Should I stay or Should I go? A guide to using discernment in your marriage.

Photo by Ismael Sanchez on Pexels.com

Carrie Mead, MS, LCPC
443. 951. 3986
Maryland Psychotherapist for Depression, Anxiety and PTSD
Considering divorce is painful

Discernment is defined as the ability to judge well. This is a beautiful and simple definition of an elegant term. It is clear and precise. It is impossible to be confused about what it means to use discernment with a definition like this. However, when your marriage or partnership is on the rocks, you will feel anything but clear and precise about the unspoken decisions you need to make.

UNRELENTING THOUGHTS ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP

Anxiety, Chronic Stress, Headaches and Insomnia are caused by ruminating negative thoughts

A million questions invade your conscious and subconscious thoughts. Do I stay and fight for my marriage? Do I walk away and cut my losses? Is she/he the one? Is this normal? What if I die alone? What about my career and our mutual friends? Can I afford to be single? Can we work this out? Would counseling help? Why doesn’t he love me? How did we end up like this?  Do I deserve this? Why didn’t anyone tell me this would be so hard?  I could go on and on but you get the point.

During the day you are exhausted yet, at night, you are unable to sleep.  Concentration is nearly impossible, your thoughts are racing, your career is suffering, and your head hurts. Your relationship has taken a very sharp left turn. Maybe you saw it coming or maybe it hit you out of the blue. Either way, it is extremely difficult and painful. Your heart literally hurts. You now fully understand the term ‘heartache’.

DID YOU MISS SOME RED FLAGS?

There have been some indicators along the way that you and your partner are heading into difficult terrain. Perhaps fighting has increased, or worse yet, you stop talking and now rely on the silent treatment. Perhaps you attempt to spend as much time out of the home as possible to avoid conflict. Maybe you have started sleeping in separate bedrooms and spending more time at the gym under the false pretense that you need to ‘find yourself’. Maybe you have started stashing some cash aside ‘just in case’.  

Carrie Mead, MS, LCPC
443. 951. 3986
Maryland Psychotherapist for Depression, Anxiety and PTSD
Divorce and Separation are a leading stressor in American lives

Preceding these red flags, you have probably noticed that your marriage was more like living with a messy, distant, roommate than a soulmate. You may have noticed that when you are actually speaking to your spouse, you are only pointing out their flaws. Or, perhaps, they only fixate on your quirks and annoyances; those very things that once attracted them to you. Compliments, laughter, gentle touch, and inside jokes are long gone. You and your spouse barely know each other anymore. And, worse yet, you barely know yourself.

The question still remains. Do I stay or do I go? You will wonder if separation is your only option. Back to discernment; the ability to judge well. How do you make a judgment on such a complex subject?

HIT PAUSE FOR YOUR MARRIAGE


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Fighting for your marriage

Discernment calls us to take a step back. It begs us to pause; breath; reflect. Discernment is not fast, impulsive, nor greedy. Discernment is slow, thoughtful, and knowing. Discernment requires a deep reflection of self. To do this, consider some of the questions below. Sit in quiet contemplation. Journal, write, pray. Talk to trusted friends and wise mentors. Read books. Sit some more. Do not react to every emotion. Be proactive. Consider these powerful questions for a long while. There is no award for hastiness. Be intentional, curious, and open-minded. This is how you begin to discern if you should stay or go.

MAKE TIME FOR SELF EVALUATION

Carrie Mead, LCPC 
Treating Depression and Anxiety
Make time for yourself

–       What are my values?

–       What are my dreams?

–       What do I stand for and what I am willing to sacrifice for my beliefs?

–       Who am I?

–       Am I safe here and what is safety to me?

–       What are my flaws?

–       What are my boundaries and what is totally unacceptable behavior from myself or others?

–       Where am I not seeing clearly?

–       Where am I seeing clearly but ignoring my intuition?

–       What is my contribution to this current predicament? 

–       Where could I extend mercy instead of judgment?

–       What can I do to repair myself and my relationship?

–       Is there an opportunity for me to forgive, make amends, or correct a past wrong? 

–       Am I willing to extend forgiveness to my partner?

–       What am I willing to change for the good of my marriage and family?

–       Does this decision align with my culture, my family, and my faith? Does this matter to me?

–       What will I gain by leaving?

–       What will I gain by staying?

–       Am I showing respect? Am I respected?

–       How can I see this differently?

–       How is this relationship impacting my physical health, mental health, and spiritual life?

–       What am I to learn from this?

–       Am I repeating a pattern of maladaptive behavior?

–       Is fear or love driving my decision?

–       What is love and how I do express and receive it?

–       What can I do today to make a change for the better?

This is how we use discernment when we are faced with the agonizing decision about divorce. After we aimlessly throw money and worry at the problem; after we have endured countless sleepless nights; after we ruin our credit by spending frivolously; after we chase external happiness, we must lean into this dilemma. This is an internal dilemma that requires the mind, body, heart, and soul to work in unison. When we are finally ready to face our reality and even accept where we are on this journey of life, then, and only then, can we move towards discernment.

IS DIVORCE THE ANSWER?

It is my hope that you treat this decision with the care and consideration it deserves. While divorce rates are lowering in the US, they are still astonishingly high. Research indicates there are many negative impacts of divorce on our children and our own physical health and mental wellbeing. But yet, still, we divorce. Commitment to yourself that you will seek discernment, first.

Research indicates that January, March, and August are amongst the top months when we seek divorce.  The first Monday in January is the most popular day to google the term divorce, according to research. And, by March, your new year’s optimism has probably waned and Valentine’s Day was a disaster. You are feeling hopeless. By August, you are tired of burying your head in the sand and thought of celebrating another lack luster anniversary together is causing unprecedented anxiety, insomnia and weight-gain. Add to all of this, COVID19, homeschooling, working from home, lack of personal space and the volcano is about to erupt. If your partnership was already being tested, this environment could easily push to react hastily.   You can run but you can’t hide. It’s time to seek your truth.

GET TO KNOW YOURSELF AGAIN

Carrie Mead, MS, LCPC
443. 951. 3986
Maryland Psychotherapist for Depression, Anxiety and PTSD
Reconnect with yourself

Lean into discernment. Hit Pause. Get to know yourself again. This decision can wait until you have a crystal clear, objective, perspective on the situation.  Seek guidance from those you trust. Learn to trust yourself again, too.

WHAT ABOUT ABUSIVE OR TOXIC RELATIONSHIPS?

Carrie Mead, MS, LCPC
443. 951. 3986
Maryland Psychotherapist for Depression, Anxiety and PTSD
Emotional, Physical and Sexual Abuse are never okay

As a caveat, I want to directly and very clearly speak to those of you involved in abusive relationships. Abuse can be emotional, physical, or sexual; and it is never okay.  Being manipulated, physically struck, restricted in your movements, isolated from friends, threatened (whether carried out or not), and forced into sexual relationships against your deepest desires is abuse.

If this resonates with you, I understand that you are scared, alone, and feeling hopeless. Please reach out to any of the resources listed in the footnotes to get access to the help you need. When you are engaged in an abusive relationship, time is of the essence. While self-reflection and discernment will be part of your healing journey, your safety is the top priority. If you think this cannot possibly be you, just know that according to RAINN, nearly half of all women and men in the United States have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime and, on average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States. It could very easily be you or someone you know.

NOW WHAT?

Carrie Mead, MS, LCPC
443. 951. 3986
Maryland Psychotherapist for Depression, Anxiety and PTSD
Carrie Mead, MS, LCPC | Psychotherapist & Counselor | 443.951.3986

If something written here resonates with you or strikes a deep emotion, you can reach out to me. I would be happy to guide you through the steps necessary to live a value-aligned life, even in the face of a difficult marriage.  Psychotherapy will help you learn to trust yourself, become more peaceful, and process past hurts and trauma. You will learn empowerment techniques free of guilt, shame, or anxiety. You can call me at 443.951.3986 to book a free consultation.

Carrie Mead, MS, LCPC is a professional counselor licensed in the state of Maryland.  Carrie offers psychotherapy to adults suffering from anxiety, depression, chronic stress, and trauma. Carrie utilizes a center-person holistic approach to healing and she honors the client as the expert of their own lives. Carrie earned her Master’s Degree in Counselor Education from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD where she resides with her family.  When not working, Carrie can be found seeking the warmth of the sun in her garden where she grows vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers. For more information, visit www.marylandtherapycarrie.com

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Resources for Victims of Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Abuse

https://vawnet.org/

http://www.breakthecycle.org/

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/10/divorce-united-states-dropping-because-millennials/

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/08/why-divorce-spikes-in-august-and-march/496883/

https://www.apa.org/topics/divorce/

https://vawnet.org/

http://www.breakthecycle.org/

How to Heal and Find Hope while Grieving

As a psychotherapist and certified life coach I have accompanied many people on their journeys through the messiness of life.  Some people reach out to me in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy while others wait decades to seek healing from childhood atrocities.  I always aim to be present, empathetic, and supportive to my clients no matter what they are facing.  Like many helpers and healers, I am a wounded healer, so relating to people in the depths of despair is quite natural for me.  However, as I observe the events around racial and social injustices in America unfold, I find myself at a loss for words and understanding.

By now we all know the stories of people like Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. Their combined hashtags on Instagram alone reach almost 3,000,000 and growing by the hour.  I observe in horror, like most Americans, the disgrace and injustices betrayed upon these black men, and countless others, at the hands of a merciless few and yet I have no idea how to proceed. I have no idea how to make a sustainable impact on our society, our leaders, our communities, or our collective unconscious in these turbulent and unjust times.

Addressing Racism

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Carrie Mead, LCPC
Psychotherapist for Depression and Anxiety in Maryland
therapycarrie@gmail.com
Anti-Racism, Social Justice, & White Privilege

I have listened to podcasts, read books and articles, talked to my friends, and joined online discussions about how to right these wrongs. I have reached out to colleagues of all colors and cultures to understand how their lives have been impacted by our collective history. And I have been open to exploring my role as a white, educated, middle class business owner. While I gain insight and perspective, none of these efforts have produced a tangible result or provided the least bit of comfort and understanding.  The conversations and teachings provide little in the way of empowerment, direction, and hope to me. 

Addressing the issues of racism and social justice within the walls of my own home is not easy, either. When I engage my young teenagers in conversation about race-relations they simply do not understand it. In their minds, racism and social injustice are deplorable but the events of the day are just another reason why us ‘boomers’ are so stupid and annoying. They cannot wrap their heads around why someone would be treated differently, let alone murdered, for the color of the skin. They think racism is not alive in their cohort and that it will die off with this last generation. Unfortunately, we know that history repeats itself time and time again and the likelihood that my kids will live in a fully anti-racist world is quite unlikely.  And my husband is British. He simply cannot grasp the collective history and atrocities of America upon those with brown skin.

Healing and Hope

Carrie Mead, LCPC
Psychotherapist for Depression and Anxiety in Maryland
therapycarrie@gmail.com
Healing is Possible

Despite my best efforts, I am left feeling devoid of hope on this matter and yet this is precisely why I feel compelled to satiate my overarching ache for peace and justice among all Americans.  At the core of my being, I am optimistic, if not idealistic. I can always find the silver lining and usually, it is a realistic, tangible ray of hope- not just a pipe dream.  So, I will take the time now to feel the feelings, live in the despair, and cry the tears for those who lost their sons, husbands, uncles, and brothers knowing that love will prevail in the end. My clinical teachings and life experiences remind me that the only way to heal is to move through the grief.

The Cycle of Grief

Carrie Mead, LCPC
Psychotherapist for Depression and Anxiety in Maryland
therapycarrie@gmail.com
Grief and Loss Recovery

Ultimately, we are all working through a cycle of grief and loss because of our country’s history. When we think of grief, we most often think of the death of a loved one, but as humans we will experience many cycles of unwelcome change throughout our existence. There will be lost dreams and unhappy endings; it is just a fact of life. But, each of these unwelcome transitions can be a catalyst for a cycle of grief and, ultimately, a catalyst for personal development and healing.

In the midst of a world health pandemic, a failing economy, unprecedented unemployment, senseless murders of brown-skinned men, and an upcoming contentious presidential election, losses cannot be avoided. Grief itself is a process that is going to surface in response to our losses. Preparation and acknowledgement of this cycle are important if we are going to move through the cycle successfully. Success is a strange word to use in this context but from a clinical perspective, I view the grief process as a life transition in which we have the opportunity to learn something about ourselves, our needs, and our community and from this place we can make informed decisions that make a positive impact on society at large, and our personal lives. 

Signs of Grief

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Carrie Mead, LCPC
Psychotherapist for Depression and Anxiety in Maryland
therapycarrie@gmail.com
Stages of Grief

During your grief process, there will be both overt and covert signs of grief so be on the look-out for the less obvious signs of grief like guilt, the inability to concentration, unhealthy use of alcohol and drugs, and emotional numbing.  It is important to note that we cannot stop the cycle of change that occurs after a loss, nor it is healthy to attempt to do so.  Things do not  go back to normal but rather, a new normal is established. 

Self-Care is Healing

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Carrie Mead, LCPC
Psychotherapist for Depression and Anxiety in Maryland
therapycarrie@gmail.com
Healing, Peace, Unity, Comfort and Justice are possible

The only way to heal is to move through it.  How do we do that and what is self-care? Stop and reflect along the way; take care of yourself;  engage the support of friends and family; say no to activities, people, and chores that do not lift your burden; connect with your truest self through prayer; cry and laugh; meditate and give thanks for what you have; release the pain and anger that no longer serves you or the community at large.  Grief is a process and it is part of the cycle of life. As with all life-cycles, a metamorphosis will take place. You will emerge from this cycle in a different state than when you started.  The cycle of life only moves in one direction so when the journey begins, there is no way to turn back time.  We are already in the process of this cycle although we are each moving at our own pace. What we learn will be impacted by our own life experiences, our mental and emotional stability, our faith, and our readiness to embrace our reality.

Carrie Mead, MS, LCPC | Psychotherapist – Life Coach- Reiki | 443.951.3986

Do You Need Help?

If you are suffering and hurting, as I suspect most people are, then take time to reflect on your experience. Listen to yourself and give a voice to your needs.  Learn to be assertive while also offering an ear for listening.  Figure out what you need in order to heal and what you can do to help someone else in their journey toward healing.  If you would like professional help with this journey, reach out to me to find out if psychotherapy, life coaching, or Reiki would be beneficial to your soul’s purpose and healing journey.  Learn more about me and how I may be of service to you by visiting me at www.curiositylifecoaching.com or  www.marylandtherapycarrie.com


Carrie Mead, MS, LCPC is a professional counselor licensed in the state of Maryland,  Reiki practitioner and Certified Seasons of Change Life Coach.  Carrie utilizes a center-person holistic approach to healing and she honors the client as the expert of their own lives. Carrie earned her Master’s Degree in Counselor Education from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD where she resides with her family. Carrie studied life coaching at the Institute for Life Coach Training. When not working, Carrie can be found seeking the warmth of the sun in her garden where she grows vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers. For more information, visit www.curiositylifecoaching or  www.marylandtherapycarrie.com 

DEPRESSION… ANXIETY… CHRONIC STRESS… I NEED HELP!

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Carrie Mead, LCPC offering mental health services from the state of Maryland. 443.951.3986
Mental Treatment and Psychotherapy for Anxiety, Depression, Trauma, Family Conflict and Chronic Stress

It usually starts like this, “I don’t know if I need a therapist… actually, I am not sure what therapy is but my friend suggested I call you. I have never had a problem that I could not handle myself before this thing happened. But now I can barely concentrate, I am not sleeping well, and I am constantly yelling at my kids… can you help me?”   

This is a very typical phone conversation with a first-time counseling client.  By the time they have reached out to me, it is possible that they have been toying with the idea of psychotherapy for weeks, if not months, and, of course, they have reached the end of their own resources. Usually they are in distress due to some difficult circumstance and they are nervous about calling a ‘shrink’. 

Carrie Mead, LCPC offering mental health services from the state of Maryland. 443.951.3986
Booking your first therapy appointment

At this point, my job is to instill hope, allay any fears, and build rapport.  From there, I help them understand what psychotherapy is (and, is not), go over billing and insurance, and get them scheduled for their first intake appointment.  All of this only takes about 10 minutes, by the way.   

The Basics… What is Therapy?

Psychotherapy is treatment for a mental health condition. Psychotherapy is powerful and the impact it can make on the trajectory on your life should not be understated.  Therapy will help you to understand yourself as you make peace with your past. Therapy will also help you build a brighter future.  Therapy does not ‘fix’ you because you are not broken!

Carrie Mead, LCPC offering mental health services from the state of Maryland. 443.951.3986
What is Psychotherapy?

Therapists are clinically trained to identify, diagnose, and treat mental health conditions such as generalized anxiety, depression, panic attacks, body dysphoria, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), substance abuse disorders, sexual function disorders, social anxiety, personality disorders and bipolar disorder … to name a few!

There are many triggers for mental health conditions. Both your internal genetic makeup and external environmental factors come into play. But suffice to say that most of us go through periods where we feel confident and capable and periods of life when we are overwhelmed and chronically stressed. Typical catalysts for seeking counseling include divorce, job loss, death of loved one, spiritual crises,  abusive relationships, sexual or physical assault, unhealthy self-image, and drug or alcohol abuse.

Carrie Mead, LCPC offering mental health services from the state of Maryland. 443.951.3986
Mental Health Diagnoses

Your mental health counselor will work with you on a weekly basis until your treatment goals are met and you are functioning in a healthy manner. Your specific treatment goals and course of treatment will be determined by many things and your practitioner will discuss this with you.  Although the counselor is a trained professional, you are the expert of your life.  The process of engaging in psychotherapy is collaborative and empowering. You and your therapist will continually address progress, goals, eventual termination of therapy.

Who Will You See?

There are lots of names for mental health professionals and it can be confusing to know who you should work with when there are so many options.  I will break it down as simply as possible so that you get to the right professional as quickly as possible. Below, I have listed typical professional titles and the corresponding letters you will often find after the practitioners name. By no means is the list exhaustive, but it is a start.

Carrie Mead, LCPC offering mental health services from the state of Maryland. 443.951.3986
Psychotherapy Session

“Talk Therapy”

  • Social Workers (LCSW-C)
  • Counselors (LCPC or LPC)
  • Therapists (LCPC or LPC)
  • Psychotherapists (LCPC or LPC)

Psychotropic Medication Management and Prescriptions

  • Psychiatrists (PhD., M.D.)
  • Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners (PMHNP, CRNP, FNP, ARNP, DNP, MSN)

Assessments and Evaluations

  • Psychologists (PhD or PsyD)

Court-Ordered Evaluations

  • Forensic Psychologists (PhD or PsyD)
Carrie Mead, LCPC offering mental health services from the state of Maryland. 443.951.3986
Psychotherapy for Depression, Anxiety, Trauma and Stress

Essentially, mental health services are provided by licensed professionals with a minimum of a Master’s Degree in Counseling, Social Work, or Psychology.  Your geographical region of the country may have a preference for referring to mental health professionals as counselor or therapists or psychotherapist but essentially, it’s just a name. Social workers, are however, trained and licensed by a different board than professional counselors. 

In reality, you probably will not care if you see a social worker or a counselor; you just want help and you want it now!  All therapists, counselors, and social workers will offer you a safe place to express your feelings, make peace with your past, heal, and learn healthy coping skills for your future.  All are clinically trained, participate in mandated continuing education, and are licensed by their state’s regulatory boards.

Psychologists, in addition to traditional ‘talk-therapy’, are specifically trained to offer assessments and evaluations for mental health conditions such as ADHD, Autism, and Learning Disabilities.  Some psychologist will offer only evaluations while others also offer psychotherapy.  Forensic psychologist often mandated evaluations within the court system.

Psychiatrists and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners are the only group of mental health professionals who can prescribe psychotropic medications such as anti-depressants and mood stabilizers.  Often, psychiatrists will require their patients to be working with a licensed therapist while they are taking psychotropic medications.  The reason is simple- medication without behavioral modifications and personal insight are not as effective as the two combined. Research has proven time and time again that medication alone is not the answer.

What Will Happen in Session?

Carrie Mead, LCPC offering mental health services from the state of Maryland. 443.951.3986
In-person and Telemental Health Psychotherapy Sessions

Counseling can happen in–person at a professional office location or counseling can take place by video conference.  Although in-person sessions are the traditional method for counseling, through updates to technology and the growing demands of busy Americans, telemental health is convenient and effective way to meet with your psychotherapist. If you are reading this during the COVID19 health pandemic, it is likely you have already met with other doctors using telehealth platforms.

Either way, you can expect to meet with your counselor for 45- 55 minutes each week. In session you will be given time to express yourself, process your past hurts and traumas, and learn new ways to handle stress and life challenges.  As a therapist, my job is to provide a nurturing and safe environment for you to grow, heal, and learn.   Sessions may be held individually, for couples, families or within a group setting.

I will provide psychoeducation on mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and, I will teach you skills like mindfulness, assertiveness, self-expression, and healthy communication skills. At times we may do some problem solving or role playing to prepare you for an upcoming situation. At times you will laugh, at times you will cry.  At times I may say nothing and at times I may provide feedback and perspective.

Carrie Mead, LCPC offering mental health services from the state of Maryland. 443.951.3986
Does therapy work?

Each session is unique but it is always focused on your growth and healing.  What we discuss is confidential and is not shared with anyone without your express, written, permission. The limits of confidentiality are discussed during your first session so that you fully understand this concept.

How do I Find a Therapist?

There are a number of ways to find a counselor or therapist to work with.  Just a few suggestions are listed below.

  • Ask your friends or family or use community online groups for personal referrals (this is the best way to find someone, in my opinion)
  • Speak to your doctor for a professional referral
  • Call your insurance company- they can offer you a list of counselors who participate in your insurance
  • Goolge terms like “Psychotherapy near me” or “Treatment for Depression or Anxiety” or “Mental health services for substance abuse” or “How to treat panic attacks”
  • Use directory services like Psychology Today, DaoCloud or Good Therapy
Carrie Mead, LCPC offering mental health services from the state of Maryland. 443.951.3986
How Do I find a Psychotherapist in Maryland?

Finding an available therapist is only one part of the puzzle.  But it is not that simple. Therapy is relational so please remember that not every therapist is right for every potential client, nor is every client right for every therapist! 

Once you have identified a potential therapist, call that person and speak to them for a few minutes. Determine from that conversation if you are a good fit for each other. Does this person make you feel comfortable, understood, and heard?  Do they have skills and experience necessary to help you? Do they have hours and availability that works within your schedule?  Are their rates affordable? 

This step is important because therapy is an investment of your time, energy and financial resources. So, spending a little time finding a good connection will serve you well as you begin your healing journey.

Next Steps

Curious about psychotherapy? Would talking to someone about your problems be helpful right now? If you are overwhelmed, chronically stressed, lost in your identity, or simply stuck, reach out to a professional for help.  If you live in the state of Maryland, I would love to speak to you. Connect with me here.

Fear, anxiety, and nervousness are all part of the process of therapy. If you are feeling unsure or anxious about taking the next step, that is understandable and it is normal. You are trying something new and you are potentially facing a challenging situation head-on… of course you doubting yourself! Despite these inner feelings of self-doubt, call anyway. You will be glad you did.

Carrie Mead, LCPC offering mental health services from the state of Maryland. 443.951.3986
Carrie Mead, MS, LCPC
Maryland Mental Health Therapist
443.951.3986

Carrie Mead, MS, LCPC is a professional counselor licensed in the state of Maryland.  Carrie offers psychotherapy to adults suffering from anxiety, depression, chronic stress, and trauma. Carrie utilizes a center-person holistic approach to healing and she honors the client as the expert of their own lives. Carrie earned her Master’s Degree in Counselor Education from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD where she resides with her family.  When not working, Carrie can be found seeking the warmth of the sun in her garden where she grows vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers. For more information, visit www.marylandtherapycarrie.com

Blogs written by Carrie Mead, MS, LCPC

Carrie Mead, MS
Psychotherapist
Carrie Mead, MS, LCPC
Professional Mental Health Counselor
Westminster, MD