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.

Psychologists have previously demonstrated that repeated exposure to a trauma or fear can decrease your emotional response to that stressor. For example, repeated exposure to memories from a traumatic experience can decrease an individual’s emotional response to these memories. This is one of the reasons why talking about these experiences can be an important part of counseling and also why your psychologist may recommend exposure therapy.

New research indicates that exposure to violent video games causes a decreased brain response to violence, and increased aggressive behavior. In this study, adults were assigned to play either a violent or non-violent video game for 25 minutes. Violent video games included Call of Duty, Hitman, Killzone, and Grand Theft Auto. Immediately after playing the video games, researchers measured brain responses while showing participants neutral and violent photos. Of particular note, participants who had not played many violent games prior to the study had a reduced brain response to the violent photos, indicating desensitization. Participants who had played a lot of violent video games prior to the study also had small brain responses to the violent photos, regardless of whether they had played violent or non-violent games during the evaluation. One explanation for this response is that these participants’ history of playing violent games may have desensitized their brains and decreased their emotional response to violence.

Following this task, participants engaged in a competitive task in which they were allowed to blast their opponent with a controlled amount of loud noise. Aggression was measured by the noise level that the participants chose. The group who played violent video games blasted their opponents with louder noises than the group who played non violent games, indicating a more aggressive response.

It remains uncertain what effect violent video games have on children, whose brains are still developing. However, the results of this study suggest that caution and prudence should be applied when selecting activities for your developing child.

For parents who are concerned about the impact of violent video games on their children’s behavior:

  • Limit the amount of time your child spends playing violent and/or aggressive video games.
  • Discuss views on violence and aggression with your child, and talk about why he/she likes violent games.
  • Explore other activities, such as non-violent games, sports, or a new hobby.
  • Foster empathy in your child by getting involved in volunteer activities that help people in need. Fostering empathy may help counter the desensitization caused by violent video games.
  • If your child is already exhibiting aggressive or violent behavior, consider counseling. A qualified psychologist can help you understand the root of the aggression and develop a treatment plan to help your child.

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

The Difference Between a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist

Posted by Dr. Becker Monday, May 23, 2011 0 comments

The two words sound similar, and they are often confused. Many people seeking mental health treatment do not know whether they should see a psychologist or a psychiatrist. While both a psychiatrist and psychologist have doctoral degrees, there are significant differences between the two.


  • Attend medical school and have a M.D.
  • Receive extensive training in medicine and medical problems.
  • Prescribe psychiatric medication, such as antidepressants.
  • Provide support and may provide brief counseling to patients during medication check ups.


  • Go to graduate school and receive a Ph.D. or Psy.D.
  • Receive extensive training in therapy and assessment.
  • Do not usually prescribe medication (unless they have received medical training).
  • Provide psychotherapy/counseling to patients as a primary treatment for mental health issues.

Psychologists and psychiatrists often refer patients to each other. It is not unusual for a patient to be seeing both a psychologist and a psychiatrist at the same time. This may be inconvenient, as some people would like to see one doctor for both counseling and medication management. However, this is often not the most beneficial treatment, as many people with psychological problems need focused, in-depth counseling. The type of counseling that a psychiatrist provides is different than what a psychologist provides. According to a recent study in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice, psychiatrists spend an average of 17.5 minutes with patients. Conversations focus primarily on case management and providing support, while specific psychotherapy interventions are rare. Psychologists, however, spend an average of 50-60 minutes with patients, and use a variety of evidence-based therapeutic interventions. To learn more about counseling and other psychological topics, please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services.

Doctor, Am I Crazy?

Posted by Dr. Becker Tuesday, May 17, 2011 2 comments

This question is often asked in a joking manner at the end of an individual’s first counseling appointment. Underneath the joking exterior, there is fear about being labeled as “crazy,” and a discomfort about needing mental health treatment.

The word “crazy” comes up a lot in counseling. Sometimes people are told by family and friends that they are acting "crazy” when they show strong emotions. Others are told that only “crazy” people see psychologists. Other times, antidepressants are referred to as “crazy pills.” This labeling creates deep feelings of shame and embarrassment, and can prevent many people from seeking mental health treatment.

When my patients express fear of being “crazy,” I ask them what that word means to them. Usually, they are unable to explain this, but have a feeling that this is a very negative label and an attack on their character. Since “crazy” has no specific definition, it is easy to use this word in a hurtful manner.

Instead of focusing on the word “crazy,” I encourage people to think about what brought them into counseling in the first place. We discuss the diversity of human emotion and behavior, and the common experiences of all people. Sadness, fear, grief, insecurity, and relationship struggles are universal experiences of all people. When individuals begin to have difficulty coping with any of these aspects of life, they may develop depression, anxiety, or another mental health illness.

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May is Mental Health Month. The American Psychological Association is working to educate the public about mental health issues. Everyone can take part in helping reduce the stigma of seeking psychological treatment. Work to eliminate the word “crazy” from your vocabulary, and instead work to understand your emotions and the emotions of others. Developing understanding and compassion for yourself and others is the first step toward decreasing mental health stigma and breaking through the barriers that prevent individuals from seeking treatment.

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

How Do You Read People?

Posted by Dr. Becker Monday, May 9, 2011 0 comments

Many people believe they know how to read people very well. They believe that they can perceive someone’s character, intentions, and attitudes from a quick meeting or observation of the person.

How accurate is this?

Because we have so much information coming in, we have to rely on cognitive shortcuts. This is because looking at all the information in a systematic, scientific way would take too much time and energy. Therefore, our brains quickly process information and take shortcuts to form a conclusion.These cognitive shortcuts are based on a person’s past experiences, their biases, and their habits of thinking. Considering this, cognitive shortcuts are often inaccurate.

What problems can cognitive shortcuts cause?

Many people who seek counseling have difficulties with relationships. They often analyze others, make conclusions based on cognitive shortcuts, and act accordingly. They believe that their conclusions are accurate, and they seldom challenge these assumptions. This can result in missed opportunities to connect to others, resentment, social anxiety, and isolation.

Counseling often helps people recognize these patterns of thinking, change their thinking, and make positive changes in the way they relate to others.

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

Coping with a Learning Disability

Posted by Dr. Becker Sunday, May 1, 2011 3 comments

Learning disabilities affect both adults and children. Learning disabilities can lead to low academic achievement, test anxiety, low self-esteem, and discouragement.

For Children:

If a child struggles with school, his or her teacher may recommend IQ or learning disability testing. Learning disability testing will determine whether the child has a learning disability, and what kind of learning disability the child has. Testing must be done by a psychologist or other trained professional. Once the child is diagnosed, the psychologist can make specific recommendations based on the child’s needs. Such recommendations may include:

  • Extra time on tests
  • Tutoring
  • Study skills training
  • Help with note taking

For Adults:

Sometimes adults have learning disabilities that were not diagnosed as children. They may have struggled in school as children and had to work harder than their peers to learn the same material. Once in college, a person with a learning disability may begin to have much more difficulty keeping up academically. College classes are more difficult, require more study time, and move at a faster pace than high school classes. The college student who was able to make good grades in high school may suddenly find that their learning disability is causing major problems.

What to do:

  • Before a learning disability can be diagnosed, the student must receive learning disability testing by a psychologist or other trained professional.
  • By law, colleges and universities must provide assistance to students with learning disabilities.
  • The psychologist who makes the diagnosis will offer specific recommendations. Such recommendations may include:
    • Extra time on tests
    • Tutoring
    • Study skills training
    • Help with note taking.
    • Permission to record class lectures
    • Alternative course placement

    Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.