counseling, happiness, psychology, self-help

Not Everyone Wants to Be Happy

One of the most common goals people express is their desire to be happy.

As Americans, our Declaration of Independence speaks to our  right to the “pursuit of happiness” ie our RIGHT to chase whatever our subjective happiness may be. We have a right to PURSUE happiness but obtaining it is not a given.

As a culture, we spend boatloads of money trying to figure out what EXACTLY personal happiness means to us. For Americans, happiness is almost an OBSESSION. The desire for it is woven into the fabric of our culture but in other parts of the world happiness is held in less esteem.

Often people turn to counseling with the objective “to be happier” at the end of the treatment process. Many of us search for happiness like the holy grail.

But happiness as a goal is not desired by all. The truth is not everyone wants to be happy.

Now many people would deny that being the case. I find most people readily admit to others they WANT to be happy. But their thoughts and actions denote otherwise.

People often destroy their own happiness.  THEY themselves destroy it. It can be painful to watch someone behave in such a self-destructive manner.

It plays out in a familiar fashion.

People hold onto relationships (romantic, familial, friendships) that make them feel bad. People continue in jobs that make them miserable. People give their power away to others–allowing other people to make them feel less than or ruin their days. People treat others poorly then wonder why they are lonely. People hold onto bad habits at the expense of their mental and physical well-being.

People negatively judge others. People negatively judge themselves. They think they need to be perfect to be loved. They seek the approval of others but do not give such approval to themselves.

People commonly obsess about the past. People often worry about the future. People frequently ruminate over things they can’t change–namely anything in the external world outside of themself.

People let their ego grow out of control. People procrastinate their ambition. People keep toxic people in their life. People continue being their own worst critic. People push people they love away.  People give up before they even start.

The truth is many people at a certain point in life settle. People settle for a life that does not bring them the happiness they desire. The moment a person chooses to settle is the moment them begin a slow death on the inside.

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As a counselor, if a client tells me that want to be happy, my automatic response is, WHAT does happiness mean for you? Because the truth is happiness can look quite different depending on who you ask. Happiness is not one universal outcome.

So why isn’t someone happy with their life?  The answer is often simple. Many people are not happy because they don’t really want to be. 

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I am not talking about people who have extenuating tough life circumstances: homelessness, unemployment, cancer, clinical depression, etc. I am talking people with no EXTREME trying life circumstance in their current day-to-day life.

I believe many of us know someone on paper who has no reason to be unhappy-financial secure, healthy, good relationships, etc. But when you are around them, you can tell you are in the presence of a person who is unhappy despite seemingly positive circumstances.

Many of us scratch our head to understand why someone who seemingly has it all going for them seems so UNHAPPY.

Of course, we never know what mental health struggles a person is facing behind closed-doors.  And for those people we should have the utmost compassion.

But for other people…they are not happy because they are pursuing conditional happiness. Conditional happiness is everything goes your way and you are happy. Almost everybody attempts to do it this way but this approach doesn’t work.

Just think about it. As soon as one thing does NOT go your way, which is inevitable, you will be unhappy. Thus the odds of being happy from a mindset of conditional happiness is low. There are too many external factors we cannot control.

Unconditional happiness–having the mindset that you will be happy DESPITE the fact everything does not go your way. This is more conducive to living a fulfilling life. You will be happy FOR THE MOST PART no matter WHAT because your happiness is not dependent on the outside world to affirm it.

Can you tolerate that? Can you feel a sense of happiness REGARDLESS of what is going on in the external world? Can you feel happy even if you do not like the circumstances of the outside world?

If you are dependent on the external world to be a certain way to be happy, you are going to live a very unhappy life. We need a cultivate a sense of happiness that is not dependent on the external world complying with our wishes. Having rules and conditions on other people, on outside circumstances, and the world at large is a recipe for UNhappiness.

Tell me if this sounds familiar…

Do you ever say to yourself, “I will be happy WHEN……fill in the blank” (when I lose weight, when I get that promotion, when my son graduates high school,  when my parents get along, when my spouse retires, when I have enough money in my bank account, etc.).

If you are living with a “I will be happy WHEN” mindset you will NEVER be happy.

You are creating dogmatic rules for what you need to be happy, many of which are dependent on other people OR the external world to give it to you.

The key to overcoming this approach is to focus on WHY you need certain things to be a certain way to ALLOW yourself to be happy. You can live your whole life waiting on circumstances to align and the day will never come. Putting your happiness on hold is doing a disservice to you and YOU alone.

Some tips to help you:

1)Remind yourself of all the blessings in your life. Too often we focus on the one thing we DON’T have instead of all the things we DO have. “First world problems” is something I will say to myself when I find  myself getting down on something that on a global scale is irrelevant.

2)Remember at any time you can lose one of the blessings YOU do have. Someone you love. Your job. Your health.  We need to start appreciating the IMPERFECT things we do have while we still have them. Life throws curveballs.

3)Disengage from people who steal the happiness you DO have. The Negative Nancy. The Debbie Downer. The Sour Sally. The Judgmental Jane. Pretty much anyone who does not seem to wish you happiness (in all likelihood they do not wish happiness for themselves either). Make sure you surround yourself with a good support system.

4)Don’t let disappointment destroy your happiness. We all get disappointed from time to time. It is an unfortunate part of life. Check your expectations and see what role you had in setting yourself up for said disappointment. Let go of hurt, unfulfilled expectations, and disappointment. You are not doing this for the outside world but for YOU. Do not give your happiness away to anything OUTSIDE of YOURSELF. Take positive steps to improve but enjoy yourself in the process.

The question is DO YOU WANT TO BE HAPPY? Or do you want to continue to live your life with conditional happiness? The choice is yours.

The bottom line is this: YOU and YOU alone are responsible for the conditions of your life. So instead of putting your happiness on hold, find opportunities to be more fulfilled. Not tomorrow but TODAY. If there are not opportunities, CREATE opportunities. Life, as we all have heard, is more about the journey than the destination.

Stop waiting for circumstances to be “just right” to allow yourself to be HAPPY.

And if you need help with this, counseling is a great place to start on your journey to unconditional happiness.

If you are interested in a counseling session with me:

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Located in Oradell, NJ

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counseling, goals, prosocialbehavior, psychology, relationshipadvice, relationships, self-help

10 Habits of Highly Miserable People

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It is often said that happiness is a choice. For a miserable person, they often choose to make themselves (and those around them) miserable.

The unfortunate reality is not everyone wants to be happy. Most people with such a disposition never seek mental health treatment. They do not think they are the problem but the problem is “out there” ie in the external world.

Miserable people often have a woe is me attitude. This victim mentality grates on those around them. This mentality is exhausting to be around. Miserable people are often allergic to responsiblity.  A miserable person believes people are always out to get them.  They often portray themselves as victims who should be rescued, deserving of our sympathy and attention.

Below are some common ways you can spot a miserable person:

1)They love to blame others. Miserable people are often martyrs—it works as a get out jail free card for taking responsibility for their own life. They love to make themselves miserable under the guise of “helping” others. Having a martyr complex essentially involves pointing the finger at other people or situations in your life and blaming them for your disappointments, unhappiness, and emotional turmoil. The reality is no one is responsible for your disappointments, unhappiness, and emotional turmoil EXCEPT you. We all experience these feelings, but we must learn to process our feelings and move on. Miserable people like to stay stuck in the cycle of blame.

2)They love to pick fights. Miserable people love to make other people miserable. Misery loves company right? People who are constantly unhappy love to take it out on other people. Some people are disputatious and repel people with their snarky comments, rude remarks, and negative demeanor.  If antagonistic behavior is an ongoing thing with someone, you are likely dealing with an habitually MISERABLE person.

3)They will get involved in other people’s drama. Miserable people often feel their life is boring. How do they spice it up? By getting involved in the drama of others. (Some go as far as to create drama between others to watch it unfold). Miserable people find drama energizing. Happy people tend to disengage from drama and the people who create it. For miserable people, drama is a way of life.

4)They always expect the worst (of themselves, others, and life in general). Life sucks and all the worst thing that can happen, happens to them, is the mantra of a miserable person. Miserable people often expect the worst of everyone even the people they claim to love. They think other people have bad intentions toward them. The truth is most people don’t have bad intentions but are flawed people. You can always tell a person with bad intentions because when called on their behavior, it gets worse NOT better. They will get more aggressive, more demeaning, more negative.

5)They hate people. This kind of follows from #4. All of us experience negative thoughts from time to time. But a miserable person will make it known how much they despise their fellow-man (which in all likelihood includes you). A miserable person never has a good thing to say about anyone. People are the worst, people are selfish, people are liars, are common refrains from a miserable person.

6)They are selfish. Miserable people put themselves first (but project that other people are selfish, ironic I know). A miserable person drives people away from them because of their negative behavior. Life is hard enough, most people don’t want to spend their time with a Debbie Downer. Miserable people only care about themselves and their own troubles. Only their perspective matters.

7)They are envious of other people. A miserable person is NEVER happy for someone else. Miserable people think someone else’s success or good fortune takes away from them. They view life as a zero sum game due to their scarcity mindset. Miserable people do NOT have an abundance mindset that there is enough love, success, and resources to go around. For them, life is dog eat dog.

8)They hate change. Miserable people hate anything new or different. Change requires effort and miserable people usually don’t want to step outside of their comfort zone. Miserable people will complain about feeling “stuck” but will refuse to do anything to change their circumstances.

9)They love to complain. Complaining is their favorite pastime. This ties in with the blaming, playing victim, and seeking attention/sympathy while playing the role of martyr.  Chronic complainers seek validation and sympathy from those around them. Woe is me. For chronic complainers, every person, every situation, is an opportunity to go on a fault-finding mission.

 

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10)They never do anything to improve their life. Most miserable go through life stagnant. The game of life is too hard so they refuse to play. Yet they resent people who are still IN the game.  The only game a miserable person plays is the blame game. Miserable people are addicted to unhappiness and it becomes a way of life for them.

What are some common root causes of a miserable personality?

  • Low self-esteem
  • The appeal of martyrdom
  • A belief that being miserable is inevitable
  • Underlying depression and anxiety
  • Feeling trapped by your circumstances
  • Living with chronic stress
  • Resistance to being healthy–physically, mentally, and emotionally

The truth is our thinking creates our feelings. If you are chronically unhappy, you need to take a look at your self-talk and how you think about others and relate to the world. If someone or something is truly making you unhappy, you can leave the relationship or situation. 

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Living in the free world, the truth is we ALWAYS have a choice. It may not be an easy choice or a simple solution. Yet you have the freedom to not need to tolerate mistreatment or miserable circumstances. 

If you find your struggling with feelings of misery or a miserable person in your life, counseling may be a great place to begin the journey to a happier life.

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

 

 

counseling, goals, psychology, regrets, relationships, self-help

Regret: Are You Living or Merely Existing?

Who among us can say they have lived a life without ANY regrets?

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I would be suspicious of anyone who says they do not have at least a few regrets to their name (if they are passed a certain age that is).

Regret is an emotional state I wish on no one. Yet regrets are inevitable in life as we are all fallible human beings who make mistakes.

Thus maybe the best we can hope for in life is to have the right regrets.

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We are in the full swing of the holiday season. The holidays are a time of retrospection. If one struggles with regret, this time of year, it is sure to come to the surface.

Regret is common. Whether we acknowledge our regrets, to ourselves or others, is a separate issue.

Every one of us make mistakes in life. We ALL veer off course, make blunders, and fail. It’s is human nature.

Regret is a negative state that entails blaming ourselves for a bad outcome, feeling a sense of loss or sorrow at what might have been or wishing we could undo a previous choice that we made. 

Regret can be beneficial. It can push you to take corrective action–to attempt to right a past wrong. But some times there is no making right certain actions previously taken….and if that is the case you are likely to have chronic stress and ruminate over the past.  It is hard to move on when you cannot correct the mistakes of the past. In life, we don’t always get do-overs. This feeling of powerlessness and helplessness to change the past is one of the most horrendous aspects of regret.

We may regret how certain relationships unfolded. Most likely we will feel regret if our actions are to blame. Whether through not making the effort to stay in touch or from burning bridges. Inaction and undesirable action can both lead to feelings of regret.

Many of our chosen behaviors can lead to regret. Telling lies. Taking your loved ones for granted. Damaging a work relationship by blurting out something in the heat of the moment. Not following through on a promise to a client. Acting out our anger. Putting pride before those we care for.  Putting work before family. Putting our kids before our marriage. Perhaps we deny others happiness.  Or deny ourselves happiness. We may act against, not for other people. All sources of great regret later in life.

The thing is you see you reap what you sow. We all have the freedom to choose but we are not free from the consequences of those choices. This includes the emotional consequences of our choices.

Often times in counseling, I see people firsthand, face up to the emotional consequences of how they choose to live their life.

Regret comes from how we choose to live our life. Choices we made. Behaviors we executed. Or failed to execute. Regret is a painful emotion to face.

Here is a great article on the difference between regret vs. remorse.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/stop-caretaking-the-borderline-or-narcissist/201507/regret-vs-remorse

Our regrets may arise from living unconsciously. We forget to live in the moment. We follow the goals set forth for us by our parents, society, anyone BUT us. We live a life pretending to be someone we are not. We do not stand up for ourselves or others. We disregard our health and wellness. We hold ourselves back. We refuse to let go. We resist change getting ourselves stuck while the rest of the world moves on.

Sadly as people we are not very good at predicting what will bring us most happiness in the future. We are not able to accurately think about our future selves (hence why so many people do not plan for retirement or watch their weight/monitor their health–because their future selves do not seem REAL to them).

In Daniel Gilbert’s book Stumbling on Happiness, Gilbert shows how terrible we are at predicting what makes us happy. If you don’t listen to your own deepest values, one day you’ll regret having taken life too seriously and worrying too much about what others think. You will regret living a life that was not true to who you are.

Regret arises when we engage in forms of self-sabotage.

How do we self-sabotage? Procrastination. Acting out our anger. Self-injury. Comfort eating. Avoiding the doctor. Inaction. Self-medicating. The list goes on and on.

Just because we are adult does not mean our dreams just go away. Yes, we get older and our priorities and responsibilities change, but we still have things we want to be and goals we want to fulfill. We all have an idealized version of our self in our mind,  and while we will never be able to achieve every goal we imagine, we can’t even begin to approach our ideal self without giving it a try.

So…what does YOUR ideal life look like?

If you had a second chance at life, what would you do differently?

It is never too late.

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So take a moment to reflect.

What goals have you never been able to pull the trigger on? What dreams have you started to pursue only to quit? People are far more resilient than we give ourselves credit for.

What people do you regret losing touch with? What bridges did you burn that you regret? People are amazingly forgiving, especially if you take all of the right steps, to rectify such behavior.

Counseling can be a helpful avenue to pursue to help you or someone you know cope with feelings of regret. When people spend years fixating on a regrettable choice they often need professional help to move past it, and seeking counseling can help people talk through, understand, and move beyond regret.

It is time to take responsibility for your own life and your own happiness.  All the often we merely exist instead of live. We all have hopes, dreams, and things we’ve always wanted to do in life, but we put them off until “tomorrow.” And tomorrow often never comes. Everyone experiences challenges, but we all have choices. It is up to you to get the ball rolling. Or live with regret. The choice is yours.

Ask yourself. Are you LIVING or merely EXISTING?

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

counseling, goals, psychology, self-help

December: A Time to Self-Reflect as Another Year Comes to an End

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At the end of each year, there is a great opportunity to reflect on yourself, your goals, your relationships, your career, and your health (both physical and mental).

December is an ideal time to take stock of how you feel you progressed the last twelve months. Perhaps to reflect on how you regressed (we are human after all).  Self-reflection is pivotal if you want to live your life by your own values, standards, and ambitions. It helps you build self-awareness. Our goals often become unrealized because we lack self-awareness. We live on auto-pilot. 

Self-reflection gives you the time to ask yourself the important questions. Without self-reflection it is easy to drift into a life of complacency. It is easy to become stagnant. People far too often take the path of least resistance. Just as you should review each day, week, and month, at the end of each year you should set aside time to review the year and reflect on how it unfolded. 

Are you happy with how your year turned out?

Are you happy with how your life has turned out?

December is a time of friends, fun, festivities, food, and family but most of all it’s a time of reflection and planning for the year ahead.

We all know January is notorious for short-lived resolutions. Yet in order to embrace the new, we must release the old. The old will block us from reaching our goals if we do not process through the past. The end of the year is an opportune time to think about what you accomplished, what you enjoyed, what you disliked, and what you want to improve upon in the new year. The new year is a great time to let go: let go of failed goals, past hurts, toxic people, your own negativity, and perpetual bad habits. Most importantly let go of things that are not meant for you: whether that may be goals that aren’t your own, certain relationships that bring you down, or your own self-defeating attitude. An important part of preparing for the New Year is to reflect on the past year—to release it—and to learn from it.…

If done right, it can also help you establish and achieve more meaningful goals.

I am a big believer in self-reflection to keep on track. As a therapist, I often reflect with my clients how they feel about the progression of their treatment and the counseling process. I am also a person who tries to make time to self-reflect on my own life. I aim to take time out of my schedule to ponder where I have been, where I am at presently, and where I would like to go. I reflect on what I am doing well, what I can do better, and am honest with myself about things I will never do well (the list is sadly longer than I care to admit 😉 ).

The end of the year is the perfect time to not just reflect on this past year, but to pay mind to where we are at in this stage of our life. Too often we are so caught up in our day-to-day lives, we fail to reflect on our journeys thus far.

Write out your thoughts and feelings. Do some journaling. Consider writing a letter—which can be a powerful self-development tool.  Consider writing a letter to people who hurt you–to get out the painful feelings and resentment (no, you do not actually send it). Process the pain of the past, take joy in the successes, and figure out how to forge ahead on the next chapter. 

Reflect upon what you did, how you felt, what you liked, what you didn’t and what you learned. What do you want to continue in the new year? What do you hope to change? Have you achieved any of your goals? Did you stumble on your pursuit of certain goals? What have you learned about yourself? About other people?

Consider making a list of all your goals for the next year, next 5 years, next 10 years, and a big picture life goal.

Grab a piece of paper and reflect on the following:

How did you grow this past year?

What’s not working in your life?

What is going well?

How is your attitude? Towards yourself and others?

Is your career heading in the right direction?

Are your finances where they need to be? Are you planning for the future?

Are you being the type of parent you would have wanted when you were growing up?

Are you being the type of person that you would want to spend time with?

Are you healthy? Physically? Mentally? Emotionally?

How are your relationships? With others? How about your relationship with yourself?

If your teenage self could see you now, what would he (or she) think?

What is one goal you have for EACH area of your life?

Have you traveled anywhere new?

Have you done ANYTHING to step outside your comfort zone?

Going forward, what kind of parent, sibling, professional, friend, partner (and other roles) do you want to be?

What do you want?

Self-reflection can be hard. It can be painful. But it can also be inspiring. It helps us to improve our lives and ensure we are living by our values.

Maybe this past year was awesome and full of joy. Maybe it was 12 months you’d rather forget. Either way a new year is upon us and it is up to you what you will make of it.

Give yourself the space and freedom to contemplate, to meditate, and to reflect on the past year.

It is time to start fresh. It is wild to me that a whole year has passed since the last one. They seem to go faster and faster with each passing year. We are all a year older. My questions for you: Are you a year wiser? Are you closer to reaching your goals? Are you willing to close the gap on your actual life vs. your ideal life?

Counseling can be a great place to start.

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

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counseling, prosocialbehavior, psychology, self-help

The Importance of Pro Social Behavior

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Pro social behaviors are those intended to help other people without an expectation of reward.

Pro social behavior is characterized by a concern for the rights, feelings, and welfare of other people. Behaviors that can be described as pro social can be characterized as expressing concern for others and feeling empathy. Pro social behavior is a way of acting in which you help other people.

Everyone can benefit from behaving in a pro social manner.  It will ensure we have better relationships with other people in our lives. In all likelihood we want to surround ourselves with people who behave in a pro social manner as well—people who express concern and empathy. Pro social behavior is crucial for enduring relationships. It is also beneficial to our mental health.

Being in education and mental health, my profession is by nature meant to be pro social. On a personal level, I derive many benefits from working in a “helping” profession.

Yet I feel we can all derive benefits from behaving in a pro social manner, regardless, of our profession. The opportunities for pro social behavior are all around us (especially this time of year). Volunteering, donating, altruism, care giving, helping our family and friends all create opportunities to be pro social.

We, as human beings, are designed to be pro social. We have an innate drive to do things for one another that is beyond our need to survive.  Pro social behavior enriches our lives and brings a sense of meaning.

Our world is in need of more pro social behavior. The benefits to us and others are tremendous.

Everyone can choose to behave pro socially. Acting out of genuine concern for other people and offering our help and support is something we all can all do.  If behaving pro socially is a value of ours.  In our society we have stopped seeing ourselves as part of a community, focusing more on our individual well-being. Not everyone cares to help anyone beyond themself. This is a sad truism. Yet behaving in a pro social manner is shown to have many psychological and emotional benefits.

Research reveals that those who act pro socially tend to be happier, healthier, and live longer. Those who don’t act pro socially tend to suffer the psychological cost that comes with guilt.

Empathy is a strong motive in eliciting pro social behavior.

Examples of pro social behavior might include:

  • Comforting a friend through a tough time
  • Surprising your coworkers with coffee in the morning
  • Donating clothes and toiletries to the local shelter
  • Helping a sick relative with getting to doctor’s appointments
  • Showing empathy to people in your life who are struggling through a tough time
  • Offering to cook dinner for a friend who recently gave birth

The examples are endless.

True pro social behavior is done out of a genuine desire to help. Thus if you are only volunteering or donating your money/time to post on social media or brag to family and friends–this is being driven more for one’s social status and image. Unfortunately,  people are generally much more likely to act pro-socially in a public setting rather than in a private setting. The reason being this has done with perceived status, being publicly recognized as a pro-social individual often enhance one’s self-image and desirability to be considered for inclusion in social groups. Volunteering has become a social class indicator and may drive some people’s volunteerism.

It is important to our society, our colleagues, our families, our extended social circles that we behave in a pro social manner in both public and private settings. It is inherently beneficial to ourselves and those we surround ourselves with. What good is it to volunteer at your church’s soup kitchen and come home and mistreat your own family?

Pro social behavior is important to our emotional and mental well-being. It allows us to interact with others in an appropriate manner.

We derive fulfillment from helping others. Find someone who needs what you have and help them earn it. Pay it forward.

There is no better feeling than extending a hand to another person.  This is the premise of pro social thinking.

What can you do today to be a benefit to your community?

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com