OUR BLOG

Giving back with girls on the run

May 8th, 2019

written by Gina Behm, ma, lpc - Program director

I recall experiencing my first negative thought about my body before the age of thirteen. I would compare myself to my friends at school, thinking they could wear cuter clothes, run faster during sports and knew how to put makeup on better than me.  Working daily with teens and women who continually struggle with body image and self-acceptance reminded me how young these issues really do begin. Because of this reminder, I was inspired to find a way to interact with girls at a younger age in the hopes of incorporating more positive role models into their lives, as well as help them create a stronger sense of self before those tough middle school years begin.

Feeling this way, I was reminded of an amazing experience I had back in college when I volunteered at the Girls on the Run 5k Fun Zone; I remembered the hundreds of girls wearing bright colors and tutus, excited for the day ahead and the opportunity to reach their goal of running a 5k alongside their peers, coaches, parents and volunteers. I decided it was time for me to rejoin the organization.

The ten weeks I spent as a girls on the run coach were better than I could have imagined. I was placed at a school with an amazing team of women coaching an even more amazing group of girls! I had the opportunity to work with both the 3rd & 4th grade Girls on the Run team as well as the 5th & 6th grade Heart & Sole team. Our school practiced at 7 a.m. before school began, and the pure joy and energy of the girls, even so early in the morning, was truly life-giving; I thought I would be exhausted and cranky getting up an hour earlier than usual, but I found myself rejuvenated through the relationships I developed over the weeks. I ended up co-leading the Heart & Sole team, and worked with them for many weeks on lessons aimed at helping build up their "girl wheel", which included brain, body, heart, soul and social aspects.  I watched as the girls learned to ask for help, set boundaries, stand up for what they believed in and much more.

At the end of the season, all the schools in the city got together at Sporting Park and ran our 5k. I cannot explain to you the pride and joy I felt as each and every one of my girls crossed the finish line, signifying the literal accomplishment of their physical goal, as well as all the growth achieved throughout the season. At our last practice, many girls approached me to thank me for all the help and support I provided throughout the season, and y'all... I just about cried. Sometimes I showed up to practice tired and groggy with coffee in hand, and other times I was ready to start the day and lead lessons; despite how I showed up, the impact was left on these girls simply because I did just that; showed up, smiled and told them all I knew they could reach their goals. People say there isn't truly any selfless acts because we all get something out of everything; well in this case, I agree. For every small impact I made for our team, every single girl equally and repeatedly positively impacted me.  Come fall, you best believe I will be right back to waking up early on Monday mornings to greet these girls and tell them they are strong, lovable and important. 

STUDENT MENTAL HEALTH

May 4th, 2019

WRITTEN BY ANDIE CONN - THALIA HOUSE MSW INTERN

Mental health is an important issue to me, and this month I have been thinking a lot about the importance of mental health support for college students. According to Berkeley University, 35% of first-year college students from a 2018 survey of eight countries had a mental illness. In the United States, anxiety is the top mental health concern of college students. Recently, many efforts have been made on college campuses to provide mental health care and support to college students, including increasing awareness, providing screenings, starting campus programs, and encouraging conversations about mental health. Strategies like these can decrease stigma and negative attitudes toward mental illness on college campuses. Inspired by these efforts, I worked with three other students at my university this year to start Student Leaders Advocating for Mental Health (SLAM). Our main objectives are to:

-        Provide mental health education, advocacy, and resources to the student body.

-        Serve as a source of relevant, current, and interesting mental health information to faculty, staff, and students.

-        Provide a safe environment to discuss resources needed in our communities and the social work profession as a whole.

 College students undergo a lot of transition and change in a short period, and I think supporting their mental health during this time is essential. Decreasing stigma toward mental illness and providing care on college campuses is one important step in addressing the broad mental health needs we have as a nation. I am thankful for all of the organizations and programs that work to support mental health as a whole and am constantly encouraged by the staff commitment to mental health as I intern here at Thalia House.

Sources:

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_colleges_today_are_supporting_student_mental_health

why transitional living is important

April 29th, 2019

Written by Heather st.clair - residential coordinator

As the residential coordinator of Thalia House, I have met residents from all across the United States and even Canada who needed a step down Residential Level of treatment to Intensive Outpatient Therapy with Supportive Living. Often that level is not available where they live, so we feel fortunate that Kansas City can offer this to so many. Many times, these individuals are sent home after Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) and they are not prepared apply the skills that they’ve learned without the support of the program. This is part of why we value Intensive Outpatient Programs and Transitional Living as they are intended to bridge that gap. An important part of participating in an Intensive Outpatient Program is transitioning back into life through volunteering, education, community, and part-time occupations. That transition entails facing real life obstacles that can cause relapse. Having the supportive living component to treatment will empower our individuals to learn how to use the necessary tools to re-engage in life and build a community outside of treatment. This process truly prepares our clientele in building the resilience necessary to function in the real world.

eating exploration

April 15th, 2019

Written by lynette morris, RD, LD - dietitian

The end of February was Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Also, it’s about that time we start shaming ourselves because we haven’t maintained our new year’s resolutions. And for those of you who feel victorious, it’s a good time to ask if your fitness and eating goals have become so rigid and obsessive that you’re miserable and they get in the way of fully enjoying life.  

Instead, let’s reframe resolutions this year and instead, think of them as explorations. Not big, far-reaching changes that aren’t sustainable, but deeper goals that reward us on many levels and build slowly over the year. And, in honor of Eating Disorders Awareness Week, let’s find discoveries that will prevent and not encourage time consuming, mental and emotional fatigue around food or shame our bodies.

Set realistic goals about the things that you’d like to change about your relationship with food and your body. Don’t diet. Be patient with yourself and honor the process it takes to get there.

Make choices that are aligned with taking good care of yourself at any size – which sometimes means eating cake to celebrate a friend’s birthday or treating yourself to your favorite dish.  Don’t forget to be present when you are eating your food. Listen to your hunger and fullness signals. Restricting food and overeating are opposite sides of the same coin. Don’t deprive yourself; instead, listen to the wisdom within your body that tells you when and how to eat that is best for you.

Feel your feelings instead of eating or starving them away. We often use food — either over- or under-eating — as a way to deal with (or not deal with) challenging feelings or emotions. Sometime, it can just become habit. Mindless overeating is something almost all of us do at times, but it also can be a way to self-sooth when our physical and emotional needs aren’t being met. For example, do you find yourself eating more food than is comfortable to keep yourself awake? Or eating so much that you are uncomfortable because it is one of your favorite foods? Perhaps -

Karin imhoff ‘come as you are’

March 8th, 2019

Written by karin imhoff, lpc - primary therapist

I spent much of my adolescence, twenties, and early thirties believing the myth that I had to be better than others in order to be successful. The problem with this myth is that I never stopped the arduous work of striving and people pleasing to ask myself important questions like, "What specifically would make me better?", "Who defines better?", "Who do I need to be better than?", "How will I know if I'm better?", "What am I trying to achieve by being better?", and my favorite, "What defines success?".  I believed that if I were average I would be overlooked or rejected. In my quest to achieve, I learned many skills to be "better," but the definition of better always changed depending on who was around me and what their expectations were. I became caught in a web of changing how others saw me so that I could match their definition of better. The difficulty with this myth is that it worked well for a while. People did accept me, compliment me, include me, and reward me. As I continued to strive more doors opened, and I excitedly walked through them trying to be what everyone else defined as good and hiding any part of me that others might deem bad, wrong, or strange. It worked well through high school (sort of), it worked well through college (almost), it worked well through my first job out of school (-ish), and was amazing as I entered motherhood....Until it didn't.

One day I began to realize that all of my striving and people pleasing was actually having the opposite effect. I didn't like what I was doing for work or for leisure. The people I was hustling to impress stopped including me and became polite acquaintances. I had no idea what was wrong, I just knew I was unhappy. I had to make a change, but I felt so stuck, because my myth was my guidepost and it was failing me. Of course I didn't discover this on my own, I discovered it as I did more and more work in my own counseling education. As I learned more about how perfection was isolating me, I discovered the disconfirming feedback I needed to open my eyes. Brene Brown's book, The Gift of Imperfection, along with studying the Enneagram (I'm a 3) helped me discover how unhealthily I was living my life. People didn't want a perfect, chameleon me, they wanted an authentic me. I was working so hard at being perfect, that I wasn't relatable. People wouldn't be authentic with me because I couldn't be vulnerable and relate to their experiences. I needed to learn that I was good enough as I already was.

Of course this mind-blowing realization did not change my actions over night. I was terrified at first. But, remember I also wanted to be better than others, so I did what many perfectionists would do once they discovered there were expert opinions detailing how to fix the problem of feeling rejected. I tried following Brene Brown's advice and wholehearted living guideposts perfectly. Expert instructions gave me an absurd amount of courage to try this new way of acting. The weird thing was that once I began to use her  guideposts, I knew I had to change my approach. I was receiving more and more feedback that I needed to take a fresh look at my guiding myth. I had to ask the important questions I listed above. I had to open my mind and live by less rigid rules. I had to discover who I was and begin to believe that there was a place for me as I am.

I credit my clients with helping me discover how to do this. As they sat before me and shared their authentic selves, I became more and more capable of channeling their courage and doing it in my own life. I was able to receive confirming feedback that others had wanted this part of me all along. By letting go of my myth, I actually became "better"... my definition of better, because it is me. I am eternally grateful for my life experience and the opportunity to learn how to be me. Now, even though sometime it is terrifying, I do my best to show up as me, and I am always grateful when I receive a welcome invitation to come as I am.