Confidentiality 101: Understanding the Basics of Confidentiality Requirements when seeking Counseling

images[7]“Will all the information I share with you in sessions be kept confidential”…is one of the most frequently asked questions when seeking counseling? While the relationship between the clinician and client is the most important factor that determines the client’s success in therapy; it is imperative that the clinician inform clients in the initial session that everything shared in counseling sessions may not be kept confidential. 

Informed Consent

When walking into any new situation, especially a life changing situation, we want to be informed of the risks involved. Informed consent is permission granted in the knowledge of the possible consequences, typically that which is given by a patient to a doctor/clinician for treatment with full knowledge of the possible risks and benefits. In counseling, clinicians are charged with the responsibility of highlighting potential risks associated with counseling, how counseling will be conducted, fee and payment structure, handling of emergency procedures, importance of confidentiality, ensuring clients are aware of their rights as a consumer.

Limits of Confidentiality:

In most cases, your written and signed authorization is required before information concerning your care can be disclosed to individuals outside of the counseling practice, including parents, roommates, friends, faculty, partners and other providers. Below are some of the cases in which the law dictates that your signed authorization may not be required in order for a clinician to release the following information:

  • If the clinician believes that you are likely to harm yourself and/or another person, he or she may take action necessary to protect you or others by contacting law enforcement officers or a physician.
  • If the clinician has cause to believe that a child has been or may be abused or neglected, the clinician is required to make a report to the appropriate state agency.
  • If the clinician has cause to believe that an elderly or disabled person has been or may be abused, neglected, or subject to financial exploitation, the clinician is required to make a report to the appropriate state agency.
  • If your records are requested by a valid subpoena or court order, the clinician must respond.
  • If you are a minor (under the age of 14).

Most people seek counseling in order to get an objective and professional opinion; with the hope of this information being kept confidential. Some clinicians may find themselves in a vulnerable position when attempting to earn their clients trust by ensuring that all information will be kept confidential.  The best way for clinicians to establish trust from the time clients walk through the door is to inform them of the limits of confidentiality in order to allow them to decide how they would like to proceed with treatment.  It is not our role to “catch our clients doing something.” It is our role to inform them of the bounds of our professional relationship.

Sharise Hemby-Nance is a licensed therapist and award winning author with 15 years of experience in in assisting individuals, families and couples with day to day situational issues to those struggling with more pressing mental health illnesses.   For more information on seeking counseling, please contact us at handinhandcounseling.llc@gmail.com.

 

The Ups and Downs of Yo-Yo Dieting: Tips for Maintaining Your Waistline during the Holiday Season

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Those of us raised in African American families are well aware of the dietary concerns in our community. For these reasons, we find ourselves eating cleaner in the 21st century. The importance of this article is to reinforce awareness of an ongoing problem of high blood pressure and diabetes especially in the African American community.

Last summer you reached your weight goal and fit into that dress you haven’t worn in over 5 years. In fact, you were able to show off your weight loss by wearing that dress to your 30th year class reunion. Fast forward to 6 months…life happens. You are experiencing work stress, having trouble finding the time to exercise and as a result of all the stress you resort to emotional eating. Food has become your outlet. Since this occurrence, you find yourself on the weight loss roller coaster also known as “yo-yo dieting.”

Do you find yourself in search of the latest diet every few months? Are you consistently looking for a detox after another weekend of bad eating? Maybe you feel guilty because you were sticking to your diet and over-indulged on Thanksgiving! You are not alone! Recent studies have shown that 54 percent of Americans are currently trying to shed pounds. Most people have tried everything; including detoxes, supplements, diets and packaged foods guaranteeing weight loss. Are you ready to say goodbye to yo-yo dieting and hello to lasting results? Before we go any further, allow me to elaborate on yo-yo dieting. Yo-Yo dieting is the cyclical loss and gain of weight resembling the up and down motion of a yo-yo.   In this process, the dieter is initially successful in the pursuit of weight loss but is unsuccessful in maintaining the loss long-term and begins to re-gain the weight. One seeks to lose the regained weight and the cycle begins again.

Tired of watching your weight go up and down…and up again? Check out these tips for maintaining your waistline!

Define your “WHY”: Most people begin their weight loss journey because they want to look good (on vacation, on the beach, in an outfit, for a major event). These are great external motivators. What happens once vacation ends or the special occasion you targeted as your reason for losing weight comes and goes? Having trouble searching for your reason “Why?” What will inspire you to make maintaining your weight a lifestyle and not just a trend or a hobby? Do you want to be around for your children? Do you want to be the example for your family? Do you want to prevent health related medical conditions? Your “why” will carry you through those moments when you feel like quitting.

Find a Healthy Outlet: This will require being proactive. Create a list of 5-10 activities you can engage in during times of distress. When you feel overwhelmed, instead of grabbing that bag of chips or box of cookies go to your list and choose something you can do for the next 10 minutes to allow your stress levels to subside. This can include taking a walk, writing a letter, listening to your favorite song or reading an article.

Balance: The holiday season is upon us and a common theme in most, if not all families include food. Food should not be your enemy. You can and should enjoy yourself at holiday parties without feeling guilty for having a slice of your favorite pie. However, this will require some planning on your part. If you plan to attend two holiday parties during the course of a week, be mindful of your eating throughout the week so that you do not have to feel guilty or suffer at those holiday parties. A big part of practicing balance with healthy eating habits includes making good food choices through meal planning.

Have a Plan: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. The holiday season is also a busy time for many people. The shopping, cleaning, cooking, entertaining family while fun; can also become overwhelming. Plan your meals for the week. Spending a couple extra hours at the beginning of the week meal planning and organizing is imperative in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Unforeseen circumstances will take place throughout the course of the week and if you are prepared with good food choices, you reduce your chances in making bad food choices. For assistance with meal planning click here.

Accountability Partner: Find an accountability partner or group. Choose people who will challenge, support, inspire and encourage you. Share your goals and your weaknesses with your partner. However, it is not an accountability partner’s responsibility to change your life; you must be willing to take responsibility by owning your weaknesses, shortcomings, habits and mistakes. “You will only hold yourself accountable to goals others know about. Tell someone what you’re up to.” ~Unknown

 

Dieting is temporary; lasting weight loss requires making lifestyle changes that will work long term. The journey is in fact just that; not a stroll in the park, not a hike in the woods, but a journey. You do not have to go through this journey alone. You can contact me at vitaminchealing@gmail.com for assistance with health coaching and meal planning.

How have you maintained your weight loss goals through the holiday season? What strategies do you use as outlets when feeling overwhelmed during the holidays?

 

Work Hard, Play Hard: Tips for finding Work-life Balance

cbeb6ba46e18660129e7ddbef8420f5c[1]Most of us struggle to find balance in our professional and personal lives. The struggle to find balance can hurt relationships, health and happiness. The demands from both our personal and professional lives can make finding balance seem like an impossible goal. So, what is the goal of work-life balance? If you ask several people, you are likely to receive several different answers. In my experiences, I have learned that most people want at least 2 things from both their personal and professional lives: achievement and enjoyment.   However, most people struggle to obtain either of the aforementioned goals. Some of us may find ourselves working 60-70 hours per week and not feel a sense of achievement or enjoyment. When this occurs we must stop and ask ourselves “Why?” What are you hoping to accomplish as a result of working long hours? Are you keeping your end in mind? When we struggle to connect with our “why” in relation to work, our personal lives will suffer; thus making it difficult to find balance in both facets of our lives.

Work-life balance does not require us to find an equal balance such as scheduling an equal number of hours for our work and personal activities. Work-life balance is the proper prioritizing between career and lifestyle (health, pleasure, family, and spirituality/religion). This balance will vary over-time. The right balance looks different for each individual. The right balance today may change tomorrow. The right balance when you are single may change when you marry and have children. Remember we are not striving for perfection, but searching for the tools to combine a sense of achievement and enjoyment in our careers and personal lives.

The following tips can help you juggle the demands of your career and personal life:

  • Leave work at work: We devote over 1/3 of our lives to work. The time we invest into work also includes preparation for work, the commute to and from work as well as time spent ruminating on the work day long after work is complete.  In fact, most of us probably spend more time with our colleagues than we do with our families. If you find yourself feeling emotionally and/or physically drained from over-working, look for ways to re-arrange your work schedule, do not take work home (if you work from home, designate an area from work and use it only for work), schedule time off.
  • Rest and Recuperation (R&R): I used to subscribe to the sayings, “I’ll sleep when I die” or “No one ever died from lack of sleep.”  While we may not actually die from being “sleepy,” our bodies need adequate rest to heal and recuperate. Just as our smartphones, laptops and iPads need recharged; so do we! Do not wait until your battery is in jeopardy of dying. If you are working, do not wait for your boss to suggest that you take time off. You are in charge of your self-care, take the time off and do not feel guilty. If you are an entrepreneur, it is okay to take a day off to take care of yourself. Remember, you are no good to anyone else if you are drained. Is it fair to your customers to experience the “burned out version of you?” Don’t they deserve you at your best?
  • Let go of perfectionism: Most perfectionist tendencies are developed during the school age years when the demands of life are limited to hobbies, school and maybe a part-time job. As we grow older and gain more responsibilities, life becomes more complicated making perfectionism impossible to maintain. If this habit is left un-checked, it can lead to burn-out and become destructive. Remember, striving for perfection is an unrealistic goal but striving to do the best you can with what you have is attainable.
  • Exercise/Meditation: When our schedule gets full, exercise is usually the first to get pushed to the bottom of the priority list. We make time for many other important things to our health such as eating, sleeping and going to the bathroom. Exercise is just as important to our heath and has other benefits such as excellent stress reducer and “anti-depressant” (release of endorphins). Taking into account that time plays a huge role in whether most people choose to incorporate exercise into their schedule; you can take the stairs instead of the elevator, park a few blocks away and walk to your destination or take a walk during half of your lunch break. Other self-care practices can include yoga, quick breathing sessions in the morning and before bedtime. Remember, we only have one body to live in and we must treat it as such.
  • Limit distractions: This can include activities and people. Social media can be one of the best marketing tools and one of the biggest distractions. If you find yourself spending countless hours browsing social media networking sites yet tasks fall incomplete; it may be time to monitor the time you spend on these sites. Are the people in your life assets or liabilities? Do the people in your life drain you? Take the time to reflect on your top 3 distractions and ways you can limit those distractions.
  • What changes can you make today? As creatures of habit, we are comfortable in our daily routines. It takes great discipline to maintain a daily routine. However, it is quite difficult to recognize when the routine is no longer effective and change is needed. If your current routine is adding stress; how can you lighten the load? Do you consistently over-book your days? What tasks can you delegate or outsource? Sometimes, a minor tweak in our routines can be the change we need to help us find more balance in our lives.

Improving work-life balance is one of the most challenging tasks faced by many. When making any changes it is imperative that we start small, celebrate the small successes and continue to build.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with finding work-life balance contact us at vitaminchealing@gmail.com.

Our Thoughts Become Our Reality: The Power of Positive Framing

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Last week I had the pleasure of being invited as the keynote speaker at a women’s conference. I was charged with captivating an audience composed of diverse, wise, sophisticated, spiritual and compassionate women. I was honored, excited and slightly nervous as this was the first time I was asked to be the keynote speaker for an event. I would not allow my fear to overtake this moment as I had powerful and life-changing information to share with this beautiful group of women; and I am not a hoarder of information.

What is framing?

Framing is seeing the world without distortions. It is not putting on our “rose-colored” glasses and being oblivious to what is happening around us.   It is merely viewing life through a different lens and being open to seeing things differently.

How can positive framing improve your quality of life?

One of the main differences between successful and unsuccessful people is the way they view the world. Successful people see opportunities, while unsuccessful people see problems. When we utilize positive framing, we can see the facts in the clearest light. We will not allow negative feelings to distort our view of reality. We widen our lens to gain the strength and clarity to face the problem and find solutions.

I remember how tough the transition was for me from high school to undergraduate school. I felt unequipped with the tools needed to be successful in undergraduate school. My peers had a slight advantage over me as they took college prerequisites in high school. I’ll never forget meeting with my English professor during the first semester of my freshman year. She told me that I would have to work really hard to graduate and she was not sure if I had it in me. At the time, I almost believed her and even questioned if I belonged in college. Sure, I graduated from high school with high honors, rarely studied and had tons of success; but college was new territory. I had poor study skills and struggled with the transition to college throughout the first semester. To my “surprise,” first semester grades reflected my struggles. I was placed on academic probation and in jeopardy of flunking out of college. My parents were surprised and disappointed. I was disappointed in myself. Then 2 things happened. I remember my English professor presenting me with the challenge to graduate college and my dad gave me 2 options, return to school and improve my grades or withdraw from school and get a job. I had the entire semester break to reflect on what would be a life changing decision. I chose to return to school and hit the ground running. Instead of being intimidated by my peers, I joined their study groups and picked their brains. I wanted to learn what they learned. If you want to be successful, spend time around those more successful than you. I had a big piece of humble pie over the semester break and I was okay with not being the smartest person in the room. As a result of my humility and hard work, I found myself on the dean’s list nearly every semester and graduated with honors in 4 years. I do not share this story to impress anyone with my accomplishments, but to press upon you how a shift in thinking can change our lives. Remember, life is 10 percent of what happens to you and 90 percent of how you respond to it.

How are thoughts, self-talk, actions and habits connected?

Thoughts

The way in which we choose to live our lives ultimately begins with our thought process. In “How Remarkable Women Lead,” authors Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston discuss 2 types of mind-sets; growth mind-set and fixed mind-set. People with a growth mind-set believe that nothing is predestined; their work determines their success. They look for opportunities to learn and grow; understanding that adversity, setbacks and failures are a part of the process; utilizing these lessons as blueprints for success. People with limited mind-sets are stuck and often see their talents and abilities as limited and are threatened by fresh thinking that challenges their beliefs. People with growth mind-sets see the gain, the possibilities and “make it happen.” In contrast, people with limited mind-sets see the pain, the problems and “let it happen.”

What do you read?

If you watch television, what are you watching?

How do you frame setbacks?

Who do you spend the most time around? How do they impact you mentally and spiritually?

For more self-reflection, check out Vitamin C: Healing for the Mind, Body and Soul: The Healing Workbook here.

Self-talk

Be careful how you talk to yourself because you are listening.

Do you speak life into yourself?

What is the first thing you say to yourself when you wake up in the morning? Are you thankful? Do you practice positive self-talk (prayer, recite daily inspirations, etc)? Or, do you practice self-defeating talk (I hate my job. I hate my boss. I have too many bills and so on)? Imagine the direction your day can take by your choice in positive self-talk or self-defeating talk.

Do you talk yourself in or out of success? Which statement best describes you? “It may be difficult but it’s possible.” OR “It may be possible but it’s too difficult.”

Behaviors/Actions

Framing also includes unlearning self-destructive behaviors. If we have been accustomed to negative thinking and self-defeating talk, it is highly likely that we will engage in self-destructive behaviors. Undoing these behaviors will take some time as these behaviors were not learned over night. If we are committed to unlearning these behaviors, we must take action by having the courage to broaden our lens and remain flexible in our thinking which will impact our self-talk and actions.

Our actions are based on past learning experiences. Raise your hand if you ever failed a test! Most of us experience an unsettling feeling in our stomachs when it’s time to take a test. Some call it test-anxiety. Our fear of failing another test is based on past experiences, and may affect how we take action, or if we take action. People who are discouraged and struggle with limited mind-sets tend to live in their fears. When we can reframe our experiences, we see the world differently, allowing us to pursue opportunities. In other words, feel the fear and do it anyway!

Habits-doing something religiously day in and day out. A regular practice that is hard to give up.

Good habits can include looking both ways before we cross the street, bathing, practicing awareness of your negative thoughts throughout the day, taking a few minutes per day to express gratitude.

If we make a habit of practicing good habits; these good habits ultimately become our reality. How wonderful would it be to make positive framing a habit?!?!?! “We first make our habits and then our habits make us.” John Dryden

Framing is an approach utilized in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)-a goal oriented, short-term therapeutic approach used in psychotherapy to challenge one’s distorted thinking, inviting individual(s) to change thinking and behavior patterns that are keeping them stuck. We use this approach at HandinHand Counseling Services, LLC, and click here for more information.

Framing is hard work. By no means am I trying to simplify this process.   In order to get better and experience change, you must to set an intention to practice this approach to life. Remember, you are competing with yourself daily to be a better person. You are the wild-card. You have the power to make positive changes; if you desire.

“Our fear is not that we are inadequate. Our fear is that we are powerful beyond measures.” ~ Marianne Williamson

What are some ways that you can use framing to improve your quality of life?

Creating Multiple Streams of Income: Finding what works for you

“Prepare for war in the time of peace,” was one of my late grandfather’s favorite sayings.  In fact, he introduced our family to entrepreneurship and the concept of multiple streams of income.  From the time I was in junior high school up until the day he passed in my mid 20’s; he poured a lot of time and knowledge into me about investing, saving, passive income and entrepreneurship.  He was planting seeds, but I was not quite ready to apply this invaluable information.   At the time, I did not realize he was providing me with “free training” that some of my colleagues pay thousands of dollars to attend.   A few years after my grandfather’s passing, I was introduced to various home-based businesses that discussed similar wealth building principles that my grandfather often preached (multiple streams of income, passive income, investing, leveraging your time).  Some people viewed the multi-level marketing home based businesses as pyramid schemes, but I viewed it as a way to continue the legacy in my family that my grandfather created.  At the time, I was  more focused on the short term gains, the money I did not make “yesterday,” what friends and family would think if I struggled or even worse-failed!  I was so focused on these variables that I did not allot enough time for the fruits of my labor to unfold.  My “why” wasn’t big enough and I gave up too soon.  The only regret I have is quitting because I know that quitting guarantees failure.

What I learned:

Creating multiple streams of income takes time, commitment, discipline, work ethic and investing (not spending) money.  When creating streams of income, think of this process as if it were your retirement plan that you invest in with your employer (401K or 403B); you get out of it what you put into it.  Imagine creating a passive income-income earned on a regular basis with little effort required to maintain it.  Some examples include, but are not limited to royalties from writing a book, property income, income from traditional and home based businesses.  No matter which avenue you choose you have to put in the work.  Remember, the only place that success comes before work is in the dictionary.  Short term sacrifices for long term success.

Why is creating multiple streams of income important?

It may not be your goal to accumulate wealth or to pursue early retirement from your career.  However, I am sure we can all agree that time can be our biggest liability or our most valuable asset.  It is the one thing we cannot get back.  Most people struggle with time management.  I often hear people say (myself included) “There are not enough hours in the day.” “If only I had more time.”  Creating multiple streams of income will allow you to leverage your time.  Most of us spend at least 8 hours per day and 5 days per week working.  Some of us may spend even more time working and less time with our families.  How many of us see our colleagues more than we see our families?  If you’re like me, you love what you do and you would like to have more time to spend with your family without having to worry about loss of income.  Other than spending time with our families, do you have a plan if life happens on life’s terms?  What happens if you get sick and cannot be physically present to make money? If you’re a business owner, can your business run without you being physically present?  What is your plan if you lost your job tomorrow?  Have you thought about your retirement plan?  The answers to these questions are intended to shed light on the importance of having Plan A-Z in order to prepare for the uncertainties of life.

Ideas for Streams of Income:

At the moment, I work full time and have found ways to create other streams of income to prepare for the future.  Here are some ideas that may assist you in planning for your family’s future:

Traditional Business: My business partner and I started HandinHand Counseling Services, LLC; a private counseling practice close to 2 years ago.  In a traditional business you wear many hats, especially in the beginning as you are attempting to keep a manageable overhead.  The benefits of running a traditional business are the limitless possibilities.  You get to decide if you want to wear every hat or outsource jobs and hire staff.  You get to decide when your day begins and ends, you make the policies.  The success of your business depends on you.

Home based business:  Most home based businesses involve multi-level marketing (mlm).  Most people run in the other direction when they get approached about multi-level marketing opportunities.   A lot of mlm’s get negative press due to people having bad experiences.  There are mlm’s that work, but again, you have to work it.  Find a home based business that makes sense for you and get a mentor/accountability partner.

Real Estate: I have read that real estate is one of the best ways to produce passive income.  Again, you will have to put in a lot of work up front which may include buying, repairing and renting properties.  The short term sacrifice is the amount of work and money you will need to invest.  The long term success is the cash flow rental properties can produce every month and freeing up time to spend with loved ones-leveraging time.

Podcasting:  I recently started my podcasting show, “The Vitamin C Show” which was a spinoff from my book; Vitamin C: Healing for the Mind Body and Soul, with the purpose of creating a platform for professionals and entrepreneurs to discuss their contributions to the community.  Health and wellness, relationships, education, mental health, entrepreneurship and financial planning are amongst the topics discussed on the show.  Starting your own podcast show is a great way to build your brand, market your business and collaborate with other professionals and entrepreneurs which can lead to passive income.

Write a Book: The feeling you experience after completing your first book and seeing the finished product is surreal.  Writing a good book is another way to produce a stream of income.  If you are considering writing a book, write a good book and prepare a good marketing plan.  Books do not sell themselves and writing the book is a fraction of the work needed to become an award winning and/or best-selling author.  One of the most important things to consider when writing your book includes your target audience.  What are the needs of your target audience?

All of these categories involve some form of sales.  I often hear people say, ‘I cannot sell’ or ‘selling isn’t for me.’  We sell ourselves every day!  If you are employed, guess what, you sold yourself at your interview.  Just remember people don’t want to feel sold, they want to do business with people they trust.  Be you, remember the reason “Why” you are doing this and have fun.  No one wants to work with someone who is too uptight.

Although there are many other avenues for creating multiple streams of income, these were the few that stood out to me.  I have learned the importance of creating multiple streams of income and my current streams of income include HandinHand Counseling Services, LLC, Vitamin C Healing for the Mind, Body and Soul, and health and wellness coaching with Herbalife. No matter which stream you choose to invest in, the common denominator in each area will be you.  Nothing will work unless you work. What will YOU do to make it work?