November 27, 2017

Wilson Counseling Welcomes New Associate



Wilson Counseling would like to welcome our new associate Ashley Giles!

Ashley is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and specializes in helping her clients resolve problems in their relationships, low self-esteem, sexual issues, depression, stress, and anxiety. She enjoys working collaboratively with couples and individuals to address the sources of distress in their lives. Ashley received her Masters in Social Work at New York University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting with a minor in Gender and Women’s Studies at Southern Methodist University.
Ashley’s goal is to assist her clients in finding healing, happiness, and empowerment in their lives and relationships because no one is given a guidebook on how to master relationships with others or with themselves. Her experience treating individuals and couples in New York City and her trainings in couples, sex, and cognitive therapies have prepared her to successfully guide her clients to fill-in-the-blanks that leave them feeling unfulfilled and over-stressed.
Ashley provides an environment where clients can feel comfortable to discuss and address personal and relationship issues, including sexual concerns. She relies on a combination of evidence-based techniques to help individuals and couples experiencing a range of relationship and sexual difficulties. Some of the issues that can be addressed in sex therapy include erectile or ejaculatory dysfunction, low sexual desire, lack of intimacy, or sexual pain. When working with Ashley, relationship and sex therapy will consist of traditional talk therapy and may include psychoeducation, exercises to do at home, cognitive and behavioral techniques, and discussion and resolution of any underlying or co-existing issues between you and your partner.
Ashley supports her clients with an open mind, compassion, and validation. She utilizes attachment-based and cognitive behavioral therapies, the Gottman Method, Relational Life Therapy, and mindfulness techniques as appropriate for each client’s unique struggles. She works actively with her clients to clarify their needs, regularly evaluate their process in therapy, and achieve their goals.

If you would like to schedule an appointment with Ashley or one of our other Houston therapists you can contact us at 713-591-3612 or nancy@wilsoncounseling.org. Visit our website for more information.

October 26, 2017

A Harvey Refugee Story - Creating a Home Where You Can


You become untethered from the routines, the comfortable spaces and the people who make your life feel normal


When Harvey came to Houston, overnight people lost their homes, their cars, their belongings, but more than that, the floods took their sense of security and displaced their communities. Overnight people became untethered from the routines, the comfortable spaces and the people who made their lives feel normal. 

Before I came up to speak, singer/songwriter Sandra McCraken sang her song "Refugee."  The chorus "Welcome home, gather round. All you refugees come in." It is a reference to coming home spiritually, eternally, but it speaks to what all of those who are displaced long for - the comforts and sense of belonging that you get from coming home.


We wander, like refugees, till we can get back home

After Harvey, we were displaced, as were so many of our friends and neighbors. People are scattered all over the city. There is not one place that we can call home, at least not for now. We have tried to make our new place feel as comfortable as we can because we do not know how long we will be there. But I still feel like a tourist, on a journey I did not choose, with no real road map and no sense of our final destination. We wander, like refugees, till we can get back home.

This sense of being displaced can be very disorienting. If you are going through it, you know that there is a steep learning curve. In our regular life, we know where to get groceries, how to get from point A to point B, who to ask if we need help, where to vote, where I keep my sweaters when it gets cold. But now, I have to think and look up even the most basic information. It all takes emotional effort and time, both of which are in short supply these days.

 

Your relationships will take a hit


That drain and strain on our emotional energy will take its toll on your relationships. You are likely more cranky and short tempered. You may become angry or tearful and depressed from events that seem insignificant  A natural disaster or other traumatic events can cause significant strain on your marriage. And in the brokenness of our relationships, we can feel displaced. When that interpersonal conflict exists, it is hard to find a home, a refuge in your partner. They are not themselves and neither are you. 

All of this is normal. Your reaction to the trauma of the floods is normal. And it will not last forever. Be compassionate with yourself when you are struggling and bumbling through recovery. Small things will feel like a big deal. Find what you can control. Make plans and change them as needed. Find what is comforting to you and do more of that. 

There is not just one things you can do to feel at peace. But my encouragement is to learn daily to find joy in the now. Don't wait and hold off till you can rebuild, till you can get to your physical home. 


Finding your way back home - Peace in the moment


Our minds have a powerful ability to help us feel good or bad. It is not only our circumstances, but more importantly our perceptions that can affect our moods. If I tell myself that we will never get home and life will always feel hard. If I focus instead on the progress of the day (however small it may be), or if I focus on the beautiful cool water and learn to give thanks in the moment for that small gift, I will likely feel more optimistic. 

I talked about the effects of gratitude in this blog post. There is a lot of research to support how transformative it is for people to intentionally express gratitude. Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California-Davis, has noted that practicing gratitude in a systematic way can actually change people by changing brains that are "wired for negativity, for noticing gaps and omissions." He explains, "When you express a feeling, you amplify it. When you express anger, you become angrier: When you express gratitude, you become more grateful." This expression of gratitude has been shown to boost emotional health as well as physical health.
 
This is a hard journey. Don't go it alone. Reach out to friends and family. People love you and want to help. It may also be useful to talk to a professional counselor. At Wilson Counseling, we have Houston based therapists who are available. If you want to know more about this, please call us at 713 - 591- 3612 or you can learn more on our website at www. wilsoncounseling. org.

August 28, 2017

Psychological Health in the Wake of Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey has caused enormous damage and suffering. My heart goes out to all of you have flooded, were evacuated, faced loss and fear. It has been devastating on so many levels for so many in our city.
If you or home sustained damage or flooded, you have a long road ahead. Remember it is a marathon and not a sprint. Please take care of your psychological health along the way. Your body, mind and spirit will all suffer if you do not.

Going through disasters is traumatic

There is a trauma that come from going through this kind of disaster. Give yourself time to get used to the changes that come with it. Give yourself compassion to experience and feel what you need to. There is a sense of loss in all of it. That is normal.

You may go through the stages of grief

You may find you go through the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Accept it for what it is and don't judge yourself as you cope.

Let people help you

Allow people to help when they offer. You will need your village in this. It is not a sign of weakness. It is the whole purpose of having a village.
I wanted to pass along this article with practical tips about psychological first aid. If you know someone who needs this, please pass it along.

This is how you can ask for help


A lot of people want to help their friends and neighbors who are flooded. I recommend instead of just asking generally, "What can I do to help?", you volunteer specifically to do someone's laundry or something else on this list and see if that is helpful. A lot of people don't like asking for help but if you get in there and start helping it will be a big relief. Houston is an amazing city full of big hearted people. We will need all hands on deck to rebuild.
I did not write this list, but found it helpful. If you did flood, show this list to your friends and family who ask how they can help.

Easy Things People Can Do To Help:


Wonderful people will be asking what they can do. Of course clean up and packing are helpful, but not everyone can work at the flooded house. Here are a few things that saved me from going insane …

1. Laundry - even if your clothes did not get wet, they will smell like nasty flood water. Everything in the house that is being saved will need to be washed. My laundry was all over Houston at friend’s houses. People came in and took all clothes. Friends even took items to the dry cleaners.
2. Washing kitchen items - Dishes can be saved but everything will need to be washed!
3. Store important items - friends kept my valuables: grandmother’s jewelry, silver, hunting rifle, china/crystal, wine and even my dog until we were settled in a rental. This was a huge stress reliever so I would not have to keep track of everything as we had to move items several times.
4. Help research storage units, movers and rentals. Storage units and rentals are going to be hard to come by so this needs to happen as soon as possible.
5. Dry out pictures/ artwork - if anything can be saved, have people take items to their homes to dry out. It was so special to get back some of my kid’s artwork.
NOTE: since I could not remember who took what from my house, ask them to send you an email for future reference of what items they have. We were literally collecting items a year after the flood.
Of course childcare, housing, food and donations are always helpful!

August 3, 2017

Helping Your Child Thrive In a Fat Phobic World



I get a lot of questions about parenting. One of the categories of questions I get is about how to help kids become healthy eaters and avoid disordered eating and poor body image. One of my most read blog posts is entitled "How to Not Screw Up Your Kid's Body Image." I also have another more recent post entitled "Children and Eating - Developing Non-Disordered Eating Habits" and one entitled "How to Not Screw Up Your Kid's Body Image - Developing Healthy Eating Habits in Children."

One of the resources I have enjoyed recently is Julie Duffy Dillon's LOVE, FOOD Podcast.  It is a good listen for those of you who need helping making peace with food and learning to be more intuitive eaters. Dillon is a nutrition therapist and an eating disorder specialist.

She wrote a helpful article called "Helping your large child thrive in a fat phobic world." I recommend it for all parents, not just parents who have children with larger bodies. In the article she addresses some commonly asked questions such as

  • How do I talk to my kids about food, dieting, and overeating?
  • How can I encourage my kids to exercise?
  • How can I help my children learn to love and accept their bodies?
If you are struggling with parenting, disordered eating, or other pain in your life, professional counseling can help.  Please call our Houston therapists at 713- 591 - 3612 or visit the Wilson Counseling website at www. wilsoncounseling. org to find out more.

July 11, 2017

Dealing With Adult Children Living At Home




You are only as happy as your saddest child


There is an expression, "You are only as happy as your saddest child." Oh how true that is. As parents, our lot in life is intrinsically tied to our children, even when they become adults. 

I sometimes work with parents who are trying their best to parent adult children. Increasingly those adult children are living in the home with them. In fact, living with parents is the most common living situation for adult children ages 18 to 34. Fifty three percent of 18 to 24-year-olds live with their parents. 

Most of these parents agree to allow their adult children to live with them without a plan or any discussion of expectations. As a parent, you help because you have always helped. You help because there is a need. Because that is what parents do.  But without a plan and good boundaries, the best intentions often lead to broken relationships.  


Stuck in a cycle of resentment and dread


I had clients, Daniel and Christy, who came in for couples counseling. Their marriage was pretty rocky for reasons I don't have time to go into in this post, but the relationship was further complicated by their two children who lived at home. 

One of these kids was a 21-year-old college student. He did not pay rent, contribute by doing chores or watching his younger sister, and what's worse, he was often up late drinking with friends and skipping classes. His parents were paying for virtually all of his expenses. When they confronted their son, he would push back, become angry, and curse at them. They dreaded these interactions so much that they started avoiding any confrontation. Not surprisingly, the parents grew increasingly resentful. They felt they were being taken advantage of,  which of course they were, but they did not know how to turn things around. 

I get a lot of questions about how to deal with adult children living at home. Fortunately, there are some simple things that you as a parent can do if you have an adult child living with you that will smooth the transition, enable instead of disable your child, and keep you from becoming resentful. 


Develop a living agreement


The website Empowering Parents has a series of articles on  about how to effectively deal with the adult children that live with you. I highly recommend you read the articles and then develop a plan and some ground rules for your adult child.

As the article points out, "What happens when there isn’t a plan? Frustration and resentment build when you hear your child says things like, 'I’m looking for a job, but I can’t find anything’—but you’ve seen him sleeping late every day and staying out partying at night. This resentment only adds to the stress of living together."

Empowering Parents has also created a free living agreement for that you can download and use with your adult children. Open communication will help you avoid unnecessary conflict. 

It will also be helpful to differentiate what you can do as a parent that is helpful and what is enabling or even disabling for your adult kids. In this Empowering Parents article they make an important distinction between helping and what they call over-functioning:
There’s an important difference between helping and over–functioning. Helping your older child means doing something for him he can’t do himself, such as driving him somewhere when he has a broken leg. Over–functioning means you’re taking responsibility for things he can do for himself, like doing his laundry and cleaning up his messes after he’s had friends over. Perhaps that pattern started years ago or maybe it began when he moved back home. The bad news is that when you over–function you’re allowing the negative behaviors to continue; the good news is that it’s in your control to change the situation.

You get to set the rules, but you also have to enforce them

Parenting is hard. Parenting adult children is especially confusing because the traditional roles of adult and child that made sense before no longer apply.  It is important to remember that in your house, you get to set the rules and expectations. You have that authority. But it also means you need to have the fortitude to enforce those rules and to hold your adult child accountable if they do not live up to their end of the bargain. It's not easy, but you are respecting yourself and your sanity in the process, and you are modeling that respect to your kids. 

You can do this!


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If you are having trouble dealing with adult children, professional counseling can help. You can contact our Houston counselors at 713 - 591- 3612 or via email at www. wilsoncouseling. org to learn more about how to deal with your adult children. 

June 8, 2017

The 15 Minutes That Can Change Your Day



When you sit up in bed in the morning, what are the first things you do? If you're like most of us, you reach for you phone and check emails, social media alerts, or the news. It's habitual, but it's not an optimal way to start the day.

Feelings of Scarcity Create Stress


What happens when you start off by checking your electronic device is that you start your day feeling anxious about everything you have to do that day, every email you have to answer, and every problem you have to solve. You start off with a sense of deficit and scarcity. There just aren't enough hours in the day to get it all done. 

Your morning routine is the foundation for the rest of your day, and if you start off with stress, you take this posture with you throughout the day. 



Short Circuit Your Stress


There's a way to short circuit this stress inducing habit, and it's a pretty simple concept. What you have to do is to create a new habit to replace the old one. Instead of immediately jumping into everything that causes anxiety, like emails and the news, spend the first 15  minutes of your day doing something that recharges or relaxes you.

But whatever you do, stay off the phone.

Instead of going straight for the phone, get up and give yourself permission to

  • Relax when you take your morning coffee
  • Do a breathing exercise
  • Meditate
  • Play with your dog
  • Snuggle with your kid or your partner
  • Sit outside and watch the birds in the trees
  • Read from your favorite book or magazine 


You may even want to use an app like Calm or HeadSpace, which have some great meditations, breathing techniques, and other relaxation techniques. What you do depends on what is relaxing to you. Yes, I know you have to get on your electronic device to use an app, but as long as you avoid the anxiety-producing side of it, there's nothing wrong with using your phone to meditate.

So commit to spending the first 15-30 minutes of your day in moments of relaxation before you get on your phone and start getting busy with life. With this small commitment of time,  I have seen my clients start to decrease their stress level throughout the day. If your day is already busy, I recommend getting to bed earlier and getting up earlier so you can do this. It is worth it!

I would love to hear about your experiences with starting your day with relaxation. Just leave me a comment and let me know how it works for you!

June 3, 2017

Ask A Therapist!



You can ask a licensed therapist questions about things you are struggling with (at no cost to you) on the Wilson Counseling website. All questions remain anonymous, so click this link, and fire away with your questions! If it is a question that is likely to be of interest to other readers, I will try to answer it on my blog.