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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.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet – Including Meal Plan by Licensed Nutrition Counselor, Liz Mckinney, CNS, LDN.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet, food as therapy.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet for wellness, food as therapy.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet, What it is, What it Does and Including a Meal Plan by Licensed Nutrition Counselor, Liz Mckinney, CNS, LDN.  

Every standard anatomy course covers a section on inflammation, health circles and modern medicine studies how this physiological process effects our bodies. Modern science has uncovered much evidence related to how our dietary consumption fuels our internal inflammation. To understand inflammation, let’s talk what about what inflammation really is. Inflammation is a normal part of our body’s healing process.  Think of the redness, pain and swelling that comes along with an acute injury. These are bio-markers that our white blood cells are migrating to the origin of a wound, when the white blood cells arrive they will unfold to facilitate the healing process. This mechanism is a normal and necessary indication that our immune response is hard at work. But what happens when our immune systems are working over time in a way we can’t see? This is a part of what is termed ‘chronic inflammation’, and our diet definitely plays a large role in both calming it down or conversely, throwing fuel on the flames.

Chronic inflammation is a contributing factor to many common diseases in the U.S today. Obesity, heart disease, and Type 2 Diabetes are some common diseases to which inflammation contributes to the onset and progression (Lopez-Condelez 2017). Additionally, according to a 2018 study Dr. Billmore et, al, which was published in Nature, there is also evidence that inflammation may contribute to certain forms of depression as well as aiding in the development and progression of this mental health disease, inflammation is also being study as a contributing factor in the development of other mood disorders. Of course diet alone can not provide total therapy for depression or disease but it is an important pathway to providing our best course to become well.

The fact is when our immune system becomes chronically activated, low-grade, systemic inflammation occurs. Even if you aren’t suffering from an overt disease, things like stress, leaky gut, food sensitivities and even an imbalance in our gut micro-biome all are capable of pushing our bodies into an inflammatory state. The consequences of chronic inflammation are serious. Increased risk of neuro-degenerative and cardiovascular disease, trouble losing weight, digestive problems, hormonal imbalances, and cellular damage may all occur as a result.

Our food choices can either promote or calm inflammation.  Many of the diseases and problems listed above may be prevented or mitigated with an anti-inflammatory diet. The top foods that commonly contribute to chronic inflammation in the standard American diet are:

  • Refined grains (bread, crackers, cookies, cakes, snack foods)
  • Dairy (all cow dairy products including milk, ice cream, and yogurt
  • Sugar (table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners)
  • Vegetable oils (Canola, Corn, Safflower, Sunflower and Rapeseed oils)
  • Trans fat (Margarine, peanut butter, mayonnaise, packaged snacks)
  • Conventional/commercially raised meat
  • Alcohol (More than 1 drink per day for women and 2 for men)
  • Food additives (MSG, artificial flavors and food dyes)

On the flip side, nourishing foods can also accelerate healing in the body and prevent the inflammatory cascade from becoming chronic. For whole body health and wellness, add these anti-inflammatory foods into your daily diet:

  • Fatty fish (Halibut, salmon, sardines, trout)
  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Vegetables (Any and all kinds!)
  • Berries
  • Pineapple
  • Ginger
  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Turmeric
  • Grass-fed animal meats

We know that one of the barriers to incorporating dietary changes is that we simply don’t know where to begin. As an added bonus, we will share an example one-day meal plan, made by a certified and licensed Nutrition Counselor, Liz Mckinney, by using this plan, you can jump start your anti-inflammatory diet today!

  • Breakfast
    • 2 scrambled eggs with sautéed spinach, mushrooms and garlic
    • ½ avocado
  • Lunch
    • 2 cups mixed greens with 4 oz. salmon or chicken and walnuts with a turmeric ginger dressing (Juice from 2 large organic lemons, approximately 1/4 cup of fresh juice, 1″ fresh ginger, skin removed, 1 garlic clove, 2 teaspoon ground turmeric, 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, Salt to taste – Blend in food processor)
  • Dinner
    • Sautéed lemon pepper shrimp over zucchini “noodles” sautéed in olive oil with salt and pepper
  • Snacks
    • 70% or greater dark chocolate, almonds/walnuts, rice cake with mashed avocado, hard boiled egg with spicy mustard, cut up veggies with hummus or another home made veggie dip

Additionally, by working with a licensed nutritionist or dietitian to identify food sensitivities, heal leaky gut, balance your gut micro-biome, eradicating bacterial overgrowth, and implementing a stress reduction plan into your daily life, your wellness, emotional, and physical health can be optimized. As always, wellness routines that include yoga, meditation, mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation, spending time in nature, or deep breathing are all proven techniques to increase resilience to stress.

Certified Licensed Nutritionist

Certified Licensed Nutritionist, Nutrition and Wellness Counseling

Blog article is written by Liz Mckinney, CNS, Liz is the licensed and certified nutritionist for the Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh, Liz can provide nutrition counseling near you, now accepting new patients in Western Pennsylvania. 



edited, by Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, NCC

Posted in anti-inflammatory diet, chronic inflammation, diabetes, medicine, nutrition, Uncategorized, Wijkstrom Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

28 Foods to Decrease Anxiety and Depression & Enhance Positive Moods

Food For Depression

                         Food For Depression

28 Foods to Decrease Anxiety and Depression and Enhance Positive Moods

Food & Mood Series by Liz Mckinney, CNS, Board Certified Nutritionist

“It is both compelling and daunting to consider that dietary intervention at an individual or population level could reduce rates of psychiatric disorders. There are exciting implications for clinical care, public health, and research” – editorial in the American Journal of Psychiatry

Mood imbalances like depression and anxiety are on the rise in the U.S. In 2016, the National Institute for Mental Health estimated that 16.2 million Americans have experienced at least one major depressive episode and 42 million have an anxiety disorder of some kind. Additionally, depression is the leading cause of disability globally. Traditionally, depression and anxiety are viewed as being caused by chemical imbalances, due to under production of our feel good neurotransmitters like dopamine, GABA, and serotonin. Lets explore how food is related to emotional health and how we can put ourselves at risk for developing anxiety or depression with our diet, as well as the good news of how diet can increase of mood, energy, and all around wellness. 

So what factors contribute to a drop in the production of neurotransmitters? Biologically, this question has a multi-tiered answer. First, genetics and epigenetics (namely, how our environmental exposures affect which of our genes become activated) certainly play a role in a person’s proclivity towards depression and anxiety. For example, a common genetic mutation called MTHFR has a big impact in how we activate the B vitamin folate in our cells. Those with this genetic mutation are more prone to depression because of folate’s role in making serotonin. But, we know that our genetics don’t tell the whole story. The second factor influencing the expression of our genes, are our mental and emotional stressors or triggers, this is the part that can be effected by our social supports and reduced with therapy. Social factors and cognitive perceptions contribute significantly to the onset of these common mood disorders. 

The Standard American Diet, which is low in fiber, healthy fats and protein and packed full of cheap, convenient sugar laden foods means we have less of the amino acid building blocks we need to make GABA, serotonin, and dopamine. A second issue to consider is that poor gut health is directly linked to worsened mood disorders thanks to the two-way gut-brain connection. Intake of processed snack foods packed with sugar, flour, and trans fat are like pouring gasoline on the fire and promote overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria and yeast in our gut where up to 80% of our body’s serotonin is produced. Eating poor quality proteins or simply not enough further compound the issue because proteins are the building blocks for these important compounds that keep our moods stable. Grain fed, factory farmed eggs and meats and genetically modified crops are not only loaded with toxins and pesticides that alter our microbiomes, they serve to ramp up that low grade chronic inflammation. Finally, fiber intake has never been lower thanks to the standard American diet. Fiber rich foods serve as probiotics that feed the beneficial bacteria in our large intestine. Without fuel, the good “bugs” are more likely to die off, leaving room for the pathogenic species to flourish. Our bacteria send signals to our brains, so we want our good bacteria to dominate and send signals that promote brain health, not cause further chemical imbalances and inflammation.

Now time for the empowering news! The food we eat can also improve mood, and decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety. Food can be a kind of internal therapy, by nourishing organs, healing of stomach linings and then increasing energy and brain health, they have a huge impact on decreasing ones susceptibility to relapsing from mental health disorders.


  • High quality proteins
  • Cage-free Eggs
  • Grass-fed Beef and
  • Chicken raised without growth hormones or antibiotics.

Vegan or vegetarian

  • Non-GMO soy 
  • Vegetable proteins like legumes, pea chia, or hemp.
  • Fermented foods like kefir, kombucha, or sauerkraut which contain live organisms that populate the microbiome with beneficial bacteria.

The above mentioned foods promote emotional and physical health by keeping the gut happy and healthy. As a word of caution, avoid processed, packaged snack foods at all costs and focus on whole, unprocessed foods like promote a good mood. Here are some more delicious options to add to your daily diet that calm inflammation and support mood:

  • Dark Chocolate (70% or darker)
  • Vitamin B rich foods – eggs, raw dairy, grass fed beef, and organic chicken and turkey, leafy greens like kale or Swiss chard, and bananas
  • Turmeric
  • Red, Purple, and Blue Berries – Contain Vitamin C and other antioxidants
  • Omega 3s – wild caught fatty fish (2 servings weekly), walnuts and flax seed
  • Coconut oil

As a final note, understanding mood disorders is complex and the underlying factors multi-tiered. Everyone is unique and requires and individualized approach that takes into account genetics and epigenetics, mental and emotional health and diet and lifestyle. When all three are addressed, we are better able to address mood disorders and provide the best outcomes. If you want to learn more about health enhancing diets and what foods can support emotional and physical  health, meet with a board certified and licensed nutritionist, our nutritionist, Liz Mckinney, CNS accepts Aetna and Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance as well as self paying clients. 

Certified Licensed Nutritionist

Certified Licensed Nutritionist


Posted in food for anxiety, food for depression, food for mood Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Anxiety and Depression During Pregnancy, ‘Wellness for People Like Me.’

Anxiety and Depression During Pregnancy, ‘Wellness For People Like Me.’

Depression and Anxiety in Pregnancy

Writer, blogger, and art therapy graduate Angela Grace Wilt shares some of her experiences in recovering positive coping and mental health including ways to manage anxiety and depression during pregnancy. This is a part of the ‘People Like Me’ Series of our wellness blog, real people, real stories, real ways to incorporate wellness into stages and experiences of everyday normal life.

Being a woman comes with a lot of ups and downs.  Women are prone to anxiety and it can be very hard to to admit.  For example, women are closely tied to the monthly cycles that their body experiences.  Things such as menstruation cause anxiety, depression, mood swings, and intense bodily urges with cravings.  Men never will get us or grasp what we go through.  We are just that unique. For as long as I could remember, I have felt that as a woman I am special and cursed all at once.

Then of course recently, as I have taken this jump into parenthood with the amazing biological potential of my body, quickly I have learned that while things like premenstrual dysphoria, and the normal anxieties and depression of menstruation are challenging, pregnancy holds a whole long list of unique and larger fears and physical difficulties. In fact, this is true for all women, and according to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), between 14-23% of women will struggle with some symptoms of anxiety or depression during pregnancy. The shift in mental health have multiple sources, think about it, there is insomnia because our body is changing so fast that some women can be prone to rapid heartbeat, which makes it harder to fall asleep.  There is also the whole list of ‘what ifs.’ Will my baby and I make it to full term?  Will my baby be healthy?  I can no longer drink alcohol, ride adrenaline driven roller coasters, lift heavy weights, or really take any chances of too adventurous tasks.  With each decision I make, I consider the question ‘what will makes my little bump, a healthy or not so healthy baby.’

Physical and emotional changes are also thread within social fears and adjustments, I sometimes wonder, have I planned enough for this pregnancy that has in many ways, just happened. The truth is, I am not some 30 something who has been charting my cycle for 6 months to achieve conception, I didn’t plan to get pregnant just yet.  I thought about it sure, but just like most couples we wanted to walk down the aisle with a white dress of lace and flowers all  the scenery of our closest friends and family shouting us on, it was always my dream of being that princess and marrying my soul mate!  We still will have that for our future, but it will be after we get through the current stresses. In addition to the changes in my timeline, I also care about what our parents think about our having a baby right now. Having a baby out before marriage can be shocking for some religious and cultural values. We were lucky because my family is just fine with it, and with a little time to adjust, my better half’s is now happy about the news.

The list of anxieties and real practical matters which accelerate my concerns are aplenty, even small things have caused me stress, I have had to shop for insurance as a pregnant women, because I am twenty-six, pregnant, and didn’t have any. Finally, babies are expensive, health insurance is also expensive, we have stresses of finding better jobs, I have to go on insurance yet because I am twenty-six and don’t have any.  We are cleaning house and making a baby room. When all of these real life stresses start to mount very high, I can feel my heart beating faster, I try to stop and think of the things that we do have, I try to re-frame my anxieties and depressed thoughts in a positive light, I pause and I say to myself, ‘I have my boyfriend, our love together, and I have a supportive family. I have myself and my strengths, and I am strong and able.’That always seems to calm me down and help me to remember that there is much to be excited about as we move forward together as a young family.

With all of these anxious and depressed thoughts swirling in my mind, I have taken the time to put together a small list of ways that I manage and support my emotional health during my pregnancy. Of course if you are struggling with mental health during or after your pregnancy, talk to you PCP or Mental Health provider, get a screening for Postpartum or Baby Blues, every year women die or don’t bond with their babies due to maternal mental health factors. If you are like me and relatively healthy but feeling a little anxious or blue, then read on because these tips may help you as much as they helped me.

Use positive self talk, be your own biggest fan and encourage yourself like you would a friend

I say nice things to myself, I write little notes and post them through out the house, simple thoughts like,’ Rome was built in a day’ ‘We will get everything done in time.’ We’re already almost half way there at twelve weeks.  It’s just a wild ride.  My body is going through so many beautiful changes. Tune in, all of my emotions are heightened.  Hunger is giving me nourishment now.  Sleep is always appreciated.  Sex is fierce and always wanted.  Sadness and anger are intense.  I have energy that comes out of nowhere.  Its ok if sometimes I can’t stop crying.  I love my baby and baby’s daddy and not want anything more than to be with just them and them alone.  I want the best by our new child.  I want to give it proper nutrition and a good home life.  I want to be a good parent and my baby to grow in a family where love is the answer and anger is dealt with in a healthy supportive manner. I will protect this baby with all that I have.  This child’s needs and wants are now first.  I am ready to teach this baby proper education, morals, respect, and spirituality.

Its normal to be overwhelmed, life is now changing! 

Anxiety,stress, and fear are the norm when we are overcoming big changes. ways just important to remember that having a baby is a life changing experience. Normalizing the emotions that I am experiencing helps me by making me not feel the guilty, ashamed, or odd for having these dips and emotional shifts.

Reach for your Tribe!

Please remember, you are not alone.  You are a powerhouse and you have many people who will listen and talk. Make a list of 5, if you can not list at least 5 people who will pick up the phone for you, see a therapist and talk about the feelings of isolation and loneliness. Mom, dad, best friends, siblings, make a list and think about who is the best person to talk with through the things that come up. It will likely be a different person for each of situations that one may encounter on the pregnancy journey.

Use your breath

The body and its breathing are powerful, breathing can be used to energize and manage our response to stress. Take some deeps breaths every day.

Make a Wellness Routine

Do calming relaxing type activities like yoga, walking in nature or just walking, stretch, journal, and keep time for yourself  to collect your thought and consider the daily experiences that you are managing.  Essential oils can help ease the mind and emotions and of course be sure to choose blends that are safe to use during pregnancy.

Bond with your baby 

Talk to your baby while its in the womb, there will likely be a time after your baby is born that you are longing to be so closely connected to him or her again, try to cherish these moments and zoom out towards the big picture where you are nurturing a sacred bond right now in your womb. Being a woman is very special, and this connection, with baby snugly centered in my sacral area, right as my mother and my mothers mother have always done, this is something that men can not understand, but I am ok with that.

We are powerful, we are able to make changes that influence the outcomes of our life. Pregnancy like all things, is what you make of it.  Do your best to stay positive by thinking of the new exciting things that can be done all in great fun with your new family together.  Your love of baby and yourself will take you far. Be gentle with yourself when you notice the stress, anxiety, and fear of the 9 months ahead. This is a special time that can be used to get really healthy and in tune with your bodies needs. As always, seek medical help from a PCP, Gynecologist, or Licensed Professional Counselor if you have concerns about your mental health.



Posted in anxiety during pregnancy, depression in pregnancy, postpartum, stress pregnancy Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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