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.

Is Self-Help Harmful? Lessons from the sweat lodge deaths…

Posted by Dr. Becker Tuesday, March 15, 2011 0 comments

In 2010, James Arthur Ray, author of several self-help books, was charged with the deaths of three participants of his 2009 self-help retreat. Ray had participants of his retreat take part in a sweat lodge ritual, which he claimed would allow them to experience positive change and be “reborn.” After participating in this ritual, three participants died from the heat.

There are many self-help books and programs claiming to help individuals overcome a variety of problems. Some of these methods are helpful. Other methods are ineffective, and can even be harmful to a person’s mental or physical health.

When choosing a self-help book or program, consider the following:

  • Check the credentials of the expert. Was the book written by a psychologist or mental health counselor? Be cautious when considering a book or program developed by a person without formal training in the mental health field. Psychologists have extensive training treating individuals with various mental health and emotional problems, and their advice is based on sound clinical principles.

  • Beware of a one-size-fits-all approach. There are many books on treating anxiety disorders, but there is no single book that is effective for ALL individuals with anxiety. Differences in personality, background, and culture are always considered when a psychologist is treating a person. Self-help authors cannot consider all of these individual differences when offering advice. Although a particular book may have worked great for your friend, this book may not be the best fit for you.

  • Be cautious when considering books that promise a quick cure or guarantee success. Personal change takes time and effort. The most effective way to overcome personal obstacles and emotional problems is to seek counseling from a psychologist.

  • If you have doubts about the physical or mental safety of a self-help exercise, consult a physician or psychologist.

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

My Own Worst Enemy: Part II

Posted by Dr. Becker Monday, March 7, 2011 0 comments

Relationships and Self Esteem

• People with low self esteem often expect others to be critical of them, and this expectation can lead to social anxiety.
• Often people with social anxiety avoid social situations and feel nervous when talking to people. This nervousness often interferes with the social interaction, and can cause anxious individuals to criticize themselves for being “socially awkward,” or “boring.”
• Rejection can be particularly difficult for a person with low self esteem, and can lead to feelings of depression or other difficulties.
• People with low self esteem may also have difficulty with intimate relationships. Abusive relationships are linked to low self esteem in both men and women.
• Close positive relationships help protect self esteem from threatening information, such as feedback about a poor performance.

Body and Self Esteem

• Men and women’s self esteem can impact the way they think about and treat their bodies. For men, body self esteem is often tied to their physical ability. For example, self esteem may be tied to how much a man can bench press or how athletic he is. For women, body self esteem is more often related to physical appearance.
• Men’s and women’s perceptions of their bodies are often related to media and societal influences.
• Media influences self-image and sets the “norm” for physical appearance. When individuals fall outside the norm, it can increase negative feelings toward self.
• People may use food to cope with difficult feelings or negative self-esteem. However, overeating can cause people to feel even more negatively toward themselves.
• People with low self esteem may strive to lose weight or exercise excessively in order to feel good about themselves, especially if they do not feel good in any other areas of their lives.
• While self esteem is based on many factors, exposure to thin images in the media leads women to base their self esteem more strongly on the domains of weight and appearance, which in turn leads women to feel more dissatisfied with their bodies.
• However, the impact of thin imagines can be weakened; particularly by challenging cultural norms and thinking about heavier women who have been successful in life. It is also effective to have peers who challenge cultural norms and allow only positive body talk within friendship groups. For example, such peers avoid saying things like “my thighs are so fat,” or “my nose is too big.”

Building Positive Self Esteem

People with low self esteem are their own toughest critics. Such individuals often say negative things to themselves, such as “I’m ugly,” “I’m a failure,” “Nobody likes me,” etc. This negative self-talk can be so automatic that the person doesn’t even recognize it! Work toward building a positive self-esteem by adopting new habits and behaviors.

• Learn to recognize negative self-talk.
• Challenge negative thoughts.
• Make a list of self-affirmations.
• Recognize cognitive distortions.
• Imagine success.
• Have compassion for yourself.

For some people, counseling may be needed to improve self-esteem and other important areas of life.
Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.