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Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Developing a Deeper Connection with God Shannan Crawford, Psy.D.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022 @ 9:29 PM

Crawford Clinics


Development happens in relationship. Different parts of self emerge in response to experiences with different people, and those people teach us how to treat ourselves, as well as how to view God and expect to be treated by Him. When the way we feel toward God (God image) doesn’t line up with our theology (God concept), we may be projecting a relational dynamic from the past onto Him. The Restoring Self-Cohesion (RSC) model offers a framework for raising awareness of these projections, modifying the cognitions associated with them, and repairing relationship with oneself and with God as the counselor’s empathic attunement with the client creates a corrective experience.


Although faith is generally a protective factor and a beneficial support system promoting psychological health (Pargament, 2013), many individuals are discouraged in their faith—desiring an intimate relationship with God, yet feeling alone, ashamed, condemned, and unlovable. Even people who say they believe God to be loving, forgiving, and kind may experience Him as angry, distant, and disapproving. When there is a discrepancy between our God concept (theological understanding of God) and God image (subjective experience of God), there is a mismatch between what we think and what we feel about God (Rizzuto,1979; Lawrence, 1997; Moriarty & Hoffman, 2007; Ulanov, 1989; Spero, 1992).
An individual’s God image is a compilation of life experiences and interactions with authority figures of the past, which produce unconscious projections of God. The seminal work on God image, Moriarty and Hoffman’s God Image Handbook for Spiritual Counseling and Psychotherapy (2007), provides a thorough review of theoretical articles as well as quantitative and qualitative studies distinguishing between God image and God concept. This handbook also provides strategies to help counselors repair a client’s God image using different theoretical models.


God is one being (Deut. 6:4, Mark 12:29) with three parts (2 Cor. 13:14) and many roles (e.g., provider, healer, redeemer, shepherd, protector). Being made in His image (Gen. 1:26), humans also have separate parts, each designed to offer unique dimension to the personality. Like an orchestra playing a symphony, self-cohesion exists when all parts of self are playing in harmony—mirroring the unity of the Trinity.
Another illustration is to think of parts of self like members of a committee, equally valued while serving different functions and sharing mutual respect. With no dictator present and no parts hiding, each member is able to bravely fulfill its role. It is important to note that multiple parts form a single personality, rather than multiple distinct personalities, as in Dissociative Identity Disorder.


The parts of self within a person develop and learn how to interact with one another based on interactions with caregivers and others, such that intrapersonal relationships will mirror interpersonal ones. Emotionally responsive parenting is critical to the development of a cohesive self. Winnicott (1966) describes “good-enough” parenting as emotionally tuning in to the child and repairing the relationship when the parent-child connection is broken. However, many people grow up in families in which parents are unable to respond to the child’s emotions and/or they don’t discuss relational breaches, essentially sweeping them under the rug and going on as if nothing happened. In this family dynamic, children, dependent upon parents for security and attachment, learn to suppress their sadness and/or anger, expressing only positivity to their caregivers and dealing with unaccepted negative emotions alone. Since there is no internal rug to sweep our pain under, the soul is bearing the brunt of every hurtful thing we go through. To preserve relationship, the soul configures itself in such a way that pain is cordoned off and absorbed by a part of self that carries the sadness, anger, shame, etc. into the unconscious. The problem is that the part of self holding the relational breach remains stuck or “regressed” in the pain, frozen at the age at which it went into hiding.
These regressed parts of self, through breached relationships with loved ones, often develop inaccurate God images from those experiences. For instance, a child who experiences a painful event involving an authority figure may develop a belief that authority figures are unsafe. Thus, when relating to God as an authority figure, that belief will automatically be triggered, causing the person to unconsciously perceive God as unsafe and pull away accordingly.


From conception, neural networks begin forming. According to Hebb (1949), “Neurons that fired together wired together,” developing automatic processes of perception, thought, memory, emotion, and behavior. Early in life, the unconscious mind develops concepts of caregivers and templates of relationship dynamics which are created based on the major influencers in our lives. We then learn to automatically respond in similar ways to new situations and people, including God (Garzon, 2007).
For some people, the thought of calling God “Father” evokes warm, affectionate feelings. For others who had an abusive father figure, calling God “Father” could trigger intense feelings of fear, guilt, shame, or dread, causing them to subconsciously pull away from God, as they did with their father figure. It could produce feelings of emptiness and unworthiness for those who have been abandoned and/or neglected or disgust for those who have been inappropriately touched or looked at by a father figure. A multitude of visceral reactions can be instantaneously elicited based on the individual’s life experiences. The quandary is that this is an automatic process the person is not consciously aware of, leading them to respond to God as they did their caregiver without knowing why. This is precisely the disconnect people describe when they say they know God is loving, and yet they can’t shake the feeling that He is angry or disappointed in them.


Ideally, there should be such unity and fluidity among the parts of self that, as the person shifts between parts, their God image remains stable and congruent with their God concept. For such people, they are able to experience God as emotionally loving and responsive even amidst life’s challenges, rather than projecting that bad things are happening because He is punishing them.
However, many of us generally experience God as loving and then suddenly feel like God is distant and unresponsive—and then feel shame for the “dryness” in our relationship with God. Since we know God does not change (James 1:17), the variability is actually within us. When we shift from one part of self to another, the God image associated with that part is activated.
Without understanding the dynamics of God image, many Christians succumb to every projection their internal world constructs of God. For one woman, she diligently worked hard in her relationship with God, treating it like homework that she had to “cram for” to earn a good grade. In interview, the woman divulged that she never realized, until asked questions prompting her to reflect, how “demanding” she experienced God. When brought to her awareness, she was able to identify the similarity to the dynamic with her military father, who was “always hard on me,” transferring his high expectations onto God. As she had with her father, she was working to earn God’s love by trying to please Him.
How many Christians are unconsciously reenacting dynamics with their parents in their relationship with The Lord?


In review, the difference between an individual’s God concept (their conscious theologically-based beliefs about God) and their God image (their unconscious projections of God based on their human experiences) has been well established (Moriarty & Hoffman, 2007). While God concept remains relatively stable, God image may shift depending on which part of self is activated because each part carries its own corresponding God image. Rather than conceptualizing God image as a static construct, it is beneficial to raise clients’ awareness of which part of them is activated and how their subjective experience of God may change accordingly. When there is a conflict between what they know to be true about God based on scripture and the way they feel about Him in the moment, the model described below to can help re-align their God image with their God concept.


The Restoring Self-Cohesion (RSC) model, developed through clinical practice, provides a framework for inviting regressed parts of self to come out of hiding and become mature members of the internal committee. As such, RSC also offers tools for repairing God image. By raising awareness of each part of self, we can examine the individual’s corresponding God images and facilitate authentic connection with God rather than re-enacting painful dynamics from their past. The counselor serves as a bridge, standing in the role of the offending party and providing a corrective experience by empathizing, validating and mirroring the client’s emotions (Kohut, 1977; Kohut, 1984; Siegel, 1996), and serving as a conduit of God’s love and compassion.
RSC is designed to be relationship-oriented rather than task-oriented. The genuine connection between client and counselor serves as a template for healing the relationships between parts of self and ultimately with God. Restoring self-cohesion is a multifaceted process that unfolds organically such that phases may overlap and/or occur in a different order than presented below. It may be necessary to return to a previous phase to process at a deeper level and/or repeat the process with another part of self.

Raising Awareness

Explore relationships with God and attachment figures using questions to bring underlying dynamics to conscious awareness:
• What roles are God and I in? (e.g., parent/child, teacher/student, judge/defendant)?
• What does my relationship with God feel like? (e.g., being sent to the principal’s office)
• How do dynamics of my relationship with God parallel those of past relationships?

When exploring the influence of past relationships on God image, keep in mind that even the absence of a relationship is a dynamic in itself. Also, be aware that an individual may have positive and negative experiences about the same person. Therefore, one attachment figure can produce more than one God image projection.

Renewing Cognitions

In order for regressed parts of self to have permission to sit at the table with the rest of the internal committee, dominant parts must agree to allow it. This occurs by bringing distorted cognitions and projections into conscious awareness, acknowledging that they do not accurately reflect reality, and embracing new truth. This process actually modifies the neural network (Leaf, 2007). In short, we can renew the mind through an act of the will.

• “I acknowledge and reject the false projection that God is like… [person from the past]” (i.e., 3rd grade teacher)
• “I reject that God will… [dynamic of the past relationship]” (i.e., criticize me)
• “I accept the truth that… [how God actually is, using Biblically-based truth to refute the lie]” (i.e., God is not condemning me but loves me unconditionally - Romans 8:1)

Repairing Relationship With Self

Regressed parts of self have usually been hidden and suppressed from conscious awareness, often rejected by other parts. Restoring cohesion requires repairing relationship between parts of self, a process that may include acknowledgement of regressed parts, forgiveness and releasing judgments, and reconciliation. For the believer, the process of learning to love the regressed part of self includes introducing that part to the One who is love Himself, thus continuing the process of progressive sanctification.

• “I acknowledge the part of me that [name regressed part]” (i.e. has held all my anger toward my sister)
• “I release judgment against [name judged part] and ask forgiveness for [offense done to or by that part]” (i.e., release judgment against angry part and ask that part of me to forgive me for suppressing it)
• “I choose to unconditionally love this part of me.”
• “God, I trust you to unconditionally love this part of me.”

Repairing Relationship With Others

As mental health professionals and pastors, we have the rare privilege of stepping into the sacred space of people’s deepest wounds and serving as a bridge between those who hurt them and the God who loves them. Healing happens as the client is able to experience and express emotions that were previously unsafe, in the presence of one who attunes and responds appropriately to their pain.
• Acknowledge defense mechanisms—making it safe to lower them. Intellectualization, denial, or other defenses may have been engaged and even successful at protecting the client to this point. Honoring those defenses and perhaps even thanking the protector part of self is often a first step for gaining access to the regressed parts of self they have been shielding from pain.
• Instill confidence that you can handle the full intensity of the client’s emotions, reiterating they do not need to stay in control or temper themselves for your sake or to earn your approval. Your role is not to judge but to love them unconditionally. Your facial expressions reveal the empathy, delight, and genuine care you feel for them when they are in the part of self they thought was too angry, ugly, rebellious, or hateful to be loved. As they experience you loving the “unlovable” parts of them, they come to believe that God can and will as well.
• When they are ready, guide the client as they use their imagination to re-enter the painful experience. Encourage them to step back in time, visualizing being in the moment and actually confronting the person who hurt them as if you are that person.
• Remain fully present with the client, maintaining empathic attunement and validating feelings without swooping in to try to fix or calm them. Jumping in prematurely can abort the grieving process, pulling them out of their heart and back into their intellect. If you inadvertently invalidate their pain, you risk activating and further entrenching defenses, which will be counterproductive. Allowing the client to process raw “ugly” emotions provides a corrective experience that challenges dynamics that distorted their God image in the first place (e.g., “Quit your crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about!”), giving them hope that like you are demonstrating, God, too, can handle the full intensity of their toughest emotions.
• When the client’s words and emotion begin to taper, respond by stepping into the role of the one who hurt them. Validate the legitimacy of their pain, anger, and sadness. Acknowledge the injustice of wrongs done to them. Speaking in first person and without making excuses, apologize for the damage that you, as the abuser/parent/teacher, have caused them. By proxy, you are offering what, many times, the actual person was not emotionally healthy enough or capable of offering.
• While still in the role of the offender, ask the client for forgiveness. It is appropriate to acknowledge that you are not asking them to forget or say that what happened was okay, nor are you asking for your own benefit. Rather, present it as an opportunity, if they are ready, to release what they have held against you (the offender by proxy) so that they no longer have to carry around the pain of that wound in their soul. Typically, by this point in the process, most clients are able to forgive.
• Once the tension with the offender is resolved, it is appropriate to step out of that role and back into the role of the counselor. Again serving as their guide, you can walk the client through visualizing some form of reconciliation (e.g., hugging the person they just forgave) or at least release (e.g., escorting them out of the internal world).
• Continue to remain present and tuned into the client, giving them time to assimilate their experience of what has just happened. They may need a few moments to simply be still and take a breath before being ready to debrief and discuss what the process was like for them.

Once the regressed part of self has been brought into conscious awareness and relationships with self and others have been repaired, that part should no longer remain stuck at the age at which it was frozen. As counseling continues, emphasis will shift toward helping that part mature into full healthy and adaptive functioning.


Just as painful experiences with others can damage parts of self and our relationship with God, positive experiences can restore parts of self, bringing them back into harmony with one another and with God. The RSC model provides a framework for doing this in the context of the counseling relationship, offering healing to one part after another. The greater the degree of self-cohesion, the more personality functioning in daily life resembles a symphony—all parts playing in concert with one another. Because each part of self carries its own God image, increased self-cohesion also results in a more stable God image—and one that is more congruent with the individual’s God concept, resolving dissonance between what one theologically believes about God and their emotional experience of Him. Relating to God as He is rather than based on projections from past relationships ultimately allows us to experience more vibrant connection with Him.


Hebb, D. (1949). The organization of behavior: A neuropsychological theory. New York: Wiley.

Kohut, H. (1984). How does analysis cure? Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Kohut, H. (1977). The restoration of self. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lawrence, R.T. (1997). Measuring the image of God: The God Image Inventory and the God Image Scales. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 25(2), 214-226

Leaf, C. (2009). Who switched off my brain. Thomas Nelson Inc.
Moriarty, Glen L., & Hoffman. L. (Eds.) (2008). The God image handbook for spiritual counseling and psychotherapy: research, theory and practice. Routledge: New York.
Pargament, K. (2013). Psychology, Religion and spirituality. American Psychological Association (APA).

Parker, S. (2008). "Winnicott’s object relations theory and the work of the Holy Spirit." Journal of Psychology and Theology, 36, 285-293.

Rizzuto, A.M., (1979) The birth of the living God. Chicago: University Press.

Siegel, A. (1996) Heinz Kohut and the psychology of the self (Makers of Modern Psychotherapy) Routledge: Taylor & Francis Ltd.
Spero M. H. (1992). Religious objects as psychological structures. a critical integration of object relations theory, psychotherapy, and Judaism. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Ulanov, A.(2001). Finding space: Winnicott, God, and psychic reality. Philadelphia: Westminister/John Knox.

Winnicott, D. W. (1971) Playing and reality. New York: Basic Books. C. Winnicott, R. Shepherd, & M. Davis (Eds.). Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publications.

Winnicott, D.W. (1966) The maturational process and the facilitating environment. New York: International University Press.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

4 Ways to Cope With Relationship Anxiety

Wednesday, December 21, 2022 @ 9:41 PM

What is Relationship Anxiety?

Relationship anxiety is when you have anxiety or worry within your relationships. It is normal to have uneasiness within the relationship as it develops and grows. However, this becomes concerning once it hinders growth within the healthy development of the relationship. Feeling insecure within the relationship can impact your perception of what is happening within the relationship as well as impact stress for both parties.

You may ask if things will last or if you are with the right person. You may wonder if they are seeing someone else or have a secret that could harm the relationship. Experiencing relationship anxiety doesn’t mean that you are in a bad relationship. It’s the fear and worry of not wanting the relationship to take a bad turn that is often a trigger for the anxiety.

Examples of this could be that you won’t bring up a potential problem because you don’t want to upset the vibe within the relationship. Ignoring things that your partner does to upset you for fear that it may cause a fight and cause a potential break up. It can make you wonder if you and your partner are meant to be for the long term. It can cause you to look at the small differences and make them bigger than they are.

What Causes Relationship Anxiety?

There can be many different causes for relationship anxiety. The most common ones are emotional neglect, lack of motivation, attachment difficulties, and general anxiety. Emotional neglect can stem from having low self-esteem or experiencing trauma from the past. Attachment difficulties can occur if there was difficulty bonding with a parent or caregiver at a young age. General anxiety can stem from being worried about the direction of where the relationship is going.

Relationship anxiety can also stem from poor relationship experiences that you have had in the past. Perhaps your trust was broken when the person broke up with you unexpectedly, wasn’t authentic when he or she shared their feelings for you, or lied about their feelings for you. It is not uncommon to have difficulty trusting your current person even if there are no signs of dishonesty or manipulation.

Low self-esteem can contribute to insecurity and anxiety. Research has shown that people with low self-esteem are more likely to question their partner’s feelings than those with high self-esteem. People with high self-esteem are more likely to be in relationships that affirm them.

Attachment styles can also be a factor in relationship anxiety. If you had the experience of a parent or caregiver consistently meeting your needs while providing you with love and support, then you probably have a secure attachment style. Insecure attachment styles can be causes for relationship anxiety if you tend to avoid issues or are constantly worried about your partner abandoning you, either physically or emotionally.

How to Cope

The beginning of seeing change is in the recognition that it exists. Here are some coping strategies:

1. Recognize what is the cause of the anxiety.

2. Communicate. Potential problems and concerns can’t be addressed if there isn’t a discussion.

3. Pay attention to how your body is responding. Deep breathing techniques can slow down rapid heart rates and calm chest tightness. Prayer can bring you greater peace. Stretching can release areas of the body where there is tension due to fight or flight syndrome.

4. Having counseling sessions to uncover the deeper issues around the anxiety as well as practicing stress management techniques can be effective tools to use and see results within those relationships where there are feelings of anxiety.

You can get help today. Call 443-860-6870 or use the calendar to schedule an appointment.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

10 Foods That Can Contribute to Depression

Tuesday, December 13, 2022 @ 7:21 PM

When speaking with clients, we also speak and discuss diet as part of their healing journey. Part of self-care is paying attention to our diet and implementing balance within our meals. A 2017 study found that the symptoms of people with moderate to severe depression improved when they changed their diet. The new diet consisted of fresh and whole foods that were high in nutrients. It also consisted of eating less processed foods, sugary, and fried foods While changing diet does not alleviate depression completely, positive results can be seen when it is combined with therapy.

What Should I Avoid?

1.Fruit Juice

The fiber from eating whole fruits can fill you up and slow down how you take in energy. However, without fiber, you’re drinking nutritious sugar and water. It will give you a moment of energy and a quick crash.

2. White bread

The processed flour from white bread can quickly turn to sugar.

3. Prepackaged dressing

Most prepackaged dressings are loaded with sugar. When looking at the ingredients at the grocery store, it is often listed as “high -fructose corn syrup.” Dressings that are listed as “light” or “sugar-free” may be sweetened by aspartame. This is an artificial sweetener which has a negative link to anxiety or depression.

4. Fast food

Studies show that there is a link between fast food, depression, and levels of inflammation within the body. Those who select the higher fat choices have a 40% higher risk of developing depression.

5. Alcohol

The consumption of alcohol encourages a release of serotonin within the body. However, for those who are depressed, it can have a negative effect on the body. The affect of alcohol can stimulate different pathways in the brain which could alter mood. In addition, if you are taking antidepression medication, the combination of alcohol could make the medication less effective.


High salt consumption can increase inflammation within the body. It can also affect how food is digested within the gut and the travel of blood flow in the brain. These factors can be contributors to depression and impair cognitive function.

7. Refined sugar

Studies show a potential association between sugar consumption and depression. Sugar increases inflammation and encourages hormone imbalance. Inflammation and hormone imbalance are linked to mood. Sugar can also have a potential impact on the growth and development of brain cells and proteins. This can have an influence on neurotransmitters within the brain.

8.Artificial sweeteners

Many artificial sweeteners have an ingredient of aspartame. This ingredient, when there is high consumption, can affect depression and irritable mood. Research suggests that aspartame impacts the balance of chemicals within the brain (such as serotonin and dopamine) and increases levels to cortisol, the “stress hormone.”

9.Energy drinks

Many energy drinks have a combination of caffeine and sugar, which can affect depression and anxiety.

10.Processed meat

Studies show a significant tie to the consumption of processed meat and depressive symptoms. This is due to trans and saturated fat content which encourages higher inflammation within the body. Inflammation is a tie to depressive mood.

What Foods Are Healthy?

Increasing fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, lean proteins, some seafood, organ meats such as liver, and yogurt are foods that can be added to the diet and offset the symptoms of depression and anxiety. When adding an improved diet consistently to your everyday life, you can see a decrease in depressive symptoms.

You Can Get Help Today

Having a balanced diet can assist in depression treatment. To learn more, call 443-860-6870 or make an appointment today.

Elisha's Space New Episode: Fatherwound

Tuesday, December 13, 2022 @ 7:16 PM

The father wound refers to having an absent father, whether it be physically or emotionally absent, or he may be abusive mentally, verbally, or physically and how it impacts you and your relationships. We have this conversation with Giji Mischel Dennard who has shared the message of Hungry for Wholeness as the opening keynote speaker for two Father-Shift Conferences, a visiting speaker at churches and Job Corps, and as a guest on several podcast and radio broadcasts. Giji also developed a workshop with the same title where she helps wounded sons, daughters, and fathers begin the healing process through three foundational steps—recognize, repent and release, and receive.

Giji shares her story of how she received healing from her father wound and how it has transformed her life. Join us for this very important discussion.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Coping with grief during the holidays

Wednesday, December 7, 2022 @ 10:15 AM

Hope Reins

Coping with grief during the holidays is often difficult as you are not likely to feel merry or bright while everyone else is. To misquote Forrest Gump, Christmas can “be like a box of chocolates – you never know what you are going to get”. You may get a peppermint mocha kind of Christmas but more likely if you are experiencing grief your Christmas will feel more like an empty box of chocolates– a sad and empty reminder of what was.

Holiday festivities can be an important way to maintain a sense of fun, tradition and family connections though you might feel depressed as the holidays approach. Instead of your usual energy and excitement, you may feel exhaustion and dread. If it is your first holiday without your loved one, you may even feel fear and despair. You may fantasize of skipping the holidays all together. Navigating the expectations of other family members can also be overwhelming. Some members of the family may want everything to be just the same while others may want to change everything up.

What is important though is to identify your needs and then communicate those needs to your loved ones. Most of us know that this is easier said than done – you may not even know what your needs are as grief clouds everything and makes it hard to think. You may be too sad and overwhelmed to identify your needs. That is ok too.

While past holidays may represent fun there is always stress around the holidays. Grief creates little margin for dealing with stress. If you are the one that holds the family get-togethers, ask someone else to do it. Or if someone offers to hold the holiday, take them up on it. Take the burden off your shoulders. Instead let yourself be served.

Or do something entirely different. If you usually stay at home for a cozy “White Christmas” consider going somewhere warm to celebrate. Or visa versa. Think about creating new traditions that will honor your needs or just a temporary “ritual” that will help you cope.

If the grief you feel has to do with separation or estrangement from family, then this is a great way to start fresh. The ways to cope are as different as there are types of people and it is all ok. You may get some kickback to doing the holidays differently but with some vulnerable conversation with your loved ones, hopefully you can come up with a compromise.

How to honor a loved one who has passed away:

Develop rituals of grief. Give yourself special times and ways to honor and remember your loved ones. We as a society used to have prescribed rituals for grieving. Some of these rules may have been too rigid but they often gave loved ones and community members a way to respect those who are grieving and a way to remember that lost loved one. Wearing an armband or the color black would alert the community to recognize and care for those who are grieving. We don’t have those rules and rituals anymore. We are often afraid to face death and the deep feelings of loss but it is vital to give yourself time to grieve. And to give yourself ways to grieve.

Consider an empty chair and honor your loved one with a spot at the table. Share happy stories and lessons learned from them. Follow up with traditions that were special to your loved one. Write letters to them, listen to their favorite music, or make their favorite holiday dish.

If all of this leaves you unable to function, then don’t do it. In the future you will be able to do this. There is no timetable or perfect way to honor your loved one. This ways you honor your loved one can be very private or public.

When you are learning how to cope with grief it is important to be compassionate and patient with yourself. Be careful of your expectations for yourself. As a matter of fact, practice lowering your expectations. Be aware of your need to take breaks to grieve or just to do “nothing”. You do not need to be productive during this time. Grief often comes in waves. Some waves you can predict–like on memorable dates but other waves can hit you out of nowhere, even when you are feeling good. Some say that they find the lead up to the holiday or anniversary is often worse than the day itself. But others are crushed on those days. Have compassion for yourself if you cannot handle things. But also don’t feel guilty if you are able to have times of joy and fun. This does not mean you don’t love them or have forgotten them. It just means you are developing a new journey of joy and grief.

Remember to try to keep up routines of eating well and moving your body. Even if it is hard it will help your body process grief. And this may help you feel a bit better too.

You may be judged by family members or friends for your decisions. That can be so rough especially as they may be grieving too. Remember everyone grieves differently. There is no “right way”. Be compassionate as you navigate the new landscape without your loved one. It is all new. It is all different and while you will never stop missing your loved one, you will learn how to navigate this new landscape. While grief never goes away, the waves will not consume you even when it feels like they may.
As a person of faith, remember that God “draws near to the brokenhearted”. He promises that “He will be with you and will not forsake you”. You are not alone. After all, Jesus was “a man of sorrows and well acquainted with grief”. He is there for you no matter what. While that doesn't take away the grief or bring your loved one back, I hope you can feel His comfort when you feel so alone. Finding a counselor who understands your faith can help you sort through the anger and disappointment you are likely to feel. We specialize in Christian Counseling and can come alongside you as you grieve and struggle with unanswered prayers or questions. You can set up an appointment here.

When does grief become depression?

If you are still overwhelmed, increasingly depressed and unable to function it is important to seek help. If you were depressed before your loved ones death you are at higher risk for complicated grief and depression. The symptoms of grief and depression are pretty much the same so it is hard to tell without knowing what is “your” normal. But here are signs that you may need professional help:

You cannot go to work or get out of bed

You are not caring for yourself or children well

You are drinking or using drugs to cope

You are isolating from friends and family

You are having suicidal thoughts

You feel stuck and unable to move on after a prolonged grieving period

Your loved ones are worried about you

Finding a grief counselor:

Searching for a grief counselor near you is certainly easier with the advent of the internet. You can search online by typing into your search bar “Grief counselor near me” or type in your zip code instead of “near me”. Make sure the counselors you find understand grief and loss and are licensed to provide counseling in the state you reside. Many counselors are full so make sure to ask if they are taking new clients. See if the counselor offers a free consult so you can get a sense of their expertise in grief as well as if you feel a connection with them. Sometimes it takes a bit of time to find someone that you connect with so don’t give up.

If you have insurance, you can check to see if the grief counselor or agency is “in network” with your insurance. If they are out of network and you really like them call your insurance company to see what your “out of network” benefits are. Your company or insurance may also provide a number of free employee assistance counseling sessions.

If you are in Illinois or Florida, we at Hope Reins provide grief counseling. We provide online counseling, art therapy for grief (scroll down to read the bio of Felicia-Marie Nicosia, LCPC), Christian Counseling even equine assisted therapy for grief and after all horses make great listeners and they rarely give bad advice! ;) .

To find a grief counselor in Illinois or Florida you can call 847-612-4309 or fill out the contact form. If you would like to find out more about equine therapy in Hampshire, IL. You can read a bit about our counselors here.
Learn More Her

Resources for Grief:
You may feel guilty reaching out to friends and asking for help but most good friends will want to help. Sometimes they are not equipped to handle some of the more complicated feelings about grief and loss and that is when online or in-person grief support groups can help. There are many free resources. Start with a general search for Grief Support Groups and Grief Resources. If you would like in person then check for grief counseling near me or put in your zip code. Many local churches, hospitals and community centers have free support groups.

Research shows that those who feel supported fare better. In a 2019 study posted here the authors found that “perceived social support was significantly associated with decreased grief difficulties, depressive symptoms, and suicidality, as well as with increased personal growth”.

Sunday, December 4, 2022

How Nature Can Help Heal Trauma

Sunday, December 4, 2022 @ 9:24 PM

Those who get counseling support and are in the process of dealing with trauma realize that it is a process. It is quite often a marathon, not a sprint. Traumatic events can affect emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.

What Is Trauma?

Trauma can affect every area of your life including your spirit, soul, and body. Trauma is your response to a terrible event. A car accident, surviving a hurricane, sexual assault, domestic violence, or surviving abuse are examples of trauma. Shock and denial are common for those who have experienced trauma. When you feel mentally hurt by something, that is trauma. Trauma responses can be an unexpected outburst of emotion, withdrawal from others, estranged relationships, flashbacks, repressed memories, migraines, stomach aches, or nausea. Trauma response recovery can vary from days to years. It depends on the severity of the trauma.

Many who experience trauma feel unsafe, are in a state of consistent fear and feel a sense of helplessness. With counseling support, survivors of trauma can feel safe again and have a more transformed experience as they go through their healing journey.

How Does Nature Help?

Connection with nature can help with bringing a greater sense of peace and regaining focus when recovering from a traumatic event. Nature is not a stand-alone treatment for those in the process of overcoming trauma. However, studies show that there are benefits within nature that can assist those who have experienced trauma.

Studies also show that nature can alleviate ailments within the body that people who have suffered from trauma have endured. Trauma makes one have a heightened fight or flight response. Cortisol, which is known to be a stress chemical, is known to be an agent of increased weight or a reason for people who have cardiovascular issues which are common for survivors of trauma. Being outdoors can lower stress and decrease the stress chemical cortisol.

Grounding is a technique that can help survivors of trauma. The act of grounding is having a physical connection with the earth. Research shows that the electronically conductive conduct of the human body with a direct connection to the earth produces positive effects on a person’s health. Grounding can reduce inflammation, can improve autoimmune diseases, reduce sleep, improve sleeping patterns, and regulate cortisol levels. The practice of grounding can be as simple as walking barefoot outside or taking a swim.

Horticulture therapy is the simple act of planting. It is the intentional act of planting vegetation for the purpose of healing and restoration. Anyone can do this as plants respond to anyone who treats them well.

Animal-assisted therapy is also a way to experience healing when surviving a trauma. Animals can bring nurturing emotions in people to help them break down walls that have been put up as a trauma response. Trained animals can also sense when a person is having a difficult time and can get close to the survivor to help him or her process their emotions in a nurturing way.

Exercising outdoors is another way to connect with nature. It can improve movement and concentration as well as lower stress. Living through trauma affects the whole body. Our bodies hold on to trauma as if to prepare in case it happens again. Exercise can be an outlet to release the trauma that your body has experienced.

You Can Get Help Today

You don’t have to go through and experience your pain without help or support. Speaking with a counselor can help you with combining and implement nature within your trauma-focused counseling sessions. Call 443-860-6870 or make an appointment today.