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How change happens in therapy?  – 4 experts reveal insights about therapy

How change happens in therapy? – 4 experts reveal insights about therapy

Are you waiting for January 1st to reset your clock and set new goals? You don’t have to…

We all know that change is not easy. It can actually be intimidating. Most clients reach out to us because they desire to improve a certain aspect of their life – a relationship, career, or well-being. They need extra support, non-judgmental space to explore solutions, learn more about themselves, and potentially make some positive change.

I recently asked a few Elmhurst therapists on how change happens in therapy, and how they help clients navigate change and maintain balance. Below is their perspective:


Kris Kirilova, LCPCInstead of thinking change, focus on making a shift
Elmhurst Therapist & Career Coach

Most people seek therapy because they are feeling stuck or frustrated in some way. Many are afraid of the uncertainty and confusion that comes with change. I encourage my clients to think of a shift instead of thinking change. Consider a shift in your focus, perspective or shifting your energy and attention to something more meaningful. In sessions, we may examine expectations and beliefs, or learn new ways to cope with stress or anxiety in a healthy way.

My advice is to find the courage to start with small steps and as you learn new skills, practice new habits every day. Practice being self-compassionate and patient! Let this gradual process unfold, and seek the help of a therapist or coach as an extra support to create a more fulfilling life.


Elizabeth Bailey, LCSWA strong therapeutic relationship allows change to occur
Elmhurst Therapist

Reaching out to a therapist is something that can take a long time to feel comfortable with. People typically have preconceived notions of what therapy looks like, or attribute certain characteristics to the “type” of person who seeks out therapy. That’s why it’s important to acknowledge the courage it takes to make that first appointment, and to address something that is causing you pain. That is where change begins.

Once therapy starts, it’s important to decide if your therapist is a good fit for you. It may take a few sessions to determine if you are a good fit for one another. Generally if you leave a session feeling like you were truly listened to and understood, that is a productive start. I always try to use a strengths-based perspective with my clients, focusing on the fact that they already possess the resources to overcome their challenges. Often, life’s stressors can get in the way of realizing that these tools exist, and a strong therapeutic relationship can help bring them to the forefront and allow change to occur. A therapist should simply be a guide through your own mind, not a teacher telling you what to do.


Katie McDougall, LCSWTherapy can empower you to feel strong and independent
Elmhurst Therapist

Therapy can help individuals to find solutions, adjust to changes and feel better.  As a therapist, I focus on providing a non-judgmental attitude and meeting the client where they are at the moment.  By providing a safe and supportive place, a relationship develops between the therapist and client.  The strength of this relationship allows clients to explore their past, current situation, and goals for the future.  Clients often seek to feel understood and motivated. With the guidance and help of a therapist, therapy can restore hope, and empower an individual to feel strong and independent.


Steve Ritter, LCSW, Elmhurst Executive Coach & Therapist  – Therapy is a platform for improved wellness on multiple levels – personal, social, relational, & career domains.

Everyone experiences difficulties that are beyond their own resources to manage. Eventually, most people heal with the passage of time. Engaging a therapist is usually a more efficient and effective way to work through a challenge or a period of distress. A therapy relationship is a clinical alliance where the world can be experienced through the client’s perspective. Beyond empathy and validation, the alliance becomes a place to hold pain and explore coping strategies. In the short term, clients receive symptom relief, nonjudgmental support, and coping skills. In the long run, clients receive a deeper understanding of the historical context for their struggles and the way these patterns affect their choices. This becomes a platform for improved wellness in personal, interpersonal, social, career, and community settings.


Now that you know more about therapy, do you think you can benefit? What do you hope to bring to life and manifest next? What do you want to write in the next chapter of your life? Is it going to be more of the same story and same frustrations? Get in touch with your inner voice and intentions. May be you’re thinking of new possibilities, experiences or a new journey. We are here to help!


Staying Calm Under Pressure

Staying Calm Under Pressure

Is it nature or nurture? Poise during the final seconds of an expiring clock in a sports contest often separates winners from losers. Hitting the high note in a solo during an orchestra performance in front of a packed house distinguishes the virtuoso from the amateur. Making the tough decision at the head of the leadership table usually differentiates the effective chief executive from the ineffective stuffed shirt.

Are these leaders born with such composure under pressure or are these learned behaviors? It’s probably a little of both. So, assuming the gift of nature – the lucky wiring handed down from generations of genetics – is part of the package, where does the nurture – the learned ability to remain graceful when it counts most – come from?

Let’s look at the three most likely sources.


The acquisition of coping skills happens when situations require us to adapt. A child learning to ride a bicycle discovers balance just as the bike begins to topple over. If the kid’s dad never lets go of the seat permitting the bicycle to tip, his son or daughter never knows to compensate to the left when the bike falls to the right. This is the beauty of struggle – it forces the need for problem solving.


Most athletes and musicians know what it feels like to be “in the zone.” Parents and business leaders find the zone, as well. The zone is the perfect blend of stress and performance that makes competency look effortless. This is a skill set that can be taught and practiced. It’s basic psychophysiology. Learn the early warning signs your body communicates under stress and employ any of a variety of relaxation techniques to reboot your focus.


Managing change effectively builds resiliency. While instinct may clamor to avoid change at all costs, saying goodbye to the old while saying hello to the new is a reliable problem-solving method. Everything cycles if you don’t waste energy getting stuck. As quickly as you can finish trumpeting how awful a change is, get committed to the task of figuring out what to do about it.

Some people are born to keep their cool when the heat is on. They get a small head-start in the leadership race. The rest of us find a way to channel the people and events of our lives into a moment of clarity when our teammates aren’t sure what to do in a crisis. Were you born to lead with calm or will your poise need to be learned?

About the Author

Steve Ritter is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, the Founder and Managing Director of the Midwest Institute & Center for Workplace Innovation, the Founder and CEO of the Team Clock Institute, and the author of Useful Pain: Why Your Relationships Need Struggle and Team Clock: A Guide to Breakthrough Teams. You can find Steve on LinkedIn.

Back to School: Begin Again

Back to School: Begin Again

The kids are back in school. For us parents who have been through 15-20 years of schooling, an academic cycle is built into the rhythm of our lives. There is a beginning (fall), middle (winter), and an end (spring) followed by a period of regrouping (summer). The hands on the clock keep spinning as families navigate challenges.

As you begin again, consider opportunities that arise from your family’s new cycle:

Reinvestment: Each new beginning offers a chance to measure your level of engagement. The degree to which you invest determines the strength of the platform that will eventually support your growth.

Embracing Conflict and Difference: Friction is a gift when it’s managed with respect and maturity. A new day invites a new idea. If nothing changes, nothing changes.

Increasing Connection: Trust is cumulative. It is earned with accountability and damaged with neglect. The cyclical nature of families offers endless second chances. Seize the opportunity to advance your relationships to the next level.

Adaptation: Each day has unexpected events that require a reaction. Sometimes our responses are nimble and poised while other times we’re awkward and clumsy. Efforts to keep things from changing are usually counterproductive. Moving with the flow of change is often the best strategy.

Refueling: The natural breaks (holidays, spring break) are designed to recharge the system. Walking away and getting some space is an effective way of finding clarity. Depleted resources need restocking. Fuel the next phase of growth with well-earned rest.

The stages of the cycle are predictable in healthy families. Follow the refueling phase with a renewed investment. Use this as a platform for building trust. Leverage the connection to innovate. Distance from the status quo to manage the changes you’ve created. Adapt with poise and begin again.

About the Author

Kerry Galarza, MS OTR/L is the Clinical Director and a pediatric occupational therapist at Elmhurst Counseling. She provides specialized assessment and intervention with children of all ages and their families. Kerry engages clients with naturally occurring, meaningful home-based methods to empower autonomy and maximize functioning.