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Distorted Thoughts – Getting Back To Reality

One of the best tools we have for living a healthy life is our ability to think. Our world is composed of a large number of events that happen constantly.

Business investor in deep thought looking at the business ideas written on the whiteboard. Businessman thinking while holding his spectacles to mouthSome are positive and some are negative, and most are neutral. We interpret these events as they happen with a series of thoughts that flow continually through our minds. This process is called our internal dialogue. We constantly think about present and past events, and sometimes about things that will happen in the future. And here’s the important point – these thoughts need to be accurate. We need good reality testing in order to live effectively.

Our moods or feelings are created by the thoughts we have, and not by the actual events themselves. We need to think about events and attach a meaning to them before we experience an emotional response. People have different ways of interpreting the same event. Let’s say that our friend, Rhonda, has decided to move to a different part of the country. Some people will congratulate her for making a move that could bring her the happiness she has sought for a long time. Other people might condemn her for running away from the life she has here. Some will call her healthy. Some will call her greedy. Some will call her heartless. How we think about Rhonda will reflect our core beliefs about the world.

We define Rhonda’s actions in terms of how we personally interpret the world – and these interpretations reflect the basic assumptions we have about how the world works. Her move in itself signifies nothing until we think about it and place an interpretation or meaning on it. If we see it as a healthy move on her part, we can have a happy response. If we see her as being selfish, we might have an angry or depressed response to her move. Once we give meaning to an event, we can experience an emotional response to it. In other words, our thoughts can influence how we feel.

If the meaning we give to events is usually negative, we might constantly find ourselves feeling depressed. If the meaning is usually positive, we may find ourselves feeling good much of the time. If we give threatening meanings to events in the world, we might find ourselves living with a lot of anger. If we see the world as a stressful place, we might experience anxiety as a result. Sometimes we give meaning to our own actions that are negative (that is, we judge ourselves in a negative light). This might arise from a negative self-image and our mood will reflect this core belief in a variety of negative ways.

Our emotional health depends on our ability to make good, reality-oriented judgments about what is going on in the world around us.

Sometimes events are positive. We need to interpret them in precisely this way and have an appropriate emotional response to the situation (that is, happiness). At other times, events are negative and we ought to be able to give proper meaning to these events so that we can take correct action to deal with the problem in a reality-based way.

Most of us distort our thoughts to some degree. We all have unique lives, with different experiences, different parents, different friends, different problems to work through – so that throughout the course of our lives we have learned our own ways of interpreting the world. Our interpretations are not always based in reality and are often colored by our unique needs. We develop our own core beliefs about how the world operates, and, when various situations present themselves, these beliefs lead us to automatic thoughts (these are well-learned ways of thinking about situations that are instantaneous and reflect our underlying beliefs about the world). Sometimes these automatic thoughts are distorted. It is important to examine our cognitive distortions so that we make the right decisions in life and increase our chance of experiencing a good mood. Working with a trained therapist in examining these distortions is an especially effective way of dealing with depression.

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Is there help for OCD?

Although there is no absolute cure for OCD at this point, there is substantial help available for those who suffer from this disorder.

The repetitve repetition of an obsessive-compulsive disorder.Life for the OCD sufferer can become normalized so that the symptoms don’t interfere with everyday living. With effective treatment, people with this disorder can live full, productive, and normal lives. Many have found antidepressant medication to be a helpful part of their treatment for OCD. These medications, called SSRI’s, can increase the level of the neurotransmitter, serotonin, in the brain, and this seems to reduce OCD symptoms. Dosages of these medications are usually higher in treating OCD than when they are used solely for depression. Medication alone, however, is not usually as helpful in controlling OCD as a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, is an important part of recovery from OCD. This form of therapy provides the tools and skills necessary for managing obsessional and compulsive behavior. One
helpful therapeutic tool used with OCD is exposure and response prevention. This technique reduces the anxiety associated with obsessive thoughts through a process called habituation. When a person is exposed to anxiety
repeatedly, the nervous system gradually adjusts to the anxiety (just as our hands adjust to being dipped in cold water after a period of time). Thus, we learn to tolerate the anxiety associated with obsessive thinking and decrease the need to engage in compulsive techniques for reducing the anxiety. Psychotherapy also aims to challenge the faulty thinking patterns that drive and maintain the obsessive thoughts. Another valuable technique is called mindfulness, in which we increase our awareness of the thoughts that
guide our debilitating behavior. Supportive therapy with a concerned professional can help the person to gain knowledge and courage to try to deal with anxieties without resorting to obsessional thoughts and compulsive behavior.

An important component of therapy is to bring other family members into the process so that they can learn appropriate ways of coping with the disorder and provide a supportive and understanding environment for the sufferer. Most people who suffer from OCD try to keep their condition secret and may engage in denial. The first step in overcoming this debilitating circumstance is to make an appointment to talk to a professional psychotherapist.

The sessions with your therapist are safe, trustworthy, and supportive. Getting your condition under control is a challenge – but things will only get better after making that first call.  Help and hope are just a phone call away.

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Can I Really Change An Old Habit Like Procrastination?

Can I Really Change An Old Habit Like Procrastination?

Procrastination may be such an ingrained pattern that it seems impossible to change it.

It may help to see procrastination as a symptom of some of our underlying personality issues. For example, negative self-image often plays a role in our tendency to put off accomplishing tasks. Sometimes we postpone our duties because we lack self confidence or feel that we might be rejected or abandoned by others if we don’t turn in a perfect job. For some people, procrastination is a symptom of depression. Our reasons for procrastinating are as varied as people are different. Therapy is the best way to explore these deeper issues in a supportive, trustworthy, and professional setting. The goal is to define procrastination as a symptom of a deeper issue and then to explore the nature of this underlying problem and discover how to deal with it more effectively. Your life becomes more satisfying when you can find ways to express the most effective parts of yourself.

Yes, an old habit like procrastination can be changed. You have to use the techniques that work for you and remember that these techniques are not a simple all-or-nothing “cure.” Look on behavior change as a process composed of many steps. You may have success in dealing with some components of the problem only to find later that you are resistant to making more changes. Then, in therapy, you look into your resistance to see why moving on is difficult at a particular stage. And don’t forget that most people relapse. Research has found that only about 20 percent of all people make complete changes on their first try. Most people have setbacks during the change process. Expect this to happen and look on it as something positive
– after all, you can learn from your setbacks. To relapse does not mean that you have to start all over again.

You can change uncomfortable patterns of behavior, and procrastination, fortunately, is one of those habits most amenable to change. But don’t put it off – just do it!

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What makes people happy?

Recent research has focused on how a person can work toward a happier life.

Happy family playing at sunsetMartin Seligman and his associates at the University of Pennsylvania base Positive Psychology on years of research into what makes people happy. They have concluded that happiness is an internal experience based on staying true to one’s genuine or authentic self. When people are able to function well in the world using their strongest abilities (they call these abilities our “signature strengths”), they have a chance to achieve authentic happiness. They have identified twenty-four signature strengths found in cultures across the world. The first step is to identify your own personal strengths. From there, you can explore ways to incorporate these strengths into your life so that your best abilities can be expressed in whatever you do in your daily life. When you can stay true to the best in yourself, you can achieve an authentically happy life.

The following are the twenty-four signature strengths identified in the Positive Psychology approach. Identify the two or three that fit you best. To work toward authentic happiness, try to see how you can incorporate these strengths into your daily life experiences.

1. Curiosity / Interest in the World. Curiosity suggests being open to experience and flexibility in dealing with ideas that do not fit your preconceived notions about the world. Curious people not only tolerate ambiguity well, but they seek it out and are attracted by it. Curiosity implies an active involvement in learning about new information, not just a passive interest in new things, and it is the opposite of being bored.

2. Love of Learning. This strength refers to the strong enjoyment of learning new things, and it implies that you seek out learning wherever you can find it – through reading, taking classes, going to museums. You love learning even when there are no external incentives for you to do so.

3. Judgment / Critical Thinking / Open-Mindedness. This trait refers to thinking things through based on solid evidence. You examine all sides of an issue before coming to a conclusion, and you are able to change your mind in the face of new information. The opposite of this strength is seeking out information only if it conforms to what you already believe.

4. Ingenuity / Originality / Practical Intelligence / Street Smarts. This attribute refers to an ability to find novel ways of achieving your goals, as long as they are appropriate. It means finding new and creative ways to get what you want, and not going through conventional routes to get there.

5. Social, Personal and Emotional Intelligence. People with social intelligence are those who are able to read the moods, needs and motives of other people and can respond appropriately to others. It does not refer just to being introspective – it also implies being able to engage in socially skilled behavior. Personal intelligence means being tuned into your own feelings. You are able to put yourself into situations that bring out your best abilities, such as a job where you do what you do best.

6. Perspective. This strength is similar to wisdom. It implies that others draw on your experience to help them solve problems and gain perspective for themselves. It means having a way of defining the world that makes sense to you and other people.

7. Valor and Bravery. This trait pertains to having the courage to face difficult situations or stand for your beliefs in the face of opposition or challenge. This is not mere boldness or rashness. It refers to the ability to face danger, despite fear, without the loss of dignity.

8. Perseverance / Industry / Diligence. Perseverance means being able to finish what you start with a positive attitude. You do what you say you’ll do. It does not refer to obsessively pursuing unattainable goals or perfectionism. Rather, it implies flexibility and a realistic approach to finishing projects.

9. Integrity / Genuineness / Honesty. You live your life with genuineness and authenticity. You are down to earth and let others see your true self. This is more than just telling the truth. It means showing the world who you really are without pretense.

10. Kindness and Generosity. This strength involves doing good deeds for others, taking their interests as seriously as your own and acknowledging the worth of other people. Empathy and sympathy are related to this trait.

11. Loving and Allowing Yourself to Be Loved. This trait implies an ability to form close and intimate relations with other people, and to choose people who feel the same way toward you. While some people can show love to others, this trait also implies the ability to let others love you in return.

12. Citizenship / Duty / Teamwork / Loyalty. You are a loyal, dedicated member of groups and can always be counted on to do your share. You are able to put the interests of the group above your own, respecting the authority of the group.

13. Fairness and Equity. This trait involves an ability to treat people equally and fairly regardless of your own personal biases. It implies that you are able to give everyone a fair chance and that you are guided by principles of morality.

14. Leadership. A good leader is effective at organizing the activities of people, getting the group’s work done while maintaining good relations between group members. This person maintains a humane approach when dealing with group members, as well as in coordinating activities between groups.

15. Self-Control. This characteristic involves the ability to hold your impulses and needs in check when appropriate. It implies expertise in regulating your
emotions when things go bad, as well as maintaining a positive attitude when faced with difficult situations.

16. Prudence / Discretion / Caution. This strength implies an ability to be careful. You avoid saying things you might later regret. You are more aware of long-term goals and their consequences rather than going for short-term gain.

17. Humility and Modesty. Humble people do not seek the spotlight, and they let their accomplishments speak for themselves. You do not define yourself as special, realizing that your life victories and defeats are unimportant in the grand scheme of things. You are unpretentious and others recognize, and admire, you for this quality.

18. Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence. You are elevated by beauty, excellence, and skill in all domains. You are able to appreciate the awe and wonder of life all around you – in nature, art, science, and little, everyday things.

19. Gratitude. You are aware of what is good in the world and you don’t take these things for granted. You appreciate the good in people and their accomplishments, as well as in nature. You take the time to count your blessings, and you show this in your actions.

20. Hope / Optimism / Future-Mindedness. You have a goal-directed life based on your expectation that you will achieve the best for yourself in the future. Your optimism helps guide you in planning and working hard to achieve your goals.

21. Spirituality / Sense of Purpose / Faith / Religiosity. You have strong beliefs in your attachment to something larger than you are. You search for your place in the universe, and these beliefs both mold your actions and serve as a source of comfort for you. You feel that your life has purpose and meaning.

22. Forgiveness and Mercy. This strength refers to your ability to forgive those who have done you wrong. You are guided by mercy rather than revenge, and you always give people a second chance. Your way of dealing with others is to be kind and generous rather than avoidant or retaliatory.

23. Playfulness and Humor. You enjoy laughing and bringing lightness and fun to other people. You are able to mix work and play, and you, and others, appreciate your ability to lift others out of seriousness and into humor.

24. Zest / Passion / Enthusiasm. You are true to your spirit. You approach life with passion and energy and you can enthusiastically throw yourself into activities. You feel inspired by the mere act of living life to the fullest.

Are you the happiest version of yourself?

If not, we can help.  Schedule a free consultation to discuss how our team of experienced therapists can make a difference for you.

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Can Money Buy Happiness?

The simple answer to this question is that no, money can’t buy happiness – in most cases.

Money falling from the skyResearchers have compared people in countries throughout the world. In the poorest nations, people with more money do report greater happiness in their lives, an easily understood concept.

That is, those who live in severe poverty are not as happy as those who have enough money to meet their basic needs.

However, once the average income exceeds $8,000 per person in a country (and industrial countries in the western hemisphere all exceed this figure), it was found that more money does not lead to greater life satisfaction. Even those who are fabulously rich in the United States were found to be only slightly happier than the average citizen.

People with the highest incomes often have to work long hours, and many of them quit these jobs in order to find work that brings them greater life satisfaction.

We adapt to higher incomes, and then they lose their allure. Just after a promotion and higher salary, a person does report greater life satisfaction and happiness. However, in less than three months the higher level of income loses its impact on happiness levels. We learn to take the higher income for granted. As we accumulate more material possessions, our expectations rise. The things we worked so hard for no longer make us happy. We then work even harder to get to the next level. And then the same thing happens – we adapt to the higher level, and then within three months our happiness levels drop again. We end up on a treadmill, working harder and searching for more, then adapting to the higher levels. Happiness is elusive if we look for it through monetary gain and material possessions. We are no happier driving the luxury car, after the first few months, than we were when we drove our old workhorse. Money is like a drug addiction. We need more and more – and then we adapt to the higher levels. It becomes a never-ending cycle.

Finding happiness does not lie in making more money. It is found within.

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What are the treatment options for ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Most people with an attention deficit don’t suspect that this is their problem, or that it even has a name.

They have been exposed to a great deal of pain in their lives, and they finally see a professional therapist for a number of related problems, such as work difficulties, relationship difficulties, depression, or substance abuse. Treatment for ADHD usually consists of the following:

  • First, find a trained professional who seems knowledgeable; you should feel comfortable with this person.
  • You will first review your history with your therapist. This includes your family history, your physical (medical) history, your development, your history in school, at home and in jobs, and your history in relationships.
  • Your therapist will rule out other possible causes for your difficulties (such as anxiety, depression or substance abuse).
  • You will likely be given a psychological assessment, although not necessarily in all cases. Sometimes a lengthy interview will suffice.
  • Once the diagnosis is made, your first goal will be to educate yourself about ADHD. You will read books, articles or resources you find on the Internet.
  • With the help of your therapist, you will work on restructuring your life, both internally and externally. Internally, you start to think about yourself differently and you examine your self-image issues. Externally, you work on ways to improve how you organize and insert control into your life.
  • You will start a course of psychotherapy in order to gain an understanding of what made you who you are today and what you can do to take a different orientation toward your life. This may also involve joining a therapy or support group with other people who share similar problems.
  • You may or may not be referred to a physician regarding using medication. Many people with attention deficits benefit from safe doses of stimulant medication, while others benefit from anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication.

Do you think you have ADHD? Please contact our office for a free consultation.

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Tips for Healthy Sleeping

Tips for Healthy Sleeping

The National Sleep Foundation tells us that nearly half of us don’t get enough sleep.

In modern-day society, because of night work, television, computers, and the profound stress we experience in everyday life, our sleep is often disrupted. Sleep is a basic biological need, like hunger and thirst. When we don’t get enough of it, our bodies let us know that there are consequences.

Maintain regular times for getting to sleep and waking up, including on the weekends. Our sleep-wake cycle is regulated by an internal clock that balances both sleep time and wake time. Getting up at the same time every morning helps with getting to sleep the next night. If you have difficulty sleeping at night, try to avoid daytime naps.

Create a sleep environment that is dark, cool, quiet, comfortable, and free of interruptions. It may help to use eye shades, ear plugs, “white noise” machines, humidifiers, or fans. The brain responds to light to detect whether it’s night or day, so use curtains or shading to keep light at minimal levels. Studies have shown that sleep inducement is increased when body temperatures are lower (and this means a fan or air conditioner and light covers, not heavy blankets – depending on the season, of course).

Slow down the metabolic rate about half an hour before getting to sleep. Establish a regular, relaxing routine before going to bed. This might involve soaking in a hot bath, then reading or listening to soothing music before trying to sleep. Avoid stimulating activities before bedtime, like computers, video games, office work, housework, or family problem-solving.

Avoid using the bed for activities other than sleep. The bed is not the place to read, watch TV, work on a laptop, or do office work. We need to make an association in our brain between bed and sleep. Sexual activity is an exception, which is believed to make it easier to fall asleep and improve the quality of sleep.

Exercise regularly. Finish your exercise at least three hours before bedtime. Higher body temperatures accompany exercise and we sleep best when our body temperature is lower.

Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol close to bedtime. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that can interfere with the process of falling asleep. Although many people think of alcohol as a sedative, it actually disrupts sleep and causes nighttime awakening. Consuming alcohol causes a night of restless sleep.

Finish eating at least two to three hours before your regular bedtime. Also, try to restrict fluid intake close to bedtime to prevent waking up during the night to go to the bathroom. (Some people, on the other hand, find that warm milk or herbal teas are soothing and a helpful part of the nighttime routine.)

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When You Undergo a Life Transition

When You Undergo a Life Transition

Life transitions, difficult as they can be, afford us the opportunity to find our true inner direction and engage in the process of self-renewal.

Here are some guidelines to make the journey rewarding:

  1. Give Yourself Enough Time. When our lives are disrupted, it takes time to reorient our inner feelings to the new reality. Although we may feel uncomfortable during a transition, especially in giving up our old activities, to create new activities prematurely without giving ourselves the time to reflect and reorient may only serve to perpetuate the old ways – and a wonderful life opportunity may be missed.
  2. Arrange Temporary Ways of Living. Although transitions can be very disruptive, hold on to those parts of your life which provide comfort and security. When we feel safe we are able to accomplish the task of the transition more productively. If your transition involves a job loss, find temporary work until you discover what you want to do over the long run. If you have lost a relationship, there is no need to isolate yourself from all of your friends. Hold on to those who can comfort you.
  3. Tolerate the Discomfort. Transitions can introduce confusion and disorientation into our lives. Expect to experience times of anxiety and insecurity. These are natural feelings and an important part of the process, but they are only temporary. Trust in your own ability to see your way through the transition. Above all, realize that using alcohol and drugs will only serve to subvert the process. Face your challenge with integrity.
  4. Take Care of Yourself During the Transition. A time of transition can introduce stress into your life and you may feel depressed so that you may not want to engage in normal, healthy activities. Do something for yourself everyday which you find comforting and pleasurable. Get a normal amount of sleep and make sure your diet is healthy. If you can, try to get some exercise everyday, even if it is only a twenty-minute walk.
  5. Find the Support You Need. A time of transition is a very good time to seek the support of a trained professional therapist who can guide you through the process in a safe and encouraging setting. Finding the support of friends is also important – but avoid those who are only there to give advice. While advice may be helpful at times, your greater need at this time is to explore your own feelings and to find the truth which emerges from your own inner resources. Therapy provides a safe and productive way to travel this leg of your life journey.

Are you struggling with a life transition? We can help! Click here to schedule a free consultation.

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What Are the Treatment Options for ADHD?

What Are the Treatment Options for ADHD?

Most people with an attention deficit don’t suspect that this is their problem, or that it even has a name.

They have been exposed to a great deal of pain in their lives, and they finally see a professional therapist for a number of related problems, such as work difficulties, relationship difficulties, depression, or substance abuse.

Treatment for ADHD usually consists of the following:

  • First, find a trained professional who seems knowledgeable; you should feel comfortable with this person.
  • You will first review your history with your therapist. This includes your family history, your physical (medical) history, your development, your history in school, at home and in jobs, and your history in relationships.
  • Your therapist will rule out other possible causes for your difficulties (such as anxiety, depression or substance abuse).
  • You will likely be given a psychological assessment, although not necessarily in all cases. Sometimes a lengthy interview will suffice.
  • Once the diagnosis is made, your first goal will be to educate yourself about ADHD.  You will read books, articles or resources you find on the Internet.
  • With the help of your therapist, you will work on restructuring your life, both internally and externally. Internally, you start to think about yourself differently and you examine your self-image issues. Externally, you work on ways to improve how you organize and insert control into your life.
  • You will start a course of psychotherapy in order to gain an understanding of what made you who you are today and what you can do to take a different orientation toward your life. This may also involve joining a therapy or support group with other people who share similar problems.
  • You may or may not be referred to a physician regarding using medication. Many people with attention deficits benefit from safe doses of stimulant medication, while others benefit from anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication.

Are you struggling with ADHD? We can help!  Click here to schedule a free consultation.

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After Divorce: How Long Do I Wait Until I Get Into Another Relationship?

Broken heartAfter Divorce - When Can You DateExpect that it will take at least a year before things begin to feel at all normal again.

For most of us, depending on the length and the nature of our previous relationship, it will take two or three years. This may seem like an eternity, but in reality this is a wonderful opportunity to find out who you are at this stage of your life as an unattached individual.

A word of warning is in order: don’t expect to re-involve yourself with someone else immediately! You are on the rebound. To attach yourself prematurely in a love relationship is unfair to you and to the other person. You are necessarily dealing with tremendously important personal issues when your previous love relationship comes to an end. Living through the transition and exploring these issues can be very painful, and falling in love again may seem like the perfect way to end the pain. But the other person in this case becomes a replacement, an object, and that is not what a healthy relationship is about. You will carry into this replacement relationship the same issues which helped to lead to the demise of your former relationship … and the same things may very well happen again.

Your real goal is to discover who you are and to explore what happened.

When you are at the point of being able to have a happy and fulfilled life as a single person, then you can choose when, or even if, you should re-involve yourself again in another love relationship. When you know that you have that choice, you may be ready.

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