Signs you may never think to consider-Teen Suicide

 

         A parent’s worst nightmare is hearing that your child has committed suicide. As a parent your mind starts racing, what did I miss? Why was their life so bad? Why didn’t they tell me they felt depressed? Soon the grief has taken over like a sharp knife stabbing your heart. Guilt, fear, and shame become your friend and the days and nights feel empty and hopeless.

            I have met with many people who have been affected by suicide. A mother whose teen overdosed on anxiety meds, a girl who found her best friend hanging from a tree, and countless teenagers who have come to see me after attempting to take their life.  

            Today is World Mental Health Day and therefore an important day to discuss teen suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 10-19 year old’s in the United States.  In the average year, we lose over 2,000 teens. What are the warning signs of suicide that you might not think about?

Numb

If your adolescent avoids expressing emotions and feelings they may be depressed.  Numbness is the result of an individual no longer feeling safe to share. They often lack opinions, shrug off feelings and move through life as if they are a robot.

Anxious

Many parents will tell me their child does not struggle with anxiety. I believe it is because anxiety is often viewed as panic, shaking, and nervousness. However, many people can be anxious yet show none of the above signs. Anxiety is when our brain gets stuck in a problem-solving mode. Many teens struggle with anxiety about school, grades, their home lives and life in general. Some common ways I see adolescents self-soothe is through drugs, alcohol, smoking and reckless behavior.

Reckless Behavior

Your adolescent may be depressed and suicidal if they are sneaking out of the house, engaging in reckless behavior that could lead to death or showing signs that they do not care about life. A teens lack of care in life can often lead to isolation.

Isolation

A common misconception is that depressed teenagers will isolate themselves from everyone if they’re depressed. This is not always true. Many of the suicidal adolescents I have seen in my office have a large social circle that they are regularly a part of, however, I often see that they stay isolated from family. They push their family away by being rude, angry and disengaged.

Trouble in the Family

Adolescents have a hard time putting emotions and words to what they’re feeling. If your family is going through a divorce, a loss of a family member, the removal a family member or any other changes, your teen could become depressed.

What can you do? Talk to your child regularly. Do not assume that a smile, good grades and, an active social life exempts your child from depression. Watch for signs of numbness, anxiety, reckless behavior, isolation and trouble in the family systems. If your child presents with any of these signs, monitor their behavior, have regular conversations and ask them if they have ever thought about harming themselves. If they have, take it seriously and get help immediately. There are three ways you can get help:

Call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255

Call a therapist near you

If your child is in immediate danger call 911 or proceed to the nearest emergency room.

 

 


In response to: Michigan lacks much-needed mental-health support for K-12 students

        

School I will never forget the day my husband approached me and said, “I want to open my own counseling practice.” When I asked, “Why?”

He stated “Because I want to change the world one person at a time. I know that might seem lofty but that is what I want to do.” “If we can make one person better, that improves a family, which helps our community be healthier, which helps our world.”

         In order for us to change the world one person at a time, we knew it would take sacrifice and hard work. We opened our first practice in 2010. Today we own three practices in the greater Grand Rapids area and see thousands of patients a month.  Our mission continues.

Where there is a need. We plan to fill it.

         A couple of months ago, Lindsay Bryan, one of our office managers, approached me about a need she heard of at our local school. She heard that children were waiting on a list to receive mental health care. Lindsay knew right away, that children sitting on a waiting list to get care, was unacceptable, and did not support our mission. Lindsay took action and had a meeting with school personnel. As a result, Joe Martino Counseling will begin providing free serves to the local school.

         An article posted on April 11, 2018, on Mlive, stated:

“One in five children in the country ages 3 through 17 have a diagnosable mental, emotional or behavioral disorder in a given year, but only 20 percent of those children are ever diagnosed and receive treatment. If they get help at all, it is usually at school. “

 

         The Joe Martino Counseling Network prides itself in being a teaching agency. We employ a large number of interns (residents) every semester and work with several local universities to train the next generation of counselors, psychologists and social workers. Through our internship program, we are able to provide free or reduced services to local schools.

 

No child should be waiting to get help. If you work at school, and you have children that need services, please contact our office. Will you join us in changing the world one person at a time?

Joe Martino Counseling Network has three offices:

 

Creative Solutions Counseling

2305 East Paris Ave Suite 203

Grand Rapids, MI 49546

616-929-0226 

Joe Martino Counseling

11630 Fulton St

Lowell, MI 49331

616-481-3784

 

Joe Martino Counseling-Grandville

3181 Prairie St SW

Grandville, MI 49418

616-481-3784


When grief hits like a wave in the ocean

 

        On April 2, 2018, I lost a very close friend and coworker, Marissa Stevens. By trade, I am a therapist. I tell people on a weekly basis how to grieve. I share the importance of letting oneself feel because feeling brings healing. I have had to take my own advice this week. Luckily it was spring break and half my clientele was away. One of my friends said to me “Don’t you wish this happened next week when you are busy so you don’t have time to think about it?” Honestly, yes that would’ve have been great because by nature I am an emotional stuffer. I don’t like to cry; I don’t like to express emotions. I am trying to get better at it because I know healing only happens when we allow ourselves to feel pain. On the other side of pain is healing.

                  I miss Marissa so much. We chatted practically every day. She brought joy to my life on a gloomy day. She radiated beauty, strength, and endurance. There have been so many times in the last seven days that I have thought “I will just message Marissa” only to be consumed with grief when I realized I could not message her anymore. I have lost my grandparents, my mother in law and family friends but Marissa is the first person I have lost that I have done life with on a daily basis. I miss seeing her orange car when she pulled into the office. I miss her feisty spirit. There are moments I feel good and I think it's going to be a good day then grief hits. It hits like an ocean wave coming out of nowhere leaving me feeling washed out, exhausted, and overwhelmed.

Wave of grief

Grief has no time frame. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. The important thing is to grieve. David Kessler has created 5 stages of grief (later modified to 7). These are simply emotions to help us put words to what we are feeling. The 7 stages of grief are:

Shock

Denial

Anger

Bargaining

Depression

Acceptance

Hope

                   Over the past week, I have cycled through the first 4 stages several times a day. Sometimes several times an hour. Grief has hit me:

Riding in the car

Sitting in Marissa’s therapy room

Listening to a song that reminds me of her

Watching disabled teens play basketball

In the middle of therapy

Laying in bed at night

Frist thing in the morning

During a concert.

Grief has no time limits. It shows up when it wants. It consumes you as if someone is tearing your heart out of your chest. It often leaves you feeling hopeless, afraid and lonely.

I know one day, as long as I allow myself to feel, that I will eventually accept that Marissa is gone. That she is in a better place. She is no longer in pain. Until that day comes, I will sit in the grief. I will feel the pain, and I will hope that one day my mourning will turn into dancing.

In a few minutes, I am headed to her visitation. I hate goodbyes. I hate endings. While Marissa is no longer with us, I refuse to say her story has ended. I believe a new chapter is being written. A chapter filled with hope, joy and, acceptance to all those she leaves behind. Marissa only wanted one thing and that is through her suffering that others would see you can have joy in the journey. She would often say “I choose joy!” She would proclaim it because joy was not something that filled her every day but something she chose. A lot of her days she spent in pain but most days you would never know because much like the Apostle Paul, she would choose to boast about whatever was pure, noble and praiseworthy not about her sufferings.

My dearest Marissa,

I will see you later. I am glad you are no longer in pain. My heart leaps for joy at the thought of you meeting your savior. I know you wanted nothing more than to live a long life on earth but your presence in 29 years radiated life to all those around you. I will miss you terribly. I dread taking down your bio and profile down off our website. I hate planning and projecting without you. It doesn’t seem right. Thank you for loving your clients, for meeting them where they were at. Thank you for being a voice of truth and love. I enjoyed watching you grow and change over the past four years as a therapist. Thank you for being a part of our company and most importantly, thank you for being a friend and allowing us to be a part of your journey. I look forward to seeing how your life on earth affects many people for years to come.

Till we meet again,

Erica


Bullying: What my daughter did next I never expected to happen

    When my daughter Kendra was in the second grade, she came home daily complaining about a little boy in her class that was mean to her. I just listened and did not offer much feedback until one day she told me the boy broke a chair over her back. I was infuriated! However, I knew that my anger was not going to stop this boy. Instead, I asked Kendra to tell me why she thought this young man was so angry. She said she did not know. I began to ask her questions about his life. Soon she was able to put the pieces together. The young man's parents had recently gotten divorced. He switched homes every few days and Kendra was a happy kid with a stable home. This young man envied what she had. I noticed that the conversation between Kendra and I had helped her no longer feel powerless and frustrated.

In fact, I did not anticipate what she did next.

The next day when I picked her up from school she told me she stood up to this boy and he started crying. I was a little nervous at this point. What exactly did she do?

She told me she looked him right in the eye and said “I know why you are so angry. You're tired of going back and forth between homes and you hate it that your parents got divorced, but guess what? I am not the one who has hurt you and you can no longer take your anger out on me.”

That was it.

The boy never bothered her again.

Let me tell you about a kid named Jeff. Jeff was a middle schooler. He was thought of to be a bright young man who enjoyed reading, math, and science. He spent his days on the computer researching how to invent toys and change the world. He was considered by many to be a geek and relentlessly picked on because he did not fit the status quo. Jeff began to hate going to school. He was told to just ignore the bully. That did not work. The bullies just increased their intensity in an effort to get a reaction and Jeff became increasingly more depressed and suicidal. 

Jeff would be:

  • Pushed into lockers.
  • His stuff would be stolen.
  • He would be relentlessly poked.
  • Made fun of.
  • And humiliated in front of peers.

    Jeff would report the bullies, but soon the school got tired of  Jeff being picked on so they advised him to just suck it up and ignore. He became increasingly angry and the thoughts of ending his life became so predominant that he could no longer focus on living but only on dying.

                  If he died, his after life would provide no more suffering, pain or heartache. His daily suffering would be over. As a therapist, Jeff’s story breaks my heart. I wonder why, as a society, we fear conflict so much? What are we afraid? Why do schools push the idea of “Ignore the bully”?

                  Jeff saw a mental health professional who taught him that bullies hated confidence and that it was ok to stand up for himself. He soon, with much fear and trembling did it!
                  One day Jeff was playing ball with friends in the school parking lot when the bully approached him and started making fun of he and his friend. Jeff became so angry that he told the bully “I will not tolerate you treating us like this anymore, you need to go pick on kids your own size.” The boy walked away and never said another word. Jeff told his therapist that he was angry because he had no idea that's all it took. He felt frustrated that he had endured years of bullying when all it took to stop it was confronting the bully.

Stopbullying.gov states:

Be persistent. Bullying may not end overnight. Commit to making it stop and consistently support the bullied child.

Avoid these mistakes:

  • Never tell the child to ignore the bullying.
  • Do not blame the child for being bullied. Even if he or she provoked the bullying, no one deserves to be bullied.
  • Do not tell the child to physically fight back against the kid who is bullying. It could get the child hurt, suspended, or expelled.
  • Parents should resist the urge to contact the other parents involved. It may make matters worse. School or other officials can act as mediators between parents.

Follow-up. Show a commitment to making bullying stop. Because bullying is behavior that repeats or has the potential to be repeated, it takes consistent effort to ensure that it stops.

So why does ignoring a bully not work?

                  Bullies are in a fight for control and power. They often prey on those who they believe is inferior or powerless, but this is not always the case, sometimes they are simply threatened by a stronger, confident person, and choose to make it their life mission to tear them down.

 

Bullies are bullies because they have their own story of brokenness.

 

For a kid like Jeff, it is imperative that he learns all about his bullies in order to stop the bullying.

He should ask questions to himself like:

Why am I the target of bullying?

What about me triggers the bully?

Do I remind him of his dad? Was the bully once a target of bullying?

What is going on in the bullies’ personal life that has caused he or she to act and behave the way they do?

    When Kendra confronted the bully she robbed him of power and control and sent a message loud and clear that she would not tolerate it. To this day, 8 years later, this kid does not bother her. Bullies have their own story of pain and brokenness, and understanding those stories bring insight to those who are bullied. A bully needs professional help and should be referred to a professional. In the mean time if your child is being bullied you should teach them about emotions, how to handle conflict appropriately and how to fight back with their wit and self-confidence.


To the bully at school: My daughter is not ugly

 
 

 This morning, on the way to school, my daughter Kaidance, was telling me how this girl in her grade, who she has had trouble with since elementary school, still hates her and makes mean comments to her every day. She tells Kaidance she is ugly, that her hair is frizzy and tries to cut in front of her in lines.

What I love is that Kaidance will not tolerate it!

The school motto for dealing with bullies is

"Be a buddy not a bully, just walk away."

Our family motto for bullying is to fight back! No, I don't want my kids to get in physical altercations, nor do I want them to be unkind, I do want them to use their wit and confidence to cause the bully to stand down.

Kaidance told me when she will not let the girl cut in line, the girl ramps up the intensity by asking her why her hair is so frizzy or telling everyone she is ugly. No matter what the girls says or does Kaidance stands her ground and does not move. This infuriates the girl till she walks away! 

I get what the school is trying to do, bullying has become an epidemic and they are trying to give kids tools to deal with it but ignoring someone does not work!

In my practice I see a lot of victims of domestic violence and abuse of all kinds. I never tell clients to just be a buddy to their abuser or walk away. It. Does. Not. Work. The person who is quiet and unwilling to defend themselves is seen as week by the perpetrator.

A woman who is being beaten, continues to be beaten if she just ignores or abuser.

A country who is threatening to nuke us will not stand down because we ignore them.

A husband will not stop using words as weapons because he is ignored.

The mean neighbor, who does stuff to get reactions, will not stop because you ignore them.

Ignoring people or problems do not make them go away. It just causes the intensity to increase. Why? Because the person is wanting a reaction, they do not care if it is positive or negative, they want something!

Here is how you deal with a bully:

  • You show unwavering confidence.
  • You use your words to fight back.
  • You do not tolerate disrespect of any kind.

When the girl tells my daughter her hair is frizzy, I tell her to reply with “I actually love my frizzy hair!”

When the girls tells her she is ugly, I tell her to reply by saying “I am glad I do not look like you.”

Eventually, the girl will realize Kaidance is unmoved by her comments and will give up because bullies only bully those who think is weak. My daughter is not weak, so soon the girl will have to move on to someone else.

Raise your kids to be strong, confident and to demand respect! That is not unkind, it is loving yourself.

 

A good role model for a father

 


This weekend my husband and I went to the Tim McGraw and Faith Hill concert. One of my favorite songs they sing is “It's your love”.

It's your love, it just does something to me, it sends a shock right through me, I can’t get enough. If you wonder about the spell, I am under. It's your love.

My entire family is under this spell from this man I call my husband and my children call dad. He loves us all fiercely. There is not a day that goes by that I am not overwhelmed with gratitude for him. He is determined and fights for good. As a therapist, I often see that being a good dad or husband is not modeled but one can always learn. My husband is a great one to learn from if you don’t know him then find someone you respect and model your life after them. Here are observations from watching my husband that will make anyone a good dad if they follow these tips.

1.Make sure your child knows your love in unconditional. My husband told me before my children were born that he would go out of his way to make sure they knew there was nothing they could do to cause him to love them more or less. He has drilled this in their heads! His love is unwavering and will not change, regardless of what they do. IMG_6001

  1. Work hard. When my husband and I met we barely had two nickels to rub together but no matter what, my husband fought hard to provide a good life for our children. He has always modeled “Hard work pays off”. He has waited tables, sold life insurance, answered calls in a call center, coached, taught, pastored and even worked in a nursing home because not providing for our children has never been an option. IMG_6986
  2. Be Patient. Children can try our patients right? They start exploring their world and asking questions from the moment they start talking. Enjoy these moments. My husband has more patience than anyone I know. He often reminds himself that they are just little, they’re learning, and mostly he never forgets that words and actions matter, so he shows grace more than anything else. IMG_6118
  3. Be gentle. My husband has never used his hands to hurt my children. His hands are gentle, loving, soft and nurturing. He realizes that soft words and actions lead to safety, He is a safe haven of protection.

    IMG_5944

  4. Pursue their hearts. What are your children passionate about? What do they love? What is their biggest fears, strengths, and weaknesses? My husband knows my girls inside and out. He encourages their strengths, teaches them to be the best they can be and would move mountains to make their dreams comes true. IMG_8382
  5. Invite conversation. I personally grew up in an environment of “What I say goes.”, “You do it because I am the parent”. Joe, from the beginning, wanted our children to be able to argue with us, defend what they believe, and engage wisdom, knowledge,  and research. He has pulled this off well. I will never forget when our daughter Kendra came to us wanting a bedtime extension in 4th grade. Joe listened to her argument, told her to go research bedtimes for children her age and come back with reasons why and he should extend the bedtime. She did and he changed her bedtime. He always invites our children to think and pursue wisdom. Super shot
  6. Date your children. From the time my girls have been two, Joe has taken them on dates. He wants them to know he is the most important man in their life. He has set the bar high. I know one day they will date and find love but hopefully, the standard of excellence is high because their dad has been a model to them on how they should be treated.  Joe and Kaidance
  1. Model how they should be treated. This is one I see all the time. Parents, the chances your children will model the relationship you have with your spouse is very high so do it well while you have the chance. It is never too late to change. My husband kisses me, pursues me, puts me first, laughs with me, dreams with me, fights with me, and intentionally grosses our children out so he can model to them what a healthy relationship looks like. IMG_6736
  2. Laugh with them. My family loves to laugh. My husband wrestles with them, teases them and invites them to a good time and they accept the invitation. We never, ever want to lose our sense of wonder. Life is too short. Joe and Kyra laughing
  3. Engage in the fun. We work hard and play hard. Another one of my husband’s ideas through the years has been family fun night. Essentially one day a week we engage in family fun together. It can be a walk on the beach, video games, dinner out, the zoo, a road-trip or simply a fun night in that the park. The point is, no matter what we do, we choose to be engaged, laugh together and talk about life. IMG_5986 Joe and Kendra

My husband is a wise man and I am so thankful he is the father of my children. He is very selfless, loving, patient and giving and we are lucky to have his love because it just does something to usJ.


What is guided imagery and how does it reduce stress?

I currently have a 30 days of mindful meditation group going that you can join by clicking on this link https://www.facebook.com/groups/286899935052609/

What is Guided Imagery?

    Guided Imagery is great for the visual learner. It invites participants to use their imagination to visit the most relaxing place they can imagine! It is just like daydreaming. Perhaps your “happy” place is on a sandy beach, feeling the sun beating down you, listening to the waves crash into the sand. Maybe it is sitting on a river bank listening to the trickling water hit the rocks. Wherever it is you find peace, relaxation, and comfort is where you should let your mind go while doing Guided Imagery.

    While you are immersed in your scene try to let your fives senses do the work, do you hear the waves crashing against the beach? Do you smell the fresh air and feel the sand on your skin? Do you taste the salty water? Stay here, in your happy place as long as you need to, when you're ready, leave your happy place and tell yourself you're going to enjoy the rest of your day. It's like returning from a mini vacation only, you never left the room.

    Guided Imagery helps reduce stress by calming your body so you can enjoy a few minutes of relaxation!! Did you also know it also helps create resiliency, reduces your chance of getting sick and aids in sleep? You should try it and tell me how it goes.
(Don’t forget to breathe deeply and sit comfortably while you enjoy the mini vacation in your mind.)


10 signs you may struggle with depression

Did you know that according to the National Institute of Mental Health (2015) that 350 million people across the globe struggle with depression? Depression is often viewed as a deliberating feeling that often leaves you in bed. Here are 10 ways to recognize if you or someone you love is depressed.

1. You are in chronic pain. Pain can be unbearable and hard to deal with especially if the cause has not been discovered or a cure, treatment option or pain management is not available. Untreated, prolonged pain can cause depression because the pain is sent through the spinal cord to the Cerebral Cortex. The Cerebral Cortex then assigns meaning to the pain based on current or previous social and personal experiences.

2. You have an eating disorder. Individuals who eat too little or too much could suffer from depression. Often times the feelings of guilt, shame and fear take over when a person eats, leading to a vicious cycle of over or under eating. When an individual feels they cannot win, they feel defeated and often fall into what seems like a hopeless battle.

 3. You are having trouble in a relationship. Prolonged conflict in a relationship can lead to feeling helpless, stuck, overwhelmed and sad. Relationship issues can cause the brain to release unhealthy amounts of the stress hormone cortisol into the brain causing your situation to feel out of control.

4. You feel numb. Individuals often become depressed without even realizing it because they go through life like a robot with no emotion or feeling. Often numbness is a result of emotions and feelings being suppressed out of fear of being rejected or hurt.

5. You want to sleep all the time. Did you know that a healthy person only needs 7-8 hours of sleep per day? If you find yourself tired all the time and sleeping your day away, then there is a good chance you are depressed.

6. You are drinking too much alcohol. A lot of research suggests that certain alcoholic beverages are good for you. However, if you cannot wait to get home from work to open a can of beer, whiskey, or vodka and one turns into 3 or 4, chances are, you’re depressed.

7. You lack a desire to be around people. If you would rather be playing video games, engrossed in a book or spend most days avoiding people, chances are, you’re depressed. Depressed people often want to be alone.

8. You cry a lot. If you find yourself crying a lot, feeling sad and alone, chances are your depressed. Often this is the result of feeling like no one cares, alone or stuck.

9. You use drugs casually. If you use Marijuana on a regular basis to cope with life, chances are, you are struggling with depression. Street drugs often help individuals feel relaxed and carefree, however, what many do not realize, is they’re actually causing you to sink further into depression.

10. You have stopped caring about your appearance. Often when we become depressed we simply stop caring about how we look or what others might think of us. If you find yourself staying in your comfy clothes, not caring if your teeth are brushed or hair is combed, there is a good chance you can be depressed.

The good news is depression is treatable. It takes time, but if you're committed to getting better, a counselor can help you discover the root of your depression and teach you skills to overcome it. You are not a hopeless case.


The Truth About Mother’s Day

 

Mothers-Day-Pictures

            Mother’s Day is a ponderous day for me. I love being a mom and feel so proud to be the mother to our four children. They bring joy to our lives daily, however, I often think about the people who cannot have children, the children who have lost their moms, the mom who has lost her child, the mom who lost her husband and the mom whose children no longer speak to her. My heart goes out to them. I imagine the day is filled with many emotions.  

 To the women who cannot have children

            My heart goes out to you. The emptiness you feel is real and I know it sucks. It is hard when you want something so bad and for whatever reason, it will not happen. Please know it is not your fault. I know that is not always easy to accept. I hope you find joy in the day celebrating a mother in your life and never forget that a mom is not just a woman who gives birth but a woman who cares and nurtures for others, if you pour your life in a child, you’re a mother so Happy Mother’s Day to you.

To the child who has lost their mother

            I am sorry. I imagine this day brings sadness. Losing a mom sucks. Moms fill our life with joy, love, and laughter and when they are gone, it hurts. I imagine that no matter how long it has been, the pain of not being able to pick up the phone to call them never goes away.

 I would love to hear about your mom. Would you share your favorite memory of her with me? I hope that as you mourn the loss of your mom that there is another mother in your life to celebrate today.

To the mother who has lost her child

            This is the most difficult one for me to write. I cannot imagine your pain and the longing you must feel to hold your child once more, to see them, to touch them, or simply tell them you love them. To me, you are a hero because you got to love them and let them go. That pain is indescribable I am sure.  I hope that you do not skip this day. Celebrate the mom you were, are and want to be. You never stop being a mom. Pull out pictures of your child, letters they wrote you or videos you might have. I know this can be hard and you don’t want to experience those emotions and feelings again but I invite you to cry, laugh, feel anger and mourn if that is what it takes. Feeling will bring healing. Most of all, I hope that those memories bring you joy and remind you of the life you invested in for so long. Celebrate you today because you are worth celebrating!

To the mom who lost her husband

            I cannot imagine what pain you feel on a day like today. I am so sorry for your loss. I hope that if your children are young, that someone in your life celebrates you. You deserved to be noticed, pampered and cared for today. I hope that you see your husband in your children’s eyes and that his memory never dies. I hope that your day is filled with love, laughter. and hope.

To the mom whose children won’t speak to her

            As a counselor, this is the most difficult one for me to understand. Life is so short. I am sure there is a story of pain and hurt and that has caused this separation but I hope one day the pain, wounds, and hurt can be healed. Never give up hope. I hope, that even in the silence, that you celebrate you today. You’re a still mother regardless of how you are treated. 

To all the mom’s out there

            You’re not a mom just because who gave a birth, a mom is a woman who nurtures, cares for and loves children unconditionally. I know that today can be hard for many of you but I hope that even in your pain that you chose to celebrate you today because you deserve it!

Take a day to relax, catch a movie, have a spa treatment or just hang around those you love. I hope whatever you choice to do, that your day will remind you of just how special you are.

Happy Mother’s Day everyone!

Leave a comment and tell me what makes the mom in your life special


A journey to private practice

    As a child, even though I had low-esteem and little belief in myself, it never stopped me from dreaming. I remember fantasizing about being preaching or working in a hospital one day. As I matured, and after many days and hours in the school library, I decided I wanted to be a counselor. You can check out my story here https://www.ericamartino.com/2016/12/i-had-to-prove-i-was-not-the-dumb-girl-from-high-school-.html.

At a young age, I enjoyed hearing people’s stories and helping them move toward change. When I graduated high school I enrolled in a college and was planning to get my degree in counseling. Instead of getting my counseling degree at that time I chose to get married. 

                  After I got married, I begin working with my husband first at a church, then at couple different schools. We have always done well working together. One day an opportunity presented itself for me to open a fitness center for an investor in the town where we lived. After much contemplation, I decided to give it a try. The fitness center grew rapidly and soon I was running 7 different centers in 3 different states. My favorite part about my job was listening to all the members tell me their stories of pain, hope, and perseverance. After several years of running fitness centers, I decide to become a stay at home mom and take care of my sweet children but even while being at home, my passion for personal development never left me.

                  During my years at home, my husband was working hard providing for our family while attending graduate school. Since he was gone a lot, I decided to go back to school and get a degree in business. This worked out great because when he graduated he wanted to open a private practice and I knew just how to do it.  

                  We spent many hours planning, writing business plans and developing a social media plan before opening our doors in 2010. While Joe was busy seeing clients, I took care of the day to day operations of the business while I continued to finish my education and care for my children. Our practice started in a little two room suite on the East Beltline in Grand Rapids but our long term dream was never to stay small but to reach one person at time so we could change a community and eventually change the world which led us to expansion.

          In 2013, we moved our small, two-roomed office to East Paris Ave and rented an 11 room office. This was a big move for us that came with a lot of fear.

What if we could not afford the rent?

What if clients stopped coming?

What if, what if, what if……

                   We did not let our fears stop us, our mission was always bigger then our fears therefore in 2014 we opened an additional location in Lowell, MI and in 2015 we expanded to Grandville, MI. In addition to running 3 offices, Joe and I own Hopes and Dreams marriage conferences. For 7 years now, we have been traveling all around the state holding marriage conferences because we believe healthy marriages create healthy families. In addition to the marriage conferences, Joe is invited often to speak on the new stations, for the local hospitals and even the schools. Our dreams have not stopped with expanding our practices or hosting conferences. In addition to these things Joe is also working on writing a book and creating curriculum.

               It is our desire that couples all over the country can learn what it takes to make a marriage not just survive but thrive. While Joe invests his free time in writing and public speaking I work with businesses to help them grow.

                  I have been offering business consulting now for many years. I have a passion for helping small business because I believe small business help America be stronger while providing more jobs. Plus, I love showing others how they can take a dream and turn into a reality. It simply starts with a good road map.

    Are you wondering how Joe and I have time to run a private practice and do all this? The truth we have an amazing team of therapist and support staff.  Together we all strive to be the best in Grand Rapids. In order to the be the best we have learned a lot the hard way which has involved making a lot of mistakes but without mistakes it is impossible to learn.  The process to become the best has involved weeding out, adding, learning, growing and developing but it has all been necessary to achieve excellence.

    While I have been working beside my husband throughout this journey as his business developer, I have recently added more responsible and am now a therapist. I love being a therapist. There is no greater joy occupationally then journeying with someone toward healing. My journey started with a childhood dream that exploded into something bigger and I would not change any of it because this journey has brought me where I am today.