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.

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. 


Common Anxiety Issues in College Students

Common Anxiety Issues in College Students

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

Anxiety is characterized by the tendency to: 

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

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

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

Sleep Disruption

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

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

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

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

Financial Stress

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

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

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

Loneliness

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

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

Academic Pressure

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

Often students feel this pressure to be perfect from:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Social Media

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

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

How Therapy Can Help

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


3 Ways to Reduce Stress Using Mindfulness

3 Ways to Reduce Stress Using Mindfulness

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

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You know… one of those emails.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because all we have are moments to live. 

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

1.) 3 Minute Mindful Breathing 

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

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

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

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

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

2.) Mindful Appreciation 

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

 

3.) Mindful Body Scan

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

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

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

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