The Inner You

It is with much enthusiasm that Pittsburgh Psychotherapy Associates offers its latest wellness group, “The Inner You:  Improving Your Self Esteem.” Group facilitator, Ashley Hanks, MS, NCC, LPC took some time to discuss an often overlooked but very important subject – self esteem. Ashley’s group is designed to help individuals take a deeper look at how they treat themselves. Exploring how low self-esteem and poor confidence keep us from moving forward in life, this supportive group will discuss the concepts of living mindfully, self-acceptance, self-responsibility, self-assertiveness, living purposefully, and developing integrity.

Get to know a bit more about “The Inner You” by reading Ashley’s Q/A.

In Good Health,

Counseling and Therapy Pittsburgh PAHow do you define self-esteem?

Self-esteem is made up of the thoughts, feelings, and opinions we have about ourselves. It is based on our ability to assess ourselves accurately and still be accepting of who we are. This means being able to acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses (we all have them!) and at the same time recognize that we are worthy and worthwhile.

What makes it so important?

Self-esteem is important because it gives you courage to try new things and the power to believe in yourself! Unfortunately, without continuing to support it, it also has the power to hold you back from exploring life. It can keep you stuck in an unhappy place because you don’t feel like you deserve more.  If you learn how to strengthen the self-esteem foundation, then you will have the ability to embrace the curve balls life throws at you!

Is it easy to change?

Easy? No. Possible? Yes!  It requires taking some time to understand who you are – what you like, don’t like, feel comfortable with, and what goals you have. It takes time and hard work, including finding appropriate and healthy external supports. It’s a lifelong process, but it’s worth the effort!

Does self-esteem guarantee success?

Success in life? Success in your career? Success with friends? No, but if you keep trying and doing your best, you are a success. Remember, having positive self-esteem will help you to achieve what you want. But when you don’t succeed, it helps to accept the situation and move on.

What’s your favorite quote about self-esteem?

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

How would someone sign up to be in your group and when does it meet?

Interested individuals should call 412-367-0575 or email to register. Most major insurances are accepted. My group meets Wednesdays at 7 pm and new members are welcome!

Find Your Own Spring

 by Christy Gualtieri

Flickr Creative Commons

Flickr Creative Commons

It’s been a long winter, hasn’t it? It’s sure felt that way.  And here we are – nearly three weeks into spring.  I hope it’s a wonderful season for you, and just as the earth all around us is renewed with flowers and new growth on the trees, I hope you are, too.

New Year’s Day is famous for being a day of resolutions – a time to clear the calendar, to re-set our minds and bodies and to give ourselves goals for how we’d like to change ourselves over the coming year.  It makes sense – a new year, so a new you.  But I think that it’s the season of spring, and not New Year’s Day, that offers us more of an opportunity to grow, and to look inside ourselves to find the things we’d like to nurture.

Have you ever noticed things are easier to do with a friend? Let’s say you and someone you’re close to share a similar goal you’d like to attain.  You lean on each other for support, check in to see how the other is doing, and what you wanted becomes much easier to attain.  The same could apply for us and for Nature.  If our goals this year are to rejuvenate ourselves, or to grow emotionally, or to bloom into the person we feel we know we can be, what better friend to have than the world around us? It’s doing the same.  And it’s a much more encouraging thing to see progress in April or May than it does in January, when most folks give up their goals in a few weeks anyhow.  When  you get discouraged, you can remember that spring unfolds over a matter of months, not immediately; when you need encouragement, you can use the visible signs of life that spring offers to help you remember that you are worthy of beauty and of growth, too.

Counseling and Therapy Pittsburgh PAMy husband has a huge green thumb, and he’s itching to start building new garden beds for our vegetables this year.  He won’t plant anything for a few weeks yet (the most optimal time starting just after the last frost), but he’s starting the process: starting seeds inside, sketching out plans for where the new beds will go, figuring out which seeds will go where once they’re ready to be placed in the ground.

If you have some growing you know you are reading for, be it intellectually, emotionally, or spiritually, that might be a good lesson for us: take the time to prepare yourself, the way the earth is doing now; and once the last frost ends, nurture yourself through the process of growth, the way the ground and the sun nurtures new growth to all that surrounds us.  Yes, growing is painful: just as seeds have to die from their current form to become bigger and better, there will be parts of us that will need to die in order to reach where we need to be.  But I hope your growth this year is just as beautiful as any plant or animal or flower that we’ve ever seen!

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, 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!

Imitation & Inspiration

 by Christy Gualtieri

My son has begun to imitate others.  Sometimes it’s cute, like when he pretends to put hair gel on in the morning or copies what Daddy says in the car, even if it’s just a mundane conversation about planning out this year’s garden. Other times are not so cute, like when he imitates his friends’ tantrums. “It’s mine!” He’ll shout, even if he’s playing by himself and there’s no one trying to go after his toy.

At first, I’d jokingly tell him things like “You don’t need to cry because that other little boy is crying! You are your own man.” But I learned that imitation is a crucial stage for toddlers, because they’re using imitation to figure out the world around them. It’s how they learn to bond with others, and how they begin to learn social norms.

Counseling and Therapy Pittsburgh PABut adults aren’t immune to imitation. We do it too, subconsciously or not. Countless studies have been published about how our friends’ behaviors influence us when it comes to how we eat, how we feel when we use the Internet, and even our parenting styles. It’s easy and fun – to be inspired by the things we see, but unless you’ve got a rock-solid sense of self, it’s also easy for us to feel depressed when we feel as though we aren’t “measuring up.”  “If I can just do it the way they do it,” we think, “then I’ll have it all together.”

As adults, imitation can make us feel like we’ve come up short. Inspiration can help us find our true selves.

So how do we find the balance between imitation and inspiration? Here are some ways to help us sort it all out:

  1. Listen to Your Body
    Inspiration builds us up, but imitation can wear us down.  When we simply imitate others, we can be tempted to compare ourselves to them, which can lead to feelings of insecurity, sadness, or even despair. If you’re feeling like this, take a step back. Listen to your body: are you physically feeling uncomfortable? Are you having trouble sleeping, or is your stomach in knots? When we feel inspired by others, we tend to breathe easier, get more excited, and feel a bit lighter.  Which do you feel?
  1. Listen to Your Heart
    When you think about the life you want to live, are you excited about it? Or are you setting yourself up for failure before you even begin? When you have some quiet time for yourself, try this exercise: in a journal, write a list of the things that you’d like to change in your life, and next to that, why you want to do it. Be honest. Do you want to adopt a three-times-a-day veggie smoothie regimen because you want to become healthier, or because your friend who does the same looks good, and you think if you look just like her your life’s problems will magically go away? It sounds silly, but it is really easy to slip into this line of thinking without knowing it.
  1. Listen to Your Friends – the Right Friends
    Everyone’s been in a situation where they’ve had a “friend” who has done nothing but criticize them, and that’s good for no one! Try to surround yourself with people who you look up to – who will challenge you from time to time, but from a place of love and true concern, not from a place of insecurity. If there’s someone in your life who inspires you, ask them how they do it! They can give you a few tips and will help guide you without cramping your own personal style.

Hopefully, these few steps will encourage you to begin your journey of discovering what you can do with your life. But the most important step is believing that it’s something worth discovering. If you have a hard time with that, connect with a trained counselor to help you get started. It’s a journey that can be difficult to start, but will pay off so much in the end.

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, 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!

Reclaim Your Confidence

Exploring Issues of Insecurity and Self Esteem
by David R. Farnsworth, MA, LPC, NCC

Counseling and Therapy Pittsburgh PAWebster defines confidence as “full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing.”  Why is there such a phenomenon in our society where we often so powerfully lack self-confidence? In order for us to feel an internal sense of self-confidence, we must give ourselves permission to have that belief in ourselves.  Why do we not trust ourselves? It is actually too simple of a question.

Whose rules or value systems are we using as the measurement tool by which we compare our abilities? Whose voice are we listening to when we evaluate whether or not we can trust ourselves? Have we collected messages through our lives that tell us that we are not good enough? Less than? Unreliable? Do we allow ourselves to evaluate these messages and challenge their validity?

Or perhaps we have track records of behavior that have eroded our self-confidence.  Can we never adapt or redeem ourselves from our own histories? How do we build a resilient lens and review our past in order to gain the lessons life was trying to teach us? Are our pasts too painful and not a resource of insight? If we were able to learn from the past and integrate this learning into our life, can we begin to trust in ourselves again?

Counseling and Therapy Pittsburgh PAOftentimes we punish ourselves over the past to the point where we cannot even redeem ourselves to OURSELVES! Is this lack of trusting ourselves a valid “punishment?” Because how is the roadblock to building confidence working out for us as we move forward living our lives? Or, are we benefitting on some level from having the deficit in confidence because it makes life safer? If we do not have confidence, then this removes many things in life that require confidence to pursue and overcome. Will an increase in confidence lead us into uncharted territory that truly scares us, so it is easier to tell ourselves we can’t go there?

Perhaps this is the time in life where we can challenge some of these thoughts and feelings in order to unlock some of the roadblocks that have been standing in the way of movement in our lives?

Be courageous,

If your are ready to begin exploring some of these issues, join me for a 12-week group designed to help individuals take a deeper look at how they treat themselves. Exploring how low self-esteem and poor self-image keep us from moving forward in life, this supportive group will discuss the concepts of living mindfully, self-acceptance, self-responsibility, self-assertiveness, living purposefully, and developing integrity. The spirit behind this group is to create a nonjudgmental, empathic, and supportive environment that challenges the ways in which we see ourselves. If you are interested in making a positive life change today, please contact us to register for this one of a kind group! Most major insurances accepted. Group begins on September 17, 2014 but new participants are welcome at any time.

If you are interested in registering for this group, please call 412-367-0575 or email

Why Not Today?: Crafting Dreams and Goals into Action

By Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC

What’s on your “bucket list?”

Write a novel?

Travel through Europe or Asia or both?

Learn how to paint or play piano or dance the Tango?

Goals and dreams give us hope, make life interesting, and can provide us with a source of everlasting motivation and meaning. Often they present a sense of balance in a seemingly unbalanced world. Naturally, realizing your goals and dreams requires action.

You know all the tired, self-generated excuses as to why your goals are “impractical” or “will have to wait until a better time.” You’ve justified these reasons enough that they have become the only response to your ever-patient, ever-waiting life dreams. Here are a few thoughts that might turn these excuses into accomplishments and help you realize the potential of your life’s goal:

  1. What do I really want? It seems like a simple question until you begin focusing on what is important. What gives me a sense of connection, purpose and meaning? What is my “calling?” Do I possess talents and abilities that I have told myself are not practical or unimportant? How many of my negative thoughts about my dreams and goals are self generated?
  2. How will I get there? What do you need to connect the dots between Point A and Point B. Map out each step you might take on your journey. If you don’t have some plan in mind, you will likely find yourself struggling with frustration and uncertainty.
  3. What if my dream were already happening? Successful performers, sports figures and entrepreneurs report they are able to visualize their achievements far in advance. The use of positive visualization does not make automatically your dreams or goals come true, but it does provide a healthy nutrient for the soil in which your achievements can take root.
  4. What can I control? Staying focused on your goals and dreams without allowing others to interfere can be difficult at times, but not impossible. Do NOT allow others to dictate or influence your goals and aspirations. Becoming caught in others opinions or good intentions often times is the proverbial pin to your goal balloon. Remain in the present, knowing that you can only control what is happening at this moment, and only what is happening with you.
  5. What if I fail? Every journey will have its share of stormy weather. Treat any rejection or misstep as a learning moment toward realizing your dream and goal. Most everyone can agree that they regret what they DIDN’T do in life versus what they did do.
  6. Is it even realistic? Perhaps not, but are you willing to try? Be persistent and flexible. Know that you will have to “roll with the punches” from time to time. Perhaps you will be surprised over what you discover about yourself on your journey.

Get going – NOW! Tend to your dreams and goals. Your journey can begin with a first, small step. Why not today?