Arlington/Mansfield Best of 2016 Winner – Family First Counseling!

Best of 2016 Blog and Twitter

Thank You for making us the 2016 Arlington/Mansfield Best of Counseling Services for the first time.  I feel so blessed to receive this honor from our friends and clients.  What a way to start off the first day of this month! This post cannot fully express how grateful I am.

Thank you to all of the clients, colleagues, friends and family who voted for us, helping us win:

2016 BEST COUNSELING SERVICES

I am grateful and humbled by your support.

Thank you from all of our staff from the bottom of our heart!

Megan Pickens, LPC-S

Depression: It’s Not Just Crying in a Dark Room

Megan Smiling Full Size

Depression has a stigma, I have to admit it. Especially in the African American and other minority communities. I can remember even saying myself, “I don’t have time to be depressed, I have a kid to raise and work to do.” Then I went through it. It took me a while to realize that it didn’t look like what I thought it would.

The signs for me were more subtle.

It all started with a slow progression in weight gain. In 2005 I was a tight size 8. I loved the way that I looked and enjoyed shopping, I felt like I looked good in my clothes. Then someone told me that I was too skinny and didn’t have enough hips. At the time in my head, I was thinking, “Go to hell. I look good to me.” BUT, unbeknownst to me, I heard it and I internalized it. So began the weight gain. Somehow it became my mission to look like someone else wanted me to look. At my heaviest I was 182 pounds, a size 18 and at 5’2” tall that was way too much. I began to hate how I looked.

Next was the comfort eating. Now mind you I did not have the awareness that this was going on at the time. I’ve always been a foodie who enjoyed eating and cooking. But my consumption of sweets and my favorite things that “I” cooked increased. When I felt down at night and could not sleep, I would eat some chocolate chip cookies. If I felt down during the day, I would go to my favorite restaurant because alone I didn’t have to hear about how much I was spending. Or worry about how much I was spending. Went I felt alone in between, I snacked on unhealthy things that made feel better for a short time. I stopped going to workout. I used to go a minimum of 3 times a week.

Sleep eluded me. I wasn’t sleeping. On an average night I slept about 5 hours a night. I would toss and turn, wake in the middle of the night or just not sleep at all. This had been going on for several years and was starting to have an effect on the way that I looked and my effectiveness. Many times while driving during the day I would nod off…in broad daylight! Praise GOD I am still here and I didn’t hurt anyone else doing that mess.

Lack of Confidence was consuming me. Now those who know me and see me, think I have it all together. In many ways I did but I was losing my ability to manage things as well as I used to. I had all sorts of ideas, expansion plans and other ways to help people through my business, my ministry. I just couldn’t get them off of the ground. I let fear overtake me, even though the Holy Spirit had been constantly prompting me to start a group to help other women. I was stressed out, felt like crying all the time and just could not finish anything. I believed that because I did not have my life together and was living in a façade that I had nothing to offer anyone else.

None of these events separately looked like depression to me. It seemed to me I was just having a bad day, or a bad week or a bad couple of months. Then, what I knew as specific symptoms of depression started to hit me.

I did not leave my room or and would barely get out of bed. Now do not get it twisted I was “functioning” during this time. I got up and went to work, went to church, networked, went to Bible study…you name it. BUT when I was at home and did not have any outside responsibilities, I did nothing. I stayed in my room, in my bed all day and all night. I mean I might have come out to eat but that was it. I would take a shower and get right back in the bed. I didn’t clean anything I didn’t organize anything, I did nothing else but binge watch Netflix and Hulu. Everything was on an as needed basis. I only washed when I absolutely needed clothes. I washed dishes when I needed dishes. I never cleaned the bedroom, I hardly cleaned anything. If I didn’t live with my family I shudder to think what everything would look like.

When I recognized it, I fought back. I began to change the way that I was living my life.

Faith returned to me. I got back in God’s word. I had been participating in Bible study every week, going to church every week and had all kinds of Bible studies on my nightstand. But I was not taking it to heart.  At my moment of realization I learned that I could not move forward in my life with things the way they were. I cried out to God to comfort me and looked to him for my strength. I started absorbing the word, I started believing it again. I made some changes in my life, I made some changes in my eating, I removed the idol I had placed in my life.  Idols don’t love you back, God does.  At the beginning of the year, doing the Daniel Fast with my church changed my life. This year I did it unto God. Not for something I wanted, not to change someone else, but just to show my commitment to God. I internalized the sermons I was hearing, I stopped just listening because I was supposed to. I valued the healthy changes the fast was making in my body.

Resurrection. God brought ME back, the real me. I remembered that God loved me no matter how I looked, no matter how I felt I failed, no matter how much I doubted myself. I began to care about how I looked and what I ate. Sometimes I just smile to myself, because I am feeling happy. I started yet another business that has a direct connection to the confidence in myself that was coming back to me. (I have 3!) I made the Bible a true part of my life again. My focus was back on God.

I STARTED COUNSELING. Yes I know, I’m a counselor why wasn’t I already going? Because I avoided counseling for some of the same reasons you do. I didn’t want to face the truth about myself, my life and the idol I had created in it. I went and it changed my life. I experienced the feeling that others get when they come to me. That experience lead me to praising God even more for this gift he has given me to help and encourage others.  There is no shame in counseling. Get some help, you are not alone and the things that are happening, are not just happening to you.  I am a living witness. I am here to help.

Depression can rear its ugly head in various ways. It is not of God and can be dealt with. As you can see from my story above it can show up in more than one way.  Here are some signs of depression. But this list is not all inclusive. And some people who have a more chemical depression versus a situational depression may need medication on a temporary or long-term basis.

According to the Mayo Clinic the symptoms of depression are:

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
  • Changes in appetite — often reduced appetite and weight loss, but increased cravings for food and weight gain in some people
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself for things that aren’t your responsibility
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

You can make it through this. I did. Get some help. I’m here. Family First Counseling is here.

Be Blessed,

Megan

The Cost of Professional Counseling

The Cost of Counseling

Many people in our society forgo the cost of counseling in a effort to save time and money.  Can you put a cost on your mental and physical health?  Can you place a cost of the emotional well being of your children?  Can you place a cost on your marriage?  Most of these things cannot be broken down to a monetary amount.  Let’s take a quick look at the cost to most people when they a deal with a serious issue which needs the assistance a professional counselor.

Let’s suppose you’re suffering from anxiety and depression.  Often times a resulting symptom of anxiety (worry) and depression is insomnia.  Insomnia leads to decreased productivity at work because you’re too exhausted to function well.  You’re not doing your best at work as a result of numerous nights of poor sleep, which can cost you that promotion that you had your eye on.  Insomnia leads to multiple health problems which then leads you to your doctor’s office, then not only are you missing work that day or part of the day but you’re also paying for the office copay.  Then you pay the prescription copay for the medication that is often prescribed by primary care physicians to treat insomnia and depression.   I’m not even going to go into possible side effects of various prescription sleep medications and antidepressants, that’s another blog post.  Let’s briefly look at how the manage health care companies want you to treat your anxiety and depression.

The American Psychology Association quoted Psychiatrist Jay M. Pomerantz, MD who knows first hand the pressure to prescribe medications.  He stated:

The behavioral health management companies that now dominate the field have a good reason to prefer medication to psychotherapy:  They don’t have to pay for patients’ pills.
Managed-care companies typically “carve out” the mental health portion of patients’ medical care, assigning that responsibility to specialized behavioral health companies.  These companies, however, cover only the cost of providing patients with access to mental health providers and facilities.  Responsibility for paying prescription drug costs lies with the original managed-care companies.  Since behavioral health companies must squeeze psychotherapy costs out of tight budgets, it’s not surprising that they favor general practitioners over psychotherapists and psychopharmacological solutions over psychotherapeutic ones.  By doing so, they shift costs back to the managed-care companies themselves.
Even more importantly, behavioral health carve-outs typically have a short-term perspective when they consider their bottom lines.  While medication gets doled out over long stretches of time, psychotherapy is typically provided in short but intensive periods. Because health plans’ budgets focus on expenses in a given year, medication has an obvious short-term advantage no matter what the eventual long-term cost.
Just do the math, pharmacotherapists may keep depressed patients on expensive antidepressants for the rest of their lives.  If you can get with four months of psychotherapy the same benefits you get from a year and a half to two years of continuous medication, you begin to break even after about a year’s time even though it’s more expensive upfront to provide psychotherapy.  If the benefits extend over a half-decade or decade, your savings really start piling up.  But managed-care folks don’t think that way.”
To read this full article go to: http://www.apa.org/monitor/jan00/pr2.aspx

So does professional counseling really work?

The CEO of The American Psychology Association, Dr. Norman B. Anderson stated

“the American Psychological Association studied the peer-reviewed literature examining the effectiveness of psychotherapy.  The research showed that psychotherapy is indeed effective, that it helps reduce the overall need for health services and that it produces long-term health improvements.  Psychotherapy can teach people coping skills they can continue to use throughout their lives.
Yet, the use of psychotherapy to treat mental and behavioral health issues decreased over the last decade, while the use of drugs to address such problems has increased, according to government and insurance industry data.  For some problems, such as anxiety and mild to moderate depression, psychotherapy alone is often the best first treatment option.”
To read this full article go to: http://www.apa.org/research/action/this-is-psychology/psychotherapy.aspx

Let’s look at the cost of counseling versus other negative things that can happen in your life.  You can Google these figures for yourself, these costs are averages across the nation although I attempted to find average cost in Texas when those figures were available.

COST STATISTICS
Problem Low Cost Average Cost High Cost Emotional Cost
Divorce $1,500 $15,000 $40,000+ High
Drinking &

Driving

$2,000 $4,000 $24,000+ High
Cost of child not completing high school unknown  $13,706 in state expenditures

 

Costs our nation about $260,000 in lost wages, taxes, and productivity per drop out. High
Individual Counseling $900

(8 sessions,

2 assessments)

$1,740

(16 sessions,

2 assessments)

$3,420

(32 sessions,

2 assessments)

Healing

When you take a serious look at what various alternatives to counseling can cost you counseling can begin to look cheap in comparison!  Think of the emotional pay off when you can finally have a fulfilling relationship with your spouse or an estranged parent.  Or have better communication with your teenager who has shut you out of their life and you see a dark future looming in front of them. Professional counselors want to assist you in becoming the best version of you based upon your goals, not ours.  We don’t want to throw another pill at you, or give you some nice little saying to stick on your Facebook wall.  We want to go on a journey with you to improve your relationship with others and with yourself!

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