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Counsel Your Career: Therapy For Professionals & Executives

Each of UB’s 6 Chicago area offices is staffed with therapists who specialize in career counseling and therapy for executives and professionals. Executive & Career Coaching at Urban Balance helps participants:

  • Develop career or business vision/plan
  • Improve effectiveness & leadership at work
  • Improve career and life satisfaction
  • Promote personal and professional growth and development
  • Increase earnings & value at work
  • Facilitate career change or role change as desired
  • Achieve work/life balance
  • Take your business or career to the next level

Learn more about UB’s therapists and search by office and specialties.

Contact UB here to connect with a therapist or learn more about Chicago therapy for professionals:

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Tips for Talking to Your Teen

by UB Therapist Andrea Watkins

Lately I’ve noticed a pattern from the parents of my clients. “How do I tell them to do this?” “What can I do to make them do that?” “How can I get them to talk more to me?” “Why do they disagree with everything I tell them to do?!” No doubt, parents have THE HARDEST job out there and when communication starts breaking down, it causes everyone to ask questions like this. However, the harsh reality is that almost all teens (in some shape or form) will start to defy parents, decrease communication and focus more on other social relationships. The reality is your baby is growing up.

Think about it- teenagers are going through some pretty crazy physical, mental and emotional changes and during this time, they start to seek more independence. In order for them to grow and mature, they need to separate from their parents and find their own identity (Purcell, 2006). Coinciding with this is a transition for parents- starting to lose control of their teens decisions and no longer being their first source of comfort and support. So everyone is probably in a heightened state of emotion, no wonder communication becomes rocky!

I wanted to give some practical tips for how to talk to your teens and also understand that though teens are looking for privacy, if you make a safe and accepting environment for them, teens will come to you when they need you.

Avoid Lecturing. Lecturing is a one-sided conversation and often leads kids to feel unheard and disrespected. Lecturing also takes away learning your kid’s side of the story and can lead you to make assumptions.

Minimize Judgmental and Critical Wording. Only a small part of your conversation with your teen should be about what they did wrong or what you think needs to be changed. Steer clear of comments that sound judgmental, including towards their friends and peers- these are important people in their lives and to cut them down will possibly create a division between you and your child. Also, be careful with “why” questions, which can often put teens (and adults!) on the defense.

Be A Good Listener. This is a very important one! I’ve had so many of my teen clients comment that their parents “don’t get it” or “just don’t understand me.” Take time to listen to your teens thoughts, concerns and open up the dialogue of ways to compromise. Even if what they are telling you seems small, stop and give them your full attention!

Respect Their Privacy. Give a little-get a little is the key with teens and privacy. If you don’t harp on them having closed doors and hushed phone calls, they might be more willing to tell you more information.

Start Giving More Freedom. Same idea with privacy. If you give your teens a little autonomy and further decision-making power, they will start to see that you trust them, and thus, will be more likely to open up when the need is there.

Accept and Understand Their Feelings. Saying the usual “Oh, don’t feel that way” or “It’s not that big of a deal” can make kids believe their feelings are not important, or worse, that their feelings are wrong. Validate your kid’s feelings (as long as they are respectfully conveyed) by saying comments such as “that must be hard for you to be so sad” or “I can tell that this makes you upset, and that’s okay.”

Don’t Tell Others About The Conversation.  This is a big value for teenagers, so please, don’t call your friends and rant about your kids issues, only for your teen to hear it from that friend’s kids the next day at school. Any drop of trust your teen has will start to evaporate. If it is necessary to tell someone about what your teen discussed, make sure the teen knows so they are not blindsided.

Find The Right Timing. Consider a time that would be good for them- not when they walk in the door from school or right before bed. Even scheduling a time to talk by forewarning them that you need to talk after dinner, before work, etc, can help minimize the feeling of being ambushed (which teens often feel.)

Ask Open-Ended Questions. Try to phrase your questions in order to get teens to answer with more than a yes or no. For example, rather than asking “Did you have a good day at school?”, phrase it as an open question like “Tell me about your day at school.” Also, try your best to limit questions in general and make them comments, such as “I noticed you didn’t come home with your BFF,” rather than “Why wasn’t your BFF with you?” Too many questions can appear abrasive to teens.

References

(1) Purcell, M. (2006). How to Talk With Your Teenagers, Not at Them. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 11, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/how-to-talk-with-your-teenagers-not-at-them/000528.

(2) Tartakovsky, M. (2014). Tips for Talking to Your Teen. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 10, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/01/03/tips-for-talking-to-your-teen/

male focused counseling therapist male

Getting Men Into Counseling: A Male-Centric Therapeutic Approach

by UB Therapist Bob Ryan, LCPC

Older generations of men, notably our post WWII males, come to therapy reluctantly, if at all. Many men today are not so standoffish when it comes to therapy. However, men still tend to wait longer to seek help and guidance for their emotional issues than do women. At times, when men seek counseling, they are looking for and often need quick results. Frequently, men come to counseling after being persuaded by a spouse or employer to seek help for a lack of emotional connection, anger management or substance abuse. Opening up to a therapist does not always come naturally and often men prefer instead to rely on stoicism.

Why do so many men close down when the situation calls for an emotional response? For an answer to that we have to go back to that older WWII and post-war generation of men, the generations who set the example for today’s middle aged males, who in turn are setting the example for younger men. The last World War changed the landscape for men in this country for all time. Up until this point men worked at or near home, and while they didn’t work in the house they had a strong influence on their sons, who could watch and learn by example. From earliest times, men have learned their place in society from a mentor or elder male figure of authority. Post-war, modern industrial society took fathers out of the house, leaving young men without day-to-day male mentorship and the benefit of witnessing their fathers’ emotional and spiritual struggle for survival and to be loving parents.

Today’s middle-aged men were the first to be brought up in this new family dynamic and they are coming to grips with the understanding that they may have been short changed by their lack of ability to express their emotions. This has come about as they learn, often painfully, that it is not socially acceptable for those emotions to burst forth in ways that are detrimental to co-workers and family.

When overcome with an uncontrolled outburst of anger or frustration, men can seem incapable of controlling the onslaught of overwhelming emotion. Time and again in the aftermath of emotional outbursts men can be extremely remorseful. However, many men lack the tools to forestall repeat performances.  When emotions again break loose, that remorse begins to sound hollow.

Younger men in their 20’s and 30’s are beginning to accept counseling more readily. As business consultants and team coaches take up the language and tools of psychology and counseling, more young men are becoming comfortable seeking help for life’s setbacks.

However, many men still need to know that they can feel and express their emotions without harming those around them. Throughout most of their upbringing men have been taught to be strong. Unfortunately that statement is too often translated into meaning without emotions. “Don’t let your emotions get in the way.” This might be a good business strategy, but disastrous for enjoying a fulfilling personal life.

The masculine stereotype precluded men from fully experiencing their lives. Beyond lust and anger, many men have limited experience with the full range of emotions. As a starting point, these men need to learn not only how to express themselves, but how to experience a full range of emotions.

There are two sets of circumstances working in tandem hindering male emotional self-expression. The first being the stoic nature of the male stereotype perpetuated by the absence of male role models. The second being, for many men, physical activity is often a doorway to emotional release. However, young boys and men have often been chastised simply for having too much energy. Physical exertion can pave the way towards safe expression of strong pent up feelings. Without the culture of emotional sharing that many women rely on, men are more reliant on physical “play” to help relieve stress and anxiety.

Counselors need to have this dynamic in mind when assessing male clients. The demands of business, the lack of positive male role models who openly share their emotions takes a toll on the male looking to fit into today’s world where men need to be emotionally sensitive managers, spouses and fathers. No wonder weekend retreats for men are a growing trend. They combine the physicality of a nature retreat with the mentor-based, learn-by-storytelling that has been the hallmark of male bounding for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years. The male-centric quality of these programs help open men up to the deep emotional well inside that for many men has gone untapped, to help them see the results of their actions, to be more empathic and to give voice to where their motivations lie.

While young men are beginning to avail themselves of counseling services, a great number of middle-aged men are not. Many more could benefit from therapy. It is our responsibility as counselors to make those who cross our doorsteps feel that they have made the right decision.

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Overcoming Failure: Achieve Your Goals by Analyzing Past Mistakes.

By UB Therapist Alicia Hoffman

“My heroes are the ones who survived doing it wrong, who made mistakes, but recovered from them,” Bono.

I agree with Bono;  surviving a mistake or a perceived failure and transforming it into wisdom or a life lesson is inspiring. If you do an internet search for quotes or articles on failure, there seems to be a never-ending supply. Like love, heartbreak, or jealousy, failure is a natural and challenging part of the human experience from which none of us is exempt.

Failure can be bitter and hard swallow. We often cannot accept it very easily. It is a strong and intense experience that we may hide from, or refuse to admit to others because we are embarrassed, shamed, or defeated. However, like other bitter things found in nature such as the coffee or coco bean we have process it to extract its rich gifts and reframe into an insight, strength, or a life lesson.

We all have different experiences with failure. Some of us are afraid to even begin an endeavor out of fear that an idea or plan won’t work out, never even giving ourselves the chance to fail or succeed. I openly admit I used to find myself falling into this category but my view of failure changed profoundly and was redefined when working with a personal trainer.  Like many trainers he utilized the word “failure” differently then most of us. “Going to failure” in the context of personal training means to do an exercise or go through a workout until you are no longer physically capable of completing another repetition with good form.  In this context it is not only a good thing, it is a great thing, and always congratulated with a high five and an “Awesome!”

Charles F. Kettering, an inventor said “ One fails forward toward success,” and that is just what I planned to do. I started to make it my goal to “fail,” knowing that I was transferring this experience into my daily living.  I wanted to get practice failing because I knew it would lead me to success.  Going through the act of physically failing and understanding it was bringing me physical benefit and allowed me to reap benefit from mistakes in every day life, and learn and apply knowledge gained from situations that ended differently then intended or planned rather then give up or be hard on myself.

Processing the feelings associated with failure can uncover and cultivate valuable strength that can be shared with others for their benefit and our own.  A familiar place to witness this dynamic is at an AA or any 12-step program.  Everyone starts attending for the same reason; because the addiction was bigger then they were and life had become unmanageable.  Many walk in with shame and embarrassment believing they have failed themselves, life, relationship, or career.  However, many recovered members are able to speak with abundant pride about their transformation and recovery. They are able to wear it like a badge of honor, and rightfully so. They can speak without shame about their lives prior to abstinence, mistakes, and give examples of how different and meaningful their experiences are now.  Without the roughness and bitterness of the past, or the experience of transforming their perceived failure into knowledge and awareness, they would not have the same inspiring stories and insights that can be so healing and motivating for other members struggling with addiction.

Another example of transforming failure comes from a client who stayed at a job much longer then was healthy for her, which led to frequent physical illness and depression.  She expressed feeling like a failure because she was not doing the job she planned to do while in school, felt she made little impact, and was judgmental of her self for experiencing depression.  The client did not find another job before resigning and made a gutsy decision leave her position in spite of pending unemployment. She left her position with the inner conflict of feeling courageous and feeling defeat that mounted as time went by and she had not found a job that was in alignment with who she was. Eventually she found a career path where she was able to be herself put the judgmental voices to rest. She remains empowered by her decision and frequently advocates for others to trust their intuition about challenging decisions even when it might look like failure to another.  Her once perceived failure now serves as inspiration for those around her experiencing similar challenges. She used the process of therapy to stay connected with her intuition and authentic self while reframing her judgment of failure into a story of bold success.

The client I mentioned, as well as people who overcome addiction, anyone who ever made a mistake, failed at something, or overcame a difficult life circumstance and were able to reframe the experience into something positive, are all heroes. Just as Bono said.  It can take a lot of brave honesty to go through therapy, a 12-step program, or take any healing measure and look at intense experiences like failure. It is no easy task to be so honest with oneself much less with another person but when key elements like have a safe place to share are present like having a safe space to share, non judgmental whiteness, and sharing your experience, healing can take place and failure can be cultivated into a powerful perspective change.  Perhaps this type of thinking can help all of us reframe setbacks as opportunities for growth, healing and development.

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I’m Too Busy To Relax! Tips for Everyday Relaxation

By UB Therapist Andrea Watkins, LCSW

For some reason, Americans are hard-wired to rush, fill our downtime and stay busy and work until our brains are sucked dry. I’ve even heard people say, “I’m too busy to relax!” Our bodies and minds need time to recharge, or we lead ourselves to burnout, whether that is in a job, relationship, schooling… It’s time to take a step back and RELAX!

So first thing’s first- we need to take back our free time. Consider times through the day that could be used for yourself- not for answering emails or checking social media, rushing to do errands, or mindlessly thinking of the “should’ve, could’ve, would’ve” dialogue. Excellent times to evaluate are the early morning time, right before you come home from work/school, and before you go to sleep. Even your lunch break is a good place to start.

Obviously we can’t get up and take a trip to Hawaii every month (I wish!), but it is completely doable to participate weekly, even daily, relaxation practices to trick our minds into taking, as I call it, a “mini-vacay.” I’ve compiled a quick list of ways to squeeze in ways to relax during our free times. Enjoy and happy relaxing!

> Listen to music. Music is a quick and easy way to turn off your brain and relax. Jam out to your favorite tune or opt for listening to classical to help soothe. (3)

> Try out some aromatherapy. Scents like lavender, citrus and tea tree can calm stress by stimulating smell receptors in the nose that connect to the emotional regulation part of the brain. (1,3)

> Laugh! A fit of giggles can actually increase blood flow and boost immunity. Laugh with a friend/coworker, watch a funny YouTube video or just think up a funny joke that makes you chuckle for a quick moment away. (3)

> Sip some herbal tea. Green tea is a source of L-Theanine, a chemical that helps relieve anger. So take a soothing sip to simmer down. (1,3)

> Stretch. Taking a moment to get up and stretch can relieve tension in your muscles. Try some simple shoulder rolls or reaching gently to touch your toes. (1,3)

> Just Breathe! Slow, deep breaths can lower stress levels, blood pressure and heart rate. Check out my blog post about breathing here (1,2,3)

> Turn off your electronics before bedtime. Good sleep (7-8 hours) is one of the best stress-busters we can implement in our lives- it is our natural way to reboot. However,  we must create the environment for this, so unplug yourself before you slip into slumber. (1,2)

> Exercise. There is ample research regarding the benefits of exercise with decreasing stress, let alone mental health issues. Taking a jog in the morning, riding your bike to work or hitting up the elliptical before dinner are great ways to get those endorphins moving- pun intended! (2,3)

> Love on someone! Spend some time with your significant other, kids or your furry companion and just focus on them! After all, they should be the things that matter the most. (2)

> Get outside. There’s something calming about taking a walk or just sitting on a park bench for a little while. Enjoy the scenery, eat your lunch outside, take some deep breaths and let your mind unwind for a little while. (2)

> Do a puzzle. Crossword, sudoku, word search, it doesn’t matter. Activities that take a lot of brain power help take your mind off of the task at hand. (3)

> Take a day off. I like to call it a “mental health day.” We stay home when we are physically sick, why can’t we take a day to let our mind and soul rest? If you have sick/vacation days piling up, spend one of those days with yourself, doing what you want to do and centering yourself again. (2)

References:

(1) Glassman, Keri. (24 Aug 2013). Relax- and Fast! 8 Quick Tips for a Relaxation. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/24/relaxation-tips-quick-and-easy_n_3636315.html.

(2) Babauta, Leo. (26 Apr 2007). 12 Ways to Decompress After High Stress. ZenHabits.com. Retrieved from http://zenhabits.net/12-ways-to-decompress-after-high-stress/.

(3) Lebowitz, Shana. (8 Mar 2014). 40 Way to Relax in 5 Minutes or Less. Greatist.com. Retrieved from http://greatist.com/happiness/40-ways-relax-5-minutes-or-less.

UB counseling - Andrea Watkins  LCSW   Urban Balance

chicago counseling depression therapist for depression chicago

Treating Depression with the Help of a Therapist

“Having the blues” and “being down in the dumps” are other ways of terming sadness, but what differentiates sadness from depression? Sadness is a symptom of depression, however, depression is much more than just feeling sad. Depression has an effect on emotions, behavior , and physical health. Leslie Holley, LPC, has answered some questions you may have about depression and the benefits of therapy.

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What are the most common symptoms of depression?

  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Sleep changes
  • Anger or irritability
  • Loss of energy
  • Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Reckless behavior
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Unexplained aches and pains

How does depression impact a person’s daily life and social connections?

Depression can cause people to isolate, having no interest in former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex. People who are depressed often lose their ability to feel joy and pleasure. Their tolerance level can be low and they have can also be short tempered. This can make it hard for a depressed person to maintain healthy relationships with others and affect their daily lives.

What role does therapy have in treating depression?

Therapy can provide a space to support clients’ needs and normalize their feelings. I typically use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with depressed clients. CBT is a goal-oriented treatment approach that helps clients change patterns of thinking or behavior that are behind their depression.

How long does depression typically last?

If left untreated, research says that depression can last around 8 months. However, clients who suffer with persistent depression can have symptoms for 2 years or more. Other clients can have a major depressive episode lasting up to 2 weeks. When depressed, clients normally feel that their symptoms will never go away. This is a classic feature of depression.

What steps can be taken to prevent depression?

It’s important for clients to understand that they can manage their depression by actively using tools learned in therapy. However, exercise, getting enough sleep, and regulating your sugar intake can also help prevent depression. Additionally, establishing a healthy support system around you and creating a work/life balance can be effective.

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Depression is more than just sadness. It may have an impact on nearly every aspect of life, but it’s important to know that an episode of depression is temporary, even though it may feel like it will never go away. With the help of a therapist, you can learn how to manage depression.

 

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Counseling and the LGBTQ Community

The term LGBTQ refers to Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transsexual and/or Queer sexual identities, but how does LGBTQ counseling help those who have unique sexual identities? Kiya Immergluck, Ph. D., LCPC, an Urban Balance therapist who specializes in LGBTQ counseling, provides an overview of what LGBTQ counseling is and how it provides a safe, non-judgmental environment.

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What are common problems that prompt LGBTQ clients to seek counseling?

Basically, LGBTQ clients are often seeking counseling for any of the same issues that heterosexual clients are dealing with.  Besides basic human issues around addictions, money issues, career, relationships, and self-esteem, an LGBTQ client may be struggling with unique issues around coming out, dealing with family rejection after coming out, and facing both external and internal homophobia.

How are those problems addressed in therapy?

The most important factor for counselors to explore is to be keenly aware of any of their own issues of homophobia. A client needs to feel totally safe and accepted by the therapist.  The counselors need to educate themselves about various aspects of the highly diverse populations. The term “LGBTQ” lumps together vastly different groups. Often, their only similarity is that none of them fit society’s assumptions about “normal” sexual identity and practices. It would be a mistake to assume that Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transsexual and/or Queer clients necessarily have anything in common with each other.

Does therapy encourage LGBTQ individuals to openly identify and embrace sexual orientation?  

That depends entirely on a case-by-case assessment. In some cultures or families, coming out might be quite dangerous.  In job situations, a person might have a legitimate fear of losing their job. Even in areas where discrimination based on sexual orientation is strictly forbidden, a person may legitimately fear that a company will find a way to fire them.  At the same time that a person might need to remain “closeted” in society, it is important for each individual to work on accepting and loving themselves exactly the way they are. If a person has been raised to believe that they will “go to hell” because of their sexual orientation, very delicate counseling must be done to allow a person to both honor their religion and at the same time, honor themselves!

How do family and friends impact the effectiveness of therapy?

If an LGBTQ person is surrounded by loving and accepting family & friends, very often the person’s issues have little to do with sexuality. Whether a person is “out” or not, they may be profoundly affected by the prejudicial statements they hear from loved ones against “gay people.”

What are the positive outcomes of LGBTQ counseling?  

The positive outcomes are similar to those for any minority or ethnic group. No matter what negative stereotypes they may be exposed to, LGBTQ clients have a very safe place to be themselves without judgment.

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Although the term “LGBTQ” groups non-heterosexual identities together into one, LGBTQ counseling is not a one-size-fits-all form of therapy. Like all forms of therapy, LGBTQ therapy is tailored towards the individual. The difference is that therapists who specialize in LGBTQ counseling have more experience and familiarity with the LGBTQ community. This familiarity and experience can add an extra layer of comfort for those seeking help, especially if their problems are related to sexual identity.

Learn More about LGBTQ mental health issues in UB’s Wellness Resource Directory

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personality disorder counseling chicago

What You Need To Know About: Personality Disorders

What is a personality disorder?

A personality disorder is a type of mental disorder that involves fixed, maladaptive behavior and thought patterns. Because of their rigid and enduring nature, those with a personality disorder may experience severe impairments of daily functioning and have difficulty following cultural norms. This is due to the person’s inflexibility of their debilitating behavior and thought patterns across all situations.

How is a personality disorder diagnosed?

Personality disorder diagnosis usually takes place in early adulthood (20-30  years old). A personality disorder is diagnosed when a behavioral or thought pattern is having a negative impact on personal, social or work life and/or is causing significant distress.

What is an example of a type of personality disorder and its symptoms?
An example of a type of personality disorder is antisocial personality disorder. An individual with this type of disorder lacks empathy for others, displays aggressiveness, and has an inflated sense of self-appraisal, among other characteristic signs. This may have a strong impact on the ability to form healthy, close connections with others on both a personal and professional level.
How can personality disorders be treated?
Personality disorders are difficult to “cure” completely due to their strong ties to an individual’s personality. Treatment will differ depending on the type of personality disorder. Generally speaking, psychotherapy can help make affected individuals more aware of their disorder and help them improve upon areas of their lives that are being negatively impacted.
View  personality disorder resources in UB’s Wellness Directory.
If you would like to seek counseling with a UB therapist, contact UB.
Grohol, J. (2013). Personality Disorders. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 11, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/personality/
life transitions counseling chicago

Why Change? Creating Healthy Transitions

by UB Therapist Shelley Skrypnyk, LCPC

skrypnyk

Making Changes

In my opinion, therapy is a place where people can go to gain support and learn how to transform into the person they were meant to be in life.   I believe that my role is to guide patients on their journeys to heal from past traumas and to fully express feelings that have had a tight grasp on them causing chaos in their lives.

I want to change, now what?

There is just one thing that everyone hates to hear that might stand in the way of creating a new, improved, happy and true self. The word you are looking for is, change.  That scary, horrifying and haunting six letter word!!  Scary isn’t it?  Like nails on a chalkboard it sends shivers down your spine!  Okay, I’m being a little over-dramatic here, but it’s all to prove a point.  I’ve never met anyone who has sat in my office say to me, “Shelley, I love change! I can’t wait to get started!”  It is an important part of the process that is the hardest to do.  It’s one of those things that can sound easy, but it’s absolutely not, in fact it’s the biggest challenge I face when helping patients.  Fixing your problems is easy, once you’ve accepted that there needs to be a change and are willing to work on making changes.

What is change like?

One of the things I tell to all of my patients, is that making changes is like asking you to let go of everything you know and feel comfortable with and try something that is the complete opposite.  You are going to struggle, but in the end you will be much happier! This explanation gets a lot of blank stares.  I tell my patients to imagine changing from your dominant hand to your non-dominant hand.  For example, I am left handed and if for some reason I was told that this was unhealthy for me and that I would eliminate my depression and anxiety by changing to my right hand, I might think this person was crazy.  How could I change something that I have always believed and have always done?  Being left handed is all I’ve known and I am comfortable with that.  But, I would have to weigh the costs and benefits of making a change.  What does not changing cost me and my happiness?  How does changing benefit me and my happiness?  If I decided that it was against my best interest to stay a left handed person, I would be brave enough to attempt this so called change.  At first, it would be uncomfortable, scary and difficult.  I would have all of my defenses up and there would be a part of me that would play the game of sabotage in order to get me to go back to my old ways.  I would probably want to use my left hand, especially when I was tired, stressed or if I was depressed when thinking about all of the time I wasted by using my left hand.  Eventually, with practice, encouragement and conscious effort, I would probably develop abilities to use my right hand just as good as my left hand and it would not take as much effort, if any. The key to change is that practice makes possible.  I know, I know, you have always heard “Practice makes perfect.”  I am here to burst your bubble on that, there is no such thing as perfect and if you try to obtain perfection, it would be a never-ending battle.  Which is why I prefer to say, “Practice makes possible.”  Anything is possible if you practice it.

So why change?  

Once a patient can see the positives of change, they have a firm ground to stand on and know what they are working towards.  I would say that 99.9% of all of my patients that have dipped their toe into the change pond have eventually jumped in completely and have absolutely turned their lives around.  As a therapist, this is my greatest victory!

Here is my list of reasons why change is important:

  1. Change is vital for survival
  2. Change creates personal development
  3. If you keep doing the same things, the same things will keep happening
  4. Change can give you a second chance at life
  5. Change keeps life interesting

Change is happening all around us, everyday.  We change plans, we change our clothes, we change our minds, the seasons change and so on and so forth.  Change is inevitable, the key is how we deal with it.  Can you imagine what your world would be like if there was zero change in it?  Life would be miserable and boring and you would never develop or grow.  But most importantly, I refer to one of my favorite sayings, “Nothing changes, if nothing changes.”

Why do people resist change if it’s so important?

  1. Fear of the unknown
  2. Not seeing the need for change
  3. Comfort of the familiar
  4. Fear of negative impact on life
  5. Others are imposing the change

It is scary to let go of what you’ve always known and to go out into the great wide world of the unknown.  This is why I use the changing from your dominant hand to your non-dominant hand metaphor.

What is a good way to deal with change?

  1. Consider the benefits of the proposed change
  2. Be aware of internal reactions
  3. Work towards acceptance of change
  4. Live in the here and now
  5. Find a good support system
  6. Journal or find some way to express feelings in a healthy way

I believe that everyone can make healthy changes in their lives.  Another common question I hear from patients is, “What if I change and I don’t like the change I’ve made?” The good thing about change is, if you don’t like the changes you’ve made, change them again.  You are the artist to your happiness masterpiece!

I leave you with a few more of my favorite sayings about change:

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.”

“Change is inevitable — except from a vending machine.”

new life loading concept on blackboard

How Therapy Can Help With Adjustment Issues

Getting a new job, settling down with a significant other, or starting a family are major life changes many go through. For some, it is an easy transition. For others, these changes may be more difficult to adjust to than they anticipated, despite positive expectations. Negative life changes, especially those that are unplanned and involve a loss, are difficult to adjust to as well. Therapy can be helpful for those who are struggling to adjust to a new situation or phase of their lives, but at what point is it considered an adjustment disorder? Urban Balance’s Ben Fogel, who specializes in adjustment issues, helps explain therapy, adjustment issues, and how to determine if it is an adjustment disorder.

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What life events tend to be difficult for people to adjust to?

It is very common for people to struggle with a wide array of life adjustments, many of which people look forward to and view positively: graduating from college, starting a new job, moving in with a partner, moving to a new city, or having a child, for example. In these situations, there are often unforeseen challenges that only come to the surface after the event has occurred, or after the event is causing reactions the person wasn’t expecting. Many others involve some sense of mourning and grief: the death of a loved one, losing a job, experiencing a breakup or divorce, etc.

What is the difference between struggling to adjust to a new life situation/event and having an adjustment disorder?

A primary determining factor is the degree of discomfort the adjustment is causing the person. If a person is having such difficulty adjusting to the life event that it impairs his/her functioning in social situations or at work, it can be an indication of an adjustment disorder, according to the diagnostic criteria. A person without such a high level of distress about a life event can certainly benefit a lot from therapy, but may not have an adjustment disorder.

Who is at risk for developing an adjustment disorder?

People with a history of anxiety or depression and who face a significant life event, as well as those whose support systems or coping mechanisms are not as robust as other’s may be at greater risk for an adjustment disorder. If the event is unexpected and without warning, it can increase the risk as well.

How does therapy help in the adjustment process?

The client and therapist will look together at what the stressors are for the client, in order to clarify them and minimize their impact. A therapist can help reinforce the client’s core strengths and suggest a wide array of coping skills. Helping to find meaning in the client’s reaction to the event can help with the current situation and also give the client more skills and preparedness for future life changes.

How long does adjustment therapy typically last?

The length of time can vary depending on the client’s situation and goals, but is often between a couple sessions and a few months.

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Everyone may struggle with adjustment from time to time. If you have a history of depression or anxiety, you may be at a higher risk of developing an adjustment disorder. This is why it is important to keep in mind that if the distress is to the point where it is impairing your daily functioning in your personal and work life, it is highly recommended that you should seek therapy as soon as possible. Even if you do not have an adjustment disorder, therapy can be just as beneficial by making the adjustment process much smoother and prepare you for future life changes.

Ben Fogel  LCSW   Urban Balance