Meet Kendra of Sincere Counseling!
As many of you know, I’m all about “doing your homework” as you enter or are working on your marriage. A great way to learn what to do and what not to do is through history or past experiences, which is something a Counselor has plenty of access too. To better my, yours, and all of our relationships, I asked Kendra Hemminger of Sincere Counseling in Troy, OH to answer a few questions and shed some light on marriage counseling and the counseling world in general. Read on to see what she has to say!
What is your title with your line of work or how do you like to be addressed?
KENDRA: Great question! I have a license with the state of Ohio which indicates that I am a Licensed Professional Counselor. If you find yourself working with a psychiatrist or psychologist at any point in your treatment, it might be more appropriate to address them as Doctor, and then their last name. Regarding a preference and how I like to be addressed, “Kendra” is just fine.
What inspired you to get into this line of work?
KENDRA: Another great question. I have always been so in love with people. My parents used to tell me that when we would go out into public spaces they had to continually tell me not to stare at people. LOL! I just loved to watch them as they interacted with friends and family or sat alone, whether they seemed sad or content. Achieving a bachelors degree in psychology opened up a lot of opportunities to work with individuals and families, but only in limited settings, which wasn't quite enough for me. I wanted more space with people to really dive into their struggles, desires, confusions, joys, pain... I really wanted to give people more space to process through parts of their stories and heal them. So, I chose to pursue a Master's in counseling, and I'm so glad I did.
How has this line of work caused you to view your relationships differently?
KENDRA: Meghan, you could have been a journalist in another life. Your questions are fantastic! I can say with full confidence that being a Counselor has changed me. It brings tears to my eyes to answer this question, because I'm so thankful for the ways that I have grown, and the ways that my relationships have grown because of my clients. The way that I listen to clients and offer compassion, observe strengths, and invite them into healthy challenges has taught me that I, too, can do this with my spouse, and with my friends. And it seems to have just blessed these relationships all the more. I sometimes see clients take some of the relationships in their life for granted, and viewing the glass half empty instead of half full. Witnessing these tendencies reminds me of the gratitude and wonderful people and things in my own life. This of course makes my personal relationships much more enriching, rewarding, and enjoyable.
How has your work caused you to view your marriage?
KENDRA: The most direct answer to how counseling has affected my personal marriage, is that I listen better. Unfortunately, I think one of the reasons why counseling is in great demand at this point in our society is because we have lost touch in some ways to how to listen well.
Have you noticed how new houses being built are no longer built with front porches anymore? Privacy fences are getting taller.
We are losing intimate connections with each other in some ways.
The internet, social media, gaming and other things have seemed to a fill spaces in our lives that would have otherwise been filled with front porch sitting, board games on the living room floor, and just chatting over a cup of coffee. So, when it comes to my marriage, I try very hard to choose conversations with my spouse over Facebook, Netflix, and even cleaning the house. HAHA! I allow these conversations to have moments of silence without trying to fill each space with words, I try to reflect the thoughts and feelings that my husband expresses. It's not all about the questions we ask in these conversations, it's also about our presence. I am so far from perfecting this, by the way. Just ask my husband! LOL! But it's my desire to continually grow in this way for the rest of my life as his wife.
When you first started learning about psychology, what misunderstandings of this world were corrected?
KENDRA: As a 18 year old embarking on to my freshman year of undergrad, I thought that studying psychology would give me some of the “answers” of the human brain and the way we move through life and relationships. Although I did learn a lot about the brain and other things, there are no “answers” for the way that people work and move through their lives. Every human is so unique, and on such a individualized journey. There is no road map, or outline or agenda of therapy which applies to every human being. This is the magic of counseling.
Now, this isn't to say that I didn't learn strategies that can be quite helpful, but these things are not a one-size-fits-all. In fact, I believe in this individualized approach so much that I named the business to honor this.
“Sincere Counseling is a promise to myself to offer each and every client very best that I can give them; my authentic, genuine, and sincere true self, to listen to them and actually hear them, to believe in them and walk alongside them. “
So your counselor/psychologist may not have all the answers for you in the first session, but if you can trust the relationship, then prepare for healthy change. I do recommend having an open mind to their professional opinions and recommendations towards treatment, but remember that it is the therapeutic relationship and the safety of that relationship which facilitates the most desired change.
What do you wish people know about therapy/counseling?
KENDRA: The invitation to be real. If you come to a point in your life when you choose to try counseling, give it a real shot. If you feel safe with your therapist, begin to let your guards down. Therapists are legally obliged to keep your secrets and we could lose our license if we don't, so take advantage of that unique space, and let yourself unwind from all the expectations out there in life.
What do you wish newlyweds/married couples would know and understand?
First and foremost, I find myself really wanting couples to remember their friendship. It seems too easy for couples to forget this part of their relationship, so no wonder if becomes so common to find an enemy in our partners.
Secondly, and much harder, I think, is to recognize our own stuff in the marriage relationship. Each of us comes into a marriage with a whole story behind us, (baggage ,if you will) and we don't get to leave that baggage at the altar when we say “I do.” My husband and I are both Counselors, but this work will never stop for us. I will always have my own stuff to work on; and, if I choose not to, my marriage will suffer because of it. So, for the health of your marriage, for the sake of your family, and for your own joy: choose humility and get in the habit of exploring your stuff. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable, welcome the feeling of being wrong sometimes, practice listening.
Third, it's okay to ask for help when you need it. We had plenty of math classes, science classes, english classes, even classes where we learned how to write checks and fold laundry, but none of us got marriage classes in school. There was no curriculum for how to love. Instead, most of us learned about “love” through fairy tale novels or romantic comedies or social media (just as fake as rom-coms, by the way). Love is so much more than a feeling, it is a choice. And we get to make that choice every day of our lives. It’s up to you. So, please ask for help when you need it; pick up a book, spend some time with a Counselor.
What are some stigmas you wish to break or correct with therapy/counseling?
KENDRA: Therapy is normal. Therapy is for anyone. We can all benefit from therapy at different points in our lives. I am a Counselor, and I have a Counselor! You do not have to have a diagnosis or take psychotropic medication in order to benefit from counseling. The therapy room can be an amazing place for individuals, couples, and families to make significant and lasting change in their lives.
What tools, exercises, etc would you recommend to those interested, but intimidated about counseling?
KENDRA: This depends on what somebody would want to get out of counseling. 16.1 million Americans have depression and 40 million adult Americans have anxiety, so I'll start with these symptoms. If you are experiencing any mild depressive-like symptoms or those related to mild anxiety, there are holistic ways of treating this on your own.
Spend at least 20 minutes outside every day
Get 20 to 30 minutes of cardio exercise 3-4 times a week
Take bigger breaths
Increase social interaction by spending more time with friends or putting yourself out there and making new friends
Engage in hobbies frequently (if you are unsure of your hobbies, begin to explore some! There's something that happens to our brain when we are engaged in an activity that we enjoy, and it's very effective at mitigating depression and anxiety!)
Eat well (no sugar, lots of water)
Limit alcohol intake and other addictive substances as these can really mess with our moods and circadian rhythms
Get seven to eight hours of sleep every night
Consistently going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time
Do things you're proud of
It's a great strategy to combat depression and anxiety to know that at the end of the day when you look back upon your day, that you are proud of the decisions that you made. It’s also important to practice a lot of self-compassion, for perfection is impossible here. Most of the things that I just listed probably seem like common sense. but these things do work.
What do you wish clients or others would realize about being a counselor/therapist?
KENDRA: Most counselors pursue this career because they care. As I said before, I've always been fascinated by people. I know that people are capable of ugly things and our world history proves some of these horrifying capabilities. BUT, we are also capable of incredible acts of love, motions of kindness that can change a generation, selfless giving and unbelievable faith. I get to see this every day in my office! There is so much goodness in you. A lot of reactions I get from others who learn I am a Therapist are, “I don’t know how you do it,” “It must be exhausting,” “I could never sit there and listen to people’s problems all day,” but it’s not like that. It feels like the opposite of that - it is so life-giving and inspiring to watch beauty and goodness unfold right before my eyes. Every day. I go home from work most days feeling refreshed and hopeful about our humanity, and the goodness in this world. The incredible love and persevering goodness that lives inside every one.
How do you keep the balance between friend and professional?
KENDRA: I am my authentic self in the therapy room with clients, so there is not a lot of code-switching that needs to happen when I leave the office. Congruence in my personal life and in the therapy room make for smoother transitions from one to another. I do offer similar listening strategies to my friendships as I do with my clients, but this is because I have seen the value in intentional listening and don’t want to withhold that from others that I love. The differences is, I get to share more personally with friendships, and I do not do this so openly with clients, of course. The counseling relationship between Counselor and client is not a friendship. It is likely that it will feel like friendship because of the closeness and emotional intimacy clients may feel toward their therapist. A lot of clients experience a trust and security in their therapy relationship that they maybe don’t experience in many other relationships in life, so these feelings of friendship are very natural. But the therapy relationship is very unique in that it is most often one-way. This is for the better. A client is in the therapy room to make some kind of change in their life. They do not need to be friends with their therapist to accomplish these goals.
When you're not working, what do you like to do for fun/hobbies/distance yourself from your "counselor cap"?
KENDRA: I am obsessed with gardening. Love to run (…okay casually jog, let’s be honest). My husband and I hike a lot, and bring our toddler to the park, library, grocery shopping, and make some serious sandbox castles. It’s the simple things, right?! I’ve got an awesome church community, health goals regarding exercise and nutrition I like to follow, long distance friendships that are committed and thriving (and great reasons to travel throughout the year). These things help refuel me and keep me at peace, so that I can offer my very best to my clients. They deserve a Counselor that doesn't just talk the talk, but also walks the walk, and finds ways of living life to the fullest.
If there are readers/listeners that have further questions after viewing this interview, please don’t hesitate to reach out here. I am happy to answer any questions you might have, and discuss how Counseling might benefit you.
A NOTE FROM KENDRA: Premarital Counseling
Some of my favorite sessions are premarital counseling sessions! If you are considering premarital counseling services, you won’t regret it. My husband and I went hard core into premarital work before we married, and, by-golly, we are so glad we did! It is such a game-changer to have had the opportunity to do the work on the front end of the marriage instead of trying to figure it out in the middle of conflict seven years down the road. There are tools you can practice now to keep your love alive and strong enough to carry you through any tough times ahead. Family members may like to gift these premarital services to you for a wedding shower gift, etc. Vouchers for premarital counseling packages are available upon request.