by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJanuary 25, 2019 best counselor for me, what is an lpc vs lmhc vs lcsw, what is lcsw, what is lpc0 comments
If you are trying to find a counselor or therapist, you might start to become overwhelmed with options and with all of the abbreviations for credentials. Or maybe you are considering furthering your education in the mental health field but are not sure which degree is the best for you. Allow this helpful guide to take you through the various making up those abbreviations and a helpful guide to what they mean.
ACA The American Counseling Association, they over see the education and the field of counseling on the national level.
APA American Psychological Association oversees the field of psychology and ensures quality and consistency in learning and licensing requirements.
LPC Licensed professional counselor, this person has a masters degree in professional counseling which covers behavioral psychology and the theories of behavioral change. After completing the course work, they completed thousands of hours of supervised counseling, rigorous screening processes and background checks by licensing boards, to become licensed. An LPC is often considered a general practitioner who can take up further study to specialize in a variety of topics from addiction, to trauma, anxiety, depression, and relationships.
MSPC This is a master of science in professional counseling. This is a person who has graduated with a degree in professional counseling but has not yet completed their supervision hours to become licensed. A person can practice in a variety of settings with a master’s degree, some people do not pursue a license and continue their career with their masters degree. A MS or MA can be used somewhat interchangeably and the difference is only in the amount of math and statistics that are required for the particular program they studied.
LMFT Licensed marriage and family therapist specialized in relationships and family dynamics and typically offers marriage counseling. This is a particular track which focuses on interactions between people and the theories which allow the therapist to help those people in the relationship to become well.
LCSW Licensed clinical social worker, is a person who has graduated with a masters degree in clinical social work and then went on to do supervised hours which gain them a professional license. A licensed clinical social worker is able to manage a variety of mental health issues from anxiety and depression to relationship issues.
MSW This person holds a master’s degree in social work and they may or may not have done any clinical supervision hours. They have graduated from a univ
ersity after studying a variety of clinical theories on counseling. Social work also provides a comprehensive study of social systems which can offer support and assistance for a variety of issues.
LMHC This describes a person who has a masters degree in counseling and is also licensed, this degree does not exist in Pennsylvania but is the equivalent of and LPC.
PsyD This person is a psychologist who has studied a university program which emphasized clinical experience instead of research experience. A psychologist can provide therapy or a number of assessments. They also might be active in teaching at the university level or doing research.
PhD This person is a psychologist who has defended a thesis their thesis and has a strong background in research on any number of topics. They may provide therapy and any number of mental health assessments.
Psychiatrist This person is generally involved in medication management, they may work in inpatient settings or out patient settings. Other specialized roles might involve neuroanatomy and traumatic brain injury recovery.
Other Helpful Terms
LGBTQIA- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Ally refers to this entire of cluster of people who may identify as one of the above and most newly, identify as an ally with promoting the rights and awareness of equality.
AASECT-American Association of Sexual Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. An certifying institution which educates counselors and therapists on sex therapy and sex positive practices.
CAADC-Certified advanced drug and alcohol counselor has achieved a higher level or educational and clinical learning that allows them to offer clinical treatment for substance abuse disorder.
In good health and wellness,
Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghLearn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJanuary 17, 2019 addiction recovery, counseling wexford, digital detox0 comments
‘5 Awesome and Up-worthy Benefits of A Digital Detox’
Mental clutter, anxiety, ‘fubbing’ and stress related disease are just a few of the human spoils which we can estimate are at least in some part perpetuated by our over-reliance on cell phones and digital solutions. The technology era is here and the evidence is within our aching and gnarled fingers, computer blurred-out hyper-focused eyes, our text neck, and cluttered minds. In fact, cell phones have become a newly added to the expanse of potential behavioral addictions. The more we tune into our personal devices the more we tune out all that is around us. Digital detox is the new mental colonic but with perhaps even greater results and significance. When was the last time that you unplugged? What do you imagine would happen if you tried. We have heard of some texters and cell phone obsessed say that they even get full blown anxiety attacks if they leave their phone at home accidentally. We encourage you to take the digital detox challenge and see for how long you can not use your phone. Even for a few hours a day can make a difference. Here are some of the benefits you will notice fairly quickly.
- Thoughts and feelings become much more calm. Much like a turbulent bay on a stormy afternoon, our thoughts get churned up when we are constantly bouncing from one email, to our search engine, and then to social media. When we step away for a few days, our consciousness and the direction of our thoughts have a chance to become still and reflective.
- Enjoy better concentration with internal stillness. Sometimes we multitask to our own detriment, in an attentionally scattered frenzy we try to do too many things at once and fall short everywhere. Yet, when we are unplugged, we can tune our attention in any direction we chose. There are limitations to our ability to think and pay attention and we deplete those resources shuffling between 10 screens. Yet when we focus on things more deeply we become more aware and productive.
- We see what is around us, for real!! Of course when we are scrolling and trolling we are not very good company and we are missing a lot of the scenery. The people we care about may even become hurt or feel rejected by our obsession with our phone. In fact, cell phone overuse wrecks relationships and even brings many couples into counseling. Sometimes we unconsciously use our devices to avoid who and what is happening around us. When we put down our phone and step away from the screen we become much more aware of the people around us, the raw beauty of the skyline, the gray tinged clouds that roll in before the storm, we are ‘in the now’ and living it all.
- Sleeping more deeply. There is much compelling research from the National Institute of Health that logs the correlation between screen time and disrupted sleep wake cycle. The statistics are so compelling that we can safely suggest that we leave behind our personal devices for at least one hour before hitting the sack. The benefits really peak after several days disconnected, this is when our internal clocks have a chance to reset, the benefits multiply as there are few things which are better for our wellness than a solid nights slumber .
- Higher energy and creativity. When we are sleeping well and tuning into the environment, the next natural result is greater energy and even creativity. Want to finish an important project or just feel more vital? Try a digital detox for a few days and see what happens.
How ready are you to try something new today? If you would like further reading on how to make emotional, or physical changes, read our article ‘How to Slay Anything in 2019.’
With energy and clarity,
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, Monroeville, and Wexford.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghOctober 30, 2018 compassion, pittsburgh, positive psychology, resilience to trauma0 comments
Trauma; Honor For Your Healing Journey
The four things your therapist wants you to know about your healing journey. When you’re healing from a grief, trauma, or resultant PTSD, you must be thinking about ‘how will I ever move on from this horrible, unexpected, agonizing reaction to the traumatic situation that I have experienced?’ Remember, PTSD is a reaction to witnessing or experiencing a sudden and unexpected event which caused one to feel powerless by delivering, threatening, or witnessing harm. How can I rise above these feelings and thoughts and create meaningful and complete healing? Maybe you want to go backwards in time and undo all of the harm that you have experienced. A common and reasonable response to all of these above disorders, particularly PTSD, is to try to avoid all triggers associated with the situation which evoked the trauma, hypervigilance, intrusive memories, nightmares, flashbacks and an increased risk for anxiety and depression. This disorder presents a mountain to ascend, and whether you have spend years in therapy or are only beginning to acknowledge the depth of the effects this has had on you, these are some points to keep in mind. These are the 4 things that your therapist wants you to know about healing that are not immediately evident.
Healed but not Forgotten
Some people have the unrealistic expectation that when they reach the end of their healing journey they shouldn’t have any emotional reaction to their memories of the traumatic event which led to grief and loss. That is not how healing works. It is quite likely that you will always have some sort of reaction to the memories and thoughts associated with your grief or trauma. In fact, according to a 2011 study published in NIH by Sherin and Nemeroff, and according to all of science and psychology support the fact that there is potential for long term neuroanatomical and neurochemical changes to the central nervous system resulting from trauma. These changes are especially evident in the way we respond to triggers or trauma associated stimuli. What we should be striving for in the healing from trauma is a ‘new normal.’ Healing means that you are able to function in professional or personal settings and that you are practicing resilience and positive coping when waves of thought and emotion do come.
Healing means Acknowledging Feelings
One of the ways that therapy works is by creating an intentional space for healing warriors to be honest with themselves, to create an understanding of their emotions. After an awareness has been formed adaptive responses to feelings and thoughts can be generated. We create psychopathology by being critical and attempting to repress our internal honest responses. For some people like first responders, police, and paramedics, there may be an extra layer of difficulty and stigma attached to acknowledging ones feelings and seeking mental health support to manage trauma. This can cause further damaging denial of the effects of traumatic experiences, One of the core tenets of psychological theory present in every form of therapy is that the more we repress, judge or avoid our feelings, the more we cause problems. Repression elicits tangled feeling constellations, blocked energies, incomplete and unintegrated shadows. Mindfulness based stress reduction, EMDR, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Exposure Therapy, have shown efficacy in treating PTSD. Our feelings can turn into psychopathology that are bigger and sometimes socially unacceptable forms of the original emotional response.
Healing Happens in Relationships. Find your Healing Tribe
It is especially true for trauma that happens in relationships, that this same trauma is healed in relationships. When trauma survivors open up to those people who they consider to be safe, there is an incredible potential for healing to happen. Healing relationships are those that resonate compassion, gentle acceptance, warmth, and non-judgement. Think about it, we become close to those who we can be really honest with, those who ask about our feelings and can share in a compassionate interchange, (Mgrath, 2001). Sharing trauma should be exercised with caution. However well-intentioned our healing tribe may be, its members may inadvertently respond in less constructive ways that judge, shame, or put down the survivor for having the pain or scars of trauma. Another risk is not being able to hear or understand what is being shared. What is really needed is non-judgmental acceptance, understanding, and compassionate warmth.
Positive Psychology, Pop Culture and Non-Reality
You may have survived a trauma
but that doesn’t mean you have to fall victim to meme reality. Scroll through a social media forum and you will see many posts and memes which declare that everyone should be happy all the time. That isn’t honest or possible. The healthiest among us are those who are honest with themselves about what they experience and then respond to their vulnerable reality in a constructive way. According to a 2016 study by Elizabeth Kneeland,pop cultures layman positive psychology is damaging. When pop culture got its hands on positive psychology its representatives distorted the message, and now laymen perpetuate unrealistic and uninformed messages which imply that we can think our way into a good mood. It suggests that if we blink our eyes we can make trauma and psychological distress evaporate. Your therapist knows differently. Its ok to be outraged, disgusted, sad, hurt, angry, confused, and it is important to acknowledge where you are in your healing journey today.
No matter where you are today, the best we can do is to risk opening to ourselves, to create an honest internal dialogue that we are eventually able to share with others. We should unabashedly honor our own processes, giving relentless permission to feel, think and be; in reverence of joy, in honor of glorious fury, to the fullest expression of gaiety, to the utterance of insuperable hurt, to fully hone in on repugnant disgust. Keep developing your divine awareness, and eventually you will have created the unique meaning which understands with a lens of compassion, acceptance, and self love all that has happened to you.
With love and hope for resilience,
Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, NCC
- Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh PA 15233
- Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
4108 Monroeville BLVD, Monroeville PA 15146
Accepting new clients, our therapists accept UPMC, Highmark BCBS, United, Cigna, Magellan, Aetna, HSA, Self Paying and Sliding Scale.
Thank you to our Editor, Dr. Stellan Wijkstrom for his ever helpful alterations and contributions.
For More Reading
Kneeland, Elizabeth et al, Positive thinking Newsweek, 2016
McGrath, Ellen. Psychology Today, published November 1, 2001
Sherin, Jonathan E, Charles B. Nemeroff
Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2011 Sep; 13(3): 263–278.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghSeptember 30, 2018 counseling for anxiety, counseling for PTSD, psychotherapist, touch, yoga for trauma0 comments
Hands off-Please Do Not Touch My Body.
Closeness is sacred and powerful, and we should share it however we would like with a partner or partners with whom we have provided consent. Personally, I am a ‘toucher’, meaning I am a person who enjoys touch with my partner, someone who hugs family and friends and genuinely savors safe closeness. As we all know, touch can feasibly happen in many contexts. A recent trip to a local yoga studio has spurned some inspiration for considering consent and what exactly that means within the context of yoga. Consent is one of the topics of the century, the importance of asking for it, and heeding to it are championed issues with personal, psychological, and legal context. When we are on our yoga mat, we are presumably in a safe zone, we practice yoga to be well, to relax, to be inside of our bodies, to give life and expression to what our physical selves need in the moment to create our highest expression of safety, openness, and comfort. We rely upon the professionalism, understanding, and care of our yoga instructors while we are on the mat. When others take liberties with our bodies, reactions can range from uncomfortable to traumatic, yet we shouldn’t need to rely upon trauma informed yoga instructors to be the only providers who can offer a style of instruction which provides opportunity to say “No thank you, please do not touch my body.’ From chaturanga to shavasana, we find our bodies configuration of the posture as the yoga instructor cues. Without making space for hands off adjustments, one well-intentioned yoga instructor can inadvertently have a negative impact upon his or her student’s practice, day, overall wellness by taking liberties with his or her student’s bodies.
Consent means that one has asked for permission to approach another person in any way, whether that be to touch, to enter an intimate encounter, or even to provide unsolicited verbal feedback, we should always ask before encroaching upon others. After asking for consent, we wait and pause for that person to respond with their response of approach or avoid. A key component of consent is that the other person is truly able to say ‘no,’ if we are in a position of power, or if we are asking a person who is intoxicated, a minor, or incapacitated in any way, then the other can not provide for their own consent. Under normal circumstances, then, if and after we have been given permission to ‘approach’ we take it a step further to check in to be completely sure that non-verbal permission has been granted to continue or deepen the exchange. Physical space, proximity, and closeness are very special, they are exchanges which can lead to bliss, warmth, bonding, relaxation and even orgasm in the right time. When touch is used subversively, to coerce, to control, to harm, physical connection can become shrouded in horror, it also has the potential to instill anxiety, fear, terror, panic, and pain.
Consensual sexual intimacy is the gold standard, we should always be sure that we are well within the green zone of any boundaries of any person who we are touching and to also always note that we are creating safety for others as we strive for mutual enjoyment and pleasure. There are many contexts or situations where touch happens from fitness instruction, personal training, yoga instruction, little league coaching, physical therapy, massage, and medical settings. While there are many of the medical and physical instructors listed above who do check in and ask, ‘is it ok for me to adjust you.’ The best ones who follow this question by ‘does this feel ok for you’ and to them I applaud their insight and wisdom to always, in all settings, to ask first and wait for an enthusiastic ‘yes’ or a clear non-verbal head nod which unambiguously encouraging procession. For other yoga and fitness instructors, it may be less obvious that they should ask for consent before breaking the touch barrier with students. Let us examine consent from a trauma informed perspective and look at some ways that we can be sure we are always providing supportive and caring touch.
Regardless of the setting or context, we do not have permission to touch another person until we have asked for it and they have given it. For a trauma survivor it can be very triggering and alarming to feel a person, even a coach or instructor grabbing at them, or tapping on their body, for another person to move ones legs or touch ones hands. Feeling safe and giving permission for these things to happen is vital and walking into a yoga studio to practice does not provide consent for one’s physical boundaries to be violated. Just as walking into a bar or nightclub in a low-cut blouse is not the same as providing consent for someone to touch our breasts. Being a woman out late having drinks is not an invitation to have sex, we need a society which is built upon making space for ‘Yes’, or ‘No’ by always ask first. Yoga and fitness instructors, we are here, we want to participate in a fun and fulfilling way but ask before touching please. Additionally, for some instructors who may have a style of delivering their teaching that is very directive and assertive, it may feel punitive to some students.
Recently, in an all levels class, the instructor was someone I had never practiced with before. The class was much less than an all level class, it was more of an intro in my experience, we were cued to move into postures without much attention to how we flow through the sequencing. In any event, after 15 minutes or so warming up, we were cued to do some Sun A’s. When forward folding the instructor told everyone to grab a two blocks in anticipation of their hands not hitting the ground. I have long arms, and have been doing forward folds for many, many, years, it does not tax my body to fold forward and I find it delicious and restorative. The teacher stomped back to me and said ‘No! get your blocks, do not go into your deepest fold!’ In knowing my body, and knowing that I did not need the blocks I started to reach for them to appease her as she began grabbing my leg and tapping rapidly and harshly onto the front of my quad with her pointed finger tips and squinted eyes, ‘Move! Move! Move!’ she commanded. What started as a day of wellness, mindfulness, and an attempt to let myself feel peace, quickly became a source of discomfort and anxiety.
Being a yoga instructor is a big responsibility, it is a pathway to open ones consciousness, those blissed out happy vibes and chakras can really open up and make others aware of themselves, their feelings as well as anything happening with the instructor. We should encourage yoga instructors to have a higher level of insight into their style of relating to others so that the instructor is not unconsciously projecting their own unmet needs or style onto all of those who they come into contact with. The yoga instructor should be very aware of how of tone and content of speech particularly as adjustments are being made. If an instructor is simultaneously speaking in a critical or cold tone ‘move!’ ‘faster!’ ‘in, in, in;’ in a style that feels like they are spitting commands to the students, if the instructors speak this way while grabbing at a students body, it may become even more likely that they are making others feel tense, uncomfortable for anyone, and furthermore this kind of tone and motion can even be panic inducing for some trauma survivors.
More than ever, we must seek to create safety, to speak with love, to be sure that we are providing physical touch which is tender, and warm, and supportive or not tender and warm, if that is the kind of touch which is consensual and agreed upon by those who can legally and actually provide consent. Speak and act with awareness and care for other people’s feelings, doing fitness, pilates, doing a forward fold or downward facing dog, or even having a suspicious mole removed from our bodies are things that must happen peacefully and respectfully, and always with particular attention to any person’s ability to state, ‘No thank you- please do not touch my body’.
Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, NBCC
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa
4108 Monroeville Blvd Monroeville Pa 15146
For more reading on the ethics of touch in yoga;
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJuly 31, 2018 food for anxiety, food for depression, food for mood0 comments
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 https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2009.09060881
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. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml 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
- 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.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJune 21, 2018 counseling for PTSD, psychology, psychotherapy, ptsd, trauma, trauma informed care, trauma therapy0 comments
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.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJune 8, 2018 Anthony Bourdain suicide, kate spade suicide, mental health awareness, suicide, suicide prevention, suicide warning signs0 comments
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.
- 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.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 25, 2018 building a therapy business, counseling referrals, therapy referrals0 comments
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.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 18, 2018 premarital counseling, premarital counseling questionnaire, premarriage counseling, Uncategorized, wellness counseling0 comments
Premarital Counseling Questionnaire
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.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 10, 2018 addiction, anxiety, cell phone addiction, cell phone anxiety, counseling for addiction, help for cell phone addiction, social media addiction, therapy for addiction, video gaming addiction0 comments
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;
- Using cell phones in a dangerous context such as while driving or biking.
- Having had an accident or other incident due to using a cell phone in a dangerous context
- Having problems in relationships, ie your partner or loved one annoys you by criticizing your cell phone use.
- Having problems at work or school because of cell phone use.
- Preferring online, texting, or social media world to real life contact.
- Inability or difficulty sleeping due to cell phone use.
- An inability or difficulty refraining from using cell phones even though attempts have been made to cut back.
- Urgency to respond to messages immediately and having a marked irritability if access to phone is delayed.
- 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 Psychiatry, 7, 175. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2016.00175Learn More