How to Choose a Therapist

xMG_7853Making the decision to begin therapy can be a big step. Whether you have a vague underlying sense that something is wrong or you are aware of a specific issue (or somewhere in between), a therapist can help you understand your situation and ultimately help you find relief from the pain or unease you are experiencing. But where do you start?

Why you might consider therapy

Life can be hard, but it shouldn’t be impossible. Change or loss can create anxiety, stress, depression, or anger that can be difficult to overcome on your own.   Sometimes we find ourselves on a path and we don’t even know how we got there. All we know is that it isn’t serving us, and that things can and should be better.

People go to therapy for a number of reasons. The American Psychological Association (APA) offers these examples:

  • You feel an overwhelming and prolonged sense of helplessness and sadness, and your problems do not seem to get better despite your efforts and help from family and friends.
  • You are finding it difficult to carry out everyday activities: for example, you are unable to concentrate on assignments at work, and your job performance is suffering as a result.
  • You worry excessively, expect the worst or are constantly on edge.
  • Your actions are harmful to yourself or to others: for instance, you are drinking too much alcohol, abusing drugs or becoming overly argumentative and aggressive.

(APA, n.d.)

Where to begin your search

There are several options for finding a therapist in your area. APA and Psychology Today both offer online locator services. Or you can start by asking your physician or other health professionals. Your local or state psychological association, a nearby university or college department of psychology, your community mental health center or your place of worship can also supply referrals. Family and friends are also a good resource. (APA, n.d.)

“Ask friends who are in therapy if they like their therapist,” writes Tracey Cleantis, LMFT. However, she cautions, “…if they tell you that they don’t like their therapist [but] keep going just because they don’t want to hurt the therapist’s feelings, it is best to get a referral elsewhere.” (Cleantis, 2011)

What to look for

Finding the right therapist is important enough to warrant some time and effort. Proximity and convenience, while reasonable considerations, should not be the deciding factor. There are many other things to consider, both tangible and intangible.

First, you may want to consider whether you have a preference for either a male or female therapist. If the thought of speaking candidly with one makes you uncomfortable, then limit your search to the other. Keep in mind that having a strong “no way” feeling about one gender, says Cleantis, may be something worth discussing with the therapist you choose.

Next, ask questions.

  • How long have you been practicing? Where did you go to school? Are you a licensed therapist? (Check with the state licensing board to find out if there are any infractions against his/her license.)
  • What are your areas of expertise? What experience do you have helping people with [anxiety, depression, anger, etc.] or difficulties with [work, marriage, eating, sleeping, addiction, overcoming trauma, etc.]? “Be wary of therapists who specialize in EVERYTHING,” advises Cleantis. Conversely, “Beware of therapists who are too identified with a particular therapy ‘brand,’” offers Jonathan Shedler, Ph.D. “They have already decided how to treat you before they have met you, let alone understand you.”
  • What kinds of treatment do you use and have they been proven effective for dealing with my kind of problem or issue?
  • What are your fees? (Fees are usually based on a 45-minute to 50-minute session.) Do you have a sliding-scale fee policy?
  • What are my payment options?

(APA, n.d.)

Your comfort level and the rapport you have with the therapist are necessary factors, but Shedler believes it goes a step further to what he calls a “therapeutic alliance.” In essence, Shedler says that alliance “is based on a shared, mutually agreed upon purpose—an alliance around the work you are there to do,” and consists of three elements: “1) There is connection; 2) there is mutual agreement about the purpose of therapy; 3) there is mutual agreement about the methods you will use in pursuit of this purpose.” (Shedler, 2013)

Prepare for your first appointment

It is normal to apprehensive and nervous during your first therapy appointment. In order to make the most of that session, there are some things you can do to prepare during the time leading up to your first session.

Keep a notebook or a sheet of paper handy to gather any information that will be useful for your therapist to know at the start, including notes or thoughts about your condition and/or your situation, such as:

  • How have you been feeling?
  • What has been going on in your life that brought you to therapy? When did these difficulties start?
  • Is there something that makes things better or worse for you?
  • What do you want to accomplish with therapy?

Write down any questions you have for the therapist about how therapy works, what you can expect, what will be expected of you, etc. Bring a list of any medications you take. (

Re-evaluate after the first meeting

Now that you’ve spent some time with the therapist, take a few moments to think about what you liked or didn’t like about the experience, your comfort level with this person, and whether you feel your needs will be met by continuing. If you have any concerns or questions, write them down and bring them up at your next session. If after a few visits, you still have concerns that are not being addressed in a professional and satisfactory way, you may want to move on to another therapist.

Now make the call

If you have been thinking about therapy, don’t wait. There is no need to suffer or struggle alone. Carapace Counseling can help. Contact us for more information or to schedule an appointment call 303-906-2618.

American Psychological Association (n.d.) How to Choose a Psychologist. Retrieved on May 16, 2016, from
Cleantis, T. (2011) How to Find the BEST Therapist for You. Psychology Today. Retrieved on May 16, 2016, from
Shedler, J. (2013) Choosing the Right Therapist – Looking for understanding, not hype. Psychology Today. Retrieved on May 16, 2016, from (n.d.) Preparing for an Appointment. Retrieved on May 16, 2016, from
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Happy Mother’s Day – It’s All Your Fault!


For centuries, mothers have been revered and vilified. The pressure to be a perfect mom and raise perfect children is high, but it’s a no-win situation because whatever we do, someone will think it’s wrong. We’re too loving or too cold, too permissive or too strict. Our kids love us, roll their eyes at us, never want to leave our homes, and want us around as little as possible. We shouldn’t be helicopters, but it’s okay for us to be drones—flying around at an unobtrusive altitude, just close enough to take out an enemy or drop in supplies when needed. We both love and resent our own mothers with a conflicting mix of “I will not be like my mother” and “I am just like my mother.”

Mothers have been blamed – quite often by mental health professionals – for everything from autism and schizophrenia to ADHD and eating disorders. The mysteries that persist around these complex mental conditions leave a lot of room for mommy blame, says Dr. Justine Larson, a child and adolescent psychiatrist. When there is no identifiable cause for a problem that a child is having, it must be something the mom is doing, or not doing. (Larson, 2011)

This continues into adulthood as we look for answers to why our lives are not what we’d hoped or imagined them to be.

Why this is faulty thinking

Not all mothers are June Cleaver (or even Roseanne Connor), but blaming our mothers for what’s wrong in our adult lives is misguided and counterproductive. There is no evidence to back up the conventional wisdom that mothers are the main cause of so many of our ills, yet many of us still like to think that if only our mothers had been more (or less) fill-in-the-blank, our lives would be better.

“There is a terrible paradox in these situations: You are angry and blame your parents’ treatment of you growing up for your unhappiness and failures in your adult life. But the wish for revenge and these angry, blaming feelings keep the connection and repeat the relationship between your ‘bad parents’ and you, the unsuccessful, unhappy child,” says therapist Beverly Amsel, Ph.D. “As a result, you are stuck in the position where you cannot become the person you say you wish to be or create the life you say you desire.” (Amsel, 2013)

By blaming our mothers (or fathers, or anyone else for that matter) we relinquish responsibility for our lives, and along with it, the idea that we have any power to change our circumstances. Acknowledging and expressing anger for how your mother behaved in the past can help you move past self-blame to a healthier mental state, but focusing too intently on that anger can be detrimental, writes Joshua Coleman, Ph.D., Carolyn Pape Cowan, Ph.D., and Philip A. Cowan, Ph.D., because it keeps you stuck in the victim role and can negatively impact other relationships. Moving from that place to an understanding that your parents did the best they could has several benefits:

  • Some adults can improve their parent-child relationship, rather than continue to avoid it.
  • For those with parents who continue to be abusive, it helps them set reasonable limits.
  • It can help break the cycle of insecure attachments, and foster positive inter-generational relationships between your parents and your children.

(Coleman, Cowan, Cowan, 2014)

If none of us are perfect mothers, then none of us had perfect mothers, but most of us had mothers who did their best. They were our first playmates, our first teachers, our first sounding boards, and for better or worse, our first role models. So this Mother’s Day, let’s honor the spirit of all those perfectly imperfect moms. We can give them a break, and give ourselves a break as well, because after all, nobody’s perfect.

Larson, J. (2011) Blaming Parents: What I’ve Learned and Unlearned as a Child Psychiatrist. Scientific American. Retrieved on May 2, 2016, from:
Amsel, B. (2013) Blaming Your Parents Hurts You Most. Retrieved on May 5, 2016, from:
Coleman, J; Cowan, C.; Cowan, P. (2014) The Cost of Blaming Parents. Retrieved on May 5, 2016, from
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How our brains create habits – for better or worse


Habitual behavior can be quite useful, but often we continue habits regardless of whether they are good or bad, whether we want to or not. Science has found that our ability to break a habit has less to do with motivation or intention than with what happens to our brains when we repeat behaviors.

Learning to do something new— for example, driving a car with a manual transmission— takes a lot of concentration and practice. Once you get it, though, you begin to do it without thinking. Your feet automatically press and ease off of the gas pedal and the clutch as needed while your right hand moves through the gears.

How does this happen? Scientists are learning more about how repetitive actions result in habit formation and how, potentially, we can undo the habits we’d rather not have.

Researchers at Duke University found that repetitive behaviors (the process of habit-forming) create lasting changes in the brain. They studied mice by giving them sugary treats to see if they developed habits around a sugar addiction. Through brain scans, the scientists discovered that the addicted mice had noticeable changes to the basal ganglia region (the area of the brain responsible for trial-and-error learning). Both the ‘stop’ and ‘go’ impulses generated by the brain were stronger in these mice, but the ‘go’ impulses had a head start. The scientists’ efforts to reverse the mice’s sugar habit were most successful in those that had a weaker ‘go’ impulse. (O’Hare, 2016)

The advantage to going on autopilot for habitual activities, like driving a car with a stick shift, is that it frees up our brains for other activities. It’s what allows us to do multiple things at once, or do one thing while we’re thinking about something else. Author Charles Duhigg explains that habit-forming has three parts that make up the habit loop:

  1. the cue or trigger that tells the brain to go into automatic mode,
  2. the routine, which is doing the behavior, and
  3. the reward, which helps the brain remember the behavior in the future.

The habit loop, which occurs in the basal ganglia, is separate from decision-making, which happens in the prefrontal cortex… (Duhigg, 2012)

… but not completely separate. According to neuroscientists at MIT, a small region of the prefrontal cortex retains some control over which habits are switched on in any given moment. Professor Ann Graybiel, senior author of the study that uncovered this, says this offers hope to those who are trying to kick bad habits. The research suggests that even when broken, habits aren’t forgotten, they are simply replaced with new habits. (Trafton, 2012)

If you are interested in breaking old habits, clearly it will take some time and effort to create new, positive habits to replace the ones that no longer serve you. Deepak Chopra recommends making steady changes that allow for a series of small victories. Those little accomplishments will eventually lead you away from the old, autopilot habit (the path of least resistance) to the new, beneficial habit. As the new behaviors bring more and more rewards, you will keep doing them and create the new habit. To be successful, Chopra also recommends finding new ways to reward yourself. If you are trying to eat better, replace the gratification of food with something that is satisfying in another way, like listening to music or playing a game. (Chopra, n.d.)

O’Hare, R. (2016) The science of a sweet tooth: Scans reveal repetitive behaviours rewire our brains and cause lasting damage. Retrieved on April 28, 2016, from:
Duhigg, C. (2012) Habits: How they form and how to break them. Retrieved on April 28, 2016, from
Trafton, A. (2012) How the Brain Controls Our Habits. MIT News. Retrieved on April 28, 2016, from
Chopra, D. (n.d.) 5 Steps for Creating Healthy Habits. The Chopra Center. Retrieved on April 28, 2016, from
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Spring Cleaning Inside and Out




Spring cleaning has its roots in ancient cultures and traditions, such as Passover in Judaism and Iranian Nourouz, the Persian New Year. (Wikipedia, 2016.) It makes sense, however, that it is practiced universally today. Even for those of us who hate to clean, there is something liberating about getting rid of all the clutter that accumulates over the months spent indoors, and throwing open the windows to let in a refreshing breeze after a long winter of re-circulated, furnace-heated air.

Although here in Colorado, we might still need that winter coat a little longer, this time of year we start shedding some of those extra layers and going about our daily business less encumbered. Lightness begins to fill our days, as extra hours of daylight make us more productive and give us more time to relax. In this break between the heaviness of winter and oppressive summer heat, we can take a moment to dust ourselves off and start fresh.

Clearing your outer world to improve your inner world

Cleaning your living or work area has the obvious benefits of freeing up your physical space, but it also has benefits for your mental space. “Clutter can increase stress,” writes Jonathan Fader, Ph.D., “by distracting us and overwhelming our senses with extraneous stimuli.” Those stacks of paper or dirty dishes remind us that our work is never ending and there is always more to be done. That nagging reality is one of the top five stressors among Americans. “Women specifically have shown to have chronic levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, if they perceive their homes as cluttered,” Fader adds. (Fader, 2015)

Clearing clutter and creating a more organized environment – though not everyone’s idea of fun – does have the benefits of improved mood, decreased stress and heightened creativity. It is also associated with making healthier life choices, such as eating better. And, fortunately, Fader tells us, your home or office does not have to be pristine in order to reap these benefits. “The key is finding what environment is most efficient and productive for you,” writes Fader. (Fader, 2015)

Emotional spring cleaning

Spring can feel like the very definition of hope. After a long, bleak winter, nature reasserts itself with new life — a clear reminder that we can do the same. Spring is the perfect time to take stock of what serves us and what we can let go of in order to make our lives happier, more manageable and more peaceful.

Sharon Martin, LCSW, suggests spring cleaning our emotional health the same way we clean our homes – by sorting things into three piles: Things to get rid of, things to keep, and things you need but don’t have. “Periodically you need to sort through the negative emotions, relationships that aren’t supportive, attitudes that bog you down, and fears that hold you back,” Martin writes. (Martin, 2016)

Things to get rid of include:

  • Negative friends or toxic relationships
  • Suppressed feelings such as worry, anger, sadness
  • Unhealthy coping such as over-eating, smoking, and drinking
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Busyness and over-scheduling
  • Pessimism and fears
  • Self-criticism, guilt and shame
  • Grudges and resentments

Things to keep include all the good habits and practices that support your mental well-being, such as:

  • Supportive friends
  • Exercise and healthy diet
  • Growth mindset/trying new things
  • Journaling/meditation
  • Adequate sleep and relaxation
  • Art and creative endeavors
  • Quality time with your partner or family
  • Gratitude
  • Meaningful work and hobbies
  • Self-forgiveness
  • Healthy boundaries
  • Psychotherapy

(Martin, 2016)

Look through these two lists to determine what may be missing from your emotional health. Are there too many negatives holding you back, and not enough positives to deal with them?

Martin adds that it is important to acknowledge your feelings during the de-cluttering process, without judging them as good or bad. “Feelings provide us valuable information, but they don’t control us,” she writes. If you need help sorting through difficult emotions, talking with a friend or professional can help. (Martin, 2016)

To make an appointment or to talk to a therapist call 303-906-2618 or email us at


Wikipedia (2016) Spring Cleaning. Retrieved on April 14, 2016, from
Fader, J (2015) The Psychology of Spring Cleaning – Is your junk cluttering your mind? Psychology Today. Retrieved on April 14, 2016, from
Martin, S. (2016). Spring Cleaning For Emotional Health. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 14, 2016, from


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Relieving Trauma Without Reliving It


Sharon* spent most of her life with a nagging sense of unease that she didn’t understand and couldn’t overcome. Always searching for what felt like an elusive sense of peace and well being, she sought relief in drugs and numerous relationships. Nothing she did brought relief for long and actually compounded the problem.

In her forties, she began to see a psychologist to figure out why she was so unhappy and what she could do to change that. “I think something happened in my past,” she told the therapist. She had memories of a man touching her from the time she was three years old until she was six, but didn’t remember anything very specific.

For the next seven years, Sharon went to a psychologist, who treated her mainly with talk therapy and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Processing). EMDR is a psychotherapy approach for overcoming trauma. Sharon experienced some improvement, but still couldn’t escape the feeling that something wasn’t quite right.

She stopped going to therapy and over the next five years, continued to experience increased fear and anxiety. She began having panic attacks and nightmares. She had also developed some obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Getting more desperate, she began searching for something that could help her. A friend of hers was being treated for PTSD and told her about the great success he was having with Rapid Resolution Therapy® (RRT).

I was treating that friend, and Sharon soon came to see me.

One of Sharon’s fears was that she didn’t have strong memories of the abuse, and she was skeptical that RRT® would work because she didn’t clearly remember what had happened to her. I assured her that one of the unique things about RRT® is that you don’t have to remember, or even know, the cause of the problem in order to get relief. This is an important distinction for anyone who has experienced a trauma and has fear, anxiety or discomfort over the notion of revisiting or re-experiencing those events.

When we experience a trauma, it slams into the mind and makes an impression.

Even as highly evolved humans, we come from a primitive place and 95% of our brain and human potential is primitive, focused on the same basic goals that all organisms have: continuation (survival), procreation (continuation of the species), and sometimes play. The other 5% of our brain and human potential, however, is logical. Our brains react to our experiences – good and bad – and engage our bodies to do what they are supposed to do: protect us so that we can perform those basic functions. Our minds don’t distinguish between something that is happening and something that happened in the past. Anything that is at all similar to a past trauma (one as basic as a harsh word from a parent or teacher, or as devastating as a sexual assault or loss of a loved one) can trigger a response as if that event is still happening. Responding to a past event as though it is currently happening in the present is neither appropriate nor helpful, and can cause us much distress and anxiety. Responses such as fear, anxiety, poor decision-making, or even physical symptoms can occur. This can cause us to repeat negative patterns and keep us from feeling truly safe and happy.

RRT® is a quick, painless enjoyable process that can bring relief in just one session, and resolve life-long issues in just a few sessions. Today Sharon reports being calm, happy, joyful and amazed that all the pain she was feeling for so many years – emotions about something she wasn’t even sure about – is gone.

For more information about RRT® or to schedule an appointment, contact me at
303-906-2618 or email me at


*Sharon represents a composite of several people’s experiences and does not represent a particular client.

Rapid Resolution Therapy® and Rapid Trauma Resolution® were founded and developed by, and are both trademarks of, Dr. Jon Connelly and are used under license.
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Adults Overcoming Childhood Sexual Abuse Now


Child sexual abuse has been a shameful secret for too long. Children who are sexually abused often carry the pain and shame of the experience into adulthood. The impact of such a grievous violation can manifest in a number of ways with ongoing ramifications, some of which don’t materialize until many years later. There are several factors that may contribute to this. (

Approximately 90% of child victims of sexual abuse know the perpetrator. Often it is a family member, neighbor, or friend, or someone in authority whom the family trusts such as a coach, pastor or teacher. ( In addition, children are often warned by perpetrators not to tell. Whether they keep the secret, they tell and are believed, or they tell and are not believed, that is an awful burden to carry throughout one’s life.

Many adult survivors of child sexual abuse struggle with emotional issues including:

  • Guilt and shame over not being able to stop the abuse. They may even blame themselves for allowing it to happen or for experiencing physical pleasure.
  • Low self-esteem as a result of the negative messages received from the abuser(s), or from having their personal safety violated or ignored.
  • Intimacy and relationships. As an adult, intimacy might be a struggle, particularly for someone whose first sexual encounter came as a result of sexual abuse. Some survivors experience flashbacks or painful memories while engaging in sexual activity that is consensual and on their own terms. Survivors may also struggle to set boundaries that help them feel safe in relationships. Difficulty trusting anyone, particularly someone in authority, is common because trust was broken by someone who cared for them or said they loved them even while abusing them.

These experiences can have a lasting impact in many different areas of life such as relationships, career, and even health. ( Survivors often deal with extreme depression. Sleep disturbances and nightmares are common and may be linked to the fact that children are often sexually assaulted in their own beds. (

Sometimes emotional responses are quite intense, including panic attacks, rage, and deep depression. Survivors may engage in self-harm to relieve severe symptoms such as self-mutilation, suicidal thoughts, dependence on alcohol or other drugs, or may develop eating disorders to cover feelings of humiliation, shame and low self-esteem. They may exhibit signs of trauma such as panic attacks, numbing of body areas, and the feeling of being disconnected from their bodies.

Abuse during childhood disrupts healthy psychological development and interferes with the child’s natural development, which builds on his or her experiences. (The Healing Place, 2011)

Learning that your partner was sexually abused as a child has its own challenges that require patience and understanding. It is important to listen, and allow your partner to share at whatever pace is comfortable for him or her. Certain phrases can help lay the groundwork for open, helpful communication:

  • I believe you.
  • It wasn’t your fault.
  • Thank you for telling me.
  • I’m sorry this happened to you.
  • I’m always here if you want to talk.
  • What can I do for you?

For adults who are struggling with these negative impacts of childhood sexual assault, therapy is an important tool for working through trauma, shame, guilt, confusion, mistrust, and all the feelings and behaviors that were a necessary protection at one time, but are no longer serving you.

Often traditional therapies do not work for everyone because they can result in reliving the event over and over. This can be painful and counter productive. Rapid Resolution Therapy® (RRT) is a highly effective treatment that works without the need to relive past events or experience any pain. RRT® eliminates the negative emotional or behavioral influence of traumatic events quickly, whether these experiences are remembered, repressed or forgotten.

I am a certified Rapid Resolution therapist and if you have found yourself stuck in reliving your trauma as you try to overcome it, please call me to make an appointment. Your future can be bright – sooner than you think!


Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (n.d.) Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse. Retrieved on March 21, 2016 from:
Darkness to Light (n.d.) Child Sexual Abuse Statistics – Perpetrators. Retrieved on March 21, 2016 from:
Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands, n.d. Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse. Retrieived on March 21, 2016 from:
The Healing Place (2011). Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse. The Healing Place. Retrieved on March 21, 2016 from:
Rapid Resolution Therapy® and Rapid Trauma Resolution® were founded and developed by, and are both trademarks of, Dr. Jon Connelly and are used under license.
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Lady Gaga Sings the Blues


When Lady Gaga performed at the Oscars last month, she brought attention to the nominated song, Til It Happens To You, and to The Hunting Ground, the documentary that features the song. More importantly, she brought attention to the subject matter of both: sexual assault – specifically on college campuses. According to the film’s website, “One in five women in college are sexually assaulted, yet only a fraction of these crimes are reported, and even fewer result in punishment for the perpetrators.” (

Perhaps Lady Gaga’s performance was so moving because she is, herself, a sexual assault survivor. The song is from that point of view, and expresses the idea that you can’t know how it feels unless you’ve experienced it. Gaga sings how comments like “Be strong” and “Pull it together” are neither comforting nor helpful following an assault.

Prior to making The Hunting Ground, filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering made the award-winning feature, The Invisible War, an investigation into the epidemic of rape in the military. Given the statistics, it is not surprising that rape and sexual assault are so prevalent in male-dominated institutions. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN):

  • Every 107 seconds another American is sexually assaulted – that’s 293,000 people each year.
  • 68% of sexual assaults are never reported and 98% of rapists will never spend a day in jail or prison.
  • 40% of victims are under 18 and 80% are under 30.

What continues to be surprising, however, is how often these crimes are still covered up. From college campuses and the military, to college and professional sports, and beyond the stories of abuse and cover-ups abound.

Thankfully, these institutions are beginning to acknowledge the problem and make changes. No More is a public awareness campaign launched in 2013 by a coalition of leading advocacy groups, service providers, the U.S. Department of Justice, and major corporations. National and local groups, individuals, organizations, universities, and communities use No More as a unifying symbol to increase visibility for domestic violence and sexual assault. You may have seen the public service announcements featuring celebrities and athletes calling for an end to violence against women.

The Hunting Ground features two women, both survivors, who are fighting back with a legal strategy and educating a growing number of young women who are no longer remaining silent.

The more this topic enters our consciousness, the more we talk about it and acknowledge our own complicity, the more we shine a light – the easier it is for real change to happen.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or rape, there are ways to get help. RAINN has several resources listed on its website, including the National Telephone Sexual Assault Hotline 800.656.HOPE (4673) and the National Online Sexual Assault Hotline

Be sure to practice safe searching. If you are concerned about this type of organization showing up in the search history on your computer or phone, use someone else’s device.

Carapace Counseling can help you deal with the trauma of sexual assault. Please call us at 303-906-2618 to make an appointment.

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