By George Watson
Therapy should not be a scary word but because of society’s stigmas about mental health, it continues to keep people from taking care of themselves.
I should know – I have shared views on both sides of the issue. For a long time, I figured people should just be able to work things out in their heads. But then after encountering a few more emotions than I could handle when my at-the-time 8-year-old son was badly injured in a private plane crash, I found my way to a therapist.
It did wonders, but what intrigued me so much about it was how conversations quickly shifted from the accident to other aspects of my life, leading to an epiphany or two that eventually led to greater self-understanding and happiness. It wasn’t always easy, but it was rewarding in the end.
Redlands clinical psychologist Traci Lowenthal explains that it’s through those breakthroughs that we heal our psychological selves. As the owner of Creative Insights Counseling, she has had many of those moments when clients have their own realization.
“That’s one of the coolest things ever – when someone goes, ‘Wow, I never thought about that before,’” Lowenthal said.
Lowenthal was not the therapist who worked with me. But in listening to her talk about her work with her clients, I could see how she would have also engaged me to the point that I could truly learn about myself. She is intense and yet warm and nurturing. She listens and understands and then can help direct conversations to healthy resolutions.
She has been practicing her trade for 14 years after she too had one of those moments of self-awareness when it came to therapy.
“I was so surprised what a difference it made, and that’s why I got into therapy,” Lowenthal said. “Taking care of your mental health is the best thing a person can do for themselves.”
Lowenthal looks around Redlands and is pleased to see all the ways that locals can care for themselves, whether it be a visit to an acupuncturist, or a chiropractor or massage therapist, or of course, a doctor. Now her goal is to help people realize there is the important method of therapy that can be added to their health-care plans.
“I wish going to the therapist was like going to your chiropractor,” Lowenthal said. “There’s so much acceptance of other types of self-care.”
Often times, people seek out therapy only after tragedy or when things in their life are falling apart. This is an obvious and essential time to seek out someone to talk with for guidance.
“Of course, it’s better when they come in when they realize something is amiss, rather than when they need a fire put out,” Lowenthal said.
Either way, Lowenthal said, it’s a success any time someone can gather their inner strength to seek out help.
Lowenthal and staff work with a wide-variety of people. Some are couples having troubles. Others are parents dealing with an impending empty-nest situation. Sometimes it’s a child with some form of anxiety.
“Mental health issues are a real thing for a lot of people,” she said. “Most people have one issue or another that needs to be dealt with, and that’s better sooner than later.”
In addition to offering treatment for most mental health issues, Lowenthal’s business specializes in therapy for the LGBTQIA community, and for those who are exploring their sexuality and/or gender. In some cases, that involves children and teenagers who are struggling with those issues.
“We are working with several adolescent kids,” Lowenthal said. “There is so much fear about sharing that about themselves. There is so much rejection.”
Lowenthal didn’t plan on specializing in gender-related issues. She said it happened “sort of accidentally” after wanting to work with clients with HIV and AIDS.
“I was blown away by not only how much I didn’t know, but that no one really knew,” Lowenthal said. “I saw there was a real need for help.”
After years first of self-training and then attending some conferences in recent years, Lowenthal herself gives training to therapists, and she started a Facebook support group that now has 1,400 members.
Lowenthal also offers HIPAA-compliant web-based therapy, using a Skype-like platform to work with clients who either are traveling or want to work with her but live too far to travel. She believes it fills a role when necessary, although she prefers face-to-face meetings because it provides fuller engagement. Clients must be at least 18 years old and a California resident because of licensing restrictions.
With all of her patients, Lowenthal has a central objective: helping her patients move on with their lives.
“My goal is not to have a lifetime relationship with clients, which is hard because they are awesome people,” she said.
As someone who gained tremendous insight from therapy, I can say that is also the goal of most clients. I am grateful to say my son healed completely from his injuries, and with the help of a caring therapist, I could do the same from my own.
And that’s just what therapists like Lowenthal do. They help. They heal. And they let you get on with your life, operating from a far better place than before.
Five myths about mental health
Source: Dr. Traci Lowenthal
Creative Insights Counseling in Redlands
Creative Insights Counseling is at 18 State St. in Downtown Redlands, upstairs in Suite 206.