An Outside Perspective

February 5, 2013

As I was looking to a friend yesterday for advice on a situation that she had more experience with both professionally and personally I began to develop a new view of counseling. A few of you may have found this site by the link on my psychology today profile but I’m sure most of you did not. One of my quotes on that page is “I believe you already have the tools and knowledge necessary to improve your life and relationships, but just need assistance in utilizing them. I am able to help you through this process by looking at how you may be able to change your thoughts and behaviors for increased success.” My newest client did find me through that page and she has told me that it was that line that really drew her in. This is not the case in all counseling as some situations are more severe and need more specialized help but I am finding joy in looking at counseling in this way.

We all have strengths and weaknesses. Even when we are dealing with a situation that allows us to utilize our strengths, many times our emotions and beliefs can cloud our judgment. Counseling can be helpful as the counselor is able to give an unbiased outside perspective on your situation that you may not have been able to see without someone else’s help. You may think, “well if this is all counseling is then why pay someone so much money when I can go talk to a friend?” There are a couple of reasons. First, a friend or family member is not truly unbiased as they have their own agendas and preconceived beliefs based on what they have been told in the past. Also, they are not trained to help with situations that may be more complex. Even if they have good advice, many times, people are unable to deliver it in a beneficial manner. Plus, this is not all that counseling is, it is just part of the helping equation.

Realizing this has made me really see the benefit of getting an outside perspective when I am having a difficult time with a personal situation. The situation I was getting advice on yesterday was potty training my toddler. Although I do have training in behavior modification as a therapist and really work on using my own mommy intuition, I figured my friend the certified behavior analyst was even more equipped with knowledge in this area and would be helpful to point out things that I hadn’t thought about or noticed myself. I have to admit that her words of encouragement and extra tips were what was needed to continue the process in a beneficial manner.

As for what I do for my clients, I am able to help them see their situation from different perspectives and more clearly. I am able to help them set up goals and a plan to achieve those goals. I hold them accountable for their actions. I am also able to teach new skills for communicating, dealing with depression and anxiety as well as skills necessary to deal with other mental health and relationship issues, and other life skills necessary. There is a stigma attached to seeking counseling still but I believe there should be no more stigma than there is for asking a plumber to come snake your toilet and complete other care on your house.


One of Those Mornings

October 30, 2012

Good morning (or afternoon, evening- whenever you are reading this) everyone! Today has been “one of those mornings” for me. After waking up late (which isn’t altogether a bad thing) and having to rush to get my little guy to school on time today while he and even the dog resisted my efforts, I have been left feeling like a rushed mess! Now as much as I would like to use this as a venting session so everyone can sympathize with how rough this day has already been, I won’t be doing that! In fact, I won’t even be doing that on my personal facebook account. The reason for that is I believe in the power of the laws of attraction and I believe the more people who know that I am having a bad morning, who read it and believe it too, the more energy the universe will be putting into making sure that comes true. Believe me, I already know it is right and have put enough of my energy into it while I was in the midst of it, despite some of my efforts to slow down and rethink the situation (we all are human right?)

Now that my child is off to school and I have a mere 20 minutes to write this before I have to go back up to the school, I am going to use it to refocus myself for a better day and help you all learn how to do it yourself as well. Now, looking back on my morning there were some things that I was able to do effectively in order to encourage positive outcomes while at other times I failed! I would like to start here since I think it is important to learn how to stop the negatives before it builds too much. For example, my little guy is only two, so still a youngin’ and normally loves going to “school”. For some reason today, however, he did not want to go and I found my frustration levels rising as he resisted getting dressed while realizing how late we were already running. I stopped myself from trying to force the clothes on him, however, and began talking up all the things they had planned at school today and he soon began to get excited as well and let me get him dressed. You can use this in other situations by stopping for a second to regroup, resisting your own frustrated urges, and formulating a new plan that will be more effective. The effect that this had was really quite large as I felt less stressed and frustrated having my son being more compliant. If I had forced his clothes on him the both of our levels of frustration would have increased and he would have fought me more, which in turn would have lead to more frustration, negative thoughts, and annoyance on my part and most likely increased bad outcomes for the morning. Now, I didn’t succeed at this with the dog when she went further down the road than she ever does to go potty while I was getting my son into the car and it back fired on me as she sensed my frustration and proceeded to cross the road and resist instead of coming right home like usual. It would have been so much easier if I had only acted like I wasn’t so annoyed and called her back like nothing was wrong as she would have come running back without fear of being in trouble. So again, the overall lesson here is to stop yourself when you find you are reacting out of frustration, anger, and stress, regroup even for just a second, and then formulate a more effective plan.

Once you have a breather, you must start to look on the bright side of things and work on telling yourself that things aren’t so bad, or even if they were, that they don’t have to continue that way. For instance, my bright side of the morning is that I didn’t run out of gas even though I decided to not stop for more, even though I was on empty, until after I dropped my son off at school (ha, I could have run out and been stuck on the side of the road in the cold with a toddler who is potty training and am very thankful that did not happen!!) I am also choosing to have a more pleasant day from here on out. We have a fun Halloween party planned at school and then a playdate with my sister-in-law and niece. The rushing and craziness of the morning is past me and the rest of the day will be fun and relaxed. Speaking of which, I now have to go get ready for a wonderful rest of the day as I have 5 min before I need to leave the house! Here’s to hoping you are able to turn your bad moments around and not let them last an entire day!

New Years Resolutions

January 2, 2012

I never make New Years Resolutions. I’m not quite sure why. I know I’m not perfect and that there are things that I can work on, but it always seems so hard to think of one thing that I would want to change. Then there is the admitting to someone else that there is something that you want to change about yourself and to allow yourself to be vulnerable and allow them into your head to know that whatever it is, it is important to you. I am not oblivious to the fact that the last statement is a lot like therapy, although with counseling you are only telling one person, they are non-judgmental, and it should be someone you know you can trust, especially due to confidentiality, unlike telling anyone and everyone about your new years resolution.

Then there is part of me that wants to rebel because I can’t quite decide if I believe new years resolutions are a good concept because people are thinking about ways to better themselves or if I find it to be more detrimental in the long run because people wait until new years for an excuse to actually begin making changes. For this reason, I’m going to say to each their own! If you are a person that makes new years resolutions, however, here are some tips on how to make it something that you can stick to. I know, I know, I said that I don’t do them and yet am going to give advice out to others about them, but really it is just like making any other goal.

First you need to identify your goal and be specific. It is not enough to say that you want to lose weight. How much weight do you want to lose and by when? Also make sure  that it is something important to you. For instance, if you say you want to lose weight because you are tired of the looks from other people but you really feel comfortable with the way that you look, you will most likely not have enough motivation to stick with this resolution. It is also important that your goal be realistic. If you are looking to drop 60 lbs in 6 months, this is just not realistic (or healthy) at the 1-2 lbs per week that is deemed healthy. No matter what it is, don’t set yourself up for failure before you have even started! What will it look like when you accomplish your goal? Looking at a different resolution, it is great to say that you will be nicer to your partner, but what will it look like when you are? How will you know and how will your partner know that you have accomplished your goal?

Once you have really thought through your resolution and have all aspects of it defined, you will then need to make a plan on how to achieve the goal. It may help to break the resolution into some smaller goals and focus on how you will reach each of them. Think about the steps necessary to achieve your goal. For instance, if this year you want to feel more connected to your friends, what must you do in order for this to happen. Think in terms of how you might need to change your thinking, your feelings, and your actions (as these are the only things you can really control). Outline the actions you need to take. You may even need to do a bit of research and reading before you can fully complete this step. This is probably the most skipped step in this whole process, but it is very important to your success.

Next you will need to begin to put your plan into action. Cut down on sugars and fats and increase exercising, or practive listening reflectively, whatever it is that you need to do. Many people begin this process (whether they have a plan or not) and follow through, but then end there, not quite sure why they haven’t had the success that they want. While you are following through with your plan, it will be necessary to evaluate your progress. Even the best planner will not be able to predict everything that might come up and there may be a need to alter your plans. Be flexible and willing to do so as necessary.

For some people, it is helpful to go through the process with a friend to keep them motivated and others may need to remind themselves consistently why they are working to make this change. You may also want to think about having someone who can help hold you accountable for your actions. This may be a friend or family member, or it may even be a professional depending on your resolution. For some people, it may even be necessary to see a counselor in order to receive the help they need to work through this process and to gain the tools necessary to make the changes they want. This is okay.

No matter what your new years resolution is, I hope you the best in accomplishing it. As for myself, this may just be the first year that I decide to make a resolution- if I can pick just one thing!

The Many Masks of Mood Disorders

October 31, 2011

Realizing that today is Halloween, I wanted to relate my post to this spooky holiday but at first was unsure of how I would do that. Then it hit me like a cave full of bats flying out of the darkness. I know for those of you who have never experienced a mood disorder or have not worked with those who have (and sadly even many people that work in a variety of positions in the mental health field) just do not understand what it’s like to live with such a disorder. I hear from my clients that their loved ones make comments telling them to snap or pull themselves out of it, as if it were really that easy. Mental health disorders such as major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder are not like wearing a costume that you can easily take off. To have a little fun, I am going to compare what its like having a mental disorder with being something for halloween.

1. As I already said, a halloween costume you can take off at any time. A person who has a mood disorder does not have as much control over it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like to use diagnoses as an excuse, but it normally takes a lot of time, work, and someone else’s help to get out of it (I guess some costumes may work that way too though!)

2. People living with mood disorders have to put on a “mask” to deal with other people in their lives frequently. I have clients that talk about how it is exhausting having to pretend and put on a happy face when they are around other people that they do not feel comfortable enough with to be honest about what they are going through.

3. Going through day to day life with a mood disorder can feel like living your life as another person. You may not recognize who you are and many times, even those closest to you do not as well.

4. Even as you dress up for halloween and play the part of a different character, you have control over the way you act because everything you do is still coming through your own filter. Mood disorders seem to hijack a person’s filter as their thoughts, feelings, and actions are expressed throug the lens of depression or mania.

5. For those on the outside, it may seem like someone with depression has been converted to a vampire lifestyle (minus the blood sucking). They like it to be dark and they sleep a lot (or in some cases are unable to sleep and are up all night). One of the ways to keep vampires away is also helpful for those with depression, let the bright light in!

6. Depression may look like living like a vampire, but those experiencing it feel more like a zombie.

There are many other ways that you can compare and contrast Halloween and living with a mood disorder. I would love to hear your ideas on this as well!

3 Ways to Conquer Life Transitions

October 10, 2011

In the past few weeks I have been talking about life transitions. As a quick reminder (for more information you can go to the past entries), I discussed how both positive and challenging transitions can cause stress, that this stress can lead to symptoms that look like other mental health problems, and that you need to take care of yourself on a regular basis in order to be ready to deal with stresses and changes when they do occur. Today I want to give you three ways that you can problem solve to conquer any problems that you may encounter due to life transitions (or for any problems for that matter).

There are three fundamental ways that you can attempt to fix a situation you are in. You can change the way you think about it, change the way you feel, or you can change your actions. These are the only things that are within our power to make our situation better.

Thoughts. We have them all the time, even though many times we aren’t even aware of what they are. You may not even realize that they influence your feelings. Try it, think about a situation you have been in that could be interpreted in more than one way, you’ll feel differently about the situation depending on how you think about it. For instance, a friend gives you a compliment that sounds sarcastic, you can either choose to believe she is being sarcastic and feel hurt, mad at her, and insecure, or you can tell yourself that you misinterpreted her tone and be happy about the compliment and feel good about yourself and your relationship. This can be hard for people sometimes because our thoughts are so automatic as I said before. When you find yourself feeling negatively, however, take a look at those thougthts and work to make them more positive. Although it can also be difficult for some people to find that silver lining, with work it will begin to come more easily! There are also different theories of thoughts and how they have a greater impact on your life such as the law of attraction. If you are interested, there are several books out on the topic, but even if you don’t subscribe to those beliefs, they are powerful enough to make you feel better!  Here are a few examples:

After experiencing a death:

-He is in a better place.

-He is no longer suffering.

-It was his time, he was ready to go.

Feelings. I often times hear people saying “I can’t help how I feel”. Although this makes sense at first, there are things that you can do to change how you feel. You can first start with your thoughts like we already discussed, but there is more that you can do to either change or deal with your emotions. First let me state that emotions are not the enemy. In fact, they are very important because they give us information, help us regulate the way we act, and even they motivate us, among other things. That being said, the goal is not to ignore or suppress your feelings, but to listen to them, act accordingly, and then to deal with them so they do not add to your anguish and stress. There are many ways that you can tackle your emotions, and I’ll give you a few examples but just keep in mind that this is not a thorough list. At times you may need to engage in some catharsis by talking to someone about how you are feeling, writing a letter to someone (even if you don’t send it), journaling, praying or by crying. You may choose to do something that brightens your spirit such as going for a walk outside and noticing what a beautiful day it is, paying attention to what you are thankful for and counting your blessings, or fake a smile until you feel better. Or you may need to engage in stress relief in order to feel like a stronger person.

Behaviors. Some people are thinkers, some are feelers, and others are doers. For those of you who are action oriented, you may find that trying to do things to change your situation may be more comfortable. You can focus on what you are doing in a situation and how you influence other people in order to figure out how you can change your own behaviors and hopefully change the relationship or situation for the better.

Now, I am not a religious counselor by any means but I believe the message behind the serenity prayer is wonderful and the message is important in this discussion. For those of you who are not familiar with the serenity prayer, it states “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” The important thing here is that you cannot change everything and it is a waste of time and energy to either dwell on those things or to spend your time trying to change them. So the first step is really taking a good luck at your situation and determining if it is something that can be changed. You can’t change the fact that someone has died, but you can deal with your thoughts or feelings regarding the death. You can however change the way you act in your marriage so you can make it a stronger relationship. These three methods all overlap as well.  For instance, you always feel bad after talking to your mother because she makes you feel like a child. You cannot directly change her or the way that she acts but you can prepare yourself mentally by remind yourself that this is the way that she is because you will always be her baby to her, and talking to her more like a grown-up may change the way she talks to you, and you may end up going for a walk afterward to deal with any left over emotions.

Jessica Stebbins, M.S., LMFT

September 11, 2011

2460 N Courtenay Pkwy Ste 114

Hello, and thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you find the information to be useful. If you don’t see what you are looking for, check out the categories to the right to find other mental health articles on different topics.

If you are in the Brevard County area and looking for a counselor, please feel free to contact me for more information or to schedule a session. You can find more information about me in the About section (link located above).

Creating Appropriate Boundaries with Children- 5 Tips

August 15, 2011

         Boundaries are important for all types of relationships. They help us ensure we are acting and interacting appropriately with other people. If you do not have healthy boundaries with your children, this can negatively impact your marital relationship, especially if it is a step family situation. A common problem within families is that one parent becomes allied with a child instead of with their spouse. This can negatively interfere with the marital relationship by splitting apart the couple, making it impossible for them to be a united front. Here are some tips for establishing proper boundaries with your children.

1. Create rules and make sure they are well known and follow through on them. This includes age appropriate and healthy discipline that is reinforced consistently.

2. Don’t let children run the house. Ask opinions of your children when making decisions but make sure that it is clear that the final decision will be made by you and your spouse.

3. Make sure that you have time alone with your spouse. Help the children to understand that this time is a priority and that although they are loved, they are not always going to be a part of their parents activities.

4. Make sure children are not a part of adult conversations. Although it is important to teach children life skills, there are some conversations that they do not need to be an active participant in. These will need to be up to your discretion based on the topic, your child’s age, and your child’s personality.  

5. Let your kids know you will be open and honest with your spouse. This means no keeping secrets! I will note that at times it may be appropriate to keep a secret if there is a history of abusive behavior, however.

         By implementing these tips, you should be on your way to establishing appropriate boundaries within your family. If you are in theBrevard County area and are looking for a family counselor, please feel free to contact me. You can also like us on facebook.