Have you given up on dreaming big in this season of unpredictability and global chaos?

Wondering how you can recapture your joy for life?

Join us on a journey of building Vision!

I don’t know about you, but I feel as if the last few years have been an exercise in wandering – it has been so difficult to set goals, make plans or set expectations when at any moment, things can be upended.  All of us dealt with the complete upheaval of life that COVID brought in 2020; many of us witnessed propaganda, viewpoints and behaviors from loved ones during global and cultural crisis that we would never have expected; thanks to ongoing supply shortages and the long-overdue revolution of a workforce tired of being exploited – gone are the days when you can order an item or step into a store and assume that it will be available at whim.  Inflation is rapidly changing our financial expectations.  Anyone who has traveled recently knows that we do well to hold travel plans loosely.  Justin and Andrea took a vacation/scouting trip last summer where task or event went as intended.  Not one.  Coming home early was definitely discussed but it got to a point where it was downright comical how predictable it became that whatever we planned would fall through or be delayed in an endless variety of ways.  Experiences like this have made it very difficult for many of us to generate motivation for specific goals or plans.  I have said many times out loud that without a vision, the people perish.

What happens when we have no feasible vision for the future; when our days are a series of unfortunate dynamics – both globally and domestically?  We become focused on the negative, the unpredictability, the instability, the worries of what’s next?.  Problem is, the science of neurology tells us that we move toward what we ruminate on.  I find that we so often focus on what is not as we would like or what we don’t want in our lives: I need to stop doing [insert dysfunction here].  The problem is, this thing we don’t want is the mental ‘vision’ before us and though we are running from it, we somehow find ourselves entangled in it.  That’s because we must decide what behavior or thought we want to replace it with.  What need is that dysfunction trying to meet?  How can we meet that need in a healthier way?  Time and time again, in my own life and in the lives of clients, success is finally achieved when we stop worrying about the thing we don’t want and focus on it’s desirable replacement instead!  So, for example – instead of saying, why bother making plans – it will all fall apart anyway, we ask ourselves, what character quality do I want to cultivate in myself? and focus on the steps required to do so.

It is this understanding of the importance of focusing our brains on what we value that inspired me to launch a vision-boarding quest as we close out the year.  The reality is, life is not settling back into ‘predictability’ anytime soon.  The overdue bills from corporate greed and environmental abuse are coming due.  War is brewing in a world that no longer has the luxury of dissociating from conflict in other hemispheres.  Now, more than ever, we must develop the ability to focus our minds on possibility and values if we are to avoid throwing our hands up in defeat.  I want to facilitate a fun-filled process of identifying what matters to each of us in this season and create together, a visual representation to which we can refer, throughout the next year.

Vision boards have been used for all sorts of goals: professional accomplishments, material possessions, travel wishes, physical milestones, etc.  For the past several years, I have used vision boards to illustrate a value or concept that I believe God is emphasizing in my life at that time.  As we take this journey together, you decide how you want to use the process.  Is there a physical activity you want to train for? A goal you want to reach for at work? A place you want to visit?  A value or characteristic you want to cultivate in your life?  I will encourage you to distill the desires of your heart down to what is stable – what endures despite the unpredictability of our world.

Each week in November, I will post prompting questions on Facebook and Instagram, to help you tune in to where your heart is now and what matters most to you moving into the new year.  I will offer general prompts as well as additional questions that invite a faith perspective to the process if that is of interest to you. Use these prompts to journal and reflect, building a vision that is authentic to you but durable in the face of uncertainty.  These posts will show up in our stories as well as timeline on both platforms.  On Instagram, I’ll create a Vision highlight for our stories so that this can be used anytime in the future.

In early December, I may host vision-boarding events, online or in person, (depending on interest), where we will make our boards together.

Confessions of a Counselor Part 3

Confessions of a Counselor Part 3

How aware are you of your self-talk and the words you use with yourself and others? 

It’s time again to share another hidden treasure of therapy, which at first can seem really annoying, but over time becomes a tremendous asset. That hidden treasure: awareness of the actual words you use with yourself and others. What do I mean? Well let’s take a quick inventory. I want you to stop, slow down…. and listen to what is going on in your mind right now. Do you notice these words: must, have to, got to, should have. Those are cue words. Those words are pressuring and usually a solid sign that your self-talk has switched into a critical nature. If you are in therapy with us and you have chosen to use parts of self as your lens for the work, the words listed above are signs your critical parent is in the driver’s seat, which is not where we want that part of self in the car.

Again – stop, slow down, and take notice of the words you are using with others. Are you noticing those, have to, should have, need to, and got to’s? This is typically a sign that you are triggered and maybe feeling that you are not good enough, you didn’t do enough, or feel a loss of control. When those feelings rise up, we tend to grasp at controlling those around us. Yikes…

So, why are we talking about this? Well, one of the benefits and early annoyances in therapy is that not only are you generally growing in awareness of how you behave, but also the words that are running around your mind. Now, more than ever, you’ll be cognizant of the verbiage you use to communicate with others. This is important because sometimes we are unaware of how our self-talk switches through the day. Becoming aware of those words you use with yourself is imperative to the therapeutic journey because it is in those moments of catching the self-talk changing that you can check-in and ask, “what just happened?”. Otherwise, you simply go on the ride of how your mind always operated before you began therapy.

When you are able to stop and ask the above question it now gives you the opportunity to see what may have triggered you or bothered you. This is amazing because now you can take back the power and control over your thoughts and reactions. You can really begin the process of change!

Confessions of a Counselor Part 1

Have you ever wondered what some of the hidden benefits or struggles are with therapy? Have you ever wondered how you came into therapy wanting to reduce anxiety, and a few months later you are grieving losses from your childhood, and seeing the world differently? You see, here at Phenix, we have a strong belief in transformational work, which is why you see the word ‘transformation’ on our website and all our social media accounts. We firmly believe in the process of long-term sustainable growth and change. Not saying there is anything wrong with solution focused approaches, but generally it is not our cup of tea. Within the deconstruction and reconstruction phases of therapy, there are goals put in place by the client. In our field we call this the treatment plan. The treatment plan becomes the flight path for the focus of therapy, but other benefits and challenges come along the way.


So, onto Confession #1


There comes a point in therapy where there is a point of no return. Not that you are forced to continue the process or that you must complete some mandatory journey, rather that your eyes and mind are now more aware than ever. You cannot unsee what you’ve already seen. You cannot unknow what you now know. The joy, pain, and sadness in the world will hit you in new ways and in ways you never thought about. Just because you stop therapy does not mean the new insights stop. 


Since we are heading into the holiday season, let’s use the holidays as the scenery for this first confession. Maybe in years past you have joined your family for Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas Eve adventures, but you never were able to recognize the maladaptive behaviors and functioning of your family of origin like you do now. Maybe you begin to see and sense the sadness in your brother or mom’s eyes, even though they mask it with a smile on their face. These are the things you can no longer unsee and unfeel. Sorry. What you become aware of now causes the brain to create new neural pathways and it becomes a daily part of the ‘scanning’ your mind does. 


It is like the old cliche’ car salespeople use when you are on the lot looking to buy a car from them. They usually say something like this, “You’re gonna be seeing a lot of these on the road.” Yea, that’s because they know your mind is now wired to be looking for the same new car/SUV as you wander down the highway. The car/SUV was always there roaming the roads with you, but they never stuck out to you because your mind never had a reason to cause it to come to your consciousness. Now it does. Has this ever happened to you? Where you went to the Ford dealership to check out a Mustang and now you see every new Ford Mustang on the ride to work. You cannot unsee the Mustangs….they’re everywhere ha. 

Again, my apologies… sorta. Awareness is a part of the journey. Gaining awareness and insight into your functioning is amazing. It gives you the power and control back in your life to begin choosing new ways of responding, behaving, etc. The more you become aware of, the more you can change. The more you realize you can change, the more hope you have of a brighter future, and after the last couple years, I think some extra hope is a good thing. Join me next week for confession #2.


How do you combat despair?

How do you keep worries in perspective?


I’m here to propose an answer to you. There is a power in remembering the good, no matter the situation we are in. 

Today’s topic and answer to combatting despair, living a life of anti-misery, is gratefulness.

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “grateful”? What does it mean to you?

For some, they think of being thankful, and with this being November 1st, they think of Thanksgiving.

Others think of being positive, which can easily translate to this pressure to be positive 24/7.

I’m going to propose a different definition: to be grateful is to remember. 

It’s not minimizing life’s struggles. It’s not minimizing the pain. It’s not ignoring the confusion or chaos around you. It’s choosing to remember the good. It’s remembering that the pain is not all there is. It’s knowing there is more.

Being grateful takes daily practice. The phrase “an attitude of gratitude” always used to frustrate me. Whenever I would hear it, it would usually be coming from someone who wanted me to only focus on the positive, not the real world situations around me. Plus, gratitude isn’t a feeling, or an attitude. It’s a daily practice and a choice. It also changes our perspective.

I have experienced some pretty tough things in my life. Healing from those moments has been a long journey. When I wake up in the morning, I have a choice. I can either choose to focus on the pain and ignore everything else. I can choose to ignore the pain and only focus on the positive (aka toxic positivity, not gratefulness) Or, I can choose to find and remember the things and people I am grateful for, while also acknowledging the very real pain that is there. This is how I have found joy, no matter my circumstances. 

For me, not allowing the trials or pain to overcome me is also about not being powerless. Being a survivor of sexual assault, I know the feeling of powerlessness all too well. It ties in real easily with feeling hopeless and helpless. However, part of my healing journey has been reclaiming my power. It has been realizing that I have a say over my future. That my past doesn’t get to define me. Most importantly, that the man who assaulted me does not get the chance to determine who I will become.

That meant I needed to change my mindset. I could not live in a state of powerlessness, hopelessness, or helplessness. Because I wasn’t powerless. I wasn’t hopeless. I wasn’t helpless. I had been in that moment of assault, yes, but that was not who I was.

Remembering what I have and who I have to be grateful for, allows me to see that there is still good in the world. It reminds me that I am loved and worthy of being loved. It reminds me that there is hope and light. It is a daily practice that reframes the challenges I am going through.

Gratitude is powerful. 

What are you grateful for today?


“It is not joy that makes us grateful,

it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”

Brother David Steindl-Rast

Storm Sanity

I live in Orlando and so I am sitting here looking at reports showing Irma’s path headed directly toward us.  As I scan my social media news-feeds and talk to loved ones, it is clear that anxiety is high and coping skills are a must if we don’t want to end up losing a lot of sanity ground by the time this is all over.  I thought it would be helpful to explore ways to maintain our mental/emotional health through this storm.

As soon as you figure out where you will spend the storm – in place, at a shelter, with friends or completely out of town – make a plan for maintaining good sleep, nutrition and movement.  These are the first things to go in circumstances like these…we eat food that leaves us feeling terrible, barely move and sleep either too much or too little.  It just happens because we get caught up in the urgency of the moments and/or the confusion of the aftermath.  Make sure you have food options on hand that make your body feel good, figure out a reasonable sleep schedule you can stick to throughout your stay and brainstorm ways to get some movement in every day – whether it’s using the (non-electric) equipment you have in place, simple callisthenic movements like jumping jacks or adventure walks outside once the storm clears.  Get on Pinterest now while you can to find movement ideas that will work with the circumstances you’re in.

Make sure you have resources and materials in place to manage your emotions.  How do you think you will feel during this experience?  What are the things you normally need when you feel like that?  (Art supplies, journals, stress balls, stuffed animals, pets, etc.?) How can you adjust those strategies to your lock-down situation?  When you are stressed, upset or overwhelmed, you will not have the mental resources to figure these things out.  Do it now so you have a plan to express and manage your emotions.  Here’s a worksheet you may find helpful:

emotion management

This is not the time to play lone ranger.  Reach out.  Arrange to be with others throughout this experience if at all possible.  Don’t assume that family is your only option if you know they drive you crazy on a regular day.  Can you imagine being locked up with them for days in a stressful situation?  Think about your social circle…Who are the healthiest people in your life?  Gravitate to them first.  Yes, take some time each day to be alone…to breathe and to think but make sure you stay connected to share your thoughts and feelings with others.

Finally, pay attention to what you expose your mind to.  Limit time on social media if it is filled with folks in a frenzy.  Watch the news/weather channel only long enough to hear time estimates of the storm’s approach.  Do internet searches for any specific information you may need for your preparation efforts – rather than watching TV endlessly, waiting to learn “everything”.  Avoid conversations with those who will only increase your stress and anxiety about this storm.  Decide now what reasonable truths you need to focus on.  Find resources that will align with those truths – write them down if you have to….whatever you have to do to ensure that what is coming at you repeatedly will be functional, encouraging and helpful!




Toxic Sea

At lunch with a friend today, we discussed our various stressors and life issues.  She paused and remarked that there was something we had not considered.  She went on to explain that she had to believe the larger context of what is happening in society today was taking its toll on our mental and emotional health.  Immediately, I believed she was on to something!  As we unpacked this spontaneous idea, it was sobering to stop and consider this larger impact.  Every single day, we are surrounded by social media posts, newscasts, reality shows, and casual conversation that disparage, discourage and dishearten.  The level of anger, fear and trauma that exists in our society may not be new, but its far-reaching broadcast is unprecedented.  Never in the history of mankind have we had such immediate access to the lowest dregs of human experience.  This has become our norm and as the old saying goes – fish don’t know they are in water.  When we are constantly surrounded by this acid rain, it becomes invisible…impossible to notice.  What we don’t see is absorbed without ceremony.  We don’t fight what we don’t observe.  That is frightening to consider when I reflect on what we are regularly besieged by.

This concern led me to sit down and draw up a battle strategy and I want to share it in hopes that we can confront this problem together.  Perhaps it will inspire others to make their own fight list.  My overall approach is based on the concept of ‘detox’.  If we are surrounded by a toxic world, then we must regularly take steps to combat this toxicity with some sort of cleansing.  Each week, I have a fasting day where I drink only liquids and everything I ingest is organic.  I always feel so good at the end of the day so I have a tangible experience to motivate me in this mental and emotional strategy.  Here’s what I have so far:

  • Develop a daily practice of taking a few minutes to notice the water we’re swimming in.  As I mentioned, we don’t fight what we don’t observe so this acknowledgement is the first step.  Use mindfulness techniques to take note of what messages are coming at you from the people around you and the media you watch/listen to.
  • Sabbath – whether you follow a faith tradition or not, you’ve probably heard this word.  I have come to believe that in my own faith perspective, the purpose of Sabbath is to re-calibrate my brain to my priorities and remind me that I am not God.  With this in mind, it makes sense to me Sabbath for each of us would look different in terms of what we do and don’t do on such a day.  What we each need to reset our brains and regain perspective on what we’re responsible for and what we are not will vary.  The trick then is to know yourself well enough to determine those needs and what activities will meet them.  (The real battle is setting aside a 24 hour period to make this happen but therein lies the lesson that I am not God – the world will continue just fine without me if I get off the merry go round for a day!).
  • Be intentional about exposing ourselves to what is noble, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.  On a regular basis.
  • Cultivate friendships with people who offer life-giving words and make the effort to spend time with them.  `
  • Consider a recurring fast from all negative input: television, radio, social media, etc.  It is important to replace those things with something fulfilling so make a plan before you start.

I think this is enough to start with.  I’d love to hear ideas from others.  Each of us have unique mental and emotional vulnerabilities.  What I need for a cleanse is different from what others may need so the more minds contribute to this conversation, the more likely we can generate a list that has a little something for everyone!