SAKINA ISSA, LICENSED MARRIAGE & FAMILY THERAPIST
My journey into the profession of private counseling began when I realized that there was a stigma associated with psychotherapy/talk therapy. I was going through a transition and was unable to cope with my new surroundings; I was alone and everything was different. When confiding in my closest peers, they would tell me, “Everything will be okay”. And, although I knew they were right, I just couldn’t agree. I was experiencing so much; I was lost and had no direction. I considered entering into counseling, but was very discouraged. Because of my overwhelming feelings at the time I just listened to those around me – after all, “I am not crazy.”
As they say, time is a healer. That statement was true for me. I eventually pulled myself together, but made a commitment to help people with similar struggles. I wanted to be an advocate for counseling. I believed it holds a benefit that some have yet to discover. This pushed me to get a masters in professional counseling. I attended the University of Central Florida’s Mental Health and Marriage and Family Counseling program. It was through the program that I developed my skills as a practitioner as well as learned the importance of the therapeutic relationship.
The issues I had in the past resurfaced and I again (now confidently) sought out therapy. I was able to gain so much from the experience and build a trusting relationship with my therapist. She taught me skills that I could use in multiple situations. I was able to grow as a person, but also as a therapist. Although I am not always facing adversity, I still attend sessions to check in from time to time. Making sure we do not forget to take care of ourselves is one of the best things we can do.
Choosing a therapist can be a very daunting task. After all you are entering a relationship with your counselor. They will hear your most personal stories and may be the person who challenges your thoughts, beliefs and values. With this said, it can be a little like dating. Don’t give up just because you came across one counselor who you didn’t feel comfortable with. I encourage you to look at a situation like that, as a learning moment to gather information. What exactly didn’t you like? This failed attempt can assist you succeed later, and can help you find someone who you do connect with.
I am a true believer in mind, body, spirit. I believe that our mind, body and spirit are connected. Our thoughts affect our feelings, which then affect our bodies. The spiritual element enters through the belief in a higher energy source. This spiritual dimension can be anything you feel comfortable with. It is a realization that human systems are not closed and energy/life is present in all creation. This highlights that our environments; who and what we surround ourselves with play a big role in what we experience.
My primary mode of therapy is known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT recognizes the connection between our mind and our bodies. It promotes the idea that our thoughts influence our behaviors, which then influence our emotions. CBT also highlights cognitive distortions. These are inaccurate thoughts that reinforce negative thinking. We often think that they sound true, but these ways of thinking only allow us to feel bad.
Another approach I use often is known as client-centered therapy. This method acknowledges that the individual attending therapy has all the answers. The therapist facilitates the client in a therapeutic environment to uncover the answers through 3 key qualities- unconditional positive regard, genuineness, and empathy. In life we often follow a pattern or theme, a client’s experiences should be highlighted through therapy; we are all unique.
I also incorporate various techniques into my work depending on the case. Emotional regulation, guided imagery, and meditation are techniques I often use in many situations. I believe they help create a bridge between the mind and body helping them to become in sync with one another.