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Interview with Mental Health Counselor, Melissa Scott

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1. What are some of the more common reasons people seek your counsel? What is the most common age range/life season (ie, young adult, middle age, senior, etc)?

I work primarily with women. Most of my clients are in the early to middle years of adulthood. My clients come to see me for any number of reasons: from depression and anxiety, to eating disorders, to grief and loss, to assistance with managing diagnoses like ADHD. While the presenting problems vary, I see many things that are common to almost all my clients. For example, many women struggle with feeling “good enough.” Many of my clients also have difficulty trusting themselves to make the right decisions. A lot of my work centers on empowerment of the client to trust themselves and their intuition, regardless of the presenting problem.

2. Do you think the incidence of depression and/or anxiety has increased over the past 10 or 20 years? If so, what might you attribute this change to?

I think there has definitely been an increase in anxiety and depression in the last two decades. I attribute this to many things. Our lives are increasingly fast-paced. In the workplace and at home, we’re increasingly expected to take on more responsibilities. Our brains just aren’t wired for that kind of multi-tasking, so we all end up feeling inadequate when we can’t meet these unrealistic expectations.

Also, we’re more and more isolated from each other. Social networks and technological communication give us this false sense of social interaction, but it’s no substitute for genuine, face-to-face communication with each other. I think, as a society, we’re forgetting how to reach out for one another. That scares me, because it leads to a society of people with no real support system to fall back on, despite having hundreds of Facebook friends.

3. You specialize in Parenting Concerns. What are some common issues parents will address during the raising of their children and how can they be prevented and/or treated?

Almost all parents struggle with the question, “Am I good enough?” Most of my work with parents is teaching them to trust their instincts, while simultaneously learning when to reach out for assistance or more education on effective parenting. Many parents also struggle to find balance in their lives. They believe they’re supposed to devote 110% of their time and energy to parenting, which leaves them exhausted and burnt out. I try to show parents the value of having interests and a life outside the home. Having that outlet is energizing and allows them to return to their parenting duties refreshed and recharged. My advice to parents is to take a break sometimes, for your sake and your kids’ sake!

I also see more and more parents whose children have diagnoses like ADHD or an Autism Spectrum Disorder. These diagnoses can be hard on parents. They question whether they could have done something to prevent the diagnosis, or they think they should be able to handle a child with a disability all by themselves. I encourage parents to educate themselves about their child’s diagnosis and to find support groups where they can connect with other parents. Support groups are pretty amazing, because they help the parents realize that they’re not the only ones dealing with these issues.

4. You also specialize in working with Body Image Disorders. What are some examples of these and how can having these issues affect the sufferer’s relationships?

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Body image is comprised of three things: how you see yourself and your own body, how you feel in and about your body, and how you believe others perceive you. Disorders of body image take many forms, but they all have certain key factors in common. First, the client feels inherently unworthy or flawed. Second, they feel disconnected from their bodily experiences. Third, they often feel out of control in some way, and they take that out on their bodies; whether they’re starving themselves, binging, or over-exercising, they client is trying to find a sense of control in an uncertain environment.

These types of disorders have huge impacts on the client’s relationships. They may be so preoccupied by their body obsession that they undermine their relationships. Or they might need constant reassurance that they’re attractive or good enough, which can also strain relationships. Many times, due to a belief that they’re not worthy of love, they make self-destructive choices or push others away.

5. What 3 tips would you give to someone looking for personal improvement and fulfillment?

First, breathe. This sounds simple enough, but too many of us spend so much time rushing around that we forget to stop and breathe. When we take time to pause and re-center, we are better able to assess our own needs and desires. We can’t make any changes until we know what it is that needs to be changed.

Second, focus on one area of change at a time. Most people who try to make sweeping changes in every area of their lives get overwhelmed, then give up, and end up reverting back to their old habit. Breaking down change into manageable pieces makes it far less overwhelming.

Third, get help. Nobody can go through life completely alone, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s from family, friends, a religious leader, or a professional—such as a therapist—find the kind of help that feels right for you. Having a supportive network can make all the difference in getting you to the kind of life you dream of having.

About Melissa Scott: MScottCounseling.com

Melissa is a counselor practicing in the Southside neighborhood of Birmingham, AL. She specializes in working with women experiencing everything from depression and anxiety to eating disorders to work stress and career transition. Her approach is client-centered, supportive, and focused on your personal growth. She received her master’s degree in Community/Agency Counseling from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2009. She has worked in a variety of clinical, community, and educational settings in the Birmingham area.

While completing her master’s degree, she won the award for Outstanding Student in the Counselor Education Program (2008-2009) and served as president of Chi Sigma Iota counseling honors society. She is an active member of the Alabama Counseling Association and the American Counseling Association. She is also the current president of the Association for LGBT Issues in Counseling in Alabama and is a member of the Alabama Mental Health Counselors Association. She regularly attends workshops and other continuing education events so she can continue to provide quality and cutting edge counseling services. In addition to being a counselor, she is also a yoga teacher. As a yoga teacher, She has a deep understanding of the mind-body connection and how mental health concerns can affect overall health.

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