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

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 X.jpg

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


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.

Dhara Jani.jpg

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.

Copy of There are some who think...png

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.

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?

Don't just live.jpg

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.  

What if.jpg


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


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


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.

Breathe In.png

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

Image found on Pinterest uploaded by

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.

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.jpg

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


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?

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.

10 Steps to Better Sleep


We all know that a good night’s sleep can make you feel like a million buck. Sleep provides us with energy, cell regeneration, keeps our body and mind strong and can even help us lose weight. We all at times have nights when we just do not get enough sleep. However, when not sleeping or poorly sleeping becomes the norm, it's time to take some action. Here are ten steps you can do today to help increase your sleep.

  1. Music can help you sleep by encouraging relaxation. Look for music that has 60-80 beats per minute. Start with songs that are 80 beats per minute and end with songs 60 beats per minutes. Look for songs with steady rhythms that make you feel good. 

  2. Keep your bedroom cool to 68 degrees or cooler. Sleeping in a cooler room is linked to deeper sleep and decreased insomnia. 

  3. Bedrooms should be dark to allow for deeper sleep. Your brain releases more sleeping hormones when the room is dark.

  4. Avoid naps if you have sleeping problems. Taking a nap can be refreshing but if you have disrupted sleep napping can have a negative effect.

  5. Avoid blue light. Blue like tricks the body into thinking its daylight. Blue light is emitted by tech devices like smartphones, computers and TVs. Turning off these devices about an hour to 2 hours before bed will allow your body to create more melatonin the relax/sleep hormone.

  6. Ditch the coffee. Coffee has caffeine and while caffeine can help with energy boosts, focus and sports performance drinking it late in the day can prevent you from relaxing. Caffeine elevates the blood for 6-8 hours.

  7. Don’t drink alcohol especially right before bed. Alcohol is known to reduce melatonin production, increase sleep apnea, snoring and unsettling sleep patterns. 

  8. Get Wet. Taking a warm bath or shower can help you relax and enhance sleep.

  9. Get regular exercise. Exercise helps keep our body on schedule which helps with or sleep wake time.

  10. Like the ocean? On YouTube you will find hours of relaxing waves sounds some even include seagulls. Here is one I enjoy when I can’t sleep. Sleepy Ocean Sounds (8hrs)

If you still are having sleep problems, please see your physician to rule out any physical concerns. A therapist can also help you by eliminating worrisome thoughts, teaching you deep relaxation and meditation techniques. Call today for a better night’s sleep.

The Rise in Bipolar Disorder Diagnoses


Over the past decade, Mental Health Therapists have noticed a significant increase in clients seeking help for Bipolar Disorder. Prospective clients often call for a therapy appointment after being put on medication and receiving a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder from their Doctor. The good news is that Doctors are reinforcing the need for therapy along with medication for the best treatment outcomes for their patients. Many Mental Health Clinicians wonder, however, if this trend is a result of environmental or biological changes, or if there is something else causing this increase in Bipolar Diagnoses.

One study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry basically found a huge, 40-fold increase in the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder in children and teens over the past 10 years. In the study, researchers analyzed office visits that focused on doctors in private or group practices. According to Author John M. Grohol, Psy.D., in PsychCentral, “The key is that these are regular doctor’s offices- Not mental health professionals- Not professionals who are trained and experienced in diagnosing mental disorders, which often rely more on a clinician’s experience and expertise in asking the right questions to differentiate a disorder from something else. It may be that since these were regular medical doctors, and not mental health professionals, their diagnoses were simply more, well, wrong”.

Dr. Grohol went on to say, “I suspect that such general practitioners are more likely to diagnose a mental disorder, not out of any necessary ignorance or such, but because it is often the easiest thing to do than to try and get a parent a referral to a mental health specialist (such as a psychiatrist or child psychologist), and then ensure they follow-up with their appointment."

The problem with Doctors (who do not have specialized training) diagnosing Bipolar Disorder is that there are too many other conditions with symptoms that look like Bipolar Disorder. Senior author and psychiatrist Mark Olfson, M.D., M.P.H., told Psychiatric News that “the symptom overlap between ADHD and bipolar disorder increases the clinical challenge of distinguishing the two conditions”.

“Some symptoms, such as distractibility, pressured speech, and irritability, can be seen in ADHD as well as mania,” he said. “Because of the risks of inadvertently treating bipolar disorder with stimulant it is especially important to conduct a thorough assessment.”

As a Mental Health Therapist for over 25 years, I strongly urge my clients to get a medication evaluation from a Mental Health Specialist (i.e.- a Psychiatrist, Doctor, Physician’s Assistant or Nurse Practitioner, who have specialized training in Mental Health Treatment).  There is research that shows doctors who receive specialized training in specific disorders’ diagnosis and treatment do a better job of screening and diagnosing such disorders (Hata, 2005). Most of us expect to be referred to a Specialist for a heart condition rather than having our General Practitioner treat us. In fact, most patients are referred to a Podiatrist for a foot problem. So it seems ludicrous that patients aren’t automatically referred to a Mental Health Specialist to treat something as intricate as brain chemistry and diagnoses of Mental Health conditions. Getting an accurate mental health diagnosis and the right medication is crucial in patients having a successful treatment outcome.

By Christine Janse, LMFT

Christy works well with Challenging Adolescents, Phase of Life/Adjustment concerns, Couples issues, Addiction, Eating Disorders, Bipolar Disorder, Depression and Anxiety.  She uses a variety of techniques to promote thought, growth and wellness along with other theories to help her clients feel better and function healthier in everyday life. Christy looks forward to meeting you. Christy is located in our Murrieta office, to schedule an appointment with Christy please call 951-778-0230

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month


September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month with September 10 being World Suicide Prevention Day. It is with this purpose that the following is shared to further awareness and continue with the prevention efforts.

 “To anyone who has had suicidal thoughts this past year, I am glad you are here. Keep holding on” - unknown.

According to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States

  • Each year 44,965 Americans die by suicide

  • For every suicide, 25 attempts

  • Men die by suicide 3.53x more often than women.

  • On average, there are 123 suicides per day.

  • The rate of suicide is the highest in middle age.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention provides the following statistics specific to age, race, ethnicity and suicide methods.

Suicides by Age

In 2016, the highest suicide rate (19.72) was among adults between 45 and 54 years of age. The second highest rate (18.98) occurred in those 85 years or older. Younger groups have had consistently lower suicide rates than middle-aged and older adults. In 2016, adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 24 had a suicide rate of 13.15.

Suicide Rates by Race/Ethnicity

In 2016, the highest U.S. suicide rate (15.17) was among Whites and the second highest rate (13.37) was among American Indians and Alaska Natives (Figure 5). Much lower and roughly similar rates were found among Asians and Pacific Islanders (6.62), and Black or African Americans (6.03). White males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2016.

Suicide Methods

In 2016, firearms were the most common method of death by suicide, accounting for a little more than half (51.01%) of all suicide deaths. The next most common methods were suffocation (including hangings) at 25.89% and poisoning at 14.90%.


What leads an individual to ultimately make the decision to commit suicide can be summarized as being the loss of hope. The therapists’ main goal is to instill hope in our clients. We do this in various forms based on chosen theoretical frameworks. The altruistic uniting factor that we share for our clients is the simple act of being a non- judgmental presence. Present to journey along and guide clients throughout the other side of the despair that is depression.

“Despair is the price one pays for self-awareness. Look deeply into life, and you’ll always find despair”- Irving D. Yalom.

According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44.3. MDD affects more than 16.1 million American adults, or about 6.7%of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year. While major depressive disorder can develop at any age, the median age at onset is 32.5 years old. It is more prevalent in women than in men. Persistent depressive disorder (PDD) affects approximately 1.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year (about 3.3 million American adults). Only 61.7% of adults with MDD are receiving treatment. The average age of onset is 31 years old.”

Quote for Suicide.jpg

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) list the following as risk factors and protective factors for suicide. They clarify that there is a “combination of individual, relationship, community, and societal factors contribute to the risk of suicide. Risk factors are those characteristics associated with suicide—they might not be direct causes”.

Risk Factors

  • Family history of suicide

  • Family history of child maltreatment

  • Previous suicide attempt(s)

  • History of mental disorders, particularly clinical depression

  • History of alcohol and substance abuse

  • Feelings of hopelessness

  • Impulsive or aggressive tendencies

  • Cultural and religious beliefs (e.g., belief that suicide is noble resolution of personal dilemma)

  • Local epidemics of suicide

  • Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people

  • Barriers to accessing mental health treatment

  • Loss (relational, social, work, or financial)

  • Physical illness

  • Easy access to lethal methods

  • Unwillingness to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health and substance abuse disorders or to suicidal thoughts.

Protective Factors for Suicide

Protective factors buffer individuals from suicidal thoughts and behavior. To date, protective factors have not been studied as extensively or rigorously as risk factors. Identifying and understanding protective factors are, however, equally as important as researching risk factors.

Protective Factors

  • Effective clinical care for mental, physical, and substance abuse disorders

  • Easy access to a variety of clinical interventions and support for help seeking

  • Family and community support (connectedness)

  • Support from ongoing medical and mental health care relationships

  • Skills in problem solving, conflict resolution, and nonviolent ways of handling disputes

  • Cultural and religious beliefs that discourage suicide and support instincts for self preservation (U.S. Public Health Service 1999)

 “Sometime even to live is an act of courage” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Resources Local to Murrieta and Surrounding Areas

If you or someone you love are having a psychiatric emergency call 911. 

24/7 Mental Health Urgent Care

24 hour/7 days/365 urgent care mental health screening and assessment services and medications.


Riverside: 9990 County Farm Rd. Riverside, CA 92503 (951) 509-2499

Perris: 85 Ramona Expressway, Suites 1-3 Perris, CA 92571 951-349-4195 Main


HELPLine - 24 Hour Crisis/Suicide Intervention
The HELPline is a free, confidential Crisis/Suicide Intervention service. Operated by highly trained volunteers, the line is open 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

Phone: (951) 686-HELP (4357)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.

Phone: (800) 273-TALK (800-273-8255)

Spanish line: (888) 628-9454

TTY: (800) 799-4TTY (4889)

Veterans Crisis Line 
The Veterans Crisis Line is a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) resource that connects Veterans in crisis or their families and friends with qualified, caring VA professionals.

Confidential support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Phone: (800)-273-8255 Press 1

The Trevor Project Lifeline
National organization providing crisis and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) Youth

866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386)


Riverside University Health System Medical Center Emergency Treatment Services (ETS) 
Provides psychiatric emergency services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for all ages, which includes evaluation, crisis intervention, and referrals for psychiatric hospitalization, as needed for adults, children, and adolescents. Consumers may be referred to the Inpatient Treatment Facility (ITF) or other private hospitals. 

9990 County Farm Road, Ste. 4

Riverside, CA 92503

Phone: (951) 358-4881

Se Habla Español

*Resource list compiled by Riverside University Mental Health System-Behavioral Health

We at Central Counseling Services Murrieta are looking 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.

By Susana Anaya-Baca, LCSW

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.

“Positive Approach to Brain Change” with Teepa Snow

As an occupational therapist with 40 years of clinical practice, Teepa Snow is one of the leading educators on dementia and the care that comes with it.

Teepa Snow.jpg

My colleague and I had the privilege of attending a whole day seminar with her recently in Claremont, and were very impressed with all the information provided.  Not only is Mrs. Snow very knowledgeable about the decline in brain functioning of people with dementia, I was personally intrigued by her practical tips about how to take care of people with dementia in a respectful way.  Something as simple as ‘Greet before you treat’, can go such a long way.  The same with ‘asking your client/patient for permission’ before starting to touch them, adjusting their clothing, etc.

Teepa Snow is very direct in her approach in teaching others, so at times I was a little startled with her directness, but she made sure we understood her message, no doubt about that.

We were reminded that all humans have 5 basic needs:

  • Nourishment and drink/liquids

  • Wake/sleep cycle

  • Elimination (in every sense: sweat, saliva, snot, pee and poop)

  • Seeking comfort

  • Being pain free

So when people with dementia ‘act out’, they probably are in need of one of the basic needs but have trouble communicating what it is exactly they need since ‘their brain is dying’.  One of Mrs. Snow’s many tips was to repeat what the patient/client says since they are unable to talk and listen to themselves.  When a caregiver repeats, they are able to agree or correct their message.

Teepa Snow 2.jpg

It is important to understand that dementia is not only a memory problem, there are many changes in structural and chemical function because the brain is failing.  Another example/tip from Mrs. Snow was not to stand in front of the patient/client but rather to their side.  Mrs. Snow explained the reason: the patient/client’s vision has changed to tunnel vision (pretend to look into binoculars with your hands in front of your eyes), and when standing in front of the patient/client, they can feel blocked in (no way to escape), which might result in some physical altercation.

We were fortunate to learn first handed from an expert.  Hopefully you can find some tips in this article.

You can find more info and some educational (link to) video’s at:

For extra support as caregiver, you can always attend our Dementia Support Group, each Third Saturday of the month at Pacifica Senior Living, 6280 Clay St. in Riverside, CA. If you would like to talk more, or in need of individual counseling, please don’t hesitate to contact our office Central Counseling Services (951) 778-0230. We have counselors available 7 days a week in two locations (Riverside and Murrieta). 

Ilse Aerts, M.S., LMFT#96211

Any struggles you might have today, you don’t have to conquer them alone.  My personal, professional and volunteer experience will help shine a different light on your struggles of grief and loss, parenting struggles, life’s challenges.  Coming from a different culture myself, I understand the adjusting challenges you might come across (different rules and expectations, different language,...).  By offering guidance and support, together we can rediscover your own inner strength to work through those challenges.

I look forward to meet people of all cultural background, beliefs and ages on Tuesday and Thursdays.

I earned my Master degree in Clinical Psychology from Vrije Universiteit Brussel.  I am a member of California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and California Association for Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life, let’s make it…… (great/worthwhile/count/awesome/wonderful) ....... it’s up to you.

School Blues

jude-beck-552276-unsplash x.jpg

Summer is known for many happy moments. We celebrate the 4th of July, being off of work or school, National Watermelon Day (August 3rd), and having those lazy days by the pool that help us to unwind after a long week of work.

One thing that is so important about summer is all the smiles we see. Living in Southern California is not always “chill” but we do have beautiful weather that allows us to visit the beaches and swim in the pool. Growing up in socal can be wonderful and, every summer, we see kids and parents with smiles because summer time is the best time to stay connected with family.

Many children start school at a young age and, when summertime comes, they may lose interest or focus when they eventually start school again in August or September. Others may not like being without the school atmosphere for so long and may have behavioral issues. Both school and summertime are needed but, can a child have school in summer?

Parents may still work in summer and are forced to bring their children with them to work or send them to a family member or baby sitter which could lead to boredom, irritation, annoyance, and even depression. To keep your child occupied and interested during summer by trying some of these easy-designed summertime tips:

  • Make structure: children tend to like to have a plan of what is going on for the day/work- this provides a sense of relief or safety because they know what to expect. Start by making calendars, create a daily routine, and have special nights every once or every other week that involves them making decisions.

  • Help the child to find extra-curricular activities: find camps and day programs that help the child to both physically and mentally stretch. Learning new skills and meeting new people can help the child to have a sense of belonging. Meeting current friends and setting up play dates can also help the children to feel a sense of belonging. Also, family vacations or days away from home help too.

  • Listen: Many times, children just want you to listen. If they are sad are having a hard time adjusting to the changes, sit down and talk with them.

  • Give them purpose: As much as older children despise chores, they are still needed. This gives kids a sense of purpose and that they are contributing to the home or “team” as you might say. Also, let your children come up with creative ideas. You do not need to entertain them 24/7. They have minds, let them wonder. Volunteering is also a good way to show purpose especially if you do it with them.

  • Have fun: Remember to make time for your child and you to just have fun and to be with one another. Life gets busy, but children grow up faster than you know.

Make some summertime memories with these fun tips and your child will forever remember how fun and awesome it was to be with mom or dad while also staying both mentally and physically active. They will be prepared and ready for school after having an amazing summer!



Janna is currently a paraprofessional at a charter school based out of Chino and is also a volleyball coach in Corona. She just graduated from Grand Canyon University with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and is currently on her way to earning her Master’s degree in Education and hopes to keep pursuing her dream of working with children and families and eventually becoming a mother herself one day in the future.

"The Martial Therapist"

charlein-gracia-674047-unsplash x.jpg

I got home that night full of bruises, tired as hell, and I noticed a growing pain in my wrist…

Have you ever just woken up in the morning and decided, “No, not today”. Well if you’re like me, then that happens more often than you’d like. I think at some point that happens to all of us. We just wake up and for whatever reason (you could be tired, stressed, lonely, overwhelmed, hungry, etc.) you decide that today is just not going to be your day and there’s nothing anyone or anything can do to turn it around. The funny thing about those days is that they tend to come out of nowhere (Ugh, so frustrating!) and the feelings that come along with those days tend to grow out of control quickly. I want to tell you about one of my bad days so that I can (hopefully) show you how I was able to turn it around.

I’m a therapist that practices Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT for short. So I’m basically equipped to handle any situation…good, I’m glad you caught the sarcasm there! But in all seriousness, I make my living showing people that they have the ability to help themselves feel better by teaching them simple tools and strategies. So it’s obvious that I should be perfect at doing those things, too…right? Well I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. I’m not as good as I would like to be. The cool thing about being a therapist is that I am trained how to use all of these wonderful self-help tools, so when I end up not using those tools myself, I get to add an extra serving of guilt to my day. Remember, no matter how hard your therapist works for you, they are working just as hard making sure they have their personal life in order as well. In essence, they have to put on their oxygen mask on before assisting you with yours!

Well that morning, I did not feel like getting up and going to work. I thought to myself, “How the hell am I supposed to help anyone when I feel like this?”. I was slow in every step of my morning routine. I slept in until I absolutely had to get up. I took too long on the toilet. I lingered in the shower…you get where I’m going with this. I did NOT want to do anything and my behavior was telling me as much. Often, when we are feeling off, our behavior will change in subtle (or sometimes not-so-subtle) ways. I we can clue ourselves into these changes, we have the chance to head off the storm! My response was “Screw that”. I was feeling crappy and I wanted to! I knew in my mind that I was doing things to keep myself low, but I just wanted to feel low for a bit and forget all of my training as a therapist. The problem is that little voice in the back of my head nagging me to stop being such a hypocrite. I wondered to myself as I was taking way too long to pack my lunch, “If I was my own client what would I do to help solve this problem?”

The answer is frustratingly simple. Two words…Behavioral Activation. This terribly simple concept can solve so many issues. But when we need it most, it’s the last thing we want to use. Ridiculous, I know. What is Behavioral Activation? Translated into human speech, Behavioral Activation boils down to this…

 If you’re feeling crappy, do more stuff and you won’t feel as crappy.


When you engage your body and mind in pleasurable activities, you tend to feel better.

So I did what any begrudging therapist who is aware of their own self-sabotage would do, I made a plan to go beat up my friends that night after work.

I know what you’re thinking (Okay, maybe I don’t really know). But you might be thinking that I’m nuts for saying that and that maybe I should be reevaluating my profession for having these thoughts. I swear, things will make sense soon. You see, every week I go to a self-defense martial arts class that teaches me to use my body as a lethal weapon in case I ever find myself surrounded by some seriously menacing dudes who want to beat me up. I go to the gym and spend two hours every session using my body in ways that I would never dream of using toward another person in my outside life. But for those two hours when I’m in class with the rest of my group, I am free from everything that weighs me down. Let me give you a taste of what a normal session looks like.

We start out by partnering up and hardening our bodies by striking each other on our arms, legs, and stomachs. This is so we can get used to the pain of getting hit by another person. Then we do some light warm up exercises, you know practicing how to apply a choke for maximum effect or which body parts provide the least resistance to breaking. You know, normal, typical, everyday kinda stuff. After that, we usually train some new way to apply pain as a defensive strategy. After that we do some intensive aerobic and strength exercises to make sure that we’re good and tired for the night and so that our bodies will feel something if the hitting somehow didn’t do it.

Now you might be thinking, is that what all therapists do to relieve tension? Do they all just want to hurt other people? No…at least not me. Here’s the thing, when I go to these classes, I am completely free from everything that bothers me. It’s hard to worry about your day when you’re dodging a punch. I can’t be thinking about my stressors and be effective in my fight at the same time, so the stress just has to go. When I go to class, I train with other people who are there to get better and have similar interests to me. I have built a network of friends that are motivated to work hard and are glad for me when I improve. I consider myself lucky to have these people in my life. Each time I go I am working toward something bigger than me and using my body to the point of exhaustion so that when I’m done, I have nothing left but the satisfaction of a job well done (and a few extra bruises and scrapes).

That morning I noticed my behavior had changed, I was mindful of how my thinking was keeping me down, and felt the sting of knowing that I could do something about it. I decided that I would go train that night even harder than normal because I needed to get out of my funk. I messaged my group ( so they could hold me accountable if I didn’t go) and exercised my body and mind.

I got home that night full of bruises, tired as hell, and I noticed a growing pain in my wrist…

…but the only thing I had the energy to do was smile to myself and say “You did it”.

9 Signs Therapy Is Actually Working

Experts break down what progress looks like.

Nicole Pajer On Assignment For HuffPost

eek after week, you may walk into your therapist’s office and pour out your anxieties, hopes and dreams, or you might cry or get angry. Does any of this mean the process is actually working?

According to experts, there are definite signs that show you’re on the right track. If you are experiencing any of the following, it may be safe to say that your weekly counseling sessions are paying off:

1. You’ll look forward to your therapy appointments

Revealing your innermost thoughts in a session can be daunting. But if you get to the place where opening up becomes more comfortable, you may have experienced some breakthroughs, according to Rachel Dubrow, a licensed clinical social worker in Northfield, Illinois. Dubrow said her clients often make the connection that their treatment is working when they no longer feel nervous before appointments.

“They also tell me that they start to feel lighter and better after a session,” she said.

2. You’re not as “in your head”

“I’ve had clients tell me that when they begin to feel better, they aren’t as ‘in their heads’ anymore,” said Christy Doering, a therapist with Sage Counseling in Plano, Texas.

According to Doering, constant rumination over anxieties, listening to your “inner critic” or berating yourself for past regrets takes up valuable real estate in the brain.

“When people start to get well, they give that space to something better. It’s often a new appreciation for the present moment, or more interaction with family and coworkers, but it builds upon itself and contributes to overall wellness pretty quickly,” she said.

3. You’re having fun again

Anhedonia ― which is the inability to experience pleasure from activities that people used to find enjoyable ― is one of the hallmark symptoms of mood disorders like depression.

“If a person loves to sew, fix cars, read or exercise, then when he or she is depressed, those things will stop bringing joy,” Doering said. “But when people are improving, they will one day wake up and realize they feel like doing those things again, and often those things bring even more joy than they did in the past. It’s like having a stomach virus and feeling like you will never want to eat again, but then after it’s over, everything tastes wonderful.”

4. You are focusing on the present

“Instead of worrying about whether or not your first grader will get into college ... or feeling guilty over enjoying that bagel you had for breakfast, you are being mindful of the here and now and tending to the things you are in control of at the moment,” said Kayce Hodos, a licensed professional counselor in Wake Forest, North Carolina.

So rather than stressing about the future, you are focusing on work tasks, listening to a friend over margaritas, taking a walk on your lunch break or enjoying your favorite band’s new album.

5. You’ve changed your standards on who you swipe right for on Tinder

Sheri Heller, a New York City-based psychotherapist, noted that effective therapy may make you shift your focus toward more stable partners. Additionally, it may help you seek out healthier friendships and romantic partnerships.

“As clients work through core wounds rooted in relational traumas and betrayals, their healing is evidenced in using discernment and discrimination with who they bring into their lives,” she said. “Often these new partnerships are completely contrary to the sort of toxic traits they found themselves gravitating toward in the past.”

6. Self-care becomes a priority

Subscribe to HuffPost’s wellness email Your guide to taking care of your mind and body so you can take on the world.

According to Hodos, noticing that you are beginning to pay attention to yourself is a great sign of improvement. This could be as simple as booking a weekly massage, journaling about your thoughts and feelings or asking your boss for that overdue raise.

“Regardless of how it shows up for you, you are positively including some much-needed self-care in your routine, and a bonus is you are enjoying it with no, or at least less, guilt,” she said.

7. You’ve started applying your therapist’s suggestions ― and they’re working

“I know that therapy is working for my clients when they are able to transfer what we have been working on in the therapy room to their lives,” said Sheralyn Shockey-Pope, co-founder of Central Counseling Services.

She cited a couple on the brink of divorce that she treated as an example. “They began to come into sessions with statements like, ‘I remembered that he was hurting, too, and when things got too intense at home we took a timeout, just like we did in therapy,’” she said.

Dubrow agrees, adding that she loves seeing patients gain a sense of pride over properly applying techniques she has armed them with. “They’ll come back and report that what they did felt challenging at first but that they were successful in the end,” she said.

8. You may start to go backwards

It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true.

“As you work on dismantling old, unhealthy thought patterns and coping habits, feelings of distress and unwanted behaviors sometimes have a surge before they go away,” said Rachel Kazez, a Chicago-area licensed clinical social worker. “Without those things masking the feelings, people might feel stronger and urges to act in unwanted ways might feel stronger or more necessary.”

Jenmarie Eadie, a licensed clinical social worker in Upland, California agreed, adding that anger in a session is a perfectly valid ― and sometimes wanted ― emotion.

“For me, a sign therapy is working is when the client gets mad at me,” Eadie said. “It’s usually because he [or] she is working through the issues with a safe person who won’t retaliate, dismiss, or abuse his [or] her emotions. For my kid clients, this usually means a crayon or two is going to be thrown my way!”

9. You realize you are only responsible for your problems

“It becomes clear to you which problems are actually yours to own and which ones you’ve been taking on that have nothing to do with you,” Hodos said.

For instance, you might learn to lovingly support your husband and listen to his job complaints without frantically updating his resume for him, or you proactively text your mom to let her know you will not be available for your usual Tuesday night chat, sans guilt.

Therapy is a very personalized journey and what works for some is different than what may benefit others. But any of the above changes signify you’re headed down the right path. 


Having a ‘Scent’sual Valentine’s Day with Essential Oils!!


In addition to being a mental health therapist, I am also a Wellness Advocate for dōTERRA Essential Oils. Some of the blends that are mentioned in this article refer to oil blends that are produced by dōTERRA.

Essential oils have been used for millennia to enhance sensual pleasure. They are well known for improving sensuality and libido. Today, essential oils are used in perfumes and colognes to enhance sexual attraction. Oils can be used in a variety of ways to heighten one’s libido. Essential oils can be applied directly to the skin when combined with a carrier oil. They can be used as a lubricant, for a nice, relaxing massage, or used in an essential oil diffuser to inhale the scent of the oils to “set the mood” before intimacy. A diffuser is a device that is used to disperse the essential oil molecules into the air. Most diffusers are relatively inexpensive to purchase and can be found at many retailers.

When oils are applied to sensitive areas of the skin, they should be diluted with carrier oils (such as Almond Oil, Fractionated Coconut Oil, Shea Butter or Grape Seed Oil). When you apply essential oils to the skin, never touch the nose, eyes, ears, or mouth with the essential oil blend. Mucus membranes are very sensitive to direct contact from essential oils. If you accidentally get essential oils in your eye, you can use Fractionated Coconut Oil to dilute the essential oil.

When choosing essential oils that will be used topically, please be certain that the brand you choose is free from fillers or contaminants that can be harmful. Many brands that state that they are “pure” or “therapeutic” add fillers or synthetic materials to make their products less expensive. It is very important to know whether the oils you are using are of the highest grade and quality.

If you have sensitive skin, care should be taken when applying a new essential oil or oil blend. It is always advisable to perform a skin patch test on the inside of the forearm before using a new essential oil in the bedroom. Dilute the oil, apply to the forearm, and wait a day to see if there are any allergic reactions. (We don’t want any skin reactions on Valentine’s Day, right?!) Remember that essential oils are concentrated, so you only need a small amount to have a big impact.

Essential oils can be used topically to enhance the sexual experience. You can apply a couple of drops directly to the abdomen, the back of the neck, or when diluted with carrier oils, they can be used as a lubricant.

When using essential oils on sensitive areas, be sure you use a carrier oil to dilute the essential oils so that you avoid skin irritation. Some essential oils, such as Cinnamon or Peppermint can be more of a skin irritant when undiluted than others. When diluting an essential oil, try using 7 drops of essential oil to 1 ounce of your carrier oil of choice, or 1-2 drops per tablespoon of carrier oil.

Essential oils can help with libido in several ways. They can be used to enhance sensation, improve mindset, reduce anxiety, and change body temperature. For example, Cinnamon, Clove, and some citrus oils, such as Bergamot or Wild Orange, create a warming sensation. Peppermint creates a cooling sensation. Rose helps to reduce anxious feelings and has traditionally been used as an aphrodisiac. For females, if libido is low because of hormonal changes, Clary Sage is often found to be helpful. Researchers have found that the “inhalation of Neroli oil helps relieve menopausal symptoms, increase sexual desire, and reduce blood pressure in postmenopausal women,” (Choi, SY, Kang, P., Lee, HS, & Seol, GH, 2014). 

Ylang Ylang is often used as an aphrodisiac for both men and women, and nearly everyone enjoys its soft, floral scent. Geranium is known for increasing circulation by enlarging capillaries. It is also excellent for reducing anxious feelings. Women often respond positively to using Citrus Oils such as Bergamot or a dōTERRA blend called Citrus Bliss to enhance pleasure. Men often find the warmth of cinnamon oil pleasurable. These essential oils can be used topically to create a warming sensation.

For many people, the everyday stressors of life can reduce libido. Essential oils can be used to assist with relaxation and to improve emotional well-being. The following libido boosting blend can be diffused, or diluted for topical application. Blend the following oils with the carrier oil of your choice to create a sensual massage blend or a natural lubricant.

  • 2 drops of Neroli (or Wild Orange)
  • 2 drops Jasmine
  • 2 drops Ylang Ylang

Feeling down or overwhelmed is another factor that can inhibit sexual desire. There are many essential oils that assist with mood. Frankincense and Wild Orange oils are great for lifting the mood so that libido can be sparked.

The following essential oils are known to be natural Aphrodisiacs. Make your own aphrodisiac blend with the scents that you like.

  •  Neroli
  •  Rose
  •  Ylang Ylang
  •  Geranium
  •  Clary Sage
  •  Rose
  •  Jasmine
  •  Bergamot
  •  Sandalwood
  •  Patchouli
  • Geranium
  •  Cinnamon
  •  Wild Orange
  • Clove
  •  Passion Emotional Blend (a dōTERRA blend) contains Fractionated Coconut Oil, Cardamom Seed, Cinnamon Bark, Ginger Rhizome, Clove Bud, Sandalwood, Jasmine, Vanilla Bean, and Damiana Leaf.

Damiana leaves have been used by indigenous peoples of Mexico and Central America to boost sexual potency and as an aphrodisiac. Mayans, as well as other Central American people groups, used the Damiana herb to help improve female and male sexual dysfunction, decrease depression, and help with impotence problems.

Create your own blends. For a fun Valentine’s Day gift, you can try some of these suggestions.


Women’s Aphrodisiac Blend

  •   6 drops Ylang Ylang
  •  6 drops Neroli
  •  3 drops Rose
  •  3 drops Sandalwood
  •  1 oz. Fractionated Coconut Oil

Men’s Aphrodisiac Blend

  •  5 drops Ginger
  •  5 drops Ylang Ylang
  •  5 drops Black Pepper
  •  5 drops Helichrysum
  •  1 oz. Fractionated Coconut Oil

 Luscious Lubricant

  •   5 oz. African Shea Butter
  •  5 oz. Coconut Oil
  •  30 drops Peppermint
  •  30 drops Bergamot
  •  25 drops Cinnamon
  •  15 drops Lavender
  •  15 drops Helichrysum

Body Massage Butter

  •  ½ cup Coconut Oil
  •  ½ cup Unrefined Organic Shea Butter
  •  20 drops Ylang Ylang
  •  20 drops Geranium
  •  60 drops Bergamot
  •  40 drops Peppermint
  •  20 drops Clove

Please note: This post does not provide medical or counseling advice. If you’re experiencing significant problems related to sexuality, please talk with a physician or professional therapist. Sexual problems often stem from intimacy, attachment and other relationship issues that are best addressed with a comprehensive approach.

Lisa Tobler, LMFT sees a variety of individuals and couples in our Riverside Office. She helps people overcome intimacy and communication difficulties. You can get in touch with Lisa at 951-778-0230



Am I a Fraud? How To Stop Anxiety from Taking Over.

This Is What I Know

Episode 1 – DECEMBER 4, 2017

LOL… I sat down to express myself and stared at the laptop screen for… well… a while.  I’m calling this venture “This Is What I Know” and nothing was coming out!  Soooo… does that mean I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING?   What if that’s the case??  I REALLY don’t like the idea of disappointing, or coming up short, or screwing up, or bombing out, or flaking out, or COMING UP SHORT!  So… what if I AM EMPTY-HEADED and any second everyone in my world will find out that I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING???  What if they realize that I’M A FRAUD, mutter to themselves about having wasted their time, TURN THEIR BACKS on me… and just walk away????  WHAT IF…  



BREATH Again!!


OMG!!! There IS something in my head after all.  I just had to stop, breath, think it through, and wadda-ya-know… what I needed came to me.  I am so GLAD because… well… you know why! But, hey, it turns out I wasn’t failing after all!  I just had to… you know…






Christopher Marsh, AMFT is a specialist in working with anxiety, children, and parents of special needs children. He has immediate openings in his schedule, to see Chris give us a call. (951-778-0230) or Email us to set up an appointment

© 2017-2018 Central Counseling Services