“Why would I make excuses for myself?” is a common response I get from clients when I talk about self-compassion. My response is normally something along the lines of “would it be OK if you COULD excuse yourself?”.  Or, “What if in order to find the change you’re looking for you first have to learn to unconditionally love all parts of your self–including your “flaws” non-judgmentally with kindness and patience?”.  

So much of our pain is derived from the critical voices in our heads. That critical voice may remind you of a certain time in your life when some terrible thing happened to you, or maybe it convinces us that things have always been this way and there’s no change in sight. We may feel ashamed, isolated, or sad because we have failed to live up to our own, our parents, or society’s expectations and believe that we won’t be lovable or acceptable until we do. 

Self-Compassion is the recognition that no matter what is happening in our lives, we are lovable. When things are going well, we give ourselves permission to experience that joy–instead of anxiously waiting for the next bad thing to tell us that we should not be experiencing joy. Or, when we are suffering, self compassion becomes a kind of supportive voice from within that helps us find beauty and meaning. It is a reminder that we are all universally connected in this world through our experience of suffering — we are not alone!

Self compassion is NOT self-indulgence, self-pity, or passivity. Self compassion includes an understanding that learning, growth, and failure are fundamental parts of life; it is the desire to relieve suffering and that in order to do so a concrete change may need to be made in our lives. It provides us with an internal source of emotional regulation and resilience. It is the belief that we are inherently worthy of love and respect. 

If you or someone else you know in the Atlanta area could benefit from cultivating self-compassion please contact Isom E White, LCSW of Counseling Associates for Well-Being – Smyrna/Vinings for an appointment today!

Isom E White, LCSW

3050 Atlanta Rd Smyrna, GA 30080

P:706- 389-1708

E:Isomw@ca4wellbeing.com

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 suzanne@ca4wellbeing.com.

We are so happy to announce that on May 1st, 2019  Isom E. White LCSW will be opening his new office in Smyrna / Vinings Georgia.    We will be sad to see him leave the Athens area, but he will be a tremendous addition to the Atlanta area. Isom sees a variety of clients. He is excellent with the young adult, college age group, and also has experience with professionals struggling with high pressure careers, or those in life transitions.   Isom is in-network with Blue Cross Blue Shield, Kaiser and Medicare, and he can also file with other insurance plans for out of network benefits if needed. He is ready to schedule you an appointment, whenever you are.  Call him at 706-425-8900 or email him at Isom@ca4wellbeing.com

Isom E. White, LCSW

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:

Stephine W. Smith,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor II

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 Therapy, Systems Theory and Meditation. My integrative, complementary approach strives to provide a personalized approach, tailored to each client. Areas of interest and specialty include: Depression and Anxiety, Addiction & Recovery, Stress Management, Conflict Resolution, Emotional Management, Trauma, LGBTQIA affirming and Career Counseling.

You can contact Stephine W. Smith to make an appointment at 706-425-8900 ext 720 or email her at Stephine@ca4wellbeing.com

Aaron Kirkwood, LAMFT, with Counseling Associates for Well-Being in Athens, GA talks about the importance of checking in with your stress level throughout the holiday season and why you might not want to skip self-care.

Aaron D KirkwoodIf you would like to set up an appointment do discuss how to manage stress, deal with family, or other relationships during the holiday season please reach out today.

(706) 534 – 8558

Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com

We are so excited to welcome Isom E. White, LCSW to Counseling Associates for Well-Being here in our Athens office!  He is a  very thoughtful, skilled, and warm clinician who enjoys working with older adolescents, young adults, and adults through the lifespan.  He has some rich experience working with  people to help them  heal from trauma as well as  helping them navigate life transitions. He enjoys helping people with relationship struggles, anxiety and depression.  He is available to schedule new clients in our Athens location. Isom is offering a limited number of reduced fee openings for those that cannot pay regular fees.  Please contact him at 706.425.8900 ext 719 or by email at Isom@ca4wellbeing.com to set up a time to get started.

From Isom about himself:

“My passion centers around guiding clients throughout the journey of life while assisting them in the cultivation of their dreams, ambitions, and goals. My approach to treatment begins through a compassionate lens of the “person-in-environment”, the idea that an individual, couple, or family cannot be understood fully without respect for the various aspects of their social, familial, temporal, spiritual, economic, and physical environments.

I enjoy working with a variety of populations: late-adolescents, college students, adults, LGBTQIA, couples, and families dealing with anxiety, depression, anger, grief and loss, trauma, and life-transitional issues. I also embrace working with men’s issues and athletes with performance issues. As an African-American therapist I hold a strong commitment to enhancing the quality of life and empowering people of African ancestry through advocacy, human services delivery, and research.

In  both my personal and professional life, I am cultivating a mindfulness practice. Practicing mindfulness has allowed me to intimately connect with the present moment thereby enhancing my relationship between mind-body, with loved ones, and with nature. I find incorporating mindfulness-based Cognitive behavioral interventions including Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) enhance the therapeutic process by cultivating non-judgemental awareness, compassion, and purpose. I apply these principles to the therapeutic relationship by cultivating a warm, non-judgmental environment, allowing clients to feel safe in connecting with the most intimate parts of themselves so that they may begin the healing process.

My therapeutic philosophy incorporates trauma-informed approaches to therapy. Often times out of necessity, survivors of trauma need to disconnect from themselves (mind & body) to survive the most difficult and horrific experiences of their lives. Using a trauma-informed lens, my hope is to assist clients in healing the fractures of trauma by re-establishing the connection between their mind and bodies. I find the use of the evidence-based trauma treatment “Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing” (EMDR) assists individuals in the healing process by making links between unhelpful aspects of traumatic memories and present day problems.In my personal life I am a husband, brother, and devoted dog-parent to my, pitbull-boxer mix, Maple. Georgia has been my home for over 15 years now but I still consider myself a native Chicagoan. During my spare time, hobbies I enjoy include: coaching & playing lacrosse, video games, weightlifting, and caring for my Bonsai tree collection.”

 

 

May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States.  Before the month slips away let me share some tips for improving your mental health.  Check out my latest Youtube video on ways to improve mental health here.

Aaron D KirkwoodIf you would be interested in setting up an appointment and discussing ways to improve your own mental health give me a call or send an e-mail.

Aaron Kirkwood, LAMFT

(706) 534 – 8558

Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com

  I recently sent my first child off to college and my second will not be far behind.  With the reality of becoming empty nesters looming, my husband and I have discussed moving from our home we have raised our children in for the past seventeen years.  This has prompted me to begin the process of cleaning and purging clutter that has accumulated in our house over the past two decades.  I am a sentimental person and have a hard time parting with items that feel special to me, but as I began emptying out closets and boxes I began to realize that I might actually be a bit of a hoarder!  Books and papers from grad school, cards from my wedding [both of which took place over 20 years ago!], finally found their way to the dumpster.  I carefully weighed the value of each item I came across as I asked myself… “do I really need to keep this”??  As I opened each box I felt like I was reliving a chapter in my life, it was like the story of my life was unfolding in front of me.  I found items from first jobs, graduate school, mementos from dating my husband and our engagement, notes from planning my wedding, information from buying our first house, keepsakes from having my first then second child, reminders of my life as a stay at home mom, papers pertaining to reactivating my license once I made the decision to return to work years later, the list could go on and on.

I went through each box and cabinet revisiting the different phases of my life, carefully choosing the items that felt important enough to follow me to the next phase.  I could not pitch everything.  I did not throw away all of the priceless papers, mementos, or wrinkled drawings that my now grown children brought home from their early days of school.  The numerous letters and stories from my children when they were young declaring how much they loved me, definite keepers!  As anyone with teenagers knows, it is highly unlikely you will hear much of these sentiments as they enter middle and high school!   I came across letters from my husband when we were dating, gentle reminders of the past and what brought us together so many years ago, things that are sometimes hard to recall when dealing with the struggles and changes that come with a marriage or long-term relationship.   And I can’t forget the box of completely unnecessary random “stuff” from my own childhood, old stuffed animals, old clothes, pictures and keepsakes.

Life presents us with many twists and turns, and even some of the most joyous moments paradoxically come with stress, anxiety, sadness and grief.   As I experience and adjust to a new major life change, I can’t help but reflect on my journey and the previous major transitions in my life, the joys, the struggles, and how I have experienced and gotten through each one.  I look back on my relationship with my husband, who I have now been married to for over 20 years, and reflect on the ups and downs we have had, the good times, the bad, and the struggles we have experienced and overcome as we have lived through many life stages and changes together.  It’s a joyous time to be celebrated when two people get married, but very few people tell you how hard this relationship is going to be, and how much work is involved on an ongoing basis to sustain the relationship and the changes you will go through.

Becoming a mom was without a doubt one of the happiest moments of my life, but along with this also came some of the biggest changes and challenges I have experienced.  Deciding to become a stay at home mom, and not only reinventing my day to day life but reinventing myself in the process, was no easy task.  Many people who have not experienced this role may assume the life of a stay at home mom is a life of leisure.  While I loved being available to spend my time with my young children and am thankful I had the choice to do so, I will tell you it is definitely not a leisurely life!  It is a role that also comes with learning to navigate many challenging dynamics of its own.

Flash forward years down the road I found myself contemplating how to get back into the workforce.  Having not worked in my field in 10 years the thought of putting myself out there was scary, overwhelming and very anxiety provoking.  But put myself out there I did, and while going back to work and setting the goal to get my LCSW seemed almost impossible, here I proudly sit today as an LCSW in private practice, exactly where I had hoped I could get to so many years ago.

And now, I begin to face and deal with one of the most difficult things I have had to do in a very long time, sending my children out into the world on their own.  This is not only a huge change in my day to day life, but also a major identity shift for me as my role in their lives changes drastically.  Once again, I find myself facing this new challenge with mixed emotions, while there is a lot of sadness over this shift in my life, there is also a sense of curiosity and interest to see what the future holds for me and what is yet to unfold.

I find great joy in working with people trying to find new avenues in life, people who may be struggling with a major life change and identity shift, and enjoy helping them create their vision for the future.   If you are facing a major change in your life it can help to have an objective ear and some added support to get through the challenges that come with these transitions.  My personal and professional experience provide me with a great deal of knowledge when dealing with some of life’s major transitions.  If you are struggling in your relationship,  are getting married or adjusting to being newly married,  ending a long-term relationship, contemplating divorce or going through a divorce, starting a family, becoming a stay at home mom or returning to work after years of staying home with your kids, contemplating a career change, sending a child off to school or becoming an empty nester, give me a call or send me an email. I would love to help you navigate this challenging yet exciting time of your life that is filled with many possibilities.  call: 706-425-8900 or email: beth@ca4wellbeing.com

 

 

changeahead 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.
https://trans4mind.com/counterpoint/index-goals-life-coaching/kolakowski.shtml


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 beth@ca4wellbeing.com    Beth Jackson, LCSW  Alpharetta, Georgia   profile415  

Therapy is exercise for the brain

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!

Aaron D KirkwoodIf 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.