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.

Sudden, Unexpected Panic Attacks...Can You Prevent Them?

Posted by Dr. Becker Sunday, July 31, 2011 7 comments

Many people with anxiety say that their panic attacks occur suddenly and for no reason at all. Some panic attacks are triggered by specific situations, such as driving or being in crowded places. For other people, panic attacks have no apparent trigger. They may occur when a person is at home watching television, lying in bed, completing a routine task.

These types of panic attacks are very frustrating because they are unpredictable and difficult to understand. Although they appear to occur "out of the blue," new research shows that these panic attacks really do come with some warning signs. Psychologists from Southern Methodist University found that the body begins to signal that a panic attack is coming up to one hour before the panic attack occurs. In this study, patients wore portable recorders to track changes in bodily functions. Psychologists found that there were changes in heart rate, respiration, CO2 levels, and other bodily functions up to 60 minutes before the panic attack occurred. The patients in this study reported that their panic attacks were unexpected.

This suggests that patients do not recognize subtle changes in their physical functioning. By learning to recognize these subtle signs, patients may be able to calm their body and prevent panic attacks. Furthermore, counselors can help patients understand and cope with the anxiety that occurs one hour before the panic attack. Counselors can help patients recognize what kind of stressful situations and anxious thoughts cause this low level of anxiety. Understanding the triggers and learning ways to cope are key strategies to help prevent panic attacks.

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

Does my kid need counseling or do I?

Posted by Dr. Becker Tuesday, July 26, 2011 0 comments


"My son started getting bad grades in school, and he’s always made As."
"My daughter doesn’t listen to me, and throws a fit if I tell her to clean her room."
"My daughter suddenly became afraid to go to school."
"My son has been arguing with both of us and he gets mad so easily."

These are common concerns of parents who call a counselor. When kids and teens start acting differently, they often can’t explain why, or even understand their own feelings and behaviors. Kids and teens are sensitive to their environments, and they react to changes and stressors at home and school. Events such as trauma, parent separation or divorce, and the illness of a family member can cause sadness, anger, anxiety, and behavior problems. When this happens, parents often get concerned and call a counselor.

The next step is simple…the counselor “fixes” the kid…right?

Not quite. Kid’s problems rarely exist in a vacuum. Sometimes the whole family system needs work. This means the counselor may need to work with the parents and child/teen together to improve relationships and help parents understand what their kids need from them.

Other times, parents may need to see a counselor to work on their relationship with each other. Frequent conflict and arguing between parents can create sadness or anxiety for kids, as well as behavior problems.

Counselors may also provide coaching or counseling to parents to help them learn how to manage their child or teen’s behavior. A counselor may work with parents to help them learn how to set limits, make rules, and deal with problem behaviors in their kids and teens.

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

Coping with disappointment: Looking for the next open door

Posted by Dr. Becker Monday, July 18, 2011 4 comments

Finding-an-open-door When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. ~Alexander Graham Bell

 

Many people express feeling “stuck” after experiencing a disappointment, losing an opportunity, or facing a major life change.  They are so focused on what is lost that they are unable to imagine finding something different.  Whether this is a lost relationship, job, or other opportunity, disappointment and regret can prevent a person from moving forward.  One way to cope is to think about your past and remember how you were able to open new doors after other doors had closed.  Some losses are more difficult to accept than others, and in some cases the help of a professional counselor may be needed.  As life continually changes, remember to keep looking for your next open door.

 

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

Dealing with Failure and Setbacks

Posted by Dr. Becker Thursday, July 14, 2011 2 comments

 

future-foward-looking New research from the University of Kent shows that positive reframing, acceptance, and humor are the most effective coping strategies for people dealing with small failures and setbacks.  Positive reframing means changing your view of the failure and creating a more positive interpretation.   This can be done by looking for the positive outcomes, and focusing on what has been achieved rather than what has not been achieved. For example, Mary felt discouraged when she did not get the work promotion she had worked so hard to achieve.  She thought about all the extra hours and energy she put in to try to get this promotion, and she felt that it was all wasted.  When she thought more about it later, she realized that the extra projects she had taken on had built her resume and increased her knowledge in her field.  She realized she was now more prepared to get a different promotion within the same company, or even go work at a different company.  She also realized that not getting the promotion had allowed her more free time to gain more education and do the things she wanted to do.  By reframing this setback, she was able to feel happier and more confident, and she could accept the loss of the promotion.

 

In the University of Kent study, strategies that led to decreased positive feelings were using social support, denial, venting, behavioral disengagement, and self-blame.  It’s somewhat surprising that using social support was  a negative coping strategy in this study. Other research has shown that there are many psychological and emotional benefits of social support.  However, sometimes friends and family can increase negative feelings even when they are trying to be supportive.  By allowing their friend to vent and agreeing with how bad the situation is, they may be strengthening the friend’s negative feelings and bad mood.  On the other hand, if friends are too optimistic and act as as a cheerleader, their friend may feel a lack of support and understanding.  Helping a friend use positive reframing after a failure may be the best kind of social support. 

 

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

Inspiration: Reaching for Goals

Posted by Dr. Becker Monday, July 11, 2011 2 comments

basket-ball-goals

You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.
~Wayne Gretzky

Does it ever seem like opportunities are passing you by, or that you will not be able to achieve the things you want to achieve? How many of these “shots” have you tried to make? People avoid taking shots for all different reasons. Feelings of inadequacy, fatigue, lack of interest, or not enough time are all reasons people may list for avoiding new challenges. However, for many people, fear of failure is at the root of their reluctance to try. Nobody wants to experience the sting of failure. For some, that sting is so strong that failure must be avoided at all costs. The meaning of the failure is often what hurts the most. For example, does the failure mean that you are helpless, unlovable, unintelligent, or a bad person? If this is the interpretation, it’s no wonder the failure hurts so much. Counselors help many people cope with failure and negative feelings toward themselves. To do this, counselors often use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). There are other ways to cope with failure without seeing a counselor. Click the link to read my post about dealing with failure and setbacks

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

 

Counsel-relieve-stress-ACT Kate had been diagnosed with a serious health condition that changed the course of her life.  She was overcome with thoughts about the unfairness of the situation, the difficulties she would face, and her unknown future.  As she became depressed, friends and family said she needed to “accept” her condition.  Have you ever been told you needed to accept something that seemed so terrible that you wondered how anyone could accept it?  Or have you been told that you can’t “let things go,” whether this is criticism, negative feelings about yourself, or daily stressors that replay in your mind?  Part of being human is having the ability to think and plan.  Although this is a good thing, excessive negative thinking can lead to depression and prevent us from reaching for our goals and desires. 

 

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a type of therapy that addresses these issues, with a focus on thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. One major goal of ACT is to help people remove the obstacles caused by problematic thoughts so that they may pursue goals they value.  For example, a man may avoid socializing because he tends to be “awkward” in social settings.  This feeling of awkwardness prevents him from developing meaningful friendships, which is something he greatly desires.  In another situation, a woman may have a great desire to exercise, but believes that others at the gym will be judging her negatively because she is overweight. 

 

ACT counselors do not try to directly change thoughts.  Instead, the goal of ACT is to change a person’s reaction to these thoughts in order to remove the barriers that the thoughts create.  In the case of the man who avoids socializing, the ACT therapist will not challenge his belief that he is socially awkward.  Instead, the therapist will work with him to accept his awkwardness and find ways of connecting with others despite this feeling of awkwardness.  In the case of the woman who is overweight, the ACT therapist will not challenge thoughts that others are viewing her negatively as a result of her weight.  Instead, the therapist will work with the patient to help her accept her weight, accept that others may sometimes judge her, and learn ways to overcome the obstacle of feeling judged.  The ACT therapist uses various treatment techniques  to accomplish these goals. 

 

A core part of ACT is mindfulness. Mindfulness refers to the process of being fully focused on the present moment, without thoughts and concerns about the past or future.  When a person learns to be mindful and practices mindfulness regularly, thoughts lose their ability to sculpt that person’s emotions.  Mindfulness is also used to help people cope with their painful internal experiences, including physical and emotional pain.  Mindfulness means simply experiencing the pain without judgment or negative thoughts.  For example, an ACT therapist will help someone with chronic pain be mindful of the sensations without allowing negative thoughts to dominate their mind.  Negative thoughts may include “This pain will never get better,” “I can’t handle this,” or “Something bad is going to happen to my body.”  Because research shows that emotions and thoughts increase the experience of physical pain, mindful acceptance is an important part of therapy with individuals who have chronic pain.  Similarly, mindful acceptance of emotions such as anxiety, sadness, and anger is also taught in ACT.  People with depression and anxiety often judge their emotions and criticize themselves harshly for having emotions, which only strengthens and maintains depression and anxiety.  The ACT therapist teaches patients to be mindful and accepting of the ebb and flow of emotions.  ACT has shown effectiveness in helping people cope with certain chronic illnesses as well as reducing depression and other mental health conditions.

 

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.