Blog : Therapy

How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?

How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?

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What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a popular form of talk therapy performed by a mental health counselor or therapist. CBT is a highly structured, goal oriented approach to psychotherapy, meant to help patients problem-solve and work through specific target issues. The goal of CBT is to help patients understand how their thoughts, perceptions and feelings directly impact their responses and behavior in challenging situations.

CBT is based on the principle that our thought patterns shape how we see the world, and when our thought patterns are negative or incorrect, this can lead to unhelpful behaviors and emotional or psychological distress. Through CBT, patients are made aware of inaccurate and harmful ways of thinking so that they can view challenges more clearly and react to them more effectively.

What Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Treat?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be a helpful tool for anyone. Not everyone who benefits from CBT has a mental health condition, but it can be used to treat mental health conditions. These can include:

CBT can also help people address emotional challenges, such as:

How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is grounded in the idea that perception is, or at least strongly impacts, reality, and that a person’s beliefs surrounding a challenging situation or experience determine their emotional and behavioral response to that situation or experience. A Cognitive Behavioral Therapist’s goal is to help patients pinpoint inaccurate or dysfunctional thought cycles that may be causing or adding to a distressing challenge that they’re facing, and then encourage them to adjust those thoughts. This can be difficult, as thinking patterns are often deeply ingrained in us and established in childhood. Through CBT, patients are assisted in gradually recognizing and changing harmful cognitive distortions, allowing them to perceive distressing situations more clearly and handle them more confidently in the real world.

Common Cognitive Distortions Addressed in CBT

Cognitive errors, or disruptive, inaccurate thought cycles are often pinpointed and worked through during CBT. Common cognitive distortions that are addressed in therapy include:

  • Viewing the world in extremes – believing that things are black or white with nothing in between.
  • Excessive self-blame – believing that when bad things happen, it must be your fault.
  • Overgeneralizing – believing that if something is true in one setting or one experience, then it must always be true.
  • Taking details out of context – forming conclusions based on isolated (usually negative) details of events or experiences while ignoring the rest of the context and positive aspects.
  • Personalization – believing that the things that other people do and say are always somehow related to you, causing you to take everything personally.  
  • Jumping to conclusions – assuming that you already know the thoughts, feelings and motivations of others without asking them directly, or automatically predicting the worst outcome of a situation or event.
  • Mistakenly seeing situations as catastrophic – expecting disaster or tragedy to strike at any moment and giving greater weight to the worst possible outcome of a given situation.

Changing Automatic Negative Thoughts

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works by helping patients recognize and change automatic negative thoughts. If people learn negative or destructive ways of thinking at an early age and repeat these thought patterns throughout their lives, they can begin to think this way automatically, regardless of situation or context. When these negative thoughts surface impulsively and are accepted as true, they can have a tremendous impact on a person’s mood, despite not being based in reality.

In CBT, therapists work with patients to identify any automatic negative thoughts that may be contributing to or exacerbating emotional distress. Patients are encouraged to examine these thoughts compared with evidence from the real-life situations and events that surround them. Then, they must confront whether or not reality supports or refutes their way of thinking, allowing them to take a more objective look at the thoughts that contribute to their negative emotions.

Becoming aware of automatic negative thoughts that are unrealistic and impact your mood is the first step in engaging in healthier thinking patterns. Through goal-setting and practice, CBT therapists aim to gradually adjust how patients think, feel and react in challenging situations, transforming any thought patterns that stand in the way of productive or positive outcomes. By changing automatic negative thought patterns that cause patients distress, that distress decreases and patients can begin to feel better.  

What Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Look Like?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy typically begins with your therapist or counselor learning more about you. This period of gaining background knowledge is less structured, and usually consists of a few sessions in which you’re asked questions about your goals, challenges, present situation and past experiences. Because CBT is goal oriented, it’s important for your therapist to have a deep understanding of you and your concerns in order to determine the best plan of action to make the most out of your sessions.

Steps in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy consists of four core steps.

  1. Identifying challenges in your life. These can vary widely. Some examples could be, divorce, grief, a medical condition, or a mental health disorder. Your mental health counselor might spend some time with you prioritizing these challenges and helping you decide what goals you want to work on.
  2. Becoming aware of how you think and feel about these challenges. Your therapist will encourage you to reflect on and share your beliefs, self-talk, interpretations and perceptions regarding the issues you’ve identified.
  3. Recognizing negative thought patterns and behavior. You will be asked to pay attention to your emotional, physical and behavioral reactions in challenging situations, and reflect on if and how they may be contributing to your distress.
  4. Reshaping inaccurate and harmful thinking. Your therapist will help you confront whether or not your perceptions and thought patterns regarding certain events or situations are accurate and realistic. Established ways of thinking about yourself, your life, and others can be difficult to examine objectively, but a trained mental health professional can help you see things more clearly. Eventually, new, healthier habits and responses can be formed, and with practice, become second nature and replace the old ones.

CBT Learning Tools

There are a variety of tools and techniques implemented by therapists in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to help teach patients how to identify and adjust harmful negative thinking. These include:

  • Journaling
  • Mindfulness
  • Relaxation
  • Social, physical, and emotional thinking exercises
  • Regular discussion
  • Role-playing activities
  • Gradual exposure to things that cause fear
  • Homework assignments

Homework Assignments

It may sound odd, but homework is a crucial part of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Since CBT is a short-term therapeutic approach with a limited number of sessions, homework assignments help reinforce what was learned in therapy. It’s one thing to identify and understand negative thought cycles, but it’s much harder to adjust those cycles and implement new thinking and behavior in the real world. Homework also gives patients the tools to continue bettering themselves and strengthening their positive thinking after they’ve completed their sessions and CBT has come to an end.

Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy might not cure a mental health condition or make a distressing situation go away, but it does help people cope with challenges in a healthy and constructive way, as well as help improve their confidence and self-esteem. A growing number of mental health professionals are using CBT on a regular basis or have begun incorporating it into their practices alongside other therapeutic approaches.

There is much to learn from CBT, and even if it can’t fix life’s issues, there are many benefits of going through the process. The following are some common positive takeaways for patients after completing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

CBT can help patients through…

  • Establishing and meeting attainable goals
  • Letting go of self-blame
  • Facing fears
  • Seeing problems more clearly
  • Challenging assumptions
  • Distinguishing between facts and irrational thoughts
  • Understanding how past experiences shape present beliefs
  • No longer fearing the worst
  • Seeing things from a new perspective
  • Becoming more aware of their moods
  • Avoiding generalizations
  • Focusing on the present
  • Better understanding the motivations and behaviors of other people

How Identity Can Help

Identity Counseling Psychology is a counseling and psychotherapy practice in Ann Arbor, Michigan made up of a group of passionate, licensed therapists that specialize in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Identity helps adults and adolescents cope with and manage mental health issues like anxiety, depression, stress, and relationship issues. If you live in the Ann Arbor area and are interested in, or have questions about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, please contact us today.

Clinician Interview – Meet Tim Wilkins!

Clinician Interview – Meet Tim Wilkins!

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Tim Wilkins, MA, LPC

Interview with Tim Wilkins

Check out our interview with Ann Arbor counselor and owner of Identity Counseling Psychology, Tim Wilkins. Tim is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) practicing psychotherapy in Ann Arbor, MI.  Click here to schedule an intake with Tim.

What do you specialize in?

Mainly, I specialize in anxiety disorders and issues related to identity.  My passion is to help others learn to listen to their mind and body in a real way. Through cultivating this type of mindful awareness, I believe that we can access what needs to be accessed for real change to occur. People that I commonly see struggle with things like anxiety, panic attacks, life transitions, sexual or gender identity concerns, life crises, and spiritual issues.

What made you want to become a therapist?

Growing up, I always thought that financial security would greatly contribute to my happiness (I know…). However, like many things in life, once I achieved this, it only made me realize that this was mostly an illusion. Many fantasies are this way. We think fulfilling the fantasy will make us satisfied, so we pursue them relentlessly only to be left with disappointment or worse. This experience, along with a powerful experience as a summer camp counselor, ignited in me the desire to help people in a real and direct way. My own internal work around how I wanted to do this ultimately led me to the field of counseling.

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

First and foremost, they can expect a space of non-judgement. The counseling room is different than the rest of life. It is a time and a space set apart from normal life in which clients can engage with themselves in an honest and genuine way. A typical session lasts just under an hour. Therapy is highly individualized based on clients’ needs, however, it generally will consist of a check in, a main topic for the session, a possible intervention (such as a mindful breathing exercise or a guided meditation), and a discussion about the plan going forward. I use evidence-based practices from psychodynamic and existential theoretical frameworks. It is important that therapy be grounded in theory yet have the flexibility to adapt to client needs each session. Clients will hopefully find my style to be warm, inviting, and empathic.


How have you seen therapy be helpful to your clients?

Therapy is often a drastic interruption to one’s habitual patterns. Cultivating a new level of self-awareness can often lead to a trying time. For this reason, many may have the experience of things getting harder at first. This is likely because real work is being done and clients are facing their struggles head on, maybe for the first time. The good news is that there is often light and air on the other side of the mountain. Therapy is about vulnerability on many levels, so engaging with it authentically will often lead to a new way of being in the world. It will hopefully awaken clients to their deeply rooted defense mechanisms, sub-personalities, fears and passions, and ultimately to their inner self. I believe this type of work is helpful and will hopefully lead to the type of change my clients are interested in, but it takes courage and is not easy.

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

All the research suggests that regardless of the theoretical orientation or therapeutic style, the most important ingredient in the therapeutic process is the real relationship that occurs between the therapist and the client. Though there are professional boundaries, it is a relationship similar to other relationships. Clients may find that the issues they face in their relationships outside of therapy could often pop up in therapy between the client and the therapist through a process called transference. If this happens, it is a sign that we are truly getting somewhere helpful.

What do you hope your clients walk away with?

I hope my clients walk away with a deeper sense of self and self-awareness that they can integrate into their relationships and work in the world. If there is an acute presenting problem such as recurring panic attacks, I want my clients to walk away with tools to cope with their symptoms. However, more importantly, I want my clients to walk away with the ability and willingness to listen to their symptoms and to allow the symptoms to mobilize them toward genuine transformation.

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

Clinician Interview – Meet Ariana Thelen!

Clinician Interview – Meet Ariana Thelen!

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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!

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Lauren Proux, LMSW

Interview with Lauren Proux

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

What do you specialize in?

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

What made you want to become a therapist?

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

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

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

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

How have you seen therapy benefit your clients?

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

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

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

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

What do you hope your clients walk away with?

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

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

Clinician Interview – Meet Nicole Frasier!

Clinician Interview – Meet Nicole Frasier!

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

Interview with Nicole Frasier

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

What do you specialize in?

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

What made you want to become a therapist?

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

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

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

How have you seen therapy benefit your clients?

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

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

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

What do you hope your clients walk away with?

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

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

11 Ways to Reduce Anxiety Without Medication

11 Ways to Reduce Anxiety Without Medication

At IDENTITY, we often see clients who have been on medication before. While there are times when medication may be necessary for psychological health, most people find that they experience side effects and desire to reach a point where they can thrive in life without using medication. It’s common for many of our clients to have the goal of getting off of their anxiety or depression medication. I am passionate about partnering with my clients to achieve this goal.

Below are 11 common ways to reduce anxiety without using medication.

  • Sweat

    • Exercise—it’s a natural mood booster
    • Go for a walk outside
    • Go swimming
    • Do yard work
  • Fuel your mind

    • Eat more leafy greens, whole grains, and antioxidant rich foods
    • Less caffeine
    • Less alcohol
    • Drink more water
  • Words of affirmation

    • Leave yourself little notes where you know you will see them
      • I can do this!
      • This too shall pass
      • It’s not a bad life, it’s just a bad day
  • Get creative

    • Listen to music
    • Journal your thoughts
    • Paint/draw/color
    • Join a pottery class
  • Vent it out

    • Talk to someone
      • Friend
      • Trusted colleague
      • Family member
      • Talk with a Therapist
  • Focus on breath and remain present

    • Take a few deep breaths when you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed
    • Calm yourself with positive words of affirmation
      • I can do this
      • I acknowledge my self-worth
      • I love myself
      • I am strong
      • I am brave
  • Create a peaceful environment 

    • Light your favorite candle
    • Diffuse essential oils—Lavender/Frankincense/Chamomile/Citrus
    • Take a bath
  • Furry friends

    • Pet animals—they are naturally calming
    • Volunteer at your local animal shelter
    • Take your own pet for a walk
    • Snuggle your pet
  • Sleep

    • Use your bed as a place of serenity—only use it for sleep related behaviors
    • Get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep per night
  • Reward yourself

    • For everything you accomplish/do that you don’t like, treat yourself
      • Go to the movies
      • Watch an episode of your favorite show on Netflix
      • Go out with a friend
      • Buy/make your favorite meal/dessert
  • Unplug

    • Reduce your internet/phone use
    • No Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Snapchat for a full day
      • If this isn’t “possible”, start with an hour and gradually increase your time away from electronics

 

I would love to partner with you on your journey towards reducing your anxiety. If you are interested in coming in to begin the process of therapy, or if you have any questions for me, feel free to contact me via the contact form below!

About the author: Nicole is a therapist at Identity Counseling Psychology in Ann Arbor, MI. Nicole specializes in working with people who experience anxiety and who feel stuck in life. Nicole is passionate about helping clients go from feeling stuck to feeling empowered, from feeling trapped to feeling free, and from feeling worried to feeling relieved.

Nicole is a Limited-License Psychologist (LLP) practicing in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Nicole graduated with a Master of Science degree in Clinical Psychology from Madonna University.

 

 

 

 

I Want To Leave My Job, But I Feel Stuck

I Want To Leave My Job, But I Feel Stuck

Have you ever been in this place? Maybe you’ve had this job for a while. Maybe it worked for you before. However, maybe there has been something growing inside telling you that you have something more to offer.

While there is a part of you that knows it would be healthy to leave your job, maybe for some reason you feel paralyzed by the thought of leaving. This situation can contribute to anxiety, depression, mood issues, and even relationship issues.

Let’s dive into some common reasons why we tend to remain complacent with our jobs and continue floating through life when we know it isn’t the best for us.

Leaving my job means changing a part of my identity

Even if we know we’re in a job that is slowly eating away at us, it is still a part of our identity. We spend a ton of hours at work each week, and after a while it becomes a part of you.

Maybe you’ve spent the last several years developing relationships with other people at work. Finding a new job means making new relationships, establishing a new reputation, and changing a part of our identity. The process of searching for a new career or job is really about becoming more clear about our identity.

Career complacency and “comfort” trick us into staying

Let’s face it. You’ve been in this job for long enough that you can do most of it with one hand tied behind your back. You know exactly what to expect each day, and you know exactly how incredibly bored you will end up a lot of the time. Staying in a job that you despise because it feels like the most comfortable option may be the #1 thing that prevents you from growing.

Pressure from friends and family to stay

Maybe your Dad told you that this was a great job and that you shouldn’t leave or take it for granted. Maybe your friends have told you to stay because hey, it’s a job, and nobody likes their job. These words are often spoken by people who also don’t like their job and who may be trying to convince themselves of something rather than you. Friends and family are important, but recognize when they are truly helping you to grow, and when they may be contributing to the thing that’s holding you back.

I’ve failed before or I lack confidence

Maybe you’d tried it before. You had a dream to start you own business, move out west and become a photographer, or maybe you weren’t able to get yourself through college or grad school. Previous failures often hold us back from taking the steps in life that will lead to personal growth. The funny thing about failing is that it is most often the source of success. As Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve failed over and over again in my life… And that is why I succeed.

I can’t tell you how many therapy clients there are that I’ve worked with who attribute their current happiness to that time when they bottomed out. Sometimes you have to know where the bottom is in order to ascend into the person you know you can be.

I’m not sure exactly what job I want next

Whenever I have counseling clients who have no idea what to do next in life, I ask them to respond to the following 4 questions:

  1. What are you GOOD at?

  2. What do you absolutely LOVE to do?

  3. What are the VALUES that you want to live your life according to?

  4. How can you use what you love to HELP others or society at large?

I work with people to help breakdown the expectations that may have been placed in them from other sources (parents, teachers, religious leaders, friends), and focus in on what they truly value. What are the values that you truly want to live by? We will work together to identify how a career might fit into your values system and growth process.

Are you interested in Career Counseling?

Do you want to make a significant change in your life?

Talking with a licensed counselor, psychologist, or therapist at our counseling practice in Ann Arbor can be a great way to kick start the kind of change that you’re looking for. We’d love to work with you on a plan that will allow you to grow.

Contact us to schedule an intake!

 

 

 

10 Ways Therapy Can Be Helpful

10 Ways Therapy Can Be Helpful

What is the role of a therapist?

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

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

1. Therapy can hold you accountable

  • Behavioral, emotional, and relational accountability

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

2. Therapy allows you to be honest with yourself

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

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

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

  • Some information in the brain is not readily available

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

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

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

  • The relationship between therapist and client is a real relationship

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

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

  • Humans deny and repress items that feel threatening

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

6. Therapy can help build skills for facing life challenges

  • Practical skill building

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

7. Therapy can help you understand your thought processes better

  • Humans develop predictable thought loops

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

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

8. Therapy can help you build healthy habits

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

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

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

  • Many of my clients find themselves stuck

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

10. Therapy can help you learn to love yourself

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

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

Are you interested in engaging in the process of therapy?

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

 

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

 

 

5 Methods to Battle Depression

5 Methods to Battle Depression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Establish a healthy routine

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

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

5. Identify what it means to you to live intentionally

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

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

contact IDENTITY to schedule and intake

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

3 Common Questions from Parents of Adolescents

3 Common Questions from Parents of Adolescents

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

First, what is Adolescence?

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

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

1. Why does my child seem different?

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

About the author: Tim Wilkins, MA, is the owner of Identity Counseling Psychology PLLC, a counseling private practice in Ann Arbor, MI, where he works with adolescents on their journey toward self-discovery and independence. Tim also works with adults and parents of adolescents who struggle with anxiety. In addition to managing his counseling private practice, Tim teaches psychology courses in the Behavioral Sciences department at Jackson College and is currently pursuing a PhD in Clinical Psychology through Fielding Graduate University.