Marie Collins of The Family Tree – Using Active Listening to Help Others Find the Answer Within

Marie Collins, Executive Director of The Family Tree, is our guest. Marie is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Marriage and Family Therapist, and Addictions Counselor. Her ten years of work with former Lafayette Parish Sheriff Mike Neustrom taught her how to treat all people with respect and to listen to their stories to more effectively help them learn to break negative cycles. She is enthusiastic about her life work, and shares humorous anecdotes about her life experiences in this episode of Nourish Your Health.

Marie is passionate about working with people from all walks of life to assist them in their personal growth journey. At the Family Tree, she says their biggest impact is with children and in many cases, the children’s experiences with The Family Tree courses are the first time they’ve ever finished a project, been awarded a certificate, or had someone trustworthy listen to their deeply troubling thoughts and concerns. The goal is to keep children from following the wrong path leading to incarceration or other bad choices which will cause disastrous results.

The Family Tree partners with other community agencies to maximize services being available on an affordable or free basis. Marie has worked to fill gaps in coverage to persons served by Medicaid to ensure that mental health counseling is available to all segments of our population; the certification process took over two years to achieve and there has been such an outpouring of new clients that staff has been increased to meet the demand for services.

“We listen to our clients, give them a safe space. Each life is such a gift and I’m honored to have the opportunity to help them learn about themselves so that they can make the best choices for their lives and those they love.”

People end up in counseling when it hurts too much to stay the same and the pain has become too difficult to bear. It takes a lot of courage to say you need help, to walk through the door to counseling and to trust the process. Transitions experienced in life, such as loss of a job, a loved one, or an accident can negatively impact our mental health. What we hold inside gets bigger and bigger, and being able to share our sorrow with others divides the load and makes the resolution of our problems easier to discover.

Counseling helps people put their lives back together. Marie states, “There is no magic wand. The answers to your life are inside of you. The counselor is not some magician….We help you put the puzzle pieces together.”

The great thing about counseling is that you have 100% acceptance from your counselor in a confidential setting. While we all tend to think we are alone in feeling as we do, counseling provides validation that others have felt and experienced the same things. The cultural phenomenon of “Me too” in recent years has been very comforting as people have learned they can share their difficult truth and have another human being validate their worth. Human beings connect as we share our stories and are we empowered by the acceptance of others.

The Family Tree teaches “active listening” classes to assist people in learning this important life skill. Marie shared that with the use of smartphones and communication by emojis, we are losing the ability to authentically communicate with one another. We all inherently have a fear of putting ourselves “out there” and technology enables us to avoid direct contact. Yet, active listening is the key to relationship building, whether it is at home, work or with friends.

Counseling can also help us get back to our authentic selves by getting past the stories we make up in our heads which are based upon past experiences. We may experience problems communicating with others because we don’t use words the same way they do and because of differences in communication styles. Seek first to understand, then to be understood, Marie shared, in a manner similar to the Steven Covey Habits of Highly Successful People.

Marie Collins recommends The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown as a wonderful resource on learning to accept yourself just as you are.

Self-care such as meditating, journaling and deep breathing can help you deal with what life throws at you. Being still can be difficult for many of us, yet even one minute of quiet time can be refreshing and peaceful. Of course, the more you try to meditate, the easier it becomes to find the time to go within and hear your own inner wisdom. As Marie said, “We need to be a human being, not a human ‘doing.’” Our mental health is 100% connected to our physical health. Find the time to take care of yourself by getting enough rest, eating healthily, and engaging in fun activities with loved ones and friends.

Services Offered at The Family Tree include Community Education, Counseling, Family Conflict Care, Healthy Start, Child Passenger Safety, H.O.P.E. Programs, Suicide Prevention and T.I.K.E.S.

Visit for more information on the services offered by The Family Tree.

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