Archive for June 2018

Welcome New Staff Member!

We want to welcome our new Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Kim Scardina, to our team!  Kim specializes in Play Therapy and will be a great asset; we are excited to be working with her!

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See more about our staff here!

Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety is something that is experienced by everyone at some point of time in life. There is nothing abnormal when you experience anxious moments in your life. Anxiety will become a disorder when it crosses certain thresholds. Here are 12 indications that you’re having an anxiety disorder.

#1 – Lack Of Sleep

If you are not sleeping enough are feeling tired after you get up it could be an indication of an anxiety disorder.

#2 – Worrying Too Much About Trivial Issues

If you are wearing too much about small issues in life, this could mean that you are having a problem.

#3 – Experiencing Some Form Of Muscle Tension Routinely

Tension in the muscles without any attributable causes of physical activity can be one of the fallouts of anxiety disorder.

#4 – Poor Gut Health

Those who think too much are bound to have poor gut health, and this could be a symptom that something is wrong.

#5 – Lack Of Confidence In Social Interactions

If you are finding it difficult to be comfortable in social interactions, you need assistance.

#6 – Inability To Shed Inhibitions

Your inability to be confident in the midst of others, or shed your inhibitions could also be indicator of anxiety disorder.

 #7 – Frequent Panic Attacks

If you are given to frequent panic attacks for no particular reason, you need to be clinically assessed.

#8 – Repeatedly Going Back To The Past Are Self Pity Or Self Pity

A habit of trying to live in the past is a sign of anxiety disorder.

#9 – Excessive Fear Of The Unknown

Any irrational fear of the unknown in excessive levels is a symptom of having far too many anxious moments .

#10 – Obsessed With Getting Things Done Right

If you are striving to be perfect all the time, then it is a sign that you are obsessed with perfection because of your disorder.

#11 – Doubt About Ability Of Self Or Diffidence

Frequently doubting oneself about abilities or diffidence in taking up a task is another sign.

#12 – Clinically Proven Compulsive Disorders

If you have clinically proven compulsive disorders, it is a sign of other related anxiety disorders.

Suicide Awareness

No one is immune to suicide. But there is hope.

Suicide affects people from all walks of life, sometimes in silence and isolation. It can reach across social, political and economic lines.

That was the message Sunday on “Finding Hope,” a CNN special report hosted by Anderson Cooper that featured a panel of guests and audience members affected by suicide.
The recent deaths of CNN celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade are the latest reminder that suicide is a complex and growing crisis in the United States, where such deaths have gone up over 25% in the past two decades.
I lost my brother Carter to it. Glenn Close nearly lost her sister, Jessie. She got treatment, and both are here with us tonight,” Cooper said. “So is David Axelrod, whose father died by suicide, and Karl Rove, whose mother did. And Zak Williams, who lost his father, actor and comedian Robin Williams.”

Axelrod is a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama while Rove served in the same role in President George W. Bush’s administration.

“In one way or another, everyone here tonight in this audience and with me on stage has been touched by suicide, myself included,” Cooper said.

Words matter

Actress Glenn Close described the jarring moment her sister, Jessie Close, opened up about having suicidal thoughts.
“She said, ‘I need help. I can’t stop thinking about killing myself.’ And I was taken aback,” Close said.
Close offered to help her and did, but said when she looks back, she realizes she never followed up to see if more support was needed.
While it’s important to offer our help to someone having suicidal thoughts, it’s also important to constantly check in and ask how they are doing, said the actress.
And it can’t be a one-time conversation, even if they say they’re OK, Glenn Close said.
Zak Williams reiterated that it’s crucial to reach out to people who are struggling and love them unconditionally.
Jessie Close said when she asked her sister for help, a voice in her head was repeatedly saying, “Kill yourself, kill yourself.” She urged those having suicidal thoughts that it’s their responsibility to ask for help.

‘My actions were different’

Former Navy SEAL Jimmy Hatch said his military friends saved him when he no longer wanted to live.
Hatch felt lost after an injury in Afghanistan ended his military career, and was going though a “transitional period,” he said. His military friends intervened when his wife ran out of options, and took him to a mental hospital.
“I wasn’t really crying out. My words were great, but my actions were different. And those guys who had been near me in gunfights and things like that, spent a lot of time with me in the past, they realized that in spite of my words, I was not well,” he said. “And they came and injected themselves into my life.”

Loved ones question why

Axelrod was in college when he heard that his father had killed himself. His father was a psychologist who’d helped countless of other people with suicidal thoughts.

“It was so heartbreaking to think that he could do that for others, but he didn’t — he couldn’t — reach out for himself. And I ask myself all the time, ‘Why?'” he said.
Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer for American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said it’s normal for survivors to ask questions about what signs they missed or what they could have done.
Rove, whose mother died by suicide, wondered if there was anything he could have done to stop her death. At the time, his mother was going through a dark period, but she sounded like she was getting better, he said.
When it comes to suicide of a loved one, it’s easy to get stuck on how their life ended, instead of how they lived, Cooper said.
“My brother died by suicide nearly 30 years ago, and still not a day goes by when I do not find myself thinking about what happened and asking, “why?” he said.

‘It’s an illness’

Having suicidal thoughts should not be considered a stigma. It’s an illness that a doctor can fix if caught on time, Axelrod said.
“For 30 years after my father’s death, I never talked about it … I didn’t talk about it because I was impacted by the sense of stigma that somehow this was a blight on his character,” he said.

 The stigma goes beyond the issue of deaths by suicide.

Jane Clementi’s son, Tyler, had recently come out and was a target of cyberbullying when he died by suicide in 2010.
“Gay youth are also more likely to be bullied. And of course not all bullying situations end in the terrible circumstances that Tyler’s did — but they still suffer great consequences,” Clementi said.
Some of the bullying, she said, is a result of the stigma against gay people.
“I think if we could stop teaching that … being gay is a sin, I believe that most of the LGBT youth suicides would decrease or maybe even disappear,” she said.

Equine Therapy for (PTSD) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

For thousands of years horses have been mystical, magical creatures playing the role of transportation, gladiator, companion, entertainer and more. Now they are also playing the role of psychotherapy assistant through a discipline known as Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) which is increasingly being used to treat war veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs estimates that Post Traumatic Stress afflicts as many as one-quarter of the troops returning from the Middle East, or about 300,000 men and women.  The growing field of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy is showing great promise in treating veterans and their families who suffer from the nightmares, anxiety, depression, anger, irritability and other debilitating effects of this invisible, yet very real disability.

Preliminary Studies Validate EAP for PTSD
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy for PTSD has gathered the attention of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, who has provided grants for practitioners to run equine assisted therapy groups with returning troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.   Preliminary results are favorable, suggesting statistically significant rates of change.

The Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) also evaluated treatment of members of the Georgia National Guard where deployments averaged two years or more.  The study revealed that 100 percent of soldiers who completed therapy had dramatically reduced stress levels.

Animal-assisted therapy has shown evidenced-based efficacy in patients including war veterans with PTSD, depression, anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorders, dissociative disorders, and other chronic mental illnesses.

Why Horses?
According to Dr. Laurie Sullivan-Sakeada, a Utah based Clinical Psychologist and leading practitioner of EAP, horses are prey animals, and, like those who have been to war, rely on their heightened senses for survival.  They react to and mirror the emotions of visitors directly, without words.  Horses respond negatively to negative emotions.  They respond positively to positive emotions, and they have no ulterior motives.

“They are just there,” says Sakeada, “providing non-verbal feedback.”  The horses are therapeutic and interactive tools that speed up the therapy process substantially.  Dr. Sakeada notes that one session of EAP in the barn is equal to five sessions “on the couch.”

 Equine Therapy for Emotional Healing
In Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, horses are used as tools for military veterans to gain self-understanding and emotional growth.  It recognizes the bond between animals and humans and the potential for emotional healing that can occur when a relationship is formed between the two species.  In most cases, the horses are not ridden, and usually are not tethered in the arena, but allowed to roam free.  Exercises can be as simple as giving the client a halter, and letting them figure out how to approach the horse and put it on.

The learning and mastery of a new (horsemanship) skill–enhances patients’ confidence in their ability to tackle new projects, such as recovery, and leads to improved self-esteem.

Learning to communicate and achieve harmony with a large animal promotes renewed feelings of efficacy. A motivated “I can do it!” replaces feelings of helplessness, de-motivation, by empowering the person to take on new challenges in other areas of recovery.

Riding helps participants to develop a more realistic view of themselves through awareness of their size in relation to the horse. This is especially important in treating patients with eating disorders as well as those with interpersonal aggression problems.

Horses’ sensitivity to non-verbal communication assists patients in developing greater awareness of their emotions, the non-verbal cues that they may be communicating, and the important role of non-verbal communication in relationships.

Learning to trust an animal such as a horse also aides in the development, or restoration, of trust for those whose ability to trust has been violated by difficult life experiences such as physical or sexual abuse, abandonment, neglect, or marital infidelity.

Through grooming activities and other types of care for a specific horse, patients are able to put aside the absorbing focus of their mental illness, such as depressive ruminations, and instead to direct their attention and interests outwardly toward safe and caring interactions.

Anxiety Reduction:
Many studies of human-animal interaction indicate that contact with animals significantly reduces physiological anxiety levels. Some patients are initially afraid of horses. But horses’ genuineness and affection allay these fears, helping patients to embrace exposure therapy for their anxiety issues.

Decreasing Isolation:
For many individuals with mental illness, there is a long-term or recent history of feeling rejected by, and different from, other people. Mental illnesses are intrinsically isolating experiences. The horse’s unconditional acceptance invites patients back into the fellowship of life.

Many patients are initially concerned that they will do something embarrassing while learning about or riding the horses. Yet patients quickly learn that the other participants are engaged in their own equine experiences, and they observe the comfort of the horses in their own skin. Fears of embarrassment in public are thereby often reduced and self-acceptance increased.

Impulse Modulation:
Particularly for those whose mental illness involves the experience of lost control over impulses, the need to communicate with a horse calmly and non-reactively promotes the skills of emotional awareness, emotion regulation, self-control, and impulse modulation. Research clearly indicates that animal-assisted therapy reduces patient agitation and aggressiveness and increases cooperativeness and behavioral control.

Social Skills:
Many individuals with mental illness are socially isolated or withdrawn. A positive relationship with a horse is often a first, safe step toward practicing the social skills needed to initiate closer relationships with people.

Communicating effectively with a horse requires the rider to demonstrate assertiveness, direction, and initiative; important skills that enable the patient to express their needs and rights more effectively in other relationships.

Many patients have experienced prior relationships as controlling or abusive. Healing takes place as patients discover that riding occurs within the context of a respectful relationship between a rider and a horse, and that, although physically powerful, each horse typically operates within the boundaries of this mutually respectful relationship.

Creative Freedom:
Many persons with mental illness have been emotionally inhibited or over-controlled, and have lost some measure of spontaneity. The playful aspects of riding and team equine activities can help restore spontaneity and ability for healthy recreation and play.

1,200 Pounds of Lie Detector
Jennie Hegeman, an equine rehabilitation specialist as well as a professional horse trainer is another proponent of EAP for PTSD.  She is creator of The Hegeman Method, a patented, cross-discipline equine bio-kinetic training and rehabilitation method based on the muscle structure and bio- mechanics of the horse.  She has worked with Dr. Sakeada in treating children with physical, emotional and mental disabilities at the National Ability Center in Park City, Utah.

Ms. Hegeman refers to horses as “1,200 pounds of lie detector.”   Her role is to interpret the horse’s body language, such as flicking ears, wide eyes, or a dropped shoulder that will provide feedback for the therapist and the veteran.

So Why Horses?
Horses also possess a variety of “herd dynamics” such as pushing, kicking, biting, squealing, grooming one another and grazing together.  In the process of describing the interactions between horses, clients can learn about themselves and their own family dynamics

De-Stress in Nature: The Mental Health Benefits of Connecting With the Great Outdoors!

For millions of Americans, the search for remedies to stress can seem counterproductive. Stressors such as money, work, and our current political climate are difficult to escape, and when we do find a remedy, the real struggle is developing the discipline to stay with it. For anyone struggling with symptoms of mental illness, the above-mentioned stressors can often feel unmanageable, and relief from those stressors – elusive.

But, there are methods of alleviating stress that require little effort and can be found in your backyard. The benefits of nature have been with us from the dawn of our species, though it slips our mind as we are absorbed in a world of flashing gadgets and blaring televisions. Let’s start with the basics.

Take a Walk

Seriously! Hit the pavement and get moving. Walking for 30 minutes a day has shown to make people happier, as the brain releases chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. These are the same chemicals released after a workout, similar to “runners high.”

It can also decrease blood pressure and prevent unwanted fat build up. A meta-analysis reported by Harvard Medical School “makes a strong case for walking. In all, walking reduced the risk of cardiovascular events by 31%, and it cut the risk of dying during the study period by 32%. These benefits were equally robust in men and women.”

Why drive to your friend’s house half a mile away when you could walk? As a mental health professional, I encourage clients to take walks, if it suits them, after experiencing a trigger. This allows them to clear their mind and re-center themselves. This in conjunction with deep breathing and mindfulness allows for a calmer state of mind.

Get Near the Water

It’s all around us!  Whether you’re located near a coast, by a lake, or a garden with a fountain, being near water has shown to decrease overstimulation. Similar to the results of walking, salt water is helpful in decreasing depression by elevating chemicals like tryptamine, serotonin, and melatonin. These chemicals allow for better sleep and a healthier mental state. If you live near the sea, you may have noticed the calming effect water has on the mind. Studies have shown that people who live near coastlines are generally happier.

According to a Live Science article, the “slow whooshing” sound of moving water has a naturally calming effect on people.  These soothing sounds can also help you fall asleep. “Although the sounds of crashing waves can vary considerably in volume, with quiet intervals followed by crescendos, the waves’ hubbub smoothly rises and falls in intensity. That’s in stark contrast to a scream or a ringing phone suddenly piercing a silence, reaching peak loudness almost instantly.”

Slow, whooshing noises are the sounds of non-threats, which is why they work to calm people,”

Take time for yourself and practice mindfulness near water, breathe deeply, focus on your inhalation and exhalation – all this in conjunction will help relieve tension.  If you live far from the ocean, consider finding a garden nearby or a park with a fountain. If you’re located by a lake, spend time on the shore using these techniques.

The Forest

Another tool in the therapist’s arsenal is the woods. According to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, exposure to forests boosts our immune system. The clean air of the forest is loaded with antibacterial chemicals called phytoncides. Upon inhalation, these chemicals trigger the production of white blood cells, which kill tumors and viruses. Studies have also shown that being around trees lowers blood pressure and elevates mood.

For many people with mental illness the stigma can be overwhelming. Having time to oneself with the sounds of the forest is an opportunity to replenish self-esteem, decrease feelings of sadness, and elevate mood, without a dozen eyes on you pushing for normalcy. Because of the profound effects the forest has on a wound-up mind, it’s recommended to spend time there when you feel frayed. So if you live near the woods, set time aside for yourself or a family member to take a hike or casually stroll through the calm of the forest.


There is something about being in the mountains that promotes healthy living. Most people who have spent time at higher altitudes have experienced a sense of rejuvenation and peace. There’s less pollution, which supports a healthier respiratory system. The changing colors of fall, the calming silence, inspirational scenery – these all elevate mood and buttress happiness. Higher altitudes also support the cardiovascular system and help burn calories faster.

There has long been speculation that something about the quality of life in mountain regions increases longevity for human beings.  According to a research report by the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, people living in “counties above 1500 meters had longer life expectancies than those within 100 meters of sea level by 1.2–3.6 years for men and 0.5–2.5 years for women.”

These methods of de-stressing by getting closer to nature should be considered on a person-by-person basis. Nature does provide an array of calming, mood-elevating effects. These approaches to connecting with nature can be discussed with your therapist or doctor if you or someone you know is currently seeking mental health treatment. Find what’s best for you based on your location and individual circumstances.

Summer Heat and Human Behavior

It is now a well-known fact that weather conditions impact on how people feel and function in their daily lives. In some cases the weather affects physical and emotional health.

During the winter months it’s called SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder. Gray skies, snow, cold temperatures and a lack of sunlight, because many people to feel depressed during the winter months. These same people experience a boost in mood with the advent of spring and its increasing amount of sunlight and warmer temperatures.

At present, during the summer of 2012 there is an intense heat wave covering much of the United States. This has caused alarm among the health and mental health community. There are a host of heat related illnesses that are seriousness enough to result in hospitalization and death. Among these are dehydration, heat stroke, increased blood pressure and many other illnesses.

There are also some serious mental health issues that result from the heat. This is evidenced by the fact that there is an increase in psychiatric hospitalizations during the summer months. There is also an increase in suicide attempts, acts of violence, increased irritable and angry mood. Hot weather also causes people to feel tired and unmotivated to do very much.

There are many types of medications that make it necessary for people to remain in air conditioned environments. For example, for those who take anti-psychotic medications, the sensitivity to heat is increased. There are other medications that make it necessary to limit exposure to sunlight, particularly for those who want to go to the beach. Whether medication is for psychiatric or some other health problem it’s essential that patients consult with their physician about the side effects of heat and sunlight.

Older people, especially those who are 65n years of age and older, are especially vulnerable to the impact health has on health and mental health.

Generally, it is recommended for all of us to drink a lot of water or other liquids to prevent dehydration. Some of the drinks recommended for athletes are a good idea. It’s a good idea to limit coffee and alcohol because they tend to dehydrate. If it’s necessary to go out, wearing a hat is a good idea as well as going out during the morning or evening when temperatures cool and the sun is not intense. For those who must work outside, consult your doctor about how best to protect your health during a heat wave.

Stay cool, both physically and mentally.

Horses, Autism, and Healing

Horses don’t see a child with autism. They see a child.

When Rachel was seven, her mom, Lynn, took her to three different child therapists for what she called traditional talk therapy. Rachel hated it and, after a while, refused to go. Most of the time, Rachel was simply unable to sit still. Although there are no drugs that can cure autism, Rachel was periodically put on medications — including Haloperidol, Thioridazine and Fluphenazine (all antipsychotics) and Carbamazepine (an anticonvulsant and mood stabilizer) — in the hope that one of them might improve some of her everyday functions. Lynn said, “It was like there was something inside her that kept making her move, which she couldn’t turn off.”

The first time Rachel arrived at the horse farm, her equine counselor Sherri led Rachel over to a large gray horse named Alfie. Rachel stopped about two feet in front of Alfie and looked up at his soft, dark eyes gazing down at her. After about a minute, Rachel lifted her hand toward Alfie’s nose. Alfie dropped his head and sniffed Rachel’s fingers. Rachel quickly pulled her hand away, turned, and walked toward the gate. Alfie followed her.

When she got to the gate, she turned back and was amazed to see Alfie standing right behind her. Sherri walked over, looked at Rachel, and said, “Alfie likes you.” Rachel’s mouth opened in an overwhelming smile. As Lynn told me this, she became emotional and said, “I had never seen Rachel smile like that before in her whole life. She could tell that Alfie was interested in her and that it didn’t matter to him that she was autistic.”

Horses are naturally curious. Their curiosity is often motivated by the possibility of finding something that might feel good, taste good, or be fun to play with. Once they know they are safe from predators or anything that exhibits predatory behavior, their apprehension or fear of any person, place, or object turns into curiosity. Rachel was nonthreatening and had offered her hand to Alfie; he had investigated and smelled it, and then she had simply walked away. Alfie had become curious and followed Rachel.

Horses reveal their thoughts and feelings with their body language and behavior. They do not ask, demand, or expect anything from us. They want to feel safe, comfortable, and get along. When Rachel experienced this with Alfie, it was unlike any interaction with another person she had known. Lynn said that Alfie showed Rachel that she could trust him, and if she could trust him, one day she might learn to trust people. As Rachel continued at Good Hope Farms, she started interacting with other girls and their horses.

Horses don’t see a child with autism. They see a child. Autistic children know this, and it feels good to them. In order for anyone, autistic or otherwise, to grow, heal, and have positive relationships with others, they must first have a positive relationship with themselves. Horses have the ability to make humans feel good about themselves.

Autism is now considered the fastest-growing developmental disability in the United States. Some of the most enlightening discoveries about the healing effects horses can have on people with autism are revealed in a book entitled Animals in Translation by Dr. Temple Grandin, a professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at Colorado State University.
Dr. Grandin’s findings in the field of animal-human relationships are not only remarkable, they’re transformative. Some of her most compelling research is found in the similarities between horses and people with autism. It is based on Dr. Grandin’s firsthand knowledge, as she herself is autistic.

Dr. Grandin reports that there is often a special connection or identification that occurs when an autistic person begins to interact with a horse. She points to a possible basis for this, stating that both horses and autistic people think in pictures, not words or verbal language, and both are hyperspecific. Whether it’s a horse or a human, we are both powerfully attracted to that which is most familiar.

As with so many other men, women, and children, horses have enabled some of those with autism to become more confident, more trusting, and to feel, even if only for a moment, love for themselves and others. When an autistic child feels the unconditional acceptance from a horse, I believe a small part of their soul is healed