Anxiety – Counseling Can Help

Stressed young woman in front of christmas tree

Anxiety comes in many forms. While some have more situational anxiety – such as being nervous for a test or speaking in front of a group, others struggle with crippling, chronic anxiety that seems to come from nowhere. Some people experience panic attacks and episodes of anxiety while others have a low-level anxiety constantly buzzing in the background. Whichever it is that you struggle with, there is help. Certain counseling approaches have been found effective for the treatment of anxiety, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (Hofmann, Asnaani, Vonk, Sawyer and Fang in 2012). The problem is, that some struggle to get into therapy in the first place. Obstacles to entering therapy are many. They include: lack of knowledge about therapy, financial issues, scheduling, stigma, etc…

One thing that I help all of my clients struggling with anxiety learn how to do is breath correctly. It’s important to know this breathing technique so that your body can calm down. At that point you actually have a chance then to become less anxious and work through things. Anxiety is as much a physical experience as it is an emotional/intellectual one.

Trauma – Coming Together as a Couple

Spouses play an important role in their partners healing after trauma. They can help create an environment of recovery and healing. Even if the trauma happened when they were younger, support from a spouse can help heal. Research (Valentine and Feinauer, 1993) has found that this is the case for women who have survived child sexual abuse when they were younger. Support from others then and now was stated to be important to them and their recovery.

One problem is that men and women might cope differently with the trauma and that this might hurt the process (Dyregrov, 2001). Women might tend to have intense, long lasting reactions where they want to talk and process a lot. Whereas, men might be more withdrawn and solitary in their coping. When couples have this asynchronous response they may become martially or emotionally distressed.

It is crucial to both a spouse who has gone through trauma and the spouse who has not, that they are able to work through problems like asynchronous responses. Or at least able to talk about the fact that they cope differently and try to work toward understanding each other. Most couples struggle to do this even when there is no trauma to deal with. Trauma makes it even more difficult for them to talk through these things.

Counseling is a way to learn the skills needed to work through trauma as a couple. Whether the trauma is big or small, a trained therapist can help you both feel heard and communicate well with each other.

Positive Self-Talk

I once had a client tell me that the way they talked down to themselves served as a way to keep them from being prideful, arrogant and thinking they were better than others. It was an interesting way to go about keeping a check on how they presented themselves to others and themselves.

I’ve seen this many times with clients in counseling. They shame themselves, talk badly to themselves or are flat out mean to themselves as a way to manage their behavior. As if beating themselves up is a way to initiate and maintain change. They often compare themselves to others to motivate themselves into changing. It might help a little, but doesn’t create lasting change.

As a counselor, I often help them to use positive self-talk. Most people misunderstand what positive self-talk is and think that it is simply talking positively to yourself, ignoring the issue and even pretending its not there. That would be like saying, after having your arm cut off, “I’m not – nothing wrong here” as you are bleeding out. That isn’t positive self-talk – that’s ignorant and not smart.

Positive self-talk is two things: realistic and compassionate. It is realistic through saying something like this, “My arm is cut off. This is a serious problem.” And it’s also compassionate by saying, “And I can do this, I can get help and I will do the best I can to fix it”.

Using positive self-talk to combat negative self-talk is an important tool to overcoming depression. At first someone will think that negative self-talk is something that ‘just is’ and is the ‘truth’. They find it hard to combat it because they don’t know they are doing it or actually believe it.

The more you practice engaging in positive self-talk the more you will star to believe it.

Thoughts are Reality

You and me, we have magnetic power to attract what we want.  What we are becomes our reality.  It is not the other way around, such as ‘our reality makes us to who we are.’  It is, ‘who we are becomes our reality.’  What we think about will eventually manifest it.  The law of attraction is no less true in my life.  And I invite you to consider how your life has attracted what you first harbored inside.  When was the last time you thought something good and something good happened to you?  What about something bad?

In fact, tonight, I dare you to watch a movie and identify the emotion of that movie and then go straight to bed.  I bet you that your dreams will carry that same emotion of the movie you watched.  Your dreams will carry the emotions that you magnetized to yourself during the movie and you will most likely have a story line of behaviors and events in your dream that justify your emotions to some degree.  For instance, if courage was the emotion you may find yourself defending the defenseless in your dream while simultaneously facing your fears.

I say courage because that is exactly what happened to me.  I stayed up too late watching adventure movie trailers and woke this morning from a dream defending an innocent employee from an abusive drunken business owner.  I don’t usually watch movies and this is the first dream I can remember ever actually fighting and rescuing the defenseless.

           If this can occur in just one night, imagine developing a habit of positive thoughts and the positivity that will actually come to you, and not just in your dreams?  I have seen this in my own life, how I see myself, others follow.  This is partially true because others who see me differently, I ignore and do not allow their judgments to carry my attention.

           Another quick example is found in skiing.  I love skiing for several reasons, and one of those is how quickly the law of the harvest reaps it’s fruit.  Although I started skiing 8 years ago, I only went once a year and it was hard to see any improvement.  But 2 years ago, I purchased a season pass, howbeit late in the season, March, with only a month to spare.  Knowing my time was short I made it to the slopes six times in the remaining five weeks.  I skied more in the month of March and April of 2016 then I had my whole life.  And I was amazed how much I improved in not only every ski day but also every run down the mountain.  Each ski-chair lift was a time of meditation to push the limits from the prior run.  I challenged myself and not a day went by without falling and skis flying unclipped, eventually I confidently fell down Double Black Diamonds; I eventually snaked down with ‘S’ turns and catching air, not the kind you see on YouTube but none the less personal record-worthy notes for me.  The keys were that I enjoyed it, saw falling as part of the journey, kept practicing without judgment, and I believed I could ski like the other great skiers around me.

            This, no less than 10 year-old, probably taught it best.  Check it out below:

           No one is an island.  In order to achieve anything great, we all need the support of others.  Therapy is a personal relationship to the things we attract and authoring our magnets into what we esteem as success.  It is possible.  What great thing will you start attracting today?

Written by Ryan Smith, LAMFT, Therapist, Center for Couples & Families – Holladay

Welcome Dr. Elizabeth Beckmann to HCCF!

Dr. Elizabeth Beckmann has joined the team and we are thrilled! She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience with her. She has a track record of helping clients and we are sure she can help you too.

Help us welcome her – check out her bio here. Welcome Dr. Beckmann.

Depression – Winter Blues?

Winter brings depression for many here in Utah. For some it comes on because of the shorter, darker days. For others it comes because of a change in diet (i.e., eating too much and too unhealthy at holiday gatherings) and moving less (i.e., not exercising or moving around outside. And for others it comes because of loneliness and feeling the pain of relationships not going well or relationships lost. No matter why you are depressed the fact still remains – you are struggling and not doing well. Lets talk about what to do when you find yourself feeling down during the winter.

  1. Move more – getting outside, even if its cold, can help you feel better. Find something that you enjoy and do it. Exercising at a local gym or community recreation center can feel good.
  2. Eat healthy – we often emotionally eat, eat because we are bored or because its a holiday. All of these experiences can leave us feeling worse than we felt before. Keep eating healthy. Rather than just restricting what you eat, try replacing unhealthy food for healthy food you like.
  3. Talk to someone – isolation is often a big precursor and proponent of depression. Talk to someone you like and share with them what you are going through. They might not have the answers, but it could feel good to let someone care for you.
  4. See professional help – there can sometimes be a negative stigma associated with getting therapy. Get over it. 🙂 Therapy has been shown to help those who are depressed. It can make a difference for you and your loved ones. Most all of my clients report to me that they are glad they got the help when they were struggling.

College: A Generation at Risk

A College diploma is a goal for millions of Americans, yet graduation rates have never been lower and those who do graduate take 6 years on average compared to the 4 years of previous generations.  Recent research has helped us understand that these dismal outcomes are not because students cannot handle the coursework, because the vast majority of students can grasp the academic content; rather mental health issues are now the prominent struggle in College.   

The statistics tell a rather grim story at first glance.  A study by the APA in 2017 found 

86% of students with psychological and learning challenges left school without a diploma. The CDC discovered that suicide is currently the 2nd leading cause of death among college students and this year, WHO found that 1 in 20 full-time college students have seriously considered suicide. 

There is one statistic, however, that gives hope to these startling facts.  94% of high school students with emotional and learning differences receive some form of assistance. In contrast, only 17% of college students with the same challenges do so.  The remaining 74% still need assistance in navigating the new world of College life, but faced with logistical and financial constraints, Colleges will have to adapt quickly when it comes to providing services for the mental health of its students.  Currently, there is a nation-wide average of 2,500 students for every one counselor and this clearly isn’t enough. 

The good news, if you or someone you know needs help while in school, there are a couple of private and non-profit companies filling the gap in the state of Utah so please reach out for hope, healing, and help. 

Originally published on http://utvalleywellness.com

Boundaries With Others – How To Set Them

When you’re trying to create boundaries with people they will be tested. It’s like when cows enter a new pasture, they will knock their shoulder against the perimeter a few times to check out where their boundaries are and how strong they are. Cows are strong enough to take down barbed wire if they really wanted to, but they aren’t really testing if they can get out, they are testing if they are safe from the external world. Once they know that the boundaries are consistent and stable they feel safe and they graze in the middle. If the cows don’t have that consistent boundary they will rely on the cowboy to tell them when they have gone too far. The cowboy, however, doesn’t have consistent boundaries, they will only correct the cow when they notice the cow has gone too far, which doesn’t create a feeling of safety. People are the same when they have never experienced consistent boundaries, or they are experiencing new boundaries. People will test boundaries, not enough to break them but enough to trust that they are there to stay and to trust that they are there to keep them safe.

A lot of young adults who never experienced boundaries, because their parents wanted to be their friend. They have a great relationship with their parents, but they will tell me that they feel like they grew up as an orphan because they don’t have a secure home base. but they will tell me that they are afraid to explore and take risks as an adult because they can’t trust that they have parents who are watching out for them, to make sure they don’t make a mistake big enough to ruin their entire life.

It’s important that people are given the space to grow and find their own solutions within appropriate limits. When your setting limits the goal is not to get a specific outcome, rather the goal is to prevent a specific outcome. It is quite spectacular what people can come up with when their possibilities aren’t limited, but just the same we don’t want anyone hurting themselves or others in the process. Limits are set to prevent irreversible and/or irreplaceable damage, while still allowing people to learn how to cope with and improve from mistakes.

When cattle are being herded they have the instinct to turn around when they feel blocked, which can be disruptive to the flow and requires more work to redirect them back into the flow. To redirect a cow, you want them to feel pressure on their shoulder. If you are in front of them when you apply this pressure they feel blocked, if you are beside them when you apply this pressure they will simply turn a bit from where they shouldn’t be. People are the same, when they are told to stop doing what they are doing (and they don’t continue trampling over you) they will do a complete turnaround, even if this wasn’t your intention. If you’re only wanting a slight redirection from a no-go zone you want to adjust your approach to let them know that you understand that they want to move forward, and you want that too, but you want them going forward in a slightly different direction.

Written by Madison Price, MA, LAMFT – therapist at the Holladay Center for Couples and Families

 

Boundaries With Others – How To Set Them

When you’re trying to create boundaries with people they will be tested. It’s like when cows enter a new pasture, they will knock their shoulder against the perimeter a few times to check out where their boundaries are and how strong they are. Cows are strong enough to take down barbed wire if they really wanted to, but they aren’t really testing if they can get out, they are testing if they are safe from the external world. Once they know that the boundaries are consistent and stable they feel safe and they graze in the middle. If the cows don’t have that consistent boundary they will rely on the cowboy to tell them when they have gone too far. The cowboy however doesn’t have consistent boundaries, they will only correct the cow when they notice the cow has gone too far, which doesn’t create a feeling of safety. People are the same when they have never experienced consistent boundaries, or they are experiencing new boundaries. People will test boundaries, not enough to break them but enough to trust that they are there to stay and to trust that they are there to keep them safe.

A lot of young adults who never experienced boundaries, because their parents wanted to be their friend. They have a great relationship with their parents, but they will tell me that they feel like they grew up as an orphan because they don’t have a secure home base. but they will tell me that they are afraid to explore and take risks as an adult because they can’t trust that they have parents who are watching out for them, to make sure they don’t make a mistake big enough to ruin their entire life.

It’s important that people are given the space to grow and find their own solutions within appropriate limits. When your setting limits the goal is not to get a specific outcome, rather the goal is to prevent a specific outcome. It is quite spectacular what people can come up with when their possibilities aren’t limited, but just the same we don’t want anyone hurting themselves or others in the process. Limits are set to prevent irreversible and/or irreplaceable damage, while still allowing people to learn how to cope with and improve from mistakes.

When cattle are being herded they have the instinct to turn around when they feel blocked, which can be disruptive to the flow and requires more work to redirect them back into the flow. To redirect a cow, you want them to feel pressure on their shoulder. If you are in front of them when you apply this pressure they feel blocked, if you are beside them when you apply this pressure they will simply turn a bit from where they shouldn’t be. People are the same, when they are told to stop doing what they are doing (and they don’t continue trampling over you) they will do a complete turnaround, even if this wasn’t your intention. If you’re only wanting a slight redirection from a no go zone you want to adjust your approach to let them know that you understand that they want to move forward, and you want that too, but you want them going forward in a slightly different direction.

Written by Madison Price, MA, LAMFT – therapist at the Holladay Center for Couples and Families

 

The Impact of Borderline Personality Disorder on Relationships

All too often, family members, friends, fellow employees, and even therapists become reactive, judgmental, and walk on egg shells when they interact with someone who displays characteristics of borderline personality disorder.  Let me start off by summarizing some of the core characteristics of the disorder, specifically focusing on those traits which play out in the interactions with others.

  1. Affective Instability – This is where those with BPD struggle to regulate their emotions in predictable ways.  Often, their mood does not match with expected life or social situations, thus making it difficult for those around them to understand or relate to the distress they are experiencing.
  2. Fear of real or imagined abandonment – Those struggling with BPD are often afraid of being rejected, abandoned, or left alone emotionally. These feelings are triggered when the potential abandonment is indicated, as well as times where it isn’t.
  3. Identity disturbance – It can be difficult for those with BPD to maintain a consistent sense of self. There is typically a variance of self-doubt, instability in self-image, and self-acceptance.
  4. Impulsivity – Due to the emotional and personal instability, impulsivity is often a regular occurrence for those with BPD. While this may not feel disruptive for the individual, it can be highly disruptive for those around them.
  5. Paranoid ideation and dissociative symptoms – In certain situations, those with BPD may struggle with feeling paranoid, especially in relation to how they perceive other’s intentions or motives. Also, they may experience dissociative symptoms, which is a disconnect from themselves, their reality, or their sense of self.

What we need to understand about personality disorders is that they are just that, disorders which occur within the core personality of the individual.  This is important to consider, because it is extremely threatening to the individual when a personality disorder is suggested, or when a diagnosis is made, especially since it is difficult to be “objective” about your own personality.  Because of this, it can be very threatening for someone experiencing symptoms of BPD to identify and accept that the symptoms are present in their life.

It is my professional belief that the symptoms of BPD are treatable, and that through treatment, people can reduce the identified symptoms to the degree that they no longer qualify for the diagnosis.  This perspective can bring hope to those struggling with BPD, as well as those who are involved in their life.  However, the process of therapy can be challenging, and typically requires long term treatment.

Selecting a therapist who can treat BPD effectively is an important step in the process.  The therapist must be able to accurately diagnose the disorder, as well as position themselves in the therapeutic relationship as to control for and manage the identified symptoms.  A careful balance between soliciting BPD symptoms and maintaining safety and security within the therapeutic relationship is critical.  Failure to challenge the BPD symptoms results in no change, while doing so without carefully creating a safe therapeutic relationship will typically result in early or even immediate rejection on the part of the client.

Once someone with BPD can effectively accept the diagnosis, identify how the symptoms play out in their life, and learn new ways of managing and responding to the symptoms, then they can focus on the primary relationships in their life, and work on how they relate to others in new ways.

Written by Dr. Tony Alonzo, DMFT, LMFT, CFLE therapist at the Holladay Center for Couples and Families