Contact Information:

Jason Best, LCSW



4753 N. Broadway Suite 608
Chicago, IL 60640


Building better relationships through friendship and intimacy.

Most people coming into counseling for relationship issues say some version of the same thing:

"I think it was good once, but lately we're stressed, or living parallel lives, or fight all the time. The things that made us feel close and passionate with each other are breaking down and we don't know how to fix them."

 Occasionally these breakdowns are related to true irreconcilable differences, but more often the couple has just fallen out of the habit of being friends and lovers. It's easy to happen; it is the nature of people to understimate their advantages, and when something is working well there's a tendency of it to fall into the background, unseen until there's a major issue. It's not uncommon that sometimes people come into therapy with literally years worth of issues that were never addressed because things were working "well enough." That is, they were working well enough until they blew up or began to feel like an insurmountable distance settling into the relationship. 

The good news is that the skills for reconnecting are often times fairly simple to learn. Most couples want very much to be closer together, to feel the love and passion and closeness of being in a relationship with their best friend- they just don't know how to do it. Learning how to bring up an issue without sending your partner on the defensive, how to validate your partner and make them feel heard even in the middle of an argument, and how to respectfully disagree and hold onto the boundaries you need to set, and how to mindfully cherish the relationship long term...these can all be taught in a relatively short period of time.  With practice these skill can form the bedrock for a new and better way of being close. 


Existential Crisis Vs a Walk in the Park

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Struggling with depression or "dark moods" can sometimes feel physically, mentally, and spriritually heavy. People talk about being slower than normal both mentally and physically. Indeed, this symptom called psychomotor retardation is one of the signs of intense depression. This is a temporary symptom of depression and DOES NOT lead to permanent impairment as some  depressed people worry- but it is a real symptom of depression.  People cam also feel as though the darkness they are experiencing is because of some greater existential crisis. People will sometimes spend days, weeks and months trying to figure out the answer to the "big" questions. Unfortunately, people in this state often run across one of three basic problems.

1) If you're severely depressed, you are NOT going to be doing your best thinking and analysis. As we mentioned early, many people with severe depression suffer from psychomotor retardation and often times have distorted thinking patterns.

2) Sometimes the problem has no satisfying solution.Sometimes people become paralyzed while choosing between two good options. This happened at times in relationships as a person struggling about who to be with, or when a person is offered a promotion out of a job they enjoy. Sometimes people get frozen up trying to choose between to unappealing options. For example, a person might have to either default on a bill or have to ask for a loan from a family member.  In both of these cases the problem is that the pain is unavoidable. Sometimes you have to grab on opportunity- and thus give up another good one. Sometimes, we have to decide what is our best option out of two bad ones. Regardless, after a certain point, thinking about the problem won't help- in fact, it will likely help to keep a person paralyzed.

3) Sometimes the problem isn't really the problem at all- the issue is depression. Yes, people face big problems all of the time, but if suddenly an issue that has been manageable isn't- sometimes the answer is NOT that you suddenly have something huge to figure out RIGHT NOW. Sometimes the answer is that you need to treat the depression and the problem will solve itself- or at least become manageable again.

So in light of these three problems, what's the best way to handle a bought of existential dread when feeling depressed? Practice good self care. If you can come back to healthy basics- making sure that you've slept enough, that you've eaten well and then if you can get out of your house! Spend time with a friend or call a loved one if you've been alone or isolated. Change your environment and get some exercise if you can. Often times getting out of the house and going for a walk can dramatically change a person's mood. These things all seem simple, and often times a person's instinctive reaction is that they will not help. Again, because the problem can feel very big- but taking care of the body's need and giving the mind a change of scenery will make some minor problems go away and will make the big ones more manageable. 


Feeling good through the darkness of winter.



As the bright days of summer dims to the shadows of fall, it's a good time to talk about the importance of light in mental health. Many people with depression and anxiety feel a drop in their mood as we move into fall. Some people have Season Affective Disorder (SAD), and others just notice that the darker times of year are triggers for isolation, feeling more pessimistic, or notice a drop in their energy levels. If you know that winters or fall can be hard for you, I encourage you to take action early. Turning on more lights then you normally would at home may help, many people find "full spectrum" light bulbs helpful in maintaining mood, and if those are helpful you may even try purchasing a therapeutic light box.  There are MANY therapeutic light boxes on the market, but if you haven't used one before I'd recommend you go cheap with your first box- many can cost in the hundreds of dollars, but you can buy a quiteserviceable one for under $50 at costco or on Amazon. Whatever method you choose to try, I recommend you start early. In Chicago, the days are already cooling down and getting noticeably shorter- it's better to improve your light situation at the beginning of fall rather then waiting for the depths of winter when you're already down to start. 


Kitty prozac: Improving Mood Through Positive Triggers 

In cognitive behavioral therapy, triggers are neutral prompts that people respond to in different ways. For example, if you picked a random song from the top 40 pop chart and played it to a room of people, some people might like it, some people might hate it, some may complain, some may sulk, some might start dancing or singing in their chair. In mental health, there's oftentimes a lot of emphasis placed on managing difficult triggers. Things or events that trigger sadness, or anxiety, or anger can get a lot of lip service in traditional therapy for completely understandable reasons. However, that means that the benefits of positive or helpful triggers are often overlooked. Just recently, a Japanese researcher named Hiroshi Nittono conducted a study which proved looking at pictures of cute animals on the Internet for a few minutes a day both improved mood and increased productivity. A friend of mine has said for a while that looking at pictures of cute animals on tough days has cheered her up immensely- she calls this phenomenon her "Kitty Prozac."

My encouragement to you would be to identify some of these positive triggers and build them into your life. Look for songs that cheer you up, that energize you, or that maybe help you feel more calm and put them on your iPod. If pictures of tropical beaches cheer you up In the winter, tape one up in your cubicle. To get you started, I've included a picture of a kitten with and duck on it's head- taken from the website cute . Enjoy!


What is the healthiest thing you can do right now?

For just a moment, work to be especially present. Consider where you are- notice the sights, sounds, and smells around you. Feel the air around you as it touches your skin. You're reading this blog at this precise moment in your day. You are engaged in this exercise. Now that you are here and now, ask yourself this:

What is the healthiest thing I can do right now?

Notice this question asks you to engage some wisdom. While it is healthy to go to the gym, it is not always going to be healthy to go. Likewise, while it is healthy to live in a clean space, it is not healthy to always be cleaning. Sometimes we need to rest. Sometimes we need to have fun, and tell jokes, and act silly. Sometimes it's even a good idea to finish reading blog posts on skills before jumping into anything else.

So being wise, ask the question again:

What is the healthiest thing I can do right now?

Now: Go and do THAT.