Change FMLA How to Psychology Rest Sabbatical

The Value of a Sabbatical

White Toyota 4Runner in open space near red rock canyon walls. iKamper roof top tent open and ladder from tent to the ground.
My rig, affectionately named Hot/Haute Sake, became my home for Part I of my sabbatical. Learn more about what sabbaticals are all about and how to plan for one. Photo: Red Rocks Canyon campgrounds, Las Vegas Nevada, Oct. 2021.

When I first thought about taking a sabbatical in order to reflect on my 30+ years in the healthcare field, it made professional sense. It made logical sense. Everything lined up on paper. It just didn’t line up with life.

The purpose of a sabbatical is to take time away from the world of work to reflect on your accomplishments, engage in personal development and enrichment, and consider professional development in your career.

For those in the corporate world, a sabbatical has sometimes overlapped with the need to take FMLA, a form of paid leave after a tenure specified by the company. Employees use FMLA for a variety of reasons, yet often the circumstances are more urgent: physical illness, disability due to injury, recovery from a surgical procedure, or care for an ageing family member.

I have lost count of the number of applications I have helped clients submit over the years. And with each one, I wondered if and when I would someday undertake my own version of unpaid leave from all work.

When I hit that 30th year in 2020, our world plunged into a global pandemic. All thoughts of taking that well-deserved and thought-provoking sabbatical disappeared behind a mask, face shield, blue plastic gown, and nitrile gloves. I worked until I was exhausted and asked by my own doctor to take a brief break. I did, and then jumped right back into the work, working in 2021 and hoping that things would improve.

Twenty months later, I started reconsidering whether a one-month sabbatical would work. And I am not alone. Perhaps you are considering something similar.

What is a Sabbatical?
As mentioned above, a sabbatical is an extended break from school, religious duties, work, and everyday routines. Its roots are found in religious literature of the ancient Hebrew people, such as Leviticus 25, which describes a break of one year after six years of regular harvest for the land to rest, with an implication that the people were not to press themselves or the land to produce more food for the purpose of selling for profit. The harvest of the seventh year was meant to be given to those in service to it. Loose translation: land and people should take a rest every seventh year, and the laborers were to enjoy the efforts of their labor without the pressure of production.

Today, sabbaticals are more typically between two to six months in duration. Extended sabbaticals tend to be paid for the first portion and unpaid for the remainder of time; however, there are some types of extended sabbaticals that are paid because of professional development that is involved. An example of this is a company that provides paid sabbatical to allow employees to volunteer for an environmental non-profit, or for a professional to pursue an academic credential.

For the most part, sabbaticals are not simply vacations, although there may be vacation time built into it. The main idea is a change from everyday work routine that frees one up to pursue other elements of life and work that would otherwise not be possible.

Who takes sabbaticals?

There are many people who take sabbaticals from their work, and many reasons to do so:

  1. A death or imminent death in the family with a need to manage an estate of the deceased or care of a remaining family member
  2. Injury, illness, or adjustment to disability of self or a family member
  3. Work burnout, after all other means to address the burnout has failed
  4. Academic pursuit
  5. Refreshing one’s career
  6. Volunteer work

How to Take Time Off for a Sabbatical

First of all, sabbaticals take planning. As a friend once advised me, take a look at Simon Sinek’s TedX video, “Start with Why” The video can help you tap into the inspiration for you to dedicate some perspiration to planning and preparing for a sabbatical, including saving some extra money if your sabbatical involves some unpaid time off, an entire overhaul of your work life, or further education.

Part of the planning may involve contacting your HR department to go over the policies and application process for time off. Some companies have sabbatical leave baked into their hiring contracts; others have a requirement of seven years of work before you qualify for sabbatical or FMLA under certain circumstances. You’ll want to find out if your job is protected while you are away, and how your role will be covered so you don’t get pulled back in if there is a challenge or crisis during your leave of absence.

If your sabbatical requires international travel, you will want to contact the countries you’ll be traveling to, and these days, that also includes understanding the requirements of the host country regarding COVID-19 protocols when arriving and leaving the country, as well as the risks to yourself and any household members traveling with you. I suggest you conduct a risk assessment regarding travel, and how much risk you can bear.

For example, if you travelled to a country that later went into a restrictive lockdown to deal with COVID-19 outbreaks, or if you have co-morbidities that put you at risk for severe illness and the country you wish to travel faces a challenge in their hospitals to provide care and beds, you may need time to plan a more extensive care strategy.

If you are working with a tighter budget and longer period of time off, you may need to look at your expenses and cancel or pause subscription-based expenses, monthly charges such as cable and Internet if you go abroad, and consider holding off on luxury purchases. Instead, you might want to schedule those doctor and dentist visits, make sure you are up-to-date with medical prescriptions and immunizations, and think ahead through the needs of your children and pets to anticipate expenses.

See You in January 2022

As my planned sabbatical Part 2 is about to start (Part 1 was in October to early November), I’m looking forward to the remaining month of a two-month sabbatical. I’m expecting to have good news to share with the counseling community when I return.


Getting Ready to Return to Work

You may be asking yourself right along with your boss if you are ready to return to work. After a long year of WFH (Work From Home) for many people around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some places are readying for that call or email regarding an anticipated date of return to the workplace.

Are you ready?

What should you be considering?

Connect And Be Humans First

If you haven’t been in the same room with others from your workplace for more than a year, it’s going to take some getting used to being together again. And if you are starting a new job or new position, you’ll need to take time just getting used to being around other people who have a history and a culture that isn’t familiar to you.

You might not know who has had a death in the family due to COVID-19. You might not know who isn’t able to get a family member vaccinated because of their immunocompromised state. You won’t know until it’s shared who has lost the sense of taste and smell and cringes at the sight of fresh donuts or coffee because right now they taste like sand. You need time to talk and be humans first before jumping into working together, and yet I can anticipate that some places of work may try to circumnavigate these realities and ask people to get back to the rhythm of work quickly.

Why is it important to give yourself some time and intentional space to connect with people you are working with in the same physical space?

It can’t be iterated too many times that the world has been going through one of the most epic and catastrophic health crisis in a hundred years. With crisis comes grief, trauma, and recovery, all of which do not follow specific timelines for all people. Additionally, the U.S. has been shaken by political and social conflicts. What one person can say with lightness and joking can be another person’s nightmare.

Gathering together may help you make an assessment of where you and others are “at”. A fellow colleague might have close friends and relatives in an area of the world that is struggling with high COVID-19 transmission rates and a fragile or overwhelmed healthcare response. It’s your opportunity to share with others if you’ve been under stress because of the additional duties of managing your children’s ZOOM school time or an elder’s additional care needs that changed because of local guidelines on assisted living and group home care.

Grooming and Hygiene Needs a Once-Over Check

Stores that catered to people seeking fragrances, cosmetics, and haircare protects saw a drop in sales in 2020. When hair salons were forced to close during lockdown or go to very low capacity, many people pivoted the best they could.

As we return to places of work, it’s time for a grooming and hygiene “once over.” Teeth brushed? Breath checked? Shirt ironed (or, at least unrumpled)? Shoes free of dirt (wait, we can’t wear slippers to work, right?)? No scented products on? Hair dried and brushed?

Are you in need of replacing or repairing an item of clothing that shows wear or dirt? Do you know the policies at your workplace regarding designs that might be off-putting or inappropriate? Will there be places you cannot socially distance that will require mask-wearing, and are those masks in good condition?

Depending on where you live, hair salons and barbershops may not be able to accommodate same-day appointments, due to capacity limitations and staff availability. Anticipate delays and book appointments in advance of your anticipated day of return to the workplace.

Oh Yeah, I Forgot About That Commute Time!

After a year plus of WFH, many of us have adjusted to the flexibility of tucking in work responsibilities we could do remotely simultaneously with running errands or having others around us.

I was surprised by a businessman who continued to keep his cell phone pressed to his ear when he walked up to my station for a COVID-19 vaccination. He was asked to put his call on mute and put the phone down because he had entered a medical environment with privacy concerns. We also needed his full and undivided attention for just a few minutes.

Similarly, your commute time to work and your adjustment to being “all there” at your place of work will need to be factored into your adjustment period. In Washington State, distracted driving comes tickets and the possibility of being charged if you cause an accident.

Additionally, online counseling sessions with SDC follow current telehealth laws and ethics of conduct that support safe practice and patient safety. We do not encourage counseling sessions to be conducted in a moving car while clients are driving, in any public location while running business or running errands, or in any public location where the client cannot identify their location in case of emergency. The exception to this is for crisis calls of 15 minutes or less whereby a licensed professional can prove that it was in the patient’s best interest to take that call and support the patient’s immediate need and set up an appropriate follow up session.

Your work commute time, while on public transit or in a private vehicle, will need to be factored back into your overall daily and weekly routines again. For many of you, this might be a breath of fresh air. For others, everything from car repairs after your vehicle has sat unused to adjustments of parking one’s car and walking into the door of the workplace will need to be considered. For example, two flights of stone steps might not sound bad, but they could feel worse than normal after 10,000 steps during the workday on a hard surface.

Productivity Expectations

Expectations on your level of productivity when returning to the workplace, whether in hybrid mode or all in-person, will need to be discussed. For some, bosses expected their employees to be available at a moment’s notice and for more hours because there was no commute involved. At the same time, you may need to request an honest talk about productivity in a return to work because the previous expectation was unsustainable.

The demands of your home life may not have changed; that is, there are still adjustments to be made when your spouse or partner has not transitioned back to the workplace and there are still needs to be met for children who will be home from ZOOM school for the summer (and likely into the Fall 2021 school year). All of these factors affect your ability to pivot and transition back to the workplace.

Physical and Mental Health Concerns

When I heard from my dentist how many of his patients had fallen behind on their dental hygiene, I did not judge. We were doing the best that we could, and offices had to decrease their patient load to accommodate local COVID-19 restrictions and lock downs.

Now that many of our healthcare and mental health care services are available (masks, PCR tests prior to more involved treatments, remote access when useful), you may need to take a careful look at what needs a tuneup.

Besides looking at your blood serum lab results, are you having any symptoms that your HCP should know about? Are you having trouble with sleep, depression or anxiety, or issues that you think might be related to being COVID-19 positive, even if was a year ago?

Adjustments to Constant Disruption

It’s fair to say that we have all experienced disruption to our lives. Even if you were in a remote area of the world, you might have noticed that supply chains were disrupted and deliveries delayed. Mail and shipping slowed. One moment you were told masks weren’t necessary; another moment, you were scrambling to learn how to sew one yourself or get the right type of mask made by a reputable source.

Similarly, there will be present and future disruptions and changes to deal with. Your employer may insert the right to deliver a verbal attestation of your current health status related to COVID-19 symptoms, or to ask if you would like to put an app on your phone that does the same thing. You would then be required to share your answers on the app before entering your building’s workplace.

Because of breakthrough cases (1-5%) of vaccinated people getting COVID-19 because of high transmission rates in outbreak areas, you may still be wearing a mask and socially distancing. It may feel like a disruption because when you have been at home, you haven’t had to wear a mask. While healthcare workers are used to this dichotomy of worlds, many workers in the general population are not accustomed to it.

Additionally, there are many strong feelings about these behaviors and choices. Talking about them and explaining your choices can be exhausting. When I would wear a mask outdoors just for dust and pollen season, I was often scolded by uneducated people. I’ll leave this here for your own contemplation: wearing a mask as a protective device hurts no one else, and you may be protecting someone who is vulnerable.

Permanent Work From Home

Some employers made the decision to allow some or all of their workers remain on work from home. They shuttered their expensive office spaces when productivity remained high and their workers transitioned to online video conferencing services such as Microsoft Teams and ZOOM meetings.

Others were furloughed, laid off, and rehired into jobs that would remain remote. They never got a chance to say good-bye to their co-workers; instead, they picked up their things quietly and in isolation.

If you never took the time to grieve and mark the dramatic changes as you tried your best to pivot to the next step, maybe it’s time create a way to mark that point. If you got hired to a new job, mark the anniversary of the new position and celebrate it. It could be something as simple as ringing a bell each time a colleague celebrates a work anniversary, or more involved such as a small gift box of things to help celebrate the occasion.

Do you have any other thoughts about returning to work post-pandemic? Please send them in a comment.


Mindset Shift

In this New Year 2021, all of us across the globe have had to shift, adapt, and change as the pandemic slammed into large and then small towns across our nation.

And we are not done. As King 5 new‘s Brit Moorer discussed with me on camera where setting intentions fit within the path of a pandemic, I reminded our viewers that we are still in the middle of it. Instead of viewing the arrival of our first COVID-19 vaccine doses in Washington State as a sprint to the finish of this deadly virus, I reminded viewers to consider how riding out this pandemic safely is more akin to running a marathon than a sprint. And we are in the middle of that marathon, not the end.

With a marathon, you need to pace yourself. If you don’t, you hit the Wall and run out of energy to finish the race.

With people hitting “pandemic fatigue,” we are entering one of the most dangerous and deadly of times. Unfortunately, some people feel that nothing more can be done, and changing one’s behavior has little effect.

They are wrong. We have proved that if people follow the guidelines carefully to wear a mask when outside your home, stay socially distant from those who are not a part or your household, limit gatherings and avoid large public ones, and wash hands frequently, we can bend the curve of the pandemic wave and trend numbers of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths down.

We are close to seeing some light in this war against the pandemic, and it takes each one of us to take our social responsibility seriously. Yet to do that requires that each person change their behavior, and it’s this behavior change that has been the hardest part for us to bear. It requires that each person puts aside their individual freedom and rights in order to be a good neighbor.

In the later part of 2020, I rediscovered a song that I hadn’t heard for some time. Yet the lyrics are perfect for 2020, and for entering 2021 in terms of setting a mindset for change.

I’ve included the lyrics, below. May your mindset for change allow you to see the beautiful things amidst a difficult year.

Note: The SDC virtual office will be open again after January 12 2021. Due to a death in the family, office hours will also be changing.


Everything must change,
Nothing stays the same.
Everyone must change
Nothing stays the same.

The young become the old,
Mysteries do unfold.
‘Cause that’s the way of time
Nothing and no one goes unchanged.

There are not many things
In life you can be sure of.

Rain comes from the clouds,
And sun lights up the sky,
And humming birds do fly.

Winter turns to spring.
Wounded heart will heal.
Never much too soon
Everything must change

Rain comes from the clouds,
And sun lights up the sky,
And humming birds do fly.

[George Benson]

Change Psychology Resilience Rest

Is It Too Soon?

This is an opinion piece written by the owner of the Seattle Direct Counseling website and blog.

Have you come across a question on Social Media that asks you to share positive things you have experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Before I do some research as to what other people in the field of psychology think about this question, I tuned into my own feelings. Mine are obvious, and you are free to disagree, yet I would ask you to read the entirety of this post and take a breath before you respond.

Nope. It’s too soon for me to share a list of silver linings. There are still people getting sick, still people dying, and still people grieving the loss of their loved ones because of COVID-19. There are still people who have lost their jobs or who are still bouncing back from economic hardship. There are still people getting evicted, moving because they can no longer afford their homes due to job loss, and still having difficulty making ends meet. There are still children and parents struggling to juggle in-person, remote classrooms, hybrid versions, and work-life balance. There are still essential workers from groceries to healthcare that are burned out, overworked, and traumatized by the care and servicing of sick, frightened, angry, and sometimes selfish people, all while they grieve the loss of fellow colleagues.

This is not to say that I haven’t seen or heard people experiencing many positive changes in their lives this year. Yet the question wasn’t just about positive changes. The question was about making a direct correlation between a pandemic – that has the potential to kill 20% of the population regardless of health history, decimate whole family systems with its easy transmission through secretions, and disable world economies for a number of years – with positive benefits.

I believe the question was intended to get people thinking about gratitude. The other potential meaning behind the question is what I find troubling.

I find that we’re often asked to make a list of positive outcomes when we’ve gone through a tough time. The problem is this: the tough time hasn’t ended. With the coronavirus out of control in many countries around the world as well as right here at home, it feels too soon to ask people to conjure a positive attitude or to list what good things they have experienced since the pandemic hit their respective towns and cities. It’s like asking people to diminish the real pain and hardship they have experienced, put on a smile, and move on, without getting to the real deal behind trauma and adversity.

If Not Silver Linings, What Else?

Is there something helpful to focus on besides silver linings and gratitude lists in the midst of difficult times, especially if you actually tried to develop a more positive attitude and found that to be — well, not very helpful?

If I could wish anything for you now, it would be a combination of Rest and Resilience.

What I mean by Rest is a short break from the elements of your life that may be causing insomnia, heartache, loneliness, burnout, and financial strain. If the coronavirus is out of control in your town, getting rest is complex. I understand you can’t let your guard down. Yet Rest can come in waves, from remembering to take time breathing fresh air when you can step outside and away from crowded areas, to choosing to turn off your smart devices at least an hour before bedtime so your brain can go into recovery mode.

Rest can mean snuggling with your pets and household members, singing along with a song you love, connecting with a friend via Zoom, or quietly putting together a puzzle while silencing distraction and stress. Rest can mean you give yourself a break from trying so hard to make this year’s holiday celebrations look exactly like previous years, especially if the means to do that cost you or others more than you can afford or risk.

What I mean by Rest is that if you have time off from work for the holiday, take it, and take it seriously like it meant your life. Rest. Your mind and body need it. If you must create something to do, you can invigorate your mind through the Art of Doing Nothing.

What I mean by Resilience is the capacity through a developing pathway or routine to adaptation through adversity. It involves mental and emotional toughness that can be built over time by allowing yourself to feel and experience something difficult, and then acknowledging what you did and how it felt as you got through it. It’s the acknowledgement that you weathered something uncomfortable if not downright painful, and you did not die.

Resilience can look like you buying your first couple of cloth masks at the start of the pandemic, moving through your feelings about wearing them, learning how to make your own, and giving or selling masks to others to help others. The next time you find yourself worrying about the pandemic, you may also realize you have adapted your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors – “I am concerned, I feel myself feeling anxious, I remember to put on my mask when I must leave my house”- in such a way that that you feel stronger to face the day. Over time, this might even feel easier.

Resilience can sound like learning to be more clear and direct with your words and actions, beginning with loved ones and expanding to your interactions with co-workers and community members. When you note how the choice to institute healthy boundaries around your time and energy has a payoff for you despite the fear of disappointment from others, you could be developing the necessary resilience to handle the kinds of uncomfortable emotions and thoughts that build when handling aspects of what so many of us fondly refer to as “adulting”, only it can feel like Adulting on Steroids.

At its most basic elements, Resilience involves personal growth. At its height and breadth, Resilience allows you develop something I call Relentless Forward Progress. It’s that part of us that can become more than we thought (and not to be confused with productivity), allowing even trauma, adversity, illness, and accidents to shape us. We would never wish these events on anyone, yet at the same time, the resilience that people can develop from having gone through these things can be profound. For more on what psychological resilience is, check out this link.

If making a list of how you think you’ve benefited by the pandemic coming to your door makes you feel more hopeful and upbeat, I’m not saying you should stop making that list.

What I am suggesting is that it wasn’t the pandemic itself — a virus that can kill — that should be celebrated right now. Rather, it’s your adaptive responses to it — and all kinds of adversity — that deserves cake and a happy dance.

election anxiety Psychology Stress

Election Anxiety Actually

November 2016, I wrote a post titled Election Anxiety, just days before the election to help others name and address this non-DSM V set of anxious thoughts and actions tied to the hotly contested run for U.S. president.

The rest is history.

Until then, I had never experienced so many clients and community members taking the initiative to talk about their hopes and fears tied to the perceived outcomes they associated with each candidate. I was even interviewed on the local news about Election Anxiety. And now, in October 2020, we are here again: Election Anxiety, Actually.

Let me remind my readers, I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and a Registered Nurse (A-R) in good standing. As a matter of course, I do not initiate conversations about politics with my clients, nor is it any part of my therapeutic ethics to persuade, manipulate, validate, or dismiss the views of my clients.

What I do is assess how the world of my client manifests through actions, behaviors, thoughts, and feelings, all of which have positive and negative outcomes for them, their families, and communities.

If you haven’t already done so, I invite you to click on the link above and read my words from 2016, most of which apply today. And is there anything I want to add that could be helpful for this round of Election Anxiety?

You ‘betcha.

Election Anxiety on Steroids

If you experienced Election Anxiety in 2016, this year may feel like more of the same except on steroids. If you were angry, depressed, or frightened then, many of the same concerns are still on the docket in 2020: healthcare for all, racial equity, gender equity, the economy, immigration law, environmental concerns (public lands, national parks, natural resources, climate change).

Let’s add two more issues: 1) a global pandemic, of which the United States is among the top countries with high counts of COVID-19 positive cases and leading in the number of deaths from the coronavirus, and 2) racism as a pandemic (declared by Public Health as such), with ongoing violence and unnecessary use-of-force by authorities against BIPOCs as a whole (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and Black people in alarmingly higher proportion.

Our nation is divided, and not necessarily just along party lines, about how to address both of these pandemics. Across both sides of the aisle are those who feel that economic stimulation is the general answer to resolving the ills of systemic racism and keeping our countrymen/people intact. Granted, that means that a lot of people may die, but their argument is that they feel that the people who die from the coronavirus are generally older and have co-morbidities that would prevent a more straight-forward recovery from a coronavirus that preys on weakness. This let them die attitude does not take in account that the virus also kills young people and may leave many with chronic illnesses that don’t know how long it will take to recover, if at all. The SARS-COV-2 virus has disproportionately affected BIPOCs. And I am beside myself with grief the number of healthcare workers who have died while doing their job to save the lives of others during the pandemic.

Across both sides of the aisle, there are citizens who feel that the current administration has not been forthright about its stance against the coronavirus since the first day it hit the shores of the U.S. (and in the Greater Seattle area, no less). We have learned as a nation that the pandemic was downplayed. And despite efforts from healthcare workers like myself and local Public Health authorities to prepare our communities to mask up, wash hands, test if you have symptoms of the virus, stay home and stay healthy, initiatives to act as a nation was fragmented, left up to individual states to do as they felt best, to obtain PPE where they could, and to mobilize resources, volunteers, medical professionals, and institute strategic planning.

Some states did better than others. Yet as of Sept. 29, 2020 (date of this writing), the U.S. still has more than 20 states with increasing numbers of coronavirus cases.

If you ask why Election Anxiety is high again, it’s all the issues of 2016, and these two pandemics piled on top of them. Americans will be heading to the polls, mailing their ballots*, or placing their ballots in secure ballot boxes, answering the question of who they feel will provide the leadership to tackle the most deadly pandemic to hit us in over a century.

Bystander Trauma

As a clinician, I have been given few, if any, diagnostic tools, tests, or measurements to describe and treat what we are collectively calling Racial Trauma. There is no category for systemic racism in our billing codes for sessions. Yet trauma is trauma. Trauma has features that we can name, point to, and identify, such as:

  • Shock, denial, or disbelief.
  • Confusion, difficulty concentrating.
  • Anger, irritability, mood swings.
  • Anxiety and fear.
  • Guilt, shame, self-blame.
  • Withdrawing from others.
  • Feeling sad or hopeless.
  • Feeling disconnected or numb.


Among those who talk about Election Anxiety and Post-Election Anxiety, I see the same symptoms. The severity of symptoms can be off the charts when you add in the chronic cycles of systemic racism and the exhaustion of trying to fight against it for oneself, one’s children, and one’s community. For some families, the fight against racism can be traced back across hundreds of years.

Bystander Trauma is also real. We usually think of Bystander Trauma in the context of a first-responder who witnesses and attends to a victim of a traumatic event, such as a vehicle accident or a violent crime. Yet those of us who witness via Social Media, News Feeds, television, and radio broadcasts of traumatic events can also experience another type of Bystander Trauma. The exposure to seemingly endless news stories of violent acts done against BIPOCs, deaths of loved ones and community members to the coronavirus, and a conflicted and contentious election can stir up similar feelings of loss, anger, hopelessness, denial, hopelessness and helplessness.

You may not be left physically bleeding by any of this, but in terms of your emotional health, you might feel like someone has nailed a spile in your soul. If you find yourself asking why you feel so emotionally spent by the end of a WFH (Work from Home) work week, you may want to learn more about the effects of “witnessing” a firehose worth of news stories related to the elements that are shaping our current U.S. elections.

Because my 2016 post outlined some guidelines about managing Election Anxiety, I won’t rewrite them here. Yet what I want to make clear is that the answer isn’t found in turning away as much as it does in managing the stream while finding the balance with appropriate action.

Your vote matters. As many of us have seen for ourselves, what we do in one moment in time is remembered years later. Our words, actions, and thoughts — even our recanting, apologies, and amends for wrongdoing — make a difference.

And, if it’s time to turn down the volume and turn up the action — like taking care of your mental health, following up on your physical health, and advocating for the health of your family members, community members, and state, we’re here to help you do that with all the continuing education, skill, and care that is a part of our profession.

If you’re struggling with anxiety — and Election Anxiety in this particular season — we’re here to help.


  • It may be a felony to vote more than once in an election. If this has been suggested to you, please consider the legal ramifications and fines for doing so.

Coming Soon

August is my “reset” month for rest, reflection, and rebuilding.

We’re aware there are some debugging and admin issues on the website. Hang tight, the big clean up job is coming!

We’re still listed with Psychology Today, so if you came by here looking for more information on our services, please check us out on Psychology Today for more information.


Could Group Therapy Help During the Pandemic?

Post written by B. Imei Hsu, RN-LMHC

Starting in 2020, I reverted to a protocol that I had not needed to enact in several years.

I began a waiting list. And I was not happy with that. Let me explain.

This is not a practice I have ever wanted for my community. From an ethical point of view, a waiting list can give a false sense of security to both the client and the therapist if there isn’t a set of guidelines and reasonable timelines that are communicated when a client makes requests for reasonable availability as well as suitability of a therapeutic alliance.

As people look for available therapists, they are running into the same challenge: most therapists in the Greater Seattle area are reporting that their schedules are full.

Don’t Give Up! It can be discouraging when you finally call to make an appointment, only to find out the counselor you so carefully chose has a really long waitlist or isn’t taking new clients. You might feel like it’s a sign you’ll never get the help you need, but that isn’t true.

From Open Counseling What to do when there’s a waiting list

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of mental health therapy, and the waiting list has become an aspect of delivering mental health services. Many therapists made the transition from in-office counseling sessions to online sessions, and with a block of time that was once dedicated to commuting and maintaining a professional office, those extra hours were often transferred to client hours in order to help meet the demand for mental health services. Yet even with more counselors offering online counseling than ever before, you may still find that there is limited availability.

While it is left up to the discretion of the practitioner to determine how many client hours should be opened in their work week, my own professional ethics that help determine patient flow revolve around the following:

  • health of the provider and the provider’s ability to enact self care
  • the totality of the severity of issues of the typical weekly flow of clients
  • the amount of time needed to keep up with administrative tasks associated with the counseling practice
  • wiggle room for urgent issues and rescheduling

While it is it true that most therapists do not want to turn away clients when they are in need, therapists must triage clients seeking therapy and help refer them elsewhere when it is determined that the client is in considerable distress or crisis and needs more immediate attention.

Still, therapists only have so many hours a week that they can safely provide care to their counseling community. Overcrowding their schedule can cause client needs to go unaddressed; it can also cause burnout in the therapist.

And while individual counseling provides flexibility for clients to change days and times of time to suit their needs, it does not always help the provider to meet the overall needs of the counseling community.

During the past month, I’ve been leaning towards offering group therapy as a possible solution to the high demand for counseling in a time where most therapists, including myself, are at the top of their capacity with no end in sight. I find this ironic, because in the past, most clients declined group therapy because they viewed therapy as “me time” in which that time was seen as the hour in which each person could focus on healing.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we see healing – not just as an individual process that occurs during “me time”, but as a process that happens within the context of relationships. After a year of isolation and distance, Group Therapy delivered via HIPAA compliant video conferencing may help to change the face of mental health services.

What has happened to us as a community because of COVID-19? Here’s just a few thoughts:

  • We have covered our faces – and part of our identities — in order to reduce the risk of illness and slow the spread of the virus.
  • We have physically distanced ourselves from one another, again for the same reason. This has caused widespread isolation and loneliness for adults and children.
  • Some have become mistrusting of one another in the absence of repeated socialization that happens in places of work, school, and activities outside the home such as shopping, playing in team sports, and even gabbing with others in the neighborhood
  • We have taken to more forms of one-way communication, especially after hours of sitting in front of screens for Zoom calls. Texts and other asynchronous forms of communication have taken over many of the interactions that require listening, patience, processing time, and the reading of body language to connect with and affirm one another.
Could Group Therapy Help During the Pandemic?

When I was first introduced to the concepts of Group Therapy, I saw it as the kind of therapy one did in the hospital during a very long stay due to recovery time, or a type of therapy created around a topic that was very specific and intense, such as Eating Disorder group therapy for a specific age group, such as teens to young adults.

While there isn’t a problem with this view, this perspective, in my own reflection, is limited. The reality of Group Therapy is that it is style of therapy that is appropriate for most people and most issues except for more severe forms of mental health issues. With a skilled group leader, a defined theme or content that helps clients select the group, and a clearly communicated beginning, middle, and end, a group context often allows individuals to progress through the phases of therapy faster than they might with individual therapy.

An additional bonus is that for the cost of the average group therapy session (around $45-50 a session), it is more affordable as well. Yet the intriguing part for us all is that a group may help therapists see more clients who need attention NOW versus having to wait weeks if not months for an available counselor. The counselor opens 1.5-2hours per week for 12 to 16 weeks, yet that time serves 12-15 clients who make the commitment to attend group therapy sessions until the group ends.

Finally, Group Therapy is often conducted with a co-therapist. This means that for the price of a group therapy session, each client has the eyes of two licensed mental health clinicians on them. I consider that “more bang for your buck”.

I enjoyed being a Group Therapy provider in the past, and I believe I would enjoy it again in 2021. The bigger question I have is this: will today’s client choose Group Therapy to meet their needs? If today’s client spends a couple of weeks trying to find an available therapist with whom they find some affinity, only to be told there is a waiting list that may be three weeks to one and a half months before an opening may be available, will Group Therapy be something people try if the group description is a good match?

These are questions I’m trying to answer before April 2021. If the answers start coming back in the affirmative, I’ll be advertising for group therapy clients soon. The hope is to alleviate the burden for people who have been searching for a therapist for a long time. And it would be my pleasure to invite a co-therapist who balances my therapeutic style with fresh thinking and other lenses in life experience.

Do you have comments about Group Therapy you would like to share? Feel free to reach out in the comments (and indicate if you would like keep your comment anonymous, as that is the default for me when I edit comments before republishing).