Therapy Sessions: What are they like?

Date: February 20th, 2018

Filed under: Counseling

It can be hard to start therapy, especially if you are uncertain of what to expect. The stereotypes of lying on a couch and sharing your deepest secrets tends to not be reality, fortunately. But if the Hollywood image of therapy is not real-life, then what is? Here are a few things to expect, and not to expect, when attending your first therapy session.

Yes, therapy may be a good fit for you! The truth is that every session is going to look a little different and will be catered to you, your needs, and your goals. You may seek therapy for three sessions, three months, or three years, and that’s okay. Simply put, if you want to share your story with someone and you benefit from processing things out loud, then therapy may be a good fit for you.

No, you do not have to fit the definition of a mental health issue in order to seek counseling. There is an extensive list of reasons that people seek counseling – grief, anxiety, and depression are common, as well as wishing to improve overall mental wellbeing, social skills, or self-awareness. Couples attend therapy to work on their relationship, families can talk about the loss of a loved one, and individuals can work on their interpersonal skills. Your reason for seeking therapy is valid, and it’s likely you can find a therapist that fits your needs. Your experience with therapy can be tailored to what you want.

No, your therapist will likely not ask you, “And how does that make you feel?” It may be the iconic verbiage of a counselor, but don’t be surprised if this phrase is absent from your session. Your therapist does care about how you feel, but their role is to ask questions that help you process, and this may or may not include conversations about feelings.

Yes, you can be yourself. You can shake all those nerves because in a session there is literally no one you need to impress. When you are sitting in a room with no one besides yourself and your therapist, there is no pressure to say the right thing or act the right way. It’s a bit weird at first – we spend most of our days trying to conform to social standards – but it can become a space free of social pressures and expectations.

Reducing Stress During the Holidays

Date: December 18th, 2017

Filed under: Holidays

December is advertised as the happiest time of the year – people singing, sharing gifts, and reconnecting with family and loved ones. If we erase the façade, December can be the most stressful time of the year. If you feel like you can relate to the latter, we want to share a few tips to reducing stress and increasing self-satisfaction during this holiday season.

Take care of yourself physically

Holiday months often mean the pressure of losing weight for your summer bod has been replaced with the plate of sugary treats that frequents your office. The problem is that high intakes of sugar can poorly affect your mental and physical health. Depression and anxiety symptoms have been shown to increase when diets consist of high amounts of sugar. If you are already feeling stressed during the holiday season, your body will thank you if you reduce sugar.

You can say “No.”

Are the plentiful social events tiring you out? Are your kids asking for the biggest and best presents? Does your family want you to partake in a holiday tradition that sounds like a downer? Saying “no” can be the best solution to finding a sense of relief. If you don’t want to decline something outright, find an alternative option to compromise on. Try turning down the invitation to the family get-together that always ends poorly by saying, “I’m sorry, Mom. I don’t want to attend this event because it is usually not enjoyable for me. Can we have dinner together instead?”

Find times to enjoy yourself

Of course there’s no reason you need to enjoy the holiday season, but if you find yourself feeling like a constant Scrooge, let yourself relax a bit. Do you know the best way to get yourself out of a bad mood is to smile? The simple act of smiling releases hormones in your brain that makes yourself truly happier than you were. In a similar sense, try approaching the event you are dreading with a smile and the thought that it will go well. If it works: Great! If it does not work: You know that you tried and you can confidently avoid it next time.

Fear Is Limiting Your Full Potential - Don't Let It

Date: November 15th, 2017

Filed under: Anxiety

Fear. We know the feeling – tight chest, sweaty palms, short breaths and rapid heartbeat. It is an essential part of the animal instinct to survive. It protects us from fighting a predator we can’t beat, and from stepping into potentially dangerous, unknown territory. Where does it come into play in the modern world? In the modern world, fear is not always the protective instinct it was intended to be.

Danger doesn’t have to be present to elicit a fear response. People have imaginative minds, and we quickly learn to recognize stimuli we believe will bring an unwelcome response. Have you ever been nervous to complete a task, and when you complete it you realize the danger you feared wasn’t even present? What happened was an imagined fear; as a form of protection your body responded with a fear response. That’s not uncommon.

Fear can be rooted in a variety of stimuli. It is most commonly rooted in one of the following concerns: Being wrong, not being good enough, missing out, or being victimized. Without question, many people will avoid those outcomes if possible. But does the desire to avoid them outweigh the potential benefits you’re missing out on? If you weren’t afraid of being wrong, would you speak up more often? If you weren’t afraid of being good enough, would you pick up that hobby you’ve always wanted to do? In a modern world, fear can manifest in ways that limit us from our potential.

The good news is that you’re not stuck. Just as fears can be learned, they can be unlearned.

  1. Acknowledge the fear – This is an important first step to overcoming a fear that is holding you back. The more specific the better. If a whole situation is causing fear, it can be hard to pinpoint the specific thing that is causing it. Ask yourself why you have made the choices you have and be honest with yourself about the thing you’re shying away from.

  2. Question the fear – Once you’ve pinpointed the fear, it is time to question it and the actions it has caused. What has it held you back from completing? How have your actions come across to others? Not participating in that business meeting may have come across as aloof, not nervous about being wrong. Ask yourself where it is coming from and where you would like to be if this fear wasn’t present.

  3. Determine your move – What was your answer when you asked yourself where you wanted to be? Go there. Here’s the key: This move is about you. No one else needs you to make this move more than you do, so your plan should align with your own values. Think of the answers you’ve come up with so far and go from there.

  4. Make your move – Go ahead, take that step. Remember when you learned how to ride a bike and you couldn’t believe that gravity would let you stay upright until you took off the training wheels and successfully rode that bike? Sure, the fear of not being good enough was present, but it turns out you were good enough. Remember that and remember you are good enough.

Seasonal Depression

Date: September 24th, 2017

Filed under: Tips

In the last week we have experienced a sharp contrast in weather, from hot and smoky to cool and damp, indicating an abrupt entrance into autumn. This means the days will be getting shorter and the skies grayer – something that can trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), often referred to as seasonal depression.

The change in weather may also mean a necessary change in personal care if you experience seasonal depression. While there are actions you can take to diminish your symptoms on your own, seeking professional advice is a good step.

What does SAD look like?

Seasonal depression feels much like year-round depression and include feelings of anxiety and dejectedness, loss of energy, sleep problems, and mood changes. SAD symptoms can be just as strong as other forms of depression and should not be overlooked.

What can you do?

  1. Seek Light The short days of the winter months means less sunlight. Less sunlight means less serotonin, which means higher risk of depression. Some therapies encourage using a sun-simulating bright light to help regulate hormone levels, but any exposure to sunlight you can give yourself may be beneficial.

  2. Exercise Endorphins released during exercise can help counteract the lack of serotonin and can increase levels of happiness, confidence, and feelings of accomplishments.

  3. Talk to a Therapist While there are many things you can do to take care of your body and your mind, seeking help from a professional can let you target the specifics of your experience. Not all treatments are suitable for every person, and a therapist can help you determine the best route forward. ¬

Relationship Tips for Parents with Young Children

Date: May 18th, 2017

Filed under: Kids

Parenting young children can be a joyous experience, but there’s no denying that it’s a lot of work. Done right, though, it doesn’t have to take a toll on your marriage.

Date Each Other

A weekly date night can be a lifesaver. It doesn’t have to break the bank: Cheap and simple dates are easy to maintain over the long run, so find a sitter you trust, and take time to just be with your partner. Don’t be afraid to try new things during your date nights. Some couples find that the routine of daily life can sap energy and enthusiasm, and doing new things together adds an element of fun, excitement, and yes, even romance.

Check In Daily

Check in with each other every day. Take five minutes to share your high and low point from the day, so you can celebrate and/or offer support. Some couples find that an early bedtime for the kids helps with this, but whenever you choose to do it, make sure it happens. Doing so will ensure that the two of you connect at least once during the day, and that you share something meaningful and personal—not just talk about who needs to pick up the kids from preschool.

Work Together

Studies have shown that most tensions between parents of young children arise from disagreements about the work load. One or both parents may become tired or feel that they have the hardest job and their partner doesn’t understand everything they do. Oddly enough, taking a few minutes to work together, even it’s just doing the dishes or folding laundry, can ease resentment over who does the most work.

It’s a balancing act, but by focusing on your partner and making your relationship a priority, you can make it stronger than ever, and grow closer through the ups and downs of family life.

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