Dr. Laura's Meaningful Psychological Services
Dr. Laura's Meaningful Psychological Services
Online Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, Mindfulness, CBIT, ERP, CBT-I, Behavior Consultation, and Treatment for Anxiety and Insomnia
Laura Van Schaick-Harman, Psy.D., BC-TMH
Meaningful Psychological Services: Really Useful Thoughts from a Psychologist
Helpful interests, ideas, and resources about psychology, therapy, mindfulness, cognitive-behavior therapy, anxiety, living meaningfully and online therapy.
Cinematherapy; "Yes, and"
|Posted on May 23, 2023 at 2:45 PM|
In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I would like to share some information about one of my favorite topics related to psychological wellness- cinematherapy. Occasionally, I will recommend a movie or show that illustrates concepts related to a particular area of mental health. Topics include, but are not limited to, exercise, medical problems, stress, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, financial struggles, divorce, family dynamics, sleep, and work.
Here is an interesting article about cinematherapy: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/can_movies_help_you_become_a_better_person?utm_source=Greater+Good+Science+Center&utm_campaign=37caf0f32f-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_GG_Newsletter_May_8_2023&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5ae73e326e-37caf0f32f-50850427
One scene that particularly illustrated the “yes and” concept often used in CBT to teach communication and social skills was in a recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy. This won’t be a spoiler for those of you watching earlier seasons, as it is an isolated scene. As you watch, pay attention to the style of communication used to share some “tough love” with a loved one who is damaging relationships related to alcohol abuse history and fears of abandonment. Certainly, this is a difficult conversation. The use of “and” following “I love you” is more effective than the commonly used “but” which tends to negate the “I love you” part. This is a particularly difficult scene to watch. There is some foul language, and it deals with themes of alcoholic addiction, abandonment, negative concerns about the world at large, anxiety, and depression.
Here is the Grey’s Anatomy scene:
I welcome you to share recommendations from movies, shows, or books that illustrate mental health concepts with me.
Talking About Difficult Topics with Kids
|Posted on April 25, 2023 at 10:00 AM|
There are times when we find it difficult to explain a big concept about very real-life issues to a child we care about in our life. These topics may include poverty, divorce, stress, trauma, or grief. Sesame Street in Communities has a wonderful collection of resources available for free for families and schools.
I hope these are helpful resources for your family!
|Posted on March 30, 2023 at 12:25 AM|
The “what-if” question is a commonly expressed theme related to anxiety. People stress and fret about all the things that could happen. These thoughts tend to skew negative (“what if I don’t get an A on that paper?) and even at times catastrophic (“what if I never graduate college?”;). I challenge you to think- what if we explored and decided to accept and embrace or dismiss and redirect “what-ifs” instead of worrying about them? How would this look? How can you challenge your current habits and develop a new healthier approach? Consider reaching out to a mental health professional who practices Cognitive Behavior Therapy to dive deeper into this skill.
Another form of “what-if" questioning involves problem solving. When we are presented with a stressor or problem, we have the opportunity to develop ideas and explore solutions. This builds resilience, and problem-solving skills. For some fun, watch this video that illustrates this concept.
I wonder, What if, Let's Try! Hailee Steinfeld Teaches How To Solve Problems (Sing Along) | Sesame Street | HBO Max Family
|Posted on February 21, 2023 at 5:05 PM|
Do you remember spending hours outside when you were younger? Maybe you enjoyed going for bike rides, walks, digging in the dirt, playing kickball, or swinging. I loved playing two-hand touch football in the street with any friends and friends of friends in the neighborhood. Someone would yell “car!” when they saw a vehicle coming and we would all move to the side, wait for the car to drive by, and then happily reset the play. We would be outside almost every day for several hours. We weren’t pulled by digital distractions like texting, or watching short videos being fed to us in an endless stream of content. We just were. We had fun, enjoyed fresh air, the company of others, and nature. We learned how to work together, build a team, solve problems, handle disagreements, learn about each other, and expand our communication skills. Today I enjoy taking mindful walks in nature as often as possible. During these times, I feel happy to see kids and teens still playing outside together. Riding bikes, meeting up at the local playground (and getting there independently-woo-hoo!) and taking walks together are all great ways to be outside.
Here is an article about the power of playing outside.
Focus on Love Jan 2023
|Posted on January 24, 2023 at 3:55 PM|
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I am sharing this interesting piece written by my colleague, Dr. Phillips. I hope that you will feel encouraged and celebrate your partner.
Is Fidelity to Your Partner Enough to Sustain a Marriage?
|Posted on December 14, 2022 at 12:00 AM|
While this can be a season of busyness, stress, and worry, we can intentionally slow down and practice gratitude and mindfulness. There are many benefits of practicing gratitude. I encourage you to read this article and learn about some of them.
How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain?utm_source=Greater+Good+Science+Center&utm_campaign=834cec9689-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_Special_Edition_Nov+2022&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5ae73e326e-834cec9689-50850427
I am thankful for you taking the time to read this post!
|Posted on November 23, 2022 at 12:25 AM|
What are you thankful for this November? Thanksgiving is a special time to celebrate family and friends and pause to remember what is important in your life. Reflecting on people, experiences, opportunities, possessions, memories, and moments is a helpful practice that contributes to well-being. We do not have to wait until Thanksgiving, of course, to consider and express gratitude. I challenge you to spend time each day thinking about and even writing down a few things you felt grateful for that day. It may be simple like a smile from your child or a joke someone shared with you, or bigger like a promotion or making a sports team. Remembering the little things, the big things, seeing the positive side of challenges, and saying thank you can make a significant difference in your life and in the life of someone else.
One thing I am incredibly grateful for is the opportunity to read both for myself, and as a family during read-aloud time. Many of you know that I love reading and I will often provide book recommendations and use books in session as appropriate. I am super thankful that both of my children love to read as well, and I hope they always will. Books provide information, amazing stories, as well as a time of rest, reflection, shared time reading together, and restoration. Choosing high quality books can be a challenge, so utilize resources such as librarians, educators, friends, family, doctors, professional organizations, retail booksellers, book clubs, and co-workers. You may find that you enjoy reading multiple works from the same author, similar titles, or widely varied topics. I have personally enjoyed both fiction and nonfiction recently and have learned that listening to interesting podcasts has a cause-and-effect relationship with my buying and reading more books!
I hope you can enjoy time with the people you love doing the things you love and fully experience the joy of gratitude.
Pros and Cons Technology Use for Kids
|Posted on October 26, 2022 at 1:55 PM|
As we have been focusing on healthy technology use for the past few months, I am sharing some additional information to help guide decision making. This month’s issue addresses some pros and cons of technology use in children.
It is helpful for parents to be aware of the benefits and disadvantages of the technology available to their children. There are certainly positive aspects of advances in technology. Kids can learn new languages, connect with friends and family who live far away, maintain access to school resources and teachers when they have questions or difficulty, and can even learn a new skill like cooking, or playing an instrument. Children can also run into some challenging situations like online bullying, exposure to age-inappropriate images and videos, and screen addiction.
Here is some information discussing the pros and cons of technology use for kids:
Focus on Social Media and Teens
|Posted on September 26, 2022 at 2:40 PM|
In continuation of last month’s theme of healthy technology use, I am sharing some additional information focusing on social media.
This article discusses some of the concerns about social media use and teens: https://www.apa.org/news/apa/2022/social-media-children-teens?utm_source=linkedin&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=apa-research&utm_content=youth-social-media
Social media can be very damaging to a child or teen’s well-being. Anxiety about checking likes/comments/post engagement, spreading of rumors, bullying, inappropriate content, ads, sharing of photos and conversations with unintended persons, etc. are hurtful and harmful. Ask a teenager how they feel about having social media and see their perspective on how it impacts their life. Please also remember, parental supervision of all online activity is necessary. Help your child to develop good habits with online activity. Review online safety information, remind them everything is treated as public and permanent, and consider delaying access to social media for as long as possible. Your child will really appreciate this down the road!
I hope you find this information useful.
Healthy Technology Use
|Posted on August 29, 2022 at 10:30 AM|
As families are preparing for the start of a new school year and peer pressure about getting a cell phone and playing video games may intensify, it is important to remember the importance of balancing technology use.
Here are some other helpful considerations from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
Healthy Digital Media Use & First Phone Readinesshttps://contentsharing.net/actions/email_web_version.cfm?ep=Wda7dLHy7d2HDwFVFCwnDZkPXcaibH1TccV9QrRk6INavsI4EiFgVMXYLe3INhHndR5BfzlAvOr_c87pU24GpXQrQXplb3F5nNAgWaFzz31FuBvP2f0HdB3wE-NBba3BkNQmHskUHm7S6BXC16bECg~~;
And some suggestions regarding the benefits of letting your mind wander without using your phone:
Instead of Pulling Out Your Phone, Let Your Mind Wander https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/instead_of_pulling_out_your_phone_let_your_mind_wander#.YwZVRmcOEtk.twitter
New Crisis Resource
|Posted on July 25, 2022 at 10:15 AM|
There are some important and helpful updates with accessing emergency services that I want to share with you.
You may have heard that there is a new simple phone number (988) to use to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Here is a resource about this change: https://988lifeline.org/current-events/the-lifeline-and-988/
Here is the new information. Please save it for your records and share widely:
988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline
24-hour hotline: 988
There are additional resources available for individuals in crisis:
Response Crisis Center
24-hour hotline: 631-751-7500
Long Island Against Domestic Violence
24-hour hotline: 631-666-8833
Please do use these free resources and share them with your friends and family. You will be making a positive difference in your life or the life of someone else (and may be saving a life)!
|Posted on June 20, 2022 at 1:45 PM|
Ten years ago this month, I opened my private practice. Ten years!! In reflecting on this milestone, I am humbled by the opportunity to walk alongside children, adolescents, adults, and families in their struggles, successes, and life experiences.
For those of you who have trusted me to support you in your life, thank you. I honor and respect this responsibility.
During these 10 years, I have had 4 different office locations, traveled to client’s homes, and transitioned to a fully online practice. My goal has been to connect with someone where they are- geographically, emotionally, and financially, and help them get to where they want to be. Each change during these past 10 years has reflected this value.
Personally, these 10 years have brought amazing change too. My husband and I purchased our first home and I became a mother to two wonderful, happy, and wild boys.
What has changed in the last 10 years for you? I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years will bring!
Healthy Screen Time for Families
|Posted on May 24, 2022 at 3:30 PM|
Many families have been struggling with managing screen time in their homes. It is important to consider several factors regarding the use of technology in your home. I have shared some resources below to help make decisions.
Your Child’s First Phone: Are They Ready? (American Academy of Pediatrics)
Kids & Tech: Tips for Parents in the Digital Age (American Academy of Pediatrics)
How can I help my child avoid eye and back strain from being on the computer? (American Academy of Pediatrics)
My colleague and local psychologist, Dr. Anzalone, featured in the ABC special "Protect Our Children: Mental and Physical Stress" talking about the impact of screen time on kids and teens (last segment):
Glow Kids Tech Addiction Research
Resources from: InfoaboutKids.org Developed by APA Divisions
I hope these are helpful.
|Posted on April 25, 2022 at 4:55 PM|
One of the best movies I have seen was the deserving recipient of this year’s Best Picture award at the Oscars. CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) is a meaningful film that depicts themes of love, growing up, parenting, passion, family conflicts, strength, vulnerability, bravery, acceptance, fear of differences, unity, friendships, financial ability, and class differences. The music is beautiful. The language is visually beautiful. The pain is awe inspiring. CODA is inspiring. This film is worth the watch. Keep in mind that you can’t be on your phone the whole time while it is on because you will need to actually watch every scene as much is in sign language. This is the best way to watch movies anyway (a gentle reminder to those who struggle with maintaining attention on one source of entertainment at a time).
For some more excellent film recommendations, see:
Eleven Films That Highlight the Best in Humanity
|Posted on March 22, 2022 at 4:20 PM|
I was totally in after the first trailer I viewed. Turning Red is a movie that highlights and depicts some relevant social and emotional connections in a parent-child-family relationship as well as among peers. This film also highlights cultural traditions and diversity in a beautiful way. I will try and avoid spoilers as usual. Here goes....
For the average teenager, what would be SUPER embarrassing? If you guessed a parent unexpectedly breaking school rules to show up unannounced to bring you a forgotten (super) personal item in front of all your peers, you would be right. If you guessed a parent showing your crush (who has NO IDEA you feel this way) pictures you drew of them in an effort to protect their teen, you would also be right. You can watch the full movie for some more examples and hopefully laugh (or cringe).
Another element I loved about this movie- it is set in the early 2000s. For those of us who were teenagers in the 90s or early 2000s, the film’s references are very relatable. The protagonist and her main group of friends are really into a boy band (If you don’t already know this about me: BSB 4eva!) and this is a primary focus of making decisions as a growing teenager. Friends develop a plan to earn money to go to a concert and learn some surprising things about each other, their families, and peers.
A central theme in Turning Red is the idea of feeling, identifying, and managing your emotions. When strong emotions are experienced, there are resulting behavioral and physical changes. We see the valuable impact of unconditional acceptance, relaxation, and mindfulness on present experiences and character development.
As a parent, it is natural to want to protect your child. Our kids grow up so fast. The days can feel like they last forever sometimes but the years pass quickly. Adolescence is a time of growth, testing of limits, exploration of independence, learning about family culture, and discovering of one’s own belief systems. It can be so rewarding yet difficult to observe this process and guide your teen without being overbearing.
I hope you consider watching Turning Red and enjoy it. Maybe you will be able to relate to some of these themes!
|Posted on February 28, 2022 at 9:15 AM|
What a joy it is to see children playing at a park, playground, in school, and at home. This unstructured time is important for cognitive, emotional, social and physical development. As adults, we sometimes forget the power of play in childhood (and in our own lives).
I love seeing the joy of exploring the world, nature, and new friends at the park or playground. It is fun to watch my boys and other kids learn to roll down big hills again and again. Simple, pure, childhood fun.
I encourage you to get outside and play. Adults can have fun too! Laugh with your kids, roll down hills, and play tag.
We can play inside too. Resist the urge to use or give a screen. Try a puzzle, book, board game, or conversation. Here are some more suggestions:
|Posted on January 26, 2022 at 9:45 AM|
Happy New Year! I hope you have had a healthy start to 2022. Let’s look at one, probably large, aspect of your life together- the role of technology.
How much of a role does technology play in your life? Are you overwhelmed with social media comparisons, email checking, or continuous text conversations? Do you feel satisfied with how you spend your time? Are you having difficulty watching a full-length movie? Does your smartphone attend all of your meals with you? Do you doom scroll? Have you been caught up in online gaming or passive video watching?
It is not my intention to overwhelm you with questions. Rather, my hope is to inspire some thoughtful consideration of your use of time.
Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport is an excellent book that details the background on the development and use of technology and practical strategies to help make meaningful use of our time with our devices.
Here are some ideas of the types of changes we can make to get the most meaningful use out of technology:
-Decide what basic aspects of technology you need at a minimum. For example, when is the most important times for you to have access to your cell phone? Do you need to have Instagram installed on your smartphone? Do you need access to email for work or school overnight?
- Consider which friends and family you want to keep in touch with and arrange to continue communication via video or in person. Use text for planning to speak with someone instead of running conversations.
-Always make eye contact with your significant other and children when you are using a device and they try to get your attention. You can let them know when you will be available if you can’t spend time right then and there.
-Explore which people and groups you want to be connected with on social media and identify the purpose for each one. For example, do you want to see pictures of your cousin’s baby or keep up to date with a school fundraiser?
-Make a workable schedule for checking e-mail, social media, and apps. Limit your use to only the most meaningful interactions.
--Spend more time outside in nature.
I hope you discover some new interests!
|Posted on December 15, 2021 at 5:35 PM|
As we finish out 2021 and are reflecting on this very challenging year, I am hoping to share some caring thoughts. We have had a difficult year collectively and have grown weary, anxious, and depressed. Some have lost friends, family members, careers, relationships, and hope. We have adjusted our lives to evaluate risks and benefits for almost every aspect of our lives in order to make safe decisions.
I encourage you to lean into your faith, resilience, and support system. It is my hope that you work with your medical and mental health professionals and obtain accurate and truthful information so that you can make informed decisions. Limit your intake of media and reduce social media use.
We can do our part to heal our wounds, show compassion to one another, and provide support for those who need it.
Have a joyous holiday season! Even if you modify your usual celebrations, it can still be full of joy and love!
Ted Lasso: Part Two
|Posted on November 29, 2021 at 4:20 PM|
As promised, this is the next part of my review and recommendation of the series Ted Lasso. As usual, I will do my best to avoid spoilers. If you haven’t read the first part, you can access it here: https://meaningfulpsychservices.blogspot.com/2021/10/ted-lasso.html
The show Ted Lasso depicts a realistic experience with mental health issues, including (but not limited to) attachment, depression, anxiety, marital conflicts, and panic. We see the development of symptoms, the outpouring of support as well as the betrayal of rejection. We see the work of destigmatizing mental illness. We see the simultaneous love and hatred from others. We witness the never-ending effort yet inevitable failure to please everyone and make people like us. We see loneliness, redemption, and the quest for revenge. My favorite aspect is the development and maturity of several characters. In this respect, we see enemies become friends, hard hearts softened, and trust developed.
Ted Lasso is a worthy watch. I am eager to see what will happen in the future with these characters and themes!
|Posted on October 28, 2021 at 12:00 AM|
I am inspired by the series Ted Lasso and I hope you will be inspired too. I am going to try and avoid spoilers, so if you haven’t watched, please do (for mature audiences- this is not a kid friendly show) and read on!
This series highlights the ups and downs of life in a spectacular and unique way. One of the best and consistent themes throughout is a sense of optimism and strength despite stressors. We often describe this as resilience, a skill that can be learned and nurtured throughout your life and is very important for our overall well-being. To learn more about these healthy characteristics, see https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/resilience-training/in-depth/resilience/art-20046311 and https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/resilience and https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/optimism and https://positivepsychology.com/learned-optimism/
We also see forgiveness offered and received, even when someone wasn't thought to deserve it. Witnessing this sharing of kindness and grace encourages us to forgive those who have hurt or offended us. This is also very important for our well-being. For more on forgiveness, see https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/forgiveness/definition and https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-forgiving-life/201804/8-reasons-forgive
There are more great themes depicted in Ted Lasso worthy of discussion (stay tuned for next month), but for now, I will leave you with some reflecting points.
Here are some of the best quotes from the series:
“I think that’s what it’s all about. Embracing change.”
“For me, success is not about the wins and losses. It’s about helping these young fellas be the best versions of themselves on and off the field.”
“I promise you, there is something worse out there than being sad. And that is being alone and being sad. Ain’t no one in this room alone.”
“I believe in hope. I believe in Believe.”
“You know what the happiest animal on Earth is? It’s a goldfish. You know why? Got a ten-second memory. Be a goldfish, Sam.”