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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.

A Guided Reflection for 2021

Can you believe it is 2022? For some, it might be a relief that 2021 is over, while others may be hesitant to enter a new year.

Each year, during January, you are flooded with “new year, new you” slogans, along with gym membership discounts and resolution ideas. At times it can feel very overwhelming! It is tempting to leap into this year with big goals, plans, and dreams.

But, what if, you walked into the new year reflecting on the previous one?

Reflection isn’t often discussed each New Year. It isn’t a normal or frequent practice in this fast-moving society either. However, reflection can be a valuable and important process for growth. Looking back on things that went well, not so well, areas of weakness, and areas of strength can help you in brainstorming new goals moving forward.

So, maybe this year you start with some reflection before creating goals and resolutions.

 

 

Here are some questions to guide your 2021 reflection. Feel free to grab a pen and paper to jot some things down, or just find a quiet place to sit and reflect.

What is your favorite memory from 2021?

Let’s start on a high note. This memory might be a funny one or maybe sentimental, but none the less, one you want to remember.

What did you learn about others during 2021?

Relationships with others can be hard, whether it is a friendship, romantic relationship, family relationship, or work relationship. Each one teaches you something new about being close with others. Is there anything new you learned about others this past year? Anything you want to take into your relationships this year?

What challenged you in 2021?

Do you remember something that pushed you out of your comfort zone? Looking back on things that were difficult or challenging can help build confidence as you come across other challenging life events in the future. You have made it through hard things before, and you will make it through hard things again.

What did you learn about yourself throughout 2021?

This past year may have challenged and pushed you in ways you didn’t anticipate, but through those experiences you probably learned something new about yourself. List out the things you learned and how those will help you moving forward.

What weaknesses did you notice in yourself during 2021?

Nobody is perfect, and nobody expects you to be perfect. Therefore, what are things you still need to work on? Maybe events in 2021 showed you some weaknesses in yourself you have never noticed before. How will you work on those in 2022?

 

 

Hopefully these questions sparked some interest. Maybe you send these questions to someone you know and discuss them together. Above all, hopefully these questions support you in creating new goals, finding direction, and creating resolutions for this year.  

Wishing you nothing but the best in 2022!

Are New Year’s Resolutions Helpful?

Do you make a New Year’s resolution each year?

In the United States about half the population makes a resolution. While this is still a popular tradition, the success rates in keeping resolutions are incredibly low, only about 9% of those who make a resolution keep it all year long.

Why are the success rates so low? Why keep making a resolution each year after failing to keep the previous one?

There are so many things that factor in to making and keeping a New Year’s resolution, so here are a few things the keep in mind for 2022.

 

 

Why?

Why are you making a New Year’s resolution? Because everyone is doing it? Because it is something you grew up doing? Understanding why you create a resolution each year can help you effectively keep it! If you’re doing it just because others are, you’re much less likely to keep that resolution. However, if you’re doing it for yourself, you have a higher chance of being successful.

 

 

Are you trying to stop a “bad” habit?

So often, resolutions become about stopping a behavior or a habit that we have labeled “bad.” For example, a resolution might be to stop drinking soda. In this resolution, drinking soda has been deemed a “bad’ thing, something that needs to be stopped. Why has this behavior been labeled “bad” in the first place, and what is driving it? Maybe an individual craves a soda at the end of a stressful workday? Getting to the underlying motivation to that perceived “bad” habit will help them be more successful in keeping their resolution. For example, understanding why this individual reaches for a soda might help them change that behavior and ultimately keep their resolution.

 

 

Add something instead of removing something.

Using the previous example, if stress is driving a person’s soda drinking habit, why not create a New Year’s resolution to help decrease stress? Maybe add a meditation into their daily routine, or a morning walk. By adding something to decrease stress, they are addressing the root of a perceived “bad” habit. This will potentially lead to lasting change and hopefully a lower stress level! It is easier to start a new habit than it is to stop an existing one, so keep that in mind when creating your resolution this year.

For more information see:

New Year’s Resolution Statistics (2021 Updated) – Discover Happy Habits

Why Forming a New Good Habit Is Easier Than Breaking a Bad One (lifehack.org)

Prioritizing Rest During the Holidays

Do you get tired just thinking about the holidays? Maybe you are overwhelmed by all the cooking, cleaning, and family time. Or, maybe you’re worried about staying within your financial budget this holiday season?

The holidays are supposed to be a time for joy and excitement. Time spent with those you love, doing things you all enjoy. But, so often the preparations leave you tired, frustrated, and burnt out before the holiday begins.

What about rest? Do you feel well rested after the holidays?

The answer to that question is probably, no. Here are a few things to keep in mind to help you prioritize rest this season.

Quality over quantity

It is far too easy to feel obligated to attend every event you and your family are invited to. You want to spend time with those you love, right? Overbooking your social calendar can lead to burnout, fatigue, and irritability. You can go to multiple events and never feel like you spent quality time with those there. To avoid this, think of time with others in terms of quality instead of quantity. Prioritize events that create lasting, enjoyable memories and avoid the events that don’t.

 

 

Say no, guilt free

Do you find yourself saying “yes” more than you say “no” during the holidays? There might even be a time or two that you agree to something and regret it later. Say “no” to things that lead to exhaustion, frustration, or conflict. If someone asks you to do something, give yourself some time to think it through. Will it bring you joy? Will it foster connection? Will it lead to quality time with others? If not, then maybe this is something you don’t partake in. Here is your permission to say “no” this holiday season, guilt free!

Plan ahead

Often, the holiday season creeps up very quickly! This can lead to feelings of hurry, anxiety, and frustration. Planning ahead of time and intentionally setting aside “down time” can help decrease these uncomfortable emotions. Are there meals you fix every year? Go ahead and get those items from to grocery store in advance, to decrease the number of late-night grocery runs. Do you find yourself coming home from events later than you wanted? Have a game plan for you and your family before leaving the house. Maybe create a “signal” that you can give the others when it is time to leave, a wink, tap on the shoulder, or maybe a specific phrase. Making a plan in advance eases anxiety and decreases conflict, creating a much more enjoyable experience for everyone!

 

 

By prioritizing quality over quantity, saying “no,” and planning ahead you can hopefully head into the New Year feeling rested and refreshed.

Common Myths about Therapy

When you think about therapy what image pops into your mind?

Maybe someone lying on a couch?

Another person holding a clipboard?

It is safe to say there are many common misconceptions about therapy. This blog post is an attempt to “debunk” a few of those!

People will think something is wrong with me if I go to therapy.

If you have thought this before, don’t worry, you’re not alone. This is a very common misconception, and one that often impacts whether someone seeks out a therapist or not. The stigma around mental health leads people to believe that therapy is only for individuals who are “broken” or have something “wrong” with them. However, that could not be further from the truth. Therapy is for everyone! Many topics discussed during therapy center around communication skills, relationships, family, friendships, work-life stress, life transitions, self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and the list goes on. These are topics that you might experience daily. Seeking guidance and support in these areas is absolutely normal!

Therapy is awkward. Am I going to have to lie down on a couch?

We have all seen the classic scene where a therapist sits with a clipboard listening their client who is lying on the office couch. While you are more than welcome to lie down during therapy, that certainly is not expected. Yes, many clinicians have a couch in their office, but it is simply to ensure clients have a comfortable place to sit. Clinicians do their best to provide a safe and comfortable environment for their clients, and often this includes having a couch in their office. You may feel slightly uncomfortable or awkward at first, but you might be pleasantly surprised with how quickly those feelings subside. 

I’ll just go one or two times, and everything will be better.

Consistency is key for many things in life, including therapy. Finding a clinician you like and maintaining regular appointments will provide the best results. Unfortunately, clinicians do not have a magic wand (that would be awesome though!), so, many times there isn’t a “quick fix.” Therefore, staying consistent will help your clinician provide the best services they can and will allow you to see long-term improvements.

Navigating Grief During the Holiday Season

These days, you can find holiday decorations in major department stores as early as September. Some people dive into the holiday season head first while others dread it. There are so many reasons why this season can be difficult for individuals, and grief is a main one.

Mary Easton, LCSW has immense experience providing both grief and bereavement counseling. Prior to working here at Carolina Psychological Associates, she worked at Hospice for close to five years. During her time there she presented their “Coping with the Holidays” program. Here at Carolina Psychological Associates she works with adolescents, adults, couples, and families experiencing grief, loss, anxiety, and depression. Below she provides insight for navigating grief during the holidays. 


 

Why can the holidays be difficult for someone experiencing loss? 

The loss of a loved one brings on a range of emotions but the holidays can pose even more emotional struggles. The holidays are full of rituals that typically involve our loved ones.  We have more gatherings with family and friends, which reminds us of those who are not with us.  In addition, there can be emotional landmines everywhere.  Individuals may not be prepared emotionally for the images on television or social media.  Both music in stores and certain seasonal smells can prompt an emotional response from someone who has experienced the death of a loved one.  

How can friends and family best support someone experiencing/struggling with grief during the holidays?

It is incredibly important to check in with those who have experienced a loss and acknowledge whatever emotions they are experiencing.  Whether it the first holiday season without their loved one or the fifth, it is generally helpful for individuals to know that they are being considered.  Finding ways to memorialize someone’s deceased loved one can also be a way to ease their emotional pain.

What is the importance of setting boundaries during the holidays?

For someone who has experienced the death of a loved one, there may be a high level of emotional fatigue.  For that reason, they may need to set boundaries during the holiday season. This can range from not attending family functions, to bringing their own car and leaving early.  They will likely have to make decisions about what traditions to keep, what to let go off and what to add. 

How does an individual set and uphold boundaries with those who do not understand their grief?

Ideally, they need to communicate their thoughts and feelings about the holiday season to those around them. That said, the goal isn’t necessarily to help someone else understand their grief but for the individual who has experienced the loss to care for themselves.

What is the most important thing to remembers during the holiday months for someone walking through grief and loss?

Be compassionate to yourself during this difficult time.  Grief can be unpredictable.  Make a plan.  Communicate with your support system. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF! Think about things you can take off your to do list (perhaps the Christmas card or putting up a tree), consider the things you must do (spending time with family or preparing a meal) and possibly things to add (lighting a candle or donating to charity in honor of your loved one).  And remember you can do it all different next year.

Meet our newest clinician, Bomly!

 

Help us welcome Bomly Tsuen, M.Ed., NCSP, LCMHCA to Carolina Psychological Associates!

We are thrilled to have Bomly join us in the Chapel Hill office. She sees children, adolescents and adults and has over 9 years experience providing assessments to adolescents with various learning differences. Her specialty has a wide range, including anxiety, depression, relationship and communication, adjustment, life stage transition, parenting, time management, and stress reduction.

Continue reading to learn more about Bomly!

 

What brought you to the mental health field?

That is a great question! Since I was a kid, I’ve always enjoyed listening to people and hearing about their fascinating personal stories. I was especially intrigued when people shared their thoughts about things, what they are going through, how they are feeling, and their past experiences. I guess it makes sense that I am now a professional listener!

 

What is your education history?

(Regarding my M.Ed. and NCSP credentials) I am an English Language Learner; when I was very young, I attended school in Hong Kong for a year before my family moved to the Northeast. I couldn’t speak English at all for the first couple of years I was in the United States. Fortunately, I had great elementary school teachers and administrators who looked out for me, and my parents were huge supporters of my education. I also had a great group of friends who looked out for me. I graduated high school, went to college (majoring in psychology), and then went back for more school. I graduated from UNC-CH’s School Psychology Specialist’s program in 2012. Soon after, I applied to be a Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) and obtained those credentials.

(Regarding my LCMHCA credentials) During my internship year in another state, I was able to do therapy and testing at my assigned schools. However, upon returning to North Carolina, I had very little time to do therapy in the schools I served. Therefore, I decided to pursue a counseling license in order to continue to provide therapy outside of the school setting.

 

How would you best describe your therapeutic approach?

Because there are pros and cons to each approach, I generally select techniques from a diverse set of therapeutic models—depending on what is most suitable for each of my clients. Like a strong teacher who would differentiate instruction based on each student’s strengths and needs, I choose the most appropriate strategies from several therapeutic models to cater to my client’s strengths and needs.

 

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

Having served as a school psychologist in many public school systems for over 9 years, and over 1.5 years in private practice, I have worked with a very diverse set of individuals (e.g., race, gender, age, sexual orientation, intellectual and achievement abilities, socioeconomic status). And a common, foundational issue I’ve discovered is that our social relationships are essential to our health and wellness. I have had the most success empowering gifted children, as well as adolescents and adults, who experience issues with self-esteem, anxiety, depression, stress with school/work life, and social/communication skills. It’s incredibly rewarding to empower members of the community with the skillsets necessary for developing healthy relationships with themselves as well as with others.

 

Did you recently move to the Chapel Hill Area? If so, where did you move from?

Not recently. I’ve been in the triangle for a long time—since I moved here for college.

 

What are you looking forward to most about being a part of the CPA family?

Oh, this is a tough question to choose just one thing. I try to support local businesses as much as I can–whether I’m at home or traveling—so, it only makes sense that I am thrilled to be part of a local practice! Moreover, I really love the energy CPA radiates! Everyone has been so kind, knowledgeable, insightful, helpful, and supportive. If I HAD to choose, I would say I’m most excited about being part of the CPA family because of the opportunity to work amongst the many passionate and skillful, yet humble, clinicians.

 

What is something that you enjoy doing for fun?

I have a pretty eclectic range of interests! I love SUP/kayaking, baking, dancing, making lip balms and cream blushes, watching anime, traveling, and sometimes just watching TV with my cat. 😊

 

Share a fun fact about yourself!

When I was a kid, I did not understand the concept of being “tired” and would always think, “Why do adults keep using that word when they don’t want to play anymore?” Then my mom would tell me I have the energy/spirit of a monkey (in my culture, monkeys symbolize cleverness and high energy playfulness). And I would always wish for a pet monkey, so I could have someone to run around and play with me all of the time. Nonstop.

Transitioning from Summer to Fall

It is that time of the year again, seasonal transition. 

When some people buy all the pumpkin spice lattes (PSLs) they can drink while others grip on to the last days of warm summer sunshine.

Where do you find yourself during this transition?

Are you ready for sweater weather and cooler temperatures? Or are you dreading the growing number of dark hours in the day?

Fall is a season full of various emotions. Sadness that summer is over and joy for the changing colors of leaves. Anticipation of shorter days and excitement for holidays with loved ones. Grief for those no longer here to celebrate with and hope for new memories to be made.

No matter what side you’re on, whether you’re ready for fall or not, here are some important things to keep in mind during this transition.

Get some sunlight

As the days get shorter and colder, you might find yourself missing the warm sunshine. Listen to your body and go outside when you can, for as long as you can.

This might seem like a small, insignificant chore but you will most likely thank yourself later. This could look like eating lunch outside your office building or taking a lap around the parking lot when you get a couple free minutes. Carving time out of your workday can be tricky. Set a reminder on your phone or simply put “go outside” on your to-do list each day. Feel free to invite some coworkers with you, they might enjoy the sunshine too!

The sun is a large source of Vitamin D. Therefore, when there is a decrease in the amount of sunny hours a day, individuals might get as much Vitamin D as they need. This deficiency can impact mood and the immune system. Speak with your primary care physician about possibly adding a Vitamin D supplement during the winter months.

 

Routine

Find a routine and stick with it. As the hours of sunlight slowly diminish, it can interrupt your daily schedule. Be aware of this and develop a routine that you can stick to throughout the darker days of winter.

Remember that it is okay for your days to look different during different seasons. Maybe bedtimes are later in the summer and earlier in the winter. Morning alarms might go off later in the summer and earlier in the winter. You are allowed to change your routine and schedule to best suit your needs in whatever season you find yourself.

Be mindful of what your mind and body need in this season! Most importantly, find a routine that works and stay consistent. This consistency might be helpful on particularly hard days.

Reach out

Social support systems are often underrated and underutilized. You might be asking, “what is a social support system?”

Community. Friends. Family. Social Groups. Mentors. Peers.

People who fall into each of those categories can be considered social supports. Reaching out to those around you is essential for your success, especially through seasonal transitions. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help or to just catch up!

Also, remember to reach out to professionals for additional support if needed.