So, you’re thinking about seeing a therapist, life coach or someone who can offer guidance and would like to look into therapy services in Chicago… Here are some commonly asked questions. by dan becco m.s.

Why am I so reluctant about seeing someone?

Maybe you have never seen a therapist or life coach before. You’re not sure if it will help. You don’t know what to do or expect and this is a time when you’re not sure about anything. Seeing a therapist or looking into therapy services in Chicago is something different and you’re not sure where to start or how to find someone who will understand. Besides you feel that you should be able to solve your own problems.

All of these feelings are quite normal and it is understandable why you are feeling this way. The fact is that there are millions of other people like you who are experiencing or who have experienced problems related to their emotional well~being. To put it simply, you are not alone. Unfortunately sometimes we may feel weak when we ask for help. The truth is that asking for help is an actual strength. It takes a lot of courage to admit that we do not know. that we are scared and lost. We have been trained to believe that we have to know and that it is wrong to be afraid. We are supposed to be strong, in control, and invincible. The other truth is that nobody can be perfect and that everybody needs help at some time. Sometimes a professionally trained guide can be someone who can help you through the bumps in life.

How do I know if I need help? 

Ask your self if you have been dissatisfied with the way you have been feeling? Are your feelings or emotions interfering with: work or school?, friendships or family relationships?, sleep?, eating?, sexuality?, general health?, self-esteem?, Have there been big changes recently that you are having trouble getting use to such as health? job status or responsibilities? living arrangements? relationships? or a financial situation? 

Is there a feeling or behavior that is getting worse? Do you think you have a difficult problem which is troubling you? do you just want someone to understand you or to listen to you? And is it something that you feel would be difficult to talk to someone close to you? Trust you gut. Therapy could really help and you won’t know unless you try it.

Can’t I just talk to a friend?

You could and it might help. But sometimes they may not be able to understand or be able to help you with your emotional problems. It may also be difficult for a friend to be completely objective because of the relationship with you. Other sources of help include the human resource office or employee assistance program at work. These people can offer some short-term help.

Does therapy and or life coaching work?

Yes, it can. We do know that it is difficult to scientifically measure how humans change, especially when we are all individually unique and that change is different for everyone. And, of course, we, humans, can be an unpredictable lot. But, still, the general consensus is that it does work. Consumer Reports in November, 1995 conducted the largest survey ever to query people on mental health care. The survey provides convincing evidence that therapy can make an important difference.

4000 readers were highly satisfied with the care that they received. Most had made strides toward resolving the problems that led to treatment, and almost all said life had become manageable. The survey showed that overall, psychotherapy works. It is safe to conclude that it is clearly superior to no treatment at all.

There is also very recent research out by Susan Vaughan, M. D. (1997) that shows what could be considered as scientific evidence, on how psychotherapy works. The process of therapy (or the repeated concentrated attention to core conflicts) actually alters the shape of our neurons, modifies the connection between nerve cells in the brain, and effects permanent changes in how we interact with the world. Just as repeated exercise can change the shape of our bodies, so can repeated attention to our conflicts, in the course of our work with a therapist, alter the shape of our minds!

How does therapy or life coaching work?

There are many theories, and everyone doesn’t agree. We are still exactly unsure as to how it really works. Some people look at therapy as a chance to experience major issues in their life, in a non-threatening relationship, with someone who has had special training to help and who is dedicated to that alone. It is a chance to have a nurturing, healthy, objective relationship. A place where you can say things that you might not be able to say anywhere else. It is a relationship with another human being that is different from any other relationship you have had. It is a place to heal, to understand, to gain insight, helping you to observe your life, to make choices, and to change.

The majority of people feel that it is the relationship of the client with the therapist or coach that matters most. Of course, the most important variable, byfar is that you trust your therapist. There may be times in the therapeutic process in which you are angry or upset with your therapist (this is normal) but at all times trust must be present. The next important variable would be competence. Training and experience are significant variables in this field. Therapists are humans. Humans make mistakes; therefore, therapists can be wrong. Paradoxically, it is easier to trust someone who admits they are wrong than to trust someone who believes they are always right. Therapy is first and foremost a process. In many ways, it parallels life. The simplest way to think of it is that two people, the therapist and the client, are focusing together on one person’s life. this kind of attention and concentration as mentioned before, can be powerful. Good therapy needs to be more than attention. There is a strong teaching component to all therapies. Some teaching styles are more directive, others are more covert and indirect. Teaching, retraining, rethinking, and restructuring need to be included in the change process.

Personally, I think of psychotherapy more as an art than science, so I am inclined to evaluate therapy as I would evaluate other artwork: subjectively, intuitively, aesthetically-with imagination and leaps of faith. Much of the time the process of therapy seems mysterious and almost magical. To heal is an emotional experience, beyond just understanding our problems. This makes the personality and availability of the therapist more significant than any technique he or she might use.

What about couple or marital therapy?

An objective, neutral third party can be helpful. A professional who can point out the way two people are interacting, right there in the room, can be useful in and of itself. Creating a safe environment so that two people can share their vulnerabilities can lead to a greater understanding of each other and ultimately to greater intimacy. Getting two people to really listen to each other can lead to healing. Receiving positive reinforcement for what the couple is doing well can be helpful.

One of the most nurturing things that couples can do is to get a mental health checkup periodically. Your therapist or life coach is not threatening. It is perfectly okay to ask for help when you have a question. Therapy is often more successful as a preventive measure or early intervention. Do you until you have pneumonia before you go to your doctor? Waiting until you have a crisis in your relationship is not nurturing and it perpetuates ruts. Working on your problems as they come up is comforting and rut defying. Often, because of the nature of intimate relationships, an issue that might have been driving you both crazy for years can be worked out in just a few visits to an objective, trained couples therapist. You go for a physical every two years, go for a mental health check-up every three years. Yes, therapist can be expensive but so is dinner out, and think how much better you might feel afterward.

We are ready to split up …is it worth it?

Maybe. Apart from physical or emotional abuse, therapy can be a way to sort things out. Even if therapy doesn’t bring about a reconciliation, it will at least give both partners some badly needed perspectives on the prospect of splitting up.

Could we be avoiding our problems or ignoring them?

Possibly. And this is where professional help can come in.

How long does it take?

It is hard to say. Therapy may require only a few sessions or many.

How much does it cost?

Cost varies. It depends on what the therapist is charging. If you cannot afford the full fee ask your therapist whether he or she will work at a reduced rate.

Will my insurance cover any of the cost?

That is up to your carrier. You need to ask them. Do not assume that they do. Every insurance company has their own stipulations. Remember that you are usually limited to a number of sessions so you might want to consider paying out of your own pocket. Many people do because they feel it is worth it.

How do I choose a therapist or coach in Chicago?

You could consider qualifications such as the therapist’s training and/or experience. But that will not necessarily guarantee a good “fit”. You should be looking for compatibility. You want a therapist who is courteous and empathetic and has a genuine. active concern for your welfare.

A therapist should be supportive without being intrusive. You can ask the therapist if he or she does initial consultations and if or if he or she charges for one. 

Helpful Links:

Identifying Limited Thinking Patterns and Creating Alternative Thoughts 

1) Filtering

You focus on the negative details while ignoring all the positive aspects of a situation. To create alternative thoughts, shift your focus by placing attention on coping strategies and/or attending to positive aspects of persons/situation.

2) Polarized Thinking

Things are seen as black or white, good or bad. You have to be perfect or you’re a failure. There’s no middle ground, no room for mistakes. To create alternative thoughts, stop making black or  white statements and think in terms of percentages.

3) Overgeneralization

You reach a general conclusion based on a single incident or piece of evidence. You exaggerate the frequency of problems and use negative global labels. To create alternative thoughts, quantify instead of using words like huge, awful, massive, minuscule. Also, examine how much evidence you really have for your conclusion. Replace absolutes with words such as may, sometimes and often. Replace negative labels with more neutral terms.

4) Mind Reading

Without they’re saying so, you know what people are feeling and why they act the way they do. In particular, you have certain knowledge of how people think and feel about you. To stop minding reading, make no inferences about people at all ask them why or how they feel about things. Ifit is not possible to ask (or you don’t want to) generate a list of possibilities, being careful not to draw conclusions.

5) Catastrophizing

You expect, even visualize disaster. You notice or hear about a problem and start asking, “What if?” What if tragedy strikes? What of it happens to you? To stop catastrophizing, ask yourself, “What are the odds?”

6) Magnifying

You exaggerate the degree or intensity of a problem. You turn up the volume on anything bad, making it loud, large, and overwhelming. To stop magnifying, don’t use words like terrible, awful, disgusting horrendous, etc. Remember that human beings can survive a great deal. Alternative statements; “I can cope.” “I can survive this. ”

7) Personalization

You assume that everything people do or say is some kind of reaction to you. You also compare yourself to others, trying to determine who is smarter, more competent, better looking, and so on. When you find yourself assuming that reactions of others are about you, check it out. Don’t conclude the reaction has to do with you unless you have asked or you have conclusive evidence. Remember that it is not constructive to compare yourself with others we are all too complex to reduce to simple comparisons. We each have both strong points and weak points.

8) Shoulds

You have a list of ironclad rules about how you and other people should act. People who break the rules anger you, and you feel guilty when you violate the rules. To stop this limited thinking pattern, reexamine and question any personal rules or expectations you have that include words such as should, ought and must. Reflect on your value system as something personal, not something to be imposed on others.

Unreasonable Should List: I should be the epitome of generosity, consideration, dignity, courage and unselfishness. I should be the perfect lover, friend, parent, teacher, student or spouse. I should be able to endure any hardship with equanimity.I should be able to find a quick solution to every problem. I should never feel hurt: I should always be happy and serene. I should know, understand and foresee everything. I should always be spontaneous, but also always control my feelings. I should never feel certain emotions, such as anger or jealousy. I should love my children equally. I should never make mistakes. My emotions should be constant. Once I feel love, I should always feel love. I should be totally self-reliant. I should assert myself but I should never hurt anybody else. I should never be tired or get sick. I should always be at peak efficiency.

9) Emotional Reasoning

You reason from how you feel: “I feel like an idiot, so I must be one. Or I don’t feel like doing this, so I’ll put it off.” 


Wellness in the Workplace:

Post by Dr. Rachel Permuth-Levine, Sr. Director, Outcomes-Based Research, toLive at Sodexo.

In these times of uncertainty, managing stress has become more challenging than ever. Workplace stress, in particular, seems to only escalate. Between fearing that your position may be eliminated or managing the increased responsibilities on your plate due to downsizing, going to work in the morning seems more and more like an episode of “Survivor.”

The good news is that there are tools that address this growing level of workplace anxiety. The benefits of these tools reach well beyond your office into every aspect of your life: family, friends and overall health and wellness.

Workplace wellness programs – such as those focusing on yoga and stress management – can help not only individual employees but also the entire culture of an organization. According to the Kaiser Foundation, workplace wellness programs are offered by employers in an effort to combine educational, organizational and environmental activities and often “consist of health education, screening, and interventions designed to change employees’ behavior in order to achieve better health and reduce the associated health risks.” In addition to improving employee health, these programs have an ancillary benefit of helping to manage the rising cost of employer-based health plans. It’s a win-win for employer and employee.

According to Dr. Michael Donovan, co-creator of NIH CORE Week, when employers initiate proactive health plans, “People lose weight, start – and stick to – group exercise programs and improve their eating habits. Once people notice their colleagues’ health improving, there seems to be a domino effect and they want to get involved, too.”

So, how can you develop yoga and stress-management programming for employees in your organization? It’s not as hard as you might think to get started. When creating any type of new program, start small, evaluate how your program is being received, and build from there. Here are some steps to keep in mind:

Make sure the boss agrees! There is no use starting up innovative programming for employees if your boss and upper management are NOT on board. Get approval!

Start small. In the case of a stress management program, why not start with a lecture once per month on various elements of combating stress? For instance, you can start off with a lecture on finding work/home balance; the second month might focus on dealing with negative thought patterns, and the third month on breathing and meditation techniques, and so on.

There are plenty of free resources to use in your planning. Articles on the web from wellness companies like WELCOA can be shared with employees (with appropriate credit given, of course). They are short and have manageable strategies that are easy to implement.

Yoga classes are a great way to create mind-body awareness and to destress. Often companies become frustrated if they don’t have a dedicated fitness space or gym. Luckily, yoga can be practiced just about anywhere. All you need is a conference room where you can move the furniture completely out of the way (no tables, no chairs), and you can fit as many as a dozen yoga mats. In the event that you have a conference room where you can’t move the furniture, you can have a class that offer yoga stretches “for the desk and office.”

If you start with a yoga program, create a three to six week session to allow employees to try it out. Let people try yoga classes so that they can experience benefits first hand. Make the classes accessible, low-cost, and at the beginner or even intro level. Encourage your company to subsidize the classes, and if that isn’t a possibility, see if a group rate can be worked out with a potential instructor.

Emphasize the benefits of yoga and stress management. Yoga and other forms of stress management can improve morale, improve mood (almost immediately), increase productivity, and help muscular pain. The benefits go on and on. Many employees are self conscious about being labeled as “stressed out.” Promoting yoga programs as those that can increase energy and improve mood – and reduce that stressed out feeling – everyone wins.

Create some buzz. For employees to reap the benefits of your program, they have to know about it! Put up posters on company bulletin boards and in the restrooms, create targeted emails, post information on your intranet and advertise in your cafeterias. Do whatever you can to make sure the message gets out. You may also wish to offer a health-related raffle prize or give-away at your seminars, such as a backpack filled with health magazines or products.

If you need to look outside your organization for a yoga instructor, a good place to begin your research would be calling around to your local studios or through Yoga Alliance, who may also be able to provide guidance on appropriate rate structures.

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For more information: Also, if you want to discuss workforce health – join our discussion on Linkedin.

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Decisions, decisions . . .

Trying to use the mind to figure things out can be a drawback. The mind can go into overthink and it over processes all the possibilities creating anxiety and a feeling of being overwhelmed.  Rather than overthink an upcoming event, it helps to “let go” of the event that is in the future.  Letting go can mean different things to people. Sometimes it means trying to stay in the present moment, utilizing techniques like focusing on the breath or practicing a moving meditation like yoga. Yoga in particular gives the mind much to focus on like the postures themselves. There’s little room to ruminate on an upcoming event.  Sometimes it helps to just express the thoughts and feeling with some other trusted person.  This is a form of letting go or surrender.  While it’s important to take some action steps that are humanely possible,  it’s also important to stat away from thinking in the outcome zone.  One cannot control the outcome of our actions.  We can take actions that we feel are best to do and learn from them.  Sometimes fear enters the picture when we fear making a wrong decision.  This can be a large distortion in our head.  Trust that you are being guided by something greater than you and relax if you can; enjoying the adventure of not knowing what is around the corner.  In most cases you will get information that will help you with your decisions.  This is known as “more shall be revealed.”  Personally, I learn by doing.  It’s the ”doing” that gives me the best lessons.  And sometimes we need the same lesson repeatedly.  Usually there is also information about a decision that is given to us with a certain timing that helps things to work out.  If we are futurizing, it is difficult to see this natural occurrence of life as it happens.   A playful attitude is also helpful when we make our decisions.  Laughing about a particular predicament is a great stress reliever and talking with someone who has a good sense of humor can really help.  It also is useful to try to remember that worry and fear doesn’t help too much.  It can even compromise our actions with desperation.  Some fear is good because it motivates us towards action.  But typically the mind goes into over drive.  We are not are thoughts.  The mind is it’s own little monster and  because it’s our “CPU”, we tend to identify with our thoughts as if they are laminated to us.  Meditation helps us to observe the thoughts as being little devils in themselves and to notice them and then to watch them float away if possible.  Look at other areas of your life where you had some trust and how things worked out.  This helps to support a belief that things will be ok.  If we do this often enough and have others remind us that this is the case, we can then  develop trust and faith as we traverse a bumpy road.

Intellectualizing . . .

Intellectualizing something greater than ourselves, like god, the universe, goddess, etc. gets us nowhere. How can the mind grasp something that it cannot understand?  It wants to and tries and when it can’t “wrap his or her arms” around an entity that it does not understand, then the mind rejects it as not existing or doubts the existence.  This compromises our spirituality and when we are faced with what looks like insurmountable situations we get discouraged and more negative thoughts flood the mind. If you’re going to use your mind to try to understand a higher power, god, the now, whatever you would like to call it, you’re trying to explain the internet to an ant.  The mind can’t handle it. So let go and try to believe based on other things that have worked out in your life and eventually you’ll have some faith.

Asking for what you want . . .

It takes a certain amount of courage to ask for what you want. After all we all have talents that should be expressed and ultimately be of service in this world of ours.  Think of a problem that is out there and how you can possibly solve it be offering your skills.  It’s a different mindset.  Instead of being afraid and not asking, it feels much better to ask.  You’ll feel like your coming from a sense of empowerment.  And it is up to the other party to decide if they want what you got.  They may not.  The result is up to The Universe.   Feel good that you showed up, did your best and talked about how you are worth it, and how you can serve them and others by being your best.  If you’re having trouble doing this, ask for support before you show up and ask for what you want. You can get support and encouragement to do so; otherwise you may drown in a sea of doubt.  It leads to other acts of believing in yourself down the line.  And if you’re using your talents to help others then, you are being of service to yourself and the other party. It is as simple as that. Let me know how it goes.

How do you get to that level of deep trust . . .?

It’s not easy, when for most of your life you haven’t trusted in The Universe, Higher Power, etc. etc. Well one way to do it is to talk to other people and ask them how they are doing it.  Look for peeps that have that sense of trust. You can hear it when they speak. Another way is to look back on your life and see where trust worked out.  It’s a process and it’s very important in the beginning in any spiritual tradition.

10 top things not to do on first dates.

1) Spend more than 2.5 hours together

2) Tell or reveal too much.

3) Be something other than your self.

4) Complain.

5) Try to have more than just fun.

6) Get physical.

7) Talk only about yourself.

8) Listen with out curiosity.

9) Future-ize.

10) Be overly serious.

This is great for couples:

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1. I really dig the fact that you . . .

Appreciation : We all need to feel loved, appreciated and valued each day. Use an “I” message and say something like, “I really appreciate your taking the time to go out of your way and find the store that had the 60 inch shoelaces I needed for my hiking boots.” It’s wise to be very specific about what you appreciate and to express it in a tone of voice that communicates genuineness and sincerity.

2. Hey guess what’s up with me?

 Share some new Knowledge or Information. It could be an item you read in that day’s newspaper, a magazine or a book. You might say, “I was amazed to read today that___.”

3. Hey I was wondering about . . .

Express Puzzlement at some behavior of your spouse. Say “I’m curious about___” or “I’m puzzled by ___.”

4. I’d like to let you know . . .

Complaints with Requests for Change : Use “I” message. For example, “I feel uncomfortable when you do or say___. I’d really like you to do or say ___.” Ideally, use a positive “I” message rather than a negative “you” message. Say “I really feel loved when you take out the garbage without me reminding you to do it,” instead of “You never take out the garbage unless I ask you to do it.”

5. It would be awesome if . . .

Wishes, Hopes, and Dreams : This is a fun one but it may require some introspection to connect with my hidden wishes, hopes and dreams. Some examples are: “I wish we’d have a date night once each week.” “My hope is that we grow in love and enjoy our old age together.” “My lifelong dream is for the two of us to spend a two week vacation in Hawaii.”

Feel free to add or delete to this format. You might want to add some form of humor or a joke. Other possible topics are God, Death, Sex or Money. The most important thing is to enjoy your time and to not argue about the content. Remember! ENJOYyour time together. Take the time to connect with one another every day. A coupleship is like a house built on sand. It has to be rebuilt every day.


2 Responses to Resources/Articles

  1. This is a topic that is close to my heart… Best wishes!
    Where are your contact details though?

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