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Kessler Psychological, LLC

Psychotherapy and Evaluation Services

Virginia Beach, VA

KP's Weekly Tips:

This week brought to you by Brea Fenning, LPC  

Let’s talk gratitude (because it’s more than something we just make note of during the holidays!). Gratitude can be practiced daily, and doing so can help us feel healthier, happier, and cultivate better relationships! Gratitude is about affirming there is some goodness in our lives, and also making note of who and what has played a role in that goodness - not just yourself, but other people and things too :)

According to Robert Emmons (a psychologist and expert on gratitude), doing this regularly can be impactful for a few important reasons:

1. Gratitude allows us to celebrate the present by magnifying positive emotions, and by encouraging us to be more active in our own lives.

2. Gratitude blocks toxic, negative emotions, such as envy, resentment, and regret—emotions that can destroy our happiness.

3. Grateful people are more stress-resistant.

4. Grateful people have a higher sense of self-worth.

***So what are some ways you can start practicing gratitude?

—-Keep a gratitude journal - Try writing down 1 thing each day, or a few things at the end of each week, that you are grateful for.

—-Make a mental note - Practice asking yourself each morning or night, “What am I grateful for today? What went well for me today?”

—-Write a thank-you note to someone (or thank someone verbally, or even mentally!) - Letting someone know you appreciate them can benefit them, but also you too! Maybe even try writing a note to yourself occasionally!

—Pray and/or meditate - You can use prayer or try focused meditation for just a few minutes each day, and reflect on what you are grateful for (a friend, your pet, a tasty treat - there’s no judgment here on the things that make you happy or feel good!).

Remember - Practicing gratitude does not mean that life does not have stressors, burdens, and serious challenges. But, it can help to balance out the negative with positive, and this is a big benefit to our well-being. 

LOOKING FOR MEDICATION MANAGEMENT? We do not currently offer this service, but here is a list of a few places to which we refer our clients:

  • Leva Psychiatry in VB: 453-5508
  • David Reid, MD in VB: 456-0505
  • Family Insight in VB: 233-0003
  • Norfolk Psychiatric Svcs: 461-3313
  • Balance Behavioral Health in Norfolk: 626-3733
  • EVMS Psych./Beh Sciences in Norfolk: 446-5888
  • CHKD in Norfolk: 668-8866




1. Most importantly, trauma is different for everyone. There are a lot of reasons why the same two people have vastly different reactions to the same event. So, just because you're fine today, you might be struggling tomorrow; and just because someone you know has had no problems after a traumatic event, doesn't mean you shouldn't or won't. There are no rules, just human reactions.

2. Generally speaking though, those moments that have traumatic effects on people, tend to be scary. Witnessing or experiencing threats to life, limb, or general sanctity of body or way of life. These could be in one moment or over many years.

What do REACTIONS look like:

1. There are sort of three distinct reactions to experiencing traumatic events.

                    A. NORMATIVE: worry, disruption of your day to day, wanting to be close to others or wanting to be alone, wondering or questioning, crying, over- or under-eating, sleeping too much or having insomnia, nightmares/distressing memories, strong drive to help/do something productive, fear. Overall though, here, you are able to maintain some semblance of normalcy and functioning. Keep doing what you're doing and be patient with and kind to yourself. Try to exercise/walk/bike ride, eat well, stay hydrated, get good sleep, because your body needs resources to move through this and be okay. Open up to others. Go to support meetings. Treat yourself to something healthy or enjoyable. Rest.

                    B. STRUGGLING: Oftentimes, people have some symptoms and impairments in their lives that don't quite meet the criteria for PTSD, but nonetheless, life is not getting back to normal and there's stress and disturbance. This is a time to get professional support. While sometimes this goes away on its own eventually, why prolong the struggle??? Also, sometimes this doesn't go away on its own and unfortunately, it usually gets worse, becoming more chronic and far-reaching.

                    C. ACUTE STRESS DISORDER and POSTTRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD): This is a mixture of symptoms that can last any where from three days to one month after a trauma. After the one month mark, it turns into PTSD. The symptoms between this and PTSD are therefore quite similar, while due to the duration of symptoms, PTSD becomes more complex and far-reaching. Generally speaking, the symptoms occur in the following categories: INTRUSION: persistent, disturbing memories, images, dreams, re-experiencing of events; AVOIDANCE: of the topic or any reminders; MOOD/BELIEFS: persistent negative emotional state, and moreso with PTSD detachment, isolation, mistrust, distorted beliefs about self/others/the world; AROUSAL: difficulty sleeping, hypervigilance (always being on the look out), exaggerated startle response, irritability; DISSOCIATION: generally an anxiety symptom wherein you feel detached from yourself or your surroundings, a sense of unreality. 


1) There's no right or wrong.

2) Reactions from minutes, days, or even weeks after likely won't last forever. Give yourself time and be patient.

3) Judgment, criticism, and shame are understandable but not helpful. There will be time to re-evaluate yourself or others once you've processed the difficult emotions.

4) Be kind to yourself. Give yourself a break. Rest and relax. Do something fun. It's okay to not have your mind on the trauma all the time. Binge watch something on tv, go see a movie, take the dog for a long walk, catch up with a friend, eat what you want, do some yoga. Connect with yourself.

5) Sleep, mood, interpersonal, and eating disturbances are normal.

6) Do what you can to give yourself relief. As long as it's not harming yourself or others, it's okay. Try to keep drinking/substance use, etc. at a minimum just because it's hard to know how that will mix with your reactions.

7) When your thoughts and feelings feel or are impairing any aspect of your life, seek help.

8) It takes strength of character and confidence to ask for help. Weakness has no place there.