Feeling submerged under an ever-growing pile of administrative tasks, client sessions, and the constant pressure to balance work with personal life? You’re not alone. Running a private therapy practice brings with it a unique set of challenges that can make even the most seasoned professionals feel overwhelmed. Having worked with hundreds of affiliated clinicians over the years, we at HAM have learned that amidst these challenges lies an opportunity to redefine the way we view and manage our time. We want to explore practical, effective time management techniques specifically tailored for private therapy practice owners to help you reduce the overwhelm and find more joy in your work.

Understanding the Value of Your Time

The first step in mastering time management is recognizing that your time is incredibly valuable—especially in a profession built upon the premise of offering your time and presence to others. Each minute spent on less critical tasks is a minute taken away from your core mission: to heal and nurture.

Techniques to Reclaim Your Time

Prioritize and Plan

Start by distinguishing between what’s urgent and what’s important. Use tools like the Eisenhower Matrix to categorize tasks and focus on what truly moves the needle for your practice (what’s important, what’s urgent, what’s not urgent, what you can delegate, and what you can delete). Daily planning can also be transformative—spend the first few minutes of each day or the last few minutes of the previous day making a to-do list organized by priority.

Embrace Technology

Leveraging technology can significantly reduce time spent on administrative tasks. A robust electronic health record (EHR) is essential to streamlining operations. For current affiliates using our EHR, be sure to take advantage of its many features and use it to its full capacity. (If you’re unsure how, we’d love to show you!)

Set Boundaries and Learn to Delegate

We see so many therapists falling into one common trap: believing they need to do everything themselves. We encourage you to Identify tasks that can be delegated or outsourced. For example, this might mean hiring a virtual assistant to manage emails and calls. It can even mean affiliating with us. After all, this was the foundation on which HAM was born. We offer administrative and billing support so you can spend more time with clients, doing the work you set out to do. Please, lean on us! It’s what we’re here for.

Setting clear boundaries around work hours and communication can also prevent work from spilling over into personal time.

Batch Tasks and Block Time

Group similar tasks together to reduce the mental load and increase efficiency. Schedule these batches during periods of the day when you’re naturally more productive. Time blocking can also be a game-changer. Allocate specific blocks of time for client sessions, administrative work, and importantly, breaks and personal time.

Reflect and Adjust

Regularly take stock of how you’re spending your time. Are there tasks that take longer than they should? Are you, perhaps, spending too much time on non-essential activities? Use these insights to adjust your approach, experimenting with different techniques to find what works best for you.

Implement a Self-Care Routine

Remember, time management isn’t just about squeezing every drop of productivity out of your day; it’s about creating spaces for rejuvenation and self-care. This is especially critical in a caregiving profession like therapy. Ensure you’re setting aside time for activities that nourish your physical, mental, and emotional well-being, even if it’s only 10 minutes a day.

The Road Ahead

Transforming the way we approach time management doesn’t happen overnight. It requires patience, persistence, and a willingness to experiment with new strategies. But by implementing these techniques, you’ll not only lessen that overwhelming feeling but also free up valuable time to focus on what matters most: providing quality care to your clients and leading a balanced, fulfilling life.

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By the National Association of Social Workers Maine Chapter


Health Affiliates Maine is proud to have been selected by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Maine Chapter as the 2023 agency of the year. The NASW awards are intended to foster excellence in social work by recognizing individuals and agencies who have gone above and beyond in showcasing dedication and expertise in the field.

Founded in 1955, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is the largest organization of professional social workers in the world, with over 150,000 members in fifty-six chapters nationwide and internationally. The NASW Maine Chapter, with over 1000 members, is the major professional social work organization in the state of Maine. 

A statement issued by the NASW noted that they had named HAM the Social Work Agency of the Year “in honor of over two decades of work dedicated to serving communities across Maine.” The statement goes on to say, “Health Affiliates Maine (HAM) has left an indelible mark in the behavioral health sphere of our state. HAM’s extensive advocacy, training, and direct practice support to countless numbers of clinicians and case managers over the years showcases a long-standing dedication and commitment to providing quality behavioral health supports to the citizens of Maine.” 

“This is an incredible honor for HAM,” said founder and executive director Andrea Landry Conley, LCSW. “We are both humbled and proud to be recognized among our distinguished peers (hats off to the other award recipients!) for the impact we are making on the state. It’s a testament to the talent and passion of our affiliates, our case managers, and the entire HAM team—and our collective commitment to living our mission and values every day.”

The NASW Maine annual awards ceremony will take place on Friday, October 20 at the NASW Maine Chapter Annual Conference, which will be held at the Samoset Resort in Rockport, Maine.

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On the COVID-19 pandemic’s third anniversary, we’re pausing to honor the 6.6 million lives lost, reflect on the profound experience this disease has had on us as survivors, and look for meaningful paths forward. In the first of this two-part series on moving from a state of survival to conditions for thriving, we looked at how American lives have collectively changed over the course of this ongoing public health crisis. In this article, we turn our attention to what happens when we pause and reflect on the lives we lead.

COVID-19: Reflection Mode

Because of the massive disruption COVID-19 had on billions of lives, a disruption that caused significant changes in our everyday behaviors, over time we slowly moved from survival mode [link survival mode to March blog post] toward lockdown reflection. And what we seemed to notice during this time was our mental health is paramount.

Such a big disruption naturally makes people ponder big questions. To pause. To notice. And while on a societal level, we seemed to be waking up to inequalities within our operating systems, racial and otherwise, on a personal level it looked like a series of ambiguous, philosophical questions. Presented with so many deaths in a short time span, we asked ourselves: How do we live a life of meaning?

How COVID-19 Changed Our Ideas about Work

There is, of course, no single answer to how to live a meaningful life. It was clearly on many people’s minds, though. The question quietly rang behind social shifts we saw in the second and third years of the COVID pandemic. The Great Resignation, aka the Big Quit, the Great Rethink, or the Great Reshuffle, saw people leaving the workplace in droves: leaving for safety concerns, because of burnout, inadequate support from companies, and the need for childcare (which is closely tied to the issue of unpaid care work), or people who discovered they wanted autonomy or meaning in their work, or more money as the labor market tightened. Resignation rates remain high. “People are now looking at work and the role they want it to play in their lives in a different way, and switching to jobs that better align with their new values,” writes Kate Morgan for the BBC.

Like the Black Lives Matter movement, the Great Resignation may have gotten its spark from the pandemic, but the embers had been building long before COVID came to be. Quit rates have been steadily increasing over the past decade. Wages have stagnated for decades, and minimum wage has not been keeping up with rate of inflation. There is an American culture of presenteeism and widespread burnout in the workplace. The pandemic wasn’t the cause, per se—but it may have been the collective taking in of breath and deciding factor for workers to act on their mounting dissatisfaction. Many of us are looking for ways to restore wellbeing, and our professional lives are a natural place to ponder.

Just as pausing to engage in deep breathing, meditation, and other coping strategies helps our mental health, the collective pause caused by COVID-19 has helped create a shift in priorities. It allowed us time to reevaluate society. What’s working? What isn’t? What can I do about it? How am I spending my time, which is ultimately my life? Rethinking the workplace—where, how, and why we work—is part and parcel of that process. After all, one-third of the average American’s life is spent at work. Some may prefer to work remotely, work less, go into private practice, switch jobs, or any number of configurations that align more closely with their idea of meaning and success.

One method to considering how you spend your time is viewing time management not through the lens of productivity but that of mortality. Rather than cramming in as many work products as you can into every hour, attempting perfection, or delaying creative work because of busy culture, scale grander. As Oliver Burkeman writes in the book 4,000 Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, we suffer when we engage in “causal catastrophe,” or treating every moment as a means to some future end. He, like many others, stresses the importance of enjoying the now and connecting with others.

How COVID-19 Revived Self-Care

The pandemic lockdown was a poignant reminder that loneliness hurts our health. Being isolated can have serious consequences on our minds and bodies. We are, after all, social animals. Presented with a widespread public health problem, we reconsidered what it means to be happy and live a fulfilling and purposeful life. In addition to shifts in the way we work, we are starting to see a revived focus on mental wellness and self-care as a result of those inquiries.

With COVID’s stark reminder that life is short, Americans are slowly unraveling the myths of the busyness badge and that taking time to take care for oneself is frivolous. Self-care is not self-indulgence. As therapists, we know it’s a vital part of coping with stress and restoring mental wellbeing.

In addition to more importance placed upon mental health and wellness, another silver lining from the pandemic for mental and behavioral health services may be that access to care has increased as a result of telehealth. It’s become much more commonplace to remotely visit a therapist or substance use counselor, which has important implications for how we can provide support to rural patients across the large state of Maine. Telehealth has removed geographical barriers to mental health services that some have unfortunately experienced in the past. And the more normalized work-from-home office has helped some people find the flexibility in their work schedules to attend therapy appointments.

COVID-19: Imagination Mode

The calls for “back to normal” we heard mid-pandemic were largely calls coming from those who profited by what normal was pre-pandemic. It’s imperative that we continue to question and reflect on our values and imagine and shape our collective future accordingly. What can you picture? How can you align your life to your values? How can we reimagine and rebuild society so that it values equality, justice, and collaboration, or any number of core values that resonate with us? What does it look like to become a nation where, as Jean Accius of AARP puts it, “race and other social demographic factors do not determine your ability to live a longer, healthier and more productive life”?

We’ve had COVID-19 survival and reflection modes. Let’s enter a COVID-19 imagination mode. Let’s ask ourselves: What future do we want to create?

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As we approach the third anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic and are hopefully transitioning to an endemic phase, we’re pausing to honor the 6.6 million lives lost, reflect on the profound experience this disease has had on us as survivors, and look for meaningful paths forward. In this article, part one of a two-part series on moving from a state of survival to conditions for thriving, we look at how American lives have collectively changed over the course of an ongoing public health crisis.

COVID-19: Surviving Survival Mode

In the beginning of the COVID pandemic, Americans went into survival mode. Many sheltered in place if they could; many experienced personal tragedies, from the deaths and prolonged illnesses of friends and family. We changed our behavior with social distancing; some of us shifted to unemployment or remote work; we developed coping strategies for the extreme stress, anxiety, and depression we were experiencing.

The trauma of COVID-19 caused such stress that our brains functioned in a different manner. Our prefrontal cortex, where executive functioning skills come from, turned the reins over to our survival brain. For adults, being in survival mode might look like:

  • A lack of focus.
  • Changes in memory. Your days may blend together, or you might not remember what happened earlier.
  • Low energy and fatigue. This includes your body and your mind.
  • Insomnia.
  • Emotionally reactive and/or withdrawn.
  • Forgetting basic needs.
  • More impulsive. Many Americans ate and drank more, for example.

For those who were able to develop healthy responses to the ongoing stress, they started to exercise and physically move, such as getting out of the house for a daily walk; to reach out and connect with others, perhaps through Zoom; and to practice self-care, including getting quality sleep, developing a new pandemic routine, making time for a new hobby like baking bread, or seeking out moments of joy and laughter. In other words, they developed a resilience toolkit. These Americans were able to slowly exit survival mode, or at least manage the chronic stress well. For many, though, stress management was not quite that simple—and chronic stress was not necessarily a new experience.

COVID-19: Stuck in Survival Mode

When you’re stuck in survival mode and experiencing chronic stress—because, say, you’re a frontline worker in constant danger of contracting COVID-19 who can’t work remotely or afford to look for another job or take time off—it affects your productivity, relationships, and health. You’re more likely to have serious diseases, such as heart disease, obesity, and Type II diabetes; have an addiction, such as with alcohol, nicotine, and/or prescription drugs, as well as the internet, food, or gambling; and have mood and anxiety disorders. Whether it’s from the pandemic or it’s more related to poverty, discrimination, or a combination, overexposure to cortisol—the “stress hormone”—disrupts almost all of the human body’s processes.

COVID upended everyone’s lives. But it most significantly impacted BIPOC communities. Blacks, Latinos, and other people of color have suffered higher rates of COVID-19 infection and morbidity. They are more likely to be essential workers, and they were more likely to be unemployed as a result of the pandemic—especially Black and Latinx women.

Furthermore, and important to our work in mental health, Black, Indigenous, and people of color are less likely to have access to and seek out mental health services, and they are less likely to receive needed care. When they do receive mental health services, they are more likely to receive low-quality care and end care prematurely. The vast majority of mental health treatment providers in the United States are white, and some research shows that provider bias and stereotyping are factors affecting health disparities. It is imperative that in our field especially we increase cultural competency trainings, diversify workforces, and reduce stigma of mental illness.

All told, COVID-19 helped expose huge disparities in health, wealth, and healthcare access for Americans of color as compared to white Americans. With such a wide discrepancy between how some Americans were affected by COVID-19 compared to others, Americans were confronted with the stark differences in their lives due to privilege. This led to public outrage and was partly why—in addition to police brutality, growing economic and political divides, and building momentum toward racial consciousness, among other factors—Black Lives Matter protests drew record-breaking crowds. An estimated 26 million people took to the streets in the United States in the summer of 2020 to draw attention to and decry systemic injustice.

COVID-19: Moving toward Reflection

With a more-widespread understanding and management of chronic stress, proclamations in support of racial justice, and a gradual acclimation to life during the COVID-19 pandemic, more people began to move from survival mode toward a mode of reflection. We considered essential questions about our lives aroused by the pandemic. Presented with so many deaths in a short time span, we asked ourselves: How do we live a life of meaning? We’ll look at this question in depth in part two of “Coming Out of the Pandemic: From Surviving to Thriving.”

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Self-care is important for everyone. But how do you practice self-care and self-compassion when you have been through or are currently experiencing a traumatic life event? In this first of a two-part series on trauma-specific self-care, we look at how your body responds to stress and trauma and what individuals can do to begin healing.

What Determines my Level of Tolerance?

We all have different ranges of tolerance to life’s stressors. The ideal state of being in which you have the ability to deal with life’s ups and downs to a reasonable extent is what the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine refers to as your “window of tolerance.” Stress and trauma affect your window of tolerance, shrinking it and disturbing what stresses you’re able to handle. You may become hyperaroused—anxious, angry, overwhelmed—or hypoaroused—zoned out, numb, frozen. These reactions aren’t something you choose; it’s simply how your body reacts. Working with a mental health provider can help you by expanding your window of tolerance, so you have a wider range of situations and challenges you are able to cope with.

How Is my Body Affected by Stress?

Traumatic stress is experienced in the body. Upon noticing something novel, you become alert. You then move into threat identification, seeking social cues to evaluate the extent of the threat. Both the alert and the subsequent shift into threat identification are instinctual responses to your environment, and you may not even be conscious of them. If you perceive the novel event as a threat, whether real or imagined, your body is then aroused—your lower, reptilian brain takes over, and your threat-defense system is activated. This process sends adrenaline, cortisol, and oxytocin into your body. You then experience a defense response: fight, flight, freeze, or tend and befriend. If your defense response works, your body calms down and your upper or cortex brain begins processing the experience.

In a state of alert, your body becomes hypersensitive, with a particular heightened awareness of the real or perceived threat. You can experience hyperarousal when trauma associations are triggered, feeling a flood of emotions such as anxiety, fear, anger, and grief. Trauma expert and Simmons College Graduate School of Social Work professor Julia Colpitts, MSW, calls this state “stuck on.” Or, you can experience hypoarousal, where you distance yourself from emotions to quiet the state of hyperarousal, which can lead to numbness and a disconnection. Colpitts calls this state “stuck off.” Your arousal responses highjack your higher brain functions and create physical reactions.

When stress and trauma are complex or ongoing, your body does not return to its baseline, and this sort of constant hypervigilance and arousal flood your body with stress hormones, which can impact health. Physical reactions can range from simple tension to chronic illness. Often, those who experience trauma will develop behavioral patterns to manage traumatic arousal. These behaviors often involve food, alcohol, inactivity, or overwork, which can provide short-term relief but cause long-term negative consequences.

How Can I Heal from Stress and Trauma?

Calm the body, calm the mind. Self-compassion involves enacting a lesser-used cycle of emotional regulation, which Paul Gilbert calls the “soothing system” in his book The Compassionate Mind: A New Approach to Life’s Challenges. The soothing system, which manages functions to slow down, soothe, rest and digest, safeness, kindness, and care, can be underdeveloped in an individual. With practice, you can build upon it to better manage your emotions and expand your window of tolerance.

What is a Resiliency Toolkit?

To strengthen your soothing system, spend more time in self-compassionate practices that center physiological and mind-body relaxation. Focus on creating a personalized relaxation practice from a menu of soothing options, Colpitts advises. Some soothing strategies to add to your resiliency toolkit include:

  • Breathwork, such as box breathing
  • Muscle tension release using progressive relaxation techniques
  • Guided meditation, such as those offered by Kristen Neff
  • Sensory stimulation (e.g., aromatherapy, calming visuals, nature sounds, savory tastes, touch, water, sexual activity, massage, Reiki bodywork, and grounding strategies)
  • Acupressure and acupuncture
  • Yoga, tai chi, and other mind-body centering work
  • Self-compassionate meditation and activities, such as bilateral stimulation like the butterfly hug, and affirmations
  • Interacting with animals, including equine-facilitated therapy
  • Mindfulness and related physical practices, such as walking meditation and forest bathing
  • Body scans
  • Expressing gratitude and love

Try to maintain a regular practice of your chosen relaxation techniques. You can form healthy habits by starting small and attaching a technique to part of your regular routine, such as breathwork after brushing your teeth each day. Take note of the improvements you feel, which will help you continue and build upon your emotional resiliency menu of options. By regularly employing direct body and other relaxation strategies, your body will calm down and your mind will follow suit. This will create patterns of calm that serve to “release stored arousal and reestablish a peaceful baseline,” according to Colpitts. “The more strategies you use,” she states, “the more difference it will make.”

What Else Can I Do to Take Care of Myself after Trauma?

In addition to using tools in your resiliency toolkit, you can also “burn off” the stress in your body from traumatic experiences by engaging in physical activity. This can include energetic pursuits, such as dancing and working out, and/or more soothing activities like hiking and listening to music.

You may also need strategies to depower your threat defense system, which for those who have experienced or are experiencing trauma is overactive. You can do this by partnering with a mental health professional to learn new patterns and activate the care system. We also advise working with a practitioner on cognitive behavioral work and to engage with trauma success factors, including taking reparative action, interrupting the trauma flow, managing arousal, bringing attention to cognitive adaptive patterns, cultivating positive attachment and experiences, and attending to context.

“Being kind to ourselves releases energy to move forward,” Colpitts says. And it “soothes body, mind, and spirit.”

Thank you to Julia Colpitts, MSW, for sharing her keynote presentation and ideas on this subject.

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As summer comes to a close, parents and students across America start preparing to head back to school. Some students understandably have anxiety about returning to the classroom in light of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and other recent incidents of school shootings. How can we help children who feel anxious about school violence? Let’s look at ways back-to-school anxiety is expressed and examine strategies for helping students with concerns about school violence.

What are Signs of Anxiety in Children?

Anxiety over school shootings has become common in America. Even when children aren’t directly involved in episodes of school violence, they are deeply affected by these traumatic experiences. Exposure to violence can cause learning and behavioral problems in students. Children may feel anxious or fearful, and they may not express the distress they are feeling in a way that adults can easily recognize.

If a child isn’t directly communicating their worries about returning to school, look for symptoms that may indicate anxiety is present. These signs can include:

  • Excessive worry
  • Seeks constant reassurance from teachers and caregivers
  • Avoids school or summer camp
  • Sadness/depression
  • Withdrawn
  • Difficulty enjoying activities that were previously pleasurable
  • Irritability/anger
  • Argumentative
  • Negative thinking patterns
  • Hypervigilance
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Poor or declining school performance
  • Poor appetite
  • Headaches
  • Nightmares

How Can I Help Anxious Students?

The most important way you can help school-age children coping with anxiety around school violence is to talk to them. Do not avoid the scary topic—that makes it scarier. Ask them what they are thinking and feeling. Listen attentively, and use the information you gather as a basis for how much information they need and can handle, in addition to the child’s age and whether or not they have experienced trauma before.

Children’s concerns and questions tend to be different than adults’. Kids often want to know who is to blame, what could be done to prevent the tragedy, or whether it could happen at their school. Being truthful in your response—while keeping in mind developmental appropriateness—is crucial to building and maintaining trust and open communication with the child.

Validate the child’s feelings. Avoid downplaying their concerns or fears. And keep the conversation going—this is not a one and done talk, and it might be best to handle in smaller doses, especially for younger children. An open-door policy and a continued dialogue encourage children to share their concerns at any time.

Anxious kids also benefit from routines. Keep schedules predictable to the extent you are able. The consistency of their daily routine will help them feel secure and safe.

Limit their exposure to violence. While we want to keep an open, honest dialogue, seeing the same event televised or in the papers repeatedly is not helpful and may in fact be harmful. This can mean developing new household rules to limit screen time or access to newspapers and/or social media, especially after a school shooting or other traumatic event.

For parents, caregivers, and therapists of older kids, such as those in middle school or high school, we can help them convert anxious or angry feelings into plans for action. Older students may find that becoming an advocate for school safety helps them channel their anxiety into action, creating a helpful, healthy coping strategy for dealing with feelings around school violence. Also encourage them to report specific incidents that concern them, such as bullying or threats, and occasionally check in about how they are feeling or what they are experiencing at school.

Finally, as an adult, manage your own anxiety around school shootings. Kids are very adept at picking up on their parents’ fears, which can contribute to increasing the intensity of their own fears. To reassure a child, you need to be taking care of yourself, too. Ensure you have another adult to talk to about how you feel, de-stress, and engage in regular acts of self-care. When you model healthy ways to cope with stress and fear, children will learn from that behavior. Ultimately, we want to teach children skills for self-soothing and effective, lifelong coping mechanisms in dealing with stressful events to develop their resiliency for all they might encounter.

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Thinking about opening your own private practice? Way to go! Health Affiliates Maine is proud to help behavioral health professionals as they venture into entrepreneurship, making that potentially overwhelming experience a little easier to navigate.

Signs You’re Ready to Run Your Own Business

Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. However, odds are that if you’ve been thinking about it, you know deep down that you can do this! Here are some signs to look out for when considering if the time is right to strike out on your own:

  • You can think of better, more efficient ways of doing things
  • Your values no longer align with your employer’s or company’s values
  • You feel limited at your current position
  • You want more freedom and flexibility in your lifestyle
  • There’s a strong market or need for your unique services and abilities
  • You’ve outlined or thought about a business plan
  • You have support or know where to find it, such as creating a network of colleagues
  • You believe in yourself and are excited by the idea of owning your own business

Characteristics of an Entrepreneur

Although not everyone wants to run their own business (and that’s okay!), there also isn’t only “one type” of person who would be successful at it. Here’s a list of a few common attributes in entrepreneurs:

  • You’re passionate
  • You’re independent
  • You’re organized
  • You’re not risk-averse
  • You’re resilient
  • You’re not afraid to go it alone or ask for help

If you don’t immediately identify with any of those characteristics, it doesn’t mean that you couldn’t run your own practice if you wanted to. We suggest taking time to reflect inward on why you want your own business, what you would offer and how you would start taking steps to get there.

Feeling ready to open your own private practice? Take a look at five ways you can market your new business. Marketing yourself and your business may sound unnecessary (you already have clients!) but it’s important for maintaining your professional relationships, attracting potential clients, and keeping your new business relevant.

How Not to Become Overwhelmed When Starting a Business

We won’t lie—your private practice won’t happen overnight, and you’ll likely face challenges and hard decisions along the way. When you feel overwhelmed or stressed, try the following:

  • Take a walk or do an exercise workout
  • Try yoga or mediation to calm your nervous system
  • Turn on “do not disturb” on all your devices to limit distractions
  • Consider reaching out to someone in your network for advice or support
  • Mark a day on your calendar that’s just for you (take yourself out to lunch, do errands, go shopping, go the spa, anything to distract yourself from overwhelm and allow yourself to reset)

When running your own private practice, there will be days when you’re firing on all cylinders and other days when you may question your business decisions. Both are normal and a part of being an entrepreneur! Take a few moments to remember your why. Why did you leave your previous employer? Why did you want to be your own boss? Why did you decide to serve clients your way? These answers will remind you of the vision you have for your private practice and will re-inspire you.

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This class meets the requirements for Domain 1, Behavioral, Psychological and Rehabilitation Intervention Models of the Maine MHRT/Community curriculum.

  • Tickets: $300
  • Location: Online Event
  • Presented By: Mary Gagnon, LMFT
  • Registration: Register Online
  • Refund Policy: Refunds up to 7 days before event

Do I Need This Training?

The MHRT/C certification is a Maine-based certification for mental health professionals wishing to work directly in patient care. Consider this MHRT/C training if:

  • You wish to work in Maine as a case worker, in a group home, or community support work
  • You currently do not have a college degree that included all accredited coursework
  • You need continuing education credits relating to ethics and professional conduct
  • You are working towards a provisional or full MHRT/C and need priority domain training

About this Event

This course will examine the knowledge, attitudes, and skills Mental Health Technicians need to establish rapport, communicate effectively and respectfully, and work collaboratively with consumers regarding their care to support recovery, with awareness of changing needs across the lifespan.

The following training objectives will be studied:

  1. Explain the concept of community inclusion and the use of natural supports to enhance recovery.
  2. Relate human development theory, including the interaction of social, psychosocial development across the lifespan./li>
  3. Give examples of evidence‐based models and approaches that integrate treatment and rehabilitation.
  4. Demonstrate general knowledge of the current diagnostic manual and be able to name basic diagnostic categories.
  5. Define the treatment complexities for co‐occurring disorders and addictions within vulnerable populations.
  6. Identify community resources to assist in the recovery process for individuals who have co‐occurring mental health and substance use disorders.
  7. Recognize the consumer’s development and life stage, and where they are in relation to the Stages of Change Model, in order to develop individualized treatment plans.
  8. Be aware of common strengths‐based assessments, including instruments that identify or screen for co‐occurring disorders and/or trauma history, and tools that evaluate the level of care needs.
  9. Demonstrate a collaborative, person‐centered, recovery‐oriented, shared decision‐making approach to working with consumers. Identify strengths and challenges and how to incorporate natural supports into individualized treatment plans.
  10. Describe common factors of effective helping strategies when working with consumers, e.g., therapeutic relationship, empowerment, consumer choice, and respect for the consumer.
  11. Demonstrate active listening skills, basic interviewing skills, and demonstrate respect for the consumer at all times.
  12. Illustrate an understanding of crisis planning, advance directives, crisis intervention strategies, and use of a warm line.

Course Expectations

1. Attendance:

Students must attend each day of class and receive an 80% or above on the final exam to earn a certificate of completion.

2. Make‐up work:

Students must attend all classes as stated above and complete and submit any missed assignments.

3. Class size:

The standardized MHRT/C curricula are interactive. The recommendation is that classes have no fewer than 6 participants and no more than 20./p>

4. Class participation guidelines:

  1. Students will arrive on time and stay until the end
  2. Students will demonstrate respect for others.
  3. Use first person language, such as “I” messages. [For example, “I didn’t understand his response to my question” as opposed to “He overreacted to my question.”] This allows students to take responsibility for their feelings and experiences rather than blame them on someone else.
  4. Cell phones should be placed on vibrate or silenced at all times during the class.
  5. Students are expected to participate in all activities.

5. Course evaluations

Participants will receive a link to complete an online evaluation the last day of their training.

About the Presenter:

Mary Gagnon, LMFT, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the Training and Clinical Development Specialist for Health Affiliates Maine. Mary has worked in private practice as well as a variety of community mental health settings throughout her career. Her most recent work at Health Affiliates Maine includes oversight of clinicians in private practice and development and facilitation of trainings for schools and conferences throughout the state. She is a certified trainer for Domains 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 for the MHRT/C Non-Academic Curriculum.

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This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on October 21, 2020, by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine 

Question:  My parents live nearby but we have not seen them much in the previous months because of COVID and my dad having significant risk factors. We have had a few outdoor, socially-distant gatherings but with winter coming, that will be hard. I know my parents are upset not seeing the kids as much. My mom told me recently she feels like she is depressed. I feel guilty. Do you have ideas to keep the connection strong in a safe way?

Answer: I wish I had an easy answer. This is a dilemma that has impacted so many, in so many ways. Before giving any thoughts on the subject, I remind everyone to follow CDC guidelines for mask-wearing (yes, around the grandparents), social distancing (six or more feet apart) and handwashing and using hand sanitizer often. As the cold weather approaches and the time when families gather for the holidays, we must be extra vigilant. Recent surges across the country have been attributed to people gathering again in the home and being more relaxed about the virus.

We all have to get creative. My family has had to get creative for this same reason. Our visits are shorter and may get even shorter as the cold and darkness descend on us. We visit in the outdoors around a fire pit for about 2 hours once a week. Our chairs are six feet apart. Parents are in charge of watching if the little ones get too close to grandparents, and gently reminding grandparents when they don’t resist the impulse to snuggle and hug. My family has also driven to a park to meet at a halfway point to see other dear ones who live miles away. We try to be outside as much as possible. Taking walks, visiting a garden, and reading stories all can be outside activities, and soon sledding and snowman-making will be in the mix. 

The cold weather season may mean rethinking cold-weather gear, just to be able to spend more time together. Dressing in layers can extend the time together.

It is difficult for your mom. Isolation and loneliness can really contribute to feelings of depression. The dark months of winter can be a problem under normal circumstances for many people, especially older adults. When the separation caused by the pandemic is added to the mix, it can become very serious for some. Your children are a major joy for her. If there are ways you can help her remain engaged, it will help her mood. Throughout the fall and winter, try to ramp up the engagement and involvement with the grandparents in any safe activity. If you notice increasing depression, substance abuse and/or overall withdrawal from activities they once enjoyed in your mom or other older adults for whom you care, help them get connected to their physician for an exam. The requirements of the pandemic are not your fault, don’t take on guilt. Just do the best you can under extraordinary circumstances. Allow time for your mom to talk and recognize the feelings she is expressing. She will feel better just being heard.

Here are some helpful ideas and suggestions for you and your children:

  • Video chats with guessing games, jokes, and stories both from her and from your children can keep them connected.  
  • Letter writing is a way of connecting, as well as sending hand-drawn pictures back and forth. I know one grandmother that draws a bird and sends it to her grandson, then they learn about the bird together. The next time, the grandson draws a bird and sends it off to his grandmother.
  • Holiday fun: Have an outdoor family Halloween parade. Grandparents can dress up too and provide some warm cider and cookies. Looking at the neighborhood lights together during the Christmas and Hanukkah season can be done together using separate cars and speakerphones so everyone enjoys the experience of it together. It’s all about memory-making, pandemic or not!
  • Another holiday idea is to have grandparents watching the assembling of gingerbread houses. Having an activity going on allows children to become comfortable with the online presence of their grandparents.
  • There are easy recipes online that you can use to make handmade ornaments of the kids’ handprints.
  • Grandparents can be online watching the assembly of a craft they furnished.
  • Car picnics or visits with cars parked side-by-side—windows open with heat ramped up!  
  • Grandparents can get a kick out of watching a little one get absorbed in a storybook being read by a parent. Be sure to set the screen so that expressions can be seen. 
  • Daily short video chats can become a normal part of life. Each child has a different attention span so enjoy brief chats more often.
  • If grandparents are close, have the child participate in baking and dropping off cookies.
  • In the same vein, grandparents can assist parents by cooking one meal and dropping it off.  
  • A daily chess match or crossword puzzle between grandparents and older children can be fun. Using Zoom, they can play Pictionary, Scattergories, Mad Libs, and other games.  
  • Send your parents pictures as often as possible. This keeps them aware of what the kids are doing and communicates to them that you are thinking about them. It is a bit more costly, but if possible, give a gift of a digital picture frame that shuffles through multiple pictures which you load on. This way they can see your children going about their daily lives. Very fun!
  • If it is in their nature, ask the grandparent to sing a bedtime lullaby to a smaller child. Sometimes there are special good night songs in families.

We all are eagerly awaiting normal times. We are learning a lot about how important connection can be. I wish you the best in helping your parents during this time.

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine.

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is caused by experiencing or witnessing an event such as an injury, death, war or combat, natural disaster, abuse or assault. Trauma is not rare—it’s estimated that 70% of Americans of all ages, genders, and ethnicities go through at least one trauma in their lifetime.

While not every trauma will result in PTSD, a traumatic event actually changes the cognition in the brain causing a person to continuously release stress hormones and always be on high alert. Constant, high stress and other symptoms of PTSD can have a negative impact on mental, physical and emotional health.

PTSD vs. Stress and ASD

A PTSD diagnosis is not the same as daily stress or Acute Stress Disorder (ASD). Daily stress is a normal part of life and something we all navigate in our own way. PTSD can develop if ASD (whether professionally diagnosed or not) wasn’t properly resolved or the person didn’t have access to appropriate coping tools. A PTSD diagnosis can occur months or years after a distressing event.

Acute Stress Disorder is usually diagnosed immediately after a traumatic event and can last for days or several weeks; however, it usually resolves naturally with healthy coping strategies or with counseling. If left untreated, ASD can develop into PTSD. This can lead to other serious conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, or substance abuse.

The symptoms of ASD and PTSD are quite similar, but duration and timing of the diagnosis sets them apart. Signs and symptoms can include

  • Irritability or anger
  • depression or deep sadness
  • intense stress or anxiety
  • nightmares and trouble sleeping
  • feeling isolated
  • troubles controlling or expressing emotions
  • problems trusting others
  • difficulty maintaining relationships
  • flashbacks, pervasive negative thoughts and memories



Can PTSD be treated?

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is highly beneficial to those working through PTSD. Talk therapy helps to bring up feelings, memories and emotions associated with the traumatic event so that proper processing and management can occur. Some individuals will take medication in conjunction with talk therapy and/or group counseling.

In addition to counseling and medication, here are some examples of healthy coping strategies for living a content, fulfilled life.

Physical Health: By exercising, eating and sleeping well, and avoiding drugs and alcohol, you can relieve feelings of intense stress. Research shows that by setting goals and being consistent with your workout routine you can reduces stress.

Emotional Health: Practicing mindfulness, meditation or prayer keeps your mind in the moment. These practices allow for you to acknowledge feelings or memories and then “let them go.” Starting small with one or two minutes at a time can help limit stress, anxiety, depression and increase feelings of being grounded and present.

Community connections: Spending time with others especially understanding loved ones and people in a support group can help with feelings of isolation, avoidance or wanting to shut down.

Counseling: A professional counselor offers a comfortable, judgement-free safe space so that you can process your thoughts, feelings and memories in a healthy way. Be kind and patient with yourself. Consistent appointments allow for progress in your recovery.

Journaling: Writing your thoughts, feelings and memories rather than ignoring them or pushing them away allows you to work through them and also help to identify any triggers you may have. Remember that recognizing and processing emotions is a form of strength.

Be honest: If you’re ready, tell your loved ones that you’re living with PTSD—it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Maintain healthy boundaries and communication within your relationships can aid in your recovery.

Educate yourself: By learning about PTSD, it can help you and your loved ones better relate to one another. Let your loved ones know that even just listening to you and your experiences can helpful and is appreciated.

We all struggle at times, but help is here. If you’re unable to express your thoughts, feelings or have trouble with daily functions, consider reaching out to a friend or a healthcare professional.

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