Treating mental illness requires empathy, encouragement and understanding. Areas of specialty lie in crisis counseling, depression & anxiety, parenting,"Un-diagnosing bipolar disorder, anger/behavior management, trauma, substance abuse, the transition to college and the stress that accompanies it, and mental health education.
In addition to the following specialty areas, our practice is fortunate to have a bilingual counselor to serve Spanish-speaking clients and their families.
Provide assessments and safety plans for those experiencing severe depression and suicidal thoughts. Not everyone who has thoughts of not wanting to live or that their loved one would be better off if they were not around need hospitalization. Hospitalization is a last resort and is intended for short-term acute care and a recommendation will only be made if an adequate safety plan is unable to be put into effect.
These 2 mental health disorders have significant overlap in terms of their symptoms and impairment in one’s ability to be happy, at peace and productive in various areas of life including work and relationships. Therefore, it is important to not rush to judgment in making a diagnosis. In consultation with each client, we carefully assess and ask each client to track their symptoms from week to week and explore the history of the symptoms in order to best understand is it depression or anxiety or a combination of the 2. Family history is also explored to determine if there is a history of depression and/or anxiety since mental health problems have a hereditary link.
Many parents that I have worked with put way too much pressure on themselves. They lack confidence and are concerned that they will do something wrong that will forever harm their child. This is especially true for parents who have had unhealthy or ineffective parents themselves.
“Un-diagnosing” Bipolar Disorder
Too many times this label is placed on an individual by a friend, family member or even a healthcare professional without there being enough evidence (clinical data) to support the diagnosis. Unfortunately, individuals are usually prescribed very strong “mood stabilizing” medications which can cause side-effects such as difficulty thinking or expressing emotions/feelings. Therefore, an incorrect diagnosis can be very traumatic and lead to significant problems in important areas of life including employment and relationships.
Bipolar disorder is a real and sometimes challenging disorder to diagnose and treat. My goals is to ensure that there is adequate data to support the diagnosis by looking at your personal history of symptoms as well as family history since we know that it “runs in families.” Like most mental health problems, bipolar disorder is generally something you are born with (chemical imbalance in your brain) and if you look closely at your childhood through adulthood, there generally will be signs/symptoms of the disorder. It is important to understand that what may constitute a diagnosis of bipolar disorder as an adult does not always look the same as a child or teenager due to developmental changes.
Trauma is a very “real” and common problem that effects many individual and can result from emotional, physical, or sexual abuse.
Many times people think trauma is something that only happens in war, natural disasters or if you witnessed someone being killed. However, trauma can be more subtle and repeated events of emotional, physical or sexual abuse can lead to what is called "complex trauma." Complex trauma can be in the form of repeated childhood abuse, domestic violence and other repeated exposures such as multiple deployments to war zones.
Trauma effects each individual differently based on factors such as: temperament, supportive factors (for example, friends, family and receiving mental health treatment) and underlying predisposition to mental health disorders.
The symptoms and associated impairment resulting from traumatic experiences generally include: anxiety, depression, and more severe symptoms such as flashbacks (or remembering the incident vividly such as having a video of the incident replaying in one's mind).
Our approach to treating trauma is not unlike our approach to treating other mental health disorders. Our goal is to understand the struggles/challenges that brought you to our office and determine how your history of trauma is contributing to your current distress. Many times, clients report that they did not even know that what they experienced was trauma. They assume that others experience the same thing or what happened to them was not that bad. Therefore, we provide a lot of education on the symptoms of trauma and the different types of experiences that can lead to trauma-based symptoms. Then, treatment flows more smoothly and is integrated into the individual's current life situation. We support each client in gaining awareness, understanding and skills to work through their trauma symptoms to increase their personal and interpersonal satisfaction with life.
We tend to avoid and have a preference to avoid labels such as “alcoholic” and “addict.” These labels have a negative connotation and are stereotypes that in our opinion stigmatize the person suffering problems with substance use such as excessive alcohol use, dependence on narcotic drugs or illegal drugs. Individuals with this type of problem generally have a significant amount of guilt and shame so we do not want to add to it. Therefore, the goal is to best understand what purpose the substance is serving you in the present as well as the circumstances surrounding when the problem began. We know that many times individuals turn to substance use to escape depression, anxiety, family problems and trauma. We will help you identify alternate strategies including gaining/improving coping skills to reduce the need for substance use so that you can regain control of your life rather than having a substance(s) control you.
Transition to College Stress
Many factors can make this transition stressful and overwhelming such as social anxiety, undiagnosed ADHD/learning problems, over-indulgence in substance use, limited social support (being away from family, etc.). We will work closely with you to determine the key factors causing you distress and jointly we will determine a plan of action to help you college year be successful and memorable. This may include individual counseling, utilizing resources available at your school such as tutors or accommodations (e.g., additional time for tests) or having you complete a thorough psychological evaluation if it is difficult to differentiate the problem.
Mental Health Education
We believe that knowledge is powerful and key to coping with mental health problems. Therefore, we encourage questions as well as feedback from clients about any area of our work including diagnosis and treatment planning. Many times you will be provided with articles and/or books to read to further your knowledge and understanding.