The Candid Counselor

Helping individuals overcome anxiety, depression, and life's issues

Dr. Julia Becker


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Licensed Psychologist
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Serving the greater Waco, TX area, including Woodway, Hewitt, Lorena, Bellmead, Robinson, and China Spring.

Getting through Mother’s Day after the loss of a child

Posted by Dr. Becker Thursday, May 8, 2014 0 comments

 

While many mothers will be happily celebrating Mother’s Day this weekend, many others will be quietly grieving the loss of a child.  A day meant to honor mothers often brings fresh waves of sadness, even for the death of a child that occurred many years ago. Mother’s Day can be bittersweet for grieving mothers who also have living children.

 

While it may be impossible to avoid feeling any negative emotions on Mother’s Day, there are ways to get through the day and decrease strong feelings of sadness and anxiety. Consider the following:

 

1. Give yourself permission to feel sad. Set aside time during the day to grieve. This may involve crying, visiting the gravesite of your child, writing a letter or poem to your child, or participating in some symbolic activity that honors your child’s memory.

 

2. Don’t criticize yourself for feeling sad. Trying to push away the emotions or feeling guilty or angry about being sad only makes things more difficult. Recognize that it is normal to have various feelings, including sadness, anger, anxiety, and guilt. Everybody grieves in different ways.

 

3. Set aside time during the day to experience joy and connection with others. Social isolation and withdrawal from activities can increase feelings of sadness. Don’t be afraid to let your friends or family members know what you need from them on this difficult day. Many people do not know how to help others who are grieving and will welcome direct and honest feedback.

 

4. Prepare surviving siblings in age appropriate ways. Making it okay to talk about the death of a child will ease the tension in the home. Let the children know that Mom may feel both sad and happy on Mother’s Day, and that the day will involve periods of grieving and time for celebrating.

 

5. If you know a mother who has lost a child, consider reaching out to her this Mother’s Day. Rather than simply stating “Let me know if you need anything,” offer specific types of help. Offers to bring a meal, watch the children, or spend time together can be a great way to support a grieving mother.

 

For more information about coping with Mother’s Day, please click the link to listen to my interview.

 

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

It’s Difficult to Make Time for What’s Important

Posted by Dr. Becker Thursday, January 16, 2014 0 comments

 

“Keep in mind that you are always saying ‘no’ to something. If it isn’t to the apparent, urgent things in your life, it is probably to the most fundamental, highly important things. Even when the urgent is good, the good can keep you from your best, keep you from your unique contribution, if you let it.”

--Helen Keller

 

The daily tasks of life can be so overwhelming that there is little time or energy left over to pursue interests and spend time on things that you truly value. Many people feel burned out and exhausted by their daily routines. Often those I work with express having a nagging feeling of discontent and frequently ask the question “is this all there is?” to life.

 

We live in a fast-paced, overscheduled world. Procrastination, fear, stress, fatigue, and unrealistic expectations contribute to the pattern of burnout and tendency to say “no” to the things that are most important to us.

 

What are you constantly saying “no” to? Would you like to find ways to say “yes” to those things that are truly important to you?

 

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

Do you make bad decisions? Blame your emotions…

Posted by Dr. Becker Tuesday, October 29, 2013 0 comments

 

Smart and informed people can still make bad decisions. People who spend a long time thinking  and weighing their options can still make bad decisions. Research shows that emotions play a critical role in good decision making.

 

Often dismissed as “silly,” “irrational,” or “unimportant,” emotions play a key role in the way that we process information. Anxiety, stress, and fear can create tunnel vision, restricting your ability to consider multiple pieces of information and options.  Additionally, anxiety also causes people to attempt to avoid risk. One way of attempting to avoid risk is to simply follow the guidance of a perceived expert, which may not be the best choice.

 

We all show bias in decision making. The nature of humans is to take mental shortcuts because we are faced with so much information and so many small decisions to make on a daily basis. Mental shortcuts and bias may be okay or even beneficial when deciding what to have for lunch or what to buy on a shopping trip. However, mental shortcuts can be disastrous when larger decisions are at stake.

 

Positive emotions, such as confidence and optimism, can also harm good decision making. A common mental shortcut involves focusing on any information that agrees with the outcome that we want and dismissing information that does not agree. This kind of overly optimistic thinking may help explain why people engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking or driving recklessly. Often we are able to convince ourselves that we are somehow immune to the potential negative consequences of these behaviors.

 

The most common decision making strategy taught in school is making a list of pros and cons. Consulting others, “sleeping on it,” or conducting research are also commonly recommended. While these are important strategies, they ignore the significant impact of emotion and cognitive bias on decision making.

 

Decision making can be especially difficult for college students, who suddenly find themselves faced with multiple large and small decisions their parents used to make for them. Additionally, the adjustment to college can create excessive stress, which further impairs decision making. College students who struggle with decision making may benefit from counseling or coaching to improve core psychological skills.

 

The goal is not to simply get rid of emotions. Mindfully acknowledging your feelings may help decrease the impact of emotions on decision making. Being aware of emotions will allow you to have a better understanding of how your emotions may be creating a bias in your thinking.

 

The good news is that emotional awareness can be strengthened, much like any skill. As you learn more about your emotions and deepen your awareness of these emotions, you are likely to experience greater wisdom and better decision making.

 

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

How Do Suicide Waivers Affect College Students?

Posted by Dr. Becker Thursday, September 19, 2013 0 comments

 

A university in China recently required all incoming freshman to sign a waiver that states that the university is not responsible if the student commits suicide. Suicidal thoughts and depression are significant problems facing university students. However, having students sign a suicide waiver does not have any positive effect in terms of reducing student suicides. In fact, this procedure may send a message that students are alone in their struggles and cannot rely on the university to help them.

 

College is a time of transition, and often a time of increased stress. Too much stress can cause college students to develop depression, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, academic problems, or other issues. When students struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts, seeking help can be very difficult. Just taking the time and energy to ask about available resources can be too much for a depressed student. Therefore, is important for college students to be proactive before stress becomes a major problem. Both college students and their parents can do this by compiling a list of the resources that are available for college students.

 

Here’s where college students can start:

  • Look through the packets and brochures provided to you during freshman orientation services. Start making a list of the names of campus resources and the types of student issues these services address.
  • Add to that list the name and contact information of your academic advisor and dean.
  • Be sure to include phone numbers for the student health center, counseling center, and student success center.
  • If you have struggled with high stress in the past, consider using counseling or wellness coaching to help prevent the negative impact of stress
  • Don’t see getting help as a failure or a last resort. Just as you would get a flu shot to prevent illness, you can also use campus resources to help maintain healthy emotional functioning.

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

What’s your happiness type?

Posted by Dr. Becker Tuesday, August 20, 2013 2 comments

 

When asked about goals for counseling, my clients often state simply “I want to be happier.” After this response, I usually ask what happiness means to them. Many people use examples of their friends who seem happier, and whose activities suggest they have a greater enjoyment of life overall. Looking at Facebook profiles, it’s easy to get caught in the trap of thinking everyone else is happier than you.

 

That is, if engaging in exciting activities creates happiness.

 

According to new research from the University of North Carolina, different types of happiness have different physical and emotional effects. Furthermore, these effects are experienced down to a person’s genes.

 

Hedonic happiness comes from experiences that provide immediate pleasure, such as eating a delicious meal or being at a great party. Eudaimonic well-being is longer lasting. This type of happiness comes from creating and working toward a sense of meaning to life and living within your own value system.

 

Research shows that people who experience Eudaimonic happiness have less inflammatory proteins and a greater antiviral response compared with those who primarily experience Hedonic happiness. In short, people who primarily derive happiness by pursuing the greater good have better physical responses than those who primarily derive happiness from short term pleasurable experiences.

 

What does this mean for your life? Do you have a good balance of both happiness types? How might you find more ways to create meaning in your life and live out your core values?

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

Countdown to College…One Month until Fall Semester Begins

Posted by Dr. Becker Tuesday, July 30, 2013 0 comments

 

Are you ready for the fall semester to start? Whether you are a freshman just starting college or a junior returning after summer break, the thought of starting a new semester may fill you with a combination of excitement, fear, hope, and dread.

 

New semesters are  a good time to start fresh and make much needed changes. Many students start the new semester with the best of intentions, including goals such as:

I will complete all my homework and reading ahead of time.

I will stop waiting until the night before to study for an exam.

I will get more sleep and stop missing classes.

I will bring up my GPA.

 

These are wonderful goals, and following them will surely lead to increased academic success for any college student. However, it is not enough to simply want the goal and to state it out loud. Many students fall short on their goals because they do not know how to achieve them. The process of goal setting, maintaining motivation, and handling setbacks involves specific knowledge and skills that are not typically taught in school. Success coaching is one way for students to develop the skills and attain the knowledge necessary for college and life success. To learn more about success coaching, please visit http://www.smaartskills.net

 

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

The Holidays are Hard for Perfectionist Moms

Posted by Dr. Becker Thursday, November 29, 2012 1 comments

 

bored_girl Perfectionist Moms, it’s hard enough to do what you do.  Every day is a new challenge, and there never seems to be enough time to get everything finished.  On top of the daily struggles, there are nagging thoughts about whether you are teaching the right values to your children and helping them grow into the adults you would like them to become.

 

Holidays add an extra layer to these difficulties.  Holiday traditions that were important in your family of origin seem important to pass down to your children.  Although these traditions are meant to be fun and joyful, they may not feel that way.  There is often a lot of anxiety about doing these traditions “right” and making sure everyone has fun.  High expectations can place a heavy burden on moms and take the joy out of activities.  When kids are whiny or unhappy, moms may be left wondering what they did wrong, and why they can’t be as good as their own moms were.

 

Furthermore, moms are often the ones who have to balance the needs of all family members, including extended family and in-laws.  Large gatherings of family members and limited time to spend with both sides of the family are common stresses that parents face during the holidays.  It’s impossible to please everyone all the time, and this fact is difficult for perfectionist moms to accept.  Perfectionist moms tend to focus on their limitations rather than what they are doing well.  Their goal of being a perfect mom is always just out of reach, and striving for that leads to frustration and negative feelings toward themselves.

 

Additionally, children are sensitive to their parent’s emotions, and they may act out or become stressed and irritable when they perceive that their parents are stressed and irritable.

 

Fortunately, many perfectionist moms are able to overcome perfectionist thinking and work toward becoming more content and happy.  Perfectionist moms work so hard to do things for their families.  When moms focus even a small amount of that energy on themselves, the benefits can be enormous.

 

Moms who attend counseling are often able to recognize and make changes to their perfectionist thinking.  Psychologists can help moms learn to manage stress in order to be happier and healthier.  These changes benefit moms, children, and other family members.

 

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

christmas_tree

 

The holidays are approaching, and most college students are ready for some rest and relaxation.  Many plan to return to their parents’ homes for the month long holiday until the spring semester begins.  While these reunions can be joyful, they can also create a difficult adjustment for both students and their parents.

 

Common Difficulties:

 

Students have gotten used to having their freedom and functioning as adults.  Nobody asks them where they are going or asks them to be home at a certain time.  Parents may expect their children to follow a curfew or check in with them.

 

College is a time for students to develop independence and develop views separate from their parents.  During the first year, student’s views on  religion, politics, and other important life issues may have changed.  Students may expect to be able to express their new views at home as freely as they could during class.  When parents or siblings do not agree with these new views, arguments may result.

 

Students and parents may have different views on how the student should spend the holiday.  Students may go home expecting to relax the entire holiday season, while parents may be expecting their student to work or help out around the house.

 

Roles and rules have changed.  Younger siblings may have taken on new responsibilities and taken over space in the home that once belonged to the college student.  Each family member may have different expectations of how the returning college student will be integrated back into the family.  When these expectations are not met, tension can result.

 

Fall semester grades have come in, and students may not have performed as expected.  This can cause tension and arguing about what the student needs to do to improve.

 

How to Cope:

Anticipating these challenges and talking about expectations ahead of time may help prevent tension from developing.  Students and parents may wish to discuss curfews, schedules, use of the car, and other expectations.

 

Agree to disagree.  When it is clear that discussions are becoming heated, both parties can agree to drop the topic and move on.  Parents: Recognize that it is a good thing that your college student is learning to think for himself or herself.  Students: Recognize that it may be difficult for your parents to accept this new independent side of you, but be patient with them.

 

Students: Don’t forget about your siblings.  Try to understand how your absence and return may have affected them.  Talk to them ahead of time to see if there are any issues that need to be resolved prior to your return home.

 

If grades are a concern, set aside a time to discuss this.  Let the rest of the holiday be joyful and pleasant.  Parents: One discussion about grades will be more productive than many reminders about the student’s progress.

 

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

How Do You Convince Someone Else They Need Counseling?

Posted by Dr. Becker Monday, March 19, 2012 2 comments

 

The concerned parent of a depressed college student

The friend of someone with severe anxiety

The wife that sees the emotional struggles in her husband

 

Each person has come to me asking for help for someone else.  In some cases, the other person is willing to receive help and just needs a nudge.  In other cases, the person being pushed toward help has little desire to change, or little awareness of their own difficulties.

 

Why is it so hard to convince people to go see a psychologist or counselor?

People develop ways of coping with stress and other emotions.  One common coping method is avoidance.  It may seem safer to avoid making changes and work to convince themselves that everything is really okay.

 

Many people have mixed feelings about the idea of making personal changes.  They would like to make changes in themselves, but they may feel fearful or hopeless about their ability to change.   These people may have considered counseling in the past, and each time they convinced themselves that it would not work out.

 

There is still some stigma attached to getting mental health counseling.  Some people feel embarrassed about needing help, or they may have been taught that getting counseling is a sign of weakness.

 

In a family system, one person may be the identified “patient.”  This could be a spouse or a child.  In each case, other family members believe that this person alone is responsible for all the difficulties in the family.  They have sent this person to counseling to get “fixed” without realizing or accepting the part that they are playing in the family dysfunction. 

 

What’s the best way to let others know that they need counseling?

First, approach the person gently with your concern.  Even though it may seem that they are not listening, you have given them an idea to think about later.

 

Have an attitude of compassion rather than blaming.  Do not choose a heated moment or argument with a friend or partner to tell them they need counseling. 

 

Lead by example.  If you have had a positive experience with counseling, let your loved ones know how it has helped you.  This can help decrease the feeling of shame that someone may feel about their struggles.

 

Be patient.  Let the person know that you are available to talk to them further about this in the future.  It may take several conversations about counseling before someone is ready to take the first step.

 

Consider seeking counseling for yourself.  It can be stressful to care for friends and family members with mental health problems.  Counseling may allow you to learn some skills to manage your own emotional reactions to the difficulties of loved ones.

 

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

What are You Waiting For? It’s Time to Sail Your Boat

Posted by Dr. Becker Monday, February 27, 2012 0 comments

 

sailboats “To reach a port, we must sail—Sail, not tie at anchor—Sail, not drift.”
Franklin Roosevelt

 

A sailboat is propelled by the wind rather than by gasoline and a motor.  On days when the winds are weak, sailors sometimes become frustrated by the slow speed and lack of progress toward their destination.  The process of sailing requires education, practice, and skill.  While learning these sailing skills, beginning sailors often find that their boats do not go in the right direction and may not seem to move much at all.  Once the sailing skills are learned, experienced sailors can make progress even in low wind conditions.

 

Life is much like a sailboat ride.  Many people become frustrated when attempting to reach goals because they have not yet learned the skills needed to “sail” through each challenge.  Many people are “tying” their own anchors without realizing it.  Others are simply waiting for a strong wind to push them along while they continue to drift through life. 

 

Think about the goals you are trying to achieve.  What are you doing to tie your own anchor?  What can you do to propel your sailboat while you wait for the wind to pick up?  If you are feeling stuck in an important area of your life, consider talking with a psychologist or professional counselor.  Whether you are struggling with work, relationships, family, or school difficulties, you do not have to attempt to sail through these difficulties all on your own.

 

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.