• Improving Lives Team

Getting to know Anthony


What is your name and what title do you go by?


Anthony Caloia Murgatroyd, Psychotherapist, RMHCI and attorney.


What is your educational and personal background? And what licenses do you currently hold?


I attended Rutger’s University, School of Law and graduated in 1989. In 1990 I became

licensed to practice law in the States of New Jersey and Pennsylvania and in the FederalCourts of those states. During my career as a lawyer, I became board certified as a trial attorney, both in the State of New Jersey and nationally. I opened my own law practice specializing in helping those with physical, mental, and emotional injuries receive legal compensation. I operated my own practice over 20 years.


After my own experience with professional burn-out in 2015 I began the study and practice of mindfulness-based stress reduction, and eventually became certified as a teacher. I found the connection between mental health and wellness so fascinating that I decided to enroll in a master’s program for clinical mental health counseling. I graduated with honors in 2021, and passed the licensing boards a few months later.

In my personal time, I love to run, bike, and swim. I have run several marathons, and

competed in over a dozen triathlons.


What is your therapy philosophy and guiding principles?


I firmly believe that the most important healing principle for any client is the quality of the relationship he or she develops with their therapist. For this reason, when we work

together you will be welcomed in a warm, respectful, relaxed, environment. One that is

open, trusting, non-judgmental, and centered on your needs and desires. I believe that this allow you as the client, to uncover the source of emotional pain, and arrive at pathways for greater balance, joy, and meaning in life. When I can develop this kind of relationship with my client, I believe that their insight deepens, and they can release old patterns, giving way to a new and better quality of life, with enhanced relationship to self and others.


What is your specialty?


As a therapist who was a lawyer for over 25 years, I believe I am uniquely positioned to work with lawyers, professionals, and executives in high stress demanding occupations, who are dealing with issues of anxiety, depression, self-esteem, substance abuse, work life balance, career dissatisfaction, and the relational challenges that often stem from a high-pressure occupations. However, I also enjoy working with younger populations, having been a part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters team for over a decade, and through my work counseling mandated youth with substance abuse and emotional problems.


If I were to pick just one area that gives me great joy, I would say it is helping people with anxiety. This is because I previously overcame my own personal struggles with anxiety. Having gone through the symptoms of this condition myself, I understand its impacts first-hand.


What are the characteristics of the condition?


People with anxiety can feel very restless and on edge. Or they can tire easily. They may have trouble concentrating. They may also have problems sleeping. They can feel like they are going crazy or that they are going to die. There are also many physical symptoms that can accompany anxiety, such as sweating, muscle tension, trembling, feeling dizzy, having a racing heart, nausea, abdominal pain, chest pain, having chills or heat sensations, or experiencing numbness and tingling.


What are some of the indications of this condition, or red flags?


When we see people with anxiety, it is often helpful to explore the profiles of their parents and how they were raised. This is because people with anxiety have often had parents with an overly guarded view of the world. Or they had an upbringing with parents who were very critical, demanding or set high expectations. Anxiety is also linked to people who are insecure or have a dependent personality type. People who have experienced significant traumas or stressors in their life are also prone to develop anxiety disorders. Finally, there are certain underlying medical conditions that can cause anxiety. Some examples are premenstrual syndrome, hypoglycemia, and certain heart conditions.


What are some of the best practice?


There are really two different ways I like to work with people when treating anxiety. I think it is important to try both and get feedback from the client on which method works best for her or him. One method is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). A person who is experiencing anxiety typically tends to worry excessively in a negative way about certain people, situations, or events. Those who struggle with anxiety tend to have negative thought patterns that overshadow the positive ones. The goal of CBT is to change the way you think. Using CBT we try to help the person become aware of their self-talk and the stories they may be telling themself. With CBT we bring awareness to a person’s faulty self-statements and work towards getting them to modify or change the statements they are making to themself so that they can cope more effectively with the problems they are encountering.

The other I treat clients it is work to get them to accept the anxious thoughts and symptoms they are feeling. This can be done using mindfulness meditations. Mindfulness is the moment-by-moment non–judgmental awareness of our thoughts, sensations, and environment. It can be through breathing meditation. It can also be through meditating on thoughts, body sensations, or sounds in your environment. It can be through scanning the body or movement exercises. It can even be in moment-to-moment non-judgmental awareness of the small moments during the day in driving, eating, walking or any host of other daily activities. The goal during the practice of mindfulness is to notice the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that arise, but not to dwell on them. Instead, the client is taught to return to the object of the meditation, whether it be the breath, the body or whatever. Through mindfulness meditation practices, a person can create space and distance from their perception of self. They can now observe they are not their thoughts, feelings, pain, or sensations. With the practice of mindfulness, a person can cease to be identified with their experience. Instead, their experiences become available to them to dispassionately observe. When a person can dispassionately observe their experiences, they can override habitual negative reactions associated with their anxiety and respond with more balance and skill.

Another way to achieve acceptance is to float through the symptoms with visualization. Floating through the physical symptoms can mean imaging yourself floating through a moment of tense suffering, such as a on a raft in calm waters or imaging letting the suffering float through and then away from you.


What are some things to avoid doing?


With anxiety it is very important not to fight the anxiety symptoms or worry about them, wishing that they just disappear. This will only make the symptoms worse. Instead, it is better to face the symptoms and simply accept what the body and mind is doing to you. It means not resisting and going on with the job at hand. I even tell clients it can be helpful to approach the symptoms not just with a dispassionate acceptance, but perhaps also with a degree of curiosity. For example, imagine your heart is racing. I would tell a client to just flop in a chair and trying say to yourself, “what does the beating sound like? What does it feel like? Does it have a particular rhythm? Does it have a texture, or a color?”


Any facts about people with this condition?


Yes. Anxiety is very prevalent in the United States. Nearly 20% of the U.S. population will have experienced anxiety in any given year. About 30% of the population will have experienced it at some point in their lives. In the U.S. more women than men suffer from anxiety, and whites are more prone to experiencing anxiety than black or Hispanic populations.


Do you have a success story?


I recently had a client come in with severe anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. After a short period of treatment this client’s anxiety and depression was drastically reduced to a 1 or a 2 on a scale of 10 and he wasn’t feeling suicidal any longer. There can be no greater feeling of accomplishment than making such a big difference in a person’s life.


Resources:


One great resource is the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (https://adaa.org). Their website offers an incredible amount of information on the disorder, along with the most common co-occurring disorders. It also offers a ton of resources on the disorder, such as blogs, self-help books, videos, and webinars. One very important resource is that it provides access to local support groups across the country.


Another great resource is the National Alliance on Mental Health (a.k.a. NAMI) (www.nami.org). You can find a lot of information about all the different kinds of anxiety on their site, along with descriptions on the different types of treatment available for the disorder, and where you find support.








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