Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Importance of Mental Health

Speaking of life lessons, another for me would be to access mental health as a regular part of life--to have yearly check-ups, just like we do for physicals and well-child checks.  In our society, mental health is often the resource we use after exhausting all others.  There seems to be shame and guilt built into accessing and using mental health.  I'm really hoping that's beginning to change.
I do see mental health becoming a regular part of physical health--when I take my kids to the pediatrician there are checklists for both parent and child that include mental health questions.  And our pediatrician's office recently added a child psychologist to their staff, so it's easier to hook into a therapist. 
It wasn't until after Joe died that we started to access counseling.  And after adopting traumatized children, we have found times where therapy has been incredibly helpful.  I wish we had started sooner every . single . time.  Now mental health therapy is a normal part of our lives.  All my kids are familiar with our therapist's office--even those who do not see her.  But if something came up where they needed counseling it wouldn't be awkward for them--they would probably actually be excited to have their turn! 
A beautiful story about adoption, unconditional love, and learning to trust 
The biggest challenge can be finding a therapist that's a good fit.  It is SUPER important to try to do this BEFORE you are in crisis.  It can take time to get an intake appointment, especially with a therapist in a thriving practice.  It takes time and energy, just taking that first step!  One of the best ways to find a good therapist is to ask other adoptive families and adoption workers in your area.  If you aren't an adoptive family, ask your pediatrician, friends, relatives, school counselors, and church staff.  Consider what questions you will ask in your initial interview--you can Google the topic ahead of time and you will find suggestions such as these. 
Karyn Purvis has a great video on how to find a therapist, particularly for children who have trauma backgrounds.  (Karyn also has several other videos that are helpful to adoptive parents--especially those struggling with adoption related challenges.)  There is also a great article, titled  How We Found Help in the Midst of Crisis, by a sweet friend, Lisa Qualls.  It comes from the Empowered to Connect website and also has a short video by Karyn Purvis. 
Of course the cost is a whole other issue.  I do see insurance companies covering the costs much more than in the past.  There are also therapists who use a sliding scale--but let's face it, this is an area that is often expensive.  I think it helps to remember that even if you can only afford a few sessions with a therapist, it will be worth it, and many times all you need is a few sessions to get you back on track (especially if you go sooner, rather than later).  And there have been MANY studies showing that therapy is MUCH more effective at boosting a person's happiness than money.  Up to 32x.  Seriously. 
Therapy isn't what we stereotypically think of--laying on a couch, talking to the ceiling about how long we sucked our thumb.  Most professionals, especially those working with children and teens, use a wide variety of therapies including play therapy, art therapy, storytelling (narrative), and CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).  The new wave is EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), to address PTSD and trauma.  Even very young children can benefit from a therapist--infant and toddler mental health is an exploding field. 
But remember--mental health isn't just for our kids.  I once heard a professional say that if only the parent or child could attend therapy, they would choose the parent.   
Do you have a Go-To professional for mental health?  Having a good counselor/therapist is as important as having a family doctor and dentist.  I encourage you to at least explore who you would use.  Don't wait!  It will change your life in a very positive way!

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