December Update

First of all I would like to thank everyone for their support. Having just entered the third month of my private practice, I’ve been introduced to nine clients who are meeting with me regularly.  I’ve also been participating in a couple of holiday bazaars selling handmade beaded jewelry while introducing the counseling business. Networking has been really enjoyable. 

This last month I was offered a position as a monthly facilitator for a support group for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.  They support individuals and family members who are coping with a variety of over 40 neuromuscular illnesses. I’m excited to start this endeavor this month.

I hope you’ve found my last few newsletters helpful, and I welcome any feedback and topic suggestions you might have.  Have a wonderful and safe holiday season.

My Best,


The Benefits of Support Groups


Photo Credit: Puiu Adriana Mirabela

Photo Credit: Puiu Adriana Mirabela

Support groups can come in varying forms and provide individuals with a group atmosphere to address addictions, mental illness, physical illness, social skills, grief, and more.  They are often run by a facilitator who may be a licensed professional or a peer who has had training and experience with a certain issue.  Research has found that support groups often foster strong emotional bonds that encourage a high level of sharing of emotionally-charged experiences.  These social ties have been found to be important for health maintenance, helpful in providing informational support and access to health-promoting resources in the community.  Social support has also been seen to buffer against stress and facilitate better self-care.  A support group also provides a sense of belonging.

While doing research on group work I learned that the group approach can be more effective than the individual approach, because group members gain insight, practice new skills, and benefit from feedback and insights from other group members.  The group provides a re-creation of the participants’ everyday world, particularly when the group is diverse in age, interest, background, and socio economic status.  As a teen I attended a support group with my family, and while I don’t remember all the content that was addressed, I do remember I felt supported, encouraged, and less isolated.  If you have any interest in attending a support group or need help finding one to match your needs I welcome you to email me at, and I will do my best to find something that will work for you.

Coping with Grief & Loss Over the Holidays


Photo Credit: Gabriel Schouten de Jel

While the holidays are a time of celebration and excitement, they can also bring about feelings of sadness as we feel the absence of those we have lost.  Here are some things to consider as you cope with grief and loss this holiday season:

  1. Keep things simple; eliminate unnecessary stress; don’t expect yourself to do all you might have done from past holidays.  Allow yourself some time and self-care and communicate with your loved ones your intentions.
  2. Find a way to honor the life of your loved one.
  3. Spend time sharing stories of your loved one; take time to process your feelings around this loss.
  4. Create new traditions. This could be as simple as lighting a candle or donating a gift in that person’s memory or a more involved project like a memory box, preparing that person’s favorite meal, or a quilt.
  5. Nurture those relationships that are most meaningful to you.
  6. Find ways to share your time, talents, and skills.
  7. Allow yourself all the feelings of the holidays. Expect joy, sadness, love, laughter, and be generous with yourself.

There are resources to support those who might want professional support from individual counseling to bereavement support groups.  I found one online community that has articles, forums, community groups, and ways to create an online memorial for your loved one at  Please feel free to contact me if you would like referrals.  It is important to remember we all grieve in our own ways and there is no right or wrong way. Most important is to remember to take care of you during this time.

Igniting Hope – Liz Murray and “Breaking Night”


Photo Credit:

Liz Murray grew up in New York in a struggling family of four, as both of her parents struggled with IV drug addictions.  At 15 years of age she found herself homeless after caring for her mother who died of AIDS; her father also would die of AIDS some years later.  Determined to finish school, she managed to get straight A’s while she slept on park benches and on the underground trains.  Liz was able to find a scholarship that would pay $12,000 a year for college and was accepted into Harvard where she graduated in June of 2009.  Her book, Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard, made it on the New York Times bestseller’s list and was also made into a Lifetime movie. Since then Liz has become a counselor, is the founder and director of Manifest Living and is a motivational speaker.  Liz’s story is a great reminder that with perseverance, determination, and dreams people can accomplish great things despite very difficult upbringings.  

Watch this video of Liz Murray talking about her experiences:

Why Choose Counseling?

I came across a blog post by Jodie Gale, MA, BSW, in which she explores both the reasons why a person should consider counseling and the long term benefits counseling can provide.  I’m going to elaborate on some of the benefits (and tweak a few that I think can be combined) that she mentions in her post.

  1. Receive support, empathy and compassion from someone who is objective.  That’s not to say friends and family are not great support, but sometimes those close to us can feel we tell them what we think they want to hear.  Having an objective person who doesn’t have the same sort of history as you can be very affirming.
  2. Heal from early childhood wounding and abuse.  Oftentimes we can get stuck living in the past, which then results in letting that past overtake your present time.  Finding ways to share these difficult memories and then letting go can be freeing.
  3. Find resolution and freedom from the pervasive underlying causes of problems, which often include self-destructive thoughts and behaviors.  We don’t always take the time to understand why we do the things we do, or we get caught in the same loop as a result of some of the problems that began a long time ago.  Working with a counselor can help folks make new plans to break old patterns that are no longer helpful in our present lives.
  4. Reduce stress, anxiety, depression and other symptoms of distress.  There are so many harmful effects of stress including headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, and sleeping difficulties. Additionally, research suggests that stress also can bring on or worsen certain symptoms of diseases.  Stress also is harmful when a person starts using illicit substances to relieve stress, which can lead to addictions and other health problems and behaviors.
  5. Learn how to manage, accept and see the value in a wide range of feelings.  One helpful tool I’ve learned about is that often people believe they are their emotion and become so connected to that emotion they allow it to take over and influence harmful behaviors.  For instance a person may get angry at their colleague for taking credit for something they did, perhaps this isn’t the first time it’s happened.  You become angry and frustrated and would like to cuss that person out.  Instead, take a step back.  Own your anger, but understand that it is only an emotion that does not need to rule your day or week.  Take the time to figure out a proactive way to address this, whether it be talking to a supervisor or finding a time to confront this person about how their actions affect you.  Now you’ve felt the range of emotions from anger, hurt/sadness, to nervous (maybe from having to address this), relief, and then maybe a sense of hopefulness that this issue can be resolved.
  6. Enhance emotional intelligence and build  a strong foundation for healthy relationships.  Learn how to build support systems and increase social skills.  We can all benefit from having these and looking at these as life goes on.
  7. Increase self-awareness, self-acceptance, self-compassion, self-worth and self-confidence.  Become more intuitive and unleash creativity.  Experience self-actualization and self-realization.  Who doesn’t want these in their life?
  8. Gain a greater sense of clarity, focus and concentration.  It can get so easy to become inundated with the obligations and responsibilities of our school, careers, family, friends, interests, groups, etc.  Finding ways to focus in and concentrate on what matters to us most can be very beneficial and self-preserving.
  9. Have a more conscious relationship with money, food, career or whatever else it is that you may be struggling with.  Money, food and careers can all be overwhelming and sometimes can cause us to freeze into holding patterns that aren’t healthy and can cause huge amounts of stress.  Counseling can help you gain perspective and build new plans to address problematic stressors.
  10. Build a toolbox of self-care, coping and life skills.  What we’ve tried before might not work the same at this point in our lives.  Find new ways to address old obstacles!  Apply newfound awareness and skills to all areas of your life.
  11. Discover value, meaning and purpose in life and out of past suffering.  Take time to dream about your life again.  And don’t stop at one dream, dream dreams!
  12. Develop compassion, kindness and gratitude towards self and others.  This can add to an overall positive outlook that can lift spirits and feed the soul.
  13. Experience a sense of inner peacefulness and calm.
  14. Live a conscious life.  Know why you are doing what you are doing and believe in what you are doing.

Benefits of Using a Sliding Scale

While not billing insurance for counseling services can result in more out-of-pocket expenses, there are benefits to using a sliding scale for services. My hope is to accept both insurance and sliding-scale payment for services in the future; however, while I am working on my LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) using the sliding scale is my only option.

There are perks to this type fee scale:

  1. The number of therapy sessions is not limited. Insurance companies require a mental health diagnosis, and based on that diagnosis they approve a certain number of sessions. Recently I spoke with someone who was in counseling whose insurance only covered 6 sessions; she feels she could benefit from more. This also means a person can really structure counseling sessions around a timeline that works best for them, and start and stop the process during times they feel they could most benefit from this.
  2. Privacy. Billing your employer’s insurance means your employer or benefits person may know you are seeking counseling services.
  3. Case by case affordability. Using the sliding scale allows your counselor (if they would like) to create a fee schedule that is affordable on a case by case basis. With insurance, there is often a required copay amount the therapist has no control over.
  4. It helps those that don’t have insurance or don’t have insurance that covers counseling. For some, billing insurance is just not an option. This means they must find a clinician that will accept private pay.

I hope this sliding scale fee option works for my clients and appreciate being able to provide these services while I continue working towards my license.