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!

Helpful tips for handling the holiday "blahs"

Are you noticing your body slowing down as the holidays approach? Are you unsure of how to cope with these feelings and symptoms? Make sure there is not a physical or medical explanation for your depression. If your body isn’t feeling “right”, talk to your doctor. Treat your body the way it deserves and needs to be treated by eating healthy, getting enough rest, and regularly exercising. Taking a few moments to focus on your breathing is an easy and effective way to help your mind and body to relax, and can be done anywhere. Pull yourself into the present and take in the gifts that are around you now. Notice the sunshine, a beautiful bird, a cloud, or another gift of nature. Listen to the music or sounds that you “connect” with. A walk or change of scenery can bring newness into your surroundings. If possible, do something nice for another person, even if it is only to smile or greet them. Sometimes the simple, small steps we take make can make a big difference.

 

Erika McCaghren

Relationships are like a Garden (part 2)

Healthy marriages and relationships are wonderful. They add to the excitement, acceptance, and well-being of individuals. With the garden analogy, one can agree that having help to “hoe a row” makes life less burdensome and more productive. Happy gardening!

Notice and be noticed;
One of the basic human needs is to be noticed in positive ways. Healthy relationships provide daily structure for conversations and comments about noticing a spouse’s feelings, accomplishments and gifts of service. Good practice: Each day either right before bed or earlier comment on something that you have noticed about your spouse in the past 24 hours. Have an agreement to seek new ideas and not repeat your compliments. Something new every time! Garden analogy: even if it seems trivial or common knowledge, keep the sunlight on your awareness of each other.

Enjoy;
A foundation of any healthy relationship is to enjoy the companionship, laughter, and activities together. Planning a variety of fun activities that brings out a playful side is a key ingredient. Good practice: Have regular and also spontaneous play dates with your spouse. Find mutual activities that are easy and bring a bond of laughter, or smiles, or fond memories while doing. Garden analogy: Stop and smell the roses. Why have them if you don’t enjoy them.

Please check back next week to read part three of our three part series on more ways to “grow” your relationships.

Sharon Nelson, LCSW

Dosed: The Medication Generation Grows Up

A new book challenges conventional wisdom regarding the use of prescription medications to treat anxiety, depression, and behavior problems in the United States. Kaitlin Bell Barnett’s new book, Dosed: The Medication Generation Grows Up, asks a series of uncomfortable questions about the long-term consequences of our culture’s increasing dependence on psychotropic medications.

According to the book, 25% of college-age young people in the United States are currently prescribed a medication designed to regulate their mood, focus, attention, or behavior. The book examines the ethical and philosophical implications of our culture’s reliance on pharmacological solutions to psychological, social, or behavioral problems.

Are chemical solutions the right solutions? Why has the medical establishment moved so quickly in the past decades towards developing and prescribing neurochemical solutions to life’s problems? What does this say about our culture?

Gratitude

Gratitude has been proven by research to significantly decrease anxiety and depression. Individuals who spend time thinking  about the positive elements of their lives report feeling happier and more motivated. So, as the Thanksgiving season  approaches, what can you be thankful for? Be sure to look around at not only the significant relationships and events in your life, but also the little details that actually do make a difference, even if they may seem insignificant. We all have things to be grateful for, even if it’s just the gift of waking up every day and experiencing life. Sometimes, we just have to shift our focus in  order to see it.

Writing a list or keeping a journal of daily events that cause you to be grateful is a helpful exercise. Additionally, be sure to tell your friends, family, coworkers and others what you appreciate about them. Don’t forget, you can be grateful for yourself as well! Express gratitude towards yourself for who you are and things that you have accomplished. Each of these exercises will more than likely serve to lighten your mood and increase your hope about the future.

The Habit of People Pleasing

Are you in the habit of always thinking of everyone else first and putting your own needs dead last?  Well, you are not alone!  That issue comes up frequently when someone shares with me about their anxiety or depression.  There are likely several factors at play that cause you to sell yourself short.  But in the end, you are left feeling resentful and exhausted.  Who is there to meet your needs?

We have to start “showing up” and making our own needs and wants known.  A favorite saying of mine is, “You teach others how to treat you by what you allow”.  Powerful stuff! Think about your current relationships.  Do these relationships have a 50/50 balance, with you and the other person being equally important?  If not, why?  Chances are, you definitely deserve to own 50% of the input in the relationship.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can be a powerful tool for overcoming the habit of people pleasing.  We learn a life time of “messages” we receive from others which reinforce that our opinion doesn’t matter.  We learn that it’s not ok to make others upset or disappoint them. That belief may have served you once in your life, but with those kinds of thinking patterns our souls can really take a beating after a while.  CBT helps by uncovering the messages you hold to be true and teaches you to re-write the script.  The technique of assertive communication is important here, too.  The two extremes, passive and aggressive styles of communication, usually aren’t very helpful in the long run.  Assertive communication says “Your needs matter, and so do mine”.  Try to get in the habit of thinking and responding with that thought in mind.

To many, making themselves a priority has never crossed their mind.  How is there room for that when you are busy being supermom/wife/employee…?  You may find that by taking care of yourself first, or at least making your self-care an equal priority in the equation, you have more to give to others.  You may feel guilt about this, and frankly others may try to make you feel guilty about it, but self-care is vital to mental and physical health.  Self-care can be as simple as taking 15 minutes to enjoy coffee with a friend, getting to the gym for a work out, reading quietly- anything you want that is nurturing to your soul.  The only requirement is that it takes care of YOU.  It is ok to be nice to yourself!

Rachael Nachtigal, LPC

Therapy: the natural cure

Doctors are very quick these days to prescribe psychotropic medications to relieve the symptoms of anxiety or depression. A psychotropic medication is a drug that acts on the chemistry of the brain to change a person’s perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, or behavior. These powerful medications have the ability to change how someone thinks, feels, or acts. They are the favorite tool in many health professionals’ tool-kits. For example, 25% of college-age young people in the United States are prescribed a psychotropic medication.

Therapy is a natural alternative treatment for anxiety, depression, and other difficulties. Often individuals enter therapy while taking an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication. However, therapists do not prescribe drugs; they talk and they listen. They use evidence-based therapeutic techniques to help individuals understand themselves, their problems, their feelings, and their relationships in a way that improves their lives. A therapist can help you discover the root cause of depression or anxiety. If change is needed, a therapist will guide you through the process.

But the change will come from you. The insight will come from you. Therapy believes that you hold the key to unlock the mysteries of yourself. Solutions are not given to you (in pill form, or otherwise), they come from you. When you have come to understand your own strengths, you will be truly healed.