February 24, 2014

Art Therapy as a Way to Self Soothe

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 8:51 pm by kellyfdennis

ImageIn her book, The Art Therapy Sourcebook, art therapist Cathy Malchiodi describes various art exercises for a variety of individuals. Art is often used in therapy to help clients work through difficult emotions and express them in a way that’s meaningful to them. This art activity is designed to create a space for soothing, after the difficult emotions are dealt with.

 Self Soothing Image Book:

You can use images to “self-soothe and create positive sensations,” Malchiodi says in her book. For this exercise, you’ll need 10 or more sheets of 8 ½ x 11-inch paper, magazines, colored paper, collage materials, scissors and glue.

Start by thinking about pleasant sensory experiences, such as landscapes, sounds, scents, tastes, textures and anything else that makes you feel tranquil or happy; and write them down. Cut out images that match those experiences out of your magazines and other collage materials.

Then paste those images onto the paper. You can organize the images by composition or textures, the environment and other categories. Pull together all your papers, create a cover and figure out how you’d like to bind your book. (For instance, you can punch holes in the papers and put them in a binder.)

Afterward, write down your general thoughts and feelings. And specifically, think about how you felt while choosing the images. Ask yourself “Which sensory images did I favor over others? Why?” Continue adding to your book whenever you like.

February 23, 2014

That Nasty Girl

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 3:06 pm by kellyfdennis

ImageMost of us have an internal dialogue running inside of our minds. Some psychologists have called it the “Pathological Critic”, or “Negative Internal Dialogue”. I call it the “Nasty Girl (or guy) Who Lives Inside Your Head”. Whatever you call it, it can lead to low self-esteem, negative mood, even withdrawal from others.

The people who sit across from me are often surprised when we begin to talk about this and I ask, “Do you believe what she says?” Usually, the answer is yes, but in asking the question, I have already planted the seed that maybe, just maybe, that Nasty Girl is lying to you.

She comes from many different places, and it’s not the same for everyone. She may be echoing the words of over critical parents, teachers, and/or coaches; bullying from peers, or negative words heard in an abusive relationship. Some people can’t exactly pinpoint where she first originated, but the affects of her words can be detrimental.

Once you begin to tune into what she’s saying (thinking about your thinking), you can begin to feel curious as to the truth (or not) of her words. So, she tells you you’re “not good enough”, “not good enough” for what? She tells you that you don’t deserve to take good care of yourself, why not?

Begin to challenge her. When she tells you something, write down the evidence that she might be right, but also write down the evidence that she might actually be wrong. In the beginning she’ll fight you on this, but over time, you’ll come to see that she only has a one sided view of situations, thoughts, and feelings. Over time, you may even begin to wear her down and turn down the volume on her voice.

February 18, 2014

The Lost Art of Sleep

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , at 3:17 pm by kellyfdennis

ImageSleep has become misunderstood in the last decade or so. Recently, with the advances in neuroscience, we are coming to the conclusion that sleep is way more important than most of us realize. Studies have shown sleep deprivation causes poor impulse control, decreased empathy, and memory impairment.

Many of us have had difficulty sleeping at one time or another. For countless others, though, regular, restful, consistent sleep is difficult to achieve. There are many reasons for sleep disturbances that I will not address in this article; however, there are some tried and true techniques that may aid you in getting to sleep faster, staying asleep longer and snoozing more consistently through the night.

One term for the healthy rituals and habits of sleep promotion is called sleep hygiene. It refers to the ways in which we can change the way we take care of ourselves during the day and before we want to fall asleep, that promote healthy sleep. There are dozens of articles written on this subject, but I want to address sleep hygiene specifically related to anxiety and stress.

One of the main reasons for difficulty in getting to sleep mentioned by the people who sit across from me in counseling is “busy mind”. They tell me that they can’t shut off their minds and sleep eludes them. One strategy I recommend for this is journaling.  Done a few hours before bed, the act of writing out your thoughts, feelings, concerns, to do lists, etc. can be very helpful in “letting go.” You can even symbolize the “closing of the book” on the thoughts and cares of the day when you close your journal for the day.

Another effective tool is visualization. After you’ve taken a soothing, warm bath, changed into comfortable jammies, and dimmed the lights in your bedroom; take a few slow deep breaths and visualize a warm, peaceful place that you’ve been or would like to go. As you breathe in, imagine the details of this place filling your mind; as you breathe out, let the tension and thoughts of the day slip away.

These are just two in a very long list of simple strategies. If you find that you need a little more help falling asleep faster and curing insomnia, try this sleep hygiene program* recommended by the National Sleep Foundation using research proven methods to help you with restful, consistent sleep.

Until next time…embrace those things in your life that lead to wellness.

 *There are some links contained in my blog and website that I may benefit from financially. If you purchase a product or service upon following one of my links, I may receive a small commission. Thanks for supporting me!

February 16, 2014

Thinking About Thinking

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , at 3:55 pm by kellyfdennis

I am similar to many other counselors who use an “eclectic” theoretical approach when counseling. However, I’d have to say that I do use a large percentage of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques when counseling. I use these techniques for a couple of reasons: CBT is empirically based, which just means that there has been a substantial amount of research confirming its efficacy; I find the techniques are easy for clients to understand; and the approach just makes sense.

figure-thinking-with-question-mark-100152866Essentially, the premise behind CBT is that the way we think affects they way we feel,which inturn affects the way we behave. See, it just makes sense! The tricky part for most people is learning how to “think about one’s thinking”. Generally, we go about our days on autopilot; we may not even be aware of the “thinking” going on inside our minds. Remember when you were first learning how to drive? You had to consciously think, “I’m turning left, so turn on the left turn signal. I’m stopping, so I need to gently apply my foot on the brake.” Now, if you’re an experienced driver, those thoughts happen pretty much outside of your conscious awareness.

Similar thoughts happen for us on a daily basis. We’re going along on our merry way and, for what seems like no reason at all, we begin to feel blue, anxious, irritated, etc. Most of us look for a person or a situation to blame for this feeling when really, it’s caused by a thought that we are having.  So, you might be saying “No, that doesn’t seem right, if a guy cuts me off in traffic, I get mad because he’s a jerk!” Well, to a certain degree that’s true…but you get mad because the thought you’re having is, “That guy’s a jerk!” What if the thought you had was, “I guess he just didn’t see me coming.”? Hmm…maybe you wouldn’t feel so angry.

Something to “think” about, isn’t it?

Until next time, embrace those things in your life that lead to wellness.

February 14, 2014

Anxiety…Friend or Foe?

Posted in cognitive behavioral therapy tagged , , , , , , at 4:15 pm by kellyfdennis

anxiety-fear-puzzle-means-anxious-and-afraid-100236308Many of the clients with whom I work struggle with anxiety; we all have a little anxiety. It helps us study harder for tests, or to be more cautious in a dark alley late at night. Anxiety is adaptive and helpful in normal amounts. However, sometimes, our normal anxiety gets ramped up. Our primitive flight or flight response switch gets triggered when it really doesn’t need to be. Our heart rate increases, our breathing becomes shallow, all of our physical resources rally to confront the danger…but there really is no danger. The “danger” switched got flipped when it didn’t need to be flipped.

This kind of anxiety for some people becomes a panic attack. Fear increases to the point where s/he thinks s/he is going crazy or is going to die of a heart attack. It becomes debilitating because once a panic attack happens, the person then becomes fearful that a panic attack will happen again and takes great precautions not to have this happen. The individual may stop going to places with a lot of people, may stop riding mass transit, and may stop interacting with friends. The fear of having a panic attack becomes all-encompassing.

For others anxiety manifests in social situations; the individual becomes increasingly self-conscious to the point of desiring to leave the situation. There are also people who become severely anxious around feared objects or animals.

There are many different forms of anxiety. If you find that the amount of anxiety you are experiencing is causing any of the symptoms above or is getting in the way of being able to work or have relationships, then it’s time to get it checked out. The first stop should be to you primary care physician to make sure there aren’t any underlying medical conditions that can masquerade as anxiety. If not, then give therapy a try. Cognitive-Behavioral therapy has been found to be very beneficial in the treatment of anxiety disorders. There are also some helpful visualizations and grounding exercises on my You Tube Channel. I hope you’ll check them out and help yourself on the journey to feeling better!

Be Well and Have A Wonderful Day!


February 13, 2014

What to expect in your first counseling session

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 5:05 pm by kellyfdennis

I met an individual at the local café the other day and we started chatting. She stated that she thought she would benefit from counseling, but was hesitant to make an appointment because she had no idea what to expect. This was causing her undue anxiety. I explained to her what would happen; she felt much better and set up an appointment. As a result, I thought it might be helpful to outline what you can expect at your first appointment.

 Once you decide to make an appointment and give me a call, I’ll take some info over the phone, ask you about any insurance you might want to use to pay, and ask you for a brief summary of why you’re seeking counseling. After that, we’ll move to setting up your first appointment, called an intake evaluation. I’ll direct you to my website (www.kellyfdennis.com) to print out some new client paperwork for you to fill out before you get to my office.

 When you get to your appointment, I’ll review the paperwork you completed and have one more piece of paperwork for you to complete. Then we’ll process your payment and I’ll begin to ask you some questions to give more details about the reasons you’re seeking counseling. I’ll ask you some questions about your family history, schooling, social relationships; as well as questions about things in your life currently, such as job and/or school, current relationships.

Then we’ll talk about the current symptoms you are experiencing that are, or may be, a part of the reason you’re seeking counseling and what coping skills you might already be using.

 I think therapy works better when you take an active role (rather than just responding to only my questions). Therapy is really a team effort; I am trained to ask the right questions, but I’m not a mind reader, so feel free to add information that you believe might be pertinent. It can be helpful to write down some things that are bothering you ahead of time when you’re not feeling nervous.

 In addition, try to be open and honest with your emotions.  Many clients have apologized for becoming tearful or expressing their feelings vociferously in their first session. This is not bothersome for me and actually helps me to understand your situation better.

 Finally, try to come to therapy with realistic expectations. It is not a quick fix. Working through problems takes time, effort, and commitment to the therapy process. With effort on your part and a strong therapeutic relationship, it can be a successful tool toward resolving problems.

 Until next time…Be Well!Image

February 9, 2014

One Winter’s Day

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 3:35 pm by kellyfdennis


So, it’s been forever since I’ve posted…I kept thinking I didn’t have anything to say that hasn’t already been said. However, during a recent counseling session, a client said, “I get it; you’ve been saying the same things in different ways, but I finally get it!” So that got me to thinking, maybe a person needs to hear what’s already been said; maybe it will be the way I say it that makes a difference. Therefore, I am going to blog about topics you may have heard about before, but from my point of view. My clients call them “Kelly-isms”. Feel free to comment and interact, but remember to respect one another’s confidentiality, as this is a blog about counseling after all!

Have a Happy Winter Day!


ponderings on life, food, God, and love

Grace on the Moon

Do Not Weigh Your Self-Esteem on a Scale

on anything and everything

my thoughts on what I see