April Updates from Anastasia


The past few months have been full and rewarding. We've had the opportunity to connect with representatives from the Eating Recovery Center, Insight Behavioral Health Center, and Open Sky Wilderness Therapy They care for so many different people and cater to many different needs, and all are connected by a deep commitment to the individuals and families they support.

Earlier this spring I visited the Eating Recovery Center in Austin. It is a beautiful facility located in North Austin. They care for children, adolescents, and adults with anorexia nervosa, AFRID, binge eating disorder, bulimia, diabulimia, OSFED, and mood & anxiety disorders. They have different levels of care which include partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and virtual intensive outpatient program. I had a chance to meet some of their staff which included registered dieticians and mental health professionals. They were all very knowledgeable, kind, and passionate about the work they do. Their facility has many large group rooms, individual offices for private sessions, and a dining room for their clients which utilizes supervised meal support. Their treatment is grounded in ACT, DBT, CBT, and Family-Based Treatment.

The following week I visited Insight Behavioral Health Center, which is partnered with the Eating Recovery Center, located in Round Rock. It had a very similar feel as ERC; I saw the same kindness, knowledge, and passion for their work. Insight Behavioral Health Center has an intensive outpatient program and a partial hospitalization program for adolescents and adults with mood, anxiety, and trauma-related disorders as well as other behavioral issues. They have large group rooms, individual offices for private sessions, and they are in the process of expanding their office to be able to assist more individuals. Very exciting! They utilize ACT, DBT, CBT, and ERP, with trauma-informed care being the foundation to their approach in group and individual therapy. 

If you want to visit or learn more about ERC or Insight, the very kind and friendly Professional Relations Liaison, Sara Helms, is available and can offer even more information on the range of programs and services offered. Thanks for hosting us, Sara!

Later on in the month, we welcomed the Clinical Outreach Director at Open Sky Wilderness Therapy, Jill Hutcheson, to our offices. She was absolutely lovely and so passionate about the work that happens at Open Sky Wilderness Therapy in Durango, Colorado. They take an innovative and holistic approach to treatment for adolescents, young adults and families navigating a wide range of mental health issues and substance abuse, especially individuals who may be resistant to therapy. As a family-systems-centered practice, we're particularly drawn to the work they do in connecting the whole family to the treatment process. Please check out their website for more information on the services they provide. 

We are honored to work in such a strong, dedicated and passionate community. 

Much Metta, 

LifeTip: Connection

Photo by  Mathyas Kurmann  on  Unsplash

Since the bombings that have occurred in Austin, I have really started to think about human connection. True connection. I happen to live in a neighborhood where two of the bombings happened and it was terrifying for obvious reasons. Fear was the biggest emotion to consume me, however, as I sat with this fear and explored it I began to think about the others who may be sharing this feeling with me, my neighbors. As I thought about the people literally closest to me, I had a realization: I don't know who is living next door to me, across the street, down the street or anywhere in my vicinity that could be sitting with this as well. Yes, I know their faces, their cars, their general schedules but that's it. As I sat with this a little longer, I began to wonder what it would have been like to know them before, during, and after these events. Could I have or would I have walked next door and checked in on them? Would they have checked in on me and my family? Would we be sharing our feelings together? I know I am not alone in this because others have shared a very similar story.

So what does it mean to know that I am not the only one who does not know who they live next to? To me, this is a very large sign that we need to CONNECT with each other--our neighbors, our community. We live in such an isolated society, even though we are more "connected" than ever because of social media. How does this even make sense?!? 

Many of us are using social media platforms to share tiny bits of information about our lives with others in order to "connect," but in reality, we are distancing ourselves from REAL LIFE-- from TRUE CONNECTION. Could you imagine knowing your neighbors' names instead of knowing what that person you met once at a networking event is eating for dinner? Or knowing what your neighbor does for a living instead of knowing where that person from high school went on vacation with their "perfect" family of four (you also know each family member's name) that you never really liked anyway? Maybe you do know what it's like to know your neighbors, so you may have insight on this, but if you don't, what do you imagine this could look like? What do you imagine this could look like when there is danger nearby? Just the idea of knowing the people that surround my house causes a shift in my body to feel a little calmer, feel a little safer.

I recently finished the book, Lost Connections, by Johann Hari, and there is an excerpt I want to share with you because it has really resonated with me in the wake of the Austin bombings. In this excerpt, Hari is writing about John Cacioppo's research on the effects of the outside world on the brain in regards to loneliness:

Protracted loneliness causes you to shut down socially, and to be more suspicious of any social contact, he found. You become hypervigilant. You start to be more likely to take offense where none was intended and to be afraid of strangers. You start to be afraid of the very thing you need most. John calls this a “snowball” effect, as disconnection spirals into more disconnection. Lonely people are scanning for threats because they unconsciously know that nobody is looking out for them, so no one will help them if they are hurt. 

YES. So much YES. As I read on in the book, I learned that this can change. With a little bit of effort, this snowball effect of loneliness can be reversed through face-to-face connections. By having conversations with your neighbors, your friends, and your family, you can decrease loneliness and feel safer. The great thing about neighbors. specifically, is that you have many opportunities to connect with them since they live in such close proximity to you. So, why not begin the connection with them through conversation? To give you a chance to feel a little safer and a little more connected. 

For those with social anxiety, I see you. You can do this. I can help you or you can find someone that can help you. For those who do not have social anxiety, please be aware that human connection may be scary for some, but you can be there to help them when they are ready. We are wired for connection,  y'all.*

Much metta.

*It has taken every ounce of me not to quote Mr. Rogers, so feel free to do so now. 

LifeTip: How to Show Your Body Some Love

Happy New Year! I hope everyone has had a great start to 2018. With everyone creating resolutions or intentions, I hear people talking about losing weight or getting into shape, which I want to say if that's something that brings you joy, it's for a medical reason, or you just simply want to, all the love and support to you! I do want to throw this in there too for everyone-- wherever you are on your journey with your body, please try to practice loving your body for all that it is in this moment. Your body whatever the size, condition, shape, etc... it is yours* and it has been on a journey with you through good times and bad. It has experienced everything right alongside you; it's your constant in life. Whether you feel like it's failed you at times or caused you pain, loving your body can be a beautiful practice of unconditional love.

I want to provide a little yoga/meditative practice to help you love your body a little more: Sit, stand or lie down, close your eyes (if that's comfortable), and picture your body in this moment. Starting from the tips of your toes and moving to the top of your head, say to yourself, "Thank you/I love you, *insert body part you are picturing*" Be specific! "Thank you, left big toe" or "I love you, right thigh." Please try to do this with intention and without judgment. It may feel silly or weird at first, but please try it. If going body part by body part feels too difficult, you can state, "Thank you, body" or "I love my body" a few times until you feel ready to go body part by part. It may be the next day or many months down the line; there is no rush in this process. If working on loving the outside body feels difficult or uncomfortable, go ahead and shift your focus to the inside, such as to your muscles, bones, lungs, heart, brain, etc… they are all apart of your physical body and need some love and acknowledgment too! Practice this every day if you can and take notice of how you feel about yourself. 

Wherever you are with your relationship to your body, I support you. You are amazing! So much metta to you all!

*I want to speak to those individuals who may feel like they were born with a body that does not feel like their own. I honor and respect your journey. I acknowledge this exercise may or may not be helpful. Please follow the path that feels right for you. 

LifeTip: Rejection Absolutely Hurts

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Rejection can feel like that worst feeling in the world, no matter how old you are or how you may feel like you have it “all together.” Humans are a hardwired to desire to belong. Looking at our evolutionary history, it is programmed in us to seek out connection for survival. Thousands of years ago, we would not be able to survive alone without the support of a group of people. Now we may not need the connection for survival in the sense of staying alive, but our brains are still programmed for seeking it out.

Besides all of the thoughts and feelings that try to justify what happened or question ourselves as an individual, what exactly happens to us when we are rejected? Well, we experience physical pain. Rejection is painful and our brains process it as such; It is the same pain we experience when we are physically injured. A study that looked at various individuals who were rejected from playing a game with two other people noticed that the dorsal anterior cingulate and anterior insult had increased activity. These two regions of the brain are the areas that process physical pain. So, being rejected by friends or having your heart broken is processed similarly to breaking a bone.  

What can you take away from this? First, your feelings are justified and valid because your feelings are real to you, however, your hurt feelings now you have some science to back you up because your brain is processing this rejection like physical pain. Secondly, this pain and experience can motivate some of us to seek out better connections, better ourselves by self-reflecting on one’s contribution to social situations, paying more attention to social cues, and evaluating interactions more carefully because there is still hope for real connection. For those without hope, they may react with anger and hostility because they do not see a reason to try and improve their situation, which will further isolate them, but there is still longing for connection. However, there is still hope!

Joining a therapeutic group is one option that can be very helpful for individuals with or without hope for connection after being rejected. These spaces are created to feel safe and foster healthy relationships and conversations with the assistance of a therapist. It is a microcosm of the “real world,” so group members can practice expressing feelings and act out in vivo situations with other group members and take what they have learned and apply it in their personal lives.

Yes, rejection is awful. Yes, it is so painful (science has your back). And, yes, there is hope for finding connection again.


My Loved One Experiences Anxiety, Why Can’t They Get Over It?

Anxiety can feel as though you are being chased by a lion. Although this analogy may seem extreme to those who don't deal with an anxiety disorder, it's one that makes sense to someone who encounters anxiety on nearly an everyday basis. Sufferers of anxiety know the feeling of fear, experience hypervigilance to everyday situations, have an excess energy or even a depletion of energy due to the exhaustion of panic and feel that there is imminent danger nearby even though there may not be an actual threat around them.

Having the understanding of friends and family to support you through your anxiety can make all the difference in the world, but it isn't always easy to have empathy when you haven't experienced anxiety firsthand or been taught a bit about it. It is very natural and common for those closely connected to individuals with an anxiety disorder to believe a number of things such as, “I support them, I love them, and it doesn’t seem to be enough,” “It cannot possibly be that bad,” “They have a good life, this doesn’t make sense,” or “Why can’t they just get over it?” These are some typical thoughts to have, but are not helpful for someone who is struggling with anxiety to hear.

When someone is going through anxiety, their body is reacting as though there is danger close by and their stress response is activated. This means they experience acceleration of their lungs and heart, so the blood will rush to their extremities to be prepared to run from danger or “brace” themselves from it. It can also mean they cannot utilize critical thinking or logical thinking because their energy is currently in use to save them from a perceived danger. They can also experience tunnel vision, loss of hearing, and shaking, among other physiological responses. So, truly, they are reacting as though they are being chased by a lion. And yes, they know they aren’t being chased by a lion, which can make these feelings worse because they do not make sense to them.

So, what can you do? Ask them what they need. They may tell you they need to be alone because they are overstimulated and that is okay. Tell them where you will be if they need you. They may say that they need you, but do not know how they need you. You can sit with them and wait until they are ready to talk to you. But probably the most common response is, “I don’t know.” During these times, you can use your judgement, but giving advice may be the least helpful since they cannot truly hear you and any advice given may be minimizing their experience. Once they have calmed down, rested, and time has passed, ask if you can talk about what they need or want you to do in these situations. Ask them what is helpful and not helpful. It could be a trial and error situation, but the fact that you acknowledge what they are going through is real will make all the difference. And as always, if it is debilitating for them or they/you believe they need more help than what you can give, have a gentle discussion with them about finding a professional who can help the both of you.

Meet Anastasia

Hello Everyone!

So, maybe you have read my bio on the GT Therapy website and you know a little bit about the work I do and who I work with, but what do I actually do in therapy? My honest answer is that it varies from person to person because I know no one is exactly alike. I approach therapy in a very person-centered way. I do not believe therapy needs to be formal and you do not need to come in with a definitive problem every time because I find value within your everyday stories. I try to find your strengths within the stories you tell me and explore them more to be able to utilize them when life is tough. 

I am an integrative yoga teacher and that does come out in my therapeutic process at times, especially if someone requests it in their therapeutic experience. For me bringing yoga into therapy means that I feel the mind and body have a very strong connection and at times of stress, feelings of intense emotion, or lack of rest, the mind-body connection can become disconnected and feel disorienting. Through breath work, meditation, and body awareness exercises, people can feel connected again. 

I am also a realist and know that coming to see a therapist can feel intimidating, scary, and, well, awkward. I commit to doing my very best to ease these feelings so you can talk to me about anything that comes to mind to generate a conversation and explore your vulnerabilities. Wait, vulnerability? Yes, this can be uncomfortable at times, but I believe that a lot of change begins to happen when we explore them (thanks for the research, Brené Brown) and will always give it my best to make you feel safe enough to get to this point.

I gently encourage everyone to show me all sides of their personality, even those less than desirable qualities we all have because this is your space to let it all out without a filter. We tend to censor ourselves a lot because we don’t want to hurt others, we fear judgement, or for any other personal reasons, so having a space to talk to someone without worry can be so therapeutic. I mean, it can be absolutely exhausting to hold back everything, right? 

But what about the judgement that you may think will come from me or what if I don’t give you the attention you believe you need? Well, lucky for you, I do believe and practice, yes, you guessed it, the ever so popular term, mindfulness* (I am a yoga teacher and teach yoga in my practice, what did you expect?). I will be present for you in your times of need and I will sit with you in times of discomfort. 

Who do I enjoy working with? I love working with a variety of different people. I work with young children who may be experiencing difficult relationships and the world for the first time; adolescents who I believe need a space to be heard through the challenging transition into adulthood; young adults who may be coping with actual “adulting”; couples who may need help communicating with each other to find a deeper and more intimate connection; and families who may wish they could be closer and be able to talk to each other more effectively. 

So, that is a glimpse of me and how I conduct therapy. I hope this was helpful.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have or if you feel like I may be a good fit for you, your child, or your family. Much metta** to you! 

*Just in case you haven’t learned the definition of mindfulness, here it is: “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” –Jon Kabat-Zinn 

**Metta: Loving-kindness, friendliness, goodwill, benevolence

- Anastasia

To learn more about Anastasia, visit Our Team page here!



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: 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.