How To Find The Right Therapist

How to Find the Right Therapist

By William Schroeder, MA, LPC, NCC

The question of how to find the right therapist comes up frequently from friends. In our group practice, we have clinicians who are part of our scheduling team, and they individually screen clients to ensure that we do everything possible to make sure clients get paired correctly. In general, I tell friends and clients alike that finding a good therapist can take a bit of shopping around. What goes into shopping for a therapist? I usually suggest people ask friends, their doctor, check Psychology Today, Yelp, Google reviews, and even ask therapists they know. This can help to get referrals with some trust authority behind them. Check out their website and see how they position themselves. Check out their practice social media and blog posts. Look at their photos and see if they seem relatable. All of this helps to give an understanding of what their true specialization is. 

I should also mention a bit of a disclaimer here… many experienced therapists are not super techy or social media savvy. It’s likely you will encounter some who do not have websites and others who have a website that looks like it was created in 1990 and when AOL was vogue. This says nothing about their level of quality but it may mean they don’t take insurance, credit cards, and it’s unlikely they will send appointment reminders. They also may be slower to respond to an online inquiry and are likely easiest to reach by phone.

Psychology Today can be very helpful in weeding out providers by area of town, specialization, insurance they take, etc. I would also suggest paying special attention to what they describe as their core specialization in their longer descriptions and see if it lines up with their website as well. All of that said, it doesn’t mean any of this guarantees you will like them. Most research seems to point out that people know within 30 seconds if they feel like it’s a fit. This is why I encourage people looking for counseling to try a couple of places and see what the person feels like. You have to know if you are comfortable or not with someone before you begin opening up to them, so this is an important evaluation process. It can be helpful to assess how at ease or safe you feel with this person — and sometimes this can take time.

More Psychology Today Tips:

  • Pay attention to how therapists describe their specialization.
  • How long ago were they licensed? This helps to understand how experienced they are.
  • Does their profile have a million specialties listed or is it more narrowly focused? Often those early in their career or more broadly focused.
  • Do they take your insurance? This isn’t a deal breaker but it’s helpful to note.
  • What area of town is their practice?
  • Do they list special training in the area you are looking for support?

Pay attention to what feels right. I know one time I went to a therapist, and I liked them at first. Unfortunately, their style of therapy tended to be less relational and more structured. By this, I mean that as I began laying out what I was looking for support on, they flipped into teacher mode and broke out their whiteboard and starting writing out some psychological theories on the issue at hand and they talked a lot. At the time I was looking for support with grief counseling and this wasn’t a fit. I remember feeling the distance grow with every squeak of their marker.

Finding that right fit sometimes can take a couple of sessions. The initial session is often where the therapist tries to assess the situation, which can mean they are asking a lot of questions. Not every therapist is this way nor is every session this way but this can be helpful to know going into it. Also, I would suggest you think about what you would like to get out of therapy and state that going into it. This way the two of you can craft a plan to work towards those goals. When you are ready, you might find our post on how to prepare for your first counseling session helpful. 

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

 

How to get into the habit of exercising every day

How to Get into the Habit of Exercising Every Day

Frequently I will have clients seek guidance on how to get into the habit of exercising every day. Exercise is an important component of mental health as it decreases cortisol levels (a stress hormone), stimulates the process of neurogenesis, it helps to increase dopamine and serotonin levels. If you exercise, it helps to cut anxiety and stress as well as it can increase your quality of sleep. Exercise is an activity that promotes self-esteem, can even help you build sexual desire, and can even help with adult ADHD and anxiety. Let me also say that anyone considering exercise should first check with the physician to make sure they are cleared for physical activity. One more cautionary note, exercise, like most things, should also be kept in moderation and the body needs time to repair. Too much of anything can be bad for us. Make sure to consult with someone (counselor, dietician, doctor) if you have questions about what is the right balance for you.
  • One simple tip can be to write out a 30-day plan but make it simple. This could be things like walking for 30 minutes. Take a picture of this schedule and make it your phone home screen.
  • A doctor once recommended a plan that was for someone trying to get back to running. It involved starting with walking for 10 minutes, every other day for a week. Then the next week you would walk for 50 seconds and jog for 10 seconds. Then each week you up it by 10 seconds till you are finally running for 10 minutes. After this you up it by 1 minute of running time each time you run.
  • Smartphones can help or hurt as they can distract too. My favorite apps are Beachbody On DemandNike Training ClubNike Running ClubCouch to 5k, and Sworkit. Beachbody has a huge selection of programs you can do and for the home workout person, this one is great. It has a variety of levels of programs for men and women that help you to stretch, do cardio, bodyweight, or limited weights home workouts in 30 minutes or less. They also have some yoga and pilates programs too. You can put the app on a mobile device but I would suggest you stream it to a TV. They are very cost effective if you are looking to avoid going to the gym. Nike Training Club is a fantastic app that for working out at home or at the gym. You can select the intensity, equipment available, and time available to help tune the workout. You can also do some workouts designed by professional athletes. Whatever your skill level, it has options and the videos and audio cues give you tips on form and instructions. Nike Running Club is very similar and each will build personalized plans for you with notifications to remind you to stay on track. Couch to 5K is similar to the program the doctor above had mentioned. It’s a real gradual program that helps you get going with running. Sworkit is my workout in a pinch option. Truth be told, I used to do this in my office while on a break. Even if you have 5 minutes, it’s fantastic and it’s something.
  • Tell friends and family about your goal. Nothing helps like externalizing your goal.
  • I suggest looking at your schedule and looking at where might make the most sense to insert exercise during the day.
  • Get a workout partner. Nothing helps like a good accountability partner. I tend to suggest selecting someone who is good with staying with goals and possibly is ahead of where you are.
  • If things get off track, take stock and see why. Did you go to bed to late? Did you pre-pack a gym bag? If not, might that help? Would getting a locker at the gym help? Does time of day or hunger limit you? Does proximity to the gym factor in?
  • Put a picture or a phrase that will encourage you somewhere to help remind you of your goal.
  • Get a trainer – This is a more expensive option but they can help keep you on track.
  • Do a group exercise class. These are lower cost and can have a lot of social support.
  • If you have home exercise equipment or go to the gym, make the time more enjoyable by streaming your favorite show on your iPad or smartphone. I tend to watch shows that are compelling and adrenaline-inducing so I can have more pep in my step. If you are into gaming, watch things on Twitch.
  • Some might find that they like to play games while they workout. This can be done if you are recumbent biking and playing a mobile device based game. There are also apps that really make working out into a game like Zombies, Run!
  • Would walking with a neighbor or getting a dog help you?
  • What about joining a running club? These groups of runners meet at a specific time and have different skill levels.
  • Would it help you to make phone calls and catch up with friends or family as you walk?
  • Would an Apple Watch or Fitbit help keep you on track? I use the Apple Watch and it pushes notifications as me and my friends hit our daily workout goals.
  • Do you prefer hiking or outdoor things like frisbee golf?
  • Would joining an adult sports league help you? Things like this can be fun and you can try different sports.
  • Orange Theory, Soulcycle, Barre classes, yoga, pilates – all of them can be fun. Try different ones and see what fits. Do you have any friends that also go?
  • ClassPass can give you a TON of options if you are the type that can easily plan ahead and doesn’t mind the variety. I find it’s best for those who preplan their week of workouts.
  • Beth Myler, LCSW, JD suggests to “Work with a coach or counselor trained in the science of health promotion. There is robust research evidence supporting specific interventions designed to cultivate motivation for behavior change and sustain positive changes. It is increasingly clear that working with a coach/counselor improves outcomes.”

Whatever you end up doing, pay attention to what works and what doesn’t and learn from it. Personally, being a little ADHD, I end up liking having a variety of things to do. I go to the gym, do home workouts, run alone and with friends, workout with friends, use apps to help workout, etc. I have also learned a lot from what doesn’t work… I don’t like going to the same type of class over and over. If I don’t pack a gym bag the night before I am not going. If I am going to do elliptical, it helps to have a show I like already identified before I go. If I don’t have charged Bluetooth headphones, I am less likely to go (hint, keep a charger and cable in your gym bag or use Apple Airpods). If I am hungry, recently ate, or tired, I have a hard time going (hint, find snacks like nuts that can help give you some quick energy but don’t weigh you down or change the time you go). What have you learned from your experiences and how do you find exercises helps you? Want to let us know how to get in the habit of exercising every day? Tweet us @justmind and let us know. Also, if you need support for things like anxiety counseling or depression counseling, contact us.

William Schroeder is passionate about exercise and owns a counseling practice in Austin, TX. He also loves good food.

Photo by Kristian Egelund on Unsplash

Books Every Divorced Man Should Read

Books Every Divorced Man Should Read

Having been through a divorce and being a therapist, I frequently recommend different books to read on the subject. Divorce can be extremely challenging due to the emotional nature of loss. Two people come into a union and hope for the best, but sometimes anger, resentment, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling each other takes over. When couples are in this state of negative sentiment override, it can make the process of divorcing very bitter and painful. This isn’t the case for everyone, but for anyone going through a divorce, it’s important to find peace within themselves. The time can feel very groundless and filled with emotional riptides. I think this can be even more challenging for men as we typically don’t share our feelings as much as women do and this can make the pain of divorce that much more challenging.

You will see a theme in the books I am recommending as they all tie into Buddhism. Let me first say that I am not a Buddhist and grew up Catholic, but what I like about Buddhism is the stories have a lot of wisdom that comes from struggle, pain, and suffering. “Storms Can’t Hurt The Sky” is a book written by Gabriel Cohen. He is very plain in his struggle with his anger, and he decided to quest out for peace through learning about Buddhism. What I enjoyed the most about this book was how obvious his pain was — even while trying to do the right thing. The quote “Perfect is the enemy of better” comes to mind when reading this book as the process through a divorce isn’t an easy one. It can be very messy, but the goal is to have a focus on trying to build a plan so you can try and get back on a path towards recovery and resources when you fall off. Below are a couple of quotes from his book that stood out to me.
“From a Buddhist point of view, if you can change your mind, you can change your world.” – Storms Can’t Hurt The Sky – Gabriel Cohen
“Once, when he traveled to a strange monastery with his attendants, a snarling guard dog broke free and rushed at them. The attendants screamed and fled, but Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche ran right toward the dog, which was so astonished that it turned tail and ran. Trungpa offered the same remarkable advice about suffering. While we try so hard to run away from it or deny it, he advised ‘leaning into the sharp points.’ Stay with the pain. Feel it fully. The result, Chodron said, could be the opposite of what we expect. We panic when we are not in control, but we can learn to accept our lack of power over everything. We can let our fear go. Instead of searching desperately for firmer ground, we may discover that uncertainty and not-knowing are okay. ‘To stay with that shakiness,’ writes Chodron, ‘To stay with a broken heart, a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge — that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic — this is the spiritual path.'” – Storms Can’t Hurt The Sky – Gabriel Cohen

Pema Chodron wrote “When Things Fall Apart,” and I loved this book as well. It is relatable to all who are going through a struggle, change, and uncertainty. You can see her path through this pain wasn’t easy, but it resulted in her gaining a lot of inner wisdom. To demonstrate a bit of what I feel most valuable in her writing, I want to repeat a couple of quotes that stood out to me:

“I used to have a sign pinned up on my wall that read: Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us…It was all about letting go of everything.” – When Things Fall Apart – Pema Chodron
“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” – When Things Fall Apart – Pema Chodron
“Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. When there’s a big disappointment, we don’t know if that’s the end of the story. It may just be the beginning of a great adventure. Life is like that. We don’t know anything. We call something bad; we call it good. But really we just don’t know.” – When Things Fall Apart – Pema Chodron
“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.” – When Things Fall Apart – Pema Chodron
“Once there was a young warrior. Her teacher told her that she had to do battle with fear. She didn’t want to do that. It seemed too aggressive; it was scary; it seemed unfriendly. But the teacher said she had to do it and gave her the instructions for the battle. The day arrived. The student warrior stood on one side, and fear stood on the other. The warrior was feeling very small, and fear was looking big and wrathful. They both had their weapons. The young warrior roused herself and went toward fear, prostrated three times, and asked, “May I have permission to go into battle with you?” Fear said, “Thank you for showing me so much respect that you ask permission.” Then the young warrior said, “How can I defeat you?” Fear replied, “My weapons are that I talk fast, and I get very close to your face. Then you get completely unnerved, and you do whatever I say. If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power. You can listen to me, and you can have respect for me. You can even be convinced by me. But if you don’t do what I say, I have no power.” In that way, the student warrior learned how to defeat fear.” – When Things Fall Apart – Pema Chodron
Going through a divorce can be challenging. I suggest men going through it that they engage in many resources to come. For some, this may be things like church groups, therapy, family support, friends, reading, journaling, or even working out.  If you would like to know more about ways that help “coping with divorce,” then read our post which is very thorough on the topic which might be helpful.
Photo by Tamarcus Brown on Unsplash
In Defense of Relentless Problem-Solving

In Defense of Relentless Problem-Solving

By: Loren Lomme, MA, LPC, RPT

“Deal with it.” This is probably not an unfamiliar phrase to you, and with summer break beginning, you may find these very words coming out of your mouth in response to your kids’ complaints of boredom, sibling issues, and what often feels like incessant demands. I heard it often as a child, I hear other parents say it, and I’ll admit I’ve said it to my own kiddo. Parents tell me that “in the real world” or “when kids grow up” they’ll have to learn to deal with things they can’t control, so why not start now? While I don’t disagree that learning to deal with adversity is most definitely a crucial life and survival skill, I’d like to offer a rebuttal to why telling our kids to “just deal with it” may not be fostering the resilience, compliance, or self-sufficiency that you are hoping for. I would like to provide some insight into the benefits of a different approach – fostering problem-solving.

Parents ask pretty often, “Why can’t my child be expected to deal with this or that and suck it up like I did as a kid?” The first problem with “just deal with it” or “figure it out on your own” is that it conveys no sense of empathy or validation that your child is experiencing distress, no matter how mild it may seem to you. Besides missing out on an opportunity to connect emotionally with your child, you’re communicating that they’re on their own with their problems. Instead, try offering encouragement or reflecting to them that you’re trying to understand their experience. “This sounds tough” or “I can tell how upset/stressed/etc you are. Do you have any ideas yet for dealing with this?” or “I remember something similar happening last week. Do you remember what helped?” The goal is to let your child know that you see and hear them and to get the wheels in their head turning so that they know what options exist. A co-worker and friend once told me that options are the opposite of hopelessness, and in a world where hopelessness fuels anxiety and depression, acknowledging options can provide much-needed relief, even in situations that may seem trivial to you.

Many parents want to foster their children’s independence, accountability, and tolerance for things like boredom and being told no, which is understandable as we live in a society that values these traits. We sometimes struggle with the idea that by not letting our kids “deal with it,” we will be fixing their problems for them and hence hindering the development of the traits mentioned above. While there are definitely issues that kids should at least attempt to work through on their own first, the reality is that kids are not yet developmentally armed with all the tools they need to handle many situations completely independently. The expectation that they “just deal with it” leaves them abandoned and unsupported with insufficient means for self-management. As Dr. Dan Siegel discusses, the “upstairs brain” is under construction during childhood and adolescence. Since this is the part of the brain responsible for thinking, problem-solving, and emotion regulation, we can’t count on our kids to be masters at figuring everything out on their own. While our goal is not to rescue or remove them from difficult decisions and situations, we should work diligently to help develop their upstairs brain skills through engaging them with problem-solving questions, alternatives, compromises, and connection strategies. By actively helping our kids learn and come up with ways to deal with boredom, not getting their way, or problems with friends or siblings, we are building their capacity for independence, accountability, self-efficacy, resilience, and improved decision-making. Another way to engage the upstairs brain is through physical activity. Try getting your child to move their body, and he’ll gain better access to the problem-solving and creative capacities of his upstairs brain.

The third problem with “just deal with it” is the possibility that kids will deal with problems in ways that are unhealthy or unsafe, or they may shut down – deciding to not deal with issues at all. Our job as parents is to shape attitudes and behaviors that help kids grow into kind, cooperative, compassionate adults who can effectively communicate and compromise to identify their needs and get them met appropriately. This is where relentless problem-solving teaches these skills and fosters empathy, confidence, and effective relational skills. The goal may not always be to fix a problem, but instead to problem-solve about how to cope with it. This could take the form of empathy and emotional support, or it may look like modeling through your own behaviors how to deal with problems. It could be that you help your child talk through the problem, the choices available, and the decision making process while helping them manage any emotions that come up along the way. Use these situations as opportunities to exercise and integrate the upstairs brain with the downstairs brain and the body. Not only will your child thrive but so will their relationship with you and others. Think of problem-solving as a chance to be creative in your parenting and know that you are strengthening a skill that your child will be able to use throughout their lives.

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