Counseling, Providers

The Helping Hufflepuff

Lake Norman Counselors’ very own Helping Hufflepuff

I was inspired recently to retake the Harry Potter Sorting Hat Quiz, and my results have been consistent across the years: Hufflepuff. I wear my yellow and black proudly but I can’t help but wonder, why are Hufflepuffs so underrated? They have many enviable characteristics that would make a good wizard or muggle. I also believe these characteristics are especially valuable in a mental health counselor. 

Three Hufflepuff characteristics that make a good counselor: 

1. Open Minded: The first Hufflepuff characteristic that makes a good counselor is imperative to the counseling relationship and process. Clients come in with an array of issues that impact every aspect of their lives and counselors have to stay open minded so that we can give the best care possible. Sometimes we are the only person in their life who will not judge what they have to say. It is not only our job to be empathetic and understanding, as a Hufflepuff, it is our nature.

2. Patience: When you see a mental health counselor, just like any other healthcare professional, you come with expectations that you will leave feeling different than when you came. The counseling process, however, takes longer than a simple visit to your primary care physician. Counselors (and clients) need patience during this process because complex issues aren’t magically resolved in one session.  

3. Kindness: The third characteristic that I want to point out may be an obvious one, but one that is important nonetheless. Counselors work with people from many different backgrounds, sometimes very different from our own. Showing kindness to our clients is a simple way to say “I’m here for you.” It’s been found that the therapeutic relationship is one of the strongest indicators for successful treatment. Kindness allows us to build a trusting and healthy therapeutic relationship with our clients. 

Lake Norman Counselors

Human Connection in The Age of Social Distancing: Part II

In the first part of this article, I discussed the importance of finding meaningful connection by understanding the personality differences and love languages of those closest to you. In this article, I want to discuss some practical steps to putting that into action.

Every family or friend group is likely comprised of some combination of introverts and extroverts, with a wide variety of love languages. Again, Part I discusses how and why it’s crucial to figure out where everyone stands. Once you know the defining characteristics of the key players in “your circle,” you can move on with a better understanding of what might work best for your group dynamics.

Before I offer my exciting and creative suggestions, I want to make a comment on technology. As a counselor, I have a love/hate relationship with technology. As a couples counselor, especially, I can’t tell you how many times the words “texting is not communicating” have come out of my mouth. While I stand by this statement 110%, here we are, in the Age of Social Distancing. Which means that we’re all going to have to go the extra mile to connect with one another. Because, again, texting is not communicating. Just wanted to put that in writing so we’re all on the same page moving forward.

In stressful and unfamiliar times, it can be both reassuring and comforting to focus on the familiar and the positive. So my three suggestions are playing largely on nostalgia. Now these are three special and meaningful activities to me, but these suggestions are all easily adaptable! The entire city of New Orleans eats red beans and rice on Monday’s – I’m not sure why it’s a thing, but it’s comfort food. Now, that’s not the example I used (I did Taco Tuesday) because I figured tacos were a little bit more universal than red beans & rice. But my point is, it’s important to utilize the traditions in your culture, your family, and your friend group to come up with ideas of your own! While I’m a huge fan of tacos, my New Orleans friends and I could easily adapt these suggestions to a Monday red beans dinner. Getting creative to come up with something engaging is part of the fun.

  • Taco Tuesday’s:
    • Dinner with family and friends is such a great way to connect! So whether you’re supporting a local restaurant, or cooking at home, this is a wonderful way to connect as a group.
    • Introverts: Enjoy cooking or grilling outside in the beautiful weather; look up different salsa recipes to try each week as an appetizer; play your favorite music while you cook or relax with a glass of sangria. Our introvert friends can also be helpful in organizing and planning the shopping for the evening. If you’re planning on dining out, make a list of local restaurants and pick a new restaurant each week.
    • Extroverts: Arrange the date/time everyone will eat together; encourage your friends to Facetime during dinner so you feel like you’re at a dinner party; organize “themes” of the evening and see if your friends will dress up; have everyone make the same salsa/sangria/dips/etc and then vote on your favorite.
    • Verbal Affirmations: Thank them for their contributions to the evening; offer compliments on the dish they made and the hard work they put into making the meal; ask for advice; send a thank you card after the evening.
    • Acts of Service: Purchase the groceries you’ll need for the evening; help with meal prep or the dishes after dinner; put the kids to bed while they’re cooking dinner; make them their favorite cocktail without being asked; help with a task they hate doing (like chopping onions or taking out the trash).
    • Physical Touch: Within families or couples, a thank you hug or kiss for making dinner is appropriate; putting on lively salsa music and dancing together can be another fun way to physically connect with a partner or friends within your immunity community.
    • Quality Time: Spend time connecting during dinner with no distractions – no phones, no TV, etc; Ask open ended questions that illicit more than just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response; express gratitude for the time that you have together; express genuine interest and excitement in what is being said; actively listen.
    • Gift Giving: If you’re gathering with your ‘immunity community’ for this event, bring an appetizer or dessert that aligns with the theme you’ve picked; send everyone home with a funny “gag” gift; take a picture during the night and text it to everyone.
  • Christmas in… July?
    • The nostalgia and joy of Christmas can never come too soon in my opinion. We could all use a dose of Christmas cheer, so why wait until December (or July?). Let’s break out the decorations, sugar cookies, and our Christmas spirit right now!
    • Introverts: There’s so many introvert activities associated with Christmas. Our introvert friends can make our address lists for Christmas cards, assign everyone a different type of cookie for a cookie swap, or organize a “Friendsgiving” type of potluck. (Any one else getting hungry thinking about this? Just me?) Listening to your favorite Christmas music also has been shown to elevate your mood – so it’s never too soon to start the Christmas Spotify playlist!
    • Extroverts: While the introverts are doing the behind the scenes work, our extrovert friends are ultimately the friends throwing the party. Organize an Ugly Sweater party for your family or friends – virtually or in person, as appropriate given your circumstances. Have everyone dress up and create “Christmas cards” to share online to boosts everyone’s spirits. Get a small group together and go caroling in your neighborhood.
    • Verbal Affirmations: Send homemade Christmas cards to your loved ones with handwritten notes in each one.
    • Acts of Service: In the Christmas spirit, try to do a random act of kindness for a stranger. Make a donation to a local organization or support a local, family run business that could use your support!
    • Physical Touch: Cuddle with a mug of frozen hot chocolate while watching your favorite Christmas movie; sing your favorite Christmas carols in the shower.
    • Quality Time: Plan a “Friendsgiving” pot luck or White Elephant Gift Exchange with Quarantine Essentials (cleaning supplies, toilet paper, board games, etc).
    • Gift Giving: Organize a cookie exchange with your friends & family; send a friend who is struggling a small token of love to let them know you’re thinking of them!
  • Welcome to the Magical World of Harry Potter:
    • Harry Potter not only has great messages about battling isolation, coming together as a community during tough times, and the power of human connection, it is also just an incredible story! I recommend having all of your friends take the Pottermore quiz, or another Sorting Hat Quiz, to establish which House you’re in. Depending on the size of your family or friend group, and how many people are in each house, you can create your own series of physical and academic challenges and score points towards “The House Cup.”
    • Introverts: Establishing a set of rules, especially if your family or friend group wants to have a House Cup challenge, is your time to shine! Make a list of suggestions for activities and challenges for the House Cup game and keep track of the house points. You can also make a House Scoreboard – which would be a fun craft. Re-reading the series and watching the movies will also give you plenty of time to recharge alone.
    • Extroverts: Connecting with your family and friends during House Cup challenges will help give you the connection you crave! Set up consistent times and expectations for scheduling around these events. Encourage your friends to dress up in their House colors. Post your pictures and videos on your social media pages and tag all of your friends. Read the books as well and then schedule “coffee dates” to discuss the latest in the series. You can also schedule virtual movie nights, make popcorn, and then have everyone discuss the movies afterwards.
    • Verbal Affirmations: Send your favorite Harry Potter memes or quotes from the books; send texts about funny parts in the books or movies that you thought they’d enjoy; call to discuss what you’re reading; compliment them on their extraordinary performance in the House Cup challenges!
    • Acts of Service: Offer to help with preparations for the House Challenges; make recipes from the book (like Butterbeer!).
    • Physical Touch: Cuddle on the couch with your partner and some popcorn while you enjoy the Harry Potter movies; the Harry Potter movies are a time commitment, so it’s important to take breaks… in the bedroom preferably.
    • Quality Time: Engage with each other during the House Cup challenges; schedule movie nights or coffee dates.
    • Gift Giving: Send an item in their house colors; put together a snack basket for movie night.

These are just a few ideas that can go in so many different directions! Taco Tuesday could be Spaghetti Wednesday; If you grew up in the Twilight generation instead of the Harry Potter Generation, then go read the Harry Potter books… I’m kidding (kind of...) No, but my point is that you can alter these suggestions to use a different book or different holiday.

Like I said, coming up with the idea is half the fun! Extroverts, poll your friends. Offer suggestions based on your own inside jokes, the TV shows and movies you like, your favorite foods, and holidays. This quarantine is offering us all a chance to be creative and connect in new and exciting ways. I hope we all take advantage of that opportunity. I’m looking forward to hearing about what you do to connect!

Lake Norman Counselors

Working Apart, Together

In today’s reality of Coronavirus, quarantine, and stay-at-home orders, you might find yourself living in a “new normal” that includes working from home with your spouse/partner/roommate/kids. This is probably an enormous shift of how much time you are spending together, which can often lead to some frustration.

First, it’s important to remember that during times of change and unease, tension is extremely normal. I encourage you to acknowledge that you are in a new reality and that there will be some bumps in the road! As a society, we are having to figure out new ways to go about our day to day life and that comes with the growing pains of any transition. Working from home is no different, so here are a few tips to help you feel successful:

  1. Set up a workspace. Even if you don’t have a home office or a desk, you can still create a work-friendly environment. Any small alteration that can make your to space feel different from your regular living room or kitchen can be helpful. For instance, if you are working from the kitchen table, making sure there is no other clutter and possibly adding a desk lamp. If you are working from your couch, making sure that the TV stays off if you are easily distracted, or pulling up a small table so that you have a desk.
  2. Set a schedule. Your schedule might look completely different now than it did a few weeks ago. However, creating a schedule and giving yourself and your loved ones structure will be crucial in getting through this difficult time. Even if you don’t stick to your schedule perfectly everyday, having it as a guide will be helpful. Setup what time you want to start working, when and how many breaks you will have, and what time you want to stop working.
  3. Set boundaries. This is incredibly important!! Setting boundaries helps to establish clear expectations. It is necessary to set boundaries with yourself, your spouse/roommate(s), and even your boss/coworkers. When working from home, there is no physical separation from your workspace and your personal space, so it can be difficult to put work down. Allow yourself permission to stop checking emails or accepting phone calls at a reasonable hour. Do something at the end of your workday that helps simulate a “commute” or that time where you can physically leave your work life and enter your personal life. This can be a walk, changing clothes, calling a friend, or any other small habit you can do at the end of your workday.
  4. Keep the familiar.  When working from home, it can be very enticing to throw out all of day-to-day structure that you once knew. While your life and schedule will look different during this time, it is important to continue engaging in productive and familiar habits. For instance, waking up at your normal time and “getting ready for work.” Maybe you don’t have to put on a full face of makeup or shave, but washing your face and putting on clothes that are not pajamas, can help you get into a work mindset and ready for your day.   
  5. Have realistic expectations. It is important to remember that everyone is being impacted by this new reality.  Recognize when you are feeling frustrated, distracted, or completely overwhelmed. You are allowed to feel that way, and you do not have to perfectly uphold the schedule that you have set for yourself. This is a growing process and it is important to be kind to yourself when it doesn’t seem to be going the “right” way. Create ways to practice self-care and give yourself grace. Taking a break to watch your favorite TV show, call a friend, stretch, take a nap, etc. You have permission to rest!

All of these tips can be helpful when working from home, and it is crucial that you share your boundaries, expectations, and schedule with your significant other/roommate(s). Communicate what you want your workspace to be and ask what they want theirs to be. Discuss clear boundaries about your workday. For instance, let your partner know what that if your door is closed, you don’t want to be disturbed, or if your headphones are on, that means you are in work mode. Talk about the schedules that you have each made and include one another in them. Ask what they need from you and what you need from them while sharing this time and space.

A few questions to ask each other while working from home together:

  1. What do you want your workday to look like?
  2. What expectations/boundaries do you have about your workspace?
  3. What time, if any, will we spend together during the day?
  4. What routines do we want to have together? (For instance, making breakfast or lunch, taking a midday walk, stretch breaks, etc.)
  5. How can I help you be successful?

Remember, there is no perfect way to work from home, especially when in close quarters with loved ones! Take this time to practice new routines, love and take care of one another, and create the workspace that you feel your best in!

Counseling, Lake Norman Counselors

New Year, New Me (& You)

Ahhh the new year. A time to buy discounted gym memberships and cute workout clothes. The new year brings about a season of resolutions and change. Typically this change takes the form of fitness goals, meal planning, and exercise classes – at least for a few weeks… 

While most find the need to put the time, energy, and money towards their own physical and mental health during the start of the new year (which as a holistic clinician I find essential to daily functioning), it’s just as important to invest in your relationships too.

As a couples counselor in Davidson, NC, I like to help my community focus and invest in their relationships. It can be very easy to get to a comfortable (complacent?) place with our partner. We often get distracted by other aspects of life and forget to prioritize our relationship, which is the foundation of our family. Most couples wait an average of 7 years from the onset of an issue to come to couples counseling! If your in-laws got on your nerves this past holiday season, do you really want to wait that long before you do anything about it? 

Not only is it a new year, but it’s a new decade as well. Maybe it’s time to take your relationship off the back burner this decade and put it on the forefront of your resolutions list.

Here are 3 ways to do just that: 

  1. Couples Counseling: Maybe I’m a bit bias to this one, but couples counseling is a great way to invest in your relationship. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to have an “issue” to come to couples counseling! In fact, we like to focus on your goals (such as increasing intimacy, feeling more connected, communicating better, and feeling like a strong team) rather than problems – this is much easier to do when there aren’t many serious issues. Whether you’ve been in your relationship for one year or 40 years, it’s never too early or late to come in for a session.
  2. New Experiences: Our brain loves novelty. Trying something new and exciting with your partner is a great way to form a stronger bond between the two of you. Anything that changes up your daily routine such as traveling, trying a new restaurant, or cooking classes . Or how about a couples yoga class that you bought all those cute outfits for? 
  3. Get To Know Each Other – In This Decade: Something that sounds logical, but we often forget, is that you’re not the same person now that you were in the beginning of the relationship. Shocking, I know! It’s important to continuously get to know each other through the years, and it’s as simple as asking questions. I always recommend to my couples the app “Gottman Card Decks” which has many questions and topics that can be useful.Typically I don’t encourage cell-phone use when trying to connect with your partner, but I’ll let this one slide. 

These three suggestions are just a few ways to prioritize and invest in your relationship. I hope in this new year (and decade) you choose to find joy, peace, and growth for you and your relationship! 

If you need any more tips, suggestions, or help, my door is always open for individual or couples sessions! Feel free to reach out to me at madison@lkncounselors.com – Happy New Year!

Lake Norman Counselors, Providers

Mazza’s Moving Mountains

Hello everyone! I’m Madison Mazza, and I’m the newest member of the LKN Counselors family. I’m very excited to start working with teens, adults, and couples in the Lake Norman area!

I just moved to North Carolina from West Virginia, so there has been a lot of change in my life recently. Although change can be scary, it can also be very exciting and necessary to lead a more fulfilling life. I know many clients who come to counseling will also be experiencing or trying to enact change, whether it be in their personal life, work life, or social life! I think it’s comforting to know that we all go through periods of change (and growth!) and having that validation and support from others can make a world of difference. I look forward to working with clients who feel like they’re in a transitional state and want guidance and support through that process.

Speaking of support, I come from an Italian background where family has been such an important part of my life. I think having any type of support system (this does not have to be family whatsoever!) can help us navigate through life’s twists and turns. Support can come in all shapes and sizes and can even include your counselor, which is a big component of the therapeutic relationship in my eyes.

Being Italian, we also have a huge love and passion for food. Anything with carbs will do. I love to cook and bake, and I especially love to eat and try new foods!

As a native West Virginian, our motto “Montani Semper Liberi,” which translates to “Mountaineers are Always Free” has really resonated with me throughout my life. Being free from life’s pressures and stress takes time and a lot of hard work. But I truly believe this is possible! We often prioritize our physical health and leave our mental health on the back burner. We value beauty and physical fitness as a culture, but forget how important it is to put the same value on our self-care and mental health. This is especially important since we can get lost in daily stressors so easily. Freeing yourself from the stressors and chains that keep you from being the best you possible is the ultimate goal, and I’m excited and honored to be a part of that journey!

The LKNC family has welcomed me with open arms and it feels so close to home that I know the change that is happening will be well worth it. And the changes that you can make through counseling will also be well worth it! Country roads will always take me home, and I’ll always be a “Mountain Mama,” but being a Lake Norman girl sounds pretty great too!

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, 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!

Counseling, Lake Norman Counselors

Welcome!

Welcome to the Lake Norman Counselors Blog! We are all so excited to have another platform to advocate, educate, and connect with our community.

So, first things, first… introductions! We are Lake Norman Counselors. Technically, our legal name is LKN Counselors, PLLC but we also go by Lake Norman Counselors or LKNC for short.

At Lake Norman Counselors, we enjoy working collaboratively with our clients to help them lead lives of passion and purpose. We offer luxury, convenience, comfort, and only the best evidence based therapeutic services to the Lake Norman community.

We offer play therapy for children as young as two, individual counseling to teens and adults, premarital, couples, and family counseling.

The well-being of our clients and staff as always been our top priority at Lake Norman Counselors. We’ve always gone above & beyond to create a welcoming, safe, & inviting space for everyone that walks through our doors & that mission remains the same!

We have been monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely & remain laser focused on our operation as the situation evolves. We are adhering to the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) & the World Health Organization (WHO). As an essential business, we are remaining open with increased sanitary measures, particularly in our play room, in place. Even with the stay-at-home order in place, you can leave your home for your therapy appointments!

We are also offering Telehealth (phone or virtual sessions) to any client who does not feel safe or comfortable leaving their home. We are also extending our day time and evening (5-9pm) hours & will leave time in between sessions so clients don’t over lap to promote social distancing.