Deb Owens Counseling | Blog
Stress Bully in Your Brain?
Is it time to tell the negative committee in your head to sit down and shut up?

Our 24/7 world can be stressful causing otherwise successful people to feel like their thoughts have been hijacked by the worry bully in their brain.

Stress can show up in physical symptoms; change in appetite, racing heart, muscle tension, panic attacks, irritability, or difficulty breathing. Anxiety can interfere with your sleep, your relationships, and your career since focus, motivation, productivity, decisions, and concentration are affected too.

Check out this 10 min. video (click full screen mode icon on right once open) and find out about what works best to manage stress.


Put your mind under new mangement.
Counseling Stages of Change Model
As a Philadelphia area counselor, I'd like to share with you the concepts and suggestions related to The Stages of Change Model. This is recognized as a well-researched theory of change developed by James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente from the University of Rhode Island. According to this theory, there are six stages of change encompassing different points of readiness for taking steps toward addressing the problem. What stage of counseling change readiness are you in now? What you can do to increase your chances of success?

1) Pre-contemplation, the first stage of change readiness, is when you may have no desire or intention to change, at least not now. In fact, you may not believe you have a problem or if you do think there is a problem, perhaps you see it a result of other people’s actions. For example, ‘I could stop smoking if my boss wasn’t so difficult”.

2. Contemplation, the second stage, when you might begin to think about the need to change. Lack of action and procrastination are common during this stage as you may debate in your own head as to whether or not the problem is serious enough to do something about it. “I’m not that bad”.

3. Preparation is the third stage of change occurs when you may be starting to plan on taking action some time soon. You may be reviewing options. Perhaps you are looking for a therapist or conducting internet searches about the issues while exploring what resources are available to help you.

4. Action is the fourth stage. You‘ve made the decision to change and have begun to do something about the problem. You may be attending counseling or a support group and are learning new tools and strategies to manage or regulate your behavior.

5. Maintenance phase represents the period where you’ve been working an action plan and are effectively dealing with challenges, setbacks, and continuing forward progress while staying away from the initial behavior.

Next blog, learn tips that work in each stage as you move toward an upward rather than downward spiral.

Deb Owens is a Licensed Counselor and Certified Addiction Counselor Chestnut Hill and Lower Gwynedd, PA

Winter Mood or Depression
Mid Life Issues
Midlife represents a normal stage of life with some predictable and not so predictable experiences. The term crisis conjures up images of men and women in their 40s and 50s trying to recapture their youth often by acting out in ways that reinforce stereotypes. However, most people manage this process without
disrupting what really matters to them.

This can be a time of joy, searching, and rediscovery as we begin to contemplate and jump into the next chapter of our lives. If you have children, those relationships are changing and if your parents are still alive they may need you to take on a different role than what you’ve had over the last few decades especially if you are a caretaker. Career challenges may also come into play.

There can be relationship turmoil, depression, or anxiety yet this transitional period may also mark a period of tremendous growth. It can be a time of renewed energy, commitments, and contentment if you put a little energy into processing these challenges so you can successfully navigate through midlife as a couple
or as an individual.

Deb Owens is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Therapist in Spring House, Montgomery County and Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, PA. She provides couples and individual therapy for adults. Specialties include anxiety, grief, stress, relationships, depression, and those effected by a love one's problems with alcohol, drugs, or other addictions.
Relationships Vs Cell Phones
Staying Connected in a Connected yet Disconnected World

As a Therapist in Chestnut Hill and Lower Gwynedd, PA , I see so many couples, individuals, and families who are struggling with a sense of disconnection. At a time when our cell phones allow us to be tethered to the workplace and the larger world many of us are discovering how challenging it can be to focus on the people in the room with us. Paying attention and being present with loved ones has become increasingly difficult.

My counseling clients report hiding in rest rooms to check their Face Book newsfeeds, work email, online groups, or to text in the same way an alcoholic might cover up their drinking. We recognize it’s wrong to do so, which is why we are hiding it, yet the compulsion to “check” is so strong that we allow it to interfere with our real lives in ways that weren’t possible a few short years ago.

In conducting couples counseling, I see partners and spouses feeling the tension when they believe loved ones are prioritizing interactions with their online world vs. the relationships in the here and now. As Digital Natives, children are being raised with this technology yet have a unique ability to discern when adults are not paying attention to them especially when they notice parents and care givers being distracted by these devices. What can we do to maintain a healthier work-life-family balance and be more effective in our roles as spouses, partners, and parents? We all enjoy the technology and understand that it can pave a way for us to connect with others too. I believe that we need to establish rituals for “turning off” the laptops, pads, and smart phones. Keeping it on your person is futile.

As a family therapist, I recommend you unplug by employing a “transition ritual”. An example is while walking in the door you place your phone in a bowl or basket for a set period of time, perhaps two hrs or even until the next morning. Or while watching your child’s game you commit to locking the phone in your glove compartment so you can really “be there”. Don’t be surprised if it’s more difficult than you expect it to be to accomplish this simple change. Leave room for the surprise and wonder and contentment with being “in relationships”. Try it for a week. Engage. Notice what happens.
Acoa, Adult Children of Alcoholics
ACOAs, or Adults who grew up in a household where one or both parents had any type of addiction may find themselves struggling with relationships in their personal lives or at work. Many ACOAs (adult children of alcoholics or addicts) want to believe that they’ve somehow escaped the clutches of the illness once they emerge into adulthood and are able to create their own families or network of friends. Yet they can find that what drew them into compensatory roles while children may trap them once again through unhealthy interactions in the adult world.

Some ACOAs are high achievers and can become overly responsible in various areas of functioning. ACOAs may operate like magnets attracting people who need help, support, or rescuing often to the point where their own needs remain unfulfilled.

By learning to use the tools of recovery, through counseling and support from self help programs like Al-Anon, hope can be restored and a sense of calm and positive expectation can flourish and grow.

Deborah Owens is a Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, PA based Licensed Professional Counselor who is also a Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor and has designed and lead the family component at several quality addiction treatment programs like Rehab After Work and Caron in Philadelphia.

Relationships and Chores (The Chore Wars)
Do you agree that when it comes to our relationships the gender differences within our brains play a role? I do. Yes, I said it. Sure, I know these are gender stereotypes but guess what, they are often valid observations. One member of a couple, often a female, gets irritated that her spouse or partner leaves dishes in the sink, socks on the rug, toys laying around, you name it. Frequently, the interpretation is that “he” just doesn’t care. Based on over two decades conducting marriage and couples counseling and my own long term marriage, I’d like to challenge that assumption.

One member of a couple has their radar up so they notice chores left undone. Their brain interprets this behavior as if the other is saying “I don’t care” or more specifically “I don’t care about YOU”. Yet the evidence suggests it is not that simple. What if “he” didn’t see the mess or it did not register? How can that be?
One half of a couple, often the female, feel stressed seeing these tasks left undone and can’t feel relaxed until everything is in some type of order. Meanwhile, “he” doesn’t see it that way. For him unwinding is associated with a completely unrelated activity which seems far more appealing than dirty dishes that can be dealt with “tomorrow”. What he sees as “out of order” is the “nagging” and that gets interpreted as “you are incompetent”. For most people being a target of our loved one's fury does not translate into a desire or urgency to do more but into a sense of futility resulting in withdrawl.

This leads to at best a “disconnect” and at worst a level of petulance that erupts into full blown tension. Understand that the “fight” is usually not over the “mess” but over the interpretation of its meaning on a deeper level related to the core sense of trust and commitment in the relationship.
Next time, try acknowledging the differences in how you each view the “duties” of maintaining a household and engage in a dialogue about solutions. Try doing so with compassion and a little humor.
Deborah Owens, is a Chestnut Hill based Licensed Professional Counselor “helping people live and love well”.