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L-R: Amy Armanious, Spiritual Director, and Rachel Fagan, Life Coach

"It was scary to move out of my comfort zone into this new career . . ."

By Amy Armanious, a Samaritan Spiritual Director

 

I’m Amy Armanious, and I’m a new spiritual director for Samaritan. I’m excited to tell you more about myself and about spiritual direction.

I’ve been a nurse for 35 years and I have felt blessed with my career. Along the way, in 2007, I became a faith community nurse at the Sewickley Presbyterian Church. While there I learned about spiritual direction and began reading and researching more about it. I started seeing a spiritual director and was amazed at how it led me to soar spiritually.

Over time, I wanted others to experience what I had experienced. It felt as though God was tugging on my heart to become a spiritual director. So, I entered a program in spiritual direction training with Pneuma Institute in Pittsburgh. That two-year program changed my life. I was embarking on a path God wanted me to walk. I’m forever grateful that I took the plunge and became a spiritual director. It was scary to move out of my comfort zone into this new career, but I knew God was leading me and that it would be a great experience.

So, what does a spiritual director do?

 

A spiritual director is a companion for people who want to grow in their spiritual lives. A director guides them to forge a deeper awareness of God’s presence and nurture a stronger relationship with God.

 

The sacred time spent in spiritual direction allows people to understand their spiritual needs and engage in a holy conversation with God. In my work as a spiritual director, I offer presence and prayer to our clients.

We use a lot of different tools in spiritual direction: scripture, art, music, silence, reflections from spiritual journals, books, experiences, and just everyday events from life. Our sessions are always confidential and create a safe space for sharing closely held thoughts, feelings, and prayers, regardless of what they are. We offer general questions for self-exploration and discovery of how to nurture a deeper relationship with God. Our focus is on spiritual health and healing, and we are trained to do that with people no matter what their backgrounds are.

 

I have experience in working with people of all faith traditions. Generally, we meet for 90 minutes every four or six weeks. I hope you’ll consider contacting Samaritan at 888.200.9746 and ask to be connected with me to begin your journey of spiritual growth.

To learn more about spiritual direction, DOWNLOAD the brochure or VISIT THIS PAGE on our site.

"Sometimes I just have a gut feeling about what question needs to be asked . . ."

By Rachel Fagan, Samaritan's Life Coach

 

One of the reasons that I was drawn to Samaritan, long before the seed of becoming a coach myself was planted in my heart, was the fact that the organization offers spiritual-integration in client sessions. I thought it was a brilliant approach to support back then, and I believe that even more now that I’m actually providing that kind of support with my life coaching clients.

 

At Samaritan, we believe that each person is the integration of mind, body, and spirit, and when a client’s spirituality within their belief system is intentionally honored and integrated into their sessions, psychotherapy and coaching can be even more effective.

Samaritan therapists and coaches are trained to understand different religious and philosophical perspectives so that we can help people of all different faith and/or beliefs in ways that respect and integrate their beliefs and experiences into their support sessions, if that is their preference. We are committed to meeting clients where they are to offer support best suited to their needs and preferences, and ultimately it is the client who determines our approach.

 

Not everyone opts-in for spiritual-integration, and for those who do opt-in, each person’s spiritual integration looks different. For my clients, it very much depends on what the client has shared with me about their spiritual beliefs and practices, their goals, and what’s getting in the way of them achieving their goals. It is not something I plan for, but rather intuitively embrace as it comes up in the session, often when we are tapping into the client’s core values and beliefs to create goals and plans that are in alignment with said values and beliefs.

 

Sometimes I refer to scripture. Other times it’s poetry, music, art, metaphors, or books. Sometimes I just have a gut feeling about what question needs to be asked to bring forth an “aha moment” within the client. (I’ve had more than a few instances where even I wonder how I knew to ask a particular question.)

 

Such was the case for my client Sam, who has graciously allowed me to share her story. Sam is one of the most goal-oriented, plan executing, and driven people that I have ever met, so when she came to me for life coaching, I knew that whatever we would be working on would require a deep dive within herself. Thankfully, she was up for the challenge (and so was I).

 

Her vision was crystal clear and well-defined. She had a plan, and the goal was in sight, but it was a big one, and it was going to take some serious buckling down to finish. The territory was new, and as with almost everyone who steps out into the unfamiliar, her limiting beliefs were creeping in. There was fear. There was doubt, and with fear and doubt, there is often an excuse or two. There were maybe a few tears, but there was also this glimmer of faith and trust and excitement that was bubbling inside her.

 

I reminded her of what she told me was her mission in life: to glorify God in all that she does. I shared a quote from one of my favorite authors, Mark Batterson. Then, I took a deep breath (ok yes, sometimes even I’m a little nervous to ask the big bold questions) and asked her the one question that I felt had the potential to neutralize her hesitations so that she could truly discern her next moves.

 

Here's what she had to say about the experience:

 

“For me, when working with a coach, it is critical that they can understand and be intentional about my faith stance and incorporate that into our coaching. My mission statement for my life is to glorify God in all that I do, and so that is why it is so important to me that any coaching that I receive is centered around Biblical truths. This is one of the reasons that I chose to work with Rachel as she is able to give me Christ centered feedback and coaching that aligns with my faith. Within just one or two sessions with her, Rachel was able to help me overcome some things that have been holding me back and truly gave me some feedback that was path altering, all based on Biblical truths that triggered me to prayerfully and thoughtfully look at things in a new way. She's recommended books for me that also align with my mission and have pushed me to becoming not better just for myself, but a better servant of God in my business as well as in my personal life.” ~Sam B.

 

It is worth noting that I don’t dive this deep with all of my clients who desire spiritual integration, and rarely does it happen right away. We often will need to start our work with clarifying the vision and plan of action. As mentioned earlier, I meet my clients where they are and build from there.

 

I have to say, it is truly an honor to be able to work with people in this capacity. I have had the opportunity to witness some of the most incredible and beautiful moments with my clients, and I’m forever grateful to them for trusting me to support them.

 

If you or someone you know is interested in life coaching, I invite you to schedule a free 30-minute discovery call. Call the Samaritan office at 888.200.9746 and ask to be connected with me for more information!

To learn more,  DOWNLOAD  coaching brochure or VISIT THIS PAGE.

Caring for Others and Self Are Key during a Crisis

By Jennifer Edmonds, Licensed Professional Counselor


According to Samaritan therapist, Jennifer Edmonds, recent conversations she's had have shed light on some of the most common stressors with which people are struggling. She offers strategies that not only her clients, but all of us can benefit from.

 
"People are exposed to the relentless "gloom and doom" messages through the news and social media. They're scared because of misinformation and uncertainty. Parents are feeling the pressure of being mentally strong for their children," said Jennifer. "Here are some key ways to cope and stay healthy mentally, physically, and spiritually:

 

  • Create a structured schedule for children to ensure stability. They will benefit from a balance of school work, relaxation, meal times, and sleep time.

  • Catch up on home projects that you haven't had time for.

  •  Put your creativity to use by starting a new hobby, or picking up on an old one.

  • Build puzzles, and play board/video games with your family--a great way to bond!

  • Get outdoors and get some vitamin D. Do some spring cleaning in the yard.

  • Take advantage of technology by watching church services, bible studies, and prayer meetings online or on television.

  • Enrich your prayer life, and be consistent. Prayer works!

  • Be charitable. Send money to a food bank. Check in on elderly neighbors or relatives (taking health and safety precautions) to make sure they have food, supplies, and medicine.

  • Use deep breathing, visualization, meditation, yoga, and other relaxation tools.

 

Enjoy the time with your loved ones at home; don't take the moments for granted. We all need to be aware of how precious life is, slowing down and embracing the moment.

Humility

Licensed Professional Counselor, Lynda Bradley, shares on humility

To become a counselor, a therapist, a helping professional, one must transcend self and take on a sense of humility in order to walk along with a client through life both past and present. When I say “walk through life with a client,” the intention is to listen intently, respond when invited, and support healthy resolutions.

 

As a therapist, I welcome personal humility. The word humility comes from the Latin word humilitas, a noun, related to the adjective humilis. Humilis is translated into English as “humble”, but also “grounded”, or “from the earth.” Take a moment to think about the times you met an individual you feel comfortable with. Someone you could share uncomfortable thoughts with because he or she provided you a safe space to be—mentally and emotionally. These are the traits of a counselor, therapist, a “Helping Professional.”

One of my favorite psychologists, Irvin D. Yalom describes the life of a therapist:
“Life as a therapist is a life of service in which we daily transcend our personal wishes and turn our gaze toward the needs and growth of the other. We take pleasure not only in the growth of our patient but also in the ripple effect—the salutary influence our patients have upon those whom they touch in life.”

My life as a therapist must include humility. I must set myself aside and join the present and past of my clients as we walk through counseling together.

“As humans we are called to bear with, walk along with, care for help, listen to, hear... Ephesians 4:2

Re-evaluating, Adjusting, and Trusting

by Jennifer Edmonds, Licensed Professional Counselor

 

The coronavirus was something that I never knew would happen in my lifetime. We all remember 911 and its devastating impact on our country and humankind. That event was life changing in both positive and negative ways. Homeland security and the manner in which we conduct our everyday lives would never be the same. However, it was a blessing to witness Americans banning together putting our differences aside. Random acts of kindness increased in this time period. I also recognized how precious life is and the importance of strengthening my faith in God.

 

The coronavirus pandemic sparked a similar reaction in us. In turn, it has significantly affected how clients cope with crisis and our therapeutic approach in treatment services. The first adjustment I remember when setting up my home office in March was how telehealth would affect my work as a mental health therapist. At this time, everyone was new to the coronavirus and how serious this pandemic would become in our daily lives. My clients were explaining their fears in great detail during these sessions. The biggest one, the fear of the unknown, was voiced as we were all just getting information about the virus and the safety measures to protect our health.

 

When the “at home” orders were put in place, I noticed a great increase in anxiety, depression, addiction, domestic violence, aggression and other mental health challenges. Simply put, being with loved ones 24/7 was taking a toll. The issues that existed before the pandemic were magnified. It was difficult for us to manage our fear in positive ways. My clients were gaining weight, self-medicating, and “taking it out” on their family.

 

I then noticed a turn of perspective from May into June when summer started this year. My treatment still focused on processing my client’s anxiety/fears and developing positive coping skills to avoid regression. It also deepened into a discussion about why this pandemic happened in the first place. Many Christian clients felt that it was God’s way of “slowing us down and making us re-prioritize our lives.” Others felt that it was “the end of the world” and a time for self-reflection.

 

Overall, my clients (and myself) began to self-evaluate. Clients were encouraged to put their energy into completing neglected household projects, re-discover their personal interests/talents, and create a sanctuary in their home to reduce stress. I was pleased to hear that people were also reconnecting with loved ones, recognizing that life is too short to hold grudges. In quarantine, families spent quality time together and regained a newfound appreciation for each other. It appears that telehealth is here to stay. Many clients enjoy the convenience of this mode of service.

 

As therapists, we have to be open to change to accommodate such events. Our self-care is important in being a healthy support to our clients. This also prevents compassionate fatigue. Personally, I am grateful for the community of therapists that surround me for encouragement and guidance. In my self-reflection, I have re-prioritized, deepening my appreciation for good health, loving relationships, and my faith in God. We must always remember that God will never leave or forsake us. Historically, tough times have brought out our strength. I am hopeful that this event will be no exception.

Tips to Manage Anger

1. Think before you speak. Stop talking until you can do so calmly. Remember, once words are spoken, they can only be forgiven—they cannot be taken back.

 

2. Take a timeout. If you are unable to manage your anger and need a break, then take it. Walk away from the situation. Set a timer for yourself. Give yourself space away from the trigger of your anger.

3. Express your anger in a healthy way and only do so if you are calm. Utilize “I” statements when expressing anger:

I feel ______ (identify emotion here)

when ______ (describe what happened to influence the way you feel)

because ______ (describe why this is important to you)

I want ______ (what do you want to happen now).

 

Example: I feel angry when you use that tone of voice with me because I think it is disrespectful. I would like you to change your tone of voice when speaking with me.

4. Use relaxation skills.

 

a. Progressive muscle relaxation: tighten all of your muscles as tight as you can get them, hold them that way for 5-10 seconds, then release them. Shake them out and do it again. Repeat this as many times as you need to.

b. Deep breathing: Take deep breaths in through the nose, and out through the mouth. Deep breath in one, two, three, four; hold two, three, four; breathe out two, three, four; hold two, three, four. Repeat as many times as needed.

c. For kids (or adults), see how long you can keep a tissue in the air without it touching the ground.

d. Repeat a mantra. “Everything is okay.” “I can do this.” “I am in control of my anger.”

e. Relax. Picture yourself somewhere relaxing. Listen to relaxing music.

f. Regulate your breathing: Count down from 10, or 20, or 100—whatever number you need to count down from to get your breathing regulated.

 

5. Regulate your heart: Get your head below your heart. Sit on a chair and bend over to your toes. Stay in that position and count down from 10. You can also do this in a standing position.

 

6. Change your body temperature. Take a cold shower. Run your hands under water. Hold ice. Put an ice pack on your pulse points. Change of body temperature triggers your body to calm down due to feeling like it needs to survive. It will slow your breathing and put your body in check.

 

7. Get oxygen to your brain: Stretch. Exercise. Open windows. Oxygen helps you think clearly.

 

8. Go outside barefoot and walk in the grass. Connecting the body to the earth helps release calming hormones.

 

9. Picture a stop sign. This can help you to stop yourself and take a pause.

 

10. Picture an ice burg. Your anger is the tip. What leads to your anger is all under the water. Ask yourself what is leading to your anger. Are you disappointed? Are your feelings hurt? Are you scared? Anger is the easiest emotion to display at times. Ask yourself what is really going on.

 

11. Identify solutions. You might not be able to fix the source of your anger but you might be able to distract yourself from it. Is your child’s room a mess? Shut the door so you don’t have to see it. Is someone being too loud? Put on headphones.

 

12. Practice gratitude. Think of things that you like about others and express them. Catch people being good. Look for the good and point it out. If you only focus on the bad, or the things that drive you crazy, you might miss the good—and your brain could fool you into thinking that there isn’t anything good.

13. Identify your triggers. If you can identify what triggers your anger, then you can be proactive to prevent an anger outburst instead of reacting to the trigger. Track your outbursts if you need to. Triggers can be anything, including the time of day or the day of the week.

Exploring the Symbolic Meanings of Autumn

By Jennifer Edmonds, Licensed Professional Counselor 

 

Thinking about autumn can bring some pleasant thoughts. I readily think about harvest festivals, haunted houses, hay rides, comfort foods! Mostly, I love the changes in the leaves that beautify our landscape. It reminds us that God’s work is so magical. Fall is a season of change that leads into winter. Our life experiences can be compared to this autumn illustration. There are symbolic meanings of fall that remind us of its amazing impact on our lives.

These seven symbolic meanings include change, mystery, preservation, protection, comfort, balance and “letting go.” Our lives are ever changing. Experiences, both positive and negative, provide personal growth and wisdom. I believe that change is critical to our life journey. We are reminded that our mind, body and spirit are always developing. Knowing that change will eventually occur, we learn the lesson of savoring the moment. 

Life brings new adventures or mysteries each day. How we handle each challenge shapes our lives in many ways. In preservation, animals prepare for winter by storing food and nesting. In the fall, we tend to spend more time indoors and focus on cultivating a safe, comfortable home environment. Self-protection is seen in layering of clothing and a heightened awareness of self as well as your surroundings. 

Comfort symbolizes the food and nesting aspect of fall. This allows us to learn what makes us feel warm and safe. Balance is realized as day and night are now the same length. The sun sign is Libra (the scales).  Autumn is a time to be balanced with the Earth and create a life balance within us.

Lastly, “letting go” fits perfectly with our healing journey in life. Experiences bring wisdom and heartache at times. However, it is our plan to learn from our mistakes, recognize the blessings and move forward in a healthy manner. God does all things well, including the transition of the seasons. Let this be a season of hope and peace as we enjoy His wonderful works!

Our Client-Driven Approach to Faith-Based Counseling

By Beth Healey

 

Most of you are probably aware that in addition to utilizing best practices in the field of mental health, Samaritan also applies a spiritually-integrated approach to therapy. One of the hallmarks of this approach is that it is client-driven.

What is a spiritually-integrated approach to therapy?

This practice has been described as intentionally assessing a person’s faith belief system in the context of psychotherapy, and incorporating spiritually-based interventions.

Can this approach be beneficial to people of any faith or religious background?

Studies have shown that religion impacts a person’s psychological functioning. A spiritually-integrated approach has proven to be effective with people from any faith background. In addition to clinical approaches, therapists can encourage clients to draw on their spiritual resources to lessen emotional pain, cope with difficult situations, find solutions to problems, and promote the healing process.

How does it work?

Clients themselves often create openings for the dialogue to begin (for example, mentioning praying, going to church, talking to their pastors, questioning aspects of their faith or feelings about God, etc.). The therapist may follow up by asking about the client’s beliefs and values, and how they can determine what will be useful for them in regard to their struggles and suffering.

What are some of the resources available on spiritually-integrated therapy?

Internationally known academic and practician, Kenneth Pargament, PhD, has researched, written and taught extensively on the practice of spiritually-integrated therapy. His work has helped clinicians learn how faith influences a person’s mental and physical health.

Samaritan hosted Dr. Pargament at our Sewickley headquarters in 2014, who presented an educational program to our own as well as other Pittsburgh area therapists on the subject. (LEARN MORE about Kenneth Pargament and his well-known areas of research, such as religious coping.)

Samaritan is a member of, and accredited by the Solihten Institute in Denver, CO, which is an international resource for faith-based counseling centers that specialize in evidence-based, integrated healing. We are among 50+ other member centers that practice spiritually-integrated therapy, collectively treating over 70,000 men, women, and children across the U.S. and Japan each year.

If you'd like more information about our spiritually-integrated therapy, spiritual direction, or coaching services for pastors and youth directors, please email: gstandish@samaritancounseling.net or click on the Services tab of this website.

 

Conquering SAD

Jennifer Edmonds, MA, NCC, LPC

The month of June is a time of transition.  June brings life changes, including weddings, graduations, birthdays, and other life events that are typically very exciting transitions.  Personally, I love the hot, sunny weather.  It’s time for me to bring out the flip flops, shorts, and take the top off my Jeep Wrangler! 

People who struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) REALLY look forward to the summer. SAD is a type of depression that is related to the changes in seasons. SAD begins and ends around the same time every year.  Most people feel the onset in the fall; it continues throughout the winter months, causing symptoms of fatigue and mood issues. Other signs of SAD include sadness, loss of interest in desired activities, sleeping problems, changes in appetite, and suicidal ideation.

Summer onset or Reverse Seasonal Affect Disorder is rare, but equally concerning. This disorder produces anxiety, agitation, and depression that starts in the spring and continues into the summer months.  Research is limited on this type of SAD, but some experts argue that it may be winter-onset disguised as summer depression because those afflicted may spend their time indoors with the window shades drawn. People may be physically active, losing a significant amount of weight due to not eating properly, but are more prone to suicidal thoughts.

People with SAD can benefit from light therapy, “which is thought to affect brain chemicals linked to mood and sleep, easing SAD symptoms.” (Visit https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/light-therapy/about/pac-20384604 to learn more.) In Reverse SAD, some people feel comfortable staying indoors, in cool air-conditioned spaces, or taking a cool shower/bath. There is no simple treatment for this type of depression. However, I have found that helping a person develop a list of individualized depression-reducing activities or coping skills works best. This helps to ensure a healthy transition into the summer.

If you—or someone you know—are exhibiting symptoms of SAD or reverse SAD, give Samaritan a call. Jennifer or one of our other therapists will be able to confirm a diagnosis and design a course of treatment. Light is only one remedy for SAD. Cognitive behavioral therapy and changes in diet are often very effective.

Life transitions can be just as stressful as they are rewarding. But if a disorder like SAD or other type of depression has got you in its clutches, it becomes extremely difficult to see your way through change. Hurting in this way is not necessary; the pain is robbing you of joy and the ability to persevere. Remember—a disorder is a disorder, and it does not define WHO YOU ARE

Best Friend, Biggest Cheerleader, and Strongest Role Model

 

Jennifer Edmonds, MA, NCC, LPC

The people I counsel often ask, "What do we learn from our mother and what makes this relationship so special?"  I can only speak from my own personal relationship with my mother and the joy she brings into my life.

The mother/daughter relationship is very influential in a woman's life. As we grow, we watch our mother, how she gets made up, carries herself, and develops relationships with others in the world.  My mother was a homemaker as my father worked in a steel mill. She taught me how to bake, be the perfect hostess when guests arrived, and how to look fabulous in doing so!

 

I loved when my parents kissed and would be openly affectionate towards one another. They were not ashamed to show us girls (four daughters) that open affection is normal and love is meant to be shown. I never witnessed my parents fighting though I know that no relationship is perfect. They made sure to shelter us from any problems, allowing the most wonderful childhood filled with community activities, sports, church, family gatherings, and other special moments.

My father passed away when I was 16 years old leaving me devastated. We was my world and "super hero." Until this point, I was a "daddy's girl" now having to lean on my mother for support.

Through the years, my relationship with my mother has grown into a true love affair. She is my best friend, biggest cheerleader, and strongest role model on how to be a lady. Although she has taught me many things in preparing for womanhood, her love for Christ ranks above most. She has allowed her Christianity to guide her actions and beliefs. This has been passed down to me and my three sisters. We all have a different relationship with our mother, but what ties us together is our Christian foundation.

In reflecting on Mother's and Memorial Days, I have learned that you cannot take your loved ones for granted. Live every moment and embrace the blessings that mothers and fathers bring to your life.  Know that even when they pass, their imprint lives through you and will be passed to future generations. I want take time to say "Mommy, I love you" and appreciate the sacrifices you made to allow me to become the woman I am.

 

Reflection

 

Carol Stenger, CDP, LCSW, ACSW

 

Spring time is a time of possibilities.  It can be a time of new beginnings.  Yet for many it is also a stressful time when relationships are not going well.  So there isn’t that inner peace or hope for a better day.

What can one do?  I turn to the scriptures to see what this man Jesus of Nazareth said over 2000 years ago.  He said, “Come follow Me!”  How do we follow?  What was his message?  I find an answer for me in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, better known as the Beatitudes.

Jesus is asking us to have an attitude of being; being an image of his love and concern even in the midst of sorrow and despair.  So I need to witness to the other side of sadness – joy; the other side of anxiety – peace; the other side of pain – comfort.

Louis M. Savary in his book: The New Spiritual Exercises reflects on having the attitude of Christ Jesus.  He talks about being poor in sprit as being willing to realize how much more there is in life that we are called to become in the midst of our losses and in our poverty and grief.  It is when we can mourn with others and show them comfort that we are being Christ-like.  When we hunger and thirst for what is right, then we are standing with those who are in need of justice.  We are “pure of heart” when we can see the presence of God in the other who is shunned and unnoticed.  In being a “peacemaker” Savary implies that we need to seek justice without being violent i.e. being peaceful from the inside out so as to not be tempted to lash out but rather see God in each person no matter their stance or background.

Mahatma Gandhi read and prayed the Christian Scriptures: Matthew 5: 1-12 The Beatitudes daily.  He was a spring time renewal for his people of India.  We too can be the hope, the promise of new life by being beatitude people, listening, encouraging, believing in each person who comes into our lives.  This is how we follow Christ Jesus and become his disciples of love.  This is the hope of this time of year – new life in many forms within nature and within our hearts.  Are you; are we “Beatitude People” for our corner of the world?  I hope so.

1 Peter: 3-8

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.

By Beth Healey, Director of Development and Marketing

As we celebrate African American History month, the Samaritan Spirit is exploring the strength of faith and community. I approached one of my colleagues, Lynda Bradley, a Licensed Professional Counselor who is African American, and asked her this question: How do people who have endured so much opposition and pain continue to persevere? She didn’t pause for more than a second before she responded: faith and community.

 

A little later, Lynda shared an article with me about Solomon Northup. In 1841 in Saratoga Springs, New York, Solomon was lured into slavery by being offered a bogus opportunity to use his musical talents. Solomon was drugged, shackled, and put on a ship sailing to New Orleans where he was sold at the slave market. For the next 12 years, Solomon endured unspeakable trauma. But like many other enslaved people, he coped by singing spiritual songs that reminded him of the faith instilled in him as a child. When he was finally reunited with his family, Solomon’s rescue was published nationally. He wrote his memoir, 12 Years a Slave, and between 1853 and 1957, he gave speaking tours. Ultimately, he went on to help other enslaved people escape to Canada through the Underground Railroad. Both African Americans and African Canadians attested to Solomon’s extraordinary perseverance by relying on the strength of his faith and the support of his community.

 

God made us social beings. We are meant to be in community with one another. Hebrews 10:24-25 – And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

 

Romans 12:16

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

 

Do you know people who deliberately isolate themselves? I once knew a couple that did. During my conversations with them, they often expressed anger, irrational fears, and signs of depression. There’s a big difference between spending time alone to relax after a stressful day--praying, meditating, reading a good book, taking a walk—and choosing to distance yourself from other people as a way of life.

 

In the mental health field, we see people who are suffering the effects of not being a part of a supportive community. They may be suffering from depression. They may be secretly self-medicating. They may be alienating themselves from family and friends. But once hearts begin to heal, and relationships begin to mend, people find themselves yearning to be a part of something bigger.

 

When we come together to help and encourage one another, we create a supportive community where love, faith, and trust can flourish. Solomon Northup didn’t choose to be enslaved for 12 years of his life. But he did choose to do whatever he could to inspire and rescue others through his faith and a supportive community.

 

Tough Questions

 

Answered by Samaritan therapist, Jennifer Edmonds

What things negatively impact people during the

holiday season?

It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but with the pressure of commercialism and personal expectations, it can become the most stressful time. I have noticed a pattern in my 25 years of providing counseling that people tend to mentally regress, starting at Thanksgiving and continuing through to the New Year. I’ve found that being around loved ones (sometimes not such a merry time), unresolved grief/loss (missing a loved one who has passed), overspending (leading to financial strain), and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) issues take a significant toll on people.

 

How do you help them?

I start to discuss these issues with those I counsel before the holidays to gauge their emotional state. And together, we develop a “survival plan” for the holidays. If the issue is overspending, we explore affordable, more personalized options in gift giving such as: the gift of quality time (spending time with someone who might not have loved ones close by or feel lonely during the holiday season), preparing baked goods, volunteering at a local church that is serving holiday dinners, engaging in random acts of kindness, and giving homemade gifts that have a special meaning.

If family gatherings are stressful, I encourage people to go into the event with a positive, cheerful mindset, bring a supportive friend along, and if necessary, put a time limit on their stay to avoid possible conflict.

If people are lonely (but in good health), we could identify ways that they might participate in community activities. My church is very involved with the Salvation Army’s bell ringing program and our choir visits nursing homes to sing Christmas carols. Many other local churches serve Christmas dinner to those who are homeless, lonely, or whose loved ones are not local and/or have other familial obligations. Social service organizations and churches offer Christmas gift assistance and presents to families in need. There are many opportunities to reach out.

How can any of us help?

I live in a neighborhood with many elderly people. I make an effort to “check on them” with a holiday plate from my mother (who is a very talented cook—in my opinion the best!) and give them a Christmas card to show that they are appreciated. I also shovel their sidewalks during times of inclement weather. These are the acts of kindness and true meaning of the season that often get lost in the glitz and glamour.

Christmas can be a season of great joy, a time to celebrate God’s great love for us. It can also be a time of healing and renewed strength. So as we celebrate the holidays, we need to remember this message, share it, and demonstrate it to those who are struggling. It will help them to keep moving forward with  continued hope, strength and healing in the New Year. Moreover, it will do the same for you.

The Core of a Generous Spirit

 

By Judy Connor - November 2018

 

As therapists, we frequently hear it said, “I just want to be happy.” Still, happiness can seem like a riddle because the more we seek it, the more elusive it becomes. In ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, Neuropsychiatrist and holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl wrote, “For … happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen [and] you have to let it happen by not caring about it.”

A personal dedication to a cause greater than ourselves does not occur without the inner and typically intentional cultivation a generous spirit. An openness and willingness to share our material, emotional, spiritual and intellectual gifts with others regardless of our own circumstances is at the core of what is meant by generosity of spirit. Beyond charitable giving and volunteerism, generosity of spirit can be defined as a way of authentically being in and engaging with the world, free from fear, envy, and small-mindedness. It requires one to go beyond mere tolerance to a genuine embracing of the ‘other’, to risk knowing and being known, and to stand ready to sacrifice for what matters most.

In other words, having a true spirit of generosity will often, and perhaps always, mean choosing the high road over the path of least resistance. The good news is that none of us can attain, or even seek, a generous spirit without also serving and sustaining our own mental and emotional well-being. With each day that we live life informed by purpose rather than ease, when we live generously, we come a few steps closer to the lives we are all called upon to live. It is on that journey, then, that we find what it is to be really happy.

 

Scarey Stuff

 

By Beth Healey - October 2018

 

What comes to your mind when October rolls around? I can’t help but smile when I think back to nearly three decades ago when my son, dressed up as a pumpkin, put his tiny hand into my husband’s, and ventured out to experience his first Halloween. I can still see his skinny little legs sticking out from under that big, orange pumpkin suit…the little “stem” cap on his head. That’s when he earned the affectionate nickname, “little pumpkin.”

 

Memories that we make with our kids bring us immeasurable joy, October will end as it always does, on a day when the young and the young at heart indulge in the fun and festivities of "pretend" scary stuff.

 

As much as I prefer to write about lighthearted things, I am about to switch gears for a bit. October is also National Bullying Prevention Month, and there’s no pretense of fun when 160,000 U.S. children stay home from school each day rather than face something that truly is scary: bullying.

 

National Bullying Prevention Month came about in 2006 to raise awareness and educate adults and children on how to handle bullying and ways to prevent it. Bullying can have devastating effects on those who are bullied, as well as those who do the bullying. For example, a child who bullies other children is four times more likely to be convicted of a crime by age 24, and 60% will have at least one criminal conviction in their lifetimes. Children who are bullied suffer not only from the outward wounds of physical bullying, but also from internal wounds resulting from all types of bullying, which can lead to isolation, depression, and anxiety.

 

Bullying is categorized by the Center for Disease Control as physical, emotional, and social. Bullying via technology, a.k.a. cyber-bullying, is on the rise. (Check out PREVENTING BULLYING) Did you know that one in four students is bullied, and over 70% of youth report having witnessed bullying at school? However, “when bystanders intervene, the bullying stops within 10 seconds, 57% of the time.” (SOURCE)

 

Adults play a vital role in bully prevention. Read what our therapist, Jamie Mehok, says (in the article that follows) about how parents can recognize the signs of bullying and help their children to become safe both inside and outside of their homes.

 

There are many programs and resources available that teach us how to address bullying, as well as trained therapists who can help a wounded child to heal. If bullying is an issue in your child’s life, don’t wait to seek help—whether your child is the target or the one doing the bullying. Not sure if what your child is experiencing is bullying? FIND OUT. 

To learn more, click on the links below. To get compassionate, professional care for your child, call Samaritan at 412-741-7430. We’re here to help.

 

P.S. Back to the lighthearted stuff. If you have kids or grand-kids and you enjoy celebrating Halloween with them, continue to build some great memories that will stick with you 30 years later. I’m a parent, not a therapist, so I speak the following not only from life experience, but also from the heart of a mother:

 

When you embrace all the joy in life that you can—and pass that habit on to your children—dealing with the hard times in life becomes a little easier. Heap lots of support and encouragement on your children. Tell them everyday how proud you are of them, how much you love them, and how much God loves them, Praise their gifts and accomplishments. These things will help them to grow up with healthy self-esteem and a "can do" attitude—good armor for dealing with the tough stuff.

LEARN MORE about bullying.

 

Making Home Safe Again

 

By Jamie Mehok, licensed Professional Counselor - October 2018

The days of school yard bullies, bloody noses, and black eyes have begun to shift to a new environment. While the battle remains the same, the battlefield has shifted from being primarily in the schools to the safety of the home. Where the wounds shift from the physical to internal "hemorrhages." This shift also changes the lasting effects, where one was limited to time and space is now unavoidable due to the Internet and social media. These are the wounds that many therapists attend to on a daily basis.

 

Internal wounds not only affect a student's learning ability, concentration, and school attendance, but they also affect the way a student views him/herself within the community. In a society of "pick yourself up by your bootstraps," or "suck it up buttercup," adolescents and teenagers are taught to minimize the posts, comments, and direct messages they are receiving; internalizing their feelings and thoughts which later come back to haunt them.

Change has begun in this area by acknowledging that it is happening and be-coming proactive in schools and in homes. Three ways to become proactive in your home include: teaching your child to become assertive, standing their ground, and setting boundaries. Every social media site, app, and video game contains a blocking feature; by helping your child set boundaries with the

bullies will in turn increase their self-esteem and willingness to be assertive in the future.

 

Another tool is to continually educate yourself on warning signs of bullying as well as how to protect your children online. Through many studies and articles, it has been noted that 63% of students will not tell an adult that they are being bullied. Therefore, it is up to us to ensure our children’s safety inside and outside of the home.

 

Finally, the biggest tool you have as an adult in the community is the ability to listen; stopping bullying when you witness it, and then listening to the child to help them work through their emotions rather than internalizing them. Bullying will not end overnight, however with adults becoming more available and attentive to the children around them we make our homes safe again.

Transitioning to a New School Year

 

By Beth Healey - September 2018

 

Another school year has begun. Children of all ages—from pre-school through high school—will inevitably experience stress, whether it’s due to academic struggles, making the team, fitting in, and so forth. Yes, it’s only natural—and to be expected. But how do parents know if their child is upset over a temporary problem or setback, or if the child’s emotions run much deeper?

 

If you are a parent, you may find it difficult to know for sure if your child is struggling with clinical depression and/or anxiety, or other problems. It is often hard for us to tell because our kids may be working hard at keeping their true feelings hidden. We may wonder if their behavior is typical for their age and will change as they mature. I know I found it tough sometimes to make that determination when my own son was a child.

There are signs that children and teens exhibit that indicate something might be seriously wrong. If you learn what to look for and how to ask the right questions, you will feel more empowered to help and support your child.

I would be remiss to not mention that many young men and women returning to college or, perhaps, starting their freshman year may also be struggling silently—but critically. I have listed links following this article that may be helpful to you, regardless of the age of your children.

In a nutshell, arm yourself with knowledge. NAMI—the National Alliance on Mental Illness—is a good resource that provides useful information on this topic and numerous others. (By the way, the term "mental illness" may still have a stigma attached to it in some people's minds, but don't let lingering prejudicial attitudes inhibit you from seeking help. Adults and children alike who are struggling with the effects of stress, trauma, and emotional and relational issues have nothing to be embarrassed about. Experiencing these things is part of being human. Strong people who desire to live their best lives seek help.)

Should you feel your child is in need of counseling, you are not alone—and we are here to help. Samaritan has multiple offices in Western PA and is only a phone call away. We have counselors who have years of training and experience in working with children and adolescents.

If your child is under the age of 18, you—as a parent or guardian—can call us at 412-741-7430 to schedule your child’s appointment.

 

If you are divorced, don't have insurance, or your child is 18 or older, there may be circumstances for which you have questions. Don’t hesitate to call us to have your questions answered or to learn more about our counseling services for children and youth.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/warning-signs-parents/201707/lessen-your-child-s-back-school-stress

 

https://childmind.org/article/back-school-anxiety/

 

https://childmind.org/about-us/

 

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/back-school

 

https://nami.org/collegeguide

Out of Our Homes, but Not Out of Our Hearts

 

By Lynda Bradley, licensed Professional Counselor - June 2018

If you have children graduating, thank you for preparing another young adult for our world community. (There are also a lot of us who clearly remember our kids' graduations regardless of how long it's been.) As parents, we go from wiping their noses to holding back our tears as they walk across the stage. Yes, the walk across the stage leads to them walking out of our homes--but not out of our hearts. As God holds our hands, we continue to hold their hands. Isaiah 41:13 says, "I am the LORD your God. I am holding your hand, so do not be afraid. I am here to help you." 

This verse reminds us God is holding our hands even when we are not aware. You'll continue to hold your children’s hands even when they are not aware. When life brings challenges, we reach out for God’s hand. When life becomes challenging for our children, they reach out for our hands.

Now is the stage in their lives when we are called to speak less, listen more, and of course “hold their hands.” Remember, the greatest commandment is love, therefore share the good news of the Gospel with your young adult by being the Gospel each time you are with them. Welcome the joy of seeing your children give forth the gifts you have given to them! 

 

Pain in This Life Is Temporary


By Beth Healey, Director of Development and Marketing - April 2018

We all know how difficult it is to imagine what good could possibly come out of a situation that’s causing us so much pain. In my own life, I look back on trials I’ve endured and ask myself, “What have I learned from this? What good has come out of it?”

I’ve been able to find the answers to those questions because John 16 helps me to gain perspective. In verse 21, Jesus said to his disciples:

A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.

How true! While in labor, it’s difficult to focus on anything but the pain. But as soon as you receive your precious child in your arms, your pain is replaced by profound joy. 

In verse 22, Jesus continued:

…So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.

The disciples were confused by what Jesus was telling them. The agony that Jesus endured leading up to and during his crucifixion also brought great suffering to his disciples. It was difficult for them to understand or to see beyond the pain. But Jesus had assured them:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

This verse says it all to me. We all encounter troubles in our lives, and for some the troubles are immeasurably greater. The atrocities committed by humans against other humans are unspeakably painful. Yet there is always hope, there is always the promise of peace because Jesus overcame the world! 
 

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