Pride Month is a joyous and inclusive annual celebration that occurs worldwide throughout June. It honors the vibrant and diverse LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and more) community, recognizing their rich history, resilience, and remarkable accomplishments.

Pride Month is an opportunity to champion equality, foster understanding, and embrace the beautiful spectrum of sexual orientations and gender identities. It is a time to come together, raise awareness, and celebrate love, acceptance, and the ongoing journey toward a more inclusive and affirming society.

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Central to the visual representation of Pride Month is the iconic rainbow flag. However, pride flags extend beyond the rainbow, encompassing a diverse range of identities within the LGBTQ+ community. These flags serve as powerful symbols of identity, resistance, unity, and empowerment for individuals across the LGBTQ+ spectrum.

Pride Month flags hold immense significance in LGBTQ+ activism by providing visibility, representation, and a means of communication. These flags carry profound symbolism and convey specific messages that foster a sense of belonging and solidarity. From historical origins to their utilization in activism, pride flags have become vital tools for advocating for LGBTQ+ rights and promoting acceptance in society.

Historical Context of Pride Month Flags

The rainbow flag is widely recognized as the primary symbol of LGBTQ+ pride and solidarity. Its origins can be traced back to the late 1970s when the LGBTQ+ community sought a unifying symbol to represent their diverse identities and advocate for their rights.


In 1978, artist and activist Gilbert Baker designed and hand-sewed the first rainbow flag in San Francisco, California. The original flag consisted of eight vibrant colors, each representing a different aspect of the LGBTQ+ community. These colors included pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony and violet for spirit. Due to the unavailability of pink fabric, the flag was later modified to the widely recognized six-color version.

The rainbow flag gained significant recognition and prominence as a symbol of LGBTQ+ pride during the historic Stonewall Riots in June 1969. The riots, which took place in New York City’s Stonewall Inn, marked a turning point in the LGBTQ+ rights movement. The rainbow flag emerged as a unifying emblem of resistance and defiance against discrimination and oppression, symbolizing the community’s strength, resilience, and determination.

The Evolution of the Pride Month Flags

Since the creation of the rainbow flag, the LGBTQ+ community has recognized the importance of inclusive representation. As a result, a multitude of pride flags have been developed to represent specific identities and communities within the LGBTQ+ spectrum.

These flags include, but are not limited to, the transgender flag, bisexual flag, pansexual flag, asexual flag, non-binary flag, and many others. The evolution and expansion of pride flags aim to ensure that all individuals within the LGBTQ+ community feel seen, acknowledged, and celebrated.

The development and adoption of these flags highlight the ongoing commitment to inclusivity and recognition of diverse experiences and identities within the LGBTQ+ community. Pride Month flags have become a visual testament to the rich tapestry of LGBTQ+ identities, fostering a sense of belonging and providing visibility for marginalized groups.

woman with bisexuality flag

Symbolism and Messaging

Pride flags are not merely colorful banners; they hold deep symbolism and convey powerful messages that resonate within the LGBTQ+ community and beyond. Each flag represents a specific identity or community within the diverse spectrum of sexual orientations and gender identities. Analyzing the symbolism behind different pride flags allows for a deeper understanding of their significance and the messages they communicate.

  • Rainbow Flag: The rainbow flag is perhaps the most well-known and widely recognized pride flag. Designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978, it features a vibrant rainbow with six colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet) that represent diversity and inclusivity across the LGBTQ+ community as a whole.
  • Transgender Flag: The transgender pride flag consists of five horizontal stripes: two light blue, two pink, and one white stripe in the center. The light blue stripes of the trans flag represent traditional baby blue, associated with boys, while the pink color represents traditional baby pink, associated with girls. The white stripe on the trans pride flag signifies individuals who identify as intersex, transitioning, or having a gender identity that is outside the gender binary.
  • Bisexual Flag: The bisexual flag was designed in 1998 by Michael Page and features three horizontal stripes: pink, purple, and blue. The pink stripe represents same-gender attraction, the blue stripe represents opposite-gender attraction, and the purple stripe represents the combination of both, symbolizing bisexuality and promoting acceptance and visibility of bisexual individuals.
  • Pansexual Flag: The pansexual pride flag consists of three horizontal stripes of color. The top stripe is pink, representing attraction to people regardless of their gender identity. The middle stripe is yellow, symbolizing non-binary and gender non-conforming individuals. The bottom stripe is blue, representing attraction to those who identify as male. The pansexual flag aims to celebrate and acknowledge the fluidity of sexual orientation and the potential for attraction to people of various genders.
  • Asexual Flag: The asexual flag consists of three horizontal stripes: black, gray, and white. The black stripe represents asexuality, the gray stripe represents gray asexuality or demisexuality, and the white stripe represents sexuality and allies. The flag aims to promote visibility and understanding of individuals who experience little or no sexual or romantic attraction.
  • Nonbinary Flag: The nonbinary flag was created by Kye Rowan in 2014 and consists of four equally sized horizontal stripes: yellow, white, purple, and black. The yellow stripe represents people who identify as non-binary, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming individuals. The white stripe represents those with many or all genders, the purple stripe represents those who identify with a combination of genders, and the black stripe represents individuals who identify without any gender. The non-binary pride flag aims to provide visibility, recognition, and support for individuals who do not fit within the binary notions of gender, promoting inclusivity and understanding of gender diversity.
  • Genderqueer Pride Flag: The flag of the genderqueer people is a symbol that represents individuals who identify as genderqueer or non-binary. The flag typically includes three stripes of equal width. The top stripe is lavender or purple, symbolizing androgyny or a combination of traditionally feminine and masculine attributes. The middle stripe is white, representing gender identities or the absence of gender. The bottom stripe is green, symbolizing non-binary identities or the presence of other genders beyond the male-female binary.
  • Philadelphia People of Color: The Philadelphia People of Color Inclusive Flag is a pride flag that represents the experiences and identities of LGBTQ+ individuals of color. The flag features the traditional rainbow colors of the LGBTQ+ pride flag but with the addition of black and brown stripes. The black stripe represents Black LGBTQ+ individuals, while the brown stripe represents LGBTQ+ individuals of Hispanic, Latinx, and other ethnic backgrounds, recognizing their unique cultural identities and struggles.
  • Two-Spirit Pride Flag: The Two-Spirit pride flag is a symbol that represents the experiences and identities of Two-Spirit individuals within Indigenous cultures. The Two-Spirit pride flag typically features four horizontal stripes. The top stripe is white, symbolizing the spiritual and sacred nature of Two-Spirit individuals. The second stripe is light blue, representing the feminine spirit or identity. The third stripe is pink, symbolizing the masculine spirit or identity. The bottom stripe is a blend of light blue and pink, representing the combination of both masculine and feminine spirits.
  • Intersex Flag: The Intersex flag is a symbol that represents individuals born with intersex variations. It is a flag that seeks to raise awareness, promote visibility, and advocate for the rights and acceptance of intersex people. The Intersex flag consists of a series of horizontal stripes in various colors. The flag typically includes three stripes. The top stripe is yellow, symbolizing the sun and light. The middle stripe is purple, representing a blend of male and female colors. The bottom stripe is dark blue, symbolizing tranquility and peace.


Utilization in Activism and Events

Pride flags play a pivotal role in LGBTQ+ activism, serving as powerful symbols of empowerment that embody the fight for equality, visibility, and acceptance. These vibrant flags are prominently displayed and carried during various events, parades, and rallies, creating a visual representation of the LGBTQ+ community’s presence and collective voice.

Pride parades and marches: displaying and carrying pride flags

Pride parades and marches are vibrant celebrations that take place in cities around the world during Pride Month. Participants proudly display and wave pride flags as they march through the streets, showcasing their identities, solidarity, and demand for equity and equality. The array of colorful flags creates a vibrant and inclusive atmosphere, fostering a sense of community and unity among LGBTQ+ individuals and allies.

Pride flags as symbols of resistance and demands for equality

Pride flags have become potent symbols of pride and resistance against discrimination and inequality. They serve as a visible representation of the LGBTQ+ community‘s demands for equal rights, challenging societal norms, and advocating for legislative changes. The visibility of these flags during demonstrations and protests amplifies the message of inclusivity, challenging prejudice, and promoting understanding.

The use of pride flags during protests, rallies, and LGBTQ+ rights movements

Pride flags are commonly seen at protests, rallies, and LGBTQ+ rights movements, where they act as powerful symbols of identity, resilience, and empowerment. They help create a sense of unity among participants and send a clear message of visibility and pride. Pride flags are often held high during these events, showcasing the diversity and strength of the LGBTQ+ community and demanding justice and equality.

The role of pride flags in creating safe spaces and promoting inclusivity

Pride flags contribute to the creation of safe spaces for LGBTQ+ individuals, both physically and symbolically. In public spaces, the presence of these flags signals an environment where people can express their identities without fear of discrimination or prejudice. Pride flags are also displayed in LGBTQ+ community centers, businesses, and educational institutions, as a symbol of hope and inclusivity and to foster a sense of belonging for individuals who identify within the community.


Final Thoughts

Pride flags act as visual tools for communication and advocacy, transcending language barriers and providing immediate recognition. These flags allow individuals to express their identities, foster a sense of belonging, and connect with others who share similar experiences. By waving these flags, individuals convey their determination to fight discrimination and work towards a more inclusive and accepting society.

Harvey Milk was more than just an iconic figure in the LGBTQ community – he was a trailblazer who dedicated his life to fighting for equality and justice. As one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States, Milk paved the way for generations of LGBTQ activists and politicians to come.

His legacy lives on today, as we continue to fight for the rights and dignity of all LGBTQ individuals. In the words of Harvey Milk himself, “Hope will never be silent.” May 22nd is Harvey Milk Day, but he is a historical figure who should be remembered every time changes for the better are made for the LGBTQ community.

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Who Was Harvey Milk?

Harvey Bernard Milk was a gay rights activist and politician who made history by becoming one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States. Harvey Milk was born in New York in 1930 and had a difficult childhood, struggling with his sexuality in a society that was hostile and discriminatory towards LGBTQ people. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War and eventually settled in San Francisco in the early 1970s, where he opened a camera shop on the city’s Castro Street.

Milk’s political career began in 1973 when he ran for a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Although he was unsuccessful in this first attempt, he continued to work tirelessly for the rights of the gay community, becoming a familiar face in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood.

He ran for public office three times before finally winning a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in the historic election of 1977. During his time in office, Milk championed LGBTQ rights and fought against discrimination and bigotry. He sponsored and helped pass a groundbreaking gay rights ordinance that protected individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Milk’s advocacy work and political success made him a powerful symbol of hope and inspiration for the gay community.

Sadly, Milk’s life was cut short when he and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by a former colleague in 1978. However, Milk’s legacy continued to inspire the LGBTQ rights movement in the years that followed. Today, he is remembered as a pioneering activist who helped pave the way for greater acceptance and equality for LGBTQ individuals.

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Harvey Milk – A Beloved Figure in the LGBTQ Community

Harvey Milk was known for his charismatic personality and his ability to connect with people on a personal level. A true human rights leader, he often used humor and wit to make his points, and he was not afraid to speak his mind, especially regarding the gay rights movement.

One example of Milk’s personality was when he famously said, “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door in the country.” This quote shows Milk’s dedication to the LGBTQ community and his willingness to fight for their rights, even at the risk of his own life.

Milk was also known for his passionate speeches, such as his “Hope Speech” delivered in 1978. In this speech, he spoke about the importance of hope in the fight for equality, saying, “You’ve got to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great.”

Milk’s dedication to his community was also reflected in his leadership style. He was always willing to listen to the concerns of his constituents, and he worked tirelessly to represent their interests in LGBTQ social movements. One example of this was when he pushed for the creation of a food bank in San Francisco to help those who were struggling to make ends meet.

Harvey Milk’s death was devastating for the LGBTQ community, but it also galvanized the community to continue fighting for equality.

LGBTQ Pride Parades

Harvey Milk’s Contributions

Harvey Milk made significant contributions to LGBTQ history during his remarkable career, particularly through his work as a politician and activist. Some of his key contributions include:

Anti-Discrimination Laws: As a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Milk sponsored and helped pass an anti-discrimination ordinance that protected individuals from discrimination based on their sexual orientation. This was a groundbreaking piece of legislation that helped to pave the way for greater legal protections for LGBTQ individuals.

Advocacy for LGBTQ Youth: Milk was a vocal advocate for LGBTQ youth, recognizing that they faced unique challenges and discrimination. He worked to create safe spaces for LGBTQ youth, including through the establishment of the Castro Street Fair, which provided a space for LGBTQ individuals to celebrate their identity and community.

Electoral Success: Milk’s electoral success as an openly gay politician was itself a significant contribution to LGBTQ history. His election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 represented a major breakthrough for the LGBTQ community, helping to demonstrate that LGBTQ individuals could succeed in elected office.

Role Model and Inspiration: Milk’s visibility as a successful LGBTQ politician and activist made him a role model and inspiration for countless individuals within the LGBTQ community. His commitment to fighting for equality and justice helped to energize and mobilize the LGBTQ rights movement campaigns, inspiring many to join the fight for their rights.

Overall, Harvey Milk’s contributions to LGBTQ history were significant and far-reaching. His advocacy work and political success helped to pave the way for greater acceptance and equality for LGBTQ individuals, and his legacy continues to inspire activists and leaders to this day.

Harvey Milk Day

Observed annually on May 22nd, Harvey Milk Day is a time to celebrate Milk’s contributions to the LGBTQ community and to continue the fight for equality and justice.

On Harvey Milk Day, people all over the world come together to remember Milk’s message of hope and equality. They hold events and celebrations, share stories and memories, and recommit themselves to the fight for LGBTQ rights. It’s a day to honor Milk’s life and legacy and to continue the work that he started.

But Harvey Milk Day is more than just a commemoration of the past. It’s a call to action, a reminder that the fight for LGBTQ rights is far from over and we must continue to fight against the widespread hostility the community continues to face. Whether it’s through supporting LGBTQ organizations, educating ourselves and others, or advocating for policies that promote equality, we all have a role to play in continuing Milk’s legacy.

Harvey Milk once said, “I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living.” On Harvey Milk Day, we celebrate Milk’s hope and perseverance, and we renew our commitment to creating a world where LGBTQ individuals are treated with dignity and respect.

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Continuing Harvey Milk’s Legacy

Milk’s contributions to LGBTQ history cannot be overstated. He helped to create a sense of community among queer people in San Francisco and beyond by founding organizations such as the Castro Village Association and the Gay Rights Advocates.

The Castro Village Association started as a group of gay business owners and residents who sought to revitalize the area, which had been hit hard by economic decline and neglect. Under the leadership of Harvey Milk, who served as president from 1974-75, the association became an influential political force that advocated for LGBTQ rights and social justice.

Harvey Milk also played a key role in defeating California’s Proposition 6, which would have banned LGBTQ public school teachers from working. Even after his tragic assassination at the age of 48, Milk’s legacy has endured as an inspiration to generations of activists fighting for equality.

Today we honor Harvey Milk by continuing his work toward creating a more just world for all people regardless of their race, gender identity, or sexuality. We advocate for policies that protect vulnerable populations against discrimination or hate crimes while striving to create safe spaces where everyone feels valued and respected.

Prefer to watch? Join me and Sterling D. Walker (AMFT), a psychotherapist associate, personal trainer, and wellness coach. Sterling’s unique background allows him to combine his insights into mental health with best practices in physical fitness and overall wellness. The result is an extraordinary journey that heals both mind and body, touching on exercise, nutrition, gut health, managing emotions, finding community and healing trauma.   Sterling D. Walker is a psychotherapist (AMFT), a certified Health & Wellness Coach, and a personal trainer with almost 2 decades of experience. His mission is to encourage others to connect with their body, mind, and soul through health, wellness, community, fellowship, and empathy.

As a therapist, I often discuss the importance of physical activity with my clients as part of their overall treatment plan. The gym-brain connection refers to the scientifically proven relationship between exercise (movement) and mental health.

Exercise has been shown to increase our energy levels and the production of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. These neurotransmitters are responsible for regulating our mood, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. When we exercise, we release these neurotransmitters, which can help to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.

Additionally, exercise has been found to increase the volume of the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning. This means that exercise not only has short-term benefits for our mental health but also long-term benefits for our cognitive functioning.

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The Science Behind the Connection

The connection between exercise and mental health is supported by scientific research that has identified several mechanisms that underlie this relationship. One such mechanism involves the release of neurotransmitters in the brain during physical activity. These neurotransmitters include endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin, which are responsible for regulating our mood, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. Exercise triggers the release of the neurotransmitters, leading to a sense of well-being and reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Another mechanism involves the production of growth factors, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), that are important for the growth and maintenance of neurons in the brain. Exercise has been found to increase the production of BDNF, which is associated with improved cognitive function and a reduced risk of neurodegenerative diseases. Finally, exercise has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body, which has been linked to several mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety.

Taken together, these mechanisms provide a scientific basis for the gym-brain connection. Incorporating regular exercise into our life can lead to both improved physical health and mental health outcomes, including reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, improved cognitive function, and a reduced risk of neurodegenerative diseases.

woman exercising at home

Benefits of Exercise for Mental Health

As a mental health professional, I often recommend exercise as part of a holistic approach to mental health treatment. I work with my clients to identify the type of physical exercise they enjoy and can realistically incorporate into their daily routine. I also emphasize the importance of consistency and finding a form of exercise that is sustainable in the long term.

Furthermore, I collaborate with a dear friend of mine, Sterling Walker, a Fitness and Wellness Coach and an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (AMFT) to help my clients find their way to their authentic selves while also improving their physical and mental well-being.

Sterling is more than a personal trainer who can help you find your own rhythm in the gym. He can assist you in your journey to develop a connection between your physical body and your mind and soul, as well as find ways to integrate into the fitness community and overcome the loneliness that most of his clients experience. He utilizes both his personal training background and his therapy education to create holistic treatment plans for all of his clients.

Sure, getting in shape can boost your self-confidence and put a spring in your step, but both Sterling and I see beyond the physical benefits of going to the gym and can’t praise enough the mental health benefits that accompany an exercise routine and finding community.

Enhanced sense of belonging

It is very important to find a place to work out that is safe and has a welcoming environment. During these experiences, many individuals find others that they can connect with who share similar goals and interests.

In group exercise classes, participants often develop a sense of camaraderie as they work together towards a common goal. This can create a sense of belonging and community, which can be particularly valuable for people who may feel isolated or disconnected in other areas of their lives.

Sterling Walker, for instance, has created wellness retreats for his clients where they’ve gone on trips to Salt Lake City and Palm Springs in addition to dinner get-togethers in Los Angeles. He also has wellness retreats for individuals who work out with him to build a bigger sense of belonging and community for his clients.

These retreats offer a safe and supportive space for gay men to connect with others who share similar experiences, build meaningful relationships, and focus on their mental, physical, and emotional well-being. This can be particularly valuable for combating the isolation and loneliness that many marginalized communities experience due to discrimination, societal pressures, and the challenges of finding acceptance and support within their communities.

In addition to more formal group exercise classes, some gyms offer social events and support groups that can further enhance a sense of belonging. These events can provide an opportunity for gym members to socialize outside of regular exercise classes and develop deeper connections with one another. For people struggling with mental health, an enhanced sense of belonging and community can be a powerful tool in the journey toward recovery.

woman lifting weights in the gym

Reduction in stress and anxiety

Physical activity has been shown to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is often elevated in people who suffer from chronic stress. By reducing cortisol levels, exercise can help to alleviate symptoms of stress, such as fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. Working out can be particularly effective for reducing stress and anxiety because it provides an outlet for heavy emotions.

The act of working out can be meditative and calming, allowing you to clear your mind and focus on the present moment. In addition to the physical benefits of exercise, going to the gym can also provide a sense of accomplishment and control. By setting and achieving fitness goals, you can build self-confidence and resilience, which may help you better manage stress and anxiety symptoms in other areas of your life.

Improved mood and self-esteem

Physical activity releases neurotransmitters that can improve our mood and increase feelings of happiness and self-worth. This can lead to a greater sense of confidence and positivity. Regular exercise has been shown to increase the production of endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. The release of endorphins during exercise can create a sense of euphoria and well-being, which can counteract feelings of anxiety and depression.

In addition to boosting mood, working out can improve self-esteem. When you engage in regular physical activity, you can see improvements in your strength, endurance, and overall fitness level. This can create a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence, which can spill over into other areas of your life.

Practicing mindfulness after working out can help you relax and reduce stress, allowing your body to fully recover and recharge. It can also increase your overall sense of well-being, helping you to stay focused and motivated for your next workout. Sterling has a special focus on mindfulness with all of his clients after working out.

men doing pilates

Improved gut health

The connection between gut health and mental health is becoming increasingly recognized by researchers and healthcare professionals. Studies have shown that there is a bidirectional relationship between the gut and the brain, meaning that the health of one can affect the health of the other. The gut contains trillions of microorganisms, collectively known as the gut microbiome. These microorganisms play a crucial role in maintaining gut health, but they also have a significant impact on mental health.

The gut microbiome produces and regulates a number of neurotransmitters, including serotonin, dopamine, and GABA, which are important for mood regulation. When the gut microbiome is disrupted, it can lead to an imbalance of neurotransmitters, which can contribute to the development of mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Additionally, when the gut is inflamed, it can lead to the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which have been linked to depression and other mental health issues.

The gut-brain connection also works in the opposite direction. Stress and other psychological factors can affect the gut microbiome, leading to changes in gut function and increased inflammation. This can contribute to the development of gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which are often comorbid with mental health issues.

Studies have found that exercise can increase the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which are important for maintaining gut health. SCFAs are produced by gut bacteria when they ferment dietary fiber, and they have been shown to reduce inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, and support a healthy immune system. Additionally, exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of gastrointestinal disorders, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and IBS. These disorders are often characterized by gut dysbiosis, or an imbalance of gut bacteria, and regular exercise can help to restore balance and improve overall gut health.

Exercise as a Tool for Mental Health Issues

Exercise has been shown to be an effective tool for a range of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety disorders, ADHD, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While therapy is often the foundation for most mental health concerns, regular exercise can be a valuable addition to a comprehensive treatment plan.


Studies suggest exercise can be as effective in reducing symptoms of depression, such as hopelessness, lack of motivation, lack of concentration and sleep quality. Exercise has been found to increase the production of endorphins. Additionally, exercise can increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is important for neuroplasticity and the growth of new brain cells. By boosting mood and promoting brain health, exercise can be an important tool in the treatment of depression.


Anxiety disorders

Exercise has also been found to be effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety disorders, such as excessive worry and panic attacks. Exercise can reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is often elevated in people with anxiety. Additionally, exercise can promote relaxation and mindfulness, which can help to counteract feelings of anxiety.


Exercise has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of ADHD, including hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. Exercise can improve cognitive function and attentional control, as well as promote the release of neurotransmitters that are important for mood regulation. Regular exercise can be an important addition to medication and therapy in the treatment of ADHD.


Exercise has also been found to be effective in reducing symptoms of PTSD, including flashbacks, nightmares, and hyperarousal. Exercise can reduce levels of cortisol and increase the production of endorphins, which can help to regulate mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Additionally, exercise can promote relaxation and mindfulness, which can be important tools in the management of PTSD.

Sweat the Stress Away: Build Your Inner Strength

As a therapist, I encourage my clients to incorporate exercise into their daily routine as a way to manage their mental health. This can include activities such as running, weightlifting, yoga, or any other form of physical activity that they enjoy. I also work with my clients to set realistic goals and establish a routine that they will work for them.

Gut health, sleep hygiene, and exercise are all crucial factors that impact mental health. Taking steps to improve these areas of your life, such as eating a balanced diet, getting adequate sleep, and engaging in regular physical activity, can lead to improved emotional well-being, reduced stress and anxiety, and a more positive outlook on life. Of course, exercise should not be seen as a replacement for therapy, but rather as a complementary tool in the management of mental health.   

If you want to learn more about the benefits of exercising for mental health and how nutrition, gut health, and fitness are essential catalysts for our mental health, hit play and watch the interview I had with my friend, Sterling Walker. He managed to encapsulate the conclusion of years of experience working with people looking to improve their physical health and mental health into a one-hour friendly conversation. Keep learning to keep growing!

Sterling D. Walker

The Day of Silence is a student-led national event that takes place in the United States to raise awareness about the bullying and harassment faced by LGBTQ+ students. On this day, participants take a vow of silence to represent the silencing effect of homophobic and transphobic bullying on LGBTQ+ individuals. The event also aims to prevent anti-LGBTQ harassment in schools and promote safe schools for all students, regardless of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

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1. Origin and History

The Day of Silence is an annual observance held on the third Friday in April. It was first organized by a group of students at the University of Virginia in 1996, who wanted to draw attention to the silence surrounding LGBTQ+ issues and the silencing effect of harassment, discrimination, and bullying at school. The event started a conversation among students and quickly spread to other campuses and schools.

Since then, the Day of Silence has grown into a nationwide movement with participation from both high school and college students. Thousands of students wear stickers or buttons with the message “Day of Silence” as a form of silent protest against anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination.

The inspiration for the Day of Silence came from nonviolent protests such as those led by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. It is meant to be a peaceful demonstration where participants remain silent throughout the day to symbolize the silencing effect of bullying and harassment on LGBTQ+ individuals.

GLSEN, a prominent LGBTQ education network in the United States, added the Day of Silence to their list of official projects in 2000. This observance is now widespread, taking place in numerous schools throughout America, as well as on university campuses, during sporting events, and even in workplaces.

LGBT flag in the air

2. Reasons to Participate

Participating in the Day of Silence is an opportunity to show support for those who are marginalized and face discrimination due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It is a chance to stand up against bullying and harassment in public schools, workplaces, and communities. By taking a vow of silence for the day, participants can raise awareness about the silencing effect bigotry has on individuals.

Moreover, participating in the Day of Silence can foster empathy and understanding toward people with different identities than our own. It’s a chance for allies to listen to LGBTQ+ voices and learn from their experiences. With increased knowledge comes greater compassion, which can lead to meaningful change within our society.

Being part of a movement like the Day of Silence can empower individuals who may feel isolated or powerless due to discrimination they’ve experienced themselves. By standing together with others who share similar values and beliefs, participants can feel supported and inspired to continue advocating for equality beyond just one day out of the year.

3. What Does the Day of Silence Look Like?

The Day of Silence is celebrated every year on the third Friday of April. Anyone can participate in the Day of Silence, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Many schools and organizations have sign-up sheets for participants to register for the Day of Silence.

Participants may choose to observe the Day of Silence in different ways, depending on their comfort level and the activities they have planned for the day. Some common ways that participants celebrate the National Day of Silence include wearing tape over their mouths or Xs on their hands to further call attention to the movement.

The National Day of Silence usually focuses on the activities below:

  1. Education and Awareness: In the lead-up to the Day of Silence, many schools and organizations provide resources and education about LGBTQ+ issues and the purpose of the observance. This may include guest speakers, workshops, or other events aimed at raising awareness and promoting understanding.
  2. Vow of silence: On the day of the observance, participants refrain from speaking, except when necessary, to highlight the silence faced by LGBTQ+ individuals due to harassment and discrimination. Many participants wear stickers or clothing that indicate their participation in the Day of Silence. Some schools and organizations also hold events such as marches, rallies, or vigils to mark the day.
  3. Breaking the Silence: At the end of the day, participants often break their silence together with others, symbolizing the power of community and support.
  4. Reflection and Follow-Up: After the Day of Silence, participants may reflect on their experience and the importance of the observance. This may include follow-up events or discussions about how to continue to support and promote the well-being of the LGBTQ+ community.

LGBT community supporting each other

4. Best Practices for Observing

Observing the Day of Silence is a powerful way to show support for those in the LGBTQ+ community who face discrimination and bullying. To make the most out of your observance, here are some best practices to keep in mind.

  1. Plan ahead: Decide how you will observe the Day of Silence, whether you will participate individually or as part of a group, and what resources you need. Make sure to inform your teachers, colleagues or supervisors, and friends beforehand so they understand why you will be silent throughout the school day. Participants in the Day of Silence usually end their day with Breaking the Silence rallies and events.
  2. Educate yourself: Learn about the issues facing the LGBTQ+ community and the history and purpose of the Day of Silence. This will help you to communicate effectively with others about why you are participating.
  3. Choose your method of silence: You can choose to be silent for the entire day, for a portion of the day, or for a specific period of time. While this may be challenging, it allows you to truly experience what it’s like to be silenced and marginalized. During this time, try to reflect on your own biases and how they may contribute to discrimination against others.
  4. Communicate effectively: Use written or digital communication tools such as notes, emails, or messages to communicate your reason for silence to people who may not understand what you are doing. This is especially important in academic and professional settings, so as not to disrupt necessary communication.
  5. Be aware that not everyone will be supportive: Remember that not everyone will understand or support your participation in the Day of Silence. Be aware of those who may have different opinions and engage in productive dialogue where possible.
  6. Use social media: Social media can be a powerful tool for sharing information and promoting awareness about the Day of Silence. Share resources, images, and messages related to the Day of Silence on your social media channels to encourage others to get involved.
  7. Follow up: After the Day of Silence, follow up with others to continue the conversation and promote ongoing awareness and support for the LGBTQ+ community.

Use your voice before and after the Day of Silence to advocate for change in your community. Spread awareness about issues facing the LGBTQ+ community and take action when necessary by supporting organizations or contacting local officials about policies that need to be changed for the lives of the LGBTQ+ community. By observing the Day of Silence with intentionality and purpose, you can help create positive change for all individuals regardless of their sexual orientation  and/or gender identity.

LGBTQ celebration in October

5. Why We Should Observe the Day of Silence

The Day of Silence started with hundreds of students, only to grow bigger and bigger every year. Today, over 10,000 institutions are registered as participants at the event, and all 50 states are represented in this number, as well as other countries, such as Singapore and New Zealand.

The Day of Silence helps to raise awareness about the discrimination, harassment, and bullying that many members of the LGBTQ+ community face, particularly in an educational setting. By being silent, participants symbolize the silencing effect of this harassment and discrimination.

This is a powerful way to show support for the LGBTQ+ community and to let them know that they are not alone in their struggles. It can also help to create a sense of community among LGBTQ+ individuals and their allies.

Furthermore, by observing the Day of Silence, we can encourage others to be more inclusive and accepting of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. It can also help to create a safer and more welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ individuals in schools and other settings.

In addition to being a way for students to show their support for LGBTQ+ rights and raise awareness about discrimination, the Day of Silence has also been used as an opportunity for educational institutions to evaluate their policies regarding LGBTQ+ issues. Many schools have taken steps towards creating safer spaces for LGBTQ+ students by implementing anti-bullying programs or establishing gay-straight alliances (GSAs).

Overall, the Day of Silence continues to be an important event in promoting tolerance and acceptance toward all individuals regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

man from lgbt community during silence day

Helpful Resources

Here is a list of resources for those who want to attend the Day of Silence:

  • GLSEN – GLSEN is a national organization that works to create safe and inclusive schools for LGBTQ+ students. Their website includes resources for participating in the Day of Silence, including tips for getting started and organizing events.
  • The Trevor Project – The Trevor Project provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ+ youth. Their website includes resources for participating in the Day of Silence, as well as information on LGBTQ+ issues and resources for mental health support.
  • Human Rights Campaign – The Human Rights Campaign is a national organization that advocates for LGBTQ+ rights. Their website includes resources for participating in the Day of Silence, as well as information on LGBTQ+ issues and ways to get involved in advocacy and activism.
  • It Gets Better Project – The It Gets Better Project is a nonprofit organization that works to uplift and support LGBTQ+ youth. Their website includes resources for participating in the Day of Silence, as well as information on resources for mental health support and community-building.
  • PFLAG – PFLAG is a national organization that provides support and resources for LGBTQ+ individuals and their families. Their website includes resources for participating in the Day of Silence, as well as information on resources for support and community-building.
  • National Center for Transgender Equality – The National Center for Transgender Equality is an organization that advocates for policies and laws that support transgender people. Their website includes resources for participating in the Day of Silence, as well as information on transgender issues and resources for support.
  • Lambda Legal – Lambda Legal is a national organization that advocates for LGBTQ+ rights through legal action and policy change. Their website includes resources for participating in the Day of Silence, as well as information on LGBTQ+ issues and ways to get involved in advocacy.

These are just a few of the many resources available for those who  participate in the National Day of Silence and support the LGBTQ+ community.

Romantic partners often struggle with an essential element: setting boundaries. Relationship boundaries can be difficult to establish and carry out. Social conditioning, not having the necessary knowledge, or worrying about the other person’s perception and response can compromise one’s boundaries.

Everybody responds to boundaries differently and many don’t want to risk having their romantic partner feel insulted or turned off by their need to set boundaries. At times adopting boundaries in a relationship may be perceived as rejection or dismissiveness.

While boundaries can be difficult to establish, they play an important role in healthy relationship dynamics. Fortunately, there are ways to build boundaries in a respectful way that don’t exclude mutual understanding. Healthy boundaries will earn you your partner’s respect and a personal space indispensable for growth and well-being.

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What Does a Healthy Relationship Look Like

Defining a healthy relationship isn’t easy because each individual has their distinctive needs. Still, there are numerous signs that can indicate when a relationship is going in the right direction:

  • There is mutual respect and the desire to tend to your partner’s needs
  • Intimacy flourishes and it is based on vulnerability
  • Communication is thorough and open
  • You trust your partner enough to share your weaknesses, past, and desires (and vice versa)
  • Both of you express lots of fondness and affection
  • Both of you enjoy spending quality time together
  • You enjoy alone time or spend time with your friends away from your partner
  • You have your togetherness and your personal space
  • You feel that you have both a partnership and a deep friendship
  • There is shared responsibility in terms of growing and evolving as a couple and as individuals

As you’ve probably figured out already, most of these characteristics spring from healthy boundaries.


What Are Personal Boundaries

The term refers to setting healthy borders and letting your partner know what you feel comfortable with. In other words, a boundary tells them when to stop without crossing a certain line.

Boundaries in a relationship can define many things – one’s individuality, responsibilities, and emotional and physical needs. Essentially, boundaries are about the relationship that you have with yourself and the things you need in order to thrive. Your sense of identity and confidence are both heavily dependent on boundary establishment.

Types of Relationship Boundaries

There are various types of boundaries that will play an important role in a healthy relationship:

  • Emotional boundaries: They are linked to your feelings and having your emotional needs met. What would you like to do when you feel upset? Or needy? Or angry? It’s essential to communicate this information with your partner so that they can respond adequately when the situation arises.
  • Physical boundaries: How do you like your body to be treated? How important is your personal space? What about privacy? All of these elements fall under the physical boundaries umbrella. Are you comfortable with public displays of affection? Do you like to cuddle when you sleep, or would you like to be left alone? How do you feel about nudity? These are important questions pertaining to the setting of physical boundaries.
  • Sexual boundaries: Define what you feel comfortable with during intimacy. While sexual boundaries can be very difficult to communicate, they’re essential if you want to have a safe and connected sex life.
  • Other kinds of boundaries: Many people have additional boundaries depending on their character, lifestyle needs, and individual preferences. These may include financial boundaries, intellectual boundaries, time boundaries (setting your priorities and letting a partner know how much time you can dedicate to various aspects of the relationship), and material and spiritual boundaries.

Examples of Healthy Relationship Boundaries

Now that you know the various boundary categories, let’s discover a few actual examples to shed more clarity on how they look.

An example of an effective boundary in the physical realm may be asking your partner to touch you in a certain way or to give you privacy while you’re using the bathroom.

An emotional boundary would look like this: “I am very anxious and stressed out right now. Talking about our relationship isn’t a good idea for the moment. Could you please give me some time?”

Sexual boundaries come in many shapes. Asking for consent before trying something new is one of them. Discussing birth control or STD screening is also an example of a healthy sexual boundary.

couple of women smiling

How to Set Relationship Boundaries

Your happiness and the health of the romantic relationship both depend on healthy boundaries. In order to successfully establish them you’ll need to go through a few important steps:

  • Know what you want in a relationship: There are certain non-negotiable boundaries you need to be happy. Start out with the “big” boundaries and inform your partner about them. The sooner you start the conversation, the easier it will be to build the kind of relationship you find fulfilling. Try to direct the conversation towards your partner’s boundaries, as well.
  • Talk to your partner openly about your needs: This step often involves challenging conversations. Talking about sex, money or spirituality can be difficult because these are all sensitive topics. If you keep an open mind, you’re clear, and time the conversation correctly, however, you’ll be on the path to success.
  • Understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy boundaries: Unhealthy boundaries tend to be very rigid and motivated by the wrong thing. The desire to control your partner can be a very bad motivator. The same applies to the fear of rejection. You should have a good understanding of healthy boundaries and the role they play in relationships. It’s also important to know that boundaries can change with the passage of time. Keep an open mind and work on addressing boundary issues or the overall lack of boundaries. By doing so, you’ll evolve alongside the partnership you’re building right now.
  • Learn from your mistakes: Mistakes are inevitable. If you view them as learning opportunities, you can set healthier boundaries in the future.
  • Listen to your partner: Setting boundaries is a bi-directional process. In other words, you have to put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Understand their needs, desires, and non-negotiables. Try to find the middle ground between your needs and theirs. Remain open to further discussion in the future. Fulfilling your partner’s needs may sometimes be difficult but it’s the only way to build trust and happiness.

A healthy relationship takes into account the boundaries of two people. These are set with respect and clear communication. Learning how to set boundaries takes time. Start early enough in the relationship and address mistakes on the go.

Having a good understanding of each other’s expectations and handling challenges/opportunities together will result in the balance required for a relationship to become unbreakable and for you to fall further in love with each passing day.

Did you know there’s a scientific reason why most of us struggle to make friends as adults? Many of us find it challenging to open up and connect with someone right off the bat. However, this doesn’t stop us from looking for ways to make new friends. Humans are, after all, social beings.

Do you sometimes feel lonely and disconnected? You’re not the only one and it doesn’t necessarily mean there is something wrong with you. Recent studies have found we have fewer friends than ever before. Remote work, digital networking, and hectic lifestyles are all to blame for the phenomenon.

Why is it so difficult to connect and build trust in your 20s, 30s, and later on in life? And is there anything we could do to overcome the difficulties, embrace opportunities and build a brand-new community as an adult? Psychology has some great tips and tricks for you to count on.

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Why Meaningful and Profound Social Interactions Are Difficult for Adults

Children can naturally get close to new people and turn casual acquaintances into friends effortlessly. The fear of rejection isn’t strong yet and the efforts are minimal. Adult friendships, however, are a lot more challenging to establish and maintain.

When we carry a lot of our lived history and experiences into our adult lives, we may find it a lot more challenging to be open and vulnerable – two vital ingredients for any lasting relationship. Unplanned new interactions also don’t occur as often. Even if you’re consciously seeking such opportunities, they can be hard to come by.

Adults also lack the time needed to build new friendships. Sociologists believe it takes about 50 hours to make a casual friend and about 200 hours to turn that acquaintance into a close friend. Chances are you may find it difficult to find time in investing in something new. A busy job, kids, and personal responsibilities can all stand in the way of establishing and nurturing a new social connection.

Start by Leveraging Your Current Social Network

So, let’s say you’re dissatisfied with your social life and would like to add a few new people to your circle of friends. The easiest way to start out involves harnessing the power of your current network. Meeting friends of friends is a lot simpler than having to gather courage and interact with complete strangers.

Getting to meet new people through mutual friends is one of the low-effort opportunities you should employ before turning to anything else. Your friends and acquaintances know you well and also have some idea about the kinds of people you gravitate towards. Even work colleagues can introduce you to new people and present you with opportunities you wouldn’t get otherwise.

A friend of a friend may be feeling the exact same way and seeking meaningful connections too. Finding that person is simply a matter of speaking up and letting others know about your intentions. Even if these endeavors go nowhere, they’ll help you get in the right mindset for new kinds of social exploration.

meeting new people from different cultures and races

Use the Power of the Mere Exposure Effect

The mere exposure effect is a psychological phenomenon by which people develop preferences for the things they become familiar with. The same principle applies to social interactions.

So, how can you use the power of this phenomenon to make new friends? The answer is a lot simpler than you might think – join a group that meets regularly and shares a common interest.

Networking events are a great way to meet potential friends and consolidate friendships. Try a sports class, a book club, a yoga class, an art class, or any social club that meets on a regular basis and practices a certain hobby you love.

Not only will you meet the same people regularly, but you’ll also enjoy an activity that brings you pleasure. A shared interest is an excellent icebreaker. And if this doesn’t do the trick immediately, getting to meet the same people time and time again will deliver a sense of comfort that will encourage social exploration.

Consider Coaching and Therapy

For many people, being vulnerable is the biggest challenge to conquer in the face of networking and finding true friends.

By the time we reach adulthood, most of us will have been rejected. Rejection fosters fear. Many people will simply choose to refrain from opening up in an attempt to protect themselves.

If that situation sounds pretty much like your social life, the time may be right to consider some coaching or therapy.

A therapist or psychologist can help you pinpoint the root cause of your social anxiety and fear of rejection. You will also be provided with the right tools to help you overcome social isolation and cope with such hindrances. Knowing how to work around the fear will allow you to embrace new social situations instead of running from those in fear.

group of three friends hugging

Focus on Quality and Not Quantity

It’s a well-known fact that most adults don’t have too many friends. In fact, 49 percent of Americans report having three or fewer close friends.

That’s not necessarily a problem. In fact, limiting your social interactions is a normal part of becoming mature and knowing what you need from the people in your social circle. As you age, you become much more capable of identifying toxicity and emotionally draining social interactions.

So, instead of focusing on numerous new casual friendships, try to foster a few meaningful relationships. In the world of social interactions, quality is much more important than quantity. You want to interact with people who get you, empower you and have your back.

So, once you establish your “chemistry” with someone, start deepening that relationship. Putting your efforts into helping the relationship grow instead of getting to meet dozens of new people will give you the highest level of satisfaction.

Final Thoughts

Putting your heart and soul into every new acquaintance you make is impossible. This is why you have to be selective about emotional investments. And that’s ok. You are in control and have the power to choose how deep you will go.

If you believe that a certain relationship isn’t going anywhere, you have the power to pull back and opt out of the interaction. Boundaries are as important as opening yourself up to new things.

Once you sow the seeds of new friendships, you’ll have to move on and enter the maintenance stage. Making friends is just the first step. If you’re looking for something meaningful, you’ll have to embark on a journey. To maintain your new friendships, do get in the habit of reaching out, being present, communicating effectively, and showing up for your new friends the way you’d like them to show up for you.

Love is often thought of as a mysterious phenomenon that cannot be boiled down to just one definition. The “invention” of love is often attributed to the 12th-century French poets who introduced ‘l’amour courtois‘ (courtly love) to the world. Troubadours and artists turned the idea of romance and passion into an essential theme that would soon dominate their work and conquer hearts worldwide. The history of love is long and fascinating but is love a truth or a concept?

What Is Love?

From a scientific perspective, the experience of love is rooted in chemistry and biology. When we feel attracted to someone, it’s because their pheromones have triggered the release of dopamine and other neurotransmitters in our brains.

Dopamine works to reward us for feeling pleasure; when a person experiences strong feelings of love, they’re also experiencing intense pleasure that can be attributed to high levels of dopamine. Oxytocin is another hormone released during moments of intimacy or closeness with someone we care about; it helps us form bonds and trust each other more deeply.

Serotonin plays an important role as well – low levels are associated with obsessiveness and anxiety in relationships, while higher levels bring security and contentment. All these hormones work together to create the complex emotion we know as love.

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Attraction: The Biology of Love

Romantic love has long been a source of fascination for poets, authors, and psychologists alike. But it is only in recent years that the science behind attraction has come to light. The chemical reactions that occur between two romantic partners have an incredible impact on their behavior, emotions, and overall health.

One of the most studied hormones involved in attraction is oxytocin, often referred to as the “cuddle hormone.” When humans experience physical contact with someone they are attracted to, their body releases oxytocin which increases feelings of bonding and trust. This can lead to further physical contact and even more intense feelings of connection. Oxytocin also plays a role in sexual arousal by increasing genital sensitivity and making orgasms stronger.

Another important hormone involved in attraction is dopamine, which is known as the “pleasure hormone” because it increases pleasure during sex. When we’re attracted to someone, our brain releases dopamine into our system, which gives us a rush of energy and pleasure when we’re around or think about them. This can create an addictive feeling towards the other person as our brains become wired to seek out this sense of pleasure when we see them or interact with them again.

Lastly, serotonin is linked to feelings of contentment and is believed to play an important role in sustaining our relationships. This neurotransmitter has a major role in sustaining relationships; it’s believed to be one of the main mechanisms responsible for forming strong and positive connections between individuals. People with higher levels of serotonin are more likely to experience an increase in positive emotions, such as affection and happiness, when interacting with others. Thus, serotonin appears to play a critical role in maintaining lasting relationships by supporting healthy communication patterns and increasing mutual understanding among couples.

couple of women smiling

Attachment: The Psychology of Love

Relationships are complex, and what is commonly referred to as “love” can be broken down into many components. At the core of any loving relationship lies the bond between two people, known as attachment. This phenomenon has been studied by psychologists since 1940 when John Bowlby first proposed his attachment theory. Attachment is a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space. It’s an innate need for closeness and security that develops in early infancy with the primary caregiver, usually a parent or guardian, but can also form between adults in romantic relationships.

Attachment theory proposes that our earliest experiences shape how we interact with others throughout our lives, especially in intimate relationships. According to this research, secure attachments lead to healthier relationships with better communication and problem-solving abilities than those with insecure attachments due to trauma or neglect from their childhood caregivers.

Additionally, there are different types of attachment styles – such as secure, anxious-ambivalent, dismissive-avoidant, or fearful-avoidant – that influence how individuals respond to intimacy and show love toward each other. Ultimately, understanding the psychology behind attachment can help us understand why some relationships thrive while others struggle.

Our need for security, our interpersonal styles, and our level of self-esteem will also play significant roles in the way we receive and give love. Our need for security is closely related to our attachment style, as individuals with a secure attachment style are more likely to feel secure in their relationships. In contrast, individuals with an anxious attachment style often feel insecure and need reassurance from their partner.

Our interpersonal styles describe our individual preferences for communication, physical contact, and emotional support. Individuals with a secure interpersonal style tend to be more comfortable expressing their feelings and are more responsive to their partner’s needs.

Finally, our level of self-esteem determines how we experience love. Individuals with a higher level of self-esteem are more likely to feel secure and satisfied in their relationships, whereas those with a lower level of self-esteem may struggle to maintain healthy relationships.

couple enjoying a walk in the park

Love on the Brain – Metaphor or Reality?

Love on the brain is a concept that has been discussed in many ways. From a scientific perspective, two main areas of research have emerged in recent years: those focusing on the physical and chemical changes in the brain associated with romantic love and those exploring whether these biochemical transformations can be accurately described as “love” or simply metaphorically.

The physical changes in the brain associated with romantic love include increases in dopamine, oxytocin, adrenaline, and other “happy hormones.” These hormones result in a feeling of well-being and pleasure, often leading to positive behaviors like cuddling, touch, eye contact, and other intimate acts. At a more subconscious level, some researchers suggest that these hormones cause us to become attached to another person – almost like an addiction – strengthening our bond with them over time.

Studies have found that when people are in love, certain areas of the brain become more active. These areas are known as the reward system and are associated with pleasure. This means that when people are in love and experience strong chemistry, they may feel a pleasurable sensation, much like a “high.”

So, it seems that although the phrase “love on the brain” may be used metaphorically, it is also scientifically accurate. It is clear that when we fall in love, changes occur in the brain that can lead to strong emotional connections and a feeling of euphoria, which we often identify as romantic chemistry.

However, it is essential to remember that this feeling is not necessarily permanent. Studies have found that when the relationship ends, the brain’s structure and chemistry return to their pre-love state. This means that although love can leave an indelible mark on our minds, it is not necessarily forever.

lesbian couple

Pheromones: Smell and Chemistry

Pheromones are chemical signals released by an individual into their environment and act as communication between different members of the same species. They play a role in communication, mating behavior, and other physiological functions. The smell of pheromones is often described as musky or animalistic, but due to its complexity, it can vary greatly between different individuals. When two people interact with one another, they release different pheromone combinations that cause both physical and emotional reactions in the other person.

The chemistry behind pheromones is complex and still being studied today. It involves hormones such as testosterone and estrogen, as well as neurochemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. These chemicals interact with each other to create a unique scent for each individual, which then acts upon the brain’s pleasure centers to trigger physical attraction or even sexual desire in some cases.

Pheromones also have the ability to communicate social status, moods, emotions, dominance hierarchy within groups of animals or humans, and even age-related information about potential mates.

The effects of love pheromones on a person’s behavior are not yet fully understood. However, research suggests that they can help to foster feelings of intimacy and connection, as well as increase the chances of a successful relationship. It is thought that the effects of love pheromones are more likely to be effective in the early stages of a relationship when feelings of attraction and love are still developing.

couple hugging on the sofa at home

Intimacy: Long-Term Bonding

Long-term bonding is the result of an intimate relationship that involves a deep connection between two or more individuals. This type of bond can be created through physical, mental, and emotional intimacy. Physical intimacy includes close contact with one another, such as kissing, hugging, and cuddling, while mental and emotional intimacy involves honest communication, trust, and shared understanding.

Intimacy is a crucial component of any relationship, but it is especially important in long-term relationships where love and trust must be cultivated over time. While the definition of intimacy can vary from person to person, it generally refers to a feeling of closeness and connection between two people that is more than a physical attraction.

From a psychological perspective, intimacy is an essential component of healthy relationships because it promotes strong bonds between two people and helps to create a safe and secure environment where both partners can express their feelings openly.

Intimacy is often seen as a cornerstone of successful long-term relationships, as it allows couples to build a deep, trusting bond with one another. It is through this bond that couples can share their most intimate thoughts and feelings, allowing them to be truly vulnerable with one another. This trust and openness make it much easier for couples to communicate openly and honestly, allowing them to work through any issues they may have.

Intimacy is essential for couples to understand each other’s needs and wants, as well as for them to feel secure in their relationship. Intimacy can help to create a safe and secure environment where both partners feel safe to express their true feelings and desires without fear of rejection. This, in turn, can help to strengthen the commitment between two people, allowing them to develop a strong and lasting bond of love and trust.

gay couple

Conclusion: Unraveling the Mystery of Love

In the end, the mystery of love and attraction can be difficult to unravel. Love and romantic passion are a complex blend of biochemical interactions, hormones, cognitive and emotional responses, and social influences that interact in a dynamic way over time.

Our understanding of the chemistry of this universal emotion is continuously evolving as our knowledge of neurochemistry improves. However, we can safely assume that our experience of love has both physiological and psychological components that combine together to create powerful experiences.

Although research on the subject is ongoing, it is clear from what we do know that chemistry does play an essential role in attracting us to another person and ultimately making us fall in love with them.

Prefer to watch? Join me and Kel Haines, a bodybuilder, personal trainer, and trans man working hard to help LGBTQIA+ folks navigate the challenges of a cisgender-dominated fitness world. We discuss Kel’s journey and how he and others are creating a more inclusive space in fitness, as well as, providing guidance, resources, and encouragement for the under-served LGBTQIA+ community.

If you’re looking for an inclusive personal trainer you can learn more about Kel and his projects below:

Constant Evolution Fitness

Kel Haines Instagram

The Fitness Lab

The Lab Podcast

The fitness industry is a heavily gendered environment, and many gyms, fitness classes, and fitness-related activities are segregated by gender. This can be a difficult and challenging situation for trans* folx, as they may feel uncomfortable or unwelcome in these spaces. Furthermore, gender-expansive individuals may be subjected to discrimination, harassment, and ridicule if they don’t fit the binary of the fitness culture.

What Is Toxic Fitness Culture

At its core, toxic fitness culture is characterized by an obsession with “perfect” bodies, a focus on achieving physical perfection, and a disregard for the physical and mental health of individuals. This culture is often accompanied by a “win-at-all-costs” mentality that leads to extreme dieting in order to achieve the perfect “bikini body,” over-exercising, and a refusal to acknowledge when someone needs help.

The transgender, non-binary, intersex (TGNBI) community is particularly vulnerable to the dangers of toxic fitness culture and the endless chase of a fit body. Despite the fact that the fitness industry is slowly becoming more inclusive, many trans* individuals still find themselves excluded or treated differently. In many cases, they are subjected to bullying, degrading comments, and even physical violence.

It can be especially difficult for TGNBI folx to find a place of acceptance in the fitness world, as they may feel as if they don’t fit in or don’t measure up to the standards of those around them. As a result, many feel unable to participate in activities or seek out a fitness community that they feel they can trust.

The Challenges Trans* Folx Face in the Gym Go Beyond Reps

The idea that someone has to look or perform a certain way in order to be healthy is not only misguided but also detrimental to one’s mental health. This type of thinking creates an environment where being less than “perfect” is unacceptable. Moreover, it perpetuates feelings of worthlessness among those who are unable to achieve these impossible standards and body ideals, resulting in lower self-esteem and overall dissatisfaction with their lives.

Trans* individuals are often even more vulnerable to the negative messages that can be so pervasive in the fitness industry. Discrimination, harassment, and exclusion are all too common in gyms and fitness centers, which can be discouraging and even dangerous for transgender, non-binary, and intersex individuals. Trans* individuals may be subjected to verbal abuse, physical violence, or exclusion from fitness spaces. They may be misgendered, called derogatory names, or ridiculed for their appearance or gender identity. These experiences can be incredibly traumatic and can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Another challenge that trans* individuals face in fitness spaces is the lack of gender-neutral facilities


Inclusive Fitness Is a Multifaceted Approach

Creating a more inclusive fitness culture requires eliminating these damaging stigmas and making sure everyone has equal opportunities to train. It means celebrating all levels of achievement, whether someone is striving for professional success or just trying to stay healthy and fit. Fitness communities should aim to inspire members by highlighting what they’re capable of achieving with dedication and hard work instead of contrasting it against others’ accomplishments.

Fitness should be about positivity and community while acknowledging that we are all different, yet we all want the same thing: to love ourselves just as we are. Transgender, non-binary, and intersex folx need to have a space where they can nurture their sense of self-worth and improve their physical and mental health. Why can’t it be their local health club or fitness center?

Strategies for Creating an Inclusive Fitness Environment

Creating a more inclusive fitness culture for the trans* community, and other LGBTQ+ minorities is an important step in fostering a safe and welcoming environment for all. While there are no hard and fast rules on how to create this kind of culture, there are a few key steps that can help create a more inclusive space.

Put an end to the culture of healthism.

Healthism is “an ideology that promotes the idea that good health is directly correlated with certain behaviors, attitudes, and practices.” It has become a popular term to describe the pressure that people feel to be healthy – and often, it is those who are most marginalized in society who face this pressure the most. Understand that exercising is a personal choice, and everyone can choose their movement practice according to their own limitations. And, no, they shouldn’t try harder to overcome their limits, and they shouldn’t focus all their energy on getting to be “the best version of themselves.” Sometimes, the best version of ourselves is just admitting we have limits. Promote a culture of “enjoying movement” regardless of size, gender, and health status.

Do not try to fix people.

People are not objects. Thus, people can’t be broken. Fitness should not be considered a way of fixing broken bodies. Fitness should create an inclusive environment where everyone can find joy in movement. Exercise should not be considered a healthy alternative to medication. It shouldn’t come with the pressure of getting better. It should come with the joy of being free to move and, most importantly, being human. Transgender, non-binary, and intersex individuals would benefit greatly from this culture of being allowed to be exactly who they are while learning to move safely and securely in their own body.


Understand the layers of oppression.

Unless you are part of the trans* community, it’s hard to understand the layers of oppression this community has to endure. Even when going to fitness gyms! From the risk of simply using a locker room or going to the bathroom to being denied the opportunity to compete in the division of the gender with which they identify, trans* individuals have to constantly be ready to face discrimination, emotional distress, and unfair treatment. Educate yourself and discuss the issues with your fitness professionals and facility staff. Avoid using binary language such as “ladies” or “gentlemen,” which suggests there are only two genders available, as this can be alienating for many. Instead, opt for gender-neutral terms such as “everyone” or “folx” whenever possible. You must allow trans* folx to have the same rights as everyone else at your gym and pave the way for gender-expansive fitness trainers, coaches, and athletes.

Make gender-neutral spaces.

Gender-neutral spaces are no longer a novelty; they are becoming increasingly popular in the fitness industry and available in more and more health centers. As people strive to create more inclusive fitness cultures and embrace body diversity, gender-neutral spaces have become an essential part of that process. This can include making sure that there are gender-neutral restrooms, locker rooms, and changing areas. Gender-neutral spaces can be created in any gym by removing any gendered language from signage or making sure the facility has gender-neutral bathrooms. Additionally, creating a space where all individuals feel comfortable participating without fear of judgment or discrimination is key when creating a safe and nurturing environment for all members.

gender-neutral spaces

Respect everyone’s gender identity

Everyone should be given the freedom to express their own gender identity without fear of discrimination or ridicule. Respect for different genders helps foster a community where individuals feel welcomed, accepted, and appreciated for who they are. This means using the pronouns and name that an individual identifies with and not making assumptions about someone’s gender identity. Additionally, it is important to be aware of the language used when interacting with trans* folx.

Accept that you don’t know better.

We all know our bodies better than anyone else, and no one can ever tell us what our bodies can and cannot do. There is no way one can understand someone else’s lived experience, and this is not up for debate. You can read a thousand books and collect hundreds of degrees, but you will never know someone’s body better than they know it. It’s just common sense. Do not invalidate people’s experiences

Promote a culture of self-care.

Competition should not be the final goal when training. It shouldn’t chew up a person’s self-worth and convince them they have no value unless they meet set expectations. Going to the gym should be about finding a spirit of community in group settings and bodily autonomy and not about harmful norms. Rest should be part of the fitness culture and promoted not as a reward after hard work but as an essential part of self-care. People should be able to listen to their body cues and not feel guilty about pausing or deciding to rest instead of trying to “overcome their limits” and “reach their potential.” Fitness centers should be about promoting a long-term relationship with body movement and not a dreadful must-do on our way to becoming stronger and better.


Practice active listening while respecting privacy.

No one expects you to know everything about every minority or community out there. But you can learn to be curious and actively listen to feedback. Take the time to talk to the trans* folx who train in your fitness center and allow them to share their experience with you. It’s important to also respect people’s rights to privacy as well. Do not force trans* folx to educate you. Communication is vital for removing barriers and creating an inclusive fitness culture.

Provide resources.

Finally, creating an inclusive fitness environment for transgender, non-binary, and intersex folx requires providing resources and support. Consider offering a list of local organizations and resources for the trans* community, such as mental health professionals, medical professionals, and support groups. Additionally, providing a safe space where gender-diverse individuals can discuss their experiences in the gym environment can be beneficial.

Final Thoughts

Transgender, non-binary, and intersex folx often feel a sense of alienation in the fitness world. This can include everything from verbal harassment to being denied access to certain facilities. Too often, trans* individuals feel like they have to hide their identity or risk being ostracized. Many report feeling unsafe in gyms or fitness centers and may choose to avoid them altogether.

By promoting an inclusive atmosphere and having a zero-tolerance policy on discrimination and harassment, providing resources and support to the trans* community, and having an open dialogue about current concerns and stressors the trans* community is experiencing, you create a culture of respect and acceptance in the fitness setting and recognize and celebrate the lived experience of trans folx.


Anxiety can impact a relationship in more than one way. People who experience anxiety disorders often tend to have a challenging time self-regulating, and they’re prone to other maladaptive behaviors like over-analyzing, always coming up with worst-case scenarios, constantly expecting rejection, and seeking out constant reassurance. At times, this may be tiring for an intimate partner.

People with anxiety may experience diminished relationship quality more frequently than their peers. All healthy relationships always require a lot of work. If you have a partner with anxiety, here are the essentials you need to understand about it and the manner in which it can impact your intimate connection.

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Understanding Anxiety: Signs to Watch Out for in a Relationship

Here are some of the most common signs an anxious partner may exhibit:

  • Constantly doubting a partner’s feelings and needing reassurance
  • Constantly worrying that a significant other will want to break up (which can lead to poor boundary setting and neglecting one’s needs in a relationship)
  • Sabotaging the relationship, whether intentionally or subconsciously
  • Waiting for something to go wrong and expressing negative thoughts all the time
  • Frequently doubting compatibility
  • Over-analyzing an intimate partner’s words and actions
  • Being too clingy
  • Exhibiting controlling behavior (checking a partner’s texts or emails, calling them frequently, prohibiting them from meeting certain people, etc.)
  • Having anxiety over certain aspects of the relationship like sex or emotional intimacy, for example

On their own, a few of those anxiety symptoms aren’t necessarily indicative of a mental health issue. When such behaviors and thoughts, however, start interfering with the quality of the relationship, one can take into consideration the possibility of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety symptoms usually affect multiple aspects of someone’s life.

Anxious man having trouble getting intimate with his partner

Anxiety: Important Things You Need to Understand

Here are some of the key facts therapists and other mental health professionals want you to know about common anxiety disorders and how different forms of anxiety impact behaviors:

  • Anxiety is not a made-up problem: unfortunately, society misunderstands generalized anxiety disorder, and many people with anxiety disorders are told to simply get over it. Anxiety disorders aren’t something that those who experience it make up to seek sympathy or attention. They can be debilitating, preventing individuals from enjoying life or engaging in satisfying intimate relationships.
  • Panic attacks can happen with some types of anxiety disorders. People with anxiety can also experience terrible physical symptoms like tiredness, shortness of breath, dry mouth, dizziness, headaches, and others.
  • People who have anxiety may benefit from therapy and professional assistance in order to address it. Couples therapy can also deliver effective results.
  • Symptoms of anxiety can occur in waves.

The Don’ts of Dealing with Anxiety Issues in a Relationship

Before moving on to the best practices and techniques, we need to talk about certain things you want to avoid to reduce the effects of anxiety on your relationship.

Don’t Play the Blame Game

Managing to separate anxious behaviors from your partner is going to be a difficult task. Still, they didn’t choose to suffer from an anxiety disorder. Blaming them for negative occurrences in the relationship isn’t going to fix the situation. Instead, try to discuss the anxiety episode that has caused problems and work together on addressing them.

Don’t Ignore the Importance of Boundaries

Setting and enforcing boundaries when anxiety is a part of the equation can be challenging. Still, boundaries are important to keep toxicity out of your interactions with an intimate partner. Anxiety should never be used as an excuse for unfair behavior. If this happens, you’ll find it much more difficult to build trust and resolve issues down the line.

Don’t Assume All Relationship Problems Are Caused by Anxiety

Some issues in your relationship may be caused by the lack of compatibility, previous relationship issues, or communication problems. You will need to understand these elements to address problems accordingly and grow stronger together.

man with anxiety having communication problems with his partner

The Dos of Being a Supportive Partner to Someone with Anxiety

Below is a list of some ideas that may be of benefit when dating someone who experiencing anxiety.

Understand What Triggers Your Partner

Anxiety attacks can be triggered by different things for different people. In time, you’ll know what sets your partner off. Understanding these triggers can help you diffuse situations effortlessly by simply avoiding problematic behaviors, interactions, or situations. Caffeine, for example, is a common anxiety trigger. The same applies to the lack of enough sleep or frequently facing stressful situations.

Be an Active Listener

Listening and hearing are two different things. In order to help someone successfully manage this mental health condition, you’ll need to work extra hard on putting yourself in their shoes. Practice active listening, be patient, and let them express their feelings and worries without being judged.

Consider Couples Therapy Together

Mental health professionals can help you understand aspects of anxiety and your partner’s behavior that can be difficult to fathom otherwise. Furthermore, you’ll get the tools and resources required to actively work together to increase the security in your relationship.

Take Good Care of Yourself

You may start neglecting your own feelings and needs. Self-care is very important for a balanced, healthy, and happy relationship. If your needs aren’t being met, you will find it much more difficult to be in a healthy committed relationship.

couple looking into each other's eyes during their vacation in the mountains

Final Thoughts

Remember, everyone experiences anxiety differently, and it’s important to communicate and understand each other’s needs in the relationship. With patience, empathy, and open communication, dating someone with anxiety can be a fulfilling and loving experience.

Remember to educate yourself about anxiety, offer support and encouragement, and avoid dismissiveness, criticism, and avoidance. Your partner needs your support and understanding, and with the right approach, you can help them work through their anxiety and build a strong and loving relationship.

Narcissistic parenting is a form of parenting where the parent puts their own needs and desires above those of their child. Narcissistic parents tend to be highly controlling, overly critical, and demanding. They may also be emotionally distant, manipulative, and/or neglectful of their children’s needs.

When a child is raised by a narcissistic parent, they may develop a distorted sense of self-identity. This is because they are constantly receiving messages from their parent that they are not good enough or not worthy of love and approval. The child may become desperate for approval and may turn to extreme measures to seek it.

The child may also become highly sensitive, have trouble regulating, and be easily hurt. They may become prone to anger and frustration and have trouble forming relationships and difficulty trusting others.

How to recognize the signs? How does narcissistic parenting impact one’s mental health? How to deal with the aftermath?

Signs that one has been raised by a narcissistic parent

Many parents have high expectations from their children. However, it doesn’t have to mean that they are narcissistic.

Chronic narcissistic parenting shows clear signs of denying the child’s independence, even later in life when they are an adult. The parent(s) are often not aware of the impact their behavior has on their children.

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Imposing their own wishes

Narcissistic parents reflect their wishes and dreams on their children, repressing their individuality and affecting their sense of self-worth. The parent may force the child to engage in activities they don’t like and pursue dreams they do not believe in.

Suffocating their child’s own personality, desires, and dreams, a narcissistic family will induce feelings of shame and interfere with the child’s authenticity. Narcissistic parent abuse is often correlated with the child adopting a people-pleasing behavior.


Paradoxically, even though parental narcissism often leads to pushing the child to accomplish spectacular results, a narcissistic parent feels threatened by their child’s achievements. Consequently, they will try to bring them down to regain the feeling of superiority. The parent does this through criticism, exaggerated comparisons, and not validating the child’s achievements.


A narcissistic parent uses manipulation, imposing a feeling of guilt. They blame the child for things that originate from their own behavior. Furthermore, they make the child feel unworthy of love and affection for not putting their own needs first.


A self-centered parent feels jealous when the child becomes independent. They expect to influence the child forever, and any sign of independence results in envy. The behavior can go to extremes, and they might even feel the adult child’s romantic partner is a competition.


Attention seeker

The narcissistic parent often displays a superior attitude and brags about their “success,” looking to always be the center of attention. Social media is often an outlet for narcissistic personas, feeding their inflated sense of their own importance and allowing them to overshare their accomplishments, looks, or material possessions.

What happens when you grow up with narcissistic parents

Being raised by a narcissistic parent can lead to different mental health conditions. As a response to trauma, abused children develop certain characteristics and behaviors that gravitate around a common theme: low self-esteem. Furthermore, children of narcissists often struggle with toxic shame, anxiety, and depression.

Low self-esteem

For a self-obsessed parent, children will never meet their high expectations. Due to constant criticism, the child feels incapable and unworthy of love. These feelings affect the person on a subconscious level, resulting in low self-esteem and types of behaviors that can impact their relationships with other adults and even their own children.

Needing validation

Children of narcissists learn they aren’t good enough and eventually can adopt an attention-seeking behavior in their adult life. A self-obsessed parent expresses their needs for achievement and praise through the child, resulting in a strong need for validation and approval from others.

Narcissistic Parent

Feeling indecisive

The years of living with a narcissistic parent have a toll on one’s mental health, which manifests in different ways. One of the common effects is the feeling of indecisiveness. After years of narcissistic abuse, they still feel they would hurt someone if they choose the right thing for them.

Chronic shame

People with narcissistic traits can’t stand the feeling of weakness. As a response, they will shame their children to achieve their much-needed feeling of superiority and feed their exaggerated sense of self-importance.

Tendency to pick partners that exhibit narcissistic traits

Children exposed to abusive behavior tend to dive into relationships that compromise their sense of self-worth. They are more likely to choose a partner with narcissistic behavior in future relationships to continue the pattern they have been taught in their childhood. Of course, everything happens on a subconscious level due to the trauma that is now deeply rooted in their belief system and, simply put, in their way of life. A healthy relationship with healthy boundaries is a difficult task for someone who doesn’t feel validated.

Anxiety and depression

Anxiety and depression are often the results of children raised by narcissistic parents. The high standards imposed by self-obsessed parents put extreme pressure on children to perform well. Whenever these unrealistic goals aren’t met, the child feels less than perfect and worthless. Anxiety and depression often follow.



After a childhood spent trying to please their hot-headed parent, the child can develop people-pleasing behavior. This type of behavior is often found in children whose needs have been neglected. A narcissistic parent makes the child feel guilty when they try to achieve their own goals and stray from the path planned ahead. And no child wants to be the cause of an unhappy parent. Thus, the child understands they need to cater to others’ needs to be worthy. Therefore, they can become overly accommodating to others.

How can one deal with the aftermath of being raised by a narcissistic parent?

The healing process for individuals raised by narcissistic parents is difficult. However, everything starts with recognizing narcissism.

For a narcissist, their needs are a priority. Therefore, they will put them ahead of having a functional family unit.

After years of emotional abuse, it is challenging for individuals to understand they aren’t responsible for their parent’s behavior. But this is the first step to developing self-supporting/coping behavior.


When the individual understands they aren’t responsible for their parent’s abusive behavior, they can start to set boundaries. No one is obligated to endure unpleasant behavior and emotional abuse.

Therefore, setting healthy boundaries is key if you want to escape the chains of low self-esteem. Remember that it is in the narcissist’s nature to go beyond the set boundaries, so you need to learn to be firm and clear about the consequences.

Get support

Parental narcissism is a sensitive subject, and many aren’t familiar with it. Therefore, seeking help and support from your close friends might not work.

get support

Instead, you can always try to find support groups and connect with people that have experienced what you have experienced. They know what you’ve been through and will understand the struggles you are dealing with now as an adult.

It’s a lot easier to form a connection with someone who’s been through what you’ve been than to try and make people understand your inner struggles if they come from a different emotional background than yours.

Boost self-confidence

A narcissistic parent brings their child down to feel superior. Therefore, low self-confidence is an unavoidable result for children brought up by this type of parental influence.

Individuals who want to heal need to work on improving their self-confidence. They can participate in various activities that enhance their skills and capabilities and create a self-care plan. Adults who were once children of narcissistic parents need to learn to love themselves for who they are and understand that their wishes and needs are valid and should be fulfilled and respected.

Working with a therapist

Recovering from emotional abuse is a lengthy and challenging journey, so seeking professional help might be helpful. Working with an experienced therapist can give them access to tools that will help them move through the healing process.

There is no way to estimate how long you’ll be in therapy for, but sessions will be focused on understanding the root causes, enhanced self-compassion while providing clients with the necessary coping skills to health with the trauma caused by their parent(s).