Archive of ‘Healthy Habits’ category

The Benefits of Committing to a Long-Term Relationship with a Therapist

Therapy. Sometimes we get the idea to enter therapy when life is going smooth, but we’d like to tend to our self-growth anyway. More often we get the idea to enter therapy when something traumatic has occurred in our lives or we’ve tried everything else we could think of first (aka we’re desperate).

We want something to change, and we want it to change fast because we’re tired of feeling this way.

We may still be hesitant to hand over our time and money to a therapist, but we bargain with ourselves. “I can commit to this for a few months.” And we do. And things may start to feel a little better. The storm settles. We’ve had some time to process. Things might even feel somewhat normal again.

We did what we said we would do. We stuck it out for a few months.

And all the thoughts start swirling in our heads about why it might be a good time to say goodbye:

We’re feeling better.

Money’s a little tight.

It’s not always fun to show up and be vulnerable.

Do we really need this? Or is it an unnecessary luxury? There are so many other responsibilities to manage.

I say this all from firsthand experience. These were the thoughts I bumped into after seeing my therapist for a few months (yes, therapists see therapists too).

Afterall, they’re valid and convincing thoughts.

And yet, I decided to stick with my therapist anyway. Something told me these reasons to leave were emerging as a convenient way to avoid digging deeper.

Now, six months later, I realize I was on the verge of doing some real work with my therapist. Work that has already and will continue to shift my life in some powerful ways. 

It’s not always comfortable, but I’m glad I’ve stayed.

Here are some reasons I’ve come to believe in the value of committing to a long-term relationship with a therapist:

1. Trust and safety take time

In therapy, the relationship is key. The amount of trust and safety you feel with your therapist determines how authentically and vulnerably you’re able to show up. And trust and safety take time. Think about the people you’re truly yourself with. How long have you known them? I once had a mother of a client I see reach out to me concerned. Her son told her he wasn’t being completely honest with me. I had seen him for five sessions. I told her I probably wouldn’t be honest with me either at this point. Trust in a relationship takes time.

2. Deep-seated patterns don’t change overnight

Oftentimes, when we begin therapy, we become aware of patterns that have been part of our lives for years, maybe even decades. And even if they’re not healthy patterns, they’ve become part of how we operate and even part of our identities. There can be a lot of delicate untangling to do. And after we untangle, we have to learn new ways of being and operating. These kinds of shifts understandably take time.

3. Therapy is continuously empowering

Even if you’re not facing something acutely stressful in your life, there is a lot of beneficial work that can be done in therapy. For fifty minutes, you are turning inward, slowing down, practicing being with yourself and your emotions, expanding your capacity for feeling, and taking responsibility for the state of your life. All of this creates a more mindful approach to living that then ripples out and affects the rest of your week. The decisions you make. The behaviors you choose. You begin to have more say in your life. Even if you’re not in crisis, it is always empowering to slow down and become more aware of how you’re feeling, what you’re needing, and what you’re choosing. 

4. Your mental health matters

In a world where self-care usually falls to the bottom of the barrel in comparison to work and responsibilities, carving out an hour each week in which you choose your mental health is a gift you give yourself that fosters a kinder, gentler relationship with yourself where your feelings matter.

5. You learn how to be with your emotions

Everywhere else in our lives, the people who care about us want to offer solutions. When we tell them what we’re going through, they instinctively want to fix it. Quickly. As a result, we are constantly taken away from simply experiencing our emotions. Therapy may be the only place in your life where you can truly be with your experience. Not only is this healing, but it deepens your ability to be with your feelings. When we don’t know how to be with our feelings, we run away and distract ourselves. We blame others. We act out. As we learn how to be with our feelings in therapy, our worlds start to feel safer. We learn how to allow. We take more deep breaths. We react less and thoughtfully respond more. 

6. You learn how to be honest and how liberating it is

To have a place where you can just. be. yourself. Most of the time, we have to consider the feelings of others. We modify or perform in some manner. In therapy, where it just gets to be about you, not the expectations of others, you begin to speak truth in a way you may never have before. As a result, your life starts to feel more honest.

7. Life is constantly offering us opportunities for growth

Short-term therapy is based on the idea that there’s a problem to be fixed. Fix the problem and you’re good to go. But the thing is, that’s not how life works. Life is a continuous process of growth and change. Once we reach the top of one mountain, another appears. Long-term therapy acknowledges this. It acknowledges that to be human, with all of our unique emotions and fears, challenges us in an ongoing manner. It acknowledges that the whole reason we’re here is to keep stepping into growth and to keep doing the work so our lives continue to feel alive and rewarding. Long-term therapy acknowledges that change is constant and so support should be constant too.

Long-term therapy provides a safe and empowering shelter where you continue to grow, heal, and nurture the relationship you have with yourself and life. A therapist is a wonderful resource to support you on your journey. 

Written By: Jamie Alger, LPC-Associate Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S


Child & Adolescent Nutrition 101

Early childhood and adolescent nutrition is a lost educational opportunity in many sectors. There are a few ways to approach the introduction of foods to a child at an early age for them to develop a healthy relationship with food from birth. Here are a few of my tips I give to parents and adolescents to help them shape a healthy relationship with foods and their bodies.

Remember to include a variety of foods on the plate.

Whether color, textures, flavors, or nutritional components (carbohydrates, proteins, fats, additional micronutrient rich foods like fruits/vegetables).

Remember to not ‘force’ your child to eat just because it’s a designated ‘meal’ time.

Provide them with a variety of foods on a plate and trust and nurture the idea that when your child is hungry they will get to the food that has been prepared and plated for them.

Allow your child to have at least 10 exposures to a food before deciding that they don’t ‘like’ it.

Research from the American Journal of clinical nutrition shows increased acceptability of foods after 8-10 of repetitive exposure. Just because your child doesn’t like a food the first time they try it, doesn’t mean they actually don’t like it, it may be that they have never experienced that flavor, texture, smell, etc, and will develop tolerance to it over time.

Mirror a healthy relationship with food yourself (inclusion of all foods).

Children heavily rely on learning cues from adults and older siblings, so your relationship with foods and the terminology you use around foods (good v bad foods) molds your child’s view of food too.

Secondary to childhood, adolescence is a time in which a child’s relationship to food and their bodies’ can be highly sensitive. And the education surrounding adolescent nutrition is heavily laced with dieting messages, which promote the development of disorder eating, eating disorders, low self-esteem, low self-worth, etc. Society relies heavily on media (social, TV, ads, magazines, etc.) to give our kids the information that they need in regards to caring for themselves well and making sure they know why food is important. Hard facts are that they get incredibly misinformative information that is entrenched  in what we know as DIET CULTURE. 

DIET CULTURE is known to be a system of beliefs that worship ideals surrounding thinness, equating it to moralistic virtues of more acceptability, love, and overall worth, regardless of true health status/vitals. 

Diet Culture gives very sneaky messages surrounding food holding moralistic weight/value. In the most general sense, food serves the purpose to nourish and nurture growth and development in adolescence. Engagement in dieting behaviors, can increase risk for malnutrition, delayed development/growth, and bone fractures/breakage. 

Here’s some ‘go-to’ basic nutritional information surrounding the value of all foods: 

Carbohydrates (no matter the source-whether ‘refined/white’ or whole grains): are broken down by the body and converted to glucose (blood sugar) to help cells have the energy needed to send signals to different parts of the body for functioning; Provide the brain exclusively with the energy it needs to think and process information clearly and effectively; Provides energy for organ/organ systems to run at optimal capacity.

Proteins (no matter if it’s higher or lower in fat content): Provides energy for muscle, cell, and tissue repair, growth, and regeneration (creation). 

Fats (no matter the source-whether saturated (animal sources) or unsaturated (plant sources): Provide energy for body temperature regulation; energy needed for absorption of vitamins & minerals; energy needed for protection of vital organs; energy needed to facilitate hormone balance (develops in adolescence-estrogen, progesterone, testosterone).  

For additional resources and materials surrounding Childhood & Adolescent Nutrition from an Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size (HAES) lens, check out:

Books:

Intuitive Eating Workbook for Teens: A Non-Diet, Body Positive Approach to Building a Healthy Relationship with Food

By: Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch

Born to Eat 

By: Leslie Schilling & Wendy Jo Peterson

Celebrate Your Body (and its changes, too!): The Ultimate Puberty Book for Girls

By: Sonya Renee Taylor

Videos:

Poodle Science

Research on Food Exposures:

https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/issue/109/Supplement_1

Written By: Tess M Patterson MS RD LD


How To Stop Being Mean To Yourself

“I’m such a burden.”

“I failed the test again. I’m never going to get any better at this.”

“They cancelled plans – they must not like me.”

“Everything I say sounds so unintelligent. I’m such an idiot.”

Any of these statements sound familiar? These statements are examples of negative self-talk. Self-talk is your subconscious inner dialogue that you engage with everyday. The average person has about 6,000 thoughts per day (Murdock, 2020). What do you notice about how you talk to yourself? How do these thoughts make you feel? If the answer is sad, unmotivated, upset, angry, or anything similar to these feelings –  chances are you are being mean to yourself.

Why are we mean to ourselves?

Our inner dialogue is shaped in childhood by the way we internalize how we are spoken to by people around us – caregivers, parents, peers, teachers, relatives. Maybe you had a teacher who said you just weren’t a good writer after failing one too many writing assignments. Maybe your parents dismissed your feelings a lot. All this to say – even though we may have internalized negative thoughts about ourselves for years, we can change these thoughts to positive self-talk statements:

1. Start with awareness.

As with any change we take on in our life – we first need to be aware that there is something that just isn’t working for us anymore. The purpose of explaining the “why” above is to create space to use curiosity (not judgement!) to discover where your inner critic comes from.

2. List evidence against your negative belief about yourself.

You may notice that you say, “I’m such a burden,” a lot. What is evidence in your life that shows that you are not a burden? Maybe you have friends that initiate plans with you. Maybe you have a partner that always asks and genuinely wants to hear about your day.

3. Create a new, positive self-talk statement based on the evidence you listed.

With the example above, the evidence shows that “I am loved”

4. Review the list of evidence often.

Keep a running list of evidence against your negative belief on your phone so that you always have access to it. Look at the list even when you are not being mean to yourself.

5. Practice self-compassion.

It takes time for these evidences to replace your long standing negative self belief – it’s like teaching yourself an entirely new language! Be kind to yourself as you navigate this process by using positive self-talk statements: “I’m doing the best I can.” “I can do this.” “I believe in myself.”

Practice using curiosity to identify your self-talk and how the statements make you feel. Therapy can support this process by providing a safe space to explore where your inner critic comes from and work on creating positive self-talk statements to replace negative ones. Wishing you healing on your journey to self-kindness!

Resources:

Murdock, J. (2020), Humans Have More than 6,000 Thoughts per Day, Psychologists Discover. https://www.newsweek.com/humans-6000-thoughts-every-day-1517963

Written by: Sarah Shah, M.S., LPC-Associate (she/her) supervised by Martha Pasiminio, LPC-S


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