When individuals experience trauma or toxic stress it is not uncommon to need therapeutic support and guidance. Samantha Ricci, MS, LPC is passionate about helping to create a safe and effective space for individuals to explore emotions and traumatic/ stressful experiences. To help her clients, who include children, adults, couples, and families who are experiencing emotional or relationship distress. Samantha’s therapeutic approach is devoted to help her clients create healthy perceptions of themselves, to strengthen their relationships, to promote balanced and strong attachments, full and rich emotional bonds. Samantha is trained to help you experience change, through these systematic and evidence based strategies her clients reports that their innate capacity for trust, empathy, and compassion emerges to greater joy. Samantha’s area of clinical expertise include helping her clients recover from Stress/Anxiety, Mood Disorders, Adjustment disorders, Trauma focused care, Attachment disorders, Child Therapy, and Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy.
Samantha’s clinical focus is on treatment that utilizes an attachment informed lens and trauma focused care with children, adults, couples, and families. Specifically, Samantha is rostered in Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP) is an empirically-supported treatment model which is scientifically shown to enhance the emotional health of young children from infancy through seven years old. CPP is a unique and specific relationship-based therapy in which the clinician collaboratively engages in play and treatment with the child and caregivers. CPP positively impacts children’s behavioral and mental health outcomes while promoting protective factors and strengths, such as stable, warm relationships with parents and caregivers.
Samantha’s educational background includes a Master of Science in Counseling Psychology and a graduate Certificate in Infant Mental Health from Chatham University, Pittsburgh, PA. She has a Dual Degree, Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation and Human Services as well as Communication Science and Disorders from The Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA. In addition to Samanthas work with Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh, she also works with UPMC in their Mathilda Theiss center where she specializes in pediatric and family counseling. In her free time, Samantha enjoys exploring new restaurants in the city of Pittsburgh, traveling, spending time with family and friends, and being a dog mom to her well loved frenchie/pug, Luna. Samantha also has a fervent passion for Pittsburgh and local sports and enthusiastically spends her Saturdays watching Penn State Football games with her fiance.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJuly 16, 2018 anxiety during pregnancy, depression in pregnancy, postpartum, stress pregnancy0 comments
Anxiety and Depression During Pregnancy, ‘Wellness For People Like Me.’
Writer, blogger, and art therapy graduate Angela Grace Wilt shares some of her experiences in recovering positive coping and mental health including ways to manage anxiety and depression during pregnancy. This is a part of the ‘People Like Me’ Series of our wellness blog, real people, real stories, real ways to incorporate wellness into stages and experiences of everyday normal life.
Being a woman comes with a lot of ups and downs. Women are prone to anxiety and it can be very hard to to admit. For example, women are closely tied to the monthly cycles that their body experiences. Things such as menstruation cause anxiety, depression, mood swings, and intense bodily urges with cravings. Men never will get us or grasp what we go through. We are just that unique. For as long as I could remember, I have felt that as a woman I am special and cursed all at once.
Then of course recently, as I have taken this jump into parenthood with the amazing biological potential of my body, quickly I have learned that while things like premenstrual dysphoria, and the normal anxieties and depression of menstruation are challenging, pregnancy holds a whole long list of unique and larger fears and physical difficulties. In fact, this is true for all women, and according to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), between 14-23% of women will struggle with some symptoms of anxiety or depression during pregnancy. The shift in mental health have multiple sources, think about it, there is insomnia because our body is changing so fast that some women can be prone to rapid heartbeat, which makes it harder to fall asleep. There is also the whole list of ‘what ifs.’ Will my baby and I make it to full term? Will my baby be healthy? I can no longer drink alcohol, ride adrenaline driven roller coasters, lift heavy weights, or really take any chances of too adventurous tasks. With each decision I make, I consider the question ‘what will makes my little bump, a healthy or not so healthy baby.’
Physical and emotional changes are also thread within social fears and adjustments, I sometimes wonder, have I planned enough for this pregnancy that has in many ways, just happened. The truth is, I am not some 30 something who has been charting my cycle for 6 months to achieve conception, I didn’t plan to get pregnant just yet. I thought about it sure, but just like most couples we wanted to walk down the aisle with a white dress of lace and flowers all the scenery of our closest friends and family shouting us on, it was always my dream of being that princess and marrying my soul mate! We still will have that for our future, but it will be after we get through the current stresses. In addition to the changes in my timeline, I also care about what our parents think about our having a baby right now. Having a baby out before marriage can be shocking for some religious and cultural values. We were lucky because my family is just fine with it, and with a little time to adjust, my better half’s is now happy about the news.
The list of anxieties and real practical matters which accelerate my concerns are aplenty, even small things have caused me stress, I have had to shop for insurance as a pregnant women, because I am twenty-six, pregnant, and didn’t have any. Finally, babies are expensive, health insurance is also expensive, we have stresses of finding better jobs, I have to go on insurance yet because I am twenty-six and don’t have any. We are cleaning house and making a baby room. When all of these real life stresses start to mount very high, I can feel my heart beating faster, I try to stop and think of the things that we do have, I try to re-frame my anxieties and depressed thoughts in a positive light, I pause and I say to myself, ‘I have my boyfriend, our love together, and I have a supportive family. I have myself and my strengths, and I am strong and able.’That always seems to calm me down and help me to remember that there is much to be excited about as we move forward together as a young family.
With all of these anxious and depressed thoughts swirling in my mind, I have taken the time to put together a small list of ways that I manage and support my emotional health during my pregnancy. Of course if you are struggling with mental health during or after your pregnancy, talk to you PCP or Mental Health provider, get a screening for Postpartum or Baby Blues, every year women die or don’t bond with their babies due to maternal mental health factors. If you are like me and relatively healthy but feeling a little anxious or blue, then read on because these tips may help you as much as they helped me.
Use positive self talk, be your own biggest fan and encourage yourself like you would a friend
I say nice things to myself, I write little notes and post them through out the house, simple thoughts like,’ Rome was built in a day’ ‘We will get everything done in time.’ We’re already almost half way there at twelve weeks. It’s just a wild ride. My body is going through so many beautiful changes. Tune in, all of my emotions are heightened. Hunger is giving me nourishment now. Sleep is always appreciated. Sex is fierce and always wanted. Sadness and anger are intense. I have energy that comes out of nowhere. Its ok if sometimes I can’t stop crying. I love my baby and baby’s daddy and not want anything more than to be with just them and them alone. I want the best by our new child. I want to give it proper nutrition and a good home life. I want to be a good parent and my baby to grow in a family where love is the answer and anger is dealt with in a healthy supportive manner. I will protect this baby with all that I have. This child’s needs and wants are now first. I am ready to teach this baby proper education, morals, respect, and spirituality.
Its normal to be overwhelmed, life is now changing!
Anxiety,stress, and fear are the norm when we are overcoming big changes. ways just important to remember that having a baby is a life changing experience. Normalizing the emotions that I am experiencing helps me by making me not feel the guilty, ashamed, or odd for having these dips and emotional shifts.
Reach for your Tribe!
Please remember, you are not alone. You are a powerhouse and you have many people who will listen and talk. Make a list of 5, if you can not list at least 5 people who will pick up the phone for you, see a therapist and talk about the feelings of isolation and loneliness. Mom, dad, best friends, siblings, make a list and think about who is the best person to talk with through the things that come up. It will likely be a different person for each of situations that one may encounter on the pregnancy journey.
Use your breath
The body and its breathing are powerful, breathing can be used to energize and manage our response to stress. Take some deeps breaths every day.
Make a Wellness Routine
Do calming relaxing type activities like yoga, walking in nature or just walking, stretch, journal, and keep time for yourself to collect your thought and consider the daily experiences that you are managing. Essential oils can help ease the mind and emotions and of course be sure to choose blends that are safe to use during pregnancy.
Bond with your baby
Talk to your baby while its in the womb, there will likely be a time after your baby is born that you are longing to be so closely connected to him or her again, try to cherish these moments and zoom out towards the big picture where you are nurturing a sacred bond right now in your womb. Being a woman is very special, and this connection, with baby snugly centered in my sacral area, right as my mother and my mothers mother have always done, this is something that men can not understand, but I am ok with that.
We are powerful, we are able to make changes that influence the outcomes of our life. Pregnancy like all things, is what you make of it. Do your best to stay positive by thinking of the new exciting things that can be done all in great fun with your new family together. Your love of baby and yourself will take you far. Be gentle with yourself when you notice the stress, anxiety, and fear of the 9 months ahead. This is a special time that can be used to get really healthy and in tune with your bodies needs. As always, seek medical help from a PCP, Gynecologist, or Licensed Professional Counselor if you have concerns about your mental health.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghDecember 28, 2017 co-parenting, counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, divorce, educational, marriage counseling, meditation, mental health, parenting, psychology, psychotherapy, therapist, therapists, therapy, Uncategorized, wellness0 comments
Our licensed professional counselors are here for the community offering evidence-based therapy, marriage counseling, family counseling, child therapy, art therapy, premarital counseling, all by top rated clinicians. Our team of therapists has over 150 years of experience between us, we offer therapy to heal from Depression, Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and our Couples Therapists can treat a full range of relationship issues from conflict communication, to intimacy enhancement, and parenting concerns. In all of our centers, we also provide a menu of comprehensive wellness services. We offer wellness support including health treatment options from our certified nutritionist, kinesiologist, clinical herbalist who specialize in offering the people of The Greater Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania communities providing wellness solutions for mind, body, and spirit. Be well with us!
Contact us at our Pittsburgh location 830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa, 15233 Our Pittsburgh center is located in the northshore of the downtown Pittsburgh. Therapy near Northside, Southside, Brighton heights, Lawrenceville, Shadyside, Bloomfield, Strip District, and Mt. Washington. Our hours are from 7-am-8 pm Monday through Sunday. We accept UPMC, Highmark, Blue Cross Blue Shield, United, Magellan, Aetna, and Comp Psych as well as Out of Network, Self Pay, and Sliding Scale options.
For a therapist near you – Call us at 412-322-2129Learn More
by Stephanie McCrackenMarch 19, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, sexuality, Uncategorized0 comments
As a psychotherapist who offers marriage counseling, affairs and their aftermath are sometimes ironed out amidst my office couch. Both parts of the couple struggle to make sense of the betrayal and its costs, they often seek a professional to find the answers to questions such as; should we stay together, should we separate, will our relationship ever be “normal,” (whatever version that may be for you), again. For both of the lovers there are painful truths to identify, the person who was cheating must come to terms with his or her guilt and the person who was victimized by the cheating may wonder if it is acceptable to forgive or if this somehow means that they are weak or foolish. While the answers to all of the many questions are highly complex, completely personal, and entirely up to you, if the affair has been ended and both lovers actively choose to stay there are abundant ways that you will both be able to enjoy the effects of an enhanced love bond! Here are some of the reasons why your love can rebound from an affair and be even closer and more intimate than before, provided that you both are willing and able to put in the time and work to make some big changes through the healing process.
- The affair itself is a symptom of a greater and deeper underlying problem. That problem could be anything from one of the partners acting upon impulses from narcissism, entitlement, and or sex addiction, or that there are some deficits in the relational component. For example, when the relationship is stuck in a pattern of withholding, and or criticism, when it is lacking in warmth, passion, communication and sometimes this causes one of the parties to conclude that she or he should look outside of the commitment to fill certain interpersonal needs. The affair must be understood as a symptom but also, if it addressed successfully, within every problem is an opportunity for the solution to be uncovered. Now you are free to explore the solution to the underlying issue.
- The time after the affair has been disclosed or discovered will be hallmarked by raw and real interaction, this kind of communication facilitates rebuilding. Obviously there will be a serious mourning phase caused by shattered trust and therefor many questions about who, what, when, where, and why. You both must be honest about what exactly is transpiring during this time. As the anguish ebbs allow the new to emerge. This honest and direct communication will feel refreshing as most often during an affair the communication had been stifled, the newfound open honesty will feel refreshing and serve as a great reminder to understand all of the ways that each partner was turning away from true intimate interaction previously.
- Your relationship will never be the same again and that very well could be a good thing considering the path to the affair is likely paved by anguish and deceit. Like a home that is being rebuilt there will be new walls and windows for the relationship, walls between the person who was conducting the affair and the man or woman who was facilitating the cheating, as well as shiny and new windows of transparency between the love partners. The windows should be framed in the light of honesty, openness, you may even want to place a chair nearby for reflective time, and renovations take time, work, and are not for the faint of heart!
To close and to be repetitive, the person who was having the affair must be completely honest and know that trust may not be given immediately or for a very long time to come. A message for the person who suffered the betrayal- recognize that you are healing within the cycle of grief. From anguish, anger, disbelief and all the way around you must place your long term intentions upon your healing and forgiveness for the cheating spouse. Keep your eyes on the prize however as if it is in your will, you both will eventually move beyond this troubling time and into a better relationship which will someday be capable of casting meaning upon this day when you are suffering the effect of the human misgivings of betrayal.
Sharing in happiness and love,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh
Pa 15233 Suite 100
by Stephanie McCrackenMarch 4, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, Uncategorized0 comments
Some incredible orator stated “Two broken wings won’t fly.” A healthy relationship or marriage is explicitly the product of the intentional and harmonious blending of two actualized psyches. True love and true life require wholeness and awareness. Self-help, self-talk, self-betterment, are all words of our time and just about everyone seems to be on the journey of self and relational growth, yet when it comes to the loves process we may be wondering what the notion of wholeness means. This may be particularly relevant when tracing the route through past relationships and recognizing that there is some naggingly similar quality to those in the rearview. Similarly, you may be married or in a relationship and wondering why you notice a certain je ne cest quoi ebbing into ether, placing you onto the familiar path of conflict speckled by a pervading sense of loneliness. Perhaps you are unattached but when your gaze falls upon the rearview you see lovers left to the wayside like mile markers off of the highway. All in all, its a fine moment to reflect upon wholeness. Not that the act of loving requires any encouragement to unfold, there is an powerful drive or instinct to experiencing love. The manner in which humans repeatedly attempt and often fail to sustain love is evidence of the intensity of this instinct, wanting to share our lives within the context of a meaningful and rich romantic bond. The heartfelt sensations which are a product of engaging in loves virtues and risks are certainly the most ebullient, ecstatic, soothing, and dually frustrating and disappointing! To love is a process by which the culmination of all of these sensations is inevitable, to love is a spiritual and complete act, yet it is also a specific skill set. If you sincerely believe that you have worked towards the mindset which embodies your best current version of you then you may be prepared to enter into a dance of this ancient and sacred heart song.
Step it on out of yourself! A loving relationship requires that we step out of ourselves to meet the needs of our beloved. Loving is most certainly not all about you! To love we must see beyond our own sore spots and insecurities to be present, empathetic, and understanding to the emotional, physical, and spiritual parts of those who are loving. This is no small feat, given the myriad of questions and concerns which arise as a part of a loving relationship or marriage. Often we will need to reflect upon our entire selfhood in relation to another and assess those things which the relationship, like a mirror, may show to us, this is at times startling to a psyche both well developed and those egos which may be in the midst of crumbling.
Love Song Birds Being whole requires attunement to the abundant social cues which are promenaded upon the faces of our fellow humans. Many people are perfectly competent to sustain friendships but when entering the unique atmosphere of romance our sore spots become stimulated by our mate’s. Our lover with their wants and needs and the intimate fact that to understand and accept, this is love in action. Why these sore spots? Remembering our first example of how to give and receive love and attention began as early as infancy. Messages internalized by the way that our mother or primary caretaker mirrored our expressions and responded to our cries, setting up and ever solidifying the evolving pattern of our being within the world. When your lover comes to you to say that she or he has had a terrible day, in that moment do you respond with equal concern and inquisitiveness? Do you launch into problem solving mode, speaking at length about how you can relate? Do you immediately become frustrated that you are stuck in dealing with their feelings or do you feel bad about yourself because you can’t fix it all for your love? So many highly personal responses to one elegantly poised prompt. Most often and simply when a lover comes to us in distress they are only seeking the opportunity to be heard and understood. In the very powerful act of giving that distraction free moment or ten we are filling our lover with the hypnotic sound of our loving song.
A touch of authenticity– It takes courage to be authentic especially with the person we love, it can be frightening to imagine their perceived judgment and fear. Psychological theorist Fritz Perl’s states that psychological distress stems from the proportion that a person lives inauthentically. All of those moments that you squash your verbal impulse to stay with the crowd or forgo offending your lover’s sensitivities certainly take an undeniable toll! Agree to attend the theater or the football game even though you loath it? Or perhaps you lie by omission in order to avoid a conflict? No matter the justification, being inauthentic stink the rot of decay. As Perls would say, you are being “phony” and it incurs a psychological cost, while it’s certainly important to make social trades and compromise its best to enjoy relationships which do not tax your dislikes too often and also make room for us to be authentic in representing our likes, values etc. Being phony runs the risk fanning the flames of eating the fiery venom resentment or making one into an inauthentic drone. One should also examine the part of his or her self which would continually betray one’s own essence for another person’s approval. Simultaneously if you are actually in a relationship with one who would sincerely limit or judge your solo activities then there may be even more questions which you could explore. In life and love must choose and act wisely. “Keep it real” express, fears, taboo, passions, with astonishing honesty and gusto.
Express Vulnerabilities – Love requires that we examine ourselves, own our emotional baggage and then we must feel safe to lay it upon the feet of our beloved, trusting that he or she will respond with tenderness and empathetic care. This can be a mountainous task for those who keep the pain of early or recent betrayals, trauma, heartbreak, or even for those who have never enjoyed the luxury of an open environment which lavished empathy and compassion upon pains. Lovers who were initially able to bask in the trusting atmosphere of a mutually nurturing atmosphere will still sometimes notice things falling off the tracks and wrecking into a place where less productive interpersonal patterns evolve. In this damaged place the expression of vulnerabilities becomes forbidden and is often replaced by defensiveness. This being said it is by allowing our lover into the areas of tenderness and softness that we develop trust and warmth the compassionate comfort which can only be produced by lovers who have navigated through many storms and basked through many summer suns together.
How can you apply these basics to your own love, if you are saying that you can’t really apply any of this they I would imagine that you may not be completely honest with yourself. The act of loving is one which is ever co-evolving and no matter how well or not so well we are doing it, there are ways which we can improve it.
In love and kindness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Offering Psychotherapy and Relationship Counseling
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Ave Pittsburgh Pa 15233Learn More
by Stephanie McCrackenFebruary 13, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, psychotherapy, sexuality, Uncategorized0 comments
It’s Valentine’s Day, the time of year when romance and affection become central to our hearts and minds. What better way for you and your loved one to mutually celebrate your bond than with warm and flush cheeks, rapidly beating heart, and maybe even a dose of perspiration. Aphrodisiacs promise to invoke all of these responses and much more. Aphrodisiacs have long been revered for their power to make men stand a bit taller and women’s blood to rush with desire. The term seems to have come from ancient Greece and their Goddess “Aphrodite” the goddess of love. The fascination with desire invoking serums and tinctures did not end with the Greeks, time seems to have inflamed our human impulse to create that symposium of flavors which will invoke our less easily satiable appetites. For any of us in a long term loving union, single, or dating, Valentine’s Day is a most spell inducing context to permit ones appetite to be beckoned towards gluttony. Please remember that the magically seductive properties of the following aphrodisiacs will be dually heightened if shared within a loving atmosphere spellbound by the flicker of candle light, melodiously chattering conversation, and maybe even the wafting sweet aroma of flowers.
Truffles-The truffle has remained one of the most sought after delicacies throughout time, it is earthy and woody with a delicate pungency which is sure to inflame each and every one of the senses. The white truffles is even more esteemed than the black and either way if you want to be certain that your lover erects gratitude, deliver a touch of this refined flavor. They are an excellent accompaniment to dress upon most any meat or vegetable. The process by which the mushrooms are discovered is equally fascinating as they are excavated by pigs which are ever attracted to the pheromones the mushrooms emit. Pheromones may also contribute to the Truffles aphrodisiac qualities as they contain the same chemicals which are found within human sweat, which believe it or not is lust enhancing chemical.
Garlic– There is indeed something mystical about this potent and “stinking onion”. Modern days prize it for its anti-microbial functions, high antioxidant content, and gourmands revere its bold taste. Garlic contains the active compound Allicin, this has the alchemical property of increasing blood flow which is sure to heighten lust. This aphrodisiac is best enjoyed by pairs of two lest you want your lover to be repelled much like the mythical vampires which it purportedly scatters to the distant winds.
Oils-From cold pressed organic extra virgin olive oil to the myriad of nut oils there are so many uses and pleasures to be associated with each. Any lover whose impulse towards tasty pleasures is so misaligned to express derision for the fat yielding content of the oils while not undressing its delicate flavors and propensity towards viscosity should remain far from the prep station. By lavishly soaking your finest cut of meat or vegetables in a seasoned concoction of oil, the dish will be rendered ready for the sizzling heat of a sear or sauté while still retaining its internal moisture! I personally assure you that most any food which bursts with moisture has aphrodisiac qualities.
Honey-The creation of laborious effort by tiny bees, buzzing about from flower to flower, fertilizing as they zip through the air, anything born of fertilization certainly qualifies as an aphrodisiac. Ever wonder why newlyweds go on a honeymoon? Historically they were given a jug of mead upon their departure, mead is a drink made from sensual enhancing fermented honey. Cleopatra is said to have used honey in the art of seduction by sharing it with her lovers amidst her erotic regions. If you haven’t found enough reasons to get yourself a large vat of honey, you can also note that honey is bursting with boron which is a metabolite of estrogen a hormone playing a role in arousal for both men and women.
Oysters– There is indeed something lurid and suggestive about the shape of the oyster, Casanova is purported to have consumed more than 50 of these pearl producing gems every day through his life. The salty and sea water infused flesh is teeming with zinc which aids in the production of testosterone, strong hormonal balance certainly heightens the arousal phase of any steamy interlude.
Dark Chocolate– Esteemed as a nectar of the gods and at one time reserved for only the royalty. In fact, Montezuma made a daily ritual of consuming a hot cocoa which was infused with chili peppers which are known to invoke their own power over the appetites of lust. Simultaneously, we offer chocolates to loved ones during most every holiday as tryptophan activates our brains pleasure centers. Of course, any quality chocolate the sensual properties are further exacerbated with the accompaniment of pleasant company, laughter and perhaps even a glass of wine.
Enjoy the Aphrodisiacs friends, fans, and lovers and always remember that the greatest lust enhancing potion is that which is enjoyed from the sultry warmth of a healthy and loving relationship!
Love and warmth,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
Your inner voice, or more accurately, inner voices each of them tugging to be the declarer of your thought and action. Their presence is perfectly normal as they are the culmination of your past, present, and anticipated future experiences melded into your very little internal advisors. At their best, these voices are a valuable hot bed of wisdom! They are the voices that guide one towards the enjoyment of positive choices, healthy boundaries, positive self-talk, and confidence. The utterer of syllables such as, “Maybe you should tap those brakes as the odometer is speeding towards 75, we would like to arrive alive in here! ”I know that wine is really good but how about having a glass of water before your next!?” “John hasn’t called you back in several days and you can’t keep leaving those messages, you deserve better treatment and by calling him you are encouraging him to treat you this way.”
Most of us have experienced some version of this little inner savior, provided this is balanced by properly free spirited fueled actions sometimes then it is perfectly well to enjoy the kind of lifestyle that our inner voice will guide us towards. I notice however that those persons who have suffered childhood victimizing, perhaps by the many forms of parental or peer abuse/neglect and also for those who have suffered from later life trauma, for them, we find that soothing inner voice is dominated by an inner critic. The inner critic may become so overwhelming for the individual that they are desperate to quiet the mind!
Our inner voice typically develops to primarily mirror the kinds of messages that we received from our early caregivers. For those lucky folks who have been the recipients of plenty of hugs, kisses, and assurances in those formative years an inner voice develops to say that everything will be ok when times are hard, to have confidence in the face of adversity, to develop basic coping skills which will help us pass us through life’s trials while maintaining some structural integrity. For the many others who have not been plagued by a stream of criticism, scoffed at for their feelings, or having been victims of deception or outright physical or sexual abuse, then the development of the inner voice becomes quite different. It may say things like, “stay quiet! Nobody wants to hear your opinion!” “Stay in that abusive relationship, you will never find better and are too weak to be alone!” “Drink some more wine, it’s the only way to calm your nerves and you aren’t going to succeed anyways!” So we begin to see the very different internal world of one who has a well-developed inner voice to the one who has a well-developed inner critic!
While it is indeed a fact that even the healthiest among us has a variety of intimations existent within our psyche, meaning we all have both a seat of inner wisdom and an inner critic. It is the balance which is my concern, our thinking should represent vigor, calm, and confidence as this is our natural state and anything else is a residue of this natural progression having gone astray. If you are experiencing this brand of suffering and these inner voices have turned to stresses and symptoms then you are likely eager to begin your journey towards healing. Whether you choose to begin that journey in therapy or by utilizing some other method of transformational growth it will be a magical path and well worth the effort. As a part of your healing, take a look inside and develop an awareness of your inner wounded child. You may try keeping a journal and writing down or simply imagining how would you describe this younger you? What are some of your early memories, for each painful memory consider an alternative ending, what kind of memory would you have liked to experience? Remember now that this is your own story and you may create it however you would like so enjoy the opportunity to be creative! Imagine the younger version of yourself crying and pained, go to the child and offer him/her soothing, love, care, and warmth. It is by healing those parts of ourselves which have suffered that we become whole, healthy and content just as we are meant to be! May the best of preparation and guidance serve you on your journey!
Light and Love,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
by Stephanie McCrackenAugust 1, 2013 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling0 comments
You love your wife, husband, boyfriend, live in lover, you have remained together “insert number of years.” In fact you are so stricken with these pangs of warm and gooey feelings that you want to put in the extra effort that love sometimes requires of us to enhance our relationship bonds. Or, another possible consideration is that your relationship is in a slump and if this is the case you may have become aware of the fact that love does not tend its own growth. Regardless of how much time you may spend in your partner’s presence the difference between a quality relationship and a love that may be waning is often depicted in the quality of the time spent together. This is particularly true when a relationship may be suffering from the effects of deteriorating communication lines, conflicting schedules, the passage of time, strain upon one or both partners just to name a few. Besides couple’s therapy, there are a number of things that you may consider doing in our beautiful city to revitalize that loving connection that was once the highlight of your life.
- In Pittsburgh’s Cultural District there are several absolutely free galleries that are definitely must see’s! Space is on Liberty Avenue right downtown, even if you and your partner are not a beret wearing art aficionado, the instillation art is highly accessible to the laymen not to mention an interesting conversation starter, plus, did I mention that its free! http://www.spacepittsburgh.org/flash.html
- Take a long walk on one of the abundant river trails. We are lucky to live in a city that has a plentitude of water trails, some private and wooded while others permit a stroll next to the glittering metallic of the industrial laden skyline. Take advantage of man or natures bounty with your lover while hands remain clasped, a simple stroll can be so refreshing.
- Go shopping in the strip district markets and purchase a small amount of your favorite treats for a hiking excursion, take your picnic to one of the local parks. We are lucky to live in a city where there are a myriad of options, from Raccoon State Park to Morain State Park. At many of the parks you have the option of hiking or even renting a paddle boat which is fun and great exercise! http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/findapark/moraine/
- Take a ride on the incline and visit the startling heights of our city where you can admire the vista with your lover at the summit. While enjoying the sites, you can take the time to talk about the places you see that you have been together or the places that you would like to visit. http://www.duquesneincline.org/
- Create a couples vision board together, clip through books and magazines to create your ideal vision of where you would like to be in the next year or in 5 years. Plan together; this will give you both a chance to reconnect while understanding your own and your partners’ dreams. http://www.ehow.com/how_4494911_make-vision-board.html
- Peruse the Pittsburgh City Paper for outdoor concerts, even better you may stumble upon some that are absolutely free! From outdoor moonlit symphonies to indie rock, check out the ticket for lists! What speaks romance and excitement as much as enjoying the relaxing effects from the music in your ears. http://www.pghcitypaper.com/
- Enjoy one of the Paint and Wine events such as Corks and Canvases. These are paining classes that are targeted towards adults; you can go with your significant other and even a group of friends. While the cost may be a bit prohibitive for some, if it is within your budget it is well worth it to become creative making those “happy trees” while sipping a glass of wine. http://corksncanvas.com/
- Rent a Kayak, available on the river next to PNC Park or also available in Millville. Get your heart pumping with the renewal of romance and the fun of enjoying the city from a unique vantage point! This fantastic venue also offers bike rentals and the city of Pittsburgh boasts many wonderful trails.
I encourage you, the reader to share your own yinzer worthy way to REVIVE YOUR LOVE!
In love and health,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Ave
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Stephanie McCrackenJune 10, 2013 counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, Uncategorized0 comments
The Life Inside
Standing in the grocery store checkout, there is much more to do here besides the typical exchange of money for some organic fruits and veggies. With a certain measure of guilt, my eyes invariably peruse the tabloids which today, are making “news” of Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy weight. While I am outraged by the headlines declaring “200lbs and only 6mos” they crassly mock her maternity wear as “A fashion No, No.” Ms. Kardashian has seldom been the object of pity but when taking a moment to reflect upon a nation that is so completely obsessed with beauty, weight, and plastic surgery that is has become acceptable to ridicule a pregnant woman’s’ weight? This “news publication” makes a headline out of each pound of her growing form so that it may be scrutinized by millions of grocery isle readers as they, much like me, stand next to an abundance of Snickers and Reese’s Cups? I must ask, have we forgotten the sacredness to her growing form? There is a life inside of her you know, a life which in its quest for sustenance beckons Ms. Kardashian’s appetite for nutrition, despite what her thighs may want. Yet this obsession with physical form and aesthetic perfection is an epidemic of worldwide proportions, while reading my musings I would like you to consider one question. If our televisions and popular reading material are any indicator, it seems that our culture mandates us to manicure our exterior images until they are perfectly reflected from the mirror. My question is this, what are we avoiding while we daftly reflect upon our aesthetics which blankly stare back at us from those glassy surfaces?
Once while I was journeying through the Peruvian Andes, I observed a tiny, wrinkled, and ancient woman heaving buckets up a dangerously slopped mountainside. Earthen and bound by a foreign code of conduct she carried her load one small step at a time, graciously imparting a smile of browned and cracked teeth to anyone who may pass her direction. At once I realized why I hadn’t seen a single fitness center in the entire village. Most people throughout the world struggle to maintain health or as many Americans would be compelled to describe, “stay thin” by participating in activities which sustain their lives. The people in the 2nd and 3rd worlds think not of “staying thin” but of maintaining health by eating enough food so that they do not perish. The whole, “thin is in” paradigm has ironically had its grips on Americans for a century despite the fact that many within our nation suffer from the dangerous epidemic of obesity. All of those diet pills marketed to the western world would be a misnomer if you found yourself in Mauritania. In this nomadic tribe the cultural norm proclaims that “bigger is better.” For a Mauritanian beauty is found within grand and bulbous layers of plump flesh. Can you imagine if the grocery checkout was filled with magazine images of women in their bikini, proudly flaunting bulging tufts of cellulite and fat rolls?
Alas this is America and we exalt the skinny girl, svelte body, fat free kind of look except when it comes to our face and our lips because for facial contours plumper is better! Even beyond the multiple lip glosses and creams promising to give the user full and pouty lips the medical community has revolutionized a whole line of “fillers.” For the price of a luxury car payment one can have hyaluronic acids injected into sallow contours of the face all in an effort to fill up that fat loss that happens as a result of normal aging. What is it that we want to avoid by covering up those wrinkles, filling in the signs of age? Why would life be like if we allowed it to be what it really is?
Imagine what it would be like to live life in the Eastern part of the globe, countries where some women do not enjoy dark skin tones. While I was backpacking throughout Thailand, I noticed an array of dangerous bleaching creams and bleaching powders intended to morph flesh into the most albino shade of white that almond shaped eyes had ever seen! It’s not just the Thai culture but many Asian and African cultures that want to turn their skin from chestnut, cinnamon, and chocolate shades to pale and creamy tones. Yet, in America, many of those that possess those milky white skin colors read the pages of Vogue and Cosmopolitan to instead learn how to turn the color of their flesh into the “perfect golden bronze.” If powders and cream aren’t enough one could always submit to a bout of “tanorexia” and bake in a tanning booth until cancer has sprouted from the flesh. Why are humans all over the globe attempting to change the color of their flesh at the risk of their health?
Until the early 20th century foot binding was a common cultural practice in China. Girls as young as 4 would have their toes broken and wrapped in such a way that they would cease to grow as men found these tiny feet to be most beautiful. What a paradox for those here in modern America, we offer heels so high that a lady will be able to sniff the heavens while cautiously lurching onward into the day or night. If you attempt to sport a pair of these stiletto heels it very well may end up being an evening spent grasping for the nearest handrail until your blistered and raw toes hurt so badly that even though you look incredible by today’s smoky eye, stilt walking standard, you cannot possibly take another step. Remember the wartime mantra as you plod onward, “beauty is pain, pain is beauty.”
I imagine you seated somewhere reading this little essay, squinting in disbelief at the paradoxes inherent in the world of glitz, glamour, and beauty or perhaps you are not squinting at all! Facial expression has allowed humans to evolve by our ability to communicate subtle and intricate emotions. Consider all that is communicated in the raise of a brow or narrowing of the eyes, nonverbal conveyances employed by the human species for the last few hundred thousand years, but forget about that because according to the latest polls smooth foreheads are “in” and there is a full scale attack upon “the squint.” Cosmo states that facial expression is soooooo out of Vogue! Please don’t worry your pretty little faces or attempt to bat your frozen lashes! We have a quick fix for that and all other things! Doctors are able to inject your forehead, lips, and eyes with botulism. Yes, that’s right; the historically toxic and even lethal bacteria “botulism” is now bottled and sold under the name Botox. Men and women are paying enormous sums of money to have this substance injected into facial nerves, with a promise that their formerly fluid expressions will now remain immobile. Paralytic motion is the aim of treatment because motion causes wrinkles and wrinkles mean, umm…that you’re aging????? The FDA has also approved Botox as helpful for profuse sweating, while humans sweat to detoxify and cool their bodies but alas sweat must go because sweating may interfere with one’s ability to be seamlessly “pretty”.
If anyone out there still has a mobile eyebrow you may raise when you learn that in 2007 Americans spent 95 BILLION dollars on beauty, hair, and skin products! With the myriad of options to alter oneself, thinner, plumper, whiter, tanner, taller, smoother, oh how the list could go on, there are options for you! It seems however, that in all of this exterior rebuffing there is still something that many of us are neglecting. You won’t find this on the label of your favorite designer, “The most invigorating sensations are far from the cosmetic isles or fashion boutiques!” Has the color palette of your eye shadow trio ever mirrored the feeling that you get when you stop to watch the Atlantic crash into pebble and sand beaches? Do you ever make time to admire that fiery orb dip below or above the horizon, or consider the wispy tufts of clouds meandering across the sky submitting to some cosmic law that defies definition or human intervention? Take a moment to see beyond the compact and notice that the best place to reflect is a some quiet and placid place on a newly discovered pond hidden deep within the forest. Nature has some mystical secrets to teach you. Today seems like it’s a wonderful day to leave the heels in the closet and choose todays outfit solely on its ability to offer comfort. Allow your brows to form joyously contorted expressions while looking out at the world or into your heart and mind. A small message to close, whether you’re like Miss Kardashian and 8 months pregnant or not interested in ever having a baby, please remember that there is much more to the eye than the fleshy surface, for each and every one of us, THERE IS LIFE INSIDE. It is my hope that we can each create the day where we use the majority of our time to polish the soul, exfoliate the heart, and bronze the emotions. A shiny self-reflection begins when we take a moment to look inside, what and how does your mind do its thinking, what kinds of emotions color the terrain of your perception, what types of words do you use to describe your daily experience, what is the quality of your relationship to your friends, family, coworkers? Let us all find that behind those manicured reflections, the most sacred place is the one that exists deep within you, and when you encourage yourself to take that glimpse into your inner sanctum, just what does your mind say about what it sees?
In health and Wellness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233
Mother: a word unlike any other. It has meaning in every culture and time since the birth of human kind. By definition it elicits a range of thoughts and emotions, as each of us considers the personal and collective vision we have for the word “Mother.” The day we honor those who embody this wondrous expression is once again upon us. What does it mean to you? How do we characterize the word, the embodiment, the spirit of “Mother?”
Who Is She?
Venus von Willendorf
At the birth of civilization it was the “Great Mother” the nomadic tribes worshiped. She who could spring forth life from her womb and nourishment from her breast, and revered as a magical being would thousands of years later become the most respected woman in the Christian Bible. “Mother Mary,” a virgin, who gave birth to Christ, is just one of the many creation stories from our collective religious canon. Isis, an Egyptian goddess, worshipped as the ideal mother and wife was honored for her connection with nature and magic. She was the friend of the wealthy and poor alike. Pachamama, a fertility goddess linked to the earth and nature, promotes ingestion of a tonic brewed from “the mother vine or the sacred vine.” In fact, the earth is often referred to as the “First Mother,” giving life to all who have followed. “Mother Earth” provides the theater for each human to rise from the soil, wind and rain. In all of her selfless giving, Mother, often asks for nothing. In our endless quest for progress and growth we often forget to mumble a simple “thank you” to our sacred creator.
A Mother’s Love Remembered
Thank you for my life. From your flesh I was born, from your blood I could breathe, from your surrender I was able to grow and love. We have this day, this collective day, to remember the importance and the essence of what it is to be “Mother.” A day to recollect with gratitude all the giving, caring, and loving smiles; the encouragement, tenderness, warmth, sustenance, freshly pressed clothes, and matching socks. For the hand that stroked my hair when I was sick, and took my temperature with expert precision, reassuring me that it would be okay.
Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist and St. Mary Magdalene by Neroccio di Bartolomeo
Thank you Mom for the freshly cooked meals, the gooey cookies, the cradled feeling of being gently rocked until the tears magically disappeared. For the hand that nestled yours, until my safe arrival to the other side of the street, Mom, allow me to offer a kiss to that hand. To the sweet voice who read the fairytales at bedtime, the passion with which the words fell from your lips – hearing those words was the greatest gift I have ever received. Your words both read and spoken have taken me so far. To the singer of lullabies and pop songs, turned all of the way up on those warm summer days when we would drive with the windows down. You should know that I love the sound of your voice, Mother. The voice that I hear most prominently after all these years is yours. I still hear you, Mom. I know that sound, I delight in it, and I thank you for your encouragement and your courage. As a woman I have felt that glory, the knowing and the gratitude, and you were right.
This Mother’s Day, allow us to recall the sacrifice which lead to the brilliance surrounding her title, she asked for nothing but the charm of your smiles and hugs. The homemade greeting cards were always her favorite, especially when they came with a macaroni necklace that crowned her throat more dazzling to her than any string of pearls and rubies. I think she only wanted to know that we appreciated what she did, to say,” Thank you, Mom.”
Though a single day could never be enough to truly illuminate the magnificence that all of your love and time deserves, it is but what should be many days to honor and recall with great fondness and respect the queens the earthen goddess has created. For all the biological Moms, Step-Moms, Foster Moms, the Mommas of fur babies, the Grandmas, the Mother Earth, a world of Moms who sustain the life from moment to moment, today we salute you and we honor you, Divine and Mortal Mother, Thank you.
Love, and maternal happiness,
Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghLearn More