Wellington Counseling Group

Wellington Counseling Group

Family is important, plain and simple. The bonds you have with your parents, siblings, and children will last for your lifetime. But just like every other relationship, your familial bonds need to be maintained, especially during periods of conflict. Even if you've never been to therapy before, your family can benefit in many ways by visiting a family therapist in Chicago.

Whether your family is a close-knit group, or you argue more often than not, every family can find some value from this private form of group therapy. Today we'll break down the top 6 benefits your family stands to gain from family counseling.

1. Develop and Maintain Healthy Boundaries

We all need some boundaries as we grow up. Boundaries help create a healthy sense of personal space and self-responsibility, and they help us process our own emotions.

Weak boundaries (or non-existent ones) are never good for young children. Without healthy boundaries, individuals can really struggle to deal with their own issues and will fall into inappropriate behaviors, some of which can stick around for a lifetime!

Fortunately, family therapy can help establish healthy boundaries between family members. Counseling creates a safe environment where mutual respect for each other's personal space is assured and where your family can discuss boundary violations and ways to avoid repeat occurrences.

2. Address Mental Health Issues with Children

As children grow up, they can develop a wide range of mental health afflictions, disorders, and other issues that disadvantage them in childhood and later adult life. As research has shown, many of those issues may be correlated to family dynamics. And that's where family counseling can help.

Research has suggested that family therapy can effectively address mental health issues in children (Journal of Family Therapy). By talking through the issues with your kids at therapy, you can get to the root causes of their behaviors.

3. Improve Communication

It can be very easy for simple communications to be misunderstood or misinterpreted. This is because we all have different communication styles. Some people have aggressive communication preferences while others may rely more on passive styles of communication. When messages are miscommunicated, this can create conflict within your family structure.

When you participate in family therapy, your clinician will help you examine your family's communication strategies. They'll help pinpoint where misunderstandings arise and what may cause any misinterpretations. From there, they'll facilitate communication activities to help address those issues. These activities may include things like:

  • Active listening techniques
  • Communication origami
  • Questioning stereotypes
  • Team building exercises
  • And so on...

When your family can communicate better, you'll experience less conflict and enjoy family time more often.

4. Provide Education on Mental Illness

Mental health disorders can be difficult to understand and live with, even for other family members without similar conditions. For example, let's assume that one of your family members has a serious mental illness (SMI) such as schizophrenia. Some family members may have misunderstandings about the disorder and may not know how to act around their loved one who is struggling to cope with a SMI.

Family counseling can help address those concerns. Through the counseling sessions, your family will become educated about mental illness so that you all have a better understanding of it. Counseling can also help your family members develop communication methods to better support your loved one. And family therapy can even help the patient adjust to their psychological changes as well.

5. Instill Trust Between Family Members

Trust can be a difficult thing to build, but it's the most important quality of any healthy relationship. Trust allows us to be vulnerable and lean on the support of others when we need it most (Psych Central). If your trust in other family members has been damaged, you won't have the support system that you need for a healthy work-life balance.

Family therapy provides a safe environment for you to be vulnerable with your family. It's the ideal venue in which to bring up your grievances with others, open up about any repressed emotions, and slowly reestablish trust with others.

6. Work Through a Crisis or Major Change

Over time, your family will likely encounter a handful of life-changing events. These may include events like:

  • Divorce
  • Death in the family
  • Chronic illnesses
  • Cross-country moves
  • And so on...

These events can be extremely difficult for children to grapple with. And parents can have an equally hard time navigating these complex life events. But when you seek out family counseling in Chicago, you'll be offered the support your family needs to work through those difficult transitions.

Book Your First Session with Our Family Therapist in Chicago

If you're looking for a licensed family counselor near you, you've come to the right place. At Wellington Counseling Group, we have several family therapists on staff who have a wide range of experiences working with both children and adults. We will help your family find the appropriate resolutions to any interpersonal issues you're experiencing.

Contact us today to book your first session with our family therapist in Chicago.

Under certain circumstances, an individual may be eligible for legal permanent residence in the U.S. or a green card status based on their family ties and/or employment history. The process of obtaining these types of visas can take years and requires extensive documentation from both applicants and sponsors. In some situations that meet various criteria, it's helpful to seek out an expert evaluation to support your application for extreme and exceptional hardship. And if you're looking for an immigration hardship evaluation in Chicago, you've come to the right place.

At Wellington Counseling Group, we perform forensic psychological evaluations to support legal claims and help to advise courts in carrying out the law in the most informed way. As such, we're leveraging our past experiences and clinical knowledge for your benefit.

In this blog, we'll break down the key facts that you need to know about those evaluations for extreme hardship immigration cases.

What Is Extreme or Exceptional Hardship?

Immigrating to the U.S. isn't always simple, even under normal circumstances. But certain situations may add extra challenges to the process of establishing residency, and potentially, citizenship. And many of those situations can be eased through a waiver program in the law known as "exceptional or extreme hardship."

Extreme hardship can be defined as "hardship that is greater than what your relative would experience under normal circumstances if you were not allowed to come to or stay in the U.S.," (Nolo). Essentially, you need to prove that there is something extra at play that amplifies the hardship to a spouse or relative, already having legal status in the U.S.

Unfortunately, there is no specific U.S. law that defines what constitutes a "normal" hardship and what an "extreme" hardship is. This places greater emphasis on the evidence that is submitted with each extreme hardship waiver application. And that's where a psychological immigration hardship evaluation can come into play.

What Is a Hardship Evaluation?

A hardship evaluation is a psychological assessment conducted and drafted by a mental health professional concerning a pending immigration case. This report helps immigration courts determine whether an individual will be able to remain lawfully in the United States based on the hardship it would cause to a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident relative of the undocumented person.

That hardship evaluation aims to provide accurate information regarding the applicant’s current state of mind. It is designed to check for and expertly describe any signs of emotional distress and underlying mental illnesses. It also provides insight into how the applicant has dealt with similar hardships throughout their life and how that bears on their future.

Who Can Conduct Psychological Hardship Evaluations?

Only psychologists and other qualified mental health providers with training and experience in forensic assessments. These examiners are trained professionals who specialize in conducting these types of assessments. They're well equipped to evaluate someone's emotions and behavior when it comes to stressful events and traumas in one's past.

The Hardship Evaluation Process

During a hardship evaluation, the forensic psychologist will interview you in regards to your personal history and your present relationship to the undocumented person who may be a spouse, child, or another family member. You can expect open-ended questions like:

  • Have you suffered any psychological injury because of this situation?
  • Have you been experiencing intense feelings of anxiety or depression due to your familial separation?
  • Have you received any counseling or psychological therapy as a result of the incident(s) that have occurred?
  • How has the victimization from this event affected your emotional health?

A typical hardship evaluation will last anywhere between 1 to 2 hours, depending on the complexity of the case. Your evaluator may ask additional open-ended questions and will close out the evaluation with various tests to assess your stress and anxiety.

Afterward, your mental health professional will begin the process of scoring any psychological tests and synthesizing the interview data with those results. They may contact you again for clarifications too. Then they will draft a comprehensive report detailing all their findings. These reports are then sent to your attorney for use in your filing with the U.S. government and may also be used during hearings before immigration judges.

Get Started On Your Immigration Hardship Evaluation In Chicago

Wellington Counseling Group was founded by our clinical psychologist: Dr. David Rakofsky. He regularly performs forensic psychological evaluations in state and federal cases with people living in the Midwest and from across the nation. Dr. Rakofsky has many years of experience working with both immigration and civil rights attorneys and he has become widely respected for his assessments and court testimony before judges and juries, alike.

If you are in need of an immigration hardship evaluation in Chicago, contact Wellington Counseling Group today!

According to the National Council for Behavioral Health, it’s estimated that 70% of adults in the U.S. will experience trauma at some point in their life. The emotional, mental, and physical symptoms trauma triggers can feel debilitating. Many people find it difficult to process what has happened or how they can even begin to heal. In this article, we’ll discuss how a trauma therapist in Chicago can help you in your path to healing and recovery.

Understanding how trauma impacts the brain

There are many reasons why trauma is so difficult to deal with. Trauma isn’t just experienced during the event; many people experience post-traumatic stress for months or even years after the event has occurred. This traumatic stress response leads to physical changes within the brain.

The amygdala enlarges and becomes overactive

After experiencing a traumatic event, the amygdala, or “fear center of the brain,” becomes enlarged and overactive, which makes you hypervigilant and always on alert. In turn, this can lead to increased levels of cortisol and norepinephrine responses, which only strengthens the memory of the traumatic experience and leads to flashbacks, nightmares, and distress.

An overactive amygdala also makes it more difficult to regulate emotions and tolerate stress, even when it isn’t related to your trauma.

The hippocampus shrinks

Studies have also found that trauma can shrink the hippocampus, which is responsible for long-term memory storage. This reality can make it difficult for individuals who have experienced a traumatic event to distinguish between past and present. As a result, individuals may experience flashbacks and relive past traumatic events.

The prefrontal cortex shrinks

Experiencing a traumatic event can also shrink the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of your brain that’s responsible for regulating thoughts and emotions as well as keeping us from responding to people and events in unfiltered, usually reckless ways. This makes it difficult for your brain to regulate fear, anxiety, and stress responses when something happens that resembles your original trauma.

It can also make it more difficult to feel safe, trust others, and have rational thoughts. Finally, untreated trauma in the past makes future trauma that much more likely to become full-blown PTSD in survivors of traumatic events.

Examples of traumatic events

Trauma is a very personal experience. It’s often difficult to define because there’s an unlimited number of things you can experience as being traumatic.

Trauma is less about what happens to you and more about how you experienced and then processed that event. Anything that causes your thoughts, emotions, and body to be overwhelmed can be considered traumatic. Some examples include:

  • Sexual or physical abuse
  • Domestic, dating, or family violence
  • Community violence, such as a mugging, shooting, or assault
  • Witnessing death, especially when it was unexpected or violent
  • Childhood neglect
  • Serious injury or life-threatening illness (e.g., dog attack, cancer, burns, etc.)
  • War and/or terrorism

What is trauma therapy and how does it work?

Trauma therapy is a form of talk therapy that aims to treat the emotional and mental consequences associated with trauma. Trauma therapy often helps people process and accept what has happened to them. That’s often the first step in the healing process. There are several different types of trauma therapy, which include:

  • Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy
  • Critical incident stress debriefing
  • Body work that takes many forms

Trauma therapy can help provide you with coping skills, reduce fear and avoidance, build trust, reframe your thinking, and offer validation to the feelings and symptoms you’re experiencing.

Find a trauma therapist in Chicago

Experiencing trauma often has a profound impact on your life. It changes the way you think, feel, and experience life on a daily basis. Fortunately, therapy can help. If you’re interested in finding a trauma therapist in Chicago, reach out to us today at Wellington Counseling Group.

We are here to help support you on your healing journey.

Your daughter’s first-grade teacher reports your child’s frequent distraction, difficulty completing worksheets in class, and homework assignments. Your son’s camp counselor flags that he can’t seem to settle down during quiet time and is having trouble making friends. At home, your child seems to willfully ignore your instructions to put away toys, put on shoes, and get ready to leave the house, even when they are going to do something fun, like a playdate. Are these signs you should get ADHD testing in Chicago?

When you think of pre-marriage counseling, you may think it's just for couples with problems. But that couldn't be further from the truth. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by attending counseling before tying the knot with your significant other. Here are just five benefits of attending premarital counseling in Chicago.

Feeling sad from time to time is part of being human. However, if your sadness persists for more than a few weeks and your mood begins to negatively impact your daily life, you may be suffering from depression. If you are, know that you are not alone and that depression is highly treatable. Here’s a helpful guide to finding depression help in Chicago.

To get the most out of counseling, it’s important to find a therapist you “click” with. However, that’s often easier said than done. Throughout therapy sessions, you’ll be sharing very personal details about yourself, some of which you may not even share with your closest friends and family. And studies suggest a strong relationship between you and your therapist is the most important factor in determining the success of therapy. If you’re on the search for a new psychotherapist in Chicago, you’ve come to the right place. Here are four tips for finding the right fit for you.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021 17:20

5 Benefits of Group Therapy in Chicago

The thought of attending group therapy might sound intimidating at first. Sharing your story with strangers? It’s very personal, and to really benefit from the process, you’ll have to share things you aren’t inclined to tell even your closest friends and family. It’s enough to make anyone a little apprehensive. But group therapy can be extremely beneficial for plenty of people. Here are five reasons to consider attending group therapy in Chicago.

1. Understanding you are not alone

One of the biggest benefits of group therapy is learning that you are not alone in your struggles. Oftentimes, people struggling with mental health, self-destructive behaviors, or trauma feel alienated and isolated, which makes it difficult for them to seek treatment.

Attending group therapy can help connect you with people who are dealing with similar issues. This shared understanding of a difficult experience helps you build a sense of community with other trusting individuals, where you won’t be judged and you won’t be alone. Many people also report reduced stress and pain surrounding the condition they’re suffering from when attending group therapy.

2. Different perspectives

Group therapy, at its very core, is all about the input of different perspectives. When you’re surrounded by others with their own unique experiences, it can help you look at your issues differently and learn new coping mechanisms.

3. Accountability

In most scenarios, peer pressure is perceived as negative, but group therapy can lead to more accountability. You’ll be more motivated to manage your condition when you’re surrounded by others who are working hard day in and day out to heal.

The members in your group also act as a sounding board. Let’s say, for example, you are discussing a fight you had with your partner. Hearing from those around you about how you come across can be exceptionally powerful. They can help you see things you may not see at first because you are too close to the situation or issue at hand. Playing your part in that accountability by offering frank feedback to others that you likely wouldn’t feel comfortable saying to your own friends and family, can be more than edifying to their process; it can bring a sense of growth to you, as well, for being accountable to your group peers.

4. Empower your voice

Being aware of your feelings and knowing how to express them are two very different things. We’re often acutely aware of how we feel; it’s expressing those feelings and finding our voice that’s challenging. Group therapy provides you with the opportunity to practice this over and over again.

It also helps teach you a lot about yourself and become more self-aware and self-connected.

5. Group therapy costs less than individual therapy

Counseling can be expensive. And most likely, managing your condition even without therapy is a financial burden in and of itself. There is a common misconception that because group therapy is more affordable, it’s not as beneficial. That assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. Many people find group therapy to be even more beneficial than one-on-one counseling sessions. Most members of therapy groups find that it’s the combination of group and individual treatment that really moves the needle on living more authentically.

Learn more about group therapy in Chicago

If you’re interested in learning more about group therapy in Chicago, reach out to us today at Wellington Counseling Group. As a trusted counseling resource for adults, children, couples, and families, we specialize in treating mental health disorders, behavioral issues, life transitions, family dynamics, and trauma.

Contact us today to schedule your first group therapy session.

Anxiety and depression levels hit an all-time high in the U.S. last year. That news comes as no surprise, given the convergence of crises that defined 2020: A global pandemic, the recession that ensued in its wake, an awakening for many Americans about our country’s racial injustice, a heated election. According to the State of Mental Health in America report, 19% of Americans now are living with a mental health condition -- 1.5 million more people than in 2019. If you’re interested in anxiety treatment in Chicago, you’ve come to the right place.

Here at Wellington Counseling Group, we have witnessed people struggling in myriad ways. Many have lost a spouse, parent, grandparent, or other loved one to COVID-19. Or, they may have taken ill themselves, and are now living with long-term symptoms. They may have anxiety about making ends meet with the loss of jobs and income and/or juggling to balance remote work while helping children with online school.

Here in the Chicago area, 2020-21 has also been a time when many have felt rage, fear, and hopelessness persistent racial injustice in their communities. And, with a great deal at stake, it was common for people to feel highly anxious about the 2020 election, the results of which took several days to tally and many weeks for final counts to provide certainty. Bottom line: the past 15 months have created a perfect storm for skyrocketing anxiety and depression.

Individuals who already were managing anxiety may have found that their usual coping strategies failed them, simply could not adequately stand up to the chaos of 2020-21.

Things are More ‘Normal’ Now -- Why Don’t I Feel Better?

Thankfully, many of us finally are returning to some “normalcy” after more than a year of isolation, but we must be patient with ourselves. The time away from our regular lives took a toll. We couldn’t hug or even see each other. We may have postponed weddings or canceled graduations. We missed gathering in faith, fitness, or opportunities to enjoy the arts. Some of us felt trapped in contentious or abusive homes. Physically and psychologically, it was a year like no other in our lifetimes.

Now, as many of us re-emerge from our shells -- whether tentatively tiptoeing or rushing back to life as usual -- we may be surprised to find we feel a bit shaky, vulnerable, hesitant, afraid. Our anxiety may not have dissipated, and that reality may make us even more anxious.

Those reactions are completely understandable and very much in keeping with human nature. We tend to survive, and even thrive, by revving our engines high on the fuel of expectations. We can therefore easily pin our hopes on an outcome so much better than the present situation that, when we’re finally there, we almost can’t help but be let down. Tempering expectations about life-after-lockdown will help prevent feeling overwhelmed by disappointment and the anxiety that may follow.

Treatment Options: Start with Simple Lifestyle Changes

If you are experiencing anxiety, know that treatment options are available and can be extremely effective, even life-changing. Sometimes simple lifestyle tweaks are sufficient, other times therapy and even the addition of medication may be advised. For those new to navigating anxiety treatment, it makes sense to start with lifestyle steps first:

  • Stay active, exercise regularly.
  • Try to spend time outdoors, in nature, if possible.
  • Try meditation or relaxation apps that target anxiety.
  • Eat healthfully.
  • Avoid caffeine, particularly when used to cope with anxiety.
  • Stay connected to helping family and friends.
  • Adequate sleep is an essential anxiety treatment, but insomnia often is anxiety’s side-effect. To the extent possible, adhere to a regular sleep schedule and get as much rest as you need.
  • After a week or so, check in with yourself -- do you feel less anxiety? Are any of these lifestyle changes reducing your anxiety more than others? If not, getting professional anxiety treatment may help.

Could Therapy and/or Medication Be Right for Me?

At Wellington Counseling Group, a top provider of anxiety treatment in Chicago, our therapy focuses on identifying anxiety sources and triggers and then developing a kit of tools that clients can deploy when or even before they are needed.

Sometimes therapy in conjunction with medication is most effective, particularly for those whose anxiety impacts daily functioning, who may experience panic attacks or sleeplessness.

Medication in support of psychotherapy can balance the chemistry in our brains to stabilize our ability to function in the world; therapy can help us understand how to operate from a social, emotional, and spiritual perspective.

These have been and continue to be extremely trying times. It’s important to understand that heightened anxiety is to be expected. It’s also important to recognize that we aren’t powerless over anxiety. We have an array of options available to help us feel better, to gain agency over our lives.

Learn More About Anxiety Treatment in Chicago

To learn more about your options for anxiety treatment in Chicago, reach out to us today at Wellington Counseling Group. We are a team of experienced and trusted psychotherapists who provide thoughtful and attentive anxiety treatment for Chicago area adults and youth experiencing mild to severe symptoms.

Both in-person and telehealth options are available to accommodate client preferences.

Change will always be a part of life. Most people have likely gone through a substantial transition at some point throughout their life, whether positive (landing a dream job or getting married) or negative (loss of a job or getting divorced). While many people can make the necessary shifts smoothly, others may feel as if their entire world has been flipped upside down. They may experience emotional discomfort, stress, and anxiety during transitional times, leaving them feeling overwhelmed, fearful, and, in some cases, depressed. Therapy for life transitions in Chicago can help individuals establish healthy coping mechanisms and improve their mental health and overall well-being during times of change.

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