Cognitive behavioral therapy and counseling
ALCOHOL / SUBSTANCE Abuse
A common question is “Which came first; the mood disorder or the substance abuse?” My response is, “It doesn’t matter.” Substance use has its intended effect. It alters our mood, often making us “feel” like we think more clearly; and provides an escape related to euphoria – that feeling of freedom we can’t seem to get any other way.
Counseling for substance use issues is usually sought when pursuing this “feeling” gets in the way of other important areas of our lives, our jobs, our academic pursuits, our relationships or our own lack of control that may result in legal action. Substance use is a shortcut that often leads to a dead end; in which I am no longer using it, but it is using me. Counseling provides an alternate route; a more lasting path on which to achieve the freedom of thought and emotion of which the effects of substance use is only an imposter.
CHILDREN & Teen Therapy
Very few issues that present in childhood or adolescence occur in a vacuum. That is why I usually meet with the parent(s) or primary caregiver(s) as well. Family dynamics are explored and identified along with communication and problem-solving skills. Expectations are aligned and families are better equipped to manage difficulties and resolve conflicts.
The breakdown of one of the most important relationships in our lives is painful. It requires resolution in ways that are similar to grief and loss. Many emotions result from the experience of betrayal, deception or being hurt by the person with whom we have been the most vulnerable.
Recovering from divorce often requires the assistance of others, especially in the counseling environment in which an individual can openly explore, discuss and eventually resolve the extremely difficult emotions attached to divorce. Everyone’s experience of this kind of stress is different and requires a very individual response as we process the thoughts and emotions the client experiences.
LIFE’S CHANGES / TRANSITIONS
Change is stress; Life encompasses many changes; therefore, life is stress. Most of us tend to act in a similar way as inertia; which states that objects in motion tend to stay in motion and objects that are stationary tend to stay stationary until acted upon by an outside force. Often these “outside forces” are not chosen but simply the result of changes within our environment. Counseling may assist us in making smooth transitions and to help us develop skills to intentionally navigate through future changes.
Many are navigating through making decisions in education or career, managing their lives during times of crisis, and dealing with stress during various stages of life. Counseling can prove very useful in assisting individuals in managing the stress associated with these changes and achieving the best possible outcomes.
The challenges of balancing family, relationships, career, leisure, diet, exercise and the numerous demands placed on us can be quite overwhelming. In order to resolve these stressors, we will discuss and explore ways to manage our moments, hours, days, weeks and months. Often this involves developing a skill known as mindfulness. Mindfulness involves learning to live within the moment, in the here and now, in the present as opposed to being pulled into anxiety over the future or possible regrets of the past.
Situational stress is a very real issue especially in the fast-paced culture that we live in. Counseling often assists the client in being able to identify the areas of particular stress, obtain a more objective perspective on the effect that it is having on their lives and relationships, and begin the process of dealing with the stress in the most effective, healthy manner as possible.
ANGER MANAGEMENT / ASSERTIVENESS
Anger is energy. As with any form of energy, anger can be used for productive or destructive things. Anger management is more about identifying and dealing with the underlying emotions, the more subtle influences that cause the anger. These can include pain, fear, frustration or a habitual response to these difficult experiences.
Rather than feel guilt or shame and deal with the consequences of our destructive expression of anger, I have found that the most effective anger management is about exposing the parts of our lives that are causing the most pain and frustration, anxiety and fear and using counseling as a means of resolving the effects that these experiences have on our lives and relationships; transforming anger into the motivation to solve problems for which it is intended.
90% of human communication is nonverbal; how we say something vs. what we say. Our tone of voice, facial expression, level of eye contact, body posture, body proximity, inflection, emphasis and the many combinations of these make up our communication.
Communication skills are very important in learning to manage our emotions, resolving conflicts with others and developing self-confidence in all social situations. We will discuss the verbal and non-verbal aspects of communication, identify more effective ways to express our emotions and develop the skills necessary to retain mutual respect for each other even when we disagree or are experiencing difficult emotions in relationships.
We are complex human beings with needs, incentives, motivations, inner struggles and environmental stressors. In the context of a family the dynamics and interactions among its members are even more complex. Family counseling and conflict resolution requires a commitment on all parties.
This commitment includes the motivation to improve relationships and to develop the skills necessary to produce more healthy dynamics within the family. It requires each person to be honest enough to take responsibility for their role in the conflicts. Although taking responsibility for our actions is difficult, it enhances our influence and ability to change the situation. Each person within the family can then recognize how they can use their influence for the betterment of the family as a whole.
There are times in many couples’ lives that require an objective third party to assist in working through issues that cannot seem to be resolved on our own. My approach to marital counseling focuses on each individual’s role and helping them take personal responsibility for their choices and the effect that their behavior has on their significant other.
I believe that if we want to change or improve our relationships, we must first learn to make changes ourselves to improve how we express ourselves, the strategies we use to meet our own needs, and the skills we learn and develop in order to enhance our own personal growth. The effect of these changes tends to be an overall improvement in the health of our most significant relationships.
Trauma and its effects may come in many forms. In trauma recovery, it is recognized that each person experiences the same thing in a very individual, personal way; differently from the way any other person experiences it. We explore the three “E’s” of trauma which include the Event, the Experience and the Effects. The thoughts and emotions we experience in regard to our self, others and the environment are deeply affected by trauma. We often experience feelings of anger, depression, shame and often perceive our sense of responsibility in extremes.
We may project blame in an overall attitude of victimization or take undue responsibility for our trauma, experiencing toxic guilt and shame. In exploring and processing these thoughts and emotions in terms of the many aspects of trauma, we can better cope with the long term effects and limit the negative influences it has on our lives.
Anxiety is based on fear; usually fear of the unknown future. Anticipatory anxiety can be useful when it motivates us to act or complete a task. I refer to the “sweet spot” of anxiety being that level of anxiety which motivates but does not paralyze.
Many of us experience the latter; and this is often the focus of counseling: identifying the areas of life that cause anxiety, worry and fear and learn to transform the feelings into actions that are positive, healthy and productive.
The pursuit of happiness is a right guaranteed by the constitution; happiness is not. Happiness is a state of mind that for many of us takes work, effort and a strategy of rethinking. Depression is experienced in many forms including situational, clinical, or as one of the many steps in the grieving process. Ironically, some have developed a pattern of sadness, an attitude of self-defeat, in which life makes sense only when seen through “dark-colored glasses.”
Some are comfortable and familiar underlying sadness and need help in freeing themselves from this state. Depression is often the result of discouragement, disillusionment, disappointment, loss and unresolved grief, or the residual effects of trauma. In counseling for depression, I focus on the thought patterns that have supported a depressed state of mind and ways to reframe thinking that frees the client to think in healthier and life-giving, life-affirming ways.
Life well lived can be seen as a cycle of joys and sorrows, inspiration and pain; gains and losses. Many of us have experienced the more obvious losses of loved ones through death. There are also subtle losses such as the loss of trust, betrayal, the loss of physical or mental abilities, or the loss of financial or emotional security. In counseling for grief and loss, we explore the challenges faced as we navigate through the process.
We recognize that the experience of loss can be viewed as one of many chapters in our life’s journey. Resolution may include acceptance that we may never fully “get over it” but can be used for the benefit of ourselves and others, and help inform an overall healthier life perspective.
OBSESSIVE / COMPULSIVE TENDENCIES
Many individuals seeking counseling experience behavioral patterns or habits of thinking and feeling that have interfered with a healthy lifestyle. In exploring, dealing with and resolving obsessive-compulsive tendencies, we will approach these patterns from their usual origins which include anxiety or a compensation for an underlying feeling of inadequacy, insecurity or other vulnerabilities we experience.
Often we must choose behaviors that do not come naturally as a means of promoting change. Ritualistic behaviors tend to develop out of the need for consistency, constancy and reliability within an otherwise unstable, changing environment. We will discuss, explore and encourage behaviors necessary to develop new habits which will enhance personal growth and health.