Getting to know … Amy Begnal, LPC, CRC
This blog is the first in a periodic series of profiles that will shine a light on Give an Hour network providers and allow us to get to know them both personally and professionally.
How did you learn about Give an Hour and its work?
To be honest, I don’t recall specifically how I learned about Give an Hour. Over the years of pursuing higher education and additional trainings to meet the requirements of multiple licensing boards, I frequently explored any updates to the long-awaited and necessary efforts to provide license portability for military spouses.
Since completing graduate school (a process that was delayed 6 years as a result of frequent moves, including living overseas), I have experienced barriers to license portability in 3 different states over an 8 year period.
How long have you volunteered with Give an Hour?
I’m approaching a full year of volunteering for Give an Hour.
What led you to this career?
I have been passionate about supporting mental health for as long as I can remember. As a little girl, probably around age 5 or 6, I was easily saddened for people that experienced any spectrum of inconveniences or distress, from my mom needing to do housework to recognizing disenfranchised populations. This is something I now recognize as empathy. In my adolescence, I became increasingly curious about what drives the behaviors of others, particularly self-destructive behaviors or power-based abuse. I like to consider that the empathy I experienced for others at a young age provided the necessary motivation and belief in the possibility of change and my ability to offer hope in the face of adversity.
Do you specialize in a particular form of therapy/counseling? If yes, tell us about how this came about.
Some exposure to power-based abuse in my youth influenced my desire to better understand the motivations of perpetrators as well as heal those impacted by such perpetrators. Additionally, in middle school, I did a history fair project on The Holocaust and continue to be deeply impacted by history’s most vile act of power-based and systematic attack on human beings. My goal is to provide psychoeducation, validation, and offer corrective emotional experiences to my clients that have experienced an event or events among the wide spectrum of what one may experience as traumatic.
What brings you the most satisfaction in your work?
I feel so privileged and honored to earn the trust of my clients. It’s hard work to open oneself up to the emotional exposure of past wounds. People can carry shame for so long and the absolute most satisfying thing in my work is being able to support clients in holding that shame until it shifts. The moment that I see the relief on my clients faces, hear the shifts in their language, and watch empowered behaviors unfold is a moment that cannot be easily described.
What is your proudest accomplishment/greatest achievement?
I’m very proud of my own vulnerabilities and ability to recognize areas of continued growth. As a mom, I take a lot of pride in identifying and modeling what it takes to improve my own emotional responses, automatic thoughts, and adaptive behaviors so that I don’t project my own insecurities onto my child. It’s tough but necessary. I’m incredibly grateful that my educational and professional accomplishments have provided me with the introspection and motivation to be better and do better while holding myself with compassion each day.
As a mental health provider, what is the biggest challenge you face?
This is hard to answer – of course it’s challenging to learn about the traumas clients have experienced and knowing there are so many people that aren’t getting support and are continuing to suffer. It’s gut wrenching to know that there are still barriers that prevent people from receiving mental health support that could be life-saving. It’s even more difficult knowing that while human suffering is inevitable, there still aren’t enough helpers or preventative efforts in place.
In your experience, what is the greatest myth about mental health?
That there is a “normal.” I often talk to my clients about the spectrum of symptoms in our diagnostic manual – my goal is never to label someone, as no one is a diagnosis, and instead, teach skills than most of us weren’t provided opportunities to develop.
Do you volunteer in other ways? Why do you think volunteering/giving back is important?
I would love to volunteer more. Outside of Give an Hour, I love volunteering my time through my son’s school enrichment opportunities and getting him involved in our community through engaging in beach cleanups and cleaning and restoring veteran headstones. I’ve volunteered with domestic violence advocacy programs as well as crisis counseling call centers in the past.
I also think it’s important to maintain a balance of self-care (especially for those in the helping fields), family needs, and work responsibilities. Giving back is definitely significant and meaningful while also ensuring we are giving ourselves what we need as well. I encourage my clients to add “contributing” to their list of adaptive coping skills. While volunteering is typically seen as an altruistic effort, I believe there is an emotional benefit experienced when one engages in forms of philanthropy. In addition to providing meaning or positive emotional experiences, there’s a huge benefit in deliberately engaging with empathy and exposing oneself to different perspective experiences.
What would friends and family say about you, if asked?
Oh, that’s a tough one! I get a lot of feedback that I am energetic – particularly when it comes to advocating for or providing education to those I supervise regarding mental health issues. My spouse regularly comments on my persistence, resiliency, and tenacity.
Just for fun …
When not working for a living, I … Play tag (a lot!), build legos, dress up, and read with my 7-year-old. I also dream big! I am fortunate to have a supportive spouse and incredible mentors that entertain my, at times, lofty goals or silly ideas. I am ambitious when it comes to pushing physical limits (I’ve run 24 marathons, numerous triathlons, and have taken on some pretty serious endurance challenges), continuing to expand intellectually, and bringing more FUN to my family and community. I love being outdoors, camping, hiking, or just sitting around a campfire with friends. I also have a love for learning and am regularly engaged with mental health trainings, readings, or certification programs.
Word that best describes you and why: CURIOUS! We have to be curious in this field – It’s so easy to judge or make assumptions about someone’s choices or behaviors. We need to ask more questions, consider other perspectives, and continue to challenge our biases and develop more flexibility in our thinking. I’m also consistently curious about the new findings in the field of mental health.
Most unique thing about you: More surprising than unique may be my love for Halloween decorating or pranking my colleagues, friends, and family members.
Favorite movie: A Beautiful Mind or The Soloist
Favorite book: The Choice by Dr. Edith Eger
Favorite quote: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies or growth and our freedom.” Dr. Viktor Frankl
Favorite song: I don’t know that I have a favorite song – I love Dave Matthews Band, Coldplay, and Mumford and Sons
Something most people don’t know about you: One thing people don’t know about me is that I wrote a children’s book for my son teaching emotional regulation skills using a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy framework.