SG versus Therapy

I’ve said this briefly before, but I have seen this line crossed so many times now that I decided it needs an entire post. Just to forewarn you, this may turn into a bit of a rant because this is a subject near and dear to me.

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Spiritual guidance (SG) and therapy are NOT the same thing. They are also NOT interchangeable.

Speaking as a guide, I would never attempt to diagnose or treat a mental health issue. Even with my background in counseling, I am not licensed, so this is not within my scope of active practice. If I feel that therapy would benefit the client, I will readily and gladly recommend it. Having opportunities to engage in both SG and therapy can be extremely beneficial; it allows for both mental and spiritual healing with professionals working within their proper boundaries and areas of expertise.

Speaking from the experience of working as a therapist, I get alarmed when I see guides start to act more like therapists. Guides have a unique duty and focus, which is the spiritual well-being of the client. This is not the same as the mental well-being. There are many aspects of spiritual practice that, in a mental health setting, may appear to be signs of pathology. Visions could equal hallucinations. A bond with nature may be seen as delusions of grandeur. I like to use the “harm question” to distinguish the two: is this person’s beliefs or experiences causing harm (of any kind) to themselves or others? If not, SG can continue. If so, I will get other professionals involved promptly.

The other issue with blurring this line is the flip side of the coin: guides who are unable to recognize mental health issues at all. I have seen a self-proclaimed guide completely miss what to me were obvious signs of depression in a client, and instead they chastised the client almost relentlessly for being “unmotivated.” The client was called lazy, insubordinate, childish, etc. The “guide” threatened to abandon the client and stop communicating with them if they didn’t do as they were advised.

This is not good therapy or spiritual guidance. Honestly, this isn’t even respectful. This is bullying. Rather than punishing a client for not following instructions (which, by the way, you shouldn’t be spending your time as a guide doing, anyway), a guide would seek to understand the roadblocks that the client is putting up. A good therapist does this as well. There is always a reason for blockages, and they are rarely there just because the client is “lazy.” Punishing the client by fussing at them or threatening to basically abandon them is not going to get you to the reason. It only alienates the client or leads to dependency with the client constantly trying to please the guide. The client in this example should have been referred to a therapist to address the depression symptoms.

I could probably go on forever with this post, but those are some of the bigger issues I’ve seen when two different practices/approaches collide in ways that they shouldn’t.

Can you think of other ways that these lines could be blurred, and/or how to prevent this from happening?

Compassion Fatigue

First…yes, this is a real thing.

There is such a state where you have been giving so much and caring so much that you get physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually tired of it. We even have a more technical name for it: Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS).

Let me make this clear: This does not mean that you are a horrible person.

What it does mean, in basic terms, is that you have been giving more love and positive light than you have been receiving. If you are constantly hit with negative or stressful images, words, situations, and people, then it makes perfect sense that it will eventually take a toll. So, if you are a news buff who doesn’t agree with current government trends who is also trying to take care of your mother (who has dementia) while also volunteering for an animal shelter…yeah, you’re probably going to have STS at some point.

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You’re going to get tired. You’re going to find yourself not caring as much and then feel guilty for not caring as much. You will suddenly find yourself having a shorter fuse, losing or gaining weight, and maybe feeling less assured that the world is not a giant rock of despair. Yes, this is normal…it means you care.

So, being in the midst of STS setup situations myself, I started creating a routine “care schedule” for myself. Some of these really basic items include:

  • Going for a walk, or spending time in nature.
  • In lieu of the first one, taking a shower and leaving the house at least once a day (even if it’s just to sit at a park or get a coffee)
  • Not watching the news 24/7. Don’t get me wrong, I keep up with it in general, but I don’t watch any 24 hour news channels.
  • Meditating. This one can be life changing.
  • Having a couple of guilty pleasures. For me, it’s Pokemon Go (yep, I’m one of 10 people that still plays it), and two music groups I’m supposedly too old to like (BTS and 5 Seconds of Summer…don’t go judging me, lol). Also, little wonder why I get along with kids/young people so well…
  • Doing some kind of spiritual work for myself or others. This doesn’t seem to drain me at all, and I believe it is because when I’m doing anything spiritual, I am pulling from the overflow of Spirit/the Universe, and not my own reserves.

Right now, it can be a pretty difficult time for a lot of people, especially in my generation. Our parents are getting older, so we may be starting to take on caregiving roles. We have an absurd amount of financial instability thanks to everything from student loans to low wages. The political atmosphere here in the States (regardless of what side you’re on) is just…annoying as hell, to put it extremely lightly. Please take care of yourselves during this time. Also, feel free to give other ideas (either here or on your own blogs) on how you battle STS.

If you do a post about this subject, link it in the comments section!

Also, check out my previous post “To The Strong Ones” that also touches on this subject.

 

 

To The Strong Ones

Note: This came to me after reading a message on a Facebook post, and it comes on the heels of two great losses in the entertainment world. That said, this may be triggering for some. Please look upon yourself with compassion as you read it. You are not alone. If you need to talk to someone, please call 1-800-273-8255 (United States). They are available 24/7. 

Hi there.

Yes, you. I see you, by the way. I know you think that no one sees you, but I do. I see you.

I see you wearing multiple hats. I see you being the pillars of strength for your families, your friends, your communities, your countries. I see you wiping the tears of everyone around you, telling them to be strong and face each day with their heads high…you know, like you always do. I see you being the listening ears, the “make it all betters,” the mom and dad sometimes, the dad and mom sometimes, the compassionate daughter, the faithful son…

The Strong One.

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I also see you when you’re alone. I see the tears. I see the frustration. I see the tiny spark of sadness when you don’t get a chance to voice your building anxiety, so you just swallow it and smile. I see the moments that you stare off into nothing, wishing that you could possibly just go to sleep…and sleep…and sleep…and sleep.

I see all of that.

Please know that so many do love you. Do not be afraid to be vulnerable. Even the strongest pillars need support at times, especially when they are carrying the most weight. Do not be afraid to cry, to admit that you have moments of weakness. Those who love you will understand. And most importantly…please don’t feel as if you are all alone. You are not. I see and hear you, and so will those who love you. Reach out.

For those who have a Strong One in their lives, reach back. You may save that person.

I love you all so much.

 

Sincerely,

The Divine/God/Allah/Source/Love/Spirit/Whatever you feel comfortable calling me

 

Be Still

This was inspired by a conversation I had with my grandfather and a video I posted on my Instagram (@sparcguidance) about the same subject.

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I am definitely one of those people who feels like they must always be doing something. If I’m not working, I feel like I’m wasting time and energy. I hate if I oversleep, even if I was up late the night before. Not seeing daily progress makes me antsy. Even if I try to have a PJ Day (you know, staying in your pajamas for the entire day), I feel guilty and stagnant.

As I vented all of these things to my grandfather, he calmly replied, “To me, it sounds like you need to just slow down for a moment. Everyone is always in a hurry to do something. When you get to my age, you’ll wish you sat still more often.”

At first, this made no sense to me. Are you kidding? This is the time to do all of the running, because I certainly don’t want to be trying to “hustle” in my 80’s. Then I thought about it. When we speed ahead, we tend to miss the signs. We miss the signals that the universe is trying to give us. I realized that I had missed a lot of previous signs to slow down. Now, I was in a place where I had no choice but to slow down because nothing was working out the way I wanted it to. Possibly more important, I was so busy trying to race ahead that I was missing a lot of beautiful things along the way. That was what I think my grandfather was really getting at. I wasn’t enjoying the scenery.

So, as we embark on the summer kick-off, take time out to enjoy the season. Literally stop and smell the roses (unless you have allergies like me…then please don’t). Go by the beach to catch the sunrise or sunset. Eat some summer fruit during your break. Above all, take time to be still. We are always running, coming, and going. Surely we can afford a few minutes (or even seconds) to take a breath and be still, can’t we?

Parents, We Need You.

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First, yes, it’s been awhile. A lot has been going on over here, including some big decisions that will probably be announced in the June site update.

A recent situation has caused me to take a hard look at the idea of “parent buy-in.” It’s a bit of a buzzword/concept in my field, and it centers around the goal of getting the family invested in our therapy work. Too often, I see parents who simply hand their child/children off to the therapist/interventionist/specialist and basically say, “Here, fix them.”

The truth, parents and guardians, is that we cannot “fix” your child. First of all, many of us don’t really like the idea of “fixing” anyone. It implies that the individual is broken, inferior, or not up to some invisible set of societal standards. Second, we are in your home/community or you are in our office a few hours a week.

In order for your son or daughter to become the best that they can be, they need YOU.

In order for us to be able to find those sparks in your son or daughter, we need YOU.

I always try to tell families at the very beginning that this is a team effort, and everyone must be invested in it. The clients I worked with who blossomed the most were the ones who had the support and follow-through from their parents/guardians, their siblings, and even extended family. The families who were sponges, hungry for information, skills, and concrete examples…these were the cases that led to more fulfilled lives. No, the child didn’t get “fixed.” The child got love and acceptance, and that made them work at becoming more confident, loving, and ready. All children want to receive acceptance and praise from their parents/loved ones, I truly believe that.

When the families meet us at the table, ready to make the world of their family unit a better place, amazing things happen. I’ve seen it over and over again.

I have a saying when meeting families: “My end goal is to essentially be fired because you don’t need me anymore.” I don’t want your family to become dependent on me or my team. I want you to apply learned skills and build relationship bonds so that you don’t need my “expertise” anymore.

Us professionals want to see the child AND the family unit flourish and thrive independent of any services or interventions.

This needs to be everyone’s goal.

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Autism and Employment

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WebMD released an article this week about the expectations and experiences of work for  adults on the autism spectrum. While the study has not been peer-reviewed yet, it does appear to offer a solid look at what the office environment feels like for a population who is (unfortunately) still trying to get their foot through the door.

I appreciate the fact that one of the biggest takeaways from this article for me was the fact that autistic adults were not completely sold on the idea of formally training employees about autism. This was mostly because they did not want to be singled out. This was also listed as the reason that they were hesitant about having a different rate of pay. While my trainings have been with non-profit volunteer teams who regularly interact with autistic individuals or families affected by autism, I can understand the hesitation of having an “autism training” at a for-profit company. It’s something for me to think about, for sure.

It is an interesting article overall, and the findings were presented this past Wednesday at the International Society for Autism Research’s annual meeting. The direct article link is below.

https://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/news/20180509/what-helps-adults-with-autism-get-and-keep-a-job#1

Being Aware/Autism Awareness Month

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Don’t worry, I didn’t miss the fact that April is Autism Awareness Month. Now that I’m settled, I wanted to give my own take on the month.

I saw this quote a few days ago, and it stuck with me. I’ve experienced this recently myself, and it does make you laugh when people think that they know you and actually don’t have a clue.

This was one of the first lessons I learned working with special needs children, particularly those on the autism spectrum. I had to learn that a vast majority of my clients knew exactly what they needed; the problem was that us “experts” weren’t listening. We were assuming that we knew what they needed. So naturally, we were met with resistance. For some of these so-called experts, the solution to that resistance is to push back harder, to literally break the spirit of the client so that they conform. Even in the beginning, I had an issue with this.

Instead, I chose to drop into the client’s world. I wanted to see how they saw things. While I can probably never know exactly how the world is to them, this simple state of being made me more aware of their awareness. The repeated actions aren’t mindless, but an attempt to regulate (same as how neurotypicals have quirks like biting our nails when nervous…except here you’re nervous most of the time). In doing this, I also quickly learned to never talk about them (in a negative way, especially) within earshot, because just like anyone else, they can tell if you’re talking about them. They may not be able to verbally tell you, but trust me, it will come out in some way. I’ve had to remind many parents and peers about this.

Finally, having said all of that…they can tell you more about themselves that I ever could. In these final days of April, I urge you to follow an autistic individual’s blog, Instagram, Tumblr, etc. You will see, hear, and feel the struggles and triumphs from those who live it, rather than those who work with them. I’ve included a few I follow that are awesome people (and yes, the number of women listed was kind of on purpose). If you are on the spectrum and have a social media presence (or know someone who does), leave your links in the comments as well. I’m going to try and highlight more of your voices going forward!

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/astimmypuzzlepiece/

https://www.instagram.com/girlonthespectrum/

 

Blogs/Sites:

https://davidsnape.me

https://neurodivergentrebel.com

Settling In

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*Pretty accurate depiction of what the view was like for most of my road trip, give or take a few highway lanes. 

Sorry for the lack of updates! My main focus has been this move from CA to FL, which finally happened late last week. After dwindling my belongings down to whatever fits inside a Mazda 3, driving a huge chunk of I-10, and trying to adjust to the multiple time zones I had just rode/driven through, I am finally feeling a bit more centered.

I stumbled upon this article on girls with autism that I wanted to share. I find it interesting because it is from Australia, and they have developed a separate set of guidelines for diagnosing girls/women on the autism spectrum. Having had autistic girls as clients in the past, their guidelines look pretty spot on to me.

I do believe that it’ll take a special set of guidelines to diagnose girls and women, and I think this will go double for minority girls and women who already tend to get the short end of the diagnostic stick. In any case, it’s a good, quick read and a piece that I think practitioners here in the States should take note of.

Girls with autism flying under the radar

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-24/when-mother-and-daughter-are-both-on-autism-spectrum/9662966

Video: Autism in the Workplace

This is a video from CBS about some of the programs major companies like Microsoft and SAP are using to invite and grow autistic talent to them. I attended part of  last year’s Autism at Work conference mentioned in the video, and it was a very inspiring and informative experience. Here’s my blog post about that experience.

Thanks to @beautmindstalk for posting this, and for the follow!

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-growing-acceptance-of-autism-in-the-workplace/

Tuesday Thoughts

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I think Tuesday posts are going to be the days where all of my not-quite-realized post ideas are going to go. So, without further adieu…

  • Reading the thoughts of a young adult on the spectrum (via Facebook) has been one of the biggest eye openers for me, because he brings up situations and viewpoints that I never conceived of.
  • The autism world with regards to therapeutic approaches is becoming increasingly marginalized. It’s like being in a circle surrounded by base camps…and you are either not invited to them, or you don’t quite agree with them. Interesting position to be in…and a great launching space to create your own base camp.
  • A parent told me that she was confused when someone asked her what her son’s “special gift” was. She shrugged and replied, “I told her that I didn’t know what it was or what she meant.” I glanced at him, looked back at her, and thought, “Spatial intelligence.” I don’t really see them as gifts, though.
  • I follow several families on the @sparcguidance on Instagram. They are all composed of pure awesome, and I love that they are sharing their journeys. It’s not easy and not for everyone, but I appreciate it.
  • A 2-minute questionnaire has been developed by researchers at Rutgers University that could identify autism in children much younger than the average age of around 5 years old. You can read more about the questionnaire here and here. This is fascinating, especially since it appeared accurate across different socioeconomic groups. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that the questions are in layman’s terms, as opposed to overly academic or analytic jargon.
  • Finally, a multiple intelligence note: As I’ve mentioned in my post on spatial intelligence, I’ve noticed that quite a few of my clients have been above average or exceptional in this category, regardless of sex, race, etc. It is not the easiest intelligence to spot, though. So here is a tip for parents: Someone with high spatial intelligence is often good at building, but they may be also really good at directions and orientating themselves to areas. They are really good at games that focus on spatial strategy (like Blockus or Tetris-like games), and can probably help with putting things together, be it a Lego set or that new chair for the living room. The key to remember in any of the intelligences, though, is that the person enjoys it. If they love it and are good at it, you have potentially found their purpose.

Programing Note: We’re on the lookout for guest bloggers, so please drop us a line at sparcguidance@gmail.com if you want to write something about autism, multiple intelligence, life purpose, etc.  We’re also working on our first workshop on multiple intelligence and uncovering them! We will give more information once everything is finalized, but we are definitely excited about it!

Have a great week!