Depression can appear for a variety of reasons, but no matter the source, the effects can be profound. Depression zaps your energy, reduces your interest in everyday activities, and, if serious enough, can lead to thoughts of despair or even suicide. Life seems hopeless, useless, and unworthy of your participation when youíre in the midst of depression. Maybe youíve experienced these feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Itís not just that you can no longer see the light at the end of the tunnel Ė you donít believe the tunnel will ever end. If you find yourself tired of walking in darkness, the encouragement Hope and Healing Therapy offers can help you take the first steps back toward a manageable, fulfilling life.
Q: What can a counselor do for me that I canít do for myself?
A: A trained, professional counselor will have a great deal of knowledge built up from years of helping people struggling with depression. A counselor has the training to provide a unique way of understanding your problems. She can provide a "detached involvement" in a way friends and family usually can not. The people closest to you may have great intentions, but it can be hard for them to put things in perspective. Because you cannot step out of yourself for the perspective you need, getting counseling is the best way to help yourself.
Q: Is there always a risk of suicide in depression?
A. Yes. Counselors, physicians, and nurse practitioners constantly need to be on the lookout for signs of suicide in those who are depressed and be prepared to take action quickly. The majority of people who kill themselves have sent several messages of their intention. An attentive spouse, parent, or friend is often able to detect the early signs that a loved one may be considering suicide.
All depressed people need to be assessed for their risk of suicide. That may sound extreme, but it is far better to be safe than sorry. A trained counselor can do this by getting the topic out in the open with the reassurance that death-wishes are perfectly normal when one is depressed. It is not a sign one is crazy, nor does it mean one is serious about following through with it. Sometimes, just this reassurance is enough to reduce the risk.
If someone in your life talks about or hints at specific plans for suicide, get in touch with a mental health specialist immediately. He or she will tell you what to do. Do not leave the depressed person alone at any time until you can get help.
Signs that someone is contemplating suicide:
* Behavior change. They become less interested in family, friends, hobbies, church, and other social groups. Some start drinking more or using drugs. They become more secretive and withdrawn.
* They may become quite careless about personal appearance. They might give possessions and money away, buy a gun, or stockpile pills.
* Feelings could change. Suicidal folks can become more lethargic, lose their appetite, or express more anger.
* You might hear a suicidal person say things such as, "Youíd be better off if I was dead," "I wonít be around much longer," or "Life isnít all itís cracked up to be."
* An important sign is when a person is depressed over a major loss and expresses intense anger which does not subside.
Q: Will I have to take antidepressants if I see a counselor?
A: Not necessarily. Everyone is different. Antidepressant medications are expensive, particularly for those without insurance. It is important that a physician treating a depressed person carefully evaluate the patient for the best outcome. Your counselor at Hope and Healing Therapy will work closely with your physician to monitor your progress.
Debt and Money Management
Debt is a prison that hinders your ability to live freely. If you canít seem to catch your financial breath Ė if you feel like money is sand that is slipping through your fingers Ė you need practical coaching to get a grip on the problem and perhaps some counseling to find out how you got there in the first place. Debt is a seemingly endless cycle of making, spending, and owing money. It not only drains your bank account, it can drain the life right out of you.
Q:My fiancť and I argue about how we will manage our money when weíre married. Since my parents always combined all of the family money, I think thatís the way we should do it. My boyfriend feels differently. He thinks it should all be his and hers, with both of us splitting the bills. Whatís the right way?
A: You and your mate need to learn to listen to and respect one anotherís money perspectives. It could be very helpful to get some pre-marital counseling around an issue that causes many couples to flounder. Here are some important guidelines:
* Without self criticism, blame, or justification, talk to your mate about what money means to you. Does it make you feel responsible, guilty, fearful, secure, anxious, powerful, or loved? What did you learn about money while growing up? What were your parentsí attitudes about money?
* Try your best to avoid labeling your mateís experiences and attitudes as right or wrong. Really try to understand your mateís feelings. Listen to the wishes, hopes, hurts, and desires that got psychologically connected with money in your mateís mind and heart. Empathy breeds respect, and respect builds trust. Trust is critical when you want to negotiate with your mate about how to manage your money.
* Learn from each other. What can your mate teach you about money? What can you teach him or her? A saver can learn to enjoy pleasure now from a spender, and a spender can learn to enjoy the security of saving for the future from a saver.
* Find out what is valuable to the two of you. What are your priorities? Write down the top priorities for both of you and how that fits in with your budget. Maybe an adventure to Europe is worth skipping smaller vacations. Maybe new furniture equals brown bag lunches. Together you need to decide how you can both win.
* Get good financial advice. Start saving, even a small amount, as early as you can. Learn about compound interest and the high cost of carrying a balance on your credit cards.
The way you and your mate decide to manage money is as individual as you are.
Q: My wife and I are recent college graduates who have been married 8 months. Already my bride is talking about buying a house, getting a dog, and having a baby! While sheís in dreamland, Iím worried about how weíll manage to pay rent, utilities, and get groceries. We are already in debt with student loans and $5,000 of credit card debt. I donít want to rain on her parade, but this is killing me! She seems to think I should be able to provide the same high standard of living her dad did. What do I do?
A: You are right to sound the alarm! Unless you two get some help, you could be headed for a devastating crash Ė both fiscally and emotionally. You need to do all you can to convince your wife of the wisdom in getting practical counseling.
Your wifeís attitude may undermine your success as a couple if she refuses to see what is, instead of what she wishes could be. Unfortunately, many young people expect that they should start off married life with everything their parents worked for years to accumulate.
At the very least, you need to free yourself of the credit card debt as soon as possible. That means, for the time being, suspending credit card use completely and developing a plan to pay-down that debt. If you need help in creating a debt-management plan, there are several non-profit agencies designed to help. An internet search for "debt management" will help you find the help you need.
Hope and Healing Therapy can teach you to communicate honestly, develop mutual trust, agree on a workable budget and see the world realistically. All of these skills will be critical to the health of your marriage. Good luck!
Developing a solid, realistic, and healthy self-image in a culture that stresses perfection is not easy. Every day advertisers flood the media with young models whose imperfections have been airbrushed out of existence. The standard for beauty is impossibly high. If supermodels and female celebrities resort to eating disorders and plastic surgery, is it any wonder millions of women and girls feel insecure? Where is the line between maintaining health Ė both physical and mental -- and pursuing the impossible? Getting healthy means being able to recognize false standards, set realistic goals, and learn to accept who you are and get on with living.
Self-image starts when youíre growing up. How you see yourself now depends quite a bit on how your parents viewed you when you were a child. If you were lucky enough to have parents who loved you unconditionally and believed in your abilities completely, and if they encouraged you to take risks and follow your heart, they likely set the stage for a healthy self-concept.
Many of us were not lucky enough to have parents like this. If your parents didnít do much (if anything) to build up your confidence or, worse, if they told you that you were no good, it can be quite a challenge to change those negative views of yourself.
Is there hope? You bet there is. Outward performance is linked to inward thoughts and beliefs. Counseling can help you see that the messages you play in your head have the ability to set you free or keep you stuck. What you tell yourself plays a large role in your ability to change. If you think youíre inferior, unlovable, ugly, dumb, clumsy, or destined to fail Ė and if you repeat those ideas in your mind each time you make a mistake Ė youíll continue to falter. Itís much easier to break free from a low self-image if you refuse to entertain such negative thoughts. No one is beyond change and it is possible to reprogram your thinking. Hope and Healing Therapy can help you to break free!
Being a Parent
Parenting a Baby or Young Child
Being a parent can be a true joy, but it isnít always easy. Itís a round-the-clock job with demands and concerns that can be extremely stressful. What should you do if youíre at the end of your rope? Are you afraid youíll hurt your child? How can you cope better with the stresses of being a parent?
Recognize that asking for help is a sign a strength. Tips for immediate help include:
1) Take a breather. Deep breathing and quickly and effectively reduce stress.
2) Take a break. Even a short five minute break can be very helpful. Call a friend to vent. See if a neighbor can have your child as a guest for a short while you give yourself a time-out to cool down.
3) Make time for yourself. Find a reliable and trusted person to help with parenting duties or enroll your child in a certified daycare program.
4) Make time for exercise and pleasurable activities.
5) If your stress load is more than you can manage on your own, get professional help.
The basis for good parenting is communication. Here are some tips that can help you communicate better with your school age child:
Listen with care and interest.
Make and keep eye contact.
Listen for the emotions behind what your child is saying.
Show respect for her ideas and feelings. Do not tease, blame, belittle or find fault.
Use "I" messages when you talk. Try to steer clear of put-downs and statements that begin with "you."
Be honest and gentle.
Chose good times to talk about whatís on your mind. If you child comes home tired and hungry, let him have a snack and some rest first. If you come home in the same state, take a rest yourself.
Notice, praise and reward your child when she shows good listening habits. Sheís likely to want to listen carefully and follow through when she knows listening is appreciated and valued.
Be as fair as possible with all of your children. You should strive for the same style and approach with every child. While it is true that each child is different, playing favorites or being more accepting of one child can be very hurtful.
If you and your child have ongoing problems with communication, ask a therapist for help. Your child may need to be evaluated for problems that might be getting in the way. These could include language or attention problems, or family issues. With the help of a professional you can work out the difficulties and improve your communication skills.
Communicating with Your Teenager
Communication is very important during adolescence, when old ways of communicating may need to be altered to fit the new needs and capabilities of your teenager. During adolescence, your teen is striving to gain independence, yet still remain close to the family. The family's communication is a huge factor in the general atmosphere of a family's day-to-day interactions.
How to create a good atmosphere
Try to create an atmosphere in which everyone in the family is free to talk about whatever topics they need to discuss. Flexibility in communication allows the teen to express himself or herself. Teens need an opportunity for open and honest self-expression. By using good communication skills sensitive issues such as sexuality and drug or alcohol use can be discussed with greater comfort and success. The fact is, teens who share more openly with their parents are less likely to abuse substances.
Finding time to talk openly and freely with your child may prove to be a challenge in your busy world. Just a few minutes a day spent listening actively to your teen is a great place to start. Plan a time when you are both free to talk about the day. Remember, it is very important to let your teen share without him or her feeling pressured into talking.
Tell your child that you accept and value his or her point of view. Confirmation of a teen's perspective has been linked to positive personality development. Parents need to understand what adolescence is like in today's society, as well as the pressures and choices teens face.
Sketch a mental picture of what your teen is saying. Ask questions to help you complete the picture.
Be open to learning something new from your teen. Let your child be the teacher. You take the role of the student.
Keep your attention on your child. Donít interrupt with your own stories.
Be active in your listening. Summarize your teenís statements and check for understanding. Ask questions to keep the conversation moving.
Try to match your teenís emotional state, unless it is hostile or angry. This shows empathy and can make your teen feel accepted.
Donít give advice unless you are asked to give it. Hear your child out. Donít interrupt or add your opinions until your teen has finished. Your job is to listen with understanding, not to judge and command.
Put yourself in your teenagerís shoes. You donít have to agree with your adolescentís perspective to show respect for his or her point of view.
Think before you speak. If you feel a heated discussion coming on, count to twenty before you respond. Compose yourself. You donít want to break down the good communication you have built.
Be pleasant. This sounds simple, but it isnít. Stay positive, talking about how to solve problems in the here-and-now. Donít get tangled up in discussions of past mistakes.