Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Mind at Ease - The Right Relationship (Part 3 of 3)

We get the greatest benefits from therapy when we can speak candidly with our counselor and trust him or her to create a safe space for us to explore our ideas, thoughts, and emotions. It is absolutely critical for the connection to feel like a “good fit” between us and our therapist, because that relationship provides the arena where change, growth, and healing can happen.

If you decide to try therapy, choosing a therapist will be an important decision. It’s okay to explore options and look around for the right person to work with.

First, choose several counselors and give them a phone call. Find therapists online, get referrals from friends, or the phone book. Give a short summary of the challenges you’re facing and what you’d like to accomplish with therapy.

Take some time to learn about the therapist’s style. Ask them to tell you about their approach to counseling. Some give more feedback and are directive, while others are quieter and give you more time for self-reflection. There are therapists who give homework to do between sessions, while others do not. No technique is right or wrong, but one may be a better fit for you than another.

From your brief conversation, figure out whether it feels good to talk to this person; if it does, you can make an appointment.

While you’re shopping around, it’s okay to book an appointment with a couple of different therapists. You can even let them know that you’re talking to several therapists to find the best one for you. A good counselor will want you to feel comfortable with whomever you choose and will support your process in finding a good match.

The future looks a little brighter when you walk out of a therapist’s office. Once you’ve found the right one for you, what seemed like chaos in your mind and your life can begin to make sense. You can learn to take control and live more fully, more authentically, right now.

And that puts a mind at ease.

Amy Hooper, LCSW-C, CEAP is counselor who helps regular, everyday people who are struggling through life’s difficult times to take charge of their lives and feel better about themselves. She is the director of Another Look at Healing, LLC, a counseling and wellness center in Gaithersburg, MD, where adults, teens, and couples come for individual psychotherapy or group therapy. For more information, visit or contact Amy at or 240-274-5680.

A Mind at Ease - A Joyful Journey with Therapy (Part 2 of 3)

Therapy takes us on a journey of self-understanding, healing past hurts, improving current relationships, increasing healthy coping mechanisms, and finding self-acceptance. We can learn to attend to our own needs, to self-soothe, to find validation from within, and to increase self-control and self-love.

One common strategy to explore in therapy is looking at our past to make sense of our present. The wounds and hurts of our past can give powerful clues about how we see and interact with the world today. Examining these past hurts and working to resolve them might be painful, but a therapist can support you through the process.

It takes courage to let go of the old patterns, negative self-messages, and destructive behaviors that are no longer working for us. With the support of a trusted therapist, we can gain a new perspective and begin seeing the world differently. We gain the ability to react and respond to situations in new, healthy ways. Examining our past and present guides the work of becoming the person we want to be and getting unstuck from our past.

A counselor may also offer specific skills and coping mechanisms to help us in our healing journey. For example, they may teach us how to do deep breathing to decrease anxiety or use specific communication skills to get our needs met. They may share problem-solving techniques to help eliminate depression. Even the act of talking with our therapist will teach us something, too: how to calmly sit with strong feelings and emotions and communicate them to someone who cares about us. Practicing talking with your therapist can help you figure out how to communicate effectively in your other relationships. You can learn to express your true needs, discover what it’s like to have someone truly listen and help you meet those needs, and be free from other people’s expectations and projected desires.

For more information, visit for details. 

A Mind at Ease - Finding Guidance For Life (Part 1 of 3)

Nothing eases the mind like having someone listen. Whether we’re in a peaceful moment or a crisis, talking and sharing ideas can help us feel understood, validated, and supported as we navigate through life. Feeling that connection is one of the reasons why our friends, family, and loved ones often are so important to our happiness and fulfillment.

There are times, though, when it’s helpful to talk to someone who isn’t involved in our everyday life and has a more objective perspective. We all sometimes feel misunderstood, guilty, insecure, disconnected, or judged in our relationships. Because of this, everyone could benefit from having someone who can listen without judgment or defensiveness; someone who wants to see us grow, encourages us to embrace our strengths, and helps us take charge of our own lives. The confidence we gain from receiving guidance and confirmation on our life’s bearings can be invaluable for navigating our future.

For too long, seeing a counselor or therapist carried an unwarranted stigma of struggling with mental illness. But we all go through challenging transitions and stressful situations, and it takes maturity and self-awareness (and a certain level of sanity!) to realize how beneficial a bit of therapy can be. A therapist or counselor can be a confidante and provide the kind of support we could all use, especially during the stressful times in our lives.

That’s because licensed therapists and counselors see their clients as whole people, not just a collection of “problems.” They can help uncover strengths buried deep within us and reveal insights we may never have known or acknowledged. They can aid our understanding of our beliefs and patterns of thinking and help us gain perspective on what is happening in our lives, clarify our dreams and goals for the future, and choose new ways of interacting with others.

What we discover in therapy guides us to change our behaviors, reactions, and choices in life. The counselor provides the tools; we choose how to use them in planning and building of our future.

For more information, visit for details.