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“Boundaries, Boundaries, Boundaries.” with Beau Henderson & Ashley Menke

Boundaries, Boundaries, Boundaries. These are huge. I lost sight of these when I first started in the field because I was so ready to get out there that I didn’t stop to think about the type of client I would work best with, the hours I would want, the amount I would charge, etc. and […]

Boundaries, Boundaries, Boundaries. These are huge. I lost sight of these when I first started in the field because I was so ready to get out there that I didn’t stop to think about the type of client I would work best with, the hours I would want, the amount I would charge, etc. and I ended up feeling taken advantage of. Not necessarily by the clients, but by the people that I was working with who saw my desire to do all the things all the time, and they thought they were helping me by giving me low-fee or no-fee clients. As great as it was to be filling up my calendar, I was struggling unnecessarily to pay my bills.


As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashley Menke. Ashley is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the St Louis area who specializes in working with teens and emerging adults. She has also worked in various other capacities, including providing crisis assessments and mental health support at a local crisis line as well as providing various mental health services to children and teens in an inpatient and residential facility in the St Louis area. Currently, Ashley provides therapeutic services through her own company, Allied Counseling, LLC.


Thank you so much for doing this with us, Ashley! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Since the very first job I had, I have always been person-oriented. I think I heard my calling the loudest when I was working for state politics. I worked for an elected official who represented Cleveland, and as a result I learned about the struggles that many people face due to mental and physical health limitations. A lot of people want to shy away from politics because of what they see on the news, but it was truly an eye-opening experience and easily one of the most pivotal jobs when it comes to understanding just how important it is to help people if you have the means to do so.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I think the one that comes to mind the most was when I was interning with a counselor who provided services within some of the city schools in St Louis during the Michael Brown/ Black Lives Matter protests. It was a hot topic throughout the schools. Some people were upset and others were angry. Kids are inquisitive, so we spent a lot of the following weeks processing what the protests meant to each kid on an individual level — what scared them, what made them angry, etc. We also had to get very comfortable very fast talking about what it means to be white and black in society today.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

I once tried to build rapport by telling a little boy about the Japanese legend that you’re granted one wish if you make a thousand paper cranes. He told me that sounded like a bad deal.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by some incredible colleagues. My friend Kate, especially. As a counselor, I can accept insurance, and I decided I was going to submit all of my billing myself. Kate helped me every step of the way, even sitting at her dining room table with me one night and feeding me cookies while I drilled her with various insurance questions.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

Know your limits and don’t test them. Keep your boundaries firm, especially any boundary related to time or money.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

Work WITH people and talk TO them. We’re all in this together. It’s important no one loses sight of that. And that mentality is top down.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms; those who are healthy and those who have mental illness. The truth, however, is that mental wellness is a huge spectrum. Even those who are “mentally healthy” can still improve their mental wellness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to improve or optimize our mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each.

Boundaries, Boundaries, Boundaries. These are huge. I lost sight of these when I first started in the field because I was so ready to get out there that I didn’t stop to think about the type of client I would work best with, the hours I would want, the amount I would charge, etc. and I ended up feeling taken advantage of. Not necessarily by the clients, but by the people that I was working with who saw my desire to do all the things all the time, and they thought they were helping me by giving me low-fee or no-fee clients. As great as it was to be filling up my calendar, I was struggling unnecessarily to pay my bills.

You are your greatest advocate. I heard this from a colleague during my early days as a counselor and it’s always stuck: “say what you mean, mean what you say, and don’t be mean when you say it.” It’s especially helpful during those tough conversations about boundaries. Also, no one but you has any idea what you’re thinking. If you don’t like something, say it. If you want more of something, say it. No one is going to know for sure that something needs to change unless you bring it to their attention.

Stop apologizing. This is especially true for younger females. I used to do this a lot. I eventually said it one time too many in my boss’s office and he asked why I was saying it. I didn’t have an answer. Truth be told, I didn’t know why I was saying it other than for filler. Fast forward several years and I’ve noticed it’s still a huge issue for people, especially women. So much so, that there is a Barbie video challenging the idea of “I’m sorry” and encouraging girls to use a different, more genuine phrase instead.

Have a business plan. As I mentioned before, I bit off more than I could chew when I first started out and ended up really struggling financially. There is a lot of empathy in our jobs, but we also have to pay bills. It took me creating and evaluating a business plan to learn why I had so much resentment. That business plan painted a pretty clear picture that I needed to make some changes fast.

Stick to your business plan. This ties into boundaries as well. A business plan does you no good if you don’t adhere to it.

Much of my expertise focuses on helping people to plan for after retirement. Retirement is a dramatic “life course transition” that can impact one’s health. In addition to the ideas you mentioned earlier, are there things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.

Stay active but not overly busy. The retired individuals that I talk to seem to either go to one extreme or another. Retirement is meant to be enjoyed. If you’re more stressed in retirement than you were when you were working, it’s time to reassess.

Do something you haven’t done before. It could be traveling the world or it could be learning how to cook. Just as long as you’re enjoying it and learning something fun and new.

How about teens and pre teens. Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre teens to optimize their mental wellness?

Take a break from social media. Seriously. It will do you a world of good. Try dropping social media at a specific time every night and not picking it back up until a specific time every morning. And make that time YOU time. Everyone needs time and space to themselves, and I think kids are so used to interacting with someone or something most of their waking lives that they forget how much they are really sacrificing.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

Vernon God Little. It has “Catcher in the Rye” vibes with a modern spin. It’s also one of the first fictional books I have read that addresses the prevalence and aftermath of school shootings in America.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

It’s a three-way tie between diversity, gun violence and teen suicide. The numbers of the last two have risen exponentially in recent years and we’re still trying to find out why. With regards to all three of them — what are we missing? Can we fix it? If the answer’s no, how do we alleviate it?

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

When I graduated from high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to go to school for and it caused me a lot of anxiety. I never vocalized that to my dad, but I think he caught on. He and my step-mom found this sign with a quote from Abraham Lincoln that said “Whatever you are, be a good one.” When my dad saw the sign, he told my step-mom that he wanted to make it instead. My dad’s homemade sign has survived 8 moves, three cities, and two states. It has informed every decision I’ve made since the day I opened that gift.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

@alliedstl on instagram and twitter.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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