Counseling, Lake Norman Counselors

What to Say When There Are No Words

What to say when you have no words: How to talk to your children about difficult topics

As many of us are reflecting on the tragedy that occurred in our city yesterday, please do not neglect the importance of talking to your kids about what happened.

Children are innately receptive to the well being of their caregivers and can pick up on the grief and nervous energy that will be among us as they return to school.

Give your child age appropriate, factual information so that if they overhear their peers or teachers discussing this tragedy they will feel informed. Remind them of the safety plans that are in place at their school and reassure them that they know the drill.

It brings tears to my eyes to even fathom that we now have active shooter drills in schools. So remember, it is ok to tell your child, “It makes me feel sad to talk about shootings, but I am really glad that we can talk about topics that upset us.”

If your child has questions that you are not quite sure how to answer or that you don’t have an answer for reflect what your child is feeling. For example, your child may ask, “mommy, why would somebody want to shoot other people?” you could say something like, “It is really hard to understand why someone would hurt others.”

Do what you need to in order to get yourself into a calm, controlled state and then initiate this conversation with your child. Stay brief, stay factual, and follow your child’s lead. If you don’t know how to answer your child’s questions you can always say, “I do not have an answer for that, what do you think the answer is?” or “tell me more about what you’re thinking.” Many times children already have the answers to their own questions and it is more important that you are listening as they process the answer than it is to give them your answer.

Some children ask many questions and other children say, “ok” and return to their play. Regardless, what is important is that you’re teaching your child that you are willing to talk about difficult topics. Nothing is more reassuring to a child than knowing their caregivers can handle their thoughts and feelings. 

For more information on this or how to talk with your kids about other difficult topics please reach out to us at LKN Counselors! 

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Charlotte 👑 NOLA ⚜️ Boston ❄️

8-29-05. This is the day that ultimately set me on my path to become a clinician. It changed my life forever. Today is the 13th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. ⠀⠀⠀⠀

Destroyed. Rebuilt. Reborn. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

In 2015, on the 10th anniversary, I decided to get a tattoo representing the three cities I’ve called home in the years since the storm. It’s a crown representing Charlotte, the Queen City 👑 adorned with the Fleur de Lis ⚜️ for New Orleans & a snowflake for Boston ❄️. This tattoo is on my inside wrist & serves as a reminder of my growth & journey since the storm. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Even though it has been so long since I’ve lived in New Orleans, I still consider it “home” and go back as often as I can – especially for holidays like Mardi Gras & Jazzfest.

One of my favorite NOLA authors explains this connection to New Orleans so well. Chris Rose writes, “if there’s anything we understand here in New Orleans, it’s unconditional allegiance to odd music, strange food, and bizarre rituals. Educated folks like to call it “the lure of indigenous culture.” We just call it home. And that’s a powerful notion. Because, despite 75 years of pop music and movies that would suggest otherwise, the most important 4-letter word in the English language is not love. It is home.”

NOLA ⚜️ HOME ⚜️ 8-29

Counseling, Lake Norman Counselors

Stronger Than Ever: A Wellness Approach

I’d like to think we’ve come a long way as a society in fighting some of the stigma around counseling, but I know we still have a long way to go in the mental health field to de-mystify what happens “on the couch.”

Most of our healthcare industry operates on the “medical model” – what I consider the “What’s broke? Let’s fix it” approach. And that’s fine if we’re talking about a broken arm; which a doctor would assess, diagnose, and then treat appropriately. A broken arm is pretty straightforward.

But mental health issues don’t get treated as neatly, on a perfect timeline, or get processed by x-ray machines. So why would mental health care operate on the same model?! We can’t operate under the same assumptions or on the same model for a number of reasons.

Most importantly, because you and/or your children are not broken!

Counselors practice by utilizing a wellness model rather than the medical model. The best comparison is to say that counseling is just like going to the gym! You don’t go to the gym because your biceps are broken. You go to make them stronger! You go to build muscle, endurance, flexibility, strength. This is the essence of the wellness model: a strength-based and goal-oriented approach.

Counselors (practicing some modalities more than others) offer clients skills and tools to help them navigate through life! Just like everyone would have different goals at the gym (toning vs building muscle vs endurance training, etc) everyone has different goals in counseling.

Ultimately, regardless of who you see, counseling is strength based and goaloriented!

Counseling, Lake Norman Counselors

Desperately Wanting

It seems like a simple question, but the fact of the matter is, “what do you want?” is an intimidating question. It can feel overwhelming, daunting. Leave you confused, unsure, tired, hopeless, or with more questions than answers. For some, the question of “what do you want?” IS the problem. You feel stuck without an answer.

I have good news! There are a few solutions & strategies to resolving this conundrum. One of my favorites is W.D.E.P.

  1. What do I Want?
  2. What am I Doing?
  3. Evaluate behaviors.
  4. Make a Plan!

So to utilize the tool effectively, if you did happen to know what you want, your ideal goal would be a S.M.A.R.T. (that’s a specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, & timely) goal. Plug that in and apply the next steps specifically to your goal.

For those of you feeling stuck and overwhelmed by the question of “what do I want?” we’re going to skip that part for now! Just ignore it completely and go to question two… what am I doing?

Write down your recent behaviors. Literally – what do you do every day? Who do you talk to? Where do you go? What’s the first thing you do in the morning? The last thing at night? As many actions as you can – especially the ones that are emotionally charged or different recently.

Moving on to the key step: evaluation. What have you done recently that’s brought joy and excitement into your life? What activities cause stress, anxiety, or doubt? Who makes you smile and laugh? And then who makes your smile fade when they walk in the door? Have you done something different recently that has had an impact on your life? Maybe you started eating breakfast, are trying out a new cologne, or reconnected with an old friend? What impact did those changes have on your day?

Ready for this game changer?? After you’ve evaluated your recent actions, we’re going to make a plan! It’s pretty straightforward and simple… looking at the positive and negative, you just need two steps:

Increase the positive and decrease the negative!

It really is that simple, ladies & gentlemen!

So many clients tell me that their goal is to decrease stress, depression, and anxiety in their lives, but when I ask what they do to bring joy into their lives there’s often a struggle for an answer.

Be intentional about creating moments – and habits! – that bring you happiness. Surround yourself with people who energize you, who validate you, who make you laugh, who are fun to talk to & who you can connect with easily. Rid yourself of any “should statements” and their resulting obligation, guilt, & fear and focus on what you want!!

If you look at what you’re currently doing that brings you joy & makes you smile, it’ll become very obvious what you want.

Counseling, Lake Norman Counselors

The Lost Art of Losing

For Carolina fans, you’ll remember the New Orleans Saints beating your beloved Panthers to advance on to play Minnesota in the playoffs this year. It was a great game – I was even there!

It was a fabulous time at home in the Dome!

And then New Orleans flew to Minnesota, and our hopes for a Black & Gold Super Bowl vanished…

It was a loss – a crushing (some might even say unfair since the refs were a little biased…. 🙄) and devastating playoff loss… but you might be surprised by immediate response.

These were two of my favorites:


This first, immediate response is from former Saints player and daily inspiration – the one & only, Steve Gleason. If you don’t know about Gleason, Team Gleason, or understand why this joke is absolutely hysterical, you’re missing out on a true treasure! Look him up! Gleason has been a beacon of hope -and now humor- for the city of New Orleans for over a decade.

My second favorite response was pulled from Nola.com the next morning…


It’s a new day… dust yourself off… prepare for the world’s biggest party (it’s Mardi Gras season). 💜💚💛

And to the young player who missed the tackle?

It’s okay!

Less than 24 hours and the city has a billboard up telling Marcus Williams we love him! We lost the game in the last ten seconds but do we hold grudges?! No!! Ain’t nobody got time for that. There’s a parade this afternoon!

It may sound silly, but one lesson I learned in New Orleans was to celebrate loss. I mean, we celebrate everything else… so why not? Our funerals are celebrations. (Probably the epitome of celebrating loss.) We celebrate when our team wins. And yes, we celebrate when we lose. Because what’s the alternative? Just going home? Sulking all night?

We can’t change the outcome, but we can celebrate the experience! I had my friends over for the MN game. I made delicious apps. We had an adorable puppy to play with and entertain us during commercial breaks. It was a great game! I had a fabulous night with great people & great food watching a great game. What is there to mourn?

Now, I get that it’s easy to minimize the outcome of a football game (although two weeks shy of the Super Bowl – I wouldn’t say that to any Eagles fans!). But what if your loss is more substantial?

This is when we go back to that key word experience. You played the game so to speak. There is value in that alone. Maybe you didn’t come out on top, but you now have more information than you did before about what you can do to be better, stronger, wiser, or more tactful in the future. That’s not really a loss… it might not be a win either, but at least you’re gaining valuable insight you wouldn’t have otherwise.

You might not be able to change your situation or an outcome, but you can always change your perception. Again, Steve Gleason is a great role model… refer to joke above.

In the end, the difference between a winner and a loser isn’t what is on the scoreboard. It’s about attitude and perception. If you can learn to celebrate when you win and lose – you never really lose…

WHO DAT. ⚜️

Counseling, Lake Norman Counselors

The Art of Procrastination

You should just read this later…

When you woke up this morning, was the nagging voice in your head the first voice that you heard? The voice that said, “you should’ve gotten up earlier to go to the gym.” Or “you should’ve finished that yesterday.” “You should unload the dishwasher.” “You should get some laundry done today, how many days in a row have you worn those pants now?” “You shouldn’t go out looking like this.” “You should’ve replied to that email/text.” “You really should meal prep & plan better lunches.”

Ugh. I’m exhausted from that internal dialogue already, and the day hasn’t even started. Is it time for bed yet?

If you even had a restful night of sleep in the first place, your energy level is going to quickly be depleted if you stay on that current mental trajectory. And you know what we do when we’re drained and exhausted? Nothing. Or at least nothing productive. We procrastinate!

One of the biggest complaints I hear repeatedly from clients (teens & adults) is around lack of motivation, low energy, not accomplishing goals, and procrastination. Well, I have great news. Working with someone like me – a trained cognitive behavioral therapist – can remedy those complaints. It’s hard work. It’s a constant mental battle to change our thoughts & thus our feelings, but we can train ourselves to think differently.

When it comes to procrastination, there’s one word getting in the way – should. “Shouldn’t” is also as equally toxic for our friends caught on semantics. If you re-read that first paragraph, all those draining, exhausting thoughts are should statements.

Here’s the results of should/shouldn’t statements: obligation, guilt, fear, embarrassment, dread, exhaustion, feeling judged, feeling as if we did something wrong, anxiety, anger, rebellion, being in conflict with what we really want or our values, hostility, irritation, lack of motivation… oh! And procrastination. I could continue, but I think you get the point.

Let’s evaluate two statements:

  • I want to go to the gym this morning.
  • I should go to the gym this morning.

How are those two statements different? How do they elicit different feelings? Is one more motivating than the other as you think or say them out loud?

You might follow through and do something you “should” do, but it’s going to be because there’s a sense of obligation, guilt, fear, embarrassment, dread, etc. if you don’t complete the task at hand. When you evaluate your life choices, are those the feelings you want driving your decisions?

Or would you rather be motivated by hope, energy, passion, drive, & enthusiasm? Because we typically correlate those feelings and motivators with what we want. And as a result, we’re more likely to follow through, accomplish our goals, and feel a sense of success or accomplishment as a result. Are you more likely to do something you want to do? Yes!!

Now my biggest skeptics, who typically have a culture of “should” very deeply ingrained (we can get into that in session), usually retort, “But there are things you have to do, things you should do, that don’t make me feel negatively!” Great! Then you’ve already learned how to reframe those “should statements” into “want statements” – so you’re ahead of the game.

Yes, I realize there is a reason I should look both ways before I cross the street. But guess what – I don’t want to get hit by a car today, so I am happy to do that! I want to look both ways to ensure my safety. So that reframe of the should to the want statement is relatively straightforward. It’s much harder when you’re doing work around issues you don’t want to do or when there’s a values conflict between what society/family/religion/etc tells you that you should do versus what you actually want to do.

So what are the best steps to eliminating procrastination & feeling more motivation? Becoming aware of your “should statements” is the first step! There will be a lot of them – so if that’s the case don’t be alarmed or surprised! We all have them.

If motivation & procrastination are an issue for you, please feel free to reach out. I can’t do therapy over a blog article and this is barely scratching the surface of the complexities of this issue! So please let me know how I can help – jamie@lkncounselors.com.

Counseling, Lake Norman Counselors

A Girl’s Best Friend 💎

Let the boys keep the dogs. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. And with everything that life throws at girls, women need a best friend that’s a diamond.

When I say “diamond,” I don’t mean blindly beautiful, colorful, dazzling, or even valuable – although those are all wonderful qualities in a friend. I like the diamond metaphor because each diamond started out as something else… coal.

When pressure and heat are at a maximum, coal has two options. It can crumble and disintegrate under the pressure, rendering itself useless. Or it can thrive under those conditions, undergo a metamorphosis, & become one of the most valuable symbols in our culture: the diamond.

When shit hits the fan & life is trying its hardest to get you down, you want a friend that can withstand the heat & pressure with you. Not one that will crumble, disintegrate, & desert you in your time of need. You want a diamond. You want someone strong. Someone solid. Someone reliable. And yes, a little bit of color & radiance never hurts either if we’re asking!

So ladies, as you’re taking an inventory of 2017 & preparing for 2018, take a look at your relationships. What friends have been invaluable diamonds worth keeping? And what friends are nasty, cheap costume jewelry that turns your finger green? Get rid of the junk. Make room for more valuable pieces in 2018. You deserve that investment in yourself & your relationships!

Invest in diamonds. 💎

Counseling, Lake Norman Counselors

Mindful Moments

News Alert: The coffee break was invented in New Orleans! As if I needed another reason for a Starbucks run? I can’t believe I didn’t know this piece of trivia.

“Well, of course the coffee break was invented in New Orleans. Even if you hadn’t before heard of the practice’s local provenance, it all just makes sense. Not only has the city long been a hub of coffee production, but it also famously embraces things of pleasure and leisure. Put them all together, and you’ve got the recipe for a mid-morning pause for caffeinating purposes — and another in the mid-afternoon, and another whenever it can be squeezed in. And if anybody wants to complain about it, you can just explain to them (over a cup of coffee, of course) that it’s simply in our DNA.” – Mike Scott

I ran across this quote on NOLA.com recently, but I think part of me always knew… maybe deep down in my subconscious my morning coffee runs (okay, and afternoon and yes, sometimes evening coffee runs as well) were a tribute to my New Orleans heritage.

For me, at least, the chemical dependency on caffeine is only a small part of what makes me love the “coffee break.” My ability to function, notwithstanding, I love starting my day with coffee. It’s always been an opportunity to take a mindful moment in the day.

In the midst of the morning rush out the door, the busy afternoon of clients back to back, the long evening hours at the office – the coffee break serves the purposes Mr. Scott mentions so eloquently: pleasure and leisure.

It’s a moment to slow down and engage the senses of touch, smell, and taste as I wrap my hands around a warm mug, inhale deeply, and enjoy the first sip with a smile on my face. In the car especially, I try to pair my morning coffee run with my favorite Spotify playlist to help me energize or relax (depending on if I’m starting or ending my day).

These mindful moments are vital to my self-care and well-being personally and professionally.

The coffee break can also be an opportunity to connect socially. I love my local baristas (shout out to my Northcross Starbucks!) & enjoy starting my day with them. I love taking the time out of my day to annoy check in with my coworkers to hear how their day is going. As an extrovert, I love the excuse to energize and connect with others socially.

So if you’re always rushing, overwhelmed, and stressed – it sounds like you need a “coffee break!” Call a friend, get in the car, put on your favorite music, and take a moment to slow down and engage the senses. Enjoy it!

Counseling, Lake Norman Counselors

Thanks-dreading?

There’s an empty seat at the table this year. You can’t make it back home. Your parents are divorcing after decades of marriage. The tension from the 2016 election still lingers.

Happy Thanksgiving?

If you are experiencing apprehension, sadness, resentment, stress, or anger this holiday season, you’re not alone. I know, I know! It’s the “most wonderful time of the year” and a time to “count our blessings” and “be grateful.” If you want to punch the next person who tells you that in the face, I promise you aren’t crazy or alone. Although, you should probably book a session & talk to a professional counselor about that because violence is only going to make an already shitty situation worse…

Despite the media’s best intentions to skip Thanksgiving altogether (pretty sure it’s been Christmas since October?), we’re days away the Big Parade & it’s coming whether we’re ready or not.

So what can you do to make it through this Thanksgiving without posting bail?

1. Be intentional in creating/finding times in the day that you’re actually looking forward to – it could be your morning run to Starbucks (most Starbucks are open on Thanksgiving! Trust me, I know these things), spending time talking with a friend, a moment alone listening to your favorite song, a hot bath, or cuddling with your pets at the end of the day. Be intentional in creating a time (or times) during the day doing something that will bring you joy or contentment.

2. Have an escape plan. Setting boundaries with family directly and calling it quits when you’ve reached your limits is always best for your mental & emotional health. But if you aren’t a fan of confrontation, it’s okay! I have great news for y’all – it’s 2017! For better or for worse, technology has advanced to a point where you have endless options to escape from a conversation or situation causing distress. The best route is to go in with a plan: distract that annoying relative with pictures so they stop asking inappropriate questions, have a code word to text your siblings when you get cornered, make plans for dessert with friends so you need to leave at a set time. Simple arrangements made ahead of time go a long way in making your day go smoothly!

3. Utilize healthy coping skills. At Thanksgiving especially, it’s easy to eat and drink our pain or discomfort away. While that might work in the moment, it’s not effective coping long term. So again, intention is key! What are the healthy coping skills you generally utilize when you’re upset, overwhelmed, or stressed? Make sure you’re intentional in how you cope, so it doesn’t lead to more feelings of guilt, shame, or embarrassment.

Remember, it’s only one day.

The commercials with the happy, TV families can be really invalidating when you’re in pain. The holiday season can be a very isolating time for that very reason. So please reach out to someone! A counselor, a friend, a coworker, a neighbor, a family member you trust. I promise you’re not alone!

Counseling, Lake Norman Counselors

Courage of Creativity 🖍

Creativity requires us to push beyond our fear of the unknown and trust in our natural inclinations and abilities. People frequently tell me, “you work with kids and do play therapy, you must be so creative” and my immediate response is, “I’m not creative at all, I still draw stick people.” After some self-reflection I’ve realized that my artistic ability, or lack there of, is not the type of creativity that these individuals are referring to. It is my genuine comfort in walking into the playroom with a child and my ability to be wholeheartedly accepting of the uncertainty that is about to unfold.

Children express their authentic feelings in the moment, which can lead to unpredictable behaviors at inconvenient times. Parenting through these moments is stressful and anxiety provoking. I frequently sit with parents in these moments and encourage them to look beyond this stress to examine the uncertainties that lie beneath. Is it a fear of being judged for your parenting? Is it a fear that your child is expressing socially inappropriate emotions? Is it a fear that you’re not good enough? Whatever your uncertainty may be, I challenge you to be courageous in facing this fear. Let go of your need to be certain in the art of parenting. Allow your natural creativity to shine through and trust that you will be exactly what your child needs today!

Counseling, Lake Norman Counselors, Providers

Work Hard, Play Hard

Melissa gets to have all the fun!

Hi, I’m Melissa, a child and adolescent mental health counselor. I’m also commonly referred to as the counselor with, “the fun office” here at LKN Counselors. I utilize play therapy and other creative experiential approaches in my work with children and adolescents, which means my office is filled with toys and art supplies making it look a little different than a traditional counseling office.

During my training, I learned about an approach to counseling children called play therapy and immediately knew that is what I wanted to offer my clients. Children experience life stressors just like adults; they just don’t always have the words to convey their thoughts and feelings. Play allows children to express themselves in their natural medium of communication and play therapy allows them to do so in a way that promotes healing. This immediate connection led me complete a certificate in play therapy, and I now offer this service to many of our youngest clients.

Being that I am naturally introverted myself, I found myself drawn to these experiential therapy modalities that allow my clients to experience self reflection and practice new ways of being in addition to articulating these feelings and experiences verbally.

Throughout my experience working in the mental health field, I have worked with a variety of ages. My passion truly comes from working with young children and their families. There’s nothing like the genuine personality of a child, which makes working with them tons of fun and definitely keeps me on my toes! Children also possess a natural inclination towards growth, which comes with great sense of hope for the future. Working with children also involves working with their families. I realize how frustrating parenting can be at times but also how rewarding it can be as well! Coming from a relatively big family myself, I love the energy that comes in with every family that walks through my doors, and I am honored to work with families throughout their journeys.

This blog will include activities for families, behavior management skills, resources for parents, and inspirational stories on parenting. My hope is that these articles will promote understanding between parents and children and help parents re-discover the joys of parenting.

Don’t forget to play today!

Melissa

Counseling, Lake Norman Counselors, Providers

Who Dat?! ⚜️

Who Dat?! 

Hi Everyone! I’m Jamie, the owner of Lake Norman Counselors.

As an entrepreneur and small business owner, I wear many hats simultaneously. But of all my roles, the clinical work is the part that I’m most passionate about, that brings the most joy to my life, and that makes the administrative tasks worthwhile. The interior design piece is a close second! I’m one more request away from opening LKN Interior Design as my side gig.

But joking aside, I absolutely love working with my clients. I’ve worked very hard to create a beautiful, calming, peaceful space where clients can feel comfortable being vulnerable & open to the process of counseling. I truly believe in the power of the therapeutic relationship & am honored by all of those who have allowed me to be a small part of their lives. I love what I do and hope to bring the same passion and energy that I have into the lives of my clients.

If you’ve been in the office, seen any of our marketing materials, or talked to me for more than five minutes, you might have heard that I’m from New Orleans. This is another aspect of my identity I’m incredibly passionate about and if you’ve been to NOLA, you might understand why, since you already know about the amazing food and music and history and culture and did I mention the food?! (I’d give anything for a beignet right now!) What is most important about New Orleans and the spirit of the city is the love of life. We celebrate everything – even the funerals are fun. Dead serious.

One of my favorite journalists, Chris Rose, wrote about New Orleanians, “We dance even if there’s no radio. We drink at funerals. We talk too much and laugh too loud and live too large and, frankly, we’re suspicious of others who don’t. But we’ll try not to judge you while we’re in your town.”

Told ya the funerals were a good time…

But again, joking aside, it’s hard to find a more accurate statement of the New Orleans mentality. My mentality. I’ve learned to celebrate my victories. I’ve learned to celebrate my losses. It’s really the only way to be a Saints fan (bless you boys – love you, Drew!).

At LKNC, we work with clients to help them find their passions and what brings joy into their lives.

Not only can I offer my clinical training & evidence-based treatment, but I was raised in a culture of people who embrace the spirit of Laissez les bon temps rouler. Who are always ready to “let the good times roll.” My experiences growing up taught me how to come back stronger and more resilient after hardship. I learned the importance of being united with your community during hard times, especially if the odds are against you.

I also spent four winters in Boston during undergrad at Northeastern, so I truly believe that people are resilient and can survive anything! Y’all, Boston is really cold… this southern girl had no idea that winter was just starting in December… so if you can’t change your attitude, change your situation.

I am a proponent of change. The lure of warmer, longer, sunnier days and sweet tea is what brought my husband and me to Charlotte, where I attended graduate school. It was my second move across the country, and I’m so glad I escaped the cold. My hope is that I can help others escape their own harsh winter landscapes (metaphorically – if Charlotte actually freezes over, I’m visiting my brother in Florida to defrost) and help them find the passion and joy in their lives!