Frequently Asked Questions

General Information

Trauma Recovery

Narcissistic Abuse

Pastoral Counseling

Consulting Services

General Information

I provide services for adults from diverse backgrounds.

There is a wealth of academic articles available on the internet that dive deeply into this topic.  I encourage you to seek those out if you would like a more in-depth answer than I provide here.  A coach, counselor, and therapist are all helping professionals and many similarities exist between them.  The key difference is some coaches, counselors, and therapists choose to work in the healthcare system, which requires a government-issued license to diagnose and treat medical conditions like mental illness. 

Some coaches and counselors have mental health degrees and training, but have chosen not to pursue working in the medical field.  For me, I love what I do, (and my clients!), believe in the amazing benefits that come from the process, and see that some of the best growth for those with trauma occurs in a more flexible environment than a medical one allows.  I am content to leave the responsibility for diagnosing and treating mental illness to those who have a passion for this valuable service.

I offer Coaching and/or Pastoral Counseling (non-clinical) services for:  

  • Toxic Relationships, Emotional Abuse, Narcissistic Abuse 
  • Spiritual Abuse

I offer Training and Consulting services for :

  • Domestic Violence Advocates
  • Those Who Support Survivors of Narcissistic Abuse
  • Recovering from Narcissistic Pastors, Churches, and Ministries 

I specialize in:

  • Trauma-Informed & Sensitive Care 
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder Informed Care

Single sessions are 50 minutes long.  

Sessions are via phone or Google Meet if we are using video chat.  

I do everything that I can to meet or exceed the Ethical Principles for Professional Coaches set forth by the International Association of Coaching.  Confidentiality is very important to me.  I hold each session in strict confidence.  I will never release identifying information or reveal to anyone that you are a client unless I am legally required, or you have given written consent.

I take confidentiality seriously.  I’m fully aware there are situations where someone’s job or life is at risk.  Sometimes as a coach, counselor, or sex trafficking advocate, I encounter clients who are connected to a high-profile individual.  Sometimes my client is the high-profile individual.  

Regardless of my client’s connections, I treat confidentiality the same.  I hold each session in strict confidence.  I do everything I can to meet or exceed the Ethical and Confidentiality Principles for Professional Coaches set forth by the International Association of Coaching.  Here is a link to review these standards. https://certifiedcoach.org/about/ethics/.

If an individual or a group is stalking or monitoring you, there are extra measures I’m willing to take.  You are welcome to contact me so we can discuss this further. If you do, please make sure to include instructions about the safest way for me to respond to you. 

You can find my rates HERE.

I am happy to reschedule your session if something serious and unavoidable comes up; however, your money will not be refunded.  To be eligible to reschedule, you must give me a 48-hour notice via email, unless you are canceling for an extreme last-minute emergency such as a medical crisis or disaster.  

This is a tough situation to be in, and I’ve been there myself.  However, with some effort on your part and some creative solutions,  there may be a way to secure the services you need.

  • Some organizations that help victims of abuse may have resources you can apply for that could pay for services.  If you need me to speak with them, to verify that the funds will go to a recovery resource, please contact me.
  • You could ask the non-profit organizations you belong to (church, civic group, etc.), if they have funds for members needing trauma recovery services.
  • There might be areas of your life you could cut back in or work a few extra hours to pay for services.  
  • Do you have a supportive person in your life that you could ask to help?  Sometimes people around us want to help, but they don’t know how. I know it’s very hard to accept help; however, sometimes we may need to open up to the support of caring individuals around us.   Later, when you have overcome and are in a better financial situation, you can pay it back or pay it forward.
  • While this won’t give you personalized support you may need, there are tons of free resources online such as articles and YouTube videos that address various aspects of recovery.

Trauma Recovery Coaching & Counseling

Be Consistent – Make it a priority to show up for scheduled sessions.  Change and recovery don’t happen without consistently investing in the process.  

Be Committed – There are distractions everywhere!  I’ll help remind you of your goals, and we can develop strategies to deal with challenging distractions that come along, but it will take your commitment to stay focused and not let distractions derail you.

Be Invested – It is important between sessions to stay focused and work on your goals.  Keep your mind engaged with the process.  If there are homework assignments you have chosen, give adequate time and energy to them.  Before a session, take some time to clear your mind of the pressures of daily living and think through how you want to use the session time.  Find a quiet place, free of distractions for our times together.

Do Communicate – Talk to me about any concerns you have.  If you don’t understand something, ask me. If you think I might not be understanding you, let me know.  The more feedback and open communication we have, the more productive and helpful our times together will be. 

I value building genuine relationships that provide my clients with the safety, validation, support, guidance, and motivation they need to reach their goals.  I work collaboratively to build and maintain areas of their life that might hold them back or hinder their recovery. My strengths lie in being highly intuitive and having the ability to connect smaller pieces of information together to form a larger picture that helps us develop effective strategies.  I am committed to giving my clients the very best experience and deeply value working with kindness and integrity. 

There are various types of life coaches, each with their area of expertise.  A recovery coach specializes in helping clients effectively navigate a particular obstacle (addiction, trauma, abuse, etc.) that stands in the way of their recovery goals.

First, we will meet for a FREE 30-Minute introductory call designed to let us explore if we are a good fit to continue working together.  We will begin getting to know each other.  I’ll ask you about your needs and explain what you can expect from counseling.

If we agree to work together,  I’ll send you some questionnaires to fill out that will help me understand what you want from coaching/counseling, identify your unique needs, and understand what format would be the most useful for you.  We can do the paperwork together during the first couple of sessions in a relaxed, relational setting, or you can complete them on your own.

When we finish the initial paperwork, we will start our regular sessions.   I base these highly individual sessions on your needs and goals, so I do not follow a rigid format.  At the beginning of each session we can do a brief survey of the time between sessions to determine how to best use our time together.  We may keep building on the previous weeks goals, develop skills to navigate a new obstacle, reestablish connection, or practice healing techniques.  We will finish by developing a clear plan of action for the coming week, so you will have direction and know what you want to do.  You will always be in control of everything we do and any goals you set.

We are all on a journey called “life.”  Sometimes we know where we want to go, but we get distracted, stuck in a rut, confused about which direction to go, lose our motivation, or are unsure how to navigate around an obstacle.  Pastoral counseling and coaching is a good fit for individuals in these kinds of situations. However, sometimes we become disabled by a mental illness that is so severe we decompensate and cannot function or move forward at all.  A licensed mental health provider is the right fit for situations like these. 

Some people move between a mental health provider and a coach.  Those whose mental illness is in remission or under control, often benefit from counseling/coaching. 

If you are experiencing significant emotional, mental, or physical distress to the point where you cannot function well in day-to-day life, your symptoms are causing you concern, or you need someone else to be responsible for your care and safety, then you should see a licensed medical or mental health care provider.  Because your safety and stability is critically important, it’s very important you never rely on a coach, consultant, mentor, counselor, etc. who is not a licensed mental health provider, for any medical (including mental health) needs. 

When thinking about which will better suit your own needs, it may help to think of it this way.  If a client mentions to a coach they have a headache, you wouldn’t expect the coach to know the client needs to seek immediate medical care because it could be a sign of a severe reaction to a new prescription the client is taking.   Some coaches and counselors don’t have the license to practice medicine or the responsibility for a client’s medical care.  If the coach/counselor insisted that the client went to the emergency room immediately for a simple headache, the client would rightfully view this as the coach overstepping their role and trying to take charge of the client’s life and medical decisions. 

It’s the same with mental illness.  A client may have symptoms that could be part of a mental illness.  A coach/counselor may or may not notice them.  However, it is not a coach’s role to determine if they are severe enough to be a mental disorder and need medical care.  Clients and their licensed medical providers are the ones responsible for all medical and mental health care needs.  Mental health care providers can directly intervene in a patient’s life to ensure their safety and stability.  Non-medical coaches/counselors never provide this direct level of care.  They work with clients who are able to be in the driver’s seat of their own lives and take responsibility for their own decisions and actions. 

In short, if you are deciding between working with a recovery professional or a mental health provider, ask yourself about your current distress level.  Do you need someone else to be responsible for your stability and progress?   A licensed provider can supply this level of care.  Are you able to be in the driver’s seat of your life and take responsibility for your own functioning? A non-medical professional can work with a client in this situation.

Yes, I’m more than happy to communicate with other supportive resources in your life.  As a part of regular weekly services, I’m willing to do one brief consultation with another helping professional for free.  This could be a medical professional, pastor, or even a massage therapist.  Before any consultation occurs, I first need to understand the purpose and scope of the consultation (I don’t want to release any information that you don’t want me to), and I will need to secure signed consent forms from all parties.   The first 15 minutes is free (on my end). After that, my rate is $1 per minute for any time needed on that call or any other.

Many terms have both a non-clinical and clinical use.  When terms are used in a non-clinical way, they should not be mistaken for a diagnosis of mental illness.  

For example, “depression” is a mental illness, a symptom of some mental illness, and it’s used to mean “sad”.  There is a big difference between, “I’m so depressed that it’s raining, so I can’t go to the beach” and, “I’m so depressed that I can’t get out of bed.”  Another example is the term “narcissistic.”  Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a mental illness, but to say someone is narcissistic is not a diagnosis but a trait like selfish, generous, or empathetic.  

A coach/counselor may use terms related to mental health,  but it’s important you don’t mistake this as a  mental health evaluation or diagnosis. 

Yes, I’m very familiar with the full dissociative spectrum from both an academic and experiential standpoint.   Dissociation serves to protect people from the impacts of trauma and can literally help to keep someone alive.   Once the threats have passed, some people still automatically dissociative in response to stressful situations.   These responses that were once helpful can now stand in the way of fully living and healing.  I work with these clients to stop the spinning, reconnect with themselves, and develop new, helpful ways of managing stressful situations.  

Some of my clients experienced childhood trauma and developed D.I.D.    While I’m not a D.I.D. recovery counselor, I work with victims of narcissistic and spiritual abuse who also deal with D.I.D. I’m welcoming to all of their parts that want to take part, respectful of their important roles, and vigilant about not re-traumatizing them.  

It’s important to understand that sometimes dissociation can become so severe and debilitating that people need a medical professional to diagnose and treat it.  

I have received training in a variety of healing techniques that address the mind/body connection. Everyone has their own unique needs and preferences when it comes to addressing this integral part of healing. I use somatic experiencing and other related techniques. There are many methods of releasing trauma stored in the body, resetting the nervous system, and rewiring neural networks. If you are interested in a specific method, please contact me, so we can discuss it further.  

 

YES!  Having a trauma-informed counselor is absolutely critical for traumatized individuals.  Trauma creates unique struggles and thought patterns that impact a survivor’s everyday life.  It is essential to recovery that helping resources understand these impacts.

An effective trauma-informed counselor/coach works in a safe, sensitive, and compassionate way without re-traumatizing their clients.  They should have a full toolbag of effective resources to give their clients, so they can manage the very real aftershocks of abuse.  

My best counselors and coaches were also survivors who had worked through their own traumas.  They could put seemingly random pieces together in a way that helped me clearly see how to move forward.

Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

Absolutely!  I’m not a licensed mental health provider; therefore, I do not diagnose Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).   Deciding to address the toxic impacts that a relationship has on your life doesn’t require that they receive a diagnosis or seek mental health care. 

A client once asked me,  “How do I know if I have Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome  if my mother was never diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder?”  I answered her with this example.  When we are at our local beach or walking through the woods, my husband loves to identify the various animals that walked through.  Even though he didn’t see them, he knows which animals were there by the tracks they left behind.  It’s the same with Narcissistic Abuse.  The symptoms in the survivor point to them having been in a highly toxic relationship.  

Most narcissists don’t go to therapy, and the few that do rarely stay.  Those who attend for more than a session or two go to great lengths to manipulate the therapist’s perceptions to accomplish some hidden agenda—like win a custody battle or appear to be working on their part of the relationship when in reality they aren’t.  Victims do not need a diagnosed narcissist to begin the healing journey from Narcissistic Abuse.

  • A coach who “gets it.”  

Many survivors of Narcissistic Abuse feel like friends, family members, and even therapists, don’t get it.  Often they don’t.  I sure felt this way when I was recovering and trying to make sense of what had happened to me.  When I would try to explain it to people who hadn’t experienced it, they would try to rationalize it away, look at me like I was crazy, or give me advice that might have been helpful if this had been a normal human relationship.  I don’t fault them.   Until you are in a relationship with a narcissist, you just don’t “get it.”  

  • A coach who supports you.

When nobody gets it, you can easily feel isolated, sad, and helpless.  Deep fears creep in such as, “Maybe what the abuser said about me is true.”  “Maybe this is all my fault.” “If I just try harder or do more, the good times will return.”  In this isolation, the voices coming from the abuse are louder than the truth.  To have someone who believes in you and the truth of what was done to you is absolutely critical in the recovery process.  

  •  A coach who has knowledge, education, and training in how to recover.

A helpful coach is not only a person who has experienced Narcissistic Abuse themselves and walked the road to recovery but a person who has a wealth of knowledge about narcissism and Narcissistic Abuse and posses the critical insights and skills needed to guide each client on their own unique path to recovery.  It also requires a coach who has a full toolbox of effective resources so their clients can successfully navigate obstacles they encounter on their path to healing and finding a deeply fulfilling life of purpose THEY choose.

  • A coach who has done their own work and continues to do so.

It’s my belief that any coach, therapist, mentor, pastor, etc.  should at all times be regularly meeting with someone who can hold them accountable, identify insight they are lacking, and provide encouragement and guidance for continued growth.  I’ve made the journey myself, and I continue to meet regularly with my coach to gain the clarity and insights I need to be effective.  

  •  A trauma-informed & sensitive coach

It’s a nightmare for a client seeking support, when those supports needlessly trigger and re-traumatize them.  This is exactly what can happen when people cannot identify and appreciate the impacts of trauma.  It’s critical a coach knows how to work with traumatized clients in ways that are helpful and not re-traumatizing.

  • A coach who guides & encourages but never decides for you or pressures you.

This is your journey.  You get to decide where you want to go, when you want to go there, and how you will go about it.   A coach should provide options and directions but never decide for you.

  • A coach who gently reminds you to stay on the course you have chosen.

A coach should remind you of your goals and always encourage you to reach them in positive, helpful ways.  They should be able to help you navigate obstacles that come up along the way.

  • A committed coach who cares about you.

A coach should be a person of their word, consistent, personable, caring, and empathetic.

I am committed to doing my absolute best to help you move from surviving to thriving!  This includes meeting regularly, being mentally fresh and engaged with you during our times together,  finding resources between sessions, and continuing to learn and grow.  This also includes referring you to another coach if I’m not skilled at helping with some part of your journey.  

My style and personality are to build genuine relationships with my clients.  I truly enjoy hearing from them long after our sessions have ended. 

Recovery varies according to each client’s situation and goals.  It depends where you are in your journey and where you want to go.  Some clients have already done a lot of work before they come to me.  They seek further coaching because they have encountered a new difficulty, get stuck, or feel alone and want a connection with someone who can offer support and encouragement.

Others come wanting to explore if they might be in a toxic relationship or a victim of Narcissistic Abuse.  They are bravely reaching for help for the first time.  Some have encountered a narcissist later in life.  Others were raised by a narcissist and later found themselves in another toxic relationship.    

Some clients work on one aspect of their healing journey and then take a break.  Others want to keep their momentum going until they are free and their trauma no longer gets in their way of living their life.  Some people like to keep a connection to their coach for years, while others don’t.

In each of these cases, the trauma developed over time; therefore, it takes time to heal.  It’s important to remember that complex trauma and abuse isn’t something anyone “just gets over.”  It takes hard work, dedication, and healing resources to overcome Narcissistic Abuse. 

As your coach, I will understand this.  I’m prepared to journey with you for as long as it takes to recover and even after.  I will never be critical of your own unique timeline and growth process.  No two journeys are ever quite the same.

During your first session, we can talk about where you are in your recovery and where you want to go.  This will give me the ability to give you a personalized answer to this question.  As with every choice and decision, how much time and energy you invest into your recovery is completely up to you

I’ve coached clients who have experienced narcissistic abuse from:

A parent or family member

A current or former spouse or romantic relationship with or without children involved

A friend or co-worker

A professional (like a therapist, doctor, attorney, financial advisor, life coach, etc.)

A spiritual leader (like a pastor, elder, deacon, etc.)

A religious organization (cult, church, ministry, etc.)

A relationship with a narcissistic individual will be toxic; however, not all toxic relationships result from being in a relationship with an individual with significant narcissistic traits.

Relationships take work; some more than others.  A healthy relationship is where two individuals work together despite faults, moods, and idiosyncrasies to mutually benefit each other.  Individuals may have some unhealthy ways of navigating the relationship, but the foundation is built on mutual caring, compassion, respect, and concern for another’s welfare.

A toxic relationship is unhealthy at its foundation.  It’s characterized by one or both of the individuals trying to dominate, manipulate, and control the relationship for their own benefit.  They are not both working for the benefit of the relationship and the other person.  

A relationship with a person who has significant narcissistic traits will be toxic and usually abusive.   The abuser’s sole focus (although often covertly) is manipulating the relationship to meet their own needs and desires.  They do not have the best interest of the other individual at heart.  On the surface some behaviors appear thoughtful and caring; however, even these are manipulative and not from a place of genuine compassion or empathy.  They often follow a very predictable pattern of love-bombing, devaluation, and discard.   The impacts from a toxic relationship with a narcissist are called Narcissistic Abuse.

Christian Pastoral Counseling

No.  Everyone is welcome, regardless of faith orientation.  Pastoral counseling with me is a safe and non-judgmental space where you set the agenda and decide what is right for you.  Christian or Christ-Centered counseling is for those clients who want to integrate their Christian faith with the healing process.  If you don’t, that is entirely up to you.  If you want to explore matters of the Christian faith, I’ll be happy to discuss it with you.

There are many names for faith-based professional helping services such as Christian, Christ-centered, and Biblically based.   Willow Life offers coaching and pastoral counseling services from a Christian worldview based on Biblical theology.  

Christ-centered coaching is an option for clients wanting Jesus Christ and Biblical teachings to be an integral part of their journey. 

I work with many clients who have experienced spiritual abuse.  The Bible and spiritual disciplines (prayer, fasting, confession, etc.) were weaponized and used to manipulate and control them.   

As with any solid coach, counselor, mentor, etc, my role is not to tell you what to believe, preach to you (there are preachers for that), set rules for you, or misuse the Bible to manipulate your feelings or actions.   

Jesus not only provided a path to freedom, but He reveals even the deepest parts of us that need healing.  God doesn’t need me to do that work for Him.  He has it covered!  So, I leave the work of deciding what area of growth you want to focus on and the how and when to you and Jesus.  I trust His work in your life and believe He knows your heart, hurts, and needs far better than I.  I trust Him to be the Ultimate Guide in your healing.

I ask each client what they would find helpful to be included in our times together.  I’m delighted to pray together, study relevant passages of Scripture, and discuss your spiritual journey.  Which of those we include will be entirely up to you.  

I’ve gathered together a robust collection of Bible studies, books, scriptures, and media resources you can use besides our times together.  The topics cover many aspects of the healing journey from a wide variety of Christian authors, pastors, and teachers.  I dedicate time every day to pray for my clients.  I work at maintaining spiritual habits in my life such as daily Bible study, prayer, and regularly meeting with other believers who hold me accountable and encourage me.

I hold a B.A. in Biblical Theology and a B.S. in Psychology from Columbia International University (a Bible College and Seminary) which focused on teaching psychology students how to integrate theology with sound principles of counseling.  I’m an ordained minister with a license in good standing with the National Association of Christian Ministers.  For more information, please see the About and Statement of Faith pages.

Consulting

This varies from provider to provider, and there is typically plenty of overlap, but at Willow Life there are a few key differences.

Coaching/counseling is a process of discovery, developing new insights, clarifying and setting goals, navigating obstacles, and achieving personal growth.  I offer counseling to those seeking to overcome toxic relationships and narcissistic abuse.

During a consulting session, clients are frequently looking for a solution to a challenging situation.  I offer consulting for advocates, support persons, and church/ministry leaders who need insight and solutions navigate situations related to narcissism.  

Some clients start with a consultation or two and then take advantage of personal counseling to grow and overcome the personal impacts that occur when dealing with narcissism.  Others, once armed with new insights, a fresh perspective, confidence, and an effective game plan are ready to effectively deal with the narcissistic issues they are facing.

Many cases of domestic violence result from a narcissistic partner.  When an individual with significant narcissistic traits is involved, it changes everything.  If you view these clients through the lens of Narcissist Abuse, you will be exponentially more effective.  Your client’s responses will make sense, and you will be better equipped to help them navigate the obstacles, get free, and stay free.  Consulting will give you the understanding and tools needed to significantly be more effective with your many clients experiencing Narcissistic Abuse.

Whether you are a family member, friend, teacher, or mentor, you play a very important role in the survivor’s life! It is relationships with people like you that can be the most comforting and healing for survivors.  However, if you lack an understanding of Narcissistic Abuse and its impacts on victims (Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome), then you also have the potential to unintentionally add to their suffering.  

One of the most painful aspects of Narcissistic Abuse my clients report is a profound sense of isolation.  While they may have friends or family around them, they can still feel all alone and trapped in a vortex of pain and confusion.  Why is this?   Narcissistic Abuse turns EVERYTHING upside down. The perpetrator can appear to be the victim, normal methods for handling relational difficulties make things worse or even dangerous, and victims can appear to be over-reactive.   In reality, those who have encountered Narcissistic Abuse often experience impacts similar to victims of long-term captivity and brainwashing. 

I recognize your role can be overwhelming and intimidating.  Narcissistic Abuse not only impacts victims, but those that support them.   I provide highly personalized consults designed to give you a place to build your competence and confidence as you discover how to effectively support the survivor(s) in your life. 

I provide consulting for anyone holding a staff or leadership position.  This includes elders, directors, volunteer staff, pastors, and ministry leaders.  I provide pastoral counseling for anyone who is dealing with personal impacts from narcissistic leadership.