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Psychotherapy: one of the best options for your life

This blog has been created to help people like you and me to better understand the role of psychology in our everyday lives. We don’t have to be mentally ill or be diagnosed with a “disorder” to benefit from it.

Actually, it is the opposite. The people that tend to attend counseling at different times of need in their lives as well as a preventive measure, report benefiting more and more each time.

Reliable research demonstrates that psychotherapy, or the guidance offered by mental health professionals. It is neither unproven nor a luxury, but in fact a viable. It empirically supported intervention. Who doesn’t deal with everyday struggles, doesn’t need to learn how to make the best of ourselves or to live life to the fullest?. We don’t longer want to survive, but to thrive! [continue reading…]

Do you know your chronic stress can be linked to trauma?

Are you constantly tired or stressed out? Work, kids, finances, can be regular sources of stress. However, when your response is stronger than usual (beyond the normal or manageable levels of everyday stress) and it is difficult for you to move on or to recover your emotional balance, it might be more than stress. Yes, stress can be linked to trauma. Trauma refers to a distressing or disturbing event or series of events that can have a profound psychological and emotional impact on an individual. When a person experiences trauma, their body and mind can react in various ways, and one common response is increased stress. Trauma can be subtle and ordinary trauma that most people can’t identify or see as such.

Here are some ways in which stress can be linked to trauma:
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Summer is often perceived as a time of relaxation and enjoyment, with families looking forward to sunny days, vacations, and quality time together. However, the reality of parenting during the summer months can sometimes be overwhelming and exhausting, leading to a strain on parents’ mental health. Balancing the needs of children, maintaining routines, and managing additional responsibilities can take a toll on parents’ well-being. This article aims to shed light on the importance of summer parenting mental health and provide practical strategies for self-care and overall well-being.

  1. Recognizing the Challenges:

The first step in addressing parenting mental health during the summer is acknowledging the unique challenges it presents. Longer days, disrupted routines, childcare arrangements, and increased demands for entertainment and engagement can create stress and overwhelm for parents. Recognizing and normalizing these challenges can help parents feel less isolated and more empowered to prioritize their own mental health.

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Author: Lorrie Appleton, LCSW

“YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! I leave the children with you for five minutes and now they have colored all over the wall? What were you thinking??  Was your brain in your head when I put you in charge?” Verbal Reply: “It’s just a little crayon.  Look.  It comes right out.  Why do you always get so worked up over little things? You’re just like your mother!”


Here’s another one.

Spouse/Partner has agreed to meet family for dinner at 6:30 pm.  She/He has been sitting on the couch for 30 minutes with foot tapping, hand on head, and eyes closed. Her/His face is drenched in agony.  “We are going to be late!  We are always late! We knew about this dinner over a month ago. What’s so hard about being on time?”  Behavioral Reply: Deadening silence combined with icy glare that could cut a diamond.  Tick, tick, tick. More time elapses. Partner’s Thought Bubble: “That will show her/him to impose time constraints on me! I am not going to dignify her/his demand with a reply. You know what they say, ‘Don’t get mad, get even!’” 

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I was sitting calmly the other day drinking my coffee when I overheard a conversation about somebody considering going to therapy. The person was conflicted because she could not decide if her problem was that “big” (whatever the definition of “big” in her mind was).  I could hardly contained myself from interrupting but  left thinking about the important need of educating people about what therapy is, when they can benefit from it, and when and how to look for it.

Most people think that depending on what happened, they are allowed to feel one thing or another. As if we have to have a logical explanation of the incident before we can feel and/or ask for help. Therefore, I decided I have to start by explaining the topic of trauma.

Trauma Definition:

According to the Standard Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (the DSM-IV) trauma is the result of having “experienced, witnessed or been confronted with . . . actual or threatened death or serious injury . . . to self or others” and responding to that event with “intense fear, helplessness or horror.” However, experts are rethinking the fundamental assumptions about trauma. This definition isn’t wrong, but it’s woefully incomplete. In fact, any negative life event occurring in a state of relative helplessness–a car accident, the sudden death of a loved one, a frightening medical procedure, a significant experience of rejection–can produce the same neurophysiologic changes in the brain as do combat, rape, or abuse. What makes a negative life event traumatizing isn’t the life-threatening nature of the event, but rather the degree of helplessness it engenders and one’s history of prior trauma. (Networker, 2012)

This is significant since the majority of people have not experience the typically traumatic events such as rape, war, natural disaster, physical abuse as a child or having been in foster care…thank goodness!.  However, almost everybody has felt alone, embarrassed, rejected, scared, insecure, inadequate, not good enough, powerless and hopeless sometime in their life. Depending of the depth of the wounding, those experiences can be traumatic for the individual if they accumulate enough pain that interfere with daily life.  So, the determination of trauma is based on the effect and not the event. Originally, trauma was referred only to typical obvious situations such as … Now, there is a new term referred to ordinary or developmental trauma.  There is a slight difference, due to the fact that the first one tends to describe mostly the nature of the event (things that happen in everyday life) and the second alludes to the duration (situations or events that happen to the individual recurrently while growing up that impedes psychological health).  The main symptoms people experience are anxiety and depression, as well as obsessive trends, addictions or difficulty thriving in life and relationships.  Keep in mind that there is a whole spectrum of severity in any of these categories.  Nevertheless, the main caveat is that with ordinary/ developmental trauma the events can be very subtle or for the most part is actually the lack or deficiency of something that is the problem.  To make things worse people then have a secondary problem because they have the symptoms but they don’t understand what happened to them since nothing seems to be so bad.  So they now blame themselves or feel broken.  The point is that if something is bothering you, it is bothering you…and you might have experienced some ordinary/developmental trauma. As family therapist and teacher for more than twenty five years, Terry Real says” “If you see the fingerprints you might recognize the finger.”  

Therefore, for a broader understanding of what trauma is based on the effect, let’s take the concept of fear from the traditional definition of trauma, and look deeper into it. A simple and useful definition of fear is:

An anxious feeling, caused by our anticipation of some imagined event or experience perceived as dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat (Meridian-Webster Dictionary).

Medical experts tell us that the anxious feeling we get when we’re afraid is a standardized biological reaction. It’s pretty much the same set of body signals, whether we’re afraid of getting bitten by a dog, getting turned down for a date, or getting our taxes audited (Albrecht, PhD., Psychology Today, 2012).

Secondly, lets clarify that when we refer to death or serious injury it does not have to be only physical, since as Dr. Albretch (2012) explains one of the main psychological fears human beings experience is what he calls Ego-death – fear of humiliation, shame, or any other mechanism of profound self-disapproval that threatens the loss of integrity of the Self; fear of the shattering or disintegration of one’s constructed sense of lovability, capability, and worthiness. The other main fears we are all expose through life that create opportunity for this type of trauma are abandonment, engulfment or loss of autonomy, and annihilation.

So how do you determine if you might have this type of trauma? Most people might say something like this: “I just can’t seem to stop my mind,” “I try to relax, but after a few moments, my brain starts again with usually obsessive thoughts and preoccupations. Lots of times, it’s the same old thing, just the same old negative thoughts and worries and blaming myself to the point that I feel sick to my stomach or feels helpless.”  From here people find different ways (functional to dysfunctional) to cope with.

Thus the point is to not try to turn them off or run away, because you actually can’t. The goal is to understand the meaning of these everyday emergency responses, and to transform them into opportunities for healing.  If you start paying attention, without judging yourself, you could notice and find patterns that can allow you to understand and resolve these disturbances and have a more fully life. If the same things happen to your neighbor or sibling and it does not bother him/her, they probably have not experience it in the same way. But it if bothers you to an extent that troubles you, give yourself the opportunity to take care of that. I guarantee you that some things that don’t bother you, bother them, because it is part of the human experience and the imperfection of life. Let yourself be the determinant of what you need and what a better life means to you.

You are the only one that knows when a cold gets serious or old enough to go to the doctor, …same thing here!

Perfect time to find out your attachment style.

How does your attachment style affects you during quarantine?

What do you think of being quarantined together? If you ever doubted it before, now you know: Life is very unpredictable. As the recent viral outbreak has shown us too, everyone’s life is unpredictable. What was once a secure income, home, or even a secure relationship, may feel shaken and unstable.

Just when we thought we had got a handle on things, something out of left field occurs. Social distancing, PPE, and thoughts of quarantine weren’t even on our radar not long ago. And now, they are terms that direct or influence our actions from moment to moment.

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As a center that focuses on Attachment and healthy relationships, we know that good relationships are so important to your happiness, yet you may not know just how vital they are to our health and well-being.
What do our connections to others give us? And what happens when we don’t have them?

Here the latest information about the effects of loneliness in your body at a cellular level. You will be impressed with the effects of it. They are compared to the effect of 15 cigarettes per day. We are facing an epidemic of loneliness and we need to be aware of it before is too late!

We are fortunate to live in a time where advances research and science in neurobiology continue to inform us. There is where attachment therapy comes alive. Because unhealthy or toxic relationships are as detrimental as loneliness.

I am happy to share this fascinating article and I hope you pass it along as well.

Article: Is the a Cure for Loneliness?

Attachment knowledge and work are the pathway for healthy relationships and we are here to help you. So ad healthy relationships to your list: balance eating, regular exercise and healthy relationships for a longer and more fulfilled life.

Your DC VA Counseling Team!

“It is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” __M. Scott Peck

“For one human to love another, that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.” __Rainer Maria Rilke

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of of fear.” __Mark Twain

Author: Lisa Prickett, LCSW

couples counseling falls church

Couples Get Creative

It’s easy to feel engaged and enthralled in a new relationship because you both have so much to learn about each other’s pasts, hopes, character, connections, etc. Once you’ve built a thorough love map of your partner, however, you may find yourself struggling to think of things to say/ask. Maybe you don’t feel like rehashing your day, maybe the day was uneventful, or maybe you spent the day together and there’s nothing to share that the other didn’t experience with you.

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  • emotional validation therapyMany people still don’t understand the power of therapy and tend to think:
    1-How can a stranger help me.
    2-What is the point of going and venting over and over?3-What can somebody see something I can’t see in my own life

But situations like the following make me realize the importance of one of the main concepts people learn and experience in therapy.

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Forgiveness is one of the most difficult things to do while at the same time one of the most needed in the world. There are plenty of people sick of anger, either toward others or to themselves. Forgiveness involves letting go and surrender of judgment and condemnation while engaging in a self-healing journey.

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