Gratitude: A Natural Stress Buster

Gratitude, the warm feeling of thankful appreciation, is the theme of Jessica Loftus’ counseling practice, Gratitude Well Counseling, located in Palos Heights, Illinois. During her 20 years of experience as a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and National Certified Career Counselor, she has focused on the healing power of gratitude. 

The Gratitude Well: A Waiting-Room Intervention

The simple act of expressing appreciation for one’s fortunes offers an effective antidote to stress, depression and anxiety. So much so that I integrated this practice as a counseling intervention in our waiting room years ago. A table-top wishing well bearing the sign, “Gratitude Well” displays the invitation to “jot down one thing for which you are grateful on a piece of paper and toss it into the well.” 

A gratitude drawn from the well is posted conspicuously in the waiting room each week. The Gratitude Well inspires clients, who are usually struggling with serious life problems, to think more positively, even for the moment. Over the years, many inspiring gratitudes have emerged from the well. One of my personal favorites is “I am on the right side of the dirt.”

Popular gratitudes included: supportive family members, loyal friends, beloved pets, new jobs, opportunities to go to college, physical health, favorite songs, fun activities, a cozy home, plenty of food, and helpful counselors.

Community Events

For years, we conducted career-counseling workshops for community residents at a local women’s health center and a prominent book store. One of my favorite workshops, entitled “Once Upon a Career,” featured well-known fairy-tale characters describing primary career personality types. The fairy-tale morals also inspired participants who were anxious about making a career change. 

In 2012, we hosted a day-long retreat, Pathways to Easing Stress, at a local nature center. Various professionals, including clergy members, psychiatrist, physician, counselor, laughter leader, pet therapist, artist, naturalist and two musicians offered their insights on easing stress. One of the recurring themes from the various experts was “gratitude”. This inspired me to rename the counseling practice and institute the waiting-room intervention of the Gratitude Well.

In keeping with the philosophy of the Gratitude Well, my colleagues and I set out to express our appreciation through community service. Some of the many workshops we facilitated over the years include Depression Found Meaningful, Hoping for a Baby, Gear up for College, Evening of Networking Magic, Discover the Secret of the Secret, Dump the Diet and Nourish Your Self and Women, Words & Wisdom.  These were offered free of charge or for a small gratitude offering.

A Tribute to my Intern

Over the years, many interns and newly licensed counselors enjoyed affordable opportunities to start their practices. Of all the counselors in my employ, Michelle Murray, Licensed Professional Counselor and doctoral student in Counselor Education, has genuinely embodied the philosophy of the Gratitude Well practice in the most profound way.

As an intern, Michelle worked diligently to provide affordable counseling to underprivileged clients for a nominal fee and co-led our support group for Survivors of Abuse and Other Forms of Mistreatment. She also co-presented a lecture to a local police department on The Keys to Effective Interventions with Individuals with Mental-Health Disorders.

What am I most grateful for? I am thankful for all the opportunities in my life to use my true gifts to help others to find their true gifts and walk their true paths.

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