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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Meaningful Psychological Services: Really Useful Thoughts from a Psychologist (hopefully!)

Helpful interests, ideas, and resources about psychology, therapy, mindfulness, cognitive-behavior therapy, anxiety, living meaningfully and online therapy.

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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.

How Are You Sleeping?

Posted on June 14, 2016 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (6)

How are you sleeping? This is a question that may not be often asked, yet the answer certainly weighs on our mind and affects our daily life. Sleep is an important component of wellness. When we feel that we don't get enough of good quality sleep, we may be tired, in a bad mood, lack energy, or make poor decisions.

 

Understanding the components of sleep is essential to getting adequate rest. Did you know that you may be spending too much time in bed? Did you know that you might actually be trying too hard to sleep or that wearing sunglasses during the day could affect how well you sleep?

 

There are multiple factors that contribute to sleeping habits and problems. These include medical, psychological, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive components.

 

Learn how to change habits and explore options for improving your sleep. There is a life without sleeping pills available to you.

 

In my practice, I am now offering treatment for insomnia using the preferred method for treating this sleeping problem- Cognitive-Behavior Therapy for insomnia (CBT-I).

 

This can be used as part of therapy, or as a stand alone service (5 sessions over 6 weeks). For more information about this program, head on over to my service's page and start on the path to a good night's sleep.

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

Dealing with Test Anxiety

Posted on April 11, 2016 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (7)

It's April, and for many of you college students you are preparing for finals in a few weeks. For those of you not in college, this post still applies for any type of test or work presentation. If you suffer from worry, anxiety, or panic symptoms before, during, or after an evaluation, continue reading for some helpful strategies to get you through.

 

 

Five Ways To Cope With Test Anxiety

 

 

Deep Abdominal Breathing

 

When we take deep breaths, it is important to make sure the air is getting deep enough. To know if you are bringing the air to the right spot, place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Both should be rising and falling as you breathe, but your belly should be rising higher. Picture a balloon inside your belly slowly filling with air and then slowly deflating when you breath out. Focus on the way the air feels or how your body feels taking in this nourishment as you inhale and exhale.

 

 

Effective Preparation

 

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is still important to cover. Our mind and body give us feedback about our environment. This is necessary for survival and healthy functioning. It is why we become fearful in dangerous situations. If we do not prepare for the test/evaluation, our mind says "uh, wait a minute here. I don't know how to process this situation. Alarm, alarm, alarm!" And our body feels the corresponding anxiety symptoms. While taking a test is not necessarily a dangerous situation, there are negative consequences for not performing well on a test. Hence, our mind will react accordingly. Note that this is unlikely to occur if you do not care about the negative consequences or the outcome of the test.

 

 

Healthy, Realistic, and Optimistic Thoughts

 

The way we think affects the way we feel which in turn impacts our behavior. We can be responsible for the thoughts we have about a test. If we interpret studying for a test as boring and a waste of time, we are less likely to prepare. If we interpret the test as a challenge that provides a stepping stone to our career, we are more likely to prepare. Our thoughts about the test while taking it also matter and can influence our performance. It is important to be realistic. If you haven’t studied at all and really never had a good handle on the material, thinking you are going to ace it is unrealistic. Thinking that you will do your best with what you have is more effective. Thinking that one test will make or break your life is also unhelpful and most likely not true.

 

 

Mindfulness-Focus on Here and Now When Taking the Test

 

Every second you have an opportunity to be mindful- to be fully aware of your experience taking the test. This means getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, focusing on the test itself, and being aware of any distracting thoughts with non-judgment and acceptance. This is a skill that takes practice. It is a good thing that we can practice any time we want because there is always the current moment available to us. Why not live in it?

 

 

Awareness of Cycle of Anxiety and Panic

 

Sometimes we get so anxious preparing or taking a test that we experience feelings of panic or a full-blown panic attack. While incredibly uncomfortable and terrifying, panic attacks on their own are not usually dangerous. It is important to understand the cycle of panic to stop it before it starts. We may feel anxious and start to notice our breathing and heart rate increase. Once we have had panic attacks diagnosed, we can understand that our body is falsely alarming us to a danger that is not real. Using healthy coping skills (some of them are mentioned above) can make a big difference.

 

I hope you apply these skills and have some great performances on your upcoming tests!

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.

Making Behavior Changes That Stick

Posted on January 19, 2016 at 6:15 AM Comments comments (4)

It's New Year's Resolution time. Did you make one?

 

 

Did you know that the calendar doesn't need to tell you when and when not to make a behavior change in your life? In fact, you can make a change when you decide you would like to.

 

 

However, it is helpful to join the momentum of support this time of year to help us stick to our resolutions. So, let's jump on, eh?

 

 

In order to make a change that lasts, there are several factors that need to be considered.

 

 

First, effective goal setting is key. There are a variety of strategies for choosing a goal that you can actually achieve. I recommend choosing a goal that is specific, not too general, and can be observed and measured. I also like to set up baby steps or objectives that assist us in working towards our goals.

 

 

Another is enlisting a social support network. If you have worked with me before, we probably talked about your social support. During New Year's Resolution time, social support may be more readily available to you and there may be others in your network who are looking to achieve a similar goal. Perhaps this could be a support for you as well.

 

 

If you're interested in learning more, see below for a video about my brand new course Behavior Change Ahead.

 

 

Let's get there together.


Behavior Change Ahead Course is Available Now

 

 

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.

 

 

Climbing The Ladder

Posted on October 16, 2015 at 6:05 AM Comments comments (22)

 

 

 

 

Have you ever looked at a big project and felt like you would never get it done? Maybe you felt overwhelmed by the amount of work or defeated by the challenges that stood in your way. Maybe you want to quit smoking but the idea of a life without cigarettes is foreign to you. Perhaps you want to move out on your own but you are struggling to find a job that pays enough. Maybe you want to lose weight, but you haven't changed your eating habits.

 

 

Big changes are the result of small successes. It's like climbing a ladder. We can't get to the top without climbing the steps. If you have a broad goal in mind, such as being healthier, having a better relationship with someone, quitting your job, or getting into college-think about all of the steps on the ladder to get there.

 

 

Now that you have thought of the steps, start at the bottom. The most important aspect of this is to celebrate each step that you take and succeed in. Punishment decreases behavior. Reinforcement increases behavior. If you want to stop working at your goals, then punishment is the way to go. If you want to reach your goal, reinforcement is your friend and punishment is your enemy. Don’t punish yourself along the way!

 

 

What ladder are you ready to climb?

 

 

What Behavior or Habit Do You Want To Change?

Posted on September 11, 2015 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (6)

 

Have you ever seen the same thing many times and then one day it looked different to you? I recently decided to head the opposite direction (for example east instead of west) on the route I take for my daily (as long as the weather cooperates) mindful walk. Do you know what I saw? The whole route differently. New plants, backyards, trees, sides of houses, cars, potholes, and light posts. I walked on the very same roads I had walked on hundreds of times and a whole new panorama of interesting things to enjoy was illuminated just by walking the opposite direction. This experienced has inspired me to explore areas in the neighborhood I hadn't yet seen, knowing I would have to turn around once I reached a dead end or a cul de sac on which I did not live - taking the risk of the residents wondering who I was!

 

 

Making behavior changes in our lives is very similar process. We get into a habit and get comfortable (even if it is an unhealthy habit) with our daily routine. It is hard to see things differently. It is hard to see that there could be other roads not taken or routes untravelled. We are afraid to take the risk.

 

 

Change happens when we take the risk. Change happens when we see things differently. Change happens when we are mindful of our environment. Change is hard work. But Change can also be very rewarding!

 

 

Change is within our reach. Though it might be difficult, change is possible. It might be as simple as making a left instead of a right.

 

 

What do you want to change?

 

 

Help Wanted!

 

 

I am working on a brand new behavior change course to help people learn how to change unhealthy habits and behaviors. It is going to be an awesome program to participate in. In order for me to put together a great course, can you take a minute and help me?

 

 

In order to make sure that I address the concerns that most people might have concerning changing unhealthy or disruptive behaviors, I would really appreciate it if you could answer the following brief questions. Please note that your responses are only to help me create a more successful program. I will not be using your names in the course, but may share some of your responses to these questions. I would be happy to get suggestions from anyone else that you know too! Just ask them to email their answers to me. See my email address below.

 

 

Here are the questions:

 

 

What is the biggest hurdle you face when trying to change a behavior?

 

 

What is a behavior you have tried to change in the past but was unsuccessful?

 

 

You can post a comment here or send me an e-mail at [email protected]

 

 

*Please remember that internet communications are not confidential. Please see http://www.meaningfulpsychservices.com/policies-resources for more information.

 

 

If you would like to answer but are not comfortable with posting a comment or sending an e-mail, you can also call me at 631-484-9679.

 

"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.

 

What's Your Movie Theater?

Posted on July 10, 2015 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (2)

Several years ago, I experienced a panic attack (yes, psychologists can get them too). I was sitting in the middle of a packed movie theater with friends when another movie goer had a medical emergency that was very scary and yucky (I'll spare you the details) and involved 911 and several medical professionals. The scene played out in the theater and blocked the only non-emergency exit. Faced with sights and sounds of the other person as well as being in the middle of a row with people on either side of me, I panicked.

 

Panic attacks occur very suddenly and sometimes can feel as if they come out of nowhere. Other times, we are able to identify an event that sets it into motion. Let's break this down using my panic attack example. The trigger was the medical emergency. The way that I interpreted this event ("I'm trapped," "are they going to be ok?" "why hasn't the theater stopped the movie and gotten us out of here?" "what's wrong with that person?") affected the way that I felt (nervous, sweaty, breathing rate increased, dizzy, tingling). The cycle of panic continued. I then interpreted the feelings as being more severe or dangerous ("I'm going to be sick," "why do I feel like this?") and then the feelings intensified (sense of derealization, heart rate increases, lose feeling in hands, stomach upset). Thankfully, I recognized the symptoms as a panic attack and was able to utilize coping skills to break the cycle and prevent symptoms from getting worse. I was able to stay for the remainder of the movie, rather than leave once the scene was cleared. If I left, I would have reinforced my anxiety by escaping the situation.

 

For a long time after this experience, I struggled with returning to that theater. This is called avoidance. The problem with avoidance is that you feel better in the short term (e.g., "good thing I didn’t go to that mean and scary movie theater because I feel better now") but the longer we avoid, the harder it is to go back. Family and friends would invite me to go, but I would work hard to get everyone to choose a different theater so I could avoid going back. This was the wrong thing to do!

 

Once I finally decided that this was ridiculous and unhealthy, I went back. This is called exposure. The first time was pretty uncomfortable. Over time, it became easier and easier to go to this theater. This is because I had to actively work on breaking the connection between the movie theater and having a panic attack and/or witnessing a scary medical emergency. The more I went and nothing scary happened, the easier it was to go. I also paired the exposure with relaxation techniques. This is to help replace the scary environment with a relaxing one.

 

If you are avoiding a situation that has an uncomfortable memory for you and is a place where you should be otherwise safe in, I invite you to decide to change this. A psychologist can assist you with the necessary tools and skills to regain the courage and the strength to return to your movie theater, wherever that may be for you.

 

It feels great to be able to see movies in this theater again, and to be able to share this story with you (which is another form of exposure, by the way).

 

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.

 

Focus on Mental Health

Posted on May 11, 2015 at 3:30 PM Comments comments (1)

 

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. It is my hope in this month's post to reduce stigma around mental health concerns and utilizing therapy. There is great need for psychological services in our communities. It is an area ever evolving, changing, and growing.

 

Notice May is Mental Health not Mental Illness Awareness Month. As mental health professionals, our commitment to our work involves not only reducing symptoms, but also identifying and building strengths and abilities. Mental health is so much more than not having mental illness. It is not the absence of symptoms. Many mental health professionals will be able to help people not only get better but to also enhance strengths, skills, and abilities. A favorite Twitter bio of mine by NY Psychiatrist Dr. Samantha Boardman (@sambmd) includes the phrase "Fix what's wrong AND build what's strong." I love this sentence and I am on board.

 

Early in my training, I was introduced to the concept of looking at what goes right and not always just what is wrong. I am forever grateful for this. It is easy to get caught up in worry, anxiety, stress, and negative thinking patterns. It is not so easy to climb out from under these powerful thoughts and feelings, but it is possible. Therapy can help you dig out, breathe, and keep growing. This is the same concept as the saying "April showers bring May flowers."

 

In my practice, I utilize cognitive-behavior therapy and positive psychology. These styles of treatment have lots of research behind them and have been shown to help. The American Psychological Association has developed several brief animated videos to demonstrate how psychologists can help. You can watch them here.

 

Think you don't have time to go to therapy? No problem. With advancing technology, we can offer online therapy services. You can dig out and grow from your own home, office, car, playground, etc. There are options available so that your mental health can be nourished.

 

If you have questions or would like to learn more about how therapy can help you, I'm happy to talk with you for a free 15 minute consultation. All you have to do is schedule a time.

"Hakuna Matata"

Posted on April 1, 2015 at 7:55 PM Comments comments (1)

"Hakuna Matata- it means no worries" (from The Lion King). This is a phrase I often sing to my baby. We even put a picture of the phrase on his nursery wall. As a Mommy, I never want my son to feel anything but happy and I don't want him to ever feel anxious. As a Psychologist, I actually do want him to experience worry and anxiety at certain points in his life, within reason. Why?


It is unrealistic and unhelpful to be happy and carefree all of the time. Negative emotions such as anxiety, sadness, and anger serve as motivation to make changes in our life. These feelings provide feedback to us that something is not quite right, very wrong, unsafe, dangerous, or not the right fit for us. It can also be an indicator that we need to develop better coping skills or seek professional help.


As parents, we might want to rescue or save our children from worries and anxious feelings. I believe this is a natural parental reaction. But attempts to save your child from anxiety can actually be making anxiety stronger.


Picture this. A child we will call Bobby is looking at a group of peers playing at a birthday party. Mom and Dad know that Bobby has concerns about playing with new people and is nervous to initiate play. Mom and Dad want him to have fun and end his anxiety so they bring him over to the group of peers and the parents initiate the play for him. They might say, "Bobby wants to play with you. Can he join in?" Sounds ok enough, right? Sure, Bobby can now play with his peers. But let's suppose there is a problem during the play such as a peer takes a toy away from him. Bobby becomes nervous and looks for parental support to solve the problem for him. In fact, Bobby learns to wait for his parents to initiate play for him in the future too. Bobby has just given his anxiety and worries a big reward by allowing his parents to speak for him. Bobby learns that he is not strong enough to deal with his worries, so he is likely to avoid situations on his own unless a parent is there to speak and solve problems for him.


This is one example of how anxiety can be reinforced. There are other ways anxiety can be reinforced and other circumstances when it is totally appropriate and helpful for parents to help their children initiate play and solve problems as described above. My goal in this month's post is to challenge parents to take a deeper look into their child's behavior and see if anxiety has been reinforced accidentally. You can discuss your observations and concerns with a mental health professional who can help you with managing your child's behavior.


I hope you and your children do not have too many worries and that you can recognize anxious feelings as providing you with valuable

information.


And maybe sing a song of "Hakuna Matata" to someone today.

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.

Live Meaningfully With Anxiety

Posted on February 12, 2015 at 7:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Living with anxiety can be overwhelming, smothering, and in some cases, debilitating. Living with anxiety can also be meaningful, purposeful, and embraced. Yes, that is what you just read. For those of you reading this post who suffer from anxiety, you may think I am kidding. I'm not.


The truth is that we all experience anxiety in one form or another. There are many purposes for the experience of this uncomfortable, yucky, and scary feeling. Anxiety is necessary for survival. Our bodies and brain provide feedback to us when we are in a potentially dangerous situation. Anxiety can motivate us to change our current situation. Anxiety prepares us for novel experiences and difficult tasks such as a job interview or test.


We know from research that a little bit of anxiety can be helpful, but too much or too little could hurt our performance. This is explained by the Yerkes-Dodson Law. A simple diagram can be found on this website.


Basically, anxiety can be used for helpful and purposeful activities, when in moderation. Too much anxiety is what leads to feelings of being smothered and wanting to avoid the world around us. Many students describe this feeling as their mind "going blank" when taking a test. Too little anxiety can lead to being unprepared for new and difficult tasks.


It is important to remember that anxiety has a purpose. We can check in to our surroundings, environment, habits, activities, and lifestyle. Is there a change that needs to be made?


This information is one of the reasons I created the Live Meaningfully With Anxiety Room. There are several recordings available that explain how to live with anxiety in a healthy way. These resources are completely and totally free. You can access them on my website under Anxiety Resources.


Please seek the support of a mental health professional if you experience increased anxiety.

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."

Telepsychology: I'm So Excited For Step 3!

Posted on December 12, 2014 at 7:10 PM Comments comments (0)


And here we are...Step 3. I am super excited to be writing this month's article. I am feeling full of gratitude, hope, and love as I am developing some new telepsychology programs and expanding current ones in my practice. This is an exciting time to be active as a psychologist, as I am watching the field evolve in front of me and within me. I am striving to embody the new changes while providing effective care. I know my colleagues are as well.

 

There are so many options available to you. From apps and video sessions to virtual reality offices and in-person visits. E-mail, online chat, text messaging, and phone mediums are up for grabs. Which is the right one for you? Goodness of fit is an important factor of the therapeutic relationship, which in turn affects the outcome of treatment. The fit I am speaking of is not only between the client and therapist, but also the method they use to work together as well.


 

Telepsychology services might be a great option for you and they might not. Phone sessions might be really convenient, or they might not. Perhaps information gathering, such as an online educational group (see below), is appropriate for you, but you prefer therapy sessions in-person. Goodness of fit varies from person-to-person, and this is healthy. I am hoping to encourage the community to step out of the comfort zone (after all, with preparation and skills, stepping out can lead to amazing growth), and explore the multitude of treatment and educational options available. Communities no longer need to be inhibited by location, income, anxiety, transportation, distance, or schedules.


 

I wish to communicate some telepsychology options available in my practice. Lets explore if we and any of these options might be a good fit for you.


 

Dr. Laura on Demand App

This is a brand new feature. Download it for free at this website: https://drlauraondemand.appsme.com/app/dr-laura/live-life-meaningfully. The Dr. Laura on Demand app allows you to contact me quickly and conveniently, read and watch meaningful content, articles, and resources, schedule appointments, and access unique discounts on services.


 

Live Meaningfully With Anxiety Room

Opening in early 2015, the Live Meaningfully With Anxiety Room is an online resource to help people dealing with anxiety to live healthy and fulfilling lives. Purchasing access to the Room will allow 24/7 availability of resources for dealing with anxiety, including panic-attack talk-downs, coping skills, the biology of anxiety, beating anxiety, progressive muscle relaxation, and more. Members will be able to log-in any time they feel anxious (as well as any other time they would like) to cope with the unpleasant feeling. Members of the Room will receive a discount on individual therapy services if they would like to continue work on an individual and personal level.


 

Behavior Management Group

Available for parents of children aged 2-12 years, the Behavior Management Group is designed to teach strategies for dealing with problem and difficult behavior effectively, safely, and positively. This is a great option for parents who would like to manage behavior and need ideas, resources, and want to learn what works and what doesn’t. Parents can choose to participate in live workshops, or just listen to them at a later more convenient time. There is a one-time fee for complete 24/7 access to this group.


 

There are more options available, not only in my practice, but in other psychology practices as well. I hope you find a good fit for you.


 

Oh, and if any of these choices are a great fit, and you access any one of them, you will get $10 off your first therapy session should you choose to pursue individual services.


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