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New Year, New Location, and New Sliding-Scale Discounts

Dear Lancaster, the past year was a year of many transitions for Intersectional Life Counseling and Psychology!

Some of you have already begun attending sessions at our peaceful new location at 237 N. Prince Street! If you have not yet been to the new location, you may be glad to know that although we moved, we are still downtown and accessible.

Another change we are implementing is that for our 2020 rate update in February we are pleased to begin offering sliding-scale need-based fee discounts.

If you believe you might qualify for the discount you may apply to see what your rate would be. It’s a simple application form and any client or prospective client may apply. Please email us for the simple discount application form to see what your discount would be. (There are no obligations or mailing lists.)

(Note: if you are already an Open Path client, you’ll just fill out the sliding-scale discount application annually in Feb/March to maintain your Open Path status. We currently have a waiting list for new Open Path spots.)

Happy-New-Year-2020

Centering Marginalized Voices as Spiritual Practice

Image: Jennifer Hosler for Messenger

From Pastor Belita Mitchell and team, Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren:

Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren ‘Black Lives Matter’ Statement

 As followers of Jesus we stand in solidarity with our black brothers and sisters enduring racial violence and systemic oppression. We denounce anti-black racism resulting in police brutality, mass incarceration, and unjust legal systems that disproportionately harm black and brown people. We denounce the evil “principalities and powers” at work in our world that seek to kill, steal, and destroy people made in the image of God. 

As a congregation we commit to doing justice and peacemaking in the way of Jesus. For the times we as a church have been complacent about the suffering of others, we confess our complicity. By God’s grace we repent and courageously align ourselves with the Spirit’s activity and the Messiah’s reign on earth. And in obedience to God we seek to set things right where every valley is lifted up and every mountain is made low. Jesus teaches us how to struggle against oppression through his example of standing in solidarity with those who were considered ‘the least’ and ‘the last’ in his society. And because Jesus affirmed that poor people’s lives mattered, that Samaritans lives mattered, and the lives of those crucified by Rome mattered, we affirm that black and brown lives matter too, and are precious to God. 

As a congregation we commit to deepening our faithfulness to Jesus through holy listening, through intentional learning, and through discerning congregational public action. As a congregation we commit to creating intentional inter-generational space where the stories of our black and brown brothers and sisters are received with love. In line with God’s upside-down kingdom, we will encourage marginalized stories to be centered while inviting those in the dominant culture to step back and be slow to speak and quick to listen. Specifically, we will make space for this congregational practice immediately after we return to worshiping together in our building.

  • As a congregation we commit to deepening our understanding of the history and present systems of racism in the United States, as well as the complicity of the western church in the legacy of white supremacy. We will study the history, our present society, and the theological implications of racism and its ties to the church. Specifically, our congregation will begin with Jemar Tisby’s “Color of Compromise” video series. We will follow that up with ongoing learning. 
  • We will grow in our understanding of what it means to be an intentionally and actively anti-racist church. Finally, we commit to taking public action because we are called to do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. Just as Jesus spent most of his time out in the streets of Galilee serving and living in solidarity with the poor and vulnerable we too seek to take action that makes the Jesus story visible to those who have their backs against the wall.
  • Specifically, we commit to ongoing discernment as a congregation about what public actions, community partnerships, and organizing efforts in our neighborhood we will participate. We know that faith without works is dead and discipleship requires a love willing to respond to the suffering of others. We pray for a prophetic witness that pleases God and participates in seeing justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream. 

Harrisburg First Discernment Team & Pastor Belita Mitchell 

(Harrisburg First CoB is located on Hummel St in Harrisburg’s South Allison Hill neighborhood which is comprised of the largest concentration of low-income families between Philadelphia & Pittsburgh.) ~

You can watch Jemar Tisby’s “The Color of Compromise” series too!

 

“When we truly know justice, we will truly know peace.” ❤️

 

 

*Installments of the peace-building series can be found here:

Belita Mitchell

Juneteenth: “America can never be free until her people are free”

Yes, I used the exact same title as last year’s post. Because it’s still true and more salient than ever!

In this time of critical mass, we have an opportunity to make changes at every level. Governor Wolf just declared Juneteenth a state holiday.

Time to make Juneteenth a federal holiday!

Original Juneteenth order found in the National Archives:

Some ways to help others:

And some ways to help yourself. We need you alive and doing okay!

 

❤️

 

AntiRacism Links and Resources from Workshop

Includes videos we watched in the workshop, book lists, recommendations for action, materials for youth, and much more! Thank you all!

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The emotional impact of watching white people wake up to racism:

Medical professionals bias tiktok:

“Dear fellow White ladies” video:

White progressive backlash:

“This google doc was thoughtfully put together for white people and white parents. Read, teach your children, others, and more importantly yourselves. Do NOT rest on the laurels of black people and expect them to continue to do the work for you.”:

DC physician’s Detroit childhood Girl Scouts experience:

How to show support to Black colleagues:

For White academics:

Your Black colleagues aren’t okay:

“Dear White People: this is what we want you to do”:

“White folks wanting to help? Here’s your one freebie”:

Thread of reading list recommendations from Victoria Alexander:

The Anti-racist book list:

Book recommendations to share with young readers from Kathie MacIsaac:

Someone said I did a racism, now what?

What to say when someone says something racist or bigoted in everyday situations:

Image credit: Andrew M. Ibrahim MD, MSc @AndrewMIbrahim
Becoming Anti-Racist: Fear Zone, Learning Zone, Growth Zone

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Race Action Workshop Saturday 6/13

Saturday, 6/13, 10:00 am:

This workshop is aimed at helping White women (trans-inclusive, NB-inclusive) to understand and work on their own racism/ gain understanding of systemic racism. (Women of any race may attend, but Black and Brown women may find it remedial!)

Emphasis on movement perspective of connection, cooperation, safety, kindness, trust, and inclusion, rather than the western-masculine model of critical and exclusionary activism.

WHAT really is race?
WHY is race hard to talk about?
WHY is “White women” a charged term?
HOW does feminism fit in?
HOW can we heal racism?
WHAT can White women do to help?

Presented by Dr. Liz Yaelingh-Scoffins of Intersectional Life Counseling & Psychology

$25 (or request scholarship if needed)
BIPOC may attend for free using the code: BiPOC
20% of proceeds will be donated to the BLM cause (TBD).

Register Here: http://www.ombabycenter.com/race-action.html
Zoom link will be provided in a reminder e-mail prior to the workshop.

 

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Why Should White Women Teach White Women About Racism?

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(Comedian and National Treasure, Sarah Cooper)
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Sometimes people–invariably White people–question why I should be the one to teach anti-racism to other White people. For the most part, I believe this is a good-faith question brought by those with good intention regarding unpacking their own racism.
However, what it usually tells me is the questioner has already not been listening to BIPoC people at all. If they had, they would have already heard the following words hundreds of times.
Not every one of the following posts is from a Black person, but many are.
Read them now and understand why.
Read every one!

Regarding those last few tweets, it’s fairly common to see White people wanting to be absolved of guilt by having the forgiveness or approval of a Black person or people.
However, this is merely placing more emotional labor and weight on those who are already suffering from oppression, to make yourself feel lighter.
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Working through and unlearning our conditioning into racism is hard work, sometimes painful, and always a lifelong process. You can’t authentically work on your own psychosocial dynamics if your motive is to “look better” to someone else or gain their approval.

Furthermore, no matter how hard we work on it, no one owes you or me absolution. That’s not how this works. Become better because it’s the right thing to do and will make society better for all of us.

(And lastly, why don’t you know any Black women?)

PS: Whatever you do, resist the urge to do a “not all White People,” –no really, do not do a “not all White People.”

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Know Justice, Know Peace

2020: Not Done With Us Yet

Look at this: future universities will have entire specializations in the study of the 2020s.

Turbulent times with great disparity in who is affected are likely to lead to social unrest. Medically, financially, socially, emotionally, and legally, marginalized groups have been dealt an incredibly disproportionate blow by the events of this year.

The killing of George Floyd was a tipping point. We all have a choice now. Will you contribute to peace? How are you using your voice?

How can I contribute to peace?

By contributing to justice. By combating injustice. By helping when you can help. By educating yourself. By understanding the context in which we all–not just any one of us–live. By helping others to understand as well.

Reverend Belita Mitchell (First Church of the Brethren in Harrisburg) on peace-building in 2014.  First video in a series*.
“How are justice and peace related in your thinking or your experience?” (5:00)

If you are someone in a dominant social group, there is no need to burn or break anything to make yourself heard. Authorities and media attend well to peaceful protests from White people.

2020 Minneapolis Anabaptists

In fact, you don’t even need to take to the streets. Just speaking up when you hear unjust or racist words spoken is incredibly helpful. (Here is a very helpful and practical list of ways to speak up against bigotry in many settings.)

When we truly know justice, we will truly know peace. ❤️

*Additional installments of this series can be found here:

Belita Mitchell

Are You Old Enough to Remember the Idealism?

I’ve heard that a number of you played roles in or watched Godspell as a musical number at your youth groups or summer camps. I never did. But I did see the movie as a child and we had the vinyl album at home, which I’m pretty sure I wore out memorizing the songs.

At the time this movie came out it was considered very hippie and almost heretical, though by today’s standards it may seem pretty tame.

Have you ever really listened to the words, though? Do you get them?

When wilt thou save the people,
Oh, God of Mercy, when?
The people, Lord, the people,
Not thrones and crowns but men!
Flowers of thy heart, O God, are they.
Let them not pass, like weeds, away.
Their heritage a sunless day,
God save the people!
Shall crime bring crime forever,
Strength aiding still the strong?
Is it thy will, O Father,
That men shall toil for wrong?
‘NO!’ say thy mountains,
‘NO!’ say thy skies.
Man’s clouded sun shall brightly rise,
And songs be heard instead of sighs.
God save the people!
When wilt thou save the people,
Oh, God of Mercy, when?
The people, Lord, the people,
Not thrones and crowns but men!
God save the people, for thine they are,
Thy children, as thy…

 

❤️

 

Black Moms Are Grieving; Are You Listening?

A widespread crisis is a risk to all, but it will always have worse effects on those who are in any marginalized group. Tynisa Walker has a son who is 15 and autistic. She fears for him daily, but especially now that there is unrest. She is pleading for his life.

Maya Richardson has some good mental health recommendations for Black people, especially Black youth who may be newly exposed to the threats and dangers of living in this society:

If you are White and you don’t know where to start with understanding race issues in America, you can start here: Someone Said I Did A Racism; Now What? A Guide

You might also consider watching When They See Us, currently available on Netflix.

❤️

Hands Antiracism 3

Managing Vicarious Trauma Across Professions

Archivist, oral historian, and genocide scholar Tim Hensley discusses his approach to managing traumatic material in the workplace:

Most caregiving and reporting professionals (health care providers, reporters, first responders, clergy, social workers, legal aid, and many more) interact directly or indirectly with the traumatic experiences of others at some point in our careers. But events of the past few months have increased this likelihood for all of us, in some cases with the force of a fire hose.

Furthermore, we are all dealing with our own increased stress and trauma, which leaves us with less bandwidth available to absorb the anguish of others.

In order for you to stay afloat and continue your trauma-oriented work, it is necessary to limit your amount of exposure to your carrying capacity.

This excerpt shows Tim’s method, which is organized, structured, and visual:

 


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While I personally don’t categorize sessions and activities visually in the  way Tim does, I do always maintain an idea of which sessions and activities are likely to contain material and experiences that are heavier to carry, and I spread my scheduling out in a similar way across a given week.

If you are in a caregiving or reporting profession, you may already be using a similar approach, whether explicitly or intuitively. If not, you might wish to examine your own process and how it is affecting you.

How can you know when it’s too much to carry? You have to notice how you’re feeling! This sounds incredibly simple, and yet many of us frequently push past our actual capacity into burnout territory. This can lead to illness, injury, depression, suicidality, and other life-disrupting outcomes. You may think it’s okay to push on–until it’s suddenly not.

It’s a case of “simple but not easy,” especially if you have always been taught to push through physical or mental discomfort in order to complete tasks. It’s considerably worse if you’ve always been taught you must put your own needs dead last after others’ needs.

Now is the time to de-condition that harmful approach!

You have gone beyond your carrying capacity if you are feeling:

  • Exhausted
  • Irritable
  • Weepy
  • Resentful
  • Stress-headachey
  • Pessimistic
  • Hopeless
  • Angry
  • Anxious
  • Disconnected
  • Dissociated
  • Craving substances

Once you are able to determine which pieces of your work tend to make these kinds of symptoms worse, that is when you can plan how to schedule your heaviest interactions such that you can recover in between.

Keep in mind, what may be light for someone else may sink you, and vice versa. This is never about what you “should” be able to carry–it’s about how it actually affects you in practice. No one can tell someone else what they “should” be able to bear.

Which brings me to the next difficulty for many: what if you are not the one doing the scheduling? What if the fire hose is never turned off? This is a physically and emotionally dangerous situation. It means that you’re in an environment that does not allow you to protect yourself, recover from injury, steward your health. If you are able to seriously discuss the issue with someone in charge, that may be helpful. But if they are dismissive, it is likely a situation that will be harmful to you in the long or not-so-long run.

What does it mean to recover in between? Again, this sounds simple but it is not always easy. You do things that help you feel better!

  • Sleep! And more sleep!
  • Basic exercise: walking, biking, yard work
  • Adequate nutrition
  • Enjoyable “vegging”
  • Creative outlet: music, gardening, knitting, hobby electronics, baking
  • And most important of all: someone supportive to tell about your experiences

This does not mean you must violate confidentiality or your HIPAA obligations or the sanctity of the confessional. It means to have someone with whom you can exchange understanding of how hard it is to do what you do, and express honestly how it’s affecting you. This may be a coworker ally,  spouse, friend, clergy, or therapist. But it’s very important and a big part of lightening the heaviness.

If you are not used to taking care of yourself “like you matter,” it is time to start practicing that skill right now, so you do not fall into burnout and illness.

Remember, you can’t give to others from an empty well! ❤

 

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About Those “Pandemic Pounds”

In the past few weeks, I’ve seen an increase in people discussing and writing about having gained weight since the event of the pandemic. Many of us have turned a corner from “acute crisis” to “settling in for the long haul,” and we’re taking stock now. We’ve also recently heard some public figures make critical remarks and references to others’ weight, which has only increased pressure on everyone who already struggles with body image or who experiences criticism about their bodies.

Just so you know, this is not a post about how to lose weight. This is a post about some steps to take if you are thinking about losing weight. This is because the first thing we often jump to when feeling unhappy about our bodies is restricting food intake (“dieting”). But that’s often literally the last thing to do! So please remember to consider these other factors FIRST before jumping to food restriction.

Sleep

Sleep is often one of the biggest factors in weight changes. Have you been struggling with sleep the past few months? Many people have, whether because of anxiety, depression, or change in routine. Sleep deprivation can change hormones: it reduces leptin and increases ghrelin, which can dramatically disrupt both appetite and metabolism. This can mean experiencing intense cravings and processing fuel differently.

Sleep deprivation also interferes with executive function, which means both cognitive and emotional processes are harder to manage. That can mean it’s hard to plan for and prepare the food you’d like to eat. It can also mean increased emotional eating, or in some cases loss of appetite because of anxiety or depression.

So first of all, make sure to prioritize sleeping enough and sleeping regularly before addressing your eating.

Exercise

After getting your sleep on track, next consider how you’ve been exercising (or not!)

Whether you’re an essential worker who’s been stressed and working extra hours, or you’ve been working from home, or you’ve been unemployed and out of your normal routine, your body needs the stress outlet of some kind of movement.

Often when people are worried about weight, they focus on exercise as a method of “burning calories.” There are a lot of good reasons to exercise, but “burning calories” is usually an unhealthy way to approach exercise. It’s often an approach that is self-punishing (“I must do an unpleasant activity because of my size!”) or contains elements of bargaining or paying for eating (“I can eat this food I like if I ‘pay’ for it by exercising!”) You don’t have to “pay” for eating with exercise.

A healthy exercise approach is to focus on improving heart function, improving lung capacity, gaining flexibility, metabolizing cortisol to decrease anxiety and regulate sleep, and attenuating depression. In other words, exercise to improve your physical and mental health. Not as a way to neutralize eating.

Nutrition

If you are not satisfied with the overall nutritional balance of foods you are eating, then you are certainly allowed to modify what you’re eating. But when changing your diet, it is important to remember that the goal is to first ADD components you believe you are not getting enough of. Maybe you feel you’re not getting enough leafy greens, or enough legumes, or protein, or calcium. Search out foods that will help to add those elements to the overall balance of your diet! It is acceptable to still eat other foods for enjoyment.

It can be hard to prioritize “adding in” foods, partly because we are constantly bombarded by puritanical, perfectionistic messages that we should be removing or restricting foods.

Checking in with Your Emotional Side

So you’ve stabilized your sleep, you’ve improved your relationship with exercise, you’re getting a better balance of the nutrients you need, and maybe that’s enough! Maybe you’re back to feeling okay!

–Or, maybe you still feel you’re eating more than you want to, or more than you think you “should.” What then? You’re doing all the “right stuff!” Why are you still eating more! Well, this is the hard part, as the emotional component of any behavior change usually is.

Whenever a behavior is difficult to change, there is usually some part of you that is using the behavior to feel okay. To feel safe, comforted, entertained, loved, awake, valued, to feel pleasure. Eating is such an emotionally layered action. We are not simply input/output mechanisms for fuel and activity.

What emotional need has food been fulfilling for you while you’ve been dealing with stress? Until you can find another satisfactory way to fulfill that emotional need, you will continue to use eating behavior as an emotional tool. No amount of calorie tracking, substitute sweeteners, or rigid meal-planning will sustainably alter that dynamic.

Something to keep in mind is that you can’t fool yourself about your own motives. What I mean by this is, you may be saying to others or to yourself, “I’m doing this for my own good! I need to restrict my food for my health!” but meanwhile there is part of you thinking “I’m going to restrict food because I should be punished [for existing, for taking up space, for using any resources, for having the “wrong” appearance].”  Or maybe there is a part telling you that it’s not okay to be fat, or maybe it’s calling yourself names.

Guess what? Until you can keep that part of you from bullying the part that is using food to feel better, it will only make things worse for all parts of you.

Ironically, the bullying part needs patience and tenderness to change, too. That bully part is usually trying to protect you from the criticism of important others. “If I criticize me first, then I won’t get criticism from others.” Let the bullying part of you know that you truly appreciate the protection, but that it’s not necessary any longer. You don’t need it to call you names or harass you.

When you are able to pacify the bullying part, then you will be able to more clearly hear the part using food as an emotional tool.

If that part of you is using food for comfort or safety, is there something else you can use sometimes to feel comforted or safe? If that part is using food to feel loved or valued, can you find some other ways to remind yourself you are loved and valuable? If that part has been using food to quell boredom, can it tell you some other things that might help you feel interested and alive?

Once you have examined the emotional underpinnings of your eating habits and your body image, then you can find more acceptance for yourself, and you can choose whether you want to change your behaviors. But in the meanwhile, remember that this body has carried you, and helped you survive and overcome everything that you have lived through so far. It deserves gratitude and care from you! And so do you, yourself.  ❤

The article linked below has more discussion about an emotionally balanced approach to eating:

Intersectional Life Counseling and Psychology offers remote video sessions for PA residents, as well as sliding-scale rates from $70. Please EMAIL if you would like to schedule or have any questions!