Tuesday, May 17, 2016

5 Ways Being a Therapist Has Impacted My Parenting

I get asked by a lot of people, "What exactly do you do?" Some of these questions are from family members, friends, etc. So this post is sort of a 2 for 1 deal. I work at an agency that provides substance abuse and mental health services. I have experience as both a substance abuse counselor and a mental health therapist so I am able to see clients who struggle with one or the other, or both. I am licensed in the state of Iowa to practice mental health therapy and work with children, adolescents, adults and families. Areas of interest for me are without a doubt substance abuse and trauma. I am going to be participating in a training in the Fall for EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)- a type of therapy practice/tool effective for trauma but also so much more! I am SO SO excited for this opportunity as it has been on my professional development goal list for a long time now.  I absolutely love what I do and know that the work I do is sacred and has fully changed me. 

Now, onto the next part. The title of this post is how being in this field has impacted my parenting. Here, I will talk about just a few ways I've noticed that my professional life gets mixed in with my personal life with a little humor and seriousness. So here goes! 

1.) My kids are really in touch with their feelings
Both my girls can identify feelings and while coping with them is always a work in progress, they sure can identify and label feelings like noone's business. At 3 years old, Sophia was telling me, "You're angry mom, take a deep breath."  They also can correct me if I label their feelings wrong, for example, I will identify a feeling for Sophia and she will correct me by saying, "I'm not angry I'm sad." On Sophia's first day of Kindergarten, she told me, "Mommy, I feel scared and my tummy feels scared too." *cue heart melting*

2.) Going into "therapist" mode
I tend to go into a therapist mode with my kids or even family members. My mom and sister have joked between them, that I'm in "therapist mode." Active listening, paraphrasing/summarizing, validating, observing and reflecting feelings are key components to a therapy session but are also skills that I use in my everyday life with the people I love! Sorry kids, you probably won't really enjoy this part as much when you're teenagers! 

3.) Overanalyzing
On the other side, because I am knowledgeable of different mental health struggles people face everyday, I can tend to overanalyze situations/people. If Sophia has challenging behaviors, I tend to read too much into them and my worrying goes into overdrive- maybe she has social anxiety? Selective mutism? Schizophrenia? (An exaggeration but hopefully you get my drift.) I am also more attentive and alert to possible developmental delays- which isn't always a good thing because if I'm not conscious about it, it can overwhelm me. When I'm watching a movie, I am really analyzing and diagnosing. I can't really enjoy movies or shows anymore because of this. And it also annoys my husband. =)

4.) Gratitude
I hold onto my kids extra tight at night when I come home. I soak up their hugs, kisses and I love you's a little more now. I practice gratitude every. single. day that I wake up and get to live another day on this earth. I know without a doubt, being in this field has impacted my whole self and it has shown me how quickly things can be taken away with one single decision. One choice is all it takes. When you have clients sitting on the other side of your desk, who struggle to get their basic needs met or they're in the fight of their lives to regain custody of their children, it changes you. 

5.) Enjoy the small things
Goes along with practicing gratitude but I know that those "small things" like early wake up calls from Saidey or weekends spent in pajamas and watching movies, are the moments that make up this imperfect life of mine. I treasure those small moments and take a minute to close my eyes and soak it all in. 

So, there you have it! 5 ways that being a therapist has impacted my parenting and life in general. Has the work you do professionally changed you personally?