You have graduated from high school, spent the summer making memories with family and friends, and now it’s time to start college.  You may experience mixed emotions given this new journey in your life.  You might be excited to have a new independence – living on your own, deciding when and what to eat, hanging out late with friends.  Perhaps, sharing a room with a complete stranger makes you a little nervous or maybe you are enthusiastic about having a new friend to study with or to join you for social events.  You may have concerns about your courses- will I like them?  Will they be too hard?  Will I meet the professor’s expectations?  All these emotional responses and thoughts are normal when adjusting to college.  It will take some time for you to acclimate to this new environment and to become comfortable with this new chapter in your life.  So don’t think that everything will fall into place the first day of school.  Here are a few tips to help you make a smooth college transition and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

  1. Get to know the campus.  Take a tour with an upper-class student.  Learn the buildings where you will have classes, meetings, and social events.  Becoming aware of your surroundings will make you feel more comfortable with the new environment.
  1. Give attention to food choices.  The endless amount of food at the dining halls and late night food runs makes it easy to develop unhealthy eating habits.  Be mindful of the foods you are eating and make food choices that you feel are best for you.
  1. Make time to move.  You may refer to this as exercise but moving your body can help you with managing stress, anxiety, and depression.  You don’t have to go to the gym in order to reap the benefits.  Simply walk to or around campus instead of riding the bus or driving your car, play an intramural sport, or enroll in a dance class.
  1. Get some zzzzz!  Late night studying or hanging out late may result in poor sleeping habits.  It’s important that you are getting proper sleep in order to be alert and productive.  Lack of sleep can impact your memory, mood, ability to learn and retain information, increase stress, and may result in injuries or long-term health issues.
  1. Ask for help.  Avoid waiting until mid-semester or the end of the semester to seek help with your academic work.  Take advantage of tutoring services, the writing center, study sessions, and professors’ office hours.  If you have a disability, register with the Disability Resource Center in order to arrange for accommodations.  Planning ahead can help you be successful in your classes.
  1. Have a healthy relationship with your roommate(s).  Having a roommate can be a big adjustment for all parties.   It is important for you and your roommate to meet and communicate expectations.  Develop an agreement about how you all will share your space.         
  1. Meet your professors.  You might think your professors are only interested in lecturing but faculty like to get to know their students as well.  Visit them during their office hours and introduce yourself.  If you have questions about the class, class preparation, or ideas discussed in class, talk with the professors about them.  Don’t wait until you need a recommendation letter to introduce yourself to your professors.  Meet with them now!
  1. Make new friends.  College is a time to meet new people and make great connections.  You will encounter people from different backgrounds and even from different parts of the world.  You may find it easy to make new friends or it may take time for you to establish relationships.  Regardless, take the opportunity to meet someone new.  You may just gain a lifelong friend.

With these tips in hand, you should be well on your way to having a successful first year of college.  If you find that you are having a difficult time with this transition, you are welcome to meet with me.  I have over 14 years of experience working with college students.  I’d be glad to help you on your new journey.  I can be reached at or 706-425-8900 ext. 704.



I often hear from people who are in relationships and feeling disconnected or dissatisfied, who ask me if they need to get their partners to come in for relationship therapy and counseling—or should they just come in alone?  Sometimes people want to know if they can come in and explain to me what is wrong with their mate, so that I can offer advice about how to change him or her.  Or they think that once they present their case to me, I will proclaim that they are clearly the saner of the two and therefore they can go armed back to the spouse with an expert recommendation that he or she must rush in for an appointment to be fixed.  Occasionally someone may just also want to come in to process how they are feeling about a relationship. They don’t feel comfortable being open or honest enough yet with the partner to say what they need to say. Or they aren’t clear about how to proceed. This is often the case when people have become so distant or disconnected that there is little emotional intimacy or when things have been so charged, and tense that there is no emotional safety.  

 Of course,  to make the relationship better,  it is generally better to bring in the other person if you can.  It is easier to change the dynamics of a relationship by working with both people who participate in and are a part of that relationship.  

  In many instances, coming in alone is truly the only option when partners are reluctant to participate.  No, you can’t change anyone except yourself. You can certainly affect and influence people to be sure. And you can change a relationship by changing the way you are in that relationship.    

 To be really clear again, this does not mean that if come alone, you will be able to learn some tricks to make your partner change into a new person.   Simply that you can learn in individual work how to change what you contribute and therefore things might change between you.  

So along those lines, there is this saying that goes something like this: “In order to love someone else, you first must love yourself.”  I have been contemplating this a bit. I think the essence of this idea is perhaps not so much about loving yourself in the “I think I am the most awesome person ever” way, but more in the” I know myself and accept myself and am therefore able to recognize my needs – and therefore will be able to articulate those needs to someone else” way. This is one of the most important elements in being able to connect with someone else.  In order to be close to someone and truly be connected in an intimate way, you have to be able to access who you are.  You have to be able to show up.

There is a safety and security that comes from being comfortable with and accepting of yourself.  It allows you to be more open to learning about and “visiting with” someone else’s experience and perspective, without being unsettled by it.  For example if you discover that the person you are relating to has a different value or perspective than you do, you can be curious and empathic rather than defensive, or guarded, or challenged, or scared.   You can connect, show up, and be “ok.”

So, in summary, if your relationship isn’t working well for you, invite your partner to  work on it with you. If you can’t invite them because you aren’t sure how they will respond and it unsettles you to do so, come on in alone. Or if you ask, and the answer is a definite no, come on in alone.  Or if you aren’t sure yet if you want to work on it or let it go, come on in alone.  We can work on your growth and self-love and acceptance, and  help you to love better as a result.        Claire Zimmerman, LCSW   


Here, in an interesting article, Keith Molyneaux helps us look at relationships from a different perspective: “Why Men Withdraw Emotionally”, and offers insights about men’s world. It may not apply to everyone, yet it certainly opens space to consider our own reactions: when we withdraw and why -man or woman-, whether it comes from protection and/or frustration, confusion or overwhelming feeling. It also brings more clarity about existing double standards and levels of expectations men have to face. Keith Molyneaux looks into the challenge of 2 partners needing nurturing, empathy, support and recognition at the same time, with one of the two having more experience, in this area, than the other.

Resonating with this article? Open to explore each other’s world in a safe environment? Feel free to contact Aline Robolin, LPC at 706 425 8900, ext 705, or


We are wired toward connection! This is an exciting time in terms of the emerging knowledge regarding our minds and our behavior in relationships.  I highly recommend you read the article linked above.  Interestingly, recent MRI studies show that participants react to a threat against a loved one with the same intensity as they would a threat to themselves.  Daniel Siegel, who is a pioneer in the field of Interpersonal Neurobiology, has written and spoken prolifically for years describing how our minds develop through interactions with others and that processes to integrate the mind heal relationships (and the reverse is true as well).  These MRI studies confirm what therapists have known for years about the importance of empathy in our relationships.  Also, this type of research is confirming what we know about couples: partners become emotionally attuned to each other and react to the other’s emotions and moods.

The really good news is that when we learn to have attuned communication with others, we actually integrate and improve the wiring in our brains.  Attuned communication is defined by Siegel as resonating with another’s inner world.  This connects with John Gottman’s research with couples also that happy spouses know each other’s inner worlds.  Siegel says we cannot just focus on the thoughts and feelings, but we have to be mindful of the energy in our exchanges with others.  Mindfulness practices and meditation can improve our ability to be present in relationships as well as improve our well-being.

If you are interested in improving your understanding of your own behavior in relationships and learning tools to enhance them, I am a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist and Certified Hatha Yoga Instructor with expertise in helping individuals and couples improve their communication and lessen their reactivity as well as change patterns that are painful.  Please call 706-425-8900 or email with questions or to schedule a session.


Over the weekend I had the pleasure of completing my certification in hypnotherapy.  The entire training process was wonderful and enriching on both a personal and professional level.  I have experienced great results in changing my own habits as a result of the hypnosis I received during our training.  I am so excited to now use this powerful tool to help my clients.

In previous training classes we learned how to induce someone into a hypnotic state and make suggestions to effect change on a subconscious level.  So often we know what we want and we know how to get there, but something just seems to be preventing us from taking those steps.  Suggestive hypnosis can be very effective in helping us surmount those hurdles to allow us to reach our goals.

What I learned in our final training class was a more dynamic form of hypnotherapy.  We learned how to communicate with our clients while they are in the state of hypnosis to address past events that have left them feeling hurt, helpless, or in another state of pain or trauma.  We learned ways to address and heal these painful past memories and events.

If you are interested in trying a different way to experience therapy, please call (706) 425-8900 ext 709 or email me.  I would love to talk with you to see if hypnosis might be right for you.


This talk by Dr Brene Brown “Shame and Empathy” has been, for me, invigorating, clarifying and thought provoking. I resonate with her statement about connection being the essence of human experience, as it gives meaning to our experience. She presents a concept about connection, where empathy and shame are at the opposite ends of the spectrum, and vulnerability/authenticity is the cursor between the 2: the more vulnerable/open you are, the closer you are to empathy; and the less you are vulnerable, the closer you are to shame -“I cannot let you see these pieces of me, because I fear that will create disconnection “-.  We armor ourself for self-protection from suffering, and as we live in a culture of fear about not fitting in, it does not leave space for vulnerability. Yet vulnerability and authenticity are the path to what we are longing for: love, belonging, trust, intimacy joy, creativity and innovation, as well as empathy. How do we create compassionate/safe space to share and listen to our stories? How do we create a place for connection?


I am leading several groups of NonViolent Communication, also called Compassionate Communication (more information at If you resonate with this subject and are longing to be heard and to listen to others in a safe environment, you can contact Aline Robolin, LPC at 706 425 8900, ext 705, or

I invite you to watch this video and share your feedback if you desire.



I am not a big believer in New Year’s Resolutions. I find them to be similar to diets in the way they create a setup of unrealistically harsh expectations for one’s self that are bound to fail. However, there is one resolution I would suggest and celebrate for anyone to make, and this resolution improves outlook and mood, health, relationships and all other aspects of life. This resolution would be a commitment in the year 2014 to improve one’s relationship with self. The relationship we have with ourselves is the longest and most important as it forms the basis for how we see the world and make choices for our behavior.

How does one improve that relationship? One way we improve it is by becoming aware of and improving our self-talk.  Many of us have developed a strong inner drill sergeant that seeks to motivate us to “be better” and “do better”.  I would argue that we get a lot further with compassion for self and treating ourselves as we would a dear friend.  Compassion for self does not mean denial or dishonesty, but looking at situations in our lives with the understanding we are human and deserve unconditional emotional support first and foremost.  With compassion and honesty with self, we are more likely to make choices such as better self-care or reaching out for help when it is needed-and we all need help as human beings.

I would suggest mindfully starting with this intention each day.  Take a few quiet minutes to meditate on the intention to be compassionate toward one’s self on a daily basis.  This alone could create quite a lasting change this year.  Contact me at if you would like to work on a new approach to making changes and dealing with challenges. Happy New Year!



So we just finished the Thanksgiving holiday celebration.  As it happens, my  birthday week falls around Thanksgiving every year. These birthday things keep happening year after year no matter what.  They are often a time to reflect, to take stock. I don’t generally enjoy so much thinking, but this year I thought about what I am thankful for about my advancing age.

I love that I finally can stop wishing that I can one day live up to the incredibly unrealistic physical image of 20 year old super models. I love that the things I now value are so much more important. I actually pause to be grateful that I can walk up flights of stairs or enjoy the beauty of the beach or enjoy a fabulous meal with friends or family.

I am grateful to have time to read even if some days  it is just the newspaper, or the captions under the pretty photos in my favorite magazines. I am grateful  to have some ideas about what I enjoy, and also to still have an abundance of curiosity about what else there might be to discover.

I am grateful that my vision is no longer what it once was. I marvel at the genius of the design that allows me to lose the ability to see clearly the wrinkles that are spreading like fine webs under my eyes.

I am grateful for the realization that painful moments do in fact finally end. When I was younger, it was so much harder to endure things that were difficult when I had no idea that “these things pass.”  I am grateful that there are still so many things to look forward to.   Getting older is getting better and better!  And gratitude is a wonderful thing.


Something that really spoke to me at the time that I was just beginning the step-parent/ blended family journey was the notion that almost every step-family came into existence after a significant loss.  Some come after a death, and some after a divorce.  And it made so much sense to me that a big factor in how the journey of the step-family evolved was how that loss had impacted everyone in the family.  And of course, where each person was in their journey with the grief around that loss.

As I work with people in newly blended families, I often see struggles coming from unresolved anger and hurt with an ex, or fear and uncertainty about creating a new vision for the future after the loss of another vision.  When people divorce, there is this profound sense of loss—not necessarily of the marriage as it actually was, but of the marriage that was at one time hoped for.

Children of the divorce are affected by changes. What they have come to know as “how things are and how things work” is no longer the same.    Often their parents’ discord was troublesome before the divorce. The changes that come after their parents split , even though they may hold the potential for something better,  is scary because it is unknown—and so much is just different.  What is lost is simply the predictability that life once had.   So the union of a new couple in aftermath of such a loss brings even more change, even more uncertainty.

Certainly, the length of time since a death or divorce has happened can impact the ease of the transition, but if a divorce or death was truly difficult or traumatic, the impact on the expectations and fears around that can be seen even years later.    Understanding and processing the losses can help enormously with the journey to a great step-coupling and blended family life.

If you need some help in your step-family journey, contact Claire Zimmerman, LCSW at


Most people enter into marriage with dreams of a lifetime of love, partnership, family, security, and happiness.  Many times, it is the loss of these dreams that is the most painful aspect of the dissolution of a marriage.

Going through a divorce elicits a myriad of responses: anger, frustration, confusion, sadness, feeling of failure, exhilaration, worry, hopelessness, panic, euphoria, and guilt, just to name some.  Navigating these can feel overwhelming, especially while negotiating new households, financial challenges, and heart-wrenching custody arrangements.

It is true that a divorce can be one of the hardest, most painful, and most stressful events in a person’s life.  It can feel like a volcano has erupted, burning and destroying everything you have known.  The wonderful news is from that springs an opportunity for tremendous insight, clarity, and personal growth.  After the ash has settled what remains is a fertile soil, primed for the growth of your new, fresh life.

If you are in need of compassionate support during this difficult time and would like to see your way to a happier future, I would love to talk with you.

Susanna Rains Moriarty

706-425-8900 ext 709