How to Care for Your Mental Health in Retirement

Mature man sitting at desk

Most people who have full-time careers look forward to the day that they can retire. Reaching that milestone is certainly an accomplishment and something to be celebrated. However, the transition into retirement is a major life change, and like any change, it can present mental and emotional challenges. At our mental health clinic, we encourage those approaching retirement age to give some thought to steps they can take to stay happy, healthy and well-adjusted as they advance into this new phase of life.

Tips for Making the Move Into Retirement

For most people, the number one concern as their chosen retirement date approaches is whether they will have enough money to take care of their physical needs after they stop working. That is an important determination to make. However, it is also crucial to think about how you will address your mental and emotional needs. Below are 10 proven tips for increasing overall well-being in retirement.

  1. Decide what you want out of retirement. Do you want to travel extensively? Spend most of your time with family? Start a second career? Having a goal can keep you challenged and focused, and both are good for your mental health.
  2. Do the math. As noted above, there should be more to retirement than simple survival. If you can, be sure you have the funds you need to support an enjoyable lifestyle.
  3. Confirm your plans with your partner, if you have one. Happiness starts at home. If your partner isn’t on board with your approach to retirement, it can be a stressful situation.
  4. Pick your retirement date and stick to it. Whether out of a sense of obligation to keep working or a fear of what comes next, it’s easy to put your retirement on hold indefinitely. Unfortunately, doing so may leave you feeling frustrated and unfulfilled.
  5. Tend to your physical health. Do your best to stay healthy. Medical concerns – especially about conditions that could have been avoided – can adversely affect your mental health.
  6. Consider part-time employment or volunteer work. Having endless days with no obligations may sound like a dream come true. However, most people find that they are happier when they have some recurring items on their calendar and are making a contribution to society in some form. A sense of purpose is key to happiness.
  7. Stay connected with old friends and ideally make some new ones. The love and support you feel when you spend time with people you care about is good for your mental health. Making new acquaintances is also good for your wellbeing and provides some variety.
  8. Maintain a schedule. Even if you aren’t working or volunteering, it is a good idea to stick to a schedule to some degree. Committing to tasks like gardening every other morning for an hour and walking the dog daily in the afternoon provides a healthful lifestyle.
  9. Spend time with family regularly. If you live near your children or grandchildren, make time to see them on a regular basis. Even if you or they only have time for short visits, maintaining those relationships is very important.
  10. Pursue a new hobby or interest. Learning new things takes on a whole new feeling when you aren’t pressed for time and can relax and immerse yourself in the activity.

Putting the Shine on Your Golden Years

Even though you’ve stopped working, a happy, healthful life does require some work. Make a plan for how you will care for your mental health after retirement and you will get much more enjoyment out of the next chapter of your life.

If you are facing mental health challenges before or after you retire, you can connect with our mental health clinic at communityreachcenter.org or contact us by phone at 303-853-3500 to learn more about our services, and please have a look at our array of Senior Reach services located on our website. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Social Media and Mental Health: Tips on Setting Boundaries

Woman typing on computer

Social media platforms can be helpful for keeping in touch with family and friends. Seeing photos and videos of events you couldn’t attend or major life changes can make you feel more connected and up to date. However, social media use, especially excessive use, has its negative side as well. At our mental health center in the Denver area, we encourage the people we work with to set safe and healthy boundaries regarding the use of social media.

How Social Media can Hurt Your Mental Health

For all its positive benefits, social media can cause harm if not used properly. For example, social media use can:

  • Be addictive. For some people, social media use reaches a level where it has many of the characteristics of addiction, including that they are mentally preoccupied with it, they forego other life experiences to use it, they hide or downplay their use, and they use it to produce a mood alteration that they crave.
  • Decrease truly social behavior. While a person may have a large number of “friends” on social media, the hours required to maintain those online relationships will often cut into the amount of time spent with people in real-life settings.
  • Promote comparison. Frequently or continually comparing yourself to others is unhealthy. However, getting updates on all the fun things that your social media connections are doing tends to encourage that kind of behavior and the inevitable envy and jealousy.
  • Increase sadness and depression. There is growing evidence that social media use, which we believe will make us happy, can actually increase sadness, anxiety and depression.

5 Strategies for Setting Social Media Boundaries

Even when the intent of a social media platform is positive, excessive use can have a negative impact on mental health. Below are some ways to set boundaries.

  1. Give yourself permission to unplug. Checking social media can start to feel like a requirement. However, the reality is you have the right and the ability to choose when and how often you use it (or whether you use it at all). Simply acknowledging that fact can be very empowering.
  2. Set time limits. What’s a reasonable amount of time to spend on social media each day? Two hours? An hour? Thirty minutes? You have to decide. But once you choose a time limit, commit to sticking to it. Not only does that help you today, it also gives you a good baseline if you choose to cut back on social media at some point in the future.
  3. Cut ties with negative people and organizations. If interacting with or reading posts from a person or group doesn’t make you happy, but instead makes your blood boil, cut ties with them. It may feel good to vent after being fired up by their statements, but in the long term, that relationship is doing more harm than good for your mental health.
  4. Only contribute in a positive way. Lashing out at others or promoting negative thoughts or ideas do not just harm the target of your posts, it hurts you as well. The age-old advice that “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” is very relevant with social media. Even if you are speaking out against something, you can do so in a positive way by offering alternatives rather than criticism. And sometimes prefacing with something like “I have another perspective” can prevent discussions from becoming adversarial.
  5. Provide and seek clarity in your communications. Social media doesn’t offer the physical cues we typically use to understand people. Consequently, a message where no offense was intended can easily be misinterpreted, and a negative reply can then create an escalation of tension that didn’t have to occur. Be as clear as you can in your communications, and if you feel a comment directed at you was negative in some way, politely ask for clarification. A question such as, “I took your comment to mean this… Did I have that right?” can help keep a conversation from spiraling into negativity.

Making Your Mental Health a Priority

The key to proper social media use is continually assessing how it is affecting your mental and emotional health. If your interactions are not encouraging and uplifting, you need to make a change. To learn more about our mental health center, visit communityreachcenter.org or contact us by phone at 303-853-3500. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Leading Denver Mental Health Center Says Enjoying ‘Recess’ Helps You Stay Centered

Colleagues walking outside

To say that the world today can be hectic or chaotic at times would be an understatement. Unfortunately, many adults have lost touch with one of the best tools for achieving or maintaining a sense of calmness and of being “centered.” That tool is play. Like adults, children face a number of stressors in their lives. They naturally turn to play as a way to release tension and temporarily free their mind of worries and concerns. However, since our adult daily lives are so consumed with work, family responsibilities and obligations that others rely on us to handle, making time for play isn’t as reflexive for adults as it is for children. Therefore, we need to make intentional choices to incorporate play into our routines.

The Many Benefits of Play

Ask any child what the best part of their school day is and they will almost certainly say, “Recess!” Whether you can work it into your schedule regularly or on an “as time permits” basis, taking a recess can be something that you, too, eagerly anticipate and from which you derive a variety of benefits, including:

  • Stress relief. True childlike play, away from your work, laptop and smartphone, can be an excellent way to shed your mental and emotional burdens for a few minutes.
  • Improved cognitive function and creativity. Adults who engage in playful activities often find that they have the unintended benefit of helping them think more clearly and creatively at work and elsewhere.
  • Increased energy. Even a brief midday play session can have a very positive impact on your energy level when you turn your attention to afternoon tasks.
  • Improved relationships. Nothing helps build or repair relationships like sharing laughs while playing games or enjoying adventures with one another.
  • Emotional healing. Not only is play a great way to relieve stress, it can help you release and move beyond emotional pains.
  • Improved teamwork. Many playful activities involve teamwork, a skill that can be diminished or lost for adults in our competitive culture. Reconnecting with the joy of shared victory can have a positive impact on many areas of life.

The Five-Minute Recess

Getting away from your tasks and your To Do list for 30-minutes or more can be very invigorating. However, when that’s not possible, even five minutes of “play” can be helpful. Having some interesting and engaging toys close at hand in your work environment (whether that is outside the home or at home) and allowing yourself to become completely engrossed in them for a few minutes here and there is a healthy habit to develop.

We know that play can certainly be a centering influence. Please keep it in mind. And if you have concerns about your mental health or a loved one, we are happy to talk with you and help with any counseling services. Get more information on our metro Denver mental health centers at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month with the Theme “Fitness #4Mind4Body”

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, also known as Mental Health Month. The observance was founded in 1949 by an organization called Mental Health America. Along with providers of mental health services around the U.S., Mental Health America shares the message that the issues around mental health and mental illness affect us all.

This year’s theme is “Fitness #4Mind4Body.” The idea is that mental health is affected by many physical factors including diet and nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress, and that positive changes can be made in all those areas.

Risk Factors for Mental Illness

Another of the important messages that is shared every year during Mental Health Awareness Month is that while mental illness can strike anyone, various factors increase a person’s risk. They include:

  • Genetics
  • Pregnancy and birth problems
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Family history of addiction
  • Personal history of abuse
  • Head trauma
  • Certain medical conditions including thyroid disorders
  • Lack of a support system
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Dysfunctional family dynamics
  • Involvement in negative peer groups
  • Homelessness
  • Learning disorders
  • Smoking

Knowing what these risk factors are can be helpful in different ways. For risk factors that can be changed, awareness is the first step in turning them into protective factors (see below). For risk factors that can’t be changed, such as family history, the knowledge that a person is more disposed to developing mental illness can help family and friends be more alert to recommend or arrange for mental health services if mental illness does develop.

Protective Factors for Mental Health

During Mental Health Awareness Month, participating organizations emphasize the importance of factors that can help protect people from mental illness and promote mental health and wellness. They include:

  • Genetics
  • Presence of a support network
  • Willingness and opportunity to discuss problems with friends, family and mental health professionals
  • Strong ties with immediate and extended family
  • Healthy expectations for school/work performance and life in general
  • Involvement in positive peer groups
  • Involvement in community activities Good physical health habits
  • Positive influence from religious or spiritual traditions

The encouraging thing about protective factors is that most of them involve choice, which means they can be initiated or amplified to provide great protection from mental illness. They can also have a positive impact even after a mental illness has developed.

Ending the Stigma of Mental Illness

Another important benefit of Mental Health Awareness Month is that the attention it brings to mental health issues helps to end the stigma of mental illness. Informational campaigns throughout the month provide strategies for eliminating the feelings of shame too often associated with mental health issues, making it easier for everyone to talk about these conditions.

It will be better for the individuals experiencing mental illness, and society as a whole, when it is universally understood that mental illness is no different than physical illness. Both types of conditions have a mix of known and unknown causes, treatments that are more effective in some cases than in others and a wide range of potential outcomes. And, all physical and mental health challenges are improved by compassion.

If you are in need of our mental health services, contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to learn more about our services. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

How Exercise Helps You Stay Centered

There are many definitions of what it means to be “centered,” but most contain elements of feeling calm, relaxed and confident. In general, it is a very positive state that can help us get the most out of good times and better navigate challenging times. So that’s what the term means, but as we tell people at our mental health center, there are as many ways to achieve that state as there are ways to talk about. One that many people find particularly helpful is exercise.

Your Unique Workout

The first thing to point out in talking about the mental health benefits of exercise is that every person’s “workout” is different. The type and amount of exercise that someone in their 20s can perform is probably much different than someone in their 60s. The point is that you don’t have to run 10 miles to achieve a more centered state. As long as you are moving to whatever degree your age and fitness level allow, exercise will be helpful.

How a Good Workout Can Change Your Perspective

Everyone from psychologists to physicians to exercise physiologists have studied the effect that a good workout has on the body, and there is agreement across the board: exercise can help you keep both your positive and negative experiences in perspective. Here are just some of the ways:

Elevated mood

Being centered doesn’t necessarily mean being happy. But, taking steps (literally) to support a more positive mood can help keep negative emotions from throwing you off balance. And the benefit is fairly immediate. Often within 10 minutes after moderate exercise, you will feel a lift.

Improved cognitive function

It can feel very jarring to realize you’ve forgotten something important like an appointment, a person’s name, etc. Exercise has been shown to help keep the brain healthy by preventing or slowing degeneration. The resulting confidence can leave a person feeling grounded and resilient.

Decreased fight-or-flight sensitivity

The physiological and emotional changes that take place when what’s known as our “fight-or-flight” reaction is triggered are normal. They evolved to help us challenge or flee threats. Some people have a heightened sensitivity to those changes that produce fear and anxiety. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce that sensitivity, allowing a person to be more alert as needed while still being calm and centered.

Increased self-esteem

The simple act of making a commitment to exercise regularly and then following through on that promise can be very rewarding. Whether you do a vigorous cross-training program or go for a daily walk around the block, sticking with it in good times and bad times can be a way of maintaining an important sense of control over your circumstances.

Take the First Step

One of the perplexing things about exercise is that even people who have experienced its many benefits can be reluctant to get started on any particular day. We know we’ll feel great when we finish a workout (and for hours or days after), but yet we drag our feet.

The best way—and sometimes the only way—to beat that sense of inertia is simply to start moving. For example, if you intend to go for a run, don’t envision the whole process, especially those first few minutes when your body is adjusting to the exertion. Just say to yourself, “I’m going to change into my running clothes right now.” Then, “I’m going to put on my shoes.” Before you know it, knocking off these easy initial steps has given you the momentum to head out the door.

Helping Denver-Area Residents Stay Centered

Guidance and support from a skilled counselor can be another important resource in your efforts to secure good mental health. Contact our mental health center online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to learn more about our services. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

70th Annual World Health Day is April 7; Benefits of Health Homes

The vision of the World Health Organization (WHO) is that “all people should be able to realize their right to the highest possible level of health.” That includes both physical health care from a hospital or doctor’s office and mental health care from a mental health clinic.

As part of its mission, WHO sponsors World Health Day annually on April 7 to increase awareness about important health topics. This year’s theme is “Universal health coverage: everyone, everywhere.” By organizing and coordinating international, regional and local events, WHO will be sharing information and promoting the slogan “Health For All” and the #HealthForAll hashtag.

Some of the eye-opening details from its Universal Health Coverage Fact Sheet that WHO will be making people aware of include:

  • At least half of the world’s population still do not have full coverage of essential health services.
  • About 100 million people are still being pushed into “extreme poverty” (living on $1.90 or less a day) because they have to pay for health care.
  • Over 800 million people (almost 12 percent of the world’s population) spent at least 10 percent of their household budgets to pay for health care.
  • All UN Member States have agreed to try to achieve universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.

While many countries are making progress toward the goal of universal health care, it is important that all countries strive to increase the pace of change and also commit to maintaining improvements as they are made.

What is a Health Home?

One of the ways that healthcare can be improved is through the concept of what is called a “health home.” Not a location, a health home is a care model that emphasizes a holistic approach to health and wellness. The characteristics of a health home philosophy are that it is team-based, comprehensive, integrated across physical and mental healthcare disciplines, accessible and focused on safety and quality.

The health home philosophy is widely accepted and helps providers deliver excellent, comprehensive care that addresses all challenges that a person faces. In this way, situations are prevented where certain health issues are resolved but one or more lingering problems produces ongoing consequences and can even cause the return of issues previously resolved.

For example, consider a person who has both high blood pressure and anxiety. Having a physician treat the high blood pressure but leave the anxiety unchecked does not provide the best possible outcome. In fact, while treating the physical causes of the high blood pressure might resolve it somewhat, the untreated mental health issue can continue to promote hypertension. With the health home approach, both conditions are addressed, which tends to produce better outcomes in both cases.

CRC and the Health Home Model

Community Reach Center embraces the health home philosophy. In particular, the center has a health clinic inside the Commerce City mental health center. This makes it easier for patients to see the appropriate care providers if they face multiple physical and/or mental health challenges.

However, a health home model can be used even across facilities in different locations. For example, patients at our Mountainland Pediatrics office in Thornton can have their physical needs addressed at that location and integrate treatment for mental or emotional health issues at one of our other sites. The end result is the same: comprehensive and attentive whole-person care.

Contact Us to Learn More

If you have questions about our mental health clinic or our health home approach, contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

An Overview of Neurotransmitters and Mental Health During Brain Awareness Week

Brain Awareness Week is March 12-18. The annual event focuses attention on the importance of the brain and the work of partner organizations around the world. Activities run the gamut from exhibitions about the brain to brain-themed lectures to open house events at neuroscience labs. There are also special displays at libraries and community gathering places, classroom workshops and other events. The goal is to engage people of all ages and provide information on this most important of organs and one we too often take for granted. It’s also an excellent time for providers of mental health services to share insights on how the workings of the brain affect mental health.

March is also National Nutrition Month. Organized by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the focus of this observance is nutrition education that helps people make informed food choices and develop positive eating and exercise habits. The 2018 theme is "Go Further with Food." For mental health services providers, the coinciding of these two celebrations leads naturally into a conversation about how physical health—in particular brain neurotransmitters—comes into play with mental illness.

What are Neurotransmitters?

Neurotransmitters are chemical substances that are released when a nerve impulse reaches the end of a nerve fiber. The substance then makes its way across a gap called a synapse to another nerve, continuing the propagation of the impulse. This mechanism is used throughout the body, including in the brain. There are many different kinds of neurotransmitters. Some of the most important in brain and body functioning include:

  • Serotonin. This chemical affects many functions including, sleep, appetite and mood. People with depression often have lower than normal levels of serotonin. Some depression medications work by blocking the reuptake of serotonin, leaving more of it in the synapse to promote mood elevation.
  • Glutamate. This is the most common neurotransmitter. It “primes” neurons to fire when appropriate. Disorders like depression, schizophrenia, autism and obsessive compulsive disorder may be the result of problems with the production or use of glutamate.
  • Dopamine. This neurotransmitter is used to manage the flow of impulses occurring in the front of the brain where movement is controlled. That area also plays a role in emotion and thought. Some research suggests that a dopamine deficiency can play a part in conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and schizophrenia.

Problems with neurotransmitter production or use are conditions that a psychiatrist, psychologist or clinical social worker can help you identify. At that point, there are different forms of treatment, including counseling or “talk therapy” and medication, that can be used to help minimize the symptoms of the condition. These treatments can be highly effective.

Give Some Thought to Brain Awareness Week

Brain Awareness Week and National Nutrition Month are excellent reminders to pay attention to the mind/body connection and to take steps to care for your mental, emotional and physical health. If you have questions about our mental health services, contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

How Yoga Can Help You Stay Centered

Yoga mat

Being “centered” is the idea of having a positive mental and emotional reference point to come back to when the world gets chaotic and stressful. When people hear the term, they often think of meditation, which certainly is an excellent way to bring your life and outlook back into balance. But, meditation isn’t the only way to do so. Another proven technique is yoga. Yoga is a centuries-old practice that we frequently recommend to clients at our mental health clinic.

The Many Benefits of Regular Yoga Practice

Regular yoga practice is known to improve flexibility, balance and core strength to name just a few of the physical benefits. But, the mental and emotional changes that result from ongoing yoga sessions are equally impressive. For example, yoga can:

  • Calm your nervous system. Yoga’s emphasis on slow, restorative breathing and keeping your mind in the present moment helps you move out of “fight-or-flight” mode and into a calm, relaxed state of mind.
  • Improve self-esteem. Anyone who has taken a yoga class or even just attempted yoga poses in a living room understands that it is not an easy practice. As your ability to get into, and hold, more difficult poses grows, so does your confidence and the feeling that you have the power to change your life.
  • Increase focus. Mastering yoga poses requires that you be fully aware of your breathing, the position of your limbs, your center of gravity, etc. And, rather than an intense awareness, it’s a powerful but soft focus that you can return to whenever you are stressed.
  • Increase happiness. Research suggests that yoga can produce positive changes in the hormones that affect our state of well-being, thereby decreasing the symptoms of depression and increasing happiness.
  • Improve sleep. Regular yoga practitioners may find that the state of calm it produces during the day translates to better sleep at night. 
  • Lead to better self-care. People who practice yoga frequently discover that it creates a positive trajectory for their health in general, and they start eating better, getting aerobic exercise, etc.
  • Create better impulse control. Sudden or erratic movements are no friend to yoga practitioners, who can quickly find themselves in a heap on the mat if they are not cautious. The restraint to move slowly and with forethought has as much benefit in our interactions with others as it does our interaction with gravity. 
  • Connect you to other like-minded people. Whether you take a yoga class or practice on your own, your knowledge of the benefits that come from challenging your body is something you share with an enormous yoga community around the world.

Yoga as a Free Refuge from Life’s Storms

As we tell people at our Denver-area mental health clinic, yoga is a powerful tool for helping you stay grounded in the face of adversity. And with instruction readily available on the internet, it is a tool that is essentially free of charge. If you have questions about mental health services at Community Reach Center, contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

International Friendship Week is February 18-24, 2018

Two friends having coffee

International Friendship Week 2018 will be Feb. 18-24. The observance was created to emphasize the importance of friendship in helping people lead happy lives where they feel connected to others in their area and around the world. It also encourages us to be mindful of cultural differences and how they enrich our lives.

If you are affected by anxiety and depression, International Friendship Week serves as a reminder that it is important to build and maintain a strong support system. Having friends you can lean on when your condition is at its worst can help you weather the storm more effectively.

Support Groups Come in Many Forms

The term “support group” has multiple meanings. In its more formal sense, it can mean an organized group of people, often between five and 15 members, who gather on a regular basis to talk about the challenges they are facing and to provide encouragement to one another. A support group might also be a less formal collection of friends that you connect with individually or in smaller numbers more randomly to talk about life.

In many cases, a group from which you receive support wasn’t really formed for that purpose. For example, if you exercise regularly with a group of friends, simply spending time with those people who share your interest in fitness provides an important connection that can give you strength when anxiety and depression strike. Spiritual groups are another example of a collection of like-minded people from which you may derive a sense of support. Whether a support group is formal or informal, the benefits can be equally powerful.

Support Groups and Other Self-Help Resources

Support groups are a type of self-help you can use as an aid in managing your mental health. Other forms of self-help include books on topics like relationships and personal transformation, wellness apps, relaxation techniques and exercise. While professional counseling can be an essential tool in achieving better mental and emotional health, augmenting that guidance with a support group and other self-help techniques can be very effective.

Tips for Getting Involved in a Support Group

If you are considering joining a support group, there are some things to keep in mind. First, if you are receiving counseling, your therapist can be a great resource for helping you find a group that meets your needs. However, remember that you are not required to remain in a group if after a few sessions you don’t feel like you are clicking with the other members or getting any benefit from attending. It’s critical to find the right fit.

It’s also important to consider how much you want to discuss with a support group. While being open about your struggles can be very cathartic, know that unlike your therapist who has a legal obligation to keep your conversations confidential, support group members are not similarly bound. Often there is a stated agreement that “what is said in the room stays in the room,” but keep in mind that that is not as secure as conversations with therapists. That said, it is also true that you get out of a support group what you put into it. Be sure to share your thoughts and feelings and provide positive feedback when others do the same, as that is what a support group is all about.

If you are interested in learning more about our counseling services, contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Counseling Starts With Listening Without Judgement

Judging is a natural tendency in interpersonal communication. We tend to judge everything from the truthfulness of what is being said to the way in which it is being said in order to “measure” the person with whom we’re having a conversation. Unfortunately, while judging may be an innate trait, it can’t be described as a helpful one in many situations. When providing family counseling services, we encourage people to develop the ability to listen without judgement. That skill can produce more productive conversations and help create stronger relationships.

Benefits of Listening Without Judgement

It takes time and practice to move away from judging and toward more attentive, non-judgmental listening. But the effort pays off in many ways, including:

Fewer misunderstandings

When we are judging what someone says, our thoughts become consumed with trying to assign value to statements. Consequently, we may miss the meaning the person wants to convey. By listening without judgement we remove that distraction and can better understand the message.

Greater openness from the speaker

When we perceive that we are being judged, in family counseling or any setting, we tend to hold back information. When a speaker determines that her words are not being judged, she feels more comfortable openly sharing their thoughts and feelings.

Reduced conflict

Speakers who get “pushback” from a listener (whether expressed or suppressed) tend to try harder to make their point, which can quickly turn a healthy conversation into an uncomfortable confrontation. By simply allowing a person to “say their piece” without evaluating their statements, you can help defuse a potentially contentious interaction.

Easier identification of areas of agreement

When a listener judges a speaker, areas of agreement between them can be easily overlooked in the heated debate that ensues. More mindful listening allows both parties to find agreement in opinions and outlooks. And those places of common ground can serve as a foundation to build a stronger and healthier relationship.

Increased receptiveness to new ideas

The most productive conversations involve give and take on both sides. By listening without judgement, a person increases the chances that the speaker will respond in kind and be more open to consider a different point of view.

Tips for Better Listening

In addition to listening without judgement, there are other ways you can help make conversations more positive and productive. For example, do your best to enter a conversation without preconceived ideas about the outcome. Instead, tell yourself that you will assess what has been said after the fact.

Maintain eye contact so the other person knows you are interested and engaged. Find a good place to converse without interruption. Also, set aside ample time for the discussion, and allow for pauses during which the other person can collect their thoughts. And, restate what you hear from the other person so they can confirm or correct your understanding.

Family Counseling Based on Attentive Listening

Listening without judgement is an important skill for all, and is included in our Mental Health First Aid courses. And it is certainly at the core of our family counseling services. If you and your family are looking for guidance in resolving relationship issues, contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.