September 19, 2020
Hopefully everyone enjoyed their summer and is getting ready for all the fun that a Michigan fall/winter brings. This time of year can be challenging in normal times but with the continued threat of COVID-19, it is an even bigger than normal challenge. What an unusual time in our history as the kids get ready to return to school, mostly in a virtual setting, and for many adults who continue to work from home–or not at all.
At LOCC, we continue to offer in person and online services to meet your needs. We have a variety of trained and knowledgeable therapists to help you navigate through these troubled times. Many people are currently feeling and overall sense of hopelessness as they try to grapple with events that leave them little to no control. Those who seem to be doing the best are those who have been able to adjust. For some people, that’s not a strong point. Luckily this is something you are not stuck with.
Also, wanted to take a moment to introduce the newest member to our team: Deanna Martens. She is a licensed social worker and has a lot of experience in a variety of settings. Check out her profile and see if she is a good fit for what you want to work on.
May 5, 2020
Announcing a few changes. We are saying goodbye to a few members of our team: Jillian Bashi and Karyn Skiba have left and are leaving behind some big shoes to fill. Also retiring is our receptionist, Linda–she answered our phones for the past 4 years and was the first contact for many of our clients. We wish her well in the next chapter of her life. Welcoming Jeannine into the fold to pick up where Linda left off. She bring a lot of experience working with people and we are counting on the transition being a smooth one. Also, we added another therapist: Lindsay Simmons. She is a limited licensed social worker who has a lot of experience working with children and teens and we are excited to have her joining our staff. As with life, there are bound to be changes–some good, some not so much. As much as we will miss those who have left, we are grateful for the new pieces we have added to our team to help you achieve your goals.
April 25, 2020
A significant change in the way we do things lately both at our clinic and in our society is moving toward online interactions instead of face-to-face. We have had to make changes on our end to limit the likelihood of exposure to COVID-19 for ourselves and our clients, and while it has been an adjustment some have been unwilling to make for the ones who have joined us for online sessions, the feedback has been largely positive. We use HIPPA compliant servers and they are easy to navigate, so even those who are not computer savvy should be able to figure it out relatively easily. Face-to-face sessions will always be the preferred method for most of us, but especially now we are finding that this technology is a good next option. If you have been putting off trying therapy due to the restrictions, give this a try. Many of us were not excited about going the online route but have come to see the benefits–hopefully you will too. Stay well.
April 1, 2020
As much of our society is enduring quarantines at home and facing job and economic uncertainty it is important to remember what is truly important and make time for those who are most important to us. If it’s just a brief phone call or text to say hi or let someone know you were thinking about them, or family game night, or just having dinner together–try to take advantage of this unusual time in our history to step back from our busy lives and appreciate it a little.
On an unrelated note, we are adding a couple more members to our counseling family: Eric Craig MA, LLP, and Jeannie Craig MS, LPC. They bring a lot of experience and enthusiasm to our team. Please take a moment and look at their bios. We are glad to have them.
In anticipation of the COVID-19 virus effects, we have taken steps to create a safe environment for our clients and therapists. We have not only taken steps to add an additional waiting area to help with the social distancing but we have also added the ability for our clients to engage in telehealth therapy if they prefer. We are using HIPPA compliant software that is pretty easy to navigate. If you wish to pursue this avenue of therapy let your therapist know and you can easily get set up for it. We do ask that our clients have consideration for us as well–if you have signs of a cold/virus (i.e. fever, chest pain, runny nose) let us know and we can either cancel or hold the session online. If everyone does their part we can get through this more easily. Thank you for your cooperation.
March 21, 2010
Welcoming new therapist: Saying hi to our newest member–LaToya Thompson MA, LLPC. She brings a lot of background experience in working with children and teens as well as those with developmental disabilities. We are glad to have her as part of our counseling team.
March 5, 2020
How to Recognize When You Are Overwhelmed and Need to Re-prioritize
We’ve all had days where it feels like there are a million things to do but no clear place to start. In most cases, all we need is a few deep breaths and some serious prioritization. Unfortunately, if you are suffering from burnout, it makes it hard to focus and make decisions on how to spend your time. Instead of feeling motivated to push forward, burnout amplifies your feelings of being overwhelmed to the point of exhaustion. You may feel frustrated, but you don’t have to feel powerless. By learning how to recognize when you are overwhelmed or getting to the point of burnout, you can start to take control of your time and rebuild your focus, energy, and motivation in a healthy way.
We live in a world of constant motion, buzzing phones, non-stop emails, and unexpected life happenings on a daily basis. With a steady and persistent accumulation of this stress it leads us to feel overwhelmed and shut down completely. Or worse yet, we start taking it out on others because we can’t seem to manage our emotions anymore.
It is hard to remember when we started being busy all the time! Yet we continuously and willingly take on more work responsibilities, sign up our kids for more activities, say yes to volunteering, try to eat healthy and work out, and for some of us, we can’t seem to manage to fit that into our already over packed schedule we feel guilty, which also leads to more feelings of overwhelm and burnout. We become consumed with our to-do lists and what we are not accomplishing; over what we actually are accomplishing. Feelings of inadequacy start to creep in.
It is powerful to accept these feelings and deal with them instead of ignoring them, or worse yet shoving them down. If you are looking at your to do list, and thinking there is no way I can get this all done! More than likely it is an unrealistic to-do list and a change in mind set may be in order.
Let’s hit the pause button and take stock of what is truly urgent. Once you do this, you can start to prioritize and accomplish those things that have been keeping you up at night. Then you can also decide what tasks you can realistically delegate to others, or better yet release them altogether! Yes, we are allowed to let go of some of the responsibilities we took on!
Focus on one thing a day until you can start adding things back onto your plate. Don’t underestimate simplifying your to do list and your schedule. Allowing yourself the space to rest, which will allow you start working from a place of rest. I know this sounds like an oxymoron at this point. However, when you allow yourself to take a step back and think about the lifestyle you truly want to live, it is a game changer. When I refer to lifestyle I am not talking about your possessions and finances necessarily. I am talking about what are your core values are and what is most important to you and how you want to spend your time. Until we define what is truly important to us and how we want to wake up in the morning, it is hard to let go of those feelings of overwhelm.
When we regularly revisit our priorities to make sure they are realistic, valid and connected to our bigger goals, we can start saying no to those activities that are needlessly filling up our calendar. When we are intentional and deliberate about how we are spending our time, feelings of relief come and we find we have the time to make ourselves a priority.
More to come in the following days in regards to burnout and overwhelm! Let’s work on being emotionally, physically, and spiritually healthy!
March 5, 2020
Burnout Verses Compassion Fatigue
As a caregiver you may experience times when the fatigue and frustration of providing care for your loved one can border on burnout or go beyond that to something called, Compassion Fatigue. Yes, Compassion Fatigue is a real thing! Although caring for my mother-in law was a privilege and joy, there were times that were difficult and I started to lose touch with the outside world. I didn’t know how to ask for help or even what I might need after a while. I felt if I were to keep going and not stop I would be okay. If I stopped I would lose momentum! What we don’t realize is that in these moments, we need to focus on rest, delegate responsibilities, and focus on good nutrition.
After my caregiving days of foster parenting and taking care of my mother in law I realized that I had compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue is different from burnout in the sense that compassion fatigue is an extreme state of tension and stress that can result in feelings of hopelessness, indifference, pessimism and disinterest in people. Most caregivers have heard of burnout but not of compassion fatigue. I personally tried to get through these moments by focusing on my faith, finding short term respite and self-care. I relied on a few close friends to spend time with. Spending time having fun with them allowed me to relax and feel as if I still had normal parts of my life. However, I do caution you, as to what information you share with people. Your friends and family are well meaning, but may not understand exactly what you are going through and the amount of decisions and the importance of decisions you are making. It may be best to talk to a professional and put a plan in place. For me personally, I learned what I needed to stay emotionally, spiritually and physically healthy. I relied on a Life Coach, other caregivers going through something similar, and informational resources. I kept it simple!
Compassion fatigue also differs from burnout in that it may cause caregivers to experience a lack of empathy for those in their care. It is hard to understand this as a caregiver, after all we took on the role of caregiver out of compassion and empathy for our family members or loved ones.
Here Are Some Warning Signs of Compassion Fatigue
- Feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and drained
- Avoidance and not wanting to be around your loved one
- A decrease in patience and tolerance
- Angry outbursts that are uncharacteristic of your personality
- Pessimism and hopelessness
- Heightened anxiety
- Finding it difficult to make decisions.
If you begin noticing any of these signs, the next step is to make yourself a priority! Remember that compassion fatigue is not black and white. Everyone’s threshold is different. Some days will be better than others, depending on the other events in your life. Stress will vary. Although you may be uncomfortable with your behavior, it is normal for the situation you are in.
Schedule time that is yours alone each day to maintain your own mental health. Do something you enjoy every day. Allowing yourself to self-focus will relieve some of the stress and give you a sense of normalcy. I urge you to keep things simple!
If you find yourself already experiencing these feelings and or symptoms, take a step back and find a professional to talk to. Developing a self-care plan and setting up goals to prevent compassion burnout is necessary for you and your loved ones
March 1, 2020
Welcoming two newest members of our staff: Nanci Robinson and Denise Petree. Nanci has weekend coaching and education classes to help with alcohol abuse and Denise is a Life Coach who helps people get their lives into a better place, teaching them skills to help them achieve goals. They are both a great supplement to our regular therapy sessions. Check them out!
Biggest problems in relationships?
Money? Children? Intimacy? Religion/politics?
How about communication—many of the other issues listed can be resolved if we can learn to communicate.
What is communication?
When we talk about communicating, we mean that when we have said something to someone else, that person understands it the same way we do. Oftentimes, we have breakdowns at this point because either as speakers we do not take the time to ensure that we are being understood correctly—just because a person says they understand you does not guarantee that person actually does. Use of active listening skills is key.
Ask: What did you hear me say? This is especially important if the other person seems to be reacting differently than we would have expected. As a listener, we can do this as well—once the speaker has stopped talking we might ask, Is this what you meant?–and then summarize what you heard. This would be especially helpful to do if the speaker’s message is arousing some negative feelings in us. Very often, arguments and problems in relationships start over messages that were misinterpreted.
Communication is also important in learning to establish healthy boundaries with others as well as asserting our needs.
So what are boundaries? These can be tricky to define but essentially they are guidelines for others to follow if they want to be in relationships with us. Think of someone who does not say anything when their partner ridicules them or insists on having things their way all the time. When we set boundaries, we are basically saying to the other person, “I do not like to be treated like that”. Sometimes, for boundaries to be effective there must be consequences for those behaviors. This could simply be telling the other person, “If you continue to treat me this way, we will no longer be friends”, or, “If you continue to talk to me like this I refuse to talk to you”. Most often we do not have to have drastic consequences, but sometimes that is what it takes.
Asserting needs is also a common problem. Often there is a mistaken belief that if the other person truly cares, the will know what we need. This typically leads to someone being disappointed. One area this is prevalent is in regards to intimacy where both partners have different ideas on what that should look like. Things break down when neither talks about it and then resentments build, or worse, if things are talked about and nothing seems to change. A good resource for this is: The Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships by David Schnarch.
The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman is another good resource. This book focuses primarily on how people perceive love differently than each other and the complications that arise from this. Misunderstandings often come from our differences in perspective. If you can understand the perspective of the other person, their words and behaviors will make sense—from that perspective.
John Bradshaw, a psychologist who specializes with working with families and the guilt and shame that is often a part of unhealthy families noted that—Hockey players hang out with hockey players and chess players hang out with chess players. Oftentimes we seek out partners and friends with people who think similarly to us and have similar backgrounds. This is a bad thing if we come from dysfunctional families where people did not communicate well or assert their needs in clear ways, then we are often left feeling frustrated and resentful because we did not get our needs met. But it can also be a good thing provided we come from healthy backgrounds where we learned good communication skills and are able to convey our needs to each other and get those needs met.
Many times I see couples who are on the threshold of divorce and hang onto resentments that the other was not trying until the threat of divorce. Sometimes this happens because we are all reluctant to change until we have to make changes. Other times it is that we do not know how to communicate our needs to others, or feel that we cannot. Or it might be that at different times in the relationship there has been more effort by one than the other. The key is getting both partners working on common goals at the same time. Learning how to speak and listen differently can be the biggest asset to making those changes, but we also have to be aware that changes in behavior take time.
*Making time for each other—write it on the calendar
*Challenge thinking that the other’s behavior was about you in some way
*If an argument seems to be starting, call timeout and return to the topic once things calm down—in the meantime ask yourself what was so upsetting
*Use active listening/speaking to further understand each other to head off problems before they get to a worse place
*Be assertive—don’t expect the other person to know what you are thinking or what you want. Be clear about it.
*Remember that the other person has a right to say no, but if it is a pattern then try to find out how to change it.
Summer is finally here and for many of us this means it is time to get out of the house and start those projects we have been putting off during the brutally cold winter we experienced. Maybe it is getting caught up on household projects, or it is planting a garden (and all the weeding that goes along with it), or some other way that we get occupied. For many people, there will be a noticeable improvement in mood as they get outside in the fresh air and start moving around, and perhaps interacting with other people again. For others, however, summer can be a time of increased stress.
This is particularly true if there are children in the household because summer vacation often means a drastic change in routines—from the times that everyone goes to bed and gets up, to the times that meals are eaten, to having a general lack of structure to a day. An important thing to remember is that people typically do better when we have predictable routines. When we stay reasonably close to those routines we seem to do better than when we greatly deviate from them.
Staying somewhat close to regular bedtimes is a good start, as is having some sort of structure. This may include scheduling in reading or study time for children, as well as limiting time spent in front of computers and game systems. An important thing to consider is that the habits children form when they are younger go a long ways to establishing how they will behave later on in life. If we want them to have some sense of structure and balance, we need to demonstrate that to them and make that a part of their everyday lives.
Does this mean that we have to have set bedtimes every day? No, but it does mean that we need to maintain some sort of balance. If we have a late night, maybe we need to counter that with an earlier night to make sure our bodies are getting the rest they need. Sleep is an especially important time for children’s developing brains and unfortunately, we sometimes undervalue its importance, which can cause other problems.
On another note, if you have been dealing with depression over the winter and the warming weather has not improved things, perhaps it is time to talk to someone to find out what may be going on. Sometimes it is as simple as making some relatively minor changes to daily routines, while other times something more may be going on. Don’t wait for things to change, do something to initiate change. Let us help you work through the things that are keeping you from being happy. Enjoy the summer,
Your friends at the Lake Orion Counseling Center