Blog : A better life

How do I get my spouse to stop using their smartphone?

How do I get my spouse to stop using their smartphone?

Are our smartphones the new mistress? 

In a number of ways, our brains don’t understand where our body ends and our phones begin. We see them as an extension of our personality, experience, and life. Staying up-to-date on Facebook, posting pictures, and having our businesses more streamlined, makes it difficult to know where we end and the phone begins.

As a result, when a significant other challenges the phone, we feel it’s an attack against a part of us. But the phone is not a part of us. It is a tool and entertainment.

Are the feelings of jealousy and other emotions that come up when a partner has been unfaithful similar to what happens when one partner pays more attention to their phone?

 
Couples that don’t communicate on a regular basis about technology, boundaries, and limits are setting themselves up for overt and passive conflict. Similar to when email came out, beepers, or other devices, negotiating the use of the phone is now something every couple needs to discuss.

How are iPhones and or technology negatively affecting relationships? Ex. Bringing phones to bed?

Smartphones have a high potential for negatively affecting relationships. For example, phone use before bed disconnects you from your partner, during a time that can be emotionally connecting, this also hurts sleep, which leads to mood changes, and is then perpetuated through on-going stress in the relationship.

What can we do about it?

 
Effective couples plan on “phone free times.” This could be 10 minutes of focused conversation at the end of the day. It may be watching a TV show as a shared experience and snuggling instead of each being on their phone. The bedroom may be a “phone free zone.”
Also, phone use may go in waves. For example a busy time at work may mean that phone use goes up. Communicating that is important, “Right now things at work are crazy. This week, I’m going to be on my phone more, but you can count on me to be mentally present for dinner and after 8:00.”
Joe intensive Marriage counselor intensiveBio: Joe Sanok, MA, LPC, NCC is the owner of Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City and is a consultant with Practice of the Practice. He has the #1 podcast for private practice ownersThe Practice of the Practice Podcast.
A World of Hurt: How to handle trauma

A World of Hurt: How to handle trauma

Las Vegas, Puerto Rico, and by the time this article is published, another city will be on our list. We live in a world of hurt. What’s amazing about humans, is that when other people are hurting, attacked, and vulnerable, we feel something too. We cry thinking about others being shot at a country music concert, hurricanes devastating towns, and other tragic news. 

As a counselor, there are two questions I frequently observe:

  1. How do I handle talking or thinking about so many tragic events? 
  2. Why do I feel for some groups more than others? 

The human brain and trauma

Let’s start with the brain. Neuroscience shows us that we feel attacked when others are attacked around us. Let’s work out from you. First, if you were attacked that would physically and emotionally hurt. Then if your family or kids experienced trauma, you would feel secondary trauma or even have your own experiences of pain. Moving out from there, if our community or state experienced an event, we’d feel a little less than our family, but it’d still be pronounced. 

As we move farther from ourselves, the more physically distant the event the less we feel. Then when you add perceived differences of culture, race, or nationality, the brain feels less attacked. So despite many of these same things happening internationally, it does not have the same weight for us. In a sense it’s “easier to ignore” because it is happening to “them” not to our tribe. 

But should trauma that way?

The brain has figured out that if it is overwhelmed, it’s hard to function. As a result, it categorizes trauma. If we took in all the daily crisis with our 24/7 news cycle, our brains might self implode. So the brain says, “I’m going to care more about this than that.” But should it be that way? 

Multiple theories have looked at how human brains evolve. Within a theory called “spiral dynamics” the researchers talk about the move from an ethnocentric view (my tribe and group) to a world-centric view, where humans are seen as genetically connected and all having equal value.

So what do we do with trauma?

Part of working through trauma is looking at how the trauma actually effected you. Then how it harmed your community. Lastly, what on-going dynamics harm the greater world. Often, it’s easiest to see how we as individuals have experienced an event. However, the jump to larger issues feels like it de-personalizes it. 

Through that jump in understanding global dynamics and emotions, we begin to regain emotional control and regulation. Because we don’t see each situation as one of “the other” but instead as a global problem to be solved. Whether it is Las Vegas, Puerto Rico, or the next town, our movement from ethnocentric to world-centric will not only help us take more control of our healing, but we’ll also begin to create solutions to greater problems. 

Joe intensive Marriage counselor intensiveJoseph R. Sanok, MA, LPC, NCC is the owner of Traverse City counseling practice, Mental Wellness Counseling. To schedule a session with one of the five counselors call 231-714-0282. 

Changing the stereotype: Casey Kiley

Changing the stereotype: Casey Kiley

How do you really feel about counseling and coaching?

I want to change the stereotype of “Mental Wellness.” I want people to look forward to a good individual therapy session, as opposed to feeling strain and angst because they are coming to therapy to “work on their issues.” To put things in a different perspective, this is similar to the difference between taking a yoga or workout class once a week to maintain a healthy lifestyle  versus going to the hospital because your health spiraled downward to the point of needing immediate attention.

Get it?

In simple terms, Don’t treat your mental health therapy session like a hospital visit. Treat it like your favorite workout class. Do you ever notice that during a really good workout, your muscles are getting pushed to their limits and there is a bit of fatigue. In the moment, it sucks a little bit, but afterward you feel good about yourself, a little more empowered, and energetic. Other days, your workouts are a little less strenuous and you barely notice the exercise; Like a good paddleboard session on the water or hike through the sand dunes.

This is exactly how I want you to view mental health!

Sometimes, you come to your session to enjoy some mental release, and other times, you have to work on things a bit to see progress in the long run. For many of us, it’s easy to view the logic of preventive care when we are talking about physical health, but it takes a bit of coaxing and convincing to apply the same concept to your mental health.

Taking care of your mental health can be a great experience for yourself, and it can be a positive outlet throughout your week. Essentially, it’s uninterrupted time to focus on you! Some weeks, you might have some frustrating issues to work on that cause a little bit of strain, but other times, you have the opportunity to talk about the future and what you want to get out of this life. We all have goals that we wish we would put more time into, and one of the most beneficial and time effective tactics for yourself is to pencil in a set, uninterrupted time to  focus on your growth!

Enjoy the process and embrace the growth! 

Taking this uninterrupted, focused time provides preventative care for future chaos. Mental Wellness should be challenging, but it should also be positive and productive. Your Mental Wellness is worth investing your time into; like your physical health. Changing the stereotype, starts with changing your perspective and viewing Mental Wellness in a different light.

Does my teen have a digital or internet addiction?

Does my teen have a digital or internet addiction?

Our teens live in a world that is full of screens. It can sometimes be difficult to know what is normal for digital addiction, video game addiction, social media addiction, internet addiction and what is not screen addiction?

Signs of Internet Addiction

The Center for Internet Addiction published the following:

Meeting 5 of the criteria of the Internet Addiction Diagnostic Questionnaire (IADQ) means you are addicted.

  1. Do you feel preoccupied with the Internet (think about previous online activity or anticipate next online session)?
  2. Do you feel the need to use the Internet with increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction?
  3. Have you repeatedly made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop Internet use?
  4. Do you feel restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop Internet use?
  5. Do you stay online longer than originally intended?
  6. Have you jeopardized or risked the loss of significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of the Internet?
  7. Have you lied to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with the Internet?
  8. Do you use the Internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression)?

Unlike alcohol and drug addiction counseling or custody evaluations, the field of internet addiction is still fairly new.

Teens and Screens What Every Parent Needs to Know

Parents and children fight, this has happened for generations. But these fights have changed over time. CNN reported that the average teen is on a device for 9 hours per day! This can lead to:

  • Failed attempts to control behavior
  • Neglecting friends and family
  • Neglecting sleep to stay online
  • Being dishonest with others
  • Feeling guilty, ashamed, anxious, or depressed as a result of online behavior
  • Weight gain or loss, backaches, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Withdrawing from other pleasurable activities

Pew Research also found that 68% of teens witness peers “stirring up drama” online and that 94% of parents underestimated the fighting online.

Trends in Digital Addiction

An October 2016 study by Piper Jaffray Group surveyed 140,000 teens and looked at 37 million data points. What they found is really interesting in looking at a shift in our culture:

  • Youtube outpaced cable
  • 58% of homes had Amazon Prime
  • Food and clothing are the only things that teens spend more on than video games
  • 80% of teens use Snapchat monthly

Thus for our kids, that feeling that “Everyone is there” is true. In fact, 61% of teens said they want to go online to see likes and comments from their friends. 36% wanted to see what their friends were doing without them. 21% wanted to make sure that no one was being mean to them online.

What Parents Should Do About Screen Addiction

There are three effective steps that every parent can do.

  1. Get informed about platforms. Understand where your kids are and what they are doing. Read about Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to be able to accurately discuss them. Don’t like and comment on your teen’s activities, it embarrasses them, it’s like giving them a big kiss in front of the school.
  2. Respect social code for teens. Don’t be overly involved with their online activity, but don’t turn a blind eye.
  3. Practice nonjudgemental conversation where you say, “Tell me more about…” Instead of “You should” or “You shouldn’t”

Many parents and teens need a mediator or counselor to help through this process. Tech can be a way to help your child find independence and growth. It can be where they appropriately begin thinking like an adult, but they need you as a guide!

Meet Traverse City Counselor Joe Sanok

digital addiction private practice consultant joe sanok headshot on stairsJoe Sanok is a licensed counselor and the owner of Mental Wellness Counseling, a Traverse City counseling practice. He specializes in helping teens and couples to navigate how to find more peace in their home.

Community Spotlight: Leelanau County Family Court

The Mental Wellness Counseling “Community Spotlight” series introduces key leaders in Grand Traverse County who work to enhance the community’s health and overall wellbeing. Whether it’s focusing on individual health or family dynamics, they are here to help!

Ryan Douglass: Court counseling

douglass-group-photo

Ryan Douglass used to envision himself as a private practice family therapist—complete with an office and a couch. Now as a substance abuse caseworker and juvenile probation officer for the Leelanau County Family Division of the Circuit Court, Douglass practices “not-your-typical” counseling for minors charged with drug/alcohol abuse, truancy, and other offenses. He says his counseling skills like understanding and empathy have been essential to interacting with youth and their families. “To build rapport, sometimes my counselor hat goes on over my probation officer hat. If a young person is having a bad day in school, I’ve taken time to talk to them,” Douglass said. “However, it’s not always easy to counsel them into changing their behavior. With the firmer hand of a probation officer, I can motivate them more.”

Diversion

Douglass’ probation work largely focuses on diversion: keeping minors from further involvement in the court. “Family Court is designed to understand that kids make mistakes,” he said. “It’s a balance between understanding that developmentally they’re at a rebellious stage, but they also need to have a level of accountability.” First-time offenders at the Leelanau Family Court are typically given an informal probation. If the child fulfills an individualized contract, the charge is dismissed.

Prevention 

In addition to diversion work, Douglass also has a hand in prevention counseling: preventing youth from ever stepping foot in to the court system. He collaborates with John Boonstra to run “G2” guys group—a voluntary, all-male, experiential education program. All year round, the group takes kayaking, biking, hiking, and fishing trips in Leelanau County. Boonstra says the outdoor activities “help provide protective factors and build up self efficacy, because the guys see they were able to accomplish a task or commit to something.”

John Boonstra: Prevention groundwork 

boonstra-photoAs Youth Services Counselor for the Probate and Family Court, Boonstra not only does diversion work like Douglass, but also organizes prevention programs for youth who are in danger of entering the court system. He is able to tailor counseling interactions to fit the youth and family’s specific risk/protective factors. “There’s something unique about each of the guys I work with,” Boonstra says. “I find those unique characteristics—what they enjoy and what’s going well.” Youth referred to Boonstra for prevention services often come from tough family situations and/or show behavioral issues, mental health problems, truancy, suspected or actual drug use. Boonstra says when working with this population of young adults, it’s critical to build a relationship while maintaining professional boundaries. “It’s very good for them to see me as an adult mentor, an even keel group leader,” he said. “I need to respond appropriately and be prepared for whatever situation comes up.”

During the school year, Boonstra and Douglass conduct regular check-ins with each youth at one of the Leelanau area schools. They also conduct home visits, family meetings, and individual truancy/substance abuse programming. Each meeting aims to prepare children for future success by promoting lifelong skills. “I like doing the ground work,” Boonstra says. “It’s rewarding to see them practice the things we’ve worked on like discipline, integrity, and making good decisions.”

Personal Growth and Freedom

No matter how long it takes a youth to develop such skills, Boonstra believes the ultimate goal is freedom from whatever physical, mental, or emotional struggles each individual began with. “I currently have a few young men who are on the path to high school graduation,” Boonstra said. “They are not engaging in the activity they were referred for—it has become secondary. We found out what helps them and move on.”

For both Boonstra and Douglass, the most rewarding part of their jobs is having a positive impact on youth and their families. “I recently ran into an old parent who I worked with six years ago,” Douglass said. “He said, ‘thank you so much for helping my son. Without you, we probably would have lost him.’”

Click here more information about the Leelanau County Family Court.

Confronting Success

Confronting Success

It seems some people are able to find success like a dog sniffing out bacon, whereas success to others is like looking for your lost keys. In one situation, success and goal achievement is just following the scent and in another it is a haphazard and frustrating experience.

When we hear “success” we often think of it in financial terms, making more money or finding a better job. But success is more than that, it’s creating change as a parent to yell less. It is identifying dysfunctions in your relationships and taking steps to successfully become a better person. It’s about identifying change and actually seeing change occur.

People that consistently achieve success do a number of things regularly.

Make a Goal Clear

What would make an impact on your life? When we dream about an “ideal day” or being an “ideal parent” it helps us to break down the core elements of a goal. For example, “I want to be more patient with my kids.” What does that mean? How would you know you have achieved that? You might yell less, have more quality time together, and sleep better at night. These indicators help to identify what you are trying to achieve.

Use Roman Numerals

Remember when you took notes in school? You were taught to use Roman Numerals to break things down. The steps in achieving success involve not just breaking down a goal into elements, but into micro-goals. If you’re hoping to launch a business, drill into each element to have 5-10 minute steps. Make progress when you have short bursts of energy and time.

You’re Not Alone

Often we feel like we’re the first to have specific goals and ideas about success. Many people have done this before. Learn from them. Read their books, listen to their podcasts, watch documentaries about them. There are so many life hacks that people have discovered. Taking some time to research and study others is a common strategy by the most successful people.

Make Time

Goals are achieved when we make time for them. Gary Keller, a co-owner of Keller-Williams, wrote in The One Thing, “You can go one inch in twelve directions or a foot in one direction.” We need to make time for our financial, parenting, marriage, and life goals. Setting aside 15 minutes per day for a year is 91.25 hours you will have worked on your new goal!

The most successful people define their goals, break them down, learn from others, and make time to achieve success. So what happens if you don’t do this? What will you miss out on in the world? But more importantly, what will the world miss out on from you?

Meet Joe

private practice consultant joe sanok headshot on stairsJoseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed counselor and owner of Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He also works with business leaders on mindset and leveling up. His top ranking podcast is at www.PracticeofthePractice.com

Joe Sanok: An Ambitious Journey

The Mental Wellness Counseling “Meet the Counselors” series offers a deeper look into each counselor’s background, experiences, motivations, values, and philosophies. In this series, I put counselors on the couch to learn why and how they do what they do.

Passion for Psychology

Joe QuoteWhen adults asked young Joe Sanok what he wanted to be when he grew up, he would confidently shoot back: a psychologist. “I’ve always been motivated to help people, and understand the art and science of counseling,” he said. Sanok would eventually grow up to live his dream job, although it wasn’t always what he anticipated. “The first client who tore me apart was a young girl whose mom would prostitute her out to men,” he said. “She had gone through horrific things and was set up for failure. Sitting with this girl whose development was in my hands made the profession real. That’s when I realized the gravity of what I was doing.” Rather than deterring him, hearing clients’ tragedies revealed the value of therapy to Sanok, and inspired him to embrace the counseling field. “The work we do is really important,” he says. “We’re dealing with the world’s toughest issues—the things that nobody else knows how to deal with.”

Mental Wellness Counseling

SAIL Champion 2After working at Child and Family Services, Northwestern Michigan College, and starting two youth experiential education programs—the Muster Project and SAIL Champion Program—Sanok founded his own counseling private practice in 2006. Kick starting his own practice was not easy, as Sanok realized that his graduate training failed to cover basic business/marketing skills. “If you own a private practice, you need business skills to be successful,” he said. “For years I worked a forty-hour job. Then on the weekends, I’d blog and do podcasts while my daughters napped.”

Despite the “years of hustle” it took to develop his two businesses, today Sanok appreciates learning it the hard way. Having started from scratch and emerging successful, he can now instruct other aspiring counselors and entrepreneurs the best way to achieve their business goals. “I didn’t just jump into private practice. I made a profit from day one because of how I structured it,” he said. “One of the biggest takeaways I’ve had from running Practice of the Practice and Mental Wellness Counseling is focusing on the clientele I want to attract, creating products for them, and engaging them in that process, rather than just creating products and hoping people will buy them.”

Practice of the Practice

Joe Working 3
In a typical week, Sanok may be found around Traverse City doing counseling, podcast interviews, writing blog posts, creating webinars, and consulting with private practice owners. He says the key to running a successful private practice is a sense of discovery, “because the things that work right now aren’t going to work in a year. Who knows what the next Facebook will be? If you’re not constantly learning what works in the business world, you won’t stay at the forefront.”

Sanok’s journey into the business/technology world revealed an abundance of professional tools and career knowledge—strategies he shares with other counselors on Practice of Practice. “When I went for my Master’s degree, I thought there was little scope of what I could do in the psychology field,” Sanok said, “but as an entrepreneur, I’ve realized that there’s a whole world of things out there.”

Improving Lives

Regardless of his next business move, Sanok’s ultimate mission since the second grade has not changed: to help people, and enable other counselors to do the same. He is doing just that through Practice of the Practice, where he helps thousands of counselors improve their practices and lifestyles; and at Mental Wellness Counseling, where he sees transformations from “angry kids who are now headed to college, couples on the brink of divorce who are still together, and families who have better relationships with one another.” “Every day people who have never met me walk in and dump their issues on my couch,” Sanok said, “and hopefully every day there’s people who leave and feel that there’s more hope in their life.”

Click here to learn more about Joe or to schedule an appointment.

Traverse City Counselor Joe Sanok
Joe Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC

Want to schedule an intake? Click here.

Want to grow your private practice? Click here.

Anndrea Terry: Inspiring Balance

The Mental Wellness Counseling “Meet the Counselors” series offers a deeper look into each counselor’s background, experiences, motivations, values, and philosophies. In this series, I put counselors on the couch to learn why and how they do what they do.

Survival of the Sickest

As a 21-year-old undergrad, Anndrea Terry’s life was changed forever at a pool hall. When a broken bar stool collapsed under her, Terry crashed face-first into the metal pocket of a pool table. “My top row of teeth were shattered and twisted up into my gums,” she said. “My face was so swollen that you couldn’t see my nose to my cheeks—it was like a wall.” After eight hours of oral surgery, doctors were able to save Terry’s teeth. With the looming threat of infection, however, she received twice-a-week dental examinations, five root canals, and a “laundry list” of antibiotics for one year. During this time, Terry was in “straight-up survival mode.” “All I could think was to eat, take my pills, and clean my stitches,” she said.

Nutrition…

Ice creamBasic needs like sleeping and eating became taxing challenges. Since she couldn’t chew solids, Terry swallowed milkshakes, applesauce, jello, or noodles at meal times. “I still felt hungry all the time,” Terry said. “The ability to chew has a psychological aspect. I could dump liquid down my throat all day and still feel starved.” Unfortunately, her heavy diet of milkshakes, ice cream, and junk foods induced digestive issues and a dairy allergy. “My body was in shock all the time. My stomach was constantly upset and I got really sick,” she said. Terry’s dietary battle drew her attention toward proper nutrition.

Yoga…

YogaAdditionally, Terry started practicing yoga, which allowed her to process her emotional and bodily trauma. “When I was in a particular stretch, I would feel a weird sensation in my body, and then all of a sudden I was crying,” she said. “It was all the tension I had bottled up in my body. Yoga was a way to start peeling back those layers of emotion.” Terry’s yoga teacher encouraged students to express their feeling freely, something she desperately needed to do. “That was a really big moment for me,” Terry said. “People would always say ‘don’t worry, you’ll get better,’ but at that point, no one had said “just let it out, whatever needs to come out.’”

and Therapy, oh my!

While continuing yoga and meditation, Terry discovered another emotional outlet in counseling. After undergoing therapy herself, she decided to make a career of it. “My recovery inspired me to pursue counseling because I realized how powerful being able to talk to people was,” Terry said. “In the Western medical world, we generally look at particular areas of the person, but we don’t look at the whole picture. For instance, for weight loss, we prescribe a plan to cut calories and work out, but we don’t necessarily look at our relationship with food.”

Healthful Living 

Anndrea T QuoteJust as her full recovery involved a combination of health factors—nutrition, sleep, exercise, and therapy—Terry wanted to counsel the same way. “I realized I could have approached my healing differently with everything that was encompassed with my accident,” she said. “Being mindful of the things we do in our daily lives all affect how we feel emotionally and mentally.” Terry’s “360-degree” model of wellness is based on the interconnectedness among physical, mental, and emotional health. In sessions, she not only relies on therapeutic techniques like motivational interviewing, but also yoga, meditation, and mindfulness—all while taking into consideration her clients’ diet, sleep, exercise/movement, self care, and lifestyle habits. For clients struggling with anxiety or depression, a few deep breathing exercises can reduce symptoms and “give them back a sense of control over their body.” “Mindfulness is cool that way,” Terry says. “It opens a lot more doors as opposed to necessarily always going into the deep end of the pool. In the long run, I think it gives counseling a better name because people don’t think you’re just laying on a couch for six hours a week.”

“I Live What I Love”

Terry is enthusiastic about expanding her counseling approach through more holistic practices and experiential therapy. She teaches stand up paddle board yoga/meditation in Traverse City and hopes to organize more group counseling sessions in the future, such as women’s self care retreats. With the lessons learned from her accident, Terry aims to equip people with the knowledge and skills of wellness so they can live all-around healthy lives. “The most rewarding thing is seeing people change—being free of something that used to confine them and just watching them blossom into their full potential,” Terry said. “Counseling gave that to me when I was going through my accident, so if I can offer that back in any way, that’s the greatest thing ever.”

Anndrea Traverse City counselor headshot
Anndrea Terry, MA, LPC, NCC, RYT

Click here to learn more about Anndrea or to schedule an appointment.

Want to schedule an intake? Click here.

Tarah Elhardan: Enhancing Women’s Wellness

The Mental Wellness Counseling “Meet the Counselors” series offers a deeper look into each counselor’s background, experiences, motivations, values, and philosophies. In this series, I put counselors on the couch to learn why and how they do what they do. 

Q: What has been your most impactful work experience? 

A: I worked on a crisis line at Third Level Crisis Center. I was able to develop the unique skill of phone counseling. I didn’t know who the person was and I couldn’t see or interact with them. There was a lot of silence in between and at times, it was very intense. I typically counseled those struggling with suicidal ideation, self harm, and those who were in need of immediate help. It was really impactful, and a great learning experience.

Q: How did you first get interested in your particular field? 

Woman smilingA: I’ve found this passion for women and women’s health. Most of my clients are young women who struggle with depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Unfortunately, I’ve found that it is really common for women to struggle with depression and anxiety. Society has different expectations of women, and women need someone to talk to. During one’s teenage years when identities start to form, it is crucial to develop positive self-esteem, self-worth, confidence, and body image. It’s really important for women to develop a healthy mindset and healthy life physically, mentally, and emotionally.

 Q: What is the most challenging aspect of your work? 

A: Not taking the work home at times. When you’re with someone and they’re sharing a hardship, in that personal space with them, it can be hard not to take it home. If you don’t engage in self-care and find healthy ways to cope, it can all build up and start to really affect you. I try to keep a healthy work-life balance, but it’s challenging because I care about my clients and their struggles. Self-care is key. It’s something I’m continuously working on.

Q: Is there anything you wish you had realized about this profession before you started? 

A: How helpful it is to take care of yourself. To work in the mental health field, you have to be able to take care of yourself or burnout is just inevitable. As a new counselor, you know you’re going to hear people’s stories and struggles, but I don’t think you really understand how heavy that can weigh on a person. It can be so easy to take on their pain. Some people are more prone to it than others, but the people who are prone to it are probably are in this field. That’s why we’re in this field, because we care about people and want to help and make a difference.

Q: What is the most important characteristic of a counselor? 

A: I think that having integrity and being genuine are very important. Clients are looking for someone they can trust, someone who they can feel comfortable around, and relate to. If you don’t have good rapport with a client, you’re not going to have a good therapeutic relationship.

Q: What innovative, new ideas have you or would you like to employ in your practice? Tarah E Quote

A: I look at the person holistically. Nutrition is also definitely an interest of mine. I’ve found it helpful in my personal life and also in the lives of the clients I serve. There are so many mental health benefits that nutrition and a healthy diet can offer. Certain foods can greatly affect one’s mood, mental stability, anxiety levels, etc. Also, if one isn’t eating, that’s going to affect one’s mood, too. I have plans to incorporate nutrition into my practice more.

Traverse City counselor Tara
Tarah K. Elhardan, MA, LLPC

Click here to learn more about Tarah or to schedule an appointment.

Want to schedule an intake? Click here.

Lucy Seefried: Intimate Human Connections

The Mental Wellness Counseling “Meet the Counselors” series offers a deeper look into each counselor’s background, experiences, motivations, values, and philosophies. In this series, I put counselors on the couch to learn why and how they do what they do.

Q: What influenced you to become a counselor?

A: As an undergraduate, I studied abroad in a few different places. I worked with non-profits in the educational and environmental sectors, and eventually found my way to human rights advocacy. I loved doing advocacy work, but it takes a long time for things to change. Part of me realized I needed to find a different way to channel my energy so that I could still help people, but help people in a way that I could actually see change occurring, rather than wait years for something to change. I wanted to have more of a direct impact. I decided to go into counseling because I love working with people one-on-one. I’m fascinated by people’s stories. I’m always inspired and incredibly humbled by people and their experiences, particularly how they get through difficult times.

Q: What techniques have you employed in your practice?

A: When I work with individuals, I like pointing out things they are already doing well and strengths they already have. Often times people come in thinking they’re not doing anything right. Since I’m not the one in the situation, I can listen objectively and see things they’re doing that’s working. I identify strengths that can help them move toward feeling better about themselves.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about what you do?

Lucy loveA: Being a part of people’s lives and seeing them change and grow. The therapeutic relationship is so intimate. When I was new to counseling, I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, people are just opening up to me. It’s crazy.” Now it’s something that I value so much. To be a part of someone’s life in such an intimate way is so gratifying. It’s a privilege to work with people who have faced adversity, to see them realize their potential, begin to make changes, and feel strengthened. I feel very humbled every time I work with someone.

Q: What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned from your work?

A: Being able to relate emotionally is something I learned while abroad. I was working with people with totally different cultural backgrounds. Even though they faced struggles that I couldn’t even comprehend or imagine, they still experienced similar situations and had similar emotional responses to those situations as me, my family, or my friends have.

The most valuable thing I’ve learned is that everybody has internal challenges that impact them on an individual level. While we don’t all go through similar things, we all have a very similar emotional makeup. The way we experience joy, fear, shame, guilt, and happiness is all the same. We may respond to it differently, carry it differently, or deal with it differently, but we all experience it and can connect through it. This is our shared human experience. There is not a person who I’ve worked with, no matter what their walk of life, who I could not relate to because at the end of the day, we’re all human beings. We are way more alike than we are different.

Lucy Traverse City counseling counselor therapist
Lucy Seefried, MA, LLPC

Click here to learn more about Lucy or to schedule an appointment.

Want to schedule an intake? Click here.

What to Do After Winning the Lottery

What to Do After Winning the Lottery

Before we talk about what to do after winning the lottery, and what we can learn from it, let’s just talk about money.

Money has the potential to really improve people’s lives. If you’re living in poverty and you can now buy food and not worry about getting by, that’s a big jump!

Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School actually gave a number of $75,000 per year as the magic number for happiness. Below that people’s happiness drops. However, above it, many people experience more unhappiness too.

So it’s no wonder that lottery winners often deal with staggering statistics. Such as:

  • According to the National Endowment for Financial Education, 70% percent of people who win a lottery or get a big windfall actually end up broke in a few years. The Review of Economics and Statistics found that only 1% of Florida lottery winners went bankrupt when they won small amounts less than $150,000.
  • A University of California study found that after 6 months, lottery winners were no more happy than the average person. Whereas the World Database of Happiness reported that studies found that 75% of people were happier.
  • Paris School of Economics found that winning the lottery increase’s the risk of death.
  • The World Database of Happiness reports that divorce only increases by 3%

Whether you have won the lottery, have a higher paying job, or just dream of more money, it’s important to think about money in relation to our relationships and happiness.

Money tends to increase whatever is already present in our lives. If you are a mean and shady person, money will make you more mean and shady. If you are a nice person that wants to help the world, money will help you do that too. Of course, some things do change when we have more money.

As your income increases through winning the lottery or career, it’s important to have clear steps to manage these new assets.

After Winning the Lottery Get a Financial Fiduciary

Financial Fiduciaries must put their client needs before their own. This is really important regarding investments, asset allocation, and their recommendations. This is not my area of expertise, but seeking legal counsel in this area is really important!

So here are some tips in my area of expertise: counseling and relationships!

Take Time After Winning the Lottery

One of the best things you can do is pause. A whirlwind is about to happen and your life is changed forever. The firsts days, weeks, and months can be overwhelming. Remember, you are always in control of what you choose to do.

Take time alone, with family, or with trusted friends. Don’t make huge decisions during this time. Instead of taking action, write down a “Dream List” that you can evaluate later when you create your Think Tank.

Value People After You Win the Lottery

Whether it’s Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, we’ve seen that giving and relationships are the things that lead people to the most happiness over time. That is why it’s important to evaluate what people have been in your life before winning.

  • Who helped you in difficult situations?
  • Who made you into the wo/man you are today?
  • If you lost it all, who would you still enjoy being with?

These are the people to focus your energy on. Over the coming months, you may need to set new boundaries, such as:

  • Change your personal email
  • Have an assistant manage your scheduling
  • Learn to set new boundaries with family members
  • Create legal protections
  • Have trusted professionals and friends on your Think Tank
  • Set life goals to enjoy the lottery money, while also planning for future generations
  • Create rhythms with your spouse or significant other to stay connected

It’s a lot to take in after winning the lottery!

Assemble a Think Tank Post-Lottery Win

Assembling a Think Tank that meets monthly after you win the lottery and then quarterly then eventually annually is one of the best ways to create happiness, sustained wealth, and a balanced point of view.

A typical Think Tank will include:

  1. Attorney
  2. Financial Fiduciary
  3. 1-2 Trusted friends
  4. Spouse or significant other
  5. Life Leader (pastor, spiritual guide, counselor)

The goal is that they are your guides, not voting members of your life. You are inviting them into this group and you get to choose who is there to guide you.

Emotional Impact of Winning

What to do after winning the lottery is really a tough decision. Don’t be a statistic! Plan with professionals and trusted friends/family through a Think Tank model. Unexpected emotions will come out and a counselor or therapist can help you work on these (and they have to follow strict confidentiality by law).

If you take time to pause, plan, and create your Think Tank you’ll invest in others, create more good in the world, and plan for the future.

Traverse City counselor Joe headshotJoseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed counselor that helps people with the emotions and planning for financial transitions such as winning the lottery, receiving an inheritance, and having a successful business. 

Want to schedule with Joe? 231-714-0282 ext. 700

5 Ways to Promote Mental Health Every Week

5 Ways to Promote Mental Health Every Week

By Tarah K. Elhardan, MA, LPC, NCC

Last week, as I was laying on my yoga mat in the beginning of a Friday evening yoga class, my instructor gracefully stated that “one is the union of the mind, body and consciousness.” As a mental health professional, this truly resonated with me and I thought about it as I practiced that night. Overall health requires so more than drinking green smoothies, practicing yoga or running a 5k.

Now don’t get me wrong, while those are all healthy things that I also engage in, being in good health is so much more. Mental health is an essential and vital piece to one’s overall health. May is national Mental Health month and here are five ways that you can promote your own individual mental health each week.

Mental Health Tip #1 | Creativity and Play

Coloring books are not just for kids anymore – they’re for everyone and actually can be quite helpful in reducing stress. Coloring also can provide a space for creativity. Recent studies have shown that coloring can offer the same mental health benefits as meditation. Coloring in between the lines requires concentration and focus, which relaxes the mind and can be therapeutic. Grab a cup of your favorite herbal tea, coloring book and Crayola crayons for a low-stress activity that will give bring you relaxation and allow your subconscious to drift away.

Mental Health Tip #2 | Grow Mindfulness

Let’s all hop on the Social Media-less Monday train y’all. We live in a culture of busyness, where filling up your schedule is looked at as being successful. Slowing down, disengaging from technology and social media can allow your mind to de-stress. Mindfulness has shown to be effective in reducing anxiety, feelings of depression, chronic pain and increase the ability to cope with negative feelings. Try eating your lunch mindfully, away from your work desk without any distractions, and focus on each individual bite. Take ten minutes at the end of each day and journal any thoughts that come to you without judgment or criticism.  Go for a hike with your dog or go for a walk in the woods without your iPhone – be fully present in that moment – think only about who you are with and what you are doing in that moment.

Mental Health Tip #3 | Self-compassion and Gratitude

By focusing on what you have or what you did well, instead of what you do not have or what how you feel like you failed, you can start to live a  life rich with purpose and meaning. Start each day by writing or sharing three things in your life that you are grateful for. Let go of any judgmental or critical thoughts, and allow kind and compassionate thoughts to drift in and replace them. Eat a nutritious and delicious meal that feeds your body, mind and soul. Work each day to maintain a sense of humanity by being kind to yourself.

Mental Health Tip #4 | Community and Connection

People need people. Surround yourself with people that love you, support your goals, dreams and nourish your soul. Give back to the community and volunteer as a mentor or local food pantry. Each lunch with a co-worker that you don’t know that well, or call an old friend that you haven’t talked to in a while. If someone is toxic in your life, let them go. The toxicity can spread in other areas of your life beyond your relationships. When you engage in relationships that are meaningful, it gives you a sense of purpose, community and connection to the larger picture.

Mental Health Tip #5 | Mindset

Mindset is everything. Working towards a growth mindset, the term coined by Carol Dweck, can increase motivation, self-esteem and productivity. It can also enhance the quality of relationships that you have in your life. A positive mindset can affect the thoughts that you have about yourself, capabilities and abilities for the better. As Theodore Roosevelt would say, “believe in yourself and you’re halfway there!”

Being in good health isn’t just about eating well and working out, mental health is just as important, if not more! Focus on ways you can promote your mental health, not about intervention when things build up or go wrong. Promote your mental health by engaging in the activities, thoughts and experiences above that benefit your overall health.

Meet Tarah

Traverse City counselor Tara
Tarah K. Elhardan, MA, LPC

Tarah K. Elhardan is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC) and joined Traverse City counseling practice, Mental Wellness Counseling in 2013. Tarah wants to reassure individuals and families struggling with difficult life events that they do not have to face their issues alone. Tarah is a native of Traverse City who has a passion for helping others find happiness and peace within themselves. She works from a cognitive-behavioral therapy approach where she helps clients find how their thoughts and behaviors connect.

She focuses on food intolerance such as gluten-free living, lactose intolerance, and other eating issues. Through her own personal experiences and research with she has found a passion for nutrition and its connection with mental health. Tarah takes a holistic approach to counseling, considering the mind and body as a whole. She feels that one needs to have a healthy mind to live a happy and fulfilling life.

Teaching Kids about Money

Teaching Kids about Money

When I was seven, I wanted a skateboard. My parents told me they would pay half of what I could raise. I needed $25. Magically, the neighbors were going out of town for a week and needed meet to fill their bird bath daily. So after school for a week, I walked next door and put more water in the birdbath. They gave me $15.

My dad and I went to K-mart and I picked out a skateboard with neon green writing. It was $30. I was elated!

But a few days later, my new Nash skateboard lost some of its appeal. A friend said to me, “Nash is trash.” I quickly learned that brands have certain meanings and my skateboard was associated with K-mart and not skate shops.

As a parent, I see it as my responsibility to teach my daughters how to earn, save, manage money. So what works?

Teaching Kids about Money | Start Early

Before kids can understand the meaning of money, they have to be able to ascribe meaning to things that don’t inherently have meaning. This ability usually starts to emerge when a child is three and is easiest to understand when a child is four or older. Implementing star charts or some sort of token for positive behavior can help to build this skill set. For example, we have a “Daddy Doubloon” system for bedtime. If our oldest goes to sleep like she is supposed to, she earns a Daddy Doubloon. She can then spend those for things like extra books, reading time, or larger activities.

Give money a value

Parents often buy kids what they want when they want it. I often hear parents of teenagers say, “They just don’t want to go get a job.” Often those same parents are buying their kids the latest clothes, video games, or iPhone. When parents delay or say “no” to each thing their child wants, they allow their child to feel the painful reality that we have to work for what we want. When children want something and can’t have it, it spurs on a motivation to work and earn.

How to get a Middle Schooler a Job 

In middle school, encourage kids to find ways to earn money with babysitting, yard work, or creating an online Etsy store. We’ve never had a time like this, where kids can start a genuine business. The tools of the internet can help kids appropriate learn to plan, create, market, and sell a craft or product. Earn on, children will need more help, but once they get rolling they’ll just need occasional guidance. Once they earn money, you can have deeper conversations about what percent to save, give, and keep. This builds foundations for adulthood

Summer Jobs

When your son or daughter is old enough for a summer job:

  1. Start with your own network. They don’t need to have the full interview experience (but it wouldn’t hurt). The biggest goal is to get them their fist job.
  2. Set Goals: Next, set some goals together. How much do they need to save for college or a family vacation? How much should they give to people less fortunate or your church? How much can they spend?
  3. Encourage positive money habits: Lastly, encourage positive habits. Maybe match their savings up to a certain amount. Allow them to use your car more. Or have a fun dinner if they save $1,000. The more fun it is, the better.

It’s all preparation

Our jobs are to enjoy our kids and prepare them for adulthood. When we start early, encourage early jobs, and help with getting summer jobs, it teaches them about what life will be like after high school. This early lessons of feeling the pain of not having money, will help them to grow into productive adults.

Traverse City counselor Joe headshotJoe Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor, business consultant, and owner of Mental Wellness Counseling. As Traverse City’s premier counseling practice, Mental Wellness Counseling helps kids, families, and couples to identify age-appropriate goals, plan for success, and thrive. Reach them at 231-714-0282 ext. 0.

You are enough

You are enough

This article appeared in Joe’s monthly column in the Traverse City Record Eagle.

Imagine Bonnie. She’s 47 and she’s a middle manager for a local company. The company numbers are down. Bonnie also had a father who was a hard working Detroit factory man. He didn’t have time for excuses. He had grit. From a very early age, Bonnie learned that she was not enough, but working hard could make up for her short comings.

We live in a world where hard work, achievement, and moving up the ladder are concepts embedded into our culture. Many of our religious, political, and family systems have this are part of their message.

This focus on achievement is one of the values that has helped The United States become a world leader. We value research, education, and entrepreneurship. Let’s start by talking about some of the dysfunctional ways that people view themselves.

A Dysfunctional View

That word “dysfunctional” is often thrown around. All it means is that something is not functioning how it should function. Think back to Bonnie. If her boss comes in and tells her, “The numbers are down, bring them up.” What is healthy in this situation?

Working hard to bring the numbers up is obviously part of doing your job. However, if Bonnie internalized this, personalized it, beat herself up, drank more, or spent all weekend pondering and worrying, that’s not action that is functional.

Most of the time, when we have a version of “we are not enough” going around in our heads, is is rooted in fear.

What Fear Does

Bonnie may be thinking, “If I don’t do this, then I will lose my job.” That may be true. But, most people will then fall into a mental spiral of worst-case scenario thinking. It might go something like this:

“If I lose my job, then I’ll lose my wages, then my house, my kids can’t continue college, and forget about having mom move into the house, mom’s going to be homeless too!”

Psychologists call this “magnification.” The general public might call it “blowing things out of proportion.”

Yes, the initial trigger of increasing numbers at work is a reasonable request to Bonnie, but her emotional reaction is not serving the function it needs to serve. Therefore, she needs an alternative.

Be Honest You

Let’s zoom in on a marriage. Each person has their own opinions. I want Thai Cafe tonight, well I want Amical. Yet the conversation usually goes something like this, “What do you want for dinner?”

“ I could go for Thai, but what do you want?”

“I’m not sure, Thai doesn’t sound that great to me tonight.”

“Ok.”

When a couple begins to bring their honest needs or wants to the conversation, it changes the dynamic. When one or both people are not saying what they really prefer, there are a multitude of choices and reactions. However, when both say what they actually want, the conversation becomes much easier. As couples are more honest, they can see the other person for who they really are.

The same is true in other areas. As you start to identify what function behavior is serving, you’ll begin to understand that a large percent of your thinking and behavior is actually dysfunctional. It’s not achieving what you want.

The path for Bonnie, you, and for me is to identify the function of our thinking, address fear and avoid magnification, and to bring our true self to conversations, because you are enough!

Traverse City counselor Joe headshotJoseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed counselor and owner of Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City. He is also a business coach, he writes about small business basics at Practice of the Practice. 

Consequences vs. Punishment for Kids

Consequences vs. Punishment for Kids

By Jessica Kelley

As a parent it’s easy to get discouraged from energy exhausted into trying to get an obstinate child to “mind” you. After multiple failed attempts for obedience, you can start to give up, and hence give in to your child’s demands, tantrums, and behavior issues.

How does this affect the parent and the home environment? It can lead to marital strain, increased irritability, sibling rivalry, a sense of loss of control, and self-depreciating thoughts.

How can a parent gain ground back on the parenting battlefield?

Consequences vs. Punishment

Start by giving the child consequences instead of punishment. You may wonder why, what is the difference between the two?

What is punishment?

  1. Punishment is action taken to reduce or eliminate an unwanted behavior.
  2. Punishment does not give the child a chance to correct their mistakes nor does it put them in charge of their actions.
  3. Additionally punishment does not offer an alternate desired behavior.

For example, a 6 year old child is grounded from watching My Little Pony for screaming at Mom in the restaurant. This may lead to the child being less likely to scream at Mom in the restaurant however they have not learned how mom would rather have the child speak to her.

What are consequences?

  1. Consequences are a either positive or negative result from the child’s choices, actions, and behavior.
  2. Consequences gives the child a chance to correct their behavior to avoid a negative outcome/consequence.
  3. Consequences give the child responsibility over their behavior, and give them a sense of power.
    1. Power? YES, power. This is a positive way to empower the child with the choice to influence their consequences positively or negatively.

How to implement Consequences

  1. Give them a choice when they are acting out negatively. Example: If you choose to continue to scream (negative behavior), then you choose to sit in time out (negative consequence). If you choose to speak to me calmly and kindly (positive behavior), then you choose to continue sitting with your friends (positive consequence).
  2. Be consistent and follow through. When you set a limit, and give a consequence, following through on your word is key. This shows your child you say what you mean and they can trust what you say.
  3. Give age appropriate and reasonable consequences. A 3 year old child will not comprehend losing TV for the entire day. Nor would it be reasonable to lose the TV for an entire week. However they will comprehend losing one specific TV show for the day.
  4. Let go of what’s not in your control. You cannot make your child change or behave in a certain way. Your consistency in following through with consequences will influence them positively. You are in control of your emotions, so allow your consequences to be about the facts and not get overwhelmed by emotions.
  5. Use “I” Statements. This type of communication is informative vs. explosive. For instance “I will not hold you when you push me in the chest.” vs. “Stop pushing me!”

Remember, the child will often get worse before they get better. This is the child’s way of testing the limits and seeing if they can push you. It is a challenge, but stay strong, be consistent, and support each other as you establish these new boundaries and limits with your child.

 

Jessicad Kelley Traverse City counselor counseling therapistJessica works in counseling from the desire to help individuals break unhappy and unhealthy cycles. Jessica is a native of Michigan. She started work in counseling from the desire to help individuals break unhappy and unhealthy cycles. Through her occupational experience, she has been able to serve individuals from various cultural and environmental backgrounds, religious beliefs, and various needs for community resources. She has worked with children and families, at risk youth, college students, and adults dealing with issues such as TBI, Homelessness, Depression Counseling, Anxiety, Alcohol/Drug addiction, life transitions, child/parent relationships, relationship conflict, and low self-esteem.

To call Jessica 231-714-0282 ext. 707

How to stop a racing mind before bed

How to stop a racing mind before bed

Before bed, our brains are preparing to work differently. The brain transitions from active awareness to filing. During sleep, our brain works to discard information that it determines is useless and stores information that is helpful.

The evolving brain

Over thousands of years of evolution, our brains have figured out that when we are in danger, we need to be hyper-aware. For example, if you’re camping and you hear a growl, you’re probably not going to fall asleep right away. Instead, you’ll be amped up for a while, wondering if it was a bear. Even if you find out it was a chipmunk, you’re still not going to fall asleep right away.

This is because your brain wants to make sure it is safe before it starts filing.

Fear in the brain before sleep

However, numerous things in our modern life trigger this same fear response:
1. Screens and apps stimulate the brain.
2. Reading in bed confuses the brain, since it does not know if it should be conscious or unconscious.
3. Keeping track of a “to do” list makes the brain stay in an unrestful state.

Tips for better sleep

Here are some tips to shut off your brain before bed:

  • Stop all technology 30-60 minutes before bed
  • Don’t read email for an hour before bed
  • Exercise earlier in the day rather than later
  • Keep a notepad next to your bed so you can write down ideas or thoughts
  • Ask yourself what you can do/not do while in bed, get up and complete the item you are pondering or let it go
  • Categorize your worries, anxiety, and thoughts before going to bed so you have sorted through what is making your mind race

Want help with sleep, anxiety, or worry? Call us 231-714-0282 Ext. 0 to get started

Anxiety and Productivity

Anxiety and Productivity

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 18% of people live with anxiety. Frequently, anxiety co-occurs with depression or substance abuse. Around 75% of first occurrences happen by age 21.5. That means that if you are with five people, one of you will statistically have anxiety.

How does anxiety affect individuals in the workplace? People living with untreated anxiety frequently have recurring fears or worries and they often have a persistent sense that something bad is just about to happen. It can affect sleep issues as well. This can lead to trouble concentrating or achieving daily tasks.

So other than getting counseling or medication, what can someone do?

Comfort-Growth-Panic

Anxiety is frequently a mixture of biological causes and environmental habits. When we begin to label situations that cause anxiety, it allows us to more easily work on creating change. According to the DSM-5 the following are symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder:

  • Excessive anxiety and worry about several events or activities most days of the week for at least six months
  • Difficulty controlling your feelings of worry
  • At least three of the following symptoms in adults and one of the following in children: restlessness, fatigue, trouble concentrating, irritability, muscle tension or sleep problems
  • Anxiety or worry that causes you significant distress or interferes with your daily life
  • Anxiety that isn’t related to another mental health condition, such as panic attacks or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, or a medical condition

Any given situation typically falls into one of three areas: Comfort, Growth, and Panic.

  1. Activities in our “Comfort Zone” are easy. It’s sitting at home when we’re all comfy-cozy.
  2. Our “Growth Zone” activities are things that give us a pit in our stomach, make us worry, but we know are good for us and make us stronger.
  3. “Panic Zone” activities cause us to shut down, we can’t think, it overtakes us. We’re not in a state of learning.

Our goal, to start addressing anxiety, is to have more “Growth Zone” actives to build the muscles in our brains to respond to anxiety.

Work on Mindset

In cognitive-behavioral therapy, there are ten “thought distortions” that many people encounter. Examples are all or nothing thinking. This is where someone starts to think in very black and white terms and can’t imagine area between two options. Other examples are “disqualifying the positive,” “jumping to conclusions,” and “magnifying and minimizing encounters.”

When someone living with anxiety starts to notice their own ways of thinking that lead to an increase in anxiety, they can create a plan to build tools to make change. Here’s an image that I’ve found helpful: 

How to overcome anxiety
Thank you media.psychology.tools for letting us use this!

Next Steps

Anxiety left untreated can often lead to unneeded emotions. If addressed, someone with anxiety can often have a sense of worry leaving them. Counseling, medication, and thought changes can all help.


Traverse City counselor Joe headshotJoseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed counselor and the owner of Mental Wellness Counseling, who helps people in Traverse City with anxiety. He also helps small businesses to help their employees to be more productive by addressing mental health issues as a small business consultant. 

Give Up on New Year’s Resolutions

Give Up on New Year’s Resolutions

MWC brain smoothies

Download the Green Smoothie Infographic

You want to lose weight, stop smoking, or save more for retirement. Every year we do this and every year, 92% of us fail at New Year’s Resolutions.

A University of Scranton study found that only 8% of people will succeed in their resolutions.

So maybe you should resolve to not make a resolution this year? How would that feel?

Life can continue down the path you’ve been going, or maybe there is a more effective way of switching out the negative for the positive in your life. The problem with resolutions is we make them into a pass-fail exam.

  • I’m going to lose 15 pounds.
  • I’m going to save $1,000.
  • I’m going to stop drinking so much.

What is it about the 8% that succeed and what can we discover about actual life changes beyond resolutions? There are actually only three things that are important to impact your life change.

Focus on Progress in Resolutions

In my experience as a counselor who helps people change every single day, the first step in making a life change is to move away from the “pass-fail” mentality and move into a “progress” mentality. If you eat healthier and gain weight, that’s a success. If you do one push up more than last year, that’s a success. Stop worrying about whether you achieved the goal, and focus on the process towards the goal.

Create Micro-goals in Resolutions

In Dr. Fuhrman’s book “The End of Dieting” he talks about taste bud changes. The concept is that as we give our bodies more nutrients, we naturally want to eat things that are good for us. This process only takes 10-14 days. So something as simple as drinking one green smoothie per day may actually fuel other positive habits with little effort.

Don’t Talk About New Year’s Resolutions

When we announce goals that we are working on, our brains actually receive a rush of endorphins by announcing the goal we want to change. By doing this, it’s the equivalent of giving a child a cookie before they clean their room, rather than after. Is the child more likely to clean the room if they already have the cookie? Of course not! Instead, brag about your successes as they happen, rather than announcing what you plan to do.

Whether you want to be in the 8% that achieves their New Year’s Resolutions or you just want to create a small change, focus on progress, create micro-goals, and don’t talk about so that 2016 will be the most positive year of your life!

Traverse City counselor Joe
Joe Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC | Ambitious Results

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed counselor and the owner of Mental Wellness Counseling in downtown Traverse City.

Help Your Clients Stop Self-Defeating Behaviors

Help Your Clients Stop Self-Defeating Behaviors

By: Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC

“All forms of self-defeating behavior are unseen and unconscious, which is why their existence is denied.” Vernon Howard

What are Self-Defeating Behaviors?

 In their book, Going Home: A Positive Emotional Guide for Promoting Life-Generating Behaviors (Honu Publications 2005), Drs. Gregory and Lori Boothroyd state that “self–defeating behaviors are any behavior or attitude that a person uses to such an extent that it diminishes the best life possible for that person” (p 5).

Self-defeating behaviors (SDBs) are behaviors used to protect oneself against perceived dangerous stimulus from the outside world. These behaviors are often not regarded as self-defeating initially, but rather survival mechanisms. An example could include a young child who is outgoing, but is continually regarded as irrelevant. This contrast could bring SDBs such as negativism or alienation to protect him/her against classmates’ attack.

SDBs tend to live far beyond the initial encounters and become staples of current and future personality traits. The Boothroyds further state that defeating behaviors interfere with the true internal self. Through continual use they can damage physical health, social and interpersonal connections, mental, emotional, and spiritual growth, vocational and educational connections, and financial stability (p 5).

The Boothroyds list of common self-defeating behaviors include:

  • substance abuse – used as a form of escapism
  • inferiority – constantly comparing oneself with others
  • excessive worry – can cause possible health issue due to created stress
  • alienation of others – can lead to loss of possible life-giving and changing contact
  • defensiveness – not willing to listen to others makes one shallow in understanding different points of view
  • negativism – it is hard for others to enjoy a relationship if it is never positive in nature
  • procrastination, disorganization, and indecision – these could all be unhealthy traits for the implementation of a career choice

The Continuing Pattern of Self-Defeating Behavior

 In Going Home, the Boothroyds describe continuing SDB as a circular pattern of behavior. Each step the individual partakes in further strengthens the SDB response imbedded in the unconscious.

The steps are as follows:

  1. Situation (Flashpoint): Something strikes a chord and the SDB is initiated; cues bring out the SDB response.
  2. Conclusion (what the behavior is supposed to prevent): Experience now shows that the SDB is the safest and the smartest thing to do for that particular situation and it is repeated.
  3. Fears (If I don’t use the behavior then….): Individuals wants to avoid being in a frightening situation without the SDBs that have protected them for so long.
  4. Choice (to throw the self-defeat switch again): This stage happens so fast one does not realize they have made a decision to use old SDB; it is an unconscious reaction.
  5. Techniques (tools to implement the choice): Techniques are any kind of thought and action that help promote and deliver the SDB.
  6. Results (consequences of the choice): Using SBDs over time greatly affects one’s emotional and physical well-being. The result stage can be an important avenue of change when one realizes what was lost and is finally willing to do something.
  7. Minimizing (denial of results): A person using SBDs denies that the behavior is bad.
  8. Disowning (dump the responsibility): This stage allows the individual to release the responsibility to anyone or anything other than themselves for their behavior. The individual paints him- or herself as the victim of circumstances.

 How to Eliminate Self-Defeating Behavior

 The Broothroyds share that “it’s time to rediscover and thereby recover home that place within us that’s not in form, not in time and not in space. It’s just here – waiting and beckoning” (p 41).

How to go about rediscovering oneself is laid out in the following 12-step program:

  •  Step 1 – Identify your self-defeating behavior: One should pick a strong, often-used SDB and focus attention on one at a time. The SDB chosen may affect other SDBs and you may kill two birds with one stone.
  • Step 2 – Isolate the flashpoint situation: What creates the stimulus to use the SDB? What particular events or situation arouse your need to use the SDB? It is important to connect arousal points so as to be know when to be aware of your responses to situations.
  • Step 3- Identify your favorite techniques: Techniques are used to carry out the SDB. This is the stage that gives you the ability to catch yourself before implementing an old SDB. The Boothroyds use examples of internal techniques, such an individual dwelling on past hurts or anticipating negative results, and external techniques, such as failing to meet obligations and manipulating others.
  • Step 4 – Do a thorough damage assessment: This is a critical stage in which an individual assesses and connects the dots, so to speak, with SDBs and the effects they have on many aspects of one’s life.
  • Step 5 – Identify your minimizing strategies: In this step, it is time to confront your past minimizing behavior after using SDBs. It takes courage for the individual to realize what is truthful about their behavior and its effect on the quality of one’s life.
  • Step 6 – Identify your disowning targets: Now it is time for the individual to face their personal responsibility for past behaviors.
  • Step 7 – Identify a replacement behavior: People need this step to fill the void in a positive manner that will replace the old SDB.
  • Step 8 – Identify replacement techniques: This step encourages the individual to realize that to be able to sustain behavioral changes will not be easy, and that it will be a continual work in progress.
  • Step 9 – Seize the moment of choice: In this step, it is critical that the individual empower the moment of choices. Take advantage of the changes of behavior one has been working on and don’t be afraid to implement them into a process of action.
  • Step 10 – Identify life-generating results: This step revisits step 4 but instead of listing a self-defeating behavior and its effects, the prescription of this step is to list all positive consequences of the life-generating behavior. Listing positive outcomes will hopefully be a positive reinforcement toward the implemented behavioral changes that are underway.
  • Step 11 – Maximize and enjoy the results: One should be able to take credit for his or her behavior. This does not mean becoming cocky about what one has accomplished, but rather giving oneself credit for the new pathway one is traveling in generating a new lifestyle.
  • Step 12 – Own your new behavior: Finally, one should be able to enjoy the fruits of his or her labor. Realizing the importance of this accomplishment will hopefully give one confidence to tackle other aspects of life that may also be leading to SDBs.

 SDBs are powerful avenues that people take to live their lives. Many times, one does not realize how strong the emotions are in wanting to not be hurt. The goal is to become what Abraham Maslow describes as a “fully functioning individual” versus an individual striving to survive and cope in the scary world that we envision is around us.

“Self-acceptance comes from meeting life’s challenges vigorously. Don’t numb yourself to your trials and difficulties, nor build mental walls to exclude pain from your life. You will find peace not by trying to escape your problems, but by confronting them courageously. You will find peace not in denial, but in victory.” Donald Walters

 

Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC is a counselor at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He specializes in helping families dealing with complex family situations, addictions, and transitions. Steve is also helping clients through the Intensive Recover Program, which helps with recovery treatment, alcohol treatment, and other addictions treatment. Contact Steve at 231-714-0282 Ext. 701

Steve Greenman Traverse City Counselor
Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC | Thoughtful Experience
Self-Esteem: Set-Up for Success or Failure

Self-Esteem: Set-Up for Success or Failure

By: Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC

 

Many people go through life expecting the worst. Alfred Alder, the 19th century Austrian psychotherapist, stated: “Meanings are not determined by situations, but we determine ourselves by the meanings we give to situations.” But you can help your clients change their perceptions of themselves and the world and, as a result, work toward positive and high self-esteem.

In the words of self-help pioneer, Maxwell Maltz: “Low self-esteem is like driving through life with your hand-break on.

When people have deep spiritual, physical, and emotional wounds, they can carry these burdens with them through life. In so doing, they cloud their perception of their own value or importance. And our perception of ourselves is what dictates our self-esteem.

In carrying the burdens of low self-esteem, people often substitute these feelings with dependency self-gratification methods, such as alcohol, drugs, gambling, and pornography. In some ways, these people want control of changing their low self-image, and for too many the answer is to indulge or self-medicate. Dependencies allow them to deal with the status quo and numb away the negative feelings.

What is Low Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem refers to the overall opinion we have of ourselves and the value we place on ourselves as people. Low self-esteem means that the tone of this opinion is negative: for example, “I’m unlovable” or “I’m useless.”

Of course most people have mixed opinions of themselves, but if the overall opinion is that you are an inadequate or inferior person, or if you feel that you have no true worth and are not entitled to the good things in life, this is low self-esteem. And low self-esteem can have a painful and damaging effect on one’s life.

The Ways People Support Their Low Self-Esteem

 Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning in their book Self-Esteem (New Harbinger Publications, 2000) list ways in which one maintains a low view of oneself. Talk to your clients to see if they practice any of these bad habits:

  • Overgeneralization: From an isolated event, you make a general, universal rule. If you failed once, you’ll always fail.
  • Global Labeling: You automatically use negative preconceived labels to describe yourself, rather than accurately describing your qualities.
  •  Filtering: You selectively pay attention to the negative and disregard the positive.
  •  Polarized Thinking: You lump things into absolutes, black and white categories, with no middle ground. You have to be perfect or you’re worthless.
  •  Self-Blame: You consistently blame yourself for things that may not really be your fault.
  •  Personalization: You assume that everything has something to do with you, and you negatively compare yourself to everyone else.
  •  Mind Reading: You assume that others don’t like you, are angry with you, don’t care about you and so on, without any real evidence that your assumptions are correct.
  •  Control Fallacies: You either feel that you have total responsibility for everybody and everything or feel that you have no control; that you are a helpless victim.
  •  Emotional Reasoning: You assume that things are the way you feel about them.

Ways of Increasing Self-Esteem

 We are what we think. What people take in influences their perceptions of themselves, and the filters they use to gather information about themselves is key in how they feel.

The problem with changing anything in life is that people fight it: no matter how bad they feel, humans are creatures of habit.

The following is a list of potential ways of increasing self-esteem that you can recommend to clients in your practice:

  •  Use positive self-talk: Tell yourself you can handle it and support yourself in going after your goals.
  • Engage in regular physical activity: Regular exercise fends off depression, low energy, and disease, while increasing stress management abilities and enhancing your mood.
  • Take care of your needs: Be good to yourself by getting adequate sleep, taking care of your personal hygiene, creating time to be alone, saying no when you need to, eating in nutritious ways, stimulating your mind, and connecting with others.
  • Let the little things go: It is damaging to your health to beat yourself up over every little thing.
  • Own who you are: Give yourself permission to like what you like and not like what you don’t like.
  • Practice self-acceptance: Get to know yourself. Let go of any need to be perfect.
  • Be creative: Creativity helps you achieve a greater sense of well-being and gain better control of your thoughts. Step out of the box.
  • Have a grateful and optimistic attitude about life: Practice daily gratitudes.
  • Have personal integrity and live by your values: Listen to your inner voice.
  • Participate in meaningful activities: Follow your passions.

The bottom line when it comes to self-esteem is we play the most important role in our own self-esteem. One’s personal happiness can greatly increase by taking positive action in changing one’s attitude.

Advise your clients to take time in their days to meditate and take stock in how they are processing the world around them. Teach them to be attuned to setting healthy boundaries with themselves and others, and not be afraid of asking a trusted love one to give a valid and honest assessment of how they are doing. Lastly, tell them to take the brake off, and allow themselves the freedom to enjoy the ride of their lives.

“Only as high as I reach can I grow, only as far as I seek can I go, only as deep as I look can I see, only as much as I dream can I be.” Karen Ravn

 

Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC is a counselor at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He specializes in helping families dealing with complex family situations, addictions, and transitions. Steve is also helping clients through the Intensive Recover Program, which helps with recovery treatment, alcohol treatment, and other addictions treatment. Contact Steve at 231-714-0282 Ext. 701

Steve Greenman Traverse City Counselor
Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC | Thoughtful Experience

 

What Happens in Rehab and Recovery

What Happens in Rehab and Recovery

By: Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC

“You can get the monkey off your back, but the circus never leaves town.” Anne Lamott.

In the modern recovery world “rehab” can mean many things. To treat addictions a person can choose long-term (usually 90 days) and shorter-term (30 days to 2 weeks) in-house programs. Each type of program has its own specific strengths and weaknesses.

Inpatient Rehab

The benefit of an inpatient program is that an individual is isolated away from their substance of choice and is thus given an opportunity to begin to think clearly. Isolation away from behavioral triggers allows them to focus solely on their recovery without distractions from the outside world.

Over time, family members and close friends may be invited to participate in visiting days or family therapy sessions. This helps to build the support system that is so crucial to those in recovery once they leave the rehab facility.

Outpatient Rehab

In outpatient, the individual has freedom of movement and is able to handle day-to-day activities of life outside of a facility. Depending on possible involvement of court system, there could be required drug testing in place.

An outpatient program gives an individual the opportunity to gather facts and converse with fellow members of the group to learn coping skills to avoid the decisions of the past. Outpatient care is best for those with short-lived dependence and is not recommended for those with serious or long-term addictions or those with dual diagnosis conditions.

What Happens in Rehab

Once an individual passes through the initial detox from drugs or alcohol, they will move on to the rehabilitation portion of the recovery process. The rehab portion of recovery is where the patients get to evaluate the underlying reasons behind their addictions, addressing those issues so they can effectively move on with their lives without going back to drugs, alcohol, or other addictive behavior.

In individual behavioral therapy, the patient will identify when they began using the substance and why they started abusing it. The patient will receive strategies on how they can direct their time to focus on getting involved in new hobbies or interests. Time management skills will allow them to better use their time so they have less opportunity to think about relapse.

Patients learn to identify triggers, and how to deal with these triggering situations when they come up. If patients have a plan for various tempting situations, they are more likely to put their plan into action and avoid relapse. This type of cognitive behavioral therapy also addresses thoughts that patients have in relation to substance abuse, or life in general. It helps to reform their thinking patterns and make behavioral changes toward a healthy, sober life.

The addiction rehabilitation process usually includes group therapy. These group sessions allow the recovering addict to interact with others who are in the same situation. It is often helpful for recovering addicts to know that they are not alone in their struggles. Likewise, it can be beneficial for addicts to share their own stories of addiction and recovery, as others find solace in them. This sense of community support is integral to the recovery process.

Most addiction rehabilitation facilities offer family therapy as part of their program. Addiction is far-reaching, affecting many more people than just the individual with the addiction. Family members are often those who are most deeply affected by their loved one’s addiction, and they are an important component of the recovery process for that person.

Initially, patients may be restricted from contacting loved ones, but later in the recovery process, family members are often welcomed to participate in family therapy sessions. During these sessions, family members can discuss pain caused by their loved one’s addiction and their desire to see that person live a healthy life. Family therapy can help to resolve issues so the family can serve as a pillar of support once their loved one leaves the rehabilitation facility.

Choosing a Drug Treatment Program

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are several things to consider when choosing a drug treatment program. These include:

  • There is no one-size-fits-all solution to treatment.
  • Different treatments work for different people.
  • Patients must commit enough time to treatment in order to effectively overcome their addictions.
  • Everyone should have easy access to treatment when they need it.
  • Addiction affects the way the brain works.
  • Effective treatment should address all areas of the addict’s life, not just the abuse or addiction.
  • Medicinal treatment is often necessary and should be used in conjunction with therapy.
  • Treatment plans should continually be tailored to meet the individual’s needs and circumstances.
  • Mental disorders are often linked to drug addiction and should be addressed in treatment.

A setting that provides recovery in a holistic manner and provides services that treat the underlying reasoning behind the need to escape or numb is critical to helping those we serve to find long-term recovery.

The best services include the following components:

  • Individual and Family Therapy
  • Dependence Education
  • Self-Realization
  • Individual Treatment Plan Creation

The service must be helpful in creating long- and short-term goals in the recovery process:

  • Establishing an individual relapse prevention plan
  • Daily reflections and meditations
  • Learning how to encourage longer-term dependent free living
  • Creation of a spiritual-based premise of a higher power

To meet the goals prescribed above a service covers areas such as:

  • Past and current medical history
  • Employment and educational background
  • Basic needs being met currently
  • Substance abuse history
  • Legal issues (current and past)
  • Family/social genogram of dependent history
  • Psychiatric diagnoses (current and past)
  • Personal insights and supports each client has

What Exactly is “Recovery”?

After a patient has completed a rehabilitation program, they are not finished with recovery. In fact, recovery is a process that an addict must work at for the rest of their life.

Sometimes, the path to lifelong recovery will be easy. Other times, it will be difficult for individuals to withstand the temptation to relapse. Like anything in life, it’s a journey that may feature varying terrain, so constant support is essential.

Prior to leaving an addiction treatment program, a patient will meet with counselors to discuss a plan for aftercare. Many addiction rehab facilities offer follow-up programs to assist the patient as they return to normal life.

These may include weekend stays back at the rehab center when the individual feels a touch-up stay is needed. Or a patient may live in a sober living facility for a while with other recovering addicts before returning home. This offers a supportive transitional time for recovering addicts before being thrown back into “normal” life.

Many patients maintain regular therapy sessions post-rehab, and some submit to scheduled drug testing as a way to keep them accountable to their sobriety. Group therapy is a method for building a support system in your local area. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are well-known 12-step groups that many recovering addicts attend on a very regular basis. Both AA and NA have meetings all across the country at easily accessible times.

There are various offsprings of the AA model for a wide range of other addictions, such as Overeaters Anonymous (OA), Emotions Anonymous (EA), Gamblers Anonymous (GA) and Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA). There are also subsets of NA for specific drugs, like Cocaine Anonymous (CA) and Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA). Some addicts find the type of support they can get in very specific 12-step groups is more beneficial, whereas other addicts gain the help they need from more general groups.

In the end the most important aspect of any rehab and recovery is that it is not just the mind thinking about recovery but also the heart. One must be willing to sacrifice immediate gratification with at times a long arduous plan that leads to fulfillment in never-ending recovery process.

 

Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC is a counselor at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He specializes in helping families dealing with complex family situations, addictions, and transitions. Steve is also helping clients through the Intensive Recover Program, which helps with recovery treatment, alcohol treatment, and other addictions treatment. Contact Steve at 231-714-0282 Ext. 701

Steve Greenman Traverse City Counselor
Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC | Thoughtful Experience

 

On Setting Boundaries

On Setting Boundaries

By: Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC

“No” is a complete sentence.”
Anne Lamott

When I was working at an in-patient recovery center as a therapist, we would discuss boundaries in group. Many of the men in my group were between the ages of 18-30 and had issues relative to their addictive behaviors such as dual diagnoses like depression and/or anxiety.

Many in the groups I chaired shared how they felt like failures and that they were behind in what society deemed appropriate behaviors such as: doing a good job; supporting a family; and having a house with a white picket fence.

They deemed themselves failures which precipitated relapses once they went back to old environment.

The men shared they had kept going to AA meetings and kept vigilant about triggers, cues for potential relapse but put themselves again and again in compromising positions not understanding the concept of proper boundaries for their sobriety.

Why are Boundaries Important?

Each of us experiences reality in terms of:

  • The body – what we look like
  • Thinking – how we give meaning to incoming data
  • Feelings – our emotional response
  • Behavior – what we do or don’t do

Setting boundaries enhances a person’s ability to have a sense of self and to control the impact of reality on the self and others.

Our boundaries allow us to take in what is deemed necessary emotionally, but if the created boundaries  are negative, our perception of ourselves will be enhanced in a negative light.

Individuals experience self-esteem by directing to the self their perception of appearance, their thoughts and responses and what they should or should not do with their lives. Boundaries act as filters to the soul, what we perceive that we are, we become.

How do Boundaries Work?

We learn to set boundaries on two levels:

  • The external system that protects the body and controls distance and touch.
  •  The internal system that acts as a filter or block to protect one’s thinking, feeling and behavior.

External boundaries are violated by actions such as:

  • Touching or standing too close without permission
  • Intruding on a person’s privacy; for instance, walking into a bathroom or bedroom without knocking or getting into another person’s possessions without permission.

Examples of internal boundaries being violated include yelling, screaming, name calling, ridiculing, lying, patronizing, sarcasm, negative control, unrealistic expectations and demanding one’s own way or point of view as the only choice.

In the end, the ability to set boundaries may take several forms: The person who, because of low self-esteem, childhood training or painful experiences of the past, is unable to unwilling set limits and thus has no protection.

Example of Creating Boundaries – Enabling

It may be easier to find a list of don’ts in dealing with chemical dependency boundaries creation, for it is easier to understand why you fail than to know how to succeed. The following list is not inclusive but it makes a good beginning:

  • Don’t allow the dependent person to lie to you and accept it for truth, for in so doing, you encourage this process (enabling). The truth is often painful, but get it.
  • Don’t let the chemically person exploit you or take advantage of you, for in so doing, you become an accomplice (enabler) in the evasion of responsibility.
  • Don’t let the chemically dependent person outsmart you, for this teaches him/her to avoid responsibility and lose respect for you at the same time–enabling.
  • Don’t lose your temper and thereby destroy yourself and any possibility of help.
  • Don’t lecture, moralize, scold, praise, blame, threaten or argue. You may feel better, but the situation will be worse.
  • Don’t accept promises, for this is just a method of postponing pain. In the same way, don’t keep switching agreements. If an agreement is made, stick to it.
  • Don’t allow your anxiety to compel you to do what the chemically dependent person must do for him/herself.
  • Don’t cover up or abort the consequences of the chemical use. This reduces the crisis but perpetuates the illness.
  • If at all possible, seek professional help.
  • Don’t put off facing the reality that chemical dependency is a progressive illness that gets increasingly worse as use of mood altering chemicals continue.

Why Are Good Boundaries Important?

When you have weak boundaries, you compromise who you are. You lose yourself, your freedom, your control and your “territory.”

Because you are the only thing in which you have complete control, healthy boundaries are an essential part of proper self-maintenance.

You may ask, especially if the addict or alcoholic in your life is your child, how can I be a good partner, friend or relative to this person if I have such limits? IYou may feel like it’s putting a wall up and feel guilty or as if you are betraying this person in his/her hour of need.

Yes, it is excruciating to see someone you love struggle with addiction, but, like they say on the airplane, you need to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others. Good boundaries are critical. You’ll find that you are actually of little or no help to others without them.

Conclusions

As we learned in group, a basic coping skill in interpersonal relationships is the ability to set and maintain boundaries for our interaction with others and with the world as we experience it.

Many allow themselves to be imposed upon and even mistreated because of poor self-image, fear of conflict and uncertainty about their right to exercise control over their lives. Boundaries can be walls of protection or they can become barriers to fulfillment.

“There was a wall. It did not look important. It was built of uncut rocks roughly mortared. An adult could look right over it and even a child could climb it. Where it crossed the roadway, instead of having a gate, it degenerated into mere geometry, a line, an idea of boundary. But the idea was real. It was important. For seven generations there had been nothing in the world more important than that wall. Like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side of it you were on.”

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed

Hearts and fence photo available from Shutterstock

 

Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC is a counselor at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He specializes in helping families dealing with complex family situations, addictions, and transitions. Steve is also helping clients through the Intensive Recover Program, which helps with recovery treatment, alcohol treatment, and other addictions treatment. Contact Steve at 231-714-0282 Ext. 701

Steve Greenman Traverse City Counselor
Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC | Thoughtful Experience

 

Coping with–and Reducing Stress, Anxiety and Worry

Coping with–and Reducing Stress, Anxiety and Worry

By: Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC

More often than not, when clients enter my office that are struggling with anxiety, they have immediate need for relief and long term plans to gain coping strategies.

Numerous life situations have, in many cases, added up and created the environment for potential relapse back into old patterns for the use of substances and other addictive behaviors to numb and avoid.

At times, it is too easy to fall back into short term behaviors that work in short run but can lead into long term disasters.

When I was working in an inpatient recovery house, the difference between the safe environment of the house versus the outside world was enormous.

Clients would be afraid to walk outside the walls of the house for fear that the worries, stressors and fears would be waiting for them the moment they stepped outside.

They did not want to relapse, but the pull at times of the outside world was too much and a safety plan versus the immediate gratification of the old addiction was too much to handle. Anxiety and worry sit in and take over their lives once again.

“It was one of those days when I was thinking too much, too fast. Only it was more like the thoughts had a mind of their own and going all by themselves at a hundred miles a second, and I was just sitting back, feeling the growing paranoia inside of me.”
Sasha Mizaree

Coping Mechanisms Short-Term

When an individual begins to feel the anxiety of stressful situations, there are ways of temporarily relieving the physical reactions–Band-Aids if you will:

  • Deep breathing – take three deep, full, conscious breaths whenever you need to.
  • Breaks – a quick nap, snack, reading, walk or drive; a bath/shower/sauna; an exercise break (yoga/stretching); movie/DVD/TV; connect with a friend (email/call/text).
  • Healthy Venting – no obsessing, righteous justification or a pity-party!
  • Visualizations – e.g. visualize a peaceful scene (combine this with deep breathing).
  • Gratefulness – recite to yourself a few things you are grateful for despite what might be lacking in your life at this time.
  • Get honest – be honest – with yourself first and foremost. Admitting a difficult truth should bring immediate relief (especially if you’ve been avoiding/resisting it).
  • Separate what you can change from what you can’t – (and focus on the former, not the latter!)
  • “Keep your eye on the prize” – pick your battles (wisely)…pace yourself.

Reducing Stress – Prevention

 The following items take longer to learn, but are fruitful to create longer-term programs combating stressful, worry filled situations. It is best to understand ways of preventing the feeling of anxiety to formulate in   the first place:
  • Make a list of the “warning” signs – of your stress before it gets out of hand.
  • Prepare for a particularly stressful situation – ahead of time if possible.
  • Take responsibility -”own up to” your own limitations, unhealthy biases.
  • Treat: substance abuse (including caffeine), poor eating/sleeping habits, thyroid
  • Expand your roles – i.e. don’t get stuck in one role e.g. achiever/perfectionist/caretaker/rescuer/, comedian, rebel, wallflower; controller.
  • Learn to set boundaries – learn to say “no;” learn to be assertive
  • Resolve old issues – (old baggage) i.e. resentments, trust issues; intimacy issues; chronic low self-esteem; fears of abandonment; strong inner critic.
  • Learn to recognize your limits
  • Learn to live your own life; let others live their own lives
  •  Learn to risk saying what it is you want/need from life – others and yourself (keep it “reasonable”, focus on 60% on your needs and 40% of your wants.
  •  Consistently “let go” of things you cannot control.
  • Don’t get stuck in either/or thinking – for example – not either I do a good job or forget it…either you’re for me or against me but I both do my best and it’s not perfection…you are both supportive of me (in certain areas) and critical of me (in other areas).
  • Challenge unreasonable expectations – desires, demands, standards, etc.
  • Challenge limiting beliefs – challenge dysfunctional loyalties
  • Clarify your goals – one-year plan, three-year plan,five-year plan; take “baby steps”
  • Learn meditation/mindfulness practices
  • Learn good time management skills and good financial management skills.

Conclusions

The more in tune with ourselves, the better off we are to combat the fears and anxieties of life that can, if allowed, paralyze the soul or worse yet, involve ourselves in unhealthy ways of coping (substance abuse etc.)

We so many times in life take for granted how we feel rather than taking the time to examine the underlining causes of our feelings.

Many who I have worked with in substance abuse recovery struggle with the easier coping mechanisms such as submitting to a relapse rather than the daunting task of struggling with what they suggest are demons within their soul.

Anxiety, worry and stress can be regarded as the norm rather than something to be met head on and over the course of time, to understand and mediate to manageable levels.

“I keep the telephone of my mind open to peace, harmony, health, love and abundance. Then, whenever doubt, anxiety or fear try to call me, they keep getting a busy signal — and soon they’ll forget my number.”
Edith Armstrong

 

Steve Greenman Traverse City Counselor
Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC | Thoughtful Experience

Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC is a counselor at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He specializes in helping families dealing with complex family situations, addictions, and transitions. Steve is also helping clients through the Intensive Recover Program, which helps with recovery treatment, alcohol treatment, and other addictions treatment. Contact Steve at 231-714-0282 Ext. 701

 

Wisdom from “On Being a Therapist”

Wisdom from “On Being a Therapist”

By: Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC

“Yet it is hard to tread water with someone on our back without drowning.”  -Jeffrey Kottler

Jeffrey Kottler throughout his book “On Being a Therapist” sprinkles seeds of wisdom that will not only benefit the inexperienced therapist but the experienced therapist as well.

Kottler states that many in today’s therapeutic community regard therapy as little more than simple accountability and measured outcomes that are all held together in some limited time frame described as brief therapy.

Kottler believes that therapy is more than brief interchanges between a client and a therapist but an opportunity no matter how slight for the therapist to role model a positive influence on the client’s life.

Challenges

Along with the relationship between client and therapist, Kottler shares in his book other challenges that confront today’s therapists such as:

  • increased diversification of client base
  • advances and changes in theory and technique
  • increased bureaucracy in health care
  • living in a stressed filled world.

These variables, along with the personal inner struggles professionally and personally that therapists are dealing with, makes the task of being productive in therapy in today’s world a daunting task.

Kottler believes that theories, prescribed rules, regulations and other therapeutic practices have their time and place and are in many ways helpful for the therapist, but he emphasizes that importance must  still be placed on the client/therapist relationship.

Learned Along the Way

Another key point Kottler emphasizes is how the client and therapist change each other during therapy.

Kottler warns counselors to be wary of the destructive energy emanating from a patient that it can pollute the spirit of the healer (Kottler, 2003).

Kottler wonders whether Freud’s habit in counseling sessions to remain detached had more to do with preserving his own emotional safety than transference issues.

It is important not to fall into the same emotional trap that the client is experiencing but rather encourage the client to risk take and act more than reflect on their issues.

Key for the therapist is timing when the client is ready for the next step in the process of dealing with painful issues. Kottler felt that an error in judgment by the counselor could result in tragic consequences or at the least regressive backlash.

To Kottler, clients become our greatest teachers, who let us know what is working and what is not, that is, if we are paying close attention (Kottler, 2003).

Another interesting aspect of counseling shared by Kottler is learning to love someone unconditionally, non-possessively, non-sexually, with warmth, empathy and genuineness. He states that this experience can be exhausting.

Patients can test the patience of any therapist and that can affect how the therapist relates to the client.. In doing so, we tend to feel more comfortable working with people who are most like us.

But, Kottler states feeling too comfortable with a client can be dangerous. We tend at this point to limit our therapy to:

  • what worked well in previous cases
  • deal with issues that are not personally threatening
  • limit the challenges that the particular case can teach us.

Real learning and growth comes from learning to be flexible, when we are forced to use new therapy styles and realize, that in some cases, it is not the client’s antisocial or annoying behavior that is the problem but our own listless, lack of caring attitude being expressed to the client that is the center of the problem.

Helpful Hints

Kottler shares other important suggestions for a therapist in the midst of analyzing a client/therapist relationship:

  •  determine whether the problem is with the client or with you
  •  respect the purpose and function of resistance and client defenses
  •  when feeling trapped, follow the principles of the “reflective practitioner”
  •  do not try to cure the incurable
  •  acknowledge that the client is operating under different rules from what you would prefer
  •  remain as flexible as possible
  •  educate yourself about clients who come from backgrounds that are beyond your experiences or comfort level; and
  • when all else fails, allow the clients to keep their dysfunctional behavior. Do what you can do no more and no less (Kottler, 2003).

When a therapist experiences a loss of motivation, energy, control and direction, Kottler said, these are conditions that could be as simple as boredom but left untreated, can turn into chronic, incurable and causation for a larger problem named burnout.

Kottler felt the single most common personal consequence of practicing therapy is not who will experience burnout but how long the next episode will last.

Kottler cautions that when a therapist can no longer deal with stress and/or symptoms of burnout he/she is more likely to engage in unethical conduct or to make decisions that will harm the client rather than help (Kottler, 2003).

He reminds the reader (therapists) that it is important to take care of yourself (burnout protector). He suggests the therapist needs to:

  •  adjust expectations to realistic levels
  •  break away as needed
  •  not be afraid to use the concept of talking to oneself as you do to your clients
  •  demonstrate that you take your own growth as seriously as you do that of your clients

Integrate

The last chapters of “On Being a Therapist” consist of lies we, as therapists tell, alternative therapies we can use and ideas for furthering growth and creativity within. Kottler states that many of the negative personal consequences of being a therapist derive less from the pressures of clients, supervisors and work schedules but from not being true to oneself.

At times, Kottler believes that therapists have to put on a façade of confidence to instill confidence and motivation in the client.

Kottler shares what Milton Erickson was fond of saying that if you can pretend very convincingly, then clients will pretend to make changes in their lives. And when things go well, after a period of time, they will forget they are pretending (Kottler, 2003).

Not only does Kottler share the importance of being honest in one’s therapy, he also relates the idea of  the importance of not becoming married to a particular theory. A therapist must be flexible not idealistic toward his/her client. If the therapist does not genuinely believe that the therapeutic tools for our profession can work for the client, then we have no business practicing them on anyone else (Kottler, 2003).

Lastly, Kottler shares that in the process of doing therapy we must regard ourselves as explorers. We teach others to discover uncharted territory, to learn survival skills and apply them in conditions of maximum stress.

We teach people about their limits and their capabilities. We help people take controlled risks, where much danger can be anticipated. But, we must never forget that we change as much as we change each client we see.

 

Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC is a counselor at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He specializes in helping families dealing with complex family situations, addictions, and transitions. Steve is also helping clients through the Intensive Recover Program, which helps with recovery treatment, alcohol treatment, and other addictions treatment. Contact Steve at 231-714-0282 Ext. 701

Steve Greenman Traverse City Counselor
Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC | Thoughtful Experience

 

A Weekend of Change

A Weekend of Change

By: Lucy Seefried, MA, LLPC

There’s something about the spring season that not only calls upon new life to emerge, but if you’re anything like me, it can also stir the pot of discontent, anxiety, and maybe even a little depression. Here we’ve spent most of the winter inside, perhaps even welcoming the solitude the winter season invites us to enjoy. Then spring rolls around. The snow begins to melt, daylight savings time provides extra light into the evenings and increasing temperatures call us to venture out once again. “Who could be depressed about that?” you may be asking yourself.

That In Between Season

Well, I gotta tell you, there’s this period of spring that I’m not a fan of at all. It’s the period in between the snow melting, uncovering a not-yet-green grass, but one that is brown and quite frankly, gross looking, and where the sun may be shining, yet it’s still cold and blustery. I’ve discovered that I absolutely loathe this type of weather.

Not only do I loathe the weather, but also I notice myself becoming just a little more anxious (and no, not because of the weather!), irritable, and just plain depressed.

 A Weekend of Change

This past weekend however, was different. The weather was actually warm for a change and I just knew I had to take advantage of it. I was thinking maybe the fresh air and warm weather could help me shake some of the anxiousness I had been feeling for weeks. I threw on my walking shoes, grabbed the leash, and off I was, along with my faithful four-legged companion by my side.

My anxiety did decrease  some and about midway into my walk, I called a good friend of mine whom I hadn’t spoken with in a while. After catching up some, I shared with Juliette* some of the issues that were the cause of my discontent and anxiety. I am fortunate because Juliette happens to be very empathetic and I always feel “heard” when she and I speak.

As I described to her what had been causing me anxiety, Juliette asks me, “But Lucy, don’t you think you’re where you’re supposed to be in life?” and I replied, “well yes…but how do you find comfort/acceptance when things are difficult or not the way you would want them, even though you believe you are where you’re supposed to be?”

Reduce Anxiety with a Challenge

In other words, how can you find comfort within the challenge?

  • How do you accept or make peace with the difficulties in your life? If you’re anything like me, you may be riding the struggle bus with all of the challenges, problems, difficulties in your life, and along the way, you pick up a few passengers like anxiety, discontent and depression (i.e. one crowded bus!).
  • What I was reminded of this weekend however, was that if I continue to ruminate anxiously on the particular challenges, waiting for the next “thing” to happen in my life, I would also then miss the opportunity to see the multitude of possibilities that lie behind the struggles, like – what can I gain from leaning into, rather than resisting, what is difficult? Who I am supposed to become in light of this struggle?
  • What tools have I retained from past difficulties that I can apply to the current ones?

Will There Always Be Challenges?

The truth of the matter is, we are probably always going to face one challenge or another, and the struggle bus will always there if we need a ride. And yet, challenges and difficulties don’t always have to be the roadblocks we sometimes see them as.

In truth, they can serve as very powerful catalysts, catapulting us into the next best version of ourselves in:

  • Our careers
  • Physical capabilities
  • Spiritual lives
  • Social relationships
  • Perhaps most of all, our relationship to ourselves.

And this process, if we allow it, can occur over, and over, and over again.

What Happened Next?

Later into the weekend I found myself doing a little yard work, spring-cleaning if you will, while reflecting on my experiences over the last 24 hours. As I raked the dead leaves that covered the entire yard, I uncovered fresh green moss and tiny patches of new growth grass, new life that was emerging from the dead of winter and decaying foliage.  Then it occurred to me – underneath some of the struggles and difficulties that cause us such anxiety or depression, lies the gift of something new – something waiting to be born, something waiting to emerge and grow.

What will you uncover this spring?

rsz_traverse_city_counselor_lucy_seefriedLucy Seefried is a limited licensed professional counselor (LLPC) that focuses on young adults in transition, couples in need of connection, individuals coping with addiction issues, and everyone in between.

Lucy is a life-long native of Michigan who has a passion for traveling, exploring and connecting with others. Her universities studies in West Africa and Russia and work in places like Detroit, India and Alaska, have equipped her to work with a diverse range of individuals, as well as strengthened and informed her understanding and value for multiculturalism across the life span.

Using a client-centered approach and active listening, Lucy strives to balance self-exploration with practical solutions, while creating a safe and trusting environment for change to occur and allowing the creative process of therapy to unfold. Her theoretical lens has been informed by humanistic theories, strength-based and trauma-informed approaches, attachment models, mindfulness practices and experiential education.

Learn more about counselor Lucy Seefriend.

What is rehab?

What is rehab?

What is rehab?

By Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC

First, let’s start with a great quote about recovery and addictions:

“You can get the monkey off your back, but the circus never leaves town.” -Anne Lamott

Like any journey, the road to sobriety and addictions recovery begins with simple steps forward. The specific steps of one’s addiction rehabilitation process will vary according to the addiction, the treatment plan used, and the individual; however, all recovery processes share certain similarities.

What is in-patient rehab?

In the modern recovery world rehab can mean many things. To treat addictions a person can choose long term (usually 90 days) and shorter term (30 days to 2 weeks) in house programs. The benefit of inpatient programs is that an individual is isolated away from their substance of choice and gives the person an opportunity to begin to think clearly. Isolation away from behavioral triggers allows them to focus solely on their recovery without distractions from the outside world. Over time, family members and close friends may be invited to participate in visiting days or family therapy sessions. This helps to build the support system that is so crucial to recovering addicts once they leave the rehab facility.

What is out-patient rehab?

In outpatient the individual has freedom of movement and able to handle day to day activities of their life outside of a facility but depending on possible involvement of court system there could be testing put in place. An outpatient program gives the individual the opportunity to gather facts and converse with fellow members of the group to learn ways to gain coping skills to avoid the decisions of the past. Outpatient care is best for those with short-lived addictions. It is not recommended for those with serious or long-term addictions or those with dual diagnosis conditions.

Rehab.com states: “When it comes to addiction rehabilitation programs, there is no shortage of options out there but it’s important to find a program that is a good match for you. If you feel comfortable with the facility you’ve chosen, you’re more likely to stick with the program and see it through to its end, increasing your chances of long-term health and sobriety”.

How to choose a drug treatment program

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are several things to consider when choosing a drug treatment program. These include:

  • There is no one-size-fits-all solution to treatment.
  • Different treatments work for different people.
  • Patients must commit enough time to treatment in order to effectively overcome their addictions.
  • Everyone should have easy access to treatment when they need it.
  • Addiction affects the way the brain works.
  • Effective treatment should address all areas of the addict’s life, not just the abuse or addiction.
  • Medicinal treatment is often necessary and should be used in conjunction with therapy.
  • Treatment plans should continually be tailored to meet the individual’s needs and circumstances.
  • Mental disorders are often linked to drug addiction and should be addressed in treatment.

Does rehab work?

Once an individual gets through the initial detox from drugs or alcohol, they will move on to the rehabilitation portion of the recovery process. This is where the patients get to the core reasons behind their addictions, addressing those issues so they can effectively move on with their lives without going back to drugs, alcohol or their addictive behavior.

In individual behavioral therapy, the patient will do this work by identifying when they began using the substance and why they started abusing it. The patient will receive strategies on how they can direct their time to focus on getting involved in new hobbies or interests. Time management skills will allow them to better use their time so they have less opportunity to think about relapse. Patients learn to identify triggers, and how to deal with these triggering situations when they come up. If patients have a plan for various tempting situations, they are more likely to put their plan into action and avoid relapse. This type of cognitive behavioral therapy also addresses thoughts that patients have in relation to substance abuse or life in general. It helps to reform their thinking patterns and make behavioral changes toward a healthy, sober life.

The addiction rehabilitation process usually includes group therapy. These group sessions allow the recovering addict to interact with others who are in the same situation. It is often helpful for recovering addicts to know that they are not alone in their struggles. Likewise, it can be beneficial for addicts to share their own stories of addiction and recovery, as others find solace in them. This sense of community support is integral to the recovery process.

Most addiction rehabilitation facilities offer family therapy as part of their program. Addiction is far-reaching, affecting many people rather than just the individual with the addiction. Family members are often those who are most deeply affected by their loved one’s addiction, and they are an important component of the recovery process for that person. Initially, patients may be restricted from contacting loved ones but later in the recovery process, family members are often welcomed to participate in family therapy sessions. During these sessions, family members can discuss pain caused by their loved one’s addiction and their desire to see that person live a healthy life. Family therapy can help to resolve issues so the family can serve as a pillar of support once their loved one leaves the rehabilitation facility. 

How does recovery work?

After a patient has completed their rehabilitation program, they are not finished with recovery. In fact, recovery is a lifelong process that an addict must work at for the rest of their life. Sometimes, the path to lifelong recovery will be easy; other times, it will be difficult for individuals to withstand the temptation to relapse. Like anything in life, it’s a journey that may feature varying terrain so lifelong support is essential.

Prior to leaving an addiction treatment program, the patient will meet with counselors to discuss a plan for aftercare. Many addiction rehab facilities offer follow-up programs to assist the patient as they return to normal life. These may include weekend stays back at the rehab center when the individual feels a touch-up stay is needed. Or a patient may live in a sober living facility for a while with other recovering addicts before returning home. This offers a supportive transitional time for recovering addicts before being thrown back into “normal” life.

Many patients maintain regular therapy sessions post rehab, and some submit to schedule drug testing as a way to keep them accountable to their sobriety. Group therapy is a method for building a support system in your local area. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are well-known 12-step groups that many recovering addicts attend on a very regular basis. Both AA and NA have meetings all across the country at easily accessible times.

There are various offspring’s of the AA model for a wide range of other addictions, such as Overeaters Anonymous (OA), Emotions Anonymous (EA), Gamblers Anonymous (GA) and Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA). There are also subsets of NA for specific drugs, like Cocaine Anonymous (CA) and Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA). Some addicts find the type of support they can get in very specific 12-step groups is more beneficial whereas other addicts gain the help they need from more general groups.

What is rehab? Conclusions

Whatever level of need for services you are there are important factors to consider in supporting the most important item: you’re sobriety. A setting that provides recovery in a holistic manner and provides services that treat the underlying reasoning behind the need to escape or numb through the use of a dependence and help those we serve to find long-term recovery by creating a sound environment in which they can and will recover are critical.

To help the one suffering with a substance dependency it is helpful to find serves that provide the following:

The service must be helpful in creating goals in the recovery:

  • Establishing an Individual Relapse Prevention Plan
  • Daily Reflections and Meditations
  • Learning How to Encourage Longer-Term Dependent Free Living.
  • Creation of a Spiritual Based Premise of a Higher Power

To meet the goals prescribed above a service covers areas such as:

  • Past and current medical history
  • Employment and educational background
  • Basic needs being met currently
  • Substance abuse history
  • Legal issues current and past
  • Family/social genogram of dependent history
  • Psychiatric diagnoses current and past
  • Personal insights and supports each client has.

In the end the most important aspect of any rehab and recovery is that it is not just the mind towards one recovery but also the heart. One must be willing to sacrifice immediate gratification with at times a long arduous plan that leads to fulfillment in never-ending recovery. Let’s end with another quote that can be applied to recovery and rehab:

“Cut.

Take gazillion and one.

This time with a little less weepy-weepy, please. A little less improvisation. A little less lip. A little more faith. A little higher power. A little more prayer, a little less wine. Cut the crap. Cut the line. Tuck the chin. Look left, right, faster, slower. Pick seven dandelions on the first day of spring. Hate less or more. Work harder. Chew slower. Be better. Look to god, God, GOD. Watch your language. Watch your back. Collect rocks. Lick ’em clean. Count the pigeons in the backyard and multiply times forever. Give it up, let it go, take it back, take control. Say yes, say no. Say no, no, no. Stick to the script. Steps One through Twelve. One through Twelve. Keep coming back. It works if you work it.”

― Jessica Hendry Nelson

And so it goes.

 

HEAD SHOT WITH DESCRIPTION GREENMANSteve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC is a counselor at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He specializes in helping families dealing with complex family situations, addictions, and transitions. Steve is also helping clients through the Intensive Recover Program, which helps with recovery treatment, alcohol treatment, and other addictions treatment.

Image by Rennett Stowe

Dependency: Are We Enabling?

Dependency: Are We Enabling?

By Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC

“At the bottom of every person’s dependency, there is always pain, discovering the pain and healing it is an essential step in ending dependency.”  Chris Prentiss, The Alcoholism and Addiction Cure

Do you have a love one struggling with emotional/physical pain using an unhealthy dependency (alcohol, pornography, gambling, drugs legal or illegal) to cope, escape or numb?

How helpless do you feel?

During my stay as a clinical therapist at a 28 day substance treatment center I had more than one client suggest the drugs/alcohol filled a void which nothing in the past ever had. One client shared to me his use of Heroin was best described as: “A hug from God”.

How do you combat a hug from God?

One has to remember you cannot save a person using a dependency, change can only come from the person themselves willing to make the effort.  We can very easily if  we are not careful become a part of the problem rather than the solution. It may be how we act out (anger, frustration, helplessness) which creates more division in the family than the person actually involved in the numbing/avoidance behavior.

Sherry Collier from her website – “Creative Path to Growth” in an article entitled   “Compassion versus Co-dependency: Caring without Enabling”  lists questions to ask yourself to determine if one is acting out of compassion or in a place of co-dependency:

  • Ask yourself what is your motive?  Am I trying to rescue someone else?
  • Are we able to walk along side someone or do we need to have to fix the problem?
  • Am I trying to “fix” someone else so as to not look at my own issues?
  • Am I exhausted – physically and emotionally drained?  Do I feel taken advantage of?
  • Are you creating safe solid boundaries for yourself and the rest of the family?

This can be very difficult questions to ask when were dealing with a loved one but the soul inside the one combating dependency is not only struggling with the outside world but also within side of themselves. We need to be able to understand the best way of supporting our loved one. There comes a time when we may need to reach out to others such as professional counselors, close friends who may have been in your shoes before for not just for our loved one but for ourselves as well.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY IN FIVE SHORT CHAPTERS

by Portia Nelson

I

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

II

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place
but, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

III

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

IV

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

V

I walk down another street.

It may be time for not only our loved one but ourselves to find our way back home.

And so it goes

HEAD SHOT WITH DESCRIPTION GREENMANSteve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC is a counselor at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He specializes in helping families dealing with complex family situations, addictions, and transitions. Steve is also helping clients through the Intensive Recover Program, which helps with recovery treatment, alcohol treatment, and other addictions treatment.

Surviving Holiday Stress

Surviving Holiday Stress

By Tarah Elhardan, MA, LLPC

  1. Act in the Moment– Do one thing at a time. During the holidays there is so much to get done and it can feel very overwhelming. By putting all of your energy into one task it is more likely that you will complete it. Tackling the tasks one by one is most efficient and least stressful.
  2. Anticipate Challenges and Prepare- Is there one relative that you don’t get along with? Is there one activity that you always avoid? You are not alone. Everyone has something or someone that they do not look forward to. By identifying and becoming aware of your challenges, you can learn how to best prepare for them. Having an action plan will allow you to feel ready so that you can enjoy the holidays with those you care about the most.
  3. Say YES to Yourself- You may be feeling pulled in every direction. With so much to do and so little time, it is important to remember to schedule some “me” time. Make you your first priority so that you can help others and get ready for the holidays.
  4. Reconnect with Old and Establish New Traditions- Organize an event that you used to engage in during your childhood or make a new tradition to start with your family. Research has shown that experiences increase happiness more than material items.
  5. Engage Purposefully- Find a purpose in everything that you are doing. Having a purpose makes everything feel meaningful and worthwhile. Do and say things with a purpose. It will bring more satisfaction during the what can be, stressful holiday season.
  6. Sleep- Without sleep, there is a life filled with stress, irritability and a lack of energy. Rest up so that you can fully enjoy this holiday season.
  7. Breathe- From the beginning of November to the day after the New Year, it is go-go-go. Focus on your breath and remember to breathe. Basic breathing exercises and yoga can be very helpful to lessen the stress of the holiday season.
  8. Find Meaning- What is the holiday season all about? Is it about reconnecting with old friends and loved ones? Is it about donating your time and giving to those in need? Where you find meaning, you will find life this holiday season.
  9. Act Your Way to a New Feeling- It is so easy to say that you will start eating healthier or, take up running when you feel better, but who knows when that time will come? It is actually more likely that you will start feeling the way you want to when you engage in those activities.
  10. Remember that it is Only Temporary- The holidays come once a year and if it is something that your truly dread, remember that it will soon be over. You will get through it.

Remember that it is Only Temporary- The holidays come once a year and if it is something that your truly dread, remember that it will soon be over. You will get through it.Survivng Holiday Stress

Traverse City counselorTarah Elhardan, MA, LLPC is a counselor at the Traverse City counseling practice, Mental Wellness Counseling. She is especially interested in holistic approaches to counseling, anxiety, and helping women to overcome self esteem issues.

 

Am I depressed?

Am I depressed?

Depression

Common Types & Signs (From National Institute of Mental Health)

  • Major Depression: severe symptoms that interfere with your ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy life. An episode can occur only once in a person’s lifetime, but more often, a person has several episodes.
  • Persistent depressive disorder—depressed mood that lasts for at least 2 years. A person diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder may have episodes of major depression along with periods of less severe symptoms, but symptoms must last for 2 years.
  • Postpartum depression, which is much more serious than the “baby blues” that many women experience after giving birth, when hormonal and physical changes and the new responsibility of caring for a newborn can be overwhelming. It is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of women experience postpartum depression after giving birth.
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is characterized by the onset of depression during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. The depression generally lifts during spring and summer. SAD may be effectively treated with light therapy, but nearly half of those with SAD do not get better with light therapy alone. Antidepressant medication and psychotherapy can reduce SAD symptoms, either alone or in combination with light therapy.
  • Bipolar is cycling of mania and depression (highs lows, used to be “manic depressive disorder”

How depression is covered up

  • Seclusion: Common in new moms
  • Video Games: The Washington Postrecently reported that there are more adult woman gamers than teen boy players in the world. “Internet Gaming Disorder” even made its way into the DSM-5, the diagnosis guidebook for psychiatrists and other helping professionals. Video game addiction has the potential to grow into one of the most challenging addictions to treat.
  • TV, alcohol, and sleep issues

 “Normal” teen behavior vs. Depression

  • Teens are moving toward independence
  • Hormones are going crazy, the pleasure center of the brain is magnified while the frontal lobe (decision-making) is muted. It’s any wonder we survived the teen years
  • Normal teens are: moody, challenging, affectionate one day and a jerk the next.
  • KNOW YOUR TEEN’S BASELINE

Red Flags and when to get help

TWO QUESTIONS: Answer PHQ-2

“not at all = 0”

“Several Days = 1”

“More than half the days = 2”

“Nearly Daily = 3”

  1. Past two weeks have you had little interest or pleasure in doing things?
  2. Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless

Did you score above 3? Take the PHQ-9 assessment below

Depression Patient Health Questionnaire 9

PHQ-9

Down load the PHQ-9 Depression Assessment

 

Have questions? Want to start counseling?

[CONTACT-US-FORM]

 

 

How to handle life transitions

How to handle life transitions

I was recently talking with a friend that said, “You know, I realized recently that there was a last time that I carried my child to bed.” His kids are older now. He went on, “There was a last time.”

Then he paused.

Whether it is a last time hugging your kids in your home, a last meal with a parent or grandparent, we usually don’t realize that it is the last time, until we realize it later.

When my grandpa died, it was shortly after I visited him. My last visit, he gave me book to learn Spanish. He was an avid learner. I always have felt some guilt that i never mastered Spanish, but I’ve also realized that I have figured out what learning is to me. In loss, we often find both clarity and confusion.

I made this series of online cards to help us all remember and reflect on how impermanent each moment really is and that we each should appreciate who we are with in that moment. Thanks for sharing as you feel inspired.

you won't realize it's-2 you won't realize it's-3 you won't realize it's-6 you won't realize it's-7 you won't realize it's-8 you won't realize it's-9 you won't realize it's.

 

Traverse City counselor

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor at Mental Wellness Counseling, a Traverse City counseling practice that helps people across all ages to meet their goals.

Pure Michigan Litter: The Psychology of Trash

Pure Michigan Litter: The Psychology of Trash

A number of photos have recently been circling the Facebook-Twittersphere about the trash at the Traverse City National Cherry Festival. As a counselor and psychologist, I’m interested in the human behavior behind the problem.

I’ve traveled throughout Haiti, Nepal, Thailand, and much of South America. In those travels, I’ve observed how different cultures view trash.

What happened in Traverse City at the National Cherry Festival was that after fireworks, air shows, and the 4th of July, people left piles of trash on the northern Michigan beaches. Here are a few observations and best-practices that we can all learn from.

Here is an awesome video about one way to make throwing trash away more fun.

Read More

Microbes, Your Gut, and Your Brain | How new research is changing the face of anxiety

Microbes, Your Gut, and Your Brain | How new research is changing the face of anxiety

That phrase, “I just felt it in my gut,” might be true after all.

Researchers are now finding that what we eat actually has a profound biological effect on our mood. It’s because we’re feeding a bunch of microbe in our body. They react to what we eat. In fact, they out number our cells 10:1. In fact, they may be more in control of us that we ever thought possible!

Read More

Why you should sleep more | Better sleep = Better grades

Why you should sleep more | Better sleep = Better grades

9 ways to get better sleep

Sleep is when our brains organize what has happened. Most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep. People/kids in school need 8-10 hours to appropriately categorize what they have learned.

Less sleep = More anxiety/depression/academic failure

Don’t have a TV in your bedroom, it stimulates your brain to think it is morning and makes your brain want to be awake in bed

Turn off screens 30 minutes before bed, it’s like looking at the sun and wondering why you are awake

Keep a notepad next to your bed to write down ideas/to-do list, it frees up your brain

Go to bed and wake up around the same time every day

Reduce caffeine after 3:00 pm

No alcohol 2 hours prior to bed

Take a melatonin (talk to your doctor first)

Breathe deeply

Focus on something like tightening and releasing your muscles, to stop yourself from thinking about the day or tomorrow

 

counselor Traverse City counseling familyJoseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed counselor and the owner of Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI, where he helps families, kids, parents, couples, and individuals to reach their goals. He knows that sleep issues are prevalent with kids and parents, when families can have stronger bedtime routines, issues of behavior, anxiety, depression, and academic concerns all typically improve. He is also the author of Mental Wellness Parenting | A remarkably simple approach to making parenting easier

 

Nine ways to get better sleep

Nine ways to get better sleep

9 ways to get better sleep

Sleep is when our brains organize what has happened. Most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep. People/kids in school need 8-10 hours to appropriately categorize what they have learned.

Less sleep = More anxiety/depression/academic failure

Don’t have a TV in your bedroom, it stimulates your brain to think it is morning and makes your brain want to be awake in bed

Turn off screens 30 minutes before bed, it’s like looking at the sun and wondering why you are awake

Keep a notepad next to your bed to write down ideas/to-do list, it frees up your brain

Go to bed and wake up around the same time every day

Read More

How to get through the holidays

How to get through the holidays


Traverse City Counseling Private practice

Step 001: know what you want and what makes you happy

        

Step 002: tell yourself that no matter what happens, you are going to do your best

                        

Step 003: prepare your family as best as you can.

 

 

Step 004: do your best to be happier, more helpful, and a better person. Try to let things go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

counselor Traverse City counseling familyJoseph Sanok , MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed counselor in Traverse City, MI, where he helps angry kids, frustrated  parents, and distant couples…and just about everyone else. He loves the holidays and can’t wait to eat pierogies!

Three things anyone can do to prevent suicide

Three things anyone can do to prevent suicide

 

 

counseling Traverse City counselor therapist

Appearing in the Record Eagle on 9-8-12

In 9th grade, the school counselor brought me and several other students into her office. She informed us that a peer had committed suicide. Later, the entire school was informed. It is devastating to get that type of news. Every 15 minutes another family, friend, and school deal with news of a suicide.

This coming week is Suicide Prevention Week. Often people think that the issue of suicide prevention is only for mental health professionals, but sometime in each of our lives we will probably have it touch us. Here are a few things that every person should know to help a friend, family member, or co-worker.

If you are concerned, ask

Asking a person if they are suicidal is the best first step. When a person is dealing with intense emotions, friends often feel uncomfortable asking about suicide. However, a direct question from a friend or family member is shown to reduce the risk of suicide.

Understand more about suicide

For a number of years, San Francisco has employed interviewers to speak with people who have jumped from the Bay Bridge and survived. One thing that an overwhelming majority report is that during their fall, they regretted the decision and hoped to live. These individuals often became advocates for suicide prevention. Further, research continues to support that suicidal feelings often last only hours, but return if help is not sought.

Know resources

Knowing that you can ask about suicide and that it is often a short-term feeling, getting a friend help is a great first step. Third Level Crisis Center (231-922-4800) is a 24/7 resource.  Also, supporting the individual through counseling and being a friend is the best role that you can have.

When we as a community work together to help those that are struggling, when we ask, understand, and refer, it can help reduce suicide. Each one of us can use our relationships and unique roles to be a part of a more healthy community.

 

counseling private practice

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC  is owner and a counselor with Mental Wellness Counseling. He is hosting a free Suicide Prevention Wine Party with NMC Student Life and Lake Side Counseling on Sept 12 at 5:00 at Left Foot Charley. Visit www.mentalwellnesscounseling.com/wine for more details.

Photo used with Creative Commons, thank you Robert S. Donovan

The Cancer Effect

The Cancer Effect

cancer counseling thyroid

In July I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Fairly soon I will be having a bunch of additional tests and have a treatment plan. I will soon have my thyroid removed, have a scar on my neck, and be on medicine for the rest of my life. I feel too young for all of this.

On Sunday I was swinging at the beach with my daughter and wife. My wife was pushing my daughter and the sun was bouncing off both of their faces. It was better than any photo. I couldn’t stop thinking about how the two of them deserve to have a husband/dad around. How life in the simplicity is wonderful.

So often in my life, I have thought about my next steps and how to improve, evaluate, and enhance my life. I strategize  and am goal-oriented. I often have a view that if there are improvements to be made, that life will be better when those improvements occur. Maybe it has been in regards to improving the furniture in my house or renovating a room.

When that is done, then I will be happier.

When I start seeing more clients in my private practice, then I will be happier.

When my websites are running more, then I will be happier.

My formula has been that as progress occurs, happiness will develop too. In many ways this is true and reiterated in our lives. When we complete college, we usually get a better job and have more economic freedom. We can choose our career direction more accurately and potentially develop careers that are fulfilling. When I fight with my wife and we work it out, we usually fight less. Fixing often does lead to more happiness.

However, holding out for that happiness or believing that future me will be happier because of those things is a farce. That belief, that is perpetuated by media, friends, and our own internal voices is a falsity. If we are not seeking balance and emotional wellness now, we will not have an easier time tomorrow, next week, or next year. Instead, it will be harder because we then have more time living in the less fulfilled world we have created.

I have been given a gift through telling people about my cancer. When I tell someone those words for the first time, they will hug me, cry, give me encouraging words, tell me that they are praying for me, or sending me positive vibes.

Really they are saying, “Joe, you matter to me. The world would not be the same without you.”

In doing this, I am on the receiving end of experiencing something magnificent, knowing that I matter to people.

How often do we tell people that they matter? It can be a “Wellness Discipline” to build our own health. When we notice that others matter and that they are important to us, it builds that relationship, while also creating a thankful heart. The more that we experiences a feeling of thankfulness in the now, the harder it is for the other mindset to push its way in. We can’t have those mutually exclusive feelings of “I am so thankful for what I have right now” and “I will be thankful and happy when X happens.”

So today, may you grow in your thankfulness and tell people that they matter to you and that the world would be different without them. Tell them and tell yourself that life right now is good and wonderful and full of moments of simplicity with the sun bouncing off people’s faces swinging on the beach.

 

counselor Traverse City counseling familyJoseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor and owner of Mental Wellness Counseling. He is trying his darndest to approach thyroid cancer with an attitude of thankfulness, even though he feels like it really sucks.

Helicopter Parents Gone Wild

Helicopter Parents Gone Wild

traverse city counseling counselor therapist

A “helicopter parent” is a parent who hovers over their child, waiting to catch them before they skin their knee. “Helicopter Parents” schedule, plan, and create a world for their children. They are usually highly involved and deep down want the best for their kids. They are often high achievers or wish they had been high achievers. “Helicopter Parents” also are usually highly involved in their kid’s education, after-school activities, and social lives. Overall, they have great intentions. I may even end up being one, in some area intentionally and in others unintentionally.

The hardest transitions for “helicopter parents” are to stop when they are tired and to allow age-appropriate freedoms. Are you one of these parents?

When you’re sick of flying

When these parents are frustrated with their kids, it is often because they don’t want them to fail. They have a difficult time with skinned knees and broken hearts. They have created a dynamic where they are the safety nets for their children, rather than teaching them how to create their own nets.

This typically creates a dynamic where the parent is blamed for the child’s mistakes. Both the parent and child think that it is mom or dad’s responsibility to get homework done, wake up on time, and not be “bored.” Yet, ultimately, we each are responsible for changing our lives toward what we want.

So how do you land the helicopter?

Daddy needs a drink

When was the last time you took a bath without interruption? What about sitting outside and enjoying the evening? Time with friends without looking at your phone for texts from your kids?

Sometimes, a parent needs to just step back and let the kids experience natural consequences. Whether it is a teen waking up late for work or kids sorting out who gets to play the game system, stepping back will often show you what you kids are capable of. Usually, the worst case scenario is not that bad and the best case is that they will increase their abilities to be responsible.

But they’re not old enough

Every single generation does it. They think they are so dang special. In counseling sessions or even with friends, I’ll ask, “What did you do when you were (insert age here)?” Almost universally friends and client respond, “I did some inapropriate behavior but…

“…it was different in the 60s, 70s, or 80s.”

“…things were safer.”

“…we didn’t have the internet.”

But parents weren’t thinking that then. They were thinking the same thing that parents are thinking now. When we’re a kid, we are oblivious to the dangers, consequences, and ways of the world. How did we learn? Was it when mom said, “No” or was it when we tried it out and formed our own conculsions?

Now I’m not saying take a step back and let “Lord of the Flies” occur in your household. Otherwise, you may come see me in counseling for something else. The main goal is to transition toward the empty nest not to have it be a sudden change.

 

counselor Traverse City counseling familyJoseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed therapist and counseling in Traverse City, MI where he owns Mental Wellness Counseling. He once flew in a helicopter in Nepal, it was a lot of fun.

 

 

 

 

Photo from Creative Commons, thank you JD Hancock

Mental Wellness: Opposite-sex friends

Mental Wellness: Opposite-sex friends

sex opposite gender friends counseling Traverse City counseling

Originally featured in the Record Eagle July 14, 2012. Available at: http://record-eagle.com/features/x748660390/Mental-Wellness-Opposite-sex-friends

I have seen many a friendship and marriage fail because of opposite gender friends. What happens when you have a great opposite gender friend and you get married? What about friends that you make after marriage that are opposite of your gender?

A marriage is built on trust, love, and the ability to grow together over time.

At the core of this issue are healthy communication, openness, and realizing that you made a lifelong commitment to your spouse.

Each couple has to decide their own levels of comfort, but here are a few discussion points that seem to help.

More time together in groups

Time together in groups, whether as a group of three or larger, helps the friend and the spouse get to know one another. As well, it sends a message that the primary relationship is the marriage. Within these types of settings the friendship does shift, but it also sets a boundary of intimacy with the opposite gender friend, spouse, and to oneself.

Be open about alone time

When I have meetings with opposite gender professionals, I let my wife know about it. If a friend of hers saw me out with another woman and then talked to her, it may raise unnecessary internal or external questions for my wife. Seeking to avoid even the appearance of questions can build trust. Even though my intentions are professional, within a marriage couples are often combating their own internal dialog as well as the actual discussion that occurs. The same is true of opposite gender friends. Alone time should be discussed and agreed upon.

Be careful of depth

When someone is struggling in their marriage, they often discuss those issues with someone. Sometimes lamenting and complaining about a relationship is a way to verbally sort out thoughts.

However, when this is with an opposite gender friend, it can complicate the relationship.

The friend wants to support their friend, while also needing to respect boundaries that have been established.

As well, intimacy with that supportive person can lead to an emotional connection that distances spouses from one another.

Other’s intentions within a relationship cover the map of possibilities. That is why it is important for spouses to discuss their levels of comfort.

The biggest errors occur when friends unintentionally or intentionally start to take on roles that are primarily the spouse’s.

counselor Traverse City counseling familyJoseph R. Sanok is a licensed counselor and owns Mental Wellness Counseling. He works with family issues and enjoys innovative projects such as family therapy on a sailboat.

 

 

 

Photo used with Creative Commons thanks to jessi.bryan

Mental Wellness: More than beauty rest

Mental Wellness: More than beauty rest

sleep counseling Traverse City counselor family

Originally appeared in the Record Eagle, April 21, 2012 available at:

http://record-eagle.com/bodysoul/x1350020161/Mental-Wellness-More-than-beauty-rest/print

My grandma had a sleep mask. You know the kind that blocks out light? Hers was pink. I always thought it looked stupid. Then my wife gave me one last December, except mine is brown and black. When I got it, I thought, “Am I ever going to use this except on an airplane?”

Every morning when the light smacks me in the face at five something, I now put it on and have a glorious last hour of sleep. I love it.

We all know how important sleep is for kids. If they don’t get their naps they are cranky and everyone in earshot knows. We underestimate the importance of solid sleep for adults. Here are some things you should know:

Sleep is tied to mental wellness

Did you know that poor quality sleep is tied to anxiety, depression, attention, mood swings, panic attacks and self esteem? If you are fighting with your kids, spouse, or friends, feeling frustrated, or just anxious, maybe it isn’t medications that you need. Maybe you need more sleep.

Sleep is tied to memory

During the day our brains store most information in a short-term part of our brain. At night, the brain sorts through what is important and what is not. Everything from the color of your boss’s shirt to that marketing report gets sorted to keep or delete. If not given enough time to sort, the brain hits the delete button. Things you understood yesterday will be harder to recall.

Sleep can improve with a few simple changes

Going to bed and waking up at similar times can improve your body’s ability to get deeper and better quality sleep. As well, increasing exercise, time outside, and eating more fruits and vegetables will help. Eliminating caffeine in the evening and drinking more water can help unclog the sleep center of your brain.

Sometimes we make our lives more complicated than they need to be. What if all you need is a little more sleep? It could be the key to improving the relationships in your life, even if all it takes is a pink sleep mask.

counselor Traverse City counseling family

 

 

 

 

Joseph R. Sanok is a licensed counselor and owner at Mental Wellness Counseling. He helps angry kids, frustrated parents, distant couples “¦ and just about everyone else. Check out his “Happiness Resources” at www.mentalwellnesscounseling.com/resources/happiness/.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo used with Creative Commons license, care of blue.sky

When an escalator is not just an escalator

 

I was at a conference today in Traverse City and the facilitator showed this video. I absolutely love it. For one, it is funny. But It also makes several points that I think are worth noting. The facilitator discussed the mentalities that many of us have: Victim vs. Creator. When a stimulus happens and disrupts our lives we are handed a choice as to how we will react. Will we view it as a victim or as a creator.

Victim Mentality

As a victim, we respond with blaming and complaining. As well, we seek excuses and often repeat behaviors we have done over and over. Our energy goes into thoughts of, “Why did this happen to me” or the one that I often think, “Why didn’t someone else plan better?” “Why didn’t they fix or maintain the escalator?”

Creator Mentality

Within the creator approach, we seek to create a new situation. We spend our energy on seeking solutions, taking action, and trying something new. Rather than focusing on why we are there, we focus on how we get out.

When I was in school studying psychology and counseling at Western Michigan University, I helped with a research project that was observing people with ADHD. We found that they could not adapt or try new things as easily. Rather than keep trying new things until something worked, they overwhelmingly would try the old way, just with more energy.

When one spends a lifetime, or even a childhood like this, it can seem like the world is against you. As well, it feels like you can never succeed. One of the first steps in the therapeutic process, is to start recognizing that “victim” mentality. For example:

Victim Language: “My kids are always fighting, on one another’s case, and I can’t ever get anything done.”

Creator Language: “I need to set time aside to get things done and I may need to ask someone for help.”

One focuses on why we got to where we are, why we took that escalator today and why we were so stupid to be on it at that time. The other looks at how to get off the escalator so as to move on with life, even if it is difficult.

 

Joseph R. Sanok is a licensed professional counselor and owner at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. As well, he enjoys sailing. He has been on the only escalator in the Upper Peninsula of northern Michigan.

 

 

15 things I learned while in the hospital

 

Psychologist Traverse City Family

 

 

 

 

 

I haven’t told everyone, but I have told a lot of people, my daughter was recently in the hospital for a week. It was something fairly severe and we’re now in recovery mode. Here are some things that I wrote down the night that her surgery was over and things were stable. Maybe you will resonate with these things, maybe you don’t think your reaction would be the same. Either way, I hope it inspires you to build deeper relationships, appreciate family more, or reach out to those in your life that are hurting.

1. Our network of friends and family is much larger in size and heart than I ever knew possible.
2. I can handle much more than I ever thought possible.
3. I can be annoyed with someone and have a deep appreciation for them at the same time.
4. I need to appreciate every single day that there is not a health crisis in my family.
5. I don’t need to work harder so I can have more time with my daughter, I just need to make the time.
6. My wife is much stronger than I imagined.
7. My daughter is much stronger than I ever thought a kid could be.
8. I can still trust God even when I am angry, hate, or don’t understand Him and His decisions about healing.
9. Overall, people want to do good.
10. Humankind knows a lot more about the human body than I ever imagined.
11. I really love family and friends.
12. Food heals where words can’t.
13. Sitting with someone means a lot.
14. Facebook is a great tool in a family crisis.
15. Even though I hate McDonald’s, I love the Ronald McDonald House.

I’m not sure what you will glean from this, but I hope it serves you wherever you are at.

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor, therapist, psychologist, and overall helper of people in Traverse City, MI. He has professional experience working with Community Mental Health, residential facilities, foster care, and private practice. As well, he is the author of the book “Practice of the Practice: Basics for Launching Your Private Practice” due to be released in June 2012. He is a frequent speaker and writer locally in Traverse City, Michigan, and nationally.

 

Mental Wellness: Build time to slow down

traverse city counseling

 

 

 

 

 

 

Originally published at http://record-eagle.com/features/x239062040/Mental-Wellness-Build-time-to-slow-down by Joseph R. Sanok

I can’t slow down. I need this article more than anyone. I have a baby, house, job, private practice ” the list goes on and on. I bet your list is similar. There is always a reason why I can’t slow down.

I went to the U.P. this past weekend. I sat and drank coffee, looked out at the morning water, and read a magazine. Why is it that when we get away from town, we let ourselves relax? These are three things that are starting to work for me (I’m not there yet).

Put it in the schedule

Did you know that 15 minutes is 1 percent of your day? I think we actually have time to relax for 15 minutes, we just don’t make the time. If something is written down, we’re more likely to follow through. Plan to relax.

Get out

When we are in our homes, we see the laundry, cleaning and opportunities to not relax. Planning time out of our house clears our mind and gives us permission to forget about the struggles for a space of time. Get away from your house.

Drag it out

When I do errands, I fight for the closest parking spot, hurry in, hurry out and run back home. There have been times when we have gone to the farmers market and parked a few blocks away. We strolled, looked at the river, and we didn’t hurry home. Drag out the time that you are out and about.

But why should we slow down? Shouldn’t we be more efficient and productive? Yes, this is true. There are times during the week that productivity and efficiency are of value. Yet, if we make it a lifestyle, we increase our stress, which can lead to a lower quality of sleep, which increases anxiety and depression, while lowering our quality of life.

When you step back, why are you in such a hurry and what is it doing to you? Try it for a day and see if makes you feel better.

 

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor, therapist, psychologist, and overall helper of people in Traverse City, MI. He has professional experience working with Community Mental Health, residential facilities, foster care, and private practice. As well, he is the author of the book “Practice of the Practice: Basics for Launching Your Private Practice” due to be released in June 2012. He is a frequent speaker and writer locally in Traverse City, Michigan, and nationally.

Friends and Crisis: Dos and Don’ts

You never really appreciate a life of normality until crisis hits. Our family has been through a number of things lately: a death, a major medical issue, and close friends having their own crisis. It is amazing how it seems that high profile events bring out people’s true social skills.

I learned through experience what not to say when someone is in crisis. It was several years ago. I heard that a friend of mine’s parents had got divorced. I was close to my friend, but not to his parents. During a large festival in our town, I ran into the mom and said, “I’m so sorry to hear about you and _______.” It seemed to be the right thing to say. She broke down crying in the middle of the festival.

I felt terrible, I didn’t know how to leave, and I regretted saying anything. After that I was fairly gun-shy. When I heard that people had a miscarriage, death, or sickness, I didn’t know what to say. So I just watched from a distance. Now that I am going through my own experiences, I feel that I have an understanding of what has worked and not worked for me.

Food

Do

Make or bring food. It allows the family to focus on one another, rather than shopping, cooking, and cleaning.

Try and make something they can freeze or bring it frozen. If others are bringing food they can pull it out when the time works for them.

If you can, use things you don’t need back like Tupperware, something disposable, or a pan you don’t care about. Tell them, “Don’t worry about getting the pan back to me.”

Don’t

Don’t expect to hang out with the family long.

Don’t just show up, call and ask if there is a convenient time.

Talking

Do

Empathize with the family. Our friends that have said, “That must be hell” “I can’t imagine going through that” and “When will the universe stop shi**ing on the Sanok’s?” have been some of the most helpful comments. It makes us feel less crazy, like our feelings are normal.

Let the family or person do the talking. Saying, “If you don’t feel like talking about it, that’s ok, but how are you doing?” This is helpful because it is nice to be given permission to blow someone off and stay quiet, yet invited to talk.

Don’t

Don’t offer suggestions unless you are asked. If people are dealing with medical issues, they probably are consulting with the doctors. If they are going through a death, their closest friends will probably know what/when to suggest therapy. In general, suggestions make people feel like you want to solve their problems and make them move through their grief, rather than be with them.

Expectations

Do

Expect that your relationship will be different for a while. They may see you more or less. They may want to sit at home and drink beer. Who knows how they will react? They may not want to talk. Realize that people handle crisis very differently and the way they react can differ too. The best thing for you to do is to carry the relationship for the both of you during this time.

Don’t

Don’t get offended when they focus on something other than your relationship. If you do get offended, don’t show it. Months later if it is still bothering you, you can talk with that person. People don’t need to think about the dynamics of your relationship as well as their crisis.

Don’t worry about spending too much or too little time with them. Ask them if it would be helpful to come over. Most people will tell you what works if you ask in a direct way.

Don’t say, “Call us if you need anything.” Say something more specific like, “Would it be helpful if we had you over for dinner? We’d love to have you, but you can totally say ‘no’.” Sometimes what people need is awkward to ask for like a gas card. Rather than ask, “What do you need?” say something like, “Here’s a gas card/meal/hug if it would help.” By giving the person an out and being specific, it helps to give them the power and control, when life seems out of control.

Depending on which side of the crisis you are (going through it or supporting through it) everyone should realize that you are lucky to have one another. As someone going through life issues, I am so thankful for people saying and doing something, even if they fumble through it. Despite the missteps some have taken, we have realized that it is all done out of love and care for us, which is absolutely wonderful to have in our life.

I would much rather have someone awkwardly try and console me, than to remain quiet out of fear…and then go through a crisis alone. Even if you don’t do all the “dos” or you accidentally do some of the “don’ts” it is ok. Just do your best.

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor, therapist, psychologist, and overall helper of people in Traverse City, MI. He has professional experience working with Community Mental Health, residential facilities, foster care, and private practice. As well, he is the author of the book “Practice of the Practice: Basics for Launching Your Private Practice” due to be released in June 2012. He is a frequent speaker and writer locally in Traverse City, Michigan, and nationally.

 

Money, Couples, and Mayo

 

It all started when we were shopping for mayonnaise. I mean, we didn’t go to the store just for mayo, it’s not like we have an all mayo diet, but it is now known as the “Mayo Incident.” I would say that it started years before that incident, but it was the catalyst.

We had been married a month. I was determined to live frugal so that we could make ends meet. My wife knew that I was frugal and wanted to establish that we could have fun in life. I saw it as an opportunity to focus on living poor, so as to be rich later. She saw it as a quality of life issue. We both entrenched into our positions. I wanted the generic mayo that was fifty cents cheaper, she wanted to “bring out the best.”

I “won”, in that we got the off brand. She then decided that she would only eat sandwiches with mustard. I was stuck eating crappy mayo. Finally, after two months, I caved, threw it out, and we have had Hellmann’s ever since.

When I step back from the Mayo Incident, I see patterns that we have both sought to overcome. She has recognized that she did not make financially sound decisions in the past, whereas I realized that I have missed out enjoying the fruits of hard work. I don’t know exactly how we each arrived at those unique positions, but somehow, somewhere, we did.

Our first year of marriage was rough; it was not the bliss we imagined. We had to struggle through many other areas we had entrenched ourselves. What helped us was finding a common goal to work toward that was bigger than either of our own personal agendas. When we focused on where we were going as a couple, it made more sense to step back from our entrenchment.

I think this is also true in work and friendships. So often, I see that I am distracted by the present situation, that I don’t look at the broader goal. For example, I just started learning about ways to expand my counseling practice. My thought was, “If I could someday make money in a passive way, then I could spend more time with my family and not work as hard.”

That’s a good thought, but I found that instead of playing with my cute 11-month daughter, I was on Twitter, Facebook, building a website, and listening to podcasts on passive income. I had lost sight of the goal. I was giving up family time to have more potential family time.

Now I have shifted to trying to only reply to emails/Twitter/Facebook when my daughter is asleep and after my wife and I have had time together.

I think that I’ll always struggle with the balance of new, exciting projects and family time. But it is helpful to see what is happening, step back from my current project and look at the real goal. In that way, I hope to avoid another Mayo Incident and work toward my true direction I am seeking.

Joseph R. Sanok is the owner of http://www.mentalwellnesscounseling.com where he helps angry kids, frustrated parents, and distant couples. He also helps private practice clinicians be more awesome through his blog http://www.practiceofthepractice.com, where he discusses marketing, running a business, and setting up a website.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Joseph_R_Sanok

 

http://ezinearticles.com/?expert=Joseph_R_Sanok

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor, therapist, psychologist, and overall helper of people in Traverse City, MI. He has professional experience working with Community Mental Health, residential facilities, foster care, and private practice. As well, he is the author of the book “Practice of the Practice: Basics for Launching Your Private Practice” due to be released in June 2012. He is a frequent speaker and writer locally in Traverse City, Michigan, and nationally.

Three Tips to Relax More as a Parent

How’s it going friend?
I hope that your day is going fabulous! Also, thank you in advance for passing this on to one friend, I’m sure you know a parent that can grow with you, so thanks for helping your friends through this newsletter. 

Today’s newsletter is going to be a shorter letter with a few great tips to get you started with getting rid of Mommy/Daddy stress! I’m sure you’ve heard several things to reduce your stress, but maybe you haven’t thought of it this way, when you set time aside for yourself, you are more emotionally healthy, therefore, you will respond better when you have parenting decisions to make, you won’t yell as much and you’ll be more level headed. 

Sometimes you need someone to tell you:

“Take time for yourself, you have my permission.”

Tip #1 The Magic Three
Getting quality sleep, exercise, and eating foods low in processing all help reduce stress and help you feel more focused. There is something about these three in combination that destroys stress. Exercise makes you tired, which helps you sleep child clears your mind, as does healthier foods.

Tip #2 When you say “no” you are really saying “yes”
I was wondering, friend, do you feel guilty when you say, “no”? For me it helped to realize what I was saying “yes” to when I said “no.” If you say “no” to another play date, you say “yes” to more time at home, getting things done, or relaxing, Also, when you allow yourself to hear what your body needs, it is easier. We sometimes have Mommy/Daddy guilt, thinking we always have to be educating, playing with, or engaging our kids. It is alright to step back and relax for a moment. Realize that 15 minutes of time is 1% of your kid’s day. If you step back for 1%, the other 99% will be substantially better. 

Tip #3  Outsource something
Do you have friends or family members that could watch your child for 30 minutes every Wednesday while you go for a run? Could you swap having someone clean your house floors for something you enjoy more? Sometimes we don’t creatively engage with our friends. What if we folded laundry together at your house this week and my house next week? It would be more fun and go faster.

If that doesn’t work, send me an email, I’d love to help you out. Contact me now 

If you liked this, please pass it on to a friend or post it to Facebook/Twitter. Thank you so much!

 
Do you agree?

Well friend, that’s it for now!

-Joe

Joseph R. Sanok owns Mental Wellness Counseling  and is a Dad. He loves helping angry kids, frustrated parents, and struggling couples. He lives, works, and plays in Traverse City, MI. He also just launched the blogwww.PracticeofthePractice.com where he helps therapists to be more awesome. Check it out if you are a therapist looking to launch a private practice. 

Blah in our Brains

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ask Joe
Think “Dear Abby” for a new generation. Each newsletter I will select one or more questions to answer. So if you have a parenting or mental wellness question, please send it my way. I’m sure others have the same question and could benefit. sanokcounseling@gmail.com

Dear Joe,
What are some approaches to improving bed time routines for my kids? They are 9, 12, and 13.
-I Need a Break, Kalamazoo, MI

Dear I Need a Break,
First start with their ages and how much time they need to sleep. Depending on their wake-up and bus times most 9 year old should be in bed between 8:00-9:00, however, since you have two old kids you may want to have the 9-year-old have and 8:30, 12-year-old 8:45, and 13-year-old 9:00. Until high school, most kids should go to bed prior to 9:30. Once you determine the times that you want, stick to them. Start the bed time routine at least 15 minutes before, that means no TV for the 15-30 minutes before bed.

One technique that seems to work well is the have weekend bedtimes based on weeknight compliance. For example, “If you go to bed at 8:30 during the week for 3 nights, your weekend bedtime is 8:45, 4 nights 9:00, all 5 nights 9:30.” This provides a clear positive consequence for the desired behavior. Some families create charts to keep track. Also, tying their behavior to the social skill of “building trust” can help. For example, “Thanks for being in bed on time. By doing that, you are showing me that I can trust you to do what you need to do.” Then, when they ask if they can do something, you can say, “You know, you have done a great job building trust at bedtime, sure you can go to the store with your friend.”

Give those strategies a whirl and let me know how it goes.
I hope that helps.

-Joe

Have a question for Joe? Email him and ask, what’s stopping you? Really, you know you want to:
Click here to ASK JOE 

Blah in Our Brains
By Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC
I hate the time change. I don’t understand why during the darkest part of the year, we make it darker. I would much rather have it stay dark until 10:00 am and have light in the evening. But maybe that’s just me. This time of year triggers in people a sense of fatigue, sadness, depression, and feelings of blah. Whether you deal with clinical depression, seasonal affective disorder, or feelings of blah, there are several things you can do that will help you feel better.

Get More Light
Even when it is light outside, it seems to still be cloudy in Northern Michigan. A window usually is not enough. Regular lights do not capture the full light spectrum. They usually only have the blues and violets. Getting outside and sitting by a window will help, but changing some of your bulbs in your office or home to full-spectrum light bulbs can really help. A number of studies have shown that full-spectrum light can help with depression, sadness, and the feelings of blah (blah is not a clinical term used in research studies). Bulbs usually run $14-$24 dollars, a lot cheaper than therapy.

Get More Exercise
Exercise releases natural endorphins in your body. I was at the University of Michigan Depression Conference last year and one speaker was discussing how some studies are showing that exercise paired with counseling can be more effective than psychiatric medication. Even a short walk or taking the stairs can be helpful.

Get More Veggies
Fruits and vegetables can help with replenishing the body’s nutrients. Loads of colors in your diet are helpful. A diet of reduced processed foods helps to make the brain more receptive to light and exercise during the winter months. WedMD has a number of helpful nutrition suggestions,http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/diet-recovery

Get More Socialization
When I work with clients dealing with depression they often get into a cycle of alone time. They don’t feel like going out or doing anything which makes them feel like they don’t want to go out and do anything. During winter months we often feel like we want to hunker down and stay home. Socialization and new activities help us free up the blah in our brain.
Once you try these tips, you will hopefully see changes. With that said, you also need to know when to talk with your health care provider about pursuing additional options.
As with any change, it is better to start small and make little changes that you can do. Maybe for you a step would be to change a light bulb, go for a daily walk, eat broccoli again, or plan a potluck with friends or family. The hardest part is taking a step in the right direction, after that you will pick up momentum and have a blah-free winter.

Do you agree?


Resources 
University of Michigan has a great set of resources called The Depression Tool Kit. There are videos, worksheets, and tons of resources. Check it out, it will help you and/or the people you work with! http://www.depressiontoolkit.org/

That’s it for now. Do good to others and keep in touch!

-Joe

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor, therapist, psychologist, and overall helper of people in Traverse City, MI. He has professional experience working with Community Mental Health, residential facilities, foster care, and private practice. As well, he is the author of the book “Practice of the Practice: Basics for Launching Your Private Practice” due to be released in June 2012. He is a frequent speaker and writer locally in Traverse City, Michigan, and nationally.

Four Parenting Tips

Counseling Traverse City

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four Parenting Tips

Parenting can be so complex, here are some quick tips to get you going:

1. Start observing: When you review your child’s behavior, what do you see, hear, and observe. What is your starting point? Once you establish the description of behavior, it will be easier to determine what you want to change. What is normal for them? Do they do the behavior one time a day, hour, week?

2. What are they getting?: Kids do behaviors for a reason, it is your job to figure out what that reason is. Are they avoiding something? Gaining something? Usually they are trying to gain something positive or avoid something negative. After you know what they are doing (step 1) and know what they are getting/avoiding, you can create a plan.

3. Plan for change: You want to make your path the easier path for your child. This can be through setting up positive consequences (privileges or praise) or negative consequences (chores and time away from things they like). Once you start your plan, you will want to see how you are doing.

4. Review how you and your child are doing: After you begin your plan, check in with your child. Say something like, “A week ago you were saying ‘no’ 2-3x per day, but I’ve noticed that it has really gone down.” Also, evaluate your own consistency and quality.

Starting with these four steps are a great way to start working on specific behaviors.

If this newsletter got forwarded to you, you can sign up to get each and every issue, www.mentalwellnesscounseling.com

Resources
This is a great video about our changing world and what it will take for our kids to get jobs! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SuNx0UrnEo

That’s it for now, keep in touch!

-Joe

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor, therapist, psychologist, and overall helper of people in Traverse City, MI. He has professional experience working with Community Mental Health, residential facilities, foster care, and private practice. As well, he is the author of the book “Practice of the Practice: Basics for Launching Your Private Practice” due to be released in June 2012. He is a frequent speaker and writer locally in Traverse City, Michigan, and nationally.