Welcome Alissa Klugh

Unsplash Photo By Chris Lawton

It is with great enthusiasm that Pittsburgh Psychotherapy Associates welcomes the latest member to its family, Alissa Klugh, LPC. Alissa brings with her the same spirit of personal growth and mind/body development for all ages that encapsulates the mission of PghPsych. Get to know a bit more about Alissa by reading her Q/A.

How would you describe yourself in three words?

Thoughtful, Intuitive, and Reliable

What was the last book you read? Thoughts on it?

The last book I read was “You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life” – by Jen Sincero. The book was rather intriguing and took a different spin on manifestation. The content caught my attention, much like the book title, and helped provide a great outlook on change: how to love the things that you are unable to change and change the things you don’t love.

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

The last movie that I viewed was the newest version of “The Beauty and the Beast.” This is a classic Disney movie (and a favorite of mine as a kid) and I knew that I had to see the latest version. The movie was done well, as a remake, and touched on all of the original ideas, emotions, and thrills of the original.

If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?

If I could meet someone who is living or dead, I would probably choose my grandfather, who passed away before I was born. My mother spoke so highly of how he influenced her life, and being able to experience just a fraction of that would be fulfilling.

What was the funniest thing you have ever experienced?

I’m not sure what the funniest thing is that I have ever experienced. I am someone who truly enjoys laughter and having fun. I would say it would be a mixture of seeing comedy shows, both live and on television, and/or my own interactions with my friends and family. I have had times where my friends and I laughed so hard that we cried, virtually over nothing, so pinpointing that is not exactly easy for me. I enjoy putting creativity into practical jokes and quick wit. The bottom line: if it makes me laugh, then I’m happy.

What is your favorite art form and why?

Picking my favorite art form is difficult, since the basis of my life has been led through art. I am a huge fan of painting anything in nature and using hand-lettering to create something beautiful. I also grew up as a dancer, so finding emotional movement through physical and musical forms brings warmth to my heart. Finding any way to express oneself through art is an amazing way to demonstrate what it is that we are thinking, feeling, and experiencing.

If you are looking to make positive changes in your life, we can help! Please give us a call at 412-367-0575 or email us at admin@pghpsychotherapy.com to schedule an appointment with Alissa.

Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health!

May I Have This Dance? Introducing Lauren Heaton

Lauren HeatonWe are excited to announce that Lauren Heaton, MS, CAADC, LPC, will be bringing her valuable skills and talents to our practice! We are pleased and thrilled to have her on board as a member of the PghPsych family! Join us in welcoming Lauren by reading her Q & A.

In Good Health,

How would you describe yourself in three words?

Enthusiastic, Inspired, Determined

What is your style as a therapist and how might someone benefit from your services?

To assist my clients to see the strengths they already possess and to build upon them. As well as to identify their core beliefs and the place these beliefs originate. Without an understanding of where we came from, we can never truly know where we are going. The benefit of this approach is looking at therapy as a dance that is ever-changing. Some days we are doing a waltz and others it may be a rumba, but the journey to “their best life now” is always discovered in every step.

What was the last book you read?

The Unbroken Brain,” by Maia Szalavitz

What was the last movie you saw?

A Walk in the Woods” with Bill Bryson and Robert Redford

What was the funniest thing you have ever experienced?

The night before my wedding. As I was getting ready to go to sleep one of my bridesmaids turned to me and said “has $h*t gotten real yet?” I said, “Not yet.” She said, “Just wait.” As the procession was about to begin the next day, I turned to her and said “$h*t just got real.” Just as our pastor was walking by. Great way to start your wedding. As I walked up to take my soon-to-be-husband’s hand our pastor turned to me and whispered in my ear. “Now $h*t is REAL real.” I could not do anything but laugh. A day I will remember for a few reasons.

If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?

I would love to be meet Abraham Lincoln. I have a been a huge fan of the Civil War since I was a little girl and one of the first questions I would ask him would be “what do you feel was your biggest accomplishment in your life, and how did you face so many people that were against you.

What is your favorite art form and why?

I greatly enjoy the performing arts. For ten years of my life I was very active in the musical theater scene with two well-known performing arts companies in the Pittsburgh area. It was a fantastic opportunity for me to be able to travel, as well as be given the opportunity of self-expression.

If you are looking to make positive changes in your life, we can help! Please give us a call at 412-367-0575 or email us at admin@pghpsychotherapy.com to schedule an appointment with Lauren.

Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health!

A Stormy Lesson

by Christy Gualtieri

Unsplash Photo by Christopher

It’s long been one of my missions to be more present during the day.  To stop thinking about what I need to do and focus on what I am doing; to stop obsessing about what could be instead of what actually is.  I also felt that I was becoming too reliant on my cell phone.  People talk (and rightly so) about the effect of technology on young children, but it’s amazing to see the transformation that happens to us as adults, when we’re too quick to access the web before the world.  I saw it in myself – small things at first, like being unable to wait in line at the post office without checking my phone, for example – and resolved to start cutting down.  Resolving, of course, to start on another day.

I ended up staring earlier than I thought, during a rainstorm.  It wasn’t supposed to rain; at least, my phone didn’t tell me it would.  But here it was anyway: rain in long, torrential sheets that blew sideways and sped down the street in rolling little waves.

Our power didn’t last long; it flickered a bit, then was out.  My phone (and my husband’s) were at very low power, and after the kids were in bed, there was very little to do.

My husband loved it; he gathered up our flashlights and candles, and fired up his emergency radio so we could tinker around and listen for shortwave radio broadcasts.  But I could feel the antsiness creeping in, and as the hours went by, I felt more and more uncomfortable.

Like most comfortable people, I don’t like to feel uncomfortable. And after a while I felt guilty for it.  How many people around the world were suffering way worse than we were? How many were sitting in bombed-out homes, trying to remember the last time they had electricity? And yes, it was an inconvenience for me, but I still had water and gas – more than folks in our own country could say who had recently suffered a hard natural disaster.

I mainly missed the distraction.  I’ll be the first to tell you that as a stay-at-home mom of two little ones, there are a lot of opportunities in the day to need to “check out” from the tedium (and yes, boredom) that is part of the job.  I wanted to check out right there, to move away from the boredom and fill my time with just looking at things.  And as I sat there that night in my grumpiness, I realized that this was the price I needed to pay to detach from my phone and all I used it for.  I needed to go through this discomfort to really see how dependent I was on my phone, and to see how un-present I was in my own life.

When our power was restored, eleven hours after we’d lost it, it was just before dawn.  I’d love to say that I only used my phone for making and answering calls after that, but things take time, even detachment.  What I did come away with was a sense of knowing that I don’t need to know everything every minute of the day.  I didn’t have to see what every person I knew was up to at any given moment.  And learning that lesson will hopefully make it a little easier of truly letting go – of looking down at my phone and finally starting to look up.

Until next time, be well!

Christy GualtieriChristy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health!

Small Things Add Up

by Christy Gualtieri

Even the largest avalanche is triggered by small things.”  – Vernor Vinge

Unsplash Photo By Jordan Whitt

My son’s not quite yet into superheroes, but he’s getting there.  He loves the capes, anyway.  And although I’m not much good at crafting, I decided one afternoon to make a cape for him to pretend-fly around the house in, hopefully leading his baby sister out of the kitchen to follow him so I can be left alone to make dinner.

I looked up instructions, trying not to look at perfect Pinterest-worthy styles, opting for the least amount of effort (since I’m no good at it, after all), and came across a really heartwarming story about a bunch of similar capes that were made for the elementary and middle school children who had survived the school shooting in Newtown, CT, in 2012.  The folks behind the Capes For Kids initiative had decided that those children had seen far too many horrible things, and hoped that wearing capes would empower them to feel as though they could become stronger than what they’d seen.

It was a small gesture, but I’m sure it was incredibly meaningful.  And I got to thinking about how much the little things we do add up to things so much bigger than we are.  When we do small, seemingly insignificant things during the day to help build up our homes and our communities, it  can make a difference in a person’s life – a difference we might not understand even in our own lifetimes.

As predicted, the cape I made my son didn’t come out too well.  I mismeasured the neck, so it had too wide an opening (resembling a shawl someone might wear to the opera), the stars and crescent moon I’d cut out as a decoration looked like a velociraptor’s claw, and the velcro enclosures I’d hot glued came apart after about twenty minutes of playing.

But the thing was, that gesture helped me more than it did him.  Sure, he got a bit of fun out of it, but the difficulty I came across in trying to make it (shopping for the supplies, having to measure everything – having him hold still while I measured everything) helped me to step outside of my comfort zone and put aside my more selfish feelings of trying to find the easy way out (Amazon, anyone?).

It was a small thing, but it made a difference in how I see myself, as someone who can at least try to make a cape, inept at them as I am.  I hope one day my son will appreciate the little things his family does for him, is encouraged by that, and then goes on to make his own impact in the world.

What are some ways you’ve made a positive impact in your lives and the lives of those around you? What are some ways you can try to make an effort in that this week?

Until next time, be well!

Christy GualtieriChristy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health!

What Living With High Functioning Anxiety Actually Feels Like

by Kendell Lavella

Unsplash Photo By Brandi Redd

Sometimes you just have to take the day one step at a time, and that’s okay.

A few days ago I was sitting around chatting with a few people when someone brought up the topic of mental illness, and more specifically, anxiety and depression. After getting rather annoyed with this conversation and the inaccuracies of everything that was being said, I finally decided to speak up and explain that I, along with many others, are living with a mental illness. Thinking this would be a cue for these people to keep their opinions and comments to themselves, I was baffled when they continued on to tell me that “there is no way I’m actually living with such an illness.”

So– being my stubborn self and always wanting to get the last word in (yes mom, I finally admitted it) it took a lot within me to bite my tongue and not yell and cause a scene. How could these people be so ignorant with what they were saying? How do people not realize that others are having an internal battle with their mind every single minute of every single day, and that it’s not some made-up, mythical idea?

While I was biting my tongue about all the things I wanted to say, I was still putting it into words in my head. So, what is living with anxiety like? Awful. How about high functioning anxiety? Even more dangerous. From the time I wake up in the morning until the time I get to bed, my brain goes on a continuous loop of stress and overthinking thoughts all day long.

So when the ladies that I was speaking with had the audacity to tell me that because I seem so well put together and seem to know what I’m doing with my life that there was no way I could have anxiety, yes I got offended. I might look ‘well put together’ to you but personally I see myself in a different light. It’s just part of who I am and I’m finally accepting to not be ashamed of it. Not everyone living with a mental illness lives the same way, yet these women were stereotyping those who live with this disease.

So what is high functioning anxiety really like?

From the time I was able to drive, I purposely found activities to keep myself busy throughout the entire day, so that I wouldn’t have any time to think about anything I could potentially be anxious about. You think I’m kidding? I would come home from school to make myself dinner, rush off to dance (where I spent about 4 hours a night, 2 or 3 nights a week, along with Saturday mornings, or if it was competition season, a competition).

If I wasn’t there I was working. I could not stand to not be doing something constantly. If I wasn’t doing something, my brain would automatically come up with the worst-case scenario to every situation, and who on earth wants to live that way? Not me that’s for sure. So, I ran myself to the point of exhaustion just to make sure I didn’t think those negative thoughts.

Eventually when I got to college, I realized I didn’t have as much to distract myself with anymore. I had so much free time, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had been suppressing this issue for many years when I should have been working to resolve the issue. This became such a problem that I let it eat away at me for so long before, finally, swallowing my pride and realizing that I needed help.

Why did it take me so long? Because of people like those women that I had to listen to. I have people constantly tell me “well maybe you should just change your mindset; stop thinking those things; and stop overthinking.” Well yeah, easier said than done when you don’t live with these thoughts and feelings every single day of your life.

It blew my therapist’s mind when I told her how much I was involved in while living with this much anxiety in my everyday life. After listening to her explain to me that I have high functioning anxiety, I continued to read on about it. The thing that scares most therapists about it is the fact that the ‘stereotypical’ adolescent with anxiety or depression is the one that you see with grades slipping and letting themselves into isolation. Not people like me? I thought it was normal to worry and still want to be successful at the same time? Well quite frankly, it is more normal than I think, it just doesn’t meet the stereotype.

Unfortunately, those living with high functioning anxiety slip right under the radar, just like I did. I should have been diagnosed with anxiety back when I was around 13 or 14 years old, however I didn’t meet the ‘standards’ for it, and no one else ever picked up on it — not even me. Thinking back, I wish I would have saved myself the trouble and gotten help back then, but I suppose things go a certain way for a reason.

Living with this illness is something that has taken its toll on me in so many ways, but I have never let it allow me to stray away from living the life that I was meant to live. It’s hard convincing family, and even some friends, that the disease that I have is legitimate just because they can’t see it. Eventually I gave up and let them believe that I was just being over-dramatic and ridiculous in my ways, and it’s been better that way.

It’s hard to convince others of something they don’t experience themselves. Sure most can resonate with the pain of a broken bone or seeing someone with a physical injury because that’s exactly what it is, physical. So why is mental illness so different? Why can’t people believe that this pain is a very real feeling?

I get up every morning, go about my day, just like you. However this lovely disease makes it about 10 times more struggle-some for me to do so than it does for you. When most people think of mental illness, they have this picture in their head of someone timid and afraid and someone who does the minimum just to get by. Like most, I am the exact opposite. I love to be busy, I love to be involved, I love to be surrounded by people. Yes, I might get about 5 or 6 anxiety attacks from trying to go about my day in a normal functioning way, but why would I have it any other way? Some days it’s extremely easy to get through the day, other times it’s a battle. Would I wish this upon my worst enemy? Never in a million years.

Over indulging myself into responsibilities is my way of keeping myself a little more sane (even if it does drive me insane sometimes). That’s just what high functioning anxiety is all about — living with this illness and having the strength to go about your daily life. I give so much credit to those out there that are living with this disease and experiencing the same things that I do. There are few people stronger than those that can battle their own mind and still come out on top.


Follow guest blogger Kendell on Twitter. Her article “What Living With High Functioning Anxiety Actually Feels Like” was reprinted/posted with permission. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health!

It Really Matters

by Christy Gualtieri

Recently, at a barbecue, a woman and I were getting acquainted.  She was very friendly.  She worked in the private sector, and briefly outlined what her duties were in her elevated position.  Then it was her turn.

“What do you do?” she asked me.

“Oh, I’m just home with the kids,” I replied.  In front of us, my daughter practiced her new trick of trying to move to a standing position from all fours.  Without thinking about it, I reached a hand down to spot her.

The woman nodded thoughtfully and took a sip of her drink.  “That’s the most important job,” she told me.  We continued talking.


I normally don’t feel as though my job is that important, because honestly, it doesn’t feel important.  There is nothing glamorous or incredibly awe-inspiring about chasing little ones around the house, making sure I’ve packed enough snacks for them or checking them for ticks after a day of playing outside.  It doesn’t feel important to make sure they’re sitting in their seats for dinnertime, or picking up that dropped (okay, thrown) sippy cup from the floor for the hundredth time.

But it is important; and I’ve never felt that until this past week, when our country found itself once again suffering from the fallout of hatred, fear, confusion, and violence. Systemic oppression (and the laws which dictate it) are ideas, but they are ideas that have come from people.  They are not natural laws.  People invented them, no matter how long ago.  And those people had mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters.  Those people were fearful, undereducated, and led to believe that keeping one faction of the population down was the only way to go up.  And that created a chain reaction that led to what happened in Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas last week.

It all matters.  The love we feel at home and the work we do as parents, if you are one, matters immensely, because peace and love and change come from people, too.  What our children learn will dictate what our world becomes tomorrow.  And it always sounded so pithy to me before, so cliche, but last week I woke up to the fact that yes, it is important to work hard to raise decent, empathetic, caring children who will grow up to be adults that will work for justice, equality, and decency.  Because there is no other way.


Deep down, we all want to be seen.  We want love, too, and security and encouragement and all of those things.  But we need to be seen to receive things.  We need to see each other on a deeper level, too, one that transcends race or religion or economic status.  But, funnily enough, sometimes we need to be retaught that, because what comes easy to us as children becomes more and more difficult to execute as adults.

So today, I challenge you to see others.  Really see them.  Wonder about them, about their lives.  Try to find something about them that you connect with.  See yourself in them.  Seeing ourselves in others will start us on the path to seeing others as people, and we are all so strongly connected.  See how much everyone desires peace, just as you desire it.  And let’s work toward it, together.

Until next time, be well!

Christy GualtieriChristy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health!

You Have Wings, Dude!

by Christy Gualtieri

Unsplash Photo By Naveen Chandra

Not too long ago, someone asked me how I was holding up after my mom’s passing in January.  I told her I was doing all right.  She herself had lost her father not a year earlier, and we sympathized with all that it took to walk through the grieving process while still needing to care for young children.  At the end of our conversation, she complimented me on how I was doing it all, and as I returned the sentiment, I thought about what that really meant.

So often in our lives, we do the seemingly impossible – the things we think we “could never do.”  I have a friend who published her first novel (a great one!) last year.  And I’ve thought to myself so many times, Oh, I could never do that! Another friend just ran the Pittsburgh Marathon yesterday.  Oh, I could never do that! Two friends of mine are welcoming their fifth children into their families this year.  Oh, I definitely could never do that! Even something seemingly simple: braving Mother’s Day for the first time without my mother.  Oh, I think so often.  I could never do that.  Let your mind rest on all the things you think you “could never do.”

But you can, you see.  If you need to do that, you will.  You will find a way.

Tina Fey, the writer/director/actress/mother/wife, has a great quote about this.  “You go through big chunks of time where you’re just thinking, ‘This is impossible – oh, this is impossible.  And then you just keep going and keep going, and then you sort of do the impossible.”

Let’s do an exercise.  Take a sheet of paper or open a new document on your laptop.  (This will only take a second.)  Write down the first five things you’ve always wanted to do that have seemed incredibly impossible to you.  Don’t be afraid to dream as big as possible.  Once you have your five things, just look at them. It might seem scary at first, because you’ll probably start hearing your inner voices telling you won’t ever be able to do these things, but just ignore that voice for now.  Then, under each one, write the smallest possible thing you can reasonably do to work toward that goal.

For example: if I have the goal of traveling to Europe, but it’s not in my budget right now (or in the next large chunk of years), it would be easy for me to say that it’s impossible.  But I can write down the smallest possible thing I can do to get there: I can think of something I would spend money on that I don’t really need – something I just want – and save that money.  Doesn’t matter if it’s a quarter.  I can put that quarter in an envelope, write the words “Funds for Europe Trip” on it, and can honestly say I’m saving up to go to Europe.  Now, all of a sudden, the trip doesn’t look impossible.  It doesn’t look like it’ll happen tomorrow, but notice the shift I can have in my attitude now.

And you can apply it to anything.  You can do the hard things.

Just this morning, I was driving to the store and a robin was walking in the street just about to cross before my car.  The little bird saw me coming, and sped up, its little bird legs a blur as it tried in vain to reach its destination before I got to it.  I slowed down the car and rolled my eyes.

“You have wings, dude!” I called to it.  “Did you forget?”

And so it goes with us.  We have wings, even if we forget they’re there.  We can do the impossible – the ability is within us.  Let’s look for ways to find encouragement, support, and the best way to reach our goals.

Until next time, be well!

Christy GualtieriChristy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health!