Sunday, February 7, 2016

Understanding Depression

Depression is a condition that no one is immune to. It can affect anyone of any age, from any socioeconomic status, gender, race, ethnicity, or culture. Depression can be mild to major and can negatively impact all parts of a person’s life. Relationships can feel more difficult and not feel as joyful, job tasks can feel extremely challenging and more difficult to complete than usual, and a person experiencing depression may isolate themselves from others when they wouldn’t typically do so. In this newsletter you will find signs of depression, causes, risk factors, and treatment options. A person does not have to have all of the symptoms listed to be experiencing depression.

Signs of depression: (References 1 and 2)
Ongoing sadness, tearfulness, anxiousness, and/or feeling of emptiness. Some people find themselves thinking, I am really “emotional” lately; Ongoing negative thoughts and thought process; Feeling hopelessness, helplessness and guilt;  Loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyable; Feeling more tired than usual, which seems persistent; Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions; Persistent sleep problems. In severe cases, difficulty getting any sleep or trouble getting out of bed; Moving more slowly than usual; Fixation on past mistakes; Feeling responsible or accountable for things that are not within a person’s control; Changes in appetite and weight. Some people overeat and some don’t eat enough when feeling depressed; Thoughts of death or suicide; Suicide attempts; Easily irritated, agitated, and having anger outbursts; Difficulty sitting still and focusing; Unexplained pain in the body. Sometimes described as aching and/or widespread pain.

Causes of Depression: (Reference 1)
1.       Biological: This is not completely understood, but it is know people who are depressed experience physical changes in their brain.
2.       Brain Chemistry: Think of this as electric circuits in the brain not transmitting the needed amount of energy, resulting in feeling depressed.
3.       Hormones: Changes in hormones affects how a person feels. A common hormone for women is estrogen and for men is testosterone. Thyroid problems can also cause depression.
4.       Genetics: This is undergoing more research, though it is known depression can affect more than one person related by blood.

Risk Factors: (Reference 1)
Negative thought pattern, low self-esteem, self-critical and overdependence on others; Experiencing traumatic events; Blood relative history of any form of depression and/or substance abuse; Feeling isolated or frequently criticized; Serious and/or chronic health issues; Particular medicines can cause or contribute to depression. 

No matter what the cause, it is important for a person to be evaluated for medical reasons causing their depression. Often times, men have much more difficulty asking for help than women. Depression is not anything to be ashamed of. It is just like any other illness. If a person has diabetes, we would expect them to see a doctor. The same needs to be expected of someone with depression.

Treatment Options: (Reference 1)
1.       Psychotherapy. This is typically on an outpatient basis; however, for more severe cases and stabilization this may be done in an inpatient hospital setting. A person receiving this service in a hospital will most likely be referred for outpatient psychotherapy after discharge. Psychotherapy may be performed by Licensed Clinical Psychologists, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, or Licensed Professional Counselors. Psychotherapy is known for helping individuals explore the impact of their thoughts on how they feel and behave. The human brain is able to change in structure through the psychotherapy process.  

2.       Medications may also be prescribed by your doctor for treatment of depression. Some primary care physicians are comfortable treating less complicated/ severe depression. If you are experiencing a moderate to severe case of depression, you may benefit more from services from a Psychiatrist. A Psychiatrist is especially trained in working with mental and emotional challenges and medication treatment.

3.       Other treatment options may include nutritional and supplement support. Treatments focusing on the “mind-body” connection, such as “acupuncture, yoga or tai chi, meditation, guided imagery, massage therapy, music or art therapy, spirituality”/ spiritual support, and “aerobic exercise” are also known for helping support recovery from depression.     

Your healthcare professional may recommend all or part of the above treatment/ recovery support options depending on your specific needs, preferences, and available resources. “Mind-body” treatments are not typically used as the primary treatment for depression, but may be used in conjunction with psychotherapy and/or medication.

1.       Mayo Clinic. Depression. Retrieved February 7, 2016 from
2.       National Institute of Mental Health. Depression. Retrieved February 2, 2016 from

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Capacity of the Teen Brain

Check out the below link to see how a teenager's brain differs from a fully mature adult brain.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Benefits of Physical Activity

With the New Year, a lot of us often set goals for ourselves. The “resolutions” can involve the amount of time we’ll spend at work, with our family and friends, how we would like to change how we manage stress and other difficult life situations, to making goals to be healthy and physically active. Ask any gym employee where they see the heaviest spike in membership and they’ll tell you the month of January.

Reevaluation the past and setting goals for the future is a healthy way to improve our quality of life. When focusing on the goal of increase physical activity and focusing more on our health, we must remember life is a journey and not a literal sprint. Making realistic goals and working at a steady pace will help you make long lasting changes that go beyond the month of January that you can carry with you through life.

Throughout the rest of this newsletter, you will find the benefits of incorporating regular physical activity into your lifestyle. Physical activity does not have to be something we dread. It can be something we enjoy and reap the benefits from for our entire lives.

Benefits of Physical Activity
Live longer and prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels, stroke, type 2 diabetes, metabolic and hormone imbalances, and colon and breast cancers.
2.       Strengthen your heart and lung function and build muscle and strength.
3.       Increase your metabolism (Ability to burn more calories and lose weight).
4.       Reduce and help manage stress, anxiety, and depression, including improving your mood and mood regulation.
5.       Increases sexual arousal in women and help prevent erectile dysfunction in men.
6.       Improve and maintain brain function.
7.       Gives you more energy and helps you sustain it throughout the day.
8.       Helps you maintain healthy digestion and bowel movements.
9.       Increases your bone density (Stronger bones).
1-   Helps you maintain a more youthful look and keeps you more agile (Able to move and be physically active).
  -   Helps improve your sleep.
--   Helps improve your overall quality of life.

You do not have to buy an expensive gym membership to begin making some lifestyle changes. There
are many activities you can incorporate into your current daily activities that can help move you to a
healthier lifestyle. A general rule of thumb is to engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily. If
you are a smartphone user, there are many free apps you can download that help you improve your eating
habits and increase your physical activity level. With all changes in life, make sure you speak with your
doctor before you begin and lifestyle change. Your doctor can help you better understand benefits and
specific limitations you may need to be aware of.  

Reference Links:

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Relaxation Video

Click on the above link for a short relaxation video.

Gender Dysphoria

On November 18, 2015, Alison Allsbrook,LCSW, and Wesley Brusseau, LCSW, gave a heartfelt and eye opening presentation to the Roanoke Chapter for the Virginia Society for Clinical Social Work (VSCSW). If you or someone you know is experiencing difficulty related to gender identity, please call 540-772-5140 to reach a competent, caring, and accepting clinician. We are ready to assist you on your journey to personal growth and discovery.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Bedside Manner Awards

PHR is proud to announce the following honors for our clinicians:

First place: Steve Strosnider

Third place: Jackie Wilkerson

Honorable mention: Alison Allsbrook, Emily DeFrance

PHR has talented, committed clinicians to serve you and your family! Please call 540-772-5140 to inquire about our services and to make an appointment. You can also visit us on the web at

Friday, November 20, 2015

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today, November 20, 2015, is Transgender Day of Remembrance. The Human Rights Campaign defines this day as, "an opportunity to come together and remember transgender people gender-variant individuals, and those perceived to be transgender who have been murdered because of hate."

Hate come from misunderstanding and fear. Innocent lives are lost and families are torn apart. On this day, take a moment to challenge yourself to think about those different from you and think about how boring this world would be if we were all the same. We are all people, we all deserve to live life free of fear and hate.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Mindfulness Channel

Please take a moment to visit Dr. John Heil's Youtube channel to experience a short mindfulness exercise.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Finding Joy in Life

As human beings, we all too often have so much going on in our lives we miss the positive things we are experiencing. It is true we may have negative things happening in our lives, but that doesn’t mean we have to choose to completely focus on the negativity. In fact, by refocusing our attention to positive things around us, it can help the negative not seem so bad.

For example, let’s say you are dealing with a chronic mental and/or medical condition(s) that constantly reminds you of the pain you are in and what you are not able to do. If this is the case, try to think about and focus on what you CAN do. This doesn’t necessarily mean the pain will go away, but you may find you’re better able to manage it. The mind and body are connected, this we cannot deny. If our mind is in a negative state, our body will respond to this by being in a more negative state. If our mind is in a more positive state, the same will happen with our bodies. is a great online resource that can help you better understand the influence of your thoughts and perceptions on how you feel and ultimately what you are able to do in your life.

If you or someone you know is struggling with seeing the positives in life, call Psychological Health Roanoke at 540-772-5140 to get connected with a competent, caring licensed provider to help you feel better during your life’s journey. There is nothing more rewarding for a provider than seeing clients improve their quality of life. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

October is ADHD Awareness Month

We are in the middle of ADHD awareness month. ADHD is not a disorder that discriminates. Anyone, anywhere can be affected. It's not something that only children have and it's not something to be taken lightly. Click on the link below to learn more about ADHD. If you feel like you may have ADHD, please contact our office at 540-772-5140 to ask about a testing appointment. There is no reason to suffer from this disorder, help is available.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Successfully Integrating Blended Families

Understanding Blended Families: 1             

When we think about the meaning of the word “family,” the definition has changed over-time. Often previous romantic relationships are ended and new relationships are formed. These relationships also include the introduction of children from previous relationships. It can be confusing and frustrating for everyone involved in the creation of a “new” family.

A lot of confusion and frustration in blended families comes from individual expectations. A blended family cannot expect to look like each partner’s previous family, nor can they expect children to magically accept the blended family and all of its members immediately without discord.  

Successfully bringing two families together takes time, energy, respect, and commitment. It is up to the parents to plan ahead in order to assist children with adjusting to the changes in how their family looks and functions.

Building the Foundation:2  

Though most of us are not general contractors, we do understand in order to build any type of home or office a solid foundation has to be established. If this does not occur, grave consequences occur, possibly injuring those involved. This is no different when forming a blended family. Please see the tips below on building the foundation for a new family:

  1. Don’t make too many changes at once.
  2. Don’t expect to form immediate loving relationships with your partner’s children.
  3. Experience daily life with your partner’s children. You need to be able to spend time together when things get “real” versus only during fun events.
  4. Have a discussion with your partner BEFORE you marry and/or move your family in together. You will not be able to parent how you’ve always known, so have a plan in place of what parenting will look like in your new family. Remember, parenting styles can vary differently
  5. Remind all involved that you WILL NOT choose one over the other. You want to let everyone know you are committed to having a relationship with them all.
  6. Set the expectation for respect. People don’t have to like each other in order to show respect. Liking each other can take a lot of time, effort and energy. Don’t give up if it doesn’t happen quickly.
  7. Think of relationships in your new family as a bank account. You slowly put love, time, and energy into the relationships, which may one day yield quite a “fortune” for you and your partner.

Creating Success:1  

  1. Make sure you and your partner have created a strong relationship. You are going to need to lean on each other and work closely together to make your family a success.
  2. Encourage family members to be kind to each other. This doesn’t mean family members have to be best friends; however, they do need to make an effort to respectfully interact with each other.
  3. Don’t forget to show the children in your family respect. Respect should not be given based on age. Children are people, too, and deserve respect and kindness.
  4. Respect where each family member is in understanding and accepting their new family. This goes for adults, children and adolescents alike. Each person may be in different stages of understanding and acceptance. This is okay! This is a natural part of blending your family together.
  5. Remember, there is always time to grow! It may take a few years, but your goal as parents and caregivers is for your family to get to a place where its members want to choose to spend time together.

Creating Bonds:1  

  1. Create an environment that creates feelings of safety and protection. Going through the often traumatic situations that lead to the formation of new families is a lot for children to handle. They need to know they are safe and protected.
  2. Don’t be afraid to show affection. You have to remember to allow time for this process to be fully accepted by children.
  3. Make sure kids have a role within their new family and that they are respected. Everyone needs and has a job to do. This helps give children ownership over the change process.
  4. Try to understand children’s perspectives and let them know you understand. Validation can go a long way with children, especially during a lot of change.
  5. Don’t forget to say thank you. All of us like to know when we are doing a good job and to be encouraged by others. This can help children to better understand their role within their new family.
  6. Children need limits and structure. This helps them feel that they are cared for and will help them feel safe and secure. “Step-parents” need to take caution in being the one to discipline and set limits, initially; however, they do need to work with the child’s parent to discipline and set limits. This is part of making the parenting plan mentioned earlier.

No matter what the situation is contributing to the formation of a new, blended family, let the children guide the progression of adapting to the new family situation. Make sure you give them time and space to adjust to major changes and give them the opportunity to adapt on their own. If you give them the control to pace the development of their new relationships, they will most likely not feel as distressed.

For Help:  

If you or your family is experiencing difficulty, utilize EAP benefits to seek services from highly qualified, licensed professionals.

If someone you know is experiencing difficulty let them know they are not alone and you are willing to assist them with finding the help they need.  Sometimes just knowing you’re not alone is powerful in helping others seek the help they need.

If you or someone you know needs immediate mental health assistance, you can access a local crisis program, such as Lewis Gale Respond (540-776-1100), go to the nearest emergency room, or call 911.  Remember, it’s better to get help for yourself or someone else if needed.  Getting help is better than the alternative.

Psychological Health Roanoke has qualified and experienced clinicians available to help you and your family.   



  1. Kemp, G., Segal, J., and Robinson, L. (August 2015). Step-parenting and Blended Families. retrieved September 22, 2015 from



Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Building Community

When we think of building community, we often think about reaching out to helping others who are struggling. We don’t always think our role and benefits of being a part of community. Within our world, there is a lot of differing views of community. In this newsletter, I invite you to think about community in a different way. As you read, I encourage you to think about what you have in common with others versus what is different.

In order to build community, real relationships are built among people. This means getting to a place where we can truly be ourselves and not worry about the judgement of others. I’m not saying we extend trust to all of those we meet; however, I do think we often let barriers, whether real or perceived, get in the way we relate to and interact with others.

In the early 1980’s Dr. M. Scott Peck discovered something by pure accident during a workshop he was conducting. In short, what Dr. Peck found was the more time people spent together the more they felt like they were able to be their genuine authentic selves. Through this process, he found people were able to learn a lot about themselves and others, while being able to open up to process challenges and joys in life. This process helped participants feel accepted, which in turn helped them see the world through different, less hurtful lenses. This process of Building Community helped participants see where their fears were getting in the way of connecting with others and helped them more openly love others and be loved.

When we look at the core of each person, we are people. We all struggle, we all experience some sort of joy, and we all yearn for connection to others. Often our views and perceptions keep us from reaching out and connecting to those who are different. We are often afraid of what might happen. Perhaps what we are afraid of is finding out there is nothing to be afraid of in the first place. Perhaps we can find more openness, joy, peace, and understanding.

How to begin building a larger community:
1.       Get curious about those who are different by asking questions. Learning about the differences of others is not going to compromise your values and beliefs unless you chose to allow it.
2.       Allow yourself to be placed in situations where you can learn about others different than you and where others can learn about you.
3.       Examine any biases or stigmas you have of other cultures, groups of people. This goes beyond people of different races and ethnic backgrounds.
4.       Educate yourself about others. Read up on what others are doing and how others live. Educating yourself can help get rid of fear based on differences; the more you know the less scary something can be.  
5.       Allow others to tell their stories and actually listen to them. We often feel defensive when others who differ from us begin to talk about ways their life is different from ours.
6.       Be aware of differences in communication, values, and beliefs.
7.       Challenge yourself and your beliefs. Don’t always assume the majority way of thinking and acting is the right way.
8.       Take risks – you are going to stick your foot in your mouth from time to time when learning about others. This is okay. After you get over the embarrassment you’ll have had an opportunity to grow closer to another person through learning.
9.       Be an ally to others who are different than you. You don’t have to have the same values and beliefs to be an ally to someone. All you need to do is be willing to respect who they are.

Relationship is reciprocal. By using the tips above, you will give yourself the opportunity to grow and experience more of this world through relationship with others. If you are having difficulty, try asking yourself the following. Do I live in fear of difference, and if so, where is my fear coming from?

The following sources were used to write this post: