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Clinician Interview – Meet Ariana Thelen!

Clinician Interview – Meet Ariana Thelen!

Ariana-Thelen-Identity-Ann-Arbor-Therapist-Aging-Elderly-Therapy
Ariana Thelen, LMSW

Interview with Ariana Thelen

Check out our interview with therapist, Ariana Thelen. Ariana practices at Identity Counseling Psychology PLLC in Ann Arbor, Michigan and is currently taking new clients.

What do you specialize in?

I specialize in older adults and their associated issues. This ranges from adults struggling with caregiving for an aging spouse or parent, cognitive changes, physical changes, dementia issues, to figuring out how to live well in times of grief and transition.

What made you want to become a therapist?

I always wanted to help people in some way, and when I went to college I majored in psychology and knew I wanted to focus on the wellbeing of people – how can I assist in people living well? The more I learned, the more I realized I wanted to reach people on a deeper level; more so than in a clinic, or in groups of people, or in classes. I wanted to talk one on one or in small groups and reach people on a deep level.

What can clients expect when they first come to therapy? What is a typical therapy session like with you?

For my first session, I like to focus on background and who have you been up to this point of coming to therapy. Basically – what makes you who you are, what brings you into therapy, your primary concerns. I like to go all the way back and start off in childhood, and discuss relationships with siblings and parents, and how those relationships evolved through school, marriage, having your own kids, etc. I may ask what stressors you’ve experienced as you’ve gone through life so far and what strengths you’ve found about yourself. Your personal history, relationships, etc. are very informative on what you can work on in therapy. A good base from the first session can cause subsequent sessions to focus on the ‘now’ and can pull from that base.

How have you seen therapy benefit our clients?

I really like to see when my clients have lightbulb moments or ‘aha’ moments themselves. The therapist is really there to help in self discovery or self understanding. It’s not the therapist’s job to say, “This is what you need to do.” It’s best when a client comes to me and says, “Between sessions I was able to see this point and it helped me to understand that maybe I need to change my attitude for this particular thing,” or “I was able to notice this thing from our last session and I wasn’t able to do anything about it,” at least they’ve realized something and applied what they’ve been learning.

What do you think are the most important considerations when looking for a therapist?

It ultimately has to be the right fit and feel. It can be hard to know if a therapist is a good fit for you or not if you are just judging it by what you see on paper. You need to find a therapist that reports working with the specialties you are seeking assistance with or interest in the topics you plan on discussing, and give it a minimum of two chances, or better yet, three if you can. After three sessions you should know if your therapist is a good fit for you or not.

What do you hope your clients walk away with?

I hope my clients walk away with the feeling of being less burdened. So many people I see, whether it be depression, anxiety, transition, or grief, have so much on their shoulders and you can really see that they feel that weight. My goal, as a therapist, is to work with the client to find ways to make that weight less heavy. If they have tools to help manage their stress and handle things better, the weight can get a little lighter.

Visit Ariana’s profile to learn more about her, or to schedule an intake today.

Clinician Interview – Meet Lauren Proux!

Clinician Interview – Meet Lauren Proux!

Lauren-Proux-Ann-Arbor-Michigan-Therapy-Therapist-Grief-Anxiety-Depression-LGBTQ-College-Students
Lauren Proux, LMSW

Interview with Lauren Proux

Check out our interview with therapist, Lauren Proux. Lauren practices at Identity Counseling Psychology PLLC in Ann Arbor, Michigan and is currently taking new clients.

What do you specialize in?

I focused my graduate studies and subsequent clinical training on bereavement. Talking about grief often opens doors to other areas of concern, so I have additional expertise working with issues connected to a client’s family-of-origin and relationships (romantic and peer). I further specialize in a range of anxiety and depression disorders.

What made you want to become a therapist?

I initially attended college and studied psychology in order to become a therapist. My life took a left turn and I followed another love of mine: writing. After completing my graduate degree in creative writing, I taught college writing courses. Students often shared with me their personal issues. I had to maintain boundaries in my role as their instructor, but I wished we could talk more and work toward resolving their concerns. After taking time for my own introspection, I decided to return to my roots and pursue that path.

What can clients expect when they first come to therapy? What is a typical therapy session like with you?

In our initial session, I will ask a lot of questions about their background and what prompted them to start treatment. It is important that clients are honest and forthcoming from the beginning, but I understand how it might be difficult for them to share these details. I do my best to gauge the client’s comfort level and go from there.

In subsequent sessions, I ask more open-ended questions and expect that the client will do most of the talking. My therapeutic approach encourages and prompts deep exploration. By the time I am sitting across from someone, they have had decades of lived experiences that I want to learn about and extract understanding. From there, we will work together in challenging destructive patterns, learning skills to tolerate distress, and reaching a place of acceptance.

How have you seen therapy benefit your clients?

Early in my career I was surprised when clients said how much better they felt after the initial session when I’ve done little more than ask questions and encourage them to share. It made me realize how much comfort exists in simply being heard. Therapy provides a safe space for clients to talk without fear of judgment and practice new ways of thinking about themselves and others. As a result, I’ve seen my clients develop a deeper understanding of themselves, inner calm, and confidence.

What do you think are the most important considerations when looking for a therapist?

First, research has shown that the relationship a client creates with their therapist plays a large role in the client achieving their desired outcomes. This relationship is developed over time by establishing trust and working toward agreed-upon goals. I would encourage clients new to therapy to have at least a few sessions before deciding to try someone else.  

Secondly, it is important to work with a therapist skilled in the client’s specific area of concern. All therapists receive similar training, but some have expertise based on additional training and experience. For example, I specialize in grief and have worked extensively with college students. Therapists with additional knowledge about a client’s concern will provide more targeted tasks and goals.

What do you hope your clients walk away with?

The first goal in therapy is to reduce distress, so I hope my clients learn skills that will increase their resiliency. Depending on the length of time I work with a client, we will either start the initial steps or walk far down the path of self-discovery. Regardless of the time we spend together, I hope that my clients develop a deeper understanding of themselves and continue to value self-reflection. Finally, I hope my clients walk away with motivation to continue nurturing their own emotional well-being. It can be difficult to prioritize our mental health, but I want my clients to know they are worth the time and energy it takes to live happy, fulfilled lives.

Visit Lauren’s profile to learn more about her, or to schedule an intake today.

Clinician Interview – Meet Nicole Frasier!

Clinician Interview – Meet Nicole Frasier!

Nicole-Frasier-Identity-Counseling-Psychology-Ann-Arbor-Michigan-Therapist-Anxiety-Depression-Women-gender
Nicole Frasier, LLP

Interview with Nicole Frasier

Check out our interview with therapist, Nicole Frasier. Nicole practices at Identity Counseling Psychology PLLC in Ann Arbor, Michigan and is currently taking new clients.

What do you specialize in?

I specialize in the treatment of anxiety and depression, improving relationships, women’s issues, and greater self-fulfillment for adolescents and adults.

What made you want to become a therapist?

From very early on, I have been drawn to all things psychology. I always knew I wanted to be in a profession of helping people. In college, I had two incredible professors that opened my eyes to the world of psychology as a career. From then, I was set on making this my path. I absolutely love what I do!

What can clients expect when they first come to therapy? What is a typical session like with you?

This is a great question and one I imagine many people have when thinking of starting therapy… When clients come to therapy with me, I strive to provide a comfortable and safe space to explore all thoughts and feelings. I aim to be as authentic and down-to-earth as possible. A typical session with me is filled with empathic listening, attentiveness to detail, and some humor when appropriate.

How have you seen therapy benefit your clients?

I’ve seen therapy be helpful in a multitude of ways. Feeling heard and understood are two important things we need in life. This is what I strive to provide in therapy. Having this unique relationship allows clients to get in touch with their true needs and wants in all relationships, including the relationship with themselves, while gaining the self-esteem, confidence, and understanding of innate worth to pursue those needs, leading to a healthier, more fulfilled life.

What do you think are the most important considerations when looking for a therapist?

I’m a believer that we all give off “vibes” and energy. With this being said, I think it’s really important that the client feel at ease with the therapist. If you don’t have a solid connection with your therapist, the disconnect would inhibit you from exploring all your thoughts and feelings, leading to less forward movements in treatment.

What do you hope your clients walk away with?

I hope my clients walk away with a better understanding about themselves, greater life satisfaction, and a sense that they are important and valuable. I also hope that they feel confident in their learned coping skills and are able to put them to use in their daily lives as struggles appear (and possibly reappear.)

Visit Nicole’s profile to learn more about her, or to schedule an intake today.

Clinician Interview – Meet Deb Kusluski!

Clinician Interview – Meet Deb Kusluski!

Deb-Kusluski-Ann-Arbor-Therapist-Identity-Counseling-Psychology-stress-anxiety-depression
Deb Kusluski, LMSW

Interview with Deb Kusluski

Check out our interview with therapist, Deb Kusluski. Deb practices at Identity Counseling Psychology PLLC in Ann Arbor, Michigan and is currently taking new clients.

What do you specialize in?

I specialize in financial wellness and reducing stress related to personal finances, as well as managing stress that may stem from difficulties with a person’s job, college life, family, friends or any other source.

What made you want to become a therapist?

Often people would tell me I’m easy to talk to and they would talk to me about their problems on a regular basis.  It was gratifying to be approached by family, friends and coworkers who trusted me with their daily problems and life stress.  I eventually decided to gain the formal education and experience needed to help people in a professional setting.

What can clients expect when they first come to therapy? What is a typical session like with you?

People coming to me for therapy can expect a safe and collaborative environment where they can share their feelings, worries and fears without being judged.  Clients can expect validation regarding what they share in sessions with me. Therapy is personalized to each client. For example, some clients prefer sessions where they can talk and be understood but may not want to follow an agenda or work on goals.  Others may prefer a more structured session with goals and “homework” they can work on between sessions. In all sessions, the therapeutic relationship is a supportive and motivational one, where clients are free to discuss anything in a friendly and emotionally safe environment.

How have you seen therapy benefit your clients?

Therapy is beneficial when clients feel validated and understood.  Being understood is a basic human need that we don’t always receive from those around us.  My clients benefit in therapy by being able to reduce frustration caused by not being heard or understood.  Clients often feel more positive after counseling sessions and find an increase in their ability to manage daily stress and decrease uncertainty, depression and anxiety.

What do you think are the most important considerations when looking for a therapist?

Some people find the first therapist (or even the second or third therapist) is not the best fit for them.  This can be frustrating, especially when you’ve searched for someone who specializes in the issues affecting your life. If this occurs, don’t give up.  It can be hard to be persistent when you are suffering from depression, anxiety or other issues but once you find the right therapist, it will be worth your persistence.  You will know when you find the right therapist by the rapport you feel with them and the level of trust you feel. As therapy progresses, you will experience improved emotional well being and this is a sign that the therapist is a good match for you.

What do you hope your clients walk away with?

I hope my clients will feel that each session is a safe environment to explore their issues, who they are, and what they want in life.  I want my clients to come away from each session feeling they can better manage their stress and relationships and feel that they are more understood and supported after our time together.

Visit Deb’s profile to learn more about her, or to schedule an intake today.

10 Ways Therapy Can Be Helpful

10 Ways Therapy Can Be Helpful

What is the role of a therapist?

The primary role of the therapist is to help set the table for change to happen within the client. In this way, the therapist isn’t the person making change happen, but rather a strategic empathic ally who is helping clients change themselves from the inside out. For genuine change to occur, it must come from within the clients themselves. Developing a relationship with a therapist is somewhat similar to developing a relationship with anyone, but with some extra boundaries and a specific focus. In therapy, the goal of both the therapist and the client is to promote and cultivate the growth of the client. A good therapist will help the client dive deep into the psyche in order to facilitate the growth of the client in many ways. You may have to descend far down before you are capable of a healthier life.

Here are 10 common ways that a therapist can be helpful to you on your journey toward self-actualization:

1. Therapy can hold you accountable

  • Behavioral, emotional, and relational accountability

While this is one of the less important roles of the therapist, it is true that the therapist does help the client maintain accountability in many ways. For one, making a weekly commitment to coming to therapy for several months can be the start of a healthy routine and can put you on a path toward growth and wellness. Therapists help clients become more accountable in a behavioral sense, cognitive sense, emotional sense, and relational sense.

2. Therapy allows you to be honest with yourself

  • Therapists facilitate an environment of openness, confidentiality, and non-judgment

Spending time intentionally exploring your thoughts with an impartial 3rd party can allow you to become more honest with yourself. Maybe you’ve lived years in denial of some deep part of yourself and you’re feeling like now is the time to explore it with someone who won’t judge you. Therapy happens in an isolated, confidential space, so there is little reason to be dishonest during your session (even though lying in therapy happens very commonly, but this is for a future blog post).

3. Therapy can help reveal things that you know deep down, yet aren’t aware of

  • Some information in the brain is not readily available

Humans have multiple levels of consciousness. Think about the following example: When you begin a new job, you probably follow a GPS or Google Maps while driving to your first day of work. You may do this for the first few days, but eventually you will just know when to make the turns, when you’re approaching the stop lights, and when you will cross the train tracks. Once this happens, you have moved the “drive to work” from your conscious to your unconscious level of awareness. You’re still driving to work, but after some time you don’t even have to think about it.

In a similar way, there are certain things that we know about ourselves that for some reason get stuffed down into our unconscious. This usually happens when we feel like revealing the information will be threatening to us. We may know about it on a certain level but for some real reason we are not ready to cope with it. Therapy helps to bring this unconscious information into the conscious in order to help clients face fears, cope with suffering, and heal from trauma.

4. Therapy can serve as a model for a healthy relationship

  • The relationship between therapist and client is a real relationship

The therapist/client relationship is a professional relationship, but a relationship nonetheless. Building a healthy working relationship with a therapist can help clients learn how they may be going about relationships in not-so-helpful ways. I usually tell my clients that what is happening in their relationships in the world will eventually start to happen in the therapy session. Similarly, the healthy relationship building within the therapy session will end up helping clients build healthier relationships outside of therapy.

5. Therapy can help you face difficult realities that have been repressed

  • Humans deny and repress items that feel threatening

When bad things happen in life, our bodies respond with an immune-system-like response to try to ensure that we never feel that way again. Sometimes this response works in our favor, but oftentimes this can cause us to be closed, withdrawn, lonely, cynical people. By partnering with a therapist, clients can begin to identify what they may have been repressing for years. By revealing difficult realities out in the open with another person, the difficulty can begin to lose some of the power that it has held for so long.

6. Therapy can help build skills for facing life challenges

  • Practical skill building

Therapy can help equip clients with tools to face difficult situations in a different and more helpful way. Therapy can help with social skill building, relationship tendency recognition, management strategies to help with Anxiety or ADHD, coping skills, and more.

7. Therapy can help you understand your thought processes better

  • Humans develop predictable thought loops

When something happens, our body responds to the event in one of two ways. One possibility is that we may have an automatic bodily response. This sometimes happens when our bodies hear something familiar that draws out previous fears or anxieties (maybe we start sweating, our heart starts beating faster, or our blood pressure rises). Another way our body responds is by thinking about the event. We start to think about it in a basic sense and gradually begin to escalate our level of concern. Whichever happens first (the bodily response or the thought processes), they begin to play into each other and the result can be catastrophic anxiety or depression.

Therapy can help to recognize how our body responds to stimuli and why we respond that way. By identifying various cognitive distortions that we may employ, the therapist and client can work together to construct healthier ways of thinking.

8. Therapy can help you build healthy habits

  • Therapy itself is often the first step in healthy habit building

In addition to addressing meaning, relationships, identity, and thinking, therapy can help to recognize harmful habits and can help clients to build new healthier ones. Establishing a healthy routine is one of the most beneficial things we can do to change our lives. However, many often aren’t able to take the first step. They may find themselves in such a dark place that they don’t know where to turn. Therapy begins by turning within and returning to breath. From here we can work together on a plan to live more intentionally and take steps towards a healthier life.

9. Therapy can help you explore meaning and passion in the context of your life

  • Many of my clients find themselves stuck

Imagine this scene: You have a job that pays the bills (sometimes barely), but it is not a job that you’re passionate about. By the time you get home from work and take care of things around your place, it is already late and time to wind down. You watch some Netflix for a couple hours, pass out, only to wake up and do it all over again. Many of us find ourselves in this place where we are too comfortable to make a change, yet are slowing deteriorating inside. Depression only piles onto this pattern. If you find yourself in this place, therapy can be a great place to discover or rediscover meaning and passion in life. The therapist can help the client to break the cycle of dissatisfaction and numbness.

10. Therapy can help you learn to love yourself

  • We cannot fully love others if we don’t love ourselves

Practicing self-love may not be in your mind on a day to day basis. However, if we want to genuinely love another, we must first love and accept ourselves so that the love we send comes from a place where love already resides. There may be countless reasons to not love ourselves, but therapy can help us view ourselves through a healthier lens. Self-love is a prerequisite to providing genuine love to another.

Are you interested in engaging in the process of therapy?

Contact us today to schedule a free 15 minute phone consultation!

 

About the author: Tim Wilkins is the owner and therapist at Identity Counseling Psychology PLLC in Ann Arbor Michigan. Tim is passionate about working with clients to help them overcome their anxiety and depression so they can live a more meaningful and fulfilling life. In addition to running his private practice, Tim is an Adjunct Faculty member at Jackson College and a Clinical Psychology PhD student at Fielding Graduate University. 

 

 

5 methods to battle Depression

5 methods to battle Depression

Depression is a mood disorder characterized by chronic unhappiness, low energy, and loss of interest in activities, which leads to problems with many aspects of daily functioning. Depression often makes it difficult to generate and maintain relationships as well as engage in common life activities.

Below are some common methods for coping with depression that I often utilize with my clients in Therapy (at my counseling practice in Ann Arbor, MI).

1. Be honest about Depression and how you’re feeling

It can be difficult to open up about the things that make life difficult. This is even more difficult when we begin comparing ourselves to others. When we compare, shame often results. It can be difficult to open up about depression if your friends and family just don’t understand what is happening in your body and mind. Owning what we go through is often a good first step in making the choice to get help. Most importantly, be honest with yourself about how you’re feeling.

2. Learn more about Depression and about what actually may be going on

There are several reasons why symptoms associated with depression show up. One common reason that is often overlooked is a somatic issue – something may have gone awry with the body itself. If you want to connect with a great doctor, feel free to contact us (Identity Counseling Psychology) for a referral in the Ann Arbor community.

Other common factors causing depression may be situational, familial, social, nutritional, or the dreaded electrochemical (something has gone awry in the brain).

Meeting with a trusted therapist (licensed counselor or psychologist) may help you determine whether it is actually depression or if it may be something else holding you back from thriving. If you’re interested in exploring your options in Ann Arbor, contact us here.

If it is depression, it’s important to determine which type of depression. In general depression can take on two primary forms:

  • Major Depression (more extreme and acute form)
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder (more of a longstanding depressive life undertone)

Feel free to contact us to learn more about the various forms that depression can take on.

3. Stop trying to fix “the problem.” Shift from “doing” to “being”

In life we are socialized and evolutionarily predisposed towards seeking solutions to problems. This makes sense because when we are presented with a conventional problem, it is very helpful to employ “root cause analysis.”

It may seem a bit counterintuitive, but the reality is that trying to get to the bottom of what is causing depression may only make things worse. At my counseling practice (IdentityAnnArbor.com), I utilize Mindfulness to attempt to facilitate movement in my clients from the “doing mode” of operating to the “being mode” of operating. This shift from “doing” to “being” is a shift in consciousness and awareness which allows us to change how we think about our depression, instead of trying to change some “fundamental problem.” Through this change in awareness, clients often find greater self-acceptance and improvements in self-esteem, which help to free us to make healthier day-to-day decisions.

This movement from self-persecution toward self-acceptance requires practice and time. It will feel unnatural at first, but sticking with it over time may yield a healthier outlook on ourselves and on life (for more on specific Mindfulness techniques, check out my previous blogpost here).

4. Establish a healthy routine

Establishing a routine may be the single most effective way to begin to climb out of depression. The problem here is that many find themselves in such a dark place that it may be hard to take the first step. In therapy, we begin by returning to breath. Through cultivating deeper awareness around our breath, we can learn to be more present in other areas of life. For more on specific Mindfulness techniques (such as Mindful Breathing and The Body Scan), refer to my earlier blogpost on Mindfulness.

Establishing a healthy routine can be a daunting task in the midst of depression. For this reason, if you find yourself in this place, I recommend consulting a trained therapist/counselor to help guide you toward a healthier way of being in the world.

5. Identify what it means to you to live intentionally

It can be easy to just let life happen, especially when dealing with depression. In therapy, I work with my clients to identify what living intentionally means to them. I’ve found in working with my clients and in my own life that living with intention allows us to engage life directly, and as a result, we feel better.

Often “living more intentionally” involves things like a reconnection with nature, cultivating an awareness of what is going into the body, exploring healthy outlets for emotions and feelings, and intentionally spending time with other people in a social setting. Each person is different; however, there is often a common thread that many humans are trying to tap into in order to live a more intentional life.

contact IDENTITY to schedule and intake

 

About the author: Tim Wilkins is the owner of Identity Counseling Psychology, PLLC, a counseling private practice in Ann Arbor, Michigan (Located on Washtenaw Ave. & Stadium Blvd. across from Trader Joe’s). Specialty areas at Identity are Anxiety, Depression, Relationship issues, Adolescents, ADHD, and Self-Harm. Tim is also an Adjunct Faculty member in the Behavioral Sciences department at Jackson College, and is a current PhD student studying Clinical Psychology at Fielding Graduate University.

 

 

Why Do I Keep Making Bad Decisions?

Why Do I Keep Making Bad Decisions?

Decision Making and Cognitive Distortions

Often we know what the right decision is. We know that we need to eat well, sleep more, exercise regularly, work on our relationships, work on ourselves, but for some reason we sometimes just don’t do it.

This is a paradox. We often know the answer, and commonly continue to make the wrong choice. Why do we do it? One explanation is that we employ what are called Cognitive Distortions.

For one reason or another, our mind works out a way of being comfortable with making an unhealthy decision. At my Ann Arbor counseling practice, I work with clients to identify, understand, challenge, and restructure these common cognitive distortions:

Emotional Reasoning

We believe that our emotional reaction proves something is true

Our brain experiences a civil war. On the top of the brain we have our Human Brain, or Cerebral Cortex. This is what makes us distinctly human. It is driven by our Frontal Lobes and is responsible for complex thought, logic, reasoning, creativity, and much more.

In the center and at the core, we have our Animal Brain. This part of our brain is older and is responsible for our animalistic instincts, fight or flight, and our emotional center (Limbic System). We owe our survival to our Animal Brain, so we often trust it deeply. The human part of our brain and the animal part of our brain are in tension. They are battling for ownership of our decision making. Both are involved in all of our decisions, however the extent to which they are involved varies.

When we experience a strong emotion it can transcend our logic. When we feel something strongly, it can keep us in our emotional center and prevent us from fully utilizing our Frontal Lobes. In therapy at my Ann Arbor counseling practice, I work with clients to become more aware of this and to challenge it.

Magnification and Minimization

We emphasize our failures and de-emphasize our successes

Sometimes we make a mountain out of a molehill. We can convince ourselves that something is a bigger deal than it really is. When we magnify the significance of a concern we can often prevent ourselves from making the healthy decision that we want to make. This commonly leads to anxiety.

Other times we can downplay the true significance of an emotion or concern. There could be a real tangible reason that is preventing you from making a healthy decision, and it is important to identify it. Minimizing is a step away from denial.

Splitting

We think of ourselves in terms of all-or-nothing

It is easier to think in terms of black or white. We either are a person who exercises regularly or we aren’t. We either are a great friend or we aren’t. We either eat well or we don’t. We are someone who processes our emotions or we are someone who hides from them. The list could go on.

The reality is that we can be, and often are, more than one thing at the same time, even if they are two characteristics that seem contradictory. When we go to funerals we often like to sum someone’s life up in a nice, clean, neat way. But the reality is that humans hold the capacity for the complexity of internal contradiction, and it is unrealistic to believe that we can be all “good” or all “bad.”

Thinking in terms of all-or-nothing is a common cognitive distortion that prevents us from making the choices we want to make.

Overgeneralization

We assume future outcomes based on a few experiences

Making sweeping generalizations is a human thing. Most of us do it in some way. We have a negative experience, and believe that all future experiences will yield a similar result. This type of thinking can prevent us from making decisions that we want to make.

In therapy we can learn to recognize when we overgeneralize, how it may be negatively impacting our functioning, and how we can go about challenging this habit.

Magical Thinking

We believe that if we’ve thought about doing something, we’ve already sort of done it

For example, say we have to grade papers this weekend. We continue bringing it up and mentioning it to our partner. I can’t do anything until I grade these papers, or, “When I grade these papers I’m going to attach rubrics with their score summarized,” or, “I’m so stressed because I have to grade these papers.”

A funny thing starts to happen when we continue to think about something we have to do. It can create the cognitive illusion that we have made some sort of actual progress. We believe that because we have continued to think about it, we are working on it. Magical Thinking is another way that we deceive ourselves with our thoughts.

Restructuring our Cognitive Distortions

The first step in addressing our cognitive distortions is to become aware of them. In therapy at my Ann Arbor counseling practice, I work with clients to identify how their thoughts may be actually preventing them from making the choices that they want to make.

Identify – Understand – Challenge – Reconstruct

Once we are aware of our cognitive distortions, it is important to identify specifically how they are impacting our functioning and where they come from. Once we build a deeper understanding of the cognitive distortions, we must challenge them. We will work on a plan to restructure our cognitive distortions to attempt to modify how we think and feel about ourselves in several ways. This often feels like breaking a bad habit and requires practice + time.

If you or someone you know connects with the maladaptive thought processes outlined in this post, feel free to reach out to ask questions or schedule an appointment with me. I’d love to work with you on building a healthier and more fulfilling life!

 

About the author: Tim Wilkins is the owner and therapist at his Ann Arbor counseling practice, Identity Counseling Psychology PLLC. Tim works with clients to help identify, understand, challenge, and restructure cognitive distortions. In addition to being a counselor in Ann Arbor, Tim is also an adjunct instructor at Jackson College where he teaches Intro to Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, and Intro to Counseling.

 

 

3 Steps to Finding Greater Meaning in Life

3 Steps to Finding Greater Meaning in Life

What is meaning?

What am I truly passionate about?

What continues to get me up every morning, when I could just continue sleeping?

According to Irvin D. Yalom, “The sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” The struggle to discover meaning in the context of life is a human struggle.

I often have people come to therapy and say some version of the following; “When I was younger, I was told that things like art were important. I was told to express myself; that it was important and valued. I had things I was working toward. But as I age, I feel like the rug is slowly being pulled out from under me.”

Step 1: Orientation – Examine where you came from

When we grow up, we are told a lot of different things. We are given a set of boundaries. Begin by exploring the following questions:

  • What were you told to believe?
  • What were you told mattered the most?
  • What were you told was completely off limits?

We have an original Orientation. We are told to never, ever, touch the stove. The stove is hot and dangerous. If we touch the stove, our hand will get burnt. We are taught which things should be meaningful, which topics are important to care about, and especially which things we must avoid at all costs. Never touch the stove.

Step 2: Disorientation – Challenge what you have been told

As we continue to grow, the things that we have been told may slowly start to break down. Our perceptions of these boundaries start to change as we engage with a harsh world. We begin to realize that the stove is not always hot. Sometimes the stove is cool, even cool enough to touch. When we come to this realization, we often begin to engage in a season of Disorientation.

The season of disorientation forces us to ask several hard questions:

  • Who am I, really?
  • What are my true values?
  • Has what happened to me shaped my identity?
  • What are my genuine passions?
  • Do my experiences make me who I am?

In the season of Disorientation, we learn more about ourselves. We think about the things that we have been told to think, do, and believe, and identify ways in which our original orientation may not sit well with us anymore. The stove isn’t always hot, and sometimes it needs to be cleaned.

Step 3: Reorientation – Identify what truly matters to you & give it to others

Many people feel that the experiences themselves are what shape us. However, as we transcend the difficult season of Disorientation, we engage in a third stage, a season of Reorientation. In this season, we learn that our responses to our experiences shape the person that we become.

  • How can I help others with what I believe?
  • What do I want my work in the world to be?
  • Why do I continue to wake up in the morning?

As the universe expands, so does the human psyche. The process of evolving into newer and more expansive beliefs, missions, and states of consciousness can be uncomfortable, especially when those closest to you aren’t going through the same transformation.

In therapy, I work with people through the rhythmic life cycle of Orientation, Disorientation and Reorientation. When we realize that the stove is not always hot, we are bound to get hurt at some point. I work with people to help them discover their inner self. Our inner self is our true self, our source of strength, and unfortunately the part of our self that we are often least in tune with.

As a counselor, my role is to set the table for you to journey through the difficult struggle of inner-self-discovery. It is through difficult introspective inner-self-discovery that we come to understand what it means to be human, and what it means to be me.

If you are interested in engaging the therapeutic process of finding more meaning in life or if you have any questions, contact Tim.

IdentityAnnArbor.com

About the author: Tim Wilkins is the owner and therapist at Identity Counseling Psychology PLLC. Tim’s counseling focus areas are anxiety, motivation, and identity issues. Tim is also an adjunct instructor at Jackson College where he teaches Intro to Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, and Intro to Counseling.

 

 

 

3 Ways to Reduce Stress Using Mindfulness

It’s another day at work, and you get one of those emails.

You know… one of those emails.IMG_2340.JPG

Maybe the email is from a coworker, or from one of your bosses. Either way, it’s the email that you get about once per day, and it makes your blood boil. The thing they’re emailing about is last on your list of things to do, but the email is still enough to keep you in a constant state of stress and anxiety.

The WEIRD (Western-Educated-Industrialized-Rich-Democratic) culture that we live in continues to demand more and more of us. Living in this fast paced world can be extremely damaging to our health, and can leave us feeling disconnected from the earth and from each other. Stress has been shown to lead to significant health and relationship issues.

What would it be like to live a life free of chronic stress, fatigue, and energy depletion? How could I live a life fully connected to earth and focused on the moment?

It may sound like something you can never attain. This may be true; however, there are a few simple habits that can be integrated into your daily life fairly easily which have been shown to have a dramatic impact on stress and anxiety.

The techniques that I am about to explain are rooted in a practice called Mindfulness. This term may seem like the new “hip” buzzword, but it is rooted in an ancient tradition of practicing intentional living. I’ll start by explaining what Mindfulness is NOT.

Mindfulness is not a method of escape. Unlike other meditative techniques which may attempt to clear your mind completely and escape life, Mindfulness is an active process of becoming more aware of yourself in the present moment. Mindfulness stresses (no pun intended) the importance of the moment.

Because all we have are moments to live. 

Since all we have are moments, Mindfulness allows us to more fully live them one by one. Here are a few helpful techniques to get you started (derived from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction training):

1.) 3 Minute Mindful Breathing 

Set your clock for 3 minutes. Sit in a chair with excellent posture. Close your eyes, and begin breathing in for 4 seconds, then hold your breath for 4 seconds, then slowly breathe out for 8 seconds.

In for 4, hold for 4, slowly breathe out for 8.

Continue this rhythm, and begin to notice your thoughts. You may have a thought that brings anxiety (maybe it’s the email you received earlier). In this case, instead of rejecting the thought, you are going to let it in. Let your mind experience the thought, and note the emotional experience that you encounter. It is important to not judge this. This is an intentional practice in non-judgment.

Let the thought in, notice how it makes you feel, and simply return to your breath.

Imagine this rhythm as if you’re driving down an empty highway early in the morning. Your thoughts are like the road signs that pass by. They come in, you experience their impact on your mind, and you return to the road. Continue for 3 minutes and when you’re done take note of your current state.

2.) Mindful Appreciation 

Wherever you find yourself, begin to think about 5 things that you are appreciative of. Try to focus on things that typically go unnoticed, such as the electricity powering the air conditioning in your office, or the infrastructure which provides water to your faucet. Spend a few minutes intentionally practicing gratitude for 5 things that you may take for granted most of the time.

3.) Mindful Body Scan

Lie on your back and close your eyes. Begin Mindful Breathing (see technique #1). Once you find a good rhythm of breath, begin to imagine a scanner moving up through your body. The scanner starts at tips of your toes, and is monitoring how each square inch of your body feels. Begin to move this virtual scanner up through your left foot, passing your ankle, your shin, your knee, until you hit your pelvic bone. Next, jump down to the tip of your right foot, and begin to move up toward where you left off before.

Continue this scanning method all the way through your body until you reach the top of your brain- all the while noting how each square inch of your body feels. Notice if any areas feel particularly good or bad. Once you reach the top of your head, imagine a hole in the top of your head releasing the energy that the scanner has put into your body. Take note of your current state, and compare it to how you felt prior to doing the body scan.

Practice these 3 techniques once per day for a week, and observe whether you feel or think differently.

Are you interested in engaging in counseling to help you live more mindfully? Do you have questions? Contact Tim.

About the author: Tim Wilkins is the owner and therapist at Identity Counseling Psychology PLLC. Tim’s counseling focus areas are anxiety, motivation, and identity issues. Tim is also an adjunct instructor at Jackson College where he teaches Intro to Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, and Intro to Counseling.

 

 

What do you want to be when you grow up?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Ikigai

What do you want to do with your one precious life?

I came across this word while working at Toyota. The Japanese language comes from a rich tradition and has words that have a depth of meaning that we sometimes can’t capture with the English language. The word is Ikigai.

The direct translation of this word is:

A reason for being.

Ikigai. A combination of that which you are good at, that which you can be paid for, that which you love, and that which the world needs. Everyone, according to Japanese tradition, has an Ikigai.

As adults we often find ourselves in a position in life that we never expected to be in. When we’re younger we have huge plans. I recently had a 13-year-old counseling client tell me that he is going to make 60 million dollars by the time he reaches 20 years old!

Now it would have been easy for me to laugh and write him off. But I took a second to think back to when I was his age. When I was his age I was absolutely determined to be an NBA basketball player. I would get in before school every day and shoot 100 free throws before my first class. I would carry my basketball with me throughout the day, hoping to get a quick minute in between 3rd and 4th hour to shoot some hoops. You couldn’t convince me that I wasn’t going to make the NBA. I was determined.

Now if you ask some of my friends when I was that age, they may tell you that I was obsessed. And they’d be correct. But for me, making the NBA was about more than just the dollars and fame. It was also about having a platform to make a large impact on the world.

So when my client told me that he wanted to make 60 million dollars by the time he reached 20 years old, instead of laughing, I explored with him what was behind the money.

Because it’s never really about the money.

My client went on to tell me that he wants to reach the world through his music. He wants to help other kids who have struggled because he knows what it feels like to struggle, and music helped him get through it. My client wanted to have an impact on the world, doing something he loved, that he was gifted in, while also generating income.

So if you find yourself in a place in life where you’re unhappy, where you know you don’t want to be, where you are slowly dying, I have some good news for you.

Today you have an opportunity. You have the capacity to step back into your childhood self and ask a few questions;

What is it that I truly desire? What do I love, and how can I do more of it? How can I make an impact on the world while doing what I love?globe

When we’re doing what we love and others benefit at the same time, we all win. The best kinds of products and services are always mutually beneficial. They are beneficial to the consumer because they are getting a product or service that truly adds value to their life, and they are beneficial to the producer because they are tapping into their Ikigai.

So I want to challenge you today. What is it you love? What is it that you’re good at? Is this something that the world needs? I bet so! So why aren’t you making an income doing it?

Ikigai. Your reason for being.

I would love you help you on your journey toward discovering the reality of your Ikigai. Feel free to contact me!

IdentityAnnArbor.com

About the author: Tim Wilkins is the owner and therapist at Identity Counseling Psychology PLLC. Tim’s counseling focus areas are anxiety, motivation, and identity issues. Tim is also an adjunct instructor at Jackson College where he teaches Intro to Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, and Intro to Counseling.