Thoughts on Trial

Something we see a lot of here at Refuge is anxiety; more people struggle with anxiety and overwhelming feelings of worry than ever before. First, we want you to know that anxiety is normal! Your brain and body are trying to protect you from hurt or discomfort so it wants to be prepared. Anxiety is trying to prepare you for the worst-case scenario and it wants you to go into situations with all the information. However, sometimes anxiety takes over and all we can think about is worst-case scenario, that’s when your brain starts to spiral. Then your anxious thoughts take over, and you can’t see the truth! For example, you are invited to a party, and you’re nervous about meeting new people. Anxiety wants you to be prepared to meet new people, but then it does its job a little too well. You start getting anxious thinking about how awkward you may be or your anxiety tells you no one wants you at the party in the first place. We want you to know that this happens to a lot of people. Anxiety can feel a lot like being in a tornado of your own thoughts and own design. Often, those thoughts have themes that are not true. These themes are called cognitive distortions.

Some examples of cognitive distortions are:

  • Black-and-white (or all-or-nothing) thinking: I never have anything interesting to say.
  • Jumping to conclusions (or mind-reading): I know that person hates me.
  • Personalization: Our team lost because of me.
  • Should-ing and must-ing (using language that is self-critical that puts a lot of pressure on you)
  • Overgeneralization
  • Magnification and minimization (magnifying the negative, minimizing the positive)
  • Catastrophizing: I’m going to fail this test, and then I’ll never get into college. Then my life will be over.
  • Labeling: I’m just not a good person.

(Harvard Health Publishing, 2022)

An exercise we like to teach clients to do when they struggle with anxiety is challenging these thoughts. One common technique to challenge your thoughts is called “putting thoughts on trial.”  This technique and the cognitive distortions are from an evidenced-based therapeutic modality called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. When we use this technique, we evaluate the evidence for and the evidence against the thought. The evidence is based on facts and not on feelings. The hope is that when you bring the evidence to “the judge” you can see the evidence clearly. So often, our anxious thoughts make us feel overwhelmed, and it’s hard to see the truth. Once you see the evidence laid out for and against these thoughts, those feelings may less overwhelming.  Finding evidence against a thought can be difficult on your own, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Our therapists here at Refuge are happy to help you fight these thoughts. We know that combatting these anxious thoughts by yourself can be hard, and if you find yourself wanting help and guidance in this area, call the Refuge Center to set up an appointment. You can do so at: 615-591-5262 or go to You can also check out additional resources on “putting thoughts on trial” using the references below.

By Corinne Terhune, Masters Level Intern


Invisible Wounds: Veteran Mental Health

            Every 4th of July our country celebrates the birth and independence of our nation. But what we often forget is how our nation came to be and what was done to get us here. Let us not forget the war that our country faced (and is still facing) to remain free. Millions of people have answered the call to fight for our nation in the most unimaginable ways of war. But what happens when they have served their nation and it is time for them to come home? Our veterans may be seen as heroes to the average eye, but most of them feel far from a hero. So how can we help our veterans who mourn and face trauma instead of celebrate on this patriotic month? 

            When veterans return, they are never the same. Below are some facts and statistics that might help put into perspective what our veterans face when returning from active duty.

48% – Experience strains in their family

47% – Have outburst of anger

44% – Have trouble adjusting back to civilian life

5-39% – Have alcohol issues

19-23% – Have a traumatic brain injury

1 in 4 Active Duty Members – show signs of mental health conditions

1 in 3 Veterans – Experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

            Many veterans struggle with dealing and processing through their mental health issues when returning. Tragically more than 6,400 veterans die by suicide every year because their mental wounds are so deep and unaddressed. These numbers could be much lower if the proper resources and help were put in place. So, how do we help? There are many resources that are available to our veterans. However, 1 in 3 veterans feel like they don’t get the mental health services they need. Below are some ways that we can advocate and contribute to keep these resources available so that our veterans can get the help they need and deserve. 

Organizations like the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A) aims to provide services and resources for our veterans. The V.A offers affordable health care and services for our veterans and can be accessible in many parts of the country. 

            The Wounded Warrior Project advocates and provides long-term rehabilitation services for veterans like retreats, therapy resources, and support networks for not just veterans but for their families as well. They provide numerous opportunities for civilians to help contribute to these services and resources for veterans by talking donations, organizing events, and educating others and advocating for veterans.

            The Real Warriors Campaign is a resource site for active duty members, veterans, and military families that provide resources for mental health, substance use, transitions, and even finances and benefits. The Real Warriors Campaign seeks to help connect active duty members, veterans, and military families to helpful resources and people to aid in their healing journey. 

            Mission 22 is a veteran founded organization that provides personalized support and resources to help veterans and their families. They provide crisis resources as well as numerous free and long-term intensive programs for veterans and their families to help navigate their mental health journey. They partner with both veterans and therapists to educate and offer empathy and stories of experience and connection to help veterans and their families so they don’t have to walk though their struggles alone. 

            There are also numerous hotlines that veterans or even other individuals worried about a veteran can call. The Veterans Crisis Line is a confidential and free helpline that can help connect veterans to support and resources that they may need by texting, calling, or chatting online. 

            The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is also a confidential and free helpline that can help families or veterans facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

            Among the resources previously mentioned are other numerous options and services to help veterans. Donating to one of the organizations listed above would be a great start! It can be hard to empathize with a veteran if you haven’t gone through the same thing. That is why it is important that we help to connect them with others who do understand their pain and struggle. So during this month of celebration for our independence, let us not forget to do what we can to reach out and advocate on our veterans behalf who continue to make our independence possible. 

            Here at The Refuge Center, we aim to not only help veterans but help other individuals through the hard times and the struggles they may be facing. Our therapists are here to walk alongside you as you navigate your way through your healing journey. Whether veteran or civilian, The Refuge Center provides a safe shelter for all of those who seek to find healing and rest.

Blog written by Master’s Level Intern, Taylor Musarra

Kauffman, B., Angels of America’s fallen stands with families of veteran suicide. (November 8, 2021).

National Alliance on Mental Illness., Veteran’s & active duty. (n.d.).

RAND Healthcare., Veteran’s Mental Health Issues. (n.d).

Delighting in Your Child

“When we treat children’s play as seriously as it deserves, we are helping them feel the joy that’s to be found in the creative spirit. We’re helping ourselves stay in touch with that spirit, too. It’s the things we play with and the people who help us play that make a great difference in our lives.”- Fred Rogers

During summertime, many parents understandably feel overwhelmed with what to do when kids are at home most of the time. Summer can bring about anxiety of how to fill the child’s day or frustration when the day doesn’t go to plan. Playing with your children can so easily become a chore, a source of exhaustion, or even a source of shame. Why do we play with our children anyway?

What we know about play is that it is a child’s language, so when parent’s play with their children you are speaking their language! Play can also bring a sense of self-worth in the child. Children experience themselves through the eyes of their caregiver, so when a parent openly delights in their child the child begins to develop their sense of self. When a child hears “I like and love you”, the message they receive is they are likeable and loveable. The child recognizes that they are worthy of connection and acceptance. This security in the relationship with their parent allows them to seek those same relationships with others in which they are liked and loved. We know that when children go through life with the knowledge that they are loved and worthy to be loved, they can approach challenges with self-esteem and confidence.

How can you delight in your child this summer? Play with them! As you play with them, communicate that your child is delightful just as they are. Enjoy your child and express that to them, “I love to laugh with you!” or “I see how creative you are!”. When children are overwhelmed or upset, they still need to know they are loved and valued. Express those little delights you see in your child: “Even when you’re angry, I love you”. No matter what play you engage in with your child, try to give them the gift of delight.

We know that connecting with your child can be hard, and we are here to help! If you find yourself wanting help and guidance in this, call the Refuge Center to set up an appointment. You can do so at: 615-591-5262 or go to

You can delight in your child doing anything, but if you need some ideas here are some games that encourage that secure connection with your child from the Children’s Home Society of Minnesota:

  1. Play hide and seek. As an added bonus this also develops object permanence.
  2. Paint each other’s faces with paint, powder, make up, or just pretend.
  3. Donut Dare. Hold a donut on your finger through the hole and have your child see how many bites they can take before it falls off. If you want to make this a bit healthier you could change the donut to a pineapple ring.
  4. Apply lotion to each other.
  5. Play a memory game but with a more personal touch. First, have your child look you over very carefully. Then leave the room and return after you’ve changed something about yourself. See if s/he can figure out what is different. It could be something really obvious for younger kids, like taking off a sweater, but for older kids you could get more challenging, like buttoning one more button on the sweater.
  6. Guess the Goodies! Put several small treats in a bag or cup. Then have your child closes his/her eyes. Finally, you pop a treat in your child’s mouth and have him/her try to guess what it is.
  7. Hold your child in your arms and dance. This is a very synchronous activity.
  8. Play a tunnel activity kind of like London Bridge. Both parents start by kneeling on the floor to form a tunnel. Then have your child crawl through the tunnel as fast as s/he can before it collapses. During the first few times let him/her get completely through, then have it gently collapse onto your child.
  9. Give a pillow ride! Have your child sit on a big floor pillow as you drag him/her around the room. Make sure to only move when given eye contact.
  10. Play catch! Roll a ball back and forth to teach reciprocity. Throwing or batting a balloon back and forth may be easier than throwing a ball for little ones.
  11. Engage in an M&M hockey rivalry. Use bendy straws and blow candy across a table to the other person’s goal. When one of you scores a goal, the opponent feeds that person candy.
  12. Marshmallow fight! Each person uses a pillow as a shield. Sit on the floor and throw marshmallows at each other. This gets wild and crazy and is a lot of fun. You can do the same thing with crumpled paper if you don’t have marshmallows handy.
  13. Swim together if you have access to a pool.
  14. Create a pillow jumping maze. Set up pillow islands in a pattern across the floor. Have your child start at one end while you are at the other. S/he can only start to cross the room when you say “go” (you could say “mo” or “lo” to make things more challenging and teach him/her to be more attentive).  After given the green light, your child must jump across the islands and into your arms.
  15. Adapt Lady and the Tramp with lifesavers on a licorice string. Loop a piece of shoestring licorice through a few gummy lifesavers.  Put one end of licorice in your mouth and the other in your child’s mouth (it helps to tie a knot so that it stays in your mouths better). Then, by standing up and maneuvering without hands, feed the lifesavers to each other.

By Masters Level Intern Corinne Terhune


Delight in me: The origins of self-worth. Circle of Security International. (2020, September 18).

Guest Contributor. (2015, November 18). 15 games that encourage attachment. CHLSS.

Why Child-Centered Play Therapy?

Imagine you are really angry, but when asked to describe how you feel you can’t use the word “angry.” You might be thinking, “how am I supposed to tell someone how I feel if I don’t even know the words!” For children, toys are their words, not giving them an opportunity to play out their feelings with toys is like taking away words when asking how you feel. 

Put simply, play therapy is to children what counseling is to adults. Children’s main medium of expression is through play. Play therapy allows children to communicate and express their feelings in a developmentally appropriate way. It is an evidenced-based and developmentally responsive mental health intervention for young children ages 3 to 10 years old who are experiencing social, emotional, behavioral and relational disorders. What’s the difference between regular play vs. play therapy? Therapists who specialize in play therapy are knowledgeable in recognizing themes in play, and can promote emotional regulation, self-control and mastery. 

In a playroom, a play therapist works with children on reflecting feelings, assisting in positive self-direction and setting limits to building coping skills. Through therapy, children learn how to express and accept their feelings in ways that benefit them. Toys and other playroom items are used to assist children in communication with the play therapist. This can take different forms such as playing with dolls or action figures, sand trays, expressive arts, storytelling, clay, and dress up.

An important aspect of play therapy is the therapeutic relationship between the child and the therapist. The relationship should provide a safe and nurturing environment, so the child is able to experience full acceptance, empathy and understanding. Play therapy also allows children to process their inner experiences and feelings through play, symbols, role-play, fantasy and arts.

What are the benefits? 

  • CCPT meets children where they are developmentally, allowing them to process emotions without needing the capacity of abstract thoughts. 
  • Provides an opportunity for children to act out feelings, experiences and thoughts that they can’t express through words.
  • Bridges the gap between experiences and understanding. 
  • Provides opportunity for problem-solving, insight and skill mastery.
  • Encourages autonomy and independence.
  • Helps children with learning social skills and relational skills.

Explaining play therapy to children 

Here is an example of a way you can broach the topic of play therapy and explain it in a way your children best understand:

“Sometimes you feel happy or you feel sad, or you may even feel mad sometimes. When you play, sometimes you feel better. In play therapy you will come to a place that is just for kids. You will meet a grown-up who will be your play therapist and you will go to a playroom where there will be lots of toys. In the playroom you can play with the toys in lots of the ways you like. Your play therapist is there with you to play or to talk, it’s up to you. Play therapy can make you feel better because you get to play and be with someone who cares about you and you get to choose what you want to do. Sometimes playing will be fun and sometimes it will be serious, but you get to decide. The playroom is a safe space where you can ask questions if you don’t understand something. This is a time just for you!”   

Written by Masters Level Intern Hannah Miskelley


University of North Texas. (n.d.). Child Centered Play Therapy. UNT Center for Play Therapy. 

Association for Play Therapy. (n.d.). Why Play Therapy?. Mental Health Professionals Applying the Therapeutic Power of Play! 

Andrewjeski, Kaitlin, “The Symbolism of Play Behavior in Child-Centered Play Therapy” (2019). UNLV Theses, Dissertations, Professional Papers, and Capstones. 3780. 

Optimizing Your Vacation Time

School’s out and summer is here! This time of year can be a multitude of things: exciting, stressful, busy, restful, and fun. With camps, sports, trips, and pool days filling your calendar, it’s so easy for your summer to go by in a flash, leaving you feeling exhausted come fall. Have you ever gone on a vacation only to get home feeling like you need a vacation from your vacation?! Same here. Whether you have a week-long vacation coming up, or if you have one day to take off to be by yourself, I want to give you some ideas to help optimize your time off, so that you feel rejuvenated and renewed. 

Set aside some space and set intentions for your time off, really plan and think through your needs and what you want it to look like. The grocery and packing lists will get done, I promise! Engaging in a mindful intention setting can help you really get what you need out of your vacation. Here are some questions to think through as you set intentions for your vacation or time off. 

  1. Vision. If you were to describe your ideal vacation for this season of your life in three words, what would they be? 
  2. Personal reflection. What does this time off mean to you? What will you lose if you don’t take it?
  3. What would feel good to you. What does rest look like? Will you engage in any exercise? Are there any activities or games that you want to make room for? What do you want to eat? Where and with whom? What relationships will you invest in? Anything else you need to achieve your vision?
  4. Boundaries. How will you disengage from work? What do you need to ask for or put in place to be able to disengage from work? Can you disconnect from anything virtually during your time off? How will you nurture your mind and heart? 
  5. Preparing. What projects/tasks do I need to complete before leaving? Is there anything I can delegate or defer? Is there anything I can ask for help on?

If you are going on vacation with someone else, what would it look like to each answer these questions and then come back together to compare? If you have kids coming with you, this may be a great way to model to them what it is like to assess your needs and ask for them to be met. What questions could your kids weigh in on to give them some agency in the process?

My hope is that these questions can help you elicit your needs in order to make your vacation feel good for what you need in this season. Vacations are a beautiful time to make cherished memories, so my hope is that setting intentions and sticking with your plan can help eliminate some of the stress, even before it happens.

If you need more support, please don’t hesitate to call The Refuge Center to get connected with a therapist who can help you with whatever it is you may be going through.

By Masters Level Intern Kat Thompson

The information in this blog post is largely influenced by a graphic organizer created by Michael Hyatt & Company, LLC in 2018.