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Men and Substance Abuse


Addiction has no boundaries. Addiction impacts all groups of people from different socioeconomic status, races, ethnicities, and genders. However, while addiction is not a gender specific disease, it does impact men differently. Statistically men are more likely to be diagnosed with an addiction (Drugabuse.gov, 2016). Men face different health struggles associated with addiction. Along with health struggles relationships can be negatively impacted by addiction. While the factors are unknown as to why men are more likely to be diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder, through treatment, hope is possible.

Men are more likely to use nearly all types of drugs, while women are less likely (Samhsa.gov, 2014). Men tend to engage in risky behavior at younger ages, which in turn could lead to more drug experimentation.  At a young age, drug use increases risk for lifelong dependency. While experimentation is not a certainty for lifelong abuse, it does increase the likelihood for addiction. Perhaps, this latter point leads to men being diagnosed more with substance abuse.

The negative impacts of drug and alcohol abuse in men are many, including the impact on health.  Men are at greater risk for negative health effects due to addiction; cirrhosis, pancreatitis and depression are frequent diagnoses associated with substance abuse.  (Drugabuse.gov. 2016).  To add to this, excessive alcohol consumption decreases testosterone levels, which in turn can cause erectile dysfunction, infertility, decreased strength and libido.  A man’s mental health is also negatively impacted by substance abuse. Men who struggle with depression and anxiety along with other mental health issues often turn to increased substance use which in turn only exacerbates their mental health issues.  Possible factors that impact this cycle are shame, guilt, and a feelings of low self-esteem.

Men can also feel the negative impact of substance abuse on their relationships. In general, those who are abusing substance(s) are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior. This sexually risky behavior can include infidelity which can lead to STDs, and unwanted pregnancies.  To add, the role of father can also be negatively impacted by substance abuse. The lack of emotional availability as a father, the impediment of clear understanding and consciousness, and the distribution of resources towards drugs and alcohol, all negatively impact the family.

While there are many negative aspects to substance abuse in men, there is hope. Men do enter treatment more often, unfortunately often times via the criminal justice system. However, once in treatment there is opportunity to change. Through group treatment, men can find a community of people going through similar life experiences; though individual treatment men can find a confidential source of support and insight into their own addiction. The road to recovery is long and arduous, but it is worth it to not live with the negative consequences of addiction.

References

Drugabuse.gov. 2016. Sex and Gender Differences in Substance Use. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/substance-use-in-women/sex-gender-differences-in-substance-use. [Accessed 30 March 2018].

Samhsa.gov. 2014. Gender Differences in Primary Substance of Abuse across Age Groups. [ONLINE] Available at:https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/sr077-gender-differences-2014.pdf. [Accessed 30 March 2018].

Self-Care Tips to Get You Through the Holidays


While the holiday season can be a time of connection and cheer for many, for others it can bring about additional stress and isolation. During the season of giving we often devote so much time to others that we forget to take care of ourselves. Reclaiming and incorporating time for yourself is an essential part of maintaining a healthy and balanced holiday season. Below are a few ways in which you can give to yourself this season:

  • Reflect: Throughout the year reflection is a key aspect of self-care, but moving it to the forefront is especially important during the holidays. Reflection can bring about renewal and change as you enter the new year, and for some can even bring closure. Meditation and journaling are ways in which you can reflect on what it most important during these times. Both provide emotional and physical benefits that aid in the mitigation of undesirable symptoms.
  • Rest: Another important aspect of everyday life, that is especially important during this busy time, is rest. By maintaining a routine, you allow yourself to remain recharged and refreshed during this season of rush.
  • Prioritize: In an effort to match the pace of the season, many people often find themselves playing catch up once the holidays have ended. Allow yourself time to create and stick to realistic goals, which can include scheduling and budgeting. This eliminates the burden of overspending and overexerting yourself.
  • Create: Instead of focusing on the hustle of the season, take advantage of the magic of the season by creating traditions that will last for many seasons to come.
  • Redefine: Many assume that giving requires spending. During the coming days, take time to reflect on the meaning of the holidays by redefining what it means to give. Giving your time to be in service of others is an easy and inexpensive way to lift spirits.

In keeping with the holiday season, it is important to remember that self-care is key to achieving greater health, happiness, and prosperity. As stated by Calving Coolidge, “Holidays are not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of the Holidays.”

Live on the Rest


In 2 Kings 4, there was a woman whose husband died and creditors came to take her sons as slaves to pay her debts. Prophet Elisha told her to gather vessels and pour the little oil she had into them and sell them to pay off her debts. In verse 7, Elisha said, “You and your sons can live on the rest.” She gathered with her son as many as possible and her faith and obedience were rewarded. This miracle of receiving the oil she needs for her bills and family’s wellbeing is an extravagant demonstration of God’s love, goodness, and power. She put into practice the words of the Prophet and was rewarded with Rest.

He commands her to “Live on the REST”. The word rest relays a stopping, quieting, and refreshment, and in this passage, it is also speaking to what she had left after giving what she had, what remained. She gathered, God did a miracle, she sold what was needed, and then could rest. Whatever remains from the Lord will be enough, so be at ease. Whatever he asks you to do, you can obey with confidence that God will care for you just as he did this widow. “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Those who have unbelief will not enter his rest. Yet there remains a rest for the people of God and we shall strive to enter that rest (Hebrews 3:7-4:11). The place of rest is wonderful and worthy of being pursued, protected, and maintained! Therefore, when you “live on the rest”, it means you live at rest due to your faith in the God who is more than enough for all you need.

Why psychological assessment? What good will it do? How will I benefit?


When in graduate school for a degree in psychology or counseling, one learns a lot and reads a ton. But the most important thing grad students in my field do is practice what they preach.

So, when I was in a masters program in grad school, I took a psychological assessment overview course and the final assignment was to take a whole handful of tests that assessed my personality and then score, interpret, and report the results of these tests.

It was quite a process because some of these tests have a lot of questions to answer about yourself. I was nervous because I didn’t know exactly what the results would say about me.

Despite the process, the end result was pretty cool. The results confirmed some things I pretty clearly knew about myself. The results told me things about myself that somewhere, deep within myself, I knew, but didn’t have words to describe. The results told me things about myself that I was surprised by, that I never would have said about myself. The results told me things that I didn’t want to be said about me. The results helped me understand myself better so that I could take bold, but scary steps into a future that I didn’t even know was possible.

These understandings, realizations, and awarenesses are what psychological assessment is all about. Sure, sometimes the purpose of an assessment is to determine whether a diagnosis is present or not – think about all the assessments that happen when a medical doctor is trying to determine whether someone has cancer or a chronic illness. But underneath it all, the true purpose is to understand a person better, whether that be physically as in the case of a medical doctor or emotionally as in the case of a psychologist.

At the end of a psychological assessment, a psychologist expects that the client will understand more about him/herself and have some ideas about what his/her next steps could be to address the good and the I-wish-it-was-better results that come from the assessment. This may or may not include a diagnosis but will definitely include information about how the client thinks, feels, copes, and engages in the world around him/her.

If you have questions about yourself or your child and/or desire to have clarity about what might be going on inside of your heart, mind, or soul, please contact us at cccoc@chicagocounseling.org or (312) 573-8860 to discuss these things and determine if a psychological assessment might be beneficial for you. You can also find out more about our psychological assessment services here.

Letting Go To Grow


Philippians 4:8

Finally, my sisters – whatever is true, whatever is honorable, what is right, what is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

  1. Position yourself in the future – get a positive view of the future will help you let go of a negative past. This is hard. Negative experiences just don’t fade away. Neuroscience of the brain indicates that we have an area of the brain that is called the episodic area. In this area we house events. We were created to remember so there are three things that will help with letting go of a negative past – (i) intentionally; (ii) create a vision board to assist you; (iii) set some steps. Learn to be present and stay in the present as you note your thoughts and feelings that connect you to what is good, what is lovely and what is of a good report.
  1. Discard the old – look around at your space, what reminds you of the thing, event, thought that you are trying to let go? Whatever it is start small and recreate. Redecorate a room, create piles that are keep, toss or transfer and then move forward with those things.
  1. Repair – acknowledge if what you are letting go of you played a part in the hurt, pain or disappointment. If you can, reach out to that person, have a face to face or write a letter expressing your part and your remorse. If you cannot reach out to that person, write an unmailable letter expressing your part and remorse.
  1. Rewrite your narrative – this allows you to take your power back. It places you in the position of victor and not victim. Therapist call this cognitive re-framing – God has given us the power to write our stories. Look at the loss as a release. An open door to create something new and refreshing.
  1. Forgive – discharge the debt, do what needs to be done to not have offense repeated (redefine the relationship); acknowledge the mess, the cost, the pain as well as the short and long term consequences of the offense, it is a process, not a one-time decision.

Why Do I Need a Therapist if I’ve Got Jesus?


I’ve often heard Christians ask, “Why do I need a therapist if I’ve got Jesus?” As a Christian, I can appreciate the sincerity of this question given that it echoes a number of Bible passages. For example, Philippians 4:6 reads, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” This verse is then followed by another which states, “God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). Given the stock that is often placed into these verses, it isn’t difficult to understand why a Christian would believe that they have no need for a therapist given that the Bible instructs us to turn to God to get all of our needs met. Although I can appreciate this perspective, I don’t believe that Christianity and psychology are in opposition to one another. As a Christian therapist, I find that one’s faith and the practice of therapy or counseling can be integrated quite well, and within this article, I aim to discuss how these two world views can be married together.

Since ancient times, God has been known to work through people to bring about blessings, healing, and freedom. Moreover, throughout the Bible, it is written that God often used natural means (i.e. ordinary people) in order to manifest his supernatural purposes (Isaiah 6; Acts 9: 6). It is my belief that today, God continues to help people by using others, and that mental health professionals, especially Christian mental health professionals, can be used by God.

Personally, my work as a therapist has been profoundly impacted by my relationship with Jesus Christ. Time and time again, God has treated me with unconditional love and positive regard in spite of my poor choices, and such grace has been unbelievably transformative in my own life. Due to my experience of God’s transformative compassion and concern for me, I model my practice of therapy after the way in which God relates to me because I know how emotionally corrective such an experience can be. In the Book of Isaiah, Jesus is referred to as “Wonderful Counselor” and such a description speaks volumes to me as a therapist (Isaiah 9:6). Given that He is a Wonderful Counselor, and He speaks of setting an example for us (John 13:15), it is my belief that I am carrying out God’s work through my work as a therapist. Also, God calls us to “Bear one another’s burdens,” (Gal. 6:2) which suggests that God understands that in order for people to get well, they need someone else, and at times, maybe even a therapist, to be a witness to their pain in order to bring about healing.

In sum, I truly believe that Christianity and the practice of psychology can operate alongside one another, and when God says that He’ll meet all of our needs, one of the ways in which He may choose to do so is through directing us to experts whom He has gifted with the knowledge and wisdom to bring about healing in others. If you believe that you or a loved one could benefit from counseling services, please give us a call and we’ll be happy to serve you.

What Just Happened?: Making Sense of My Seemingly Random Reactions


Marie was feeling productive at work when she received a phone call from her mother. As soon as she saw the caller ID, she felt irritable and dismissed the call. For the rest of the day, she struggled to return her focus to her work or get anything accomplished.

Brenda was enjoying her time out to dinner at a nice restaurant with her boyfriend, Jude. However, she wanted to run out of the restaurant when Jude took his phone out of his pocket and started doing something on it. For the rest of dinner, she just answered his questions with one-word answers and couldn’t wait to get home so she could go to sleep.

Tiffani was fully engaged in the conversation at her 11:00 business meeting, which she found to be fascinating. When the colleague sitting next to her raised his hand to interrupt the discussion, she flinched and had trouble participating in the remainder of the meeting.

 

What do these women have in common?

Although at first glance, these women may seem to be drastically different from one another, when we take a moment to investigate their histories, we find similarities in their reactions in each situation. Each of these women’s reactions makes sense. Each of these women’s trauma response was triggered by the circumstances of their environments and made it difficult for her to fully engage in the present moment.

Marie grew up in a home where she never knew what she would experience when she walked in the door. Some days, her mother would be waiting to greet her with a smile and interest in what happened at school. Other days, her mother would be drunk on the couch, waiting for Marie to return from school so she could take care of her mother’s every need.

Brenda’s first marriage started off great, but after a year, her husband didn’t seem to even know she existed, that was, until he wanted something from her sexually and he could not be deterred. Brenda felt unwanted and cast-off and wasn’t surprised the day he filed for divorce because he found a “better woman.” It took a long time to feel ready to date again, but finally, she was willing to try again.

Tiffani’s step-father was scary and mean. She would hide in her closet to stay away from him when he was angry, praying that he wouldn’t find her because she was afraid that this time, he would hit her so hard she might die.

 

What is a trauma response and why does it happen?

Our brains automatically respond to dangerous, stressful, and traumatic situations by prioritizing reactions that will keep us safe; this is a very good thing, as it helps us to survive. When a person experiences these dangerous, stressful, or chaotic situations time and again, his/her brain gets really good at quickly prioritizing this survival response. Sometimes, the brain is so good at doing this, the survival response becomes the automatic and occurs even when the person is in a completely safe situation. This triggered reaction is a trauma response and it makes sense. Marie’s trauma reaction was triggered because her brain knows that sometimes when she talks to her mom, she isn’t safe. Brenda’s trauma reaction was triggered because she felt unwanted by her boyfriend when he started using his phone; she had been here before and it was not safe. Tiffani’s trauma reaction was triggered because her brain knows that sometimes, when someone near you raises his/her arm, it is to hit her. Although each of these women may not understand why she reacted in the way she did, each response makes sense in light of her past experiences and makes it difficult for her to fully engage in the present moment.

 

What can I do if I experience things like this?

First and foremost, seek support from safe and trustworthy people. Talking through your current and past experiences with a family member or friend who has consistently been safe and caring can help you express these things so you don’t have to hold them inside or on your own. Many individuals find it helpful to participate in therapy in order to have a safe place to discuss these reactions and the situations that have caused them and work towards growth and healing.

Secondly, take care of yourself when these reactions occur – maybe you need to take a break to go for a walk, grab a coffee, or take some deep breaths. Do something little and easy to help calm your brain and your body down so that you can re-engage in the present moment. Be kind to yourself by reminding yourself that this reaction was helpful for your survival at one point in time and makes sense in the current situation – there is nothing inherently wrong with your reaction and you can do something to help yourself through it.

If you would like to begin receiving professional services for reactions such as those described above, our office has therapists who have specialized training to provide services to individuals who have experienced trauma. Please click here to request an appointment.

 


*These stories are fictional and were created with the intent to illustrate triggered responses as a result of traumatic experiences in order to increase awareness, offer knowledge, and provide support for those who may be experiencing similar reactions.

How to Combat Anxiety and Depression

by Tiffany Solecki, BA Clinical Intern in Active, Anxiety, Depression, Healing, Self Improvement Comments: 0 tags: anxiety, depression, Self Improvement

Challenging Anxiety and Depression: A Few Tips

As someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression, both experiences can be incredibly tiring and alienating. While they may at first glance seem like opposing conditions, I’ve learned from experience that anxiety and depression are actually more like “cousins.” Both tend to involve negative self-talk with anxiety being a state of insecurity and fear in response and depression being the result of paralyzation by belief. Thoughts such as “I’m unintelligent,” “I’m unattractive,” or “I’m unlovable” come to mind when I think about my own internal dialogue on particularly rough days.

While I recognize that the experiences of others may not mirror mine, I wanted to offer a few practical tips on how to challenge such negative feelings and thoughts.

  1. Avoiding Projection

Let’s say you’re attending a social event for work and had a lot on your mind so you weren’t as outgoing as you wanted to be. You may self-deprecate, telling yourself something like, “I wish I could have let go and had a good time. Everyone probably thought I was socially awkward.”

The projecting lies in the last two thoughts, in which you assumed that others agreed with you in your own negative self-assessment.

Imagine if someone else, such as a friend or family member, was in your place. If they had been quieter than usual one day, would you have automatically assumed that they were rude or socially awkward? I wouldn’t have.

Given that you likely would not respond so negatively to others in similar situations, ask yourself this: Why then, should you respond to yourself that way?

  1. Do something for yourself each day.

Self-care is crucial in challenging negative thoughts, so it’s a good idea to find something you enjoy doing or a task that you are determined to complete each day. This can be something as simple as doing laundry to as specific as making progress on a project or task you’ve had on your mind. Regardless as to what you choose to do, make sure it is something that is important to you, and try not to set overly high expectations for your completion of it. Since negative thought patterns often stem from the belief that we are incapable or lacking in some way, doing something small for yourself each day can serve as a reminder to the contrary.

  1. Connect with God.

If you’re like me, you probably cringe at the cliché response that if you “prayed or trusted in God more,” you wouldn’t be feeling anxious or depressed. Let me challenge this with Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

While many of us may feel as though God has abandoned us in our struggles with mental health, we can rest assured that such an assumption is contrary to Scripture. While worrying and thinking negatively are often tied to a lack of trust in God, its important for us to understand that God loves and cares for us in our suffering, whatever form it may take, and is not waiting for us to call on Him so he can point out our flaws with bitterness or contempt. Rather, as His children, He welcomes us into His presence with outstretched arms. He desperately wants to connect with us our rawness and vulnerability.

If you are struggling with depression and/or anxiety and want to request an appointment to see a therapist, click here.

Childhood Anxiety


Just like adults, children often struggle with anxiety too. They often worry about their grades, fitting in with their peers, or separating from parents. Although most children will worry, some kids experience excessive distress that causes severe impairment in their academic and social functioning. A study showed that 8% of teens between 13-18 years old reported having an anxiety disorder, with many of the symptoms appearing at the age of 6 (NIMH).

How do you know your child is struggling with anxiety? Here are some signs that may indicate that symptoms of anxiety:

1. Experiences excessive fear that is developmentally inappropriate
2. Has difficulty with transitions or coping with unexpected changes in their routine
3. Avoids or refuses to participate in particular activities
4. Experiences physical symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches
5. Cries, is irritable, or displays anger outbursts due to anxiety.

Sometimes it can be very frustrating to parent a child who feels anxious. However, there are helpful strategies that can ease the worry a child experiences. Here are some tips for parents and caregivers to consider if the child struggling with anxiety.

1. Label their feelings. Talk to your child about what anxiety is and the symptoms they may be experiencing. Parents should emphasize that anxiety is a normal feeling and that everyone experiences worry. Giving the anxiety a label or name will empower the child to challenge their fears.

2. Model how to cope with stressful situations. Parents are in the best position to show how to cope with anxiety. Try to demonstrate problem-solving strategies or positive self-talk when there opportunities arise.

3. Praise for small accomplishments. Children who worry often avoid things or situations that they are anxious of. Provide positive reinforcement when attempt to face their fears or take steps to challenge their worries.

4. Warning for transitions. If possible, give your child some warning of when transitions will be coming up. For example, preparing your child ready to start or end school can begin a few weeks prior to the transition. Give them opportunity to ask questions and express their worries.

5. Don’t punish your child for behaviors related to anxiety. Sometimes children may be irritable or oppositional. Often anxious children are not be trying to be purposefully disobedient but these behaviors are a result of avoiding things they fear and worry.

6. Seek professional help. If the anxiety becomes severe and interferes with your child’s functioning, it may be time to consider getting help. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment to address anxiety.


Information from the National Institute of Mental Health (http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety-disorders-in-children-and-adolescents/index.shtml) and “Practice Parameter for the Assessment and Treatment of Children and Adolescents with Anxiety Disorders.” 2007. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 46(2): 267-283.

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