In the counseling world there is an age old debate. This debate centers around how much personal information a counselor should divulge to their clients: self disclosure. Well, as you’re about to see, a decent amount of self disclosure works for me, and the way I go about doing this work. Many of my cohorts are strongly against this practice. There are no guidelines or ethical standards when it comes to this, in our industry. It’s pretty much up to the practitioner.
The way I see, as my clients progress in their therapy so to does their level of vulnerability and trust. I take that very seriously and I want them to know there is a fallible human being sitting on the other side of the room as well. While I am a trained professional and have many years of experience in these matters, I also struggle with life as they do.
Don’t be mistaken. Once the session begins, it’s all about you. I just want you to know that I’ve been around the block, a time or two.
I was born in Bryan Texas in 1969. I was the third child of four; and the only boy. My father was an attorney and in the twin city of College Station. I grew up as an active young child and spent many days riding my bike and exploring the creek in my over sized back yard. A congenital blood disorder frequently reared its head and caused frequent trips to my childhood hero… pediatrician Dr. Conkling.
My parents divorced as I turned ten and I soon found myself in high school, living with a blended family. Participating in more than my share of teen high jinks, I spent most of high school studying, playing baseball and negotiating with principals. As high school came to an end, I set out to attend college, just as my sisters had done.
College leads to Austin
Due to my lackluster academic focus, I proudly attended a hand full of learning institutions. I spent my final two years at the University of North Texas in Denton. I left Denton pretty quick after grabbing my Bachelor in Science.
I spent a year in College Station working for an adolescent treatment. The work was tough and I soon got a call from my childhood friend to come join him in Austin. I didn’t hesitate and soon I was sleeping on his couch in 1995. He was cutting his teeth in the music and venue management business. I joined him, and we managed the Austin Music Hall, La Zona Rosa, and The Backyard for several years. Fast times for sure.
ACL Fest and Personal Difficulty
After years of continued success in the entertainment industry, I joined my friend in his epic new endeavor…the Austin City Limits Music Festival. The now storied festival was a great challenge for me professionally but was also a place where my personal challenges were forced to the surface. Married at the time, I welcomed my son to the world during the second festival. During the off season I would find myself having to confront my erratic lifestyle, an impending divorce, substance abuse, mental health struggles, and physical challenges related to my blood disorder.
Life was suddenly something I didn’t recognize and I needed help. My old friend sponsored a trip to rehab in California and I made the most of it. I returned to Austin in late 2007 and tried my hand at corporate events. It didn’t work out and the economy was about to tank. So I thought long and hard about which direction I wanted to venture. I cherished the process and change I experienced in California. I suddenly felt compelled to be formerly trained in the art of helping others.
Becoming A Counselor
I entered the St. Edward’s masters in counseling program in May of 2009. I jumped feet first into the program and found the studies very interesting and deeply introspective. While learning to counsel others, I explored my own relationship with divorce, substance abuse, bipolar disorder, chronic illness and other aspects of myself that had gone unexplored until then. Not always a fun exploration, but a beneficial one, none the less.
While jumping through all of the academic and licensing hoops, I fostered a new relationship with a lovely lady who truly taught me a lot about myself. I brought my young son to the union and she brought her young daughter. Married a year later, we scrambled through life while navigating her new career, my plight as a graduate student and an economy that offered only dark clouds.
Finally licensed as an LPC I joined my counseling mentor in a new counseling venture called Alive Austin. It was there that I spent almost five years counseling individuals and couples. I worked with almost 400 clients in that time period. Anxiety, depression, trauma, addiction, abuse, chronic illness, bipolar, relationship strife, and many other human issues were the subjects that I explored with my clients. At times it almost seems like they’re all the same. Sometimes I use the phrase “humanitis” to describe the catchall nature of the many things that challenge us.
During this time my wife had become quite a success in the local dog boarding services industry. After several years of honing her chops she quickly jumped on an opportunity to purchase a kennel seeking new ownership. As expected, she whipped it into shape and the business was a success in no time.
Life on six acres in a flood plain, with our home at one end, and a kennel full of 75 dogs at the other end, is quite an experience. As I continued to counsel, I also continued my efforts in maintaining a happy and sound home for our family. There were all types of challenges along the way, but the challenges that took place within me seemed to be the ones that ultimately required the most attention. Striking a balance with work, family, physical and mental health and some type of spiritual grounding proved to be increasingly more difficult. After some very difficult episodes, my wife wisely decided to end the marriage. It was a very upsetting realization to live through, but it was necessary. Although I was seemingly helping those I counseled at work, I was not heeding my own guidance and lost site of how to care for myself.
I experienced a very difficult situation in June of 2018. The experience left me pondering how I should continue in the realm of helping others. Or, should I continue at all? I believe the answer is yes…I should continue helping. But, perhaps I need to slowly shift my focus. When I contemplated how I should move forward, I noticed that I was growing somewhat frustrated by the stories I was hearing from my clients. What I realized is that many of them were suffering from issues that most likely began during their formative and teen aged years. More specifically, I noticed that my male clients, aged 25-50ish were all dealing with similar difficulties. It was then that I decided to expand my focus to younger males. Do be more specific, I want to improve my ability to help younger people who face modern issues. These include, relationships, social media, anxiety, climate change, political discourse, student loan debt and other contemporary issues.
So, that’s where things stand as of today. I hope this gives you some insight into the person I was, the person I am, and the person I hope to be.
Keep it simple!