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Positive Steps

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SMART Goals

Posted by on Mar 9, 2015 in Positive Steps | 0 comments

Spring makes me think of cleansing, renewal, and an “out with the old and in with the new” type of attitude.And spring may just be the perfect time to work on something you’ve been waiting to embark on. Achieving something you’ve been putting off can do wonders for your self-esteem (and, conversely, procrastination tends to have the opposite effect!). So achieving a goal isn’t going to be just about doing something you want to do…it’ll also give your self-esteem the kind of boost that has lasting effects even when you’re not focused on the goal itself! Maybe your goal is getting ready for a 5k, making time to meditate in the morning, being more generally positive, or maybe spending more time with loved ones. Whatever it is, if you’ve been putting it off, now is the time to “spring” into action! When making goals, I recommend making sure they’re “SMART.” You’re may be thinking, well, yeah, of course my goal is smart, why would my goals be dumb!? This type of SMART is different though. SMART is an acronym and stands for: Specific- Is my goal clearly stated? Measureable- How will I know when and if I reach my goal? Attainable- Is it within my ability to accomplish my goal? Relevant- Is your goal relevant to your other roles and responsibilities in life? Time tested- What is the deadline you’re setting to accomplish my goal? So maybe you start with this as your overall goal: Lose weight and get in shape. Okay. Not bad, but it sounds pretty vague. Let’s start running this through the individual letters of your SMART acronym by asking questions one at a time: Is it Specific? How could you make “Lose weight and get in shape” more specific? To do that, we need to think about observable behaviors. What does “lose weight and get in shape” look like? If you could see a video recording of your day, which behaviors would you see that contribute to losing weight, and which do not? Observable behaviors are important, because those are the ones you can act on. So to get Specific, you might describe the following observable behaviors… leave work by 5:00 pm at least three days a week sign in at the gym three days per week spend 35 minutes doing the workout of your choice 3 times a week (lifting weights, elliptical, etc.) drink ½ gallon of water per day, 7 days per week It’s probably not possible to list too many observable behaviors, so go crazy. Be specific. Is it Measureable? How could you make “Lose weight and get in shape” measureable? Chances are, if you’ve developed a specific goal, you’ve already started to define the Measurability test. What are the measures you will use to evaluate both your progress and your success with this goal?  For example with the elliptical, time spent on the machine can be measured. The number of times per week you visit the gym will be another measure. The amount of water you drink per day yet another measure. The amount of weight you want to lose is also measureable. As you think about measuring, also be thinking about how you will record and track your progress. It’s important that you make it as easy and convenient as possible for yourself to take and record your measures! Measuring is hugely important and will keep your focus on the behaviors you need to be doing in order to experience success! Is it Attainable? How realistic is for you to achieve your goal? Some factors to consider in this case...

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Puppy Love: Five Ways Emotional Support Animals Show Their Love

Posted by on Feb 13, 2015 in Positive Steps | 0 comments

by Jessica Richards, MA, RMHCI   The strength of the human-animal bond has been recognized for a long time, but exactly how the relationship benefits our mental health is still somewhat of a mystery. Sometimes I am asked, “How can an animal—or more specifically, a dog—be an emotional support for a human?” With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I thought I’d share the many ways dogs can share and express what we’ve come to understand as “love.” 1. Affection If you are feeling lonely, isolated, sad, anxious, worried, scared, depressed— or really any other negative emotion— the affection of an animal will undoubtedly impact your life in a positive way! There’s no doubt, dogs and cats serving in the role of Emotional Support Animals, can be incredibly affectionate creatures. They love to share their emotion with us, and they express it in different types of ways…such as, licking your face! If you allow them to do so, they will express their love wholeheartedly. Often times, they will lick you in an attempt to groom you. This expression of love is how they show intimacy. It’s how they express love and care for each other in the wild, and if you don’t mind a “walk on the wild side” from time to time, they’re very happy to share it with you! Other forms of affection are when an animal jumps on you or leans on you. This can be their way of saying, “Hey! I’m here for you!” If there is ever a time you forget, they will be there to remind you that you are not alone — that they still love you. 2. Attachment Sometimes our relationships with family, friends, or significant others can be somewhat complicated, stressful, or tense, and this can lead to feeling lonely or depressed, angry or anxious. But relationships with a dog are never complicated. Your little (or large) animal friend will be there to share their love and to support you. Dogs sometimes express their love and concern for you by following in your footsteps. Sometimes it’s as if they are our shadow. They want to make sure that you are not leaving them behind, and that, if you go somewhere, they will be right there, by your side, helping you through whatever you experience. No human-to-human relationship will ever be quite like the one you will experience with an animal. This is why the attachment between humans and animals is such an important aspect of our overall mental health and well-being. Just take a look at this article from Psychology Today on human-animal attachment theory: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201202/how-emotionally-attached-are-you-your-pet 3. Happiness Dogs express happiness in their own ways. If you ever leave the house for an extended amount of time, guess who will be there waiting patiently for your arrival? And who will greet you at the door? Yep! Your dog will love that you are home and will want to show you that they missed you. They will want to see how you are doing and check in with you. They might sniff you all over as if they are “checking you out.” With the sense of smell being so important to a dog, it may just be that they learn much of what they need to know about your mood and your day just from your scent! We receive our dogs’ love and feel happiness from the “happy hormone,” Oxycontin. Studies have shown that merely seeing our pets stimulates our bodies to produce higher levels of Oxycontin than when we can’t see them. Imagine how high our Oxycontin levels might get...

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Tattoos and Insurance: Making Long-term Choices You Can Live With

Posted by on Feb 22, 2013 in Positive Steps | 1 comment

Tattoos and Insurance: Making Long-term Choices You Can Live With

People seeking counseling are sometimes surprised to learn that their health insurance does not cover mental health. We hear it all the time. People we encounter scratch their heads and ask, “What good is all this insurance I’m paying for, when it doesn’t even cover my care when I need it? After all we pay for this, shouldn’t we receive benefits?” There’s no doubt, the realities of insurance in our day and age can be frustrating. We’re Covered, Yes? Health insurance—when it covers counseling at all—generally only provides benefits for individuals seeking individual treatment. They don’t cover couples. They don’t cover families. They don’t cover relationships. Of course, this is extremely disappointing, because the research is clear that the quality of our relationships is an enormous factor in our overall health and quality of life. Moreover, it’s proven that relationships tend to respond very well to professional counseling. But this is not to say that couples and family counseling is never paid for with insurance benefits. Sometimes it is, but getting your insurance to pay is a bit tricky. The first hurdle you have to overcome is finding a therapist who is willing to commit fraud and say that the counseling will be for individual care, when in fact, it is not. The dilemma is this: In order to submit a claim, your counselor must submit the claim under the name of one—and only one—of the people seeking counseling. A technicality, perhaps, but it is not a technicality without implications. Like a Tattoo The first implication to consider when using insurance to pay for counseling is the permanent nature of the diagnosis that gets attached to the claim. When a claim is filed for services, insurance companies request a great deal of information about you in order to determine if the procedure (in this case counseling) is medically necessary and, therefore, qualifies for coverage. At the time of the claim’s submission, the insurance company will require your counselor to provide a diagnosis for you. This diagnosis is a label describing the mental health condition for which you are seeking treatment. While your counselor will be very concerned about providing an accurate diagnosis that will justify therapeutic treatment, the label that goes into your permanent file with the insurance company will come from the manual that professional therapists use to diagnose mental illnesses (The DSM-V). That label is selected from hundreds of possible diagnoses that range in kind and severity, but they include labels such as “Personality Disorder,” “Chemical Dependency,” and “Schizophrenia.” Whatever label your counselor is forced to submit, it is important for you to know exactly what that label is and what it means. According to Therapist Consultants (September 2012), “On average, 12-14 individuals will view a client’s diagnosis during insurance processing.” Like a tattoo, this label is going to follow you for the rest of your life. At Positive Steps, we get especially nervous when these diagnoses are being submitted for children. What we want all of our clients to realize is that your personal and private information (including a diagnosis), often not just about you but about your entire family (parents, siblings, your children, etc.), is collected by your insurance company and is entered into a permanent database that is available to the entire insurance industry—not just for this instance of care, not just for a year, not even for the duration of your time with your current insurance...

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