Clinician Interview – Meet Joe Jaster, LPC

Clinician Interview – Meet Joe Jaster, LPC

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Joe Jaster, LPC

Interview with Joe Jaster, LPC

Check out our clinician interview with the newest team member at IDENTITY, Joe Jaster, LPC. Joe is a Licensed Professional Counselor practicing at our counseling and psychotherapy practice, Identity Counseling Psychology PLLC, located in Ann Arbor, MI. Joe is passionate about helping adults and adolescents cope with, manage, and recover from issues relating to addiction and substance abuse. Joe is currently accepting new patients. Contact us today to schedule an intake appointment with Joe. 


What is your specialty?

The primary focus of my practice is substance abuse in adolescents.  However, I do see adults who are experiencing addiction problems as well. Drug craving, seeking and using drugs, and other compulsive behaviors are the essence of addiction. They are extremely difficult to control, and much more difficult than any physical dependence. For an addict, there is no motivation more powerful than drug craving. The task of treatment is to regain control over drug craving, seeking and use.  This is my goal with every one of my patients.

What made you want to become a therapist?

I started my career in the business world and went to school to study Business Management. I spent many years doing all the jobs that you would associate with this occupation. At one point, I had numerous people reporting to me.  Part of my job was to help my people develop and learn new skills. While this was rewarding, I found it did not contribute enough to my feelings of self worth. I decided to return to school and pursue a degree in Guidance and Counseling.  I wanted to help people who struggled through life. This is also my way of giving back to society.

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

My first session with a client is called an intake. This is designed to help the counselor determine the severity of the issue and any extenuating circumstances that might help or hinder the process of recovery.  It is also used to begin to establish a level of trust between the client and myself. It is vital for my client to understand that I am non-judgmental, patient, caring and supportive. It is also important to understand that what we discuss is private between us and will not be shared.  After the first session we will work on defining the problem(s), examining the behavioral issues and building a solution to help support recovery.

How have you seen therapy benefit your clients?

Therapy provides a safe place for clients to talk without fear of judgment and practice new ways of thinking about themselves and others. It will hopefully help clients discover their negative behavior patterns, fears and what triggers their particular negative cycles. This type of activity will hopefully lead to the change that my clients’ desire.  It takes courage, dedication and the mindset of “ ‘I’ can do this.” I have seen my clients develop entire new ways of coping, gain a better understanding of their negative actions, increase their confidence and find freedom to enjoy their lives once again.

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

Not all therapists are a perfect match for a client. The therapist must be familiar with the client’s type of problem, have outstanding communication skills, patience and analytical and problem solving abilities.  Additionally, the therapist must be able to maintain strict professional ethics, as well as adhere to patient confidentiality standards. The patient must feel comfortable with the therapist. These are all necessary components required to establish that much needed level of trust.

What do you hope your clients walk away with?

I want my clients to walk away with the tools that are necessary for them to cope with their addiction. They should have an increased level of understanding of their triggers and the necessary actions required to diffuse those situations. My clients should have an increased level of confidence and self trust.  Most importantly, my clients should leave with an “I CAN DO IT” attitude.


Visit Joe’s profile to learn more about his counseling services, or to schedule an appointment.

Common Anxiety Issues in College Students

Common Anxiety Issues in College Students

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Anxiety is one of the most common mental health concerns facing college students today. While experiencing some anxiety during the numerous transitions involved in going away to college is undoubtedly normal, many college students in the United States report feeling overwhelming amounts of anxiety, which can be dangerous and unhealthy. 

Anxiety is characterized by the tendency to: 

  • Worry excessively
  • Feel afraid
  • Experience a sense of panic

There are many factors that can contribute to these feelings for college students nowadays, and major lifestyle changes alone, like going to college, are known to exacerbate the effects of a mental health condition. There are some specific issues that are especially widespread on college campuses right now that seem to be triggering and adding to this rise in anxiety among college students. Below, we discuss some of the most common anxiety issues that are facing college students today.

If you’re struggling with anxiety on campus, you may benefit from the help of a mental health professional. Please do not be afraid to seek help and talk to someone about what you’re going through. Almost all colleges and universities have some form of counseling available on campus to help students with mental health issues. Campus counseling centers can either help treat students or provide an appropriate referral.

Sleep Disruption

Sleep disruption and anxiety go hand in hand, and poor sleep is one of the biggest contributors to anxiety disorders among college students. There are many factors that can significantly impact sleep in college. Aside from things like cramming for exams and partying late at night, even simply living with a roommate for the first time can have negative effects on a student’s sleep cycle. 

The following are some common causes of sleep disruption in college students:

  • Worrying
  • Phone or laptop use before bed
  • Drinking excess caffeine
  • Inconsistent sleep schedule
  • Pulling all-nighters

Some tips for practicing better sleeping habits in college include setting a consistent bedtime and wake-up time each day, limiting caffeine in the evenings and alcohol in general, putting away all electronics an hour or two before bedtime, and avoiding spending time in your bed for activities other than sleep, such as studying. 

Financial Stress

It’s common knowledge that college is getting more and more expensive, but not everyone understands how significantly the financial burden of paying for college affects college students today. Most students leave college with extreme amounts of debt and only entry-level salaries, leaving them in a stressful situation for years after graduation. This predicament has become a source of dread and anxiety for many college students, so much so that the anxiety caused by this financial burden often overrides the happiness and pride that should be associated with graduating from college.

Financial stress is also a source of anxiety for students whose parents pay for college, as this puts an added pressure on them to do well, finish on time, and get a high-paying job. These students experience anxiety surrounding the looming fear that their parents “spent all this money on their education for nothing” or that their parents “wasted their money on them.” Relying on their parents to pay for college can also delay development of important life skills relating to emotional and financial independence for college students, leaving them unprepared and anxious for the “real world” that lies ahead. 

The financial stress associated with paying for college can also make it harder for college students to find the time and space in the budget for doing the things that make them happy. Seeing a movie, going out to eat with friends, joining a gym, these are all things that can help college students cope with or reduce anxiety, but they are hard to do for students who are on a strict budget due to the cost of college, or who have to spend their free time working at a job. 

Loneliness

Loneliness is a common problem for college students, especially for freshmen. One of the biggest sources of loneliness for college students comes from homesickness. Homesickness is defined by functional impairment or feelings of distress caused by an anticipated or actual separation from home and attachments, such as parents, siblings or pets. People who suffer from homesickness often experiences bouts of anxiety, sadness, worry and nervousness and can’t shake their preoccupation with thoughts of home and family. Homesickness is one of the leading causes of loneliness for students who are away at college, especially when they’re first adjusting to the change. 

Social media and technology can also contribute to loneliness in college students, in more ways than one. First of all, social media can get in the way of students, especially freshmen, developing strong relationships with their classmates. Texting and facetiming old friend groups from back home can take away from college students putting time and energy into meeting new people around them in the real world. It can be tempting to stay within the comfort zone of the friends that you grew up with, especially with the ease and instant gratification of social media and modern technology.  But, it’s important for college students to break old habits and branch out when adjusting to their new environment. And, for students coming into college with social anxiety disorder or generalized anxiety disorder already, Netflix, social media and online gaming can become comfortable escapes that hinder their chances of forming meaningful relationships with their peers in real life. 

Academic Pressure

Academic pressure is another major source of anxiety among college students. Academic pressure can lead to generalized anxiety disorder, perfectionism, and test anxiety. Perfectionism, which can also cause or worsen anxiety disorders, is increasingly common in today’s college students. Perfectionism is defined by the need to be or appear perfect in one or more aspects of life. 

Often students feel this pressure to be perfect from:

  • The competitive environment fostered on many college campuses 
  • Financial stress from scholarships or strict parents
  • Comparing themselves to their peers on social media 

Even though some people view perfectionism as a positive trait, especially when it comes to academics and education, it can actually lead to mental health disorders, like anxiety and obsessive behavior, that end up making it more difficult for students to achieve their goals. 

Test anxiety is another big mental health concern for college students that can stem from academic pressure. Test anxiety is a type of performance anxiety that can be caused by fear of failure. Colleges have become increasingly competitive, and the added pressure to be the best can lead to test anxiety in college students.

Test Anxiety can activate the body’s fight or flight response, causing symptoms like:

  • Sweaty palms
  • Nausea
  • Racing pulse 
  • Dread
  • Shaky voice
  • Knots in the stomach

These symptoms end up making it harder for students to succeed and achieve their goals, and for students with chronic test anxiety, therapy, as well as relaxation and mindfulness techniques can be very beneficial.

Social Media

Social Media has become one of the most common anxiety issues for today’s college students. Having constant access to a highlight reel of what their peers are doing can cause extreme anxiety and self-comparison among adolescents. Everyone shows their best selves on social media, so for students who are struggling academically, socially, or with their body image, comparing themselves and feeling lesser-than is inevitable when looking at the pictures and videos of peoples’ greatest, most showoffable experiences. There is also worry that comes along with seeing that you’re being excluded, or feeling like you’re not living life to the fullest or experiencing college to the extent that you should be based on what “everyone else” is doing. In these ways, anxiety and worry become compounded by social media use. 

For students who already have anxiety, the positive reinforcement of getting “likes” and instant feedback on social media can help put their minds at ease, but negative feedback, lack of feedback or comparison to others, all which are bound to occur on social media, can actually end up causing more anxiety. Students prone to anxiety can also feel anxious from being disconnected for too long when trying to stop using social media. Often, students tend to make the connection on their own that social media is exacerbating their anxiety, leading them to try to take breaks from or “quit” social media altogether. This, due to social media’s addictive nature, can lead to more feelings of fear and worry about being disconnected from the world. 

How Therapy Can Help

Identity Counseling Psychology is a counseling and psychotherapy practice in Ann Arbor, Michigan that specializes in working with college students and helping patients manage anxiety. Our licensed counselors are experienced in treating anxiety and are passionate about helping students navigate the college experience and cope with academic concerns. If you’re a student seeking counseling in the Ann Arbor area, contact us today for an intake. Our office is located in the heart of Ann Arbor, next to Bearclaw Coffee, where Washtenaw Ave and Stadium Blvd split. 


3 Common Questions from Parents of Adolescents

3 Common Questions from Parents of Adolescents

Are you a parent of an adolescent, who is wondering what types of changes are happening during this season of life? Below are some common questions that parents of adolescents have when they come in for therapy.

First, what is Adolescence?

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Adolescence is the awkward time in a young person’s life that begins with puberty and ends when they become independent. Adolescents have a maturing physical body supported by a not-yet-mature brain. On top of it, adolescents experience social changes at school and changes within their family systems. Knowing this, it makes sense why adolescents feel so weird! As a counselor (at my counseling private practice in Ann Arbor, MI), I love helping adolescents navigate the complexities of this awkward season of life. If you’re looking for a counselor for your adolescent, feel free to reach out to my practice (IdentityAnnArbor.com).

If you’re a parent of an adolescent, you may have some of these common questions…

1. Why does my child seem different?

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  • Because your adolescent desires to be accepted socially
    • Your child may have been a very nice kid growing up. You may have taught them well. However, during adolescence, your child’s primary concern will likely shift to social acceptance. Because of this, your adolescent will do anything necessary to make sure that they thrive socially. Or, at the very least, they will do whatever possible to make sure they aren’t getting made fun of. Sometimes this results in an apparent shift in personality. Fear not; the good news is that personality is relatively enduring throughout life, so that kind child is still in there somewhere. However, at this time in their life, they may present differently, and it’s important to remember that there is a reason for this and that it’s often socially motivated.
  • Because your adolescent may be uncomfortable in their body
    • Your adolescent’s body is changing like never before. Their body is beginning to transform from a child to an adult. The tough part of this is that their brain doesn’t mature as quickly and rapidly as the rest of their body. Some parts of their brain do, such as the Limbic System. This is the emotional center of their brain. However, their Cerebral Cortex and Frontal Lobes (the center for logical thinking and reason) won’t be fully mature until into their 20’s. Where does this leave your adolescent? Feeling uncomfortable and confused!
  • There could be something deeper going on
    • It’s impossible to cover all of the reasons why your adolescent may seem completely different. For this reason, if you feel concerned, I recommend reaching out to a trusting counselor or psychologist. Having your adolescent see a licensed counselor may help identify what might be going on beneath the surface. Another option is to have a psychological assessment completed, which will help you understand which area of functioning your adolescent struggles with and potentially why.

2. Why can’t I connect with my adolescent?

  • Because you may represent control
    • You have worked for years to make sure that your adolescent remains safe. I often hear from parents that all they want to do is make sure they’re doing everything they can to help their child flourish. Because of this constant focus over several years, it can be extremely difficult for parents to accept that there may now be limits to how well they can protect their adolescent. Adolescents are engaging in a season of transformation. They are seeking independence, and though deep down they may love and appreciate you for what you’ve done, they may also perceive you as a barrier to their independence. It is important to allow the adolescent enough freedom to explore his or herself while still doing what you can to keep them safe.
  • Because adolescents may not feel comfortable talking about difficult issues
    • Adolescents see everything. There may have been a time when your child didn’t pick up on certain things, but this stops with adolescence. As adolescents are challenged intellectually, socially, and morally, they begin to question things like they never have before. This questioning may lead to adolescents closing themselves off from their parents, because they haven’t quite figured out how to bring up certain topics. It is important to create an environment of openness to allow adolescents to feel comfortable bringing up hard issues. Having your adolescent see a trusted counselor or therapist can help them learn to feel more comfortable working through difficult issues.

 3. What is going to happen to my adolescent next?

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  • They will develop their own beliefs
    • It can be difficult for parents if their children begin to form beliefs and values that are different than theirs. It’s common to have thoughts like, “Did I do it all wrong this whole time?” or, “Why does my child think like this?” The reality is that adolescents today are growing up in a completely different world in comparison to 20-30 years ago. The availability of social media has allowed people to create an avatar that likely does not represent the complexity of the person that they truly are. When your adolescent scrolls through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, they are seeing many beautiful pictures posted by their friends. Your adolescent may begin to feel like their life doesn’t measure up, not fully grasping that the images they are seeing are only the good ones and none of the bad ones. This can impact your adolescent’s self-esteem in negative ways. Your adolescent also has access to a world of information at their fingertips and is likely engaging with a more diverse population of kids than you did when you were their age. For all of these reasons, your adolescent may develop drastically different beliefs and even a different worldview than you.
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  • They may try out many things
    • Learning through experimentation is how humans have gotten to this point. Your adolescent is no different. They can be told how harmful something is all day long, but it generally isn’t until they make a few mistakes that they actually understand what you mean. This puts parents in a precarious position. You may be thinking to yourself, I want to protect my adolescent, or, I don’t want them to get into a situation that they can’t get out of. The good news is that there are a lot of ways that you can help your adolescent stay safe. The hard news is that it’s generally not through the same methods you employed when they were a kid. When they were younger, you could just tell them not to do things. Once they hit adolescence, they may demand you to explain the logic behind your rules and restrictions. It is important to facilitate an environment of openness and non-judgment in order for them to feel safe enough to open up and share things with you even when they get bad. This is the type of environment that I strive to create in therapy when I work with adolescents (at my counseling practice in Ann Arbor MI).
  • They will likely be ok
    • It’s not a guarantee, but odds are your adolescent will grow through these struggles and come out a more independent, mature person. They may walk with a limp, but they will likely still be walking. It can often help adolescents to have a trusting working relationship with a counselor or therapist while they journey through this awkward stage of life. 

If you have an adolescent that you think may benefit from therapy, or if you have any questions for me, feel free to contact me to set up a free 15-minute phone consultation! – Tim Wilkins