Elevating Lives Through Compassion

Are you ready to take the step into healing and recreating yourself? The greatest journey begins when we venture within in order to discover our full potential. Come and take the first step towards wellness.

You Are Not Alone

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I always thought that statement was pretty tacky, something someone said when they had had no other way of consoling a friend in crisis.  In times of difficulty, a few friends used these words and I’d brush them off, reflecting on the corny nature of the statement. As if four words can take away the burden of the presenting problem.  I’d think how easy it was for them to say those words, those wasteful words they’d assume had some profound affect and I would snap out of my depression and resume a happy life all because I was “not alone.”  But then one day it got pretty dark…so dark that I doubted I’d ever come out of it.  Then, I heard the words “you are not alone.”  These words became the flickering light in the depths of despair by which I was able to find my way back again.”

If you are hurting and in a dark place, please remember, you are not alone…

Facing the War Inside

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The problem is not that we battle emotional and psychological problems.  The problem is that we are taught we should not have any kind of inner turmoil.  The subliminal message of “that isn’t real” or “it’s all in your head” contributes significantly to the deterioration of symptoms of people with mental illness.  This form of gaslighting in which a person’s reality is taken as a fabrication of his or her mind is the all pervading message of the mainstream mental health treatment field.  Suggesting a patient change their symptoms is equivalent to them changing a limb- it is their reality.  Instead, the aim should be to provide validation of an individual’s reality, understand the meaning of particular symptoms, and provide ways for patient’s to properly handle and overcome the battle.  

The greatest illness is denial.  Pretending as if emotional and mental health problems are foreign and exclusive to certain unfortunate individuals greatly contributes to the isolation and further stigmatization of an underrepresented group.  It’s time to be honest and acknowledge the battle!  

The Elephant and Scapegoat

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The mentally ill constitute a people like any other group in society.  This group is characterized by a disability, a disability of the mind.  So how is it that there has been little protest on how the media portrays mental illness? If someone commits a heinous act most often it gets categorized as “mental illness.”  Imagine if we did this publicly towards a group of people and we all ignored it, or even agreed with it.  The facts are the majority of those with mental illness have never committed violent crimes.  In fact, most people with violent histories have no history of or any current mental illness.  Mental illness has become the modern day scapegoat by which society demoralizes a vulnerable and resilient population to label or explain away deviant and even irresponsible behavior.  

I believe an apology is long overdue for the pervasive stereotyping of people with mental illness.  Get the facts and stand up for what’s right!  

Slaying the Beast of Fear

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If we reflect on our troubles, we will find the underlining theme of fear pervading throughout.  Fear creates paralysis.  The external obstacles we face are not necessarily the problem, the way we handle the associated fears of the challenge is the deciding factor of success.  Fear is a natural response to events that we are not accustomed to.  Unfortunately, there’s no way to eliminate fear, but there is a way to change the way we handle it- we can learn to transcend fear into something that we can embrace and welcome.  

I remember in college before the big game, we would often engage in chants and sorts of rituals to arouse a spirit of battle within us.  Some of us would scream, jump, and down shove each other, and slap helmets and pads.  Some would pace quietly while others sat with a deep long stare.  Everyone had a ritual.  I noticed this was more than a way to prepare for a fun game and obtain excitement.  The preparation was a way bring the mind and body to a state of readiness to overcome apprehension, to surpass any likelihood of paralysis, and associate fear with excitement and victory.  Preparation made fear an ally.  

Fear is much a natural part of our lives just as any other emotion.  The key is to adapt the proper mindset of its challenge and prepare effectively.  A preparation that creates a response of excitement, confidence, and persistence is one that will always lead to success.  

Recovery

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If you’re lucky you’ve hit bottom more than once.  On each occasion you’ve called out to something Greater than yourself.  Perhaps out of desperation, you eagerly pleaded to a G_d you didn’t believe in.  Each time you were rescued… and because of this an unquenchable love flourished for the One that saved you. And you became zealous- so zealous that today you bear no resemblance of the old self.

Elevation: The Simple Path of Change

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Great philosophies are born in the midst of turning points.  A counseling approach based on the foundation of a life changing experience will endure and permeate the lives it treats.  Every helper, no matter what level of expertise, must bring a part of these profound experiences to the counseling table. 

I remember a particular day in the 10th grade, staring into space, daydreaming, disconnected from my surroundings. I was sitting in my English class when the teacher asked the class to write a poem.  I was disinterested, slumped on my desk and prepared for a long nap.  However, the teacher, Mrs. Kurzer was persistent in getting the class to write a poem.  So I wrote a few lines, I can’t recall exactly what I wrote.  But I have always remembered what happened next.  Mrs. Kurzer read the poem and I could see the expression on her face change… and she looked at me and said “wow! This is really good poetry!”  And then she asked “can I make copies of this to show to my other classes?”  Now for a 15 year old kid like me at the time, who had experienced for years verbal and physical abuse from teachers in the public school system, this one gesture pulled me out of the depths of low-self esteem and fear.  Until that point, I had one foot in dropping out.  Until that point, I was utterly convinced that I had no abilities, that I was dumb; there was no confidence in the sense of accomplishing anything.  After that day, Mrs. Kurzer continued to encourage me with writing.  I developed a strong interest in poetry.  Aside from developing a talent, it gave me the gift of believing that I can… that I had a place in the world… I can contribute and create and I was good at something… and this all started with someone conveying a message that I was able.  It  just took one person to bring that out in me… to sincerely express a compliment of an ability that laid dormant within.  This event paved the way for creativity, for taking risks, and most importantly helping others using this philosophy of elevating a person and elevating the moment through bringing out in people their dormant talents and capabilities.  

About a year ago I was working with a 19 year old young man who was in jail awaiting trial for murder.  This young man was likely going to spend the rest of his life behind bars.  He grew up in an impoverished neighborhood without a father figure or any positive role models.  The only sense of purpose and encouragement he had was the one given to him by his friends who spent their time committing crimes and using drugs.  It was through spending time with him and forming an alliance of trust and genuine encouragement that he was able to discover an exceptional talent with numbers.  In less than a month he was studying for his GED exam and soon after began tutoring other inmates.  His entire demeanor changed… his face was brighter, his attitude was positive, and he gave off a strong sense of confidence.  For once, he had a sense of purpose and ability that was awakened through a genuine and caring relationship.  I often wondered, what could have been of his life, only if he had discovered his purpose earlier… if someone would have brought out this capability from within him-  the person behind the cell door could have easily been a great accountant or professor, or better yet, an influential leader in his community.

When people lack purpose than you end up with a society that seeks fulfillment in the most  destructive ways.  A capability unrealized, no matter how small, is a tragedy.. When you look around in your community, around the local treatment centers, the local streets, or even within your own family or circle of friends and you see people that you can help lift out of the depths of despair through elevating them  through encouragement and genuine love then every moment and every encounter becomes an opportunity to take part in what truly matters most… saving a life and in turn saving generations.  

Effectiveness

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There is a stark difference between good and effective.  While good co-signs and placates, effectiveness always upholds the truth without compromise.  If I am called a good person because I tell you what you want to hear rather than what you need to hear, I am ineffective.  A good doctor makes you comfortable.  An effective one gets the tumor out and that requires serious discomfort.  The world needs just as much as effective men as there are good ones.  We should always be mindful to never confuse one for the other.  

The Alternate Womb: A Therapy That Holds and Heals

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“The relationship you build with a client surpasses any therapeutic intervention.”

A close friend and colleague told me that once in a time of self-doubt. I think as therapists, at times we question our ability and our techniques. We are working with humans and sometimes the faith we might put into the work doesn’t seem to have the results that we want. This leads to questions of ” Am I doing this right? , Why am I doing this? School didn’t teach me this. What am I supposed to do with this human?”

We have, as clinicians, a lot of access to books, blogs like this, other therapists and YouTube videos. But ultimately what matters is the relationship and rapport you have with a client.

Therapy, the work we do, happens mostly outside the doors of the office with a couch. During the sessions however, alot of processing and opening up occurs. If the environment is judgmental, cold, authoritative, and sterile, it’ll be difficult to allow the space for trust and safety. Now, I’m not saying don’t use your worksheets, books, or research articles but if you take the time to focus on the relationship, then and only then, can the process of therapy or healing can begin.

Again, this is an opinion but in times of doubt focus on your ability to communicate, to reciprocate the client’s feelings.  Empathy goes a longer way than sympathy and even if you  can’t relate to a client’s cultural or ethinic background, find a common ground.  Therapy , shouldn’t always be about the “bad stuff.” Spend a session talking about the client’s passions or lack of passion.  You may find yourself more engaged.

Lastly, imagine you go somewhere to talk to someone about your own skeletons. You walk into an office terrified that you will be judged on your morals. The therapist has a suit and tie, is pompous, tells you that you are wrong and in order to begin talking about the passing of your loved one you HAVE to fill out 5 worksheets with numbers, sad faces, and intrusive questions.

This might work. But, now imagine your first session as welcoming, embracing, without arrogance.  The therapist’s chair is low to the ground, you’re told you are free to talk about whatever you want and start wherever you want. There is no judgment.

No matter the techniques, the relationship between a therapist and their client, as I have learned, is more important to begin the process of healing.

Noah Goldberg, RCSWI, MSW

Wounded

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“And there I was… with no option left as he contemplated his own existence.  I wish there could have been another way.  But it’s always the same- the only way to deliver anyone out of deep pain is to reach deeper, without reservation, into our own…”

Your Purpose in 2 Minutes

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Most of depression stems from a lack of identity.  We all have the need to identify with something in order to fulfill a sense of purpose.  The problem is that we never fully grasp what that purpose is.. we have many messages telling us that we can become anything and that there is a purpose for every individual on earth.. yet, rare is any instruction or knowledge directing us on how to get there.   I look around and see many driven and motivated people going to school or working a respectable job but there’s something missing… there’s still a seeking, there’s still that void and in one way or another they are asking the question “what is my purpose?”  

The reason why we don’t see that purpose actualizing is because we have our interest in too many areas taking up too much time, too much energy, too much effort. This leaves us scattered knowing a little bit of everything yet takes us away from connecting and identifying with our life’s work-our true purpose.  Having too many interests is a good sign of motivation  but it leaves us in a state of purposelessness and it takes away the needed resources to place on that one thing we could master.  When you place all your time and effort into learning and applying a craft, it will become a part of you.  Overtime you show your life’s work in how you carry yourself, in your thoughts, actions, speech, and overall surroundings- in everything and the people you attract.  When this begins to happen you will know you are living with a purpose. 

So my suggestion is to choose and follow one passion and with your time, effort, and resources, attempt to master it, allow it to become a part of your life.  Allow this process to permeate and change you from the inside out.  Over time your question of “what is my purpose” will be answered with a sense of fulfillment and peace.  

 

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