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WELLNESS WEDNESDAY : Financial Wellness

6 Apr 2018 00:06


Wellness Wednesday: Financial Wellness
Financial wellness is the capacity to plan and manage income and expenditures. When someone is struggling financially it can affect their physical, emotional, and spiritual health. The stress from financial worries can affect your academic performance, interpersonal relationships, and your job.
Financial Wellness Includes:
     Managing a monthly budget
     Paying expenses
     Understanding loans, interest, payment obligations, and credit cards
     Understanding the financial impact of one’s decisions
Signs of Financial Wellness:
     Learning how to manage money and establishing a personal budget
     Setting realistic goals and living within your means
     Not getting into credit card debt- or getting out of it!
     Thinking long term and saving for the future when you can
     Learning how to balance the money you have with the money you owe
Strategies to Improve Your Financial Wellness:
     Set realistic goals for yourself when it comes to saving and paying debt.
     Develop a weekly, monthly, and/or annual budget- and USE IT! The ideal budget allows you to pay off your debt and/or save money while also leaving room for your existing bills, emergencies, and a few fun purchases (new clothes, a meal at a restaurant, an activity you enjoy, etc.).
     Use your debit card or cash instead of your credit card for purchases whenever you can- it can help you track your spending and can help you avoid spending money you don’t have!
     When getting a loan or credit card, borrow only what you have to. Banks will be more than happy to increase the limits on your credit card because they can charge you more interest. Unless you really need to increase it, keep it as low as possible. This will also help prevent accumulating a large debt that is hard to pay off.
     Be aware of your bank’s policies on overdraft and late payment fees. You can usually find these out on their website or by asking the teller at the bank.
     Pay your bills on time as much as you can to avoid late fees and interest.
     Recognize and track your spending habits to be conscious of what you want to change. Avoid shopping to relieve stress or boredom, and be aware of impulse purchases.
     Check your progress on your goals regularly, and don’t be afraid to make changes to your budget or goals!
     Know what to do if you get into trouble. Some financial advisors can be expensive, so make yourself aware of the resources in your area.
Practical, Realistic Tips for Saving Money
     Bring your meals, snacks, and drinks from home instead of buying them.
     Fresh food can be expensive, especially in the winter. Remember that canned and frozen options are also nutritious. Make sure you check the labels for added sugar!
     Cut grocery costs by buying store brands rather than name brands when you can, and don’t be afraid to use coupons. Every dollar counts!
     Take advantage of student, military, senior, and educator discounts. If you don’t know if a store has one, ask. Be prepared to show an ID. Many places have a 5-10% discount for people who fit in these categories.
     You don’t need a gym membership or expensive fitness products to exercise! Try getting some friends together to play at a park or take a walk or run outdoors. There are also plenty of workouts online that you don’t need any equipment to do!
     Buy used or discount items when you can. Garage sales, local buy/sell/trade groups online, and clearance racks and stores are great places to look before buying an item full price.
     Look online for free or inexpensive events to attend, especially in the summer. Engage in low-cost activities such as hiking, biking, game nights at home, or potluck dinners.
     Have a clothing swap with friends if they wear similar clothes. You can also do this with household items and books. It’s a free way to get some new-to-you things and also hang out with your friends!
     Sell things you don’t use anymore. You can do this in a garage sale or online.
     Keep a change jar and check your wallet and pockets every day for change. When it is full, take it to the bank! You will also have a supply of change for bus fare, laundry, or other small expenses.
     Track the little things. Keep a spending journal for a couple of weeks and write down the little things you spend money on- snacks from the vending machine, coffee, newspapers or magazines, etc. You can see how the little things add up and decide if you want to make a change!
Your financial wellness IS something you can improve. If you feel lost, reach out for help as soon as possible. The deeper into debt you go, the harder it can be to get out. But there is always hope. What are some of the ways you work on your financial wellness?

Nicki Phillips is a counseling intern at Esprit and a graduate student at UW Oshkosh working towards a degree in clinical mental health counseling. She brings a fresh perspective to her work along with a vibrant personality. She believes everyone is inherently worthy of respect and compassion, and strives to create those qualities in her relationships with clients. She sees clients who are uninsured, underinsured, have a high deductible, or prefer to pay out-of-pocket for a reduced cost. She particularly enjoys working with adolescents and young adults, and has also worked with children (ages 5 and up) and adults. She has immediate openings for new clients! Please schedule online at espritcounseling.com. She can also be reached via email at nicki@espritcounseling.com or by phone at (920) 383-1287.


Wellness Wednesday: Emotional Wellness

14 Mar 2018 16:25


              Wellness Wednesday
Emotional wellness involves how one feels, thinks and copes with the challenges of life. Everyone experiences emotional or mental stress from time to time, so it is important to take care of your emotional and mental well-being.
Emotional Wellness includes:
      self-understanding – being aware of and accepting of the wide range of feelings one experiences
      the ability to cope with stress in a healthy way
      having a generally optimistic outlook
      the capability of adjusting to change
      managing feelings effectively
      the ability to enjoy life
One of the most effective ways to cultivate your emotional wellness is by showing yourself compassion. Self-compassionis important because we often judge ourselves far more harshly than we judge others. This can make us feel isolated, lower our feelings of self-worth, and ultimately can cause us to feel even more stressed. Self-compassion has 3 components: mindfulness, a feeling of common humanity, and self-kindness.
The group Greater Good in Action has created an activity backed by research called a “Self-Compassionate Letter.” Essentially, it asks you to write a letter to a part of yourself that makes you feel ashamed, insecure, or not good enough. Instead of the typical harsh judgement we use to talk to those parts of ourselves, this activity asks you to extend compassion, understanding, and acceptance to that part. Essentially, it’s a letter from yourself to you. You can find more information and the instructions for the activity on their website here. They recommend that we all do this practice at least once per month, writing new letters and re-reading older letters as issues with those parts of ourselves continue to come up.
How do you take care of yourself emotionally? What practices have you found that help you when you are struggling? Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page!
Nicki Phillips is a counseling intern at Esprit and a graduate student at UW Oshkosh working towards a degree in clinical mental health counseling. She brings a fresh perspective to her work along with a vibrant personality. She believes everyone is inherently worthy of respect and compassion, and strives to create those qualities in her relationships with clients. She sees clients who are uninsured, underinsured, have a high deductible, or prefer to pay out-of-pocket for a reduced cost. She particularly enjoys working with adolescents and young adults, and has also worked with children (ages 5 and up) and adults. She has immediate openings for new clients! Please schedule online at espritcounseling.com. She can also be reached via email at nicki@espritcounseling.com or by phone at (920) 383-1287.


Wellness Wednesday: Social & Cultural Wellness

8 Feb 2018 01:02


As we continue to slug through the winter months, our wellness is increasingly important to pay conscious attention to. Many people tend to experience the “winter blues,” which can be attributed to a range of things from less sunlight and time outdoors to more sickness and time spent alone. This month, we will focus on another aspect of wellness, social and cultural wellness. This aspect of wellness is often less focused on than physical or emotional wellness, but it is no less important!
Social wellness is the ability to develop and maintain healthy relationships with the people around you.  It involves having positive relationships based on trust, respect, and understanding. Having a healthy support system of family and/or friends means always having someone to turn to during tough times. Social wellness also means feeling confident when alone or with others.
Cultural wellness means supporting cultural diversity in your community. It involves building positive relationships and interacting respectfully with people of different backgrounds, lifestyles, genders, ethnicities, abilities, and ages. It can also mean exploring your own culture and finding things you enjoy about it in order to help you feel connected to a group of people.
Social and Cultural Wellness Facts and Tips:
        People with good social networks and support systems are less susceptible to illness, can manage stress more effectively, and have higher self-esteem than those who are more isolated.
        Laughter and human touch (e.g., hugging) can improve your mood and overall health.
        Being open-minded to new experiences and cultures is important as you adjust to new surroundings or meet new people.
        In any relationship, it is important to always treat yourself and others with respect.
        Seek out opportunities and be willing to meet new people and do new things (i.e., join a club or organization, play a team sport, learn a new hobby, volunteer, or attend community events).
        Try to look at situations from multiple perspectives and resolve conflicts through compromise.
        Observing others and asking questions can help you gain a better understanding of unfamiliar cultures and customs.
        Be knowledgeable about the resources offered within the community.
        In conversation, work to listen to understand rather than listening to respond. Often, we are so focused on our rebuttal or our own story in a conversation that we miss the connection we could have made with someone.
*Tip: try summarizing what the other person said to you and reflecting how it made you feel before adding your own information. This will help the other person feel heard and be more likely to listen to your information in return.
        Learning to set healthy boundaries in our relationships can be one of the most challenging things to do, but it has a huge effect on our level of social wellness. Relationships with healthy boundaries tend to be much less draining. They fill us up and make us happier instead of frustrated and upset. Check out this article on setting boundaries for some helpful tips: https://psychcentral.com/lib/10-way-to-build-and-preserve-better-boundaries/
Do you have other ways you improve your social and cultural wellness? Share them with us in the comments or on our Facebook page!
Nicki Phillips is a counseling intern at Esprit and a graduate student at UW Oshkosh working towards a degree in clinical mental health counseling. She brings a fresh perspective to her work along with a vibrant personality. She believes everyone is inherently worthy of respect and compassion, and strives to create those qualities in her relationships with clients. She sees clients who are uninsured, underinsured, have a high deductible, or prefer to pay out-of-pocket for a reduced cost. She particularly enjoys working with adolescents and young adults, and has also worked with children (ages 5 and up) and adults. She has immediate openings for new clients! Please schedule online at espritcounseling.com. She can also be reached via email at nicki@espritcounseling.com or by phone at (920) 383-1287.


Anxiety and Motherhood

5 Feb 2018 16:57


So for all the mothers out there, do you have a love/hate relationship with video monitors? Or is it just me?  I am guessing I am not alone and to be honest, I wouldn’t trade mine for the world.  It gives me such peace of mind to see her cozy in her bed, safe and happy.  BUT man I look at it constantly and sometimes it leads me to not be present with the task I am doing.  Or I am consumed with her nap, feedings, diapers, etc.
I should give myself a “mom” break during nap times and I don’t.  My husband can so easily just turn the screen off and set the volume on so he can hear her and he is able to be more present.  Or he can just let her fuss it out for a bit in her crib.  Sometimes, (actually most times), I get jealous of that ability.
So I ask myself, “Why do I have a hard time?”  I believe there are many answers to that question.  One is anxiety and the “what if” questions that roll around in my brain.  My daughter is now 8.5 months old so I have been working on this for several months.  For all new mothers out there with a newborn, BELIEVE me it does get easier.  I used to not even be able to talk about anything besides her.
Here are a few tips I have learned along the way.
1. Give myself grace, I am learning a new job and it takes time.
2. She is new and is learning right alongside me.
3. For the “what if” questions, I have to force myself to slow down and ask what is the possibility vs. probability of my concerns occurring.  Sure a lot of things are possible but the probability of it happening is lower than my anxiety leads me to believe.
4. Ask those who have experienced it, and making sure those are people that you trust.
5. And for those you ask, you DON’T have to take all their advice.
Your answers might be different than mine but the best thing I found for myself was asking the question, “Why is it hard?”  Sometimes just giving mental space to think about the question and reflect can bring awareness.  And how I work with clients a lot of times is awareness first and then finding coping skills.  I just sometimes forget to do that myself.  Can anyone else out there relate?

So to Moms and Dads out there, you are doing great, give grace, and reflect.
Hannah Episcopo graduated from Trinity International University with a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling. She enjoys working with individuals, couples and families. Hannah specializes in anxiety, depression, co-dependency, faith and self-esteem issues. Hannah’s work includes walking beside clients as they journey through self-exploration, understanding and healthy communication. She values helping clients identify their strengths and create positive coping skills to meet their goals. Hannah also has experience working with children and adolescents and often incorporates play therapy into sessions.   

How The Daring Way Changed Me

8 Jan 2018 18:13


Does anyone really understand emotions like shame, vulnerability or creativity?  Did you know that all three of these emotions are inextricably linked?  Vulnerability can cause feelings of shame and shame can cause the experience of vulnerability.  Did you know that you cannot be creative without making room for the feelings associated with vulnerability?  These are difficult topics to understand, in part because there are often many layers and complexities to them.  But I have found someone who does understand them, Dr. Brene Brown.  The first time I saw Dr. Brown’s TED talk on The Power of Vulnerability (check out the video:  https://brenebrown.com/videos/) about 4 to 5 years ago I felt understood. I immediately related to her research and found myself in much of what she was talking about.  Vulnerability is the birthplace of many things, including creativity and belonging.  What exactly is vulnerability though?  Vulnerability is defined as “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure”.  Shame, a universal human experience, often gets in the way of practicing vulnerability or being real in our lives.  Shame is defined as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we've experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”   
Through her years of research (which is mainly done through interviews with all sorts of people), Dr Brown  has learned tactics to help the rest of us not only get through life, but learn to thrive in it.  Her hope for humanity is that we all learn and practice what she calls, wholehearted living.
Early in 2017, I learned that The Daring Way University, which trains mental health professionals on how to apply Dr. Brown’s research, was offering trainings throughout 2017.  I decided to be brave and take a chance on this new opportunity.  This training would allow me to work with people and help them achieve WHOLEHEARTED LIVING. 
On a Sunday in May of 2017, I drove to Faribault, MN, for a 2 day intensive training.  I had some idea what to expect, but was nervous nonetheless.  The word “vulnerable” kept popping up in my head.  I was terribly anxious about “being vulnerable” in this group setting surrounded by other mental health professionals.  There were 10 of us in this group as well as a group facilitator.  At the beginning of the experience, we wrote down our intentions for those 2 days.  I identified that I wanted to be authentic and open.  Other professionals in the group identified similar goals as well which helped me relax a little bit.
The leaders, in their infinite wisdom, believe that the best way to train future leaders is to have them go through the group experience themselves.  It was a humble reminder of what it is like to be the client again.  I really had no idea what to expect which I imagine is how many new clients feel when they first walk into a therapist’s office.  We learned about what vulnerability is, and isn’t, clarified personal values, what shame triggers are, how shame feels in our bodies, what my ideal and unwanted identities are, and practiced creativity.  All of these things, in and of themselves, were life changing for all of us in the room.  But, the one thing I couldn’t have predicted was the power of the group itself.  The 10 of us in that group created such an energy that is indescribable.  Rarely, have I felt so vulnerable, but so connected to other people.  How those two opposites of vulnerable and connection exist in that room at the same time, is part of the magic of The Daring Way. I will carry that with me forever.
After the 2 day training, I did 10 weeks of online classes, in which I continued to learn about and practice the new skills.  I continue to consult with my Daring Way Mentor in preparation for becoming a Certified Daring Way Facilitator in my own right.
The best way for me to talk about the impact of The Daring Way on my life, is for me to share some personal stories that illustrate what I do differently.  This past summer, my family and I, made the painful decision to return our dog to the breeder.  He had developed significant aggression issues and we no longer felt safe in our own home.  Despite our dog’s issues, we absolutely loved him with all our hearts.  Returning him to the breeder brought up painful experiences of shame, wondering what we did wrong to make him this way, and huge feelings of guilt that we were selfish for giving him back to the breeder because we wanted normalcy in our home again. 
Before going through The Daring Way, shame would have driven my outcome, rather than my personal values.  This time, I was able to identify shame in my body (a warm flush, continuous negative thoughts about myself as well as constant confusion).  Once I recognized I was caught up in shame, I was able to respond differently.  In the past, I would have kept much of this to myself.  This time, I reached out to people in my Marble Jar (people in your life who are safe and have earned the right to hear your story).  I was able to connect with my values and make decisions from that place, rather than from a place of shame and guilt.  It has been 6 months since we let our dog go.  Although I still have pain and grief, I feel very good about how I handled my thoughts and feelings throughout that experience.
Another recent incident involved a family member, who asked me to do something.  In the past, I would have said yes (even though I didn’t really want to do it).  This time I applied what I learned from Dr. Brown, I asked myself crucial questions…do I want to do this?  How am I afraid of being perceived if I say no?  If I go, am I being my authentic self?  There are certain people in my life that I can be my authentic self with but like any human being, there are certain people I find it hard to do this with.  This particular family member is one of those people. 
The fact that I even asked myself those questions is a testament to The Daring Way.  It got me off automatic pilot.  I live more consciously.  I am driven more by my authentic self vs. the self that is afraid she will be disliked.  This work isn’t easy. In the example above with the family member, I drove myself (and my husband), slightly crazy for a few days.  It was pretty terrifying for me to do something different than what was expected of me.

                I invite you to get off automatic pilot.  Take your life to the next level.  Fill that hole inside of you.  I promise, you will never be the same.  Check out her books, like “The Gifts of Imperfection” and “Daring Greatly”.  Or better yet…come join me for The Daring Way weekend.  Check out the details here:  http://www.espritcounseling.com/thedaringway.html

Jennifer Olkowski is a state certified Licensed Professional Counselor and Clinical Substance Abuse Counselor who has worked in a variety of behavioral settings, including inpatient, outpatient and private practice.  Jennifer enjoys working with children, adolescents and adults with a variety of mental health issues from everyday adjustment concerns to mild and significant anxiety concerns to mood disorders.  She is especially passionate and skilled in working with the anxiety spectrum disorders.  Jennifer has received specific training in Exposure and Response Prevention, the gold standard of treatment in anxiety disorders.  She is particularly passionate about bringing mindfulness and commitment to values in everyday life utilizing Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.  Her focus is encouraging present moment awareness, more compassion for the self and helping clients identify what truly matters to them.  Jennifer has a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology from UW Oshkosh and Masters of Science in Community Counseling from the University of Nebraska.  As a parent herself, Jennifer recognizes the challenges in raising children who are healthy and resilient to the many ups and downs of life.  When Jennifer is not in the office, she enjoys spending time with her family, cooking and being in the outdoors.  

Dreading the Holidays?

9 Dec 2017 15:19


We all have them:  Those awful memories of family get-togethers gone bad.  We mean well.  We plan for a holiday to share with loved ones and this time it will be different...but then.. we revert to our old habits.  Arguments ensue, feelings are hurt and soon, we begin to dread getting together again.

What do you do? Often, our expectations for what we want to happen does not match with reality.  We have our own versions of what happened which often differ from someone else's perspective.  We have our own biases and preferences and when others do not do as we expect or want, then what?

We even imagine those perfect holiday scenes and find ours never measure up.  A quote I read that emphasized how we blame others or ourselves for this perceived failure is "It's not you and it's not only you."  Everyone contributes in their own way to the enjoyment or problems that can arise. Trying to understand the other person's perspective promotes greater understanding and harmony.

There are certain conversations that my family tries to avoid because all of us know it will end badly.  We have that "silent agreement" among us to save those conversations with like-minded family members or friends because agreeing to disagree seems to work best.  We know we will not be able to persuade someone to our point of view, making someone right and the other wrong, or someone gets to win and the other's expense.

Something I have noticed at every one of my family gatherings is how we revert to roles we played when we were growing up.  Even though we are all adults with adult children, those old familiar roles are dormant until we get together.  It is during those times, when we do not relate as the adults we are that the problems begin.  And, adding alcohol to the mix increases the tension, as it is like pouring gas on the "taking things personally" fire.

The holidays can be reminders of better times in our lives as well.  Sometimes, that becomes an emotionally polarized situation. Although we remember happy times with loved ones who have passed away, we are also sad to be without them during a time that emphasizes family.  It can be somewhat awkward and difficult to attend a holiday gathering that include spouses or significant others when you are alone.

Everyone copes with holiday gatherings in their own way.  Try to remain open and accepting of situations that arise while you keep in mind the reason you are gathering.  You can find something about the occasion to enjoy and appreciate - other than the cookies!

Kathy Thome is passionate about using the therapeutic relationship to help you achieve your personal goals.  She is proficient in multiple approaches and will work with you to find that which is best suited to your needs. 
Kathy is skilled in working with many issues.  She has extensive experience helping individuals with depression, anxiety, grief, and the development of interpersonal skills that foster growth and esteem. 
Prior to her counseling career, Kathy was a high school teacher and a school counselor, which gives her a unique perspective and insight related to adolescents as well as parenting.  She worked with suicide prevention groups and also founded the first LGBTQ group (Gay Straight Alliance) at her high school.
Kathy is a state certified Licensed Professional Counselor, earning her Master’s Degree in Counseling from Western Illinois University.
In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, including those with four legs.

December Wellness Wednesday

9 Dec 2017 14:52


(Forgive my lateness in posting.)  
Physical Wellness: What it is (and what it isn’t)
Wellness can be a tricky concept to nail down. By definition, it means, “the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal.” Beyond that, the generally accepted meaning includes more than an absence of illness-- it’s also about actively working towards your best self. There are many different aspects of wellness. They include physical, emotional, environmental, financial, spiritual, occupational, and social/cultural wellness. This month, we will focus on the most often emphasized aspect of wellness-- physical wellness.
Physical wellness is exactly what it sounds like-- taking care of your body! This includes things like physical activity; a healthy diet; drinking water or decaffeinated tea; getting enough quality sleep; avoiding drugs, alcohol, and tobacco; and scheduling annual check-ups and screenings. Doing these things has been proven to help you feel happier, healthier, and more energetic.
Research has shown several benefits to engaging in physical wellness practices. Physical wellness can improve your emotional stability and mood, reduce stress, and decrease your risk for anxiety, depression, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, and some types of cancer. Exercise and healthy eating can also help with your body image, self-esteem, confidence, memory, and concentration. People who engage in physically healthy practices also tend to experience deeper, less restless sleep.
Personally, I have struggled for years with my physical wellness. I tend to go through phases of being very active and eating healthy, then losing my motivation and falling back into bad habits. As a busy person on a budget, it can definitely be a challenge to find cost-effective ways to be physically healthy while still getting everywhere on time! There are five small things I have started doing on a daily basis that are free or low cost and have already helped me feel better.
     Drinking decaffeinated tea: I get bored with plain water, and end up not drinking enough of it. Did you know you are supposed to drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water every day? That means if you weigh 180 pounds, you should be drinking 60 ounces of water or EVERY DAY. Tea is a way to change up the flavor without any of the added calories or sugar of other alternatives.
     Sleeping when tired: This one seems obvious, but I tend to stay up later for no real reason other than, “it’s too early for bed.” But sometimes my body needs the extra sleep! Also, 15 minute power naps are lifesavers.
     Park and walk: While this one requires a little bit of advance planning to account for the extra time, it has really helped me combat my sedentary job. Parking a little farther away, whether it be a few blocks or just the far side of the parking lot, helps me get my blood pumping and get energized for the day. I also like to take some of my break time to take a lap around the building, or get a few minutes of sunshine in the summer.
     Meal prep: If you’re like me, you’re lucky if you make it to the grocery store once a week. One of my biggest downfalls with healthy eating is packing healthy lunches. I’m always running late in the morning, so I usually tend to throw a frozen meal in my lunchbox or order delivery food at work. Lately, I have been trying to switch to eating salads and homemade lean meats for lunch, but I never have time to put them together before work. Instead, I have been making time on Sunday nights to cook and portion all 5 lunches for the week. I’ve found that it doesn’t take that much longer to slice veggies or cook meat for 5 meals than it does for one, and then I only have to do it once per week! This way, I have no excuse not to grab the healthy option instead of the frozen meal.
     Calendar alerts for appointments: I’m the first to admit it, I’m a procrastinator. I can also be forgetful, especially when it comes to scheduling appointments. Usually, my “yearly” checkups are more like every 15 months or so because I am not proactive about scheduling my appointments in advance. I recently discovered that rather than putting alerts in my phone for when my appointments are supposed to be, it works much better for me to put them in when I need to schedule them. For example, my dentist is booked out about 3 months, so I put an alert in my phone for three months before I need to go in reminding me to schedule my next appointment.
What are your tips and tricks for maintaining your physical health? Do you struggle with other things not mentioned here? Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page!
Nicki Phillips is a counseling intern at Esprit and a graduate student at UW Oshkosh working towards a degree in clinical mental health counseling. She brings a fresh perspective to her work along with a vibrant personality. She believes everyone is inherently worthy of respect and compassion, and strives to create those qualities in her relationships with clients. She sees clients who are uninsured, underinsured, have a high deductible, or prefer to pay out-of-pocket for a reduced cost. She particularly enjoys working with adolescents and young adults, and has also worked with children (ages 5 and up) and adults. She has immediate openings for new clients! Please schedule online at espritcounseling.com. She can also be reached via email at nicki@espritcounseling.com or by phone at (920) 383-1287.

Put the Happy Back in the Holidays

22 Nov 2017 13:29


The holidays are a very busy time for so many of us. There are family gatherings, events, shopping, many of which are based on tradition or expectations. Sometimes with all of the running from one thing to the next and the long to-do lists we lose sight of what we truly value or enjoy in the holiday season.
So this holiday season I am going to challenge you to reevaluate where you invest your time to determine what’s really valuable to you. A good question to ask yourself is “does this fill me up?” or “does this bring me joy?”. Sometimes we find ourselves doing things because they are expected of us or this is the way we have always done it, but does it fill you up? If not, stop doing it. If running to 3 different family gatherings in one day to celebrate feels more like a race or a chore than a celebration then stop doing it. Plan family gatherings that are spaced out over several weekends so the pace is slower and you can actually have time to connect with those family members. If getting up at 4am and cooking a 5 course meal is exhausting and does not bring you joy, stop doing it. Consider picking up a turkey and sides from a local grocery store or going out to eat.
What all of this comes down to is determining what you value most about the holidays and finding ways to focus on that and eliminating barriers that get in the way. If spending time with family is what you value but spending the whole day cooking and doing dishes gets in the way of that, stop cooking and doing dishes, find alternatives. Just because you have always done it that way doesn’t mean you have to keep doing it that way. If gift buying and giving creates a financial strain and takes away from the occasion, stop doing it. Find alternatives such as making homemade gifts from supplies you already have or decide to do an activity together as a family. I know a family who gives verbal gifts. They gather around and instead of opening gifts they share things they love about each other or ways that the people in their lives have filled them up that year. Discard the traditions and expectations that working for you anymore and make new ones!

Make the holidays about what fills you up. What brings you joy? 
Kaitlyn Gitter is a Licensed Professional Counselor who strives to help people find inner peace and healing.  She provides client centered counseling services to children, adolescents, families, couples, and adults.  She values the human connection and creating a safe space for exploration, learning, and growth.  Kaitlyn obtained her Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from The Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago, IL. She has extensive experience working with individuals struggling with eating disorders, self-esteem, and body image issues. She also has a particular passion for working with adolescents and young adults. Other areas of interest include grief and loss, anxiety, depression, ADHD, behavior issues, parent/child relationships, and family systems.
Kaitlyn utilizes several therapeutic approaches but specializes in Internal Family Systems Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She often incorporates relaxation and mindfulness techniques into sessions. In her work with children she frequently integrates play therapy and artistic expression to encourage healthy emotion regulation and communication.  In her free time Kaitlyn enjoys running, traveling, camping, and gardening. Kaitlyn believes that happiness is something you create and every individual has the power to make positive change in their life. She is here as a partner on your path to creating happiness and peace.

Wellness Wednesday: November 1, 2017

1 Nov 2017 11:06


50 Ideas for Your Personal Self-Care Plan
These days, it seems like everyone wants something from us. As a graduate student, I’m constantly trying to figure out how to balance school, two jobs, an internship, and having a dog, all while maintaining my relationships with friends, family, and my partner. There is never enough time, enough energy, or enough organization to finish everything I want to get done in a day. Sometimes, the stress and chaos gives my mind the opportunity to trick me into thinking that “not doing enough” is the same as “not being enough.” It can be hard, but I know that isn’t true, and I can see that once I give myself the opportunity to step back, take a deep breath, and refill my proverbial glass.
There are all sorts of things you can do for yourself to refill your glass. The internet is full of them. Sometimes, all of the options can seem just as overwhelming as not doing anything at all. So, to start, here are a few tips for creating a plan that works for you:
       Write it down!
Whatever you choose, write it down. It not only helps you remember, but it keeps you accountable.
       Trust yourself
You know yourself best, so when looking at a list of possibilities, choose the ones that you think could really help. Be honest with yourself.
       Be brave
At the same time, don’t limit yourself to things you already do or do well. Try something new, and be open to things that might not have worked so well for you in the past. People change, and so do the things we like!
So, now that we’ve covered the basics, here are 50 ideas for things you could add to your own plan! Some are more habitual, others are for when you need a quick pick-me-up! I have collected them from various internet sources as well as from my personal experience.
1.    Pick one thing that you need to do and get it done so it’s off your mental “to do” list.
2.    Get a manicure or pedicure.
3.    Get a massage.
4.    Find a therapist.
5.    Get a book from the library (free) or bookstore about some topic you’ve been interested in, but have never taken the time to learn. Afterward, spend a few minutes each day learning about it.
6.    In the morning, listen to music that inspires and motivates you.
7.    Write a list of things you’re grateful to have in your life and post it somewhere you can see it often. We have a tendency to focus on the negative, so remind yourself of the good stuff.
8.    Go through your closet and purge the clothes you haven’t worn in years. Donate them to a charitable organization.
9.    If you bring your lunch to work, pack a few extra items to share with someone less fortunate on your way or during your lunch break.
10.Share a kind smile with strangers on your way to and from work. Some people may go all day without anyone acknowledging their existence.
11.Start a cycle of encouragement. Tell someone near you what you appreciate about them. They may return the favor when you need it most.
12.If you buy your morning coffee, skip it today and donate the money to a charity of your choosing.
13.Call your mom, dad, or any other family member you care about just to say hi.
14.Learn how to sew. Self-sufficiency may have some other mental health benefits for you as well.
15.Send a completely random care package to someone you love. Who doesn’t love a surprise?
16.Try out a form of martial arts. A lot of schools offer a free lesson.
17.Take a moment at the end of each day and consciously list a few good things in your life. This can help refocus your emotions on all the positive things that happen each day, even when it doesn’t seem like it.
18.Turn off your phone and step away from the computer for a whole day.
19.Take a few minutes and enjoy a funny animal video on YouTube.
20.Go for a walk by yourself with headphones on, listening to music you love.
21.Prepare a meal, no matter how simple.
22.Create something for no practical purpose such as a song, a poem, an essay, a painting, a drawing, a comic strip, a collage, etc.
23.Lay on the floor on your back with your eyes closed for five minutes (or longer) and just breathe.
24.Shower with all the lights off. It forces you to move incredibly slow and it’s so relaxing. Make sure to have safety mats in place so you don’t slip on your way out.
25.Stare at your pet or another animal and seriously contemplate their existence. Do you think they believe they have a higher purpose?
26.Rearrange all of your furniture in a way that makes you more comfortable or just to try something fresh in your living space.
27.Check in with yourself a few times each day and take a moment to process your thoughts and emotions. Don’t let them build up.
28.Swing on a swing set. Too many adults forget how much fun this is.
29.Call your friend or sibling when you know they can’t answer and leave a ridiculously funny made up song as your voicemail. You’ll spread a little laughter while also laughing in the process.
30.Make up a brand new dance move and teach it to someone.
31.Do a five minute meditation on your feet.
32.Carve a couple hours out of your schedule this weekend to enjoy a classic film.
33.Go out to see a movie at your favorite theater all by yourself.
34.Make a piece of artwork—draw, paint, cut and paste, whatever—that someone might interpret as ugly and tell it you love and accept it anyway.
35.Watch RuPaul’s Drag Race and bask in the charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent of the contestants. Try to channel some of that in your own life when you find yourself needing it.
36.Go to a support group meeting.
37.Listen to a podcast about something that interests you that you haven’t yet explored.
38.Roll out a blanket and eat your dinner on the grass at home or in the park. Invite someone else if you’d like company.
39.Make yourself a gourmet grilled cheese and some tomato soup. Comfort food at the right time or during the right type of weather can be great for boosting your mood.
40.Tell yourself something that resists self-criticism but feels encouraging like, “I’m doing the best that I can.”
41.Taking care of yourself can start with something small! Maybe today you just need to lie down on the couch instead of on your bed for a change of scenery.
42.Write something encouraging on a post-it and put it where you will see it every day! Or write directly on your mirror: “I am beautiful and brave.”
43.Say a magnificent affirmation out loud, like “I am a child of the universe, and I have been given endless talents and capabilities.”
44.Commit to posting mostly or only positive things on your favored social media site for a while. For every sad news item, there’s a related (or unrelated) story of resilience, bravery, and triumph.
45.Write a review of a business you like. Send that positive energy into the universe and share some love for your favorite local places!
46.Read a book that’s easy and fun. You can give it away to a younger person in your life after if you feel like giving it up.
47.Listen to an album you loved when you were younger but haven’t heard in a long time.
48.Congratulate yourself for doing difficult things, even if they might not seem difficult to others. Depending on the individual, plenty of everyday things can be difficult, like riding the bus, standing in line, filing paperwork, going to the doctor, making food, doing chores, etc.
49.Wash your face. Sometimes the simplest hygiene tasks can be the most refreshing.
50.Reflect on the struggles your ancestors endured so you could exist and remember that you have inherited their strength and resilience.
What do you think of these ideas? Share your results and any tips you have learned in your own wellness journey in the comments or on our Facebook page!
Nicki Phillips is a counseling intern at Esprit and a graduate student at UW Oshkosh working towards a degree in clinical mental health counseling. She brings a fresh perspective to her work along with a vibrant personality. She believes everyone is inherently worthy of respect and compassion, and strives to create those qualities in her relationships with clients. She sees clients who are uninsured, underinsured, have a high deductible, or prefer to pay out-of-pocket for a reduced cost. She particularly enjoys working with adolescents and young adults, and has also worked with children (ages 5 and up) and adults. She has immediate openings for new clients! Please schedule online at espritcounseling.com. She can also be reached via email at nicki@espritcounseling.com or by phone at (920) 383-1287.


#MeToo

22 Oct 2017 15:03


"I'll bet you a nickle I can kiss you without touching you."
The first time I was forced to feel sexualized and  powerless was when I was 12 years old.  He was..?? 50-something and a physical education teacher at my junior high school.  As I have often looked back on that incident, I am aware of the grooming of me that he did prior to that moment.  He was complimentary and friendly.  Always greeted me or waved from across the room. It made me feel special and I liked that I was recognized, (or so I thought), more than the hundreds of other kids in my school.  In my naivete, I trusted him and respected him.  He was a teacher and we were taught that they deserved those things simply because of their title, position, and age.
We were waiting for the bell, that released us to our next class, to ring.  He came over and signaled for me to come talk with him.  Me!  In front of everyone else!  Me!  Then, I remember being amazed at his question.  Certainly he could not kiss me without touching me and he would lose and I would be a nickle richer.  He took me into a storage area and kissed me on the lips and simply said, "I lose" as he handed me the nickle.  My lips were burning, my heart was exploding with shame.  Almost instantly a female teacher walked in and questioned in an accusing tone, "What are you two doing in here?"  She had put the blame equally on me as it was on him.
Sitting at dinner that evening, my lips continued to burn.  I imagined that my mother could tell something was wrong, that I had done something terrible.  Of course, she didn't know, but my guilt and shame were overwhelming. What would have happened if I told her?  I feared I would be punished, so I said nothing.
The teacher continued to harass me by frequently asking me if I wanted to "bet a nickle".  I could not escape it and thought I was powerless to do anything about it.  This was just the first of many unwanted sexual advances, comments, and gestures that I have experienced and the recent news events and #MeToo movement has reminded me of how those behaviors had impacted me not only during my impressionable adolescent years, but well into my adulthood.
The October 30, 2017 issue of Time Magazine's article, "The View" begins with this sentence, "Cognitive dissonance is a hell of a drug."  This describes when our culture/society condemns and despises sexual predators but then excuses them and even promotes them to positions of power.  The invalidating message this implies to persons who have been victimized, reinforces our feelings of self blame, shame, guilt and dehumanization.  Our stories are discredited and devalued as we are accused of things that suggest we asked for it, should have known better, or are lying.
Of course, we are all expecting this to be that "watershed moment" that will result in change.  Discussions are being held on many levels as the news continues to cover developing events.  What is the solution and how can this problem be adequately addressed?
A newscast I recently heard recognized the power that other men can have when they address the behavior when they see/hear it.  Objecting to crude comments made "in the locker room" or in the boardroom might be met with resistance from the offender.  Men don't want to be seen as women and are expected to support such inappropriate behaviors.  They might speak up privately afterwards, but by then, the offender goes free.  The newscast emphasized how important it is for men to object to the behavior at the moment they witness it as it shifts the focus to the offender rather than remain on the victim.
Reflecting on the support I would have loved to have been given at age 12, to know that I was not to blame, to have the woman teacher confront the man about his inappropriate behavior and to have grown up in a family where I could have been able to confide in my parents without the fear of being punished would all have had positive outcomes rather than the years of shame and self blame I endured.
And just as a closing thought:  Mine was only a kiss.  Millions of women (and men) have suffered much worse.

Kathy Thome, LPC,  is passionate about using the therapeutic relationship to help you achieve your personal goals.
She is proficient in multiple approaches and will work with you to find that which is best suited to your needs. 
Kathy is skilled in working with many issues.  She has extensive experience helping individuals with depression, anxiety, grief, and the development of interpersonal skills that foster growth and esteem. 
Prior to her counseling career, Kathy was a high school teacher and a school counselor, which gives her a unique perspective and insight related to adolescents as well as parenting.  She worked with suicide prevention groups and also founded the first LGBTQ group (Gay Straight Alliance) at her high school.
Kathy is a state certified Licensed Professional Counselor, earning her Master’s Degree in Counseling from Western Illinois University.

In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, including those with four legs.

WELLNESS WEDNESDAY

4 Oct 2017 11:46


Introducing our Wellness Wednesday feature.  On the first Wednesday of the month, we will post a tip to promote wellness.  Here is the first.

On my journey to becoming a professional counselor, I have learned a lot about myself as a person and a professional. One of the main things I have worked on throughout the last two and a half years is learning to trust myself, to believe that my voice is worth listening to.
In the past, I have struggled with meditation and guided imagery because it forces me to sit in silence with myself. Now that I have become more comfortable sitting with myself, I am beginning to enjoy it. Recently, Kaitlyn introduced me to a meditation called the "Wise Woman.” It has inspired me to more deeply explore what holds me back, and has been a great tool to help my clients who struggle with self-esteem, anxiety, lack of confidence, and negative self-talk.
A meditation like this can be used in many different ways. You can read it to yourself, out loud or in your head. You could have someone else read it to you (like a counselor or friend). You could even record yourself reading it and listen to it. The version I use is below, and you can feel free to adapt it however you would like. For instance, you can change the gender of the wise person so it aligns with you.
Begin by settling in your chair, finding a comfortable position that allows you to take deep, calming breaths. If you feel comfortable, close your eyes and focus on your breath. As you breathe, begin imagining a place in nature that you find peace. It can be a forest, a beach, a mountain trail, or any other place that you feel connected to.
Imagine yourself sitting in a room, looking down over this place of calmness and serenity. Take in everything. What do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear?
You decide to go outside, so you leave the room and find a path. As you begin to walk, continue to notice what your senses pick up on. Are there birds singing? Children laughing? Is there a breeze? What do your surroundings look like? Try to imagine them in as much detail as possible. The path widens and curves as you continue to follow it. Go slowly and take your time.
Up ahead, you notice a house. Something about the home beckons to you, and draws you in. What does the house look like? What makes it so appealing?
As you approach the house, a woman opens the door. It is as if she has been waiting for you all along, like she knew you would be coming. Somehow, you know she is a wise woman. What does she look like? How is she dressed? Try to picture her as clearly as you can. She smiles, and invites you in.
Inside her house, she shows you to a room, and you instantly feel at home. What does the room look like? What about it makes you so comfortable? Are there pictures on the walls? Comfy furniture? A fireplace? Maybe she offers you something to eat, or to drink. You sit down, and for a minute, there is simply comfortable silence.
While you are in her presence, you recognize how it makes you feel. You feel at peace, accepted, and loved for exactly who you are in this moment. Somehow, you know the wise woman cares for you unconditionally.
After some time, she says something to you. What does she say? You turn to her and respond. What do you say? You have a conversation for a while. What is said?
Eventually, you notice she has colors surrounding her. You had not noticed this before. What colors are there?
As you think about the colors, you notice the sun is setting. You say you are going and you thank each other for the time together.  You say goodbye. As you are leaving, the wise woman gives you something. What is it?
You walk back down the path and watch the colors of the sky. Take your time walking back, and notice what is different. Is it quieter? Does the path look different in the fading daylight?
You see the place you began, so you head towards it. You walk up the path.  When you are there, you will begin to come back to an awareness of this room. Feel your feet on the floor, and your body in the chair. When you are ready, open your eyes.
I will let you in on a little secret. The wise woman you met? She is you. You can call her up whenever you feel alone or in need of some wisdom in your life.
The color and the item she gave you are things that can remind you of the wise woman. When you see them in your daily life, they can serve as reminders that the wise woman is always inside of you, and available when you need her.

Nicki Phillips is a counseling intern at Esprit and a graduate student at UW Oshkosh working towards a degree in clinical mental health counseling. She brings a fresh perspective to her work along with a vibrant personality. She believes everyone is inherently worthy of respect and compassion, and strives to create those qualities in her relationships with clients. She sees clients who are uninsured, underinsured, have a high deductible, or prefer to pay out-of-pocket for a reduced cost. She particularly enjoys working with adolescents and young adults, and has also worked with children (ages 6 and up) and adults. She has immediate openings for new clients! Please schedule online at espritcounseling.com. She can also be reached via email at nicki@espritcounseling.com or by phone at (920) 383-1287.

“Just Get Over It”: When Your Grief is Not Supported

3 Oct 2017 11:18


We all have experienced grief at one time or another. However, while most people associate it with death of a loved one, many other life changes or events can cause grief. Examples of events and transitions where grief typically occurs, but may not be acknowledged or socially supported, include: divorce, serious illness, physical impairment, moving, job loss or change, infidelity, abuse, natural disaster, traumatic events, infertility, pet loss, children growing up, loss of an expectation or dream, loss of a societally unsanctioned relationship, and aging.
Such “disenfranchised” (i.e., unacknowledged or unsupported) grief undermines our normal coping strategies. When grief is viewed as illegitimate, we fail to receive the support and empathy typically given after the death of a loved one. Instead, although we may know something is wrong, we (as well as family and friends) may ignore, dismiss, or play down our right to grieve. We may think (or be told to) “just get over it,” but reminders of loss -- such as missing favorite activities due to a disability or not being able to spend a holiday or birthday with family members due to divorce or a move -- can lead to chronic grief (Doka, 2016).
Grief experienced by children or teens may also be disenfranchised because adults often assume that children are less aware of and less affected by life events. Teens and children may hear, “You’re young, you’ll get over it” after losing a friend, experiencing peer rejection, or enduring a family move. Yet children and teens are acutely aware of and affected by life events and transitions involving themselves, family, or friends. These experiences can be traumatic as well, complicating symptoms of grief (Hooyman & Kramer, 2006).
When others minimize, fail to recognize, or dismiss our grief, we lose a crucial coping mechanism: social support. As a result, we may hide our grief, fearing social disapproval or be influenced to believe we have no right to grieve. Instead, we feel “something is wrong with me,” leading to shame, embarrassment, or a sense of failure. Messages such as “It’s time to move on,” “get over it,” or “it’s not that bad” further compound our suffering because they foster self-doubt, self-blame, resentment, feeling misunderstood, and disconnection. We end up confused by conflicting feelings that make it difficult to sort out our feelings (Doka, 2016).
I personally have experienced disenfranchised grief from various life events: surviving a cancer diagnosis after being given a 20% chance to live, the end of my first marriage, an empty nest (causing mixed feelings of pride for my children’s independence but also loss), death of a pet, moving, and career change all involved feelings of loss.
My own losses have made me realize the personal courage and self-awareness it takes to acknowledge continuing grief when the world thinks you should be “over it,” to reach out for support from others (including professional support), and to be self-compassionate (rather than denying one’s feelings). I have both witnessed and experienced the strength, wisdom, and beauty that can come from acknowledging and working through grief to establish a new normal.

When experiencing disenfranchised grief, have the courage to reach out and get the support you need. Counseling can be especially helpful when you are not getting or feel uncomfortable asking for support from friends, family, and loved ones. Additionally, counselors trained in grief work can provide specific grief interventions to help you process your grief, acknowledge your loss, and cope with what you are experiencing. Further, if you have or are experiencing trauma symptoms related to the grief event, counselors trained in trauma work, can help in identifying, validating, processing, and coping with these as well. In addition, counseling can help loved ones learn how to best support you, when experiencing disenfranchised grief. 
Kathy Glick specializes in working with clients coping with life transitions or challenging life events, including loss, trauma, and relationship issues, and is currently accepting new clients. Kathy has specialized training and certification for working with loss and grief including: loss of a loved one, divorce, relationship changes, empty nest, pet loss, job change, loss of safety or trust, retirement, moving, change in health status, aging, etc. 
Kathy has specialized trauma training, including EMDR, as well as specialized training in couples therapy. She attended training through the Beck Institute for CBT and uses evidence based therapies to help address anxiety, depression, self-esteem, relationship, and confidence issues. Having experienced several of her own losses, life changes, and challenging transitions, clients find Kathy to be both empathetic and insightful.
Kathy holds a Master of Science in Professional Counseling, a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration (providing her with a broader, practical perspective), certification from the National Board for Certified Counselors, and is licensed in the state of Wisconsin. Outside of work, Kathy loves spending time with family, friends, and her dog, Miguel. She enjoys traveling, yoga, walking, biking, cooking, and reading.

National Suicide Prevention Week

15 Sep 2017 15:14


September 10-16, 2017 is National Suicide Prevention Week.
    We are advised to be aware of the warning signs that might help us to intervene and many times, individuals who are contemplating suicide ask for help or indicate by their actions and/or words that they have been considering ending their lives.  Yet, there are too many of us who have experienced losing someone by suicide, where no such early warning occurred.  We are left wondering what we missed, because surely this person "told us" in some way.  We go through the checklists of the typical warning signs and come up empty.  We blame ourselves because we didn't pay closer attention.  We feel guilty because we didn't spend those few extra minutes we had with the person we lost.  We didn't tell them we loved them often enough...
     When I worked as a high school counselor, my experiences losing students was especially devastating.  The high school I worked at lost several teens who chose to end their own lives. Feelings of shock and disbelief and overwhelming grief were expressed by students and staff alike. As a school counselor, it was particularly difficult to comfort others while I too was grieving.  
     During my work as a Licensed Professional Counselor, I started seeing one young lady, after her first attempt.  I thought we were making progress, yet after only three sessions, she hung herself. I questioned my effectiveness and doubted my ability to be able to help my clients. I felt as though I had not earned the trust and hope her parents placed in me to help their daughter. 
    Although there are some who plan their suicide, the students we lost acted impulsively.  In a moment of desperation, when they felt as though no one could help or nothing would ever change, they were gone.  Our lives were forever changed by their actions.  Immediately, any of us would have traded that for an opportunity to help, to listen, to care.
How do we learn to bounce back from disappointments?  How do we learn to take things in stride?  How do we learn that it is OK to make a mistake? How do we learn that we will have our hearts broken? How do we learn to tolerate being teased, rejected, and that we won’t always get what we want?
     The Survivors of Suicide and Loss group I meet with monthly (Community for Hope at www.communityforhope.org) agree that starting at a very young age, children must learn to be resilient.  They must have their feelings validated as well as experience disappointments so they learn, in incremental steps, how to navigate the full range of our emotions.  They must learn that they don’t have to “take something” to feel better.  Children learn that things can help us feel better by seeing us have that drink when we get home from work, or that cigarette when stressed. The group members also believe the pace of our lives limit our direct interactions with each other and see the impersonal and somewhat shallow relationships that are developed via electronic media. 

     Yes, it is important to be aware of the warning signs of suicide.  But before someone ever considers that suicide is an option, it is more important to be an early and constant loving, supportive, caring, and accepting presence in each other’s lives.   
Kathy is passionate about using the therapeutic relationship to help you achieve your personal goals. 
She is proficient in multiple approaches and will work with you to find that which is best suited to your needs.  
 
Kathy is skilled in working with many issues.  She has extensive experience helping individuals with depression, anxiety, grief, and the development of interpersonal skills that foster growth and esteem.  
 
Prior to her counseling career, Kathy was a high school teacher and a school counselor, which gives her a unique perspective and insight related to adolescents as well as parenting.  She worked with suicide prevention groups and also founded the first LGBTQ group (Gay Straight Alliance) at her high school. 
 
Kathy is a state certified Licensed Professional Counselor, earning her Master’s Degree in     
Counseling from Western Illinois University.
In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, including those with four legs.

The "Firsts"

6 Sep 2017 20:49


There are so many firsts in people’s lives. Do you remember when you first entered kindergarten and wondered if you would have any friends?  I cannot remember my exact thoughts that day but I do remember feeling nervous and clinging to my mom’s leg.  Then going to college, same worry!  Or how about the first time you entered the world of work?  Those worries might be, “will my boss and coworkers like me?” or wondering, “can I do this job?”  There are many firsts with buying a house and not knowing the steps to getting a mortgage or hiring a realtor.  Other firsts in day to day tasks can also create anxiety like calling a doctor or picking a bank.  Every day we are faced with new experiences or firsts.
I have recently had some firsts in my life and it made me think about how it must be for our clients at Esprit to pick a counselor for the first time not to mention picking up the phone and scheduling that first appointment.  There is no guidebook to picking a counselor.  Some of it is based on trusting yourself and having a gut feeling about a counselor’s professional online bio  or some sort of connection to the voice you are talking to over the phone.  But what if you don’t always trust yourself or your anxiety spikes because of all of the unknowns with establishing a counseling relationship?
Here are just a few helpful hints to taking the next steps with counselors anywhere and some specifics with our Esprit staff.
1.      Start by setting some time aside to explore options in your area.  Ask yourself if you want someone close to your home or further away to create distance.  There are many options online today to help with your initial exploring.  One website is Psychology Today.  This website categorizes therapists by location, specialty and more.
2.      To help narrow down your search, look for the counselors’ biographies on clinics’ websites to see if a counselor specializes in what type of counseling you are looking for.
3.      The next step may be the most challenging:  Placing a call or scheduling an appointment.  One nice thing about Esprit is that you can schedule directly online and never have to pick up the phone.  Some people like that and others prefer to talk with someone directly.  At Esprit we offer both.  Here is Esprit’s website: http://www.espritcounseling.com/index.html
4.      Sometimes just getting that date set takes the anxiety down drastically.  For some, having that appointment as soon as possible is helpful.  Typically, when people are ready to schedule, they want to see someone right away.  Esprit can get people in to see a counselor within the same week.
5.      Paperwork can seem overwhelming for some people.  If you prefer, our therapists will walk you through and explain all of the specifics.  When you register with a therapist, we automatically email the intake paperwork to you and you can fill it out prior to the appointment and not feel rushed on the day of your session.  We also have intake paperwork available for you to complete in our waiting room prior to your appointment.  Allow about 20 minutes to complete it.
6.      Then, the next step is showing up for your appointment.  This might be the biggest “first.”  We want this to be a helpful and pleasant process for you.  Therapists are here to hear your story and help walk the journey with you.  We can help explain our role in more detail during that first session.

In summary, the first time you experience anything, there are many unknowns, and perhaps some anxiety.  We are here to help!  Give us a call!
Hannah Episcopo graduated from Trinity International University with a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling. She enjoys working with individuals, couples and families. Hannah specializes in anxiety, depression, co-dependency, faith and self-esteem issues. Hannah’s work includes walking beside clients as they journey through self-exploration, understanding and healthy communication. She values helping clients identify their strengths and create positive coping skills to meet their goals. Hannah also has experience working with children and adolescents and often incorporates play therapy into sessions.  She also enjoys spending her down time exploring and traveling with her husband and daughter.

Helpful Mental Health Apps

11 Aug 2017 23:59


Top 5 Mental Health Apps
With the technology of today there seems to be an app for everything. What we don’t always recognize is that we can use this technology for personal growth and development. In other words, there are more enlightening apps than angry birds and candy crush. I took some time to look into many of the mental health apps available and found that there are hundreds available. Below you will find a list and description of the top 5 mental health apps I discovered. All of these apps are free and available on iPhone and android devices.
1.       Stop, Breathe, and Think
This mindfulness app is great for beginners and for those experienced with relaxation and meditation techniques. There is information on learning how to meditate and understanding the basics in order to get started. What I enjoyed about this app is that it prompts you to check in with yourself. So you will be asked how your body and mind are feeling and also what emotions you are currently experiencing. Then based on those responses the app suggests a few mindfulness exercises for you. Most of the exercises are brief anywhere from 3-15 minutes. You can also track your mindfulness progress over time.
2.       Daylio
This app is a very basic mood tracking app. What I liked about it is that is very quick and easy to complete. I find with mood tracking that it can be hard to stick to it daily if it feels too time consuming or overwhelming. This app allows you to track your mood daily, allowing more than one entry in a day, as we know our moods can change throughout a day. It also asks you what you have been doing that day. Then under stats you can look at what your recent moods have been and also what activities are typically connected to those moods. For example, it may show that feeling happy is typically associated with spending time with friends or that feeling sad it usually connected to watching TV. This helps us to recognize connections between our moods and behavior to figure out what helps and what doesn’t.
3.       What’s Up
Here is an app that incorporates techniques from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. It has several different components the first of which is a section on self-calming strategies in order to get to a place where you are calm enough to sort through an issue. Then there are many coping strategies for addressing our thinking patterns and better understanding of our thoughts. In addition, there is information about specific mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, self-esteem, anger management, etc. This app could be a useful tool in between therapy sessions to help stay on top of using your coping skills.
4.       Mindshift
An app that is made to specifically address anxiety. It is geared towards adolescents and young adults but can be useful for people of all ages. There is information on understanding anxiety and it then helps you identify the situations in your life that are triggering this for you. Once those are identified, it walks you through a step by step method for gaining skills to cope with your anxiety, providing specific tools and inspiration along the way.
5.       Rise Up + Recover

This app is geared towards individuals with disorder eating or a challenging relationship with food. On this app you can create a meal log to keep track of eating patterns and the app has a feature where you can also email your log to your therapist, nutritionist, or other supports. Along with the meal log it tracks emotions and eating disorder behaviors such as bingeing and purging. Lastly there is a coping skills section for support in between sessions with your treatment team or support individuals
Kaitlyn is a Licensed Professional Counselor who strives to help people find inner peace and healing.  She provides client centered counseling services to children, adolescents, families, couples, and adults.  She values the human connection and creating a safe space for exploration, learning, and growth.  Kaitlyn obtained her Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from The Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago, IL. She has extensive experience working with individuals struggling with eating disorders, self-esteem, and body image issues. She also has a particular passion for working with adolescents and young adults. Other areas of interest include grief and loss, anxiety, depression, ADHD, behavior issues, parent/child relationships, and family systems.
Kaitlyn utilizes several therapeutic approaches but specializes in Internal Family Systems Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She often incorporates relaxation and mindfulness techniques into sessions. In her work with children she frequently integrates play therapy and artistic expression to encourage healthy emotion regulation and communication.  In her free time Kaitlyn enjoys running, traveling, camping, and gardening. Kaitlyn believes that happiness is something you create and every individual has the power to make positive change in their life. She is here as a partner on your path 
to creating happiness and peace. 

SELF HARM

18 Jul 2017 19:31


I cannot forget the first time I learned that someone was intentionally cutting herself.  Two female high school students had asked to talk with me after class.  The friend encouraged “Amy” to tell me what she was doing.  I was dumbfounded.  WHY would you (or anyone) do this?  Amy explained that she was under a lot of stress, didn’t like how she looked, felt misunderstood at home and was generally unhappy.  I would never have guessed she was going through any difficulties by her always cheerful disposition. Unfortunately, cutting has become much more widespread for all age groups but for teens and young adults in particular.  Cutting is only one form of self harm.  Others might burn themselves, punch walls, bang their head against the wall, hit themselves, (and even worse things), all of which, in general, indicate intense emotional turmoil.  Although these actions are not suicide attempts, some individuals who self harm may also attempt suicide.   
Persons who self harm lack coping skills that work in the long term.  Several mental illnesses are also associated with self harm.  One depressed young woman I worked with told me she cut just so that she could “feel something.”  Another had been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.  Other associated diagnoses include, bipolar disorder; major depression; anxiety disorders (esp. obsessive-compulsive disorder); and psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.
Do you suspect that someone is self harming?
You might have noticed some of the following:
·         Wearing long sleeves/pants even in warm weather.  (some persons cut on body parts that are always covered by clothing so this is not always a tell tale sign.)
·         Someone who has frequent bruises or scars and has excuses for their clumsiness. (One mother told me her daughter’s excuse was that she accidentally cut herself while shaving.)
·         Having sharp objects in their possession – for no “real” reason
·         Taking excessive amounts of time alone (in bedroom or bathroom)
·         Bloodied clothing, bedding, tissues, bandages –more than what would be typical
·         Low self esteem
·         Difficulty handling their emotions

No matter what the person might be doing to self-harm, it is important for them to have access to other healthy and long term coping methods.  The relief one feels after self harming is only temporary and will continue unless other coping methods are established. 
What to do instead of self harming
I have found that teens have to WANT to stop self harming and will usually not be able to resist the urge when it happens.  (Sounds like a habit/addiction, doesn’t it?)  You can join them in their attempts to try new behaviors and change their negative self talk.  A very good article with suggestions about how to help someone stop the cycle of self harming can be found here:

http://www.wikihow.com/Stop-Self-Harming
An additional guide for parents and carers of individuals who self harm:
https://www.psych.ox.ac.uk/news/new-guide-for-parents-who-are-coping-with-their-child2019s-self-harm-2018you-are-not-alone2019
There is also an app that you can download to your smart phone.  Search for Calm Harm.



Kathy Thome is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Esprit Counseling & Consulting in Neenah, WI.  She has extensive experience working with individuals, couples, and families who want to make changes in their lives.  Kathy believes that you possess the tools necessary to make positive changes in your life, and she offers a comfortable, open, and supportive setting in which to do so. Kathy's experience as a teacher and school counselor also offer a unique perspective when working with adolescents and their families. She is currently accepting new clients. To schedule an appointment with Kathy, please go to www.espritcounseling.com and schedule online today.

CO-PARENTING: WORKING TOGETHER AFTER THE DIVORCE

11 Jul 2017 02:38


Conversations around co-parenting often center around what not to do. Common statements that people often hear are “don’t fight in front of the kids”, “don’t use the kids against one another”, “don’t bad mouth the other parent”, “don’t put your children in the middle of the conflict”. These messages don’t offer help or suggestions for parents on what to do to navigate the difficulties of co-parenting after a divorce. Divorce is difficult on the whole family and can come with feelings of anger, hurt, fear, and resentment. These feelings can make it difficult to co-parent in the beginning when emotions are high, however it’s important to find ways of interacting with your ex that support your kids. Below are some useful ideas on how to maintain positive interactions that benefits the children.
1.      Be there for your children: It is important for both parents to be emotionally present for their kids and engaged in what they have going on in their life.
2.      Talk with the children about the divorce: It is important for children to know they are not being abandoned, by either parent and they are not to blame. Divorce can be a long process so it is important to check in regularly as changes in the family occur. Let them know that you are there to support them.
3.      How you feel about your ex is less important than how you act towards them. Speak and act in a respectful manner towards the other parent especially when the children are present. It is important for the child's well being to shield them from conflict and show respect to the other parent.  Avoid putting the children in the middle and involving them in adult problems, it puts too much pressure and stress on them.
4.      Choose your battles. Major life decisions should be made jointly however parents sometimes have different views in these topics. Divorced parents don't need to agree, but learn how to deal with the differences and compromise. Determine what is most important to address and provide room for the other parent to make some choices to avoid fights on smaller topics. After time heals the hurt that occurs with the divorce some of those topics may be more easily addressed. Each parent has the right to develop their own parenting style, as long as no harm is being done.
5.      Support the other parent in having relationships with your children. Keep a co-parenting schedule, remain flexible whenever possible and cooperate. The kids are the ones who are affected when this is not a priority. Focus on co-parenting responsibilities rather than your relationship with your ex-partner. This can be hard when there is still hurt and anger that exists from the divorce however it is important to deal with these feeling separate from the relationship that the children have with the other parent.
6.      Maintain open communication channels with the other parent. Each party is entitled to their privacy; the only information that needs to be shared between co-parents are things that pertain to the children. If your relationship is not in a place to talk in a healthy manor try sticking to emails or phone calls rather than face to face meetings. In some circumstances, it may be beneficial to have a third-party present to help mediate.
7.      Maintain your children's community support. It is necessary for the children to feel secure especially when major changes are occurring in the family. Part of security involves maintaining routines and existing relationships with extended family, friends, and school activities. Children count on predictability in as many areas as possible; with many changes are going on in the family it is important to have predictability in their other relationships and routines.
8.      Maintain your own health and well being. Focus on what you need during this time and seek help and support when needed. In order to be there for your children, you need to be taking care of your well being through the divorce process and post-divorce.
9.    Seek out informal and formal sources of support.
So, you may be reading this thinking yes, that all sounds great; I can do that, but what about the other parent, they are not following any of those guidelines. It can be very frustrating to deal with a parent that will not cooperate. It can make it difficult for you to make good decisions and not sink to the level of the uncooperative parent even if that is not in the best interest of your child. Usually the parent who is unwilling to cooperate or involves the children in the divorce process has unresolved anger, grief or sadness. Leave the issues of the marriage in the past. Playing out the never-ending conversations does not help the situation, the divorce has happened, and continuing to relive those conversations/problems just increases feelings of frustration and anger. Continue to redirect the focus to topics that relate to the kids.

Overall divorce impacts everyone in the family. It is normal to experience emotions of sadness, resentment, anger, and frustration and it may take time to heal from the relationship ending and the change in family dynamics. At times, it may be beneficial to seek support from friends, family or a professional to start the healing process, focus on your own health and well being and find ways to figure out how to co-parent with an ex-partner maintaining focus on the children’s well being. Co-parenting is an ever evolving process from the time the kids are young until even when they are over 18, keeping the well being of your children as the focus can help with this difficult process. 



Danielle Zarling is a licensed professional counselor. She has specialty training in Functional Family Therapy, which looks at the
conflict and strain that occurs within family relationships and seeks to heal, rebuild and find new ways of interacting with
one another.  In addition to family therapy, Danielle enjoys working with adolescents, adults and couples.  Danielle
specializes in family and relationship issues, anxiety, depression, self-esteem, behavior issues in addition to mood
disorders. She provides client centered therapy and incorporates multiple therapeutic approaches depending on what is
the best fit for the client. She works alongside her clients to identify their strengths and build off of those strengths as they
work to achieve their goals.
Danielle has a Bachelor’s of Arts in Psychology from UW Milwaukee and Master’s Degree of Science Education in Clinical
Mental Health Counseling from the UW Oshkosh. Outside of work Danielle enjoys spending time with friends and family,
traveling and exercising.  

WELCOME NICKI!

20 Jun 2017 18:21


We would like to introduce Nicki Phillips, a counseling student joining
Esprit for the 2017-2018 school year. She is currently accepting new
clients for a reduced cost out-of-pocket.
She is a graduate student at UW Oshkosh working towards a degree in
clinical mental health counseling.
She brings a fresh perspective to her work along with a vibrant
personality. Nicki believes everyone is inherently worthy of respect and
compassion, and strives to create those qualities in her relationships
with clients.
Nicki has experience working with anxiety, self-esteem, stress
management, body image, sexual assault, depression, life transitions,
and emotion regulation/impulse control. She often uses relaxation and
grounding techniques, cognitive restructuring, coping skills, and
artistic expression in her work with clients. She particularly enjoys
working with adolescents and young adults, and has also worked with
children (ages 6 and up) and adults.
Outside of work, Nicki loves spending time with her friends, her family,
and her dog, Freya. Her favorite self-care activities are knitting,
reading, walking, and traveling.

Warning Signs That Your Child or Teen May Have Anxiety

17 Jun 2017 13:18


Does your child or teen experience irritability, angry outbursts, unexplained physical symptoms (e.g., headaches, stomachaches), difficulty paying attention, frequent worry, school or social activity avoidance, repetitive behaviors (e.g., counting objects, hair pulling, nail biting, hand washing), or generally feel overwhelmed?
Everyone has anxiety. It can even be motivating. However, frequent or more intense symptoms negatively impact children’s well-being. Further, anxious children tend to be people pleasers who worry about being judged; they may therefore minimize or hide their concerns. But, like a beach ball held underwater, anxious feelings often force their way up more strongly, if pushed down or ignored, than if they had been appropriately dealt with or managed.
Situational anxiety is normal, but when it interferes with daily activities or prevents your child from enjoying life (e.g., being active, completing schoolwork) it’s time to act. Left untreated, childhood anxiety can lead to poorer school achievement, missing out on social experiences, and increased risk for depression and substance abuse. A mental health provider can help your child develop a toolbox full of effective coping skills that will not only enable them to enjoy life more now, but become independent adults who can manage the daily stressors of post-high school education, a job, and relationships.
Anxiety may be linked to a specific stressful event and may relieve itself at some point. Some people, however, may be biologically predisposed to anxiety. In either case, a mental health counselor can help.
A more comprehensive list of anxiety symptoms and disorders appears below. If your child suffers from symptoms on this list or you suspect they have anxiety, seek an assessment from a mental health provider who can best determine whether the anxiety is normal, develop an effective treatment plan, and provide additional resources or referrals.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder:

  • Frequent or extreme worry in several life areas (e.g., family/friend relationships, world events, natural disasters, school or sport performance, well-being/safety of self or others)
  • Perfectionism
  • Constant need for approval or reassurance to feel comforted
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
Panic Disorder:
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Choking sensation
  • Stomachache
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Fear of losing control or going crazy
  • Fear of dying
  • Feeling things are surreal
  • Tingling
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Worry about recurring panic attacks
Social Anxiety
  • Fears social situations (e.g., parties, outings, family get togethers)
  • Performance fears (e.g., school presentations, class participation, recitals, sporting events)
  • Avoids talking in groups
  • Expresses concerns/embarrassment about being negatively judged
  • Discomfort initiating social interaction (e.g., inviting friends to do things, making phone calls)
  • Avoids eye contact
Separation Anxiety
  • Fearful/nervous when away from home or separated from caregiver
  • Headaches or stomachaches when thinking of or actually separated (often on school days)
  • Refuses to leave caregiver or home
  • Fears being alone
  • Nightmares about separation
  • Bed wetting
  • Worries that something bad may happen when or if separated from caregiver
  • Difficulty sleeping without caregiver present
  • Repeated pleading or temper tantrums
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)\
    Obsessions
  • Repetitive or frequent unwanted and intrusive thoughts (obsessions)
  • Upset if unable to repeatedly perform rituals and/or routines (compulsions)
  • Constant irrational worry about dirt, germs, or contamination
  • Fears harm or danger to a loved one or self
  • Over-focus on religious rules or rituals
  • Hears intrusive words or sounds
  • Constant worry about losing something valuable
  • Excessive need for symmetry, order, specific arrangement of objects or tasks
    Compulsions
  • Hoarding or saving unnecessary items
  • Ritualistic counting (e.g., of steps, ceiling tiles) or behaviors
  • Checking and re-checking (e.g., on homework, checking if light left on or door was locked)
  • Repetitive verbalization (e.g., prayer, activity, phrase, name, song)
  • Need to engage in activity or task until it is “just right”
PTSD·         
  • Intense fear and anxiety
  • Emotionally numb
  • Easily irritated or angered
  • Emotionally triggered by anything (e.g., a smell, sound, person) related to a traumatic event
  • Avoids places, people, or activities associated with a traumatic event (e.g., accident, abuse)
  • Difficulty sleeping or nightmares
  • Feels detached from others
  • Jumpy or exaggerated startle response
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Reliving or re-creating a traumatic event through play
Other anxiety indicators can include:
  • Phobias or irrational fears of specific situations or objects (e.g., spiders, open spaces)
  • Refusing to speak in situations where talking is expected or necessary in daily life
  • Persistent skin picking or scratching
  • Pulling out hair, eyebrows, or eyelashes (trichotillomania)

Kathy Glick is a licensed mental health therapist, who recently joined Esprit Counseling, and is currently accepting new clients. Viewing the client as the most important person in the room, Kathy provides a caring presence, helping clients find hope. Building on clients’ strengths, Kathy helps them discover their own resilience, to better achieve their goals and dreams. Using evidence based therapies (including CBT, EMDR, ACT, Motivational Interviewing, and Family Systems), Kathy individually tailors her approach and has consistently rated as highly effective in helping clients reduce symptoms.  Kathy has worked extensively with trauma (e.g., sexual abuse), life adjustment (e.g., grief, divorce, illness), PTSD, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, bi-polar disorder, mood disorders, grief, co-dependency, relationship difficulties, and anger issues. She treats adults, adolescents, and children (10 and up), individually, in couples, or as families.  Kathy holds a Master of Science from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, certification from the National Board for Certified Counselors, and is Licensed in Wisconsin. Outside of work, Kathy loves spending time with family, friends, her children, and her dog, Miguel. She enjoys traveling, yoga, walking, biking, cooking, and reading.

June is LGBTQA+ Pride Month

10 Jun 2017 11:43


June is LGBTQA+ Pride Month!
In honor of this, we at Esprit wants to share some of the great resources for both members of the LGBTQA+ community and their allies right here in the Fox Valley. Below is a list of resources and a short description of each from their websites.
Valued Families: http://valuedfamilies.blogspot.com/
Valued Families promotes family equality for Fox Valley LGBT parents and their children by providing social networking, education, community outreach, and advocacy to increase recognition and respect for LGBT families in our community.
LGBTQ Anti-Violence Project: https://www.facebook.com/FoxoAVP/
The Fox Valley & Oshkosh Anti-Violence Project (FoxO AVP) was created to improve the safety of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) individuals who may be experiencing violence or be at risk for all forms of violence (including hate crimes, suicide, intimate partner violence and sexual assault).
The FoxO AVP will work to meet the immediate safety needs of the underserved LGBTQ community and provide long-term solutions by developing supportive infrastructures at the 4 collaborating domestic violence and sexual assault agencies, law enforcement, health care professionals, schools & universities, as well as in the LGBTQ community itself.
Rainbow Alliance for Youth- Safe Group in Neenah/Menasha: https://www.diverseandresilient.org/work/cultivating-leaders/rainbow-alliance-youth/
The Rainbow Alliance for Youth (RAY) focuses on building capacity, nurturing leadership, and strengthening collaborations to develop comprehensive programs addressing the needs of LGBT youth in Wisconsin and throughout the country.  By integrating LGBT youth programs into mainstream community efforts about prevention, youth, and social justice issues, RAY can focus on LGBT youth as leaders and resources to their community, maximizing their development and risk prevention as well as enhancing communities.
LGBT Partnership Goodwillhttps://www.goodwillncw.org/programs/diversity/lgbt/
The LGBT Partnership is an ongoing leadership development and support group for youth ages 14-18 who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning and allied. Spectrum is a social and educational group for adults 18 and older who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, questioning or allied. T-Force is a transgender social group for adults 18 and over.
UW Oshkosh also does some community SAFE trainings.  You can request a training here:  https://www.uwosh.edu/lgbtqcenter/safe-training
  Participants  take part in a three hour interactive workshop designed to introduce you to LGBTQ+ terms, culture, some of the challenges that many LGBTQ+ people encounter in their lives, and how to be an effective ally both in and out of the classroom. 
SAFE training prepares you to become an ally to the LGBTQ+ community.  We address the ever changing terminology in the community, the messages that are generated in society about LGBTQ+ lives, the coming out process, and other skills necessary to being a successful ally.  Learning goals for this training include:
·         Be sensitive to various identities of our students, faculty, and staff.
·         Understand the challenges of being asexual, bisexual, gay, lesbian, queer, transgender, questioning in a predominately heterosexual and cisgender society.
·         Confront acephobia, biphobia, homophobia, and transphobia in all its guises through educational means.
·         Provide support to LGBTQ+ students, staff and faculty.
·         Promote and acknowledge safe places for LGBTQ+ individuals.
·         Increase awareness of self-defined LGBTQ+ allies.
Fox Valley Pride Out Loudhttp://www.foxvalleyrprideoutloud.org/
            https://m.facebook.com/foxvalleyprideoutloud/
           
The Fox Valley is known for offering great opportunities in education, enterntainment and culture.  Having a Pridefest is a wonderful way to show that the Fox Valley is an accepting and safe place for everyone in our community.  Our event will include a potluck picnic, live music, booths, and vendors during the day and a drag show in the evening.  It is a chance to spend the day with people who understand and offer support for the challenges faced by the LGBTQ community.  Fox Valley Pride Outloud was created to celebrate the whole LGBTQ community no matter how they identify themselves, and show that the Fox Valley is an inclusive place for everyone.  
Nicki Phillips is an counseling student at Esprit and a graduate student at UW Oshkosh working towards a degree in clinical mental health counseling. She brings a fresh perspective to her work along with a vibrant personality. She believes everyone is inherently worthy of respect and compassion, and strives to create those qualities in her relationships with clients. She sees clients who are uninsured, underinsured, or prefer to pay out-of-pocket for a reduced cost. She particularly enjoys working with adolescents and young adults, and has also worked with children (ages 6 and up) and adults. She has immediate openings for new clients! Please schedule online at espritcounseling.com. She can also be reached via email at nicki@espritcounseling.com or by phone at (920) 383-1287.

Making Sense of Consent

4 Jun 2017 01:47


What is consent?
Consent is the most important part of any sexual encounter. The laws about consent can be confusing, but some basic facts can help you make the experience positive for all parties involved. At its core, consent is an agreement by all parties to engage in a given sexual activity. There are many different ways to give consent, and verbal consent tends to be the best way to respect your partner(s) boundaries and avoid misunderstandings.
How does it really work?
Consent needs to be given for every individual sexual activity, every time. Just because someone gives consent for something once, doesn’t mean it’s always okay. Also, consent for one type of sexual activity does not translate to consent for all activity. Consent should be requested and received before proceeding with any sexual activity at any time. It’s all about communication and respect, and you can change your mind at any time.
What does it look like?
Positive (or affirmative) consent is the best way to make sure you and your partner(s) are on the same page. This involves getting a clear “yes” to questions like, “is this okay?” or, “can we try ____?” It is not the absence of a “no” or the assumption that someone is okay with something based on what they are wearing or how they look. It is also not getting a “yes” based on fear or intimidation. The most important part of consent is that it is freely given.
What about legally?
Legal consent laws and definitions vary by state. In Wisconsin, “consent” means words or overt actions by a person who is competent to give informed consent indicating a freely given agreement to have sexual intercourse or sexual contact. “Freely given consent” means the consent was given of the person’s own free will, without being induced by fraud, coercion, violence, or threat of violence.
A person cannot consent to sexual contact or sexual intercourse in circumstances where: (a) the person suffers from a mental illness or defect which impairs capacity to appraise personal conduct; or (b) the person is unconscious or for any other reason is physically unable to communicate unwillingness to an act. (Wis. Stat. Ann. § 940.225(4)).
In Wisconsin, the age of consent is 18 years of age. (Wis. Stat. Ann. § 948.01(1). Wis. Stat. Ann. § 948.09). Anyone under 18 years of age is incapable of providing consent for sexual activity, regardless of the age of their partner(s). Other groups of people who are incapable of providing consent are: a person suffering from a “mental illness or defect,” a person who is physically unable to communicate unwillingness to participate, a person who is unconscious, a person who is under the influence of an intoxicant to a degree which renders that person incapable of freely giving consent (if the defendant has actual knowledge that the person is incapable of giving consent and the defendant has the purpose to have sexual contact or sexual intercourse with the person while the person is incapable of giving consent). (Wis. Stat. Ann. § 940.225(4)). There are also several types of relationships that impact a person’s ability to freely give consent, including: (a) a therapist-patient relationship; (b) an employee of an adult family home, community-based residential facility, an in-patient health care facility, or a state treatment facility who has sexual conduct with a patient or resident of the facility; (c) an employee of a child welfare agency, foster home, or shelter or a direct care or treatment services hospital or home health agency who has sexual conduct with a client at the facility; (d) a correction officer or prison volunteer who has sexual contact or sex with an inmate (unless the person was sexually assaulted by the inmate); (e) a probation or parole officer who has intercourse or sexual contact with the individual on parole or probation who’s supervised by him or her or a subordinate. (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 940.22; 940.225).
That’s a lot to remember.
There are a lot of factors in obtaining consent, so approach every sexual situation with respect for your partner(s) and their boundaries regardless of how long you have been sexually active with them. Here’s a video comparing sexual consent to making tea. It’s an easy way to remember some of the different aspects of consent.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGoWLWS4-kU
If you’ve experienced sexual assault, you’re not alone. To speak with someone who is trained to help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org.

Nicki Phillips is an intern at Esprit and a graduate student at UW Oshkosh working towards a degree in clinical mental health counseling. She brings a fresh perspective to her work along with a vibrant personality. She believes everyone is inherently worthy of respect and compassion, and strives to create those qualities in her relationships with clients. She sees clients who are uninsured, underinsured, or prefer to pay out-of-pocket for a reduced cost. She particularly enjoys working with adolescents and young adults. She is seeing new clients beginning June 1, 2017. To schedule an appointment with Nicki, please go to www.espritcounseling.com

Meet Kathy Glick

14 May 2017 16:02


Kathy Glick, mental health therapist, recently joined Esprit Counseling and is currently accepting new clients. Viewing the client as the most important person in the room, Kathy provides a caring presence, helping clients find hope. Building on clients’ strengths, Kathy helps them discover their own resilience, to better achieve their goals and dreams.
Using evidence based therapies (including CBT, EMDR, ACT, Motivational Interviewing, and Family Systems), Kathy individually tailors her approach and has consistently rated as highly effective in helping clients reduce symptoms. 
Kathy has worked extensively with trauma (e.g., sexual abuse), life adjustment (e.g., grief, divorce, illness), PTSD, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, bi-polar disorder, mood disorders, grief, co-dependency, relationship difficulties, and anger issues. She treats adults, adolescents, and children (10 and up), individually, in couples, or as families.  
Kathy holds a Master of Science from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, certification from the National Board for Certified Counselors, and is Licensed in Wisconsin. 

Outside of work, Kathy loves spending time with family, friends, and her dog, Miguel. She enjoys traveling, yoga, walking, biking, cooking, and reading.
Kathy Glick, MSE, LPC, NCC
Phone:  920 521 7133

Fax:  920 521 7134

Talking about Mental Health

14 May 2017 15:54


     May is mental health awareness month and I think this is a good time to talk about the language surrounding mental health.  It is no surprise that there is much stigma around mental health.  There are many reasons for this but the one I want to discuss today has to do with language.

     A few months ago, my 16 year old son was talking to me about the mental health unit they were learning about in class.  When talking about famous people with mental health issues, he used the phrase “that guy is bipolar”.  As a mom, I felt uncomfortable with this but as a therapist, I feel the need to protect my clients.

     Often times, when I meet with new clients they refer to themselves in derogatory ways such as “crazy” or “nuts” or “bipolar”.  What is actually wrong with saying these things?  These are statements that continue the shame cycle.

     As a therapist, I am not immune to the use of this language either.  Do you remember when Tom Cruise seemed to be acting different?  There was video footage of him jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch during the show?  I made a comment in my office, among my peers, that he was “probably bipolar”.  Later, one of my dear friends (who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder for many years), gently approached me and told me that what I had said was insensitive.  You know what?  She was absolutely right!  It was insensitive to my friend who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder but it was also very presumptive of me to even suggest that Tom Cruise had this disorder based on a small video clip.  Here I was, a therapist, who would never intentionally shame someone, using shaming language.  I will be forever grateful to my friend for being brave enough to tell me how this impacted her.  It was the start of a shift in how I viewed mental illness and language. 
For example, when someone is diagnosed with cancer, we don’t typically hear someone say “I’m cancer”.  We certainly wouldn’t say to someone “You are cancer”. 

There are likely 2 reasons for this. 
·         We remember that there is much more to the person than just cancer.  That person may have family, other interests and passions, and a whole lifetime of experiences.  
·         Second, cancer is seen as something someone “gets”, usually through no fault of their own.  We don’t shame someone when they get cancer, instead, we rally around that individual and family and do everything we can to lift them up. 

     But when someone is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, or depression or any other mental health illness, we tend to see it very differently.  We wonder what the person did to cause it.  (By the way, we do this in the hopes that we can prevent it happening to us).  And we tend to shame the heck out of it, which then gets transferred to the person who has the mental illness.

     When I meet with clients who refer to themselves as “bipolar” or “crazy”, I gently challenge their language.  They are encouraged to say “I have bipolar” rather than “I’m bipolar”.  It suggests that the only thing this person is, is an illness.  There is so much more to an individual than their mental health.  That individual, too, has hopes and dreams, passions and interests, relationships and a whole lifetime of experiences.

     Language is an issue too when people say someone is “crazy” or “have you taken your crazy pills today”.  It is insensitive and doesn’t address the whole issue.

     So, I challenge you to be aware of your language towards other and also yourself.  Perhaps we can make the world a bit more compassionate together.
Jennifer Olkowski  is a state certified Licensed Professional Counselor and Clinical Substance Abuse Counselor who has worked in a variety of behavioral settings, including inpatient, outpatient and private practice.  Jennifer enjoys working with children, adolescents and adults with a variety of mental health issues from everyday adjustment concerns to mild and significant anxiety concerns to mood disorders.  She is especially passionate and skilled in working with the anxiety spectrum disorders.  Jennifer has received specific training in Exposure and Response Prevention, the gold standard of treatment in anxiety disorders.  She is particularly passionate about bringing mindfulness and commitment to values in everyday life utilizing Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.  Her focus is encouraging present moment awareness, more compassion for the self and helping clients identify what truly matters to them.  Jennifer has a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology from UW Oshkosh and Masters of Science in Community Counseling from the University of Nebraska.  As a parent herself, Jennifer recognizes the challenges in raising children who are healthy and resilient to the many ups and downs of life.  When Jennifer is not in the office, she enjoys spending time with her family, cooking and being in the outdoors.  

Parenting with Choices and Logical Consequences

23 Apr 2017 15:14


Raising kids is hard work. Of course there are wonderful moments of parenting that remind you of all the beauty in having children but in between those there can be some really tough moments. Here are a few tips to help navigate the challenges of managing difficult behaviors in your children.
When dealing with a difficult behavior or defiance start with offering choices instead of moving right to consequences. The choices that you offer the child will both have desirable results but will give the child a sense of autonomy. For example if your child is refusing to go to bed you may offer the choices, “Would you like to read a book or listen to quiet music when you get in bed?” You could also offer, “Would you like mom or dad to read you a story once you get in bed?” If your child is refusing to do their homework you may offer the choices, “would you like to do your homework at the kitchen table or in your room?” You may also try, “Would you like to listen to music on the radio or with your headphones while you do your homework?” There are endless choices that you can offer but regardless of what they choose the end result will be positive. This can help to reduce power struggles as it allows the child to feel they have some choice in the situation.
If after offering choices a child is still not able to follow through with completing a task or discontinuing a certain behavior you can put in a place a logical consequence. A logical consequence is one that is connected to undesirable behavior. For example if a child is using hurtful words towards another person they could be asked to say or write 5 nice things about that person. At times when a child may hurt another person they are then asked to do a kind act for that person as a logical consequence. For teens a typical issue may be coming home late, so a logical consequence would be earlier curfew the next time they are out. These consequences are directly connected to the behavior and help the child make the connection between their behavior and the consequence while also encouraging positive behavior. This is a different approach than taking something away such as a toy or screen time as those would be unrelated to these behaviors. Also, with young children the consequence should very closely follow the behavior. If too much time passes between the behavior and consequence young children may fail to make the connection to their behavior.
A different type of consequence is the natural consequence. These consequences occur naturally as a result of the child’s behavior. For example, if a teen refuses to pick their clothes up to be washed and then they don’t have the clean clothes they want to wear for school that is a natural consequence for their choices. Natural consequences can be a helpful tool to help parents not engage in power struggles. In this example not engaging in the power struggle of getting your teen to clean their clothes up in their room because as a result they may not have certain clothes clean when they want to wear them. This will be a way for the teen to recognize the power and responsibility they have in their own lives and reduce arguments with parents.
In all of these scenarios the most important piece is consistency and follow through. If you deem a certain behavior unacceptable then you must be consistent with that and give a consequence each time that behavior occurs. The same goes for follow through, if you tell a child there will be a consequence for a particular behavior then you must follow through when that behavior occurs. Without consistency and follow through behavior change will not occur.

At the end of the day, don’t forget to highlight the positives in your children. They will make mistakes from time to time but help them to understand this does not make them a “bad kid”. Help them to separate their choices from who they are. Making a poor choice does not make them a bad kid. Recognize when they do things well and reward positive behavior. You are their greatest support and their biggest fan, your approval and love is often their most desired reward. 
Kaitlyn Gitter is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Esprit Counseling and Consulting in Neenah, WI. Kaitlyn believes that human connection and growth are the keys to emotional wellness. She is dedicated to providing a safe, comfortable, and peaceful experience to explore your life story.  Kaitlyn works with children, adolescents, families, and couples and has a special interest in working with individuals who have an eating disorder.  To schedule an appointment with Kaitlyn now, please go to www.espritcounseling.com

A Fresh Perspective

11 Apr 2017 00:13


Last month, I had the incredible opportunity to spend 17 days in Malaysia. While we were able to spend a couple of glorious days relaxing on the beach, we spent most of our time in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur volunteering at various sites for at-risk youth.
Our first day as volunteers was also the kids’ first day of a new school year. We learned that the school served teens who were legally unable to attend government schools because, for one reason or another, they did not have the required papers. The 6 of us at that site listened incredulously as students and teachers alike flipped effortlessly between Malay and English, sometimes even falling into what is known as “Manglish,” where each word in a sentence is a different language.
Throughout our time in Malaysia, we also did various tours, cultural experiences, and even a Buddhist wellness retreat. All the while, it repeatedly struck me just how little I had understood about this part of the world, and how Malaysian culture somehow both stood in stark contrast to and was similar to American culture. Examining this further helped me leave with some amazing lessons and new perspectives. Here are 5 things I brought back with me:
Stop hurrying
Our culture constantly has us in a hurry, our schedules filled to the brim with every possible commitment. We tend to think that if we aren't exhausted at the end of every day, we haven't done enough. In Malaysia, there is none of that “shoulding” or “not enough”. People do what they can, when they can. Businesses don’t open if employees are sick. Buses get where they are going eventually. The traffic is worse than New York City, but no one honks. There is simply a sense of calm that pervades the atmosphere. With such different expectations came less anxiety and stress. Why wouldn't we want to feel that way?
Goodbyes don’t have to be forever
Before we left, my professor told me, “when you make a friend in Malaysia, you make a friend for life.” Sure, I thought, until we are back in our respective countries, in our busy lives. I can barely keep up with all of my friends and family here, how in the world is that even possible? Then we got there, and we built incredible friendships with everyone from the kids to the bus drivers, even the hotel manager. On our last day, not a single person said “goodbye” to us. Each of them looked us in the eyes and said “see you later,” and meant it. In Malaysian culture, there is no such thing as goodbye. Everyone you meet was meant to be in your life, and you will see them again someday. Some of this has to do with faith and various beliefs about life after death, but it is a beautiful notion that no goodbye is ever forever.
You don’t have to have much to help others
Malaysians do not live in a culture of lack, like America often tends to be. We are always striving for the best, the newest, the most expensive thing, and when we fall short, we blame. We blame ourselves, we blame others, and we blame our circumstances. Somehow, who we are and what we have is never enough. The Malaysian people I met live in a culture of abundance, despite the material things they don’t have. This allows them to appreciate every little thing they do have, and view the non-essentials as extras to share. One day, we were able to volunteer with the teens in a village outside the capital populated by indigenous families. Many of the families were without money, jobs, electricity, or education. Our new teenage friends spent the day painting, cleaning, and teaching with the children in the village. They saw themselves as the privileged ones. At one point, one of our students said to me, “we want to show them that they are just like us. We know they are human beings and that they deserve everything we have.”
Remember to have gratitude for the little things

Along with a culture of abundance comes gratitude for everything they have. The gratitude my new friends had for a sunny day, a cold water bottle, or a beautiful flower helped me realize all of the things I take for granted. For example, winter has never been my favorite season. I tend to avoid going outside whenever possible, and complain about the weather constantly. However, after spending an hour trying to describe snow to kids who have never seen it and likely never will, I came home to Wisconsin with a new appreciation for our four seasons. Every time it snows, I think of them, and I take a moment to be in awe of the beauty of a fresh snowfall.
Nicki Phillips has been with Esprit as a counseling practicum student this semester through the University of Wisconsin/Oshkosh.  Next semester, she will be doing her internship with us.  She brings a fresh perspective to her work along with a vibrant personality.  She has contributed many great ideas, including informative leaflets you will find in our waiting room. 

        
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