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Choosing a Therapist

Author: Stephanie Camins – MA,LPC

Choosing a therapist can be a daunting task.  Here are a few points to remember.

It is important to choose a therapist who is a good match for you.  This is a very personal decision.  Even the most professionally respected therapist in the world will not  be a good match for everyone.  Remember that different people work together in different ways.  You should feel comfortable with the style of your therapist.  Sometimes it takes a few “tries” to find a good match.  It is OK to shop around until you find the right therapist for you.

Feel free to interview a prospective therapist, asking questions about their style of therapy and training, fee structure, cancellation policy, insurance reimbursement, how long they have been in practice, and if they are familiar working with the kinds of issues you want to work on in therapy.

Expect and demand ethical practices, including issues of confidentiality.  Be sure to ask about the therapist’s license.  While not all therapists are required to have licenses by all states, and while licensure is no guarantee of quality, it is useful for you to know that a person receiving a state license has met the requirements for education and training mandated by your state.

Some Questions To Ask Yourself When Choosing a Therapist:

  1. Is the therapist warm and accepting?
  2. Does the therapist have a sense of humor?
  3. Is the therapist willing to challenge you when necessary?
  4. Does the therapist seem emotionally healthy and seem to feel at ease?  (in other words, does not seem anxious, arrogant or depressed)
  5. Does the therapist accept and encourage the idea that clients are entitled to shop around for a therapist before they commit?
  6. Does the therapist accept the idea that consultation or second opinions may be helpful in the course of therapy?
  7. Does the therapist let you explain your problems without prematurely trying to fit you into a preconceived box?
  8. Does the therapist have more than one clinical orientation and can fit their approach to your specific problems?
  9. Does the therapist present you with clear office policies, including the limits of confidentiality, client’s rights, etc?
  10. Does the therapist seem flexible in many ways but still able to maintain clear boundaries?
  11. Does the therapist communicate well with parents when treating children and adolescents?
  12. Does the therapist seem to be able to balance the need to respect an adolescents privacy while keeping the parents informed?
  13. Is the therapist flexible about who can be a part of therapy? (at times, it is helpful to bring your friend/partner, child or parent with you to therapy)
  14. Does the therapist conduct regular evaluations of progress in therapy, including the discussion of  treatment plans?
  15. Does the therapist listen to your assessment of what is helpful and what is not during the course of therapy?

Remember that therapy, in the hands of a skilled therapist, is a powerful and life changing experience.  It has been shown to be effective for a variety of illnesses and problems.  If you need therapy and work as an active participant in your own treatment, you can expect it will be well worth the time and money you invest.

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What Is CBT?

Author: Stephanie Camins – MA,LPC

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) emphasizes the interaction between thoughts, behaviors and feelings.  Given any event, you can choose to think in positive or negative ways.    A negative, destructive thought about the event will lead to a response which is reactionary, impulsive, and maladaptive.  As a result, negative emotional states such as anger, anxiety, and frustration arise.  When you respond to the same event with positive or neutral thoughts or beliefs, you tend to react in a more proactive, solution focused manner and experience empowering, uplifting feelings.

What is the Goal of CBT?

The goal of CBT is to help develop constructive ways of thinking that will produce healthier behaviors and beliefs. CBT has strong empirical support and is the most widely used evidence-based practice for improving mental health. Studies have documented changes in brain activity, suggesting that this therapy actually improves your brain functioning as well.

CBT is a goal-oriented treatment method. It is "present focused" in its aim to change patterns of thinking (or core beliefs) and the emotions clients feel when being faced with distress or anxiety. CBT suggests that emotions, thoughts, and behaviors all influence one another in powerful ways. It is used to treat patients who have distorted thoughts that are unhelpful and irrational.  These thoughts don’t make sense and there is no evidence that they are true yet they are automatic and feel uncontrollable. Some examples include, “I’m not good enough, I’m unlovable, I have to be perfect, It’s all my fault, I’m a failure, etc.” CBT will help to identify inaccurate or negative thinking so you can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way.

CBT Can be Used to Treat Many Problems Such As: 

  • OCD
  • Bipolar
  • Perfectionism
  • PTSD
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Grief
  • Sleep disorders
  • Phobias
  • Low self-esteem
  • Better manage stressful life situations.

CBT is most often a 16-week treatment plan which can quickly help you identify and cope with specific challenges.  Skills focus on changing 1. thoughts and 2. behaviors.  Once these two things have improved your emotions will shift.

Cognitive techniques:

  • Identify the 10 thought distortions
  • Learn strategies to restructure these distorted thought patterns
  • Replace negative thoughts with more realistic thoughts
  • Quiet your inner critic

Behavioral techniques:

  • Relaxation
  • Mindfulness
  • Journaling
  • Exercise
  • Organization
  • Goal setting
 CBT will help you to manage many distressful life events from managing symptoms of mental illness to coping with stressful life situations.
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What Is Telemental Health?

Author: Stephanie Camins – MA,LPC

Telemental health is simply receiving therapy through electronic means whereby the client and clinician are in two different locations.  Video sessions are accessed through a secure video conferencing platform.   After assessing for a good fit for this form of counseling, I will provide you with log in information to the system.  I use Counsol for video sessions as well as client registration and billing.

What are the Technology Requirements?

To use telemental health for your therapy, you will need a secure setting for the session that will ensure your privacy, and a computer with internet connection.  The system is cloud based with point to point encryption which meets HIPAA criteria for privacy.  Platforms such as Skype and Face Time are not considered secure.

What are the Benefits of Telemental Health?

Telemental health provides easier access to counseling and expertise than traditional in office sessions.  It can save on travel time to and from sessions. You can use your lunch hour for sessions.  In circumstances where scheduling or distance is challenging, telemental health allows access to services that would otherwise be unattainable.

Telemental health provides an avenue for members of a family who are in a different location to participate in sessions.   For example, in the case of co-parenting, one parent may be too far away to make counseling reasonable.  Or one member of a couple may not be able to get across town at the appointment time and can participate through video.

This also gives people access to clinicians outside your geographical area who may have expertise not available in your area.  You are more able to pick a counselor that meets your needs without proximity being an issue.

Research which supports the use of telemedicine:

  • Multiple studies show online counseling as effective as “in-person” counseling
  • Depressed clients tend to stay in counseling longer online than in person
  • A higher percentage of online clients say then would seek counseling again

Who is Telemental Health For?

Telemental health can provide greater access to services in the following situations:

  • Military
  • Individuals who travel for work
  • Students
  • Work from home       
  • Stay at home parents
  • Health issues that keep you from leaving home
  • Rural communities lacking adequate resources
  • Nursing homes
  • Those with disabilities
  • No transportation to get to appointments
  • Fear face to face interaction
  • Prefer technology based interactions
  • Co-parenting when both parents can’t be in the office at the same time
  • Couples or family sessions when members are in different locations
  • Support groups with members in various locations
  • Weather restrictions
  • Convenience
  • Between session coaching and accountability

When is Telemental Health NOT Used :

Clients with severe mental illness that may require emergency services are not appropriate for this form of counseling and need to see a clinician in the office for the safety of the client.

Mental health professionals which are licensed to provide counseling services are only ethically and legally allowed to provide services in the state in which they are licensed. Although there are many advocating for licensing mobility, at this time clinicians are unable to provide services outside of the state they are licensed in.  There are a few exceptions to this, which can be addressed on a case to case basis.

Special considerations for the clinician:

  • Client comfort with technology
  • Explanation of technology used
  • Client Identity verification
  • Backup plans for technology issues
  • Identify location of client during session
  • Establish an emergency response plan and emergency contact person
  • Appropriate level of care for the severity of symptoms
  • Confidentiality in client’s environment ie.  Who might overhear session
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What Is Family Therapy?

Author: Stephanie Camins – MA,LPC
Family Therapy

Family therapy helps families build healthier relationships and cope with many different challenges. Family therapy can address a wide variety of relational and/or mental health needs. This form of therapy supports growth and communication for each individual within the family using a systemic method of treatment. Family therapy is also referred to as systems therapy. Systemic treatment looks at the roles of each family member and the dynamics that play out in the family.  At times these dynamics cause conflict and unhappiness. Family therapy is solution-focused, identifying specific and attainable goals to achieve an optimal outcome.  Issues are addressed within the context of the family system in order to improve the overall functioning of the family. Family therapy incorporates all ages and developmental levels and is tailored to the needs of each family. You will also come to understand your own impact on others and improve your ability to have healthy relationships in all arenas of your life.

What are the Benefits of Family Therapy?

Treatment can help families struggling with such concerns as: mental and emotional disorders, health and behavioral problems, and a wide array of relationship issues. According to the American Association of Family Therapists, “clients report marked improvement in work productivity, co-worker relationships, family relationships, partner relationships, emotional health, overall health, social life, and community involvement”. While learning healthy and productive communication, family therapy also provides a safe space for families to discuss important topics and share individual perspectives.

What Comprises a Family?

 Again, family therapy is also referred to as systems therapy.  It can be used with anyone you have a relationship with or any group with which you engage with.  This can be family and/or friends or even people in the workplace. It is the group of people who have the largest influence on a person’s daily life and decisions that are made. Even if these relationships have been broken by conflict or pulled apart by distance, family therapy can assist in repairing connections.

The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists’ website: http://www.aamft.org/iMIS15/AAMFT/Content/About_AAMFT/About_Marriage_and_Family_Therapists.aspx

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What Is DBT?

Author: Stephanie Camins – MA,LPC

Facts to know about Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

  • Created in the early 1990’s as another version of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Originally created for women to treat symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Can also treat depression and anxiety in adults
  • Useful to treat adults with depression who also suffer from co-morbid personality disorders
  • DBT has proven to have a lower dropout rate than regular psychotherapy
  • Patients treated with DBT have shown signs of reduced depression, anxiety, irritability, anger, and impulsivity, along with a reduction in suicidal actions or ideations and self-harm behaviors (Solar, et al., 2009)
  • Overall life satisfaction can improve if DBT is effectively utilized

Why is DBT so Effective?

Many people with mood disorders or personality disorders can’t regulate their arousal levels. Their nervous systems become over aroused easily and it is very difficult for them to calm down once they are activated.  They experience extreme swings in their emotional states.  DBT uses 4 areas of skill building to regulate thoughts, feelings and actions.

DBT has the same components of cognitive behavioral therapy which help clients identify and correct negative beliefs and assumptions about self and others. Clients work closely with the therapist to solve relationship problems, complete homework, role play better interaction solutions and practice self-soothing techniques. Through this therapy process, individuals learn to identify their strengths and build on them.

Why 4 is a Special Number for DBT

DBT is split up into 4 different types of services: For the more intense needs all four services are recommended in conjunction.  Some facilities offer the full DBT program. For skill building in relationships and mood symptoms, weekly therapy sessions and occasional phone consults are more cost effective and convenient.

  • 1 hour of weekly of individual therapy
  • 2.5 hours of weekly group skills therapy
  • Telephone consultations as needed for additional support outside therapy sessions
  • Therapy consultations for the therapist in order for them to be the best support possible for their clients

The skill building therapy follows 4 modules:

  1. Core mindfulness skills teaches awareness, presence, focus and acceptance
  2. Interpersonal effectiveness - teaches interaction skills with the people around you and in your personal relationships.  These include, assertiveness, problem solving, personal boundaries and conflict resolutions.
  3. Emotion regulation techniques -  involves properly identifying emotional states. If you find yourself over activated, these techniques teach you to lower your arousal.  It is important to identify obstacles you may be experiencing in shifting your emotional states.  These skills help to increase focus on positive events and decrease focus on negative events.
  4. Distress tolerance skills - help to lower impulsive behaviors by increasing the ability to tolerate emotional upheavals.  Four strategies are taught: distracting, self-soothing, improving the moment, and thinking of pros and cons and acceptance skills. (Stepp, Epler, & Seungmin, 2008, p.4)

References:

Solar, J., et al. (2009) Dialectical behavior therapy skills training compared to stand group therapy in borderline personality disorder: A 3-month randomized controlled clinical trial. Behaviour Research and Therapy, (47), 353-358.

Stepp, S.D., Epler, A., Seungmin, J., &Trull, T.J. (2008) The effect of dialectical behavior therapy skills use on personality disorder features. Journal of Personality Disorders, 22 (6), 549-563.

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The Ultimate Guide to New Year's Resolutions

Author: Stephanie Camins – MA,LPC

It’s that time of year again.  Time to reflect on your past year and set your intentions for the upcoming year. As I’ve been having these discussions with clients and friends, I’ve noticed a common theme in conversations. “I can’t wait for this year to be over, I need a fresh start, good riddance 2017”

Leaping 2017 to 2018

Being a therapist as well as a self-proclaimed avid new year’s ‘Resolutioner’, I started thinking about the powerful emotions behind these statements and the influence this negative language has on our thoughts, feelings and actions moving forward into the coming year.  Of course, January 1st is an arbitrary day to set your yearly goals. It could really be any day, but we’ve all become accustomed to the concept of New Year’s Resolutions.  Love them or hate them, they’re everywhere at this time of year:  news shows, Facebook, articles like the one I’m writing now, conversations at Starbucks.  You name it. We are a goal driven society. 

My goal in sharing a Resolution article this year is to change the way you think about a “New Year” and what it represents to you.  I’m going to take you through a series of questions to create a meaningful story of 2017.  We will also evaluate the goals you had or did not have and create a positive and realistic set of personal goals for 2018.

Start button 2018

I want to share with you my own journey this year as a guide post for these questions.  I use this time of year to look back at the resolutions I wrote down for the previous year.  I check off those that I accomplished and I contemplate what barriers I encountered in not attaining the others.  Sometimes the resolution gets carried over and sometimes it is eliminated as it was no longer important or the barriers were not in my control to remove or work around. 

As I contemplate my resolutions and my own year, I referred back to my article “Life Goals 2017”. I described my formula for writing my resolutions which includes four categories that I have used for many years as my guidepost:

  1. Better health goals
  2. Professional goals
  3. Relationship resolutions
  4. Personal financial planning

As I was looking back over the years in my resolution journal, I realized that at the core of what I have achieved is an uncompromising priority to incorporate self-care into every day in some form.  Taking care of myself physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually has helped me continue to stay on track while accomplishing these goals through some tough years. 

rear view mirror 2017 to 2018

Sometimes your goals may take longer.  They may be accomplished through a different path than you originally thought or you may be guided to an altogether different goal that fits better with your current circumstances.  In the end, don’t punish yourself for those goals you have not accomplished, rather, celebrate all that you did accomplish, even in the face of life’s trials, tribulations and tragedies.

I had a very difficult start to 2017 with my youngest daughter becoming critically ill.  We spent many weeks in the ICU and had major surgery.  My resolution list of course was nowhere in my mind during all of this.  I knew after coming out of this crisis, I would probably have to pare down my 2017 goals.  In actuality, I accomplished the majority of what was on my list as well as some that I’d been trying to tackle for years. 

Maintaining a strong self-care toolbox increases your resiliency in difficult times.

When I’m successful with self-care I am able to maintain motivation, increase creativity and improve my relationships.  This, in turn, increases a sense of confidence and empowerment which again adds to positive momentum. 

Whatever it is that leads you to statements such as “Please let this awful year come to an end”, take a moment to reassess what is real and what is exaggerated.  The language we use is powerful.  In the following list of  15 questions, I encourage you to use positive language without the drama, black and white thinking and 'catastrophizing', that we so commonly go to when we are feeling discouraged or down:

  1. What went well in your life last year?
  2. What did you struggle with?
  3. Where did you fall short?
  4. Where did you go over and above?
  5. What circumstances blocked your successes?
  6. What circumstances led to your successes?
  7. Who supported you in achieving your goals?
  8. Who sabotaged your goals?
  9. In what ways did you sabotage yourself?
  10. How can you adjust your goals to give yourself the best chance for success next year?
  11. What are your core values?
  12. Do your goals reflect these core values?
  13. Are they your goals or someone else’s?
  14. What was your biggest surprise this year?
  15. How did you handle it?

Now list your resolutions that were intended for 2017, even if they were only thoughts in your head or general goals:

  • Identify which of these resolutions you accomplished, even if only partially.
  • Identify the goals you didn’t accomplish and why.
Index card 2018 goals

Review all of this information and formulate your 2018 resolutions.  I will continue to use my four categories, but this year I will also highlight the four areas of self-care, physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual, that have given me the strength and fortitude to accomplish as much as I can.  As a reference point, I have provided the top 10 resolutions according to surveys:

  1. Get organized
  2. Help others
  3. Learn something new
  4. Get out of debt
  5. More family time
  6. Enjoy life more
  7. Quit drinking
  8. Quit smoking
  9. Lose weight
  10. Exercise

All of these can be categorized into health goals, professional goals, relationship goals and financial goals; the four categories I use.  Remember goals must be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Start with a broad goal statement, then add your step by step action plan.  Decide how you will hold yourself accountable and what your time frame is for accomplishing your goal. Keep your list where you can refer to it easily. Remember, this is a fluid document, make changes as needed.



*Celebrate each success along the way*

*Treat each year as a blessing*

*Become a seeker of positivity*

Happy 2018

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Boundaries in Relationships

  • Why do People Abuse Relationship Boundaries?
  • Setting Emotional Boundaries in Relationships
  • What Makes a Healthy Relationship?
Stephanie Camins
MA,LPC
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How to Build A Support System?

Author: Stephanie Camins – MA,LPC

Isolation is a major cause of depression in adults. As we move into adult responsibilities: work, parenting, marriages, we tend to let our relationships fade into the background. You may not be exposed to groups of people in your daily life like when you were younger. Many of us have jobs that are isolating.

The trend to work remotely has increased our isolation. In the ever increasing tasks of “adulting,” self-care often takes a back seat. Self-care includes Physical, Psychological, Emotional, Spiritual, Personal and Professional tasks. A healthy support system plays a role in all of these categories of self-care.

A support system is made up of individual people who provide support, respect, and care.

These are people who are in your corner. They do not judge you or ridicule you. They provide feedback that is genuine and in your best interest. Their support is not self-serving. They have a positive impact on your personal goals. These people may be close friends, relatives, or simply acquaintances. You may talk to them frequently or just occasionally.

Sometimes your support system includes people in your community.  Any interaction that is friendly and positive leaves you feeling happier. Frequent enough contact with that clerk, barista, or gym mate, is the foundation of building a network.  Any social connection can have a positive influence on your life. Being connected with others is vitally important to your happiness, self-esteem and ability to cope in difficult times. It also has a positive impact on self-acceptance and emotional health.

Most of us recognize the importance of this but it can be hard to build a network of supportive people, and stay connected to the support system we already have. Life is busy. It’s easy to find reasons why NOT to get together or call or email or even text. The excuse list is long:

  • I don’t have time.
  • I don’t know what to say.
  • ​It’s been so long since I’ve talked to them.
  • ​It will be awkward.
  • ​They’re probably too busy.
  • I don’t want to intrude on their life.

We all need people. I’m often asked how to overcome this list and build a support network?

Let's start by make a list of who is already in your corner.

Who do you already have in your life? Make a list of ALL the people you currently interact with. This should include family, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances. Think of your home, your work, your community, your church, your gym, your children’s school, your local Starbucks, any activity you do in your life that you are around people. You can also include professionals such as counselors, teachers, mentors, and clergy.

Go through this list and put a star next to each person who is supportive. Write next to their name what makes them supportive. Answer the following questions.

  • Do I feel respected by this person?
  • ​Do I trust this person?
  • ​Does this person bring out my best qualities?
  • ​Does this person allow me to feel good about myself?
  • ​Do I leave interactions feeling positive?

Make a point to contact these people and ask how they are doing.

How do I Build my Network?

You may find that your list is much smaller than you’d like. If this is the case, what is standing in the way of you building a support network? You may decide that seeing a counselor or talking with another professional advisor such as clergy or personal coach can help you develop your capacity to connect with others in a safe and supportive environment.

You might need help to identify the roadblocks you have created that keep you from connecting in meaningful ways with other people. A few examples of roadblocks include, low self-esteem, lack of confidence, depression, misguided life priorities, disorganization in your life, or difficulty asking for and accepting help from others.

Support systems are only effective if you use them.

Let’s work through the following roadblock example, "I dont like to rely on others." It’s hard for many of us to ask for help. Consider the following questions if this is an obstacle for you in using your support system.

  • When do I ask for help?
  • In what situations have I asked for help in the past?
  • ​When I ask for help, what am I feeling?
  • ​What do I think will happen?
  • Do I have negative or positive expectations?

Identify one situation you are dealing with in your life right now that you are overwhelmed with. Look through the list of supporters you made in this exercise, pick one person you can ask for assistance…and ASK.

Your support system should be just that, supportive. If you find that certain people tend to take much more than they give, if you feel drained after each interaction, this isn’t considered supportive. In relationships there is an ebb and flow to support. Each person takes turns being the supporter as life happens.

However, if this support isn’t balanced it may be time to set healthy boundaries for yourself -See my article: Setting Emotional Boundaries in Relationships

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I've created a helpful e-book:

Boundaries in Relationships

  • Why do People Abuse Relationship Boundaries?
  • Setting Emotional Boundaries in Relationships
  • What Makes a Healthy Relationship?
Stephanie Camins
MA,LPC

What Is Resiliency?

A 12 Step Plan to Increase your Own Resilience When Life becomes Overwhelming

Author: Stephanie Camins – MA,LPC

Resilience is referred to often in emotional wellness circles but typically without adequately describing the importance of having or attaining this quality. Any challenging life circumstance that creates a flood of emotion and a perceived loss of control can challenge our ability to cope. Resilience is the human ability to rebuild or come back from difficult situations.

reslience 1

We all cope in some way to extraordinary life events. The positive psychology movement has long focused on the skills people use to navigate major life events. Sometimes negative events such as loss and sometimes positive events such as marriage or a promotion can challenge our ability to cope.

What’s the point of this movement? Why is this important?

The answer lies in the extraordinary number of people who cope in self-destructive ways, ruining relationships and sabotaging anything good in their lives.

Resilience theory states that we all have the ability to cultivate these positive characteristics and traits. Building resilience is a skill set involving thoughts, behaviors and actions which can be learned. It is an important component of PTSD Recovery, as well as, recovering from depression and anxiety. With these skills in place you not only manage the distress caused by PTSD or other major life events, but also inoculate yourself from the adverse effects of negative life events in the future.

Resilient People Display the Ability to:

resilience 2
  • set and move toward realistic goals
  • ​have an ability to look long term
  • accept change as part of life
  • ​engage in active decision making
  • ​engage in self-discovery
  • ​communicate and problem solve
  • actively learn new things
  • ​have an optimistic outlook
  • ​have a realistic perspective of themselves and the world around them
  • ​accept and manage the presence of strong feelings
  • be flexible
  • ​have a positive view of self
  • ​actively engage in self-care
  • build connections with others

As you begin your journey down this road to resilience, focus on your own strengths. Remember what has worked well for you in the past. Who did you reach out to? What activities did you incorporate to reduce stress and anxiety? How have you overcome obstacles in the past? What gave you hope and purpose? Use the list below to develop and execute your own personal plan. The Road Map to Resilience is a task list to increase resiliency. Take your time focusing on each step. It will be helpful as you move through this process to create a journal to keep track of your emotions, thoughts and the actions you take.

Road Map to Resilience – A 12 Step Plan

reslilience 3
  1. Develop Caring and supportive relationships that are filled with love, trust, encouragement and reassurance.
  2. Manage your feelings You will feel strong emotions. Give yourself space to feel them. You can regulate emotions by focusing on positive emotions, such as, hope, courage, and happiness and decreasing the focus on negative emotions, such as anxiety, depression, frustration, anger, and resentment. To decrease these uncomfortable emotions, it’s important to remember to give yourself permission to feel these feelings, get support when needed and then shift your focus. Denying feelings only intensifies your reaction. Feel and release is a good rule of thumb here.
  3. Build on your strengths Remember to celebrate small achievements.
  4. Have positive expectations and expect things to turn out for the best. Visualize what you want rather than focusing on a negative outlook. Reframe negatives to positives, look for the silver lining in situations, others and yourself. Difficult life events happen. What lessons can you learn from adversity? How can you help others in a similar circumstance?
  5. Practice positive self-talk rather than engaging in self-sabotaging thoughts.
  6. Engage in activities which increase self-confidence including hobbies, personal development and work projects. Do what you love, what you’re good at and take action daily.
  7. ​Increase positive physical behaviors such as exercise, healthy eating, and good sleep habits. Develop regular routines.
  8. Create meaning and purpose
  9. Set SMART goals to increase and enhance your sense of self-control, mastery and competence, break tasks down to achievable parts, prepare and plan for setbacks, commit to hard work. Identify one thing you can accomplish today in the direction of your goal.
  10. Be flexible Create a list of alternative thoughts, feelings and actions by looking at things from different or opposing perspectives. You may need to shift your goals or direction in your life as a result of events that arise in life. Focus on the road in front of you, and adapt.
  11. Create a social support system Seek and accept help, access community resources, volunteer in your community, work toward positive communication and problem solving with those around you, actively engage in a social network, share your feelings with someone you trust.
  12. Forgive others and yourself

Following this road map, you will be able to identify not only your own personal map but also what your roadblocks are. This process involves deep emotional work and may require the assistance of a professional counselor. Life is a journey! Embrace your strengths!

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Can PTSD Be Cured?

Author: Stephanie Camins – MA,LPC
PTSD Cure

Chronic PTSD results from prolonged exposure to traumatic events and an inability to manage the symptoms of PTSD. PTSD does not get better with time alone and medication has shown limited positive impact on resolving trauma.

  • A traumatic event is unchangeable.
  • The event can be large or small.
  • ​It can be one incident or many incidents.
  • ​It can happen at any point in your life.
  • It can happen to you or a loved one.
  • ​Trauma forms an imprint on the brain.
  • You can’t change the trauma but you can change the impact of trauma in your life.

So what does all this mean to you? Is there hope for a “normal” life and healthy relationships? The answer is a resounding YES.

Living with PTSD involves managing a number of symptoms including, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts and memories, nightmares, irrational thought processes, hyper-reactivity, hyper-vigilance, and avoidance of any triggers such as persons, places, or things. Further information is available in the article PTSD Criteria.

Although the trauma has happened in the past, the disruptive physical, emotional and cognitive consequences are happening in the present. You may find yourself experiencing a fear of your own feelings due to an inability to regulate emotions. This side effect of trauma leads to either shutting your feelings down and becoming numb in the face of strong emotions or becoming hyper-aroused and physically overwhelmed by them. The expression of complex PTSD symptoms becomes automatic and can include intense emotional reactions, numbness, and distorted belief systems. The goal in trauma treatment is to regain a balance between your rational brain (the pre-frontal cortex) and your emotional brain (the amygdala).

Why Does Trauma Cause so Much Disruption in Our Lives?

Can ptsd be Cured?

When you cross your threshold for emotional tolerance, the frontal cortex “shuts down” and the amygdala “takes over”. The frontal cortex acts as your brains CEO. It is in charge of managing your thinking, memory, concentration, planning, execution, all those functions we identify as “human”. Trauma hijacks your frontal cortex by over-activating your emotional center, the amygdala. When this happens you have difficulty with memory, verbal communication, problem solving, concentration, attention, reasoning, planning, goal achievement, amongst many other functions. This affects our lives tremendously at work, in relationships and in our personal development. It can have a global effect on our ability to stay present and function in our lives.

All this said, we have a number of very effective strategies to manage and resolve the symptoms of PTSD. The tasks for recovery are aimed at reducing the over-activity of the emotional, fight or flight center of the brain and allowing the thinking center or CEO to come back online.

To manage your PTSD symptoms, you must learn to employ coping skills such as mindfulness, emotional regulation, stress management, grounding skills, self-care, social scaffolding, and body awareness.  This will result in being able to remain calm, focused and grounded consistently, engage in the present, and establish strong connections with people in your life.

What is Emotional Regulation?

Emotional regulation activities such as mindfulness techniques help you come back to the present when your brain shuts down. These coping skills increase your ability to self-soothe and regulate emotions. Mindfulness exercises focus on the here and now in the present moment, encouraging awareness and acceptance of the present reality. It serves to deactivate the amygdala, the “fight of flight” center of the brain by increasing our ability to regulate emotions. Mentally rehearsing self- soothing activities allows our brains to form new neural pathways allowing the prefrontal cortex to “come back online”. Practicing mindfulness calms the sympathetic nervous system and decreases the activity of the amygdala. Remember, the prefrontal cortex acts as our CEO and is in charge of problem solving, planning, attention, emotional regulation, and reasoning. Rehearsing positive coping techniques regularly, increases your ability to experience feelings without becoming overwhelmed or shutting down. This ensures that you can be in charge of your body and mind again.

PTSD and Relationships

PTSD Cured?

Unresolved trauma impedes your ability to fully open yourself emotionally to another. Intimate relationships are intense emotional experiences. They are supposed to be! Loving another person increases your vulnerability. It can be hard for a person experiencing symptoms of PTSD to regulate the intense emotional responses they have to another. Emotional regulation is greatly affected by PTSD. It is important to involve significant others as allies to your healing. Family members and friends can be great co-facilitators to healing. They can support your courage, provide physical and emotional safety, practice coping skills with you, and encourage you to focus on self-care during this process.

Trauma Counseling

Body centered treatments such as EMDR, yoga therapy, sensorimotor psychotherapy, are widely used by mental health professionals in the treatment of trauma. Other strategies such as mindfulness training, stress inoculation training, cognitive behavioral therapy, and narrative therapies have also shown significant positive results in managing the symptoms of PTSD. Enter your email and receive access to a workshop, “Change your Story, Change Your Life”, which will walk you through an important strategy to overcome your trauma and reestablish a sense of purpose. Also refer to the article, “What is Resilience?” and learn more about resilience factors that we can build to improve our responses to stressful life events.

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Resolutions or Life Goals 2017?

Author: Stephanie Camins – MA,LPC

2016 is now in the history books and 2017 in well under way! - It's a great time to reflect on what we have accomplished in the last year and what we want to achieve in the coming year. I know many people are put off by the idea of New Year’s resolutions. The notion that you will “resolve” to make some giant life change, a change you’ve resolved to make for years, can seem like a set up for failure. Countless times I’ve heard from the very people who come to me for help getting their lives back on track, “I don’t believe in making New Year’s resolutions.” To this I reply, how do you propose to get your life back on track without setting goals. The New Year is a perfect time to reflect on self-development and create an effective plan for achievement in the next year.

Time to Plan Your Personal Goals

As those around me know, I’m an avid “New Year’s Resolutioner”. I’ve been writing and tracking my resolutions since 2009. I have 8 years of resolutions I keep in my daily planner. They are a reminder of where I was, where I am now and where I’d like to go next. I use this annual exercise to plan my personal goals for the coming year. I write them down and sometimes share them with others. This helps hold me personally accountable for my own achievements. When writing these resolutions or goals it’s important to keep in mind goal setting activities, and use a goal planner to guide you toward higher achievement over the coming year.

Common resolutions include wellness, emotional health, personal financial planning, weight loss motivation, exercise motivation, better health, self-acceptance, achieve fitness, have a positive attitude, or simply improve yourself. Good New Year’s resolutions are simple and measurable. The main reason goals fail is that they are ill defined, too vague, and have no way to measure success. The best New Year’s resolutions or life goals for 2017 as we will call them are clearly defined, broken down into achievable tasks, and have a measured outcome for success.

You will find all sorts of articles and strategies on making effective New Year’s resolutions this month. This has worked best for me and I encourage you to follow my simple system to define and measure your progress toward achieving your goals this year. I divide my goals into four categories:

  • Better health
  • Work goals
  • Relationship resolutions
  • Personal financial planning

I’ve always used these same four categories as they seem to cover all the growth areas I like to focus on. For each category, I write simple, measurable activities I can achieve and check off throughout the year. Small actionable items are achievable steps to a larger goal. Experiencing the success of accomplishing these tasks increases your energy and motivation to work toward your bigger goal. For example, under better health you may want to include a wellness plan. To make this specific you will elaborate tasks to accomplish wellness such as exercise 3 times per week, participate in four races this year, or follow clean eating recipes 4 times per week. For relationship resolutions you may include, game night once a week with the family, Sunday dinner and movie, or meeting a friend for coffee once a month. The key here is a small task that can be accomplished in short time frames with a defined frequency. Use this recipe for each category.

How to Get Motivated?

A challenge in achieving New Year’s resolutions is maintaining motivation over the span of a year. Once you’ve established clearly defined, measurable, actionable goals the question becomes, how to motivate yourself for the long haul. Plan for periods of no motivation. Experiencing episodic lack of motivation is to be expected. With well-defined goals, both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is inherent. As you achieve each small success, you will increase your own self-empowerment and you will begin to get positive feedback from those around you who will notice the changes you are accomplishing. Happy New Year! and Happy New You!

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PTSD Criteria

Author: Stephanie Camins – MA,LPC

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, occurs in approximately 8.7% of the population over their lifetimes according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5. PTSD can have social, occupational, interpersonal, developmental, physical and economic consequences. It is more prevalent among females due to the increased risk females have to exposure of traumatic events. It is estimated that 68 million women will be victimized in their lifetimes according to research presented in Meichenbaum’s PTSD: Ways to Bolster Resilience.

PTSD criteria

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a set of symptoms arising from exposure to a traumatic or stressful event. The distress that follows this exposure varies from individual to individual. You can develop PTSD from emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, violence or exposure to violence, assault, war, natural disasters, and accidents among other life threatening or perceived life threatening events. Symptoms usually start in the first few months after the traumatic incident but onset can be longer.

Complex PTSD

Complex PTSD symptoms are generally recurrent, involuntary and intrusive. PTSD flashbacks can be experienced as temporarily losing touch with your present surroundings when triggered by some reminder of the traumatic event. You may experience distressing dreams that replay the event. Also, intense physiological responses or hyper-vigilance occur when experiencing any sensory trigger related to the event.

What is PTSD?

Chronic PTSD

Chronic PTSD also includes the persistent avoidance of similar memories, thoughts or reminders associated with the event, as well as a disruption in memory around the trauma. An increase in negative thoughts about yourself or others, or a persistent negative emotional state begins after exposure to trauma. Negative emotional states include anxiety, guilt, anger, shame and grief. For some survivors, changes in reactivity can begin after the event such as angry outbursts, reckless behavior or problems with concentration and sleep. Chronic PTSD or exposure to traumatic events significantly decreases a person’s ability to regulate emotional states and maintain stable interpersonal relationships.

Living with PTSD

Living with PTSD can feel uncertain and out of control at times. Sensory, emotional, physiological and cognitive aspects of your being are affected. Flashbacks can be very brief or last days. The trigger can be known or of unknown origin. Victims of trauma often blame themselves or others for the event and begin to have persistent negative thoughts and feelings. Symptoms can increase unexpectedly when exposed to reminders of trauma.

Trauma therapy with a qualified psychotherapist will help you to understand how trauma is affecting your day to day life, and move you toward PTSD recovery. For more information on trauma counseling and coping with PTSD, join my newsletter to be notified when the next article, Can PTSD Be Cured? is published.

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