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Irina Banfi-Mare, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist

303-547-3615

Irina Banfi-Mare, Psy.D.     303.547.3615

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areas of treatment


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abuse
acceptance
addictions
ADHD
adolescent girls
affairs & infidelity
aging
anger
anxiety
chronic illness
chronic pain
couples/marital therapy
depression
emotional overeating
grief & loss
happiness
chronic pain
self-esteem
stress
trauma


abuse

People experience many different kinds of abuse: neglect (of basic physical and emotional needs), verbal (threatening or degrading comments), physical (hitting, shoving), and/or sexual (forced sexual contact). It is possible to also live in an environment that feels emotionally or physically unsafe. How abuse impacts you depends on different things. For example, was the abuser a stranger or someone close to you that you expected to be able to trust? How long did the abuse last? Were you able to escape the abusive situation? Did you have support from other people? Ultimately, the impact of abuse depends on what that experience means to you. If you have been abused, then you know how it can impact your self-esteem, ability to trust and be close with others, how well you can handle your feelings, your physical well-being, and even your ability to concentrate and remember things. You may feel "crazy" or "worthless." Understanding and dealing with the impact of abuse can help you heal and move forward with your life. You may be severely wounded, but you are not permanently broken.

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acceptance

I often hear people say that accepting something implies that something terrible is "ok" or that it is not worth fighting to change it anymore. You may not feel ready to accept something in your life or feel too angry to even consider acceptance. This is normal and finding your way to acceptance is a difficult and often painful process. I see acceptance as saying "It is what it is and I can strive to change what I have control over." Acceptance involves the wisdom to know when it's time to let something go, to accept reality and what cannot be changed, and to get "unstuck." The lack of acceptance can result in situations where you essentially beat a dead horse and never get anywhere. Acceptance, like forgiveness, can free you to focus on growth and solutions.

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addictions

People develop addictions to all sorts of things (alcohol, drugs, smoking, food, sex, gambling, shopping) and often these addictions are temporary fixes that result in long-term consequences. Addictions provide comfort and distraction from feelings of shame, guilt, depression, anxiety, frustration, hopelessness, etc. When you recognize the price you pay for short-term relief and how difficult it is to resolve the addiction on your own it's time to get help. You may be struggling with deciding if there even is a problem, feel conflicted about whether you want to change, be ready to take steps to change, or just want to maintain sobriety or an addiction-free life. No matter where you are regarding this issue, there is hope for improvement.

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ADHD

Many people struggle with difficulty paying attention, concentrating, and restless energy that get in the way of doing what they need or want to do. Such issues may be related to ADHD or they may be due to some other problem such as anxiety or depression. It is important to find out what the cause is and to obtain appropriate help, whether that is through therapy and/or medication. There are many non-medical tools that can help reduce and manage symptoms of ADHD and increase control over your life.

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adolescent girls

Adolescence is an intense time for many reasons…you are trying to figure out who you are, dealing with puberty and raging hormones, surrounded by pressures from friends and parents, and having a lot of responsibilities and expectations. Common struggles teenage girls face include problems with body image, self-esteem, dating, making decisions about sex, drugs, and alcohol, pressures about grades, getting along with parents, bullying at school, and "frenemies."

Managing confusing, difficult, or painful feelings around these common struggles can be overwhelming. You have more independence, but still need help sometimes. Sometimes you just want to talk to someone who is not a parent or a friend, someone who can listen and provide guidance without telling you what to do or judging you. Therapy can be a private place to explore these issues and learn new skills so that you can feel more confident in yourself and your ability to cope.

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affairs & infidelity

For most people, infidelity is considered to be a major betrayal with lasting consequences. If someone has been unfaithful to you, you may wonder if you can ever trust again, if you are worth loving, if you can forgive and past the affair, or if your partner ever truly loved you. You may feel so angry that you want to hurt your partner as he or she hurt you. Forgiveness may seem unimaginable. You may have invested years into the relationship and be angry with yourself for choosing your partner in the first place. Questions about staying in the relationship or leaving are common and difficult to answer. Therapy is a place where you can sort through the painful emotions, let go of destructive feelings, and come to a reasonably satisfying decision.

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aging

Aging is often perceived by people as a terrible thing that only involves illness, loss of functioning, loss of loved ones, financial struggle, abandonment, and ultimately death. Certainly these can occur and such changes are difficult to face and cope with. What does aging mean to you? Is it a progressive and inevitable decline full of misery, loss, and suffering? Is graceful aging possible? Having models of graceful aging and people who can inspire you is very important in coping with the struggles that come with aging. Healthy aging is possible and it involves allowing yourself to feel the associated sadness and fears but also working to be healthy and vibrant as long as possible. You can continue to love, play, learn, and enjoy at every stage of life.

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anger

Anger is one of the most frequent issues my clients bring to therapy. When anger is chronic and seems unmanageable, you may be concerned about how this impacts relationships, health, and job security. Anger is often about feeling mistreated, a sense of unfairness or injustice, or not being able to achieve your goals. It is often a "hard" emotion covering "soft" emotions such as sadness, fear, or hurt which involve a sense of vulnerability. Anger is not always bad or destructive. Anger can provide the necessary energy and courage to fight something scary or unjust. It is important to recognize when anger is toxic and leading to more suffering and pain than anything else. Getting an understanding of why you are chronically angry, what this anger costs you, and what you can change can help you free yourself to be happy. Holding on to toxic anger is essentially poisoning yourself.

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anxiety

Fear is what you feel when you are presently faced with something dangerous. Anxiety is what you feel when you anticipate something dangerous or unpleasant to happen. Understanding the fight, flight, or freeze response can reduce your anxiety. You can learn relaxation and stress management strategies to relax your mind and body. Anxiety can feel awful, but it can actually be helpful. Allow yourself to feel the anxiety, understand what it is about, and see it as an alarm bell that can actually be helpful to improve your life. Anxiety can be an alarm alerting you to the possibility that you are not dealing with something important. The longer it is not dealt with, the louder the alarm becomes. All emotions serve a function…how can you use your anxiety in a positive way?

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chronic illness

Chronic illness can require a major adjustment in how you live your life, view yourself, relate to others, and plan for the future. You may not want to "burden" others with your fears and frustrations, but these feelings are real and valid. Having support in adjusting to a new diagnosis or managing a chronic illness is very important. Identifying the kind of help you need (informational, financial, emotional, practical), feeling comfortable asking for help, and taking steps to increase your sense of hope and control over your life are essential. You may need to grieve the losses associated with the illness. Be patient with yourself as you adjust to a new version of yourself and identify ways to improve your situation.

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chronic pain

When you are in chronic pain, it can feel like nothing else matters and like you can't do anything. It can be all-consuming. You might feel helpless and hopeless about the possibility of enjoying life or being able to do "normal" things as you used to. You may find medication helpful, but not helpful enough. You may want to avoid using pain medication but want to still do something to reduce the pain. So what can you do? There are non-medical ways you can lower your pain level and increase your sense of control over your own body and mind. Give these methods a chance and you could see noticeable improvement. You do not have to be a helpless victim to pain…you can learn to control it so it doesn't control you!

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couples/marital therapy

Couples often come for therapy when their relationship is in crisis. They may either want to save the relationship, wonder if the relationship can be repaired, or want to end the relationship as smoothly and amicably as possible. Do you want the same things? What are the deal breakers? Do you show and receive love in a way that is satisfying to both of you? Do you both want to truly work on the relationship? A healthy relationship involves making an effort to avoid blame, criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and the worst of all: stonewalling. Stonewalling is essentially turning oneself into a stone wall (being emotionally and/or physically unavailable through silence, emotional distance, or literally leaving the conversation). A healthy relationship also involves respect, appreciation, and ability to resolve conflict in a way that is mutually satisfying. The goal here is not about avoiding conflict, but rather learning how to handle conflict in a healthy way that allows for repair and re-establishment of closeness, love, and security in the relationship. When couples fight about money, sex, household chores, etc, the key issue is often related to questions such as "Can I count on you? Are you there for me? Do you really love me? Can I trust you? Will you be there when I need you?" Getting an understanding of these underlying questions and fears and being able to communicate them to each other in a way that can be heard is an essential piece of couples work.

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depression

No one is blissfully happy all of the time and everyone feels sad or "blue" on occasion. Suffering is part of life and cannot be completely avoided. It is perfectly normal to grieve over upsetting life experiences, such as a major illness, a death in the family, a loss of a job, or a divorce. These feelings of grief and sadness tend to lessen with the passing of time. However, if these feelings last for weeks or months impair your functioning in major areas of your life, then something more serious may be going on. You may feel helpless, hopeless, overwhelmed, or blame yourself for having these feelings. When you feel depressed, you may see everything as your fault and not likely to ever get better. Depression may be triggered by a variety of things (a major loss or rejection, lack of purpose or meaning, a sense of failure, isolation from others, feeling helpless to change anything, lack of pleasure, genetic, and biological/physical factors). The good news is that depression is treatable and there are many things you can do to feel better. You do not have to suffer needlessly or feel ashamed about your feelings. Like anxiety, depression can be a warning signal that something in your life is wrong and needs attention. If rather than trying to escape your feelings, you face your feelings and really listen, you may discover what you really want and need to be happy.

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emotional overeating

When you feel bored, lonely, anxious, or depressed, food can be a source of comfort and pleasure. If you find yourself eating when you feel emotions like this and are not hungry, you may be engaging in emotional overeating. You may be struggling to lose weight and find that not dealing with your emotions is actually the main obstacle to losing weight. You may also feel guilty and put a lot of pressure on yourself about not making progress "fast enough," which can actually get in the way of your goals. If you can relate to this, consider that it may be worth dealing with these emotions in a more effective way. Trying to stuff your feelings or numb yourself so you don't have to feel them will only result in more problems.

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grief & loss

Grief is a normal human reaction to death and loss. You might be feeling shock, anger, guilt, deep sadness, confusion, and fear. There are no clear "steps" to go through in a particular order and no set timeline of how long you should or shouldn't grieve. For many people grief can take a year or longer, but the timeline is different for each person. Generally the first few months are the most intense and the pain subsides with time. It is very important to be compassionate with yourself and to find support from those around you. Find a way to honor the person who died. Remember that just because that person has died does not mean you have to forget or not think about him or her. An important goal is to find a new way to have that person in your life and heart. The relationship doesn't end, it changes. You don't "get over it," you move forward "with it." How can you keep that person in your life in a way that allows you to go on with your life and have other meaningful relationships? Grief is also a reaction to different kinds of loss, not just death. The end of an important relationship, the loss of a long-term job, retirement, are all situations that can trigger emotions similar to grief.

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happiness

What is happiness? How do you get it? What would make you happy? These are probably some of the most important questions you can think about. There are many books on this topic and many suggestions on what you can do to improve your life. Happiness involves knowing what truly matters to you and actively pursuing it. . . it will not suddenly appear and continue to exist without your effort. Once you find things you enjoy, have a sense of accomplishment, identify and apply your strengths in love, work, and play, and use these strengths for a cause larger than yourself, you will likely feel much happier. Happiness also involves having satisfying relationships and a sense of meaning. If you are stuck and are wondering what the point of everything is, or "There's got to be more to life than this," then exploring what happiness is to you may be just the thing you need.

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self-esteem

What is self-esteem? You are probably thinking that it has to do with how much you like yourself or think you are a good person. How you judge yourself certainly has a great impact on your happiness in life. You can think of it this way: self-esteem involves a feeling of personal competence (that you are capable of accomplishing things/self-confidence) and of personal worth (that you are worthy of love and happiness/self-respect). How well do you think you are able to cope with the challenges of life? Do you stand up for your interests and needs? A major problem with how people often think of self-esteem is the tendency to compare to others. For example, "I am good if I am smarter, more attractive, more successful, etc, than other people." Another way to look at it is the tendency to base self-esteem on some conditional external factor (I am good if I succeed, am attractive, make lots of money, am very interesting, make no mistakes, am always in control, etc). Here is a much more effective way to think of self-esteem: Unconditional acceptance of yourself and others as worthy human beings despite flaws and mistakes may seem unrealistic, but it is extremely important. Unconditional acceptance does not mean that you do not have opinions about what is good or bad, but rather that you can separate the person from the behavior (I am bad vs. I did a bad thing). People have desirable and undesirable qualities, they succeed and fail, and they behave well and badly. We try to accept that none of us is perfect and that we never stop having the potential to better ourselves.

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stress

Stress is unavoidable. You might think that you need to avoid stress as much as possible, but actually a moderate level of stress (as long as it is manageable) can motivate you and stimulate you to meet your goals. Stress is a problem when it is chronic and unmanageable. It can affect you physically and emotionally and sometimes it can be difficult to recognize. I often hear people say, "Oh, I just need to push through this and then I'll rest" or "This isn't that big of a deal, I can handle it." The reality is that it IS a big deal! If you don't deal with it, it will eventually catch up with you one way or another. When you understand how stress affects you, what the main sources of stress are, and what you can do about it, you will see significant improvements in your overall well-being. Luckily there are many stress management techniques that are easy, fast, and effective that you can learn and start to apply to your life.

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trauma

If you've experienced trauma, you know how much damage it can do. A traumatic event can turn your world upside down, have you feeling afraid, numb, and like you cannot function. You may feel like no one understands what you are going through or like you cannot smile or feel good again. Trauma can come in all forms. It can be one event or it can be multiple events over a long period of time. Examples of traumatic events include a major accident, assault, rape, witnessing a murder, combat in war, a natural catastrophe, and chronic abuse. Generally an experience can be traumatic if you are severely injured, your life is in danger, or if you think you might be severely injured or could die. If you see someone else being severely injured or killed, you might also experience the effects of trauma. It is normal to respond to a traumatic event with shock and terror, but when the effects continue and do not seem to diminish, you might develop post-traumatic stress disorder. If you feel like you can't stop thinking about what happened, that it's affecting you physically and emotionally, or like you can't work or go to school, then it's time to ask for help. There is nothing to be ashamed of in asking for help. Asking for help is a courageous and smart thing to do when you are not able to cope with something on your own.

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The Colorado Center
for Clinical Excellence