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melissa: kintsugi + wabi sabi

During times that feel (and are) particularly challenging, as has often been the case in the past couple of years, we may be left wondering how to continue to find hope and healing.  One thought that comes to mind is the Japanese concept of kintsugi. “Kintsugi is the Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold — built on the idea that in embracing flaws and imperfections, you can create an even stronger, more beautiful piece of art.”

In the West, the concept of kintsugi is often paired with the phrase wabi sabiLoosely translated, “wabi” is simplicity, whether elegant or rustic; “sabi” means the beauty of age and wear. While academics have varying definitions of this phrase, they all come back to a generalized concept of embracing that which is flawed, asymmetrical, unfinished, and imperfect. The etiology of these concepts traces back prior to the 14th century, when the phrases began to take a more “positive” feeling of noting the beauty in the imperfect and unfinished.  For Richard Powell, “Wabi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.”[6]

One can do a very deep research dive on kintsugi and wabi sabi and find some beautiful ceramics, theories, research, books, quotes, and more. As many of us tend to do, you can easily start your reading on Wikipedia, and take off from there, should you be so inclined. If you desire no further research or reading, then simply imagine yourself as a ceramic pot with a few cracks and breaks, assembled back together with gold, with light shining through. That unfinished, asymmetrical, lopsided, beautiful piece of art work is you, and it can always be repaired when, inevitably, it has a tiny (or large) crack. That, surely, is an endless source of hope.

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

 

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: 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”

mindful moment

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.

-Maya Angelou

 

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

Before I rise,

like a phoenix from the ashes

or a blossom from a barren winter branch,

I must learn to dance in the burning

of each golden falling leaf.

-Tianna

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: five minutes

Once again, it seems we are finding ourselves surrounded by a LOT of news. Headlines are running through our day, day in and day out, and it’s not usually much news that brings us peace of mind. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the news and challenges that face us currently, it might be time to consider a sustainable self care plan.

Self care is a term that gets tossed around very lightly these days. But, really, it’s mostly about setting boundaries for yourself, which certainly isn’t just a trend, but rather, ideally, a way of life. I like to think about it in terms of five minute increments. What five minutes of your day are you looking forward to? Most people can manage five minutes of peace every day.

If you can keep up with five minutes, maybe you can consider increasing your number of peaceful moments to ten or fifteen minutes. Whatever your number is, start small, and increase that number as you are able to. Maybe five minutes is what you stick with all month, but at least then you’ve made a commitment to yourself to breathe, relax, and refresh. Of note, those five minutes don’t need to be fancy. You can drink a cup of coffee or tea, or walk outside and get some fresh air. I like to change up my five minutes (and sometimes longer!): a snack, a podcast, a true crime documentary (questionable?), a walk (when it’s not too hot, of course)- it all depends on the day. What’s on your list?

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

mindful moment

Regardless of what you have been through or where you’re going, I hope you’re still able to soar to newer heights. I hope you find what you’re looking for whether it’s in faraway lands or at the base of your feet. I hope you find your joy again and laugh so hard your stomach muscles ache for days. I hope you keep the company of good friends and lovers who are worthy of your radiance. I hope you are finally able to reach that deep inner peace hidden within your bones. Most importantly, I hope you find yourself. And when you do, I hope you find that you were always a miraculous and spectacular being, worthy of the greatest love and the deepest peace. I honor you in hopes that you will one day learn to honor yourself.

-Emily Maroutian

melissa: how to mindfully take a stroll

If you’ve got ten minutes sometime, I highly recommend you consider taking a mindful walk. Typically when walking, or even driving, we wind up somewhere without much knowledge of how we got there. Or, perhaps there are a lot of wonderful things along the road or path that we may have missed. If you want to get step by step instructions, you can click here. Mindful walks, particularly in nature, can be very restorative and remind us of a sense of connection to the physical and natural world around us.

The general flow of a mindful walk is:

Movement- focus on your steps, the movement of your legs and arms, and feeling your feet on the ground

Sound- noticing the sound of animals, birds, cicadas, cars, people, buses, etc

Smell- noticing the smell of the earth or city around you

Vision- noticing what you see around you as trees move, wind blows leaves, the ground and its texture

Finish up by focusing once again on your movement and feeling your feet on the ground

More details and instructions are here: A Daily Mindful Walking Practice

Wishing you a peaceful walk

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

 

 

mindful moment

The wound is the place where the Light enters you.

Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others.

Unfold your own myth.

-Rumi

 

 

 

 

melissa: puddles

With all the ongoing changes and news in the world, I’m finding myself seeking as many mindful moments as I can. Mindfulness is “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. While mindfulness is something we all naturally possess, it’s more readily available to us when we practice on a daily basis,” as stated by one of my favorite Mindful sites. The concept is so basic, yet takes a lot of practice. We talk a lot about and teach mindfulness in therapy, as there is endless compelling data that demonstrates its effectiveness in coping with stressors, anxiety, depression, and increasing our overall sense of wellness.

I found myself in a spontaneous mindful moment (my favorite kind) earlier today. My daughter was thrilled to put on her rain boots to go to school 1) because she loves her rain boots endlessly and 2) because she knew there would be puddles to run through when we arrived. As I watched her run through the puddles, there was a look of pure joy on her face. Children tend to do that to adults: they convey their joy, innocence and pleasure in small things effortlessly. Their mindfulness takes no effort. It is an inherent skill they possess, as their brains typically aren’t yet filled with a constant running narrative of to-dos, stressors and worries.

I encourage all of us, myself included, to find those moments daily. The world around us is indeed busy, chaotic, and often overwhelming. Yet, this morning, I found myself hopping in puddles, too. My gym shoes soaked (I had forgotten my own boots- mindlessly!), and smiling broadly on the otherwise gray rainy day.

You can find more of our favorite mindfulness resources here.

Copyright © 2021. Melissa A. Frey, LCSW. 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.

melissa: waiting

This year, it seems the month of March is in like a lion…and out like a lion. Which is vaguely reminiscent of March in 2020, and now March in 2021. So, here we are again. Waiting. If there was a word of the year, I think thus far it would potentially be ‘waiting.’ Of course, it’s only March, so there’s a lot of room for the development of a new word. We have spent a lot of time over the past few weeks discussing with clients thoughts of hope, challenges in decision making, and confusion around guidelines. More than anything, perhaps, we find ourselves discussing the process of what it feels like to be seemingly, endlessly waiting.

Perhaps you are waiting to see loved ones, or hug a distant friend. Perhaps you are waiting to meet a life partner, or are questioning whether it’s time to say goodbye to a partner. Perhaps you are waiting for your children to return to school, or find yourself anxious that your children are in a classroom again. Perhaps you are waiting to walk anywhere freely with a mask left at home, or perhaps you are double masking and wondering if Target is a safe space for simple browsing again. Perhaps you are experiencing many of these quandaries all at once.

Hold onto hope, dear readers. While there are so many ups and downs in life, and certainly in a pandemic life, we hold onto hope and wait. Perhaps the old English proverb of “Good things come to those who wait” was written for this very moment in time. The approximately 200 year old proverb certainly fits well in this moment, all these years later. That’s the thing about life, most things come full circle in the end. So, for now, we wait and good things will certainly come.

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

melissa: the yellow cardinal

My friend recently sent me an article about the sighting of a rare bird: a yellow cardinal. Apparently, it’s a one in a million chance you’ll see a yellow cardinal. Neither of us knew that yellow cardinals even existed.

I noted to her that seeing a “regular” red cardinal is one of my favorite bird sightings, actually. I always interpret seeing a cardinal as good luck or a good omen. Whenever I’m lucky enough to see two in a day, I’ll tell my husband about it over dinner. It’s a pandemic, so this is pretty noteworthy on any given day. Though if I’m being honest, I would have brought this up over dinner in the past too. Cardinals are serious business. If we are all out walking, I show them to my daughter. She yells, “bird!” which is basically headline news for her- along with seeing a bus or a truck.

Apparently, lots of other people take note of cardinals too, even in pre-pandemic times. A quick Google search reveals lots of information and sentiments about cardinal sightings, along with a rich history of the etiology of such beliefs.

Whether or not you have aviary interests, I love the idea of knowing there’s a literal rare bird out there in our own big backyard. It may be a one in a million chance, but I know I’ll keep looking for the elusive yellow cardinal. In the meantime, I’ve stopped and paused at every cardinal sighting in the past year- an omen of good things to come. There’s change in the air. 

If you want to read more about the yellow cardinal, you can find information here. 

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

 

mindful moment

‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I’ve heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.

-Emily Dickinson

melissa: the orchid plant

Have you ever had an orchid plant that bloomed beautifully, and then was done blooming? Then, you noticed it was clearly still growing but not flowering. And so, you kept it in your house, watering it once a week- and just waited- thinking maybe it would blossom again one day.

I’ve had that exact orchid plant situation more than once in my life. I don’t have a green thumb, but I usually hold onto the orchids for a long time- figuring they will eventually bloom again. Maybe years later.

Life is definitely starting to feel like that orchid plant in my sunroom. Except this time, I see the tiny buds forming and I have a feeling it really will bloom again. I don’t know when exactly, but I see the signs of growth and hope around me. Cautiously optimistic, there is change in the morning air.

Personally, none of my orchid plants have ever bloomed more than once, but I keep buying the plants anyway. Those orchids spark joy in me with their beautiful flowers. Who knows? Maybe one day, I’ll develop a green thumb. Until then, I’ll wait.

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