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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Your Holiday: Merry or Maddening?

Once again, the holidays are upon us. Along with pumpkin pies, squealing children running around, and lots of hugs and laughter come the inevitable not-so-fun moments. Are there people around your table you would rather not see if you could help it? Those who always seem to say something critical? Those who won’t even speak to each other?

Strained and broken relationships among family members are often difficult to repair—and it is rarely possible to accomplish this during an annual gathering. But there are things you can do to make it better.
Bonnie Artman Fox, whose career has included working as a licensed therapist as well as a registered nurse, is the founder of A Conscious Choice through which she teaches skills to deal with difficult people and situations. She has wise and thoughtful advice for those who are struggling with family issues during the holidays. In a nutshell, Bonnie advises giving a “heart gift…”

“…compassion instead of a comeback…a smile instead of sarcasm…affirming words instead of attacking words.”

OK, this can be really tough to do—especially when you’ve been deeply hurt by someone. The following is a quote Bonnie shares that could make it easier for you:

“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.”  - Thich Nhat Hanh

While extending compassion, forgiveness—even tolerance—for a few hours on one or two days out of the year might be doable, it likely will not restore the relationship(s). But it will make the day more pleasant for everyone.

Try it. If it goes well for you, then consider taking another step. At Samaritan Counseling Center, our therapists are trained to help families and couples to improve—and often restore—damaged relationships.

Give family counseling a try. Yes, it’s hard work—there’s no magic involved! But all the people who got professional counseling and are now gathering at their holiday tables sharing love, peace and happiness will tell you that it was well worth their efforts.

Friday, October 31, 2014

First Responders

We are all familiar with the term “first responders.” But did you know you can be a “mental health first responder?”

I recently participated in a workshop entitled Mental Health CPR. Presented by the National Alliance on Mental Illness—NAMI—this program equips you to respond effectively to someone who is having a mental health crisis.

A mental health crisis can take the form of a:
•    Panic attack
•    Emotional breakdown
•    Delusional episode

There are right ways and there are WRONG ways to interact with a person in the midst of a mental health crisis. We might think we would know what to say and do, but I can assure you that when faced by someone in the midst of such a crisis, we are likely to become tongue-tied or say or do the exact opposite of what we should.

For example, if a person with major depression is describing a situation to you while sobbing uncontrollably, your natural response might be something like, “Oh, this happens to everyone. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine tomorrow.” Or, “I understand how you feel. Let me tell you what happened to me…” Although you may think you are offering comfort, your comments will likely come across as belittling—and cut like a knife.

Here’s another example. A person with schizophrenia may be hallucinating and hearing voices. He or she may tell you that there are aliens nearby, ready to attack. In an effort to reassure the person, you might be inclined to say, “There’s nothing to worry about. There are no such things as aliens—that’s just your mind playing tricks.” You would be wrong again!

The wrong responses have the real potential to escalate the situation. NAMI has an acronym: ALGEE, which stands for:
•    Assess if the person is on the verge of self-injury or suicide
•    Listen without judgment
•    Give information and reassurance
•    Encourage professional help
•    Encourage self-help and other supportive strategies

There’s a lot of information that accompanies these five directives, hence the need for a one-to-two day training course on Mental Health CPR. Putting this training into practice has the power to save a life. Learn more...

Thursday, October 2, 2014

“She will probably spend Christmas alone…because she chooses to isolate herself.”

Anyone who reads my writings knows that they tend to be upbeat and encouraging. Today, however, I am feeling sad for someone I care about. She is suffering from depression—but just cannot face it. I have explained to her that she should seek help to get better, but not only does she hate to go to doctors, but she continues to deny that there is anything mentally/emotionally wrong.

She will probably spend Christmas alone—not because she hasn’t been invited by her family—but because she chooses to isolate herself. I cannot recall the last time she has said anything positive. She never talks about having any friends, nor does she go anywhere except to work, the grocery store and the laundromat. As for having company or engaging in any conversations outside of work—I’m it.

I’ve decided that I’m not going to ever give up on her. I am going to continue to lovingly reach out. For instance, I am inviting her again to a Christmas gathering—even offering to take her home as soon as she wishes to leave.

If anyone reading this knows someone who is in denial and continues to suffer, whether it be from depression, addiction, PTSD, etc., I hope for your sake and theirs that they will see the light and seek professional help. This IS the season for miracles! Check out http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/05/08/9-best-ways-to-support-someone-with-depression/

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Be Happy in Spite of It All

As we sipped our coffee during one of our Thursday after-work get-togethers, a friend and I were talking about not-so-merry family issues that inevitably arise at holiday gatherings. Past hurts still lurking in people’s minds…sibling rivalries… the in-laws that don’t get along…the “big mouth”…the “Debbie Downers”…the show-offs…the folks that drink too much…no need to go on ‘cause I’m sure you get the picture. You’re probably thinking about the issues you know you’ll be facing in the days ahead.

As I shared with my friend, I have firmly decided that I am not going to let any situation detract from the spirit of Christmas. I am going to be happy! And I don’t mean by pretending that something uncomfortable really didn’t happen or by dealing with it in some other unhealthy way. I am going to put any indiscretion that may occur into a little box in my mind. The label on the box will say: The Imperfections of Being Human.

I can still be happy even when we humans display our faults and weaknesses. I can apply this attitude every day, not just on holidays. I can still be happy even though the world we live in is filled with injustice, pain and sorrow. I can still be happy and bring happiness to others in spite of it all. I’m determined to stay strong and stick to my goal.

And guess what? When I find myself slipping, I will forgive myself and move forward. When I feel sad or scared or nervous or angry, I will allow myself to feel those feelings because they are real and I am justified in feeling them. But then, I WILL MOVE FORWARD. I will always seek truth, happiness and love. I will make the most of this life God has given me.

I challenge anyone reading this to give it a try. Who knows, you may just become a happier person!

Check out this cool article on creating your own happiness…


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ladies, are you still burning yourselves out?

More than half of Samaritan’s clients are women. We asked Martha Selleck, our Clinical Director, to talk about women’s greatest needs.

“Women are still doing too much! They’re taking care of everyone but themselves, which leaves them depleted and exhausted. Typically, the women we see are caring for kids and aging parents,working at a full time career plus volunteering and dealing with marriage issues.

“As a result, they’re suffering from anxiety and depression. Many turn to self-medicating with food or alcohol. They find themselves caught in a vicious cycle and don’t know how to stop it. We help women sort things out and learn how to find more time for themselves—including their spiritual growth.

“Also, many women are carrying around unresolved traumas from the past, afraid to ‘voice the wounds.’ They will tell us, ‘I’ve never told this to anyone!’ Things like sexual abuse are often revealed for the first time to their therapist. Once they come to the surface and are addressed, hope and healing can begin.”

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Do You Realize How Powerful Your Own Mind Is?

After many years of commuting to the city for work, I grew to detest snow--period. I didn't even want to see as much as a few snowflakes on Christmas. I hated snow because it meant driving on treacherous roads, freezing at a bus stop or having to shovel my car out of it. I dreaded walking down the city sidewalks just to be splashed all over with dirty snow.
But today I actually like snow—even though I still have to drive to work in it as well as shovel and scrape it from my car.

How on earth did this transformation occur? Well, I re-programed my mind! Some days it’s still hard for me to believe it. Here’s how I did it, even though it was not my goal at the time…

One morning on a day off from work, I wanted to really, really enjoy myself. I wanted to relax, empty my mind, and spend a little quiet time de-stressing. I lit several scented candles and played some soft music. I dressed in something warm and cozy, poured a cup of fresh coffee and sat down in my favorite chair. As I sat there facing the window, I saw the snow beginning to fall. It wasn’t coming down hard and fast, but it wasn’t a light flurry, either. It was coming down steadily at a good pace and was “sticking.”

Here’s the amazing part: gazing at the snowfall, I felt so peaceful. Because of the comfortable atmosphere I had created for myself, watching the snow come down did not evoke feelings of anxiety or stress. To this day—years later—I get a sense of peace and relaxation whenever it snows. My mind continues to associate those positive emotions I had experienced that day with the falling snow.

And guess what? I purposefully reprogrammed myself to enjoy the rain, too. Despite the fact I had been stranded for six hours on the highway due to flooding, the feelings I had from that unpleasant experience are no longer triggered whenever it rains. Instead, I love listening to the sound of the rain and I enjoy watching it, too.

So what does this all mean? It means we can help ourselves feel better. We have the power to replace negative thoughts and feelings with positive ones. Now, I realize that feelings about rain and snow do not compare to things in our lives that are traumatic and frightening—unless you were injured or endangered by severe weather conditions. Nevertheless, the ability to recover, feel better and become healthy again is very real. Depending on your own situation, it may take longer to accomplish this.

If you suffer from depression, anxiety, constant worrying and negative thinking, you probably feel hopeless and desperate, like it’s impossible to ever feel better. I’ve been there and I empathize with you. But take heart—hope, help and healing are all within your reach. Asking for professional help is not a sign of weakness or lack of faith, but quite the opposite. It takes strength and courage! Changing is hard work but extremely well worth it. Living in denial and doing nothing is the worst thing you can do.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Why Does It Hurt So Much?

Grief is something each of us has or will experience in our lives. It’s a crushing, deep hurt that feels like it will never go away. Now to answer the question…the reason grief is so painful is because not only are we flooded with powerful emotions, but our physical bodies are profoundly affected as well.

In addition to mental and emotional pain—which often involves shock, regret, anxiety, confusion and even guilt—our physical selves experience sleeplessness, difficulty breathing, headaches, loss of appetite, digestive dysfunction and more. Think about it…each of these things alone can be debilitating. Now put them all together and it’s not surprising that our suffering is so great.

It’s also important to take notice of symptoms that indicate “abnormal” grieving, or that the grief has evolved into clinical depression. Although everyone has his/her own way of grieving—and there is no “set time” for the grieving process to last—there are things we can look for that may point to serious problems on the horizon.

For example…let’s say it’s been months since your friend has suffered the loss of someone she was very close to. You are surprised by the disheveled way she looks. You are troubled by her increasing alcohol consumption. She is barely able to function or focus on day-to-day activities, often staying in bed for days at a time. In fact, her loss is the only thing she focuses on. It’s obvious she is consumed by hopelessness and sadness. She barely leaves the house or associates with anyone—even her family and best friends.

The fact is that normal grieving lessens over time—not worsens. Without help, a person suffering from some or all of the behaviors described above may become suicidal. Under these circumstances, professional counseling is essential. A trained counselor will help you to gain coping skills and begin to heal. Recovery may seem impossible, but it definitely is not!

OK, what if it’s been three months since your loss, and although it still hurts a lot, you feel you are slowly moving forward. Why is it still helpful to join a grief support group?

When grieving the death of a loved one, we face difficult adjustments—behaviorally and socially, too.

If you (or someone you care about) are grieving, joining a grief support group can help you:

• Understand your emotional reactions and work through these adjustments
• Feel safe to express yourself in a supportive, caring environment
• Learn to practice self-care and manage your life as you journey through the healing process

Remember, the other people participating in the group are in the same boat as you. And although the environment is comfortable and informal, sessions are structured and purposeful. The goal is to empower you to gain an understanding of the grieving process and learn how to cope and move forward in normal, healthy ways. Learn about Samaritan’s upcoming, free Grief Support Group or contact us at info@samaritancounseling.net or 412.741.7430

Feelings of sadness and loneliness due to loss, or heightened anxiety as we try to balance work, spending, travel plans and events are normal. Taking a few moments each day to pray, practice mindfulness, breathe deeply and focus on what’s most important in our lives will relieve those feelings and motivate us to move forward.

But for those who suffer from debilitating conditions like depression, phobias, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolarity and other serious conditions, the solution is not so simple. To make matters worse, people dealing with these issues may be caught up in a cycle of abuse, poverty or severe anger and behavioral problems—within themselves, family members or in the workplace.

Remember—mental or emotional pain is very real. It quite often interferes with daily living, impairing one’s thoughts, decisions, reactions and ability to function.

How do you know if you or someone you care about needs professional help? Sometimes it is difficult to know for sure—especially since the sufferer’s thoughts and feelings are already impaired.

Nevertheless, there are things to look for. Signs of depression include withdrawal, frequent crying, feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, fatigue, insomnia or sleeping too long. There are many types of anxiety disorders—and sometimes depression is accompanied by anxiety. People with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) react more intensely than a situation warrants. They are unable to relax; they startle easily and have problems concentrating. Physical symptoms can include fatigue, headaches, aching muscles, difficulty swallowing, twitching, lightheadedness and feeling out of breath. Panic attacks cause sudden bouts of sweatiness/dizziness/breathlessness and rapid heart pounding. PTSD symptoms can include nightmares, flashbacks, acts of aggression or violence. (nimh.nih.gov)

The things mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg. Only a healthcare professional can properly diagnose and treat mental disorders. But recognizing that something is wrong and seeking help are the key first steps toward coping, healing and reclaiming health and happiness in your life. Don’t wait. Act now!

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) provides a wealth of information. Visit www.nimh.nih.gov to learn more.

Beth Healey, Director of Development and Marketing

Monday, June 30, 2014

Silent Samaritan program

Dear Friends,

Are you familiar with our Silent Samaritan program that subsidizes care for women in need? If you’re asking yourself why this is so important or how you can possibly help, we have the answers for you.

Approximately 65% of Samaritan’s clients are women. We provide subsidized care to at least half of these women because they do not have the resources to pay. Why are so many women in urgent need of counseling? Consider these facts:

Depression affects approximately 12 million U.S. women a year.

About 1 in 8 women can expect to face depression in her lifetime, most likely during age 25-44. Depression is not however, a “normal experience” or a “female weakness;” it is a legitimate mental health issue that can be successfully treated.

Anxiety disorders often accompany depression. The Anxiety Disorders Association of America reports that, “women are twice as likely as men to suffer from anxiety.”

Now you maybe asking, why is this the case? Well, multiple sources estimate that 250,000 American women suffer abuse each year. Furthermore, 22 million women in the U.S. have been raped in their lifetime (National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey 2010). Also, women are 29% more likely to be poor (National Council for Research on Women). All these factors create the perfect storm for risk of mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

This is where we come in: here at Samaritan we offer exceptional care for the psychological and emotional damage caused by these devastating conditions and more. According to Samaritan’s Clinical Director…“Women are still doing too much. They’re taking care of everyone but themselves, which leaves them depleted and exhausted. Additionally, many women are carrying around unresolved traumas from their past, afraid to ‘voice their wounds.’”

It is clear why women are being overwhelmed by mental health concerns like depression; they do not stop and take care of their own needs. But, taking care of self is often a financial nightmare for many women. We at Samaritan provide excellent care to all women in need, regardless of their ability to pay. However, we cannot do this alone. We need your help to continue to provide outstanding subsidized care to women in need—hence, Silent Samaritan Program.

Through the Silent Samaritan program, caring people contribute funds to help subsidize counseling fees for women in crisis who cannot afford to pay. You do not have to be affluent to help; our Lord calls us all to help those in need anyway we can. There are many different levels of giving if you want to take part in this important program. Learn more!

Help women in need to “voice their wounds” and overcome depression and more. Become a Silent Samaritan today!

With hope & healing,


Friday, May 9, 2014

Article About Depression

I ran across a very interesting article about depression which presents many facts that everyone would benefit by knowing. What I found a bit unsettling were a lot of the comments that followed. There were, however, a few that were quite accurate. Depression is a disorder. It is real. It is painful. It is debilitating. Left untreated, depression is often deadly because the sufferer takes his/her own life. The good news is that depression is treatable. Medication and therapy relieve the awful symptoms and help sufferers stabilize and begin to recover. The stigma often associated with depression is one of the main reasons people may be reluctant to seek help. I am not surprised that--as the article indicates--more Americans die due to suicide than auto accidents. If you have never suffered from depression, or are not aware of the medical facts about this illness, you may have misconceptions about it. Depression is not: a normal part of life; a sign of weakness; occasionally feeling sad; always due to a person's circumstances. Famous people such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Winston Churchill suffered from it. If you or someone you know is exhibiting signs of depression, please do not ignore the symptoms and seek professional help. Life is too short and too precious not to!

Beth Healey, Director of Marketing and Development

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Hi Friends,

I am very excited to be writing about my favorite tips on how to de-stress and maintain life balance. I remember sitting gymnast down with a mentor from University, talking about all my classes, taking the exams for grad school admissions, what I was doing to build my grad school application/resume ect. All of a sudden, he interrupted with the question, “Well that’s all well and good but, what do you do for fun?” I stared back at him blankly as I hollowly echoed the question, “what do I do for fun?” He then proceeded to teach me one of the most valuable lessons I have learned to date, that I’d now love to share with you now, because I know it will change your life as much as it has mine.

In the mental health field, one of our important tools of the trade is a thing called “Self Care”—taking time to take care of you. This is critical to having what we at Samaritan refer to as good life balance. Having good life balance not only helps you to de-stress, but it allows you to be healthier and happier in general. You can think of this as eight pieces of a pie: 1)Social life 2) Romance 3) Spiritual Life 4) Family Time 5) Career or Job 6) Finances 7) Rest & Relaxation and 8) Health and & Self Care.

Too much or too little of any of these eight areas will cause you to have a poor life balance. This may seem like it’s easier said than done to achieve, but we at Samaritan have a great way to check ourselves. Take this handy diagram and give yourself a score from 1-10 (1=poor; 10=great), basing your ratings on the amount of quality time and energy you devote to each area. Be honest! After placing the dots, connect them and look at the shape you’ve created. Ideally, you should have a bicycle tire shape; if not, know that the flat areas are the ones you need to work on. To “inflate” the flat sections of your tire, take out a sheet of paper and take some time to brainstorm ideas of what you can do to help yourself improve.

To me, self care means taking care of all areas of your life. If I had taken this test when talking with my mentor, my social life would have been about a zero. Today, I am proud to say it’s about a 6 or 7. When I was doing my brainstorming, I decided I wanted to take dance lessons. This took me a while to work on, because even though change is a natural part of life, it is not always easy. So, if you find yourself struggling to make a change, know you’re not alone. Give yourself grace and try to do better the next day, always taking it one day at a time. Knowing life balance tips changed my life, so I challenge you to take the bicycle tire quiz and see what it can do for you. Good luck my friends! To learn more, visit these fantastic articles: http://psychcentral.com/lib/2012/how-clinicians-balance-work-amd-life/ &


Hope and healing,


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Hello Friends,holding hands

I want to share an excellent tip from our amazing staff about how to have a happier marriage by knowing what your partner’s “love language” is.

According to Gary Demonte Chapman, a relationship counselor, author of The 5 Love Languages, and director of Marriage & Family Life Consultants, Inc. http://www.5lovelanguages.com/about/gary-chapman/ there are five love languages— the ways we demonstrate our love to others.

The first is acts of service—doing something for someone else. So, yes, doing the dishes for your significant other absolutely does say, “I love you!”

The second is gift giving, which is important not to confuse with materialism. The thoughtfulness that goes into gift giving says, “I love you!”

The third, physical touch, is a very common love language. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, ect. says, “I love you!” The right touch fosters a sense of security and belonging in any relationship, not just romantic.

The fourth, and my personal love language, is quality time. Nothing to me says, “I love you,” more then when someone sets aside time for a distraction free conversation or quality time for an activity like taking a walk together.

The fifth, and final love language is words of affirmation. For some people, hearing the words “I love you” means more than you know.

Even though these are tips for a happier marriage, this information can be useful to any couple or anyone in general. In any healthy relationship, romantic or otherwise, it is always important to know how to say, “I love you” in a way that the other person can understand and vice versa. So, if you want a happier relationship, I ask you to take a moment to reflect on what says, “I love you,” to you? Is it: actions, receiving gifts, touch, quality time or words or affirmations? Next, find out what it is for the other person by taking the time to have an honest conversation with him/her. You are now on your way to having a stronger, happier relationship.

With hope and healing,


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Hello Friends:

Last Monday we had a fabulous time celebrating the purchase of our Osborne Plaza office in Sewickley, thanks to the generous donors who supported our capitalimg_0158 2 campaign. We opened the doors to our friends and the community for an Open House reception. 45 guests attended, including board members, staff, major donors, community members and business leaders. This is a very exciting time for us; expanding our offices means we can do more to serve the community. To see what we are up to next—including healthy lifestyle tips—follow us on Facebook. Pictures from our Open House event are posted.

With hope and healing,


Monday, January 6, 2014

Hello Friends:

My name is Via I’m an undergrad at University of Pittsburgh working towards a BS in Psychology and a minor in studio arts. I am extremely excited to be joining thevfn profile pic amazing Samaritan team for the summer as a volunteer. Yesterday was my first day and I was blessed to attend the open house celebration of the purchase of our Osborne Plaza, thanks to or generous donors who supported our capital campaign. I got to meet many of our staff and board members and was very impressed with the standard of excellence in care that they set. There was much illuminating conversation about techniques to de-stress, tips on having a happier marriage and many other topics. The event was a great opportunity to educate people –especially since May is mental health awareness month. To stay tuned to what is next for us this summer, for health and lifestyle tips, and more, follow us on Facebook. I am very much looking forward to being a part of all the exciting things in store at Samaritan because as one board member stated, “ the best thing about working with Samaritan is being able to help your neighbors in your own backyard.”

With hope and healing,