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.

Shifting your self-talk

It seems weird to talk about how you talk to yourself- but this is actually one of the most important things you can address to improve your mood, body image, and overall relationship with yourself. Your self-talk is ever-present, shaping ALL of your experiences and driving your feelings about everything that happens to you. If your self-talk tends to be derogatory, chances are you’re not very happy right now. That can change…. But it takes hard work.

Think about how you like for other people to talk to you. How do you best receive feedback? What kind of treatment do you tolerate from others? Are you setting the same standard for how you treat yourself?

For example, if your friend is running a few minutes behind and texts you to say so, what is your response to them? Probably something to the tune of “ Don’t stress, it’s fine” or “ I’ll grab seats, just drive safe”.

What about if you are running behind? Do you think things like “ I’m so stupid for forgetting my wallet”, “ I’m always late”, “ Why can’t I get my shit together”?

Notice the difference? Your friend probably wouldn’t stick around for too long if you said those things to them!

The first step in shifting your self-talk is noticing.

Notice the general trend of how you talk to yourself in casual moments throughout the day as well as during higher stress times or when something isn’t going well. Is it positive? Neutral? Negative? Now let’s get more specific and consider your self-talk related to your body. What is the trend for your thoughts when you look in the mirror, catch a glimpse of yourself in a reflection, or turn your camera on during a virtual meeting?

A better relationship with your body starts with better self-talk.

This is where I think it is really helpful to think about self-talk on a continuum. Depending on your personality, how damaged your relationship is with your body right now, and other factors; “ body positivity” may seem unattainable or just off-putting. That’s ok! I’m not here to advocate for loving your body all the time. That might not be helpful or realistic for you. The important shift is away from hating your body- toward respecting it, talking about it in neutral to positive terms, or just thinking about it less overall so body image doesn’t get in the way of how you want to feel or act.

Here is the continuum:

  1. Self-defeat: The place on the continuum where you want to spend as little time as possible. This kind of self-talk tears you down, belittles, shames, and makes you feel bad. Most people don’t want to talk this way to others or be talked to this way. However, a lot of us practice self-defeating thoughts on a pretty regular basis. This could include self-sabotage or giving in to thoughts that are not in your best interest as well.
  2. Self-tolerance: Have you ever worked with someone you tolerated, but didn’t necessarily like? This kind of self-talk doesn’t have a positive feel, but it is goal-oriented and “ keeps the peace. For example “ That didn’t go well, but I’ll try again” or : I don’t like how my pants feel today but I’m not going to dwell on it” would be examples of self-tolerance.This is a very, very important step in changing your self-talk and getting out of cycles of negativity or self-sabotage, just thinking of yourself/ your body as an entity that you want to tolerate and develop a working relationship with.
  3. Self-respect: This kind of self-talk is pretty neutral. Again, imagine working with someone that you respect. You think they have good ideas and you want to collaborate well, but you don’t feel particularly close or connected. You can respect yourself and your body even if you aren’t feeling positive or connected. For example, self-respect could sound like “ It would be a good idea to do an easier workout today, my body needs it” or “ last time I skipped breakfast I was anxious all day, I’m going to eat something this morning before leaving the house”.
  4. Self-support: We are on the end of the spectrum where it feels easier to like and get along with yourself here. Self-positive thoughts are affirming, recognize your strengths, and come from a good connection with yourself. For example: “ I’m proud of myself for the work I put in on this. It turned out well.”
  5. Self-love: This is where confidence, building yourself up, or even forgiving yourself come into play. Self love could sound like “I’m going to crush this presentation, I know I’m really well prepared” but could also sound like “ I really didn’t do well on that test, it is ok, I’m going to make a plan to do better next time and then move on”. Think of this as unconditional self-support, not necessarily constant gold stars and confetti.

The way I think about this scale, all of the different types of talk fit sometimes: Even self-defeating talk will never be completely eliminated, because it may be an important signal when something is completely wrong for you or goals against your values ( Eg: “I hate that I did that. I feel really bad about it) BUT then it is important to take that information somewhere useful, like self-respect (“ I need to apologize to that person. I don’t want to, but I know it is the right thing to do”) so you don’t stay stuck in the negative thoughts.

I recommend practicing self-tolerance and self-respectas much as you can when you start to shift your inner dialogue. Think of it as building a better working relationship with yourself through improved communication. As the relationship grows, the capacity for support and love will also grow.

Intuitive Movement and Building a Better Relationship with Your Body.

Today let’s talk about YOUR relationship with YOUR body. Do you have a long history of hating, punishing, or avoiding it? Do you think of your body as an enemy, or as a friend?

Often I hear from folks something like “ I want to exercise more and feel better in my body, but I don’t know how to start.” And I know as a therapist and personal trainer that this does NOT mean the person doesn’t know how to move their body, or hasn’t thought of a million different ways they could add exercise to their day. It means:

-I can’t conquer the self-defeating thoughts that come up each time I consider exercising.

-I feel too embarrassed to be seen doing the kind of movement I want to do.

-I don’t ever feel comfortable moving in the ways I feel like I “should”.

-I’m struggling to overcome all the dread and negative associations I have with exercise.

-Fears of judgment and comparisons to others are SO LOUD that I can’t enjoy exercise when I try.

It is really, really hard to enjoy moving your body when this brings up an overwhelming tide of negative self-talk as well as physical discomfort.

I recommend two things as first steps toward a better relationship with exercise:

  1. A shift to tolerant or neutral self-talk
  2. Honest, completely self-centered assessment of what you need and what you like.

Let’s look at #1. I’m going to do a deep dive on self-tolerance and my scale for self-talk in a future post, but for now, just consider how you can neutralize the way you talk about and think about your body. It doesn’t need to be stars and rainbows, but it can’t be negative. This can be as simple as reframing “ I hate the way I look in these clothes” to “ I’m not going to think negatively about my body today”. You’re not saying you’re going to love up on your body, you’re just refusing to engage with the negative. This is hard, but I promise it makes a world of difference in allowing you to exist peacefully in your body and prevent body image from getting in the way of what you want for your life.

#2. This could probably be a complete post in and of itself as well. Noted. Here is the short version, in bullet points.

  • Sit down with no phone, social media, tv, etc ( nothing to steal your focus or draw your mind into comparisons) and ask yourself how you want to engage with your body. Not “How do I want to change my body”, but “What do I want to do in the body I have RIGHT NOW.”
  • Consider your why. Why do you want to do certain things? Is it to enjoy more active time with the people you love? To have fun? To get back to an activity that you used to really enjoy? To improve your health? If thoughts about losing weight or looking different come up, try to look beyond them- losing weight is often a desire to feel more comfortable or in charge of your own health. Looking different may be a desire to have more body acceptance or feel better about your body. Movement can help with all of these things!
  • Now think really realistically about ways that you have actually enjoyed moving your body in the past or things you’ve always wanted to do. Ignore “ shoulds”. If you will not and could not enjoy sitting on a stationary bike for 45 minutes, then spin class is not making it onto the list! There is nothing that should or shouldn’t be on the list- it could be walking more, dancing in the kitchen, practicing headstands, playing frisbee with your kids… all movement counts, and things that fit in your life and that you will enjoy are going to be sustainable, which is key for building a movement practice that sticks and actually benefits you in the long run. Consider current limitations here too. For example, I want to hike because I love the outdoors, but right now I’m getting strength back from a broken foot so I need to start with walks in my neighborhood and build up to being able to manage uneven terrain and longer distances.
  • List out the barriers. Lets get nitty gritty: What do you need to address to start comfortably engaging in movement? Do you need some clothes that feel good to work out in? Do you need a buddy because you’ve never enjoyed moving on your own? Do you need time, a place to do your desired activity, guidance, equipment? A rockin’ playlist? Make a plan to address the barriers and fully set yourself up for success.
  • Finally, pen it in! These habits are going to take a while to become automatic, so you probably need to carve time out of your busy schedule and intentionally consider when you have time, space, and availability to move. I stick it on my google calendar, fitting  in 10 minutes of weight training, a 20 minute walk between sessions on busy days and chunking out bigger periods of time for a bike ride or family time at the park on weekends and lighter work days. I’m at least twice as likely to fit these things in when they’re on my schedule and I get a few reminders throughout the day.


  • It doesn’t need to be rigid. This is about what you want to do, so be flexible and change it up whenever you want.
  • Use whatever resources you need. Hiking groups, running groups, dance classes, personal trainers, health coaches, group exercise classes: All great for building accountability and community if you like them, and takes pressure off you to make your own route or plan.
  • Always, always keep your “why” in mind. This is what makes it worth it to build a habit and make a change.
  • Have fun. Play. Find something enjoyable that you can look forward to- this will be SO much easier to sustain.

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.