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ZONES offered by Road to Growth Counseling
Call 303-380-5526 to Register for the next session

Based on The ZONES of Regulation®: A Curriculum Designed to Foster Self-Regulation and Emotional Control

Written and Created by                   Leah M. Kuypers, MA Ed. OTR/L

The Zones psycho-educational group is taught by Kayla Currier and Stephanie Camins.  Children ages 6-11 participate in a 6 week group session. Currently, the group is run several times a year on Wednesday evenings from 6:30-7:30pm. 

This is a highly effective curriculum, teaching children to incorporate sensory, social learning, executive functioning and emotional regulation needs to develop social, emotional and sensory regulation. “Self-regulation can go by many names, such as self-control, self-management, and impulse control. It is defined as the best state of alertness of both the body and emotions for the specific situation.” Problem behaviors such as being too silly, too distractible, shutting down, or exploding get in the way of learning, making friends, and expressing confidence. Children WANT to make better choices but don’t always know how. 

This program uses a cognitive behavioral approach, which includes cognitive restructuring, relaxation and calming skills, pro-social interaction skills, and behavioral reinforcement.  The Zones program teaches children to recognize their states of alertness and emotions using 4 colored zones. Calming and alerting tools are taught to help them move effectively between zones. Children are encouraged to evaluate the “size” of problems and make adjustments to solve problems.  

Goals include:

  • Learn to manage sensory input from the environment
  • Develop emotional self-understanding and emotional self-regulation
  • Improve executive functioning and cognitive control of behaviors
  • Encourage social perspective taking
  • Increase self-awareness – reflect on their own behavior and look at the perspectives of others

By the completion of this program, children increase their ability to attend to more than one activity at a time, also known as, attention shifting.  They are encouraged to consider multiple options aiding their ability to think flexibly. Planning and organizing actions, impulse control and emotional regulation tools are taught to achieve these skills.

Call today to reserve your spot in the next session.  Spaces are limited to ensure your child receives highly individualized learning. The cost is $300 per session and includes 6 weeks of small group instruction, parent worksheets and take home assignments and the support and knowledge of 2 professionals in the fields of education and psychology.


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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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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 a Panic Attack?

Author: Stephanie Camins - MA, LPC

“I’m going to die.”what is a panic attack definition

“I’m going insane.”

“I’m losing control.”

“I won’t be able to get out of here.”

“People will think I’m crazy.”

Over 4 million people in the U.S. experience these thoughts accompanied by a litany of physical symptoms. A panic attack is a sudden, unexpected surge in adrenaline which occurs in the absence of any apparent danger. Our built in fight or flight response is activated for no obvious reason. People who tend to have panic attacks are typically hypersensitive to physical fluctuations in their body. How you perceive these physical symptoms determines your level of anxiety. If you assign catastrophic thoughts like those listed above, you are much more likely to trigger the fight or flight adrenaline release.

what is a panic attack brain

Common Physical Symptoms of a Panic Attack:

  • Rapid or heavy heartbeat
  • Shakiness
  • Tightness in chest
  • Feeling faint
  • Blurred vision
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Fluttery or sinking feeling in your stomach

What Causes a panic attack?

What causes a panic attack? Looking at these physical symptoms, it’s understandable that you may associate catastrophic thoughts to what is happening. It is this intense fear which drives the anxiety scale over the panic threshold. Your first thought may not be, is this a panic attack or a heart attack? You may simply focus on the body sensation of panic attack chest pain and assume heart attack. Many people end up in the emergency room during an initial panic attack, convinced something terrible happening to them. You know you are in no apparent external danger therefore something must be internally wrong. When we turn these catastrophic thoughts inwards it’s like fanning a flame. Each catastrophic thought adds more fuel which increases adrenaline which increases physical symptoms which increases catastrophic thoughts and now you are in a full blown panic attack.

Recognizing the signs of a panic attack at the first stages is crucial. Keeping a panic attack log will help you identify what leads up to a full blown attack. A tool box of coping strategies is also important to stop a panic attack at any level of the anxiety scale from 0 (calm) to 10 (major panic attack). More information on how to overcome panic attacks and how to prevent panic attacks is provided in the article “How to Control Panic Attacks.”

Symptoms of a Panic Attack

Author: Stephanie Camins - MA, LPC

Symptoms of a Panic attack

Panic attacks affect over 5% of the population.  They are extremely frightening and uncomfortable. The symptoms of a panic attack can be intense and unexplainable, occurring at a moment’s notice without any apparent trigger.  Our natural fight or flight response has been tripped unnecessarily causing intense physical symptoms and accompanying catastrophic thoughts.

Panic Attack Symptoms

The following is a list of physical symptoms which can occur during a panic attack:

  1. Rapid heartbeat
  2. Sweatiness
  3. Shortness of breath
  4. Shaky all over
  5. Hyperventilation
  6. Tightness in chest
  7. Dizzy of lightheaded
  8. Blurred vision
  9. Fluttering or sinking feeling in the stomach
  10. Unable to think straight
  11. Feeling of floating away or becoming detached

These symptoms occur in absence of any danger.  You can have panic attacks while sleeping causing you to wake up in a state of intense distress.   Panic attacks at night and panic attacks while driving are not uncommon, you can be anywhere when they occur. Because these body sensations happen in absence of any apparent danger you attribute them to some unknown internal cause which creates the second set of symptoms – catastrophic thoughts.  “I’m going to die. I’m going insane. I’m losing control.  People will think I’m crazy.  Something terrible will happen.”

Signs of a panic attack happen in a progression that begins with an initiating circumstance which is often unknown to you.  Your body then experiences a slight increase in one or more of the physical symptoms listed above.  Next, you begin to focus intensely on this symptom.  This is the preliminary point at which a panic attack begins. Interpreting the physical symptom in a fearful or catastrophic way will trigger a physiological response known as “fight of flight” and now you are experiencing moderate panic.  If you continue in this vicious cycle, focusing on the physical symptom and assigning corresponding catastrophic thoughts you have a full scale level 10 panic attack.

When panic attacks, implementing coping strategies can reduce the duration and intensity of the attack.  With regular practice in using tools to manage the symptoms of severe anxiety you will successfully learn how to overcome panic attacks.  For further information on coping strategies read the  related articles:  “How to Control Panic Attacks” and “How to Control Anxiety – A Tool Box For Managing Stress.

How to Control Panic Attacks

Author: Stephanie Camins - MA, LPC

When panic attacks, it takes coHow to control panic attacksntrol of your body and mind. Signs of a panic attack include rapid heartbeat, hyperventilation, sweaty palms, dizziness, tightness in the chest, and a sinking feeling in your stomach accompanied with thoughts such as, “I’m going to die, I’m losing it, I’m going to pass out, I won’t be able to breathe.” Panic attacks can come from out of nowhere or may progress in phases from mild symptoms to moderate to full blown. A psychotherapist as part of anxiety counseling will measure panic on an anxiety scale with zero (0) being calm and up to ten (10) being a major panic attack. Keeping a record of your panic attacks will help you identify your own initial warning signs as you begin the learning process of how to control panic attacks. Continue Reading

How to Control Anxiety - 10 Tools for Managing Stress

Author: Stephanie Camins - MA, LPC

How many times have you heard the phrases chill out, find your happy place, let it go, it could be worse, or seen workshops for stress management or anger management. We are flooded with information on how we should manage our feelings of stress, anxiety, panic, fear, depression and anger. All of these messages can be overwhelming and confusing. This tool box for managing stress gives you 10 straight forward steps to resolve these difficult feelings, overcome anxiety and increase satisfaction in your life.how to control anxiety

Use Your Mind to change your negative thinking

 1.  Stop focusing on negatives and start focusing on positives.

2.  Thought Stopping – To disrupt the chain of negative thoughts in your mind use a distraction, say out loud “stop” or say “stop” and snap a rubber band on your wrist.

3.  Use positive self- statements to replace the negatives:

-“I do the best I can.”

-“I am satisfied with who I am.”

-“I’m in control of my life.”

Use your body to reduce physical agitation

4.  Deep Breathing

-“Belly Breathing”- lay on your back putting one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Take a deep breath in until the hand on your belly rises. You may need to practice moving the air past your chest all the way to your diaphragm. If only the hand over your chest rises you are not breathing deeply enough.

-“7-2-7 Breathing” – Inhale for 7 seconds, hold your breath for 2 seconds, exhale for 7 seconds.

5.  Visualization – Close your eyes and imagine a place that you are safe, calm and content. Include all five senses in your visualization. What do you see, smell, hear, feel and taste.

6.  Progressive Muscle Relaxation – As you are lying down, focus on each muscle group starting at your feet and moving progressively up to your face. Tense and relax each muscle group for 7 seconds. Hold the tension for 7 seconds then relax the muscle group for 7 seconds. Move up to the next muscle group and the next until you’ve completed each muscle group.

7.  Focal Meditation – Choose an object such as a lit candle, a tree, or a stream. It helps if the object has some inherent movement. Set a timer and focus on the movement of the object for 5 minutes. Let any thoughts that enter your mind pass through as you focus only on the movement of the object.

8.  Physical Activity – Walk, Stretch, Dance, etc.

9.  Biofeedback  – Using a heart rate monitor such a fit bit, vivo, etc., in times of stress when you notice your heart rate is elevated above what is normal for you; take deep breaths until the number reaches your normal

10.  Schedule Downtime – Allow no less than 15 minutes in your schedule every day for relaxation. That can include reading, soaking in the tub, drawing, sitting in the sunshine. NO screen time.

We all agree that stress, anxiety, depression and anger are a part of life. However, if ongoing, these emotional states have a detrimental impact on our emotional and physical health. It takes a commitment of time and effort to learn and incorporate these coping skills into our daily lives to head off the consequences of lingering and long term negative emotions. Practicing these skills daily will improve your mood, your relationships and your overall health.

10 Days To Reduce Stress and Increase Happiness

Author: Stephanie Camins - MA, LPC

People ask me all the time, what is the #1 problem I see in my counseling practice. I would extend this answer to, not only my clients, but my friends, my family and even myself. Hands down, the answer is STRESS!  As a culture, we are overwhelmed and over- stressed. The causes are many, but the foundation is the same; too much to do and not enough time to do it. Sounding familiar?  I’d like to introduce you to 10 easy steps to reduce your stress and live a happier life.

We live in a fast paced, achievement focused society. Our worth is determined by how much we achieve and how fast we accomplish these achievements.  When we get there, we are expected to go even further and in fact questioned as to why we aren’t already there. Then, when we are nearing the end of our proverbial rope, some well-meaning person, be it our friends, family, coworkers, boss or even stranger tells us to chill out, relax, enjoy life, find your happy place… (Insert ensuing explosion here!)

The expectations we put on ourselves or that others put on us snuff out any time or energy we have for this elusive “happy place”.  We stress out about money, health, kids, parents, spouses, work, bosses, coworkers, the endless to-do list. Some of these things are real and some are irrational.  This is when it’s essential to shift your focus from stress overload to a calmer state of mind.  I’m going to show you how to put the brakes on anxious, negative thinking and switch gears.

STOP Technique
Let’s start with the simple STOP technique.  STOP stands for Start To Observe Positives.  First,  you need to literally, STOP.  When a negative thought pops into your mind, say out loud, STOP.  Picture in your head the red octagon shape with the white letters you learned to read when you were a toddler.

STOPUse this as your visual cue to STOP thinking negatively. 

The next step is Start To Observe Positives. Look at each situation and find something positive. It can be a lesson you learned, a comical observation, a new way of understanding another person, or even the all-powerful, ”well, I’ll never have to do that again”. Learning to consciously shift your thinking from negative to positive is a huge step. You’ve been thinking a certain way for many years. Be consistent with this new way of thinking. Think of it like learning a new language. Just as it takes consistent repetition and practice over time to perfect a new language, this will also require practice!

Here are 10 simple, easy steps to reinforce positive thinking.  Break this down into one a day for ten days:
 
Day 1.   Take deep breaths – set an hourly alarm on your phone and take ten deep breaths each time it goes off
Day 2.   Say please and thank you (to as many people as you can)
Day 3.   Smile (A LOT and to as many people as you can)
Day 4.   Tell 2 people something you appreciate about them
Day 5.   Write 5 positive intentions for your day on a sticky note and carry it in your pocket
Day 6.   Visualize yourself accomplishing a goal
Day 7.   Get physical (walk, bike, jog, stretch, skip)
Day 8.   Set up a “coffee date” with someone (increase your social time)
Day 9.   Take 15 minutes for yourself (read, walk, meditate, take a bath, have a cup of tea, listen to music…)
Day 10. Write 5 positive things that happened today

Once you’ve reached your 10 day mark, congratulate yourself on a job well done!  Evaluate which of these tasks were easy and which were more difficult.  Each of these tasks plays an independent and integral role in your road to greater happiness. These 10 steps,  done in combination, and repeated over time, will change your life!