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What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a common type of therapy (psychotherapy) used to treat a wide range of mental health problems. While not the only effective treatment that therapists use, CBT is unique in that it is an evidence-based method, scientifically proven to show results for most people.

 

In addition to this, CBT can help you quickly identify and cope with specific challenges and stressors within your life. There are several core principles that CBT uses to decrease psychological distress:

  1. Learned patterns or unhelpful behaviors lead to psychological problems
  2. Faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking lead to psychological problems
  3. Problem-solving skills can help individuals cope with difficult situations.
  4. Using mindfulness to learn how to relax your mind and body
  5. Learning ways to develop a greater sense of confidence in your abilities
  6. Gaining a better understanding of your behaviors and thoughts to reevaluate them within situations
  7. Learning coping skills to decrease distress and relieve symptoms to increase the quality of life

 

Benefits of CBT

 

CBT is designed to address a wide range of mental health problems and is often a shorter form of therapy than traditional types of psychotherapy. CBT is a widely taught theoretical orientation that many therapists use in their practices. While every therapist practices a bit differently, this method has a relatively standard set of principles and rules to treat clients effectively.

 

Common Mental Health Problems that could Benefit from CBT

 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy may help improve numerous mental health problems, including (but not limited to):

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Phobias
  • PTSD
  • Eating Disorders
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Substance and Alcohol Misuse

 

What to Expect During CBT

When receiving Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a clinician will rarely use every technique and strategy described earlier in the article. Instead, CBT emphasizes a collaborative and structured approach to therapy tailored to the client’s needs.

 

This collaborative approach helps teach the client to become their own therapist within their lives outside of therapy. Through homework, exercises in and outside of treatment, and the development of coping and problem-solving skills, clients learn how to challenge and change their behaviors and thought patterns to increase their quality of life and decrease psychological distress.

 

Additionally, CBT therapists also tend to focus on what is happening currently in the person’s life instead of the person’s past. While some history of the person’s life is necessary for therapy, the primary focus of CBT is to develop ways of coping with life moving forward.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Length of Therapy

 

CBT is generally considered a form of short-term therapy. Expect traditional CBT to last between 5-20 sessions, depending. However, it is essential to discuss what length (and type) of treatment is right for you with your therapist to ensure the most beneficial outcome possible.

Sleep and Mental Health

 

Getting consistent and high-quality sleep is an integral part of your physical and mental wellbeing. Numerous studies have illustrated that sleep problems can negatively affect your mental health.

 

Around 10-18% of adults within the United States struggle with chronic sleep problems. In fact, lack of sleep or low-quality sleep can be common among individuals struggling with depression, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD), and anxiety. Clinical research suggests that sleep can be both a cause and a consequence of mental health issues.

 

Why Sleep is Important

 

Brain activity rapidly increases and decreases during different stages of sleep. In non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM), the brain’s activity slows but has quick bursts of energy. In rapid eye movement sleep (REM), brain activity increases and is associated with dreaming. Adequate sleep allows the brain to cycle between these two stages of sleep, allowing the brain to process emotional information collected throughout the day.

 

 

 

Sleep and Mental Health

 

Sleep is a necessary component for both the physical upkeep of the body and the maintenance of cognitive skills, attention, learning, memory, and emotional regulation. In fact, lack of consistent and quality sleep can lead to mental health issues.

 

Depression

 

Almost three-quarters of people struggling with depression show symptoms of sleep problems, including insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness, or hypersomnia. While experts once thought that sleep problems were a symptom of depression, recent evidence suggests that insufficient sleep has the potential of inducing and exacerbating symptoms of depression.

 

However, it’s important to note that depression often has a bidirectional relationship with sleep problems. In other words, poor sleep can worsen depression, and depression can worsen sleep problems. Despite this, the consensus from experts is that focusing on sleep quality can positively affect depression symptoms.

 

Anxiety Disorders

 

Anxiety disorders typically create distressing fear or worry that affect a person’s everyday functioning. Different types of anxiety include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, panic disorder, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). These disorders have a strong associat

 

ion with sleep difficulties. One of the main reasons these disorders lead to sleep difficulties is that worry and fear contribute to hyperarousal. This hyperarousal leads to racing thoughts and can result in insomnia and added difficulty in falling asleep.

 

Stress

 

When an individual doesn’t get enough sleep, adrenal glands produce an increased amount of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that plays a prominent role in keeping us alert. When there is too much cortisol in the body, it goes into a state of stress, making the body unable to relax, leading to potentially more significant struggles with insomnia.

 

What to do When you Can’t Sleep

 

Keep a Sleep Diary

 

Keeping a sleep diary can help you better understand your habits that may contribute to any sleep problems you may be facing.

 

What to Include in your Sleep Diary:

  • Bedtimes (morning and evening)
  • Total sleep hours
  • Perceived quality of sleep
  • The time that you woke up in the middle of the night and what you did while you were awake
  • Types of food and drinks you consumed before bed
  • Feelings and moods before bed
  • And drugs or medications taken, including the dose and time taken.

 

After keeping this record for a couple of weeks, you may start to notice patterns within your nighttime or morning routine that may be contributing to a lesser quality of sleep. Having this data can help you make changes in your nighttime or morning routines that may help increase your sleep quality.

 

Develop a Relaxing Bedtime Routine

 

Developing a relaxing bedtime routine can teach your body that it is time to start winding down and preparing for sleep. Aim for a bedtime routine to begin about 30 minutes before your actual sleep time.

 

While every bedtime routine will vary, creating a comforting environment allows your body and mind to relax. It may be helpful to disconnect from electronics that are typically close to your eyes, like laptops and smartphones. The blue light emitted from these electronics may make it difficult for you to fall asleep.

 

Dimming the lights, playing white noise or relaxing music at a low volume, or practicing mindfulness activities such as meditation before bed may also help prepare your mind and body for sleep.

 

Diet and Exercise

 

Research has found that the food you eat and your activity level may affect your quality of sleep. Spicy foods and bigger meals leading up to bedtime may negatively affect your quality of sleep and your ability to fall and stay asleep. While it is ok to eat before bed, try to avoid spicy and heavier foods. Also, avoiding caffeine and alcohol leading up to bedtime may help you fall asleep faster and have a higher sleep quality throughout the night.

Loss and Grief

Loss and Grief

 

Loss and the resulting grief you experience can be one of life’s most stressful events and can be a complex emotion to live with and tricky to navigate.

 

Loss can come in many forms, such as:

 

  • Divorce or relationship breakup
  • Loss of health
  • Death
  • Losing a job
  • Miscarriage
  • Retirement
  • Loss of a dream
  • Loss of a friendship

 

Even smaller life transitions can trigger feelings of grief to surface. For instance, graduating college, changing jobs, or moving away from home or into a new apartment can be some situations that may bring up feelings of grief and loss.

 

What to Expect

 

The grieving process is a highly individual process that looks different for everyone, which means there is no right or wrong way to experience a loss. Feeling a wide range of emotions is common when dealing with loss, and there isn’t a set amount of time when it comes to how long or when these emotions will appear.

 

Some emotions that may appear when experiencing a loss are:

 

  • Denial
  • Shock
  • Confusion
  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Yearning
  • Humiliation
  • Despair
  • Guilt
  • Disbelief

 

While this isn’t an exhaustive list of all of the emotions, you may face, intense and often quickly changing feelings are a normal and common reactions to loss.

 

However, it’s also important to understand that absorbing the impact of a loss is a process that takes time. While you may never stop missing your loved one, the pain and intense emotions ease over time and allow you to go back to your daily life.

Living with Grief

 

Learning how to cope when you experience loss is vital to your mental health and wellbeing. Grieving death and implementing coping skills can help you through the process of coming to terms with loss in your life while taking care of your mental health.

 

Myths Surrounding Grieving

 

Ignoring these feelings will help me move on faster

 

Ignoring the pain or other uncomfortable feelings associated with loss may be a short-term solution but usually only worsens the feelings of grief over time. Instead, have patience and allow yourself to feel and process the emotions that come up while deal with your loss.

 

It may also be helpful to reach out to a friend for support or a mental health professional who can help you process and deal with these emotions and feelings surrounding your loss.

 

Grieving shouldn’t last more than a few months

 

There isn’t a specific timetable for the grieving process, and how long it takes to accept loss can significantly vary from person to person. Trying to cut the grieving process short may lead to adverse mental health problems in the future.

 

However, if the distress you feel from your loss is negatively impacting your life and not decreasing over time, consider seeking help from a mental health professional. Many mental health professionals are trained in helping people navigate the often complex emotions surrounding grief and loss.

 

I have to ‘be strong,’ or else I’m weak

 

Crying, feeling sad, or lonely is a common and normal emotion to feel and does not mean that you are weak. On the contrary, showing others your feelings can help other people who are also dealing with loss.

 

Moving on with your life is disrespectful to the loss you experienced

 

Moving on means that you have processed, accepted, and come to terms with what has happened – it doesn’t mean that you have forgotten the person you have lost. In fact, moving on while keeping the memory of someone or something you lost is a beautiful way to honor the loss you experienced.

 

6 Tips for Solving Relationship Conflicts

Conflict within romantic relationships is inevitable. When you integrate your life with
another person, it is bound to lead to disputes at some point.

Arguments within romantic relationships range from small ones surrounding what movie to watch to larger ones over career choices or how to raise children. It’s important to
note that while arguments aren’t ideal, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is trouble
in your relationship. When handled correctly, conflict can help to strengthen a
relationship. However, conflicts can escalate to where nothing is resolved and can lead
to the deterioration in relationships.

On the flip side, a couple that never has a conflict or talks about problems doesn’t have
an opportunity to communicate and resolve them. Finding a balance between high
levels of conflict and no conflict can help couples have a long and healthy relationship together.

That being said,

having specific tools and strategies at your disposal during a conflict

can help improve the odds of a successful resolution. Here are some tools that can help
solve relationship conflict:

Be direct

It can be easy for people to beat around the bush instead of plaining stating what is
upsetting or bothering them. When in conflict, people often choose a more subtle and
indirect way of expressing their displeasure.

For instance, partners may avoid discussing the conflict by switching topics or
minimizing their feelings by responding with “I’m fine” after their partner notices they are
irritated. This lack of directness leaves both partners without a clear guide as to what
the problem is, how the other person is feeling, or how to solve the problem.

Instead, work towards having direct communication with your partner. While it may be a
bit uncomfortable at first, directly stating what is bothering you is the first step in solving
relationship conflict.

Use “I”  Statements & quotes to talk about the way you feel without blaming your partner

Statements that directly blame or put your partner as the direct reason for your feeling
seldomly help produce a good healthy dialogue on solving the problem. This is because
people typically go on the defense when they feel blamed or attacked in a conversation.

Instead, a more constructive way to communicate your feelings is through the use of “I
statements.” These statements focus on how you feel instead of being directed at your
partner. For instance, an “I statement” would pair an emotion and a behavior description
that focuses on a specific behavior your partner is engaged in. An example of this could
be, “I feel sad when you are on your phone during dinner.” This helps you be direct
while focusing on your partner’s specific behavior and the emotion that it makes you
feel.

Stay away from using the words like “never” or “always” during an argument

Saying things like “You are always selfish” during an argument leads the other partner
to feel like you’re attacking their character. This leads to defensiveness, stonewalling,
and decreased chance of solving the conflict at hand.

Instead of using words that suggest that you’re partner “always”or “never” does
something that bothers you, try focusing on the particular situation at hand. Focusing on
the current situation allows you and your partner to work together to resolve the current
conflict without bringing up one’s character or other moments within the relationship.

Not Everything Needs to be a Conflict

Not every single situation needs to turn into a conflict. A relationship is about
compromise and understanding. While some things do need to be addressed,

especially if they make you feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or hurt, it may be best to let go
of minor issues such as forgetting to empty the dishwasher once in a while.

Listen to What your Partner is Saying

Sometimes we fall into the habit of listening to our partners to respond. But,
unfortunately, when we listen to respond instead of listening to comprehend, sometimes
we miss what our partner is trying to tell us.

Trying practicing active listening by reflecting the content of what your partner is telling
you back to them. This will help you better understand what your partner is telling you
and lead to more understanding of the conflict and better discussions surrounding it.

Know When it is Time to Take a Time-Out

Tensions can run high at times during a conflict. While it’s important to talk it out,
stepping away from the problem for a bit can also be beneficial. Taking a break can
allow you to process your own emotions around the conflict and calm any heightened
emotions that may have come about.

However, its essential to note that taking a time-out and removing yourself from the
situation is different. By taking a breather, you and your partner communicate how long
the time-out will be, where you are going (taking a walk around the block, going on a car
ride, etc.), and when you are going to continue the conversation. This communication
will help both partners feel respected and minimize any feelings of abandonment or
hurt.

For instance, communicating your need for a break could look like, "Can we take a 20-
minute break from this conversation? I want to calm down a bit and go for a walk around
the block. We can talk about this more when I get back." Clearly stating your need for a
break and being specific and direct will allow your partner to understand where you are
coming from and be on the same page.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness has become an increasingly popular form of self-care and a widely used mental health technique throughout recent years. Because it can be practiced in many different ways, mindfulness has become a flexible option for many people.

Oftentimes, we find ourselves going into our future or past too much. This can lead to feeling drained, anxious, stressed, or the development of mental health distress such as depression. Practicing mindfulness can help direct our attention away from patterns of thinking that lead to these difficult emotions and into a frame of mind that helps us engage with the world around us in the present moment.

Mindfulness helps you bring your focus and awareness to the present moment through different techniques such as focusing on sensations and feelings in the moment without judgement or interpretation. This practice can involve activities such as deep breathing, meditation, guided imagery, or guided body awareness activities like Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR).

Benefits of Mindfulness

Multiple clinical studies have supported the effectiveness of mindfulness activities including decreasing:

  • Stress
  • Symptoms of Depression
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Anxiety
  • Panic Attacks
  • Pain
  • Insomnia

Not only has mindfulness been shown to help decrease symptoms stemming from mental health disorders, it has also illustrated efficacy in:

  • Improving sleep
  • Decreasing feelings of burnout
  • Improving attention
  • Improving diabetes control

Mindfulness Activities

There are countless ways to practice mindfulness on a daily basis. Here are a few mindfulness activities that are relatively common.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)

 This technique involves focusing on individual muscle groups throughout your body. Within PMR, you focus on slowly tensing individual muscle groups and then relaxing them. This activity helps you connect with your body, understand the difference between what it feels like to be tensed and relaxed, and become aware of physical sensations within your body.

Most PMR activities start with tensing and relaxing the muscles in your head and neck and working your way down to your toes. Try to tense your muscles for about five seconds and then relax for between 15-30 seconds before moving onto the next muscle group.

 Breathing

 Breathing activities to practice mindfulness can be done a lot of different ways. The most basic way of doing mindful breathing is to focus your attention on your breath. Take time to focus on your inhale and exhale in order to limit your mind from wandering to other things outside of your breath.

Focusing solely on your breathing can be difficult, especially if it is a new practice. If you want to practice a more structured approach to mindful breathing, short guided breathing exercises are available online for you to follow along with and many don’t take more than 5 minutes.

 Visualization

 This technique guides you to form mental images to take a visual journey to a peaceful, calming, or happy place or situation. Visualization usually incorporates many different senses such as smell, sight, sound, and touch within the guided visual journey in order for you to immerse yourself in your vision.

In order to get the most out of this experience, it’s recommended that you sit or lay in a quiet spot, wear loose clothing, and concentrate on your breathing and on the visualization activity.

 Acceptance Training

Take a moment to notice the thoughts about yourself that you are having that are directed to yourself. Are they how you would talk to a best friend or are they a little harsher than you would like them to be? Focus on treating yourself like you would treat a good friend. Would you be more gentle? More Patient? More flexible?

Use this information to practice acceptance and compassion for yourself, your thoughts, and your feelings surrounding how you talk to yourself.

Notice the Present Moment

 The inner monologue that many of us have can be difficult to separate from. This technique helps you step away from your thoughts about the past or the future in order to focus on what is happening around you in the present moment.

Start by focusing on your breath and the sensations in your body. Once you start focusing on that, slowly bring your attention to what is happening around you. Notice the sounds, smells, and other sensations and senses that are currently present with you in the room. While some thoughts will come up, try and notice them without judgement and let them pass without inspecting them too closely.

There are many mindfulness guided videos that can help you get in touch with the present moment if you’re looking for more structure within this technique.

When to Practice Mindfulness

Depending on the mindfulness practice you choose, it is a flexible activity that can be done anywhere and anytime. Exercises like breathing, acceptance training, and noticing the present moment can be done relatively quickly and in any setting. However, research has suggested that doing mindfulness in an outdoor environment is even more effective and beneficial.

Exercises that are a bit more structured such as Progressive Muscle Relaxation or Guided Meditation require you to set aside time and be in a quiet space free from distractions or interruptions. We recommend trying these types of activities in the morning or before bed in order to get you ready for the day or decompress and get ready for bed.

Mindfulness is something that may take time in order for it to feel effortless. Aim to practice a form of mindfulness everyday for about a month in order for it to become a habit. It may be helpful to think of it as a form of self-care and a way to reconnect with yourself.

Child Counseling Services

Knowing if what your child is going through is normal or part of a bigger issue can be difficult. Typically, children and teens could benefit from therapy when they are struggling with issues they can’t cope with alone or are experiencing symptoms that are affecting their ability to function on a daily basis. It can also be beneficial when certain life transitions occur within a child’s life such as moving, a change in family dynamics such as a death in the family, divorce, or new marriage.

Therapy is a type of treatment that can help children and teens experiencing problems that affect how they feel, act, or learn. This process can help teens learn how to problem solve, communicate, and better cope with the issues they face.

What Problems Do Child Therapists Help With?

 Therapists that work with children and adolescents are trained to treat a wide range of problems that children and teens face. For example, child counselors can help children and teens navigate difficult situations like:

  • Family conflict and divorce
  • School Problems
  • Bullyings
  • Health Problems
  • Life Transitions

Therapists can also help children and teens understand and deal with difficult emotions such as:

  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Stress
  • Low Self-Esteem
  • Grief
  • Nervousness

In addition to helping children and teens deal with emotions and situations within their life, therapists are also trained in helping treat conditions like:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • OCD
  • ADHD
  • Anxiety
  • Eating Disorders
  • Self-injury
  • Disruptive Thoughts
  • Suicide Ideation
  • Trauma-related Disorders

What to Expect from Therapy?

Different approaches in treatment will be taken by the therapist depending on the client’s age. For instance, play therapy is typically used for younger children. This entails drawing, playing, and talking within each session. For older children and teens, talk therapy with activities that focus on learning and communication skills is typically used.

Both of these therapies include support from the therapist for the child to increase confidence, self-esteem, communication, and problem solving skills. Child and adolescent psychotherapy also provides a space for children and teens to talk, express, and further understand their feelings and learn ways to cope with them outside of therapy.

What Happens in Therapy?

Child psychologists and counselors employ a variety of methods when working with children and adolescents. For example, a therapist may use:

  • Talk – Talking helps children and teens express their feelings. When children feel like their feelings are able to be expressed without judgement while being validate, they can learn how to express and understand their emotions in a healthier way
  • Activities – Counselors employ a range of activities throughout the therapy in order to help the client understand, reflect, and find better ways to express feelings, communication, and coping skills. This can be done through activities such as play, drawing, or role-playing. For instance, meditation or breathing exercises may be used to help children and teens cope with intense feelings like stress, anxiety, or worry.
  • Life Skill Practice – Therapists often work with children and teens on life skills throughout the therapeutic process. This may be done through activities such as games which helps the client learn and practice skills such as self-control, self-advocacy, patience, sharing, and appropriate expression of feelings.
  • Problem Solving and Expression – Typically done with older children and adolescents, therapists will work with clients in order to find ways to solve problems that they are experiencing within their life.

How Long does Therapy Last

The length of therapy varies for everyone. A lot of factors influence the length of therapy such as what kind of therapy is being practiced, what reason your child or teen has come into therapy for, and the goals of therapy. In order to see improvement and goal attainment, expect therapy to last a few months to a few years with weekly sessions.

The Parent’s Role

As a parent, it can be difficult to know what your role is in the therapeutic process for your child or teen. Here are a few things that you can do in order to help your child get the most from therapy:

  • Find a Therapist that is a Good Fit for your Child – It’s important to find a therapist that your child likes and feels comfortable with. Starting therapy can cause some discomfort at first so it’s important to check in with how your child is feeling about the process and the therapist. We recommend looking through our clinicians to find someone that is a good fit for your child’s needs.
  • Keep a Consistent Therapy Schedule – Change takes time and being inconsistent with therapy appointments may result in slower goal attainment or change to occur in your child’s life.
  • Meet with the Therapist – It may be helpful to meet with the therapist and discuss the problems or symptoms that you are noticing at home or at school. Take the time to ask the therapist what you can do to help your child get the most out of therapy. Most of the time, the therapist can give you direction as to what to do that will be most beneficial to your specific case.
  • Parent with Compassion – Your child is going through a lot of changes and possibly dealing with some difficult emotions in therapy sessions. Because of this, it is important to show love, praise your child when they are doing well, and using kind words – even when correcting their behavior.

When is a Good time to start Child Counseling and Psychotherapy?

A good time to consider starting mental health counseling for your child or teen is when emotional or behavioral problems occur. Getting help earlier usually makes it easier to help the child or teen.

However, we understand the importance to avoid unnecessary treatments and associated costs in time and money. Sometimes it may be beneficial to monitor your child before starting counseling. If you’re unsure with whether or not counseling would be a good option, talking with a therapist can help guide you in the right direction or call our office at 847-979-0268 for more information.

When to take Action

There are few instances when it may not be a good idea to wait before starting therapy or seeking mental health help. For instance:

Eating Disorders – Eating disorders become harder to treat the longer the person with it has been struggling with it. This and the detrimental effects it can have on your child’s physical and mental health is why it is important to seek immediate help if your child is displaying signs of an eating disorder.

Family History – As certain mental disorders can be genetic, it is important to be aware of the increased chance that your child may begin to develop a mental health disorder that has been present in your family. If there is a history of mental health disorders in your family, it may be beneficial to start therapy a bit earlier, especially if symptoms or behaviors start presenting themselves.

Self-Harm, Cutting, or Suicide Attempts – Self-harm behavior such as cutting, suicide attempt, or suicide ideation is a dangerous behavior that should not be dismissed – even if it was a one time occurance. It’s important to get help from a trained professional in order to further understand the underlying reasons and emotions behind the action.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about child psychotherapy, counseling services, and psychological testing, please call our office at (847) 979-0268 or visit our website to learn more about the services we offer.

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. 

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