Tuesday, January 20

Counseling by the Numbers

Here's a quiz: Who should get paid more: Your lawyer, or your counselor?

If you guessed "lawyer," buzzzzzzz.

Your lawyer spent less money, and less time, to become a lawyer than your counselor spent to become a counselor.

And every year, your counselor keeps spending more than your lawyer to stay in business.

Becoming a therapist in Washington State is SIGNIFICANTLY more expensive than becoming an attorney. Not only does it take three to four years longer to become a therapist than an attorney; in most cases, the actual annual cost is simply higher to maintain a practice.

You enjoy looking at numbers? Here's a chart!

We compare the costs of becoming an attorney (JD) in Washington State to the costs of becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) -- one of the eight credentialed categories of mental health practitioners in Washington. 

One-Time Costs Amortized Costs
Over Career
Expense Attorney Therapist    Attorney
 (20 years)
  (16 years)
Bachelor's in psych (1) (2)
Grad school (3) (4)
Internship (usually unpaid)
one summer
one year
Qualifying exam (5) (6)
Required post grad work (7)
Annual license registration (8) (9)

Annual continuing education (10)

Annual liability insurance (11) (12)

Property insurance/Annual average

Small office rent/Annual average

Other expenses: Rough average/year (13)

Total annual expenses (pre-taxes, travel, other expenses) (14)
Average cost per client hour (15)

1 Craven, J. & Jones, E. (2013). Best Majors for Law School.

2 Average annual cost: $22,826 x 4. From (2015). What's the Price Tag for a College Education?

3 Law School Cost Calculator, 2015-2016. (University of Washington's three-year program, at an annual fee increase of 2%, and including $18,573 annual cost of living).

4 Cost of Tuition, 2014-2015. Antioch University's four-year Marriage and Family Therapy program, at an annual fee increase of 2%, plus $18,573 annual cost of living.

5 Washington State Bar Exam, 2015.

6 Department of Health's LMFTA initial application and license fee ($241), plus AMFTRB national board exam fee ($295).

7 Marriage and Family Therapists must spend two years working under supervision following graduation. Many work as unpaid interns; others work under paid supervision, at an average cost of $100/hour for the 200 required hours of supervision.

8 WSBA annual registration fee.

9 AAMFT annual membership fee ($251) + Washington DOH annual license fee ($156).

10 Attorneys must earn 15 hours per year of continuing education; Marriage and Family Therapists must earn 18 hours per year of continuing education credits. Estimated cost per credit: $100.

11 Low-end insurance estimate.

12 Discounted fee with AAMFT association membership.

13 Bare-bones costs for accounting and bookkeeping, health insurance, business licenses, billing software, utilities, internet, office equipment, furnishings, software, janitorial, consumables (paper, ink, cleaning supplies, postage)

14 Those expenses for staffing, taxes, legal compliance, travel, full staffing, and other items can run into the tens of thousands, but they're an equal expense for both attorneys and counselors. If your counselor or lawyer has a receptionist and an office larger than a shoe box, expenses (and cost per hour) will double or triple.

15 For each hour an attorney or counselor spends with clients face-to-face, there is an average of 15 minutes of associated administrative work (documentation, billing, other record-keeping). In a 40-hour week, professionals have 32 available hours of client contact. At 32 hours/week, 50 weeks a year, there are 1600 hours in a working year, before continuing education, professional development, etc.

Monday, January 19

Angels Among Us

Yes, I'm a Seahawks fan. More specifically, I'm a fan of people who work hard, overcome adversity, demonstrate loyalty and brotherhood, who set a good example for kids, who acknowledge their teammates (and give credit to everyone who supports them), and who face down their trials.

Yep, Seahawks.

So this picture from yesterday's game brought a tear to my eye.

If you look carefully, you'll see there are four, not just three, Seahawks helping push Marshawn through that yellow Pack.

Sometimes you have no idea who's helping you, who's pushing for you, who's clearing a path for you, or who's rooting for your success.

But I do know there are angels on this earth, seen and unseen, and that each of us has the power to act as angels for other people.

Who's got your back? We've got your back.

* * *

One of the things about therapy is this: You don't have to be "broken" for counseling to help. Sometimes, just sharing your struggles (and every living person has struggles) with an uninvolved third party helps you get clarity, identify your resources (your "angels"), and find a new way of taking on adversity.

Every player on the team is talented, brilliant in their own way, and hard working.

But coaching is what turns players from talented individuals to championship teams.

* * *

There's more than one way to get coached. If they're on your side, friends can help. Family can help -- though often they're the actual source of struggles. And a good therapist can be a lifesaver.

But there's one Coach who never gives bad advice. A prayerful relationship with the Divine is often the key to getting your life back on track. Highly recommended. And the best way to recognize when angels are on your team.

* * *

If you're having trouble assembling your own team of angels, let us help. We've got your back. Allied Family Therapy is accepting new clients. Call us for an appointment. (425) 429-2230.

Wednesday, January 14

Over the Moon!

Lease signed, business licenses issued, insurance submitted, IRS notified, new offices about to be occupied. Pretty darned excited.

So...you want a tour? Of course you do!

Let's begin with the sign. Because you always begin with the sign. We're too excited to wait for the landlord to do it, so we'll just PicMonkey our name right onto the blank spot. (You'll have to click on these photos to see them in all their glory. And to read the editorial comments. Because what good's a tour without editorial comments?)

Now, back out to the street. C'mon. It's just a short walk. Ready? So, you're cruising up (or is it down?) Talbot Road, just south of Valley Medical Center, when suddenly, on the west side of the street you see...

Well, okay then. (Incidentally, if you leap off the bus at Valley Medical, you have to limp only one short block to get to our office, where you can sit in a comfy chair and we'll give you a nice glass of water. Or a cup of hot chocolate. Yeah. Hot chocolate. Definitely.)

So you ease on down the left side of the medical center, where you find a bounty of lovely parking spots, created just for you. Isn't this fun?

You dismount from your carriage, and find your way to our covered walkway. (Maybe we should call it a parkade. Or a mall. Or a plaza. Oh, that's a great word. Plaza.) In any event, it looks like this.

So now your heart's racing. You're approaching Suite 103. You can hardly contain your excitement! This may be one of the top five tours you've ever experienced! 

Slow down. Take a deep breath. There you go. Look. Pretty trees and bushes. You'll be fine.

Now a sense of calm comes over you as you see...the front door.

Oh, it's everything you dreamed for a front door. Handle. Lock. Glass. Hinges. It doesn't get any better than this.

You open the door. There's a hush as you encounter...the lobby. And what a lobby. Paneling. Floors. Some walls. No, there's no furniture. Not yet. But that's why the Good Lord gave you an imagination, right?

You turn to your left. And there, in all its glory: The reception area. Sure, it's stark raving naked. Today. But some day there'll be...a desk. And maybe a printer. And maybe...a receptionist.

To your right (confused, yet? Because if you're viewing this tour in a full-screen browser, it's to your left) there's a hallway.  A loooong hallway. With many doors.

That first door to your left? It's the office of your friendly neighborhood Certified Counselor. Author of this blog. Confuser of right and left. And payer of the rent.

Wanna look inside?

Yes, you do.

Because there's so much more to see. A bathroom. More offices. A kitchen. A group therapy room. A bigger bathroom. A secret hallway. And a really cool Hogwarts-esque storage area.

And you WILL get to see it all, when you come to our Open House next month. Where there'll be fresh paint. Furniture. Fixtures. Food. Fun. Maybe even some door prizes. Watch this space, Better yet, "Like" us and "Follow" us on Facebook. Or add your email address to that "follow by email" tool to the right. (Sorry, mobile users. You probably can't see it. You're stuck with our Facebook news feed. But at least you'll get an invitation to our Open House!) Either way, whether you provide us an email address, or stalk us on Facebook, we'll be able to tell you about our Open House and about future fun workshops and seminars.

You know you want to!

* * *

Have a friend who needs counseling? A teenager who needs to get off the couch and into a career or college? A mostly-perfect spouse who just doesn't hear you? Maybe it's time to make a counseling referral. Allied Family Therapy is accepting new clients. Hop over to our Contact page for half a dozen ways to get in touch with us today!

Thursday, January 8

The Saddest Picture Ever

Don't you sometimes want to just grab life by its cute little cheeks and gobble it up? Do 500 things at once?

There's just so much to DO! No, it's not just because I happen to live near Seattle (where we're surrounded by rain forest and desert, mountains and ocean, cities and woods, lakes and rivers and ponds). There is that, of course.

But this world is filled with libraries of books to read, and universities of classes to take, and continents of countries to visit, and billions of people to meet, and...Just...So...Much...Life! The music! The languages! The art! The poetry! The dancing! The stars! The flora! The fauna!
Who has time for sleep?

Such a short time on this earth. A hundred years. Hundred and twenty at the outside. So little time for lying on hot sand, making snow angels, taking a stroll through woody trails, floating on a summer lake, staying up late talking to a friend, tasting chocolate, smelling gardenias, snuggling with a baby, playing laser tag with a cat, or feeding a pack of teenagers.

Oh, what I could do with another hundred years! See more streets, more trails, more stars, more children, more friends, more books, more films, more oceans. Hear more music, more French, more laughter, more stories! Work more, love more, play more...

Isn't it exciting to think about all the food you've yet to eat, the beaches you'll still visit, the conversations you'll have, the friends you'll find? Today I rode four buses and a train, chatted with six strangers, and ate a weird sandwich. And I'm fairly sure I'll wake up tomorrow and have another adventure.

Or, I could toss it all and become this guy:

The least interesting man in the world.

Yikes. Is that an aluminum lawn chair?

This guy just dropped from boring to tragic.

* * *

Last night, my hubby showed me this hysterical video of Jimmy Fallon blowing his chance to date Nicole Kidman. It features sweatpants and backwards baseball cap and other pathetic signs of a failure to launch:

So, yeah. Baseball cap. Sweatpants. Moldy Chinese food. And the pièce de résistance: Adult man playing video games. He was one aluminum chair from permanent bachelorhood. (Incidentally, this is funnier the second viewing.)

* * *

When I hit the midpoint of my life, I came to a painful realization: I can't read all the books. There's not time. I'm halfway to dead, and I haven't yet read half the books. Not even half the English books. Not even half the English books, in genres I like, that were published in the second half of the 20th century. I've fallen so far behind!

So I had to make an executive decision. And I'm finding I can live with it. These days, books have three pages to keep my interest. If I lose interest, I quit. What a relief. I'm on to the next book. I've started applying the same rule to movies and music and lectures. When I stop caring about the main character, bam. When the song lyrics get too ugly, bam. When the lecture rambles, bam. Life's too short. There are compelling characters, beautiful songs, fascinating talks that I'll never get to. Can't waste a moment on "good enough." And can't watch television at all. Just can't fit it in.

* * *

People? People get a pass from me. People are never boring. They're all sorts of different things (even terrible things, at times), but never boring. When someone drones, I wonder why subjects that stupify me interest them. Maybe I'll redirect the conversation, interrupt to ask questions, or circle back to get clarity, but people are just endlessly fascinating.

Perhaps that's why this counseling thing is so compelling.

Today a caller to the Crisis Clinic needed help for her son's drug problem. I got all the standard information, found her some resources, and invited her to call back if she needed more help. We get these calls all the time.

Fifteen minutes later she did call back, and by coincidence, her call happened to route back to my phone.

I recognized her voice, and asked what had changed since our previous conversation. "Um, I should have told you this, but actually, he's suicidal," she said. "He needs help right away or I'm afraid he'll kill himself."

OK, then. The all-too-common drug problem dropped WAY down the priority list, and now we had to work out a plan to keep the son safe. See? People are never boring.

* * *

More importantly, people are also really good. For the most part. We all know a few people who are truly terrible. But most people are deeply, truly good.

Evidence: Wikipedia. Wikipedia is proof that the human race is generous, kind, helpful, intelligent, and...did I say generous? Tens of thousands of people coming together -- with strangers, with no possibility of reward -- to offer up the sum of their wisdom. For free. That's deeply good.

Exhibit B: MOOCs. Massive Open Online Courses. Major money-grubbing universities offering college- and high-school-level classes, online, free, to anyone who wants to learn. Deeply good.

Exhibit C: Mentors. Throughout my life, several good people have stepped up to mentor me, both in my education and in my work (Linda Hanby, I'm talking to you). And I'm endlessly grateful for their kindness and generosity. I pay it forward by mentoring teenagers. It's my happy place. I volunteer with youth programs, and when I run across a kid with talent and brains, I do everything I can to get that teenager into a good college, into programs that will broaden their lives, and on the right path to a happy adulthood. It's the most fun a grownup can have, mentoring other people. Gets you out of your own problems and turns the focus to others. Highly recommended. Share wisdom, find joy. Happiness may be just that easy!

Ah, what an exciting life this is!

* * *

Is life feeling less than joyful for you or a family member? Counseling may be the solution. Allied Family Therapy works with couples, teens, and individuals to find resources, new approaches, different options to make troubled lives happy. Call us at (425) 429-2230 for a free consultation.

Thursday, January 1

Resolved: Four Little Things

Sound the trumpets! We kept last year's New Year's resolution.

Our card box is nearly this nice.
Last year we bought an index card box and a pack of index cards (Thank you for existing, Dollar Tree), and each evening before bed, we'd all pause a moment and write down something we'd learned that day, something we'd accomplished, something that justified -- at least in a small way -- our consumption of oxygen for a day.

And in the end, we got this: 2014 -- A Year In A Box.

Every card feels like an accomplishment. And it feels astonishingly good to have concrete evidence of a goal achieved.

2015: A Life In A Book
Moleskine: Book of Life
For 2015, we've decided to move our box approach to a book: A fantastic little Moleskine daily planner, with index-card-sized pages for each day of 2015. And I'm looking forward to a new year, knowing we'll actually have a permanent record of this life that's tearing along at such a fast clip. 

* * *

And that's got me thinking about resolutions in years past. A few years ago I shattered my ankle just before Christmas -- and broke it so thoroughly, and recovery was so marginal, that I wondered if I'd be able to walk again. My resolution that year was to get out of my wheelchair. Several months later I was no closer to regaining my balance, until I met a trainer who gave me my life back, forced me to think about nutrition and health for the first time in my life, and even convinced me I was an athlete. (I detail that story in another blog: HundredRaw.com).

Other years I've made several major life changes (moving overseas, undertaking a college degree, resolving an unsatisfactory relationship, changing jobs, adopting a child) -- usually after months of fighting a gnawing sense of either longing or dissatisfaction. That still, small voice whispers, nags, nudges, and prompts until I finally respond in a way that breaks through the dam and releases a wave of new experiences.  

It's scary, surfing that wave. But it's also exhilarating and joyful and worth every moment. I have learned to love New Year's resolutions because they require me to face my life, resolve whatever's been nagging at me, and reset my course.

* * *

This year I listened to a talk by a very successful, accomplished individual who described the key to his own success: Four things. Each day he set for himself just four things to be accomplished. Fewer made him feel lazy; more felt overwhelming and unachievable. But four things? Anyone could do just four things! 

So this year, I'm buying myself a thick pad of sticky notes. And each morning, I'll set myself four goals for the day. Can't be a shopping list. Can't be a chore list. It's gotta be four things that will improve my family life, my community, my environment, my spiritual life, my intellectual life, my work life, my health. 

* * *

What makes resolutions keepable? How do people successfully get from New Year's Day enthusiasm through the March doldrums, the summer lull, the September distractions, and the Christmas crazies? An interesting study wondered whether people were more inclined to finish projects if they thought about 
a. how much they'd finished, or
b. how much they had left to do. 

We all do both these things, of course, but the researchers found that people who focused more on [guess the answer] were more likely to carry through to completion. What did you guess? The surprising answer was: b. People who watched the clock ticking down, the miles ahead, the number of pages to the end, were significantly more likely to finish their marathon, their dissertation, or their diet than those who spent more time contemplating how many minutes they'd worked, how many miles they'd run, how many pages they'd written.

Eye on the prize!
The take-home message? Face forward. Watch the finish line. Keep you eye on the prize. Don't Bask in the Beginning; Endure to the End

And, of course, have a wonderful, joyful, peaceful New Year!

* * *

Feeling stuck with unkept resolutions? Counseling provides a structured place for working through your swirling thoughts and for finding options, resources, and solutions. If you're feeling confused or angry or wounded or sad, if your relationships or resources aren't bringing you joy, resolve this year to get help from a counselor. Allied Family Therapy is taking new clients, and can work with your most difficult concerns. Give us a call at (425) 429-2230, and we'll discuss solutions that will work for you.