That first step

I know I don’t look like a runner, but I am, in fact, a runner. Runners come in all shapes and sizes. I’m not a lean, 5-minute-mile runner, but I run and that makes me a runner. If you had told me many years ago I would be a runner I would have laughed in your face. And yet, I have a rack full of medals and a stash of running bibs and T-shirts that prove I’ve run dozens of races (5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons and a couple of full marathons, including the Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge 2015) and hundreds of miles—and that doesn’t count the training runs.

The beginning of my running journey started when I saw something someone else had done and I wanted that for myself. It started with a friend attending a local boot camp, experiencing some healthy outcomes, and I wanted that too. Little did I know a lifelong love of running would result. But, I had to take the first step into the facility where the boot camp was held.

That particular journey was a conscious decision. Sometimes, however, our journeys are thrust upon us without warning and against our will. We are then faced with how we respond and which direction we go rather than whether we are going to go. Oh yes, we’re going. No question. But we have to decide whether we’re going kicking and screaming, or whether we’re going peacefully. Or we have to decide whether we’re going triumphantly or in defeat. Such was the case with my journey to become a therapist and now to subsequently launch my private practice.

journey of 1000 miles

Life threw our family a curve ball around 2005 that landed us in family therapy. Family therapy was the last thing I had ever imagined for myself and my family, and not what I wanted to be doing at that time. Turns out the circumstances that forced that outcome were the single step that has led me to where I am right now. If we had never sat face to face with an amazing therapist who challenged me to figure out my purpose in life my journey over the last decade would be measurably different.

Adversity can bring out either the worst or the best in people. We were able to take an adverse circumstance and capitalize on it to bring about family change and I was able to realize personal change. In addition, I came to realize my life’s calling to help others navigate the troubled waters of their lives.

I can now look back and also see where other seemingly random circumstances have come together to shape my current practice and expertise. In the years leading up to the above-mentioned family crisis I did medical transcription from home. I then went to work as a medical receptionist as I began my master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. My therapy internship was within a family medicine residency clinic and my subsequent post-graduate jobs were working within that same clinic system. I’ve gone on to develop an expertise and become a trainer in a therapeutic model (Motivational Interviewing) now regularly being taught to medical students that focuses on helping patients navigate change in their health behaviors. I’ve trained dozens of physicians, nurses, and other healthcare practitioners, as well as other human service and mental health practitioners in the same model.

All the while I was walking my journey as a mental health practitioner I couldn’t escape the medical field. But, I believe there was a reason for that. My master’s program was one of only two marriage and family therapy programs at the time housed within a school of medicine and we were taught the biopsychosocial model of medicine and therapy. “Biopsychosocial” is a big word. What does it mean? Basically it means that as humans our entire well-being is a function of not only our physical health, but also of our mental/emotional health, and our social support system. In addition, the spiritual aspect of life is now also being incorporated into this model.

So what does that mean for my practice and my clients? It means that I am trained to think systemically about health and all the factors that contribute to well-being. It also means that having worked with dozens of physicians over the past several years—some very well known nationally and internationally for their specializations—I have a depth of knowledge about health conditions that the average therapist might not have. I know how to speak the language and/or I have medical colleagues that can help sort out the specifics.

The discovery of a new or chronic health diagnosis is a circumstance many people find themselves faced with rather unexpectedly. They are thrust into a health journey about which they are totally clueless and that brings about much stress and worry. It can lead to depression or anxiety. It can lead to grief over loss of quality of life. It can cause relationship issues as persons and their families learn to navigate all the new requirements associated with the diagnosis such as increased costs of medicines and treatments, transportation to appointments, loss of work, etc. People find themselves unsure of their options. They’re confused about what their diagnosis means. They fear the unknown. Where do they turn for support and understanding?

My life’s journey has prepared me to be someone who can help others navigate new health crises and the ongoing management of systemic issues related to chronic disease management. I not only have a healthcare background that has paved the way of understanding of medical jargon and how the medical field works, but as I mentioned previously I have also experienced a major life detour requiring a complete rethinking of how to move forward. I understand unwanted but forced change. And, the therapeutic model I alluded to above is a collaborative, compassionate, and empathic model for determining what is best for the individual facing the crisis. It is not about me telling others what they should or should not be doing. It is about walking through the journey together to figure out what is best for my clients and their family based on their overall goals, desires, and wishes.

And, as an added bonus, I take therapy outside of a sterile, clinical, office environment to nearby nature for the added therapeutic benefit of fresh air and exercise. Are you or someone you know facing a health crisis or struggling with managing a chronic disease? Could you use a little extra support in this part of your journey? Call or email me to schedule a walk-and-talk session: 404-895-1525 or Denice@WalkAndTalkAtlanta.com.

I am also a Distance Credentialed Counselor and offer online therapy appointments for those who are located within the state of Georgia.

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