Premarital Counseling: 5 Talks to Have before Getting Married

Marriage is a never-ending series of conversations. You’re always going to have something to talk about in your relationship. However, there are some important conversations to get out of the way before you get married. Check out these conversation topics from our premarital counseling experts.

Debt and Debt Repayment

Financial stress is one of the top causes of divorce in America. Before getting married, you should be transparent about your outstanding debts. How much do you owe on your vehicles, your student loans, your credit cards, etc.? What is your plan to pay off those debts? Will you each pay your own debts, or will you pay on them together? You need to make these financial plans to prevent conflicts later on.


Do you have any absolute deal-breakers for a relationship? These aren’t annoyances that you would be willing to work through. These are no-questions-asked, end-of-marriage circumstances. You need to be clear about these before getting married so your future spouse is prepared. You may not like your spouse having a separate bank account. Your spouse may consider smoking or drinking as a deal-breaker. Having these important discussions will reduce surprises in the future.

Plans for Children

Talk to your partner about your plans for children – if you want to have children, how many you want to have, how you will raise your children, and when you would like to have children. These plans may change as your life changes, but you need to be on the same page. If your spouse never wants children and you do, that will always be a source of conflict in your relationship.

Long-Term Living Arrangements

You may not know where you’re going to be in five years, but talk about your general plans for living arrangements. For example, you may want to rent a house for three years while you save money to buy one. You may want to live in your current city for awhile but ultimately move back to your home town. Perhaps you plan to travel as much as possible, so you don’t want to stay in one place too long. Make sure you are both in agreement about this.

Family Traditions and Religion

You don’t have to follow the same traditions or religion to have a happy marriage. However, you do need to be aware of each other’s traditions, especially those that are most important to you. You can find ways to accommodate and respect each of your beliefs. You simply need to know what you value most, and then find a compromise for your family.

If you would like help through these discussions, our premarital counselors would be happy to assist you. We have marriage counselors in Ann Arbor MI, Bingham Farms MI, Plymouth MI and Clarkston MI. You will be matched with the best therapist to fit your needs. Contact Heron Ridge Associates to find a couples therapist near you.

How to Conquer Depression after Weight Gain

Depression after weight gain is quite common. You’re not happy with yourself, your body, or the circumstances surrounding the weight gain. Whatever the case may be, you don’t have to stay depressed forever. The tips below will help you feel more secure in your current form.

Don’t Punish Yourself for Gaining Weight

Along with depression, you might feel anger about your weight gain. Thus you may punish yourself by denying yourself of certain joys or privileges. “I’m not going to start dating again until I lose 10 pounds.” You can make positive lifestyle changes without punishing yourself. “I’m going to date AND go to the gym three days a week.” This provides a path to improvement without belittling where you are right now.

Wear Clothes That Flatter Your Current Body

You may not know how to dress your body, or you may be refusing to dress your current body. After weight gain, you may fall into one of these mindsets:

  1. I don’t want to buy new clothes until I lose this weight.
  2. I’m going to hold onto these clothes for when I’m “skinny again.”
  3. I won’t look good in clothes until I lose weight.

These are all examples of flawed thinking that damages your self-esteem. Rather than holding out for weight loss, work with your current body. Find clothing that flatters your shape, even if it’s not the shape you once had. Simply wearing clothes that fit your figure will boost your confidence and reduce your depression. You might be surprised by how much you love your body along the way!

Stop Focusing on the Numbers

Your dress size, your pants size, your weight – these are all just numbers. You’re the only person who knows what those numbers are. Don’t panic if you have to go up a size in clothes. If doing so will make you look and feel better in the clothing, that’s what matters. Moreover, sizing varies between clothing manufacturers, so don’t get discouraged by what’s on your tag.

Don’t Weight Yourself Every Day

This is mental torture. If you obsess over what’s on the scale, you’re bound to be disappointed. Your weight can fluctuate during the day, the week, the month, etc. Thus it’s important not to weigh yourself too frequently. The better approach is to do a weekly or monthly weigh-in. That’s when you can make a good comparison.

Get Personalized Help for Your Depression

Depression doesn’t just go away on its own. There may be factors outside of your weight gain that are contributing to your depression. The best way to treat and overcome depression is through therapy. This gives you access to personalized advice from an experienced mental health professional. If you need short- or long-term medication for depression, that can be arranged as well. Your therapist will help you find the best treatment for you.

To learn more about depression treatment, contact one of our Michigan therapist offices.


Simple Ways to Stop Social Media Addiction

Feel like social media has taken over your life? Do you spend half your time with friends scrolling aimlessly on your phone? Social media addiction is a growing problem in America, and it can be damaging to your mental health. Read on to learn how to stop social media addiction with these simple lifestyle adjustments.

Take a Break (1 Week, 1 Month, 3 Months, etc.)

Checking social media is a habit for you. The best way to change that habit is to take a break – give your mind and body a chance to reset. Log out of your accounts, or put your account on a hold. You can set it for however long you want your break to be, and you can log in again when you feel the time is right.

How long should your break be? That’s up to you. If your social media use is mild, a couple weeks may be sufficient for you. If you’re on social media for multiple hours a day, you may need a three month break. The first few days will be the hardest. You may find excuses to get back on “just this once.” Fight the urge, and stay off social media until you no longer need it to fill a void in your day.

Turn Off Social Media Notifications

Once you get back on social media, turn off the notifications for each app. In your phone’s settings, you can select which apps you want to receive notifications for. Every time you see a notification, your brain releases a small dose of dopamine. That’s the driving factor in social media addiction. You see the like, the comment, or the share, and you get excited about it. Turn off the notifications, and you will only experience that addictive quality when you physically click into the application.

Share Your Stories with Select Friends

When something happens in your life, do you immediately hop on social media to share it? As an alternative, send that photo or story to a select group of friends. You could start a group text chat with your closest friends, where you vent about things you may not want online. Of course, you can also share this information in person. Having an outlet for your thoughts, ideas and milestones will make you less tempted to rely on social media.

Limit the Devices You Use for Social Media

Only log in on one device, whether that’s your phone, your tablet, your home computer, or another device you use. Limit your usage to that device specifically. This will control the time you spend on social media because you will not have that device at all times. If you need to take it a step further, identify times of the day you’re allowed to be on social media. Set alarms to remind you to get off, or only get on when you know you’ll have a limited time (example: lunch breaks at work).

Remove Social Apps from Your Phone’s Home Screen

This is the same principal as turning off your notifications for social apps. If you see something every time you open your phone, you’ll be tempted to click into it. If it’s buried within your apps, it will take more effort for you to access social media. This won’t stop you, but it will cut back your temptation tremendously.

Talk to a Therapist about Social Media Addiction

Have you talked to your therapist about social media addiction? This could be a contributing factor to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and other mental health issues you may be facing. Your therapist can help you find personalized solutions for social media addiction and other challenges in your life.

If you would like to schedule an appointment with a therapist, contact Heron Ridge Associates. We have therapist offices in Ann Arbor MI, Clarkston MI, Bingham Farms MI, and Plymouth MI. We will match you with the best therapist for your individual needs.


How to Apologize to Your Child

Parents constantly ask their children to apologize, but sometimes it’s the parents that have to say, “I’m sorry.” Apologizing to a child does not always come easy. Not only do you have to admit a mistake as an authority figure, but you also have to express your sincerity in a way your child understands. Here are some tips on how to apologize to a child, courtesy of Heron Ridge Associates.

Why Apologizing to Your Child Is So Important

Children follow your example. They inherently want to mimic their parents’ behaviors. If you are willing to admit to a mistake, your child is more likely to do the same. This teaches your child to be accountable for their actions – no one is perfect, and it’s alright to be wrong sometimes. Apologizing is a proactive way to teach your children good manners.

Forming a Detailed, Meaningful Apology

A good apology is much more than “I’m sorry.” It involves an explanation of what you did wrong, why it was wrong, and how you can improve in the future. Let’s look at a scenario:

      You got angry at your child for letting the dogs out with company over. You did not give your child a chance to explain the situation. It turns out that one of your friends asked to see the dogs. Your child did not do this on his own. Your child is in his room as punishment, and you have to go in there to apologize.

      A meaningful apology would sound something like this: “Hey son, I need to apologize to you. I jumped to conclusions about the dogs and did not give you a chance to explain your story. I’m going to work on my listening skills and only react once I know the full story.” You could add the words “I’m sorry” in there, but “I need to apologize” sounds more thoughtful and sincere.

Teaching Your Child the Right Way to Apologize

Take this lesson one step further, and use it to teach your child the right way to apologize. The next time your child says, “I’m sorry,” ask him, “Why are you sorry, and what can you do to fix/prevent it?” If your child has seen you apologize in a meaningful way, he can look back on those memories to form his own actions.

Improving Apologies in Family Counseling

Family counseling is a wonderful platform for improving communication skills. If you have a hard time apologizing to your child or to people in general, you can work on that with family counseling. Your therapist can help you understand your child’s perspective and express your feelings in return. It may take time to find the right communication strategies for your family, but ultimately, you will reach a balance that works for all of you.


How to Manage Anxiety and Depression after Maternity Leave

Maternity leave has given you weeks of quality bonding time with your newborn. Now that it’s over, you may be filled with depression and anxiety about your return to work. These feelings are to be expected with any life transition, but that doesn’t make them any easier to deal with. In this guide, we will help you manage anxiety and depression after maternity leave.

Understand Why You’re Depressed/Anxious

With any anxiety treatment or depression treatment, you need to know what the source of the issue is. In this case, you may be depressed about leaving your family when you return to work. You may also feel anxious about going back to your job, or you may be stressed about the workload awaiting you. Think about why you’re feeling these emotions, and then re-assure yourself that everything will work out. You will still get to see your baby after work. There will be people at work to help you manage the workload. There is a solution in every situation.

Ease into Work Slowly

You may not be able to jump right back into work at your normal pace. Things have changed over the last few weeks, both with you and with your job. Allow yourself a few days or even a few weeks to get back into your normal routine. If possible, you might start back at work part time before transitioning to full time. This will also give you more time at home, which will curb some of your depression.

Tackle One Challenge at a Time

If you feel overwhelmed by the amount of work on your plate, don’t focus on the big picture. Look at the work as a series of smaller tasks. Take on each task one-by-one. You walk a mile one step at a time, and you read a book one word at a time. This is no different.

Stay in Contact with Your Baby’s Caregiver

Talk to the person who is watching your baby so you feel involved in his or her day. You may call to check in on your lunch break, or you might get text updates throughout the day. This line of communication will feel particularly important in the first week of your transition. That’s when your mind is racing with worst-case-scenarios about your baby. Having the extra reassurance will help you return to work with confidence.

Talk to Your Therapist and Other Members of Your Support System

Your anxiety and depression after maternity leave are completely warranted. You shouldn’t feel embarrassed about your emotions. Instead, embrace what you’re feeling and talk to someone about it. Your therapist can help you find coping mechanisms that work for your lifestyle. You may benefit from talking to other moms who have gone back to work. Listen to their stories, and you’ll soon see just how common your emotions are. More importantly, you’ll see that there is a rainbow at the end of the storm.

Above all else, remember…You’ve got this.

Does Depression Go away on Its Own?

Depression can take a toll on your day-to-day life. Simple tasks suddenly feel overwhelming, and you may feel less capable or less productive than you used to. The question now is, what are you going to do about it? Does depression go away on its own? If so, how long will that take? Here is some information to give you hope for the future.

Some Depression Will Fade over Time

There are many different types of depression, and a select few will go away over time. For instance, depression in grief may dissipate as a person goes through the grieving process. The sadness related to the loss may not fully go away, but the debilitating feeling of depression could. These instances are few and far between. There is no way to guarantee that your depression will go away on its own.

Most Depression Does NOT Go away on Its Own

In most cases, depression does not go away on its own. A person either finds a way to cope with it or they get treatment to relieve it.  Depression treatment may consist of talk therapy, medication, or a combination of the two. Most people start out in therapy and will only be prescribed medication if it is deemed necessary. Depression medication could be used in short-term or long-term treatment, depending on the circumstances.

How Depression Therapy Works

If you want to take control of your depression, the best step is to talk to a therapist. A depression counselor will help you identify the underlying factors surrounding your depression. What caused you to feel this way in the first place? What makes your depression worse or better?

Once you understand the source of your depression, you can find a solution for it. This may involve finding closure for a traumatic event in the past. It may also involve lifestyle changes that eliminate depression triggers. Treatment is unique for everyone. Here at Heron Ridge Associates, we offer personalized depression treatment programs for men, women, and children. If you’d like to be matched with a depression therapist near you, call (734) 454-3560.

Can a Relationship Survive after Infidelity?

There is life after infidelity. It is not always an easy journey, but you can repair a relationship after an affair. In the first part of this guide, we discussed the stages of cheating in a relationship. Now we will look at what happens after infidelity so you can choose the right path for your life.

Should We Stay Together after Infidelity?

Once the affair is uncovered, the non-cheating party will go through a range of emotions. Betrayal, hurt, anger, confusion, blame, depression – it’s a mental roller coaster. Along the way, one question will continuously resonate: “Should I stay or should I leave?”

The answer is completely personal. It will depend on the circumstances surrounding the affair and how the affair impacted each person. There will be trust issues, but you can work through those. There will be questions, but you can answer those as they arise. Life will never be the same, but that doesn’t mean the new version is a bad one. You must determine if the relationship is worth the work.

Working Together to Rebuild Your Relationship

After infidelity, we highly recommend going through couples counseling. This may sound biased coming from a therapist office, but counseling works. In couples counseling, you have an unbiased third party there to guide your discussion. Your therapist will help you identify the underlying issues that led to the cheating, and then you can find solutions for those issues.

Therapy is not a blame game. It’s not about making the person who cheated feel bad about the affair. He or she already feels regret and remorse. Couples counseling is designed to help both parties see where they have room for improvement. Improve communication, resolve conflicts, bring closure to past traumas and move forward with positive support – that is what therapy is all about.

If you want to rebuild your relationship after infidelity, our team is here to help. We will match you with the best couples therapist near you to address the specific struggles you’re facing. We have multiple therapist offices in Michigan, with specialists in divorce prevention, marriage counseling, anger management, addiction recovery, and a range of other services. Contact us at (734) 454-3560 to schedule a confidential consultation with a couples therapist.

Stages of Cheating in a Relationship

Cheating is often associated with physical, intimate acts. However, a large portion of cheating partners never physically interact with their person of interest. There are layers to infidelity, and they can all cause damage for a relationship. In this discussion, we will explore various stages of cheating in a relationship and what to do in the aftermath.

Before the Cheating Occurs

Before someone cheats in a relationship, he or she becomes mentally detached from the relationship. This may happen consciously or subconsciously. The person may not be getting something out of the current relationship, so he or she seeks that missing element in someone else. Even if the act of infidelity happens unexpectedly, there is an underlying issue that causes the person to “check out.”

Types of Infidelity – It’s Not Always Physical

Infidelity does not have to involve a sexual encounter. That may be the end-result, but there are stages of cheating that occur well before a physical interaction. Here are some different types of infidelity:

  • Emotional Infidelity: One partner becomes emotionally intimate with someone outside of the relationship. This could be a friend, a coworker, a stranger on the internet, etc. Emotional infidelity is often more powerful than physical infidelity because it involves a deep connection, not just lust.
  • Micro-cheating: This involves small acts that may potentially cross the line of what’s faithful and what is not faithful. For instance, having secret flirtatious conversations with someone on social media could be considered micro-cheating. If these become persistent, they could also lead to emotional infidelity. Many forms of micro-cheating seem harmless at first glance, but they can lead to problems in the relationship.
  • Habitual Infidelity: For some people, cheating in a relationship becomes a habit. It may stem from a condition, such as sex addiction, or it may be learned behavior. Habitual infidelity can also come from a more complex underlying issue – self-destruction, adrenaline seeking, low self-esteem, etc.
  • Digital Infidelity: In this case, the acts of infidelity happen entirely online and through messages. Some forms of emotional infidelity are also digital infidelity. The conversations happen purely through texts and social media, but they do not involve sexual acts. In other instances, a person may interact with someone else through phone or video chat, but still never see the other person in real life.
  • Physical Infidelity: This is what most people consider cheating. There is a physical interaction with a person outside of the relationship. Physical infidelity is complex on its own, ranging from kissing to sexual intercourse.

As you can see, the types of infidelity often overlap. What is defined as micro-cheating or emotional infidelity for one couple may not be the same for another couple. At the core though, all forms of infidelity involve interacting with someone outside of the relationship in a secretive or subjectively inappropriate manner.

The Progression of Infidelity

Much like the stages of grief, the stages of infidelity are not always linear. For one person, it may be micro-cheating that turns into emotional infidelity, followed by physical infidelity. For another, digital infidelity may turn into physical infidelity. Someone who habitually cheats may go through different stages with each partner outside of the relationship. No matter what, an underlying issue sparks with the person or the relationship triggers a cycle of behaviors.

What to Do If You’ve Cheated or Been Cheated on

If you have cheated or been cheated on, there is still hope for your relationship. Continue to Part 2 to learn more about life after infidelity.

How Caffeine Affects Anxiety and Depression

Did you know that caffeine may worsen anxiety and depression symptoms? That innocent cup of coffee you drink every morning may not be helping your mental health. In this discussion, we will explore how caffeine affects anxiety and depression, along with tips to reduce your caffeine intake.

Caffeine Interrupts Your Natural Sleep Patterns

Your body has all of the chemicals necessary to help you fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning. The more caffeine you drink, the less your body wants to work. The natural energy levels you would normally get are now being replaced with caffeine. Thus when you go to bed at night, your body doesn’t know what to do.

This is especially true for people who drink caffeine all throughout the day. If you are going to drink it, try to use it as a morning pick-me-up. Avoid caffeine during the evening hours, as it may keep you up later than you want to be.

What does this have to do with anxiety and depression? Well, your body needs sleep to process emotions. This is the time when your brain files all of your memories into various compartments so you can be prepared for the next day. If you aren’t sleeping well, your mind can’t be refreshed. This worsens your anxiety and depression, and it prevents you from feeling productive.

Caffeine Is Addictive

Caffeine is highly addictive, and as with any addiction, it comes with side effects. Your body gets used to a certain level of caffeine, and then it needs more to feel the same effects. Caffeine may become a coping mechanism of sorts. “I need this to get through the day.” By finding a healthier, more effective coping mechanism, you can improve your anxiety or depression from the core.

Caffeine Triggers Panic

That burst of energy you get from caffeine may trigger your panic responses. When you get startled, your heart races. When you drink caffeine, your heart races again. This persistent panic feeling may keep you on-edge, which could heighten your anxiety symptoms.

How to Reduce Your Caffeine Intake

Since caffeine is an addictive substance, it is best to taper your intake down gradually. If you are a coffee drinker, you may switch to half-caf, then decaf. You could also drink tea instead of coffee, moving from black tea to green tea or non-caffeinated herbal teas. If you drink energy drinks, reduce the number of drinks you consume per day until you have phased them out of your diet completely.

You may experience some withdrawal symptoms at each stage of the process. This may include headaches, grogginess, shakiness, or fatigue. These symptoms will pass as your body gets used to having less caffeine, and your natural energy levels will start to rise again. Drink plenty of water along the way to keep your body hydrated and flush toxins from your system.

Other Ways to Reduce Anxiety and Depression Symptoms

Reducing your caffeine levels may help your anxiety or depression, but that’s not the only solution available. Ideally, you should find the root cause of your depression so you can overcome it. This may mean bringing closure to a past trauma or rebuilding self-esteem after an abusive relationship. Whatever the circumstances may be, our multidisciplinary team is here to help.

Heron Ridge Associates offers personalized anxiety counseling and depression counseling in Michigan. We have several therapist offices to serve you, and we match each client with the best therapist for them. In therapy, you can discover specific solutions that work for your life, your experiences, and your symptoms. Best of all, you get dependable support from a therapist you can trust.

Contact us at (734) 454-3560 to schedule an appointment with a licensed therapist.

Could Tidying Up Reduce Your Stress?

The new Netflix hit Tidying Up with Marie Kondo has sparked a surge of decluttering across the country. Thrift stores say they’ve been overwhelmed with donations since the show aired – even more so than the usual New Year decluttering season. This brings up an important question: could tidying up reduce your stress and anxiety? Let’s explore the topic a little further…

Physical Clutter Can Cause Stress

It’s true, living in a cluttered environment can bring about stress. The objects may remind you of incomplete tasks you need to tackle. It’s as if you have an ongoing to-do list, but instead of words on a page, you see objects in their place. Thus having a cleaner environment could relieve some stress and anxiety.

Not All Clutter Is Bad Clutter

Every person has a unique perspective on clutter. You may have objects you want to put on display, like collectibles or family photos. These items make you feel happy, content and safe. There is nothing wrong with keeping them around.

One of the core concepts in Tidying Up is keeping items that “spark joy” for you. It’s not about getting rid of everything. It’s about focusing on the objects that add value to your life. If clearing out unneeded items would bring you closer to the items you care about, that could indeed help you de-stress.

Tidying Up May Feel Stressful

Having less clutter could reduce your stress, but the process of decluttering may be a stress trigger in its own right. This is particularly true for sentimental items you may not be ready to part with. Don’t set out with a goal of removing a certain number or volume of items. Instead, focus on finding the items you no longer want or need, and find new value in the objects you love.

Clutter May Not Be Your Primary Source of Stress

Decluttering may provide immense stress relief for some. That doesn’t mean it will be effective for you. Sure, we can all benefit from having a cleaner home, but you should also think about what your primary stressor is. Are you struggling to keep up with work? Do you feel your time is stretched too thin? Do you need to re-adjust your finances? Find the solutions that will help you the most.

Finding a Balance That Fits Your Life

No one leads a perfect life. There will always be areas of your life that could use improvement, and that’s OK! The key is to find happiness and balance. Surround yourself with positivity, and work on your goals little-by-little. Declutter when you need to. Take a break when you need it. Respect your limitations, and celebrate the small triumphs.

If you would like personalized advice for how to reduce stress and anxiety, therapy is a great option. You can speak with a licensed therapist and learn techniques that fit your lifestyle. Heron Ridge Associates offers anxiety counseling, depression counseling, family counseling, marriage counseling, and a number of other counseling services. Give us a call at (734) 454-3560 to find a therapist near you.

Side bar