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Spirituality and Recovery: Rediscovering Meaning in Chaos

Eating disorders represent a crisis of some kind, be it trauma, low self-esteem, poor body image, bullying….clients present with many different root causes of their disorder. The one underlying theme is distraction and coping. The eating disorder serves as a best friend, a confidant, a powerful secret, and appears at the time the client needs it most. In a storm of chaos and fear and inconsistency, the eating disorder swoops in and rescues the client temporarily from the distress.

Michelle Lelwica (2010) shares that while the client is focused on creating a “good” body or engaging in eating disorder behaviors like restricting or purging, the inner life is being ignored. No matter how thin the client gets, no matter how filling the binge, there is an eternal sense of emptiness and hunger that is never satisfied. All of the crises that pile up in life, all of the hurts and trauma, drive a wedge through the true self. Big questions like “What is important in my life” and “How do I understand my life’s purpose” cannot be answered when the soul is entrenched in an eating disorder. There is simply no energy left for living. Recovery becomes a spiritual journey as clients attempt to access their pain and face it with the help of a higher power.

Randy Hardman and Michael Berrett (2015) explain that many people with an eating disorder have had some degree of personal spirituality in their lives. Some have participated in religious observations and others may have felt connected to yoga or nature or a meditation practice. Despite this, during the course of the eating disorder these connections were lost. Feelings of unworthiness creep in as the eating disorder, which at one point served a purpose, becomes harder and harder to sustain. Indeed, eating disorders cause sufferers to chase false pursuits that ultimately replace spiritual connection. Hardman and Berrett list these false pursuits:

  • False sense of control
  • False form of communication about pain and suffering
  • False sense of being the exception or exceptional
  • False crusade for evidence against self
  • False pursuit of perfection
  • False form of comfort and safety
  • False identity
  • False compensation for the past
  • False attempt to avoid personal responsibility
  • False pursuit of approval

Eating disorders may represent some or all of these falsehoods for clients. Richards et al (1997) state that eating disorder clients often have difficulty letting go and having faith, despite their spiritual background, leading to a worship of these falsehoods in pursuit of a sense of control and well-being. Along the way the eating disorder gains control of every aspect of their lives, rendering clients powerless when all they were seeking all along was a powerful sense of being good enough.

Not all clinicians work with spirituality in treatment with their clients, but it is a significant aspect of recovery that can’t be avoided. Clients who wish to regain their spiritual connections, or foster connections for the very first time, can do so in the safety of the therapeutic alliance. Eating disorders are very hard to give up because it is difficult to remember what life was like beforehand and next to impossible to consider what life might be like in recovery. There is so much unknown and that is often one of the biggest barriers to recovery. Spiritual exploration during treatment can help clients resolve any negative impacts their spiritual pursuits had in the past and move forward with new resolve to take care of their physical, emotional, and spiritual selves.

Lelwica, M. (2010). The Spiritual Dimensions of Recovering from an Eating Disorder. Psychology Today, www.psychologytoday.com

Hardman, R. and Berrett, M. (2015). Eating Disorder Recovery: A Spiritual Perspective. BYU Idaho Counseling Center, www.byui.edu

Richards, P., Hardman, R., Frost, H., Berrett, M., Clark-Sly, J., and Anderson, D.
Spiritual issues and interventions in the treatment of patients with eating disorders. Eating Disorders: Journal of Treatment and Prevention, 5(4), pp. 261-279

Self-Compassion: Paving the Road to Recovery

 

I have been fortunate enough to experience eating disorder recovery from two perspectives: personal and professional. It has been a joy to emerge from the dark depths of anorexia to discover a life full of purpose laid out before me. Similarly, it is inspiring to witness clients gain insight and move toward health and well-being. In both capacities I have learned the importance of self-compassion as a foundation for lasting recovery.

Learning to Love Yourself

A common theme I’ve found threaded through many eating disorder cases is a lack of self-esteem and self-compassion. Some individuals have exhibited a great ability to be compassionate and empathetic towards others, but are unable to give themselves the same respect. More than a few times I’ve heard “They deserve compassion and respect, I don’t.” When pressed as to why this is, most can’t give a concrete answer. It seems to be a deep self-loathing for reasons mostly unknown.

The problem is that when we lack self-esteem and self-compassion, we look externally to receive them. We may think that if we excel in school or work, if we are popular, if we are thin and attractive, we will feel like enough. Over time we discover that even if we achieve all of these things, there is still something missing. That emptiness feels like “I’m still not good enough,” and so we cling to the eating disorder for reassurance that at least we are good at something.

Of course, there are many complex reasons why eating disorders develop and it can take a long time to really unravel the root causes. But the bottom line is that for lasting recovery, we must be willing to sit with and learn to accept ourselves as the amazing, perfectly imperfect humans that we are.

Ten Steps to Self-Compassion

Recovery is an investment in yourself. It is a decision to put yourself as a priority and learn to accept the person you are. There are many ways to accomplish this, but here are ten steps that can lead to self-compassion:

• Practice compassion! That’s right, resolve right now to speak to yourself gently. Give yourself some grace.
• Invest in recovery. This means engaging your treatment team as recommended, doing your homework, and being accountable for your journey to wellness.
• Take your medications as prescribed and follow your meal plan. Learn what it feels like to have your body’s needs met, and learn to cherish that feeling of wellness.
• Practice mindfulness. Learn to enjoy each moment as it comes.
• Recognize and honor your feelings. Make space for them and allow yourself to experience and express them.
• Cultivate your interests and hobbies. Make time for the things you love to do and that bring you joy.
• Practice positive self-talk. Work with your therapist to develop skills to challenge your negative thoughts and replace them with positive.
• Develop a new relationship with your body, one built on acceptance and respect.
• Know your triggers and have a plan to mitigate them.
• Work to accept yourself, your genetics, your mistakes, your achievements, and all of the wonderful, unique things that make you the only you on this planet.

 

Need further guidance to practice self-compassion and start your journey to recovery? www.prosperityedwell.com

Carolyn Labrie, PhD(c)

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Carolyn Labrie, PhD(c)

Carolyn Labrie, PhD(c)

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New Year and Small Steps

 

New Year’s Resolutions: Small Steps Toward Recovery

 

A new year brings a clean slate, a chance to forget about the struggles of the past year and make fresh choices for the future. It is common for people to make New Year’s resolutions, goals set to create positive change. In our society, New Year’s resolutions often focus on weight loss and exercise. Go to any gym in January and you will have difficulty accessing equipment because of the crowds. All this focus on appearance and diet can be triggering for people in recovery from an eating disorder. While weight loss goals may have been a focus in the past, in recovery it is no longer a viable option. How can we make healthy, recovery-focused New Year’s resolutions in a culture of excessive dieting and exercise?

 

Meet Yourself Where You Are

 

A new year is a great time to take an inventory of where we are and the things we want to change. It is important in this inventory to realize that where we are right now is exactly where we need to be. There is no need to come down on ourselves for falling short of goals or encountering setbacks. Take this opportunity to practice self-compassion and have patience with yourself. In this compassionate space you will be able to see the areas that need more attention and set goals for realistic progress.

 

One Day at a Time

 

According to an article on Eating Disorder Hope (2013), among the top 2013 New Year’s resolutions were “becoming more physically fit” and “losing weight.” For anyone with an eating disorder, these resolutions are dangerous. Engaging in behaviors that trigger the eating disorder voice can lead to a relapse. For anyone, these generalized resolutions sound great at the time but quickly feel overwhelming because there is no instruction manual attached to teach us HOW to get there.

 

The great thing about resolutions is that we are in charge of creating the instruction manual! Recovery is an active process and we place the guideposts with the help of a treatment team. If you are in recovery, your New Year’s resolution might be to practice self-care. You can work with your treatment team to set smaller goals to achieve this. Perhaps this will mean engaging in one self-care activity, however small, per day. Over time these positive actions add up to larger gains in the form of increased mood and self-compassion. Recovery is truly a daily endeavor and if we focus on the moment and use our skills, progress will be made.

 

Setting Resolve

 

This New Year, resolve to put your recovery first. Although you may feel uncomfortable and triggered by the appearance-focused resolutions around you, be firm in your conviction to be well. The choices you make about your recovery will influence the direction your journey takes. Remember that even the smallest positive steps will eventually bear fruit in the form of lasting health and happiness.

 

Wishing you a New Year full of discovery, joy, and wellness!

Eating Disorder Hope (2013). A New Year’s Resolution Worth Keeping. www.eatingdisorderhope.com

I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. Keys of Eating Disorder Recovery

I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. Keys of Eating Disorder Recovery

 

I have seen so many of my own patients with Eating Disorders (ED) struggle with how to move beyond the Stage of Change in recovery : “I know I have a problem but not willing to do anything about it ” and get to the Stage of Change: ” I know I have a problem and I am willing to do everything I can to get better”.

With my patients who tell me that they can’t get better, they won’t get better or they don’t even really have a problem, I have noticed a few things:

  1. GREY MATTERS: The majority of people that have the disease of an eating disorder think in absolutes. Black and White. I am either fat or thin. I have no control or I am in total control. I have to do everything perfectly or not at all. 
  2. They feel they can not survive life without their Eating Disorder. They believe that if they choose to start recovery they will lose all control, their voice, their protection, their identity and their purpose in life.
  3. They believe that if they do not have their ED they will no longer be successful, fulfilled, special and worthwhile.

So to be able to get to the next stage in recovery, one must believe:

  1. That they are capable of anything they put their mind to. Someone with an eating disorder is a very determined and capable person. Perseverance is key.
  2. Their ED has begun out of some form of unmet need. They need to learn to be able to fulfill their wants and needs out of assertiveness, determination, perseverance and creativity.
  3. They are capable of change. They are not made of stone, but of soft clay that they can continue to mold, sculpt and make into their best selves.

As a therapist, my role is to never give up on finding a way to communicate these truths, to motivate them to take risks and to take one baby step at a time.

I think of the “little engine” who despite it’s limitations, never gave up, believed in it itself and always had someone cheering him on.

Heather Baker, LCSW, CEDS

 

S / M / D / W – What’s your status?

 

quote

S / M / D / W – What’s your status?

In the age of internet dating and saturation of picture perfect images, it is easy to get swept away in a search for love. We tweeze, pluck, lift, slather, sweat, scrub, dress, and obsess all in a preparatory hope to meet The One. Perhaps we go on blind dates, fill out online inventories, suffer through coffee with the nice boy/girl our granny knows from church, or hit the bar/club scene when all we want to do is crash on the couch with a bottle of wine after a long week.  Amidst the ads for eHarmony, Match.com, etc. and the wedding planning industry, I can’t help but think about what all the buzz is about. Why is finding love (or at least the appearance of it) so important to us and to society? What are we really looking for; who are we looking for; how are we defining love; and where are we looking for it?

The way I see it, love takes many forms and that’s a wonderful thing, because it means we have access to a variety of loving sources that can feed our souls and comfort our hearts. One of the reasons I think the focus on our romantic status has become increasingly important is that we are searching for an external solution to an internal problem. In this search for love, we are often looking for validation, support, and acceptance from someone else. I’ll be the first to admit, this feels really, really, really good, it’s nice, really nice to hear that someone you care about values your opinion and cares.

The unfortunate reality is that sometimes this search for external validation, compounded by external pressures to meet The One or “make it work” we lose our power in the process. Maybe, we try to make the one we are with fit into the space we have created for the one, which feels about as good as a dress that’s two sizes too small. We’re cramming all our needs and expectations into a source that’s not built for it. When the search for the one takes too long or when we’ve kissed one too many frogs, we start to question ourselves. It’s disheartening. In searching for connection for the external validation, we can lose connection with ourselves. What am I doing wrong?! What’s wrong with me?! Why don’t they like me? I’ll never find love. We all know what that looks and feels like, when we sit on the couch with our bottle of wine and get so deep in our thoughts we could drown ourselves in a cup of water. Or maybe we are in a relationship, or recently lost one, and feeling hopeless and deflated. We forget the most important source of love, self-love. We forget that we can feed our own souls and comfort our own hearts. Often, instead of believing that we are enough, we self-damn and self-criticize and reinforce this society preference for a deficit based approach.

What if we turned that on its head? What if, instead of wallowing or questioning or assuming there is something wrong with us, we took that time to really get grounded in who we are and what we like. What if we started to pull from all the sources of love around us, and let that be enough? I am a true believer that like energy attracts like. If you are in a good place mentally, physically, spiritually then you are going to be well positioned to draw and attract that same kind of love from a partner (the residual benefit being that other relationships in our lives start to shift for the better). It’s less about what am I doing wrong and more about what am I doing to serve myself and the people I love. Where am I not taking care of myself the way I want someone else to take care of me?

If we listen to all the expectations of society, our family, friends, and that vision we had for what life was supposed to look like, then we end up missing out on living and loving the life we have. The relationship with ourselves is and will always be the most important relationship we have. Staying connected to our true self helps guide us to the path where we will be primed to love and be loved. The take away here is regardless of your status, start with your relationship with yourself.

Be Kind to Yourself. Be kind to Others. Keep it Moving.

When Perfection is Imperfect

perfection-pursuit

What is perfection? Current society would have us believe that it is the Stepford Standard, that anything less than keeping up with the Joneses makes us substandard, less relevant, not good enough, or just plain not enough. Webster’s defines perfection as “having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics” and “completely free from faults or defects”. Maybe it’s just me but I feel like these definitions are in conflict.  Why can’t I have all the required or desirable elements, qualities and characteristics, AND still have faults? Why can’t I be perfectly imperfect? Perfection can be found in the faults, in the quirks that make us who we are and the experiences that we grow from that have been less than perfect.

Is it even possible for anyone or anything to be truly perfect (i.e., without flaws)? Rationally, I think most would agree that it’s not. Rationally, we know that it is part of the human experience to be flawed, to make mistakes, to rise from the proverbial ashes. But how can we rise if we’ve never been burned? Rather, in perfectionism we are consumed by the flames, the need for this unattainable perfect. Why is accepting imperfection so hard? Brene Brown has done an amazing job of addressing this question, in fact much of her work focuses this very topic.

The point of this post is not to delve into imperfection, but rather how we know when our need to be perfect, to be “completely free from faults or defects” is getting in the way of this thing called life. Society tells us that if we aren’t the highest performers, if our parties aren’t the biggest, the best, the ultimate event that has Gatsby in envy, then we aren’t doing it right.

How does this happen? How do we miss the point of the very thing we are trying to achieve? It’s simple, we forget to think about the intent of the goal itself. And, when we forget about the intent (the desired end state or outcome) we go into the perfectionistic planning mode. If you are prone to this mentality then you know how time consuming and crazed the planning gets around a desired goal. The flaw here is that the obsessive planning, the extensive preparation and painstaking compulsion to think about everything that should happen, everything that might happen, the need to think (aka obsess) about all of the knowns and unknowns, gets in the way of the goal. Not to mention it makes the process of reaching the goal exhausting. Essentially we run ourselves into the fire of worry about the “what if’s”, all the while missing the point of the event.

Take this for example, say you want to get friends together for a game night. The idea being that you would get folks together, maybe have some food, maybe some drinks, and everyone has a night full of commercial worthy fun. The perfectionist dives immediately into the planning and organizing of the “perfect” game night. Sending out the fancy semi-formal electronic invitations with the “perfect” play on words that “perfectly” captures the theme of the night. Then to the food, drinks, and venue prep. The perfectionist struggles with letting everyone bring a dish (what if two people bring the same thing, or some other catastrophe happens?!), people can bring a side but no matter what the “perfect” host needs to have the “perfect” culinary item that could make Martha Stewart green with envy. Everything must be organized, “perfectly”… heaven forbid the drink cooler not match the centerpiece. The games, must be selected with care, to facilitate the most fun of course. And then amidst all the planning and preparation for the “perfect” party, the home must be spotless. Above all cost’s this house must not look lived in!!! In the perfectionist frenzy, you stop thinking about the intent of game night, and start obsessing on the need for “perfect”, the rave reviews; you’re looking for the 5 star yelp review for what started as a means to connect with your friends/families.

Rather than connecting, you’re disconnecting. There’s no room for fun and friends when there’s a “perfect” party on the horizon. If you think your friends can’t feel the anxiety of your perfection obsession aura puts off, let me tell you, in no uncertain terms, they can. Your “perfect” planning is imperfect. It’s driven by an unattainable need to be “perfect”. Did you ever stop to wonder what perfect was?… in this case it’s not the best party favors, or the game selection, or the food, or the drinks. What makes game night perfect is the intent. You are creating a space for people that you know and love to come together and have fun (that’s the intent, that’s the desired outcome). It doesn’t matter if people love the food, or find a speck of dust under the coffee table, or if no body plays games at all on game night. What matters is that you brought people together for an evening of levity.

Some of the common cognitive distortions associated with perfectionism are:

  • Black-and-white thinking – “If this is not perfect, I am a failure.” Or “Only lazy people ask for help.”
  • Catastrophic thinking – “Everyone is watching me, if I make a mistake they will think I am stupid.” Or “If my presentation isn’t flawless, I will lose my job”
  • Probability overestimation – “Even if I study a lot, I still won’t do well on my exam.”

What happens in the above statements is that there is no room for life; because perfect isn’t defined and the intent hasn’t been identified, there is no way to determine success. There are always things we can do differently or do better in the future, that’s part of the learning curve of all life’s situations. Perfectionists have a hard time thinking about what success looks like ahead of time, instead they look retrospectively and judge themselves harshly for the things they “should” have known, never accounting for the fact that these things could not have been known at that time.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to make sure you aren’t going into a perfection obsession.

  • What is the intent? (really think about it)
  • Are the thoughts and actions you are engaging contributing to or detracting from the intent?
  • Are you enjoying it? (If the answer is no, ask yourself 1. Why am I doing this (i.e. is it aligned with my intent or my need to be perfect)? 2. What about this am I not enjoying? 3. Could I approach this differently to feel better about this?
  • Am I being competitive? (With myself? With someone else?)
  • Am I willing to ask for help? (perfectionists tend not to ask for help and/or have trouble truly delegating, also known as micromanaging)

 

Be kind to yourself, be kind to others, and keep it moving.

 

Ashley Steelman, MSW

The Continuum of Trauma

Trauma is becoming a household concept in the past decade, as we see the many atrocities that are going on around our world and in our own communities. Now many organizations are placing a significant focus on raising awareness of how trauma affects individuals, families, and communities. We hear a lot about trauma and PTSD, they have become buzz words we use to describe war scenarios, domestic violence, and other tragic life events. We hear the word and maybe we have a clear concept of what it is or what we think it isn’t, but the surprising reality is that trauma can be present anywhere at any time. How so? Well, it happens on a continuum.
In the mental health community trauma takes two forms, Big “T” and Little “t”. It’s fairly intuitive, the Big “T” traumas are the classic examples of trauma, it’s the BIG events, like car crashes, sudden death of loved ones, natural disasters that sweep away communities, sexual or domestic violence. Makes sense right? These are the jarring events that leave us questioning, searching, lost, confused, and angry (all at once or in progression). They are the events that are readily recognizable as overwhelming, the events that have awareness groups rallying in line to support survivors of the tragedy. There’s an outcry to help these survivors and an increasing inventory of programs and services available to inform, normalize, and process the aftermath of the Big T.
Little ‘t” traumas are often overlooked. Its death by a thousand cuts… it’s the little inconveniences that send you into a sneaky hate spiral (click here for a hyperbolic explanation of the sneaky hate spiral). It’s all the little jarring things that happen throughout the course of the day, week, or month that progressively add up. Without the necessary skills or supports in place to counter or process these “mini” stressors our systems (mind, body, spirit) get overwhelmed. Little “t” can be things that are recognizably stressful like a new assignment at work or be the minutia that builds and ultimately overcomes us, leading to the same mental chaos as the Big “T”; the problem is that we don’t realize our systems are overwhelmed by all these “small” things until our health or sense of peace suffer.

The beauty of it is that solutions are available. Since this is a therapist writing for a therapy blog, I’ll bet you are thinking I’m going to recommend it as a first line of defense. Surprise, that’s not the case! What I would recommend is slowing down, easier said than done, but give it a try. We spend so much time and place so much emphasis on being perfect and having it all together all the time that we forget to step back and appreciate the little positive moments or don’t take time to process and rebound from the little negative ones.

Try the tips and tricks below to help manage the Little “t’s”; if that isn’t enough, therapy is always an option. There is no shame in asking for help or in seeking new tools and resources to get you over a hump.
• Breathe – use the power of breath to literally breathe life back into yourself
• Body Check – keep an eye on where you hold your tension, the more aware you are the easier it is to see when your body is feeling overwhelmed, even if your mind is telling you to push through it. When you feel it, take a step back and let yourself recover.
• Find an Outlet – everyone’s is different. If you don’t find joy or peace in running don’t run, if yoga isn’t your thing don’t do it. The goal is to find a thing that works for you.
• Put it in Perspective – it takes a little practice but try the rule of 10’s. When you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed ask yourself what impact the outcome of whatever you are focused on will have, really… will this matter in 10 minutes (the guy that cuts in front of you on the freeway), will it matter in 10 days (the balloons you forgot to pick up for the birthday party), will it matter in 10 months (the exam you did poorly on or the job interview that didn’t go so well), will it matter in 10 years (the relationship with your friend or significant other that is in a rocky spot).
o In short, put the level of energy you give something some perspective. Life isn’t perfect and it doesn’t have to be. Some of the best moments are in the mishaps and I am pretty sure no one is on their death bed commiserating over the person that cut them off in traffic 40 years ago. Essentially, let the small things, be the small things.
• Find a Friend – countless studies have been conducted showing how social support mitigates the negative impacts of stress. Meaning the Little “t’s” don’t build as quickly or as uncontrollably when we have healthy social supports to help us process (or vent) our stressful days. Side note: don’t let the venting become the premise of the relationship, that doesn’t do anyone any favors. Allow yourself one cup of coffee and one conversation, then move on.
When you feel like these basic tactics aren’t enough, it might be time to seek professional help. When Little “t’s” overwhelm us we often become anxious or depressed, which can skew our decision making and behaviors, which in turn keeps us in a rut. This is where a professional can help you peel back the proverbial layers and help you reverse or counter the things in your life that aren’t working for you. It’s always OK to ask for help and there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

Be kind to yourself, be kind to others, and keep it moving.

More Information on Trauma:
http://www.prolificliving.com/100-positive-affirmations/
http://www.trauma-pages.com/
http://www.nctsn.org/resources
https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/trauma
http://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/emotional-and-psychological-trauma.htm 

 

Written by Ashley Steelman, MSW

Ashley

 

The Courtship of Therapy

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][vc_social_links size=”normal” email=”” facebook=”www.faceboook.com/prosperityedwell” twitter=”@ProspEDWELL” google=”” linkedin=”www.linkedin.com/in/heatherbprosperity” youtube=”” flickr=”” instagram=”” behance=”” pinterest=”” skype=”” tumblr=”” dribbble=”” vk=”” rss=””]psychotherapist-berkeley-ca-2_zpsf3e71077A couple of years ago a friend and I started dating churches. We were both looking for a safe and sacred space to grow, question, and feel connected to something more than ourselves. It’s a church, how different could they really be? SOOOOO DIFFERENT my friend, and so began our journey of courting churches. We went to… a lot; some were too big, others too small, some too rigid, others too righteous, and others still who were too “cliquey”, too passive, or too vanilla. Eventually, we landed in one we liked, it was just the right size, focused on what we viewed as important, had activities we were interested in and a message we found engaging; in essence we finally felt in sync with our spiritual path that was facilitated by the church’s mission and objectives.

Though church and therapy aren’t a one to one connection, I believe one thing to be true, we are all looking for acceptance and connection. Spirituality is one of many ways to find peace and centering. But what happens when we need just a little more help? When we need an objective and supportive voice to help us process our past, present or future? Therapy is a valuable mechanism to help people do just that.
Much like the quest for the right church, the quest for the right therapist can be a daunting one. Every therapist (at least ones worth their salt) will view and use themselves as a tool to help their clients along their journey. To do this we, use our personalities, our strengths, and evidence based practices to encourage and challenge our clients to reach their personal goals. That means our personalities matter just as much in the process, liking and trusting your therapist will get you a lot farther in your growth and development than if you were “out of sync” with the person across the couch.
The idea of therapy can be very intimidating. It can mean being vulnerable (potentially for the first time), it can mean letting go of people or things that no longer serve you, it can mean realizing there are different ways to view and interact with the world (aka HOMEWORK!); but most importantly, it can mean a new beginning, an end to unnecessary burden, and a new appreciation for the human experience.

Since this is such a personal and powerful journey, you need to make sure you are choosing the right partner for the job. Therapy is a partnership, it requires two people to be in sync and is most effective when there is a strong alliance in the relationship. How do I find this you might ask? Like dating a person or finding a church, it is okay to court your therapist or multiple therapists (as many as you want for as long as it takes). You’ll know you’ve found the right one, you’ll feel it, trust the feeling.

Below are some tips and tricks for finding the right therapist for you.
Identify Your Need (i.e., what are you looking to address?)
You don’t have to have this fully fleshed out, you and your therapist can work on identifying the specifics, but knowing what you want to work on will help you scope your search.

  • Do you want self-work or couples work, or both?
  • Do you have a unique need, perspective, or stressor (e.g., LGBT, challenges with the Military Life Cycle, Self-Harm, etc.)
  • Do you have a known diagnosis (e.g., Anxiety, Depression, Eating Disorders, Addiction, etc.)
    Ask Around / Look Around

Mental health problems affect nearly every family in America, and by extension, nearly every family in your community. I am a firm believer that everyone can benefit from one hour a week to talk about themselves and process what is going on in their world. If you are comfortable, ask around!  Chances are someone you know is going to or has gone to a therapist; if you feel comfortable asking for a referral go for it! Remember there is no pressure to stick with the referred practitioner if they aren’t the right fit for you.

There are many sites available to help you search and select the right therapist for you. You can always do a good old fashioned google search, but some of my favorite sites are:

  •  Psychology Today https://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/prof_search.php
  •  Good Therapy http://www.goodtherapy.org/find-therapist.html
  • Theravive http://www.theravive.com/cities/locations.aspx

My Therapist is… (Think about the characteristics your ideal therapist would have)
Knowing what you are comfortable with and what personality styles work best for you will help you narrow your search, do I want young, old, male, female, high energy, low energy?

  • Do you prefer a man or a woman, some people feel more comfortable with a same sex therapist (i.e., a survivor of sexual trauma may feel more comfortable with someone of the opposite sex as their abuser)
  •  Do you prefer a certain age (someone older or younger)
  • Do you want someone more enthusiastic or calm (think about your personality and who you feel most comfortable with)

Time and Place

  • Everyone has spinning plates, engaging in therapy is a commitment of time and energy. Make sure you account for convenience and potential competing priorities.
  • Be mindful of your location, what commute is reasonable, accounting for traffic.
  •  What does your schedule look like, what are your normal work hours, what days and times work for you? Many therapists operate outside of the normal business hours (9-5) to accommodate their client’s schedules.
    Test the Waters

Once you have done a little research on your end and found a potential partner for your journey, it is important to do a test run. You wouldn’t marry someone you’ve never met; give the new relationship a try, see how you feel. The right therapist for you will be able to meet you where you are (cognitively and emotionally) and put you at ease with the process.
1.Give the office a call
– Is the call answered or responded to in a timely manner?
– If you talk to the therapist about setting up an appointment, what is your sense of their personality? First impressions mean a lot, trust yourself!    IMG_1498
2. First Visit
– Were your first impressions validated?
–  Is the space comfortable for you to be in?
–  Do you feel comfortable talking to this person, therapy is not an interrogation! It should   feel conversational at first, you’re two people getting to know one another.
Be Patient!
What happens when I do all this and the therapist and I are not in sync? Nothing… and that is okay! It just means that that therapist was not the right partner for you in your journey. Therapy is a sacred space for you to work in, it can be an amazing and self-empowering journey; so if the first therapist is too this, and the second is not enough that, keep going! With each experience you will hone your skills and be better informed of what you need and want in your therapeutic relationship.
Don’t give up, give it a little time, court your way through the candidates until you find the one that is right for you![/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Elephant in the Room

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][vc_social_links size=”normal” email=”” facebook=”www.facebook.com/prosperityedwell.com” twitter=”@ProspEDWELL” google=”” linkedin=”https://www.linkedin.com/in/heatherbprosperity” youtube=”” flickr=”” instagram=”” behance=”” pinterest=”” skype=”” tumblr=”” dribbble=”” vk=”” rss=””]I feel it, do you feel it? That uncomfortable silence and sense of dis-ease that comes when you or someone you love is suffering, but no one is talking about it. Not with a broken arm, or with cancer, or with just a rough day full of identifiable little inconveniences. This suffering is all-together different, it’s silent, because we are silent, it’s the elephant in the room… mental illness.

There is a definitive shift in the air, we are as a nation focusing more on emotional wellness and preventative care than ever before. Part of this is because people were tired of hiding, of suffering silently, and part is a result of the natural connectivity that recent technology provides. We are unveiling ourselves in a society that can be both supportive and condemning. In short, this unveiling is terrifying, not knowing what you are going to get once your vulnerability is out and you’re left exposed to the harsh voices of the masses. Despite this, the unveiling is critical to the wellness of the individual and community as a whole. Talking about the real issues takes away their power and helps us become better advocates for ourselves and for others who need a strong voice.

The Reality:

Mental health problems affect nearly every family in America, and by extension, nearly every family in your community.

The Good News:

  • Recovery is possible! There are many successful interventions, treatments, and services available to people with mental health problems.

The Bad News:

  • Many people with mental health problems do not seek or receive treatment because of stigma, fear, or lack of awareness of resources

The facts below are intended to arm you*:

  • 1:4 Adults suffer with mental illness
  • There are over 200 conditions classified as mental illness
  • 1:20 Americans has a significant mental illness (Depression, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder)
  • 50% of all mental health disorders show their first signs before 14 years of age; 75% of all mental health disorders show their first signs before 24 years of age
  • Those with mental illnesses are 10X more likely to be victims of violent crime
  • Only 20% of children receive treatment for their mental health diagnosis; Only 38% of adults receive treatment for their mental health diagnosis
  • In 2011, 8 million adults reported dual mental health and substance abuse disorders
  • 45% of people with one diagnosis will meet the criteria for having another 2 disorders
  • Mental health and substance abuse disorders, that are untreated lead to more deaths than breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, and traffic accidents combined.

Stigma hurts everyone!

stigma pic

Mental health disorders do not have a single cause (many factors contribute to mental illness and emotional wellness). Stigma is a major barrier to treatment, i.e., people who suffer with mental illness do not seek treatment, for fear of discrimination or lack of understanding about mental illness.

Stigma Contributes to Which can result in
    • Negative Stereotypes
    • Worsening of symptoms
    • Shame
    • Acting out
    • Isolation
    • Self-harm
    • Discrimination
    • Self-medication

 

Not seeking treatment can prolong the suffering of an individual with mental health problems and impact their ability to effectively function in school or at work; additionally, mental health problems often strain relationships, which often leads to additional negative outcomes.

 

What you can do to reduce stigma:

 

  • Know the facts
    • Mental illness is actually quite common, it affects 1:4 families and 1:17 people have a mental illness diagnosis in America at any time
  • Speak Out
    • When you hear someone reinforcing a negative stereotype, take the opportunity to educate them
  • Discrepancy
    • Recognize that people are not their diagnosis. As opposed to “she is schizophrenic” say “she has schizophrenia”
  • Open the Conversation
    • Make it okay to talk about mental illness and emotional wellness; the more these topics are addressed the less stigma there is associated with mental health problems.
  • Practice Compassion
    • Engage others with empathy and respect; reduce language like nuts, crazy, loony, etc.
  • Help People Seek Support
    • We all go through rough times, it is okay to ask for help. Encourage the individual to seek treatment or help them find resources.
  • Give People a Sense of Hope
    • Remember there are successful interventions and services available to help almost all mental health diagnoses. Encourage the individual to find a professional to help them address their mental health

No one wants to talk about the elephant in the room; mental illness isn’t cute, it isn’t fun, it’s downright scary and can have some pretty awful impacts. Chances are you or someone you know is suffering and it’s not necessary. Help is out there, it’s available and accessible. Together we can stop the suffering by starting the conversation. Let go of the dis-ease and become who you are meant to be. #StoptheStigma

* https://www.morningsiderecovery.com/mental-illness/stop-the-stigma-infographic/

mental illness

 

Written by Prosperity’s Ashley Steelman, MSW[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Diet Downfalls

food

These days, there are as many diets as there are types of breakfast cereals (read: too many!). Unfortunately, most diets create a false connotation of the word diet, incorporating some aspect of restriction, food/nutrient avoidance or fasting. However, the original definition of diet was simply “habitual nourishment” (Webster’s Dictionary). Any time one avoids or restricts food intake in any way, there is risk of missing out on key nutrients that are essential for health. The best diet is one that includes a variety of all foods in moderation (unless of course medical reasons prohibit one from doing so). Read on to find out the downfalls to some of today’s most popular diets.

Gluten Free
There is nothing inherently wrong with gluten, which is found in wheat, rye and barley. Yet recently it’s gotten a bad rap and has become the latest food group to avoid. For those with Celiac Disease, gluten damages the lining of the intestine causing malabsorption and a slew of other symptoms. Those with an allergy to gluten can have a variety of reactions, some of which are life threatening. For folks in these two camps, it is imperative that these individuals completely avoid gluten. Others, however, choose to eat gluten free (GF) for a variety of other anecdotal reasons. Unfortunately, those following the diet, no matter the reasons behind it, are at risk of many nutrient deficiencies.

Gluten free products are known to be low in nutrients that are typically found in whole grain, wheat-based products, such as B vitamins, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and fiber. Wheat based products (i.e. bread, cereals, crackers, etc.) are mandated by law to be enriched with many of the aforementioned nutrients while GF products do not fall under such regulations. Therefore, a diet made up of mostly GF pre-packaged items will provide less nutrients than their wheat based counterparts. This is especially important for children and adolescents following a GF diet who are still growing and developing.

In addition, a lot of GF products are made with added sugars and are higher in cholesterol, calories and fat. So a 1:1 switch from gluten-containing to GF products will not necessarily bring about improved health, except when medically necessary.

Therefore, any individual on a GF diet should seek counsel from a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist in order to ensure that their new intake pattern provides all the necessary nutrients required for optimal health.

Low Carb Diets
Low carbohydrate diets have become the go-to approach for improving health and losing weight. There are many different low carb diets out there. The premise is generally the same – reduced carb intake, increased protein/fat intake. Proponents of the low carb diets claim that carbs cause weight gain and therefore should be limited and/or avoided. Unfortunately, the science just isn’t that simple and more current research is debunking the myth that carbs are “bad.” Like it or not, carbs are essential for every bodily cell’s proper function. The brain can only use carbohydrate for energy and if you’ve ever followed a low carb diet, your brain has taken notice. Many low carb dieters complain of brain fog, headaches, blurred vision, difficulty concentrating and reduced cognitive abilities. Newsflash – it’s because the brain is in need of more carbohydrates! In addition, carbohydrates provide necessary energy to the muscles during exercise and many grain-based carbohydrate foods are excellent sources of other vitamins and minerals that one misses out on when reducing carb consumption.

This isn’t to say one should consume carbs like they’re going out of style – our culture’s portion sizes have certainly led to carb overconsumption. However completely eliminating carbs or entire food groups, such as grains, altogether isn’t the ideal response. Carbs should be present at each meal & snack (again, think about feeding the brain), yet moderation is key. Choosing high-quality, fiber-rich carbs such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables will provide required nutrients and lasting energy to help you get through your day. Low carb diet followers often weight-cycle after repeated bouts of carb-avoidance and falling off the wagon. Research and years of client testimonials prove that low carb eating is extremely difficult to sustain life-long.

Cleanses & Detoxifying Diets
Typically these diets consist of mainly liquids and promise to bring about quick weight loss and flush toxins out of the body. Many believe it is necessary to cleanse the body and clean out the gut in order to lose weight and feel better. Cleanse and detox diets provide inadequate protein, fat and carbs, which means followers of these diets are typically miserable during the process (see above about feeding the brain). Like the low carb diets, these types of regimens are also not sustainable and any weight lost is typically regained as soon as regular food intake is resumed. In addition, the claims of flushing toxins out of the body are unsupported by research.

Vegan
Regardless of one’s reasons for going vegan, this diet presents a number of nutrition risks. It’s vitally important to be aware of the nutrient deficiencies inherent in this diet so as to properly compensate for them. Often, vegans fall short in their protein, B-12, calcium, iron, omega-3 and vitamin D intake. Because most of these nutrients are most abundantly available in animal products, it can be incredibly difficult to meet one’s daily needs through plant-based foods and grains. It takes a lot of pre-planning and finesse to ensure that all nutrients are represented. Therefore, vegans should be seen by a physician to monitor vitamin and mineral levels in addition to seeking the assistance of a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist.

 

By Kate Grefenstette, RD

 

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