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DBT for College Aged Students: Is This Class Right for Me?

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DBT for College Aged Students: Is this class right for me?So you’re already struggling, and now you have to go to college. College often involves more responsibility which is tough when you’re already struggling. Maybe your life feels like an uphill climb, in the rain, in knee-deep mud? Does it feel as though you can never catch a break and everywhere you turn, something more challenging occurs? Or maybe you feel like your emotions dictate your life and you’re exhausted and ready to give up. Are you a high school senior or a current college student? Are you wanting to make some changes but worried you’ve run out of time before you go to college this fall? If any of this sounds familiar, keep reading to find out if the Summit’s DBT college course could help you change your life!

1. You have difficulty in relationships

Do you find it hard to connect with people without feeling fearful of rejection? Is it challenging to get what you need or want from others? Maybe you have a tough time setting boundaries or advocating for yourself. Or perhaps you notice you struggle to keep healthy friendships or relationships. Good news, the DBT college class can help you learn effective skills to get your needs met, set boundaries, feel good about yourself in interactions, and maintain healthy relationships before you head to college.

2. You’re riding an emotional rollercoaster that never stops

Do you ever feel like your entire day or week is spent fighting with others, crying, and/or feeling overwhelmed? Or maybe you notice that it’s hard to recover from emotional reactions, and it takes you a long time to calm down. DBT can help! The DBT college class focuses on teaching skills to help you manage your emotions, effectively handle conflict, and learn to tolerate difficult emotions.

3. You are using unhealthy coping skills to manage your emotions

Are you currently using risky behaviors to cope with difficult emotions including drugs or alcohol? Are you self-harming, wanting to self-harm, or thinking about suicide? We all deserve to have a life that’s worth living, and the DBT college class can provide you with skills to manage these urges. DBT can help you find different, more effective long-term solutions so that you can create a life that you enjoy without needing unhealthy coping skills.

4. Therapy hasn’t worked in the past

Perhaps you’ve tried a different therapist, different medications, and nothing seems to work for you. DBT is a research-supported therapy for treatment-resistant symptoms such as anxiety and depression. The DBT college course can help you grow and learn in ways that previous therapy has not before you go to college.

5. Are you a high school senior or college student home for the summer?

This DBT college class is an accelerated version of DBT that combines Mindfulness, Emotion Regulation, Distress Tolerance, and Interpersonal Effectiveness into one, 8-week class taught by intensively trained DBT therapist. While the DBT college class is an accelerated model, it still maintains standards and class formats created by Marsha Linehan, the developer of DBT. Not only will you learn helpful, research-driven skills to help you create a life worth living, but you will also learn skills in a shorter amount of time to set you up for success in college.

If you are interested in learning more about or signing up for the DBT College Class, please contact the Summit Counseling Center by calling 678-893-5300.

Why Self-Care is More Productive in the Long-Run

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Culture today constantly tells us, “keep pushing,” “there aren’t enough hours in the day,” “hustle,” or “work harder”. We are always receiving messages that what we’re doing is not enough, who we are is not enough, or if we just worked a little bit harder, we would be enough. We’re always looking to the next thing. How can I improve myself? What can I do to help me get to the next thing? Just one more thing before I rest.

What if living this way is just making us feel tired all the time? We’re exhausted, our energy and resources are depleted, and we’re no longer set up to see things through. No matter how badly we want to succeed, by living this way, we’re not setting ourselves up for success.

So, what does it look like to set ourselves up for success? It looks like self-care. It looks like taking breaks, grounding ourselves, and replenishing our resources.

It looks like taking naps and taking baths. It’s going to bed early even if you haven’t finished everything on your list. It’s taking time to cook a nice meal, and sometimes it’s take-out. It looks like going on a run, or taking the day off from the gym. Some days it’s just rolling the windows down on the way home. It’s noticing the wind on your face and the flowers blooming.

It’s doing whatever you need to do to make you feel like your head is above water for a minute. It’s finding those moments to breathe deep. It’s knowing that you are worthy whether or not you complete your to-do list, that you are enough whether or not you are productive. Your ability to be loved has nothing to do with what you do and everything to do with who you are.

When we live from a place of rest, instead of a place of striving, we are able to focus and align ourselves with our goals. We can let the anxiety and the pressure of others fall to the wayside and have more of ourselves to give to our dreams. Take time to take care of you; you’re worth it.

Managing Spring Fever

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It’s been cold for several months and now the seasons are starting to change. The sun is warm, the flowers are blooming, and it feels great to be outside. Now that the weather is warmer you may find yourself wanting to be anywhere but inside at work or school. Daydreaming of the beach, wanting a vacation, or desiring to be anywhere other than inside at work or school? Looks like you’ve got spring fever! So, what to do? We all know that life doesn’t stop just because the seasons change, even though we wish warm weather meant months of vacation! Struggling with this? Here are some tips to try:

1) Schedule a vacation. If you can take time off, do it and make the most of it. Plan a fun vacation to unwind and relax.

2) Make the most of your weekends! The weekends are a great way to get in some self-care and outdoor relaxation for two full days! Plan a hike, go on a picnic, check out the zoo, or check out some new cities close by!

3) Take your regular breaks outside. Lunchtime? Coffee break? Enjoy the sunshine for a few minutes to rejuvenate yourself during times when you’d already been taking a break.

4) Make the most of daylight savings time! Use the extra daylight to take a walk or be outside after work or school.

5) If you must be in the car, roll down your windows or open your sunroof! Enjoy the warm weather and sunshine while you drive.

6) Be mindful of your thoughts. When you find yourself not wanting to be inside, notice it, and bring your attention back to what you’re doing. Remind yourself that you can reward yourself with a break or enjoy the weather after your done with your commitments and responsibilities.

If you find yourself struggling with more than just spring fever, consider contacting the Summit Counseling Center to make an appointment with a therapist who can help. Call 678-893-5300 to schedule your appointment today.

The Art (not science) of Effective Discipline

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Discipline can be a touchy subject.  Everyone has an opinion and a story to back up their opinion but there isn’t one cookie-cutter approach that will work for every child.  Even within one family, siblings may require something different depending on their temperament, their age, or your level of patience after a long day at work.     There is no “one size fits all” approach.  However, there are some general guidelines that every parent can follow to make their style of discipline as effective as possible.

Discipline is not all about consequences.  If your goal of discipline is to find the perfect consequence, then you’re missing the bigger picture.  In the long run, every parent wants their child to learn how to stop and think in order to make the right choices.  Therefore, that needs to be one of the main goals of discipline.  Giving your child a second chance in the moment to choose again is a great way to do this.  If they are holding a handful of cookies right before dinner but they have already eaten one, offer them the choice of putting them back before immediately punishing them.  If they have snatched a toy from their little sister, prompt them to return it before sending them to timeout.  We need to give our kids second chances to make the right choice before jumping to a consequence at the first mistake.  This is especially important for toddlers and young children.  They are still learning self-control and the difference between right and wrong so give them a chance to correct themselves before sending them to timeout.  They will learn far more from making the right choice the second time than just getting punished.

When a consequence is needed, stick to something that is natural and/or logical as much as possible.  If a consequence makes sense, it is much more likely to be effective.  If a child breaks their toy by playing too rough with it, the natural consequence is that it’s broken.  If they spill their ice cream because they ran with it, the natural consequence is the ice cream is gone.  The logical consequence is that they must help clean it up.  If two siblings can’t get along while playing a game, the logical consequence is that they can’t play with it anymore that day.  The best consequences are those that make the most sense.

Meet your child’s most basic needs first.  Tantrum behaviors often baffle parents.  Tantrums tend to happen mostly at night or first thing in the morning and sometimes they just come out of nowhere.  It’s important to ask yourself:  is there a natural cause for this behavior? If a child is tired, hungry or sick, they are more likely to meltdown or misbehave.  Tantrum behaviors in this context are not a result of defiance.  It is a result of something more organic.  In these cases, the best guideline to follow is meet the underlying need first.  If that still doesn’t resolve the behavioral issue, then consider a consequence.

Make the consequence timely. If a child’s consequence doesn’t occur until the next day, chances are they will not make the connection between the problem behavior and the consequence.  Consequences need to be as timely as possible. The closer they are to the offense, the more effective they will be.  Consequences also don’t need to be as long as you think.  Taking a 7-year old’s tablet away for a week isn’t going to help anyone.  What’s the motivation for behaving for the rest of the week if their favorite thing is gone?  Shorter consequences are generally more effective.  It’s much harder to lose something two days in a row for repeating the same inappropriate behavior than it is to lose it for a week and forget about it by tomorrow.

Last but not least, when consequences or limits are needed, make it about the behavior, not the child.  I always prefer to frame a limit in the form of “something is/isn’t for something.”  For example, “cookies aren’t for eating before dinner,” “teeth are for brushing,” “homework is for finishing before going outside. ” A kid isn’t bad for wanting to eat cookies first, but everyone is supposed to eat the meal before the dessert.  A kid isn’t bad for not wanting to brush their teeth, but everyone has to brush their teeth to avoid cavities.  Every kid wants to play first but homework has to be made a priority.  When we focus on the behavior rather than the child, we protect their self-esteem and avoid them believing “I’m a bad kid.”

There is no perfect way to discipline and frankly, every parent is going to make mistakes and that’s okay.  The best parenting and the best style of discipline will come from really knowing your kid inside and out.  Spend quality time with them and really get to know their thoughts and their feelings.  The more quality time you spend with your kids one on one, the more you can read them like a book.  As the parent, you know your child better than anyone.  When in doubt, trust your parental instincts before you bow to parental peer pressure.

How to Prevent Overdose Deaths: 911 Good Samaritan Laws

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Categories: News
The law protects the person overdosing as well as the witness from being charged or arrested for being under the influence of drugs, possession, and paraphernalia.

The law protects the person overdosing as well as the witness from being charged or arrested for being under the influence of drugs, possession, and paraphernalia.

It’s not just drug users who are scared to call but also family members who fear their brother, sister, son, or daughter could get arrested. It’s that hesitation that could cost the user his or her life.

The law protects the person overdosing as well as the witness from being charged or arrested for being under the influence of drugs, possession, and paraphernalia.
If you were spending time with a friend and they clutched their left arm and collapsed to the floor, you would likely call 911 without a second thought. Chances of surviving a heart attack, much like chances of surviving a drug overdose, rely heavily on the immediacy of medical attention. There’s one glaring difference though—when faced with a drug overdose, people tend to freeze. There is a multitude of reasons why this happens but most of them revolve around fear: fear of being arrested and charged with a crime, fear of suffering the torment of withdrawal in jail, fear of friends, family, and employers finding out. People in these circumstances find themselves weighing the potential of ruining their life with convictions and being shunned by society to the possibility of death, which may seem like the less likely outcome. Sadly, the reality is that death is far too often the outcome of an overdose that goes unreported. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for adults under 50.

The 911 Good Samaritan Law is designed to encourage people to call and seek medical attention when experiencing or witnessing an overdose. The law protects the person overdosing as well as the witness from being charged or arrested for being under the influence of drugs, possession, and paraphernalia. Its implementation is a valiant attempt to remove any apprehension that people may experience when faced with the decision to call or not to call. However, it is only effective in doing so if people are aware of its existence. If a person is unaware they will receive immunity, their fear of consequences will still be present. Fear causes hesitation and in many cases leads to the decision not to act at all. This is a vast issue with grave consequences.

We are in the midst of a drug epidemic that is destroying American families all over the nation. With something as prominent and affecting as this, it would seem surprising that the media coverage and level of conversation aren’t fitting for the level of crisis that’s occurring. With headlines revolving around Trump, #MeToo, and mass shootings, where does the opioid epidemic fit in and why don’t people seem to care at the same level? It devastates a community when a high school athlete dies in an auto accident or a young mother loses her battle with breast cancer, but when a person succumbs to a drug overdose, aside from immediate family, society is aloof and often dismissive. Overdose fatalities do not garner the same response as deaths caused by other diseases or accidents because of the stigma of addiction, which is perpetuated by an uninformed society that desperately needs to be educated. Spreading awareness and educating the public would change this culture and ultimately save lives that would otherwise have been tragically lost.

tweet1As of July 2017, 40 US States and the District of Columbia have passed Good Samaritan laws, however, the immunity provided varies state to state. For example in California, the law covers possession, paraphernalia, and being under the influence but does not protect against parole and probation violations. While California does not offer that exemption, 18 other states do. As progressive as California is, the Good Samaritan protections and extent to which the state aims to educate and inform regarding these laws are lacking in comparison to many other states. New York Police Department ran public service announcements in the 30 precincts where drug overdose fatality rates were highest, they also advertised on social media and public transit vehicles. Manatee County in Central Florida ran public service announcements on television and in movie theaters, advertised on social media and provided information cards to students at local colleges. North Carolina and Washington are both very active in spreading awareness of their state’s drug immunity laws as well.

In California, the most blatant attempt to inform and spread awareness can be attributed to a grieving mother, Denise Cullen, who lost her son Jeff in 2008 to a drug overdose. She transformed her grief into action and launched Broken No More, a nonprofit organization committed to spreading awareness of Good Samaritan Laws. Denise can be thanked for raising over $10,000 to go toward a Naloxone shortage in 2012 and a billboard in Los Angeles outside of Cedar Sinai Medical Center that was displayed from April through May in 2015.

California law enforcement’s role in spreading awareness is weak, their participation lacking. In the Rancho Cucamonga Police Station lobby is not one poster, pamphlet, or sign giving any information on the laws. When asked if Upland’s Police Department is currently training or encouraging officers to spread awareness Sergeant Rob Steenerson of Upland Police Department stated, “the laws are probably more well known in drug circles but it’s not something we go out and advertise. We would rather not have these people using drugs and I don’t know if there is some sort of place they would get that information in pamphlets or something but we don’t have any flyers or community outreach, I’m not aware of anything we actually do.”

I conducted a recent Twitter poll which concluded that 53% of participants had never heard of Good Samaritan Laws. Admittedly the results were not as staggering as other factors seem to indicate. Although, people participating in Twitter polls are likely more politically and socially informed than people in “drug circles” might be. Not because addicts are uninformed people, but because when in the depths of addiction, people can live in a bubble, cut off from the outside world. To prove this theory, I wandered into a local Narcotics Anonymous meeting and waited for the speaker to finish. When the meeting leader asked, “Are there any NA related announcements?” I jumped up and told everyone about the law and asked to take a poll. This randomly selected Narcotics Anonymous meeting that gathers each Friday at 8 pm in the city of Rancho Cucamonga, had 23 attendees and only one of those attendees raised their hand when asked who was aware of the 911 Good Samaritan drug immunity laws.

In 1999, Texas was the first state to enact the Safe-Haven Law that allows a parent to leave their unharmed baby at a fire station or hospital. By 2008, all 50 states had adopted the law. Like the 911 Good Samaritan law, the Safe-Haven law was created to encourage people to save a life rather than throw it away. Unlike the 911 Good Samaritan law, the Safe-Haven law received so much publicity, it is now a common knowledge law. As a result, countless lives have been saved.

tweet3Stephen Lux, who served Montclair Police Department for 29 years, shared his take on the lack of awareness and potential solutions regarding drug immunity laws. Stephen stated, “Law enforcement should change its own philosophy on how we work with the community. We should not only be hunters of criminals, we should first be protectors. Part of that protection is educating the public. We should have a huge role in educating people about drug use and its negative effects, as well as laws that protect people that suffer from addiction and their family members or those who try to help. It’s not just drug users who are scared to call but also family members who fear their brother, sister, son, or daughter could get arrested. It’s that hesitation that could cost the user his or her life. Law Enforcement could start to change their image to one of that we are not here to incarcerate, we are here to help.”

Passing the law is admirable; it is without a doubt, a step in the right direction. However, acknowledging the law is only effective in alleviating fear to involve the police, if people know they are protected, is equally as important and yet ironically ignored. To be frank, the 911 Good Samaritan Laws are completely useless if no one knows about them. There should be a sign in every police department lobby. There should be billboards outside of hospitals in every county. There should be public service announcements, social media advertising, and television news features. There should be community outreach and specific training for law enforcement, who is in constant contact with drug-addicted individuals, to spread awareness and inform.

tweet2This is no longer a categorized problem, affecting only certain “types” of people or communities. This is a widespread epidemic that is killing our friends, our children, our parents. It’s a problem that belongs to every community and it’s up to the members of each and every community to make a change. Share an article, tell a friend, call your local police department or write a letter to your city council. End the stigma and dehumanization of people who suffer from addiction by staying informed and spreading awareness.

For more information on which states offer which protections, please visit

To check out Broken No More, the NonProfit committed to spreading awareness, please visit


By Emily J. Sullivan 03/26/18

Republished from

On-site Counseling Service Provides Students with Immediate Access to Therapists

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Categories: News

Partnership with Summit Counseling focuses on prevention

It is a win-win partnership for Fulton County students, and one that recently captured the attention of former NFL player Terry Bradshaw.

For three years, Fulton County School’s partnership with the Summit Counseling Center has offered critical mental health services to students, making therapists available on the spot at several middle and high schools one to two days a week.

“The program was started to remove any barriers, such as financial or transportation, for students to receive mental health services,” says Director of Community Outreach at Summit Counseling Cathy Murphy, noting that the partnership has been successful so far with the onsite therapists always at capacity. “We began working with care teams in schools after crises and now we focus more on prevention.”

As part of the partnership, schools provide space in their buildings; Summit Counseling manages scheduling and billing and raises client assistance funds through local foundations like the United Way and the Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Fund. The fundraising efforts allow Summit to provide assistance to anyone in need.

“The services offered through Summit Onsite are in addition to supports provided by the district,” said School Board Member Linda McCain recently. “The focused, on-site services allow students to receive assistance immediately, which makes this partnership so unique and helpful to students at such a critical time in their lives.”

Currently, Summit Onsite locations are at Alpharetta High, Centennial High, Chattahoochee High, Elkins Pointe Middle, Johns Creek High, Milton High, Northview High, Northwestern Middle, and River Trail Middle.

There have been additional requests to offer the program in other schools, but Summit is limited by funding. Separate funding can be accessed through grants, which Elkins Pointe Middle School recently received through United Way to start support groups for at-risk students.

Summit has hopes for future locations, something that makes a recent fundraising effort featuring Bradshaw so important. The former NFL quarterback served as keynote speaker for the Unmasking the Stigma gala, an event attended by school board members and district staff.

Reposted from 1Fulton.

Dyslexia and ADHD: The Importance of Psycho-Educational Assessment

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Wondering Whether Your Child has Dyslexia or ADHD?

Wondering Whether Your Child has Dyslexia or ADHD?

Parents of children struggling in elementary and middle school often wonder whether their child has dyslexia or an attention deficit.  Psycho-educational testing is important for differential diagnosis of cognitive and academic difficulties, as well as for the development of a treatment plan to help a child succeed in school.

Children who are performing poorly in school will often be formally evaluated for academic interventions at school.  However, some students are not identified as needing additional help or assessment at school if they are managing to achieve passing grades, even while struggling with a developmental reading disorder or an attention problem.  Children who have good visual memory skills, for example, may be able to memorize words and appear to be learning to read early in elementary school even when they have not developed core skills essential for reading decoding.  Typically these students who are not identified early will begin to struggle significantly as they advance academically and need to keep up with an increased reading load and other academic demands.

The most common core difficulty in developmental reading problems such as dyslexia is a problem with phonological processing.  Children with phonological processing difficulties struggle to manipulate parts of oral and written language, including identifying and segmenting the individual sounds and blends within words.  Children who struggle to read fluently often have difficulty with rapidly naming letters and objects.  Developmental reading problems, however, may occur in the context of other core cognitive problems.  Psycho-educational testing, therefore, is essential to determining how to remediate developmental reading problems for an individual student.

Children and adolescents with significant attention problems, including Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), often show variability in reading skills.  There is a relatively high incidence of ADHD in children diagnosed with dyslexia.  Children and adolescents with ADHD who do not also have a developmental reading problem are likely to show significant variability across time in their reading skills.  In other words, they may show good reading fluency and comprehension skills on a given day at school, but they may show very poor performance on a different day.  Formal assessment of a child’s difficulties is therefore important to determining how teachers and parents should intervene to help an individual student succeed.

Emotional health has been found to have a big impact on performance in school.  Evaluations of learning difficulties should include an assessment of emotional factors that may affect a child’s school performance.   At the Summit Counseling Center, we provide screening assessments for attention, academic, and emotional problems, as well as comprehensive evaluations for specific learning disabilities.  Through these psycho-educational evaluations, we identify how students may achieve their full potential.  Please contact psychologist Rebecca L. Marshall, Ph.D., at the Summit Counseling Center (678-893-5300) for more information.


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LovingkindnessWelp… it’s finally here. Right when we think we’ve gotten past the craziness of all the holidays- one of the most dreaded (or anticipated) days has finally arrived. Some people spend this day with their significant others or partners, while others spend it mourning the loss of a loved one. Some spend it with their friends, while others completely ignore it. If I am honest… I tend to fall in the camp of ignoring it. I am a person who tries to express my love for others throughout the year and not simply on February 14th.

As I started to think about Valentine’s Day this year, I began to think about it in a new way. It’s easy for me to tell my family members, friends, or significant other how much I care for them. It’s easy for me to thank them for the roles they have had in my life and the impact that they have made. But how often do I stop and take the time to extend love to myself? How often do I give myself the space to think of what I have accomplished or accept where I’m currently at? How often do I show myself lovingkindness?

Lovingkindness is often a very foreign concept to people. It can look and feel strange. Some people view it as a self-care. They will spend time getting their nails done, buying new clothing, or going out to eat at a nice restaurant. But lovingkindness is so much more than that. Lovingkindness is the way we talk to ourselves. It’s the way we treat ourselves and view ourselves.

It can be the way I think about myself. When I make a mistake or do something I’m not proud of, it can be a simple statement of “You’re doing the best you can, Nina… and you can do better.” If I am discouraged about where I currently am in life I can state, “This is where I am. It is what it is. What can I do to make it better or more manageable?”

Lovingkindness can be taking the opportunity to reflect on where we’ve come from and celebrating successes. It can be acknowledging the fact that while in the past, you may have eaten a whole carton of ice cream on a stressful day… now you only eat half of a carton. It’s recognizing that while you may still engage in unhealthy behaviors, you may be viewing situations differently or approaching them in a different manor.

At times, lovingkindness is setting intentions for myself. It’s saying, “May I be happy… may I be healthy… may I be full of peace.” It’s allowing the space to let those words settle in. To truly wish these things for my life. And to hope for them.

In a world in which we can so easily get wrapped up in relationships, we often forget the relationship we have with ourselves. We forget to take the time to consider what happiness and health may look like for us.

On this Valentine’s Day, as we think through the various people that have been placed in our lives, I would encourage each of you to also take the time to consider yourself. Acknowledge where you’ve come from. Consider where you are. And if you’re comfortable… try to set some intentions for yourself for the upcoming year. Extend yourself some happiness, some health, and some peace.

5 Ways to Ease Loneliness

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5 Ways to Ease LonelinessThere’s a difference between being alone and feeling lonely. Opening Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook makes it feel like everyone else in our lives are busy taking beautiful pictures, making lovely food, or going to exotic places. Loneliness sets in when we feel disconnected, unwanted, or left out. It’s looking at those pictures and thinking “I don’t have anyone to be with or no one wants to be with me”.

  1. Log off your device. Take time to unplug and focus on where you are in that moment. Give yourself a designated time each day to put your phone, computer, and tv on pause. This pause gives you a chance to take a moment for yourself without feeling like you have to be somewhere or someone else.
  2. Create something. Do you like to draw? What about cooking? It doesn’t matter what it is but taking time to create something can fill the time on your own with meaning and purpose.
  3. Find connection. We can find a connection in a lot of ways when we are alone. These include meditation, nature, pet, reading a book, and many others. Find an activity or place that reminds you that you are a part of the universe moving around you.
  4. Name the loneliness. A lot of us are scared to say that we are lonely. It feels like you are admitting something “wrong” about yourself. In reality, the majority of Americans report feeling lonely, you are not alone in feeling alone. Naming that feeling takes away its power to shame us.
  5. Help someone else. Research has shown that volunteering and helping others can lessen symptoms of depression and hopelessness. Find a cause that you are passionate about and spend time pouring into it. You’ll be surprised by how much it impacts you!

Remember, we all feel lonely sometimes. It doesn’t mean that you are alone or unseen.  If you’re struggling with overwhelming sadness, stress, or grief you don’t have to deal with that alone. Please reach out to the Summit if you’d like more information about how therapy could be helpful for you.

“The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” – Preparing for the Holidays

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It’s that time of the year again- the time when the season starts to change. There is an increase in end of the year get togethers, tacky sweater parties, and holiday gatherings. While this season is called the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, it is often a very painful season for many. It can be filled with grief, anxiety, disappointment, and loneliness.

In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, we may forget to take care of ourselves. We may not know how to manage the busyness of what each day brings. I want to provide you with three simple tools you can use to help you navigate the expectations, anxiety, and energy of the holiday season. If you follow this process in order, it can help you prioritize what is important to you and teach you how to manage your anxiety level in each potential situation.

  • Create a Pros/Cons List. Yes, this may seem silly and trivial but it can help you determine what some of the best choices and options may be for yourself.
    • First, make sure you are creating this list when you are not feeling overly emotional or anxious. When writing the Pros/Cons list, write down the pros/cons of ENGAGING in the behavior and the pros/cons of NOT ENGAGING in the behavior. (For example, the pros/cons of going to my friend Susie’s tacky sweater party versus the pros/cons of not going to my friend Susie’s tacky sweater party.)
    • When doing this make sure you’re honest with yourself- you will be taking all factors into consideration when making your decision. If a pro is that you get to wear a tacky sweater- mention that! If a con is that it will increase your feelings of loneliness- include that too. Whether or not you realize it, you are thinking about each of these reasons when making your decision.
    • When your list is ready, evaluate your answers and see which one feels better in the short term and what you want to accomplish in the long term. This can help you determine what your next steps should be!
  • Cope Ahead for the Situation. If you decide that you ARE going to go to your Uncle Frank’s house for Thanksgiving and you know it can be particularly stressful, take the time to cope ahead! Often times when we think about a distressing situation, we already act as though the worst-case scenario has happened. Coping ahead helps you come up with a plan before the event and can make you feel more empowered.
    • Think of what situation is likely to cause you emotional distress. Imagine what emotions you may experience and how you will be tempted to respond.
    • Determine what coping mechanisms you have and ways that you can respond to various scenarios. Be very specific and include a great deal of detail when considering the situation.
    • Imagine the situation as vividly as possible. Imagine that you are in the situation itself and not that you are watching it from afar.
    • Rehearse in your mind coping effectively. Imagine exactly what you would say; specifically how you would respond; coping with your most feared catastrophe; and handling new problems that arise. And when you imagine it, imagine responding SUCCESSFULLY and EFFECTIVELY.
    • Finally, practice RELAXATION after rehearsing (and during rehearsing). This helps set you up for success. It helps you to become calm again and reminds you that the situation will end.
  • Prepare a Self-Soothe Kit. Sometimes it can be very helpful to bring items that will help you feel more grounded, distract you from the current situation, and calm you. These can be simple items that help relieve some of the distress and bring you a sense of peace. When making the self soothe kit, make sure that you are bringing items that attend to each of the five senses.
    • Sight- Bring pictures of an upcoming vacation. Bring a coloring book that you can color. Save motivational quotes and funny memes that you can glance at to take you out of the moment.
    • Sound- Create a playlist on your phone- it can be soothing songs or songs that bring you joy. Record your favorite animal or a safe person reminding you how much they love you. Listen to your favorite standup comedian.
    • Smell- Bring essential oils. (My personal favorites are lavender and peppermint). Bring the cologne or perfume of a loved one. Bring an item that smells like the ocean and transports you to another time or place.
    • Taste- Enjoy different foods that have distinct flavors. Peppermints. Chocolates. Pop rocks. Something that will stand out and take your mind off the situation you are in.
    • Touch- Try to bring something with a unique texture. It could be a rock, shell, marble, kinetic sand, or a feather. Something that you can pay attention to and get comfort out of.

And as I always encourage my clients, family, and friends… make sure you engage in SELF CARE. While these steps may not change the situation you are in, hopefully it can help you feel more empowered and prepared to enter into the holiday season.

These skills are part of the four modules of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. The Summit Counseling

Center offers skills courses throughout the year. If you or a loved one would be interested in

hearing more about these services, please contact us at (678) 893-5300.

The Summit Counseling Center
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