Let’s talk about it: FREE support for people affected by HIV/AIDS

Let's Talk About It Logo

Let's talk about it!

HIV+ or caring for someone who is? If you’re looking to connect with other people who live with HIV every day–we have a place for you.

Waterloo Counseling Center offers a free 8-week discussion group for people with HIV/AIDS and for their friends and family. This is a safe and confidential place to talk about your concerns and questions–or even to share what works for you with others.

If you’re wondering how and where to get medical or other kinds of help, how to manage medications and their side effects, how to talk to friends and family about HIV/AIDS, how to keep moving forward with a happy and productive life–or just want to be around others who know what you experience every day–we can help!

Waterloo is currently running a group in San Marcos Thursdays at 6pm (dinner included!), but can also form a group in Austin, Round Rock, Georgetown–you name it, we will be there! Just give us a call at (512) 444-9922, ext. 109. Discussion groups are led by Sarah Gremillion, LMSW and are free of charge.

Dinner is included for groups meeting in the evening. If transportation is an issue, ask Sarah how we can help.

July 26, 2011 at 10:16 pm Leave a comment

Loving who we were born to be

Last weekend, I read an interesting article in the New York Times about a man who was out and proud in his youth, then went back in the closet in his thirties, embracing the Bible and rejecting his sexuality. I emailed the article to the staff at Waterloo Counseling Centerand was then asked to blog about it. I was asked mainly because of my professional credentials as an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), but the staff member who asked me also mentioned that she had no words to express her sadness about it.

To be honest, I have been struggling with how to write about it, too. I will not analyze Mr. Glatze, the man whose life inspired the author to write My Ex-Gay Friend. What I will do is write about self-hatred and the rejection of one’s sexuality. As a therapist who works a great deal with gay men and women, I have learned to not be so surprised anymore when hearing about a client’s self-hate.

When working with someone who is gay, I like to ask how do you feel about being gay? The general answer goes something like this: eh, it’s ok. Or I hate it. Of course, that is not always the case. There are many many gay people in Austin who accept, embrace and love their sexual orientation. My job as a therapist is to help my clients become more self aware, more self-loving and better able to function in life. Self-hate can manifest itself in many different ways. Someone can become depressed, sexually act out in unsafe ways, attach themselves to substances or they can overcompensate in certain areas: religion, education, or work.

When we reject parts of ourselves, we see ourselves as damaged or perhaps unlovable. When someone rejects their sexual identity, it can ooze out in some very unhealthy ways. In the case of Mr. Glatze, his identity rejection is manifesting itself through incredibly rigid and black and white thinking, meaning something is “either-or” with nothing in between.

Sexuality is fluid, and it is quite possible that someone can shift from being gay to straight. But when exploring a heterosexual identity means rejecting and hating the gay identity, one can assume that there are some deeper-rooted issues. If I were Mr. Glatze’s therapist, I would accept him no matter what—gay, straight, in the closet, out of the closet or back in the closet. One learns self-acceptance through connections with others. Once you learn self acceptance, you can teach yourself how to be more self-loving and happier and, of course, less rigid.

We deserve to be who we were born to be.

Thanks to Waterloo Counselor Rhea Pledger, LPC for weighing in on this important topic!

June 27, 2011 at 4:37 pm Leave a comment

Pioneering through the aftermath of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Medal of Excellence presented to Waterloo by Fort Hood Army Base.

Back in 1984, when Waterloo Counseling Center was founded, we were pioneers. Waterloo was created simply because someone saw no mental health options for the GLBTQ community–other than being labeled with a mental disorder.

Waterloo blazed a trail for inclusive and affirming mental health services almost 30 years ago, and we’re blazing trails again. On Friday, June 3, Waterloo presented a training, “GLBT Considerations in Psychotherapy,” to mental health services staff at Fort Hood Army Base in Killeen.

Wow. How did this come about? Waterloo was invited at the request of Base Commander Col. Kimberly Kesling to work with its civilian and military social work staff to improve their ability to respond to the counseling needs of GLBTQ military personnel at the Base. Col. Kesling’s intention is to help all Fort Hood military personnel, GLBTQ and heterosexual alike, to transition smoothly as united brothers and sisters in arms through the aftermath of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. To accomplish this goal, she realized that social work staff at Fort Hood must seek the leadership of mental health provders with an expertise in serving a diverse population. Enter Waterloo Counseling Center.

Clinical Director Rebecca Calhoun, LPC-S and therapist Sarah Gremillion, LCSW designed a training specifically for Fort Hood social work staff, tailored to their needs and the needs of military personnel on the Base. Their goal was to help lead social workers to create an inclusive and affirming place for GLBTQ personnel, whether they chose to come out or keep their sexual orientation private, as well as to cultivate and support heterosexual allies on Base.

Rebecca and Sarah addressed cultural considerations in mental health for GLBTQ clients, barriers to counseling, heterosexism, the six stages of coming out and other topics. They are returning to Fort Hood on June 17 to train more Base counseling staff–stay tuned for how this story develops and how Waterloo is leading the charge to tear down the walls of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the military in Texas.

June 7, 2011 at 8:45 pm Leave a comment

Is there an app for that?

These days there’s an app for just about everything, and now Apple’s iTunes market place is now offering an app created by Exodus International to “convert” GBTQ youth to heterosexuality.

“Reparative” or “conversion” therapy is the practice of attempting to change someone’s sexual orientation through aversion treatment, psychoanalysis or spiritual intervention. The assumption is that any sexuality not expressed as heterosexuality is a mental disorder—and that sexuality can be changed.

This approach, as well as the rationale behind it, flies in the face of solid scientific studies, as well as the official stance of a long list of professional membership and credentialing organizations, such as the American Psychological Association (APA), American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Counseling Association (ACA). Since 1986, when the APA denounced categorizing homosexuality as a mental disorder, the mental health and medical communities have vigorously worked to eradicate the stigma historically associated with homosexuality and define sexuality as an innate orientation.

For youth in particular, reparative therapy is particularly harmful—inciting shame and guilt into the already confusing question of “who am I?” The recent rash of suicides of gay teens due to bullying clearly shows the dangers of going against the mainstream medical and scientific community to encourage questioning youth (and their peers) to see homosexuality as a disorder.

Best practices in psychiatry and counseling call for recognizing and honoring diversity—both within the clinical workforce and in client populations. Waterloo Counseling Center was founded on that principle and holds the agency and its counselors to high professional standards, including scientifically founded therapeutic approaches that promote the well-being of clients.

There may not be an app for that, but at Waterloo, there’s always a place for you.

March 22, 2011 at 6:46 pm Leave a comment

Global trauma with local results

A week after Japan experienced the largest earthquake since seismic measurements have been possible–followed by a devastating tsunami and nuclear dangers–the people of Japan are still struggling to recover. And people around the world are struggling to comprehend what this means for Japan and for themselves.

What we should be aware of as those who observe and worry, is that we can be at risk for Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS). New York-based and internationally known psychologist Mary Pender Green, LCSW-R identifies someone with STS as an individual who was not directly involved a traumatic event, yet experiences anxiety, worry, sadness, confusion and anger as a result of the event–and its more common than you think.

These responses can arise from feelings of powerlessness over not being able to help victims of the tragedy; fear of similar events happening locally; or relating the current tragedy to past, personally experienced trauma. The constant provision of and immediate access to disturbing images through modern media may make us feel more in touch with those who are suffering, but they also limit our ability to control how much information we see and how often.

The events of 9-11, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and last year’s earthquake in Haiti are all examples of experiences that created national or global trauma–even for those who did not experience these tragedies first hand. And we all have mental, media-provided images from those events that have not and may never leave us.

Pender Green offers some suggestions on dealing with STS, including acknowledging and talking about your feelings and taking positive action such as donating money or time toward the recovery efforts. These positive coping mechanisms can give you an outlet for your anxiety and makes you a partner in the victims’ recovery.

March 18, 2011 at 9:35 pm Leave a comment

Still multi-tasking? Try layering

I ordered WHAT from Amazon while I was on that conference call?

Last week I challenged you–and myself–to stop with the multi-tasking already and make better choices regarding efficiency and use of time. Turns out, we can actually get more done and do it all better not by doing several things at once, but by decreasing the number of simultaneous activities to two and mindfully making choices to pair compatible activities together. Compatible meaning that each activity requires a different part of the brain to accomplish.

Remember when you were a kid and you and your friends would try to rub your stomach and pat your head at the same time? Try it again, you haven’t gotten better at it with age! This is a great example of competing activities that require the use of the same part of the brain. The two actions are not compatible. And for those of you who think you’re doing it right, you might be patting your head, but please note your hand is waving around while you do it. Might want to check your hair.

Another time saver, rather than multi-tasking is to “duo-task.” This involves layering tasks that can happen at the same time because one of them does not require your attention at all. Like remembering to start the dishwasher before you go to bed. Or running your virus scan while you’re in a long meeting. I like to set the timer on my washing machine to go off at about 6 am, so that when I get up, I can just put my clothes in the dryer. Anything I need is ready to go when I am.

We are also allowed to duo-task when the addition of one action will not negativly affect another. For example, I can write this blog and listen to music. I don’t need to evenly split my attention. In fact, if I saw a scan of my brain right now, I’d probably see that the part of my brain that controls composing and writing is significantly more engaged than the part of my brain that is listening to Pandora. But I can safely tune in and out of the music without injuring myself or anyone else.

All of this is part of mindfulness and reducing stress in your life. Multi-tasking simply creates a feeling of being overwhelmed, and we could all use a little less of that. I hope your experiment with kicking the habit went well, I’d love to hear how you did!

February 17, 2011 at 9:13 am Leave a comment

The myth of multi-tasking

I'm efficient, I'm efficient!

Everyone does it–but does it really work? Multi-tasking has become such a huge part of daily life that we get used to doing not two, not three or even four–but five or six things at once. We drive while we talk on the phone, sip a latte, text (um, that’s illegal now, so stop!), check our lipstick, listen to the radio and oh–try to pay attention to traffic and signage. We feel like we get more done, but is that what’s really happening?

Turns out, not so much. Turns out, as mere mortals, we can only pay attention to one task at a time. That’s not opinion, that’s brain function. What we’re really doing is rapid fire attention splitting. At any one second (or millisecond) one of those tasks is suffering. It might not be significant if you’re folding the clothes while you talk on the phone, but depending on what tasks you’re pairing, you could be in for anything from committing a minor mistake to full on disaster.

Attention splitting is also stressful. Stress increases the level of cortisol in your blood, which can cause heart damage, suppress the immune system and even cause diabetes. The best course of action for those who want to use their time both efficiently and effectively isn’t taking on multiple tasks at once, but to take on no more than two carefully paired events.

You might pair an activity that requires judgment, decision making and concentration with a physical task that is rote or repetitive or does not require judgment or attention. Talking on the phone while you fold clothes is a great example, as is reading while you walk on the treadmill. You can probably get away with driving while you enjoy that latte, but texting is going to require not only that you look away from the road, but that you think about and frame a response, as well as fumble with all those keys.

Experiment with backing away from multi-tasking for a week. See if you not only feel better, but if you do things better. You might even get more done.

February 10, 2011 at 9:20 pm Leave a comment

Get on your bikes and ride!

The Hill Country Ride for AIDS is a Central Texas tradition that celebrates our beautiful Texas Hill Country and gives us the opportunity to raise funds for and awareness of HIV/AIDS. And come on, is there anything more life-affirming than a turn through bluebonnets and rolling hills?

Team Waterloo is building its numbers, and there is always room for one more. If, like me, you’re not a cyclist, there’s still a place for you. Volunteer with us at the registration table to check people in–or join us for SAG and Sweep duties! We’ll be busy trailing riders in a truck to make sure they’re safe or to give them a lift to the next rest stop if they have an issue with their bike or are just too pooped to pedal.

I’ll be SAGing and Sweeping for my friend, Paul, who I lost to AIDS in 1996. He was only 30. We met in high school and endured trigonometry and biology together. We went off campus for lunch when we weren’t allowed to. And then we served detention together for leaving campus…I miss him every day.

February 9, 2011 at 8:29 pm Leave a comment

Remembering those we lost on November 20

November 20 is the Transgender Day of Remembrance, co-sponsored by the Transgender Education Network of Texas and Waterloo Counseling Center.

Fortunately, we live in a time that is more sensitive to hate-based violence. Hate crime laws have helped bring awareness to the reality that some people face danger simply by being who they are. People in general are less tolerant of intolerance.

However, despite these gains, we have a long way to go. We are still losing people to ignorance and hate-based violence. The  Transgender Education Network of Texas reports that over the last decade, more than one person per month has died due to transgener-based hate or prejudice. Many of these crimes go unsolved, and many more go unreported.

The  Transgender Day of Remembrance will ensure that these lives are not forgotten. Please stand with us in solidarity on November 20 at 6:30pm at Austin City Hall.

November 2, 2010 at 2:53 pm Leave a comment

Bullying and Teen Suicide

The GLBT community and allies all over the country are mourning the recent spate of suicides related to GLBT issues among our young people. We all feel a sense of concern and frustration, wondering what could lead someone to make such a desperate choice.

Bullying has an impact on how trapped a person can feel in a bad situation, and technology has changed both how bullies act and their targets react. Our “plugged in” society with round the clock access through text, social networking, personal cell phones and the internet can make it hard to get distance from potential sources of bullying and messages that denigrate the worth of any individual. This same technology that allows us to stay in touch remotely and nurture personal relationships also cultivates anonymity. People can make hurtful comments about others without having to deal with “that look on the face” of their target. The lack of face-to-face interaction may make bullies feel like they have no consequence for damaging Facebook messages, ugly emails sent to their entire contacts list or the videos posted for whole YouTube-universe.

 We are not powerless to make a difference. We can start with examining our own use of technology to communicate with and about others. Here are some things we need to keep in mind and even discuss with our children:

  • Talk/post/text about your own business, not that of others
  • Give the kind of support you would like to receive
  •  If posting about someone else, consider their feelings/responses
  •  Directly address any misunderstandings with others offline
  •  Take time to cool off and use my “better judgment” before “going viral”
  •   Be supportive
  •   Be available to help those you care about
  •   Help others connect to the support they need

We all feel overwhelmed and hopeless from time to time. A big factor in surviving and thriving through the hard times is feeling like someone cares, that someone will listen, that some one will hear me and not judge. Each of us can be that someone who will listen to another person who is struggling. At Waterloo Counseling Center we specialize in supporting a minority community which may not always feel accepted by others. If you or someone you know needs help, please contact us at (512) 444-9922.

September 3, 2010 at 3:46 pm Leave a comment


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