Monthly Archives: May 2012

High-fat comfort foods could lead to anxiety, depression

Heather Rudow May 30, 2012

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Fatty foods might be comforting as we eat them, but a recent study from by the Universite de Montreal found that a diet rich in high-fat foods is linked to anxiety and depression in mice.

High-fat foods cause us to feel good momentarily as they “light” up parts of our brain, but lead researcher Stephanie Fulton says that foods rich in fat “can actually cause chemical reactions in the brain in a similar way to illicit drugs, ultimately leading to depression as the ‘comedowns’ take their toll.”

Fulton said that while recent studies are revealing that obesity is linked to a higher risk of depression, the underlying biological mechanisms between the two remain unknown. The Universite de Montreal study investigates whether a high-fat diet affects the brain’s emotion and reward circuits:

“For the new study, the researchers studied mice already prone to obesity. One group was fed a diet high in fat, particularly saturated fat, the other low-fat chow. After 12 weeks, the rodents were given a series of behavioral tests, including ‘anxiety’ tests measuring how they react to a new environment. Stressed animals tend to freeze, or run off to a corner, rather than explore. Mice given the high-fat diet were much less active, avoided open areas and did little exploring. In a swim test used to measure ‘behavioral despair’ — a test also widely used by drug companies to screen new anti-depressants — mice had to swim in a glass cylinder filled with water for six minutes. ‘Animals that give up quickly — they stop swimming and just float and stop trying to pull themselves out of the beaker — that’s [a sign of] self-helplessness,’ Fulton said. Mice on the high-fat diet ‘actually gave up’ and attempted fewer escapes, she said. When the researchers studied the rodents’ brains, they found higher levels of corticosterone, a stress hormone. They also saw a difference in the expression of proteins responsible for signaling among neurons in areas of the brain regulating emotions and reward.”

Comments Fulton, “In the short-term, high-fat food feels comforting, but in the long-term, and with increasing adiposity (fat mass), it is having negative effects on mood. We know that diet is a large contributor to the obesity epidemic throughout the world.”

Source: PsychCentral

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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Countering Fear and Inertia in the Job Search: A Call to Action for Counseling Students, Counselors, and Counselor Educators

Elaine J. Casquarelli

(Photo:Flickr/US Department of Labor)

The economic crisis of 2008 is still with us. Jobs for mental health and school counselors have been – and continue to be – cut. We hear about the possibility of more terminations to come in the media. Among the rumors of downsizing are some that indicate the trend will soon reverse, but graduating students need jobs now. It is indeed a scary time for professional counselors to be looking for work in their chosen profession. There is hope, however. It is the perfect time for students, counseling professionals, and counselor educators to be working together to strengthen our professional community and create opportunities to do what we do best – provide a forum or our students and clients to heal their pain and suffering.

I have a particular lens through which I enter this conversation. I am a doctoral student in Counseling and Counselor Education who also has the privilege of working with counseling students as a career advisor and coach. In my work, I am confronted with students’ fear every day. Their fear and anxiety are pervasive. Students are afraid there won’t be jobs. They are anxious about competing with their friends and colleagues for the few positions that do exist. They fear they don’t have enough experience. They worry they won’t do well in an interview. If they live in New York, they fear that they will not be able to get a job in which they will be able to earn licensure, or even worse, that they will not be able to find work at all. Some have responded by giving into their fears, and inertia has set in. The fear and anxiety, coupled with the rigor of the last semester of studies, also keeps students from seeking services that will help them find post-graduate counseling positions. Often, the situation feels hopeless.

I contend the situation is not hopeless, but it does necessitate a communal response within the counseling profession. Fostering hope and realization of vocational opportunities requires a clear vision, a willingness to confront our own fears and anxieties, and an unwavering commitment to work together as students, counselors, and counselor educators to promote the wellness of our profession – and ultimately of our students and clients. After all, we have defined our work as, “a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals” (American Counseling Association, 2010). Further, as counselors, we are often tasked with being the holders of hope when our students and clients cannot find hope in their own lives. So, let us commit to the task at hand.

Counseling Students

As a counseling student, you are being initiated into a vocation that includes great responsibilities, difficult challenges, awe-inspiring transformations, and the privilege of walking with others through their struggles and successes. Continually, I am inspired by the compassion, caring, and determination of counseling students in my program. Many come to this profession with a natural desire to help others experience growth, success, meaning, and healing in their lives. I do not think our program is unique in this regard. We spend a lot of time learning to help others move through their struggles and, many times, connect with and feel their pain and suffering. The obstacles our clients face are many, including violence, neglect, and personal and systemic discrimination. Our task is to promote wellness as we invite them to face their concerns, doubts, and insecurities. Regardless of our theoretical perspectives, most of us do this by some combination of (1) promoting insight, (2) eliciting alterations in thoughts, behaviors, and/or emotions, (3) providing access to resources, (4) nurturing connections to supportive communities, and (5) advocating for our students/clients. As counselors in development, we must do what we ask of our clients/students.

In seeking a professional position, we are in essence asking an agency, school, or organization to pay us for the privilege of helping students and clients face their fears and overcome the obstacles life has placed before them. If we are to be bold and courageous enough to walk this walk with students and clients, we must also be courageous enough to do so ourselves. That means, we need to become aware of our own fears and the way they are impacting our lives; challenge and move through the thoughts and emotions that keep us stuck in inertia; seek out the resources available to us through our departments, colleges, universities and communities; nurture supportive connections to the local, regional and/or national counseling communities as well as our personal communities of support; and engage in advocacy on behalf of ourselves and our profession.

Professional Counselors

Most counselors I have been privileged enough to meet enjoy the opportunity to connect with students and promote mentoring relationships. In the past, building such relationships may have felt like a meaningful activity; however, the current economy has rendered mentorship absolutely necessary to the success of students and new professionals, and to the continued vibrancy of the counseling vocation. As professional elders, we have a responsibility take the initiative to cultivate relationships with those who are new to the field and help them navigate their own developing occupational identity, skills, and endeavors.

Mentorship can occur in a variety of venues. We can connect with students through our participation in local, regional, or national counseling organizations. It is often suggested that students attend organizational meetings to connect with counselors. Some students excel at meeting and interacting with others in social and professional settings; however, some students can feel intimidated or anxious about doing so. Therefore, when students do attend organizational meetings it is incumbent upon us to take the initiative to reach out to them, inquire about their interests, foster a professional relationship, and introduce them to other professionals with similar interests. We are often quick to recommend that students take on leadership positions and it is a wonderful treat when they do. Yet, it is important to cultivate relationships with students even when they don’t take on such positions. We have a plethora of professional gifts to offer students, so let us share enthusiastically and unabashedly.

We can also assist students by actively creating job opportunities for them. That is quite a bold statement to make in our current economic state of affairs, isn’t it?  Yet it is possible, particularly for those of us who are mental health counselors in private/group practice.  Let me explain. I’ll begin by recognizing that private practice is not the best setting for some graduating students. Therefore, it will be important for students to consult with their faculty, supervisors, and site hosts to determine the best setting for their own development. However, private practice is a very viable option for some graduating students provided that there is appropriate support for them as they develop their counseling skills. This is where we come in. I encourage those of us in private practice settings to provide invitations and opportunities for new graduates to join the practice and then offer the appropriate supervision and clinical support for their work to continue to flourish. In some states, that means that we need to earn a supervision credential. In other states, it means that we have to incorporate our practice as an LLC with the central mission and activity of providing mental health counseling. It can be helpful to engage in conversations with private practice counselors across state lines to determine the most effective ways to support the growth of new counselors in private practice while simultaneously supporting the wellness of their clients.

Counselor Educators

Again and always, mentorship and advocacy are the primary tasks. Just as counselors are being called to mentor students through attendance and participation in professional organizations, so must we. Counselor educators can require that students attend meetings of local counseling organizations. We can then teach students how to connect with other professionals by attending the meetings ourselves and introducing them to members who have similar interests. It is also essential to teach students about the importance of nurturing community connections within the counseling profession during their first semester of academic training. That will give master’s students the most time to meet other counselors in the field, learn about the mental health needs and services in their communities, and gain a better grasp of the professional requirements of their work. In the end of this process, graduating students will be better informed about the needs of their students and clients and more knowledgeable about the upcoming clinical, administrative, and systemic demands of their work.

We must continue to engage in both legislative and educational advocacy initiatives that result in the creation of more jobs for graduating students. We can do this by engaging in organized efforts to meet with our legislators and by selecting research topics that provide implications for policy development. For example, we might design a research project that investigates the impact of employing fewer school counselors in our K-12 schools. Participation in the development and nurturance of collaborative relationships among students, counselors, and counselor educators can constitute a ripe topic for research. We can only help students and strengthen our professional community by gaining a better understanding of the ways in which collaboration and mentorship impact occupational wellness and competence. We can investigate, articulate, and integrate into training the best practices or competencies for keeping our own occupational fears at bay so that we can indeed be the holders of hope for our clients.

Working Together

We all – students, counselors, and counselor educators alike – need to get out of our comfort zones, walk with or through our fears, connect with one another, and promote wellness in our profession. A commitment to doing so can serve to transform fear into a strong community of learning, practice, research, and advocacy. So let us take a collective deep, centering breath and move forward together in hope and courage.

The wise words of poet Audre Lorde can guide us during this critical time in our professional growth. She wrote the poem in the singular and I have changed her words to the plural, but the message remains the same:

When we dare to be powerful,
To use our strength in service of our vision,
Then it becomes less and less important whether we are afraid.

Elaine Casquarelli is a counselor specializing in career development, LGB concerns and spiritual issues in counseling.  She is currently a doctoral student in Counseling and Counselor Education at the Warner School of Eduction, University of Rochester, and works as a career advisor for graduate students enrolled in counseling and education programs at her institution.  She can be contacted at

Letters to the editor:

New app helps people self-screen for mental illness

Heather Rudow


There are already mobile apps that can help you find the best nearby restaurant or track the next bus. Now the team behind WhatsMyM3 is claiming that their app can tell if a user is at an increased risk of depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to its website, WhatsMyM3 is a self-rated checklist for potential mood and anxiety symptoms. After completing a questionnaire, it “trigger[s] a risk assessment page indicating your relative risk for depression, an anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder and [PTSD]. The Screen responses and the resulting M3 risk assessment may be printed, faxed, emailed or securely accessed online by a designated health care professional, all at the discretion of the user. The information provided by the M3 expedites and organizes a discussion between doctor and patient of relevant mental health issues at their next office visit, helping to direct the physician toward a more accurate diagnosis. By providing parallel educational material for patients and their physicians, the M3 encourages treatment compliance and long-range follow-up of progress.”

Once a user completes the screening and potentially decides to go for treatment, M3 encourages users to record progress with the M3 Monitor, a tracking form for assessing progress and potential side effects over time:

“This monitoring system may be shared with the treating physician via hard copy, fax, email or may be securely accessed through a Microsoft HealthVault account. Physicians can make use of the M3 Monitor data to decide if and when medication adjustments are indicated. Because most courses of treatment should last a minimum of 9 to 12 months, the M3 encourages monitoring for a full year from the beginning of treatment.”

The app is available for $2.99 for iPhone, iPad and Android — or for free online at

Source: WhatsMyM3, USA Today

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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ACA speaks out to media regarding need to hire counselors within VA

Heather Rudow May 24, 2012

Following a recent report by the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (OIG) that outlined severe delays in providing mental health evaluations and treatment for veterans, the American Counseling Association has launched an initiative to bring these facts to the public and emphasize the need for the VA to hire more mental health professionals.

“ACA is conducting an aggressive outreach campaign to various media markets to highlight the fact that the VA has been falling behind in their efforts to recruit and obtain all available mental health clinicians, specifically including licensed professional counselors (LPCs),” says ACA Grassroots Advocacy Coordinator Art Terrazas.

Terrazas and ACA Chief Professional Officer David Kaplan have spoken to more than 10 media outlets about ACA’s stance on the VA’s actions.

“In the instances in which ACA has been able to obtain an interview, we have spoken about the fact that ACA is skeptical of the VA’s recent announcement that it intends to recruit LPCs to work in the VA, mainly for two reasons,” says Terrazas. “First, the Under Secretary for Health at the VA, Dr. Robert Petzel, notified ACA that LPC students would not be included in the VA’s training program. Coincidentally, ACA was notified about this the same day that the VA announced that it would be including LPCs among the 1,600 new positions it’s hiring. The second reason is that the VA has been empowered to hire LPCs for almost six years and has done almost nothing to recruit and hire LPCs over the years.”

“In fact,” continues Terrazas, “ACA’s own analysis of jobs that are posted on shows that while 24 positions for LPCs have been announced over the last 17 weeks, 626 positions have been posted for social workers.”

Published news stories featuring the comments of ACA staffers can be seen at The Dayton Daily News and Army Times websites.

For more information on ACA’s efforts to add more counselors to the VA and improve mental health treatment for veterans, read the June “Washington Update” article, “Pressure increases on VA to improve mental health treatment.”

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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Resilience levels might predict satisfaction with life

Heather Rudow


Researchers are finding that people who exhibit strong resilience and use adverse experiences to grow also tend to find more satisfaction in life.

Researchers from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona analyzed responses from 254 students who completed questionnaires. The purpose of the study was to evaluate the participants’ levels of life satisfaction and find connections between their resilience and their capacity for emotional recovery.

The data showed that the 20 percent of students who were most resilient were also more satisfied with their lives and more likely to believe that they had control over their emotions and mindset. On the basis of the results, the researchers concluded that resilience has a “positive prediction effect on the level of satisfaction with one’s life.”

“Some of the characteristics of being resilient can be worked on and improved, such as self-esteem and being able to regulate one’s emotions. Learning these techniques can offer people the resources needed to help them adapt and improve their quality of life,” says research coordinator Joaquín Limonero.

Source: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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