From Maesk Counseling in Fort Lauderdale - Do I Need Counseling?

Every day many people in Fort Lauderdale and Broward county search online for help with their problems, wondering if it’s finally time to reach out for direction and support to handle sadness, depression, anxiety, stress, fights with their partner or spouse, and family issues, among others. Here are some of the questions and mistaken beliefs we encounter as therapists every day.

Can’t I just talk to my friends about my problems?

Talking to a friend about mental health or personal issues may bring you temporary relief, but will make the problem more deep seated in the long run because you become more identified with the issue the longer you complain without intervention. Remember, you get what you pay for, and zero-cost advice is pretty much worth zero!

Nobody can change my situation, so why pay to see a professional about it?

There is a saying that “your world changes when YOU change.”  A professional, licensed therapist is trained in ways to help you respond to your world differently. We have at least two college degrees and extensive supervised training thereafter. There are thinking patterns, usually formed in childhood, of which you are completely unaware. I can show you how you are holding yourself back and perhaps help you find insight and freedom. It’s often a cage of your own making!

I’ve felt this way so long…

If you had a persistent fever, would you just say “oh well” and live with it? Or would you go to a health care specialist who could evaluate, diagnose, and treat it? The average person doesn’t realize how common mood and relationship problems are to the human condition, and that they can be (and are) identified and studied. Whole systems of therapy are developed for common issues, much as drugs are developed for physical ailments. 

What will people think?

The people intelligent and mature enough to seek therapy realize that it doesn’t matter what people think! It matters how you live every day of your limited, precious life, and whether you can enjoy that to a higher degree and love more fully. Besides, you would be surprised how many of those “imaginary people” you think are judging you are actually patients themselves.

Is it time for YOU to feel better? It’s time!  Get started NOW.

From Maesk Counseling in Fort Lauderdale - Couples Communication

WHAT Did You Just Say? Communication Differences between Men and Women

“He should just know what I want if he loves me,” she exclaims.  “I try to solve her problems, but she gets mad when she’s upset and I give her advice,” he declares.  Both of them think they are right.  And both of them have a right to see it that way.  Both of them would be wise to learn to see it from another point of view.

Individuality notwithstanding, the stereotypes are somewhat borne out by research:  men are generally problem solvers and women generally want intuitive, compassionate responses.  To put it another way, when we approach our partner with a problem, we expect them to react the way our best (same sex) friends do. Or to put it another way: Men “fix” and women “feel.”

“And here’s what you SHOULD do, wife…”

Men most often communicate in order to solve a problem, and they feel a sense of responsibility and love when their partner is upsetWhat he doesn’t realize is that she is not generally asking for advice, unless she comes out and says so.  Instead, she would like to be listened to and valued while she processes her problem verbally.  It tends to go something like this:

She: “I got so mad at my boss today.”

He: “Well, you should just quit that job and look for another.  Here’s the employment listings.”

When he jumps directly to his solution for her life, she feels belittled, as if he feels she is not capable of adult decisions.  She really just wanted him to listen, not solve!  Let’s look at a better way:

She: “I got so mad at my boss today.”

He: “You seem really upset. Tell me more.”

“If you LOVED me you would just KNOW, husband…”

A mistake that women often make when communicating with the opposite sex is called “mind reading,” that is, expecting to just hint, sigh, glare, or otherwise get him to pick up on what she wants.  This conversation might go:

She:  (sarcastically) “That trash really smells, doesn’t it?”

He: “Sure does.”

Of course, she wanted him to take the trash out, not agree with her!  She winds up frustrated and furious that he didn’t bow to the control, hint, guilt and manipulation barely hidden in that remark.  A better way would be:

She: “Would you please take the trash out sometime in the next hour?”

He: “Sure, it’s my turn anyway.”

Women are socialized to be tactful, accommodating, and indirect, but this does not serve them well in the real world.  Instead, women (and indeed, men as well) should be DIRECT, BRIEF, and SPECIFIC when asking for what they need.  This could save a lot of resentment; we all appreciate honest, courteous, and upfront communication. 

So it goes like this: men, you get in a lot of trouble when you offer solutions instead of focused, eye-to-eye, undivided attention and a listening ear when she is sharing her problems with you.  And women, you shut down any hope of getting what you need when you hint, sigh, use sarcasm, or otherwise expect him to read your mind.  Instead, be direct (“the trash”), specific (“within the next hour”) and courteous (“please”).

Communication is a skill that must be learned, but the basic principles listed here can go a long way toward each person getting what they want - a “win-win” for all parties.

From Maesk Counseling in Fort Lauderdale - Emotional Support Animals

Maesk Group Counseling provides Emotional Support Animal (ESA) evaluations.  It is well documented through research that pets provide benefit to people suffering from anxiety, depression, PTSD, insomnia and many other conditions.  Having an ESA prescription letter allows you to have your pet in no-pets housing, and allows you to travel with your pet in the cabin on airlines at no additional cost.

There are other details/benefits.  Feel free to contact the office to schedule your consultation.

From Maesk Counseling in Fort Lauderdale - Counseling for Children

Child counseling can be extremely successful if you support your child throughout the counseling process. Family counseling also works wonders if everyone bands together and supports each other through the changes that are being made. Follow these tips to support your child and family in therapy:

1. Be there to listen and offer caring support, without judgment, to your child during the time in child therapy

2. Meet with the child’s counselor to make sure personalities are a match for you and your child.

3. Be open and talk frequently with your child. Make sure discussions are age appropriate; early school aged children need brief, simple discussions or explanations, upper elementary age children may ask more detailed questions and may need help figuring out reality from fiction.

4. Don’t pressure the child to talk to you about what happened in the child counseling session, your child may tell you in his/her own time in his/her own way.

5. Keep the lines of communication open with the child’s counselor and the child. Showing your child that you trust the child’s counselor helps build trust.

6. Try not to rush change. Remember trust is built over time; it’s not any different in child and family counseling. Allow time for your child to learn to trust his/her counselor. If you become intimidated by the child-counselor relationship, bring it up to the counselor (there’s nothing to be embarrassed about).

7. Patience is extremely important throughout the child and family counseling process. Children often don’t know how to express their emotions and fears like an adult would, therefore may have some temporary behavior changes throughout the process.

8. Be a good role model, show the child you are willing to take care of yourself and if you need counseling, seek it.

9. Make time to discuss your child’s worries, fears, and even accomplishments. Be sure to turn off any distractions (phones, TV, video games, etc.) so your child knows how important the time with your child is to you.

10. Most importantly, enjoy favorite activities with your child alone and with the entire family.

If you have any questions, throughout the process, speak up. Maesk Group Counseling is here to help!


From Maesk Counseling in Fort Lauderdale - Assessing Your Healing

Assessing Your Healing: Signs of Progress in Therapy

Do you know that you can focus on various areas in your life to see if you are feeling better in specific ways? This is a fun, informal quiz to use for this purpose. Rate your improvement from 1 to 4, with 4 being the most improved. Leave it blank if it doesn’t apply to you. Take the results to your therapist for discussion.


__Self Esteem

__Ability to reach Life Goals

__Personal Safety

__Your work or career

__Level of happiness


__Use of your talents

__Sense of Humor

__Ability to care for others

__Personal self-care/Attractiveness

__Ability to make friends

__Relationships (friends)

__Relationships (family)

__Getting along with coworkers

__Taking time for you

__Treating yourself well

__Putting your needs first

__Taking care of your body

__Not getting overly tired

__Taking care of yourself when ill

__Eating well

__Sleeping enough

__Exercising regularly

__Appropriate alcohol use (or none at all)

Track your progress on a regular basis. Therapy is all about improving your life and making it the best it can be!

(Adapted from It’s My Life Now by M. Dugan)

From Maesk Counseling in Fort Lauderdale - Emotional Support Animal Evaluation

An Emotional Support Animal (E.S.A.) can help with a variety of psychological issues, and can provide a source of comfort and grounding.  Most typically, though not always, Emotional Support Animals are dogs or cats.

Registering your pet as an Emotional Support Animal on a website will NOT afford you any protections.  In order to be qualify for an Emotional Support Animal, you must be evaluated by a licensed mental health professional.

There are two main benefits of having an Emotional Support Animal.  The first is that under The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986, you are allowed to have the animal fly with you in the airplane’s cabin.  The pet must be able to fit on your lap or under the seat in front of you.  The airline is also prohibited from charging you extra for your Emotional Support Animal.

The second is that under The Fair Housing Act of 1988, those who have an Emotional Support Animal can still qualify for housing, primarily an apartment or condo, that has a “no pets” rule. This extends to all types of limits imposed on housing, such as housing that sets a “certain size” or “breed-specific” types of limits.

Maesk Group Counseling can provide you with an Emotional Support Animal Prescription Letter for either air travel, housing or both.  The process is simple and straightforward.

First, you simply call or email Maesk Group Counseling to schedule an evaluation.  In some cases, evaluations can be done by phone or video conference as long as your primary residence is within the state of Florida.

Second, you will meet with Doug Maesk, LMHC, either in person or via the alternate methods just described, who will conduct a thorough diagnostic assessment.  This is designed to assess your symptoms, gather history,  and determine if you meet the criteria for a mental or emotional disability recognized by the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.) Examples of a qualifying disability are depression, anxiety, PTSD, insomnia, etc.  The assessment will also determine if an Emotional Support Animal helps to mitigate your symptoms.  

Finally, you will be presented with a Prescription Letter for your Emotional Support Animal which you can present to an airline or homeowner’s association/condo board.

Get started today - and bring your pet in with you!  Call Maesk Group Counseling at 954-353-4680 to schedule your Emotional Support Animal Evaluation.

From Maesk Counseling in Fort Lauderdale - Holiday Stress

When the Holidays Aren’t So Merry—Making it Through the Season

“What’s wrong with me?” my patient (fictional) asked, shredding the tissue in her hands as she wept on my couch. “Shouldn’t this be a happy time of year? Why can’t I feel Christmassy and jolly?”

And she is not alone. When you think of all of the people who are grieving and/or going through their first holiday season after divorce, widowhood, or the loss of a loved one, you realize that the memories can make the holidays more painful than happy at this time of year. Add to that the additional stress the season brings in the form of activities, shopping, and school events—well, you can see the problem. It’s like adding that last too-much drop of water to an already overflowing bucket.

What to do? If you are experiencing loss this time of year, your goal is this: to make it through. This is not the time to fill your chore list with handmade gifts (or gifts at all—who’s going to blame you this year?) or high stress dinners. If ever there was a time in your life to put you (and your children, if any) first, this is it. Exercise your “say-no” muscle with a firm and assertive smile and pass on committees, obligations, and entertaining. The people who might judge you—and believe me, there are fewer than you imagine—are simply not worth a second thought.

When the memories and tears come, allow them. What we resist, grows stronger, so don’t fight the feelings that arise. Tears actually expel cortisol, a stress hormone that is damaging to the body and needs to come out in order for you to be healthy.

Ask your friends and family for what you need this year, specifically. Do you need help making decisions? You probably have at least one friend who would love to help you. Do you need people to just listen to your grief without advising you? Tell them that you really just need an ear, not a response, from them.

These are just a few ideas; you know best what helps you stay strong. Just remember that you WILL make it through. Rest, heal, and wait for better days.

From Maesk Group Counseling - Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Evaluations

Maesk Group Counseling provides Emotional Support Animal (ESA) evaluations.  It is well documented through research that pets provide benefit to people suffering from anxiety, depression, PTSD, insomnia and many other conditions.  Having an ESA prescription letter allows you to have your pet in no-pets housing, and allows you to travel with your pet in the cabin on airlines at no additional cost.

There are other details/benefits.  Feel free to contact the office to schedule your consultation, and receive your ESA prescription letter today.

From Maesk Counseling in Fort Lauderdale - Disaster Counseling

As I write this, Fort Lauderdale and South Florida are in the process of recovery from the damage, both physical and psychological, that Hurricane Irma inflicted on our state.  Here at Maesk Counseling, we were prepared, but still were without power or phones until yesterday.  Thankfully, damage was minimal and no one here was hurt.  We are grateful.

When disaster strikes, one of the most important immediate tasks is to restore a sense of normalcy and routine.  Going back to work and reestablishing your daily rituals (going to the gym, walking, church - whatever is important to you) will help you feel a sense of control.  This is important as disasters rob us of control over our lives and our surroundings.  Also try to get back into a healthy sleep cycle, with regular bedtime and wake up.

If you are a patient here, know that we are open again regular hours, and are reaching out to all patients to set appointments.  If you need help or are thinking of starting counseling, please contact us.  We offer same day appointments.  We are committed to serve the community, and are here for you.