Category: Health Psychology

Activity Pacing on the “Good Days” and “Bad Days”

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Activity pacing is an important skill to have when coping with chronic illness, recovering from an injury, or managing other health problems. As you work to juggle your physical symptoms with your daily activities and responsibilities, it can be hard not to overdo it. Learning how to pace yourself, even on your “good days,” can be crucial in limiting the physical and emotional lows of your “bad days,” and allow you to take back a sense of control over your life.

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Why do I need to pace myself?

When coping with a physical illness, it is common to experience “good days” and “bad days.” Sometimes you may wake up feeling energized with minimal pain or discomfort, and on other days, you may wake up feeling sluggish, achy, and all around uncomfortable. It is only natural that on the “good days,” you may feel the need to “take advantage” of your energy to complete tasks or engage in activities—and  it can be very easy to “overdo it.”

Doing too much during a “good day” often leads to a big crash or burnout and can make you more susceptible to longer bouts of “bad days,” as your body recovers. At the same time, it is easy to do get in the habit of over-limiting your activities because of your fear of a bad crash. Activity pacing can keep you from burning out and help you find the balance between doing too little (under-activity) and doing too much (over-activity) by teaching you how to effectively listen to your body as you go about your everyday life.

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How do I pace myself?

Activity pacing requires you to actively monitor your physical symptoms and mindfully gauge how you are feeling as you plan your activities. It may take some time to understand how much you can or cannot do, without risking feeling worse later. Here are a few tips that may help you to find a balance that works for you:

  • Write down your schedule ahead of time.
  • Make sure to include things you have to do, things you like to do, and time for rest.
  • Plan what you can skip if you are starting to feel too tired.
  • Troubleshoot how you may complete the tasks you have to do, if you begin to feel worn down (e.g. asking for help or finding alternative solutions).
  • Use a daily planner to schedule your activities and track how you are feeling. 
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By taking the time to pace yourself, you can increase in the odds of having another “good day” rather than knowing there will be a burnout and crash afterwards that could last days/weeks. It can also encourage you to safely stay active and engaged, even when you aren’t feeling your best. Activity pacing can be hard to do at first, especially if you feel you have been stuck in an endless cycle of “good” and “bad” days for a long period of time. Health psychologists can help you begin to manage your days so you can regain a sense of control in your life.

How to find the “Best Therapist” for you!

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Finding the best therapist for you is the most important part of maximizing your successful with psychotherapy. However, as many people who have experience looking for a therapist can attest, finding a provider who is just the right “fit” can be very challenging. Here, I outline some strategies to help you find the therapist that is right for you. 

Strategies for Finding the “Best Therapist” for you 

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1)    Evaluate your needs and goals for psychotherapy 

Who will be in therapy?

Therapy and counseling services can be provided to individuals, couples, families, or groups. Therapists often also specialize in providing care to clients within certain age ranges (e.g. children or adults). When searching for the “best fit,” it is important that you are clear about who will be engaged in treatment, as not all providers are trained to serve all these different types of clients. 

What symptoms are you experiencing?

Because treatment modalities vary by symptoms and diagnoses, being able to broadly describe your symptoms and concerns can be extremely helpful in finding a therapist who is the “best fit” for you. This can help ensure that you are matched with a provider who has experience working with clients like you; and you can be confident in their ability to help you meet your goals for psychotherapy. 

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What kind of treatment are you seeking?

There are many ways in which providers treat mental health concerns, ranging from medication management to different types of talk therapy. While it can be challenging to understand all the differences in treatment options, it can be helpful to consider what approach might work best for you (e.g. short or long-term therapy, focus on the “here and now” or preferences to understand how past experiences influence how you feel today, etc.).

What resources do you have available?

When seeking therapy, you will need to consider the amount of time you have to dedicate to therapy (e.g. time spent commuting, parking, and practicing new skills in between sessions). If you plan on using your insurance, it is important to know what types of services they cover and any limitations to this coverage. If you do not have insurance, it can also be helpful to consider budgeting how much money you plan on investing in a course of therapy.

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2)    Evaluate potential therapists.

What is the therapist’s area of expertise?

Psychology is a very diverse field of study, which means that most therapists specialize in some area of clinical service. When evaluating a provider’s expertise, it is important to consider their level of education or type of license, their defined client focus, and the treatment modalities they offer. A therapist who specializes in working with people who are like you, are more likely to be able to provide services that will meet your specific needs and goals.

How and when will you access care?

You should be able to access therapy with relative ease, as you will likely be attending sessions regularly, especially at the beginning of treatment. It is also important to understand your provider’s availability to take on new clients, any flexibility they may have in their scheduling, and, when applicable, estimated waitlist times.

3)    Choosing the “best therapist” for you. 

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Which profile or website do you connect with most?

For most people, first impressions of potential providers tend to be online. As you look for a therapist, I suggest that you read through their various online materials and visit their websites to get a better sense of who they are and what they do. It is important to be mindful of their expertise and how they fit your needs and goals for therapy. Once you have narrowed down your search, it is common to call several therapists or practices for an initial consultation before you ultimately make your choice.

Booking an initial consultation to evaluate fit. 

The initial consultation can be a great way to evaluate fit, as it allows you to assess what it would be like to work with this therapist. You can assess the timeliness of their response, their communication style, and ask more questions about their expertise and approach to psychotherapy. Once you know your provider has the right qualifications for you, it is important to assess if feel as though you can build a trusting therapeutic relationship with the provider.

By following the steps above, you will likely be well on your way to finding the “best therapist” for you. It may seem like a lot of work at first, but taking your time in choosing the right provider for you can make all the difference in determining your success in finding relief and support through psychotherapy.

To learn what the best fit for you looks like, read more here…

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If you would like to more information about the psychotherapy services at Coronado Psych, please contact us at 619-554-0120, info@coronadopsych.com, or click here to schedule an initial consultation. 

How to Find the Best Therapist in Coronado & San Diego

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Finding the best therapist for you is crucial when looking to begin a course of psychotherapy. However, as many people who have experience looking for a therapist can attest, finding a therapist who is just the right “fit” can be very challenging. But, what does “best fit” mean in the context of therapy?

Defining “Best Fit” in Therapy

The therapist who is the “best fit” for you, is somebody who can meet your needs in terms of their expertise, availability/accessibility, and interpersonal style.

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Expertise

When searching for a therapist, many people may not realize just how broad the field of psychology is. There are many specialties within mental health, and most providers are experts in some but not all types of psychotherapy and counseling services. A therapist’s expertise can vary greatly depending on several factors, including the type of clients they see (e.g. child, couples, adult, or group), the problems they address (e.g. anxiety, depression, substance abuse, behavioral problems, personality disorders, etc.), and the kinds of treatments they provide (e.g. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Biofeedback, Psychodynamic, etc.). A therapist who is a good fit for you would naturally be somebody who is trained to assess and treat your specific concerns.

Availability and Accessibility

A therapist who is the “best fit” for you will also need to be accepting new clients and available to provide services at times when you can attend sessions. These sessions will need to be readily accessible to you (e.g. reasonably close in proximity or available via telehealth) and you will need to consider how you will pay for these services (e.g. payments made out-of-pocket or through insurance).

Interpersonal Style

Psychotherapy and counseling services are very personal experiences, as they involve being open and honest with your provider about your biggest challenges. A strong “therapeutic alliance” or connection between you and your therapist, is one of the main components of a successful course of psychotherapy. This means that, ultimately, the therapist who is the “best fit” for you will also need to be someone with whom you feel you can build a trusting working relationship.

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Compatibility

It is important that you and your provider are compatible across these three domains. That is why I often encourage people who are interested in therapy to talk to several potential providers before they commit to a course of therapy, to ensure that they can feel confident in their choice.

It is also important to keep in mind, however, that there is not only one person who is the “best fit” for you. There are likely many providers who are equally capable of helping you reach your therapy goals. While it may take some time to find the “best” therapist for you, it is worth taking the time to make the right choice, as it can make all the difference in the success of your treatment.

Continue reading & learn strategies you can use to find the best therapist for you…

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Your First Therapy Session: What to Expect

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People often wonder what the first session of psychotherapy is like. There are many questions that can arise when considering psychotherapy or counseling services.

Understanding the goals of a typical first session can give insight into what you may expect during an initial meeting with a therapist. It is important to keep in mind that first sessions may vary depending on each practice’s policies, the type of treatment provided, and your individual needs and goals for psychotherapy. Therefore, it is always helpful to directly ask providers any questions you may have about your first session in advance of the meeting.

There are usually 3 main goals for the first session of psychotherapy:

1) To inform you about practice policies and limits to confidentiality, allowing you to make an informed decision about engaging in therapy or counseling services.

A typical first session can start with reviewing important documents, including informed consent forms and practice policies. Often providers will ask you to review such documents before the scheduled meeting, in order to maximize the amount of time you have in session to answer any questions or concerns.

2) To discuss reasons for seeking therapy and other life factors that may influence treatment.

During the first session, your provider will likely ask you to describe your reasons for seeking therapy. They may also ask you to provide other information (e.g. your work/school-related stressors and social supports) to get a better sense of other factors that impact your mental health.

Some therapists may also ask you to fill out questionnaires or forms that provide additional information about your levels of distress. Together, this information provides the therapist with a better understanding of your unique situation that can be used to create a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.

3) To give you an opportunity to understand the therapist’s approach to psychotherapy and assess whether they are a good “fit” with your needs and goals for treatment.

In addition to informing the provider about your experiences, the first session is also an important time for you to evaluate the therapist. In this session, therapists often provide information about what future sessions of psychotherapy may look like with them. This information combined with your experience of their style of communication can help you evaluate whether the therapist is the right fit for you.

Woman sitting in therapist's officeThe first session of any psychotherapy or counseling service lays the foundation for building a strong therapeutic relationship—a factor that is imperative for the success of therapy, no matter what type of treatment is provided.

It is important to note that not all therapists are meant to treat all clients, and not all clients are meant to work with every therapist. Therefore, it may take some time to find a therapist that is the right “fit” for you. Asking friends/family or your family doctor for referrals can often be a good starting point when searching for a therapist.

Exploring online directories and websites can also be a useful first step in engaging in psychotherapy. However, ultimately the best assessment of the “fit” will be your own experiences speaking with the provider through an initial consultation or assessment.

If you wish to get more information on your first session or other psychological services at Coronado Psych, please contact us at 619-554-0120info@coronadopsych.com, or click here to schedule an initial consultation. 

How to Prepare For Your First Therapy Session

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The first session of psychotherapy can set the tone for future sessions and is extremely important, as it sets the foundation for establishing a strong therapeutic relationship—a fundamental component of successful treatment. Being prepared for the first session allows for the session to run more smoothly and ensures that you can get the most out of your first meeting with your therapist.

How can I prepare for the first session?

1) Review documents and prepare questions

It is common for therapists to send important documents, such as informed consent forms, practice policies, and notices of privacy practice to you prior to the start of the first session.

It is important for you to review these documents carefully and make a list of questions you may have prior to the session. Careful review of these documents is important regardless of how you are seeing your therapist (e.g. remotely or in-person). It can ensure your full understanding of these documents and maximise your time to discuss your reasons for seeking therapy and other important issues during this first session.

2) Plan ahead: In-person v. Telehealth Services

Man walking down street with headphonesFor both in-person and online therapy, it is important to prepare ahead and consider all the logistical aspects of attending the session in order to give yourself time to get settled into the space and transition your mind to focus on what you would like to discuss with your therapist.

For in-person therapy, it is important to consider the logistical aspects of seeing your therapist, including parking availability, commute time, and building/office information (e.g. elevator access, gate access codes, etc.), prior to the first session.

For online therapy, it is important to review what equipment you need to access care (e.g. download necessary phone apps or test session links) and to find a quiet, private space to engage in therapy prior to the start of your first session.

For example, if you are thinking of attending an online session in your home, you may consider putting up a “Do not disturb” sign or other reminders to those around you to limit possible disruptions during your first meeting.

3) Think about what is bothering you most or what your primary goals are for therapy.

An important goal of the first session is to gain a better understanding of your specific needs and goals for psychotherapy. Sometimes it is hard to think of something specific you are struggling with—and that’s okay.

However, it can be useful to take some time prior to the first session to think about how you are feeling now and how you would like to feel in the future in order to help facilitate the process of defining goals for therapy. By defining your goals, what you want and need from therapy, we can work together to create a unique and effective treatment plan designed just for you.

How do I access care?

If you feel comfortable asking, your friends, family, and physician can be great resources to find a therapist. Online directories can also be helpful to find a therapist will work for you.

Most providers offer some brief consultation or intake prior to the first session—these brief interactions can be a great way to begin to evaluate whether a particular therapist will be the right fit for you and can also be a good opportunity to ask how best to prepare for your first session.

If you wish to get more information about the psychological services provided at Coronado Psych, please contact us at 619-554-0120, info@coronadopsych.com, or click here to schedule an initial consultation. 

What is Health Psychology?

My interest in the mind-body connection played an important role in pursuit of a career in clinical psychology. My first job after earning my undergraduate degree was at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where I worked as a research assistant on a study investigating the long-term effects of retinoblastoma (a pediatric cancer of the eye) on quality of life.

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Since then, I have spent much of my career investigating the effects of our mental states on our bodies, as well as the impact of illness/disease on our psychological well-being. The link between the mind and body is strong and intricate, and increasing our awareness of these connections can ultimately be extremely empowering. This is why I am dedicated to raising awareness of this specialty, as it can benefit people who are coping with a wide variety of stressors and diagnoses.

What is Health Psychology?

Health psychology is the study of human thought, feeling, and behavior as it relates to our physical health and well-being. We know that our psychological state can greatly influence our physical health, through many different avenues.

For example, prolonged stress and anxiety can trigger sustained physiological changes in our bodies that can lead to chronic health concerns, including, but not limited to high blood pressure, immune compromise, and weight gain.

Moreover, the diagnosis and treatment process for many conditions can be a long, scary, and grueling process for many people.

Clinical health psychologists are specialized therapists who are trained to provide psychological services to clients with a wide range of concerns, including those who are chronically or terminally ill, or in need of support in making significant changes in their health-related behaviors (e.g. diet, exercise, stress management, etc.).

Health psychologists have a deep understanding of the complex relation between our psychological health and our physiological/physical well-being. 

How Can It Help Me?

Mind Body Effects of Stress Coronado PsychMany clients are referred to health psychology by their physicians, to help support patients who are struggling with a wide variety of diagnoses (e.g. hypertension, cardiovascular disease, cancer, autoimmune disease, chronic pain, etc.).

Health psychologists can help clients find ways to improve health-related behaviors (e.g. improve diet/exercise, increase adherence to medication guidelines, etc.), manage thoughts and feelings that can worsen physical symptoms (e.g. pain), and help clients integrate their new “patient” status into their overall sense of self.

Health psychologists can also help people cope with health-related anxiety (e.g. stress related to exposure to COVID-19, or other communicable diseases); and caregivers may also benefit from this type of support.

Additionally, psychotherapists who are trained in health psychology can help patients and their caregivers better navigate complex health care systems, improve communication with their medical providers, and gain a better understanding of their health condition. 

How do I get help?

Therapist Office Coronado PsychIf you are interested in health psychology, it may be helpful to contact your physician for a recommendation, especially if you are seeking psychotherapy with regard to a specific diagnosis. You can also find health psychologists in your community by searching for therapists who indicate their specific training in their online profiles or informational materials. 

If you are interested in Health Psychology services at Coronado Psych, please feel free to contact us at 619-354-4027, info@coronadopsych.com, or click here for an initial consultation.

For more information please visit the links below:

Stress effects on the body: https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress/effects-cardiovascular#menu

CBT for Pain : https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/d9a5/34512486a20bcbc8d472b9c6bfc342a53ce7.pdf

CBT for Health-related anxiety: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0005796714000631

Health-related anxiety: http://www.abct.org/Information/?m=mInformation&fa=fs_HEALTH_ANXIETY

CBT for Caregivers: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5653628/

What Are The Costs and Benefits of Psychotherapy?

The costs and benefits of psychotherapy are some of the most important things to consider when thinking about engaging in mental health treatment.

In this post, I attempt to briefly summarize the various things to consider before committing to a course of psychotherapy. It is important to understand, however, that ultimately the costs and benefits of treatment vary between individual providers and clients, and should be discussed and clarified with your provider as part of the informed consent process prior to the start of any course of treatment.

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What are the costs of psychotherapy and why does it seem to vary in price?

The main costs of psychotherapy are typically money, time, and the willingness to be open, honest, and emotionally vulnerable in your sessions.

Factors that contribute to the financial cost of psychotherapy include: therapist training, specialty, experience, location, and type of treatment provided.

Therapists who have a higher education (e.g. Doctoral-level vs. Master’s-level), are more experienced, and/or specialize in a specific area of psychotherapy tend to have higher rates per session.

With regard to time, most courses of psychotherapy begin with weekly, 50 minute sessions; although the frequency and duration of sessions may vary depending on the treatment plan and goals for psychotherapy. In my practice, I’ve found that most patients feel some relief of symptoms after the first few sessions and an average course of treatment lasts 8-12 weeks/sessions, followed by occasional “booster” sessions offered as-needed.

Many mental health treatment providers will also ask clients to complete assignments or practice skills in between sessions in order to gather more information and to build confidence in new skills.

Moreover, the success of psychotherapy is dependent on the rapport or “therapeutic alliance” between the client and the provider. While it is the providers responsibility to create a safe and inviting space, the client may also be asked to be emotionally engaged in sessions in a way that may trigger distressing emotions, for psychotherapy to be successful.

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What are the benefits of psychotherapy?

Evidence-based psychotherapy provided appropriately by skilled mental health professionals can help people suffering with a wide range of stressors.

The many benefits to psychotherapy include relief of symptoms, solutions to specific problems, improved relationships, and an overall sense of well-being and health.

These benefits also vary depending on therapist-client rapport, therapist skill and training in addressing the specific client needs, and individual client investment of time and effort in the treatment process. 

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How do I access care?

The best way to find the right mental health provider for you is by evaluating your needs and goals for psychotherapy, the type of care you wish to receive (e.g. level of training/expertise you would like your therapist to have and the type of treatment they offer), and the time and resources you have available to participate in this type of treatment.

If you feel comfortable asking, you may find that your family doctor, or even family or friends may be good sources for referrals.

Online directories, such as the ones provided by your insurance provider, the American Psychological Association, or Psychology Today may also be helpful in finding a therapist.

It is important to note that not all psychologists are meant to work with all clients and vice versa. Therefore, you may need to meet with several therapists, before finding the provider that is the best fit for you.

Most clients find that once they find the right provider, the benefits can far outweigh the costs and psychotherapy is well worth the investment.

If you wish to get more information on our psychotherapy services at Coronado Psych, please contact us at 619-554-0120info@coronadopsych.com, or click here to schedule an initial consultation.