Aaron Kirkwood, LAMFT, with Counseling Associates for Well-Being in Athens, GA talks about what you might do to fill some time as you shelter in place. Check out the video here.
Check out our website at www.ca4wellbeing.com. If you would like to schedule an appointment call (706) 534 – 8558 or e-mail: Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com
Virtual museum tours – https://virtualmuseums.io/
Help out with research – Zooniverse – https://www.zooniverse.org/
Meditation – apps Calm, Headspace, Aura, 10% Happier, Insight Timer (free), search Youtube for meditation or guided meditations
Read a book – Athens-Clarke County Library online – http://www.athenslibrary.org/online-library
Learn a new skill – Udemy (includes filter for free courses) – https://www.udemy.com/, Skillshare – https://www.skillshare.com/
Pick up an old hobby or begin a new one – https://www.lifehack.org/articles/money/this-list-50-low-cost-hobbies-will-excite-you-2.html
Take an online course – Khan Academy – https://www.khanacademy.org/, edX – https://www.edx.org/, The Great Courses https://www.thegreatcourses.com/
Play Games -Free Rice – https://www.wfpusa.org/get-involved/freerice/, https://armorgames.com/, https://games.aarp.org/, https://www.kongregate.com/, https://store.steampowered.com/ (requires an install to your computer)
Write a letter to a friend or loved one –
Teach your pet a new trick – Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution – https://www.youtube.com/user/zakgeorge21, Simpawtico Dog Training – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMgKNPC0O91FgvS94YMgIag/featured, Cat School – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAKdgYzfrpEZ-1tQZHPOHZw
Make up your own games/challenges –
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.”
Ever thought to yourself “I have the winter blues”? The combination of shorter days plus colder temperatures means that many of us are exposed to less sunlight during the winter months and it is believed that this could be one of the things that can contribute to some people experiencing seasonal affective disorder.
What is seasonal affective disorder?
It is a type of depression that is strongly associated with specific times of the year, most commonly autumn or winter. The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are similar to major depressive disorder with the exception that they usually abate when the seasons begin to change. These include feelings of hopelessness and/or sadness, reduced energy level, weight gain, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and more.
How do I treat seasonal affective disorder?
There are various things that you can try if you’re experiencing the “winter blues”. Some possible things that you might do for self-care include getting more physical activity. Exercise is one of the best “natural remedies” for depression of all kinds. Increasing your sun exposure may also help. Keep in mind that any change in medication or physical activity should be done under advisement of a medical professional. Of course, you can also make an appointment to a see a therapist. This may be something short-term just for the season and that’s okay. Here’s a link with more information about seasonal affective disorder.
If you believe you have a case of the “winter blues” and would like to talk to someone about it please give me a call to set up an initial appointment today. I can be reached by phone at (706) 534 – 8558 or by e-mail at Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com
It’s that time of year again. The stores are packed with parents and students shopping for all the necessary college accoutrements. Some are back again, having already been through this process a time or two. Others are wide eyed with anticipation and trepidation. College is a time of growth and joy for many students but for others it can be incredibly stressful and can trigger new psychological problems or exacerbate already existing issues. It is not uncommon for students to experience overwhelming anxiety and/or depression. I recently spoke with someone who talked about coming to UGA for the first time as a student and during the first day of their first class they realized that there were more people in that one class than had been in their entire high school graduating class. That can be pretty daunting, and rightfully so. Even at smaller schools the issues of trying to learn to live out from under parents’ roofs, navigating a new social scene, and feeling exposed to larger issues of life can seem overwhelming.
Students aren’t the only ones who experience stress, anxiety, and depression during this time of year. Parents also experience these same issues. This can affect parents individually but also impact their marriage or other relationships. Some parents want to “let go” but can’t seem to quite figure out how. Other parents have managed to let go at the cost of considerable worry and anxiety.
Whether you’re a first-time student, a returning student, or a parent the beginning of the college school year can be difficult. Here is some helpful information about college adjustment. Read more about one students experience when first going away to college here.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by anxiety or depression, or just want to act preventatively to avoid these pitfalls, give me a call today and set up an appointment to talk about these issues.
Phone: 706 –425-8900 ext 712
E-mail: 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.
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.
Growing up I don’t think I ever fully appreciated all the things my mom had to do to fulfill all the roles that she played. She is a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, and an employee among others. As a kid, and particularly as a male child, I took it for granted that she would take care of me, regardless of what she was going through. It never occurred to me that what was happening at work, or what was happening between my parents, could affect my mother deeply. All I ever really knew was that my dinner was going to be cooked, my clothes were going to be washed, my sheets clean, and the home I lived in well kept. Those things I never doubted.
It wasn’t until I became a therapist and saw a pattern among my clients that I realized how physically and emotionally draining it can be for one person to take on all those roles. I see women who always put others before themselves and it wears them out. When I ask questions like “What would you like to do for yourself?” they often just sit and shake their heads, unable to think of anything. These women literally have not thought of themselves as anything except a mother/employee/wife in years. I might then ask another way, “If you had some magical ability to make the world stand still and you could do ANYTHING, what would you do?”. Given the freedom of imagination that affords unlimited power and resources what would a mother choose? I’ve heard “I would love to just take a nap!”, and I’ve heard “I’d love to be able to spend time with my kids without worrying about _______ (my job, my father, my bills, etc.).” This simultaneously speaks to how dedicated mothers are, that they cannot even imagine a world where they don’t worry about their family first, and it also says a lot about our social structure, that we expect women to be so self-sacrificing that they can’t even imagine doing solely for themselves.
We have shifted culturally from the sort of 1950’s “ideal” American family in which the husband went off to work every day and the wife stayed home and took care of the house and the children. Despite expecting women to work a fulltime job to help support the family financially we still have the same cultural expectations about division of labor within the household. This creates role strain and role conflict, often in physically and emotionally damaging amounts, for many women. (Learn more about role strain and role conflict here). Nor is this a new phenomenon of the 21st century with our fast paced, technology based society. In 1966 the Rolling Stones wrote “Mother’s Little Helper” about housewives of the day taking (and often becoming addicted to and/or overdosing on) prescription sedatives. Today women still do the majority of housework while also working outside the home. A 2010 study showed that women spend about 25.9 hours a week taking care of home and children to men’s 16.8 hours. The women who I’ve spoken with feel driven and even if they could sit and try to relax after work most would feel too guilty. Is it any surprise then, that so many mothers feel anxious and/or depressed? What a tragedy that these women who take care of us all are, arguably, underappreciated.
Finally, I’d like to take a moment to share my appreciation for my own mother. I may not have fully appreciated everything that you did for me growing up and I certainly took for granted that you would always be there, but now I recognize that if not for you I would not be the compassionate and thoughtful person that I am today. These traits are essential to who I am as a therapist and as a person, and for that I cannot ever thank you enough. I love you, mom.
Do you experience role conflict and role strain? I’m happy to help you sort through these complex emotions and learn to let go of some of the anxiety and/or depression that comes as a result. Call (706) 534 – 8558 or e-mail me at Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com to setup a time to talk.
My daughter is a senior in high school. That means we have spent much of the past year focusing on ACT testing and scores, college applications, essays, etc., etc. On February tenth all of the hard work, anxiety and stress of this past year came to an end as she received her acceptance into her number one choice of schools, which also happens to be both of her parents’ alma mater, so to say we were all thrilled would be putting it mildly! But something else also happened once the dust settled, I realized that very soon my first born will be leaving for college, not only a huge life change for her but a major life transition for me. While the abstract idea has always been there, now it is staring me in the face and is something I can no longer ignore. What does that mean for me? The past 18 years my primary focus has been on parenting my kids, and in two short years they will both be in college. So part of my “job”, and a lot of my identity is going to change. While I will always be mom to my son and daughter my role in their lives will without a doubt soon be different. I am sad about my kids leaving home but I also realize once I have readjusted there will be many positive aspects of my new life, such as more time for me and my husband to do things on our own without worrying about 2 other people’s schedules, and time to begin focusing more on myself and consider other interests in my life I may not have had time for before. I joked as senior year started that I wasn’t quite ready for this but it was coming whether I was ready or not. Life moves on and changes are going to happen, whether we are ready or not! Getting married, starting a new job, moving into a new house, having a child, the list goes on and on, are all positive changes in life. But even the positive changes are stressful and can be hard to deal with. There may be mixed emotions, I can absolutely relate to feeling very happy and very sad at the same time as we approach graduation day. There might be feelings of loss, even about a much anticipated event, and there can also be an identity shift, all things I can currently relate to. Major life transitions cause stress, that is a fact. If you don’t take care of yourself the stress can lead to increased anxiety, health problems and even depression. During major life transitions it is important to pay attention to yourself and take care of yourself.
The following article by Dr. Shannon Kolakowski talks about ways to make the most of life transitions and has some good pointers on how to take care of yourself during major life changes.
I believe one of the most important things to do during any stressful time is to rely on your support system. It can be helpful to turn to supportive people in your life during these times. If you feel like you need some added support surrounding a major change or transition in your life give me a call or send me an email and we can set up an appointment, 706-425-8900 or email@example.com Beth Jackson, LCSW Alpharetta, Georgia
If therapy is exercise for your brain, that makes me a personal trainer. Time to rethink my work wardrobe!
I have a confession to make. If you promise to keep it just between us I will tell you. Agreed? So, sometimes my clients will say to me “Hey, this was really helpful. I appreciate what you’re doing for me.” My response is generally, “I’m so glad you found our session helpful.” But inside? Inside I’m thinking “I have no idea why this was helpful. I really thought we didn’t get much done today.” Rest assured, I’m not some dope who’s faking his way through being a therapist. Every therapist I know has a similar story.
There’s an excellent book on the subject that has eased my mind and helped me make sense of what might be happening for my clients in therapy. It’s called Why Therapy Works: Using Our Minds to Change Our Brains by Loius Cozolino. It has to do with the concept of neuroplasticity and how thoughts actually change our brains functioning. According to Cozolino neuroplasticity “refers to any changes among, between, and within neurons as a result of learning or the natural processes of healthy development. It is the ability of the nervous system to change in response to experience and to encode that experience into its structure.” In other words, our brains literally change in response to our experience. I liken this change to the growth we see in our muscles because of exercise.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of hanging around with some serious weightlifters you might have seen them nudge each other in the ribs, give a head nod towards someone walking by, and snicker. Then in a conspiratorial whisper one says, “Someone skipped leg day.”
Your brain is not a muscle. In fact, it is the fattiest organ in your body. It makes up only about 2 percent of your bodies total mass but is uses 20 percent of your body’s energy. No wonder it’s so exhausting when you’re anxious all the time! (For more brain facts click here)
Okay, but what does that have to do with your brain and therapy? Well, therapy is exercise for your brain. If you have had depressive thoughts for a while your brain has developed to easily have those thoughts. Meanwhile, your ability to experience “happy” thoughts is undeveloped. You might say that you’ve been skipping happy day. When I’m asking clients in therapy to describe what they would like to be doing differently, what they might prefer their life to look like, I am like a spotter in the gym encouraging them “C’mon! You can do this!” At first it can be very hard for someone who has felt depressed for years to even imagine what “happy” is for them. However, with practice they can literally change the structure of their brain so that it becomes easier to bring to mind those “happy” thoughts. The same concept applies to people who are anxious all the time. They are well practiced at having anxious thoughts. Their brains have been shaped by these experiences and so they come “naturally”. Through therapy we will do the work necessary to reshape the brain.
Is it easy? No. Is it fun? Sometimes, but it can also be painful just like any other workout. Is it worth it? DEFINITELY!
If you’re constantly plagued by depressive or anxious thoughts, contact me today and let me be your personal brain trainer. I can be reached via telephone at (706) 534 – 8558 or e-mail at Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com.
Election anxiety is not unheard of in the United States as we carry out the process of electing a President every four years. Political scientists will no doubt study the election of 2016 for many years to come. Americans in general were hoping that November 8th would end the fractious campaigns and alleviate much of the anxiety that the majority of Americans were experiencing during the election season. According to the American Psychological Association, 52% of Americans reported that the election was a significant source of anxiety and stress ( Unfortunately, for many Americans the aftermath of the election has only increased their feelings of anxiety.)
Some people have been left feeling depressed or afraid, others angry because they don’t feel that the democratic process is being respected. Many people are having adverse reactions not to the election itself but to the conflict they are witnessing between others over the election. It seems election anxiety has taken on many forms in the days following election day. One of the major sources of stress affecting people post-election is social media. The anonymity of the internet means that people allow their anger and their fear to override their better nature and their social graces. These fractures reverberate through friendships and families. I have personally seen more than one person threaten to “skip Thanksgiving!” All the while there are those individuals who just want everyone to get along. Friends and family member’s social media feeds become battlegrounds putting them in the uncomfortable position of feeling like they are stuck in the middle of a fight not of their choosing. Some individuals who grew up in divided, fractious homes may be triggered by all the fighting and negativity.
It may feel like the conflict is everywhere, at home, at work, and definitely on social media. How do Americans who feel particularly anxious, angry, or fearful cope in this time of continued political tension? These tips might help:
- Turn off the news. Continued exposure to the aftermath of the election on the news is likely to only increase your anxiety.
- Take a timeout from social media. We all know that social media is a sea of memes and misinformation. The compulsion to respond leads to conflict which generally results in everyone involved getting worked up, feeling more stressed, and ruminating on the “battle”.
- Understand that people have the right to their feelings. Yes, even when those feelings directly contradict your own. Every person has a unique lived experience which gives us all a unique perspective. The important thing to remember is that these unique perspectives are all valid.
- Check out these mindful strategies designed to reduce anxiety.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by election anxiety and find yourself without social support at this time you might consider speaking with a professional in order to process your feelings and find a safe place where you can feel supported and listened to.
Contact me today and let’s work together to find coping strategies for yourself and deal with possible conflicts during the coming holidays. Call me at (706) 534-8558 or e-mail at Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com to setup an appointment.
Maybe you’re the kind of person that has trouble focusing. One thought seamlessly leads to another and that thought takes you to something else and so on, making it difficult to complete the task at hand or listen to a speaker for more than a few minutes without your mind wandering.
Perhaps your mind races about with one exciting idea after another, inhibiting your ability to concentrate on one concept for any length of time. You could be coping with ADHD, depression or anxiety, any of which can cause you to lose focus or make it hard to find it in the first place.
For whatever reason, an inability to concentrate is more than frustrating. It impedes kids’ schoolwork and adults’ careers. It strains friendships, stresses family relationships and detracts from self-worth.
The good news is the mind can be directed to concentrate better through neurofeedback, a non-pharmaceutical method of retraining wayward electrical impulses in the brain.
Measuring brain waves
While it’s normal for brain waves to vary in rate according to what a person is doing, some people’s brains get stuck in a too-fast or too-slow pattern for extended intervals, making it hard for them to focus. For example, a prolonged period of a slower state, which is called theta, can cause people to drift and make it hard for them to return to full awareness. On the flip side, experiencing the fast beta state for too long can leave someone too anxious or too excited to concentrate. Neurofeedback works by assessing and retraining such electricity in the cortex, or top layer, of the brain.
To begin, a map of a person’s electric activity in the brain is created by having the individual sit in a chair and don a thin cap fitted with 19 sensors that detect and measure the activity in the brain’s cortex. The results are compared against a normative sample, bringing to light any areas where the electrical activity is too fast or too slow, either of which can impede concentration and focus.
Re-training electrical activity
To retrain electrical brain activity, the practitioner will place one to four sensors on the individual upon those spots where the activity reads as too fast or too slow. The sensors, which are connected to a computer that’s linked to a video monitor, read the person’s brain activity as the individual begins to watch a movie. When the person’s brain activity fires too quickly or too slowly, as determined by the sensors, the image on the monitor screen dims. As the brain’s electrical impulses go toward the norm, the picture brightens and a click sounds, thereby reinforcing the better brain activity on two levels.
Each session lasts about 30 minutes, with two sessions per week recommended. The number of sessions required varies with the type of problem experienced by the individual and his or her response to training. Some people get a “tune up” session after six months or a year, and many people have been able to modify or stop taking related medications after treatment.
Although the brain likes to stay on a set course, the positive reinforcement achieved by neurofeedback challenges it to shift accordingly and permanently, thereby calming overactive impulses or boosting ones that are too slow, helping improve a person’s ability to focus and concentrate.
Better and better
Neurofeedback also can help with anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, autism spectrum disorder, traumatic brain injury, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder as well as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It also can contribute to peak performance in athletics, music and dance. Members of the Italian soccer team underwent neurofeedback therapy before winning the World Cup in 2006.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information supports neurofeedback as a viable treatment for ADHD (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19715181). The treatment can be “efficacious and specific,” that is, equal to or better than the current accepted standard of care, as rated by the International Society for Neurofeedback & Research.
Typically, changes are seen gradually over time, with, perhaps, a child’s teacher noticing a student’s improved behavior first, followed by the child’s parent and then the child himself. Gradual shifts that can lead to desired change and increased well being.
Pamela Key provides neurofeedback services for children and adults at Counseling Associates for Well-Being. Contact Pamela at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (706) 425-8900.