May is Mental Health Month. A special guest is joining us this week to discuss her experiences as a Mental Health Provider. Tamara Soal is a Licensed Professional Counselor (MA, LPC, NCC) in Southern Oregon. Welcome, Tamara and thank you for sharing your insights on Mental Health with my readers.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What made you decide to become a Mental Health Provider?
I began studying psychology in my teens and while attending college. During those first psychology 101 courses, I knew it was my calling. I had too many friends in high school complete suicide and a long-term boyfriend complete suicide years after we had separated. In the course of my adult life, I chose interpersonal relationships with people diagnosed with bipolar and substance abuse dependency. Several of my colleagues and friends suffered from trauma and substance abuse. I decided I wanted to be a healer. A higher psychology degree was the answer for me at the time.
A late bloomer in the field (I earned my degrees later in life), I got on a fast track to experiencing the mental health profession after graduate school and accepted positions to accelerate my knowledge. I decided in graduate school to have a private practice, and in four years after graduation, I accomplished what I believed would be my calling.
You named your practice “Winding Tree.” Is there any special meaning behind the title?
Winding Tree Counseling Services LLC was the seed I planted in 2010. The name was chosen based on a partner’s suggestion. The more I thought about it and the Chinese Proverb, “The twisted tree lives out its life. The straight tree ends up as a board,” I decided winding was a better synonym than twisted. It also represents the complexity of family systems theory and the family tree or family of origin genograms.
Philosophy & Approach of My Practice:
An integrative, client-centered approach is the type of psychological style used in meeting the needs of individual clients. Integrative is a way to introduce different psychological theories in meeting the needs of children, adolescents, their families, and couples. My philosophy is to treat individuals with kind, empathetic, positive regard to assist them in gaining insight and balance. I practice Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) with DBT of Southern Oregon for high-risk individuals as well.
One of your specialties is working with children and adolescents to help them overcome their behavioral challenges. What are some positive actions adults can do to encourage kids with mental illness?
I work with children and adolescents to help them overcome their behavioral and cognitive challenges. I was that child and have walked in their shoes. My childhood was confusing and challenging, and I wanted to assist children in navigating the patterns of their parents or caregivers. I am drawn to foster children with abandonment and attachment issues because I experienced these as a child as well.
The most important thing an adult can do for a child is to be present, loving and without judgment. Children are naturally intuitive and can feel your truth. Behavior is communication. If a child is misbehaving, then they are trying to tell you something perhaps they cannot articulate or have the capacity to express.
It’s essential to have a holistic view of behavior, mind, body, and soul. Just as a baby cannot verbalize pain or distress, they pick up nonverbal communication. We communicate to our children nonverbally in significant ways. Adults need to be consistent and use reward rather than punishment (punishment doesn’t work). Reward, positive reinforcement, and negative reinforcement are shown to be effective in changing behavior.
May is Mental Health Month. If there was one thing you could share with someone who is living with mental illness, what would it be?
I would like to share for Mental Health Month the concept of radical self-care.
Radical self-care is taking care of the Self in a way that matters such as firm boundaries, and eradicating people-pleasing behavior. It is essential to take care of Self holistically by living mindfully. Live your best life and don’t allow social stigma to impede you from seeking out a professional. A mental health counselor will guide you in living your best life, offering you skills and assisting you with insight. Only you know how to live your best, authentic life. Trust that.
Remember, if you are not connecting with the counselor, find one with whom you can connect. This is your life, be the director of your story.
My Code of Ethics
I am a licensee of the Oregon Board of Licensed Professional Counselors and Therapists; I abide by its Code of Ethics. To maintain my license, I am required to participate in continuing education, attending classes dealing with subjects relevant to this profession. I began practicing in the state of Arizona in 2013 as a Crisis Response and with court-mandated individuals in group therapy transitioning to Therapeutic Foster Care and a Psychiatric Hospital as a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Wyoming in 2014. I moved to Oregon in 2016 to work in community health and ultimately started a private practice in 2017.
Formal Education & Training
Master of Arts Degree in Mental Health Counseling from Argosy University – Phoenix, 2013. My practicum/ internship and the postgrad experience were completed in the judicial system counseling court-mandated individuals; domestic violence offenders, substance abuse offenders, anger management and life skills group counseling. I currently graduated with a Master of Philosophy – Psychology – February 2019 and I am completing a Ph.D. Psychology (ABD) attending Walden University since 2014 and working with a chair and committee on my dissertation looking at parenting stress and high-conflict divorces.
Crisis stabilization in providing services for children and adolescents in an acute inpatient-setting meeting Serious Emotional Disturbance (SED) criteria and trauma. Services included trauma-informed care and crisis stabilization for the individual and family with approaches such as family systems, trauma-focused CBT, trauma-informed interventions and crisis interventions.
Areas of competence include crisis intervention, trauma-informed CBT, DBT and psychoanalysis/psychodynamic modalities. I have completed level one of The Gottman Method for couple counseling and Grief Training with New Song for Grieving Children (AZ) and WinterSpring for credentialing to continue to serve grieving children in Oregon. I am currently working with DBT of Southern Oregon in the Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT) program as an individual therapist and co-facilitator for a weekly Teen DBT group and in private practice.
Counseling experience includes providing services for SED children/adolescents and their caregivers including foster care in wraparound services and therapeutic family care. Counseling experience includes court-mandated individuals in providing services for domestic violence offenders and individuals required to complete anger management using the Duluth method within diversion programs. Mental evaluations required by the court in determining further legal action.