What counseling and therapy is….

In working with children, teens and adults in therapy, there are some things that just continue to come up. And that is – what is therapy really? When I sit down with clients, one of the first questions I ask is..”are you nervous?” And most who have never been to counseling or therapy reply… “yes”.  And this is where the fun begins.

I then have the honor and privilege of sitting in a quiet space, face to face with an individual and be influential in one’s first impression of therapy. “Shake it off,” I say.  This is probably the safest place you’ll ever be with the weirdest setup. Talking to someone who you don’t know from a can of paint. But a situation so weird and strange can mentally unarm some of the most overwhelming armed.  You see, therapy isn’t just a a place to go and “talk”. Things unseen happen in therapy.

Unloading burdens

In therapy, you get to unload stuff that you’ve been carrying either all day, for weeks or even years. It could be as simple as what happened in the workplace, or what happened at school to “I can’t stand my mother-in-law.”  Just the mere act of moving things that have been running through your head to speaking of it in a safe atmosphere allows you to clear space in your head.

Place of validation or challenge

At some level, we all need validation. We all need to feel like we’re not the only ones thinking this. Therapy offers a place where you can be validated and at times challenged about ways of thinking. Imagine having a place to go where you’re threatened and can really experience as if someone else gets it.

Guidance and direction

It can be a crazy world – whether you are a 5 year old in a new school, a teenager who just lost a best friend, or an adult who just needs an ounce more of motivation. We at some point in life will find that we feel lost. We’ll want someone to pull us out and help guide us. We will want someone we trust. Building an alliance with a therapist  offers a way to that trust and leads to trust guidance.

Reflection and mirrors

Every day we get up, we look in the mirror and check our outward appearance. When’s the last time you took  a real hard look at the internal appearance?  It can go unnoticed if sometimes we don’t have the right people in our lives who offer honest mirrors. But therapy allows you (without being judged) to hear what you speak and offer your own best chance at fairly critiquing self.

Therapy can offer all these things and more. And it doesn’t always have to be something wrong for therapy to work. Therapy can be a place for self development and growth as well as “fixing problems.”  What can seem a nervous experience at first can turn out to be the first step toward a new journey.

Giving thanks for my family

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I’m from a Southern family where Food is the event. Yes, that’s a proper noun. Turkey and chicken dressing, greens, beans, homemade baked cakes and pies and whatever else you can imagine is always lovingly prepared. But outside of all the delicious preparations nothing compares to the center of why we really gather. Family.

Family. And by family I mean immediate and extended. It’s the one consistent in every holiday, every up, every down and every good time.  There is nothing like family. My family is supportive and keep me grounded. From my mother to my brother, to aunts, uncles and cousins, they keep a tradition of get togethers filled with laughter.  Not that we don’t have bad times. We’ve definitely had our losses and woes. We have a potpourri of personalities that sometimes make it challenging. But we, as a family, have been able to withstand even those bad times. There’s strength in that.  As I think it over, there are several characteristics that I’m pretty sure my family possesses.


So no one in our family is perfect. Of course that comes as no surprise. At some point, each of us has probably committed some transgression against another. But the one thing I’ve realized is my family believes in forgiveness. And sometimes I’ve had to stop and reflect how important this glue of forgiveness really is. As one who has been much slower than others to forgive, I’ve been able to see how the act of forgiving keeps our family together.


We’ve got some real comedians in my family.  While I can be serious and rigid, I’ve noticed how humor has gotten through my family through some tough times.  What I’ve learned is that sometimes, taking a moment and just focusing on the funny things. Even if that means I might be at the butt of that joke, humor has certainly served as way to lighten things up.  It’s my family’s humor that teaches me not to take myself too seriously and breathe.


So I believe it could go without saying. At the center of my family are matriarchs and patriarchs who don’t just say. They do; they show. They demonstrate love by showing up, being present, checking in, sharing and simply caring. Traditions, whether old or new, help cement my family’s love.   I can easily identify my family’s love in cooking, singing and talking. I’m so thankful that even though I may be miles away, I always know there’s family love not too far away.


What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?  What are some of your family’s values and traits? Post a comment below or  Tweet at @happymindscandc or Facebook @HappyMindsCounselingandConsulting






Parents: Do this 1 thing to build a better relationship with your teen.

Mother and Son Doing the DishesOne of the reasons I like working with teens is because they seem to have some pretty interesting perspectives.  They often seem to have their own solutions for how life should go. Even if the solution is selfish. Even if the solution jeopardizes their safety. Even if the solution goes against the rules. Home rules. Parent rules.

But there is one thing I’ve learned that works with teens firsthand before jumping in to tell them their solution won’t help, is illogical, or just not safe. Want to know what that secret is?  It’s pretty simple, but it sometimes can be sooo hard to execute. It’s a simple act.  Active Listening.

Yep, active listening. Like nothing else.  Active listening is listening intently without any judgement. It’s paying attention to verbal cues as well as letting the speaker know you’re in tune to what she is saying. It’s the one thing that can transform a relationship in a minute and/or over time. Teens want to be heard, and they want to be heard by their parents. When is the last time you may have had a good talk with your child? What does a good talk look like with your teen?  Consider these actions that get in the way of connection when attempting to use active listening skills with your teen.

Am I a parent who:

  •  Nags, lectures, criticizes or  advises when my teen has something to say?
  •  Is too busy and brush aside opportunities to have meaningful talks with my teens?
  • Overreacts or blows up to what my teen is saying?
  • Dominates the conversation when my child is listening?

If the answer to any of these questions is an honest yes, then consider using active listening to connect with your teen. Eliminating these and providing open and intent listening skills will help build a better relationship with your teen.




How do you know if you have a good relationship with your teen?

Ahhh. The teen years. That very awkward stage right before entering adulthood. Many parents dread their child’s teen hood and many teens dread their parents. It’s a phase when relationships may go awry. Mothers and daughters don’t get along, fathers and sons challenge each other. Communication takes a hit and “attitudes” run amuck. It can be hard to know what’s your relationship like with your teen? Here are a few ways to know if you have a good relationship with your teen.

Have you established a healthy foundation with your teen? At the base of any healthy relationship is two-way trust, honesty, and respect and not least, love. As a parent have you been able to establish these within your relationship?  This happens long before the teen years hit. When teens know what to expect because of the foundation that has been laid, it makes a teen/parent relationship that much easier.

Is there open communication?  Having an open line of communication with your teen is key to keeping a healthy relationship. Teens respond to parents who are open to active listening. Listening without judgement or criticism fosters a relationship where communication is allowed. Asking questions that convey interest rather than probing helps teens know that you care and not a quest to find wrongs. Encouraging words rather than discouraging words promote positive relationship. “That’s not good enough.” Vs “I believe you can do better.”

Do you have a connection? Is there any one thing that you and your teen vibe on? Do you like the same music? Do you share a like for a particular sport? What about a physical feature that you might have in common. These are important, but seemingly trivial ways that you create a connection with your teen.

Ask your teen, on a scale of 1-10, how would he/she rate your relationship. If it’s below 5, this is a great time to open conversation with your teen about how he/she views your relationship. If your relationship with your teen could use some help, don’t hesitate to seek out counseling.

Working with children & teens in therapy

I finally figured it out. I’ve been doing it for years. Like over 15 years. I had never honed in on it before. After taking courses, reading articles, going to CEUs and workshops, I finally figured it out. I have always liked working with children and teens. Over 10 years in private practice and working with military kids in the child development centers, volunteering, seeing kids in private practice. I have finally claimed my population – working with children and teens who have difficulty concentrating, are angry and/or anxious. I have finally decided to develop this niche thing.

It took a while to say the least. See, in the world of counseling – many of us therapists are overachievers. We want to do everything and save everybody. So what was this thing of finding a niche and work with only 1 population of people? It seemed too counterintuitive, like I would definitely be missing out.  But upon further soul and niche searching, it finally came to me when someone asked the question –  with whom is your ideal person to work?  Then I thought of all the times I’d work with challenging kids who had difficulty making behavioral changes. I thought of all the times I’d seen a kid come in to therapy and leave as a more improved version of themselves. I remembered the anxious teen who come in the office only after a year of therapy, leaving a “happy” blooming teen entering adulthood.  This is it. This is the work I get energized about!

So after my big aha moment. I jumped right into refining my skills. For years I’ve heard of play therapy, but never thought much of it. After all, how much therapy could happen playing with kids? WRONG? I’ve learned that play therapy is a legitimate modality used to help kids AND adults express themselves and grow. In play therapy, toys are the child’s language. And for many adults who have not been able to adequately express what they really feel, play therapy helps with coming up with those words. (More on play therapy later).

Now I’m off to keep developing those skills and learn new ones. I’m working toward certification as a Registered Play Therapist, as well as gathering other tools for my toolbox. After doing a bit of “rebranding”, I’m now building relationships with parents, teachers, schools, and daycares to share the goal: Helping angry/anxious/antsy kids get back to happy homes (and schools).  All in the name of Happy Minds 🙂

Don’t fall in the trap.

It’s October 2 and there are 2 months more left in the year. And my 1st post- just happens to be centered around yet another sigh, head shake and feeling of sadness. Just last night another mass shooting in the United States. This time – Las Vegas. Tweeter feeds, Instagrams and shocking news headlines flood our timelines. We’re inundated.

So it’s easy to think there is no way out. It’s easy to think that this is what the world is now. It’s easy to fall into the trap. The trap of viewing the world as a horrible place, where gun toting maniacs change lives forever.  Well I’m here to say, it isn’t. It takes a lot more to shake the good people of the world. Look around you. Look at your world. Who was the last person who said a kind word to you? Who was the last person who shared a kind deed? With what kind of people do you surround yourself today?  Yes, the world, and particularly the U.S has its share of maniacs. But your world is what matters. You are what matters. And how do we keep it all in check?  Bring it back to the center.

We look at what is right about our world. We look at ourselves.  We get back to the center of what we know is good. That’s not on the nightly news. That’s not radio.  That’s not always on a Facebook or Instagram . That starts with us. You. Me.

So take a minute and breathe. Breathe in the goodness.  Breathe from the center. And after you stop and breathe, take a minute to share the good in you. Whether it’s a kind word or deed, let’s breathe and be the good the world so desperately needs today.