How Barb Helps

Barb Elgin understands her soul's mission as helping you become the next highest version of yourself. She has learned that lasting happiness and vibrant mental health results not from OUTER success but from cultivation of an INNER loving and accepting of oneself and others and creating a life that reflects this simple - but not always easy - practice.

"Our sorrows and wounds are healed only when we touch them with compassion." - Buddha

As a 50-something, suburban-loving, female, LGBTQ social worker, I have my share of stories, wisdom and anecdotes to pass on - should you choose to listen to them - that will be helpful to you as you travel your life journey.

Our world has changed quit a bit in the 40 years since I became a young adult. I've been grateful to be a part of an amazing time to be alive.

SO HERE IT GOES, YOUR FIRST TIDBIT OF WISDOM: I do notice as we seem to be barreling ahead in this post-global, AI world, that we are 'running too fast', letting go of the wisdom of the masters - you know those who are say 50 and older - too soon. We've always had an ageist culture, and that is why I loved Bernie Sanders in 2016 when he ran for president. What courage to challenge the status quo at a time when many if not most of his peers are sitting back and letting go of responsibilities instead of increasing them. That alone had me respecting him!

I am no Bernie Sanders, I'm like most of us.  Busy, engaged in my profession and planning to continue my labors of love.  But I'm also aware of my body and mind's needs as well...

Wisdom is paying attention. It's knowing one's limits. I know myself that when I rush or 'stretch myself too far too fast', I injure myself (or otherwise 'crash'). Such as the time a couple of years ago when I fell flat on my face/gut while playing in a Maryland Senior Olympics singles pickleball match. I've always prided myself in avoiding injuries by knowing my limits and 'playing within myself'. You are going to hear more about that principle from me I can guarantee you!

I am also - by birth I guess - an optimist, so it's easy for me to look at all of my experiences - the victories and the tragedies - as valuable.  For example, some of the most stressful and sad experiences of my life have taught me to be a stronger - yet at the same time more gentle - version of me.

As I tell you my life story - which is still being written! - I am hopeful you will then understand why I am like I am and that in itself might help you grow in your understanding of yourself and others you care about. As real people with high ideals, you and I are always looking at our next challenge - which if you are living a full and authentically expressed life - never ends. I get that and am here to support you in your hero's journey.

"Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength". 
- Saint Francis de Sales

Perhaps my first big challenge in growing up was learning to have a voice. Big deal my friends and one many of us will always have to work on. Raised as a good girl and 'to be seen and not heard' you can see how I found myself as a young adult stuck on the fence post between the old and the new. Ouch! Trust me when I say it hurt to extricate myself from my ancestor's dictum that women follow while the men lead.

This was a challenge for many of my peers too, as women's freedoms rapidly expanded in the past 40 years. Along with that comes great responsibility as well. I get that and am here to help you continue to stand for who you are in the world. This is not some selfish endeavor. The world needs you to be your best self now more than ever.

My mom tells me now she is surprised when I say I was a shy child, a highly sensitive person (HSP) and an introvert. Trust me I was and I am, although I've 'come a long way' as they say. Perhaps like many shy people do, I hid it well!?! I have learned to embrace all of these characteristics as gifts along with the courage to be more of who I am and share these gifts in the world. You can too!

The wisdom I've gained living as a whole person, not 'just' someone's wife, has deeply colored my life. I was once in one of those relationships and that too taught me so much about life, including how to leave a toxic love relationship and assume my person hood more fully.

Career-wise, I've also bucked the trends. I didn't cave to pressure from those who tried to get me to become what they wanted me to be: I took what was for me the 'longer term' view, took my time and discovered for myself from high school graduation until my early 20's: what am I good at, what do I like (i.e: can do for 40-50 years) and what does the world need?

As a result I've been well satisfied, which is a lot more than many can say: work is a labor of love for me. One of my biggest challenges is how to fit it all in with the limited time we all have. And I have no one else to blame when it comes to the downsides of that choice! Every career has them, so you might as well get more honest with yourself and do what you can excel at, not what others think you can 'work harder to achieve'.  I can help you choose more authentically in your work and career and live those choices with joy and responsibly as well.

I experienced earlier on in my career the lavender ceiling, as it's been called. I worked in corporate environs where they gave lip service to their gay friendliness but where they didn't do much else in making LGBTQ's feel comfortable being themselves as they worked there. For this and other concerns I have about corporations, their ethics and what they do to control those who work for them and who they serve, I decided to strike out on my own in my career. While it is 'the road less traveled' it's worth it every step of the way, especially in terms of my own self respect.

I've served the LGBTQ community for decades and this has deeply educated me on what the concerns are and how to address them. I personally understand what it is like to be ostracized, and even, poorly tolerated. I think the second is actually worse, but what many of us live with, given that not all family and friends get to the point of 100% acceptance and celebration of who we are.

Coming out as LGBTQ in 1979 was no picnic. Being the first visible gay person in my family was a chore, to say the least, one I'm glad has eased up as the next generations come along and come out proudly.

I've decided to take the risk of being a single woman in a care giving type business and not sell my soul to the current dysfunctional model of delivering mental health care that exists in many areas of the system today. In a world where being self employed is as risky as ever, given the costs of expenses like health care and housing, I know that this is for me, one more s-hero's journey.

"First do no harm." - Hippocrates

I've worked in the field of healing for decades. I've seen a lot. A lot I love about my profession and a lot I don't. The wisdom I've gained working in settings where I DIDN'T feel in practice alignment, has given me the voice and words I've needed to at this time in my career stand up for myself as well as my clients!

As a member of a group practice, I felt like I was in a mill, on a wheel, having to run so fast to keep up that my clients weren't getting my best self. Hearing clients complain about other practitioners not listening to them because they were so in a rush to finish their session and feeling badly when I know I'm rushing them because there is always someone right behind them!  I don't know if most psychiatrists or therapists realize it or not, but most of our clients are not up to the task of being forthright enough with us when they are unhappy with our care. I think it's reasonable for a client to expect us to engage with them fully during our minutes with them, not distracted or too tired to listen carefully and work fully towards problem solving and whatever is required to help a client get better.

Or in another mental health care environment, I was expected to drive all over a three (large) county area to see as many in a day as one can 'squeeze' in!

"The bigger they are the harder they fall".  - Joe Walcott, welterweight champion of the world 1901-1904

And in corporate: well those folks are in what I call the 'golden handcuffs',  many of them overpaid executives and managers, addicted to their bloated salaries and benefits, part of the overall diseased health insurance system that is wasteful and inefficient.

I make no bones about believing we could drastically simplify our current payment model and put more of available resources towards patient care not redundant, unnecessary pencil pushing and paper shuffling.

After all, what's expected of today's health care practitioners is - well - extraordinary. And, most of us give that level, until we can no longer physically and/or mentally do so.

Plain and simple, these are some of the reasons I opened up my own 'mom' shop! Why? It makes me, the practitioner, a much happier camper. And when I am better mentally and physically, I can take better care of you!

This is not without a price: I am unique, in that because I'm single, with one income, I've had to drastically simplify my life to afford to practice this way.  If you like the way I work, please tell your congress person about it.  Why? Because true parity and coverage for mental health care is the law but when it comes to the cost, society is being short changed.  I would bet by the insurance companies.  If mental health professionals had a less insane schedule like the one I am doing all I can to hold the line on, many more therapists would set up shop like me and many more younger folks would be attracted to the mental health field.  And everyone - especially patients - would be the winners.

So I hope all who read this will cheer me on to succeed in a sustainable way.

I so know that the way I practice today is healthier. I take my time in our meetings, both for you and for me.

For you, going slower, helps me...

  • Truly learn all I can about helping you better
  • Not miss important details
  • Cut down and hopefully eliminate crucial mistakes that can happen when being forced to rush
  • Co-create with you goals and planning that will work for you
  • Deeply respect your needs

For me, going slower helps me...

  • Sustain myself (I don't schedule my clients back to back, I take time during a typical work day to go to the bathroom, eat a nutritious meal, get up and stretch, take a break or two, connect socially with a family member or friend, all of which helps me stay energized and good natured so that I can give you my best when you are with me.  This should be in my opinion the minimum standard for all therapists)
  • Practice more effectively in my profession
  • And more!

So there you have it.

Now I don't know about you but that's music to my ears!  Want to experience better mental health care 'in action'?  Call me 410-967-3848.