What Therapy Stage Are You In?


Virtually all counseling clients start at this level. You are in crisis, at a low point, depressed or anxious. My focus here is an immediate and practical prescription for helping you regain hope and basic functioning. This most often includes health issues such as exercise and rest, as well as releasing pain out of the body by relaxation and journaling.


At this stage you move on to the relationships around you as a focus for change. You are ready to see how you help create the painful patterns in your own life, and you go out into the world as a scientist, observing your patterns with others. You begin to see how you contribute to your own problems by the thinking habits you’ve formed.


Too many clients leave therapy at this stage. The pain is eased—why go deeper? The problem with stopping here is that the fundamental issues and reactions have not been changed yet. It’s like stopping an antibiotic on the second day because you feel better—the basic “infection” has not been eradicated, and will resurface in time.


A client who “stays the course” to this stage begins to reap the deeply satisfying rewards of enjoyment and contentment in life. Persistent body aches, migraines, rashes and recurring illnesses often ease or disappear entirely as the client ceases to be at war within and therefore has the energy to heal.


Once the bothersome thinking patterns are uncovered and corrected, the client has found peace in their personal boundaries and dealings with others. The “coaching” side of my work now begins. I help the client explore what they want their legacy to be in life, how to live with integrity regardless of circumstance, and dream for the future by exploring goals.

Ten Signs You May Need Professional Therapy

We all go through challenging times in our lives, but some experiences are worse than others. There is NO problem that can’t be eased—a little or a lot—by seeking professional counseling.

Some problems are like a sore throat—we go to the doctor, get a short round of treatment, and feel better. But others, such as death of a loved one, relationship issues, parenting problems, moving to a new city, living with the after effects of abuse from childhood, dealing with an elderly parent, health or weight issues—are more like a cancer. The problem only grows without professional intervention.

So what are you experiencing?

1) I have low energy, “blahs”

2) Someone in my life puts me down or threatens me

3) I can’t relax

4) I have the same fights over and over

5) People keep disappointing me

6) My sleep is disturbed

7) I can’t keep a job and/or a relationship

8) My temper gets out of hand

9) I wouldn’t mind if I weren’t here anymore

10) I feel guilty all the time

I have extensively studied how to help these and many other issues common to all people. Let’s get started making your life better! We will gently examine the things that are troubling you and I will guide you toward new ways of thinking and dealing with people to lead you toward freedom. Homework is an essential part of this process, as you take the suggestions I give you and try them out between sessions. Are YOU ready to change?

Do I Need Counseling?

Every day millions of people search online for help with their problems, wondering if it’s finally time to reach out for direction and support to handle sadness, depression, anxiety, stress, fights with their partner or spouse, and family issues, among others. Here are some of the questions and mistaken beliefs we encounter as therapists every day.

Can’t I just talk to my friends about my problems?

Talking to a friend about mental health or personal issues may bring you temporary relief, but will make the problem more deep seated in the long run because you become more identified with the issue the longer you complain without intervention. Remember, you get what you pay for, and zero-cost advice is pretty much worth zero!

Nobody can change my situation, so why pay to see a professional about it?

There is a saying that “your world changes when YOU change.”  A professional, licensed therapist is trained in ways to help you respond to your world differently. We have at least two college degrees and extensive supervised training thereafter. There are thinking patterns, usually formed in childhood, of which you are completely unaware. I can show you how you are holding yourself back and perhaps help you find insight and freedom. It’s often a cage of your own making!

I’ve felt this way so long…

If you had a persistent fever, would you just say “oh well” and live with it? Or would you go to a health care specialist who could evaluate, diagnose, and treat it? The average person doesn’t realize how common mood and relationship problems are to the human condition, and that they can be (and are) identified and studied. Whole systems of therapy are developed for common issues, much as drugs are developed for physical ailments.

What will people think?

The people intelligent and mature enough to seek therapy realize that it doesn’t matter what people think! It matters how you live every day of your limited, precious life, and whether you can enjoy that to a higher degree and love more fully. Besides, you would be surprised how many of those “imaginary people” you think are judging you are actually patients themselves.

Is it time for YOU to feel better? It’s time!

Keys for Less Stressful Communication

What might you imagine is one of the biggest stressors that convince people to seek counseling? Is it fear of death, disease, or unemployment?

Actually, it’s a fear of being seen as selfish and therefore, being disapproved of. It’s the conflict between knowing in your deepest self that someone is taking advantage of you, treating you disrespectfully, or otherwise ignoring your needs, and your fear of speaking and acting differently in order to address that person. (NOTE: A physically abusive situation is dangerous and is not intended to be addressed here.)

Sometimes we don’t speak up because we don’t know how to do so in an appropriate way. After all, where do we learn how to communicate, how to be an adult? From watching our parents—and who taught them? The end result is that most people find themselves communicating either passively or aggressively—and neither will bring the desired results. Stress and tension only build in your life when these are used.

The Sighs Say it All…

Passive (also called passive-aggressive) communication is:

  • hinting, sighing
  • glaring, eye rolling
  • sarcasm
  • “forgetting” to do what we say we will do
  • “Swallowing” our words with alcohol, overeating or smoking

We feel we are somehow responsible for the other person’s misbehavior (“what did I do to make them act that way?”) instead of remembering that EACH of us is responsible for our own actions.

Sayings like “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” feed the passive style. A belief that feeling angry is wrong makes many people so frightened of this emotion that they suppress it rather than express it in healthy ways.

Look Out! Here Comes The Unloading…

The aggressive style is often dangerous. This person might:

  • yell or call names
  •  hit or throw things
  •  put you down or threaten to leave you
  •  control your money and activities
  •  check up on you constantly

 They tend to unload their anger at the world directly onto you. If you bring up any frustrations or needs of your own, they quickly launch an offensive attack, telling you that you are “wrong” to feel that way. You are told that “you’re just too sensitive” often enough that you finally begin to believe them and tune out the voice of reason inside you.

The aggressive style is powerful and we often allow aggressive people to get what they want, simply because it seems to take too much energy to “rock the boat”, or we don’t believe we have a right to do so.

Honest and Direct = ASSERTIVE Communication

 So how do we need to communicate to keep the stress levels down in our lives? By stating our needs:

  • In a calm voice
  • Directly and respectfully
  • Using “I need, I want, I would like, I am going to” instead of “YOU should, YOU need to”
  • Repeating ourselves if we are not understood, as necessary
  • Asking for clarification if you don’t understand
  • Physically leaving the room if the communication becomes aggressive or abusive (taking a “time out”), with a promise to try again later
  • Taking deep breaths when we are upset
  • Following up with actions that back up our words

Although the people around you will have to adjust to your new communication style, the end result will be less stress and more respect– both self-respect and from others.

Ways We Avoid Healing

“If I journal, then I have to THINK about my husband having an affair,” stated my client flatly. “Why would I want to do that?”

That may sound a bit silly to you, but as human beings we are always finding distractions from our issues that need attention or problem solving. How many of these do YOU do?

  • Work: feeling centered only when working or accomplishing
  • Sex: hiding from uncomfortable feelings through compulsive sexual behavior
  • Television: avoiding discomfort by watching TV for hours on end, every day
  • Drugs/Alcohol: “I need it to relax” translates “I don’t have to think about changing or feel the pain that would push me to do so”
  • Tobacco: using nicotine and the act of smoking to calm yourself
  • Tasks: volunteer or otherwise: needing to stay compulsively active with endless tasks or conversations
  • Rage: only feeling OK after venting anxiety and anger inappropriately
  • Exercise: using exercise compulsively to seek control or avoid emotions
  • Adrenaline: using risky behavior as a form of mood altering
  • Food: eating compulsively for comfort or reward
  • Hoarding: collecting and saving items endlessly
  • Shopping: purchasing an item based on the idea that it will bring comfort, or seeking comfort in the act of buying
  • Cleaning: cleaning endlessly in order to avoid stillness, which might bring attention to anxiety or other uncomfortable emotions. It’s also a way to seek control when feeling your life doesn’t have any
  • Spirituality: becoming absorbed and/or obsessed in spiritual or religious ideas as a way of hiding from uncomfortable emotions*

The problem is that when we resist an emotion, trying not to feel what we are feeling, we tighten muscles around the areas in our bodies where we feel the emotion. This keeps it trapped there instead of letting it flow through naturally.

Are you ready to stop and pay attention to your life? I am your best guide to do so. Let’s get started!

*Adapted from Present Moment Awareness by S. Duncan

Treating Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, and Couples Issues

Have you ever wondered about all of the types of counseling or therapy providers out there? All of the issues in this title can be treated by several different kinds of licensed professionals. The key word to look for is “Licensed,” because it means a certain level of accountability to a governing body and a minimum Master’s level of education. Here’s an overview of some of the types of licensed therapists out there:

Master’s Level Therapists include:

Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC)

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT)

Licensed Clinical Counselors (LCC)

Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC)

Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC)

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

These are just some of the types throughout the United States, and there are Interns in each profession as well who are licensed and supervised in practice. There are also Supervisor levels for each license, which indicates more experience and training.

Counseling or therapy (the words are used interchangeably) is also conducted by Doctoral level (PhD or PsyD) therapists called Psychologists. Psychologists are licensed to do levels of testing that a Master’s level therapist cannot.

 Mental Health Providers who can legally prescribe medication are generally a Psychiatrist or a PMHNP (Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner).  Psychiatrists have an MD level degree, as they are medical doctors who have completed additional training in psychiatry. Most psychiatrists don’t do “talk” therapy, preferring to focus on medication and prescribing instead. The same is generally true for PMHNP providers. Of course, the medical profession itself can prescribe but they don’t do talk therapy.

The most important factor for you is how comfortable you feel with the licensed provider you have chosen. Personalities between client and therapist must mesh for the therapy to be effective. If there’s something your therapist can do differently, ask! Communication is key.

If you have any questions about any of this information, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Assessing Your Healing: Signs of Progress in Therapy

Do you know that you can focus on various areas in your life to see if you are feeling better in specific ways? This is a fun, informal quiz to use for this purpose. Rate your improvement from 1 to 4, with 4 being the most improved. Leave it blank if it doesn’t apply to you. Take the results to your therapist for discussion.


__Self Esteem

__Ability to reach Life Goals

__Personal Safety

__Your work or career

__Level of happiness


__Use of your talents

__Sense of Humor

__Ability to care for others

__Personal self-care/Attractiveness

__Ability to make friends

__Relationships (friends)

__Relationships (family)

__Getting along with coworkers

__Taking time for you

__Treating yourself well

__Putting your needs first

__Taking care of your body

__Not getting overly tired

__Taking care of yourself when ill

__Eating well

__Sleeping enough

__Exercising regularly

__Appropriate alcohol use (or none at all)

Track your progress on a regular basis. Therapy is all about improving your life and making it the best it can be!

(Adapted from It’s My Life Now by M. Dugan)

10 Gifts to Give Yourself This Year

1. Turn off the TV news for the holiday season.  Instead, light candles and put on music.

2. Notice even the smallest of your daily accomplishments instead of what you DIDN’T get done. Keep a “success list!”

3. Remember that we get what we focus on in life. Focusing on good points in yourself and others will bring MORE of them.

4. Take a “senses walk” for 20 minutes, 4 times a week. Notice the breath in your lungs, the smell of the air, the change of the seasons. Outdoor light and exercise both stimulate serotonin production, lifting mood.

5. Take a few minutes daily to “hibernate.” Close your door, remove your shoes, dim the lights, and focus on what makes you happy.

6. Breathe in to the slow count of four. Hold it four slow counts. Release in four slow counts. Repeat until you feel the muscles relax all over!

7. Stay aware of your thoughts.

8. Don’t take on another person’s bad mood. Guard yourself, removing yourself from their company if necessary.

9. Find freedom by letting go of criticizing and complaining about yourself or someone else.

10. If you need to make changes, act NOW. Don’t put off health or happiness!

Helpful Hints for Holiday Happenings

As the holiday season draws near, so do the stressful encounters with family! Here are some tips for making it through with your holiday spirit intact.

1. Remind yourself that people are under more pressure and are going to be harder to get along with on special days.

2. If you choose to speak up-and “rocking the boat” is NOT a bad thing—use an “I message.” Example: Mom, I feel hurt when you criticize my cooking.

3. Try to have those “I message” conversations privately and directly with the person who has offended you. Avoid the words “always” and “never.” After all, no one is ALWAYS guilty of something!

4. Avoid being drawn into family triangles. A triangle is where people discuss another family member behind their back. It may feel good to be included, but it almost always comes back to haunt you later when you indulge in gossip. If someone attempts to draw you in, excuse yourself and invent an urgent gravy emergency.

5. If the dinner is at your house, you have the right to set all rules and boundaries, such as no alcohol, no smoking inside, etc. Be polite but firm. The rules are always the choice of the host/hostess: the guest’s choice is whether or not to attend.

6. Get outside for a walk, or at least a deep breath of fresh air. Remind yourself that it’s only one day. Promise yourself a relaxing treat later (such as a hot bath, TV show, good book). This will help manage your depression or anxiety.

7. Try to look past the person’s irritating manner to the wounds that cause the actions. This does not mean you don’t speak up, it simply means you speak up calmly 

8. Thank your hostess profusely. You have no idea how much time and effort it takes unless you’ve done it yourself!

9. Spend some time being thankful and enjoying the people you love.

10. Never skip our appointments during the holiday season, no matter how busy you are. Like sleep and exercise, your sessions are essential to keeping you in balance and moving forward.

Relationship Resolutions

At this time of year we often find ourselves around people who stress or frustrate us. The problems between us arise again and again as the Holidays progress. This is a good time of year to set some fresh resolutions; not about losing weight or saving money, but about dealing with our loved ones in a compassionate yet assertive way. Here are some ways to achieve this goal.

1.     Understand that _______experiences life from her/his perspective, not mine.

2.     Be kind, calm AND assertive with ______so I can be at peace with my own behavior.

3.     Accept _________where they are now rather than trying to “help” them change.

4.     Give up trying to make __________ happy.

5.     Believe in __________________’s ability to do the necessary to live their own life at this time.

6.     Let __________experience their own feelings (guilt, fear, anger etc.) without my getting caught up in them.

7.     Let __________experience and deal with their own emotional pain.

8.     Do not take control of things that __________should do on their own as a grown adult.

9.     Set and maintain my personal boundaries with ___________.

10. Forgive the past and focus on the positive aspects of my relationship with ____________.

11. Accept my own feelings about ___________whenever they come up and don’t try to push away those feelings.