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

25 Oct 2017
October 25, 2017

Winter Blues

Depression, News

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.

 

Aaron D KirkwoodIf 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

I thought I would conduct an interview with a Marriage and Family Therapist to get a small peek inside the mind of someone who spends all their time “inside” the minds of others.  It just so happens that I know a Marriage and Family Therapist rather intimately, and that is who I decided to interview.

Have you ever seen the movie Interview with a Vampire?  Well, I can almost promise you this interview will not be as interesting, sexy, or scary as that.  Read on to see if you agree.

Me: So, what made you decide to become a therapist?

Also me:  Well, I remember having friends in high school whose parents were divorced and seeing how that experience really affected them, mostly in negative ways.  I decided, rather foolishly, that I would grow up and find a “cure” for divorce.  I also recall reading a book somewhere around 10th grade on the history of psychology in the library and finding it incredibly fascinating.  As I began to express interest in psychology my 10th grade biology professor, Mrs. Taylor, encouraged me to look into Marriage and Family Therapy.  Plus, I’m really bad at math so I knew I couldn’t be an accountant or an engineer.

Me: What is your favorite thing about being a Marriage and Family Therapist?

Also me: At the risk of sounding cliché, I really love helping people.  When the end of a work day rolls around and I have had at least one client who seemed to benefit from our session I feel an immense sense of satisfaction.  I can honestly say that this is the most fulfilling thing I have done for work.  It feels even more powerful somehow when I am working with a couple or a family and there is a shift in the relationship.  Suddenly, where the clients had been experiencing only sadness, hopelessness, or remorse a renewed hope blossoms.  There are few feelings as awesome as experiencing this first-hand!

Me: So, can therapists like, read your mind?

Also me: Nope!  Not even a little bit.  A good therapist is attuned to their client’s body language, however, and this helps us read a client’s emotions when he or she might not be consciously aware of them.  For instance, a client may begin to tap or shake their foot rapidly as a stress-inducing conversation gets underway.  I might ask that client “Are you feeling any anxiety just now?”  The client may reply “No, I’m okay.”  “Because I noticed you were shaking your foot quite a bit there.”  “Oh, was I?  Hmmm.  Well, now that I think of it I might have been feeling some stress when we started talking about …”  I don’t have any superpowers and supernatural abilities unfortunately, just what Sherlock Holmes might call a keen sense of observation and deduction.

Me:  What inspires you?

Also me: Well, besides seeing a person feeling better because of some new insight or perspective, I would have to say music is a big inspiration to me.  I get flashes of song lyrics in my head all the time, even during therapy sessions.  When it is feels appropriate I sometimes share these with clients, particularly if they might offer a unique perspective or confirm a client’s newly discovered perspective.  Music can be a beautiful metaphor for relationships.  Individuals (notes) come together to form relationships (chords) in different configurations (chord changes) across time (a song).

Me: Who are your favorite clients to work with?
Also me: Gosh, that’s a hard question!  I think if there is a common thread to my work when I’m feeling the most satisfaction, it comes from working with individuals who feel, for whatever reason, disempowered.  Working together with them to develop a unique voice, and learn to resist the forces who might have made them feel unworthy or uncared for is uniquely rewarding.  I focus often on relationships, especially couples, as a Marriage and Family Therapist, but I also really enjoy working with individuals.  The work can be very different when I’m talking with a client one-on-one versus working with a couple or a family.  I love being able to switch it up throughout the day because it keeps the work interesting and stimulating.

Me: What advice would you give someone seeking therapy for the first time?

Also me:  Don’t be afraid to ask questions and find a therapist who you feel comfortable with.  Just don’t be afraid in general of seeing a therapist.  I personally try to make it as painless as possible, even though sometimes painful things arise.  We deal with those things in a comforting and safe environment.  Try not to get hung up on buzzwords and psycho-jargon.  Studies tell us that almost all therapies are roughly equally effective.  If your friend had luck with cognitive-behavioral therapy but it doesn’t feel right for you then don’t do it.  Find someone with an approach and a personality who feel like a good fit for you.

Aaron D KirkwoodIf you’re interested in beginning therapy please contact me

via e-mail at Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com

or call me at (706) 296-0455

and I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.

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  

We’ve all seen those “click bait” links on the side of an article, or as we’re scrolling through social media.  There really is a “weird trick” that you can try if you want to improve the frequency of love making.  This applies if you’re married or in a long-term relationship, if you’re a heterosexual couple or a same-sex couple.  I will say, because of social scripts that tell us how a man and woman are to behave in a heterosexual marriage, this may be more of an issue for those types of relationships.  Hopefully you’ll understand once I reveal the “weird trick”.

So, what turns men and women in long term relationships off in the United States?  Per a 2013 study “Both women (49 percent) and men (37 percent) say stress causes them to lose their desire for sex more than anything else. Other top distractors include exhaustion for women (46 percent) and having an argument with their spouse for men (29 percent). A third of women and a fifth of men say lack of romance is a factor, too.”  Put a pin in that because we’re going to come back to it.

improve married sexI have some GREAT news for you.  Guys, do I have your attention?  Ladies, you listen up too.  Throw away that bottle of cologne with pheromones, you don’t need to buy two dozen roses, and don’t even think about that “aphrodisiac” you saw in the bathroom vending machine  of the service station.  You likely already have all the ingredients you need to brew up a homemade aphrodisiac.  It can be sort of messy so guys you should probably put on some gloves, safety goggles could come in handy, and an apron wouldn’t hurt.  Ladies, change into your most comfortable around the house clothes, maybe pour a glass of wine.

Now listen up because here’s the “one weird trick”.  Guys, I want you to go into the kitchen and run a sinkful of HOT, soapy water.  Pay attention because this next step is key!  You have a sinkful of hot, soapy water?  Grab a sponge, a brush, or some similar cleaning implement and I want you to wash the dishes.  Bonus points for drying them and putting them away.  See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?  The next step is important too.  I want you to grab a broom or a vacuum cleaner and clean the floor.  If you’re up for a challenge and you really want to seal the deal throw some laundry on before you start the dishes.  Are you getting turned on yet guys?  No?  That’s okay, you’re not supposed to be aroused by cleaning the house.  But your partner?  Well she might want to rip that apron right off you.

According to numerous studies cited by AARP.ORG, the more housework men do the more sex they have.  And that’s the “one weird trick”.  Remember earlier we learned that stress and exhaustion are major turn offs for women.  By pitching in and taking on some of those household chores you are allowing your partner to relax.  If you have children and you help with the kids she may have time to switch from mom mode to sexy wife mode (as opposed to bathing the kids, putting them to bed, and then being expected to immediately feel like having sex).  Further, it shows her that you respect her and appreciate her.

We’re asking men to pitch in and do some of the household chores.  What about women, what role can you play in this?  Speak up and let your partner know what you need help with.  There is a video on social media about the “magic table” that takes care of things whenever this husband leaves his things there.  He leaves dirty dishes and they “magically” take themselves into the kitchen and get washed.  The basket of laundry he left on the table?  It “magically” folded itself and puts itself away.  The video is jesting about it but I suspect many men take for granted what the women in their lives do for them and the whole household.  Women, don’t let them take you for granted.

Of course, all of this centers around good communication, whether that means letting your spouse know that you would like to have sex more often, or you would like to come home and prop your feet up while someone else cooks dinner.  Then, if your request is met, show appreciation and gratitude so that your partner is encouraged to keep doing it.

Want to know how your sex life is going?  Fill out this quiz and ask your partner to fill it out separately.  Then call me to set up an appointment if you have some issues you’d like to work on.

Aaron D Kirkwood

Aaron Kirkwood, LAMFT

(706) 534 – 8558

Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com

election-anxiety

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.

Aaron D Kirkwood

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.

Active listening sounds like a pretty simple and easy thing to do yet when I work with couples it’s one of the skills that we spend a lot of time on.  I often have each partner roleplay what I call the two roles in any productive conversation.  One partner is the Speaker and the other is the Listener.  Your role as the Listener, and this is the most crucial role I believe, is to make sure that you have really “heard” what your partner is saying.  I don’t just mean that you can parrot their actual words back at them.  Anyone can do that if they are half-listening.  The role of the Listener is about making sure that what the Speaker intended is what the Listener understood them to be saying.  As the Listener you have to give the Speaker your undivided attention, that means no only turning off the TV and putting away the cellphone, it also means blocking out your own mental distractions.  You cannot simultaneously be listening and formulating your response at the same time.

Active listening doesn’t just help with intimate relationships.  You will find that if you practice the skills in this blog it will help you get along better with co-workers and friends and maybe, if you’re lucky, your in-laws.active listening

Check out this post from the Gottman blog about active listening and read their tips for improving your communication, which will likely improve your relationship.

Their tips include:

Focus on being interested, not interesting. – Don’t sit the entire time the other person is speaking in anticipation of telling your own story.  Absorb what they are saying and know that you will get a chance to express yourself as well.

Ask questions – Don’t just leave it up to the Speaker.  Instead actively engage them by asking questions.  Ask about their thoughts and feelings so that you can clarify what they are trying to get across to you.  If you want to build your relationship, ask about their desires and future plans.

Respond with an occasional brief nod or sound / From time to time, paraphrase what the speaker says – This lets the Speaker know that you actively engaged in the conversation and helps them feel they are being “heard”.  It also helps the Listener stay with the conversation when the Speaker has a lot that they need to convey.

Let go of your own agenda – Again, you cannot simultaneously be listening and formulating your response at the same time.  You will have a chance to express your own thoughts and feelings and when you do you will appreciate the same level of attention that you are showing to the Speaker.

Do you need help with active listening skills?  I’m glad to work with couples as well as individuals in developing this essential skill for improving your relationship with almost everyone from a romantic partner to a business partner.  Please contact me today and let’s set up an appointment to get started building this essential skill.  I can be reached at (706) 534 – 8558 or by e-mail at aaron@ca4wellbeing.com.  I look forward to working with you!

Aaron D Kirkwood

 

Couples counselingI would love to say that couples couseling is always successful.  The question of whether it will work or not is determined by a number of factors including whether the couple is willing to put in work towards repairing and improving their relationship.  There is no easy answer to such a complicated question and each couple may experience a slightly different result.

The truth is we don’t often “solve” a couple’s problems in couples counseling sessions.  Instead what we do is give them the tools to address their problems and deal with them in a more productive way.  According to findings from the Gottman Institute who run the “Love Lab” in Seattle, Washington only about 31% of a couple’s problems are “solvable”.  What couple’s counseling is really about it is developing skills for effective communication so that a couple can learn to live with these problems by acknowledging their partner’s thoughts and feelings and in turn feeling that their own thoughts and feelings are being validated.

Imagine a scenario where you have gotten your way when a conflict has arisen in your relationship and your partner throws their hands up in exasperation and exclaims “Fine we’ll do it your way but I still think I’m right!”  You’ve gotten your way, sure, but how satisfied do you feel?  Now imagine a scenario where your partner says “I hear what you’re saying and I know why you would like to do it this way but I really think it’s better if we do it this other way and here’s why…”  Now you may not get your way in this second scenario but you’re likely to feel much more positive about the situation because your partner has truly heard and understood your point of view.  Through the use of roleplaying and modeling these strategies couples counseling can help you learn how to be a better partner and what you should expect in return from your partner.

My own work with couples is heavily influenced by the work of the Gottman Institute.  They have spent decades researching what makes for happy, lasting relationships and what leads to the inevitable demise of other relationships.  Using this research, I help couples develop the skills (The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work) that bolster healthy, loving relationships while avoiding the pitfalls (The Four Horsemen) that mire couples in patterns of conflict and ill communication.

Are you willing to work to change the unhealthy patterns that have developed over time?  Are you open to constructive feedback about what you already do well and what you can do to improve?  Do you desire to get back on track and live a long and fulfilling life with your current partner?  If so, then couples counseling may work for you.

If you would like a better idea about the kinds of communication and conflict resolution skills that I assist couples in working on you may want to watch this excellent video of a presentation given by Laura Heck, who is a Master Trainer for the Gottman Seven Principles Program.

Please contact me today and let’s setup an appointment for couples counseling to help get your relationship back on track.  I can be reached by telephone at (706) 534-8558 or by e-mail at Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com.

Aaron D Kirkwood