Gina T.: Hi everyone, welcome to the Harmony Foundation Podcast Series. I’m pleased today to be joined with Amber Herring with Healing Journey of Counseling out of Denver, Colorado. Welcome Amber.
Amber H.: Thank you.
Gina T.: So good to have you here at [inaudible 00:00:11].
Amber H.: Yeah, glad to be here.
Gina T.: Well, we’re here to talk a little bit about your practice and to learn a little bit about your background. Let’s first start out with who you are. You’re a licensed marriage and family therapist. What made you decide to pursue that path of going into that kind of a career?
Amber H.: I think I was working with my undergraduate in psychology and connected with a therapist who was doing some work. I was working at a corrections facility, community corrections, and there was a therapist there that I really admired. Realized that if I wanted to make a career with my undergraduate in psychology, I needed to get a Master’s degree, I needed to advance my education and was really inspired by this therapist.
At the time, the program that I ended up getting my Master’s degree through came to my place of employment and presented on their program and went from there. I knew I wanted to be in therapy, didn’t quite know where I wanted to land, whether that was individual or family work. Met with an admissions director there and really fell in love with the idea of supporting families and couples and supporting people relationally. Have since been doing that.
Gina T.: How long has that been going on? How long have you been a therapist?
Amber H.: Been in the mental health field a little over 10 years. As a therapist for the last six years.
Gina T.: Okay. Have you seen a lot of changes that have happened in the field since you’ve come in?
Amber H.: Yeah, totally.
Gina T.: Good stuff, bad stuff?
Amber H.: Yeah, good stuff. I think we’re on the precipice of another big change in terms of how we look at treating co-occurring illnesses. I think that’s certainly where my passion is. I think the field has advanced a lot in terms of honoring trauma work and the things that we’re learning about trauma and the things that keep eating disorders, substance use and processed addictions going. I think now it will turn next, my hope is, is that we’re supporting people, in looking at the whole person and treating all of those things, integratively, co-occuringly.
Gina T.: How does that look when you say that? Because for folks that are listening, there’s always been these two schools of thought that for example, the substance abuse is always going to live on this side, the mental health is going to live on this side, then you’ll have the process disorders, eating disorders and gambling addiction, sex addiction that play a part in their … But you’re talking about integrating all of that together. So, how does somebody look at that and think, how do you capture that?
Amber H.: Totally. I do a lot of ACT work; Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, really looking at what’s the function of those behaviors? Typically, if somebody is overspending or shopping and restricting their meal plan or binging and purging, and using a substance, typically those things are in an effort to quiet something underneath. Whether that be trauma memories, or shame or a not good enough story or too much story, anxiety, depression, things like that. If we can look at what’s underneath that and help you accept and practice some distress tolerance skills around those things, then you might not need the shopping, the gambling, the sex, the binging and purging or whatever might come next.
I think ACT is a way to really get at the root of what’s happening, what’s maintaining those behaviors, and is also preventative, if we can work with folks to come to terms with or accept these pieces of themselves and move forward in a values driven direction, then we won’t need the things that tend to become compulsive or addictive.
Gina T.: Always very unhealthy coping skills that oftentimes, we see pop up here is people utilizing drugs because they have an undiagnosed disorder of ADHD or depression or anxiety and they hit that wall. That totally makes sense. You deal with a lot of different things with both individuals and families; anxiety and depression, you talked about addiction and eating disorders? What do you think is the most common issue that you find yourself treating these days?
Amber H.: I think it’s in general, communication. I work a lot with families recovering from eating disorders and substance use. Look at this through a lens of it’s a relational thing. We don’t get to this place in a vacuum. Those that struggle with addictions and eating disorders, that we get to this place in the context of relationships.
I see a lot of the work that I do really is about helping people communicate, helping people recover through communication. I think of these behaviors serve a function individually, but they also serve an inner personal function. They’re helping us communicate something, whether that be, I’m in pain, I need some help, I need to be seen, please notice that I’m struggling. I work a lot with families. How do we put words to that so you don’t need that behaviors to communicate that?
Gina T.: I like that. I’ve never heard it from that perspective before. It’s so true, because it really is the most fundamental piece of what we need to understand. Most of the time it’s broken, most of the time the communication has been, what is it, you raised in a culture, in a family where it’s never been fully functional.
Amber H.: Right.
Gina T.: That’s interesting. We always like to get to know the person behind the program. What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months or at least in recent memory?
Amber H.: I have a 13 year old step daughter. For Christmas this year, she asked for a record player.
Gina T.: Really?
Amber H.: Yes.
Gina T.: Were you able to find one?
Amber H.: Yes, Amazon.
Gina T.: There they go. That’s crazy.
Amber H.: But I think that’s the, when I think about the most meaningful gift, just she’s an old soul like me. I think of myself as an old soul. It just warmed my heart she would want this, old, record player, something that says speaks to my heart.
Gina T.: That’s so neat. Does she have records now?
Amber H.: She does.
Gina T.: What kind of records does she have?
Amber H.: All sorts. I think her most recent one was Crystal Gayle.
Gina T.: Really?
Amber H.: Yes.
Gina T.: My goodness, she is an old soul.
Amber H.: She is an old soul.
Gina T.: Well, speaking of old souls, I noticed on your site, on your Facebook page that you’re a big Elvis fan.
Amber H.: Yes, I am.
Gina T.: I remember growing up, I loved Blue Hawaii. That was my favorite movie by him. I’m just curious, number one, while Elvis and what’s your favorite song and your favorite movie?
Amber H.: Beautiful. Why Elvis? Certainly, a values driven thing for me. It was a family thing. I think it got passed down to me from my dad. This is a connection that we have. Music has always always been healing for me to tap into the creative song has been super healing. Elvis is just passion. He’s passion reincarnate. He gets on stage and he is just true to who he is, and people are drawn to him.
Favorite song would probably be, If I Can Dream. Is that the name of the song, If I Can Dream?
Gina T.: Mm-hmm (affirmative) Okay.
Amber H.: Favorite movie would be tough, maybe Clambake.
Gina T.: Okay.
Amber H.: Or Viva Las Vegas?
Gina T.: Viva Las Vegas.
Amber H.: That’s a good one too.
Gina T.: That’s a good one. I have to say growing up I loved watching him on TV when I was a little girl. He really was, he was just so charismatic. I just thought that was really neat when I saw that about you. Well, if we were to play off the word harmony, what do you think it means to live a life in harmony?
Amber H.: I think, again, consistent with the ACT work that I do, I think helping folks find a way to bring some acceptance to their internal selves. I think we do a lot of detaching from that, or trying to make sense of that in ways that we put that in a box. I think living in harmony is tapping into those things and becoming friendly with the pieces of us that we want to detach from so that we can live a sustaining, meaningful, genuine life.
Gina T.: I really like that. Thank you for sharing that. Well, if someone wanted to reach out to you and access your services, how could they get in touch with you?
Amber H.: My website would be the best way. So, www.ajourneytowardhealing.com. I’m also on Facebook, Healing Journey Counseling, Instagram and also YouTube. I do just a little segments to keep people-
Gina T.: From the couch, right?
Amber H.: From the catch, yep. Little segments to talk about things that you may talk about and explore in therapy, keep people connected to the process between sessions, things like that.
Gina T.: Very cool. Well, it was really a pleasure to meet you Amber, thanks for visiting with us today.
Amber H.: You as well. Thank you.