Sleep Hygiene: What is it and Why is it Important?

By Kaylen Hagadorn, LCSW

When people are struggling to get a good night’s sleep, it can affect many aspects of their life, including their mood. Often times people talk about “sleep hygiene” and how we need to improve it, but what does sleep hygiene actually mean? Rather than cleanliness, like hygiene usually suggests, sleep hygiene refers to good habits and practices relating to sleep.

How can you practice good sleep hygiene and improve the quality of your sleep?

  • Limit naps during the day. If you must nap, keep it to 30 minutes or less

  • Avoid caffeine late in the day.

  • Consider limiting alcohol consumption. Although alcohol makes us fall asleep faster, it can lead to less restful sleep as our bodies process the alcohol through the night.

  • Establish a regular bedtime routine. This could be taking a hot shower, having a cup of tea, brushing your teeth, washing your face, etc.

  • Go to bed at the same time each night. This may not always be achievable, but try your best.

  • Stay out of bed unless it’s for sleep or sex. This can be challenging in New York when many people live in small apartments or with roommates, but train yourself to think of your bed only as somewhere for sleeping.

  • No screens in bed.

These steps might seem obvious, but committing to them can really make a difference in the quality of sleep we experience.

Reference: https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/sleep_hygiene.html

Kaylen Hagadorn is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.

Transference in the Therapeutic Relationship: What Is It and How Can We Use It?

By Kristen Quinones, LMSW

The term transference in therapy refers to feelings a client experiences in their world coming up in their feelings towards their therapist. Your relationship with your therapist is a professional one, but it is still a relationship. So it is important to recognize that you will have different feelings come up during your time together. Think about who we choose to be our therapists. Do we choose someone around our age for relatability? Someone older for wisdom? Someone of our gender, ethnic background, or shared religious views?

We all enter the therapeutic relationship with preconceived beliefs about the therapist, and then our interactions with them can initiate transference. For example, your therapist may say something in a way that reminds you of a parent or former teacher, which makes you feel challenged or leads you to react in a rebellious way. Or perhaps they remind you of a friend from high school who you idolized and you find yourself very attached to them or wanting to impress them.

Sometimes transference can be confusing or feel quite random. However, it is normal and should be used to fuel the therapeutic work. Bringing these thoughts, feelings, and insights to your therapist can help them understand your experience in relationships outside of therapy. This is valuable information for your therapist, and working through transference can be healing.

Perhaps you chose this therapist to have a restorative experience. For example, maybe you grew up in a family of many women and decided to choose an older male therapist to work through what it would mean to have a strong male role model or father figure relationship in your life. This is something clients can make a conscious decision about when choosing a therapist.

Another way to use transference is to practice skills you need to apply in your life with your therapist, such as breaking avoidance patterns. If you avoid conflict, practice confronting uncomfortable feelings with your therapist by voicing your needs and feelings to them. This could be stating that you aren’t finding a particular strategy they are using helpful and would like to explore other techniques. This will help you build confidence in your ability to advocate for yourself, which you can then be applied in the workplace or with family.

There are many ways to use the experience of transference. Ask your therapist how they like to work through this with their clients.

Kristen Quinones is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.

Single in the City

By Erica Cramer, LMSW

Being single can be challenging (especially in a big city like New York).  Dating apps have made it easier to meet other people, but do not necessarily secure relationships.  Since dates are so simple to get with modern technology, most people do not invest the time and energy into creating a meaningful relationship. If you are no longer interested in going on infinite first dates, try the following tips and hopefully you will see improvements in your dating life.

  1. Don’t judge a book by its cover.  There is a difference between someone being attractive and you being attracted to them.  Sometimes a person’s personality can make them more attractive and you can like someone who does not necessarily appeal to you at face value.  When you view online profiles, you are seeing a very one dimensional picture of who someone is and what they have to offer. If you start a conversation with someone and like their personality, give them an opportunity to have a first date with you.  You may be pleasantly surprised and actually have fun.

  2. Give people a chance.  First dates tend to be very awkward and uncomfortable.  Most people are so nervous about saying the wrong thing and have difficulty letting their true personality shine.  I often hear clients say they went on a boring first date or did not have that much in common with the other person.   Give people a chance to get more comfortable with you and gradually discover similarities that you may have (Unless you find out something that is an absolute deal breaker and a reason why you would never have a future with this person).

  3. Make allowances for people.  Everyone makes mistakes.  Sometimes people say or do something stupid on a date. When you live in a large city, most people figure that they have many options and disregard someone when one thing goes wrong.  Just because someone makes a mistake does not mean that they are not the right person for you. When someone does something that you do not like, consider how serious the infraction is and if it was a one-time mistake or a consistent habit.

  4. Get your priorities straight.  It is unlikely that you are ever going to meet someone who is perfect, but an imperfect person may be perfect for you.  Identify your non-negotiables (things that are absolutely essential in a partner) and negotiables (things that are more flexible in a partner).  In addition to non-negotiables and negotiables, when you are dating someone who you have mixed feelings about it is important to think of things that can change versus things that cannot change.  For example, someone cannot get taller, but they can move apartments.

Erica Cramer is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.

How to Respond to Others With Empathy

By Sarah Spitz, LMSW

Simply put, Brene Brown is my hero. Her research on vulnerability and shame is inspiring, and I often use her work with my clients. She has a great animated video in which she explains the difference between empathy and sympathy. As she says, empathy is a powerful tool for connection, while sympathy creates distance. Have you ever struggled to respond to someone when they tell you bad news? Or despite trying really hard to make someone feel better, you seem to only make them feel worse? Responding to other people's pain is difficult, so how can we learn to respond more effectively?

Below are some tips to responding with empathy:

Avoid Minimizing

While we may have the best intentions, when we try to “put things in perspective,” we often do more harm than good.  As Brown says in her video, rarely does an empathic response start with “at least.”  For example, if you had just been passed up for a promotion that you had been working really hard for, would you feel good if someone said, “at least you still have a job.” While finding the silver lining to a negative situation may feel productive, often that is not what the other person wants to think about in that moment. Sometimes, “thank you for sharing that with me, it must be really difficult,” is all you need.

Avoid Problem Solving

I'm not saying that problem solving isn’t important.  However, there is a proper time and place for it.  When someone is feeling really down in the dumps, they may not be ready to start coming up with a list of ways to make the situation better. Instead of responding with solutions, meet the person where they are.  From there you can support them in the way they need.

Avoid Judgement

Regardless of our thoughts about a person’s circumstance, they probably already have enough judgement from themselves. Instead, respond with compassion. I assure you that it will go a lot further.  When we respond without judgement, we are more likely to be able to start an honest and productive conversation. 

Sarah Spitz is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.

Strategies for Setting Effective Boundaries

By Kristen Quinones, LMSW

Boundaries are a necessary and healthy part of relationships and effective communication strategies make it possible to implement them. Using boundaries is a form of self respect and prioritizing mental health. Here are some examples of how to boundary set:

1. When someone is codependent

It is admirable to want to be there for a friend in a time of need. However, when someone is constantly dependent on you for support and to make decisions, is unable to cope with their feelings on their own, and is always in crisis, it can be difficult to set boundaries.

Communication Strategies:

  • When someone is sending a lot of messages to your phone: “I want to hear what you have to say. I have a lot on my plate right now so it may be best to set up a time to meet tomorrow so I can give you my full attention.”

  • When someone wants you to make decisions for them: “I cannot make these decisions for you, but I am here to listen as you weigh the pros and cons.”

  • When someone is in a crisis: “I can see you’re going through a lot right now. You have my support, and I am here to listen. Have you ever considered getting more support for yourself? Sometimes I like to process and brainstorm strategies with my therapist. I can help you look into this if you are interested.”

2. When someone asks intrusive questions

When someone asks very personal questions, we may feel put on the spot and uncomfortable. Sometimes we answer to get through the awkward moment and then regret it later.

Communication Strategies:

  • “I don’t like to think about/talk about that. How about we discuss something else?”

  • “As a general rule, I don’t share that with others.”

  • “I’m not sure how to answer that. Can we come back to that at another time?”

3. When someone is overwhelming you

Sometimes a person can become very attached to you, overwhelm you with messages and trying to make plans, or make it difficult to say no to them. It is important to validate their feelings when boundary setting.

Communication Strategies:

  • “Thank you for thinking of inviting me. Unfortunately I won’t be able to make it. I hope you have a great time” (A reason why you cannot attend something is not always necessary to give a person)/

  • “Now is not a good time for me to text. I want to be able to focus on what you are sending me before I reply. I will get back to you when I can talk” (Only use this is you intend to reply in the future).

  • “I can’t talk right now, but let’s discuss this in person tomorrow.”

  • “It means a lot to me that you want to spend this time together. This friendship is important to me. I want to make sure I am prioritizing time with all of my friends, so I can’t commit to hanging out every weekend.”

4. When someone is overly critical of you

It does not feel good to feel criticized by others. Sometimes it is best to redirect the conversation or step back until the other person is ready to communicate more respectfully.

Communication Strategies:

  • “It would mean a lot to me if you could use more productive and constructive ways to express how you’re feeling. I am feeling hurt by how you said that. Can you try to think of another way to say that?”

  • “I think we should take a step back and talk more when we can speak more respectfully to one another. That would be more productive.”

Boundaries can be helpful in countless situations. Sometimes we avoid boundary setting because we do not want to upset someone. However, by avoiding boundaries we upset ourselves and are not honest in relationships about our feelings and needs. This impacts our wellbeing and mental health. Try out some of these strategies to help practice boundary setting skills.

Kristen Quinones is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.

Your Imposter is the Fraud, Not You

By Amy Brightman, LCSW

As I sit on a plane and listen to Spotify on shuffle, Radiohead’s “Creep” catches my attention. Maybe it was because it followed a fun, upbeat One Direction song (yes, I said One Direction), but it also felt oddly familiar to many therapy sessions that start with: “I definitely have imposter syndrome.” Despite this psychological phenomenon being around since the 70's, it seems like clients just found a name for their self-doubt and self-defeating voice.

I’m a creep. I’m a weirdo. What the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here.

Sound familiar?

The thoughts we have about our abilities and accomplishments that lead to self-doubt begin to become conclusions about ourselves and our situations that are not based in reality. We get trapped in our feelings being facts. You probably do feel like a weirdo, an imposter, a faker (whatever you want to call it)—most of us do in some way—but this doesn’t mean you don’t belong. It means you need to use skills, be open to learning, gather information, ask for help, and be receptive to feedback. You must be vulnerable to develop new roles in your life. If you were a fraud, you wouldn’t even bother with process, you would be looking for the shortcuts instead.

Another characteristic of imposter syndrome is attributing our achievements, successes, and opportunities to luck. This understandably leads us to believe we have neither earned these gains nor deserved the success. As a result, we may begin to think we deserve to be “found out” or “punished,” leading to more anxiety about making mistakes for fear that it will expose us.  It is clear why we put tremendous pressure on ourselves to be “perfect.”

If we perceive our achievements as being products of luck, then we prevent ourselves from seeing the true cause for our progress. As a result, we are quick to deny reality—that we have, in fact, received training, experience, and education. Things in our past have allowed us to develop and new challenges in the future push us to grow. Just because you don’t know 100% of what you’re doing in your present life, that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to be where you are. We are all learning in our present lives, isn’t every minute technically brand new?

Imposter and impossible are similar words for a reason. Stop doubting yourself and start participating in your life. The more you make things happen, the more you prove that rotten imposter wrong! Your imposter is the fraud, not you.

Amy Brightman is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.

What a "Bad" Haircut Reminded Me About Body Acceptance

By Salina Grilli, LMSW


We live in a society that glorifies weight loss and thinness. From a young age, we receive messages that equate our worthiness to how closely we fit to the conventional standard of beauty and the “thin ideal.” It’s no surprise that many of us are plagued with negative thoughts about our bodies that can wreck havoc on our self-esteem and ability to live a fulfilling life.

Recently, I got a “terrible’ haircut” (i.e. much shorter than I wanted) that reminded me of how painful and challenging it can be to accept your physical body, especially in recovery from disordered eating or an eating disorder. 

After my haircut I called a friend, upset. They reminded me that it was “just hair” and that “I’ve dealt with harder things in my life.” Although I agreed, I couldn’t shake the feeling that a part of my identity was gone and I wasn’t happy about it.

The truth is I didn’t have to LIKE my hair. That being said, I had a choice to make. I could either stay miserable or I could ACCEPT what was in the present moment. To accept my new haircut, I found myself turning to many of the techniques that I use with my clients as they work towards body acceptance. 


Feel your feelings.

Accepting your body means letting go of the desire to control what you look like. It also means challenging the idea that looking a certain way will bring you happiness and fulfillment.  This can be a painful process, which I liken to grief. Initially, I noticed that I felt angry both at myself for not being clear about what I wanted and at the hairdresser for misunderstanding me. This was followed by disappointment and sadness. Eventually, these emotions dissipated and I began to feel content. I share this with you because these emotions are normal and nothing to be ashamed about. Rather, acknowledging how you are feeling is the first step towards acceptance.   

Remember that your body is a vehicle.

 Your body is just that, a body. It does not represent who you are as a person. Despite what the disordered voice tells you, having the “perfect body” will NOT lead to happiness or a sense of fulfillment. Our bodies are constantly changing, even over the course of the day. Therefore, happiness and self-esteem based on your body is temporary and fleeting. So what are some other areas you can focus on as sources of happiness and self-esteem? Ask yourself some questions: 

  • What brings me joy? 

  • What excites me? 

  • What adds meaning and value to me life? 

Utilize healthy coping skills.

Recognize when ruminating about your body isn’t serving you and turn to a healthy distraction. This might mean calling or texting your friend, planning a date night, taking a relaxing bath, or even working on a craft project. The purpose is not to ignore your feelings, but to remind yourself of what your body can do for you that isn’t related to your physical appearance. 

Avoid the 2 C’s: Comparing & Checking 

Body checking and comparisons are both behaviors that are intended to relieve anxiety about your body, but ultimately negatively impact your self-esteem. Comparisons can take many forms. Frequently my clients talk about comparing their bodies to others on social media and while they are out and about in NYC. So, pretty much all the time. Have you ever heard the saying, comparison is the thief of joy? After my haircut, I found myself comparing my hair to everyone I passed on the street. Suddenly everyone had long, gorgeous hair and I was flooded with a wave of envy and regret. Comparing did NOT help, it just made me feel miserable! 

Body checking can be any behavior that is used to monitor your body size. Some common forms of body checking include: weighing, taking progress photos, measuring, and analyzing a certain part of your body in the mirror. One techniques to stop comparing and checking is to monitor how often you engage in a certain behaviors and then systematically cut down the frequently and/or duration. For example, if you take progress photos once a week, you could cut down to once a month. 

Overcoming the two C’s can take time and determination. I will be providing more techniques in my next blog post.

Salina Grilli is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.

How To Identify if Someone is Toxic in Your Life


By Heather Matzkowitz, LMSW

Human connection is one of the most important parts of life. Whether it be a family member, romantic partner, or a friend, relationships take many different forms and vary at levels of intensity. I have had many clients who come in speaking about someone who they feel brings them more negativity than positivity into their lives. Do you often feel like you’re being manipulated, judged, taken advantage of, and end up emotionally drained after spending time with someone? If so, then it is possible that this person could be toxic for you to have in your life. 

So what exactly classifies a toxic person? Someone who cares about you should be interested in and supportive of what is going on in your life. If you’re not getting a sense that they genuinely care about your wellbeing, then it might be time to reevaluate your relationship with them. Additionally, toxic people don’t ever take the blame or apologize when they are wrong. Why? Because they never think they are wrong. They will often try to gain sympathy from others by taking the victim stance. Toxic people can be incredibly manipulative, and use relationships to serve their own needs. They will use others to get what they want, even if it is at the other person’s expense. Furthermore, if someone is toxic they will usually have inconsistencies in their personality. For instance, they might change their attitude or behavior depending on what they want or are trying to accomplish in that moment. 

It’s imperative to take care of yourself and hold your happiness at the utmost importance. If you feel like you might be close with someone who is toxic, I encourage you to reconsider your relationship with that person. It’s always good to ask yourself: “How do I feel after spending time with this person?”

Heather Matzkowitz is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.

Finding My Birth Mother: Here's What Helped

By Alisha Bennett, LMSW

Almost two years ago, I submitted paperwork to initiate a search for my birth mother in South Korea. It was something I always knew that I wanted to do but it took me years to find the courage to finally do it. I was fortunate enough to find my birth mother and maintain a relationship with her and other family that I have met. Since then, I have had many adoptees ask about my experience because of where they were in their own thinking about their searches. So, this month’s blog is a little more personal than usual, but nonetheless I thought it could be helpful for other adoptees or parents who have adopted children. I fully understand and acknowledge that my story is not everyone’s story but here’s what I, as an adoptee, found to be helpful in going through such an emotional journey: 

  • Have a good, strong support system. Whether that be good friends, a significant other, family member, or therapist, you will need people to navigate the ups and downs of this. It will help to have people around you that support you and your decisions, and validate your feelings. Don’t go through this alone.  

  • If you know other adoptees, talk to them about your experiences. If you don’t, watch or read about other adoptee’s experiences that have went through something similar.

  • Give yourself time to process all of the different emotions that you may have. Try not to push down or avoid the uncomfortable feelings that may come up and talk about them if they feel overwhelming. 

  • Manage your expectations. Try not to let yourself experience the extremes of best case and worst case, but what is possible. Until it’s an absolute no, there’s still a possibility and hope that you can find who you are looking for. If you don’t find them, the journey may give you answers that you didn’t have before. 

  • My adoptive parents and siblings were 100% supportive of this decision for me which I found tremendously helpful. I don’t know what it would have been like to navigate this without their support and encouragement. They did not make my search about them. They didn’t show me their insecurities if they had any. They let this be my journey and my story. That is what I hope for anyone going through this. 

Alisha Bennett is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.

Calm: An App Recommendation for Better Sleep

By Elizabeth Cobb, LCSW

One of the biggest challenges my clients (and friends, family, and coworkers) report to me is that they can’t sleep. People cite a variety of causes — overactive brains, wired bodies, and anxiety. The consequences of sleep deprivation can have devastating effects on our mental and physical health. Some consequences, just to name a few, are daytime sleepiness, lack of focus, and increased emotional reactivity. 

We all know insomnia is a problem, but what can we do to fix it? If you’re like me, you’ve tried everything! From exercise, to reducing caffeine, to natural supplements, to sleep apps — I’ve done it all. Sometimes a strategy works for a while, but then the sleeplessness slowly comes back. LIke me, you might feel hopeless that you’ll ever get a good night’s sleep and go back to bad habits like tv before bed, screen time in bed, and listening to scary podcasts (is that just me?).

Well, after an exhaustive search for solutions, I’ve finally found one that works (at least for me) and I’d encourage other insomnia sufferers to try it. It’s a sleep app called Calm and it actually works! I like Calm because it has multiple tools for helping you get to sleep. So if one stops working there are other tools in the toolbox. 

Right now, my favorite is the bedtime stories (way better than scary, true crime podcasts). There’s a wide variety of stories read in a soothing, sleep-inducing voice. I fall asleep before the story is even over! There’s also sleep music, meditations, and more. One option I really like is a meditation series that you do during the day to help prepare you for sleep. You learn skills such as new types of breathing, and then later you do a deep sleep meditation using the skill you learned earlier in the day. 

You can try calm for free for 7 days and see what it’s all about. I promise I am not being paid (or coerced) to recommend this app. I just want to help a fellow insomniac out. 

Of course, therapy can help identify and resolve underlying causes of insomnia, like anxiety, and teach skills like mindfulness. Calm is not meant to replace therapy, but is a helpful tool to enhance the work you’re already doing with your therapist. 

Elizabeth Cobb is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.

Being Your Own Best Friend

By Amy Brightman, LCSW

Developing and improving self-esteem is a common goal in therapy. Low self-esteem can often be a result of the things we tell ourselves. Often times, we are our own worst critics, listening to our internal negative voice. So, how do you work on being your own best friend? Self-compassion is about treating yourself with respect and kindness. Through self-compassion, clients begin to see their strengths, skills, and attributes rather than their flaws and insecurities. Like with any skill, it is important to practice. Here are some ways to rehearse self-compassion:

Compassionate Sensations

Find ways to relax and make sure to fit these moments in your day. Remember: they only need to be moments and not full commitments. Think of taking a relaxing moment as time to “charge” so you can continue on with your day. These moments are not to avoid something, but rather to keep going. A moment of self-soothing could be as simple as using your favorite hand lotion and taking 30 seconds to smell the scent and feel the lotion. You can also take a few minutes to look through some of your favorite photos on your phone or stretch at your desk. Although these are quick ways to take time to take time for yourself, they can last with you for your entire day.


Compassionate Thinking

What would you tell a friend? It can often be helpful to remove yourself from the situation and consider what you would tell a friend who is going through the same thing. This helps reduce our knee jerk reaction to personalize and make it “about me.” It opens you up for the chance to be understanding and see other perspectives that can sometimes vanish when we are so internal.

Focusing on gratitude can be another wonderful way to be kind to yourself. Reflect on what you do have and not on what you don’t have. This can be about things that happened during your day or things that you have every day.


Compassionate Behavior
I am a big believer in exercise being helpful for mood management and overall wellness. One of my favorite exercises is to practice lifting the corners of your lips up toward your eyes - yes, it’s smiling :) Smiling releases endorphins, our ‘feel good’ hormones, and has been proven to even lower blood pressure. Often we will smile at others when we socially engage and want to be welcoming to others, so why not do this for yourself? Smile to yourself while you sit at your desk or when you’re in the middle of a yoga pose. Smiling is for you, as much as it is for everyone else.

Amy Brightman is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.

How to Keep the Reptilian Brain from Ruining Your Relationship

By Jessica Glynn, LMSW


First, let’s understand what the reptilian brain actually is and why it causes us to think the worst of our partner at times. The reptilian brain includes your brainstem and cerebellum, which controls primitive and vital bodily functions like heartbeat, breathing, and body temperature. Although it acts along with limbic brain and the neocortex with many influences and interconnections, sometimes the reptilian brain feels like it is acting alone when we experience rigid and compulsive behaviors such as arguing with our partner.

This part of the brain is meant to measure physical threat, but sometimes a response is triggered when there has been a threat to our ego. Because it is such a primitive part of our brain, once it is triggered in a fight with our partner, it is very hard to listen to logic and reason because our partner has now become a threat. It is important to understand this because it can lead to patterns of hurtful arguments that can cause irreparable damage to the relationship. During this time, the defense and threat response is so triggered and heightened that it is impossible to come to a rational conclusion to the argument. Disengagement is best during this time, but walking away from a partner can be tricky as they may get more upset or agitated because feelings of abandonment may come up. It is important to revisit these arguments and learn how to disengage effectively so that the next time you will be able to calm the reptilian brain more quickly. Here are a few steps to take when a heated argument arises:

  • Begin to disengage from the argument by letting your partner’s reptilian brain know that you are stepping away, not because you don’t care, but because you do care and know it will be best to discuss the heated topic at a time when you can really hear each other.

  • Take a walk or go into another room. You may feel you are leaving things unresolved, but remind yourself that taking space will allow you to have a productive discussion later on rather than a heated argument in the moment.

  • Revisit the behavior. In addition to problem solving the argument, remember to come up with a plan for effective disengagement in the future. This is where many therapists suggest a “safe word” so that your partner will know what’s happening and the need for disengagement.

  • Use the “safe word” during the next heated argument.

Jessica Glynn is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would to learn more about psychotherapy and how it can support you in reaching your goals, contact Cobb Psychotherapy.

Common Misconceptions About Therapy

By Erica Cramer, LMSW
 

A client recently told me that they were embarrassed to be in therapy. They felt as though being in therapy was a sign of weakness and signified that they could not handle their own problems. After speaking with this client, I reflected on the many misconceptions I have heard about the therapeutic process and who exactly can benefit from speaking to a therapist. In this blog I want to shed light on some of these common misconceptions.

1. Therapy is for "crazy people."

Although there are many stigmas surrounding therapy, we live in a very complicated society where we are inundated with more information than most of us can process. Speaking to a therapist to manage your mental health is similar to working out at the gym to maintain your physical health. Devoting 45 minutes a week to sharing, processing, and analyzing your feelings with a non-judgmental professional is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. 

2. People who see therapists have “real problems.”

Everyone has problems and their problems are important to them. Regardless of how “serious” they are by society’s standards, they are serious to you. Whether you are upset about living on the street or chipping a nail, you are entitled to be upset about your problems. They deserve as much time and effort as you are willing to devote to them. Remember, therapists do not have a magic wand and resolving them is a collaborative process between you and your therapist.

3. Therapy is a place where you only discuss negative things. 

Many of my clients come into their session and say they have nothing to talk because "nothing bad happened this week." Another widely held misconception is that therapy sessions have to be negative and upsetting. Therapy is not always about complaining about your problems. It sometimes involves talking about what went well and celebrating your victories. If you acknowledge what you did right, you can replicate it or apply it to other areas of your life. The ultimate purpose of therapy is personal growth and development and that can be accomplished by acknowledging both our successes and failures.

4. People are in therapy for a distinct period of time.

Therapy means different things to different people. Some clients begin working with a therapist for a specific reason and once they have processed that reason they terminate treatment. Other clients pop in and out of therapy throughout their life. They see a therapist when they feel they need to and don't see one when they feel like they don't need to. Other clients go to therapy on a regular basis throughout their life. There is no specific amount of time you need to see a therapist. It is important to touch base with your therapist on a regular basis and ensure that they are giving you what you need from this process. 

5. The therapist is the expert and the client needs to listen to them.

Therapy is a collaborative process. Although therapists are professionally trained, clients are the experts of their lives and always know what is best for themselves. A therapist is supposed to guide clients on the journey to self-discovery not determine what they think is best for them when they do not know what it is like to walk in their shoes.

Erica Cramer is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would to learn more about psychotherapy and how it can support you in reaching your goals, contact Cobb Psychotherapy.

What to do When You're Feeling Overwhelmed

By Bethany Nickerson, LMSW

Lately I have had several clients and many of my friends mention that they are feeling overwhelmed, and I can definitely relate. Between work, chores, family responsibilities, exercising, and trying to still have time for a social life, it's easy to feel like you're always a little behind. Here are a few things I have found that really help me when I feel myself getting anxious and caught up in racing thoughts about everything I need to do:

  1. Do some deep breathing. My favorite is alternate nostril breathing. It helps me to get out of my anxiety brain and back into my wise mind. You can find a great tutorial from The Art of Living.

  2. Move your body. Do some stretching or go for a nice long walk.

  3. Brain Dump. Take a few minutes and write down everything that is bouncing around in your brain. All of your worries, anxieties, and things that you want to get done. Then take a red pen and cross out anything that you have no control over. This will help you focus your time and energy.

  4. Prioritize tasks. Take the remaining things on your list and figure out which tasks are time sensitive. Number things starting with the most critical.

  5. Keep a gratitude journal. Every day write down 3-5 things that went well or things you are grateful for. When you are feeling down or overwhelmed look back in your journal. This is one of my favorite tools as it gives me perspective and helps me to focus on the positive and what I am doing right.

Bethany Nickerson is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.

What We Can Learn from Elon Musk: Mental Health Awareness in the Business World

By Dan Perlman, LMSW

I truly loathe the use of hyperbole. “Always," “ever," “never,” and “every” are words which undermine our ability think calmly and rationally.  So when I say “No one is ever outside of its grasp and everyone must remain ever vigilant to it, I’m doing this intentionally to bring discomfort and draw focus to the “it,” which in this case is debilitating depression. In light of Elon Musk courageously sharing his personal emotional struggles in August 2018, I hope the value of mental health will continue to grow in awareness and its stigma reduced in the business world. I hope that eventually preventive mental health at work through Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s) will become ubiquitous to the degree to which exercise and physical health have become accepted and encouraged. 

Elon Musk is a 47 year old man, born in South Africa, three times married with six children, and a resident of three countries, USA, South Africa, and Canada. Musk was severely bullied throughout his childhood and was once hospitalized when a group of boys threw him down a flight of stairs and then beat him until he lost consciousness.  His parents divorced in 1980 when he was 9 and Musk lived mostly with his father in the suburbs, which he now says was "not a good idea." As an adult, Musk has severed relations with his father, he has a half-sister, and half-brother. This summary sounds like he could be a number of my beloved clients with potential attachment issues and early traumas. I’d be on the lookout for coping mechanisms gone awry and some potential anxiety or depression down the road. 

I share this early life bio on Musk because he is one of the greatest entrepreneurs, engineers, and investors of our lifetime.  Elon Musk founded the online payments system PayPal in1998 and selling it to Ebay in 2002 for $1.5 billion.  He then went on to found SpaceX, an aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company, co-founded Tesla, Inc., an electric vehicle and solar panel manufacturer, and inspired the creation of SolarCity, a solar energy services company.  Musk is brilliant and stated that the goals of SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity revolve around his vision to change the world and humanity. His goals include reducing global warming through sustainable energy production and consumption, and reducing the "risk of human extinction" by establishing a human colony on Mars. There is clearly nothing beyond his grasp. 

His boundless vision made it newsworthy when he shared this summer that he suffers from issues of depression which affect his everyday life.  This contained a special message to me because many executives fear such an admission is tantamount to a loss of credibility, and as CEO there’s a constant managing of public Image.  His reality, he said, is a mix of “great highs, terrible lows and unrelenting stress” as a result of his battles with mental health. While some believe seeking treatment makes them look weak, Musk turns things on their head by sharing unabashedly to the entire world at once via the New York Times and Twitter. While he knows that telling the word will not obviate him from the pain to come, my hope is this will lead to the opportunity to process, grow, and move forward.  Perhaps he went public to help others avert their own depression? Perhaps to normalize the idea of depression?  Either way, shares in his company traded down 5% that day (TSLA $305.50-29.95) losing $5 billion in market capitalization and have since remained flat. After rising 750% since 2013 to a capitalization of $50 billion, Musk is currently worth $20 billion making him the 46th wealthiest person in the world. It will now be an interesting social experiment to see how Musk, his company, and the acceptance of metal health into the workplace EAP’s move forward. 

With one of our greatest thinkers putting himself out there the business world must now recognize we all possess a limit beyond which anxiety and depression await to pounce.  We all (hyperbole intended) must face the reality that we’re all in fact vulnerable. So yes, I use hyperbole repeatedly in this very dangerous space for emphasis because everyone must remain ever vigilant in recognizing the signs and pathways toward depression in order to fight it off. We must remain ever mindful of the need for preventive therapy and the need to normalize its use to preserve and protect our mental health no matter how big our dreams or successes.

References:

Dan Perlman is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy LCSW. If you would like support in exploring and managing emotions, visit cobbpsychotherapy.com to learn more about how therapy can help.

The Dark Side of "Wellness"

By Rosie Barton, LMSW

These days the buzz word on the street, in advertisements, blogs, and seemingly every app on our phone is the term "wellness." We’re constantly inundated with messages about whole foods, eating clean, cleanses, and organic beauty products. Although wellness is touted as the answer to all of our mental and physical woes, at its core it’s just another damaging manifestation of the diet and fitness industry. 

The diet industry is insidious — it sneakily inserts itself into our lives in the form of smoothie bowls on Instagram, athleisure designed to take you from that thirty-five dollar spin class straight to brunch, and bloggers advocating for everything from carb-free diets to activated charcoal. We’re told that if we simply strive enough and have the right products, we too can achieve total mind and body wellness. 

Beneath the glamour and purity of these manufactured social media posts is the dark side of obsession, guilt, shame, and deprivation. The more we attribute our moral “goodness” to what we put into our bodies, the more we’re primed to feel inadequate when we can’t live up to those impossibly high standards. The wellness industry wants you to believe that wellness is indeed a state at which you can arrive. You can (you should! You must!) “live your truth,” and “be your best self.” 

These messages inflict tremendous damage because they make us feel as if we aren’t already good enough just as we are. We’re left striving and exhausted, more preoccupied with ridding our body of toxins than getting curious about how we actually feel. The more we seek balance from something external to ourselves, the more elusive it becomes. When we rely on bone broth or juice cleanses to make us feel wholesome, inevitably we will be left with a persistent sense of emptiness or lack. 

People may come to therapy holding the belief that they somehow don’t measure up to others. It seems as if everyone else has figured out this whole happiness and self-love thing, and they’re the only ones left depressed and inadequate. Wellness no longer feels so "well" to a fitness instructor who believes she’s a fraud because her clients look up to her as the epitome of health, meanwhile she’s unable to eat a piece of pizza with her friends. Wellness is draining to the man who spends hours each evening cooking chicken breasts and portioning out baby carrots into ziploc bags to ensure he has enough food for his paleo diet at work. It’s even worse when he feels crushed by guilt and shame for “cheating” with a piece of cake at a party. Pursuing wellness is often disguised as self-improvement, but when that’s combined with traits such as perfectionism and low self-esteem, the spiral into self-loathing can be swift. 

What the wellness industry fails to acknowledge is the degree of suffering inherent in living a life in which your self-concept is defined by a diet, fitness regimen, or the financial means to buy expensive supplements and beauty products. The wellness industry is booming because it’s designed to make us believe that the right products, classes, and superfoods will finally help us arrive at our best selves. It’s time to push back against these messages and recognize the wellness industry for what it is — another way that men and women are urged to participate in rampant consumerism in order to rectify their perceived shortcomings. This isn’t self-improvement or self-care—and it certainly isn’t wellness either. 

Rosie Barton is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy LCSW. If you would like support in exploring and managing emotions, visit cobbpsychotherapy.com to learn more about how therapy can help.

Strategies for Coping With Mild Social Anxiety

By Kristen Quinones, LMSW

It’s common to get some nervous jitters in social settings. Whether it’s attending your first day of classes, starting a new job, going to your high school reunion, or attending a wedding where you don’t know anyone, there are plenty of common situations you may find yourself in where you’ll feel a little awkward or uncomfortable.

My favorite way to think about anxiety is this: anxiety is a feeling and it is internal. Therefore, our best tool to combat it must also be internal. So what does that mean? Positive self talk! Positive self talk does not always mean telling yourself something overly optimistic and unbelievable. Positive self talk consists of reminding yourself of what is normal, human, possible, and realistic.

First and foremost, try to normalize your feelings to yourself. Remember, most people in your shoes would also feel a bit anxious in this situation, and some other people in the room may be experiencing these same feelings simultaneously! Anxiety is not rare. People hide it quite well. There is often a chance that whoever you are making small talk with is also overthinking their questions and worrying about running out of things to say. So literally say to yourself, “Some people here may be experiencing what I am feeling on some level. This is normal. It will take us all time to become more comfortable. There is a chance this is not just me. I can get through this. I will take it one conversation at a time.”

Second, plan. It can help to plan conversation topics ahead of time and use open ended questions. How do you know the bride and groom? Have you been to a lot of weddings recently? How do they compare? Are you from the area? What was it like growing up here? What made you decide to pick this major? What do you love most about your line of work? How did you spend your summer? What are your top five favorite shows on Netflix right now?

Third, practice self care. Give yourself some credit and some breaks if you need to! Step away to the restroom, step outside, grab a glass of water, call a loved one. If you need a break allow yourself to take it. You can always excuse yourself in a situation to take care of yourself. Treating yourself to something special afterwards is also a great motivator to confront your social anxiety and practice self care.

Kristen Quinones is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.

Restorative Yoga to Relax and Unwind

By Bethany Nickerson, LMSW

I took my first yoga class during my freshman year of undergrad. My mom had been doing it for a few years and kept telling me that she thought I should give it a try. She was right. I loved it. I have always been a pretty anxious person and yoga was a great way for me to get back into the present moment. I really liked how each movement was joined to my breath and found that the combination of the two was very calming. I continued to take yoga each semester and completed a teacher training. I taught yoga for several years and it was wonderful to share something that I love so much with other people. That being said, going to a yoga class can feel intimidating. Clients often tell me that they don’t have time or they worry that they will “do it wrong” and feel embarrassed. One of the best things about yoga is that it is totally doable on your own at home. Lately I’ve been ending my day with a short restorative practice to help me unwind and stretch my body. Here are a few of my favorite parts of that practice:

 Source: https://www.wikihow.com/Do-the-Crescent-Moon-Pose-in-Yoga

Source: https://www.wikihow.com/Do-the-Crescent-Moon-Pose-in-Yoga

1. Crescent moon

How: Reach your arm up over your head, interlace your fingers and let your first fingers point straight up. Inhale and lengthen your spine, on the exhale lean to the right. Take a few breaths here and feel the stretch through your side body. Then on an inhale bring yourself back to center. Repeat on the left side.

Why: Opens and stretches the sides of your body and improves core strength.

 

2. Forward fold

How: Inhale and reach your hands up, extending them all the way up towards the ceiling. On the exhale come all the way forward. Take a few breaths here. On an inhale roll back up to standing, one vertebra at a time.

Why: Keeps your spine strong and flexible. Calms the mind and soothes your nerves.

Modifications: Don’t worry if you can’t reach the floor. You can rest your hand on your knees or place them on a stack of books or a chair.

 

3. Goddess

How: Sit down on the floor and either cross your legs (like the picture) or put the soles of your feet together in front of you. Inhale and lengthen your spine, imagine a string running from the top of your head to the ceiling. On your exhale roll your shoulders down your back and place your hands on your knees. If you want more of a stretch reach forward (bending at the hips) over your legs and walk your hands over to the right. Repeat on the left.

Why: Opens your hips and is a great way to ground yourself (feeling your sits bones on the floor).

Modifications: If your hips are tight try sitting on the edge of a folded blanket.

 

4. Legs up the wall

How: Slide right up against where the wall meets the floor and swing your legs up the wall. Scoot forward until your tail bone touches the wall. Lay back and picture breathing your spine back into the floor. Stretch your arms out like a T. Take several breaths here and pay attention to what you feel as you take deep inhales and long exhales.

Why: Increases circulation and promotes relaxation. Stretches hamstrings and lower back. Great for people who spend a lot of time sitting throughout the day.

Modifications: Feel free to use a firm blanket under your hips or to support your back. If you can’t completely straighten your knees that's okay! Just meet yourself where you are and don’t worry about doing it perfectly.

Remember that the point of practicing yoga isn’t to do the poses perfectly or to make yourself achieve a certain “level” of flexibility. It's all about being kind to yourself and spending time connecting to your body.

Bethany Nickerson is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.

Book Review: Disarming the Narcissist

By Alisha Bennett, LMSW

Disarming the Narcissist, 2nd Edition, by Wendy T. Behary was recently recommended to me after I expressed difficulty with people in my life who demonstrate narcissistic qualities.  I know I am not alone in this struggle as I’ve heard clients, friends, and family talk about people in their lives who seem self-centered, or have narcissistic traits. If you do find yourself feeling frustrated over and over again with people in your lives who seem self-absorbed, self-centered, or seem to always be putting themselves first, I highly recommend this book. Not only does it help to understand the classic narcissist or self-centered person, but it also helps to define other forms of narcissism that can often go unnoticed.

Part of Behary’s approach is about finding some empathy for the narcissist in your life, which initially was a little off-putting for me. She acknowledges this discomfort in the book and talks about the flak she received from friends and colleagues about this. Then I remembered that I do similar work with clients when I support them in coming to an understanding of what makes the people in their lives the way they are. The next step with clients is working on acceptance and then boundary setting.

Behary begins by stating that the book is: "intended to help those who are trying to deal with a narcissistic person. It will define and illustrate different types of narcissism, offer explanations for why and how narcissism develops as part of a person’s personality, and provide guidance and tools for effectively surviving and even thriving in relationships with these challenging folks. It will also help you identify your own life patterns and personal life.” 

The book did exactly what it was intended to do. It helped me to gain a better understanding of why the narcissists in my life are the way they are. It helped me to develop some empathy for them and give meaning to why they have become who they are today. I have been able think more about their life experiences and keep this in mind when interacting with them. It has helped me to see them through a different lens, rather than just feeling angry and annoyed.

Behary also provides practical and quick exercises to identify the narcissists in your life, and then provides strategies on how to deal with them. Change can be difficult for all of us, but it can start with learning how to set boundaries for ourselves and feel more confident in the knowledge that we don’t deserve to be treated poorly or made to feel bad about ourselves by others. We can have more empathy, reframe our thinking, have a level of acceptance, set boundaries, and stick up for ourselves and our needs. 

References: 
Disarming the Narcissist: Surviving and Thriving with the Self-Absorbed by Wendy Behary

Alisha Bennett is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.

Why Compare?

By Cherise White, LMSW

It starts when we are young and become more aware of ourselves and begin to notice how we are similar and different from others. It’s normal to compare and see how you may line up to others in various aspects of one’s self and life. However, comparison can also be a trigger for negative thinking and foster a never-ending web of negative self-beliefs. It can be stressful once you gain awareness that you have a tendency to compare yourself to others, but this stress combined with the feeling of not being able to stop comparing can impact one’s mental health. 

Sure, we learn by comparing ourselves. Even in learning environments we are often ranked and compared to others taking an exam, by GPA, or when completing tasks. However, comparison in general can lead to increased stress and low-self-esteem. It could cause a person to feel like they will never be good enough or measure up. 

 Source: https://www.criticalcactus.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/JIDDU-KRISHNAMURTI-Don%E2%80%99t-compare-yourself-to-others.jpg

Source: https://www.criticalcactus.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/JIDDU-KRISHNAMURTI-Don%E2%80%99t-compare-yourself-to-others.jpg

Tips For Dealing with Comparison

  • It could be helpful to ask yourself, what am I comparing myself to? What does this comparison do for me? How is it impacting me? What specifically is it I have interest in and how may I go about achieving it? 
  • Another possibility is to challenge yourself to scan your environment and discover what it is you are seeking. Are you wishing you would be more ambitious, skinnier, wealthier, healthier, more attractive, bolder, more outgoing, braver, more adventurous? Discover what the thing is and develop goals to help you begin to achieve it. Turn your comparison and wanting of what you are missing into action. 
  • Lastly, when we compare and work towards becoming what we see in others we have the potential to lose ourselves. Try creating and blending various elements from your discovery to develop your uniqueness. It is much more challenging to not compare and stand out than to emulate.

 

Cherise White is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.