Areas of Specialty
Life Transitions and Resilience
We all go through transitions in our lives, some that are unwelcome and some that are positive. Both types can cause stress as we adjust to the changes that accompany them. Examples include: graduating from college or graduate school and entering the full-time work world; getting married or committing to a partner; child-rearing from new births to emptying the nest to parenting adult children; death of a loved one, divorce or loss of a significant relationship; loss of job or starting a new one; caring for a loved one who is ill; retirement, downsizing and aging. Any of these phases of life can be challenging as we learn to cope and adjust to circumstances that we can’t control. Learning to be resilient helps us enhance our inner character strengths so that we are not defeated by difficult life circumstances. It gives us the ability to manage well, independent of what life events occur. Like a San Francisco skyscraper designed to sway in a quake, we too have to learn to absorb and bow with the times that cause us to feel unsteady.
For people who are struggling with depression, life can be completely overwhelming. We may feel that we are in a fog, unmotivated or unable to find pleasure in things we previously enjoyed, leaving us exhausted, irritable, or hopeless. Depression affects every aspect of ourselves: cognitive, emotional, physical and spiritual. People who are experiencing depression often feel isolated and different, even though depression is one of the most common and most treatable of all mental health conditions. When we have a lack of energy and a lack of optimism, it can feel like change is just too hard or that these symptoms will never get better. Through counseling, clients can achieve insight and gain skills to improve their quality of life and engage in relationships and activities that are positive and nurturing.
Anxiety and Stress
Anxiety and stress are normal parts of our lives, but when they interfere with our daily functioning, it is time to intervene and learn strategies to reclaim balance and insight. Our anxiety often manifests itself in constant worry or rumination. The dilemma posed by worrying is that it presents us with both the desire for control as well as the discomfort of uncertainty. We are drawn toward control, even when we know it to be unattainable. It is often said: don’t spend time crossing bridges you may never get to. There’s a reason this adage is so overused – it is sage advice. It makes sense to stay on this side of the bridge, because it is neither helpful nor productive to imagine or fixate on the demons on the other side that you might not ever encounter. Quieting the mind is not easy, but by learning strategies to manage it, we can significantly better our quality of life.
Grief and Loss
Grief is a natural response to losses in our lives. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. There is no prescribed time frame nor are there specific stages we must pass through. We each experience grief in our own way, often in waves that surge and diminish. When we lose someone we care about, we may find that we feel listless, disconnected, even despairing. Although we tend to think of loss in terms of death, it comes in many forms. It might stem from the loss of a job, or a home or a friendship. It may be the loss of our anticipations and dreams, a loss of energy, a loss of confidence, or a loss of youth. There is not a recipe or a linear path for grief. It is a process that may involve many emotions including sadness, anger, guilt, relief and others. Talking about your grief is a good first step in working through the pain and changes you are feeling.
Adapting to Your Own or Loved One’s Serious Illness
In dealing with our own or a loved one’s illness, we have to learn how to function and move forward in our lives, even when we have undergone a seismic change, even when we don’t know what will come next. In dealing with the course of an illness, life rarely follows a straight trajectory. Countless variables must be assimilated and addressed. Living in the face of illness may strap us on a roller coaster of emotions (concern, hope, frustration, fear, guilt), and often draws us into an exhausting vortex in caring for ourselves and/or our loved ones. The whirlwind experience of serious illness can take a catastrophic toll on both the patient and the caregivers. Developing tools to manage life during the limbo of illness is essential for both our health and mental health.
Healing from Trauma
Surviving trauma can make a person feel changed, overwhelmed and isolated. Many people experience emotional symptoms (such as anger, stress, fear, irritability); physical symptoms (such as fatigue, insomnia, pain, being easily startled); cognitive symptoms (such as difficulty concentrating, intrusive thoughts or nightmares, decreased self-esteem and self-efficacy); and/or interpersonal effects (relationship conflict, withdrawal, impaired performance at school or work). Having these type of reactions are common and, in most cases, will slowly decrease over time. But for many people, symptoms can be persistent and trauma specific treatment has been shown to be effective for reducing distress and restoring a sense of security.
Interpersonal Skills and Self-Esteem
Learning how to communicate effectively with family, friends and colleagues can go a long way towards transforming our lives from conflict and defensiveness to trust and understanding. By assessing our own roles in troubled relationships and developing the skills of assertiveness and empathy, we can express our own needs and desires while respecting and honoring those of others. Likewise, developing coping skills that enhance our sense of worthiness and esteem can be instrumental in experiencing our lives with confidence and joy.
Finding Purpose and Meaning
Living a life of purpose gets to core of who you are: your beliefs, values, passions and priorities. Finding meaning is about following your heart and soul to become the person you are meant to be: someone who is fulfilled and authentic. In today’s overly busy world, we can become lost, alien to the things that are important to us. How do we get back to living with intention, to move in this world with values and choices that reflect who we truly are and who we aspire to be? Therapy can be an excellent way to focus on those big picture, existential questions that transcend our day-to-day responsibilities and concerns.