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2015 Bar Harbor

We unite ourselves and divide ourselves with words. We not only define but give emotional meaning to things with words, and you often can tell the importance of something by how many words there are for it in a language, a classic example being the number of Inuit words for snow.

Political correctness often comes up in the discussion of the evolving of our language and how we frame our culture. The discussion is often disingenuous, for the same philosophical group that disparages the move to change the name of the Washington professional football team name as political correctness gone overboard forced the Cincinnati professional baseball team to change its name to Redlegs for a time in the 1950s so they wouldn’t sound communist. That was also the time that the US national motto was changed from “E Pluribus Unum” (“Out of the many, one” – an inclusive unifying phrase) to “In God We Trust” in an effort to prove we were not and to divide us from “godless communists.” This was done despite the constitutional separation of church and state. In Virginia, Jefferson’s Statute for Religious Freedom had major supporters in the Baptists who did not want to pay taxes to support the official government religion of the Church of England. Those who most speak out against Sharia law ironically want to force their own brand of Christianity (and there are many brands and denominations) on others. They are doing exactly what they say they oppose, but it is okay because it is their brand. To oppose it is to be politically correct in a “bad” way. Those thoughts are further stirred up by talk radio and the disinfotainment branches of cable TV news and propaganda sources that masquerade as news.

One of the Founding Fathers of the US was a physician named Benjamin Rush. One of the things he is remembered for is declaring that addiction to alcohol is a disease. There has been an ongoing debate about whether addictions and other issues of behavior are diseases or not. The labels have changed over the years, and what is and is not a disease or a disorder has changed over time as well. Trying to decide what to call people we see as having these problems changes, too. Do you say, he is an addict? Or do you say he is a person with an addiction? Do you say he is a schizophrenic? Or do you say, he is a person with schizophrenia? Does it matter? Is it all just political correctness? Take a deep breath for a moment, and think. What do you call a person with cancer? Do you call them a cancer patient, a person with cancer? No one that I know of calls them a cancerite or some other word that implies that they are the disease. Now there are conditions like diabetes and hemophilia that do have words for a person with the condition. Do you feel a different emotional reaction to the words “alcoholic” and “schizophrenic” than you do to “diabetic” and “hemophiliac”? Would you feel differently towards someone called a cancer patient or a cardiac patient than you would schizophrenics and diabetics? Would that feeling change according to how you think they became ill? Did it just happen, or did they bring it on themselves by smoking or diet, or was it some environmental contaminant beyond their control? Does that change how you feel?

Our language shows in a very strong way how we determine and express our values. In a diverse culture, there are different values and different linguistic ways of expressing those values. One can rigidly hide behind lazy shortcuts like “political correctness” and somehow feel smugly superior when belittling something as politically correct. Or one can look more deeply at the language and try to see what values that language expresses. One thing working with families has taught me over the years is that families function better when the members treat each other with respect and compassion. Language and the values that language expresses and teaches can help a culture function more positively when it has compassion and respect as fundamental parts of its foundation. Remember the principles of taiji – softness overcomes hardness, and flexibility overcomes rigidity. In the West, another way of expressing that is that a soft answer turns away anger. The emotions of language are contagious for better or for worse.

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Kona Hawaii 2013 116Recently a friend mentioned how different he felt while on prednisone, and as a Buddhist it helped bring home the tenuousness of the concept of self. Alan Watts wrote extensively about the concept of self in Daoist and Buddhist philosophy, with one example here.

I get to listen to about 10 or 15 minutes of Radio Lab on NPR during my Wednesday commute and recently there was a piece on the element lithium. Lithium is used as a psychotropic, but they also mentioned that towns which have an incredibly small amount of lithium naturally occurring in their water supplies also have lower suicide rates than towns with even smaller amounts. It reminded me that when lead was removed from gasoline and paint, crime rates went down. Transcranial magnetic stimulation not only helps with relieving depression, but in at least one study, people changed a decision after the stimulation. They didn’t realize the stimulation had occurred and had a rational explanation as to why they changed their minds, and the explanation went along with our concept of self and free will. So much of what we do and who we are occurs below our conscious level.

One theory in neuroscience I have come across is that the construct of “other” evolved first followed by the construct of “self.” These came about so that we could communicate and get along in this world. Music also evolved for our social and emotional well being, and it can have a very big impact on emotion. Think about the use of music in the soundtracks of movies, television and radio and how that affects your experience of the story. Athletes use music to change their performance. You can even use a soundtrack in your mind to change your mood and to change your self-talk. In Negotiating the Nonnegotiable, Daniel Shapiro tells how at his workshops he uses a soundtrack of drums to increase the sense of tribe for workshop participants who have to negotiate bringing their separate tribes into one tribe or else the world will end. The world almost always ends in the exercise. I wonder if that would change without the beat of the tribal drums during the cohesion of the tribes.

Shapiro devotes an entire chapter to the self – the “dual nature of identity.” He refers to our sense of self as the “fixed-identity problem.” Identity is not static, and includes our beliefs, rituals, allegiances, values, and emotionally meaningful experiences. We have various mindsets of the self. There is the fundamentalist who sees identity as fixed and governed by forces outside our control. There is the constructivist who sees identity as an “ever-evolving social construction.”   There is the anattist who sees us as having no permanent identity and transcending “the material world of attachment, experiencing identity as shifting waves within the ocean of life.” Lastly, there is the quantumist who sees identity as “a combination of nature and nurture” with identity both fixed and fluid and there are many possible selves. And we may change that perspective over time. They are not fixed either. With these different perspectives, how do we get along with each other? We change our relationships in that space between us. You can learn more by listening to Shapiro here.

A few years ago, I was cleaning out the attic in the home where I grew up. I found the speech I gave at my high school graduation. The last line was “we are all in this together.” All these years later, I still believe that. Shapiro’s work gives us good guidance on how to get along with each other in this world, and some different perspective on just what the “self” is.

Sunday – I went running this morning in the clear cold air. I came upon a flock of migrating black birds – hundreds, maybe more than a thousand of them. They seemed to be on every branch of every tree. Some were on the road, and a guy had to blow his horn to clear a way to his driveway. The sound of all those birds took me back over thirty years to the first time I came upon such a group. I was walking in the woods to Lake Matoaka to take pictures. I was checking my camera as I walked and suddenly realized I was surrounded by an incredibly loud noise. “What IS that?” I thought. I looked up and was surrounded by birds everywhere. So of course I immediately thought of Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” It was like being swallowed up by a great big living, vibrating-with-sound-and-movement organism. I walked along more slowly and mindfully and just watched in amazement. I remember that day there were at least two or three species each in their vast group. This morning I just smiled at all the racket and hoped nobody rained on me as they flew over and I ran in their shadows. I wondered what it was like in the days when passenger pigeons were still alive and their flocks would block out the sun for days because their numbers were so large as they crossed the sky. And now there are none, thanks to people. A few moments later a shot rang out somewhere down across one of the ravines. The woods immediately became silent. Within a few moments, the bells of a church over in Toano started to ring through the woods in the direction from where the birds originally came. I kept going with the only sounds that of a few local birds that live here year around, and the sound of the bells. A few seconds the only sounds were just a couple of crows and sparrows and my footsteps. I got back to the house and listened intently and maybe about a half mile or so across the ravine, I could hear the cacophony of birds again, recovered, back in the groove, calling out to each other and the world, carrying on their journey. My run became a meditation of yin and yang.

Tuesday – Another running morning this time in the cold damp gray overcast of a day between winter storms. I passed by a man unloading his pickup of his hunting gear. About a mile later I passed a woman in her front yard smiling with joy and wonder at a small deer in her front yard. She was holding her hand out to the deer trying to get him to come to her. I thought of a time years ago at Bryce Canyon as I walked along with a young summer ranger intern. He was studying ecology in graduate school. Every time we came upon one of the little ground squirrels that frequent the trails, he would stomp his foot and scare them away. “You don’t want to habituate them to people,” he said. The deer today was already pretty habituated, and getting more so. Every action we take is linked to everything, and our intentions don’t always play out in a way we hope for or even think about. A gesture of felt kindness and wonder may have consequences we are not mindful of – like making a deer more vulnerable as prey.  You really can look into any action, or even a bowl of rice, and see that we are connected to everything in the infinity of time and space. Every why has a why. I kept running. A mile or so later I was in the part of the neighborhood bordering on deep woods. A single shot rang out. I just kept running.

You may be at a point in your life where you want to go out on your own in a private practice and maybe even do some consulting.  Or you may have a passion for something and feel inspired to start a nonprofit supporting the cause. Or you may already have taken one of these steps and want to maintain or grow what you have started. You may find that for you, deciding to make these changes follows the same stages as the transtheoretical model of change – pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance.  The preparation stage is critical.

There are many web resources for persons deciding on whether to go into business or whether to embark on starting a nonprofit. There are also many web resources for those on low budgets as sole proprietors of a counseling practice, and there are also some resources for nonprofit organizations to save money and to help develop the organization. Let’s explore some of these.

Contemplation and Preparation Resources

For Counselors Graduate school teaches you all about how to be a counselor. They don’t teach you about the business aspect. A good resource for counselors is ACA and VCA. Network and talk to therapists you already know in private practice and see what has worked and not worked for them. Again, do your research and preparation.  You can get connected to liability insurance through VCA and ACA. If you are going into private practice, allow time for getting added to insurance panels – it can take months for the process to be completed.  You may have to complete forms and submit information to individual companies. There is CAQH – http://www.caqh.org/ for streamlining the process. You also need a national provider number. Information on this is at https://nppes.cms.hhs.gov/NPPES/Welcome.do

Business Resources for Entrepreneurs – If you have thoughts about going into business for yourself, or if you or your group needs help with business plans and marketing and other issues, check out these resources.  You may also find help at your local government website, including the process for obtaining a business license, or the local chamber of commerce web site. For example, you can find the Williamsburg Chamber resources at http://www.williamsburgcc.com/business-start/ and Hampton Roads at http://www.hamptonroadschamber.com/ .  To find your Virginia local government website, the state has a list of these at http://www.statelocalgov.net/state-va.cfm.  – just scroll down the page for the lists. If you are in a state other than Virginia, you can find listings at http://www.statelocalgov.net/. And you want to check on liability insurance for malpractice and also for property, injury, etc.

  • SCORE – http://www.score.org/ – SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. They have been doing this for nearly fifty years. SCORE is supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and thanks to a network of 11,000+ volunteers, they are able to deliver their services at no charge or at very low cost. They also provide a mentoring program as well as workshops and local volunteers.
  • Small Business Administration – http://www.sba.gov/ – This site has a wealth of information for starting and growing a business.
  • Business One Stop – http://www.bos.virginia.gov/index.shtml – Guide to starting a business in Virginia
  • Enloop for writing a business plan – https://www.enloop.com/

Business Resources for Nonprofits – If you are a 501(c )(3) nonprofit organization, you can get a lot of help from Grass Roots. For starters you can get free website space at Blue Host. You will be able to put up a straight HTML site or use one of the content management systems listed below, plus a whole lot more software. It also includes email, store software, and plug-ins for your content management system, as well as learning management systems.  But there is so much more to Grass Roots. Their website describes the organization as helping “nonprofit organizations succeed, by leveraging technology to accelerate their charitable efforts. When you join Grassroots.org, you join with thousands of nonprofits, volunteers, businesses and donors working together to change the world.”

Action Resources

These are some general tools you can use regardless of the business you are in.

Office Software – The standard office suite is Microsoft Office. It can be costly, and various packages have different software included. For example, Publisher and Access are not included in the Home and Student Office edition. There is a subscription plan for Office 365. What are the low cost or no cost options? Open Source office suites have been around for years.  Open Source means that the software code is open to modification by anyone and is the software is free to download, install and use. That also means, though, that you are pretty much on your own for support. There are communities you can join and ask questions, and the software site typically keeps support, frequently asked questions and support sections. Click on the links for more information about each application. Both Google and Microsoft have online versions of office products.

Online Storage, File Sharing and Collaboration – With these you can write and create projects together and share files with others. You can keep a file private – just for you – or you can share it with individuals you specify, or you can make it open so that anyone can see it. Google and OneDrive have the office software built in. The others are online or “cloud” storage.

Encryption – There are times when for privacy and confidentiality you may want to encrypt files or your entire hard drive. For instance, you may want to keep records in a document or spreadsheet template you create rather than pay for electronic health records software. To keep your documents private, you can store them as encrypted files or you can encrypt your entire drive.

Getting the Word Out – There are lots of options here. You can use MailChimp to set up your own direct electronic mail list or newsletter for your business or your organization. There is a free version, and you can create your own templates if you want. You can set up listservs with Yahoo Groups and Google Groups. SlideShare allows you to embed your PowerPoint presentations on your website or sites like LinkedIn. Twitter has an option that allows you to embed your account feed into your web page so you can easily update information to your site with just a Tweet. Blogger is owned by Google, and you can add newsfeeds and your Facebook feed to it for constant fresh content. You can also monetize it with Google Ads. You can also embed video from your YouTube Channel and slide shows of photos from Picasaweb. The list below includes social media, pod casting, blogging, and other sites for sharing information.  Lastly, don’t forget about press releases. You can find a how-to with examples at http://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-to-write-a-press-release-with-examples/.

One thing to remember about these is that they take time and work. Don’t overdo them or over commit. You can end up spending all your time on your web projects and not have much time for your business or your organization. Have a clear vision of how you want to use them. For social networking sites, be mindful of the boundary between personal and business and what you want kept private. We won’t discuss each of these since many of them change formats and options periodically. Just click the links and explore.

Graphics Software – Photoshop is great tool, but it is also costly, and is now on a subscription basis.

Surveys – You may need surveys for feedback from customers or stakeholders, or you may need it for a research project. Both these products have free versions.

Collaborating Live – These products allow you to collaborate online in various ways – conference calling, videoconferencing, sharing files, instant messaging, etc.  Google Voice allows you to set up an account in which you can embed a gadget on your web page so that people can call you from your site. When someone leaves a voicemail, you can call for it, check it on your Google Voice page, and receive both a text and an email with the message. The text and email use voice recognition to change the vocal into text, and the quality varies depending on the phone connection and the enunciation of the caller.

Audio Recording and Editing and Video Converting and Recording – Software to help you put together audio and video projects for you site, your podcast, or your video channel. Screen recorders enable you to record your computer screen so that you can produce tutorials from your computer.

Space for Fee Websites – There are lots of places you can start your own website besides Facebook. Here are a few. You can still buy your own domain name, like counselingservices.com, and then have a site at one of these servers and point your domain to your free site. If you are using Google Sites, your free URL is sites.google.com/site/counselingservices. Just go to the control panel of the company you bought your domain from (like Blue Host, Fat Cow, Yahoo, GoDaddy and many others) and point your domain name to the URL. The company you bought your domain name from can explain how that is done. It is actually a very simple process.

Content Management Systems and Learning Management Systems – These allow you to have more than one person be responsible for various sections of the site, each with their own log in. They are open source so you would have the responsibility of doing the upgrades and security updates.

Other

If you know of other resources, please feel free to share them. We all get better when we work together.

One of the major factors in how therapy helps is the relationship and the partnership between the counselor and the person getting services.  In many ways therapists are coaches and, like coaches, vary in how they work with people. 

 There are three overall types of coaches. The first is the autocrat, the expert who tells you what to do and sees any questioning as resistance and noncompliance.  Think of Bobby Knight as a model for this. The traditional medical model may follow this style in the hands of persons who think they are more expert on you than you are.  They tell you what to do because they know best and may or may not listen to what you have to say. 

The second style of coach is more laissez faire, there but not giving much feedback or direction.  The person may listen and may listen very well, but that is about it. Decisiveness is not a key part of this style.

The third style is collaborative and teaching.   In coaching, John Wooden was more this style.  He never told his teams to go out and win.  He asked them to prepare and to do their best, and he helped them to find the way to be their best as individuals and as a team.  When we collaborate with each other, we each bring our expertise to the relationship.  You bring the knowledge of you, of what has worked and what has not, and of what you want to change.  It is the therapist’s job to help you define that change and to establish workable achievable goals.  The counselor is there with you, working with you as a unique individual – not as a diagnosis – to help you do your best. There is no resistance.  Resistance happens when the client’s goal and the counselor’s goal are not the same.  In that case, resistance is a normal behavior, and the team – the counselor and the individual – collaborate to get back on track.

A fundamental key in counseling is the therapeutic relationship and the partnership of the counselor and the individual. Collaboration and working as a team can help positive change occur faster and can help sustain that change.

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