counseling

Groups of Summer

It turns out the summer is slow in the private practice therapy world. Clients take vacations and (maybe more importantly) that which was a crisis in the dark days of winter somehow melts into "manageable" as the days get longer and the air gets thicker. There is just somehow less need. So, my schedule has opened up and so has my worry. 

I am only a few months into this new venture and I still get pretty nervous when a week goes by with no new clients calling me. So, I do what any budding professional would do...I call them. Kind of. I have started to solicit group work from local agencies. These groups are contract work where I a hired to come in as an art therapist and lead several sessions of Expressive Arts interventions. 

Even though all this started just to drum up more work, I have to say it brings me such joy. I love therapy groups. I think they are rich with deep learning if you let them be.

Each group is like its own little life form made up of individuals gathering for a common cause. The group has a life cycle, a purpose, and a product. The way a group forms, grows and establishes norms seems magical, but it is actually delicate science.

Like all life forms, its main goal is survival. A group's members are always unconsciously doing a delicate dance to maintain health and ease within the group. They are balancing power dynamics, tasks, and established patterns. If a member doesn't have enough "buy in" if they threaten the group as a whole, the group will find a way to either enlist or expel them just as our bodies do with bacteria. All parts of the whole are working for the good of the whole and they are working because being a part of the group is nourishing to the individual.

What an amazing reminder of the systems that we are, that we are a part of, and that we rebel against. The universe is just gatherings joining together to make organisms, joining together to make bodies, joining together to make groups, joining together to make organizations, joining together to make collectives, joining together to make planets, joining together to make systems. It is an infinite web of connection, of individual and other.

And the most amazing part is; when you pull on any one part of it everything moves. 

That is why therapy groups can be so powerful and can acelerate the healing process so much. They offer an opportunity to witness and play a part in the growth of others and every time one person shifts, they all do. 

 

The Art of Sacrament

Sacrament is traditionally explained by use of the definition given by St. Augustine of Hippo a Christian theologian who was instrumental in many of the formative ideas of the church through his writings in the 4th century. The definition is simple:

"Sacrament is an outward sign of an inward grace"

Although it was expressed in a Christian context, I feel this definition can explain why ceremony and rites of passage are so important in all human experiencing. They are the both the evidence of and the facilitators of evolution.

Last month my husband and I celebrated a wedding anniversary with a vow renewal and a party for our friends and family. As I prepared for the event, I wondered why I had decided to celebrate this way.

The details of the event had become overwhelming, food, flowers, travel, schedules, iced tea! I could not remember why we didn't just go to Cancun or something. I mean who cared that we were renewing our vows. Why did it matter to anyone except for us? Why did I feel the need to create such a public display of our private life?

I know from the inside of my marriage how much love we have put in to our partnership. It is extremely hard and beautiful work. We have changed and grown so much together over the years and I am grateful to have a partner who is just as committed to development as I am. We are not the same people or the same relationship we were ten years ago.

By inviting our community to witness and honor our development with us, it becomes a hundred times more real. We are a hundred times more accountable to it. People can see how renewed we are and confirm that yes, it is real. 

The cool thing is when they see that we have grown, they also grow. They think about their relationships, their life ten years ago, the things they have to be grateful for, the challenges yet to come. In that way, our one sacrament shared could set in motion a domino effect of growth. 

Love is meant to be shared...and so is grief, so is joy, so is truth. 

If human beings horde those inner graces (experiences) by keeping transformation and learning private, it all just ends there.

The lesson of the change sits inside the heart like a seed in the earth. We have rites, ceremonies and sacraments because the light of community must shine on that seed in order to fulfill it. 

I argue that to fully receive the grace of the change, we must invite it to be both inward and outward; to become a sacrament.

The script is simple. Stand up in front of those you trust and say; "Look at me...I am different than I was".

Thus a grace is not just confined to one soul's evolution. Everyone who sees and says "Yes, you are", also grows. 

 

 

 

Get Behind Me, Satan

I had a powerful spiritual experience this past month in a group I was leading. It was a watercolor class, designed to allow the participants to relax and enjoy the free flowing fun of a simple medium. But I know, as much as any other teaching artist, that any time you invite people into a creative process you are also inviting something darker...more sinister. 

The course went as planned and all participants seemed to enjoy the activity. It wasn't until afterward that I realized something strange and powerful had happened. As we were cleaning up one of the older women in the class approached me. Her gentle energy instantly grabbed my attention.

"I just want to thank you." she said. 
I listened.
"I am going to say something the only way I know how and it is going to sound crazy.", she whispered.
I nodded.
"I have had this thing lately, this devil. It has been in my way and it has been telling me things; lies."
"go
on", I said.  
"Well, today when we started our class I thought there was no way I could do this, that whatever I made would be terrible. Then I realized it was the devil speaking to me and I told him to get out."
"Then what happened?"
"Well, I loved it. I am so proud of what I made", and she held up her artwork for me to see. 
I smiled at her "beautiful".
"It is. So, thank you for helping me get Satan behind me."
"Oh, I think you did that all on your own. I hope you start to banish him more often"
She smiled.
"He has no power here". 
She chuckled and gave my arm a squeeze.

"He sure doesn't"

Who knew that the strength and might of the very devil could be swayed by simply picking up a brush and dipping it in water!

 

Although I don't often think in terms of demons, I did know exactly what she was talking about. It is what I call the "inner critic", but has had many names throughout the ages. It is simply the part of ourselves (or our egos) that tries to stop us from being who we fully are. 

The devil's intentions are sometimes honorable. This part of us is just longing for survival, it wants to save us (or our egos) from annihilation. Sweet...kind of...because, most of the time we can keep it in check. Sometimes, however, our inner critic gets out of control. It starts working over time, day and night, stopping us in our tracks by letting us know how weak, undesirable, incapable, and unloved we are; lies!

It is in these instances that we must figure out a way to get the devil behind us. We must say "you have no power here" and let him slip out for a coffee break. Once he is no longer blocking our view, we can return to the light and see our own beauty.

 Similar watercolors

Similar watercolors

New Directions

I have decided to persue my LMFT license and to open a private therapy practice. This will be a long and expensive process, but I think it will ultimatly bring me more of the work I love.

It is a big transition for me and I am still in the planning stage. But it makes me wonder, what draws us to these transitions. I think we move towards a new phase of life when the old stuff is just not working for us any more.

I am reminded of that quote "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.".- Anis Nin (who is also just the best writer ever)

Is it always pain that pushes us out to newness? If so, what funny creatures we are...stubborn and yet so hopeful.

I will keep the website updated with test results, suppervission decissions, and new office details. In the meantime, let me know...what motivates you to grow? to take risks? to blossom?

The Soup Mama

*This story was written for a children's class on Self-Kindness. I would love to find an illustrator and editor to help self-publish it as a children's book. 

Once there was a family with lots and lots of children. The family was not wealthy

but they had plenty of love and all the children were happy because they

felt much loved.

There was a Mama who took care of all the children. Every night she gathered

together all the ingredients she could find to make soup, because a little soup

can feed a big group. She would cut up the potatoes, dice the tomatoes, brown

the onions, and add the water.

At supper time all the kids would sit around a big table and pass the soup pot.

They would each take a spoonful for their bowl and pass to the next kid. Every

night the pot would go around the table, and every night when it got back to

Mama it was empty. She would sit quietly and watch as her beloved children

laughed, talked and enjoyed the flavors of the soup.

 

Then, with full bellies, one of the kids would volunteer to do the dishes while the

others tidied the house for bedtime.

 

The next night Mama would once again gather ingredients for soup, because a

little soup can feed a big group. She would cut up the potatoes, dice the

tomatoes, brown the onions, and add the water. The kids would pass the pot and

by the time it got to Mama it was empty, so Mama would sit and soak up the joy of

her children as they laughed, talked and enjoyed the flavors of the soup.

 

It went on like this day after day for many years.

 

Then one day the littlest child grew old enough to notice the world.

“Mama” the Baby said, “you never eat any soup at dinner, don’t you get hungry?”.

The Mama laughed “of course I get hungry, Baby, and all the joy and love at our

table feeds my soul.”

“But Mama”, Baby asked “doesn’t your body get hungry?” (Baby had been

learning at school that all living things need nourishment to survive.)

Mama smiled. “Baby,” she said “I think it is time that you help me in the kitchen.

Will you help me make the soup tomorrow?”

Baby nodded yes. All the older brothers and sisters had helped at some

point, but this was the Baby’s first invitation to help.

 

The next night Mama called Baby to the kitchen as she started to gather the ingredients.

Baby watched as she cut up the potatoes and saw that as she cut them she ate

pieces of each one to make sure they were fully cooked. She handed Baby

some pieces to sample. The potatoes melted in Baby’s mouth.

Then Mama started to dice the tomatoes. Baby noticed as she lifted a few

handfuls to her mouth to savor the sweetness of the red fruit. She gave Baby

bites of tomato too, they tasted so good.

As Mama started to brown the onions, Baby watched her lean over the pot and

smell their spicy sweet aroma. She carefully lifted Baby over the pot to smell. It

was so good.

When she added the water she poured herself and her Baby a big cool glass to

enjoy while the pot bubbled. They drank the water together and Baby felt revived.

Then Baby laughed as Mama dipped her big cooking spoon in to the pot and

pulled out taste after taste for them to share. Baby could taste the soup

ingredients melding together as they took the spoonfuls in to their mouths.

When the time came to share the soup, Mama and Baby were already full- just

from cooking.

 

That night Baby sat at the table with all the brothers and the sisters. Baby watched as

they laughed and talked and enjoyed the flavors of the soup.

 

“Mama” said Baby “Thank you for inviting me to cook with you tonight, I have

never felt so full”

 

And Mama just smiled and kissed Baby’s head, then she sat back and quietly

watched as her beloved children laughed, talked and enjoyed the flavors of the

soup.

 

Reflection:

What did Mama do to keep herself from getting hungry?

What do you think would have happened to the children if Mama had really not

been eating all those years?

Have you ever had the experience of having to make your own meal or do

something good for yourself?

I wonder how taking good care of ourselves can help others.

Rituals for Pregnancy Loss

Rituals for Pregnancy Loss

There are experiences in life that change us.  A rite of passage takes a life changing experience out of the body, out of the secret, so that it can be seen clearly and moved through.

An Invitation to Gratitude

Life is so full at Thanksgiving. There are visits to make, people to see, turkeys to battle, and for some people shopping to be done. It isn't all easy and it isn't all fun. Today is my father's birthday. He is very sick right now and I am very pregnant and so we won't be able to see each other. 

Thinking back, he is the start of my Thanksgiving memories. He is the cook in our little family and so every year on this day the kitchen was his. My dad is an experimenter, a tinkerer, and so his meals were never repetitions but rather little works of art that he proudly shared with the people he loved. 

Not being with him today is painful. Not because it is our first our only Thanksgiving apart, but rather because I fear it might be his last as I have every year since 2012 when he received a bleak diagnosis. Couple that with the small little life growing inside me longing to meet its grandfather and well, the pressure is on.

Yes, life is full and it isn't always easy to find gratitude when day to day existence drags us into worry, doubt, and the fog of holiday traffic. So what can we do? What can I do, to draw out Thanksgiving?

Starting at the beginning, we might notice that gratitude is the goal today. It is now and always should be. When gratitude comes, it is followed by joy, peace, compassion, enlightenment, and basically all the good stuff. Thankfulness is what we all really want on our plates this afternoon because nothing is more filling than settling into how provided for we are...how deeply loved. 

Thanksgiving invites us to the table of abundance. It invites us to pull up a chair and delve in to the richness of living. That invitation is not an invitation to ignore our sorrows, but rather to look deeper in to them. To find the gift of the grief. 

So as I look deeper at the fullness of my own life today I see a pretty lucky woman, about to be a mother. I see myself at the center of loving family in an act of creation and extenuation of that family. I see my dad living on through the lessons I teach my son and I see the beautiful patterns of love in my life. I see connection, and I am grateful for it. 

That gratitude is a resting place as I move through today, missing my father and longing for my child. The good is there...always just one deep breath away and followed by the gifts of a very full life.

So join me, friend, at this table. Sink in to Thanksgiving, push yourself towards the chaos and take a breath. Life, full and abundant with all it's mystery, awaits you on the other side of this meal. 


My Number One Enemy...You

Dear Client,

As someone who leads adults in the healing arts I have one enemy that I constantly battle. Guess what?... it is you.

Well, not exactly you, rather the lies you have been told your whole life. Lies like; "you can't dance", "leave the art to artists", "you're tone deaf", and "only babies scribble". These lies that you have collected over the years might seem insignificant but they have built up into great big walls of "I can't" and "I'm not creative". 

Recently I led a group of adults in a workshop that culminated in painting. The process went well and everyone was open and receptive until we were faced with those blank canvases. Then the comments started. Everyone began making excuses, to no one in particular, about how untalented they were. It was as though they couldn't stop the flood of self doubt and criticism that was pouring into their mind from spilling out in to the room. By the end, everyone had done their work and was pleased to finally be able to praise the other participants.  It seemed hard for most members to say something positive about their own work, but they clearly wanted the other group members feel good about what they had done. 

This happens almost every time I ask a client to embark on a creative task, and it amazes me. Why do people get in their own way? It never happens with kids (well not before middle school), but at some point "grown ups" stop allowing them selves to play. Have you done this? Have you told your self that you aren't creative? 

Well frankly, it is total BS. Not only are you creative, your creativity is a fundamental part of how you function in this world. You probably don't even notice how brilliant you are; how you arrange furniture, put together outfits to convey specific messages, solve complicated problems in your work place, or compose rhetorical sonnets in emails. You are creative every single day...I promise. 

So why is it, that when we get in to a workshop or coaching session that you freeze up and feel the need to spew out lines like; "mine looks terrible", "I give up", "I messed up"? 

It is those walls isn't it? You have been lied to. Some one (probably a teacher) at some point told you that art is measurable, something you can either do or you can't. Someone told you that "talent" was real. 

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Do want to know what "talent" is? It is bravery. It is taking the risk and making a choice and moving forward. I can't determine if your art is "good", you are the only one who can asses the value of your own work and when you do so PLEASE don't compare yourself to "great artists" compare yourself to YOURSELF. Did you take a risk? Were you honest and authentic? Did you investigate something? Did you open yourself to a creative process? Did you learn anything? Did you feel anything? If the answer is "yes" to any of these questions then you created a thing of beauty.

A member of that same group came to me later in the week. She brought me her canvas that she had continued to work on. The image was of a bird, perched on a branch ready to fly and that is what she had titled it, "#1, Thinking of Flying". She told me that participating in the workshop had opened something for her. This was painting #1 and she now envisioned a whole series; this bird in a life cycle and eventually taking wing. She did it. She over came her wall and now she can start to fly. 

Creativity is a practice...you are neither good nor bad at it, you just do it or you don't. So please go easier on your self. Let your inner art critic take a break. Stop getting in the way of your own work. Stop being the enemy of your own unfoldment. Just this once, join me and let's see what is possible. 

with love,

Genevieve

5 Reasons to Hire a Celebrant

The truth is, anyone can officiate a wedding. You could pick a favored uncle, a dear friend, or even a court appointed judge to perform the ceremony. If you aren't sure of who to pick or how to pick someone look over my list of reasons to hire a celebrant. There are definite benefits to investing the time and money into a professional service.

Reliability

Your wedding day is not a day you want to spend worrying about details. Hiring me means the ball is in my court. I will have done the prep work and show up ready to be at service. I will not have stage fright, flub my lines, or forget my cues. I have done this many times before and I know what to do and how to do it.

Community Building

When I work a wedding or any other sort of special event I am available to all the people present for counsel, support, or even just casual chit chat. I see myself as a hostess and my job is to draw people into the moment. This is a skill that many family members or friends might lack but it is essential. The ceremony is important because it is witnessed, all present should feel welcome and excited to be a part of it.

A Unique Ceremony

Imagine a ceremony that is entirely true to who you are. One that is built up of pieces of your story, culture, and beliefs. There is no limit to what a ceremony can be. It can be traditional, funky, edgy, ancient, comic, sincere, or silly. Multiple rituals can be combined and woven together. Words and poetry can be entirely your own or borrowed from anywhere and everywhere. This is YOUR ceremony it should be meaningful to YOU.

In the role of ceremony designer, I see my self as a quilter. I listen carefully to what my clients want and use my experience as a storyteller and theatre director to craft cohesive beautiful reflections of the hearts of my clients.

Meaningful Preparation

When I got married, my partner and I had pre-canna classes provided my the Catholic church. Although I am not Catholic and was not looking forward to them, I still treasure the classes and what they taught us. We had been together for nearly five years, but the pre-canna classes gave us both a chance to clarify our expectations, fears, and desires for married life. I can not over emphasize how important it is to take time before the ceremony to review what exactly you are doing and why you are doing it. It sets your next stage of life off on the right foot.

In the process I conduct, the ceremony planing is the class. As you make choices for your personalized ceremony, you will gain insight into what is important to you. Deciding what you want to say and how you want to say it will tell you so much about the ways you are growing and intend to grow. Also, ceremony planing hours will soon count as part of the Twogether in Texas program and will get you discounted marriage licence fees and privlidges!

Transition Support

My skills as a certified coach with a masters degree in expressive arts therapy are available to you as my client. You are not alone in the process of preparation. It will be a rich meaningful time for you to acknowledge and come towards your full potential. My nonjudgemental client led process is friendly and warm. In coaching sessions we enlist your own creativity and personal resources to manifest change in your life.

If you desire support beyond my expertise I am connected in the Austin counseling community and can provide you with excellent referrals. I care deeply for all my clients and desire their honest unfolding in what ever manner it comes. I do this work primarily because I love to watch people grow and transform as they move through life's passageways.

10 Lessons from Hospice

End of life and bereavement work is not something that gets a lot of focus. So often those who work in hospice and palliative care are wondered at. I frequently get asked why do I continue to volunteer for hospice and work with clients at end of life. Well, as hard and real as it might be working with death and dying is filled with joy, beauty, and life. Here is a list of some of the best little tidbits of wisdom uncovered in my recent hospice volunteer training. 

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Focus on the Beauty

Often hospice work is filled with unpleasant sights, smells, and thoughts, but if you walk into each situation looking for the beauty you will be able to do what you need to do. Notice the person before you; their eyes, their smile, the flowers at the bedside. Pay attention to the beauty and it will grow.

 

Follow the Undercurrent

Instead of getting caught up in the details of the situation, try to see if you can hear what the emotional message is. For example, some one might say "my daughter is always complaining that I watch too much television". What are the unspoken messages of that comment? That is what we should respond to; the undercurrent of each communication. 

 

All Grief is Unique

Everyone grieves differently. There is no perfect pattern for healing. It looks different, feels different, sticks different, is DIFFERENT. So, all we can do is just observe and support people in their unique process.

Also, bereavement comes from a latin word that means "to be robbed". (just a neat fact)

 

Being Still is an Art

Seriously. Try to say nothing and be still. It isn't easy, but leaving space for the other person will be the greatest reward.

 

Validate Yourself

Never expect a thank you. Find the gratitude for your service in the service itself.

 

All Pain is Non-Physical

I could write a whole blog post about this one. Hospice and palliative care has a goal to lessen suffering, but it is not an easily obtained because suffering is a complex experience. The pain felt from a broken leg is not the injury, rather it is the perception of the injury in the brain. So pain, like grief, is a unique internal response to an outside stimulus. Once again, everyone's pain is different.

 

We Teach People How to Treat Us

Everyone who spoke to us in the training mentioned "good boundaries". It is important to be able to know where you stand, why you are there, and what the limits are of your service. We will treat people how to treat us by the way we treat ourselves. 

 

Ask your Self Hard Questions

 What would be the hardest things for me to have to give up in my life? How might I handle having to die? Who would I want to be my power of attorney? What is a risk I need to take, right now? By asking myself hard questions...all the hard questions I can think of...I am growing empathy, and understanding for others and myself.

 

Tears

Don't stop someone else's tears by saying "it will be okay" or giving a pat on the shoulder. See if you can lovingly hold a space in your heart for the other person while you witness tears. Tears comfort us by releasing chemicals and hormones. They are a necessary part of healing and sometimes the best thing to do is cry.

 

The Only Way Out is the Door

This was presented as a quote from Hellen Keller. It seems to sum up a lot of what goes on at end of life, and in all life transitions. Walking through that door can be terrifying, painful, lonely ...but at some point we simply can no longer stay where we are and we have to move on to what ever comes next. 

Conjure Woman

I have recently realized that I love to CONJURE. every job I have ever liked has involved some sort of conjuring. My involvement in the theatre had everything to do with this love of mine. I am a teacher, conjuring students passion for creative exploration. As a therapist (therapy student...for the board), I am constantly working with clients to conjure up healing and expression. And here I am as an officiant, conjuring sacred moments...inviting the spiritual to touch this world and drawing forth presence and meaning in times of transtion.

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As a wedding officiant, I have a deep love for facilitating important moments in life and consider it an honor to hold the space for the love my client's share. One such moment that I will never forget came from a tender and loving groom. As he began his vows, he started to cry. What began as a little sniffle turned into deep sobs before he could finish what he was saying, which was something about how he felt he could always rely on his partner. His bride, with a calm smile, pulled a tissue from her bouquet and handed it to him. As he looked up and took the tissue he exclaimed "See, that is exactly what I'm talking about, babe". Everyone present turned on a dime from tears to laughter. 

It was a perfect moment and an illustration of the kinds of honest and sincere weddings I love to be a part of. The groom felt safe enough, and had done enough prep work, to allow himself to be swept into the moment. The bride followed suit and so did everyone in attendance. That wedding was alive. I can't put my finger on what exactly to call it but there are moments of pure life that can be called forth in a ceremony, if the participants are willing. That is why I do weddings. To facilitate and amplify those moments when the world stops and everything becomes beautiful.