Telehealth and Therapy

Counseling via telehealth has been used for years and is now becoming more mainstream. Telehealth, in counseling also commonly referred to as “distance counseling” or “tele-mental health,” is recognized as a promising method of providing counseling.  Initially utilized for people who are physically limited or who live in rural areas that are not close to a therapist’s office are unable to access in-person care, telehealth is now available to most. Millions of people are now able to receive the treatment they need through video conferencing, messaging, phone or live chat, which means they can communicate with their therapists in the comfort of their own homes or offices.

School and work often times cut into the time that is needed to travel to and from a therapist’s office, which also poses an issue for some who are interested in counseling.  Although in-person face to face counseling is irreplaceable, the ability to speak to a therapist at a convenient time without being physically present is a very convenient and attractive option for many people. 

Compass Counseling offers distance counseling and it may be an excellent option for you.  The risks and benefits would need to be discussed with your therapist as they may vary depending on your specific goals and needs.  A couple of questions that you may consider are asking your therapist or counselor if they are licensed in the state of your residence and if they have had training in telehealth services.  Further, it is important to ask about the security of your online counseling with your therapist and how it may differ than in-person counseling.  If you are interested in learning more please contact our office in Paducah at 270-777-4490 or Owensboro at 270-215-4000.

Walk & Talk Counseling

Walk and talk counseling is done outside of a therapist’s office. There are several benefits to walk and talk counseling and many are beginning to utilize it more!  Of course, walking encourages more activity, which has been proven to reduce stress and make people feel better by increasing endorphins that make us feel happier. Being outdoors can also make patients calmer and can also allow for the reduction of what some may feel is awkward eye contact because they can focus on their surroundings instead of the therapist or a wall. This is especially useful for patients who have struggled with shame. 

This option in counseling can help clients open up more to their therapist.  Building therapeutic alliance with your therapist allows him/her to better understand their clients concerns and leads to a better understanding of what the client is wanting to work on and set goals to see that happen. Walking in nature can help clients feel like they are moving forward instead of being stuck, which can create more of a positive attitude and environment. Getting outdoors can also influence clients to be more active and encourage them to maintain a healthier lifestyle, which is oftentimes part of the goal when seeing a therapist.

Movement and activity increases blood flow and increases activity to certain areas of the brain to increase awareness and thought processing. A clearer mind leads to more expressive conversation and provides clients the opportunity to maximize their time in their counseling sessions. As with all types of counseling it is important for your therapist to address the appropriateness of walk and talk therapy for your goals and what the risks may include.  Compass Counseling offers walk and talk counseling.  If you are interested in learning more please contact our office in Paducah at 270-777-4490 or Owensboro at 270-215-4000.

Pledge to Protect Childhood

Parenting has never been an easy task, but living in the digital age has brought unique challenges to parents.  My awareness has become heightened to the fact that the technology we once praised for offering us conveniences is actually causing a vast myriad of problems.  A friend we visited recently observed that the four of us parents all had our phones within arms reach while our kids played happily together.  We didn’t need to keep our phones on us, especially since no school would be calling us in an emergency.  Yet we are accustomed to having the phones on us at all times.   If you’ve been to a restaurant recently you’ve probably observed a family at the table together, yet each individual is interacting with a screen, rather than family members.   

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Social media is taking a big toll on families.  If you are a parent or grandparent you may be wondering about the impact of social media and digital media on the children you love.  Though research is ongoing, it is clear that there can be a negative impact. Teens, tweens, and younger children are all looking for validation from pictures or posts on their social media accounts.  In previous generations, bullying occurred at school and on the bus.  The bully couldn’t go home with a student and harass him or her throughout the evening.  In today’s age, cyberbullying prevents students from being able to escape harassment; there is no longer a safe haven.  The saddest part is that many parents are unaware that their children are suffering.  They do not set any boundaries on digital media and are not educating their kids about the potential harm.  This is why I’ve created a Pledge to Protect Childhood. I believe parents must stand together and become more proactive in supporting each other on this topic.   

I’ve gathered a group of other parents to share their tips and to make a pledge together to challenge the times we live in.   I’ve received feedback that having this community has been tremendously helpful.  This is a virtual group on Facebook.  I encourage you to engage in the conversation or to get your own group of parents together for a live discussion.  My hope is to inform caregivers of the dangers of social media without boundaries.  I hope you will set guidelines on digital media and pledge to stay current on media formats your child has access to now or in the near future.  Parents are welcome to contact me, Jamie Jit, LPCA at Compass Counseling of Owensboro 270-215-4000 or simply request to be added to the Pledge to Protect Group for a copy of the Pledge, which states five key areas to protect children in the digital media age. Find the group on Facebook  @pledgetoprotectchildhood

Jamie Jit

Concierge Counseling

Millions of people benefit from counseling, but many opt out because getting an appointment between 9:00 A.M. and 5:00 P.M. just isn’t convenient with work, school, or other responsibilities. Concierge counseling allows clients to have a more customized counseling experience with extended or after-hours appointments and flexibility.  In many cases, our concierge clients prefer that their therapist meet them at their own office for their appointment.  Concierge clients prefer ultimate customization with the to expedite the development of their plan for counseling to meet their goals most efficiently.  Insurance does not cover concierge counseling so there is no diagnosis required and we are able to offer maximized confidentiality.  If you are interested in concierge counseling please contact our office in Paducah at 270-777-4490 or Owensboro at 270-215-4000.

Counseling and Your Insurance Benefits

A lot of people who are interested in getting counseling are not sure how to pay for it. It is common now for counseling to be a part of your insurance benefits. You can call the customer service number on the back of your card to check your own benefits. You could ask "what are my outpatient mental health benefits in-network and out-of-network?"  This would let you know how much you may be responsible for out of pocket and how much your insurance would cover.  It would also let you know if you are wanting to use the benefits if you would need to use a provider who is “in-network” with your insurance or if you could also use your benefits with a therapist who is “out-of-network.”  At Compass Counseling we accept many types of insurance. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment at our Paducah office you can call 270-777-4490 or in Owensboro 270-215-4000.

Using HSA and Flex Spending in Counseling

HSAs and FSAs cover different types of counseling, including marriage counseling and drug-dependence counseling, which makes therapy accessible to a wide range of clients. Often times you may use your HSA or FSA  to see a licensed counselor of your own choosing regardless of the counselor is in or out of network with the insurance company.  Of course, when choosing a healthcare plan, HAS or FSA it is important to know your options, if you are unsure you can contact the administrator of your Health Savings or Flexible Spending Account to ask them if “counseling is an approved expense under my plan?”  If you are interested in learning more please contact our office in Paducah at 270-777-4490 or Owensboro at 270-215-4000.

Coming to Counseling the First Time - Part 2

This is part 2 in a series. See part 1 here.

What is is like going into a counseling sessions for the first time?

Meeting your therapist/counselor for the first time…Now, with the business stuff out of the way…what can you expect at your first visit?  First visits can feel a little uncomfortable.  In reality, the first session is kind of like the first day of class.  In school, you meet your instructor, go over the syllabus and see what is expected and what you can expect in the class, and then you get to ask questions. The same goes for your first counseling session. You meet your counselor, go over what you can expect, paperwork, and typically your counselor will tell you about him/herself—so that you can know the person that you will be trusting your personal information.  Your counselor will lead you, so you do not need to feel the pressure of “knowing what to say or not to say”.  Your therapist will ask you questions, so that your purpose for counseling can be established. 

What will your counselor ask? Again, your counselor will take the lead in guiding through the session.  The first session, he/she may tell you to expect this session to feel introductory.  The questions you may be asked include, “why are you coming to counseling” or “have you ever been to counseling before—if so, what did you find helpful/unhelpful”.  Each counselor will ask some variation of these questions, and will ask more—in order to get the best understanding of who you are, as well as where you are, which will help the counselor walk with you to the place you are attempting to reach.  

What can you tell your counselor?  There are few limits to complete confidentiality within your counseling session. Your counselor will go over those with you during your first visit, and you will sign paperwork reflecting this. But, your counselor is a mandated reporter.  This means, he/she must report if ever you disclose or have reasonable cause to believe that child abuse, elder abuse, harm to others or self-harm is evident.  Outside of these, unless you specifically give consent or your counselor’s notes are subpoenaed, everything you discuss in session is private. There is nothing that you cannot tell your counselor that will make them think less of you, judge you, or be too much! Your counselor can act as a sounding board, creating a safe space for you to talk about the concerns you have. 

How long does counseling last?  When we think about the idea of being exposed, or vulnerable, we often wonder “how long will I need to do this?” or “how long until I’m feeling/doing better?”   This is a completely normal question, and asked frequently.  Counseling is a process. In the same way that all snowflakes are completely different, your counseling experience will be completely different.  You may want to consider what your insurance covers as well as how often you would like to have sessions.  You’ll be able to work out with your counselor what will be best for you—which is your counselor’s goal.  At the end of your first session, you counselor will answer your questions, take payment and schedule your next appointment. 

If you have any questions or are ready to schedule an appointment, please visit our website or give our office a call and we would be happy to help you on your path to change.  

Paducah-  www.compasspaducah.com 270-777-4490

Owensboro- www.compassowensboro.com 270-215-4000

About the Author 

Jenny Linville lives in Paducah with her two men—husband and English Bulldog Manly.  Jenny is a beginning counselor, soon to be LPCA, who is seminary trained, and loves to help people through many different life changes, challenges, and hard spots.  She and her husband enjoy cooking and going for walks with Manly. 

Coming to Counseling the First Time - Part 1

You’ve made your first appointment and you are preparing for your first individual counseling session. Or maybe you’ve thought about calling to make your first appointment, but you are not completely convinced of what you can expect. No matter whichever situation you find yourself in, your first individual counseling session can be nerve-racking.  Here are some good things to know about counseling and your first appointment.  Also we use the term counselor and therapist interchangeably!

It’s ok to reach out.  We should start here.  My definition of a counselor is someone who is with you, non-judgmentally, while you through a tough or new time of your life.  We all have behaviors and thoughts that we wish we could change, moments of “darkness”, and even pockets of something that we cannot quite put our finger on and still know deep down that something is different and uncomfortable inside of us.  Mental health used to be extremely stigmatized— many thought that people who went to see a counselor were those who were not “strong enough” or that had major concerns and that would need to be hospitalized.  Today, we are moving past that false belief.  We are seeing ourselves more holistically.  We understand that working with a licensed professional can help people on their path to change through anxiety, depression, loss, PTSD, trauma, marriage, career, life-stage changes, etc. 

Before you call… It may be helpful to check your calendar and your health insurance if you plan on using it before you call.  You can check your own mental health benefits by calling your insurance company.  For many, their mental health benefits are included with their overall health plan.  When you call customer service on the back of your your insurance card, you will need to specify that you are calling to check your “outpatient mental health benefit coverage.”  They will be able to tell you what your copay/co-insurance is for your policy.  It is typically a very quick and easy call.  

When you call the office…You may not know what you should say. All you need to say is that you would like more information or that you would like to schedule an appointment.  When you call, you will be asked if you would like to use insurance.  The reason this question is asked is so that a counselor in your network can be paired with you if this is a priority for you.  It may be helpful to give a brief description (i.e., “anxiety” “depression” “loss” “marriage” “child”) of your purpose for coming, so that again the right counselor can be paired to meet your particular reason for coming.  You do not need to tell your story to the person who schedules your appointment.  You may be asked if you have any preferences for your therapist.  It would be a good idea to think about what you are looking for in a therapist.  If you are unsure, we post profiles of therapists at our office on our website.

Your first visit. The first thing to know about your first visit is what to bring. You will need to bring new client paperwork with you to your first visit, you can fill out your paperwork prior to the first appointment—so bring that with you.  The intake paperwork for new clients can be printed off of our website.  If you are going to be using insurance, you’ll want to bring that card with you as well.  If you have a child under the age of 18, a legal parent/guardian will need to plan on coming and staying at the office throughout the session.  We have also chosen to not have a receptionist in our office to maintain as much privacy for our clients as possible.  This is confusing for new clients on their first visit.  Our goal in this is to make you comfortable.  You can make yourself at home in the waiting area and your therapist will greet you in the waiting room when they are ready for your appointment.

If you have any questions or are ready to schedule an appointment, please visit our website or give our office a call and we would be happy to help you on your path to change.  

Paducah-  www.compasspaducah.com 270-777-4490

Owensboro- www.compassowensboro.com 270-215-4000

About the Author

Jenny Linville lives in Paducah with her two men—husband and English Bulldog Manly.  Jenny is a beginning counselor, soon to be LPCA, who is seminary trained, and loves to help people through many different life changes, challenges, and hard spots.  She and her husband enjoy cooking and going for walks with Manly. 

Navigating Summer Routines When Parents are Divorced - Part 2

*This is part 2 of the blog series Navigating Summer Routines When Parents are Divorced. Click here if you haven't read part 1.

Do not argue with your former spouse in front of your child.

Children of divorce who witness their parents frequently arguing learn two things, they are the central cause of the arguments (which often causes them to develop feelings of guilt) and that problems are solved by arguing instead of negotiation.  Save the arguing for interactions when your child is not present or able to overhear the argument.  Do not cause your child increased emotional distress.  Often the schedule changes as the school year comes to an end and summer begins.  A few tips or helping summer visitation run smoothly:

Create calendars

Summer visitation schedules vary from case to case.  If a child’s parents live a significant distance from the other, often kids will spend a span of weeks at a time with the other parent.  This can be exciting or anxiety provoking depending on your child’s temperament and relationship quality with the other parent.  Make a summer calendar to help your child see when they are going to be with either parent.  Also put things to look forward to on the calendar such as birthdays, camps, vacations, etc.  

Be supportive of their emotions 

Anytime a child has to transition from one place to another can cause some hesitation or anxiety.  This is true in many situations including visitation.  Listen to your child and help them come up with methods to decrease their nervousness about any upcoming transition.  If your child is nervous about staying several weeks at a time with the other parent, help them identify positive things about staying with the other parent (i.e. what friends do they have when they stay with the other parent, think about the fun things they do while at the other parents home, etc).  Most importantly, be positive about their upcoming visit and encouraging.  If you openly express negative emotions related to the visitation, your child may also develop negative and resentful emotions. 

Encourage them to have fun while staying with the other parent.

It is fine to acknowledge that you will miss your child while they are gone and that you realize they will miss you too.  Despite the fact that you will miss each other, help your child to realize that you hope that they will have a pleasant or even fun time while staying with the other parent.  Help them identify fun aspects about their time when at the other parent’s home.  While they are gone say “I love you” or “I’m thinking about you” rather than “I miss you”.  

Allow your child to call or facetime the other parent when with you.

Children of divorce naturally miss the parent they are not currently with.  If your child is missing the other parent, allow them to have contact.  Video calls are preferable if possible, that way your child can both hear and see the other parent. 

Be prepared and realistic about expectations.

Plan to have fun with your child on their extended visits but be realistic about the adjustment periods your child will require when transitioning between homes.  It can be difficult for children to transition between homes particularly if there are different rules and expectations.  Give them some space to “settle in” on their own terms as they come to your home. Make sure they feel at home in both places and have things that help them be comfortable.  Know your children’s food preferences, allergies, and reactions and be prepared when they are in your home to accommodate their needs and wants. 

Keep your co-parent informed

Strive to communicate with your ex-spouse respectfully.  The old adage “Do unto others” is true here as well. If you would like to be informed of vacations, child care, and other activities your children will be involved in make sure to keep the other parent informed of these things as well while the children are in your home.  This will allow everyone to feel more comfortable if they know where and what the children will be doing when they are away.  

Kimberly Wenz-Sherrill, LCSW
Sara Siner Darling, LMFT
Paducah Office

Navigating Summer Routines When Parents are Divorced - Part 1

Each summer, divorced parents face the challenge of managing summer visitations for their children. This can be a difficult time, especially if the divorce was less than amicable. However, children must feel a sense of security and confidence from both sides if they are to truly benefit from their time with the non-custodial parent.

Co-parents’ first priority must be their children’s emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being and safety. If parents remember little else, always keep in mind your children love and miss the other parent deeply. Interference in that relationship will, in all likelihood, backfire later.

There are some basic tenets to navigating co-parenting that apply year round:

Divorce is difficult for children to understand

Divorce is difficult to understand often for adults. Divorce provokes many strong and negative emotions.  Anger and distrust are two of the most intense emotions that accompany divorce.  Children have an even more difficult time understanding why their parents’ divorce.  Children, by nature, strive to understand complex emotional situations.  Without support they can develop misconceptions and extreme emotions regarding their parents’ divorce. These emotions commonly include confusion, anger, sadness, jealousy, frustration, guilt and false hope that their parents will reunite. 

Do not speak negatively about the other parents.

Having worked with children of divorce for many years, a consistent theme has become evident, the child is subject to one or both parents speaking negatively about the other parent.  This becomes a significantly problematic situation for the child.  Children often feel that they must side with one or the other parent.  Or they feel that they cannot talk to either parent about good or bad experiences that occur at the other parent’s home, in order to keep the peace between parents or limit confrontation between parents.  This puts a considerable amount of stress on a child. 

Despite your intense feelings about your former spouse, DO NOT speak negatively about the other parent to your child or even within earshot of the child.  Children are very perceptive and often overhear things that they shouldn’t.  It is best to keep your negative feelings about the other parent to yourself or your adult friends and family. A therapist is also a good option if you feel that you are overwhelmed with negative emotions and need help processing such emotions. 

Do not interrogate your child about the other parent.

Another common theme we continually hear from children of divorce is that one or both parents continually ask questions about the other parent and what the other parent is doing or who they are dating.  It is natural to be curious, but it is not your child’s role to be the informant or the spy.  This also puts stress on the child.  Instead of being able to enjoy the time the child spends with you or your former spouse, they are trying to filter what they should “report” and what they should keep quiet about.  Again, your child is not a spy or a double agent.  Let your child talk on their own will about what is going on with the other parent or what they did while during their visit with the other parent.

Kimberly Wenz-Sherrill, LCSW
Sara Siner Darling, LMFT
Paducah Office

Read Part 2