2 Benefits of Marriage Counseling and 3 Disadvantages

The difficulties with marriage start at the beginning of a relationship. No one starts a relationship looking to end up in marriage counseling one day, but from the very start of “I think I like you” to the “I do” and beyond, there are certain difficulties that each couple will face

Some of these difficulties require more work than others. A majority of the troubles that couples face can benefit from marriage therapy. As with any tool, however, there are both benefits and disadvantages to marriage counseling.

Two benefits of marriage counseling.

For any couple working with a marriage counselor, there are benefits to reap once the work has been done to find a counselor that fits. The premise of marriage counseling is to assist couples in their relationship with themselves, one another, and the systems around them.

Choosing to work in such a context should not be a light decision, nor should it be a one-sided decision. Couples who come to counseling need to decide together that they are there to do the work, otherwise there are likely to be no benefits at all.

Communication.

One of the top benefits that can come from marriage counseling is improved communication. Even starting to talk about marriage therapy, whether for premarital, newly married couples, or long-time married couples can bring about better talk as a couple. This “pre-talk” allows the couple to define the terms, establish a reasonable assessment of how important the marriage is to one another, and explore what areas need to be worked on most.

While in marriage counseling, a counselor can help the couple improve their communication by supplying mediation and skill training. With a counselor acting as a mediator, couples have the advantage of slowing their communication down.

The counselor makes room for pausing and reflecting. This sort of mediation allows for couples to be heard by one another and get their point across more effectively. The mediation of a counselor helps couples to create safe boundaries while navigating conflict.

Skill training helps the couple increase their active and reflective listening. Skill training also serves to increase the couple’s positive communication by allowing them to practice filtering and shaping their words. By improving communication, the couple’s intimacy is increased and thereby overall satisfaction in the relationship.

Longevity.

Marriages start with the desire for the relationship to last and in order to have a lasting marriage, there needs to be a certain level of satisfaction. In other words, decreased satisfaction in times of conflict can jeopardize the marriage. In order to increase satisfaction between the couple, marriage counselors support them in developing better communication, conflict resolution, and empathy skills.

With an increase in these skills, the couple can feel more understood, more at ease, and more willing to be vulnerable. This leads to the couple having their needs met. As conflict decreases and needs are increasingly met, the satisfaction of the relationship increases. This increase in satisfaction improves the longevity of the relationship exponentially.

Three disadvantages of marriage counseling.

There are both benefits of marriage counseling and disadvantages. Two of the benefits of marriage counseling discussed above are communication and longevity. These play into one another, just as the disadvantages do. Disadvantages of marriage counseling can include areas of conflict resolution, self-discipline, and that it is not a “one-size-fits-all” intervention.

Conflict resolution.

Every marriage has its moments of conflict. Within couples therapy, couples are spending time addressing that conflict in hopes of a resolution. The disadvantage to this is that it can stir up the conflict and leave the couple more hurt before any resolution comes. Counseling takes time, and there are no guarantees with it. This means things can get worse before they get better.

Another aspect of conflict resolution is that often within marriage counseling, working on a current conflict brings up conflicts from the past. This leaves couples to face multiple conflicts at once. Any work with conflict resolution creates the opportunity for immense individual growth and strengthening of skills.

Working with a marriage counselor on resolving conflict in a marriage can help the couple develop a plan that improves their marriage. However, the plan will not be void of hard work and the facing of more difficult pain. Each individual has to make the decision to face the amount of work that conflict resolution presents them with.

Self-discipline.

Getting married to someone doesn’t mean that person is perfect. There is often an understanding within the relationship that there is room for each individual to grow. What can be unknown at times is the level of self-discipline it will take to both grow and endure the other’s need for growth.

Marriage counselors hold a unique position with a couple to both help the individuals see the need for self-discipline or growth, as well as to support them in building the skills necessary to achieve it. These skills include brain re-training, empathy building, behavior modification, habit training, etc.

Learning new skills and practicing new roles within the marriage requires self-discipline. As with any discipline, it is not easy to endure. The temporary pain is sometimes determined to not be worth the long-term gain. Marriage counseling requires the individuals to face this reality and own up to it.

Not a “one-size-fits-all” intervention.

Each individual in a marriage has the choice to both enter into and stay in marriage counseling. This requires multiple things to be right in order for it to work. For marriage therapy specifically, both individuals must agree to commit to the marriage and work on it, otherwise it is just individual counseling with an extra person in the room.

Once commitment to the marriage is secured, both individuals need to agree on who they work with. If one person feels uncomfortable with the counselor, or both, it will be an uphill battle while the couple is already wounded. After deciding that continuing the marriage is right for the couple and that the counselor is right for the couple, the couple then needs to decide at some point whether or not the counseling is serving the marriage well.

This decision can be the most difficult part to face, leaving the couple at a strong disadvantage. The difficulty lies within the hard work that facing conflict creates. Due to there being no guarantees in therapy, enduring hard work can leave the couple feeling more depleted than simply enduring the conflict, and thereby become a confusing time when they have to decide whether to continue counseling or not.

Marriage counseling is not the only way for couples to improve their marriage. In fact, for some it may create more conflict in a way that proves ineffective at addressing any original conflicts at hand. Sometimes talking things out and expressing feelings does not serve the purpose of resolution. Marriage counseling may not fit the relationship dynamics, circumstances, or even culture of the couple.

Is marriage counseling worth it?

Marriage counseling is a tool for couples to use just like any other tool. It is meant to support the couple in the growth and longevity of their relationship with each other. Whether the disadvantages outweigh the advantages really comes down to the married couple. If you are ready to explore more regarding whether marriage counseling is right for you, reach out to a counselor near you.

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Trauma and Friendship: 3 Ways One Impacts the Other

If you have been through trauma, whether as a child or as an adult, you might recognize symptoms such as loss of hope, fear of the future, and a preoccupation with death either of oneself or a loved one. These can be related to physical trauma or trauma associated with grief and loss. But even psychological trauma, such as what can result from emotional neglect, impacts bonds typically formed in friendship.

What is trauma?

The American Psychological Association defines trauma as “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster.”

Trauma can be caused by a one-time event or by a series of events and circumstances. A person can undergo childhood trauma due to situations beyond his control, such as experiencing homelessness and food insecurity or witnessing abuse in the home. A pattern of trauma responses can be immediate and long-lasting.

What are short-term trauma responses?

Immediate responses to trauma include shock, denial, and a refusal to believe new ways of life are possible. These responses may last anywhere from a day or two to weeks or months after the event(s) occurred.

Long-term trauma responses.

Long-term trauma responses may be more relational. If a person who lost her mother as a young child struggles to bond with females, this could be a result of trauma. Other long-term responses may be depression, fear of future loss that impacts a person’s willingness to be vulnerable, and physical symptoms such as headaches and nausea.

How do trauma and friendship interact?

Experiencing trauma doesn’t necessarily mean you will always struggle to form friendship bonds. However, some research suggests that those who experience post-traumatic stress disorder may be slower to form attachment bonds because of it.

Getting help early from a trained, trusted professional counselor can be an asset to anyone who has experienced trauma. Friendships can thrive post-trauma if a person can overcome and move forward after the traumatic event has taken place. New studies show that adult friendships may even help a person recover from trauma.

Here are three ways that trauma impacts friendship and friendship impacts trauma recovery.

1. Trauma can make a person feel isolated if he or she doesn’t know anyone else who has experienced trauma.

Trauma impacts everyone differently. Our responses to it are largely determined by our personalities and wiring, our health history, and our support from friends and family. When someone, particularly children and teens, goes through something traumatic, they can naturally separate themselves from others – thus struggling to bond and form friendships – out of fear of being different or not being able to relate to other kids and teens.

2. Trauma can make everyday life difficult and turn grief into complex grief over time.

If a person is impacted by a traumatic event where they lost a loved one, such as in a car accident where a family member died, it’s essential to understand the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. Seeking treatment as early as possible is important. Research shows that untreated PTSD can result in complex grief. This can disrupt a person’s daily rhythms, making it tough to work, study, or share common experiences with friends.

3. Friendship can bring healing to those who suffered childhood trauma.

Studies suggest that forming friendships in later adult life keeps a person’s immune system healthy. But these friendships can also bring healing and hope to those who have undergone trauma early in life. If you have noticed that a traumatic event has impacted your friendships, contact one of our offices today. A licensed counselor at Huntington Beach Christian Counseling can help you on the journey toward healing and wholeness.

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Moving Past Postpartum Blues

Your baby is finally here. After months of growing and developing into a tiny human, your little one has made an entrance. You know you should be elated, but something feels off. Postpartum blues is real and can last a few weeks as your hormones shift from pregnancy to the recovery period.

How do you move past postpartum blues and get back to enjoying your new baby?

Getting back on track after postpartum blues.

You may have felt happy, joyful, and serene right after the birth of your baby, but after the first week of no sleep, constant diaper changes, learning how to care for a newborn, and shifts in hormones, you feel the opposite.

This is a normal occurrence. Hormones control our emotions and moods, and as estrogen and progesterone levels decrease, you may experience postpartum blues with mood swings, sadness, and anxiety for a few weeks.

The good news is that the postpartum blues only last about two weeks, then your hormones stabilize. When the emotions do not seem to be stabilizing and you continue to experience mood swings, sadness, and/or anxiety, it is important to check in with your healthcare provider. While experiencing these emotional lows is normal after birth, there are things you can do to help ease your way through this time.

Increase rest and nutrition.

This may sound easier said than done, but as your hormones adjust, it is the most important time for you and your baby to focus on rest and nutrition. Keeping your body fed and hydrated will boost your ability to weather the baby blues. Resting may not come easy as life can be full of demands, but finding a way to incorporate it whenever possible is a must.

One of my favorite pieces of advice in this area was from a midwife who said, “stock up on one-handed foods.” The unpredictable schedule and demands of a newborn will seem at odds with the times you are hungry. One-handed, nutrient rich and/or simple foods are a great go-to.

If you are unable to sleep whenever the baby sleeps, that’s okay. Increasing rest can also look like decreasing the energy you expend or creating a restful environment. Dim the lights, light a candle, time-block for quiet activities, and set the mood for relaxation for the whole family.

Find help with the baby and the house.

The overwhelming feelings may be more acute if you are trying to manage a newborn on your own. The first few weeks of an infant’s life are also a challenge for them. They must adapt to sights, sounds, and smells they did not have in the womb. In addition, they have no way of communicating except through crying.

This trying period will pass as your baby grows and adapts, but in the meantime, you need help. Do you have a spouse that can take over while you get some sleep? How about a parent or sibling who can handle the daily chores like dishes and laundry? A friend who can bring you a meal, sit with you, or hold the baby while you shower? Asking for help is a sign of strength. Many people will want to help you, but they will need your permission.

If you are preparing for your baby’s birth and are reading this to know what to expect, take the time to recruit help now. From anything to setting up a meal train, to driving siblings to their appointments, to walking the dog and cleaning your house.

There are things you can do for yourself as well. To save time during those first few weeks, consider cooking and freezing meals for when your family is too tired to cook. Consider reducing physical clutter and daily routines to the necessities. Even stocking up on paper plates and disposable cutlery.

If you have a large family, teach your older children to do certain chores, like taking out the trash, running the vacuum, and dusting. Even little ones can fold the towels and washcloths; their work may not be perfect, but it will be done and one less thing for you to think about.

Focus on less.

Now may be a time when focusing on less or slowing down may not be possible. Maybe you are in the middle of a school program, have to go back to work immediately, or are raising other kids who haven’t reached a significant independence level.

Even if that is the case, something will have to give. The attention a baby demands, coupled with the struggles of the baby blues, makes it necessary to slim down the daily doings to the minimum. If you are able to before the baby comes, make a list of things in your days that can be altered to an easier form for the transition of this new baby.

Focusing on less while you are facing the baby blues can be difficult if you are not prepared to take it easy. You may be struggling with doubt, guilt, or other negative influences. If you are unable to prepare prior to having the baby, three ways to focus on less immediately are:

  • Recognize the negative and unrealistic message of having to “do it all” during this time and replace it with “I am doing what’s most important” by tending to the needs of the new baby and taking care for yourself so you have enough to keep going.
  • Remind yourself that it is a different season that will pass quickly and you will find a new way to get things done eventually.
  • As “eventually” may not come as quickly as one would like, remind yourself the days are long, but the years fly by and take as many deep breaths as you need.

Facing the baby blues is difficult for any momma, even a seasoned one. Seeking help is another way to start immediately focusing on less and getting the most important work done.

Seek support.

You are not alone. Postpartum blues affects up to 70% of new mothers. You may still develop the postpartum blues even if this is not your first child. Seek support if you struggle with symptoms or have questions for other women.

You can find support through online communities or live local groups. Your obstetrician, pediatrician, or lactation consultant may be able to recommend a group or community you can join. Some groups meet at hospitals and clinics.

You can also find Mothers groups that consist of women who have children from birth through age five. These groups offer invaluable insight and activities for children while the mothers provide advice and ask questions. They may also host events or Mother’s Day Out opportunities.

You don’t need to leave anyone off the list when it comes to seeking support. From your church to your neighbors, from your county organizations to your online communities, finding people to help doesn’t have to be limited to family and close friends.

As long as you can trust them with even as small a task as providing clothes for the new baby or taking your trash cans out for trash day, it can help ease the burdens and lighten the weight of the baby blues.

Accept your body in the moment.

Postpartum blues can worsen our perceptions and expectations about our bodies after a baby. Sometimes we expect our bodies to bounce back quickly after a child is born. We become disappointed and depressed if we still weigh the same as we did when carrying a six to nine-pound baby.

Most likely, you are still retaining extra fluid, and if you are breastfeeding, your new milk supply may alter the fluid content and weight. You may not be able to wear your pre-pregnancy clothes for weeks or months after birth. This is normal. As your body adapts to the changes, overall change towards your former body will happen.

In the meantime, give yourself grace. You may not like what you see in the mirror when your clothes are off, but remember that you just gave birth to a baby. The process of pregnancy and birth is a miracle. Your body nurtured and protected a child for nine months. Accept and practice gratitude for the body God blessed you with that could participate in this miracle.

Stop the comparing.

Becoming a mother is an honor and a blessing. But we can romanticize pregnancy, birth, and new motherhood. We admire other mothers on social media who seem to have it all together. These women may show organized nurseries, svelte bodies, and sleeping babes on their newsfeeds.

What they are not sharing with you are the same issues you are dealing with having a newborn. These women also have laundry, dirty diapers, painful breasts, and spit up on their clothes.

Your schedule may not be what you expected, but it may be the one that will have to work for you and your family temporarily. Your new baby might be your fifth, but is the exact opposite of their siblings. Your home may look like a nursery exploded inside for the first few weeks. Accept that things will not be perfect, call on people to help, and let the rest go for now. Learn to pivot instead of compare and you will adapt more easily.

If you give birth to your new baby right before a holiday, accept that this year will be different, and don’t stress yourself out trying to make it magical. Instead, request more help or scale down on the lavishness. For example, if your baby is born a week or two before Thanksgiving, you might choose to stay home and have a premade meal delivered instead of traveling for two hours to visit extended family. Do things that will make life easier postpartum, not harder.

Postpartum blues can leave you feeling very impressionable. While avoiding comparing with those who seem to have it easier or more together, it is also worth the caution to avoid surrounding yourself only with others struggling with the same things, as it can lead to a worsening of your symptoms.

Is it postpartum blues or depression?

Sometimes the postpartum blues is really depression. Postpartum depression is more intense and can last months. If you are experiencing persistent sadness as if a cloud hangs over you, you cannot seem to bond with your baby, or you are having thoughts of harming yourself or your infant, reach out for help immediately. Postpartum depression is treatable with the assistance of a licensed mental health care practitioner.

Contact our office today to speak with a therapist. Your therapist can offer more information about the postpartum recovery period and methods to overcome the postpartum blues.

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Repairing a Relationship after an Anger Outburst

An anger outburst can cause a person to lose control over what they say and do, which can be devastating. Anger can override a person’s rational thought processes, placing them in the uncomfortable situation of having to take back hurtful words spoken in anger that they never would have uttered under normal circumstances.

What’s an anger outburst?

Have you ever felt so angry that your anger felt like it was a living, fire-breathing, or ice-cold thing inside of you? Perhaps a loved one had slighted you one too many times, or a friend questioned a choice you made or a cherished belief you hold, and it stirred up anger in you.

Everyone gets angry at some point in their lives, though what varies between people is what makes them angry and what they do with themselves once they feel angry.

We often express anger in the ways that were modeled to us by people that were significant in our formation, such as our parents and other adults around us. From these experiences we learn what is considered an appropriate way to express anger, whether by suppressing it or expressing it through colorful expletives.

For some people, having seen anger expressed one way and found that to be problematic, they choose to go another route in their own life. Consider the case where a person with parents who had violent and explosive tempers finding themselves preferring to keep their own anger bottled up instead.

You don’t have to suppress anger to deal with it effectively. In fact, suppressing anger is an ineffective and potentially self-destructive way to deal with feelings of anger.

That anger may lodge itself in your heart and result in developing resentment toward others or health problems such as high blood pressure. But expressing anger well requires self-awareness and emotional intelligence so that harm does not befall others in the process of that self-expression. It isn’t easy, but it is possible.

An anger outburst can take many forms, often including either violent behavior or angry verbal expressions. It can look like a sudden, impulsive, out-of-control burst of anger that starts without warning and is typically seen as out of proportion to what triggered the episode.

Some examples of anger outbursts range from incidents and patterns of behavior such as road rage and domestic abuse, as well as the throwing or breaking of objects or punching through walls. An anger outburst can have not only legal consequences, but financial and relational ramifications as well.

The effect of anger on relationships.

In the heat of an argument, people say and do many things that they regret. Once words are said and certain actions performed, they can’t be taken back. All that’s left to do is to deal with the aftermath. The effect of anger that is poorly expressed is felt whatever the circumstances.

The most obvious effect of an angry outburst is the hurt that can be caused when painful and needless things are said and done during the outburst. In anger, we can wield truth carelessly, wounding the other person by hitting them where it hurts most. If anger leads a person to hurl insults or lay hands on the other person, that can cause physical and emotional damage in the other person.

If an anger outburst results in emotional and verbal abuse, that can have a profound effect on the victim’s sense of self-worth, confidence, and safety. In other words, it can diminish them as a person.

An anger outburst can affect a relationship by undermining the trust and intimacy within that relationship. Whether anger leads to hurtful words being spoken or physical violence ensuing, the connection between the two people is jeopardized because the sense of safety that may have existed prior to the outburst evaporates because of the destructive expression of anger.

If your spouse has an anger outburst that leads them to dredge up an old conflict or wound, or that results in you sustaining physical harm, you may find yourself on edge around them. You may struggle to trust yourself around them or become unwilling to let your guard down because you don’t know if that unsavory reaction will be repeated.

For emotional intimacy to thrive in a relationship, trust and safety are important. An anger outburst can undermine both by making the situation and relationship seem volatile and entirely unsettled. Discomfort, fear, and uncertainty are the enemies of meaningful relationships where a deep connection is shared between two people. An anger outburst can create a wedge between people.

Another unwanted but expected result of an anger outburst is that it may even be traumatic and triggering to be exposed to an anger outburst from a loved one. If you experienced unhealthy anger in past relationships, or if there were seasons in the present relationship where unhealthy expressions of anger were prevalent, experiencing an anger outburst may bring that past rushing back in.

What to do when anger affects your relationship.

An anger outburst can affect a relationship in deep and negative ways. The damage done by an anger outburst may take a concerted effort to undo. But if the relationship matters to you, putting in that work to restore the relationship and get your anger under control should be more than worth it.

Among some of the steps that you can take is making sure that you acknowledge what happened without making any excuses. It’s easy to try and gloss over our own bad behavior, especially if we feel embarrassed by it or perhaps even feel justified for how we felt.

However, while we are allowed to feel how we feel, we aren’t entitled to express those emotions in whatever way we choose. The Bible reminds us that “…human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:20 NIV). We need to exercise caution over the reasons we feel angry and how we express our anger. Like it says in Ephesians, we are called to “be angry and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26a).

It is important to think through apologies after an anger outburst. A proper apology carries a healthy combination of sincerity in acknowledging that what happened was wrong and recognizing the impact it may have had on the other person. Though the person apologizing may be tempted to blame or point fingers, it is important to apologize separately from working on being understood or receiving an apology from the other person.

A good apology is joined to concrete steps to be taken to change behavior and acceptance of accountability in future. An apology can pave the way for healing to begin in the relationship. The other person has the opportunity to forgive you, but that is a choice only they can exercise. Your part is to apologize and seek to do better with the Lord’s help.

It is important to seek help when you’ve had an anger outburst, particularly if it isn’t a one-time occurrence, or if the aftermath of it has been especially disastrous. An anger outburst may be the creature of a moment, but it can be a sign of much else going on beneath the surface.

God calls us to seek help from Him. This may come through prayer, reading your Bible, connecting with other believers, and/or engaging in direct counseling. Nothing will be as effective as having the Holy Spirit at work in you.

Anger may be masking anxiety, or it may be the symptom of something else such as trauma, depression (especially in men), or chronic stress. Finding professional help from a counselor will help you understand your triggers and early warning signs of anger such as having knots in your stomach, seeing red, clenching your hands or jaw, your hands feeling clammy or face feeling flushed, breathing faster, and pacing around.

Christian counseling for anger outbursts will also teach you to avoid patterns of thinking that tend to trigger and reinforce unhealthy angry reactions such as overgeneralizing (e.g., “You always disrespect me. You never consider what I want. No one ever listens to me.”); jumping to conclusions about other people’s intentions, blaming, looking for things about which to complain and get upset, and having rigid expectations of others.

Counseling will also teach you ways of handling anger in healthy ways such as taking appropriate self-care, learning to focus on the present, and using humor to relieve tension. If anger is causing friction or creating distance in your relationships, you should consider getting help from a counselor who can help you bring it under control.

Photos:
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How to Spot ADHD Symptoms in Teens (and Help them Cope)

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects a child’s ability to stay focused, sit still, and/or control his or her impulses. It is a legitimate medical condition that requires special care and attention.

ADHD symptoms in teens usually manifest somewhat differently than they do in younger children or adults because of the distinctive aspects of this phase of life. Normal stressors such as rapidly changing bodies, hormonal changes, and the increased academic and social expectations of high school, tend to aggravate ADHD symptoms, making this an especially tough time for a teen with ADHD.

Teens with ADHD, for instance, tend to have lower grade point averages, complete and turn in a much lower percentage of classwork and homework assignments, and are much less likely to be working up to their potential. They are also more likely to be absent or tardy and to drop out of school.

The earlier you recognize the symptoms and get help for your teen, the better the outcome.

Types of ADHD.

According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5-TR), there are three types of ADHD: primarily inattentive, primarily impulsive/hyperactive, and a combination of the two.

In order to be diagnosed with ADHD, a teen must exhibit six or more of the symptoms in a category (five if they are over the age of 17); the symptoms must have started before they were 12 years old; been present for six months or longer; and impact their functioning in at least two settings such as home, school, or social.

Primarily inattentive ADHD.

Teens with primarily inattentive ADHD struggle to pay attention, stay focused on what they are doing, be organized, and complete tasks, which can have a severely negative impact on their performance at school. On the other hand, they do not usually have a problem managing their impulses or activity level. Symptoms include:

  • Difficulty understanding or following instructions.
  • Failure to pay attention to detail.
  • Making careless mistakes.
  • A wandering mind that seems far away when being spoken to.
  • Failure to follow through on instructions or finish assignments.
  • Inability to organize things.
  • Frequently losing or forgetting things.
  • Easily distracted.

Primarily impulsive/hyperactive ADHD.

Teens with primarily impulsive/hyperactive ADHD have a hard time controlling their impulses and will talk or act before they think; do things without asking for permission first; rush through their assignments, making many careless mistakes; and be prone to emotional outbursts or reactions that are inappropriate or out of proportion to the situation. Symptoms include:

  • Tendency to be restless, fidgety, and have trouble sitting still.
  • Inability to engage in activities quietly.
  • Easily bored.
  • Talking excessively and interrupting others who are speaking.
  • Calling out answers in class before the teacher finishes asking the question.
  • Trouble waiting in line or for their turn.
  • Impatient and easily frustrated.

Combined ADHD.

Combined ADHD is the most common type of ADHD. Teens with this type exhibit both inattentive and impulsive/hyperactive behaviors.

Helping your teen cope with the symptoms of ADHD.

  • Educate yourself about ADHD symptoms in teens and the challenges they create so you can better understand and support your teen.
  • Accept your teen for who he or she is.
  • Stay positive and encouraging.
  • Recognize that your teen’s symptoms cannot be fixed by rigid rules or parenting styles and that they are not due to a lack of discipline on his or her part.
  • Set clear expectations with consequences.
  • Praise and reward good behavior.
  • Don’t punish your teen for behavior he or she has no control over.
  • Target the ADHD and not your teen.
  • Focus on solutions to ADHD-related problems and helping your teen achieve them.
  • Help your teen with scheduling and keeping things organized.
  • Minimize stress and overstimulation in your home environment and keep distractions to a minimum.
  • Help your teen create and stick to regular routines that provide structure to his or her day.
  • Make sure your teen has access to any necessary accommodations in school.
  • Seek counseling for your teen and remain involved and supportive in his or her care.

Benefits of counseling for ADHD symptoms in teens.

A trained mental health professional can help your teen understand ADHD and equip him or her with the necessary skills to cope with the challenges created by his or her symptoms.

If you are interested in learning more about ADHD symptoms in teens or would like to set up an appointment to meet with a faith-based counselor specializing in teenage ADHD please give us a call.

References:

David Perlstein. “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Teens.” eMedicineHealth. emedicinehealth.com/adhd_in_teens/article_em.html.

Katie Hurley. “ADHD & Teens: How to Help Them Cope with Their Struggles.” Psycom. Updated October 17, 2022.

Zia Sherrell. “What to know about ADHD screening?” MedicalNewsToday. July 30, 2021. medicalnewstoday.com/articles/adhd-screening.

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What is Forgiveness, Really? Forgiveness Defined

Facing the need to forgive someone can be a struggle for many, begging the question, “What is forgiveness, really?” How does one know when they truly have forgiven? Whether you have been on the receiving or giving end, consider these layers of forgiveness.

Defined.

There are multiple layers to forgiveness to understand, including but not limited to: letting go, forgetting, expectations, and behaviors. In a small, informal poll on forgiveness, it was shown that the definition varies from person to person.

The one common factor of each participant’s definition was that a change for the giver of forgiveness occurred once forgiveness was granted. Forgiveness can equate to some or all of the layers being changed.

Layers of forgiveness: letting go.

Letting go of something is a basic definition of forgiveness. This layer implies that once forgiveness is granted, the wrongdoer is no longer held to account for the wrongdoing. It can also imply that the wrongdoing no longer bothers the one who is forgiving.

That being said, letting go does not have to equal both of those right away, as it takes time for the emotional impact of wrongs stirred up in memory to lessen its grip on those called to forgive. Whether the emotional impact ever entirely goes away or can be forgotten is not predictable.

Layers of forgiveness: forgetting.

Forgiving and forgetting are commonly linked together. In Christian circles, they take root with principles drawn from verses like Psalm103:12, which speaks of God removing our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. The only trouble is, forgetting is not something that can be guaranteed.

In fact, it is difficult to prove that forgetting something can be willed. The more impactful the wrong, the more likely it is that it will be more difficult to forget. So with this layer, it is important to consider two things:

First, as a forgiver, be clear with yourself that remembering does not mean it is happening again, nor does remembering mean that you haven’t forgiven.

Second, as one who is forgiving someone, there will be a variety of ways your memory of the wrongdoing can be triggered throughout any moment in time (i.e. similar emotions rising, similar tones/expressions/circumstances, similar relationship dynamics, etc.). Take care to set reasonable expectations about your ability to forget.

Layers of forgiveness: new expectations.

What does it mean to forgive, really? Setting new expectations is an important layer of forgiveness. Some consider forgiveness to include the expectation that the relationship with a wrongdoer is perfectly intact as it was before any wrongdoing. Others consider themselves responsible to expect no further wrong will be done; otherwise, a lack of trust would demonstrate a lack of forgiveness.

Both of those views on setting new expectations have dangerous implications. It may be so that a forgiving person is to set new expectations for the relationship with the wrongdoer, but careful consideration must be made so as not to confuse forgiveness with blind acceptance and false expectations over what is not in one’s control.

Forgiveness includes washing away the expectation of someone needing to pay for a wrong, such as with a debt. In some relationships, forgiveness may still require expectation of change in the boundaries and interactions (i.e. prohibiting them from having access to you in the same capacity as before).

Layers of forgiveness: new behaviors.

Along the lines of changing how much access you give a wrongdoer to you once forgiveness is established, the behaviors you display toward this individual need to be considered in order to align with your forgiveness.

With the definition of forgiveness including washing away the expectation of someone needing to pay for the wrongdoing, forgiving someone necessitates the behavior of self-control on the forgiver’s part. This equates to not bringing up the wrong that was forgiven in expectation that the wrongdoer should feel remorse again.

Other new behaviors to be considered are whether or not you allow yourself to engage in a similar fashion with the wrongdoer. For example, if you decide to treat them as though they will never change from their wrongdoing ways, you may discontinue engaging with them or treat them as “less than” or with contempt.

It would be difficult to prove that these new behaviors, not to be confused with acting with caution, would indicate a heart of forgiveness. To differentiate between the two, a helpful question can be:

“Am I able to not hold them accountable while hoping that they change in the time I am separate from them, or am I requiring change/payment/retribution in order to let the issue go and condemning them to be only ever a wrongdoer?”

By asking this question honestly, one can get back to the heart of forgiveness and whether it has truly happened.

Next steps.

Forgiveness is as much complex as it is simple. It is defined as washing away the debt of someone who owes. This comes with a change of expectations and behaviors toward any wrongdoer. As Christians, we are called to forgive and forgive again.

Forgiving someone can be difficult to navigate for many reasons. There is wisdom in seeking counsel while seeking to forgive someone and managing all of the issues and emotions that come along with it. If you need support, reach out me or another Christian counselor in our online directory today.

Photos:
“Forgiveness”, Courtesy of BenteBoe, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Photos”, Courtesy of jarmoluk, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Guilty”, Courtesy of geralt, Pixabay.com, CC0 License

Self-help Strategies for Adult ADHD

Did you know that whether or not your symptoms are linked to adult ADHD, stress, or any other type of mental health condition, many self-help tools and methods are available to help you regain and enjoy your mental balance?

If you are looking for a short collection of tips directly affecting those who have, or suspect they have, adult ADHD, read on for more information on how to improve your memory, enjoy a stable mood, and increase your concentration.

Strategies to mitigate the effects of adult ADHD.

Appreciate the power of sleep.

Good sleep hygiene is the routine we adopt when we prepare our bodies and minds for a good night’s sleep. Best practices regarding sleep include turning off backlit devices (i.e. mobile phones, laptops, TVs) two hours before your bedtime to encourage your body to release adequate melatonin. Keeping a regular sleep routine of going to bed around the same time seven days a week, and limiting your daytime naps to a maximum of half an hour.

Understand the effects of screen time.

Outside of working hours, experts suggest that you limit yourself to less than two hours of screen time per day. And when you are using your mobile phone then try to use it in a way that avoids having to multitask. Rather use one app at a time and resist the temptation to switch between them. In the same way, do not flip between multiple tabs when you are browsing the net.

Eat well.

It is good to know how eating affects you. Eating healthily often has the effect of your body and mind receiving consistent energy throughout the day, and this helps you sustain your focus. Making sure that a high percentage of your diet includes lean protein, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits will prevent any nutritional deficiencies and also regulate your blood sugar levels.

Routines help your brain relax.

Regular daytime routines provide your body and mind with stability and predictability. This is extremely helpful for someone dealing with adult ADHD. At work, create schedules by listing your to-dos and prioritizing them, keeping in mind when you are typically fresh and full of energy and when your energy is low, such as later in the afternoon.

Regular exercise.

It should not surprise anyone that physical movement increases the functioning of your brain whether or not you have adult ADHD. Exercise is also linked to the reduction of anxiety and depression by lowering the amount of cortisol, a stress hormone, in your body while increasing levels of dopamine and serotonin.

Practicing mindfulness.

Bringing your attention back to the present so that you can recognize your emotions and process them properly is the practice of mindfulness. It is a technique used to actively manage thoughts and emotions so that your brain filters out distractions and is trained to control impulses that are not helpful. Combined, these create a significant improvement in adult ADHD symptoms.

Get your senses on your side.

Depending on your preference, take control of the sounds in your environment. This can be done by playing soft music (baroque-style classical music is effective in this way), playing white noise, or making sure that it is absolutely silent by using noise-canceling headphones.

Be aware of how you respond to light, does a bright working environment assist your energy levels? Make your surroundings work for you by fine-tuning the sensory input your body receives.

Know yourself.

Knowing your likes and preferences, such as what it takes for you to get into an energy flow state where you have good focus, or how you are distracted, and being aware of some of your triggers of adult ADHD, will assist you as you adopt behavior and approaches to different situations that work for you.

Ask for help.

Adopting self-help techniques does not require you to face your adult ADHD all by yourself. Talk about the things which you are battling. There are a variety of ways you can do this, such as joining an online ADHD support group and sharing with your family and work colleagues.

Recruit professional Christian help.

Informal check-ins with friends are useful and a key part of your journey, however, you can take it up a level and enlist the help of a counselor. This professional can help you discuss a potential ADHD diagnosis, manage how you experience spikes in symptoms, and deal with any anxiety and depression.

Drawing on advice to negotiate stressful life events, creating supportive relationships, and being better at knowing your thoughts and emotions, are invaluable tools to become more robust, prepared, and bonded to those around you. These are all important indicators of mental and physical health and quality of life.

If you’re looking for additional help to better understand adult ADHD beyond this article, then why not browse our online counselor directory or contact our office to schedule an appointment? We would be honored to walk with you on this journey.

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“Studying”, Courtesy of Ivana Cajina, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Working”, Courtesy of LinkedIn Sales Solutions, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Laptop User”, Courtesy of Brooke Cagle, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Effective Treatment for Anxiety: Methods that Last

Over 40 million people in the US are suffering from and searching for effective treatment for anxiety. Anxiety is a debilitating state of mind in which excessive worry rules the lives of those who struggle with it. There is no age restriction for anxiety. Children, teens, and adults can suffer from this disorder.

Treatment for anxiety: what can be done?

Treatment for anxiety depends on multiple variables such as symptoms, time, place, age, and availability of resources. Fortunately, anxiety is not new. Research has been operating for over 2,000 years in relation to the treatment for anxiety. While there is no guarantee in any method of treatment for anxiety, there are treatments proven to be more effective and longer lasting than others.

Anxiety symptoms.

Anxiety symptoms have been defined in a Diagnostic Statistics Manual (DSM) for clinicians since 1952. The current understanding of anxiety has led to a number of symptoms to be included for the diagnosing of anxiety. While there is a stand-alone anxiety disorder, any number of these symptoms can be present in conjunction with other disorders. This is one reason a therapist is helpful when treating anxiety.

The current edition of the DSM (DSM V) describes 11 different anxiety disorders. These include: Social Anxiety, Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, and Unspecified Anxiety Disorder.

Anxiety is defined in the DSM as having “excessive anxiety and worry (apprehensive expectation), occurring more days than not for at least six months, about a number of events or activities (such as work or social performances).” Five more criteria are looked at for clinicians to diagnose anxiety, including the focus of the anxiety, specific symptoms, and the level of control over the anxiety.

Effective treatment for anxiety can depend on the variety of symptoms each individual is experiencing. Methods that last have three things in common: the expectations the individual holds, rewiring the brain, and finding support.

Treatment for anxiety: methods that are proven to last.

Brain training (known by many names).

Brain training, also known as rewiring the brain, is a far-reaching and long-lasting method of treating anxiety. A simple way to understand brain training is: changing the way your brain operates with anxiety by either chemical work, physical work, or both.

Chemical work for anxiety is done by use of medications. This approach is monitored by medical professionals and aids many people in a similar way as heart medication –allowing for a chemical support to reduce anxiety’s overstimulation of the brain and body.

Physical work for the treatment of anxiety is done by the use of physical and/or mental exercises that strengthen the brain’s response to anxiety and thereby reduces the effects of anxiety. This work is done with the help of a therapist or counselor.

The brain training method, whether chemical, physical, or a mix of both, is an effective treatment for anxiety and one of the methods proven to last. After the initial learning of brain rewiring, many who struggle with anxiety can expect to use this approach in a practical manner throughout their lives.

Expectations.

Finding an effective treatment for anxiety with methods that last can be a discouraging journey and the expectations of an individual suffering from anxiety matter when deciding to get help. Not everyone is the same, neither is every therapist

When searching for effective treatment for anxiety, there needs to be a basic level of understanding that not all people are the same. The way that one individual suffers with anxiety may not be the same as another.

Methods that last rely on appropriate expectations from the individual suffering with symptoms of anxiety. To expect that seeing one therapist for a certain amount of time will “cure” anxiety is likely going to lead to disappointment.

Avoiding the disappointment is possible by adjusting expectations in this area. Know that the individual suffering with anxiety may need to rely on their own ratio of chemical and physical work.

Know that it is okay to change therapists should the relationship not feel supportive. That being said, it is important to consider expectations for how consistent one needs to be in order to effectively reduce symptoms of anxiety.

Consistency in any method is key.

Expectations regarding the amount of consistent work it will take to develop an effective treatment for anxiety are important. Methods that last require that the individual suffering with symptoms of anxiety make effort to keep up with treatment.

This takes shape in a couple of ways. One, the individual must expect that while working with one therapist or another can produce more effective results depending on the relationship, this does not mean that working with any therapist will always be pleasant.

When utilizing effective treatments for anxiety, clients can face periods of discomfort and difficulty when working through the physical and mental work. It is important to continue the work consistently to find the most effective treatment to reduce anxiety symptoms overall for each individual.

Chemical work also has the potential to produce negative results in some cases, and requires consistent monitoring and self-advocacy from the individuals utilizing it. Methods that last require the individual’s consistent effort to work with the tools and supports put in place.

It may work at different times.

With the best consistency and greatest support systems, anxiety symptoms may still rise from time to time. It is important to set expectations regarding the effectiveness of the tools you develop.

Any method that lasts helps an individual develop multiple tools to reduce symptoms of anxiety. Each of these tools has a time and a place for effectiveness. Where one tool may be all one needs in one instance of being anxious, a different tool or multiple tools in succession will be required in another. This includes the tool of accessing a support system.

Finding support: medication, family, friends, church, and counseling.

Support for anxiety comes in multiple forms: medication, medical professionals, family and/or friends, church and community groups, and a therapist/counselor.

These supports all serve the purpose of coming alongside an individual to encourage, redirect, and/or provide trusted perspective and insight the individual can rely on when their own may be skewed by anxiety.

It is important to develop a variety of supports. Each support plays a part in methods proven to last when treating anxiety. A therapist can help you develop these support systems.

If you are struggling to know where to start or simply ready to begin working on developing the tools to reduce anxiety, reach out to me or another local therapist today.

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“Help”, Courtesy of rebcenter-moscow, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Brain Map”, Courtesy of johnhain, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Silhouettes”, Courtesy of geralt, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Help”, Courtesy of geralt, Pixabay.com, CC0 License

Finding Your Way Back to the Light: Addressing Depression and Anger

If you experience a major depressive episode, it can seem as though all the light in the world could never lift the gloom surrounding you. When you couple that with the anger that often accompanies depression, it can make it even more difficult to recover.

Making sense of depression.

Depression is a mood disorder and a diagnosable mental health disorder; it is not simply what you feel when you’re going through a tough time. If a person feels sad after the loss of a loved one or another personal tragedy, that is to be expected and is a natural way for a person to deal with those events.

Depression may look like this form of sadness, but it is also combined with issues such as having trouble sleeping or struggling with concentration. To be diagnosed with depression or major depressive disorder, a mental health professional will apply criteria laid out by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5).

The DSM-5 says that for such a diagnosis, specific symptoms such as loss of interest or pleasure in everyday activities like work or time with loved ones should be present for at least two weeks.

Other symptoms that can cause impairment in daily functioning must be present for a diagnosis of depression. Some of these include:

  • Significant and unintentional changes in your appetite and weight.
  • Feelings of emptiness, worthlessness, or excessive guilt.
  • Experiencing brain fog, or the diminished ability to think or concentrate, and being uncharacteristically indecisive.

It is important to remember that symptoms of depression don’t look the same or follow the same pattern for everyone. There are multiple other symptoms a professional will look for that make up the criteria.

Why are depression and anger often connected?

Depression often presents as feelings of deep sadness or apathy. However, a depressive episode doesn’t look the same for everyone who experiences it. For men, for example, the symptoms of a depressive episode, such as feelings of unworthiness and helplessness can translate into an increase in anger and irritability. Essentially, the sadness ignites the anger in some.  That anger may be directed at events from your past, at yourself, or it may not have an object at all.

Maladaptive anger is at times present when a person has a depressive episode, and that anger may be turned either inward as one listens to their inner critic, or outwardly as angry outbursts, being irritable, or snapping at people.

Going through a depressive episode is hard enough but adding anger into the equation can harm your relationships at a time when those relationships are needed most to provide emotional ballast. But why are depression and the maladaptive anger that frequently manifests as irritability, hostility, and anger outbursts often connected in this way?

For one thing, there is some evidence to suggest that serotonergic dysfunction (an imbalance of neurochemicals in your brain) may be partly to blame. This imbalance leads to irritability, depression, and anger, and that’s why the medications that are used to treat depression such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) may also help to relieve your symptoms of anger over time.

Gender can also play a role in the connection between anger and depression. As noted, it is common for men to experience maladaptive anger during a depressive episode. The National Institute of Mental Health has noted that men may be less likely to talk about their experience of depression, choosing instead to mask symptoms as well as their emotions.

The result of this is an increase in anger, aggressiveness, and hostility. These maladaptive strategies for regulating one’s emotions aren’t limited only by gender, but other factors may play a role, such as age, culture, and whether there is a history of trauma and abuse.

Experiencing abuse or neglect in childhood can contribute to feelings of unresolved anger, and if there are any internalized feelings of helplessness and worthlessness that stem from adverse childhood experiences, which can lead a person to redirect their anger toward themselves. These feelings can then fuel shame, harsh self-criticism, and self-punishment which often co-occur with a depressive episode.

Addressing depression and anger

To begin with, if you suspect you may be struggling with symptoms of depression, you should first get screened by a medical or mental health professional who can provide an assessment of your life history and the severity of your symptoms.

If the screening results in a diagnosis of depression, the good news is that there are several ways to treat depression, including medication and psychotherapy. Therapy can address both depression and the anger that can accompany it.

To deal with maladaptive anger, several strategies can be employed in therapy, and these include managing the triggers of your anger to help you cope in the meantime as you grow in handling anger better, learning to accept your anger and express it in healthy ways, and alleviating anger before it gets worse.

Part of the treatment plan that your therapist may recommend include therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which challenges and reframes angry reactions and the unwanted thought patterns that stem from depression.

Interpersonal Therapy teaches you strategies to help you address and communicate anger and other difficult feelings that affect your relationships; Psychodynamic Therapy, which can help you explore the sources of anger and depression; and Emotionally Focused Therapy, which can help transform maladaptive emotions by addressing their root cause.

In addition to therapy, your therapist may recommend a referral for medication, which can alleviate the symptoms of depression, including anger.

Finding the light when you’re feeling depressed and angry.

Depression is a serious mental health challenge, but thankfully there is hope to overcome it. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2020, an estimated 14.8 million U.S. adults aged eighteen or older had at least one major depressive episode with severe impairment in the past year. This number represented 6% of all U.S. adults.

People from all walks of life and different backgrounds are affected, whether directly or otherwise, by mental health issues. Christians aren’t immune from these realities. The Lord in His goodness has provided the means to address these challenges in both His Word and with the support of His Church. Though we may walk through a dark valley and struggle to see the light of God’s goodness, we can say with the Psalmist,

I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.Psalms 77:11-12, NIV

There’s no need to feel ashamed about reaching out to others for help in dealing with anger and depression. Reach out and ask for help, as doing so will provide you with space to improve your relationships and health.

If you struggle with anger and depression, seek out a mental health professional for help. They can walk with you and provide you with guidance along your path toward finding joy and light in your life again. Don’t hesitate to make an appointment to begin making that journey toward wholeness and healing.

Photos:
“Lighthouse”, Courtesy of qimono, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Sink or Swim”, Courtesy of Engin_Akyurt, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Angry”, Courtesy of Whoismargot, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Stormy Seas”, Courtesy of jplenio, Pixabay.com, CC0 License

9 Benefits of Life Coaching

Life coaching, as a practice, has not been something that people have traditionally considered for their self-development. Throughout history, coaching has primarily been associated with sports.

We have marveled at how athletes credit their coaches for helping them become the best versions of themselves. However, this concept has now extended to various areas of our lives, making it possible to have a coach for any aspect of life.

Coaching can be defined as a practical strategy that helps individuals improve their performance. A coach serves as a facilitator of growth and learning, rather than an expert in the client’s field. The coach’s role is to guide their clients toward progress and unlock their untapped potential.

Unlike counseling or therapy, which often delves into the past, coaching focuses on the present. It asks questions such as: Where are we now? Where do we want to go? How do we get there? While counseling and coaching can work together, with counseling addressing past psychological barriers, coaching helps individuals reach new heights once those barriers have been addressed.

In today’s world, coaching is available for all areas of life. It depends on individuals to determine in which areas they want to empower themselves. Coaching can be sought for relationships, finances, career, dieting, fitness, and practically any area where one wants to enhance one’s abilities. Coaches are trained professionals who may specialize in a specific field or take a more generalized approach.

Why coaching is important.

People seek the services of a coach for various reasons. Here are some advantages of having a coach in our lives:

Conflict resolution strategies.

Sometimes, when we don’t know how to resolve conflicts, we can feel stuck. Coaching empowers us to develop better conflict resolution strategies by asking the right questions, challenging our thinking, and offering alternative options.

Professional and leadership development.

Advancing professionally comes with challenges. Coaching can help navigate these challenges and develop leadership styles. By identifying strengths and providing insight into weaknesses or blind spots, a coach brings out the best in individuals as they lead others.

Goal definition, creation, and clarity.

Coaching provides individuals with insight into their goals and assesses their current ability to achieve them. Based on this assessment, a strategy is formed considering skills, reality, values, and vision.

Creating or managing change.

Navigating change without support can be challenging. Coaches step in during chaotic times, realistically evaluating the situation and helping clients develop new habits, insights, and actions that enable them to cope and thrive in the face of change.

Improved relationships.

As coaching progresses, clients acquire effective communication skills, mature conflict resolution abilities, and commitment. This, in turn, improves both personal and professional relationships.

Provision of accountability and encouragement.

Having someone who checks on us and provides feedback and motivation can make a significant difference. Coaches are invested in their client’s success and offer the necessary support. They are there not only during smooth times but also provide encouragement when clients face obstacles.

Self-discovery.

Through questioning and assessments, coaching facilitates self-discovery and self-awareness. Knowing our authentic selves allows us to make informed decisions about our life trajectories.

Fine-tuning skills.

Success requires a variety of skills. To excel in our chosen fields, we need to refine and improve these skill sets, ultimately enhancing our performance.

Confidence and autonomy.

Confidence is something for which we all strive – to be secure in who we are and what we can achieve. Coaching provides an opportunity to learn, grow, question, and gain exposure to different perspectives. All these aspects contribute to building confidence as clients take ownership of their lives.

Professional life coaching

If you find yourself in a place where you believe the services of a coach would be beneficial, reach out to us today at Huntington Beach Christian Counseling. The qualified professionals in California are ready to assist you in becoming the best version of yourself.

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“Train”, Courtesy of Levi Meir Clancy, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License; “One Way”, Courtesy of Brendan Church, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Directions”, Courtesy of Jamie Templeton, Unsplash.com, CC0 License