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Is it really a mid-life crisis or are you just finally coming into yourself?

Don’t you think it an interesting phenomenon that people in their 40’s and 50’s often experience a sense of renewed freedom and the desire to make different choices than in their 20’s and 30’s? I find it curious that this common experience has been labeled a “crisis” when it’s in all likelihood a normal part of development. I think the term development gets attributed to childhood transitions but in reality we never truly stop changing, or developing, it’s just a matter of how much we fight it or not. I certainly don’t want to think of my life as stagnant or unchangeable, even though change can be scary and challenging, it’s inevitable and something to embrace with openness and flexibility. Perhaps this gets easier with age, with less concern over what others think, less influence of the ego and all its protections and therefore making it easier to truly express oneself in a manner that feels more authentic than in life-stages past? Moreover, I don’t think people knowingly choose to have a “crisis” and while the newfound freedom and choices that come with it may have a cost, people at this stage in the game are making those decisions based on what they truly want for themselves. Of course, it may be a crisis for those who are left behind but for the individual who decides to live their dreams, happiness will always ensue.

The Art of Inner Expression

I’m very excited to announce that I will be facilitating a group I developed while working for an agency called the “Art of Inner Expression” on July 25. Thank you to Nadine Watson, Sagacy Coaching for starting A Woman’s Dialogue. Here is a link to the Meetup with more information: http://www.meetup.com/A-Womans-Dialogue/events/126677032/

This group is designed to help you recognize your “gut feeling” and to further develop that sense. Everyone has a sense of what “feels” right or wrong but we often choose not to follow it for one reason or another and after a while we can become so far removed from what we truly feel that it takes some practice to get it back. This group uses creative expression (not art!) to help re-engage you with that inner gut sense. You will come away with a sense of connection to your deeper self and some reflection on what is going on in your internal world. Art supplies are used but focus is on the process vs. the product. You will express yourself and “create” an image on paper but it will not be shared with the group, but your experience will be. You do not need to be an artist or adept at drawing in any way.

How it works: Laminated cards with abstract words will be splayed out on a table for you to peruse through and you will chose the word or words that “speak” to you. You want to follow your initial gut feeling and not second-guess yourself, when a word strikes you, grab it, do not think about it just grab it. Then you will be given time to sit with your word/s and allow that feeling to develop a little more. This is a quiet time to focus inward. When you feel inspired to express whatever comes up that is the time to start your creation. This will take about 30-40 minutes and when we are done we will turn the creations over, so they are concealed, and discuss what the process was like for each person in the group. This is a brief summary of the Art of Inner and further instructions will be given at the group.

Happiness Consulting Defined – An Alternative to Therapy

First, it is important to distinguish between pleasure and happiness. Lots of things bring us pleasure but ultimately do not make us happy at a fundamental level. Happiness Consulting helps you discover what truly makes you happy (hint, it’s probably not that granite countertop or big screen tv) and ways in which to connect with those things and/or ideas. Happiness Consulting uses the established theoretical concepts of positive psychology with a focus on a person’s natural gifts, talents, skills and passions. By mining for what is already there but likely bogged down and hidden away due to life’s trials and tribulations. I will help you RE-discover what truly makes you happy and hone those natural skills and talents to address any obstacles or challenges getting in the way of living the life you want and deserve. The key to finding and maintaining a sense of deep happiness (or contentment) in life is two-fold. First, discovering those specific things/ideas that you find joy and excitement about and second, recognizing what is within you that will allow you more access to those things. In other words, everyone has different things that make them happy and everyone has the inherent ability to move towards those things. Happiness Consulting is one on one help, when you need it, to stay focused on these steps.

Having a good C.H.U.K.L.E. with Humor Therapy and Positive Psychology

C.H.U.K.L.E stands for Creativity and Humor Using Kleverishness Laughter and Entertainment!  That’s right, I was fortunate enough to develop a humor therapy group while working with a population of people struggling with severe mental illnesses (or what I prefer to call brain diseases). I realized early on in my path to becoming a therapist that while focusing on the problem is critical, that A) there are plenty of venues for doing so already, and B) that focusing on the solution was half of the equation and needed to be brought out more into the forefront of treatment. That one needs to carve out time for his or her own creative, humorous and true self to emerge that can lead one towards answers to whatever problems are being experienced.

You would think it would be easy to convince people of the importance of laughing and humor, I mean it’s usually the first thing someone identifies as a desirable characteristic in someone else!  Just look at how many singles ads indicate “must be able to make me laugh”, clearly it is a value that we hold in our culture.  But why then, is there a sense of guilt or shame that often comes with the idea that having fun and being playful comes at the expense of hard work?  Well, I’m happy to report that there is actual research being done in this area and it’s proving what to me seems the most natural of things which is that having fun, being playful, and laughing out loud are healthy, healing experiences and worthy of pursuing.  I encourage you to view the Ted talk link below in which Dr. Stuart Brown of the National Institute for Play, states that the opposite of play is not work, but that the opposite of play is depression!  He further makes the point that creativity blossoms most often when a person is at rest, is relaxed and in an open state of mind.  Think of the last time you watched children at play and how naturally creativity  and imagination arose.  Unfortunately, these naturally occurring characteristics often get squelched in the process of learning via academia and being taught to be well behaved in the broader culture.  To see this awesome talk go here:

http://www.ted.com/talks/stuart_brown_says_play_is_more_than_fun_it_s_vital.html

I propose the term “Brain Disease” replace the term “Mental Illness”

First of all let me start by acknowledging how much words matter and if therapists are anything they are expert wordsmiths with a deep understanding that how things are brought up and discussed can make the difference between helping someone become empowered to make the changes they want for themselves or feeling further shamed and defensive.  For example, by asking people questions and inquiring about what is going on rather than telling them what they should or shouldn’t do can make all the difference in serving them even if the goal is the same with both approaches.

There has been all kinds of discussion about the term “Mental Illness” and while it may accurately describe what someone is dealing with it has taken on a very stigmatizing feel.  And, if you take addition for example, it’s common knowledge at this point that it is a disease and I hear people all the time saying “it’s a DISEASE” with the emphasis on the word disease as though they are attempting to undo all of the stigma in one statement (something I do all the time!).  So, if we have heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, liver disease, etc., why in the world are we not referring to conditions like addiction, bipolar disorder (another stigmatizing word), and schizophrenia (just to name a few) as brain diseases?

This appears to be another sad example of the mind-body split that I think we are coming to realize has done more harm than good overall.  Sure, it’s important to break things down into smaller pieces to understand them but it’s hugely more important to put them all back together into the whole once the studying is done.  It is so unfortunately that brain diseases so often affect a persons’ judgment and behavior that they already have to deal with that further stigmatization is salt on the wound.

Join me in de-stigmatizing these unfair and unwanted brain illnesses by simply changing your words.  Because change, I am coming to understand, can come from a single idea that spreads.

The First Rule of Anger Management

I chose for my first “clinical” blog the topic of anger management because I feel that our society is suffering in many ways due to an increase in violent behavior.  Perhaps there is no true increase however we read and hear about reports of shootings, murderers and all kinds of violent acts occurring throughout our nation every day.  Of course, by the time it reaches that level it is much more difficult to stop because violence tends to increase over time without intervention and getting a handle on it sooner than later is crucial.  I want to be part of the solution.  I want to share what I know about peace and nonviolence.  I want to give people something tangible that can be used immediately.

There are many complicated reasons why people turn to violence that may take years of therapy to understand; however there are many useful tools one can implement without a deep understanding of why they behave violently so long as they have a desire to stop the behavior.  In my experience working with teens who had been incarcerated for domestic violence, it became clear to me that most of them do not want to be violent but simply do not know how not to be, and through an intensive anger management program were able to act less violently and feel more peace within themselves.

So, what is the first rule of anger management?  It’s the 24 hour rule and it’s very simple. Once you start to recognize that your frustration or anger level is increasing and you’re feeling more and more out of control, it is critical at that moment that you take a timeout, you literally have to STOP doing whatever is making you feel this way and for 24 hours make no decision or express any behaviors relating to the issue causing your negative emotions to increase.  Now you have just given yourself a gift of an entire day to not react, to not say something or behave in a way you will regret.  Furthermore, you now have sufficient time for the angry emotions to de-escalate and allow your cognitive functioning (vs. emotional) to make decisions and choose the action(s) that will not do harm to yourself and others.

Yes, it is a very simple idea and that’s what I love about it!  It is a small change in behavior to not act that can have powerful positive consequences.  Once you have 24 hours, or even more if you choose, there are many other things you can do to help resolve your angry feelings and gain better outcomes for yourself.  One definition of conflict is “an unmet expectation” if this is true then looking for and discovering what the expectation is can give you great insight into how to move forward by asking for what you want in a way that respects all parties involved in the conflict.

If you find anger to be unmanageable and causing you harm by doing damage to your relationships I would love to talk with you more about specific ways you can work on this and move forward through these uncomfortable emotions.  I encourage you to make an appointment with me today if anger is blocking you from living the life you deserve.

How and Why I Created an Alternative to Therapy

For my first blog, it makes sense to share how and why I came up with this new and beneficial way to help more people with their psychological and social stressors on an as needed basis. The idea came to me one night while I was talking with friends about all the people who are not being helped due to the stigma of therapy.

I did more research and asked why people would hesitate getting therapy. “I don’t want someone to just sit there and listen,” said R.B., “ I’m paying good money and I want qualified feedback and direction from the professional I put my trust in.”

H.M. told me, “I am interested in going to therapy but don’t know where to start, I don’t want to tell my story ten times before I find the right fit.”

I realized it was time for someone who was already a licensed therapy professional to improve the line of communication between providers and clients. The reality is that in today’s world, many therapists will work with people on a short-term basis and be very directive and focused on what their client perceives as the problem and that many of us do not just listen!

I decided to provide and entirely new method of helping people by offering an alternative to therapy. In my methods, we will not go into deep psychological underpinnings of the “why” but will focus on the immediate issue of “how” to address (and hopefully) resolve your day-to-day stressors.

Check out the testimonials section of my website to see some examples of types of issues I work on and read some of the comments from my clients. A good rule of thumb is to think about those things that keep you from getting a good night’s sleep (relationship/dating problems, family member with a mental illness or addiction, workplace politics, etc).

If you want therapy but don’t know where to start, I am a great resource to help you navigate the pool of available therapists, insurance carriers and those with expertise in your specific issue. I will assist you in finding the right therapeutic fit.