Clinician Interview – Meet Ashley Magers, LMSW

Clinician Interview – Meet Ashley Magers, LMSW

ashley-magers-lmsw-identity-ann-arbor-therapist
Ashley Magers, LMSW

Interview with Ashley Magers, LMSW

Check out our clinician interview with the newest therapist at IDENTITY, Ashley Magers, LMSW. Ashley is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker practicing at our office in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ashley is passionate about working with adults and adolescents dealing with a wide range of mental health concerns, offering therapy in specialty areas including maternal mental health, postpartum depression, anxiety disorders, grief, trauma, adjustment to major life transitions, and more. Contact us to schedule an intake appointment with Ashley.


What are your specialties?

I am particularly passionate about working with women during their pregnancies and postpartum periods and have completed specific training in Maternal Mental Health from Postpartum Support International & 2020Mom. I have specific experience with anxiety, stress, coping with life transitions, grief, and relationship issues. Finally, I also have previous experience as an inpatient therapist for adolescents diagnosed with substance use disorders (SUD).

What made you want to become a therapist?

Being a human is hard, and I believe we can all benefit from having a non-judgmental and empathetic person to help us process and reflect on our challenges. I thoroughly enjoyed gaining more understanding about how and why humans think, feel, and behave when I was a psychology major in college, and realized there is always something new to learn when working with people. After my own positive experiences in therapy from 2011-2013, I was convinced that becoming a therapist through clinical social work training was my professional goal.

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

Clients can expect to electronically check themselves in using the IDENTITY tablet in the waiting room and then help themselves to a drink and/or snacks until I greet them to begin our session, which will last for just under an hour. The first two to three sessions will be focused on gathering information about why the client is seeking therapy, including exploring their biological, psychological, social, and spiritual histories, and for both of us to determine if we are a good fit for each other based on the client’s needs and preferences and my expertise and style. After these intake/assessment sessions are completed, we will collaborate to create a treatment plan to appropriately address the client’s goals in therapy. Moving forward, a typical therapy session will include time to check-in on the time between sessions and then to deeply explore and address the client’s specific concerns and goals with time for interventions to be introduced and explained. Therapy with me is highly individualized and goals will be adjusted as needed. 

How have you seen therapy be helpful to your clients?

I have seen clients gain a deeper sense of hope and acceptance by engaging in the vulnerability and difficult work of therapy. By discovering the power of being unconditionally accepted and heard on a consistent basis as they explore topics that they may typically try to ignore, clients come to see that the therapeutic process is worth it, even if some sessions bring up more pain and frustration than healing. Throughout the therapeutic process, decisions are sometimes made, such as setting new boundaries with others, that may involve increased frustration as the client lives out their beliefs and values in new ways. Therefore, the emotional experience may be quite intense. I will be available to discuss any assumptions or possible negative side effects in our work together.

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

Therapy is a collaborative process between a client and a therapist; therefore, for therapy to be most effective, it is important that clients feel safe to take an active role in the process. In order to do this, a positive therapeutic alliance between client and therapist is essential so clients feel understood as they explore their concerns and are challenged to enhance their well-being.

What do you hope your clients walk away with?

I hope clients walk away with greater self-awareness and self-compassion, specific tools they can utilize to cope with life’s stressors on a daily basis, and an increased confidence to assertively communicate in their relationships.


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

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder

seasonal-affective-disorder-identity-counseling-psychology-ann-arbor

Identity Counseling Psychology is a counseling and psychotherapy practice in Ann Arbor, Michigan offering therapy services for a wide range of mental health concerns. The therapists at IDENTITY specialize in treating patients with depression and categories of depression, including seasonal affective disorder. If you live in the Ann Arbor area and are struggling with seasonal affective disorder or other forms of depression and would like to seek help, contact us today to learn more about our services and clinicians or to schedule an intake appointment. 


What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s affected by seasonal changes in the weather. SAD is also commonly referred to as “seasonal depression” or “winter blues” and is characterized by cyclical depressive episodes that are triggered by seasonal shifts around the same time every year. For most people with this disorder, symptoms begin in the fall and continue through the winter, leaving them with feelings like low energy and moodiness until spring. For a much smaller number of people, symptoms begin in the spring and continue through the summer. 

It’s normal to feel a bit sluggish sometimes during the winter months, and when the days become shorter, colder and darker, people tend to slow down their busy lives and spend more time inside. But for people with seasonal affective disorder, winter brings about depression-like symptoms that are significant and persistent, causing disruption in their everyday lives and impairing their ability to function normally. 

How common is seasonal affective disorder?

Throughout the United States, the prevalence of SAD varies by region. For example, states in the Northeast, where daylight hours are shorter during the winter, have much higher rates of seasonal affective disorder compared to states in the Southeast that are closer to the equator. In New Hampshire, studies have shown that SAD affects almost 10% of the population, whereas in Florida, under 1.5% of people reportedly experience SAD. Overall, seasonal affective disorder is said to impact around 6% of Americans, with women being more likely than men to experience symptoms. 

How does SAD impact mental health?

As with other forms of depression, seasonal affective disorder should be taken seriously, and it has the potential to worsen over time, leading to harmful mental health outcomes if left untreated. Mental health complications that can occur as a result of SAD include:

If you’re struggling with the symptoms of SAD, you are not alone and you don’t need to just “tough it out” or “brush it off” until the spring. SAD is a mental health disorder with diagnosable symptoms and a variety of treatment options. If SAD is impacting your life, consider reaching out to a mental health professional to help you better manage and cope with your symptoms. 

What Are the Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder?

In most cases, SAD symptoms emerge during late fall, persist and worsen throughout the winter, and go away during the spring. Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are similar to those of clinical depression, but include some common identifiers that are unique to winter SAD.

Symptoms of winter SAD often include: 

  • Changes in appetite
  • Decreased self-esteem
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Cravings for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling depressed for most of the day, nearly every day
  • Hopelessness
  • Increased irritability 
  • Loss of interest in activities that you once enjoyed
  • Oversleeping
  • Poor mood
  • Relationship problems 
  • Sense of heaviness in arms and legs
  • Sluggishness 
  • Weight gain

What is summer SAD?

Although the majority of people with seasonal affective disorder experience their symptoms in the fall and winter months, there is a small subset of people who struggle with summer SAD. Summer SAD looks a bit different, and symptoms begin in the spring and persist throughout the summer. Aside from the same depression-like symptoms that occur with winter SAD, symptoms of summer SAD tend to manifest as the following:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Decreased appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of mania

What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder? 

The exact causes of SAD are still unknown, but researchers are able to point to several factors that likely come into play. These include:

  • Circadian rhythm – Your circadian rhythm is your body’s biological clock and it regulates important functions like sleep, energy, hormone levels, appetite and body temperature. Disruption of this clock is a known trigger of depression. Your brain keeps track of the amount of sunlight you get each day and uses this information to set your internal clock. The reduced level of sunlight in the fall and winter months can throw your body clock out of sync, leading to feelings of depression.
  • Serotonin – Reduced sunlight can also cause a drop in your levels of the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical in your brain that affects mood, behavior, and stress response, and lowered levels of serotonin is a known cause of depression.
  • Melatonin – Melatonin is a chemical that regulates sleep patterns and mood. Reduced sunlight in the winter months can disrupt the balance of your body’s melatonin levels and impact sleep and mood, which both play a large role in depression.
  • Gender – Seasonal affective disorder is diagnosed more often in women than in men.
  • Age – Seasonal affective disorder occurs more frequently in younger adults compared to older adults.
  • Proximity to the equator – SAD is more common among people who live far from the equator due to the decreased sunlight and shorter days during the winter months.
  • Family history – Having a history of depression in your family, especially of seasonal affective disorder specifically, is known to be a risk factor for developing SAD.  

Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Below are some of the common treatments that work well for seasonal affective disorder. The treatment plan that works best for you may include more than one approach. 

Light Therapy for SAD

Light therapy, or phototherapy, is one of the first line treatments for seasonal affective disorder, and it has proven highly effective in reducing symptoms for those with winter SAD. Light therapy treatment involves exposing oneself to bright light via a special device called a light box. A light box mimics natural outdoor light, which is known to help balance the body’s circadian rhythm and increase chemicals in the brain that directly impact mood. During the fall and winter months, when the days are darker, shorter, and colder, we experience a significant reduction in our exposure to natural sunlight and thus all of its antidepressant benefits. Light therapy sessions generally last about 10-15 minutes at first, and then gradually increase depending on the severity of the symptoms. Light therapy is a popular treatment option because people generally start seeing benefits in just a few days to a few weeks, and it has few known side effects.

Research on light therapy is rather limited, and we don’t recommend purchasing a light box or beginning light therapy sessions without talking to your doctor first and making sure that light therapy is a safe and effective treatment option for you. 

Psychotherapy for SAD

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is another popular treatment option for seasonal affective disorder. Psychotherapy is conducted by a licensed mental health professional, like a counselor, therapist or psychologist, and consists of weekly sessions in which the therapist and the patient work together to set individualized goals and reduce the harmful impact that SAD symptoms may be having. Psychotherapy has proven to be very beneficial for people with depression, and a variety of therapeutic approaches and techniques are known to be successful in treating SAD.

Psychotherapy can help SAD patients through…

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a form of talk therapy in which patients learn to identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that may be making them feel worse
  • Offering healthier, more positive ways to cope with SAD symptoms
  • Reducing harmful coping mechanisms, such as avoidance behavior, through techniques like exposure therapy and setting small, attainable goals
  • Mindfulness and relaxation exercises like deep breathing and meditation that reduce distress 

Self-help tips for coping with SAD

There are some lifestyle changes that you can make on your own to help prevent and improve symptoms of SAD. Some of these include:

  • Stay active and get regular physical exercise
  • Try to spend some time outdoors each day, even on cold or cloudy days
  • Brighten your environment by opening blinds or sitting closer to windows and skylights 
  • Maintain a healthy and regular sleep schedule
  • Do not turn to alcohol or recreational drugs for relief 
  • Keep an active social life and make a conscious effort to connect with friends and loved ones when you’re feeling down 
  • Make healthy, nutritious choices for meals and snacks
  • If you can, plan trips to sunny, warm locations during the winter

How IDENTITY Can Help

Identity Counseling Psychology is a psychotherapy practice in Ann Arbor, MI that offers counseling services to adults, adolescents, children, and families. The therapists at IDENTITY specialize in treating depression and categories of depression, including seasonal affective disorder. If you live in the Ann Arbor area, and you or someone you love is suffering from symptoms of depression, contact us today to schedule an intake appointment. 


Clinician Interview – Meet Miles Cornell, LLPC

Clinician Interview – Meet Miles Cornell, LLPC

Miles-Cornell-MA-LLPC-Identity-Ann-Arbor-Headshot
Miles Cornell, LLPC

Interview with Miles Cornell, LLPC

Check out our clinician interview with the newest member of the IDENTITY team, Miles Cornell, LLPC. Miles is a Limited-License Professional Counselor practicing at our office in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Miles is passionate about working with children and adults dealing with a variety of mental health concerns, and offers therapy for specialty issues including trauma, grief and loss, anxiety disorders, family conflict, identity issues, and depression. Contact us today to schedule an intake appointment with Miles. 


What is your specialty?

I have dedicated my career to working with children, adults, and families facing issues relating to trauma, grief and loss, anxiety, depression, and family conflict with particular specialty in working with children ages 5 -12. I primarily utilize Play Therapy and Acceptance-Commitment Therapy interventions, but also implement approaches from Trauma Informed Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Existential Therapy, and Psychodynamic Therapy. 

What made you want to become a therapist?

Every individual possesses an innate value. Ever since I was a teenager, I have held to the belief that everyone deserves the opportunity to thrive no matter what life has brought their way. Above all, I believe in hope and feel my work as a therapist has given me the opportunity to help my clients discover that hope is never lost. 

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

Therapy is a journey unique to each individual. My role is to guide and help my clients navigate their personal journey towards discovering their fullest potential. I work hard to maintain an atmosphere that is gracious, supportive, and collaborative. 

How have you seen therapy be helpful to your clients? 

Therapy serves as a beautiful process with varied significance for each individual. In my work, I have seen my clients grow into their true self while processing complex trauma. Play Therapy specifically provides a creative, client-centered approach to assist children with processing past trauma, underlying anxieties, and undiscovered emotions in the language that they can understand. I have had clients go from missing school or work due to their anxieties to thriving and taking steps towards their long term goals. 

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

It is important to find someone who empowers their clients to discover their inner strengths and become independent. The therapeutic relationship should be part of the journey, not the end destination. My hope for my clients is that they are able to take what they have learned during therapy and apply those tools where they work, live, and play. 

What do you hope your clients walk away with?

Growth can only happen when we set aside the ego and confront the uncomfortable. When that is accomplished, our fears and anxieties are no longer given power to control our destiny. I hope that above all my clients walk away with the belief that their story is not finished and that they are always in process towards becoming their best self.

Visit Miles’ profile to learn more about his counseling services or to schedule an appointment. 

Clinician Interview – Meet Jessica Davis, LPC

Clinician Interview – Meet Jessica Davis, LPC

Jessica-Davis-LPC-Headshot-Identity-Ann-Arbor
Jessica Davis, LPC

Interview with Jessica Davis, LPC

Check out our clinician interview with the newest member of the IDENTITY team, Jessica Davis, LPC. Jessica is a Licensed Professional Counselor practicing at our office in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Jessica is passionate about working with adults and young adults dealing with a variety of mental health concerns, and offers therapy for specialty issues including trauma, depression, anxiety, relationships, personality disorders and more. Jessica is currently accepting new patients. Contact us today to schedule an intake appointment with Jessica. 


What do you specialize in?

I specialize in counseling adults and young adults. I have experience working in university counseling settings, as well as with older adults in a community mental health setting. My clinical experience and interests include relationship concerns, trauma, personality disorders, existential and identity concerns, and issues relating to the LGBTQ+ population.

What made you want to become a therapist?

I have always had an interest in psychology, especially psychopathology. I initially planned to pursue the research side of psychology and worked as a research assistant; during this time, I realized that the part of this work I enjoyed the most was interviewing and interacting with study participants. This value of personal connection led me to pursue mental health counseling.

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

The first therapy session will be different from other sessions. The purpose of this session is to gather information, get to know each other, and answer any questions or concerns the client may have about the therapeutic process.  I use the first appointment to begin to understand the client’s background, reasons for seeking treatment, and important people and events that shaped them. Subsequent therapy sessions will consist of deeper exploration, intervention, and work toward therapy goals.

How have you seen therapy be helpful to your clients?

For many clients, it can be beneficial to have a relationship in which they are fully supported and heard. I have seen my clients benefit from having the time and space to process and explore concerns, learning new coping skills to manage their distress, and understanding how their beliefs about themselves and the world have been shaped.

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

I believe that the most important contributor to success in therapy is a close, collaborative, and genuine therapist-client relationship. I recognize how difficult it may be to share deeply personal fears, thoughts, and experiences with another person. My goal is to create a comfortable and supportive environment in which you can fully express yourself without fear of judgement.

What do you hope your clients walk away with?

I hope clients walk away with a deeper understanding of themselves, the skills to tolerate distress, and the ability to incorporate what they learn about themselves into their daily life.

Visit Jessica’s profile to learn more about her counseling services or to schedule an appointment.

6 Steps to Beating Depression

6 Steps to Beating Depression

6-steps-to-beating-depression-identity-ann-arbor

Many people struggling with depression feel stuck, unsure of what to do or how to move forward. Counseling, medication, and mental health programs are not always available or affordable, and taking big steps can feel even more difficult for someone with depression. Identity Counseling Psychology is a counseling and psychotherapy practice in Ann Arbor, Michigan, made up of a group of licensed therapists who specialize in treating people with depression. While counseling has helped many people dealing with depression to cope with and find relief from their symptoms, there are some key steps that you can take on your own to start feeling better. 

In his book, “The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs,” clinical psychologist, Dr. Stephen Ilardi, introduces and explains his 6-step Therapeutic Lifestyle Change (TLC) program for treating depression. We see great value in his approach, and have outlined Dr. Ilardi’s 6 keys to battling depression below. We also provide real life ways that you can implement these 6 steps into your life to help you take action against your depression and start feeling like yourself again. Although these steps can be taken on your own, Dr. Ilardi recommends checking with your doctor before making any major lifestyle changes. If you are battling depression and want to move forward, try these tips to start taking action and recovering from your depression. 

1. Create Healthy Sleeping Habits

One step that you can take to start feeling better if you’re going through depression is to create better sleeping habits. Sleep and mood are highly interconnected, and sleep disruption is a known trigger for depression. Even for those who don’t have a mental health disorder, a few nights of poor sleep can have negative consequences, like feeling cranky, pessimistic or worn out. Consistent sleep deprivation or disruption can be even worse, causing confusion, brain fog and other serious physical and mental health problems. Despite how important it is, most people don’t usually get a good night’s sleep, sleeping only 6 hours per night instead of the suggested 8 or 9 hours. Poor sleeping habits often lead to increased caffeine use, which only harms the sleep cycle even more, as caffeine makes it harder to fall asleep. 

Once depression takes hold, it can be difficult to move forward and make progress in getting better, especially because poor sleep can not only cause depression, but depression can also hurt our ability to fall asleep, stay asleep, and partake in the deep, quality sleep that we need to function at a high level every day. If you are experiencing depression and it’s been affecting your sleep, we encourage you to try some of the following habits that promote healthy sleep:

  • Only use your bed for sleeping
  • Create a consistent sleep schedule 
  • Avoid napping during the day
  • Keep a cool, dark bedroom
  • Avoid caffeine after the morning
  • Avoid alcohol at night
  • Try not to think about stressful or upsetting things before bed

2. Engage in Physical Exercise

There are over a hundred studies documenting the significant antidepressant effects of physical exercise. For many Americans, modern life is far too sedentary. Between commuting there, sitting all day through work or school, and commuting home, it’s hard to find time for substantial physical activity. Even if you don’t have depression, the benefits of exercise are worthwhile.  And if you do have depression, physical exercise is even more important to add to your routine. A lot of the chemical changes in the brain brought about by popular antidepressant medications to correct depression-related chemical imbalances can also be brought about by physical exercise.

Exercise changes the brain’s chemistry by increasing activity levels for important neurochemicals like dopamine and serotonin. It also increases the brain’s production of an important growth hormone, called BDNF, which is known to decline during depression. After regular physical exercise, people typically experience positive results like increased energy that are also helpful in overcoming depression.

Effective physical activity can include:

  • Running
  • Walking
  • Biking
  • Jogging
  • Weight lifting
  • Boxing
  • Swimming

3. Keep Your Mind Occupied

Depression is closely linked to a toxic thought cycle called rumination. Rumination is the habit of dwelling on negative thoughts or memories and going over them again and again in your mind. While we all can undoubtedly benefit from self-reflection and learning from our mistakes, excessive or chronic rumination can become incredibly painful and plays a large role in depression. Some depressed people spend hours per day ruminating, going over the same unbearable thoughts, causing their depression to spiral even more out of control. 

You can only ruminate when your mind isn’t otherwise occupied, and any stimulating or engaging activity can work to interrupt unhealthy rumination. Spending time alone is the biggest risk factor for rumination, and everyday situations like getting stuck in traffic, feeling bored at work or school, watching mindless television, or eating a meal alone can lead to unchecked and dangerous rumination.

Most people aren’t aware of their rumination and don’t realize that they do it, how often they do it, or that others do it too.The best ways to avoid harmful rumination are to recognize when you’re ruminating and try to shift your attention, and to set yourself up for success by limiting your triggers or situations that put you at risk. For example, if you know that your mind often wanders during your drive to work, make a playlist of your favorite music to listen to during the ride. 

Engaging activities that can interrupt rumination might include:

  • Listening to music
  • Listening to a podcast
  • Playing an interactive game
  • Conversing with a loved one
  • Watching videos or reading books about your passions and interests
  • Social interaction, especially in a group setting

4. Maintain Social Connections

People who lack supportive social connections are at an increased risk for depression and tend to have a harder time coming out of depression. In today’s fast-paced world, it can be hard to block out time for meaningful social bonds, and we often end up spending far too much of our leisure time alone. This can be due to increasingly demanding work schedules and competitive office environments, and it can also have to do with technology, which without a doubt promotes social isolation, getting worse with each new invention and upgrade. Now we can have our groceries delivered instead of going to the grocery store, and can access thousands of movies and TV shows through streaming services instead of going to the movie theater. Technology is multiplying our opportunities to be alone everyday, and this can be especially harmful for someone with depression. 

Depression causes people to withdraw even further than they already may have from those around them, leading to feelings of loneliness and diminishing their support systems for recovery. It’s human nature to self-isolate and take time for rest when feeling unwell. Most of the time, for example if you have the flu or a virus, taking some time away would be helpful and lead to recovery. However, when it comes to depression, being alone makes things worse, and is only an obstacle in getting better. 

Here are some helpful steps you can take to build yourself a social support system and start making meaningful connections:

  • Give to those in need
  • Become a pet owner
  • Get involved involved in your religious community
  • Volunteer in your community
  • Join a sports team
  • Get to know your coworkers outside of the office 

5. Increase Your Sunlight Exposure

Millions of Americans and Europeans, especially those living in northern latitudes, suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a condition that causes people to become depressed during the winter, and it’s triggered by reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter, cloudier days of winter.

The reason that less sunlight exposure can cause depression is because your brain keeps track of the amount of light you get each day and uses that information to set your body clock. When you don’t get enough exposure to bright light, your body clock gets out of sync, throwing off circadian rhythms that regulate important biological functions like energy, sleep, hormonal levels, body temperature and appetite. The disruption of these rhythms is harmful and can trigger depression.

Bright light stimulates the brain’s production of the neurotransmitter, serotonin, which affects mood, stress response, and behavior. People who work from sunrise to sunset don’t get enough natural sunlight, which is significantly (over a hundred times) brighter than indoor lighting. As little as 30 minutes of natural sunlight can be beneficial in resetting your body’s clock and getting back in sync. However, this isn’t always realistic. We’ve listed some tips below for getting the important benefits of bright light that our bodies need in general, and especially in order to recover from depression.

  • Try spending at least 30 minutes outside each day 
  • Start using a light box
  • Take a Vitamin D supplement 

6. Consume More Omega-3 Fatty Acids

There are certain fat molecules that the brain needs to function at its best. Our bodies make some of these fats on their own, but others can only be acquired through what we eat. Among the most important of these dietary fats are omega-3 fatty acids, which are mainly found in nuts, leafy greens, fish, and wild game. Sources of omega-3 fatty acids have been on the decline over the years, and with the popularity of grain-fed fish and cattle, there are less and less easy ways to get enough of this important fat. This trend has been harmful, as those who don’t get a sufficient amount omega-3s are at an increased risk for depression and other mental illnesses.

Clinical research has shown that using omega-3 supplements to help treat depression can be extremely beneficial. The human brain needs a steady supply of omega-3 fatty acids to function properly anyway, but if you have depression, increasing your intake of omega-3s can be key to recovery and prevention. You can do this by:

  • Making conscious diet choices
  • Taking a fish oil supplement
  • Taking a plant-based DHA/EPA supplement

Clinician Interview – Meet Ariana Thelen!

Clinician Interview – Meet Ariana Thelen!

Ariana-Thelen-LMSW-Identity-Ann-Arbor-Headshot-2
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-LMSW-Identity-Ann-Arbor-Headshot-4
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.

5 Methods to Battle Depression

5 Methods to Battle Depression

depression-anxiety-grief-mindfulness-identity-counseling-psychology-ann-arbor-michigan-clinical-therapy

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.”

depression-anxiety-mindfulness-identity-counseling-psychology-ann-arbor-michigan-psychotherapy

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

depression-mindfulness-breathe-identity-counseling-psychology-ann-arbor-michigan-psychotherapy

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