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Staying Present During a Hectic Season

As the year is winding down, the holiday season is just getting started.

How do you feel about this time of the year?

Maybe you love it, because it means you get time with loved ones or because you love warm and cozy evenings. Maybe you don’t like the holiday season because you miss loved ones who have passed or because of the financial burden it can create.

There is no doubt that the holiday season starts earlier and moves faster than ever. With some Christmas decorations coming out before November 1st, the holiday season can feel more like the “hurried season.” It is so easy to fall into the “rush” of it all. 

Unfortunately, we cannot stop time, but we can incorporate some daily practices that help us stay present. Grounding techniques can help pull both your mind and body back into the present moment and away from racing thoughts or distressing feelings.

Physical grounding techniques:

Take 6 deep breaths. Imagine that you just pulled a hot tray of cookies out of the oven (picture your favorite cookie). You want them to cool off as quickly as possible, so you take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale through your mouth like you’re cooling down the cookies. Take another deep breath in through your nose and another long exhale through your mouth to cool them off. Continue this for 6 breaths. Deep breathing can have wonderful results like slowing your heart rate and allowing relaxation. Thinking about your favorite cookie might also put a smile on your face!

Put your hands in water. Head to the sink and turn the water on cold. Place your hands under the water and notice how it feels. Does it feel good? Refreshing? Uncomfortable? Now switch the water to hot. How does the hot water feel? Switch back and forth from hot to cold a few times, focusing on how the changing water temperature feels on your hands. This allows your mind to refocus on your present, physical sensations. 

Mental grounding techniques:

Counting. Pick a number and count backwards. If counting backwards by 1 is too easy, then count backwards by 3 or 7. You want this to be a decently challenging exercise. This can help you recenter your thoughts and mind.

Naming your surroundings. Pick a color, and name everything in that color in your surroundings. Then, pick another color and do the same thing. Continue this as many times as needed. This practice takes some focus and brings your awareness back to your current environment. 

These grounding techniques can be powerful tools to help you manage the hectic holiday season as well as daily stress or anxiety.

Staying present takes practice and will not happen perfectly the first time you try a grounding technique. But stick with it, because the more you practice, the easier it will be. 

Excited to Introduce our Newest CPA Clinicians

We are so excited to introduce two new faces to Carolina Psychological Associates. Both Tamara and Beverly jumped right in and have already started seeing clients. Continue reading to learn more about them!

Tamara Davison, M.Ed., LCMHC, NCC

Tamara is currently seeing adolescents and adults, through individual, couples, or family therapy in the Greensboro office. 

How long have you been working as a licensed clinical mental health counselor? 

I have been in the field of counseling since 1991 at which time I graduated UNCG with a Master of Education in Counseling. 

Why did you choose this work? 

I always knew that I wanted to be in a “helping profession.” I majored in psychology in undergraduate school, and after a couple of “wrong turns” I found my path as a counselor. 

What population of clients do you serve? Why that group? 

I currently serve older adolescents and adults. I worked with children for much of my career. When I started working in a psychiatrist office in 2002, I had the opportunity to work with adults.  I very much enjoyed working with adults and in recent years decided to stay with that population. 

Where did you move from? 

I moved back to this area from Laurinburg. NC in June of 2022. It has changed a great deal since graduate school! 

What are you sad to leave behind? 

Some great people! 

What are you looking forward to about living in Greensboro? 

Opportunities to do more things! Access to more dining, shopping, events, and beautiful parks. Also excited about living closer to the mountains. 

What is something that you enjoy doing for fun? 

Listening and dancing to live music. I also enjoy reading. 

Share a fun fact!

At the age of ten, I was in a community play, The Wizard of Oz. I played Toto, wore knee pads and traveled on all fours throughout the entire play!

Beverly Henkel, PsyD, LPA

Beverly provides psychological testing for individuals ages 6 and up in the Chapel Hill office. She is currently a Licensed Psychological Associate, but will soon be a Licensed Psychologist.  

What led you to be a psychologist?

I’ve always been obsessed with the show Criminal Minds, even as a young child. So, I knew I wanted to work in the field of psychology to figure out what makes the human brain go to such a dark place. This led me to psychology and eventually forensic psychology!

What population of clients do you serve? Why that group?

I serve ages 6 and up for psychological testing. Children are great to evaluate because you can always see the resiliency in them and help make an impact while they are young. However, testing complex, adult cases is something I particularly enjoy. There is so much information to review and it feels like you really get a full picture of the person in front of you. 

Where did you move from?

I was born and raised in Oregon until 2015, when I moved to Chicago to start my PsyD program!

What are you sad to leave behind?

I miss the nature and beauty of Oregon, although North Carolina is very similar to Oregon in that respect. I really miss living in Chicago and everything the big city had to offer! The food, the people, the culture there was all life changing to experience and I hope to visit frequently. 

What are you looking forward to about living in Raleigh, North Carolina?

I’ve lived in Raleigh for 3 years now and I’m so excited to start working more in the community and making connections. 

What do you enjoy doing for fun?

I love doing family dinners with my boyfriend’s family on Sundays and dinner with his brother’s family on Thursday’s. I also love playing with my puppy and two cats, reading Harry Potter, and watching true crime documentaries!

Share a fun fact!

I’m a published poet in London and the only red head in my family!

Suicide Prevention Week

Trigger warning: suicide

Suicide is not a topic many people are comfortable talking about, for various reasons. This is also why Suicide Prevention Awareness is so important, to destigmatize suicide and to provide education and valuable resources. September 4th through September 10th is designated as National Suicide Prevention week, while the month of September is designated as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

(800,000 deaths a year worldwide)

Suicide, like heart disease and cancer, is a leading cause of death in the United States. In 2020, nearly 46,000 people died by suicide in the US alone. In response to the rate of suicide in the US, every state began implementing the phone number “988” as the new Suicide Prevention Lifeline on July 16th, 2022 in hopes of increasing accessibility to the lifeline for those in need. The previous number, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK), will still be available to those in emotional distress or crisis.

Many people feel helpless when they know a loved one struggling with suicidal thoughts. It is a nuanced and complex topic, but there are a few ways you can help support those you love who may be struggling. Continue reading for some signs and risk factors that help you know when someone might need your help or support.

Concerning Comments

Sometimes individuals who are thinking about suicide might make comments about wanting to die. While bringing up wanting to die does not mean someone is suicidal, it is worth taking note of those comments and following up with that individual to check in. Other times an individual might make comments about not having a reason to live or feeling like a burden to those around them. These comments can sound like “You don’t need me anymore” or “It would be easier if I just wasn’t here.”

If you hear these comments, validate their feelings first, then let that person know they are valued and important. Emphasize that they are not a burden and check in to see what they might be struggling with. Offering a listening ear can make a huge difference and help them feel less alone.

Mood and Behaviors

Often, those struggling with suicidal thoughts have an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. This means that they might have difficulty seeing a future without their current pain or struggles. Hopelessness can look like decreased motivation, low energy level, and low or depressed moods. The feeling of hopelessness can be incredibly isolating, which also contributes to the feeling of being “alone” or that their friends and family “won’t understand the way they feel.” In response to some of these feelings, individuals might self-isolate by staying in more often or turning down social invitations that they previously would have accepted.

Some behaviors that go along with suicide or suicidal ideation are giving away cherished belongings, insomnia or hypersomnia, and acting anxious or agitated. These behaviors do not mean someone will act on a suicidal ideation, but are just behaviors to be aware of.

If a loved one is exhibiting some of these moods and behaviors, check in on them. Again, offering a listening ear can go a long way.

Access to Lethal Means

Finally, access to lethal means, like guns, drugs, or other potentially harmful items, is a large factor in suicide. You might see someone increase their interest in one of these lethal means or talk about them more than they did previously. If you know someone is in imminent danger, do not hesitate to call 911.

If you notice any of these comments, moods, or behaviors in someone you know, don’t be afraid to ask them questions. Checking in with them to see how they are feeling and what they are struggling with can help you determine if they are having thoughts about suicide. It is also important to note that while asking about suicide can be uncomfortable, it will not directly cause someone to be suicidal. While you can validate the way they feel and let them know they are not alone, connecting an individual struggling with suicide to a professional is the most important thing. You can find other important resources below that might be helpful to someone you know. 

Important recourses:

Dial 988 for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Dial 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) if you are in an emotional crisis

Crisis Text Line: Text “Hello” to 741741

YouthLine: (ages 11-21): Text “teen2teen” to 839863, or call 1-877-968-8491

Tackling the Transition Back to School

Can you believe it is almost the end of summer?

Summer is full of sunshine, hot weather, afternoon thunderstorms, and most importantly, no school. But unfortunately, summer is just a season and must come to an end. This end simultaneously results in the beginning of the school year, also known as the dreaded “back to school” season.

Transitions are difficult for everyone involved, especially this transition from summer to the school year. Some families start preparing for this transition early, while some avoid it as long as possible. Rest assured, no transition will be perfect, but here are some quick tips to keep in mind during your “back to school” season.

Talk about it

So often we avoid topics that may cause anxiety or conflict. In this case, reminding your kids that they must go back to school soon can increase their anxiety, and maybe even make them irritable. So, it makes sense to just avoid the topic all together. However, talking about going back to school a few weeks before summer is over can actually help the transition go a little smoother.

Going back to school certainly does not need to be the main topic of conversation at the dinner table. However, mentioning it throughout the day by saying something like, “this would be so fun to do in the afternoons after school” or “in a few weeks you’ll get to see your friend every day at school!” can help kids remember that school is coming in the near future. Bringing the topic of school back into the daily conversation can normalize going back into the classroom. 

Create a routine

Routines often go “out the window” over summer break, leaving more time for fun, yay! Unfortunately, getting back into a routine when school starts can be very difficult and add more stress to an already stressful time. To make this transition less stressful, spend some time brainstorming a routine that works for you and your family ahead of time. Maybe even invite the kids and or other family members to help create the routine, allowing them to have some autonomy in how they spend their time.

Then, slowly incorporate this routine into daily life. This could simply be changing the morning alarm in preparation for school over a few weeks instead of abruptly the morning of the first day of school. Maybe also change bedtime slowly over a period of time in preparation for the school schedule. Slowly shifting back into a routine can help kids and families get “back in the groove” before school even starts!

Start early

Every summer it feels like the school year creeps up much faster than expected. So, starting to prepare for the transition back to school early will be most helpful for adults and kids alike. Start bringing the topic of school back into the conversation, create a routine, and gradually get back into the “groove” a few weeks before the first day.

There is no doubt this transition is difficult, but remember, it will not last forever. Bulk up on some self-care activities for you and your other family members during this season, because stress may be higher than normal. Maybe even have a fun activity planned a few weeks into the school year as something to look forward to, both for adults and kids!

Introducing our Newest Clinician

We are thrilled to introduce Stephanie Griggs, LCSW as the newest member of Carolina Psychological Associates in the Greensboro office. She brings great knowledge and experience with her and has already started seeing clients. She currently sees children, adolescents, and adults. Stephanie has experience working with individuals, couples, and families and is certified in providing Triple P parenting education.  Continue reading to learn more about Stephanie. 

How long have you been working as a Clinical Social Worker?

I’ve been licensed since 2018.

Why did you chose social work?

I went back to school as an adult and initially considered going into education (I was working in construction at the time.) I did a presentation on failures of the Child Protective Services (CPS) system, which piqued my interest. After researching more, I felt social work would be the perfect field for me. I initially had no intention of doing clinical work (I’m not a big fan of sitting still or talk therapy), but as my education and internships progressed, I discovered how much I enjoyed it. I recently found a seventh grade project I did identifying social work as a potential career I’d be interested in … fitting, as I grew up doing lots of social justice/volunteer work with my mother, who co-founded a non-profit to combat homelessness.

What population of clients do you serve? Why that group?

There are things that I enjoy about many different populations, and I work with all ages. My primary interest is how individuals work within their given systems – families, communities, societies, etc. I love family systems work. I also have a passion for working with marginalized populations such as youth and adult offenders, and CPS involved families.

What type of work were you doing before coming to CPA?

I initially intended on doing school social work, but took a job in community based mental health out of grad school, and discovered that is where my heart is. I left that work because community based crisis work is not the most family-friendly, and all of my children are quite little now. Before I went into this field, I spent my twenties working in logistics and construction management.

Where did you move from and what will you miss the most?

I recently moved from the coast! Of course, the part I miss the most is being able to load up my kids and be at the beach in ten minutes. I’m happy to be back close to my family, however – Greensboro is my hometown.

What do you enjoy doing for fun?

My favorite thing to do is any kind of outdoor activity with my kids, preferably water related!

Share a fun fact!

I have two sets of twins – a set of 2.5 year old boy/girl twins, and a set of almost 4 month old boy/girl twins! Yes, it absolutely is as insane as it seems. I’ve also ridden an elephant 😊

Join us in welcoming Athena Tatum, LCSW

We are excited to introduce another new face here at Carolina Psychological Associates. Athena Tatum, LCSW, recently moved to the Greensboro office, all the way from Florida! She has a wide variety of experience and expertise in providing therapy for children. Continue reading to learn more about Athena!

How long have you been working as a Clinical Social Worker?

Forever I suppose. My degree was initially in Social Work Social Policy, but I ended up doing more clinical work than policy work. So, I went back and completed the clinical requirements to get my clinical social work license. I started in a domestic violence shelter then ran several outpatient mental health facilities, then worked in child protection services, then finally began work in child therapy – which has been my favorite so far.

Why did you choose Social Work?

I took a family violence class my senior year in college, and it made sense to me. I realized that victim blaming was a HUGE thing and something clicked for me. I found my calling and my people. I changed my entire career focus and chose to do graduate school, where I received a Master’s in Public Administration and a Master’s in Social Work, at the same time.

What population of clients do you serve? Why that group?

I serve children, and I love little people. Due to my previous role in child protection services, I felt I could do more on the clinical side of the issue at hand. Children are a joy. I especially enjoy the brutal honesty they give. I like that I can still be surprised, no matter how long I am in this career. I also like educating and helping families overcome seemingly “impossible” issues.  

What type of work were you doing before coming to CPA?

I was a child therapist in Florida, and primarily worked with children with behavioral issues and those navigating the foster care or adoption system. My focus was mainly on trauma, as many of my little people had been through so much during their short lives.

Where did you move from and what will you miss the most?

I came from Florida, Melbourne specifically (it is on the East Coast of FL).  I think I miss pools or the ability to get to the beach in like 7 minutes. To be honest, while I miss those things, it’s nice not being hot all the time!

What is something that you enjoy doing for fun?

I like trying new foods and beers. My husband and I like doing tastings at different places, I am definitely a foodie for life. North Carolina has some great craft beers; I’ve been thoroughly impressed.

Share a fun fact about yourself!

I was a cheerleader for Florida State, and I’ve lived in 6 different countries.

Welcome, Carson Christopher MSW, LCSW!

We are so excited to have Carson Christopher MSW, LCSW join Carolina Psychological Associates in the Greensboro office. She serves children (10 and up), adolescents, teens, and young adults in both individual and group therapy settings. Carson is passionate about making clients feel comfortable and validated, and works collaboratively to help clients reach their individual goals.

Keep reading to learn more about Carson!

How long have you been working as a Clinical Social Worker?

I have been working as a clinical social worker for 3 years, but it feels much longer than that!

Why did you choose Social Work?

It all started with a psychology teacher in high school who told students she could give us the “formula” to make our crushes fall in love with us. I later realized that this was just her way of getting a lot of us to sign up for her classes, a very good marketing strategy for high schoolers! I never got the formula, but I did take her class and loved it. After her class, I ended up taking as many psychology classes as I could, and that sparked my desire to be a therapist. I find it very interesting and enjoy helping others reach their individual goals.

During the college application process, an academic advisor explained the different avenues one can take to become a therapist. I read over the description for the clinical social work path, and it aligned with exactly what I was looking for. Not to mention, I have a few LCSW’s (Licensed Clinical Social Workers) in my family. I like the flexibility that the social work degree offers, and above all, just really enjoy listening and talking to people. 

What population of clients do you serve? Why that group?

This is a tough one because I have served and worked with a wide variety of populations, ranging from 5 years old to 95. All of these clients had varying situations and symptomology. However, the majority of my experience has been with kids, teens, and young adults. Pre-teens and teens are my favorite population to work with, although it can certainly be challenging at times! It’s a time for dramatic growth and change, and I just enjoy listening to these individuals speak on their own lived experiences.

What type of work were you doing before coming to CPA?

Before coming to CPA, I was worked with a community mental health agency serving clients of all ages. Most of these clients had limited resources, or were in need of a higher level of care. I mainly facilitated group and individual therapy for those in middle school and high school, as well as conducted  comprehensive clinical assessments. 

What is something that you enjoy doing for fun?

For fun, I love to ride horses, play with my dog, and eat. I love trying new foods and traveling to new places offering different culinary experiences. I am very interested in all forms of art whether it be decorating a home, oil paintings, music etc.

Share a fun fact about yourself!

My husband and I live in a home that has been in his family since the 1800’s and we are working to fix it up! 

Climate-Aware Therapist: What does that mean?

Dortch Mann, LCMHC recently pursued his desire to merge Climate Awareness with his clinical practice. We are very excited to announce that he is officially a Climate-Aware Therapist.

What is a Climate-Aware Therapist, you ask?

We thought you might ask that! Continue reading as Dortch explains what this title means for him and how he will use this to serve his clients through his clinical practice.

How does climate change impact mental health?

Anyone who acknowledges that climate change is occurring, is witnessing its current effects on marginalized people, and is able to imagine it’s impact on future generations, will experience distress. This distress isn’t an indication of mental illness, but a completely reasonable reaction to the threats and losses we see now and can foresee for those we love. Climate change distress can lead to or worsen depression, anxiety, and stress. The climate crisis is a threat not only to our physical well-being but also to our sense of safety, meaning, and purpose. Thus, it is a threat to our mental well-being.

What led to you become a Climate-Aware Therapist?

I’m at that stage in my adult development called Generativity. Generativity is “concern for and commitment to promoting the development and growth of future generations.” Being a Climate-Aware Therapist gives me the opportunity to contribute my training and skills as a psychotherapist to catalyze, within individuals and our community, a resilient response to climate change.

Is this something clients must ask for? Or will you bring this into sessions as you see fit?

My approach is to be responsive to the needs of my clients. That may mean waiting for my clients to broach the subject or, quite possibly, that I prompt my clients to consider the impact of climate change on what they value in their lives.

How do you integrate this work into your own life?

All of us have a calling. I am convinced that mine is to be a therapist. As a therapist, I know that the best way to lessen distress, whether it’s depression, anxiety, or stress, is to engage in meaningful, purposeful action. I believe this also applies to distress about the climate crisis. As a Climate-Aware Therapist I can encourage and empower my clients to meet the challenges of climate change with emotional resilience and commitment to action. That’s my way of taking action, too.

What does Earth Day mean to you and how do you commemorate it?

The first Earth Day was when I was 10 years old. The entire year prior, I was completely enrapt by NASA’s mission to have a human walk on the moon. On the way to the Moon, a picture was taken of the Earth, the first from a distance that allowed us to see our planet as a whole; as a beautiful yet fragile home for all of life. A home for all we love. The picture was a catalyst for the first Earth Day.

As I grew up, I devoted much of my free time to the outdoors. I worked outdoors as much as I could, from farm labor to being a wilderness camp counselor. Increasingly, I saw my calling as somehow fostering this love of the outdoors in others, too. 

My way of commemorating Earth Day tends to shift from organizing and participating in large group events to tending to our little back yard “wildlife sanctuary.” I recognize that I am responsible for playing my individual role in caring for the Earth, as well as for joining with others to “leverage” our collective power. 

Creating Stillness in a Chaotic World

Can you think of the last time you were completely still?

Both your body and your mind?

Let’s do it together right now. Close your eyes and quiet your mind for about 30 seconds.

How did that feel?

Did you find it difficult?

The answer is probably yes, because unless you practice, quieting both your body and mind is very difficult.

There are so many things going on in the world around us that it is easy to get consumed with it all. So now, maybe more than ever, it is important to remain grounded and add “stillness” to your routine.  Here are a few ideas that you can try!

Go outside

Being outside can have a huge impact on your overall wellness. It not only can lift your mood, but also can provide important vitamins, like Vitamin D! Getting outside during the winter months can be an added challenge, but thankfully spring is right around the corner. Maybe you start taking some time outside during your lunch break. This could look like walking a lap around your building or just stepping outside to eat your lunch. Your time outside doesn’t need to be complicated, just a few minutes to soak in some sunshine and fresh air.

Breathing

We all breathe, all the time. So, thinking about the importance of breathing can seem silly. However, breathing exercises can lower your heart rate and signal the parasympathetic nervous system, sending your body into rest and digest mode. A very simple exercise to start with, is breathing in for 4 seconds and breathing out for 8 seconds. Or, pretend like you just pulled a pan of fresh baked cookies out of the oven. Take a deep breath in through your nose to smell those fresh cookies and then breathe out to cool them off. Do that a few times in a row and see how you feel. Maybe you start incorporating this a few time throughout your day.

Screen-free time

How much time do you spend on your phone a day? If you have an iPhone, take a look at your average daily screen time. Are you surprised by this number? The CDC found that kids between the ages of 8 and 18 are spending 7.5 hours on a screen a day, while other sources report adults are spending close to 11 hours a day in front of a screen. Large amounts of screen time are linked to headaches, insomnia, and decreased physical activity, according to research by Reid Health. Therefore, it is important to find time during your day to intentionally be away from screens. Maybe you designate the first 30 minutes to an hour of your day to be screen free. Or maybe you turn off screens an hour before bedtime. There are many ways to incorporate screen-free time into your day, which can help you disconnect from stressors like work, social media, or the news.

Brain Dump

You might have an easy time physically being still, but can’t seem to get your mind to be still at the same time. Brain dumping can be a helpful way to “dump” all those thoughts out of your head! Ready to try? Grab a journal and write down everything on your mind. Yup, that’s it. Sometimes just getting thoughts down on paper can be the most helpful skill. This does not need to look pretty or be organized in any form, just start writing. This is a great practice to do at night or during the day when you feel like your thoughts are racing.

There are many other ways to incorporate moments of stillness into your day, so feel free to try a few out. We would love to hear more about what works best for you.

Meet the Newest Member of the Team!

We are very happy to welcome Ali-Marie Mattice, LCSWA to Carolina Psychological Associates.

Ali-Marie has experience as a hospice social worker, addictions specialist, and juvenile probation officer. Needless to say, she has a wide range of experience to bring to her work here at Carolina Psychological Associates. She sees adolescents and adults, and is currently accepting new clients! 

Here are a few questions to help you get to know her!

How long have you been working as a Clinical Social Worker?

I have been working as a Clinical Social Worker since 2019. Prior to that, I held a certification that allowed me to provide specialized social work services to individuals struggling with addiction.

Why did you choose Social Work?

I feel as though the events in my life have led me to this path. I had studied psychology and criminal justice as an undergraduate.  While working in the criminal justice system, I noticed the significance social workers could have in a number of situations. Later, I was offered a position working in a Substance Abuse Detox Program. During this time, I realized it was important for me to gaining more information and resources to better serve the population and decided at that time to go back to school for my MSW.

What population of clients do you serve? Why that group?

I primarily serve older adolescents and adults. This is the population I have the most experience working with and feel most confident in addressing their needs.

Where did you move from?

I moved to North Carolina from Silver Spring, Maryland, which is located about 30 minutes from Baltimore, MD and Washington, DC.

What are you sad to leave behind?

I am sad to leave behind a house that we had made a home, a great neighborhood, wonderful co-workers and many memories.

What are you looking forward to the most about living in North Carolina?

While I am sad to leave, I am looking forward to a new adventure! I am excited about finding a new home to make our own in a great place, being part of the CPA team, and making new memories. I am also happy to be in a place that has many great parks and hiking trails!

What is something that you enjoy doing for fun?

I enjoy spending time outdoors.

Share a fun fact about yourself!

I am also a diving coach. I was an assistant coach for a junior national diving team in Maryland and have hopes to find a way to support the sport while here in NC.