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Say Hello to the New You

Written by: Andrew Rehs

Are you ready to say hello to the new you? Whether you are successfully working towards a goal, revisiting old goals, or not sure where to start, this article will empower you to reach your desired goal by strengthening your mindset around that goal using 5 key ingredients. It is nearing the end of the second month of the new year, and statistically speaking, most resolutions start to lose steam at this point. Whether this sounds like you, or you are just looking for a dose of motivation, these psychological tools will surely put you closer to your goal…without even leaving your seat!

 

Before we dive into those 5 ingredients, let take a minute to focus on how we view goals. Some call them resolutions, some call them lifestyle changes, some simply call them goals. Are you looking at your resolution as a solution to some problem within yourself? That may be why some encounter problems with their resolutions! Who wants to focus on what’s WRONG about you? Instead, I recommend using a different term altogether – ‘lifestyle change’ perhaps, or ‘new direction’. By viewing them as resolutions, it could be cognitively counterproductive, as simply a way to resolve something. You are a great person with many positive attributes…own it! So, instead of fixing what is wrong, utilize what is right. It may be more beneficial to view these as measurable and realistic. Instead view them as goals towards lifestyle changes. Goals are mentally positive; resolutions are naturally negative as they are a fix to a deficit. One may be already starting the path to success a step behind.

 

Let’s get started. Take a look at your personal goals right now. Whether you are well are your way, or “failing to launch”, these small alterations could make a big difference. Consider this a psychology boot camp. If you started with 10 resolutions, that may be your problem right there. Starting with three may give you a much better chance at reaching two goals than if you start with 10 things you semi-desire change in. Make sense?

 

Starting with the first (of your three) most serious goal, we are going to mix in 5 powerful ingredients to strengthen it. Making these simple changes to the way that you think already puts you miles ahead of where you were before…without even breaking a sweat. To give you a better idea of what I am talking about, I am going to use one of the most popular resolutions…weight loss. Let’s assume that your goal was to lose weight (for your health, both mental and physical, do not be too ambitious with your weight loss goals). This is how it may look:

 

STEP ONE – Make sure that you know when your goal is met.

This is a big mistake people make when creating lifestyle changes. They lose site of the finish line before the start of the race. Many people make goals such as wanting to lose “some” weight, read “more” books, smoke “less” cigarettes, etc. These are all good for improving self, but there is no way to know that you are making progress towards the end, because there is no end. Instead, make sure that there is a way to measure your goal, like this:

I want to lose 10lbs vs. I want to lose weight.

 

STEP TWO – Be sure that your goals are positive (removing “negative” wordage or vocabulary from your thought process).

This will help you articulate what is being created from this goal, focusing on the end result and not what you are reducing. In our culture, we focus so much on ridding ourselves of things which already puts us behind psychologically. Examples include LOSING weight, QUITTING cigarettes, LESS stress, REDUCE debt. You see how these are all using negative words? You would be surprised how much this gets in the way of mental success. Instead, it may be helpful to view your goal in an affirmative way like this:

I want to weigh 240lbs (assuming you currently weigh 250lbs) vs. I want to lose 10lbs.

STEP THREE – Be as specific as possible! One is much more likely to accomplish a goal if he or she has a better idea of the path towards that goal.

Runners compete on a course or track. If they competed in a vast piece of land with no sense of direction, it would be very difficult to consider it a competition. Remember, the more focused your goal is, the more motivation you can pack into it. Sticking with our weight loss example, look at the difference between a specific goal and a loosely organized resolution:

I want to weigh 240lbs by running 3x per week for 45min and abiding to a strict nutrition regimen vs. I want to lose weight by going to the gym more (does this sound familiar?)

 STEP FOUR –Try thinking of your goals as if they are already happening, or even already happened!

This is the part where I usually lose my clients. There is a little psychological secret in powerful goal setting that goes against our grammatical rules in the English language…but if you could not tell from my blog already, grammar isn’t everything!

This is something that may sound strange when you say it out loud but already puts you ahead of your “2014” self. Many studies in the field of psychology, business, philosophy, and even metaphysics have shown us over the years that thinking of goals in present tense helps us achieve these goals quicker (and stronger). This is how it works:

I weigh 240lbs vs. I want to weigh 240lb

STEP FIVE – Create a finish line.

Now it is time to put it all together with this crucial component. Ask any counselor, therpist, motivational speaker, or mentor and they will tell you that an essential ingredient to any good goal is a realistic deadline, which in turn makes it even more measurable, attainable, and real. There needs to be a finish line to call it a race (whether that “finish line” is literal or figurative). Staying with the weight loss example, here is how a good deadline works:

I want to lose 10lbs by April 1st, 2015 vs. I want to lose 10lbs

Notice I did not use all of the other rules in that last example. I wanted to see if you were still paying attention. Now, let’s try and put all five of these rules together. If you create a powerful goal using a positive, detailed, past or present tense, and measurable deadline, your goal should look something like this:

I completed my goal of weighing 240lb by April 1st, 2015 committing to a strict regimen of running for 30 minutes 3x/week and abiding by a healthy, well rounded diet.

It may seem like a wordy goal, but if you thought of all of your goals like this, you will put yourself at a psychological advantage, thus putting yourself miles ahead of…yourself. This year is YOUR year and anything can be accomplished if you believe it can. This may be the third year in a row you have tried to lose weight, quit smoking, and decrease debt, but it may be the first year you have tried to view your goals using powerful ingredients. Remember to hold yourself accountable for your goals, and keep them in plain sight. My recommendation for this is to take a dry erase maker and write the “details” of your goal on your mirror to remind you every morning where you are at for the weekly components of the goal. For instance, if you want to start running three times per week, right “Run” on your mirror with the numbers “1, 2 and 3” underneath it. This will allow you to simply mark through the number with your finger, holding yourself accountable for your goal and keeping it where you can see it.

 

REMEMBER THIS: This is YOUR TIME. Say hello to the new you. I would like to end this blog entry by sharing some of the best advice I have ever read by the insightful business author, Brian Tracy: “If you do not have goals yourself, you are doomed to work towards someone else’s goals for the rest of your life”. Go forth and MAKE!

LGBTQ Supports at CBM

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By Cynthia Holmes, MA, LCSW

Chicago CBM is PROUD to support the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, etc. community!! Some ways we can support you:

LGBTQ+ COMPETENCE IN A COUNSELOR: LGBTQ+ folks can be challenged by anxiety, depression, relationship issues, life changes and stress just like everyone else. While everyone is different and will bring their own experience to counseling, you should not have to educate a clinician around the basics of gender and sexuality. You deserve a therapist who is familiar with the needs of the community and who will offer a safe and affirming environment to work through any issues you are facing and help you live your best life.

COMING OUT: Whether you’re still figuring out your sexuality or gender, if it’s the first time you’re coming out, if you are considering coming out at a new job or role, or to that one last person you’ve been afraid to be your true self with, we can work together to help you live an authentic life.

EMBRACING YOURSELF, YOUR GENDER and/or SEXUALITY: LGBTQ+ folks can face a disproportionate amount of judgement, discrimination, shame and many other negative things in society. This can often become internalized and can affect our sense of self-worth, self-loathing, self-confidence; we can experience internalized homophobia, judgement, anger and shame. These are examples of unjust baggage that may hold LGBTQ+ folks back in life; in success, relationships and happiness. You deserve to work through these limitations, leave the baggage behind and live a happy life!

I’M OUT, NOW WHAT? Sometimes we spend so much of our lives in the closet, we’re not sure what to do once we’re out! We can also feel intimidated, inexperienced, lonely and unsure of what to do or where to start living an authentic life. Therapy can be a great safe space to help work through feelings holding us back and practicing stepping out of our comfort zones and into a fulfilling life.

TRANSITIONING: You already know your physical body doesn’t match who you are inside – congrats on embracing your truth! You may want a place to talk through your options to make the best decision for you, before taking any action. You may want a supportive environment to talk through the changes you will experience as you transition. You may need a letter for surgery. You might want support in dealing with friends, family and the workplace. Transitioning is different for everyone and it can be incredibly helpful to work with a therapist as you’re going through such a big life change.

PARTNERS, FAMILY & FRIENDS OF LGBTQ+ FOLKS: Sometimes, no matter how much we love a person, we may not understand the changes or decisions in their lives. Sometimes their decisions directly impact our lives and we need a safe space, with a therapist who understands, to work through our feelings and reactions. It is often helpful to get your own therapist to work through these things so that they do not do damage to the relationship with the LGBTQ+ person in your life.

For all these reasons and many more, Chicago CBM is happy to support LBGTQ+ folks and their partners, families and friends! Please contact us to see if we are a good fit for you.

Our Chicago CBM LGBTQ+ specialist, Cynthia Holmes, is a bisexual cisgender woman who is out, proud and very active in the LGBTQ community. She believes everyone should feel comfortable in their own skin, be able to embrace their gender and sexuality and live a happy, authentic life.

She is a graduate of the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration and the University of Michigan’s Women and Gender Studies program. She recently obtained her License in Clinical Social Work and has been working in the social service field for 15 years.

Cynthia’s passion is with Gender and Sexuality, and she specializes in helping Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning (LGBTQ) and other folks with the coming out process, feeling more comfortable in their own skin and living full and healthy lives. She is happy to work with partners and family members as they process a loved one’s coming out or transition and how it impacts their lives.

She also works with adults going through life transitions, overcoming obstacles and creating positive changes. Her methods are empowerment and strengths base approaches to collaborate with individuals to help them live their best lives.

Introduction to Mindfulness

by: Caitlin Liddle image1

 What is Mindfulness?

Is “mindfulness” familiar as a current buzzword, but you’re not really sure what it means or how it works? Have you heard it come up in yoga, at work, or in your therapist’s office?   Mindfulness may seem elusive, but it’s really a very simple idea. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a prominent meditation scholar, defines mindfulness as:   “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose,in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” This may seem so basic and obvious, but if you think about, how often are you really doing this? In today’s society, it’s common to be multi-tasking—doing work while listening to music while talking on the phone. Judgments are also often a daily part of our lives—“that movie sucked”, “my boss is a jerk”, “ brussel sprouts are gross.” While these examples may seem relatively benign, judgments about ourselves and others and being stuck in our head worrying about the past or the future can contribute to significant mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression. If I’m judging myself as “a bad person” and my job as “stupid and pointless,” and ruminating about this all day instead of focusing on tasks that need to get done, chances are I will be experiencing a lot of emotional distress. Mindfulness can help us identify judgments as just thoughts, not as facts, and helps us practice focusing on what matters to us. To learn more about what mindfulness is, a good place to start is: http://www.mindfulnesscds.com

Benefits of Mindfulness: 

Mindfulness, through a variety of research studies, has been proven to:

  • Reduce stress
  • Improve sleep
  • Reduce chronic pain
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve focus
  • Improve relationships Improve memory

To find out more about these and other benefits, go to http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner.aspx and http://www.helpguide.org/harvard/benefits-of-mindfulness.htm.

How do I get started?

To practice mindfulness, you will always have what is called an “anchor”, a focal point for your attention. During the course of the exercise, when you notice getting distracted from the anchor, by thoughts, feelings, judgments, bodily sensations or external noises, (which you will because you are human) gently and non-judgmentally bring your attention back to the anchor. Throughout the exercise, make sure you are breathing deeply and evenly, diagphramatically (through your stomach).

2 simple exercises to try:

Set a timer for 5 minutes. Close your eyes and sit upright. The anchor will be your breath and counting to 6 on each inhale and exhale. Every time you notice having judgments about yourself or others, or your mind wandering, notice that thought or distraction, and bring your attention back to your breath and the counting. At the end of 5 minutes, gently bring your attention back to the room.

Practice a simple activity “One-mindfully.” Instead of watching tv while eating dinner while checking your email, just eat dinner. Observe with your senses the way the food smells, tastes, feels in your mouth, noticing any urges to check email or distracting thoughts coming up and bring your attention back to focusing on your meal. This can be done with any simple task. Other examples are washing the dishes, taking a shower, putting on lotion.

Trust that Good Will Come

By: Casey Burden

It’s a new year, and just like every beginning to the new year, we hear a lot of talk about what changes people hope to make for themselves in the year ahead. The ideas and fantasies bring excitement and perhaps, for a short time, we do see some action on making these goals a reality. What about when the excitement dissipates and we revert back to what feels more comfortable in the patterns of yester-year?

 

Change. People don’t like it. We enjoy thinking about change and maybe even talking about it, but thinking and talking is very different from taking action. In order to get to the point where we take action towards our goals, we need to invest in setting ourselves up for success…and plan and prepare for the process. This is an impossible task to do alone. We need support. Support can look like journaling, individual therapy, group therapy, meetings, outreach calls, readings, meditation, etc. These are some of the tools we can put in place and utilize to hold ourselves accountable while also being healthy outlets for the challenges and successes the journey will bring.

 

Shame and isolation are two possible outcomes we experience when we feel we have failed our goals. They can lead to depressive feelings, low motivation, and esteem challenges. Support and accountability combat the shame and isolation which can keep us stuck. This year, I challenge you to not only come up with your vision for 2015, but to surround yourself with a lot of support. Plan your process, know where you will turn and what your efforts will be to get there. Have the courage to do things differently. Have the courage to change.

Quote from Courage to Change: One Day at a Time in Al-Anon:

“My thoughts are my teacher. Are they teaching me to love and appreciate myself and others, or are they teaching me to practice isolation?”

Tree pose

Activity

Meditate for a moment on the year ahead. Make a list of personal goals. In a separate list, make a list of professional goals. Don’t limit yourself. If anything were possible, what would you like to see for yourself? Next, make a list of what you are ready to let go of (things, attitudes, people, patters, behaviors, etc)…

*This activity is modified from More Language of Letting God: 366 New Daily Meditations

Busting Excuses

by Dustin Morici

What are your goals? More importantly… what is keeping you from them?

In our day-to-day we often find ourselves pushing aside our dreams in favor of what is easy in the moment.

“Want to go for that run?” . . . “It’s too cold. “

“When are you going to start that project?” . . . “I am busy today, maybe tomorrow”

Life’s perfect circumstances rarely fall into our laps. It takes planning to find motivation where you might have none. Here are three easy tips to help you bust excuses before they start.

Plan out your Day

We all know the phrase “if you want something done, give it to a busy person.” There is usually time to find in your day. Setting a time period for tasks can help you move swiftly by giving you a goal to shoot for. Structure will also keep you from acting on a whim and doing something that completely throws off your day.

Meet your Needs

Head off the cravings that pull our attention away from our goals by making sure your needs are met. Maybe you didn’t go on that run because you did not feel safe outside or sheltered from the elements.  Maybe you’re hungry…

Get that warm jacket on, strap on some reflectors and find somewhere to run with plenty of people!

maslows-hierarchyexcuses…excuses…excuses…

Motivate your Mind

Our brains can be our best friends or our worst enemies. Rather than allowing your head to begin thinking of things it would rather be doing start to visualize yourself completing a step towards your goal or think about how nice it will feel to accomplish that goal.

Self-talk also works! “I will feel good once I accomplish this”

Last winter I thought it was too cold for me to ride my bike. The excuses stared to pour in… “I don’t like to exercise inside…I can’t be expected to train in THIS… my glasses fog up from my breath, it is unsafe to not see.. my face might get frost bitten..I don’t want to pay for a gym membership…”

 

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Be careful what you hide behind, the solution might just be a little ridiculous…

Move to Lose that Bad Mood!

weight_loss

Many people have resolved to move more, get in an exercise routine, or lose weight in 2015. There are plenty of reasons for doing this – general physical health, dealing with a health condition like diabetes or heart disease, or the personal satisfaction of being in shape.

But we have all heard the frustrations of not sticking to these resolutions.

  • The average resolution lasts for 11 days
  • Its too cold outside, and the treadmill/gym/classes are intimidating
  • It takes a long time to see the results of these resolutions and people lose steam, motivation, even hope

Perhaps that is because we are all looking for the wrong results…

What if I told you that you could FEEL better just 10 minutes after exercising? And what if you could experience these GOOD FEELINGS after just a few minutes of activity?

Researchers in exercise science and psychology have been studying the mood boosting effects of bursts of activity and intervals for a while now. Articles have appeared in magazines, journals, and blogs, from the American Psychological Association to the New York Times, talking about how short bursts of activity can improve your mood. Short bursts of activity (as few as 10-15 minutes!) can

  • work as a powerful antidepressant
  • decrease anxiety and stress
  • improve your focus and memory
  • help you sleep better
  • And who doesn’t need a mood boost these days?!?

As a therapist, I’m constantly looking for ways to support clients outside of the appointment. As some of you may know, I also work in research on this very practical question. At Northwestern University’s Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies (http://cbits.squarespace.com/#welcome), my colleagues and I use scientific principles to create web and mobile apps to help people treat their symptoms of depression and anxiety.

One of our latest offerings  – MoveMe – encourages users to move for short periods of time to feel a mood boost by providing easy access to

  • Links to exercises that fall in the category of mood boosting bursts to do every day to help you feel healthier, happier and stronger
  • Reminders and notifications to help motivate you to be active in your everyday life
  • Easy scheduling using your calendar to help you plan and do activity that will help your mood

Ultimately, MoveMe can help you remember that a little activity goes a long way to improving your mood. And if you can feel happier and healthier after just 10 minutes of activity, this just might help you keep moving for longer…and see those results you’re looking for in those resolutions!

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If you’re interested in trying MoveMe out yourself, head here!

 

MoveMe is currently only available for Android user systems, but there are other mood-boosting apps out there that seem promising. I’ve reviewed a few, and here are my top two non-MoveMe recommendations (and if you’re downloading MoveMe now, you can link to these from the app!)

 

The Scientific 7-Minute Workout

Nike Training Club

 

My message for everyone out there today is this: Getting up and moving for short periods of time – even just 5 minutes – can help you feel happier, healthier, more energized, and boost your mood.  So the next time that couch is calling, ask yourself – Would it be worth doing a little activity to help me feel even better?

Whats the best advice for…

It is the second week of January and I have lost count of how many emails, facebook ads, instagram posts, magazine ads etc I have seen, telling me what I should do for the new year… “cleanse, detox, eat this, 5 things to stay away from in the new year, how to meditate, the only 2 yoga poses you should know, lose belly fat, take this, do this class, find your center…. and my head is spinning. I am so easily persuaded into the newest fad, “best” workouts, “healthiest” foods, “top notch” training programs…. you name it, I have either done it, or at least put A LOT of thought into how I could fit it into my schedule. As I have said before, I am my own research subject, and sometimes its not a good thing. 

little-exercise

As a therapist I often have clients looking for advice, but I am not trained to give advice. I work with people to help them find their OWN way. Advice is a good second step, to come after you have done the work yourself and all you need a is a little nudge. Advice becomes the enemy when it is the main influencer of our actions and then consumes our thoughts and becomes our self-worth, those thoughts in our head saying “you should have, you’re suppose to be…” It’s easy for all of us to seek approval and advice from people we love and people we think to be the expert, and then we forget- we are the only expert of ourselves. I am the only one who knows what I feel- after I eat something, after a good nights sleep, around certain people, events, temperatures, heart rates levels, etc. But there is SO much out there to become victim to.

 

I fall into the trap of too much health advice all the time. I LOVE health blogs, but they all have different opinions, orientations, and methods. Training for my first marathon it was easy to click on ads, look at other training programs, and question my training run results in comparison, instead of trusting the training program I chose and sticking to it. When working on gaining strength, I was able to work with one trainer, and through training logs and reflection I was able to stay on track with one program and how it worked with me, and not get caught up in what the web said I should do or what other strong lean looking women in the gym were doing.

  Eleanor Rooselvelt

A hypothetical:

 

Lets say you set a goal to improve your health. Well, if you are a CBM client you most likely will be asked to be more specific. Narrowing it down- “I want to increase my energy, and feel good through out the day”. Ok, what does that mean specifically? “I want to have a healthier diet from morning to night and throughout the week, along with a “good” exercise regimen, and relaxation time”. Awesome.Then you run into dilemmas- there are so many different ways to do this, and you start with the paleo diet or the whole 30 and going to cross-fit, but then there’s an article on why this is bad for you and you should walk and do yoga and be a vegan. You’re only 4 days into your cross-fit regimen and change. And then you crave meat. Then you start to skip out on social gatherings because it doesn’t fit the mold of what you should do according to your new “lifestyle”. Then you come across a new fitness boutique closer to your house and they have juice cleanses. Now your stomach hurts and being hungry becomes a panic attack because you have no idea what you SHOULD eat.

And here is the conclusion… what do you feel, how did your body feel after cross-fit, what did it feel after yoga, do you like the taste of meat and does your stomach feel ok after a good portion? How do you feel emotionally? Should is a made up word, used in extreme and excess, and it drives us mad. “Should” influences shame and anxiety. When instead, we know what feels good when we allow ourselves to do the thinking and not the media, what other people look like, say, etc. We just have to consistently work on developing our sense of self. Letting go of the should and moving more toward what feels good and what we control.

1- Set an intention, a goal. Be specific with what you want, take time to reflect on what changes will have to be made.

2- Decide a simple route of action. Start small and FEEL your way through it.

3- If you want advice or approval- ask it. Prepare yourself for all different views and be ready to be ok with not taking it!

4- Reflect and evaluate your process. Whats working? Whats not? Whats the next adjustment to make?

Instead of advice or falling victim to the newest and greatest, first check in with yourself. Follow your feelings and try to stay on track with one simple destination, and allow the ability to make small adjustments. 

 

A suggested read: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. 

The Power of Visualization and Dreams

What if you could become a better pianist in your sleep? Or tennis player? Or surgeon? Well, according to a NOVA documentary on dreams, you can do just that. In the 2012 documentary, researchers compared two groups. Each group was tasked with attempting to build a new skill. Although both groups slept for the same amount of time, one group was prevented from dreaming. The result: the dream group showed increased improvement in the practiced skill, reporting dreams involving the target task.

Using mental rehearsal as a tool to build skills is not new. Sport Psychologists have been using the power of visualization to help performers for some time. The interesting part is the similarity. Both dreams and visualization use the power of mental rehearsal to improve skills. Now then…. How should be best use this knowledge to fully harness the power of mental imagery?

Now on a quest, I decided to find a way to integrate the concept of visualization and dreaming into a more powerful tool. Using some basic guidelines on how to better influence your dreams, I set out on a self-study.

Below I have outlined my approach. Join me with your own goals to see how you might be able to better yourself with the power of dreams and visualization.

–My process–

Step 1: outline my intention.
How will I use visualization and dreaming to improve my life? I decided to use a more “classical” psychology goal and also a performance goal.

Goal 1: Improve willingness to engage in emotionally charged discussions.
Having grown up in an emotionally reserved family, I have a strong urge to avoid emotional conflict that directly affects me. Seeing it as a limiter at times, I would like to become more willing and confident in initiating discussions that must be had.

Goal 2: Improve my pack positioning in road bicycle racing
I have a great passion for cycling and am always looking to improve my ability in competition. One of my biggest limiters is positioning at the end of a race, where cycling becomes a full contact sport in order to secure a good position.

Step 2: Create and refine visualization.
Write down what I want to dream about every night before I go to bed. Edit the script as I revisit it every night to create a vivid account of the events that I want to achieve.

Step3: rehearse visualization before going to bed.
I have decided to try using some recordings in addition to text. Reading the text and focusing on imagining what the words say and then listening to a recording of it as I doze off. Keeping the visualization as the last thing I think about that night is important.

Step 4: Reflect on dreams.
Like any skill, practice makes perfect. Remembering and recording dreams will help me chart out progress of my ability to influence my dreams.

I am hoping to report on what I learned in my next post. If you decide to join me in this endeavor, best of luck!

-Dustin Morici

dustin biking

Finding the best therapist for YOU!

by Cynthia Holmes, MA, LCSW

Since I’m in the field and talk openly about loving my work doing therapy, as well as seeking support for myself at times, friends often approach me for recommendations about finding a good therapist. I would love to suggest that first and foremost, ChicagoCBM is an amazing therapeutic practice with a wealth of expertise and a diversity of specializations

I would recommend highly to anyone! However, there are a ton of professionals and practices to research to find the best fit.  With that, here’s some tips on finding the right therapist for you!

Testing

First off, your awareness and efforts to be proactive are incredibly admirable!! Those steps alone can often be huge!!! Therapy can be incredibly indulgent and luxurious – to have that safe space and support that is all about you.  Even through hard times, or when you don’t know that you have anything to discuss, it is so nice to have the option. For many, that accountability is key to helping people actually make change. Plus it’s a great place to try new things, review what isn’t working and ultimately grow into your best self, living your best life.

 

A quick glimpse at the following info:

 

1. How are you paying? If using insurance start with a list of providers who are in your insurance network.
2. Narrow your list down by location. Parking, public transit, close to work, close to home
3. Check their reviews!
4. Check availability- need to get in now? There are always people with windows of time!
5. If you know what you want to work on and a certain treatment modality that works for you, check their specializations and treatment modalities.
Are you looking for group therapy? Use this in your search as well!

 

 

1. If you plan to use your insurance, oftentimes the best place to start is with a list of who is covered.

2. Then from there, you can narrow the list down by location – don’t kid yourself, convenience can be key!

 

3. Next, it’s helpful to cross check providers with online profiles and reviews – you can simply google folks, check out their websites, and read actual reviews on ZocDoc or even Yelp. Obviously reviews can be very subjective and people are often facing hard times when in therapy, but reviews can definitely be helpful for red flags, details about things like the space, or if there is anything you know in advance won’t work for you. This should get you a good start on your options. On provider’s websites, it can be informative to tune into the language used to see if it resonates with you or if it turns you off to this person or practice.

4. The next step is typically to check out their availability. ZocDoc and other sites can be great for showing this kind of availability. Many people need evening appointments, so those tend to book up first. If you know you can only do a Tuesday or Thursday evening, that can narrow down the options quickly. Some therapists do weekends, some will have availability before work or on lunch hours or during business hours if your schedule is flexible. Many schedule weekly standing appointments, but some can schedule week by week, every other week, or sometimes twice a week, depending on need. It can be important to consider not only your timing options, but what will be best for you emotionally. If you know you have some stuff to work on that could bring you to tears, it might be nice to schedule appointments when you don’t have many obligations after (aka not during your work day). If you find that you leave therapy feeling energized and motivated to take action, maybe a weekend morning would be a good fit so you have the time to utilize your motivation and energy. If work is your big stressor, maybe it would be helpful to schedule an appointment in the middle of the day to really get to the crux of your stress and directly apply actions for change. Some therapists will also have a waiting list to get an appointment – this can mean their services are in great demand or that they only see a few clients at a particular location. It is up to each person to know if they can wait for an appointment or if their window of opportunity or stressor demands urgent attention. Either way, it’s best to get that appointment on the books to have that commitment and accountability to yourself.

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If your schedule is flexible or you find several providers with good reviews and times that work for you, you’ll need to get a bit more nitty-gritty – and it’s not a bad idea to go there regardless, as hopefully the more research you do will increase the chances that the person you pick will be a good fit. With that in mind, it’s time to look at the details.

 

5. Most providers will list their modalities; whether they will see individuals, couples, families, or run groups; and what ages they work with. They will also often list their specializations, such as depression and anxiety – which most will specialize in, as these are the most common reasons people seek therapy. This can be a good way to narrow things down as well because it can be very helpful to find a therapist who understands the many facets of your experience. For example, if you have a history of disordered eating, are facing a chronic medical condition, or identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, etc., it can be great to work with a therapist who if familiar with some of the nuances or ways to support these arenas. You shouldn’t have to educate your therapist about something that is fundamental to who you are as a person. With that being said, your experience is also unique and as much as we can be familiar with something, you are the expert on your experience and we want to learn about that from you. You may also decide that you want to avoid a provider with experience in an area so that your therapeutic experience isn’t clouded by that – for example, someone in recovery from addiction may find it helpful to work with a therapist who is familiar with recovery, while another person may prefer to rely on their 12-step community for recovery and pick a therapist who is a better fit for the primary issues they would like to work through. Also, straight folks can work with LGBTQ therapists and vice versa. You can also look at the level of education (although more doesn’t always mean better – for example, most Psychiatrists act as medical doctors and don’t provide talk therapy, and a master’s level clinician could be just as great of a fit for you as a PhD or PsyD), years in practice (keeping in mind there can be both sides to that coin too), and type of degree (for example, social work training tends to have a different view than counselors, but a clinician’s practice can vary greatly from their training). Finally, if you want to get technical, take a look at a providers’ therapeutic approach or treatment modality. If you don’t have clinical training, be as cautious with this one as you would (or probably should) with looking up medical information on the internet. Most therapists will likely use multiple theories in practice, and again, training doesn’t exclusively dictate their delivery style. There are some treatment approaches that are empirically a better clinical fit with certain presenting issues. For example, some methods are meant to be used over longer periods of time, so if you know that you have limited time, that method may not be clinically appropriate. It is also important to note that as clinicians, we are ethically bound to help you find the best fit for your needs, which may mean referring you elsewhere if our expertise is not a good match for your needs. Many therapists will also do a free brief phone (or sometimes email) consultations, and it is completely ok to reach out to them and take advantage of that! Keep in mind, they are usually in sessions with other clients, so they may not be able to respond to you immediately, but we are often happy to answer your questions on the front end and know that sometimes just hearing our voice can set clients at ease or make them feel more comfortable. Websites like Psychology Today will have lots of this info listed for you.

Ultimately, whether a therapist is a good fit is 150% up to you. You may attend your first or second session and decide that the therapist may be nice or seem smart, but for whatever reason, you don’t think that you will be comfortable in the space or sharing with this person. That is a totally normal part of the process and we as clinicians are aware of this. You may be hesitant to tell us your whole life story in the first session because you are feeling out the situation to see if you’ll be comfortable first – this too is completely understandable. Some people will try several therapists before they find the right fit, some will work with the first person they try, some just need my help for now and will work with another person at another time in their life for another reason, and all of these scenarios are completely acceptable. Try not to judge yourself if you find that you don’t think you’ll feel comfortable working with someone older, younger or too much different from yourself – you may be pleasantly surprised if you are able to try a provider outside what you imagined, but really, getting you connected to support is what matters most here. As much as it’s great to do your homework, things in writing can feel very different in practice and you will have to try someone for yourself to see if they’re a good fit. Try to be patient (this process can unfortunately take longer than we’d like), try to remain open minded (not much is black and white in therapy), try to trust yourself and take advantage of support where you can. Ideally everyone will have a fast and easy connection to the best therapist for them, who has the right schedule, location and accepts the payment method they prefer, but as you can imagine, it can get complicated. I wish you all the success with your journey and hope you get connected to the right support for you. Kudos again for taking the first step!!

 

Disclaimer: If you are not safe and need immediate support, consider calling 911 or going to your nearest Emergency Room or Behavioral Health Hospital (where you may have less of a wait). If your needs are urgent, but you are currently safe, you might want to call your insurance and ask who is covered in behavioral health for an assessment for higher levels of care (Inpatient, Partial Hospitalization, Intensive Outpatient and other levels of treatment). If you are safe and need to talk while you wait for your therapy appointment, you can always call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) anytime 24/7 for free, or check out their website: www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org 

 

Final plug: Chicago CBM is awesome! If you’re in the Chicago area, we have offices downtown, flexible hours and accept a range of insurances. At Chicago CBM every therapist offers a unique skill set and is passionate about helping every individual and/or group instill change in their lives. Each one of us comes from a different background. We aim for guiding you through holistic change in mind and body. Our diverse areas of specializations include: Addictions, Bariatric Assessments, Eating Disorders, Exercise Psychology, Family and Adolescents, Health Psychology, LGBTQ, Life Transitions, Mental Skills Training, Sports, Stress and Anxiety, Weight Management and MORE. We have been helping people from Chicago and around the world for 25 years. Give us a call or contact us online to see if we can help you too.

Taking Care of Yourself, Both Mind and Body

Tree pose

Most of us tend to view our physical and emotional/mental health as very separate things. The truth is, our physical and mental health are very intimately connected. One way I find helpful in remembering this basic truth is to consider infants’ behavior. If a baby is crying, what’s wrong? Is the baby hungry, tired, sick? Every infant’s emotional distress is linked in some way to not getting a basic physical need met. Although we don’t always think about things this way, the same is true for adults! When our basic needs haven’t been met, we are much more vulnerable to emotional distress and difficulty coping with daily stressors.

One helpful device to remember is “PLEASE MASTER”, this comes from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, an evidence-based therapeutic treatment modality created by Marsha Linehan. If we follow the guidelines below, paying attention and attending to our basic needs, we are much more likely to cope well with challenges and feel more emotionally resilient.

PLEASE MASTER

Treat Physical Illness: If you aren’t feeling well, take some time to rest! If we don’t take care of ourselves when we’re sick, we’re likely to be more sad, anxious and overwhelmed.

 

Balance Eating: Have you ever heard the term “hangry”? This is how I (and many others) get when they haven’t had enough to eat. Not getting enough carbs, fats, protein, etc can also have an effect on our moods, and we are generally the most emotionally stable when we are well nourished.

 

Avoid mood altering substances: Drugs like alcohol and marijuana are called mood altering substances for a reason. If you’ve ever noticed feeling more sad or anxious after a night of drinking alcohol, it’s likely that the alcohol is having a negative impact on your mood. It is, after all, a depressant. 

 

Balance Sleep: Many studies have shown that our brains do not function as highly when we are sleep deprived. We are also less resilient to emotional stressors that may come our way when we haven’t gotten enough sleep (ie. Bursting into tears when there’s miscommunication at work or when we lose our keys). We can also be emotionally compromised by getting too much sleep, feeling low energy, sluggish and sad. To be best prepared for the day-to-day challenges life throws at us, most of us need 8-9 hours of sleep. 

 

Get Exercise: Getting regular exercise tends to boost our energy and keep us emotionally stable. Many studies have shown that regular moderate exercise can even have the equivalent mental health benefits of a low dose anti-depressant.

 

Build MASTER-y: The idea of building mastery means doing one thing every day that helps you to feel competent and in control. For me, this is cooking and having a regular yoga practice. For others it might be learning how to knit or how to play guitar. It can even be as simple as sending that email you’ve been avoiding or flossing your teeth every morning.

serenity rocks Written by: Caitlin Liddle. Read more about Caitlin here!