AMERICAN FORK — Michelle Bradley started experiencing depression sixteen years ago after the birth of her first child. The illness worsened after the births of her next two children. She tried every treatment she could think of, but after brief periods of respite, it would return to darken her life.
Her husband had a coworker whose wife had experienced similar issues with mental illness, but she had found a program that gave her the tools to improve. It was called ConneXions. Desperate, Bradely decided to try it.
Now, over a year later, Bradley’s mental health has improved dramatically. The program’s courses helped her reframe many of the issues in her life and realize and accept the things that were out of her control, including her family’s thoughts, feelings and actions.
ConneXions, a mental heath counseling company based in American Fork, has courses for parenting, group coaching, one-on-one coaching sessions and workbooks for everything from self-love to sexuality, as well as free podcast episodes and blog posts about improving mental health.
The company has created a community as a part of its program that organizes events and retreats. There is also a national phone network. Women call women; men call men. These calls involve validation, as well as helping others rethink their approach to a dilemma.
Reframing thoughts, empowering people
At first, Bradley had a hard time connecting with these women because her depression made her withdraw. Baring her soul over the phone was not something she ever really did. But this network has played a big part in her recovery, especially during the current coronavirus pandemic.
"The phone calls are the secret sauce to healing," Bradley said. "If I didn’t have this support system, I feel like this pandemic we’re all going through would be so much more mentally challenging."
Founder and licensed professional counselor Jodi Hildebrandt started ConneXions after working as a program director at Cirque Lodge, a rehabilitation center, and seeing a pattern with every one of her clients. She calls this pattern "distortion," and says it happens when people tell themselves stories that aren’t based in reality.
Hildebrant worked with her clients to reframe their thoughts and feelings to see the full, true perspective and lead them away from optional pain. After seeing this benefit so many of her clients, she decided to focus solely on those principles and begin a mental health coaching program.
"Education is power; and when you have truthful education, then it empowers the human soul," Hildebrandt said. "Being able to understand that I have the power to perceive whatever I want, to me that’s just liberating. I am choosing to project outside of my own mind."
Once she saw the effects on individuals and families, Hildebrandt began to realize that this could apply to businesses and connections within the workplace.
ConneXions in the office
ConneXions member and Homie CEO Johnny Hanna is a longtime advocate of prioritizing mental health in business, especially within the Silicon Slopes region.
After seeing the program work wonders within his marriage and personal life, he also considered how the program could help ease conflict and communication within his business and worked with ConneXions to roll out the program to his employees.
He said he has seen incredible improvement in the working relationships among his employees, as the program has helped them understand how to consider problems from a different perspective and communicate effectively.
"To other companies, I would say: Forget your pingpong tables and your snacks. Learning these principles will benefit way beyond any trend and outside of the office," Hanna said.
To other companies, I would say: Forget your pingpong tables and your snacks. Learning these principles will benefit way beyond any trend and outside of the office.
–Johnny Hanna, Homie CEO
The ConneXions program has become particularly useful during the pandemic, as it has created access to mental health resources as well as a connection between employees. This kind of resource can make or break small companies during this unprecedented time, Hanna said.
"So many people are in pain right now. So many people are in fear," he said. "Introducing a mental health training like this can not only help people, but also change their lives."
Addressing fear and pain is one of the main goals of the ConneXions program. The ability to handle uncertainty and anxiety concerning uncontrollable and unpredictable aspects of society during a pandemic has become a necessary skill for success.
"People are afraid right now, but I get to offer them hope. Fear is optional — that blows people’s minds when you tell them that," Hildebrandt said.
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