In this episode, I talk to Christina Principe MA, LMHC-QS, LPC, DCC, NCC, a licensed mental health counselor, about mindfulness, stress and how she helps people work through times of transition in their lives.
Christina explains what it means to approach mental health counseling from a perspective of “mindfulness,” and provides both a solid explanation of what it means to be mindful along with actionable steps we can take when we experience anxiety or other stresses in life.
Retraction: I apologize. In error, I originally identified Christina Principe as a Ph.D with the title Dr. Christina Principe. This was inaccurate and the error was purely mine. Christina is a licensed mental health counselor with accreditation’s that include being a Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC), Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), a Clinical Hypnosis Practitioner, a Distance Credentialed Counselor (DCC), and Qualified Supervisor for interns, in the state of Florida and a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Texas.
I mistakenly took one of these as a Ph.D. level of training. In reality, she holds a Master of Arts in Counseling from Webster University.
Listen to My Interview with Christina Principe
Links and Images from My Interview with Christina Principe
You can reach Christina at https://livewellspacecoast.com or by phone at (321) 987-6198.
Takeaways from My Interview with Christina Principe
I found many useful and actionable strategies during this conversation with ChristinaPrincipe. The two I find most helpful for my own life is using controlled breathing and focusing on the present in times of anxiety or when my mind is racing and I can’t sleep. Was there anything you plan on putting into practice based on this interview?
Complete Transcript of My Interview with Christina Principe
Kim: 00:12 You’re listening to Space Coast Stories, a podcast with interviews and stories from people and businesses on Florida’s Space Coast. I’m your host, Kim Shivler. Thanks for joining me.
Kim: 00:16 Hey everybody on the Space Coast. Welcome back to Space Coast Stories. I’m your host Kim Shivler, and as you know we’ve had several episodes on physical health. Today I’m actually interviewing a licensed mental health counselor and we’re going to talk about becoming the best of ourselves in that Matt. And that way I’m interviewing Christina Principe and she is a licensed mental health professional here and Brevard County. She focuses a lot on family. She has parenting classes and she works with youth and we’re going to talk about that and as for as her practice and maybe some best practices for how we approach our own mental health. Welcome Christina.
Christina: 01:03 Hello.
Kim: 01:05 So tell me a little bit about your general practice. What are the type of people you tend to work with and what are some of the very common challenges that you help people with?
Christina: 01:17 My practice is a mindfulness based practice. I help people to recenter, refocus, and to ground themselves so that they can move to another place in their lives. A lot of the people I work with are adults, young adults, especially those at that time in their lives when they’re trying to figure out about becoming adults. What does all that mean and how do I do it? Am I doing it right? It’s, it can be a confusing time especially when you’re just leaving the house and trying to figure out who you are. Work with older folks. Also people that are also in another form of, of transition in their lives may be, um, they’ve lost a spouse or maybe they’re downsizing or maybe they’ve moved into a retirement community and, and everything’s changed. So I help them to adjust to those types of changes. I also help people with marriage. So I do couples counseling. I’m using the Gottman Method, which is very, very evidence based. It is well studied. It’s one of the best ones out there. And I do a lot of adolescent work and most of my background has been with working with adolescence. Um, mostly male, some females and in corrections. So I’ve worked a lot with also law enforcement, corrections officers and in the past past with army soldiers in a supportive environment on base.
Kim: 02:55 So it sounds like times of transition in our lives are a definite point where it might benefit us to get a little extra help because we all know whether it is leaving home, to go to school; to go to work. Sometimes leaving college and going into the workforce is very difficult for people. It sounds like you may be saying that’s that is possibly a good time to seek out a little extra help.
Christina: 03:21 Sometimes we do need a little bit of extra support when, when we’re going through a change. So you know, whether it’s, you know, where they say when they, we talk about stress, stress could be negative or it can be positive. So a positive thing like getting married or getting a promotion, you know, that it’s a change but, and we would perceive it as, as a positive change, but it can also elicit some other feelings that we, the need for adjustment in our lives. And in and then how are we doing things. I mean marriage, marriage especially. It’s a big adjustment.
Kim: 04:00 Tthat’s a big adjustment. Absolutely. And you mentioned when you were first explaining your practice, you talked about being a mindfulness based practice and I think for many of us, mindfulness is something we hear talked about a lot. It’s popular to hear, but I’m not sure everyone understands 1, what mindfulness is and then, when you say, I’m using that in my therapy practice, what that looks like. So would you explain those two things to us?
Christina: 04:32 Sometimes when I, when I work with people they might find themselves. A lot of people come to me with experiencing anxiety and anxiety is basically fear, fear of the future, fear of the unknown. But it’s an unfounded fear. When we can ground ourselves in the present and using and from and mindfulness, we were grounding ourselves to the present. That means recentering, resetting ourselves into our body to where we are physically at this time. We may utilize breathing techniques. I meet with clients in different ways. So some clients, the office is an okay place. Some clients, they might do better if we go for a walk or, or we might go to, there’s a river near my office. So we might go to the river near my office and will recenter with their feet standing, of course they’re willing to do this. I’m not gonna force anybody in a river, but we’ll take off our shoes and we will get in the river and we will feel and experience the water. We’llfeel and experience the wind. We will notice the colors of the sky of the clouds. The contrast we’ll notice the sounds that we’re hearing if it’s the sea gulls or if it’s the children nearby or or whatever. So we get ourselves to the present sometimes, especially with anxiety. We’re not, we’re not living in the present. So a lot of time they say you have to do, especially when during anxiety attack you have to focus on what’s in front of you. Focus on what you hear, focus on what you smell, focus on what you, what you know, your tactile feel. So we get to the present and then we work from there.
Kim: 06:23 So mindfulness itself is really just been in our present moment, taking in what we have and setting aside all those other little monkey brain thoughts of what’s coming next, what’s in the past, what did I do yesterday, what do I have to do tomorrow? Who did I let down? Et cetera. And just being where we are. Correct?
Christina: 06:44 Yes. Yes.
Kim: 06:46 And then for you as a therapist, which, which I, this interests me because I think a lot of us, if we have never worked with a therapist, you know, we still have visions of, you know, people laying on couches and things like that as opposed to someone who says, okay, let’s start where we are and now we’re going to combine that with our therapy and actually help people learn to get into that present and stay there. Is that part of it?
Christina: 07:14 Yeah. We want, we want for them to learn to get there and utilize, utilize that as a coping skill. So when things, things aren’t going right, say for instance there’s increased stress at work, then they’re, you know, realizing calling yourself into yourself and realizing, okay, I’m not feeling not feeling right right now. I’m feeling kind of stressed right now. You know, my mind’s running too fast. And then caring and loving yourself enough to step out. Maybe go have lunch outside the office or just step out and take a breath. Notice, notice the trees that are outside or you know, walk away and take care of yourself and then and recenter and then return to what you were, what you were doing, but you’re returning stronger and more centered, enabled to concentrate and do what is it you’re trying to accomplish with that. Getting rid of that fear, that overwhelmed feeling that you had, that’s, that’s like one of the, one of the cornerstones of my practice is self compassion. We, we work so hard to treat others well, but a lot of times we don’t work as hard to treat ourselves well. How would things be. How would things be different if we treated ourselves as well as we treated others?
Kim: 08:43 Very true. Well for when we would probably have more energy because we wouldn’t be burning it all and everyone else would be saving a little for ourselves. I really appreciate that. Uh, what, what you gave us, there was a very practical advice as far as if you’re at that moment where you get overwhelmed at work or maybe even at home, I don’t have children, but there are times I want to just scream about what one of my cats likes to do. Okay. It’s that time to stop, step aside, take a breath and bring yourself back to where you are and not keeping it going down that little whirling pattern of overwhelm or anxiety, that type of thing. But to just bring your back, bring yourself back and I appreciate that you shared that with us because it’s a very practical one. It’s not just way out there. It’s something all of us can do anywhere without any type of special equipment. Any other, if I’m running into that, I have anxiety and, and I’m really any tips for helping me identify when this is happening so that I can get to stopping and taking a breath.
Christina: 10:00 People experience anxiety in different ways. A lot of the times people will describe a physical feeling, not being able to breathe freely, um, or feeling lump in their chest or in their throat. Um, some people will physically, you know, experienced numbness or tingling in their hands, sweaty palms, even even they’re feeling hot. So it’s, it’s a different experience with different people. Then when in the mind they might experience like, like their thoughts are just racing, they’re just going and it’s going from here to there and there to there it’s like a rabbit hole and you know, they can’t, they feel like they can’t make it stop. But the thing is that we are all in control. It feels like sometimes like we’re not, but really we are and we have to make a decision to stop. So that, and that’s the thing about, about mindfulness with you. When you are mindful, you you kind of stop and you notice what’s in front of you instead of what’s down the rabbit hole.
Kim: 11:13 We all like to go down that rabbit hole sometimes and it’s easy to do on a daily basis when we’re all very busy and we’re running in 12 different directions frequently. Sometimes it’s hard to stop and be present.
Christina: 11:28 Yeah. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received from somebody that was during a difficult time in my life was I was at work and I was upset about something and the thing that she told me was that, you know, you’re here, you’re here at work right now. What can you do about what’s over there? And you know, I couldn’t, I couldn’t be over there to change what was bothering me over here. I couldn’t, I couldn’t, I could think and think and think about it, but how much action can you take realistically when you’re, when you’re at this place and you’re having to do this job, you can’t take care of that at the same time. Most of us can’t. Anyway, so she said basically what she said was to be, to be present 100% present where you are, and same thing, you know, would, would apply it. Like if you’re trying to sleep and your mind is running and you keep, you know, you’re, you’re in the rabbit hole wandering around. When you’re thinking about bills and you’re thinking about relationship troubles and you were thinking about jobs and the boss that that sucks and you think about those things, then you’re laying in bed. None of those things can get done from that, that place, that time.
Kim: 12:52 And what would you recommend to someone if they are in that situation? I am, you know, I know I go to bed and my mind is racing, et cetera, and I don’t know how to stop it. Is there a breathing technique or something that you would tell people, try this to try clearing all of that racing out of your mind.
Christina: 13:13 So for most of my clients, what we do is when they first come in, well of course we take history and things like that and figure out what’s, what did they want is one of the first questions I ask my clients, what, what is it you want? And then, you know, then we start working towards that. But one of the first things that we work on is breathing. Most of my clients, they have, you know, they have some breathing. We all have breathing experienced, but they have, you know, some of them have deeper breathing experience. Okay? So like people that practice yoga and things like that. Um, but for, for a typical client, they would come in and we would start to work on their breathing. And the, what I tell them is, are you breathing to survive or are you breathing to thrive?
Christina: 13:57 Now, when we’re conscious of our breathing and, and we’re, and we’re breathing to thrive, we are breathing down to that area that’s just above your, your belly button and right below your ribs and your feeling that part of your body with there. Don’t worry the air still getting to your lungs, but you’re filling that part of your body and then you’re, you know, releasing it, okay? If you breathing to survive, then you’re breathing to the top of your chest and those breaths are not as deep or as, as nourishing as when you breathe deeper down to your belly. We work on adjusting that, breathing down, down to the, to the lower part of the belly and um, and then elongating it. So I’ll start them on a count, breathing in for four and breathing out for six and we’ll win that with that controlled breathing process.
Christina: 14:59 It slows down the body in a lot of what stress is, is it’s, it’s our body reacting in a fearful way, even though there’s nothing know there’s not a bear chasing us or anything like that, but our body is, this kind of act is acting that way. So when we, when we take control of our breath, we’re telling our body, you’re okay, we’re okay. And then the body can relax. It can slow down and just your heartbreak or heart rate comes down and then you bought your muscles begin to and tense and then you’re able to, to relax. And so we start with the breathing. And so, uh, that that’s something I give a lot of my clients his homework and we practice that from week to week because we are going to increase that number from four, four on the inhale and six on the exhale to eight and 10 are 10 and 12 it doesn’t mean that you’re taking in whole bunch more air.
Christina: 15:58 You know, larger quantity of air means that you’re taking more control of your breathing and slowing it down even more and teaching your body that and teaching yourself that it’s okay, things are okay, I will sign them to do that when they’re trying to sleep.
Kim: 16:15 That’s a great, I think that’s a great tactic or, I shouldn’t say a great strategy. I am a big believer a fan of different hearing different types of breathing exercises and there’s a lot of different ones out there and so I love hearing that. Thank you. One thing that’s different about you that not all therapists use, you’re also certified in hypnotherapy and you incorporate that into your practice along with NLP for your clients. Why don’t you explain us a little bit about how you incorporate that and then also maybe for the listeners who aren’t a hundred percent sure of what actually is hypnotherapy, it’s not just some goofy stage show.
Kim: 16:59 What is it and how can it help people as well as the NLP? What is that and how can you use that to help people?
Christina: 17:05 Yeah. When people think about hypnosis, they usually think about the weird guy with the, the, the pendulum or, or watch swinging front of your face. And they said, now look into my eyes. Yeah, there are, I’m sure there was a time and for entertainment purposes, yeah, that’s, that adds a, a flare of drama. Um, but my office is nuts. That dramatic like that. Basically what we do, and I don’t just to say it out front as a licensed therapists is not, is not, it would not be ethical for me to hypnotize anybody without their permission. So I never hypnotize anybody without their permission. With that said, when we decide to, to embark on, on hypnosis, well, we, what we start with is the mindfulness based practice.
Christina: 17:51 The breathing, we go into a relaxation. And what hypnosis is is it’s a deeper state of relaxation. It allows deeper state that allows more openness in the brain. So instead of talking to, you know, the front part, we’re talking more to the deep inside in the back part where all the old stuff is stored up.
Kim: 18:17 Getting more into that subconscious and just what sitting right in front.
Christina: 18:21 Yes, yes. And so we all have these, these filters in our mind, these things that stop us from doing certain things or thinking certain thoughts or saying certain things. And we even filter our beliefs, our beliefs about ourselves and what we can achieve. What hypnosis does it works to, to get beyond those filters and to access that area were dreaming, imagination, openness, where all that happens and where we can let our mind be free.
Kim: 18:58 And how can that be used? I think for many of us, I was just interviewing someone and we were talking about this, that sometimes we find as we get older and we were, you know, really taking a step back to look at ourselves that we’ve fallen into some bad patterns in life. So how can something like hypnosis help us break out of those patterns?
Christina: 19:20 Know one of the things that the happens to us when we’re, when we’re children, we hear all these things, some of them positive and sadly some of them negative and sometimes those things get in our head and they stay in our head. And some of us even believe them. But the thing is that just because something was said to you know, said to us does not mean that that’s truth with a capital t. Somebody you love said you were dumb. That’s not truth with a capital T.
Christina: 19:55 But sometimes we adopt that and make it our own. We’ll want to do is get that out and help the person to, to see that that’s, you know, that that’s not what what it is. You know, that’s not what, that’s not what’s there. They they be, they’ve made a choice to follow through on that belief. But now when you’re older and you have control over your, your own life in your own mind, and you can look at all the evidence that’s in front of you that you are not dumb or whatever it was that you were programmed to think and all this evidence is laid out in front of you. This logical no, that, that’s, that’s not true. And you can accept that and you can go on with your life and everything will be without that old, stagnant, inaccurate belief in your head that can be changed.
Christina: 21:00 It can be put in its proper place as whatever it was. Somebody was not so nice to you or whatever it, whatever, however you want to classify it.
Kim: 21:11 It’s an exciting idea that maybe we can turn around some of those things that, you know, little hurts as children, really can grow up or as we grow up can really become quite significant for us. So the possibility of maybe turning some of that offer are accepting that it wasn’t accurate. What we were told is very hopeful. I think for many of us. Now, another thing that you integrate into your practice that some people may not be familiar with is NLP. Would you explain that to us?
Christina: 21:42 Neuro Linguistic Programming ties in really well with, with hypnosis. Basically what is is, and I tell my clients, you know, any prospective clients is from the very beginning. If we’re in session and I tell you to stop, then it’s not just me being bossy. Okay. So what I’m doing is, is, um, I’ve been trained to watch, watch people’s body language where their eyes access information from. Sometimes we speak with our hands and you know, we, I pay attention to their body gestures and then also their language, how they frame their language. So if somebody is speaking about the past and, but their eyes are looking at the future and their hands are moving towards the future, then it’s whether doing is carrying the past into their future and for something that’s good, then that’s awesome. But if it’s something that’s not so good, then that’s not a good thing. So for instance, um, I choose the wrong men and they are, I choose, I choose the wrong men. Yeah. You could say I’ve chosen the wrong men, but if your body and your eyes and your, your hands and everything else is pointing towards the future, then you’re probably going to continue choosing the wrong men because your body in the eyes and everything else is sending that information to that part of your brain that says the future.
Christina: 23:12 What I will do is I will, I will stop a person and we will, it’s, it’s, it’s a physical and a verbal thing. So I’ll have them to rephrase that. I chose okay because that happened in the past and in the future you can choose if that’s going to happen again or not. So, and that’s, that also goes with some other processing. Like, you know, what traits do you look for in a mate and things like that. But that’s a whole other thing anyway. So we’ll put it in its proper place that that was in the past. You chose the wrong, you chose the wrong man. In the future., what are you going to do? So sometimes in my, in my sessions we, you know, I stopped them verbally and they’ll, you know, have people to rephrase things, but we may also do things more experientially. So I’ll have them to move their hands in a certain way, move their eyes in a certain way. Um, sometimes even we’ll stand up and we will move our, turn our bodies in a certain direction and move, move things in a different way so that way we can put things in his proper place. The way I like to think about it is like a defragging a computer for those of us who are old enough to remember when you used to have to defrag a computer. Our brain kind of works like that too. When you were defrag the computer, it would put everything in its proper place so that it would so that when the computer accesses the information and could do it faster because it’s all categorized by type or date or whatever and or, yeah. So our brain kind of works that way too.
Christina: 24:49 Yeah. We have all this information that’s been thrown on our brain and we can put it in its proper place. So a thing that was a fear when you were a child and maybe at that time it did present a danger, a dog or something, that fear doesn’t have to exist in the present in especially a phobic type of fear.
Kim: 25:13 And it also sounds then like that’s another tool you use when you’re talking about choosing the wrong man, et cetera. It’s another one of the tools that helps people break out of bad patterns. I think that’s, you know, choosing the wrong person is frequently one of those patterns. People fall into a financial choices that people make are frequently one of those patterns that they fall into. And so these are extra tools you have as you work with people in helping them move forward.
Christina: 25:43 And I utilize traditional CBT or talk therapy techniques also. But you know, I kind of, I pride myself on, on being able to bring different things into session. So I warn my clients from the very beginning that we’re not going to sit here and talk week after week because you know you can only rehash the past so much. We’re here to make changes and yes, sometimes people are kind of afraid of changes, but then like I say, if you, if your mind can imagine things are going to be different and you have an idea of how that’s going to be different than it’s, it’s only one step to being a reality. Make the step. Let’s make the step and help you to do that as best as I can.
Kim: 26:26 Excellent. Thank you so much for all this information and your time. As always, folks out, I’ll have the links and information in the show notes that you can find at https://SpaceCoastStories.com.
Kim: 26:39 Christina, tell people how they can get ahold of you.
Christina: 26:43 I have a website which it’s a little bit under work right now, but it’s www live well, Space Coast.com and then I also have my Gmail, which is Christina. Dot. Principe. Yeah, my know. My last name is p r i n c i p email@example.com and then there’s my phone number, which is (321) 987-6198.
Kim: 27:15 Thank you so much for being on the show.
Christina: 27:18 Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Kim: 27:20 And everybody. We’ll be back next time interviewing another interesting business owner or a person with a story here on Florida’s Space Coast. Bye.
Kim: 27:32 Join us next time for another episode of Space Coast Stories. You can find the show notes and other information at http://SpaceCoastStories.com the views of the guests on this show are their own and don’t necessarily represent the views of the show owners, host or company. Thanks for listening to Space Coast Stories.