Reflections for the inner life.
One of the things I enjoy most in the world is writing. It's a space where I am able to sit in quiet and pay some attention to what's going on within me and around me. As an extrovert, writing invites me to do things my head, heart and soul need most in order to recover from being so fragmented and begin to slowly reintegrate.
Writing is a catalyst for restoring my integrity, allowing me to move into these fragmented places and pay attention long enough to bring language around my inner and outer experiences and do some much needed listening.
Recent;y I have been scouring opportunities online to do more writing professionally so I've been scouring LinkedIn and a handful of other professional sites designed to connect professionals to writing opportunities. I've never had to do much of this before so it's both captivating and overwhelming to read though hundreds of job descriptions..
A couple options caught my eye, so I sent my resume and curriculum vitae off to a couple of the companies and foundations looking for staff writers. One foundation has brought me on as one of a handful of staff writers tasked with curating meaningful content to serve mental health needs of psychologically wounded veterans. I sent my first piece off today for their review.
As I've hunted through the online haystack looking for writing opportunities, I also stumbled across a website that caught my attention. The hook read, "Do you want to make $6000-7000 per month and eventually per day out of the convenience of your own home?"
Moments later I was on the phone listening to this brash vague circular pitch with everything in me screaming, "run away!" Without getting into the particulars, I found myself on this phone conversation with a rather aggressive and manipulative salesman.
Right away a number of large red flags went up and I started making my exit plan. I shared my resistance with this salesman to do any business with complete strangers. Historically I have helped grow a business or a non-profit from a posture of well established relationship and trust.
Then the salesman made a comment that pinched a nerve. In a condescending tone he said, "Oh, I know your type. You are the kind of guy who wants something for nothing."
The next words that came out of my mouth were, "You don't even know me. You don't know my story, which is precisely why I have no interest in continuing this conversation, which is your loss. Good night."
This smarmy stranger of a salesman thought his clever well time shaming comments would pierce my armor and sink a hook to reel me in for the big sale. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
Since that phone call, it has been a very helpful exercise to spend some time reflecting on the friendships where I am deeply known. I could help but think of Ruth Ann, Heath, Brittany, Luke, Ray, Tony, Greg, Russell, Keith, David, Justin, and Chris...men and women who have known me over decades.
A few minutes after I hung up the phone from that call and one of my most trusted friends. (who had no way of knowing what had just transpired over the phone) sent me a personal and professional endorsement for me to post on my counseling websites.
Through tears I read, "We all want real conversations with people, like the ones you have where you're not editing what you say. Hayne Steen provides this type of conversation, and my life is more full and alive because of it. So if you are a person searching, questioning, struggling, and wandering please know your heart will be met with a radical hospitality if you are fortunate enough to be a recipient of Hayne’s care."
Then I made a list if those courageous people who have trusted me deeply, allowing me to really know them as a friend, counselor or spiritual companion. As I capture the names of these dear people, it hits me. I am a known man.
Despite the lies and manipulation schemes of a world full of fork tongued salesman, I am known. Fully.
There is no more satisfying way to live than to be known.
So you made your first counseling appointment. First, let me congratulate you on overcoming all the internal (and maybe even external) resistance that could have stood in your way. You've taken a brave and necessary step.
As a client, it is very common and normal for you to leave your first session or two wondering, "so, what's next?" The first few counseling sessions really allow you and your therapist to develop a sense of trust and rapport together.
Don't get me wrong. Lots of very powerful and helpful progress can begin to occur in that first session. At the same time though, don't underestimate the power of change that is happening at a pace much slower than our micro-waved society would prefer.
The algorithm for change (according to my friend Chip Dodd) is "willingness + patience + work + time." The more of these assets we possess, the more change we can anticipate experiencing. As another friend likes to say, "It takes a whole lot of slow to grow."
So, back to the end of your first session You've just wrapped up an hour with someone you sense could be of some good help to you. And you are walking to your car wondering, "now what?"
I'd like to recommend (not prescribe) a one very practical thing that will help your therapeutic process. Keep a journal and carry it with you. In moments when you find a few moments alone, take it out and spend some time reflecting. Maybe take an inventory of the "state of your heart." Maybe take 10 minutes to reflect on what still lingers from your first counseling session that you'd like to revisit with your therapist. A journal can be a helpful place to bring up to the surface what's been lurking below. Maybe reflect on something that resisted in you in that first session.
Take this with to your next counseling session. If it makes sense, share it with your therapist. What is happening in your life in real time is as important as what happened way, way back. It all belongs.
Then, make your second appointment. Rinse, lather, repeat until you feel like you've moved through what needs to be moved through.
Don't hesitate to process the "what's next" question with your therapist, either. Any therapist worth their salt won't feel intimidated by your question. They will sense your hunger for change and can meet you in that desire with even greater awareness.
If you have any questions or thoughts you'd love to share, feel free to leave those below or email Hayne Steen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In just a few hours, our new steel sign will be installed out in front of our counseling offices here in Saint Augustine. I imagine just our name alone will cue up a number of questions.
In Chattanooga, "Elbow Tree Christian Counseling" (or simply Elbow Tree) has become a household brand. Over the last 11 years, our rag tag team of therapists have been serving hundreds of families locally as well as leaders and families all over the planet through a handful of global initiatives we are engaged with.
One of the questions new clients will ask is, "What is an elbow tree?" For the purpose of this blog today, I'll simply send you to this page of our website. It will give you a little background on who we are.
Another great question folks have asked is, "Are you a real counselor?"
To answer this question well, I think it's worth listening for the question inside the question. When it gets down to brass tacks, people tend to wonder most about the "Christian Counseling" dimension of our name.
In this blog, I am going to take a couple minutes to pose a couple of the implied questions I can appreciate folks might really be asking.
1. Is "Christian Counseling" different than "normal counseling?"
Our team is made up of licensed and pre-licensed counselors. Every licensed and pre-licensed mental health counselor in the state of Florida is governed by the same ethical code of conduct and held to an extremely high standard of care. If a counselor identities themselves as a Christian Counselor, it often is simply a way of helping clients find therapists trained to help integrate faith into the therapeutic process.
At Elbow Tree, we are each deeply committed to the highest level of care. That is why we are each always pushing the envelope getting trained in a wide range research based therapeutic modalities that you will find in any non-Christian Counseling setting.
Some of us are involved in disaster response work. To do so we are continually being trained by the ICISF, who are the gold standard for training first responders all over the world in Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM).
Others of us are exploring best practices for being trained as trauma therapists, so we are being trained in modalities like EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) and (IFS) Internal Family Systems which are validated interventions for serving clients who present with trauma needs.
The list could go on and on as our team in Chattanooga and in Saint Augustine deliver the highest quality of care to the communities we are fortunate to serve.
Is Christian Counseling different? No and yes.
NO - because we are committed to providing all clients with nothing less than high quality care using treatment interventions informed by a well of evidence based research.
YES - because we are creating an intentional space for clients to integrate their Christian faith only if they so desire. We are simply hoping to light a candle in the window for folks looking for something like this in the sea of options being provided.
2. Is Christian Counseling a glorified Bible study or does actual therapy take place?
We want to walk with you toward the full and meaningful life you are made for. How we go about shepherding the process is very intentional and deeply therapeutic. We see ourselves more as facilitators of your therapeutic process.
Our goal is to get out of the way so you can get into your process, where actual therapy does take place. We do not judge or pressure. Instead we join with you as a curious companion, hoping to demonstrate a holy curiosity, genuine warmth and consistent empathy.
Primary goals for therapy are 1) to “reframe” uncomfortable, distressing or perplexing situations into opportunities for healing, growth, change and restoration 2) give some real, practical, doable steps to take and 3) orient people towards a much larger story that is unfolding alongside their own.
3. Can you hold my story confidentially?
Sometimes people wonder if Christian Counseling is 100% confidential. Let me tell you that anything you share with a therapist at Elbow Tree will be held in complete confidence. Unless you elect to release information to a pastor, elder, neighbor or family member, everything you share is held in the strictest of confidence.
And this is not because we are such nice people. It's the law. Your information is thankfully guarded by HIPAA which holds licensed counselors to a very high standard when it comes to any aspect of your file. The only limitations of confidentiality with regard to harming children, the elderly, or yourself.
So, as our new sign goes up today, and cars begin to pass by our new offices, we can imagine and anticipate that some will wonder if we are real therapists. Yes, we are highly trained men and women who are very protective of the therapeutic space as one that must be inhabited by the highest caliber of skilled licensed clinicians.
Should you have any additional questions, feel free to email Hayne Steen at email@example.com.