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.

Inspiration: When life takes a turn

Posted by Dr. Becker Thursday, June 30, 2011 5 comments

 

mountain-skiing-inspiration Kate* had always gone to the mountains for inspiration.  As a native of Colorado, there was nothing more peaceful to her than taking in the beauty and stillness of the peaks before she took the exhilarating snowboard ride down the mountain.  Shortly after her last ski trip, Kate was diagnosed with a heart condition which would require multiple surgeries over the course of several years.  The prognosis was not good.  Several weeks after her first surgery, she returned to her favorite ski resort to watch the snowboarders and take in the beauty of the mountains.  Her surgery had left her weak and thin, and she no longer had the strength to snowboard.  As she sat and took in the scenery, she couldn’t help but wonder how her life had changed so dramatically.   At age 22, she felt like life as she knew it had come to a screeching halt.  She wondered what her new life had in store for her and how she could accept the loss of her old life.

 

In order to cope with her emotions, Kate had to accept her health condition and the life changes that it brought.  Acceptance of difficult events and emotions is often a major part of emotional healing.  Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is one psychotherapy approach that emphasizes acceptance as a key part of healing.  Please follow the link to read more about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

 

*Name has been changed to protect the individual’s identity.  This individual has never been a patient of Dr. Becker or her colleagues.  Story published with permission.

 

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

Coping with Change Through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Posted by Dr. Becker Monday, June 27, 2011 7 comments

 

Life-Under-ConstructionWhen changes and challenges arise, people react in different ways.  Some people react with a sense of calm and acceptance, others react with excitement while focusing on the opportunities the change will bring, and others may react with worry, sadness, anger, or fear.

 

For a person who is already slightly depressed or anxious, a major life change may intensify anxiety and depression.  When these emotions become overwhelming, anxious and depressed people often seek help, such as counseling.

 

After they begin counseling, people often report that the change they experienced caused their anxiety or depression.  However, it is not the change itself that caused the emotional state; it is the individual’s reaction to the change.  Furthermore, the person’s mental state before the change occurred also contributed to their reaction.  The psychologist’s next task is to help the patient understand their reaction and begin to make positive changes to reduce depression and anxiety.

 

How do psychologists help patients? 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a widely used psychological treatment that has been proven effective in treating anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.  CBT therapists focus on understanding the role of thoughts (cognitions) and behavior on emotions.  A major task in CBT is to develop awareness of the thoughts that lead to emotions.  For example, imagine that you are criticized by your boss at work.  You may immediately feel sad, anxious, or angry.  How you feel depends on your thoughts about what happened.  If you feel angry, you may be thinking “This guy is a jerk!”  If you feel anxious, you may be thinking, “I hope I don’t lose my job!”  Often these thoughts occur so quickly that they are almost unrecognizable.  Your CBT psychologist will help you slow down this process and become more aware of the thoughts behind the emotions.  The next step in this process is beginning to challenge thoughts and working toward more balanced thinking.

 

CBT therapists also work with patients to help them change their schemas.  A schema is a pattern of thinking centered on a particular theme, and it influences the way people view the world.  Schemas may develop in childhood and persist into adulthood. For example, a person may have a schema that they are a bad and unworthy person.  This schema is strengthened as the person looks for evidence that seems to confirm those views.  The CBT therapist will work with the patient to change this schema, and develop a more realistic and healthy self-image.

 

Another important part of CBT therapy is to work on changing behavior.  A CBT psychologist will help patients understand how certain behaviors maintain their anxiety and depression.  For example, people with low self-esteem may avoid others because they believe others will not like them.  By doing this, they strengthen their schema that they are bad or unworthy.  The CBT psychologist will work with these patients to help them try out new social behaviors and develop positive relationships.  The CBT psychologist may also recommend other behavioral changes, such as exercise, relaxation techniques, and activity scheduling.

 

CBT is an effective treatment for people with a variety of concerns, including relationship difficulties, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, low self-esteem, procrastination, and stress.  To determine if CBT is the appropriate treatment for you, consult with a psychologist in your area.

 

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

Inspiration: Reacting to Change

Posted by Dr. Becker Thursday, June 23, 2011 2 comments

 

strong-mountain-el-capitanYou cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.

~ Sri Ram

 

Why do some people seem to adapt to change and setbacks so easily, while some people become very discouraged and give up?  The people who adapt have learned how to master their attitude and their thoughts.  It takes some practice, but you can learn to shift your negative thinking and rebound from life’s challenges. 

 

 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on the relationship between thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.  Please see my article on CBT to find out how cognitive behavioral therapy works.

 

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

What to Expect in Counseling

Posted by Dr. Becker Monday, June 20, 2011 2 comments


Jogging-for-mental-healthMany people I see for counseling have seen other psychologists in the past. When I ask about these experiences, a common response is “It didn’t work.” It is important for me to understand why it didn’t work and what expectations and goals my patient has for counseling. Sometimes the perception that counseling didn’t work results from lack of understanding about how the counseling process works.

 

Things to consider about counseling:

  • Many people approach counseling expecting that they will feel better. They are often in a lot of emotional distress, and want to feel better right away. Counseling can stir up difficult emotions, which can leave people feeling sad, anxious, or tired after a counseling session. If these emotions feel too overwhelming for you, talk to your counselor about finding ways to cope with these emotions. One goal of counseling may be to feel better, but this may not happen right away.
  • In most cases, emotional difficulties developed over a period of months or years. Just as these difficulties took time to develop, they will take time to resolve. Some research shows that, on average, people attend 3-4 counseling sessions before terminating therapy. This is not enough time to allow significant, lasting changes to occur.
  • Counseling is like exercise: You get out of it what you put into it. Counseling, like exercise, can be challenging, tiring, and something that many people try to avoid.
  • Your counselor understands you more as time progresses, and they will use counseling to help you understand yourself better too. Counseling is a collaborative process in which counselor and patient work together to set goals and monitor progress on those goals.
  • Counseling sometimes brings up feelings and reactions that psychologists refer to as “transference.” Transference occurs when patients transfer feelings about other people in their lives onto the counselor. For example, a female patient may feel that people in her life constantly judge and reject her. She may then begin to feel like her therapist is judging her, and will look for signs that this is happening.
  • If transference develops or you have any concerns about therapy, you can bring this up to your counselor. A good counselor will be open to receiving this feedback and discussing your concerns with you.
  • Give counseling a chance before you decide to terminate. Consider sticking with it for at least 10 sessions. After those 10 sessions, you can talk with your counselor about your progress. Many times people are able to identify some progress they have made in those 10 sessions, even though they may still have more work to do in order to reach their therapy goals.

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

Inspiration

Posted by Dr. Becker Friday, June 17, 2011 2 comments


“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.”  - B. Olatunji

It is difficult for people to be focused on the present, rather than dwell on worries and sadness related to the past and the future.  Give yourself a gift by being fully focused on the present moment, and let yourself enjoy what the moment has to offer.

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

Parents want the best for their children. When a child is born, mom and dad imagine a future, make plans, and talk about all the wonderful adventures they will have with their child.

Rarely does this imagined future contain serious illnesses, learning disabilities, and major struggles. When a child is diagnosed with a mental or physical disability, parents are left trying to understand what this means for their child’s future and how they will cope with the difficulties. It is then that parents have to revise their plans for the child’s future and accept that the future may look different that they had planned.

Asperger’s Syndrome is a neurological condition that affects both children and adults. Common symptoms include difficulty with social functioning and communication, difficulty with emotional regulation and executive functioning, difficulty adapting to changes in routine, and obsessive interest in certain subjects. People with Asperger’s do not easily pick up on social signals and have a difficult time understanding things within a social context. As a result of these difficulties, they are often described as socially awkward.

Asperger’s is often diagnosed during childhood. There are several things parents should consider after their child is diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome:

  • Individual counseling is often recommended for children with Asperger’s. Children may struggle with feelings of isolation and social anxiety. They may also experience high stress levels because they have to work harder than their peers to understand communication and social issues.
  • Many psychologists also refer their Asperger’s patients to social skills groups. Typically these groups consist of about 5-10 children close to the same age who have Asperger’s syndrome. Children receive social support by talking about their difficulties, and the group is also a place for children to practice social skills.
  • Parents can help buffer children’s stress by showing unconditional acceptance of the child. This acceptance is important when the child is teased or rejected by peers, or when the child says or does something socially inappropriate that embarrasses their parents. Instead of receiving sharp criticism, these children will benefit from gentle explanations of why the behavior was inappropriate, followed by a discussion of more appropriate alternative behaviors.
  • Because children with Asperger’s rely heavily on routines and predictability, they may have difficulty adapting to life changes. Such changes may include divorce, relocation, changing schools, and going away to college. Parents can help prepare their children for such changes by asking direct questions about their children’s concerns. Questions may include: “What are your biggest concerns or fears about this change?” “What do you hope things will be like after this change?” “How can I make this change easier for you?”
  • Finally, parents can consider seeking their own social support. Look for support groups for parents of children with Asperger’s or other disabilities. If there are no groups available, consider starting one yourself using meetup.com or another site. Parents may also benefit from individual counseling to learn to cope with feelings of sadness, anxiety, stress, and frustration that may come up.
Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

Inspiration: Finding Your Inner Strength

Posted by Dr. Becker Wednesday, June 8, 2011 2 comments


"What lies before us and what lies behind us are small maters compared to what lies within us. And when we bring what is within us out into the world, miracles happen" - Ralph Waldo Emmerson

Tragedies and difficult life events do not have to define you. A person's inner strength and willingness to face painful emotions are important parts of the therapeutic process. When one is willing to look within and work toward healing, the results can be miraculous.

Are Pets the New Counselors?

Posted by Dr. Becker Monday, June 6, 2011 2 comments


There are many ways that pets can improve our emotional and psychological health. Animals such as dogs are working in many settings and helping people in a variety of ways.


Did you know that just by having a household pet, you could receive psychological and physical benefits? Research has shown that petting a dog or cat over a period of a few minutes can lower blood pressure significantly. Having a pet also allows people the opportunity to engage in healthy coping strategies. For example, a pet guardian may relieve stress at the end of the day by going home to hold, pet, and play with their pets, rather than watching television or drinking alcohol. Research also shows that people with dogs tend to walk more than those without dogs. This lifestyle change can have a major effect on someone’s mental and physical health.


Animals are also integrated into counseling programs, including inpatient and outpatient psychotherapy treatment centers. Remuda Ranch, an inpatient psychological treatment center, incorporates experiential therapy exercises with horses in addition to traditional counseling.


Pets can also help children with learning disabilities. Many public libraries and schools have begun inviting service dogs to help with children’s reading. Children with reading difficulties are often more relaxed when reading to a dog than reading to a human. This allows them to practice their reading in a fun, low pressure environment. This approach has shown positive outcomes for children’s developing reading skills.


Many people form strong bonds with their pets and feel unconditional love and acceptance from a pet. Thus, the relationship with the pet can be a major source of support, especially for people who do not experience such strong connections and love from other people. While having a pet can boost one’s mood and help decrease stress levels, a pet cannot cure symptoms of depression and is not a substitute for psychological treatment.

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.