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ADDICTION AND RECOVERY

An addiction is a chronic disorder in which an individual is blinded by a substance, or engages in an activity, that gives them an immense amount of pleasure but has become detrimental to their everyday life. Compulsive behaviors and addictions can temporarily provide confidence, control, validation or other emotions lacking in one’s life, but the behavior may not stop until the root of the problem is addressed.

Addiction changes the brain through the limbic system, also known as the “brain reward system.” This part of the brain is responsible for producing feelings of pleasure and will manifest thoughts such as, “I deserve this,” or “Let’s do that again.” The abuse of addictive substances and behaviors triggers this system which can prolong a continuous cycle of destructive behavior.

Common addictions include but are not limited to:

  • Drug or alcohol abuse

  • Gambling

  • Internet

  • Shopping

  • Food

Seek Professional Assistance

People who have developed an addiction may be unaware that it is out of control, which is why counseling is an essential part of working through and managing this condition. An addiction of any sort can be exhausting and one should never go through the recovery process alone.

Many treatment plans focus on talk therapy and behavior therapy and can be performed in a group or through one-on-one sessions. During these sessions, patients analyze the reasons behind their addiction(s), what triggers are and what helped them control impulses in the past. Patients also learn coping skills so they can manage the compulsions without relapsing.

CONFLICT RESOLUTION

We all have moments of frustration whether they be associated with a friend, a family member, or a disagreement in your everyday life, but there are several positive strategies to utilize when it comes to dealing with conflict.

What qualifies as a conflict?

According to the Office of Human Resource Development at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, conflict is understood by analyzing various behaviors and the consequences each behavior produces on individuals living the dilemma.

  • Avoidance: This is the person who wishes to ignore the problem and will allow it to dissipate or squander. Unfortunately, quite the contrary is happening in this situation. The problem then swells under the surface until it’s no longer avoidable and will need to be addressed.

  • Standing your Ground: People who use this technique may appear controlling and aggressive in their means of communication. They fear not having their needs met if they don’t set the rules and direct the conversation.

  • Surrendering: Often perceived as the diplomat, the person using this tactic concedes to the needs of others. They place the needs and opinions of others on their own because preserving the relationship(s) is the ultimate goal.   

  • Compromise/Sacrifice: This method is a sort of concession and, while it seems to be a good route to take, it’s not the best approach. People in this category make a sequence of tradeoffs which means they are focusing on what they want as opposed to understanding the other’s viewpoint.  

  • Collaborate: People who practice collaboration care about win-win solutions. This simply means that they scout common aspirations and needs, to where every party knows their opinions and feeling are important and are going to be heard. This style needs a lot of cooperation, assertiveness and communication among the parties.

Ultimately, understanding your wants and needs as well as your behavior patterns will establish internal insight. You will have a better understanding for not just yourself, but for others around you and how situations may or may not unfold. This knowledge will give you the preliminary tools for conflict resolution.

COUPLES COUNSELING

Factors of everyday life can put an abundant strain on a relationship. Severe stressors may include resentment, infidelity, intimacy issues, lack of trust, and miscommunication. When problems go unresolved, or a partner is suffering from mental illness or health complications, one can feel helpless or have feelings of guilt or shame. Communicating effectively on both parts can alleviate emotional anxiety from subjects of all kind.

Couples often seek couples or marriage counseling when the relationship is at a standstill, or if they are unsure whether or not the relationship is worth salvaging. This type of therapy can benefit families with children who have been affected by relationship issues such as divorce, and confront the source of the conflict.

Treatment techniques may include the following depending on the therapist:

• Gottman Method

• Narrative Therapy

• Emotionally Focused Therapy

• Positive Psychology

• Imago Relationship Therapy

• Analyzing Your Communication

• Getting to the root of the problem

• Enhancing Intimacy

• Individual Counseling

• Couple Retreat

When a relationship is showing signs of addiction, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and/or severe depression, seek guidance from a counselor immediately, for your safety and your partner.

DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY

Depression commonly manifests physically, through stomach pains, headaches, disrupted or excessive sleep, and motor control difficulty. While the causes of depression are unknown, a predisposition for it runs in families and it can be triggered by trauma and adverse life circumstances. Depression is diagnosed more frequently in women and tends to display differently in women than in men.

People tend to suffer higher rates of depression after giving birth and in late fall. Depression and anxiety often exacerbate each other and people with depression commonly have difficulty concentrating on tasks and conversations. Some people abuse alcohol and drugs or overeat as a way of coping, causing them to develop other medical problems. Depressed people are also at increased risk for self-harm.

Depression is a mental illness which is characterized by prolonged emotional symptoms including:

  • Apathy

  • Sadness

  • Guilt

  • Exhaustion

  • Irritability

Diagnosing depression involves a psychiatric evaluation and physical tests to determine whether a person’s symptoms are actually being caused by a different disorder. A person must have been experiencing symptoms for at least two weeks to be diagnosed with depression. Every case is unique and requires individual attention, but there are a number of effective complementary ways of treating depression, including:

  • Talk therapy

  • Medication

  • Adopting a healthier lifestyle

EATING DISORDERS

Body image is the mental representation that one creates in their mind, but it may or may not relate to how others see an individual. The skewed view that someone has of their body is a culprit affecting people across the globe, where ethnicity, culture, gender, and age may all fall prey to it. According to ANAD (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders), about 30 million Americans suffer from some sort of eating disorder. Eating disorders hold a record for having the highest mortality rate when compared to other mental illnesses; someone dies of an eating disorder every 62 minutes.

Types of Eating Disorders

There are copious numbers of eating disorders and, unfortunately, the statistics mentioned above don’t begin to scratch the surface. Here are few examples of eating disorders:  

  • Anorexia Nervosa: People reduce the amount of energy intake required for their weight, age, gender, development and physical health.

  • Bulimia Nervosa: Individuals consume large amounts of food, and then induce themselves to vomit to stop weight gain.

  • Binge Eating Disorder (BED): Eating large amounts of food in small periods of time.

  • Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) 14: Children are not just finicky when it comes to this disorder, but they become malnourished because they restrict themselves from eating certain foods.

  • Diabulimia: People with Type 1 diabetes purposely underuse insulin to control their weight.

Treatment Methods

Like other mental disorders and illnesses, care should involve a diverse team of experts. It’s recommended that professional caretakers include the following:

  • Psychologist

  • Psychiatrist

  • Social worker

  • Nutritionist

  • Primary care physician

Due to the severe toll that eating disorders may have on an individual’s physical health, psychological therapy is not enough. It’s also important, if possible, to incorporate family therapy and support groups. Family-Based Treatment, according to NEDA, is a method used for patients who are minors.

In severe cases, inpatient care may be necessary; the person suffering from the eating disorder will be hospitalized or placed in residential care.

If you or someone you care about is suffering from an eating disorder, call the helpline now at 1-800-931-2237. An eating disorder is a serious medical and health concern that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

FAMILY COUNSELING

Is your family going through a rough patch? Whether the issue itself, stems from a lack of understanding between those involved, sibling conflict, or developmental disagreements with a child, a difficult situation can have an effect on the entire family. Family counseling, or family therapy, can be helpful when problems arise and can help restore and improve communication.

Some situations that may benefit from family counseling include:

  • If a family is going through a loss.

  • If a family member is suffering from substance abuse

  • Issues between parents (parenting issues or going through a divorce)

  • If a teenager is experiencing behavior issues such as anger outbursts

  • Sibling conflict

How can family counseling help?

Family counseling can help open up a line of dialogue and communication and can help family members understand each other’s perspectives. This makes it easier to resolve disputes. During the counseling sessions, each member has the ability to learn ways of communicating better, as well as developing techniques to de-escalate arguments while making sure that everybody is getting heard. This can also help with parenting problems such as conflicting parenting styles, rule enforcement and remaining consistent with your child once the rules are established.

How is it accomplished?

Family therapy or counseling can be used in addition to individual treatment. The goal is to improve relationships and improve methods of communication and conflict resolution. Families are a unique ecosystem, and issues affecting one member of a family can reverberate and affect the whole unit. Additional benefits of this type of counseling are that in some instances, the sessions can heal emotional wounds in a short period of time.

GRIEF AND LOSS

Throughout the course of our years, we all experience a loss at some point in our lives. In fact, statistics show that 1 in 5 children will experience the death of someone close to them before 18 years of age. Feelings of grief and loss are not always associated with death, however, but commonly surface after a loss of some kind – whether it is the loss of a loved one, a severed relationship, a pregnancy, a pet, or a job.

When a person loses something or someone valuable to them, feelings of grief can be overbearing. Grief can leave a person feeling sad, hopeless, isolated, irritable, and numb by affecting them mentally, emotionally, and physically. It’s important to understand that healing from grief is a process and everyone copes with this emotion differently.

Many people don’t know what to say or do when a person is grieving, but be sure to have patience with the individual (including yourself) throughout the entire process.

An alternative treatment method includes psychotherapy. Through psychotherapy, a patient may:

·        Improve coping skills

·        Reduce feelings of blame and guilt

·        Explore and process emotions

Consider seeking professional support if feelings of grief do not ease over time.

INTIMACY AND RELATIONSHIP ISSUES

Intimacy problems widely occur behind a variety of closed doors. Conflicts may include a loss of harmony between the sheets, a lack of sexual desire between either partners or failure in communication. There are often psychological factors that may contribute to a sexual disorder such as erectile dysfunction, or a lowered desire after a new mother has given birth. Intimacy issues are common, but if one or more become severe and there is no resolution in sight, it may be time to seek therapy for guidance.

What Makes a Satisfactory Relationship?

•    Trust

•    Mindfulness

•    Mutual Respect

•    Communication

Some of the signs that sex problems are affecting a relationship include:

•    Disappointment in oneself or the relationship

•    One or both partners are feeling dissatisfied

•    Couples lack communication and disconnect from one another

•    One or both partners feel neglected or unwanted

•    A feeling of sexual boredom or unhappiness

Steps to take for treating intimacy issues begin with:

•    Psychosexual Therapy: this technique allows couples to express themselves in a safe environment with a trusted and supportive professional.

•    Relationship Counseling: healthy relationships require strong connections and time to build trust. Whatever the issue may be, a counselor can work with individuals together or separate to overcome the problem.

STRESS MANAGEMENT

Everyone encounters stress during their lives at one point—never-ending bills, demanding schedules, work, and family responsibilities—and that can make stress seem inescapable and uncontrollable. Stress management skills are designed to help a person take control of their lifestyle, thoughts, and emotions and teach them healthy ways to cope with their problems.

Find the Cause

The first step in stress management is identifying your stressors. While this sounds fairly easy—it’s not hard to point to major changes or a lot of work piling up—chronic stress can be complicated, and most people don’t realize how their habits contribute to their stress. Maybe work piling up isn’t from the actual demands of your job, but more so from your procrastination. You have to claim responsibility for the role you play in creating your stress or you won’t be able to control it.

Strategies for Stress Management

Once you’ve found what causes your stress, focus on what you can control. Eliminate the realistic stressors and develop consistent de-stressing habits. Instead of watching TV or responding to texts in bed after work - take a walk, or read a book. Maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough quality sleep, will ease feelings of stress and help you relax.

Also, make a conscious effort to set aside time for yourself and for relaxation. Alone time can be whatever you need it to be. Some people like doing activities such as tai chi, yoga, or meditation, but you can also treat yourself to something simple, like taking a bubble bath, listening to music, or watching a funny movie.

Finally, don’t feel like you have to solve your stress on your own. Reach out to your family and friends. Whether you need help with a problem or just need someone to listen, find a person who will be there to positively reinforce and support you. If stress becomes chronic, don’t hesitate to seek the help of a therapist.