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Make a Resolution Early… Work on Your Marriage

Posted by on Jun 2, 2018 in Ask The Therapist | 1 comment

Now is the time to honor your relationship by investing your time and energy into enhancing it. Research shows that if couples do not continue to put energy into a relationship, it deteriorates. In truth, you have to put energy into a relationship to just keep it where it is. For it to improve, you have to put more energy into it.

 

What Predicts Divorce or Continued Relationship Misery?

1. Positive to Negative Ratios: The couples who are happy in their relationships have a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative during conflict discussions; and a 20:1 positive to negative ratio when just hanging out. Conclusion: Relationships have to be a very rich climate of positivity to feel good: lots of kindness, attention, interest in one another, affection, humor, good sex, and so on.

2. Criticism: Complaining as if there is something defective in your partner’s personality. Conclusion: Be gentle in your approach.

3. Defensiveness: Self-protective responses, victimhood. Conclusion: accept responsibility, even for a small part of the problem.\

4. Contempt: Speaking from a superior plane, a holier-than-thou position. Conclusion: appreciate, catch your partner doing something right.

5. Stonewalling: Emotionally disengaging, withdrawing, isolating, not listening when overwhelmed. Conclusion: self soothe, so you can be present, listen, actively hear, take breaks to not get overwhelmed, and check out.

 

If your marriage is in the negative ratio or negative perspective, it’s because something is wrong with the friendship in the marriage. One or both of you don’t feel your partner is really interested in the relationship; there’s not much affection going on. There are feelings of rejection, there’s not much romance or good sex in the relationship.

Counseling can be a tool to learn to turn toward one another, cherish one’s partner’s positive qualities and nurturing gratitude for what one has with this person, instead of comparing one’s partner to an “imagined” other.

 

Written by Anjelica Nelson, M.Ed., LPC, MFT

How to Turn Confusion Into Certainty When it Comes to Career Choices

Posted by on May 19, 2018 in Ask The Therapist | 0 comments

If we roughly calculate that hours that we as Americans spend at work throughout our lives, they add up to a significant chunk of our time on Earth. Of all the waking hours across the average American’s lifespan, 35% of them are spent at work. If you think about your work-life in that way, it’s glaringly clear that having a job that fits your natural skills and leaves you feeling fulfilled is important to your short-term and long-term life satisfaction. But many of us feel “stuck” in our current jobs. If can be really challenging to even imagine what the next step might be in becoming satisfied with your work-life, especially if you have spent years of even decades in the same job or field of work. It can be even more frightening to actually make the decision to change job or career paths.

 

How Can Career Counseling and Life Designing Help?

My approach to career counseling involves life designing, in which I have individuals with career concerns use their own autobiographies to clarify decisions and make commitments. I begin by asking individuals to tell a set of five stories about themselves, interests, and aspirations. I use these stories to compose a life portrait. If the individual wishes, I can administer an interest inventory that shows which occupational groups the individual resembles. I help people conceptualize and envision the next chapter in the story of their career. I then work to systematically transform these intentions into actions in their lives, whether on campus, on the job, or in a new position. Life Designing is a transformational experience that can change confusion to certainty about choosing a college, declaring a major, considering graduate or professional school, changing occupations, or even planning retirement.

 

Who Can Benefit from Life Design:

  • Students transitioning from high school to college
  • Current college students who aren’t sure if they picked the right major
  • College grads having trouble launching their career after graduation
  • Any adult at any point in their work-life who is currently dissatisfied with their current job, or wants to explore a career path that best suits their abilities, interests, and personality

 

Written by Suzanne Savickas, M.Ed., M.F.A., CRC, LPC

Social Media, Smartphones, and Teen Mental Health

Posted by on May 12, 2018 in Blog From The Experts | 0 comments

It’s probably a surprise when you don’t see the teenagers in your life entertaining themselves with a smartphone, tablet, computer, or video game. Often they’re texting sharing, trolling, and scrolling on social media apps like Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. You might expect that they spend time using these apps because it makes them happy, but most data suggests it does not.

 

The Monitoring the Future Survey, funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, analyzed teenagers from 8th to 12th grades, starting back as early as 1975. The survey asked teens how happy they were and how much of their leisure time they spent on different activities, including non-screen activities and, in recent years, screen activities (social media, browsing the web). The results could not be clearer: teens who spent more time than average on screen activities were more likely to be unhappy. Teens who spent more time than average on non-screen activities were more likely to be happy. There was not a single exception. All screen activities were linked to more unhappiness, and all non-screen activities linked to more happiness. Other current research is also finding more negative effects of social media and screen time than positive.

 

So why can’t they put that phone down? Many apps and social media platforms are carefully designed to capture the brain’s pleasure centers, (the “like-feedback loop”) and young people with developing brains have less ability to resist. Adults and teens alike are easily sucked into the mindset that likes, loves, comments, and followers are a barometer for popularity and self-worth. The “fear of missing out” on what friends are doing or liking online can also cause overwhelming pressure to stay connected.

 

It’s also challenging for teens to recognize that what they see on social media is often the rosiest possible picture of their peers’ lives. As adults, we cab all relate to going on Facebook and seeing other traveling, smiling with their spouse, showing their best selves, while leaving out the inevitable low points of real life. Now put yourself in the mindset of a teenager.

 

What Can Parents Do?

  • Be involved in what apps are on your teen’s phone, read messages, follow them and their friends on social media.
  • Discuss the feelings you have at the times when on Facebook.
  • Have phone-free days or hours.
  • Encourage active online presence (looking up info, learning) not passive such as gaming or social media.
  • Be more active! Extracurriculars, outdoor activities, family activities (game night).
  • Model good smartphone behavior (put your phone away during dinner).
  • No phones after 9 pm (get an alarm clock instead of a phone alarm).
  • Limit passive screen time to 1.5 hours a day or less.

 

 

Written by Lisa M. Borchert-Hrivnak, M.A.Ed., LPCC, Owner of Avenues of Counseling and Mediation, LLC

End of the School Year Stress

Posted by on May 5, 2018 in Hot Topics | 0 comments

It is all too familiar the feelings of nervousness and panic students feel as they are wrapping up their school year. It can seem almost impossible to avoid the extra stress. Here are some ways to let go of that stress to be more productive, and overall happier during the final months of school.

Starting off, one thing to remember during this time is to be kind to yourself. You are very busy right now and may not feel like yourself, but don’t forget to be caring towards your needs. Studying or worrying about studying can seem like your top priority right now, but take a few hours to do something you enjoy. Unrealistic expectations can really set you back, so know your limits. Exercising is supposed to be a great way to relieve stress, so if you are into that, maybe try it out during a study break.

Something that will help immensely is creating a to-do list. At first, it can be difficult to keep track and follow, but once you get the hang of it, it is life changing. You will easily be able to stay on track and see what is ahead. Also, something about getting to check things off a list give you a great sense of accomplishment and pride. Try to plan out your day as much as possible, because the more prepared you are, the more at ease you will feel.

A big component of relieving stress during the end of the school year it to remember to snap out of the mindset that “I am going to fail all my finals” or “I just hate school so much.” Thinking negatively can actually make stress much worse. Try to remind yourself that if you plan out and prepare, the end of the year will be here before you know it and you will be ready for any finals.

Understanding Eating Disorders

Posted by on Apr 28, 2018 in Hot Topics | 0 comments

In  the United States, about 30 million people (all genders and ages) have an eating disorder. Some commonly known eating disorders include: anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. An unfortunate stigma that comes with these can make it difficult for people to talk about. Pushing off something like this can make it extremely difficult for those who need it to seek help.

Genetics, environmental factors, and personality traits all combine to create risk for an eating disorder. It is difficult to know exactly what you should do if you start noticing behaviors that might be associated with an eating disorder. It is important to remember to be open and honest about what you are seeing, and do not try to be a therapist, but be supportive.

Signs of a Possible Eating Disorder (according to NEDA):

Emotional and behavioral

  • In general, behaviors and attitudes that indicate that weight loss, dieting, and control of food are becoming primary concerns
  • Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, carbohydrates, fat grams, and dieting
  • Refusal to eat certain foods, progressing to restrictions against whole categories of food (e.g., no carbohydrates, etc.)
  • Appears uncomfortable eating around others
  • Food rituals (e.g. eats only a particular food or food group [e.g. condiments], excessive chewing, doesn’t allow foods to touch)
  • Skipping meals or taking small portions of food at regular meals
  • Any new practices with food or fad diets, including cutting out entire food groups
  • Withdrawal from usual friends and activities
  • Frequent dieting
  • Extreme concern with body size and shape
  • Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws in appearance
  • Extreme mood swings

Physical 

  • Noticeable fluctuations in weight, both up and down
  • Stomach cramps, other non-specific gastrointestinal complaints (constipation, acid reflux, etc.)
  • Menstrual irregularities — missing periods or only having a period while on hormonal contraceptives (this is not considered a “true” period)
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Abnormal laboratory findings (anemia, low thyroid and hormone levels, low potassium, low white and red blood cell counts)
  • Dizziness, especially upon standing
  • Fainting/syncope
  • Feeling cold all the time
  • Sleep problems
  • Cuts and calluses across the top of finger joints (a result of inducing vomiting)
  • Dental problems, such as enamel erosion, cavities, and tooth sensitivity
  • Dry skin and hair, and brittle nails
  • Swelling around area of salivary glands
  • Fine hair on body (lanugo)
  • Cavities, or discoloration of teeth, from vomiting
  • Muscle weakness
  • Yellow skin (in context of eating large amounts of carrots)
  • Cold, mottled hands and feet or swelling of feet
  • Poor wound healing
  • Impaired immune functioning

 

A very important thing to remember is to be patient with whoever is going through the healing process, whether it is yourself or a loved one. Recovery can take a long time, and there are bound to be many ups and downs. Also, the person in recovery has to want it for themselves. You are never going to force someone to recover just because you want them to be better. Knowing your own limits and being respectful can make the process a lot easier.

 

How Art Therapy Can Help Teens

Posted by on Apr 21, 2018 in Hot Topics | 0 comments

We all know the infamous time of teenage years. Some say it is even worse than having a toddler. Since during teen years, our brains are still developing, humans tend to be a bit impulsive and emotional. It can be extremely difficult at that time to express new emotions we are feeling. It is easy to fall into a depression and feel completely alone.

Introducing a way to nonviolently express teen emotions can make a huge difference in teaching your child coping mechanisms, and how to deal with day to day life. Art therapy is one way to express yourself and give peace to your mind. It is so effective in teens, according to www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, because “Art as an expressive language provides an entrée into a relationship with teenagers by tapping into their creativity and offering a form of communication that is nonthreatening and over which the adolescent has control. When teens enter the art therapy room, they find drawing materials and other forms of media on a table. They are invited to draw anything they choose and even to make a statement in images that represent their feelings about being in the therapeutic setting.”

For anyone not wanting to try it alone, there are group settings in which art therapy is available as well. If you do not want to try it out because you assume you are bad at art, just know that is not what the idea is about. You do not have to be skilled or have any experience. One of the best things about art therapy is how inclusive it is.

Staying Productive During Summer

Posted by on Apr 14, 2018 in Hot Topics | 0 comments

Summer is quickly approaching us, and especially for students, deadlines are approaching. Regardless of if you are a student, there is a certain kind of relaxation that comes with the summer months for most, at least in the beginning. The thing is, it is necessary and great to have this time to slow down, but it also could allow the stop of productivity.

Parents might have a different perspective on all of  this, such as a stay at home parent. Having the kids home all summer can be a bit overwhelming when you are used to the days being quiet. This is where keeping the whole bunch busy can be beneficial for you.

The key is finding the balance between productivity, and stressing yourself out by putting too much on your shoulders. For teens, maybe try getting a job. If you already have one, great! If you think you are not filling up your time wisely, ask for more hours. The summer can be a great time to build up income. Another option would be to split up your time. Especially if you are not someone who needs a lot of extra money, try working part time, then spending the rest of the time doing things you enjoy.

Something to not forget about is the nice weather during the summer. The warmth is not always here, so spend some time outside. Even if you are not an “outdoors person” making an effort to spend time outside can be very beneficial. Also, be sure to spend time with the people who are close to you. Summers are the best time to catch up and have a great time with friends and family. Make an effort and reach out to those close to you, someday they may not be there.

If you are a student, explore the option of online classes to get ahead. A lot of times, classes are only around 7 weeks long. This is a great way to stay on track, catch up, or even get ahead!

 

The Value of Your Privacy

Posted by on Apr 7, 2018 in Hot Topics | 1 comment

Whether or not you were born into the technology generation, it is hard to deny the use of it everywhere we go. Technology can be a very useful resource, when it is used properly. For the most part, companies will respect your personal information. However, it is hard to tell who we can trust, especially with everything surrounding the Facebook scandal.

To start off, let’s cover the basics as to why your privacy should be important to you. Without even going into your personal data, such as what you would post on social media, your medial data is also something people don’t normally think about, but is equally important. Even if you are an open book and generally don’t mind if people know your medical data and history, someone who it could matter to is insurance companies. To the knowledge of the general public, insurance companies have not started buying data about their customers’ medical history. This would most definitely be unethical. Imagine finding out that your insurance rates went up or you were denied because of a service you trusted to keep your information private.

Your first question may be, how do I avoid this happening to me? First off, be wary of what website you trust with your data. Services to find out your ancestry are something that can be tempting, but you have to keep in mind that your genetic makeup is a very personal and specific thing about you. If you give this away, what is really private after that? Stay cautious and skeptical of services like these. If they can’t guarantee they will not sell your information, do not use them.

Another thing is to not panic about this topic either. As long as you are careful, chances are you will be fine. Just keep a lookout and remain cautious as to what you share with others online.

Avenues of Counseling has not and will not ever share your personal information with any third party. The only times we would, we get your consent first, and these are in cases where it is necessary, such as coordinating with another doctor, and these times are always used solely for medical treatment. Our privacy consent form posted here on our website, or you can read it any time you come to one of our offices. It is very straightforward and not misleading in any way so that you know you are in good hands with us, and we are someone you can trust.

Please be careful with your private information. It is your right, not just a privilege.

Tired of Hearing About Mindfulness?

Posted by on Mar 31, 2018 in Hot Topics | 0 comments

The mindfulness revolution can seem a bit overwhelming to people because it seems like a huge fad. It seems like every site you go on has some sort of tips for “being mindful” or “being the best version of yourself.” The overuse of the word can really kill what is a great practice. It is such a shame because the general public, rightfully so, will dismiss anything they think to be a gimmick.

The problem is, the word is thrown around without much meaning towards it. The definition of mindfulness is, “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” There are a lot of ways to practice this. If you want to give it a try, doing things like meditation, yoga, or simply eating well can all help.

If you want to ditch the term all together, do it! Many people practice these self-care things, and still don’t like to use the word. This helps especially if you are going to try and recruit a friend to join you. They may be opposed to “mindfulness training” but may be open to trying yoga.

The message of self-care and nurturing is not a fad and has been around for hundreds of years, we as a society are just now catching back up to what is important.

Staying Active During “Cold” Spring

Posted by on Mar 17, 2018 in Hot Topics | 0 comments

As people who live in a state where the weather can change mid day, we are used to the early parts of a season changing weather frequently. By the time Spring starts to roll around, people tend to become anxious from having to be inside all winter. Spring fever can hit hard around March and April. There are always those few teaser days where the weather is nice and warm, then the next day it snows.

If you are someone who is active, or especially if you are someone starting off new with an active lifestyle, it can be difficult to stay indoors. Here are some ways to help keep yourself moving. The first idea would be to try and get outside when you can. This means keep an eye on the weather for the day and week. If you notice a day where the weather has the chance of being warm enough to go outside, take advantage of it. Even if you only get one day out of twenty where you enjoyed the fresh air, it is better than nothing.

If there are days where you are unable to go outside because it is too cold, plan an indoor activity. Working out at home can save you a lot of time and money. There are many great resources to find at-home workouts on sites like YouTube. Planning ahead of time what exercises you’re going to do will ensure you will push yourself and not just stop when you are tired.

Lastly, even if it is cold outside, consider still going for a walk or run. Wear layers and pack a small bag to bring along. Getting yourself to go out in the cold when you probably don’t really feel like it can be rewarding afterwards. It proves to yourself you are capable of doing more than you thought you would or could. Obviously if it is too cold, don’t go out. However, if it is around 40-50 degrees, it is perfectly fine to enjoy time outside.