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Everyone should be taking care of their mental health right now. With all the stressors of 2020, we believe that everyone can benefit from working with a therapist in 2021. If you want to start therapy for the first time, or if you want to return after a hiatus, there’s no better time than the present. If you’re fearful about taking this step, check out our last post on overcoming a fear of therapy.

At Flourish Psychology, we work with patients through depression, anxiety, grief, relationship issues and so much more. No matter your situation, you likely have a lot to process right now. You may be experiencing anxiety because of the uncertainty of the future, the continuing pandemic or the political climate. Maybe you’re grieving the loss of a loved one or a job. There are so many things impacting your mental health at any given moment. Here are just a few reasons you may want to consider seeing a therapist this year.

To process stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the entire globe, so it’s no surprise that it’s number 1 on our list. The pandemic has been life-altering for everyone in many ways. How have you been affected? Maybe you’re experiencing anxiety related to constant news cycle or maybe you’ve been affected economically. We believe that after surviving such a difficult year, we could all benefit from a few sessions with a therapist.

Seeing a therapist is an ideal way to process any COVID-related stress and anxiety. Our sessions are now online, so you can start therapy from the safety and comfort of your home.

Help with feelings of loneliness

With the pandemic came lockdowns, quarantine and isolation. Many of us have lost our usual sources of socialization and are feeling the effects of loneliness. Loneliness can be devastating, especially for those who are single or who live alone. When you start therapy, you will be better able to process feelings of loneliness and find coping strategies.

Help with feelings of hopelessness

It’s completely understandable to be feeling somewhat hopeless or nihilistic right now. With so much fear and uncertainty in the world, it’s easy to start feeling hopeless about the world the future. These feelings of hopelessness may be happening within ourselves about our own lives and futures. This can easily lead to depression or even suicidal ideation. Working with a therapist can help you to become more resilient in the present and hopeful for a better future.

Heal after the loss of a romantic relationship

The pandemic has affected our relationships in many ways. For some, they may have started spending more time with their partner as they quarantined together. Others may have been separated from their partners. Many people have made the difficult decision to end a relationship and may now be experiencing difficult emotions. Seeing a therapist after a breakup is one of the healthiest way to process your feelings. Your work with a therapist can help you to move forward from a place of healing and self-love.

Get support while you are grieving

The pandemic has taken many lives and many people have faced devastating losses. The death of a loved one is one of the most difficult things that we can face. Losing a loved one can leave you confused and angry, even while you are grieving. Grief can affect your work, your ability to take care of yourself, and your outlook on life. We can guide you to develop healthy mechanisms to cope with your loss and manage your grief.

Deal with work-related stress and anxiety

The pandemic has affected our work lives. Some have lost jobs, changed jobs or have had other significant changes to their working lives. With many of us working from home, there is a huge adjustment to be made in the way that we work. How have you been feeling about work? Are you overwhelmed by your workload or doubting your abilities? Are you finding it hard to separate your home and work life while working from home?

The work we do is a fundamental part of who we are. Work-related stresses do not stop at the office and may affect your relationships, your home life, and your general mental health. The therapists at Flourish Psychology understand the impact of a fulfilling career on your overall wellbeing. We want to help you to do your best work so you can live your best life.

Whatever your reason for wanting to start therapy, you should feel proud of yourself for taking this step. We want to make sure you are paired with the best therapist to meet your needs. By scheduling a free consultation, you’re well on your way to making positive changes in your life.

Overcoming a Fear of Therapy

Overcoming a Fear of Therapy

Starting therapy is one of the biggest decisions you can make. It takes courage and self-awareness to come to the realization that you can benefit from therapy. Above all, actually making and going to your first therapy appointment may feel scary for several reasons. It’s important to realize that these feelings are completely normal and that you are capable of calming these fears and getting the help you need. People fear therapy for a variety of reasons. As a result, they may put off seeking help.

Here are a few common fears that people have about therapy with tips on how you can address them.

Fear #1: I’m afraid of opening up to a complete stranger about my innermost thoughts

Notably, this is perhaps the most common fear that prevents people from going to therapy. It’s 100% reasonable to have these feelings. Sometimes, we are not even able to speak to loved ones, partners and close friends about our problems. There may be things that you have never mentioned to anyone before because you are afraid of judgment or how you will be perceived. Opening up to a complete stranger can feel downright terrifying.

With this fear, the most important thing to remember is that you are in control of what you decide to open up about. You don’t have to dive into your deepest, innermost thoughts until you are ready. You can take your time to become more comfortable in a therapy setting and explore different topics at your own pace. Your therapist will not rush you to open up before you’re ready.

Some people are comforted by the knowledge that their therapist “ceases to exist” after the session is over. Because your interactions with your therapist are limited to your sessions, you won’t have to worry about these interactions affecting any other aspect of your life. The relationship you form with a therapist is like a blank slate. They are not emotionally involved with you and are largely unaffected by the decisions you make. For example, you may be afraid to discuss something with a partner or coworker because of how it may affect your relationship or your work going forward. Your therapist can exist in a vacuum and your conversations with her will not directly affect the other areas of your life. This can make it easier to open up in your sessions, when you’re ready to do so.

As time progresses, and if your therapist is an ideal match for you, you may gradually feel encouraged to start opening up with more complex or difficult issues. This will allow you to make significant progress on your mental health journey. Think about it this way: we often open up to physical health professionals (such as dermatologists, gynecologists and urologists) in ways that initially feel uncomfortable, but ultimately help us to lead healthier, happier lives. It may help to take a similar approach with mental health professionals, too.

Fear #2: I’m afraid that I’ll be judged (by my therapist or by others)

Fear of judgment is another common factor that prevents people from seeking therapy. We are either afraid that we’ll be judged by our therapist, or that other people in our lives will be judgmental when they learn that we are in therapy.

Remind yourself that a good therapist will never judge you. Therapists undergo specific training to create a safe therapeutic environment. They are professionals who are well versed in the broad spectrum of mental health issues and the human condition. They are able to take an objective and clinical perspective, which allows them to guide you towards solutions. Your therapist is there to help, not judge. Remind yourself that your therapist has spent a lot of time studying and being exposed to a wide variety of problems, fears, thoughts and behaviours. It’s unlikely that your therapist will be shocked or taken aback by the thoughts and behaviors that you share with them.

On the other hand, if you’re concerned about other people judging you for going to therapy, here are two things to remember. The first is that this is a personal choice and you don’t have to let anyone know that you’re in therapy. The second thing to remember is that those who love and care for you will be happy that you’re seeking help and trying to become a healthier person. Anyone who judges you for going to therapy is probably uneducated about the benefits of it, or may be projecting their own fears onto you.

Learning how to be confident in your decisions without caring too much what people think is one thing that can be accomplished through therapy.

Fear #3: I’m afraid That therapy won’t work

Sometimes, people are afraid that they will invest time, energy and money into therapy and it won’t work. You may even be afraid that your problems are unfixable. Remind yourself that millions of people have had successful experiences in therapy and that the techniques used by therapists have been researched and refined for decades. Generally speaking, most people see tremendous benefits from attending therapy. Trust that it can work for you, too.

It’s important to remember that therapy requires a lot of effort on your part in order for it to work. You may have to do a bit of trial and error to figure out which clinician and which techniques are most helpful for you. It may take a few tries to get it right. This does not mean that it won’t work. When you find the treatment plan that works for you, it can be life-changing. Putting effort into therapy will reap major rewards for your overall wellbeing.

Fear #4 I’m afraid of reliving difficult or traumatic experiences

If you have experienced a traumatic experience, it’s normal to repress or avoid thoughts about the experience. Many people are fearful that therapy will force them to relive their traumatic situations. Remember that your therapist will move at your pace and you don’t have to dive into anything before you’re ready.

More importantly, remind yourself that facing your difficult emotions is the only way to truly manage them. In order to heal from a traumatic experience, we cannot avoid it. These thoughts and memories will not go away by ignoring them indefinitely.Therapy provides a safe space for you to explore these memories and thoughts with the support of a trained professional. As you become more comfortable with therapy, you will find it easier to cope with these difficult thoughts and emotions.

Feel the fear and do it anyway

Notwithstanding the fears and reservations you may have around therapy, you can still take this step on your journey to better mental health. You can even share your fears with your therapist during your first session. In the same way that you push through fears in other areas of your life, you can begin therapy. When you’re ready, you can start by scheduling a free consultation to get matched with a therapist who best meets your needs.

Goals and Resolutions for 2021

Goals and Resolutions for 2021

It’s the time of year when many of us are considering our goals and resolutions for the year ahead. We may also be reflecting on the year gone by and feeling several emotions in the process. This year, your reflections and resolutions may look a little different. It’s no surprise that many people consider 2020 to be the most challenging year of their lives, due to the pandemic and everything that came with it. The year also brought civil, political and racial unrest.

Because of COVID-19, many people were unable to fulfill goals and resolutions that they had set for themselves. The pandemic affected everything from travel to job security to the economy. Maybe you had financial goals that you were not able to achieve because you lost your job. Maybe you planned to get married this year, but the stress of quarantine led to the end of a relationship instead. Maybe 2020 was the year you finally took that trip, but it had to be canceled.

When everything is so uncertain, it can be demotivating to set goals and resolutions for ourselves. The disappointments you faced in 2020 may cause you to be reluctant to set resolutions for 2021. Yet, this is when we need goals the most. Goals give us a reason to look forward to the future. They provide a source of inspiration and motivation and give us something worthwhile to spend our time and energy on.

The solution is to take a different approach to your goals and resolutions this time around. Here are a few things to consider when setting your goals for the new year.

Take the time to process your loss

What did you lose in 2020? Some losses are life-changing, like the loss of a loved one. Some losses may seem smaller, but can still affect you if left unaddressed. Take the time to grieve whatever you may have lost in 2020 – opportunities, friendships, or even just the ability to sit in your favorite coffeeshop. If you are dealing with serious grief or loss, you may consider speaking to a therapist or counselor who can help you to process these difficult emotions in a healthy way.

Take the time be grateful

Despite its challenges and setbacks, can you find reasons to be grateful for 2020? Maybe you picked up a new hobby or interest to help pass the time. Were you able to reconnect with old friends via technology? Maybe you are simply grateful to have survived a year that took so many lives. Were you able to keep your job and work from home? That’s something to be thankful for. Did you see any remarkable displays of kindness or compassion during these difficult times? If you look hard enough, there were many things to be grateful for this past year.

Set simple, attainable goals

If it’s one thing that 2020 taught us, it’s to slow down and embrace a simpler lifestyle. Consider taking a similar approach with your resolutions. Changing tiny things about your daily habits is more likely to yield success than setting huge, lofty goals. Here are some examples of simple, attainable goals:

  • Set a reading goal. How many books would you like to read next year? Break that down into monthly or weekly goals. Start slow. If you are not a regular reader, try reading one book per month or every two months. If you are a regular reader, try increasing your goal from last year.
  • Resolve to attain a healthy sleep schedule. Get disciplined about having a regular bedtime and waking up at around the same time everyday. Getting sufficient sleep is the foundation for many other things in our lives.
  • If you didn’t exercise as much as you wanted to last year, can you move your body a bit more in 2021? Consider free or cheap ways to get (socially distant) exercise. This can be as simple as resolving to take a ten minute walk everyday and increasing to fifteen and twenty minute walks. You can listen to music, audiobooks or podcasts on your walk. How about going jogging or starting an at-home yoga practice?
  • If you are not already journaling, 2021 is a great time to start! There are so many benefits to journaling and so many things to journal about.

Resolve to take care of your mental health in 2021

Think of how you can take care of your mental health in 2021. Resolve to pay more attention to self-care and learning how to become more mentally resilient. We can’t predict what will happen next year, but we can ensure that we are able to cope with whatever 2021 brings. Techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy can teach you how to manage life’s inevitable challenges.

If you have been thinking about going to therapy, 2021 is the perfect time to start. Scheduling an appointment is easier than ever and you can attend sessions from the safety and comfort of your home, via video chat. Consider setting the resolution to contact us for a free consultation to get matched with a therapist who best meets your needs.

2021 may or may not be easier than 2020. The pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives. There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding when or even if we will ever be able to see some semblance of pre-pandemic life. Go into 2021 with the mindset that you have become strong enough to handle whatever it throws your way.

Coping with Loneliness During the Holidays

Coping with Loneliness During the Holidays

Holidays are traditionally a time for friends and family to gather and celebrate. For some, it’s the only time of year when they get to see their family and many look forward to it all through the year. The holiday season looks different this year and a lot of us are experiencing increased loneliness. It may be difficult or impossible for you to visit loved ones due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Maybe you’ve decided to be alone this year to help reduce the spread of the virus.

For some, this may be our first holiday season alone. Others may have experienced this before, but it doesn’t make it any less difficult this time around. Some people may be apart from their family for reasons that have nothing to do with the pandemic. This could include situations of estrangement, where you have taken the deliberate decision to reduce or remove all contact with family members.

The holiday season is a common trigger for loneliness. People who may have been completely content being alone throughout the year may begin feeling sad, isolated and lonely as the year comes to a close. Here are a few things to consider as you try to manage these feelings.

Take Care of Yourself

It’s important to take care of yourself when you are feeling lonely. Consider the ways that you can be a friend to yourself during this time. Self-care is especially important when dealing with loneliness. This is because we may have a tendency to neglect our own needs when we are feeling alone. Take the time to ensure you are having sufficient and healthy meals and getting enough sleep. It may sound simple, but ensure that you are drinking enough water, too. Take the time to keep your environment clean and comfortable. These basic acts of self-care are examples of showing up for yourself and reaffirming your relationship with yourself.

Be Extra Kind and Gentle

Loneliness can trigger thoughts of self-pity or worthlessness. Practicing acts of kindness towards yourself can help to counteract these feelings. Taking the time to tell yourself reassuring words can be very effective during difficult times. Maybe you have a favorite phrase or saying that you can repeat to yourself when these feelings arise. Consider creating a playlist of songs that make you happy. You can have the playlist ready to go for when the feelings of loneliness arise. Maybe you can create a list of favorite movies to watch when you feel alone. What other ways can you show kindness to yourself? Think of something that you would want a friend or loved one to do for you and do it for yourself. Doing things to make yourself happy helps to remind you that you are self-sufficient.

Reach Out When You Can

Sometimes, we double down on our loneliness by withdrawing from loved ones. We may feel lonely, but still find ourselves sabotaging relationships. This turns into a cycle as our actions confirm our feelings of loneliness. This may manifest in many ways such as not returning calls or texts from friends and family, even though we crave connection. Try to push through these feelings of isolation and reach out to loved ones to maintain contact. A quick phone call can do so much and only takes a bit of effort and time. Remember that the best way to have a friend is to be a friend. Consider that your loved ones may be feeling lonely too. Who can you reach out to today?

Remember to Be Grateful

There are many benefits to practicing gratitude. A great way to counteract loneliness is to feel appreciation for all the good in your life. This is because loneliness is a feeling of lack, while gratitude is a feeling of abundance. Take the time to step outside of your loneliness and examine the positive things in your life. Though you may be lonely in the moment, you still have people in your life that you appreciate. You still have things in your life that you appreciate. What fills you with joy? Is it your work, hobbies, a passion project or a pet? Can you recall a happy day from your past that you feel grateful for? Being grateful for the past and present reminds us that there are good things to come in the future.

Manage Holiday Expectations

As a society, we have come to have great expectations of the holiday season. Holiday movies show us grand gestures and extravagant gifts. Social media may cause us to compare our holiday to someone else’s. You may feel like your holiday is inadequate if it doesn’t match up to expectations you have created for yourself. This year, it’s more important than ever to manage holiday expectations. The pandemic has created challenges for everyone and it may simply not be possible to have the holiday that you want. Consider how you can learn to be content with your current circumstances by accepting that this holiday season won’t be “perfect” – and that’s okay. How can you make the best of what you have and perhaps create new traditions on your own?

Speaking with a therapist can help you to manage feelings of isolation and loneliness this holiday season and as the pandemic continues. Click here to schedule a free consultation to get matched with a therapist who meets your needs.

Art Therapy May Be Right For You

Art Therapy May Be Right For You

What is Art Therapy?

Art Therapy is a special type of therapy that incorporates creative techniques such as drawing, coloring, painting and sculpting to assist in treating mental illnesses, processing grief or trauma and developing a more resilient mental state. Art therapy is also particularly useful for self- expression and self-exploration when it comes to topics that are challenging to discuss verbally.

Art therapists are licensed mental health professionals who have done additional studies to specialize in this unique area of practice. We are proud to offer art therapy here at Flourish Psychology thanks to the expertise of our clinician, Faith Bowen, LCAT.

Faith is a board-certified therapist with a specialization in Creative Arts Therapy. She uses traditional therapeutic modalities to treat conditions such as anxiety and depression. Faith’s work helps patients to reach their goals and improve their self-esteem. For those interested in a more creative approach to mental healthcare, Faith incorporates the use of artistic methods in her treatment plan. You will see reduced stress and improved self-confidence through your work with Faith. This modality can help you process your feelings and understand your needs leading to better insight and self-growth.

History of Art Therapy

Art is as old as humanity itself. As humans, we have always expressed ourselves as creative beings. Though we have always been aware of the benefits of making and consuming art, art therapy is a relatively new therapeutic modality. It was formally recognized in the 1940’s and became more popular in the United States in the 1960’s. Since then, the field has undergone significant refinement and accreditation.

Who Can Benefit?

Art Therapy is for everyone! Research has proven that this method of therapy is beneficial for patients regardless of age, gender or creative ability. You do not have to be an artist or artistically inclined in order to experience the benefits of this modality

It is especially beneficial for stress management in adults. Using art as a creative outlet to vent is a much healthier coping mechanism than, say, turning to drugs or alcohol. Art is a healthy method of expressing challenging emotions such as anger, sadness, regret or guilt. Since art is an effective method of processing difficult events, art therapy is used to treat post- traumatic stress disorder in adults and children alike

This kind of therapy is helpful for adults and children experiencing social or behavioral problems, as well as learning disabilities. It may also be used to help improve communication and emotional regulation for adults and children on the autism spectrum.

Finally, it is has proven to be effective in treating anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses. Flourish Psychology offers this option to clients seeking a unique method of managing stress and treating mental illness. This method may be used in conjunction with other techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy.

Though art therapy is particularly helpful for children and creative professionals, everyone can benefit from this form of therapy, regardless of age or artistic experience. Schedule a free consult with us to see if art therapy meets your needs.

Written by Francine Derby.

How To Use CBT to Manage Fear

How To Use CBT to Manage Fear

During the Halloween season, many of us are watching scary movies, reading spooky books and enjoying the festive decorations. During this time of year, we put the spotlight on the emotion of fear and being scared. But most of us don’t fear monsters, goblins or vampires.  We more often face the fear of failure, fear of rejection and fear of missing out (FOMO) in our daily lives. Fear can prevent you from reaching your true potential and living your best possible life. Some of us may fear specific situations, objects or people. In trying to avoid these triggers, we may face difficulties in our daily lives and in the pursuit of our goals.

Fear is a powerful emotion that is instigated by perceived danger or threat. This emotion causes distinct physiological and behavioural changes. This can then trigger other emotions such as anger, sadness and shame. In responding to this emotion, we may react by avoiding the perceived threat or confronting it. This is called the fight-or-flight response. This response can also trigger involuntary physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, sweaty and trembling hands, feeling lightheaded and frequent urination. These symptoms can then worsen your feelings of anxiety as you may feel like you are sick or in physical danger.

The Purpose of Fear

Fear is a very useful emotion. It’s the body’s way of telling us that there may be an impending threat to our safety or wellbeing. While fear can be a healthy and safe response in many situations, there are other times when a fear response is less helpful. In these situations, fear can prevent us from having valuable life experiences. For example, the fear of rejection may prevent you from applying for that job you want. Fears associated with social anxiety may prevent you from meeting new people and forming relationships. A fear of confrontation may be a hindrance to standing up for yourself in unjust situations.

A phobia, which is a type of anxiety disorder, is a persistent and excessive fear of a specific object or situation. People with phobias will do everything possible to avoid the object of their fear. They will experience significant distress if they cannot avoid the trigger. Agoraphobia, for example, causes people to avoid daily activities such as going to the bank or grocery store. Hydrophobia prevents many people from going to the beach.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Managing Fear

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, commonly known as CBT, is a fairly modern psychotherapeutic modality. It focuses on challenging (and ultimately, changing) unhelpful thought patterns, beliefs and cognitive distortions. CBT encourages you to literally face your fears via exposure treatment. This has shown to be effective in patients across the board, from people with extreme phobias to social anxiety. Exposure therapy encourages patients to “climb the fear ladder” by exposure to the object of fear in gradual increments.

For example, a patient with a fear of spiders may first look at pictures of spiders, then watch a video. When they are ready, they can observe a spider in an enclosed space from far away. Over time, they will get closer and closer. One day, they may get as far as handling a spider with their bare hands. This, of course, takes place over an extended period of time and at a pace that the patient can reasonably tolerate. If your exposures are overwhelming, this can have a counterproductive effect.

Similarly, those with social anxiety may climb the fear ladder by first smiling at a stranger on their daily commute and build their way up to initiating a conversation with someone at work. One day, they may feel confident enough to pursue a romantic interest. Decades of research has shown that if we deliberately and systematically confront our fears, the symptoms of anxiety drastically decrease over time.

Challenging Negative Thoughts

CBT also tackles fear by encouraging you to challenge your thoughts and cognitive distortions. Let’s suppose you are afraid of going outside to exercise because you think that everyone will laugh at you. CBT asks you to stop and challenge that thought. Why would they laugh at you? Wouldn’t they be too caught up in their own busy schedules to even give you a second glance? Do you laugh at people when you see them exercising? If someone does laugh at you, what does that say about them?

After asking yourself these questions over time, you may begin to notice that most of the things that you fear do not ever come to pass. You may also begin to notice that some fears are illogical and not rooted in fact. It also becomes evident that most of the time, the feelings of anxiety are far more intense than the actual experience of facing fear. With this knowledge, you become less fearful over time and more inclined to take action even when you are feeling fearful.

CBT Offers Faster Results

Fear is an emotion experienced by everyone, but is far more common in people with mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an effective and relatively quick type of therapy that is particularly effective in treating these conditions and in managing fears. Many patients see results within 5-20 weeks and patients are able to use the CBT techniques on themselves for the rest of their lives. In this way, CBT teaches you to be your own therapist.

The clinicians at Flourish Psychology provide a wide array of treatment modalities, including CBT. We would be happy to have a free consult with you to discuss your therapy needs.

Written by Francine Derby