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.

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.reduced fee services

  • 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.

Aaron D KirkwoodIf 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

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Many individuals have experienced some form of trauma in their lives, ranging from mild to catastrophic.  The good news is the recovery from a traumatic event is more than possible, it is a true probability.  Evidence based treatment methods, to include EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), Memory Reconsolidation Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Yoga, and relaxation/meditation techniques are instrumental in providing relief and recovery for some of the debilitating symptoms of a past traumatic experience. Evidence based treatment methods used in counseling have proven time and again to work as well as, and sometimes better than, psychiatric medications which are typically used to treat depression and anxiety.

The interesting thing about traumatic experiences are the varying degrees with which individuals perceive the same experience.  For instance, a car accident could potentially prevent someone from riding in a car for as much as the following year.  Another person may have the same type of accident but experience it much differently with different effects.  Maybe the second person is okay to hop in the driver’s seat the next day after a major accident.  We are all unique and experience this world in various ways.  No matter what the outcome, it is possible to rise above the despair and fear, no matter how great or small, and to overcome any distress or symptom which may linger.

The loud sound of a crowd, horns beeping in traffic, sudden noises, particular places, certain smells, or any trigger which leads to the memory or response of the trauma can lead to extreme discomfort, to say the least.  Don’t give up hope.  Help is just around the corner and counseling can have significant results in alleviating your symptoms!  If you would like to speak with me regarding the techniques, please do not hesitate to call me at (706) 425-8900 ext. 717 or email me at janet@ca4wellbeing.com.

Janet W. Beasley, LPC

Janet W Beasley

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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 pamela@ca4wellbeing.com

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I recently came across an article titled:  Good to Know:  Why We Think the Way We Think by Pandora Maclean-Hoover.  I am always intrigued by how people think and interested in helping them learn to view things differently, so I couldn’t help but be curious to read what the article had to say.

Have you ever wondered why you think the way you do?  Which in turn leads to how you respond to a situation.  In the article Pandora Maclean-Hoover says that “unhealthy thinking is, in large part, a function of negative belief systems, often installed by others and reinforced by our childhood experiences”.  She goes on to say, “the longer we think a particular way, the harder it is to change our thoughts and beliefs”.  As a therapist who operates from a psychodynamic approach I believe that one of the reasons we think and behave the way we do as adults is largely due to our childhood experiences.   People frequently come into my office and get frustrated because they have decided they want to change the way they [fill in the blank] think, act, feel, etc., and they want it to happen NOW!  They may have been coming to therapy for some time and think “what’s the point” I don’t see a difference.  I often remind people…”you’ve been thinking this way for how long???  Be patient with yourself, it takes time to change, especially when you consider that you have been doing these things your entire life!”  When you consider that this has been your frame of reference for your entire life then I think you can appreciate that it is going to take some time to learn a new way.  I view therapy in these cases as a journey, definitely not a quick fix.  I had a supervisor once who compared therapy to gardening, it’s like planting seeds and patiently waiting for them to grow.  I have come to appreciate this process and encourage my clients to do the same.

For many of us our maladaptive behaviors served a necessary purpose in our childhood, they helped us cope with our circumstances and for some they actually helped them to survive.  Unfortunately, as we grow up and continue with these behaviors (and why would we know or want to act any differently when these behaviors have served such a necessary function?) we find that they are no longer serving their purpose, in fact they are causing problems for us, primarily in our relationships.  Change is not only difficult but it can be very scary too, especially when what you are familiar with and something that has served an important purpose throughout much of your life is what you are trying to change.   I believe the first step to any type of change is awareness.  I try to help my clients become more aware of their behaviors, and not to judge or feel shame about them, but to become more curious about themselves and why they behave the way they do.  With this knowledge they can then begin to realize that they can make changes and that things can be different.   I think Pandora Maclean-Hoover says it best:  “Awareness is a starting place.  The brain does not have a delete button for experiential files, but it is possible to update and integrate files.  The password for reprogramming?  Choice.”

Here is the article if you are interested in reading it:   http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/good-to-know-why-we-think-the-way-we-think-0908155

If you have been wanting to make changes in your life but don’t know where to start therapy can help!  Contact me and we can work together to help you make the changes you want in your life.   beth@ca4wellbeing.com or 706-425-8900 ext 712

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