Helping Kids, Families, Adults & LGBTQ with Care for Over 25 Years

Michelle Topal MSW, LCSW

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Your Appetite & Pleasure

Below is the first paragraph of an interesting article in Psychology Today on brain research, appetite & addiction (especially related to sexual behavior).

"In a recent post (Intoxicating Behaviors), I suggested that today's super-enticing fattening food and hyper-stimulating sexual videos could numb most brains' pleasure response if their owners overdo it enough. This past week, new research confirmed that too much stimulation indeed progressively numbs the brains of people who engage in it, decreasing their satisfaction. It also points to a way out. Over six months, the brains of women who ate more fattening foods changed. They showed less response to pleasure (than those who didn't gain), which made the women more apt to overeat. In effect, the brain changes eroded their self-control, setting them on a downward spiral."

To be able to read the entire article:

Written by Marnia Robinson is the author of Cupid's Poisoned Arrow: From Habit to Harmony in Sexual Relationships.
This excerpt republished from Psychology Today website & originally published on October 4, 2010

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Open House Fun

We're so happy to be in our new expanded space & to have our five new contractors joining us, that we are having an open house to celebrate.  We're inviting other therapists & allied professionals to join us on Friday November 12th at 3-5:30pm at our new 111 Windel Dr, Suite 213 location.  If you have any questions or haven't received your invitation, contact Michelle at 919-360-1929.

I hope you will join us to meet, greet & have a nosh with other professionals.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

In Honor of Gay Pride Weekend

For parents, children & adult children of parents...unconditional love & acceptance are what shape us & give us the confidence to see ourselves as capable & worthy....

"If the day ever came when we were able to accept ourselves and our children exactly as we are and they are, I believe we would have come to an understanding of what "good parenting" means." 

-Fred Rogers

Monday, September 6, 2010

It's All About Bonding

Recent studies support the importance of touch for increasing the confidence to do things that might otherwise cause ambivalence. It seems the imprint of a mother's attention and affection carries with it a lifelong benefit. Studies indicate, whether it is a reassuring touch by a supportive female or a telephone call with a person's mother, that the release of oxytocin helps to make us feel more at ease with the challenges of life.  So, if you want to help someone feel secure and to give them a boost of confidence, just give them a gentle reassuring touch on the shoulder.  It's just that simple!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Adult LGBTQ Group Now Available for Participation 

Click on this link to get information about the group & view the flyer.  Also, please don't hesitate to contact me at 919/360-1929 or at to get more information or to schedule your initial individual meeting with me to join the group.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Groups for LGBTQ Young People & Adults

Coming Soon!

This fall I will be starting a small support group for young people ages 14-18 who identify as LGBT or have questions about sexual identity (the "Q" in LGBTQ).  I want to give young people a safe, supportive environment to explore who they are & what this might mean to them & the choices they make.  With over 25 years of working with teens, & education & experience working with sexual identity issues, the group will address the developmental needs of these young people.

I will also be doing an adult group this fall, to be co-facilitated by a local pastoral counselor who has years of experience working with issues of faith & the gay community.  This group will offer a supportive environment for adults to explore their sexual identity & figure out what this means in their adult lives.  For those who have issues of faith, this will also be a non-judgmental group to explore these questions. 

Some of the issues these groups might address:
  • Who am I - label, behavior & feelings & what does it all mean & how do I make sense of it all
  • Coming out issues - when, who, when & how
  • What does this mean or not mean in terms of my life & relationships
  • What does my faith say about who I am/my behavior & how can I integrate all aspects of my life
  • Issues of discrimination - how do I not let this impact how I feel about myself

If you would like to get more information, don't hesitate to contact me at 919/360-1929 or at  I would be happy to talk with you about how these groups might be helpful.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

How to be a Loving Parent

Woman With Flower

I wouldn't coax the plant if I were you.
Such watchful nurturing may do it harm.
Let the soil rest from so much digging
And wait until it's dry before you water it.
The leaf's inclined to find its own direction;
Give it a chance to seek the sunlight for itself.
Much growth is stunted by too careful prodding,
Too eager tenderness.
The things we love we have to learn to leave alone.

By Naomi Long Madgett

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Change for Living Counseling Has Moved

I'm excited to announce that Change for Living Counseling has moved to it's new location at 11 Windel Drive, Suite 205 in Raleigh, NC 27609, and we are settling in. Our new space is much larger with great offices to share with other providers and group room rental space available for other mental health and allied professionals.  This space, along with Judith Dickens and Purple Lotus Counseling PLLC, will allow us to fulfill our vision for our practices and the CFL Mental Health & Allied Professionals Network working together to develop our, and other providers', practices.  We hope you'll come join us in this exciting venture and visit us at our new location.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Reflection on the Climb

I recently read a colleague at Aspire Counseling's (cool name, huh) blog and it gave me something to think about.  It was on the role of therapists and how they are perceived by clients, especially if we are perceived as infallible experts.  I recently heard an ACT trainer talk about how therapists are just like everyone else; that we all have our mountains to climb, but that a particular therapist’s may just be different than the one a client is climbing. The imagery goes on further to say that therapists just may have a certain helpful perspective or view of a client’s struggles on their mountain from the distance of the therapist's mountain. I like that visual because it acknowledges that therapists are no different than anyone else…except maybe we have a little more training and equipment for the big climb :-).  

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Great New Resource

Happy New Year.

The new year is often a time of reflection and planning. If you are like most of us, you are evaluating the past year, looking forward to what this new year has to offer, and trying to figure out how you're going to accomplish your goals. If one of your goals is to have a fuller, more meaningful life, than I have an invaluable resource for creating this. I recently discovered a great resource and one that I have been using to help clients explore the skills to live a more vibrant life.

I have recently started studying an approach called ACT or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. This approach focuses on accepting that feelings are an unavoidable part of the human condition and that trying to avoid them causes greater suffering. It also incorporates mindfulness and essentially trying to live in the moment and be present. Lastly, it helps people identify their values and the vision they have for who they want to be and helps them make a commitment to living this life, no matter what feelings might seem to be obstacles.

ACT teaches people how to change their experience with their thoughts, especially the negative, self-defeating ones, so that you are not trapped by them. Essentially, by learning to accept your feelings (rather than working hard to avoid them), and understanding your thoughts for what they are (perceptions, not facts or reality), you are able to actively participate in the life you want to have. This may not mean you will not experience pain, sadness and anger, but it means you will also experience all the joy that comes with living the life you envision. In other words, your life will be rich and full and one that you value.

One of the best resources I've found so far with helping people understand and apply these concepts in a very user friendly way ('cuz this stuff is hard work that is not easy to do), is "Get Out of Your Mind, and Into Your Life" workbook by Steven Hayes (who is also the founding researcher/clinician of ACT). His book uses humor and examples to illustrate the concepts in a way that makes it understandable and entertaining. His work is also empirically supported by much of the clinical research he and several others have conducted.

So with the New Year, take the leap into your life and make a commitment to living the fullest life you can. I am always available to help you in this journey. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you'd like to schedule sessions for us to work together on this workbook.