How to Handle Holiday Stress

Tis the season here in Chicago where everyone starts gearing up for holiday time. Whether we like it or not, it is now the time for parties, presents and loads of family time. This could be fun, and this could also be stressful. There is the pressure of buying gifts, the business around juggling your social calendar, and of course, the unique challenges of being with your family. Sadly, all of these things can bring out the worst in anyone, even those who try to have the most grace under pressure. The famous psychologist and meditation teacher, Ram Dass, once said, “If you think you are enlightened, spend a week with your family.”

Here are some tips:

1. Plan ahead. Plan your travel, plan your budget, and plan your time. If you leave everything to the last minute with the hope that things will fall into place naturally, you’ll likely be in for a rude awakening. Leaving things until the last minute will usually end up with no plans or crappy plans.

2. Communicate with your family members and friends. Particularly if you worry about details, such as where you are going and who is buying what, do yourself a favor and talk about it openly. You don’t have to leave things to a guessing game. Lastly, it is OK for you to say “no” to events or certain expectations.

3. Give yourself (and others) a break– things won’t go perfectly. Despite your best efforts, you may not remember a gift for everyone nor can you attend every party. Someone may get a cold or flu. One of the kids, or possibly your spouse, may be in a bad mood one day. Regardless of what life throws at you, let it go and try to enjoy yourself. As a wedding planner once said, “It doesn’t have to be perfect for it to be wonderful.”

4. What’s important to you?– the holiday season doesn’t last forever, so how can you make the best use of your time. Do you really want to spend days staring at your phone, scrolling through social media posts? Probably not! Take advantage of your vacation and do what sustains you and what you’ll remember fondly in the years to come.

5. Make a plan for January– Although the holiday season may come with stress, you might find yourself feeling defaulted when all the parties are over. Makes arrangements to have something to look forward to in the weeks following your festivities.

If all of these strategies fail, do not worry- your therapist will be waiting to hear about it during your next session. Have a happy holiday everyone!

Workplace Sexual Harassment

Although we’ve seen a recent interest in and increase of media coverage of sexual harassment and assault, all forms of sexual violence, including workplace sexual harassment, are a widespread societal problem. Some studies show that 40-70% of women and 10-20% of men will experience workplace sexual harassment at some point in their careers.

Lewd, offensive remarks, inappropriate behavior, or unwelcome advances in the workplace can make victims feel ashamed, scared, or unable to complete their jobs to the best of their abilities. Victims may feel powerless because of fear of losing their livelihood. Sadly, our culture does not always believe the survivors’ stories. Victims may feel ashamed or isolated. They may even remain silent for fear of retribution.

If you have been the victim of workplace sexual harassment, you may not know what to do. Maybe you’re feeling scared, intimidated, and uncertain about your next steps. You may be unsure about whether you’re going to make the harassment official and file a complaint or press charges. No matter what you intend to do, sharing your story with a trusted confidant can prove cathartic.  Additional information about harassment and your legal rights is also available at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (, as well as the US Department of Labor (  If you feel you would like to talk to a professional, Psychotherapy Associates of Chicago therapists will provide nonjudgmental support, advice, and understanding. You don’t have to feel alone.

What Is Postpartum Depression?

There’s no question that having a baby is a life-changing experience. While the expectation may be that you should be joyfully and effortlessly bonding with your baby—while freshly showered and groomed, of course—you may actually be feeling a mix of complex emotions. You’ll experience the intense highs of joy, love, and human connection, but may also feel sad or moody and grieve your previous life. These feelings are all normal. Many postpartum women experience hormonal swings; combined with sleep deprivation, post-childbirth pain or discomfort, and a major life change, these feelings can induce the short-term anxiety, sadness, and irritability called “baby blues.”

When the baby blues don’t go away after a week or two or seem to be getting worse, you may be experiencing postpartum depression (PPD), a mood disorder characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Uncontrollable crying;
  • Persistent sadness, depression, and feelings of emptiness;
  • Severe mood swings;
  • Extreme anxiety or panic attacks;
  • Sleep disorder (insomnia or sleeping too much);
  • Fear that you’re a terrible mother; and
  • Trouble bonding with your baby.

You are not alone: the American Psychological Association says that 1 in 7 women may suffer from PPD. Unlike the baby blues, PPD doesn’t go away on its own, so it’s imperative that you seek help, especially if you’re thinking of doing harm to yourself or others. You don’t have to suffer. Discuss your symptoms with your doctor. Talk to your partner or trusted friends.

PPD makes it difficult for you to take care of yourself and your baby, but there are solutions. Feel free to contact Psychotherapy Associates of Chicago and one of our therapists will gladly help you get on the road to feeling better.

When you are ready, call 773-414-4577 or click here to book an appointment online.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

One type of therapy we use is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT. CBT is the process of working through unhealthy patterns and replacing them with new behaviors and thoughts. For example, one exercise would involve changing negative self-talk, like replacing “I can never do anything right” with “I make mistakes like everyone else.” Another exercise might involve simply telling oneself “Stop” when engaging in negative thoughts, then repeating more nurturing or helpful phrases to replace the original defeating talk. CBT has been demonstrated to have great effectiveness in helping reduce depression and anxiety. Clinicians in our practice have found that it can be particularly helpful with clients who prefer an organized, linear approach to dealing with emotions.

We have a number of CBT trained therapists on staff. If you’d like to learn more, please contact Psychotherapy Associates of Chicago and we can help.

When you are ready, call 773-414-4577 or click here to book an appointment online.

How Can I Stop My Mind from Racing?

A racing mind is very frustrating and can make you feel out of control. Many people report their minds fill with endless thoughts about things that could go wrong or stupid things they have done in the past. Racing thoughts can be like watching a horrible movie playing over and over again.

Frequently, a racing mind can be a sign of underlying anxiety. Additional symptoms can include:

  • Persistent worry that is disproportionate to the actual threat
  • Difficultly sitting still
  • Increased heart rate
  • Trouble sleeping
  • A general feeling of being out of control

If any of these sound familiar, you are not alone. Here are some tips:

  • Talk about your worries with a supportive friend
  • Engage in physical activity, such as exercise or even a slow walk around your neighborhood
  • Practice controlled breathing; inhaling for a count of 4, hold for 7, and breath out for 8
  • Immerse yourself in a healthy distraction
  • Meditate: which can help create a sense of distance from you and your worried thoughts

If you try these things and continue to struggle with racing thoughts, it may be good to speak to a professional, either a primary care physician, psychiatrist, or therapist. Feel free to contact Psychotherapy Associates of Chicago and one of our therapists will gladly help you get on the road to feeling better.

When you are ready, call 773-414-4577 or click here to book an appointment online.

Can My Relationship Survive Infidelity?

If your partner has cheated on you, you’re probably feeling betrayed, hurt, and confused. You may not know what to do, what steps to take to work to save your marriage, or even if your marriage is worth saving. Prior to experiencing infidelity, most people insist, “If I were cheated on, I would never go back to my partner!”  In our experience working with couples, however, the majority of clients cannot hold to that firm, hard line.  Deciding to leave a marriage is an enormous decision, even in the face of betrayal.

Fortunately, there are numerous, successful ways of dealing with infidelity –whether you ultimately stay together or not. There is no one-size-fits all solution, either. The important thing is for you to engage in self-care, which in many cases means therapy. Therapy can help you sort through your feelings and explore what it is you really want in a safe, supportive environment. We’ll help you work on your feelings of loss, abandonment, and betrayal.

If you do want to work on your relationship, couples therapy is crucial. Frequently there needs to be work on re-establishing trust and working through the hurt feelings.  As the couple feels more secure again, additional attention can be spent looking at the state of your partnership and creating a plan for moving forward. Couples therapists are trained to ask you questions about what you both want so that you can synergize your needs and create the relationship you want.

Relationships can continue happily after infidelity; sometimes couples even report that their relationships after infidelity are stronger, healthier, and more resilient. There’s a lot of hard work to do after infidelity, but it is possible to achieve forgiveness and move forward.

If you’re blindsided by infidelity in your relationship, please give us a call. Whether you choose to explore therapy alone, with your partner, or both, we can help you and we won’t judge.

When you are ready, call 773-414-4577 or click here to book an appointment online.

Could I Be Suffering from PTSD?

Some people who experience a traumatic event, such as abuse, a natural disaster, assault, or war, may suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). People who have PTSD can feel acute fear, shock, and stress even when not in any danger. Although most people who have experienced a traumatic situation will feel scared or shocked, but people who suffer from PTSD experience the following for at least one month:

  • Flashbacks, bad dreams, and scary thoughts;
  • Avoidance of people, places, and thoughts that may trigger memories of the traumatic event;
  • Being easily rattled, ongoing tension, fear, irritability, anger, and sleep disturbances; and
  • Memory issues around the event, negative thoughts about oneself, unresolvable guilt, or loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.

The good news is that therapy can be very effective when it comes to treating PTSD. A therapist with experience working with trauma can help you process your difficult memories, manage the fear that you may associate with them, and eventually find a way of understanding the trauma in a way that helps you effectively move forward in life. Psychotherapy Associate of Chicago has several clinicians with extensive experience with trauma on staff.

One effective treatment of PTSD, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), can help you process your trauma and overcome the immediate symptoms of distress. EMDR is practiced by PAC Co-Founder Michael Vernon, LCSW, who has had much success working with clients who have experience painful memories, whether or not they have PTSD.

When you are ready, call 773-414-4577 or click here to book an appointment online.

How Do I Know Therapy is Working?

Because psychotherapy is as individual and nuanced as you are, relief might not be instantaneous. As in learning any new skill, there may be periods of slow progress or steps forward followed by steps back. It can take weeks, months, or years to overcome a breakup, job loss, drug/alcohol dependence, or barriers to emotional intimacy, for example. That said, there are a few clues to knowing if you’re on the right track:

  • Do I Feel a Warmth and Connection with my Therapist? While touchy-feely isn’t for everyone, you should feel comfortable with your therapist, even as s/he asks tough questions or refuses to let you get away from facing difficult truths. You should trust him or her.
  • Does My Therapist ‘Get’ Me? You should feel as though you can relate to your therapist, that s/he is demonstrating signs of understanding where you’re coming from. Is your potential treatment plan largely consistent with your goals? Can you agree on where you’re headed?
  • Is My Therapist Asking the Right Questions? Therapy is not always going to be easy, fun work. There are inevitable uncomfortable issues you’ll need to face, like reliance on drugs or alcohol, painful family dynamics, and unhealthy relationship choices. Is the therapist going down the right path, even if it’s difficult? Do you exit your sessions feeling “right,” even if you’re slightly unsettled because you’re dealing with unpleasant topics?
  • Do You See Incremental Change? Even if you’re still completely healed (and really, who is?), do you see the light at the end of the tunnel? Do you feel as though you’re making progress? Are you smiling more? Reaching out to friends?

If you have concerns about any of the points above, it is important for you to bring them up to the therapist. After discussion with your therapist, if you feel that your needs are not being met or the match simply doesn’t fit, you should likely end therapy and seek a new provider.

Psychotherapy Associate of Chicago has numerous clinicians on staff to help. You’re welcome to reach out to us anytime.

When you are ready, call 773-414-4577 or click here to book an appointment online.

What is Individual Psychotherapy?

Individual psychotherapy is the one-on-one work between a therapist and a client. There are many different styles of therapy, but all of them center around helping the client reach his or her goals. This is a unique relationship, in that it is strictly confidential and provides you an opportunity to be completely honest with yourself and another person. It is almost inevitable for a new client to fear judgment or rejection, particularly when you are being so open, but it’s not the role of the therapist to criticize or lecture you. Therapists are there to support you and help you reach your goals. Individual therapy has been shown to improve mood and self-esteem. In fact, studies show that talk therapy, the process of developing a relationship with a licensed mental health professional to work through emotions, thoughts, disappointments, and experiences can be even more effective than medication in treating depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

It is crucial that you feel comfort and a connection with your individual therapist. In fact, a good alliance with your therapist is the greatest determining factor in whether therapy will be helpful. If you have questions or concerns during your appointments, you are strongly encouraged to share them openly. If you find that you don’t feel comfortable with a particular therapist after sharing your concerns, you should feel empowered to stop your sessions and seek someone who may be a better fit.

If you are interested in learning more, you are welcome to contact us at Psychotherapy Associates of Chicago. Individual therapy is our primary focus and we are happy to get you started.

When you are ready, call 773-414-4577 or click here to book an appointment online.

What is psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is the process of working with a trained, licensed mental health professional to help you assess, enrich, and improve your life. The therapist and client explore life’s stressors, problems, and challenges. There are many styles of therapy (or counseling), but all of them work to create an open, trusting relationship to help the patient meet his/her personal goals.  In addition to simply talking about feelings and what is happening in a patient’s life, psychotherapy can also be task-centered and involve doing “exercises” outside of the session that enable the client to practice introducing new, healthier behaviors into established patterns and existing relationships. Designed to build on one’s strengths and enhance self-esteem, therapy provides proven benefits, including:

  • Overcoming depression and anxiety;
  • Working through loss and mourning, including breakups and job loss;
  • Building solid, healthy, and meaningful relationships;
  • Gaining confidence; and
  • Getting out of a life “rut.”

The best way to find out about therapy, of course, is to simply make an appointment. If you’re interested in learning more, you are welcome to contact us at Psychotherapy Associates of Chicago. We’re happy to help arrange your first session.

When you are ready, call 773-414-4577 or click here to book an appointment online.