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What is Counseling?

April is counseling awareness month as designated by the American Counseling Association. Since many misconceptions exist about the nature and process of counseling, Aspire Behavioral Hospital is utilizing Counseling Awareness Month to provide the community with information and education on what counseling is and what it isn’t, the benefits of counseling, and various types of counseling options. What is Counseling? Counseling (also known as psychotherapy) is a process of working with a trained and licensed counselor to increase self-awareness and insight into one’s feelings, behaviors, and beliefs. It is a journey of self-discovery manifested through the therapeutic relationship.   What Counseling is Not? Counseling is not a relationship in which the counselor tells the client what to do, what to think or how to feel. On the other extreme, counseling is not a passive process in which the client shares his thoughts and feelings and the counselor simply listens providing no feedback.  Counseling is an active, goal driven process, and the counselor utilizes specific therapeutic techniques and principles to address the client’s distressing symptoms.   Benefits of Counseling Research suggests many benefits of counseling\psychotherapy which includes but is not limited              improvement in mood, improvement in sleep, improvement in relationships, increased use of coping skills, improvement in communication skills, decreased isolative behavior and increased social supports to name just a few.   Types of Counseling There are many different types of counseling including mental health counseling, substance abuse counseling, and marriage and family counseling. Additionally, counselors are trained and may specialize in specific treatment approaches for example cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, psychodynamic, or psychoanalysis.   Amanda S....

KEEP YOUR MIND HEALTHY: MENTAL HEALTH IS VERY IMPORTANT

  Carol A. Gooch, M.S., LPC, LCDC, LMFT As a mental health therapist, I have talked with many people who are not aware of the importance of good mental health. We all know the importance of good physical health, but being mentally healthy can make all the difference in life’s challenges. You will have a healthier body if you take care of your mind. It’s important for you to take care of yourself so that you can do the important things in life — whether it’s working, learning, taking care of your family, volunteering, enjoying the outdoors, or whatever is important to you. Good mental health helps you enjoy life and cope with problems. It offers a feeling of well-being and inner strength. Just as you take care of your body by eating right and exercising, you can do things to protect your mental health. In fact, eating right and exercising can help maintain good mental health. The food you eat can have a direct effect on your energy level, physical health, and mood. A “healthy diet” is one that has enough of each essential nutrient, contains many foods from all of the basic food groups, provides the right amount of calories to maintain a healthy weight, and does not have too much fat, sugar, salt, or alcohol. By choosing foods that can give you steady energy, you can help your body stay healthy. This may also help your mind feel good. The same diet doesn’t work for every person. In order to find the best foods that are right for you, talk to your health care professional. Regular...

Above and Beyond

  ASPIRE HOSPITAL: ABOVE & BEYOND   Aspire Hospital is a small 30-bed acute care hospital in Conroe that provides mental health services primarily to Montgomery County, but also responds regularly to requests in helping meet the mental health needs of individuals in nearby counties. Since people commonly emotional, healing and medical needs in addition to mental health needs, Aspire strives to provide services: Above and beyond what psychiatric hospitals tend to offer Above and beyond what state and federal regulations require Above and beyond what Medicare, Medicaid or commercial insurance pays for “Individuals and families in our community need more than the bare minimum treatment traditionally provided for decades by psychiatric hospitals that regulations and insurance requires. At Aspire Hospital, we are dedicated to providing treatment for our patients that is above and beyond the minimum required and establish a new standard in mental health care for our community,” is the commitment of Aspire Hospital’s current senior administrative team. The above and beyond commitment Aspire Hospital has for our patients and community is evidenced by the following 2016 facts: Began providing Community Education Series Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Full days of free depression screenings; which, in 2017, will be expanded to be provided monthly Music therapy Pet therapy Medicaid or community resources. All at no additional charge to patients, families, insurance, Medicare, Dedicated four beds permanently for complex-care (medical-psychiatric) to help minimize the length of time psychiatric patients spend in the overwhelmed emergency rooms (in Montgomery County as well as nearby counties) without the being provided the mental health treatment they so desperately need Established a...

Start Fresh in the New Year

Carol A. Gooch, M.S., LPC, LCDC, LMFT As a mental health professional, I can tell you that some people have difficulty coping with holiday stress and depression, so as soon as the holidays are over, they start to reflect on what they can change for the next year. 2017 can be a great year for you, if you begin thinking about ways to improve your life. A new year is a fresh start and provides the psychological boost needed to set and meet your goals. Many people would benefit by making a few changes to improve their fitness level, diet, weight or general well-being. One or two small changes can make a difference in a person’s health. Health screenings can save lives. Early detection for diseases, such as colon, breast and cervical cancer can improve prognosis dramatically. Screenings to test for diseases, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease should also all be considered. The type of screening needed is based on your age, gender and risk factors for certain conditions. Talk with your doctor to determine what is recommended and make this the year to get screened. Fiber rich foods, such as oatmeal, leafy green vegetables and beans help you feel full longer, decreases the risk of colon cancer and helps keep things moving through the digestive system. Increasing calcium in your diet can help prevent osteoporosis. Good sources of calcium include yogurt, milk, bok choy, broccoli and baked beans. Most people know that exercise can improve their health, but they may not know just how beneficial it can be. Exercise can help lower blood pressure...

Exercise Improves Mental Health

As a mental health therapist for over 20 years, I can assure you that exercise enhances the body’s ability to respond to stress, thus improving mental health by helping the brain cope better with stress, anxiety and depression.  Evidence suggests that physically active people have lower rates of anxiety and depression than sedentary people. The more sedentary you get, the less efficient you are in responding to stress. Exercise essentially burns away the chemicals like cortisol and norepinephrine that cause stress. At the same time, vigorous exercise releases endorphins into the system. Endorphins are morphine-like hormones that are responsible for the feeling of elation, or well being that distance runners get from running. Other chemicals like dopamine and serotonin are also released in the brain during exercise. Together, these give a feeling of safety and security that contributes to off-setting some of the “internal” causes of stress, such as uncertainty, pessimism and negative self-talk. To benefit from exercise, it needs to be regular. Exercise needs to be part of a daily routine. Instead of working during lunch, why not take the time to go for a brisk walk, a run or work out at a gym? Exercise will reduce stress and reducing stress can increase productivity. Since exercise reduces stress chemically, it can also have a meditative effect during sustained cardiovascular workouts. Biologically, exercise seems to give the body a chance to deal with stress. It forces the body’s physiological systems to communicate much more closely than usual. Running on the open road or treadmill can relax and clear the mind. Clearing the mind allows you to have a...

Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. This month is about being aware and informed. This particular issue hits close to home as the majority of our patients at our Department of Radiation Oncology are being treated for prostate cancer. Risk Factors A risk factor is anything that affects your chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. Some risk factors, like smoking, can be changed. While others, like a person’s age or family history, can’t be changed. But having a risk factor, or even several does not mean that you will get the disease. Many people with one or more risk factors never get cancer, while others who get cancer may have had few or no known risk factors. Age The older a man is, the greater his risk of getting prostate cancer. In fact, more than 65% of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over the age of 65 and is extremely rare in men younger than 40. Race & Ethnicity Studies show that African American men are approximately 60 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer in their lifetime than Caucasian or Hispanic men. African-American men are also more than twice as likely to die of prostate cancer as white men. Additionally, the disease starts younger and grows faster in black men. The reasons for these racial and ethnic differences are not clear. Geography Men in the United States have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer regardless of their race or ethnicity. Additionally, men who live in northern regions of the country have a higher risk of developing prostate...

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION AWARENESS MONTH SEPTEMBER 2016

Erica Overshiner, MSW, LCSW, Clinical Director at Aspire Behavioral Health Hospital Most likely you or someone you know has been impacted by suicide. I have heard many patients say they feel as though they have been burdening their families or loved ones for years with their difficulties, including mental illness. Often, that individual cannot see how their leaving this world by suicide would impact and devastate their loved ones. If a person tries or commits suicide they are often thinking death is the ONLY or BEST way out. Desperation flows from an individual who feels there are no choices left. When talking with individuals about their suicidal thoughts or attempts, I often ask them, “Do you really want to die, or find relief from what you are struggling with”. Nine times out of ten, he or she wants relief. Relief from mental illness, financial stressors, familial/relationship conflict and the list goes on and on. So how does one know if a loved one is contemplating suicide? Fortunately, there are signs and behaviors that can set off red flags to be aware of. Generally speaking, one should become concerned when they see a loved one’s behaviors changing dramatically. This could be the result of something traumatic happening, or an exacerbation of a mental illness. Some signs include, but are not limited to: giving all their belongings away, isolating oneself, talking about being a burden, increased use of alcohol or drugs, increased talk of death, and mood changes. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, talk to your doctor, a therapist, a trusted family member or friend,...

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Erica Overshiner, MSW, LCSW, Clinical Director at Aspire Behavioral Health Hospital It was a hot, clear afternoon. I was driving back from Houston when I saw traffic slowing to a halt. Much to my terror I had just arrived onto the scene of a horrific accident. There were not even first responders on the scene yet. I got out of my vehicle to try to help, but sadly there was no help to be offered. Every time I tried to fall asleep scenes from the accident overwhelmed my mind. I started having flashbacks during the day, panic attacks, becoming hypervigilant and agitated. As a therapist I understood what was happening to me and needed to seek out a therapist who could help me process this trauma. I looked for someone who had been trained in EMDR. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing  It is a type of psychotherapy that is relatively new. It incorporates bilateral stimulation (eye movements, tactile pulsars etc) to help the brain process the trauma. Since trauma can get “stuck” in non-verbal parts of the brain, the brain needs a nonverbal method to process it. I had been trained in EMDR a number of years ago, and now needed to utilize it myself. I had one 2 hour session with a therapist and my flashbacks and panic attacks dissipated, my sleep returned to normal, and my hypervigilance and agitation disappeared.  While this treatment may not work for everyone, it helped me tremendously. With EMDR the patient doesn’t have to talk at length about the trauma, which makes this method so appealing for the client....

Teamwork: Parents and Teachers Working Together

  Carol Gooch, M.S., LPC, LCDC, LMFT     As a former school teacher and school counselor and currently a mental health professional, I know the importance of teachers and parents working together to foster the success of their students. Communication is the key.   Parents and teachers have a common goal: to facilitate the best educational experience possible for students. When parents and teachers communicate with one another, they are able to work together towards this common goal. Technologies like texting and e-mails have made communication between home and school more efficient, and improved in both quantity and quality. Parents and teachers alike would be well served to seek out opportunities for communication with one another on a regular basis to ensure that all students have their physical, emotional and intellectual needs met. We know that the best educational outcomes occur when each of these needs are met.   A partnership implies that all parties work together — as equals — with specific rights and responsibilities toward a common goal. Each party contributes their own specific skills and knowledge toward meeting the objectives. Unfortunately, much home/school communication is one-sided and school-directed. Information is shared… but power is not shared. This approach is not conducive to creating a genuine partnership. The great majority of home/school crises are a direct result of poor communication.   The Beginning Stage requires teachers to establish their credibility as competent and confident professionals. They must set the tone for ongoing collaboration and outline the specific goals, roles and responsibilities of each member of the new partnership. The Maintenance Stage requires teachers to use ongoing conferencing and communication to...

Back to School and Mental Health

School starting in the next couple of weeks can be stressful for both kids and parents. Transitioning from the relaxed summer schedule into the hectic, activity filled school year can bring out a variety of emotions ranging from anxiety to excitement. With some planning and insight, easing back into the routine of school does not have to be a stressful time for your family. First, change can be a trigger. Change of routine and environment can bring about anxiety and nervousness in children. In some cases, the change can be substantial enough to bring out the first signs of a mental health condition or amplify existing symptoms. Help your child find healthy ways to manage their emotions surrounding the new school year. You are your child’s first resource Be and stay available for your children. Try to incorporate uninterrupted time where you are free from distractions to be both physically and emotionally available to your child. Your child knows when you are distracted and they will appreciate having your genuine interest with an open ear at the end of each school day. In the car or over dinner are great times to communicate and bond. Additionally general observations, expressing curiosity or concern is a great way to start the conversation: “I’ve noticed that you have been quiet lately… You can talk to me about anything, I am here to listen.” Remember do not assume you know your child’s thoughts or struggles before you ask them. Even if your assumptions are correct, the act of asking shows that you are genially interested and open to talk. One of the hardest...