Your Insight Can be Better by Monday

Better By Monday“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” Henry D. Thoreau may have written this statement to broaden our personal perspective but I am going to make a guess that the miracle he mentioned is to really know difference. Seeing is believing.

What difference would be made if we could see through each other’s eyes?  I hope that instant would be filled with empathy which can make way for simultaneous kindness. That instant feels miraculous whenever it is experienced by both givers and receivers because both are creating space for the reception of difference and self.

I am unable to look at the world from the eyes of someone else but I can listen to how the world looks to someone else without interrupting their gaze. This is the closest to the Thoreau “miracle” as I can get. I get to see life through the eyes of my client while listening to how differently each of them moves through their world – and gets through the pain in their world.

Attending to the perspective of others without mine interfering with their worldview is a skill I learned in my Counseling and Guidance program. I am grateful for this skill every day because it opened my eyes first and my heart followed.  William James wrote, “Each of us literally chooses, by his way of attending to things, what sort of universe he shall inhabit.”

Listen with the intention of allowing others to share freely and safely without impeding progress or directing the pace or style of their story and hearts open. The peaceful presence you both experience may only last an instant but more of those instances between more people will make a big difference.

One Thing To Do: Listen to someone this weekend without internally narrating the right or wrong of the story. Listen to learn about how that person navigates their world.

Dawna Daigneault

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.


Your boundaries can be better by Monday

Better By MondayDo you patrol your fences or wear your armor?
Personal boundaries are often invisible but protect our emotional and spiritual space like a sturdy fence around a yard. Some boundaries can create needed distance, like a fence, but a different kind is more like a suit of armor, worn tightly to protect our greatest vulnerabilities. The personal boundary of the armor variety has to be stronger to allow us to get close to others, but the very strength of it can sometimes shield us from others as well as protect us from them. Safety can come at a cost when it comes to interpersonal relationships.
Which type of boundary is better? The fence boundary is great for meeting new people in a new place. Random social interactions or being on a team at work are situations where good fences make for positive and productive relationships. The distance these provide can make learning and observing easier while letting people choose how and when to show up to others. You may prefer a wide plot of land between you and a stranger while at a party but with a clear and reliable fence up you can choose to open the gate to someone who shares some of your interests. (And they can do the same for you, assuming they too have a reliable fence of their own.) You also control who stays outside the gate and why.
Generally, this fence is built with a combination of queues you offer (or withhold from) others. How readily you join in a conversation, smiles or affirming and animated gestures when someone else is talking, requests for more information can all be signals you send or receive that create a sense of space that is preferred and maintained – a safe space. However, this type of boundary can be exhausting to patrol – especially if the fence covers a wide diameter around your personal space, with lots of conditions and unending requirements. In this case, for example, a person goes to a party and sits alone, not wanting ANY engagement from or with others.  This fence is so wide and distant no one can get in.
The positive thing about armor is that it is worn close and can let others have more access to you, get closer, but while you are still protected and feeling safe and secure. You may not be ready for complete transparency but you can reveal and receive more when you have your in-close boundary on, your armor, and this can help you remain engaged with the world, not fenced in by it. Personal boundary of the armor variety also gives you a sense of safety when trust hasn’t been established between you and someone new. It also is made of words, gestures, and actions…all of which protect you from sharing more of your story with someone before you feel secure. And it helps them to learn about and know you at your pace, not theirs, respectfully but firmly.
One Thing To Do: Make a short list of words (phrases) that can create your version of a healthy boundary for you and that would be helpful for others as well:
 “I’m not sure I feel like talking about that right now.”
“Thanks for the interest but maybe some other time.”
“No thanks – not right now.”
“I’d love to talk about that but not really right now.”
“That would be good to discuss but when I feel abler to, later on perhaps.”
Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

The You Factor in Psychotherapy

A blog post on making the most of your psychotherapy.

Ochester Psychological Services

iStock_000014865626_SmallDid you know that you are the most important factor in your therapy?  It may seem surprising given the amount of time we spend searching for the right provider and the right therapy approach.  However, research shows that around 55% of therapy outcome is related to extra-therapeutic factors such as client readiness for change, willingness, commitment, hope and expectations of effectiveness, and resources such as social support.

The client-therapist relationship is the second largest factor associated with treatment outcome (about 30%) and this includes things like the therapeutic alliance and therapist characteristics such as verbal skills, empathy, and warmth. Interestingly, the therapy approach only accounts for about 15% of the variance in outcomes.

This can be viewed as good news on a couple of levels. It means that a wide variety of therapy approaches can be beneficial to most people and we don’t have to be overly concerned if a particular approach…

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Better By Monday: Courage Holds the Hand of Fear

In ancient times courage was one of four primary virtues, the others being wisdom, temperance and justice. Courage was seen as the most critical as it was thought the other virtues relied on the presence of courage before they could show up. In personal transformation work, such as counseling, courage is vital to progress. It’s not something found just in a moment of high anxiety or fear but is always there, awaiting access by any of us at any time.

“To summon our courage” is a wonderful phrase that gives away its true nature. It’s not always present, with us, but can be brought forward any time or in any situation. We DO, however, need to call for it and we DO need to pay attention to its voice.

Summoning courage has many recipes. For some it springs from commitment to something that has deep meaning. It energizes them to the point of actively (and easily, for them) demonstrating to others what they care about or what gives them purpose in their life. Without a depth of meaning you can engage some actions but they are more likely rooted in compliance, not commitment. And while there are thousands of charities or political causes with reliable supporters, not all of those people have a deep connection to their own true meaning and purpose which compels them to take time off from work to march in a demonstration or show resistance.

The other important aspect of courage worth thinking about is that it’s not at all a “me against you” concept. While dramatic literature and religion can often rely on narrative devices which emphasize courageous acts and conflict (man kills bad guy, saves girl etc. etc.) the more profound and powerful kind of courage is when we confront ourselves – who we are and what we might become – and question the whys and wherefores of life.

We can then undertake the fear-laden work of questioning the makeup of our character and embedded nature. It’s only when we summon the courage to take on our own certainties, beliefs, and long-held convictions that real change and new learning and personal growth can occur. When we stop thinking of win and lose for us in relation to others and dedicate ourselves to learning about what’s within that we can truly begin to change our wellbeing, sense of safety and self-worth, and how we engage with everyone every day – all for the better. And it’s well worth it, this tough internal work, because after this courageous journey comes contentment and compassion. And, not coincidentally, these are precursors to building the capacity for genuine love for yourself and then others.

Courage is not about being devoid of fear. Rather, it’s being aware of fear and still moving forward anyway. Contrary to popular misconceptions, it’s perfectly fine to reflect on your life and even make big decisions WHEN you are afraid, just not BECAUSE you are afraid. There’s a difference. The latter is blind reaction; the other is being fully present, focused, and committed. Best news of all is we all have the capacity to activate our own courage and let it lead us through life’s challenges – inside and outside.

Dawna Daigneault

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Better By Monday is a blog about one thing you can do, over the weekend, to feel a little better by Monday.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Better By Monday: Contemplation is a place of observation

Better By MondayHopefully, where you are and where you want to be are the same place but if you’re like most of us, life has bumped and jolted you along to places you never completely planned or even desired, in good and in not so good ways. But even so, today is where you are right now. And any time you devote to contemplating your own path, diverging or just unclear, may help develop your capacity for thoughtful reflection. And this may help you move into your future undaunted by any uncertainties you face.

In therapy clients get to look down the pathway of the past, which can be beneficial as it can support purposeful decision making for the future. But just looking is the key; it’s a challenge to not go too deep or delve to long else we re-live all of our past traumas and pains far in excess of their value to us, crowding out the enjoyment of the present that is always with us.

So while looking back is helpful, in moderation and with great care, lifting our heads high and gazing on any possible future pathway is helpful too. Engaging in the uncertainties and various scenarios with purpose and forethought, makes a huge difference in how you can see yourself as a life traveler. A decisive, thoughtful, and meaningful mental trip into your future possibilities usually feels empowering regardless of any possible doubts you may hold inside.

Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken, is in many ways a current reflection of the past, but at the same time he extends an arch into the future:

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

Robert Frost’s poem evokes many things in me, not the least of which is the wonderful reverence I have for basic acts of contemplation and reflection which are both central to my own and my client’s capacity for healing awareness.

The therapeutic process allows them to sit and consider the past but we also understand it’s never a good idea to get swallowed up by it completely; a reflective visit is always best. There is also room made for the present moment, a place where many paths, past, present, and future, are open to immediate interpretation, pondering, and careful consideration.

Many things can cause us to go into those deep woods of thought. But the practical realities of the day call us back to ourselves, to the present, over and over again. We may have miles to go before we sleep but none of us knows how many or where the journey will end – so journey on.

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Better By Monday is a blog about one thing you can do, over the weekend, to feel a little bit better by Monday.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Better By Monday: Feeling Better

Better By MondayEvery client I work with wants to feel better. Better is usually at least one step of improvement and rarely the sense of being “all better” or perfect. It is amazing how just one step in the right direction can make a counseling client feel better. This feeling is desirable, it can also be motivational. One step into feeling better creates the promise of more promising steps.

Counseling is intended to make things better but not every session provides that result. Such as the case of a client of mine experiencing depression several years ago. The young woman was mentally and emotionally “Stuck,” in her words. She couldn’t move through her daily routine with any motivation.

After a few sessions I asked her, “Is this depression fact based or fear based?” She pondered the question and responded that she had thought she would say it was fact based but that on further quiet investigation she said, “…it’s really fear based.”

We were then able to push through the fear holding her hostage in her own home using just one step out of the prison her depression had become. I had her consider which chore in her home is easiest for her. The one task she decided on was to unload the dishwasher and only unload it with no additional cleaning. We agreed that this is one step she could take and that no other steps were required right now.

On her next session she reported having done the dishes (both unloading and loading) and then she paused. “I had forgotten what it felt like to just get something done.” She said with a calm and resolute tone of voice. A psychiatrist shared this equation with me: Suffering = Pain X Fear. “All resistance is fear.” He said.

We can control our fear but we can’t always control the pain we have. We can take one step away from what we are afraid of and feel the distance that gives us from our suffering.

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., L.P.C.

Better By Monday is a blog about one thing you can do, try or practice over the weekend to feel a little bit better by Monday

Mental Health Professional Alphabet Soup

There are so many different kinds of mental health providers available today and more are being added all the time. This results in an alphabet soup of letters behind each providers name that can seem about as decipherable as hieroglyphics to the average person. So, how does the average person decide which type of provider is right for them? This post will attempt to translate the alphabet soup of provider credentials so you can make an informed choice. Keep in mind that some of the designations, requirements and functions you read about here can vary from state to state and the contributors to this post are from the Kansas City area.

Types of Mental Health Providers

According to psychiatrist Carolina Aponte Urdaneta, MD, psychiatrists are physicians who “specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. In order to be able to do psychiatric residency training, one must first attain a degree of M.D or D.O. The residency is 4 years long and the experience includes comprehensive training in psychiatric diagnosis, psychopharmacology and different types of psychotherapy. Psychiatrists can therefore prescribe medications, perform psychotherapy and suggest other forms of treatment. The total amount of time required to complete the education and requirements for psychiatry is 12 years after high school.”  If you live in the Kansas City area, check out our list of local psychiatrists.

Most clinical, counseling or school psychologists have earned their doctoral degree (PsyD or PhD which will be described below) and completed a one to two year post-degree residency focusing on assessment, diagnosis, and psychotherapy. Clinical and counseling psychologists primarly provide psychotherapy, but one thing that distinguishes them from other providers is they can conduct psychological testing. Psychological testing can be useful for clarifying diagnoses and helping to generate tailored treatment recommendations. Psychologists cannot prescribe medication in most states, but with additional training they can earn this privilege in a few states. It typically takes around 10 or more years beyond high school to complete the requirements for licensure as a psychologist.

An independently practicing counselor typically has a degree that is somewhere between a masters degree and a doctoral degree as well as two years or post-graduate supervised clinical experience. According to the American Counseling Association, “Professional counselors help clients identify goals and potential solutions to problems which cause emotional turmoil; seek to improve communication and coping skills; strengthen self-esteem; and promote behavior change and optimal mental health.” An independently practicing counselor has typically studied and trained for around 8 years beyond high school in order to become licensed.

A social worker has at least a bachelors degree, but in most states they need a masters to practice independently. They also need two years of post-degree supervised experience. According to the National Association of Social Workers, “Social workers help individuals, families, and groups restore or enhance their capacity for social functioning, and work to create societal conditions that support communities in need. Social workers help people overcome some of life’s most difficult challenges: poverty, discrimination, abuse, addiction, physical illness, divorce, loss, unemployment, educational problems, disability, and mental illness.” A social worker has typical studied and trained around 8 years beyond high school by the time they can sit for licensure.


Most states require some sort of licensure in order for a mental health provider to practice independently, but first there are educational requirements that must be completed that lead to a variety degrees. For example, in most states you have to earn a doctoral degree such as a PhD or PsyD to apply for a license to practice psychology independently.

The following are some of the most common degrees people earn on their way to becoming a mental health provider:

The Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Social Work degrees typically involve about four years after high school of higher education including a core curriculum of general requirements plus electives and courses related to the major. For the most part, mental health providers cannot practice independently with a bachelors degree.

The Master of Arts, Master of Science, Master of Social Work degrees, etc. typically involve two years of additional education beyond the bachelors degree. Independently practicing social workers and counselors typically have this as their terminal degree.  In a few states, psychologists can practice with a masters and there are still some masters level psychologists who are “grandfathered in” practicing locally.

The Education Specialist (EdS) degree is meant to provide additional training beyond the master’s level that allows students to develop their leadership skills, broaden their knowledge and skills, and prepare for professional certification. According to professional counselor Martha Childers, EdS, “Most programs require around 30 credit hours above and beyond a masters degree. The EdS is a terminal degree, but sometimes it is earned along the way to a Doctor of Education (EdD) degree.”

The Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree typically involves four additional years of study beyond the bachelors degree plus a one year supervised internship. It differs from a PhD in that hands on clinical practice is emphasized over conducting original research. Although there are opportunities in many PsyD programs to conduct original research, more importance is placed on understanding, knowing how to critique, and being a good consumer of research.

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree also involves an additional four years of study beyond the bachelors degree and a one year internship. It differs from the PsyD in that the emphasis is on learning how to conduct original research. The dissertation is often the capstone of PhD programs.

The Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree involves four years of medical school beyond the bachelors. After earning their MD, most physicians complete a four year residency in their area of specialty. Psychiatrists are often MDs who completed a residency focusing on psychotropic medication and the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.

The Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) also typically involves four years of medical school beyond the bachelors and a four year residency in the chosen area of specialty. They differ from an MD in that they receive additional hours studying “manipulative” or hands-on medicine and the musculoskeletal system. Some psychiatrists have a DO rather than an MD.

Licensing & Beyond

Once a potential mental health provider earns their degree, they must apply for licensure if they wish to practice independently. Licensing usually involves providing proof of education and supervised experience, examinations on knowledge of the field as well as ethics and state laws, there are fees to be paid, and sometimes there is a face to face interview. It is interesting to note that psychologists are currently required to have a one to two year residency after earning their degree in order to apply for licensing.

Psychologists and physicians typically do not have to have additional designations beyond their degree to show they are licensed, but they cannot practice independently without a license. The letters after their names just have to show the degree they earned, such as PhD or MD. Social workers and counselors typically have letters after their names that denote their licensure status, such as LPC or LCSW.

Providers can also gain certifications and earn specialty board designations that add additional letters at the ends of their names after the degree or licensure designation, such as Jane Doe, PhD, ABPP or John Smith, LCSW, RPC.

The following are some of the most common licenses and certifications mental health providers must earn in order to practice independently:

According to social worker Evalyn Van Valkenburgh, LSCSW, who has held these credentials in several states, the Licensed Specialist Clinical Social Worker (LSCSW) or Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) designation and requirements vary by state. She says in Kansas where she currently works, “A LSCSW requires a minimum of a Masters degree in Social Work with 4000 post graduate hours of supervised clinical work experience and a passing score on the clinical competency test. An LSCSW is required for Social Workers to engage in the private, independent practice of psychotherapy.”

The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy describes Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) as “mental health professionals trained in psychotherapy and family systems, and licensed to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders within the context of marriage, couples and family systems.” They have “graduate training (a Master’s or Doctoral degree) in marriage and family therapy and at least two years of clinical experience.”

According to the Kansas Behavioral Sciences Regulatory Board (KSBSRB), a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) must have earned a Masters degree in counseling which includes 60 hours, with credits distributed among the 9 core areas of professional development, and includes a supervised practicum. They must also pass a nationally standardized competency exam. In some states, the Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) designation requires specific coursework supporting diagnosis and assessment in their educational programs. The KSBSRB defines the Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) as someone who is licensed as an LPC and has 4000 hours of supervised clinical experience under an approved clinical training plan.

A Registered Play Therapist (RPT) is a licensed mental health professional who has earned a certification documenting that they have a certain level of experience providing play therapy to children, which is a type of treatment in which the therapist helps children express their feelings and resolve conflicts through play. The Association for Play Therapy grants and oversees these credentials. Providers must be licensed and have earned at least 150 hours of instruction in play therapy as well as 500 hours of play therapy specific supervised experience plus 50 hours of concurrent play therapy specific supervision. They must also maintain 18 hours of play therapy specific continuing education every three years.

According to psychologist Emily D. Warnes, Ph.D., ABPP, “Board Certification by The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP), is intended to certify that an individual psychologist has completed specific educational, training and experience requirements of a particular specialty area (e.g., Clinical Psychology, Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, School Psychology). Certification involves an extensive examination process designed to assess the competencies required to provide the highest quality services in a given specialty area.”

Continuing Education

Most licensed mental health professionals must also complete a certain number of approved continuing education credits each year or two in order to maintain their licenses and practice independently. The number of hours required and the types of credits approved differ according to state and type of license.

For example, in Kansas, Psychologists must accumulate 50 hours of approved continuing education credits every two years, 3 of which must include professional ethics and 6 of which must be related to the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. Social Workers must accumulate 40 hours every two years, with the same requirements for ethics and diagnosis. Professional Counselors must accumulate 30 hours every two years, with the same requirements for ethics and diagnosis.

Tracy Ochester, PsyD is a psychologist in independent practice in Leawood, KS. She specializes in cognitive behavior therapy, mindfulness informed practices, and psychodiagnostic testing. Dr. Ochester also teaches at the university level, supervises aspiring psychologists, and provides consultation services to the community.

Finding the Mental Health Services You Need

When life concerns seem fairly typical and routine, it may not be all that difficult to find help.  If it’s just a check-up that’s required, we often go to our insurer’s provider list and pick the closest general practitioner in-network.

But, what about when your needs are unique, complicated, or confusing? What if “treatment as usual” hasn’t brought desired results? Sometimes picking the most convenient provider from the top of the insurance list doesn’t get us what we need.  When the stakes are high, it is important to get the best help available.

In the world of mental health care, finding a provider you really click with is of utmost importance.  Research has shown that your relationship with your counselor is one of the most important factors in treatment success.

It is also very important to have a provider who understands your particular concerns and has experience treating them.  Depression and anxiety are very common and most mental health practitioners get a lot of experience working with these disorders.

But some disorders are relatively rare and some concerns are highly sensitive, so it may be harder to locate a provider who has the experience and open-mindedness needed to effectively address them. In addition, some disorders have only one or two methods of treatment that have been supported by research.  In that case it may be important for you to find a provider who is experienced with that particular form of treatment.

For adults, there are empirically supported treatments for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Chronic Pain, Depression, Eating Disorders, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Insomnia, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Schizophrenia, Social Phobia, Specific Phobias, and Substance Use Disorders. For children and adolescents there are empirically supported treatments for many of the same disorders as well as Disruptive Behavior Problems like Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Conduct Disorder.

Fortunately most mental health providers now have websites where you can read about their credentials, experience, and approach.  Many of us maintain blogs where you can get to know our views and get a taste of what it might be like to work with us.  Most of us are also willing to speak with you over the phone for a few minutes to introduce ourselves and answer your preliminary questions.

You can find mental health professionals in your area through any number of online therapist locators such as those hosted by the American Psychological Association, Psychology Today, Network Therapy and Good Therapy. Lower cost and subsidized services are also available for those with financial need, so no one should feel that professional help is beyond their reach.

Tracy Ochester, PsyD is a psychologist in independent practice in Leawood, KS. She specializes in cognitive behavior therapy, mindfulness informed practices, and psychodiagnostic testing. Dr. Ochester also teaches at the university level, supervises aspiring psychologists, and provides consultation services to the community.