Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Counselors Are Hypocrites

Yes, we are hypocrites. I was talking to a fellow counselor about how stressed we both feel – how overwhelming life can be at times. Without thinking, I said, “you should see someone – you know, get some extra support.” Silence. She was dumbstruck. “I can’t do that – tell some stranger my problems and have that person think that I’m ‘crazy’ and can’t do my job!”


Is it too corny to say that counselors are people, too? Well, we are. And other helping professionals – clergy, coaches, doctors, nurses, psychiatrists – are people, too. I’ve not met one person who enjoys being vulnerable. On the flip side, I’ve met lots folks who are racing headlong into burnout because they choose not to practice what they preach.

Where is it written that people with the heart and gift for helping should never need support themselves? We come up with all kinds of fancy justifications for not practicing emotional and mental self-care. Well, I’m going to give you 3 reasons to get intentional about emotional and mental self-care.

1.      Practice what you preach. How can you, in good conscience, advice people to do something that you won’t do?

2.      Risk being vulnerable. Asking for help is difficult; talking to a stranger about your problems is difficult. Yet, your job and/or calling is predicated, at least in part, on people asking you for help! What better way to develop greater respect and empathy for the people you serve!

3.      Burned out helpers do more harm than good. Unresolved wounds ooze and the pain transfers in insidious ways to the people you serve, e.g. impatience, pessimism, chronic lateness, ambivalence, etc.

Helping professionals need help and support too. Don't let your embarrassment cause you to be the very person that you encourage your clients NOT to be.

Until next time,

Be the person you encourage your clients to be.

Dr. Gabby

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Do Your Work

I want to share something with you. A powerful expression and piece of advice that resonates deeply in my spirit. But, before I get to that.... Here’s a ‘Did you know?’ moment: Every Helper - both lay and professional must do his or her own "work." Failing to do your own work will lead to unintended consequences for you and those on the receiving end of your efforts. 

I'm in a season of doing my "work." The process isn't comfortable, but I feel my energy level rising. I hear God more clearly. Peace of mind and piece of mind are being restored. I’m feeling refreshed - confident knowing that I can be present for my clients and the people God has assigned to my care.

Ok, back to the point: Tara-Nicholle Nelson shared this insight that has given me life!Many who have had childhood traumas and hurts take root find it hard to distinguish between fear and intuition. Trusting your gut is very hard when your gut has been wired into high alert for decades. Sitting still in quiet, even for 5 minutes a day, starts rewiring your nervous system to know that it is ok. And in that stillness, the gap between fear and intuition becomes very clear, very fast.”

Lots of us who are called to minister and help others are ourselves, survivors of childhood traumas - parental death, abuse, accidents, natural disasters, violence. Give yourself the gift of quiet time to reset and care for yourself. And, please, do YOUR work! The world needs us to be in tip-top shape so that we may carry out our God-given assignment.

In my coaching practice, I help Wounded Healers - ministers, counselors, and other professional and lay helpers - to do their work. If YOU are ready to do your work, contact me.

Until next time,

Do your work.

Dr. Gabby

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

How Should African American Clergy Women Respond to Donald Trump’s Sexist Comments?

This has to be a joke. RIGHT?

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and a recording of a candidate for President of the United States of America is released in which he says, “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.” He then added, "And when you’re a star, they let you do it. Grab them by the p—y. You can do anything."

Honestly, I’m not all that surprised given Donald Trump’s history of making disparaging comments about women on the campaign trail.  I’m only slightly stunned that many in the right wing media and political establishment dismissed the comments because he made them 11 years ago. I’m utterly astonished by both the silence in response to comments from prominent religious leaders.

Trump’s words hit me like a sledgehammer in in a place that is still scarred by brutality that my foremothers endured at the hands of their all-powerful owners. Consent was not a luxury afforded to them.  

Joshua Dubois, in his article “Powerful Evangelical Women Split from Male Church Leaders to Slam Trump,” described the response of prominent evangelical women, among them evangelist and author, Beth Moore, who are speaking out against Trump. These women have boldly called out prominent evangelical pastors for their continuing support of Trump.

Trumps’ record with African Americans and women is a double whammy for us as African American women.  We experience sexual assault at a rate higher than that experienced by our Caucasian counterparts. One out of every four African American women has been a victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.

Given these statistics, how should we, African American clergy women, respond to Trump’s comments? I’m not na├»ve enough to believe that all of my sisters in ministry oppose Trump. We are by no means a monolith. But, some things ought to offend our collective sensibilities.

Although my list of ideas is by no means exhaustive, here are some ways that we can respond:

1.      We must condemn misogynist rhetoric. We are called to stand against any system or person that shames and renders people invisible or irrelevant. Trump’s words and recent actions have done just that.

2.      We must shout Psalm 139:14 from the mountain tops to remind our sisters, and ourselves, that they we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

3.      We must use our position to teach that anti-woman language and behavior is intolerable. Exploitative behavior, perpetrated by anyone, is not ok. Why? Because, we all are created in God's image.

4.      Should we ask our brothers of the clothe to stand with us - to show their support for us by openly condemning the shaming of women on a national stage? I would hope that we wouldn’t have to ask. But, take nothing for granted. Ask.

My sisters, we have come too far to be silent. We must lift our voices not only for ourselves, but for our foremothers who could not.

Until next time,
Keep lifting your voice!

Dr. Gabby

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Texting vs Talking - What's your preference?

I began writing this with the intent ionof heralding the virtues of taking over texting. That is until I stumbled on an article in Inc. Magazine that made me re-think my position (kind of). On a daily basis, I see the havoc that results from misconstrued text messages - ruined friendships & unnecessarily long arguments that could be quickly resolved with a five minute voice conversation. 

In full disclosure, I’m an introvert who much prefers text over talking in situations that I anticipate will be awkward or contentious. My teenage clients have shown me, too, that (treatment appropriate) texting can strengthen the therapeutic relationship.  Ultimately, though, I believe that talking trumps texting to discuss sensitive topics. The sterile words on a screen too easily take on the projected emotions of the reader, potentially transforming a well-intended message into a spark that ignites an unnecessary conflict at best and a destroyed relationship at worst. Perhaps, I am a reflection of my 1990s counselor training. The extent of text messaging in those days was calling someone’s pager and entering my assigned code.

Jayson Demers, in his article "Communication in 2015: Text, Voice, Video or In-Person?" outlined advantages and disadvantages of text and voice communication. Check out this excerpt from Jayson’s article:  
  • It forces us to be concise. In texts and emails, there's no room for small talk or pleasantries, so your message gets right to the point.
  • Your message is on the record. There's room for misinterpretation, but the original message can't be questioned--it's searchable, and available for reference by all parties involved.
  • You can be precise. Writing things down forces us to think carefully about what it is we want to say. In many cases, that makes us more likely to be specific and write in detail.
  • You can be organized. Text messages are somewhat more limiting, but in emails, it's easy to organize your message in a way that visually makes sense.

  • Text carries no tone. Aside from emoticons, which are usually seen as unprofessional, there's no way to infuse subtext into your message. Any tone of voice or body language is instantly lost.
  • Text can be misinterpreted. While it's also possible for vocal interaction to be misheard or misinterpreted, text is not a foolproof means of communication. One spelling error or one skip-over could ruin the effect your message is intended to have.
  • It's impersonal. Some messages require compassion and sympathy in their delivery, and text simply doesn't have the same effect as a face-to-face meeting.
  • There's no back-and-forth. In some cases this can be advantageous, but with text, there's no opportunity to open a group discussion. There is only a punctuated series of one-to-one responses.
  • Text is fast and precise, and it holds people accountable to their messages, but it's also impersonal and subject to interpretation. It's an excellent choice of medium, but only when your message is better served by being on the record than it is by being conveyed with emotion.

  • It doesn't require much attention. Unlike text messages, which require a manual user input, or in-person meetings, which require full focus, phone calls give you more freedom.
  • You can express inflection without worrying about body language. Voice carries tone much better than text messages, allowing you to inject humor or sympathy into your words without having to pay attention to your body language.
  • Several people can connect simultaneously and remotely. Using conference calls, several people from all around the world can speak together at once.

  • People speak over each other. With speech delays and few body cues, it's easy for people to clamor over each other, especially while on a conference line.
  • Phone calls are great for connecting several remote people at once, but the inefficiency of communication often makes in-person meetings or text messages better options.

 What do you prefer - texting or talking? Let me hear from you.

Until next time,
Happy talking…or texting!

Dr. Gabby

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Tis the Season to Save a Life

 Possibly the most important message we can share this holiday season...

Lifeline from BVisionMedia on Vimeo.

Lifeline II from BVisionMedia on Vimeo.

Until next time,
Share this message with everyone you know.

Dr. Gabby

Many thanks to Roberto Benavides and the Prevention team at Henrico Area Mental Health & Developmental Services for this video.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

There's an App for That - Yes, That!

I’m a marginal app fan, at best. But, even I have to admit that smartphone apps have be a godsend in the physical and mental health arenas. For all you techno-philes, here's a list of apps to help you maintain optimal emotional and mental wellness. 

*Of course you know that an app should never – ever- replace the role of a therapist, doctor, or emergency first responder. These are tracking tools. If you are in distress, get help.


  • circleof6 – A discreet app for violence prevention in vulnerable populations through the use of mobile technology (iTunes/Android – free)
  • Guardly – The fastest way to connect to authorities, family & friends, when you need help (iTunes/Android/Blackberry – free)
  • Just In Case – Set automatic messages to contact friends if in a risky/dangerous situation (Android – free)
  • LifeLine Response - When the Distress Alert is activated and not disarmed within 20 seconds the Response Verification Center will call the user back and verify there is a real emergency (iTunes/Android - $9.99)
  • On Watch – A personal safety app developed specifically for college-aged users (iTunes – free)

Addiction Recovery

  • 12 Steps Companion (iTunes/Android - $2.99)
  • ImQuit – Track your progress (Android – free)
  • iPromises Recovery Companion - Add friends, see shared meetings, track your progress and challenges, and get a daily positive message one day at time (iTunes – free)
  • Meeting Finder – The most comprehensive 12 step program meeting search tool (iTunes/Android – free)
  • Recovery Box – A sobriety toolset that facilitates tracking of daily life activities (iTunes - $1.99)
  • Moderate - a good app for those who want to moderate their drinking (Online – free)
  • Drinker's - This app provides an objective way to determine if drinking is problematic (Online – free)


  • Beat Panic – Interactive resource for before, during, and after a panic attack. (iTunes - $0.99)
  • Beat Social Phobia – A guided audio program geared toward assisting users with social phobias (iTunes/Android - $2.99)
  • iCounselor: Anxiety – Learn skills and behaviors to reduce daily anxiety (iTunes – $0.99)
  • iStress – A stress and anxiety management tool (iTunes - $0.99)

Bipolar/Mood Tracking

  • Bipol-app – A symptom and trigger monitoring app for users with bipolar disorder (iTunes/Android – free)
  • eMoods - Charting daily extremes of moods and other symptoms (Android – free)
  • iMoodJournal - Mood journal, personal diary and charting tool helping you recognize patterns and triggers of your mental state, including bipolar and OCD (iTunes - $1.99)
  • Mood & Anxiety Diary -  Track changes in mood and anxiety over time (iTunes - $2.99)
  • Mood Panda – A free and interactive mood tracking application that can also be accessed via browser (iTunes/Android/Web – free)
  • MyMoodTracker -  Track your moods and emotions, and everything else that can affect how you feel (iTunes - $4.99)

Crisis Intervention

  • ASK & Prevent Suicide – Educational and crisis resource (iTunes/Android – free)
  • HELP Prevent Suicide - easy access to crisis intervention resources, including a list of warning signs, steps on how to talk with someone in crisis, and information on national resources (iTunes – free)
  • Operation Reach Out - Provides activities to help people who are depressed stay connected to others (iTunes – free)
  • QPR Suicide Crisis Support - An electronic version of the booklet “The Tender Leaves of Hope, Helping Someone Survive a Suicide Crisis.” (Android – free)


  • Body Beautiful – An app to help cultivate positive self-image and health goals. (iTunes - $0.99)
  • Eating D – A skills and knowledge based application for those living with disordered eating. (Android - $0.99)
  • Project Toe – An app to facilitate connections between users who are intending to self-harm (iTunes/Android – free)
  • Recovery Record – Eating disorder management tool for all body image concerns (iTunes/Android – free)
  • Rise Up + Recover – An eating disorder monitoring and management app (iTunes – free)

Depression & Borderline Personality Disorder

  • iCounselor: Depression – Learn skills to reduce and manage depression (iTunes - $0.99)
  • DBT Diary – A DBT skills coach and life diary designed to track, assess and modify behaviors. (iTunes/Android - $4.99)
  • DBT911 – A companion to your DBT skills manual. Keep your diary card and get skills coaching all in one place. (Android – free)


  • PTSD Coach – Developed for Veterans and military Service Members who have, or may have, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (Android – free)

Source: New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services

Until next time,

Happy app-ing!

Dr. Gabby