What Is Therapy?

Have you ever found yourself struggling to complete tasks on the farm, coping with grief/loss/illness, managing anxiety around unpredictable weather events, or even maintaining relationships with family members? You may, at times, have tried managing these struggles
by yourself, and that can be extremely exhausting. If you feel like you need a boost in your overall well-being and mental health, then psychotherapy may be a great option for you. Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is a method of helping people with mental illness and emotional challenges (psychiatry.org, 2022). With some time, psychotherapy can help people eliminate or control troubling thoughts/feelings/behaviors so that they can function better and manage the stressors that life brings.

Research shows that about 75% of people who enter psychotherapy see benefits and an increase in their overall well-being and mental health (apa.org, 2022). Going to therapy can be a huge leap and involves a lot of courage, but the benefits are so worth it.

While most therapy can come in the forms of individual sessions, couple and family therapy is also an option. If you are having relationship difficulties with your partner, experiencing stress when trying to parent your children, or just want an overall healthier family, these options may be the best for you. In couple and family therapy, you may be in the room with your partner and the therapist, or even your family and the therapist. Your therapeutic journey can be unique to
you has the potential to be curated towards your needs.

What to expect from therapy?

Prior to entering the therapy space, you will most likely complete an intake which oftentimes involves demographic information as well as questions around your mental health. Once you complete an intake, you will set up your first appointment. After gaining the courage to enter the therapy space for your first session, the work begins. In the first session, the therapist will get to know you, and you will get to know your therapist. You will have the opportunity to share your life story, as well as the current challenges you are faced with in your life. If things are not working in the therapy space, or if you are not comfortable talking about certain topics, feel free to let your therapist know. They are there to help you and want you to be as comfortable as possible.

Steps to set up your first appointment

  1. Go to https://go.umd.edu/farmtherapy to complete an intake for 6 free therapy
    sessions. This intake is a google form that asks you for demographic questions, as well
    as questions about your mental health. Make sure to list on the end some dates and
    times you are available to talk with someone on our team to set up your first
    appointment. All of your information on the intake will remain confidential and will
    be deleted once you are paired with a therapist. If you have any questions regarding
    your intake, feel free to email mdfrsan@umd.edu.
  2. Once you have completed the intake, one of our team members will contact you on a
    date and time you had listed, and verify the information listed on your intake.
    Depending on your session preference (virtual or in-person), our team will pair you
    with a therapy clinic closest to you.
  3. Once you are paired with a therapy clinic, our team will reach out to them, and with
    your consent, will give them your information so they can contact you.
  4. Once in contact with the therapy clinic, they will assist you in setting up your first
    appointment, and the appointment will most likely happen on a weekly basis. After
    the 6 free sessions are up, you may continue sessions but at a price set by the provider
    and your insurance if you are insured. The provider will assist you in this process so
    therapy will not become a financial burden.

This blog submitted by Nick Warnick, FCS intern.

Small Business Owners and Mental Health

As an agricultural small business owner, I struggle with being on top of my business and employee needs. My family and I own the 7-acre Turkey Point Vineyard and the Tasting Room/Gift Shop retail space in the local town of North East, Maryland. So on top of being a county agent, a working mother and wife, I also own a small farm and I operate a retail business off the farm. My immediate family is a farming family, where all of us have employment off the farm, and my two employees are older retired females that have their own individual needs.

Turkey Point Vineyards

Running a farm, you experience many variables over time due to changes in regulations, weather, technology, and product demand. With the present economic pressures of labor shortages, supply shortages, wage increases, and price hikes, life on the farm has gotten even harder. Everyone experiences stress, but when stress overwhelms you, it can make you physically ill. 

Farm and farm family stress is more accurately a form of distress, which is brought on by pressures experienced by members of the farming population, farming systems, and farming as a business.  Extraordinary stresses experienced by farming families can threaten the future of their farm. In addition, as a small business owner, research has proven that small business owners have reported experiencing common symptoms of poor mental health at least a few times a year on average, and the COVID-19 crisis appears to have exacerbated the problem.

How does one navigate these stressors?

How individuals, families and businesses handle stress demands and changes, will determine the outcome and the impact in the near future.  In some cases, many will change their business, its product or processes, or even their family functioning. No matter what change occurs on the farm or in the business, the concept of resilience is the ability to recover from, or adjust to, change with its accompanying stress.

I once heard the saying that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% what you do about it! When stress gets to be too much for me, I remember this saying and I try to live by this motto. The motto helps to keep me sane.

For more information on farm stress and how the University of Maryland Extension is working to assist farm families in managing mental health, check out our Farm Stress Management page.

This blog contributed by special guest blogger Doris Behnke, principle agent associate in Cecil County.

Breaking the Stigma Around Mental Health

Stress impacts many of us to varying degrees. Sometimes we are equipped to handle the stress, but sometimes the stress is persistent and it begins to impact our lives including our physical health. Our culture leads us to believe that we should be able to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and resolve our issues entirely on our own. However, this overreliance on ourselves can lead to not receiving the help we need to feel better.

The Stigma Around Mental Health

Have you ever thought these things? Seeking therapy will mean that you are crazy, weak, dependent, or inadequate because you cannot resolve your own problems.

Going along with this narrative can be dangerous — it can prevent someone from seeking help and improving their wellbeing. In other words, stigma can lead to avoidable delays in receiving treatment. Worrying about not being able to resolve the problems can lead to more stress. People can judge themselves and feel ashamed for no reason.

Continuous stress can lead to physical problems such as high blood pressure, headaches, insomnia, a weakened immune system, and many other issues. When stress mounts and is left unattended, it can lead to problem behavior such as drinking, family tension, and even suicide. The stigma surrounding mental health and its treatment is a hazard and needs to be challenged. Check out this fact sheet for strategies to overcome internalized stigma.

Seeking Professional Help

There are various forms of professional help that you can seek such as individual talk therapy. You can choose the one that works best for you. Therapy can help you and your family manage conflict, stress, communication challenges and other difficulties. When you meet with a professional, you can expect to share your story, set goals that are meaningful to you, become aware of your strengths, understand underlying challenges, and learn skills to overcome challenges and break unhelpful habits.

Individual therapy includes meetings between an adult and a therapist. Family therapy includes meetings with a spouse, parents, children or other family members involved in the adult’s life. Group therapy includes meetings involving a group of adults with similar diagnoses and one or two therapists. Rehabilitation programs help people regain skills and confidence to live and work more successfully in their communities.

Free Therapy Opportunity

If you work in the agricultural industry or one of your immediate family members works in agriculture, you can reach out to us for six free therapy sessions! The sessions can be in person or virtual. We will help you set up your appointment, connect with the provider and access your session. Complete the intake form at go.umd.edu/farmtherapy and we will reach out to you.

This blog written by special guest blogger Alla Tafaghodi, graduate Family & Consumer Sciences intern.

Resilience — Rooted in the Land

Farming is more than a job—it’s an identity that adds meaning to life. It is often a calling.

Farming is a frequently a multigenerational enterprise on land passed down through the generations. Farming adds a weight of responsibility and pressure to meet expectations of previous generations and not fail the next — to not lose the family’s cultural heritage. This drive to survive and thrive can be both a source of stress and a source of resilience.

Farming ranks in the top 10 most stressful occupations in the U.S. Farm and farm family stress, more accurately, distress, is brought on by pressures within individuals and families, farming systems and the farm as a business.

If you are in the business of farming, or working with someone who is, you know that along with the ordinary stress of life, farming has added sources of stress. Extreme weather, changing markets and commodity prices, episodes of animal and plant diseases and other events all bring added pressures and threats.

So how is it that you and your family can face multiple stressors and keep on farming? Research says it’s by being resilient.

I farm because it’s in my blood. You get done planting a field and you turn around and the sun’s setting over the pattern of the crops that you’ve just planted, and it’s a pretty rewarding experience to see all the hard work pan out and know that you’re helping to feed families throughout the Mid-Atlantic.

Mike Harrison of Woodbine, Md.

Resilience

Resilience is an asset that enables you adapt to meet challenges and changes of the times. According to the American Psychological Association, resilience is “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. Resilience means ‘bouncing back’ from difficult experiences.”

Most farmers and farm families are optimistic. They draw on their values to get them through challenges. When life’s events are really hard, deeply held values become the motivation to draw on resilience to bounce back or bounce forward after recovering from the initial set back.

So ask yourself:

  • Do you draw on resilience resources like managerial skills, self-control, self-compassion, optimism and hardiness to prevent and deal with stress?
  • Have you drawn on the value of hardiness to get through?
  • Do you recall other challenges and how you, your family and past generations were able to get by?
  • Are you motivated to succeed for the next generation?

How critical is the value of resilience, of adapting to conditions to survive and thrive? It’s imperative and for farmers, driven by generational heritage. Multi-generational farms exist because farmers adapted to change. In the past three years, Maryland farmers, and other farmers, have experienced multiple challenges.

Those who are best able to adapt quickly are those most likely to withstand tests of their ability to survive and thrive. They are those who are resilient are most likely to succeed because they get great satisfaction from what they do. Farming is in their blood. They draw on resilience from being are rooted to the land.

Find resilience-building resources:

Farm Stress Management – University of Maryland Extension

Managing Farm and Farm Family Challenges Resiliently: A Worksheet to Explore Resilient Thinking and DoingUniversity of Maryland Extension and University of Delaware Cooperative Extension

The Road to Resilience American Psychological Association


This blog was written by special guest blogger Bonnie Braun, Professor Emerita, Extension Family Health Policy specialist and professor in the Department of Family Science in the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland.

It Takes a Village: Building Up Maryland’s Agricultural Community

The expression “it takes a village…” usually refers to raising children. It highlights how an engaged community is critical to support a growing child. What many of us often do not realize is that the phrase also applies to supporting adults. Adults, too, need a village of caring, competent others to celebrate the good times and support them in the bad times. Fortunately, building a more caring and competent “village” is possible through education and practice. 

University of Maryland Extension has developed a comprehensive set of programs to address stress and mental health in the farming community. Our approach is unique in that we not only teach farmers themselves techniques for stress management, but we also work with agricultural service providers and other members of the community around farmers. Members of the community learn the skills to observe signs of stress, engage skillfully, and share relevant resources with their peers in agriculture. As the community grows more supportive of the health of farmers, farm businesses remain productive and sustainable. 

Although 2021 was a generally good financial year in the agricultural community, many are still feeling the ongoing effects of stressful years past. In addition, new challenges such as the avian influenza outbreak continue to pose significant threats to Maryland’s farmers. 

Each successive challenge takes a toll on our physical and mental health. In a phenomenon called “cumulative stress,” each stressful experience increases both the likelihood and impact of future stressful events. In other words, things pile up. 

We have already reached over 1,000 individuals across Maryland’s agricultural community through a combination of education and outreach efforts. These individuals include training medical and mental health providers in rural areas about the unique culture of farming so that they are better equipped to serve the community that surrounds them. 
If you are interested in joining the village of support, check out our upcoming events site and learn how you can contribute to the health and vitality of our Maryland farms.

This blog written by Breathing Room special guest Alexander Chan, family and consumer sciences agent with UME.