Yoga is now scientifically verified as an effective treatment for depression and anxiety. Most people think of yoga as physical fitness, often imagining difficult physical poses requiring strength and flexibility. Yoga is much more than this-what most people think of as yoga is actually Asana or the physical poses which are only one part of the system of Yoga. The 8 limb system also includes philosophy, breathing and meditation practices which lessen suffering and enhance peace of mind.
Slower, body sensing yoga practices are more effective for anxiety, depression and trauma. In addition, pranayama (breathing practices) and simple seated postures and mudras (hand positions) are powerful methods to calm the nervous system, enhance or calm mood, as well as increase self-compassion. These ancient practices are powerful proven tools to combat emotional imbalance and negative thinking patterns. Please see this news article that summarizes some of the recent findings https://www.newsweek.com/yoga-therapy-mental-health-mental-illness-depression-anxiety-eating-disorders-666220 .
In my own life, I have found yoga practices to be an anchor in moving through difficult life transitions and a reliable set of skills that lead to more peace and happiness on a daily basis. If you are interested in joining an upcoming group “Yoga Skills For Emotional Balance” with Suzanne Morgan or would like more information about therapy and yoga, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We here at Counseling Associates for Well-Being are so excited to announce that Stephine W. Smith, LCSW, CADC II is joining us in our Athens office. She is going to start seeing clients in our Athens office starting April 1st. Stephine has most recently been serving clients at The Samaritan Center for Counseling and Wellness, and we are thrilled to have her make her new professional home with us. Here is a little bit about Stephine that she wrote about herself so you can get to know her:
I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a history of working with individuals and families with Co-occurring Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders. I discovered my calling while visiting my sister in the hospital after she had been burned in an auto accident. The therapist who prepared us to support her on her journey of healing was a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and that wonderful experience enabled us to know how to support her and my family. For this reason, I believe one of the most important aspect of therapy, is the relationship between a client and therapist.
I’ve had the privilege of working with a diverse population of individuals and families on their journey of discovery and healing for over 20 years. I’ve gained knowledge, experience and wisdom working in the field of behavioral health and substance use disorders. My career started at Phoebe Putney Health System/Behavioral Health in Albany Ga, which was my first introduction to direct care for those living with and managing mental health and substance use related concerns. I’ve learned that it’s okay to ask for help and accepting help can be a sign of strength, which is sometimes the most powerful thing one can do to heal.
My holistic approach to therapy centers on the connections of mind, body and spirit, and equal attention to these areas are important in the healing process. My client centered approach strives to provide a safe, compassionate, relaxing, non-judgmental environment in which individuals, couples and families find the opportunity to grow and heal. I believe my role is to help clients identify their strengths and encourages each person to live their best, authentic life as defined by themselves.
I utilize techniques such as CBT, ACT, REBT, Solution-Focused
You can contact Stephine W. Smith to make an appointment at 706-425-8900 ext 720 or email her at Stephine@ca4wellbeing.com
Ever thought to yourself “I have the winter blues”? The combination of shorter days plus colder temperatures means that many of us are exposed to less sunlight during the winter months and it is believed that this could be one of the things that can contribute to some people experiencing seasonal affective disorder.
What is seasonal affective disorder?
It is a type of depression that is strongly associated with specific times of the year, most commonly autumn or winter. The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are similar to major depressive disorder with the exception that they usually abate when the seasons begin to change. These include feelings of hopelessness and/or sadness, reduced energy level, weight gain, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and more.
How do I treat seasonal affective disorder?
There are various things that you can try if you’re experiencing the “winter blues”. Some possible things that you might do for self-care include getting more physical activity. Exercise is one of the best “natural remedies” for depression of all kinds. Increasing your sun exposure may also help. Keep in mind that any change in medication or physical activity should be done under advisement of a medical professional. Of course, you can also make an appointment to a see a therapist. This may be something short-term just for the season and that’s okay. Here’s a link with more information about seasonal affective disorder.
If you believe you have a case of the “winter blues” and would like to talk to someone about it please give me a call to set up an initial appointment today. I can be reached by phone at (706) 534 – 8558 or by e-mail at Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com
Growing up I don’t think I ever fully appreciated all the things my mom had to do to fulfill all the roles that she played. She is a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, and an employee among others. As a kid, and particularly as a male child, I took it for granted that she would take care of me, regardless of what she was going through. It never occurred to me that what was happening at work, or what was happening between my parents, could affect my mother deeply. All I ever really knew was that my dinner was going to be cooked, my clothes were going to be washed, my sheets clean, and the home I lived in well kept. Those things I never doubted.
It wasn’t until I became a therapist and saw a pattern among my clients that I realized how physically and emotionally draining it can be for one person to take on all those roles. I see women who always put others before themselves and it wears them out. When I ask questions like “What would you like to do for yourself?” they often just sit and shake their heads, unable to think of anything. These women literally have not thought of themselves as anything except a mother/employee/wife in years. I might then ask another way, “If you had some magical ability to make the world stand still and you could do ANYTHING, what would you do?”. Given the freedom of imagination that affords unlimited power and resources what would a mother choose? I’ve heard “I would love to just take a nap!”, and I’ve heard “I’d love to be able to spend time with my kids without worrying about _______ (my job, my father, my bills, etc.).” This simultaneously speaks to how dedicated mothers are, that they cannot even imagine a world where they don’t worry about their family first, and it also says a lot about our social structure, that we expect women to be so self-sacrificing that they can’t even imagine doing solely for themselves.
We have shifted culturally from the sort of 1950’s “ideal” American family in which the husband went off to work every day and the wife stayed home and took care of the house and the children. Despite expecting women to work a fulltime job to help support the family financially we still have the same cultural expectations about division of labor within the household. This creates role strain and role conflict, often in physically and emotionally damaging amounts, for many women. (Learn more about role strain and role conflict here). Nor is this a new phenomenon of the 21st century with our fast paced, technology based society. In 1966 the Rolling Stones wrote “Mother’s Little Helper” about housewives of the day taking (and often becoming addicted to and/or overdosing on) prescription sedatives. Today women still do the majority of housework while also working outside the home. A 2010 study showed that women spend about 25.9 hours a week taking care of home and children to men’s 16.8 hours. The women who I’ve spoken with feel driven and even if they could sit and try to relax after work most would feel too guilty. Is it any surprise then, that so many mothers feel anxious and/or depressed? What a tragedy that these women who take care of us all are, arguably, underappreciated.
Finally, I’d like to take a moment to share my appreciation for my own mother. I may not have fully appreciated everything that you did for me growing up and I certainly took for granted that you would always be there, but now I recognize that if not for you I would not be the compassionate and thoughtful person that I am today. These traits are essential to who I am as a therapist and as a person, and for that I cannot ever thank you enough. I love you, mom.
Do you experience role conflict and role strain? I’m happy to help you sort through these complex emotions and learn to let go of some of the anxiety and/or depression that comes as a result. Call (706) 534 – 8558 or e-mail me at Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com to setup a time to talk.
My daughter is a senior in high school. That means we have spent much of the past year focusing on ACT testing and scores, college applications, essays, etc., etc. On February tenth all of the hard work, anxiety and stress of this past year came to an end as she received her acceptance into her number one choice of schools, which also happens to be both of her parents’ alma mater, so to say we were all thrilled would be putting it mildly! But something else also happened once the dust settled, I realized that very soon my first born will be leaving for college, not only a huge life change for her but a major life transition for me. While the abstract idea has always been there, now it is staring me in the face and is something I can no longer ignore. What does that mean for me? The past 18 years my primary focus has been on parenting my kids, and in two short years they will both be in college. So part of my “job”, and a lot of my identity is going to change. While I will always be mom to my son and daughter my role in their lives will without a doubt soon be different. I am sad about my kids leaving home but I also realize once I have readjusted there will be many positive aspects of my new life, such as more time for me and my husband to do things on our own without worrying about 2 other people’s schedules, and time to begin focusing more on myself and consider other interests in my life I may not have had time for before. I joked as senior year started that I wasn’t quite ready for this but it was coming whether I was ready or not. Life moves on and changes are going to happen, whether we are ready or not! Getting married, starting a new job, moving into a new house, having a child, the list goes on and on, are all positive changes in life. But even the positive changes are stressful and can be hard to deal with. There may be mixed emotions, I can absolutely relate to feeling very happy and very sad at the same time as we approach graduation day. There might be feelings of loss, even about a much anticipated event, and there can also be an identity shift, all things I can currently relate to. Major life transitions cause stress, that is a fact. If you don’t take care of yourself the stress can lead to increased anxiety, health problems and even depression. During major life transitions it is important to pay attention to yourself and take care of yourself.
The following article by Dr. Shannon Kolakowski talks about ways to make the most of life transitions and has some good pointers on how to take care of yourself during major life changes.
I believe one of the most important things to do during any stressful time is to rely on your support system. It can be helpful to turn to supportive people in your life during these times. If you feel like you need some added support surrounding a major change or transition in your life give me a call or send me an email and we can set up an appointment, 706-425-8900 or email@example.com Beth Jackson, LCSW Alpharetta, Georgia
If therapy is exercise for your brain, that makes me a personal trainer. Time to rethink my work wardrobe!
I have a confession to make. If you promise to keep it just between us I will tell you. Agreed? So, sometimes my clients will say to me “Hey, this was really helpful. I appreciate what you’re doing for me.” My response is generally, “I’m so glad you found our session helpful.” But inside? Inside I’m thinking “I have no idea why this was helpful. I really thought we didn’t get much done today.” Rest assured, I’m not some dope who’s faking his way through being a therapist. Every therapist I know has a similar story.
There’s an excellent book on the subject that has eased my mind and helped me make sense of what might be happening for my clients in therapy. It’s called Why Therapy Works: Using Our Minds to Change Our Brains by Loius Cozolino. It has to do with the concept of neuroplasticity and how thoughts actually change our brains functioning. According to Cozolino neuroplasticity “refers to any changes among, between, and within neurons as a result of learning or the natural processes of healthy development. It is the ability of the nervous system to change in response to experience and to encode that experience into its structure.” In other words, our brains literally change in response to our experience. I liken this change to the growth we see in our muscles because of exercise.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of hanging around with some serious weightlifters you might have seen them nudge each other in the ribs, give a head nod towards someone walking by, and snicker. Then in a conspiratorial whisper one says, “Someone skipped leg day.”
Your brain is not a muscle. In fact, it is the fattiest organ in your body. It makes up only about 2 percent of your bodies total mass but is uses 20 percent of your body’s energy. No wonder it’s so exhausting when you’re anxious all the time! (For more brain facts click here)
Okay, but what does that have to do with your brain and therapy? Well, therapy is exercise for your brain. If you have had depressive thoughts for a while your brain has developed to easily have those thoughts. Meanwhile, your ability to experience “happy” thoughts is undeveloped. You might say that you’ve been skipping happy day. When I’m asking clients in therapy to describe what they would like to be doing differently, what they might prefer their life to look like, I am like a spotter in the gym encouraging them “C’mon! You can do this!” At first it can be very hard for someone who has felt depressed for years to even imagine what “happy” is for them. However, with practice they can literally change the structure of their brain so that it becomes easier to bring to mind those “happy” thoughts. The same concept applies to people who are anxious all the time. They are well practiced at having anxious thoughts. Their brains have been shaped by these experiences and so they come “naturally”. Through therapy we will do the work necessary to reshape the brain.
Is it easy? No. Is it fun? Sometimes, but it can also be painful just like any other workout. Is it worth it? DEFINITELY!
If you’re constantly plagued by depressive or anxious thoughts, contact me today and let me be your personal brain trainer. I can be reached via telephone at (706) 534 – 8558 or e-mail at Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com.
We at Counseling Associates for Well-being value our ability to provide a much needed service to the individuals in our community. Part of that commitment includes offering reduced fee services. I wanted to take some time to let people know that this is an option and what it means.
- Who qualifies for reduced fee services? There is not strict requirement for reduced fee services. We offer a reduced fee to those that have a financial need, and cannot pay the regular full fee. We do not ask for proof of income or some similar qualifier. This is a confidential determination made between client and therapist.
- What is the reduced fee? There is not one set reduced fee. Rather, an agreement is reached between client and therapist about what is affordable to the client but fair to the therapist.
- Do I get the same services as everyone else? Absolutely! You will see your therapist for a full 1-hour session just like anyone else. Your level of care will be on par with clients who pay using private insurance or who pay the full fee.
- If I have insurance can I still see a therapist for a reduced fee? There are various reasons that people with health insurance choose not to use it to pay for services. Some people have a very high deductible and would have to pay full fee until that deductible is met. If your deductible is $10,000 you’re unlikely to meet that deductible until the 6th Tuesday in Neveruary. Health insurance providers require a diagnosis in order to pay for services and some people prefer not to have a diagnosis on their permanent health record. If, for any reason, you choose not to use your health insurance and cannot afford to pay full fee for services you are welcome to make use of our reduced fee services. Health insurance may not cover your issue if you’re looking for couples or family counseling anyway. We are happy to offer those services, in addition to individual therapy, at a reduced fee as well.
- Who would I see in your practice? Currently I have spaces available for clients who need a reduced fee. Please view my information on our website or at Psychology Today to see if you feel that my services would be a good match for you.
If you’ve been feeling that therapy would be beneficial for you but weren’t sure you could afford it, please give me a call today. If you know someone who might benefit from seeing a therapist but may not be able to pay a full fee for services, please pass along my information. You can reach me by phone at (706) 534 – 8558 or e-mail me at Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com
Election anxiety is not unheard of in the United States as we carry out the process of electing a President every four years. Political scientists will no doubt study the election of 2016 for many years to come. Americans in general were hoping that November 8th would end the fractious campaigns and alleviate much of the anxiety that the majority of Americans were experiencing during the election season. According to the American Psychological Association, 52% of Americans reported that the election was a significant source of anxiety and stress ( Unfortunately, for many Americans the aftermath of the election has only increased their feelings of anxiety.)
Some people have been left feeling depressed or afraid, others angry because they don’t feel that the democratic process is being respected. Many people are having adverse reactions not to the election itself but to the conflict they are witnessing between others over the election. It seems election anxiety has taken on many forms in the days following election day. One of the major sources of stress affecting people post-election is social media. The anonymity of the internet means that people allow their anger and their fear to override their better nature and their social graces. These fractures reverberate through friendships and families. I have personally seen more than one person threaten to “skip Thanksgiving!” All the while there are those individuals who just want everyone to get along. Friends and family member’s social media feeds become battlegrounds putting them in the uncomfortable position of feeling like they are stuck in the middle of a fight not of their choosing. Some individuals who grew up in divided, fractious homes may be triggered by all the fighting and negativity.
It may feel like the conflict is everywhere, at home, at work, and definitely on social media. How do Americans who feel particularly anxious, angry, or fearful cope in this time of continued political tension? These tips might help:
- Turn off the news. Continued exposure to the aftermath of the election on the news is likely to only increase your anxiety.
- Take a timeout from social media. We all know that social media is a sea of memes and misinformation. The compulsion to respond leads to conflict which generally results in everyone involved getting worked up, feeling more stressed, and ruminating on the “battle”.
- Understand that people have the right to their feelings. Yes, even when those feelings directly contradict your own. Every person has a unique lived experience which gives us all a unique perspective. The important thing to remember is that these unique perspectives are all valid.
- Check out these mindful strategies designed to reduce anxiety.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by election anxiety and find yourself without social support at this time you might consider speaking with a professional in order to process your feelings and find a safe place where you can feel supported and listened to.
Contact me today and let’s work together to find coping strategies for yourself and deal with possible conflicts during the coming holidays. Call me at (706) 534-8558 or e-mail at Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com to setup an appointment.
School will be out soon and now is the time to enroll your child in a brain enrichment program. A brain-training program called neurofeedback is available in the Athens area and is designed to rewire neural pathways into efficient, highly functioning pathways. Neurofeedback training can help your child with ADD/ADHD by increasing focus, attention, memory and organization. It can improve sleep and decrease anxiety and depression. Neurofeedback can train your child’s brain for flexibility and peak performance—it’s a great way to give your child an edge in their education and in their life.
It all begins with obtaining a qEEG brain map. An individual will wear something that looks like a swim cap. This cap has EEG sensors inside of it, which allows for brainwave activity to be measured and recorded. Once that data is obtained, a brain map is generated which pinpoints the areas of the brain where inefficient brainwave patterns are operating. Those patterns are retrained into efficient, higher functioning neural pathways.
Training the new neural pathway is quite simple with neurofeedback. It’s very similar to training a new muscle through repetitive movement at the gym, only it’s neural pathway training and it’s more fun! Neurofeedback training consists of watching a movie for 30 minutes on a movie screen while your brain trains and moves into the programmed zone. When the brain moves into the efficient brainwave pattern, the movie screen stays light and when the brainwave pattern defaults back to the old inefficient pathway, the movie screen will turn dark. The brain brilliantly seeks to stay in the new efficient pathway so that the movie may be viewed. This is a form of operant conditioning and will entrain/rewire a brain to stay within the efficient neural pathway.
The training is as enjoyable for an individual as watching a movie or a favorite television show. The brain is doing the work on it’s own as it is being guided by the neurofeedback software. Neurofeedback is non invasive and does not have negative side effects like so many of the prescription drugs used to manage similar issues in the brain.
Contact Pamela Key, Neurofeedback Practitioner, at Counseling Associates for Well-Being for brain training in the 2016 Summer Program. (706) 425-8900 or firstname.lastname@example.org
I love movies.
In my undergraduate years, I may have logged more time in the student movie theater than I did attending classes. Although my schedule now doesn’t afford me the luxury of getting to the theater as much as I would like, I still try to “watch my stories” as much as I can. A good film offers an immersive experience…a chance to be absorbed in the present moment via our senses (sight and hearing especially…but then again there’s always popcorn to fill in the rest), but beyond mere escapism, the medium can offer us an opportunity to connect with our uniquely human capacity for meaning making.
The other night, I was scrolling through my Netflix queue, looking for something to watch at home, and I came across the 2014 Spanish film Living is Easy (with Eyes Closed). I had never heard of the film, but was immediately intrigued by its title—a reference to the opening verse in the Beatles’ song “Strawberry Fields Forever,” which just happens to be one of my favorite songs ever (more on that in a bit).
Anyway, I watched the film and loved it. The film, apparently something of a true story, chronicles a teacher’s journey to meet John Lennon in 1966, when he was in Spain filming the Richard Lester movie How I Won the War (notable in Beatle lore for being the period when John wrote “Strawberry Fields Forever”). The teacher, Antonio, records Beatles’ tunes off the radio and then translates them to teach his students English. He wants to ask the “Smart Beatle” to translate and clarify the meaning of some of the songs, because it’s hard for Antonio to get all the words right to teach his students.
Along Antonio’s journey, he picks up two teenagers who are hitchhiking, fleeing two separate but simultaneously unfortunate circumstances. The unlikely trio journey from Madrid to the coastal town of Almeria, where John Lennon is temporarily residing. The film is filled with picturesque views of the Spanish countryside and coast, but underneath the beauty lurks subtle and not-so-subtle reminders of the oppressive environment that existed in Spain under the rule of Francisco Franco, the dictator who ruled Spain from 1939 to 1975.
You might be wondering why I’m talking about movies in a blog dedicated to a psychotherapy practice. Well, I’ll explain. Actually, I’ll let twentieth century American existential psychologist Rollo May explain instead…
In his 1991 book “The Cry for Myth,“ Rollo May notes that “a myth is a way of making sense in a senseless world. Myths are narrative patterns that give significance to our existence” (p. 15). May emphasizes that, throughout time and across cultures, myths have served to aid humanity in formulating personal identity, connection with others, clarifying values, and providing meaning to the otherwise unexplainable.
Film is a modern means to access this mythic tradition.
When the topic of movies comes up in my sessions, I tend to steer the conversation toward connecting film with its mythical tradition. For example, we can use film narratives and film characters’ struggles as a means to externalize problems, so those issues that bring us into therapy seem less threatening. Or…maybe we can gain a new, more helpful perspective on a difficult past experience by considering it part of our “origin story”—an event that we have no control over apart from the meaning we derive from it…e.g. the murder of Batman’s parents contributing to his decision to protect the citizens of Gotham City.
I noted a lot of mythic elements in my viewing of Living Is Easy (With Eyes Closed). In one of the film’s opening scenes, Antonio teaches his class the words to “Help!”—another iconic Beatles’ tune. Antonio asks his students what the song is about, and after weathering a few non-committal answers from his disinterested pupils, he conveys to his students that the songwriter—once again…Mr. Lennon—is imploring us to help. He emphasizes the word “help” multiple times, and in doing so extends the meaning beyond a literal interpretation of the song’s lyrics.
To my mind, Antonio is suggesting we consider the song’s meaning from more than one perspective. The way he says “HELP,’ almost as an incantation, suggests fear…the terror of existence, but it can also be read as a command—not to live in fear but to offer HELP to humanity in general. The song’s seemingly simple message blooms into a mythic call for empathy and compassionate action.
Time and time again in this film, you see characters helping each other in tiny…and sometimes very significant ways, their kindness standing in stark contrast to the occasional random acts of cruelty a few peripheral characters exhibit (a thug in the town of Almeria seems to symbolize the dumb hate that fuels Fascist regimes like Franco’s). It’s almost as if the viewer is being presented with a choice—to live compassionately or live as an oppressor of others.
This emphasis on helping, to live compassionately, makes the film’s borrowing of the “Strawberry Fields Forever” lyric ironic. I’ve always found “Strawberry Fields Forever” to be a beautiful, atmospheric song, but lyrically the song is extraordinarily bleak—something of a sad, fragmented ode to nostalgia and escapism.
Living is easy with eyes closed
Misunderstanding all you see
It’s getting hard to be someone
But it all works out
It doesn’t matter much to me…
The protagonist in the song (once again, is it John Lennon?) seems confused and uncertain of their identity and sense of purpose…always second-guessing themselves (“always, no sometimes, think it’s me…but it’s all wrong, that is I think I disagree”). The solace found in escaping (“let me take you down”) to Strawberry Fields might suggest permanence (the “Forever” bit), but I hear/read it as a temporary respite—a fleeting act of emotional avoidance—confirmed by the increasingly nonsensical tone of each subsequent verse.
Antonio does not live a life of avoidance, of the escapism of “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Sure…there is struggle along the way, and there appears to be something of a loneliness to his existence (“take me…all heart and lonelier than a fart”), but he possesses a secure identity and engages open-heartedly in vital, valued living that is rich in compassion (that desire to HELP that I mentioned earlier). In one of the film’s key moments, when Antonio confronts the town bully who has been terrorizing one of his teenage traveling companions, he provides this challenge:
“let me say something…really important. You can’t live in fear. Too many people live in fear in Spain. But you need to change things dammit…you need to erase fear. Life is like a dog…if it smells fear, it bites you…”
Although he is speaking of fear that permeates 1960’s Spain, he could just as easily be referring to the present day United States. We can live a “half life” compromised by fear, or we can learn accept fear, and move forward in our lives in directions that matter to us.
I’m so happy I stumbled across Antonio, as he’s stimulated a lot of reflection on my part, connecting me to some of the key elements that energize me in my work with clients.
I love engaging clients in dialogues—should they be willing to do so—that are designed to inspire meaning making and clarify values. If we don’t know what is important to us, we run the risk of pursuing false, unfulfilling goals and living a life that will leave us disengaged from others and ultimately dissatisfied (i.e. the non-Antonio existence). Additionally, much of my practice, as I’ve delineated in some of my other blog posts, is informed by Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT), an empirically-proven, mindfulness-based psychotherapy that encourages the cultivation of a compassionate mind as an essential piece in promoting psychological change and well-being. When we have the courage to recognize suffering, whether our own or someone else’s, and connect with our innate capacity to HELP (once again, thanks Antonio)—to alleviate suffering through compassionate action—we access the best, most vital part of ourselves.
Hope you enjoyed the “Long and Winding Road” (another Beatles’ reference…a hat trick!) that is this blog post. If any of the content here around film and its use in psychotherapy, compassionate mind training, or…well…the Fab Four engaged you, feel free to contact me. I’m accepting new clients! Also, if you’re just looking for a good movie to watch tonight, and you don’t mind subtitles, check out Living is Easy (With Eyes Closed).
May, Rollo (1991). The Cry for Myth. New York: Norton.