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Life Lessons

6 Reasons Why Online Therapy Will Work for You

by Christina Pettinato, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

Scenario 1: Jump in the car after work. Fight Traffic. Skip dinner. Arrive at the therapist’s office. Sit in a cramped, stodgy waiting room with your stomach rumbling. Wait a week for your next appointment. Rinse. Repeat.

Scenario 2: Look for a sitter. Can’t find a sitter. Cancel therapy this week.

Scenario 3: It’s snowing, again. Roads are horrible. Cancel therapy.

Scenario 4: “I feel overwhelmed, and I’m really anxious. I’m struggling with my thoughts and feelings.” Your next available appointment is in three weeks? Really?!

Scenario 5: “My insurance deductible is $5,000 and you’re not even sure if therapy is covered?”

Does this sound familiar? These are just a few practical criticisms levied against traditional therapy. As technology, costs and schedules change, having the option to talk to your therapist online is becoming a popular choice for a number of reasons.

At eTalkTherapy we provide convenience, affordability, but, above all professional help and care all from the privacy and comfort of your home. In most cases, you will be able to schedule and meet with a therapist within a day or two.

Here are just a few of the benefits of choosing eTalkTherapy:

  1. You can tackle your issues today:If you are seeking support for anxiety or stress-related issues, and feel overwhelmed at the prospect of having to schedule and attend an in-office appointment, then the online option could be the best one for you. This is your health and wellness, and it has to suit your needs. Anxiety, depression and stress are not viruses, and they just don’t go away on their own. Addressing your issues and using proven techniques such as a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and traditional talk therapy will likely help you feel as though your life is not out of control and that you are making gains toward a better, mindful life.
  2. You can have both privacy and comfort:At eTalkTherapy, you can meet live online with your therapist from the comfort and privacy of your own home. All you need is a computer or tablet. Maybe you’re struggling with transportation or a long commute, maybe you can’t get childcare, maybe the weather forecast is not looking favorable, maybe your insurance co-pay or deductible is too high, or maybe you are away from home at college. For whatever reason, if having your session on live video chat works for you, then it works for you.
  3. You can keep your sessions while traveling:We offer you the flexibility of having your sessions online. You might be traveling for work, going on an extended vacation, or leaving for college. Whatever the reason, eTalkTherapy gives you a convenient and affordable alternative to a traditional office visit.
  4. You can schedule to suit your needs:Your time is important. The online option gives you back the time you’d spend commuting without delaying or interrupting your therapeutic work.
  5. You meet with our therapists live online: We value the therapeutic relationship and understand that texting, email correspondence or phoning a therapist will not replace being able to see someone face to face. We provide a HIPPA secure and professional online experience for every client we meet.
  6. You don’t have to worry about insurance co-pays or deductibles: In fact, some mental health issues are not even covered by insurance. Your information remains private between you and your therapist. Our affordable rates give you the flexibility and financial comfort you may have been seeking from your therapy experience.

If you are looking to make positive changes in your life, we can help! Please contact us today about how to register and schedule your live video counseling session with Christina.

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Avanti,
Christina

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Existential GPS

Turning Dreams and Goals into Action

by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

What’s on your “bucket list?”

Writing a novel?

Traveling through Europe or Asia or both?

Learning how to paint or play piano or dance the Tango?

Goals and dreams give us hope, make life interesting, and provide us with a source of everlasting motivation and meaning. Often they present a sense of balance in a seemingly unbalanced world. Naturally, realizing your goals and dreams requires action.

You know all the tired, self-generated excuses as to why your goals are “impractical” or “will have to wait until a better time.” You’ve justified these reasons enough that they have become the only response to your ever-patient, ever-waiting life dreams. Here are a few thoughts that might turn these excuses into accomplishments and help you realize the potential of your life’s goal:

  1. What do I really want? It seems like a simple question until you begin focusing on what is important. What gives me a sense of connection, purpose and meaning? What is my “calling?” Do I possess talents and abilities that I have told myself are not practical or unimportant? How many of my negative thoughts about my dreams and goals are self generated?
  2. How will I get there? What do you need to connect the dots between Point A and Point B. Map out each step you might take on your journey. If you don’t have some plan in mind, you will likely find yourself struggling with frustration and uncertainty.
  3. What if my dream were already happening? Successful performers, sports figures and entrepreneurs report they are able to visualize their achievements far in advance. The use of positive visualization does not make automatically your dreams or goals come true, but it does provide a healthy nutrient for the soil in which your achievements can take root.
  4. What can I control? Staying focused on your goals and dreams without allowing others to interfere can be difficult at times, but not impossible. Do NOT allow others to dictate or influence your goals and aspirations. Becoming caught in others opinions or good intentions often times is the proverbial pin to your goal balloon. Remain in the present, knowing that you can only control what is happening at this moment, and only what is happening with you.
  5. What if I fail? Every journey will have its share of stormy weather. Treat any rejection or misstep as a learning moment toward realizing your dream and goal. Most everyone can agree that they will regret what they DIDN’T do in life versus what they did do.
  6. Is it even realistic? Perhaps not, but are you willing to try? Be persistent and flexible. Know that you will have to “roll with the punches” from time to time. Perhaps you will be surprised over what you discover about yourself on your journey.

Get going – now! Tend to your dreams and goals. Your journey can begin with a first, small step.

In good health,
Don

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Hello Universe

Bitter Popcorn

By Aurora Starr

The editor of this blog approached me some time ago asking if I would be interested in writing an article about “ten movies that highlight existential motifs.” I know this because the assignment had been scrawled on a coffee stained notepad that often goes missing for weeks at a time. My handbag is a mysterious and often unforgiving portal to the unknown. Things appear, and then disappear. I recovered the pad last week as I desperately searched for my keys and, of course, I had missed the deadline.

To be honest, I had no idea where to begin with this article, which may account for the “lost” notepad. There are no accidents according to Freud, right? However, the editor insisted. So even after missing my first deadline, and in spite of my protests that this subject has been written about by far better connoisseurs of movie magic, I give you Aurora’s take on Five Movies that Highlight Existential Motifs. I know, it was supposed to be ten, but I’m a busy girl.

A bit of explanation is in order before we get started, and as this is not my area of expertise (if there could ever be one), my apologies if I am slightly off the mark. Existentialism is a term coined by 19th and 20th-century philosophers who believed that philosophical thinking begins and ends with the human subject. It is an analysis of human existence and the value and consequence of human choice. “Existence proceeds essence” with a Nietzsche-sized middle finger to any method designed to define humankind in a systematic or empirical way. Yeah, I know it’s complicated. In short, it is a philosophy concerned with finding meaning through free will, choice, and personal responsibility; a confrontation with existence by an exploration of death and meaning.

So, through the beauty of Netflix and Hulu I present you with my 5 flick picks; a sampling, if you will, with no intended spoilers. And in spite of the order they are listed, I wouldn’t consider one better than the other. All of them illustrate existential themes and are entertaining as well.

  1. “The Truman Show” (1998)

Remember that old Twilight Zone episode where reality is not what it seems and everyone but the main character is in on it? Okay, so that is just about every episode of the Twilight Zone, but if you get that then you’ll get the gist of The Truman Show. Starring Jim Carey (minus the usual shenanigans), Truman is a character that is both authentic and conflicted.

This film explores the idea that life has been a lie. Indeed, what happens when people who you thought were your family and friends turn out to be nothing more than actors employed to perform a role in a reality show that stars you? That’s the question posed by The Truman Show. What would you choose? Remain in a pristine world reminiscent of Main Street, USA or walk toward an unknown existence? Cue Rod Serling.

Yet, The Truman Show remains optimistic as many of its darker philosophical underpinnings are curbed by a love story tangled in the hero’s journey. Truman hints at some key concepts of existentialism such as questioning the meaning and purpose of life, personal responsibility and freedom to act, as well as stressing the significance of being with others.

  1. “Groundhog Day” (1993)

From what I remember from my 8:00 am college philosophy class (Thanks, Dr. Nelson) Friedrich Nietzsche offered some fun thoughts about a term he coined as Eternal Recurrence. In a nutshell it goes like this; each one of us will live this life again, exactly as we are living it now. Sounds great, right? It’s a bit more complex than that, with many moving parts regarding time and a finite universe, but you get the idea. So Bill Murray stars in this witty and entertaining film that entwines Nietzsche’s term along with some basic déjà vu. Murray is a cynical and bored TV news reporter who is sent to cover what he considers to be a non-story. Under any other actor’s tutelage this would be a most pedestrian rom-com affair. Yet, Groundhog Day is far more than just another serving of comedy from an SNL alum.

The premise is Murray is destined to repeat the same benign day again and again. There is no escape from a calendar day that repeats itself ad nasueam. In the beginning he uses this knowledge to his advantage, but the novelty quickly wears off as he is confronted with the reality that he may be doomed to spend eternity doing the same thing(s), while watching the same events unfold in an endless point in time. Did I mention it’s a comedy? It is, and that’s where Murray shines in his typical deadpan way.

Groundhog Day wonderfully illustrates ideas in existentialism about time, choice, responsibility, isolation, death, and how we define meaning in our lives. In the end, it is an open and fun introduction to the philosophy of existentialism and how to grasp many of its loftier ideas.

  1. “Ikiru” (1952)

This Japanese film takes on the sobering and always existential subject of death. Ikiru – which translates as ‘to live’ – tells the tale of an individual faced with his own mortality after hearing that he has cancer. Reflecting back on his life, Kanji Watanabe awakens to the fact that his life has amounted to nothing as he has spent it on the accumulation of things and work. He sees his life up to this point as senseless and void of meaning. Determined not to spend his final days in the same way, Watanabe finds meaning and a purpose before his death. Following his funeral, several of his work colleagues resolve to follow the same principles he ultimately found so fulfilling. Despite its age Ikiru’s message is as relevant today as it was in the 1950s. It’s a great primer for some major existential themes, such as being faced with death before learning to live and the search for meaning in a seemingly meaningless universe.

  1. “The Seventh Seal” (1957)

Our second entry in the death category and the Granddaddy of all things Kierkegaardian is Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. Its iconic scene of death playing chess with a lone knight has been parodied in everything from The Simpsons to Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey. Swedish filmmaker Bergman gives us as a dark fantasy wrapped in a metaphorical meeting with death. In a game of chess between a medieval knight and the human manifestation of death during the Black Plague in Europe, Bergman masterfully explores the answers to a lot of existential questions about life, death and the presence or absence of God. It’s not the feel good movie of the year, but it is clearly a benchmark for how film and philosophy can fuse as one.

  1. “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968)

In spite of what you may have heard 2001: A Space Odyssey is at its core a spiritual journey. Yes, it can at times seem exhausting and slow. Yes, it is visually stunning even by today’s bombastic CGI standards. Yet, it does something few films can do. It takes us along for a voyage that transcends theism, philosophy and agnosticism and squares both question and the answer on the shoulders of the audience. There are many Gods on display throughout this film; the ever loving God; the God of Tech; the God of Nihilism. Director and mad film genius Stanley Kubrick establishes how insignificant we are even with our technological advancements and gadgets. In the end, 2001 flashes us forward to face mortality and rebirth in the form of the iconic star child as Wagner’s Thus Spake Zarathustra reaches a fitting crescendo that will have you asking, “What just happened?” Ironically, a question that all of us might be asking the day we draw or final breaths.

So there you have it – Existentialism, indeed.

Shine Brightly,
Aurora

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Existential GPS

The Sounds of Silence

by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

Culturally, spiritually and psychologically we live in a paradox. We retreat from our call-to-being by crafting stylish diversions. All neatly self-manufactured to conveniently bypass the chaotic backwoods of our lives rather than direct us on a path through the Terra Incognita. Yet, we crave something more beyond our smartly planned objectives. “Be still and know that I am God,” the Christian Psalm tells us. Stillness, tranquility, peacefulness, calm and concentration; the Buddhists call it Samatha.

Our raison d’être for exploring the geography of psyche is to discover deeper and lasting meaning, direction and rationale through an evident lack of meaning, direction and rationale in our world.  Consequently, occupation, career, acquisitiveness, and changing technology and systems are now endemic throughout our collective and personal unconscious. Taking the time to work through a crisis, even a relatively minor one, requires us to concede that our bridges are not so stylish, not so sturdy, and not so safe. The map plainly illustrates that monsters of yore have been replaced with meaninglessness, steady bi-product of lives left unquestioned and existential anxiety unchecked. Sadly, our egos are not well-versed in plotting an effective course, and anxiety swells while we further devise elevated, objective methods to escape the natural world lingering below.

This increased anxiety results in a further distancing from our creative selves, while we force as much activity and noise into our psyche in a self-medicating attempt to obscure the call. Reality television, smart devices, texting, instant messaging, music and movies on demand, are now directly accessible in packages that are engaging on the surface, but are highly symptomatic of our creative insolvency. These diversions, void of personal meaning and substance, nurture our digressions and weaken our creative and psychological vigor.

Simply put, we’ve become bored with our lives.

Therapists have an obligation to be familiar with the creative influence of stillness and the empowerment of silence as an art, not a technique. In recent years, our profession has demanded we circumvent the prickly subject of being still; a quiet mind is metaphorically viewed as a “devil’s playground,” and most empirical validated therapies heed this adage.

Stay distracted, rate your feelings on a arbitrary scale of 1-10 , complete the therapeutic homework and your symptoms will decrease. However, the wellspring of an individual’s malaise remains unattended like a super-sized, hyperactive child running amok in a jungle-gym of smoke and mirrors. The inexhaustible revisions in textbooks, the pretentiousness of clinical research and statistics, the departmental and administrative meetings, and the suggestion that we as therapists somehow provide helpful and informed solutions for others, exhibits the inane, magical thinking that plagues our human sciences. Positive thoughts will explain away pain, while CBT workbooks will change behaviors.

Let us never lose sight of what Toto revealed behind the curtain.

Within the context of the creative process, our ability to integrate psyche is possible if executed with care, compassion and understanding. Just as a tree is an arrangement of numerous substances that compose its treeness, imagination and vision tend to present as multifaceted essentials. There are many roots to the same tree all moving in different directions, but sharing common qualities. The same could be said for the creative process, be it writing, painting, sculpting, or composing music. The cohesive bond shared between artist and expression is a silent channel of communication that is open, deep and provides connectivity to the psyche in a creative style.

It is our creative and artistic endeavors that become the conduit for change, and it’s here that the spiritual essence of an individual-in-the-world can be called forth. Psyche is always with us.

Exploring the crossroads of creativity and psyche reawakens our conception and understanding of both. The most prized gift we can give the other is our creative presence. This presence need not be spoken in any language other than that of the artist’s silence. When our presence is attentive it blooms within us and others, crafting an otherwise ordinary encounter into a rich tapestry on a weaver’s endless loom.

In good health,
Don

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Existential GPS

Digging in the Dirt

by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

Why gardening? It is a question I have been thinking about as the days begin to grow longer and summer is quickly approaching. Amid all the thoughts roving the terra nova of my consciousness, the act of gardening – excuse the pun, has taken root. By no coincidence, I began to reflect on gardening while standing in line at my local home improvement store, that vast warehouse of do-it-yourself paraphernalia that includes an overabundance of trappings designed for the weekend and professional landscaper.

On the surface, the subject of gardening appears fairly innocuous, but dig a bit further and what is uncovered is a rich topography of metaphor and meaning that spreads deep and wide. Arguably, the pragmatic reasons for why people garden are to eat and to improve the curb appeal of their homes. If you survive on the vegetation from your garden or fancy an attractive lawn, it is easy to understand these primary motives. However, why the obsession? Our agrarian way of life ended around the same time industry began seeing dollar signs in the valleys and rivers that shape this region, and we never looked back. Sort of.

According to Christianity, humanity started in a garden. Buddhists create gardens to allow nature to fuse with their surroundings. The Babylonian’s imagined a “garden of the gods.” Almost every major palace and government building has a garden. So why all the attention to something we can only do a few months out of the year based on our temperate climate zone?

I believe one of the reasons people love gardens and the act of gardening is that while we have a desire to progress and develop in a contemporary milieu there is, deep within us, a primordial requisite for human beings to join with nature. In short, we are driven to make something, to grow something, apart from ourselves. Hence, the garden, a small path for nature to reenter our existence becomes that something. Being in nature connects us with our earliest evolutionary development.

Gardens remind us that we still care, and that we are capable of nurturing and cultivating the earth in a peaceful fashion. The garden stands in contrast to our collective, destructive patterns of behavior. Ancient philosophers viewed gardens as a means of self-actualization and enlightenment. Thus, gardening nourishes a natural need within us to create order, structure and beauty. The garden becomes the conduit between the self and the natural world.

From a practical standpoint, gardening is definitely a healthy habit that promotes physical exercise, helps the environment, and improves our diet. So go – get your garden on – weekend warrior. What you may view as a hobby has a history that serves to improve the current state of our individual and collective well-being.

In good health,
Don