Let’s take therapy off the couch.

Research has long shown that exercise improves mood and mental health outcomes. At Momentum, the goal is to combine personalized movement with evidence-based therapy to improve overall mental health and wellness.

Evidence-based therapy + movement.

Welcome to Momentum Counseling.

Perfection doesn’t exist.

The idea that if I work hard and get everything just right, then there will be no conflict, no error, no problems, comes up again and again with my clients. I’ll be honest, this comes up for me all the time in my personal life. It used to be a thought that I believed and put a ton of effort into. Now it’s a thought that I notice and reject.

Why? Because perfection doesn’t exist.

Not only does it not exist, its actually harmful.

Many of my clients feel trapped by the idea of perfection, as if they can’t take action until everything is just so. Others find their time and energy sucked away by a constant pursuit of an unattainable goal, leaving them feeling disappointed, unworthy, and upset with themselves.

Perfectionism is: 

  • A way of avoiding conflict
  • An attempt to create control
  • A dysfunctional chase
  • A compulsion

Perfectionism is painful. It can also be very defeating, leading to thoughts like “ Well if I can’t get it just right, what’s the point?”.

So how do we work with perfectionism in therapy? First of all, perfectionism isn’t a diagnosis. It’s not a mental illness, it’s not the main focus of treatment. Rather, it is a mindset that can be a part of many different presentations. Part of what we do is examine perfectionism for its true goal- what is this urge to be perfect trying to protect you from? Where did this idea and concept of “ perfect” come from, and why is it important to you? Perfectionism often leads to distortions like black and white thinking ( that example I gave above, the idea of “ I get it right or I give up”, is black and white thinking, also called “ all or nothing thinking”). This is problematic because it doesn’t allow for learning from our mistakes and building toward mastery. It  doesn’t entertain the idea of progress, or of setbacks being an important part of growth, or take a moment to consider all the very understandable reasons why something may not have worked exactly the way you hoped. 

Perfectionism also often doesn’t allow for self-compassion and self-nurturing. It’s harsh. It leads to negative self talk and thoughts of failure and self-disdain. Humans don’t thrive this way. Humans thrive with unconditional support and nurturing. Even from ourselves.  

I work with clients to grow out of black and white thinking and into a more flexible, mastery-oriented mindset. This means understanding and accepting that progress isn’t linear, that mistakes are to be expected and learned from. It means tons and tons of practice rejecting self-critical thoughts and reframing them to be self-compassionate. We work to shift away from the thought that something has to be perfect to framing targets in terms of “ my best effort” or even “ plenty good enough” because let’s face it, there are SO many things in life ( lunch, your hair today, that pass/ fail homework assignment, your last workout…) that absolutely don’t need to even really be your best. 

Letting go of the idea of perfect is so, so freeing. 

If you’re struggling with perfectionism, my hope is that you are able to find freedom.

How to find a therapist

As a therapist in private practice, I hope that you find what you’re looking for on my site and decide to reach out. However, my reach is limited and I know I’m not going to be the right fit for everyone. Part of my work as a mental health advocate is to help people find the right therapist for their needs. I wrote this article to help folks make an informed provider choice and take the next step in getting the help they need.

This post was originally published on Medium.

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Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Let’s face it- finding a therapist is a daunting task.

Therapy is an intimate process based on trust and a solid relationship. It’s incredibly important to find someone who makes you feel comfortable and whose approach fits your needs.

Here are some tips to guide your search and help you find the right professional.

  • To get started, see if you can get recommendations from people you know or your doctor. Folks you know and trust can provide good insight into whether a particular therapist might work for you. Bios and head-shots can be bland and/or deceiving! You can also call your insurance company to get a list of providers who are in-network, or search a database like Psychology Today or Good Therapy to filter by therapists who serve your area.
  • Consider the delivery method: Do you need in-person appointments, or are you satisfied with telehealth? As more providers move online, telehealth may expand your options. Professionals can usually provide teletherapy to anyone located in the state(s) where they are licensed. If you’re someone who has trouble sitting still, see if anyone in your area offers walk and talk sessions.
  • Don’t base your decision on the letters behind their name. PhD, PsyD, LPC, LCSW, LMFT…. What does it all mean? I’ve worked with professionals with ALL of these designations, and I can say that their professional experience and approach to therapy are probably going to have a much greater impact on your treatment than what degree they earned in grad school. Unless you are looking for someone who can also prescribe, don’t get caught up in the letters.
  • Before you call anyone, spend some time thinking about what you want to get out of therapy. A clear picture of your needs will help you target your search and get more out of consultation with potential providers.
  • Do set up a phone consultation. Most therapists offer a free 15–20 minute phone consult. This can give you a perspective on how it feels to talk to them and an opportunity to ask any questions you may have. Be upfront about what you are looking for in treatment so the professional can let you know if their practice would be a good fit.
  • Most therapists’ websites list their “ theoretical orientation” or treatment approach. If you don’t know what this means, ASK! We therapists tend to get caught up in acronyms and forget that these aren’t friendly to the general public. You could say: “Your website says that you use a blend of ACT and DBT. Can you tell me what that might look like in session or why you chose these methods?”
  • Consider doing some research on well-regarded treatment models for the issue you’re hoping to address. For example, Cognitive-behavioral therapyExposure therapy, and Mindfulness-based Cognitive behavioral therapy are quality treatments for anxiety. If one treatment modality sounds like the best fit for you, you can hone your search by professionals who have training in that approach.
  • Don’t hide important details. Things like your trauma history and whether you have suicidal thoughts are important to note in a consultation. You’re not going to delve in and start processing during the initial call, but you don’t want to schedule a session only to find that the professional can’t meet your needs.

This post was originally published on Medium.

What do I do if my teen seems depressed?

If you’ve noticed changes in your teen, such as irritability, withdrawal, sleep disturbance, or a change in appetite, you’re bound to be worried.It can be really difficult to broach topic of mental health with your teen- they may feel judged, or that there’s no way you as their parent can understand what they’re going through.Here are some tips for starting the conversation if you’re concerned that your child may be depressed: 

  • Try to approach the conversation at a time that’s comfortable for both of you ( in private, when you’re both relaxed without time constraints)
  • Name specific things you’ve noticed, and try to avoid labeling how you think they’re feeling. Ex: “I’ve noticed that you’ve been sleeping a lot lately and you’re not as interested in hanging out with your friends. Whats up?”
  • Maintain an open mind and try to get their perspective.
  • If they’re not ready to talk about it, note that you care and are open to talking about how they’re feeling at any time.
  • Do NOT minimize what they say- If they explain that they feel like they’ve been under tons of pressure with school, listen and validate their feeling. 
  • Try to do more listening than talking.
  • If they recognize that something is wrong, see if they’re open to getting help. This could start with their regular doctor, a counselor at school, a therapist, or some self-help activities.

 Teen depression is very common, but needs to be taken seriously. Early intervention can help your teen identify their feelings and learn coping strategies, and it’s more likely to lead to recovery. It’s ok to talk openly about mental health- it can be validating and make the topic seem a lot less intimidating.

How do I know if my anxiety is ” bad enough” to need treatment?

My short answer to this question is: If you’re asking this question, its probably time to think about treatment. Is your anxiety disrupting your ability to fully engage in your usual activities, sleep, be present in your relationships, or enjoy life? Then it needs to be addressed. Our culture tends to glorify being stressed as a sign that you’re busy achieving things, but the reality is that there is no glory in suffering through anxiety.

To meet clinical criteria for generalized anxiety disorder, excessive/ disruptive worry needs to have been present more days than not for at least 6 months. In my experience, people often struggle with their symptoms much longer than that before finding their way to treatment. Symptoms include difficulty concentrating, edginess, fatigue, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbance. Of course, humans are all different and one person’s experience may not match someone else’s- that’s ok.

Consider these questions when determining whether you’re at a point of wanting to seek treatment:
– Are these symptoms decreasing my quality of life?
-Are my relationships suffering? ( This includes your relationship with yourself!)
-Do I feel out of control of my symptoms?
If any of these are a ” yes”, I’d recommend taking action.

What does treatment for anxiety look like? Many people will start with their PCP ( primary care physician), which is a great idea. They may suggest medications, so consider if this is something you’re willing to try before you have an appointment. Another place to start is with a therapist or, if you’re in a school setting, possibly a school counselor or school social worker. you can get therapy recommendations from your doctor, your insurance company, Psychology Today listings in your area, or from people you know who’ve had therapy in the past.

If you’re not ready to consider finding a therapist or meeting with your doctor, consider lifestyle changes that could help alleviate your symptoms like getting more sleep, reducing caffeine intake, adding exercise into your daily routine, and finding relaxation strategies that work for you.