LifeTip: The Continuum of Stress & Trauma


Image © Natalia Amari

Sometimes the idea that a particular life event is a trauma can feel scary and overwhelming. The experience of labeling a specific event as traumatic or not is, in essence, subjective.

For many individuals, it can be powerful and relieving to name an event or series of events as traumatic. Others may consider a similar event a stressor, and it may be equally beneficial to refer to it as such. Even benign experiences, like taking a walk or eating candy, can be experienced as traumatic due to a history of trauma. Of course, it is also important to note that some events may not cause any stress at all.

Given how subjective these experiences can be, how on earth do we identify a trauma or a stressor?

After we experience an event we perceive it through many different filters, such as:

  • Human Physiological Response (heart beats fast, palms sweat, muscles tense…)
  • Life Circumstance (living alone, partnered, un/under/employed, in school…)
  • Temperament (personality, general outlook/approach to life…)
  • Cultural Norms (attitudes, expectations, traditions, rituals…)
  • Societal Response (news media, social media, local community, school, work…)
  • Resiliency & Vulnerability Factors (the presence or absence of diverse skills to handle adversity, such as social capital, self-efficacy, socioeconomic status…)
  • Prior Life Experiences (history of privilege, oppression, traumas…)

There may be many more filters than this, but these are a few notable ones.

After we perceive the event through these filters, we interpret the information on the continuum of stress and trauma as:

  • Eustress (the good stress that motivates you to work on that paper to turn it in on time!)
  • Distress (you know, when stuff breaks down and throws your day off course)
  • Acute Traumatic Response (an immediate reaction to the experience)
  • Chronic Traumatic Response (an ongoing sense of feeling traumatized by the experience)
  • Delayed Traumatic Response (when the impact remains dormant until something later in life that draws up the prior experience)

Viewing stress and trauma on a shared continuum creates a more open dialogue. One where the individual labels the experience on a continuum based on their own beliefs, values, feelings, and experiences. This continuum then helps to foster more freedom, choice and empowerment. And with this, comes more avenues for healing.


LifeTip: Self-compassion and how to be as kind to yourself as you are to others

Guess what? Being kind to yourself isn’t selfish! In fact, letting yourself off the hook every now and then can give you the freedom to be more authentic in your relationships. And contrary, to popular belief, compassion is actually more motivating than criticism. Think of the most caring mentor you have had in your life. Now contrast that with the hostile, angry, yelling coach who always left you in tears. Which one gives you strength and confidence? 

Have you ever considered why it’s so easy for us to be kind, compassionate and loving to others, but not ourselves? Dr. Kristin Neff provides an excellent intro into the benefits of loving yourself, flaws and all, and how the daily practice of self-compassion actually allows you to better care for others as well. She also distinguishes between self-compassion and self-indulgence. Compassion tells us to be kind to ourselves while also holding ourselves accountable.

Hungry for more? Check our recommended reading list for more books on self-compassion!

It’s Okay to Ask for Help and Other Life Tips According to Carrie Fisher

The passing of Carrie Fisher earlier this year has been very heartbreaking for a lot of people. Whether or not you knew her name, you probably knew Princess Leia. Carrie Fisher not only set an example for young girls to be nerdy space princesses and break the mold of the “pink princess,” she was also an advocate for mental health. She herself was diagnosed with substance use disorder and bipolar disorder and she did not keep it a secret. She spoke up about her mental health and stood up against the stigma behind it.

Fisher stated, “I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on.” The power that she took back from the stigma behind her diagnoses is huge and so empowering for others who can relate to her. So often people with a mental health condition can feel so isolated and alone because they are afraid to tell others about it for fear of being judged or ridiculed for it. To have a celebrity speak up and own her mental disorder sets an example for others to know it can be okay by advocating for others to seek help, “the only lesson for me, or for anybody, is that you have to get help. It’s not a neat illness. It doesn’t go away.”

Thank you, Carrie Fisher. We will remember you and your fierce fight in this galactic world and others. 

LifeTip: On Groundhog Day and New Years Resolutions

There’s two main lines of brain and behavior science that influence New Year’s resolutions: The science of habits and the science of self-stories.

It’s that time of year folks. The time where the lofty resolutions of the new year have given way to the realities of everday life, when old routines sink in again and we find ourselves feeling let down and frustrated. Maybe you remember all the times you've set goals for the new year only to find that by Groundhog Day, it's déjà vu all over again, and you're back to square one.

Maybe it isn't you. Maybe it's actually that New Years Resolutions just dont work! Psychology Today has shared some tips on how to align your resolutions, any time of year, with science to set you up for success when you want to make a change that lasts. The first part is a 3-step method to changing a habit thats based in brain science:

  • You must pick a small action.
  • You must attach the new action to a previous habit.
  • You must make the new action easy to do for at least the first week.

Essentially, you’ll be creating a new conditioned response that will allow for a better chance at long-term change. Lasting change also requires new actions that align with your self-story, that narrative that we all have about who we are, what we are capable of, what our limitations are, and what matters to us. Check out the full article for more tips and let’s agree to leave unattainable resolutions in the past and set our collective sights on small, manageable and meaningful changes in the coming year!

TeenTip: Identity & Relationship: New Groups Enrolling Now!

If we could sum up our GirlTalk Therapy groups in two words they would be: Identity and Relationship. At the heart of our groups is a dedication to supporting teen girls as they figure out who they are and where they belong in their changing worlds.

We have a host of new groups rolling out this January and February! We’ve added on two new therapists, Natalia and Simone, to help us serve the growing population of tween and teen girls who have sought out our GirlTalk Therapy Groups and want to benefit from a supportive (and fun) group therapy environment. If you are considering joining a therapy group, now is a great time to get in to our programs since we are opening up several new group sections right now! Here’s a snapshot of the groups that are welcoming new members:

Yoga for Anxiety: Meeting at the Treehouse Yoga Studio (South Austin) Saturday mornings 9-10:15 am starting January 21 and running for 6 weeks; No intake required though we recommend an initial phone call with the group leader prior to starting.

General Middle School Group (Central and South Locations): We are opening one or two new middle school groups. These groups are great for girls who want to connect with other girls, build their empathy for self and others and process the highs and lows of growing up.

High School Group for Anxious Teens (South Location): We have one more opening for this early high school group that is geared toward teens who are challenged by anxiety.

General High School Group (Central Location): Looking for a few motivated girls who would like support managing stress, emotion regulation, friendships difficulties and building their self-confidence and self-compassion.

A few more things to know about GT Therapy Group:

  • We provide intakes with each of our clients and their guardians before group starts to ensure goodness of fit.
  • We have two locations in Austin - south and central - and we do our best to fit the preferences of our clients. Location, time and date of groups are based on availability and need.
  • Unless stated otherwise, our groups are open to new members (when there is room) and are ongoing, with members joining and graduating at different times throughout the lifespan of group.
  • To get started, contact us today and a therapist will reach out to you within 24 hours to schedule a phone call or intake session!
 Brought to you by Blake & Tracy and the GTTG Team

Brought to you by Blake & Tracy and the GTTG Team

Stay tuned for more news about our growth and offerings! We will have young adult and parent groups coming out later this Spring too! 

LifeTip: Working Through the Chaos of the Holidays

The holidays are in full swing and you have made it past Thanksgiving. Congratulations! You hopefully have a moment, although probably brief, to breathe before the next big one, but the buildup may be starting to create anxiety. What do you do? There are several things that can help you get through it.

First, remember to breathe! Yes, people probably tell you this all of the time and it can sometimes make you want to scream. You breathe all of the time, your unconscious mind makes you do it. However, you can take some conscious control over it by slowing your breath down, which in turn will stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system (nerd alert!). All this means is that your body will put on the “brakes” and slow down, relax your muscles, and slow your heart rate. To slow your breath down, breathe in through your nose, count the number of seconds it takes you to inhale, breathe out through your mouth, and double the length of your exhale. Breathe in for four seconds, exhale for eight. One way to do that with less effort is to purse your lips together when you exhale—like you are trying to blow the flame of a candle without blowing it out. This is a great breathing exercise to try with the tiny humans in your life. Kids love to blow out candles, even the make believe kind!

Second, make a list. Having a million thoughts, ideas, and tasks that need to get accomplished can add to the anxiety. Write everything down, so they are no longer floating around in your head or popping up at the most inconvenient times like when you are in a meeting or reading a book to your child and you want to remain present with them. But you can never remember to bring the piece of paper or journal with you? Put it in your phone. Find whatever works best for you. When you finally have a moment, maybe at the end of your day, see which things you can cross off your list for the next day. Be careful not to schedule too many tasks in one day.

Third, make time for yourself. If you have to, put it on your list so that it becomes as much a priority as buying groceries. Maybe you are a parent and have a full-time job,or a student in the middle of finals, or just a person who feels like there is never enough time in the day. Take a shower at night when the kids are asleep, this could be your time and it may be only 5-10 minutes but it’s your time. Splurge on the fancy soap or the extra soft towel. Practice some mindfulness and appreciate your moment (See Huffington Post article link below for more ideas).

Fourth, get your body moving. There are so many benefits to exercise, but for anxiety, it can help you get all of that extra energy out, clear your head, and increase your endorphins. Again, where is the time? Go outside with your kids and run with them. On your lunch break, get a walk in for 15-30 minutes. Do an online yoga practice at home. Make it something you actually enjoy doing. Not another to-do list anxiety provoking task.

All of the ideas listed above are for you to try out and see what works for you. Everyone is different and handle situations differently, so please take what serves you and leave the rest behind. After all, the goal here is mindfulness and self care, not one more should. We are with you.

LifeTip: The Power of Traditions

The holiday season has arrived, and with it all the joy and increased stress (and expenses!) that we have come to expect.  Amidst all the hustle and bustle, many families find some familiar moments of calm and connection in the ways they celebrate.  Our unique traditions and rituals, whether daily or seasonal, hold immense psychological power.  

 Image Source:

Image Source:

The performing of rituals can strengthen family bonds and create a feeling of well-being and stability.  They provide a sense of continuity in our life and become an important way to track time and mark milestones (like a first year of marriage, the birth of a child, or a move to a new city).

Traditions provide an excuse to escape from the rush and distraction of routine life, and focus inward on our deeper priorities.  They invite storytelling and value-sharing conversations into everyday life, and can be a powerful way to connect with our cultural or familial identities, and to create shared family memories.

Rituals can even create a special kind of energy for participants.  I know it sounds hokey, but imagine feeling a buzzing excitement while waiting for a concert to start, or feelings of joy and closeness when attending a wedding.  Sociologist Emile Durkheim referred to the feeling as “collective effervescence” (is that not an amazingly fun phrase?!).  Collective effervescence refers to a unique electric, almost transcendent energy that people can experience when joined in collaborative groups.

How does your family get their collective effervescence during the holiday season?  What are your family’s holiday traditions?  Is it a movie or game night?  A specific meal?  The dusting off of old records?  An annual trip?  Is it time to create a new one?


LifeTip: The DNA Journey

If you took a DNA test today, you might be surprised at the results. This video shows just a sampling of individuals who were shocked to find that their cultural heritage spanned across countries and even continents, and in this case, knowledge is power.

Our brains are built to categorize the world around us, and often we view others through a lens of difference, when in fact, we have more in common than we could ever imagine. Which begs the question, would we be so quick to stereotype and separate ourselves if we knew how much we actually had in common with one another?


GT Therapy Group is Hiring!


GT Therapy Group is seeking passionate new professionals to join our growing team of dedicated therapists! We are a group practice specializing in our experiential GirlTalk Therapy groups for tween & teen girls, adolescent & family therapy, and therapy for college students & adults in transition. Our therapists are rooted in the family systems paradigm, and our diverse backgrounds include attachment & interpersonal neurobiology, trauma informed care, gifted populations, cultural responsiveness, yoga therapy, and more. As we bring new clinicians into our group, we grow and transform our current offerings to reflect the professional growth goals of our associates and interns.

The LMFT Associates and LPC Interns who will be a good fit for our group are driven to create their professional identity in the community, nurture their passions through training and special projects, and who have a desire to work interdependently with our directors and team. We are looking for therapists who have a background in family systems, adolescents and group therapy with teens or families, in addition to interest and expertise in his or her own developing niche. All team members are asked to facilitate at least one GirlTalk Therapy group, as well as maintain a regular caseload of individual, family or couples clients.

Associates who wish to lay the foundation for a successful private practice will be encouraged to use their time with us to cultivate a strong community presence and vibrant professional identity, and will be supported in these endeavors through coaching sessions, blog writing to sharpen your clinical lens, workshop development, and having access to all of GT Therapy Groups documents, templates, workshops, training guides, scripts to facilitate smooth client interactions, and more. Weekend and evening hours will be required.

GT Therapy Group is on a mission to provide new professionals with a supportive, rich and meaningful environment to grow into your own thriving practice, and to work with you to nurture your unique goals and creative spirit.

Currently licensed LMFT Associates and LPC Interns who will be ready to start in January, please submit your CV or resume as well as a letter of interest to our email address with the subject line as Intern/Associate Application - Your Last Name. Phone calls and in-person interviews will be scheduled via email.



Blake & Tracy

GT Therapy Group Founders & Directors