  The purpose of counseling is to examine the belief system caused by trauma and then address the trauma itself, enabling progress towards healing.

Can we briefly talk about EMDR? What exactly is this new form of therapy and does it work?

EMDR means Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, and you don’t ever have to remember that (laughing). Using a process called bilateral stimulation, EDMR gets the brain working on both sides while talking. Because the right side is creative, expressive, and nonverbal, images of trauma are stored here. Conversely, the left side is the analytical side, where conscious beliefs and logical thinking occur. Imagine the mind as a road map, and think of any false feelings caused by trauma (such as “I’m out of control”) as a road. By tracing where it started, we can isolate and diminish that road.
Research is showing that EDMR is becoming increasingly effective with clients who have experienced trauma. An example I’ve seen as a counselor was one patient who I projected would take about two years to get over a particular trauma. With EDMR, treatment ended up only taking 4-6 sessions, which I found to be really neat. (Disclaimer: I did spend 9 months with them as their counselor in training for EMDR).
What I also like about EDMR is the longevity of treatment effects.  Research shows that traditional talk therapies, which revolve around talking through the trauma repeatedly, are effective for roughly 5-10 years. After this time, the patient can be troubled by the same trauma again. But with EMDR, patients quickly feel  relief through the therapy, and 5-10 years later they still feel relief. It’s a long-lasting shift.
From a Christian perspective, seeing the shift from the false belief system about ourselves to the truth of who God is and who He says we are in His word is exciting. People go from “nobody loves me” to “I’m a person who is loved and deserves to be loved.”
If you have been intrigued by today’s post and are interested in receiving wise counsel (in the form of therapy) directly from Tracy, you can reach her directly by clicking HERE.
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Photo provided by imagesbygarypotts.com

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