Chicago Compass Counseling, LLC

3 Essential Steps to Heal Complex Grief

Dennis Nguyen, LCSW
October 29, 2018

While there are many things we can do to prepare for the death of someone we love, it's impossible to prepare for complex grief.  For my family, the loss of our mother was complex.  When she was diagnosed with lung cancer, we faced the reality of loss. We knew that even the best treatment would lead to side effects, complications, and an ongoing effort to manage more and more symptoms. And that’s exactly how it went.

By the time she died, it had been around five years since that first diagnosis.  She had grown weaker and weaker.  At one point mitigating her pain, symptoms, and mentation grew to be a difficult balance.  With her death came a myriad of complicated feelings: rel...

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Love Your Fear Goalcast Video

Sarah Suzuki, AM, LCSW, CADC
September 14, 2018

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How Much Should Women Drink Per Week?

Sarah Suzuki, AM, LCSW, CADC
July 26, 2018
Brit + Co interviewed Sarah Suzuki on moderate drinking guidelines (Check out the full interview here.):

"The problem with this restrictive guideline is that a lot of women might think, That's not for me. I guess I'll take the chance.' It doesn't offer flexibility for harm reduction," Suzuki says. "There's a big difference in health outcome if someone can reduce their drinking from 20 drinks per week to 12 drinks per week."

Suzuki instead prefers the recommendations for low-risk drinking from the NIAAA. While these guidelines still cap consumption at seven drinks per week for women, they allow more room on a day-to-day basis - specifically, up to three drinks in a given day.


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How to Achieve Radical Control

Sarah Suzuki, AM, LCSW, CADC
February 19, 2018
Watch Chicago Compass Counseling owner Sarah Suzuki talk about the meaning of Radical Control and how she learned to face her fear of failure.

From Live for Yourself: Facing Your Fears 2/19/18 #lfyevents #liveforyourself ...

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7 Key Questions to Ask Yourself about Your Drug and Alcohol Use

Katelyn Schmitt
October 25, 2017
Are you worried that your use of drugs or alcohol has become problematic?

If so, you're not alone. Most people who worry about their use of drugs and alcohol struggle to find an objective measurement to help them understand whether or not they have a problem.

At what point should you consider reaching out for professional help If you're like most people I work with, you might be thinking, "My use is the same as my friends or family. "Or: "I don't use every day".

I get it. It's comforting to look around at the people who have "real problems," thinking to yourself, "I'm doing ok by comparison, right?"

These thoughts, comforting as they might feel, also run the risk of minimizing the negative consequences you're experiencing TODAY.

You might be worried about the future - and with good reason.

Now, severity of substance ...

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What is Mindfulness Anyways, and Why is Everyone Trying It?

Julia Meo, LCSW, CADC
August 1, 2017
In pop culture, Mindfulness is often pictured as a healthy young woman, fresh from her latest spin class, and drinking a green juice to cleanse her from any toxins. So mindfulness is meant to make us happier and feel stress-free, right? Unfortunately, wrong. While relaxation and a decrease in stress is often the byproduct of a consistent mindfulness practice, the ultimate goal of mindfulness is to connect with the present moment in a non-judgmental way.

So if the goal of mindfulness isn't to make us happier, then why do it? Let's think about it in terms of two emotions that cause us extreme distress: anxiety & depression. Anxiety is generally manifested by thinking about what we did in the past that may not align with our values, or worry for what is to come in the future. Depression is often rooted in thoughts about difficult times in our past, or hopelessness for our...

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10 Strategies to Instantly Control Your Drinking

Sarah Suzuki, AM, LCSW, CADC
August 1, 2017
Drinking can be fun, pleasurable, and productive. When you go out for drinks with co-workers and clients, you can build a social bond that can help get you score a promotion. You can split a bottle of wine with your significant other over a nice dinner, kill a case of beer with your best friends while watching football, or sip a nice scotch with a Cuban cigar. Drinking is everywhere, and it's more satisfying to be a part of it than to suffer a serious case of FOMO. Drinking becomes a problem when it CAUSES problems. The good news is that you can prevent a great night from turning into a disaster by implementing 10 simple strategies every time you go out.
  1. Eat something. Make sure you eat SOMETHING before you drink. If you are drinking with a meal (brunch, lunch, or dinner,) make sure that you order at least an appetizer before selecting a wine. If you are waiting f...

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Are You Married to a Problem Drinker? Here

Sarah Suzuki, AM, LCSW, CADC
August 1, 2017
If alcohol counseling seems mysterious, then allow me to pull back the curtain. Here is a scene reenacted countless times per year in my office, among countless couples, the first time I meet a problem drinker:

I'm sitting in my chair with a legal pad, poised for note taking. The problem drinker - my prospective client - glares at the wall. His wife is wringing her hands, detailing the insanity of his drinking.

"I tell him to count his drinks, but he doesn't," she says.

"That's not true," he says, rolling his eyes.

I nod.

"He says he's going to change, but he doesn't," she says. "He's choosing alcohol over me, and he's choosing alcohol over the kids."

"That's ridiculous," he says. "You should see the way she drinks sometimes."

I nod again. This unstructured conversation will continue for about 2 minutes. ...

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How to Make the Most of IOP

Sarah Suzuki, AM, LCSW, CADC
August 1, 2017
So you're stuck in Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOP, for short). The top complaint I hear about IOP? That it's boring, stupid, and a waste of time. Then why do therapists keep sending their clients to IOP?

I will share a secret with you that most people don't know, including the other people in your program: the benefit of programming is the process, not the content.

What do I mean by this? Too many people focus on the content of the groups.

For example: "Today we're talking about relapse prevention planning!"

This might feel like a yawn to you. You might think to yourself, "I could read this in a book or google this information." Sometimes the information barely relates to you, or feels silly. The information is not the intervention.

What I want you to focus on is the process, not the content.

To wi...

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The Peril of "Always" and "Never"

Julia Meo, LCSW, CADC
August 12, 2017
Throughout our lives, we often to attribute labels to ourselves that weave their way into the way we view ourselves and our behaviors. We can easily see how "bad" labels can inhibit us from living the life we want to lead. A general example is the label of "the bad test taker." If that's a label that you identify with, then you may hold back from taking classes where the graded assignments are tests, or hesitate to apply to graduate schools for fear of the dreaded graduate school aptitude tests. This "negative" label may hold you back from a career or opportunity you are capable of, because somewhere along the line you believed that you are not able to test well. In reality, test-taking ability is fluid based on the subject, how well you've prepared, and can likely be improved through skill building.

This logic can also apply to "positive" labels that you may like about yourself. These "positive" labels are things we may pride ourselves on, and can still inhibit our sense of self if we live-or-die by them. For example, if someone were to say to you "He's always so reliable"-that's a good thing, right? Sometimes! But it also may be your sword to fall on. You may find yourself saying "yes" to everything, and then spiraling into overwhelming anxiety when you realize that are only human and cannot conceivably appease everyone. Or perhaps, someone labels you as "the life of the party." You may feel the need to always be the loudest, most fun person at the party offering to get the next round of drinks, even if you feel like you might need a quiet night staying in. We get ourselves in trouble when we ignore our emotions and push ourselves to maintain the status of our label. This rigidity will likely push you to a point of emotional and physical exhaustion that is bad for your overall health. ...

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3 Strategies Women Can Use to Reconnect to the Intuitive Self and Reduce Problem Drinking

Laura Duening, MA, MSW, LCSW, CADC
August 1, 2017
How many times as women are we told to "calm down?" stop overreacting?" Stop being so "dramatic?" You're being crazy. It's all in your head."

Messages like these are constant and disproportionately directed at women. This is the false cultural narrative of the "Irrational Woman."

As women, we're seen as "emotional", "reactive", "unstable" and are portrayed as such in the books, movies, television shows and even in the news media we consume daily.

The Connection to Problem Drinking

When speaking to my female identified clients about their problem drinking behavior and, more specifically, about the scenarios in which their drinking begins to get out of control, the universal narrative tends to be some form of the following:

"I was at a party/on a date/at a work function and I began to feel... uncomfortable. I don't know why. I just felt... stran...

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The World Through Filtered Eyes

Julia Meo, LCSW, CADC
August 2, 2017
It's 6:45am, and your alarm begins it's gentle coaxing of you into the day from your smart phone. As you hit your first round of snooze, your fingers automatically click to your emails, your Facebook feed, your Snapchats, and your Instagram feed. You begin to delve into the world of filtered, carefully calculated witty posts about how #blessed your social media world is with elaborate candlelit dinners, court-side games, and tropical vacations with significant others - all before you've brushed your teeth for the day.

So what happens when we compare our inner experience to someone else's social media feed? Anxiety. Unfair comparison. Despair. And generally, the feeling of "How did they get that life, and I'm here?" Social media is a fickle friend. Sure, it helps us remember birthdays, share exciting milestones in our lives, and generally wile away the time on a long CTA ride ...

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5 Reasons You Drink Every Night

Sarah Suzuki, AM, LCSW, CADC
August 2, 2017
Drinking every night is just something you do.

Sure, you're not DEPENDENT on alcohol. But the thought of taking a night off of drinking feels... uncomfortable.

Every day, after work, you pour yourself a drink. Maybe it's a beer after you put the kids to bed. It's become part of the Bedtime Routine: Feed the kids, clean the kids up, put them to bed, and grab a beer. I wonder my drinking is normal, you wonder. But what could be more normal than a drink at the end of a long, hard day?

If you're like my clients, it's not the drink itself that bothers you - it's the sense that you need a drink. That you would be uncomfortable without that drink. If you've made a habit of having a drink at the end of the day, the first step is to understand the function of the drink. The major functions of alcohol are as follows:
  1. Physical relaxation. You drink to alleviate tension in your body.
  2. Association with a place. You drink because that's what you like to do in your basement/man cave/garage.
  3. Numbing out disturbing thoughts. You drink because you don't want to think about what you think about all day.
  4. Replacing intimacy. You drink because you feel lonely, bored, or isolated from others.
  5. Rewarding yourself. You drink because you feel you deserve it.

But I drink for all of the above reasons, you might say. Although this might FEEL true, there is only one main function that keeps you stuck in your bad habit. Here's how to test it out. Each night this week, focus on just ONE function, replacing your drink with an alternative activity:...

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Habits, Addictions, and Power - Podcast with Benjamin Ritter

Sarah Suzuki, AM, LCSW, CADC
July 30, 2017

Ever wonder why you feel compelled to have a beer after work?

Check out the enlivening conversation I shared with with Executive Consultant Benjamin Ritter in a podcast where we talk about the REAL reasons men feel compelled to engage in problem drinking behavior. In this podcast, we discuss the following:

  • How self-destructive habits are MORE common among men in leadership positions.
  • Why "boredom" is an emotion that is about something more complex.
  • The KEY REASON why alcohol abuse is not about a "lack of willpower."
  • One IMMEDIATE STRATEGY you can use starting TODAY to reduce problem drinking.

Bottom line? You problem drinking makes sense. Check out our interview to learn more.
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Ask Anything: Does Butt Chugging Reduce Calories Consumed?

Sarah Suzuki, AM, LCSW, CADC
July 2, 2017

Q. Does butt chugging reduce calories consumed? -Butt Chugging

Bottoms Up, BC! For your benefit, I will now review the history of butt-chugging.
The alcohol-enema (fondly referred to as butt-chugging) became a media sensation in 2004 after the death of one 58-year-old Texan, Michael Warner, who, with the help of his wife, anally administered sherry. He allegedly chose to butt-chug in order to avoid exacerbating his ulcers. Mr. Warner received a Darwin Award for his efforts, and his wife was charged with negligent homicide. The good news: We can surmise that Mr. Warner did not experience ulcer pain. And the charges against his wife were eventually dropped. The bad news: He died.

Not to be outdone, the brothers of fraternity Pi Kappa Alpha at University of Tennessee incorporated butt-chugging into their hazing rituals in 2012, w...

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Our Specializations
Alcohol ModerationDepressionAnxietyAddictionComplicated GriefSelf-Destructive BehaviorTrauma
Call to book your session: (312) 715-8234
We're here for you.

Chicago Compass Counseling, LLC
333 N. Michigan Ave, Suite 704
Chicago, IL 60601

Email: [email protected]