Embracing your soul’s story helps lead to mental wellness

By NATHAN HOWELL | Staff Writer

HELENA—One of the most unfortunate side-effects of a society facing a global pandemic has been the overwhelming impact on mental health and wellness, exacerbating an already anxiety and uncertainty filled world.

The CDC estimates that some 40 percent of adults reported that they were struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues during the height of the pandemic.

Licensed psychotherapist Hanna Stiltner recently opened Soul Story Therapy to not only deal with issues related to the pandemic, but to help address what she believes is the root cause of most mental health and wellness issues.

“We believe that we are conditioned based on our upbringing, and programmed by our experiences,” Stiltner explained. “We often do not realize that we are living in our subconscious. We do not realize why somethings trigger, or scare us. We can’t see the deeper meaning behind the emotions that we are feeling and showing.”

Stiltner named her practice Soul Story Therapy, because she believes that the way to address these issues is to own and embrace your own personal story, which in turn will lead to a deeper sense of understanding and self-acceptance.

“There is a reason for most of those negative behaviors that we tend to exhibit,” she said. “There is nothing more powerful than bringing awareness to those reasons, and no longer living in our subconscious.  We make mistakes. Embracing them and gaining experience from tragedies, hardships and mistakes versus running from them is so incredibly powerful.”

Through her own hardships, Stiltner said that she had truly learned what owning your story means, and how it can provide a more balanced worldview.

“Therapy helps to put you into a constant state of self-reflection,” she explained. “Weirdly enough, tragedy and hardship was one of the biggest blessings for me. Truly going through things made me have a better understanding. If you can embrace and learn from the things that you go through, then you can connect with yourself and others on a deeper level.”

Over the last year, the anxiety and fear associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the most prevalent topics that Stiltner has addressed with clients. With so many people being forced to stay at home, these people have been forced to live with things that they might otherwise avoid.

“We repress things in the back of our minds by staying busy to avoid it,” she explained. “With COVID, we were stuck at home. There is only so much avoidance within a house. You can only clean so much. Families had time to focus, and with that came some discomfort.”

It is through these uncomfortable situations that we learn to heal, and accept our circumstances, Stiltner said.

Finding that acceptance is often tough for many people, as stigma exists when it comes to receiving therapy and other forms of mental health treatment. Stiltner said that she hopes she can create a sort of visibility, to show people that it is okay to be imperfect and acknowledging that can lead to an improved mental outlook.

“There should not be a stigma,” she said. “We do not have all the answers. We feel things and we need to know that those things are very real. The problem is that the reasoning we give for them is not always the truth. Our minds get in this cycle where we want to get back to the core self. That is what therapy is there for.”

Soul Story Therapy is equipped to help anyone that might need to seek help. Stiltner encouraged those who might feel necessary to reach out on their Facebook page, or on their website at Soulstorytherapy.com.