Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Health Care and Mental Health Counseling

Mental health counseling used to be a very secretive health care issue, as most individuals who were seeking treatment were stigmatized as "crazy", "nuts", "loony", or just plain insane. Over the past few years, those characterizations have slowly vanished as a general social opinion as counseling for mental health have become more accepted. Occasionally, someone under the care of a counselor, psychiatrist, or psychologist may be accused of these monikers. However, mental illness is more prevalent in today's society, and counseling is now more recognized as an acceptable form of treatment.

According to Dallas Whole Life Counseling, statistics aside, nearly one hundred years of experiential evidence has been gathered regarding the efficacy of psychotherapy. Mental health professionals have documented case after case in which mental and emotional distresses were successfully overcome, stubborn medical issues resolved and the general quality of life vastly improved. These statements are not as easy to prove through strictly statistical means, although much empirical research has been conducted that does support the efficacy of psychotherapy. (This is why more and more insurance companies are increasingly covering mental health treatment these days.) That said, although the majority of therapy clients report significant benefits from treatment, therapy is not for everyone. In the spirit of scientific investigation, the only way to genuinely evaluate the efficacy of therapy may simply be to keep an open mind, try a few sessions, and see for yourself.

If you or someone you know is in need of mental health counseling, you should find a qualified Mental Health Counselor. According to the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA), clinical mental health counseling is a distinct profession with national standards for education, training and clinical practice. Clinical mental health counselors are highly-skilled professionals who provide flexible, consumer-oriented therapy. They combine traditional psychotherapy with a practical, problem-solving approach that creates a dynamic and efficient path for change and problem resolution. Here are a few statistics:

•According to the report, "Mental Health, United States, 2004" published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's (HHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more than 100,500 mental health counselors are licensed or certified for independent practice in the United States.

•The majority of national behavioral health managed care companies reimburse clinical mental health counselors for services they provide.

•The median cost per session for clinical mental health counselors is $63, compared to a median cost of $75 for psychologists, and $60 for clinical social workers and marriage and family therapists, according to a January 2006 study by Psychotherapy Finances.

•All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico license or certify mental health counselors for private practice.

•Clinical mental health counselors adhere to a rigorous code of ethics and professional practice standards.

Clinical mental health counselors, according to the AMHCA, offer a full range of services including:
•Assessment and diagnosis
•Treatment planning and utilization review
•Brief and solution-focused therapy
•Alcoholism and substance abuse treatment
•Psychoeducational and prevention programs
•Crisis management

In today's managed care environment, according to the AMHCA, clinical mental health counselors are uniquely qualified to meet the challenges of providing high quality care in a cost-effective manner. Clinical mental health counselors practice in a variety of settings, including independent practice, community agencies, managed behavioral health care organizations, integrated delivery systems, hospitals, employee assistance programs, and substance abuse treatment centers. The American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) is the professional membership organization that represents the clinical mental health counseling profession. Clinical membership in AMHCA requires a master's degree in counseling or a closely related mental health field and adherence to AMHCA's National Standards for Clinical Practice. Graduate education and clinical training prepare clinical mental health counselors to provide a full range of services for individuals, couples, families, adolescents and children.

The core areas of mental health education programs approved by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) include:
•Diagnosis and psychopathology
•Psychological testing and assessment
•Professional orientation
•Research and program evaluation
•Group counseling
•Human growth and development
•Counseling theory
•Social and cultural foundations
•Lifestyle and career development
•Supervised practicum and internship.

Licensure requirements for clinical mental health counselors are equivalent to those for clinical social workers and marriage and family therapists, two other disciplines that require a master's degree for independent status, according to the AMHCA. A licensed clinical mental health counselor has met or exceeded the following professional qualifications:
•Earned a master's degree in counseling or a closely related mental health discipline;
•Completed a minimum of two years post-master's clinical work under the supervision of a licensed or certified mental health professional; and
•Passed a state-developed or national licensure or certification examination.

The earliest signs of progress in therapy often manifest as increasing awareness of the various ways in which one is "stuck." Relatively early in treatment, according to Dallas Whole Life Counseling, one may likely begin to recognize self-defeating patterns or habits of thinking, feeling and behaving without necessarily being able to change them immediately. Later, after watching these habits at work and discussing with the therapist the causes and effects of these habits, the individual is able to make changes and let go of old patterns. As this self-actualization process deepens, one begins to feel more natural, spontaneous and at ease in all areas of life. Genuine emotions come more freely and relationships deepen. Old patterns of worrying and obsessing become much less disruptive. Rather than being obstacles to the treatment process, these times of increased anxiety, frustration and confusion can propel the therapeutic process to higher levels of self-awareness and more satisfying life experiences. To make the most of such difficulties, however, the client should openly discuss these feelings with the therapist so that seeming treatment obstacles can be used adaptively to further the process.

Mental health counseling has many forms and treatment options based on the issue you may be experiencing. It is best to consult with professionals who can guide you to the best therapist or counselor suited to handle your particular concerns, fears, anxieties, or other mental issues.

Until next time.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Health Care and Cosmetics

Cosmetics have been around for thousands of years. Even the ancient Egyptians used eyeliner to enhance facial features. Very classic. And that was the intent. It was extremely important to them that they looked and smelled good, because the old expression “cleanliness is next to Godliness” is that old – they believed it very strongly. The Egyptians were very "spiritual" people, and believed their appearance was directly related to their level of spirituality. And so they needed to find ways to make themselves look at least presentable, if not fabulous, according to the website TheHistoryof.Net.

The Egyptians were also very resourceful people. Some of the things they came up with were very innovative, even by today’s standards. And cosmetics was one of those things. They had a knack for developing natural formulas to solve their skin challenges. Would you believe that around the fifteenth to the tenth centuries BC, they had cosmetic products that would get rid of stretch marks, shrink wrinkles, get rid of scars, and make hair grow? That’s amazing, when you look at the line of products that’ll do those same jobs today. And today, we seem to need all kinds of research and development programs to come up with the same thing. Perhaps there’s something to be said for natural cosmetics after all. Some of the other cosmetics the Ancient Egyptians used were eye makeup, face creams and body oils, as well as a wide array of perfumes and fragrances.

According to Women', Cosmetics are products people use to cleanse or change the look of the face or body. Cosmetic products include:
•Skin creams
•Fingernail polishes
•Eye and face make-up products
•Permanent waves
•Hair dyes

Unlike drugs, which are used to treat or prevent disease in the body, cosmetics do not change or affect the body's structure or functions, according to Women's Health. Fragrances and preservatives are the main ingredients in cosmetics. Fragrances are the most common cause of skin problems. More than 5,000 different kinds are used in products. Products marked “fragrance-free” or “without perfume” means that no fragrances have been added to make the product smell good. Preservatives in cosmetics are the second most common cause of skin problems. They prevent bacteria and fungus from growing in the product and protect products from damage caused by air or light. But preservatives can also cause the skin to become irritated and infected.

Cosmetics are considered safe to most consumers. Serious problems from cosmetics are rare. But sometimes problems can happen, according to Women's Health. The most common injury from cosmetics is from scratching the eye with a mascara wand. Eye infections can result if the scratches go untreated. These infections can lead to ulcers on the cornea (clear covering of the eye), loss of lashes, or even blindness. To play it safe, never try to apply mascara while riding in a car, bus, train, or plane. Sharing make-up can also lead to serious problems. Cosmetic brushes and sponges pick up bacteria from the skin. And if you moisten brushes with saliva, the problem can be worse. Washing your hands before using make-up will help prevent this problem. Sleeping while wearing eye make-up can cause problems too. If mascara flakes into your eyes while you sleep, you might wake up with itching, bloodshot eyes, infections, or eye scratches. So be sure to remove all make-up before going to bed. Cosmetic products that come in aerosol containers also can be a hazard. For example, it is dangerous to use aerosol hairspray near heat, fire, or while smoking. Until hairspray is fully dry, it can catch on fire and cause serious burns. Fires related to hairsprays have caused injuries and death. Aerosol sprays or powders also can cause lung damage if they are deeply inhaled into the lungs.

According to, the Food and Drug Administration has almost no authority to regulate cosmetics. FDA cannot require safety testing of products before they are sold, and does not systematically assess the safety of ingredients. Instead, the cosmetic industry polices the safety of its own products through a safety panel that is run and funded by the industry's trade association. In the absence of mandated testing or even FDA guidance on product safety, some companies make products safe enough to eat, while other companies routinely add carcinogens and other hazardous chemicals to their formulations. The chemicals present in any one cosmetic product are unlikely to cause harm. But most people do not use just one product. Think about how many products you use in a single day - from toothpaste to soap, shampoo, hair conditioner, deodorant, body lotion, shaving products and makeup - and how many products you use in a year, and over a lifetime. Small amounts of toxic chemicals add up and can accumulate in your body through cosmetic use and through other chemical exposures in food, water and air. Chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects do not belong in personal care products, period.

Major loopholes in federal law allow the $50 billion cosmetics industry to put unlimited amounts of chemicals into personal care products with no required testing, no required monitoring of health effects, and inadequate labeling requirements. Neither cosmetic products nor cosmetic ingredients are reviewed or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before they are sold to the public. The FDA cannot require companies to do safety testing of their cosmetic products before marketing, according to

You may also need to watch certain "all natural" products that contain substances taken from plants. These products may be more at risk for bacteria. Since these products contain no preservatives or have non-traditional ones, your risk of infection may be greater. If you don't store these products as directed, they may expire before the expiration date. For example, cosmetics stored in high heat may go bad faster than the expiration date. On the other hand, products stored the way they should be can be safely used until they expire, according to Women's Health.

There are so many players in the cosmetics game now, like Estee Lauder, Elizabeth Arden, Mac Cosmetics, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Avon, Clinique, L’Oreal, Bobbi Brown cosmetics, Victoria Jackson cosmetics – everybody’s getting into the picture with their own lines. And the winner of this cosmetic game is you, the consumer. Whatever type of look you want, whether it’s to cover up, emphasize, illuminate, minimize, enhance or perfect – any look you want can be had with the help of today’s cosmetics, according to The History Of. Cosmetics are products that sell, even when there’s a recession. Women will always find the money for their makeup. And the men don’t mind. After all, they’re the ones who benefit from those good looks. They’re the ones who’ve appreciated the efforts that women have gone to throughout the years, to make themselves “presentable”.

Cosmetics can be useful, but be careful. If you suffer any side effects, contact your doctor or a dermatologist. Using cosmetics definitely can enhance your appearance. Just don't give up your health to have a prettier face.

Until next time.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Health Care and Lightning Strikes

Americans love to be outdoors, especially during the summer. Regardless of the season, though, preparing for safety during storms should be a year round precaution. Storms during the Spring and Summer can be violent and produce large amounts of rain, hail, damaging winds, thunder, and lightning. Each one of these can be very dangerous and sometimes deadly. Out of all storm events, the one most feared by almost everyone is lightning--killing over 1,000 people every year worldwide. Plus, lightning can be extremely costly when property damage is caused by a strike.

According to, lightning is an atmospheric discharge of electricity, which typically occurs during thunderstorms, and sometimes during volcanic eruptions or dust storms. In the atmospheric electrical discharge, a leader of a bolt of lightning can travel at speeds of 60,000 m/s, and can reach temperatures approaching 30,000°C (54,000°F), hot enough to fuse soil or sand into glass channels. There are over 16 million lightning storms every year. Lightning can also occur within the ash clouds from volcanic eruptions, or can be caused by violent forest fires which generate sufficient dust to create a static charge.

Here are a few quick lightning facts from NOAA Weather Service:
--25 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes occur in the United States each year.
--Lightning can heat its path five times hotter than the surface of the sun.
--One ground lightning stroke can generate between 100 million and 1 billion volts of electricity.
--Each year, an average of 73 people are killed and 300 injured by lightning strikes in the US.

How lightning initially forms is still a matter of debate: Scientists have studied root causes ranging from atmospheric perturbations (wind, humidity, and atmospheric pressure) to the impact of solar wind and accumulation of charged solar particles. Ice inside a cloud is thought to be a key element in lightning development, and may cause a forcible separation of positive and negative charges within the cloud, thus assisting in the formation of lightning, according to Intellicast.

When the first strike occurs, current flows in an attempt to neutralize the charge separation, according to the website This requires that the current associated with the energy in the other step leaders also flows to the ground. The electrons in the other step leaders, being free to move, flow through the leader to the strike path. So when the strike occurs, the other step leaders are providing current and exhibiting the same heat flash characteristics of the actual strike path. After the original stroke occurs, it is usually followed by a series of secondary strikes. These strikes follow only the path of the main strike; the other step leaders do not participate in this discharge.

In nature, what you see is often not what you get, and this is definitely the case with the secondary strikes. It is very possible that the main strike can be followed by 30 to 40 secondary strikes. Depending on the time delay between the strikes, you may see what looks like one long-duration main strike, or a main strike followed by other flashes along the path of the main strike. These conditions are easy to understand if you realize that the secondary strike can occur while the flash from the main stroke is still visible. Obviously, this would cause a viewer to think that the main-stroke flash lasted longer than it actually did. By the same token, the secondary strikes may occur after the flash from the main strike ends, making it appear that the main strike is flickering.

According to How Stuff Works, there are several types of lightning:

•Normal lightning - Discussed previously.
•Sheet lightning - Normal lightning that is reflected in the clouds.
•Heat lightning - Normal lightning near the horizon that is reflected by high clouds.
•Ball lightning - A phenomenon where lightning forms a slow, moving ball that can burn objects in its path before exploding or burning out.
•Red sprite - A red burst reported to occur above storm clouds and reaching a few miles in length (toward the stratosphere).
•Blue jet - A blue, cone-shaped burst that occurs above the center of a storm cloud and moves upward (toward the stratosphere) at a high rate of speed.

According to NOAA's National Weather Service, you should be aware of the warning signs for lightning strikes. High winds, rainfall, and a darkening cloud cover are the warning signs for possible cloud-to-ground lightning strikes. While many lightning casualties happen at the beginning of an approaching storm, more than 50 percent of lightning deaths occur after the thunderstorm has passed. The lightning threat diminishes after the last sound of thunder, but may persist for more than 30 minutes. When thunderstorms are in the area, but not overhead, the lightning threat can exist when skies are clear.

NOAA suggests following strict safety precautions for lightning. While nothing offers absolute safety from lightning, some actions can greatly reduce your risks. If a storm is approaching, avoid being in, or near, high places, open fields, isolated trees, unprotected gazebos, rain or picnic shelters, baseball dugouts, communications towers, flagpoles, light poles, bleachers (metal or wood), metal fences, convertibles, golf carts and water. If you can see lightning or hear thunder, the risk is already present. Louder or more frequent thunder means lightning activity is approaching, increasing the risk for lightning injury or death. If the time delay between seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder is less than 30 seconds, you are in danger.

No place is absolutely safe from the lightning threat, however, some places are safer than others. Large enclosed structures are safer than smaller, or open, structures. Avoiding lightning injury inside a building depends on whether the structure incorporates lightning protection and its size. When inside during a thunderstorm, avoid using the telephone, taking a shower, washing your hands, doing dishes, or having contact with conductive surfaces, including metal doors, window frames, wiring and plumbing. Generally, enclosed metal vehicles, with the windows rolled up, provide good shelter from lightning.

Having an action plan for outside events is essential, especially if a thunderstorm approaches. Coordinators of outdoor events should monitor the weather and evacuate participants when appropriate. School buses are an excellent lightning shelter, which outdoor event organizers can provide. Consider placing lightning safety tips and/or the action plan in game programs, flyers, scorecards, etc., and placing lightning safety placards around the area. Lightning warning signs are effective means of communicating the lightning threat to the general public and raise awareness.

Ninety percent of lightning victims survive their encounter with lightning, especially with timely medical treatment. Individuals struck by lightning do not carry a charge, and it is safe to touch them and provide medical treatment. Call 911 and start mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. If the victim has no pulse, begin cardiac compressions. In cold, wet situations put a protective layer between the victim and the ground to lower the risk of hypothermia.

Lightning is dangerous, and should be treated with the utmost respect. It is deadly when ignored. Use common sense when faced with a thunderstorm, and consider the alternatives. Being safe is better than being dead from a lightning strike.

Until next time.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Health Care and Excessive Heat

Summer Time. Just the sound of it makes most Americans jump with joy. It's the season for outdoor fun, water parks, vacations, no school, and much more. Families run to the beach, to the mountains, and to many fantastic locations around the country to enjoy time together away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The summer season is a great time to get away from it all. However, it can also be a time when excessive heat can put a damper on your outside activities. When it's too hot, your body has a difficult time managing to stay cool.

Conditions of extreme heat are defined as summertime temperatures that are substantially hotter and/or more humid than average for location at that time of year. Humid or muggy conditions, which add to the discomfort of high temperatures, occur when a "dome" of high atmospheric pressure traps hazy, damp air near the ground, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Extremely dry and hot conditions can provoke dust storms and low visibility. Droughts occur when a long period passes without substantial rainfall. A heat wave combined with a drought is a very dangerous situation.

Heat kills by pushing the human body beyond its limits, according to FEMA. In extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature. Most heat disorders occur because the victim has been overexposed to heat or has over-exercised for his or her age and physical condition. Older adults, young children, and those who are sick or overweight are more likely to succumb to extreme heat. Conditions that can induce heat-related illnesses include stagnant atmospheric conditions and poor air quality. Consequently, people living in urban areas may be at greater risk from the effects of a prolonged heat wave than those living in rural areas. Also, asphalt and concrete store heat longer and gradually release heat at night, which can produce higher nighttime temperatures known as the "urban heat island effect."

According to the CDC, people suffer heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves. The body normally cools itself by sweating. But under some conditions, sweating just isn't enough. In such cases, a person's body temperature rises rapidly. Very high body temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs. Several factors affect the body's ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather. When the humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, preventing the body from releasing heat quickly. Other conditions related to risk include age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use.

Because heat-related deaths are preventable, people need to be aware of who is at greatest risk and what actions can be taken to prevent a heat-related illness or death. The elderly, the very young, and people with mental illness and chronic diseases are at highest risk. However, even young and healthy individuals can succumb to heat if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather. Air-conditioning is the number one protective factor against heat-related illness and death. If a home is not air-conditioned, people can reduce their risk for heat-related illness by spending time in public facilities that are air-conditioned, according to the CDC. Summertime activity, whether on the playing field or the construction site, must be balanced with measures that aid the body's cooling mechanisms and prevent heat-related illness.

A heat wave is an extended period of extreme heat, and is often accompanied by high humidity. These conditions can be dangerous and even life-threatening for humans who don't take the proper precautions.

Here are some tips to help reduce excessive heat health issues, according to Ready America:

Step 1: Get a Kit -- Get an Emergency Supply Kit which includes items like non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries.

Step 2: Make a Plan -- Prepare Your Family.

1.) Make a Family Emergency Plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in case of an emergency.

2.) Plan places where your family will meet, both within and outside of your immediate neighborhood.

3.) It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.

4.) You may also want to inquire about emergency plans at places where your family spends time: work, daycare and school. If no plans exist, consider volunteering to help create one.

5.) Be sure to consider the specific needs of your family members .

6.) Notify caregivers and babysitters about your plan.

7.) Make plans for your pets.

8.) Take a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) class from your local Citizen Corps chapter. Keep your training current.

Step 3: Be Informed -- Prepare Your Home.

1.) Install window air conditioners snugly; insulate if necessary.

2.) Check air-conditioning ducts for proper insulation.

3.) Install temporary window reflectors (for use between windows and drapes), such as aluminum foil-covered cardboard, to reflect heat back outside.

4.) Weather-strip doors and sills to keep cool air in.

5.) Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun with drapes, shades, awnings or louvers. (Outdoor awnings or louvers can reduce the heat that enters a home by up to 80 percent.)

6.) Keep storm windows up all year.

Step 4: Listen to Local Officials -- Learn about the emergency plans that have been established in your area by your state and local government. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.

A significant amount of info concerning how to deal with excessive heat can also be found online at this site: . The CDC has a lot of material about protecting yourself, your family and pets, and others from excessive heat. The important thing to remember is that excessive heat can be very dangerous, even life threatening. Many people die every year from heat related issues, especially during the hottest months of summer. If you experience any signs of heat related stress, call 911 immediately for help.

Until next time.