Assessing Your Healing: Signs of Progress in Therapy

Do you know that you can focus on various areas in your life to see if you are feeling better in specific ways? This is a fun, informal quiz to use for this purpose. Rate your improvement from 1 to 4, with 4 being the most improved. Leave it blank if it doesn’t apply to you. Take the results to your therapist for discussion.

LIFE ISSUES*:

__Self Esteem

__Ability to reach Life Goals

__Personal Safety

__Your work or career

__Level of happiness

__Intelligence

__Use of your talents

__Sense of Humor

__Ability to care for others

__Personal self-care/Attractiveness

__Ability to make friends

__Relationships (friends)

__Relationships (family)

__Getting along with coworkers

__Taking time for you

__Treating yourself well

__Putting your needs first

__Taking care of your body

__Not getting overly tired

__Taking care of yourself when ill

__Eating well

__Sleeping enough

__Exercising regularly

__Appropriate alcohol use (or none at all)

Track your progress on a regular basis. Therapy is all about improving your life and making it the best it can be!

(Adapted from It’s My Life Now by M. Dugan)

10 Gifts to Give Yourself This Year

1. Turn off the TV news for the holiday season.  Instead, light candles and put on music.

2. Notice even the smallest of your daily accomplishments instead of what you DIDN’T get done. Keep a “success list!”

3. Remember that we get what we focus on in life. Focusing on good points in yourself and others will bring MORE of them.

4. Take a “senses walk” for 20 minutes, 4 times a week. Notice the breath in your lungs, the smell of the air, the change of the seasons. Outdoor light and exercise both stimulate serotonin production, lifting mood.

5. Take a few minutes daily to “hibernate.” Close your door, remove your shoes, dim the lights, and focus on what makes you happy.

6. Breathe in to the slow count of four. Hold it four slow counts. Release in four slow counts. Repeat until you feel the muscles relax all over!

7. Stay aware of your thoughts.

8. Don’t take on another person’s bad mood. Guard yourself, removing yourself from their company if necessary.

9. Find freedom by letting go of criticizing and complaining about yourself or someone else.

10. If you need to make changes, act NOW. Don’t put off health or happiness!

Helpful Hints for Holiday Happenings

As the holiday season draws near, so do the stressful encounters with family! Here are some tips for making it through with your holiday spirit intact.

1. Remind yourself that people are under more pressure and are going to be harder to get along with on special days.

2. If you choose to speak up-and “rocking the boat” is NOT a bad thing—use an “I message.” Example: Mom, I feel hurt when you criticize my cooking.

3. Try to have those “I message” conversations privately and directly with the person who has offended you. Avoid the words “always” and “never.” After all, no one is ALWAYS guilty of something!

4. Avoid being drawn into family triangles. A triangle is where people discuss another family member behind their back. It may feel good to be included, but it almost always comes back to haunt you later when you indulge in gossip. If someone attempts to draw you in, excuse yourself and invent an urgent gravy emergency.

5. If the dinner is at your house, you have the right to set all rules and boundaries, such as no alcohol, no smoking inside, etc. Be polite but firm. The rules are always the choice of the host/hostess: the guest’s choice is whether or not to attend.

6. Get outside for a walk, or at least a deep breath of fresh air. Remind yourself that it’s only one day. Promise yourself a relaxing treat later (such as a hot bath, TV show, good book). This will help manage your depression or anxiety.

7. Try to look past the person’s irritating manner to the wounds that cause the actions. This does not mean you don’t speak up, it simply means you speak up calmly 

8. Thank your hostess profusely. You have no idea how much time and effort it takes unless you’ve done it yourself!

9. Spend some time being thankful and enjoying the people you love.

10. Never skip our appointments during the holiday season, no matter how busy you are. Like sleep and exercise, your sessions are essential to keeping you in balance and moving forward.

Relationship Resolutions

At this time of year we often find ourselves around people who stress or frustrate us. The problems between us arise again and again as the Holidays progress. This is a good time of year to set some fresh resolutions; not about losing weight or saving money, but about dealing with our loved ones in a compassionate yet assertive way. Here are some ways to achieve this goal.

 

1.     Understand that _______experiences life from her/his perspective, not mine.

2.     Be kind, calm AND assertive with ______so I can be at peace with my own behavior.

3.     Accept _________where they are now rather than trying to “help” them change.

4.     Give up trying to make __________ happy.

5.     Believe in __________________’s ability to do the necessary to live their own life at this time.

6.     Let __________experience their own feelings (guilt, fear, anger etc.) without my getting caught up in them.

7.     Let __________experience and deal with their own emotional pain.

8.     Do not take control of things that __________should do on their own as a grown adult.

9.     Set and maintain my personal boundaries with ___________.

10. Forgive the past and focus on the positive aspects of my relationship with ____________.

11. Accept my own feelings about ___________whenever they come up and don’t try to push away those feelings.

Don’t Miss This Moment—the Key to Happiness

“Mommy, hello please? Hello please?” the little girl repeated plaintively as she tugged on her mother’s skirt as mom obliviously tapped on her cell phone.

The invention of our hand held devices is a very mixed blessing! On the one hand, we have the virtual world and relationships at our fingertips. Somebody can Like you on Facebook!! The adrenaline hit that brings is addictive and draws us in.

On the other hand, the real world and the relationships in front of us pass us by.

The idea of Be Here Now seems so elementary, but look around you. Is anyone in your line of vision enjoying the present moment-the coffee in their hand, the smile on the face of the clerk, the breeze that ruffles their hair? Or are they absorbed in the otherness of their phone?

Are you?

As we constantly look to “the next thing,” we miss relating to what IS. As a therapist, I am constantly challenged to wake people up out of cyber-life and into the challenge and joys of this moment. I have to remind them, that sitting there with me, we are safe. We are fed. We are warm.

But maybe your present moment isn’t so great. Maybe escaping into your phone seems irresistible in the face of that divorce, that mean boss, or that medical diagnosis.

Using avoidance only compounds the current problem. The decisions, the insight needed to make changes are lost when problems are avoided by escaping into cyber world.

If this describes you, call me. I can help you face what you’re escaping with that phone. Finding solutions or at least facing the pain of the issues is the way to experience the life in front of you with freedom and peace. Don’t waste a minute of your existence!

“Living in the moment, living my life
Easy and breezy, peace in my mind-
Peace in my heart, peace in my soul
Wherever I’m going, I’m already home.”
(Song, Living in the Moment by Jason Mraz)

Family Counseling: How can it Help Us?

Maybe you have asked yourself this question while yelling at your teenager, struggling with the family budget, or watching your spouse work too much. Let’s explore some answers that might help you understand the benefits of sitting your family down together under the guidance of a licensed therapist.

  • It gives everyone an equal voice. I am trained to observe and detect what isn’t necessarily said out loud. I can help a child find words to express their needs, which is much harder for children than adults.
  • It’s a safe place.A rule is established at the beginning of therapy that no one can be punished outside of session for what they say IN session. All members must agree to this rule.
  • Everyone learns to communicate. I teach skills, such as using “I feel” instead of “you should” and to avoid the use of “never” or “always” when talking to loved ones. Defenses are lowered and love can flow more freely.
  • It helps you see things from their point of view. I can help each member of the family articulate desires and feelings, then teach you how to reflect that back in a calm way.
  • You learn to focus on the positive. I use exercises that are especially designed to bring good memories and positive thoughts about each family member to the forefront, increasing your bond with each other.
  • Agreements can be forged. I have expertise in mediating family contracts, such as Teen Rights to the Car Keys, Work Hours for Dad, and Adult Child Living at Home. This teaches children how the real world functions, with responsibilities, rewards, and consequences.
  • Secrets can be aired and resolved. Children know so much more about what’s going on behind the scenes than parents allow themselves to realize. Unhealthy secrets can be discussed and resolved, and questions answered.
  • Mutual respect can be taught. Families often use sarcasm or abrasive “teasing,” which can scar a child. I can help you see where you might be unintentionally inflicting hurt.
  • You have a safe place to be real.The pressure to put on a happy family face to the world can be exhausting. My office is a place where we can observe how families protect some members and blame others, and resolve that pattern.
  • Responsibilities can be balanced.Often Mom is the primary caretaker, taking on chores that rightly belong to the rest of the family. I can help you work through a reasonable and fair plan to share the load.

If this sounds like what your family needs, let’s get started! Call me today for an appointment.

 

How’s Your Hula Hoop? Healthy Boundaries

“My mother is always telling me what to do, and then she wonders why I don’t call her more often,” my client sighed as she wiped away tears of frustration.

“Do you tell her that you’d prefer her not to do that?” I prodded gently.

“No! I can’t talk back to my mother,” she replied, shocked.

All of us have personal space that we must protect from invasion by others and most of us are aware that our bodies belong to us. This is why we recognize that it’s not OK to force or coerce our children into hugging or kissing people against their will. Our bodies are ours alone.

We realize we should protect our physical space from those who get closer or more physical than we’d prefer, but do you know that you have emotional space that belongs to you as well? I use the hula hoop as an illustration of this.

My feelings, my decisions, my consequences…

As an adult, it’s my right to determine my own life. Imagine a hula hoop worn by each of us. Inside that hoop are decisions such as when you sleep, what you eat, whether or not you exercise, take care of yourself, whether or not you attend worship, have hobbies, political or religious beliefs, how you raise your children-well, you get the idea.

When we start to tell people our opinions about how they choose in these areas, we are jumping their hoop and getting into the space that rightly belongs to them. When we allow others to criticize or lecture us about our choices, we allow invasion into our hula hoop as well. This causes insecurity, resentment, and the presence of control.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me…

Keeping our opinions to ourselves about the life choices of other adults is part of respecting the freedom we all have to live our lives the way we see fit. Saying a firm but friendly “hey, that’s my call about how I live my life, so let’s talk about something else” is essential to taking care of YOU.

I can help you with assertive and kind answers to keeping others out of your hula hoop. Let’s get started!

Signs of Bipolar Disorder

With the recent celebrity Bipolar diagnoses in the news, I am providing for you an Informal Screening tool. This is NOT a substitute for testing by a licensed Mental Health Provider or psychiatrist. If you think you need help, please contact a professional immediately.

 BIPOLAR INFORMAL MOOD DISORDER QUESTIONNAIRE

  1. Has there ever been a period of time when you were not your usual self and…

___You felt so good or so hyper that other people thought you were not your normal self or were you so hyper that you got in trouble?

___You were so irritable that you shouted or started fights or arguments?

___You felt much more self -confident than usual?

___You got much less sleep than usual and found you didn’t really miss it?

___You were much more talkative or spoke much faster than usual?

___Thoughts raced through your head or you couldn’t slow your mind down?

___You were so easily distracted by things around you that you had trouble concentrating or staying on track?

___You had much more energy than usual?

___You were much more active or did many more things than usual?

___You were much more social or outgoing than usual, for example, you called friends in the middle of the night?

___You were much more interested in sex than usual?

___You did things that were unusual for you or that other people might have thought were excessive, foolish or risky?

___Spending money got you or your family in trouble?

  1. If you checked YES to more than one of the above, have several of these ever happened during the same period of time?
  1. How much of a problem did any of this cause you—like being unable to work, having family, money or legal troubles, getting into arguments or fights?

NO problem     Minor problem    Moderate Problem   Serious Problem

Seven or more endorsed indicates “Moderate” to “Serious” Bipolar possibility. THIS IS NOT A DIAGNOSTIC TOOL, but an informal way to begin to gather information towards an eventual diagnosis.

Are You Making the Most of Your Therapy? 7 Tips

Don't miss these tips on taking an active role in counseling.

If you're struggling or stuck, counseling may be a good way to get a new perspective, move forward positively and protect your well-being. And if you're living with a mental health condition, seeing a therapist may be a key part of your treatment plan.

Are you in talk therapy or considering it? These tips can help you make the most of it:

1. Set goals
Be sure your therapist knows what you hope to achieve. For example, perhaps you want to:

  • Find ways to cope with strong emotions, such as grief
  • Change behaviors that are making you unhappy
  • Build healthier relationships
  • Better manage stress, anxiety or depression
  • Explore or navigate a major life change

2. Discuss a timeline
It will depend on your needs and goals. Ask your therapist how you'll work together on your goals and how long you might need counseling services. Some issues are chronic or take longer than others to work through. But in other cases, people might feel that they're making progress after just a few sessions.

3. Be honest
Sometimes, talking about personal problems can be uncomfortable. But the more open you are about your true feelings and experiences, the more your counselor can help.

4. Take notes during each session
Reading them over can remind you of what you discussed, including what action steps you should try.

5. Do your homework
For example, your counselor might suggest you write in a journal or change your behavior in a certain way. If you don't get specific tips, ask what you can do outside of therapy to move toward your goals.

6. Welcome new ways
Often, therapy means exploring approaches that feel outside your comfort zone. But trying new strategies for managing or responding to situations is the only way to see if they work. If you give up too quickly, you might miss out on something that really helps.

7. Speak up
Your counselor wants your therapy to succeed — and collaboration is a key to that. So don't hesitate to say if you:

  • Think a session didn't go well
  • Don’t feel you're making progress
  • Want to focus on a new goal
  • Are considering stopping your therapy

When you're frank, it gives your counselor a chance to think about the best ways to help you.

It's also vital that you develop trust and a good connection with your therapist. So if you don't feel comfortable or you don't feel like you're being heard, it may not be a good fit — and you may benefit from making a change.

Make Back to School AWESOME: Some Tips

By Ted Feinberg, EdD, NCSP,
& Katherine C. Cowan
National Association of School Psychologists

Overcoming Anxiety

Let your children know you care. If your child is anxious about school, send personal notes in the lunch box or book bag. Reinforce the ability to cope. Children absorb their parent’s anxiety, so model optimism and confidence for your child. Let your child know that it is natural to be a little nervous anytime you start something new but that your child will be just fine once he or she becomes familiar with classmates, the teacher, and school routine.

Do not overreact. If the first few days are a little rough, try not to over react. Young children in particular may experience separation anxiety or shyness initially but teachers are trained to help them adjust. If you drop them off, try not to linger. Reassure them that you love them, will think of them during the day, and will be back.

Remain calm and positive. Acknowledge anxiety over a bad experience the previous year. Children who had a difficult time academically or socially or were teased or bullied may be more fearful or reluctant to return to school. If you have not yet done so, share your child’s concern with the school and confirm that the problem has been addressed. Reassure your child that the problem will not occur again in the new school year, and that you and the school are working together to prevent further issues.

Reinforce your child’s ability to cope. Give your child a few strategies to manage a difficult situation on his or her own. But encourage your child to tell you or the teacher if the problem persists. Maintain open lines of communication with the school.

Arrange play dates. Try to arrange get-togethers with some of your child’s classmates before school starts and during the first weeks of schools to help your child re-establish positive social relationships with peers.

Plan to volunteer in the classroom. If possible, plan to volunteer in the classroom at least periodically throughout the year. Doing so helps your child understand that school and family life are linked and that you care about the learning experience. Being in the classroom is also a good way to develop a relationship with your child’s teachers and classmates, and to get firsthand exposure to the classroom environment and routine. Most teachers welcome occasional parent help, even if you cannot volunteer regularly.