Illustrations by Nate Chappell
Each of us has a unique story to tell. At Porter’s Sound Counseling, clients discover their meaning — and develop a unique curiosity for others along the way. Founders of Porter’s Sound, Kolby and Meggie Nance, encourage us to embrace vulnerability outside the counseling room to develop empathy and understanding for ourselves and others.
Pause for a moment, and take inventory of the varied emotions you felt throughout the day. From waking up to winding down: did you feel hopeful? Did you feel stressed? Did you feel disheartened at any point, or did you feel proud?
Humans encounter a wide range of emotions every day. Sometimes we recognize them and let them portray themselves; for example, by laughing when we feel happy or crying when we feel sad. Often, though, our emotions go unacknowledged. We convince ourselves we are too busy to consider them. We often fear our emotions because they make us vulnerable to the people around us. In doing so, we limit our connection with ourselves and others.
At Porter’s Sound Counseling, co-founders Kolby and Meggie Nance believe that taking note of our emotional health can make a world of difference in our daily lives. The process of showing up for ourselves requires a lot of courage, but the steady presence of a counselor encourages us to move forward.
[pull quote] “Shame hinders curiosity, good conversation, and relationships being had around whatever someone’s facing,” – Kolby Nance, M.A
Kolby and Meggie carefully developed their practice first with its name. The term “Porter’s Sound” represents a space where those who are struggling can have someone assist and carry their burdens. With this purpose in mind, they created a practice with a diverse group of counselors of all backgrounds and philosophies.
Porter’s Sound is a safe harbor for the local community. While each therapist at the practice takes a unique approach, together they hope to instill a sense of curiosity and meaning in their clients: curiosity about oneself and others, and deep meaning in one’s own life.
Porter’s Sound counselors place emphasis on each individual’s story. The practice is built on the foundation that, when we understand our personal history, we are better equipped to have compassion for ourselves. “Your story matters, and what you do with it matters. It’s important to have someone come alongside your journey. It is vital to be seen, heard, understood, and loved, in light of all the beauty and the brokenness,” says Meggie.
In The Body Keeps the Score, author Bessel van der Kolk reports neuroscientific research which shows the only method of changing the way we feel is by “…becoming aware of our inner experience, and learning to befriend what is going on inside ourselves.” When we replace our judgment with curiosity — and we embrace the meaning of our own experiences — we find hope for a better world ahead. When curiosity and meaning meet, hope can be found.
Once we embrace our own story — what makes us who we are, and why it matters — we are able to be better listeners, ask better questions, and open the door to good, deep, healing even outside the counseling room.
Somewhat paradoxically, showing up for ourselves helps us better show up for others. When we recognize our own pain, we better empathize with the stranger’s pain. We are a lot less foreign to one another than we realize.
Recognizing the commonalities between ourselves and others is a vital part of assisting our local communities. While larger, more progressive cities are making headway on reducing the stigma around therapy and caring for one’s mental health, cities in Central Florida can’t say the same. Last year, Florida’s mental healthcare systems ranked last in the United States. Our state deeply lacks availability, support, and resources to care for those struggling.
We are required to be better for one another, because our state and nationwide systems won’t do it for us. We’ve got to lift each other up. An important part of the process can be done by destigmatizing these struggles.
We can first destigmatize mental health by being unafraid to address it in our own lives. Meggie points out that we all face mental health on a micro level: “Whether it’s a psychological diagnosis or a small sense of grief around not getting that promotion you wanted, it all falls under ‘mental health.’ There should be no stigma; we all live with it.”
[pull quote] Whether it’s a psychological diagnosis or a small sense of grief around not getting that promotion you wanted, it all falls under ‘mental health.’ There should be no stigma; we all live with it.” -Meggie Nance, M.A
Kolby affirms this by speaking against the shame we place on others for their mental health struggles. “Shame hinders curiosity, good conversation, and relationships being had around whatever someone’s facing,” he says.
The best way to reduce stigma, next to embracing its presence in our own lives, is by connecting with one another relationally. Kolby encourages us to be courageously vulnerable with one another. “We are all in the lives of people in some form or fashion. We all crave to be understood. Deep healing occurs when we ask a question, one that goes just beneath the surface, about how someone really feels. Of course, it is nerve-racking to ask that question. But to get anywhere, we’ve got to embrace the nerves and ask it, knowing that you’re probably meeting a very deep desire of the other person by doing so.”
Counseling is not enough to address the full emotional weight we are all carrying around. How we relate with one another deeply impacts the progression and health of those around us. When we are not afraid to be vulnerable, we free each other up to do the same. When we ask meaningful questions, we let the other know that we see them. We validate their pain. We soften the healing process. In our responses, we are able to meet one another with kindness, with compassion, and with empathy.
Mental health counseling is a great way to cultivate a deep understanding of ourselves and our own story. By taking note of our daily experiences — and being unafraid to walk with others in theirs — we emulate a world we should hope to see: one filled with understanding and empathy for one another, characterized by courage and curiosity.
Porter’s Sound Counseling
50 Lake Morton Dr.
Lakeland, Fl 33801