Welcome To my Blog!
I wanted to start this blog to discuss ideas regarding mental health in general, information about seeking treatment, the different areas I specialize in, and my philosophy about life in general.
With the military operation against Osama Bin Laden that took place this month, my thoughts have been automatically been drawn back to the September 11th Terrorist Attacks, but even more so, about how my life has changed in the last 10 years.
I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty regular guy just trying to make it in the world, with no special talents or skills, but when I think back over the last 10 years, I’ve been very lucky to have had some incredible experiences and opportunities. On September 11th, 2001, I was actually working on a grant review for the Department of Health and Human Services in D.C. Much like in NYC, Tuesday, September 11th was an extraordinarily beautiful morning, not a cloud in the sky. It looked to be like any other day working for the Office of Program Review, reading, reading, and more reading through grant applications. After the attacks happened, the cell phone networks were overloaded and shut down and no one here in Orlando, or my family in Houston, could get a hold of me to see if I was ok. Actually, I was on the complete other side of town from the Pentagon and in no danger. Ironically, that week we were reviewing grant applications for programs treating children with traumatic stress.
Once I got home, I figured that story would be my only tie to the terrorist attacks. It just so happened I had recently completed the certification to become a mental health responder for disasters for the American Red Cross, because my boss at the Mental Health Association thought it would be a good idea for all of the counselors to be crisis response certified. Of course, it resulted in my being asked to go to New York City. My boss wanted me to go, and I did. I spent 3 weeks at WTC Ground Zero in October and November of 2001 working with the NYPD, FDNY, and construction workers at “The Pile”, which is what they called the work area in and around the collapsed buildings.
I think I could write a book about that experience alone, but it is not my particular point of this blog. That period of time is a benchmark for me. When I think back over those last 10 years, I can see so many changes. I was just finishing my Ph.D., I was still so unschooled in a lot of ways about the practice of therapy (although I thought I was pretty smart, lol), and I figured I would always be working at the Mental Health Association, because there didn’t seem to be any reason to leave.
Since then, I have worked in a residential treatment facility, served as the mental health team supervisor of an HIV/AIDS medical clinic, conducted in-home assessments for the State’s child welfare system, served as board president for the local GLBT chamber of commerce, served as board president for what is now the biggest GLBT Pride event in Florida, and built a very healthy private practice, of which I am immensely proud, all the while getting to meet some of the most interesting and inspiring people: my clients. I have really been all over the place professionally, trying to figure out what I’m going to do when I grow up. Some days that gets me down. On those days when I don’t feel like I’m at my best, I try to remember what I’ve accomplished, instead of focusing on the problems. That’s what I call benchmarking.
I remember benchmarking as being one of the first therapeutic techniques I learned that I really responded to, and began teaching my clients. We typically spend too much thinking about what has gone, is going, and will go wrong, but not enough time thinking about what valuable things we’ve learned from those experiences and what has actually gone right. Some days it is harder than others, but I think you have to look at it as skill development. It is the rare person that can learn to ride a bike of the first try. Things get better with practice. The more you practicing indentifying and benchmarking the successes or positive moments in your life, the better you get at it. Which reminds me of a story… (to be concluded in the next post, Benchmarking 1.2)