How Family Therapy Can Help During This Lingering Covid Crisis

It has been almost a year since the world changed with the Covid-19 virus. After months and months of being locked down, many families are experiencing burnout from being forced to be home together so much.

While the vaccines are being rolled out, we are still getting mixed reports and messages from the media as to when life might return to normal. Some schools have opened, but many have not, and parents are still scrambling to figure out how to make a living while homeschooling their children.

All of this has caused many families to feel fatigued and a real strain on their relationships.

Family Therapy: Ensuring Your Family’s Health

Over the past year, many families have taken necessary measures to ensure they remain physically healthy during this time. Making healthy meals (instead of ordering pizza 3 nights a week) and getting the family involved in regular exercise has been a big help. But how can parents ensure they and their children protect their mental health at this time?

Family therapy offers each member of your family a safe space to discuss any issues they may be having. A trained therapist can guide your family, helping all of you to understand and utilize the healthiest communication strategies. He or she can also help to validate your feelings and offer helpful stress management techniques.

And, for anyone concerned with the safety of visiting a therapist in person during this time, family therapy can be just as effective when received through telehealth, or online therapy.

If you and your family are struggling right now and would like to explore treatment options, please get in touch with me. I’d be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

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Tips for Staying Healthy While Working from Home

For some people, working from home is a normal routine. This is, after all, the gig economy, and many people have been freelancing, making a living from their home office for many years now. But for others, working from home is a completely new phenomenon brought about by the global pandemic.

For this second group of people, working from home has completely changed their day-to-day lives, and many have found their overall health has taken a toll. With lockdowns and social distancing still mandated in many areas of the country, it’s a good idea to discuss some things you can do to stay healthy while you continue to work from home:

Keep Your Routine

We’ve all heard the stories of people admitting they aren’t showering as often and are staying in their PJs all day. While this was fun and novel at the beginning of the pandemic, allowing this to continue can negatively impact your mental and physical health.

It’s important to keep a daily routine. This means setting an alarm, showering, dressing, etc.

Get Exercise

You may not even realize how much more you used to move around at your office or place of work. The office kitchen and bathroom were probably farther away, and you took breaks just to chat with coworkers. It’s important that you get up from time to time and move around at home as well.

Stock Up on Healthy Food

It will be FAR TOO EASY to put on weight when working from home unless you make sure to get rid of most junk food and instead, stock up on healthy food and snacks.

Stay Connected

Not everyone is cut out for working from home as it can be isolating. If you’re used to being around a lot of people and are feeling lonely, be sure to check in with friends and coworkers throughout the day.

None of us really know when life will return to normal. If you are forced to work from home at this time, be sure to follow these tips so you can stay healthy!

 

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How to Recover from Infidelity

In my time as a marriage counselor, there is probably one statement I have heard more than any other, and that is, “I just don’t think I will ever get over this.” This statement is often said by my clients who have recently learned their spouse has had an affair. The second most common phrase I hear is, “I just don’t think I can ever trust them again.”

The initial shock of infidelity cuts deep. Knowing your partner has broken your trust in such a profound way can completely turn your world upside down.

Whether or not a couple can recover from infidelity depends on the two individuals and the bond they have already built. It also depends on the exact circumstances of the affair. Was it a drunken one-night stand on a business trip or an affair that lasted for years? Were love and intimacy involved, or was it merely a physical occurrence?

What I can tell you is that for those couples who want to try and stay together, it will take work on both of their parts. But healing can happen.

The Recovery Process

Recovery must begin with an absolute ending to the affair. All ties must be cut before the work can begin. Should the affair continue behind the scenes, in my experience, the relationship is very unlikely to succeed.

The second step to recovery is for the deceiver to be able to move past defensiveness and guilt so they make talk openly and transparently about what happened. This is a time when the “guilty” party will have to be humble, acknowledge their wrong-doings, and answer their partner’s questions.

Next, there must be a shared understanding of what led to the affair in the first place. Were there issues in the marriage that led to the affair? If so, these will need to be tackled.

In order for the deceived spouse or partner to be able to begin healing, they will need to feel genuine compassion from their partner for having caused them pain. There is typically a knee-jerk reaction to not want to accept the cheater’s apologies or compassion. This can be seen as a way to “get back.” But understand that doing so only holds you back from healing.

The person that was deceived will also need to explore all of their feelings surrounding the betrayal. Usually shock, rage, fear, sadness, and distrust are the main emotions a person will need to work through.

At a certain point, you both will need to decide whether you will stay together. If you choose to, you will need to work on rebuilding that trust.

As you can see, the process of recovery is a complex one and will require that you work with a marriage counselor to help you navigate the strong emotions involved. But, through commitment and work, many couples can stay together and even have a stronger bond than they did before.

If you would like to seek counseling for infidelity, please get in touch with me. I’d be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

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Yes, New Fathers Suffer from Depression Too!

Having a baby is an event that typically brings a lot of joy and excitement for couples. However, roughly 60% of new mothers suffer from postpartum depression (PPD), with symptoms being either moderate or severe. Fortunately, PPD is a common health issue with much discussion and content outlining the symptoms and treatment.

What’s not commonly discussed is that new fathers can absolutely suffer from depression as well. While this depression is usually caused by stress and lack of sleep, and not hormonal shifts, the fact remains that men can and do suffer from PPD. In fact, according to the JAMA Network, roughly 10% of new fathers suffer from PPD.

Other research by APA has also shown that a “similar proportion” of new fathers experience some form of depression after childbirth. Since the frequency of depression is fairly similar between new mothers and new fathers, PPD can no longer be viewed as a woman’s issue.

Because of these recent findings, researchers are now recommending that both new mothers AND new fathers (or expectant mothers and fathers) get regular screenings for signs of depression. This is especially important in new mothers and fathers with a history of mental health issues in their own past, or in their family lineage.

Causes of Male PPD

A study out of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas published in the Journal of Family Issues found there were a handful of common causes of PPD in new fathers:

No Education

Fathers simply didn’t know they could suffer from PPD and so ignored any symptoms they were experiencing, instead of focusing on supporting their partner.

Gender Expectations

Many men feel the need to be “manly” and act like a “tough guy” that isn’t bothered by emotions.

Repressed Feelings

Men are often reluctant to share their feelings, let alone seek help because of them.

With these new findings, hopefully, more men will pay attention to how they are feeling and seek help should they feel depression creeping on.

If you or a loved one are a new father that is suffering from PPD and would like to explore treatment options, please get in touch with me.

 

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How Social Media Can Actually be Good for Our Mental Health

Whenever there is a discussion about social media and mental health, there is generally a negative association. Many studies now have pointed to individuals developing depression or anxiety as a result of time spent on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

But is this a full picture?

There is actually another side to the coin that suggests social media can actually be good for some people’s mental health.

Social Media Keeps Us Connected to Those We Love

Currently, most of the country is prepared to go into lockdown again because of Covid-19. This pandemic has caused a lot of grief and stress for many people. But thanks to social media, we have all been able to stay connected with loved ones, share important information with community members, and stay apprised of the latest health findings. In times of stress, social media can actually be something that brings people together so we don’t feel so alone.

Social Media for Mental Health Support

Global pandemic aside, there are times in a person’s life when they may develop depression or feelings of anxiety. And many people who suffer from mental health issues feel as if they have no one in their immediate circle to turn to for support.

At these times, many people turn to the Internet to search for support and encouragement from the mental health community. In doing so, they receive the information as well as the comfort and guidance they need.

A Michigan State University study published in the Journal of Computer Mediated-Communication supports the theory that social media use might actually be beneficial to our mental health. In the study, researchers analyzed data from more than 13,000 relationships from adult participants. The data suggested that social media users were 63% less likely to experience mental health crises, including anxiety and depression.

Be a Mindful User

The study found that those people who use social media, even on a daily basis, to connect and share information, had positive mental health outcomes. Those who had an emotionally unhealthy connection to social media – as an example, those people who check their pages excessively out of fear of missing out, tend to have negative mental health outcomes.

In conclusion, it seems that the real key is to be a mindful social media user. Those that may have already developed an unhealthy social media habit that seems to have developed anxiety or depression may want to seek counseling to adjust their behavior.

If you would like to speak to someone about your social media use and how it is negatively affecting your mental health, please get in touch with me.

 

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How Counseling Can Help You Reach Your Goals in the New Year

If you struggle to set goals, let alone reach them, you are definitely not alone. In fact, it is thought that roughly 92% of the population has found it hard to stick to goals. This constant cycle of trying to set beneficial life or health goals, but never quite reaching them, can ultimately lead to depression.

That’s because reaching goals is empowering and helps us feel we are in charge of our life. When we don’t reach goals, we feel powerless and even hopeless that our lives can change for the better!

How Counseling Can Help

Just as you must follow a recipe to the proverbial “T” to end up with something edible, there is a formula that must be followed to the “T” to set reachable goals. This formula is often used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help individuals set and reach goals that will help them change behaviors and better their lives.

Goal setting has actually been shown to be a useful tool for those suffering from depression according to a study published in the journal PLOS ONE. The study found that individuals suffering from depression had more trouble setting goals and were far less likely to believe they could reach them.

The study found that those who were depressed had more difficulties setting goals and they were also less likely to believe they would achieve those goals. The participants also tended to set avoidance goals rather than approach goals.

An avoidance goal is one you set to avoid a negative outcome. “I want to lose weight so I don’t develop type 2 diabetes.” An approach goal, on the other hand, is one that you set to ensure a positive outcome. “I want to lose weight to have more energy!”

The study shows that counseling can help people with depression set and achieve realistic and achievable goals as well as help them stay on track mentally in pursuit of that goal.

The goal-setting formula used by most CBT therapists is as follows:

  • Identify your goal.
  • Choose a starting point.
  • Identify the steps required to achieve the goal.
  • Take that first step and get started.

A therapist can help you with each one of these steps. From ensuring you select realistic goals that are approach goals, to helping you identify where you are in relation to your goal, breaking down the goal into smaller, actionable steps, and helping you take that very first one, a counselor or coach will be in your corner, helping you every step of the way.

Make 2021 the year you reach those goals that will help you live your best life. If you’d like some help getting there, please get in touch with me. I’d be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

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Mental Health Therapy for Frontline Workers

None of us were prepared for the global pandemic we find ourselves in. Not parents, teachers, and certainly not the healthcare workers around the country. Doctors and nurses suddenly found themselves working double shifts to care for sick people. As the rest of the world went into lockdown and people stayed home, safe and sound, these frontline workers showed up day after day, putting their health and life on the line.

Many, in an effort to keep their families safe, found other living arrangements. The idea of possibly exposing their family to something they may have been exposed to at work was too much of a risk, and so many mothers and fathers also had to deal with the stress and sadness of being away from their family during the height of the pandemic.

While many frontline workers appear stoic, all of this stress and fear took its toll, even on the bravest among us. As a result, many frontline workers have found themselves burnt out and experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety

It’s common for everyone to feel stressed or sad from time to time. But when certain symptoms linger, you are typically dealing with depression or anxiety. If you’ve never dealt with either before, you may not know the symptoms.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • A persistent feeling of sadness
  • A lack of energy
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Sleep disruption (either sleeping too much or too little)
  • Appetite disruption (eating too much or too little)
  • Difficulty focusing
  • A loss of enjoyment of previous hobbies or activities
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Symptoms of anxiety can include:

  • Excessive worry
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Tense muscles
  • Panic attacks
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Irrational fears

Is it Time to Seek Therapy?

For many healthcare workers, all of their time and focus is on how they can help others. The idea of self-care and asking others for help is not something on their radar.

If you are a healthcare worker that is experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression as a result of COVID, it’s really important that you let someone else help you right now. A therapist can offer strategies that will help you cope with your symptoms and deal with the underlying emotions.

If you or someone you know would benefit from mental health therapy, please get in touch with me. I offer both in-person appointments as well as online support.

 

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Helping Kids Cope with Divorce

Divorce isn’t easy for anyone, but children can take it particularly hard. Many children don’t understand what is happening and many more feel the divorce is somehow their fault. 

 

Here’s how you can help your child cope:

Communicate Openly

The divorce should be explained in simple and straightforward terms. If at all possible, both parents should be part of the conversation. Your language should be tailored to the age of your children as well. So for instance, when speaking with very small children you might say something like, “Mommy and Daddy yell at each other a lot and everyone is feeling unhappy. So we have decided to live in different houses. But we love you very much and we will both take care of you still.”

Keep Things Predictable

Children do best when their environments are familiar and predictable. Do your best to provide the structure and routine your children have become used to.

Explain How Things Will Work

Many children will panic at the news, they will not understand how both Mommy and Daddy will both remain in their lives. So clearly explain how things will work going forward. “You will spend weekends with Daddy, and the rest of the time you will be here with Mommy.” You may also want to work on creating a calendar together so your child has something to refer to.

Never Speak Badly About Your Ex

Your ex may have caused you a lot of emotional pain in your relationship, but to your child, that ex is their mommy or daddy. Never speak unkindly about your child’s other parent.

Encourage Your Children to Speak Honestly About Their Emotions

Your child will sense that YOU are dealing with a lot of emotions, and, wanting to protect you, he or she will keep their emotions to themselves. It’s important that you encourage your children to talk to you candidly about how they are feeling. Let them know they can come to you at any time and talk to you whether they are scared, sad, or angry.

Seek Guidance

Everyone’s situation is different – and all children are different. Some may take the news better than others. You may find that your child is suffering more than you originally expected. If this happens, it may be a good idea to seek help from a trained family therapist, who can give all of you helpful coping tools.

 

If you would like to explore treatment options for your child, please get in touch with me. I’d be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

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6 Signs of Depression in Teens

Ask any parent what their main job is and they will tell you it’s protecting their children and keeping them safe. New parents spend hours, if not days, baby-proofing the house. They research the best car seats and bike helmets and figure out ways to ensure their kids are safe online.

But, no matter how hard parents work to keep their kids safe, it is very difficult to protect children against mental health issues such as depression. According to the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A), depression affects roughly 11% of adolescents by age 18.

If you are unsure as to whether your own child may be suffering from depression, here are 6 signs to look for:

  1. 1. More Than Just Mood Swings

Thanks to raging hormones, it is quite normal for teenagers to experience mood swings. But those suffering from depression will show wilder and more frequent swings into and out of anger, sadness and irritability.

  1. 2. Academic Problems

A drop in grades and notes from teachers can be a big signal that something is going on. Is your teen getting to school late and/or cutting classes? Are they not showing up at all? Never ignore academic problems.

  1. 3. Changes in Social Behavior

Is your child spending less time with their friends? Do they have new friendships that you question? Or are they spending more and more time isolated? Changes in social behavior are often the first signal kids are in trouble.

  1. 4. A Loss of Interest in Their Favorite Activities

Did your teen use to love playing basketball or spend hours drawing? Have they suddenly lost interest in these activities? If your child no longer shows interest in favorite hobbies and activities, this is an indicator that something is wrong.

  1. 5. A Lack of Motivation

Granted, teenagers are not known for being highly-motivated individuals, but those suffering from depression will show a marked decline in motivation.

  1. 6. A Family History of Depression

If you or someone else in your family suffer from depression, there is a very good chance your teen may also suffer from it.

If you have noticed one or more of these signs, it’s important to seek help from a mental health therapist. While you may want to, you can’t love depression away. It needs strategic attention and a plan for management.

A therapist will be able to assess your teen for depression and provide coping skills and tools for dealing with symptoms. If you or a loved one are concerned for a teen’s safety and would like to explore treatment options, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

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Recognizing the Signs of Postpartum Depression and Getting Help

The birth of a child is a wondrous and glorious thing. Until you bring that baby home and are responsible for keeping it alive on zero sleep for weeks and weeks. Add to this already trying scenario is the hormonal cocktail the new mother is living with and you understand why some new mothers don’t feel so blissful.

While it’s normal for every new mother to feel some stress and irritability in the weeks after giving birth, it is estimated that  9 to16 percent of moms, through no fault of their own, will experience postpartum depression (PPD).

What makes some women more susceptible to PPD than others? It is believed that a combination of things including hormones, genetics, predisposition, support (or lack of), and stress all create a perfect storm to experience PPD.

As if experiencing PPD isn’t hard enough, there are actually a few myths surrounding the condition that can make a new mother feel even worse. Let’s dispel those myths right now:

Myth #1: PPD starts after a woman has given birth.

PPD can actually start while a woman is still pregnant. In fact, it is believed that in 50% of moms experiencing PPD, the symptoms began during pregnancy.

Myth #2: PPD starts immediately after giving birth.

In those instances where PPD does begin after a new mother has given birth, it is not uncommon for symptoms to begin well beyond the first four weeks. This can often take the new mother by surprise.

Myth #3: PPD is the only postpartum illness a new mother may experience.

The truth is, there is an entire collection of postpartum illnesses besides PPD that a woman may experience such as postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, and rarely, but sometimes experienced postpartum psychosis. These are all challenging disorders new moms experience.

Now let’s take a look at some of the common symptoms of PPD so you know what to be aware of.

  • Guilt – You feel like you should be handling the situation better. Many women feel worthless in the role of mother.
  • You Can’t be Comforted – With baby blues, mothers feel overwhelmed but can be comforted by encouraging words from their partner or loved ones. But with PPD, reassurance feels like a lie.
  • You Fantasize About Escaping – While many new moms think about wanting to just get away for a week or two to get some rest and feel human again, women with PPD fantasize about leaving and never returning because they think their families will be better off. NOTE: If you have thoughts of suicide, it is important that you seek help immediately.
  • You’re Angry and Irritable – You snap at your partner, at the baby, at the dog. You no longer feel in control of your own emotions.

Not every woman will experience every symptom. But if you are experiencing any of these it’s important that you get help. PPD is very treatable, so it’s important that you recognize the signs, understand that you’re not a bad mother, and reach out for the help you need.

If you’d like to explore treatment options, please get in touch with me. I’d be happy to discuss how I may be able to help you during this time.

 

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