What is Perfectionism:

What is Perfectionism

It’s actually hurting you instead of helping you succeed & what you can do.

Perfectionism is the belief that if we do things perfectly we can avoid pain that comes from blame, judgment, and shame.

It’s about approval, not self-improvement, and it seems that there is never an end point or a sense of relief when we’re stuck in perfectionism.

Research shows that perfectionism, despite what we possibly feel hampers achievement, is correlated with depression, anxiety, addiction and missed opportunities (Brené Brown).

We learn the habit of perfectionism through messages we receive from school, family, friends, social media, and society.

It can prevent us from being present and actually enjoying the hard work we’ve done. At times when we are really stuck in it, perfectionism is the little voice that tells you not to try because you’ll never be good enough and people will criticize you or you’ll embarrass yourself.

If you’re struggling with perfectionism, feelings of anxiety, shame, and/or self -esteem it’s important to seek help if you’re noticing you no longer feel joy or satisfaction in things you once did, are continuously holding yourself up to unattainable standards, exclude yourself from friends and family, and feel overwhelming stress.

About The Author

Joana Couto, LAC is a therapist at the Olive Branch Therapy Group. Joana works with children, teens, young adults and adults. Joana specialties include anxiety, life transitions, depression and trauma. If you are interested in working with Joana, contact us via email, phone or chat on our website.

Sand Tray Therapy: Play Therapy or Just Play?

Often, when those of us outside of the therapy world think of play therapy, we think of children, toys, brightly colored rooms and observant therapists. It’s rare that we picture ourselves as adults using “play time” to work through our problems. It’s even harder to picture ourselves in front of a sand box, “playing” with miniatures, tracing patterns and shapes into sand. Sandboxes are just for children, right?

Perhaps not.

Zen Gardens and Sandboxes

Early in the history of Japan, small gardens of miniature rocks, trees, sand and pebbles were designed to imitate the essence of nature. Often placed before zen temples, these zen gardens were designed to encourage meditation, quiet concentration and awareness of self.

Those who take care of these gardens today, or own their own zen gardens, find a sense of relaxation and mindfulness in raking the sand into patterns, careful placement of rocks and care for vegetation. The act of caring for or simply observing these gardens requires a quiet concentration, that allows a person to form connections and emotions about the objects in the garden and themselves.

Now think of a sandbox. While it may not seem very “zen,” even sandboxes found in playgrounds and backyards sometimes have a meditative effect on those playing in it. Children can often be found with a look of concentration on their faces as they build sand castles, tall hills or deep ditches. With an easily manipulated material before them, they can create their own worlds easily, playing out scenarios both made up and mimicked from their own experiences.

The Power of Sand Play/Sand Tray Therapy

Attributed to H.G. Wells, Margaret Lowenfeld, Dora Kalff and others, sand tray therapy, also known as sand play therapy, was recognized as a way to communicate between the sandbox “player” and the observer.

First used with children, Lowenfeld used her sandtray to gain insight into a child’s inner world. As the child became more comfortable with the sandtray, they began to create scenarios in the sand that reflected their inner turmoil, allowing Lowenfeld to gain insight into what the child may not have been able to communicate verbally before.

For example, a child who had lost two friends in a car accident and who had been severely injured himself, used a sand tray to reconstruct and process the traumatic accident. Over time, the child gradually worked through his trauma and feelings of guilt by choosing figurines to represent his lost friends, replaying the accident in the sand tray, and taking the time to document his sand tray scenes. The counselor involved acted as safe confidant, allowing the child to express his grief freely and work through his conflicting emotions.

Sand Tray Therapy: Not Just for Kids

This tactile, non-verbal therapy has since been recognized as valuable therapy for all ages, especially for those who deal with grief or past traumas. Sand tray therapy provides a safe, therapeutic environment for all individuals to develop an awareness of their inner conflicts and slowly come to understand their issues.

While sand tray therapy is a type of play therapy, it should never be brushed off as simply “childish” therapy. Sand tray therapy is an invaluable tool for those who cannot find words for their trauma, who need a sense of control over their situation or who cannot communicate verbally. There is something to be learned from zen gardens and sandboxes; time spent in the sand can be healing.

If you feel sand tray therapy could help you or your loved ones, please don’t hesitate to contact our team here at Olive Branch Therapy Group. We are here to extend the olive branch and help you live your best life.

The Importance of College Students’ Mental Health

We’re often told that our college years are “some of the best years of your life.” That it’s a time of endless opportunities, a time to meet friends that last a lifetime and a time for us to truly grow as an individual. While many of us experience this, we’ve also experienced the “darker” side of college, the side can lead to some of the most stressful and anxiety-ridden periods in our lives. Tests, heavy workloads, financial burdens, relationship issues and much more can plague many of us during our university years, making us all wonder: “Are these really the best years of my life?”

In 2017, more than 60% of students reported feeling anxious, depressed or stressed during their time in college., While many students struggle with mental illnesses, many universities have reported an upswing in students taking advantage of mental health resources on campus, seeking help from others and breaking the stigma of mental illness. Today, students recognise the importance of mental health and seek the tools they need to truly make the most out of their college career.

“But I can handle my own stress.”

“I’m just in a funk.”

“I don’t have the time or money.”

Many of us try to convince ourselves that whatever problems we are facing are things we can handle on our own, or perhaps problems that will pass. While as a society we are breaking the negativities around mental illness, many of us still hesitate when seeking help. Sometimes, it helps to see the types of mental illness, and recognize that it takes many forms, some seemingly insignificant.

As a college student faced with multiple stressors, it may be hard to discern what is “normal” stress and what isn’t. Below are some symptoms of the most prevalent mental illness and why it’s important to seek help.


Symptoms include:

  • Feelings of sadness and helplessness
  • Thoughts of dying
  • Loss of motivation
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in social life

Why is it important to seek help?

Depression can often interfere with your life, making it hard to concentrate academically and socially, leading to poor grades and lost friendships. Even basic necessities such as sleeping and eating can become affected, leaving you despondent and fatigued. If left untreated, depression can lead to suicide ideation and even suicide.


Symptoms include:

  • Fear about everyday things
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Stomach aches or muscle pains
  • Frequent headaches

Why is it important to seek help?

While anxiety every once in awhile is normal, constant anxiety is not. Anxiety can interfere with your school work, often leaving students sick before tests, or too anxious to even attempt to take an exam. Anxiety can also lead to damaged relationships, especially if the thought of social activities leave you constantly worried.


Symptoms include:

  • Thoughts or talk of suicide
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Sudden drop in academic performance
  • Poor eating habits

Why is it important to seek help?

If you have experienced any of the symptoms above, we urge you to seek help right away. Depression and anxiety can often lead to suicide, especially when a student feels alone and at a loss. Suicide is devestating for those who love you (even if you may feel as if you would be less of a burden.) Please reach out to friends and family, to us or to the National Suicde Prevention Lifeline.

Eating Disorders

Symptoms include:

  • Fear of eating
  • Distorted body image
  • Over exercise
  • Poor eating habits
  • Irregular heartbeat

Why is it important to seek help?

Eating disorders can often lead to serious medical issues, such as heart problems, organ failure, stunted growth, loss of female menstruation and reproductive system issues. While it’s often hard to ignore the impossible beauty standards in this day and age, it’s important to recognize that a negative body image and eating disorder can impact your day to day life.


Symptoms include:

  • A pattern of use
  • Inability to stop using
  • Dropping hobbies or activities
  • Use of substance to avoid problems
  • Denial

Why is it important to seek help?

Addiction, whether to illegal substances, alcohol or other substances, can damage you physically, mentally and socially. Your family, finances and friends may even become involved, and ultimately, the law. Signs of addiction depend on the substance and amount, but if you suspect any level of addiction, it’s best to seek help sooner rather than later.

So How Can Olive Branch Help College Students?

Here at Olive Branch Therapy Group we recognize the importance of mental health, especially for those in college or university. We want to help you learn the tools you need to truly succeed academically, socially and personally during your academic career. Ultimately, we want college to really, truly be the best years of your life!

Fight the stigma of mental illness and live your best life by learning more about our highly qualified therapists and contacting us today.

Being Thankful For A Mother’s Love

With Mother’s Day approaching is only makes sense to examine the importance and significance of a positive relationship with our mothers. These relationships are a good part of what shapes us as individuals and our ability to become emotionally functioning healthy adults. When we have loving nurturing mothers, these relationships are often ones we may take for granted or quite simply overlook because for most of us, she, our mother, is always there. That relationship is built into our lives. This relationship is not something we have to think about or question. But that right there may be the most significant part of it; The reasons why we do not have to question it? You see, when you have a nurturing, caring, supportive mother she ensures that her children never do question it, that they know it and can feel it.

When we think of what a mother is, we often think of someone who is gentle, kind, supportive, loving unconditionally and safe. She is someone that will support us, in any endeavor with bells and whistles on. She is our biggest cheerleader that will move mountains in order to sit on the sidelines or attend every recital, pageant, debate, or other event. She will encourage us when we lose faith and hope and doubt ourselves. She will calm us when we are upset, angry or emotionally hurt. She will do everything she can to make all pain, emotional, physical or psychological, go away. She will listen to us vent about all things big or small, trivial or important and listen intently without judgment. She will offer hugs when we need them most or a shoulder to lean on. She is often the strongest person we know that keeps it together while everything or everyone else is falling apart. She is selfless and puts others before herself. And most importantly, she does it seamlessly so that we, her children, never question it. We do not hesitate to seek her love, support, guidance or assurance because we somehow just know she is there for us in any and every capacity.

Having this level of unquestionable, unconditional love, support and healthy attachment gives children the confidence to know that they are secure, capable and worthy humans. This relationship teaches us the importance of empathy and compassion for others, but also teaches us self-love and forgiveness. Her acts of kindness help instill in us healthy coping skills and shapes the pathways of how we respond and react to hardships, differences and chaos; internally and physically. How we navigate the many relationships of our lives. Lastly and maybe most importantly, a positive relationship with our mother helps create, build and maintain our own self-worth and value; two of the most essential parts of being an emotionally healthy adult or person.

About The Author

Sara Bickar, LPC is a therapist at the Olive Branch Therapy Group. Sara works with young adults and adults. Sara’s specialties include depression, anxiety, and women’s issues. If you are interested in working with Sara, contact us via email, phone or chat on our website.

3 Ways to Combat Loneliness That Comes With Modern Motherhood

As therapists, we often hear clients tell us they are experiencing loneliness in their motherhood journey. Whether you are raising an infant and feel isolated all day, don’t have mom friends to vent to about your work load or can’t get threw to your fiesty teenager and it’s making you anxious, motherhood can be so lonely.

Here are 3 ways to  combat loneliness:

  1. Find your tribe. Spend some time and effort truly launching a search for other moms who are your cup of tea. Those moms who will cheer for you, support you, lift you up and help you move forward. Yes, this does exist and it’s a game changer once you’ve found it. Many times we find these connections in our children’s friends moms, neighborhood moms, moms we meet at work, our college friends, or even on Facebook mom groups. Find them, invest in them and deeply support each other. Stick to those who you can be your authentic self with about yourself and your children. This may require you to step out of your comfort zone to find your people, but stepping into bravery to be uncomfortable at something new could be exactly what is needed.
  2. Focus on something that makes you happy. Do you have a hobby that excites you? Get back into it. Or perhaps you’ve always wanted to learn a new skill. Now is a great time. Take some time to do things that make you feel like you again. It can be as simple as taking a 20 minute hike in nature or roaming the aisles of Target. If it’s what you need, do it. Ideally, these hobbies or skills shouldn’t involve your child. This is just purely you time. Put the guilt aside and know that we’re all better when we have balance and calm.
  3. Know that you can ask for help. Do you feel weighed down and constantly stressed about your on going to do list or household responsibilities?  Look into outsourcing some of that. A local high school student, a mothers helper, a grocery delivery service and a cleaning service every now and then, can all help. Sign up for those services that increase the quality of your life. Asking for help can also be in the form of tapping into your spiritual self. Praying more, reading spiritual books to uplift you, attending that restorative yoga class to reconnect, can energize you.  Finally, perhaps it’s more than loneliness that you are experiencing and need someone to talk to, reach out to a therapist. One who specializes in motherhood. One who will help you walk your journey of motherhood.

About The Author

Noreen Iqbal, LCSW is the Director and Therapist at the Olive Branch Therapy Group. Noreen works with young adults, adults, and couples. Noreen’s specialties include depression, anxiety, couples, and women’s issues. If you are interested in working with Noreen, contact us via email, phone or chat on our website.

When Mother’s Day is Hard

Mother’s day is not necessarily a joyful holiday for all of us. It may actually be a trigger for painful memories or a reminder of loss, absence, of a relationship that is missing from our lives. Here are some ways to honor ourselves through validation and self care during a difficult time:
– Nurture yourself: treat yourself with positive affirmations of dignity and self worth. Do for yourself: take a walk or go on an excursion. Take an exercise class. Enjoy a favorite meal. Take yourself to ball game. Ask yourself: what can I give to my inner child to create a moment of joy or fulfillment?
-Honor the meaningful relationships in your life: reach out or spend time with someone in your life who has provided love, friendship, security to you. It may be a relative, a past teacher or mentor, a friend, even a colleague from work. Often when we focus on what we don’t have, we overlook what we do have. Take a moment to consider who has been a support to you, and acknowledge the power of that relationship.
-Know that you are not alone: should you continue to struggle with difficult memories, or a sense of loss, understand that this is a pain that you do not need to go through on your own. Reach out to the resources in your life. You may also consider touching base with a therapist to help you honor yourself and find healing.

About the Author

Suzanne Devoti, LCSW is a therapist at Olive Branch Therapy Group. Suzanne works with children, adolescents, young adults, adults, and couples. Suzanne’s specialties include depression, anxiety, grief, couples, parenting, families, and women’s issues. If you are interested in working with Suzanne, contact us via email, phone or chat on our website.

5 Ways to start changing unhealthy eating habits 

1. Forgive yourself 
Feeling guilty often comes after eating foods you know are unhealthy. However, guilt is often a feeling that leads to emotional eating. If you have an episode where you binge or eat unhealthy foods, forgive yourself. Focus on the motivation to change your food habits, not the feeling of guilt over the past. Forgiving yourself is a lot easier when we are in a grateful state of mind. Being grateful shifts our focus to the positive things in our lives instead of the issues. A positive state of mind encourages growth and change.
Activity: Keep a gratitude journal for a week. Single out a time every day to write down at least 3 things you are grateful for. By the end of the week you will have a long list of positive things to reflect on during times of struggle.
2. Define your relationship with food. 
Food is meant to give us the nutrients we need for our cells to function properly.  You need to recognize if you are eating for reasons other than nutrition. Sometimes eating can be used as a coping technique. If so, identifying triggering emotions can be the first step to changing that behavior. Focus on how you are feeling before, during and after eating anything.
Activity: Try logging your feelings every time you eat or crave unhealthy foods vs feelings when eating healthy foods
3. Identify trigger foods 
Not all foods are created equal when it comes to how our bodies react. There are certain foods that can increase your urge to eat other unhealthy foods. We can call them “gateway foods” because eating them leads to more unhealthy habits. For example, if you find it difficult to stop snacking once you’ve eaten candy, then it would be best to avoid candy. Knowing which foods trigger you into binging can be helpful in that you can avoid contact with those foods. That means not having those foods easily accessible.
Activity: Create a list of trigger foods that are not allowed to be put on the grocery list! Try and avoid these foods for a week  and see if it leads to other changes in eating habits.
4. Have a realistic plan
You may recognize your eating habits need improvement. It could be tempting to take drastic measures. However, setting unrealistic expectations can lead to getting discouraged. Instead, eliminate one food at a time so that your healthy food habits are built gradually and are more sustainable.
Activity: Pick one of the trigger foods and eliminate it completely from your diet. Keep doing this gradually, one week at a time.
5. Love yourself
The motivation to change should stem from a place of love. You want to change your eating habits because you love your body and value your health. You honor your body by nourishing it. When food choices can become a sign of how much you love yourself, you will be motivated to choose the healthier options.
Activity: Write yourself a love letter! You are madly in love with yourself, and yourself needs to know it! Write the most loving and positive you can think of about your true love, you. Then you can reference this letter as a reminder during times when it feels tough to love yourself.
Ann Basta, MD, LSW

About The Author
Ann Basta, MD, LSW is a therapist at Olive Branch Therapy Group. Ann works with adolescents, young adults, adults and couples. Her specialties include food addiction, substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and trauma. If you are interested in working with Ann, contact via email, phone or chat on our website.

5 Tips on Scheduling an Appointment and Being Paired With A Therapist

1. Contact Us

There are numerous ways to contact the office to set up services. Our client experience manager Kaitlynn Moran is here to help you. You can call Olive Branch at 732-659-0683, email at Katie@olivebranchtherapy group.com, and use the chat feature to talk to a live person directly on our website, www.olivebranchtherapygroup.com.

2. Know your Why

The more detail as to why you are seekings services the better! This is kept strictly confidential. The information given at this time is what our Client Experience Manager uses to pair you with a therapist that best fits your needs. Olive Branch wants to ensure that our clients are paired with the best therapist for their needs. We are niche based therapy group, this means we have therapists that specialize in specific things and want to ensure that you are paired with someone that specializes in what you are currently experiencing.   

3. Be Prepared

Olive Branch knows that services can be costly. We bill in network with our participating insurance companies, but if you are not in network Olive Branch is still willing to work with you, as we believe that everyone deserves access to quality mental health care.  We can bill any out of network services directly for you. When you have your insurance information available Kaitlynn will verify your benefit on the spot for you as well as communicate what you will be responsible for.

If you have no insurance we do have private pay options available as well. Our full rate is $150 a session. We do offer a sliding scale for those unable to pay our full rate.

4. Know your availability to come in for an appointment

We have numerous therapists that have different schedules to meet everyone’s needs. Our general hours are Monday-Friday 9:00am-9:00pm, Saturday 9:00am-5:00pm and Sunday 9:00am-4:00pm. This information helps us make sure we are pairing you with a therapist that will be available the the same times you are. It is best to give a range of days and times you are available verses a specific day and one hour of time. Appointments are the same time weekly so it’s good to ensure that you will be free the time you are agreeing to weekly.

5. Communicate your best method of contacts

Make sure you communicate your best method of contact. The therapist you are paired with will be reaching out to you within 24 hours to schedule an appointment. We want to ensure we can schedule you as soon as possible. We ask to provide at least one phone number and email that is the best for us to reach you at to ensure that we can contact you back in a timely matter.

To schedule today contact Kaitlynn at 732-659-0683 x 500 or katie@Olivebranchtherapygroup.com.

Kaitlynn Moran

About The Author

Kaitlynn Moran is the Client Experience Manager at the Olive Branch Therapy Group. Kaitlynn works with pairing each individual person to a therapist that specializes in their need. Want to set up an appointment? Contact us today- via email, phone or chat on our website!

Seven tips on Substance Abuse Recovery

1) Practice Mindfulness to remain connected to the present moment.  Paying attention to the present moment can be difficult or even painful – but the present is all we have. Addressing change in the recovery process is near impossible while obsessing over past mistakes or future anxieties.  Utilizing the five senses to remain anchored to the present will allow an individual to act with purpose. Note the urge to remain half-present, to be somewhere else, to multitask – and refocus to the here and now.

2) Balance Acceptance with Change. Recovery is a delicate balance of accepting yourself exactly as you are (how far you’ve come and the progress you have made) with change (what work still needs to be done).  Acknowledging progress on the difficult days and moving towards change during times you feel capable can prevent backsliding and keep you focused on your goals. Recovery is a lifelong process; reflecting on personal successes and accomplishments can be “enough” at times.

3) Addiction is a disease – not some moral failing. Science has shown that addiction and substance use overtime can create structural and physiological changes in the brain and make recovery a gargantuan task.  It is important to note addiction affects individuals from all walks of life; not a particular “type” of person.   When stigma and prejudice is challenged – this public health crisis can be addressed further and more successfully.

4) Shame and Guilt will keep you sick – challenge and reframe these emotions often.  Substance use is often an emotion-driven behavior. An individual can use substances to detach from intense feelings of shame and guilt which inevitably cause these emotions to rebound strongly and a perpetual cycle to develop. Reframing these two emotions as acting out of alignment with personal goals or values in the recovery process will allow an individual to lessen the intensity of shame and guilt and process accordingly.  Shame and Guilt can instead be used as a personal compass or navigation system of “Who am I now?” and “Where would I like to be?” as opposed to a primary or secondary reason to use.

5) Early sobriety can be difficult and can cause individuals to fall back into old using patterns. Individuals with long-term sobriety or even mental health professionals can be fall prey to “selling recovery” with the best intentions to individuals in early sobriety or ongoing use. It can be important to step back from sensationalizing (“It feels great!”, “I’ve never been better!”) and acknowledge the uncomfortable early days. Yes early sobriety can be difficult for a number of reasons-physical withdrawal, overwhelming emotions, unaddressed trauma – but these difficulties are not permanent. People can and do heal from trauma and emotions lessen in intensity overtime.

6) Harm Reduction versus Abstinence For some people, abstinence – completely stopping substance use and adhering to a sober lifestyle–in early recovery can be incredibly difficult or feel impossible.  As the journey in recovery is completely individualized, it could be easier for the person using substances to work at reducing harm while slowly moving toward complete abstinence. For example, if substance use cannot be completely stopped now, can it be reduced? In the case of intravenous substance use, can sterile needles be acquired each time in order to prevent physical health conditions like HIV and Hepatitis C? Marsha Linehan, creator of dialectical behavioral therapy, notes there are pros and cons to both abstinence and harm reduction. People working within the abstinence model stay “on the wagon” longer but subscribers to the harm reduction model recover quicker from a slip or lapse.

7) Self-Care and social connection are key components in the recovery process. Recovery is so much more than cessation of substance use.  Both individuals in early recovery and people who have been sober for decades require frequent self-care practices and healthy social connections. Self-care can be as simple as going for a walk after a hard day to something as intense as repeated boundary setting and disconnecting from unhealthy individuals. It is important to secure social supports and utilize self-care frequently- not just in a crisis or when mental health worsens.


Charles Schuh,  LCSW

About the Author
Charles Schuh, LCSW is a therapist at Olive Branch Therapy Group. Charles works with adolescent, teen and adult males. Charles’s specialties include men’s and teen’s issues, trauma, EMDR, addiction, and PTSD. If you are interested in working with Charles contact us via email, phone or chat on our website.

5 Easy Ways to Find Peace in 2019

5 Easy Ways to Find Peace in 2019

1. Practice mindfulness: Use any or all of your five senses to be present in the moment. Smell the peel of an orange and let that awaken you. Savor the feel of rubbing lotion on your hands. Observe a piece of art work, great or small, and let it stimulate your mind. Listen to the sounds of the world outside. Enjoy each and every bite of the meal you are eating, chewing and swallowing with patience and awareness.

2. Take a moment to pause: Before you respond to a person or situation, take one deep breath and allow yourself time to think about how you want to handle this moment in time. Then do so.

3. Get outdoors: Winter does not have to mean hibernation! Bundle up and take a walk around the block. Find a nature trail or visit a local park. Breathe in the crisp, cool air and let it rejuvenate you. Let the sun warm your face.

4. Love yourself: Be your own cheerleader. Focus on something positive about you and commend yourself for it! Practice internal kindness.

5. Give back: A gesture as small as smiling at a stranger in the check out line, or letting a car get in front you in traffic, can give you a sense of connectedness. Give of your time, your skills and your positivity to help remind you that we are in this together.

About the Author

Suzanne Devoti, LCSW is a therapist at Olive Branch Therapy Group. Suzanne works with children, adolescents, young adults, adults, and couples. Suzanne’s specialties include depression, anxiety, grief, couples, parenting, families, and women’s issues. If you are interested in working with Suzanne, contact us via email, phone or chat on our website.