Am I Sad or Depressed?

Sadness and unhappiness are emotions that can strike at any time. Whether it be over the loss of a loved one (bereavement), financial difficulties, or even disappointment over a bad grade, periodic sadness and unhappiness is a normal part of everyday life. But what if the feelings of sadness and unhappiness aren’t periodic? Can you imagine being in a chronic state of emotional and mental distress to the point of not being able to shower, eat, or do any of the tasks associated with daily functioning? For those with depression, this is just a glimpse into what they may be experiencing.

Depression is an abnormal and often unwarranted emotional and mental state that persists past what is considered a ‘normal’ period of time. Depression affects the way a person thinks, behaves, and feels and drastically impedes daily functioning. This illness can be characterized by low energy, fatigue, less enjoyment in once desirable activities, and even insomnia. Although there are key symptoms to look for, not everyone with depression share the same symptoms. While one individual may find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning or at all during the day, another may refrain from interacting with others and become closed off.

Although an individual who is depressed will likely experience sadness, being sad doesn’t imply depression. A key difference between sadness and depression is duration. While sadness will usually go away on its own (within a time-frame specific to the trigger), depression is a condition that can arise for no reason at all, persists for more than 2 weeks, and typically doesn’t go away without treatment. Symptoms associated with depression are persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, unwarranted guilt, worthlessness, and even thoughts of suicide.

However, many assume that depression is obvious in others (and even themselves), but this isn’t always the case. Depression doesn’t always manifest as blatant sadness and can occur in people that seem to have life completely figured out. The complex nature of depression can seem helpless, but treatment is possible. The first step is seeking help if you feel that you may be experiencing any depressive symptoms.


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  • What influenced you to become a counselor?
    • My middle school and high school days were a bit rough for me. Though I wasn’t bullied or perpetually harassed, I constantly felt that I didn’t fit in. Perhaps a better way to put it is that I didn’t know who I was as an individual. This struggle for identity lasted well into college where I eventually settled into the idea that perhaps it was okay to wrestle with identity. As this notion became more of who I was rather than just a mere idea, I became more confident and sure of myself. In many ways this process of becoming has greatly influenced my decision to join this field. It’s my hope that I can aid in or foster a space that promotes personal growth for others as they search for identity and purpose.
  • What do you think is the most important characteristic of a counselor?
    • Wow, what a question! If I had to pick just one characteristic that a counselor must have (and he should certainly have several!) I would say the ability to empathically listen nonjudgmentally to the client is absolutely essential to the therapeutic process.
  •  What is rewarding to you about being a counselor?
    • There is something invaluably rewarding in being witness to the growth of another individual. For some, growth takes the form of standing up themselves. For others, growth may be mourning the death of a loved one or a futile fight against cancer. I guess what I mean to say is that growth doesn’t always look “nice and pretty”. Sometimes it’s downright ugly and terrifying. It’s rewarding, to me, to accompany those who seek growth in their lives—no matter what form it takes.
  • What type of people do you like to work with?
    • Though I would love the opportunity to work with adults eventually, right now I absolutely love working with teenagers and children of all ages. This certainly springs from my struggles as a child/adolescent as I want to be a positive force and influence in the youngsters I work with—perhaps a person that most kids don’t have in their lives as they begin the scary journey of shaping themselves.
  • How do you infuse creative elements into your counseling sessions?
    • I like to facilitate dance, song, and movement into my therapy session as a creative touch that helps build rapport and allows the client to express things in a new and different way.
  • Why is using creative approaches to mental health important to you?
    • Creativity is a something that lives within all of us. It’s certainly nuanced and looks different for each person; but it’s there. Thus, I believe it’s important to be creative when approaching therapy because it allows the therapeutic relationship to be even more inherently different than other relations. A creative therapeutic relationship is exceptional in the sense that this relationship is an exception to every other relation the client has with others. In that sense, I want to be an exceptional therapist.
  • What is your educational and work background?
    • I received my undergraduate degree in Psychology and minor in Sociology from the University of West Georgia. Subsequently I also received my Masters of the Arts in Psychology degree from UWG. During graduate school I worked at Willowbrooke’s Child and Adolescent Outpatient Program as a clinical intern. During my tenure he I facilitated both individual and group therapy sessions.
  • What is the counseling theory or approach that you most closely follow?
    • I approach therapy from a humanistic and existential perspective and believe people inherently dwell within a continuum of growth and that one of the major conflicts and anxiety provoking issues in life is the search for meaning and purpose.
  • What do you enjoy doing when you are not counseling?
    • I love spending time with my soon to be wife. She is the most important person on this earth to me and sometimes I like to think she was an angel sent directly down from heaven just for me. We often spend our time rock climbing and exploring the beauty of the southern mountains.

Thrive Therapist Spotlight


Allison L. Pharris, MFT, graduated from Mercer University School of Medicine and is in the process of becoming licensed as a Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (LAMFT). Allison has experience working therapeutically with a wide variety of clients through the Mercer Family Therapy Center, DeKalb County Women’s Resource Center, Forsyth County Juvenile Court System, and the State of Georgia Department of Family and Children Services has driven her to gain a better understanding of children, families and relationship dynamics. In these roles, Allison gained experience acting as a healing presence and tailoring treatment plans specific to clients in times of emotional difficulty with a focus on improving family functioning and connection. Allison’s goal has always been to provide a genuine, warm, therapeutic relationship her clients can use for healing and growth.

Allison was born and raised in Atlanta, GA and has lived in various cities around the state. She loves spending time outdoors, gardening, hiking, or just taking a walk around the neighborhood with her fiancé and their dog, Clover. Allison also enjoys taking trips to the beach and getting out on the river in her kayak. Reading is one of Allison’s favorite ways to spend time. Lately, she has been reading books about mindfulness and incorporating mindfulness practice into everyday life. Allison also likes trying new restaurants, spending time with friends and family, and watching home improvement shows.

Allison takes an existential, experiential approach in therapy and loves collaborating with clients when it comes to creative expression. Allison practices from the belief that all people are inherently good and oriented towards growth, health, and healing in the core of their being. She helps clients access this core by encouraging authentic interactions, mindfulness, genuine emotional expression, art and play therapies, sand tray therapies, and by building a strong therapeutic alliance. Many of Allison’s clients have found a sense of wholeness. They notice an increase in self-awareness and self-acceptance. Allison’s passion and dedication to her work, as well as her genuine interest in her client’s well-being, contribute to success in therapy.

Allison's headshot

Child Abuse Prevention Month

The month of April is full of lots of wonderful things: the allergenic burst of fauna and flora preparing for Spring, tax deadlines, spring-breaks.  No seriously, April signals Child Abuse Prevention Month for Thrive Counseling!  Throughout April, Thrive Counseling will be celebrating this awareness month with flare and style!  We don our adorable “Thrived-out” t-shirts and parade around the office promoting child well-being.

Did you know that every year more than 3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States involving more than 6 million children (a report can include multiple children); and that the United States has one of the worst records among industrialized nations – losing on average between four and seven children every day to child abuse and neglect (CDC Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, Child Maltreatment 2012)?  Why should there ever be a reason to abuse a child?  Do you know?  Never.

Abuse, more often than not, sets a child up to fail in their future and unfortunately provides a life of mental and emotional issues.  Children abused and/or neglected have a significantly higher risk of becoming involved in criminal activity.  Child abuse isn’t just physical abuse.  Mental and emotional abuse can be damaging as well.  This leads to kids having a severe lack of trust in their relationships (friendships, family, and romantic relationships).  Did you know that most child abuse happens with someone the child is related to?  Most often, unfortunately, the abuser is a family member.  Strangers aren’t the only danger to your child.

Children who have been abused have a difficult time expressing their emotions.  They tend to suppress them.  A lot of kiddos end up feeling worthless or like they aren’t loved.  Especially children who have been sexually abused.  Sexual abuse isn’t always as apparent as physical abuse.  You cannot see that a child has been exposed to an adults genitals or that they touched another person’s private parts.  It isn’t as easy to spot as a black eye.  Take a child seriously if they try to tell you that they have been abused.  Children tend to feel as if they are the reason that they were abused or raped.  They have a guilt placed upon them that they are not equipped to handle.  If a child is sexually abused, they tend to either go one of two ways and engage in sexual promiscuity or cannot maintain an intimate relationship.  This is all due to the shame and guilt that they encounter after they have been raped.

Neglect is another form of abuse.  You think, I didn’t do anything to the kid.  Right.  You ignored them or left them unsupervised.  Do you recall the incident that happened last summer?  The 2 year old toddler that was left inside his father’s car.  In the summer!  That is a form of neglect AND child abuse.

Thrive Counseling has lots of options for support for children who have been abused mentally, emotionally, physically, or sexually.  Our Thrive Therapists are trained in the area of trauma and grief and are experts at providing therapy for the younger population.  If you suspect that a child is being abused, please report to someone.  There are many websites and phone lines out there that are for this.  Let’s prevent and end child abuse together!!!

Thrive Child Abuse Prevention Month graphics



Thrive Therapist Spot Light

thrive_blog-01Ms. Stephanie is a new therapist at Thrive Counseling. She enjoys working with teens who need help through those tough years! Ms. Stephanie’s interests lie in depression, anxiety, mood disorders, self-injury, ADHD, LGBTQ issues, and self-esteem issues. Ms. Stephanie received her master’s of Professional Counseling from the University of West Georgia and her bachelor’s of Psychology from the University of Georgia. GO DAWGS!! She was a member of Chi Sigma Iota (Professional Counseling Honor Society) and Psi Chi (a national honor society for psychology). Ms. Stephanie is currently a member of the American Counseling Association, Licensed Professional Counselor Association of Georgia, Association for Play Therapy, and American Art Association. Ms. Stephanie is a Licensed Associate Professional Counselor and is actively pursuing her requirements to become a registered play therapist. Ms. Stephanie loves to travel and her favorite place to be is the beach. She loves dance (especially ballet) and has been a dance instructor for the past three years.  Ms. Stephanie also enjoys doing yoga and meditation. She loves animals and enjoys spending time with her cat named Maisy! Ms. Stephanie hopes to provide every client with a unique therapeutic experience to make necessary changes in his or her life.Stephanie Spot Light Photo

Thrive’s 10 Recommendations On How To Teach Your Child Empathy

In this month’s article, Thrive Counseling will explain ten great ways to teach your child empathy.  In order to begin, let’s clarify.  Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of someone else.  Let’s not confuse empathy with sympathy, though sympathy is another good quality you might find in a well-rounded person.  Empathy is a personal understanding of emotions from another.  Parents, to teach your child how to show empathy, one: allow your kid to express all emotions (even the negative ones).  In homes where emotions are shut down, a child will never be able to truly experience the emotion of sorrow or sadness, grief.  It is important to let them experience even the positive emotions: surprise, excitement, happiness.  If they are not aware of how those emotions feel themselves, how are they to empathize with a friend who is going through a similar situation?  Two: it is a good idea to respond to your child’s “boo boos” with empathy.  Even the small ones.  Showing that you care about their scrape or cut will make them feel loved and nurtured.  They will, in turn, do this for a friend, sibling – even you.  Three: surely, by the time your child can tell you what they are feeling, you can pretty much judge for yourself.  You may be able to tell that they are angry or upset.  Identify with these feelings.  Identify with their emotions.  Four: label your own emotions.  Identify your sad, your angry, your excited.  Five: point out the emotions of other people.  Show your child the facial expressions and body language of someone who is really happy.  Let them try to grasp that image.  Do it with a sad person and an angry person.  Six: use his or her story time as an opportunity to practice empathy.  Maybe read them their favorite book, and then swap stories about “a time when…”, and let them try to relate – empathize.  Seven: model empathy through play.  When playing dolly with your daughter, try to set the scene to show empathy.  “I know how dolly feels.  I’ve been excited about going swimming, too!”  Eight: practice yourself.  Try to place yourself in someone else’s shoes.  Try to understand where they are coming from.  You can’t teach empathy well if you don’t have the ability to relate yourself.  Nine: suggest that your kid “think out loud” to identify other’s behavior.  Have them make positive remarks on their observations.  And ten: help your child make amends.   Have your child try to understand that if they’ve done wrong, they must be held accountable and should apologize.  Try to have them see themselves in the other person’s shoes.  Ask them how it would make them feel if that were them.

The sooner children are taught empathy, the stronger their ability will be as they grow.  Empathy is a great quality that will positively enable your child in so many social situations: school, sports teams, friends.  They will be the better for it!!Teaching_Empathy

Social Media and Body Image

In the month of February, we highlight the awareness of Eating Disorders. “In the U.S., 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or an eating disorder not otherwise specified.” (Wade,Keski-Rahkonem. & Hudson, 2011). With eating disorders on the upswing, young girls and boys are looking to peer pressured ideals and the ever present social media standards to gage the notion of what it means to be “enough”. The growing usage of social media, popular magazines, and even TV shows and commercial have been linked to increased anxiety, depression, and don’t forget anorexia and bulimia. In recent years photo editing and video imaging software has become ever so prevalent. These knew technologic advancements have forever shaped and changed online photos, magazine images and TV shows. For instance: The popular website “Pinterest” is a place where you can pin photos or videos to a board of your interest; and keep in mind – the main users of the website are females. On this site, you are able to the name the boards whatever you wish: maybe you search “Perfect Body” or Bathing Suit Ready” for example. Yep- those will yield results in the search engine! Pinterest has become a place for users to “pin” photos of their fantasy body-type with the company even acknowledging that this use of Pinterest has the ability to damage one’s self esteem. Currently under debate is whether or not to ban the word “thinsperation”. Girls and women today are bombarded by the social media industry and as opposed to a few generations ago, they don’t even have to leave their homes. Young women, women in general, need positive motivation, not degrading stimulation. If you are considering making a change via weight loss, look at yourself first and make sure you are making the decision for the “right reasons” (yep, let’s play the health card here). Give yourself some daily self-love and work to understand that you are beautiful, even with a few added pounds. Celebrate the things you love about yourself, this February. You do not need to look like a “fantasy body”. We want to celebrate the real you! Hmmm…I hear a challenge, what would it be like to pin real versions of healthy self-esteem and body image? Take a look in the mirror and think positively… self-love is always worth a pin.