Friday, March 2, 2018

“Extra Attention Required” Parishioners

By: Cindy Raices, MA

Did you ever find yourself making time for the same person over and over again? Are there people in your church that are known to be “needy” or “attention seeking”? As pastors, you encounter a variety of personalities and backgrounds in the people that attend your church every week. Each of them have different needs, strengths and weaknesses. However, there are times that people pass through the church that require a large amount of attention and time. Sometimes, these parishioners have tragedy after tragedy in their lives. Others, may be asking for money because there is always lack in their lives, regardless of the resources available to them. Believe it or not, some pastors are dealing with people who feel the need to discuss every complaint they have about people and the way things are done in the church. In churches across the nation, these people are written off as “attention seeking” or “needy”. More often than not, they are experiencing deeper issues such as anxiety, rejection or simply, victims of family dysfunction. 

Because God has called us to work with those in need and to build disciples, pastors do not think twice before working with these people. Pastors take time to get to know their sheep, pray for them and guide them. The problem arises when pastors are constantly being interrupted with the same issues they addressed the week prior. When these “needy” parishioners begin to expect or demand the pastor's time, the relationship is approaching codependency. 

It is essential that pastors recognize this behavior as soon as possible for the emotional health of both the pastor and the parishioner. This unhealthy dependence on the pastor can hurt both parties individually. Once a pastor is constantly pouring into this person without any improvement, the relationship will become draining. The pastor will soon begin to dread meeting with this parishioner causing the meetings to be unproductive. Encouraging this dependency, will not help the parishioner.  It is simply putting a bandaid on their issues. 

The best way to work with parishioners who require extra attention is to first, set boundaries. As pastors, it is likely that you already have some sort of boundaries established between yourself and the church members. If you do not already, make sure you establish and communicate clear boundaries. These boundaries should include the amount of time you will meet, how often and what is expected of both yourself and the parishioner. This way, it is clear on both ends, about what can be done to help and what is out of your reach.

The best attention you can give a person that requires extra is the love of Jesus and support. Now this does not mean all of the love and support needs to come from you! Lead these parishioners to seek resources from the community. Ask them if they have friends or family they can depend on. If the person you are working with appears to have chronic need or a history of unresolved problems, encourage him or her to seek professional help. As I mentioned before, many of the people requiring extra attention are struggling emotionally. Some people may be hesitant to take the step towards getting counseling and support from their pastor may be just what they need. What better help than to teach them to lean on God and the resources available to them?

Friday, February 16, 2018

Guilt and Shame

By: Cindy Raices, MA

Many can acknowledge accomplishments and victories they have experienced in their lives. On good days, it is easy to come up with a list of things we have overcome, even challenges we have faced and grown from! The problem seems to be on days where things begin to go wrong. Then, one by one, thoughts of insufficiency, guilt, shame, and inadequacy begin to snowball in our minds. “If I haven’t gotten that promotion yet, it is because I am not good enough.” “I would not being going through this mess if I would have been more careful.” “If they were to know who I really am, they might not talk to me anymore.” Thoughts like these, make it difficult for us to see God’s freedom and eternal love. 

We have been set free from the imprisonment of guilt and shame, so what is it that keeps us there? Guilt can be broken down in two ways, true guilt and false guilt. True guilt derives from sin and is God’s way of calling us back to him. 2 Corinthians 7:10 NIV states, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” Guilt does not have to be a bad thing. When guilt leads us to checking our hearts and we are able to receive God’s forgiveness, it is liberating! It is false guilt or “worldly sorrow” that the Bible warns us about because it will bring death. False guilt refers to the guilt is focused on ourselves. It is a guilt that is focused on our hurt, offenses, and not meeting others’ expectations. 

It is important that we are aware of where our guilt and shame is coming from. It is normal to experience regret and sadness, but lasting despair interferes with our ability to see God’s freedom and eternal love.  

Friday, February 2, 2018

Values Clarification

By: Francine Costanza, LCPC

Often we may think that our values are very clear and that we are living up to them each day. However, taking an occasional inventory of our values and assessing how well we are living them out can be a beneficial exercise. One way to do this is to make a list of the different areas of your life and write them as column headings on a large piece of paper. 
An example of some areas are; marriage, children, extended family, work, friends, church, self-care, and leisure. You may have more areas, different ones or fewer ones. Each person's life is their own tapestry.  After identifying the different areas of your life, think about what values are important to you in each area. For example, under marriage some possible values are trust, honesty, and communication. There are many more values that could be included here. Whatever comes to mind, write it down. When you get to the next area, write down any new values that come to mind. You may think of some values that also fit in some of the other areas. For instance if you have children as an area of your life you may think of “spend time together" and then realize that this is important under marriage as well. Continue writing the values that come up under each area. Even though they might fit under all the areas, the important thing is to identify them. 

Looking at each separate area can help bring different values to mind. (for example, under the work area the value of excellence may be thought of}. Once you have finished filling in each column, you can circle each value that you would like to improve on. Maybe you recognize that time with those you love is important and that you aren't making it a priority. Any of the values that you don't feel are being fulfilled adequately in your life are the ones to circle. Maybe it's patience, listening better, or eating healthy. This then can be a basis for setting goals. A goal can be formulated for each circled value.  For example, if spending time with children is something that came up as an important value that needs improvement, the goal can be to come home earlier or engage with the children at  a certain time each day such as before or after dinner. 
When we choose to spend time in self-examination we are able to discover what we might be overlooking or taking for granted, or short-changing ourselves and others of what really matters to us. Looking at our values and setting goals can motivate and inspire us to make new choices and grow in he direction of our values and dreams.
If you are ready to start your counseling journey, visit our website by clicking HERE or give us a call at 815-577-8970.

Friday, January 26, 2018

So You're Thinking About Therapy?

By: Jeannette Sziler, LCPC

It is an incredibly difficult and courageous thing for someone to seek help when they are struggling with mental health concerns. Taking that step can be scary for people however this step is one of the most beneficial things that someone can do for their overall well-being. That being said we need to address what to expect from therapy.

As a therapist who has been in this field under many different hats before entering private practice, I have heard a lot of different things about what Clients initially thought therapy would be. I have heard, “therapy is like talking to a friend”, “I keep thinking my therapist will solve this for me”, “how long does this take?”, etc. The funny thing about therapy isn't about friendship, it isn't about problem solving for a Client, and therapists cannot guesstimate exactly how long therapy will “take”.

While therapy is all about you, your family, your goals, it is not about cultivating a friendship with your therapist. What it is about, is cultivating a trusting relationship with your therapist in order to meet a set goal. While you can like and certainly be friendly with your therapist, you two are not friends. Friends are not objective people in your life who can guide you to a solution without their own biases getting in the way.

Speaking of goals. Therapists assist in goal setting, exploration and processing of concerns. They do not do not solve problems for you. What Clients need to realize is that therapists do not give solutions, they aid Clients in searching for their own answers that are healthy and appropriate for their needs and their lives.

When one is considering therapy it is important to keep those things in mind. It is also helpful to remember that therapy can be brief or it can span years. The length of time is contingent on many things particularly on the amount of consistent work the Client is willing to put in to the therapy. Therapists can provide all the tools in the world, they won't do much good if they aren't being used.

The last thing I can recommend for those daring to take this wonderful step is, if you aren't feeling connected to the therapist, ask yourself what is preventing that trusting relationship from developing? Is the therapist not going where you need them to be? Are they disclosing too much about themselves? Not of enough coping skills that you feel play to your strengths? 

Whatever it is that you need, ask for it. There is no better relationship in where you can ask for what you need without the fear of repercussions, than in the therapist-client relationship. Therapy is a commitment that is worth the time investment. Be kind to yourself and take that step if you think you need it, like a friend once said, “I've never sat down with my therapist, had a session and thought, 'boy I wish I hadn't done that'”.

If you are ready to start your counseling journey, visit our website by clicking HERE or give us a call at 815-577-8970.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Quick Tips on Improving Mind, Body and Soul

By: Terri Griswold, LCPC

Mind – Take-up a new hobby, one that stimulates the mind. Find something challenging, something you’ve always wanted to do. Even puzzles work. Stimulating the mind will help keep it fresh, active, and clear and will help prevent mental disorders later in life.

Body – Get active during leisure time. Plan the day ahead and include leisure activities into your schedule. It could be anything from a walk in the park, physical activity, sport, yoga, anything except running errands and work. 30 minutes a day will improve the quality of life.

Soul – A source of expression is the stamp of authenticity. A creative outlet to express the soul will keep you feeling young and alive, with a sense of purpose. Creativity is more than drawing and painting, it’s playing an instrument, dancing, writing, and gardening. Creativity is anything you put your heart and soul into.

Give it a try and let me know what you are doing to improve your life!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Resolution Momentum

By: Nick Smith, LCPC

If you started this year with a resolution, I first want to congratulate you on making a commitment to change. I hope this post serves as some encouragement on your journey. There is no doubt that this journey will be difficult at times but here are some ideas to help keep you going.
  1. Start Small: Typically the “Go Big or Go Home” mentality leads many people to just “go home.” If you can start making small changes here at the beginning of the year, you can build momentum. It’s better to frustrated about feeling like you can do more than to feel frustrated by the daily difficulty of it.
  2. Change is difficult. If it weren’t, you would have done it already. Remember this when your mind starts to condemn you for being “weak” or “slow” or “unable.”
  3. If one day you want to quit, do something small. If you committed to going to the gym, then go for 5 minutes. If you committed to eat more greens, then eat one leaf of spinach. But achieving your goal in a small way will help momentum.
  4. Reassess goals often. At the beginning of the year it’s easy to say, “I’m going to go to the gym 5 days a week,” then come to remember after the first week how difficult that is. It’s possible that you have overcommitted and that’s ok. Overcommitment helps to see what a more realistic goal could look like. Also, life circumstances change and we have to reassess our goals in those times. 
Achieving your goal is possible! Try to stay positive and surround yourself with people who support you. You can get there! 

Friday, December 22, 2017

As a Tree Grows

By: Francine Costanza, LCPC
As I look out at the trees, now void of leaves on this brisk December day, I am reminded of the story that is framed and hung in the hallway of Heritage Counseling Center. It is a fable about a young tree whose leaves are starting to change color and the tree feels confused and frightened. The tree talks to God about what is happening. It is a great analogy to what we often feel when changes happen outside of our control. A copy of the story is available at Heritage. You can ask for one at the office or any counselor can get one for you.
There are so many great tree analogies. I like the verse in Jeremiah (7:22), which says, “Those who trust in the Lord and whose confidence is in Him will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in the year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” When I think of our roots going down deep into the ground, I think of being rooted and grounded in Christ. I believe that this is what gives us the rich spiritual nourishment we need to make us the strong and healthy, able to withstand any storm or wind that comes our way. 
The idea of a tree bearing fruit is also mentioned in the Bible, indicating our spiritual growth and the evidence of our faith in Christ. In Matthew 7:20, Jesus talks about good fruit and bad fruit being shown in people when He says, “By their fruits you shall know them.” Them refers to those who demonstrate the character qualities that God desires in us. And what exactly are these qualities or good fruits that Jesus is talking about? Galatians 5:22 explains it clearly. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” On our own these fruits can be hard to come by. Patience and gentleness are not always easy. And the Bible teaches that joy is not based on circumstances. God is the one who can bring these qualities about in us when we can’t. Left to ourselves we are inconsistent in our abilities to maintain them. But with God working in us through the Holy Spirit we can. As we spend time with the Lord, meditating on his Word and praying, these fruits will blossom and grow in us.
May each of you who reads this, grow strong in the Lord and in the power of his love with deep roots and may you bear the ripest and best of fruits!