At Gate Healing PLLC, we use strengths- and mindfulness-based cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques that help you recognize and self-correct negative thoughts and behaviors.
If you’re like most folks, you want to know that you can solve most of your own problems, rather than depend on others to do it for you. So, our work provides you with a solid foundation for you to find what works best for you. My job is to help you see how you can solve problems using mindfulness (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 than that.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
CBT theory says that your thoughts (cognitive) lead to behaviors (behavioral) that have results that shape both the unconscious and conscious mind.
Mindfulness-based therapy 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 a more objective perspective where you can make more effective decisions about what will help you. Mindfulness is related to the “cognitive” part of Cognitive-Behavioral counseling but adds depth and clarity while removing judgment.
Strength-based counseling focuses on your natural strengths. We will look at what you have already done that seems to work well, then we’ll build on it. We will also look at areas where what you have tried has not worked so well, and see if your more successful methods might work a little better. Most people possess a variety of strengths that are sitting in their blind spots, and thus may not know they have them. I will help you find and use them.
- Feeling lost in your own life because anxiety has your head swimming and buzzing?
- Do you fantasize about how your life “should” be easier? Less cluttered?
- Tired of going in circles by feeling anxious about anxiety?
- Losing sleep, or are you completely sleepless?
Because our sessions have only the two of us, there will be few distractions. This means that you can vent, think out loud, action plan, etc. all without being corrected or interrupted. Very often, by giving your anxiety a safe place to be heard and understood, you’re able to get to the bottom of it and relieve it. Remember that all discomfort wants to be resolved; the discomfort of intense heat wants us to get our hand away from the fire. Anxiety wants us to pay better attention to our surroundings and circumstances.
Anxiety therapy supports work-life balance
Balancing work and daily life can be challenging; effective anxiety management provides tools to help you find a balance that stops the anxiety process from spiraling out of control. Anxiety management is based on a relationship between your strengths and your ability to use those strengths to deal with anxiety, whether biochemical, genetic, learned, situational, etc. Your ability to work efficiently at your job, and connect better with your family at home will improve as you build your anxiety management skill set.
Anxiety and the mind-body connection
It is very important to understand that the mind and the body are just different aspects of the same thing: one is a function of the other. The mind is a function of the brain, and the brain is clearly part of the body. When you take care of your body, you are caring for your brain, and therefore caring for your mind. When you take care of your mind, you are making healthier decisions that help you take great care of your body, which creates the mind. It’s all very circular.
Eckart Tolle has correctly said that emotions are the physical expression of thoughts; it’s why we call emotions “feelings,” we feel them. I agree. When you have the anxious thought, “How will I know what to say on this first date??” you may feel it in your belly, you might feel a trembling in your hands or a chattering in your teeth. You may even sweat or feel a little queasy. What is happening is your body is preparing to deal with a perceived threat. The trouble is, there is no threat! It’s just that our nervous system is treating this unfamiliar circumstance (a first date) as if there is a physical danger. Using mindfulness, we are able to recognize what thoughts are adding to the perceived threat, then neutralize them by replacing them with more accurate thoughts and feelings, and by using smooth, rhythmic belly-breathing to trigger the “relaxation response.”
- Feeling disconnected, misunderstood, unheard?
- Fighting over minor issues?
- Avoiding your spouse or partner?
- Finding reasons to stay at work longer?
Please visit my Gottman-Method Couples Counseling page to learn more about how I provide couples therapy.
What if you felt heard and understood at the beginning of conflict? When you feel heard and understood before tension builds to the “red-zone,” you get to the resolution much more efficiently. Imagine, for example, that you and your partner are arguing about money, and rather than feeling shot down and criticized, you felt your opinion was respected and valued; that both of you were equal participants in these big decisions about your family. Now imagine how your partner would respond to you if they felt that way, too. Of course, finding a solution to the finances would be much easier, and far less upsetting to the mood of your home. But asking for help can be easier said than done.
Many people in Western society are conditioned to think that asking for help is a weakness (perhaps both in their families and by society itself); comedians often use the example of men refusing to ask for directions as comedic fodder (it’s funny because it’s often true!). Furthermore, the way the male brain works (Read Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus) is that it wants to “fix” things, and if it has failed to fix something, then they may feel emasculated (less of a man). This is how a brain marinated in testosterone works. On average, the feminine brain (marinated in estrogen and progesterone) tends to be more comfortable processing conflict via talking and therefore are more comfortable seeking counseling; the feminine brain naturally understands that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of a wisdom and genuine power (using the help of crutches on a broken leg is not weak, it’s just wise).
Couples counseling that is fair and unbiased
This is where I can help. I can help you find a way to talk to your husband/boyfriend (and yes, sometimes it’s the other way around) in a way that helps them hear what couples work is really about. I will help you know how to clearly let them know that you are aware that there are things that you do that annoy them and that you are willing to work on these things as well. We will discuss how to tell him that I will not take sides and that I will call you (wife/girlfriend) out just as quickly as I will him. Typically, once men see this in action, and they know that they have an ally that will help their concerns be heard as well, they are more likely to engage in couples work.
Any relationship between two people has 3 dynamics at play:
- Your dynamics,
- Your partner’s dynamics, and
- The relationship’s dynamics, which is NOT just a co-mingling of you and your partner’s dynamics . . . the relationship’s dynamics includes both of you but also has some manifestations of its own.
Each of these three dynamics needs to be taken into consideration when getting a relationship on track. When you have a fuller picture of what you are dealing with, finding common ground and workable solutions are far easier.
Would we benefit from marital or couples counseling?
Anybody who has been married any length of time can tell you that marriage is not as easy as it looks in the movies, or in our fantasies. It is hard work, often well worth it, but sometimes it does not seem like it, and sometimes this dance seems to have no rhyme or reason. It is when you and/OR your partner begin to consistently feel apathy about working on the relationship that couples counseling becomes vital. Obviously, when you can notice things (i.e., mindfulness) going in this direction before the apathy occurs, then even better – get started at that point using communication skills (involving both how to send AND receive communication), counseling, and mutual respect to potentially head off the apathy.
As with many other topics on this website, following through on these ideas/suggestions can be much easier said than done. Keep trying – persistence and consistency are some of the most powerful tools we have available to us.
The Relationship Cure and Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work are extremely helpful books to read when working on your relationships (martial or otherwise).
- Feel like you’re living in a permanent fog? Or running in ankle deep mud?
- Too much OR too little sleep?
- No motivation to get things done?
- Irritable? Sad? Weepy?
- Body aches and pains?
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.
Mindfulness and depression counseling
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.
Common tools for overcoming depression
Before jumping to medications, there are well-researched and consistently proven methods for combating depression. It is ALWAYS ok to talk to your doctor/psychiatrist about medication, though. They do work for many people. Consistency and follow through are important with these tools. We will customize these tools, and others, to your unique personality and situation:
- Healthy diet
- Proper hydration
- Massage (it’s actually been researched and proven to help)
- Social time (for Introverts, social time can be less than for Extroverts)
Obviously, this is not a complete list as each of us has different personalities that respond differently to various tools.
Knowing where you are at will help you respond to the reality that you are in. Regardless of how far down the rabbit-hole of depression you may be, starting new thoughts and behaviors will get you out sooner than if you wait until tomorrow.
- Ever just snap at your partner, kids, or parents?
- Do you feel like you’ve lost your connection with your family?
- Do you dread coming home? Make excuses to run long errands?
- Is there a cloud hanging over your home?
Because families see each other after long school and work days, people are often already on edge, ready to snap at the slightest annoyance. And because people take out their stress on the people they love and trust the most, family time can feel hurtful. While it may seem difficult, it is important to consider not taking things too personally. A person’s stressed-out personality is totally different than their preferred personality. Long story short, when stressed-out, we become the obnoxious, exaggerated, immature version of our opposite personality type. Sound familiar?
Family counseling using a personality inventory
Family counseling means that we will be examining several dynamics to help shape how we get you back on track:
- Each person’s preferred and shadow personality type. I’ll have each of you complete a short personality inventory
- Stresses that the family is enduring, and trends about when things flare up around those issues
- Stresses that each individual has, and trends about their flare-ups
- Each person’s perspective on what is happening in the family, and what they’d like to see improved
- Conflict and communication styles of the family, and of each individual
- Strengths that each person has
- Areas where each person needs to improve
This is by no means an all-inclusive list, but most things will fall under at least one of these areas. Using a personality inventory will help us see trends in how you deal with stress, how you manage conflict, and how you communicate. This works very well with a Mindfulness-based approach since the more self-aware you are, the more effective you’ll be at recognizing your triggers, and triggers of other family members. This one dynamic, mindfulness, is therefore partially responsible for about 80% of improvement in the family (you cannot fix a problem until you see it for what it is . . .and that’s the definition of mindfulness: seeing things simply as they are).
Mindfulness and family therapy
So we’ve covered how knowing yourself and your family members is an exercise in mindfulness, which helps people get on the same page; now how do we move to the next step of communication? It’s much easier to communicate about issues when we know what is really going on, and when each person feels understood. Remember, showing that you understand somebody’s perspective does NOT mean that you have to agree with them. I can understand that you like the taste of broccoli, but that does not mean that I have to agree that it tastes good. So go ahead and let people know that you hear them; it doesn’t mean that you’re giving up on your perspective, but it will help others be able to hear it.
Coping with change is sometimes easier said than done. Depending on the nature of the change, and if it is something we are in control of, we can find ourselves feeling anything from excited enthusiasm to dread and despair. Most people find that having a plan for managing change helps them enjoy the exciting changes, and weather the storm of the unwanted changes.
Don’t underestimate the impact of change on your stress levels. Changes mean that our brain has more to learn and keep track of while continuing to make daily life decisions and remembering our to-do lists. Sudden major change can be a blur that has us second-guessing ourselves, whereas slower beneficial change can be wonderful when we realize the success, but painstaking along the way. Having an approach to change means that you don’t have to just improvise. It gives you a way to make sense of things, and to make more efficient decisions.
Mindfulness and change
Mindfulness of the here and now, along with acceptance of reality as it is, means that you don’t have to add judgment to the experience; this makes things much easier to deal with. Let’s say you’ve gotten a promotion that means you’ll have to go to work a few hours longer for a while. The promotion is great, but those extra hours will eat into your evenings with your family. Now, you could immediately throw a fit and refuse the promotion, or you could slow down, accept that this is a curve-ball for family time, then let yourself think of a solution; perhaps talking it over with your family, and spending extra-special time on the weekend, or being really present as you tuck the kids in at bedtime. Most changes give you a chance to consider how to approach things, but not always.
An integral part of our work involves assessing the strengths you already have, then leverage them in creating effective strategies for coping with life. If you know that you are extremely effective with flow charts when it comes to finding creative solutions, then you may decide to flowchart your way through a decision regarding life changes. On the other hand, if you know that you get into a very effective mindset when you paint, then you should probably stock up on paint when change is coming.
- Returning from being deployed in the military? Or have family in the military?
- Been through a major tragedy like natural disasters, theft, etc.
- Been through a traumatic death of a co-worker or loved one?
- Has a relationship come to a difficult end?
- Did you have a traumatic/abusive childhood or marriage? Or did you witness others being abused?
I received Advanced Certification by the International Critical Incident Foundation and have responded to hundreds of critical incidents around the United States. I have also trained new trauma specialists who have also provided international support to hundreds of trauma survivors.
Anybody can be impacted by Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS)
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 as well (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.
Very often, survivors of abuse, Veterans, and First Responders (police, fire, and EMS) are also deeply impacted and seek out this highly specialized form of assistance. Learn more about PTS(d).