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Our blog features personal thoughts, insights and analysis written by our own therapists on diverse topics of interest and current events related to issues of life, relationships, and emotional wellness.

A Pennsylvania State of Mind, Wellness from PA

A Pennsylvania State of Mind



When it comes to taking care of yourself, your mental health is just as important as your physical fitness. In fact, it’s considered imperative that you treat your mental well-being with the same concern and respect as your physical health… and for good reason. Anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses can be just as taxing on your body as physical illnesses like the flu.

For that reason, mental health days are gaining ground as legitimate steps to better overall wellness. In the past, taking time off from work or responsibilities at home in order to care for yourself has carried a kind of stigma. Those who have been smart enough to recognize the need for a break and brave enough to take it may have been erroneously criticized as weak. In actuality, a mental health day (or weekend or week or month) can help manage stress and emotions, helping us perform better at everything we do, from parenting children to making sales at work.

But what is a mental health day? Where do you go? What do you do? What activities actually help improve your state of mind and your overall well being? Well, that depends on your specific circumstances. How many mental health days you need, how often you should take them, and what type of activity you choose will be based on the issue you are struggling with and how it is affecting your day-to-day life.

If you are feeling anxious about your finances, taking a day off to draw up a budget and de-stress with a yoga class may be just the ticket. If you’re grieving deeply after the loss of a loved one, however, one day of rest may not be enough of a break to work through your depression. And you may not be able to do it alone. If at any point in your mental health journey you are feeling overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional. Your psychologist or psychiatrist can help you navigate your feelings and emotions and map out a plan to get you back on track.

When planning your next mental health day, there are a few activities you should avoid, like staying in bed all day or purposely isolating yourself from your peers. While sleep and “me time” are both imperative to your mental health, as a general rule, avoidance is an unhealthy coping mechanism.

Instead, do something that makes you feel productive but not stressed. Look for ways to get active, enjoy your hobbies, and promote meaningful social interactions. Whether you’re breaking a sweat, reading a novel, or having lunch with a friend, you’ll trigger your “relaxation response” and counteract the cortisol (stress hormone) that is causing you to feel worried, distracted, or sad.

According to one study, Pennsylvania residents have a lower prevalence of mental illness and greater access to care than those of most other states. That may be because Pennsylvania residents have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to mental health boosting activities.  You can take advantage of the great outdoors with a day hike or a weekend retreat in one of the state’s many parks or nature preserves. Spend some time on the lake, soaking up the sun or fishing at the water’s edge. Or, if you’re in the mood to learn, visit a museum or historic site. Go alone or with family and friends, and consider disconnecting from technology for the duration of your trip.

No matter how you decide to care for yourself and your mental fitness, recognizing the need to pursue your state of mind with the same vigor and urgency you would your body is the first and most important step. From there, there will be a plethora of options that will allow you to reduce your stress, cope with depression, and manage anxiety… in Pennsylvania or any other part of the world.





Posted in counseling, mental health, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, therapy, wellness, wisdom, yoga

Relationships; Repair or Run, Top 5 Ways To Know

Repair or Run, relationship counseling
Repair or Run, relationship counseling

Repair or Run, relationship counseling

Repair or Run; Relationship Checklist 

Whether married, dating, in a long or short term relationship, despite our most valiant efforts, sometimes our love becomes disharmonious, with that being said, each person we date or meet doesn’t have the personal and relationship skills to create a beautiful love song that will echo into eternity. Perhaps you are like most people who can relate to having been conflicted about whether or not to remain in a relationship.  Friends, family, and romantic partners alike can bring so much joy and enrichment into our lives and hope, coupled with happy peaceful times allow us to remain steadfast and true when we run upon difficult moments. However, sometimes despite our protests and discussions we may find that the relationship has taken a turn leaving us feeling down and discouraged?  Below are questions to ask ourselves to prompt considerations which will help us to determine whether or not a relationship is worth the continued investment.

Does this person want what is best for me?

Those whom we allow in our lives should have our best interest at heart.  The decisions we make have a direct impact on our lives.  Therefore, the closest people to us, should encourage us to make good  decisions.  Our relationships should drive us to be mindful of the decisions we make and any guidance offered should be free of ulterior motive.  A solid foundation, in a nurturing environment, allows for growth.

Have I abandoned my own values to have this person in my life?

Values can be defined as what is important in ones life.  If we abandon what is important in our lives, we abandon the very fiber that makes us who we are.  Sometimes we start very early to look past certain red flags like smoking, or drinking, or a temper in order to be patient and compassionate but it is important to understand and have boundaries as well as “deal breakers.” Just as well as other factors such as valuing sexual connection, health, and time as high priorities and coupling with others who value the same.

Do I trust them?

The ability to trust someone involves several fundamental components:  reliability, honesty, integrity, and security.  Those in whom we invest should possess such characteristics.  Without these, and without trust, a foundation cannot be built and therefore, a relationship cannot be sustained.  One should never invest in a faulty foundation. On the other hand, in order to trust another we first must trust ourselves.

Am I significant to this person?

The heart of significant human relationships can be found in the ability to influence each other.  When we influence one another, we are shown that our existence has meaning and what we think and believe is important.  The relationships in which we invest should make us feel that we are worthy of attention.  You deserve to feel like a priority!

Is this relationship is one sided?

In order to feel happy in a relationship, one must feel like his or her needs are being met.  Often, when a relationship is one sided, we are left feeling dissatisfied because one or more of our needs have been ignored.  Investment in a relationship involves mutual communication, vulnerability, and commitment.  It is a vital necessity to mutually value and appreciate in a loving relationship.


In love and relational wellness,

Corynn Koos Ma, LPC, NCC

Therapist and Relationship Counselor at The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh


Posted in counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, psychotherapy Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

The Valentine’s Day Love Manual For Singles, Married, and Those Who Never Want to Date Anyone Ever.


The Valentine’s Day Love Manual For Singles, Married, and Those Who Never Want to Date Anyone Ever

We develop patience because we come to understand demandingness, we best learn to love by having our hearts broken, when our dignity is usurped, and our sanity called into question, sometimes this is the starting point for some wondrous growth and opportunity. We develop spirit by first living soullessly, we begin the path toward discipline because we know the deleterious dangers of living in the aimless direction of ego and ID driven revelry.  For the month of February, many of us are more focused on love and relationships with Valentine’s Day upon us. As therapists, as women, humans, lovers and people who know just a little bit about the psychology of relationships, we offer this, The Valentine’s Day Love Manual for Singles, Married, Dating, and Those Who Never Want to Date Anyone Ever. Lets make love to the world with our song, our breath, our actions, and the beautiful ripples of our actions come to life.

1-“The First Rule of The Love Manual” For The Singles, The Free Birds Fluttering Brightly.

Love Your Self!

If we are going to ever get anything done in this world we must first love ourselves. If we don’t come from a place of self-acceptance, self-love, self-compassion, we will never be able to move beyond animal nature, we will never have any real relationship with anyone, anything, or any project.  So if you’re single and loving it, rather work on perfecting your down dog or grooming your cats mane, that’s ok, just as long as it comes from a place of mindful self-love, we think that’s swell! You see as we humans evolve, we no longer pay as much attention to where we are going but instead it is how are we getting there, what is the motivation for action? Sound lofty? It is and that’s exactly what we are going for, something a little more! We can fall in a million different directions if we don’t practice mindfulness vigilantly, we may fall backwards into lesser motivation. Motivation, if not coming from love, is then derived from ego, ego quests for power, attention, praise, control, and per The Sage and All of the Worlds Ancient Ones, the ego culminates inferior instincts.

2- “The Second Rule of the Love Manual”, To Be Used If you want to attract great love into your life;   

Love Your Self!

Like attracts like or like attracts the opposite, most importantly those who we share attraction with are those who vibrate on the same frequency as our root identity or self-concept. If we are vibrating in our lower elements, or energy centers of the physical realm, we will fall into relationships that are purely on the physical realm, which can be really great if that’s what two people are wanting together. Perhaps we have entered the emotional stage of development, then we will invariably only commit to relationships which mirror that. Perhaps we are vibrating from ego, and we quest for idolatry or fame, we may look only for those who embody false values such as vanity or fame. If we value power then we connect on that plane, if we truly love ourselves, as we develop spirit, then we will only connect with those who have peaked the crescendo toward those levels of being; spirit, morality, goodness, compassion, authenticity, and respect. When we love ourselves, we only acquiesce with those who mirror to us genuine affection.

The Third Rule of The Love Manual, For Those who are in a relationship long or short term, to keep the Love Strong,

Yes, you guessed it!

Love Your Self!

How does loving yourself keep things in balance for long-term relationships? Well unless we are discussing an extreme form of narcissism, chances are we think of your partners needs and do it often. For some, it is hard or guilt inducing to incorporate some self-indulgence into life rituals. How do we make time for a jog in the park when our wife is finishing with work and will be disappointed if we aren’t at home early? Before we know it, we haven’t constructed a relationship, we have constructed a cage! We choose and choose again, others needs and requests far beyond our own and resultant we consciously and unconsciously become overwhelmed, withdrawn, frustrated, passive aggressive, withholding, and depressed. This is not helpful for our love, and furthermore when we don’t love with boundaries, healthy limits, and in loving acknowledgment of our own needs we are not participating in a relationship or marriage, this is bondage and emotional servitude.  So go ahead, choose yourself, love yourself and value yourself and watch your relationships flower beautifully!

In love, kindness, warmth, and respect,

The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh Therapy Team

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Wellness Hacks; 17 for 2017

Wellness Hacks; 17 for 2017

Our Therapists Have Compiled 17 Wellness Hacks for your Holistic Optimization. We fancy this list diverse and have included something for individuals, couples, and lovers, we think that this list is so good that it may even have the wellness power to turn a hater to a lover or at least a frown to a smile! Why 17 you may ask? Well, because its year 2017 silly and we want to stick with the theme on this one!  If you are much like the rest of the world, you may be wondering how you will fulfill your weight loss goals, how to improve your BMI and drop those pounds on the scale.  Well in that case, this is not the article for you but you should continue to read anyway because our professional counselors and wellness gurus are offering you our best wellness hacks for your physical, emotional, spiritual and relational health, this stuff goes so much deeper than the numbers on a scale, when it comes to wellness, we have you covered! If you’re ever in a pinch, like on Wheel of Fortune or something, just remember this, “You can’t spell wellness without “WE”!”

Smiling when in a bad mood is scientifically proven to alter the mood- Yes that’s right, fake it till you make it has a purpose in psychology, smiling alone can be enough to lift your bad morning grumble back into your best internally smiling face and have your ready to sing a happy tune. Learn more here.

Curate a Healthy SEXXX Life- Do it and do it well, meaning feel good about it, find your orgasm, let go of the mindset that sex is chore or will put you on the naughty list. Healthy, safe, mindful, consensual sex is a stress reliever, a mood enhancer, it has predictive power into the longevity of bonds when its studied within the context of long term relationships. Don’t miss a beat, cuddle up to your partner and enjoy those sheets!

Your ego is not your amigo- Ego crusaders, the Buddhists, they know a thing or two about the ego, we don’t want to get all philosophical on you, or um maybe we do?! Ok, you caught us but how can we help but to share our enthusiasm, some magical things start to happen when we shift away from ego consciousness. According to the Yogis and Buddhists, when we let go of ego attachment and “I” we just may end up basking in the golden light of nirvana, ascending enlightenment and finding oneness with the universe, who could argue with that?!

Coconut Oil- Buy it, use it, eat it, rub it, mix it in smoothies, as an eco-friendly non-toxic furniture polish, as a conditioner, as an oil treatment, as an antimicrobial agent, as a source of fat that insulates the fibers which sustain neurofunction!!!!! Holy wow! Coconut oil is all that and some, follow this link for 107 of our favorite coconut oil uses here.

Brush and Floss With Baking Soda and Peroxide- There is a reason that many of our leading tooth pastes and products use baking soda and peroxide, it’s because they work brilliantly. Give it a try!

Deep breathing meditation- Meditation and deep breathing can calm, energize, fuel the body, stop addiction, we can go on and on and on and we plan to!

Chew Slowly- One of the reasons smoothies and juices have such excellent nutritional power is because they are easy to digest once macerated. Chewing slowly helps our body produce chemicals necessary to digest and nourish. It’s no coincidence that we are hosting a mind body workshop and offering a chewing meditation in January, it’s because these things work!

Boundaries- This is key in all relationships, at other times such as in flings, marriages, or partnerships with psychopathic, narcissistic, antisocial, and borderline types clinging tight to boundaries is imperative. Step one-Create emotional, physical, and interpersonal boundaries which are minimum standard levels for treatment. Step two- if those boundaries are violated accept your hurt and anger as healthy and rational. Step 3- Assess for how to respond. Has this person overstepped boundaries before? Is it likely to happen again? Is it a threat to physical safety or emotional health? Looking at these questions will guide you to make constructive decisions moving forward.

Sleep Hygiene- Our therapists love sleep hygiene and creating wellness routines which examine how we sleep. Our nighttime rituals and how those bedtime pastimes are effecting restfulness is a great way to get those repairative, restorative, and vital Zzzzz’s on track, who could forget that sleep is one of the most fundamental building blocks for emotional and physical health.

Exercise, we can’t say enough about it for emotional wellness and longevity- Per the American heart association, as little as 30 minutes 4x a week has some benefits. We know that most Americans are missing the mark when it comes to physical activity. Yet here it is as an effective tool to boost mood, reduce anxiety, promote calm, enhance body image, yes, it is that good! Get moving whether it’s down dog or a quick jog, and for good measure, talk to your doctor to be sure exercise isn’t contraindicated for you!

Communicate and do it well- Study the language that you use to frame your thinking and your speech, it has much to do with the outcomes you experience and the way people interact with you. Whether in our family, romantic or work relationships, we should use direct, meaningful, purpose driven communication and then sit back and enjoy the results that you can create.

Listen and do it well- As an addendum to ^^^^^ it’s not only speaking that we must master but a large part of speaking is listening, as therapists, listening is our super power but this is a practice which helps all conversation. When we are at our best it’s a 50/50 deal, knowing what we need to say often begins with listening to others, and if we are being real, listening and really hearing is sometimes hard as heck because its often easy to hear what we want to hear instead of what is being said.

Dream Journal- Study those dreams, record them, start to notice the unconscious patterns and communications, it can be a huge opportunity for life transformation. Typically, the help of a psychotherapist who offers dream interpretation is necessary for this. It is often very hard to understand the meaning of our dreams but working with someone who speaks dream language and metaphor will help you to muddle through your unconscious code with ease! Let the synchronicity unfold!

Try a laughing meditation- Think that meditation is just for the strong, stoic serious types? Well think again, there are lots of forms of meditation and this one is one of our favorites. What could be more contagious than laughter? We cant think of much and this is a contagion we would like to catch!  

Volunteer- We know, you barely have time to wash your socks and you’re reading these wellness hacks to get better with yourself so why are we getting all humanitarian on you? Take a cleansing breath wellness warrior. Volunteering is great for everyone and if you have never tried it, you might find that most of us are socially wired to feel good about helping. Social Exchange Theory says so if you don’t believe us! This is a two for the price of one deal!

Take time for yourself every week, make it a priority- Alright, now back to you! This one we insist upon, its necessary, its vital, its “ME TIME.” Sadly, the people who need it the most likely don’t take it much but if we are filling up the emotional cups of those who are around us we really need to serve ourselves first. Before you count yourself as selfish, it’s not just for us, it’s for our friends, spouse, and ability to achieve too…

Love and trust yourself first– This self-loving thing is our final point, this is us saving the best for a last. Be watchful of anyone who threatens, mocks, or tries to diminish your love, trust in yourself, and your precious instincts. When we lead our lives with self-love, every action becomes more natural, our behavior more nourishing, this is the final step, with brimming half-full cups we salute, we connect, we tend ourselves, each other, and the planet here! All we really need is a little self-love, la, la, laaaoove!

Peace, love, and good health,

The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh Therapy Team

830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh

Pa 15233


Counselors and Therapists




Posted in counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, educational, meditation, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, therapist, wellness Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Our Therapists 4 Favorite Mindfulness Meditation Apps

Check out our therapists top pics for mindfulness enhancing apps to deepen or begin your meditation practice.

Our therapists top picks for mindfulness enhancing apps to deepen or begin your   meditation practice.

                                                  Our 4 Favorite Mindfulness/Meditation Apps

Its that time of year when stresses are high and the promise of a new year will start the search for which shiny tools and objects to help us reach our most Mindful and Meditation Zenned-Out Enlightenment. Our therapists have collaborated to compile a list of meditation and mindfulness based apps that we believe do a great job at assisting wellness seeking users in the creation of greater peace, clarity, awareness, and stress relief. The benefits of mindfulness and stress relief are a ten-fold and apps are an excellent resource to hone in on the merger of technology and wellness, here is what our therapists have come up with for you!


Headspace is a guided meditation and mindfulness app that offers users a variety of mediation styles to begin their practice. This is suitable for those who are interested in starting their meditation journey and gives the added benefit of graduation to various levels after having mastered each step. This app also has a feature to choose the kind of mediation that you are wanting to focus on with options such as anxiety and stress reduction or performance enhancement. User friendly and readily available in your app store. check it out at

Mindfulness meditation to promote mind body connection and connection to the greater universe.

Mindfulness meditation to promote mind body connection and connection to the greater universe.

Mindfulness App

This is one our absolute favorites for helping the user foster greater mind-body awareness. In addition to various meditation settings we are also able to set reminders which sound an alert at various times through the day and then cue our attention to pausing and taking a moment to breath or to assess our feeling state. check it out at

Smiling Mind

Enhance peaceful awareness and relaxation

Enhance peaceful awareness and relaxation

This is an excellent tool for kids as well as teens and adults. With exercises and devices to enhance compassion and kindness this is an empathy building app that devotes itself to making the world a better place, one head space at a time. Additionally, this one is free, who could argue with that! check it out at


This is designed specifically for advanced meditators and mindfulness aficionados, the options are a plenty where you can choose to use music or without music, as well as options for chanting. What is especially helpful about this app is the option to track your heart rate, with the ability to slow the heart rate being one of the best benefits reported by long time meditators this hones in on the development of that stress relieving, longevity enhancing potential. check it out at

Mindfully, Meditated, and always yours,

The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh Team!

830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233




Posted in counseling, educational, holidays, meditation, mindfulness, popular culture, psychology, psychotherapy, therapist, therapists, therapy, wellness Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Holiday Giving FOOD DRIVE


Holiday Giving and Food Drive

We at CWCPGH are committed to giving back to the community, we pledge to partner with one charitable organization each year to give back to our community. As we all know, the holidays are time of feasting, togetherness, and giving. Most of the people that we are lucky enough to encounter have more than enough to eat and enjoy this holiday season but that isn’t the case for all the families, couples, and children in our city. Our team of therapists is calling upon our patrons and our cyber friends to start a giving chain. This year, we have partnered with Community Human Services Food Pantry, Community Human Services offers food, housing, and social services to those in need, to learn more about them follow the link

CHS is in need of the following items;

Toiletries such as tooth brushes, tooth paste, shampoo etc

Peanut Butter

Canned Meat


We have a drop box located in our lobby starting November, 7, 2016. Please deposit all non-perishable food items there, if you have an item but are unable to drop off please contact us at will have the donation items picked up for your convenience. We at The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh take our community outreach initiatives seriously so we have decided to match each donation that we receive on a one to one basis, meaning that for each food or toiletry item that we receive we will donate one more to CHS. Let’s see how many people we can help to enjoy good tidings and feasting this holiday season. Thank you so much for your participation and a Very Happy Holiday Wish to All of You!

Warmest Wishes,

The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh Therapy Team

830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233



Posted in community outreach, counseling, mindfulness, therapist, therapists, therapy, wellness Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Love, Aspires, Inspires, A Verb from the Muses

Love, Aspires, Inspires, A Verb from the Muses

Love, Sacrifice, Couples

              Love, Sacrifice, Couples

There are relationships, there are couples, marriages in fact which succeed in months, years, decades even in commitment and in monogamy without living in love. Let us not confuse the fact that because we have created a relationship that we are loving another person. Just as we know sex can exist without love, long and short term relationships exist, co-habitation, partnerships, they are aplenty without love. Often as therapists, we see couples in crisis, they bring in the scathing shards of their shattered romance and wonder how they can rebuild the faith in their affection. Across America the typical couples make a beeline for argumentative conversation which meanders around topics of how can we get our partner to hear, to see, to acknowledge our needs and to change their behavior. Certainly, these lines of inquiry have their place in the creation of meaningful bonds, we expect and validate that there must be a mutual and respectful collaboration and a relationship is a place where both member’s voices are heard, understood, and at the minimum respectfully entertained. For this essay, let us examine the relationship from a separate space, in recognition that true love isn’t about what we can get, how we get our partner to put down the toilet seat or offer more physical intimacy, it is within what we can give, as at its root, love is not about us as individuals it is about the other, the beloved other.

Love is Patient

Love is patient, love does not make unnecessary demands upon time or attention as love remains present when hearing “no”, “not right now”, “maybe tomorrow” or another day. Love excites to hear no because it is within “no” that an opportunity to understand a boundary exists. Love listens and can hear the fears and anxieties beneath the shaking words of long and difficult days, and with best intention, love seeks to sooth anxiousness and fear. Love is the gentle nuzzle which brings the sharp wail of the crying baby closer into bosom. Love is the gracious wind which billows atop positive intentions, the sweet breezes which pollinate The Delicate Cherry Blossom and The Mighty Japanese Maple, alike.

Love is Kindness

Love is kindness and the assumption that our beloved is offering to us goodness. Love is so infinitely gentle in its delivery of words and connection; it is lovingness which exudes its feather tipped delivery, not sharp needling. Love is inquisitive and present; she is the instillation of hope. Love connects and harmonizes towards natures bountiful flow. Love is abundant and shares in the quest for greater understanding and timely compassion.

Love is Sacrifice

Love is sacrifice, the ultimate sacrifice indeed because love makes no room for the egos demands and rigid preconceived notions of personal expectations. To love is to receive and respond to another person’s needs. Love is a beacon and a refuge, the replenishment of optimism, as indeed there are many who would proffer that love is a delusion and perhaps it is true. Perhaps there could be no love in the universe if it weren’t for the proverbial rose colored glasses that tinge our earthen bonds with eternal delight. We can see it in those who share in it, as there are indeed relationships, there are passionate romances and sexually fueled emissions of pleasure but many or most of those are not in fact love. Love is connection, love chooses us and then we choose to make the leap of faith offering our brittle bones in their vulnerable frailty to the source of human faith.

For many lofty philosophical types and religious leaders, love is indeed The Source, it is the meaning for human existence, love, the elixir of the gods is all plentiful but sometimes too the well runs dry. Yet I can promise any reader this; that if we have come to a place where we question the integrity, the meaning, the strength of our connection in our relationship, that we have in fact moved away from these necessary components, these loving heart swelling calliopes. Sometimes too, that is for the best, not every person, place or moment is deserving of love and this thing which is so pure and grand, this glimmering star dust may not be within the reach of capacity for each of us or in each moment, dear mortals, this too is much more than ok. Let us all be cautiously aware of loves impostors dressed as the fool, searching for easy answers, demanding knowingness, the ego, suspicions and cruelty, violating boundaries, dismissal, withdrawing, manipulation, these, none of these deserve the association to loves eternal expansiveness. When we speak of boredom and unmet needs we are no longer singing the praises of love, these are only ego.

We always know most immediately those who are vibrating near the pulse of loves harpsichord, their eyes shone a bit more brightly, they are willing to look beyond the shadowy valleys to take in the vistas of the cloudless sky, yes, yes, just perhaps that is it, the source of it all, love a gift pluming and cascading like the most precious gift, the rays of sun dancing down from way, way, up there.

Your friends The Troubadours of The Millennium

In love and light,

The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh

830 Western Avenue

Pittsburgh Pa 15233


Posted in couples counseling, couples therapy, divorce, marriage counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychotherapy, therapist, therapists, therapy, wellness, wisdom Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

From Us to You, Mindfulness Meditation to Celebrate World Peace Day!

World Peace Day, Meditation for Peace

World Peace Day, Meditation for Peace

Often when people like you and I hear the word meditation we imagine mystics high atop a mountain, something that is suited for seekers of enlightenment only. Yet many of us have often nurtured a hint of envy for their calm and serenity. Through mindfulness, the benefits of meditation become relevant and translatable here, far away from the brisk mountaintop and practiced in the concrete and bustling atmosphere of our cities and suburbs. Yet still, what is it?

Mindfulness allows us to deepen our awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, we are then free from the constraints of reflexivness and replace it with reflectiveness. Mindfulness peels away the mechanisms of one’s consciousness. Mindfulness has tangible benefits too, it reduces anxiety, it reduces stress, it enhances peace                                                                                and calm, mindfulness helps us love each other a little more, helps us                                                                            love ourselves better.

We begin by differentiating that which is a reflexive and irrational thought from those thoughts which are adaptive and soothing. When we become mindful in the choosing of the quality of our thoughts we are then free, free to choose direction, behavior, free to assert direction in the gap between our thoughts and the actions we choose to embody.

Mindfulness is about slowing down, we encourage the reader to do some breathing meditation to first connect with breathing, by doing some long slow inhalations and exhalations, and notice the kinds of thoughts that float through the mind or consciousness as you complete 5-10 minutes of deep breathing. To begin your journey toward mindfulness, journaling may be helpful, even if this is as simply, writing down a few words that capture the quality of the thoughts that one may be experiencing as they do the meditation.

An example of this might be, when you are seated doing the breathing your thoughts keep wandering, as thoughts always do, some of the thoughts that come up are, you are wondering if you are doing the breathing right, wondering if you look silly, thinking about lunch. All of these thoughts are perfectly natural, the point is to notice which thoughts are flitting through your mind, to really deepen breathing and maybe for a few moments at a time to zero in on the rush of the air coming in and out of the nose. It really is that simple and when practiced regularly, this has incredible effects on the body from lowering blood pressure, reducing anxiety and stress, helping reduce anger and problems associated with conflict, enhance our relationships with ourselves and others.

A good quote that helps us to understand where we are in a moment is as follows, “when we are thinking of the past, we are often feeling depressed, when we are thinking of the future, we are often feeling anxious, when we are in the present, then we have peace.” Buddhist Mantra.

In peace and love,

The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh

830 Western Avenue

Pittsburgh Pa 15233


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6 Tips for Harmonious Co-Parenting, Children of Divorce

Co-parenting, Children of DIvorce
Co-parenting, Children of DIvorce

Children need love from all of the people                                in their life.

 6 Tips for Harmonious Co-Parenting, Children of Divorce

As they say, parenting is the hardest thing one may ever have to do, this statement becomes two fold when parenting as a single parent. According to The American Psychological Association, being a child of divorce or raised by a single parent is also associated with many risks to long term emotional health, and even poorer academic performance, poor view of marriage and relationships. We offer the following guidelines for parenting situations where both parents are non-abusive, an entirely separate list of guides should exist for situations where there has been a history of any form of abuse.

Lovingly Encourage The Time Your Child Spends with The Other Parent

When we as parents aren’t actively encouraging our child to love and interact with both parents then we are injuring the child and his or her relationship with the other parent. What does it mean to lovingly encourage? It means that if your child comes home from a weekend or evening with his or her other parent that you treat she or he with positive regard. Do a check in, and ask with enthusiasm what were the highlights, follow this up with an encouraging statement. This is not doing investigative work and trying to learn details about the other parent. Or on the other end, some parents may be non-communicative with the child after he or she returns from time with the other parent. Children can be subtle creatures, when we fail as parents to embrace with positivity the relationship our child has with others they will likely end up feeling guilty about their relationship with mom or dad. This lays the ground work for Parental Alienation which damages not only the other parent but most importantly the child.

Never discuss custody details or visitation arrangements within ear shot of the children

Even if you and the co-parent have an iron clad custody arrangement there may be times when the need for alterations may come up, it is imperative that these discussions happen away from the children as these are adult discussions. When a child hears mom or dad crying that the other parent wants to have them over Christmas they will most likely feel a sense of guilt. Children hear and see much more than we imagine and it is injurious when they see and hear their primary custodial parent crying or complaining about time with the other parent. This means that they will feel guilty or uncertain about time spent with that parent who is outside of the home and this too carves the pathway to a lifetime of guilt and shame, this too is also often a contributing factor in both long term emotional damage for the child as well as parental alienation.

Genuinely assume your child’s co-parent has good intentions and is an asset to your child’s life.

This is hard, all of these are hard! There are likely huge differences between you and your child’s other parent, some of them leading to the reasons your own romantic relationships failed, It’s important to keep in mind that your child is a product of both of you. To assume good intentions means that if your child comes home crying and complaining about reading time that mom or dad made them do that you don’t sigh and complain to the child about “no good mom or dad.” Instead even though you may encourage other activities to your child that you sooth the child and support those parenting efforts by the other parent, recognizing that your co-parent may have some talents and interests to offer to the child that are separate from yours.

Do some honest appraisal of what may or may not benefit the child and separate that from what you want.

This means that the vacation that mom or dad wants to take the child on which falls on your visitation may be something positive for the child, while we may not want to give up that day or weekend with the child we must do an honest assessment of what is in the child’s best interest in each situation. This may mean exposure to family time, activities, interests and places that are unfamiliar to us and at times inconvenient yet we do this in the name of the child’s health and wellbeing.

Gifts and the part-time parent

The sad truth is that many of the emotionally injurious acts that happen in co-parenting situations happen veiled in the guise of love. More often than not, both parents love the child and want to spend time with he or she and fear the time spent away from the home with the other parent. It may be natural to envy your co-parent’s gifts and spending power but reducing time or putting unreasonable limits on each other’s capacity to relate to your child in a way that nurtures and enhances them must be the primary goal. Also, it is easy to feel that the non-custodial parent comes in and gets to enjoy the fun times of long weekends and adventures with the children while the challenges of the day to day living are left in the home, this is a space where it is helpful to separate your feelings from what is good for the child.

Do your emotional homework!

Divorce and separation leave a long line of emotional reactions from hurts, sadness, anger, abandonment, confusion. These feelings must be worked through and resolved to the best of your capacity, they will not vanish on their own. The single most important piece of advice that can be offered is to deal with the emotional aftermath in a way that supports your ability to truly offer supportive parenting to your child’s experiences with the other parent, whether this is by seeking counseling or therapy or some other means, do your emotional homework


Sharing love and time with children after a divorce or separation can be a huge challenge for parents, it is particularly dire that this be navigated in a sensitive way that mutually supports and respects the love and parental rights of both parents. When parents fail to create an atmosphere of parental collaboration it can have long lasting effects on the child’s mental and emotional health as well as concept of relationships later on in life. By following the suggestions above, we make it more likely that these effects can be lessened and we become an example of a successful divorce and co-parenting family.

In good health and love,

The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh

Contributed by Nicole Monteleone LPC, NCC, NBCC


830 Western Avenue

Pittsburgh Pa 15233



Posted in co-parenting, counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, divorce, educational, marriage counseling, parenting, psychology, psychotherapy, therapists, therapy Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 Lessons on Life from Farmer Jim; The Hawaiian Vanilla Farm

4 Lessons on Life from Farmer Jim; The Hawaiian Vanilla Farm

Family, Parenting, Marriage

Family and growing ones wealth on the vanilla farm!

As a lifelong lover of all things Vanilla on a recent travel excursion in Hawaii, I opted to spend an afternoon at The Hawaiian Vanilla Companies’ farm. The farm which is a true artisans purveyor of some of the world’s best small batches of vanilla bean goodness. What was most striking about that afternoon wasn’t the lush tropical vistas, although the altitude and sea views were indeed stunning. Nor was it the fantastical process of cultivating Tahitian vanilla, which is in fact an orchid, the coveted vanilla bean are the tiny seeds which grow in the orchids stem. Botany and Geology aside, I am psychotherapist, for me, character succeeds setting, the man behind the bean is most noteworthy about that afternoon.

Lesson 1

Jim Reddenkopp, farmer, my host, owner of the Vanilla Company is a man whose adult life began after he had acquired a dangerously steep, craggy, and startlingly cheap and unruly plot of Hawaiian land. Why purchase such a plot, a tour goer dared ask, his blank honesty, Lesson 1, ‘I had only one dream, to raise a family in Hawaii, with just enough money to buy this soil that nobody else was crazy enough to want, my wife and I were well on our way to dreams come true, we lay under glistening stars in our tent while building our home here happy as can be.’ As Jim implicitly seemed to know, the first lesson is that in mindful living every endeavor should first be aimed at cultivating our inner principals, most of the time, the rest will take care of itself if we toil hard enough.

Lesson 2

With the thrill of striving for his goals steaming his sails he didn’t think too much about the ‘how.’ It was only in later conversation with his two university professor parents who looked to Jim, their long haired, increasingly thin, patchouli wearing son, living out his dreams in a tent in Hawaii. As good parents do, they lectured Jim and provided him with Lesson Number 2, “Better figure some things out Jim, what are you going to do with your life?” Lesson number 2 is that there will be naysayers and hurtles, Jim had been thinking about this, with lots of trial and error under his belt he had acquired a long list of all of the things which could not be done on this rocky plot of earth. It took years of failed crops for Jim to reply to his parents that he had a solution for the impossible bit of land he had been toiling, “I am going to grow Vanilla!” An excellent but complex choice, the elusive and exceptionally valuable vanilla orchid, a matter which would be much more challenging than he had anticipated.

Lesson 3

Jim eventually mastered his craft, mastered in ways he had never thought possible in looking back. Yet the vanilla is not the thing of which Jim is most proud, closest to his heart is that his adult children have decided to stick around on the farm where they had grown up. They can be found working in the kitchen and grounds of the farm. The other tour goers kept astonishing with their consumer values, “why aren’t you growing more vanilla?” “yours is thought to be some of the best in the world! Surely there is a demand for it!” Master chefs reach out to Jim, buying out his stock of vanilla bean in advance of its harvest. Jim in his humble flannel looked to them with such brightness in his eyes, “yes, yes, but the thing is that I am already rich! My family is here with me, I like to take days off and on them I enjoy surfing. I get to grow vanilla and curate other products in a way that is comfortable and enjoyable. Work life balance is important to me.” Lesson number 3; less is often more, we should strive for balance in all things. The crowd of tour-goers looked at him curiously, some in wide eyed admiration, as though he had come to embody some elusive and novel concept, an unsung anthem which some of us had all been waiting all of our lives to hear!

Sometimes we wonder what happened to good old fashion family values, well sometimes they clock out with the 60 hour work week, we work, toil away to put food on the table, to get that bigger house, bigger promotion, yes to win at the game of life, to have that comfortable retirement and with any luck we will actually live to our 70’s to enjoy those golden years, that is a gift in itself. Yet Jim, he was living with that joy and comfort now, by embracing the values of a simple life, remaining surrounded by his loved ones, making contact with nature and his passions, his eyes seemed to sparkle with the happiness of embodying his values and don’t we all know what a tremendous accomplishment it can be to simply hold tight to our values in today’s fast paced world.

Lesson 4

The tour continued on, we meandered over hills on a cloudless day, we walked passed a smallish house on the farm and Jim paused there, ‘this is where my father lived, he died last year.’ Myself and the other tour goers offering sad expressions, condoling comradery in understanding such loss. Jim, with dignified melancholy, gently waved it off. “Dad is gone but he died of natural causes at 88 years old right here while we held him in our arms, it was a beautiful thing and we are forever changed by it.” I paused in thinking about that, yes death is an agonizing loss for those alive to be touched by it, yet it is indeed the cost we pay to live life, the finality of it. Jim offered yet another lesson, lesson 4, that there is integrity to a long life, well-lived, clinging to loss would dishonor his father’s life. At that moment, Jims’ son popped out of the house’s shabby front door, holding the hand of a petite framed women who was waddling along with an enormous bulge in her belly. Jim waved proudly, “that is my son and daughter in law, they live there now and they are expecting their first child in a few weeks.” Ah, and now we see the circle of life continues, yes, there is so much honor in that, in a life well lived.

Wishing you all vanilla skies and sweet dreams,
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
Contributed by;
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
830 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233

Posted in counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, educational, mindfulness, personal growth, popular culture, psychology, psychotherapy, wellness, wisdom Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,
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