The Most Important Decision You Will Ever Make

Written By: Valerie Gill, LISW

As an educator and therapist, I have found that students and clients crave discussion about relationships.  It is important to spend time on this topic because as I have told many a classroom—who you choose to spend your life with is more important than your career, where you live, or what house you buy.  It is essential to marry the person for who they are now and not their potential, or in other words, who you want them to be. A healthy partnership can help to make your life more fulfilling and easier.  An unhealthy partnership can cause you incredible grief and financial hardship—not to mention the toll it has on children.  Speaking of children, the best gift you can give your child is a healthy marriage (or partnership) with your child’s other parent.


Dr. John M. Gottman is the founder and director of the Gottman Institute and an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Washington.  He is a leading research scientist on marriage and family.  By watching couples argue, he successfully predicts 90% of the time which couples will divorce.  He believes that certain kinds of negativity will prove lethal to a relationship.  He calls them the FOUR HORSEMEN of the Apocalypse.  They are:





Horseman 1: Criticism. Complaint and criticism are different.  A complaint focuses on a specific behavior.  “I am really angry that you did not do the dishes tonight. We agreed we would take turns.  Could you please do them now?  Notice it has 3 parts—how you feel (1), the specific situation (2), and what you need (3).  Criticism, on the other hand, is global and expresses negative feelings about a person’s character or personality: Why are you so lazy?

Horseman 2: Contempt. This arises from a sense of superiority over one’s partner.  (Have you ever met a person that needs to feel better than someone else?)  It is certainly a form of disrespect (and respect needs to be the foundation of a healthy partnership).  It can involve name-calling, eye-rolling, mockery, hostile humor, and facial smearing. “You are a lazy idiot and you do not even know how to wash dishes!”

Horsemen 3. Defensiveness. Defensiveness escalates the conflict. Defensiveness is a way of blaming your partner.  People often take the victim stance. “Why are you picking on me?  Don’t you think I am tired when I get home from work?  What about all of the yard work I do on the weekends?  I can never please you!”

Horsemen 4. Stonewalling.  With criticism, contempt, and defensiveness, eventually one partner tunes out. Instead of interacting, an unhappy partner may come home and watch TV or go in another room and play on a computer.  Usually, the less responsive a partner is, the more the other one yells and tries to get their attention.  One may disengage to avoid conflict, but this is also avoiding the marriage.

If you notice you and your partner engaging in these types of behaviors, it is important to seek professional help.  Crossroads Counseling Center has qualified therapists to help you with your journey.  Also, there are many readings and resources (please see our resource section on our webpage) that you can utilize in the privacy of your own home.  With commitment, hard work, and the right help, relationships can improve.


Gottman, John (1999). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (2nd ed.). New York: Harmony


Dr. John Gottman You Tubes:

4 Horsemen:

Making Marriage Work:

4 Negative Patterns That Predict Divorce:


Restructuring Your Holidays (and Your Mind!)

Written By: Valerie Gill, LISW

While the holidays can certainly be stress-filled, it is often our thoughts that contribute most to our negative emotions.  This holiday, give yourself the gift of change and restructure your thought process to prevent depression and stress.

Avoid “Should” Thinking: This thinking causes one to act out of guilt and obligation which can Christmas1lead to depression, stress, and frustration.

“I should feel good and happy “or “I should give or receive the perfect gift” or “I should work out every day after the holidays”.

Avoid “All or Nothing” Thinking: This is thinking in terms of black or white or in extremes.

“I will probably eat too much at the holiday meal so there is no point in trying to eat healthy during the rest of my holiday break.”

Avoid “Specific to General” Thinking: This can lead to depression and anger.

“My mother will get drunk and Christmas will be ruined!”

Magnification (or Catastrophizing): This type of thinking exaggerates negative details of an event and overemphasizes your own imperfections and fears, making things into a much bigger deal than they actually are.

“No one loves me and I am never going to have a happy holiday!”

Negative thoughts (cognitions) such as the examples above produce physiological reactions in our body such as increased blood pressure and negative emotions such as anger.  These in turn may lead to regrettable behavior, stress, and depression. Our thoughts are connected to our feelings which are related to our behaviors.


The Good News

We can control our thoughts.  We can restructure our thinking and change negative patterns. All of the therapists at Crossroads Counseling Center are trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).  Your therapist will help you in a step-by-step process identify, evaluate, and replace your thoughts.  However, there are some things you can do on your own.

1. Calm Yourself

At the heat of the moment, focus on your breath, count in your head, and/or remove yourself from the situation that is upsetting you.  For long term, practice yoga, meditation and/or mindfulness.  All of these practices can help you to become more aware of your emotions and create more peace.

2. Challenge Your Thoughts:

Replacing your overly negative thoughts with more realistic statements can inspire you to take positive action, which is the key to creating the kind of life you want to live.

Ask yourself the following questions:

Is this thought true and accurate?

Is this thought helpful in the long term or is it distressing?

What would you say to your best friend in this situation?

In what ways would your life change if you stopped believing in your negative thoughts?

3. Decastrophize:

Ask yourself the following questions:

Have I survived this or something similar like this before?

What is the worst thing that could happen?  How likely is it that it will happen?

 4. Engage in problem solving (a therapist can be helpful with this exercise):

  1. Identify challenges
  2. Brainstorm solutions
  3. Identify the best solution
  4. Practice the solution (role-play)
  5. Implement the solution
  6. Evaluate the solution

Identify your Core Values:

We tend to act out on our moods not our values.  If you become stressed or depressed this holiday season, remind yourself of your values of being a loving and caring person to help you behave from your values and not from your moods.

Crossroads Counseling Center Wishes You a Joyous Holiday Season!






Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words. 
Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions. 
Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your habits. 
Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character. 
Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny.

— Chinese proverb


Holland, Emily “Retrain Your Brain: How To Reverse Negative Thinking Patterns” 2018

Mulder, Jennifer ”The Beginner’s Guide to Changing Negative Thoughts” 2018




Written By: Valerie Gill, LISW

imagesAccording to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), suicide rates have been rising in nearly every state. In 2016, nearly 45,000 Americans age 10 or older died by suicide. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death and is one of just three leading causes that are on the rise.

Reasons Why?

A suicidal person may feel hopeless and trapped. It is important to look at stress through a developmental lens, because stressors are different in teens than in older adults. Teenagers often lack the ability to see that life can get better. Researchers found that more than half of people who died by suicide did not have a known diagnosed mental health condition at the time of death. Relationship problems or loss, substance misuse; physical health problems; and job, money, legal or housing stress often contributed to risk for suicide.

Warning Signs

People often verbalize their thought of suicide. For example, they may say they have beenSuicide_prevention-DOD thinking of dying or that they think they are better off dead. As a therapist, it has been my experience that suicidal people often minimize their importance to others. It is essential to listen and take talk about suicide seriously. Suicidal people may have changes in energy and mood and show signs of visible stress. They may also engage in destructive behaviors such as substance abuse and non-suicidal injuries like cutting themselves.


CDC data from 2006 to 2016 reported that roughly 218,000 Americans killed themselves using a firearm. If someone is suicidal and owns a firearm, it is essential to remove the weapon from their home. Guns and ammo should always be stored separately. Also, medication that could prove lethal should be removed from medicine cabinets, poisons should be removed from under the sink. Especially for young people, having a number on their phone to call in a time of crisis can be significant. There are also some apps that may prove helpful.

Get Professional Help

It is important to seek professional help to prevent suicide and help alleviate the life stressors that are contributing to the suicidal thoughts. If you know someone is suicidal, listen to them, downloadkeep them safe and connect them with the right help.

At Crossroads Counseling Center, our experienced therapists are trained to deal with these life-threatening situations. Our mission is to join with each person to create an emotionally secure environment through safe exploration to help our clients find inner peace. Suicide can be prevented.





CDC Violent deaths report 2015:
Laurio, Allison. “Suicide Rates on the Rise.” Social Work Advocates Oct-Nov 2018.


Becoming Addicted or Tricked into Addiction?

Becoming AddictedBecoming Addicted or Tricked into Addiction?!


Most of us have come to the realization that staring at our phone for hours on end cannot be good for us.  We can observe the effects it is already having on our children.  They engage less with us, and more with the device glued to their hands.  It is also interesting to observe the way they interact with their peers…I think we can agree that “it is different than when we grew up”.  Yep, that is definitely true.


I happened to watch 60 minutes.  Their message regarded the software that technological companies use to compete to try and make their games/apps the most exciting, in order to keep people engaged.  The individuals they interviewed work for technological companies, one company in particular, Google.  


They have researched the brain to determine which excitement centers to target, especially targeting the dopamine receptors.


There are also companies who research through individual’s phones to determine:

  1. What you like, or interests you.
  2. What time of day you are most likely to be on your device.
  3. Your body’s algorithm to determine when to give you a “hit” of pleasure to keep you hooked to the app or social media site.
  • For example, regarding “likes” on Instagram; the site will delay sending you a notification for a “like” and wait until you have accumulated a few likes, then sends them to you all at once.  This provides you with a “hit” of pleasure.
  1. Our ability to focus.




Research is unable to determine (yet) if there are any long lasting effects from smartphones/social media/apps.  It is concerning that in adolescence, brain development explodes.  An adolescent brain is rapidly developing, more so than any other time in one’s life, hence the difficulty of regulating emotions and behaviors.


Basically, our brain is being trained to become addicted to want more and more.  It does not appear that this will change anytime soon according to one interviewee.  



Before we go pulling our kids’ devices, we must look at ourselves.


  1. Have we become addicted?
  2. Do you become anxious after a period of time when not using your device?
  3. Has your usage increased over the last year? How much?
  4. Has it cut into your time of being emotionally present with your child?
    1. Ex:  do you work on your computer at the same time your child is speaking to you and just respond, “yeah, yep, uh huh..”?
  5. Make it a family mission to stop the addiction process which is unknowingly occurring.
  6. Maybe someday they will have a warning: “If you download this game it could become addictive!”   Or “Parents, if you allow your child to play this game it could create addictive tendencies”.


Obviously, there are positives and negatives that come along with smart devices, technology and apps.  It appears to be the old adage, “moderation”.

March Madness

Written By: Grace Ashbrook

March Madness

In like a lion and out like a lamb! That’s the saying, right? MARCH MADNESS

March is supposed to be the glorious transition from the dark, cold winter to a sunny spring.  It is supposed to be synonymous with joy and hope.  In fact, many people look forward to spring with the expectation of it bringing happiness – and with that the resolution of their depressed mood.

Well, it turns out all those April showers bring more than flowers.  Spring is also responsible for bringing an abundance of mental health symptoms! Over the last several years researchers have been exploring the connection between spring and the “springing up” of depressed mood, mania, and anxiety.  It appears there are two primary culprits of this unfortunate correlation.

Spring Fever

Or less dramatically, allergies. Allergies often leave sufferers feeling miserable. Many of you are familiar with mother nature’s connection to congestion, runny nose, watery eyes and sneezing.   Lesser known, however, is the clear connection between pollen count and depression.

This connection is believed to be related to our immune system’s chemical messengers known as cytokines. Cytokines are released when allergies attack and are responsible for inflammation. Studies have demonstrated that high levels of cytokines are linked to fatigue, appetite changes, and social/environmental isolation – strikingly like symptoms of depression.

Then, if that weren’t enough, illness interferes with our sleep schedule which further contributes to irritability and depressed mood.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

When most people think of Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) they envision the depression that often accompanies winter months. Surprisingly, SAD is much more complex and not limited to the winter.  Many SAD suffers (1 in 10) will feel better in the winter months and find their symptoms returning as the warm weather is reintroduced. This occurrence is often referred to as reverse SAD. Common symptoms of reverse SAD are difficulty sleeping, irritability, poor appetite and restlessness.

Additionally, as many people start to shed their seasonal moodiness others may continue to feel trapped in their sadness. Comparisons of self to others who exude happiness as the seasons change can worsen depression in those who do not find relief.

Whatever the reason may be, don’t be surprised if you are noticing an increase in mental health symptoms as the weather turns nice. Please remember you are not alone and help is readily available!

Happy Go Lucky

Written By: Grace Ashbrook

Happy go Lucky!

With St. Patty’s day just around the corner, there has been an abundance of 4 leaf clovers to remind us of the good ole’ “luck of the Irish.”  It got me thinking about luck and its connection to happiness – as we often see these two go hand in hand.Happy Go

Luck has an immense impact in our life. A few seconds of bad luck can change our perspective and negatively affect days, weeks or years of our lives. Similarly, good luck can result in lifelong success and happiness. Luck, as it seems, has a lot of power to change our lives.

The good news is (lucky us!) that according to Richard Wiseman’s book The Luck Factor; The Four Essential Principals, luck is related to the way we think and behave – meaning luck is something that can actually be learned!

Richard Wiseman introduces four principals that are essential for learning luck:

  1. Creating Chance Opportunities
    1. Lucky people tend to be extroverts who have increased the chance of being lucky by establishing a strong network
    2. Lucky people have many irons in the fire, or haven’t put all their eggs in one basket. Maximizing the chance they will be successful offers more opportunity to be “lucky”.
  2. Thinking Lucky
    1. Listen to your instincts! Your intuition is the result of subtle clues that your subconscious has put together. Following these hunches might lead you to creating a chance opportunity (meeting new people, applying for a new job, etc…)
  3. Feeling Lucky
    1. The expectation that you will be lucky often precedes success. Expectation of luck inspires a confident attitude that is often perceived by others as desirable and attractive.
  4. Denying Fate
    1. If you accept a failure as bad luck you will likely stop trying. If we look for the “bright side” we are less likely to see things as a failure and more of an opportunity to try something different and improve what we are doing. This again encourages us to create  more opportunity for luck.

So there you have it! You don’t have to be Irish to be lucky!


Declutter Your Life

Written By: Laura Hoffmann

The Health Benefits of Decluttering

Declutter your

Looking to find emotional freedom? Decluttering your environment declutters your mind and is a great way to take pride in yourself.


In her book, The Superstress Solution, physician and author Roberta Lee writes that a disorganized, untidy, clutter-filled home is not only a symptom of stress but also a source of stress. Clean up the litter and you’ll dial up the calm.


The Science of Stress and Clutter

According to Lee, research shows that we secrete the stress hormone, cortisol, when surrounded by disarray. Bad news for your body. But the good news is that you know exactly what to do about it. With a quick tidy-up, you could reclaim both your surroundings and your serenity. Don’t know where to start your spring clean-out? Try these tips:


Take baby steps. It probably took a long time to accumulate all your clutter, so give yourself time to clear it out. Break up the task into manageable chunks, starting with one room, one corner, one junk drawer, or one cupboard at a time.


Set a schedule. Whether you do 20 minutes a day or reserve a whole weekend to declutter, set aside the time you need, and stick to your schedule.


Write it down. Lee recommends keeping a journal to help you set goals and record positive changes you’ve made to your environment. Ask yourself what’s cluttering your life, why you keep it, and what parts of your life and house seem out of control. Then, list concrete steps for changing it.


Reach out. Articles and self-help books from people who’ve been where you are can help you get organized and make decisions on what to toss, what to donate, and what to keep.


Beating the Winter Blues

Written By: Kara Clark

How to Beat the Winter Blues

How to Beat the Winter Blues

Having the “winter blues” is a term coined from the somewhat depressed feeling many individuals find themselves falling into during the late winter months.  The environment around us seems to be stripped of life, however, we don’t have to be.  There are many different ways to conquer the winter blues, so keep reading to find out how.


The ideas below are ones which can help produce Serotonin which helps regulate mood and increases Dopamine which is the “feel good” chemical in the brain, organically.


Serotonin production helps to fight feelings of loneliness and depressed moods.


Dopamine increases productivity, improves concentration, decreases impulsivity and increases the ability to plan ahead, and allows us to feel pleasure and joy.


Here are a few tips for fighting the “winter blues”:


Exercise: Get active.  This doesn’t have to be an intense spin class, or 5 mile run, it could be yoga with a friend or a walk in the park.  Any kind of exercise is proven to boost your mood…plus it’s pretty good for your physical health as well.


Remembering happy memories: Instead of dwelling on how cold it is outside, why not think back to a favorite vacation, childhood memory, or funny story.  It will probably help you crack a smile, even on the coldest of days.


Sunlight (Vitamin D): It seems as if the sun goes into hiding during the winter months, so take advantage of any sunlight you can get.  Open the blinds and let that sunshine in.


Get crafty and create something: Instead of scrolling through social media or watching TV, why not get creative?  Decorate a flower pot, finish that old scrapbook…the options are endless.


Spend time with social supports: Social supports are a great resource for the winter blues.  Spend some with them to help boost your mood.


Cuddle up with a pet: Haven’t had much quality time with your pet lately? Now is the perfect time to get a few cuddles in.  I’m sure it will boost not only your mood, but your pet’s as well.


Find something to look forward to each week, which can help make the days go faster: Summer is a few months away, and I’m sure you’re looking forward to it…but try and look forward to something each week as well.  Having smaller events to look forward can really help pass the time.

What to Expect During the First Appointment







What to expect for the first appointment:

Meeting with a counselor for the first time tends to be anxiety producing in and of itself, let alone the concerns one comes in the door with.  As I share vulnerable pieces of myself to a complete stranger will they judge me?  How much should I share? And many other questions which make it difficult to walk through the door the first time.



Whether you are just curious or a bit nervous in going to counseling the first time, I would like to take the unknown out of the equation for you…

Have you ever had the experience of telling someone there is something wrong with your car, it is making a troubling noise?  And because they don’t hear it, they think there is something wrong with you and not your car?  Then there is a person who will actually ride with you and eventually hear the noise you were talking about! You jump up and down for joy because someone believes you, you weren’t wrong and made to feel crazy.


Well, counseling is a very similar process.  It is our job not to judge anyone, to ride with you on your journey until you arrive at the point of saying, “no wonder I feel and think they way I do”.  Your are validated, not wrong and not crazy.


However, the noise is still in the car…

So, the next step is to figure out what is creating the noise in the car in order to fix it.  Similar, we try to figure out what the noise in your life is about, so we can clear it out and you are riding peacefully along.

The difference is we work together instead of another person fixing the problem.  Then maybe when something is going wrong, you can take a look, fix it or bring the car in again.


These next 11 steps can help to  visualize how your first appointment may go:

  1. The initial dreaded paperwork. Check to see if the provider takes your insurance, has a sliding fee scale, etc.  It may seem callous to write this first, but when you have made the decision to come it is frustrating when you find out in the end that you can’t see the counselor you had hoped for.   It is very easy to say “forget it”.


  1. Most often, the paperwork can be filled out online and will save you time at the appointment. If not, no worries.  Come 15 minutes early to fill it out.  Sitting in the reception area can then give you a feel for the place.  You have a chance to relax and not be overwhelmed.


  1. So, your counselor comes to the reception area.  You meet. You may wonder if this person is going to judge me for what I tell them?  We feel the same way too!  We are human, also.  We will be less anxious about it because we have experienced the situation many times.  However, there is still an element of that for us, also.


  1. Remember, you are still in the driver seat. If the counselor is telling you why you have a noise instead of REALLY listening to you, then find a different counselor.  You always have the right to discontinue counseling.


  1. It is our job not to judge and help you feel emotionally safe in counseling.


  1. The first time, we will listen a lot. We will ask questions to help clarify the facts, timelines, etc. You might even leave and not feel much relief.


  1. The goal of the first session is for you to have developed trust for us. The trust is built by us truly listening, giving you a genuine experience, and that your words, thoughts, and feelings are important and valued.


  1. Counseling is a shared reciprocal experience. Meaning, we do not only listen to you, your feelings resonate within us.  You leave knowing “we get you” we REALLY understand.


  1. You know trust has begun to develop when you walk out the door and you have a feeling your counselor genuinely enjoyed meeting, looks forward to your return, despite whatever you have shared.


  1. Most often, everything you want to share probably won’t be shared during the initial session because we are getting to know you and you are getting to know us. Building a therapeutic (trusting) relationship takes time.  So, you may not want to share everything the first time so you don’t leave feeling so vulnerable.


  1. Also, we are on this journey together. By the end of the first session, you and the counselor will have mapped out a direction. It will be a direction in which the counselor is competent to navigate and you feel confident is the best direction.

The Weekly Word – October 25, 2016

Written By: IFAPA Weekly Word

The Weekly WordIn this issue of the weekly newsletter you will read about:

  • Why My Child Melts Down At Home But Not At School
  • The Child I Didn’t Adopt
  • Upcoming Adoption Events
  • Meet IFAPA’s Eastern Service Area Peer Liaisons
  • How To Help You and Your Kids Heal

Read Weekly Word