Farmers carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. They have endless stresses and pressures and are often navigating things not in their control like commodity prices, the weather, and livestock health. We also deal with other life challenges like losses and grief, changes and transitions, and parenting and managing relationships with those that we love and work with (which are often the same people!) We can get into a routine of taking these stresses and pushing them down deep. However, even if our mind doesn’t acknowledge it, our bodies will. Signs you may be ‘storing too much’ include, headaches, muscle pains or spasms, grinding teeth, poor sleep, upset stomach, exhaustion, and irritability to name a few.

“Remember if you’re not speaking it, you’re storing it and that gets heavy.”

Counseling provides a confidential space to talk things out with someone that will actively listen. A professional counselor can also help you identify what you need, ways to talk with others, help figuring out ways to improve your mood, and assist with problem-solving and managing that heavy load.

How to find a counselor?

You can find a counselor on Psychology Today, a Google search, through the Farmer Wellness Initiative or contact the NFMHA. The key is to find a counselor that is registered with a professional college, as this college will hold them accountable to standards of practice and ethics. Other important factors to consider are education (ideally master’s or higher), training (e.g., in specific therapeutic models) and years of experience. This can all be confusing, which is why the NFMHA is connecting with, training, and creating a reliable network of counselors, psychotherapists, and certified life coaches.

You might hear people talk about finding the ‘right fit.’ This means you are talking to someone that understands you and that you ‘’click with’… sometimes this is easy to understand why (e.g., similar sense of humor or values) and other times it’s more of a gut feeling.

What is the deal with all the acronyms?

PhD, PsyD, MSW, RSW, MFC, CCC, RP, MDiv, and MD are some of the many acronyms you will find after a mental health professionals’ name. Several are explained and listed below. These letters explain the differences in training and education, as well as different services they provide.

A registered social worker (RSW) and a registered psychotherapist (RP) both provide therapy. Therapy is focused on understanding your experiences so you can then create informed change, growth, and healing. It can be in-depth and sometimes explore the past (e.g., trauma). A psychotherapist preferably has a master’s degree or higher. Some therapists have been trained specifically to work with relationship issues (Marriage and Family Counselor, MFC) or from a faith-based perspective (Master of Divinity, MDiv).

A psychologist provides therapy and can provide a psychological assessment and diagnosis. This professional will have a doctorate such as a PhD or PsyD.

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (MD) that can provide therapy, diagnosis, and medication to treat mental health conditions.

A counselor (e.g., Canadian Certified Counsellor, CCC) is someone that provides safe and supportive listening and problem-solving. This term can be used by a psychotherapist as well, but some professionals that use it may not have the training to provide treatment or psychotherapy.

A life coach is present and future focused and empowers you to set goals for improvement. They are not trained in providing therapy or treatment for mental health conditions, but offer understanding, support, and encouragement. They may also be trained in mediation to help with relationship and family conflict and challenges.

What to expect?

In the first appointment, your counselor will help get the ball rolling by asking questions to understand what you have been managing and help you identify goals or things you want to change or get better.

Some people find it easy to get everything off their chest. For others it feels awkward at first. At the end of the appointment your counselor will often summarize what you have discussed and revisit any ideas for things to work on or think about between appointments. You will also set up another appointment at this time. Appointments can be scheduled weekly, biweekly or at a frequency that suits your needs and lifestyle demands.

After an appointment you may feel relief and hopeful. (This is what counselors want for you!) However, sometimes things feel like ‘they get worse before they get better’ and you may feel tired, sad, or overwhelmed afterwards as you have just acknowledged all that you’ve been dealing with and need space to process it. This is part of healing and it is hard! It can be helpful to get outside and take some deep breaths to center you, journal, or even distract yourself with loud music and chores. Allow the feelings to be there without pushing down again.

How do I access it in rural areas?

Many counselors provide virtual (phone or video) appointments, which will allow you to access it any private space where you have Wi-Fi or reception. This includes your home, a tractor, a parked car, the barn or while walking. Virtual counseling has been found to be as effective as in-person, but for many it is a personal preference.

There are also counselors that have offices in nearby small communities or are willing to come to your home to provide appointments.

Why do I want to talk with a therapist with ‘lived agriculture experience’?

The NFMHA therapists have lived ag experience meaning they are actively farming, part of a farm family or from a farm family. We are also offering extensive training for therapists (Agriculture Informed Therapy) that have not had the opportunity to live and work on a farm but want to provide informed care and support to their rural clients.

We know that talking with someone who knows and understands the experiences of farming reduces the burden on you to have to explain the farming experience. This leads a better connection and outcome.

Have more questions? Email us!

In addition to helping farmers connect with psychotherapists that are culturally competent and experienced in agriculture, we also offer comprehensive Mental Health Strategy support options for organizations and Agriculture Informed Therapy (AIT) training for psychotherapists servicing rural areas.
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