WHAT IS IT?
The American Counseling Association (2017) presented counseling as “a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals.” Many foster youth have had copious experiences with counselors based on state regulations and requirements. Lewis (2011) speaks in depth about issues that exist between counselors, parents, and foster parents causing many youths to have negative opinions about counseling and counselors. These issues exist because of poor counseling techniques that do not strive for parents and foster parents to work together for the best interest of the youth. (Lewis 2011) However, this does not entirely discredit the counseling discipline. Counseling methods that are properly conducted do yield successful results for participants. The purpose of this discipline is to introduce methods to cope with and move past traumatic emotional experiences that remain a burden in your life.
WHY USE IT?
It is important that you make sure you have completed the fears and traumas discipline before beginning counseling. Fears & Traumas and Counseling are interrelated disciplines that have broken up the process of managing emotional stresses and the implications this has on your daily life. By acknowledging traumas in your past and allowing yourself to respond emotionally, you open the opportunity to move beyond these events and allow yourself the ability to grow into the beautiful person you are. If you roll your ankle, you go to the doctor and make sure to follow medical protocol so that it heals and it doesn't cause you problems in the future. Similarly, when you sustain an emotional injury, you use counseling to heal the injury and as a preventative measure for future health-care encounters. (Schilling, Fortin, & Forkey, 2015)
If you have not already, we highly encourage you to reach out to a trusted mentor so that you can tackle this discipline alongside a support system. To the right, we have provided resources where you can reach out to professional mentors. Once you have allowed yourself to emotionally respond to traumas you have identified in your life, you can then begin the healing process.
HOW TO USE IT?
There is not a universal process to overcome emotional trauma that perfectly fits everyone. Instead, there are relevant overarching topics that apply to the way individuals can handle most traumas. You can seek different forms of professional counseling including family, group or individual therapy, but in this discipline, we are going to focus specifically on practices and mechanisms that you can implement in your own life. (GoodTherapy.org, 2015)
In Fears & Traumas, we emphasized the importance of allowing yourself to emotionally respond to the traumas that you have been carrying with you. This step is incredibly important because it gives you the opportunity to reflect and understand so that you can have the power to reach a point of closure and move beyond these traumas. However, it is just as important to make sure you do not dwell on the emotional pain caused by these events. For example, it may take a long time for you to fully acknowledge all the emotions surrounding an event, but you should not intentionally brood over emotions surrounding these events to further distress or emotionally upset yourself. (Mercola, 2013) This behavior is dangerous and counterintuitive to the goal to reach emotional security and closure.
Below is a compiled list of strategies from Winch (2014), Whitbourne (2013), and Mercola (2013) to work through emotional stresses and traumatic burdens you are facing in your life. This compiled list is not meant to be practiced in a linear order, but to be used simultaneously to grow beyond the trauma. Some topics may be more difficult to master than others, and no one person will have the same experience as their peers. Instead, practice these strategies regularly to improve your emotional health and work toward your brighter future.
Rejection is oftentimes incredibly painful and it comes in many forms. Holding onto rejection, however, can be even more destructive than the act itself. It is important to build up your self-worth by focusing on your strengths when struggling with rejection. Use this opportunity to seek out supportive and loving people in your life. Rejection is painful, but it does not define you. Don’t give it the power to question your worth. Remember, you are valuable.
Actively practice self-love. For some, positive affirmations may be difficult at first, so start with self-affirmations. For instance, focus on the acts you do that are positive such as having a strong work ethic or attention to detail. Eventually, you will work up to practicing positive affirmations that include “I am kind” and “I am worthy.” At first, this might seem inconsequential, but over time, you will gain a stronger sense of self-worth, self-love and self-respect.
It has been proven that physical health and emotional health are interdependent. To become emotionally healthy, it is important to consider your amount of exercise and the type of food you eat. It might seem trivial, but if you are constantly eating junk food and maintain a sedentary lifestyle, you will struggle when working on your emotional heath.
If there are toxic relationships in your life that are hindering your emotional growth, it is important to remove yourself from these relationships. On the other end of the spectrum, loneliness and isolation can cause depression. Instead, connect and develop relationships with loving and supportive individuals that encourage you on your best days and your worst.
Failure incurs a similar pain to rejection. You should never focus on your lack of ability, place blame on yourself, or feel helpless after failure however. Instead consider things you can improve on, but most importantly focus on trying again because you can succeed! Do not let failure weaken your self-worth!
Lingering guilt can often cripple you and hinder your daily activities. If you feel you have wronged someone, it is important to address the situation and genuinely apologize for your actions. Regardless of the response you receive, you must then forgive yourself so that you can be free from the burden of guilt.
Practice mindfulness. When you emotionally respond to daily situations, learn to separate past emotions from current emotions. By paying attention to emotional pain as it arises, you practice awareness and prevent emotional wounds from festering into something larger.
This discipline is not a substitute for professional counseling, therapy or advice. It is meant to provide guidelines to manage emotional stress and traumas in daily application, but it is highly suggested that you reach out to a professional or a trusted mentor. RLA is a support system and resource as you face aging out of the foster care system so that you do not have to tackle this transition alone!
RemovingtheChains is a live chat support site offering hope, love and encouragement to victimized people globally. Use of the site is always free and open 24/7. RemovingChains.org is a light on a hill for anyone suffering in darkness and silence, alone or in fear. They know it is possible to remove the chains, and they will not stand by while you do so alone
American Counseling Association. (2017). 20/20: Consensus Definition of Counseling. Retrieved from https://www.counseling.org/knowledge-center/20-20-a-vision-for-the-future-of-counseling/consensus-definition-of-counseling
GoodTherapy.org. (2015, July 3). Emotional Abuse. Retrieved from http://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/emotional-abuse
Lewis, C. (2011). Providing Therapy to Children and Families in Foster Care: A Systematic-Relational Approach. Family Process, 50, 436–452.
Mercola, J. (2013, August 15). 5 Tips for Recovering from Emotional Pain. Retrieved from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/08/15/emotional-pain-recovery-tips.aspx
Schilling, S., Fortin, K., & Forkey, H. (2015). Medical Management and Trauma-Informed Care for Children in Foster Care. Current Problem Pediatric Health Care, 45, 298–305.
Whitbourne, S. K. (2013, October 8). 7 Practical Strategies to Overcome Emotional Pain. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201310/7-practical-strategies-overcome-emotional-pain
Winch, G. (2014, December 2). 5 Steps to Better Emotional Hygiene. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201412/5-steps-better-emotional-hygiene
A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.”