Turning Trials into Triumph: Lessons from the Life of Maya Angelou

By: Davine Holness

Abuse: from selective mutism and PTSD to fame and fortune

Abuse: selective mutism turns to triumph

On May 28 2014, author and activist Dr. Maya Angelou passed away peacefully in her home.  Her work has touched the lives of many, and her story can inspire us today.  Despite the physical abuse and psychological trauma of her past, she rose to great financial success, world renown, and a fulfilled life.

At the age of eight, Angelou was raped by her mother’s then-boyfriend.  She told her brother who told the rest of the family.  When the law found Angelou’s rapist guilty but only jailed him for one day, her uncles retaliated by beating the rapist to death.  Angelou felt that her words had killed a man, and so out of fear and guilt she stopped speaking.  This selective mutism – a psychological problem that affects many children worldwide – lasted for nearly five years of Angelou’s young life.  With the help of a teacher and literature, she was able to find her voice.  She eventually turned this painful past into several autobiographies and poems, as well as a passion for activism and supporting those who suffered like she did.  Her life is an example of how finding and pursuing a passion can help you overcome devastating circumstances, and how a troubled past doesn’t have to hold you back.  Though recovering from the pain of traumatic experiences is a struggle, rebounding can propel you into greater success.

For help recovering from a painful experience (such as verbal abuse, physical abuse, or rape) or selective mutism/, feel free to contact the Manhattan or Bergen County, New Jersey offices of Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy at or (212) 722-1920.  Visit www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.



Relationship Break-up: Coping with Heartbreak- Bergen County, NJ

By: Laine Podell Get-Over-Heartbreak

When a long-term relationship comes to an end, often we feel lost. After having devoted a number of months or years to your significant other the thought of starting over is overwhelming—even if you know it is much needed. Concentrate on getting over the breakup by creating a healthy and stable lifestyle and focusing on yourself for a while. This may seem easier said than done but the following tips can help you come out of a breakup happier and stronger than ever.

Understandably, your significant other was probably one your main supporters prior to the breakup. Determine who else was consistently there for you and concentrate on those people as your primary supporters. This may include parents, siblings, close friends, college friends or co-workers. Surround yourself with the friendship and love of these friends and family members rather than isolating yourself and withdrawing. It is healing to recognize and appreciate the people in your life who care, and who will always be there to support you. Keep those who mean the most close to you during hard times

When you are alone and perhaps feeling down be sure to stay healthy. This includes maintaining good hygiene, fitness, and eating habits. Go above and beyond your usual routine and allow for some pampering. Treat yourself to a massage, or simply do an at-home manicure, pedicure, and facial. Remember the small life pleasures like a walk in the park. Start up again with a hobby you may have forgotten about when preoccupied with the relationship.

On the other hand, it is very important to realize that trying to forget the past or push out unwanted thoughts of grief and sadness is not the answer. Grieving is a natural part of breaking up. If the feelings are never dealt with they will always linger. Accept that it is okay to cry once in a while, or vent to your friend. As long as these are not the only things occupying your day, they are a healthy and necessary part of overcoming the loss of the relationship.

If you are having difficulty getting over the break-up of your relationship we can help. If you live in Bergen County, New Jersey, feel free to call 201-368-3700 to find out more information or make an appointment with one of our own licensed professional counselors, therapists, psychologists or psychiatrists.

Eating Disorders: Binge-Eating

By, Michelle Dierna


Obesity is currently a major epidemic in America and is growing. The question is what gives an Individual the desire to eat excessive amounts of food driven by impulse? The answer to this question can vary, however binge eating is an eating disorder just like anorexia and bulimia. There seems to be a stigma attached to obesity and a belief that people who are overweight do not care about their bodies. This is simply an over generalization; There are many emotional aspects that are involved with any type of eating disorder including binge eating.

For most people control plays a big part in eating habits.  Many eating disorders are characterized by control of eatery. Binge- eaters are not able to handle cravings and desire in order to present themselves from over eating. Over eating can be caused by emotional issues that trigger impulses to eat including boredom, loneliness and depression.

  “Size bashing” and “weight bullying” are terms that connote hostility and possibly even violent behavior toward an obese person. Large people are, indeed, frequently the target of verbal abuse and, sometimes, physical attack. Sometimes they draw stares; other times they are ignored as if invisible. Either way, they are often looked down upon and thought of as second-class citizens.”{Farbman; pyschologytoday}

Eating is involved in our everyday lives, all around the world.  As humans, many people over eat once in awhile- taking an extra serving at Thanksgiving dinner, eating candies when our body is already full. But, for binge eaters, overeating is regular and uncontrollable. Binge eating can have a negative effect on one’s self -esteem and social life. Most have heard of the saying “I’m comfort eating” and for people suffering with this eating disorder its more than just comfort eating -it’s a disease.

 “Eat to live not live to Eat” should be instilled in your mind. Eating is for survival. If you live to eat then ultimately you are shortening your life span. This could happen because being overweight or obese increases you’re risk of diabetes and cardiovascular issues. Your eating habits can affect your mind and your every day life. Your health should always come first. Speaking to a professional about why you might be having these issues could be extremely beneficial, especially if you don’t know the cause of your binge-eating and choosing not to stick to a healthy diet.

If you feel that you are struggling with Binge eating or have any other concerns about Eating Disorders, feel free to contact our Bergen County, New Jersey or Manhattan offices to work with one of our psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists who successfully helped others with similar issues.

Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.

More detailed information can be found at http://www.acenterfortherapy.com

Source: Debra.Farbman, Ph.D.”Weight Bullying: Large Size People Who Are Often Targets.” Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Action. N.p., n.d. Web.

Anti-Social Media

By: Kimberly Made

Social Media

Is technology bringing us closer together or pushing us further apart?

If you take a moment to look around, regardless of where you are, you’ll notice one thing: everyone is on their phone. It has become an essential part of our lives. You want to order pizza? There’s an app for that. You want to share a funny story about something that happened to you? You’ll have to decide whether you want to post a Facebook status, send a text, or tweet about it. Just think about how many times a day we use our phones to avoid having to interact with other people. It’s like so we’re so used to relying on technology to communicate, that when it comes time to actually interacting out in the real world, we’re clueless.

According to schools.com, 39% of Americans spend more time on social media than interacting face to face, 20% prefer texting than talking face to face, and 33% are more likely to speak to someone new online than in person. 24% of people admitted to missing an important moment in person because they were focused on their phone at the time. It’s almost like we are addicted to our phones and our social media.

Yes, social media is great for keeping in contact with family, old friends, and even for connecting with strangers who share things in common with us, but we have to remember that there is more to the world than our online relationships. Sometimes it is important to just put your phone down and connect with real people in the real world. In the words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

If you or anyone you know is dealing with any issues that could be worsened by a social media, such as social anxiety, it could be beneficial to contact a mental health professional for counseling. If you are in Bergen County, New Jersey or Manhattan, New York, feel free to call 201-368-3700 or 212-722-1920 to make an appointment with one of our own therapists, counselors, psychologists or psychiatrists.

Communication: Effective Communication

By: Laine Podell

Communication is key—a commonly overused cliché to serve as advice for almost any of our problems. Communication is, in fact, a highly necessary tool in any marriage or relationship. But the word “communication” is a broad term simply defined as an exchange of information. All types of communication are not equally beneficial. It is not only about communicating with your partner, but doing so effectively.couple-talking-on-couch

Often when faced with confrontation our emotions overwhelm us. Feelings of anger and frustration lead to the instinct to raise our voices. However, increasing the volume of your voice does not increase the validity of the point you are trying to make. Conversely, the message is more effectively delivered when you maintain a calm demeanor. Take a moment to compose yourself if your feel your emotions spiraling and your voice rising. Your partner will be more likely to listen, appreciate, and consider your opinion if you do not give in to your instinct to yell or scream.

Other issues may arise in the content of the argument rather than the delivery. Think about the goal of the conversation; it is important to know what message you hope to get across. If you plan in advance it will help to prevent outbursts that do not reflect what you truly meant to express.

Avoid thinking of an argument as a contest with a winner and loser. While your spouse is speaking, you should not be formulating your next move. Instead actively listen and take into consideration their point of view. Both partners must consider the conversation as a collaborative effort. With this mindset rather than a competitive one, a compromise will more likely be reached.

Applying these tips will lead to more effective communication. If you are struggling to succeed on your own, a counselor can help to assist a couple in working through conflict. If you are in Bergen County, New Jersey, feel free to call 201-368-3700 to find out more information or make an appointment with one of our own counselors, therapists, psychologists or psychiatrists.

Online Dating: Tinderella Seeks Prince Charming

By: Kimberly Made

Online DatingIn the age of technology it is safe to say that we use our phones for just about everything. Whether it’s texting, showing the Instagram world what we had for lunch, or live tweeting our work day, we always have our phones in our hands. It was only a matter of time until we started using our phones to help us find love.

Now we have apps like Tinder that use your phone’s GPS to connect you with potential dates in your area. You’re shown a few pictures of someone in your area with a short bio they wrote about themselves. If you’re interested, you swipe the picture to the right of your screen and if not, you swipe to the left. If a person you were interested in swipes right for you too, you’re a match and are given the option to chat. You don’t even have to leave your house to find your prince. It’s as easy as swiping your screen.

We must keep in mind that like most things, there are both advantages and disadvantages to looking for love on your phone. There’s always the fear that the person you match with could be lying or could be some kind of online predator. This is why you should always be careful with the information you give out. You should also be sure that if you decide to take your online flirtations to the next step and actually decide to meet up with your Tinder match, that you do so in a neutral, public area just in case the date does not turn out as planned.

Although these are common fears any person would have, we must also look at the advantages of online dating. Some people are too busy to go out to try to meet people. Dating apps are easy and you can use them anywhere. They also give people who may be too shy to approach someone out in the real world the opportunity to get to know the person they are interested in without any pressure.

As more people start having more success with these kinds of dating apps, more people will definitely begin hopping on the bandwagon and trying to find their soul mates this way. As of 2013, 20% of committed relationship had begun online. According to a new study, by the year 2031, 50% of couples will have met through online dating.

If you or anyone you know is dealing with any kind of issues finding a relationship issues in your relationship or marriage, it may be beneficial to seek marriage counseling with a professional therapist who works with couples that have problems. If you are in Bergen County, New Jersey or Manhattan, New York, feel free to call 201-368-3700 to make an appointment with one of our own therapists, marriage counselors, psychologists or psychiatrists.

Stress Management: How to Cope with Stress!

By: Michelle Dierna
stress_ballHave you ever driven over a bridge on a windy day and felt the wind almost forcing your car in one direction because it was so strong? Well, fun fact, many bridges are designed that way in order to deal with the STRESS of the wind that might come towards the bridge. An individual might even get stressed because of the slight movement of the bridge on a windy day and the shaking below.  Stress is easily one of the most common human experiences. That is why it is important to build a strong foundation.  However just like bridges are built to sustain stress from external factors, we as humans can too. I know comparing human beings to inanimate objects is a bit abstract.  However, stress is not easily defined, though it is strongly prevalent in our society.  The wind strongly pushing on the bridge is similar to stress pushing on to a person. Usually it goes unnoticed, hard to feel until it’s really strong. Just like a bridge can collapse if not constructed correctly to deal with major stress; people can as well. What should be obtained from this is that stress is a serious issue that needs to be addressed if is consuming your life.

Coping methods for stress:

Identify the cause of the Stress and Monitor your moods: For example:  What is triggering the stress?  Do you find that you’re more or less stressed in certain situations, certain times of the day or even the people you surround yourself with? Once you can be more aware on what triggers stress points and what relieves stress for you specifically, you can then move on to identify when you’re feeling stressed and develop a coping method. Monitoring your mood is important for everyone. When an individual monitors their mood and feelings it’s easier to identify what causes not only stress, but other emotions and behaviors. It can be very therapeutic!  Keeping a journal is a great idea to stay on track on daily moods and stressors. This makes it easier to detect areas for improvement or just to express yourself.

Organize and Make Time for yourself: Being organized is one of the most helpful tools to being a successful, productive and less stressed person. When the priorities and items in one’s life are in order, one feels better for the most part. Why? Because this eliminates the guilt of not doing what you really wanted to achieve because you were simply not organized and your priorities were not where they could have been. In many aspects of your life. This leads to disorganization in the mind, which causes stress!

How not to be stuck in this situation: try to reduce duties that are “shoulds” but not “musts”. Be realistic about what you can achieve that day and organize and prioritize accordingly! Life with a busy schedule can definitely effect your personal time. Whether it comes to work, children or school, many people find it hard to make leisure time for themselves. What should be understood is that humans need leisure time, especially with stressful schedules. Make time to go to the gym! No one ever said after a workout; I wish I didn’t go! When you work out you release endorphins which relieves stress. Working out is one of the most popular and best ways to cope with stress. Not only are you soaking up endorphins you are taking care of your physical health.

Walk away when you are too emotional to handle a situation with a safe and appropriate way. We are all human, we all have emotions yet, sometimes stress can enhance our emotions into more aggressive, invasive and sometimes even embarrassing behaviors and actions. So how can we cope with stress when we are in these high elevated moods? How can we not hurt or collapse the people around us emotionally or physically when overly stressed?

 Answer: It is easier said than done but highly achievable with effort. Before you react to whatever is driving this impulse of an abnormal mood caused by stressors; take time to analyze the situation and mentally regroup. Take a walk, count to ten, talk to a confidant and express your feelings and then re-evaluate the situation. It is easier to jump to conclusions. It is harder to take a deep breath and think before you act, but with time anyone can learn to improve mechanisms to keep their composure when dealing with stress.

If you or a loved one are dealing with stress issues, problems with coping and anxiety, feel free to contact our Bergen County, New Jersey or Manhattan offices of psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists for an evaluation.

Arista Counseling & Psychiatric Services (201)368-3700 or (212)722-1920

Visit: http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.


1 .STEVE BRESSERT, Steve, PHD. “» More Tips for Coping with Stress – Psych Central.” Psych Central.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2014.

2. Association, A. (2007). More Tips for Coping with Stress. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 16, 2014.



Preventing Affairs: Four things you can do right now to stop infidelity from damaging your relationship

By: Davine Holness

Don't let this happen to you!

Infidelity: What can a couple do to inoculate itself against cheating?

An affair can be extremely damaging; in fact, the single most common way for a relationship to end is for one partner to become involved with another person.  People cheat for a variety of reasons, but one commonality is that the cheater feels that the new partner will meet more of their needs than their current partner.  While most marriages survive an extra-marital affair, it is much better to take steps to prevent it, rather than have to heal the hurt after it happens.  What most people don’t know is that there are some simple steps that can be taken to stop an affair before it occurs.

 1. Engage in an open conversation.  Most couples do not have an explicit discussion about affairs until one has already occurred.  Affairs are a contentious matter that can be uncomfortable to talk about.  However, taking the time to have a talk and create a Primary Prevention Plan can save you a lot of strife in the future.

2. Understand that it could happen to you.  Extra-marital affairs are more prevalent than you might think.  At least 80% of people start out their marriage with the belief that it will be a completely monogamous relationship.  However, 35-45% of marriages involve an affair of some sort.  Furthermore, while people tend to think that affairs are endemic to old or unhappy marriages, they are in fact most likely to occur in the first 5 years of marriage, with the highest rates occuring in the first two years.  Avoiding denial is an important step toward making an agreement that can ultimately prevent an affair.

3. Identify vulnerabilities.  Each partner should reflect on what situations would make them more likely to cheat, and share these vulnerabilities with the other.  They should then agree to let each other know if they’re in a potentially tempting situation rather than acting impulsively.  This makes affairs less likely by taking away the edge that they get from being spontaneous and secret.

4. Commit to honesty.  Agree that you will tell each other within 72 hours if an incident of cheating occurs.  Hiding what’s happened is usually more harmful than the incident itself.  Covering up infidelity leads to feelings of betrayal which only grow with time.  Honesty prevents an affair from becoming a bigger problem than it needs to be.


An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.  For help preventing (or recovering from) an affair, feel free to contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices of Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.  Visit www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

McCarthy, B. W. (2012, January 2). Preventing extra-marital affairs. Psychology today. Retrieved May 15, 2014

ADHD & Medications

By: Davine Holness

Does this look like your child?

ADHD makes it hard for countless students to focus on their work

While many children with ADHD have found relief with medication, parents are often hesitant to allow their children to take medications.  However, it has been shown that the most common medications for ADHD – stimulants – are actually safe when used correctly.  Furthermore, treatment plans for ADHD in children involve close monitoring by both a parent and a medical professional, to ensure that the treatment is effective.  Behavioral therapy often accompanies medication.  So don’t be afraid to give your child access to medications that could be the bridge between your child and success in school and in life.

If you feel you or your child may have ADHD, the licensed professionals at Arista Counseling and Psychotherapy can assist you.  Contact our Bergen County, New Jersey or Manhattan offices of psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.  Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

Pencils Down, Bottoms Up: Drinking Culture Among Students

By: Kimberly Made

College Drinking

Drinking has always been considered a part of college life. After a week of classes, exams, and papers, the weekend feels like an oasis in the desert and what better way to celebrate making it through that seemingly never ending wave of stress and sleepless nights than with a drink or two?

But where do we draw the line between harmless fun and alcoholism?

In the land of Thirsty Thursdays and Two Dollar Tuesdays, it seems there’s always an excuse to go out and distract yourself from the stress of your daily life with a few drinks. As college students, we find ourselves in a place where the idea of being an alcoholic is just a mere joke thrown around among friends. How can we be expected to tell the difference between a friend that just really enjoys Vodka Red Bulls and one who may actually have a problem?

Alcohol Abuse is characterized by a maladaptive pattern of alcohol use leading to significant impairment or distress as manifested by at least one of the following within a one-year period:

  1. Recurrent alcohol use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school or home (e.g., repeated absences or poor work performance related to alcohol use)
  2. Recurrent alcohol use in situations in which it is physically hazardous (e.g., driving while under the influence)
  3. Recurrent alcohol related legal problems (e.g., arrests for alcohol related disorderly conduct)
  4. Continued alcohol use despite having social or interpersonal problems caused by the effects of alcohol (e.g., arguments or physical fights)

While it’s completely normal to go out and enjoy Happy Hour after a long day, it’s important to keep in mind that once alcohol begins to have a negative impact on someone’s day-to-day life, it is time to seek help.


If you are concerned that you or anyone you care about may need help dealing with alcohol abuse, the licensed professionals at Arista Counseling and Psychotherapy can assist you.  Contact our Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices of psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment.  Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.