The Power of Human Touch

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How many of you can recall when you would hurt yourself when you were young?  Perhaps falling while playing or taking a spill off your bike?  For some, although the hurt caused a tear or two to fall, the best thing about it was when our favorite loved adult would “kiss it to make it better”.  Often, we wouldn’t even need a Band-Aid or a visit to the doctor like we so desperately claimed.  What was wanted was that squeeze after the Band-Aid, that high-five after the tears, even simply sitting next to our loved one and feeling them there - that touch from that other person with whom we were close and loved held and carried a healing power. 

Children who are struggling with attachment disorders, people who have been victims of sexual assault or rape, and similarly, folks who battle with various levels of anxiety can benefit from the healing power of touch.  It is often assumed that it is babies who primarily benefit from touch and mainly from their mothers (or primary caregivers).  And, while this still holds truth, there are so many other opportunities that can provide healing.  Just a few examples are pain reduction, creating safer spaces, improve relationships between not just couples but also other dyads (siblings, parent/child, etc.).  Research has even shown that when a child is struggling in school, a small, simple touch on their shoulder from their teacher can provide just the right amount of encouragement to allow the child to begin to soar in their studies. 

Here are 4 simple reasons to consider the powerful, healing properties of the human touch:

1: Touch releases a chemical in our brains called oxytocin.  This chemical is like the cuddle switch.  When touch is wanted or desired, oxytocin is released.  Just 20 seconds of affectionate touching is enough to reduce our stress hormone and increase our cuddle hormone.  This can manifest safer spaces and increase trust, as well. 

2: When stress levels due to trauma or anxiety are at an all time high, our ability to experience what may seem to be compassion is muddled; especially when it is brought to us through only the spoken word.  It may seem silly but when words fail, touch may be the answer.  Touch can trigger our vagus nerve (the nerve that runs from the brain to the belly, passing the heart along the way), thus allowing us to be receptive to and to respond with compassion.

3: Not only can touch allow us to feel compassion, it also reduces stress.  Our stress hormone, cortisone, increases when we experience anxiety, trauma, stress from taking a test, falling off our bikes, etc.  A touch, even one that happens by accident, can reduce that stress hormone and lower blood pressure.  This means a happier heart.  Image the anxiety beginning to creep in because of a memory that has begun to invade your thoughts.  You are walking around work or school and can’t seem to calm it down.  Someone needs to walk past you and, gently, presses their hand on your arm to excuse themselves around you.  That one slight touch is just enough to not only distract you from your thoughts but also to decrease that cortisone that is about to sky high.

4: Touching between couples can increase trust, promote communication, and can improve relationship satisfaction.  Even the simple act of holding hands while watching a movie or hugging for just 20 seconds before leaving for work can begin to create that bond between couples.  This bond can be the foundation in which trust is rebuilt, safety is re-established, and communication is opened.

Everyone has a built in need to be touched, and yes, from birth.  However, it does not end once we reach a specific age.  It is a life-long desire for touch.  When it is practiced appropriately and respectfully, the human touch can be powerful healing aspect of the human experience.


By Léah Almilli

Is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist. She works with children as young as 6 and adults as old as 88. She is fluent in American Sign Language and she teaches ASL at the local community college. Léah like to help people grow and feel better about themselves. Léah offers a holistic, client-centered approach to the process, allowing each person the opportunities to discover how their pasts can lead into their futures. Léah makes her therapy rooms warm, welcoming, non-judgmental, and compassionate to ensure that the clients can feel safe to explore what is needed.

A Therapy Session, What’s it Really Like.

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I am a working therapist, and I would like to share with you what it’s like to see clients. Therapists generally work the same way; however, each therapist works slightly different, adding their own personality and style. Through the years, I’ve created my own way of working with clients that I have found to be highly successful.

After the initial phone call,  an intake session is scheduled. In this session, we speak about what the problem is, how it is affecting your life, how I might help you, and together we develop a plan.

Sometimes clients ask, “How are you different from bouncing ideas off my friends and family.” 

First of all, family and friends can be great to bounce ideas off of, but because they love you and want good things for you sometimes they do not provide you with the truth, can be overly harsh or want you to do what they want.  I’m not family, nor am I a friend and that fact gives me the ability to look at what is going on as a neutral third party. Additionally, I have many years of specific training and experience to help people with all sorts of bothersome problems quickly and effectively.

Therapists are bound by laws and state regulation to protect your information by keeping it confidential (there are a couple of exceptions by law) but mostly what you say in therapy stays in therapy.  Sometimes friends accidentally share your secrets.

Therapists do not advise as friends do, but therapists allow you to talk out your feelings, help identify the behaviors that are causing you problems, and create a strategy for making changes. Therapists are also able to determine if your concerns might be physical, sometimes depression and other mental health issues start with some physical problems that you may not be aware of. 

Therapists have spent years gaining experiences in the practice of counseling and often gain over 3000 hours before they can work independently. Then, of course, there are two state exams that therapists must pass before they can sit in the room with you. Your family and friends not so much.

Therapists also get specialized training, for example, I have personally have training in adolescent drug and alcohol recovery, inpatient and outpatient therapy; and I have also experience working at a boy’s home, and a psychiatric hospital. These experiences have given me the opportunity to use different types of therapeutic interventions, i.e., CBT, DBT, Solution Focus, Play Therapy, Trauma-Focused, among others.

You can choose a therapist through your insurance company, or perhaps by word of mouth, or by searching therapists websites.  In California,  a professional organization called California Association Of Marriage and Family Therapists, (CAMFT) has a list of therapists.

I seem to have many referrals through the years by word of mouth – the nicest of referrals.  It means former clients trusted me, felt they were helped by our work together.  We discussed family issues, working in a business with family members, addiction issues, parent-child issues, children who were adopted and struggling with “who they are, where they came from.”

Each session is a problem-solving session.  You talk about your current situation, and your therapist uses their expertise to help you in trying to resolve the problem. Also, remember all our conversations are confidential.

Some therapists like to give homework in between sessions so that you can practice in real life the new skills and the time in between sessions you can think about what you’d like to discuss in the next session.  Your therapist might make some suggestions about what you might do in between sessions to feel better, i.e., exercise three times a week for 15 minutes outside in the sun. Most clients start therapy weekly, and then as confidence grows, skills increase, emotions are in check, and the problems start to be resolved, the sessions may change to bi-monthly, then monthly. 

Therapy should not be for forever but used when certain problems arise that make it hard for you to function in your daily life.

Some clients find that they come to therapy for six months to a year and then go about living their lives.  When new problems pop up, or they feel overwhelmed, they come back for a check-in, learn new skills and end therapy quickly. It all depends on the problems and how disabling it is to you.    

B.G. Collins summed up my feeling of being a therapist best he said;

“Most grateful for the job I choose.”

As you can see, there are a few major differences between advice from family and friends or a therapist. If you are struggling with any life problem give me a call and let’s chat about the work, we can do together.


By Judy McGehee, LMFT

My passion is working with children, teens, adults and couples, who want to build meaning in their lives. Building trust, intimacy, and companionship are most important to me as a therapist.

My relationship in counseling began about 35 years ago in working with families in church settings,in schools, and addiction treatment centers.. I became licensed in 1995, and have found this is the profession I thrive in, and wish for my clients the richness and relationships they are seeking from therapy.

I have also worked in,psychiatric hospitals, and children's centers, and believe my career has been embellished through each and every client I have had the privilege of working with.

I also enjoy being a Clinical Supervisor, and have had the honor of mentoring over 495 Interns/Associates since 1997. I received my Master's Degree from Phillips Graduate Institute, I am a member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) and enjoy the membership of three local chapters of CAMFT.

I look forward to working with you in the future at CCS.

Sibling rivalry? Here's a solution! (printable 💌)

What's very frustrating, exhausting, and upsetting?

Dealing with a sibling rivalry.

Arguing, name-calling, tattling, physical fighting, competition, comparison — if you have more than one child, this all probably sounds familiar.

The good news is YOU can help minimize sibling rivalry and help your children form a loving, supportive bond instead.

This week's FREE PRINTABLE and ARTICLE are excellent tools to start with!

DOWNLOAD THE PRINTABLE HERE

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The 25 Ways to Be a Kind Sibling poster has tons of simple ideas siblings can do for each other to show kindness.

Check out HOW TO USE the printable here:

Have your children make the Sibling Kindness Star.

Cut out it and have your kids leave it behind every time they do kind things for each other.

This great suggestion came from one of our Facebook group members! She wrote:

"We took a star from our Christmas tree...its shiny and silver. Made it our SERVICE STAR... they do random kind acts sneakily for the other one and leave the star where they did the act... It's FUN! They love it when it happens to them."

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The printable also includes a Sibling Kindness Jar activity. 


Cut out the strips included in the printable, fold and place in a jar. Siblings can take turns picking out the jar and doing kind things for one another.

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If you're committed to help your children form the LOVING bond, be sure to check this out:

7 Key Strategies to Manage Sibling Rivalry

Credit to: Big Life Journal

Parent Café: Self-Care

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Hi, I am back with more helpful tips and hints, this time for the care providers.  We, as parents, are constantly reminded that our children/child comes first.  That is partially correct as parents; we must remember that our children will need us at peak performance most of the time.  Depending on their age group as to how much direct supervision and energy will be needed.  Albeit it’s hard to find personal time to refuel our energy. We know that spending time with our children helps them to socialize and learn the values of the family as well as community standards. We will not be able to carry out parental duties in an effective manner without self-care.

What is self-care?

 Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.  Though the question seems relatively simple of just how does a parent juggle all the tasks to do self-care?  Self-care often gets overlooked or dismissed to a later date, often a date that never happens.  Self-care is important for reducing anxiety as well as improving one’s mood. It is necessary for all people but especially for parents.

What isn’t self-care

Self-care is not a forced act or something we don’t enjoy doing.  A scholar once explained self-care is “something that refuels us, rather than takes from us.”  https://psychcentral.com/blog/what-self-care-is-and-what-it-isnt-2/

Below are a few helpful self-care tips:

  1. One of the main keys to not becoming overwhelmed by the steps in the process of developing a doable self-care plan. Keep it simple. 

  2. Developing a self-care plan that can help enhance one’s health, well-being and manage one’s stress. 

  3. Identify activities and practices that support your well-being as will assist you in sustaining a positive long-term self-care plan. Improving and increasing your life.

  4. Another crucial factor is that a self-care plan is personal to you.  Everyone’s approach will differ and should relate to the needs of you. 

  5. Self-care plans are useful for workplace/professional well-being, physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, and relationships.  Activities should be tailored to and meaningful to one’s self and intended goals. 

  6. Physical self-care should include a regular sleep routine, healthy diet, walk, and exercise. 

  7. Psychological self-care consists of reflective journaling, hobby, time away from emails and social media, relaxation, positive interaction with family and friends.

  8. Emotional self-care encompasses developing supportive frie­ndships, write three good things that you did each day, play your favorite sport, and talk with friends about how you are coping with life demands. 

  9. Spiritual self-care involves reflective meditation, walks, visit your church/mosque/temple, yoga, reflect with a close friend, download the 1 Giant Mind app, and learn mindfulness techniques and its benefits. 

  10. Once the plan has been drafted, keep it in a visible location, stick to your plan-practice regularly, and re-assess how you are doing and if it needs adjustments.

  11. Once you create your plan, do a cursory check for any barrier that might hinder you from moving forward.  Also, what can you do to remove these barriers?  If they cannot be removed, then one might adjust their self-care strategies. 

  12. Finally, relationship self-care involves making close relationships, e.g., partners, family, and children a priority attend dedicated events with family and friends, arrive to work, and leave on time every day.

Access the links below, to download and chart your self-care plan, it is really easy to do.

Another method of self-care that I want to reintroduce are the benefits associated with mindfulness techniques/exercises.  Let’s start with what mindfulness is:  The term mindfulness refers to a psychological state of awareness, the practices that promote this awareness, a mode of processing information, and a character trait. To be in step with up-to-date research, mindfulness means also “a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment”  This definition can be found by clicking here.

Mindfulness-based skills can help both adults and children to cultivate emotion regulation, decreased reactivity, and increased response flexibility, and intrapersonal benefits.

 The 5 most common benefits of mindfulness are:

✔ Decreased Stress

✔ Decreased Depressive Symptoms

✔ Increases Self-Compassion

✔ Improved General Health

✔ Increases Positivity in Mental Health Outcomes

  • Deep Breathing (Mindfulness Exercise) promotes:

  • Breathing for Enlightenment-develops deep insight

  • Breathing for Relaxation-helps quieten and clear the mind

  • Breathing to Let Go of Negativity

  • Breathing for Inner Peace

  • Breathing to Learn about Your Body

  • Breathing to Connect Mind and Body

 Source: https://eocinstitute.org/meditation/meditation-and-breathing-benefits-of-mindful-breathing/

Incorporating mindfulness exercises into one’s self-care plan is an added benefit, a benefit that brings positive returns.  As this will, i.e., practicing mindfulness will engender a whole-body healing, relaxation, and a peaceful mind and spirit.  Therefore, one will likely return to the task at hand with an increase in their self-care toolbox, an arsenal of ways to bringing calm, peace, relaxation, and clearer thinking.


By Valerie Fluker, MA, APCC

All people come to counseling to relieve pain and suffering. They feel they have little to no hope left. What they have been doing isn’t working anymore or maybe never did. They feel out of control, scared, and do not know where to turn. Or they may need education in the form of Parenting or Co-parenting classes. Or some just need to work on relationship issues or manage anxiety. Regardless of what brought you to this website I can help. I am caring, understanding and I want you to feel better. I see great things happening for most people within a few sessions. These clients start to feel happy, gain more confident and report they are satisfied with their life. While I cannot guarantee you the same results, I have seen positive results with most clients.

I became a counselor because I wanted to harness great hope and positive energy and to help install healing for my clients. I consider working with people in therapy an honor and privilege to work with each client. In therapy, each person develops their positive mental wellness plan and great growth often takes place.  

I discovered my passion for counseling teens while volunteering for Riverside Youth Probation. I enjoyed seeing these teens learn and grow as they figure out who they will become. I also work with caregivers of dementia clients and I see the struggle to care for their loved one. I frequently work with people that suffer from depression, anxiety and trauma. I have specialized training in trauma, working with children and elder adults.

I am a member of the following professional organizations:

  • Purple City Alliance helps make The City of Riverside a Dementia Friendly City.

  • American Counseling Association (ACA).

I look forward to meeting and working with you.

5 Effective Communication Skills

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Something that people often bring into my therapy room is that they want to communicate better. You may ask, “what does that even mean? Well, I am going to tell you exactly what that means in 5 effective communication skills. To start off, I think we need to start with the basics and discuss what communication even means.  “Communication: a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior.” (Merriam Webster).  In really people terms it’s how we talk to our spouse, our kids and even our boss. This would also include the great amount of nonverbal communication that we do. Ever ask yourchild if they ate that cookie you left on the counter? They shake their head, but this little smile comes across their face and the cookie that you had been saving is gone; that is nonverbal communication. Other nonverbal communication is eye-contact, tone, body posture or gestures. Now that we know WHAT communication is, let's figure out how to do this effectively. 

5 Effective Communication Skills

  1. Active listening- this means to listen with your body giving full attention to the person that is speaking. It means to be alert while the other person is talking. It requires the person listening to be interested and to fully concentrate on what the person talking is saying. This also includes nonverbal communication (eye contact, facial expressions, nodding, etc.)

  2. Asking questions- when you are in conversation with someone, asking questions show that you are interested in what the other person is saying. This can include open-ended questions such as questions that start with how, what, where, who, when or “can you tell me more about that?” Or even closed ended questions like “Are you feeling better today?”  “Can I help you with that?” or “Have you completed your homework?”

  3. Clarifying and summarizing- this is to ensure what you are hearing is being heard correctly. It is also helpful in making sure the person talking is getting their point across clearly.  “So, what you’re saying is ________?”  “Do you mean you want to go out to dinner?” or “Did I understand you when you said…?”

  4. Being present- being in the moment with the person you are communicating will provide a better chance to understand and empathize with the person you are communicating with.  Your time and attention is focused on to the person that is speaking. (Put down that phone)

  5. Being clear- speaking clearly and concisely is effective because then there is little room to misunderstand or misinterpret what is being conveyed. Say what you want _____ “I would like it if we went to the movies” instead of “Sure would be nice if we might go to the movies”. This last sentence is not as direct, and communication is always better if the listener doesn’t have to guess at what you are thinking or feeling. Tell that person.  It’s only in the movies when people can read minds. In real life, being direct is the key.


By Courtney Whetstone, AMFT

Courtney Whetstone, AMFT is an associate Marriage and Family Therapists who works with children and adolescents, couples, and in crisis intervention. I have experience in many areas, including family reunification and parenting. Courtney works in both the Riverside and Murrieta office.

To contact Courtney or any of our therapists please call 951-778-0230.

NOTICIAS HOY

¿Sera terapia familiar para mi y mis seres queridos?

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Introducción

La terapia familiar esta basada en la idea de que una familia es un sistema compuesto de diferentes partes que sirven un propósito. Cuando hay un cambio inesperado y no usual en alguno de los integrantes no es una situación agradable pues afecta la dinámica familiar en maneras que no son saludables. Muchas veces la familia esta sumergida en patrones que no le sirven y que no son saludables. Aun en las mejores circunstancias, las familias pueden encontrarse con frustración y desesperación por tener que ajustarse a algún cambio. También puede haber mucho dolor y confusion durante ese tiempo si alguien se encuentra con problemas de salud mental o adicción.

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¿Quien puede asistir a las terapias familiares?

Ustedes como clientes pueden comunicarle a la terapeuta a cuales miembros les gustaría incluir en el curso de tratamiento y esto no se limita solamente a la familia biológica. Puede ser que ustedes tengan otros miembros quien consideran importantes en participar como amigos, padrinos y mas.

¿Que pasa si algún miembro de la familia se niega a participar?

Puede haber muchas razones por las cuales miembros de la familia no quieran participar. Por ejemplo, quizás tendrán miedo de que las cosas cambien y prefieren no arriesgar a que las cosas empeoren. Tal vez están cansados de hablar/discutir sobre los mismos temas, pueden quizás tenerle desconfianza a la terapeuta o escepticismo en el tratamiento para nombrar algunos temas. En ocasiones, solamente lo que necesitan es tiempo. Integrantes de la familia que están listos y interesados para participar empezaran el tratamiento. Sin embargo, cuando los otros integrantes hayan indicado que están listos podrán participar en el tratamiento.

¿Es la terapia familiar efectiva como tratamiento?

Hay muchos beneficios cuando hay participación en terapia familiar. Los participantes suelen aprenden como mejorar la comunicación entre ellos de una manera respetuosa y calmada, practican como expresar sus sentimientos y como resolver conflictos entre ellos.

Si usted y sus seres queridos están listos para participar en terapia familiar pueden buscar una terapeuta en centralcounselingservices.net


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Este articulo fue escrito por Angelica Ramirez-Diaz (Registrada Terapeuta Matrimonial y Familiar #103776) supervisada por Sheralyn Shockey-Pope (Licenciada Terapeuta Matrimonial y Familiar #37209).

Active Parenting

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This blog will focus our attention on active parenting tips for our children to increase their confidence and responsibility.  What is active parenting?  First and foremost, active parenting help impart to our children values that help create high functioning children and great adults. Active parenting involves instilling:

1.      Courage

2.      Self-esteem

3.      Responsibility

4.      Cooperation

These are just a few of the skills necessary for children to learn survival and life skills.   When thinking about active parenting, a proactive approach works best.  In other words, do not wait until the child does something wrong.  Instead, instill values and morals that will serve as your child’s foundation-a building block for growth.  Many parents believe instilling values, morals, and socialization is the purpose of active parenting.  Find your child doing good and encourage your child by telling them how grateful you are that they did this (___________________) Something like I appriacate it when you help me put the dishes away or when you make you bed or when you are nice to your little sister. Find a way to let your child know that you care and are watching. Ask your child what do they like best about their drawing or their art project. These are just some of the ways to actively parent.

Let us take a quick look at the four basic blocks. 

  • Courage-when instilled as a foundation; children have the strength they will need to try and try again. This build resilience a great tool for life.

  • Self-esteem-that is to possess a positive image of self.

  • Responsibility-a child is more than capable of making decisions as well as accept responsibility for that decision.

  • Cooperation-parents encourage children to work together as well as with others for a positive end.  Cooperation is also an essential element needed to facilitate teamwork efforts.

The four basic blocks are important for every child to learn. As a parent; we will not be able to be there for everything our child does. Having our children to use decision-making, along with the courage to stick with his/her decision, is crucial.  Another important part of active parenting that revolves around protecting and preparing children to be equipped to survive and thrive in society.  Important to that end is for children to feel good about themselves and their decisions and act them out with confidence in everyday life.

For more information on Active Parenting click here

Most parents can agree that is parenting is a full-time job, with no instruction manual. Most parents are unaware of the pivotal role they play in shaping the people their children will eventually become.  Parents become teachers, role models, protector and confidante, and many hats, all to get their child/children to a safe place in life. 

Unfortunately, parents are  tasked with the job of telling your child a hundred or so times the same set of directives. This is needed to help your child’s brain fully understand and be retained in their memory.  Essential to effect communicative is a relationship with your child is a vital component in developing a healthy relationship between the parent(s) and children. 

Learning how to develop effective communication with your child engenders a stable and loving home life (which helps keeps parents sane).  Noting day-to-day activities, e.g., homework, meals, and bedtimes flow more smoothly. Effective communication may also improve your child’ long-term health and development.   Studies indicate that children who don’t feel or believe they have a good relationship with their parents are more likely to have low self-esteem, difficulties in school and emotional problems, and are a greater risk for using drugs and experimenting with risky sexual behavior [source:  Mental Health America].

Building a strong relationship with your child/children

1.      Be consistent with children.

a. Hour to hour, day to day, and week to week, in short, every waking moment remain consistent with rules and discipline

b. Parents must practice the following rules as well, or our children will not either

c. Focus on one key behavior (or misbehavior) that needs addressing

d. The behavior should reflect a reward or disciplinary action [source:  Family Education]

2.       Stay positive-remain calm, do not yell.  Always reward your child for their good behavior. 

a.  The only way to reverse negative behaviors is to make rules that you can keep and enforce.

3.      Be Patient-Even though one may desire quick results; people don’t change overnight.

a.  It took time for your children to master their misbehavior; it will take equal time to change them.

4.      Expect resistance-Never fear your children are going to test you, especially if you tried enforcing the rule with them before, but failed to follow through.

a.  Change can be challenging, and your children are not likely to embrace your new rules.   Nevertheless, do not give in or up parents you are likely to win.

5.      Stick with it-In order for change to stay long term; consistency is the key

a. Consistency will show your children the behaviors and values that are important to you and in turn, teach them self-discipline [source:  Family Education].

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A barrier to active parenting: when both parents must work and some parents must work two jobs for family upkeep.  Important to families wherein both parents must work is to choose quality over quantity.  That means, it is not how much time is spent, but the purposeful meaning embodied in that brief time. 

To this end, I am posting a summary of children’s rights as set forth by The UN Convention on the rights of the Child/ UNICEF for every child they list about 42; however, I will only list a few https://www.unicef.org.nz/child-rights

1.      Be Recognized

2.      Adequate care

3.      Parental guidance

4.      Life

5.      Live with their parents

6.      Freedom of expression

7.      Freedom of thought

8.      Freedom from abuse

9.      An education

10. Personal development, survival, and protection


By Valerie Fluker, MA, APCC

All people come to counseling to relieve pain and suffering. They feel they have little to no hope left. What they have been doing isn’t working anymore or maybe never did. They feel out of control, scared, and do not know where to turn. Or they may need education in the form of Parenting or Co-parenting classes. Or some just need to work on relationship issues or manage anxiety. Regardless of what brought you to this website I can help. I am caring, understanding and I want you to feel better. I see great things happening for most people within a few sessions. These clients start to feel happy, gain more confident and report they are satisfied with their life. While I cannot guarantee you the same results, I have seen positive results with most clients.

I became a counselor because I wanted to harness great hope and positive energy and to help install healing for my clients. I consider working with people in therapy an honor and privilege to work with each client. In therapy, each person develops their positive mental wellness plan and great growth often takes place.  

I discovered my passion for counseling teens while volunteering for Riverside Youth Probation. I enjoyed seeing these teens learn and grow as they figure out who they will become. I also work with caregivers of dementia clients and I see the struggle to care for their loved one. I frequently work with people that suffer from depression, anxiety and trauma. I have specialized training in trauma, working with children and elder adults.

I am a member of the following professional organizations:

  • Purple City Alliance helps make The City of Riverside a Dementia Friendly City.

  • American Counseling Association (ACA).

I look forward to meeting and working with you.

Mediation & Mindfulness

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I bet by now you have heard that you should learn to meditate. You may have heard that it can be useful for your health, reduce your stress levels and that it can even make you happy. You may be thinking those are excellent benefits but how do I do it and what is it exactly?

The National Institute of Health has defined meditation as "a mind and body practice that focus on the interactions among the brain, mind, body, and behavior."  Despite the many types of mediation most include these four principals 1. A comfortable posture that can consist of standing, sitting, lying down or walking, 2. A location that is quiet with few distractions, 3. A focus of attention on an object, breath, mantra or word and 4. A nonjudgmental or open attitude, letting distracting thoughts go without assigning any emotion to the thoughts.  

 Many health studies show meditation can have a positive effect on our physical health. In a 2017 survey of adults, 55-75 years of age and brain functioning over an 8 week period were either using focus controlled breathe mediation or the control activity. After they were given tests to measure their attention and emotional control the results found that those who meditated had significantly better attention on the test and activation in the attention area of the brain over the control group.

Many other studies are suggesting that the practice of mindfulness for healthy people can reduce stress and can help people cope with pain, Anxiety, and depression that often accompanies chronic illness.    

If you need further convincing of the effectiveness of  mediation and health benefits, take a long look at a recent article by Jill Suttie entitled “Five Ways Mindfulness Meditation Is Good for Your Health.” Greater Good, Greater Good Center UC Berkeley, 24 Oct. 2018

10 steps to Meditation

1.       Start with 2 minutes. You can increase it in a week or two after you get comfortable.

2.       Find a comfortable place to sit or lay down with little to no distractions and close your eyes.

3.       Check in with your emotions; how do you feel right now? Whatever you feel is okay

4.       Start with breathing deeply in and slowly release.

5.       Thoughts will come and go, notice them and then focus on breathing again.

6.       If you have a mantra or a word say that to yourself as you breathe in and out.

7.       Don’t worry about doing it wrong; just do it as the Nike ad says.

8.       Have a feeling of gratitude or love as thoughts enter and leave you. They are a part of you.

9.       Stay with whatever comes up, then return to the breath. Don't fight the thoughts or give up.

10.   Try to meditate early in the day and do it every day. It's only for two minutes. 

Meditation may not feel comfortable at first, that is okay, keep trying. You can also try the guided meditation on this site if you need a bit more guidance. After you get the 2 minutes down add another minute or two. When you are done for the day, smile and be grateful that you had these two minutes for just you. After a few weeks, you will look forward to this practice. Remember that consistency is the key. If you feel you need more help, there are" APP for that," a few that my clients and I like include HeadSpace, InsightTimer, and Calm. These apps are available in the Apple Store or Google Play. There is also a biofeedback band that teaches you to meditate called Muse.  Muse is headband that you wear around your forehead, and it provides feedback as to your current brainwaves. It includes step by steps instructions as it encourages you along your journey.

The bottom line is it, not the program or equipment you use, what is important is that you are engaging in the practice of mediation for your mind, body, and spirit.


By Sheralyn (Sherry) Shockey-Pope, LMFT

Sheralyn (Sherry) Shockey-Pope, LMFT is the Chief Operation Officer and Co-Owner of Central Counseling Services. Sherry oversees the day to day operation of the practice in two locations Riverside and Murrieta, and she directly supervises associates, licensed therapists, and the support staff. Her practice consists of 23 clinicians and five support staff. Sherry has extensive teaching and speaking experience and presents on topics of depression, anxiety, child abuse, adoption, business performance, and mindset blocks. Although she is not taking new clients, she can help you find the perfect therapist fit from her hand selected and well-trained therapist team. In her spare time, Sherry enjoys being outdoors, water aerobics, swimming, hiking, gardening or sailing.

Diabetes and Mental Health

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Ever think that good diabetic care might also include good mental health care? Our mental health affects all parts of our lives from how we feel, what we think, how we make decisions, choices and even how much stress with can handle.

There has been plenty of research on the mind-body connection. What’s the mind-body connection you say? It’s a powerful connection between our physical or biological selves and our thoughts, feelings and even our attitudes can positively or negatively impact our bodies and our overall health. Likewise, what we do to our bodies like eating, exercise, smoking or even how we stand can have a huge impact on our mental wellness. Simply put our mind-body connections is strong and it directly affects our health.

According to an article in the Journal of American Medical Association entitled The Mental Health Comorbidities of Diabetes people that have diabetics to have a great risk of depression and anxiety.

Depression is a medical illness that causes sadness, feelings of worthlessness, sleeping too little or too much. When your diabetes is not well managed your risk for other complications including heart disease, nerve damage and vision issues greatly increase.

Other symptoms of depression can include:

  • Loss in interest in activities

  • Isolation

  • Sadness

  • Hopelessness

  • Feeling tired all the time

  • Lack of concentration

  • Headaches or generalized ache and pains

  • Digestive problems

  • Thoughts of suicide or death

Anxiety is also a medical illness that can cause excessive worry, uneasiness, restlessness, and fear. A person who has diabetes has a 20% greater risk increases for anxiety sometime in their life according to the Centers for Disease Control. Especially when first diagnosed with diabetes there are many medical and lifestyle changes. Education on Diabetics management is needed to understand the new condition fully. Newly diagnoses people can become excessive in watching their blood sugar (Glucose), and it can become anxiety producing and overwhelming. That leads to stress, excessive worry, and agitation which can make it harder to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.    

Additional symptoms of anxiety:

  • Keyed up or on edge

  • Unable to fall asleep or stay asleep

  • Concentration and memory loss

  • Consistent fear of impending doom

  • Obsessive thought or “what if…”

  • Increased blood pressure

  • Panic Attacks

TAKING CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE

Luckily, you can make easy changes that will have a huge positive effect on managing your diabetes and mental wellness.

  • Take a walk and get moving daily.

  • Water acrobatics is a good fitness activity because it provides both cardiovascular benefit and resistant work; making your muscles work more. Find certified fitness instructors like the ones from Aquamotion Ability Foundation in Riverside, CA. They offer various classes from beginner to advance.

  • Meditation or Yoga helps with a positive mind-body connection and decreases stress, depression, and anxiety.

  • Get educated on your diabetes

  • Limited caffeine and alcohol consumption.

  • Eat healthily and get enough sleep.

  • Be social, people with a good network of friends have less severe mental health issues

  • Work with your healthcare team.

  • See a therapist if your depression, anxiety or stresses is not getting better or gets worse.

If you need more information on depression or anxiety, please call our office (951) 778-0230 and arrange an appointment to speak to a therapist.


By Sheralyn (Sherry) Shockey-Pope, LMFT

Sheralyn (Sherry) Shockey-Pope, LMFT is the Chief Operation Officer and Co-Owner of Central Counseling Services. Sherry oversees the day to day operation of the practice in two locations Riverside and Murrieta, and she directly supervises associates, licensed therapists, and the support staff. Her practice consists of 23 clinicians and five support staff. Sherry has extensive teaching and speaking experience and presents on topics of depression, anxiety, child abuse, adoption, business performance, and mindset blocks. Although she is not taking new clients, she can help you find the perfect therapist fit from her hand selected and well-trained therapist team. In her spare time, Sherry enjoys being outdoors, water aerobics, swimming, hiking, gardening or sailing.

Parent Café

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Hi, this is Valerie, and I am back this time with more co-parenting tips, as well as more do’s and don’ts.  We will begin with a recap of what co-parenting is along with what co-parenting isn’t.

Let us peruse the dictionary definition of co-parent: 

The definition of co-parenting is a process where two parents work together to raise a child even though they are divorced or separated and no longer live together. An example of co-parenting is when a divorced mother and father share legal and physical custody of their child.

Two houses - Ten rules for healthy co-parenting:

  1. Don't force your children to choose sides. ...

  2. Opt for a positive tone when you talk to your children about your ex….

  3. Don't make your children your messengers. ...

  4. Detach yourself from your ex-spouse. ...

  5. Limits and expectations for your children. ...

  6. Be a responsible adult…modeling

How does co-parenting work…are you working cooperatively with the other parent-doing and modeling ones best for the benefit of your child/children? 

Tips that might help one prepare for their co-parenting obligation

  1. Get your feelings out somewhere else. Never vent to your child. ...

  2. Stay kid-focused. ...

  3. Never use kids as messengers. ...

  4. Keep your issues to yourself. ...

  5. Set a business-like tone. ...

  6. Make requests. ...

  7. Listen. ...

  8. Show restraint.

We will take a brief look at what cooperative parenting…

It is a style of cooperative parenting wherein conflict is low, and parents can effectively communicate about their child/children…Conflicted parenting is the worst for children, who are often thrust in the middle of the conflicts.  Children most often adjust to their parent’s divorce or separation much easier when conflict is not a part of the parenting environment.

Granted, cooperative parenting is a challenge, even in the most well-intentions situations can become difficult at times.  When parents are raising children in two homes, it can be an incredibly challenging experience for all involved. 

I know I mentioned “backpacking” in previous blogs; however, I am compelled to mention it again.  I will define what backpacking is and its devastating effects it can have when forming a cooperative co-parenting relationship…

In short, the backpack contents are a collection of real and fantasied hurts, betrayals, ongoing conflict, etc. to sum the backpack contents; it contains a collection of unresolved adult issues.  The person did not address during the relationship, or the verbalized discontentment was ignored by the other partner.  Therefore, intimacy continues into the co-parenting environment, making it impossible to present a congenial-united, conflict-free environment for the child/children.  I have found this to be the most injurious to forming or even understanding the importance of a united front.  A conflict-free environment will undoubtedly be the right path to successful co-parenting.

Nevertheless, I found a great article on rules for co-parenting.  Below are a few Do’s and Don’ts rules.

RULES FOR CO-PARENTING

  1. Always, the decisions made by the parents will be for your child’s psychological, spiritual, and physical well-being and safety.

  2. Do make and confirm parenting-time arrangements beforehand between the parents without involving your child.

  3. Do notify each other promptly of any need to deviate from the schedule between homes, including canceling time with your child, rescheduling, and punctuality.

  4. Do communicate with your co-parent and make similar rules about discipline, routines, sleeping arrangements, and schedules between homes. Appropriate discipline should be exercised by mutually agreed upon adults.

  5. Do keep your co-parent informed of any scholastic, medical, psychiatric, or extracurricular activities or appointments of your child.

  6. Do keep your co-parent always informed of your address and telephone number. If you are out of town with your child, do provide your co-parent the basic travel itinerary and a phone number so that you and your child may be reached in case of an emergency.

  7. Do refer to your co-parent as your child’s “mother” or “father” in conversation, rather than using “my ex.”

  8. Do not talk negatively, or allow others to talk negatively, about the other parent, his or her family, and friends, or his or her home within hearing range of your child. This includes belittling remarks, ridicule, or bringing up allegations, whether valid or invalid, about issues involving the adults in the co-parenting relationship.

  9. Do not question your child about your co-parent, the activities of your co-parent, or regarding your co-parent’s personal life. In other words, do not use your child to spy on the other parent.

  10. Do not argue or have heated conversations when your child is present.

  11. Do not try to “win your child over” at the expense of your child’s other parent.

  12. Do not schedule extracurricular activities for your child during the other parent’s time without your co-parent’s consent. However, do work together to allow your child to be involved in such activities.

  13. Do not involve your child in adult issues and conversations about custody, the court, or the other parent.

  14. Do not ask your child where he or she wants to live.

  15. Do not attempt to alienate your co-parent from your child’s life.

  16. Do not allow stepparents or others to negatively alter or modify your relationship with your co-parent.

  17. Do not use phrases that draw your child into your issues or make your child feel guilty about the time spent with the other parent. Do not say “I miss you!” Do say, “I love you!”

http://www.childreninthemiddle.com/documents/rulesforcoparenting.pdf

I believe that co-parenting in a congenial environment is possible; just as I believe for some, it is virtually impossible.  As individuals, I will let you be the judge of the that. 

Hope to see you in co-parenting class!


By Valerie Fluker, MA, APCC

All people come to counseling to relieve pain and suffering. They feel they have little to no hope left. What they have been doing isn’t working anymore or maybe never did. They feel out of control, scared, and do not know where to turn. Or they may need education in the form of Parenting or Co-parenting classes. Or some just need to work on relationship issues or manage anxiety. Regardless of what brought you to this website I can help. I am caring, understanding and I want you to feel better. I see great things happening for most people within a few sessions. These clients start to feel happy, gain more confident and report they are satisfied with their life. While I cannot guarantee you the same results, I have seen positive results with most clients.

I became a counselor because I wanted to harness great hope and positive energy and to help install healing for my clients. I consider working with people in therapy an honor and privilege to work with each client. In therapy, each person develops their positive mental wellness plan and great growth often takes place.  

I discovered my passion for counseling teens while volunteering for Riverside Youth Probation. I enjoyed seeing these teens learn and grow as they figure out who they will become. I also work with caregivers of dementia clients and I see the struggle to care for their loved one. I frequently work with people that suffer from depression, anxiety and trauma. I have specialized training in trauma, working with children and elder adults.

I am a member of the following professional organizations:

  • Purple City Alliance helps make The City of Riverside a Dementia Friendly City.

  • American Counseling Association (ACA).

I look forward to meeting and working with you.

The drive home

Driving a car at night - pretty, young woman driving her modern

So many times during our drive home from work, school or even running errands we engage in unhealthy behavior. Like everyone, I find myself engaging in unhealthy behavior such as overeating or my favorite “road rage.” Especially after a long stressful day at work. I just feel as if I have so much anxiety, I need to GET IT OUT, on the person driving on the road in front of me.


Now, I am maybe exaggerating just a little, but we all can let the stress of the day get to us in one way or another while driving.

These are some simple techniques that have helped me on the drive home.

First: I find it helpful to reflect on the positive outcomes of the day. No matter how BAD the day was, find the good.

Second: Refocus my priorities. Reviewing short term goals and long term goals.

Third: Listening to music that makes you feel good whether it be pop, country, jazz, meditation or relaxation or R&B music.

Four: Talk to yourself, yes I said talk to yourself. It sometimes is effective to bounce an idea around with you to improve productivity and reflect on the day and what we could have done differently.

Fifth: To be grateful for the small things you have, such as a beautiful sunset as you look at the horizon. For some, this might be a time to have a deeper connection with a high power. 

Sixth: Be polite to other drivers. Do the opposite of what you are feeling at the moment. You will see a different outlook if you exercise your free will of choice, and not react to your impulses.

Next time you feel like waving a nice middle finger birdied or honking your horn at someone, try to implement these six simple techniques on your next DRIVE HOME.

If you need help taming the anxiety or managing the road rage, call us, we can help get you back on track. We have two convenient locations to serve you, Riverside or Murrieta. Don’t continue to worry or be angry, call us @951-778-0230 or email Therapyccs@gmail.com


by Lisa J. Clark, AMFT

Lisa loves working with teens and adults. She helps by teaching anxiety reduction skills and problem-solving skills. She is a good listener and she cares much. She hates to see people in pain and she works with them to help them develop a happier and healthier life. She is optimistic and warm and she helps people see other perspectives.

She is a parent and she understands that raising children can be a lot of hard work and sometimes parents get stressed and need help too.

A favorite quote of her is "It's easier to build strong children than repair Broken men." Fredrick Douglass.

Parenting

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For many of us we are taught that parenting is as natural as putting proper clothing or grabbing an umbrella when it is raining. However, parenting is not an automatic in our lives but instead learned behavior. Our children were not born with a how-to-manual; darn it. Therefore, we must learn how to become loving, caring and effective parents.

According to Webster Unabridged Dictionary parent is termed as a protector or guardian; further it states that a parent as one who act as parent of; to parent children with both love and discipline, and/or a person who brings up and cares for another.

That interpretation of a parent fails to give one the method involved in caring for another or parenting. So just how are we to know how to raise our child/children? Most of us use what our parents taught us. But is that enough?

The three major goals of parenting include:

  1. Ensuring children’s health and safety

  2. Preparing children for life as productive adults

  3. Transmitting cultural values (Encyclopedia of Psychology)

Thank goodness we have some innate abilities or we would really be in trouble.

Are single parent households uncommon?

  • No-over the past 20 years single parent homes in US increased

  • Single parent households have become more common than nuclear families (both mother/father)

  • Nuclear families consist of father, mother and children; sometimes grandparents raising grandchildren

  • Modern family structure households headed by fathers only, mothers only or grandparent only; as well as aunts, uncles, and sometimes adult siblings

 Now to revisit the mechanisms of parenting:

  • Parents and caretakers make sure children are healthy and safeequip them with the skills and resources to succeed as adults, and transmit basic cultural values to them.

  • Parents and caretakers offer their children love, acceptance, appreciation, encouragement, and guidance.

  • Parents and caretakers provide the most intimate context for the nurturing and protection of children as they develop their personalities and identities and as they mature physically, cognitively, emotionally, and socially.

  • Information courtesy of American Psychological Association
    Read more on Positive Parenting

 What are the benefits of positive parenting?

Positive parent-child relationships provide a foundation for children’s, learning for which they bring into their adulthood.  With parents’ sensitive, responsive, and predictable care, young children develop the skills they need to succeed in life.  Early parent-child relationships have powerful effects on children’s emotional well-being (Dawson & Ashman, 2000), their basic coping and problem-solving abilities, and future capacity for relationships (Lerner & Castellino, 2002). From Positive Parent-Child-Relationships. 

4-Key points to positive parenting success:

  • An Effective Parent
    your words and actions influence your child the way you want them too.

  • A Consistent Parent
    you follow similar principles or practices in your words and actions.

  • An Active Parent
    you participate in your child’s life.

  • An Attentive Parent
    You pay attention to your child’s life and observe what goes on.

What is community and how important is it?

  • Instructing child(ren) in social skills

  • Teaching child(ren) how to share

  • Instructing child(ren) about fairness (age appropriate)

    • Important when engaging play dates

  • Model, Model your best selves

    • Child (ren) do-as-one-do and not what one say!

Hey parents, let us remember that parenting skills are not automatic nor does a how-to-manual magically appear at the birth of the child. Parenting is largely learned behaviors as well as information passed from one generation to another.  It is okay to ask questions, read a book or two, or enroll in a parenting class, as this is ok for moms, dads, grandparents, or any designated care provider.  It’s important to strived to become an effective parent, practice consistency, be active in your child/children’s life, and do more listening than talking. If you need more help on parenting or building a great relationship with your child, call me and I can help. I work in both locations, Murrieta and Riverside.


by Valerie Fluker, Registered Associate Professional Clinical Counselor

All people come to counseling to relieve pain and suffering. They feel they have little to no hope left. What they have been doing isn’t working anymore or maybe never did. They feel out of control, scared, and do not know where to turn. Or they may need education in the form of Parenting or Co-parenting classes. Or some just need to work on relationship issues or manage anxiety. Regardless of what brought you to this website I can help. I am caring, understanding and I want you to feel better. I see great things happening for most people within a few sessions. These clients start to feel happy, gain more confident and report they are satisfied with their life. While I cannot guarantee you the same results, I have seen positive results with most clients.

I became a counselor because I wanted to harness great hope and positive energy and to help install healing for my clients. I consider working with people in therapy an honor and privilege to work with each client. In therapy, each person develops their positive mental wellness plan and great growth often takes place.  

I discovered my passion for counseling teens while volunteering for Riverside Youth Probation. I enjoyed seeing these teens learn and grow as they figure out who they will become. I also work with caregivers of dementia clients and I see the struggle to care for their loved one. I frequently work with people that suffer from depression, anxiety and trauma. I have specialized training in trauma, working with children and elder adults.

I am a member of the following professional organizations:

  • Purple City Alliance helps make The City of Riverside a Dementia Friendly City.

  • American Counseling Association (ACA).

I look forward to meeting and working with you.

Mindfulness Works

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Have you ever noticed while you are doing something like the dishes, driving, or even taking a shower that you aren’t really present? While in the shower, you may be focused on thinking about something other than your shower itself. Instead, try feeling the temperature of the water, or smelling the soap, or hearing the water flow. If you pay attention and become aware, you might really start to recognize that your body is feeling relaxed and relieved in the freshness of the shower. To be mindful is to be aware and awaken to what is arising in the present moment. It is something we can practice in our daily living, not just on a meditation cushion. The practice of mindfulness connects our mind, body, heart, and soul. Ultimately, it helps us to be more peaceful, clear, and confident about our lives regardless of what is arising.

We create a space for whatever arises without judging it. For example, when you are mindful, you will notice different emotions that you are experiencing at different times during the day: you might be feeling irritation or fear during a traffic jam, or while driving fast; you might feel relaxed or a sense of peacefulness after a massage or a warm cup of soup. Just simply being aware of the feeling which is arising and not judging it will allow it to be felt, accepted, and released. It's like treating everything that comes to your consciousness as if it is your friend and serving a purpose by conveying a message to you.

The benefits of mindfulness meditation are many. Some of the physical health benefits of mindfulness meditation include relieving stress, treating heart disease, lowering blood pressure, reducing chronic pain, and improving sleep. Mindfulness also helps with mental health by reducing symptoms of depression, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and anxiety, among others. It has been found to be helpful with those experiencing PTSD as well.

Mindfulness can be practiced anytime and anywhere. You can start by being mindful or aware of your breathing: relax your body with each breath as you inhale and with each breath that you exhale. With each breath, you can feel the coolness of the temperate of the air. With each outgoing breath, feel how warm it feels in your nostrils. You can take a mindful nature walk, enjoy sipping a cup of tea or even enjoy doing the dishes. You can even try practicing mindfulness when you are stuck in traffic!

Try it for a period of 30 days and see how it can benefit you.

If you want more information, or to work with a therapist who uses this technique, call us at Central Counseling Services at (951) 778-0230. I am available as a MFT intern, and other therapists utilize this technique as well.


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By Dhara Jani, MFT Intern

I want to help you feel relieved, balanced, and motivated to take the baby steps necessary to create the life of your dreams. I have been a certified life coach for several years, and find that I partner well with my clients to support them in creating the changes they need to make to meet their goals. I am nonjudgmental, patient, and approach their goals in a way that feels peaceful and helps them gain insight into the patterns they are wanting to break.

I am a member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT), a Certified Professional Life Coach and a Certified Yoga Teacher. I use mindfulness in my work, and teach the techniques to clients as part of their therapy. In my spare time, I enjoy walking in nature, mindfulness meditation, cooking, music, and spending time with friends and family.

The loss of a pet

The bond shared by humans and their animals is indescribable. The grief resulting from their loss profound. What is it about these wet nosed and furry pawed creatures that touch us so deeply? Is it their ability to without words communicate genuineness and gratitude? Is it their ability to lower our inhibitions or perhaps their silliness that lifts our spirit?

Minnie the Therapy Yorkie

Minnie the Therapy Yorkie

I have the privilege to work along Minnie the therapy Yorkie. Her presence in client sessions is invaluable particularly when working with traumatized clients. As my pet, she brings me joy and laughter. She’s always there waiting at attention to see if I will toss the ball or play chase. She’s such a goofball, but don’t let her diminutive size fool you, she’s a terrier, a hunter and my guardian angel. Minnie is also my rainbow fur baby. Many years before her, I had Lolita a beautiful apple head tea cup chihuahua.

Lolita was my soul mate.  When she died, a piece of me died too. Till this day when I talk about her my eyes well up. What made her so special was how empathic she was. When I was sad she was sad, when I was happy so was she. After her death I was unable to connect with any other dog and didn’t think I would have another as a pet, her loss and my grief were too deep. What made the difference as I grieved her was the support of understanding friends.

Many pet parents suffer the loss of a beloved pet alone and in silence due to the embarrassment of acknowledging the impact pets have in our lives. Many pets have long lifespans of over 20 years or more!  The grief resulting from the loss of a pet is not to be taken lightly and it should be no cause for embarrassment.

Many pet parents schedule their day around their pets’ routines, we socialize, exercise and depend on them for assistance with medical issues and emotional issues. Other animals we form bonds with include service animals, dogs who are part of law enforcement, search and rescue teams and military dogs trained for special missions. There are even dogs who are companions for other wild animals to aid in the wild animal’s conservation. Their value and impact in our lives should not be underestimated.

Acknowledging the significance of the loss of your pet and its impact in your life moves you toward working through the grief. Finding supportive persons are not only sounding boards, they are often like-minded individuals who have mourned a pet and can direct you to resources to help fill the voids left by the loss. The following list compiled by Best Friends Animal Society has resources that may be helpful when dealing with pet loss. They include hotlines, support groups, websites, web pages, web articles and books.

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by Susana Anaya-Baca, LCSW

If you are having issues with grief, anxiety, panic and depression, Minnie and I, are here to help. We at Central Counseling Services Murrieta, look forward to journey with you on your path to mental wellness. For appointments, I may be contacted at 951-778-0230. We are located at 29970 Technology Drive #116 Murrieta, CA 92563.

Susana Anaya-Baca, LCSW joined Central Counseling Services as a therapist in 2018. She is a graduate of California State University Long Beach School of Social Work where she earned her Master in Social Work with a concentration in older adults and families (OAF). She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW#69056) and is licensed to practice psychotherapy in California since 2015. She is fluent in Spanish.

Ms. Anaya-Baca has experience working with a wide range of individuals and settings. Prior to entering private practice, she practiced as a clinical medical social worker with individuals and families facing life-limiting illness in the area of home health, palliative care and hospice. Susana is a member of the National Association of Social Workers.


MEDICAL EMERGENCY
If you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately

All information, content, and material are for informational purposes only and are not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider. The information provided is not intended to recommend the self-management of health problems or wellness. It is not intended to endorse or recommend any particular type of medical treatment. Should any reader have any health care related questions, promptly call or consult your physician or healthcare provider. The information presented should not be used by any reader to disregard medical and/or health related advice or provide a basis to delay consultation with a physician or a qualified healthcare provider. You should not use any information presented to initiate use of dietary supplements, vitamins, herbal and nutritional products or homeopathic medicine, and other described products prior to consulting first with a physician or healthcare provider. Susana Anaya-Baca, LCSW disclaims any liability based on information provided.

2019 Do You Need a Change?

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I noticed a lot of clients talked about changes they would like to make for 2019, but they did not have a starting point on how to make them happen. This led me to make a list of top 10 don’ts to begin 2019 on the right foot. This will allow you to unleash your potential, be open to allow positive changes to unfold and overall improve your life.  This is what we all want…right? Do remember that we are all works in progress, do not be disappointed in you if you can’t stay on track. Just keep trying and eventually you can do it. I see my clients making very small changes that lead to a large positive impact. Small changes are easier to do and stick with over time. Also make sure you do only one or two at a time as doing to many at one time can set you up to fail, however, by incorporating some of these changes in your daily routines you will see the change you desire. I hope you have the best year ever.

  1. Don't be afraid to follow your dreams. Dream big!

  2. Don't be a people pleaser.

  3. Don't spend time with the wrong people.

  4. Don't gossip about others.

  5. Don't live a life that others expect of you, live a life true to you.

  6. Don't start pointless drama because of your personal insecurities.

  7. Don't do anything that doesn't feel right.

  8. Don't be afraid to spend time alone.

  9. Don't compare yourself to others. You are only in competition with you

  10. Don't hold onto things you can’t control.

If these seem a bit too hard, I can help you develop a plan and help you stick to it. That is what therapy is for to help you with the hard stuff. Remember I believe in you. If you would like to work with me or one of my fantastic colleagues give me call. 2019 is too important to feel stuck.  

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by Regina Kennedy, LMFT

I became a therapist because I want to help people who want to change their lives. I am a compassionate, direct and interactive therapist. I value optimism, truth, and authenticity.

My therapeutic approach is warm, but always direct and honest to provide support and practical feedback to help clients effectively address their treatment goals. I offer a highly personalized approach, tailored to each client's unique needs. My specialties include working with Adults, children and adolescents, families, crisis intervention, and substance abuse. I am Certified as a Substance Abuse Counselor.

Surviving the Holidays with Anxiety

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According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million people (18%) in the Unites States experience an anxiety disorder in any given year. The rates of anxiety are increasing in children and it is believed that 8% of children are now experiencing anxiety prior to the age of 18. It is the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorder with approximately 1/3 of those struggling with anxiety receiving treatment.

For those with anxiety, the holidays can seem very overwhelming. There are many reasons why this might be the case. Holidays increase the number of tasks required (shopping, cooking, gift giving, preparing the home for guests, less time for physical fitness, etc.) for someone who is already trying to manage day to day life. For those who brave shopping in overcrowded stores, this can present as a trigger all of its own. In addition, holidays can present as a yearly reminder of lost loved ones, changes in families caused by divorce or separation, and can add to already existing financial stressors.

I am sure the first thought must be, how can I add something to my already crazy daily schedule when I am struggling already? If you already experience anxiety and this is speaking to you, I would like to share with you the benefits of including mindfulness into your day with some ideas that can be incorporated in 5-10 minutes or less. I have shared some of these ideas with my clients in sessions and have heard back that they were helpful. I hope that some of the 5 ideas listed below are helpful to you as well.

  • Close your eyes. Take one deep breath in through your nose, hold for a count of three, and release your breath in an audible sigh. Repeat three times, open your eyes, and return to your day. This breath work can be especially helpful for helping to slow an increased heart rate that is often a symptom of anxiety. If shopping in crowded stores is a trigger for you, this exercise may be used in public places too, but perhaps with eyes open.

  • Gentle yoga stretching can offer some relief from muscle tension often associated with anxiety. You needn’t be an experienced yogi to stretch and get benefits, nor does this require a large amount of flexibility. A gentle bending position (you can touch your toes if you like, but if your body does not bend that far, it is ok to not touch them) called forward fold can help reset your breath. As in the first exercise, breathe in through your nose and release through the mouth. Another stretch called “legs at the wall” can be a good relaxation stretch as well. In this stretch, you lie on your back with your bottom up against the wall and your legs resting against the wall. It does not matter if they are flat against the wall. If your hamstrings are tight, this would be uncomfortable, so feel free to give yourself as much space as you need. Both of these stretches are inversion stretches, which means your head is below heart and they are known for inducing relaxation. As in the first exercise, breathe in through your nose and release through the mouth. You might even pay attention to the rise and fall of your chest while you are breathing, and center all of your thoughts there. Take your time getting up from forward fold. Also, for legs at that wall, turn to your right side and pause for a minute or two before pulling back up to a standing position. It is important to take this moment to allow the blood in your body to return to its normal rhythm and lessen any possibility of feeling lightheaded.

  • Body scanning can be a great way to identify where you are storing your stress and anxiety in your body. You can scan in a sitting or lying down, whichever you prefer. If it helps, turn off the lights, and close your eyes. Quiet, instrumental music can be helpful in screening out any outside noise for some people. Begin with your head and pay attention to any sensation. Mentally travel from the top of your head down your forehead, to your cheekbones, down the back of your head and note any sensation. Pay close attention to anything that feels like tension or discomfort. You can maintain a gentle breathing pattern in through your nose and out through your mouth as you travel down your body. Continue until you make your way through your torso, your arms, hands, fingers, upper legs, lower legs, feet, and toes.

  • Use guided visualization to allow your mind to take you somewhere that you typically find a relaxing place. For some, this can be the sounds of the waves crashing at the beach, for others, a wooded landscape, and still others a comfortable place in the home. Close your eyes, picture yourself there, and think of the other sensations you might encounter there that bring you relaxation. It might be a salty sea breeze, or the smell of pines in the forest. As with the other exercises, allow your breath to fall into a gentle movement. You might pair it to the movement in your imagery.

  • Lastly, gratitude journaling can offer a nice alternative for replacing thoughts that are often centered on stressors. You may find this is easiest to do first thing in the morning (in which case, you might reflect on your previous day) or just before bedtime or even sometime in between these times. The goal is to center your thoughts on something positive about your day, and write it down. It can be anything. It might be a nice smell from the garden, a hug from a friend, a compliment from a stranger, or even a cuddle from a pet. If you really enjoy this exercise, you can add to your list. I enjoy making a list of 3, but this is completely up to you.

If you continue to have anxiety symptoms after the holidays it may be time to seek professional help. Central Counseling Services invites you to contact them to set-up an appointment to talk to Colleen or another caring therapist by calling (951) 778-0230. We have two locations, Riverside and Murrieta to serve you.


By Colleen Duggin, LCSW

Colleen Duggin, LCSW has vast experience working with children and families. She is an expert with families and children dealing with Anxiety, ADHD, Autism, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Colleen feels it’s an honor to help parents and children restore control, peace and calmness back into the family. She is a believer that there are no excuses to not have control of your life.

Mindfulness with the Five Senses to Manage Stress and Anxiety

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I often have clients ask me how they can overcome anxiety and stress that feels overwhelming.  One thing I teach to them is the practice of mindfulness with the five senses.  This helps a person slow down and notice what is around them using sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound.  When you do this, your mind gets a break from the stressors of life and allows you to slow things down.

Some examples of ways you can use mindfulness with the five senses are;

  • While you are cooking notice the smells, colors, textures, and tastes of your food.

  • Burning a candle, notice the aroma and watch the flame bounce around.

  • Watch a sunset and notice the sights, smells, sounds, and physical sensations you are experiencing.  Does it feel warm or cool?  Is there a breeze you notice?

  • While you are eating, hold the food in your mouth and notice the flavors and textures.  When you swallow, notice how you can feel the food move down your body.

Another way to use mindfulness with the five senses is through a guided visualization.  You may want to pre-record this guided visualization so you can use it again and again. 

Find a comfortable place for you to lay down or sit.  Close your eyes and imagine a place that is peaceful to you.  Imagine you are there now and take some time to focus on each of the five senses as you experience them.  What do you see there?  Notice the scenery, the colors, and the overall environment.  Pause and take in the view.  Now notice what your body is experiencing as you are there in your peaceful place.  Are you sitting or standing? Is it warm or cool?  Notice what you are touching as you are there now.  Pause and notice that.  Now move to sounds.  What do you hear there?  Can you hear sounds from nature or perhaps there are other people there.  Pause and notice what you would hear if you are in your peaceful place.  Now focus on the smells that would be there.  Are there smells from nature or foods? Pause and take a moment to take in the smells.  Now imagine that you are eating a food that you love while you are in your place of peace.  Notice how the flavors and texture feel as you imagine eating the food.  Take one last moment to notice all of your senses as you are in this place of peace.  Notice how your body may feel more relaxed or at peace.  Take a deep breath and take it in.

The wonderful thing about this guided visualization is that you can access it any time you have a moment to yourself. It can literally take only 5 or 10 minutes of your day.  Use this when you are already relaxed to allow your body and mind to incorporate this into your normal routine.  You can use this practice before going to sleep, when you are sitting in a waiting room, or on a break from work.

If you would like to learn mindfulness with the five senses or other techniques to manage anxiety and stress, please contact me Alicia at Central Counseling Services office to get therapy started today.


By Alicia McCleod, LMFT

I am passionate about helping people feel better and work through the barriers in their life. I completed my graduate work at the University of Phoenix and have been working in the helping field for the last 10 years. I've spent much of that time helping people overcome their depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, trauma, and relationship challenges. My approach is that of compassion, acceptance, and I create a safe space where you can explore those underlying issues getting in your way today.

Therapy with me is unique as I use EMDR, mindfulness, relaxation techniques, solution focused interventions, person centered strategies, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) methods to help reduce stress. I also have experience with helping individuals experiencing psychosis (hearing or seeing things others don't), trauma survivors, and people with ongoing mental health challenges. I work primarily with adults and also see teens and couples.

On a personal note, I do like to stay active and I practice mindfulness on a daily basis. I also enjoy hiking, trips to the beach, camping, reading, quilting, and spending time with my family. Please call my office today if you would like to schedule an appointment with me and get started on a healthier you!

The Healing Power of The Breath

Did you know that the simple act of breathing has many healing benefits? The power of the breath is often underestimated. When counseling clients I have often had clients with underwhelmed expressions when session time is spent discussing, modeling and practicing focused breathing techniques. Why? They can’t believe that something so simple and no cost can impact their well-being so dramatically.

The truth is, we have the internal mechanisms that can solve many of the issues that plague us. The reality is that chronic stressors along with mental and physical conditions impede many from utilizing these resources. Also, the normalization of stress in our daily living has made us less aware of the tension that plagues us. Focused breathing practices such as progressive muscle relaxation help us regain awareness of the tension and anxiety that is stored in our body.

My experience with focused breathing for stress, anxiety and panic symptom reduction is not simply based on evidence-based practice protocols but also on personal experience in managing stress, anxiety and panic. Clients outcomes improve dramatically when they have trusted and practiced focused breathing. Many have shared that after consistent practice they have regained a sense of control and empowerment over their symptoms in conjunction with CBT based treatment protocols.

4 Square Breathing is simple breathing technique that has over time proven to help first responders and others to integrate strong emotions and to decrease anxiety. This will help you too.

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4-Square Breathing

  1. Breathe in through your nose for four counts.

  2. Pause/hold your breath for four counts.

  3. Exhale through your mouth for four counts.

  4. Pause/hold your breath for four counts.

Points to remember:

  • Practice this breathing for 4 sets of breaths and least 3 times a day, until it becomes second nature.

  • Practice even if you are not stressed; in fact practice when your not stressed is better.

  • Breath in deeply (diaphragmic deep breaths) Think singer’s breath.

Image found on Pinterest uploaded by EveryDaySpirit.net

Image found on Pinterest uploaded by EveryDaySpirit.net

Why Is Focused Breathing Helpful?

Simply, most everyone automatically breathes. Your breath is magical. Practicing focused breathing techniques on a daily basis not only significantly improves your well-being but is the tool most often used for deescalating when an anxiety and panic attacks occur. Breathing naturally helps to trigger the "relaxation response" (Dr. Herbert Benson of the American Institute of Stress coined the term "relaxation response”).

According to Dr. Herbert Benson of the American Institute of Stress, “the relaxation response is a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress (e.g., decreases in heart rate, blood pressure, rate of breathing, and muscle tension)".  The American Institute of Stress list the following effects as a result of focused breathing practices:

How to Integrate Focused Breathing into Your Life

These are some suggestions and resources for integrating focused breathing into your self care routine.

  • Explore and choose focused breathing techniques that work for you. There are many to choose from such as progressive muscle relaxation, visualization, meditation, prayer and mindfulness. Search GOOGLE or YOUTUBE for endless free resources. One of my favorite books and recordings to use with children when teaching them about focused breathing is:

Available on Amazon

Available on Amazon

  • Set a time and frequency - start with one session a day, preferably before bedtime.

  • Use technology - use apps such as CALM and headspace for on the go. There are versions of these apps for children too.

  • Exercise - choose exercises that use breathing in combination with body work such as yoga and Pilates.

  • Environment - create a calming environment by using aromatherapy or using ambient lighting. Try different comfortable positions such as being seated or laying in a comfortable space.

*Do not engage in focused breathing techniques while standing or driving due to risk of dizziness. If you have chronic medical conditions that put you at risk for falls or have a cardiac condition, consult your medical doctor before attempting. *


By Susana Anaya-Baca, LCSW

If you are having issues with anxiety, panic and depression, I am here to help. We at Central Counseling Services Murrieta, look forward to journey with you on your path to mental wellness. For appointments I may be contacted at 951-778-0230. We are located at 29970 Technology Drive #116 Murrieta, CA 92563.

Susana Anaya-Baca, LCSW joined Central Counseling Services as a therapist in 2018. She is a graduate of California State University Long Beach School of Social Work where she earned her Master in Social Work with a concentration in older adults and families (OAF).

She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW#69056) and is licensed to practice psychotherapy in California since 2015. She is fluent in Spanish.

Ms. Anaya-Baca has experience working with a wide range of individuals and settings. Prior to entering private practice, she practiced as a clinical medical social worker with individuals and families facing life-limiting illness in the area of home health, palliative care and hospice. Susana is a member of the National Association of Social Workers.


MEDICAL EMERGENCY
If you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately

All information, content, and material are for informational purposes only and are not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider. The information provided is not intended to recommend the self-management of health problems or wellness. It is not intended to endorse or recommend any particular type of medical treatment. Should any reader have any health care related questions, promptly call or consult your physician or healthcare provider. The information presented should not be used by any reader to disregard medical and/or health related advice or provide a basis to delay consultation with a physician or a qualified healthcare provider. You should not use any information presented to initiate use of dietary supplements, vitamins, herbal and nutritional products or homeopathic medicine, and other described products prior to consulting first with a physician or healthcare provider. Susana Anaya-Baca, LCSW disclaims any liability based on information provided.

Self-Care

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As a licensed therapist I noticed a lot of my clients were perplexed when I asked them about their self-care practices.  That led me to write this blog. Neglecting yourself doesn't make you better at caring for others, self-care does. It gives you the resilience and positivity necessary to pour into others without acrimony and antipathy.  Usually self-care brings up thoughts of extravagant vacations or spa days. I'm here to tell you that self-care is much easier than that.

Self-care is:

  1. Getting a good night’s sleep restores cognitive functions.

  2. Stop trying to please everyone.

  3. Setting boundaries and knowing that you are setting boundaries to protect yourself and not to benefit others.

  4. Exercising at least 3 days a week improves happiness.

  5. Eat well. Carbohydrates aid in the release of endorphins.

  6. Laugh more, it strengthens the immune system and boosts energy.

  7. Learn to sit with yourself, reading, watching Netflix, or listen to music.

  8. Disengage from toxic people and relationships.

  9. Cut out words or pictures from a magazine, write about the meaning to you in a journal.  Example a picture of a 2019 Lexus, this is my future car. Dream!

  10. Take time at the end of your day and write down what you’re grateful for.

I bet if you think about it you may have self-care skills that you do include in your life; sometimes. I am encouraging you to include self-care daily. Write down a few that your really enjoy. Maybe it’s that hot bath with lots of bubbles or that morning run. It doesn’t matter what you choose, it only matters that you do.

If you are having difficulty with your self-care or need help with other problems that are getting in the way of your self-care, call me or one of the therapists on my team and let’s begin the most important work for you.


by Regina Kennedy, LMFT

I became a therapist because I want to help people who want to change their lives. I am a compassionate, direct and interactive therapist. I value optimism, truth, and authenticity.

My therapeutic approach is warm, but always direct and honest to provide support and practical feedback to help clients effectively address their treatment goals. I offer a highly personalized approach, tailored to each client's unique needs. My specialties include working with Adults, children and adolescents, families, crisis intervention, and substance abuse. I am Certified as a Substance Abuse Counselor.

You too Can Create a Healthier Brain

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When I was growing up the general thought was that you had a finite number of brain cells and once, they died, that was it, there was no hope for your brain to regenerate. But in the last decade, research has found those old ideas are simply incorrect. There is real hope that there are many things that we can do to create a healthier brain, even if we have made poor choices earlier in life. So, how does that work? Through something called Neuroplasticity. Neuro-plas-ti-city

Neuroplasticity is the lifelong ability of the brain to create new neural pathways based on new experiences. Contrary to previous assumptions, in recent years, neuroscientists have discovered that the human brain continues to have the ability to create new neural pathways into adulthood. Below are some highlights about how neuroplasticity works in the brain.

  • When does neuroplasticity occur in the brain?

  • At the beginning of life: when the immature brain organizes itself.

  • In case of brain injury: to compensate for lost functions or maximize remaining functions.

  • Throughout adulthood: whenever something new is learned and memorized

  • Neuroplasticity has a clear age-dependent determinant.

  • Although plasticity occurs over an individual’s lifetime, different types of plasticity dominate during certain periods of one’s life and are less prevalent during other periods.

  • Neuroplasticity occurs in the brain under two primary conditions:

  • During normal brain development when the immature brain first begins to process sensory information through adulthood (developmental plasticity and plasticity of learning and memory).

  • As an adaptive mechanism to compensate for lost function and/or to maximize remaining functions in the event of a brain injury.

  • The environment plays a key role in influencing plasticity.

  • In addition to genetic factors, the brain is shaped by the characteristics of a person's environment and by the actions of that same person.

Another factor that impacts brain regeneration is neurogenesis. Neurogenesis is the birth of new neuronal cells. Recent research demonstrates that neurogenesis continues into and throughout adult life. Ongoing neurogenesis is thought to be an important mechanism in neuronal plasticity. New techniques will be able to direct neurogenesis in other areas of the brain. This would enable the brain to repair damage and enhance mental functioning.

New neurons in the human brain have been found in the ventricles of the forebrain as well as the hippocampus. The cells that become neurons travel to the olfactory bulbs. Researchers have speculated that neurogenesis occurs in the hippocampus since this area is so important in memory and learning. Other researchers have attempted to discover if neurogenesis occurs in other areas of the brain and spinal cord but have not yet found conclusive evidence to support this hypothesis.

There are several factors that impact neurogenesis, including physical activity, environmental conditions and even hormones/neurotransmitters. Here is a brief explanation of these factors and how they affect neurogenesis.

  • Physical activity

    • Has been shown to affect proliferation and survival of neurons.

  • Environmental conditions

    • Increase neurogenesis and neuronal survival has been shown in crayfish raised in an enriched environment when compared to siblings raised in an impoverished environment.

    • Hormones

    • Estradial and testosterone have been shown to influence the rate of neurogenesis.

    • Serotonin was found to affect the survival of neurons. Serotonin helps to synaptic connections in the cortex and hippocampus.

    • Lack of serotonin in the hippocampus has been associated with such disorders such as depression, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.

So, why would regular exercise, being in an enriched environment (physically nourishing and mentally stimulating) and the presence (or absence) of certain neurotransmitters impact the brains’ ability to generate new cells?

In his book “The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science”, Norman Doidge discusses the case of a surgeon in his 50’s who suffered a stroke. The surgeon’s left arm was left paralyzed. During his rehabilitation, his good arm and hand were immobilized, and the doctor is set to cleaning tables. The task is at first impossible. Then slowly the bad arm remembers how to move. He learns to write again; and then to play tennis. The functions of the brain areas killed in the stroke ultimately transfer themselves to healthy regions!

His brain eventually compensates for the damaged areas by reorganizing and forming new connections between intact neurons. In order to reconnect, the neurons need to be stimulated through activity. The use of activity is one of the most important directions that therapeutic intervention for brain injury has ventured in the past decade. As horrible as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been, one of the positive outcomes is the discovery of using activity as a therapeutic tool to recover from traumatic brain injury.

If you would like to learn more about neuroplasticity, here is a link to a fascinating video on neuroplasticity and how different conditions can affect neural pathways. What do you think about the prospects of neuroplasticity and what this means in terms of what we once thought about the death of brain cells?


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By Lisa Tobler, LMFT

Lisa Tobler, LMFT passion is in helping people recover from traumatic events.  She has advanced training in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) to treat trauma and EFT (Emotion Focused Therapy) to assist couples to heal their relationship.