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.

How can I reduce my stress when my life is so busy?

Posted by Dr. Becker Sunday, July 1, 2018 0 comments

Life is often busy and demanding. Finding quick and effective ways to reduce stress is crucial for good health. Try taking just a few minutes  to relax each morning and afternoon. You could take a walk, practice deep breathing, tense and relax muscles, or engage in an enjoyable hobby. Whatever activity you choose, the key is to be focused on the present moment. When your mind strays to future plans, worries, or thoughts about the past, gently bring your focus back you your present activity. This is a quick and simple way to decrease daily stress. Research shows that mind wandering and worrying are linked to negative health outcomes and increased depression and anxiety. Learning to focus your mind through consistent, brief practice is an excellent way to improve physical and mental health. If stress is still a concern, consider counseling to help develop coping skills.

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

Teacher-student relationships: When are they too close?

Posted by Dr. Becker Tuesday, June 20, 2017 0 comments

There is growing concern as the number of inappropriate teacher-student relationships continues to rise. Many of these educators did not set out to have a sexual relationship with their student. When asked about their reasons, “It just happened” is a common answer.

But how does it happen?

It often happens gradually as teachers form close relationships with students. These close relationships may be formed through the teacher’s involvement in extracurricular school activities, social media, or mentoring roles. As closeness develops, some teachers begin to cross boundaries. For example, teachers may share too much personal information, give the student special privileges or gifts, or begin relying on the student for emotional support. Small boundary crossings often lead to larger boundary crossings.

The ultimate boundary crossing occurs when a teacher has a sexual relationship with a student. Such behavior has devastating consequences for the student, the student’s family members, and the school system. Therefore, it is crucial that schools, teachers, and parents take action to prevent these inappropriate relationships before they are started.

What can schools do?

      1. Provide training for teachers about boundary crossings

      2. Provide support and mentoring to teachers

      3. Provide training for students about appropriate teacher-student boundaries

What can teachers do?

      1. Routinely ask themselves the following questions:
                         *  Who does this relationship benefit?
                         *  Why am I seeking extra contact with this student? Is it to meet my
                             needs or the student’s needs?

      2. Be aware of boundary crossings occurring with other teachers, and provide accountability.

What can parents do?

      1. Communicate with children frequently about their relationships, stressors, concerns, and everyday life events. Make time each day to stay up to date on important events and concerns for your child.

      2. Trust your instincts. If your child’s relationship with their teacher seems too close or inappropriate, investigate and set appropriate limits.

Note: This is a growing concern that has recently been addressed by Texas lawmakers. Dr. Becker was interviewed about this topic by ABC’s News Channel 25. Click the link here to view the full story and interview.

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

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How to deal with kids who are “picky” eaters

Posted by Dr. Becker Thursday, April 21, 2016 0 comments

First, you have to stop using the word picky. Giving kids that label will set the expectation that they should refuse most new foods. Try replacing “picky” with more descriptive phrases, such as “Chloe takes a while to decide that she likes something,” or “Zachary likes his food prepared a certain way.”

Many parents think that kids are not eating enough vegetables, yet it is very rare for a parent to be concerned that kids are not eating enough pizza or macaroni and cheese! To get kids to eat vegetables, parents often try bribing, threatening, bargaining, or punishing. These approaches can result in a tiresome power struggle that often leaves a child feeling like vegetables are the enemy. The key is to help kids change their perspective and to think positively of vegetables.

Although changing someone’s perspective is not a quick or easy thing to do,  investing the time to do this now will help relieve some of the pressure parents feel at the dinner table. This change will also help to set your child up for a lifetime of healthy (or at least healthier!) eating.

To help kids shift their perspective on healthy foods, try some of the following activities:

1.    Encourage your children to help plant or pick vegetables and fruits. Seeing where food comes from provides a sense of pride and appreciation. Even having just a tiny herb garden in your backyard can help instill that sense of pride and appreciation. No time or space for a garden? Visit the farmers market. Talk to your kids about where the food comes from. Let them carefully select which peppers or bananas to purchase.

2.    Let your child decide how to season their foods. Experiment with different spices or toppings. Giving kids control over this small aspect will help them take ownership for their foods.

3.    Instead of asking whether or not they like it, encourage your children to say what they like and don’t like about it. For example, it was crunchy, it was bitter, it was mushy. Ask them to describe the flavor of the new food in as much detail as they can. Then have them rate the food on a scale of 1 to 10 to describe how much they liked it.

4.    Choose a “vegetable of the week” by asking your child which vegetable they would like to feature that week. Each day do something related to that vegetable. For example, one day you could research some of the health benefits of that food. The next day create a collage or other form of artwork showing the unique features of the vegetables. Another day might involve searching for the most delicious recipes involving that vegetable. At the end of the week it is finally time to eat and enjoy that vegetable!

These are just a few ideas to get your kids thinking differently about vegetables. Feel free to get creative and come up with a few of your own ideas!

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

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What should you do for spring break?

Posted by Dr. Becker Thursday, February 18, 2016 0 comments

Spring break is more than just a time to relax and take a break from classes. For many college students, spring break represents so much more. Spring break can be a time for developing and solidifying friendships, making lasting memories, and making sure that your college experience measures up to the experiences of your peers. Spring break can also be a time to catch up or get ahead on schoolwork, spend time with family, or work extra hours at a part time job.

Making spring break plans sometimes causes high stress for college students. Students often feel pulled among many options. In trying to do what they think they “should” do, it is easy for students to lose touch with what they want and need. Many students will go along with a plan because it is suggested to them by family or friends. You can become intentional about how you spend your spring break by considering the following:

1.    First assess your options. Without judgment, simply allow your mind to wander to different possibilities. For example, you might imagine what it would be like to take a beach vacation with a large group of friends, or what it would be like to take a trip to a different location with fewer people. Alternatively, you may imagine spending a week in your hometown or staying in town.

2.    Notice how you feel when thinking about the different options. Do you notice any physical feelings, such as muscle tension or stomach discomfort? Did you have any worries or negative thoughts about your options?

3.    Allow yourself to notice your beliefs about what spring break “should” be. Don’t judge the beliefs, just write them all out.

4.    Circle the beliefs that have the most impact on your decision or your inability to make a decision.

5.    Think critically about these beliefs and consider talking them out with a trusted family member or friend. Consider how much you want these beliefs to guide your decision making.

6.    Are you stuck between two different options? Consider what you will sacrifice by choosing one option or the other. What will you gain by choosing each option? Is there any other way to “make up for” what you would be missing by choosing the other plan?

7.    Think about how it would it feel to see your friends’ spring break pictures on social media if you decide not to go on a vacation. How would you handle negative feelings that come up?

There is not one right decision that is best for every student every year. By thinking critically about your decisions, goals, desires, and current life circumstances you can choose to make the decision that is best for you.

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

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Helping Your Teenager Cope with School Stress

Posted by Dr. Becker Sunday, October 11, 2015 0 comments


The fall semester is in full swing, and for many students that means midterms are here. Soon students will begin feeling the pressure of projects, papers, and tests. While a moderate amount of stress can motivate us to perform well, too much stress can lead negative health effects, decreased productivity, and even depression and anxiety. Teens and college students today consistently report experiencing a high degree of stress. Learning to cope effectively with stress now will help set students up for success long after school is over.


Managing stress involves addressing multiple areas of functioning. Consider how your teen is doing in the following areas:


Time management

Learning to prioritize and value time appropriately is crucial to managing stress. Think about which activities are consuming valuable time. Is it television, internet use, socializing, or extracurricular activities? Ask your teen to review the costs and benefits of each activity to determine where to place limits. Cutting out entire activities may not be necessary, but figuring out limits and developing moderation is essential to stress management.


Getting enough sleep

Research shows that many teens are not getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation increases stress hormones and impairs concentration. To combat fatigue, teens will often rely on sugary snacks and caffeine. This quick fix leads to feeling worse in the long term.


Eating right

Many teens grab something on the run and quickly eat in between activities. Such foods tend to be highly processed food and loaded with empty calories; causing sluggishness and poor focus. One option may be to prepare in advance quick and healthy foods that can be eaten on the run.


Avoiding comparison

It may be tempting to compare your teen to siblings or your friend’s teens. Instead of focusing on comparison, recognize your teen’s unique strengths and weaknesses. Encourage them to find ways to capitalize on their strengths. Focusing on building strengths will help build confidence and increase motivation.


Using failure as an opportunity to build strength and resilience

Many parents are afraid to allow their teens to fail. This sends the message that failure is shameful, and it also robs teens of the opportunity to learn to cope with failure. College students who have already had opportunities to cope with setbacks are often less anxious about failing, and they experience greater success as a result of this resilience.


Making small adjustments in these behavioral habits and thinking patterns can have a major impact on feelings of stress. Stress will always be a part of life, and learning stress management skills early on will benefit teens in the long run.


Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

Getting through Mother’s Day after the loss of a child

Posted by Dr. Becker Thursday, May 8, 2014 0 comments


While many mothers will be happily celebrating Mother’s Day this weekend, many others will be quietly grieving the loss of a child.  A day meant to honor mothers often brings fresh waves of sadness, even for the death of a child that occurred many years ago. Mother’s Day can be bittersweet for grieving mothers who also have living children.


While it may be impossible to avoid feeling any negative emotions on Mother’s Day, there are ways to get through the day and decrease strong feelings of sadness and anxiety. Consider the following:


1. Give yourself permission to feel sad. Set aside time during the day to grieve. This may involve crying, visiting the gravesite of your child, writing a letter or poem to your child, or participating in some symbolic activity that honors your child’s memory.


2. Don’t criticize yourself for feeling sad. Trying to push away the emotions or feeling guilty or angry about being sad only makes things more difficult. Recognize that it is normal to have various feelings, including sadness, anger, anxiety, and guilt. Everybody grieves in different ways.


3. Set aside time during the day to experience joy and connection with others. Social isolation and withdrawal from activities can increase feelings of sadness. Don’t be afraid to let your friends or family members know what you need from them on this difficult day. Many people do not know how to help others who are grieving and will welcome direct and honest feedback.


4. Prepare surviving siblings in age appropriate ways. Making it okay to talk about the death of a child will ease the tension in the home. Let the children know that Mom may feel both sad and happy on Mother’s Day, and that the day will involve periods of grieving and time for celebrating.


5. If you know a mother who has lost a child, consider reaching out to her this Mother’s Day. Rather than simply stating “Let me know if you need anything,” offer specific types of help. Offers to bring a meal, watch the children, or spend time together can be a great way to support a grieving mother.


For more information about coping with Mother’s Day, please click the link to listen to my interview.


Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

It’s Difficult to Make Time for What’s Important

Posted by Dr. Becker Thursday, January 16, 2014 0 comments


“Keep in mind that you are always saying ‘no’ to something. If it isn’t to the apparent, urgent things in your life, it is probably to the most fundamental, highly important things. Even when the urgent is good, the good can keep you from your best, keep you from your unique contribution, if you let it.”

--Helen Keller


The daily tasks of life can be so overwhelming that there is little time or energy left over to pursue interests and spend time on things that you truly value. Many people feel burned out and exhausted by their daily routines. Often those I work with express having a nagging feeling of discontent and frequently ask the question “is this all there is?” to life.


We live in a fast-paced, overscheduled world. Procrastination, fear, stress, fatigue, and unrealistic expectations contribute to the pattern of burnout and tendency to say “no” to the things that are most important to us.


What are you constantly saying “no” to? Would you like to find ways to say “yes” to those things that are truly important to you?


Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

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.