Help Starts From Within, LLC

Help Starts From Within, LLC Providing individual, group, family and marital therapy, as well as community presentations, staff e I am confident that I am, and I feel you DESERVE a new you.

Happiness, peace of mind, gratitude, motivation and satisfying relationships with others are things that all people strive to have in their life. Stress, depression, anxiety, divorce, trauma, addiction, abuse (physical, verbal, emotional, and/or sexual), domestic violence, dysfunctional family relationships, unexpected medical crises, and life changes are just a few of the obstacles that can keep

Happiness, peace of mind, gratitude, motivation and satisfying relationships with others are things that all people strive to have in their life. Stress, depression, anxiety, divorce, trauma, addiction, abuse (physical, verbal, emotional, and/or sexual), domestic violence, dysfunctional family relationships, unexpected medical crises, and life changes are just a few of the obstacles that can keep

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This is so important! 🙌
📷 Parents with Confidence

Happy Mother’s Day 💗💐

Happy Mother’s Day 💗💐


A hand written letter of gratitude from an incredible client 🙏🏼


“Just so you know…

I see you taking your kid to therapy while your friends take their kids to football or ballet.

I see you sneak out of the conversation when all your friends boast about achievements and exam notes.

I see you juggle events and meetings.

I see you sitting on the computer for hours investigating what your child needs.

I see you make a bad face when people complain about what looks like nonsense.

I see you disappear little by little but you keep going beyond for your family.

I see you pull strength from weakness with a force you didn't even dream you had.

I see you showing respect for teachers, therapists and medical professionals who help your child and help you.

Watching you wake up early in the morning to do it all again after another chaotic night.

I see you when you're on the edge of the precipice struggling to live.

I know you feel invisible, like no one notices.
But I want you to know that I see you.

I see you push forward always. I see you choose to do everything you can to give your child the best care at home, school, therapy and the doctors.
What you do matters. It's worth the struggle.

On those days when you wonder if you can make it one more minute, I want you to know I see you.

I want you to know that you are beautiful.
I want you to know it's worth it. I want you to know that you are not alone. I want you to know that love is the most important thing, and that you are the best at it.

And in those days when you see an improvement, those moments when hard work has its reward, and you can taste success, I'll see you then too.
And I'm proud of you.

Whatever day today...'re doing it right.

And I see you. ❤”

✒ Alethea Mshar
📷 John Walker / Flickr

Help Starts From Within is so excited to share all the incredible new journeys our staff are experiencing right now: Two...

Help Starts From Within is so excited to share all the incredible new journeys our staff are experiencing right now: Two of our staff are newly engaged, two staff are under contract on new homes, and another staff member is actively house shopping for her dream home. Lots of new adventures! Keep dreaming and achieving team 🥰

Timeline Photos

Timeline Photos

Let’s talk!  There are 4 main communication styles, and while each style may lead to your desired outcome, only 1 style ...

Let’s talk! There are 4 main communication styles, and while each style may lead to your desired outcome, only 1 style is rooted in the well-being of all parties: Assertive communication.
Unlike the other forms of communication, assertive communication helps to PRESERVE connection and relationship.

We can create that safe place for you to talk about the things that you never felt safe enough to talk about before.  73...

We can create that safe place for you to talk about the things that you never felt safe enough to talk about before.
732-380-7449 or 


Happy Mother’s Day!
The staff at Help Starts From Within is thinking of all of you and hoping you all have a beautiful day 🌻



1. Stick to a routine. Go to sleep and wake up at a reasonable time, write a schedule that is varied and includes time for work as well as self-care.

2. Dress for the social life you want, not the social life you have. Get showered and dressed in comfortable clothes, wash your face, brush your teeth. Take the time to do a bath or a facial. Put on some bright colors. It is amazing how our dress can impact our mood.

3. Get out at least once a day, for at least thirty minutes. If you are concerned of contact, try first thing in the morning, or later in the evening, and try less traveled streets and avenues. If you are high risk or living with those who are high risk, open the windows and blast the fan. It is amazing how much fresh air can do for spirits.

4. Find some time to move each day, again daily for at least thirty minutes. If you don’t feel comfortable going outside, there are many YouTube videos that offer free movement classes, and if all else fails, turn on the music and have a dance party!

5. Reach out to others, you guessed it, at least once daily for thirty minutes. Try to do FaceTime, Skype, phone calls, texting—connect with other people to seek and provide support. Don’t forget to do this for your children as well. Set up virtual playdates with friends daily via FaceTime, Facebook Messenger Kids, Zoom, etc—your kids miss their friends, too!

6. Stay hydrated and eat well. This one may seem obvious, but stress and eating often don’t mix well, and we find ourselves over-indulging, forgetting to eat, and avoiding food. Drink plenty of water, eat some good and nutritious foods, and challenge yourself to learn how to cook something new!

7. Develop a self-care toolkit. This can look different for everyone. A lot of successful self-care strategies involve a sensory component (seven senses: touch, taste, sight, hearing, smell, vestibular (movement) and proprioceptive (comforting pressure). An idea for each: a soft blanket or stuffed animal, a hot chocolate, photos of vacations, comforting music, lavender or eucalyptus oil, a small swing or rocking chair, a weighted blanket. A journal, an inspirational book, or a mandala coloring book is wonderful, bubbles to blow or blowing watercolor on paper through a straw are visually appealing as well as work on controlled breath. Mint gum, Listerine strips, ginger ale, frozen Starburst, ice packs, and cold are also good for anxiety regulation. For children, it is great to help them create a self-regulation comfort box (often a shoe-box or bin they can decorate) that they can use on the ready for first-aid when overwhelmed.

8. Spend extra time playing with children. Children will rarely communicate how they are feeling, but will often make a bid for attention and communication through play. Don’t be surprised to see therapeutic themes of illness, doctor visits, and isolation play through. Understand that play is cathartic and helpful for children—it is how they process their world and problem solve, and there’s a lot they are seeing and experiencing in the now.

9. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and a wide berth. A lot of cooped up time can bring out the worst in everyone. Each person will have moments when they will not be at their best. It is important to move with grace through blowups, to not show up to every argument you are invited to, and to not hold grudges and continue disagreements. Everyone is doing the best they can to make it through this.

10. Everyone find their own retreat space. Space is at a premium, particularly with city living. It is important that people think through their own separate space for work and for relaxation. For children, help them identify a place where they can go to retreat when stressed. You can make this place cozy by using blankets, pillows, cushions, scarves, beanbags, tents, and “forts”. It is good to know that even when we are on top of each other, we have our own special place to go to be alone.

11. Expect behavioral issues in children, and respond gently. We are all struggling with disruption in routine, none more than children, who rely on routines constructed by others to make them feel safe and to know what comes next. Expect increased anxiety, worries and fears, nightmares, difficulty separating or sleeping, testing limits, and meltdowns. Do not introduce major behavioral plans or consequences at this time—hold stable and focus on emotional connection.

12. Focus on safety and attachment. We are going to be living for a bit with the unprecedented demand of meeting all work deadlines, homeschooling children, running a sterile household, and making a whole lot of entertainment in confinement. We can get wrapped up in meeting expectations in all domains, but we must remember that these are scary and unpredictable times for children. Focus on strengthening the connection through time spent following their lead, through physical touch, through play, through therapeutic books, and via verbal reassurances that you will be there for them in this time.

13. Lower expectations and practice radical self-acceptance. This idea is connected with #12. We are doing too many things in this moment, under fear and stress. This does not make a formula for excellence. Instead, give yourself what psychologists call “radical self acceptance”: accepting everything about yourself, your current situation, and your life without question, blame, or pushback. You cannot fail at this—there is no roadmap, no precedent for this, and we are all truly doing the best we can in an impossible situation.

14. Limit social media and COVID conversation, especially around children. One can find tons of information on COVID-19 to consume, and it changes minute to minute. The information is often sensationalized, negatively skewed, and alarmist. Find a few trusted sources that you can check in with consistently, limit it to a few times a day, and set a time limit for yourself on how much you consume (again 30 minutes tops, 2-3 times daily). Keep news and alarming conversations out of earshot from children—they see and hear everything, and can become very frightened by what they hear.

15. Notice the good in the world, the helpers. There is a lot of scary, negative, and overwhelming information to take in regarding this pandemic. There are also a ton of stories of people sacrificing, donating, and supporting one another in miraculous ways. It is important to counter-balance the heavy information with the hopeful information.

16. Help others. Find ways, big and small, to give back to others. Support restaurants, offer to grocery shop, check in with elderly neighbors, write psychological wellness tips for others—helping others gives us a sense of agency when things seem out of control.

17. Find something you can control, and control the heck out of it. In moments of big uncertainty and overwhelm, control your little corner of the world. Organize your bookshelf, purge your closet, put together that furniture, group your toys. It helps to anchor and ground us when the bigger things are chaotic.

18. Find a long-term project to dive into. Now is the time to learn how to play the keyboard, put together a huge jigsaw puzzle, start a 15 hour game of Risk, paint a picture, read the Harry Potter series, binge watch an 8-season show, crochet a blanket, solve a Rubix cube, or develop a new town in Animal Crossing. Find something that will keep you busy, distracted, and engaged to take breaks from what is going on in the outside world.

19. Engage in repetitive movements and left-right movements. Research has shown that repetitive movement (knitting, coloring, painting, clay sculpting, jump roping etc) especially left-right movement (running, drumming, skating, hopping) can be effective at self-soothing and maintaining self-regulation in moments of distress.

20. Find an expressive art and go for it. Our emotional brain is very receptive to the creative arts, and it is a direct portal for release of feeling. Find something that is creative (sculpting, drawing, dancing, music, singing, playing) and give it your all. See how relieved you can feel. It is a very effective way of helping kids to emote and communicate as well!

21. Find lightness and humor in each day. There is a lot to be worried about, and with good reason. Counterbalance this heaviness with something funny each day: cat videos on YouTube, a stand-up show on Netflix, a funny movie—we all need a little comedic relief in our day, every day.

22. Reach out for help—your team is there for you. If you have a therapist or psychiatrist, they are available to you, even at a distance. Keep up your medications and your therapy sessions the best you can. If you are having difficulty coping, seek out help for the first time. There are mental health people on the ready to help you through this crisis. Your children’s teachers and related service providers will do anything within their power to help, especially for those parents tasked with the difficult task of being a whole treatment team to their child with special challenges. Seek support groups of fellow home-schoolers, parents, and neighbors to feel connected. There is help and support out there, any time of the day—although we are physically distant, we can always connect virtually.

23. “Chunk” your quarantine, take it moment by moment. We have no road map for this. We don’t know what this will look like in 1 day, 1 week, or 1 month from now. Often, when I work with patients who have anxiety around overwhelming issues, I suggest that they engage in a strategy called “chunking”—focusing on whatever bite-sized piece of a challenge that feels manageable. Whether that be 5 minutes, a day, or a week at a time—find what feels doable for you, and set a time stamp for how far ahead in the future you will let yourself worry. Take each chunk one at a time, and move through stress in pieces.

24. Remind yourself daily that this is temporary. It seems in the midst of this quarantine that it will never end. It is terrifying to think of the road stretching ahead of us. Please take time to remind yourself that although this is very scary and difficult, and will go on for an undetermined amount of time, it is a season of life and it will pass. We will return to feeling free, safe, busy, and connected in the days ahead.

25. Find the lesson. This whole crisis can seem sad, senseless, and at times, avoidable. When psychologists work with trauma, a key feature to helping someone work through said trauma is to help them find their agency, the potential positive outcomes they can effect, the meaning and construction that can come out of destruction. What can each of us learn here, in big and small ways, from this crisis? What needs to change in ourselves, our homes, our communities, our nation, and our world?

Help Starts From Within is continuing to serve and support individuals, couples and families during the OCVID-19 crisis....

Help Starts From Within is continuing to serve and support individuals, couples and families during the OCVID-19 crisis.
Our services are now being provided via a secure online synchronous audio-visual telehealth platform, as opposed to in the office, in light of the recommendations for social distancing amidst our current pandemic.

In times like this, consistency and support for mental health and stress are critical. We are so grateful to still be able to help all of you by offering individual, couple/marital and family therapy from the comfort of your own home. Commercial insurance is accepted (Aetna, BCBS, Cigna, Meritain Health, Oxford, United Healthcare, etc.) and these insurances are covering telehealth services.

For more information please log onto our website of, or call us at 732-380-7449.
Our staff are wishing you all comfort, good health and support during these difficult times. 💓


To all of our Help Starts From Within Community:

With so much uncertainty about what the coming weeks and months will look like, it’s natural to feel some anxiety. I want to stress the importance of extra self-care and share a list of tips to help you prioritize your mental health and well-being during this strange time:

- If you find yourself caught up in worried thoughts, stop and take several deep breaths. Refocus your attention on the present moment, noticing the sights, smells, and sounds around you.

- Take comfort in simple routines – practice good sleep hygiene, sit down for meals together, write in a journal, make your bed each morning. Routine and ritual help us to feel more grounded and safe, and can put our minds at ease.

- Start a project or activity you’ve been wanting to get to at home – i.e. reorganize your kitchen, clean out your closet, start that painting, read a great novel, binge watch some comedy, play games with your kids/partner/friends, write a letter or call a loved one on the phone.

- If possible, spend some time outside in your yard and soak up the sights and sounds of Spring. Exercise, fresh air and Vitamin D greatly reduce stress and improve our mood.

- Practice gratitude and mindfulness. Washing your hands is a great time to slow down and take several deep breaths, or say a short blessing such as “May I be safe, may I be healthy, may I have peace of mind… May we be safe, may we be healthy, may we have peace of mind”.

- Limit your news and social media exposure. We all need time to unplug and recharge.

- Follow Mr. Roger’s advice to “look for the helpers” and find yourself moved by the many, inspiring ways people are caring for others.

- Let this time be a reminder of our shared humanity and inter-connectedness and, above all, be kind to yourselves and others. We’re all in this together.

We are all in this together, and we are here to help all of you.

Be Well 💕
Marisa Montalvo Stefani and all the staff at Help Starts From Within

Rantings of a Beautiful Mind

Rantings of a Beautiful Mind

In a State of Depression

In a State of Depression

HR Mom

HR Mom

I know I expect my kids to help me take down these Christmas decorations before they go back to school. I also know they have their own plans for these remaining days off.
Have you ever had a boss who always managed to come to you with a huge project when you were right in the middle of something and would want it done “RIGHT NOW?” The worst one for me was a boss who seemed to have no respect for my time or work style. As soon as she’d walk away, I’d grumble, “She didn’t even ask what I already had on my plate or care whether I even have bandwidth for this!”

If she would’ve asked in advance, I would’ve planned differently, re-prioritized my tasks, and (most importantly) been in a positive headspace to produce my best work.
I sat the kids down last night and asked them to help me schedule when we’ll take down the decorations. I told them I’ll do my best to work around what they hope to accomplish during the break.

My oldest son (15) explained that he wants to finish his “Watchmen” book and his friends want to meet up on Sunday afternoon. My youngest son (11) wants us all to play his new board game and go to Target to spend his gift cards. Both want to see Star Wars. I explained my work schedule and that I have tickets to see “The Color Purple” onstage at the local theater.

We moved things around on the shared Google calendar and decided as a team that we’d take down the Christmas wall art, trinkets, Nativity scenes today. We’ll take down the garland, tree, and lights on Sunday night. We’ll put it all up into the attic on January 5th when they get back from Dad’s house.

The “undecorating” is officially on the books, and because I didn’t spring it on them and have their buy-in, I expect that the grumbling will be minimal and the work will be swift. I look forward to another chance to thank them for how much they contribute to this family. I’ll also feel much happier about carting them around to complete THEIR errands.

When leading my kids, my goal is to equip them to take ownership of how they schedule their days and manage their responsibilities and leisure time. I want them to understand that this family is a team and that if we work together, the team/family runs smoothly and we ALL get to do more of what we want to do.

When our kids/teens finally DO take ownership of their schedules, if we don’t also make the shift to respecting their plans and their time, we can inadvertently take ownership back. This perceived lack of respect is very disengaging, damages our connection, and can essentially reverse their progress toward independence.


704 Ginesi Drive
Marlboro, NJ


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Our Story

Happiness, peace of mind, gratitude, motivation and satisfying relationships with others are things that all people strive to have in their life. Stress, depression, anxiety, divorce, trauma, addiction, abuse (physical, verbal, emotional, and/or sexual), domestic violence, dysfunctional family relationships, unexpected medical crises, and life changes are just a few of the obstacles that can keep people weighed down, stressed and lost. In order to overcome these obstacles, you must first start with a therapist whom you can develop a trusting relationship- someone who creates a safe, comfortable, nurturing and non-judgmental environment where you can begin to rejuvenate, reconnect and renew. My name is Marisa Montalvo Stefani and I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I have a small psychotherapy group practice with several talented therapists, and our counseling is based on understanding, compassion, trust, respect, and honesty. Collectively, we have a commitment to help, and the ability to deliver. Allow us to assist you in achieving the results you are looking for through self-awareness and self-knowledge. If you or someone you know is experiencing problems, don't treat all therapists alike. Working with individuals and families is a challenging craft that takes a long time to master and few have received the kind of education, experience and savvy guidance necessary to deal with the range of tough issues that life can present us with. I encourage you to navigate through our website to learn more about our services and determine whether we are the therapist for you. If you have any remaining questions please don’t hesitate to contact us Be Well, Marisa

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