A Letter to My Younger Self

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by: Anonymous

I am not sure where to start with such ideas and wisdom, but I am certain that, if I were to have the ability to read a message from my older self, it would go something much like this.


Dear Younger Self:

You may not know this now, but your older self wants to inform you: All of your current experiences are building you into the human being you were meant to be. Now, I know that sounds like a bunch of crap, but the older you believes this to be true – so, basically, you’ll believe it someday, too.

Here’s what I have found to be some great life lessons which hold an immense amount of value to you.

Be compassionate. Although I think we did a good job of this, when I was younger, always remember that we are all humans, have feelings, and have a story that others may know nothing about. Keep being kind. Keep giving. Keep helping. If you see someone in need, do what you can to help, without giving away all of your energies. You cannot pour from an empty cup, but that does not stop you from sharing your time, experiences, and assistance with others. Others are thankful, even when they cannot find the words to tell you so.

Love fiercely. You’re in for it, girl. Love is a tough one. As you know, it’s super easy to love your family; they ROCK! But others, not so much. And I don’t mean everyone. Remember that not everyone will love like you do; not everyone will give you back the love you give them; not everyone will understand the way you demonstrate your love. Please don’t let this stop you. Keep giving your love. Your heart will, inevitably, get broken… more than once… or twice… or… okay, you get it. Your heart did not get broken because you did not protect it. It was broken because you gave the love you had to someone who was unable to love you in the way you deserved to be loved at the time. That’s okay. You will heal. Take your love experiences as learning and practice for the big show. One day you’re going to find the kind of love that is right for you. When that happens, you’ll get it. Cynically, I want you to understand that this one will probably be the biggest heartbreak of your life. Devastating, really. Don’t stop. You’ll love again. It will seem different because you may not think you can possibly do that again. I promise you can. Trust that your heart was meant to go through all of this because you are growing and learning. These changes will lead you to where you’re meant to be. Just.Keep.Loving. Love you. Love others. Love the person who just walked past my window as I’m writing this. Give love. Show love. You will be a better person because of it. Remember, no one was ever hurt because they loved; they were hurt because of circumstances that abruptly put a stop to that feeling.

Communicate fully. Okay, girl, this is a big one. Stop holding in your feelings and being passive aggressive when it suits you. I am positive that there were times when we were younger when we did this. I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but here I am. Be direct. Say what you mean without being mean when you say it. Don’t hold it in. Don’t fight off your feelings and thoughts. Share them. Figure out a way to let others know what is going on with you. Stop hiding or using your wit as a way to disguise what you really want to say. I know, I know, we’re incredibly sarcastic. I don’t hate us for it. Sarcasm can be great, but if we really want to get something out there, this isn’t the way. This is how you get your needs met. If you’re not comfortable with something – speak up! Lead with “When _______ happens, I feel ______, because ______.” Then, make a request. Ask for a change. Be clear. Give a description of what you need/want. This will do nothing but help you. I promise.

Be honest. Please refer back to the previous tip on how to communicate honesty. But as far as why to be honest: because you want the same back from others. If you don’t already know this, you’re going to have a hard time with trusting people. We don’t need to go into details, but, unfortunately, not everyone does all of what I listed above. And, without those things, including honesty, you’re going to lose hope in having trust in others. Rest assured, as an adult, you’re going to still want to trust others before they show you that you shouldn’t, but actually trusting them… that’s not super easy for you. You cannot expect that you will get back what you are not putting out into this world. You are honest now – please.keep.doing.it. This is a part of who you are, and I promise that your integrity and willingness to do the right thing will be two of your most valued qualities by others. I have seen this again and again with us, but remember, mean what you say without being mean when you say it. There is always a tactful way to share your honesty.

Don’t have expectations for others. This one is tough, because, somehow, older you keeeeeeps doing this. You’ll read tons of books from others. Your family, friends, and therapist will tell you this. You will know this, but somehow, you’re still going to believe that others will be good to you because you are good to them. Here’s the thing: this is, for the most part, true. I have one small revision: Others will be good to you, if you are good to them, only if they find value in being good to you. If they have been hurt; if they don’t trust; if they don’t believe, then they may not follow suit. This is a hard one, but please don’t stop being the good person you are because of it. Put your good out there, just don’t expect it back – at least not from everyone. Show gratitude. Be thankful. Tell others that you appreciate them and what they are doing, while they’re doing it. There is nothing better than the experience of being appreciated. So, lead by example: appreciate others. Eventually, your appreciation will spread, and it’ll come back to you; just don’t put a timeline or expectation on when. Your expectations you have for others will do nothing other than hurt and disappoint you, if they do not meet them. And, lets be honest, they may not be capable of reaching those expectations when you set them. Accept who people are, where they are, and how they got there. Meet people where they are and stop expecting them to have this knowledge, because, let’s face it, they don’t have their older selves writing to them, silly.

Finally, every choice you make ends up being the right one. This is not easy to comprehend, in the moment, but it’s true. Every pain, happiness, joy, and heartache. Every “I should have known better” and “I can’t believe that worked out” that you experience – have been the right choices for you. Your choices make you into the person you are today (or should I say who “I” am today?). Even if they are difficult choices that cause you sadness and hurt, you can take something from every experience you have and use this as guidance, in the future. Trust that you are making the right decisions (this is hard for you, since you second guess so much). You’re smart, helpful, kind, and compassionate. Your intelligence, supports, and confidence are going to help you make the decisions that have brought me here to you, today. You will be successful. You will prosper. You will find joy. Be who you are, who we were meant to be.


The Older You

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Perhaps your younger self may want to hear from you. What would you say?

This passage is meant to spark thought about who we once were and who are grow and change to be. Although these are someone else’s life lessons, yours may vary. Take this information, and use it, if you wish and think it may be helpful!



What is Happening with My Relationships?

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by Alissa Klugh, MS, LPC

Do you often find yourself wondering what has happened to your relationships? Maybe you’ve run into some challenges with your significant other? Maybe your issues have arisen in dating, and you are struggling with finding a good partner? Maybe you don’t have a great relationship with yourself, but you’d like a better one? These are all reasons people seek help in relationships – and they (and you) are not alone. The relationship-building industry is huge. Why? Because there is an innate need for human beings to be in close, secure relationships, and when we struggle with it, we want to fix, fix, fix! Why fight what is laced into our genes? Embrace it!

In an effort to put relationship information out there, I wanted to share with you some important pieces in developing and maintaining positive relationships – no matter who you are with. Below, you’ll find some quick tips for understanding ways to improve.

  1. How do you feel about yourself? We often attract what we feel. Did you know that? This phenomena has many names, but you may have heard it called the “Law of Attraction.” The reason I bring this up is because, if you feel crappy about yourself – you’re insecure, unsure, lack self-confidence, etc., you’re more likely to attract the like. Do you want a partner who is insecure, unsure, and lacks self-confidence? I’m going to guess not. Part of working on relationships is building your relationship with yourself. Understand your needs. Understand how to communicate your needs. Understand what you want and how to get it. Understand  what it means to feel fulfilled and joy.
  2. How do you feel about your partner (and if you don’t have one, your potential partner)?  If you and your significant other are constantly arguing and not getting along, it’s hard to feel anything but anger, sadness, resentment, guilt… the list goes on and on. If you’re in a difficult space with your partner, coming at the problem with this anger, sadness, resentment, etc., is probably not the best approach. Remember what I said about inviting in what you put out there? You guessed it – if you approach relationship challenges in a negative space, you are probably going to find your problems unresolved. Likewise, if you are single, approaching every potential relationship with “this one will be the same as the last,” will continue to lead you down a road of loneliness, because, chances are, he/she will be similar to the last. When developing relationships, we want to explore how we are feeling about our partners or potential partners and think about if this approach is working. If it’s not, then adjust, we must!
  3. How do you communicate? Really think about this one. Are you sharing your needs and wants clearly? Are you being reserved in what you truly want because you’re fearful of the consequences – “what will he/he say, if I do/say this?” Are you being true to yourself in your communications? I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say “no,” if you’re struggling with relationships. It is incredibly important to learn and understand various ways to communicate with others. If you never told your wife that you wanted a new pair of shoes for your birthday, can you really be angry with her that she didn’t pick up on your passive hint about liking those shoes? Ponder that for a minute. Communication is all about being clear and specific regarding your wants, needs, thoughts, and concerns. Don’t get me wrong, the other person can still not “do” what we want them to, but that’s because we cannot control others. If we are attempting to share our ideas, and using this open, clear communication, then we are doing our part. Sometimes our partners just need reminded of a previous conversation. Do you sometimes forget? I’ll bet you do. Don’t forget to mention the importance of what you’re sharing and that you have his/her attention when sharing. A good rule of thumb: If he/she is not looking at you, or their attention is elsewhere, they probably did not hear/absorb much. Find a good place to have a needed conversation and mention how important the conversation/content is to you.

These are just a few ideas for you to start looking into regarding relationships. These tips are not a “be-all-end-all” guide to mastering relationships, but it’s a good start. It’s up to you if you want to take steps to improve your life and relationships. I’m just here to share what I have learned to be helpful to others.

Stay posted for more information regarding growth in relationships. The juicy details will just keep on coming!

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If you are interested in growing your knowledge about relationships further, please join Alissa in her monthly “MeLationship” groups, scheduled on the second Tuesday of each month at our office. If you would like to sign up or gather more information, please call 412.367.0575.

Finding Yourself Outside of Your Family

by Alissa Klugh, MS, LPC

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When you become a parent, it changes you. This is not something that is said, or taken, lightly. You life truly does change, typically for the better, but there are definitely days where it seems like the opposite. With infants, your child’s very existence depends on you, and as your children grow, they count on you differently; however, you are still expected to guide, lead by example, and take action – all while trying not to make any detrimental mistakes, in the process. How do parents do it? The list doesn’t end with child rearing… How do you keep sight of being a good parent, friend, mate, coworker, boss, etc.?

I wish there was a simple answer to this, but there is not. The fact remains, as in all relationships, the further you drift away from yourself, as an individual person, the more you begin to feel like someone else. I like to look at parenting and being a part of a family as a piece to a whole: If you are not functioning as an individual whole, you can only contribute part of what your family needs. The same goes with couples, and unlike Mathematics, several small parts do not always equal a whole. The point I am trying to make here is this: You must take care of yourself if you want to be a functioning and effective member of any group, but especially a family.

It is easy to get lost in the shuffle of parenting. The appointments, the tummy time, the carpooling, the sports and extracurricular activities, the being a good partner, the discipline, spending time with your family, and maintaining a full-time job (for many). How in the world can you have any time for you? Let’s take a look at some tips on how to feel like an individual in your family.

  1. Make time for you. I don’t say this lightly. You may literally have to mark off time in your schedule for this. Get out there and do something you enjoy. This might be going to the gym, taking an art class, taking a hot bath, or reading. It doesn’t matter. Find some time to do it. It may only be 30 minutes each week, but you know what? It could be 30 glorious minutes to yourself.
  2. Ask for help. Please stop trying to do everything on your own. We, as human beings,  were not originally made to handle the amount that we have on our plates, these days. Let’s think back to a simpler time, when your day consisted of being a hunter or a gatherer. Umm – that doesn’t sound like today, now does it? See what is available to you. Join a group of local mothers/fathers who trade off on caring for each other’s children, when needed. You watch my kid this Friday, I’ll watch yours next Saturday – for no cost. This exists. You just have to look for it. Ask for your child’s daycare to watch your child for another two hours while you take care of what you need to do. Many childcare programs have days where you can add hours to your “normal” schedule. Ask and see what exists. You are not meant to do everything – you need help, and that is OKAY.
  3. Go on a date. That’s a novel idea, isn’t it? But who will watch your children, if you go out? See my suggestion, above. If you and your partner stop the courting process, you are going to lose sight of what originally built your family: you and your significant other. Finding time for yourself is important, and finding time, as a couple, is equally as needed. Give yourselves time to remember why you started this wild adventure, in the first place. And here is a bonus: when you go on your date, I challenge you not to talk about your children! That can lead to wonderful things. Not sure what to talk about without the kid-talk? Look up “getting to know you” questions, online. Go back out there and learn (or re-learn) about your significant other.

There are many ways in which you can learn to care for yourself, as a parent, and I’ve only named a few ideas, here. I encourage you to try something new and different before you begin to feel like you have lost yourself, completely. It’s not a bad thing to think that you no longer feel like an individual, as a parent. It happens. What is not good is when it gets to the point where you become resentful and bitter about the lost-you, and we both know that these individuals do not make for good parents or family members.

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Go out there – take care of yourself, and find the lovely balance that will make you a better person, parent, lover, and family member. Your family will thank you for it.

Stay tuned for more ideas on how to become your genuine self amongst a family.


If you are interested in scheduling an appointment with Alissa, click here, or call us at 412-367-0575.

Finding Joy in the New: Welcome Brenda Cappy Gruhn

IMG_6764Please join me in welcoming Brenda Cappy Gruhn, NCC, LPC to the practice! Brenda comes with an array of experience in helping children, teens, and their families grow and make positive change. Below are some inquiries, answered by Brenda so that you can get to know her better.

What makes you smile? Why?  

I love to smile, so I do it often!  There are a lot of things that make me smile, but I would have to say baby animals, especially baby pandas and baby elephants, always make me smile!  Their cute personalities that show through their interactions with their surroundings are the best at making me belly laugh!

What was the most interesting place you have traveled? Why? 

I loved going to Italy, particularly Cinque Terra, a series of five fishing villages on the Mediterranean.  The villages are built on sea cliffs and the beautiful colors of the homes, the relaxed lifestyle (there are no cars in the little towns!), the warm, welcoming people and the feelings of being in another century are amazing to me!  

What is a small act of kindness you experienced and will never forget?

As a school counselor, many students often made cards for me.  Some of my very favorite ones were the ones thanking me for helping in some way.  One time a student wrote on a school-wide kindness wall, “Thank you for everything you do, even though most of it goes unnoticed.” It meant SO MUCH to me to have a fifth-grade boy notice my hard work and be brave enough to write it to me where all of the other students in the school would see it.  I felt very appreciated that day!

If you could be an insect, which would you be?

A lady bug.  I think they are the cutest of all the insects!

What was the last movie you saw? Thoughts on it?

I recently watched the original “Pete’s Dragon” by Disney. I had remembered that I loved it as a little kid, but really didn’t recall much more about it.  I absolutely loved it!  All of the songs came back to me as if I had just heard them and the story about true friendship and needing others is both poignant and magical. 

What is the most recent photo saved to your phone? Why did you take the photo?

A photo of my family from a recent get together.  We are all spread out across the world and we have the greatest times when we get together.  I took and kept the photo to remind myself to keep in touch with them, no matter how busy life gets!

Coffee or tea?


If you could have dinner with anyone, whether they are dead or alive, who would it be?

         My Grandmother.  She was the most caring, genuine person I have ever met.  I miss her all of the time and I would love a chance to have one more dinner with her and share some stories, laughs and hugs!

If Brenda’s responses spark an interest in change for you and you would like to make an appointment with her, please call 412-367-0575 or click here.

The Silence behind Mental Health

by Alissa Klugh, MS, LPC

Why do we stay so quiet about mental health? Why do so many people have such a hard time admitting when they need help? Why do we like to act as though everything is “okay” when it clearly is not? While we sit back and play pretend, hundreds of thousands of individuals suffer from the symptoms of mental health diagnoses. In accordance with World Mental Health Day 2018, I found it appropriate to blog about the silence behind mental health.

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I want to continue to bring awareness to the topic of mental health and the silence behind it. Being a clinician of many years, and, let’s face it, a human being, first, I have seen, first-hand how some people treat mental health needs. I’ve seen people pretend like they are “fine.” I’ve seen people come to treatment and refuse to let their insurance company cover the costs because they do not want “anybody to know” that they are seeking treatment. I’ve seen multiple people come in because “my mom wants me here” or “my husband thinks I need to talk to someone.” But what happens so less often is people being truly open to and about seeking assistance.

Finding someone to talk to does not make a person any less of a person. And, no, I am not “just saying this because [I am] a therapist.” I am saying this because we are each people, first. No matter what the problem, what the diagnosis, what the symptoms are, we are human beings with those challenges happening, not the challenge, then the human being.

I’m talking about person-first language here, and if we want to become a “woke” society, then we need to start speaking in this way. We want people to know us, not our diagnosis, and until we start to speak and think in this manner, we are going to continue our stigmas. We need to think of people as humans, as individuals, before we start to identify their symptoms and what they’re going through. We matter. Our lives matter. What we are making of our lives and what arises in our lives, comes after.

Anyway, back to the silence behind mental health: How do we help others become more aware? How do we help people going through rough spots in their lives feel less ‘alone?’ How do we get people to talk more openly about their lives to trusting individuals? How do we support people in making changes? Here are some ideas, below:

  1. Be Compassionate: If you know someone who is going through a tough time, show them you care. This could be done as easily as letting them know you’re there to listen, even if you do not necessarily know how to make it better. Tell your loved one that you are glad that they are confiding in you and that you support their choice to see someone, if that is what they choose to do.
  2. Be Understanding: Your loved one may be embarrassed, scared, and not understanding his-/herself with everything that is happening. Ask questions. Try to be open. Keep your negative judgements to yourself. Remember that the first step to someone getting the help they deserve is reaching out to someone. If you are that someone, try to show you get it. Ask for clarification. Paraphrase what they’re telling you. If you get it wrong, ask them to restate it so that you can understand.
  3. Be Encouraging: Tell your loved one that you are proud of them for opening up, seeking treatment, or just taking those first steps to getting what they need. If they hit another bump in the road, continue to share your pride for the hard work they are doing. Ask them if you can play a role in their change.
  4. Be Open: If you are going through a challenging time, yourself. Don’t be afraid to seek help and open up. You aren’t always going to be able to “shrug off” problems that arise. Sometimes they go deeper than what we like to believe. If we are open to finding what we need to move in the right direction, and we let others know the process, we are helping increase the awareness.
  5. Be Aware: When/If you see someone who may be going through a challenging time, let them know of potential resources that are available. Share your personal stories or stories of others. If someone is struggling, refer back to numbers 1-4. Your compassion, understanding, encouragement, and openness may be what someone needs to light their path to growth and change. Don’t be afraid to open your eyes and take action.

The fact remains that, despite my tips to help the silence of mental health, there are still people out there who may be looking for one small sign to get the assistance they need. If you think this is your sign, please take it. I want you to be able to feel the way you are supposed to feel. I want you to have an open and available heart. I want you to feel like you again. You deserve it. Your loved ones deserve it. Do it for you. Do it for your mother. Do it for your wife. Do it just to say you did. Help one another. Support one another. Be the compassionate, loving people you were put on this earth to be. Just because you “messed up” once (or many times) in your life does not mean that you do not deserve another chance. Let’s love one another and be helpers.

Get rid of the silence.

You are welcome to use these tips to benefit you, or find other resources and help to move you in the right direction. It is your freedom of choice. I encourage you to find what is right for you and your journey.

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If you or someone you know is in need of mental health services, please contact your local/county human services department, or search hhs.gov or SAMHSA for resources in your area. They will be able to point you in the right direction for the change you are seeking. If you are in the Pittsburgh, PA area and would like to schedule an appointment with one of the clinicians at Pittsburgh Psychotherapy Associates, you can click, here (please remember that PPA is not a facility for mental health emergencies).

Other resources include, but are not limited to: the national Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or the Crisis Text Line, text 741741 for assistance.

If you are in need of immediate assistance, go to your local emergency room or pick up the phone and dial 9-1-1 to get help. 

New Additions: Welcome Nicole Brown, MS, LPC

IMG_4063Please join PPA in welcoming Nicole Brown, MS, LPC to our team! We are excited to have her aboard and cannot wait for her new journey to begin with us. Below is a questionnaire about Nicole so that you can get to know her better and consider her as your next clinician.

How would you describe your work in a six word sentence?  

My work is an “eye opener”.

What makes you smile? Why? 

My children make me smile. I love to see their personalities develop over time. I love to see their interactions with others and their interest in exploring and learning new things.

What was the last book you read that had an impact? What were your thoughts on it?  

Lovely Bones. Makes me realize how much goes on in this world that I am unaware of. Scary! Very good book and easy to read. I would definitely read it again. It was able to show both sides of loss and grief and how it affects everyone involved.

What was the most interesting place you have traveled? Why? 

I’ve been to many states however, I would like to say that Austin, Texas and Nashville, Tennessee would be the most interesting. Beautiful cities and lots to do.

What is the word you use most often?  


What was the funniest thing you have ever experienced?

I am not sure why but this is hard for me to answer. I have experienced funny things but cant really pinpoint one.

What is a small act of kindness you experienced and will never forget?

My grandmother gave a lady a pair of gloves. We entered Walmart to get a few things and she grabbed a pair of gloves. I didnt question why she was getting them but when we exited she handed them to a lady who was gathering money for the Salvation Army. It was very cold out and she didn’t have any gloves.

When did you first know you wanted to work in the helping field?

When I attended my first Psychology class. I loved the class and really connected with the content.

If you could be an insect, which would you be?

Butterfly. They are pretty and can fly.

What was the last movie you saw? Thoughts on it? 

The Greatest Showman. The movie wasn’t one of my favorites but I would watch it again. Beautiful love story, which I always love.

What is the most recent photo saved to your phone? Why did you take the photo? 

My children. I was trying to capture a moment that I love. We read in the evenings before bed. I know this wont last forever so I try to take these moments slowly.

Coffee or tea?

Tea (cold preferably 🙂

What was your latest binge-watch show?

Grey’s Anatomy

What emotion do you think is most difficult to express?


How do you build trust in clients?

Listening and understanding the client. Develop an understanding of their likes and dislikes.

If you could have dinner with anyone, whether they are dead or alive, who would it be?

God. I would love to learn and grow more. I have a lot more to learn from that man 🙂

What is your favorite childhood memory? Why? 

Going camping with my family. It was something so simple but loved going

Did you have a role model when you were growing up? Who was it? Why?

My grandmother. She was strong minded and was super sweet to everyone, no matter how they treated her. My father-who always adapted to the situation. He was someone you can count on and was a good worker.


If you would like to schedule an appointment with Nicole, click here.

Change through Rehabilitation: Meet Andrea Bigenho

Please help us in welcoming Andrea Bigenho, CRC, LPC, to Pittsburgh Psychotherapy Associates, LLC. So you can get to know her better, we have included some questions and answers from Andrea.


How would you describe your work in a six word sentence?  

“I am honored to bear witness.”


What was the most interesting place you have traveled? Why?  

I found the Yucatán peninsula to have a fascinating array of biodiversity, and an extremely interesting cultural history.  I enjoyed traveling there and exploring the jungle, different marine habitats and the ancient ruins.  


What is a small act of kindness you experienced and will never forget?  


While in school, and during a particularly bad time in my life, I was having a moment of  tearfulness and overwhelm at a private spot on campus.  Through my tears I looked up to see a concerned woman standing next to me.  She asked me if I was okay, but before I answered she grabbed me and hugged me tight.  I cried in her arms for a moment before I thanked her and said that I would be okay.  Her kindness and concern and especially her just standing there holding me, a stranger, while I cried will forever stand out to me. 

When did you first know you wanted to work in the helping field?  

I have always known that my purpose was to help others.  I originally thought my calling was teaching, but have since recognized that I am more suited to individual and small group work with people who are experiencing difficulty.  Every year in this field has strengthened and confirmed my purpose of helping those who are struggling.    

What is the most recent photo saved to your phone? Why did you take the photo?  

I took a photo of a grouping of mushrooms and flora at the base of a tree in my yard.  I am always taking pictures of natural things because I find them to be the most beautiful things to behold.


What emotion do you think is most difficult to express? 

Anger seems to me to be the most difficult emotion for people to express.  I think this is in part due to our culture, and the ways in which we have been taught and socialized to express or repress anger.   It is also important to recognize that anger is most often an emotion that masks a deeper, negative core belief. 


If you would like to schedule an appointment with Andrea, please click here.