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Latest News and Insight for Progressive Psychological Healthcare

Beginner’s Guide to Couples Counseling

Couples counseling is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on helping couples-both married and unmarried- to work through challenges, strengthen their relationships, and develop healthier ways of communicating and work through relationship stress.

When to Go to Couples Therapy

 There isn’t a right or wrong time to start couples counseling. Couples counseling can be a great resource for couples in many different circumstances. From helping couples navigate through a specific event, conflict in the relationship, to strengthen certain aspects like communication, a counselor can help provide support and encouragement throughout the process.

Ideally, couples should start counseling before a crisis or talks of a breakup occur. This helps strengthen the relationship for when rough patches happen. However, coming into counseling no matter what is happening in your relationship is always better than not seeking help. The point is that you and your partner are making the conscious decision to work together and strengthen your relationship regardless of where you currently are in your relationship.

How to Find a Couples Counselor

Finding a couples counselor can be a bit more challenging than finding an individual counselor. It’s important to find a counselor that works for both you and your partner. Talking to your partner about what both of you want out of therapy, what you hope to gain, and how you want therapy to go is the first important step to finding a therapist that is a good fit for both of you.

It’s also important to keep an open mind when starting couples counseling. While you might have a vision in your mind as to what you want therapy to look like, you never really know what will click until you are in your first session together.

How to Prepare for your first session

Being open and talking about starting couples counseling with your partner is a great first step in preparing for your first session. Sitting with your partner in front of a new therapist can cause some feelings of anxiety and nervousness to arise. Know that these feelings are normal and don’t put too much pressure on you or your partner if there is some hesitancy during the initial session. Sometimes it takes time to get comfortable with the therapeutic process.

It’s also a good idea to clear your schedule for the first appointment. While it isn’t always possible, heading off to work directly after the first session isn’t recommended. Instead, try to schedule an appointment on a day off or later in the evening so you can have time to emotionally process, rest, and recharge after your session.

What to Do if One Partner isn’t As Committed to Counseling as the Other

It can be a difficult situation to navigate if one partner isn’t as sold on the idea of couple counseling as the other partner is. While it may be tempting to try and persuade your partner, it’s important to have an open and honest conversation about what your partner is feeling.

There can be many reasons as to why a partner doesn’t want to go to couples therapy. For instance, if your partner feels like they are being forced into therapy, it’s unlikely that they will gain much from the experience. Because of this, it is important to make your partner feel heard and understood.

That being said, if your partner is against therapy, it’s recommended to hold off on booking your first appointment and focus on discussing why you want to go to therapy. Sometimes, the fear of going to therapy, especially if it is their first time, can cause a knee jerk ‘no’ response from your partner. Communicating how important it is for you can help give them a different perspective and more information for them to consider.

What Results Should You Expect?

There is no definite answer to how successful couples therapy can be for a specific couple. Because there are so many factors associated with each couple, guaranteeing success is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to do.

While some evidence indicates that couples counseling does have long-term benefits for the couple, it ultimately boils down to the commitment and work that each individual within the couple puts into their relationship.

That being said, couples counseling can give you and your partner the tools necessary to build a strong foundation with healthy communication techniques that can lead to a long, stable, and fulfilling relationship.

 

If you’re interested in couples or marriage counseling, call Progressive Psychological Healthcare at 847-979-0268 for more information.

How to Deal with Burnout and Avoid it in the Future

So many times life is ok until it isn’t. We hold it together and shuffle from responsibility to responsibility, attempting to uphold all of our commitments while also dealing with the stressors that come along with it. 

 

Sometimes it feels like if one more thing goes wrong or you have to take on another responsibility in your life, that delicate balancing act that you’ve been in charge of comes crashing down around you. 

 

Feeling overwhelmed or burnt out isn’t a fun thing to live with and has potential to lead to mental and physical health issues if not addressed properly. 

 

Common stressors and things that can often lead to feelings of being overwhelmed are common occurrences throughout a person’s lifespan. These common stressors include things such as pregnancy, trouble with a boss, a career change, or a change in responsibilities at work. However,  feeling burnt out or overwhelmed by these stressors doesn’t have to be a normal part of your life. 

 

Myself, like many, have gone through a lot of life changes throughout the last year. From transitioning to working from home to added responsibilities at work and less time for socialization due to Covid-19, it slowly wore me down. I soon felt myself feeling exhausted all the time and had a lot of difficulty concentrating enough to be productive at work. I started getting more moody around my family and started feeling so overwhelmed that I could barely uphold any of my responsibilities. 

 

Luckily, I was able to recognize my feelings of being burnt out and overwhelmed by my life that I was able to implement some of the tools that have helped a lot of my clients dealing with similar feelings of being overwhelmed and burnt out. 

 

If this sounds like you, it’s important to understand that just like other feelings, these feelings of being overwhelmed don’t need to be a constant part of your life and there are lifestyle tweaks that you can do in order to alleviate some of these heavy feelings. 

 

Work on a Solid Sleep Schedule

 

Mental health and sleep are closely intertwined and more research is coming out that is finding that poor quality of sleep or not enough good sleep can lead to an increase in stress and other feelings that may contribute to feeling burnt out or overwhelmed. In fact, research has found a link between sleep, insomnia, and the activation of anxiety and depression symptoms. 

 

This being said, try creating a sleep schedule to foster better and longer sleep if you find that you are having trouble sleeping and staying asleep. Experts recommend 7-9 hours of sleep per night for adults. 

 

Mindfulness is your Friend 

 

Recent studies have found that using mindfulness techniques such as meditation, journaling, and deep breathing are effective ways for reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.

 

If self-guided meditation isn’t your thing, there are a lot of different things to try that are also mindfulness based. For instance, try exploring different mindfulness videos or apps. Many are free and can help get you started in including mindfulness in your daily routine. 

 

Make Changes to your Schedule 

 

United States culture values hustle and ‘the grind’. In fact, taking on side jobs or ‘side hustles’ is often encouraged and is slowly becoming the new normal. However, as our lives become progressively more filled with responsibilities or expectations from others, it can start to have a negative effect on our mental health and ultimately lead to burnout and feelings of being overwhelmed. 

 

Take a look at your daily schedule and try to notice if there are any times that you dedicate to doing something you like or that is relaxing. This could be taking a walk, playing an instrument, or talking with a friend or family member. If it is starting to seem like there isn’t enough time in the day for these kinds of activities, it might be time to see if there is anything you could maybe let go of. 

 

Work on Saying No 

 

As I mentioned above, our society is based around the word ‘yes’. Sometimes, it seems that this is the only answer when someone asks you to do something. Constantly saying yes to things creates more stress in your life because it adds additional expectations and responsibilities that you need to juggle. 

 

If you’re a ‘yes’ person and find yourself feeling stressed every time you have to say yes to something, try working ‘no’ into your vocabulary a little more. Now, I’m not saying to say no to every opportunity that comes your way. However, understanding what you can take on and where to draw boundaries is a great first step at managing future stress and future burnout. 

 

Take Breaks 

 

Not taking breaks throughout your day is a surefire way to reach burnout fast. While it may feel like taking breaks will make you less productive and less likely to accomplish tasks related to the responsibilities, taking breaks may have more benefits than one. 

 

In fact, taking breaks throughout the day has been found to help restore your motivation, especially for long-term goals and tasks and can lead to more productivity and creativity. Because of this, try to schedule small breaks throughout the day in order to give yourself time to feel refreshed and refocused before jumping back into your tasks and responsibilities.

Mental Health and the Aging Population

By year 2050, the proportion of the world’s population that is over 60 is expected to almost double from 12% to 22%, creating a greater necessity for recognizing and treating the special mental health challenges that this population faces. In fact, according to a 2021 study from the Institute on Medicine, approximately 1 in 5 people that are 65 years or older experience a mental health illness, substance abuse, or both. 

Within the United States alone, this statistic equates to almost 5.7 million older adults. These mental health challenges include; anxiety, cognitive impairment, and mood disorders such as bipolar disorder and depression while older men have one of the highest suicide rates of any age group.  

Mental health challenges are not a normal part in the aging process. Good mental health helps to contribute to an overall sense of well-being and is an integral part in having a good quality of life that can help older adults continue to thrive and enjoy life. While fluctuation in mood is normal, persistent changes in mood and other symptoms can be a sign of mental health distress.  

Depression Symptoms

Depression is one of the most prevalent mental health problems among older adults and can often lead to distress, difficulties in mental and social functioning, and even suicide. While increases in depressive symptoms have been seen in older adults, it doesn’t need to be a normal part of the aging process. 

In fact, more than 80% of cases in which an older adult is experiencing depression is treatable yet seniors are less likely to seek or receive help when experiencing these issues. This is why it is extremely important to understand and identify symptoms. 

Dementia 

Dementia is usually categorized as a progressive or chronic syndrome and entails a deterioration of memory often affecting older adults. In fact, it is estimated that around 50 million people worldwide are living with dementia throughout the world and is projected to increase to 82 million in 2030

Dementia usually has significant social and economic costs for those affected as well as the individual’s family. Because of this, emotional stress as a result of dementia can have a significant impact on the individual’s mental health. Due to this, mental health care is essential for both the individual with dementia and their support system. 

Risk Factors 

According to the WHO and the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation, many factors within an individual’s life can trigger the onset of mental health difficulties. Some of these risk factors include: 

 

  • Alcohol or substance abuse 
  • Long-term illness such as cancer
  • Loss of a Loved One 
  • Physical disability or loss of mobility 
  • Chronic Pain 
  • Isolation*
  • Medication Interactions 
  • Poor Diet 
  • Other Mental Health problems such as Alzheimer’s Disease 

 

*Isolation may be something more prevalent due to Covid-19 and older adults should be carefully monitored and checked in order to decrease the risk of severe mental health distress that may stem from Covid-19 and the resulting isolation. 

 

Symptoms of Mental Health Issues in Older Adults

While it is natural for some changes to occur throughout the aging process, it’s important for caregivers and those close to the older individual to be aware of the signs and symptoms that may be signaling that mental health issues are happening.  Some warning signs that may indicate mental health concerns are: 

  • Changes in appearance 
  • Continual confusion 
  • Changes in appetite 
  • Depressed mood lasting two or more weeks
  • Changes in social functioning such as social withdrawal
  • Changes in energy 
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or thoughts of sucide or self-harm 
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies that used to be pleasurable

 

Treatment Strategies 

While it is important to understand the risk factors and signs associated with mental health problems within an aging adult population, knowing how to handle signs of mental health problems is equally important. Because of this, it is essential to train health professionals in providing care for older individuals, developing policies on extended care, and creating age-friendly services and settings. 

If you see a loved one exhibiting any of the symptoms or risk factors described above, call for a consultation with a healthcare professional. This will help get the best level of care possible for the individual facing mental health challenges.

Interventions 

Early diagnosis and treatment of mental, neurological, and substance abuse disorders in older adults is an essential part of care. Due to the wide variety of mental health issues that older adults can face, a combination of psychosocial interventions and medicines are typically used. 

In addition to this, social and community support is an important aspect in promoting this population’s mental and physical health. 

Educating, training, and supporting caregivers and healthcare providers on long-term care of older adults as well as supporting legislation surrounding mental health care for older adults provide support and care that can help promote a healthy and high quality of life for older adults. 

Take the time to check in with your aging loved one, especially during this time of social-distancing and don’t hesitate to seek help if you think there may be signs of mental distress happening.

 

How to Start Therapy

As recently as ten years ago, mental health wasn’t something that many people talked about. In fact, seeing a therapist was rarely something anyone would advertise in their life. However, as mental health becomes more normalized, seeking therapy is something that is progressively becoming a standard practice for many. 

Is therapy right for me? 

It can be difficult to know when going to get professional help is right for you, especially if you have never been to therapy before. Therapy is a vulnerable and private experience and starting can be overwhelming. 

Because of this, it may take some time and consideration to decide if you are ready to see a therapist. However, according to the American Psychological Association, therapy should be considered if you:

  • Thinking about or coping with the issue for more than an hour a day 
  • The issue pushes you to avoid others 
  • Your quality of life has decreased as a result of the issues you are experiencing
  • The issues are negatively affecting aspects of your life such as school, work, or relationships 
  • You have created coping mechanisms or habits to deal with the issue that are causing problems or a decrease in quality of life

If any of these things describe you or you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or generally unhappy, it might be a sign that your internal ‘check engine’ light is on and seeing a mental health professional such as a therapist could help. 

Benefits of Therapy 

For those of us that don’t have a lot of experience with therapy, it could be seen as something that is for ‘crazy people’. However, that isn’t the case. In fact, a lot of successful people use psychotherapy as a tool to help manage stress, navigate life transitions, and gain skills to be successful and happy in life. 

In fact, research shows multiple benefits that therapy can have for individual. For instance, therapy can help you to better understand yourself, how you think and how you feel in situations better, give you tools to deal with difficulties in your life, and help you gain new insight and perspective. In addition to this, therapy also gives you a non-judgemental space to process and talk through emotions and difficult events.

How to Start

Finding a therapist, scheduling an appointment, and going to your first appointment can be a bit daunting. Because of this, it is important to understand and acknowledge any stigmas that you may be holding that are keeping you from starting this process in the first place. 

If you are worried about privacy or disclosure, it should be noted that therapy is confidential. This means that no one in your life is even needs to know that you are seeking therapy. Additionally, mental health professionals are bound by law to protect your privacy so you can be confident that what happens in session stays in the session. 

Finding a Good Fit

There are a lot of things to consider before making an appointment with a therapist. We recommend taking a look at the clinicians available here, knowing what the cost is and if your insurance will cover any of it, and what type of therapy you are looking for. 

It may also be helpful to come up with a list of questions for the therapist. This can help you get a better sense of what to expect from therapy and to help you feel more comfortable with starting this process. 

Some common questions to ask are: what experience does the therapist have working with your particular situation, what does a typical session look like, and kind of therapy does the clinician practice.    

What Happens if the Therapist I see isn’t a good fit? 

If, after your first session, you feel like the therapist isn’t what you are looking for, it is completely ok to try another therapist out. It isn’t uncommon to try another therapist and is completely fine to break off that relationship. 

While it may be uncomfortable to ‘break up’ with your therapist, it is important to push past those feelings in order to find something that will be beneficial to you. Let the current therapist know that it doesn’t seem like a good fit and the therapist or practice can help you find a clinician that may be a better fit for you. 

Remember, mental health professionals’ main goal is to help you get better so we don’t take it personally if you think someone else will be a better fit for your specific needs. 

Covid-19 and Mental Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Covid-19 has had a negative effect on mental health for a lot of people. Mental health includes our emotional, social, and psychological well-being and has the ability to affect how we think, how we feel, and what actions we take such as how we handle stress. This being said, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to influence how we live our daily lives, it is important to understand its impacts on our mental health. 

 

Throughout the years, a large body of research has found that social isolation and loneliness have been linked to a decrease in mental and physical health. In fact, the former US Surgeon Vivek Murthy has recently brought this to the public’s attention, pointing out that social isolation and loneliness has the potential to reduce lifespan and increase risk for mental health issues and physical illnesses. 

 

However, the Covid-19 pandemic has created a need to be much more isolated and distanced than many of us have experienced in our lives. While it is important to follow the advice of healthcare professionals to practice safe and effective methods for fighting Covid-19 transmissions such as wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and sheltering in place if advised, it can be difficult to fulfill basic needs, such as social interaction, necessary for mental and physical well-being.

 

According to health professionals, Covid-19 may be a part of our lives for longer than any of us would like. Because of this, it may be helpful to implement a self-care and wellness routine in order to take care of your mental and physical health for the long haul.

 

Eat Balanced and Nutritious Meals

 

At this point you have probably found that you are much more sedentary than you used to be in your life pre-Covid. With the majority of gyms still closed and as you’ve settled into your WFH routine, you may find it increasingly difficult to make healthy and balanced decisions at meal times. 

 

Because of this, it may be helpful to try out meal-prepping and mindful grocery shopping. This could include creating a list of ingredients and meals you want to make for the week so you’re more focused when you’re walking down the aisles at the grocery store.

 

While it may be tempting to order out food (and by all means order every once in a while to support local businesses in your community), try to limit take out as best you can and stick to foods that make you feel good. Nobody is the same, so find what works best for you and what makes you feel good and stick to that! 

 

On the same note, don’t forget to drink water! It’s easier to forget to drink water when your regular routine is disrupted but hydration is just as important for mental and physical well being as eating a healthy and balanced diet is. 

 

Get a Good Sleep Schedule Going 

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Practicing good sleep hygiene is integral to mental health and wellness. In fact, research conducted at Harvard University states that sleep problems increase the risk of developing depression and may actually be a risk factor associated with developing an anxiety disorder. 

 

In order to decrease your risk of developing mental health issues, focus on getting between seven to nine hours of sleep per night and going to bed at around the same time every night. While it’s tempting to want to binge-watch Netflix in bed, it may also be helpful to only use your bedroom for sleeping in order to associate that space with relaxation and rest.

 

Stay Connected 

Luckily, it’s 2021 and technology is advanced enough to bring us together in more ways than one. Despite not being able to go out like we used to, there are alternative ways to gain that social connection needed for your mental well-being. 

 

For instance, try planning a time when you and a friend or family member can video chat. While it can’t beat in-person social gatherings, talking to someone you love can help decrease the feeling of isolation and loneliness which will help increase your mental well-being. 

 

Even if video chat isn’t available to you, a quick phone call to someone in your support system can be a great boost for your mental health and overall mood. 

 

Find a Work/Life Balance that Works for You

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Before Covid-19, it was easier to be able to separate work from the rest of your life. However, as more people move to working remotely, that separation can get a little muddy which can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious. 

 

Because of this blurred divide between your work and home life, it may be helpful to separate your areas for work and play. Much like only using your bedroom for sleep, try sectioning off a particular area in your home that is solely dedicated to work. This way when the work day is over, it is easier to transition into home mode by physically moving yourself out of that space. 

 

Seek Help if you Feel Overwhelmed or Unsafe

 

Living through a global pandemic is hard and it is ok to not be ok. If you start feeling overwhelmed with feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, or feel like you may want to harm yourself or others, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. 

 

Here is a list of sources that may be useful for you. In addition to this list, you can always reach out to our office and make an appointment (in-person or via telehealth) for psychotherapy and counseling. 

 

Resources:

 

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) – Free and confidential support for people in distress, 24/7.

National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for treatment referral and information, 24/7.

Picture of the Future

As Einstein said, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, is called insanity.

You may have tried many times to lead a healthy lifestyle or change a defective habit, but your attempts didn’t go far. It’s possible that you truly never saw your healthy self in that future, doing what’s needed. You could have kept trying the same methods without regard to different possibilities because it just never occurred to you that you are capable of doing it differently. That’s when your default future was created.

I have several questions for you. Try to answer them before going further.

What’s your picture of the future?

How do you envision it?

What is your place in it?

Are you the same person or do you differ from your current self somehow?

Does it align with your dream life or are they two separate entities?

You may think of these questions as irrelevant and not related to your current situation. However, without answers to them, you can’t move forward and expect a particular result.

Don’t let the past define the future, use it as a learning experience, not as a measure of what’s to come. When I realized that no matter how I picture my future if I don’t change the way I see myself in it, I will keep crashing into my default view of it while my dreams will be somewhere else on a side. Once your picture of yourself changes to reflect many possibilities of what can be, you can start changing your default future, and your actions will align with it.

When our perception shifts, behavior follows. As I was creating a new vision of myself, I started doing what was needed to go along with that vision. Things began happening almost automatically, new circumstances began to unfold, new people and opportunities came about. Your mind miraculously creates the reality you truly believe in.

What can you do to rewrite your future?

8 Brain Facts from Neuroscientists to Celebrate Brain Awareness Month

While the brain may be one of the smaller organs in the human body, it makes up for it with its intricacies and uniqueness. In fact, neuroscience and psychology are still learning new things about it each year. In honor of Brain Awareness Month this March, we wanted to share with you some interesting facts about the brain to show you just how amazing it is. Here are some of our favorite brain facts:

The Brain Can’t Feel Pain 

The brain itself doesn’t have any pain receptors. The brain has layers of blood vessels that do contain pain receptors, but the actual brain does not have any which makes it impossible for the brain to feel pain.

While you might think your brain is hurting when you get a headache, it is actually the muscles and tissues surrounding your brain that send pain signals to it, signalling discomfort. This is why neurosurgeons can perform brain surgery on a patient who is wide awake!

Multitasking is a Lie 

While we are all guilty about thinking we can (and are good at) multitasking, the truth is that the brain itself can’t focus on two tasks at once. Interestingly, the brain actually switches from task to task at such a rapid pace that it appears like you are doing two tasks at once.

This switching between tasks is illustrated by talking on the phone while driving. Because you can’t actually use your phone and drive at the same time, your brain may miss important information on the road, making it very dangerous to do both tasks together.

Exercise is Good for the Brain and the Body 

Exercise creates a form of physical stress for your body during your workouts. While long-term stress is bad for your brain and mental health in general, this type of exercise stress has actually been shown to help manage general stress, making you more resilient in the future against stressors.

According to research, physical activity initially triggers and spikes the brain’s stress response but found that people who regularly exercise have lower overall levels of hormones like cortisol and epinephrine that are associated with stress.

Not only this, but exercise has been shown to be beneficial for your mental health. In fact, it has been shown that people that exercise consistently have overall lower rates of anxiety and depression symptoms than those that are sedentary.

Sleep Cleans your Brain 

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke states that sleep is key to help keep your brain functioning at its best. While you’re asleep, your brain is very active and uses that time to remove toxins that accumulate throughout the day.

Sleep also assists in a number of important brain functions like making sure that neurons in your brain communicate with each other effectively and can help to decrease the risk of depression and anxiety symptoms.

While everyone is different, it is generally suggested that adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night.

The Brain’s Storage Space is Vast

While the amount of information stored in the brain’s trillions of synapses (a component of a neuron) is not unlimited, it is large enough that the amount of information we learn is not limited by the brain’s storage capacity. In fact, other factors influence our ability to learn information such as our attention span, how we learn the information, and what type of information. For instance, language generally becomes ingrained within our neural pathways early in life which makes it more difficult to learn a second language later in life.

The Brain is Visual 

Research from the University of California San Diego recently found that the brain has a stronger response to pictures than it does to text. Interestingly, participants in this study were influenced by a picture that was only shown for 10 milliseconds. This illustrates that the brain can pick up and process pictures much faster than text. The saying that ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ may be more accurate than we thought.

The Brain can Rewire Itself 

Through neuroplasticity, the brain has the ability to rewire, form, and reorganize its synaptic connections. Until recently, neuroscientists believed that once a brain function was interrupted by injury or disease, that function would never be recovered. However, recent research has uncovered the knowledge that the brain is plastic which means that it has the ability to change itself and adapt after an injury.

Brains Can Speak to Each Other 

While neuroscience and mental health are closely aligned, mirror neurons take it to another level. Mirror neurons are a special type of neuron found throughout the brain that become activated when we witness somebody else’s actions or emotions.

These neurons help us with learning tasks from seeing it being performed like dribbling a basketball. However, it also helps us empathize with others. When we see someone crying, our mirror neurons light up and ‘mirror’ their emotions, which is why we sometimes find ourselves crying too!

If you want to learn more about neuroscience in psychology or are interested in learning about neuropsychological testing opportunities, read more about our services here.

Beginner’s Guide to Couples Counseling

Couples counseling is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on helping couples-both married and unmarried- to work through …

How to Deal with Burnout and Avoid it in the Future

So many times life is ok until it isn’t. We hold it together and shuffle from responsibility to responsibility, attempting …

Mental Health and the Aging Population

By year 2050, the proportion of the world’s population that is over 60 is expected to almost double from 12% to 22%, creating …