John Hawkins is a Licensed Professional Counselor who owns his own practice, John Hawkins LPC, in Columbus. But the road to where he is now in his career was an unexpected journey. When he was little, he wanted to be a sanitation worker.
“When I was a child, I wanted to be a garbage man,” he said. “Now I help people empty the garbage from their lives.”
He’s been in the business for 30 years, and in that time, he’s held onto a core belief about his profession: “You can’t take anyone further than you’ve gone before.” He’s been through it himself, and practices what he teaches.
A majority of his therapy practices are CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) to help his clients, who could be struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, life transitions, bipolar disorder, OCD and a slew of other disorders.
“In an urban area, counselors can afford to specialize,” he said. “There’s a large enough population to create a niche practice. In rural Mississippi, most counselors are generalists.”
But he also practices ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy). He received his training from Steven C. Hayes, Ph.D., the founder and creator of ACT, whom Hawkins refers to as today’s Sigmund Freud and B. F. Skinner.
The concept of ACT isn’t too far off from CBT, in fact, it’s from the same branch of therapy; it works with the client’s thought processes. But what differs, is ACT strives to empower clients with “psychological flexibility,” not letting one’s thoughts be in control.
It happens to everyone, thoughts can be consuming. But Hawkins implores his clients to realize that a thought is simply that. Oftentimes, if left unchecked, a thought can evolve into more thoughts, which can sometimes become a roadblock.
“You’re so hijacked by what might happen,” he said. “It’s just a damn thought.”
ACT works to break down the roadblocks and free the thinker of limiting thoughts, feelings or emotions — creating emotional agility.
For Hawkins, this new field of therapy is what keeps him excited in his work. He knows the importance of thought processes “because our brains thrive on creating habits,” and he wants to help his clients create better habits.
“It’s easy to love others, but it’s so hard to love ourselves, (to) have compassion for ourselves.
Create a morning routine or ritual.
“Our brains love to automatize behavior, so creating healthy habits and routines are essential,” he said.
For him, his morning routine actually starts at night, by laying out workout clothes and shoes; then in the morning, he starts his day with “journaling, movement and mindfulness meditation.”