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mindful moment

Dance, when you’re broken open.

Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off.

Dance in the middle of the fighting.

Dance when you’re perfectly free.

…Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.

-Rumi

mindful moment

spring is like a perhaps hand

spring is like a perhaps hand
(which comes carefully
out of Nowhere) arranging
a window, into which people look (while
people stare
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here) and

changing everything carefully

spring is like a perhaps
Hand in a window
(carefully to
and fro moving New and
Old things, while
people stare carefully
moving a perhaps
fraction of flower here placing
an inch of air there) and

without breaking anything.

-e.e. cummings

melissa: free mindful apps

One of the questions we are often asked is regarding where to find useful mindfulness resources and apps for meditation and/or anxiety, sleep and mood. Look no further, mindful.org has compiled a list of free apps to consider and their descriptions. A list of those free mindful and meditation apps can be found here. Interested in books or journals? We’ve got our list here. If you’re looking for additional resources that are not listed here, let us know!

“Don’t search for anything except peace. Try to calm the mind. Everything else will come on its own.”

Baba Hari Das

Copyright ©Melissa A. Frey, LCSW 2022. All rights reserved. 

 

melissa: joyscrolling

Amidst the ongoing stressful, often very sad news, and overall state of the world, it can be very challenging to find joy in the news. While it can be critically important not to bury our heads in the sand and ignore the world around us, it’s also crucial to find some small semblance of balance in our worlds. One writer describes the concept of joy scrolling versus doom scrolling. Want to know more? You can read the article here. One of my personal favorites is UpWorthy, which finds and shares “the best of humanity daily” via their website and social media.

“Life is a series of painful or joyful moments, which follow each other in an endless cycle. Whenever pain comes near us, our only salvation is to seek places of beauty, joy, and peace. Wherever there is joy, our souls can heal.” -unknown

Copyright ©Melissa A. Frey, LCSW 2022. All rights reserved. 

 

mindful moment

My eyes already touch the sunny hill.
going far beyond the road I have begun,
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has an inner light, even from a distance-

and changes us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on
answering our own wave…
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.

 

-Rainer Marie Rilke, “A Walk”

melissa: kind of coping

As 2022 marches on, I think we are all finding ourselves in the category of “kind of coping.”  We are looking for moments of peace, purpose, hope, and happiness and are managing to find it in small ways, in every day moments.  The New York Times has a good piece on How to Improve Your Mental Health in 2022, which you can access here. While there is no “one size fits all” bit of advice, there’s always something to point you in the right direction. The article outlines some tips on how to cope, and, dare I say, improve your mental health during even the toughest of times.

Copyright © Melissa A. Frey, LCSW 2022. All rights reserved. 

The blossom will always grow.
The seasons will always change.
People come and go,
Their shadows comforting and strange.

The flowers will always bloom
Once the darkness subsides.
When every corner is filled with gloom,
Remember the sun just hides.

Brighter days will follow.
Earth will keep moving.
Look for the brighter color.
Help lift the darkness looming.

-Jessica Bryan

melissa: welcome december

December has arrived and with it, the last days of the year. I particularly like to spend time in December reflecting on the year that is nearly behind us, even amidst the ever-growing to-do list and holiday bustling. In my reflections today, I came across the poem below that summed up some of those reflection thoughts well. Welcome December and all of our musings; may we find some moments of peace and joy in the mix of the busy-ness that is our daily life.

“I heard a bird sing

In the dark of December.

A magical thing

And sweet to remember.

‘We are nearer to Spring

Than we were in September,’

I heard a bird sing

In the dark of December.”

— Oliver Herford

 

Copyright ©Melissa A. Frey, LCSW 2021. All rights reserved. 

mindful moment

The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. What I want is so simple I almost can’t say it: elementary kindness. Enough to eat, enough to go around. The possibility that kids might one day grow up to be neither the destroyers nor the destroyed. That’s about it.

Right now I’m living in that hope, running down its hallway and touching the walls on both sides.

-Barbara Kingsolver

melissa: a new season

Changes of seasons tend to bring up bigger questions of life change: a change of habits, goals, forward motion, progress, or questions about what is keeping us where we are. One of my favorite writers Heather Havrilseky often talks about concepts of what we want out of life and how to consider these thoughts.

In the therapy world, we, too, find that questions of change and what we want out of our lives, jobs, and relationships often bring people to therapy around the change of season. Acknowledging (or sorting out and finding) what you want, in all its fullness, honesty, and realness, is the first step in embracing change and a brand new season. There’s no better role (at least in our minds!) than to be on that journey with someone as they discover a whole new season within themselves that is built with intentionality and thoughtfulness.

Copyright ©Melissa A. Frey, LCSW 2021. All rights reserved. 

“Admit that to yourself. Feed that. Write down what you want. Write down the life you want. And believe in it.” Heather Havrilesky, Ask Polly

mindful moment

Stop acting small.
You are the universe in ecstatic motion.
-Rumi

melissa: the tree

I recently read a piece in the Wall Street Journal, Why a Tree Is the Friend We Need Right Now. Of all the articles, news, podcasts, and books, we all consume, this piece really hit home for me. Nature, particularly throughout the pandemic, has been a very grounding pillar of support for many of us. Nothing seems to embody and inspire the human spirit quite like a tree that has been standing for over a hundred years- despite, and sometimes because, all the changes around it.

I have a tree friend, myself. Well, a few, actually. But closest in proximity is the tree outside of my home office window. I’ve observed nests being built, birds hatching, an owl looking at me from the limbs (closest I’ve ever been to an owl, by the way), wind chimes quietly sounding in the wind, blossoms in spring, leaves falling as the weather gets cooler, and more species of birds than I ever knew we had in our yard in the first place. I even purchased a bird book, so I could look up what birds I observe in my tree friend. Inquiring minds want to know, after all.

I could talk about this topic endlessly. However, there’s a much more compelling argument for said tree friend in the article.  All of this to say, if you don’t have a tree friend, it might be time to find one.

“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Copyright © Melissa A. Frey, LCSW 2021. All rights reserved. 

mindful moment

dive for dreams

or a slogan may topple you

(trees are their roots

and wind is wind)

 

trust your heart

if the seas catch fire

(and live by love

though the stars walk backward)

 

honour the past

but welcome the future..

-ee cummings

melissa: languishing

I think the term many of us have been looking for lately to describe our emotional state is languishing. According to Merriam Webster, to languish is “to become dispirited.” The original quarantine thoughts of baking our own bread, or picking up knitting with “all of our free time” have fallen to the wayside. Thriving is definitely a construct left behind in 2019. Where does that leave us in 2021? While there is so much hope and joy in vaccines and small things re-entering into our lives, there’s also a lot of “re-entry” anxiety mixed with a lot of confusion about the long haul mentality required to exist in an ongoing pandemic.

People seem to be beyond a status of “tired” and entering into a state of “languishing.” Languishing is best explained in the articles linked below, but in short, languishing is neither hopeless nor hopeful. Neither sad nor happy. Neither depressed nor content. It’s an in between state, and that seems to describe a lot of our shared experience right now.

And where does that leave us? Naming our emotional state is, in fact, an extremely helpful cognitive tool. Knowing that many of us are languishing together is another powerful means of building resilience. Lastly, getting into a “flow” state is another powerful anecdote, as described in the first article link below. Want to know more about flow? Watch Disney Pixar’s Soul, or read ‘Flow’ by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, to start learning more.

No matter what you choose to read or do about your languishing, or whether you do nothing at all, know that you are not alone in your fatigue and languishing. While we have many different circumstances, there are also many similarities that unite us as well. Inevitably, sunny days are ahead regardless of the pace at which we arrive at them-languished and all. Eventually, we will be revived and renewed.

You can read more about the concept of languishing here, here, and here.

Copyright © 2021. Melissa A. Frey, LCSW. All right reserved.

mindful moment

I Worried

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
hopeless.

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

-Mary Oliver

melissa: both/and

Up, down, right, left. Things have gotten confusing lately. On the one hand, we’ve got amazing medical advances headed our way. On the other hand, we’ve got some challenges to accessing them and some baffling ‘variant’ conversations to top off our COVID musings lately. Forget what day or week it is (also often confusing and disorienting). What life is it?

It’s strange and confusing to be holding so many emotions and thoughts at the same time. If we felt like we had COVID fatigue before…this is both next level COVID fatigue…and then we mixed in hope, gratitude and excitement. The concept of ‘both/and’ has never been more real. This life is both deeply unsettling and very hopeful.

‘Both/and’ is a therapeutic concept that demonstrates a human’s ability to holding two opposing thoughts and feelings at the same time, also known as ‘dialectics.’ This concept was developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan in the 1990s. Of all the concepts one learns as a therapist, ‘both/and’ has been one of the concepts that struck me as the most relatable and factual. It’s a way to balance out oppositional feelings and emotions to reduce some internal distress.

This pandemic is both extremely taxing in a variety of ways, and also has illustrated the importance of connection and not taking for granted basic freedoms that we have been afforded over time. I’m both saddened to not hug family members, and grateful that I can call them via FaceTime for virtual hugs. I’m both exhausted from constantly taking in a lot of news and media, and also thankful I live in a time when I can easily access this information. I both miss my old pre-COVID life, and also am grateful that I don’t spend very much time in my car these days (driving is not, in fact, my favorite). I’m both not enjoying being indoors so much during a Chicago winter, and also laughing that I met my family outdoors in the middle of January to have milkshakes. The ‘both/and’ list is endless, more so than ever before in life.

If COVID has taught us anything (and I suspect it has taught us a lot), it’s that we live in complicated times with complex emotions, and that we can hold of all of these feelings and thoughts at once. Things are rarely all one way. We are doing about the best we can, and that’s enough. We are both suffering and feeling hopeful. ‘Both/and’ brings some sense of peace, I think, simply because it allows us to feel all the feelings, freely, knowing that we remain in a shared experience.

“Be full of sorrow, that you may become hill of joy; weep, that you may break into laughter.” -Rumi

Here and here are some additional readings if you’d like to read more about the concept of ‘both/and.’

Copyright © 2021 Melissa A. Frey, LCSW. All rights reserved.

melissa: time

Somehow, we are two weeks into this year…but it feels as though it’s been a full year within a year. I find myself saying Happy New Year, but thinking, “Wasn’t that months ago?” Alas, it was not. While 2020 was the year of the unknowns (among many other things), I think 2021 may be the year of waiting. If you find yourself unaware of the day, time, and month some days, you’re in good company. And certainly if you find yourself vacillating between hope and despair, you’re in good company as well.

I find myself often thinking of the phrase by Art Buchwald, “Whether it’s the best of times or the worst of times, it’s the only time we’ve got.” This is, indeed, the time we have. It seems we are all trying to “make the best of the worst.” Practicing “boring self care” seems more important than ever. So, we go outside, even if it’s cold. We remember to breathe, because slowing down our breathing helps us remain calm. We take showers, put on our clean ‘daytime pajamas,’ and practice boring and delightful self care.

Take care of you, reader. And if you want to listen to an interesting concept of how Twitter can loosely predict how the general public is doing, you can have a listen here. I certainly laughed out loud quite a bit, and found myself comforted in knowing, “yep, we are all here together in this strange space and time.”

We are living history as it unfolds.

 

Copyright © 2021 Melissa A. Frey, LCSW. All rights reserved.

 

mindful moment

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of its furniture,
Still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
For some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
Meet them at the door laughing,
And invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
Because each has been sent,
As a guide from beyond.

-Rumi

mindful moment

All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world.

That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors–in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.

-Fred Rogers

melissa: life thus far during a pandemic

I’ve been wanting to post on the blog since hearing the word “pandemic” for the first time, but I have struggled to know where to begin. As we settle into this new normal, I thought it might be useful to point out some of the questions I am commonly hearing these days. This is one of the rare times many people are coming to therapy and discussing a lot of the truly exact same concerns.

1) I’m sorry, I know you are probably really busy, but are you still able to see me even if I haven’t seen you in a while?

Of course! Yes, always yes. Everyone in the office will honor all requests to the best of our ability, myself included.  I find many clients are worried about us, as clinicians, and how we are doing. Clinicians/therapists are trained to take care of others, and we truly want to do so. That’s why we do our jobs. It has been my distinct privilege to be on a journey with many of my clients during various times throughout their lives. While this is an unprecedented time, we are trained to assist and support people through crises. Please do not apologize for seeking support right now; this is what we do and it is our honor to be on the frontline.

2) Is everyone else having a hard time?

I have yet to come across a single person in my life, personal or professional, who isn’t having a hard time on some, if not all, days. In the first couple of weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak, things went from, “Oh, it’s just a bad version of the flu,” to “Oh no, this is really bad. Scary bad.”

Now, I’m finding many of us are growing weary. Weary and wondering: where did my structure go? When will this end? Why is it so draining to even leave the house? Did I sanitize enough when I got back from the grocery store? What is going to happen to the global economy? I feel so helpless, what can I do to help? How long can I wear the same pair of pajamas before I look like I’ve given up hope? This list could go on forever. In short, everyone is having a hard time, though for a variety of different reasons.

3) I see a lot of articles about self care and working on my efficiency at this time. It makes me feel badly; should I be doing more right now?

Ah, the good old “shoulds” and social media. Surviving is what needs to be done right now. Whatever your form of “self care” is, you take care of yourself right now. I wish I could give everyone a list of what would help them to feel “normal” again and bring back their old life. I don’t believe such a list exists. Although, if you have one, please send it my way! Otherwise, I think it’s really a good option to give yourself permission to take care of yourself however you want to: that might not involve cleaning out another drawer or worrying about how much time your children watched tv today. Your self care might involve sitting in silence and drinking coffee, even if you only can for five minutes. I believe this may be a time during which we focus on surviving not “thriving.”

4) Is it hard for other people to get out of bed right now?

Yes. It sure is. If you have seen the movie Groundhog Day, I think life feels like that for a lot of people right now. It’s really more of the same day to day. It is hard to get up some days when all you see is bad news. (I do recommending limiting news, by the way.) That being said, what a joy it is to see so many humans coming together and taking care of their neighbors. Some days, it may be hard to get up, and yet, we do.  That doesn’t mean we have to look for the silver lining, but rather making it through each day and taking it one day at a time versus looking down a tunnel and not yet seeing a light. In the meantime, as many of my clients have heard me say before: we make the best out of the worst, sometimes. Humans are far more resilient than we all give ourselves credit for. Be kind to yourself and others. This too shall pass.

5) Any tips for coping?

I would say this is a rare situation in which we don’t really have a lot of inherent coping and cognitive skills built in. So, we are all getting creative. I don’t think there’s a one size fits all for coping with this pandemic. I’ve asked my clients to create a loose list (either written or in their minds) of their top concerns, and then we work through them together to decide on what some of their specific coping skills might be.

If you want resources, let us know. We will find something that works specifically for you. In the more general sense, here are some of my favorite readings thus far: 

https://www.thecut.com/2020/04/i-dont-think-i-can-handle-18-months-of-isolation.html

https://medium.com/@amillheiser/how-to-survive-quarantine-676d4058f637

And, lastly, one of my favorite quotes that seems to fit with a variety of life situations over the course of the years:

“Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away… and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast…. be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don’t torment them with your doubts and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn’t necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust…. and don’t expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”

Rainer Marie Rilke