Where to get cuddle therapy

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One of the most important things when dealing with anxiety, depression, or general stress is to have something that you look forward to. Spending time with animals can be a great way to feel better while also making a difference.


Asheville Humane Society

Asheville Humane Society offers opportunities to socialize cats and dogs.

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If you’re a cat lover, you can get involved in their cat behavior program. They have a special room for kitties to play in. You can pet them, play with them, read to them, or just cuddle.

Asheville Humane Society also has the Urban Tails program, which allows you to take dogs out for outings, such as walks, hikes, or playing in the park.

If you’re between 10-18 years old, you need a parent to supervise. Those 18 years and older can volunteer independently. For more information on how to get started, you can visit https://www.ashevillehumane.org/


Brother Wolf Animal Rescue

Brother Wolf Animal Rescues offers ways to work with animals all over Asheville!

There are many different ways to work with kitties. You can socialize cats at an adoption center, or join their PetSmart and Petco Cat Care Teams to help the kitties waiting to be adopted at stores. You can also join their Community Cats program to help feral cats.

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Brother Wolf also has many opportunities to work with dogs. At the adoption center, you can help care for and actually train dogs awaiting adoption. If you want to get some fresh air, the Outward Hounds Hiking Club takes dogs for hikes around town.

Brother Wolf requires all volunteers under 18 to have a parent with them. You can find out more at https://www.bwar.org/


If you live outside of the Asheville area, you can check with your local shelters and see what dog and cat socialization programs they offer.

These cuddly friends can lift your spirits and provide nonjudgmental comfort and pure love. If you don’t already have a pet, one of these programs may be right for you!

Is this normal teenage behavior or a sign of depression?

It’s a cliche that teenagers act moody, sullen, or argumentative. Some parents want to know where the line is between “normal” teen behavior and what are signs that something more serious is going on?

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Before we begin, I want to say that your gut instinct is always going to give you more specific advice to your situation. If you feel like there is reason to worry, that may be enough “evidence” to reach out to an expert. You can talk to your child’s pediatrician, school counselor, or reach out to a therapist. If you would like to schedule a free, 15-minute time to talk with me about your situation, you can set it up at https://vered.clientsecure.me

Why are so many teenagers “moody?”

One important factor is puberty. In addition to physical development, puberty introduces hormonal changes, as well as continued brain development. Some of these changes in mood are a window into your teenager’s brain.

While we would like to think that all parts of the brain develop at the same pace (like coordination improves at the same rate as verbal skills), this isn’t the case. Early in adolescence, the limbic system, which involve emotional reactivity, is strongly connected to the rest of the brain. The frontal lobe, which helps with planning and decision-making, doesn’t fully develop until late adolescence/early adulthood (around age 25). Its connections to the rest of the brain are less robust at first.

The imbalances between these two systems often play out in behavior. The limbic system sends highly emotional messages, such as “Panic!” “I love this!” or “This sucks!” The frontal lobe, on the other hand often has an inhibitory effect on other areas of the brain. Essentially, the frontal lobe tells the other areas of the brain to chill out. In adolescence, the limbic system can yell “OH NO!” while the frontal lobe is only able to whisper “Shhh, limbic system. Chill out…” As a result, it’s a lot harder for teens to regulate their emotions and behaviors.

This discrepancy often earns teenagers the “moody, impulsive, overdramatic” label, even if they’re just doing the best with what their brain has given them.

When is moodiness a problem?

Some parents ask me when it’s time to see a therapist. As circular as it sounds, moodiness is a problem when it becomes a problem.

By that, I mean it’s an issue when it interferes with daily life, relationships, and goals. If your teenager is unusually argumentative, withdrawn, or has difficulty enjoying things, it’s possible that they could benefit from some extra help.

Things don’t have to be at a certain level of “dire” or “clinically significant” in order to get help.

In fact, early intervention can help teenagers develop emotional resilience and coping skills to get through more difficult times later on.

Is my teen depressed?

If you’re worried that your child is really struggling there are a few signs to look out for.

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  • Crying

  • Low self-esteem, feeling “worthless

  • Sensitivity to criticism - responding by crying or a fear of being criticized

  • Aggression, irritability and agitation

  • Withdrawing from friends, interests, and/or family

  • Numbing behavior - these can include drug use, overeating, or “zoning out” on the internet

  • Problems at school - grades dropping, difficulty concentrating, and decreased engagement in class

  • Fatigue - while many teens sleep a lot, any huge increases in sleeping may signal a problem. This may also show up as moving more slowly while walking, eating, or doing other tasks

  • Grooming issues - problems with basic hygiene (like showering, brushing teeth) and grooming (such as brushing hair, wearing clean clothes)

  • Unexplained headaches, stomach aches, or other pains

If your teen has had some of these symptoms for a few weeks at a time, it's possible that they have depression.

What now?

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You can start talking to your teenager by letting them know what changes you’ve been seeing and why you’re worried about them. Many people, not just teenagers, have a hard time talking about depression. Once you’ve brought up the topic, the best thing you can do is listen.

It may be very tempting to interject, ask questions, or dispute some of the things they’re saying (You’re not worthless! You’re doing great!).

Letting them express how they feel and remaining open and nonjudgmental goes a long way.

Your child may not want to talk about it at first. You can let them know you care about them and want to listen, even though it may be hard for them to talk. By leaving the door open, you help them feel safe and make it easier to share in the future.

If you feel like your child needs help but doesn’t want to face their feelings, you can reach out to an adult that they already have a connection with, such as a teacher or school counselor. You can also reach out to therapists to see if they can help you come up with a game plan.

It’s not easy watching your child struggle. The important thing to know is that you aren’t alone. If you want to schedule a time to talk, you can always make an appointment at https://vered.clientsecure.me

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How many sessions until I can start HRT?

If you’re 18 years or older…

…zero!

Many people are anxious to start HRT (aka cross-sex hormones), and think they need a letter from a therapist to begin. If you are an adult, this may not be the case, depending on where you live.

Many places provide cross-sex hormones on an informed consent model (the same model for most surgeries. Just like you don’t need a therapist’s note to get a nose job, you don’t need a therapist’s note to start cross-sex hormones at these places).

If you live in Western North Carolina (WNC), planned parenthood and Western North Carolina Community Health Services (aka WNCCHS) provide transgender support.


If you are an adolescent…

…many endocrinologists only ask that you are currently seeing a therapist in order to start working with you.

Many adolescents don’t start on cross-sex hormones, but begin first on puberty blockers. (You can read more about puberty blockers here). This is a discussion between you and your doctor.

If you don’t already have a referral, your therapist can provide you a list with endocrinologists who work with transgender issues. There are multiple doctors who work with transgender adolescents, including WNCCHS.


While support for adults starting HRT isn’t required, it’s often helpful to have a clinician help guide you through the different steps. Starting your physical transition can be scary, intimidating, and exhilarating all at the same time, and you don’t have to go through it by yourself.

If you or a family member would like some support during gender transition, you can schedule a time to talk here.

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