With the holidays just around the corner, you may be feeling you could use a bit of counseling. But what exactly does that mean? If you're new to the idea, it can be overwhelming, which is why we invited our friend Stacy Kinzler to tell us a bit more about what to expect from therapy and who can benefit from it (spoiler alert: everyone). And...she's also sharing the story behind our recent "Peace Like a River" T-shirt collab with her. 

Tell us a little bit about your practice. How long have you been in the field?  I am a Licensed Associate Counselor (LAC) based in North Little Rock, Arkansas. I have been working in private practice for three years. I started my private practice right out of graduate school, and built it from the ground up. It was a huge leap of faith that I am so thankful I took! I have been able to be a mom first and build my business around that schedule. I started with a few clients a week, and it has grown into a thriving practice. 

What types of counseling do you offer? I have the most dedicated clients who work hard towards building the healthiest version of their own life. I help them get there by using Interpersonal Process in Therapy, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). I love interpersonal process because it allows me to use interactions that take place during therapy to promote change, offer insight, pinpoint faulty thinking, and to create a corrective emotional experience for the client. I incorporate CBT because it provides solid techniques that clients are able to take home with them and implement in their everyday lives. For example, mindfulness, gratitude journals, and reframing negative situations into positive ones all fall under CBT. I am also a licensed yoga instructor (RYT200), and use breathing techniques and yoga postures with clients when it is appropriate. I have found that my kid/tween clients are all in on incorporating yoga into their sessions! 

Sometimes people have the mindset that counseling is only for those who have experienced trauma or have gone through a difficult situation. Who do you feel can benefit from counseling? I truly believe that EVERYONE can benefit from counseling! I know that doesn't come as a surprise from someone in the mental health world, but I really do believe it. Sometimes when we wait until mental health issues arrive to make the first appointment, we have waited just a little too long. The great thing about therapy is that when you do the work, you are unearthing tiny little cracks in the foundation; a faulty thought here, a broken coping mechanism there. We all have those kinds of things because we are all human! If we do the work to try to heal and move forward from them, it can prevent us from getting to a point where we aren't functioning like we want to.  

I see clients all the time make realizations in counseling just by talking about something, and they say, "I never realized that until just this moment!" I, as a therapist, had nothing to do with the breakthrough other than being a person willing to listen and hold space for someone while they do the hard work. It is truly a breathtaking job—to see another person progress on their counseling journey. 

Aside from that, I would also say anyone who has found themselves in a rut, who is irritable more than usual, who doesn't feel like him or herself, or feels depressed, anxious, out of sorts, and frustrated can most definitely benefit from counseling.  

stacykinzler_quote2

So, with that being said, are there certain stages or periods when you feel like it can be more beneficial? I believe counseling is most beneficial when the client is truly ready to do the work, and really wants to experience a change of some sort. I think it's good to remember that participating in therapy isn't necessarily easy, but it is so rewarding. You have to be ready and willing to take a look at yourself and your behaviors, and how those factor into current circumstances. I first reached out for counseling myself when I became a mom. I remember feeling like I had mountains in front of me, and I wasn't quite sure how to get to the other side of them. Was I supposed to go around them? Or just hike to the top and down the other side?? I think these kinds of experiences can happen at any stage of life —childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and late adulthood. 

If someone who is reading this is new to the idea of therapy, tell us what they can expect in terms of a visit and the number of sessions they might have. My idea of ideal therapy goes something like this: You've filled out your paperwork that gives the therapist an idea of what is going on in your life that made you want to reach out for counseling. You might be a bit nervous at the beginning of the session, because let's be honest, you're sitting down with a stranger to talk about the intricacies of your life!! But, hopefully, as the session goes on, you start to feel more comfortable, like this person gets you. That relationship starts to build, and you begin to trust your therapist.  He or she isn't full of, "you should be doing this," or "you need to be doing that." Your therapist listens, offers insight on situations, and possibly a new perspective, is empathetic to what you're experiencing, and offers new tools in how to cope and manage. Your therapist helps you remember the ways that you've overcome struggles in the past, and helps you implement similar strategies in the current situation. It should be an empowering, healing, and unique experience, and a relationship that feels very different from your relationships outside of counseling. The reason it should feel different is because it should be safe enough for you to say all the things you never could say out loud to anyone, still be accepted, and free to find the answers that are already within you. As far as how many sessions it takes to accomplish this, well that varies. For some, it's six sessions, for others, therapy can last months.  

milkandhoneytees_peacelikeariver

You worked with Milk and Honey Tees to create the "Peace Like a River" shirt. Tell us what this means to you. What I love about that song is that it has so many different meanings depending on who it is that you're talking to. It originally was an African American spiritual, and the lyrics carry so much meaning. I told my friend about what was going to be on the shirt, and she immediately started singing the song and doing the hand motions that she learned from her Southern Baptist upbringing. 

For me, I used to listen to that song with my daughter on a children's album when she was very small. It was that same period of time when I felt like I had mountains in front of me. We would listen and I remember thinking, I want to have peace like a river. I SHOULD have peace like a river, but I don't. After getting to a point of no longer wanting to feel that way, I reached out for counseling. It was such a great experience for me—so great that I went back to school to become a therapist myself. When I hear that song now, I am instantly taken back to that place, but the difference is now, I'm on the other side of that mountain, and I have learned so much about myself. I have new tools, new coping skills, and a new thought process. Peace like a river doesn't come easily, but it is always there for you.

stacykinzler_quote3

Are there any resources you want to share for someone who wants to learn more about therapy in general? The most important thing I want to share is what makes counseling successful. Research has shown that when a client is motivated, that is the number one factor in predicting successful outcomes in therapy. Right behind that is the therapeutic relationship. That means you need to like your therapist. It is important that you are able to open up and trust who you are working with. If you don't, there is nothing wrong with going to find someone you are comfortable with. 

How can someone find or connect with a counselor? One great resource across the country is www.psychologytoday.com. It is a directory of therapists in your area that includes a bio, headshot, therapeutic modality, insurances accepted, age range for clients, and disorders treated by the therapist. Another great way to find a therapist is to start talking to people. Ask a close friend, family member, or doctor if they know or have a therapist they like and trust. This can help you shorten the process of trying to find a therapist you really connect with—which is one of the most important aspects of successful therapy.

Thanks so much to Stacy for sharing this important info. Learn more about her and her practice along with how to contact her at stacykinzlertherapy.com. You can also follow her on Instagram (@stacykinzlertherapy).