With pandemic induced isolation and virtual consumption on the rise, people are finding themselves drifting further and further away from nature based therapy, or “ecotherapy” for mental health treatment. In fact, a recent article by Counseling Today estimates that we are spending close to 90% of our time indoors! Garrett Counseling is here to help you better understand how the use of nature in therapy can benefit you in treating your mental health concerns.
Ecotherapy is the use of nature as an aid in mental health treatment. Using ecotherapy effectively, does not mean that you have to dump all your earthly belongings and completely submerge yourself in nature to benefit. Nature based therapy can be as simple or complex as you and your mental health professional prefer it to be. Some therapists work in offices that have a specific, designated space, such as a garden, for this very purpose (you can learn more about Garrett Counseling’s Therapy Garden here). Other therapists may utilize more natural objects in their office (e.g., stones, plants, leaves, flowers, etc.) on a regular basis, offering it as a coping tool for clients when in session. Some therapists may consider utilizing something as simple as opening the window blinds during a session to allow for natural light and visuals of greenery and the sky.
Nature based therapy provides the client an ‘escape’ from the intensity of daily hustle and bustle, depressive symptoms, and painful life transitions (including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic). When a person is observing nature in all its complexities, they realize that – no matter what they are personally experiencing – life goes on. This notion provides people with a sense of stability and safety, in what may otherwise be tumultuous times.
This blog is not to say that nature based therapy, or Ecotherapy, will fix all of the concerns a person may be facing. However, it is noteworthy that even a short period of time in natural light, or a short walk, means less time to ruminate on what may be troubling you. The American Counseling Association says, “You can listen to the quiet of nature, admire some budding flowers, or just smile at the squirrels scampering about — all things to take the focus off what is stressing you”. Sometimes even the quickest of breaks, is all you need to get through the trying times – one day at a time.
If you are looking for a counselor who practices nature based therapy in Jacksonville, Huntsville, or Boaz, Alabama, contact us today by calling (256) 239 – 5662 or by clicking here.
**This article was written by Rachel Brewer. Rachel is an Associate Licensed Counselor (#C3719A) under the supervision of Jay H. Byham, MS, LPC-S (#0741). Learn more about Rachel here.
When Cheryl Strayed’s book, Wild hit shelves in 2012, it started a massive movement towards reading about and experiencing the outdoors-especially among women. In Strayed’s book, she highlights how nature can often offer a healing touch and comforting balm to wounds surrounding anxiety, depression, ptsd, and experiences from our past that we would much rather keep hidden from the sunlight. After experiencing a tragic death, divorce, drug use, and trauma, Strayed decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail during 1995–a trail over 2000 miles long that stretches from California to the Washington-Canada border. The story is one of tragedy, triumph, and the resilience we can all find in ourselves if we embrace all parts of our own stories, and open up to the healing process.
One might point out that it could also be the setting. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is grueling. Gorgeous, of course, as most things are that stand the threat of time and development, but people who hike it suffer under no illusions that the path will be an easy one. Scorching desert temperatures at one part of the trail can rapidly surrender to plummeting degrees with feet of snow on the other–with everything in between. Anyone that voluntarily signs up for such a test of physical and mental resilience knows that the journey will require more of them than they could imagine at the time they begin.
Journeys like Strayed’s–and journeys into wild country and landscapes, in general, are not entirely unlike undertaking a journey to nurturing our mental health. It can be grueling as we face our shadow selves and past negative experiences, gorgeous as we turn to see how far we have come from where we started, and triumphant as we start to notice our progress over territory we previously thought uncrossable. Nature can offer us that, wherever we find it.
Does nature have to be wilderness in order to offer benefits when challenged with anxiety or depression, or other mental health concerns? Absolutely not. These benefits can be found anywhere-from hundreds of miles of untouched backcountry to an easily accessible community garden.
The next time you find yourself experiencing feelings of stress, anxiety, depression, or anger, consider going for a short stroll outside (or, in Cheryl Strayed’s case, a very, very long walk), and talking to a counselor about other ways to improve your mental health. If you are looking for a counselor in Huntsville, Boaz, or Jacksonville, Alabama call us today at (256) 239-5662 or fill out the online form by clicking here.
Stay tuned for our next blog about “Starting Your Own ‘Mental Health Garden'”.
This blog was written by Morgan Osburn. Morgan is Garrett Counseling’s Director of Community Outreach. You can learn more about her by clicking here.
The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole is a book written by Michelle Cuevas.
Zoe Garrett recently read this book and wrote a review to share with you:
The Care and Feeding of a Black Hole is such an amazing and truthful tale. It has a plot that always keeps you interested, cool page designs, and talks about grief. The character in the story is sad and distant because she lost her dad. She tries to erase memories of him so she doesn’t feel the pain. It’s beautiful, relatable, and inspiring. Michelle Cuevas did a great job. Grade A.
Zoe’s Favorite Quotes From The Book:
“…Black Hole can be your light in the darkest dark.”
“And later, when I got rid of all my memories in the black hole, I thought I’d forget everything on the list. But I haven’t. I know that the first thing on the list is how everything he cooked was a little burnt, but we were all too nice to say anything.”
“I decided then that home was probably all of these things: something sought after, found, held close, used, well-worn, and best of all, familiar.”
Note for Parents and Counselors:
Helping a child out of a loop of sadness and grief is challenging. Depending on their state of life, and how important the person who died was, it can be even harder. What helps, however, is talking about it with someone who is also going through missing that person.
If you are looking for grief counseling for you or your child, Garrett Counseling has offices in Jacksonville, Boaz, and Huntsville, Alabama. We also offer telehealth options. Contact us today by calling (256) 239-5662 or online by clicking here. For more information about The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole, click here.
Zoe Garrett is 10 years old. She works part-time in the family business helping with office tasks, cleaning, and helping those older than her understand kid culture. She enjoys reading, playing Minecraft, and cooking. She does not enjoy cleaning out her lunch box, cleaning her room, or getting up early! Zoe is also the proud parent of Yam, her baby hedgehog.
Counselor Lynsey recently took the time to review “Anger Management Tool Cards“, “Would You Rather Playing Cards“, and “Let’s Talk: Conversation Starters for Kids to Discuss Feelings” from Open The Joy! Her thoughts, as well as images of the cards, in use can be found below.
These cards help kids navigate their feelings in four different ways: calm your mind, calm your body, shift your focus, and take a mini-break. The cards illustrate and direct kids to (independently or with a caregiver) learn many ways to cope with feelings. The cards were designed for anger but can work with any big emotions.
It’s a standard deck of cards with silly dilemmas on each one! The cards can be used to play a typical game of Go Fish or Spoons while also helping kids build emotional intelligence and decision making skills.
This is a large set of cards helping caregivers and kids navigate big and small topics easily. The cards promote open dialogue and bonding between kids and caregivers. Topics can also lead into deeper discussions of hopes, dreams, and fears.
Each of these sets of cards can be found on the Open the Joy website. If you believe your child could benefit from counseling (including our online counseling for children) or if you would like more information about our pediatric counseling services, contact us today!
This blog was written by Lynsey Leopard, M.Ed, ALC (#C3307A), NCC. Lynsey is under the supervision of Lynne Kilgore (#2005). Learn more about Lynsey here.
At Garrett Counseling, we are passionate about ending discrimination, that is why we are backing the CROWN Act.
A 2019 research study found that 80% of Black women in the United States had to change their natural hairstyle in order to fit in at their place of work. Social justice educator Cierra Kaler-Jones says “My hair has been called a mop… and I’ve been told that my hair ‘needed to be fixed’ to be deemed acceptable in the workplace.” (Read more from Cierra here.) In the United States, there are currently no protections for people who face discriminations because of their hair.
This is why the CROWN Act is important. This act will prohibit race-based hair discrimination and correct racial injustices by making hair discrimination illegal. The CROWN Act passed the House of Representatives in September of 2020 and is expected to be reintroduced in the current Congress. If this act passes again, it will be sent to the Senate.
You can get involved and show your support by contacting your senator and urging them to support the CROWN Act when it comes to vote. Click here to email your senator now! Encourage your network to get involved by sharing this link with them: https://p2a.co/GxmNuAV
For more information about hair and hair discrimination, we have provided additional resources below:
Winter can be a difficult season. We put together this toolkit to help you thrive this winter! Our counselors are here to support you this season; schedule an appointment by calling (256) 239-5662 or by clicking here.
We are excited to introduce the new mural at our Jacksonville location. We wanted to do something to welcome and express our appreciation to the black community in Jacksonville so we reached out to artist Olivia Clark to have her create a mural for us.
About The Artist: My name is Olivia Clark. I am 27 years old living in Atlanta, GA but originally from St. Louis, MO. I am a multidisciplinary artist with a special focus on the intersection of digital art and Black American culture. I am half self taught, half professionally trained, and 100% passionate. I have been designing for over a decade but just recently launched my official design business, Livvy On The Label Creative Company, this year.
About The Mural: When Ashley explained to me that she wanted something that would make the black community in Jacksonville, AL feel welcome and valued, I was really honored to be the one to bring that vision to life. We chose to go with Black Lives Matter, 1. Because they do, of course. but 2. To be a show of solidarity with those around the country fighting to end injustices everywhere. I chose the colors Red, Black, Green and Yellow because these colors are repeated throughout history when representing anything related to black people/art. I also chose to go with geometric shapes to enhance the boldness of the message. This was my first mural, and though it was hard work and I had a steep learning curve to work through, I thoroughly enjoyed creating this! I hope those that come in contact with it feel the love that it was created with!
How To Find Olivia:
With November here, the holiday season is officially underway. This time of year is typically associated with warm, happy emotions full of joy and cheer; however, for a lot of us, this season may bring with it anxiety, stress, and depression. This can be due to things such as a tighter budget, extra commitments, and this year – an ongoing pandemic. At Garrett Counseling we understand how difficult the holidays can be, so we want to share a few tips to help you take care of your mental health this year:
Set Realistic Expectations: Rather than striving for perfection or to replicate a previous year’s celebrations, set reasonable and attainable goals for this year. For example, cooking a meal where every dish is homemade may not be a realistic goal, but cooking one or two dishes from scratch could be attainable. (At the end of this blog, Garrett Counseling’s Megan Campbell shares two of her favorite recipes for the holiday season!) Take time to discover what is reasonable for you this year and make that your goal.
Set Healthy Boundaries: There is only so much you can do this season. Saying “yes” to every invitation you receive may leave you feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. Rather than over committing yourself, say “no” to those activities for which your schedule does not have room.
Plan Ahead: Look at what you hope to do for the holidays, and try to plan out as much as you can ahead of time. Think about things such as deciding on a budget, who you want to purchase gifts for and making a list, designating a shopping day, and writing out the menu and ingredient list. By planning ahead, you can help eliminate some of the stress that comes with last minute decisions.
Get Outside: In the winter, we tend to spend a lot more time inside. Taking the time to bundle up and get outside can provide you with some mental health benefits such as providing an opportunity to clear your mind and reducing stress.
Keep Up Healthy Habits: As tempting as it can be to take a break from a healthy routine during a busy time of the year, make an effort to maintain positive habits. Neglecting healthy habits can leave you with feelings of stress and guilt once the season is over. This could mean continuing therapy, being as consistent as you can with your sleep schedule, or balancing indulgent treats with healthy snacks.
Garrett Counseling’s Megan Campbell says:
“The holiday season means something different for everyone. Some might find it exciting while others might find it discouraging. Be kind to others this season but also be kind to yourself. Practice self-care whether it be by watching the sunrise, going for a walk or cuddling up in a blanket with hot chocolate or coffee, give yourself a chance to rest.”
We hope you have a wonderful holiday season. If our counselors can support you during this season, please contact us by calling (256) 239-5662 or online by clicking here.
Two of Counselor Megan’s Favorite Recipes:
Chex™ Holiday Muddy Mix
Sometimes during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, you need a recipe that is simple to put together! Megan says “Chex Mix is always a go to that is quick and easy. This is one of my favorites.”
**This original recipe, along with extra tips and a step-by-step video, can be found on the Chex™ website.
The Best Crockpot BBQ Chicken
While sometimes you may need something simple and quick, other times you may find yourself with the time and energy for something with a few more steps! Megan says, “Crockpot BBQ Chicken is another favorite, and it is a great comfort food with homemade mashed potatoes.”
**This original recipe, along with pictures and a step-by-step video, can be found on the Family Fresh Meals website.
Imagine is a great product for parents, educators, and counselors looking to connect children to feelings of inner peace and calm while also empowering them for personal growth. Through meditation and mindfulness, imagine, this deck first teaches children basic breathing exercises to help the child learn to relax, balance their thoughts, and experience feelings as they ebb and flow. Once the child is able to engage in the breathing experience, you choose another card to guide you through an experience. This ranges from cards focusing on abundance of joy to visual imagery embracing feeling safe and empowered. The deck has 26 guided meditations for kids of all ages that can lower stress while increasing self-esteem and resilience to stress.
My favorite part, besides the ease to engage children, is the beautiful artwork and language to bring the child into the present moment using all senses. I highly recommend for counselors who want to expand their collection of tools. However, it is so easy to practice that parents can greatly benefit from using these at bedtime or during “time in” where a child is working to self-soothe and return to a normal state of self-regulation.
The cards can be found here.
During this time, many of us are grieving. Some may be grieving the death of a loved one; some may be grieving other types of loss like the loss of a job or cancelled special events, such as graduations and weddings. No matter what type of grief you are experiencing, it’s important for us to learn healthy ways to cope with grief and how to support one another during this time of physical isolation.
Coping with Grief
What are some ways we can cope with our grief? First, remember to practice self-care. Set aside some time to take care of yourself and do something you enjoy – it could be going for a run, soaking in a warm bath, or finding a quiet place to read. Whatever self-care looks like for you, take time for that activity! Second, it is important to remind yourself that what you are feeling is valid. Sometimes, we find ourselves downplaying our grief with thoughts like “It really could be worse, look what this person is experiencing.” Remind yourself that another person’s circumstances do not take away from your own. Your grief is valid. Your emotions are valid. Next, seek connection and support! While we are living in a time where we are having to be more physically distant, connection with our loved ones is still important. Staying connected during this time may mean utilizing tools like phone calls, text messages, video chats, or even handwritten letters. If you need additional support, reach out to a professional who can help you through your grief journey. Finally, allow yourself time. Grief is not typically something that goes away in a matter of days or even weeks. Allow yourself the time you need to grieve!
Garrett Counseling’s Sandra Owens shares this message of hope:
To me grief is like being at the bottom of a deep, dark, dank well. Sometimes it feels hopeless and I want to give up. Everything seems so bleak. Then one day I realize there has been help waiting for me to do my part in getting out of the well. I just didn’t see it. That’s when I understand there is always hope for change. – Hope by Sandra Owens, MSW, LICSW, PIP
Supporting a Grieving Loved One
When our loved ones are grieving, it can be hard to know how to best support them. First, take the time to listen to them. Often, the temptation is to try to offer advice, but our loved ones need someone willing to listen to them talk about what they are facing. Next, validate how they feel and refrain from minimizing their pain. Even when you don’t completely understand what they are going through, their grief and emotions are valid. Remind them of that! Third, ask your loved one how you can help support them. Is there a task you can take off their plate, can you organize a virtual hangout with your friend group, or could you have their favorite food delivered to them. Don’t be afraid to ask what would be helpful! Lastly, stay connected with your grieving loved one, especially during this time of physical separation. Try to reach out regularly with a quick phone call or text.
Odds are, we are all grieving something during this pandemic. That is why it is so important for us to know how to cope with our own grief and how to support our loved ones who are grieving. If you are in need of additional help as you are grieving, please reach out to your counselor or contact us!
Garrett Counseling stands in solidarity with our Black counselors, community, and clients. We support the Black Lives Matter movement, protesters, and any other activists, communities, and leaders who fight systemic and institutionalized racism. Now is the time for us, as a society, to listen to our Black leaders, colleagues, friends, neighbors, and family members. We must not expect our Black Americans to comfort our discomfort, nor should we expect them to answer our questions when we have had more access to historical, cultural, and educational resources than ever before. For those familiar with racism and the insidious and detrimental effects, Garrett Counseling sees you, hears you, and stands with you. We know this is still not enough, and it will never be until White supremacy and institutionalized racism is dismantled. We commit to continuing this fight for true justice. We have a long way to go, but we must continue. We must take action.
For Counselors: Key to the counselor identity is striking a balance between individual counseling and our role as social justice advocates with the ultimate goal of challenging the status quo that perpetuates world-wide inequities, while simultaneously addressing clients’ immediate concerns. Our advocacy identity should be evident across all of the roles we hold (e.g., counselors, counselor educators, supervisors, researchers, leaders, and citizens). Therefore, we must work to increase our self-awareness and other-awareness, to be diligent in recognizing and addressing issues of power and oppression in our clinical settings, classrooms, communities, and our research (ACA, Social Justice Counseling Competencies, 2020 statement).