Dr. Shaifali Sandhya
Life-Coaching and Intercultural Relationships
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PSYCHOTHERAPY FOR INDIVIDUALS
What is the life you want? What does 'meaningful' mean to you? How do you begin your healing?...
From the seemingly benign to the more profound, people have their own desire from their journey of self-exploration. Research indicates that successful psychotherapy results in an improved mood, greater intimacy, deeper introspection, enhanced well-being and quality of life, long after therapy ends. Investing early in your mental health through psychotherapy can result in increased commitment, joy and being authentically connected with yourself and the world around you.
At CARE Family Consultation, we provide psychotherapy services for the following concerns:
Abuse (emotional, physical, and sexual, and survivors of child sexual abuse )
Critical incident stress management (natural death, accidental death of a loved one, suicide, workplace violence, natural disaster, and environmental catastrophes)
Eating disorders (anorexia nervosa and bulimia)
Grief, loss, and bereavement
Impulse-control (challenges like trichotillomania, hair-pulling)
Infidelity and affairs
Identity (gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual individuals)
Illness (coping by patient and caregivers)
Phobias, panic attacks, and fears (such as those of painful sex or vaginismus, a condition that affects a woman's ability to engage in sexual intercourse)
Reproductive and relational health (pertaining to invitro fertilization; egg donor assessment; sexual dysfunction; communication and intimacy)
Self-esteem (positive body image or positive self-worth)
Trauma (Sexual trauma, rape, and assault; captivity and abduction)
At CARE, we emphasize holistic health and provide psychotherapy services for folks from different walks of life (please read some of their stories on this website). Focusing on your holistic health will require focusing on both your mind and body through early screening, developing a treatment plan, followed by a tailored counseling in line with your values. We work with you to identify distressing symptoms, modify dysfunctional relationship patterns, re-build relationships for greater nurturing, validation, and support for you.
Whether you are new to therapy or have had previous therapy experiences, we shall provide you with a brief primer on what you can expect from psychotherapy. A personalized treatment of depression for anxiety for example, at CARE Family Consultation starts with an initial intake, depression/anxiety screening, followed by twelve sessions of counseling in a uniquely tailored plan combining cognitive-behavioral skills or mindfulness therapy or family systems therapy based on your evolving needs. We can begin as a starting point your current context and then gradually move backwards to connect dots and explore major themes, as a compass for your future decisions.
Emotional Intelligence for Social Awareness
Many folks value logic and rationality to the exclusion of emotions and feelings. However, feelings play an important role in our professional and personal life: the perception that others can relate to your feelings and the extent to which others think they can "read" or access your feelings, makes others like you and understand you. When you may interact with other people, it is important to give cues to help them understand how you are feeling. These cues range from emotional expression through body language synchronous with facial expressions connected with the particular emotions you are experiencing. However, some negative emotions you may be experiencing may need to be challenged in constructive ways in order that others around you can continue to relate and not distance or defend themselves. Thus, socially aware people are also able to look past the words someone is saying and understand subtexts - thoughts and emotions the other person is feeling underneath what they are saying . In these 12 sessions you will learn:
Building awareness and listening better
Understanding your relationship attachment style
Expressing your needs in a constructive manner
Impression management: understanding the impact of your nonverbal body language
*names/identifying details have been changed
Matt: Overcoming Long-Term Depression One Day at a Time
Matt is a 28-year old Caucasian, heterosexual male who seeks psychotherapy to alleviate and manage his depression. Matt used to be a highly talented athlete at his high school and University; he was a three-time hockey player, one of the top baseball players for his state winning a Division 1st scholarship. His mother's long-term illness and eventual passing away caused Matt to drop out of college and once the "golden child" at his schools, Matt now feels he "lost a decade of his life." As his depression soared, "I started to turn it inwards and not take care of myself," he confides. In the last decade, Matt saw his friends being married and launch their careers "while I have trouble getting out bed," he shares. He is experiencing low mood, loss of interest in activities he once enjoyed, low energy, and has difficulty concentrating as "getting motivated is hard and I find a way to to get out." In therapy, Matt wants to focus on taking small steps for now such as building his own accountability to himself, be a better family member and friend, manage his rollercoaster or the daily ups and downs, get in better shape and get a job.
Chris: Trying to Stay 'Above Water' Through Divorce
"I started freaking out midweek," confided Chris, a 53-year trader. "When Carol's attorney served me divorce papers at my company in granted, an unmarked envelope, "I felt the room closing in on me... I couldn't breathe.... I walked in a shock to the bathroom and threw up." I called Carol and said, 'I think I'm having a heart attack.' She said 'You're just having a panic attack. Go see a therapist.' I thought to myself, 'Why is Carol doing this?,' Why am I putting up with this?' Chris and Carol have been married ten years, have three children and live in a beautiful mansion in Evanston. Their marital troubles began five years ago when Chris discovered Carol had a one night stand. "But I had hoped that the worst was behind us." I told myself, 'The chips are going to fall where they're going to fall,' and yet, divorce is not what Chris, a conservative professional with parents who have been married over four decades had expected of his future. As a successful trader Chris understands only too well that "you cannot let individual failure bring you down," but executing his "philosophies in his personal life are an entirely different matter." Chris reflects how he has grown more controlling in the last three decades and with therapy post-divorce, he wishes to reflect on the past, to be a better father to his children, and compartmentalize his personal life from his professional life.
Bob: Professional Success but Personal Impasse With a Self-Obsessed CEO
When Bob's wife couldn't see him in a 'rut' and 'not the Bob I know',' she pushed for him to seek therapy. 'Why not give therapy a chance,' she prodded, 'to jumpstart some change that you're looking for?' Bob is in his 50's, a senior-level executive working for a Forbes top 50 CEO's in California who advertises tag-lines such as "fearless," "innovative," and "fun" as their company's moral compass. "The reality is very different," shares Bob. The culture is in fact, opaque, unaccountable, unempathic with disregard for it's employees. Bob is compensated "very well" and holds a "prominent position" but he worries 'I should be more happy.' He reflects how he used to be a "go getter" and "confident" in a stark contrast to his current condition. "I have everything I could want so why aren't I more happy?" asks Bob, and seeks therapy to understand his disenchantment and loss of confidence.
Laila: Exploring Sexual Identity
Coming out as "queer" for Laila, now 21-years old was a difficult process. She was raised in a religious, conservative Saudi Muslim family. For many years she lived in secrecy, intent on keeping this information about her sexual identity from her parents and from her Arab society. Being queer was an important part of her identity, Laila was discovering, and it was affecting her life choices, and her gender experience was not simply being male or female. In the meantime, Laila's parents found out that she was "queer" and they were struggling to understand her and the situation. Laila seeks therapy to communicate her expectations and values to her family while at the same time, being respectful of theirs.
Steven: Navigating the Scars of Sexual Abuse to Positive Self-Esteem
Steven is a 19-year old Caucasian, heterosexual male who experienced intense feelings of sadness, guilt, and shame. He expressed that he felt like a burden to everyone in his life, and frequently wrestled with thoughts of wanting to end his life. Steven had a history of family emotional abuse, and often felt that he was viewed more as a possession than as a valued person within his family. Steven also experienced sexual abuse in a previous romantic relationship, and felt he was coerced into participating in sexual acts he did not consent to. In therapy, Steven is working to come to terms with the events in his past, let go of shame and guilt, and improve his self-esteem.
Rahul: Exploring What "Indian-American" Means
Rahul is 31-years old, American entrepreneur in Silicon Valley with roots in India. He belongs to a high caste family in South India and his parents, both doctors migrated to the US in the 1970's to Cleveland, Ohio. He is in an interracial interfaith relationship and faces resistance from his orthodox family who threaten to disown him if he goes ahead with marrying his fiance. "It is against our culture, our caste, and religion," they tell him. However, Rahul is in love with his fiance and firmly believes that given their spiritual alignment, they would be a good match for each other. As the only son in his family, Rahul has to negotiate traditional customs and obligations passed down through the males in his family with his American identity. While in his extended family, marriage was a family affairs, he struggles with reconciling it with his own conception of marriage, of individual happiness, prejudice and historical baggage- "Marriage ought to happen only to make you more happy."
Jhongo Lee: Panic Attacks Threaten Work Relationships and Performance
Jhongo, 30-years old, was born and raised in Shanghai, China but came to the United States to study at the University of Chicago's Business School. Following graduation when he started working at an elite consulting firm, "is when things started to fall apart." He started to have the same panic attacks he experienced in high school when he would sweat profusely, experienced great nervousness and felt that "everyone thinks I'm stupid." In his first few months at work, Jhongo experienced some very real challenges given"my English wasn't very good," and he started to realize with horror, that unlike business school where people were more considerate, "this is real." He told himself, "I'm not going to crack," but was unable to cope with the debilitating effects of growing anxiety - lack of sleep, feeling like he was going to throw up, lost appetite, and a "heavy head." He also found himself ruminating over a woman who did not seem to reciprocate his romantic feelings towards her. Therapy helped Jhongo identify negative thoughts that were affecting his personal growth, dysfunctional relational patterns, and provide a supporting environment so he could seek out positive relationships.
Sania: Understanding Herself and Her Interfaith Relationship as a Second Generation Muslim-American
Sania is 30-years old, a medical resident, and a second generation Muslim-American whose parents immigrated from Palestine, she feels like "I'm a mess," and "lost." Sania is engaged to her long-term Caucasian boyfriend, also a medical resident, who converted to the Muslim faith two years ago. Despite having a "strong" relationship with her fiance Sania feels "numb," "unable to take any strong decisions," and feels she has different values about faith, family, and God that are affecting her relationship with herself. On one, hand, Sania believes, "As a second generation Muslim one's values may be quite different from one's parents' as their values seem to be frozen in time." But on the other, she struggles with the belief that despite converting to Islam, her fiance subscribes to the religion in the same manner that she does. "I don't want my husband to drink but I don't want him to do it for my sake," she says. They have never had sex with each other as it is against Sania's faith. An additional complicating factor is that her family does not know she is engaged. While her fiance believes that the "religious aspect" is holding Sania back, Sania in reality, lacks the ability to forge trusting relationships due to complicated family dynamics. She tells her fiance, "I'm a manipulative person. Why do you want me to string you along?" Together they are caught in a codependent dance that is intoxicating at times, mostly, destructive but with the right intentions to form a meaningful relationship.
Karen: Emotional Abuse In An Upscale Marriage
Ten years ago Karen, a pretty and educated 55-year old homemaker moved towns with her two daughters and two dogs to be in a relationship with Michael. Michael was a successful CEO of a national insurance company with boyish charm and flyaway curls. Having lost her first husband to cancer, Karen basked in his adoration, wining-dining and flying to exotic locations in Europe in Michael's private jet during their 3-month courtship. "At the back of my head was a thought, 'if its too good to be true, it usually is!' Still, when Michael proposed to her on a yacht in the Mediterranean, she brushed that nagging thought away. "Soon after Michael's rage episodes started where he would verbally abuse me." He would be "screaming obscenities at me or calling me stupid and worthless." At first she tried to ignore them but when they became relentless, she found that her pointing out his mean behaviors only seem to exacerbate them. Karen attempted to separate herself "so as not to provoke him." After these episodes there was no remorse and no apologies after. Once when she recommended he attend therapy for "anger issues," he dragged her by the hair and humiliated her by bringing up embarrassing details about her at a dinner party with their friends and family. The periods of abuse were always followed by by an expensive vacation, fancy hotels and posh dinners. "Outside, the world sees Michael as a wonderful, gentle and nice man who dotes on me." Karen sought therapy for "dealing with a man who has mistreated you for ten years." The stealth of abuse, the stigma around battered wife syndrome, and concerns of privacy, wealthy women like Karen tend to face unique challenges in getting out of abusive relationships such as being believed by friends and family when they do find the courage to share; they also fear being cut of finances or access to their children in long-drawn out conflictual divorce proceedings with abusive but affluent partners who are often also, best equipped to manipulate the judicial system in their favor.
Lydia: "I'm Embarrassed By Just Being Me"
Lydia is a 28-years old, manager in a multinational technology company who has grappled with a binge-eating disorder most of her adult life. She earns a six-figure salary, is appreciated by her supervisors, is considered an "influencer" at work, and is married. Yet, despite her successes, Lydia is "very critical" of herself, has a "hard time feeling comfortable," with her body, material and professional success and frequently compares herself to others. She describes herself as "very sensitive with very high EQ." When Lydia feels down, under crippling anxiety she "cannot stop eating" whether its consuming large quantities of potato chips, doughnuts, or several boxes of candy. Unhealthy eating habits triggered by great anxiety set her up to obsesses over the negative aspects of her life. She would like therapy to "give her tools to manage her urges," stop engaging in feelings that don't enhance my life," and "be more kinder towards myself."
Andrea: A Love Story With Drinking To Manage Untreated Sexual Abuse
When Andrea was eighteen years old and in her senior year, she was raped and nearly beaten to death. Battered and in a shock, she went in and out of consciousness intermittently to realize that strangers, were speeding her in their car to the closest emergency room. At the hospital, "I was propped up like a ragged doll by strangers who found me naked and bleeding. No rape kit was given to me and the cops made it look like I was to blame." When she came out of the hospital, Andrea started to change. Previously gregarious and optimistic, in school she had been a valedictorian and played basketball for her college; after her rape, she "didn't sleep for two weeks," "was scared," "didn't care about things" and started to believe it "really was my fault." It was then the drinking started. For only with the help of a drink - or several - Andrea believed she could be who she once was -- uninhibited, happy, loving, and charismatic. Her trauma went untreated for a couple of years, even as her depression grew and the love affair with alcohol cast a dark spell on her life. It was the death of her best friend four years after the incident that caused her to seek a therapist but it did little to stem the tide of self-destruction that had already begun. Ten years after the rape, a couple of stints in rehab centers and alcohol-free for a year, Andrea now seeks therapy to understand how she can get rid of her self-loathing and mistrust in men; how she can halt the power struggles with men who end up using and abusing her; understand why her toxic past lovers continue exert influence on her; and, how to transform a devastating past to reclaim her personal power.
Charlotte: Long-Term Relational Impact of Childhood Incest and Sexual Abuse
Charlotte has been in a same-sex relationship with her partner of four years. She describes their relationship as "unhealthy" with "frequent bouts of jealousy," "on-again-off-again" and one that is punctuated by "vicious arguments." Difficulty in focusing at work and considerable anxiety with occasional panic attacks are some precipitating circumstances for her to seek therapy. During the course of therapy, Charlotte reveals a pattern of molestation by a series of providers during the age of three-to-twenty one years, and domestic violence and substance abuse by her parents. Some goals that Charlotte outlines for herself are to acknowledge how early childhood abuse manifests itself in long-term trauma; how to overcome her guilt, shame and self-blame; understand how it impacts her current relationship dynamics, and how her deep-seeded feelings of "being broken might be leading to self-sabotage or commitment issues."
Valerie: Dealing With Mom's Unexpected Death
When Valerie's mother died suddenly of a heart attack, she was grief-struck, and could not imagine a future without her. She was pregnant at that time and says, "I had so many questions I wanted to ask mom." "I wanted to ask mom, 'Are you happy with the life you have?,'; 'Are you ready to go?,'; 'What do you think will be a good name for my baby?'
Valerie is 38-years old, Korean-American, and an architect. Feeling her pain acutely in the aftermath of her mom's passing away, Valerie gradually sunk into a deep sadness, lacking the motivation to get out of bed in the mornings. Other times it was "surreal," she felt her mother's physical presence and upon realizing it was in fact, her imagination, "I felt waves of sadness I just couldn't shake off or shrug off." Her productivity at work suffered and she avoided going to the Church lest she ran into any of her mother's friends who "reminded me of mom." "The mom-and-daughter- relationship is the only one where you can just be, where you don't have to perform or pretend to be someone you are not," shares Valerie. Since it has been difficult for Valerie to accept help, she also found herself struggling with "the concept of time," how it felt like just yesterday that mom was in the hospital." She sought therapy as could not grieve without blaming herself for the subtle signs, she believes she missed regarding her mother's illness. Initially skeptical of therapy, as Valerie found herself sharing more in a safe setting, she felt her anger and guilt at herself eroding, and found herself in a place where she could harness her mother's special love for her personal growth.
Jamal: Dealing With Anger and Panic
Jamal is 26-years old, Palestinian-American and a high school teacher. After graduating from a midwestern University with a major in Economics, he decided to teach students in Ramallah, Palestine, in the West Bank, north of Jerusalem. In the US, Jamal had been a college athlete, obtained a high GPA, and had a lot of friends. Living in Ramallah was not easy, and Jamal's behaviors started to change and faced with the starkness of harsh daily life, he grew less confident, less sociable, and more lonely. He began to experience anger, violent nightmares, and memories of his father's death in Palestine when he was five years, resurfaced. He quit his job and returned home only to discover alienation from a life, friends, and family he had once held dear. He seeks therapy to assist him in figuring out how to cope, understand what aspects in particular of his experience escalated his dysfunction to help him be better invested in his future.
Robert: Dealing With Child Sexual Abuse
Robert is 50-years old and a senior manager at a bank in Chicago. When he was seven years old, Robert recalls being fondled and touched inappropriately by his brother's friend. The trauma was repetitive and lasted throughout his teenage years. It was only when he went away to college that Robert was able to escape it. For many years after, Robert was unable to share details of the trauma with anyone and instead, internalized it and blamed himself for inviting it. After those incidents, Robert would feel “extremely mortified, and disgusted with himself, and confused." Robert feels damaged and despite his successes, feels his "voice has been silenced." He seeks out psychotherapy to discover his voice, to reclaims parts of himself that were destroyed as a result of repeated sexual assaults, and to not feel self-conscious and unsure of himself.
Resources for Our Depression Clinic
Depression is more than sadness. It manifests itself through a variety of symptoms, ranging from guilt, inability to concentrate, decreased interest in other people or activities, significant weight loss or gain, hopelessness about the future, and so forth. Depression is usually caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors, and includes symptoms such as: persistent feelings of sadness or anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, irritability, feelings of guilt or worthlessness but not all of us express distress through racing thoughts or anxiety; sometimes, distress can express itself through bodily symptoms such as:
vomiting or nausea
clenched jaw or teeth-grinding
pressure or tightness in chest
ulcers or burning sensation in stomach
Cognitive and behavioral symptoms of depression can range from feeling discouraged about the future, feeling like one is a failure, not experiencing pleasure from the things one used to enjoy, feeling like one is being punished, blaming oneself, and so forth.
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S., but many people who experience it do not seek treatment. Depression comes in several forms, the most common of which are major depression, which involves severe symptoms that affect your day to day functioning, or persistent depressive disorder, in which symptoms fluctuate from less to more severe symptoms over a period of at least 2 years. Other forms of depression include psychotic depression, postpartum depression, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Focusing on your holistic health requires focusing on both your mind and body through early screening, education, and private counseling. Some advantages of early access of mental health is increased commitment, concentration, and for the family, long-term support from each other. We can collaborate with local psychiatrists in Chicago to assist you in identifying medication needs and managing medication.
Resources for Our Anxiety Clinic
While occasional anxiety is part of everyday life, sometimes anxiety can become debilitating and can become worse over time. This anxiety can interfere with daily activities, including work, school, or social relationships. Symptoms of anxiety include persistent worry, difficulty concentrating, social phobia, and being startled easily, all of which are often more intense than a situation warrants.
Anxiety can be felt physically as well, in the form of headaches, muscle tension, irritability, nausea, sweating, heart palpitations, and gastrointestinal distress. There are several different types of anxiety, the most common of which is Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or the experience of anxiety that is persistent across many situations and is more intense than is warranted. Other types of anxiety include Panic Disorder, which involves the sudden and repeated experience of attacks of fear that last for several minutes, and Social Phobia, a strong fear of being judged by others or fear of embarrassment, usually resulting in a withdrawal to social activities. The cause of anxiety is still unclear, but treatment has been found to be very effective in treating the symptoms.
For the person afflicted with it, one of the common stumbling blocks in seeking treatment is the fear of stigma- what one’s loved ones would say or think if they found out that one was in therapy. However, individual psychotherapy, even though it occurs with one person, can initiate a sea of change within your relationships, improve the functioning and nurture long-term well-being of the family.
Worldwide, suffering due to untreated mental health issues is common. Mental health issues are the leading cause of disability leading to a loss of the quality of life and of valuable productive days. Per year, in the U.S. 1 in 4 adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. In the U.S., it is estimated that 57.7 million people experience a mental health concern each year. Although common, the main burden of serious mental health concern is concentrated on a smaller population of about six percent or 1 in 17 people. Many people experience more than one mental disorder at a given time. Nearly half of those with any mental disorder meet the criteria for two or more additional disorders. Notably, individuals with two or more disorders, commonly referred to as comorbidity or co-occurring disorders, experience greater overall severity and impairment in functioning.
The best treatment of anxiety is a primary and preventative plan you can develop collaboratively with your psychologist. Psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and counselors specializing in anxiety management techniques offer empirically supported treatments cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, and mindfulness strategies for long-term treatment of it.
News articles on depression and anxiety:
Why Every Man Should See a Therapist (David McGlynn, Men's Health, February 23, 2016)
"Heck, therapy can actually give you a leg up at the office: U.K. researchers found that 13 weeks of cognitive behavioral training significantly increased workers’ job satisfaction and self-esteem. Even their productivity improved: 65 percent of the employees performed at or above average compared to their coworkers for two years after the therapy sessions."
Why are more American teenagers than ever suffering from severe anxiety?
Parents, therapists and schools are struggling to figure out whether helping anxious teenagers means protecting them or pushing them to face their fears. (DENIZET-LEWIS OCT. 11, 2017, The New York Times)
John Green tells a story of emotional pain and crippling anxiety. His own. (Alter, October 10th, 2017, The New York Times)
When anxiety or depression masks a medical problem (Brody, June, 2017, The New York Times)
Maternal Depression Often Starts before Giving Birth, Study Says (by Pam Belluck, New York Times, February 2015)
The largest study to date on postpartum depression has found that in the most severe cases of postpartum depression, the symptoms often began during pregnancy, not after giving birth as previously thought. Approximately 10 to 20% of mothers experience depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other symptoms following their pregnancies, and the current study hopes to better understand the causes of those symptoms. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/02/02/maternal-depression-often-starts-before-giving-birth-study-says/?_r=0
Depression: ‘Mindfulness-based therapy shows promise’ (by Smitha Mundasad, BBC News, Apr 2015)
In a study conducted by UK scientists, the efficacy of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) was compared to treatment with medication. Results indicated similar relapse rates for both groups, but that many in the MBCT group had been able to taper their medication. This suggests that MBCT could be a valuable treatment option for those who wish to avoid taking psychotropic medication long term. http://www.bbc.com/news/health-32380183
Too Much Facebook Leads to Envy and Depression (by Cara Reedy, CNN, Mar 2015)
A recent study shows that heavy Facebook use can lead to envy, which can lead to extreme sadness. The study found that people who ‘stalk’ their Facebook friends often feel that their life does not measure up to those of their friends, resulting in feeling bad about themselves. http://money.cnn.com/2015/03/02/technology/facebook-envy/
Some resources for learning more about depression
The National Institute of Mental Health is an organization with a mission to improve the understanding and treatment of mental illness through research. Their website provides descriptions of a variety of psychological disorders, along with information about causes, symptoms, treatments, and relevant research. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml
MedlinePlus is a website produce by the National Library of Medicine, and provides up to date information about diseases, conditions, medications, treatments, and other wellness issues in a variety of languages. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/depression.html
FamilyDoctor is a site operated by the American Academy of Family Pgysicians (AAFP) ad provides information regarding a variety of diseases and conditions that is all written and reviewed by physicians and patient education professionals. The site also provides age-group specific information, as well as information about prevention and wellness. http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/depression.html