Author: Byron Butler

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Counseling

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Living with a mental disorder is tougher than most people can ever fathom. I would know because I had been surrounded by loved ones who suffered from various illnesses that made them act oddly.

The first one I encountered was my big brother. He was on the autism spectrum. My memory was of him crying – no, wailing – loudly in the house because Mom tried to hug him. I learned early not to make physical contact with my brother unless he opened his arms without prompting.

The second one was my best friend. She did not manifest any symptoms in the beginning. In truth, she was one of the smartest pupils in our school. However, it turned out that my best friend had Asperger’s syndrome – another form of autism that made it challenging for her to recognize emotions. While other kids made fun of her because of that, I stood beside her and sometimes even fought the bullies for her.

Then, I had a roommate in college with an eating disorder. The initial red flag was that she would order buckets of fries and at least a dozen burgers from McDonald’s, and then she would disappear in the bathroom for hours. I only found out when I caught her trying to purge. Still, I did not judge her.

The Calling

Due to such situations that I found myself in, I thought that working with people with mental disorders was my calling. I thought long and hard about what I could do in my life, considering I knew I did not want to lose time for my big brother. After some time, a brilliant idea crossed my mind: online counseling.

I was already a licensed psychologist when I thought of it. I technically had two years of professional experience at the time, but I knew that my heart was not in it. But since I still wanted to help people, I began taking lessons for counseling and even earned certifications. 

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What is the best online counseling service? 

 BetterHelp is the best online counseling service.

Can I talk to a counselor online for free? 

 Yes, you can talk to a counselor online for free. There are platforms like 7 cups of tea that offers free services, knowing that some people who need mental help do not have extra bucks to spare.

How effective is online counseling? 

 Online counseling is practically as good as one-on-one counseling. The patient can talk or chat with the counselor whenever they experience the symptoms of their mental disorders. This fact has been proven in a 2018 study.

The caveat is that a limited number of conditions can be treated by online counseling. It mainly includes anxiety and mood disorders (e.g., anxiety, depression, phobia, etc.). If you have a borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, or other illnesses, it may not be suitable for you.

How do I become an online counselor? 

 All counselors go through the same process, whether they choose to practice online or not. You need to start by getting a master’s degree in counseling. After that, you should do an internship to gain some experience in the field. It’s only when you complete your hours as an intern that you can apply for a counseling license and then decide to become an online counselor.

Considering you want to remain as an online counselor, updating your knowledge regularly is a must. That’s especially true since we often see mental health advancements.

How much do counselors make on BetterHelp? 

 Online counselors make approximately $30 per hour on BetterHelp. Though it is considerably lower than what face-to-face counselors get, this rate is still higher than what many virtual mental health professionals get.

Is Talkspace or BetterHelp better? 

 It depends on the medium of counseling that you prefer to use. In case you only want to chat with your counselor and remain anonymous, you may think that Talkspace is better. However, if you wish to see your counselor through a video call, BetterHelp is a better choice.

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Is BetterHelp worth the money? 

 Yes, BetterHelp is worth the money. Not only does it extend the convenience of getting help without leaving your room, but it also offers a high level of anonymity that you cannot guarantee to obtain when you walk into a counseling facility.

Is Talkspace or BetterHelp cheaper? 

 Talkspace is cheaper than BetterHelp by at least $10. The reason is that the former offers fewer media of counseling than the latter. 

Can you cancel BetterHelp at any time? 

 Yes, you are free to cancel BetterHelp at any time. The online counseling platform does not bind you in any contract that will prevent you from leaving whenever you wish to.

Can I get my money back from BetterHelp? 

 Yes, you can technically get your money back from BetterHelp, provided that their team has investigated your issue with their services and deem you worthy of getting a partial or full refund. You may send an email to them for further assistance.

How do I request a new counselor, BetterHelp? 

 Assuming you have already picked an online counselor and want to change it, you can open your profile and click the Change Counselor button. Doing so will show you up to six profiles of different mental health professionals, complete with their availability. If none of them works, you may click Find a Therapist again.

Can BetterHelp write prescriptions? 

 No, BetterHelp cannot write prescriptions for you – the platform can only provide online counseling. Despite that, BetterHelp partners with Brightside, which can offer psychiatric help remotely so that you can get your medication.

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What raises dopamine naturally? 

 Your lifestyle choices affect your body’s dopamine production more than anything. Practically speaking, doing too much of anything may be exhilarating at first, but it can make you feel blue later. You need to look for a balance in your activities to elevate your dopamine level naturally.

Can a therapist write prescriptions? 

 Not exactly, especially if the therapist only has certifications to provide therapy. But in case the therapist is also a psychiatrist, they can do that.

Can BetterHelp diagnose you?

Unfortunately, no, BetterHelp cannot diagnose their clients. Most counselors and therapists have licensed psychologists, but they cannot offer a diagnosis without meeting the individual first.

Final Thoughts

The challenge that I did not see coming after getting certified as a counselor was figuring out which counseling platform to use. Setting up a website for myself was out of the question, considering I did not have time and money to do that. I did not want to offer online counseling full-time and in-person either, given that that would consume too much of my time. Luckily, I eventually found one that could protect my future clients and me from digital crime. The bonus was that I could continue looking after my big brother.

 

The Impact Of Autism To Family Life

 

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When a child in the family is diagnosed with autism, it doesn’t only transform the life of the child but of the entire family as well. Stress levels are high due to erratic therapy appointments, home treatments, and other problems at work and home. Financial burdens would also come in, as treatment and therapy are quite expensive.

These sources of stress will impact family life in different unfavorable ways. Parents are obliged to care for their autistic child, let alone all their children and the rest of the family. Managing the stress of being parents could build strength in the family and the marriage, but this needs a strong support system and, of course, hard work.

The impact of autism spectrum disorder to parents and families are seen in several ways.

Impact To Marriage. Research reveals that parents who have autistic children had almost 10% changes in filing for divorce than other parents. Marriage stressors may include:

  • Quality time as a couple becomes hard because of the many therapies and doctors’ appointment schedules.
  • Parents usually acknowledge their child’s ASD diagnosis through different means and different times, and this may cause conflict between both of them.
  • It is daunting and frustrating to look for childcare.
  • Financial burdens can cause issues between parents.

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Impact Between Siblings. A child diagnosed with having the spectrum also has a big impact on his brother or sister. Siblings also go through a lot of stresses confronted by the rest of the family. Further, parents might not give them sufficient attention and support because their hands are full with commitments for their autistic child. In other families with children with ASD, a more severe type of sibling rivalry is often seen. Some families can overcome these problems if they are in control of the factors that increase their stress and anxiety.

Emotional Impact. Autism spectrum disorder covers many emotional struggles for the entire family, which begins even before the diagnosis and progresses indefinitely. The Pediatrics Journal reported that moms of kids with ASD frequently graded their mental health status has average or poor. Unlike the general population, the level of stress that these moms go through is much higher. Aside from this, parents of children with ASD mostly encounter:

  • Social isolation
  • Shame over their child’s erratic behavior when they are in the public
  • Depression and insecurity over other parents not having to experience what they are going through
  • Guilt from the thought that they might have done something that caused the autism
  • Bitterness towards their child and remorse for feeling bitter
  • Hopelessness because there is no cure for autism

Impact On Finances. A family who has an autistic member is often confronted with heavy financial burdens. The cost of treatments and therapies is usually not covered by private health insurers, which is a bit costly. Parents pay for doctors’ visits and medications, which results in big financial debts. Pediatrics stated that families with ASD children went through almost 15% of loss in their family funds. Full-time jobs become difficult for both parents, so the risk of losing a job is high, severely affecting the family’s financial situation.

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A good initial step to solving the problems that arise in families because of autism is gaining more knowledge of how it impacts family members and connections. Counseling can guide parents in learning how to manage communication and marriage problems, while psychotherapy helps tackle the impact of autism mentally and emotionally. They can also try joining support networks where they get to meet fellow parents with autistic kids. On the other hand, parents, too, should take good care of themselves to be efficient caregivers to their children.

How Parents Can Avoid Stress

Undoubtedly, stress is part and parcel of one’s life, but there are still things that parents can do to get rid of stress and be successful in tackling the challenges of having an autistic child.

Be organized. Often, stress is associated with not being in control of things. Being organized is an efficient means to get things and even stress levels manageable. In your everyday life, for instance, concentrate on having things done one at a time. Try practicing family rules and routines and make adjustments for your child with autism.

Stick to family traditions. Traditions in the family provide a sense of balance amidst stressful times. You may need to make changes to your previous traditions to meet your child’s needs. For instance, your usual long trips on the weekends may need to be done closer to home so that you don’t need to drive long hours, and emergencies can be handled better when you’re not too far away from home.

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Take care of yourself. When you have an autistic child, it not uncommon to neglect self-care. However, you can decrease the stress and anxiety in the family by ensuring that all members are given time to do the things that they love to do. Make a list of things that each member’s hobbies or bucket lists and then try to incorporate these and plan on which ones to do next. Remind the family, including you, that fun and happiness are part of one’s daily life.

 

 

How To Protect A Child With Mental Health Condition From The World

This year could not have gotten worse for my family and me. For starters, the pandemic took place and forced all of us to hide in our houses for months. Then, I lost my job when the company could no longer pay its employees, while my husband’s job only had him working for three out of six days a week. But the mother of our worries rooted back from when a psychiatrist said that my three-year-old son, Jaren, had low-functioning autism.

Most parents would often claim that their kids were special, but I was among those few individuals who did not want to admit that my child had been extra special from the beginning.

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Our Family Journey

The signs of low-functioning autism began to manifest in my son from an early age of three. Since my husband and I both had full-time jobs, I left Jaren at the daycare center on our ground floor. It was a seemingly easy setup, to be honest. I would drop my child off at the daycare around 8 A.M., visit him during my lunchtime, and pick him up at 4 P.M. after work.

However, after a month of following that routine, the kind teacher at the center pulled me to the side one day, saying she wanted to talk to me about Jaren. I thought she would tell me that he’s a prodigy at something, but her careful words took me off guard.

The teacher said, “Mrs. Jefferson, you have a sweet and gentle boy. He doesn’t make a mess like other kids and merely does as he’s told. Unfortunately, I need to suggest bringing Jaren to a child psychologist because he hasn’t been speaking at all.”

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Like a mama bird, I initially wanted to curse the teacher and tell her to mind her own business. After all, no parent would be fond of hearing that there was possibly something wrong with their beloved child. That’s especially true for me since Jaren was our only son, and he was perfect in my eyes. But I closed my eyes and counted up to ten and thought that his teacher was merely concerned about his welfare.

After scheduling an appointment with a child psychologist and doing a few tests on Jaren, we found out that he was autistic.

Protecting My Son From The World

My husband and I couldn’t help but cry after the mental health professional revealed the sad news. Although there was no question about the endless support we would give to our son, we knew that Jaren’s life won’t always be easy. The older he became, the more he would come across narrow-minded people who might not understand his condition.

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The first thing I suggested was to homeschool Jaren for the rest of his life. I assumed that that was the best way to protect him from the world and the haters that live in it. Despite that, my husband argued that we could shield him from anything by letting him live like a normal kid. Granted, Jaren would have to take special education classes, but he could be around other people often, which would help improve his social and communication skills.

I eventually agreed to my husband’s idea. More than anyone else, I wished for my son not to be defined by his mental health condition. He could still try to achieve any dream he might have, and his dad and I would forever have his back. Nonetheless, I had to add a few rules that my husband thankfully agreed with.

Not Letting The Boy Play Alone Outside

The ultimate rule was to keep Jaren from playing outside on his own, even if it’s just in our fenced backyard. The paranoia might come from the countless kidnapping movies I watched, but there was no harm in reducing the risk of that ever happening.

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Saying No To Sleepovers Without Either Of Us

Many parents in my child’s daycare center had been introducing sleepovers to their kids, but I was not 100% into it. The only time that Jaren could try that was if it took place in our home, and my husband or I was present. This way, we could ensure that our son was cared for very well.

Enrolling The Child To Self-Defense Classes

Again, it’s perhaps my paranoid brain talking, but I encouraged my spouse to let our son take self-defense classes. While it was a challenge for him to follow instructions quickly, I figured that taking him there every week for as long as possible would do him some good.

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Final Thoughts

Finding out that your only son had low-functioning autism was the most significant blow in our family. No one expected this diagnosis, so we were unable to prepare ourselves for it mentally and emotionally. Still, we will always love Jaren, so we will try our best to protect him from everything that might endanger his life.

 

Autism And Isolation During The Pandemic

There are a lot of misconceptions about how autistic people handle the pandemic situation. Most people believe that individuals with autism love isolation because they often feel the need to be alone. Well, somehow, it is true. However, it does not mean that autistic people do not feel sad and lonely from time to time. Honestly, most of them struggle with that aspect, especially now that they are experiencing heightened social limitations.

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Most of the time, it confuses many people, especially those who try their best to understand and accommodate the autistic ones. Often, people leave them alone, thinking they need space. There’s the assumption that autistic individuals prefer it to be that way. Unfortunately, the real problem is that autistic individuals cannot express themselves that well. Most of the time, it is hard for them to convince people to stay by their sides. Autistic individuals are afraid to admit that they do not want to be alone.

But not all autistic individuals are the same. Some can express themselves in a way that others can understand easily. However, it does not guarantee that these people’s mental health will not go down after that. That is because most autistic individuals are not used to change. So when they try and make even simple adjustments on the way they express themselves, many behavioral issues can come out. It is a bit weird how autistic people deal with others because they can show mixed emotions in one particular circumstance. Perhaps that explains why the majority of people entirely want to leave them alone.

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The Autistic Life Under Home Quarantine

Autistic people somehow function because they follow specific routines. But now that there’s a global health crisis, everything around them becomes way too challenging. Due to the drastic change, these people force themselves to do things they are not used to. Quite often, even walking outside for a couple of blocks becomes a struggling decision for them. They worry too much that they can no longer feel the desire to be happy at some point.

With this Coronavirus issue where home quarantine is essential, it is a challenging moment for people with autism. Some of them are living on their own, and some are barely seeing anybody. Most of their conversations with other people are through social media and video conferencing platforms. Some spend time chatting, texting, and telephone calls as well. Sometimes, these people do not go out of their homes even if they want to. With the likes of that routine, many people can quickly conclude that it is how autistic people deal with the pandemic situation. But the truth to that is most of these individuals also need company.

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The majority of people with autism, though they like to be alone, need some companionship. At some level, being with someone allows them to function well. They can either be in the form of a romantic relationship, friendship, or family. Honestly, as much as they appreciate being away from absolute pressure during this crisis, autistic individuals still need someone in their lives. Yes, they need alone time to be able to prepare themselves in dealing with the unpredictable world outside. However, it does not mean they heed isolation.

Also, people with autism need regular therapy and so it’s a good thing that online therapy apps such as BetterHelp are now available in the time of the pandemic. People with autism don’t need to leave the comfort of their homes to have access to regular therapy. A lot of people have tried and got satisfied with how it turned out.

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People should recognize that some individuals cannot handle the stress, anxiety, and loneliness caused by this pandemic. That even if some tell others that they are used to the situation, no one should think that isolation is entirely okay. In times like this, people should spare moments to speak, communicate, and be there for these autistic individuals.

How People With Autism Cope With COVID-19

The spread of COVID-19 is causing extensive disruption to all our lives. But for children with autism, it is twice more damage. It becomes incredibly hard for them to make adjustments, especially in the routine changes. The pressure can lead to an increase in stress, anxiety, and even depression. In unfortunate instances, it can negatively promote challenging behaviors. And for parents and caregivers of children with autism, the whole experience can mean a lot different. The struggle of juggling work and home responsibilities can somehow lead to emotional and mental exhaustion. So to help children and parents deal with the adjustment during this pandemic, here are some of the best things to do.

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Establish New Routines

To cope with the disruptions in this time of global health situation, it is useful to establish new routines. No, it does not have to be a total routine make-over because a small and little by little changes are enough to sustain a better function.  These new sets of tasks can help children with autism develop better emotional and mental strength and allows the whole family to avoid stress and anxiety as well. The entire family can begin by adjusting the morning routines and add something from there. Like for example, after waking up, let the kids arrange their beds before they head towards their breakfast. Or allow them to do some 5 to 10 minute stretching before they take a bath. Parents can also use the children’s school schedule as a guideline to add better transitions between activities and breaks.

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Transition From School To Home

It is essential to understand that children with autism will not easily comply with the changes in their routines, even if the task only requires a small effort. Regardless of what it is, autistic children will find it stressful and exhausting. During this pandemic time, the biggest challenge for them is not going to school. So for some, the whole experience can cause trauma and unwanted behavior. For others, it will need more than a simple transition. So to be able to arrange impressive progress of transitioning, parents should allow kids to still do what the kids are used to do. These include waking up early, taking a bath, putting on kids’ school uniforms, and even pretend to ride a bus to school. From there, the transition can happen by removing some of the daily school tasks in an alternate process. There should be an alternative activity that will take the spot of the familiar routine.

Aside from school, therapies will also need to transition. Since we need to reduce physical interactions during this time, treatment will shift to online platforms like that of BetterHelp. No need to worry because these platforms employ licensed therapies that are professional and knowledgeable.

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Create A School Space At Home

Children with autism love school, and not visiting it for an extended period can negatively affect their emotional and mental behavior. But since there are not many parents who can do due to the pandemic situation, they might as well create a school space at home. It will allow autistic children to feel and experience familiar habits regardless of a different environment. So to accomplish this, parents can try setting up a room that will enable school space activities. They can incorporate some of the children’s preferred classroom by putting up a desk and chairs.  Parents can also copy an educational ambiance by setting up a blackboard, piling up some books, and even arranging art materials inside the room. If possible, parents can also use visual support to help increase children’s understanding. To make it more interesting for kids, parents can allow the children to assist in creating their new school space at home.

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Dealing with the life effects of the pandemic is not easy. And for kids with autism experiencing challenging behavior during this time, parents must understand their essential roles in providing what’s best for them.

What People With Autism Want You To Know Before You Date Them 

Dating is not always easy as shown in television and films. After all, media often promulgates stereotypes about different types of people and such are often wrong. This false information creates difficulty when it comes to actual dating: when people’s misconceptions take over their compassion and understanding. Something people often misunderstand is dating individuals with autism. 

 

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When Autism Disorder Strains A Happy Marriage

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“The autism diagnosis itself is often traumatic for parents. It can be a grueling process that may take up to a year or more, with multiple visits to several different professionals.”  Janeen Herskovitz, MA, LMHC said. With that, parent or guardian collaboration is essential in keeping your bond strong while withstanding the difficulties of looking after your child with autism disorder.

The Reality

Unfortunately, there are instances wherein psychological disorders like autism occurring within a family cause instability and discourse that could severely affect the relationship and eventually lead to divorce. Multiple studies have checked into this troubling issue, and yet their findings are usually contradicting.

However, what medical professionals do know is that autism is a rare disorder that induces stress not only for the parents but caregivers as well. Autism disorders start with a series of unusual events and then lead to inevitable changes that are difficult to deal with, which can then cause frustrations leading to persistent disagreements between parents.

While there are couples who are having trouble dealing with autism, there are those who have powered through all the difficulties by efficiently addressing and ironing out issues.

Autism Factors Affecting Marriage

Families are expected to endure adversities now and then. But when a family has a child with autism disorder, the stakes are higher, and the responsibilities seem doubled. Despite that, there are ways to be like the other couples who have weathered through the storm of staying together and becoming effective caregivers to their autistic child.

What are the reasons behind constant stress and how can you, as parents, be more efficient in overcoming these complications?

  1. The Acceptance
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Taking care of children with autism is supposed to be a partnership between parents, which is why both are required to be extensively knowledgeable about the condition so it can be appropriately managed. But that’s not always the case.

Some families have children with autistic disorder who are unequipped when it comes to dealing with the condition due to some reason. Mostly, only the other half is the well-rounded, well-informed one who becomes the primary caregiver.

Usually, acceptance is one of the most challenging things to do. Online counseling, such as BetterHelp, is a proven way to help couples deal with the situation. Parents can go on therapy sessions with licensed counselors to assist them in handling their circumstances. Therapists can also educate parents on the condition of their child and how to manage it.

  1. The Sharing Of Roles And Responsibilities

While the other parent is designated as the caregiver, the other is either avoidant or is usually unaware of what the disorder is and how it is managed. Here lies the conflict because only one is knowledgeable enough to engage in activities or events that concern the autistic child. Some examples are:

  • Talks to teachers about the kid’s school issues
  • Meets with developmental pediatricians
  • Shows up during evaluations
  • Takes the results

Usually, the mothers are involved in providing initial care; they are the ones who become the advocates and researchers who learn the following about their children with autism:

  • Therapeutic options
  • Classroom and school alternatives
  • Programs for special needs children
  • Education law for special needs children
  • Health insurance
  • Camps and support groups

In the meantime, fathers who choose to sideline themselves from their children’s disorder rely heavily on their wife’s capacity to perform the majority of caregiving duties, thinking that since someone’s more capable and efficient, there is no need to be fully invested in their kids’ daily roundabouts. When this becomes the scenario, the conflict will eventually arise.

Relationship experts and therapists believe that as much as possible, both parents should be involved in providing care and assuming responsibility for their kid’s condition. Collaboration is a huge factor in making sure that the relationship does not suffer while partners take care of their child.

  1. The Reaction

Autism prevails differently in children; therefore parents’ reactions are vital in maintaining a healthier bond with each other and with their autistic kids. “Young people with autism are very good at “getting stuck” and being less flexible.” John Strang, Psy.D. said.

While some parents see various challenges as an opportunity to learn and grow as a couple and as guardians, there are those who are upset and completely overwhelmed. For couples to overcome their frustrations surrounding the condition, they must first understand that an autistic kid:

  • may have ADHD
  • may not be verbal in conveying messages
  • may become noisy or silent
  • may exhibit inappropriate or disturbing behaviors
  • may become aggressive
  • may have anxiety

Because autism presents differently in children, it will take a lot of imagination, perseverance, and energy to figure out how to appropriately engage with children who have autism disorder, and this process can be quite exhausting for the assigned caregiver.

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While it is tempting for one parent to carry all the tasks and responsibilities in taking care of an autistic child and the other to surrender the role of a caregiver, it becomes an issue within the relationship due to the possibility of living separately even if they’re together. Time will come when partners find themselves at a crossroad with very little in common.

The Bottom Line

“There’s grief. There’s relief. There’s a whole range of emotions that go on there,” Jo White, a therapist said. Yes, managing an autistic child and assuming the role of a caregiver can be frightening and unsettling at first. But if couples are mutually accepting, understanding, and knowledgeable in taking on the responsibility of being parents and caregivers, the task of dealing with autism becomes lighter and even strengthens the bond of marriage.