Sarah Rumpf, MA, LPC is a counselor for young women and teens in New Brighton & Roseville MN. She provides therapy for anxiety, depression, perfectionism, self-esteem, young professionals, young adults, millennials.
Years ago, as a college freshman in my introduction to psychology class, I made a comment to a professor about feeling nervous giving clients advice in counseling- after all, what if a client took my advice and it didn’t pan out? What if something awful happened because of my advice? My wise professor gently told my naive self that, actually, my job as a counselor would not be to giving advice. My job would be to provide compassion, empathy, perspective, skills, and space to help people improve their lives by changing their thoughts, beliefs, and actions.
Fast forward to today, where I am a clinical counselor in private practice, and these ideas are no longer theoretical. They make up the work I love and am honored to do.
Clients do ask me for advice from time to time. Actually, it’s not that uncommon.
Folks often start counseling because they feel unsure and confused about their next steps. Maybe that’s you- you’ve been trying to handle anxiety on your own for years and have come to the conclusion that it’s just not going to improve without working through it with a professional. Good news is, there are so many excellent therapists, especially in the Twin Cities. Bad news is, if you’re looking for advice from a therapist, you’re not going to get it.
Why I don’t give advice as a therapist
Our conversations will help uncover your true values and desires. Once you have clarity on those, you’re able to confidently make your own decisions.
My values and ideas for how to handle a situation may not align with yours- and that’s okay! You are the expert on YOU, and you get to make the decisions in your life. Learning to trust your instincts and honor your own perspective is part of the transformative work of counseling.
Sometimes there is a different level of meaning behind the question- maybe when you’re asking me for advice on what to do in a relationship, you’re really asking if you are okay, if you are normal. Or perhaps when you ask me for advice on what to do with your career, you’re really telling me you don’t trust yourself to make decisions. These are more helpful and therapeutic conversations to have.
We are used to seeking advice from the people in our lives- our parents, partners, friends, colleagues- and so it can make sense to do that in counseling.
BUT- and this is something I tell all my clients in our first session- the counseling relationship is unique for a reason. Talking to a therapist is not the same as talking to a best friend or a physician or a hair stylist. A counselor’s job is not to give their opinion on what you should do or what the “right” way to handle a situation might be. So, what will I do instead?
What I do instead of giving advice
Help you to see a blind spot, something you aren’t seeing because of your close proximity
Help you to reframe, to see something (or yourself) in a new way
Provide a safe, warm environment for you to process the past and present
Help you increase your tolerance for ambiguity and the unknown
Teach you skills to modify your behavior to achieve your desired results
I understand how frustrating this can be- you come into counseling because you want some answers- you want clarity and guidance. You are absolutely free to ask my advice, but forewarning, you’ll likely get a response you weren’t looking for :)
Local to the Twin Cities and ready to dive into counseling? Get started by scheduling your first appointment today.
When I’m working with counseling clients, we spend a good amount of time examining thoughts. Those internal- sometimes conscious, sometimes not- beliefs, perceptions, memories. Our first job is to bring awareness to the thoughts, and once we’re there (easier said than done, by the way), we can look at the impact those thoughts are having on her life.
A core tenet of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the connection between thoughts and emotions. The idea is that it’s not situations/events that cause our emotions, but rather our perception of those situations/events that lead us to feel a certain way. Two friends can experience the same situation and have completely different emotional responses, based on their disparate perceptions.
A classic example is this: let’s say a republican and democrat listen to a republican candidate’s political speech. The republican feels inspired, energized, and thrilled about the proposed policies, while the democrat feels exasperated, even horrified. Same speech, different perceptions, different emotions.
We need to be aware of what we think and what we believe. If we’re not aware of our underlying thoughts and beliefs, we can get ourselves into difficult places emotionally and relationally.
The first step is to train yourself to become more aware of your thoughts and beliefs. Some people like to do this in counseling, while others find it helpful to journal privately. The key is to be intentional about becoming more aware- this won’t just happen naturally.
Next, examine your thoughts and beliefs. Are they true? Are they helpful? Do they serve you and the people you love? If so, great! No need to change your thoughts and beliefs. If not, move on to the next step.
The next step is challenging and restructuring your faulty thoughts and beliefs. This is where things really get good- and where it’s incredibly helpful to work with a mental health professional. Your therapist can help you identify cognitive distortions and work with you to find alternative healthy thoughts and beliefs. These new thoughts and beliefs are going to helpful and grounded in reality (not just “positive thinking”).
Here’s an example:
Unhelpful thought/belief: I’ll never get out of this pile of student loan debt.
Helpful thought/belief: It will take time, sacrifice, and intentionality, but I have what it takes to pay off my student loan debt.
So… what happens when doubt creeps in and you think, “well, what if that’s not actually true?! What if I don’t have what it takes?”
Your thoughts and beliefs inform not only your emotions but also your actions/behaviors. This means if you begin honestly thinking and believing that you have what it takes, your behavior will follow:
You might make a budget for the first time.
You might start actually following your budget for the first time.
You might cancel your expensive gym membership.
You might work toward a promotion in order to boost your income.
You might start a side hustle or pick up odd jobs.
Again, this is more than just positive thinking- this is cognitive science in action. Brain plasticity is another topic for different day, but suffice it to say our brains are incredibly powerful and we can literally rewire them and have incredible results in our thinking patterns.
To get started on changing your unhelpful beliefs, schedule your first appointment today. If you’re not local to the Twin Cities area, I can help you get connected to a great mental health professional in your city.
Winter in Minnesota seems to have appeared overnight. As I type, snow is falling and it’s a frigid 27 degrees here in Roseville, MN. I have nothing against the cold and snow (ahem, ask me again in March) but it seems like a bit much, a bit too early this year. But with this sudden shift in seasons, I’m now full-on thinking about the holidays.
I’m very aware how this is not the most wonderful time of the year for many people, for a variety of reasons. One very common reason is depression. Depression zaps your energy, your mood, your motivation. How then, can we manage depression during the holidays? How can we take care of ourselves when everyone else seems to be decking the halls and fa-la-la-la-la-ing?
Here’s what I’m really asking:
How can you feel thankful on Thanksgiving, when everything actually feels terrible?
How can you respond when a family member points out your apparent lack of Christmas cheer?
How do you play with your little niece or nephew at the family gathering when you have almost zero energy?
How can you interact with coworkers at the holiday party when you’d rather be in bed?
How can you go about your daily life when the cheerfulness of the holiday season feels grating?
Here’s what you don’t need to do:
You don’t need to pretend like everything is okay
You don’t need to fake perkiness or cheerfulness
You don’t need to attend all the parties, or any of them at all
You don’t need to decorate a Christmas tree or put up any decorations at all
You don’t need to overspend on gifts, or spend money on gifts at all
You don’t need to say yes to all the sugar, carbs, and alcohol
You don’t need to prove anything to anyone
Instead, here is what you can choose to do:
You can choose to skip traditions that have lost their meaning
You can choose not to talk to a certain person at the Thanksgiving table
You can choose to go home whenever you’d like
You can choose to skip the work holiday party
You can choose to spend the holidays with friends instead of family
You can choose to deliberately practice gratitude for what you have
You can choose to surround yourself with positive influences
Having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit? It could be more than just the shorter days and cold weather. Consider adding mental health counseling to your self-care toolkit this year. Get started today by scheduling your first appointment. Counseling appointments available in Roseville and New Brighton.
Anxiety is the most common mental health issue in the United States. It has been for quite some time, and all signs point to it continuing on this upward trend. 40 million American adults have an anxiety disorder and if you don’t, you absolutely have a friend or relative who does.
As an anxiety counselor, I hear stories quite often about the things people say to folks who are managing anxiety. Some are incredibly helpful! And other are… incredibly hurtful. Under the category of helpful we can place comments that are validating, encouraging, and kind. Hurtful comments usually come from a place of ignorance, but can sometimes come from a place of judgment. These hurt the most.
The thing is, most people want to be kind. Most people want to know “the right thing” to say to their friend who is having a hard time with anxiety. Truth be told, there is no singular right thing to say. I’ve noticed that while it’s definitely up to the individual to determine what is most helpful, there are a few common threads. Here’s what I’ve seen be most beneficial in helping someone with anxiety.
How to help someone with anxietyThings that are helpful
Help them feel safe and supported
Remind them how normal they are
Ask them what they need
Go with them to a workout class
Check in with them regularly
See beyond the anxiety to who they truly are
Encourage them to seek further support through counseling
Educate yourself about what anxiety is, and what it is not (e.g., it is not “just stress”)
The best thing you can do to help someone with anxiety is be there. Be physically and emotionally present.
It’s also worth noting- anxiety shows up in so many different ways. Generalized anxiety, social anxiety, panic disorder, phobias, and agoraphobia are all anxiety disorders that present in different ways. When a friend shares that she’s struggling with anxiety, you might ask, “how does anxiety affect you?”- this communicates that you want to understand her experience and gives her a chance to verbally process what she might be keeping inside.
Are you tired of wrestling with anxiety? It’s very common to self-treat anxiety for YEARS before working through it in counseling. If you’re ready to take the next step, schedule an appointment today. Anxiety counseling sessions available in New Brighton and Roseville.
Why do we commit to events, volunteer gigs, or social events that we have ZERO interest in?
WHY do we find ourselves on the verge of burnout with overcrowded calendars?
Why we keep saying yes
A sense of obligation or duty. This is really about believing you don’t have a choice. This is a disempowering mindset that allows other people to make decisions about YOUR life. You do not need to agree to something just because someone you respect believes you should do it. This includes your boss, your parent, and your partner. You have more control than you think.
A tendency to be a people-pleaser. As a people-pleaser, you put everyone else’s needs and desires in front of your own. You agree to statements, ideas, and behaviors that don’t actually reflect your values or desires. You say YES to events or activities out of fear- fear of upsetting someone else. You would rather say YES (and be unhappy) than risk your friend feeling angry or offended.
A difficulty with boundaries. A boundary is simply a line in the sand, separating what is okay and what is not okay. Ultimately, you get to decide what you allow. Here’s how this shows up in real life: a friend of yours consistently texts you late at night, when you’re getting ready for bed. This disrupts your wind-down routine, but you always respond because you don’t want to leave her hanging. She’s learned to expect a prompt response from you regardless of the time. You end up feeling irritated and put-out by your friend, and she has no idea. This happens due to a lack of boundaries- as humans, we cannot be expected to meet expectations if we aren’t clear what those expectations are.
The end of the year is a great opportunity to focus on what you are allowing into your life. Have you been saying yes to things that are no longer serving you? How has your mental health been impacted by saying yes to things you hate?
Saying no can be difficult, especially when it’s not your typical response. The good news is you can train yourself to think and respond differently. For example, try these different ways of responding to requests or invitations that don’t work for you:
No, thanks for asking.
Sorry, not this time.
That doesn’t work for me.
That’s not a priority right now.
I’m focusing on other things.
Maybe another time.
I can’t make it.
No. [this is a complete sentence!]
Do you have trouble saying no? Do you keep saying yes to things you hate? Counseling can help you process why this happens and give you practical skills for learning to set boundaries and take charge of your life. Schedule an appointment to get started today. Counseling appointments available in New Brighton and Roseville.
In my New Brighton counseling practice, I have the pleasure of working with high-achieving young adults. I specialize in anxiety and perfectionism, and many of my clients find themselves in demanding careers. Women who have perfectionistic tendencies often push themselves toward an unrealistic ideal. When the unrealistic goal is never achieved (because perfection is not achievable), they experience dissatisfaction and a lack of contentment. The cycle continues, and the woman is continually frustrated, believing her efforts aren’t good enough. Or worse, that she isn’t good enough.
It's not difficult to see how this situation could exacerbate existing anxiety and depression. And, while I believe we’ve made progress in crushing the stigma attached to mental health, it can still be quite difficult to manage anxiety and depression while in a demanding career.
Traditional work-life balance can be difficult, if it’s even possible at all! You may be expected to stay late at the office, or hop back online after dinner. Your job might require you to work weekends or nights, leaving you with little time to focus on yourself and your wellness. For better or for worse, demanding jobs require a significant amount of energy.
I won’t tell you to change careers or refuse to meet your employer's expectations. But I will encourage you to advocate for yourself. If you don't put yourself and your wellness first in the workplace, nobody else will do it for you. Here's what I mean.
Your employer, no matter how gracious, intuitive, or accommodating, cannot read your mind. You are the only person who truly knows what’s going on inside your mind and heart. It’s up to you to decide what you need, and then ask for it. So many of us- women, in particular- believe the subtle hints we are dropping are enough to communicate our needs to others. I say this in the most loving way- it’s something I struggle with, too! If you need your employer (or anyone else, for that matter) to accommodate your mental health, you need to ask for what you want in a clear, direct manner. Here are a couple ideas to get you started:
How to advocate for your mental health in the workplace
If you need to go to your therapy session during the workday, have a conversation with your boss about that. Come prepared with ideas- maybe you can come in an hour earlier (or stay later) on those days. Increasingly, employers are understanding the real benefits of allowing employees to take good care of themselves. Happier employees = happier customers.
Assume the role of mental health advocate in your office. Talk with HR about the benefits of happy, health employees. Does your company’s wellness program focus on physical health? What if mental wellness could be incorporated? Consider these facts about depression and anxiety in the workplace:
30% of employees with an anxiety disorder report a loss in productivity, compared to 0.5% of employees without an anxiety disorder
An estimated $1 TRILLION is lost annually due to depression and anxiety
Untreated anxiety has an adverse impact on quality of work and relationships with coworkers
How would your career benefit from an office culture that promoted whole-person wellness? We all get a boost when we feel our work is meaningful- just imagine how you might feel when advocating not only for yourself, but for the many others who would benefit from such a program.
Take all your vacation days. Every single one! And encourage your co-workers to do the same. Just say “no” to the martyrdom that comes with hoarding PTO. Paid time off is part of your compensation package, just like your salary or health insurance. Your employer gives you these days as a respite from work, which is actually an investment in you as an employee. Studies show that employees who take their vacation days are more productive, more creative, and happier than those who don't. I have a hunch that these findings are especially true for those of us who are managing depression and/or anxiety on a daily basis.
Feeling overwhelmed by the noise in an open plan office? Invest in noise-canceling headphones to focus in on your work as needed. Reserve a conference room for some quiet time.
Take advantage of any flexibility your employer offers. Working remote one day per week can be a nice change from the daily commute. Can your hours be tweaked to start earlier or later in the day?
Check into your employee assistance program. You may be able to see a mental health therapist free of charge through your company's EAP benefits. These programs are usually time-limited (e.g., short-term counseling), but if you click with the therapist, all the more reason to continue working with the counselor after your EAP sessions are used.
Beware the office snacks! Pay attention to how food impacts your mood and anxiety. Take some time over the weekend to prepare lunches and snacks for the week. Focus on incorporating nutrient-dense foods into your work lunches- not only will this help you focus on your work tasks, but you'll avoid the emotional crash associated with too much sugar, processed foods, or caffeine.
Similarly, beware of happy hour! A little nuance is important here. If anxiety or depression are telling you to isolate, maybe it would be beneficial to attend happy hour. If you have trouble saying no to alcohol or you end up relying on it to feel comfortable, maybe it's best to steer clear. Reflect on your needs and make the decision accordingly.
How to effectively care for yourself OUTSIDE of work
Invest in yourself outside of work hours. Read personal development books, take fitness classes, explore your city, spend time in nature, reach out to old friends! I love sites like Career Contessa and The Everygirl for career inspiration.
Find other interests outside of your career. What was it that your 8-year-old self loved to do? For me, it was reading and writing, especially while outside. What is it for you? Swimming, playing with a pet, doing something artistic?
Resist the urge to isolate. Both depression and anxiety love to make you feel alone in your pain. There's a difference between spending time alone to rejuvenate, and spending time alone because depression is telling you to withdraw from your friends.
Start meeting with a counselor. You could learn why you respond to a particular co-worker in that way, or why getting a “do you have a minute?” message from your boss sends you into an anxious tailspin. You could learn concrete strategies for thinking and behaving in a more helpful manner.
Anxiety and depression don’t need to dictate your next career move. Counseling can help you learn to manage your mental health at work, while giving you practical skills to think and behave in more helpful ways. To get started, schedule your intake session today. Appointments available in New Brighton and Roseville.