“Ask a Therapist”: You Ask, We Answer

Friends,

Foundation Counseling is excited to share that beginning this month of May, we are starting our “Ask a Therapist” Open Online Forum.

What does this mean?  It means that you have an opportunity to ask our team of therapists here at Foundation Counseling any question you may have about therapy, the therapy process, or about any topic commonly addressed in counseling.  Perhaps, for instance, you have a question about parenting, social media for your teens, depression, anxiety, or issues related to friendships, dating, and marriage.  We would love the opportunity to hear from the community and provide our insight into such important issues.

How can I ask? There are three ways in which you can ask a question:

  1. Here on the Foundation Counseling Blog, by leaving a comment below in the “Leave a Reply” section of this blog post.
  2. On our Foundation Counseling Facebook page, by leaving a comment on our page, below the “Ask a Therapist” post or by messaging our team on the FC Facebook page.
  3.  Anonymously via emailing Director Phil Zaffos at foundationcounseling@gmail.com – you can email your question with the subject line “Ask a Therapist”. If you choose to ask anonymously, we will keep your identity private.

How do you answer? If we feel able to answer your question, a therapist from Foundation Counseling will respond here on the Blog, which will be shared on our FC Facebook page as well. So be on the look out!

We look forward to hearing from you.

Best,

The Foundation Counseling Team

Three Keys to Listening Well

by Lydia Minear, LPC

Listening is loving. It is food for the soul and nourishment for relationships. Being heard and understood deeply has a powerful effect, enabling us to feel safe, cared for, loved, and empowered. However, listening well can be difficult.  This is becoming even more of a challenge in today’s society where a million distractions lay at our fingertips. Below are three keys to listening well and improving the way we connect with others.

  1. Presence

“When people have been with me in the moment of my pain, I have little remembered what they have said. It is their presence I recall. The gift of presence is not that it takes away the pain, but that it enables one to bear it.” – Stephen Howard, The Heart and Soul of the Therapist

To be present with another human means to offer my full attention. By setting aside other distractions, I can offer you the gift of thoughtful focus on you, your words and your emotions.  There is a remarkable difference between true presence and distracted listening. For instance, most of us have been guilty of trying to squeeze in a text while listening to a friend. Perhaps you’ve been on the opposite end of this as well and have felt the sting of rejection when you realize your words are falling on deaf ears.  Being human means we make mistakes.  A part of improving how we listen means to take note of what often distracts us and to set aside specific time to intentionally be present with loved ones.

2. Empathy

 “If we share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” –Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

To listen well involves empathy, or the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings of another.  Practicing empathy via listening means that rather than offer solutions or try and “fix”, silence and patience is instead offered.  In the precious space of silence, my friend is allowed to give name to her pain, confusion, or sadness. She has a chance to be heard and to tell her story. Now, rather than burden of hidden shame or pain, she feels joined and a bit less alone in her experience.

3. Boundaries

“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.” -Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

Boundaries are critical towards listening well because they enable individuals to offer presence & empathy. Practicing presence and empathy demands emotional energy.  Being human means we have limits to our capacity to give these resources.  Setting boundaries means we are in tune with how much we have to give and say yes when we feel capable and no when we do not.  The same people who often thrive in the areas of listening and compassion struggle to set boundaries because they want to give too much.  As Brené Brown mentions above, it is important that we care for and love ourselves enough by resisting the urge to merely please others and instead give when we feel truly able.

Presence, Empathy, and Boundaries set the tone for meaningful interactions.  By practicing these tenants, our relationships are given depth and life.

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Lydia is a Licensed Professional Counselor who enjoys working with individuals, teens, and families in the Marietta & Kennesaw area. Learn more about her and other therapists at Foundation Counseling here.

The Mind-Body-Spirit Connection: Unexpected Ways to Help Heal Anxiety & Depression

by Cameron Butler Wooten, LPC, LMFT

Most people have heard that the best treatment for mental health disorders includes counseling/psychiatric treatment and medication. While this is true, there are other aids to help in healing those who suffer from mental illness, particularly anxiety and depression. As humans, we are not only made up of our mind, but also our body and spirit. It is important to consider the whole person when treating the mind.

According to The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Anxiety Disorders are the most common mental illness in te U.S., affecting 40 million adults, or 18.1% of the population every year. Nearly one half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

The good news is, we know these mood disorders are highly treatable. Along with counseling/medication/psychiatric treatment, people can aid in healing their minds by taking care of their bodies. There is most certainly a Mind-Body Connection.

One helpful & less known way to heal depression/anxiety is food intake. There is a strong connection between the brain and “gut”. Research shows that approximately 95% of serotonin is produced within the gastrointestinal tract. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps in regulating mood and behavior. Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that relay messages between nerves, and the neurotransmitters in your gut are almost identical to those in your brain (Dana Korn, “Living Gluten Free for Dummies”). Due to this gut-brain connection, it makes sense that the type food we eat will help nourish our gastrointestinal tract…thus impacting our brain. Adopting a healthy diet promotes the health of the gastrointestinal tract, and according to Jessica Black, author of “The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book,”a better-functioning gastrointestinal tract improves serotonin secretion, which improves sleep and mood.

So what does a healthy diet look like? There are all kinds of popular diets these days, so it can be confusing to know which diet is best. The answer is that everyone is different, but some of the rules apply to everyone. Eating a balanced diet of meat, poultry, eggs, nuts and seeds, veggies, fruit, and healthy fats is a great start. Limiting foods high in sugar, carbohydrates, alcohol, and caffeine, can help alleviate stress on the body.

Another way to aid in the treatment of anxiety and depression is getting enough sleep and exercise. Sleep is the body’s way of rejuvenating itself. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the recommended sleep for adults 26-64 years of age is 7-9 hours. Our bodies require long periods of sleep to restore and repair tissues, process memories, synthesize hormones, etc (www.sleepfoundation.org). Poor sleep is directly related to anxiety and depression. Sleep aid techniques can include shutting off technology 1 hour before bed, sleeping in a completely dark room, meditation, & deep breathing. Daily exercise is also a great way to aid in sleep and take care of one’s body. Exercise relieves stress, improves memory & mood, and reduces symptoms of mood disorders.

With the high levels of anxiety and depression in our culture, it is encouraging to hear that there are some natural approaches to aid in healing (along with counseling and potentially medication), as simple as eating, sleeping, and exercising. After all, the mind, body, and spirit are all connected. Remember the mind-body connection and take care of yours.

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Cameron is a Licensed Professional Counselor who enjoys working with individuals, teens, and families in the Marietta & Kennesaw area. Learn more about her and other therapists at Foundation Counseling here.

13 Reasons Why: A Message to Parents

by Kelly Cave, LPC, LMFT

Have you heard about it? It’s all the hype right now. I have teenage clients coming in right and left telling me they and all their friends are watching it. Yet, I have some, but very few, adults coming in reporting the same.

Is this show okay for our teenagers to watch?

This is a great question. Let’s first start with a little recap of the show. The main character commits suicide and leaves behind a series of tapes detailing why she did it. Each side of the tape is directed toward a different person and what that person did or didn’t do that contributed to her taking her own life. It also shows in detail how each of those individuals is affected by the tapes and how much they, in turn, struggle with that shame and guilt. Many critics say that it glorifies revenge suicide and teaches students that they can get the impact they want by killing themselves and leaving behind tapes, videos, or letters to make those that bullied them pay. However, this isn’t reality and this isn’t the message we are wanting our teens to be hearing, is it?

I’ve read review after review suggesting that if you are going to let your teen watch this, you should at least watch it with them. I am going to take it one step further by saying that you should watch it before them. Why? If you watch it before them, you know what they are about to see. You may not fully know how it will affect them but you can at least be partially ready for how they might relate and react to the story line. And you’ll be prepared to have or to start conversation with them about it.

This show may not be good in terms of communicating a good message to our teenagers but I do think it is somewhere to start for parents who are feeling out of touch with their teens. Is this happening to every single one of them? No. But much of what this program shows is happening in every high school these days. There is physical violence and sexual harassment. The show opens up with a sexual photo being sent all around school, which is something I hear about daily. The things that the show is depicting may not be something you want to hear or see. All the reviews say, is this really what we want our children to be watching? But I want to challenge you to assume that your children are already seeing or experiencing these things at school. No, this show is not the best in terms of uplifting messages. But it does provide a platform of communication for you and your teen if you allow it to. Try not to miss out on this opportunity, even if you’re late to the game like I was. Watch it, anyway, so that you can go back and talk to your teen about it.

Each and every generation is being faced with new challenges. The generation currently in high school has it more difficult than any generation prior to them. In a world of social media and digital images, their most embarrassing moments or poor decisions can be captured on film and blasted around the school in the matter of seconds. They are dealing with the constant pressure of fitting in by sending “nudes” or attending this or that party. They are constantly connected on their phones but not connected at all emotionally. We’ve always had loneliness and depression, and I think that we always will. But this generation seems to be struggling with it much more. There are resources available for you and your children. Here at Foundation Counseling we long to connect with you and your teens and help create understanding for what they are dealing with. My personal goal is to help bridge the gap between the generations to create deeper, more meaningful relationships for the teenagers of today.

Kelly is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Marrige and Family Therapist at Foundation Counseling. She enjoys working with individuals and families in the Marietta & Kennesaw area. Learn more about her and other therapists at Foundation Counseling here.

Courage Despite Social Anxiety

by Lydia Minear, LPC

The definition of courage is “strength in the face of pain or grief.”  Often, the words courageous & brave conjure images of powerful characters who appear fearless, with endless confidence.  However, this does not align with the true meaning of courage.

Real courage means not having all the answers, yet proceeding forward anyway.  Courage asks us to accept our emotions such as fear, nervousness, and self-doubt while trying something difficult.  Living with courage involves accepting imperfections as a normal part of growth and a normal part of being human.

For individuals with social anxiety specifically, daily life can present with a need for courage.  Social anxiety is a fear of judgment and rejection.  A person with social anxiety feels in some way inadequate.  Many people have social fears.  To show up and be seen by others is not always easy.  Being excluded from a group and feeling different can instill pain that makes us afraid to be seen.  Hiding, which is a way of protecting oneself from potential judgement, keeps us on the outside looking in.  The consequence is loneliness and missing out.  Working through social anxiety is a process, one which involves exploring and undserstanding feelings and fears while moving towards greater self-acceptance and love for oneself.  Along the way, we can take steps to being seen.  The poem I have written below is inspired by the brave and beautiful journeys of individuals, clients and friends, who experience social anxiety yet live and grow despite their fears.

Courage: A Poem

Standing on the sidelines,

a spectator peering in.

Distant, safe, hidden and tame,

Yet inside an untapped flame.

An option lands before me.

Timid, I look down.

Sensing my heartbeat racing,

the question floats here now.

To remain still, the pull is strong,

tempted to stay warm here in my hole.

Yet, Courage, you nudge me, winking,

whispering desires within my soul.

Two steps forward, I am moving,

fear, uncertainty by my side.

Shaky legs and sweaty fingers,

nervous, in the scope of others’ sight.

Discovering purpose, I reach closer,

making room they let me in.

Blood pumping, I feel bolder.

Richly alive, I am seen.

Retreating – once an option,

now seems further from my mind.

Curiosity and excitement leading,

pushing me past the shy divide.

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Lydia is a Licensed Professional Counselor who enjoys working with individuals, teens, and families in the Marietta & Kennesaw area. She has a special passion for helping those suffering from social anxiety and issues with self-esteem.  Learn more about her and other therapists at Foundation Counseling here. Continue reading