Choosing the Right Therapist

Counseling or psychotherapy for anxiety, depression, substance abuse, or relationships can be a very life changing, if not life saving, process. It is so important to find the best match for your needs. For many, this is a new experience or at least new in this current situation or location.

Making an inquiry for services and reaching out for help requires enormous trust. It involves uncertainty. Although finding a great match for your needs can be overwhelming, you can minimize the uncertainty. It is important to ask questions and express your hopes and expectations beginning with the first contact and throughout the process. Your questions may include queries about the counselor’s experience, specialties, flexibility, and availability of appointment times. We encourage you to ask how privacy and confidentiality are protected.

The following is a checklist of considerations that could help you determine whether a clinic and therapist/counselor is a right fit for you. An excellent clinic such as Pinnacle Counseling is able to have high ratings in most, if not all, categories.

Using the Scale 1-5  (with 1-Poor, 3-Average and  5-Excellent) rate the clinics and counselor/therapist you visit:

1. The convenience of the location of the office.

2. The availability of appointment times.

3. The comfort/atmosphere of the office or facility.

4. The competence and knowledge of the therapist.

5. The quality of care and services.

6. The thoroughness of the initial evaluation and treatment.

7. The amount of help you received.

8. Your degree of improvement from the time of the initial visit.

9. The degree to which you were helped to deal more effectively with you problems.

10. The improvement in how you feel compared to the initial visit.

11. Your overall satisfaction with the treatment.

12. The value of the treatment, considering the cost.

13 The response time from your first contact to the initial appointment.

14. The adequacy of explanation of procedures, fees, treatment, etc.

15. The friendliness/courtesy of your therapist.

16. The attention and respect to privacy you received.

17. The personal interest in you and your problems.

18. The attention given to what you had to say.

19. Your comfort in referring a friend or relative.

20. Your comfort in returning if you needed help again.

Sharon Nelson, LCSW

Mental Health and Relationship Counselor- Feel Better, Live Better

Can Stress Be Fatal?

 

Audrey A. Adams LCSW

We’ve all heard the saying, “stress can kill you.” Is that true? Well, as a matter of fact, YES it is! The human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. Stress can be positive, keeping you alert and ready to avoid danger. Stress becomes negative when a person faces continuous challenges without relief or relaxation between challenges. As a result, the person becomes overworked, and stress-related tension builds. A Health and Safety Executive states around 9.9 million working days are lost each year to stress, depression, or anxiety. But recognizing stress symptoms may be harder than you think. Most of us are so used to being stressed; we often don’t know we are stressed until we are at the breaking point.

Common symptoms of stress are headache, muscle tension, chest pain, fatigue, stomach upset, excessive worry, and sleep problems. Stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior. Being able to recognize common stress symptoms can give you a jump on managing them. Stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Besides these very serious health problems, stress that’s left unchecked can manifest itself in anger, resentment, depression, and anxiety. Stress can interfere with your judgment and cause you to make bad decisions, make you see difficult situations as threatening reducing your enjoyment and making you feel bad, making you feel rejected, unable to laugh, afraid of free time, unable to work, and not willing to process your problems with others. A lot of people turn to drugs and alcohol for immediate relief, but drugs and alcohol quickly turn into more stressors, problems, addictions, and health problems of their own.

In the world we live in today, we not only are concerned with our own personal issues, family problems, employment situations, finances, etc. But, we are bombarded with daily news about extremely scary and violent behavior from thousands of miles away to right in our own backyards. One thing that is in our control is making sure we make time for self-care. Your first thought to hearing that was probably, “I don’t have time,” or “I wish!” But think of this, if you don’t find time to do things for yourself, then who will? No one. As adults it is our job to take care of ourselves the best we can or we may not be around as long as we had hoped.

While most of us would likely prefer to take a cruise, rent a cabin in the woods, or go the beach, it is important to remember when it comes to stress, a little bit really does go a long way. The 10 minutes it takes to drive through Starbucks to buy your $6.00 morning coffee, the 30 minutes spent wandering around the grocery store because you’re not sure what you want, or the extra 15 minutes on the phone talking to someone you don’t even really want to speak with can produce stress. Those precious few minutes add up. Taking small chunks of time for yourself can make a profound difference. You deserve to be as stress free as possible. You have to pick your battles. Is what you are stressing about today going to matter this time next year? Is what you are stressing about today something you can control? Putting yourself first is not selfish. Take a walk, talk to someone you trust, take a bubble bath, go fishing, read a book, get a massage, color, dance, watch a comedy that made you laugh 20 years ago, have a picnic by the creek, fly a kite, leave your phone in the other room, look at old pictures, go barefoot in the back yard, try wood carving… The point is just do something…..but do it for YOU!

 

Why does the Mind/Body connection really matter?

By Terry Richardson, MSW LCSW

Mental Health and Relationship Counselor

PinnacleCounselingNWA.com

Feel Better Live Better- Why does the Mind/Body connection really matter?

 

Worried about being worried sick? Is laughter really the best medicine? Your body may know you’re depressed before you do and doing its best to get your attention. There is growing evidence, supported by research, indicating your mental state really influences your body’s ability to protect and heal itself! In fact, your state of mind could be the best tool you have when defending yourself against illness and maximizing treatment of cancer, heart disease, digestive disorders, diabetes and aging. All of your natural defenses are compromised in response to stress (primarily mental).

Most people have at least heard the term “psychosomatic” which quite literally means “mind/body”. Unfortunately, this term was and is commonly misused when someone is thought to have imagined an illness and can then produce symptoms. In confusion, we generally label and dismiss what could be more accurately described as “hypochondria” and have overlooked the power of the psychosomatic process itself. As Woody Allen said “I’m not a hypochondriac, I’m an alarmist”. Ironically, even this rather negative misunderstanding of psychosomatic also confirms the acceptance of the ability of one’s mind to influence a physical condition. Now, scientific research is validating that possibility: we could use the power of the mind (i.e., thinking) to create optimal conditions for becoming and remaining well.

What makes the mind/body perspective worth reconsidering at this juncture? It is the transition which has been occurring, from the realm of “fuzzy logic”, “magical beliefs” and “spiritual eccentricity”, to the realm of solid measurable data. Consider the placebo and nocebo effect. What are the “placebo effect” and the “nocebo effect”? In the simplest terms, it’s the “sugar pill” effect. It’s the uncanny result that is obtained from a substance, or sometimes a behavior, when none of the “treatment” properties are present to create the desired change, and yet, benefit is derived. The nocebo effect accounts for adopting the “belief” that a substance (or change) won’t work, and it doesn’t! The placebo/nocebo effects are so powerful in fact, that all research conducted must allow for the possibility of these effects in their research data. If science is nothing else, it is the domain of measurability, and its primary mantra is “if it cannot be measured, we cannot know it exists”, therefore, thoughts, emotions, feelings, mind and spirit had been relegated into the arena of unscientific observations. Today however, we live in a world of electron microscopes, functional magnetic resonance imaging, and the previously immeasurable can now be measured, observed and replicated.

Mind/Body interaction had been observed and documented by Hans Selye in his work on stress as early as 1946 and the “General Adaptation Syndrome” became popularly known as the Fight-Flight- Freeze response. Of special note regarding mind/body relevance, the stress experience creating the cascade of measurable physiological responses could be triggered consistently, regardless of the threat being real, imagined or perceived (through a mental interpretation) of danger. The body reacts to stimulus by activating the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis. Researchers believe that prolonged exposure to stress (real or imagined) results in suppression of the immune system, wear and tear of several body systems, placing the individual at higher risk of dis-ease. This was the advent of the earliest biofeedback strategies.

Pioneers in the field of mind/body research have expanded on Selye’s work. Researchers and practitioners have emerged from a broad array of disciplines, including cellular biology, neuroimmunology, psychotherapy and spirituality, representing the specific focus of their disciplines, be it mind or body. The unifying premise of these disciplines is an acknowledgement of the fallacy or artificial separation of mind/body interaction.

These individuals have united under a variety of identifying umbrella labels usually incorporating the terms “Holistic or Wholistic”, “Mind/Body” or “Complementary Alternative” Medicine.

So, with an acceptance of the inter-relatedness of the mind/body concept and the availability of sophisticated equipment, it has become possible to identify and measure methods to enhance mind/body interaction. The implications for psychotherapy are obvious and substantiate the value of “talk therapy” as a viable treatment alternative for mental and physical health. The mind/body perspective includes approaches of prevention that are proactive, health maintaining, healing, and driven by the individual. Today, rather than viewing the dis-ease “treatment” as a response, directed toward a passive recipient, we can engage the whole person on a mind/body journey toward wellness. Be well!

3 Common Therapy Myths

Myth #1:  Counselors only want to give me medication.
Due to state and federal guidelines, counselors are not able to write prescriptions for medication. Counselors operate as a profession by using a variety of techniques within the client-counselor relationship to promote and explore personal growth and development with the client.

Myth #2:  If I attend therapy, everyone will know about my problems.
The relationship between the client and the counselor is protected by legal confidentiality. Counselors seek to provide an environment of safety and calm to work through even the toughest of personal issues. At Pinnacle Counseling, we go above and beyond o ensure that our clients’ information, treatment, and medical records are kept completely private and handled with the utmost discretion.

Myth #3:  The cost of therapy is too high. I would never be able to afford it.
While the cost of therapy and treatment is an expense in itself, there are tools that you can use when deciding how to pay for the cost of your treatment. One option is insurance, depending on your insurance company and the type of coverage offered for mental health treatment. Another option could be a plan that you work out with your counselor for self-payment of therapy costs. It is vital that the lines of communication between the client and the counselor always be open and honest when discussing treatment and the same is true for therapy costs.

Whatever your concerns are, at Pinnacle Counseling we are ready to listen and help you take that first step in the process of recovery or a healthier lifestyle.

 

Erika McCaghren

Innovative, Creative, and Inspiring

Innovative, creative, and inspiring are tags used to search for videos on TED.com, the source for videos on almost anything. While it is nice to find something something funny to watch while you are at work, here are some videos that might spark your attention in the “tag” areas. Check them out:

Sarah Kay
“How many lives can you live?”
https://www.ted.com/talks/sarah_kay_how_many_lives_can_you_live
Sarah Kay uses two spoken-word poems to explain her love/hate relationship with living one life. She shares her hope to rush and hear everyone’s stories and to share her story so that she can see life through another person’s frame of reference as many times as she can, so as to not miss out on anything that others have to offer. Sarah ends her talk with another spoken-word poem about the power of experience and living lives of our own and of others in a special way.


Ash Beckham
“We are all hiding something. Let’s find the courage to open up.”
https://www.ted.com/talks/ash_beckham_we_re_all_hiding_something_let_s_find_the_courage_to_open_up
Ash Beckham discusses the closets that keep us from opening up and sharing our story. The story that makes us shut the door to the closet of secrets and pushes others away. Although she tells her own story of having a hard conversation about who she was to a little girl in a diner, Ash sends an important message about connection. That message is that the safety of covering up secrets and hiding from owning our story scares us into believing that we are alone. What we are is different and unique, but we are never alone in our struggles.

“All a closet is… is a hard conversation.”  –Ash Beckham

 

Colin Stokes
“How movies teach manhood”

http://www.ted.com/talks/colin_stokes_how_movies_teach_manhood#t-46850
Colin Stokes uses two classic movies, The Wizard of Oz and Star Wars, to illustrate the differences between masculine and feminine ideals presented by mainstream video media that play continuously throughout a child’s upbringing. These ideals in the form of movie protagonists in Disney and Pixar films can be masculine or feminine, but the message of courage transcends much deeper than hero or heroine. Stokes challenges parents to see the journey of the movies to show children themes that are more impactful and universal than fighting the bad guy or saving the princess; they involve friendships, self-discovery, and teamwork.

Erika McCaghren

Fear or Anxiety?

Anxiety can be confused with fear. Fear is a response to a very real and concrete danger that makes you want to pull away from or escape, because it could be a threat to your physical or emotional safety. The fear response can affect both the physiology of the body and the chemical balance of the brain. Anxiety is a generalized sense of dread about something that seems menacing but actually may not be menacing or may not even be out there. Feeling anxious may make it difficult for you to talk yourself out of this foreboding and you become trapped in an endless loop of “what ifs”. Anxiety can produce feelings of worry, stress, stomach butterflies, and other manifestations of anxiety. While this emotional and physical discomfort can be worrisome, anxiety can often be a valuable signal that “trouble is brewing” and signals you to pay attention to be a problem that needs to be addressed. If you feel your anxiety is getting in the way of daily functioning, seek professional help as there are many effective treatments to reduce, manage, or eliminate anxiety.

Why it is hard to write

Why is it hard to write once you get a homework assignment or have a speech to make for your job? Why does the task of speaking from your heart and soul shut us down so much that we get seemingly ‘writer’s block’ when it is time to share our story? Maybe it is the feeling of being put on the spot or under fire to make sense of things for others. Maybe it is stress about how your boss will feel about your speech or how well you will do on your assignment once it is graded.

I have a different theory about why it is hard to write. Writing, whether a speech for a huge conference or in your journal at home, is an intensely personal task. Whether we like it or not, it forces us to listen to ourselves and to own what we feel and think at that exact moment. It may seem like writing is pointless…”Who cares what I think? Who will ever read this? Why do I have to share my thoughts if everyone has their own opinions about life?”

All these questions are important. You have unique answers to all of these questions. It may not seem like you have any answers when you go through the writing process and wait for the inspiration to flow. The truth of the matter is that you can inspire yourself to write and to speak from your heart, head, gut, or wherever your fingers take you. I can guarantee you one thing: writing will never be bad. You might have grammar issues, misspellings, or bad handwriting…but your original thoughts as they are right now are your own and are worth sharing at least for your own benefit. Writing down your story, or even part of your story, helps you to realize you are worth accepting yourself and your thoughts. You are always worth it, so just write and see what happens.

Erika McCaghren

Going green to support National Mental Illness Awareness Week

Pinnacle Counseling is proudly going green in support of National Mental Illness Awareness Week from Monday, October 7th – Friday, October 11th. Although there are many things you can do to show your support for National Mental Illness Awareness Week, the number one thing every single person can do is to help spread awareness to stop the stigma of mental illness. Starting the conversation is the first step to reaching out and supporting your loved ones as they seek help in a struggle with any sort of mental illness or mental health issue can be remarkably beneficial. At Pinnacle Counseling, we are ready to help you on your journey to becoming more mentally healthy. Check back throughout the week for more posts to help spread the word about the importance of mental health awareness.

 

Erika McCaghren

 

Releasing Fear

There are challenges, conflicts and crisis that are an inevitable part of being human. In these times of difficulty we can become overwhelmed by our emotions, fear, shame, anger, disappointment, and sorrow as a result of living through these experiences. The emotional responses can be as painful as any physical injury or illness. They may cause us to feel that life is dangerous and out-of-control.  The psychological pain experienced during periods of loss or trauma can be so uncomfortable that we may become numb. Our emotions shutdown and the results are often described as a feeling of detachment from oneself or others.

 

During periods of difficulty like the loss of a loved one, financial loss, physical injury or decline, breakup of relationships, or job loss, we often find ourselves beginning to feel that the world is an unsafe place. A common response to this anxiety and fear is to become more and more controlling or passive within our own lives, feeling like we have less power and control. Most people have some sort of major loss by the time they’re in their early thirty’s. Given the commonality of these events, the majority of the population is reporting some level of stress or anxiety. Anxiety symptoms include irritability, feelings of being on edge, excessive worry, fatigue, and physical distress in the chest or stomach. These symptoms can be slight or become debilitating.

 

The brain protects the body from what is considered to be more pain than can be processed effectively by denial and shock. The shutting down process allows us time to process. These coping mechanisms are intended to be temporary, survival strategies. At times the body does not reset itself after a traumatic event and therefore the fear last for years. The brilliant human beings that we are sometimes get stuck. The system that manages and regulates a body’s response to danger sends messages to the body to prepare for run, or fight in defense. Getting stuck often feels like we are unable to relax, adrenaline pumps, the heart pounds, and awareness of the environment is heightened.  Feelings of anxiety or nervousness become common during situations that are not dangerous but feel dangerous as a result of the body not resetting after difficult events.  The discomfort in experiencing the event is usually very short lived in comparison to the duration of the pain experienced by anxiety and fear we carry on for years after these events have passed.

 

 

Humans are resilient beings who are built for surviving and recovery. So what is it that goes wrong? We don’t bounce back or we are unable to move on after tragedy in our lives.  As Franklin Roosevelt said “there is nothing to fear but fear itself.” What he meant by this is that it is actually the fear that does the most damage, not the events themselves. The challenge in releasing or facing these fears is that humans are often under the impression that being afraid of things is helpful to them, protecting them from future harm. However, fear results in anxiety, worry, and potential increased depression as we try to control the circumstances or the responses of others. The result of becoming guarded, and waiting for the other shoe to drop, is that feelings of anxiety and fear increase and people begin to feel worse not better.

 

So what could we do to feel better? The simple answer is to start releasing the fear. Letting go of fear and the feeling of guardedness is usually great relief if one can give permission to do so. How do we release the fear? First, it’s important to remember that the concept of fear is designed to keep us safe from dangerous situations. It is in the generalizing of feeling afraid that we get ourselves into trouble. Therefore, to begin getting out of fear is crucial to understanding that there is more to be gained by feeling good than being guarded.  As we learn to release our fear by letting go a piece at a time, we are free to love and to find more joy in life. The key is recognizing that when we are afraid of the unknown we are practicing the state of worry instead of the state of hopefulness.  In reaching for a feeling of hope and releasing the feeling of dread, we become open and available to opportunities we may not see while being fearful. Developing the spirit of curiosity about what’s next helps reduce the worry that it is going to be something bad.  There are many wonderful new experiences ahead for each person who is willing to leave behind feelings of fear and face the future.

 

 

Torie Sullivan, LPC