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.

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.