How do I know if I need Counseling?

Welcome to this post! The fact that you are asking this question is a good sign and a great step forward in your journey of self-reflection. Sometimes simply asking the questions and seeking the answers is half the battle, so keep pushing forward! Let’s talk about counseling and get a real picture of the myths around it and how to decide if counseling is for you.

You have probably noticed the woman talking quietly in the corner to her friend, divulging that she knows a friend that started going to counseling but “that’s just between us.” Or you may have even found yourself wondering if counseling is for you but it seems too “intense”, “unnecessary” and “extreme” for what you might be going through.

When did counseling get such a bad rap? How did it become labeled as “intense”? People seem to compare counseling with those disturbing scenes from “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest” and would rather suffer in silence than be subjected to a group session monitored by Nurse Ratchet. Well, who could blame them!

All joking aside, counseling or therapy, is so much more simplistic than all of that. Like all of us, it comes in many shapes and sizes, but at the heart of counseling there is a desire to support, encourage and grow.  

Have you ever been told or encouraged to talk to a counselor and found yourself feeling offended that someone thought you were “crazy enough” to need it? Your defensiveness would make sense if you picture counseling as the following things. Here is a short list of common counseling myths:

1.     It is only for “crazy” or really “mentally ill” people

2.     It only promotes medication for treatment

3.     It will label you with a diagnosis for the rest of your life

4.     It is never-ending

5.     It is a scary place

There are so many stigmas and beliefs about counseling. Some of them come from people who have been burned by the process and some of them by people who haven’t even stepped foot in the door. That is tough. Who do you believe when it comes to making this choice? You could try something and fail or you do not try at all and find yourself in the same place you started. The choice is entirely up to you!

Here is a little insider tip: Counselors were not created equal. This is IMPORTANT. Like buying a new car or investing in a life-changing decision, it takes time, research and maybe a little trial and error to find the right fit for you. But do not let that scare you off! Anything worth having takes effort and time. You are investing in your overall mental health, and that is no small feat! My suggestion is to find the counselor that fits your personality best and one that will help you towards your personal goals. There are amazing therapists out there, do not settle for the quick fix.

So, now that we have confronted the myths about counseling, let’s check out some of the ways that counseling could be an option for you. If you can relate to some of these things, deeply consider finding a counselor or therapist in your area:

#1 You experienced a loss in your life whether in the past or recently and are having

     trouble moving forward in your “new normal”

#2 You find yourself trying to talk with friends and family about a struggle you are

     having, but don’t feel it changes anything

#3 When stress or challenges come up in your life, you don’t feel like you know how to

     handle them

#4 The only coping mechanisms you know are self-medicating (alcohol, drugs, self harm)

#5 You have a been a victim of abuse and find yourself struggling in relationships with

     others as a result of it.

#6 You are in a relationship/marriage and cant seem to stop fighting over the same things

#7 You are not feeling like yourself and don’t know why

#8 You feel like you need someone to talk to about questions and thoughts you have on life

Do any of these match what you are going through right now? Even if they touch just one aspect of your current struggle, it is worth it to keep investigating whether therapy is for you or not. I know for myself, counseling has been an awakening at various times in my life. It can feel scary to expose your deepest thoughts and vulnerable places to someone else. It is so normal to want to protect that- to keep it safe. A counselor is there to help you expose those places with as little fear as possible along the way. Therapy is a JUDGMENT-FREE zone. Phew!

Here is my CHALLENGE TO YOU: If you fit any of these descriptions or even if you do not, but are still wondering if counseling is for you, just try it! TRY IT OUT. Find a therapist that offers a free consultation and put in the legwork to really make an informed decision. What do you have to lose? Decide for yourself what YOU think about counseling and you might be surprised by what you find.

My hope for you is not that you decide counseling is for you. My hope for you is that you become open to the option that it might be. That is a step in the right direction for living a whole and balanced life; being open to the things that might scare and intimidate you. The benefits of counseling can blow any fears you have out of the water. Find a counselor in your area today and personally bust any myths you have about counseling!

Toni Greco, LPC

How to Stop Living by the "Should, Must & Have To's"

Have you ever felt anxious and unsettled about where you are in life or who you have become? Likewise, when it comes to your relationships do you feel more anxiety maintaining your current ones or considering the possibility that it all could be too much? You are NOT ALONE! These are just a few examples of ways we lock ourselves into believing there is only one good outcome for the direction of our lives. By living this way, we become so stressed out trying to reach that one outcome. It is a very common theme for people to live according to a set of rules and guidelines that at the end of the day they are not even sure they want to follow and in many cases they do not even know where they originated. If you are hearing voices in your head that say, “I should be doing this” or “ I must be at this place in my life by a certain age” or “I have to make sure I’m doing x,y & z” then you are living in a world that is ruled by the “Should, Must and Have To’s” (SMH’s). 

 Let’s break down these SMH’s:

 The Should’s say: “I Should be doing _______ in my life, relationships, career”

“And if I could not, then…”

-       I am less than

-       I am lazy

-       I am a bad person

The Must’s say: “I Must do _______ in my life, relationships, career”

“And if I did not, then…”

-       I am a bad friend

-       I am weak

-       I am selfish

 The Have To’s say: “I Have to be _______ in my life, relationship, career”

“ And if I am not, then…”

-       There is something wrong with me

-       I am a failure

-       I am just a quitter

We have all had these thoughts nagging at us, telling us to change or do it better. Truthfully, CHANGE is NOT the problem. We evolve and change constantly as our worldview shifts and our self-awareness develops. However, the MOTIVATION behind the change WILL MAKE OR BREAK YOU. The motivation for change can be out of a true desire within you to improve or it can come from fear of not meeting the expectations of the SMH’s.

Getting a handle on this kind of mental wrestling match is a GAME CHANGER for anyone wanting to have more of a voice and more control over their OWN identity. 

The SMH’s are usually connected to a familiar voice. This can be the voice of someone or something that you have given power to over the years. If you are looking to create your own expectations and break the power of unwanted voices in your head, you can ask yourself these questions:

1.     Who is the person behind this voice?

2.     Do I trust and respect the person this message belongs to?

3.     What is at the foundation of my relationship with this person?

4.     Does this person encourage my worth and value?

5.     What is my motivation for keeping these rules in place?

If people are not on the journey with you or heading towards the same goal, do they really get to have a say? That should be a BIG, FAT, NO.

Realizing the SMH’s in your life can take time and it can be helpful to bounce all your thoughts off of someone who can be impartial and non-judgmental. A counselor can be a great resource in helping you sort through what thoughts are authentic to you and what thoughts do not belong to you anymore.

Today you can unlock YOUR inner voice and connect to the power of YOUR own thoughts, goals and expectations.

Toni Greco, LPC

HOW TO MAKE PRACTICAL SENSE OF PSYCHOLOGY BUZZ WORDS : PART II

The cause for AUTHENTICITY is a call to action to be ourselves. The struggle is real, it is impossible to participate as a genuine person while trying to control what people think of us and fit into what we believe is accepted by the world. How are we to share ourselves, be open, sincere and genuine?...By accepting who we are and acting AUTHENTICALLY according to this self-acceptance.

Here are the A, B, C’s of Authenticity…

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You don’t worry ‘bout fittin’ in when you custom made.” -Drake

Exercises:

— List 10-15 personal strengths: Explore your strengths and acknowledge them. The importance of recognizing a problem is as important as recognizing the possible! Our strengths are tools to help us reach our goals! But we cannot be all these things all the time, we’re human and by human nature—limited.

— What do you do best and what would you like to change? Who can be there for you in this change? Identify 5 “limitations” and 1 to 5 other persons in your life who you trust to help you, accept you, and you can depend on to be there for you in your “limitations.”

— Notice: do you change who you are depending on the people and the circumstances? Do you not act on the same set of values and beliefs regardless of who you are with and what they expect? Do you find yourself anxious in these situations, and do you ask yourself why?

Your experience of the demand or expectation of others may be right on, but is it right that you work so hard to change for them?

Consider that the answer might not be shape shifting or hustling for love and acceptance...maybe the answer is not to “change yourself,” but instead the answer is to strengthen your relational BOUNDARIES. You need Boundaries to maintain personal Integrity in your Identity...just like you need your skin to protect your innards.

— Share your stories with those you trust. Express your feelings, ask for what you need, and make requests where it is safe, and identify the need for boundaries elsewhere. You are not alone in this thing called life. The struggle to be real is real.

                                    Jessica Ramoska, MA

How to Make Practical Sense of Psychology BuzzWords

INTENTIONALITY, simply put—is the personal expression of the relationship between what you think and what you do. Often, we do not do what we think and we think not what we do. In the middle of this confusing phenomena is where we can access the power of intentionality. Intentionality bridges the gap between out desires, beliefs, and actions. Intentionality is the way we make conscious choices.

Here are the A, B, C’s of Intentionality...

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Jessica Ramoska, MA

How to Kick the Comparison Habit

We have all heard the saying “the grass isn’t always greener”. Then why do we keep peeping over our neighbors’ fence convinced that it must be? We have a compulsion to compare and there are no limits to where we will go. But what does comparison really get us? Does it ever change our circumstances? Does it really motivate us to live a better life?

Here’s the breakdown on how COMPARISON keeps us trapped and how to get out of it FOR GOOD!

We waste a lot of time wishing, hoping and desiring to have something we think we don’t have. We think about money, the home, the kid, the body or the husband and then become convinced that we are without.

This is crucial:

·       We THINK we don’t have what we need.                         

·       We THINK we are lacking

·       We THINK we won’t have enough

·       We THINK we aren’t measuring up.

We think TOO harshly about ourselves TOO much of the time. We are so sure that the person sitting next to us on the bench has it better for A, B and C reasons. This is such an unfair comparison, and we will lose every-time. We can change what we spend time thinking about. IT IS POSSIBLE!

The mind is the battlefield. Our emotions are at war with our perspective and our perspective is at war with reality. If we aren’t practicing awareness, we begin to mindlessly fall into the COMPARISON LOOP. There is another way of living!

We can choose to compare our ever-changing feelings, thoughts and perspective to something that is unchanging- THE TRUTH. It is simplistic but powerful. Here is the truth:

-        You are worthy

-        You are enough

-        You are loveable

-        No one can take value from you (not in what they say or do)

-        You have everything you need

-        Perfection is not real

It takes PRACTICE to change our thinking and we can start multiple times a day. Maybe you can start now…if you could, for just a second, say these words to yourself:

-        I am worthy

-        I am enough

-        I am loveable

-        My value is unconditional

-        I have everything I need

-        I do not need to be perfect

Let your body sit with these words and notice what comes up for you while you voice these thoughts and beliefs. You are opening a door for the truth to come in. Feeling this power within can be uncomfortable at first. That is okay, it takes time to develop self-acceptance.

Practice sitting in your yard and see the grass for what it is. Realize that it is beautiful, carefully planted and uniquely yours!

If you find yourself overwhelmed by the comparison loop, there are great mental and emotional tools that can be learned. Seek out some support from a counselor and they can talk you through some really helpful methods to break the cycle.

Toni Greco, LPC

Acknowledging our Need

“No man is an island...”

“No man is an island,” is a quote from a poem written almost 400 years ago by John Donne. This quote is just as relevant today as it was almost 400 years ago, as it speaks to the past and the present proclivity of man to isolate, separate, and go alone when in reality we have an innate need for relationship. Why do we go alone? Why hole up on an island? More often than not it is because we are afraid. We fear being hurt, betrayed, rejected, disappointed, taken advantage of, feeling flawed, unlovable, and most of all we fear losing control. We believe maintaining control helps to prevent these unwanted feelings and experiences, but in actuality the false sense of security remains for only a short time. At some point we begin to realize that our need to control is interfering with our other needs, most commonly the need for protection. Our need to protect ourselves from pain often presents itself as protecting or pushing away from others. It can become very lonely living on an island. Isolating, separating, and protecting ourselves from people feels like a safe bet, but it ultimately leaves us susceptible to depression, anxiety, insecurity and deep dissatisfaction.

Our true nature breeds both the need and desire to be connected as human beings—to be known, accepted, and loved. Having the desire for interconnectedness is one thing. Admitting and accepting that we have a need for connection to others is a whole other challenge.

Acknowledging our need for people is a huge step towards opening ourselves up to relationship, to be seen and to be known. Revealing we have a need for others can be terrifying; what if no one wants to meet my need? What if admitting my need is just confessing my weakness so someone can use it against me and hurt me? If I let my guard down will I get hurt? Will I lose myself? These are some examples of the fearful thoughts that easily overcome us and drive us to continue the cycle of self-protection.

We can all present the hard cold facts and reasons as to why our fear of relationships is real and why our self-protection is necessary. What we need to ask ourselves is whether this fear and self-protection is interfering with our current relationships. Do you feel lonely, disconnected, unknown, insecure, dissatisfied, or anxious?

We can detach from these powerful emotions and learn to live freely and independently in the midst of relationship. It is in the midst of relationships where we actually have the opportunity to be our true selves, the true selves that have needs. It is possible to be authentic and be in relationship with others mutually and independently. Let us work through these fears and needs together that we may thrive with one another.

 

Jessica Ramoska, MA