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Don Laird

Mental Health Month

by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

I have been diagnosed with diabetes.

I have been diagnosed with heart disease.

I have been diagnosed with depression.

Out of these three statements, which individual has a better chance at quality of life for the next 10 years based on today’s current methods of treatment and availability of medical care? If you picked the third one, you would be wrong.

Why does mental health and wellness always seem to end up at the bottom of our ongoing health care debate? Costs are a big barrier to treatment, but so are attitudes. A 2007 study in Psychiatric Services, a Journal of the American Psychiatric Association, looked at several hundred potential mental health clients who had thought about seeking services but decided against it.

When questioned 66-percent of those surveyed thought the problem would get better on its own. Seventy-one percent agreed with the statement “I wanted to solve the problem on my own.” Several other studies have shown that many Americans still view depression and anxiety as a sign of weakness, and that seeking treatment demonstrates a lack of character or strength. Mental health doesn’t get the attention it deserves because of the stigma, but nearly one out of every five Americans will have a diagnosable mental disorder within their lifetimes, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Since its inception in 1949, Mental Health Month has been celebrated in May and for 55 years this campaign has provided an opportunity to raise awareness about mental health issues. Americans recognize Mental Health Month with events and activities in communities across the country. Many organizations, such as NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), engage in ongoing efforts to promote Mental Health Month through increasing public awareness and advocacy.

At eTalkTherapy we recognize and celebrate the goals and spirit of Mental Health Month. Our goal is to build public recognition about the importance of good mental health and daily wellness and to provide tips and tools for taking positive actions to promote holistic health. We understand that there is more to good mental health than just taking a pill. Accepting the whole person, not just a diagnosis, is paramount to providing quality care. Please follow our blog written by mental health professionals for tips on creating the change you want to see in your life.

Contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed professionals.

In Good Health,
Don

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eTalkTherapy

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.

Follow eTalkTherapy on Facebook and Twitter for updates and articles related to good mental health!

Avanti,
Christina

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Don Laird

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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eTalkTherapy

Becoming a Therapist

by Christina Pettinato, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

When I walked into my first professional counseling course, I held my head up high, pulled my shoulders back, and thought, “Yes, I belong here.”  For the first time in my mental health career I felt as if I was headed in the right direction, and I was eager to begin my journey.

My mind was prepared to soak in all the knowledge that was going to be bestowed upon me, and it was then that I realized becoming a therapist was going to be a intimidating endeavor. As the professor began his lecture, I quickly learned that I needed to conquer some inner-demons in addition to fostering a connection to the core concepts of psychotherapy and counseling.

Who me? This is about me? I didn’t think I would be the one sitting in the client’s chair.  At first, I didn’t grasp the significance or meaning behind this moment.  I thought to myself, “Where do I even begin?” No map. No compass. No clue. I’m screwed, and I hadn’t even written my first note yet! Navigating the dark crevices of my mind was going to be a lot more vexing than venturing into someone else’s. My anxiety was through the roof, and my fear was real. Could I ever truly find a sense of peace and beauty within this chaos?

What I began to learn is that life, my life, is based on the perception of my own processes – both the mental and physical perception of experience and how much it influences my daily understanding of the world around me.  Understanding how I perceive the world, which would ultimately impact my future therapeutic relationships, evolved into a consuming endeavor within my therapeutic journey and career.

Exploring my psyche and how it works only reinforces this notion of perception and how each of us can discover a unique pathway to the mind. What was interesting to me was, not only did I develop a heightened sense of awareness of self, but for others, too.  I became highly interested in perception and being-in the-world (to borrow a term from philosopher Martin Heidegger).  Everyone is uniquely human, no two realities are perceived the exactly in the same context. I began to see an uneasy marriage between that which is measurable by science (cognitive processes) and all the mystery of philosophy and art. Things began to gel, take form, make sense, and a fog was lifting.  For me, this exploration was, and still remains, the doorway to understanding another person’s perspective.

With all of my new found inspiration, I knew I needed some guidance. It wasn’t long until my seedlings of thought found purchase in existential psychotherapy.  It is an approach that emphasizes an understanding of your client’s worldview because you are not separated from it. You are human, so is the client. You are forever grounded in a common bond that cannot be quantified or measured. As the French philosopher Jean Paul Sarte said, existence precedes essence. This idea is at the root of our search for meaning. As therapists, counselors and clinicians, we cannot separate ourselves from the living world or our humanness. Understanding, compassion and connection, these are the best tools we have to offer our clients.

My journey then and now can be compared to staring at a painting. At first, I tilt my head in curiosity and uncertainty as the canvas appears unconnected, unruly and unclear. Yet, as I take my time to gaze a little deeper, it becomes easier to see the painting’s intricacies, its inner-struggle, and its beauty. The world opens and things appear as they are – flowing in richness, emotion and connectivity. Meaning is found.  Like the artwork, I began to connect the pieces of my life into theory and produced a strong approach to the helping relationship.

My journey is far from over and there is still so much for me to explore, but for those of you taking that first step, keep looking at the canvas. Don’t give up just yet.

Avanti,
Christina

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Don Laird

Need to be Needed

By Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

Who among us has not experienced the family member who “needs to be needed?” The person who for various reasons becomes the family rescuer? A “martyr,” “savior” or “saint” that will come through for others even at the expense of their own well-being? Codependency, by its very definition means that there a mutual dependent relationship, and that someone is usually a family member or a significant other. Co-dependency is a term traditionally associated with the treatment of addiction and recovery, but for our purposes let’s examine it in another light.

The question that comes to mind is why would someone want to be a full-time rescuer? What benefit is there to a person if she or he is driven to a point of being unhappy, resentful, chronically stressed, and physically or emotionally ill?

People who struggle with codependency typically grow up with an adult family member who demands perpetual emotional care. Often, this is a parent who never reached full emotional maturity. The phenomena of the helicopter parent comes to mind as this is someone who won’t allow for his or her child to experience the world as both a place of kindness and a place where you do indeed get hurt, sometimes badly. The codependent needs to be needed, and this is where things often fall apart when their way of understanding the world is threatened.

“I am because I serve.”

Love, confidence and self-esteem get knotted up with unending service. The codependent grows up starving for love and affection, someone who will “complete me” or fill the void. They feel significant not for who they are, but for what they do for others. The world is only as safe as they deem it to be and, therefore, they must protect those they love in the unhealthiest way possible by sacrificing their own sense of being. As a result, there can be little to no internal change for this person, that energy is redirected into trying to change the world around them. What psychological stability they can attain is contingent on making people dependent on them. This makes them fragile, resistant to change, and by all accounts the family martyr.

This is not to imply someone who is co-dependent lacks empathy, thoughtfulness or understanding. Those qualities can be quite genuine. The issue is ingrained in what tacit emotional agenda accompanies them.  This could oscillate between exhaustive periods of giving and sudden “I need to love me first” moments of resentment. The choice is never me and you, but an emotionally immature me or you. People cannot be related to as equals, but instead are seen as those who are in need of my service, AND they should be eternally grateful for my efforts.

Codependency involves a deeply rooted and highly persistent combination of attitudes, values, beliefs, and habits that will not be solved by a reading a self-help book or by a getting a prescription from the family doctor. Moreover, deciding to be “self-loving” won’t do anything either. “Loving me before I can love others” (as pop-psychology insists we chant as a daily mantra) suggests the same type of “self-sacrifice” that drives a co-dependent individual in a most unhealthy way – “See, I am learning to love myself so now I can serve others better.”

Relational conflicts require relational healing. Therapy is perhaps one of the few ways to create a relational world outside of the co-dependent’s universe. In most unresolved emotional conflicts past events remain shrouded in grief, regret and loss. These conflicts are often reinforced by attempts to self sooth or “cure” the feelings.

Beneath the worry and anxiety of someone with codependency sits an unconscious desire to obtain love, security and approval. Yet, for better or worse, the external world is not built to meet this internal need. Facing and allowing for loss and letting go submits an individual to a deep and valuable period of mourning. For the ill family member who could not be cured, for the child who did not get into the “right” school, for the vacation that did not go as planned, for the loss of love and support, misdirected energy is pulled out of persistent rescuing and gives it back to oneself. Though difficult and a times painful, mourning can ignite the process of healing. Creating a new role for those who were at one time in need of my “saving” allowing them to be who or what they actually are instead of trying to rescue them, also increases a sense of emotional maturity.

We should always remember that those who struggle with codependency are highly sensitive and caring individuals. Somewhere along the way the emotional speedometer jumped from 0 to 60 and it was never quite able to decrease to a healthier rate. Co-dependency is not a problem to be cured, but a life issue to be explored and discussed. If you feel you are struggling because of issues related to co-dependency contact us to schedule a confidential appointment.

In good health,
Don