Clinician Interview – Meet Ashley Magers, LMSW

Clinician Interview – Meet Ashley Magers, LMSW

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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.

Why Does It Feel Like My Child Hates Me?

Why Does It Feel Like My Child Hates Me?

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Imagine in your mind’s eye that you are a new parent holding your baby in your arms. You have visions of a perfect relationship with your child and see this beautiful future. Fast forward a few years, your baby is now in grade school or even highschool. While you are holding onto those visions you once had of holding your infant, the feeling of a perfect relationship appears fleeting. Your child feels distant, cold, and even emotionally volatile. It is fairly common and natural for a parent to react to their child by blaming themselves as though there is something intrinsically wrong with them as a parent. It is equally as natural for a parent to wonder “what the heck is this kid’s problem?” You may have even had the question come across your mind, “why does it feel like my child hates me?” 

I have worked with many families with similar complaints relating to concerns about the relationship dynamic between themselves and their child. Desperate for love, respect, or a combination of the two, parents come into therapy hoping to soothe the discomfort experienced within the parent-child relationship. The ways one forms healthy attachments within relationships is built upon the receptiveness and responsiveness of their physical and emotional needs by their care-giver during childhood. 

At this point you’re probably asking something along the lines of “Great… Now what can I do….” The wonderful thing about restoring a healthy attachment and why I am so passionate about the work I do with my clients is that there is always hope. Below are four helpful tips to form, restore, and maintain a healthy relationship with your child no matter the age.


1. Stop, drop, and listen

We live in a fast-paced society, constantly on the go and connected to technology. It is no surprise that this would likely affect the parent-child relationship. Building a healthy attachment with your child starts with establishing that they are safe to approach you with their needs and you will in turn be receptive. Helping your child understand this means giving them your undivided attention. Stop what you are doing, put down any distractions (i.e. your phone), and listen. Whatever you were doing before can wait, but the opportunity to establish a connection with your child needs to take precedence. 

2. Be consistent and clear with boundaries

As much as it may seem like they are fighting it, your child or teen needs structure. This is done through consistently keeping to your boundaries and expectations. Start by making concerns, expectations, and boundaries verbally clear. Your child or teenager won’t know your expectations without you communicating them (they aren’t mind readers).  Once you’ve communicated your expectation or boundary, keep to it and be consistent every time. No phones at the dinner table? Set the example through your own behavior and keep your reminders firm yet gentle. Setting a firm boundary does not need to end with a yelling match where your child only remembers the stress of the interaction and not the boundary itself. 

3. Create intentional interactions

Cultivating connection with your child requires intentional action. Try to set aside time each day where all you are doing is connecting with your child or teen with something that they enjoy. Maybe it is a game, a craft, or even just talking about a subject they enjoy. Your intentional actions will be remembered positively and help your child establish resilience against shame, which brings up the next important tip. 

4. Fight the shame monster

Whether it is the marker drawings on the wall from your toddler, or your teen’s missing assignment from algebra, it can be easy to react. You want the best for your child and will do everything you can to see them succeed. However, when we give a punitive reaction, we trigger a fight or flight response and harm the attachment. The association for the child is no longer that their parent is a safe and supportive guide, but is an enforcer of shame. It is instinctual to avoid shame through all means possible, and for your child, this may take the form of lying, acting out, or even worsening the behavior. To combat the shame monster, invest in your child’s intrinsic worth. Support your child in their strengths, keep a gentle approach, and create space for grace. Your child needs to know first that they are accepted unconditionally before taking the steps towards change. 


Whether you have a toddler or a teenager, give these tips a try. You may be surprised by how effective taking the time to slow down and listen to your child can be. Be patient with not only your child, but also yourself. It is likely that you are going to be working on changing some behaviors and patterns that have been in play for some time now. However, no matter the difficulty, there is always hope for you and your child to build a healthy, connected relationship.


About the Author

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Miles Cornell, MA, LLPC

Miles Cornell, MA, LLPC is a therapist at Identity Counseling Psychology in Ann Arbor, MI. Miles specializes in therapy for issues relating to trauma, anxiety disorders, grief and loss, mindfulness, depression, and existentialism. Miles is trained in and especially passionate about play therapy for children, and offers counseling for children, families, teenagers, adults, and couples. Check out Miles’ profile to learn more about his background and counseling services. Contact us today to schedule an intake with Miles. 


EMDR Therapy

EMDR Therapy

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Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an approach to psychotherapy that was created to help people heal from symptoms of trauma and psychological distress caused by upsetting life experiences. EMDR is performed by a mental health professional like a therapist, counselor, social worker or psychologist, who has been formally trained in EMDR therapy and its techniques. At Identity Counseling Psychology, our therapy practice located in Ann Arbor, MI, we offer both traditional talk therapy for issues relating to trauma, as well as EMDR therapy as a form of treatment. IDENTITY clinician Jaymin Cox, LMSW, CAADC, specializes in trauma counseling and has been trained in EMDR therapy. Check out Jaymin’s profile to learn more, or contact us today to schedule an intake. 


What is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, and it’s a unique form of psychotherapy that was created to treat symptoms of trauma, although it doesn’t require patients to talk about the traumatic experiences that they’ve endured. EMDR has been highly beneficial for patients dealing with trauma and PTSD, as opening up about the surrounding events or memories tends to be a painful, slow-moving, and sometimes impossible feat.

The goal of EMDR therapy is to help patients fully process negative past experiences and sort out the feelings, memories, and triggers attached to those experiences so that they can heal in a healthy way. EMDR is an integrative style of therapy, in which practitioners use bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements, sounds, or taps, to divert the attention of patients while they recall painful or traumatic memories. Exposure to trauma in this indirect way alleviates its intensity and allows it to be worked through and addressed in a safe setting. Processing past psychological pain is an important step that makes room for healthy healing and coping moving forward.

EMDR sessions follow a specific sequence of phases, which can generally be completed within 4-8 sessions. The therapist and patient can then reevaluate whether more treatment is necessary or wanted. EMDR can be used as a stand-alone therapy or alongside other forms of treatment.

What Does EMDR Therapy Treat?

EMDR therapy is particularly effective for those who struggle to talk about their past experiences. It was originally designed to treat post traumatic stress, but EMDR can be used to address any adverse experiences or negative memories that may be impacting or leading to mental health concerns. 

Therapists have been known to use EMDR for issues like:

How Does EMDR Therapy Work?

In EMDR therapy, patients are helped to identify and work through the negative memories or experiences that cause them distress in order to make room for proper healing. There are eight phases in EMDR therapy, which consist of the following steps:

1. History and treatment planning

This phase involves the therapist and the patient reviewing the patient’s past experiences, current concerns, and future goals, as well as identifying the target memories and events that may be traumatic and need to be fully processed. 

2. Preparation

During this phase, the therapist will explain the treatment process and establish trust with the patient. The therapist will also go over coping strategies for any distress or overwhelming feelings that may arise during the treatment. Stress management and coping techniques may include things like deep breathing or mindfulness exercises.

3. Assessment

In this phase, the patient brings the target event to mind and discusses his or her associated negative thoughts, beliefs, and even physical sensations when thinking about the event. The therapist records and evaluates these observations. The therapist and patient together then pick a more positive and desirable cognition or belief related to the event. They discuss, measure and record how true the new, healthier association feels to the patient.

4. Desensitization

Desensitization is the phase where the bilateral stimulation occurs. The client thinks about the target event while the therapist administers sets of side-to-side eye movements, sounds, or taps. This stimulation diverts the client’s attention while they are simultaneously giving attention to the target memories. The therapist breaks periodically to check in on the patient and evaluate how they’re feeling. The sets of eye movements, sounds, or taps are repeated until the event feels less disturbing. 

5. Installation

This phase is used to strengthen positive and healthy replacement cognitions related to the event. The desirable beliefs and associations that were previously discussed are the target of the bilateral stimulation in this phase. The therapist again checks in with the client periodically to measure how true the healthier cognitions feel as the bilateral stimulation continues. 

6. Body scan

In this phase the therapist and the patient check in to see if the patient is now able to   bring up memories of the traumatic event without experiencing psychological distress or any negative feelings that aren’t relevant or healthy. If the patient is still not able to process the memory without experiencing unhealthy physical tension or emotional disturbances, continuation of the bilateral stimulation may be deemed necessary. 

7. Closure

Closure is a phase that occurs at the end of every session, even if the target event is not  fully processed. This is important because EMDR therapy can take several sessions to complete, and the patient must always reach stabilization before a session is over and they leave therapy, as bilateral stimulation can be overwhelming, especially at first. Reaching closure can include calming exercises, guided imagery, or discussion of the session. 

8. Reevaluation

This phase occurs at the beginning of every session, and it consists of evaluating and measuring the residual distress related to the target event that may still be in place, as well as evaluating and measuring the perceived accuracy of the new positive beliefs related to the target event. If the client is still experiencing unhealthy levels of disturbance, the session resumes with desensitization. If healthier beliefs are accepted, the patient is ready to move on. Both the patient and the therapist assess the progress that has been made. 


How IDENTITY Can Help

Identity Counseling Psychology is a psychotherapy practice in Ann Arbor, MI that specializes in counseling for issues related to trauma. Our therapists are passionate about tailoring therapy services to the individual needs of the patient, and this might include techniques like EMDR. Jaymin Cox, LMSW, CAADC offers EMDR therapy at IDENTITY, and is trained in trauma counseling and EMDR techniques. EMDR operates under the theory that disturbing memories, events, or experiences can lead to unwanted mental health symptoms, and that processing trauma is important to make room for healing. However, this is often difficult without the help of a mental health professional. If you are dealing with symptoms of trauma, but struggle to discuss or relay painful emotions, EMDR therapy might be a good fit for you. Contact us today to learn more or to schedule an appointment.

It is important to note that due to the nature of EMDR therapy and its potential for producing vivid visual imagery and/or body sensations, the clinicians at IDENTITY cannot engage in this therapy with anyone who dissociates or has a dissociative disorder at this time. If you are interested in EMDR, but are unsure if you dissociate, please talk to your therapist. All EMDR clients will be screened for dissociation prior to beginning treatment. 


Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder

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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 Jaymin Cox, LMSW, CAADC

Clinician Interview – Meet Jaymin Cox, LMSW, CAADC

Jaymin-Cox-Identity-Counseling-Psychology-Ann-Arbor
Jaymin Cox, LMSW, CAADC

Interview with Jaymin Cox, LMSW, CAADC

Check out our clinician interview with new IDENTITY therapist, Jaymin Cox, LMSW, CAADC. Jaymin is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor practicing at our office in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Jaymin is passionate about working with adults and young adults dealing with a variety of mental health concerns, offering therapy in specialty areas including trauma and PTSD, addiction, grief, relationships, and self-esteem issues. Contact us today to schedule an intake appointment with Jaymin.


What is your specialty?

I specialize in trauma and addiction issues. Since I began working in the addiction field as an intern in 2014, I have been very aware of the role trauma and PTSD play in people’s lives, and what it can lead people to do. I have created psycho-education projects about trauma, and I have geared my training and orientation towards trauma since I was an intern. It’s my passion, and helping people heal is what I enjoy doing.  

What made you want to become a therapist?

I’ve always wanted to help people, just how I help them has changed as I’ve gotten older. When I was 14 I wanted to be a psychologist, but then that quickly changed to wanting to be in the military. I was in the Navy for a couple of years, and afterwards I returned to school. While I was getting my bachelor’s degree, I ended up volunteering for America Reads, and taught kindergarten one day a week for a year in a low-income area. Through that experience, I decided to get a master’s in social work. My first internship was at the Salvation Army in Tucson, Arizona, which was an inpatient rehab. This was my first experience doing addiction counseling and it ended up being a focus of my career so far.

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

When they first come to therapy, I think they can expect to laugh and learn a lot more than they would expect. I try to create a safe and relaxed space where ideas can flow, and people don’t feel judged. My aim is to give people knowledge and tools, and then help them use those tools effectively. I know that I would want to have all of the necessary information about my concerns of the day, and about the tools I could use to achieve my goals. I think people are often surprised at how quickly I can help push away the clutter and get to the bottom of whatever concerns they have. The therapeutic process is a lot less frightening or doom and gloom than people often expect.

How have you seen therapy be helpful to your clients?

From my observation, therapy can create a domino effect in a person’s life. Once you start taking care of your mental health, other things start improving. Therapy helps us understand why we do things that felt unexplainable prior to therapy, but once we know why we do things, it’s easier to use the coping skills we’ve learned, and our problems start to seem manageable. Once we’re able to address our problems in a meaningful way, we often feel better about life and our place in the universe. I think for many of my clients, therapy has given them a space to speak openly about fears they didn’t talk about before and helped them overcome those fears.

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

It’s ok to shop for a therapist who is the right fit for you. You want someone you feel safe being emotionally open with and someone who is a good listener. Without those two things, it will become very hard to craft solutions to your specific situation. You also want to consider the therapist’s training and experience working with your specific issue, and whether they will challenge you to meet your goals.

What do you hope your clients walk away with?

Therapy is like dancing, except the dance is between the client and their lives, and the therapist is the dance instructor. Hopefully, you’ll be a little bit better at dancing every time you leave therapy, and you’ll feel a little better about understanding the steps. 


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

Clinician Interview – Meet Miles Cornell, LLPC

Clinician Interview – Meet Miles Cornell, LLPC

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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.

Strategies for Dealing with Social Anxiety

Strategies for Dealing with Social Anxiety

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Identity Counseling Psychology is a counseling and psychotherapy practice in Ann Arbor, MI that treats a variety of mental health concerns in children, teens and adults. Our team of therapists specializes in counseling for anxiety disorders including social anxiety. To learn more about our services or how therapy can help you or a loved one who’s struggling with social anxiety, contact us today. To find out more about our licensed clinicians and their specialty areas, check out our team page

What Is Social Anxiety?

It’s normal to feel nervous in certain social or performance situations, like how going on a first date or giving a presentation may cause butterflies in your stomach. It’s also normal to at least sometimes worry a bit too much about what others think of you. So what sets Social Anxiety Disorder, also known as Social Phobia, apart from typical nervousness? 

In social anxiety disorder, anxiety is severe and persistent, and everyday interactions cause significant feelings of fear, embarrassment and self-consciousness. Social anxiety disorder is characterized by avoidance of social and performance situations where a person might be judged, criticized or rejected, and it can be so serious that it interferes with daily routines, work, school, and important relationships.

People with social anxiety almost always experience physical symptoms, and worry about appearing visibly anxious when their anxiety is triggered. These physical symptoms might include things like blushing, stumbling over words, sweating, or rapid heart-rate, and can develop into a full-blown panic attack. People dealing with social anxiety usually know that their reactions are unreasonable, and want to control them so that they can be more social, but feel powerless against their anxiety.

Common situations that can trigger social anxiety might include:

  • Going on dates
  • Job interviews
  • Parties
  • Public speaking
  • Business meetings
  • Reading aloud in class
  • Meeting with an authority figure
  • Being the center of attention

What Are the Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder?

It’s important to note that everybody is different and it’s normal for comfort levels in social situations to vary depending on factors like personality and life experience. Some people are naturally more reserved and shy, especially during childhood, and this isn’t necessarily a sign of social anxiety disorder or that a child will one day develop social anxiety. On the other hand, some people are naturally more outgoing and extroverted, and these people can have social anxiety too.

Behavioral Symptoms

People with social anxiety disorder tend to have lower self-esteem and put a lot of energy into avoiding their triggers. As a result, social anxiety commonly manifests in the following behaviors:

  • Apologizing often
  • Avoiding situations where you  might be the center of attention
  • Avoiding smiling at people or making eye contact 
  • Finding excuses to leave a situation, like going to the bathroom 
  • Keeping conversations focused toward others rather than yourself
  • Leaving social situations abruptly
  • Mentally checking out of situations, or daydreaming
  • Not contributing or saying very little in conversations
  • Seeking frequent reassurance from others
  • Spending excessive amounts of time preparing for social situations
  • Trying to blend in or not draw attention to yourself
  • Using alcohol to cope in social situations 

Physical Symptoms

Physical symptoms can, and often do, accompany social anxiety. These might include:

  • Blushing
  • Dizziness
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Feeling that your mind has gone blank
  • Lightheadedness 
  • Muscle tension
  • Nausea
  • Shaky voice
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Upset stomach

How Does Social Anxiety Affect You? 

Social anxiety disorder, when left untreated, can significantly impact your life. Social anxiety symptoms tend to be very disruptive and can interfere with daily routines, performance at work or school, and interpersonal relationships. Social anxiety also has negative mental health consequences, as people with the disorder are at an increased risk for developing clinical depression and substance use disorders.

Harmful effects of social anxiety can include:


Self-Help Strategies for Dealing with Social Anxiety

Although social anxiety disorder generally requires help from a mental health professional like a therapist or counselor, there are some strategies that you can employ on your own to reduce symptoms, improve coping abilities, and overcome personal hurdles. Treatment isn’t always available or affordable, and if you or someone you love is struggling with social anxiety, we recommend the following self-help strategies to deal with social anxiety disorder in a healthy and effective way. 

Ask for Help with Getting Help

Sometimes, having social anxiety can make it especially difficult to seek professional help. Reaching out to strangers can be very tough for someone with social anxiety, but there are ways around this. Fear shouldn’t stop you from getting the help that you deserve for your mental health needs. If your social anxiety is keeping you from starting counseling, we recommend:

  • Asking a supportive family member or friend to contact a therapist or psychologist for you first. They can even help you set up your first appointment.
  • Writing an email to the mental health professional that you’d like to meet with instead of making a phone call. This tends to be easier for people with social anxiety. (At IDENTITY, we make it easy to write a quick online message to set up an appointment with any of our therapists through our contact page.)
  • Finding a therapist who practices online therapy. In recent years, more and more counseling practices offer online therapy. There are also apps and platforms to help you find exactly what you’re looking for in your online therapist. 

Self-Care

Self-care is always important when it comes to managing your mental health. There’s so much that you can do to care for your emotional and psychological well-being, but below we’ve narrowed down some of the best self-care strategies for social anxiety disorder in particular.  If you have social anxiety, consider making time for following self-care steps:

  • Join a local or online support group for people with social anxiety 
  • Get regular physical exercise in a way that you enjoy 
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine intake 
  • Create healthy sleeping habits
  • Read a book about social anxiety 
  • Practice mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing or yoga 
  • Volunteer in your community
  • Perform random acts of kindness for others
  • Make time for hobbies that help you relax

Practice Your Social Skills

Knowing that you’re prepared and have put in the work is always a good way to reduce anxiety. We recommend applying this mindset to your social life. Start by thinking about your recent social encounters. Try to Identify the social skills that could use the most improvement or that you most commonly avoid. Below are some strategies for practicing and developing your social and communication skills:

  • Assertiveness – Many people with social anxiety have low self-confidence and lack assertiveness when communicating with others. Learn to become more assertive by making a point to practice communicating your needs in a calm and relaxed way that respects the needs of others. Usually, this takes the form of “I” statements, like “I feel disrespected when you interrupt me in meetings.” 
  • Nonverbal communication – People with social anxiety often adopt a “closed-off” stance in social situations and are reluctant to make direct eye contact or start conversations with others. They usually do these things without even realizing it, and aren’t aware of how it may be received. Practice relaxed posture, eye contact, and holding your hands at your sides to help you appear more confident and approachable in social situations. 
  • Verbal communication – Learning how to converse well with others can be very beneficial in reducing social anxiety symptoms. Practice joining in group conversations by listening first and then making a comment about what’s already being discussed. For example, “Are you talking about the midterm exam? I couldn’t figure out the extra credit question either.” It’s also important to practice being a good listener, asking open-ended questions, and sharing stories about yourself.

Tell Others About Your Social Anxiety

Your close friends and family may already know or have an idea that you have social anxiety, but it can be therapeutic, cathartic, and helpful in everyday life to share with others about your condition. If someone is important to you, talking with them about your symptoms and experiences can help them gain a better understanding of what you’re going through, and in turn, build a deeper and stronger connection between the two of you. If you’re feeling nervous to tell a friend or loved one that you have social anxiety, try to arrange a time where you can sit down and talk quietly and uninterrupted. You can also make a list of bullet points that you feel are important; this will help you if you tend to freeze up or your mind goes blank when you’re feeling nervous. 

It can also be beneficial to talk to your employer about your social anxiety so that you can receive accommodations or support that you might need in the workplace.


How Can IDENTITY Help?

Social anxiety disorder is a chronic mental health condition, but it does respond well to treatment. Treatment from a mental health professional like a therapist, counselor, or  psychologist has been known to greatly reduce symptoms, improve confidence, and increase the quality of life for those with social anxiety.

Psychological counseling or psychotherapy, has proven to be very beneficial, and many forms of therapy are known to be effective. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most popular approach for social anxiety, as it works by helping patients identify and combat the incorrect and negative beliefs about themselves that actually worsen their social anxiety. In therapy, the clinician and the patient work together to help the patient improve their coping skills and develop stronger self-confidence, engaging in exercises like social skills training, role-playing, and exposure therapy. 

IDENTITY is a psychotherapy practice located in Ann Arbor, Michigan that specializes in treating social anxiety disorder. Our licensed therapists are experienced in helping patients overcome and cope with social anxiety, and are passionate about seeing clients achieve growth and accomplish their goals. If you’re in the Ann Arbor area and you or someone you love is dealing with social anxiety, contact us today to schedule an intake or learn more about our counseling services. 


How Does Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Work?

How Does Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Work?

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Identity Counseling Psychology is an Ann Arbor counseling and psychotherapy practice specializing in therapy for anxiety disorders, clinical depression, grief, trauma, relationships, substance abuse, panic attacks, self-esteem, identity, motivation and more. Our licensed therapists are passionate about helping patients live their most fulfilled lives, and our team is experienced in a variety of therapeutic approaches, techniques and frameworks, including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). If you’re interested in starting counseling or learning more about how ACT can help you or a loved one, contact us today. 

What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

Acceptance and commitment therapy is a modern form of psychotherapy, or talk therapy, performed by a licensed mental health professional like a therapist, counselor, psychologist, or social worker. ACT is an action-oriented approach to therapy, using mindfulness techniques to help patients develop psychological flexibility and live a life that’s more in line with their goals and values.

ACT is a unique approach to counseling because it doesn’t consider patients with psychological distress or symptoms of a mental health disorder to be pathological. Patients of ACT are not viewed as flawed or damaged, and the goal of therapy is not to “fix” them. Rather than trying to control, relieve, change or avoid a negative emotion or the side effect of a mental health condition, ACT seeks to help patients accept and learn to live with the uncomfortable cognitive patterns that other therapies try to get rid of or reduce. ACT encourages self-love and empathy for all of one’s emotions and experiences, no matter how troubling or potentially destructive they may seem, giving patients the chance to move on with their lives and thrive as the person that they are. 

What Does Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Treat?

ACT can be offered as individual counseling, couples counseling or group counseling, and as both long-term and short-term treatment. Acceptance-commitment therapy can be helpful for a wide range of clinical populations and mental health concerns. Unlike most modern forms of therapy, symptom reduction isn’t the goal when it comes to ACT, although it is almost always a byproduct. 

One objective of the acceptance-commitment approach is to help patients stop viewing their unwanted thoughts and feelings as “symptoms” of a disorder. Instead, they’re encouraged to start viewing distress, in whatever form it may come, as an uncomfortable, but harmless and temporary event in their minds, separate from who they are as people. Therapists practicing ACT know that once a mental health struggle is labeled as a “symptom,” there’s a subsequent struggle to fix or get rid of that symptom. In ACT, the goal is to accept the struggles that we have without allowing them to create even more struggles or hold us back from being who we want to be. 

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy has been used effectively to help treat the following mental health concerns:

How Does Acceptance-Commitment Therapy Work?

The main goal of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is to help patients develop psychological flexibility, which can be defined as “the ability to be present, open up, and do what matters.” In ACT sessions, patients focus on three key processes: letting go of emotional control, acceptance of unwanted private experiences (thoughts, memories, emotions, cognitive patterns, etc.), and commitment toward living a life in line with their core values. 

Letting Go of Emotional Control

ACT begins with the patient confronting their own agenda of emotional control. Most patients come to therapy in hopes of learning to control painful feelings and fix unwanted emotional responses, having failed in their past attempts to do so. The therapist encourages the patient to examine the ways in which they’ve tried to cope with, avoid or find relief from the mental health issue that they came in for. What are the strategies they have used to gain emotional control? 

The therapist and the patient run through the list together, making note of the strategies that can be harmful if used long term, and confronting which strategies actually end up making the patient feel worse than the unwanted emotion itself. They then take a realistic look at the efficacy of the emotional control strategies that may seem harmless. Have they helped consistently? Have they helped significantly? Are they worth the time, energy and money that the patient has put into them? How do they impact the patient’s quality of life? 

Some examples of strategies to control emotional discomfort might include:

  • Therapy that aims to change unwanted cognitive processes
  • Antidepressant / anti-anxiety medication
  • Drinking alcohol before bed 
  • Not opening up to new people 
  • Avoiding social events
  • Therapy that analyzes one’s childhood
  • Blaming genetics, parents, or upbringing for mental health issues
  • Deep breathing
  • Watching TV
  • Eating
  • Gambling
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Self-harm
  • Ruminating
  • Chastising oneself

When patients come to the realization that their attempts at emotional control are part of the problem, not the solution, they become more open to the idea of letting go and learning to accept themselves as they are. In ACT, patients learn that when they resist emotional discomfort, not only do they become distressed by the distress itself, but they also do whatever they can to make the feeling go away, regardless of the long term costs. 

Mindfulness

There are six core principles of ACT used to help patients develop psychological flexibility. The first four principles are techniques based in the practices of mindfulness. 

Defining features of mindfulness that are important to psychological flexibility and ACT include:

  • Living in the present moment
  • Engaging fully in what you’re doing rather than getting lost in thought
  • Bringing awareness to your here-and-now experience and accepting it with openness 
  • Calmly acknowledging your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations
  • Allowing your feelings to come and go as they are, letting them be instead of trying to control them

Values Clarification

The last two core principles of ACT employ exercises in something called values clarification, which helps patients remember the values that are most important to them in life. Once a patient defines their values, they can learn to use them as a compass, pointing them in the right direction when painful emotions or coping mechanisms begin to lead them astray or cloud their judgement. Making a commitment to acting in line with these values allows patients to take purposeful action in their lives and behave in ways that reflect them at their core, rather than in ways that are a response to their psychological discomfort.

For example, a patient seeking anxiety treatment may list “spending meaningful time with family” as one of their core values. The next time they’re invited to a triggering family gathering, they’ll still feel anxiety, despite their time in ACT. Maybe they’re scared of being judged by their parents, or maybe they’re worried about being compared to their siblings. This anxiety will still come up, but now, instead of allowing it to guide their decision making, they’ll remember their commitment to their core values and attend the family event despite their discomfort. In the past, the patient may have decided to drink a few beers before the event to take the edge off, or make an excuse and stay home. But in ACT, patients find the inner strength and willingness to accept and feel unwanted emotions so that they can live a life that reflects what they value. 

Six Core Principles of ACT

The following principles are employed throughout Acceptance and Commitment Therapy with the goal of helping patients reach a state of psychological flexibility. Through mindfulness and values clarification exercises, these principles encourage them to accept their truths and live more fulfilled, purpose driven lives.

  1. Cognitive Defusion – Defusing threatening or uncomfortable thoughts, memories, and cognitions by recognizing them as nothing more than an ever changing stream of pictures, words and sounds that exists in the mind. Understanding their temporary and harmless nature disarms them, and they’re no longer seen as threats that must be obeyed, or objective truths and facts about one’s character.  
  2. Acceptance – Making room for unpleasant emotions, sensations, urges and cognitions, allowing them to come and go without struggle or analysis. 
  3. Contact with the present moment – Bringing full awareness to the present moment with openness and receptiveness to whatever it is that one experiences.  
  4. The Observing Self – Observing thoughts and feelings as something separate from one’s true self and not part of the essence of what makes them who they are. 
  5. Values – Clarifying what’s most important to someone in their life, and what sort of person they want to be. 
  6. Committed Action – Setting goals and taking action that is guided by one’s core personal values. 

How IDENTITY Can Help

Identity Counseling Psychology offers psychotherapy services in Ann Arbor, MI to adults, teens, kids, and families for a variety of mental health issues. Our therapists are trained in mindfulness techniques and a variety of therapeutic approaches, including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. If you think that you or someone you know might benefit from ACT, mindfulness, or a multimodal approach to therapy, contact us today to set up an intake appointment or learn more about our practice.


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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.