September 24, 2019

Stress Headaches

Posted in Mindfulness, Well-being tagged , , , , at 8:00 am by kellyfdennis

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One question that I often get asked is “Can stress cause headaches?” Yes! Distress can cause activation of the primitive part of our brains, the one responsible for the flight, fight, freeze response. When this part of the brain is activated, chemicals begin coursing through our bodies, readying us to react. These chemicals have various functions, but one is muscle contraction or tension. The body’s stress response, when chronically activated, can cause insomnia, prolonged muscle tension, tightening or “holding” of the muscles (do you find yourself clenching your jaw when stressed?). All of these reactions can cause headaches.

The good news is that mindfulness meditation can help you to pay more attention to your bodily reactions. If you are aware that you’re tensing, you can actively breathe and relaxing. If you become aware that you are ruminating, you can learn to actively stay in the present moment (rumination is a common cause of insomnia). Check out my website for information about upcoming mindfulness meditation workshops, classes, and retreats! Tension headaches can become a thing of the past!

July 16, 2019

Mindfulness Meditation to Reduce Stress

Posted in Compassion, Mindfulness, Well-being tagged , , , , , , at 11:49 am by kellyfdennis

landscape photography of white mountain*

Saturday, August 17, 2019 from 9:00 am-10:45 am. Location: Counseling office: 304 N. George St., Millersville, PA 17551

This workshop is designed to introduce and practice the concepts of mindfulness and mindfulness meditation strategies in a purposeful way in order to facilitate the integration of mindfulness into your daily life.

As Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. It’s about knowing what is on your mind.” As we learn to create intentional present moment awareness, we begin to see changes in our lives that reduce stress. We learn to relate to our difficulties in life with more openness, compassion, and acceptance.

Mindfulness Meditation practices will include: Attention and awareness, Mindfulness of breath and body, Sensory mindfulness, Mindful movement

Each session will be a combination of practice, lecture, and group discussion. Each session is taught in a supportive environment with no more than 8 people. This workshop is suitable for all levels of mindfulness meditation experience.

Cost: $50.00 Kelly F. Dennis MS LPC is the facilitator. Please contact Kelly to sign up or for further information: (717) 951-0266 or

*Photo by Julius Silver on

December 19, 2018

Do You Struggle with Making Decisions?

Posted in cognitive behavioral therapy, Well-being tagged , , , at 10:06 am by kellyfdennis

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Try This:

STEP 1: Identify the decision to be made. You realize that a decision must be made. Your awareness may be triggered by a variety of things: the need to declare a major, pressure from friends and family to make a vocational choice, or a general sense of dissatisfaction or unease. You then go through an internal process of trying to define clearly the nature of the decision you must make.

STEP 2: Gather relevant information. Most decisions require collecting pertinent information. The real trick in this step is to know what information is needed, the best sources of information, and how to get it. Some information must be sought from within yourself through a process of self-analysis; other information must be sought from outside yourself-books, people, and other sources.

STEP 3: Identify alternatives. Through the process of collecting information you will probably identify two or more possible paths of action. You may also use your imagination and information to construct new alternatives.

STEP 4: Weigh evidence. Draw on your information and emotions to imagine what it would be like if you carried out each of the alternatives to the end. You must evaluate whether the problem or need identified in Step 1 would be helped or solved through the use of each alternative. Eventually you are able to place the available alternatives in priority order, based upon your own value system.

STEP 5: Choose among alternatives. Once you have weighed all the evidence, you are ready to select the alternative that seems to be best suited to you. You may even choose a combination of alternatives.

STEP 6: Take action. You now take some positive action that begins to implement the alternative you choose in Step 5.

STEP 7: Review decision and consequences. In this step you experience the results of your decision and evaluate whether or not it has “solved” or helped to solve the problem in Step 1. If yes, you may stay with the decision. If no, you may repeat certain steps of the process in order to make a new decision.

November 28, 2018

Managing Stress With Self Compassion

Posted in Compassion, Mindfulness, Self Image, Well-being tagged , , , , , at 9:55 am by kellyfdennis

cornandcloudssideSaturday, January 19, 2018 9-11am

Counseling office: 304 N. George St., Millersville, PA

In mindfulness meditation, individuals strive to cultivate a greater awareness of the present moment. By increasing their mindfulness, participants in this stress management workshop aim to reduce their overall arousal and emotional reactivity and to gain a deeper sense of calm.

This workshop also adds the component of self compassion in the management of stress. Self compassion is being aware in the present moment when we are experiencing moments of fear, confusion, inadequacy and other similar stressors, and responding to those feelings with kindness and understanding.  This practice helps in letting self-instilled stressors go, and brings you kindly to focus on the present moments. Highly recommended for those that tend to lose self-focus to past and future possible stressors.

In this workshop you will learn/experience:

-How to make stress your ally

-What is lovingkindness and participate in a lovingkindness meditation

-Breathing Space Meditation

-Gratitude, the antidote for stress

-How to cultivate self appreciation

Each session will be a combination of practice, lecture, and group discussion. Each session is taught in a supportive environment with no more than 15 people. The sessions are open to all ages, backgrounds, and religions.

Kelly F. Dennis MS LPC is the Facilitator. Contact to reserve your space

Cost: $75.00


October 20, 2018

Update: self Compassion Workshop

Posted in Mindfulness, Self Image, Well-being tagged , , , , , , , at 11:35 am by kellyfdennis

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The first Self compassion workshop was well received. Thanks to those who attended. Self compassion is such an important topic right now, but it can be misunderstood. I think the research done by Kristin Neff and colleagues has brought to light that we will experience less depression, anxiety, stress, and a decrease in many negative behaviors if we learn to talk to and treat ourselves as we would a good friend (that’s self compassion).

Join me on my journey to offer a series of workshops on this topic. Each workshop will be unique, so even if you’ve attended one, you will benefit from the others as well.

Next up: Intro to mindfulness meditation: 11/3/18 & 11/10/18.

October 13, 2018

Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation

Posted in Mindfulness, Well-being tagged , , , , , at 6:33 am by kellyfdennis

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Saturday, November 3, 2018 & Saturday, November 10, 2018

9:00 am-11:30 am

Counseling office: 304 N. George St., Millersville, PA 17551

This 2-session course is designed to introduce the concepts of mindfulness and mindfulness strategies in a purposeful way in order to facilitate the integration of mindfulness into your daily life.

“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. It’s about knowing what is on your mind,” Jon Kabat-Zinn. As we learn to create purposeful present moment awareness we begin to see the changing of things in our lives that cause us stress. We learn to relate to our difficulties in life with more openness, compassion, and acceptance.

Mindfulness concepts covered will include:

Mindfulness and the scientific research

Mindfulness of the breath and body

Obstacles to mindfulness

Mindfulness with difficult emotions

Mindfulness with difficult thoughts

Mindfulness Meditation practices will include:

Mindfulness of breath and body

Sensory mindfulness

Mindful eating

Mindful movement

Each session will be a combination of practice, lecture, and group discussion. Each session is taught in a supportive environment with no more than 15 people. The sessions are open to all ages, backgrounds, and religions.

Cost: $150.00 for 2 sessions and materials needed for the course.

Kelly F. Dennis MS LPC is the facilitator. Please contact Kelly to sign up or for further information: (717) 951-0266 or

October 6, 2018

Counseling for Individuals with a Cancer Diagnosis

Posted in cognitive behavioral therapy, Well-being tagged , , at 6:35 am by kellyfdennis


Cancer is the number two killer in the United States after heart disease. One in every four people will develop cancer. In general, there are three basic forms of cancer based on the part of the body that is affected: sarcomas (bone or soft tis- sue), carcinomas (surface tissue, such as lung, breast, colon), and leukemias or lymphomas (bone marrow or lymph nodes). (Read the full ACBT article here)

When individuals are first diagnosed with cancer there is often a reaction of disbelief accompanied by many negative emotions, which can include depression, anxiety, and extreme fear. Fears include apprehension about the disease itself, its treatment, doubts about the success of the treatment, and how the cancer and its treatment may affect one’s life. Physical and psychological reactions can change over time (for instance, with a change in type of treatment, or after fol- low-up tests, etc.) as the cancer either gets worse or goes away. Generally, the more widespread the disease, and the more physical impairment or disfigure- ment, the more difficult it may be to adjust psychologically to the disease. Difficulties in adjustment can interfere with day to day living, work, and relation- ships with significant others.

What Is Coping? What Affects Coping?

The better a patient can cope with the cancer, the more likely that he or she can enjoy a better quality of life. In order to deal with cancer, individuals engage in behaviors to directly address the disease; for example, choosing a problem-oriented approach to help with decisions around the type of treat- ment and where the treatment will be taken. Other, more personal, examples include redefining self-worth and realizing one’s control over the disease process. Having a reason to live, such as caring for a family, wanting to con- tribute to a business or charity, or continuing a favorite hobby, is especially helpful in coping with cancer.

An individual’s ability to cope is affected by the cancer’s severity, how far it has spread, the degree of physical debilitation, the person’s view of himself or herself and his or her purpose in life, social supports, and whether the cancer is terminal.

Positive relationships with others help the patient adjust. Individuals need to feel that they can develop and maintain warm and trusting relationships. How friends and family adjust to the diagnosis can greatly affect the cancer patient’s ability to cope with the disease. If family and friends react with denial or disbelief, or blame the patient for causing the cancer, this may lead to poorer adjustment. Conversely, having friends and family who accept the diagnosis and maintain the same warm and close relationship that existed before helps the cancer patient’s adjustment. Care providers who are open, who provide accurate information regarding disease expectations, outcomes, and sensory experiences greatly assist the cancer patient’s ability to cope with this traumatic illness.

Behavior Therapy

One area that has been the focus of most of the research for psychological interventions is the use of relaxation training (learning to relax certain muscle groups, or biofeedback) to reduce chemotherapy treatment side effects. Relaxation training is effective in reducing anxiety, nausea, and vomiting, both before and after chemotherapy. Strategies for reducing stress, including relaxation training and education about particular medical procedures, also help reduce anxiety and increase compliance with the doctor’s treatment rec- ommendations.

There are several goals in the use of behavior therapy with cancer patients. The first goal is to help the individual learn to problem solve around dealing with the disease, its treatment and side effects, and to increase feelings of con- trol over the disease. The second goal of behavior therapy approaches is to address specific problems, such as sexual dysfunction, which the cancer or cancer treatment(s) may cause. A third goal of behavioral approaches is to deal with compliance issues that may directly affect the success of medical treatments for the cancer.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Individuals with cancer often have many fears and misconceptions about the disease, its outcome, its treatments, and their own ability to cope. Cognitive behavioral approaches can help patients to identify negative beliefs that may hinder their ability to accept the diagnosis and cope with the disease. Once dysfunctional beliefs are identified, individuals can challenge these neg- ative thoughts, develop more rational responses, and think more positively, particularly regarding their role in adjusting to the disease. The ability to examine negative thoughts objectively and to replace them with more posi- tive, adaptive thoughts greatly enhances quality of life. Cognitive therapies are also used to help individuals who are terminally ill to accept or reduce their fear of death and dying. Other cognitive strategies involve imagery in conjunc- tion with relaxation training.

October 4, 2018

Psychology and Headaches

Posted in cognitive behavioral therapy, Well-being tagged , , , at 6:00 am by kellyfdennis

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Photo by Public Domain Pictures on

Doctors have long noted a link between stress and headaches. Stress can be related to headache in three ways. Stress can directly set off the biological events underlying headache. Stress can intensify an existing headache. The prolonged presence of a headache can itself begin to exert a psychological toll (or stress) on the individual. The person becomes “sick and tired of feeling sick and tired”. Depression and anxiety sometimes occur in people with headaches of long-standing, unremitting origin. (see the full ABCT article here.)

Behavior Therapy Treatment Approaches

The behavior therapist first assists the patient in studying factors that might bring on, maintain, or worsen headaches. The patient may be asked to keep track of these factors each day. This is done with a “headache diary.” The patient also rates pain, frequency, severity, and duration. The information is helpful in judging progress during treatment. Three behavior therapy tech- niques have been developed for use with headache patients: biofeedback ther- apy, relaxation training, and stress coping training.


Biofeedback teaches patients how to control the bodily processes that bring about headache. For example, in the treatment of tension headache, sensors are attached to the affected muscles (on the skin surface) so that the patient is provided ongoing information, or “feedback,” about activity in the monitored muscles. Armed with this information, the patient strives to lower the muscle activity to a more acceptable level. This is a way of alleviating pain. Biofeedback therapy for migraine involves teaching patients one of two ways to control the body. One way is through control of hand surface temperature. This provides a good index of nervous-system arousal and blood flow. Another way is through monitoring blood flow in the temple area. This is a common site of migraine.

Relaxation Skills

Relaxation also teaches control of one’s body. A common relaxation method is to do a series of exercises. The exercises involve tensing and releasing muscles. This helps the patient to feel relaxed. Biofeedback works with specific bodily response systems. Relaxation works on the entire body.

Stress Coping

Stress coping training provides patients with a general set of problem solv- ing or coping skills. These can be used to manage a wide range of situations

associated with headache. This treatment uses various cognitive and behav- ioral treatment methods. These keep stress factors more manageable. Patients may be taught how to become less reactive emotionally. They may be taught to interpret potentially upsetting situations more objectively. They are taught to manage time, interpersonal situations, and the like. They are also taught to react better to the psychological distress that can result from chron- ic headache itself. Often the behavior therapist will combine all of these methods.

October 2, 2018

Health Psychology

Posted in Mindfulness, Well-being tagged , , at 11:54 am by kellyfdennis

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(From the “Whatispsychology” website):

Health psychology can be defined as the study of how biological, environmental, psychological and sociocultural factors influence health, healthcare and illness.

Instead of adopting a strictly biological view of illness, health psychologists recognize that many forms of illnesses, such as cardiovascular diseases, HIV/AIDS, and cancer, are triggered and/or exacerbated by psychological and social factors. They therefore embrace a biopsychosocial view of illness – biological factors include inherited conditions, personality characteristics and physiological make-up; psychological factors involve one’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours;  and social factors may include one’s level of social support as well as family and cultural values.

October is health psychology month. I’ll be sending articles your way about the intersection of illness and psychology. The mind-body connection is strong!

August 12, 2018

Why Am I Still So Depressed?

Posted in cognitive behavioral therapy, Mindfulness, Self Image, Well-being tagged , , , , , , at 2:55 pm by kellyfdennis

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Major Depressive disorder has been identified by the World Health Organization as the most debilitating illness worldwide. There are many therapies, medicines, treatments and it still remains the most debilitating illness. One reason for this is that it seems that depression is subjectively experienced differently by each person it affects. One form of treatment that touches on most of the aspects of depression is Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression (MBCT).
•Combines cognitive behavioral techniques with mindfulness strategies in order to help individuals better understand and manage their thoughts and emotions in order to achieve relief from feelings of distress.
•Helps clients learn how to recognize their sense of being and see themselves as separate from their thoughts (inner critic) and moods. This disconnect can allow people to become liberated from thought patterns in which the same negative messages may be replayed over and over.
•During MBCT, I help the person acknowledge that even though these thoughts feel like “truths” in those  moments of feeling low, in fact they are just the symptoms of depression.
•Becoming aware, through mindfulness, that the thoughts are “just the depression voice talking” allows them to step back from the thoughts and decide how seriously they need to take them.
•Perhaps, learning to just notice them, acknowledge them, and let them go.
Schedule an appointment today to talk about using this therapy to help you to feel better!

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