We have exciting news! Cristina Panaccione and Associates, Counseling, has been rapidly growing over the past few months. So much in fact that we are diving headfirst into a new expansion plan. Our goal is to always provide the very best care and counsel to our clients as possible. With that said, we are so excited to introduce you to our newest counselor, Fransisco Bentancourt!

About Fransisco

Fransisco obtained his master’s degree in counseling psychology from Chatham University. During his professional training, he was involved in psychological research. This research regarded sibling relationships, healthy bereavement, and gender development.

Since then, he has had opportunities to develop specializations in dual diagnosis treatment, death/dying, trauma, solution-focused crisis management, depression, and anxiety. He considers himself a lifelong learner. He is usually involved with enhancing his knowledge in additional areas of expertise so as to add to his clinical repertoire.

Story Share

It’s one thing to read about our newest counselor. But we’d rather let his experiences speak for him instead. Below are two of Fransisco’s most rewarding experiences as a counselor.

A Story of Grief and Loss

One of the first clients I ever had the privilege to serve was a middle-aged woman. She had entered therapy approximately three years after the death of her mother. Right from the very first session, she spent a great deal of time talking about the last month of her mother’s life as she fought against an aggressive form of cancer. She explained that she waited to seek counseling because the legalities surrounding her mother’s death had to be managed. She felt this had to put her grieving on hold.

After a few more sessions, I noticed that she did not seem to share much more than the details of the last month of her mother’s life. She struggled with accepting death. Several people in her life began telling her to “get over it.” While the death happened over 3 years prior to that first session, she had only just begun her grieving process. I had to help her see more than just that last month.

Grief is a process that happens to everyone in life at some point. The pain that follows a loss is normal. Some people think they are going crazy! I chose to use a model of treatment called William Worden’s tasks of grieving. I enjoy this model because it is not staged specific and does not expect time limits for each task.

We Got Through it Together

Together, we reviewed her symptoms and I normalized them. I validated her feelings and supported her in allowing herself to feel the pain of the loss. It was important to learn more about her mother. She did what many people do and focused on the last moments of a loved one’s life. I used the analogy of a yardstick with her that seemed to assist her. I asked her to imagine the last inch of the yardstick as the last month. She was encouraged to remember that her mother’s life was much longer than just that last inch! She then spent more and more time sharing and thinking about the abundant positive memories she had about her mother.

We were able to laugh together at several of her memories. I was able to develop a greater understanding of her loved one’s life and so was she. She was able to focus more on the positive memories until most of the time we spent talking about her mother left a small trace of a smile on the client’s face. My client eventually came to accept the loss of her mother and was focused on cherishing her memory versus hurting from it.

A Story of Duel Disorder Treatment

One of my clients had an addiction to crack cocaine. He also used heroin, alcohol, and benzodiazepines on a regular basis. Not only was the substance addiction an issue. But he also suffered from bipolar I disorder, which caused severe depressive and manic mood states. When he was both intoxicated and in a depressed state, he would often experience suicidal thoughts and consequently went to hospital emergency rooms. Sometimes, he was not actually telling the truth and went there to try and get prescribed benzodiazepines. He did this consistently for approximately 8 years before I met him. We had quite some work to do!

To begin with, he was quite aware of his diagnoses and of his use behaviors since he had been in several mental health treatment programs. I decided to use motivational interviewing to help him identify reasons to manage his mental health and decrease his substance use. After learning more about him, it came about that he cared most about his children, whom he did not get to see often. He also rarely saw his own mother.

Using this information, I was able to include them in his treatment. I coached them into how to be more supportive of the client versus blaming them. Based on his mental health needs, I helped him start seeing a psychiatrist and educated him on the importance of taking his medications regularly.

The Positive Effects of Change

He began changing, and his family began to notice. Because of that, he was allowed to spend more time with his children. Which in turn promoted his desire to obtain abstinence from all substances and continue to focus on his mental health. He was able to stay clean for over a year and so I decided to use cognitive behavioral therapy with him to address his underlying mental health issues. We identified several painful thoughts that he maintained about himself and loved ones for many years. These core beliefs were identified, politely challenged, and then replaced with more accurate thoughts as a result of reality testing with people in his life.

The new thoughts made him feel less angry and depressed about himself and seemed to effectively decrease his depression. He was more open to life experiences afterward. And he began to work in the community, get an apartment, and have his children stay with him on some weekends. He continues to do well and enjoys the new stability he worked so hard to achieve for himself.

Why You Should Meet with our Newest Counselor

Fransisco’s approach in treatment is eclectic in nature. He believes that no one theory fits any given person. He customizes his clinical approach based on the needs of a client. The theoretical orientations he readily pulls from are person-centered treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, behaviorism, positive psychology, and some forms of gestalt and psychodrama.

Therapy, whether it is your first time or not, is a courageous and healthy move towards wellness. Know that we have the utmost respect and appreciation for all clients in treatment. We serve as a support on the path towards healing and learning to assist individuals in leading their most optimum lives.

And make sure to check out his Coffee with a Counselor videos on grief and kids/teens, and for Spanish speaking clients!

So Give Us a Call

Building a network of trust and support is a complete game-changer when it comes to your overall wellbeing. We want to be part of that support group. Cristina Panaccione and Associates Counseling has two locations in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. We are currently accepting a limited number of new patients, so check out our videos to learn more about how we can help you overcome whatever obstacles are in your way!


* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.