Gratitude at Thanksgiving


“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more it turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie

This quote by Melody Beattie reminds us to express gratitude around the holiday season.   A lot of time is spent thinking about the many wonderful foods that will be consumed, the laughs with family and friends and how can you forget the pumpkin pie!  Do you also spend time thinking about gratitude?

Take some time to reflect on why you are grateful this holiday season.  These reflections can be empowering and uplifting.  So often we become focused on what we do not have or what we wish we could have.  Gratitude allows you to embrace ‘what is.’  Instead of focusing on empty wishes you can fill your thoughts with the reality of what is true.  You will find fulfillment in this.  Your family may be scattered around the country this year, but you can be grateful that each person has a table to sit at, a meal to satisfy their hunger, and company to fill their soul.

Every holiday experience creates a new memory to add to the ‘bank.’  Create a new memory this year with reflection, either privately or with your family members. Write down what you learn and what insights you gain, then you can add to it year after year.

Enjoy your holiday this weekend and remember gratitude!

Safety After Trauma

Have you experienced trauma in your life and now find yourself struggling to feel safe?  How do I feel safe in my world again? How do I feel safe in my own skin again?  How are the people I love to stay safe from harm?  These are a few of the many questions that may come across your mind.  Following trauma, safety is undoubtedly important and needed.

Let’s review some steps and ideas to build safety following a trauma….

Stay Grounded:

You may find that you have a difficult time being present, staying in the moment.  You may find yourself ‘checking out’ in order to avoid things that remind you of your trauma.   Do you ever feel as though you are just spinning or jumping from one thought to the next? The following are some suggestions on how to stay grounded and present:

  • Use your 5 senses:  take some time to identify what you are seeing/smelling/tasting/hearing and feeling in a given moment.  Focus on your five senses and all that comes with them and notice your focus change.
  • Spend a set amount of time in meditation.
  • Plant your feet firmly into the ground and take time to feel – notice the difference it makes when your feet are literally in the ground.
  • Go for a walk and be aware of your movements with each step you take.
  • Plan a day to spend with a friend and ask your friend to be sure you stay engaged.
  • Change your daily routine a bit.

Remember, safety comes in different forms:

Physical safety says that your body is not in danger.  To ensure physical safety, you need to pay attention to your environment, learn signals and remove yourself from situations that do not feel safe.  Mental safety says that your thoughts and beliefs will guide you in a safe direction.  Increase your self-awareness.  What are your thoughts and beliefs telling you about safety?  Emotional safety says that you are aware of your feelings and intuition and these will alert you when you are in danger.  Lastly, spiritual safety will develop when you learn to trust in your Higher Power and allow those beliefs to guide you toward safe choices.

Assess your Safety:

How safe do you feel: in your home, at work, in your relationships, within yourself?

Create a Safe Place:

Creating a safe place for yourself can be done in many ways; here are some ideas:

  • Through visualization- in your mind create a place that feels safe to you.  This can be a place you have been that feels safe or an imaginary place you create in your mind.  Create all the details in your mind: colors, shapes, smells, etc.   Allow yourself to go to this place when you are feeling unsafe or distressed, allow this place to ground you.
  • Through art- draw a picture of your safe place.   Don’t worry about artistic ability; it is more important how the picture makes you feel!
  • Through mindfulness and relaxation- Pursue techniques as modes to feel safe within yourself.

Do not doubt your desire to feel safe.  You are right in meeting this need!

Self-Care: A Catalyst for Positive Growth

Self-care: we hear those buzz words often nowadays, but what do they really mean? Bubble baths, pedicures, Netflix binges, and comfort foods? Maybe sometimes, but when it comes to using self-care as a tool for actually experiencing an increased sense of contentment in your life, there’s more to it than that.

Many of us see engaging in self-care activities as a way to escape from the stress of daily life; little “treats” we deserve in order to counteract the parts of life that are difficult, painful, or arduous. Others see those activities as too indulgent, or they simply feel undeserving of the respite. But what if there’s an entirely different perspective? What if self-care isn’t about escaping your reality through instant gratification, but it’s about creating a life you don’t feel the need to escape from? That self-care isn’t the same as self-indulgence (and it isn’t rooted in judgment), but that it’s a responsible form of self- compassion that can be used to propel you towards your personal goals? Sure, sometimes self-care might look like a long afternoon nap, or a spa day, or a meal of your favorite foods–but it may just as easily look like sitting down to finally tackle your budget so that you can begin to pay off your debts.  Or like making a salad when you’re craving fast food because that choice is aligned with your hope to improve your physical health, or declining a social invitation because you’ve been feeling stressed and need the opportunity for downtime at home. It’s less about trying to band-aid the current feelings of stress with something enjoyable, and more about consistently making choices that add feelings of peace, joy, and contentment to your life. Self-compassion expert and author Dr. Kristin Neff describes it well, “Self-compassion involves turning towards what I’m experiencing with care, whereas self-indulgence involves turning away from what I’m feeling, often in an attempt to try to feel better.”

So the next time you feel your stress levels peaking, take a moment to stop and consider the parts of your life that hold the most meaning and impact–and respond to yourself with kindness, intention, and action.

Lauren Keppel, LCSW

Lauren Keppel can be reached by phone at 630.718.0717, ext. 239 or email For immediate assistance to schedule an appointment, please connect with one of our Client Care Specialists at 630.718.0717, ext. 240.

FVI July/August Newsletter

Why Do We Procrastinate?

“Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.”
The Earl of Chesterfield
December 26, 1749

Almost everyone has been afflicted by procrastination at one time or another – that nagging menace that compels us to put things off for another day, another time. For some people this is a persistent problem, and for others it appears in only some areas of their lives. The result, though, is the same for everyone – increased anxiety, wasted time, poor performance, missed opportunities, guilt, excusing ourselves, and avoiding people who depend on us. There are better ways of dealing with the demands of our everyday lives. Procrastination is not a trivial problem – it causes suffering for many people.

Who is likely to procrastinate? There is no research evidence that gender and intelligence have anything to do with a tendency to procrastinate. Age may have something to do with it. One research study finds that procrastination peaks in the middle to late twenties, decreases for the next forty years, and then increases again in the sixties. Other research finds that people who feel overwhelmed and cannot readily calm down tend to put things off.


Announcing Dr. Laura Bokar’s Election to the Loaves and Fishes Community Services Board of Directors

(Naperville, IL – August 1, 2017) Loaves and Fishes Community Services 2017 welcomes Dr. Laura Bokar, CEO of Fox Valley Institute for Growth and Wellness to serve her first term on the Board of Directors.

Dr. Laura Bokar is pleased to bring to Loaves and Fishes Community Services her passion, energy and commitment to helping people grow in their lives and relationships. She will offer her guidance to assist Loaves and Fishes Community Services in their mission to end hunger and empower the lives of those in need in our community. Together the Board will effectively evaluate the achievability of these objectives as well as market the organization.

Read Full Press Release Here

Create the Marriage You Desire or Life Will Do It for You

“We are most alive when we’re in love”

-John Updike


Dr. Laura Bokar, LMFT, LCPC, ACS

“Life is Difficult” reads the opening line of Dr. M. Scott Peck’s book, The Road Less Traveled. As a marriage and family therapist, I wholeheartedly agree. In regards to relationships, I would add the phrases: messy and complicated. Yet a healthy relationship is worth enduring struggles and working through the complications.

Many experiences in our lives make us feel happy and sad. Our relationships have the ability to allow us to enjoy happiness and find fulfillment. With marriages being the most important relationship in our lives, we need to know more about how to design the relationships we desire and not solely rely on what we learned from our parents.

When we set about designing a beautiful home with our spouses, we discuss all the details. These details include the size, paint colors, floors, ceilings, rooms, stairs, entry ways, as well as windows, lighting, curtains, door knobs, hooks, furniture, and landscaping. We share with our partner, our desires, likes, and dislikes. We discuss each room, and the exact way we want it to look. We spend hours each day over the course of months creating our dream home. I mention this example, because I find that couples spend more time designing their homes, careers, and debating on the model of their cars than they do investing time into designing the marriages they desire.

There is a belief that a good marriage will fall into place “naturally”. Now if we believed that the homes we are designing would be created “naturally,” I don’t think many people would be pleased with the outcome. Guess what? Not many couples are happy when they think about the outcome of where their marriages are going. That is a good thing. When they take the time to recognize the marriage is not heading in the direction they’d like, they can decide to change it. When one decides it is time to make a change – that is the first step!

There is a plan one can follow when they decide they want to redesign their marriage.  The next step is to make certain we are first taking care of ourselves. Yes, it may sound strange that we need to focus on ourselves first to improve our marriage, however it is true. To have an extraordinary and healthy marriage, it needs to start with two extraordinary and healthy individuals.

To start, one needs to assess five areas of their lives; health and fitness, emotional intelligence, intellectual growth, character, and spiritual development. In the assessment, one needs to honestly review each area and determine if changes need to be made. The main question should be – How do I want to be different in each area in order to be the person I know I can be. When we are feeling healthy, emotionally intelligent, learning new things, strong in our character, and feeling spiritually fit, we are in a better place and capable of being a better spouse.

After one has designed a plan for themselves, then the design for the marriage can occur. This would be the time to come together and decide what you want your marriage to look like in all areas. How do you want to grow as a couple? What are the things you want?   What experiences do you want to share together? What type of environment do you strive to create? What is the vision of your marriage – romantically, intelligently, emotionally, physically, and spiritually? Start investing the time and energy designing the extraordinary relationship you know you want.

This may be the first time many start to think about designing their marriage. Yet, if we think about it, it does make sense. Initiate a conversation with your spouse about the desires you have for your marriage. It would be important to make this into a regular conversation each week and to create a Marriage Design Book. Add, change, and create more to your book each week. It keeps it fresh, alive, and in the forefront of your mind.  By doing this, you will make your marriage YOUR design. Take the time to create the marriage you desire or life will do it for you!


Meet Joe Dubowski, MS, LMFT !


Joe Dubowski, MS, LMFT

Joe is dedicated to helping people find relief from the pain and tumult resulting from traumatic losses, and to helping couples develop mature and loving relationships that can withstand the test of time and life’s ups and downs. Over the past seven years, he has been bringing his clinical training and life experience to bear in helping people restore faith and hope in a better tomorrow through personal and relational healing and change.

“I believe in meeting people where they are, accepting them and giving them a place to be heard, understood, and respected. I am not out to fix people; I am about helping them heal and grow.”

Joe is passionate about helping people process the grief stemming from the loss of a loved one, broken relationships, moves, job losses and transitions, as well as losses common to life transitions such as leaving home and the effects of aging. He also believes that a healthy marital/couple relationship is fundamental to the health of children and families. He is therefore committed to helping couples strengthen their relationships, helping individuals and couples with everything from pre-marital counseling to dealing with the trauma of infidelity. His strengths are empathy, humor and compassion.

Joe is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a graduate of Northern Illinois University where he received his master’s degree in Applied Family and Child Studies with a specialization in marriage & family therapy. He is Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, with nearly eight years experience helping people in group and individual settings recover from losses of many kinds. He has received formal training in Gottman Couples Therapy (level 1), Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, Pragmatic/Experiential Therapy for Couples, and Collaborative Couples Therapy. He has also undergone training as a Disaster Case Manager with Catholic Charities.

He is also author of the book Cartwheels in the Rain: Finding Faith in the Wake of the Unthinkable, and has other book projects (on worry and on relationships) and articles in the works. He has appeared as a guest on Windy City Live (talking about the power of forgiveness), was featured on Dateline NBC (episode entitled Columbine: The Road Home), and has been a guest on over a dozen Christian talk radio programs. He is also a past president for a corporate-sponsored Toastmaster’s International club.

Joe works with individuals (12 years and older), couples, and families, and also helps people with:

  • Adolescent & Adult ADHD
  • Aging-related Issues
  • Anger Management
  • Anxiety
  • Career Planning and Decisions
  • Couples & Dating
  • Faith Issues, including Loss of Trust & Hope
  • Family Counseling
  • Grief
  • Group Counseling
  • Infidelity & Betrayal of Trust
  • Job Loss and Career Transitions
  • Mood Disorders (12 years and above)
  • Parenting Skills
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Self-Esteem
  • Self-Injury
  • Stress Management
  • Worry

Joe can be reached by phone at 630.718.0717

Managing the Conflict & Emotions of Divorce Through Therapy


By: Dr. Laura Bokar, LMFT, LCPC, ACS & Cheryl Frommelt, LCPC, LMFT

Sometimes, marriages do not succeed. The end of a marriage can be a relief to some people, but it can also be an extremely stressful event. Even the partner who chooses to leave may experience a wide range of emotions and intense feelings that may be painful or difficult, such as grief, guilt, anger, confusion, fear, and anxiety. If children are involved, the stress level within a divorcing family is likely to be even higher.

Children will directly benefit from the divorce therapy their parents receive. Parents may often be consumed with their own feelings during a divorce, they might overlook the emotional state of their children, who may be confused by the divorce or feel guilt, loss, pain, or abandonment. Children may not be sure which parent they should “choose,” or be loyal to, and they might also worry that they are the cause of the divorce. When parents are in high conflict with each other, a child may feel even more fearful, and a child who often hears his or her parents argue about custody arrangements might feel as if he or she is unwanted by either parent, or as if he or she is to blame for the separation.

Although not the intention of most parents, putting children in the middle of conflict is particularly harmful. Examples of this are: asking children to carry messages between parents, grilling children about the other parent’s activities, telling children the other parent does not love them, and putting the other parent down in front of the children. Poorly managed conflict between parents increases children’s risk of behavior problems, depression, substance abuse and dependence, poor social skills, and poor academic performance.

Parents want the best for their children. Yet, high conflict can overshadow this desire and pull parents’ energy away from promoting their children’s best interests. Fortunately, there are approaches by which divorce professionals can help parents reduce conflict. Options include mediation, collaborative divorce, parenting/ co-parent counseling, and relationship counseling.



When a people separate or divorce but continue to struggle with communication and making decisions with one another, a clinical therapist who has experience working with families can help improve communication skills, design strategies for preventing and reducing conflict, bring understanding about the grief/loss process of ending the relationship and guide them through the journey of building a new life.

Divorce therapy is a type of therapy which allows couples to better achieve the dissolution of the marriage in a healthy, constructive fashion. An experienced therapist can act as a sort of mediator and set guidelines to ensure that the divorce is achieved with minimal hostility and emotional damage. Therapists can also help address pertinent issues, such as living arrangements, financial obligations, and parenting responsibilities.



Getting Apart Together: The Couple’s Guide to a Fair Divorce Or Separation

Martin Kranitz


Helping Your Kids Cope with Divorce the Sandcastles Way

by M. Gary Neuman, Patricia Romanowski, Sandra Blakeslee, Judith S. Wallerstein


Putting Children First: Proven Parenting Strategies for Helping Children Thrive Through Divorce

by JoAnne Pedro-Carroll

Divorce Mediation Services Now Available at FVI !

Divorce Mediation


Divorce Mediation provides dispute resolution via a neutral third-party mediator. The mediator will help the divorcing couple reach a fair and equitable settlement.

Mediation is…

  • Client-driven, not court-driven and will allow both you and your spouse to make your own decisions on what is best for you and your future.
  • An amicable negotiation process in which spouses are assisted in their communication styles to reach a resolution.
  • A non-adversarial approach to reach financial and custody decisions. Easing the emotional distress frequently associated with divorce.
  • Cost effective; the total cost of mediation is significantly less than the cost of litigation with attorneys.
    Private and confidential; your personal details are kept private and confidential, not made public in court.
  • Time effective; how long the process will take is completely controlled by you.
    Fair and equitable because the terms are determined and reached by you and your spouse.


A mediator is a neutral professional who will help you and your spouse conduct and negotiate your disputes to resolution in a fair and unbiased manner.

Your Mediator will:

  • Listen to the wants, needs, and goals of both spouses.
  • Not give advice
  • Assist spouses, together in formulating ideas that can lead to long-standing agreements


Candidates are considered good fits for divorce mediation when both spouses are:

  • Willing to actively participate in mediation
  • Willing to attend mediation voluntarily
  • Capable of making their own decisions


Divorce Mediation will allow you and your spouse to reach a resolution on the points required by the court to obtain a divorce. These points include, but are not limited to:

  • Custody and Parenting Time
  • Equitable Distribution of Property (Assets & Liabilities)
  • Child Support
  • Spousal Support

You can also expect:

  • Weekly, hourly sessions with your mediator.
  • A Memorandum of Understanding will be drafted at the end of your process which is required of you to bring to court to obtain a divorce.

Please contact Client Care to schedule your first mediation appointment at 630.718.0717 ext. 214

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day 2016

Join us for a day of healing!


Join with a community of suicide loss survivors to find comfort and gain understanding as we share stories of healing and hope.

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is the one day a year when people who are affected by suicide loss gather around the world at events in their local communities for support, information and empowerment.

This year’s program includes a screening of Life Journeys: Reclaiming Life after Loss; a new AFSP-produced Survivor Day documentary that traces the grief and healing journey that follows a suicide loss over time.  Drawing on stories and insights from long-term survivors, the file shows us that through resiliance and support we can achieve hope and understanding in our lives while celebrating the lives of those we lost.

When: Saturday November 19, 2016   11:30a-3:30p

Where: Community Career Center

1815 W. Diehl Road Suite 900 Naperville IL, 60563

Contact: Melissa at Fox Valley Insitute or 630.718.0717

Learn More and Register  HERE