- Stress Management
- Relieving Anxiety
- Overcoming Depression
- Life Transitions
- Improving Communication
- Personal Growth
- Pain Management
- Emotional Eating
- Enhancing Self-Esteem
- Coping with Loss
- Emotional Issues
- Healing Addictions
- PTSD/Trauma Recovery
Stress is your body’s response to a physical or mental demand or pressure. When the demands on you are greater than your resources for dealing with the demands, your stress level rises. Stressors can be expected and unexpected as well as positive and negative. It is not the stress itself that causes affliction but rather the feelings andconflicts we experience on a daily basis that cause us to feel “stressed.”
Therapy can help to manage stress as it is an outlet to express our innermost thoughts and feelings. Therapy for stress management includes a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy (identifying underlying negative thoughts and modifying those to change behaviors) and solution-focused techniques to efficiently problem solve and reduce pressure. Stress management techniques including meditation, guided imagery, expressive art modalities such as drawing and writing, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing exercises, and gentle, somatic practices are also incorporated into treatment. The goal of stress management therapy is to reduce feelings of pressure and to provide you with a new set of tools to more effectively manage all of your responsibilities, without feeling overwhelmed. These new tools will help you to gain a more positive outlook on life and restore you to a lasting sense of peace, joy, and balance.
Anxiety is the result of long-term, chronic stress on the body. Symptoms may include excessive worry about events or activities, feelings of restlessness, sleep disturbance, irritability, difficulty concentrating, as well as physical symptoms such as muscle tension and panic attacks. Although anxiety is quite prevalent in today’s society, it is often alleviated with therapeutic intervention.
Therapy will initially focus on providing immediate symptom relief by incorporating stress management techniques, including somatic practices, meditation, guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, and deep breathing exercises. Therapy will then include a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy (identifying underlying negative thoughts and modifying these to change behaviors), hidden emotion therapy (getting to hidden emotions underneath the anxiety), and Somatic Experiencing (a gentle way of working directly with the nervous system to help it settle). We will explore past and current relationship dynamics and self-defeating patterns that may be contributing to feelings of anxiety. Therapy will help you develop coping strategies that will provide you with a sustained decrease in core symptoms, a heightened sense of control over the anxiety and worry, and an improved ability to cope with anxiety. You also will learn effective communication tools that will increase your self-esteem and improve your relationships with others, thus further reducing anxious feelings. As your awareness and use of therapeutic tools improve, a sense of ease and calmness will accompany your everyday life.
Depression is a mental state of depressed mood characterized by feelings of sadness, despair, discouragement, and hopelessness. Often, depression is precipitated by the occurrence of a stressful life event, such as marital difficulties, job changes, severe personal illness, or death of a loved one. Symptoms of depression may include persistent sad, anxious. or “empty” mood, sleep difficulties, changes in appetite, loss of pleasure and interest in activities once enjoyed, inability to concentrate, fatigue, thoughts of suicide, and persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as chronic pain or digestive disorders.
Depression is curable and is not something that needs to be suffered through. Numerous studies have found that therapy is highly beneficial–often times more beneficial than antidepressant drugs–for reducing and overcoming depression. In therapy, you will have the opportunity to safely explore and express your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that are directly related to feelings of depression. We will engage in both cognitive and interpersonal therapy in order to alleviate the depressive symptoms. You will learn cognitive-behavioral methods, such as identifying illogical self-statements about oneself, the current situation, and the future that can exacerbate feelings of depression and perpetuate the cycle of despair. We will also explore how past and current relationships may be contributing to feelings of depression. Therapy will provide an opportunity to uncover the root cause of the depression and thus you will be able to incorporate new, healthy coping skills to deal with forthcoming life challenges. Building and working in a therapeutic relationship will build your self-esteem and re-ignite your intrinsic motivation and vigor so that you can take advantage of all life has to offer. You will achieve a restored sense of lasting hope, balance, and vitality.
Life transitions are continuous and can be experienced as both joyous and upsetting periods in time. Life transitions may include moving to a new home, losing a job, experiencing an “empty nest,” getting married or divorced, being diagnosed with a medical condition, dealing with the death of a loved one, or transitioning into parenthood. All life transitions induce some level of stress onto the body and the better we are at dealing with stressful events, the less of a debilitating impact the transition will have on our life. Engaging in therapy will provide you with the space to release emotions, thoughts, and behaviors regarding these new situations. You will learn to reframe your current situation, using cognitive-behavioral and solution-focused techniques, and create new coping skills to deal with the inconsistencies of life. By cultivating new ways of being to support these transitory times, you will gain a renewed sense of empowerment and well-being and thus be able to maintain a sense of balance and strength during times of change and uncertainty. Esteemed psychologist Erich Fromm reminds us, “The task we must set for ourselves is not to feel secure, but to be able to tolerate insecurity.” Therapy can be the vehicle to achieve such tolerance.
Unless we live as hermits, reality is such that we are who we are, only in relation to others. Whether we are at work, at school, at home with our family, in line at the supermarket, or on the telephone, we are communicating. Poor communication occurs when we fail to express our feelings, when we ignore others’ feelings, and when we are disrespectful. Many times, our messages are not sent or received as intended due to underlying feelings that are repressed, either consciously or subconsciously. And sometimes we have difficulty in sending and receiving messages, because we have never been taught how to communicate properly.
In therapy, you will be given concrete steps for effective communication and will use the therapy sessions to practice good communication. At the same time, you will have the opportunity to explore core feelings that may be undermining your communication with others. Gaining a heightened awareness of personal issues allows us to relate more freely and clearly with others. Therapy for improved communication is beneficial for individuals, couples, and families. Addressing the communication conflicts of one issue will permeate all other areas of life, providing you with a solid set of tools for effective communication within all of your relationships.
There are times in life when we are faced with a choice to metaphorically stay where we are or move forward. It is at this relational, emotional, physical, and spiritual crossroad that our personal growth occurs. Therapy is a safe space to explore all that you have been and all that you can be, given your personal path. Therapy provides the mirror through which we glimpse ourself and the potential that lies within. It is during therapeutic sessions that new possibilities for life are created, goals are solidified, and greater clarity and balance are achieved.
Many of us, especially as we get older, experience both short-term and chronic painful, physical ailments. Conditions such as migraines, ulcers, chronic fatigue syndrome, back and neck pain, muscle constriction, arthritis, and digestive problems are often exacerbated by negative emotions, life transitions, traumatic events, and high stress levels. Therapy will provide you with the space needed to release painful emotions as well as an opportunity to learn new, adaptive coping skills to deal with pain, such as meditation, guided imagery, and cognitive-behavioral methods. We will also work directly with your physical body, sometimes with gentle Somatic Experiencing touch therapy in order to heal your body and thus greatly reduce pain. Integrating these new coping skills will pave the path to both emotional and physical pain relief, making each day a pleasurable one.
Emotional eating is a way of using food to cope with emotional ups and downs, rather than as a means of sustenance, nutrition, and energy. Emotional eating or overeating is very common and people who do it are of all weights and sizes. You may be an emotional overeater if you use food to calm and soothe your nerves, to counteract the effects of negative and positive emotional events–like a bad day at work, a fight with a loved one, or a big promotion–to reward yourself for the task of living, or to cope with stress, anxiety, or worry. Often times, emotional eaters or overeaters are left feeling guilty, empty, depressed, hopeless, and frustrated.
While in therapy, you will gain the ability to identify and incorporate new, healthier ways of dealing with the ups and downs of life. Therapy will teach you cognitive methods to identify triggering events that drive you to eat when not physically hungry. You will learn how to differentiate between emotional hunger and physical hunger. By engaging in exercises that will encourage you to be in the present moment, you will create a fluid connection between your mind and body. These learned adaptive coping skills will aid in effectively dealing with life’s difficulties without turning to food for comfort. You will gain the ability to transform your relationship with food into one that is balanced, nutritious, and healthy.
Self-esteem is the cornerstone of a successful and fulfilled life. Unfortunately, many of us suffer from feelings of low self-esteem and inadequacy and have difficulty getting the most out of life. Poor self-esteem may manifest as shyness or social anxiety, being physically unhealthy, avoiding new situations, allowing others to take advantage of you, or similarly to symptoms of depression. Working with a therapist is, in and of itself, a self-esteem booster. The relationship formed between us will contain qualities such as respect and genuine caring, qualities that are often missing from the relationships experienced by those suffering from poor self-esteem. Cognitive-behavioral techniques will be utilized to aid you in uncovering negative self-talk. As you learn to transform the negative self-talk into positive messages you will also be encouraged to explore new activities that are joyful. We will also work with your nervous system to teach it how to settle; this settling will help you to feel safer in the world and subsequently better about yourself. As personal exploration, insight, and communication improve, so too will your level of self-esteem.
Unfortunately, the only certainty in life is that we all, at some point, experience loss. Loss may include the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, aging, loss of self in a relationship, or declining health. Therapy provides a safe, caring environment that allows you to grieve in your own way. This therapeutic relationship will help you to reframe your current situation and gain strength in dealing with the daily tasks in life. You will learn to express your feelings, needs, and desires more readily and subsequently will make new connections with others that will continually support your healing and growth.
All of us suffer from past emotional experiences that were upsetting or traumatic in some way. When these events are left unattended and ignored, there is a high tendency to repeat negative patterns in our personal life and in our relationships with others. When these detrimental patterns are repeated, life is often devoid of joy, excitement, love, and peace. Our emotional issues may be interfering with our everyday life if we experience symptoms such as noticeable and frequent mood changes, emotional numbness, an inability to create or maintain intimate relationships with others, low sex drive, creative blocks, poor self-image, and feelings of inadequacy.
Engaging in therapy will provide the tools needed to better understand and fulfill your emotional needs. We will use a psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral, and somatic approach to uncover the roots of your emotional suffering. Periodically expressive arts will be utilized as often times it is difficult to verbalize feelings about our emotional issues. The arts can aid us in more clearly expressing deep-seated feelings. The insight gained and increased use of adaptive coping skills will lead you back to your natural state of balance and health.
Addictions are an all pervasive force in our society that drives us to seek pleasure and avoid pain. An addiction is a habit or practice that damages, jeopardizes or shortens one’s life and relationships with others, but when ceased causes trauma. People can become addicted to many things including, but not limited to, alcohol, drugs, work, sex, gambling and food. When we think of an addict, often times we are bombarded with images of someone strung-out on a street corner. The reality is that millions of high-functioning Americans suffer from addictions, yet seemingly don’t know it. The best way to determine if we have an addiction is to evaluate our repetitive behavior and determine if it takes precedence over, interferes with, or causes problems in our relationships with others. Addictions hinder our physical, emotional and spiritual growth and leave us ill-equipped to deal with daily stresses in a healthy way.
Therapy is the conduit that best treats the spiritual malady of addiction. Therapy provides a safe space to understand our hurts, change our thoughts, calm our nervous system, free energy blocks in the body and cultivate self love. While in therapy, you will gain the ability to identify and incorporate new, healthier ways of dealing with the ups and downs of life. Therapy will teach you cognitive methods to identify triggering events that drive you to engage in addictions. By engaging in exercises that will encourage you to be in the present moment, you will create a fluid connection between your mind, body and the world outside. You will learn to observe your thoughts and feelings and subsequently increase your tolerance for pain rather than reacting to your impulses. You will gain the ability to transform your relationship to life into one that is peaceful, fulfilling, connected and balanced.
Trauma impairs our ability to be in the here-and-now and diminishes our capacity to connect to our own inner resources. Trauma is widespread and is defined by anything that overwhelms us and keeps us stuck in either the fight, flight or freeze response. Symptoms of traumatization can be as severe as catatonia or as mild as poor task management. Trauma is not the event itself but rather in how we respond to external stimuli. Trauma provides us with a priceless opportunity to evolve, heal and become more resilient so that we can fully experience all of life’s pleasures.
Psychotherapy, especially somatic psychotherapies, have been found to be the most beneficial in recovering from trauma. Using an eclectic approach that is grounded in Somatic Experiencing®, we will safely explore the roots of your trauma. With competent guidance, heightened awareness and simple exercises, you will be able to eradicate old, traumatic symptoms and re-regulate your entire nervous system. As your physical, mental and emotional bodies begin to recover from trauma you will likely experience a greater sense of freedom, joy and overall aliveness.
Nicole provides counseling and therapy for teens, adults, couples and families. She treats issues including depression, anxiety, grief, loss, healing trauma, addiction recovery, eliminating overeating, weight management, stress management, life transitions, personal growth, self-esteem, relationships, premarital counseling, improving communication and chronic pain. Nicole serves the greater San Diego area including La Jolla, University City, Clairemont, Kearny Mesa, Mira Mesa, UTC, Sorrento Valley, Carmel Valley, Del Mar, Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach, and Point Loma.