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Surviving the Holidays with Your Family

Ever wonder if you are the only one who walks through the door of a family gathering and reverts to behaviors and mannerisms that have been mostly dormant for decades? I can fully assure you that it is extremely common, if not universal. I hear this complaint in my office (okay plenty in my private life too). It usually sounds like this, “I don’t know what it is but when I get together with my family, it’s like I’m a 13-year-old all over again.” Needless to say, this is a huge topic around the holidays when there is a high concentration of extended family togetherness. Why is this? My observation is that it can be a number of factors that make you prone to this situation. For some people, it is that their families have out-of-date stories about them. Or     . . . read more

Feelings About Feelings

As a therapist, I find that the cause of many mental health issues is not the emotion one naturally feels about an event or situation, it is the reaction to this initial or primary emotion. Often for people experiencing panic, it is the fear or embarrassment of having the panic symptoms that becomes problematic. For depression, it may be the shame of feeling sad, which prompts even worse sadness and lowers self-esteem. The first step in therapy is most frequently addressing the reaction to our own natural, understandable feelings. In short, ineffective internal responses to feelings we have are the underlying issue in many mental health diagnoses. As a result, I think a lot about why we are so ineffective at accepting, managing, or feeling our emotions. Why do we feel shame, anger, fear, or guilt about having feelings? For     . . . read more

Can a Therapy App Help You?

I try not to take offense, but it seems that scientists are obsessed with eliminating my job. Some want to see machines replace trained therapists to help you with your emotional problems. That seems a little weird, since emotions are the only thing a computer cannot do at this point. At any rate, I’m a pragmatic person and I’ll support anything that helps people. The New York Times is reporting that apps may in fact help people with anxiety and depression. A recent article explains how a video game-like app helps people overcome ways of thinking that lead to anxiety and depression. So, today I’m setting up all of my clients with my iPhone and taking off for a hike. Okay, no, wait a minute… if you read the full article, you realize that they are less than sure about     . . . read more

2011 Reflection/2012 Preview: Realizing Our Potential

I experienced a lot of change personally and professionally last year. My daughter was born last January. Being a first-time parent pretty much sums up the personal changes from the last year! Professionally, I continued my ongoing study of how people make positive, lasting changes. I fully believe everyone can make such changes. One theme from last year is that people have tremendous power to shape their emotional lives, but most fail to realize they have this potential. I am very impacted by the work of Brene Brown. She is a researcher who has studied important topics like shame and worthiness. Brown says that one of the keys to living a connected, “wholehearted” life (her term), is to believe in your own worthiness. Much pain and disconnection from others is caused by the mistaken belief that we are not good     . . . read more

Weekly Reflection: Emotion and Avoidance

I have the opportunity everyday to learn so much about the human experience. Not many people get to sit and talk about important topics with others for a living. I’ve decided that it might be helpful for me to reflect on some of the themes that come up again and again throughout my week. I hope that it’s also useful to anyone reading this to get a sense that they are not alone. While we all are individuals, the core struggles we have are very similar. This week I’ve been thinking a lot about emotions. I guess that should be obvious. What I realize is that feelings get a bad reputation. People talk smack about emotions saying, “feelings are a sign of weakness,” “feelings make me out of control,” “emotions lead to nothing good” or “it’s not fair that I     . . . read more

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