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

Trauma Informed Care; We Have Evolved to be at risk for Trauma; Here is Why

Trauma Informed Care

Trauma Informed Care

We have fantastic and astonishing memory abilities, the human mind and its processes, particularly in the way we store and retrieve the effective memories which then effect the way that we store and respond to our other memories and sensory input. Evolutionary psychology examines the way some things that can be problematic are often helpful to us in the past and as we evolved. This is especially true for trauma survivors. According to the American Psychological Association, Trauma is an emotional response to a event like an accident, rape, or natural disaster, abuse or assault. Immediately after the event, shock, emotional upheaval, loss of ability to function, and denial are typical. Trauma is especially present in situations where a person feels powerless and their sense of control are taken. Long term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea, nightmares, inability to rest or calm down, feeling tearful, experiencing fear and heightened startle response. While these feelings are very universal response to the paralyzing fear that is associated with trauma even if the survivor reports feeling neutral in the moment. Biology offers some rational for how we can feel afraid but work through it in the moment of the traumatic situation, but it is later when we are safe and comfortable that the panic can emerge, generally emotions are something that can be seen and felt most when everything is alright around us, meaning the traumatic event is over and we are safe. Some people have difficulty moving on with their lives because trauma can result in long term effects such as post traumatic stress disorder, acute stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and addiction.

There are so many events that we experience which are traumatic, whether these develop into the more complex constellation of behaviors which we identify as PTSD, really depends on an interplay of biological, social, and other environmental factors. Some of the situations which can cause a trauma response include, domestic violence, sexual violence or assault, car accidents, national tragedies, serving in war, robberies. It is possible that we can experience a traumatic response my witnessing these events even if we are not the direct recipient of the threatening attack.

People who later feel the emotional and physical effects of trauma may wonder, what is wrong with me? Also, even if the event seemed manageable in the moment, it seems bizarre that they keep seeing flashes of it months or years later. The answer is while the effects of trauma  can be debilitating, our cognitive processes are primed to be traumatized. Evolution explains that we and our ancestors are wired to hold tight to frightening or threatening experiences, imagine what happened to all of the humans who did not startle and produce massive amounts of cortisol and adrenaline at the sight of the saber toothed tiger just through the northern passage on the savannah. They died and did not evolve to have offspring in our gene pool. Having memory of dangerous events, people, situations, and gearing up to flee or protect one’s self is a sign of an evolutionarily healthy adaptation, it allows us to stay safe by avoiding possibly dire situations. In fact, our Vagal nerve which communicates directly to our bodies, without having to yield the advice of our logic, there are long term changes in the way that our Vagal nerve responds to triggers after we have experienced trauma. The vagal nerve is what allows healthy people to experience the ‘startle response’ for example when someone sneaks up behind you, usually we respond with a physical jerking motion in our bodies, and literally jumping. In domestic violence survivors, being ‘jumping’ and easily startled when a person raises their hand, is a well noted phenomenon that may last an entire lifetime.

We are wired to remember traumatic events. Survivors of trauma know that the sight of the perpetrator of their violence, even a coat that’s the same color as the one their attacker had worn can evoke the fear response. ‘Triggers’ are any stimuli which we associate with the traumatic event. These triggers and their associated memories can and do produce a jolt to the vagal nerve resulting in heightened, panicked, and anxious response in the person who is perceiving them. The biological response when we encounter a trigger are a plenty, our bodies enter a state of hyper-arousal, respiration becomes more shallow, heart beat rises, and fear settles in, even cognitive function is impaired as our higher order reasoning is impeded and all neurological resources are yielded to the hind brain and its motor and autonomic functions. The one and only thought becomes fight, flight, survive, and in some cases freeze. Remember, just like on the savannah in the seat of civilization, the extra energy our bodies create allow us to escape danger.

Cognitive behavioral therapy, systematic desensitization, and exposure therapy, and some therapies which aim to change the tone of the vagal nerve are recommended ways to work through the trauma and empower the survivor to be able to withstand exposure to triggers and regain emotional wellness. It is recommended that trauma survivors do their best to limit exposure to triggers as they heal from the event and associated memories. If you feel that you may be experiencing long term effects from a traumatic situation, it is recommended that you work with a therapist who is specifically trained in trauma informed care. Healing will allow the processing of the entire event, client and therapist will identify triggers, developing the capacity to respond to triggers with mindful balance, and work through the effects of any other psychological effects from the trauma.

Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh, Serving Western Pennsylvania with Individual Therapy, Couples Therapy, Family Therapy and Wellness Services.


Posted in counseling for PTSD, psychology, psychotherapy, ptsd, trauma, trauma informed care, trauma therapy Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Suicide Prevention

Suicide prevention awareness
Suicide prevention awareness

Suicide Prevention Awareness

                                                                                   Suicide Prevention

With the suicide of two Hollywood Stars this week, both Kate Spade fashion designer, and beloved Anthony Bourdain, American chef and champion of human rights, we at the Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh wish to express our condolences to the families, friends, and all of those effected by these tragic losses. According to the National Institute of Health, suicide rates are rising, 40,000 people will die by suicide each year. As a nation, and as people who want to help, we should think about the signs, symptoms, and behaviors of the people around us so that we can do our best in having awareness to prevent suicide. Suicide is a topic which holds personal importance to me, many years ago, when I was an undergraduate student studying psychology, my boyfriend attempted suicide in my bed by placing a bullet into his brain, after months in a coma, he was lucky enough to survive. Yet the act was one which was shocking for all of his friends, his family, and something that impacted me to this day. As a woman who has devoted herself to studying and working in the mental health field, at the time, I did not see the signs that my boyfriend was suicidal.

Suicide is a taboo topic and product of dismal and ill mental health; major depression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, psychosis, and schizophrenia, are a few of the disorders which are typically associated with an increased risk for suicide. For those who are closest to someone suffering from mental health disorders, the symptoms are very difficult to see for what they are. The thoughts, behaviors, and feelings of a depressed person are a set of treatable symptoms which are a produced by mental illness. Our science and psychology hold diagnostic labels but for the human beings who act out suicide, these symptoms are a daily life experience, they are much more than a label. Mental illness is an often invisible disease causing people to suffer immensely, those who are in the depths of depression or other mental illness, often have not sought treatment with a therapist or mental health professional. A person may walk through life for many years, hollow and bleak, no longer able to experience the hope or purpose to continue living. They may become so overwhelmed that they can no longer imagine the purpose of surviving more days while struggling with their feelings of despair, sadness, conflict, and internal pain. Often the person who commits suicide is one whose self-esteem and thoughts have entered a place of such distortion that they imagine the people who survive them will be better off without them in their lives. Again, this kind of thinking is a product of the illness. Please spend a few moments looking over the suicide warning signs according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.


  • Isolating themselves.
  • Not returning phone calls.
  • Not showing up for family or friends invitations.
  • Being withdrawn.
  • Giving away possessions.
  • Sleeping too much.
  • Sleeping too little.
  • Using substances to excess.


  • Talking about suicide. *Especially sharing that they have a plan and a way to carry it out.
  • Saying that friends and family would be better off without them.
  • Feeling like a burden.
  • Feeling hopeless.
  • Feeling that there is no reason to live.
  • Talking about deep feelings of depression or anxiety.


  • Depressed
  • Anxious
  • Angry
  • Confused
  • Tearful
  • Sudden increase in mood or energy

Environmental Risk Factors

  • Relationship problems.
  • Financial problems.
  • Having access to lethal means such as pills or guns.
  • Prolonged stress.

If this sounds like someone you know, or if you have been feeling these things recently, please seek help. Call your local crisis center, here is a number for a national suicide hotline 1-800-273-TALK. Remember that the emotions are temporary and life’s situations which overwhelm us are solvable. Mental health help is around the corner. If your loved one has expressed these things to you, or is exhibiting some of the warning signs, stay with them, ask questions and let them talk about their worries and problems, your presence will help, listen with patience and compassion and be with them while calling the suicide prevention hotline or getting them to a local hospital.

In love and life,

Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, NCC

Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh

830 Western Avenue

Pittsburgh Pa, 15233

4108 Monroeville BLVD

Monroeville Pa, 15146.


Serving Western Pennsylvania with Individual, Marriage, Family, Counseling and Wellness Services.

Posted in Anthony Bourdain suicide, kate spade suicide, mental health awareness, suicide, suicide prevention, suicide warning signs Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Getting Referrals for your Therapy Business


Therapy Referrals

Building Therapy Referrals for your therapy practice.

Getting Referrals for your Therapy Business

We know that for many therapists and counselors who are starting out opening a practice the day your open is such an exciting moment. So many new therapists have asked us, how do you get referrals, in our effort to help, we will share with you some time tested tips. You look forward to the day and after years of education and gaining a professional counseling license, you put you plan into action and with big dreams and great intentions, you hang your shingle. All of those years, you likely imagined that when you start doing business the clients would be flooding your waiting room. There are many parts to managing the business of therapy that are confusing for newcomers and completely prevent great therapists from gaining the momentum that is needed to sustain their dream. The biggest hurdle in opening their practice is usually gaining referral sources. We know that its really is hard in today’s market to get noticed and to then be able to build a therapy business. We know that no-matter how effective and competent a counselor, therapist, or psychologist, without being put in touch with a steady referral source, the clinician will end up frustrated and then become one of the many practices that opens and shortly after, dreams deflated, then forced to close ending up thousands of dollars in debt, without any business to show for their efforts. We want to help therapists to keep their dreams alive, and their doors open so that they are able to serve the children, adults, families, and couples who need them. Being in service to the populations that need us is what we are all aiming to do. Please read our 4 tips for gaining referrals for your counseling or therapy practice.

  • Choose a Specialty

If your education hasn’t already provided you with a market specialty take a long look at exactly what kind of therapy that you want to provide and to who. Being broad and too general isn’t very well marketable, don’t blend in, your goal is to stand out. You will only go so far if you spend your time researching the things that every other therapist and practice in your area are doing. Even better if you can fill a niche that has not yet been offered in your area. For instance, marriage counseling specializing in infidelity, or therapy for depression, grief counseling, child therapy counseling for anxiety disorders are specialties which can help you to stand out in a crowded market.

  • Take advantage of referral sources such as Psychology Today

This is a reputable and consistent place that most therapists use to gain their referrals. While some counselors feel that the services are too pricey they really are worth their weight in the number of referrals that they provide. Another helpful hint is to make sure you check only the kinds of therapy, ie specialties that you want to offer, don’t be afraid to have a narrow focus so that the appropriate clients find you. One referral that leads you to a client who you can really help is worth way more than several of those who you can only do sub-par work with.

  • Provide therapy within your area of Expertise

One mistake that new therapists make is that in being desperate for clients they take any folks who come through their door without having proper regard for their specialty focus. They may end up making mistakes and even worse, ending up with a malpractice lawsuit. By providing counseling that is informed and specialty focus, you increase your client’s chances of having great outcomes.

  • Use Pay-Per-Click Advertising

Pay per click advertising is the best way to rapidly generate internet leads. By working directly with Google, paying for an account that will generate abundant referral sources for your specific therapy specialty. This fantastic service can be set up in minutes and google also offers lots of support for how to get this going quickly without making any errors. It really is efficient and allows you to funnel in the appropriate kinds of clients to have your counseling business booming.

Good luck new therapy comers, we know that there are so many people who will benefit from the services that our fellow friends in the counseling field have to offer, keep working at it and your therapy dreams will come true.

Your Friends at The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh

830 Western Avenue

Pittsburgh Pa, 15233

4108 Monroeville Blvd

Monroeville PA 15146

We proudly serve integrative counseling and wellness solutions to the individuals, couples, and families of Pittsburgh, Monroeville, and all of Western Pennsylvania. We also proudly offer business consulting for our fellow therapists who are just starting out in the field, all services can be provided via skype for your convenience and service.

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Premarital Counseling Questionnaire

Premarital Counseling Questionnaire

Premarital Counseling Questionnaire

Premarital Counseling Questionnaire, prepare your relationship for a long happy marriage.

If you have recently answered ‘yes’ to a marriage proposal, then along with the rush of planning your version of the perfect wedding you also may also be considering whether you should be going to premarital counseling. Premarital counseling is a form of couples therapy that emphasizes wellness, you can learn more about the process here. Our counselors have put together a premarital checklist to look at your relationship and to determine if it makes the wellness grade for relationship health, this will help you and your partner to understand some parts of your relationship in a deeper way. Don’t be afraid to feel a little uncomfortable, these are not the kinds of questions that you normally think about but that also is what makes them especially powerful to assess the strengths and various qualities of your unique partnership. This does not replace premarital counseling but it does help you each to examine your relationship in a mindful and healthy way.

  • Why do you want to get married?
  • What roles do you see for yourself in your marriage?
  • What do you imagine might be your biggest challenge in being married?
  • What makes your relationship unique?
  • How do your friends and family view your relationship with your partner?
  • What is your idea of the perfect wedding?

Are there others who are close to you who have different ideas for how your wedding should go?

How do you each talk about your thoughts and needs on this topic?

  • How do you manage conflict?
  • What are each of your conflict resolutions styles?
  • What has been a challenge for your conflict resolution?
  • How you repair conflict?
  • When you feel stress how can you partner help you?
  • How would you describe your communication style?

Is it generally easy for you to talk about your needs?

Do you find you over communicate your needs?

Do you have an attacking communication style?

Do you become very emotional when you communicate?

  • How similar or different are each of your sexual libidos?

Describe the amount of foreplay that you have with your partner on average?

Do you feel able to initiate lovemaking?

Do you feel able to decline sex with your partner?

Are you able to orgasm?

Do you have sex that is non-penetrative?

  • What are some of your financial concerns about your future together?
  • What is your ritual around managing the finances?
  • How do you handle household maintenance like cooking and cleaning?
  • Do you plan to have children together?
  • What trait do you most admire in your partner?
  • What is one mutual goal between the two of you?
  • What do you see yourselves doing in 10 years?
  • What do you see yourselves doing in 20 years?


With the help of questions like these, you and your partner can begin the lifelong process of deepening your understanding of yourselves and each other, keeping in mind, your answers to these questions will likely change over time. That is normal and to keep your marriage healthy, you should continually check in with each other and have hard conversations about things that matter to you. Wellness means that we manage and care for ourselves and our relationships in a way that keeps them strong and happy and that we strategically plan for success by growing our relationship to be stronger. Great marriages are created intentionally by addressing individual and relationship needs, prioritizing connection, listening and compromising.  None of which are easy, but all of which are well worth it to live happily, in love, for the rest of your life.

The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh

830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh PA 15233

4108 Monroeville PA 15146.


Posted in premarital counseling, premarital counseling questionnaire, premarriage counseling, Uncategorized, wellness counseling Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

The Dangerous Addiction that you use Everyday, Hint-It is not a drug!

Cell Phones are addictive according research and causing us extreme stress and anxiety.

The Dangerous New Addiction that you use Everyday, Hint-It is not a drug!

In a world of highly demanding home lives and work lives, where performance is prized above peace and calm, there is one object which is the focal point of so much of our attention. TO maintain peace, balance, and calm, our human bodies require us to at least sometimes, think without disruption, to look around at the leaves on the trees and to see and be with everyone contained in the horizon around us. To love and care for our spouse and families we need to supply them with attention by unplugging from everything that is not directly in front of us.  If we are going to live a life of contentment, balance, and enhance our mindfulness, we must examine the culprit that stands in our way. One very intrusive companion to our feeling of alertness and attention is our cell phones. While they are a way for us to communicate plans and conversations, to manage our work, to find true love and date, as well as find out information about anything in the world that we want to know via the internet, they are also a major problem. There is so much focused awareness placed upon our cell phones that medical community is examining it as an object that can absorb our attention so much, even black out what is around us causing distress and impairment in our physical bodies and relationships. The research community has decided that yes, cell phone use does qualify as a form of addiction and at minimum for most of us, it contributes to our growing levels of stress and anxiety (Desola et al).

The presence of addictive behavior that takes place on our cell phones spans so much more than just compulsive shopping or video gaming. The anxiety  that we feel surrounding our cell phone has resulted in new bodies of language, some of our favorite pop terms devoted to describing our responses to not having our most favored objects by our side are; “Nomophobia” meaning that we fear no having our phones, there is also “FOMO” commonly known as  the Fear Of Missing Out i.e the fear of being without our cell phone or even disconnected from the Internet, “Textaphrenia” and “Ringxiety” – the false sensation of having received a text message or call that leads to constantly checking the device some of us are so tuned into our cell phones that we hear phantom ringing, imagining that the phones are ringing when they are in fact not.  “Phubbing”, meaning to inadvertently ignore someone we are with to check our phone. “Textiety” – the anxiety of receiving and feeling the compulsive urge to then respond immediately to ours texts (De Sola 2016).

Our attachment to our cell phones is so strong that we legitimately feel “separation anxiety” when we are away from them for too long. Bring your awareness to the last time that you lost or misplaced your phone, how did that feel for you in the moment? If you are like many people you felt the typical markers of anxiety including, excessive thoughts and worry, even elevated heart rate and fear that you may be missing something very important out there in our cloud based cyber world. Here are some very good signs that you may have a problem.

9 signs that you or our loved one may be struggling with anxiety or addiction with cell phone use;

  1. Using cell phones in a dangerous context such as while driving or biking.
  2. Having had an accident or other incident due to using a cell phone in a dangerous context
  3. Having problems in relationships, ie your partner or loved one annoys you by criticizing your cell phone use.
  4. Having problems at work or school because of cell phone use.
  5. Preferring online, texting, or social media world to real life contact.
  6. Inability or difficulty sleeping due to cell phone use.
  7. An inability or difficulty refraining from using cell phones even though attempts have been made to cut back.
  8. Urgency to respond to messages immediately and having a marked irritability if access to phone is delayed.
  9. High degrees of anxiety and loneliness and changes in mood due to need to send, respond, or receive messages.


While it is nearly impossible to function in the world without a cell phone, as with all things that are addictive, there are ways to enjoy them and their many functions without being addicted. Whether we are using our phones to be productive or to purchased extra lives on candy crush, what we do is less important than how we do it, and whether or not we meet the diagnostic criteria for problematic use. If you think that you may be experiencing a problem with how you are using your cell phone, or if others suggest that they think you have a problem, spend some time really thinking about whether you do feel balanced or does your attention often get derailed to be plugged into the digital world. The solution may be as easy as trying to cut back or even trying a digital detox. Yet the fact is that if you are experiencing a true addiction or dependence on your cell phone or have developed another anxiety disorder surrounding it, cutting back may be very difficult to do without the support of a therapist or counselor.


The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh

830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233

4108 Monroeville BLVD Monroeville Pa 15146

Proudly bringing Wellness Counseling to Western Pennsylvania


De-Sola Gutiérrez, J., Rodríguez de Fonseca, F., & Rubio, G. (2016). Cell-Phone Addiction: A Review. Frontiers in Psychiatry7, 175.

Posted in addiction, anxiety, cell phone addiction, cell phone anxiety, counseling for addiction, help for cell phone addiction, social media addiction, therapy for addiction, video gaming addiction Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Amazing Natural Substance that treats Depression and Anxiety

Turmeric, natural help for anxiety and depression.

Turmeric is a natural substance to treat anxiety and depression.

The Amazing Natural Substance that treats Depression and Anxiety

Want to manage anxiety and depression as well as double down on a dose of wellness? We have one incredible natural health, food substance to report to you. Turmeric is a rhizome and a member of the ginger family. Turmeric a major ingredient of Indian curries and has also been used to dye clothing throughout history, due to its vivid yellow color. The scientific community continues to research its uses as a healing substance, specifically trying to gauge the mechanism of action and effectiveness of the active substance, curcumin.

Curcumin is known as the most active ingredient in turmeric and continues to intrigue the medical community with its ability to providing relief for symptoms like depression and anxiety. According to a recent metanalysis funded by The National Institute of Health, curcumin was shown to be safe and effective in reducing symptoms of depression (Hewlings, 2017). That study recommended that while there are some conclusive therapeutic effects in treating depression, more research should be done to determine it’s clinical role in the treatment of anxiety.

Turmeric entered the clinical limelight when researches wanted to investigate the differences in cancer rates between westerners and some eastern and Indian populations. Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine have used these plants for thousands of years. Natural and holistic health options find ways to use the medicinal properties of commonly used foods to enhance well-

being. Some common ways of administering them are  by grinding them into a fine powder, then using it topically as a salve or ingesting them to treat multiple ailments ranging from skin lesions to memory enhancement.

While the mechanisms of Turmeric’s health and wellness benefits are not completely understood, it is believed that curcumins ability to reduce inflammation, is one of the major health enhancing properties which can affect the brain, cancer, lupus, and renal disease. Curcumins also have other functions in addition to reducing symptoms of depression, it benefits the entire body and can be used as protection from liver toxic substances, to manage Crohn’s disease, reduce symptoms related to irritable bowel syndrome to name a few (Gupta, 2013). In addition to reducing symptoms, this amazing root is reported to also enhance post work out recovery, (Hewlings, 2017. ) Turmeric is not a replacement for pharmaceuticals treating depression. Patients should still seek advice from medical professionals since other medical conditions need to be ruled out. Nor does it replace the benefits of managing the symptoms of depression or anxiety by getting counseling. Rather, it viewed as complementary to current therapeutic options.

The beneficial effects of turmeric on health is dose-dependent. It is not sufficient to heap an extra serving of curry at your favorite Indian restaurant in hopes of healing the brain and body. The clinically relevant dose of turmeric is upwards 600 mg several times per day. We recommend that the reader consult with a clinical Herbalist or Nutritionist to assess the appropriate regimen to manage the symptoms that you aim to address. Most sources recommend turmeric in capsule form to standardize the dosage. Some also enjoy turmeric in a latte or smoothie for added tasting pleasure. There is also some research being done about whether it may be further beneficial to use turmeric as an accompaniment to black pepper and some other fats like coconut milk, which are known to allow greater absorption of the active compounds. With no known side effects and so much to gain, curcumin seems like a great place to start if you want neuro-protective and physically benefits all in one delicious root!


The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh

830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233

4108 Monroeville Blvd, Monroeville Pa 15146

Be Well Pittsburgh!


  • Gupta, S. C., Patchva, S., & Aggarwal, B. B. (2013). Therapeutic Roles of Curcumin: Lessons Learned from Clinical Trials. The AAPS Journal15(1), 195–218.
  • Hewlings, S. J., & Kalman, D. S. (2017). Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health. Foods6(10), 92.
  • Lopresti AL, Drummond PD (2017) Efficacy of curcumin, and a saffron/curcumin combination for the treatment of major depression: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Affect Disord.


Posted in anxiety, clinical herbalist, complementary medicine, depression, holistic health, integrative mental health, natural health, turmeric Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

15 Signs You Might Be Suffering Too Much Stress

15 Signs You Might Be Suffering Too Much Stress and How To Manage It

Relaxation, confidence, and peace are the positive effects of being able to respond to our responsibilities and interacts in a way that is effective, and feels manageable. We ease through life when we meet many days with a sense of competence and confidence. Yet sometimes situations arise which usurp our ability to cope, which make us feel overwhelmed and we fear we are unable to manage. Stress is our natural response to real or perceived threats or demands, it is the physical and emotional effect of managing the tasks and interactions required from us to participate in our daily lives. There can be positive benefits to stress such as when we channel it to motivate our achievement. Stress is essential to our survival, however, too much stress or coping with stress poorly can lead to many adverse effects upon ourselves and our lives.

Signs that you may be suffering with stress;




Gastric upset,

Muscle aches and pains,

Heart palpitations,

Over eating

Under eating

Chest pains,

Low libido,

Feeling agitated,

Feeling angry,

Feeling frustrated,

Feeling isolated

Feeling depressed.

You might be experiencing these things and thinking that they are normal or you should be able to “just deal with it” but for many of us that just simply isn’t the case and stress symptoms as well as the way that we manage it, can have extended and profound effects on our physical and emotional health as well as our work our marriages and family relationships. If you’re experiencing these symptoms you should address it with a medical doctor to rule out disease, as well as a licensed counselor or therapist.

There are a number of options for helping to reduce stress in our lives so that we can be more present, and capable of reeling in our ability to focus. Additionally, by tuning in and managing our emotions in healthy ways, we also enjoy the benefit of greater relaxation, when we are more relaxed we also become more engaged in our work, community, and relationships with our family and friends. One of the most effective means of mitigating stress in our lives is the practice of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.

The practice of mindfulness  has proven to reduce mental and emotional stress through teaching us to be more sensitive to the needs of our bodies as well as more aware of our thoughts, actions, and our reactions.  

Mindfulness also has been proven to have a direct impact on reducing activity of our amygdala, which is the part of the brain that helps to control our emotional memories and stress responses, also known as our “flight or fight” response. Through the practice of mindfulness we can better control the activation of these responses and the effects that they have on us.

Mindfulness can also help us alter our attitude and outlook on difficult situations and other stressors by helping us to think about things more purposefully and without judgement.  This can enable us to possibly look at the stress in energizing or motivating ways instead of with preemptive negativity. Other practices such as meditation, yoga, and learning to fuel our bodies the right way through nutrition counseling, can also be powerful preventative measures and coping strategies for stress.  

As an integrative wellness center the counselors and wellness practitioners of The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh and Monroeville are glad to offer these and many other services in your journey to find healthy sustainable ways to reduce and manage stress in your life. Our talented staff are glad to help you assess your stressors as well as any other needs or concerns to have and help you achieve your goals for stress reduction.

Posted in mindfulness based stress reduction, relaxation, stress, stress management Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Anger,  5 Ways To Tell That You or Loved One Has a Problem

Anger,  5 Ways To Tell That You or Loved One Has a Problem

Anger is a primary emotion that all humans and even animals exhibit in some forms, anger is an activating response and it can often even signal to us some valuable information if we are open to hearing it. When we are practicing mindfulness and have developed our capacity to respond well to infuriating situations, we can become aware of our feelings, then respond in a way that keeps our goals and values in mind. There are several mental health disorders which can present with anger, such as depression in the elderly and men, and impulse control disorder and more.

Uncontrolled anger can lead to multiple problems, internally, it can also lead to stress related diseases including cardiac problems. Anger leads to a state of hyper-arousal where our heart beats faster and our pulmonary functions become heightened, this is often referred to fight or flight. Anger gets a bad wrap and we too often see the destructive potential that it has when a person responds to their anger in a way that is not productive. In Hawaiian culture there is a goddess worshiped, her name is Pele, Pele has the ability to wreak havoc onto the people of the island by causing the volcano’s to erupt their fiery magma around. Pele has it right, when we bubble beneath our crust and wrath comes to their surface, its effects can be destructive. Read on if you think that you or someone you know has a problem with anger; here are 4 ways to tell if you may need counseling, therapy, or even anger management.

  • Doing things that you later regret- There are many ways to respond to the feeling of anger, some of the ones that can lead to problems in children and adults are acting out with verbal or physical behaviors that cause damage to the self or others. Most people can relate to not responding well when they are in the midst of a disagreement and thinking back with regret. This is different from what is experienced by the individual who struggles with anger or even may hold a diagnosis such as Intermittent Explosive Disorder.
  • Being unable to remember parts of an angry incident. If you are having some angry episodes and when your partner tries to talk about it you don’t remember much, this could indicate a problem. Certain psychological diagnosis such as borderline personality disorder can go into a full disassociative rage.
  • Denying having angry feelings. Anger is a primary emotion, we all experience it sometimes, it is a red flag if someone says that they never get angry. Here we know that this person likely has a passive or a passive aggressive personality style that can also lead to troubles in their relationships and other psychological problems.
  • Losing a relationship, breaking the law by hurting someone or their property while angry. Even if we feel that our anger is justified we know that we are treading on thin ice when anger triggers us to violate others or their property which in turns endangers others and our freedom.

Remember that anger can be productive and motivational when we respond to it rationally, yet our goal is always to live a life of awareness and greater peace and happiness and if the answer was yes to any of the above questions you are likely suffering and struggling to find ways of expressing yourself and achieving your interpersonal goals.


The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh

Posted in anger, anger counseling, anger managment Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Meditation, The Number One Mistake Beginners Make

Meditation and Mindfulness in Pittbsurgh

                  Meditation and Mindfulness

Want to Become a Meditation Master? This is the Most Common Mistake that New Meditators Make and How to Fix It!

So maybe you have read the abundant data that meditation is one of the most fantastic tools that there is to enhancing mental clarity, reducing individual response to stress, and enjoyment of the great benefit of greater calm. According to the National Institute of Complimentary Health and Medicine which is a branch of the National Institute of Health (NIH), symptoms and consequences associated with anxiety, anger, depression, and stress disorders are all distinguished and well managed with a self-care plan which incorporates meditation. In knowing all of these benefits, with abundant enthusiasm, you have decided to get started on utilizing this most fantastic tool to wellness.

The fact is many people struggle in their meditation and may even feel so defeated that they quit altogether, and this is due to one common misconception about meditation and how to do it. When starting out with a meditation practice, we summon our inner oracle and alight with the goal of embodying our inner Buddah. Fantasies turn to reality and we stuff and mold our shape into some oddly contorted seated position and with our full lotus blooming, we close our eyes and turn our wellness aspirations inward toward the journey of the self. We imagine that the goal in mind with all of this blood, sweat and ‘OM’ is to turn off our mind.

Here we have it, this is the number one mistake that we make that prevents us from developing a meditation practice, you see “We are not able to turn off our thoughts.” I promise that for any meditator who has climbed the precipice to ascend mindless nirvana, you have faceplanted while careening down the jagged cliff face and end up irritated and hopeless with yourself and the whole concept of mediation. The fact is, it is the nature of our thoughts to keep producing other considerations, a typical inner monologue during meditation might be thinking;

how uncomfortable the cross legged position, belly is hungry, need breakfast, am I done yet, hope my hair isn’t close to getting singed by that candle, why was my boss so upset yesterday?”

All of this thinking is just fine, in meditation, we anticipate that the endless churning of our thinking will ramble on as it always does. In a mindfulness meditation, we breathe deeply and acknowledge the existence of all of the thoughts that our mind produces and then we take a step back and we become conscious of the kind and quality of the thoughts that we are having. We practice an ever present non-judgmental position with ourselves. For example, for the above thoughts, I would label the overall thinking state as anxious and fearful. I was desiring breakfast, fearing my hair could get burned, wanting to complete the meditation. Those are all anxious and desirous thoughts. As we become more skilled at meditation, we add in a thought or question to assess how we are thinking and we keeping breathing deeply through it. For example, as we are having our inner monologue during the above meditation, we would have the same thoughts and every so many moments we pause to think about how we are thinking.

how uncomfortable the cross-legged position, belly is hungry, need breakfast, am I done yet? Oh yes, I am thinking of the future, I always am thinking about what is next. I hope my hair isn’t close to getting singed by that candle? I am fearful sometimes.  Why was my boss so upset yesterday? I am often very concerned with what others are feeling.”

When we are mindful, and aware of our thoughts and consciousness, we become able to know that we are sentient beings, with vivid imaginings, with endlessly burning thoughts. Yet we are not these thoughts, we are some where afar and above all of the background and inward noise of being, we are the observer, conscious of our selves and the world around us, free and responsible to choose our actions and to develop ourselves, to become a more aware, and well version of our most mindful and well self.

Be Well,

The Therapists of-Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh

830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233

4108 Monroeville Blvd Monroeville Pa 15146

Posted in counseling, meditation, mindfulness, therapy, wellness Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

  Relationship Wellness Checklist, A Mindful Marriage Moment

                                  Relationship Wellness Checklist, A Mindful Marriage Moment

Mindful Marriage Counseling

Mindful Marriage Counseling


Our marriage, relationship, couple-dom, is something that works based upon often unstated rules, we peacefully and automatically operate with a lifetime of typical exchanges peppered with glimmers of joy, one part emotional support, heaps of memories made, dutifully maintaining our promises for commitment. Maintaining contented connections with our loved ones isn’t usually a goal that we think about.  We know that to keep our minds, bodies, and spirits healthy, mindfulness holds the keys to happiness and longevity. The wellness model has useful applications to marriage counseling and couples therapy, we have compiled a 5-part relationship wellness checklist – lets take a moment to see how well your relationship makes the grade.

  • Do you disagree and air grievances with your partner? By disagreeing, we mean constructively having a discussion about things that are bothering you within the relationship. One very ominous behavior pattern is when a couple comes in and tells the therapist or counselor that they never argue. We know that this is not usually a sign of relationship health. In this situation, it is likely that one or both partners are withholding vital information and may even be passive aggressive and building resentment by not discussing their true feelings. This communication fallacy is a product of imagining that by not being open about annoyances that they are preserving their bond. Withholding feelings and missing chances to constructively manage disagreements is a relationship destroyer and leads to emotional disengagement in the long term.
  • Does your relationship have intimacy? The concept and behaviors associated with intimacy are multifaceted. Intimacy is a dynamic synergy of emotional trust, physical connection, and having shared meaning within the relationship. Intimacy is built over time and is facilitated through travailing joys and difficulties together for example, by exhibiting the ability to offer emotional support through a crisis.
  • Do you check in with each other through the day? Many of us have demanding jobs and schedules, even having to endure travel to maintain our work responsibilities. Yet, our cell phones and Skype provide us with a chance to tighten the chasm of disconnection by having some face-time, texting, or calls through the day. It is important to turn toward our partner to share highlights and check in, and this characteristic is something that healthy relationships do have in common. Alternately, this doesn’t mean to call every hour and lapse into conflict if our relationship is not experiencing as much face-time as we would like. We should highlight that checking in, is a natural response to feeling connected and participating in the intimacy of our friendship with our partner.
  • Is there sexual and non-sexual touching between you and your partner? Both forms of touch are very important in our relationships, while many couples go through periods of lower sexual frequency, they stay connected by touching, hand holding and having other forms of non-sexual touch. Both forms, sexual and non-sexual touch are equally vital for our sense of well-being and bonding. Keeping in mind, consensual intimate touch provides a cascade of hormonal responses, releasing Oxytocin which is dubbed the cuddle hormone and facilitates bonding.
  • Who do you turn to for support? Can you name 5 people? Is your partner one of those people? If your partner is not one of the top 5 people who you turn to for support, your relationship may be headed for trouble and this is an indication signaling that your relationship may be prey to a deeper issue worth exploring with a marriage counselor or couples therapist.

Warmly brought to you by the licensed Therapists and Professional Counselors at

The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh and Monroeville

830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh, Pa 15233

4108 Monroeville Blvd Monroeville, Pa 15146



Posted in counseling, marriage counseling, mindfulness Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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