Technology I Rely On to Help Run My Business

Being a business owner means that you have a lot of hats to wear and there are a lot of moving parts at once. It’s easy for things to get lost in the mix and when you don’t have a business partner like me, it can also leave you feeling a little cuckoo if you don’t have systems in place to help move things along.

I’ve decided to share all things technology related that really help me keep the ship moving. I love systems, I love structure and I could not live without some of these tech savvy apps. I feel really proud to say that my practice is completely paperless outside of the paper planner I still keep for my guilty pleasure and I’ve never felt better.

I’d love to hear what you use for your business or your day to day life. How do you ensure that you’re getting it all done?!


Systems

SimplePractice - This is my EHR (Electronic Health Records) system where I host all my client information, weekly appointments, billing information and where I file my weekly insurance claims. They’ve recently added features like secure messaging with clients and team members, video capability to conduct Telehealth sessions as well as a “journal” option for clients to use and share with you (their therapist). The best part about it is that it’s secure, HIPAA compliant and totally worth the monthly subscription fee.

Squarespace - There is so much you can do if you host your website on Squarespace, which obviously I do. You are able to sell products and services on your website and they just rolled out a feature where you can create and submit newsletters on their platform. I used to use MailChimp but the Squarespace templates are so much cleaner and modern in comparison to MailChimp. I love that you have full control over your website this way and it is very user friendly so if you ever need to make updates to your website then you can do it yourself within seconds instead of waiting on your web designer to do it for you. Their tech support is also really user friendly and offers clear step by step instructions on how to troubleshoot any issue you’re having. I give them a 10 out of 10!

Gmail for Business - For a small $5 monthly fee, I am able to communicate with key stakeholders in the community as well as clients using an e-mail account that has a BAA (Business Associate Agreement) which is extremely important as a mental health provider. Gmail has also recently made a lot of changes to their e-mail platform and has enabled a live task list, note-taking system and integrated calendar while being able to see your inbox all at the same time.

Apple iPad & Apple Pencil - While an investment, these two things have been vital in allowing my practice to go paperless. Not only do I use my iPad to take notes in sessions with clients, I also take it with me to CEU events, networking meetings, planning meetings, etc. I can easily pull up a video or article while in supervision and I love that it’s light and easy to carry with me anywhere. If you’re considering going paperless, I highly recommend making an investment in these two pieces of technology.

Slack - This is an app I use with my team of associate therapists, my clinical consultation group and the other therapists that office where I do. It’s a great way to communicate throughout the day about anything and everything. Are we out of toilet paper? Send me a Slack message to let me know! (Not kidding.) You can share files, images and links. You can also send direct messages to individuals or specific people in your “slack channel” if you aren’t wanting to communicate with the whole group at all times.

Google Voice - I use this app as my business phone line. I will likely be switching over to another system soon because my team is growing but for now, it works well.

Doxy.me - This is the app I use to meet with clients online for teletherapy. It works best when used on an iPad or phone. The desktop option tends to have connection issues but it has been a great free option until SimplePractice rolled out their teletherapy capabilities within their application.

Zoom - I just started using Zoom a few months ago for a wide range of business meetings. I don’t have much to say on it so far but I’ve found it to be really easy to use. It’s also nice that you can host several people on a call at the same time.

Organization

GoodNotes - Okay, I cannot tell you how much time this app has saved me. I use my iPad and Apple Pencil to take notes during client sessions and my notes are all in this app. GoodNotes allows you to create a mini electronic Moleskine for each project and/or client and then allows you to write notes in each little notebook. On top of that, the app also allows you to upload PDF documents, images, files, etc. from other apps on your iPad so you don’t need to print or have notes in multiple places. It can all stay together electronically. I love that you can annotate documents that you upload and it has options for you to color and highlight your notes within the app as well. I can’t say enough good things about this. When it comes to client notes, I always export their notes from each session into a PDF document and then upload them into SimplePractice for secure storing. BAM! 5 Stars!

Calendly - I just started using this app a couple of months ago because I was getting frustrated going back and forth in e-mails trying to nail down times for coffee dates, lunch meetings, phone intakes, basically anything that required scheduling. This app allows you to create calendars based on anything that would require scheduling of your time. For example, I have a calendar for 15 minute phone intakes, lunch or coffee networking meetings, 60 minutes business consultation sessions, 30 minute group/workshop intake calls, etc. Within each calendar I get to decide when those events can take place and for how long. Calendly also syncs up to SimplePractice and does not offer time slots that are taken up by what exists on my SimplePractice calendar so there is no double booking that takes place. It’s been extremely helpful and a time saver for my workflow.

Skedda - My team and I use this app to book rooms within our office space to meet with clients. It’s free and super easy to use. Everyone knows when rooms are booked and when they’re available so there is no confusion or double booking here either.

Asana - I love this app for managing projects within my business. It allows me to have a big picture view of all the things I’m managing and allows me to create a time sensitive task list for each one in order to ensure that things get done.

Google Drive - What can I say? I praise the Google Gods for all that this app has to offer. I use this for everything and one of the most important things I keep here is my Content Calendar for my social media accounts. This helps me plan out content weeks in advance without the headache of coming up with it on the spot. Aside from this, I keep all my files nice and organized by project and/or topic while being able to access everything on my desktop and my phone.

Money

Ivy Pay - My practice uses this ap for processing all credit card payments from clients. A huge draw for me is that the credit card processing fees are only 2.75% which is cheaper than others I’ve found and they give you your first $1000 worth of transactions for FREE! I used to use Stripe but it’s way more expensive. If you want a code to get your FREE money, send me an e-mail.

Quickbooks Self-Employed - Oh man. This. App. Is. Life. Changing. I started using this consistently about a year ago. It is connected to my business bank accounts and automatically inputs every transaction and withdrawal in real time. It allows me to categorize all my expenses and income on a daily basis and it provides me with a daily update on my numbers around business revenue, business profit and expenses. I can pull profit and loss reports and balance sheets whenever needed and it links to TurboTax for end of year taxes. Based on your cash flow, the app will tell you exactly how much to pay in quarterly taxes so there is not a question about whether you’re paying too much or too little. I got a huge return last year after using this app and I am forever grateful that I decided to make the switch from an excel spreadsheet to this.

Social Media & Photography

Instagram - My business Instagram account (@colorsofaustin) is the platform I use to share content that is true to me and my business. It’s probably the only place I share content outside of my website at this very moment. Another blog post coming on that later. Overall, I’ve had a lot of success with meeting other therapists all over the world, finding and contracting other small business owners to help me grow my business and simply being a place to have a voice in the growing mental health community. Social media is extremely powerful and I love being able to engage in a meaningful way.

Facebook - I’ll be honest. I don’t love Facebook. The older I get, the more I resent it. However, I am so thankful for all the business groups I’ve been able to be a part of because of this platform. I currently am in several specific to therapists and mental health and business so for those simple reasons I choose to stay on it and unless those groups move off of Facebook then I will likely stay connected in this way. Some of the groups I follow are: Austin Mental Health Professionals, Austin Therapists of Color, RISE Together, Abundance Practice Builders, The Group Practice Exchange, Telehealth Providers Group, Austin Hispanic Therapists, Private Practice Paperwork Party, Insurance Credentialing and Billing for Mental Health Clinicians and the list goes on.

Canva - This app has been so helpful when it comes to creating content for my social media accounts. While you can use most of its features for free, it does have a subscription plan that enables you to have access to more features within the app such as logo design, flyers, etc.

Pexels - This is another great app I lean on frequently for downloading clean and beautiful images for my Instagram account. You can use keywords to search for images that are specifically related to that word. The images are free and not copyrighted so it is totally okay to use them.

VSCO - This is one of my favorite photo editing apps. I love all the filters they have and options for photo editing. It’s user friendly and seamless.


In closing, for all of you who have group practices, stay tuned for a NEW web application that will change the way your practice runs and give you confidence in the foundation and systems your business is built on. Click here to stay updated on the beta release.

If you have any questions or thoughts on what you would like to know more about when it comes to running your business, feel free to comment below or send me an e-mail at hello@colorsofaustincounseling.com. I’d love to hear from you!

Big love,

Vanessa

5 Steps To Enhance Your Relationship

Written by Julie Walder, LPC

It’s happened, your relationship has officially gone from HOT, to NOT. It happens… to everyone. Relationships take work, especially the longer you are in one. For some, you don’t see the decline for years but for others you see the decline 6 months in. Relationships are different from person to person, culture to culture but one thing is the same, they all have their ups and downs. Once you are officially out of the “pink cloud” phase of the relationship, reality sets in and the real work starts. Don’t be scared, I’ve got a few tips to help you out.

Step 1: GET TO KNOW THE PERSON IN FRONT OF YOU

How well do you really know the person in front of you? When we are in the “pink cloud” phase, we have tons of happy chemicals in our brain that sometimes cloud everything else around us. All we can think about is how happy and in-love we are. We don’t want anything to ruin those feelings… why would we?! But the reality is that often those feelings of joy and excitement blur the rest of the relationship. You need to understand your partner’s inner world to really understand the person in front of you. Learning about your partner’s inner world will make your partner feel like you are truly interested in who they are which can be a great way to enhance feelings of connection.

Questions to ask your partner can be anything personal such as: “Hey Honey, what music group/artist are you into right now?”; “Babe, what is your favorite childhood memory?”; “Love, what are your hopes and dreams?” “What are your top 5 favorite movies?” “If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?” WARNING! If you’ve been in a relationship for a long time, don’t be surprised if your partner’s answers have changed. Over time our preferences, likes and dislikes change. That is why is it so important to ask personal questions like the ones above. Try to make it a point to get to know your partner again and again. You can ask these questions every few months, to once a year, but don’t wait too long. If you are having a difficult time thinking of questions to ask, I suggest downloading the Gottman Card Decks from the Gottman Institute onto your phone. The app is free and has every question you can think of!

Step 2: USE THE INFORMATION TO THE BENEFIT OF YOU AND YOUR PARTNER

Okay, now that you know the person in front of you, the next step is to take action! Your partner just told you personal information that you can use to plan for future dates, gifts, and trips. Using the questions in Step 1 as an example: plan a date night with the new information. Play your partner’s favorite music group during a meal together. Make a meal (take out is fine) based on the part of the world your partner would love to live. Plan a date where all you do is watch your partner’s favorite movies. The point here is that you are making an effort! Not only did you make an effort to understand who your partner is, but you listened to them and put their words into action. Imagine how your partner must feel now. 😊

Step 3: BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORDS

So your partner works 50 hours a week and you work 60 hours a week. Or, you and your partner work, have 2 kids, and a dog. In today’s society, we are busy every minute of the day. This often leads to relationships having decreased communication. One day, you might get an hour of time with your partner, another day you get 5 minutes. Or you might feel like two ships passing in the night. However long you get to communicate, talk with your partner… MAKE IT COUNT! Take advice from Don Miguel Ruiz’s ‘4 agreements’,  “Be impeccable with your words.”

Whether the only mode of communicating at that moment is through text, or just sitting on the couch, make every word count. Make sure you convey honesty and integrity. It is a difficult concept to consider on a daily basis, but the more you practice, the easier it becomes. And don’t get down on yourself if you slip up, you’re only human.

Step 4: COMPLIMENT, COMPLIMENT, COMPLIMENT

When was the last time you gave your partner a compliment? When was the last time you told your partner you appreciated something they did? This step goes hand in hand with Step #3. Find time to compliment or praise your partner. Over time and as our schedules get busier, compliments start go out the window. Giving a compliment takes 5 seconds. “Your hair looks great today!”; “Dinner was delicious!”; “You have a beautiful smile." You can even take it one step forward and tell your partner something you appreciate. “I really appreciate it when you watched the kids this morning so I can sleep in." It feels good to receive compliments and appreciations. You are acknowledging something personal and/or something positive they did. It helps boosts self-esteem in your partner and the relationship.

Step 5:  THE COUPLE THAT PLAYS TOGETHER, STAYS TOGETHER

Couples need to have play time. It is so important to have fun, be silly, have adventure, and play. It keeps the relationship alive and helps you connect with your partner even more. If you followed the steps above, you should have a really good idea what your partner considers fun. Now that you know your partner’s interest, match it up with an interest of yours because if you plan an outing to a heavy metal concert when your partner likes classical music, chances are he/she is not going to have fun. If you are having a hard time thinking of something, look to the past… reenact your first date, replicate a day trip you took to wine country. What ever it may be, make sure you do it as often as you feel is necessary to keep the relationship fun and playful.

I'd love to hear what happens when you try one or all of these steps. Please share! 

Warmly, 

Julie 

 

Signs Your Teen May Be Struggling

As a parent, I can't imagine how hard it is to always recognize when your teen is struggling. The parents I work with often shame themselves for "not catching it sooner." They say, "I had no idea she/he was having a hard time until she asked me to take her to see someone." My response usually is, "I'm so glad she asked and I'm so glad you listened."

The truth is you aren't always going to know. You will do the best you can and you will do what you can. Our job is to be curious, to ask questions and to believe them. 

There are signs you can look out for (see below) that will help guide you to dig deeper into possible changes within your teen. 

They flat out tell you they are struggling. 

Nobody knows us better than we know ourselves. Most teens find it difficult to reach out for help and they find it even more difficult to admit that they are not feeling well emotionally. A big reason why this happens is because there are so many outside forces that make it difficult for them to trust others and vulnerability can feel more excruciating than suffering in silence. So, when they finally muster up the courage to share, we should listen, empathize and believe them. 

They keep declining outings with friends and family. 

Teens can find it difficult to be around others when they are not feeling emotionally well. They avoid their friends and family because they are anxious that others will pick up on their sadness and "ask too many questions." This can look like hiding out in their room all night and weekend, not wanting to join the family for dinner, choosing to do homework instead of socializing or connecting with friends and they may even spend most of their free time sleeping. 

They start to miss a lot of school and the reasons are unexplained such as, "I'm tired. My head hurts. I feel sick. I just need a day off, I'll go tomorrow." 

Now, your teen may legitimately be sick in which case they should be seen by a physician. However, if they are finding reasons why they can't go to school more often than not, it is likely that something else is going on. The reasons why teens avoid school can vary greatly from avoiding a test because they haven't studied, feeling too stressed and overwhelmed because of academic pressure, maybe they are being bullied, difficulty in romantic relationships and/or friendships, etc. 

There are clear changes in eating and sleeping habits. 

Some teens may suddenly exhibit insomnia and have difficulty getting to sleep and staying asleep. It's also true that some teens may sleep far more than usual. If there are sudden changes in their activity level then this may also be a sign that something else is going on. Some examples include; they are slow to move, they are feeling lethargic and are expressing being tired frequently even though they are sleeping a whole lot.

Their plans for the future have changed dramatically in a short amount of time. 

This tends to happen with older teens who are getting close to graduation. If your teen has been talking a lot about their plans after high school and they have expressed excitement, hope and motivation but then all of a sudden have no desire to do anything after high school and "just want to take a break," this can be concerning. Decreased motivation, a loss of hope over the future and a low sense of agency are all red flags to be aware of. 

They are expressing irritability, anger or hostility more frequently. 

Teens tend to feel very discouraged and they can develop an unusually negative attitude when there is a decline in their emotional health. This is usually because they are feeling guilty, worthless or hopeless. It often happens that they become very moody, agitated and irritable over the littlest things. Maybe you ask them a simple question like, "how was your day?" and they respond by either shutting down or yelling at you for simply asking the question in the first place. 

If you suspect any of these signs and/or others you are aware of, bring up your concerns in a loving, non-judgmental way. It is possible that you're unsure if depression is the issue and even so, the signs you are seeing are troublesome and should be addressed.

Start by opening up a dialogue with your teen and let them know what specific symptoms you are noticing in them and why they worry you. Be sure to ask your teen to share what he or she is going through if they feel safe enough to do so. Be ready to listen. It can be tough to sit and listen knowing there isn't anything you can do to fix it right away. These things take time. Do your best and hold back from asking a lot of questions if they are not ready to divulge information. Do make it clear that you are ready and willing to provide whatever support they need.

Lastly, please know that there are a variety of mental health professionals in your local communities that are available to help. Some great resources for finding support are Psychology Today, the Integral Care 24/7 Crisis Hotline, 2-1-1 Texas and you can even contact us here at Colors of Austin Counseling for more resources and support. 

You are not alone. We are here to help. 

Art Journaling: What Is It?

Have you ever wondered, "What is art journaling? How do you use it in therapy?" Let me walk you through a therapeutic activity that I frequently use with clients and in my groups. 

And, if you're interested in joining our Spring 2018 Art Journaling group, click HERE to sign up! 

Warmly, 

Vanessa

Introducing Colors of Austin Counseling, PLLC

Hi everyone! Welcome to a brighter and more updated look for the 2018 year. I hope you'll take some time to watch this video that explains why I decided to change the name of my practice and what it means to me and the community. 

Looking forward to having you guys join along! Please remember to subscribe and like the video if you want to see more content. 

Happy New Year!! 

ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION?

When I used to hear the word mindfulness, I always thought it meant that I had to go to some very distant part of the universe in my mind full of butterflies, crystals, buddha's and long deep breathes. I thought to myself, "when in the world am I ever going to get to a place that has all those amazing things at once and do I really want to or have the patience for that?" I am a go go go kind of girl. I have a hard time slowing down and always have. If I have 5 minutes in the day, I tend to fill it with something on my to-do list and if it's not on there then I add it so I can check it off. 

Through my individual work with my therapist and being a therapist myself, I've re-learned what mindfulness is. Brené Brown describes it as "paying attention." That's it. Just pay attention. I can do that. I can pay attention. I'm really good at that. I'm especially good at that with others but the work is how to do it with myself. 

For those of you who have a hard time being "mindful" I'm going to invite you to try to "pay attention" instead. I don't know about you but it's really helped me reframe the way I think about calm and stillness. The way I think about slowing down. The phrase "paying attention" gives me permission to slow down in really creative ways that I never would have tried before. I'll list them below.  

A quick look at my day: 

6:30am: Wake up. Stretch. Breathe. Eat a banana and drink a protein shake.

7:30am: Workout at Orange Theory Fitness. Most recently, I had gone a very long time without doing any exercise at all. My idea of exercise was laying on the couch watching back to back episodes of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. When I landed in the ER for the first time in my life this year with dangerously high blood pressure, I knew something about my lifestyle had to change. I needed to move my body. Joining Orange Theory has changed my life, my body and my health. I'm not looking to lose pounds or even be the next runway model. I want to be healthy. I want to feel good. I want to be alive. Whatever you choose, just move your body.

8:30am: Eat a second breakfast that is protein-based and take a long shower. I get dressed with a little music playing in the background. My favorite thing about getting ready is picking out my shoes. 

*Drive to work happens here too. I usually listen to a podcast. My favorites that I listen to often are Being BossThe Marie Forleo PodcastPractice of the PracticeAbundant PracticeStraight Up With Stassi and Other: Mixed Race In America

9:30am: Arrive at my office and take some time to set an intention for the day. I usually write it on a post it note and stick it on my desk where I can see it all day. I look at my schedule to see what beautiful clients I get to work with that day and prepare my mind, body and soul for what's to come. I usually light a candle in my office, water my succulents if needed and fill up my water bottle. It's go time! 

10:00am - 6:00pm: My day is spent in session with clients, returning e-mails, working on my marketing strategy and planning for any offerings I have coming up. In between sessions I usually make time to slow down and drown out the noise in my head. I usually choose from the following things; I make time to practice box breathing, take a walk around the neighborhood, put on my favorite Spotify playlist titled "Totally Stress Free." or see who's around the office and make time to interact with my colleagues. 

6:30pm: I make the trek home. I usually turn off the radio and drive in silence because as if traffic is not stressful enough, it's been a long day and I need some quiet time for me. Luckily I have a 30 minute drive home so it gives me a chance to reflect on the day and leave it at the office because no matter what is done or left undone, at the end of the day I am enough. 

7:00pm: Cook and enjoy dinner with my husband. The t.v. is silent but it is on. We always eat at the dinner table together. We share our peaks and valleys of the day and we reflect on how we feel. We check in with each other. During this time we have a rule: no cell phones and no distractions. It's just the two of us. We are paying attention to each other. 

9:00pm: Wrap up dinner and clean up the kitchen. My husband and I make it a priority to have some time alone at home. It's how we manage each other's needs based on our personality type. He is an introvert and I am an extroverted introvert. We need alone time even when we're in the same house. He'll usually go to the bedroom and read and I will either read, journal or watch a t.v. show. Yes. I watch t.v. and it's totally okay. I'm not numbing out and binge watching 15 episodes of Grey's Anatomy like I used to but I am getting some comfort from watching 1 episode of DVR. It's what we need. It's how we fill each other up and ourselves. 

10:30pm: Bedtime. I put my phone on silent and turn it face down. Bryan (said husband) and I chit chat before bedtime and wind down. I haven't gotten to the place where I don't have my phone at my nightstand but I'm taking baby steps. I have faith I will get there soon. Before I close my eyes, I practice some gratitude for the day I just had. It's how I remind myself to pay attention to the small stuff. 

Some ideas for you to slow down and pay attention that I practice often are: 

  • Listen to music while I'm getting ready for the day. Listen to the lyrics and the background instrumentals. Pay attention to the flow of the song. Sing along if you want to! 
  • Listening to a podcast on your way to work. 
  • Start your day with your favorite beverage whether it's a hot tea, a glass of lemon water, a hot cup of coffee or a protein shake and take 5 minutes to intentionally journal while focusing on the words that I am putting on paper. You don't need a prompt or a a "Dear Diary" entry. Just let your pen flow.   
  • Turn off the radio while driving home. Drive in silence. After such a long day, it's important for you to reflect and catch your breathe. 
  • Enjoy a nice dinner with good company. Leave your phone in your purse during dinner. Focus on the conversation and the good food in front of you. Indulge in connecting with who you're with. You'll never get that exact same moment again.
  • Practice breathing. Take 2 minutes, plant your feet on the ground, breathe in for 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4, repeat. 
  • Take a walk outside. Notice how the trees are moving and the way the wind is blowing. Feel the temperature and lift your face to the sun. Breathe in the air. 

I'd love to hear how you take time to slow down and pay attention and if you're not doing it, it's never too late. It's all a practice. We don't always get it right but we can always try again the next day. 

WHAT IS THE DARING WAY™?

As Certified Daring Way™ Facilitators, my colleague Sarah Jones and I host a variety of different groups and workshops in Austin, TX based on The Daring Way™ curriculum written by Dr. Brené Brown. For people who don't know Brené and her work, they often want to know, "What is the Daring Way™? What does that mean? What would I be doing in one of these workshops?" These are great questions that are important to ask before committing to such a great investment. 

On a high level, The Daring Way™ is a highly experiential methodology based on the research of Dr. Brené Brown. The method was designed for work with individuals, couples, families, work teams, and organizational leaders. It can be facilitated in clinical, educational, and professional settings. During the process we explore topics such as vulnerability, courage, shame, and worthiness. We examine the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that are holding us back and we identify the new choices and practices that will move us toward more authentic and wholehearted living. The primary focus is on developing shame resilience skills and developing daily practices that transform the way we live, love, parent, and lead. 

What does that mean you ask? As a doctoral student, Brené decided to devote her research to defining what 'Wholehearted Living' is. She was looking for men and women living and loving with their whole hearts despite the risks and uncertainty. Brené wanted to know what they had in common. What were their main concerns, and what were the patterns and themes that defined their Wholeheartedness?

Using the grounded theory methodology developed by Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss, Dr. Brown's main goal of her research was to understand the participants' "main concerns" related to experiencing the topic being examined which was shame, wholeheartedness, vulnerability, etc. Once those main concerns emerged from the data, Brené developed a theory that explains how the participants continually resolve these concerns in their daily lives.

As part of her research, Dr. Brown has spent over a decade interviewing men and women and listening to stories that ultimately contributed to the findings within her research. To learn more about the research process and Dr. Brown's findings, click here

Out of all of this came the creation of The Daring Way curriculum and the Rising Strong curriculum which are taught and facilitated nationwide by Certified Daring Way™ Facilitators in a variety of different formats which can include 3-day workshops, 8-10 week groups, half day workshops, etc. If you want to learn more about the offerings in your area, take a look here

And if you're looking for a group or workshop here in Austin, you don't have to look far! Sarah and I will be hosting a 10-Week Art Journaling Group based on the book, Daring Greatly. Learn more here

What will you do? We will go through all 12 lessons in the curriculum together as a group, watch a series of personalized videos with Brené herself and complete a series of hands-on activities in order to dive deeper into each of your stories. The goal is that you have a better understanding of what your shame is, where it comes from, how it impacts how you show up in the world and explore practices to better love yourself and embrace who you are, imperfectly. It will be hard, fun and intense. Brené defines it as the "messy middle" and I couldn't agree more. It's messy and it's so beautiful. We hope you'll join us! Payment plans are available. Sign up here

Wholeheartedly, 

Vanessa 

HI! MY NAME IS VANESSA AND THIS IS MY STORY.

Hi Y'all! It's been a while since I've introduced myself to those new to the blog and reintroduced myself to those of you have been following for a while. So here it is. An all about Vanessa and why she does the work she loves. 

My name is Vanessa Marie Flores, and I grew up in a small town (not so small anymore) near the U.S.-Mexico border called McAllen, TX. I am the youngest of three, and my older sisters don't waste any time reminding me of that. I was raised by a beautiful woman who loves to spend time keeping her nails fresh and painted and never passes up on any opportunity to go shopping. I must be her daughter. :) Although my father (technically my step-dad) came into my life when I was in sixth grade, we instantly connected through our love for the Dallas Cowboys and can liven up any party with our dry sense of humor. We're pretty much soulmates. 

We all have our stories. We all have a childhood that I believe brings us to where we are today. My childhood was not the best, and my mom was a single mom for most of my life. She did the best she could, and her best was pretty darn good. I knew early on that I wanted to help people. I had initially thought I wanted to be a teacher and then my middle sister became a teacher. But even before that, I knew I wanted to help people with their "problems" (whatever that means). Over time, I realized that what I wanted was to build individual relationships with people and get to know the essence of who they are rather than teach a class of students. I've always been better one on one although I consider myself to be an extrovert and can easily find my way through a crowd. Little did I know that I would find myself "teaching" later on in my journey. Keep reading. 

I made the trek to Texas Christian University (GO FROGS!) in Fort Worth, TX after high school graduation against my mother's will. She did not want me to be nine hours away from home. I didn't care. It was where I wanted to be, and nothing was going to stop me. I declared a major in Psychology during freshmen orientation but after taking an Intro. to Psych. class, I quickly submitted a change of major. It wasn't the professor that changed my mind. I think it was more of the content. It didn't quite speak to me in the way my Intro. to Social Work class did. One felt like experiments and science while the other screamed people! I like people so I went with it. I decided on Social Work instead, and the next four years went fast. At the end of my senior year, it was time to do it all over again. 

My love for Austin has always been real. So real that I applied to the University of Texas at Austin to obtain my Master's degree in Social Work. To my disappointment, I wasn't accepted into the program. I don't think I've ever told anyone that. Welp, I guess now I have. So, I decided to head to the University of Houston for my master's degree because I was accepted and it was in Texas. I know now that was the best decision for me. The opportunities that came within those two years paved the path for where I am today. I landed a rockstar internship at Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center and was offered a full-time position before graduation working in Adult Trauma and eventually Pediatrics. I fell in love with being a medical social worker and was sure that it was where I would be forever. Well, never say never, and never say forever. Life happened, and I had to leave Houston. Anyone want to guess where I ended up? 

AUSTIN, TX! Yup. Four years after graduating undergrad, I made it to the very city I knew I was destined to be in. I began my career as the Pediatric ICU Social Worker at Dell Children's Medical Center. It was an incredible opportunity, and I am still so grateful for my time there; however, the longer I stayed at Dell, the more I realized that I couldn't do it forever. Working with chronically ill children took a tremendous emotional toll on me over the course of the 6 years I was in the medical field. The work was so powerful but I found that I was becoming numb to life and death events that I knew I wanted to feel, should feel. All of this was enough for me to let go and get curious about the world of school social work. Like I said earlier, my middle sister has been in education for a long time (about fourteen years), and I have seen her throw herself into her students and families. I wanted to know what that felt like. 

I most recently spent three years working as a high school social worker at KIPP Austin Collegiate. By the time I got this job, I had already been working on obtaining my clinical license in order to move into the world of private practice one day. Initially, I didn't really know when that "one day" would come but I was sure it would. Working in education was such a rewarding and unforgettable experience. Almost all the families I worked with were first generation, undocumented Latino families who were all working towards the same goal of supporting their children to and through college. I felt so privileged to learn their stories and be a part of their families in a way that promoted healing and success. There was a connection I shared with my students. Being of Hispanic origin and living in a low-income family while being the second in my family to go to college, I understood the challenges from all sides (financial, educational, racial). It was the best job I've ever had, and I would do it all over again if the opportunity presented itself. 

I left KIPP by choice. I spent the 2015-2016 academic school year launching my private practice part-time. It felt like the right time. I was working full-time at the school and seeing clients privately in the evenings. I began to build a clientele and things continued to pick up. By the time the school year ended, I decided to take the risk and leave KIPP to pursue private practice full-time. It was a bittersweet decision, and it's one I think about often. I'll be writing another blog post later about my journey to private practice so stay tuned for more. It's an emotional story, and it's very personal to me because I left a school full of students and families I loved. I am grateful for their support and understanding to this very day. 

Private practice hasn't been easy, but I believe that ALL people should have access to healthcare despite their economic status. I believe that I have the ability to reach a larger audience of adolescents and adults, while being able to provide pro bono and community service work, as it connects to my values. I don't know what it's like to not be able to access healthcare, and my hope is that my clients know that is not a barrier when they work with me. 

So, why do I do what I do? I do this work because every family I have worked with, every child's story that I have ever had the privilege of knowing, and every life I have touched has taught me some of the greatest lessons. My social work journey has taught me that within each of us lies a human heart; a human heart that requires love, attention, warmth, protection and compassion. It requires connection with another heart. It requires that someone be willing to listen and to hold space for silence, grief, loss and pain. We all have hearts that are aching to be loved unconditionally. I can do that. I want to do that, and it's why I'm here. I'm not here for me. I'm here for all of you. 

Wholeheartedly, 

Vanessa 

5 Ways to Raise a Resilient Child

Setbacks are a inevitable part of growing up, but there are ways to ensure your child will have the strength they need to bounce back. When I ask students I work with about what they need from the adults in their lives in order to feel supported in times of struggle, they said: 

  • Someone who cares about me
  • Someone who listens to me

Take a moment and ask yourself, “Would my children say ‘yes’ to those two statements?” Trust is built in the smallest of moments. With children, it is all about small, consistent interactions that add up over time. 

Here is a list of 5 things you might be able to do, starting today, to help your children feel cared for and heard. 

1. CULTIVATE HOPE. 

In Brené Brown's book, The Gifts of Imperfection, she says that hope happens when

  • We have the ability to set realistic goals (I know where I want to go)
  • We are able to figure out how to achieve those goals, including the ability to stay flexible and develop alternative routes (I know how to get there, I'm persistent, and I can tolerate disappointment and try again). 
  • We believe in ourselves (I can do this!). 

A former researcher at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, C.R. Snyder goes on to say that children need relationships that are characterized by boundaries, consistency and support. The culture we live in today makes our children believe that things should be fun, fast and easy which is inconsistent with hopeful thinking. Brené says that we can help our children develop a hopeful mind-set when we help them understand that some worthy endeavors will be difficult and time consuming and not enjoyable at all. 

When we allow our children to fail and make mistakes without judgement, we build trust and make room for forgiveness of ourselves and each other. 

2. MAKE ROOM FOR THE "YUCKY STUFF."

Sitting in pain with our child can sometimes be harder than feeling it. More often than not, our gut reaction is to want to fix it. We tell them to suck it up, don't cry and move on. "You'll get through it. We've all been there. It's a part of being a teenager." We'd rather push the feelings aside than sit in those dark moments with them. 

When we make room for the yucky stuff, connection happens. We teach our children that vulnerability is hard but it's okay. We teach them that we can talk about our feelings in a way that doesn't make us feel as though we're "weak". It is in those moments that they begin to hold the belief that they can do something that will help them to manage their feelings and cope. These are the moments that teach them about common humanity which is that you are in it together and even when the road gets bumpy and it seems like there's more dark than light, you are willing to ride the wave with them. 

3. BE THEIR P.I.C. 

How many of you have a P.I.C.? Or shall I say, a Partner In Crime? Someone you can tell all your secrets to without a disclaimer. What about that person who will hold your stories sacred and never tell another soul? Now I know that there is a fine line between being your children's best friend and their parent. But, I do think it's possible to have the best of both worlds. 

Being your child's partner in crime means to stay connected. Here are some simple ways you can do that: 

  • Stop saying "I'm busy." 
  • Put down the technology! 
  • Make eye contact. 
  • Listen. 
  • Smile. 
  • Make time to do nothing. 
  • Take time to play with them. 
  • Give hugs. 

If you've ever asked yourself, "Why don't they just tell me what they're feeling?" Try getting connected first! 

4. PRACTICE SELF-COMPASSION 

Self-Compassion is the practice of talking to ourselves the way we would talk to someone we love. According to Dr. Kristin Neff, researcher and professor at the University of Texas at Austin, self-compassion has three elements: 

  1. Self-kindness: Being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism. 
  2. Common humanity: Common humanity recognizes that suffering and feelings of personal inadequacy are part of the shared human experience - something we all go through rather than something that happens to "me" alone. 
  3. Mindfulness: Taking a balanced approach to negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated. We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time. Mindfulness requires that we not "over-identify" with thoughts and feelings, so that we are caught up and swept away by negativity. 

Bottom line is that if we can practice loving ourselves, our children will follow. When we can learn to praise them in the good and bad moments, they will learn to be more kind to themselves the next time they make a mistake. So the next time your child comes to you and says, "I made a mistake, I accidentally said something about my teacher that wasn't very nice and she found out." Do you say, "What? Are you kidding me? That's unacceptable!" or do you say, "I've done something similar before--mistakes happen. You can apologize and make amends."   

5. SAY "YES" MORE OFTEN 

In the Year of Yes, written by Shonda Rhimes, she shares a story about the moment she started saying yes to everything including her children. She describes a moment where she was getting ready to walk out the door in an elegant designer gown to some fancy event she had said yes to when her daughter runs up and says, "MAMA!! Wanna play?" Shonda says in her book that she felt like time froze. She knew she was late already but she immediately thought to herself, "If I'm not careful, she's going to see the back of my head heading out the door more than she'll see my face." In that moment she kicked off those painful heels, dropped her knees to the hardwood floor and said YES to play. 

If we don't make the time, they'll be gone before we know it. Just do it.

Say YES. I dare you! 

Wholeheartedly, 

Vanessa