How To Stop Beating Yourself Up

When was the last time you heard from your inner critic? You know, that voice in your head that constantly judges you, puts you down and compares you to others. The one that tells you you’re not good enough or smart enough and says things you would never dream of saying to another person.

Now you may think this inner critic, while annoying, is relatively harmless. But this is simply not the case. This inner critical voice limits you and stops you from living the life you truly desire. It hinders your emotional well-being and, if left unchecked, can even lead to depression or anxiety.

Here are some ways you can silence that inner critic and stop beating yourself up.

  1. Give it Attention

That’s right, in order to gain control over your inner critic you have to know that it exists. Most of our thinking is automatic. In other words, we don’t give our thoughts much thought. We barely notice a critical thought has passed. Give attention to your thoughts, all of them. This will help you recognize the critical voice.

Here are some emotional clues the critic has reared its ugly head: whenever you feel doubt, guilt, shame, and worthlessness. These are almost always signs of the critic at work.

  1. Separate Yourself from Your Inner Critic

Your inner critic is like a parasite, feeding off you. You were not born with this parasite but acquired it along the way. Your inner critic hopes it can hide and blend in, and that you’ll think ITS thoughts are your own.

You have to separate yourself from this parasite. One way to do that is to give your critic a name. Have fun with this naming. You could call your inner critic anything from “Todd” to “Miss. Annoying Loudmouth.” It doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you learn to separate it from your authentic self.

  1. Talk Back

In order to take the power away from your inner critic, you’ve got to give it a taste of its own medicine. As soon as you recognize your inner critic is speaking to you, tell it to shut up. Tell it that the jig is up, that you know it is a big, fat liar, and that you want it to go away. If you want to really make this voice recoil, tell it you are choosing to be kind to yourself from now on.

Self-compassion to an inner critic is like garlic to a vampire.

  1. Create a New Inner Voice

If you want to defeat an enemy, you need to have a powerful ally on your side. It’s important at this juncture to create an even more powerful inner voice. One that is on your side and acts as your BFF.

To create this new voice, start noticing the good things about yourself. No matter what that nasty critic said about you, the truth is you have fantastic traits and abilities. Start focusing on those. Yes, it will be hard at first to let yourself see you in a positive light, but the more you do it, the easier it will get.

Life is short. To have the most fulfilling one possible, we have to stop wasting time on beating ourselves up. Take these 4 steps and learn to quiet that inner critic. Your best you is waiting to be celebrated.

Some people’s inner critic is stronger than others. Sometimes the greatest ally you can have in your corner is an impartial third party, a therapist who can see you for who you really are.

If you or a loved one could use some help defeating your inner critic and would like to explore therapy, get in touch with me. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.


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.


How to Get the Most Out of Couples Therapy

As a therapist, I often have a front row seat to relationship miracles. Well, okay, there are no miracles really. The fact is “fixing” a relationship takes work. It takes two people wanting it to work and then putting in the effort.

Having said that, I have seen couples go from nearly ending it to being back in love, and liking and respecting each other.

Couples therapy can be a powerful change agent, there is no doubt about it. But what allows some couples to make it while others don’t? The couples I have seen recover from marital issues and form an even stronger union have all had certain things in common.

Here are some ways you and your partner can get the most out of couples therapy and set yourselves up for success.

  1. Commit

Many couples view therapy as a last-ditch effort, which makes it all the more important to go all-in and commit to the process entirely. And even if therapy is your first attempt to salvage the relationship, it’s important that both parties give it their best effort.

This means even if nothing else has worked, and even if you’re both at each other’s throats most of the time, you leave any Bottom of Form defensiveness, criticism, contempt, or stonewalling at the door. These will only impede any progress that may be made.

  1. Be Open Minded

It’s common to be skeptical of therapy if you have no experience with it. It’s also common to feel skeptical that your particular problems or issues are too big to be overcome. While there are no guarantees in life, my professional experience has shown me that most relationship issues are solvable. But if you believe that they aren’t, you’re setting yourself up for failure right at the outset.

Real change requires an open mind.

  1. Do Your Homework!

You don’t spend money and time on college to NOT do any of your homework. The same goes for couples therapy!

During your sessions, your therapist will help facilitate respectful and effective communication and give you tools to get the same results at home. But it is up to YOU to use these tools at home.

Your relationship will not be “fixed” every Tuesday from 4:15 to 5:00 pm, it will be fixed from the work you both do on your own time. The point of therapy is to learn how to navigate obstacles and conflict as they arise in everyday life outside of the therapist’s office.

Couples therapy is a wonderful resource that helps many couples overcome challenges. If you’re willing to commit to the process, have an open mind, and do the homework, you and your partner have an excellent chance of creating a healthy and respectful relationship.

If you are looking for a couple’s therapist, I’d be happy to speak with you. Let’s talk and see if I might be a good fit for the both of you.


3 Ways Individual Counseling Can Help Your Marriage

Even happily married couples can hit obstacles along the way. When this happens, couples can either go it alone and try to work through their issues themselves, or they can seek the guidance of a trained and experienced marriage counselor. While some couples feel their problems should be kept private, many more are finding the value of seeking help from an impartial and nonjudgmental third party.

Here are 3 ways individual counseling can help your marriage.

  1. Identifying Behavioral Patterns

Most of us are aware of our partner’s behaviors but unaware of our own. And, most challenges faced by spouses is the result of the patterns between them. But when you only see half (or less) of the dysfunctional patterns, the problems in the marriage can seem confusing and overwhelming.

A therapist is trained to help individuals recognize their own negative patterns and how they manifest in a relationship. The result is both partners are empowered and able to take a step back during conflicts as they occur, preventing escalation.

As a bonus, a therapist can also point out the strengths and resources they find in your relationship so you can leverage and learn how to nourish them.

  1. Change at the Root Level

Once your therapist has helped you identify negative patterns, they can then help you understand why they are happening and assist you in changing them. Most behavioral patterns are formed and ingrained when we are very young – before we become self-aware and before we’ve met our significant others.

Understanding why your partner reacts a certain way can create empathy and help communication. Once you’ve laid this solid foundation, your therapist can give you specific adjustments that can change your relationship for the better.

  1. Deeper Intimacy

A therapist will not only tailor changes based on your unique dynamics as a couple, they will help you practice the adjustments and encourage you to remain vigilant and consistent. The result is a deeper intimacy and a deeper understanding of each other with a renewed commitment to meet each other’s needs and desires.

While you may first feel embarrassed discussing marital problems in front of a stranger, ultimately a marriage counselor can bring you both to a more fulfilling phase of your partnership.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.


5 Signs That You Might be Struggling with Anxiety

It’s normal to feel anxious from time to time. Perhaps you get a bit nervous speaking in front of people or going on a job interview. But for some people, anxiety becomes a frequent and forceful occurrence that completely takes over their lives.

Since anxiety comes in many forms, for instance panic attacks, phobias and social anxiety, it can often be difficult to tell if what you’re experiencing is “normal” or has crossed the line into a mood disorder.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may want to speak with a counselor who can help you cope with your anxiety.

Excessive Worry

General anxiety disorder (GAD), the broadest type of anxiety, is characterized by excessive worry. People with GAD worry too much about everyday things, both big and small. But what constitutes “too much worry?”

With GAD, people are plagued with persistent, anxious thoughts most days of the week. This anxiety can become so overwhelming it interferes with their daily life. If you are worrying to a degree that you have trouble doing daily tasks and are suffering with your emotions, it may be time to speak with a therapist.

Trouble Sleeping

Sleep issues such as falling asleep or staying asleep have been associated with a myriad of health conditions, both physical and psychological. It’s normal for people to have trouble sleeping from time to time. Perhaps you find yourself tossing and turning before a big job interview or giving a presentation.

However, if you find yourself night after night lying awake, anxious about specific problems (such as relationship problems or financial difficulties), or even about nothing in particular, it may be a sign of an anxiety disorder.

Muscle Tension

Anxiety disorders can often be accompanied by persistent muscle tension. Do you find yourself clenching your jaw or balling your fists throughout the day? You may have lived with this chronic muscular tension for so long you don’t even realize it anymore. While exercise can help relax muscles, therapy will get to the root cause of the anxiety.

Digestive Problems

While anxiety lives in the mind, it is often manifested in the body through chronic digestive problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome. Our guts are very sensitive to emotional and psychological stress. Unfortunately, digestive upset can often make a person feel even more anxious.

Panic Attacks

Panic attacks can be a frightening experience. You are suddenly gripped with an overwhelming feeling of dread and fear. These are often accompanied by physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, racing heart, dizziness, and profuse sweating. Though not everyone who has an anxiety disorder will experience panic attacks, but those that do live in constant fear.

Anxiety disorders keep people from living a joyful and fulfilling life. Luckily there is help. A therapist can assist in uncovering the root cause of the anxiety and offer tools to cope.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.


3 Ingredients to a Happy Marriage

Have you ever wondered why some marriages last decades while others barely go two years? Why do some couples thrive and grow together while others crash and burn?

The secret? There are three secrets, actually; three ingredients to a happy and successful marriage. Without all three of these, many couples will struggle to remain connected and committed.

Communication

Communication is to a marriage what gasoline is to an automobile: without it, you’re not going anywhere. And the better the communication, the longer the “motor” will last.

The words we choose to connect with others are incredibly important. Use the right ones and you generate feelings of love, safety, and security. Use the wrong ones and your partner is apt to feel anger and resentment.

It is often said that HOW you say something is as important as WHAT you say, and in many ways, this is true. When you ask your spouse a question, is their answer thoughtful or dismissive? Do they say, “Yes, that sounds like a great plan,” or “Whatever?” Both are affirmative, but only the first sentence is positive and respectful.

But perhaps the most important factor of good communication is listening. Many marriages have been improved when one or more people learn how to be a good listener.

How exactly do you become a good listener? Two ways: Start caring more about your partner – when you care for someone, you are truly interested in what they have to say. Second, when they are speaking, don’t think about other things – don’t think about your day or what you’d like to have for dinner – don’t even think about how you’d like to respond to what your partner is saying, simply LISTEN to them. Give them your full attention.

The better listeners and communicators you both are, the better partners you can be to each other.

Know Yourself and Your Partner

The sad fact is, most people spend more time trying to understand how their smartphone or tablet works than how their own personality – or that of their partner -works. We’re all individuals with unique quirks and behaviors. The more we understand about ourselves and our spouse, the less conflict we’ll experience.

Put Each Other First

Happy and successful marriages are the ones where each person is putting their partner’s needs first. When both are doing this, all needs are being met. Problems arise when only one individual meets their partner’s needs. When this happens, one person is happy, the other is left out in the cold.

If, after reading this, you have become aware that your marriage is missing some of these critical ingredients, don’t be afraid to seek help from a therapist. Sometimes an impartial third party can help both individuals get their priorities straight.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.


4 Questions to Ask When Looking for a Family Therapist

Seeking the guidance of a therapist is a wonderful way to fix your family’s communication problems and start the process of healing. But selecting a family therapist can be a daunting task, particularly when you are already struggling with emotionally pain or anxiety.

To help you with your selection process, here are four questions you should ask when looking for a family therapist.

1.Should I Find a Provider that Takes Insurance or Cash Pay?

Therapy is as much a financial commitment as it is an emotional one, and not everyone will be able to pay out of pocket for counseling. That’s why it’s important to understand your funding options before you begin therapy and potentially wind up with a bill you can’t pay.

There are different advantages to insurance and cash pay.

When you pay cash for treatment, you have far more privacy. In fact, the only ones who need to ever know you are in treatment are you and your therapist. Also, when you pay cash, you are not forced to search for an in-network therapist, but rather have more options when it comes to selecting someone who specializes in an area you’re interested in. And, since many therapists offer clients a sliding scale, no one should assume they can’t afford to pay cash.

Using insurance to pay for therapy means having less options and privacy, but it is significantly cheaper to get care.

2. Do I Know Anyone Who Can Recommend a Good Therapist?

Often, some of the greatest connections and therapeutic relationships come from personal recommendations. Before you flip through the yellow pages or do a Google search, check with close friends and family to see if they can recommend a therapist in your local area. When you know that a close friend or family member feels safe with a specific counselor, it will help alleviate any anxiety during that first session.

3. What Are Our Goals?

Every family comes to counseling with their own unique set of hopes and expectations. Knowing your goals before you start therapy will help you and your therapist know what you expect from the entire process. Before you attend that first session, sit down as a family and think about what you hope to gain from your time in therapy.

4. Do We Have Any Specific Preferences in a Therapist?

Do you have any preferences when it comes to the gender of your therapist? For many, gender doesn’t matter, but for some families, especially those with young children, having a female counselor over a male, or vice versa, may have a positive influence on the counseling process.

Do you want your therapist to specialize in a specific disorder or an addiction?

How about their trainings and background?

All of these factors can play a part in the process of choosing the right counselor for you.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.


Why People Misunderstand Anxiety

Did you ever play the game called “telephone” growing up? One kid whispered a secret message into the ear of the kid next to him. That kid then whispered the “same” message into the ear of the kid next to her. On and on each kid would whisper the message around the circle until you came to the last kid, who would then announce the secret message aloud.

Often the final message sounded nothing like the original message. That’s because every person has their own way of hearing and sharing information. Sometimes it’s accurate – sometimes it’s not.

In this way, you could say that language is a necessary evil. Without it we would not be able to share ideas and information with each other. But when each person has their own language filters, information can become skewed.

Personal information and language filters can make discussing and understanding anxiety disorders difficult. While we all experience anxious moments from time to time, 18% of adults in the United States are actually affected by a form of anxiety disorder.

But how many times have you heard a friend or a coworker say something like, “I was totally having a panic attack yesterday when you didn’t show up!” They weren’t actually having a panic attack, they were merely concerned you were late.

When everyone assumes they have an issue with anxiety, they believe they have first-hand experience of the disorder and therefor know what it is. But using certain language that may or may not be accurate to convey a common feeling (ie – being nervous before a job interview) is not the same thing as truly knowing something.

Panic Disorder VS Social Anxiety

There are two main types of anxiety disorder and for this discussion, it’s important to make the distinction between each.

Panic Disorder

People who have been diagnosed with and suffer from panic disorder believe very strongly that the “panic attacks” they experience mean something is physically very wrong with them. For instance, many sufferers believe they are having a heart attack. Some may believe the dizziness and shortness of breath is a result of some serious and undiagnosed illness such as a brain tumor.

Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)

People with social anxiety disorder experience anxiety when faced with social situations. They do not believe their anxiety is related to an illness or disease, yet have little control over their fear of social interactions. Their anxiety becomes debilitating when the person feels they may be singled out, embarrassed or ridiculed.

People who suffer from social anxiety disorder will do anything to alleviate their fear. This means decreasing the amount of social interactions they have on a daily basis as much as possible. This disorder negatively impacts the person’s ability to emotionally connect with others, and holds them back in their career and academic life.

Because of language discrepancies, those who don’t have an anxiety disorder sometimes believe they do, while those that do may assume they don’t.

The main point to get across here is this:

It is normal to feel anxious, fearful and worried from time to time. But feeling anxiety on a daily basis, to the point where you are concerned for your physical health or are compromising your career and personal relationships is not normal.

Anxiety Disorders Are Treatable

No one should have to live with a debilitating anxiety disorder. The good news is, anxiety disorders are treatable. A therapist can help to uncover the root cause of the fear and provide tools and strategies to cope.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.


Top 5 Ways to Reduce Anxiety

It’s rare that any of us will get through life without experiencing anxiety at some point. But some people have the burden of dealing with anxiety on a daily basis. Whether it’s over something big or insignificant, anxiety stops us from living a normal life full of joy and potential.

Here are 5 ways you can begin reducing your anxiety:

1. Recognize You Are in Control

When you are in the grips of anxiety, it feels very much like it has total control over you. But the reality is, you are in control. While external events can trigger our emotions, ultimately, we have the choice whether we feel those emotions or not. So the good news is, you don’t have to suffer with anxiety, you simply have to decide to show it who’s really boss.

2. Stay Busy

The worst thing you can do when you feel anxiety coming on is to obsessively think about it. It is much better to do something, anything, and stay busy. You could do the dishes, vacuum or work in the garden. The more you can focus your attention away from worrying and toward something that is calming and even joyful (gardening not vacuuming!) the easier time you’ll have of waiting out the anxiety storm.

3. Move Your Body

Exercise is a great way to alleviate the muscle tension that goes along with chronic anxiety. Plus, exercise releases feel good chemicals in your body like serotonin. But don’t sweat it, you don’t have to do a grueling workout at the gym to gain these benefits. Just a half hour a day of walking, biking, swimming or yoga can significantly help reduce your anxiety.

4. Start a Gratitude Journal

Get into the habit of writing down three to five things you are grateful for each night before retiring. This is a simple way to train your mind to focus on all of the good that surrounds you.

5. Speak with a Professional

The cure for any physical or psychological ailment is to get to the root cause of it, not simply manage the symptoms. A therapist can help you access your inner world to uncover what is triggering your fear and also offer coping tools and strategies.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.


Create Peace in Your Marriage and End the Fighting

As a marriage-friendly therapist, I am saddened by the number of couples I work with who are trapped in a cycle of arguing, conflict, and unhappiness. How did this happen? At one time, they believed the other was the source of happiness and joy, now they are viewed as the cause of pain, suffering, and misery. Want to break out of this vicious cycle once and for all. Give me a call today to take the first step to returning to living the marriage you always dreamed of.