Here’s Why Therapists Need to Have a Blog

copywriting blogs for mental health professionals

Many therapists don’t view themselves as business owners, but if you’re in private practice, that’s exactly what you are. And as a business owner, it’s important to market yourself.

This may feel uncomfortable, but it’s necessary. And the main way that businesses market themselves these days is online.

This is where hiring a copywriter who can capture your voice and who knows their way around things like SEO (search engine optimization) is essential for your therapy business.

Many people are looking to the internet for resources now more than ever. You’re probably providing telehealth and meeting with your clients online. Now is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of a copywriter who can provide resources, such as blogs, to your clients and potential clients on the internet.

Copywriters write all kinds of things: website content, newsletters, email sequences, opt-ins, social media posts, and blogs. My personal favorite type of copy to write is blogs. Blogs are a great way to connect with your clients and provide resources and tools for them.

Why You Should Write a Blog Consistently

Blogs serve several purposes. The first is back to a marketing strategy, which is boosting your SEO. SEO essentially is what ranks you higher in a Google search and makes your website more visible.

The more visible you are, the more potential clients will find you. Then it’s the job of your copywriter to write compelling website copy to get these potential clients to want to work with you. And they can’t do that if they can’t find you.

Besides being a marketing tool, blogs are also a great way to connect directly with your client base. Blogs should be written consistently, at least once a week. The reason for this is two-fold.

The first reason is that a regularly updated blog posted at least 4 times a month will boost your SEO big time. The second reason is that if you’re producing content that people care about on a regular basis, your clients are more likely to feel connected to you, and your potential clients are more likely to want to sign up for your services.

The key to SEO is relevance and consistency. You want to produce content that your readers need to read. You also, as previously mentioned, want to produce consistent content that ranks you higher on Google and connects you to your clients. It makes you seem reliable to post regular content every week on the same day of the week so that people know what to expect from you.

How You Can Help Your Clients With a Blog

You don’t have a blog just for the fun of it, although writing a blog certainly is fun. At least, it’s fun for me as a copywriter. I love writing blogs. I love helping you make connections with your clients and people who visit your websites in a way that you normally don’t get to.

Blogs can be a lot of different things. They can be written to inform people of things they may not be aware of, such as the benefits of a certain type of therapy you provide or symptoms to look out for when dealing with depression.

Even a blog that informs can be a marketing tool. No matter how informative they are, blogs should always have a call to action (CTA). They can get a person to sign up for a session or opt-in to your email list. Blogs should always end with a CTA to get people to do something.

Another way that blogs can be used as a marketing tool is through SEO. A blog that is well SEO-optimized can help rank you higher in a Google search. Or rather, consistently updated blogs can do that.

The important part about writing a well-optimized blog is using keywords and keyword phrases, called longtail keywords, that tells Google what to search for. Copywriters know how to use keywords to optimize your blogs and drive traffic to your site.

Once people land on your website, you want them to stay and read. You want their engagement and ultimately their business. When I’m looking for a therapist and I see that they have a consistently updated, relevant blog, I’m much more likely to consider signing up for a session with them than if they don’t have one or they have one that hasn’t been updated in a year.

This is because when I see that they have a consistently updated blog with information that I can relate to, I want to know more about them. If your copywriter does their job right, the blogs are engaging and speak directly to me. I feel as if I know you a little before we’ve even spoken.

Connect With Your Audience

It may be hard to think that you have an “audience,” but as someone with a website, everyone who visits your site is your audience. That includes both current and potential clients. You want your blogs to speak to both.

Your blog should reflect who you are as a therapist and the services you offer. Right now, you should take advantage of your blog and use it as an opportunity to educate as well as market. You can highlight the benefits of the services you offer through stories and case studies.

Blogs give you the opportunity to talk about different topics related to the services you offer. Let’s say you’re a marriage and family therapist. You can use your blog to write about how to cope with being home with your family all the time during this pandemic. Or dating in the time of Covid-19. Or what to do now that you’ve decided to get divorced but are stuck together in quarantine.

These are just a few examples of what you could write about. The possibilities are endless! And a good copywriter knows just how to write your blogs in your voice in a way that engages the readers but also ranks you higher in a Google search at the same time. You’re getting more bang for your buck by hiring a copywriter to do the writing for you!

Here’s What To Do Next!

Now that you know WHY you should have a blog, let’s talk about HOW you get a blog that does everything I’ve just described.

Hire a copywriter who specializes in writing for mental health professionals. It’s as simple as that. You’ll work closely with your copywriter to make sure the blog reflects your voice and you’ll, of course, have editing power.

And you’re in luck because I just happen to be that copywriter! So contact me and let’s find a time to talk about how we can work together! Happy blogging!

How to Set Clear Boundaries When You Work from Home

work from home, writing, copywriting

This pandemic is affecting everyone’s jobs. Essential workers are still out there every day providing services to keep the rest of us safe and fed and sheltered. Others have been laid off or furloughed. But many people are now working from home.

For writers, this isn’t anything new, but suddenly there are more distractions that can throw everything off.

The negative side of working from home

If you have children, they are most likely home with you right now as they learn from home. If you’re a parent, suddenly you’re balancing teaching kindergarten with writing full-time and caring for your family. The boundaries are blurred.

You’re doing both of your full-time jobs- your writing job and your parenting job- at the same time. It can be difficult to find time for yourself or even get your work done.

Setting boundaries

Talk about the need for boundaries. Not only are you having to create boundaries with your family, but there are new work boundaries that need to be put in place.

Just because everyone is home doesn’t mean they have the time or the desire to sit in on Zoom meetings all day long. It can be more exhausting than doing your regular writing gig, because now everyone is available for phone calls and webinars and Facebook lives.

Clients want to reach you now more than ever. Everyone seems to want a meeting or a phone call and you spend all day talking to people. With technology, everyone can reach you easily and they think that just because they can they should. And just like that, your writing time has decreased immensely.

And it’s not just calls and meetings throughout the day. People’s concepts of time and workday hours have been blurred as well, meaning that sometimes someone wants to schedule a meeting for 7 pm on a Wednesday and expects you to be available. Even though you work a flexible schedule as a writer, you now have to set a hard end to your workday.

Another boundary that needs to be set is physical space. Not everyone has an office or a separate room in their house/apartment where they can go and work without interruptions. You may be working at the kitchen table or sitting on the couch with the coffee table in front of you.

And now you’re distracted because the dog wants attention and the kitchen is right there luring you in. The kids are running around and you’ve got papers and notebooks and post-it notes strewn about in your otherwise tidy living room. Some people can truly work from anywhere, but most of us need our own space.

So what can you do? Well, if you don’t have the luxury of having a desk or a table somewhere away from the main action, you can create a space in your dining room or living room where you only sit to do work. Set everything up that you need for work during the workday and then put everything away from that space when work is over. This creates a clear boundary around your workspace.

Another way to set clear boundaries is around your “commute.” When you work from home, you have more time at the beginning and end of your workday than someone who goes into a physical office because you’re not stuck in the car or on public transportation for two hours of your day. That time can be spent with your family or creating a morning routine. What do you do with the time you’d usually be spending in the car?

Although you’re not physically commuting to work, it’s still important to feel like you’re going to work, even if you’ve gotten used to working from home. This pandemic has created a “new normal” and everyone needs to adjust.

Even if your commute is from the bedroom to the kitchen to your desk, you need to treat your “commute” to work as if you are still going into the office. If you’re spending all day sitting in front of the computer, take a walk in between writing and meetings. Even during this pandemic, it’s ok to take a quick walk around the block, just keep yourself protected.

Make your coffee and breakfast, take a shower and put on real clothes, even if it’s just a clean pair of sweat pants and a nice top or sweater. Wash your hair. At the very least, change into different comfortable clothes from the ones you slept in.

Getting ready for work sets the boundary around the fact that work is starting. Since you’re working from the same place you’re living, you need to break it up by setting boundaries around what you’re wearing and how you’re presenting yourself for the day, just as you would if you were going into the office. Even if you’re used to working in your pajamas when you write.

Another boundary to tend to is time. Your daily schedule is probably dictated by meetings and phone calls, so if that’s you, there’s already a time boundary of when you need to be ready for the day and when your day can end. The rest of the time management is up to you. When you write and how you meet deadlines can be flexible, but you need to set time limits around when you work and when you spend time with your family.

Having a daily schedule for yourself that includes everything you need to do, not just work-related stuff, is incredibly important for maintaining boundaries. I make a schedule for everything I need to do that day and put it on my calendar. I block out time to write, I schedule in Zoom meetings and phone calls, and I schedule my yoga practice, which is one of the most important parts of my day.

Self-care

An important boundary to have is around time spent for your self-care. This could be drinking your coffee mindfully in the morning- don’t do anything else, just sit and drink your coffee, maybe listen to music but no television or phone. Self-care could also look like taking an exercise class at home or going for a run outside. Read a good book. Color in an adult coloring book. Do a puzzle with your family or play a game.

Another way to practice self-care is by being mindful and specific about the things you surround yourself within your workspace. Personally, I have plants, a candle, a picture of my husband and me and a few knick-knacks that have meaning to me in addition to all my notebooks, pens and post-its. Surrounding yourself with things you enjoy is crucial to creating a healthy work environment.

What to do next

It’s easy to lounge in your pajamas, unshowered, with your laptop on the couch in the middle of everything. If you wake up at a different time every day, you lose track of what time and day it is. Set a morning and evening routine and make a schedule for yourself. Create a specific place in your house where you work. And set time limits and boundaries with your family. It will make a big difference in your work-life balance and make you more successful working and writing from home.

Why You Need to Embrace Telehealth as a Therapist

With this pandemic and the mandate to shelter in place, telehealth, which includes teletherapy and online therapy, is on the rise. Most therapists and mental health professionals have moved their practices online. While this may work for some, there are many people, therapists and clients alike, who are struggling to make the change.

For you therapists, transitioning to providing services online or over the phone may be challenging. There are some legitimate challenges to telehealth for mental health professionals. But there also some benefits and reasons why it’s a good idea.

It’s also important to note that there are many people with severe mental illnesses or who at risk of self-harm or suicide for whom telehealth is not particularly appropriate or effective. This post focuses on clients who are not high risk and who could ultimately benefit from telehealth.

The challenges of telehealth for therapists

I was talking with one therapist who has moved to teletherapy, and she said that the biggest issue she’s having with her clients is that they’re getting distracted easily. In an office, there are few things to distract clients during a session. No one is coming in and out of the room, there isn’t a significant other on a phone conference, there aren’t kids running around looking for attention.

In addition to distractions, one major difficulty that you are facing is the lack of ability to make a connection with your clients. If you’re talking via Skype or Zoom, eye contact is out the window. Therapy by phone removes the visual of the person altogether. While having a session via video call or phone is better than no session at all, it makes it difficult for both you and your clients to feel connected.

Creative arts therapists are facing extreme challenges in providing therapy to their clients. You’re trying to run an art therapy session virtually or conducting a dance/movement therapy session without being able to move with your clients. Creative arts therapists are figuring out creative ways to engage with their clients via video calls, but of course, it’s not the same. And no one knows how long this is going to last.

The upside to telehealth

There are some positive sides to telehealth, however. Many people who aren’t usually able to get out and make it to a therapy session in person have the option to receive therapy from the comfort of their own homes. This is especially true for senior citizens, who are in the high-risk category for contracting the coronavirus and who are also among the loneliest and most isolated people in the entire population. For senior citizens, telehealth can be a true lifeline.

Telehealth removes those barriers to getting in the door.
It provides a certain level of privacy. For people who hate waiting rooms because they cause anxiety, virtual therapy is perfect. They don’t run the risk of running into anyone they know and they eliminate the anticipatory anxiety of sitting in a waiting room before a therapy session.

It also takes away a lot of the anxiety that clients feel when going to therapy, especially in the first session. Aside from not having to wait in the waiting room, they can fill their space with things that they find comforting and can create a space in which they feel safe. Since establishing safety and trust is essential in therapy, being able to attend their telehealth therapy session in a space that feels comforting and safe is crucial.

Telehealth provides the flexibility to fit your clients’ needs. It also gets rid of the commute, another piece of the puzzle that can cause anxiety.

It’s also a way to keep people safe and healthy during this time of social distancing due to COVID-19. If someone is ill they can still receive the mental health services they need. Even if clients are not ill, they can still get therapy in a safe way.

The need for telehealth in the time of the coronavirus

With social distancing and self-quarantining, many people are in need of someone to talk to. Whether they have a mental health diagnosis or are simply lonely, scared and anxious about the state of things, teletherapy provides an opportunity to get the mental health help that clients may never have known they needed.

Telehealth for therapists is even more crucial now than it ever has been because for most of you it’s the only way you can work with your clients. If you do have a client who has the coronavirus, they can still receive mental health services. This is huge because if they have the virus they’re probably in isolation, are afraid, and can’t see their loved ones. Having a therapy lifeline may actually make their lives a little more bearable. Plus it gives them someone to talk to and create with, for my creative arts therapists.

Providing telehealthcare

Regardless of your comfort level with telehealth, it’s your job as a therapist to provide the best care you can for your clients. In this case, this may mean adjusting your entire practice and the way you communicate with your clients.

For therapists that work with children, telehealth can be particularly difficult. Most of your therapy probably include some form of play, which can be difficult to do over a Skype or Zoom call.

Therapy is reciprocal, and it can be hard to feel that reciprocity online or over the phone. While telehealth is necessary during this pandemic, it puts a barrier between you and your clients. For creative arts therapists, there’s the added challenge of figuring out how to use your modality to facilitate the therapy.

Many of you have to adjust your expectations and techniques. Adjusting expectations is a big one because you don’t necessarily know what to expect anymore. At least when you meet with clients in your office, you know the space, you know what is distracting and can plan for that, and you know how you’re going to interact with your clients.

Using telehealth changes the way you engage with your clients for sure, but it offers a chance for you to grow and evolve as a therapist. There are certain techniques that no longer apply to your work and this switch to telehealth is an opportunity to embrace new therapeutic techniques.

Resources and tools for all therapists

For creative arts therapists, there are several resources out there for help with transitioning to telehealth. Here are links for the following modalities:

Here is an article for creative arts therapists
Here is another article for all creative arts therapists about telehealth:
For music therapists
For art therapists
Here is a webinar about moving to telehealth for dance/movement therapists

For therapists who aren’t in the creative arts therapy family, there are a number of resources for you regarding telehealth. Here are a couple:

Here’s a telehealth guide for therapists in TheraNest
Here’s a telehealth training and technical assistance from SAMHSA

For all my therapist friends, hang in there, you’re doing great! Take a look at the resources listed above and continue to support one another as you move through this difficult time. Take advantage of supervision and create some peer support groups with other therapists. Most importantly, take care of yourselves so that you can better help your clients.

How Can Copywriting Take Your Therapy Practice to the Next Level?

mental health copywriting

What the heck is a copywriter and why do therapists need one?

I can tell you exactly why with authority because I’m both.

What is therapy?

Everyone knows what a therapist does. Or thinks they do. People go to therapists to solve their problems and complain about their lives, right?

WRONG!

Therapists engage in a unique relationship with their clients, guided by years of training and an innate sense of empathy. In therapy, clients make discoveries about themselves and learn and practice coping skills to help manage their mental health.

You don’t need to have a mental illness to be in therapy. Everyone should be in therapy. Because everyone has mental health needs. Just like everyone needs to go to the doctor to get check-ups and make appointments when they’re sick, we all need to maintain our mental health.

Therapy can be preventative. You don’t need to be in crisis to be in therapy. And you don’t need a diagnosis to seek help or treatment. Therapists work with people of all backgrounds and who deal with all kinds of issues.

Therapy as a business

If you’re a therapist, you already know what I just said. That was for the non-mental health professional crowd. But now I’m speaking directly to you.

Therapy is a business. It doesn’t sell a product, it sells services that help other people. It’s as simple as that. If you are in private practice as a therapist or any type of mental health professional, you are a business owner. And all businesses need to have a marketing plan.

You probably struggle with marketing your practice. You either don’t know how or feel as though you shouldn’t. I understand that marketing therapeutic services may feel icky, but how else are you going to get clients if you don’t have a marketing plan?

That’s where copywriters come in.

What is copywriting?

Copywriting is writing that gets people to do something. It’s a way of marketing businesses and products that get people to buy and take action. Good copy convinces others to make a purchase or book an appointment. It gets people to sign up for your emails and newsletters. It gets them to engage with you.

Examples of the products of copywriting are website copy, or the content on a webpage, blogs, email sequences, opt-ins, social media ads and newsletters. All copy, but especially website copy and blogs, should have good search engine optimization (SEO), which is what ranks you higher in a Google search and brings more people to your website.

Good copywriting grabs people’s attention and gets them to sign up for your email list or make an appointment for a therapy consultation. This is why you need copywriters. You need someone to grab and hold the attention of your potential clients and get them in the door.

Copywriting for therapists

As I mentioned before, all businesses need good copy, but therapists are at the top of the pack. You need to sell yourself and your services without sounding too “sales-y.” You want to entice people to buy your services while still seeming empathetic and following good ethics.

When I visit your website I need to be able to tell instantly what kinds of clients you work with, what type of therapy you do, who you are, what you stand for and most importantly, what you can do for me. I’m looking for easy-to-read copy that gets and holds my attention and tells me exactly why I should choose you.

That’s what copywriting is. It’s showing your potential customers and clients why you should buy their services. What’s in it for them?

The job of a copywriter is to answer this question. And the job of a copywriter who writes for therapists is to convey to potential clients what you do, why you do it, and why they should go to you. Your mental health copywriter should be highlighting your services and who you are. They should be selling your services without sounding like they’re selling your clients anything. And they should be writing in your voice to your ideal client.

Why should you listen to me?

I’m a copywriter, but I’m also a therapist. I know your pain points. The biggest one is time. There isn’t enough time in the day to meet with a slew of clients, fill out the necessary paperwork, stay up-to-date with the most recent research in the field, make coffee, find time to go to the bathroom, etc.

The point is, you’re busy. I know better than most. I worked as a therapist in psychiatric hospitals for four years. I understand the time crunch. There were days when I didn’t eat lunch or stop moving for more than five minutes. I’ve also worked in an outpatient setting and understand the different demands of outpatient work. There’s so much to do and not enough time to do it.
The last thing you want to worry about is marketing and worrying about whether or not the person who’s doing your marketing understands you.

Therapists in private practice do everything. Most of you don’t have assistants or receptionists, so you’re doing all your own clerical work. Do you have time to write SEO optimized website copy, keep up with a consistent weekly blog or write a monthly newsletter?

NO!

I’ve been there. I’ve done that. Which is why I’m uniquely qualified to write for you because I am one of you. So leave a comment or send me an email at allielinnwrites@gmail.com and discover how copywriting can change your business for the better. Let’s talk all things mental health and copy!

5 Reasons You Should Write a Blog Regardless of How Many People Read It

freelance blog writing

When I checked my inbox this morning, I opened my daily Medium email to find a post titled “Why No One Is Reading Your Blog.” Of course, I clicked on it, since I have my own blog, and was completely put off by what I read. 

When I searched Medium for this post, I found several other posts also titled various versions of “Why You Shouldn’t Write a Blog “ or “X Reasons Why No One Is Reading Your Blog.”

All of these articles point out the reasons why no one is reading your blog (it’s not interesting, it’s not readable, it’s unpredictable, and it’s unknown, to name a few). A few of the reasons these articles list, such as “your blog is new” or “your blog content isn’t optimized for search” make sense because it’s true that no one will read your blog if they can’t find it. But mostly what I took away from these articles was discouragement on writing a blog that no one is going to read.

Here’s my perspective: it doesn’t matter whether you have 1,000 followers or 10. You have ideas, you have something to say, and that’s worth putting out there. Period.

Here are 5 reasons why you should write a blog, regardless of how many people read it:

  1. Blogs serve as a personal outlet

When I started my first blog, all I wanted to do was practice writing and putting out into the world what I had to say. I quickly realized that even if only a handful of people were reading my work, my blog was allowing me to express myself, my opinions about my chosen topics, and it provided me with a creative outlet to practice writing.

Having a blog allows you to write about things you care about and share them with others. That’s it. Yes, people want to make money off of blogs, and that’s great. Blogs benefit businesses by allowing them to connect with their audience and potential customers/clients and hopefully bring in new business, there’s no denying that. But having a blog, whether it’s personal or professional, allows you to speak your truth and write about topics you care about. To me, that’s what matters more than making money off the blog.

  1. Blogs are an opportunity to be vulnerable 

Even if only 1 person reads your blog, which, let’s face it, no matter how small your following is you’ve probably got way more than 1 reader, writing blog posts about topics that you care about or contain personal stories makes you vulnerable on the internet. And the internet is a scary place to be vulnerable because everyone has opinions and can hide behind their computer screens.

At the end of the day, we’re all seeking human connection. Writing allows you to be vulnerable with an anonymous group of people and is a good way to practice being vulnerable “in real life.” Vulnerability is what allows us to get close to others and engage in healthy relationships. Using the internet as a way to practice being vulnerable by writing about topics that you really care about is one way to increase your ability to be vulnerable with the people you interact with offline.

  1. Blogs allow you to connect with people through your thoughts and ideas

Along with providing you with an outlet and an opportunity to be vulnerable with your audience, blogs give you an opportunity to form a connection with others. Again, even if you only have a few followers/readers, you’re still connecting with other people through your thoughts and ideas. And that can be pretty empowering for you and can be meaningful to your readers.

I can’t tell you how many people have reached out to me after reading one of my blogs to thank me for sharing my experiences or my views on a specific topic. It doesn’t have to happen in claps and comments on Medium or on shares or likes on Facebook or follows on your blog’s page. Sometimes no one responds. But then I’ll get a private message from someone thanking me for writing my post. And that matters more to me than the number of claps I get on Medium because I know I’ve made a personal connection.

  1. Blogs give you a voice

A blog is a platform, regardless of where you post. You may have your own website for your blog or you may have a blog on your business website. Wherever you post, you’re using an online platform to share your ideas. And that means that you are giving yourself a voice.

I tend to write about personal experiences. Readers seem to respond well to stories and lived experiences, and I’ve had positive responses to these types of posts. Writing about my experiences with my mental health, for example, has allowed me to give voice to a topic that I care about and want to destigmatize and spread awareness about. Blogging about these experiences and my thoughts on topics related to mental health has given me a platform and a voice to share my experience with others, which has, so far, been well-received.

  1. Blogs keep you writing

Whether you consider yourself a writer or just enjoy writing about a specific topic, regularly producing blog posts keeps you writing and practicing your craft. For writers, it’s important to write every day, and sometimes you don’t always have an assignment you’re working on, or maybe you just need a break from the grind and need an outlet to write about things you care about.

Writing in your blog regularly keeps you actively writing and is a good way to practice your craft. Bonus points if you get positive feedback, but the point is to just write. Maybe it’s good, maybe it’s crap, maybe you never post it or wait a few weeks, edit it within an inch of its life, and post it when you feel it’s ready. Either way, you’ve written something and given yourself work about a topic you care about.

I’m not saying that having an audience and a following isn’t important. Obviously, the goal is to reach as many people as you can with your blog and maybe even make some money doing it. But that shouldn’t be the reason you write your blog, and you certainly shouldn’t be discouraged by having a low readership, especially when you’re starting out. It will grow the more you write, and the more you write the better of a writer you become. So get out there and let your voice be heard!

Attending to Your Mental Health- The Importance of Self-Care for Professionals

professional mental health

I’ve had several different careers, and with each one, I’ve learned that self-care and listening to my body are the most important things in being able to keep up with the job, whatever it may be. Too few people in this society, particularly in the professional world, are talking about mental health.

Stigma

People who have real mental health issues aren’t encouraged to talk about their ailments. There are times when a person who falls into this category may need to take some time off of work to attend to their mental health. Burnout is real and can affect people with greater mental health needs than a person who does not struggle with mental illness. Often these people are made to feel like they’ve done something wrong, aren’t supported by their company/boss/co-workers, or are told to be silent about their situation.

From My Experience

I worked in a psychiatric hospital as a dance/movement therapist on and off for 4 years. I worked with adults with mood disorders, substance use disorders, PTSD, self-injurious behaviors, suicidal ideation, and psychotic disorders. Not only am I an empathetic helper, but I, too, have a mental health diagnosis. To say the least, it was hard.

I was very upfront with most of my supervisors about my diagnosis, particularly those who provided me with direct supervision. I knew that my countertransference would become an issue at some point in time and wanted to be transparent. Some of my supervisors were supportive, others were cautious. Some supervisors I didn’t tell at all for fear of being judged or discriminated against.

I worked at one hospital for a year full-time. I stopped taking care of myself; I would get home and just sit in front of the TV, eating yogurt or hummus, not bothering to make dinner. I stopped going to dance classes and yoga, two things that feed my soul. I stopped seeing friends during the week and sometimes would just come home and cry until I fell asleep, which would be pretty late.

After a year I had gotten to a place where my mental health needed more attention than it was getting and I needed to take some time off of work. There was no acknowledgment of my absence; it was as if I had just disappeared. In the end, I left the hospital completely to take care of myself and figure out whether working in a psychiatric hospital was the right career choice for me (spoiler alert- it wasn’t).

Self-Care

Everyone’s work environment is different, and just because you don’t work somewhere that you could easily end up being the client rather than the professional does not mean that you don’t need to attend to your mental health as a professional in whatever business you may be working.

Self-care takes many forms and looks different for everyone. Finding something that you are passionate about and that brings you joy is a good place to start. I know that many professionals work way more than 40 hour work weeks and may not have time to take classes or go to the gym, but you may be able to make time for the small things. Take your dog for a walk around the park, use a mindfulness app and learn to meditate, drink your coffee in your favorite spot in your house without doing anything else. These things may seem small but they go a long way.

You should do one thing every day that brings you joy. So many of us in the professional world are miserable. And when you’re miserable, you’re more susceptible to things like depression. Depression doesn’t discriminate; it doesn’t matter how successful you are, depression can creep up on you and before you know it you can barely get out of bed and your performance at work, as well as your quality of life, suffers.

Another way to tend to your mental health is by attending therapy regularly. I believe that everyone should be in therapy. Going to therapy isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s actually a sign of great strength. Being able to admit that you don’t have all the answers and that you need some help is a huge act of strength. Professionals, no matter the profession or career, need to take care of their mental health. And it should be okay to talk about needing help.

If you’re in a position of power, please treat your employees with compassion and understanding. And no matter who you are or where you fall on the corporate totem pole, please make sure you’re listening to yourself and attending to your needs. It’s in everyone’s best interest for you to be the best version of yourself that you can be.

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay. And It’s Definitely Okay to Talk About It

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about society’s need for us to be “happy” and “doing okay.” Of course, we all want those things. We want to be happy and fulfilled and successful. We don’t want to be depressed or sad or stressed out. But at the end of the day, what’s wrong with not being okay?

What’s Okay to Talk About?

I got together with a few friends recently who are open about their mental health challenges and we had a frank and refreshing conversation about the challenges we all face. However, it felt a little wrong to be talking so openly about self-harm and specific mental health diagnoses in a crowded restaurant. It felt like we were breaking the rules.

And that’s a big part of the problem. This idea that it’s not okay to talk about not being okay and needing help. The three of us are in therapy and dealing with mental health diagnoses. And while it’s nice to connect with other women who have gone through similar situations to me and have the same diagnoses as me, it’s still hard to talk about.

Let me rephrase that. It’s easy to talk about it. It’s harder to be okay with talking about it. I’ve chosen to be very open about my mental health challenges and hope to use that in whatever my next endeavor is in writing and mental health advocacy. But that doesn’t make it feel any better or less wrong. In fact, as I write this I am debating whether I want to make this post public because I worry what other people will think of me. And I’m making my own point by worrying about that. It’s okay that sometimes I’m not okay. It doesn’t make me any less of a writer, therapist, friend, or person who exists and succeeds in this world.

In graduate school as I was studying to be a therapist, I was very open with the fact that I have a mental health diagnosis. I even wrote about it in my admissions essay. And every time I talked about my experience as related to my diagnosis I was told how brave I was. This incensed me. It shouldn’t be brave to talk about mental health.

Everyone Needs Help

As someone who is both a therapist and a patron of therapy, I strongly believe that every person should be in therapy at some point in their lives. We all need support, whether you have a diagnosed mental illness or are struggling with the loss of a loved one or mourning a breakup/divorce or are trying to manage the everyday stress of work and life.

There have been times when my mood is less stable and I have thoughts of hurting myself. In those times I feel like a failure and like I’ve let my loved ones down. And yet I’ve been met with nothing but love and support. Everyone just wants me to be okay. I want that too.

But sometimes I also want it to be okay if I’m not okay. I want my loved ones to understand that when I’m not okay all we can do is weather the storm together and work hard to use the skills I have to manage my mood and self-harm urges. I don’t want my mom to feel bad that bringing up how down I’m feeling makes me cry. I want her to know that it’s okay for me to cry and feel what I’m feeling. I want her to know that it’s okay that I’m sad and frustrated.

Surround yourself with people who support you and lift you up and who let you know that it’s okay to not be okay.

Let’s Talk About Mental Health in the Workplace

No matter what you do for a living, it is common knowledge that you need to be in good health in order to do your job properly. Many people who have chronic health conditions struggle to maintain jobs that they can attend regularly. This is specifically true for people who struggle with mental illness.

In many cases, physical health conditions are understood by people in power, such as administrators, directors, supervisors or bosses, and are handled in a way that employees can manage their health and their work to the company’s liking. This isn’t the case for everyone, but when it comes to health, physical disabilities or illnesses that can be seen and understood are much more widely accepted than mental health disorders and illnesses.

One in five Americans experiences mental illness in any given year. That means that there’s a very good chance that the person sitting in the cubicle next to you has some sort of diagnosis. Yet, unlike your colleague who has diabetes and needs to skip the donuts in the conference room and excuse herself to take shots of insulin during the day, you may know nothing about what the person next to you is dealing with. He or she may have an anxiety disorder and fears having a panic attack at work. There may be someone who is secretly battling an eating disorder and goes to great lengths to appear that he or she is eating in group settings or covertly is sneaking off to the bathroom after meals.

You may have colleagues who seem unmotivated who are battling with depression and struggling just to get out of bed in the morning, let alone get through the workday. Some people may be dealing with substance use disorders, such as alcoholism or drug addiction; they might either seem like they don’t care by coming in hungover or they might seem super motivated and secretly working high. The fact of the matter is, no one knows what demons the person next to them is battling.

Because mental illnesses are invisible diseases, they are harder to detect and even harder to explain to someone who doesn’t struggle with a mental illness. 

Depression and anxiety are two of many types of mental illnesses that exist and could be affecting people with whom you work. The problem is that in today’s society it is taboo to talk about mental illness. Your coworkers who are going through a rough time may be under guidance from superiors not to share their afflictions. Or they may be afraid of what people will think of them. Many people fear that their jobs may be in jeopardy if word gets out about their mental illness.

The fact of the matter is that everyone goes through rough patches. You never know what someone else is going through, you only know what you see or think you see. As human beings, we need to learn to be more empathetic to one another and realize that everyone is fighting his or her own battles.

Sometimes people lose some of those battles. There may be times when one of your coworker’s mental health becomes a bigger problem than he or she can handle. That person may need some time away from the office to manage things and get his or her mental health under control. In situations like this, your coworker may not feel able to talk about what is going on or may be advised not to. It’s up to you to make the person feel like it’s ok to need to take time. What you shouldn’t do is remind them how much work is falling on you while they’re gone or how they may be letting down the team.

Mental health days are named that for a reason. Too often are people judged for taking a day off of work to take care of themselves and make sure they are in a good headspace. For a person with a mood disorder, for example, it may be difficult to control his or her emotions and there may be extreme highs and lows, sometimes all in one day. For people who take medication, sometimes the side effects can be unbearable or the medication itself needs a dosage tweak.  Just as you would take a few days off of work if you had the flu to go to the doctor, get some medication, and rest, so does the person with a mental illness. It just looks a little different.

The bottom line is, everyone struggles with something, whether it’s a physical illness, a mental illness, or other life stressors. What’s important is that, as human beings, we forgive one another for what we may view as shortcomings that are really related to some type of illness or stressor. As a coworker, the best thing you can do is be understanding and supportive, because you never know what’s going on with the person next to you.