Serving

LEARN MORE

Sugar Land Counseling Center Blog

An informational series by Sugar Land Counseling Center Staff

Sugar Land Counseling Center Blog

An informational series by Sugar Land Counseling Center staff



On Humanity   

by  

Licensed Professional Counselor 

March 22, 2020

Following the death of George Floyd, we are currently undergoing increased tension of  race issues and racial divide in this country.  We are viewing peaceful protests all the way to violent and deadly riots in our cities.  We have heard politicians speak about these issues, but I would like to focus not just on why these atrocities are occuring, but what we can do to stop them.  These racial issues exist due to history and groups thinking they are superior to others.  Why is the human being the most destructive species on the planet?  


,  and Several stressors are associated with the coronavirus right now. These stressors may include: an uncertainty of what’s yet to come as well as job instability, the fear of catching the virus, worry about having enough essential items, and concern over how this may affect us and our loved ones in the future. Though all of these stressors are valid, it’s important to remember that all of this is momentary and we will get through this. In o.  rder to have a sense of normalcy in this pandemonium, it is important that we try to create a routine so that we don’t get discouraged.


Begin by making sure that you’re following the protocol concerning the virus but also be aware of your mental state. By creating a routine or a safe space (whether that means going for a walk or waking up at a specific time), it helps to create a sense of peace and in doing so it helps with any anxiety. Another thing to remember is that few times do we get the opportunity to stay at home and be surrounded by loved ones or do things in the home that we have been putting off. For instance, ask yourself, “when was the last time I cleaned out my closet,” or “played board games with my family?” Or “took time to do a hobby, whether that is read,write, or paint?” Lets use this time to ground ourselves and really think about what is really important. For instance, rather than worry about what is yet to come, lets focus on the here and now and how we are coming together in this crisis. Instead of stressing that the kids are not in school or are not learning, maybe they can be taught other things from the people that they care for the most. Do they know how to cook for instance, or do they know how to do laundry? Do they know about finances and how to budget? If not, then maybe this could become a teachable moment. Practicing self care and making sure that there is a healthy balance in your life is essential during this time. Even if it may be difficult, remember that your mindset plays an essential role in how you will react in a state of crisis. Remember the tool set that you may have and trust that together we will overcome this obstacle.

Everything is Momentary   

by Adriana Gonzalez, LPC 

Licensed Professional Counselor 

March 22, 2020

Considering we are experiencing a nationwide Pandemic it comes to no surprise that many people are struggling to adjust to what is happening around us. Though we do not have control of what is yet to come, we do have control of how we cope with this. Now more than ever it is important to practice ‘self care’ and be mindful of the Corona virus as well as what we can do to take care of ourselves.


Several stressors are associated with the coronavirus right now. These stressors may include: an uncertainty of what’s yet to come as well as job instability, the fear of catching the virus, worry about having enough essential items, and concern over how this may affect us and our loved ones in the future. Though all of these stressors are valid, it’s important to remember that all of this is momentary and we will get through this. In order to have a sense of normalcy in this pandemonium, it is important that we try to create a routine so that we don’t get discouraged.


Begin by making sure that you’re following the protocol concerning the virus but also be aware of your mental state. By creating a routine or a safe space (whether that means going for a walk or waking up at a specific time), it helps to create a sense of peace and in doing so it helps with any anxiety. Another thing to remember is that few times do we get the opportunity to stay at home and be surrounded by loved ones or do things in the home that we have been putting off. For instance, ask yourself, “when was the last time I cleaned out my closet,” or “played board games with my family?” Or “took time to do a hobby, whether that is read,write, or paint?” Lets use this time to ground ourselves and really think about what is really important. For instance, rather than worry about what is yet to come, lets focus on the here and now and how we are coming together in this crisis. Instead of stressing that the kids are not in school or are not learning, maybe they can be taught other things from the people that they care for the most. Do they know how to cook for instance, or do they know how to do laundry? Do they know about finances and how to budget? If not, then maybe this could become a teachable moment. Practicing self care and making sure that there is a healthy balance in your life is essential during this time. Even if it may be difficult, remember that your mindset plays an essential role in how you will react in a state of crisis. Remember the tool set that you may have and trust that together we will overcome this obstacle.

Sugar Land Counseling Center Blog

An informational series by Sugar Land Counseling Center staff



Managing a Stay at Home Family:  Adopting to Family Life Under COVID-19   

by Amanda Trost 

Supervised by Kiran Mishra, Ph.D. 

March 21, 2020

Those of us in families adapting to both telecommuting and homeschooling are living in uncharted territory right now. Routines are disrupted and stress levels are high. The following guidelines can help you and your family establish a feeling of stability, control, and connectedness while reducing stress.


1. Hold on to the things that help your family feel normal.

Do you typically drink your coffee in the same spot every morning? Do laundry on a particular day? Walk the dog after dinner? There are so many comforting parts of our normal routine (saying good morning to coworkers, kids seeing their classmates and teachers, eating at our favorite restaurants) that abruptly stopped. Continue the routines you can. Adapt the ones you can’t. Get dressed and ready for the day, even if you aren’t going anywhere. Make sure kids eat breakfast on time. Keep all meal times on school schedules if possible. Watch favorite movies. If you're not able to gather with friends, family, or support groups, find a way to connect online.  If you can't go in person to your regular counseling appointments, schedule a telehealth session.


2. Limit technology.  Prioritize exercise, family time, and recreation.

Studies show that as video game usage goes up, kids experience a loss of focus, trouble relating to peers, and are more likely to show signs of depression. Video games, especially online with friends, can provide a much-needed social outlet right now, but establish limits and stick with them. The same applies to teens texting friends and using social media, as well as our own social media usage and news consumption. We need to feel connected, but smart phone addiction is a serious concern. Spending too much time on devices long term can lead to back problems and nerve damage due to poor posture. Short term overuse leads to stress, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and trouble sleeping, which now, more than ever, we want to mitigate.


Exercise is one way to mitigate stress. Kids aren’t attending gym class or athletics. They aren’t walking to school or the bus stop or between classes. Adults aren’t walking around the office or going to the gym. We probably weren’t exercising enough to begin with. It’s even more important now for our physical and mental health to get moving.


Spend time together as a family. Find activities you enjoy both together and alone. Trying something new engages the brain, develops a sense of satisfaction, and lowers stress. Make sure you aren’t staying inside isolated. Spending time outside has been shown to improve mental clarity, reduce stress, and increase optimism. Go out in the backyard or drive to the park, just keep a distance from others.


3. School work is not a top priority.

As a former teacher, this is really important for me to share with families. In the next few weeks, teachers and schools will be sending instructions for online learning. This is

unprecedented and will not occur without hiccups. Helping kids with school work can be frustrating for adults who have their own work responsibilities and don’t have experience with teaching. It also changes the dynamics of parenting. Avoid power struggles with kids. Listen to their concerns and frustrations with empathy and create a plan for school work together. Monitor them for frustration and aim to make online learning something they look forward to instead of dread. Remind kids that this is new, and if it feels overwhelming, that’s okay. It is okay if they don’t understand directions, and it is okay if they take breaks or don’t end up completing their work. Encourage them to try, and create time in your daily schedule for school work, but stop when it becomes stressful.


It’s possible that communication from teachers and schools may create a sense of urgency for students in completing their assignments. Lowering stress and maintaining family harmony at this point is more important than doing well in school. We have the right to decide how much school work and what expectations are right for our family at this point. Once schools are up and running again, our teachers and administrators will help us catch up. There will be kids who, because they lack internet access, are watching younger siblings, because they struggle with maintaining attention and motivation, or because their stress level is too high, don’t turn in anything while school is out. And that is going to be okay. It will be addressed by the school when we return. Our kids will not fall through the cracks. We are not alone in any struggles we encounter and allowances will be made. If you have a child that struggles with perfectionism or if you or your child have an expectation of straight As, remember, grades do not matter right now. They are not a top priority, and most likely, the work done while kids are out of school will either not be graded or they will have opportunities to improve those grades. Colleges will not deny admission or scholarships because of low grades or missing work in a global pandemic. A child’s academic reputation or chance for a successful future is not going to be made or broken at this time.


4. It is impossible to give 100% right now.

Just as our families may not be able to give our 100% to school, we may not be able to complete our jobs from home to the same standard as we would if we were in the office. Interruptions will happen. Miscommunication will happen. Many of us are experiencing waves of stress, frustration, and feelings of uncertainty, which are bound to affect our job performance and interactions with coworkers.


We also won’t be able to give our all to our children when balancing both work and childcare. They may need us or ask for comfort and attention at times that aren’t convenient for us if we’re working from home.


Spouses are likely to have different reactions to demands of telecommuting and homeschool as well as different reactions to social distancing and different fears connected to COVID-19. You may have too much of your own stress to listen and

support someone else. You may feel your spouse isn’t doing enough to support you. Tempers are more likely to flare in times of stress. Be forgiving.


You may have parents you support or who support you, who have different stressors, needs, and fears.


Forgive yourself if you feel like you aren’t the perfect employee, parent, spouse, child, etc. Forgive yourself if you feel like you aren’t able to do it all. You aren’t. You’re human. If you try to do it all, you also run a very high risk of burning yourself out. Right now, you want to do everything you can to keep yourself and your family healthy, which includes limiting stress.


5. Create a schedule.

Having a stable routine creates a sense of normalcy, reduce arguments about screen time and other activities, and ensure time is allocated for the things that are important. If you aren’t used to eating all your meals at home, it can feel as if you’re suddenly running a restaurant out of your kitchen. Our dishwashers are getting a workout. Evaluate your current household needs, and have kids help. Just as with school, set your kids up for success with chores. Praise them, even if they complain about chores or they don’t vacuum the house to your satisfaction. It might help to remember you don’t have to have a clean house right now: most likely, you won’t have company coming over for a while.


Kids are in school for 7 or more hours a day, but if you subtract lunch, recess, physical education and electives, dismissal and attendance, games and breaks, they really aren’t focusing on actual school work more than a few hours a day. Most homeschool research recommends three or less hours a day, breaks included, for focusing on core subjects. It’s also suggested that a child’s attention span is equal to their age in minutes. Thus, a typical 10-year-old can sustain attention for 10 minutes before needing a break.

For young children, safety and supervision is a top priority. For older children, establish times in which they can interrupt you with questions and times they have to be self-sufficient so that work is interrupted less often. Decide ahead when you will spend time as a family, establish when you have to be at work, and determine when you need time alone to recharge.


6. Communicate that rules will change.

Some families feel comfortable allowing their children to go to friends’ houses right now. Some don’t. Make sure that kids know you’re making the safest decision with the information you’re given right now. Not being able to go out feels a lot like being grounded. Make sure kids know they aren’t in trouble and that staying at home isn’t a punishment. Validate their frustration and let them know that you feel frustrated not allowing them to do the things they want too.


7. Prioritize family meetings and check ins.

Kids may not have the vocabulary to express fears and frustrations. They are probably feeling a lot right now. Check in with them often. Encourage them to ask questions about COVID-19 when they have them, but help them to not hyper-focus on their fears. Validate their concerns, but stay calm. Telling them not to worry and that everything will be okay can feel dismissive and make them less likely to express fears in the future. It’s okay to tell them you don’t have all the answers. Make sure they understand that things they see online or on tv may be based on rumors and share information with them that is developmentally and age appropriate. Remind them that staying away from others that are ill and washing their hands greatly reduces their chances of getting ill. Remind them that most people who catch this virus recover and that we are staying home to be extra careful. Our kids may have fears about us being ill as well. Assure them you are doing your best to stay safe.


We are most likely spending a lot more time together than we ever have as families, which can easily lead to us stepping on each other’s toes. Spend time on a regular basis checking in to see how everyone is doing. Go over family rules and routines, especially if they are changing, and make sure to respectfully address concerns and confusion. Give kids input and choices. Everyone needs to feel like they have some degree of control. Encourage family members to express feelings and work things out instead of having resentments. Don’t minimize fears and questions family members have. Encourage open communication. Perhaps a blessing in disguise is that we have an opportunity to become closer with the people who matter the most to us during this uncertain time.

Sugar Land Counseling Center Blog

An informational series by Sugar Land Counseling Center staff



Why Breathing is the Answer (but probably not the way you do it)! 

by James Matson, LCSW  

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

March 19, 2020

Just Breathe   A simple solution for managing your stress, anxiety or anger. But do you know the most effective way breathing can manage your emotions?


In an age where experts tout meditation as a panacea for all things mental, emotional and physical, you might be surprised to learn that the neuroscience research supports regulated breathing over meditation for anxiety and stress management.


Dr. Stephen Porges, author of Polyvagal Theory, writes that any regulated breathing that tones the Vagus nerve, “tricks” the brain into moving away from the flight, fight, freeze reaction (the parasympathetic response at the core of stress and anxiety) and into a rest, relax and digest mode.


Porges explains that the key to toning the vagus nerve is to exhale longer than you inhale.


A popular example of proper regulated breathing comes from holistic physician, Dr. Andrew Weil. He champions the 4-7-8 breathing technique. 4-7-8 breathing is “utterly simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere.”


4-7-8 Breathing Exercise


· sit with a straight back

· clear your lungs with an exhale through the mouth

· inhale through the nose for a count of four

· hold your breath for a count of seven

· exhale through the mouth for a count of eight


Weil recognizes that the 4-7-8 ratio is more important than rigidly adhering to the count. You may be more comfortable with a longer or shorter count. In his instructions, the exhale is twice as long as the inhale. Porges and Weil agree on this crucial point.


I’ve worked successfully with clients that had anxiety, panic, anger and even dissociation. All have benefited from this regulated breathing technique. It is both an intervention and a practice. I recommend that clients take time out everyday to practice from fifteen to thirty minutes of regulated breathing. But you can also use it to manage your central nervous system as it accelerates into panic or rage.


Porges encourage us to be creative with our vagus nerve toning. For example, he points out that the practice of humming also uses a brief intake of breath, holding and slowly breathing out. So does singing, playing a kazoo and blowing bubbles. Perhaps being playful everyday for thirty minutes is the fun and easiest way into the serious business of emotional regulation.


So now that you know how, Just Breathe...Out Longer than you Breathe In.

Sugar Land Counseling Center Blog

An informational series by Sugar Land Counseling Center staff



Teens on the Spectrum and Establishing Friendships 

by Kiran Mishra, Ph.D.  

Licensed Psychologist

March 11, 2020

Developing and maintaining friendships in the middle school and high school years presents as a challenge for most teens, but for those on the Autism Spectrum, the challenges are usually even greater.   When kids are younger, parents and even teachers generally help with ensuring social connections by doing things such as arranging play dates or not allowing the distribution of birthday party invitations to only some in the classroom.  However, when they enter into the pre-teen and teen years, kids usually form their own friend groups based on such things as interests.  Given the nature of such intensely focused interests or preoccupations of those on the spectrum, they may find it difficult to integrate with other teens during their middle and high school years.  Moreover, reading subtle social cues, reading body language and facial expressions,  and getting things such as jokes are inherently nonintuitive for those on the spectrum, making this even more challenging.  Other things that frequently go along with ASD,  such as stimming, additionally contribute to the challenge of integrating with other teens, as the other teens may perceive the ASD teen as different.   While most pre-teens and teens desperately want to fit in, many if not most on the spectrum are no different.  Due to some of the above-mentioned challenges they may face, teens on the spectrum frequently face feelings of isolation, rejection, low self esteem, and often sadness and anxiety.  Thus, it is important for parents, family members and even teachers/educators to set them up for success as much as possible.  


What can we do to help pre-teens and teens on the spectrum integrate and develop meaningful friendships?  It's first important to ask them how they think and feel about it and whether they would like to have friends and be more integrated with peers, and understand why.  Some on the spectrum crave friendships and sadly, feel alone, while others are happy being more to themselves.  For those that desire friendships, modeling and role playing can be effective in teaching them how to do things such as initiate and maintain conversations with others.  Encourage them to go out of their comfort zone by initiating  rather than waiting to be approached by others.  They can do things such as go and sit with a student they see sitting alone in the cafeteria and begin a conversation.  Additionally, teach your child to stand up for themselves if you see them getting taken advantage of or being bullied.  This will likely help with their self esteem.  Thirdly, because most teens want to blend in rather than stand out, it is helpful to ensure they fit in with their appearance.  This includes hygiene issues and  attire.  It's often a bonus if they have a sibling who is in the know when it comes to things such as pop culture, trends, etc. with their age group.   Another way for them to make connections is to help them get involved in extra-curricular activities.  These may be through school clubs/organizations, school sports, or community activities such as acting classes or group tennis lessons.  These may just be starting points for activities they may really learn to enjoy and develop, while also allowing them to be part of a group of peers that will hopefully foster enhancement of social skills and friendships.  Encouragement to push outside of their comfort zones from supportive adults and siblings can be very important.    


While this topic warrants more attention, these are simply a few things you can do to assist your teen in making and developing friends.  Other resources are available to help pre-teens and teens such as  individual therapy and group therapy (which can help with social skills in a group setting).   Sugar Land Counseling Center offers both of these therapies.  We have an ongoing middle school group and a high school group and hope to help kids, teens, and all on the spectrum.  Sugar Land Counseling Center also provides psychological testing to determine diagnosis of Austism Spectrum Disorder. 

On Perfectionism

by Amanda Trost, Graduate Student 

Supervised by Kiran Mishra, Ph.D.

February 12, 2020

When we crack open a fortune cookie at the end of a meal, it’s not the stale, folded up, cardboard-textured wafer that holds the appeal; it’s the message inside that we look forward to, tearing into it eagerly, searching for some deeper meaning, or maybe just good lotto numbers. My favorite fortune cookie message is one that reminds me not to be so hard on myself. It reads, “Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.” This is a message worth memorizing for those who struggle with perfectionism.


While we live in a society in which academic and career achievement are prized, there are times in life when it’s okay to be naïve, inconsistent, or flat out wrong. Not only is it okay to be these things, doing so allows us to learn. It seems logical that in order to succeed at something, we have to first try, to practice, and accept a high probability of failure. In Emerson’s words, every artist was once an amateur.


Additionally, it’s okay to make mistakes even in areas you have had plenty of experience and practice. Humans are just that – human. We make mistakes and become better versions of ourselves because of them. We become more experienced, develop humility, are reminded of our humanity, and can then practice good judgment because of our imperfections. Understanding this doesn’t mean we ignore mistakes though. When clients come in struggling with perfectionism, they have already overdone it analyzing the situation and feeling shame.


There’s a difference between striving for your best and beating yourself up when you fail to reach your goals. Goals give us motivation. Done right, we realize a goal is an experiment external to our sense of self, something we can try-out and attempt to reach as a part of living life fully. Failing to reach a goal doesn’t equate to failure in life. Done right, goals help us feel a sense of satisfaction when we work towards, meet, or exceed them. Done wrong, we accept nothing less than perfection and can easily turn into people-pleasers, workaholics or procrastinators, and be crippled by anxiety or depression.


Often, perfectionism is seen as a badge of honor. We hear others humblebrag about their perfectionist ways. Perfectionism is not, however, a super-power. It develops as a compensation for insecurities and fear of the unknown. 


One part of the solution lies in just that: embracing feelings of shame, judgment, and blame. Feel these things when you make a mistake or fall short of your goals, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that they are universal human feelings. You are not alone.


Evaluating the appropriateness of these feelings helps, too. Many people find the 10-year question helpful. Will the failure you’re worried about right now make an impact in 10 years? Sometimes, the impact of a mistake is serious. Often, consequences aren’t as dire as we initially believe they may be. Have you convinced yourself that one mistake (or even a series of mistakes) will ruin your life? Have you blown a particular failure out of proportion? Will you really be fired or flunk out of school, is a relationship actually now beyond repair? Give yourself a reality check. Now would be a good time to remind yourself of the things you are proud of, the past accomplishments you have made, or the potential that you have to try again. Then, you can make a level-headed decision to move on and let go of the situation or get on track to fix it.


If necessary, make peace with your current stage of life. Be who you are now. If you fail to reach perfection at a developing skill, remind yourself you are not an expert just yet. Reframe the way you speak to yourself, and focus on mistakes as a process instead of final results. Realize that you are an individual, the factors determining your success are multidimensional, and you are no less worthy of love or acceptance than anyone else. Remember to give yourself love and acceptance.


It may also help to think back to the fortune cookie. It’s not the outside (the results, the imperfection, the nasty tasteless cookie) that holds novelty, it’s the message and meaning (who you are as a person, your willingness to try again, and the ability to trust life’s process) inside.

Our Team


Navigating Your Child's Needs

by Sunetra Martinez, Ph.D., LPC-S

Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor

October 24, 2019

Understanding a child’s needs in school is a challenge faced by many parents and educators. From the time a child enters pre-school to the time you see them walk across the stage to get their diploma, you wonder if you are doing everything in your power to help your child. We all know that every child is different and learn differently and parents and educators must acknowledge this in order to best help the child. Every youngster, no matter where they are in their journey in school, has various challenges that they must tackle to be successful and happy. School success is not only about grades but also enjoying the process of learning.


Research indicates that between 2006 and 2008, 1 in 6 children in the United States have been identified to have a disability. The CDC reported that between 2014 and 2016, the prevalence of children being diagnosed with developmental disabilities increased from 5.76% to 6.99%. These disabilities include, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, intellectual disability, autism, cerebral palsy, seizures, stuttering or stammering, moderate to profound hearing loss, blindness, learning disorders, and/or other developmental delays. According to the CDC, in 2018 approximately 1 in 59 children were diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls. Most children were still being diagnosed after age 4, though autism can be reliably diagnosed as early as age 2.


Often it is difficult to figure out if a child is showing signs of attention problems, anxiety, and/or other developmental delays. Sometimes a child is just being a child and may need a few years to develop their cognitive and social-emotional skills to be successful in school and regulate their behaviors. Learning that your child may need additional support in and/or outside of school can be tough and knowing where to start is even more daunting.


Older kids and adolescents have their own struggles as well. Current research has suggested that social media and electronic devices may be associated with a higher prevalence of depression and anxiety in our teens. In order to better help our youth with the changing of times, we must better educate ourselves in being their biggest advocates, to help them succeed in life. Figuring out what that support looks like and how to navigate those resources are essential.


We can help you learn about different services that are available to you, such as 504 accommodations and Special Education services and what it all means. Some kiddos may need to learn some strategies to help them cope by seeing the school counselor or an outside therapist. Sometimes knowing what options are out there can help calm your anxiety as well as that your child’s. They say it takes a village to raise a child, we want to make sure that you have all the right folks in your village!!

On Overcoming Hardships and Trauma

By Amanda Trost, Graduate Student

Supervised by Kiran Mishra, Ph.D

September 19, 2019

“Never allow legitimate excuses to get in the way of your progress.” I copied down these words and taped the paper they were written on to the back of my closet door in 2013, after hearing them in a speech that changed both my personal and professional outlook. Each day since, my morning includes a visit with these words, which never fail to inspire satisfaction for the obstacles I overcame and eager anticipation of those I have yet to attempt to address or encounter.


I thank motivational speaker Jonathan Grant Brown for the sign on my closet door. He coined what is now my mantra throughout his story of setbacks and resilience. Jonathan’s mother abandoned him in a public park when he was 5. Life then handed him one disappointment after another until he began to use them not as reasons to fail but reasons to excel.


Listening to the way his story served as a catalyst for helping others, I was moved to think about my own story. I am myself a child abuse survivor. I’ve seen first-hand the destruction that alcoholism and mental illness can inflict on a family. There were nights I slept on park benches, covered in mosquito bites and took handouts from strangers just to eat. I started wearing makeup to cover up bruises, not because I wanted to fit in with my friends. Because abuse often goes hand in hand with the unwritten rules of “don’t talk, don’t trust, and don’t feel” (adultchildren.org), I never questioned why things were the way they were and never admitted to myself that there was anything wrong with the way the people who loved me treated me. As a young adult, I found myself in a situation equally dysfunctional to the one I grew up in. I was repeating the cycle. It wasn’t until I hit rock bottom that I was able to live as Jonathan does, and begin to refuse to allow legitimate excuses to get in the way of my progress, that things began to change.


My story contains elements I felt shaky and uncomfortable even starting to examine, but each time I share it, from working on understanding in my own counseling to speaking in front of an audience, elements of shame continue to turn into pride and resilience. Through fully embracing the events that made me who I am today, hardships are turned into building blocks. There are still times that I struggle, when old patterns of thinking emerge, where I say or do something I regret based on outdated fears, and I know that this is a product of my past. The beautiful part is though, that I continue to get better at catching myself, and I continue to get better at being kinder to myself and those around me.


Another beautiful part is that people who have heard me speak often tell me that my story inspires and reminds them that they have the capacity to do the same. It was this realization, that authenticity is contagious, that drastically changed my approach to teaching and turned me from a struggling new educator, clueless about content and classroom management, to a district curriculum writer and teacher of the year. Refusing to allow legitimate excuses to get in the way of my progress meant that I faced issues head on instead of living in denial, an approach I modeled and used with my students. My classroom became a place of empowerment for students, and seeing them gain clarity and passion for tackling their own obstacles and reframing them from liabilities to assets filled me with a sense of purpose. In transitioning from education to a career in counseling, I am able to provide that place of empowerment for others in a different capacity.


By adopting the mindset that even legitimate excuses don’t have to hinder our progress, we develop a sense of resilience and a knowledge that we can go through hard things and end up okay. Whatever obstacles, whatever traumas, tragedies, hardships, or injustices you have had to endure, or whatever traumas, tragedies, hardships, or injustices you have yet to endure, you have it in you to recover and to use them as instruments of understanding, perseverance, and success.

Elements of Change

by Tim Coulter, LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

January 18, 2019

Transitioning from one stage of life to the next can often be daunting and confusing. Whether your transition is related to eliminating unhealthy relationships, changing your career, attaining personal goals, or any number of other areas, developing a plan to guide your transition can make the change less scary and easier to obtain. Today we’ll explore four different areas that all play a vital role in your transition. The four areas are: 1) a healthy sense of urgency, 2) reviewing options and paths to achieve them, 3) accepting the necessity of change, and 4) focusing on realistic goals and making plans in line with those goals. Most of us recognize that change needs to be made, but are ambivalent about actually making the change. We’re faced with a tough fork in the road – the pain the comes with staying the same on one route and the pain that change brings on the other. Having a plan that includes the four areas above can make the path to change clearer, less anxiety provoking, and more attainable.


Let’s start by exploring what it means to have a healthy sense of urgency. Healthy is the key word here! Most of us fall into the trap of either doing far too little or trying to do far too much, all at once. Clearly, procrastination is a big enemy of change, but a little less clearly lurks another enemy - fatigue. Procrastination - we’ve all been there! We know that a relationship is unhealthy or that we aren’t happy with our job, but keep putting off the tough conversation or the job search. On one hand, tough conversations can lead to awkwardness and rejection and job searching can be exhausting and also full of rejection. On the other hand, unhealthy relationships lead to stress and anxiety and employment that is draining you of life can lead to unhappiness and lethargy. Let’s look at fatigue using the same too scenarios – by having too many tough conversations or rushing those conversations the result can be emotionally draining and create tiredness and by applying for 50 jobs a day the chance of feeling rejected and unmotivated increase. Having a healthy sense of urgency not only reminds you of the need to change, but also keeps you focused by warding off procrastination and fatigue. Finding motivation by either digging deep or with the help of a therapist can heighten your sense of urgency and help you boldly continue down the scary path of change. Do too little and the situation you’re in will continue to bog you down; do too much and you can wear yourself out. Identifying what healthy transitions look like and strategies to maximize your efforts are crucial in maintaining a pace that will move you towards your goals without making the process super painful and tiresome. This is an area that partnering with your therapist can provide a tremendous benefit. Together the two of you can identify what your true motivations are, how to tap into that motivation, and can set clear boundaries to keep your sense of urgency healthy.


The next area we’re going to explore is reviewing options and paths to achieve them. Many people feel that there is only one way that conflict can be resolved or only one type of job they can do. The limiting self-statements that we’ve learned to make over the years are a big hindrance in identifying which options are available and how we’re going to get there. For example, some parents feel the only way to get through to their teenage child is by punishment or some other version of external control. This becomes a way of being rather than thinking through other options that might lead to a more mutually beneficial and attractive result. Very rarely is there only one path or one strategy to make the changes that you want to make. Take a minute to imagine a mountain climber who is tackling Mount Everest. If the mountain climber only focuses on the peak and ignores the many, many steps it takes to get there, the chances of succeeding drop significantly. Due to a number of challenges including weather, acts of nature, and overall difficulty the climber can’t expect to reach the peak without deviating from the initial plan. If the climber refuses to reevaluate and adjust the chances of success, again, diminish greatly. The more successful approach includes focusing on the step that is right in front of the climber, analyzing how that immediate step relates to the overall goal, and making adjustments as needed. By looking only at the peak, one can lose sight of the process! Taking time to analyze your current strategy and enlisting the help of your counselor to talk through potential alternative strategies is an excellent way to uncover new options and outline the exact steps those options need.


Accepting the necessity of change is one of the biggest challenges we’ll explore. Many times people have an image in their mind of what something or someone is and it can be really challenging to divorce oneself from that image. A perfect example is someone who is in a bad relationship and romanticizes the concept of being in a relationship rather than analyzing how that relationship is related to their unhappiness. Accepting that something in your life has to change can be tough and your therapist can help you with it. The first step is recognizing that the situation your in does not match your skills/talents/desires/values. If you feel unsatisfied in any aspect of your life, there may be a need to change something.


Some changes require multiple steps over an extended period of time and other changes need more immediate action. Regardless of what area in your life you want to transition out of, one of the best strategies is to set realistic goals and makes plans. Remember the mountain climber I mentioned before? Do you think he or she tackles the climb without a plan in place? No one can expect to immediately reach the peak of the “mountain” they’re climbing without having realistic goals and making plans. Let’s say you’re single and looking for the right romantic relationship that will satisfy all your needs. If you take no action, what are the chances your perfect 10 knocks on your door and immediately transports you to relationship heaven? Not very high. You can, however, make a realistic plan to increase your exposure both in person and online and set realistic goals of how and when your plan will evolve. So what is a realistic goal anyway? A realistic goal is attainable (is this actually possible?), measurable (how will I know when I’ve reached this goal?), and time bound (when should I be able to reach this goal?). Many goals fail simply because they are not broken down into small enough pieces. Having a therapist to guide you, help hold yourself accountable, and help you break down each step of your journey can be immensely helpful.


What changes do you want to make? What transitions need to happen to give you a more satisfying and meaningful life? These questions can be tough to answer and even harder to take action on. We’re here to help! In collaboration with you, we can put together a plan that helps you identify and accept the transitions that need to take place, how to approach them with an appropriate sense of urgency, what your current options look like, and a plan that helps you set realistic goals and a path to achieve them. Don’t wait for January 2020 to take the first step in conquering your mountain!  

Stress and Anxiety

by Charlotte Parrott, Ph.D.

Licensed Psychologist

November 21, 2018

Stress and anxiety both involve our body’s sympathetic nervous system, which is part of the unconscious nervous system that regulates bodily functions such as the heart rate, breathing, and digestion. When you perceive danger, the sympathetic nervous system reacts causing a fight or flight response where physical and hormonal reactions prepare you for running away or defending yourself from the threat. Because they involve the same physical system, stress and anxiety can share similar physical symptoms, including worry, trouble sleeping, fatigue, upset stomach, racing heartbeat, and irritability. 


Stress is often sparked by things outside ourselves like work deadlines, big events, parenting challenges, and busy schedules. Short-term stress in and of itself isn’t  necessarily a bad thing, but chronic stress can be harmful to your health and your wellbeing. There are many practical steps you can take to better manage stress: learning relaxation and deep breathing techniques, practicing mindfulness, journaling, and exercising can all be helpful in reducing the impact of stress. 


When does stress become something more? Unlike stress, which decreases when you’re crossing things off your To Do List, anxiety is a higher state of physiological arousal that does not easily go away. Even simple things can feel overwhelming when you’re anxious and it can be hard for you to function in your life. Anxiety can take on many different forms including strong physical feelings of anxiety like panic attacks, worries that make it hard for you to be around other people, excessive worry that doesn’t seem to go away, or intrusive memories of traumatic events. Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental illness, affecting over 40 million Americans every year.


Whether you’re coping with stress or anxiety, therapy is a powerful tool that can help you get back to your life. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a present-focused, goal-oriented therapy that helps you examine the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are negatively impacting your life. If you’re struggling with stress, CBT can help you find solutions to problems, learn strategies to reduce symptoms of physical stress, and learn to think about stressors in a healthy and resilient way. If you’re struggling with anxiety or the effects of chronic stress, research has shown CBT to be an effective and efficient therapy for reducing anxiety and improving your mood. Therapy for anxiety can involve identifying goals or things that trigger your worry, learning to reframe automatic negative thoughts, and desensitizing yourself to the outsized physical reactions that can accompany anxiety. Beginning therapy can feel daunting, but it can be an important step to regaining quality of life.


Sugar Land Counseling Center Blog

An informational series by Sugar Land Counseling Center Staff

Showing Them You Care

by Adriana Gonzalez

Licensed Professional Counselor

May 1, 2018

We live in a society in which everything is so fast paced, that we at times have a hard time making time for the things that are the most important to us. How many of us have missed those special moments with our loved ones because of a deadline at work or because we are too tired to interact with each other? Or how many of us have gotten too stuck in the technology or social world that we are not able to see what the people infront of us really need? We are very aware of what our friends on social media are doing, however when the time comes for us to disconnect and have quality time with our family and friends, it becomes a hard task at hand. Think about it...when was the last time that you and your loved ones actually sat around and talked without having some form of electronics being present (tv, playstation, phone, etc)? Or the last time that you went out without having the need to check into a social media site while you’re at a lunch or dinner? Or when was the last time you just sat down to get to know some of the important things that are going on in your kids’ or family’s lives? Something that could be done to better enhance this moment would be to have a “power hour” in which no electronics are allowed for that hour. This can be done over dinner, and the person that gets the phone first, washes dishes for example or it can be done on a date night with your significant other, or with a group of friends. This is done to have quality time with each other and to not take those special moments for granted and it allows for the family to better know each other.


As parents, this is especially important because you have to constantly be aware of what your kids are doing and how they are being affected by what is around them. Who are they connecting with? Are they happy in their class, are they getting along with their friends? Are they being bullied? What do they want to be when they grow up, etc? However, how many parents are actually sitting with their kids and asking the question: is there anything that you need from me? This is not a question based on materialistic things, but more so about what they need emotionally from you. Do they need you to start listening to them more? Do they need you to change the delivery of what you say to them so that they dont get anxious when you yell at them? Do they need more support? More affection, etc?


By asking this question, you are showing your kids and spouses that you love them and care about their voice and at the same time you’re showing them that you’re only human and are able to make mistakes. I’ve noticed that these types of questions greatly help family members because by being able to understand what you need, you are able to ask for it and it better enhances the relationship. For example, when talking to families I often ask, how does mom or dad show you that they love you? How do you show someone that you love them? Often times i’ll get answers like “they tell me,” “they hug me, kiss me, etc.” BUT more times than not, I get the “i dont know...i just know.” It’s important to note that just because we show love in a specific way, it doesnt mean that it’s perceived in that way. Loving someone doesnt just mean saying the words. It can also be present by saying, “please text me when your flight gets in,” or “dont forget to take the sweater since we’re getting a cold front” or by picking up their favorite candy from store. Also, loving someone may not just be about what you need them to understand. For example, even in your busy schedule, are you going to the basketball games, spelling bees, dance recitals? If so, are you fully present? I say this because trust me when I say that your kids are noticing it. It’s up to us as adults to be the best version of ourselves because you never know who is watching you or following own ways. Please never take those moments for granted because one day you will look back and think “why didnt i change this?” Be able to change these small things now that you have a chance to.

Getting through the Holidays with Grace

by Danielle Hale, Ph.D. 

Licensed Psychologist

November 21, 2017

Are you worried about getting through the holidays?  Feeling like everybody around you is happy, but you?  Then keep reading.  Sometimes it seems like everybody else has happy family plans and is excited about the hustle and bustle of shopping during the holidays – but for some of us, the whole holiday thing is overrated.  Maybe you’re stressed about how much it’s going to cost, or maybe you are missing somebody special that you would like to spend the holidays with, maybe the stress of getting everything right is just too much, or maybe you know you’re going to have to see family members that make you angry and upset or maybe it’s all of the above or something else entirely.  Let’s talk about what we can do to find some peace and maybe even a little bit of joy.


One thing you can try is to set some boundaries around how much time, energy, or money you’re going to spend doing this or that so you don’t burn yourself out.  We all have limited amounts of physical and emotional energy and if we use it all up cooking, we won’t have any left for visiting with family, or shopping or the rest.  So give it some thought ahead of time.  Limit the cooking to those dishes you really love and delegate the rest to someone else or to the neighborhood grocery store.  Limit how many hours you’re going to spend doing Black Friday shopping on Thursday or Friday or Saturday.  You might miss few sales, but enjoying a special moment with one of your favorite people will give you energy instead of subtracting from it.  We also may have to limit the amount of money we spend during this time.  It’s easy to get caught up in our materialistic culture and to feel guilty if we can’t buy our loved one those things we think they need or want.  Remind yourself that in the end what we all need most from each other is emotional support.  We need someone to listen and to care about us and maybe even help us out physically once in awhile.  Consider what it is you really want and you’ll probably discover that it’s not some expensive gift.  If that’s true for you, it’s probably true for others.  The only thing we have unlimited amounts of is love!  The thing we all want most and we have lots and lots of it to go around! How amazing is that!


If some of your family members get on your nerves, limit how much time you’re going to spend with them.  An hour or two having dinner with gratitude and kindness is better than 6 hours or 2 days of arguing and fighting.  Remember that people are who they are.  Aunt Jane and Uncle Sylvester are not likely to have changed in the months since you saw them last.  Aunt Jane is probably still way too cheerful and Uncle Sylvester is probably still negative and cutting with every remark he makes.  Ah well.  Give it up.  You can’t change them.  But you don’t have to let them get to you and ruin your mood either.  You have power to control how you think and feel.  They have no power over you.  Remember that sometimes when people are irritating, it may be because they remind us of ourselves!  Or it may be that they’re hurting and sad inside and all the prickles on the outside are just their way of protecting themselves.  If they are being mean to you, they are probably mean to everybody and think about how difficult that makes their life.  Practice compassion for them and for yourself. Be kind always.


If you’re missing someone who has died or moved away from your life or is not able to be with you, think of a way to remember them with kindness and love.  Send them love and kindness wherever they are by doing something that they would enjoy or have a special remembrance table or dish or picture or set a chair in the corner of the room and imagine them there with you.  What would they say? What would they do?  What joke would they make?  What music would they play or song would they sing?  Don’t fight against the memories, welcome them in.  Be grateful that person has been in your life.  Let yourself cry if you need to or laugh if you are able at some funny memory the two of you shared.  Love is a good and rare thing.


Most of all, take care of yourself.  Be kind and compassionate with all your stresses and irritations and limitations.  You are human too after all.  Take time for a walk with the youngest or the oldest.  Enjoy the good smells.  Feel the cool air.  Notice the clouds and the trees.  Take some deep breaths.  Be present in the moment.  Things will work themselves out.  They always do.  One way or another.  You’re ok right now.


Sugar Land Counseling Center Blog

An informational series by Sugar Land Counseling Center Staff

Why Sports Make Us Happier

by Nicole Dorsey, Ph.D. 

Licensed Psychologist

November 2, 2017

Wow! The Houston Astros win their very first World Series Championship in franchise history. After everything that Houstonians experienced in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, rooting for our favorite baseball team has been a welcome distraction for many of us. #HoustonStrong became the motto for all of us and we felt united as a community. Today, the day after this historic win, many of us can’t wipe that smile off our faces and others have cried tears of joy for their beloved Astros. But, why are we all so emotional over a game? Next year, there will be another winning team (although we hope the Astros can become back-to-back champions) and another city will experience this high. Well, believe it or not, there are actually scientific reasons why sports make us happier.


In an article published by the Huffington Post (12/10/14; updated 12/18/14), it was reported that the team at Happify has looked at these reasons. Happify is a website and app which aims at using science to create games and activities to help individuals develop better emotional health and wellbeing. They have found that being a sports participant can be beneficial, but also that being a sports fan is good for our well-being!


So, what is so great about playing a sport?

Research shows that playing sports makes both women and men happier.

Girls and boys who play on team sports are more satisfied with their lives than kids      who don’t, according to a study of 7th- and 8th graders.

Kids who play sports also have higher self-esteem and are less depressed.

It is not just being active that makes kids happy. The social interaction of a team boosts spirits.

Playing on a sports team can also provide the long-lasting benefits of improving how  well we communicate and how good we are at cooperating.


OK, that is all well and good. But, what about for someone like me, who has never had the coordination or skill level that it takes to play a sport? Well, that’s OK, since being a sports fan can be emotionally satisfying as well!  Studies consistently show that people who call themselves sports fans tend to have lower rates of depression, less stress, and higher self-esteem than non-sports fans.  Fans of local teams are generally happier than fans of non-local teams.  Why? Daniel Wann, Ph.D. says that it creates opportunities for social bonding. It can lead to close friendships and the feeling that you are part of a community. I have to admit, it has been fun to share the excitement of the Astros through social media. It feels good to celebrate together, even if it is on Facebook!


Research from Oregon State University suggests that we enjoy watching sports more when we’re given the players’ backstories and we have someone to root for (or against). I’m from Illinois and I love the fact that J.J. Watt is also from the Midwest. I’ve been to Wisconsin more times than I can count. We totally have a special connection, don’t we?!


Football fans love the game best when their team almost loses – the suspense makes it more thrilling, say researchers at Ohio State University.  I’m sure this probably holds true for other sports as well. I mean, Game 5 of this past World Series, with a score of 13-12 in the 10th inning, was one of the most exciting wins ever!


Psychologists say that for fans, watching sports games triggers the release of the feel-good brain chemical, dopamine.  But, on the flip side, studies show that what’s happening on the field can affect our stress-hormone levels.  For example, Los Angeles saw a jump in cardiac deaths after the Rams lost the Super Bowl to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1980. Four years later, when the LA Raiders took home the championship, cardiac deaths declined.


Hardcore fans can go through withdrawal when the games end.  If you get too agitated during games when things aren’t going your way, Ken Yeager, professor of psychiatry at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, suggests that you:


Drink a little less

Don’t bet on games

Turn the TV down

Avoid other rabid fans


As much fun as it is to root for our favorite teams, it is important to for us to recognize when we are getting too caught up in winning the game or the score.


It has been a fun ride with the Astros this season. We also can’t forget our Houston Dynamo, as they continue in the Major League Soccer semifinals. It is still fairly early in the season for our Texans and Rockets, but we will hopefully continue to have plenty to cheer for in the coming months.   At the very least, we will look back on 2017 as the year of Hurricane Harvey, but also as the year that we were #HoustonStrong and our Astros won it all!


A link to the original article (with references) can be found here: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/10/sports-and-happiness-happify_n_6290284.html



Resilience In Middle Age

by Danielle Hale, Ph.D. 

Licensed Psychologist

August 23, 2017

I recently read an article from the New York Times about building resilience in Midlife.  Read More.  I was excited to see this article because I did a lot of research on resilience when I was in graduate school. The idea of resilience is that some people are able to bounce back even when bad things happen.  Well, some people, sometimes!  We all have a breaking point and sometimes we reach it and it’s very very hard to bounce back.  But I think we can build a “habit” of resilience by doing a few things regularly. 

Tara Parker-Pope suggests:  1) Practice Optimism; 2) Rewrite Your Story; 3) Don’t Personalize It; 4) Remember Your Comebacks; 5) Support Others; 6) Take Stress Breaks; and 7) Go Out of Your Comfort Zone.


I think all of these are great advice, but the one that struck me the most was to go out of your comfort zone.  I hate this advice!  Because I like being comfortable! I like having my little routines and schedules, e.g. make breakfast on Saturday morning, start the laundry, clean the kitchen, straighten the house, etc.  I like my Saturdays to be very predictable.  But if I had not gone out of my comfort zone, I would not be doing some things that have been really helpful to my middle life!   About a year ago I went a yoga class for the first time ever.  I was scared to death.  I am not a physical person and I was always the last person chosen in PE in elementary school, so I really didn’t want to go!  But I went anyway.  And it was so helpful. I learned so many things about myself and about yoga and my very interesting yoga instructor taught me about meditation and provided a class that taught me how to really meditate instead of pretending to meditate!  Because we all know we should meditate, right!  And I also forced myself to go to a book club on meetup.com. I was also scared about that!  But it’s been such a lovely addition to my life and I have met many friends there.  Another thing I didn’t want to do was go to a small group at my place of worship.  A singles small group.  I was scared.  I thought it would be weird.  I thought I wouldn’t have anything in common with the other people.  I was so wrong!  It has been such a delight!  And again I’ve met some very cool people – not what I thought at all.  So.  Here’s what I’ve learned: If it’s really hard and you’re really scared, do it anyway!  Get out of your comfort zone!  After you get out of it once, then it’s not so uncomfortable anymore.  The experience may build your resilience so when life throws hard things at you, you’ll be emotionally and physically ready for them.  And, most important, you’ll meet interesting people and have more fun.

Danielle Hale, Ph.D.

Licensed Psychologist

What is Trauma?

by Nicole Dorsey, Ph.D. 

Licensed Psychologist

April 29, 2017

What is Trauma?

These days, we seem to hear quite a bit about violence in society and we hear a lot


What are some examples of traumatic experiences?


There are a wide variety of situations that could lead to a traumatic experience, and often involve a situation in which an individual fears for his or her safety, or for the safety of others.


* Sexual Assault or sexual abuse

* Domestic violence or physical abuse

* Natural disasters (hurricanes, flooding, tornados)

* Severe illness or injury

* The death of a loved one

* Witnessing an act of violence

* Vehicle accident


In addition to life-threatening situations, there are other experiences that are so emotionally difficult, that individuals hope to never experience that again, such as a divorce, a major move, or an incident of sexual harassment. Some individuals have felt traumatized by these experiences and might experience many of the same symptoms as individuals who experienced life-threatening events.


Common reactions after trauma (The National Center for PTSD) https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/problems/common-reactions-after-trauma.asp


The National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) indicates that after going through a trauma, survivors often say that their first feeling is relief to be alive. This may be followed by stress, fear, and anger. Trauma survivors may also find they are unable to stop thinking about what happened. Many survivors often feel that they are constantly "on alert", which causes them to be very sensitive to sounds and sights around them.


Reactions to a trauma may include:

* Feeling hopeless about the future

* Feeling detached or unconcerned about others

* Having trouble concentrating or making

* Feeling jumpy and getting startled easily at sudden noises

* Feeling on guard and constantly alert

* Having disturbing dreams and memories or flashbacks

* Having work or school problems


You may also experience more physical reactions such as:

* Upset stomach or trouble eating

* Difficulty sleeping and feeling tired

* Pounding heart, rapid breathing, feeling edgy

* Sweating

* Severe headache if thinking of the event

* Excess smoking, alcohol, drugs, food

* Ongoing medical problems worsen


You might also have more emotional difficulties, such as:

* Feeling nervous, helpless, fearful, sad

* Feeling shocked, numb, and not able to feel love or joy

* Avoiding people, places, and things related to the event

* Being irritable or having outbursts of anger

* Becoming easily upset or agitated

* Blaming yourself or having negative views of oneself or the world

* Distrust of others, getting into conflicts, being over-controlling

* Being withdrawn, feeling rejected, or abandoned

* Loss of intimacy or feeling detached


Getting help


For some individuals, working through their trauma is simply a matter of time. But, for many people, time alone is not enough. If you find that your symptoms are interfering with daily life activities or they are lasting for longer than you think they should, it might be time to seek outside help. That might simply be allowing yourself to accept help from your friends and family, or to participate in a support group, or to finding someone who can provide individual psychological and/or psychiatric treatment for you. Seeking help does not mean that you are weak. It means that you have made a decision to take back control of your life and your emotions. It is also important to find something that works for you. Some people prefer to work through their problems with a group of people who have similar experiences, while others prefer to meet one on one with a therapist. Even different therapists will have different approaches and everyone responds to treatment differently. You will likely need to make several decisions along the way, such as whether or not medication is right for you. It is important to discuss these decisions with your treatment provider in order to develop the most effective treatment plan for you. It is also important to remember that a traumatic experience is always going to be a part of your life experience. You are not expected to simply forget about what happened to you. However, the goal is for you to be able to continue to live your life in a way that brings you joy and happiness.


Nicole Dorsey, Ph.D.

Licensed Psychologist