Recently I witnessed one of my closest friends giver her testimony in front of her church. She talked about how she struggled with some things and how God has used that in her life to help others (she is also a therapist). It took a lot of courage for her to be vulnerable, even with people she knew were supportive and loving in her life. I am thankful I was there to support her.
It got me thinking on the way home about some things.
I used to believe that as a therapist I’m supposed to have it all together all the time. We are taught as therapists to have a professional distance from our clients. We are to limit our self-disclosure with clients about our own struggles. While these limitations are certainly helpful and ethical in the professional setting so that we can be objective with our clients,(because there is nothing worse than dumping your own junk onto your clients) there is a danger that this distance can carry over into the rest of our relationships and become a protective façade that we have it all together all the time. In the beginning of my career somewhere I allowed that lie into my life, and learned how to put on a good face, and somehow believed that when I am vulnerable with my emotions that somehow I am weak. I believed that I have to pretend that I have it all together all the time.
The truth is, therapists are people who hurt and go through things just like everyone else. I have been seeing my own therapist for almost 8 years now to deal with my own work/life balance, anxieties and times when I’ve hit burnout. The more I meet with people, work with my clients, supervisees and talk to colleagues, I believe now that there is a purpose for our challenges, whether that purpose is revealed to us or not. God will use them to work through us for the good of others and ourselves.
It’s never without a purpose. That’s why I believe being vulnerable with others about our struggles is so healing. I could see the hope, joy, and peace in my friend’s face as she took the courage to share, and how the façade came down in her life and she could be vulnerable with others. It was freeing.
For more information on being vulnerable, watch Dr. Brene Brown’s Ted talk on her vulnerability research.
“Mommy you don’t play with us.” Ouch. My kid said this one day when we were at home and talking about a game we are about to play. What an awakening. I work with families and children. I play with children all day long. And I always felt like my priorities were right. But this got my attention. I have been working a ton recently on some awesome opportunities, and some things have gotten off.
As a therapist and a mom it is always a challenge to balance both career and family. I’m a pretty driven person who deals with a streak of perfectionism, so if I’m not careful I can find myself out of balance. I see this issue come up time and again both with parents of the children I work with, supervisees and other working parents. How do you have a career that supports your family financially, but at the same time stay connected with your family? I have the fortunate opportunity to be able to adjust my schedule and have flexibility, and not every family has that. However there are some things that I do that helps me, and I hope that it can help other parents to readjust as necessary. Please note I have NOT perfected this in anyway and am constantly learning how to incorporate these in my own life.
Let go of getting everything done all the time. Some things will be left undone. There is finite number of hours in a day and it is impossible to complete everything every day.
Make the time you do spend with your children/family count. I make it a point to keep my weekends low key and not over scheduled. This is necessary both from a self-care point of view and bonding with my children. We have certain routines that we do keep on the weekends (such as at least one day we have movie and pizza night).
Set a cut of time for work. In my field it can seem like there is something to do all the time, and setting a cut off time to stop working and go home has worked wonders. I will even put “GO HOME” on my schedule to give myself a visual reminder to NOT SCHEDULE SOMETHING THERE.
Say no more than you say yes. It is tempting to take on multiple projects, Post this! Schedule this! Volunteer here! But giving yourself permission to say no sometimes will help focus your attention on the things that matter the most.
Plan self care times every day to decompress. (for me it’s herbal tea before bed and watching something stupid on TV).
Seek out consultation and networking with other parents in your field. You will find that it’s not just you, no you’re not crazy for being a working parent, and also remind you that we are in this together.
Accept help from others.
Ask for help.
Give yourself the permission to adjust as needed. I have found that I have had to adjust my schedule or way of working every few years as my family’s needs change. My family’s needs change depending on the stage we’re in, for instance my kids had different needs when they were babies, but now that one is preschool age and the other is school age they need attention in different areas.
Make smaller adjustments as you go along, rather than big leaps. Change happens as you make small adjustments to your schedule and your life, generally not in one big leap. And sometimes the simple adjustments (such as adjusting your cut off time for one day) makes a bigger impact than you expect.
What helps you maintain your sanity as a working parent? Whether you are a therapist or not? Leave your suggestions in the comments below. I can’t wait to read everyone’s tips.
The life of a play therapist can be pretty hectic sometimes, especially if you throw in a family, social life, and managing your own problems. These are 5 things that I do that help me to be a better play therapist.
Create a Set Work Schedule
I wake up and each day my schedule is different. I work many after school hours, mainly afternoons and evenings. I set regular hours that I schedule clients to help stay organized and balance between work and family life.
If it’s my first session with a family, I meet with caregivers to identify the main reasons for seeking therapy. I involve parents weekly in sessions to discuss behavior issues, family stressors, child’s progress in therapy, and how to implement changes at home.
Consult with Other Counselors
Sometimes I have been working with a client for a long time, or a child has a particularly complex case. If I am stuck on a case, I seek out another therapist’s perspective to learn new ideas for a case. I have relationships with colleagues and mentors that I trust when I seek out another opinion.
Practice Self Care
I hear troubling stories, from sexual abuse, to neglect, to loss of a loved one. It can sometimes feel exhausting. In order to prevent burnout I participate in activities to relieve stress. I find journaling, being social, reading a novel, watching movies with my husband, going to church on a regular basis, and also writing to help.
I love that I witness children heal everyday, and families change. I use these techniques to remain balanced, focused, and keep the child’s needs first.
How do you survive as a play therapist or in your chosen career? Leave a comment below.
I am currently going through some pretty significant changes in my life, and I never really stopped to allow it all to sink in. I just kept going along with working at full speed, even though these changes are impacting me physically and emotionally. I had this idea that I could just keep things going with no consequences until this week when i began waking up early all by myself, and thinking about work related things at times when I should be resting. That is usually a sign to me that I am in need of some type of change to balance out my life and relieve stress. I struggle with this battle of balance. How do I take care of myself, my family, and my clients to the fullest? Can I really be superwoman and have it all? A career? A family? and Enjoy it? So, I began praying and I asked God to show me how to navigate this path that I am on right now. I always find it interesting how he works. I pray for balance and for rest, and then all of a sudden I have a day (like today!) where all my clients cancelled and so I stayed home and spent time with my son all day, what a blessing it was. It was a reminder to me that if I just stop, and time to take care of myself, I can be refreshed and able to navigate these changes with more energy and clarity.
28 “Come to Me, all [a]who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is[b]easy and My burden is light.”
I had the great opportunity to win a copy of Jennifer Gladen’s book, Angel Donor. I am excited to add this book to my collection because I did not have a story on this topic.
“Olivia never asked to have a disease like Biliary Atresia. It made her liver sick and only a transplant will make her better. After waiting several months and close to losing hope, she gets the call she’s been waiting for. The journey of her live is about to begin.”
Interview With Jennifer Gladen:
Hi Jill. Thanks for taking the time to discuss Angel Donor with your readers.
What inspired you to write Angel Donor?
My daughter, Jackie, was born with a liver disease called Biliary Atresia and later needed a liver transplant. She was in and out of hospitals since she was three weeks old. I remember wishing there was something I could read to her to help her get through these times. That’s when the idea for Angel Donor was born. It wasn’t until years later that I was able to bring myself to write it.
What age group is it appropriate for?
Angel Donor fits well with Pre-K and the primary grades.
What were some of the challenges with writing on this topic?
It was very hard to write the truth about Biliary Atresia, liver disease and transplants but at the same time not be too scary for children. Especially since this book is meant to be comforting and something children can identify with.
What is Biliary Atresia?
Biliary Atresia is a childhood liver disease. Children are born with a liver that has blocked bile ducts, which in turn scars the liver and causes infection and more liver damage. Because of liver damage and the bile ducts not draining properly, jaundice (a yellowing of the skin) occurs. Without treatment, the liver can fail.
How is it diagnosed and what kind of treatment would a child with this issue need?
Usually Biliary Atresia is diagnosed when a baby is just a few weeks old. They are jaundiced and don’t eat well. If Biliary Atresia is suspected, the doctor will order blood tests, X-rays, and a liver biopsy.
There is no cure for Biliary Atresia. The initial treatment is to perform a surgery to restore the bile flow to the bile ducts outside the liver. Some patients do well with this treatment but most children with this diagnosis need a liver transplant because gradual liver damage continues to develop.
How can this affect a child and his or her family emotionally?
I think different children handle this situation in different ways. They feel a range of emotions. There are a bunch of hospital visits, emergencies and a host of experiences, which can make a child anxious. For example, my daughter Jackie didn’t like the highway for the longest time because when we went on the highway it usually meant we were going to the hospital. However, in our experience my daughter seemed to understand the “bad stuff”, i.e: needles, IVs, etc were to help get her better. My advice is during hospital stays, take advantage of your Child Life Specialists (http://www.childlife.org ) They help the child handle what is going on psychologically when a child is in the hospital.
In my book Angel Donor, Olivia is painting a picture in the playroom. Usually a large playroom like that is run by Child Life specialists. My daughter knows many Child Life Specialists. They helped her understand the medical procedures. Jackie used pretend play where she put an IV into her doll. Her favorite, however, was painting and art. All these activities make the hard times easier to deal with.
The emotional effects on the rest of the family are just as tough. Parents and siblings are worried about the child. Routines are disrupted. Parents of more than one child are torn between their responsibilities of being with the child in the hospital and being with the rest of their children.
What advice would you give to parents whose children need organ transplant?
I have a bunch of advice I’ve collected over the last ten years. The first is to ask, ask, ask. Ask questions when you don’t understand what is going on with your child. Also if you research online about the disease, be sure to talk to your child’s doctor. Not everything we see online is 100% fact. And your doctor knows your child.
Get support. This is what kept me sane 🙂 . There are groups and websites designed to offer support, information and advice. Again, the information is not mean to replace your doctor’s advice. Always go to them when there is a problem or a question about your child’s medical care. Having said that, these groups are filled with other parents who have “been there”.
What tips could you give a therapist on how to support a child and his or her family with this issue?
I think a therapist could do many of the things a Child Life Specialist might so, such as the medical play techniques or draw about their feelings. Jackie loved to pretend to put an IV in my arm. She continued doing that long after she came home from her hospital stays.
A Star in the Night was my first book. It is about David, who makes his way home on Christmas Eve and sees this is no ordinary night. Accompanied by a shimmering star and some tough decisions, David encounters three experiences that will change his view of Christmas forever.
Teresa’s Shadow – Teresa’s Shadow isn’t just a story about bedtime and monsters. It’s about fear, friendship and kindness. One night at bedtime Teresa discovers Corky, a furry visitor, in her room. Corky is no ordinary monster. In fact he seems just as scared as Teresa. Teresa soon realizes she must help Corky get home.
When you are not writing, what else do you do?
I work full time as a teacher at a child care center in addition to taking care of my three children.
What writing projects are you working on right now?
I have 2 other books I’m finishing up. Stay tuned…
I’ve been contemplating some changes lately. I have had “Jill’s Writing and Play Therapy Page” for about four years now and have finally decided to move to a self-hosted site to expand the website more. I am excited and have been planning for about a year, but I look at it and I always feel a little afraid. Afraid that it will fall flat, or something won’t work, or that I’ll lose….fill in the blank. But at the same time I am truly excited to see where it goes from that change. So how will I deal with that change? Do I stay stuck in the same because of fear of change, or do I push through the fear to expand my website? I know I’m just writing about a website here, but there are many times we are faced with change for whatever reason. We move, we start a new career, we end a job, we make new friends, we move churches. Whatever the change, it helps to see what’s on the other side of it: New, Fresh start and how we get there: The process God leads us through.
I don’t know about you, but for me the end of a year and the beginning of a new one always has a feeling of relief for me. I love the idea of a new, fresh start and starting over. The past year for me has been full of ups and downs, and a lot of personal stress. But at the same time, there are many blessings in my life. If I look back this year, I can see where God has really come through for me and my family. I love the hope that a new year brings. I believe that this year will be better than last year, and that God will continue to teach me how to trust Him in my life.
Here are 10 things that I am going to do this year to make life more stress free take these ideas and also add your own in the comments:
1. Say no to at least one project a week.
2. Reduce the amount of caffeine and sugar I consume.
3. Plan at least one date night a month with my husband.
4. Plan more time with my girlfriends.
5. Schedule in at least one morning a week for writing and business planning.
6. Pay down debt.
7. Say what I am thankful for everyday because God supplies all me needs and provides for me every day.
8. Read more for pleasure.
9. Read a good Bible study or join a Bible study group.
10. Give up trying to plan every little detail of my life and allow God to work things out.
This is what God says,
the God who builds a road right through the ocean,
who carves a path through pounding waves,
The God who summons horses and chariots and armies—
they lie down and then can’t get up;
they’re snuffed out like so many candles:
“Forget about what’s happened;
don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
rivers in the badlands.
Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’
—the coyotes and the buzzards—
Because I provided water in the desert,
rivers through the sun-baked earth,
Drinking water for the people I chose,
the people I made especially for myself,
a people custom-made to praise me.
What’s chronic, repetitive, or inflamed in your inner or outer life?
This burning question is personal. There are many things I could say about it. The past year or so of my life have brought out a lot of hurt, joy, tears, laughter, many mixed emotions. Most recently I took on some opportunities in my life that reminded my of the things that I left, and inflamed a lot of mixed emotions, distrust and confusion. Confusion about what God’s will is for my life right now, how to decide if an opporunity is one that Is from God, or just a distraction from what His will actually is in my life. And me,being stubborn would rather take an opportunity and then stress about how to get out of it rather than saving myself the heartache and stress and trusting the path that I believe God has put me on. The repetitive is the constant battle to trust the process, and my practical mind, the need for certainty and to provide for my family financially vs. patience, trust and hearing the whispers of the Holy Spirit in my heart leading me, allowing God to unfold his will for my life openly without reservations. The balance between the “busy syndrome” that often accompanies the profession of counseling, the need to pour out compassion everywhere, and the need for self care and rejuvenation. It is a constant battle and conflict for me, and left unchecked can lead me to stubborn slips of faith. It reminds me of Peter, when he sees Jesus walking on the water towards the boat, he takes one step out, and begins walking towards His Savior, and then loses his focus off Jesus and focuses on the storm, then fear sets in and he falls into the stormy waters. There are several things that I love about this picture. One: Peter has the faith to get out of the boat, and two, Jesus is right there pulling Peter out of the water to bring him back to safety and into the boat. It reminds me that I don’t have to fear, that I can take the steps of faith that are presented to me, and that when I fail Jesus is there to rescue me and bring me back to safety, and showing me that I can Trust Him and His will and place in my life.