Be Here Now

Have you been feeling unmoored from your body, your sense of self, or your life? Do you feel adrift, unhinged, untethered, or in need of grounding? Have you been spinning out of control in your thoughts and unable to gain traction?

Try this mantra: “Be here now.” But say it like each word is a sentence: Be. Here. Now.

With each word, do it.

Be. Be in your body. Notice your body, the weight of it, the position it is in, the feeling of any fabric or material on your skin, and any movement of the air.

Here. In this place. Where you are, with anything you can notice around you, eyes open or closed. Engage your senses: see, hear, smell, taste, feel – to notice absolutely anything.

Now. In this moment, the only moment that exists, present as best you can, eliminating thoughts of past and future as best you can right now. It might be difficult and that’s okay; just do your best and reset and reset again if you need to.

Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Florida and Georgia. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on Twitter & Facebook.

What is a Trauma-Informed Therapist?

What’s this buzzword “trauma-informed” mean? Trauma-informed means that the therapist has been trained to see client behaviors as symptoms of trauma, instead of as dysfunction.

Why is being trauma-informed useful? Understanding things from a trauma perspective allows a therapist to view the client as a whole person from the angle of trauma, with the behaviors as a function of trauma, as a means to an end, a repeating of negative patterns, a way they adapted to their environment. It allows the therapist to see the client outside of negative labels such as: willful, inappropriate, manipulative, or staff-splitting. This is especially useful for people who have developed personality disorders like borderline personality disorder. Seeing clients differently allows us to act differently and treat the behaviors with more care and usefulness.

Trauma-Informed vs. Trauma Specialist Is a trauma-informed therapist the same as a trauma specialist? No. There has been a big push to get therapists trained in trauma-informed care over the past 5 years or so, which is wonderful. This often consists of a single introductory-level training which may be only a couple of hours. A trauma specialist, by contrast, has been training in trauma-related treatments for at least dozens of hours, generally over many years. Personally, I have trained hundreds of hours over a decade in various trauma-related treatments over a decade.

Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Florida and Georgia. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on Twitter & Facebook.

Overwhelmed? Obsessing? A technique for you.

several plants in pots along a sunny windowsill

Zooming in/out

When I am overwhelmed, like thinking about war and climate change and politics, global issues that I have little to no control over, I am zoomed too far out. I’m looking at life through a telescope. I’m needing to change the focus to what is now, here in front of me, that I can change or have control over.

When I’m obsessing, like thinking about day-to-day stressors and my to-do list and all the little pieces that seem to need my attention, I am zoomed too far in. I’m looking at life through a microscope. I’m needing to change the focus to what is now, that I can accomplish and check off, that I can move in the priority if necessary.

I challenge you to change your focus. Notice if you are zoomed too far in or out, and move to a more comfortable middle ground. This is a skill and takes practice, so assume that the lens is going to get out of focus sometimes, and that’s okay, but it is also adjustable and you have the ability to adjust it to be comfortable for you.

Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Florida and Georgia. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on Twitter & Facebook.

What Does the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill Mean for School Counselors

boy sitting cross-legged, wearing goggles and a hat, making airplane arms, with wooden toy of plane next to him

On March 8, 2022, new legislation was enacted by the Florida Senate by means of House Bill 1557: Parental Rights in Education that will go into effect July 1, 2022. According to the bill, parents and guardians are the ones who shall remain in control of what dialogue their child has in regard to sexual orientation and gender identity, and no school personnel should engage in these discussions as it may interfere with what the family chooses for the child to know/think.

According to the law school counselors follow, counselors do not have to report things to a parent or guardian if the child may be in danger by their reporting. For example, if a child reported abuse by a parent, the counselor is required by law to report that information to the Child Abuse Hotline, but do not have to tell the parent they are making a report. The bill itself states “This subparagraph does not prohibit a school district from adopting procedures that permit school personnel to withhold such information from a parent if a reasonably prudent person would believe that disclosure would result in abuse, abandonment, or neglect…” (section 8c2).

In many homes, a gay or transgender child would be in danger if the parent or guardian was aware of their true nature, so students often hide who they are at home to keep the peace, and express themselves more freely at school. Many schools have become safe havens, allowing children to use their preferred names and pronouns.

What does this law mean for these children, now?

It is useful to delineate that this bill applies only to children in grades K-3 (section 8c3). At those ages, most children do not know their sexual orientation or gender identity, but some will. The bill wants the family to be the primary source of information at these young years and to steer the child in the direct they feel is most appropriate. Of course, there are those families that will use fundamental religion as a weapon against children who are not both heterosexual and cisgender, and this bill does give them the express right to do so.

There was fear around this bill before it was in its final form (as linked in the first paragraph above) that a homosexual teacher could be fired for answering the question “What did you do this weekend?” with “I went to the movies with my wife,” when a heterosexual teacher would have no consequences for saying the exact same thing. However, the bill states that students shall not have “classroom instruction…on sexual orientation or gender identity…that is not developmentally appropriate.” I read this as: it is absolutely developmentally appropriate to say “families look lots of different ways – some people have 1 parent or 2, or grandparents or aunts and uncles who live in the home, some have siblings or none, some have 2 moms or a mom and dad…” even at the Kindergarten level. In fact, I’m certain Sesame Street must have taught me this (and it did: Here and Here and Here and Here). Will a child get in trouble, or be hushed if she says she has 2 dads? No. This is developmentally appropriate.

Will a school counselor have to call the parent when a child says they think they have the wrong body and want to talk about it? Not necessarily, but maybe. Since this bill states that parents are to be kept in the know about what is going with their child, to be “notified about a change in his or her student’s [healthcare] services” (section 8c5), it would be prudent for the counselor to notify the family that the counselor met with the student at the child’s request and the child brought up certain issues or concerns. In this meeting, the counselor would be advised, according to this bill, to remain neutral, teach the child to remain calm, and suggest the child speak to their family about the matter. However, if the child expressed that they would be “abused, abandoned, or neglected” as a result of telling the family, the counselor would be wise to make a note of how the child expressed this, what they presented as the issue, how the counselor responded, and what the session consisted of; this protects the counselor in case the issue ever goes to court.

If the child is in the 4th grade or above, no change needs to take place. Children in progressive schools that have created the kind of safety that allows for use of their preferred name and pronouns can still employ those practice. Schools with a Safe Club that allows kids to express themselves and their feelings and thoughts around sexuality and gender can still hold those meetings. However, it would be best if those meetings were run by the students, for the students, and not led by a staff member, but overseen by a staff member; this ensures that it is not seen as the children being indoctrinated by anyone with an ulterior motive.

Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Florida and Georgia. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on Twitter & Facebook.

Disordered Eating in Modern Times

Ad for 1950s dress patterns

I was watching a show on Netflix, Explained – every episode covers a different topic – about food (I think it might be Why Diets Fail from season 1). They stated that diet culture has followed disordered thoughts around eating closely. Check out this timeline:

  • 1950s – women were housewives who cooked, cleaned, and raised the children while the husbands worked. How did they get it all done, look perfect, have tiny waists, and have differ on the table when their men came home from work? Amphetamines! It was common to have doctors prescribing amphetamines to get women up and going all day, then barbiturates at night to go to sleep. Was this healthy? No way! But it was common.
  • 1960s-19070s – women were starting to work outside of the home and doctors had figured out that amphetamines were probably not a good idea on a daily basis. Women were still doing the majority of the housework and child-rearing. They were tired. Men continued to work outside of the home. Women’s waistlines started expanding. That’ll happen when you eat throughout the day because you’re not on speed. The diet industry started poking up saying “buy these control-top pantyhose” and “girdles help you look like like you used to” and the food industry said “fat is bad, fat makes you fat” and made a bunch of fat-free foods. When you take the fat from food, it tastes bad, so they added sugar to make it taste better. Now fat-free meant added sugar it was unhealthy.
  • 1980s – The food industry said “sugar-free is the way to go” and started producing artificial sugars. Our bodies don’t know how to process this and it was not more healthy. Diet culture pushed artificial sugars and stopped spotlighting fat-free foods, which still existed, and still exist, and started heavily discussing diets. The media focused on Africa being a continent of starving children with We Are the World and children being told to clean their plates because “there are starving children in Africa.”
  • Fast forward to now. Germany is credited with making videos about how the US is dealing with food insecurity. (In fact, the video was made by a US non-profit.) Diet culture is as strong as ever, and eating disorders are going strong as well.

So what do we do? Lean in – whatever you’re rocking, someone loves it and desires you just as you are. Whether you are fat or thin or somewhere in between, you are a perfectly good person living in a body that was assigned to you, just like everyone else. Yes, there’s such a thing as “too big causes problems with your health” such as extra weight putting pressure on your knees, hips, spine, and heart. But there is also such a thing as “too small causes problems with your health” and 80 pounds for an adult is not enough, causing problems with your heart, lungs, and circulatory system. There’s a lot of good grey area to be in. If you’d like to work on your thoughts around disordered thinking, I’m happy to see you for that. If you are actively engaging in an eating disorder, please seek local treatment at a center that specializes in teaching you to eat appropriately.

Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Florida and Georgia. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on Twitter & Facebook.

Winter Blues

Winter landscape branches form a heart-shaped pattern

Clients at my practice have shown an increase in depressive symptoms in the past month. This is typical for this time of year. The decrease in sunlight causes the Winter Blues, or technically, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Our brains are dependent on chemicals from sunlight to create the happy chemicals. You may have noticed you are feeling more: sad, irritable, grumpy, touchy, or frustrated this month. If this is you, make an effort to get more sunlight. Sit outside during lunch. Go for a short walk before work. Anywhere you can get an extra 20-40 minutes of sunlight will be an improvement.

Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Florida and Georgia. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on Twitter & Facebook.

Is My Child Suicidal?

Child sitting alone, curled up

If you are worried about your child, whatever their age, it is good that you are paying attention. Let’s talk about warning signs and give you the tools to act appropriately.

Warning signs of depression in children:

  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Crying spells
  • Isolation – not wanting to talk, not wanting to be around their friends
  • Lack of pleasure in things – do not want to play with their toys, their pets, their friends

Talking about suicide is okay. Talking about or asking about suicidal thoughts does not increase them, so ask. “Are you thinking of suicide at all?” An open-ended question like this invites the child to talk about what they have been thinking, so you know what is on their mind, if they choose to share.

If your child says they have been thinking about suicide, or thinking “it would be better if I were not alive” or “sometimes I think about being dead” or “it would be easier if I were just gone”, this does not mean they are suicidal. These are normal thoughts that many people have, no matter their age. Therapy would be a good intervention at this point. Your child is saying they are in pain and need relief.

Probe to the next level “Do you have a plan to kill yourself? Do you want to kill yourself?” Use plain language like this and be direct. You need to know the information and asking like this will get you what you need. If your child has a plan and a desire to attempt suicide, intervene immediately. Google “mobile crisis team [your county]” to find the number for who to call. A mobile crisis team will come to your home, interview you and your child, and make a determination as to the severity of the suicidality. If warranted, they will take your child (or refer you) to the nearest psychiatric admitting hospital. If not warranted, meaning there is not immediate danger, they will encourage you to seek therapy for your child, which you should start as soon as possible. To find a therapist, you can search Psychology Today for your city and insurance, but be aware that many therapists (like myself) use telebehavioral health and you can see them from anywhere in the state, so you have additional options if you open your search to include telehealth.

If your child is cutting, that is, you see marks on their arms, legs, or torso, ask about it. “Why do you cut yourself? How often do you do so? What is the benefit you get from that? When was the last time that you did it? Are you taking care of the wound so they heal properly and don’t get infected?” Cutting is not suicide. Please take cutting for what it is: a way to release emotion, or a way to feel something when numbness is all that they are feeling. Cutting behavior should always be accompanied by therapy because either cause is a sign of deep sadness.

If you have a child that is hurting, having your own therapy is a benefit to you and to the family. You can learn how to support your child, have an outlet to express your frustration or sadness, and get support as you go through this tough time for your family.

Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Florida and Georgia. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on Twitter & Facebook.

Multiple State Licenses

Autumn Hahn, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist

There is a lot of confusion when it comes to getting licensed in multiple states. How do I begin? What is it called? What’s the benefit? I’ll demystify some of that here. I am licensed in Florida, my primary state, and state of residence, since 2010. I got licensed in Georgia in 2021, and have licenses pending in Washington DC and New York.

Why get licensed in multiple states?

The more states I am able to see clients in, the more business I stand to get. I accept insurance, and utilize a number of referral sources to get clients (if you are interested in information on those, please email me and I’ll refer you).

Having a wider base allows me to see the clients who are the most appropriate fit for my specialty. I specialize in trauma, and typically work with only those clients, so I don’t see everyone who needs therapy, only those who seek me out.

Working in multiple states allows me to serve a wider population. Being in telebehavioral health (seeing clients by video) allows me to serve clients in underserved areas, across the entire state.

The American Counseling Association is working on an Interstate Compact that will allow us to practice across state lines for those states participating in the compact, provided you are licensed in one of those states. The American Psychiatric Association has something similar for psychiatrists. You can learn more about the Compact here.

What are the types of license across states?

License by reciprocity – This is outdated. I have heard rumors that some states used to let you practice across state lines simply because you held a license in your state of origin. This is not true now, with the exception of some ability to do so during the pandemic. Do not pursue this. Even if you find it is true for some pandemic-related rules, it will go away at some point soon, if it hasn’t already. This is not a modern law or rule.

License by endorsement – This is your search criteria. If you want to become licensed in another state, search “License by endorsement counselor [state]” and follow the rules on their webpage. You may find that you need to have been licensed for a certain amount of years in your state of origin to qualify (in New York, for example, you have to be licensed for 5 years to qualify), or there may be other rules related to how many practicum hours you need to have completed, certain coursework your school needed to provide you, etc. You may also have to take an additional continuing education course to qualify; New York has a 2 hour child abuse awareness and reporting course everyone has to take. Complete the paperwork and send in your fee. Be aware that you will need access to: your unofficial transcript, your employment and education history, your existing license(s), professional references, and will likely have to send official transcripts, may have to get finger prints done, and more. The process varies by state. The verification and licensing process also varies by state. Georgia, for example, took less than 6 weeks to process all of my information and approve my license. DC, however, has had my paperwork for over 3 months and it is still “pending” with no reason given.

Your title may change as you apply across state lines. I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Florida, but my title in Georgia is Licensed Professional Counselor. It is the same information, same degree, same everything, but certain states have different titles. It does not functionally mean or change anything.

Now what?

Once your secondary (or more) license has been approved, do a couple of things:

Update your referral sources to reflect the new status so you can begin advertising to those states. This includes your Psychology Today profile, website, email signature (mine says I am accepting clients in Florida and Georgia), and any paid referral sites that send you clients where you have a profile.

Go to your CE tracker and enter the new information so you can log all your appropriate CEUs and be certain you don’t miss any renewal dates. Make a note in your calendar to take a course that you need, as appropriate. I use CEBroker for Florida and CEWindow for Georgia.

I hope this information was helpful to you!

Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Florida and Georgia. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on Twitter & Facebook.

ADHD in Adults and My Experience

October is ADHD-Awareness Month. I thought I’d speak to my experience.

I was diagnosed with ADHD in my 40s. Looking back, I see the early symptoms in my childhood – lots of daydreaming, easily distracted, unable to have single-focus. I was raised in the kind of home where manners were important and was taught to pay attention, entertain myself in quiet situations (like in a restaurant), and respect my elders and others. This meant I always had a book with me so I had something to occupy my mind, did not interrupt, waited my turn, and adhered to all of the social niceties. Interrupting, getting out of your seat, and being loud or messy are symptoms of ADHD in children, especially boys, that I did not display because I was taught that they were unacceptable behaviors. But when I think back to being in school, I remember looking out of the window for long periods of time, doodling in the margins of my notes, writing poems during class lectures, and other distractible behaviors that were unnoticed by others. In college, I applied the behaviors I learned growing up; I had good study skills and was always a straight-A student. College was not difficult for me, but did require a lot of reading and studying outside of class.

As an young adult, I had learned to make my brain work for me. I multi-tasked constantly and always had 15 tabs open in my brain’s computer, including one always playing music of some sort. Working in an office was fine for me, but keeping to a clock always bothered me. I’m super-efficient, and get a job organized in just a few months and am bored thereafter. I hate punching a clock and find that I have usually finished my 8 hours of work in a few hours, so why be chained to the desk before I’m allowed to leave? This caused me to feel resentment and I thought there was something wrong with how I thought about work, as people I talked to did not feel this way, and simply slacked off more during the day; I would rather slack off at home, where my video games were. I always worked and attended school, as well as raised my kid, was in a relationship, and managed both my home and my kid’s extra-curricular activity. I was so busy outside of work, that having down time at work felt unacceptable.

In my later adulthood and career, I own and run multiple businesses, write books, play and run D&D games, am always planning business ideas, and all the normal things like see my friends and do hobbies. This works much better for me. I set my own schedule, can work a few hours here and there, jump from project to project, and utilize lists to get multiple things done. I use the calendar to set up my tasks and be sure they are done; I live and die by my calendar. I have used the Sticky Notes app on my computer, with a different note for each “category” (each business, home things, writing) to stay organized.

In my 40s, I went to the psychiatrist and asked about being assessed for ADHD. He asked me for a list of my current projects and I told him to clear out his calendar for the rest of the day. I listed them (take a deep breath): 3 projects for my board-game business in various stages of readiness, building my counseling business (including counseling, seeing interns, doing the social media, marketing, bookkeeping, etc.), planning auditing as a service, writing a curriculum for treatment centers, planning online courses to sell, and writing a fiction novel. He did some testing and prescribed me a medication. I’ve been on it since, including a dose increase. It took about a month before I noticed the change I was looking for: decreased distractibility. I want to finish more projects, spend more time on a project once I’ve begun it, and be more satisfied with the work that I am doing. Medication has helped me with this focus.

Here are a few of my favorite videos on how ADHD symptoms present in adults, and they’re in bite-sized format, perfect for the mind that has trouble concentrating.

https://vm.tiktok.com/ZMdYrE9K1/

https://vm.tiktok.com/ZMdYrgHAD/

https://vm.tiktok.com/ZMdYrKkXL/

https://vm.tiktok.com/ZMdYrKbeD/

https://vm.tiktok.com/ZMdYh6Exv/

https://vm.tiktok.com/ZMdYrKDx8/

https://vm.tiktok.com/ZMdYhjUrD/

Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Florida and Georgia. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on Twitter & Facebook.

Suicide Can Wait

It’s okay if all you do today is survive.

Vineyard with hills in the background

If you are considering ending your life, do nothing for 24 hours. That is an accomplishment you can build upon. Avoiding an action is an action. 

How many small moments will you have today? Spend a little time outside, or just looking outside from inside. What do you notice? What made you smile, surprised, or captured your attention? What thoughts did you have? Those are the everyday moments that make life interesting. Share them with someone. What did they say? Did they share your feeling? What did they say? Those connections make life a shared experience. 

At this moment, it may be difficult, or even impossible, to see a life that doesn’t look like the one you have. But the experience of life is not constant and situations will change. Some may deteriorate and some may strengthen, but it is certain there will be change. Think of your life before it was how it feels now; maybe that was a year ago, or 5 or 10 years ago, but it was different. You haven’t always felt this badly. You won’t always feel this way, either. But it can take time. That might feel heavy to hear, but compare that other time to this one. Now compare this time to 1, 5, 10 years from now, even if may be difficult to imagine, know that it will be changed. You have to stick it out, get through this rough part to get to that good part again. 

This is a valley surrounded by hills. Keep climbing.

Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Florida and Georgia. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on Twitter & Facebook.