Opening to the Light

meditationAs a counselor, I breathe a sigh of relief when the dark rainy days diminish. During the rainy winter months and short daylight hours, many people are significantly impacted and become a little blue. This does have a common name, which is not really a clinical term: Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. In this article I will use the common term SAD. According to the therapist “bible,” the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders fourth edition (DSM-IV) if one is really depressed during the dark months, it is correctly defined as a Major Depressive Disorder with Seasonal Pattern Specifier. According to the DSM-IV, women and younger people are more at risk for these winter malaise.

For some, specific anniversaries are the trigger for feeling stressed out. Often times the holiday season brings back painful memories. Perhaps there was divorce in the family or feelings of abandonment. Many who are affected by SAD, do not merely “snap out of it,” during our early springtime prolonged spells of sunshine, but it is a more gradual healing process.

Many of my counseling clients have identified this SAD experience, and know that a little therapy beginning around Halloween/Thanksgiving goes a long way. In any case, I would like to make the argument that seeking counseling assistance during any type of emotional turmoil is a strength. Yes, there are medications to help us deal with anxiety and depression, and often times I am referring my clients to medical professionals to obtain these. However, these medications affect different people in a variety of ways. While antidepressants are non-addicting, and non-euphoric, they must be started and stopped very gradually, it is called titration. The most serious side affect of antidepressants is suicide. Medication support for some of the clinically depressed population can be real lifesavers. I cannot count how many clients have told me that the combination of medication support and therapy has… “Given me back the person I remember being.”

It is my professional belief that the first line of defense during a time when one is feeling sad, lost, stressed out, hopeless, down, blue, SAD, confused or simple “unheard,” that talking it out with an empathic, caring, trained individual. At times merely finding the words to speak ones’ mind, and having it paraphrased back is extremely beneficial, and might be all that is needed. I have recently had clients, in both Ukiah and Willits, who have made enormous strides in their personal healing paths, with relatively few sessions. It is a powerful and amazing thing to witness, and I feel honored at being able to assist them with this process.

Years ago, as a beginning licensed, private practitioner, while I was working as a contractor for Mendocino Community Health Center’s (MCHC) Psychotherapy Department, a secretary there requested to see me, professionally. At first, I was shocked. Here was a woman, who worked all day long talking to psychotherapists, (like myself) with post master degree certificates, or with post doctoral degree certificates, seeking help from me, a greenhorn. Not only did she want my professional help, she had maxed out her health insurances therapy plan, before I began working for MCHC. She wanted to see me and pay cash. I was astounded in a very prideful manner. I questioned her “Why me?” She simply replied, “Divora, you’ll tell it to me like it really is, without wasting my time.” I’ve been thanked a lot by clients. I’ve been told how I’ve “Turned their lives around.” I know I’ve been the changing element in avoiding suicide attempts. However, this simple comment still has a special place in my heart.

My dedication to our indigent population has been demonstrated by spending several years being the single largest private practitioner for Mendocino County’s Mental Health Plan, accepting MediCal.

I have a full service office in Willits at 175 S. Humboldt Street, where one may obtain “Art as Therapy.” There I also have a sand tray to experience counseling in a more kinetic form. I am attracted to narrative therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, (CBT,) and a wide array of client driven, eclectic therapies. You may choose the style and configuration of what you’d like to do and who you would like to attend your sessions. It simply referred to as a client driven model.

I can teach you CBT, refer you to written information, and provide you with skills to take home and use for the remainder of your life. As we need to brush our teeth, to keep them from decaying, I can lead you to healthier ways of living and relating. I do firmly believe that we all possess everything inside us to heal completely. Sometimes one needs a jump-start, or a push in the right direction. Alternatively, as I had mentioned, the act of clarifying, to another can, in and of itself, be what you require.

As a survivor of childhood, (and spousal) abuse, I have learned, first hand, how empowering it is to have a therapist be a witness to my pain. Yes, I needed to tell my story. (Sometimes we want to repeat ourselves.) Well, I also needed to cry out my pain. The fact that I had a caring, warm, accepting, professional, active listener, made a world of difference.

I would like to have the honor of working with new clients. Particularly those like myself, people committed to personal (perhaps spiritual,) growth and change. There is a lot of discussion of manifesting our (new, healthier) realities. I believe this with unfaltering conviction. I have been on an incredible journey during my lifetime.

If one has a spiritual practice or religious belief, this also can be a powerful tool. I have worked with people who have had spontaneous remissions of what was diagnosed as terminal illness. The mind is ours to harness and use for our highest good, right here and now. I have come from a very dark place. However, I can feel positive changes budding forth, at times, with every fiber of my being. I am opening to the light, just like this season. How about you?