Archives for August, 2011


How To Deal With An Emotional Terrorist

We all have met her (Yes, it could be a him as well.)

She's stormy. We might attribute it to her artistic nature (whether or not she's the "creative type"). But she attributes her storminess, aka angry outbursts, to everything and everyone else. You see, you are responsible for her outbursts, tantrums, complaints and upsets.

Because you have something she needs or wants—a contact, a job lead, a network, a recipe, a vacation home—at some point, she'll be sure to follow up her outburst with a non-apology.

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A Powerful Storm And Personal Power

So Hurricane Irene wasn't the monster storm they warned us about here in NYC, but still, the damage was significant and sadly 26 people lost their lives.

I have some sympathy for the officials who made the decision to evacuate people—if they didn't, and the storm was as catastrophic as its early development indicated it might be, it would have been disastrous (it actually was disastrous in areas, but thank God, we were spared the worst of it).

The officials did choose to evacuate over a million people from areas of New Jersey and New York. It couldn't have been an easy decision, knowing that whatever choice they made, they would receive censure. They had to put their personal feelings aside in order to make the decision that would best protect lives while attempting to mitigate disruption in families, education, business, essential services, and other important life-areas.

This kind of decision-making, whether on a public or personal level, is something that is surprisingly difficult to do, yet it is a crucial indicator of maturity.

How many times have you made decisions without thinking through the reasons and/or the consequences of your choices? Have you ever had to make a decision that was painful and might even have caused you censure from others, yet you knew it was best for everyone involved?
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Teens and Mind-Heart Therapy

There are two basic tools (they're also processes) we employ to understand what our serious issues and problems are in life. These two tools are the mind and the heart.

The use of both is necessary for real, personal change.

There's intellectual, mind-based acceptance. A simple example might be someone who is abusing prescription painkillers who gets to the point where they are able to say "I know I'm abusing drugs and this is a problem for me. It is messing up my relationships with my family, friends, and colleagues. I know my life is a mess."

But even though they say it out loud and have an intellectual connection with what they say, they don't really believe it. They are light years away from connecting with and taking ownership of what they need to do in order to get into recovery. That connection only happens when the emotions (that is, the heart) and mind are simultaneously employed to address the problem.

Both the mind-based and heart-based acceptance and understanding of our problems are necessary.
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Parents, Teens In Therapy: Communication Breakdown

Let's talk more about the importance of the therapist's note-taking in family therapy with parents and adolescents (it is equally as important in individual therapy, for some related reasons). Without it, therapy is usually a wash. What I said in a recent post on parents and teens in therapy:
The therapist’s notes should be very detailed because many times people mis-hear, mis-communicate or mis-understand what is being said. If the therapist has detailed, accurate notes, the whole family has an opportunity to come together to review and discuss what really happened and this propels therapy along.
Having effective documentation is vital to the success of family therapy because there are oftentimes breakdowns in communication, especially when family members are hurt, scared, or angry.
The goal of doing therapy with parents and teens is in some sense to bring out serious issues in a safe place, a place where both the parents and the adolescent can feel they have the chance to be heard fairly.
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Are You All Tweeted Out? Take Our Poll.

There is such a thing as Twitter™ fatigue, or at least "social media" fatigue according to a UK study. Apparently, 25 percent (that's quite a lot!) of 18-29 year old men and women in this study say their use of Twitter™, Facebook™, and YouTube™ has gone done quite a bit.

Me, well I'm no longer in the 18-29 year old group. And, I've always been in agreement with this article which questions whether we...
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Parents, Teens In Therapy: Treatment Plans And Transparency

Recently I was interviewed for a study and the subject of adolescents and families in therapy was central to the interview. Also, I've been doing a lot of clinical training and the topic of the best ways to do family therapy, especially with adolescents, repeatedly comes up. It seems like a good time to share some of my thoughts about adolescents and their parents, in therapy.

When adolescents come into therapy for emotional issues and/or substance-abuse issues*, many times they're being forced.  They don't really want to be there, they don't want to talk. If they're using substances they don't want to stop using and they're often angry with the people that are sending them to therapy in the first place—most likely, their parents or guardians, but it could be also their school, probation, or family court.

They can show how angry they are in a variety of ways. They may give the therapist the "silent treatment," they might express anger verbally or even physically, they might even, initially, increase risky behaviors.

One of the best ways to get pre-teens and teens to talk to and about their family relationships is to do family therapy as well as individual sessions. Adolescents who are uncomfortable or resentful or sullen in individual sessions might just appreciate the chance to voice their sadness, anger, frustration, etc., in family therapy. It is their chance to tell their parents what's bothering them in a safe place. Remember, home may not be a safe place, either emotionally or physically or both.
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How To Take A Free Vacation

Each year around this time we're reminded by the media that taking a vacation is good for us (as if we don't already know that). Travel and tourism companies, such as Expedia in this article, release statistics and other advertising-like information to convince us that booking a vacation is essential to our our emotional well-being.

Who can blame them? With the economic outlook appearing to be bleaker than any time since the Great Depression (according to many experts), travel and tourism may not be at the top of every person's "to do" list. Somehow, coping with the staggering rise in groceries, the devaluation of the dollar, and every thing in between, taking a vacation, while seeming like a good idea, is simply not in everyone's budget.

This is hitting airlines, travel agencies, hotels and the whole rest of the tourism industry hard.

At the beginning of summer the HuffPo reported that AAA's prediction that travel would definitely go down this summer—and  it has. The weakening dollar has made world travel simply too expensive for most Americans, and gas prices, food prices, rising utility bills and the massive increase in healthcare costs this past year means that many Americans are staying home.

As someone who hasn't had a vacation in more years than I care to remember (though I have taken time off to observe religious holy days), I'm definitely feeling the crunch. But because I observe the Jewish Sabbath, I have one day off a week where I am totally unplugged and able to tap into healing calmness—a mini-vacation of sorts.
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The Perfect Harmony Of Compassion

One of the most valuable insights I've gained from my from faith's teachings, is to not hold a grudge* (against others, against situations, and against God),  and how to avoid the accompanying and self-defeating bitterness. Not only has this made me a better person, I feel that this has given me an added dimension as a therapist (and also has made me a better teacher and trainer).

But therapy often requires that we talk about the past, especially past hurts. We examine them (or process them in popular therapy parlance), and then use what we've gained from the process as a foundation to a more actualized self. But most psychotherapy insists that while we can gain, even from painful situations, the situations are unfair because life is unfair.
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God And My Weight Loss

A. The Way We Eat Now

Are we spoiled for choice? Here are some questions I've asked myself. You might want to do the same:

1. How many times a day do I eat or drink something. No, really.

2. How many times a day do I eat merely to satisfy hunger (or drink to satisfy thirst)?

3. How many times a day do I insist on satisfying a craving for a particular food item?

4. How many times a day do I eat/drink something in order to fill a known nutritional need?

5. How do I feel after I eat/drink? (Sick, over-full, bloated, gassy, still hungry, tense, "high", tired, satisfied, comfortably full, grateful for the meal, etc.)
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Mr. Smashed Goes To Washington

Richard is taking some time to address his backlog of work, so in the meantime, C.R. shares some of her thoughts about drinking and D.C.

As reported by the Washington Examiner, SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) has released research that shows that the alcohol- abuse rates are higher in Washington, D.C. than anywhere else in the country.

And it may not be "the street" that's spiking those numbers.

While D.C. has a lower-than-average rate of alcohol dependence for those aged 12-17 (the rate is 3 percent), it has a higher-than-average rate of alcohol dependence among those aged 26 and above (8.1 percent). Just about the age one graduates from grad school and enters politics, if one is so inclined.

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