by Kari Croop
It’s fair to say that Atlanta residents – especially those who drive to work – are no strangers to stress. But that doesn’t mean they’re good at handling it. According to an American Psychological Association report released in 2008, Atlantans are among the most stressed out people in the country, more stressed, even, than New Yorkers or Los Angelenos.
Of course, that finding wasn’t exactly news to licensed psychologist Rebecca Beaton (M.S. ’95, Ed.S. ’97 and Ph.D. ’00), who, as founder and director of the Anxiety and Stress Management Institute in Atlanta, is in the business of helping people reduce their anxiety levels. Beaton cites work, money and relationships as the biggest sources of stress among the patients who visit her practice. And these days, she says, the economy is topping the list.
“When the stock market fell for the first time, our phones were ringing off the hook,” she says. “Everybody’s stressed – and stressed can be so debilitating. Everybody needs stress management.”
The institute, which opened in 2004, approaches the management of stress and anxiety from a comprehensive, integrative, holistic perspective, using a variety of techniques – not just psychological counseling – to treat “the whole person.”
In that spirit, Beaton has amassed a staff of 22 experts who specialize in areas from ADD to OCD to eating disorders. The facility even offers meditation and yoga classes as well as massage, nutrition and acupuncture services. Free and low-cost stress management groups – some led by interns from Georgia State’s Department of Counseling and Psychological Services – are available for patients with limited means. The institute also offers continuing education workshops to help mental health professionals stay abreast of the latest research and best practices.
“A person can come into our facility and find everything in one place,” says Beaton, who still marvels at the institute’s rapid growth. “We went from renting one little suite with four offices, and now we own a 6,000 sq. ft. building with three floors. It took off immediately, and I’ve been running to catch it ever since. But I think that shows the community really needed it.”
When it comes to taking a whole-body approach to stress management, Beaton practices what she preaches, exercising on a regular basis and taking yoga at least twice a week in combination with meditation, acupuncture, massage and adherence to a healthy diet.
“I do those things; I have to because I have so much on my own plate,” she says. “Otherwise, I’d probably be pretty stressed and certainly not practicing what I preach.”
It’s actually a mindset she developed during seven years as a flight attendant for Delta Air Lines, traveling the international route on weekends while getting her master’s degree in professional counseling through GSU’s College of Education during the week under the guidance of her mentor, stress and wellness expert Ken Matheny.
“You know, on the airplane, they say to put the mask on yourself before you put it on someone else,” she says. “So that’s one of the things I promote here at the institute.”
Beaton encourages her therapists to take care of themselves both mentally and physically, getting their own therapy if they need it and staying on top of their game through training and workshops.
Having a team of well-balanced and knowledgeable experts in place allows the institute to help more people. “You’re much better at taking care of others if you take care of yourself first,” she says.
This story was originally published in the Fall 2010 issue of the College of Education's Milestones magazine.