Part Next

So, I suppose this is a Part 2, but let’s not call it that. This is Part Next, where I tell you about the next chapter in my journey.

I moved to Seattle, I started my private counseling practice, I got engaged and I was making zero dollars and planning a self-funded wedding. Also, I just wasn’t really enjoying what I was doing. I ended up being offered a position in a vocational cosmetology school serving as their counselor/administrator. I had no idea what I was going to be doing on a day-to-day basis other than some administrative processes of the school and being available for students who were having challenges getting through school.

gm1

[this was my office & that was my to-do list]

I don’t think it’s any surprise to you that many of the students flowing through the school had mental health issues. Vocational education seems to attract people with limited resources and hence, ongoing issues resolving their problems. It’s one of the reasons they hired me. I was essentially a human resources generalist with an amplified focus in social work. I updated the student hours against the time clock, wrote the student handbook and thus became the official handbook know-it-all, and managed all student files. I was also the person who handled when a student need a leave of absence, recommendations for in-patient rehab or when they needed additional assistance that a typical cosmetology educator did not necessarily know how to provide.

I ended up loving that job. It was the perfect mix of business and social services. I was embedded in doing good – supporting the effort to educate people and enable them to make something of their lives. I also had a level of authority and autonomy that allowed me to feel like I was contributing to the overall success of the school and of others. It felt like a broader impact than I had experienced doing one-on-one counseling and there was a measurable level of success. The goal was graduation. I could measure my contribution.

gm3

[I also regularly got used as a model, not too shabby]

I need constant novelty to feel like I’m growing. The first year I learned the job and the second year I mastered the job. After that, there was no upward mobility and I wasn’t getting thrown into anything new and/or challenging. There were no equivalent positions available and at two years in, I realized I wanted to continue doing what I was doing, but I wanted to make it official. I wanted to get into human resources.

I started looking at jobs. I wanted to see what I would need to be an official human resources leader at a company. Turns out, my master’s degree was a great fit for entering human resources, because if we’re being honest, HR is basically counseling at work. It’s the highest level of development. You’re already working with people who are motivated to grow and change because their livelihood is at stake. You can capitalize upon the strengths of your employees and harness them for the good of a company. It’s so freaking awesome, you guys.

The only hitch was that most companies wanted a degree in HR or business, neither of which I had. I had the years of work experience and the level of education, but not educational focus most jobs required. However, there was a very amazing loophole – a Professional Human Resources certification [PHR]. Actually, I wouldn’t call it a loophole, I’d call it a great fortune. I studied for months for this exam and passed it with flying colors. I pretty much got a job offer right after I get my certification.

I’ve been working in HR for several years now and have been continually amazed at how perfect my education has been for what I do daily. My writing skills coupled with my counseling abilities have been like Batman’s utility belt for HR. I can look at an employee on a singular level, a group of employees at the team level or an organization on the systemic level. I get to look for patterns, processes & people to support, champion, improve and inspire. I can’t get bored because THERE IS SO MUCH TO DO.

gm4

As I’m sure you can tell, I am not your normal HR person. I like to think HR can be done in a way where you are everyone’s greatest ally and champion. Is it difficult to do? Hell yeah – but so is mental health counseling. Plus, there are so many different areas of HR to tackle and become an expert in.

So, that’s where I am. I feel fulfilled by what I do and I am glad I got the education I did because I think it prepared me for my current job better than many people who get a formal education in HR.

Anyway, expect me to still share mental health stuff, but especially how the mind relates to work. I’m really into lots of different areas HR directly influences that are becoming huge in the national conversation – paid parental leave, a livable hourly wage, work-life balance, ‘Lean In’, & millennials at work. Expect me to talk about those things and so much more. I’ll continue to talk about all the things that I’m geeking out on in the hopes this remains a place to process all the ideas and things I’m learning and hopefully benefit some of you out there.

gm5

Welcome to my life now, kids. I hope you enjoy the ride.

Private Practice Prep

There’s a lot that goes into opening a small business as a therapist, but not nearly as much as I thought. With the exception of those few moments where I’m just completely nervous about the future and this crazy endeavor I’ve gotten myself into, it’s actually been kind of fun.

You know what’s totally weird though? Promoting yourself. If there’s one lesson I’ve had people wag their finger at me for and say, “Don’t fail to do that!” it’s been about marketing my strengths, skills, and abilities. I mean, I know I’m a great therapist and I will get the job done, but other people don’t know that. You can’t really measure if I’m the best, you just have to experience it for yourself. A lot of people have a problem with that idea because it means potentially paying for services only to be disappointed by what they paid for, plus feeling even more upset because they really needed help, took a chance, and ended up feeling likely a lot worse.

So, I’ve been placed in this interesting position where I have to step outside of myself and say, “What are my strengths? What will clients see in me that they won’t get from other therapists?” and then tell the whole world about it. So, do you want to see what I’ve been up to?

The Jen Bingaman Private Practice site

Man, Jesse definitely has a fan club and I am its president and CEO. I seriously can’t imagine my life without him as my partner, much less imagine how stupidly difficult and expensive it would be to start this business without his techspertise (I just made that word up… I like it!). I might have to give him my first born child or something…

Anyway, we still have some small tweaks here and there (pictures, glitz, header), but the site is live and all the copy is there. For those of you who are curious, have the time, the interest, or the expertise, please go to the site and poke around. Let me know if you have any suggestions based on your experience or if you see any glaring spelling or grammatical errors. I’ve looked over it so many times, my eyes are turning to mush.

If you’re feeling really wonderful and generous, especially if you live in Seattle, will you share the site with your friends and family, especially on social media? It goes a long, long way.

Jen Bingaman on Psychology Today

So for those of you who don’t know, Psychology Today is pretty much the go-to resource for people looking for therapy services. They are practically a monopoly, but they also have a pretty decent set-up for showcasing therapists and providing people with a good selection of practitioners in their area. I worked long and hard (and may continue to do so) to get my profile as accurate and authentic as possible since I know a large majority of my web referrals will come from Psychology Today.

Jen Bingaman at Seattle Direct Counseling

I’m really excited about this one. I’m a member of a group practice! I working with two other wonderful therapists, each of us with our own style and skills. I’ll be working from a downtown office one day of the week, providing eTherapy other days. If any of you out there have been interested in eTherapy in the past, the time is nigh! If you don’t live in Washington, there can be some tricky rules about state-to-state internet counseling, so look up the laws for your state before you contact me and share what you find. Man, I am so excited about all of this. It’s going to be such a fun adventure.

I’ve done tons of other less exciting things like get liability insurance, open a business checking account (OK, so that was fun until I had to put money in it… and then spend it), get a business license, and pay lots of stupid fees for all of it. Oh well, you have to spend money to make money, right?

Speaking of spending money… I’m going to need an amazing accountant. Does anyone have any recommendations here is Seattle? There’s a reason why I never majored in Finance.

Tomorrow is Friday. So many good things… including puppies!

Flow

When the career you’ve chosen in life is one that makes you happy, but isn’t necessarily valued by society, much less some of your friends (*cough* counseling *cough*), you being to really ponder why you chose the career you did. In my case, I have really been thinking hard about it. Not only was finding the right job a struggle for me here, but I’m in a city dominated by left-brained thinkers who (I find) to value the softer sciences less. If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist in the world of most people I walk by on the streets in Seattle.

I thought back to why I became a counselor in the first place; why I was so certain this was the career for me. I’ve come up with all my reasons and then some, but I’ve had this internal struggle because life isn’t just about doing what you love, is it? You have to put food on the table, you have to put clothes on your back, and in the future, I’d like to put clothes on my child’s back and food in his/or her mouth. Will doing what I love allow me those things? Things I love secondary to counseling? Traveling and eating well. Do I want to give those up to facilitate my day job? Can you just ‘do what you love’ and get away with it? How important is it to do what you love?

Well, that’s subjective. The more time that goes on in my life, the more I realize that plenty of people on the earth were not raised with this notion of ‘do what you love’ and now have jobs that facilitate lots of other things, like traveling, but at a cost. They give up 40+ hours of happiness and job satisfaction a week for a good vacation and luxury goods. Some are OK with it. Most are not. Some people are lucky enough that they love doing things that pay a lot of money. Those people suck. Just kidding… I hate you. No, I’m just jealous. Pssshhh.

Either way, this has pushed me to think about the idea of even knowing that you are happy. Plenty of people struggle with finding a satisfying job, relationship, and lifestyle. There’s a whole area of counseling for people who just don’t know what jobs will make them happy. I found something I love to do, but why do I love to do it?

Because when I counsel, I flow.

No, not that flow, although I am a fantastic rapper. Do not doubt.

When I counsel someone, I am so immersed in what I’m doing, I achieve flow. Flow is a somewhat meditative-like state where the whole world evaporates until it’s you + the task you are involved in. With counseling, I feel alive speaking to others, solving their problems, and providing empathy. It’s been that way since I can remember. From the point of self-awareness I can remember, I’ve always felt so alive having deep conversations with people, feeling trusted, providing support, and everything else a counselor does. My brain is wired this way.

I got an e-mail from a reader (hi!), who commended me for being a therapist because the work can be so difficult and really just wear a person down, listening to so much heartache, tragedy, and sometimes knowing nothing will ever be the way it should be for a client. That is tough, I won’t lie to you about that one. But, as Jesse tells me when I feel doubt about this career choice, I have never acted more alive, more satisfied, and more content than the times I’m counseling. It fills me up inside. I picture my mind like staticky radio, all garbled and fuzzy, but when I’m counseling (and/or writing), that radio is the most perfect frequency you’ve ever heard. The sound is crisp, the message is clear, and everything else falls to the side.

So, should you do what you love? Do you even know what you love? Start with flow. Then go from there. I’m lucky that I have a wonderfully supportive partner who reminds me it’s not what you do, it’s how hard you work at it and believe in yourself (for the most part). It’s all about values. How much do you value your own contentment, your feeling of happiness, and how you measure your impact on the world? Those things, as much as I want to admit money matters, matter more to me. I need flow in my life because it makes me so happy to be alive. It creates this effervescent feeling that makes my heart feel lighter and makes me proud to walk this earth. I wouldn’t trade my flow for anything. Now, could I get it doing something else? Sure, but right now, I’m happy in this current.

Do you achieve flow? How?

A common example I’ve heard is when you drive somewhere, get there, and then don’t remember how you got there because you were so immersed in the process.