Psych Central Professional For mental health, psychiatric and psychological professionals. 2016-09-30T13:14:04Z Christine Hammond, MS, LMHC <![CDATA[The Art of Listening to a Teenage Rant]]> http://5.945 2016-09-30T13:14:04Z 2016-09-30T13:14:04Z Teenage rantThe complaint from a teenager begins somewhat rational. A project has no real application to a subject matter or life in general. A friend is overly critical when support is needed. Or a teacher instructs only one way leaving kids with different learning styles out in the cold. Then without warning, things escalate into unreasonable. Now school does nothing for students. There are no true friendships. Or everyone wants them to fail.

It is in moments like these that many parents attempt to return the conversation back to rational thinking. This is done in a variety of ways such as minimizing what is happening, pointing out the exaggeration, invalidating their teenager’s feelings, or trying to solve the issue at hand. But this does not produce the results a parent wants, rather things either become more intense or the teenager completely shuts down. There is another way.

Notice the environment. As strange as it may sound, teenage rants are golden moments. For a short period of time, a parent is thrust into the thought pattern of their child. It is a precious time which should be seen as valuable. This is a chance to understand how the teenager thinks, processes their environment, problem solves (or doesn’t), and feels about their circumstances. Take note of when this rant occurred to use this information later. Was there an audience or was it while being alone? Did it happen early in the morning or late in the day? Was it out in pubic or in a private area?

Become quiet. The natural temptation for a parent is to try to help solve the problem or point out the inaccuracies in the teenager’s thinking. Don’t do this, instead become quiet and observant. Listen to what is said and what is not said. It is rarely the first thing a person complains about that is the real issue. Rather it is the issue stated with the most emotion that is likely to be at the heart of the rant. All other topics should be dismissed.

Watch body language. When a parent is not speaking, it is far easier to become aware of the teenager’s body language. This is as important if not more so than the words or emotions that are being communicated. Signs of physical discomfort in connection with mentioning a person’s name can be a signal that there is something not right about that relationship. While many adults have learned to control their body language, teenagers, especially when angry, have not. It is best to go with the simplest meaning first when interpreting the signals.

Remember the life stage. Teenagers are not children and they are not adults. Parents who treat their teenagers childlike postpone adulthood unnecessarily. While parents who expect adult behavior from a teenager put too much unneeded pressure on their kid. There is a balance between the two. But every once in a while a teenager will act like a child just as they will also act like an adult. This is normal and healthy. All parents when through the crisis of being a teenager which is good to remember when listening to a teenage rant.

Choose words wisely. Unless the teenager is specifically asking for help, parents should not give it. This is an unintentional trap. When a parent gives advice, the parent is accepting responsibility for the outcome according to the teenage brain. So if things go even slightly wrong, the teenager is not responsible, the parent is. This does not teach a teenager how to be an adult. Regardless of how ridiculous the rant may sound, parents should not try to restore balance. Again, if the teenager asks for it, then a parent can do it but if not, the same principle applies: it is an unintentional trap. This time, the teenager will use the parent’s explanation as justification for why the parent is clueless in their mind. Eventually, the teenager will stop sharing all together.

Express empathy. The best method for handling a rant is for a parent to express empathy. However, parents should not say, “I know how you feel because I felt the same way at your age.” This leads to an automatic shutdown for a teenager because life now is very different compared to the dark ages when a parent was a teen. Instead say, “I’m so sorry you are frustrated. I wish I could help.” This does not minimize the teenager’s feelings but does communicate a desire to help if the teenager wants it. At the end of a rant, it is best to conclude with a statement of love for the teenager so they know that nothing has changed in the relationship.

These steps are very difficult for most parents because the natural instinct is to protect and help. However, when these steps are done consistently, a parent will see a dramatic shift in their relationship with their teenager for the better.


Christine Hammond is a Licensed Mental Health counselor who lives in Orlando and is the award-winning author of The Exhausted Woman’s Handbook.

Susan Gonsalves <![CDATA[Does Psychology of Greed Explain Current Crisis in UK Sport?]]> 2016-09-29T09:38:52Z 2016-09-30T11:35:47Z psychology of greedSam Allardyce has resigned from his “dream job” as manager of the England football team, partly because he discussed accepting a seemingly dodgy £400,000 deal with undercover newspaper reporters, but the psychological puzzle remains: why the pursuit of yet more cash, given he was on a £3 million-a-year contract plus bonuses?

Revelations of widespread corruption involving backhanders and ‘bungs’ in a sport awash with money, by managers and agents already being paid astronomical sums, resonates with greed in other professions such as banking, where an insatiable appetite for yet more apparently led to risky behaviors with calamitous consequences.

Allardyce’s apparent greed may have lost him his job and plunged English football into a crisis, threatening the fans’ faith in the game, but was it not also the greed of financiers and their reckless decisions to line their wallets that produced the subprime mortgage crisis in the USA and the debt crisis in Europe involving into a global economic catastrophe?

Is Greed a Growing Problem in Modern Times?

Patrick Mussel and Johannes Hewig from the Julius Maximilians University Würzburg Department of Psychology in Germany have just published one of the most up-to-date and in-depth investigations of the psychology of greed.

Ravenousness can be for more than money, but an insatiable desire for more can apply to excessive want for power, status, food or sex. Athletes have recently been accused of dodgy use of performance enhancing drugs under the cover of medical exemptions – as some of those accused were already champions anyway. If proven true,ould these allegations attest to a kind of greed when it comes to winning?

Insatiability seems to land people in trouble because it’s not merely about wanting more, but seems to include incredibly strong drives leading to ignoring warning signs that their voraciousness is going to end in self-destruction.

Psychologically, greedy people may therefore be running away from something unpleasant (some kind of state of deprivation), not just hurtling toward something desirable. Does a feeling of never having enough become an itch which it’s impossible to scratch for deeper psychological reasons?

If greed is a desire to get more at all costs, it explains the appetite for risking everything. It’s this self-destructive element, not just merely wanting more, that lies at the heart of the psychological enigma that is gluttony.

Status and Power

The authors of this new study, entitled, “The Life and Times of Individuals Scoring High and Low on Dispositional Greed,” point out that greed is also related to status and power and therefore could be viewed as a wider problem of our whole society beyond the merely personal.

For example, in a capitalistic culture, income and wealth determines social and economic status. This status is signalled or becomes visible to others, through ownership and display of expensive and prestigious objects.

The desire for more, therefore, becomes a strong striving for status.

So one psychological account of greedy people is that they are chronically insecure and constantly need more, to prove to others how worthwhile they are and deserving of respect.

This study, published in the‘Journal of Research in Personality, used a variety of risk and economics experiments to explore the personality of the greedy.

The investigation found the greedy scored low on the personality trait of ‘agreeableness’, which could be interpreted as a tendency to be compassionate, cooperative and helpful, as opposed to being argumentative.

Because of these more unpleasant aspects of personality perhaps the greedy become less popular. So are they compensating by trying to impress you with having more stuff?

Greedy people were also found in this study to be more assertive (which may explain why they rise to the top of organisations and society), but greedy people also had a strong tendency to be more mean and selfish.

Link to Psychopathy

The authors of the study were surprised at how strongly greed was linked to certain aspects of psychopathy, including in particular, deficient empathy, disdain for and lack of close attachments with others, rebelliousness, excitement seeking, exploitativeness and empowerment through cruelty.

This study found that greedy people pursue pleasure and satisfaction without regard for and at the expense of others.

This finding perhaps explains the trail of disaster and suffering that greedy people leave in their wake following their rapaciousness, producing not just a personal catastrophe but a disaster for others. This situation was the case with the financial crisis, with all the consequent unemployment and personal suffering involving millions across the globe.

There is also the suffering that must be the lot of those in close relationships with the greedy when everything suddenly goes badly and a previously glittering career ends in ruins and humiliation.

This study also uncovered that an avaricious appetite for desirable stuff appears incompatible with a solid desire for interpersonal closeness, empathy or altruism.

This result appears at odds with conventional economic views where greed is seen as a desirable and an inevitable feature of a well-regulated, indeed, well-balanced economy.

Previous research found that greed is positively associated with competitiveness and being more productive, suggesting that greed may be helpful for getting ahead.

If earning a lot of money is an indicator of success, surely it is because this accomplishment implies desirable personal qualities such as autonomy and independence. We admire people who have a lot because it looks like they deserved it, having struggled nobly for it.

However, if constant striving for yet more stuff is at the expense of others, this behavior now starts to look greedy.


tiffanym <![CDATA[Setting Your Private Practice Up For Success: Time]]> http://8.122 2016-09-29T22:09:04Z 2016-09-29T22:09:04Z In  last week’s article, “The #1 Factor in Private Practice Success,” we got down and dirty about what it takes to truly excel in private practice. What is the difference between those who succeed in building thriving practices and those who sputter along, eventually settling for much less? Perseverance.

“Perseverance, schmerseverance!” You declare, curling your lip, a little spittle making its way down your chin.

I know, I know. I get it. I, too, used to be incredibly frustrated with the vague language around success.

Just “stick to it!”

“Don’t give up!”


private practice success strategiesThere was a time when I experienced anxiety, frustration and envy when I imagined building my practice. I’d see other people’s success and be worried that they had access to something that I didn’t have. They were just naturally charming, or smart, or business-savvy. They had been blessed throughout their lives with more resources, social capital, education, those whacky black and white baby toys that spewed Mozart and made them mini-geniuses!

Then, slowly, I began to understand that business skills can be learned. There was no mystery. There was no magic bullet. Everyone struggles. Some more, some less. Some with this thing, some with that. But, at the end of the day – me, you – we have the capacity to succeed in private practice if we set ourselves up to flourish.

It is my goal to make the process of prospering in private practice as clear, transparent and accessible as possible for clinicians who come from all walks of life. Yes – that includes you. 

As I noted last week, being able to persevere, come what may, is the primary factor in private practice success. And, from whence does that perseverance stem?

The answer: Knowing your why. Your raisons d’être. Your bliss.

To that aim, in these next three weeks, I will help you break down the broad idea of “knowing your why” into specific, actionable steps.

This week’s step…

Setting Your Private Practice Up for Success: Time

Like many therapists, you likely went into private practice knowing you wanted 1) clients and 2) the ability to pay your bills. Achieving these two goals was your hallmark of success.

This is a problem. When setting up your practice, if you’re not clear about your why beyond 1) more clients and 2) paying bills, you will likely find yourself overwhelmed, stressed out and – yes – paying only your bills, but that’s about it.

Why? Because you set your north star to seeing clients and paying bills.

When you set an intention, that is often what you get. Be vague about your intention and your outcome will likely be equally vague. So, today, I’m going to help you craft a clear and specific intention.

The first intention we will focus on is time.

Your time is valuable, even more valuable than money. Money is, in essence, simply a form of exchange that can buy you more time – time to spend on the floor with your growing toddler, time to fly out to see your aging parents, time to cook a romantic dinner for your Love. It is essential that you’re spending your time in ways that bring you joy.

To that end, when thinking about building a private practice, the first consideration must be around how you want to spend your time. Then set up your entire practice around this aim. The way you envision spending the precious days of your existence here on earth will determine how many clients you see, what kind of therapy you practice, how many weeks out of the year you work, your practice policies and so on.

Putting it Into Practice: Grab a pen. Grab a journal. And take 10 minutes to answer these questions that will help you understand how thetherapist, counseling, marketing value of your time will shape your practice.

  1. Think about the most fulfilling moments you’ve had over the past 15 years. What were you doing? Who were you with?
  2. What does your perfect morning look like? What do you feel like after a morning like this?
  3. Even if you love your clients and love your work, we all have a max capacity. What is the total number of clients you can see in a day, before you start fantasizing about getting home to that glass of wine and tub of ice cream?
  4. How many days of rest does it take to truly recharge and look forward to seeing your clients again? Two? Three? Four?!
  5. How many weeks can you go before you start dreaming of a spa day? A weekend away? A trip to Italy?
  6. Zoom yourself into the future. You are now 72. What do you regret the most about missing out on over the past 32 years?

And done! If you’re very bold, email this article to a trusted friend and commit to sharing your answers with each other.

You simply cannot create a sustainable private practice, without considering how you want to spend the days of your life. In order to provide the best service to your clients, you must make sure your cup of joy is filled to the brim. The first order of business in filling said cup is to be aware of, acknowledge and work within the boundaries of time. Gaining a firm understanding of how you want to fill these limited days is essential to building a thriving practice.

So, what do you do with these answers? Hold them close. Next week, we  dive in to the second factor: Money!At the end of this series, we’ll pull it all together and use it to create the foundation to your thriving practice. If you haven’t read the original article, I suggest you go back and check it out first.


photo credits: Rafael Ben-AriSuphakaln WongcompuneGraham Oliver

The Carlat Psychiatry Report <![CDATA[Placebo: The Most Studied Psychiatric Medication for Children]]> 2016-09-28T18:48:36Z 2016-09-29T10:48:03Z PlaceboThe most studied psychiatric medication for children, and arguably the most broad-spectrum medication available, is placebo. It has proven itself repeatedly to be as good or better than a number of FDA-approved medications that are effective in adults. It has been found to be effective in up to half of pediatric patients for conditions as different as seizures and ADHD, and is well known to treat dozens of conditions. Yet, we rarely review its risks and benefits, or the unique role it plays in the treatment of children.

We know a lot about placebo effects in adults, so is it really necessary to specifically study it in children? Several meta-analyses suggest that the answer is yes. Children with epilepsy, migraines, IBS, ADHD, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety disorders, and major depressive disorder (MDD) all have a greater response to placebos than adults with these conditions (Rheims S et al, PLoS Med 2008;5(8):e166).

This has particular significance in MDD where arguments regarding clinical effectiveness of antidepressants rage due to the ambiguity of short clinical trials that do not show conclusive benefit of drug versus placebo. Does that mean the drug doesn’t work? Or does it mean placebo works too well?

How Well Do Children Respond to Placebo?

Children with MDD have a placebo response rate greater than that in adults and in other pediatric conditions. One pediatric MDD study estimated the average placebo response rate to be 48% (Rutherford BR et al, Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2011;50(8):782-795). Another calculated that it was 54.3% in children under 12 and 44.9% in those age 12 to 18 (Enuck Pl et al, Pediatric Research 2013;74:1). Compare that to adults: rates of placebo response are 29.7% to 38% (Brunoni AR et al, PLoS ONE 2009;4(3): e4824; Enuck Pl et al, Pediatric Research 2013;74:1).

Placebo effects might also play a bigger role in MDD than other psychiatric conditions. The author of a review that found placebo response rates around 50% in MDD suggested that one reason for the high rate could be that interaction with the clinician unintentionally provides support and helps to increase self-esteem, which are key factors in treating depression (Cohen D et al, PLoS ONE 2008;3(7):e2632).

Interestingly, one meta-analysis (Whiteford HA, Psychological Medicine 2013;43:1569-1585) looking at waitlist trials estimated the spontaneous remission rate to be between 19% and 44% (excluding trials less than six weeks long), suggesting that the placebo response represents an actual improvement in symptoms rather than the mere passage of time.

Why Are Children More Responsive to Placebo?

Expectancy plays a large role in the placebo effect in adults, but the same might not be true for children. Studies show that the placebo effect doesn’t necessarily increase when there is a high probability of receiving an active drug (Rutherford BR et al, Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2011;50(8):782-795). However, one study that involved exposure to pain stimulus suggested that conditioning and learning by social observation contribute significantly to placebo responses in children. In other words, seeing other children respond a certain way may make kids more likely to respond themselves (Bendetti F and Collaca L, Pain 2009;l44(1-2):28-44).

Another possibility is that interactions with healthcare workers contribute to the placebo effect. One study showed that with older youths there was a correlation between the amount of time spent with clinicians and the response rate to placebo (Rutherford BR op.cit). There may be an effect due to the therapeutic alliance which is unintentionally created during a trial.

How Can Placebos Benefit Patients?

Placebos can be used to benefit patients in clinical practice. A study of children with ADHD suggests that we can “harvest” the placebo benefits without deception. Some children on the optimum dose of a stimulant had no change in symptoms when their doses were reduced by way of an active pill that was half their previous dose, plus a pill they knew was a placebo (Bodfish JW et al, J Dev Behav Pediatr 2010;31(5):369-375).

And there’s another form of placebo that physicians should be aware of. When a patient begins a treatment, it affects the thoughts, emotions and responses of doctors, family members, and friends through a process called “placebo by proxy” (Grelotti D et al, BMJ 2011;343:d4345). Parents get relief from worry, even if the drugs are nothing more than “impure placebos.” Through understanding the grip that “placebo by proxy” has on us, we can avoid it pushing us away from evidence-based medicine.

CCPR’s VERDICT: Placebo can be a safe and surprisingly effective treatment. We should take time to make use of the placebo effect without deception in our own practices.

Christine Hammond, MS, LMHC <![CDATA[‘Image’ is Everything’ or Is It?]]> http://5.938 2016-09-28T23:24:19Z 2016-09-28T23:24:19Z imageiseverythingBack in the 1990’s, tennis pro Andre Agassi said “Image is everything,” for a TV camera commercial. While Agassi was merely reciting a line, the phrase stuck a cord with audiences and soon it was integrated into American culture. Coaches, marketing experts, media relations, and politicians all adhere religiously to this standard. And there is no clearer demonstration of this impact then the proliferation of social media.

The Problem. But just because something is accepted in a culture, does not mean it is right or even useful. The problem is that a projected image allows a person to disassociate their true self from the exterior. The result is a generation who hides their inner thoughts and feelings from others, subsequently concealing their true being. This eventually becomes habitual as a person assumes new roles in society further alienating their true identity even from themselves.

Think of the image that most people project on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, Pinterest, Twitter, or any one of the dating sites. This false self is frequently a projection of how a person wishes to appear to the outside world. It embodies the “Image is everything,” attitude while the true self remains hidden. When a person hides something away long enough, they tend to forget it until one day it implodes.

The Current Result. Eventually the house of card’s image falls apart because it lacked the substance of a true self. There are several other names used for a true self: ego, soul, inner child, identity, true being, psyche, or real self. Whatever the name utilized, it can be defined as who a person is. This includes their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, fears, insecurities, personality, and values which when combined define a unique being. When these things are separated from the true image, the false image becomes a façade.

Sometimes this implosion results in a mid-life crisis in middle age or it can manifest in immobility in younger years. After all, what is the point in getting a job and living up to indifferent and unrealistic standards just to be able to post about it on social media? This is especially true when a person can post and present an image without the effort of any real work.

The Ideal Outcome. Ideally, the goal is for a person is for their true self to be the same persona as their public image. When the two are consistent, there is harmony within a person. There is no need for pretending, hiding, or falsifying an image because it is the same. The synchronized self or rather a transparent self can reduce anxiety, apprehension, depression, frustration, feelings of guilt, exhaustion, and even confusion.

So in actuality, ‘image’ is not everything. Rather, ‘image’ is an illusion. It is a mask of what a person wants to be which may or may not have anything to do with who a person really is. Masks are disposable, removable, and able to be discarded. A person cannot do this with their true self no matter how hard they try. Instead, cohesion is everything. It is only through a untied self that a person can be honest with themselves which translates into sincere relationships at home and work.


Christine Hammond is a Licensed Mental Health counselor who lives in Orlando and is the award-winning author of The Exhausted Woman’s Handbook.

Kelly Higdon, LMFT <![CDATA[Crisis in Private Practice – Are you prepared?]]> http://4.869 2016-09-28T17:26:15Z 2016-09-28T17:26:15Z CRISIS PROOFYOURPRIVATE PRACTICERecently I wrote about my experience of having a miscarriage and it’s impact on my private practice (You can read about it here). I bring up this topic because I think often times our practices are ill prepared for when life happens to us.

As business owners, and often many of us are solo in our practices, we are the main instrument of service. When something stressful happens to us, it can impact our services. We are taught to get insurance in case of an accident. We are encouraged to have our wills in place. All fun stuff, right? But how do you get prepared when you are in private practice?

  1. Have a professional will. This document will cover what will happen to your files, your clients and your business if you were to become unable to handle our business at some point.
  2. Have an emergency plan. Aside from when major tragedy strikes, you need at least two therapists who can help your clients until you are back in the game. Let your partner know who these contacts are as well, so someone can reach them if you are unable. Talk to you clients about your emergency plan and include it as part of your informed consent.
  3. Consider disability insurance. Being self-employed you may want to evaluate if a short term disability policy is a good idea for you. Talk to your financial advisor or accountant and they can help you run the numbers.
  4. Look at your business plan. This means you want to look at the finances – do you have savings to cover expenses should you need to be out for some time. You don’t want to see clients because you have to when you maybe shouldn’t be. Having a cushion will help you make the best clinical decisions because the financial stress will be more managed.
  5. Find clinical consultation or therapy for yourself. Depending on what is happening with your life, you may need additional support as you continue to see clients in your practice. Clinical consults are perfect to help manage your own counter -transference and to help you with boundaries when your own stress could bleed into your clinical work. Therapy is great for you to cope personally with what has happened in your life or is happening.
  6. Get honest. If you do find yourself in crisis or tragedy, knowing yourself is key to navigating running your business and life. This is when you have to navigate not push or force your process.

Is your private practice crisis proof?


Rev Sheri Heller, LCSW <![CDATA[Identifying Ambient Abuse]]> 2016-09-26T12:46:34Z 2016-09-28T12:46:17Z identifying ambient abuse

The scars you can’t see are the hardest to heal. ~ Astrid Alauda

Niccolò Machiavelli wrote in his classic political treatise The Prince, “It is much safer to be feared than loved.”

This Machiavellian ethos is a tactical blueprint for those motivated to strategically exploit and utilize love and compassion to ensure dominance and control.

This insidious form of stealth psychological abuse is known as ambient/covert abuse and gaslighting. Ambient abuse is mystifying and amorphous and hence difficult to identify and diagnose, which makes it all the more perfidious and damaging.

By fostering a dependency that creates a power differential, the ambient abuser implies s/he possesses great insight, which will assist the targeted victim in her growth and well-being.

The ambient abuser ostensibly only wants the best for the target. The ambient abuser behaves altruistically, concealing the underlying motive to get the upper hand.

The ambient abusers’ appearance of benevolence, honesty and generosity is seductive and disorients the target and assists in ensuring the necessary leverage needed to ‘manage’ the target and diminish her self worth.

When conflict emerges, it’s an opportunity for the ambient abuser to deny wrongdoing and assign responsibility for the alleged infraction to the target. The seemingly well-intentioned ambient abuser may ‘selflessly’ point out how the flaws and shortcomings in the target are responsible for instigating the dispute.

George K. Simon Jr., wrote “In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People:”

Playing the victim role: Manipulator portrays him – or herself as a “of circumstance or of someone else’s behavior in order to gain pity, sympathy or evoke compassion and thereby get something from another. Caring and conscientious people cannot stand to see anyone suffering and the manipulator often finds it easy to play on sympathy to get cooperation.

The target, naturally inclined to believe that the ambient abuser is fundamentally ethical and that cooperation and compassion are collective moral imperatives, yields to what s/he assumes will be a collaborative effort to work through difficulties.

The ambient abuser capitalizes on this pre-disposition.

Should the target dare to question the stealth abuser’s intermittent barbs and disparagement, further distortion ensues. A disorienting narrative unfolds in which the target is held liable for questioning motives and doubting the sincerity of the abuser. This scenario involves the target being convinced that in fact it is s/he who is abusive and irrational.

Alternatively the ambient abuser may initially pretend to concede and acknowledge ‘their part’ so as to strategically reassure the target. In due time the ambient abuser will reaffirm the target’s unreasonable ‘misconduct’ denying he ever conceded responsibility at all.


These myriad tactics deployed by the ambient abuser are known as gaslighting. False information is manufactured and deliberately presented to the victim, so as to make her doubt her memory and/or perceptions.

As this recurrent circuitous dynamic persists greater frequency and intensity of gaslighting occurs. Inevitably, the target is pummeled into silence and cognitive dissonance. She succumbs to the coercion, believing it is her paranoia and/or unhealed afflictions and flaws, which cause her to behave so egregiously and are responsible for igniting relational difficulties. She begins to doubt her sanity.

Ultimately the corrosive impact of ambient abuse results in the target losing sight of who she is. She is bewildered as to what defines her reality, and comes to view herself as inherently defective.

Her sense of personal agency has vanished. Bouts of emotional flooding vacillate with episodic dissociation. She is fearful, paranoid, and marginalized. At this point, the bond between abuser and victim is characterized by Stockholm Syndrome; a pathological infantile attachment in which one’s tormentor is perceived as one’s redeemer.

While anyone can fall prey to ambient abuse there are certain traits that can make one more susceptible to being targeted and victimized.

  • Those who are overly responsible and conciliatory and who tend to confuse compassion with guilt are ripe for manipulation as they are conditioned to defer their authority.
  • Those with poor interpersonal standards and low self-esteem have a high threshold for abuse and a willingness to ignore mistreatment.
  • Those who are exceedingly lonely may act out of desperation, not discernment.
  • Those who are controlled by their emotions throw caution to the wind.
  • Those who seek approval seek redemption through others.
  • Those with poor boundaries let others in intensely and prematurely.
  • Those who abide by naïve notions of Universal goodness in all people.

Untreated Victims

Unhealed adult victims of child abuse are particularly at risk, as their instincts are impaired, self-esteem is damaged and they are habituated to surviving through subjugation.

Locked in survival fears, the untreated victim of early abuse has a tenuous self-identity and she is a malleable narcissistic extension. Subconsciously, the unhealed survivor of early abuse may be seeking the mythologized deified parent, setting her up to be swept up by whomever presents himself as the embodiment of the wished for caregiver.

Learning how to protect one self by seeing through the smoke and mirrors of seductive charm is key to thwarting the stealth advances of an abuser.

In a world rife with plastic shamans, dangerous ‘healers’, corrupt corporations and politicians, predatory clergy and toxic families, it is imperative to be intelligently guarded.

This term means healing from relational traumas and cultivating a strong enough ego and sense of self to not be swayed by deceptive platitudes and accolades. It means formulating a balanced and realistic understanding of human nature inclusive of the potential for evil.

A biblical proverb states, “Above all else guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Protecting one’s heart is an act of self love, and  it is only through formidable self love can one paradoxically discern and defend against the nefarious forces, which threaten to eradicate one’s truest Self.


Susan Gonsalves <![CDATA[The Psychology of Presidential TV Debates]]> 2016-09-27T21:09:05Z 2016-09-27T21:09:05Z the psychology of presidential debatesDepending on the performance of the candidates, the televised debate between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton might determine the next President of the United States.

Psychology dramatically influences the way such debates are perceived by the public and their impact, so both candidates most probably consider deploying psychology in their planning for the encounter.

A new study published in the academic journal, Electoral Studies, points out the popular view is that certain dramatic moments on TV supposedly shaped the outcome of past US Presidential elections, transforming particular debates into milestones in American political history: Richard Nixon’s make-up problems in 1960; Gerald Ford’s howler about Soviet domination of Eastern Europe in 1976; Ronald Reagan’s grandfatherly dismissal of Jimmy Carter’s verbal attacks (“There you go again.”) in 1980; Michael Dukakis’ strangely robotic response in 1988 to a question about the death penalty that invoked the hypothetical rape and murder of his wife; Al Gore’s trivializing sighs in 2000; and, more recently, Barack Obama’s unflustered self-confidence vs. John McCain’s edgy intensity.

Debate Performance

In this new study, two university academics, Peter Schrott and David Lanoue analyzed 26 televised presidential candidate debates, as well as the polling before and after, dating from the famous encounter between Nixon and Kennedy in 1960, to Barack Obama’s three debates with John McCain in 2008.

Their study, entitled  “The power and limitations of televised presidential debates: Assessing the real impact of candidate performance on public opinion and vote choice,” found the majority evaluations by the public over who ‘won’ or ‘lost’ simply represent prior personal preferences and biases towards or against a candidate, as well as attitudes toward the incumbent administration. The debate itself has relatively little impact. So in a substantial proportion of the time it simply confirms prior biases.

The academics, based at Heilbronn University, Germany and Columbus State University, USA, argue that the strong psychological filters through which supporters and enemies of the candidates view a debate performance, mean that it would seemingly take a “near total meltdown” during the televised event itself for candidates we didn’t support at the beginning of the debate, ever to be declared the loser.

Televised debates change public opinion only if one candidate’s performance is so obviously superior to their rival, that even opposed supporters must concede the reality of their victory.

Schrott and Lanoue point to the importance of the psychology of ‘cognitive consistency’ which influences us, being the drive to interpret new information in a way that conforms to our pre-existing partialities. Thus, there is a very strong tendency for people to think that their preferred candidate from before the debate, won the debate afterwards.

So, in the first Kennedy–Nixon debate in 1960, the finding from polling was that pre-debate Kennedy supporters were far more likely to name the Democratic nominee as the winner when compared to pre-debate Nixon supporters.

But some debate performances are so effective or deficient that they can overcome even the most powerful cognitive biases. For example, a substantial number of pre-debate Nixon backers were either able to acknowledge Kennedy’s superior performance or at least to declare the result to be a tie.

A baseline expectation can be developed by looking at each candidate’s pre-debate standing in the polls and “over-performance” or “under-performance” in a televised debate can then be calculated based on whether the percentage of respondents naming a candidate as the debate winner exceeds or falls short of the percentage naming that candidate as their preference in “horse race” surveys.

Under Performance vs. Over Performance

This kind of analysis finds that under-performance is far more common than over-performance which means that significant debates are typically lost, rather than won.

This finding might suggest that psychological strategists on either side might be pressing for ‘meltdown’ tactics, which means trying to goad or provoke the rival candidate into a gaffe or a seriously untoward reaction.

Another key psychological strategy might be to do the unexpected – to behave in ways that are opposite to what your rival’s supporters are expecting in an attempt to get them to change their mind about you, based on the assumption that your own core support is not going to desert you should you be a bit different to what they are expecting.

It might also unnerve your opponent.

But another fundamental psychological aspect of this debate is going to be how the fact of a first female Presidential candidate gets handled.

In a recent study entitled, “Winning words: Individual differences in linguistic style among U.S. presidential and vice presidential candidates,” Richard Slatcher, Cindy Chung, James Pennebaker and Lori Stone point out that in a previous investigation, when asked to describe ‘‘a good president’’ 61% of participants characterized the role as masculine, 0% as feminine, and the remaining percent as undifferentiated or androgynous.

Slatcher, Chung, Pennebaker and Stone found in their study, published in the “Journal of Research in Personality,” that from analyzing the transcripts of 271 televised interviews, press conferences and campaign debates of presidential candidates John Kerry, John Edwards, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, that of the four candidates, Edwards’ language use was the most feminine.

The authors of this study, based at The University of Texas at Austin, point out that in general, women tend to use greater numbers of references to others, fewer references to money, fewer swear words, fewer negations and more words that express positive feelings.

In short, their language is often more warm and personal compared to that of men.

It may not be particularly surprising that Edwards had the most feminine and Cheney the least feminine speaking style of the four candidates. But Cheney’s more masculine speaking style may actually have benefited his party’s presidential image, the authors of this study argue, given the voter preference for the role of President as being more ‘masculine’.

Such impressions of candidates’ personalities have been shown to be robust and powerful predictors of vote choice.

Linguistic markers of depression, were derived by analyzing and comparing the language of the depressed compared with the never-depressed as well as examining the poems of nine poets who committed suicide and nine matched poets who did not commit suicide, uncovers linguistic indicators of suicidality.

Depressive Language

Depressive language is marked by high levels of 1st-person singular words (e.g., ‘‘I,’’ ‘‘me,’’ ‘‘my’’), physical words (e.g., ‘‘ache,’’ ‘‘sleep’’), negative emotion words (e.g., ‘‘hate,’’ ‘‘worthless’’), and low levels of positive emotion words.

One of the more intriguing findings of this study was that compared to the two Republicans, the two Democrats—Kerry in particular—used language most similar to that of a depressed person.

Previous research indicates politicians’ displays of emotion can have a powerful effect on vote choice.

Voters are most favorable toward those candidates who are the most optimistic and highest in positive emotion, and this psychological finding is particularly interesting in the light of the upcoming presidential debate, as the latest research suggests it’s in the arena of emotional tone that the greatest divergence is now occurring between the two candidates.

Kayla N. Jordan and James W. Pennebaker from the University of Texas at Austin have recently published a psychological comparison of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton using their acceptance speeches at their respective party conventions.

They calculated the percentage of emotionally-tinged words within the two acceptance speeches and their findings are published on the site; The authors conclude from their psychological analysis that the most obvious difference between the two speeches was in their emotional tones.

During the primary debates, Trump tended to be relatively positive and upbeat, but during his acceptance speech, Trump was uncharacteristically negative and pessimistic, this analysis of his words revealed.

Trump painted a dark portrait of the world, according to Jordan and Pennebaker.  To him, the current outlook is bleak, and we have to “make America great again.”

Clinton, on the other hand, Jordan and Pennebake report, gave a more upbeat, optimistic speech.  Their analysis suggests that she is claiming that for all the problems left to be solved, the nation is in a fundamentally good place.

Perhaps election success will be delivered to which candidate is best at the psychological task of correctly matching, or reflecting, the mood of the nation.


Marie Hartwell-Walker, EdD <![CDATA[Retirement Planning: Pay Yourself First]]> 2016-09-26T18:57:38Z 2016-09-26T18:57:38Z retirement planning: pay yourself firstI wish I had listened. I started my private practice when I was 30. I was young. I was idealistic. I was healthy. I was optimistic that my practice would be financially successful. And I was very, very busy with a new baby and a new practice.

When someone suggested I start thinking about setting up an account for my retirement, I put it on my list for “later.” Later didn’t come until much, much later when I finally woke up to the fact that unless I prepared for a retirement someday, I’d be working until the day I died.

Actually, even that didn’t scare me much. Several of my role models were women in their 70s and 80s who were sharp as ever and maintaining private practices. It didn’t occur to me at the time that doing so should be a choice, not a necessity.

Eventually, I got it. Eventually I realized that social security income wouldn’t be enough and that just maybe I wouldn’t want to be seeing 30 or more clients a week when I’m 85. But having put it off until “later” meant that contributions had to be bigger if they were going to add up to anything useful. With several kids about to go to college, that was a strain.

If you have already started a retirement program for yourself, you can skip the rest of this article. You obviously are smarter than I was and listened to some good advice. I pass this story on to my younger colleagues who haven’t done so in the hope that it will encourage you to take care of yourself.

Retirement may seem like a long, long way off. But time goes faster than we would like to think. The things you push to the bottom of your to-do list because they can happen “later” are vulnerable to being the things that are too late to do.

Retirement Planning Basics: embrace the fact that you are an employer:  A big plus of working for someone else is that that they offer such things as health insurance, paid vacation time, and a retirement account for you. Being in private practice means that you are your own HR department. There is no one but you to make sure you have the “benefits” you need to thrive. Be the enlightened employer that you always wished you had. Create a dream benefit package for your most valued employee – you.

Calculate your retirement needs: Think about when you will want to retire or at least cut back on your work hours. Think about what you hope to do in your senior years. What’s it likely to cost? The website for the American Association of Retired Persons, or AARP has a retirement calculator that will help you determine what you need to save for retirement. Click on “Retirement Planning” in the “Work & Retirement” section.

In addition, calculate what you are likely to receive as social security income. (There’s a calculator on this link).  It probably won’t be enough to maintain the style of living you enjoy. If so, figure out what you will need to add in a retirement account to make up the difference.

Take inflation into account. One website that offers an inflation calculator is here

Educate yourself: Local community colleges and adult education programs often offer classes in financial planning. Take advantage of them. You want to be an educated consumer if you decide to work with a financial advisor. If finances excite you, you may decide that an investment project is something you can do yourself.

Consider hiring a Financial Advisor: Financial advisors help people figure out their financial needs and then recommend investments (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, precious metals, etc.) that will help them meet both short term goals (like vacations or a large purchase) and long term goals (like your kids’ educations or your retirement). Some advisors focus on managing investments you make. Some sell specific investment products. Some do both. Find a professional who is more interested in helping you create a diversified portfolio than in selling you certain stocks.

Pay yourself first: When starting out, your cash flow may be limited. Fixed expenses like rent, utilities and insurance eat up a fair share of what you bring in. What’s left for a salary for you may be quite a bit less than you would like or even what you need. None the less, consider what is available for a paycheck after you have paid your bills, including your personal retirement “bill.” Your retirement contribution is one of those fixed expenses.

Even if all you can afford is $10 a week for now, you will be building a savings habit. As your practice becomes more financially stable, increase that contribution to an amount that will compensate for a slow start.

Periodically review: Don’t let your retirement account go on auto-pilot. If you decide to continue to work with a financial advisor, take advantage of those services. If you decide to go it alone and manage your own portfolio, discipline yourself to regular reviews. Your retirement goals may change. The economy will definitely change. You may need to distribute your money differently because of changes in your family’s needs.

You are getting older and closer to retirement every day, whether you want to think about it or not. Start small but keep adding to it on a regular schedule. If you do, your retirement account will be ready when AARP brochures start to appear in your mailbox and the face in the mirror reminds you that maybe it’s time to think about retiring.


Dorlee Michaeli, MBA, LMSW <![CDATA[Seeds for a Successful Private Practice: 7 Tips for New Grads]]> 2016-09-27T21:11:10Z 2016-09-24T10:48:33Z Are you a recent social work or mental health graduate? Are you wondering what actions you can take now to prepare for private practice, while working towards your licensure?

The following 9 professionals have kindly agreed to provide you with their best advice: Allison Puryear, Camille McDaniel, Cathy Hanville, Joe Sanok, Maelisa Hall, Melvin Varghese, Roy Huggins, Samara Stone and Tamara Suttle!

Seven out of the nine experts specifically have a private practice and/or a podcast that focuses on providing private practice consulting. The remaining two contributors bring to you some specialized knowledge in the areas of clinical note-taking and technology.

Based upon what our private practice mavens recommend, it is evident that building a network of therapists and establishing a routine of self-care early on are key to your success!

Make sure to read through all of their tips (they each give 3). While there is some overlap, each practitioner presents valuable information with different nuances that you won’t want to miss.

Lastly, after reading through the private practice experts’ recommendations, check out the graphic below for a summary of their key take-aways!

Samara Stone, LCSW-C, Perfected Practice says:

What could be more exciting than the beginning of a career in social work?  You’ve attended the classes, finished the internship and maybe even passed your first licensure test. Most of us come to this field full of passion and enthusiasm for making a difference in the world around us.

But there are a few things to consider right at the beginning of your journey if you are going to make the most of your career in social work.

1.Social work is challenging and can be emotionally heavy work.  If you are going to avoid burn out, you have to commit to making self-care a priority.   Your clients and the field need you to be your best, so learn how to take good care of yourself.

2. Begin to develop an expertise or niche. What brought you to this field and what do you eventually want to be known for? Be intentional about choosing supervisors and employment opportunities that will help shape your skills and your values so you can grow personally and professionally.

3.Never stop learning.  You will need CEUs to keep your license… recommend going beyond requirements and choosing CEUs that keep you fresh in your developing expertise.  If you know private practice is a long-range goal, start now educating yourself on how to become business savvy.

Cathy Hanville, LCSW, Get Down to Business Consulting says:

1.Start a blog.  If you get a self hosted WordPress site, then you can start a blog and register your domain and have the building block for your website. A blog will help build your reputation and starting the website will help you with your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) down the road.

2. Take business and marketing classes. Private practices fail because therapists are not always good at business and marketing their practices. Learn what you can before you start your business so you will be ahead of the curve.

3. Build a network of other therapists. Join local groups of therapists and attend their events. Private practice can be very isolating and you want to have a network both for support and to utilize for marketing as you start your practice.

Start thinking about defining your niche. You want another therapist that has to make a referral to think “oh, Jane specializes in anxiety so this referral is great for her.”

Other therapists will be your greatest referral source. We all have to refer some clients out. Connect authentically and tell them your niche and ask about their niche. Most of us prefer to refer to people with whom we’ve connected with and with whom we feel comfortable.

Tamara Suttle, M.Ed., LPC,  Private Practice From the Inside Out:

1.Start with a niche or special focus.  Having a niche is not about who you work with or the issues with which you like to work. It is about marketing yourself/your practice.  A niche gives referral sources a unique way to remember you and gives others an easy way to talk about you.  Most therapists stay identified as a generalist (and then struggle to get noticed) far too long.  Your niche makes you memorable.

2. Make a plan and follow through with it.  Identify who your ideal client is, where s/he hangs out (both online and off), and how you are going to get known (in your niche) for being the go-to therapist in your town and where are you going to spend your time online and off.  Put it on the calendar and do it.  If you fail to follow through, use an accountability partner.

3. Invest in yourself.  Most therapists find it easy to invest our time and energy in our clients, but far fewer therapists invest in themselves. Identify what it is that you struggle with the most.  Is it clinical skills or is it the business skills?  Whichever it is, commit to spending the time, energy and money to learn what it is you don’t know.  Investing more in your clients than you do in yourself will cost you in private practice.

Maelisa Hall, PsyD, QA Prep says:

1.Stay caught up on notes. Few things are more stressful for counselors than spiraling into the cycle of falling behind and catching up again. Creating good habits in the beginning will help you when you are more independent later on.

2. Create a schedule. To achieve my first tip you need to find a schedule for writing notes that works for you, whether that’s writing notes at the end of the day, the following morning, in between sessions or actually writing notes in session with your clients. Experiment to see what strategy suits you best and once you find it, stick with it.

3.Use this time to get feedback. Once you move into private practice you gain freedom but lose constructive feedback from supervisors and colleagues. While it’s exciting at first, you quickly learn that ongoing feedback and consultation is necessary for maintaining quality work with clients. So take advantage while you can.

Allison Puryear, Abundance Practice Building says:

1.Find Community. Whether it’s other private practitioners-to-be, folks in private practice, or entrepreneurial friends, it’s incredibly helpful to have the support of others as you plan. There’s so much information out there and not enough time to absorb it. Create a private practice study group and share what you’re learning. Join a practice-building group. Cheer each other on and provide the encouragement each of you needs when it gets hard.

2. Think Abundantly and Trust. Wait, aren’t these people my competition? I assure you, there are plenty of clients to go around. If you embrace this as fact, you will be exceedingly less stressed, more collaborative, and more successful. You will be scared sometimes in the early days. Know that that’s part of the process and that we’ve all been through it. That’s not to say that you can just hang your shingle and fill your practice. Nope, you also need to…

3.Learn About Marketing. Did you just cringe? I know, it sounds so anti-counseling. Here’s a reframe: marketing is just letting folks know what you provide. That’s all. No sliminess required; no “selling yourself.” It’s just unashamedly getting on the radar of the clients who would benefit from you most (AKA those in your niche). Learning ethical, effective ways to do that is a game-changer.

Roy Huggins, LPC NCC, Person-Centered Tech says:

1.Think about what you need your tech to do. Supervised work contexts often aren’t the same as the future practice you want to build. Maybe you’ve gotten accustomed to paper records and your new practice will do better with electronic or vice versa. Or perhaps you’ll need tech to help you manage client messages by yourself. Logistics will change and it’ll help to be ready for that!

2. Set your fees so you have time to evaluate your tech. The best tools for your practice change over time. Even if it’s every couple years, you’ll be stunned by how often you need to re-evaluate your tech. If you’re scrambling just to pay the bills, you’ll never get the time to evaluate how your old tools are failing and what new tools are available. Remember: you can’t help clients when you can’t help yourself!

3. Choose tech holistically — not in pieces. Colleagues tend to be the most panicked when they realize the mountain of tech they’ve accumulated is full of security and compliance holes. Or worse: when a security breach results from it! Taking the time to step back and choose tools as a system — instead of a bunch of individual pieces — will bring both peace of mind and efficiency to your practice.

Joe R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC, Practice of the Practice says:

1.Start a website and blog about what you’re learning in graduate school. This will help you build SEO (search engine optimization), the habit of creating content, and rank higher in Google. Later you can rename the website to your counseling practice.

2. Network like crazy and meet as many people as you can. When you’re in grad school, most people want to help you learn. So you can get access to more people.

3. Start listening to podcasts about business and counseling so that you are well prepared when you graduate. Podcasts that have been formative in my business are: Smart Passive Income Podcast by Pat Flynn, Youpreneur by Chris Ducker and This is Your Life by Michael Hyatt.

Melvin Varghese PhD, Selling the Couch says:

1.Connect and grab coffee or a meal with 2 to 3 private practitioners in the geographic area you’d like to start a private practice in.  Ask them how you can support them.  This will help you start to establish a relationship so that you can support one another when you start your private practice.

2.Consider starting in a group private practice before going solo. This will help you learn the day to day running of a practice, narrow down your ideal clients and become versed in other practical aspects (e.g., asking clients for their co-pay, handling no show’s, etc.).

3. Be a part of community.  Being a business owner is often isolating. Fortunately, there are some amazing online communities for aspiring and current private practitioners where we can support one another.  I’m a big believer that we go further together.

Camille McDaniel, LPC, The Counselor Entrepreneur says:

There is so much to consider when deciding to run a business.  I hope these assist you in pursuing your dreams.  Your road will not always be easy but nothing ever is that is infinitely valuable to the world.

1.Develop a vision and goals for your practice:  Do you want to start off solo or with others?  Which types of challenges with you treat initially? (Remember for everything you treat, you may need to have different marketing strategies). Will you cater to diverse economic needs and if so, how?

2.Be realistic:  A solid and thriving private practice isn’t built in 4-6 months. Slow and steady wins. The Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy says, “Bureau of Labor Statistics data on establishment age show that 49 percent of establishments survive 5 years or more; 34 percent survive 10 years or more; and 26 percent survive 15 years or more.”

3. Keep your eyes on your own lane:  Comparison is the thief of joy.  You will cloud your vision and goals if you are looking at other practices and how they appear to be growing faster, doing better, building bigger, etc.  Invest in proper business consultation. It’s similar to the way you expect people to get proper professional help for their mental and emotional health challenges.

What tips would you add you to the above list?

Margaret Altman, LCSW, MSW <![CDATA[A Powerful Motivating Force That Every Clinician and Consumer Needs]]> 2016-09-22T21:35:50Z 2016-09-23T10:35:26Z a powerful force every clinician needs

Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away.

You may be so caught up in the chaotic reality that many of us face today–a climate of transformational, unpredictable happenings that you’ve neglected to think about your internal state

If we are to succeed in this tumultuous world, there’s one vital element we must retain. We must have hope.

And, most importantly, we must have authentic hope in order to convey hope to our children, patients, friends and family who are struggling.

Hope is a complex and dynamic force that locates itself in the space where we are motivated to move forward and yet we don’t know what will happen. In that spaciousness of uncertainty, there  is room to act.

When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable. It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter and who and what it may impact are not things we know with certainty or can predict.

Some psychologists describe hope as a soft “non cognitive” skill. Others say it is a feeling or belief. It could be all of these things and it’s a vital component for resilience and action in the face of the unpredictable nature of our world and society.

 Do You Have Authentic Hope?

When an individual, clinician or consumer-parent/teacher has  authentic feelings of hopefulness, it enables them to communicate this hope to their patients, youngsters and students, all who trust in their authenticity.

Hope and trust have a bond between them. Hope depends to a large extent upon trust in relationships that are authentic and helpful. Hope is also built upon trust in our social institutions, our systems of care and education.

Clinicians and consumers know that in a trusting relationship, being hopeful is more of a possibility than within a relationship that is controlling or abusive.

Trust is built slowly upon the authentic selves of individuals who show what their authentic values are through their behavior.

As a clinician being able to communicate your authentic self and feelings builds the bond of trust.

It is time for clinicians to honestly probe their own minds and reveal what lies beneath the surface.

Ask yourself the question: “Am I authentically hopeful?”

Conveying hopefulness depends a great deal upon your own authentic beliefs that are expressed not only verbally to the client but through gestures, tone of voice, etc.

Conveying hope when you are hopeless does not go far.  These are tough times for therapists and clients.

Transformational changes are happening in health care; tele-therapy, new managed care policies and new and alternative treatments.

Outside of this realm but connected to it are disheartening developments such as climate change, growing income inequality and the rise of Silicon Valley as a dehumanizing global superpower of automation.

Some of these are overwhelming and produce uncertainty, frustration and loss of trust in our society’s systems and institutions.

Becoming hopeless or ambivalent about how hopeful you are is often masked by those who are perceived as models for achievement, as authorities on the process of change. And yet, therapists need to dig down deep and appraise your own sense of self efficacy, your motivation, your ability to weather disruptions and changes and your overall sense of hopefulness.

It’s important to say what hope is not. It’s not the belief that everything was, is, or will be fine. The evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and tremendous destruction. The hope I’m interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act.

It’s also not a sunny everything-is-getting-better narrative, though it may be a counter to the everything-is-getting-worse narrative. You could call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings.

Hope Can be Taught and Learned

Our brains are malleable and studies have shown that they have plasticity in response to environmental stimuli from birth through the aging process.

There are incredibly sensitive periods in terms of degrees of malleability; early childhood, the early adolescent years. But at any age or stage, the brain can form new connections and respond to internal and external forces.

Perceptions and attitudes can change with teaching, therapy, behavioral treatments etc.

Our perceptions of ourselves and our environment can be shaped as the brain responds and we appraise and interpret new information.

No longer is the adult brain considered a fixed entity, immune to the mundane activities of day-to-day life, and impervious to new learning or restructuring.

Cognitive Training programs explain, plasticity “the physical changes that are continually taking place in your brain as you experience and adapt to the world around you  Contrary to the common assumption that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, there is increasingly strong evidence that the adult human brain is remarkably malleable and capable of new feats even in the last decades of life, but it might need a little extra prodding to bring its plasticity into play.

Researchers report that new experiences can trigger major physical changes in the brain within just a few days, and that certain conditions can accelerate this physical, chemical and functional remodeling of the brain.

Christine Hammond, MS, LMHC <![CDATA[Why Old Abuse Still Resurfaces]]> http://5.927 2016-09-23T00:07:20Z 2016-09-22T16:06:46Z old abuse resurfacingOne of the many ways a person learns to cope with intense trauma or abuse is to dissociate or detach from their immediate surroundings. For some, this is a natural reaction born out of a survivor instinct. For others, it requires effort and practice to shut down feelings, intentionally ignore surroundings, and completely disengage. In the case of long-term abuse (physical, emotional, mental, verbal, financial, spiritual, or sexual), the dissociating can reoccur as a post-traumatic stress like reaction when triggered by a similar situation, object, or person.

This unexpected response activates feelings of anxiety, panic, or even paranoia as fear cripples the person into believing that they will never be free from the abuse. Even those who have learned new coping mechanisms, healed from the trauma, and done considerable therapy to recover can still be affected. This does not discount the work done previously; rather, it is a manifestation of reality and intensity of the abuse.

Old abuse brought back to life. Most people don’t realize the full impact of an abusive situation when they are in the middle of it. This is especially true when the abuse occurs as a child. Children have a unique ability to bury difficult situations, hide from harmful people or environments, and discount their hurt. As adults, this is far more problematic because life experiences tend to build on each other, especially negative ones, resulting in a volcanic type of emotional response. Adults who hear or witness children experiencing the same level of abuse usually react protectively as they simultaneously become aware of the severity of their mistreatment. This in turn brings the maltreatment to the surface with greater than expected emotional reactions.

Heal from the previous abuse. This is the ideal time to reach out for help from a professional and heal from the abuse that has occurred. Trying once again to bury the event and ignore the feelings will only increase the intensity of reaction and delay the recovery process. It usually spills out as anger to those closest to the victim which can create unnecessary dysfunction in an otherwise functional relationship. The process is not as time-consuming as most believe but it is specific to each event.

Recall the healing process. Sometimes, even when healing has already occurred, a dissociative reaction can be triggered by a new situation or person. This does not invalidate the healing process; rather, this is a time to remind the person that they have recovered. Have them remember the transformation from victim to victor and the lessons learned about self and others by recalling the progression. The simple act of reminding a person where they began to where they are now helps to create a more realistic perception.

Why feelings seem more intense now. In many cases, a victimized person is so numb when the abuse occurs that they feel very little. When this is compared to a healed person who is more self-aware of their emotional responses, the feelings appear to be more intense than they are. This comparison is similar to watching a sporting event from the top of a stadium without assistance to watching it with binoculars. The binoculars provide clearer vision and everything seems more intense when it is closer. Feelings work in the same manner. It is not always because a person has not healed properly from an event that they are hurting now. Instead, it can be because they are aware of their feelings now that it hurts.

Proper perspective can restore peace. When a more accurate perspective is brought to light, a person can quickly reduce anxiety and restore peace. It is also beneficial to speak words of encouragement, reminding the person that the cycle of abuse can be broken. Being retriggered by an event, object or person does not mean a loss of freedom. Viewing these events as an indication of progress from the reality and intensity of the abuse is therapeutic.


Christine Hammond is a Licensed Mental Health counselor who lives in Orlando and is the award-winning author of The Exhausted Woman’s Handbook.

tiffanym <![CDATA[The #1 Factor in Private Practice Success]]> http://8.100 2016-09-21T20:38:58Z 2016-09-21T20:38:58Z Picture this:

You’ve just finished a grueling work day. You saw six clients back to back. You are more than ready to call it a day. You have steaming bowl of Phở and a warm bath waiting for you at home.

You’ve not driven far before your car starts sputtering and eventually rolls to a stop.

You have no idea where to start with this whole vehicle-stalling thing. Your brain is totally fried from a long day and home feels so far away.

Like any normal person, you assess  your options. I mean, your back seat would make a pretty decent bed. You realize you could maybe fit a nice cooler in your trunk and fill it with ice purchased from the gas station across the street. You figure, there must be a library nearby, so you could get a new book first thing in the morning. Who needs that dirty ole bath anyways? Your car would make a perfectly reasonable home.

Wait? WHAT?!

No, no, no. You wouldn’t do that.

  • You’d call AAA!
  • If that didn’t work, you’d head over to that gas station and asked the attendant for help.
  • If that didn’t work, you’d call your mom, your best friend, your neighbor.
  • If all else failed, you’d leave your car there and catch a taxi, a bus or just walk.

By hook or by crook you’d make it home, no matter what it took.

Accident in the road? Find a new route.

Traffic at a stand still? Flip on the radio and do some deep breathing.

Tire goes flat? YouTube that shit. Nothing would stop you from getting to your destination.

Yet, when it comes to creating a thriving private practice, we so often get discouraged, confused, frustrated, impatient and simply give up – deciding to settle for…”meh, whatever.”

Rather than pushing forward no matter what, we begin assessing our trunk to see if it could fit an ice chest and testing the cushions on our back seat. We decide to settle for the business we’re stuck with, as opposed to getting “home” to the business that we initially set out to reach.

The #1 factor in creating a truly successful private practice? Perseverance.

Think back to the car analogy. When you hit an obstacle on your way home, it doesn’t even cross yourpp road mind to give up and live out of your car. Why? You have such a clear and unshakeable vision of what it means to be home that abandoning that destination isn’t even an option.

It is easy to persevere – come what may – when you have a visceral experience of where you are going.

In order to reach your private practice destination, it is essential to have this very same clear, solid, unshakeable vision. Without this visceral clarity, you will be easily knocked off your path. Maybe you’ll successfully navigate the first hurdle, possibly the second, maybe even the 3rd, but without a consistent experience that your destination is inevitable, the 47th or 147th obstacle will prove your business’s downfall.

If your “WHY” is rickety, vague or ill-defined, your practice will crumble. Fortunately, your business gives you observable clues that can help you discern if your foundation is firm or riddled with holes.

Over the next three weeks, I will address three fundamental concepts that you must consider when creating the ‘Inevitable Experience of Home’ in regards to your private practice destination.

The three key factors in creating a successful private practice foundation include:

  • Time
  • Money
  • Intention

I will lead you through a set of exercises that will help you get crystal clear on your fundamental Why as it relates to these three concepts. This will help you move from settling for a private practice that is “meh” to creating an internal compass that will lead you to your desired destination – no matter what obstacles arise along your journey home.



Photo Credit: Zsombor Paróczi, Anton Gvozdikov

Sharie Stines, Psy.D <![CDATA[Comparing Narcissism to Antisocial Personality Disorder]]> http://7.736 2016-09-21T17:38:03Z 2016-09-21T17:38:03Z mentalillnessDo you ever wonder which personality disorder you are dealing with?  I find the following descriptions very useful in determining if you are coping with an antisocial personality or a person with narcissistic traits.  The following information is based on proposed diagnostic criteria according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition.

Before comparing antisocial and narcissist personality disorders, I would like to mention the general criteria for personality disorders.  Personality disorders are characterized by impairments in personality functioning and involve pathological personality traits.

The following list shows basic features of a personality disorder:

  1. Has a noticeable impairment in interpersonal functioning.
  2. Has at least one pathological personality trait.
  3. Impairments in interpersonal functioning and pathological traits are rigid and present in a variety of social situations.
  4. Impairments in personality functioning and pathological trait expression are stable across time.
  5. Impairments and pathology are not explained by an addiction or other mental illness, and are not considered normal for person’s stage of development.

A personality disorder involves disturbances within the person’s relationship with him or herself and his or her relationships with others.  Here is a breakdown of these disturbances:

  • Relationship with Self

    • Identity – Poor or rigid personal boundaries; over or under dependence on others
    • Self-direction – Poor ability for self-reflection; difficulty achieving personal goals
  • Interpersonal Relationships

    • Empathy – Inability to consider and understand other people’s experiences; unaware of impact of own actions on others; destructive motivations frequently misattributed to others.
    • Intimacy – Capacity for enduring connections impaired; Little mutuality; others conceptualized in terms of how they affect the self; cooperative efforts disrupted due to perception of slights from others.

Following is an outline of the specific characteristics of either Antisocial or Narcissistic Personalities:





Egocentric – Self-esteem gained from personal gain, power, and pleasure. Self-esteem based on reference to others; exaggerated self-appraisal; vacillation between fluctuations in self-appraisal, from one extreme to the other. Emotional extremes fluctuate as well.


Goals based on personal gratification, absence of pro-social internal standards. Goals based on gaining approval from others; needs to see oneself as exceptional; sense of entitlement; lack of awareness of own motivations.


Lacks empathy; lacks remorse when hurting or mistreating another. Impaired ability to identify with the feelings and needs of others; excessively attuned to reactions of others, but only if perceived as relevant to the self; underestimates own effect on others.


Incapable of mutually intimate relationships. Exploitation is the primary way of relating to others. Uses domination or intimidation to control others. Relationships are mainly superficial and exist to serve one’s self-esteem; mutuality is constrained due to little genuine interest in others’ experiences and also by predominance of need for personal gain.


Manipulativeness: Seduction, charm

Callousness: Lack of concern for others, sadism

Deceitfulness: Dishonest, fraudulent

Hostility: Mean, nasty, vengeful

Grandiosity: Feelings of entitlement

Attention Seeking: Admiration seeking


Risk Taking:  Engagement in dangerous and risky behaviors

Impulsivity:  Acts on spur of the moment in response to immediate stimuli

Irresponsibility:  Disregard for financial and other obligations or commitments; lacks follow-through on agreements and promises



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The Carlat Psychiatry Report <![CDATA[Psychiatry Research Updates: Substance Abuse and Exercise]]> 2016-09-19T22:34:12Z 2016-09-20T11:33:45Z teen exercising swimming breaststrokeSubstance Abuse

Prescribing Anxiety Meds for Teens May Trigger Later Drug Abuse

Adolescents are commonly prescribed anti-anxiety or sleep medications, which is often reasonable, given the efficacy of these agents. We often worry about abuse potential, but we’ve had little data to tell how much we should worry, until now. It turns out that we may be prodding some of these teens down the road toward addiction.

University of Michigan researchers conducted a longitudinal study that looked at more than 2,700 adolescents attending five Detroit area secondary schools between 2009 and 2012.

The adolescents were divided into three groups: Those who were never prescribed anxiety or sleep medication; those prescribed those medications but not during the study period; and those prescribed the medications during the study period.

Almost 9% of the teens had received a prescription for anxiety or sleep medications during their lifetime and 3.4% had received at least one prescription during that three-year period. Compared with adolescents never prescribed either type of medication, adolescents prescribed these medications during the study period were 10 times more likely to use them for “sensation-seeking motivations,” such as to get high or to experiment. They were also three times more likely to use someone else’s prescription to self-treat anxiety or to help them sleep.

Along with taking a look at recent prescriptions, the study also looked at whether adolescents prescribed medications at any point in their past would be more likely to use someone else’s prescription to get high. Researchers hypothesized that once exposed to these types of medications adolescents would be more likely to use someone else’s prescription for sensation-seeking reasons.

In fact, teens prescribed the medications prior to the study period, were 12 times more likely to use someone else’s anxiety medication, compared with teens never prescribed anxiolytic medications. This association was not found with sleep medications, however (Boyd CJ et al, Pscyhol Addict Behav 2014;epub head of print).

CCPR’s Take: Be cautious when prescribing benzos to teens—once they discover the “Ativan feeling,” they may well seek it out in the future, whether they are anxious or not.


Not Only Good for Children’s Overall Health, It’s Good for their Brains

Exercise is good for the brain as well as the body—we’ve known for several years that this is true for adults, but a new study indicates it’s true for children, too.

To test the hypothesis that exercise could improve cognitive function in kids, researchers randomly assigned 221 children, ages 8 to 9, to either a nine-month afterschool physical activity program or to a wait-list control group. The children assigned to the Fitness Improves Thinking in Kids (FITKids) program spent a total of two hours every day after school for 150 days of a school year doing a combination of moderate to vigorous exercise and less vigorous skills games. Children participated in brief, age-appropriate activities such as jumping jacks, throwing, and catching—moving to various stations targeting aerobic activities, muscular strength and endurance, or movement.

Children took both a pretest prior to starting the intervention and a post-test when the program ended to measure changes in both mental and physical fitness. In addition to improvements in physical conditioning, such as maximal oxygen consumption, children who took part in the exercise group did much better overall on measures of attentional inhibition (the ability to restrict distractions or habits to maintain focus) and cognitive flexibility (the ability to multi-task). While children in both groups improved, the children in the exercise program had greater improvement in both inhibition (3.2% more than control) and cognitive flexibility (4.8% more than control). Improvements were greater in children who attended the exercise program most often (Hillman CH et al, Pediatrics 20l4;134(4):e1063-1071).

CCPR’s Take: Kids and their parents should know that being fit can translate to better attention, decision-making ability, and brain function. The study should also give pause to educators about reducing physical activity during the school day, such as recess time, in an attempt to increase academic achievement.

Susan Gonsalves <![CDATA[The Best Time to Have a Heart Attack? When Doctors are Away]]> 2016-09-19T17:42:13Z 2016-09-19T17:42:13Z the best time to have a heart attack

Large medical conventions – where hundreds if not thousands of doctors converge on some luxury hotel in an exotic location – supposedly to read scientific papers to each other – often attract a well-worn joke: that such conferences are indeed the best place in the world for a member of the public to fall ill, like have a heart attack, for example.

But a recent study has turned this prediction on its head, suggesting instead the safest place to have your acute cardiac event is in fact anywhere but where all the senior cardiologists have congregated for that week-end junket.

Raj Persaud
Source: Raj Persaud

The paradoxical finding illustrates the reality that health and medicine remain stubbornly complex affairs and defy easy solutions, such as simply throwing a lot of physicians at a problem is always best for patients.

Yet the British Government currently seems to fallen victim to this joke. They seem to believe that the more doctors you throw at a patient, the longer they will live. Not only might this not be true, it could even be positively bad for your health.

This idea is suddenly more relevant than ever as senior doctors appear pitted against junior colleagues over the wisdom of mounting strike action in an increasingly bitter dispute in the UK’s National Health Service.

The debate includes the effects on patients of having a lot of senior or junior doctors around, or not, particularly at week-ends.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges in the United Kingdom is widely reported by the media, including the BBC News website, to be “disappointed” by the launch of a program of a week of strikes by junior doctors later this month in England.

This industrial action by ‘younger’ physicians will be followed by three more five-day walkouts in October, November and December – actions some see as unprecedented in the history of the medical profession in the UK.

The Academy contends the proposed strikes are ‘disproportionate’ and this criticism of their ‘lower-ranking’ colleagues might represent the beginnings of a split between the more ‘senior’ members of the medical profession from their ‘junior’ colleagues.

Divide and Rule

After all, the British Government would hardly be the first to see the benefits of ‘divide and rule’ when dealing with as respected a profession as doctors.

It is currently being emphasized across the UK media that in contrast to senior consultant physicians, it is the junior medics who appear to now be escalating what may be becoming the worst industrial relations dispute in the history of the British National Health Service.

Raj Persaud
Source: Raj Persaud

The British Medical Association, otherwise known as the trades union in Britain for physicians, has declared that the government could end the strikes by calling off the imposition of a new contract, which is due to be rolled out from October and which proposes significantly altering the working pattern of junior doctors, but which the government has claimed is about creating a ‘seven-day’ National Health Service.

The new policy is supposed to be a response to controversial claims that mortality rates are significantly higher for patients admitted to hospital at week-ends. The government argues, this highlights why more doctors are needed in hospitals on Saturdays and Sundays and so why the new contract is being imposed.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt meanwhile reportedly described this month’s strike as “devastating news,” predicting it would lead to the cancellation of 100,000 operations and one million appointments.

]]> Christine Hammond, MS, LMHC <![CDATA[What’s Behind a Narcissistic Rant?]]> http://5.910 2016-09-21T18:02:05Z 2016-09-19T16:54:07Z rantingThe conversation begins so normally. There is good flow from one person to the next. Each hears and understands the topic at hand without any indication of stress. Then out of nowhere, it dramatically shifts. The conversation becomes one-sided, almost lecture-like, the words toward others are harsh and biting intertwined with statements of self-praise, and there is an absence of one discernible topic. It has divulged into a narcissistic rant, better known as verbal vomit.

Sometimes the narcissist is aggressive with the attacks such as: “You are an idiot,” “You can’t do anything right,” or “You never back me up.” Other times it is passive-aggressive such as: “No one shows me love,” “I’m all alone,” or “Nobody cares what I think.” Sandwiched in between are statements such as: “When I compare myself to others, I’m better,” “You don’t know how good you have it with me,” “I’m right most of the time,” or “I’m a good person.”

The person on the receiving end is caught off guard. Fearing even more retaliation, they sit in silence, quietly dying. This can go on for minutes or hours depending on amount of sewage being spilled. By the end of the rant, the narcissist feels better and relieved, even believing they have effectively communicated. They seem to have gotten a “high” of sorts and are often shocked when others don’t agree or feel the same way.

What’s behind this? Simply put, the narcissist has unmet needs which they expect the person on the receiving end of the attack to fulfill. Narcissists must have attention, affection, adoration, and affirmation from others in order to validate their self-grandiose ego. This need is never satisfied, which frequently exhausts the other person who receives little to nothing in return. When the other person does get some attention, it is often because the narcissist wants something. It is rarely given for free or without condition.

Can’t the narcissist get their needs met from somewhere else? Yes, and frequently they do. For some, work is an excellent place for validation, a doting parent or grandparent who believes the narcissist can do no wrong, or community organizations such as a charity or church where the image-conscious narcissist can shine and be recognized. However when any of these fail to meet the narcissist’s needs, they take it out on immediate family or close friends.

What’s the solution for the narcissist? Everyone has a need for some attention, affection, adoration or affirmation. These things are not inherently bad; rather, they are a necessary ingredient for a healthy self-image. Think of a 2-year-old and the amount of attention they need and demand. However, as a person ages or matures, these needs should be met internally, not externally. A healthy ego appreciates attention from others but is not dependent on it to survive. Getting a narcissist to this place is possible, usually with the help of a professional counselor. A significant other is not able to assist in this area because that will only create more dependency on the other person to meet the narcissistic needs.

What can the person on the receiving end do to self-protect? There are several options a person can do in the middle of a rant: walk away, be silent or ignore, distract or interrupt, dissociate, retaliate later, or match verbal assaults with more verbal assaults. However, there are consequences for each one. Walking away can result in the narcissist hunting the person down. To be silent or ignore means the narcissist is unaware of the hurt they are causing a person. Trying to distract or interrupt might prolong the rant. Dissociating from the conversation leads to a huge disconnect in the relationship later. The narcissist might not be able to connect the dots when the retaliation comes at another time. Matching verbal assaults makes the other person no better than the narcissist.

Nonetheless, each of the above mentioned can be useful depending on the circumstances. The other person should pick one and stick with for the whole rant. For instance, if a person chooses to be silent, then be consistent. Don’t switch to matching verbal assaults.

To further highlight the hurt experienced, address the comments approximately 24 hours later. This allows some time for the other person to cool off and the narcissist to settle down from their ranting high. This can be done in writing or verbally (don’t text it as this is way too important of an issue for a casual text message). Be as specific as possible about what statements were painful. Remember to sandwich those complains in compliments for a more effective method of digestion.

Most important, the other person must be diligent in NOT internalizing the verbal assaults of the narcissist. Many times the narcissist doesn’t even remember what they said and believes they came across well. Part of having a personality disorder is the lack of a perspective of self and others. The narcissistic perception is not accurate. The other person should say this as a mantra the next time they are confronted with a rant.

Christine Hammond lives in Orlando and is the award-winning author of The Exhausted Woman’s Handbook available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iBooks.

Kelly Higdon, LMFT <![CDATA[ROI in Building a Private Practice]]> http://4.862 2016-09-19T13:33:46Z 2016-09-19T13:25:09Z launch 2I enjoyed watching a recent discussion in an online forum after a person asked if they should invest in coaching.

Each respondent had their own theories as to if it was “worth it”. Some said don’t do it because you can get everything for free on your own. Others listed the people they used and recommended. And then one person brought up the cost and how many clients it would take to have a positive ROI (Return on Investment).

Return on investment is where you look at the time, energy, and money spent and measure that against the outcomes in terms of time, money, or energy. Not all ROI is monetary. For example, having someone clean my house saves me several hours a month, saves me the stress and allows me to work during that time but for me hands down the energy it saves me is the greatest return.

Whenever looking at coaching you need to have some outcomes prepared for which you will use to measure ROI.

In our bootcamp interview we ask about these measures everytime. The most common response “I never thought about it!” Totally normal and yet when you don’t think about ROI it is a set up for frustration because you will find it hard to remember why you invested your time, money and energy. With bootcamp, it takes about 1 new client coming in weekly for 15 sessions on average to pay for the bootcamp and then any clients after that are the positive return.

So look at anything your invest in with your business. Coaching, tools, CEUs and you can evaluate the ROI. Whenever you make a decision this will be part of your process from now on so you can be crystal clear with your objectives. So let’s look a little bit close to the questions to ask

  1. MONEY How much will this cost you? Looking at hard numbers, you can put this into your budget if you determine it is something you need. Then you ask, what is the financial return? Just because it is cheap doesn’t mean it will help you make more money. How many clients do you need from this investment to make an increase in income? Money will not always be something you can assess a return on. Instead it might fall in other categories and that is ok!
  2. TIME How much time will it take you? From commuting to studying to implementing – investing in your practice often takes time. BUT How much time will it save you? For example, having a printer saves you the hassle and time of driving to Kinkos for copies. One of my mentors always said you have to invest time to create more time down the road.
  3. ENERGY How much energy will you invest and what will be gained? For example, taking the time and money to learn a new clinical skill will probably save you and your clients energy in the therapy room. Other things may be too energetically taxing depending on what is going on in your life and the stress is not going to be worth it.

Want some great ROI? Join us for our upcoming Launch Party – a 2 hour online event where we will talk about building a successful private practice AND be giving away a LIFETIME membership to our bootcamp (Worth $1,750). Your investment is time and energy of being present – but you return to could be a lifetime of learning! That’s the best ROI I can think of!

All you have to do is go to HERE to enter to win and be sure to register for your seat in the training HERE.

BSB Launch

Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LGSW <![CDATA[3 Tips for Therapists to Enhance their Morning Routine]]> 2016-09-17T23:40:24Z 2016-09-17T23:40:24Z tips for therapists' morning routineGrowing up, I was never a morning person. I remember crawling out of bed feeling completely un-energized and rushed. In the past few years, I developed some powerful habits, which completely changed how I feel about mornings. Now, I have a nourishing and energizing morning routine that I actually look forward to.

As psychotherapists, it is critical that we make time in our day for self-care practices. Additionally, the way that we start our mornings often sets the tone for the rest of the day. The following are three simple tips for enhancing your morning routine.

1.Wake up earlier.

I’m now a pretty early riser. Getting up earlier enables me to have more time and subsequently feel less rushed. I also find that I feel more energized early in the morning and am less interrupted by the buzz of my phone and email notifications.

You don’t have to take drastic measures with this tip. Rather, try setting your alarm for 30 minutes earlier to start.

It’s also important to note that part of waking up earlier, involves getting to bed earlier. I’m pretty firm when it comes to the amount of sleep that I aim to get each night. Many people that I know think that they can “get by” sleeping less than eight hours a night. However, there is so much research to support the physical and psychological benefits of getting adequate sleep each night.

One thing that I have found to be helpful in terms of having a more restful sleep is to turn off electronic devices at least one hour before bedtime. I also like to take a bath and drink tea before bed, as this primes my body and mind to relax.

2.Do one activity mindfully.

 Months ago, I began a regular morning meditation practice, which has helped me to feel calmer and more grounded throughout the day. I spend 10 minutes each morning engaged in a guided meditation through the app “Headspace.” There are a ton of free meditation apps out there.

However, I recognize that a formal meditation practice is not everyone’s cup of tea. I’d encourage you to try to do at least one activity mindfully. Whether, it’s taking a moment to truly savor and enjoy your cup of coffee, eating breakfast without your phone in hand or engaging in a few gentle yoga poses, mindfulness helps you to feel more grounded in the present moment and calmer throughout your day.

3. Connect to gratitude.

 Making daily gratitude lists has truly changed my life. If you are unable to appreciate what you currently have, it is unlikely that you will be happy having more.  Each morning I make a list of at least five things that I am thankful for. I like to use a free app on my iphone called “Thankful.” However, choose whatever method works best for you.

Connecting to gratitude is a powerful way to shift your focus to all for which you have to be thankful. When you are able to appreciate all that you have, you draw more abundance into your life.

As psychotherapists (and as people), the way that we choose to start our day matters. By waking up earlier, practicing mindfulness and connecting to gratitude, you can have a happier morning and enjoy a calmer and more grounded feeling throughout your day.


Christine Hammond, MS, LMHC <![CDATA[How to Move from an Unhealthy Existence to a Thriving Life]]> http://5.904 2016-09-21T18:07:27Z 2016-09-17T12:32:06Z Thriving lifeIt all begins with you. Regardless of the circumstances, traumas, abuse, injuries, hurts, and situations, meaningful change can occur within that dramatically transforms a life. It is not an easy process as it requires substantial commitment, time, and energy but the rewards are worth the effort.

It is precisely when a person is most vulnerable through a life-altering event, that they equally become aware of the need for change. When this moment is wasted on trying to change others, denying the significance or weight of the event, or discovering new ways to avoid similar situations, there is only temporary adjustments. However, when a person is willing to take an inventory of self, admit to wrongdoing, seek help from others, make difficult decisions, and persist through the resistance, real lasting change can occur.

How does this happen? The following steps are only an outline of the process. The specifics need to be developed on an individual basis.

  1. Acknowledge there is a problem and it begins with you. This is not about accusing others of wrongdoing, minimizing others hurts in light of yours, or blaming unforeseen circumstances. Rather, it is about what can be changed: you. Each person is responsible for their own behavior, actions, thoughts, and feelings. So take authority of your life.
  2. Make a list of positive and negative characteristics. Then, try to discover how a positive trait can be connected to a negative one. The best change builds off a strength that already exists in a life. For instance, a person who is highly protective of their family can take things too far when protection becomes paranoia. However, when protection is used for reassurance in commitment, it is beneficial.
  3. Choose one thing to change at a time. Too often there is a huge temptation to change multiple things at once, this does not promote lasting effects and can be exhausting. Rather, choose one item to work on that is solely your responsibility. If a person needs to lose weight or exercise more, this is a perfect example of an item that a person is wholly accountable for managing.
  4. All change will be met with resistance, to expect otherwise is foolish. This is unfortunately is a fact of life. Even when a person tries to do a positive shift such as not drinking alcohol, there will be resistance from others who used to drink with the person. Here is the key: resistance from others is about them not you. They don’t like the change because it highlights some deficiency in them. You are not responsible for that.
  5. Recognize the need for help and seek it out appropriately. One of the biggest mistakes a person makes is getting help from the wrong sources for a problem which often leads to no change and increased frustration. When there is a health issue, talk to a doctor. When the matter is more spiritual, speak with a pastor or other spiritual advisor. When it is a mental health concern, find a counselor. In all situations, it is best to get help from professionals not amateurs.
  6. Don’t expect praise from others for the change. A person who needs constant affirmation from others is not changing for self-improvement, they are modifying life for others. This is a bottomless pit as the expectations of others can dramatically shift depending on who is present. It is also an indication of co-dependency or narcissism. In this case, the co-dependent or narcissistic traits would need to addressed first before other change is done. Otherwise, it is temporary.
  7. Be patient with others during the process. Just because a person is making huge strides in their life does not mean that others will follow suit. Everyone has their own time table so give them space to go at their pace. If others have been hurt along the way by your behavior, it will take substantial time for them to believe that the change is real. A reasonable expectation is anywhere from six months to a year.

Remember, these seven steps are merely a rough outline of what is involved in transforming from a unhealthy existence to a thriving life. But it is so worth the effort.

Christine Hammond lives in Orlando and is the award-winning author of The Exhausted Woman’s Handbook available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iBooks.