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!

A Mini Case File: Taylor Swift

I am an unabashed Taylor Swift lover. Taylor has some of the best music for when you just want to get down to the basics of human emotion – happy, sad, loved, heartbroken, scared, jealous – you know. The usual suspects.

Taylor’s angst and simple, yet incredibly catchy songs got me through a really tough time in my life. I was angsty, I was heartbroken, and I didn’t need some deep indie record. I needed to just yell-sing in my car,  “Oh, and it rains in your bedroom/Everything is wrong/It rains when you’re here and it rains when you’re gone/Cause I was there when you said forever and always”

Right? Those lyrics are bad. It rains in your bedroom? I mean, it’s so bad it’s good. It’s the way I feel about every single show on Bravo (except Top Chef, that’s just good, period).

Taylor Swift’s album “RED” came out last week. I immediately rushed to find it on Spotify, no luck. Apparently there’s some sneaky plotting by her people to keep the album off of all social media listening services. Fine. I’ll just use YouTube.

As I was enjoying my T-Swizzle fix, with lots of songs about Jake Gyllenhaal (who is apparently a raging indie music snob and philandering jerk) I professed my love of Swifty to my best friend. I asked how she felt about Taylor Swift (because it’s an important question, it’s practically a religious view, amiright?) and she said, “Meh, she’s fine. I can’t get over her victim mentality.”

ZING! My Taylor? A victim?

Upon further reflection, I agree with my friend. Sure, I still love Taylor and I know why I loved her so much more in my past. I used to play the victim in my life. Playing the victim is an extremely handy defense mechanism. It’s something I see in most people I work with in a mental health setting. It’s very sneaky and it’s something cultivated through a lot of time and a lot of nurture. So what is it?

In essence, it’s when someone views their life as being acted upon. A victim rarely believes they have control over their life and often believes that they are powerless to stop the bad things that are happening to them. A victim blames everyone else for their unhappiness and misery and takes little to no responsibility for the roles they play in their choices and life outcomes. Victimization is a common thinking pattern in mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, and addiction.

I am a recovering victimized thinker. A huge piece of my depression and distorted thinking was this belief I had that people were responsible for making me happy and treating me well. Sure, that’s true. I should be treated well and I should likely find happiness with my relationships. But, no one is responsible for my happiness. In regards to being treated well, especially in romantic relationships, I am responsible for finding a person who does that and I am also responsible for walking away if they don’t.

It’s the victim who says, “I can’t walk away, I love him/her too much,” when really it’s a choice. You can walk away. You’re choosing not to because you believe your situation won’t change/you can’t get anyone better/you’ll never have happiness like you have when it’s good/etc. You have an external locus of control.

I admire Taylor Swift. It takes some serious balls to air your feelings so directly out in the open. She unites a lot of us in our most extreme emotional highs and lows. It’s OK to have that victim feeling sometimes because it can get you through a lot of necessary grieving or other rough life stuff. Defense mechanisms aren’t globally bad, but they are something to consider. Too much blame on every one else ultimately gives you a lot less power over the outcome of your life.

Taylor needs to pick better guys and walk away from the ones who suck. She needs to take responsibility for picking up the phone and enabling some guy ::cough:: Jake Gyllenhaal ::cough:: to continue treating her poorly. Her albums have gotten much more empowered and I’m seeing that with “RED”. She’s 22. I wasn’t nearly as evolved at 22, so I’m cutting her some slack. I still love her, but she’s a great example of someone who very often plays the victim. A helpful teaching tool for this whole “mental health” thing I’m trying to espouse.

What do you guys think? Does Taylor play the victim in her relationships?

Upholding the Affordable Care Act

I do my best to avoid talking about politics in general. I also avoid talking about religion, how to properly raise your children, why I became a vegetarian, and the in-depth story of my family. I just try not to go there because people get offended (religion, children, politics), they desperately want to change my mind (vegetarianism), or it’s just too much self-disclosure for being a counselor (my family).

You see, I’m not one for stirring up controversy. Part of my profession is respecting the opinion of others. As long as you are not trying to belittle how I feel, think, and choose to live my life, I will show you the same respect. So, if you want to worship flamingos, feed your kids nothing but fruit, eat as much meat lovers pizzas as you can, and believe your mom is better than my mom, go right ahead. I won’t argue. I know what my truth is.

For those of you who follow my Facebook page, you may have noticed I detoured slightly from my whole “no politics” belief when the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act this morning.

I make an exception about politics when it comes to mental health care. If you read this blog with any regularity, you know that while I am passionate about counseling, my entire drive and purpose in my profession is bigger than just providing therapeutic services. I have a dream that mental health care will be more attainable and less stigmatized in the years to come. The Affordable Care Act gives me hope that I will see that dream become a reality.

Part of destigmatizing mental health care is giving others the opportunity to understand it. We all grew up knowing what going to the doctor and the dentist was like. Maybe we needed braces or glasses and we went to an optometrist or an orthodontist. We had a need and we fulfilled it. Those needs were visible and tangible. Our teeth were crooked, we couldn’t read the white board, but what about when our parents divorced and we didn’t know how to feel?

I went to a holistic practitioner (an M.D.) when I was experiencing a whole host of health issues about two years ago. She asked me a variety of questions about my health, my family’s health, and my past medical history. At the end of the consult, she asked me questions about my stress level, about how and where I was raised, and she also asked me if I had experienced any trauma as a child. I shared that I didn’t think so. She asked, “Did your parents fight in front of you, separate, or divorce?”

“Why yes. Yes they did,” I said.

“Well, that’s trauma,” she told me.

I was in the beginning of my master’s program and I didn’t see my parent’s divorce and the debilitating fallout from that ordeal as traumatizing. I actually thought to myself, “Well, I was only 13. I was probably old enough to know better.”

I look back on that now that I’m in the field of counseling and I shake my head.

Simply with the divorce rate in this country, we need mental health services to be standard. We need it to be as accessible and ritualized as going to a lawyer for the same problem. We also should make it preventative. If a couple is thinking of divorce, we should have our children cared for during this time. Children may not remember what was said, but they will always remember how they felt. Couples may not stay together, but they will learn healthy ways of coping and ways to ensure their children are as minimally traumatized as possible during the divorce. We are lying to ourselves if we think the end of a family isn’t traumatizing, yet we all barely bat an eye when it happens any more.

So, yes. I am in favor of the Affordable Care Act because while it might make my pocket a bit less plump or stifle innovation, or whatever you feel is the reason to not support it, I must support it. As I said in my post about bath salts and zombies, we have a sick care system. I see this as an opportunity to put the training wheels back on our health care system and learn how to do it right. We have to fully integrate the idea of mind, body, and spirit into our health care system to make it preventative. I want people to come to me because they are self-aware enough to know they should check themselves. Whether they are 10 years into sobriety, they just got laid off from a job, they just had a child and are feeling a bit out of sorts, or they just need someone to talk to, I want people to know better. I want us all to lose our shame of talking about those things that hold us back from being the best versions of ourselves we can be.

For those interested in the actual pieces of the ACA which will address behavioral health and what it means for the future of mental health, I found this commentary from Mental Health America to be enlightening and inspiring as well as this summary from SAMHSA.

What do you all think? Don’t be afraid to disagree. I respect your opinions. 🙂