Counseling Services: Helping you self-recognize and correct bad habits

At Gate Healing, we provide mindfulness-based cognitive-behavioral counseling services that help you recognize and self-correct problematic thoughts and behaviors. Cognitive-Behavioral theory teaches that your thoughts (cognitions) lead to behaviors that have results that shape the mind.

Strengths and Mindfulness-based Cognitive Behavioral Counseling

Mindfulness-based counseling

Mindfulness-based counseling involves learning how to be aware, or mindful, of your thoughts and feelings without negativity or drama. This allows you to see yourself and your situation from an objective perspective where you can make more effective decisions. Mindfulness brings a unique clarity to cognitive-behavioral counseling techniques.

Mindfulness is an awareness that is free of various forms of brain-clutter like judgment, competitiveness, and resentment. Finding this new perspective, you are able to see what your strengths are, and know how to use them. And if you get stuck, I’ll be there to help you adapt your skills and try again. Remember, I won’t send you on a wild-goose chase when you are truly stuck; I’ll be more helpful and informative than that.

Strengths-based counseling

Strength-based counseling focuses on your natural strengths. We will look at what you have already done that seems to have worked well, then build on that. When you need to improve skills that haven’t worked, we will create an action plan for you to follow. Most people possess a variety of strengths that they aren’t aware of because they’re sitting in a blind spot. I will help you find them, use them, and adapt them to apply to other situations.

If you’re like most folks, you want to know that you can solve most of your own problems. So, our work provides you with a solid foundation to find what works best for you. My job is to help you see how you can solve problems using mindfulness.

Individual Counseling

Stress Management

Stress is a biochemical state of heightened alert and is related to anxiety in that way. Chemicals like cortisol, epinephrine, and testosterone create the tense mental and physiological state that comes with stress. Stress is trying to help keep you safe and should be managed and leveraged in a healthy manner, not eradicated.

Depression and Anxiety

Depression and anxiety tend to co-occur. Some find that they are experiencing a primary depression and a secondary anxiety, while others experience anxiety with a secondary depression. The “3rd Musketeer” is irritability. Where you see depression or anxiety, you’ll usually see some form of irritability. Most often, medication is not necessary to manage depression and anxiety; counseling, exercise and healthy nutrition show far more positive results in managing depression and anxiety.

Life Transitions

Let’s face it, getting that dream job and moving to that amazing community that you’ve always wanted to live in is a blessing! But you’ll need to do some planning in order to have a smooth transition that minimizes stress and confusion as the unexpected curve-balls inevitably arise. Perhaps you are just considering a change, maybe whether to have a baby or not, to buy a new home, or even to end a relationship. Having a place to process your thoughts and feelings about these things can help you prevent undue stress.

Couples Counseling

Couples Counseling

Perhaps you’ve noticed a pattern of disagreements escalating into full-blown fights. Or maybe you’ve seen a disturbing trend of not attending to each other’s attempts to talk, or even be romantic. When these types of dynamics happen occasionally, there is usually no need for concern unless other unhealthy patterns are present. But when you realize a pattern has emerged, it is time to get help.

Couples Counseling – Improving Communication, Closeness and Conflict Management

The Gottman Method of Couples Therapy is an empirically validated methodology developed by Drs John & Julie Gottman at the University of Washington over the course of 40 years of studying and treating over 3,000 couples. They discovered that certain practices (sometimes surprising ones!) were highly correlated with the long-term success of happy couples. They were also able to accurately predict which couples would not last based on a few simple behavior patterns. With the simple exercises and techniques learned in the Gottman Method of Couples Therapy, thousands of couples have dramatically changed their relationships from nearly certain failure to the closeness and excitement that they had dreamed about.

The Gottman Method

With concepts like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which signify major dysfunction in a relationship, and Bids/Turns, which address communication dynamics, their straightforward approach is intuitive and extremely effective. The Gottman Method of Couples Therapy is not just intuitive though, the empirical research supports the methodology and the success rates are astounding. Through the use of assessments, exercises, and homework, the Gottman Method helps couples learn how to communicate better, manage conflict more effectively, and build intimacy that may have been missing for many years.

Couples counseling helps you and your partner:

1. Examine your assumptions
2. Improve communication skills
3. Learn how to recognize and respond to warning signs that you need to slow down and understand each other better

Click the ‘+’ to read more about each section.

  • The Four Horsemen - Red Flags to Look For

    Communication represents a large part of how we connect with each other. A therapist trained in the Gottman Method will help you identify communication problems and will teach you how to fix them. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are communication patterns that represent major dysfunction in communication and that if left untreated can result in the demise of a relationship:

    • Criticism – This feels like character assassination. A highly charged criticism of the very character of a person that goes well beyond a simple behavioral complaint. These can be passive-aggressive, or overtly aggressive.
    • Defensiveness – An angry denial or a charged deflection of responsibility; even excuse making. The defensive person shifts the focus back onto themselves instead of hearing their partner fully. Criticism and Contempt (the next Horseman) often lead to defensiveness.
    • Contempt – Often feels like an expression of disgust. You’ll also see things like mocking, toxic sarcasm and belittling. There are facial features that also give this one away (Imagine a teenager rolling their eyes and pulling their upper lip up as if they smelled something horrible).
    • Stonewalling – Stonewalling is frequently associated with flooding, a physiological state where a person is so upset that they literally shut down emotionally and communicatively. They will just withdraw from the conversation, not make eye contact, and may specifically look down and to the left. When we check their vital signs, we see increased pulse rate, among other things.

    When the Four Horsemen dominate conflict, a relationship is in serious trouble. Fortunately, there is help. I’d like to help you before they become a pattern, but if you see that they are already set in place, please get in touch so we can get started.  You’ll listen better, feel understood more often, and maintain a calm and respectful demeanor when dealing with charged topics and conflict.

  • Nine Practices of Healthy Relationships

    There are many misconceptions about what destroys relationships and what makes them work. For example, the vast majority of marriages are able to survive affairs if the core issue is addressed in therapy. On the other hand, people tend to erroneously think that effective marriages are able to solve most of their problems. Dr. Gottman himself was surprised to find that in happy relationships 69% of conflict is managed, not solved. This means that conflict is just fine so long as there is a way to manage it that leads to discussion and compromise vs gridlock.

    Nine practices that lead to healthy relationships:

    1. Knowing one another – Know the small details about each other
    2. Sharing fondness and admiration of one another – Build each other up, share what you like and love
    3. Being responsive to attempts to connect – Make efforts to establish and maintain connections every day
    4. Giving the benefit of the doubt – When dealing with conflict, remember you both want to restore harmony. Practice effective “repair efforts” when conflict does occur
    5. Managing conflict effectively – Remember, dialogue instead of gridlock. It is the discussion itself that keeps you connected through the conflict
    6. Working to help one another’s life dreams come true – Give your hopes and dreams a voice! Hear your partner’s dreams and find ways to help them come true
    7. Creating shared meaning – Approach life from a “We” or “Us” perspective instead of only as 2 individuals sharing a house
    8. Trust – Trust that you have each other’s backs when the chips are down
    9. Commitment – Show your commitment by showing compassion, gratitude, kindness, and optimism. Be trustworthy. Follow through on your promises

Anxiety Counseling

What is anxiety counseling?

Anxiety counseling helps you manage anxiety by learning to:

1. Recognize thoughts and behaviors that create anxiety
2. Identify new ways of thinking that reduce anxiety
3. Practice self-soothing behaviors that calm the nervous system

Anxiety management is based on a strong relationship between a person’s strengths and their ability to use them to deal with all facets of anxiety. These different parts of anxiety can be biochemical, learned, situational, etc.

Anxiety is not designed to be unhealthy in limited doses; it is supposed to be a temporary alert system that helps you pay close attention to potential danger. An anxiety attack is your body’s fight or flight response acting as if your life is in danger. This is what causes symptoms like a fast, pounding heart, rapid breathing, sweating, plus a sense of impending doom.

Solution-focused, Client-directed

My overall approach puts more focus on the solution to anxiety than on the anxiety itself. I do, however, believe that it is important for me to understand how you experience anxiety, and where it is coming from, so I do not gloss over it. I will likely point out when you are exclusively focusing on nervous thoughts and anxious behaviors, thereby not putting as much focus on how to relieve it, so that we can get back to the business of anxiety relief.

You are able to solve issues like anxiety on your own. Being Client-directed means that I do not see it as my place to tell you what to do, when to do it, and why you should do it my way. This means that if I redirect you away from focusing exclusively on anxiety, but you feel like you really need to vent more, I expect that you will speak up! Rest assured, I will be clear about if it seems to be helping or not, but I won’t demand that you do it my way.

Depression Counseling

Depression explained

Depression is like living under a dark cloud that just won’t go away. Eventually, even the motivation to try to feel better seems to evaporate; people even say that it’s tough to follow through on behaviors that they know would help. Because of the progression of depression, it is important to get started in counseling sooner than later so that the depression doesn’t get too much momentum. But even if things have felt bleak for quite some time, taking action now will help you reclaim your life.

Depression symptoms

Sometimes, doing what could help can feel difficult because of the cognitive symptoms of depression like lack of motivation and presence of pessimism. But depression is not just painful thoughts and emotions, it is frequently accompanied by physical discomfort and lethargy. Insomnia, hypersomnia, appetite changes, irritability, and anxiety are other troublesome symptoms that may co-occur with depression.

Treating depression

As painful as depression is, the thoughts that go along with it can be even more painful. The mind seems to ruminate on self-loathing, guilt, regret, anger, and even suicide. Using mindfulness to manage depression is not about digging into the painful thoughts, but rather to simply see them for what they are, then move to different, healthier thoughts. Most people find that the more they try to avoid certain thoughts, the louder they seem to get. We can use this paradox to your advantage by becoming aware of depressive thoughts as soon as they happen, then intervening as soon as possible by using the tools we will develop together.

To treat your depression, I’ll work with you to:

Cultivate a mindfulness practice that helps you beat depression
Overcome the lethargy and lack of motivation that often comes with depression
Identify specific skills that change the biochemistry of depression

  • Tools for Fighting Depression

    Before jumping to medications, you can look at other well-researched and consistently proven methods for combating depression (you’re never wrong to talk to your doctor/psychiatrist about medication though). Consistency and follow through are important with these tools. We will customize these tools, and others, to your unique personality and situation:

    • Counseling
    • Exercise
    • Meditation
    • Eating healthy
    • Proper hydration
    • Hobbies
    • Socializing

Stress Management Counseling

Stress management in Austin is essential. So many things going on that even deciding what to do to unwind can create stress! But there is a way to approach stress that helps us leverage the motivation it is trying to create. Stress, like anxiety, is a state of heightened awareness. It is an alert signal that tells us that we need to do something to restore balance.

Responding to stress vs Reacting to stress

You’re buried under paperwork, are behind on bills, your car won’t start, and you have a big meeting with your boss and a VP of the company in 10 minutes.

Stress is a fact of life. We are not talking about getting rid of any emotions; instead, we are talking about how to effectively respond to them. By responding instead of reacting to our uncomfortable emotions, like stress, we are able to turn them into useful tools that help us find what we are looking for: balance (homeostasis), peacefulness, calmness, joy, etc.

A ‘Reaction’ is when you act without thinking. For example, somebody says something that you don’t like, and you say something hurtful without thinking.
A ‘Response’ is when you take time to consider what you are about to say or do so you are able to make the best decision.

  • How to Leverage Stress to Help You

    Since stress is inevitable, we would do well to use it to our advantage as we learn to navigate life’s ups and downs. Like other uncomfortable/undesirable states of mind, we can allow stress to be a ‘warning light’ that tells us when it’s time to take a break, slow down, take a vacation, etc. Just be sure that you know what tends to help you; if you are not sure, then counseling may be helpful for you since sometimes a neutral person can see options that you may have missed.

    Stress management ideas:

    • Take a shower or bath
    • Stretch
    • Meditate
    • Exercise
    • Read
    • Listen to music
    • Get a massage
    • Play music
    • Play a game
    • Talk to a friend or family member
    • Take a walk in nature (or just sit in nature)
    • Drink a soothing drink (Chamomile)
    • Simply wash your face
    • Breathe in and out with a smooth rhythm (meditation)
    • Tend your garden
    • etc.

Trauma, PTSD & Crisis Counseling

Trauma and Crisis Counseling

I received Advanced Certification by the International Critical Incident Foundation in 1998 and have responded to over 400 critical incidents around the United States. I have also trained new trauma specialists who have also provided international support to hundreds of trauma survivors.

Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) and Who it Impacts

Post Traumatic Stress is very real and can impact soldiers and civilians alike. Things like combat, terrorism, and natural disaster are not the only ways to experience it. Major life changes like job loss, divorce, and loss of loved ones often result in PTS symptoms (sometimes mistakenly referred to as PTSD . . . the ‘D’ stands for Disorder; PTS is not a disorder in and of itself; if not resolved, however, it can meet the diagnostic criteria for PTSD). If you are uncertain, please get in touch to see if crisis counseling would be helpful for you.

Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress

While we all experience trauma in unique ways, there are several trends that are consistent across traumatic experiences. Beginning with shock and denial, symptoms of traumatic stress also include cognitive, behavioral, physical and emotional symptoms. Appetite and sleep fluctuation, irritability, depression, fear and recurring images (flashbacks) are common. More severe symptoms include chronic depression, phobic reactions to traumatic triggers, job loss, physical decline and major personality changes.

What to expect from post-traumatic stress

When tragedy strikes, it is rarely expected or planned for. Usually, it comes in the form of unexpected trauma ranging from natural disasters to the unfathomable tragedies of terrorism.

We survive tragedy, but we must understand that the distress that follows tells us we need help. If not addressed, these symptoms (often referred to as Critical Incident Stress or Post Traumatic Stress) may linger for months or even years, needlessly complicating our lives, and worrying our loved ones who may feel helpless when trying to ease our pain.

What to expect from post-traumatic stress

While some people may be able to effectively manage their traumatic stress without counseling or traumatic stress management/debriefing, it is always best to talk to a professional if you have any hesitation at all–it is worth the time and expense to put your mind at ease; remember, some of the manifestations of traumatic stress can be subtle as they stay inside and fester only to show up later as more distressing symptoms.

In order to deal with traumatic stress effectively, it is suggested that you contact a credentialed Critical Incident Stress Management professional within the first 24-72 hours. Your healing may involve both group debriefings and individual counseling, as well as ongoing aftercare for a few weeks, or as long as you feel is necessary.

  • Helpful tips when Post Traumatic Stress impacts you

    Here are some suggestions for things to try after surviving a tragedy:

    • Try to remember, it is OK to feel rotten about a rotten situation.
    • As you feel ready, begin to bring normalcy back to your life by doing things that you used to do before the trauma.
    • Exercise and follow a healthy diet (talk to your doctor!).
    • Talk to your friends and family.
    • Talk with a professional counselor (preferably Critical Incident trained).
    • Practice meditation, relaxation, gentle, relaxed breathing.
    • Get plenty of rest.
    • Attempt to find something that you can learn from the trauma (i.e., how to prepare for a tornado, how to perform 1st aid and CPR, learn self-defense).

    *Use the above as suggestions for loved ones that are struggling as well.

  • If you know somebody that has been through a crisis or trauma

    First, please understand that people who have been through a trauma do not have a “Disorder.” The Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) simply becomes a part of their survival. They can, and will, work through it. Helping them heal from this “invisible wound” involves:

    • Following their lead. Be there if they ask for help.
    • Do NOT ask for details; this can traumatize you (called Secondary Trauma, or Vicarious Trauma) and re-traumatize them by bringing the pain back up for them.
    • Be reassuring, help them remember what they can do: exercise, be social (careful about alcohol though), play music, read a book, anything that helps them unwind. Even offer to do this with them.
    • If they would like to talk about how they feel, or about the situation, be sure that you are clear about your limits. They will be appreciative that they know you will be honest with them. If you do feel upset by anything, be sure you reach out for help as well.
    • Offer to bring them something they need: a meal, a book, yourself, etc. However, do not treat them as if they are incapable of caring for themselves.
    • Just love them by being a good friend and/or family member.