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Be Better at Getting Stuff Done

By UB Therapist Rebecca Wolf, LCSW, PCGC

I consider myself to be many things, primarily, a mom, wife, and psychotherapist. In my practice, I find myself often discussing client’s frustrations with their procrastination of various desires. I can’t count how many times a client has said, “I really want to switch jobs, but I just can’t seem to update my resume.”   Believe me, I get it. In attempting to balance my day to day chaos, it is often quite easy to push certain things off and put them on the back burner. It’s tough to follow through on tasks. I myself, have been intending to write a blog article for quite some time now. Yet, week after week, month after month, it just hadn’t happened – until now. Here are some thoughts on how to follow through on the ever expanding to-do list of tasks that we all just keep putting off for next week or month, or dare I say, next year…

Be realistic about priorities

Sometimes we put things off simply due to avoidance. Other times, we put things off because they just aren’t important enough for right now. When you find yourself avoiding a task that’s been on your list for a long time, ask yourself, “How important is this task right now?” Depending on where the task falls on your list of priorities, sometimes it is okay to put it off for another day, and other times, recognizing the importance of this task today is a simple reminder that it just can’t wait any longer.

Consider the drawbacks of not tackling your task

I had a client recently tell me how he was putting off scheduling a trip to visit his in-laws. He knew he needed to nail down his travel plans but the thought of knowing this trip was coming was incredibly anxiety provoking for him. We talked about this in depth for quite some time. In the end, what motivated him to book his flight was recognizing that the longer he waited, the more expensive the trip would be. Sometimes the best way to tackle a task is to explore the impact of the consequences if you continue to avoid it.

Recognize the benefits of accomplishing your task

Just last week, a client of mine was telling me how she wanted to work out regularly again but she couldn’t get started. I asked her simply, “What will be so much better for you once you start working out again?” She almost instinctively responded that she could finally lose her leftover baby weight and she would feel healthier. Her words were true, but her tone was not convincing. I pressed her for more benefits. She eventually told me that every day she works out she will have an hour all to herself – no children or husband or coworkers, totally alone. This was it for her. This was the true benefit. Sometimes the best motivation to tackle a long-standing task is to dig deep and explore all of the potential benefits of finally doing it, even the ones that aren’t so obvious in the first place.

Tell someone

I find that sometimes, I can believe a task is a priority, and I can be really clear on the consequences of holding off as well as the benefits of accomplishing it, and yet still, I lack the ability to just get it done. I mentioned earlier that I had intended to write a blog post for quite some time now. In the end, what motivated me to actually do it today of all days, was that I told a client that I was going to. I said it out loud, to another person, that I respect. Telling another person that I plan to do this makes me accountable. Sometimes accountability can be the most motivating factor in accomplishing a task we have been putting off.

Procrastinate productively

If all of the above motivating strategies just aren’t doing it for you, then practice what I like to call, “productive procrastination.” What this means is, do something, or lots of other things, to make you feel productive and accomplished during the time it takes until you are ready to tackle the intended task. I had a client once tell me that she couldn’t bring herself to tell her parents that her and her boyfriend had broken up, but she had instead cleaned out her closet and donated a hefty amount of items to charity. She wasn’t quite ready for the task at hand, but in the meantime, she did something else that was good for her and good for her community. If the intended task isn’t enough of a priority for now, you can procrastinate productively until you are ready to accomplish the said task.

I hope these thoughts and tips are helpful to you in accomplishing your goals, whatever they may be, today, or someday soon.

counseling for executives chicago

Stay Focused on Your Professional Goals With These Strategies

by UB’s Joyce Marter, LCPC

Through my experience as a psychotherapist and a business owner, I believe the following strategies are pivotal for achieving professional and career success:

  • Become conscious of why you do what you do.  We all come into our careers for a reason.  We learn our roles in our families-of-origin and often recreate patterns until we work through them.  Give yourself permission to let go of old behaviors that are no longer working and open yourself up to new ways that will allow success into your life.

  • Open yourself up to prosperity.  Cognitive psychology suggests that our thoughts precede our feelings and behaviors.  To be successful, we must first think of ourselves as a success.  We must believe we deserve prosperity, such as health, love, resources and money.

  • Bring your attention to the present.  Honor the past, learn from it, accept it and let it go.  Don’t obsess or worry about the future.  The best decisions are made when grounded in the present.  Achieve clarity through mindfulness practices such as deep breathing and meditation.

  • Discover the power of intention.  As in sports psychology, positive visualization increases the likelihood of success.  We largely create our own realities through our thoughts and intentions, so clarify them by writing out your careers goals and objectives.

  • Develop your vision.  Ask yourself, if you had a magic wand, what would you want?  Aim high.  As Dr. Phil said, “The most you get is what you ask for.”  As you develop your career vision, look for the “win-win”.  Look for how your strengths can benefit others and use assertive communication to ask for what you deserve.

  • Create work/life balance. For success and wellness, plan your career in the context of your life, not the other way around.  Empower yourself to create a career that supports your personal life (with regard to lifestyle, schedule, location, etc.).

  • Practice self-care. Practice self-care, such as proper nutrition, rest, exercise, social support and leisure activity to reboot your mind and body.  You must take good care of yourself first in order to be effective in your career.

  • Silence your inner critic.  Pay attention to your self-talk and notice if you have negative thoughts that perhaps come from voices of the past (i.e. a critical parent, etc.).  Separate from negative beliefs by “zooming out” and looking at situations objectively from a neutral place.

  • Practice positive thinking. Choose to be your best cheerleader rather than your worst critic.  Cut yourself some slack and recognize we are all human and works in progress.

  • Surround yourself with good people. Assess your support network.  Let go of negative or toxic relationships. Establish and nurture positive ones.

  • Be resilient.  Deflect or detach from negativity rather than absorbing it.  Don’t let somebody tell you that you can’t do something as they are likely projecting their own fears and limitations.

  • Let go of that which you can not control. Empower yourself to change what you can and let go of the rest.  Don’t expend your energy trying to control others and focus on yourself.

  • Appreciate that personal and professional progress is not linear. We all go through setbacks.  It’s how we respond to those setbacks that determines if we are going to grow and move forward or continue to cycle.

  • Practice gratitude.  If you focus on what you don’t have, you will be unhappy and attract negativity.  Be grateful for what you have and you will be attract positivity, opportunity and success.

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UB’s Bob Ryan Quoted on the Emotions of Alzheimer’s Disease

“Alzheimer’s initially attacks the cognitive functions of the brain, so sufferers are said to be existing in an emotional world rather than the rational. Being confronted by reasoning that the Alzheimer’s sufferer may not understand will cause confusion and anxiety, leading to emotional outbursts.” —Robert Ryan, LCPC in Preserving your Memory Magazine

Read the full article here.

Bob Ryan is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and Registered Art Therapist experienced in working with adults of all ages, families, children and adolescents. A graduate of the Adler School of Professional Psychology, Bob believes that individuals need to belong and contribute to feel complete. Bob utilizes an Adlerian model of encouragement and honesty in assisting individuals to live up to their full potential. He employs a broad range of mind and body focused therapies to help individuals be more creative, comfortable, and productive in their lives and careers, to possess a deeper sense of balance and self-esteem. Bob is dedicated to helping individuals work through difficulties in their personal and professional lives be they grief, loss, divorce, career setbacks, aging, or life transitions. He has experience working with adolescents and young adults with physical and mental disabilities, with older individuals living with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease, and with trauma and abuse survivors and their families. Bob’s particular interest is in lightening the burdens of those in the sandwich generation; individuals who may still be raising children while having to care for and make decisions for aging parents. These particular individuals experience extremes of emotion as they take on new burdens and roles within the family.

mind/body connection

Muscle Memories: Don’t Forget The Mind/Body Connection

You need to take care of both body and mind for total wellness.

By UB Owner, Joyce Marter, LCPC:

Our minds and bodies are so interconnected that sometimes symptoms of psychological issues show up in our bodies and vice-versa. For this reason, I like to emphasize with my counseling clients that it is important to listen to what our bodies are telling us, and to address both physical and psychological self-care when working toward comprehensive health.

I can personally relate to this issue because after the birth of our daughter, I told my husband that I needed more support. Then the next day, my back went out!  This is an easy example of how emotional issues in our relationships, for example, can manifest as physical symptoms. I see similar issues often at Urban Balance when providing therapy. Clients report a variety of physical symptoms that we later discover to be stemming from emotional issues, such as headaches, digestive problems, back aches or chronic pain. These can be associated with stress, anxiety, depression or relationship issues.

At Urban Balance, we provide counseling and support to help people reduce their physical complaints that may be exacerbated by emotional issues. If these are not being managed effectively, they can cause physical symptoms. Whether in individual and couples counseling sessions, we help clients physical and mental wellness by:

  • Encouraging regular self-care routines through nutrition, sleep & exercise
  • Using cognitive-behavioral therapy to promote positive thinking, which strengthens the immune system and increases overall health
  • Teaching stress management & relaxation techniques
  • Providing assertiveness training & communication skills
  • Practicing anger management & conflict resolution
  • Promoting the creation & maintenance of a positive support network

Additionally, I often refer our clients to alternative therapies like yoga to receive professional care for their physical wellness.

adolescent and teen counseling chicago

Back To School Proving Overwhelming? UB Offers Counseling for Adolescents & Young Adults

At each of our 6 locations Urban Balance has therapists on staff who young people can relate to and understand. Our therapists are warm, compassionate, and not judgmental—we understand the issues that teenagers and young adults face with regard to school, family, relationships and life in general.

Search UB therapists who specialize in counseling for adolescents.

This time of life can be so challenging and such a critical part of one’s development. UB believes adolescent and young adult therapy can be an opportunity to:

>Learn about yourself and discover who you are
>Address concerns about depression or anxiety
>Receive treatment for ADD and learning disorders
>Increase self-esteem, confidence and assertiveness
>Develop a positive relationship with food and your body
>Understand the way you communicate and learn new skills
>Explore feelings about making positive decisions about sex and relationships
>Improve time management, prioritization and organizational skills
>Explore feelings about making positive decisions about drugs and alcohol
>Understand the shifting roles and boundaries in your relationships with your family
>Receive academic or career counseling
>Learn positive self-care

Confidentiality

All services at Urban Balance are confidential according to state and professional regulations. If your parents want to know that you are attending your therapy, your therapist may ask for consent to communicate about attendance, payment, and in the event of an emergency, but otherwise the details of your therapy are kept confidential to promote healing and growth in a safe and confidential environment. If you are under 16, we will need the consent of your parent(s) or legal guardian(s) to participate in therapy.

Insurance/Payment

If you are using your insurance to pay for therapy, the primary insured person (which may be your parent), will receive a copy of your statements. Most insurance will pay for some your therapy. UB will check your benefits and bill your insurance. We are in-network with most plans and your co-pay may be paid by cash, check or credit card. Some UB therapists are preferred providers for the student health insurance offered by Northwestern University, Columbia College, etc.

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Living Better with ADHD

By UB therapist Bob Ryan, LCPC

Contrary to the label, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), this disorder’s symptoms often include a hyper awareness of internal and external stimuli, not a deficit of attention. It is in the outward appearance of an individual’s actions and inability to stay focused where the descriptor “Deficit” comes from. Individuals living with ADHD are continuously shifting their attention from one thought to the next in an often exhausting whirlwind of ideas and activities. They tend to be overly attuned to their surroundings, thus unable to hold focus on a single task. In children the first signs are often an indefatigable energy, moving non-stop from one half completed task to another.

Symptoms that individuals with ADHD exhibit may include:

Boredom with tasks after the newness wears off.

Difficulty connecting emotionally with or having empathy for others, even loved ones.

Holding down or maintaining a job that is routine, no matter how challenging.

Significant impairment in social and vocational functioning.

Procrastination. Many individuals will report waiting until the last minute to do papers/projects, citing a need for the extra adrenaline in order to focus.

Moderate to severe depression can be a side effect of ADHD. Individuals with this disorder are very much aware of their inability to get ahead in the world like many of their peers. While individuals with ADHD may succeed in high-pressure fields, such as advertising and sales, many more struggle to maintain a living in jobs that are repetitive and less than stimulating.

In my practice I have seen equal numbers of adult men and women with the disorder, though in children ADHD is considered more of a male disorder while females often do not display hyperactivity. As with all illnesses, there is no good waiting period before one should seek help. When you first suspect something is amiss, see a specialist. If you need a referral, start with your family doctor. It is not uncommon to have individuals suffering from ADHD and accompanying depression be accused of simply being lazy. An uninformed label can do much harm to both a child’s and an adult’s psyche.

Two widely divergent treatment modalities, either combined or used separately, show great promise in the treatment of ADHD.

The first is Mindfulness Training, which includes the practices of yoga and meditation. This is a powerful tool for calming the mind. Mindfulness takes discipline, which can be hard for ADHD individuals to master on their own. Enlist a yoga buddy to help bridge the “habit desert that many individuals with ADHD experience. The habit desert is the wasteland between when an undertaking is new and before it becomes a habit. Mindfulness has been shown to reduce anxiety and lessen depression as one learns to train the mind.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is cognitive-based. It helps identify thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions that make life harder: “I have to be perfect at everything.” It is also a collaboratively-based approach where client and therapist role play likely interactions. DBT has teaching and learning components as well, which help individuals’ with their self-esteem.

To help clients who have a hard time focusing on reading or writing, I often counsel them to listen to nature sounds via headphones or earbuds while trying to concentrate. Although this may seem contradictory, it both blocks out distractions and stimulates a large portion of the brain that is not typically used for the cognitive tasks such as homework.

Living with ADHD can be a constant struggle to make and keep emotional connections. Relationships need tending and individuals with ADHD need solid relationships to help them stay on course, to build self-esteem and to escape the trap of overly critical self-judgement.

Get more resources from Urban Balance for ADD/ADHD

 

 

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What You Need to Know About: Pet Therapy

With about sixty percent of American households owning a pet, chances are you grew up with a family pet in your own home. Furthermore,  you also probably did not realize the array of mental and physical health benefits associated with pet ownership. Research has shown that owning a pet has its benefits in terms of encouraging exercise and improving overall psychological health. The emotional bond that stems from interactions with your pet increases your body’s oxytocin levels, which is also known as the “feel good” hormone. Pets can even help relieve stress and anxiety, which is why some therapists offer pet therapy, which is also known as animal-assisted therapy.

What is the concept behind pet therapy?

Pet therapy is not simply owning a pet. Pet therapy is goal-oriented and is directed by a trained professional who understands the clinical and therapeutic implications of human-animal interaction. Animal-assisted therapy can range from dogs to dolphins.
Animal-assisted  therapy is not restricted to a specific type of animal, however the animal is trained appropriately for therapy to help the client ultimately achieve their goals.

What is pet therapy used for and what are the benefits?

Pet therapy can be used to cover a variety of mental or physical health problems. Some examples are listed below:
  • It was found that older adults improved their walking capabilities (in terms of speed and confidence) when they walked their pet dog on a regular basis.
  • Behavioral exchanges between a therapy pet and the therapist can serve as a model for a healthy relationship, which can in turn be applied outside of therapy to improve social skills and develop healthy connections with people.
  • Owning a pet can also help improve self-esteem as being a proud owner can contribute to a sense of purpose and increase a person’s perception of their self-worth.
  • Therapy pets can also help decrease anxiety, even those suffering from severe conditions such as PTSD.
  • Therapy dogs were found to decrease symptoms of anxiety and loneliness by 60% in college students who participated in animal-assisted therapy.
These are just a few examples of ways that animal-assisted therapy can applied.

To learn more about pet therapy, click here to browse Urban Balance’s Pet Therapy Resources.

Nauert PhD, R. (2014). Animal Therapy Can Ease College Stress. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 8, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/10/23/animal-therapy-can-ease-college-stress/76498.html
 
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Pet Therapy Good For All Ages. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 8, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2009/10/01/pet-therapy-good-for-all-ages/8688.html
 
Suval, L. (2015). Pets as Therapy. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 8, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2015/07/29/pets-as-therapy/
 
Uyemura, B. (2013). The Truth About Animal-Assisted Therapy. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 8, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-truth-about-animal-assisted-therapy/
counseling for anxiety chicago therapist

Use These Tools To Manage Anxiety

When clients visit UB therapist Leslie Holley, LCPC, MA for help with anxiety, she tells them that having a toolbox to manage their anxiety symptoms is essential. However, techniques to help with anxiety only work when we can accept our symptoms and be present with them instead of fighting against them. This is the first step to introducing tools to help with anxiety – assessing the issue and understanding how it is negatively impact day to day living.

(see Leslie’s previous articles on anxiety here and here.)

Anxiety Toolbox

Incorporating mindfulness is a great tool to practice in order to help with anxiety symptoms. Mindfulness is a meditation technique where the participant practices observing their thoughts and feelings in a nonjudgmental way. Instead of trying to ignore the feelings and thoughts, they are acknowledged and observed so the participant can gain insight and awareness. There are many great books on the topic, as well as mobile apps that you can download.

The key to achieving mindfulness is practice, practice, practice! Holley tells clients to think of using mindfulness for their anxiety like training for a marathon, especially if they have an anxiety inducing event coming up. Mindfulness should be practiced until the client is comfortable with the necessary steps to be present and nonjudgmental about their thoughts that may spiral them into a panic attack.

While mindfulness is perhaps the most effective day to day strategy to employ against chronic anxiety, consider also these tools that you can use anytime to manage anxiety:

  • Deep Breathing. While mindfulness meditation incorporates deep breathing, the exercise on its own can also be helpful. Taking slow, long, deep, breaths can ease some of the symptoms of anxiety.
  • Counting. Rate your anxiety (1-10, 10 being unbearable) then start counting backwards from 100 and then rate your anxiety again. If your anxiety is an 8 or higher, repeat.
  • Spelling. Rate your anxiety (1-10, 10 being unbearable) then browse the environment and start spelling objects backwards. After 3-5 objects rate your anxiety again. If it is an 8 or higher, repeat.
  • Envision a safe place. Your safe place should be somewhere you’ve been that you love or somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. After becoming more comfortable with your mindfulness practice you can incorporate a safe place. As you practice, this place should become more detailed. When experiencing your anxiety go to your safe place. Close your eyes and start to focus on the details of this place (i.e. smells, textures, temperatures).

Anxiety is not something that has to take over our lives. It can be managed with practice, patience, and acceptance. It is important for someone experiencing moderate to severe anxiety to share their symptoms with their health care providers and seek the necessary support systems to best manage anxiety symptoms.

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Surmount Obstacles to Entrepreneurial Success

for PsychCentral. By

In my practice, professionals frequently report feeling stuck in a career or corporate position that is not meaningful, enjoying or rewarding for them on a deeper level.  Stay-at-home parents often express interest in self-employment as a way to return to the workforce with the flexibility and work/life balance it affords.  

Many people want to start their own business.  Few actually do. 

Common obstacles and solutions: 

1) Financial Anxiety & the Golden Handcuffs

Problem: Not everyone has a trust fund or a partner who brings in enough dough so they can start a business free of financial anxiety. Most have the responsibility of supporting themselves by themselves and possibly supporting others as well.  Many fear leaving the security of a stable paycheck with benefits and taking the leap of faith into all the unknowns of self-employment.  They have difficulty envisioning how to free themselves of the golden handcuffs their current job and make their finances work during the transition to entrepreneurship.

Solution:  Get creative. For example, clients of mine have quit their 6-figure jobs to work the early shift at Starbucks to have some earnings and healthcare but keep their days open to launch their business. Others have made the switch to part-time freelance work while building up their business. Some have quite their job, liquidated their savings and taken the plunge. Many sell what they don’t need and decrease their overhead (from little things like canceling the home phone and cable to big moves like selling a house and renting something less expensive.)  These temporary arrangements requires willingness to check your ego at the door to make your dream come to fruition.  

I started my practice on a part-time basis while working a full-time job.  I eventually asked my employer to work a 4-day week. I was nervous to ask but it turned out to also be a win-win because my company was going through a cash crunch. You never know what is possible unless you ask. 

Keep your overhead low when starting your business. Create a website using a site like SquareSpace and make business cards through a site like moo.com. Work from home, conduct meetings at local coffee shops or consider an office co-op or sublease for an inexpensive workspace before signing an office lease. Use consultants and free-lancers before committing to hiring employees to help you. Market on the cheap via social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yelp, etc. Use newer, less expensive technology rather than buying expensive equipment (like Square for credit card processing or a ScannerPro app rather than buying a scanner.) AT&T quoted me $20K for a voicemail system for 50 therapists, which I got through phone.com for $80/mo. Your overhead can grow as your business is able to support it. Don’t be a jackass and get a huge, gorgeous office until you have the clientele to support it, otherwise you will set yourself up for failure and drive your business into the ground.

2) Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt (FUD)

Problem:  Fear of failure and unconscious fear of success. Uncertainty about the future that leads to overwhelm. Doubt in themselves, the business, etc.  We live in a culture that breeds FUD, and it can be paralyzing.

Solution: Have a healthy respect for self-fulfilling prophecy. Where you put your thoughts is where you put your energy.  If you look at problems and barriers, rather than solutions and options, you will be stuck.  Detach from FUD through daily mindfulness and spiritual practices such as yoga and meditation. These will help you become aligned with your greater life mission.   

3) Lack of a Clear Business Plan

Problem:  Many people want to have their own business, but are not exactly sure what it would be.  The have only vague concepts and the ambiguity leads to more FUD.

Solution: Make a list of your passions, interests and skill sets/strengths. Look for where this niche meets a need in the world. 

Research similar businesses online. Talk with other small business owners (a local chamber of commerce can be a tremendous resource.) Leverage your professional network and have informational meetings with people in your field of interest.

Create a vision board. Imagine your business as if you had a magic wand. Where would you work? What would you day be like? The more you talk about it and envision it, the more it will take shape.

Utilize business plan software. Developing a business is much like creating a piece of art. You might have an initial concept that takes a different shape as you develop it.

4) Lack of Support:  

Problem: Lack of people who believe in you (partner, mentor, colleagues, family, friends, etc.)  A support system of negative Nancys could throw a wet blanket on your dreams and further fuel your FUD.  

Solution: Unplug from people who do not support you and detach from people who are negative or toxic. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and your business. Be direct with your partner about what you need—if you do not pursue your dream, you will put yourself at risk for depression and set up your relationship for resentment. Seek consultation form people who have experience and skills sets beyond yours to strengthen your plan. The more defined your plan, and the more confident you are, the more support you will have.

If you don’t believe your business will come to fruition or thrive, it won’t.