"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 "...that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures" 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

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Dating Red Flags-Confident Counseling Northborough MA

Dating Red Flags

Relationships bring companionship and love into people’s lives. However, not all relationships are healthy and there are quite a few red flags you should keep an eye out for when dating. It is important to know the boundaries between a healthy and unhealthy relationship. Here are common dating red flags you should be aware of:

  1. Listen to how they speak about past relationships.

If your partner speaks very highly of their ex or if they constantly talk poorly about them, It can be a sign that they are still invested in their past relationship or that they are a bitter person.

  1. Is your partner proud of you?

If they never bring you around their friends or their friends still don’t know who you are, it could be they are ashamed of you or the relationship. Either way don’t ignore your instict on this one.

  1. Keeping score constantly.

Someone who constantly keeps score of who did what in a relationship is probably someone who often tries to guilt trip others. Keeping score will quickly build anger and resent in a relationship.

  1. Your partner uses sex for gain.

Someone who uses sex as a reward or withholds it as a punishment is manipulative. This is manipulation and over steps all boundaries a relationship should follow.

  1. They never put effort into the relationship.

It is obvious whether someone wants to be with another person. If you are feeling pretty one-side in a relationship, it won’t be healthy for you to stick around with someone who will leave once something “better” comes along.

  1. Your partner cannot apologize.

Everyone makes a mistake now and again, but the mature thing to do is accept your faults, apologize, and move on. If your partner can neither apologize or accept you’ve made a mistake, run.

  1. If you argue, they get hurtful.

People tend to disagree, that’s normal. What is NOT normal is when someone who says they love you brings up hurtful comments if you get into a disagreement. Red flags like this one can signal abuse.

  1. They are violent.

If you are disagreeing or just going about your business and your partner is verbally, emotionally, or physically violent, no matter what you did, you did not deserve it. It is difficult to get out of a situation like this but you will be much safer once you are free.

  1. They always attempt to change who you are.

Constantly overstepping boundaries by trying to change the person you are is not okay. The person you are with should be with you because they like the person you are, not to mold you into someone else.

  1. They don’t listen to you.

Whether you are trying to tell them you like your food cooked a different way or something else entirely, your partner should listen and take the feedback well. If your partner gets mad that you are trying to tell them something, that’s a bad sign.

  1. Listen to the way they speak.

If you are always hearing them using “My/Me/I” statements and never using “We/US”, they probably don’t see a future with you; on the other hand, they could just be nervous you don’t feel the same way.

  1. They always guilt you into doing things.

Whether they try to guilt you into having sex or spending time with them, you need to set boundaries up really quickly.

  1. They attempt to control every aspect of your life.

It is one thing to help someone when asked but it is an entirely other thing when a significant other tries to tell you exactly what to do.

  1. They are always flaking out on you.

This stands true especially when you first start dating. If you make plans and they are always cancelling last minute, you probably are not high on their priority list.

  1. Your loved ones don’t like them.

Your loved ones look out for you and they know you well. If these people who get along with you and are close to you don’t like the person you are with, they may not be the right one for you.

Chances are, if you searched for this article, you could be in an unhealthy relationship. Your subconscious picks up on signals you might not even notice and can lead you to find out more. If you are in an unsafe or doomed relationship, it is okay to get out. You deserve dating someone who will put effort into being with you and that actually enjoys spending time with you as much as you enjoy spending time with them. Love doesn’t have to hurt.

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Help your teen heal after sexual assault Teen counseling Northborough MA

How to help your teen heal after sexual assault

Being the victim of sexual assault is one of the worst things anyone can experience. Discovering that your teen was a victim of sexual assault is the worst thing any parent can hear. Anger, sadness, shock, blame, and helplessness are familiar feelings where you’ll wonder what you could have done to prevent this from happening to your child. While you’re struggling to deal with this wave of emotions, it can seem daunting to understand the best way to help your teen.

As a counselor in private practice, I have worked with several teens that have been sexually assaulted and have worked closely with their parents on how to cope and be the best support possible. I hope this article helps you be the person your child needs.

It’s important to contact the police and take your teenager to the hospital to get the necessary medical care and a rape kit completed. Your child may disagree with going to the authorities initially, however that might change later with time. By going to the authorities, you have a higher chance of preventing this perpetrator from sexually assaulting another person.

An important message for you to convey is that you are here to listen. It is common for sexual abuse survivors to blame themselves, hesitate to tell family for fear of hurting them, or feel stupid for “allowing” this to happen to them. The best thing anyone can do is offer genuine support without any judgments. Do your best to enforce the message that your teen is not to blame regardless of what they were wearing or doing.

Creating a safe place where your child can express all their feelings around the trauma is key. It can be helpful to share your experiences with these emotions as a way of normalizing them for them. Just be careful to not make this be about yourself and stay focused on their feelings. Offer ideas that might help them such as finding counseling, going away together, discussing the loss around the trauma and the meaning. I have worked with teens that were virgins when they were raped and discussing this loss was an important part of their healing. They often worried about having future conversations around how they lost virginity. Support their worries and brainstorm solutions to them.

Find counseling for yourself. This is helpful for two reasons 1) it takes away the negative bias for your teen to see you go into counseling which could promote them to see a counselor too and 2) you will benefit from getting support around how to cope with all the feelings you are facing around this traumatic news. It is important to continue going about your daily routine like before. Right now your teen’s world is upside down and the more normal the rest of the world seems the safer they will feel. If you start to panic and allow yourself to fall into a depressive state, your teen might spiral out of control too. Thus counseling for yourself will help you have an outlet for the spiral of emotions you are facing.

Watch out for extreme behavioral changes like isolating, depressive comments or suicidal remarks. It is common for people to engage in self-harm behaviors like cutting, burning self, promiscuous sex, and substance abuse after traumatic events as a way of coping and gaining back control. Talking to your teen about your concerns in a supportive non-judgmental way will increase their chances of listening to your ideas for help.

Research the consequences of self-harming behaviors such as cutting becoming addictive and a source of future shame if there are scars. Teens often don’t realize the long-term effects of their actions and are often surprised to know that it can become addictive. Try to discover what is triggering them and offer suggestions for ways they can release their emotions such as drawing, hitting something, screaming, going for a walk, taking a hot shower, etc. There are a variety of pleasurable activities that someone can engage in as alternatives to cutting.

Search for teen groups for survivors of sexual support and offer to go with them if they would like. The Rainn (Rape, Abuse and incest National Network) is a great resource for information and finding local groups. Finding others that have gone through similar experiences will be a great way for your teenager to relate to others and get their feelings out and not bottle them in. Recommend counseling for them and offer to attend with them for added support.

If they are engaging in dangerous behaviors or have suicidal thoughts, please take them to your local Emergency Mental Health Department or Emergency Room.

Remember that it’s normal to feel lost and confused. What just happened is not a normal circumstance and so you are having a normal reaction or an abnormal situation. You don’t have to face this with your teen alone, please call a counselor for individual or family guidance. If you can take away any message from this article it is for you to listen to your child, talk to them, validate their emotions, and find support for both of you during this difficult time.

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Truths of road rage by christine becerra lmhc Northborough ma

Truths Of Road Rage

If you’ve ever been in traffic then you’ve probably witnessed or personally felt road rage. Actually if you’ve ever been in a car then you’ve probably come across it. I hate to admit it but I had a recent experience with road rage. This encounter allowed me to learn several truths of road rage.

I was driving home from work in heavy traffic when I was second in line for the toll booth. Another car in a different lane began inching their way next time. As I was next in line I began moving forward when the other car started speeding up while moving closer to me. At this point I realized this car was intent on cutting me and I instantly felt disrespected at their transgression. As sped up, so did he. It was then that I realized we were both losing road and one of us would end up hitting the concrete wall of the booth. I slowed down and let the other car pass.

Immediately I felt stupid for acting so childish over such a trivial situation because I felt the driver cut me in line. I spent the rest of my drive reflecting on this moment and realised several important realizations.

  1. Just how vulnerable we are to your emotions
  2. How much weight we place on daily transgressions
  3. The importance of mindfulness

It was the moment of awareness, being present and analyzing/challenging my thoughts, that saved me from an accident. Since then I take a few moments to breathe and remind myself that I’m happy to be alive, I’m small in this world with so many humans, and that everyone has their story. For all I know that other driver was having a bad day. Either way, just like me he is a human being that is vulnerable to the human condition.

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What can I expect from counseling?

What Can I Expect From Counseling?

If you are in counseling or are thinking of starting, you may have asked yourself “What can I expect from Counseling?” With how the media portrays counseling, it isn’t surprising to have questions or even concerns about what counseling will be like for you.

Of course it is important to understand that counseling is only as effective as you make it. What I mean is that most of the work done in counseling actually comes from you, the client. Imagine the counselor as a guide showing you alternative ways of approaching situations or handling your problems. You as the client have to choose one and carry it out. If you aren’t following through or actively participating, then counseling will be ineffective.

Here are expectations to have for counseling

  • You should expect to increase your awareness of what is causing your struggles and what the roadblocks are.
  • You will be taught new skills and tools to manage your struggles in the present and for the future.
  • Understanding the limits of confidentiality, you can expect a safe place to talk about anything and everything that is on your mind. The limits being that the counselor has a legal obligation to report risk of suicide, homicide or current child or elder abuse. Privacy can also be compromised depending also on whether you have an active court case or if you use your health insurance.
  • You shouldn’t feel judged or worry about scaring the counselor with what you have to share.
  • You should expect to work with a trained professional or have them refer you to someone who will be able to better serve you should they not have the right training or skills to help with your issues.
  • You should feel hope and relief after your sessions.
  • You may feel discomfort and emotional pain depending on what and how severe your struggles are.
  • You should expect to feel “contained” by the end of your counseling sessions and not left unstable or vulnerable.
    • This is important for clients with trauma. As a result, your counselor may wait to discuss a difficult subject at the start of a future session and not at the middle or end.
  • You should expect an environment where are you free to express positive and negative feedback about your counselor’s style or direction of treatment without worrying that they will get upset or offended.

Effective counseling promotes your growth as a person and healing from pain.

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Assertiveness: Simple Technique Anyone Can Try

I specialize in assertiveness training and enjoy seeing clients stop being taken advantage of in their life. One of the most common struggles they face is being unable to say “no” without feeling selfish or guilty. They tell me “I’m always taken advantage”, or “my friends know to call me for everything,” or “I can’t say no to my family and now I resent them.”

One technique you can practice is called the Broken Record Technique. Try it!

How it works is that you find a sentence saying that you can’t do something and you keep repeating it when asked why.

Here is an example:

A friend asks Sara to lend them $100. Now Sara has the money but needs it to pay her bills in a few days. Sara says: “I’m sorry but I can’t give you $100 right now.”

  • Her friend might then say: “but why not, I really need it?”
  • Sara replies: “I wish I could but I can’t give you the money right now”
  • Her friend: “I will pay you back as soon as I can.”
  • Sara replies: “Unfortunately, I don’t have $100 to give you right now.”

As you see, Sara repeated her reason over and over while keeping the conversation from getting too personal. This method can be effective and is simple to practice.

Now if the person you are talking to becomes angry or disrespectful then it might be best to leave and think about the future of that relationship.

If you would like more specialized training around assertiveness skills, please do not hesitate to contact me.

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Learning From Disappointment

Have you ever felt disappointed with how you didn’t react to a given situation? Have you ever stood by silently while an injustice took place, only to feel upset with yourself afterwards? I want to share a personal example in my learning from disappointment that happened recently.

A couple of weekends ago I was left feeling unsettled after attending a stand-up comedy show. The show was in Boston and I was going to see a comic that I had followed for a few years. At first, the routine and the atmosphere was fun and enjoyable. Then the comedian began making upsetting sexist and racist jokes including how he finds it funny that African-Americans have a glass ceiling because they have limited influence to cause serious harm to our society and that women shouldn’t get paid as much as men because of reasons that we cost men too much money.

At this point, the comedian pointed to the audience and asked for a rebuttal to his earlier claim about why he feels women should get paid less. It was in that moment that I found myself at a loss of words and unprepared for any intellectual debate. I instantly felt intimidated being in a venue surrounded by mostly intoxicated men. I also worried that I wouldn’t have the floor long enough to even have an intellectual conversation because the comic had the microphone and he had a show to do. Just as soon as the moment had started it had passed and I was left feeling shocked, upset, and disappointed with the comic and with myself.

The following day I replayed that scene over and over in my head thinking of all the comments I could have said and how possible scenarios could have played out. Needless to say, I struggled with the expectations I had and the reality that occurred.

I have since made my peace and realized that I learned several valuable lessons from this experience. I learned that I won’t always have the right words to say and that I may not feel brave all the time. I learned the need for kindness with myself when I fail to act. I learned that I can continue to support causes I believe in by way of donations, writing my blog, raising awareness around me, and by refusing to support those that oppose those causes (i.e. this particular comedian). More importantly, I understand that this it isn’t the last opportunity I will have to speak up and be heard.

Have you ever failed to speak up or act when you felt you should have? What did you learn from it and how has it affected your life?

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Spring Cleaning: Discarder’s Remorse

Does this sound similar? You get excited about spring cleaning, making more space in your cabinets/closets, and the idea of getting rid of clutter. You begin sorting out bags and collections of old belongings only to feel worried that you may regret discarding them. You decide the possibility of needing them in the future is too great that you put everything back and decide to wait another year. I call this spring cleaning: discarder’s remorse and I’ve been there.

Take this opportunity to learn about yourself, what you value, what you cherish and why. To make things easier, create smaller goals for yourself around cleaning out your space. Focus on one part of your space at a time. It’s easy to become overwhelmed if you focus on the final goal.

  • Set a shorter deadline to see if you end up needing those items.
  • Sleep on it and see how you feel tomorrow.
  • Create small piles and categorize them by importance. Seeing the smaller piles can help you focus on the baby steps of progress rather than seeing one giant pile of “stuff”.
  • Take breaks so you can recharge
  • Consider donating to family, friends, or those in need.
  • Lastly, praise yourself for your progress (every bit counts) and enjoy the new space you created!

What other ideas work for you?

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