My name is Haley and I am a veteran blogger, serial dog-petter and red wine enthusiast hailing from Boston, MA. I graduated from Boston University in May 2019 with my B.S. in Communications Studies, Minor in Political Science, and chose to pursue my M.S.S.A. to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
I am a proud mom to seven-year-old Collie, Violet, and the long-distance girlfriend to a third-year med student, David. Over the past three years, my freelance work has been published on Her Campus, the Daily Free Press, the BU Buzz and more. Previously, I founded Haley Marie Blog, a college beauty and lifestyle blog I ran for three years before transitioning to The Cozy Counselor.
The Cozy Counselor reflects my professional journey as a Master’s candidate and aspiring clinical therapist. My opinion should not be taken as medical advice in any way. Please consult your primary care doctor before making any changes that may impact your health.
As for this blog, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any business inquiries or friendly requests. You can also find me on social media @cozycounselor. I look forward to working with you soon!
Why “The Cozy Counselor?”
As an aspiring mental health professional and current patient, I believe seeing the right therapist should be as comfortable as slipping into your favorite pair of pajamas and sipping hot cocoa by the fireplace. Though confronting past or present trauma is never easy, finding the right match between therapist and client makes the patient’s job that much easier. Hence, I hope students, professionals and clients alike will make themselves at home on my blog, and that The Cozy Counselor can offer you a bit of that cozy feeling – even at life’s most stressful times! Imagine me as your virtual BFF, settling into the couch across from you and lending my advice without judgment. That’s the feeling I hoped to capture by naming this blog The Cozy Counselor – because in the mental health profession, empathy is everything, and having the right team members on your side can make all the difference in guiding you toward your mental health recovery.
What is an M.S.S.A.?
The M.S.S.A. degree is the equivalent of the M.S.W. at Case Western Reserve University, where I plan to obtain my graduate degree in May 2021. Case Western’s M.S.S.A. at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences covers the same material as a traditional M.S.W. program. The school is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), the governing body in the field of social work, and prepares students to take the LSW licensure exam. Upon subsequent completion of the required field hours, M.S.S.A. students are also prepared to take the LCSW exam. Membership in the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is also included in Mandel School students’ tuition.
What inspired you to get your M.S.S.A. / M.S.W.?
Going through childhood trauma leaves you with invisible scars that – if left unaddressed – can impact your self-esteem, confidence and interpersonal relationships for a lifetime. Like many girls like me, I am an adult child of divorce who has had to work through years of anxiety, depression and trauma stemming from those events. I am also a proud alumnus of Kappa Alpha Theta, a women’s fraternity who serves Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) to help train advocates to work with children in the foster care system. These two experiences left me with a burning desire to put my people skills and Communications Studies degree to good use by helping others like me: young women who suffer from anxiety and depression as a result of trauma. I decided to pursue my Master’s in Social Work in order to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, with the ultimate goal of working in inpatient eating disorder treatment.
Are you a therapist?
As of right now, no, I am not a licensed therapist. At the end of my Master’s program (typically in April or May of senior year), students take the LSW exam in the state of their choice in order to become Licensed Social Workers. In order to obtain a LCSW degree (which stands for Licensed Clinical Social Worker), one must complete a certain number of hours of clinical experience in the field. After obtaining those hours, I will be able to apply for my LCSW and (hopefully!) open my own private practice as a licensed therapist.
Do you suffer from mental illness?
Yes! I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and dysthymia (mild, persistent depression) at the age of 18, fresh out of high school – in fact, it’s what inspired me to start blogging in the first place. Writing has long been a form of catharsis for me to express the deep feelings of insecurity and self-doubt that can often come with the territory of mental illness. In my family, anxiety and mood disorders have a strong genetic component; however, I also suffered childhood trauma from my parents’ divorce, as well as years of emotional abuse by a relative who shall remain unnamed. Separately, I am also a survivor of sexual assault, orthorexia and bulimia. My anxiety and depression are well-managed with the help of healthy lifestyle changes, medication and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, many of which are well-documented on this blog. As a result of my prior experience with mental illness, however, I am especially passionate about helping young women resolve past or present trauma and build happier, healthier relationships with themselves and others.
What kind of therapy is right for me?
As I mentioned previously, I am not a licensed therapist (yet!), so please take my advice with a grain of salt. However, what form of therapy works best for an individual depends on an amalgam of factors, including but not limited to: their diagnosis, their personality, their level of motivation (which can be drastically impacted by illnesses like depression), other treatments (such as medication or holistic medicine), the presence of concurrent conditions (for example, depressive episodes are a common reaction to a cancer diagnosis), biological factors (age, sex, weight, etc.) and lifestyle factors (sleep, exercise, diet, etc.).
Both in my studies and in my personal life, I have dedicated most of my reading to three primary modes of therapeutic intervention, which I will define in greater detail below. Please remember that this is not a complete and accurate picture of all therapies available, and what works for one person may not be the best fit for you and your unique needs as a patient.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a classical mode of “short-term, goal-oriented therapy” (PsychCentral). It is often used to treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) but, as the most popular form of talk therapy available today, has numerous applications in the field that are useful for clinicians and patients alike. CBT centers on the critical idea that our thoughts directly influence our behaviors, producing many of the uncomfortable symptoms associated with anxiety and mood disorders. CBT focuses on helping patients identify negative thought patterns, replace negative beliefs with positive ones and change problematic behaviors associated with these thought patterns. Though a large portion of treatment takes place in the therapist’s office, therapists may often assign “homework” for the patient to complete in-between sessions, such as keeping a log of anxiety triggers or negative thoughts and practicing challenging them without the aid of the therapist.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a specific form of CBT that teaches patients how to cope with overwhelming emotions without engaging in problematic behaviors. Applications include patients who self-harm or suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), addictive behaviors and/or Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). DBT hones in on three major strategies to help patients recover: mindfulness, distress tolerance and emotional regulation (Psychology Today). By using a combination of individualized therapy sessions and group skills training classes, DBT can help patients create and follow a structured action plan geared toward empowerment and achievement. The therapist’s role in DBT is thus to help the patient reach their personal goals and begin to lead a life uninterrupted by low self-esteem or tumultuous relationships – in other words, a life patients believe is worth living.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is an emerging school of thought in modern clinical psychology. Mindfulness practices are useful to just about anyone, including those who are not plagued by trauma and/or mental illness (even Hillary Clinton practices yogic breathing!); however, they are especially useful in teaching patients with anxiety and/or mood disorders positive coping skills. Mindfulness skills like meditation and breath work can help patients with persistent episodes of depression and/or anxiety acknowledge negative thoughts without spiraling into problematic behavior. Typically, MBCT takes place in biweekly group sessions, with mindfulness-based “homework” assignments between sessions. Nevertheless, I believe any therapist can incorporate elements of mindfulness into their patients’ individualized treatment plans, in-office or at home, to help patients gain additional coping skills and resources to ward off negative thought patterns.
Other types of therapy that are appropriate for patients with mood and/or anxiety disorders include Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Exposure and Response Therapy, EMDR Therapy, Interpersonal Therapy (esp. in young patients), Psychodynamic Therapy (esp. in young patients) and Play Therapy (esp. in children). If you are suffering from mental illness, you may also choose to seek treatment with psychiatric medication at the hands of your primary care doctor or a specialist (MD or Psychiatric NP). Patients who present a danger to themselves and/or others are considered in-crisis and should seek acute inpatient care at a hospital or other residential treatment facility.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or suspect someone you know may be contemplating suicide, I encourage you to call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Free, confidential help is available – you do not need to go through this alone.