My Story

I’ve had contact with the mental health profession as long as I can remember.

What influenced my decision to become a mental health counselor?  I’m sure that growing up the daughter of a psychiatrist probably made a difference.  My mom used to work at the mental health hospital across the street from our home in Warsaw, Poland.  My brother and I used to go there to meet her for lunch, until we moved to the USA when I was nine years old.  I remember chatting with some of the patients in the hallway, and playing ping pong with some of them.  These interactions helped me to see people with mental illness as individuals right from the start.

My Parents

Because of my mom’s passion for helping people, I grew up exposed to psychological ideas, and the value of caring for and helping others.  My dad also encouraged me to ask questions, be practical, think for myself, and learn.  He is a physicist, always doing research, searching for better solutions to problems, and sharing what he discovers.  Although I was too young to know it at the time, their combination of caring, inquisitiveness and practicality has had a profound impact on me.

Starting to Find Myself

I have to admit that there have been many moments, especially during adolescence, when human behavior absolutely puzzled me.  It often did not make sense to me why people made the decisions they made.  Why would someone be mean?  Why would they sometimes be surprisingly nice?  Why would they risk their safety?  Why would they pretend to be less intelligent than they really were?  …With time I started to apply similar questions to myself, and to start examining my own life.  These questions eventually led me to declare psychology as my major at Oklahoma State University.  I can still remember walking out of the psychology building that day, so excited I wanted to run and tell my friends.

Oklahoma State University

Me (right) with Dr. Green (center) and Dr. Runyan (left) presenting a poster at the meeting of the Southwestern Psychological Association in 1997

At first, I was all about research!  I joined a group researching thinking patterns in adolescent risk taking behaviors.  I also joined psychology club and worked my way up to being their vice president.  My mom encouraged my interest by inviting me to join her at multiple large mental health conferences.  After a couple of years, though, I had come to the realization that research was not exactly what I wanted to do.  It felt like I was looking at individual grains of sand, when what I wanted to see was the beach.  I wanted to work with whole individuals, rather than examining just one specific behavior pattern.  Ready to graduate, I needed to investigate other aspects of psychology.

Like many college students, I found myself at the career counselor’s office.  Except, I was there to interview her about her career.  I had decided to go into counseling rather than clinical psychology because I was curious about what made people succeed in life, not just what made them struggle.  I wanted to be able to work with the whole range… helping individuals who suffer from a mental illness, as well as helping healthy individuals who want to achieve greater satisfaction, fulfillment, and purpose in their lives.  This was the beginning of my interest in the concept of wellness.

Southern Illinois University

Me (center) with a couple of other graduate students at SIU

I was accepted for graduate study at the counseling psychology program at Southern Illinois University.  They offered a scientist-practitioner model of training, that ensured “…the development of the student as both a scientifically sophisticated researcher and an interpersonally skilled counselor. Our [their] graduates are capable of providing quality services, critically evaluating services, developing new intervention approaches, and contributing to the field through research, teaching, and training.”  Knowing how to conduct and recognize quality research helped me to implement empirically validated techniques in therapy.  Learning psychological theory and principles helped me to understand myself and others better.  And getting a solid start with supervised clinical experience taught me how meaningful and how powerful therapy can be.  My training ensured that I would be prepared to effectively help people.

It’s an interesting and strange experience to suddenly find yourself in the role of a counselor.  Most new counselors go through “the impostor phase” during which they feel unworthy of such a role.  I asked myself “who do I think I am… presuming to help these total strangers?”  But with experience I grew to realize that the years I had spent studying psychology gave me understanding, insight and expertise.  I got used to sharing the principles I had learned, and using them to help people uncover their defense mechanisms, motives and needs… while also respecting that my clients were the experts about their own lives.  I grew to appreciate the power of the process of therapy, without necessarily taking credit for it.  And the more I counseled, the more I learned from my clients’ individual experiences.

In addition to learning about counseling at SIU, I also got to do some teaching.  I enjoyed it so much that after getting my masters degree in counseling (in 2000), I dabbled in educational psychology for a while (while working at the Wellness Center).  Ultimately though, I decided that counseling was the way to go.  Since then, I have been channelling my enjoyment of teaching into community presentations and into skills-focused psycho-educational groups.

The Wellness Center

I can’t imagine a better place to have grown as a counselor than at the SIU Wellness Center.  First of all, the collegiate atmosphere and collaboration there were excellent, and I was very fortunate to have Barb Elam MS, LCPC as my supervisor and mentor during my three years there.  I got plenty of training and experience in dealing with substance abuse issues, stress management, and sexuality issues.   (See my training and experience for more details about these.) I also had the opportunity to read about and give presentations on wellness-related topics.  I liked the balanced approach of the wellness philosophy, which acknowledged the mind-body connection, and focused not only on what can go wrong, but also what can go right.  This perspective on health has stuck with me ever since.

Southern Illinois Regional Social Services

At my office at Southern Illinois Regional Social Services

Now it was time to really test myself!  Community mental health was a completely different environment from campus, with clients who had much more severe symptoms, and often were disabled by them.  Once again, I was fortunate to work with a great team of clinicians, especially Dana DeLong PhD (my supervisor) and Mary Rosenberg PhD (the clinical director).  I could not have asked for more supportive  leadership.

I learned so much about treating mental illness at SIRSS.  In some ways this work was profoundly sad, and my heart goes out to my clients who have shared their struggles and devastatingly painful experiences with me.  It was challenging to learn to be with their pain without absorbing it to my core.

At the same time, the work I did at SIRSS was intensely meaningful, and knowing that I made a difference in people’s lives is precious.  There are few things as rewarding as helping someone turn their life in a positive direction; and seeing them succeed, one step at a time, in building their resilience, self-esteem, coping skills, stability, relationships and achievements.  I give my heartfelt thanks to all those who have worked so hard while in therapy with me, and who have allowed me to be part of that process.

The Bio-Psycho-Social Connection

One of the things that stood out to me during my five years at SIRSS, was seeing the connection between biology, psychology and social interactions.  One aspect of this is how often physical health problems and mental health problems coincide.  Having come from a wellness background, I was aware of this relationship between physical and mental health, but it wasn’t until I worked at SIRSS that I witnessed its full extent, and it’s impact on people’s social lives and general functioning.

How you think has a huge impact on how you feel (emotionally and physically) and on relationships.  How you feel physically also has a huge impact on how you think and on relationships.  And, thirdly, what’s happening in your relationships has an impact on your thinking and on how you feel.  Furthermore, looking at the sources of people’s problems (in early life) often involved all three elements.  I found that being aware of, and addressing, all three elements was essential for recovery.

The Big Questions

I’m drawn to exploring questions of purpose, meaning, awareness, and the pursuit of happiness; within the context of development over time.  I see these types of questions as part of an ongoing process of exploration and clarification that can gradually help one understand their life and to grow toward their potential.  This type of exploration gives me appreciation for the simple things in life, as well as for mankind’s ability to achieve great things and overcome great obstacles.  Tracing life’s questions to their core helps me to glimpse something universal that we all have in common, that makes us all human.  This view of what we all share brings out in me a deeply felt empathy for others, and feeds my desire to help.

Hoover & Associates

In the summer of 2008, I decided to move up to the Chicago area, and to go into private practice.  I found a wonderful private practice to work with, in Tinley Park, IL… and I have been with Hoover and Associates since October of 2008.  I now see a fuller range in terms of severity of issues, with some clients being disabled, some being successful and influential executives, and many falling somewhere between the two extremes.  I have found it inspiring to work with insightful and motivated clients, and hold it dear to my heart to help those who are struggling with more than their fair share of suffering.

Although I am now in private practice, I have not forgotten the under-served, and my previous experience in community mental health (at SIRSS).  I have continued to try to help people who couldn’t otherwise afford therapy by taking sliding scale fees through the Family Education Center (FEC), by serving as the treasurer on the FEC board, by providing free presentations about mental health topics to the community (also through the FEC), and by always providing pro bono services to one client at any given time.  Additionally I volunteered in the Palos Hospital hospice program for two years.

It has been a long road up to this point, and I hope I will have a much longer road still to travel.  It seems that there is always more to learn, there are always new challenges to face, and new achievements to reach for.  My hope is that, while on my journey, I will also be able to help many other people on theirs.

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort. Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC. Click here for more about Hoover and Associates.

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