Imagine this common scenario: you are in the midst of a heated argument with someone and you are so angry you “can’t think straight.” Some call it seeing red. Ever been there? Those in the psychology field call this flooding. Flooding is when emotions become so overwhelming that the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, the portion that is in charge of reasoning, “shuts down” and takes a back seat to the emotions that are taking place. Research has been able to show, using MRIs, that this is a physical reaction that takes place. 

What are the dangers of flooding? When cognitive abilities are diminished and emotions have taken over, very often words are said that are not meant. Some may behave in a manner they may not normally behave if they were not flooded. Both of these can have short-term as well as long-term repercussions. 

However, there are ways to help stop flooding before it happens. First, a person needs to be aware that they are becoming overwhelmed with emotion. That means that a person needs to be looking for it. Next, one option of stopping flooding is to take a break from the argument. This may mean going to separate rooms, going for a walk, or going for a drive. It is important to disengage from the argument. Once there has been a break and both parties are “cooled down,” rules of communication become important. While these rules will be discussed more at length in a future blog, a few rules include using “I” statements, accepting responsibility, and listening. Using rules of communication can help both parties listen empathetically while avoiding flooding.

The first Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) blog explained that the first step is to identify the automatic thoughts that a person has towards a situation or circumstance. What is the thought behind the feeling? A log or journal may assist in finding patterns.

The second step in CBT is to challenge that thought. Is that thought true? Is it true all the time and is it true in this situation? Is that thought helpful to me right now? How is that thought impacting my feelings and how does it make me want to react? 

The final step is to change that thought into a more beneficial thought, leading to an adaptive behavior. Sometimes this may mean that even though the thought is correct, a person will change their thought to something that is more beneficial to them. For example, suppose a person believe that another person does not like them. This may or may not be true. However, people cannot control other people, so one must figure out a way to be “okay” with others not liking them. In this example, the person may decide not to consider that the person does not like them, or “put it out” of their mind. Or the person may tell themselves that the other person is missing out on what could be a really good friendship. These are all things that may or may not be true, but they all help the person to not ruminate, or think often about, the situation. 

This has been a general overview of CBT. For a more detailed involvement, including the skills that help change maladaptive thinking, seek professional help such as our counselors in Forney and Colleyville. Once a person has been taught the skills through therapy and have practiced them, they may find that it gets easier to practice and change their outcomes. 

Steffani Wooley, MA, LPC Intern

Supervisor: Sascha Webb, MA, LPC-S, RPT-S

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most well-researched theories of therapy that exist in the field of psychology and is one of the most often used forms of therapy. CBT is often used to help treat anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive behavior, posttraumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, substance abuse, and eating disorders. It is  sometimes used in conjunction with medication. CBT states that what one thinks about a situation or their circumstance determines how one feels, which can lead to how one behaves. So, by changing the thoughts surrounding the situation, a person can change from maladaptive thinking to a healthier way of thinking and alter their outcome. 

However, sometimes a person is not aware of what they are thinking when they react to a situation. CBT labels those as “automatic thoughts.” For example, if someone has been hurt in the past by someone who betrayed them, and someone new acts in a similar pattern, they make “automatically” think that person is behaving for the same reasons as the person who betrayed them. So, the first step in CBT is to identify the thoughts. When a person has a particularly strong emotional or physical reaction to a situation, stop and consider what the thought is about the situation. Often it is helpful to record these thoughts to see if a pattern emerges. 

The next blog covering CBT will explain steps two and three of this basic overview of CBT therapy. A counselor can assist in figuring out those automatic thoughts if a person is having trouble deciphering what are those thoughts. If you live in the Forney area and are interested more in CBT therapy, we are here to help. 

Steffani Wooley, MA, LPC Intern

Supervisor: Sascha Webb, MA, LPC-S

What is Mindfulness?

The practice is simple but the definition is different depending on who you ask. My definition is remembering to stay present and bring awareness to the mental, emotional, spiritual, and psychical life aspects in order to change the way you think or feel about your experiences.

Mindfullness is not special, mythical, or belonging to any one religion or social class. Everyone from young to old can practice this free technique. Mindfulness is not always easy, particularly if you have never experience anything like it before.

Devoting 10 minutes a day to mindfulness can be challenging and rewarding. There are somedays where this practice is truly eye opening or relaxing and other days where I’m discouraged because I cannot shut off my mind or my body wanted to move. I could not help but wonder am I doing this mindful practice right? All the meditation I have seen is quite and still?

I then wondered what would happen if I stopped questioning the practice and let things unfold in the moment? I learned with practice that resistance to what your mind or body is telling you in the moment will just make the process less enjoyable. When we give into the process of letting our bodies move when they want to move and minds think when they want to think we are listening our wants and need in the moment rather then forcing the mind and body to do something else.

Rather than walk away from the experience or shut it down, approach it one step at a time with curiosity and acceptance. Each person’s mindfulness practice will be unique to them. If we are paying attention our wants and needs in the moment and honoring the process it takes to get us there then it is a mindful practice.

How Would I Start?

I tell my clients one step at a time when talking about change and growth in their process. I would recommend starting with focusing on the breath for 10 minutes a day as it is always available when we need it and will provide a wonderful anchor to focus on.

Commit to regular practice so that it develops a habit is key to gaining the most potential benefits from the practice. Once, you feel you have a firm grounding in the practice feel free to mix up your practice by walking in nature, focusing on mindfully moving, and body scanning ( awareness of what is happening in your body).

 

Melissa Stoker, MS, LPC-Intern

Supervisor: Sascha Webb, MAMFC, LPC-S, NCC
The Well Counseling Center
Play therapy, Individual, and Family therapy
Colleyville, TX

Loss and grief. These are words experienced by the entire human race. The loss may be a loved one, a friend, an acquaintance, a pet, or the loss of a pregnancy. However, loss can also be experienced through the termination of a job, a move, and even the normal transitions of life.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, in her famous work On Death and Dying, described the five stages of grief. First is denial. The person who suffered the loss doesn’t want to believe the person is gone. They feel like they are in shock and their emotions are frozen. In the second stage, anger, the feelings of the person return and the shock begins to wear off. “Why them? Why me?” are common questions at this time. The person may feel anger at the doctors, at the person driving the other car, at God, or even at the person who died themselves. The third stage is bargaining. The person may try to bargain with God in some manner. This is also the time one may start to question “What if….” The fourth stage is depression. Depression can be the result of the realization that denial, anger, and bargaining did not work. This depression can be mixed with anger and/or guilt. The bereaved may wonder what they could have done differently. In the final stage, acceptance, the person who suffered the loss resolves the loss into their life. They accept the reality of the pain, cherish the memories, and move on with a focus on the future.

The stages of grief are rarely linear. People may stay in one stage longer than another. They may circle back and repeat stages. And after time has passed, the person may even go through the stages once again when a reminder brings up the pain of the loss. So, how does one effectively get through the stages of grief after a loss? Dr. Norman H. Wright, in The Complete Guide to Crisis & Trauma, states that there are three tasks the bereaved needs to accomplish. First, bridge the past. This includes accepting the death and loosening the ties to the person that was lost. For example, the woman who lost a husband may give away his clothes. Next, the person must learn to live in the present. New roles in the family, in the church, or in society may take place. Everyday tasks such as housing or bill paying may be an issue. Old habits die out while new ones are established. Finally, find a new path. Everyday functioning provides for stability while new roles are formed and new relationships are built. These new relationships do not replace the person who was lost, but help the bereaved find a fulfilling future in terms of companionship, economic security, or maybe even a parent for his or her child(ren).

Steffani Wooley, MA, LPC Intern

Supervisor: Sascha Webb, MA, LPC-S

WHAT IS ART THERAPY?

The definition of art therapy from The American Art Therapy Assosiation (AATA) Art therapy is the therapeutic use of art making, within a professional relationship, by people, of all ages, who experience medical and mental health problems, as well as individuals seeking emotional, creative, and spiritual growth. Through creating art and reflecting on the art products and processes, people can increase awareness of self and others, cope with symptoms, stress and traumatic experiences; enhance cognitive abilities; and enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of making art.

Some questions that might arise when thinking about art therapy: Do I have to be a talented to receive the benefits?  Can I do more than just draw a picture in art therapy? Is my art confidential?

DO I HAVE TO BE A TALENTED ARTIST TO RECEIVE BENEFITS?

The great thing about art therapy is that you do not need any knowledge or skills in art to receive the benefits. Try to remember a time when you created something. Perhaps you were a child, because it was a time before social pressures and exceptions of how the end results should look clouded your mind. As a child, creating seemed easier, but as an adult it became harder. I remember the awe I felt when I was younger and got to explore mixing paint with my hands. The paint was cold and smooth as I glided my little fingers across the page, having a lot of fun!

People develop different viewpoints on art based on their personal experiences. Some might feel paralyzed by the idea of creating art again. I will admit that sometimes it is a struggle for me, an art therapist, to create art. It is hard to come up with creative ideas and for it to not look ridiculous. Well, in reality, creating art is the easy part; it is the fear of judgment that is hard. Recalling my memory as creating art in my childhood, I did not have a fear of judgment and I simply created and immersed myself in the moment. Creating art in the therapeutic setting gives a person the space to explore emotions and be in the present moment, with the therapist helping them stay focused on the present moment instead of the end result.

WHO DOES ART THERAPY BENEFIT?

Art therapy can benefit those who are less capable of expressing themselves through words, such as children; however, the benefits of art therapy extend to adults as well. Through my experience, I have observed the creative process benefit individuals dealing with trauma, depression, anxiety, managing anger and developing social skills. The benefits of art therapy are broad and can certainly extend to more than just my personal experiences!

Art therapy is a process that can help guide people through a creative therapeutic process and the art therapist can then come alongside the client and process any challenging emotions that may arise. The creative arts can be an instrument in facilitating the exploration of one’s self by allowing space for a person to communicate, especially in instances when words are not available or hard to find. The process of creating art can help a person develop and manage emotions and behaviors, reduce stress, and improve self-esteem and self-awareness. All art is treated as confidential and part of the therapeutic process and it is an individual’s choice whether they want to share their art outside of the therapeutic setting.

Melissa Stoker, MS, LPC-Intern

Supervisor: Sascha Webb, MAMFC, LPC-S, NCC

 

Often times when a person thinks of forgiveness he/she will think that forgiveness is associated with forgetting. When a person commits an act toward someone that can be seen as unforgivable the person offended may think that the perpetrator is not worthy of forgiveness. This ideology can be detrimental not in regards to the relationship of the two people but also to the person harboring the anger and resentment toward the transgressor.

Un-forgiveness can lead to physical and mental health problems such as body aches, headaches, anger, depression and anxiety to name a few. In order to prevent un-forgiveness from taking a toll on one’s health and wellbeing one may think to themselves “I want to forgive but how do I let go? “ Forgiveness is a process that involves relinquishing control of the anger and resentment and making the conscious effort to move forward. It is normal for one to not forget a heinous act or past transgression, but making the conscious decision to move forward to better ones health can be life changing.

Here are some pointers to forgiving someone. (Derived from the Prepare and Enrich Couples Manual)

  1. Acknowledge your pain and anger. Allow yourself to feel disrespected
  2. Be specific about future expectations and limits
  3. Give up your right to “ Get Even” but insist on being treated better in the future
  4. Let Go of blame, resentment, and negativity
  5. Communicate your forgiveness
  6. Work toward reconciliation

In implementing these pointers it is important to keep in mind that this is a process. Allow yourself time to make mistakes in the process of forgiveness. Not placing high expectations on yourself and the transgressor will also eliminate any unwanted negative feelings associated with the forgiveness. If forgiveness continues to be a struggle consider seeking assistance with a counselor who is able to guide you on the path towards forgiveness. The sooner you are able to forgive someone the sooner you are able to start letting go of the past and looking forward to what the future may hold and most importantly taking charge of your life.  Remember Forgiveness is for you. 

 

 

 

 

Having a SAD Summer?

 

Does the thought of summertime make you feel like frolicking in the pool, or hiding under a big straw hat? If you have seasonal depression, the bright sunshine may make you feel more roasted than sun-kissed. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is more commonly known for its winter depression variety that causes people to feel depressed during the cold winter months, but its summertime counterpart causes a mood slump during the longest, hottest days of the year.

 

People who experience seasonal depression in the spring and summer may experience anxiety, irritability, insomnia, and weight loss/poor appetite. Although depressed, they may have high energy levels and feel more restless than sluggish.

 

So what’s the problem? Shouldn’t you be happy when the sun is shining?

 

  1. One contributor to summertime depression could be the sun, which is ironic, since lack of sun is the instigator of winter depression. In Texas, the temperatures can get so high that the heat is oppressive and dangerous, causing us to flee to the nearest air-conditioned room.
  2. Allergies are on the rise in the spring and summer, which can make our bodies feel sluggish and overwhelmed.
  3. Change in our schedules could be a huge stressor in the summertime. Our kids are at home, and our routine goes out the window. Summer tampers with the structure of our daily lives. Like a toddler that smashes through a stack of carefully placed blocks, summer tears through our comfortable, familiar schedule. And our emotions can feel destroyed as well.
  4. The high expectations of summer fun can be our downfall as well. The perfect vacation, cookout, pool party, bikini body (Did I mention anxiety?)… Sound familiar? The parties and expectations of memorable family vacations can stress us out during the summertime, just as the extravagant events, parties, food, and gift-buying do during the holiday season. Seasonal depression affects primarily women in their 20s to 40s, who are usually the planners of parties, dinners, gift-buying, and vacations. Pray for perspective, that you may be able to enjoy time with your friends and family and the summer season that God gave us, without getting bogged down by insignificant details and over-the-top Pinterest-inspired entertainment ideas.

 

You may not have a diagnosable seasonal depression, but you may still feel a slump in your mood when the weather changes and your thermostat starts fighting a losing battle.

 

So what can you do about summertime depression?

 

  1. Pray for peace. Before all else, go to God with your anxieties and your real world problems. God is the only one who can replenish your soul and be your true rock. He is the unchanging Lord over the changing seasons of our year, our emotions, and our lives.
  2. Sun in moderation. The sun is the problem AND the solution? What?! Exposure to the sun lifts the mood and is a great source of Vitamin D, but it can be oppressive at mid-day during summertime. The best time to spend outdoors is early morning when the sun is already out but the temperatures are at their lowest.
  3. Diet and exercise. I know, it’s the obvious answer. But there’s a reason that it’s the obvious answer. We must remember that the brain is also a bodily organ. Eating healthy foods and being active at least 30 minutes a day will likely improve your mood. A high-impact outdoor workout at noon is obviously a bad idea; some options are to work out indoor, in the mornings, or in a pool.
  4. Stay social. Many regular social gatherings center around the school year schedule, and they drop off during the summer, when attendance cannot be counted on due to vacations, etc. Stay connected with friends and social groups during the summer. You can schedule a regular get-together time to provide some structure to your social life. And keep it casual, maybe just getting together for coffee, so it does not become one more overwhelming to-do on your summertime fun expectations list.
  5. Talk to a pro. Sometimes talking to a counselor who understands the ins and outs of depression can help guide you to find better ways to cope with depression whenever it arises. A Christian counselor can help guide you spiritually as well, to address your relationship with God and how it factors in to your depression.

 

Solomon spoke of the changing seasons in life: “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecc. 3:4). God made the seasons, and He made the earth we live on to depend on those seasons. God designed us to adapt to changes through the year and through our lives, both physically and emotionally. God molds our soul during the times when we struggle with change. For some of us, this happens every year. Let God change you and mold your soul as the seasons change this year.

 

Whether its alcohol, drugs, sex, pills, pornography, food, gambling, etc., addiction leaves individuals with feelings of helplessness and loss of control. The pain of addiction is apparent all around us. Families and relationships often experience the detrimental effects of addictive behavior. Some of the devastating consequences include: guilt, shame, depression, anxiety, mood swings, loneliness, and abandonment.

An addiction can be described as a complex physiological or psychological compulsion to habitually participate in an activity in spite of the severity of its physical, mental, social, and spiritual consequences. This leaves individuals desperate for seeking comfort in the midst of their pain. Whether pain from an addiction is directly affecting your life or whether it’s another person’s addiction that causes the pain, there is HOPE.

Seeking professional help, joining a recovery group, and having close accountability partners are a few steps that can begin the process of healing from the pain of addiction. God created us to be in fellowship with one another and to “Carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). Healthy relationships are an essential part of the healing process.

Relying on the truths of God’s Word while seeking wise counsel helps one cope with the pain that coincides as a result of addictive behavior. What seems impossible on our own power is possible with the help of God. In the midst of the suffering and pain that comes alongside addictive behavior, we have a Savior who comforts, protects, and loves us. Psalm 34:18 says, “He comforts the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” The person suffering from the consequences of addiction can feel trapped in a web of overwhelming darkness and defeat. Trusting God for comfort and healing provides a sense of peace in the middle of the pain.

Many of us struggle with being assertive in our interactions with others. Oftentimes, we tend more towards either passiveness or aggressiveness when dealing with others. Those who tend toward passivity, are likely to keep quiet and withdraw from conflict and may allow others to make decisions for them rather than speaking up and stating their opinions, wants or needs. Passive people tend to have underlying self-doubt about the validity of their feelings or thoughts and their right to express them. Those who tend towards aggressiveness, are likely to dominate in conflict and ignore the rights of others in the pursuit of having their opinions, wants, and needs heard without regard for the feelings of others. They may be hostile or even physically aggressive in pursuit of their own desires. A third tendency we may have is to behave passive-aggressively by not communicating our wants/needs openly (passiveness) while subtlety sabotaging the person we are in conflict with either through backstabbing behavior, being sarcastic in our interactions, or complaining about him or her to others (aggressiveness).

Some may feel that this is just who they are and these patterns can’t be changed, however, there is a better way to communicate and that is to learn to be more assertive. An assertive person is able to communicate his or her feelings, beliefs, desires, and needs openly and honestly while also understanding and accepting the rights of others to communicate their feelings, beliefs, desires, and needs. Additionally, assertive people take responsibility for themselves and do  not blame others for their choices. There are many benefits to communicating in a more assertive manner including:

  • Gaining confidence in who you are and your right to express yourself.
  • Respecting the rights of others as well as your own.
  • Improving communication with others by being more open and honest and, thus, improving your relationships.
  • Making it easier to have your own needs and desires met because others are more aware of them.
  • Decreasing stress and anxiety in relationships while allowing for more calm, straightforward communication.

For most of us, learning to communicate more assertively will take some time and effort. If you feel this may be an area you need to improve, you will need to honestly evaluate your own natural tendencies in your interactions with others and especially how you tend to deal with conflict. If you tend toward passive behavior, you will need to work to accept yourself and your right to your own feelings, thoughts, and beliefs first. Next, you will need to work to communicate and express yourself clearly and confidently. If you tend toward aggressive behavior, you will need to work to accept the validity of others’ feelings, thoughts, and beliefs and come to an understanding that validating others does not invalidate you or make you powerless. Then, you will need to work to calmly hear others out, especially during times of conflict, while also clearly and calmly expressing yourself.

Working to make changes in your communication style and working towards assertiveness can be difficult. If you find that you would like more help in learning how to make these changes, the many counselors on staff at The Well Counseling Center are here to help. Please give our office a call and we can help you get started on your journey towards more assertive communication and more fulfilling interactions with others.