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Breaking Free: 3 Tools to Transform Your Relationship Dynamics

Walking on eggshells in your relationship? Here are 3 tools to change everything.

We all want to feel free to trust and love our other half, but sometimes find it difficult if they’re controlling, scrolling on their phones during “quality time” or making us work hard for the scraps of love and attention we crave.

Sometimes we get to a place in our lives where we wonder how much longer we can be living this way. Most of us have lived enough life to know that yesterday might be starting to look permanent, causing us to wonder, “How do we change our tomorrow?”.

These simple tools, when used correctly, can help improve your relationship and point you on a
path to a greater sense of self:

Transform your habit of thinking:

We all have an inner critic that lives inside of us, made up of fearful thoughts that keep us feeling stuck. These thoughts are not who we are, but have been wired into our subconscious to keep us safe. Who we really are knows we deserve more than what we are getting, but somehow we keep moving back into our old habits. To get the relationship we want, we need to get curious about how our inner critic thinks it’s helping us through presenting the negative, fearful thoughts, and retrain our minds to replace them with faith in ourselves. You are not
your thoughts. You are the one who is aware of your thoughts and has the power to change them to create the life and relationship you know you deserve.

Change where you put your energy:

One of the most terrifying feelings we can experience is the feeling of helplessness. This is especially true in our relationships. To avoid this feeling, our human nature is to try to control external factors outside of our control. We sometimes put a lot of energy into trying to change (or control) our partner, leaving us feeling burnt out and resentful. The fastest way to reclaim our inner peace is by gaining clarity on what we do have control over, and what we do not. Once we realize we only have control over our own actions and choices, the magic begins to happen. Redirecting all of the energy that was once used to try and change our partner, we can focus on building the life we want, and if our partner is willing to come along for the ride, they
will rise to our level.

Train people how to treat you:

We all know the true saying “Actions speak louder than words”, but sometimes this idea gets lost when it comes to our relationships. We may tell our partner that we won’t put up with something anymore or we are going to leave… but then we don’t follow through. We may say, “That’s not okay”, but continue to give them what they want. To get the changes we require, we need to reward our partner with their love language when they show behaviors we want or desire. When unwanted behaviors show up, we limit any reinforcement of that behavior. With the help of a therapist to navigate the intricacies of relationships, we can make a healthy plan to limit our presence and/or attention in a specific way. Over time, if they truly are our person, their behaviors will shift into what we have been asking for but haven’t been following up with our actions until now.

Written by Kellie Hatch – Mental Health Graduate Student

Creating Everyday ‘Insta’ Moments with Nature

The old pond
A frog leaps in.
Sound of the water.
– Basho, (1644-1694)

In therapy, one of the things counselors like to share with clients is the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is something that everyone, even kids, can learn. It is bringing attention to the experiencing of the moment. The idea is sensual noticing, acknowledging thoughts and accepting feelings. But practicing mindfulness can also be incorporated into daily life, to uplift the moment. For this exercise, we will use the frog haiku poem as mindfulness inspiration.

Basho, a famous Japanese poet, wrote the above haiku in the fifteenth century. It recalls just one single moment of nature. The silence is part of it. The sound of the water is easy to imagine. When you think of it, can you visualize the moment? What do you see, hear, smell?

Here is an exercise in mindfulness that anyone can do. Pay attention to the details and experience of nature like Basho. Think of it like producing mini ‘Insta’ moments for your senses and mind. This can be done anywhere there are elements of nature. When you notice something beautiful or special, breath it
in deeply like you are smelling a beautiful rose.

Here are some ideas:
-Take a nature walk in your neighborhood and focus on the flora and fauna in all the yards, any nature sounds you hear and the state of the sky. Breath it all in.

-Go to a botanical garden and give yourself permission to soak up the beauty of each tree, flower and shrub. Breath it all in.

-Go bird watching. Take in all the splendor of the environment. Enjoy the movement of bird flight. Breath it all in.

-Sit or take a walk on the beach, noticing the sounds of the waves, the colors and shapes of the shells, the rocks, and the composition of the horizon. Watch the sun rise or set. Breath it all in.

-Buy a beautiful bouquet of flowers and take time to study them. Look at their textures and colors and smell each part of them. Breath it all in.

-Listen to the birds in the morning through your windows. Florida is a place with birdsong. Tune in to them like a radio channel. Breath it all in.

-Try kayaking or paddle-boarding and notice all the life under the water. Breath it all in.

-Grow a seed and observe each stage closely. This one is great for kids. Teach them to breath in the moment.

-Stare at the clouds. Notice subtle colors, the sky in in motion. Look for beauty. Breath it all in.

-Houseplants are also a reliable source of connecting with nature. Study the beauty of an orchid, or the smell of a basil plant.

The exciting news is that you can bring mindfulness to anything. You can do your dishes mindfully. You can play with your children mindfully and interact with your partner mindfully. You can bring it into the shower, and to yardwork. Mindfulness is kind of like magic because it transforms the moment. If you transform enough moments, your life will be transformed.

Written by Megan McKeon – Mental Health Graduate Student at University of the Cumberlands

Therapy Goals

We have all experienced moments in which we felt we were at a loss for handling a situation or a feeling. It is during these times we seek outside assistance, be it from friends, loved ones or with a therapist. Because these are difficult and stressful times, problem solving, positive thinking, or solution finding can seem impossible. However, in therapy this is exactly what we strive for in the midst of these chaotic moments.

This first requires an individual’s awareness they have exhausted their mental and emotional resources and acknowledge the need for professional guidance through this process. Finding a therapist with whom you can share this space continues this process through the sharing of these experiences, feelings, and struggles. It is through this exchange of honest and often difficult information the therapeutic alliance is formed. This alliance between therapist and client is the foundation on which therapy goals are created and refined.

Many individuals do not have clear therapeutic goals at the outset of this journey. Taking the time and making space to sort through uncomfortable situations and emotions brings clarity to one’s thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and therefore, their goals. Therapeutic goals can and will change throughout the process but having a goal on which to focus allows us to see solutions, successes, and areas of improvement. Therapy goals could be considered the mile markers on the journey to wellness.

Working with a therapist to achieve these goals requires individuals, couples, and families to join together, taking the information and insight acquired in sessions into their everyday lives. This day-to-day application solidifies new skills, new ways to view or assess problems, and ultimately achieve goals. Once the goals for therapy are achieved, the skills and benefits of these changes can be applied to future issues and concerns resulting in lifelong improvements in one’s well-being.

Written by April Daniel MS, NCC, LMHC – National Certified Counselor (NCC) and a Licensed Mental Health Counselor

 

Protecting Your Peace

Peace is often thought to look like a straw hammock on a sunny beach or a crackling indoor fireplace on a cold day. And as comforting as these moments are, what they represent is something deeper and more crucial for fortifying our mental health. How can we cultivate feelings of peace that carry over into our day-to-day lives?

In our era of 24-hour news cycles and constant smartphone notifications, it may feel like there’s simply no time for real peace. When free time arises in our busy lives, we have an instant abundance of bite-sized video clips, clickbait headlines, and social messaging to drown our attention in. And somewhere in the constant reach for pleasing distraction, we might occasionally wonder why we feel drained, strained, and burnt out.

Now more than ever it is up to us to be deliberate about cultivating peace. It starts with finding what practice works best for us – prayer, mediation, reading, walking, journaling, or other focused, lowkey activities. It should facilitate a shift from preoccupation to centered mindfulness, creating time for presence, reflection, and grounding. With enough consistency, practices like these can open up a new perspective quite different from the hustle mindset that colors modern life. But what happens when the practice ends, and we step back into daily life?

Just as peace is cultivated, it also needs to be protected. As a calm perspective helps us recognize the inner habits and outer noise that shake our focus, we can also find new approaches. This may look like restructuring a room to limit distractions, setting healthy boundaries in relationships, or challenging negative patterns of thinking or action. In doing so, we protect the restorative peace that prepares us to take on more of life’s challenges.

So, in those times when a vacation is still aways off and it feels like our responsibilities are piling up, we can always choose to be deliberate about cultivating and protecting our peace. When we set aside time for lowkey reflection and mindfulness, it can flow outward and refresh other areas of our busy lives.

Written by Louis Nicholas, IMH24151 – Registered Mental Health Intern

Walk + Talk Therapy by the Bay

Walk + talk therapy by the bay is one of my favorite approaches to mental health therapy. As a trauma-informed therapist, I utilize many different therapeutic techniques to best accommodate each client’s needs. I know that sitting on a therapist’s sofa doesn’t feel safe or comfortable for many people. That’s why I offer walk + talk. It’s just like going for a walk with a friend (if your friend was a highly trained mental health professional who knew therapeutic techniques that are clinically proven to improve your mood). ♡

For people who have experienced trauma, the idea of meeting an unknown person in a small office in a new building can feel paralyzing. With walk and talk, we are able to meet in a public park where we are surrounded with other people and beautiful views. While the name implies that we will walk the entire time, there are many seating areas along the route to enjoy the shade and the warm breeze from the bay.

Walk + talk therapy offers an opportunity to reduce stress, relieve body tension, improve circulation, breathe deep and clear the body-mind of intrusive, negative, and ruminative thoughts. These sessions can help you decrease anxiety, regulate mood, enjoy more restful sleep, and more. Additionally, you can receive the feel-good brain chemical benefits of exercise, mindfulness practice and eco-psychology. In session, you can enhance insight, release body trauma, and alter behavior patterns while verbally processing your authentic truth.

In urban planning, there is a concept of integrating waterscapes into cities called “blue spaces.

👫Studies have found that short, frequent walks along waterscapes (blue spaces) are good for your mental health.

👫There is a significant improvement in well-being and mood immediately after a person goes for a walk in a blue space, compared with walking in an urban environment or resting.

👫Waterscapes have healing effects that enhance psychological resilience to promote mental health.

👫Walk + talk therapy by the bay gives clients an opportunity to enjoy some blue spaces while boosting their mental health.

Similarly, when urban architects add nature elements to cities such as trees, plants, and grass, these are called “green spaces.

👫 Green spaces provide fresh, healing air to the body

👫 Some mental health benefits of green spaces include: lowered stress levels, reduced rates of depression & anxiety, reduced cortisol levels, and improved general well-being

👫 Enhance your cognitive functioning, improve your sleep, and increase your levels of physical activity.

👫Walk + talk therapy by the bay gives you an opportunity to spend some time outside connecting to nature while working on your mental health.

If you’re joining me for walk + talk therapy, here are a couple things to keep in mind:

👫We don’t have to walk the whole time!

👫There is plenty of seating along the route should we choose to sit by the water and/or stop to talk in the shade.

👫Walking shoes or comfy sandals are recommended.

👫Please bring a water bottle—we’ve got to stay hydrated!

Written by Kalli Portillo, IMH24576 – Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern, EDMRIA-Approved EMDR Therapist, Certified Prepare/Enrich Couple Counselor

To learn more, review the following open access research studies or google “blue and green spaces mental health benefits.”

Benefits of walking psychotherapy:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8892051/

Waterscapes for mental health:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8618438/

Importance of greenspace: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5663018/

Guide Your Child Through Life

Figuring out the best way to guide your child through life can be scary. There is no perfect manual that tells parents what to do when your child throws a temper tantrum at the grocery store, when your child refuses to eat anything but cookies and chicken nuggets, when your child becomes curious about life, when your child experiences their “terrible twos or terrible teens.”
Ultimately, parenting is a ‘learn as you go” journey. There are several great books that teach parents some really useful strategies when navigating through different stages in your child’s emotional development. One thing that I suggest to parents is to assess their parenting approach. The beauty of a child’s development is that they are taking in their environment. A parent’s parenting style is a major source of influence on how a child will interact with others in their adult life. Children thrive off of high expectations while being supported and guided in a loving environment. When parents take an authoritative approach, parents recognize that their child and/or teen are still developing emotional maturity and depend on their guidance and limits to navigate through life. Through their guidance and boundaries, parents empower their children to make decisions. A because “I said so approach” is not taken but statements like “what do you think about..” “I do or do not think this is a good idea because…” ‘Which one would you choose…” “Help me understand…” “I can understand you are upset but it has to be this way because…”
Creating healthy parent-children relationships is important in creating healthy and secure adult individuals.
Written by Jessica Sagastume – Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Bilingual and Immigration Counselor

SETTING NUTRITIONAL NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS THE HEALTHY WAY

 

It’s that time of year when most of us think about setting our New Year’s resolutions. If you’re like a lot of people, you may have a goal of “losing weight” or “getting healthier.” These are obviously great goals to have, and making changes to your diet is one of the best ways to reach both.

The problem is, too many people make the wrong changes to their diet. They want to lose 30 pounds and be healthy in an unrealistic amount of time. And so once January 1st comes around, they rely on fad diets that don’t provide their bodies with proper nourishment.

This is the number one reason people fail to reach their New Year’s goals.

Here are some ways you can set your nutritional New Year’s resolutions in a healthy way.

Rely on How You Feel, Not on Technology
I see more and more people using a tracking app to track how many calories they eat in a day. But most of these programs give you a caloric reward (you can eat more) on days you exercise and a caloric punishment (you must eat less) on days you don’t.

The thing is, this kind of “logic” goes against normal intuitive eating patterns. In fact, for most people, feel less hungry on days they are most active and vice versa. My advice is to listen to your own hunger signals and make decisions off of those instead.

Avoid Restrictive Fad Diets
I can’t think of anything less healthy than a diet that does not allow you to eat macronutrients. Fat, protein and carbohydrates are all important for our health. Some people do better with more fat and fewer carbs, and some people do better with more carbs and less protein. It all really depends on your age, activity level, lifestyle, and general health. Your best bet is to work with a licensed nutritionist who can create an eating plan that is right for you.

Take Baby Steps
No one becomes overweight and unhealthy overnight. It happens over the course of weeks, months, and years. Losing weight and getting your health back also will not happen overnight, so you need to be realistic.

And because weight loss and improved health can take time, it’s important that you focus on setting small goals and taking baby steps to get there. Reaching a set of smaller goals (lose 5 pounds, walk upstairs without becoming out of breath) instead of one big one (lose 50 pounds and look awesome in a bikini) will help you stay on track and committed.

Don’t be like everyone else and set yourself up to fail in the coming year. Be smart about your weight loss and health goals by following these tips. And if you’d like to work with a nutritionist who can help you reach your goals in a healthy manner, please get in touch with me.

Written by Sherline Herard – Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern

SOURCES:

https://www.vitacost.com/blog/healthy-new-year-resolution-tips/

3 Reasons You Should Set Goals, Not Resolutions

Top 3 Nutrition New Year’s Resolutions for 2019

Tips for Planning for Self-Care

Reaching the point of burnout is, unfortunately, an all too common experience for many. Given the fast-paced, productivity-based work culture that exists in America today, burnout has essentially become the marker by which we measure success. The message we receive is this: “If you feel like you have exhausted your limits, then you are doing something right!” There is this tendency to equate how much we produce to whether or not our lives are worthwhile, but this could not be more untrue. Similarly, rest is often portrayed as something you earn once you have put in the work, but this is also false. Rest is not something we need to work toward, it is something our bodies and minds require in order for us to make it through life. With this in mind, I have compiled a list of helpful tips to utilize when planning for self-care. While I wish I could tell you I picked this up without error, the only reason I am able to make such a list is because I have tried and failed many times… And this is what I have learned!
1. Identify the difference between things that make you feel rested versus what makes you feel fulfilled. Some activities might fall into both categories, but it is helpful to distinguish between the two. Restful activities often alleviate stress and induce a sense of tranquility. Fulfilling activities are things one enjoys and are often fun. For example, meditating or going on a walk might help one feel rested, whereas painting or gardening might be fulfilling.
2. Identify the people and things that hinder your ability to unwind. For instance, if you are a parent and being around your child is stressful in that you focus solely on their needs, you may need to find someone to care for your child during your self-care time. Similarly, having your work phone on you while you attempt to rest might prevent you from being able to relax as your phone might go off or you might feel compelled to check it regularly.
3. Review your weekly schedule and identify spaces of time in which you are able to engage in self-care. Whether your schedule is wide open or packed with commitments, making time for self-care is something one has to be intentional about planning because it will not always “just happen” or “work itself out.”
4. Once you have decided on a restful or fulfilling activity, have ensured you will not be distracted by certain people or things, and have chosen a date and time for self-care, make sure all of your regular responsibilities are tended to prior. As an example, one might handle all of their house chores, clear out their inbox, and predetermine dinner plans in order to set themselves up for nothing but rest on the day of their self-care. This is important because “past you” is taking care of “future you” in a way that will make you feel even more taken care of.
5. Finally, make sure you plan for self-care at least once a week. While there are ways to find rest and fulfillment in small ways throughout the week, it is imperative that you care for yourself and separate blocks of time. If you are able to give so much to others (i.e. work, school, family, etc.), you need to be able to give yourself much as well.
Written by Cindy-Joy Rosado – Graduate Student in Mental Health Counseling

Restore Your Relationship

“The first step to problem solving in a relationship is to simply take the rope and set it down.”
When working with couple’s in conflict resolution. The first question I ask them is: “what is one step you can take to work towards a solution?” Being able to work towards healing and restoration in a relationship means creating a mental shift from focusing on all the areas the other partner is lacking, and begin to focus on what steps are needed to take to make your partner comfortable in working together as a team. It is easy to fall into a “tug of war” battle where each partner refuses to let go of their own personal perceptions, opinions, and truths. While it is important to acknowledge your own thoughts and feelings, it is also important to show empathy and understanding towards the other partner. Taking accountability of your own actions and coming together to fight against the problem versus each other creates a sense of “partnership”. Partnership means you are no longer on opposite sides of the playing field but working together as a team.
Written by Jessica Sagastume, MH# 16756 – Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Bilingual and Immigration Counselor

Summer Loving ❤️

Summer… Even the word brings on a sweet smile!

This spectacular time of year comes after spring and before fall. Many agree that it’s the best season of all. A time where we can all use a splash of replenishment as the days grow longer and the soul longs for sunshine and the sea.

Traditionally, this special season suspends the 3 R’s of reading writing and arithmetic and sets the stage for 2 R’s that are far more gratifying and satisfying to our mental health, rest, and relaxation.

Have you put much thought into making this summer sizzle? If not, it may be time to turn up the heat and consider the following FUN and affordable activities:

stargazing
exercising
gardening
pleasure reading
dancing/movement
yoga/pilates/tai chi
visiting a park/ zoo/ museum/ planetarium
building a treehouse
creating/sketching/ drawing/ painting/sidewalk chalk
praying/ meditating
collecting seashells
building a sand castle
hiking
writing/ sharing your story
kissing
playing board games
playing cards
playing hopscotch
playing sports
serving others
volunteering
baking
floating/ splashing in the sea
cycling/skating/roller blading
caking an ice cream sundae
other

Can you think of ten additions to begin your Summer Bucket List?
FUN things to do that lift your spirits and make your eyes sparkle!
If so, add them to create your unique summer bucket list! Check off as you complete and add other activists as you discover all of the pleasures of summer.
Let’s make the most of this awesome season!
Summer… I’m loving it!!

written by: Ria Ruane, MA, RMHCI art work by: Alexa Ruane