Genesis Counseling Center at Nurturing Student Achievement Training

Genesis Counseling Center recently attended Healthy Choices for Youth’s “Nurturing Student Achievement” training for Virginia Beach City Public Schools.

Ramsey Goshert, MA, LPC, presented on the rising levels of anxiety and how students are impacted in school.  The presentation focused on how anxiety disorders can impact student success as well as tips and tools to help public school employees assist students with managing life with an anxiety disorder.

Ramsey Goshert, MA, LPC

Dr. Cynthia Kokoris, Psy. D, LCP, presented on grief and trauma.  From local, national, and world events, many schools need to adapt to meet the needs of students and families. Nine out of 10 children will experience the death of a family member or close friend, and one in 20 will lose a parent.  Dr. Kokoris provided information on tips and strategies to assist school counselors with grief counseling.

Dr. Cynthia Kokoris, Psy. D., LCP

The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts. ~ C.S. Lewis


Genesis at the 2017 Annual APA Conference

A few of our Genesis team members enjoyed attending and exhibiting at the American Psychological Association (APA) Convention this year in Washington DC (August 2–6, 2017).

I was honored to meet Dr. Philip Zimbardo at the APA Convention. Dr. Zimbardo is a psychologist and a professor emeritus at Stanford University. He has served as the President of the APA. He is known for his 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment and has since authored many notable works, including The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil and his TED talk on The Psychology of Evil. More recently, he has written on heroism.

I remember learning of the landmark Stanford Prison Experiment in my earliest Introduction to Psychology course at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida in 1986. It is sobering to realize that any of us can fall prey to abuse of power. In my academic career, I continued to revisit the Stanford Prison Experiment as an MA, Ed.S, and Psy.D. student, as well as teach about it in multiple psychology courses. In all my receptions to this experiment, I was deeply stirred and sometimes in tears. An overview of the Stanford prison experiment can be found at .

Dr. Zimbardo notes on his website that he was born during the Great Depression (1933) and grew up in the Bronx in poverty, where he witnessed the interplay of good and evil. This influenced his interest in the human condition, the primary subject matter of his career as a social psychologist.

One of my areas of specialty as a psychologist is trauma recovery, and specifically helping clients who were traumatized during childhood. I have had the privilege in my counseling career to journey with courageous souls in the healing process. I have also personally experienced healing in my own life.

God heals all human diseases (Psalm 103:3). That includes physical, mental, relational, psychological, spiritual, and those of the soul. God alone understands the mystery of good verses evil in our world, lives, and our very human nature. Only God is responsible for redemption of all pain. The primary passage that informs my trauma recovery work is Genesis 50:20,

“What was intended for evil, GOD has used for good and the saving of many people.”

By Trina Young Greer, Psy.D.

Genesis Counseling Center, Executive Director

Substance Abuse and Chemical Dependence

Substance abuse is becoming more and more prevalent.  Substance abuse and chemical dependency develop when the continued use of alcohol or drugs begins to cause clinically significant problems in a person’s well-being.  This can include problems with health, disabilities, or failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home.  Substance abuse is not limited to any one demographic; it affects people from different backgrounds and socioeconomic status, as well as those from different ages, races, and religions.

In 2014, about 21.5 million Americans ages 12 and older (8.1%) were classified with a substance use disorder in the past year. Of those, 2.6 million had problems with both alcohol and drugs, 4.5 million had problems with drugs but not alcohol, and 14.4 million had problems with alcohol only (SAMHSA).

There is a variety of substance abuse disorders, including Alcohol Use Disorder, Tobacco Use Disorder, Cannabis Use Disorder, Stimulant Use Disorder, Hallucinogen Use Disorder, and Opioid Use Disorder.  Each of these can be experienced as mild, moderate, or severe.

Warning Signs of Substance Abuse/Chemical Dependency

  • Using the substance on a regular basis (daily, weekends or in binges)
  • Tolerance for the substance
  • Failed attempts to stop using the substance
  • Physical and/or psychological dependence
  • Withdrawal symptoms (delirium tremens, trembling, hallucinations, sweating and high blood pressure)
  • In some cases, dementia.


Treatment of substance abuse encourages complete abstinence and includes a variety of therapies. By working with a therapist, clients can understand behaviors and motivations and work towards healing. Developing self-esteem and coping with stress are both common goals in the treatment of substance abuse. There are many treatment options for substance abuse/chemical dependency.  These options work best in conjunction with one another, to give the client the best chance at full recovery.

Common treatments include:

  • Individual and group counseling
  • Inpatient and residential treatment
  • Intensive outpatient treatment
  • Partial hospital programs
  • Case or care management
  • Medication
  • Recovery support services
  • 12-Step fellowship
  • Peer supports

Addiction is a disease, but there is help; you are not alone. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or chemical dependency, do not hesitate to call Genesis today at (757) 827-7707 to set up a consultation.


National Institute of Mental Health


Blog Post by Sarah Warner, MS

Stop and Smell the Roses

People often look back with nostalgia on slower times, times when people used to “stop and smell the roses.” Jeff Goins says, “Life is not a race. It’s a walk around the block, a casual stroll through the park, a deep abiding in where you are right now.”   In today’s world, achieving and excelling are often focused on as the most important goals people should have.  Although striving for excellence is certainly biblical, rest is also an important biblical concept. John 16:33 says,  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of life’s everyday tasks, but it’s important to stop and slow down regularly, to take a moment to pray and find peace in our daily lives.

One of the easiest ways to slow down is to pause and reflect on gratitude.  What things are you thankful for? What things do you take for granted? What inspires you? Try to take a look around you and savor simple pleasures. Take a moment for meditation and prayer—your mental health will thank you!

Be still in the Lord.

Blog Post by: Sarah Warner, MS

Pets and Mental Health

Many people have furry friends living with them, but pets can do more for mental health than you might think!  Having domesticated pets encourages people to get outside, and get moving.  Besides increasing circulation, being physically active outside can help lower depression, anxiety, obesity, and even heart attacks, all while the body absorbs Vitamin D from the sun (Huffington Post).

Pets can also be a great gateway to connecting with other people. Dog parks are a great place for dog owners and enthusiasts to converse and bond over common interests with one another.

When you connect with your pet, oxytocin, the hormone related to stress and anxiety relief, is released, helping to reduce blood pressure and lower cortisol levels (Huffington Post). Pets can also be a great comfort since they often tend to seek out their owner when they feel some kind of emotional imbalance. Furry friends can also increase self-esteem, as they typically love unconditionally and depend on their human companions. Having an excited pet to go home to each day can easily brighten your mood.

Pets are also being used more and more in therapy. The rise of animal therapy is backed by increasingly serious science showing that social support–a proven antidote to anxiety and loneliness–can come on four legs, not just two. Animals of many types can help calm stress, fear and anxiety in young children, the elderly and everyone in between (Time Health).

If you don’t have a pet, you can always volunteer at a local shelter and receive the mental health boost that comes from bonding with animals.

Proverbs 12:10a “The righteous care for the needs of their animals.”


Huffington Post

Time Health

Blog Post by: Sarah Warner, MS

Key to Growth … Developing a Learner-Mindset

  • Excellence – Best-in-class delivery of services
  • Teamwork – Togetherness, unity, how we operate
  • Godly character – Uncompromising beliefs, actions and moral standards
  • Transcendent – “Big Picture” thinking and acting – “Legacy” work
  • Ownership – Taking responsibility and doing what is best for the organization
  • Growth – Learner mindset

Leaders are Life Long Learners

In effective teams, leaders and members support each other and share the responsibility of success.  Conversely, low functioning teams accredit themselves with success while attributing failure to leadership (Wheelan, 2013).  Both of these scenarios involve a mindset that is either geared toward growth or remaining stagnant.

The effective team will embrace a growth mindset while the low functioning team will consign to a fixed mindset.  When leaders of organizations are committed to the growth mindset, they cultivate a powerful culture of learning and ownership.  In these healthy environments exists shared pain and shared gain.  Let’s take a look at the game-changing features of the learner mindset!

Being a Learner

  • Learners challenge the fixed mindset by embracing change.  Change is a certainty of life and required for growth.  Thriving organizations consistently identify areas where growth is needed and take action!  Interestingly, organizational health often results in numerical growth.  Personal growth happens when those with the learner mindset are not limited by their perceived lack of abilities, potential, challenges, frustrations, criticism from others, or the status quo.  Try this: begin making your next life change with a more positive outlook by realizing that change is necessary for growth.  You can believe that change makes us better!
  • Learners ask open-ended questions to discover solutions rather than merely stating their opinions as facts. Try this: use what, when, and how questions, steering clear from questions which result in a simple “Yes” or “No” response.
  • Learners seek input and feedback from others. Those with the growth mindset welcome and value the contributions from their team whereas those with the fixed mindset are easily offended by feedback or constructive criticism. Try this: invite others around you to offer feedback or challenges to your next decision and commit yourself not to becoming offended if you perceive the input as unhelpful.

Obstacles are Opportunities

Learners view failure and obstacles as opportunities for growth.  We have the promise of hardship in this life and success is certain to come with many painful failures.  As people of faith, we trust that God uses our suffering to bring growth, character development, and hope.

Failures are Partners in Success

When I was growing up, Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player on earth! I had this famous poster hanging on my wall:


Try this: View your next perceived failure as a partner in your success.  Write down at least three positive takeaways from this painful experience and refer back to them when you need future encouragement.  Fail forward!

Wisdom in Judgment

Learners refrain from being overly critical. We make judgment calls every day – from a simple decision to turn right on red to the more complex decisions like whether or not to place our aging parents in assisted living. Each day presents a series of choices to make quick, passing judgments or to intentionally decide to glean wisdom and insights from our experiences.  Try this: take a quick self-assessment by asking yourself if you give new people that you meet an opportunity or do you quickly write them off?  Do you focus on the strengths and potential of others or do you judge them as lazy, limited, and not very useful?

Guard Your Vocabulary

Learners guard their vocabulary.  While some people are clearly more optimistic than others, optimism can be learned.  I repeat, optimism can be learned!  Negative thoughts can be taken captive and re-framed to a more positive thought or statement.  Try this: avoid saying words like: “can’t, should, and I wish” and use no negative self-talk for one week.  Begin challenging yourself to think and speak differently.

Lead as a Life-Long Learner

Bringing it all home: having a growth or learner mindset will expand your positive influence on others.  If you are a leader, it is your responsibility to develop a healthy culture in your varying contexts.  Leading as a life-long learner will set a powerful example for others to follow and will help develop a winning team!  Always be willing to learn!


Wheelan, S. A. (2013). Creating effective teams: A guide for members and leaders. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Article by: Cameron S. Ashworth, MA

Blog Post by: Sarah Warner, MS



You often hear it said, “Patience is a virtue.” Although it is easy to acknowledge that patience is a spiritual principle to strive for, it is often more difficult to actually practice genuine patience.  In today’s society, we live in a world of instant gratification.  From fast food to modern technology, we are slowly drifting away from the concept of valuing patience and delayed gratification and drifting towards a mentality of immediacy.

Growth takes time and patience.

Although there is certainly some benefit to the convenience of fulfilling basic needs without putting in the time and effort that it has historically taken, it is critical that we analyze the reasons behind the need to take shortcuts.  Growth undoubtedly comes from the process of persevering through trials and tribulations.  “Good things come to those who wait” has also been used over the years to encourage practicing patience.  Especially as Christians, it is important that we pray about our concerns and seek spiritual advice, rather than make impulsive decisions without concern for the consequences of our hastiness.

As Christians, we need to constantly practice patience with others, with ourselves, and with God.  It is easy to get frustrated with people around us, but we have to remember that God created all of us as brothers and sisters in Him, and we all are at different seasons in our lives.  It is also easy to be too hard on oneself, focusing on the negatives only and not giving ourselves credit for our accomplishments.  Taking a moment to appreciate the things we do right gives us the opportunity to be patient with ourselves in our endeavors, to be able to see that growth takes time and patience.

Psalm 27:14 “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

Lastly, in order to truly reap the benefits of God’s plan for us, we need to be willing to wait upon God’s response to our prayers. Sometimes God’s answer to us is simply, “Wait.”

Blog Post by: Sarah Warner, MS

Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory Processing Disorder is when the brain has trouble receiving and responding to messages that it receives through the senses.  Oftentimes,  children with SPD may be oversensitive to stimuli in their environment, such as:

  • Texture/Taste
  • Sounds/Noises
  • Touch
  • Balance
  • Sights

Meet Julia: Teach children how to interact with the new Sesame Street Puppet with Autism.

What can you do to help? You can be a blessing by saying kind and supportive words to the child and family. Behaviors do not define a child.

Sensory items can be a big help to children with Sensory Processing Disorder.

  1. Puffer Balls are great because they are soft, squeezable, and can easily be pulled. They can be used during any activity to calm children, including class transitions in hallways.
  2. Sensory Bottles are helpful for children to hold during large or small group discussions.  These bottles give children something to engage with their hands and soothe their eyes.  Sensory bottles are also very quiet, so they have minimal disruption to surrounding students.
  3. Wiggle Seats are double-sided objects that can be used for circle times, small groups, or a large group activities to help a child sit. If a child has difficulty staying seated, wiggle seats may help calm them by giving them the sensory input they need. Both sides are useful depending on how much sensory input the child needs that day.

Behaviors related to SPD:

  • Excessive/Low energy and activity levels.
  • Problems with social skills, such as biting, refusing to share, and isolation
  • Difficulty controlling impulses, such as aggression, blurting out answers, or jumping out of their seat.
  • Short attention span such as difficulty staying seated for a task, becoming easily distracted by objects, sounds, smells, or movements.
  • Difficulty with transition, such as have anxiety with change, trying new foods, or changing activities. These changes can sometimes result in tantrums in children with SPD.
  • Low frustration tolerance, such as screaming, or having difficulty regulating their emotions.

So, what can you do to help?

  • If a child is screaming or covering their ears, or overwhelmed by sounds/light, it would be helpful to remove them from the situation.  Sometimes taking a brief walk, sitting in a calm room, being around low lighting, or using a quiet corner can help.
  • Allowing time in a sensory room with a ball pit can help when a child feels overwhelmed.  Try to learn the child’s triggers so you can take them to the sensory room prior to the behavior. Fidgets can also be helpful.  Common fidgets are puzzles, sensory bottles, squishy balls, bean bag chairs, and bubbles.
  • If a child is biting or feeling overwhelmed by other children in their space, separate the children. Let someone in charge know immediately.
  • Engage in Sensory Activities. Children with Sensory Processing Disorder typically love playdough, beans, noodles, pom poms, digging in the sand, or other projects that keep them engaged and could provide sensory relief. Try to find ways to incorporate sensory activities into your lessons every day; all children can benefit from sensory activities!
  • For a child that seems impatient or unable to sit still (for example, during circle time), a ball pit may be helpful. The playground can also be helpful to allow the child time to climb and get out physical energy. They can also use a squishy objects, stretchy therapy bands, or a fidget toy.
  • Some children are calmed by a deep pressure hug or a weighted lap pad/blanket. If a parent gives you permission, hugging a child can help alleviate some of their symptoms of SPD.
  • If a child will not stay seated for a lesson, allow them to sit on a special pillow or a wiggle seat. Bring sensory objects, such as therapy bands or fidget toys, and allow them to play with objects while listening to lesson. Encourage children to stay seated and attempt to engage them in the lesson. Going to the playground or a sensory room prior to the lesson can be helpful to allow the child time to get out energy and reset sensory system.  Jumping on a trampoline or in a ball pit prior to the lesson can also help!


Article Written by Meagan Walkley, LPC, NCC

Blog Post Created by Sarah Warner, MS


How to Truly Encourage Children

Praise kids for ACTIONS and EFFORT, not for natural gifts like intelligence. And remember that intelligence isn’t a virtue; criminals can be intelligent, too. In comparison, having wisdom and pursuing knowledge are virtues. Did you know that kids who are consistently praised for being “smart” are more likely to cheat to get good grades? It becomes an identity that they feel they have to protect.

What if we praised our kids more for being honest, kind, and hard-working? Think of the wonderful places these virtues could take them when incorporated into their identity… People tend to become who they are repeatedly told they are!

A little clip from a professor at Stanford to back us up:

“In a fixed mindset, students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.”

—Carol Dweck, Stanford University

Article By: Shelby DeBause, MA, LMFT

Blog Post by: Sarah Warner, MS

Nature and Mental Health

Environment can play a huge roll in a person’s emotional well-being.  An unpleasant environment can often evoke feelings of anxiety, sadness, or helplessness.  Being in nature, however, can result in the reduction of fear, anxiety, and stress.  Even viewing pictures of nature can produce this calming effect.  In a study done by Mind, it was found that 95% of people surveyed reported that their mood improved after spending time outside, changing from depressed, stressed, and anxious to more calm and balanced. Ulrich, Kim, and Cervinka all conducted studies that indicate that time in nature or scenes of nature are associated with a “positive mood, and psychological well-being, meaningfulness, and vitality.

Nature is essentially “easy on our minds,” says Yannick Joye, PhD.  Since nature is repetitive, it can have calming qualities that soothe the brain. Natural sounds can also be soothing; in Japan, taking in the forest atmosphere, known as “forest bathing,” is encouraged to people who are suffering from  high stress and anxiety as well as depression.

Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

So what can you do to get some of these positive mood-enhancing benefits of nature?

  • Make a conscious effort to spend time outside in nature
  • Consider having a houseplant; research done in hospitals, offices, and schools has found that even a simple plant in a room can have a significant impact on stress and anxiety
  • Limit screen-time
  • Encourage children to play outdoors rather than indoors

If you are feeling emotionally overwhelmed or stressed, don’t hesitate to call us and set up an appointment, we are here to support you!


Cervinka, R., Röderer, K., & Hefler, E. (2012). Are nature lovers happy? On various indicators of well-being and connectedness with nature. Journal of Health Psychology, 17(3), 379-388.

Joye Y, Bolderdijk JW. An exploratory study into the effects of extraordinary nature on emotions, mood, and prosociality. Frontiers in Psychology; 2015; 5: 1577.

Kim, T. (2010). Human brain activation in response to visual stimulation with rural and urban scenery pictures: A functional magnetic resonance imaging study Science of the Total Environment, 408(12), 2600.

Mind Organization. (2007). Ecotherapy: The green agenda for mental health. UK: Mind Publications.

Ulrich, R. S., Simons, R. F., Losito, B. D., Fiorito, E., Miles, M. A., & Zelson, M. (1991). Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 11(3), 201-230.

University of Minnesota: How does Nature impact Mental Health?

Blog Post by: Sarah Warner