"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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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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Resisting a materialistic culture-Confident Counseling Northborough MA 01532

Resisting a materialistic culture

In a previous article, Spring Cleaning: Discarder’s Remorse, I discuss my goal of reducing the materials or “stuff” that in my life for greater inner peace of mind. This culture of materialism is one that has been on my mind more lately, specifically on how it adds to our feelings of sadness, anxiety, self-loathing, emptiness, and more severely Depression.

In his blog article titled Living in an Age of Melancholy: When Society Becomes Depressed

 we can no longer afford to view depression solely as a problem of the person. To end the worldwide epidemic of depression, we must combine individual psychological therapies with new social and economic systems that respect the earth and more fairly distribute the worlds resources.This sounds like a daunting task, but there are ways that we can each reduce the effects our culture continues to have.

Spread awareness

Having a blog about social issues you are passionate about is a great way to spread the word about your ideas. This brings together a community of other like-minded people and it’s an excellent platform to share ideas for implementing change. 

Donate & Volunteer

Where you choose to spend your time indicates what you value most. Your most important currency is time and choosing to spend it for a cause your believe in that involves helping others is an excellent way to reject a culture focused on materials.

Evaluate the stuff you have in your life

Take a look at your closet. Do you find that you have 10 or more different pairs of shoes, pants, shirts, towels…? Is it necessary to have an excess of materials for you to live? I’m not saying you need to have one pant and one shirt or become a monk. I am saying that sometimes we get so wrapped up in buying more to keep up an image that we forget what’s important in life. Do those “things” really make you happy or are you trying to fill a hole in your heart? Many people enjoy “retail therapy” but never address the real problem they are covering. You owe it to yourself to spend the time and do the emotional work of discovering what needs to change in your life. You don’t have to do this alone as there are counselors that can guide you through the process. 

Shop from companies with pro-social values

It’s sad to learn that your favorite company employs poor citizens of a foreign country to sell their products to you at a premium. As consumers we have the power to force change on these companies, we just have to put our money where our values are. 

Resist traditions focused on consumerism (ex. Black Friday)

Why not spend the time with family or start a new tradition and donate food at a food pantry? 

Join local groups to start change

Websites like Meetup have groups focused on political ideas and social justice. They schedule regular meetings or events where you can take part and meet other people interested in same things you are

Create a local group to create change if one doesn’t already exist

Creating and running a group on a site like Meetup does have a cost, you can recover this by asking for donations from members or even adding a membership fee to cover annual costs. Meetup.com is not the only platform you can use to create a group. You can create a website solely dedicated to your cause using WordPress which is free.

Travel to impoverished countries

I believe traveling is a form of education. You experience new cultures and ways of life that are different from your own. By traveling you gain knowledge of the struggles that exist in the world. 

It isn’t easy, but taking small steps in your life not only influences those around you but it also increases the positivity in your life. Feeling good about what you’re doing also impacts your self-esteem and view of your place in the world.

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When someone doubts you-Northborough counseling MA

When Someone Doubts You

I’ve had several experiences in my life where someone in a leadership position has doubted my ability. The first time I was in High School. My history teacher refused to approve me from taking an Honors level history class the following year after saying, “I don’t think you’re capable.”

The next time was from my supervisor at a Community Agency I worked at as a counselor. I created my schedule and was only reimbursed when I saw clients. The paperwork was prohibitive and the pay was poor. After almost 3 years I decided that I would start my private practice and cut down the amount of time at the agency. When I informed my supervisor, she responded by saying “It’s too hard and I don’t think you’re ready.” She didn’t offer any suggestions to help towards my goal but instead suggested I close the chapter before opening the book.

Now keep in mind that I had been working with clients with every disorder possible including severe psychotic disorders. I don’t know about other counselors, but I find it extremely difficult to have a successful session while someone is actively hallucinating. Instead of realizing how her fears were being projected unto me, I started to question and doubt my dream and myself.

Then something clicked for me. I was accepting the doubt from someone who had never pursued this dream, someone who had never tried. 

A year earlier I had talked about private practice with this supervisor and she shared how she never bothered to go into private practice because it was too difficult and not worth it. Of course it’s difficult, starting your own business will be. In a search for inspiration I reached out to a local counselor, Marina Williams, who was successful with her own private practice and who wrote a blog I follow. Click here to read her blog. Prepare for some excellent and insightful writing.

I reached out to her because I realized it made more sense to ask for advice from a person that is already doing what I hoped to accomplish. What do I have to gain from someone who never bothered trying out of fear? More fear and self-doubt.

Marina responded and shared that she faced a similar reaction from her supervisor at a community agency. Marina assured me that if I was ready to work for a community agency, then I was definitely ready to work for myself seeing clients with far less severe problems. Even though Marina had never met me, I realized I had placed too much value in what negative people thought of me and my abilities. Only I knew what I was capable of and I was the one daring to take the risk.

If you have a passion and people express doubt in your ability, question their motives. Are they coming from place of caring or fear? If they are coming from a place of care, then they will most likely offer suggestions to help you follow your dream, not tell you to give up. Have they followed any of their dreams? If not, then the following quote is perfect as a response.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt

When someone doubts you, reach out to those that have already blazed the path you are interested in. They will serve as a better guide. Connect with positive people who will share inspiration and words of wisdom. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something you have a passion for.

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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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What Are Your Boundaries?

Last time I shared one simple assertiveness technique The Broken Record to use when someone insists on having you do something that you can’t or don’t want to do. Before you can be effective with assertive techniques, it is important for you to know what your boundaries are.

Boundaries are like imaginary lines between you and others. They protect you from feeling guilty for someone else’s negative feelings or problems and from taking others’ comments personally. In order for you to have healthy boundaries you have to know your feelings and values as they relate to yourself and others.

Here are some examples:

  • Psychological – Do you take other people’s comments personally? Do you struggle with feeling responsible for other people’s negative feelings or problems? Are you aware of your own feelings?
  • Material– What do you think of lending or giving things to others (e.g. money, car, clothes, etc..) and what does that look like for you?
  • Mental – What do you believe in? What are your opinions?
  • Physical – Who can give you a hug/kiss/handshake? What are feelings about sharing your space with other people?
  • Sexual– What is your comfort level around sexual activity?
  • Spiritual– What are your beliefs around a higher power/faith?

Boundaries protect your well-being and can change over time. When you know what your boundaries are, you know when and why you need to assert yourself.


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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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Ways To Feel Better Now

Looking for a pick-me-up? There are those days where it is so much easier to focus on the negativity in our life. “What isn’t working, how it could better if only this or that changed…” I dare you to try this quick exercise to get an instant boost of positive energy and feel better now.

Try any of these quick ways to feel better now.

1) Remind yourself that every thing you do is a choice.

2) For every negative thought you have replace with a blessing in your life (I can see and read this article with eyes that work) :p

3) Call up a positive person in your life

4) Get outside for some fresh air and sun

5) Release any physical tension you have by stretching and/or exercising (e.g. brisk walk)

5 Quick ways to feel better now-northborough MA

For long-term or chronic symptoms please seek professional help.

Feel free to add your own quick ways to feel better now.

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