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How Your Healing Journey can Level Up with the Healing Journal

Therapy is a process that is well worth the wait when you get to the end. As more people start and end their therapy journey, it became apparent that having a space to track that progress and set goals can be a vital part of the healing journey. That is why the Healing Journal was created.

healing journal on gold tray

Habit Tracker

Critical questions are asked when you start attending therapy and often times it is hard to answer them. Questions like, “Are you getting enough sleep?”, “Are you eating food that fuels you?”, “Are you incorporating movement into your weekly routine?”, amongst others. These three key aspects of your healing journey can often times be overlooked when focusing on your mental health. That’s why it was so important to incorporate these vital trackers into the Healing Journal. Being able to track your sleep, eating habits, exercise, mindfulness, and more puts you in a better space to capitalize on your time in therapy. You have data and a clear picture of how these aspects of your health are impacting your mental state.

Treatment Plan

Once you have a clear picture of the foundational aspects of your wellness, it is time to move onto your goals and the plan to reach them. A treatment plan is the core of a therapist’s work because it guides the therapy process and keeps everyone on track to the finish line. One of the crucial questions to establish a treatment plan, “What will be different about your life when therapy is done?” What is the ultimate goal you are trying to reach? Is it reasonable? Is it something you have control over? What are the steps YOU are willing to take to get to that goal? Therapy can take 3-12 months to see growth, and it is hard to keep track of your long term goals without a written record of what it was you came in to work on in the first place. Using the treatment plan in the Healing Journal helps keep you on track.

Calendar Spread

90 days can sound like a short amount of time or a long time depending on what goal you are trying to reach. When making note of daily gratitude, highs and lows of the week, important questions your therapist gave you to ponder, to do lists, and so much more you need space to stay organized. Having a monthly calendar to mark important dates, upcoming appointments, and more can help with that organizational piece. Plus you’ll be able to follow up that monthly plan with daily spreads that track the little day-to-day accomplishments.

Incorporating these three tools into your bullet journal can be a major upgrade as you navigate the therapy process. Tracking your self care, planning out your goals, and ultimately noting the progress along the way are the steps to maximizing your healing journey. If you want a head start on these items check out the Healing Journal on Amazon! If you are a California resident and interested in starting therapy, book a free consultation here!

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Should You Have Kids? (5 Questions to Ask Before Making This Big Decision)

You are probably a millennial (or Gen Z) who is asking themselves, “should you have kids?”. With bigger questions looming like “is global warming going to destroy the planet?” and “will I ever pay off my student loans?”, having the responsibility of kids is getting pushed much further down the list of things you need to figure out by time you’re 30.

As many of us are getting a later start on starting a family, we are realizing we have a little more life experience and are more aware of the nuances of family planning. Getting married at 20 and having 4 kids by 30 is no longer the norm. A 25 year old, fully developed brain can see that much more clearly.

I am a mom first and foremost. It is the most important role in my busy life and the one that brings the most satisfaction, happiness, and stress. Yes, stress is one of the top 3 emotions felt as a mom. But that is for a very good reason. Being a parent is like visiting Disneyland everyday.

This is good news for those that love Disneyland. If you are a proud annual pass holder, you are probably also someone who has always wanted a whole minivan full of kiddos.

photo of fireworks display during evening over castle kids at Disneyland
Photo by Zichuan Han on Pexels.com

You Live for Fleeting Moments of Unimaginable Joy

If you have ever been to Disneyland, you know that Disneyland is 80% planning, waiting in line, and overspending, while only 20% fun & magical. You may spend weeks or even months planning out an ideal trip. It’s the most magical place on earth, so why wouldn’t you want to go? But the day of, after spending an arm & a leg on tickets (hotels, flights, rental cars, etc. for those non-Californians) you find yourself cramped in a car taking a rather long drive through LA traffic, which feels even longer when the last mile takes 20 minutes just to enter the parking lot. Then takes another 30 minutes to find parking, wait in line, take a tram ride, and wait in line some more. Finally there’s that ever rewarding, awestruck feeling once you get through security and see that glorious Disney character posing in front of those gorgeous hedges.

That feeling lasts all of a minute. Then you are off to grab fast-pass tickets or try to be first in line for your favorite ride. You spend most of the day waiting in line for 20 minutes for a 2 minute ride. That although fun, feels like it didn’t last long enough. You then have to make the decision of whether to eat the overpriced food or not. Those Dole whips are delicious, but is that really a meal? The day flies by and before you know it you are trying to find a decent spot in the crowd to watch the magical fireworks at the end of the night. Then you fight your way through more crowds and tram rides to head back home through traffic.

That my friends, is what parenthood is like.

So when you ask yourself, “should I have kids?”. You should really ask yourself, “would I want to plan a trip to Disneyland everyday for the next 18 years?”.

It Starts During Your Pregnancy Journey

If you are already a parent, you know that means being stressed 80% of the time, while hoping that 20% filled with joy makes up for it. Any person who has carried a child will tell you it is uncomfortable at best and life threatening at worst. But this experience is almost always shared along with the tiny moments that were so meaningful you almost forgot how much pain you were in. Like hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time or feeling them kick.

In the early stages of being a parent it feels like those momentous occasions happen a little more frequently. So all the explosive diapers and sleepless nights are met with a pretty regular hit of dopamine. Their first laugh, their first steps, their first words. All priceless moments that any parent would say was well worth it. But is it really?

It doesn’t get easier over time (although some swear it does). The stress changes from late night feedings to arguing with a toddler about why vegetables are important to worrying if your teen is making good social choices when they are out on their own. The dopamine hits get further and further apart too. Meeting milestones every few months turns to every few years rather quickly. And it all flies by way faster than we thought it would. Overall we look back with hindsight bias and tell ourselves it was all worth it. While in the moment we are thinking, “How did I get here??”.

Why We Don’t Talk about the Stressors of Parenthood

Our parents (or other parent-type figures), often spring the question on us, “when are you going to have kids?”. This question is super unfair. It is loaded with all these other underlining thoughts and assumptions. Like…

  • “When are you going to get married?”
  • “When are you going to make enough money to afford a kid?”
  • “Are your reproductive organs working right?”
  • “Do your values align with mine?”

None of these questions should really ever be asked. Unless you are the person also trying to raise this hypothetical child.

Because there is a distance between their experience of having children and the present moment; I think a lot of folks forget just how hard, stressful, and exhausting it is to raise healthy, happy children. No one discusses with you the risks of pregnancy and labor. Or the struggles of making ends meet when you aren’t considered upper middle class. Or even how you could be considered upper middle class, but once your household size grows, you are considered barely scraping by.

If someone asked you, “when are you going to add more stress to your life?”, it would be met with, “Why would I want to do that!?”. That is truly what is being asked in these scenarios. No matter what stage of life you are in, having a child will almost always add stress to your plate. You could be a billionaire and you would still be more stressed after having a kid than prior to having a kid. Will a kid potentially add love and joy into your life as well? Sure! But will it balance out the systemic issues we have with providing for today’s children. Maybe not.

How to Prepare for Children

When we talk about stress in therapy, we often use this idea of having a bucket that is sitting under a running faucet. The water is the stress that inevitably shows up in little and big ways throughout our week. If we let that bucket overflow, that is the state of overwhelm and burnout. But if we put holes in the bucket the water will flow out in a more controlled manner, and the bucket won’t overflow. The holes are coping skills.

When you are considering having children, you have to consider the fact that the faucet will start flowing more forcefully and quickly. Do you have enough holes to manage it? Do you have the coping skills needed to control the flow? Will you be able to prevent it from overflowing? Some individuals may have a slight trickle prior to having kids. So a sudden rush of water still feels manageable. But if you are holding your bucket under an already broken faucet, can you handle it becoming a raging waterfall??

Asking yourself or your partner, “should you have kids?” is a tough question. Try asking yourself instead:

  • “Do we have the resources needed to cope with an increase in stress?”
  • “Is our relationship in a place where we can focus on another life and not feel disconnected?”
  • “Do we want to significantly alter our lifestyles?”
  • “Is ‘the joy of parenthood’ a value that tops others in our life currently?”
  • “Would I want to plan a trip to Disneyland everyday for the next 18 years?”

The decision is yours.

When in Crisis, Call 9-8-8

On July 16th, 2022, the National Mental Health Crisis line will be active across the United States. 9-8-8. The previous number, 1-800-273-TALK(8255), will remain available, so either number will work.

Established in 2005, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline helped reduce the incidence of suicidality and depression in callers over the past 15+ years. Call centers across the United States are reachable 24 hours a day and 7 days a week via call, chat, or text.

African-American person with blue hair sitting on yellow chair on a cellphone with laptop on their lap

When one calls the new number they will reach trained crisis counselors. These counselors speak with callers from a framework of empathy and trauma-informed crisis intervention. The new 9-8-8 number will be primary to 9-1-1 in cases of threats of suicide. If someone calls 9-1-1 due to a mental health crisis, they will be rerouted to 9-8-8 counselors. This is due to the fact that 9-8-8 will deploy crisis teams (in locations where they are available) instead of police to assist the individual.

When considering helping a friend or loved one dealing with mental health challenges, remember 9-8-8. It could save a life. Additional crisis resources for specific scenarios or populations are accessible here.

Cursive text saying, "peace, love, happiness, Lee"

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Why Therapists Don’t Return Your Voicemails

You’d be surprised how often I hear, “You’re the only therapist that called me back,”. Therapist’s voicemails are often full of appointment requests. It’s a common complaint amongst therapy seekers that therapists just are not responsive to calls or emails. There’s a very common reason for this…we’re busy.

Therapist on phone while on laptop. Therapist's voicemails full.

Therapists in private practice are often a single person running an entire business. Unlike typical doctor’s offices, there are no assistants or admins manning the phones and sitting at a front desk. A lot of therapists don’t even have an office (outside of their desk in their home). So they are single-handedly responsible for answering phones, responding to emails, seeing clients, writing notes for sessions, scheduling appointments, building a website, managing their billing/insurance calls, and ultimately keeping their business afloat. Plus, we didn’t even mention the possibility of a crisis arising. So voicemails and emails often get pushed to the end of the to do list for many therapists.

We truly give undivided attention

When working with clients one-on-one for an hour at a time, clients expect our undivided attention. Your therapist wouldn’t answer a phone call during your session, and they won’t answer your call during someone else’s session. They also aren’t answering calls, while writing clinical notes or attending to personal needs between sessions. Many therapists also have untypical “business hours”, so calling at 9am may actually be outside of their scheduled work day. Most therapists see 4-8 clients a day. That’s 4-8 hours out of the day that they will not be answering phone calls or writing emails. They are also most likely not going to respond outside of work hours because that is their personal time.

We aren’t always available 24/7

So you might be thinking, “Shouldn’t my therapist always be available to me if I need them?”. The answer…yes & no. Your therapist will most likely inform you when you begin treatment if they are available for calls in between sessions. Keep in mind that a private practice is the lowest level of care. There are higher levels of care, such as intensive outpatient programs, that provide more frequent, on-call, services. You may be familiar with a medical provider’s voicemail message saying, “Please hang up and call 9-1-1 if this is an emergency or reach out to the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 if you are in crisis.”. This message is there to remind clients that their therapist is NOT who they should be calling in an emergency. Just like a physical emergency, you should head to the ER, not call your PCP. You should do the same if you are in a mental health crisis…seek out immediate care from a 24/7 crisis line or emergency room. If you don’t need immediate care, then you probably aren’t in a severe crisis. You should still go ahead and schedule a time to meet with your therapist in the next week or so. A good coping skill while waiting for an appointment is to reach out to a close confidant. This can help you cope with current emotions until you are able to meet with your therapist. [Side note: If you want to know a little more about various levels of mental health care, check out this blog.]

We try to make scheduling simple

So what’s the solution? Many therapists have tried to mitigate this inconvenience by using technology to attend to scheduling needs. Being able to schedule appointments online means you don’t actually have to speak with anyone to find an appointment that fits both your own and the therapist’s schedule. This makes scheduling super simple and takes the phone tag out of the dynamic. You may also reach out to a larger group practice when seeking treatment. These larger practices may have an administrative assistant available during typical business hours to attend to client’s scheduling needs.

We have policies & procedures for a reason

Please don’t be the person that ignores the procedures for scheduling and calls anyway. This will just lead to more unanswered voicemails. If an appointment isn’t available, it is most likely because a) the therapist is seeing another client at that time, b) the therapist is not scheduled to work at that time, or c) the therapist has already made personal plans and is no longer available on such short notice. Reaching out this way may just lead to a longer delay before your next session. [We aren’t returning from vacation early just because you called.]

We will get back to you…eventually

So, to recap…always plan to schedule your appointment at least a week in advance. This gives the therapist time to get back to your email/call with knowledge of their upcoming openings and during a time they are actually free to speak to you about your needs. Also, read any instructions that may be available about scheduling on a therapist’s website. They often inform you if they are accepting clients, the best way to contact them, or whether to give them a certain amount of time to respond (amongst other helpful information). Another pointer, try to schedule your next appointment at the end of your current session. This secures your spot on the therapist’s calendar and gives you time to save it on yours.

Here at Simplee Therapy, all appointments (for new or current clients), must be scheduled at least 3 days in advance. This allows for therapists to properly prepare for each session. Same day and next day appointments are not available. You can always reach the Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or Text “HOME” to 741741. Remember, if you are in an emergency situation dial 9-1-1 or head straight to your nearest emergency room.

There are a lot of people seeking mental health support right now, and a very limited number of therapists. Therapists want to be available and provide supportive care for your mental health needs. Please have patience when reaching out. If you are looking for a new therapist, check out these resources to find a good fit for your unique needs.

peace, love, happiness, Lee of Simplee Therapy
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Using a Therapy Journal and How to Maximize It

If you are participating in therapy, how are you tracking your progress? Do you have a therapy journal you are using to write down key questions, track your mood, or practice gratitude? If not, how do you even know if therapy is working for you?

healing journal by Analee Phang

Journal therapy is very much a thing, but even if you aren’t working with a therapist that specializes in this form of therapy, you can still use a journal to get more out of your therapy process. Therapy can take time from months to years, and tracking that journey can be a useful way to recognize progress along the way.

When you decide to bring a journal to your therapy sessions there are some key points to write down and keep track of…

Therapy Plan

example of treatment plan from Healing Journal

Keep track of your therapy plan. That includes who your therapist is, how to contact them, and their license. (You would be surprised how many times clients forget their therapist’s phone number.) It also includes what you want your treatment to look like. Therapist’s will often call this a “treatment plan” and note your diagnosis and therapy goals on their end. You should also know what you are working on and what your end goal is. Make note of little steps to your goals and check off progress you have made!

Safety Plan

Safety is a therapist’s number one priority in the therapy room, and ultimately it should be yours as well. If you have struggled with unsafe thinking in the past, it can be crucial to have a safety plan readily available as you navigate your mental health journey, so keeping one in your therapy journal can be super useful. Safety plans usually contain 4 key components:

Example of safety plan from healing Journal
  1. Warning Signs
  2. Coping Skills
  3. Support People
  4. Crisis Resources

Calendar

Example of calendar from healing journal

The most basic component of a good journal is a way to keep track of time. Having a calendar or at least a place to date your entries is essential. You will most likely be meeting with your therapist on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis, so keeping track of upcoming events that may interfere with that regularity can be important. It can also save you from playing “phone tag” with your therapist to figure out a good time to reschedule or cancel. (Nobody likes getting charged a late cancellation fee.)

Mood & Self Care Trackers

Example of mood and self care trackers from Healing Journal

There are a couple universal things that therapists usually want to know about, and keeping track of them throughout therapy can be a clear indicator of how well you are taking care of yourself. Those things are your sleep, your eating habits, and your exercise routine. These are the basic, foundational components of our self care, so if these are not in a good place, all the other self care isn’t going to be as helpful as you may like it to be. In addition to tracking the self care in your life, tracking your mood can give you some sound data on what triggers certain emotions and how your sleep and other self care activities affect how you feel.

Additionally, making notes in a journal during or after a therapy session can help you remember homework assigned, important questions asked, and highlights from the progress you have made since the last session. You can also use a therapy journal to practice daily gratitude or write down affirmations that speak to your current journey. Making full use of a therapy journal can make your mental health journey that much more meaningful.

If you are looking for a journal that helps outline these key components (like the pages above) check out the Healing Journal! Here’s to hoping your therapy journey leads to peace, love, and happiness in your life!

peace, love, happiness, Lee
how to maximize your therapy journal
Healing Journal

Purchase the 90-Day therapy journal on Amazon!