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

Blog

The Days are Long

Posted on July 17, 2018 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (8)

Happy July! This post totally snuck up on me. I can’t believe how quickly time can pass, especially as a parent.

 

I remember reading “the days are long but the years are short” (Gretchen Rubin) a few years ago and feeling impacted by this message. The days can feel so long, especially when we have so many activities to do, tasks to accomplish, people to see, and places to go.

 

As parents, we may struggle with maintaining the master schedule. We try to make sure our kids take every opportunity that comes their way and feel bad if they miss something. We arrange minute-to-minute schedules to accomplish the daily tasks of food shopping, laundry, and cooking. We say yes to extra work responsibilities. We try to find time to have our own fun, shower, and, yes, even time to use the bathroom.

 

In all of the busyness, are we savoring the moments of traveling, shopping, cleaning dirty little hands, making lists, or going to birthday parties? Are we slowing down from all of the doing and focusing on just being? Are we able to exchange one extra-curricular activity for a family game night?

 

Spend time together.

 

Right now, I am savoring this moment when my 3-year-old (as he is watching me write this) said this post was a “nice list” and when I send it to somebody they will say “wow and put it on their refrigerator.” I don’t know if you will post this on your fridge, but hopefully you will go out and enjoy the day!

 

Pay attention to those little ones.

Our Struggles Can Be Beautiful

Posted on May 21, 2018 at 9:45 AM Comments comments (11)

On most of our walks as the season changed from winter to spring, my oldest son pointed out that the leaves are "trying to grow" in the sweetest most optimistic voice. At 3 years old, our perspective may not yet be influenced by negativity from the world around us. This observation has prompted me to watch how the leaves on one of my favorite trees along our route grow. For months, the tree was barren and devoid of liveliness , as were the neighboring trees. At first, we noticed tiny yellow buds on the edges of the branches. We were surprised by all of the details they displayed and how these buds did not seem to resemble the beginning of a leaf. As the weather grew warmer and the days longer, these buds grew more and finally peaked into a large green leaf. With this, the tree became alive again.


On some days, our life may feel barren and empty. These feelings may even last a whole season. With our weather adjusting between cold and warm days, the leaves were struggling to grow- or as my 3-year-old sees it, "trying" to grow. Our struggles teach us how to harness resilience, be patient, overcome obstacles, and transform something empty into joy.



Pay attention to the details and challenges in your life. With time, resilience, self-care, and hope, they may develop into something beautiful.

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!

Mindfulness Resources

Posted on July 11, 2016 at 1:15 PM Comments comments (9)

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.

Free Behavior Change Class

Posted on May 16, 2016 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (4)

Welcome to May! The flowers are blooming and the weather is getting warmer. It is a great time to practice being mindful and enjoy our surroundings. Of course, the beauty of mindfulness is that it is always a good time to practice since the only thing you need is the present moment, which we always have. Take a mindful walk this month and notice all the details of the world around you. You might be surprised by what you see (I know I have been!).

 

 

For this month, I am sharing an exciting resource with you. This is the first class of my habit change course, Behavior Change Ahead. This class includes information about how to change unhealthy habits and how to understand our behavior. Do you ever wonder "why do I do what I do?" This class will help you to answer this question and can provide you with beginning steps to change an unhealthy habit.

 

 

https://www.freeconferencecall.com/wall/recorded_audio?audioRecordingUrl=https%3A%2F%2Frs0000.freeconferencecall.com%2Fstorage%2FsgetFCC2%2FOrFzI%2Falw7&subscriptionId=5504662" target="_blank">Free Class: First 1 Hour of Behavior Change Ahead Course

 

 

I hope you find this first class helpful. It is my gift to you. 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 to purchase.

 

 

Let's change an unhealthy habit together.

 

 

 

Mindfully, Dr. Laura

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

"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.

 

Change

Posted on March 10, 2014 at 9:30 PM Comments comments (0)


As I am writing this blog, I am reflecting on the childhood rhyme, "March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb." Since we just had another snowstorm here in NY, I am especially hoping this to be true this year. Why am I talking about weather? I am thinking about change. Change that happens as seasons transition. Change that happens when you have 60 degree days over the weekend and then 20 degree days during the week. Change that happens when you see snow falling, then melting, then falling again.


 

 

While I prefer the warmer weather, being able to cozy up with a blanket, a book or a movie, and family is appealing as well during these cold winter months. But sometimes I wonder- what will the new season bring? Rain? Sunshine? Heat? Flowers? More snow? So often, we spend time wondering about what's next and don't spend enough time in the what is. Spending time in the now is being mindful.


 

 

 

 

Life is like the seasons changing. We wonder when there is a problem we are experiencing (the "lion") if it will ever get resolved. Will we ever experience the calm days (the "lamb") again? Just as it is hard to picture beautiful flowers sprouting from a nutritious rich soil in the middle of winter, it is also hard to picture getting along with the family, being successful at work, getting a good grade in class, feeling happy in a relationship, making a new friend, and achieving a goal. While I would love to say that it always gets better and people always experience the calm, I can't. I can't because it is not always true. The seasons are generally predictable. Winter will not last forever (even though it may feel that way sometimes!). Spring will come. But, how meaningful, wonderful, difficult, messy, or fun the next season will be depends on many factors.


 

To get the benefits out of new seasons and to effectively transition into preferred weather conditions, we need to support the seasonal change. Flowers need water and food in addition to the springtime sunshine to grow. They also need attention. They need someone to problem solve to try different areas in the yard (more shade or more sun) to grow effectively.


 

 

 

 

Why do clients enter therapy? Change. To change themselves. To change someone else. To change a situation. To get more comfortable with change. It all has to do with change.


 

 

I invite you to accept change. To deal with it. To struggle with it. To accept it. To embrace it.


 

 

 

 

What areas do you want to change as we transition into a new season?

The "Being" Experience During the Holidays

Posted on November 18, 2013 at 8:35 PM Comments comments (0)


 

“We are human beings, not human doings.” This phrase really resonates with me, especially around the holidays. A colleague introduced me to this concept a few months ago, and it popped up again in a book I was reading recently. I think I am being reminded of something. We human beings have many opportunities to choose how to spend our time every day. We can choose to use our time for people, technology, trips, exercise, sleep, TV, chores, work, errands, etc. As we all know very well, the list can go on and on. Thinking about this phrase reminds me that this is the point. The list does go on and on. There will always be another activity, chore, phone call to make, thing to buy, or meeting to attend. Our loved ones and friends, however, may not always be there waiting for us while we check things off of our to-do list. Knowing this is a gentle nudge to use our time wisely and make room for mindfully being with people in our community.


 

When I say community, I don’t just mean our neighborhood. I mean who is present in our personal community in our lives. This may include (not limited to) parents, children, siblings, grandparents, a spiritual being (e.g., God), friends, co-workers and neighbors.


 

As a psychologist working with children (and adults), I see families feeling so busy, stressed, and running from one activity to the next. Kids will tell me how they have such a busy week that they think about everything they need to do while they are in school- Soccer, gymnastics, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, church, dance, HW, football, drama club, birthday parties, and, of course, their appointment with me. Parents will say they run from one appointment and activity to the next for themselves and for each of their kids.


 

For parents, it is so important to remember that you are a human being and not a human doing. Your children are yearning for your time. Some kids feels that their parents don’t spend enough time with them, and their parents don’t understand this because they are bringing them to all of these activities and are maybe coaching their team or leading their club. These are truly wonderful ways to spend time with your kids. But kids want more. They want special mommy or daddy time. They want special family time. This means choosing to spend time playing, reading, laughing, tickling, chasing, talking, listening, and relaxing rather than running, rushing, accomplishing, and achieving. This is the difference between being and doing.


 

I have seen many kids in my practice who are engaging in problem behaviors at home. These may include yelling, hitting, not following directions, and arguing. Mom and dad feel forced to attend to their kids when they are acting this way. But, it is important to remember that all behavior is communication. Some of these behaviors may be communicating that they want to spend more time with you and they don’t know how else to show it. When you attend to problem behaviors, you attend to the child as well.


 

I find it helpful to plan ahead and make a schedule for work and for family time. I also find that flexibility in your plan is just as important as having one. Part of cultivating community is being flexible, going with the flow, and accepting what comes up in your day. Sometimes you feel you have to be in three places at once, and sometimes you need to be with your kids if they are sick, sad, or need to talk. As this holiday season approaches, let us remember to take time to choose being and not doing all the time. If we are being, we may be able to actually accomplish more than if we are focused on doing. We will likely have more fun through the season as well.


 

How will you be a human being and not a human doing this holiday season?

How to Have a Fun, Meaningful, Successful, and Memorable College Experience

Posted on September 13, 2013 at 9:45 PM Comments comments (0)


College-what an exciting and terrifying time! It's exciting and terrifying for both students and parents. It’s the start of a brand new learning experience. It's an opportunity to shed old reputations and try on new ones. It's a time to challenge yourself and reach goals you never thought you could. It's a time to form lasting relationships and friendships. It's a time to learn and practice stress and time management skills. It's also a time when independence and autonomy gets tested. It's when "all nighters" might be pulled, parties are attended, and anxiety experienced.


Many people describe college as life changing and feeling as if they have grown tremendously during the years they spent in school. College can be a truly amazing and fantastic experience that can impact your life in a healthy and positive way. For some, however, ineffective management of college life can impede on personal growth and can even be hurtful.


What kind of college student are you? What kind of college student do you hope to be? If you are a parent of a college student, what kinds of hopes and dreams do you have for your "all grown up" child?


If you want to have a fun, meaningful, successful, and memorable college experience, then please read on!


This is an exclusive sneak peak into my brand new initiative, the College Suite. This will be open to students, parents, and teachers. Details coming soon. I can't wait to share this opportunity with you!


In the meantime, I have included a selection of helpful strategies from the College Suite that I have learned, taught, and practiced for having a super college experience.


Get Involved!

Getting involved in college activities, clubs, and events can change a boring and stressful college experience into a fulfilling one. This is true even if you feel like you can't possibly fit another minute into your day. Joining a club or attending an event can actually help refresh your mind and make those classes and homework time more productive.


Reevaluate

What worked in high school might not work in college. What works in one class might not work with another class. What works with one professor might not work with another. This means that it is important for you reevaluate your study techniques (flash cards, highlighting, groups, etc.), test taking strategies, workload management, etc.


Be Here Now

One can be in attendance in class but not be present. This means mindfully being in the room with your attention and awareness focused in the present moment. Really hear and see what the professor is teaching. You can text and Facebook surf later. You can daydream later. Your messages will be waiting for you. What was taught in class may not be repeated and you may miss an important piece of information.


Take Care of Test Anxiety

Many college students struggle with test anxiety, even if they have never experienced anxiety before. Learning effective study strategies, preparing adequately (not too much and not too little) for exams, practicing deep breathing, managing stress, and learning effective test taking techniques can really help alleviate discomfort and enhance performance. The counseling center on campus and a therapist in the community can help too.


Check my website and Facebook page for updates in the next few weeks about how to join the College Suite. You can also sign up for my newsletter on the website and you will be the first to know!


 

#collegesuccess #collegeexperience