When Looking for a Therapist, Find One That Specializes in Your Particular Need – PART TWO


Yesterday, I gave you all the first part of my interview with Suzette Spence, M.A, L.M.F.T along with her contact information (phone 714-801-6850)  If you need therapy for grief, complicated grief, loss, dealing with the suicide of a loved one, she comes highly recommended by With Hope, the Amber Craig Memorial Foundation (www.withhopefoundation.org).  For more information on With Hope, check out this cool video that we did about two months ago here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avd0dwtL6LQ

Now that the plugs are done….let’s get back to the real point of this post….the second part of the interview with Suzette Spence.  NOTE:  Any websites posted here were found by the writer and not endorsed in any way by Suzette.

Q:  Do you feel that a Christian therapist would be a better option for a family survivor over a secular therapist or does it even matter?

A:  I do not think that being a “Christian” counselor per se is important as much as having a strong spiritual believe and being open to whatever faith your clients believe in to help guide them through their grief.  Some research indicated that if a client has a spiritual belief (any religion, not just Christianity), their grieving appears to resolve sooner and the client tends to have a more positive and philosophical outlook on life.  I usually ask about a client’s spiritual beliefs (again, it is not important with religion or faith) and we work on that strength.  Often there is community support in their beliefs, rituals, beliefs about life, death and suicide are closely held on to.  I have counseled clients from all religious backgrounds, asking them about their beliefs, honoring their rituals and learning from them.

Q:  After a loved one take their own life (writer’s note:  I hate the term “committed suicide” because it makes it sound like a crime, thus adding to the stigma for the survivors), where should those left behind look for help first?

A:  Again, if there is a spiritual community that the client is affiliated with, then finding support in that community (writer’s note again – I can attest to that, my church family have literally been life savers for me).  Also friends and family.  Finding a Survivors of Suicide support group and personal counseling.  If PTSD is involved, considering EMDR (http://www.emdria.org).

Q:  What type of education needs to get to the public to try to prevent suicide?  Is there enough being done to educate people in schools? At the city level? County level? State level? Federal level? (writer leaves no stone unturned) What more do feel can or should be done?  If you were the one making the policies on suicide education and prevention, what would you want to see done? (writer needs a campaign manager, please contact me if interested….ha!)

A:  Educate young people, early on, in health classes about depression, mental illness, and addictions (writer’s note:  The fastest growing group of potential suicide is the 10-14 age group – http://sperling.site.aplus.net/defiantloveistheofficialwebsiteofdavidjsperling/id43.html).  Provide them with strategies they can use if they feel depressed and/or suicidal (i.e. tell them where they can get help).  Unfortunately today, most young people have parents that invest a lot of money and time in their children’s academic education but little time in helping them to learn social skills, coping mechanisms for life and just plain reality.  Our society is teaching our children that life is fair, everyone can win and no one should fail at anything (writer’s note – talk about setting your kids up for a fall).  This social belief system is ill preparing out children for the real world.

Q:  Is there anything that you would like to add to this based on your personal and professional experiences?

A:  Life is a struggle.  Once you accept that, it is much easier to cope, find daily gratitude  when things go well and have and having coping mechanisms when they do not go so well.  Also everything that has a beginning also has an end.  That is true about all of our problems and most of our “struggles.”  If young people understood this, and depressed people could hold on to that, they would work through the struggle and allow it to develop their life path with compassion and love (writer throws in empathy as a well).  Most of the reasons why people give up and end their lives, are temporary and could have been worked through with time and patience.

Suzette also gave me an article of things to NOT say to a suicide survivor.  When I read this my first thought was “I have heard each one of them in the days/weeks/months following my brother’s death.  Here goes:

Please consider your words carefully.  Do not ask us:

If we are “over it”

If we “feel better”

Please do not say or ask things like:

It is God’s will

Something good will come out of it

At least you have other children

They are in a better place

Time heals all wounds

Were they saved when they died?

Do you think they went to Heaven?

Did you have an argument with them?

Did you they were going to do this?

How did they do it?

Where did they do it?

Can I come in and see?

These are all real things that have been said to survivors.

I had to resist making my typical comments after some of these, but ashumo anyone who actually knows me, or those who have read all or most of my posts, when things get too heavy for me, I have to inject some sarcasm as a coping mechanism.  Yes my therapist taught me a thing or two (didn’t get the part about what to do when you’re done with therapy though).  So my personal “favorites” (read, the ones that ticked me off the most) were:

Did you have an argument with them?  Yeah, because I’m so freaking powerful and influential on my loved one, that one nasty word from me would totally throw them over the edge…..

Did you know they were going to do this?  Hello??!!  If I knew do you not think I would have done EVERYTHING within my power to move heaven and earth to stop it?

Time heals all wounds.  Yeah…wait until the single most important person in your life dies and then come and talk to me.

Something good will come out of it (otherwise known as Romans 8:28)  Because now what I really need to hear is that God wanted it this way because it’s part of  His master plan…okay well, at the time that really PISSED me off….now farther removed and knowing the path that I have chosen because of this, I am starting to see it a bit more clearly now…but the SAME DAY….Not so much.

To go back to more of the positive side of things…These are things that help us heal and that you can say…..

What are you needing?

Is there anything I can do for you?

What was your loved one like? (Writer could not resist:  We don’t want to forget them and most times, talking about them can make us smile)

May I bring you a meal?

Call me if you would like to talk? (writer again – okay, but could you actually answer the phone?  I had several people who said call me anytime and then never answered the phone….really helpful)

It’s OK to cry (me again, Thanks for permission to do something I can’t control)

You are not going crazy (I sure thought I was for a while)

I care about and what you and what you are going through.

So there you have it…I know it’s a lot of information all at once, but the day after my brother died, I was all over the internet looking for every possible bit of information I could find.  For at least the first week, I could quote statistics like no one else.  Finally one of my friends jokingly asked me if this was my new goal in life….I stopped quoting, but never stopped researching.

That’s all for now.  I promise my next post ….hmmmm….Sorry I just can’t promise anything about my next post, except that there will be a next post.  Take it easy until then.

When Looking for a Therapist, Find One That Specializes in Your Particular Need


After my brother, Pete, took his own life I had to start seeing a therapist.  Not because I wanted to make sense of this, which I did, I just eventually realized that it was never going to make sense to me.  That realization really threw me for a while.  I needed to seek therapy because I now had to figure out how to live without the one person, that I had literally spoken to every day since we both old enough to communicate.  My sister-in-law never disconnected his phone, but I have stopped myself from calling it 100 or more times a day.  Only slightly exaggerated.  Luckily I had a friend, who had a friend, who had a friend, who happened to be the founder of With Hope, the Amber Craig Memorial Foundation.  She got me in with a therapist for an assessment five days after the incident and then got grant approval for me to see the therapist twice a week starting August 23, 2012.  This was actually pretty fast, even for an emergency grant proposal.  I saw her twice a week for what seemed like forever, then once every other week or every week as my financed allowed.  One week ago, I discharged myself because I could no longer afford it, (even at more than 1/2 off) since I did not have a job and I was going to school.  This past week I have been pretty busy with school and assignments, but when I have had down time, it’s been REALLY DOWN….I’m hoping that this gets better, because I don’t want to think about it getting worse.  

When I started this project for school, I had to do five postings, have five things (websites, etc) that were not generated by me and then five things that were generated by me.  For the crown jewel of my 5, please see my post titled “Boy Did I Get a Rude Awakening…”  For a first time directing a video, I think it turned out really well.  

One of the other things that I did for this project was interview a therapist, Suzette Spence, M.A., LMFT, who specializes in working with issues of depression and grieving.  Her therapy focuses on working with family survivors of suicide, unexpected and traumatic death and the passing away of a loved one.   Suzette understands at a very deep and personal level herself, the immense energy and courage it takes to get through the grieving journey especially of a traumatic death of a loved one.  We sat down in her office one afternoon and she answered my questions in a very thoughtful and caring manner.  Here is the transcript of the first part of that interview:  

Q:  Why do you focus on family survivors of Suicide and how long have you been doing this? 

A;  I have been seeing survivors for approximately eight years.  I focus on this population because there is such a need for therapists who specialize in this area and who have real life experience to match the situation.  

Q:  Are there any other areas that could be focused on relating to sucide?

A:  Yes, one can pursue a certificate in Thanatology or a fellowship in Thanatology.  (writer’s note:  Thanatology investigates the mechanisms and forensic aspects of death, such as bodily changes that accompany death and the post-mortem period, as well as wider social aspects related to death.  See http://www.suicidology.org/home)

Q:  Survivors have a hard time telling people how their loved one died because of feelings of shame, guilty, etc.  What do you feel needs to be done in order to change this? 

A:  I believe that, socially, things are starting to change in a very positive way.  The general public is now starting to become more educated in mental health issues and people are now starting to understand that suicide is largely related to depression and mental illness (writer’s note:  This depression and/or other mental health illnesses may or may not have been diagnosed and/or treated) The stigma socially and religiously that survivors used to feel is lessening. 

Q:  Some people feel that is a person talks about suicide, they are just trying to get attention.  There is evidence that proves this is not true (see http://suicide.org/suicide-myths.html). In general, how do know if a person who talks about suicide is serious about doing it?  

A:  I start by asking if the person believes they have a future.  I also ask if they feel hopeful about their future.  Then, depending on their answer, I then ask if they are talking about suicide because they want an “escape from the pain” or if they truly want to end their life.  If it is escape from the pain that they respond with, we then focus on behavorial strategies to deal with the pain and depression.  However, if the person continues to talk about ending their life, I ask if they have a means and a plan.  I also ask about prior attempts and of course would need to have a complete mental history in their file.  If there is intent, a means and a plan, then hospitalization is usually required.  

Tomorrow, I will give you part two of this interview, as well as some other insights that Suzette shared with me regarding suicide.  

In the meantime if you, or anyone you know, is in need of a therapist who specializes in grief and/or family survivors of suicide, you can reach Suzette by calling (714) 801-6850.  Her office is located at 228 W Main Street, Tustin, CA  92780.  

In the meantime, take good care of you and those you love.  

Journalism 110 – What I want to do when I “grow up.”


So, I have to do some blog posts for my journalism class, preferably discussing the job that I eventually desire…I must say I’m glad that there are some “older” adults besides me in my class.  Right now, my goal is to get a B.A. in Human Services and, ultimately, a Master in Social Work.  Somewhere before the B.A. is completed, but after I have taken enough of the “AA-T” requirements, I would like to take the required test to be an alcohol/drug counselor, that way I’ll have at least some income to help me pay for the graduate and post-graduate degrees.  Eventually, I want to somehow be involved with family survivors of suicide, which if you have read my blog before, you know is very close to my heart on a personal level.  The day after my brother’s suicide, I was connected with the With Hope, the Amber Craig Memorial Foundation, which is a non-profit focusing on teen suicide prevention through education and mental health awareness.  With Hope helped me get connected with a psychologist (who works a lot with family survivors of suicide) within 5 days for an assessment and I actually starting seeing the therapist, ironically enough on my brother’s birthday.  My therapist has been instrumental in helping me realize, among other things, that my brother wasn’t “crazy” just depressed.  

Anyway, since August 2012, I have been involved with the With Hope Foundation, and I think everyone needs to know the signs and symptoms of depression, which by itself can help to save a life.  Also, if someone talks about committing suicide, they aren’t just saying it to get attention…they are actually reaching out in one of the few ways they know now…DON’T IGNORE IT…TELL SOMEONE!!  Check out the With Hope website.  It has a lot of information, not just for teens or anyone with a teen, but for anyone who loves someone.  You may be surprised at what you learn in just five minutes on this website.  

 

http://www.WithHopeFoundation.org