Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, Mindfulness, CBIT, ERP, CBT-I, Behavior Consultation, and Treatment for Anxiety and Insomnia

Laura Van Schaick-Harman, Psy.D., BC-TMH


Dr. Laura's Meaningful Psychological Services

Online and Office Based Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

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Permanent Decisions and Temporary Feelings

Posted on April 17, 2017 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (41)

Have you ever said something and then almost immediately regretted it? Most, if not all, of us have been there are at one point or another in our lives. When we get down to the basics of this experience, we learn that we let our feelings dictate our actions. In other words, we let a temporary state make a permanent decision for us.


Our emotions can be experienced so intensely at times. We feel so angry at our spouse for forgetting to take out the garbage again. We feel scared that the darkness while driving will be too much to handle. We feel sad that our friend cancelled plans on us. And so we yell at our spouse, or avoid driving at night, or mope around the house the entire weekend.


These actions are hard to undo or take back, and often leave a permanent mark on ourselves or someone else. Handled a different way, the feeling would have passed and our choices would have been much less detrimental to those around us.


We have more power than we think. Our feelings are temporary. They will go away. Why make a permanent decision based on a temporary feeling?


This month, I am challenging you to respond with grace, respect, love, hope, and self-care. Use your problem solving skills and think of an alternate solution. Remember, all feelings are ok. What you do with them is what matters.

This is Us

Posted on March 13, 2017 at 2:15 PM Comments comments (5)

*Spoiler alert* This month's post is about a TV show, This is Us, on NBC that premiered this fall. If you have not seen the show, consider watching the first episode and see if you connect. The remainder of this post may spoil some of the plot for you (I tried not to be very specific), so proceed at your own risk...


Ok, so I am hooked. This is Us has successfully tapped into multiple elements of the meaningful life. The real meaningful life, not a fairy tale. We explore interesting family dynamics, we dig deep into the backgrounds of secondary characters, we cry with grief, we suffer with anxiety, we are surprised practically every episode as the story unfolds, we laugh with appreciation, and we journey together in the complications that make us, well, us.


Some of the recent episodes have highlighted the role of anxiety and panic on both the individual and family. We learn about a drive for perfection, competition, pain with loss, and stress-induced panic. We learn that we may feel differently on the inside from what we portray on the outside. We see the impact of anxiety on family and the impact of family on anxiety.


This is Us shines a bright light on themes of adoption, of disease, of second chances, and of diving into life with a zest that is unshakable. We learn about anger, frustration, fear, and forgiveness.


We learn about loss. We really learn about loss. But we also learn about resilience. In one of my favorite lines so far, taken from the first episode, we learn how this family took "the sourest lemon that life has to offer and turned it into something resembling lemonade." Excuse me while I retrieve my box of tissues...


This is Us explores so many psychological concepts. We dig into resilience, adoption, stress, illness, grief, pain, panic, anxiety, joy, relationships, divorce, re-connecting, and addiction. I am eagerly awaiting what other themes we will explore. After all, this is us too.

THINK Before You Speak

Posted on February 13, 2017 at 3:15 PM Comments comments (4)

We've all been there. Someone has said something without really thinking about what they said. The words used could have been hurtful, embarrassing, careless, lies, impulsive, or revealing. We likely have experience being the speaker as well as the receiver. We likely have witnessed an emotion such as anger or anxiety speaking through a person rather than the rational mind. We wish we could take back what we said. We wish we could have not heard what was shared. Yes, we have all been there.


How many times have we heard or told people to think before we/they speak? Probably many. This is easier said than done. While expanding on my learning recently, I came across a very helpful acronym that breaks down exactly what we can do to think before we speak. As soon as I learned of it, I immediately knew this was to be the topic this month. It is so important for us to know. I do not know of the original source, but whoever it is- thank you!


Here is how we can T.H.I.N.K. before we speak:

T - is it True?

H - is it Helpful?

I - is it Inspiring?

N - is it Necessary?

K - is it Kind?


Before we use our words, we can ask ourselves these 5 questions. My hope is for you to be an effective communicator, maintain and repair relationships, and use your words to build others up rather than tear them down. Try it and see how you feel.

Kindness

Posted on January 16, 2017 at 4:05 PM Comments comments (5)

The idea for this month's post was inspired by my toddler. Yes, my 2 year old told me what to write about. Over breakfast the other day, I asked my son what Mama should write about for her monthly newsletter. His response of "How 'bout Count and Big Bird?" inspired me.


My son is a big Sesame Street fan, which means I have read, watched, and listened to a lot of Sesame Street over the past few months. As a child, I loved the show. As an adult and psychologist, I have a renewed appreciation of the program and the lessons it teaches. The current season premiered recently and the theme is kindness, a simple fact that I was reminded of with my son's suggestion.

Kindness- what a wonderful concept to focus on this month. Kindness is often confused with being nice, but there are differences. Telling someone they look great before a job interview when they obviously have food stuck in their teeth may be nice but not very kind. The dictionary distinguishes between the helpful nature of being kind and the pleasant nature of being nice.


There are lots of ways to be kind. If you want to get some ideas, take a look at the first episode of Sesame Street this season. You will see people and monsters being considerate, helpful, and loving to one another. All ways of being kind.


Kindness is good for you, others, and the world. It can even boost happiness. If you are interested in learning more about the research on kindness, take a look at this Greater Good article: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/kindness_makes_you_happy_and_happiness_makes_you_kind


Here are some ideas to generate kindness:

Pay it forward- pay for the order of the car behind you in the drive-thru

Take a friend out for coffee

Help someone carry a bag at the grocery store

Offer to help a family member or friend with a household project

Give a loved one a hug

Provide free babysitting for a parent in need

Tell someone the truth in a gentle manner



How can you show kindness?


Kindly, 

Dr. Laura

Are You Growing?

Posted on December 13, 2016 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (10)

As 2016 comes to a close, I have been reflecting back on the year. What went well? What didn't go so well? What was my biggest challenge? What obstacle did I overcome? Which goals did I achieve? Which changes are a work in progress? When and how did I use mindfulness skills?

 

As 2017 approaches, I also reflect on the future. What would I like to do differently? Which habits would be healthy for me to change? Which habits would be best to maintain? How do I want to spend my day? How do I want to engage the people around me? What is the healthiest way to interact with my work? What do I want to accomplish this year?

 

I challenge you to ask yourself these or similar questions. You can use these as a guide. Pay attention and even write down your answers. You may be surprised by what you learn about yourself.

 

Now ask yourself this: how can I grow this year?

 

My hope for you is to develop a growth mindset. This means to approach challenges, embrace criticism, and continue growing through the lifespan. Interested? You can read more about growth mindset and Dr. Carol Dweck's work https://www.mindsetworks.com/Science/Impact" target="_blank">here.

 

One way that you can challenge yourself this year is to take the Behavior Change Ahead Course. On sale for $10 now, you will learn the ins and outs of changing our behavior. Choose a habit and make a change with this course.

 

I wish you health, change, growth, and love in 2017.

 

Warmly,

 

Dr. Laura

Showing Thankfulness

Posted on November 14, 2016 at 2:00 PM Comments comments (3)

It's November, which means families are starting to get ready for the holidays. With the fun, family, decorations, friends, parties, and food comes the busyness and stress of the season. Whether it is deciding plans for travel, meals, and gatherings, it can be helpful to share and show thankfulness.

When was the last time that you felt or expressed thankfulness for the opportunity to make these plans? For the amazing problem solving power of our brain to even make plans? For our planning ability to think of "first we can do this and then we can do that"? For the ability to drive and pick up a holiday decoration? Or the freedom to select some online?

All around us- even during the difficulty, the struggles, the hurts, and the fears- there is good. Some days it may be hard to find it, but it is there. We can look for the joy, the good, the humor, the "what's going well" experiences. When you find it, be thankful for it.

It is also healthy to show that you are thankful for the good. It feels so warm and cozy when people express gratitude to us or for something we did. It supports relationships, workplaces, self-care, and parenting.

There are many ways to show your thankfulness. You can keep write down the experiences, people, and things you are thankful for. You can write and send a gratitude letter to someone you are thankful for. You can find hope and express this feeling in your faith. You can tell your children, your spouse, your family, and your friends that you appreciate them and what they do. You can say thank you for taking out the garbage, moving the cars, going food shopping, following directions, or just being there.

While November can be a month to remind us of the importance of being thankful, you can feel, share, and show your appreciation, love, gratitude and hope all year long. I hope that you do.

Through A Toddler's Eyes

Posted on October 10, 2016 at 8:00 PM Comments comments (3)

For those of you following this blog for a while, you may remember a few years back when I wrote a piece about taking day-trips for families. While hopefully helpful and interesting, that post was written from a different perspective- the outside observer.

This month, I returned to these same two locations I initially visited, but this time as a mother. How wonderful it is to see the same exact thing from a different perspective. In my case, through the eyes of a toddler.

Being able to see the world around us in a new way is truly amazing. I never noticed how colorful certain fish were or how big a pig could be. My toddler was able to point out different details and offer amusement, saying "wow" at some cool things that we as adults may take for granted.

Of course, traveling with a toddler also presents a reminder about how important self-care is. As adults, we may be on the go all the time and constantly push ourselves to complete our tasks or make the next appointment on-time. With a toddler, however, we can slow down. We can linger here and stare there. We can and should take breaks for potty and food and shade.

We are also reminded that we can see different sides to things. There are many perspectives to each experience in our life. Going to the same place we have been to before but with different people can change the experience. Hearing someone else's viewpoint on their role in a scenario can help us understand the experience better.

We can see the whole world differently. We can care for ourselves, our families, and friends. We can see the moon, the clouds, the trees, the fish, the animals, the grass- everything- in a whole new way. Try seeing the world through a young child's eyes for a while. I bet it will be amazing!

Focus On College

Posted on August 15, 2016 at 2:20 PM Comments comments (3)

Returning to college or starting college can be both an exciting and anxiety provoking experience. For some, this may be the first time you will be on your own, away from your parents and in a new area. For others, you may be returning to school for another semester of classes, friends, clubs, fun, and exams. For those of you commuting, you may be preparing for the best route to take to get to class, and balancing home life with work life with school life, etc. For parents of college students, you may also be experiencing this nervous excitement. It is a big step for both of you.

 

Being a college student can be an amazing experience. Yes, there will be the stressors of meeting new people, learning new and challenging information, exams, and independence. But, did you know that stressors aren’t necessarily negative. Interesting in learning more? See this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=154-mh8JbNg&index=3&list=PLbiVpU59JkVZeQPQ1u5mS8U1c0V7J5OJU" target="_blank">video that explains how to make stress your friend. The same stressors listed above can actually be fantastic opportunities. That is, if you view them that way.

 

Meeting new people- some of you may be saying "eekk" in your mind and experiencing a rise in anxiety. Meeting and getting to know people can be challenging, but can also lead to great friendships, healthy relationships, and professional connections.

 

Learning new and challenging information- again, some of you may be worried about the difficulty level of the material or whether or not it will be interesting or relative to your major, or about how much work there will be in each course. Learning is a tool for success, growth, and change in your life.

 

Exams- I don't need to elaborate on the level of nervousness you may be experiencing on this one. Exams can be tough, no doubt about that. Success requires effective preparation, study skills, knowledge of the new material you learned, and time management. Exams allow you to show off your skills, test your limits, and communicate your knowledge to others.

 

Independence- what a fun yet scary concept. From doing laundry and making dinner to paying rent or buying books, independence in college can be helpful or detrimental to college success. For a healthy experience, remember that these activities, when balanced appropriately with school responsibilities, are good for self-care.

 

If you want to learn how to meet new people and form healthy connections, embrace new course material and integrate it into prior knowledge, rock your exams, and build an independence that will serve and protect you, check out my series of brief workshops for an awesome college experience. You can listen anytime and on any device. You will learn how to master these skills and more. And best of all, you will learn how to have a meaningful, successful, and fun college experience.

 

As you return to school, consider if there is an unhealthy habit that negatively impacts your success or experience during the semester. If you want to change this, my habit change course will be helpful to you. You may want to develop better study or time management skills, participate more in class, stop using your cell phone in class, or reduce nail biting. In the course, you will learn how to change your habit safely and effectively using science and research based strategies that are manageable to do. You can try out the first class for free to see if it is a god fit for you.

 

https://www.freeconferencecall.com/wall/recorded_audio?audioRecordingUrl=https%3A%2F%2Frs0000.freeconferencecall.com%2Fstorage%2FsgetFCC2%2FOrFzI%2Falw7&subscriptionId=5504662" target="_blank">Click here to access the free class

 

If you would like to access the complete course, which includes an additional three hours of content about the functions of behavior, collecting data, reinforcement, and interventions, as well as a workbook to support your learning, click here or here to purchase.


Mindfulness Resources

Posted on July 11, 2016 at 1:15 PM Comments comments (10)

Here. Now.

 

Pay attention to the way these words appear on your screen. What emotions do they trigger? Are you experiencing any external or internal awareness of sensations? As you read this, our brain can practice mindfulness. That is, being fully aware of our current moment, the "now" without judgement. As leading mindfulness expert and founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn describes, there is always another now to be in. There are endless opportunities to be mindful. When was the last time you were living in the moment?

 

Mindfulness can be an amazing tool in our life. There are lots of mental and physical health benefits when we cultivate being in the present moment, even if it is uncomfortable. In my practice, my clients work on getting comfortable with being uncomfortable and eliminating the struggle with negative emotions. This is an excellenthttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCp1l16GCXI&utm_source=Synced%20from%20ACT%20Mindfully%202&utm_campaign=a242dac18d-The%20Struggle%20Switch%20%E2%80%93%20A%20New%20Animation&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b4d93a96fc-a242dac18d-243568409" target="_blank"> video that illustrates this concept if you are interested in learning more. Practicing mindfulness can actually change your brain in very healthy ways and enhance well-being. You can watch Dr. Kabat-Zinn describe this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGtJQNqMXBY&list=PLbiVpU59JkVbFtkacXoByNjHJgGc4AryM&index=2" target="_blank">here.

 

There are a variety of resources, tools, and interventions available to practice mindfulness. Dr. Kabat-Zinn has authored many resources, including meditation cds, books, workbooks, and videos. 

 

Another excellent resource is the Greater Good In Action Center mindfulness page. Here, you will find an informative video and bullet points describing what mindfulness is. You can also review the many benefits of practicing mindfulness, which include improved physical and emotional well-being.

 

If you want to dig deeper and access additional resources, my colleague Dr. Anthony Pantaleno provides additional information about the components of mindfulness as well as helpful web links and a recommended reading list on his website. Dr. Pantaleno also offers resources for educators as well as tips for starting a mindfulness practice.

 

 

Applying these techniques can lead to many positive benefits, including reduced stress. I hope you find these resources helpful and useful.

Spring Cleaning

Posted on March 14, 2016 at 3:00 PM Comments comments (5)

t's time for spring and that means it's time to clean up and clean out! For this month, I am sharing a compilation of videos and interviews to learn about changing your behavior. Let's spring clean together and change our unhealthy habits.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCp1l16GCXI&utm_source=Synced%20from%20ACT%20Mindfully%202&utm_campaign=a242dac18d-The%20Struggle%20Switch%20%E2%80%93%20A%20New%20Animation&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b4d93a96fc-a242dac18d-243568409" target="_blank">The Struggle Switch:

 

This is one of my favorite videos. Spend a few minutes learning about how to face anxiety- without struggling with it.

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8-6XzURntE&list=PLbiVpU59JkVbFtkacXoByNjHJgGc4AryM&index=1" target="_blank">Mindfulness Overview:

 

This is a 60 minutes special focusing on the application of mindfulness in our daily lives.

 

 

Behavior Change How-Tos:

 

Do you want to learn about how to change your behavior? Are you struggling with eating too much, staying up too late, worrying too much, or not exercising enough? Watch these videos for some helpful strategies.

 

 

Leadership and Behaviors at Work

 

This is a radio interview about changing your behavior in order to be more effective leaders and workers.

 

 

Happy watching/listening! Contact me if you want to learn more about any of these topics.

 

 

Play

Posted on February 15, 2016 at 1:25 PM Comments comments (3)

A few days ago, I found myself trying not to laugh out loud while hiding behind the door in my son's room. He had just learned to play Hide and Seek and couldn’t find me. My husband, who did not know we were playing this game, also began looking for me, genuinely not knowing where I had gone. This made the game even more funny. I could see and hear them, but neither knew where my excellent hiding space was. Once they found me, we all laughed together.

 

When was the last time you played? Play is important not only for children but also for adults. Children learn through play and adults can engage in relaxation, meaningful time with others, and fun through play. Play can take many forms, whether it is building with your children, playing a sports game, or having a dance party. What is fun varies from person to person.

 

This month, try and play more. Maybe you will find yourself doing the very best job of holding in your laughter hiding behind a door.

Just Be

Posted on December 14, 2015 at 3:40 PM Comments comments (3)

 

When was the last time you were truly present? When were you just wherever you were?

 

 

It is so easy during this season to get wrapped up in the busyness of holiday events, family gatherings, work responsibilities, academic tasks, and traffic.

 

 

We can easily become a "do-er" and just do, do, do. Have you ever driven on the expressway and realized that you drove 5 exits, but don't recall passing by any of them? Do you feel always in a rush? Are you feeling stressed out?

 

 

This month, I want to challenge you to develop your being skills. I am going to challenge myself as well and I welcome you to join me.

 

 

We can practice mindfulness wherever we are. This is being aware of our surroundings and internal sensations and accepting whatever there is to see, feel, touch, smell, taste, and think.

 

 

When we practice mindfulness, we can slow down and be while we do.

 

 

Let's give ourselves, our family, and our friends the present of being present.

 

 

 

 

Changing Leaves Changing You

Posted on November 11, 2015 at 10:00 AM Comments comments (4)

Have you ever noticed how beautiful the fall season can be? The air is a bit crisper. The leaves are changing all sorts of colors. There are acorns scattered around for gathering.

 

 

Have you ever noticed how ugly the fall season can be? The air is a bit crisper. The leaves are changing all sorts of colors. There are acorns scattered around for gathering.

 

 

Did you get what I mean? The way we see things makes a difference with how we feel. We could love the crisp air, colorful leaves, and the sound of the acorns crunching under our feet as we walk. Or, we could dislike being colder, feel leaves changing is a sign of yucky weather to come, and be turned off by the mess of acorns on our properties.

 

 

How do you see things?

 

 

I want to challenge you to not only look, but to see your environment. The fall season is like our behavior. The leaves don't all change at the same time, nor do they all drop on the same day. Change is a process. We can view this as necessary time needed to create something beautiful, or become frustrated by the time it takes to finish. Yes, the trees look bare in the winter, but the new life in the spring is refreshing. What a wonder to appreciate-the beauty in seasonal changes.

 

 

We have seasonal changes in our environment. Our lives have seasonal changes too. Maybe you’re living in a rough season right now. Remember, change happens slowly. It is healthy to appreciate and accept the thoughts and feelings we have and to understand the next season could be amazing.

 

 

If you would like to learn more about seasons in our lives, feel free to contact me by phone, e-mail, or any of my social media accounts.

 

 

"Inside Out" Healthy Emotions

Posted on August 7, 2015 at 9:15 AM Comments comments (3)

 

Shortly after deciding the topic of this month's post, my plan was reinforced by watching Pixar's new movie Inside Out. What a great way to view and learn about our emotions! Once again, Pixar had me tearing up, laughing, and adoring this wonderful gem of a movie. Isn't it funny how some children's movies are so appealing to grown-ups too? I suppose this is a goal of Hollywood since children can't take themselves to the movies so parents should have some fun too!

 

 

Ok-back on topic here. My goal for this month is to discuss the importance of experiencing a healthy range of emotions. When I set up therapy goals with my clients, we work together to design goals that are reflective of a healthy and meaningful lifestyle. Not only is a goal to be happy all the time unrealistic, it is unhealthy.

 

 

There are many lessons that can be learned from Inside Out. I will do my best to avoid spoilers, but I forgive you if you stop reading now and return after you have seen the movie (and I hope you do). The movie outlines a fascinating view of our brain map and emotions. We see core memories, personality traits, long-term memory, imagination, and filing systems. We also see how emotions play a large role in our behaviors, actions, and choices. We also see how emotions are kicked into gear by how we interpret the environment.

 

 

As a parent, I understand the desire for our children to be happy all the time. I even noticed myself on Team Joy for a while there. Sadness was dragging us down. A deeper look into our lesson here is that Joy isn't everything we need. Each of our other emotions play a key role in our well-being. When working together and in healthy amounts, our emotions keep us safe, and allow us to take risks, experience happiness, connect with others, cry it out when needed, get feedback that something is wrong, identify poor fit in our environment, laugh, resolve conflicts, have our own opinions, be resilient and develop our own personality.

 

 

I hope you will be able to spend time being mindful of having a healthy range of emotions and expressing them appropriately. Enjoy some time with friends and family, catch a movie (I definitely recommend Inside Out), read a book (perhaps my e-book The Summer it Rained: How Boppy the Beagle Learned to See the Sun Behind the Clouds), and pay attention to your emotions when they are activated. There is some good information available to you there.

 

New Space and a New Place!

Posted on June 10, 2015 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (3)

 

New space and a new place! I've been a busy bee lately. It's that time of year to engage in some productive spring cleaning-physically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually. See this post about spring cleaning our thoughts for more information about cognitive spring cleaning.

 

 

This month, I am going to focus on spring cleaning our physical space and embracing change. Making changes in our lives can be a difficult task, especially when the road ahead is filled with obstacles, diversions, distractions, and options. Sometimes change involves reevaluating goals, ideas, and plans. As I have watched my son grow over these past 9 months, I have observed the many changes that he experiences as he develops. From a tiny little bundle to an active infant with new vocal and motor skills emerging almost daily. If I blink I feel like I will miss a new skill develop. Sometimes change can unfold right before our eyes. Other times, change happens when we actively pursue, engage, and plan for it. As a new mommy, I have been busy spring cleaning my office, private practice, missions, schedule, goals, plans, and website.

 

 

I am excited to announce some new changes! Pop over to my website (www.meaningfulpsychservices.com) to see the new design and let me know what you think. It is my hope that information is readily accessible for you, clients can access their secure client portal with ease, anxiety resources can be shared widely, and I can provide additional online therapy options. Also, spring cleaning this year included new space and a new place. I am going to be seeing clients in a new location in Patchogue. Part of spring cleaning and observing changes in my growing (physically and verbally!) little boy and new schedule as a mommy, I have made the big decision to change to a local office setting.

 

 

I will also have new hours. The virtual office will offer online and phone sessions, secure messaging, chat sessions, and journaling and is open Monday-Wednesday. I will be in Patchogue on Tuesdays and in Smithtown on Wednesdays.

 

 

Change is happening. Spring cleaning is in the works. Reevaluating physical space is occurring. Redesigning virtual space is evolving. It is my mission to provide ethical, competent, effective, and helpful services to the community. Let's grow together in new spaces. The virtual office serves all of New York. So, you can grow from the comfort of your own couch, home, or office.

 

 

Join me in embracing change. Jump on board to a new place and new space-either physically, emotionally, virtually, spiritually, or emotionally.

 

College, Work, and Fun, Oh My!

Posted on March 1, 2015 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)

It is not uncommon for college students to experience a wide range of emotions during the course of their study. The transition from high school to college and then college to employment/career/graduate school can be difficult, exciting, anxiety provoking, smooth, or any other description of personal experience. Anxiety and stress are common culprits that affect today's college students.


College students receive syllabi that cover several (usually 14 or 15) weeks of assignments, responsibilities, due dates, and schedules for several classes. For students who are really good at organization, time management, and planning, figuring out how to organize themselves for the next few months might not be so difficult for them. Having the energy, the time, and the skills to develop an effective plan for being successful each semester and the entire academic career is hard work, even if you have strengths in the aforementioned areas.


During the course of college, students may experience anxiety related to academic, personal, and/or professional situations. These situations may include test anxiety, romantic relationships, roommates, living away from home, commuting, balancing work and school, making friends, nutrition, completing assignments on time, technology, communication, and more. There are a variety of resources students can access to help cope with these areas. Students can explore the availability of a campus counseling center to receive personal counseling or an academic center that can help with academic skills.


It is essential to develop effective coping, time management, and stress management skills to utilize during the college experience. College doesn’t have to be stressful, negative, or boring. Students can experience success and fun.


If you would like to learn more about developing effective skills for studying, time management, stress management, and being successful in college, I offer a package of 9 audio workshops that provides information regarding these areas. You can learn more about this package on my website.

Why I Love Starbucks (And I Don't Even Life Coffee)

Posted on January 12, 2015 at 7:10 PM Comments comments (3)

 

I don't like coffee. The taste specifically. I do, however, love the smell of coffee. In fact, I have some warm memories associated with smelling coffee. Saturday morning breakfast at McDonalds (both as an employee-yes, my first job was at McDonalds at 14 and I loved it- and as a consumer with my Dad and siblings before working together at the store he manages). Window shopping during the holidays sipping a Peppermint Mocha from Starbucks (not too much, if any, coffee in that). Fellowship hour after church. Chatting with friends on big couches. My first date with my husband (who doesn't like coffee either). Meeting new colleagues. Networking. Business meetings with my coaching business partner. Spending time with friends and family.


 

I think Starbucks has an odd way of bringing people together in a non-threatening sort of way. The other day I was walking into Starbucks for some meetings with new colleagues to discuss our practices, goals, and experiences when I ran into an old college friend. Once I arrived inside to meet my colleague, I saw my brother-in-law meeting with his video production company business partners at a nearby table. Out of all of the Starbucks in my county, we all chose this one at the same time.


 

Every time I am in Starbucks or reflect upon a recent visit, I ponder about all of the good, the bad, the ugly, the cool, and the scary things happening in there. What great projects are being launched? Who is studying for a big test for school? What kind of book is an author writing? What relationships are beginning? What relationships are ending? Who is trying to repair a hurt? Who is trying to resolve an issue? Who is trying to fix problems in a relationship? What great ideas are being discovered? What kinds of relaxation techniques are being used? Is everyone being mindful?


 

When I would like to meet with colleagues, I usually suggest Starbucks. I find that I can be very mindful and get a lot accomplished and stay relaxed there. I also enjoy thinking up reasons for other people to be there as well. I am not going there for the coffee. I am going there for the people (and some of their yummy drinks and snacks too).


 

I am reminded of a short story someone once shared with me: The Mayonnaise Jar and Two Cups of Coffee, author unknown. I have included it here.


 

The Mayonnaise Jar and Two Cups of Coffee

"When things in your lives seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous "yes."

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

"Now," said the professor as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things--your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions--and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.

The sand is everything else--the small stuff. "If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

"Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first--the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked.

It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend."

Journey Back to Basics

Posted on October 12, 2014 at 8:15 PM Comments comments (0)


As I am writing this piece, I am reflecting on my very new journey into motherhood. I recently gave birth to my first child and I am amazed at how complicated and yet simple caring for a newborn is. I am savoring these tiny moments all the while researching, learning, practicing, asking, and trying the best ways of being a parent. So far, I have learned the importance of going back to basics.


 

Preparing for the arrival of a baby can be quite daunting. There are constant conflicting messages about what you need and what you don't, what you should do and what you shouldn't, and who to trust for advice and who not to trust. For example, when we completed our registry, we were given a checklist of "must-haves" and "nice-to-haves" that spanned several pages long. Being a diligent and efficient individual, I registered for most of the-let's call them- mandatory items and several of the suggested items. Several hours later, we completed the task and returned home. Over the next several weeks leading up to Baby's arrival, we learned that we did not in fact need many of the mandatory must-have's after all. Some of the items, in fact, are actually unsafe to use. In thinking about what we really needed, we learned that a certain amount of staple supplies, and not three of everything (for example, we didn't need 3 types of strollers) are a good start.


 

All of this preparation led up to Baby making his world debut! We were so surprised in the hospital to learn how basic supplies were to be used with our newborn. The "wipes" for example reminded me of dinner napkins. It turned out, they were, in fact, like napkins. We were taught to take a napkin and wet it with water and (ta-da!) you have your baby wipe. So, I didn't need to use (and still can't use) any of the store made baby wipes that we stocked up on. The same goes for diaper rash cream. The hospital supplied us with petroleum jelly to use, which is still the recommended product to use until he is 1 month of age. All we need is a diaper, a paper towel (yes-the pediatrician said to use a wet paper towel as a wipe), and some plain petroleum jelly to change Baby.


 

Bringing a baby home is such a blessing. We, as parents now, put our needs after Baby's. We are programmed to check that Baby's basic needs are being met all day and night. Since our needs are not met first anymore, we need other people to help us. Family and friends have helped meet our needs by providing food, cleaning the house, and running errands.


 

There is a related point to sharing these thoughts. When working with clients, kids and adults, it is vital to make sure basic needs are being met. If you are a parent, a teacher, a provider, a spouse, a co-worker, or a friend, we can ask: are you hungry? thirsty? tired? not feeling well? need to use the bathroom? need shelter? need clean/warmer/cooler clothing? If I would like to read Baby a story, I need to first make sure he is full, clean, well-rested, and calm. If not, Baby won't benefit from the book. If your child/student/client/patient/spouse/co-worker/friend appears upset, check that basic needs are being met before delivering an intervention. This will help them get the most out of your help.


 

I hope you will join me on my motherhood journey back to basics.

 

 

 

How Well Do You Live Life's Ordinary Moments?

Posted on July 12, 2014 at 8:15 PM Comments comments (0)

How well do you live life's ordinary moments?



I started thinking about the answer to this question after hearing a message from Rob Morris, President and Co-Founder of Love146, an organization that works to end child trafficking and exploitation. Listening to this message grounded me personally and professionally as it reminded me about my own mission in my practice and life. Rob described the day-to-day tasks and events that serve as the motor of Love146. Paperwork, traveling, meetings, long days, and work. Meeting a goal, rescuing a child, helping a family, and opening a new shelter are the highlights. But life is not a highlights reel.


 

Society has normalized experiencing life as a series of ups and downs through our media. Would you be interested in watching a movie mainly about people going to work, sitting at their desk, sipping coffee, doing work all day, having a few conversations, driving home, saying hello to their families, eating dinner, and sitting and reading a book? Most likely not. We want to see an exciting commute to work with lots of dramatic or comedic conversation, an argument with a co-worker, a promotion or party at work, and coming home to a surprise birthday party. Which would you prefer? What picture does your life look like more?

 

 

It is very easy as a psychologist to get swept up in meeting goals and receiving achievements. Celebration is important. Enjoy the good highlights when they happen. A large part of our work however, is being with our clients as they experience the day-to-day activities of life. I was reminded of my passion and mission in my practice as I listened and reflected on Rob's message. I love helping people to accept our current experiences, make meaning out of the day-to-day and seemingly mundane tasks, and to be mindful every moment.

 


The highlights will come. In the meantime, let's celebrate the day-to-day together. Let's savor the piece of chicken you have for dinner, really listen to your children as they speak with you, pay attention to the color of the walls in your home, laugh when you make a mistake, apologize when you've hurt someone, enjoy your commute to work, and give your significant other a mindful hug.

 



So, I ask again-how well do you live life's ordinary moments?

How Do You Use Your Strengths?

Posted on June 4, 2014 at 9:20 PM Comments comments (0)


What can we learn from super hero, comic book, etc. movies? I never thought I would be asking this question. For those of you who have worked with me, you would probably guess that my movie interests are not action or superhero based. Rather, I have historically indulged in romantic comedies, laugh out loud comedies and serious films about the human condition or relationships. Since meeting my husband 6 years ago, I have been exposed to new genres and serious films that I had never experienced before. Challenging my hobbies, thinking, and interests has opened new doors and surprisingly expanded my knowledge base and strengths. So- go see something you never thought you would!


 

Back to my original thought-I learned that movies that on the surface appear to be purely entertainment may actually illustrate interesting psychological themes. For this piece, I am going to focus on strengths.


 

Do you know what strengths you have? Being able to identify your strengths is a good step to take in mental wellness. Spider Man can use webbing to climb, grab, swing, capture, and rescue. The X-Men are comprised of characters who can read minds, fly, manipulate metal, and exert amazing strength. Superman can fly, is incredibly strong, and has x-ray vision.


 

Now that I have listed a few strengths of characters in movies, it's time to ask the next question. How do you use your strengths? The characters mentioned above have used their strengths for good and bad, depending on the portrayal. Some have intended to use their talents and abilities for good, but it turned out to work against them. Some have thought it was appropriate to utilize a particular strength, but it was not the best time to display it. The Hulk, for example, has amazing muscular power, but he sometimes is not able to control its use and can thus hurt himself and those around him.


 

Next, how can you use your strengths differently? Some situations call for you to use a strength while others do not. We can use our strengths more, less, or differently.


 

We can and should focus and develop our strengths, not our weaknesses. Think about some famous characters and how they have grown. In the X-Men movies, Professor X puts together an academy to do just this. Characters are taught skills to effectively manage, develop, and utilize their strengths.


 

There are some great assessments available online if you are interested in learning more about your unique strengths and would like to open a discussion about how they are being used in your daily life.


 

Here are a few:

VIA Institute on Character

Authentic Happiness Questionnaire Center

Gallup Strengths Center

Realise2


 

Let me know what you learn and contact me if you would like to chat more about developing your or your child's strengths.