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CBT and The Cognitive Triangle

Cognitive behavior therapy is a widely utilized and popular form of therapy based on the cognitive model of psychopathology. CBT states that our emotions, body responses, and behaviors are influenced by our perception of events that we are currently experiencing or have experienced in the past. According to the CBT model, situations do not initially determine what people feel or how they behave. However, it reflects how our perception of these events determines the emotions we feel, resulting in patterns of behavior. In contrast, it is the interpretation of the event or situation that contributes to our feelings of distress which is referred to as the cognitive model triangle. According to this model, the cognitive triangle illustrates how thoughts, emotions, and behaviors affect one another. This idea forms the basis of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). In addition, an important aspect of CBT is centered around “automatic thoughts” which shape our perception of an event that is taking place. This implies that when we change our thoughts, we will also change our emotions and behaviors. By focusing on irrational or maladaptive thoughts, mood, and behavior can be improved, therefore shifting our understanding or perception of the events that have or are currently taking place. Educating a client on the importance of their automatic thoughts can lead them to understand how past traumas and significant experiences have shaped their current worldview. This realization can lead to the healing required to overcome past traumas and assist in the treatment of PTSD. CBT is known to be quite effective for depression, anxiety, stress, and trauma. In conclusion, the cognitive triangle shows how thoughts, emotions, and behaviors affect one another. This means changing your thoughts will change how you feel and behave.

Written by Dr. Jason-Anthony Prendergast – Doctorate in Pastoral Psychology and Registered Mental Health Intern

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

 

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/

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

Strategize for Success

We have all had times where our best plans get thrown off course. Things outside of our control – pandemics, inflation, layoffs, you name it – change our outlook from one moment to the next. It can be overwhelming and even disheartening when new hurdles make our dreams seem that much farther away. But when life presents setbacks and challenges multiply, it becomes more important than ever to strategize for success – in health, in relationships, in work, and in life.

Strategizing for success is more than repeating positive affirmations while waiting for a storm to pass. It is a decision we make to acknowledge the storm and plan a way through it. We do it when we sort things out in a journal before bed, examine our problems in therapy sessions, and find shared aspirations in conversations with those close to us. Moments like these are opportunities to step outside of our daily cycles and obtain a broader perspective on where we’ve been, where we’re at, and where we’re going.

Strategizing takes focus, concentration, and brutal honesty. Often it requires that we willingly confront the things troubling us most. Taking stock of where we’re at, courageously envisioning where we desire to be, and charting a course to get there is how we renew our motivation to forge ahead when things get rough. Also, it has been said that a person traveling alone will go fast, but people travelling together will go far. Strategizing for success can solidify plans for personal wellbeing, but it is even more powerful when we include the wellbeing of those around us.

Success is an experience, not a material possession. It is a journey, not a destination. It is an inner change that we pursue in hopes of improving the outer world. It is not about getting one up on someone else. It is about becoming more today than we were yesterday. Whether we are pursuing better health through exercise and food choice, better mental health through therapy and self-care, better relationships through communication and action, or better contributions to the world through skill learning and meaningful work, success comes when we recognize how our intentions and efforts can lead to growth we never imagined possible.

What does success look like in the coming day, week, or year? How can the inevitable challenges ahead be overcome? How can we work alongside others to achieve success beyond ourselves? These are questions that require us to set aside our social media, our news, our work, and our duties for just a moment as we grab a pen and paper, enter a therapy session, or sit down with a close friend, and strategize for success.

Written by Louis Nicholas, Graduate Student in Mental Health Counseling

Speak Your Mind In Therapy

There are many issues that arise over a lifetime for which we may need assistance from a mental health counselor in working through. We are social creatures, but we can get lost or trapped in our own thoughts. This is when we need a trusted someone to help us see ourselves in a new way. Typically, we only share portions of our thinking, or depending on the listener, we share very edited versions of our thoughts. Depending on your situation, you feel your friends or loved ones don’t want or need to hear all that is going on in your head. This is where mental health counseling can help.

A mental health counselor assists others by listening and identifying areas of change. But something else is also happening during therapy sessions. You are speaking your mostly unedited thoughts aloud for someone else to better understand you. Focusing on yourself in therapy and without editing for the listener’s needs or wants allows you to better understand your own thoughts through this clarification process.

This happens with couples as well. In relationships, we may fall into communication styles that become frustrating cycles. These can become predictable enough for one person in the relationship to recite both sides of an entire argument routinely experienced with their significant other. The therapist can assist in recognizing and changing these cycles of communication. Here again, speaking these thoughts aloud is helpful because the couple works to identify how they are thinking and feeling in a clear way for themselves, for one another and for the therapist.

Families benefit from therapy through these same processes with the added benefit of shared insight within the family. When parents, separated or divorced co-parents, and/or stepparents and their children of all ages are included in sessions, there is opportunity for shared understanding and change. For example, parents may benefit from learning their fears or concerns for their children aren’t their children’s concerns. Children also see their parents making a healthy choice to seek assistance for issues that arise and watch as they model healthy coping skills for these issues within the family. What better way to change generational communication cycles that keep families stuck and repeating destructive patterns of behavior?

Whether you are interested in individual, couples, or family therapy seeking the services of a mental health counselor to discuss your needs provides an opportunity for sharing one’s most unedited thoughts and concerns. This new way of sharing and learning is the perfect opportunity to change yourself and your relationships.

Written by April Daniel

Toxic Has No Gender

Toxic Traits

A toxic relationship can leave you feeling mentally or physically exhausted and insecure. It is usually the topic that men are the toxic ones, but toxicity has no gender. Being the one in the toxic relationship makes it difficult to view the red flags. We get fixated on the months and years spent together and wanting to be the one to help heal your partner, but it takes a toll on our mental health. Family and friends are the first to see how negative a relationship can be to your health. A toxic partner can display the following traits:

  1. Gaslighting
  2. Manipulation
  3. Anger Issues
  4. Controlling
  5. Selfishness
  6. Arrogant

A toxic partner has actions and behaviors that will hurt, drain, and impact your life negatively. Constant pressure for perfection, it’ll feel as though nothing done is good enough. They will get angry when things don’t go their way, doesn’t matter if it is out of your control or not. You will slowly start changing, fall into depression, insecurities grow, anxiety, irritability, and experience irrational behavior. If you leave the relationship, you are left in shambles with self-loathing, self-doubt, and avoidance.

Detoxify

Acknowledging the toxic relationship is the first step, what follows after is up to you. Setting boundaries, asking for help, going to relationship/marriage counseling, or reinforcing positive social groups. It is important you find out what your boundaries are, what you want and don’t want in a relationship. A new life without them can be the answer to creating a better mental and physical state for yourself.

Written by Rachel Gonzalez

Love is Communication

Let communication be the seed that you water with honesty and love. So that it may produce a happy, fulfilling, and successful relationship.”

-Stephan Labossiere

We should fuel positivity, peace, and love into our loved ones, especially to our partners. Stephan Labossiere quoted it beautifully, couples will experience arguments and disagreements, but how you approach the situation will set it apart from being toxic or unhealthy. Talking through the uncomfortable is how we grow as individuals and as a couple. Creating a safe environment where you both can speak on your feelings through the smallest to the most painful of topics sets the tone for you both to be open to conversation.

The following communication tips can help manage conflict in your relationship:

1. Always listen to your partner, do not listen just to answer.
2. Avoid using hurtful language.
3. Listen actively.
4. Use “I” statements rather than “You” statements to avoid making your partner feel attacked.
5. Speak to each other with respect and love.
6. Validate each other’s feelings.

Communication is key in a relationship to build a stronger and healthier bond for it to flourish and thrive. We all want to feel heard, not talked down or belittled. In a world that is already so cruel and harsh, be each other’s peace. Remember it is not you versus your partner, it is both of you versus the problem.

Speak from your heart to his heart instead of from your mind to his mind.”

– Rori Raye

Written by Rachel Gonzalez

Why Consider Premarital Counseling with a Faith-Based Counselor

“’Til death do us part.” It’s a nice thought. Until about three years into the marriage when you realize you don’t really know the person you married. 

Premarital counseling is a form of counseling offered by family therapists to help couples who are planning to marry. Premarital counseling is a great way for couples to identify and resolve any potential areas of conflict before tying the knot.

While licensed marriage and family counselors can provide this form of counseling, sometimes individuals may want to work with someone who shares their same faith. Since faith is such an integral part of people’s lives and relationships, it makes sense that couples would want to work with someone who shares and respects their religious and spiritual beliefs.

Here are some specific benefits of participating in premarital counseling with a faith-based counselor:

True Communion

Every faith has its unique perspective on marriage and commitment. Marriage is not just about spending time with someone you like and find attractive, it’s about joining together in the eyes of God to build an anointed life together. A faith-based counselor can help you pinpoint the reason you two are committing to one another.

Raising Children in the Faith

If you don’t know exactly what you both believe and where your values lie, how will you successfully raise children? To raise happy and healthy children, parents must be in agreement and alignment with one another and with their holy texts.

Better Communication

Numerous surveys by counselors have uncovered a simple truth: communication problems are the number one factor leading to divorce. Premarital counseling can help couples identify what each other says and how they say it. Faith-based counseling takes it one step further and helps couples respect one another so that successful communication is more likely.

If you’re interested in exploring faith-based counseling, please get in touch with me.

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