Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Not a Skate in the Park for the Person Who Has It

True NPD involves a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, a constant need for admiration, and a profound lack of empathy, due to genetic components and usually, overwhelming experiences of shame and unworthiness growing up.

It’s important to recognize that not every self-serving behavior indicates narcissism. Misunderstanding and overusing the term diminishes the experiences of those truly affected by NPD.

Just because your partner does something you don’t like does not mean he meets the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Being in an argument where your partner disagreed or didn’t understand you doesn’t mean your partner was ‘gaslighting’ you. Someone being selfish or hurtful isn’t automatically a narcissist. No one gains superiority for having learned about a particular diagnosis and pasting it on someone they feel overpowered by. (As best as research is able to determine, about 9% of Americans have a personality disorder. Since there are 10 different personality disorders, the math just doesn’t work for most women in America to be in a relationship with someone who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder.)

The person who has an NPD diagnosis is struggling with the immense fear of feeling or exhibiting weakness. If you understand how hard he or she is working to avoid feeling or seeming weak, you can find compassion for and understanding of the person struggling with this disorder. As much as wives and girlfriends want to believe that these are just assholes who want to hurt people, a person with an NPD diagnosis is hurting incredibly and likely has painful trauma in their history, or they wouldn’t behave so hurtfully.

June 2024


Want to know what is going on with your teen/spouse/sibling?

How to Get Someone to Open Up and Talk More

“I feel like we don’t really talk anymore. I don’t know how to connect with him…”
My Marriage and Family Therapist colleagues and I hear sentiments like this all the time- from spouses, parents, friends… Human beings are innately driven to be in relationship with one another. When you feel distant from the people closest to you, it is hard to feel alright.

Lots of things can contribute to someone pulling away. There are lots of reasons a person gets caught up in their own stuff. And, the way that you interact has a major impact on whether they keep their stuff to them self or they feel safe and supported to open up to you.

If you want to know what is going on with someone you care about you have to learn to let them feel the way that they feel, rather than trying to convince them otherwise. This means validating what they tell you: letting them know you believe their experience is as they tell you it is.

Small child: “I know there is a monster under my bed! I am too scared to go to sleep!”

Validating parent: “You must feel so scared right now! Let’s find a way to help you feel safe and calm…”

This child is much more able to calm down because she knows her parent has her back, cares about her feelings, and wants to help. A parent gains nothing from attempting to convince the child of their own reality: there is no monster! Do not feel scared! Trying to convince alienates the child, who only knows the reality of how scared she feels.

Caregivers are often unaware of underlying thoughts and emotions. Partners are often wrapped up on their own experience, making it difficult to see what the other is truly experiencing.

The way to become aware of underlying thoughts and emotions and invite more of them to be shared is to validate what you hear.

“That makes sense.”
“I can understand why you felt that way.”
“Of course you felt ___ when that happened”

are all ways of helping the person you are talking to know you get them, so that they know it is okay to tell you more of what they are thinking and feeling. When you validate, people know what they are thinking and feeling is welcomed. They don’t have to defend it or fight against a different opinion. They can just express themselves freely.

The biggest push back on validation that I get is “but there ISN’T a monster under their bed! Why would I agree to that?!”

It is very important to remember that validation is NOT agreeing. The people on the other side of the aisle have legitimate reasons for voting the way that they do. You don’t have to agree or feel the same way to understand that they saw things in such a way that it makes sense for them to feel the way that they do. Validation is giving someone permission to have their own experience. Trying to convince someone that what they think and feel isn’t real pushes them away and makes them feel unseen and misunderstood.

But I never said I don’t like her friends- why would I validate that she thinks I don’t like her friends?!

Validation can be hard in partnerships because we bring our own story to the conflict that we are already eager to have understood. But it is very hard for someone who feels misunderstood to try to understand you. Until you are ready to understand your partner’s viewpoint, yours may not be able to be seen.

Upset partner: “I didn’t tell you about my weekend because I know you don’t like my friends.”

Validating partner: “You feel like I don’t like your friends.  Tell me more?”

Upset partner: “You’ve commented about their relationships before and it seems like you think they are immature.”

Now here is where, if you want to continue to breed connection, you must keep your head in the game and wait your turn, rather than insisting they understand what you really think.

Validating partner: “Oh, I can see why my comments on their relationships made it seem like I don’t like your friends. It makes sense you feel afraid to share with me because you think I will be judgmental.”

Upset partner now has the space to feel their feelings fully and know that they are understood. As they calm down, they open up to the possibility of seeing your standpoint, knowing they don’t have to defend their own. You can model that both experiences co-exist because you’ve allowed them their experience without arguing that it isn’t so.

May 2024

Are your thoughts a broken record, a tape, or a compact disk?

 What ancient form of audio malfunction is keeping you from your best life

“I listened to the book on tape while I was driving to our session today…It has been really helpful so far!”

My client was in her early 30’s, blond and athletic, and aimed to please others in most areas of her life. She started session with this announcement and I couldn’t help but ask: “Do you really have a tape player in your car?”

She didn’t. She laughed and explained she was just saying “book-on-tape” as an expression to mean she was listening rather than reading the physical book in the traditional format. This was circa 2011, so still plausible, though unusual, for her to be driving a car that could play audio cassette tapes.

Even more archaic than that method of listening, have you heard of records?


Maybe you have heard someone refer to the “broken records” in your head. This concept, of broken records, is actually super important if we want to be the best we can be-whatever that means. If you want to figure out how to accept yourself, if you want to find a partner who values you, if you want to make more money or enjoy your work life more- it is critical that you not only notice the broken records in your head, but also know what to do with them.

“We get so used to, and so identify with, our broken records that we don’t even notice they exist or that they’re not even real.”
― Jen Sincero

Firstly, broken record does not mean this:

brown vinyl record on white textile

The way records work* is that the tiny needle in the arm of a record player skims over the grooves on the record, playing the recording. Records can very easily get scratched (I guess technically we should be referring to the “scratched records in your head.”) and when they do, the needle repeats the same thing every time the record spins around, rather than playing seamlessly by continuing to trace the grooves in the record as intended. Thus, creating a repeating phrase again and again and again for as long as no one notices that the record is repeating itself.

Until we’ve become mindful enough to notice, we too have phrases repeating again and again and again in our minds, that we haven’t yet noticed.

Unconscious messages may be something like:

“No one will like me as long as I look like this.”

“If I go to the event, no one will talk to me.”

“I always mess up.”

The broken records in your head could also be quite conscious. While there may be messages always underneath your consciousness of feeling not pretty-enough, not skinny-enough, not ___-enough, it is likely you also have very conscious thoughts that are JUST as unhelpful. Clients talk with me about “voices” that shame and berate them, that they’d never ever say to someone else, but they repeat to themselves. When we hear them loud and clear, they are still not easy to manage, but at the very least, we are aware of them.

For today, let’s explore and get curious about the broken records that we get so used to that we don’t even notice them anymore. Here are a few ways to become more cognizant of any broken records playing without your consciousness.

  • Decide that you will be intentional about monitoring your thoughts. This is especially important before going to social events or to things that you may find challenging in ways beyond others’ acceptance (like a project at work or trying a new hobby or sport- something where the task itself may not be easy, even before there are others to have an opinion about how well we do at it). Throughout the activity, ask yourself, “what am I thinking right now?” and keep tabs on what happens mentally and emotionally.
  • Another way to become more aware of any broken records you have is to, anytime you experience feeling down about yourself, check-in with your thoughts. “What must I have been thinking, in order to feel this way right now?” For those of us who are more feeling-based, we become aware of emotions before we notice the thinking that goes with it. Use the feeling as an indicator that a thought is probably in there (that you weren’t already aware of) to accompany it.
  • A regular mindfulness practice is the Golden Standard for increasing your awareness of what is happening inside of you, moment-to-moment. This includes meditation and breath work, but it also includes form-focused movement like tai-chi, ballet, and barre. Anything that requires your intentional focus trains your ability to choose your focus, rather than going on auto-pilot and zoning out. When we zone out, the record can repeat endlessly before anyone has the wherewithal to notice.

Use the coming days to bring your broken record messages to your awareness. We need to know what we repeatedly tell ourselves because these messages keep us locked in whatever reality they are creating.


*Whether you first listened to music on Spotify, an MP3 player, cassette tapes or an 8-track, good luck as you work to identify and take charge of your “broken records.”


February 2024


As I ordered my coffee NYE morning,

I asked the barista how she was. “I’m good! I’m really looking forward to the new year!” The way her face and voice lit up when she said it made me excited. What’s to come? I asked her if I should be looking forward to 2024. She said she knew something good was in store for her in the new year.

What a great outlook! Nearly everyone had this outlook in December 2020. Remember? It was as though COVID (and systemic racism, and financial disparity, and loneliness and political opposition) would be magically whisked away at midnight. We were all SO hopeful about 2021.

And in December 2021, we were all SO hopeful about 2022…

Do you realize what is possible though? Because our perspective is ours to choose: We can be excited about a year WHILE WE ARE IN IT.

Here we are at the beginning of 2024! It is possible, if we decide, to maintain our sense of possibility and motivation into (yes- it’s true) FEBRUARY.
And honestly, we can keep the narrative going as long as we’d like to keep it going.

Think about the mindset that is in the air at the beginning of the new year:

“This is a chance to start over.”

“I can take what I’ve learned from the past and make improvements.”

“I don’t have to let failures of the past drag me down.”

Any of these can be the way you start every single day.

But it requires intention. Breathwork and meditation are the best ways of becoming more intentional. In other words, of getting better at using your thoughts to your advantage as opposed to your thoughts “just happening” to you. Whether or not you have a regular practice of focusing on something for a few minutes (or more) at a time, you can write down what you’d like your mindset to be and place it where you’ll see it when you start your day. Next to your bed. On your mirror. Behind your steering wheel.

It may seem cheesy, but having a reminder of how you’d like to view your situation, your day, or your life can make a huge difference in the thoughts that routinely pass through your head all day, every day. Choosing the way you’d like to see things allows you the possibility to remember the optimism that’s contagious in the new year. And maybe even pass it on to someone else!

January 2024



Interested in a free phone consultation?



Why Therapy Can Be Expensive

Who would pay for an in-person therapist when BetterHelp gives 24-hour access to someone for less than a gym membership?

Pretty compelling. Accessible, affordable support, any time you want it. Just reach in your pocket, text your therapist any time of day, 24/7.  At a fraction of the cost it would be to pay each time I see my therapist in her office.

How do you imagine BetterHelp is able to do that?

Here are some of the ways…

•BetterHelp sells your data (customers are categorized as a “depressed person” or an “anxious person” and then connects to your searches. Marketers can then purchase this data on what “depressed people shop for,” for example) Not incredibly intrusive to you personally, but you are making them money by being used as market research, based on the problems that bring you to their platform.

•BetterHelp pays its counselors 1/3- 1/4 of the standard market value pay for therapy or counseling. The only way to make slightly more by working for them is to see a number of clients each week that is not sustainable. There is time spent on your case, by a good therapist, in service of your care when you are not sitting in their office. Therapists do additional research on aspects of your case to stay up-to-date on standards of care and latest treatment protocols. Therapists consult with other professionals in order to make sure you are getting the most ethical and appropriate care possible. And that self-care they coach you to do- they also need to stay on top of balance for their own lives in order to be healthy and clear-headed enough to work with you and others on the most challenging aspects of your lives. This isn’t possible with 30-40 direct client hours/week. Beyond this, BetterHelp expects counselors to accept clients messages anytime of day or night and provide continual coaching in between therapy sessions.

•BetterHelp doesn’t require notes. An important component of case conceptualization and treatment planning is the note-taking process that occurs when ethically-minded therapists and counselors document the work that is being done and the progress that is being made. Progress notes are used in the court of law to determine the quality of care for clients. Progress notes allow therapists to make sure clients are on track and making improvements with the interventions they are providing, and if not, notes are what help a therapist change course so that clients have individualized care, based on their progress. Notes are what assist therapists in consulting about client cases, which ensures best practices are maintained and allows multiple professionals to input on improving client care. Counselors who are burned out, seeing an unreasonable number or clients each week (see previous item), may only have the time to fit so many direct client contact hours in if they do not maintain quality (or any) notes on each client. Higher quantity of clients to each of their counselors means lower quality of care that they are able to provide.

Many people seeking mental health support expect therapists to interact with insurance panels in order to be paid to work with them.

•Insurance is a business, so its priority is to to make money. Insurance companies are not interested in helping you or in paying the providers who give you care. This is why insurance companies deny claims, require hoop-jumping for you and/or the therapist in order to prove you “need” therapy, and often go months without paying therapists even when all of their required criteria is met. This is why therapists often prefer to keep payment for therapy between only themselves and the client.

•In-office care also requires, beyond your therapist’s time and expertise, office rent and the cost of utilities. Exclusively online therapists also need to charge more because they have likely invested in high-quality wi-fi and other safety protocol for the smoothest and safest online connection possible. Therapists have significant overhead for their offices, beyond the licensing fees, professional insurance and continuing education fees that all licensed psychologists, therapists, social workers, and counselors are required to pay in order to maintain a license with their state’s board.

If you were worried about being ripped off for a mere 50-minutes of time with your therapist each week, consider the points above.

Just because it makes sense that therapy is expensive doesn’t mean everyone can afford it, though. Fortunately for those in Central Texas, Austin is filled with therapists-in-training that need practice while they are under supervision, in order to earn their license. You can ask agencies for “sliding-scale” or reduced-fee therapy. If you are in or near a city with a university, they often offer counseling services to the community at a reduced rate. And if you’ve found a private practitioner online who looks like they are just the person that can help you, ask if they have any reduced-fee spots available. Many therapists are able to see a small number of clients at a reduced rate, in order to accommodate varied income levels. It never hurts to ask!

September 2023

Why would I join a group

just because I don’t like my body?

Unless you’ve experienced the benefits of group therapy before, it may seem strange that meeting up with people each week, who also don’t feel comfortable in their bodies, would provide relief.

Why should I join a Body Image Group?

As with any disorder where a major component is shame, the practice of sharing with other people relinquishes the stronghold that shame can have over us. Shame prevents us from seeing solutions. Shame shuts us up and keeps us doing the same harmful things again and again. Shame keeps us in the dark and alone.

Previous group members have listed reasons that group guided them towards an easier relationship with their bodies, including feeling support, reducing stigma, and learning new coping strategies for difficult feelings and for difficult people. And a major healer is providing relief from the shame that surrounds hating how you look, how you feel in your clothes, and how hard it can be just to participate in life.

–>If you or a woman you care about has ever changed clothes more than once before going out, it may be worthwhile to consider asking more questions about Body Image Group.

–>If you or a woman you care about has ever not attended an event because of how you/she looked, it may be worthwhile to consider asking more questions about Body Image Group.

–>If you or a woman you care about compares her looks to others in derogatory ways, it may be worthwhile to consider asking more questions about Body Image Group.

Ask questions about Body Image Group here.




June 2023


Within the span of one week

three different people asked me: how do you  tell someone they need to go to therapy?
When the first person asked, I just replied that talking what YOU have found helpful in your own therapy is the best way to endorse it to someone else.

But then I got asked again. And then I got asked again.

So in the event that you, too are wondering,
how can I get someone I care about to get the help they deserve (without being pushy, awkward, or weird), I thought I’d go a little more in-depth into some solutions.

1) Share your concern.
People don’t usually respond well to being told what to do. Or to being told that they are a problem. The classic “use ‘I’ statements” that TV likes to make fun of couples counselors for endorsing is relevant here: people stop listening when they feel bossed around or attacked. It is hard to make “You need to…” or “Your problem is…” come across as supportive. So seriously, what is your concern? “I notice that you’ve been late several times this week and I’m concerned you might get in trouble at work,” shows your care for the person, even when there is co-existing frustration for how that person’s lateness affects you. “It seems like your ex has been on your mind so much lately and I’m concerned about you having a hard time moving on” shares your concern for your friend, while you may also be feeling sick of hearing about the person who dumped her.


2) Express your limitations.
Not only is it not your job to accept bad/repetitive/annoying behavior from someone you care about, if you are listening to complaints about something you don’t know how to solve, let them know. People often just want to be listened to, but if you’ve had your limit of complaints from someone, be honest about that. “I hear you that you are fed up with your coworkers and I wish I knew how to help- have you thought about talking about it with a therapist?” Marriage and Family Therapists are specifically knowledgable about relationships, so are the ideal experts to consult with when it comes to problems with another person.


3)Examine your feelings about it.
The best way to be clear with someone else is to first be clear with yourself. You may know that if your best friend tells you another story about her ex, you will lose it and scream at her, but what is under that frustration? Is there something about what she is doing that reminds you of your own experiences? Are you worried about her on a deeper level? Do you feel like many people in your life are complaining to you and she is the last straw? There are lots of reasons a person’s behavior can be bothersome and the more clear you are on what it is specifically that is going on with you, the better you will solve the problem you have with that person. Maybe it is time to do your own work so that you have the serenity to accept the things you can’t change about them, the courage to change the things you can, and the wisdom to know the difference between the two.


If you spend a lot of time feeling bothered by someone(s) else’s choices, the concept of codependency may be worth exploring.
People who grew up in a home where someone abused alcohol or other drugs, or who had a parent with a significant mental health disorder are especially predisposed to feeling enmeshed with others.


When you or the person you hope will seek therapy is ready, TherapyDen is my go-to recommended therapy search engine.


February 2023


A decent percentage of the people who seek therapy with me tell me that their previous counselor didn’t do much more in their sessions than listen, nod, and occasionally ask what they were feeling.

So it shouldn’t have surprised me when a client several months ago told me that his friend was critical of his therapy with me because I challenged him to think of things differently. My client said that his friend insisted that a good therapist would agree with you and mostly just listen.

This really did come as a shock to me. I personally would never pay someone what my clients pay me if that person did nothing more than look at me nod a few times.over the course of an hour.
But just because some clients flee that type of “therapy” to find something deeper and more constructive doesn’t mean that everyone is turned off by it. Perhaps many people stay in this sort of professional relationship because they think this is all it can be, or because they are afraid to ask for more, or because they aren’t sure how to let their clinician know they want something different and they are going to look for someone else who is a better fit. (Scroll down to “My brother asked the other day for help breaking up with his therapist,” the June 2021 post, for specific suggestions on how to end your professional therapeutic relationship if you think it is time.)
And maybe some people, like my client’s friend, don’t want to make changes in their lives. Maybe some people really just want to be listened to week after week.The problem with this is a) if someone paid for a graduate degree and learned no more than sitting quietly and nodding, they got ripped off. b) there are far more cost-effective and beneficial relationships to be had if all you want is a quiet, warm body in the room with you and c) don’t you want aspects of your life to change and improve?

Even if you believe yourself to be a victim of people and circumstances (don’t we all feel this way, at least some of the time?), the only person who can do something different in your day-to-day life is you. If I, as your therapist, just nod and agree that everyone is terrible and your life sucks, nothing is going to change. Most people who come to therapy do have difficult people in their lives, a job that isn’t fair, a physical malady that is hard to manage, or some other out-of-their-control element of pain. And since we can’t simply remove that element, unless we do something to change your relationship to it/them, it is only going to keep being painful. “That sounds tough” is helpful, and it may feel good to hear. And after that, there is much more that is available to you to adjust how you show up in each of your challenging situations.

If you aren’t sure how active a potential therapist will be with you, it is okay to ask! Some things you might wonder, when you are looking for a therapist could be:
•How will I know what to say during my session? Will you ask me questions or will I tell you what I want to talk about?
•What is your stance on giving advice?
•Do you ever assign homework? Will I have things I can work on in between our sessions?

I offer these not as a checklist of things to ask, but instead as pointers that you might be curious about- if you are just asking these questions without an idea of what you’d like from your therapist, it won’t actually help to hear their answers. (I can sometimes tell when a potential client has found a “list of questions to ask a new therapist” online because in an initial consultation call, they will ask me things like “what theories of psychotherapy do you utilize in your practice?” Unless you are a therapist, do you even know what I’m talking about if I answer that question?)

Before asking a potential or current therapist any questions, you might answer some of these for yourself:
•What do I want to talk about in session? What do I NOT want to talk about in session, and why not?
•Do I want someone to tell me what I should do? If so, how do I imagine eventually moving on from this relationship, if I’ve become dependent upon someone besides myself to make decisions about my life for me?
•Do I believe that someone who is not in my shoes knows all the aspects of being me enough to truly make decisions for me? What do I expect from a therapist, if not this?
•Do I want to work on something between our sessions? How much of what I want to happen in  therapy will be because of my doing and how much do I expect to come from my therapist?

It is important to know why you are asking a potential therapist questions so that, as you get to know a potential therapist, the way they answer will give you insight into whether they will be a good match for you.

My go-to therapist referral engine is Before you even pick up the phone or shoot off an email you can narrow your search for a therapist by important considerations like specialty, location, online/in-person, ethnicity, and faith familiarity, along with others.  You can see whether or not they are holding a dog in their picture and read a bit about their background, training, and personality. If they offer a free consultation, that is also indicated in each profile. You can find individual, couples, family, child, teen, group therapy and medication management on Therapy Den.

If you love the counselor you have, but realize that you’d like for them to be a little more active in your sessions, you have every right to something like,

“I appreciate how supportive you are and I think I am ready to be challenged a little more.”
Have some examples ready though of ways you’d like to try new things- they might think you just got that line from an article you read somewhere.

January 2023



If you’re willing to be objective and watch all your thoughts, you’ll see that the vast majority of them have no relevance. They have no effect on anything or anybody, except you. They are simply making you feel better or worse about what is going on now, what has gone on in the past, or what might go on in the future.
– Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: A Journey Beyond Yourself


The ways that we label what is happening can really mess us up.

A simple walk around the block can be narrated as “we are so lucky have sunshine so much of the year, walking helps me wake up, I wonder if anyone else is out walking this morning, my morning walk keeps me on track for the rest of my day, my body feels great when I move it…”

And it can also be narrated as “it’s too hot, my legs are tired, I’m sure the neighbors are looking at me, why did I decide to do this, I am so stupid, always doing things that waste time and remind me how incapable I am…”

You can imagine what feelings go along with each set of thoughts. You can imagine how each set of thoughts creates a different reality for the thinker.

When we are fused to the thoughts we are thinking, we are creating a reality all on our own. The exact same walk around a block was experienced in very different ways because each person was fused to their set of thoughts.

What if you could DEfuse from the thoughts you are using to create your experience?

What if you could just be present in any given moment, letting thoughts come and go, but not dictate what you believe or how you should feel?

It is possible!

Here’s how:

The first step to letting go of thoughts’ power over you is acknowledging that each thought is only that: a thought.

“I’m so stupid” is a thought. Other people could see it differently, so there are indicators that something else may be true. Veracity of each thought is irrelevant- the point is, each thought is only a thought. One could also think “I’m alive,” and “I’m brilliant,” and “I’m made of broccoli,”- all thoughts. Step one is simply noticing. It helps to say to yourself “I’m noticing that I’m having the thought that ‘I’m alive.’”

After noticing our thoughts more ardently, we may begin to see patterns. We may begin to acknowledge “there’s that ‘I’m stupid’ thought again!” We begin to develop a different relationship with thoughts. They don’t have to provoke emotional reactions or dysfunctional decisions.

The goal here is not to change your thinking or your beliefs. By acknowledging thoughts as merely thoughts you are changing your relationship to them. Here is some animated help, if you’d like some guidance while you try defusing from your thoughts.


This post is shared from the Body Acceptance Project, a weekly post with action items, exercises, and experiments for anyone who has a hard time accepting how she looks. Find more like this here.






November 2022






Getting esteem from someone else never creates self-esteem. ~Pia Melody

When I was growing up, my mom worked as a jr. high school guidance counselor. Friends would meet me, learn what my mom did for a living, and then ask if I had pep talks on self-esteem all the time. I don’t know if self-esteem was at the forefront of my mom’s work with her jr. high students, but the term is pretty pigeon-holed.

grey pigeon on flight above the lake
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Rather than thinking about a person who feels good about themselves, “self-esteem” usually conjures up affirmations, juvenile exercises or practices, and other tools and techniques that seem like won’t work. Whatever it might mean for them to “work.”

What would having good self-esteem look like? What would improving it do? If you could.

Oxford Languages says that self-esteem is

confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect.

Pia Mellody has done plenty of research on and provides training for building self-esteem. She has books on creating self-respect in order to unclench from dependent relationships. Pia provides hands-on activities to change the way you relate to yourself and the people in your life. She talks about self-esteem stemming from our awareness of our inalienable and unvarying worth and says it is not subject to the vagaries of the judgment of others.

Therefore, it makes sense that, though others may contribute to our self-esteem by giving feedback on our abilities, in order to qualify as self-esteem, it must be there no matter what feedback we get.

The esteem we receive from others is other-esteem, and it varies according to those from whom it is received ~Pia Melody

So many of us, lacking our own sense of self, depend upon the evaluations of others in order to know who we are. In order to believe we are okay.

How do we gain security in ourselves, so that compliments or positive feedback are icing on the cake, not what we need in order to keep going?

Many things can contribute to feeling good about yourself and your abilities. And there are plenty of things that distract from it. I’ll share a few that I see often in my therapy practice.


Habits that Repel Self-esteem


Not hard to guess that this would detract from feeling good about yourself. If you can’t give yourself credit unless you’ve met a very specific outcome (whether or not that specific outcome is considered “best” by you or anyone else) the chances of ever believing you did a good job are very, very slim. Rigidity about what you will allow yourself to believe was a “good job” almost ensures you will always feel bad about yourself. Don’t kid yourself that a rigid standard will make you a higher achiever. It will actually just make you feel worse about yourself. And it is hard to do well at things when you feel bad.

~Critiquing other people

A person that views the world through a “she thinks she is better than she really is” or “her hair looks bad” views herself critically as well. Even if you have a hard time backing off of negative thoughts about yourself, becoming aware of how harshly you look at others will steer your mindset away from judgement and negativity. As you routinely become kinder in your mind to the people you see everyday, you will routinely become more accepting of what you see in the mirror.

~Believing the Myth that Your Negativity is Being Realistic

If I had a dollar for every person who insisted that saying defeating things like “I’ll fail if I try that” is really just “being realistic”

It can feel safer to not get our hopes up. If we believe something isn’t possible then we get to keep doing the same old stuff and we don’t have to try anything new or unexpected. We can stay away from success, which might require doing things we haven’t done before, telling ourselves that we can’t. It makes psychological sense why people tell themselves they can’t do things if actually doing them would create a change to their lives – change is stressful. But insisting I can’t” or that “I am not good enough” or “no one likes me” isn’t “being realistic.

We can’t predict the future. Many unbelievable things have happened in this world that seemed unrealistic until they happened. When you lie to yourself that you know what the future holds or that you can’t have more than you’ve had before, you are keeping yourself protected from possibilities.

*If you found this piece useful, check out the Body Acceptance Project on Substack.

October 2022




When everything you wish would change won’t, here is how you can change:

Acceptance is the first step to feeling better, whatever one’s ailment is.

If you are sitting in traffic, and you’d prefer not to be sitting in traffic, you are resisting life as it is. Since there is nothing you can do to change the traffic, your decision not to accept it is creating anxiety, unhappiness, anger- you can add to this list. It is useless to fight against it.

As Michael A. Singer describes in The Surrender Experiment, “I decided to just stop listening to all that chatter about my personal preferences, and instead, start the willful practice of accepting what the flow of life was presenting me.” Because difficulty with acceptance is really about personal preference, right?

Singer talks about the strife of wrestling with the weather. Simply because we’d prefer the weather to do what we’d like. This may be a place for you to start strengthening your acceptance muscle. (Since “we need the rain” is in the Top 10 Austin Small-Talk topics, let’s use that.)

When you would prefer it to cool off and rain, rather than the played out:

Why won’t it rain? We really need it- it’s been hot and dry for so long. I want it to feel more comfortable outside!


what if you let go of that struggle and chose:


What a beautiful sunny day.

This may seem big (especially when 97° is a “cold front”), but it is only the beginning. These types of choices, to radically accept life as it is, can release quite a bit of internal struggle.


I clearly remember deciding that from now on if life was unfolding in a certain way, and the only reason I was resisting it was because of a personal preference, I would let go of my preference and let life be in charge.

~Michael A. Singer


If accepting all of the things in your life that you don’t think you can stand feels like a marathon, a short warm-up jog might be to entertain a new perspective with something like the weather. Or traffic. Or a line at the store. Here are some examples of a more accepting approach to these things:

  • What a beautiful sunny day.
  • I-35 is busy again this morning- we all need to get to work.
  • This will take longer than I’d expected and I can be content while I stand in line.

The goal here is not necessarily to feel happy about what is happening. Or to change your personal preference. The idea is to recognize that the fight we are choosing is based on the importance we have given to a personal preference. There is nothing wrong with I-35 being packed. In fact, it is 100% RIGHT that it is. Because IT IS. There is nothing wrong with the parking lot being full. We’d simply prefer to have a parking spot open in the shade and near the front door. It’s okay to have a preference. And it is okay when life doesn’t align with our preferences.

white car parked on parking lot near brown and white wall

Photo by Brianna Tucker on Unsplash


In fact, sometimes magic can happen where letting go of our preferences allows something even better to happen (you don’t need a close parking spot if there is complimentary valet!). But let’s start with flexing our acceptance muscles.




September 2022




Do we have to talk about my mom?

Why your shrink keeps asking you about your childhood.


Richard Rohr is a pretty cool priest because he explains things in ways that are less likely to turn people off to how emotions and spirituality and relationships all work together. I have seen so many people who have been abused by religious institutions. Usually, these people have, out of protection, closed themselves off to new understandings when something starts to smell like the ‘C’ word (not the four-letter one). Richard Rohr has tons of great books explaining how spirituality matters to you (and to everyone) and may be a good starting point for someone who thinks they aren’t a spiritual being like everyone else is.


Rohr explains emotions and their purpose so thoroughly that I wish I could impress this understanding on everyone who is struggling to accept themselves:

Emotions in and of themselves have no moral value; they are neither good nor bad. They are just sirens alerting us of something we should pay attention to. If we learn to listen to them instead of always obeying them, they can be very good teachers. We need to be aware that our emotions can mislead us because we often misread the situation.


If I had known, earlier in life, how OKAY it was that I had every feeling that I had… Not only that being mad wasn’t something only bad people do, for example. But also that emotions aren’t rules to follow or guidelines to direct my choices and behaviors. It is okay to feel every feeling. And also to not let feeling a certain way dictate The Way Things Are. They are just feelings. Important, but not to the exclusion of all other information.


Richard goes on to explain

Emotions are far too self-referential and based in our early practiced neural responses, or what some call our defense mechanisms. Our basic “programs for survival,” which are the source of most emotions, are largely in place by the age of four or five. The three most common programs involve the needs for 1) survival and security, 2) affection and esteem, and 3) power and control.

Some people get really waded-up panties when it comes to talking about their childhood. “Why does that matter?! I want to talk about what is happening right now!”

Cool. But if you were in Japan until you were four or five, you would approach almost everything- let’s just start with a dinner table- differently than you would approach a dinner table TODAY if you had been in Topeka, Kansas until you were four or five. How you expect to sit and what you expect to see in front of you. The way you will consume food and how you will behave once you have finished eating- all different if the way you learned to eat dinner happened in a different culture than the one in which you currently live. Sure- you have changed since you were a kid. But the way you show up to dinner nowadays has come about based upon that starting point.

Setting aside a basic cultural example, let’s look at the concepts that Richard Rohr refers to: survival, security, affection, esteem, power, and control. A person who is pretty new to this world and trying to figure things out, under 5 years of age, will have their first experiences of all of these things. In the first years of your life you are having your first experiences of

what do I have to do in order to have a safe place to sleep?

what do I have to do in order to get a hug?

what do I have to do in order to understand where I am and what is going on around me?

Ideally, children don’t have to consciously consider any of these. And yet, some children do have security, affection, and power compromised. Without intentionally navigating it, some kids figure out how to do what they need to do just to feel okay. To feel loved. To feel a grasp on what is happening to them.

These things are all taught to us by our early life experiences. We learn “I am safe and I have people around me to help with what I need” or “I am on my own and I have to figure it all out” and everywhere in between when we are children. These beliefs are instilled and they create the emotions that we have. Today. As adults. Years and years later. Even if we aren’t still interacting with the people who were present at that time.

How have your “programs for survival” as Rohr calls them, been sourcing your current emotions?

One way of exploring this idea is by choosing a big, difficult feeling you have in your life right now. Many times, it will be something that a partner triggers. When this is true, it can be enticing to become very focused on the partner, certain that it is THEIR responsibility to change, so that you don’t feel that way anymore.

If you will take that feeling and sit quietly for a moment to let the feeling be inside of you, open up to: when was the first time you ever felt that way?

Don’t get hung up on the situation or what was happening just now when you felt that feeling- that is irrelevant. We are using the emotion as a siren here: when did you FEEL that emotion for the very first time. If the emotion we are working with is intense enough to cause a problem that lasts longer than a day, the first time you ever felt it was probably not recently. Go way back.

The very first time you ever felt that emotion is a key to why it is such an intense emotion now. You learned so much from that pain at that time that it is bringing up those same beliefs now.

What can you learn from that first experience? It is likely that you didn’t have the intellect and maturity to understand it then the way you can understand it now.

It can be helpful to talk through these explorations with someone else- if not with a therapist or in a therapy group, write it out so that you have space to explore it, rather than it just bouncing around in your head.


This post is from the Body Acceptance Project, a weekly publication providing insights, tools, and strategies for feeling better in your body. ***Now through Dec. 1st, 2022, 90day free subscription using this code:



May 2022



What patterns are you noticing?

The old-fashioned idea that therapy is only for people who have a diagnosable mental health disorder is mostly gone, at least in major metropolitan areas. Enough people have found the benefit of working with a professional to improve their relationships, make life more fulfilling, and achieve personal and professional goals that “I can solve my problems on my own,” is less of a roadblock than even a decade ago, when I was a newer therapist. 
One first step, whether you go to therapy or not, in making your life better, is identifying: 

what patterns do you fall into again and again?

Maybe you can answer that immediately! If so, I hope you are already moving on towards finding ways of changing up that pattern for yourself! But its okay if you also don’t really know what I mean. These are the things that, more than a couple of times, you’ve caught yourself and thought, “ugh! I did that AGAIN!”

Some examples of patterns people fall in to, that aren’t helping them, are things like:

•staying up too late, despite negative effects.

•doing things for others that they haven’t asked for and that we then resent doing.

•spending money you didn’t intend to spend, each time you are in a specific store.

•opening up very quickly with new people, sharing things you later regret too soon

There is nothing innately wrong with any of these. And these are very specific examples that probably don’t apply to you. In fact, the opposite may apply to you.
The point is, one motivational speaker or one self-help book can’t tell you what you are doing wrong and then how to fix it. You live your life every single day (more than ANYONE else does!) so you know what your tendencies are and what things aren’t working for you.

*No shade to speakers or books! There are lots of fantastic, super helpful motivational speakers and self-help books!!!

What do you notice yourself doing, or what situations to you keep finding yourself in, that you’d like to understand more? Or stop altogether? Or do differently?

If any of the patterns you’d like to change for yourself involve how you think about your looks, your body, eating, or exercise, participation in a group is a fantastic way to making changes efficiently and feeling really supported and encouraged while you are doing it. Groups are offered on Sundays and alternate meetings in-person and online. 

April 2022


How to think better

It begins to happen naturally, the more you practice.

How clear are you, in the moment, when you are shaming yourself?

Are you aware of those thoughts, as they are happening?

“Ugh- these thighs…” <— is this loud and clear in the moment, or is it only after you feel bad, or even say something out loud that you realize this voice is in your head?

Here is a small plug for all the mindfulness exercises/practices/meditations that are floating around: the reason you need to be able to be present and mindful is so that you are aware when these harmful thoughts are happening AS they are happening. Because when you can do that, you can change how you think.

This takes practice. Just like mindfulness, it isn’t a one and done. And it is so so so worth it because there comes a point when you can look back and realize that, in the past, you would have struggled with something that you now do not.


Once you realize you have had an unhelpful thought (get over whether it is “true” or not- maybe you are ugly/disgusting/unlovable- truth is irrelevant here. We are looking for whether or not a thought is helpful. Does this thought help you take better care of yourself? Be more respectful? Kind? Considerate? If not, it is unhelpful and worthy of change.) then the next step is to challenge it. There are several questions you can ask to challenge any unhelpful thought.

Challenging questions:

Is there any evidence that contradicts this?

What would I say to a friend, if I hear her say this to herself?

How will I feel about this in a year?

What are the costs/benefits of thinking this way?

Is there another way to look at this?

Maybe you are headed to a social event and you do not know everyone there. Anyone could feel nervous in this situation, but monitor your thoughts because they are probably contributing to how you feel.

Unhelpful thought: Once people see me, they are going to think I’m gross.

Challenging questions:

Is there any evidence that contradicts this? I was seen by my partner’s friends for the first time and my partner says they don’t think I’m gross. My friends don’t think I am gross.

What would I say to a friend, if I hear her say this to herself? I would tell my friend that nothing about her is gross but also, “don’t talk to my friend that way!”

How will I feel about this in a year? Okay, in a year I might not even remember coming to this thing. Even if this goes poorly, I’ll likely have forgotten about it by then.

What are the costs/benefits of thinking this way? Costs: I feel worse about myself and less open and friendly. And I am definitely more self-conscious, as opposed to be interested in getting to know the people there. Benefits: I’ve always told myself that if I don’t shame myself, I won’t ever change, but I’m starting to wonder if that is true. (it’s been proven not to be)

Is there another way to look at this? Maybe other people won’t be as focused on ME as I am. Maybe others are focused on themselves or the conversations they are having or anything else- I may not be their focus at this party.


I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to get out of your way with the idea of “TRUTH.” That bad body image voice really wants to convince us that it is worth listening to and believing. However, truth is absolutely irrelevant when it comes to thinking things that feel shitty. When we feel better, we do better. We can help ourselves out in this effort by thinking better thoughts.

For more insights and exercises to improve how you you see yourself, check out the Body Acceptance Project.

March 2022





When clients are ready to wrap up the work that we’ve done, I enjoy hearing from them what they found most useful from our collaboration in their growth and healing.
In a recent session with a client who was moving on, she shared that it had been helpful to learn the hands-on techniques to, in the moment, calm down or get out of the super big feelings that sometimes took over.

She was referring to some of the DBT skills she’d learned in the course of her therapy. Since I don’t teach DBT skills to all of my clients and yet these skills are incredibly useful to have in your back pocket for when overwhelming situations arise, I’ll share a few of them here. (there are tons- these are just a few!)

Marsha Linehan created this approach to therapy with four key components in mind:

Mindfulness · ‎Interpersonal Effectiveness · ‎Emotion Regulation ‎ · ‎Distress Tolerance

Mindfulness is what allows us to use any of the other skills we need in order to manage our emotions, get along with people, and handle distress. If we aren’t able to be present-minded enough to stop and think, “oh! I know a skill that will help me right now!” then none of the other skills matter.
Practicing conscious, mindful breathing is a starting place for mindfulness. Here is some guidance if you have 5 minutes to practice this skill.

Interpersonal Effectiveness skills help us be better in our relationships. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I understand that most of the problems we have can be solved by improving our relationships. Skills that help us get along with people are crucial to our sanity.
I like the skill Validation because it is also a component of the Imago Dialogue that I teach to clients who want to improve their communication. Validation is simple, but very effective in letting others know we understand them and value their perspective. To validate someone is to accept what they’ve told you is their reality without dismissing it because you had a different experience. Validation can look like,
“That makes sense that you saw it that way.”
“I understand why you felt like that.”
It is important to remember that you don’t have to agree with someone in order to let them know you can see their perspective. Other people’s opinions are valid, even if they are different from yours.

Emotion Regulation skills are super helpful for when feelings want to dictate our decisions. If you are “a feeler,” these skills will help you feel proud of your behavior, even though your feelings make you want to do something you wouldn’t be proud of doing. There are lots of Emotion Regulation skills, but maybe one of the most accessible when tough feelings are big, is Opposite Action. Essentially, Opposite Action has us do the direct opposite of what a big, difficult feeling is telling us. Examples include:
If anger makes it feel like you want to yell something derogatory at someone, an opposite action would be to softly say something complimentary to them. Or to walk away instead of even approaching them.
If sadness makes you feel like you want to avoid people and stay home, an opposite action would be to take your dog to a dog park and smile at others who are there. Or sign up to volunteer and show up on time to do it.

Distress Tolerance skills allow us to handle difficult situations. Life will always have these, so they are incredibly valuable skills for anyone! One of the easiest skills to start using immediately is very simple: half smile.  Gently upturned lips and a relaxed face. Your body tells to your brain information, so a half smile will genuinely bring peace of mind. A big, cheesy smile might feel fake or like too much of a stretch. Practice half-smiling when you are in upset, worried, or unhappy, as well as when you are more comfortable. It might feel weird at first, but you will quickly feel its effectiveness.

There are many DBT resources if you’d like to learn more. is an organized site that allows you to look through the skills and learn tips and tricks with each.

Which skill will you use first?

February 2022





Apparently, juggling and discerning copays, deductibles, and in/out-of-network coverage isn’t only something that you and I as adults should be able to make sense of: kids are trying to figure it out themselves, as well.

Teen Vogue put out this article in the spring of ’21 walking it’s readers through the basics of navigating their parents’ healthcare coverage plans, in order to find themselves a psychotherapist.
(It’s the most comprehensive instruction guide I’ve seen, and I may pass it on to any adults I encounter who are struggling to understand their own “benefits.”)

Kudos and props to Teen Vogue for encouraging kids (or anyone) to seek out health support! Lots and lots of kids know they need help but don’t have the relationship with their parents that will allow them to ask for it.

It’s obviously absurd that we are asking adolescents to understand the insurance system that so many adults have trouble navigating. But what needs to be more emphasized is how insurance being involved at all is what makes healthcare service cost rise in the first place.  Insurance companies are built to make a profit, not serve a patient. Much of the cost of health insurance today is never seen by the doctors or practitioners you are going to and trusting with your care- they are filling the pockets of the insurance company, and because of that the cost goes way up in order to pay the practitioner fairly in the first place.The insurance company keeps %30-40 of the session fee in order to keep the insurance company profitable. And your therapist makes much less.

Imagine if…
*the middle man was cut out and you could pay less for your therapy
*your therapist was paid for that the service as soon as s/he provided it to you, because you paid it directly at the time you worked together (as opposed to hours of submitting and re-submitting claims, many of which are never fulfilled by insurance companies whose business it is to make money, not pay out money)

*you got to decide how long you went to therapy
*you didn’t have to ask permission from someone who has never met you or heard about your situation, and has only seen a code associated with what you’ve described to your therapist as what you are coming to therapy for
*YOU got to decide how many therapy sessions you wanted

Let’s also acknowledge that, according to Oxford Languages, the word “insurance” by definition is that it “provides a guarantee of compensation” – do you know of anyone for whom medical bills were compensated without argument or haggle?

This is all possible when you cut out the middle man.

Here are several other ways you can access affordable therapy without insurance, if you have been letting a desire to use your insurance get in the way of finding a therapist:

•University Counseling Centers have therapists-in-training that need to work with clients in order to develop their skills and graduate. They will be working under the supervision of seasoned, experienced clinicians, so you will be in new hands, but overlooked by experts who have been treating patients for decades. They need you!

•Google “sliding scale therapy <your city>” to find places where counselors and therapists working towards full-licensure (like J.D. and Turk were on Scrubs) are able to provide services at 1/2 the standard cost or less.

•If you have a counselor or therapist who you’d like to work with, but you know their weekly fee is out of your budget, ask them if they have any reduced-rate slots available. Many clinicians budget a small number of reduced rate sessions each week, in order to make sure therapy is accessible. Without insurance. is the country’s best therapist search engine, featuring search criteria including where you are, therapists’ specialties, online or in-person preference, and if you’d like, gender, ethnicity and faith-related criteria.

Don’t let the clusterfuck that is Healthcare in the U.S. keep you from receiving quality healthcare.



January 2022

What is Group Therapy?


As we memorized all the different mental health disorders in my graduate school classes years ago, we also learned that each of them can be treated by helping people improve their relationships.



Wait- what?



I’m happy to recommend some easy reading like Extraordinary Relationships by Roberta M. Gilbert, if you are interested in understanding how improving relationships can improve mental health- and other aspects of one’s life. I think it is super interesting, but this is what I do for a living, so I get it if you don’t want to spend your Saturday learning about Systems Theory. If my dentist recommended a book on the concepts he uses to make my mouth healthy, I’d hard pass.


Short version of the story is, since the 1950’s or so, the doctors who study and treat mental illness recognized similarities in the families of their psych patients. Not only were the patients showing the same psychiatric symptoms, all of the patients’ moms were showing the same traits and behaviors. Imagine if everyone who showed up where you work was driving the same car- wouldn’t you be interested in that coincidence!?


If the individuals who struggled with their own mental health also had family members who showed similar traits to the other patients’ family members, the doctors couldn’t help but wonder if maybe making a change in the relationships would effect a change in the individuals.
(Spoiler- it absolutely does affect an individual when there is a change in their relationships. If you’ve ever gone through a breakup, you have experienced firsthand- YOUR moment-to-moment thoughts, feelings, and choices are different when that relationship changes.)


Changing the way you relate to other people and improving your ability to be in relationships is at the heart of improved health.

Group therapy is like a training ground for being better at interacting and relating to other people. We learn how we come across to other people. We practice being honest and vulnerable by providing feedback to each other. And we take risks that we can’t take IRL because we all show up to group ready to try new things and take chances, knowing that it is a safe place to do so.

October 2021



Convinced that group therapy may be worthwhile for you? If you are a woman in Central Texas who’d like to improve your body image, click here to schedule your free video chat with us to find out more about current opportunities. 




You’ve probably noticed that when you are worried how someone will react to you,  it is hard to be authentic or even honest with that person.
It feels like you’ve got to tip toe around, careful of where you step, what you say, or what you do because they may react poorly.
This is no set up for connection!

In order to connect in a genuine way, and come out of your protective shell, you have got to feel safe.

But how can I make my partner make me feel safe?

This need to feel safe is true for your both of you. Your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/partner/best friend/fuck buddy/etc also needs to know that whatever they have to say will be welcomed openly. That there will be space for them to say what they think or how they feel, without fear of your reaction. You can do your part to make the relationship a place where you can both be open and honest.

If you want to feel free to speak openly, you have to do your part to make it safe for your partner to listen to you. 

Sunset, Men, Silhouettes, Helping


How can I do that?


1) Only talk about my own feelings. NOT their actions.
What did this mean to me? What do I feel? What story am I telling myself about what happened? Speaking only about myself, my feelings, and my interpretations more readily allows my partner to listen with less chance of becoming defensive. In fact, when one can let go of “You shouldn’t have…” and instead say “I am feeling scared…” (concerned/upset/ confused/etc…) the listener is actually compelled to be INTERESTED IN that thing that is bothering their partner (even if it has to do with them).


2) Believe that my partner is telling me about their reality. Though it probably isn’t mine.
As soon as I deny my partner’s experience, I am choosing to argue, rather than connect. Chances are I had a very different experience than the one s/he is talking about. Let them tell what it was like for them. It is okay that both partners had a different experience and then had different feelings about what happened. It doesn’t mean that one is right and the other is wrong. Both are allowed to have different feelings, different perceptions, and to have understood what the other did in completely different ways. Allow yourself to truly listen to your partner and trust that they are the best reporter on what they saw, understood and felt.


3) Look approachable. It will help us both open up.
Basic social skills are more important than ever when talking about sticky subjects. Make eye contact. Keep arms uncrossed. Face your bodies towards each other.
If you can, hold hands or place a hand on their leg or arm. The point here is to connect. If you can do it physically, it will help you stay there emotionally, even when your past learning brings up your defenses . Hold each other gently.


Healthy couples accept that they hold different viewpoints.


August 2021












My brother asked the other day for help breaking up with his therapist.

My exact reply was:
“you tell them the reason(s) you want/need to be done w/therapy and thank them for anything that they did that was helpful.”

No one really tells you how to end your professional relationship with your therapist (unless you are my brother). Since generally, ending a relationship has a negative connotation, it might even feel like you are doing something wrong when you are ready to leave therapy. However, unless your therapist is incredibly unethical, they expect your work will be done at some point. “Breaking up” is going to happen (and your therapist expects it to happen) unless one of you dies first.

There are a few categories of reasons you may want or need to  be done working with your therapist.

1) You have gotten what you’d hoped to from therapy.
2) You haven’t gotten what you hoped to get out of therapy, but can’t continue due to scheduling/finances/unexpected external reasons.
3) You haven’t gotten what you hoped to get out of therapy, but don’t think you will with your current therapist.

In each of these, any therapist or counselor worth the student debt they accrued learning how to help you will want you to be honest with them. Here are some examples of what you can say, if you still aren’t sure.

1) You have gotten what you’d hoped to from therapy.
This is the ideal, best-case-scenario, for you and for your therapist. Hearing from a client that they have achieved the goals they came to therapy to achieve is one of the only versions of a promotion/bonus/pat-on-the-back we get as therapists. (Sure, you might say, “my shrink raises her rates every year! That’s a raise!” More likely, raises in session fees aim to balance raises in office rents and the required licensing fees, continuing education costs, and insurance your therapist must pay in order to maintain their license to work with you.) Letting your therapist or counselor know that you’ve gotten what you hired them to help you do will be welcome news. If you feel like you have, feel proud when you tell your therapist that you’ve done what you came to do! They will be happy with and for you and will likely let you know their “door is open” if you decide you’d like help again in the future.

2) You haven’t gotten what you hoped to get out of therapy, but can’t continue  due to scheduling/finances/unexpected external reasons.
If you are lucky enough to live in a city like Austin, where every third person is a therapist, counselor, social worker, LCDC, or psychologist, and if your therapist doesn’t fit your schedule/location/budget, there is someone else who does. And likely, your therapist knows of some referrals who may fit the bill for you.
If it isn’t already clear, most clinicians work virtually now, so if you need help, can help you locate someone affordable/schedule-appropriate anywhere in the state where you live who will be licensed to work with you. You will not be the first client who needed something different (time/cost/etc), so telling your therapist will not be offensive to them. And they will usually provide referrals based upon what you know you need, if they can’t provide it.
And obviously, if the timing just isn’t right, that’s okay too. You can come back and try again with your therapist when you are ready. Again, the key is to be honest.

3. You haven’t gotten what you hoped to get out of therapy, but don’t think you will with your current therapist.
This one may feel the most challenging. Especially since it is the most likely to feel like an actual break-up. Again, you won’t be the first (or last) client to let your therapist know that you need something different. And if your therapist’s goal is to help you get better, and they aren’t the best person to do that, they need to know so that they can do their job and help you get better by helping you find the right clinician for you.
Perhaps a step before this could be asking for what you need. If you feel like your therapist doesn’t really listen or understand (for example), any good therapist will want to know that and will make changes to serve you better. It may feel hard to be direct about something you’d like more or less of, but a therapist should be a safe person to practice communicating directly with, so consider this part of your therapy:  bringing up what you need with your therapist.
Other things that you may discover aren’t as helpful to you, like the race/gender/sexuality/age/theoretical orientation of your therapist are also A OK to let them know. The way you perceive your therapist’s identity makes a huge difference in how you relate to them, and they to you. They want you to get what you need from therapy, so they want to know either how to provide that, or what referral you may need to get the care that you need.
It really isn’t “breaking up.” Though your therapist likely cares a great deal about you, the goal of therapy is never to keep you in therapy beyond when it is helping you. (Keeping a client when they aren’t benefitting from therapy is actually quite UN-ethical and is cause for losing one’s license.) Your therapist wants to know what you believe you need, even if it is different than who they are or what they can provide.

Ending a relationship in a positive, respectful way has never happened for many people. It is your therapist’s job to allow you to experience a positive, respectful end to your working relationship, when it is time. It may take some courage, but let your therapist know when you are ready to be done with therapy, find someone new, or that it just isn’t working. They will be okay.

June 2021



WHY does my therapist keep asking me to come in to the office?!

Isn’t it more therapeutic to not get stressed out by traffic?

Cat’s out of the bag: in-office therapy is better.
Online sessions have always been a valuable adjunct to therapy. When you couldn’t meet otherwise, you could still get some time with someone who knows and cares about you, and has spent some years and some money on how to solve the specific issues you are facing. But there is so much you DON’T get when your therapist is limited to seeing your two dimensional face, when you aren’t sharing the same environmental experience, and when there is (even a split second) time delay in your communication.

•If you’ve participated in any number of online therapy sessions and DIDN’T at some point have a technology issue, consider yourself lucky.
Whether spotty wi-fi, skipping or cutting out audio, or sometimes just not being able to log-on to the meeting, most of you have lost valuable minutes that could have been spent processing, exploring, or healing – logging off and logging back on, calling in on your phone, or finding a new location to be during the session. 

•Privacy is compromised. Without going into the possibilities of online privacy leaks and hacks, sometimes just finding a room at home where other people won’t bother you is harder to do than you realize. Every therapist has now done therapy with a client who sat in their car (see above tech concerns) just to have the freedom to speak openly and freely, away from partners, roommates, or kids. Again- incredible that therapy is possible this way in a pinch. And, when there is an option to go to a secure, comfortable, quiet place to do your therapeutic work, take it.

•There are several things that make online work more difficult for your therapist or counselor. The most important of which is the difficulty to respond to crisis situations. If a client isn’t safe, they can remain in the office while help is called. If they are on their own, especially in a state where guns are prevalent, clinicians are unable to keep clients or those they encounter safe. 

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

• Imagine getting a massage with a massage therapist wearing gloves. Sure, it’d still feel good, though not quite the same. Imagine BEING a massage therapist wearing gloves. The muscles and fascia that you need to connect with in order to do the work you want to do are much less perceptible. Feeling the temperature of your client’s body and muscles is inaccessible, so you can’t tell how pliable they are or how they are responding to the work you do. The ways that you’ve gotten good at adjusting a client’s body with your hands doesn’t really work the same way you know it will if you can just take the damn gloves off. If imagining doing massage work is too much of a stretch, imagine a painter who is hired to paint a room. Blindfolded. Sure- they will probably get it done. But the quality of the work will be very much altered without the usual sensory experience a painter, or a massage therapist, or a psychotherapist uses to do the work they do.

• A large part of communication is facial expression, tones of voice, body language, timing, and gestures. These aren’t even all the ways, both subtle and obvious, that we express what we mean when we are face to face in the same room. There is an energetic exchange when people are together, hearing the same noises outside, smelling the same aromas, and aligning mirror neurons. You don’t get this connection online.

• With the lack of physical presence, some recovery can ultimately go only so far. The therapeutic relationship plays an important component in healing. So just like with a long-distance romantic relationship, you can only get so close virtually. For those with social anxiety and relational disorders, there isn’t the practice of being with the person whose job is to help you improve your ability to be with other people.

• Some modalities like family therapy, couples, and group therapy rely heavily, if not exclusively, on how people relate to each other. Much of this is physical: where and how close people sit when they enter the therapy room, if and how they touch each other, and the ways they look at each other in response to what is happening are all things that systemic and relational therapists use todo their work. This is all wiped away without being in the room together.


Thank goodness for the technology that has allowed us to stay semi-connected over the long-haul of this global pandemic. But please keep in mind that some things are better in person.







June 2021





7 Ways to Ease Back Into Life

If we hadn’t noticed them before, there are some nice things about WFH and the imitations on where we go and what we do.

AS we ease back in to again- a “new normal,” here are some things that can help the reverse culture shock of emerging into the world again.

Getting up:

1. put your alarm clock across the room
If your phone is not by your bed, and you have to get up to grab it and turn it off, you are already up before you have even hit snooze. Try it. Sometimes actually getting out of bed and a little bit of movement can help you take the next step of turn on a light or opening blinds so that your body and brain know it is time to wake up.

2. actually go to bed
Shifting your sleep schedule in order to make waking up earlier will take time. Don’t beat yourself up if you are used to staying up later than what we used to think “a responsible adult” should call bedtime. If you decide to start getting ready for bed 15 minutes earlier each night, your body and brain will adjust.

3. enjoy part of your morning
What can you look forward to about getting up? Can you make your breakfast or coffee more enjoyable, with a special creamer, a fun mug, or a favorite breakfast food? Maybe you can be intentional about the fun in choosing what you will wear, or giving your dog its morning walk. Deciding what you want to look forward to gives you more reasons to want to get out of bed.

Getting out:

4. you get to decide
When you look back at this monumental year(s), this will have been your life. Do you want to continue to stay home? Fine. Do. If that isn’t the life you want, get your vaccine and make a decision to live a bigger life now.

5. you can keep wearing your mask
Masks have been normal in Asia for years- we can keep it, too.


6. “We are in this together” is a nice sentiment, and sure- it was a crazy weird thing we all, worldwide, experienced at the same time. However, while one scared housewife experienced more domestic abuse from a husband who was now MORE agitated and at home nearly all the time, her single neighbor went weeks at a time not even exchanging words or eye contact with another human being. While one family struggled to keep food on the table with both parents out of work, another family had increased business, increased income, and increased work due to the demand on the services or goods they provide.
While one actor let the loss of her identity settle in as she hunkered down for another hour of Netflix, a front line worker longed for nothing more than a day, or even an hour of just laying on the couch with nothing to do. While some have not even known someone firsthand who caught the virus, and are therefore obviously frustrated for the limitations they’ve experienced during a pandemic that they hardly even saw, many lost loved ones long before they ever expected to lose them during the last year.
We all had drastically different challenges in the past two years. Keep this in mind as you approach others. It has been hard, in very different ways, for each of us.

May 2021





I’m a proponent of therapy- not just because it’s my business, but because I know firsthand how remarkably a life can improve when working with a trusted professional to make changes and learn skills.

No matter how much I know people will benefit from therapy, I am always looking for ways of helping people understand that

it isn’t just for “crazy” people

it doesn’t mean you aren’t competent on your own, and

it is well worth it.


Jeff Guenther is a counselor in Portland.

He’s got some ideas that maybe you haven’t already heard from me.

Share this with someone who might benefit from it…


Eight Reasons You Should Go to Therapy That You Haven’t Considered Before

Read the blog on TherapyDen

“Should I go to therapy?” is one of the questions I’ve been asked most in my life. I get it. I’m a therapist, which makes me an authority on all things therapy, right? Well, my answer is always the same: Yes. Yes, you should go to therapy. I don’t say this just so me and all my therapist friends can stay in business. I say this because therapy provides you with a deliberate place to grow. That’s what you’re supposed to do in therapy. You are meant to move forward and evolve. Why isn’t everyone in therapy? Or better yet, why isn’t everyone finding their therapist on

Outside of the more common reasons to start therapy, such as relieving anxiety, dealing with depression, navigating an overwhelming relationship, or getting through a life transition, I want to highlight eight wonderful out-of-the-box reasons you should go to therapy that you may haven’t had considered yet.

1. Get re-parented!

Alright so this one is legit a little weird-sounding but stay with me here. You know how your parents tried their very best but they kinda sucked in some major areas? Well, get this. What if I told you that you could experience a parental relationship from someone who is specifically trained to have unconditional positive regard (which is another way of saying unconditional love) for you? Yeah, I know you might be an adult now and you don’t think you need some therapist to “parent” you but it’s not as creepy as it sounds. A therapist will accept all parts of you without judgement. A therapist will provide you with the care and empathy that you may have not gotten when you were younger. Being cared for in a compassionate and non-judgmental way is monumentally healing. But you have no idea how healing and life-changing it is until you experience it for yourself.

2. Meet your greatest cheerleader.

Have you ever wished that you had someone who was always rooting for you? Of course you do! It’s hard to find though, am I right? Your friends are cool but sometimes they’re super competitive. Or others can have a hard time celebrating with you if your life is improving and theirs is staying the same. Or maybe your people are just a little out of touch and don’t get what you’re doing. Your therapist deeply gets you, and one of their main goals is to encourage you to be brave and move forward. When amazing new things happen to you, they can’t wait to hear about it! Just wait until you experience how proud your therapist is going to be of you. It’s such a sweet feeling.

3. What if there’s a sudden crisis?

Life is unpredictable, and every now and then there’s some kind of crisis. It could be a sudden break up, an out-of-the blue lay off, a horrific assault… the list goes on. If you have an ongoing relationship with a therapist you’ll always have built-in emotional support and guidance that will help get you through a tough time. Whether it lasts a day or a year, your therapist will be there for you throughout the entire process. Sure, you could make an appointment with a new therapist right when danger strikes. But it’s so much better and more rewarding to make an emergency appointment with a current therapist who already knows you intimately.

4. Talk to someone who knows you better than you know yourself.

Okay, you may not believe it, but your therapist (eventually) will know you better than you know yourself. Just trust me on this. They’ll be able to see when you’re starting a relationship that’s repeating old unhealthy patterns before you do. They’ll be able to warn you when your next anxiety attack will most likely come up. They’ll point out how dissatisfied you feel about your job before you’re able to connect those dots. So basically, do you want a fortune teller in your life? If you do, therapy could be a good fit.

5. Practice being different.

You know all those changes you want to make but are too scared to try out in the real world? Well, therapy is the perfect place to try them on. Want to stand up to a parent who always lets you down? Want to act more confidently the next time you flirt with a cutie? Want to engage in more empathy next time you’re confronted with your sexist uncle? Try out all those scenarios in therapy. It’s okay if you’re messy or downright bad at it. Therapy can be used for personal research and development. It’s where you’re free to try out different parts of yourself that you want to bring into your everyday life.

6. Get called out in the most compassionate way ever.

As a therapist I feel as though it’s my duty to call out my clients about problematic behaviors or statements they’re making in their lives. Are you coming off as a bit racist when you go off on athletes who take a knee? Are you saying things that upset people when you talk about the #MeToo movement? Are you inadvertently pissing off your partner even though you’re trying to be supportive? People in your real life might be too offended to say something, and if they do say something you might feel attacked and get defensive. As your therapist, I’ll gently point out the feelings that are being invoked in me, or may be invoked in others, when you talk about these topics. We can talk about how your impact on people isn’t necessarily matching your intention and we can workshop ways for your actions to be more inline with your intent.

7. Experience the weirdest, most intimate relationship you’ll ever have.

Honestly, and you don’t know this until you’ve been in therapy for a while, but when you have a strong relationship with your therapist, it’s super weird. Weird in a good way, I promise! The relationship is completely one-sided because you don’t really get to know your therapist’s personal story. You’ve shared your deepest secrets and traumas with them, experiences that maybe haven’t been shared with anyone else. You experience nonstop care, warmth, empathy and compassion from them, which causes you to feel incredibly safe. The list goes on. It’s not something that you can wholly experience in any other relationship because you don’t really have to take the therapist’s needs into consideration. It can feel very one-sided but in the most fantastic way.

8. Have a super grounding force in your life. 

Hands down my favorite part of being a therapist is providing my client with a grounding force in their life. People may come in and out of your life, careers can go on different paths, your city may change around you, but as your therapist, I will consistently be there. You can count on me. It’s my job to be counted on. I mean sure, I might have to cancel an appointment every now and then, but that happens rarely. And sure, there’s a chance I might not be on top of my game every single session. But I, and most all therapists, are a model of consistency. And one day, if you decide to take a break from therapy, I’ll always gladly accept you back when you’re ready. Whether it’s for a quick update or a new emotional journey, you can always count on a therapist to be the anchor in your life when things feel a little too crazy.

March 2021




Are you following?



At the risk of sensationalism, I thought it relevant to alert my audience to what we know about when suicide is at its highest:


Assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School Steven Schlozman, M.D. says it all:

So, we all know that suicide attempts, suicidal thinking and even the tragedy of dying by suicide increase around the winter holidays.

I mean, that’s, like, a given. It’s all over the press, it’s all over our popular culture. It is, in fact, THE driving force behind the weighty despair in both A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life.

Except that it’s not true.

People attempt suicide and die more often by suicide far more often in the springtime.  That’s been known for more than 50 years.

“April is the cruelest month,” Mr. Eliot tells us in The Waste Land. His depiction of the rebirth of spring as a desolate emotional landscape is more accurate than many of us may realize.

Still, just ask anyone who works in mental health. Ask anyone who works in an emergency room. Ask anyone who suffers from a psychiatric syndrome. Things tend to emotionally quiet down in December, and instead get really, really tough just as the tulips start blooming.

Obviously we’re going to worry about suicide any time of the year; if someone says he or she feels that life isn’t worth living, we’re not going to ignore this sentiment just because it’s expressed during the winter months. But, just as we worry more about asthma during seasons when pollen increases, it behooves us to be more vigilant for suicidal thinking and behavior as the season changes from cold to warm. In fact, this appears to be especially the case in areas where the seasons are more pronounced. Something about all that change seems to cause as much trouble as it does delight.

What’s going on?

Experts aren’t entirely sure. There are, however, some pretty compelling theories. One of the most commonly cited is the increase in manic behavior in the springtime. This notion suggests that the mood activation triggered by warmer weather brings about the development of more self-destructive behavior. Certainly there is evidence that bipolar disorder worsens this time of year.

Still, there are some other less commonly considered but potentially even more compelling theories to explain these unexpected phenomena.

It’s All About Connection

If you live in a place with a harsh winter, think about how you feel on those dark, cold days. Do you want to exercise? Do you want to go out to dinner with friends? Do you want to be with anyone?

Some of you do. But it turns out that for many people, both with and without psychiatric syndromes, winter promotes a kind of emotional hibernation. We wall ourselves us in, we binge-watch Netflix, we rush from the car to the office to our houses. We sleep more. We just don’t interact as much with others when the days are cold and bleak.

The pressure of social interaction increases dramatically as the weather warms. In studies of developed nations, this effect seems even more pronounced in agricultural areas. From a social perspective, this makes sense. During the winter, there are no crops to plant, no plants to harvest. But, enter spring, and it’s time to go into town, buy your supplies and eventually take what you grow or raise to market. All of this forces a level of social engagement that can, for many, be a source of significant stress.

Indeed, suicidal behavior in the spring and summer might stem directly from the potential increased social interactions offer for more potent disappointment. Suicidal thinking emerges, therefore, from the pain of social disconnection precisely when those connections are increasingly possible. In fact, an interesting control study in Austria showed that inmates in the Austrian penal system had no discernible increase in suicidal behavior from season to season. If we decide to buy into the social theory of springtime suicidal increase, then this makes sense. Regardless of the weather, inmates have their social interactions tightly monitored and largely decoupled from the seasons.

But, are these social theories the only explanations?

It’s In The Air

Think about that wonderful time when the leaves on the once naked branches become nascent and downy. Breathe in deeply the dust storm of fluorescent yellow pollen as it floats like an alien swarm off of increasingly fertile pine trees.

Just look around if you live someplace where spring looks quite a bit different from winter. There are flowers and inhalers alike, blooming with equal exuberance.  Spring is a time of rebirth and itchy eyes. In other words, it is a time of increased physiological inflammation.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, about 40 million Americans suffer indoor-outdoor allergies. That means that about 40 million Americans experience the wheezing, hives and runny noses that come with changes which occur between being in and outdoors—and these changes are most pronounced in spring. Most importantly, these allergic symptoms are potent markers of inflammation, the body’s immunological response to irritants.

There have long been associations between mood disorders and inflammation. Injecting animals with inflammatory agents causes those animals to care less for themselves. Treating patients with medications that deliberately increase inflammation (interferon for Hepatitis C, for example) is associated with a very high risk of depression and suicidal thinking. It makes sense, therefore, that another prevailing theory around the suicidal risks of warmer weather involves the increased rate of inflammatory responses that the season’s allergens inflict.

There’s good research to back up these claims as well. One study showed that the suicide rate significantly increased when the pollen count increased. Other studies have shown that depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances are higher in families who suffer runny noses that are brought about by allergies.

Finally, there are studies suggesting that poorer air quality, an environmental effect of warmer weather, increases the likelihood of depression and suicidal behavior. Again, the thinking here is that the increased particles in the air trigger inflammatory responses that provoke worsening mood.


I’m not trying to disparage spring. Goodness knows that winters are tough.

But, we also want to accomplish two things with this article.:

  • We’d love for the myth of winter being the worse season for suicidal behavior to be challenged. It just isn’t, and really never has been according to research. The Annenberg Foundation made an impassioned plea in 2010 that as a society we move away from this misguided notion.
  • At the same time, I’d like to remind everyone that spring brings with it its own psychiatric risks, and that to the extent that we can, we ought to be more vigilant for suicidal behavior during the warmer months.

Most importantly, and perhaps THE take-home message of this post? No matter what the season, be wary of issues pertaining to suicide. Self-harm is a significant public health threat throughout the year. If you’re worried, ask the person you’re worried about. You won’t regret it, and you might just save a life.

By  and 

February 2021



We are on the homestretch with this staying-at-home-more-than-you-want thing. Your body is probably wondering when it can move more. (Even if your brain isn’t wondering it, your body just might be.)

You can give your muscles the stretch they’ve been craving, and your heart the opportunity to pump a little faster.

It is as easy as a walk around the block, playing catch with your roommate/child/partner (you can do this inside!), or doing some lunges in your living room.

If you are like me, you are over online fitness at this point. But if you are open to it, there are literally 1000’s of yoga, Pilates, dance, HIIT, and martial arts classes online and via social media. (@TrainerJenBenton on Instagram is a ideal example.)

If you have a ball and know where a park is, you can go kick around a ball. If you are up for it, make the walk a jog around the block.
All of this is to say, it doesn’t have to be complicated. For now, getting moving a little more is going to make a ton of difference in how well you sleep, your ability to combat anxiety and depression, and how easy it is to jump back into a more moveable life in the coming months.

Of the above (or any other) movement options:

1) Pick the one you think you will enjoy most (or hate least). Which might be kind of fun? Which might be a little different from what you are used to doing?
2) Identify each of these, with the goal of most enjoyable: who/what/where/when/how long. IE: “My roommate said she will toss a ball back to me while she is watching TV in the evening. I could do this during The Bachelorette.” or “I’ll take my dog for a jog when we go out in the afternoons. We can jog around the block two times.” (Re: “most enjoyable”…If you like your dog more than your roommate, choose that activity. If you are sick of your neighborhood, go to a different neighborhood or a park. If you really love being out in the sun, choose a late morning or afternoon activity vs. a early morning or evening.)
3) Schedule it. Like, put it on your calendar. 
4) Tell someone what you have scheduled and tell them why you are looking forward to it. Ideally, you’ll not only tell the person you are going to do the movement with but also someone else. So you know there is someone who might ask you “hey- how was catch during The Bachelorette last night?!”
5) Remember that, the point right now is TO GET MOVING. Don’t overthink it. Once you’ve done the above to lay the ground work, no negotiations. The second a “well, maybe I don’t do the jog today- I’ll do it tomorrow” thought comes in, no negotiations can save you from overthinking something you already adequately thought about, planned, and trusted yourself to do. 

December 2020



In 2018, the word on the street for anyone who was trying to better themselves was “boundaries.” In 2019 the pop phrase was “do the work,” which got a resurgence this year as many straight white folks realized that they hadn’t been. Or maybe, needed to do it some more.
This year, the term gaslighting has been used more and more by those who feel victimized in relationships and spoiler alert- it doesn’t just mean lying.

How did this term get so mainstream?
When we watched Gaslight (1944) in my Law and Ethics class in grad. school, I hadn’t yet heard the term.  The psychological term gaslighting, which describes the form of psychological abuse in which the victim is gradually manipulated into doubting his or her own sanity, originated from the play and its two film adaptations.

Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer portray a newly married (and very recently acquainted) couple in one of these films. Charles Boyer’s character Gregory isolates his wife from friends, family and the outside world and does several things around their home, which he denies doing, so that wife Paula’s sanity comes in to question. When Paula points out their home’s flickering gaslights, her husband Gregory claims she has imagined it and it is one of many “symptoms” of her going mad. In actuality, the flickering gaslights were caused by his turning on the attic lights, thus reducing the gas to the downstairs lights.

Very sneaky. Very calculated. Very good at covering up murder.

And it is actually a little more extreme than I’ve heard the term thrown around as lately.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment (wikipedia).

Feel free to use the term, if called for…if for example, your spouse who wooed you in two short weeks to be married then spends all waking hours altering the decor of your home and denying it so that you are deemed insane when you point it out, all in efforts to find the jewels of your late aunt, who your spouse killed and forgot to grab at the murder site… if something similar to that is happening, certainly use the term gaslighting to describe it.

And if it is a little less than that, maybe re-consider word choice…

After the next few weeks that is… for now it is still the PopPsych Term of the Year.

November 2020




The following is an article written by my favorite Career Coach, Angela Copeland. Read more of her tips at .

Maintaining a healthy work life balance has always been important.

In the past, finding balance was easier. It was obvious when you left your work world and entered your home. It was clear when you weren’t balancing your time well.

For the most part, I would argue that maintaining a healthy work life balance is as important now as it ever was. It might be more important now. Maintaining mental health is critical to making it through 2020. And, one thing that can erode it is a lack of division between work and personal.

The one exception is this. If working nonstop is providing a positive outlet, go for it! But, for the rest of us, we’ve got to find some space between the two worlds.

For most people, the pandemic is the first time we have worked from home for any length of time. Many people are working from their former dining rooms (now converted into makeshift offices). Most people are no longer changing into work attire during the day. We’re wearing hoodies and sweats to our meetings. Our children and pets are popping into Zoom meetings.

And, we’re not just taking our personal selves to work. We’re taking our work selves home. The time when work begins and ends has blurred. Our work supplies and computers are at home with us every day. We may get work calls and texts to our personal phones.

The line between what was our time and what was company time is unclear. And, it’s wearing many people down. If you find this is happening to you, look for ways to create worlds that are more separate.

For example, don’t do personal tasks during the day. Don’t respond to personal emails. Don’t make personal calls during work hours. Make work time just that – work time. Then, after a set time in the evening, switch off your work computer. Don’t respond to work email during personal time. Don’t take work calls. Separate the communications by both the hours in the day and the computer you are using.

Consider talking to your colleagues about this goal too. One of the problems in an office is that some folks will send email after work. They may be trying to make a point that they’re working, or they may not think about it. Either way, it puts social pressure on colleagues to do the same. Some folks will call into work meetings, even when they have taken a vacation day. It seems like no big deal. We’re all at home anyway, right? Wrong. This also puts unnecessary pressure on those around you to give up their personal time.

The gains from doing personal things during work hours – or doing work things during personal hours – are very small. But, the loss can be huge. Finding this balancing act will help you during the pandemic. Take it seriously and those around you will too.

I hope these tips have helped you. Visit to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in iTunes or Stitcher.
Happy hunting!

Angela Copeland

November 2020




I remember when the idea of boundaries” was first brought up to me, I had no idea what it meant.

BOUNDARIES are how we let others know what treatment we will accept and what they can expect from us. Each person’s boundaries are unique and maintain your integrity.

Personal boundaries are a bit confusing if you are new the the idea.


Here are some indications that you will benefit from identifying and asserting yourself better when it comes to letting others know what you are okay with from them. Which of the following do you connect with?


  1. You talk on an intimate level the first time you meet someone.
  2. You go against your personal values to to fit in or to please others.
  3. You expect others to fulfill your needs automatically.
  4. You let others define you or direct your life
  5. You give as much as you can for the sake of giving.
  6. You allow someone to take as much as they can from you.
  7. You allow touching, sexual reference or sexual interactions that you don’t want.
  8. You fall apart (or get intoxicated, or exhaust yourself) so that someone will take care of you.
  9. You use food emotionally in ways that others would consider extreme.
  10. You don’t notice when others display inappropriate boundaries.


When we are disconnected from our True Selves, our Healthy Selves, we rely on an alternative defense in response to something we aren’t okay with- like addiction, eating disorders, depression, severe anxiety, etc.

When we are tuned in, we can acknowledge what we need and we can figure out how to get it. Or at least how to pursue getting what we need.

If we don’t know how to pursue what we need, we react in painful ways, like alternative defenses. The addiction/eating disorder/obsession is constantly “needed” because boundaries are not being maintained. This means a continued cycle of pain, anxiety, obsession, abusing self/food/substance/etc, despair, more pain, confusion, anxiety, etc.






The way to learn to set healthy boundaries is simple and works best when practiced regularly:

Listen to the feelings and sensations in your body. They are telling you something important.

Learn how to use both your rational thinking along with your feelings to determine what you need.

Learn how to respectfully communicate about what you need to those around you so that you can get it.


November 2020



Every few years I put out a newsblog on sleep. These days, sleep is more difficult for some of us (global un-rest, elections we may or may not have access to vote in, concerns about safety just going to the store…), so I figured it was time again.

IMHO, there is nothing more crucial to health than enough* deep sleep every night. During sleep, so many crucial things happen to re-build, clean out, consolidate, and strengthen our bodies and brains. We function just as poorly without the necessary components of “a good night’s” sleep as we do when we haven’t eaten. It just doesn’t work like it could. If you are trying to retain information (anyone taken an online course lately?), strengthen your body, or even have a decent immune system (ahem, it’s still 2020), you have got to have your sleep strategy on point.

The more consistent of a routine we can have when it comes to sleep, the better we will be able to do it and the more benefits (alertness, energy, clear-headedness, positivity) we will get from it.

How is your Sleep Hygiene?

If you know that the amount or quality of your sleep could be improved, try one or two of these at a time. If you do them all at once, you’ll probably only do it for a few days and won’t see the benefits  like you will when you implement a new trick every few nights and keep at it for a couple of weeks. It will take time to shift your sleep schedule so it is consistent and feels natural. And it is so so so worth it once you are getting the sleep you need because so many areas of your life will improve.

[_] No more naps. Napping during the day can make it more difficult to feel sleepy at bedtime.
[_] Set up your bedroom for relaxation. Keep the room cool, quiet, and dark:

[_]Cover any electronic on/off lights so it is as completely dark as possible.

[_] Adjust your thermostat to 1-3 degrees cooler at night, as research says this makes sleeping easier.

[_] Consider wearing earplugs to block out snoring or other noises which may wake you or prevent you falling asleep. White noise like a fan or that provided by an app. can also soothe auditory senses to allow for more certain sleep.

[_] Remove work-related materials or anything stress-triggering. Use the bed ONLY for sleep or intimacy.

[_] Stop caffeine consumption by noon. It can actually take several days for caffeine to get out of your system. If you are drinking it into the afternoon, and unable to fall asleep when you want to, finish your cold brew  well before lunchtime.
[_] Avoid trying to sleep off hunger. If it has been more than a few hours since you’ve eaten, a small snack can prevent  low-blood sugar triggering a stress hormone spike, which  amps your anxiety and keeps you feeling on edge.
[_] Establish a bedtime routine. This tells your body and mind that it is almost time to sleep.  Bathing, brushing teeth, reading, and/or meditating, in a particular order each night are some suggestions. I highly recommend, if much of your day is spent thinking, getting out of your head and into your physical self by stretching, rubbing your feet or laying with your feet up on the wall and focusing on your breath for a few minutes. This lets your brain know it can take a break (as opposed to reading or scrolling social media).

[_] Ease up on the alcohol. Even though we think of alcohol as a sedative, the rebound of cortisol that happens after even a glass of wine with dinner can wake you in the middle of the night.
[_]Remove electronics from your room. If you are willing to do it, reducing wifi signals, blue light, and  (again) those pesky on/off lights calms the room immensely.

[_] Put your alarm clock across the room. If your phone is charging at an outlet NOT right next to your bed while you sleep, getting up to go turn it off prevents snoozing, which will throw off all you’ve done to get your new sleep schedule in place.
[_] Put a glass of water next to the bed. As soon as you turn off your alarm (or notice yourself coming to, if you are waking naturally), gulp down the water. The slight dehydration after several hours makes for more sleepiness than is really there once we hydrate.
[_] Wake up and go to bed at the same time each day.  Even on weekends or days off, keeping your sleep schedule as consistent as possible adjusts you to naturally get sleepy and feel alert at the times that work for you.

If you notice
that you aren’t falling asleep:

Do not watch the clock. This creates an anxious loop of not sleeping, noticing how long you’ve been not sleeping, then freaking out about not sleeping, which continues to keep you not sleeping.

Once you notice that you are struggling to fall asleep, get up, leave the room and do something relaxing (read, stretch, rub your feet, watch your fish, pet your cat) until you feel sleepy.  Only spend time in bed when you are actually sleeping.  This reinforces the bed as a place of relaxation, not STRESS or worry.
If your mind is racing, write it down.  Sometimes, just getting the thoughts onto paper can keep them from feeling that they have to urgently bounce around keeping you awake.

If it seems helpful, keep a calendar of your sleep habits to notice patterns and get clear about what helps.

Sweet Dreams!



  • “Enough* sleep” is as unique to each of us as anything else. Start with the “8 hours” you’ve probably heard your whole life, but know that some folks feel fantastic with a regular 6 hours/night and some of us need 9-10 in order to feel right. Also know that the amount of sleep necessary for you to function your best will vary with age, hormonal fluctuations, and stress. If you have implimented as many of the above tips and tricks and sleep is still elusive, consult with a psychotherapist or physician who has experience working with insomnia and sleep disorders. Don’t give up because there ARE answers that can help you get the sleep you crave and deserve! This list is just a starting point.

September 2020




August: the “Month of” a lot of things.

just to name a few.


It’s also National Romance Awareness Month.

78% of single and coupled Americans, according to a study by, consider romance in a relationship “very important.”
This study was done well before a global pandemic, and well before many of the couples surveyed had likely spent most of their waking lives in the same few rooms as their partners, for weeks and weeks at a time. Understandably, you may be asking

How am I expected to be romantic RIGHT NOW?
No question, finding time to yourself now and then- taking a walk or a bath or hopping on the phone with a friend- is crucial to maintaining sanity these days. When you are all up in each others’ faces, finding breaks from each other will help you continue to respect one another. And, it is also very important to connect with each other. Being in the house together all the time doesn’t, in and of itself, deepen your connection. Finding ways to be romantic with your partner, even though you see each other more than you ever thought you would, can build your bond, ease your stress-level, and create some fun.

You get to exercise your creativity- romance is to a certain degree, according to studies conducted by Northwestern University, enhanced by your passion and your ideas.


Here are a few to get you started:

•Have a Spontaneous Sunday
You can’t plan for this one.
One partner declares it a “Spontaneous Sunday” when you wake up and (if the other person agrees) all day you do things together that you didn’t plan, haven’t done in a while, or haven’t done before but want to try. Resist the urge to think of all the things you’ll do when you have a full day to fill moment by moment.  You’ll figure it out that day together.


•Clean something
No, cleaning itself isn’t so sexy. But doing the dishes, deep cleaning the bathroom, or wiping down the kitchen is one of the top ways of letting a partner know you care and that you’ve got her back. Also, it is a top aphrodisiac. She’ll feel more relaxed and able to focus on YOU (rather than a to-do list).


•Surprise them 
This can be flowers, balloons, or even yard signs! It can be something as simple as texting an old picture of you two. If you partner isn’t a fan of attention from others, leaving a note on the pillow or next to the sink is a more discrete treat.

*Who do you know who recently got engaged? Encourage them to schedule pre-marital therapy- it is the most important part of the wedding preparation!



strengthening relationships,
before and after marriage



August 2020

You had a good run.

You and your ex had some laughs, and maybe some tears, and one of you has called it quits.

Or maybe you haven’t called it quits. But, you know it is coming. Or that it needs to.

Either way, your friends are tired of hearing about him/her. Because it isn’t ever positive. It isn’t even neutral anymore. 

So why can’t you move on to better things?

There are lots of reasons that people stay together long past when it is time to split up. Shared obligations, like a home or living expenses, pets, or (the most challenging for a couples’ separation) children make a relationship logistically difficult. Whether or not any of those exist, emotionally disengaging from someone you’ve been committed to isn’t easy. 

One thing that makes it so hard is something that starts in during the Honeymoon Phase of a relationship. During the first 3 months to a year of a relationship, there are hormones (like phenylethylamine and dopamine) that are released when we are with or even think about our new mate. We get excited and feel butterflies. And we fill in gaps about the person with lovely characteristics that they may not have shown us. Since we don’t yet know the person- at least not as a partner- we assume the best. Unfortunately, once these chemicals have ceased to fire regularly in the relationship, and the person has proven that they don’t have the characteristics assigned to them, we keep insisting that they DO have them. That they ARE who we want them to be. Even when they’ve blatantly shown us otherwise.

It starts to become repeated chasing-the-dragon events where we are insistent that they must be the way we so desperately want them to be. Maybe not this time, but certainly they will be next time.

And as the pain about how much they are not being that way we know they should be increases, it somehow gets harder and harder to recognize how lost we’ve become.

So how do we know when it really might be time to move on?

1) You have lost track of how often you are disappointed. If you are lucky, you’ll have friends or family pointing out to you how often you talk about this person in a not-so-happy way. If people are pointing out to you that you bring up disappointments or frustrations more often than not, it could indicate that it is time for a change. This could be true whether you are still in the relationship or not.

2) Who am I? Being in a relationship can contribute to a person’s identity. When that has become ALL a person is, letting go of that person means, to a certain degree, losing a sense of self. Part of moving on looks like re-establishing what is important to YOU. Not the hobbies you did with that person, not the interests they introduced you do, but finding what sparks YOUR interest. What would you wear, regardless of what they think of it? How would you decorate, knowing they don’t get a say in it? You get to do you now. Which may feel scary. This could be true whether or not you are still in the relationship.

3) There is physical, verbal, or sexual abuse. I wish this went without saying, but sometimes we need to hear it directly when it is referring to us: If someone is hitting, pushing, or grabbing you, you need to leave the relationship. If someone is speaking critically to you, calling you names, or making fun of you, you need to leave the relationship. If someone is forcing you to do things with your body or with their body that you don’t want to do, you need to leave the relationship. You are hurting yourself by staying in it, you are hurting them by continuing to give them an easy opportunity to behave harmfully, and you are hurting all of the people who care about you and know you deserve love, respect, and happiness.

Oddly, it can sometimes be more difficult to leave an abusive relationships. Here’s why.

If you need help in an abusive relationship, please contact in Austin or 
1−800−799−7233 anywhere in the U.S.

Just one of these being true means that your relationship needs some serious help. If you believe your partner wants to make it work, as a Marriage and Family Therapist, I will be the first to tell you it totally can work, when you both put in the effort to make changes.
If your partner isn’t interested in working on the relationship with you, or if any of the above is true for you about a person you are not currently committed to, it just might be time to move on.

July 2020




Why You May Need to Shut Up to Be Heard


3 Ways to Let People You Talk to Know You Care

When people are talking, and especially when they are arguing, solutions are hard to come by because each party gets so into “let me prove I’m right” mode.

When both people are in that mode, no one cares what the other is saying.

There are ways to come out of this, if you are interested in taking a deep breath and then taking steps to help your conversation partner calm down enough to come out of “let me prove I’m right” mode, as well.

How in the world do I do that?

After the deep breath (which is physiologically necessary so that you can be calm enough for your brain to do the following steps), you do three things that 1) help the other person calm down and 2) help you actually listen to what they are so intent on having heard.

1) Mirror
2) Validate
3) Empathize

These are the steps in an Imago Intentional Dialogue. They help communicate that you’ve understood. Using these skills whole-hardheartedly will relax your conversation partner. So that they feel supported enough to no longer need to prove anything. So that they have a sense that you want to be on the same team. So that they know you are interested in understanding their point of view and it is safe for them to try to understand yours.



July 2020



Are you following?



While apologizing in person is the preferred approach for most people, sometimes a formal, written apology conveys more sincerity.

I’d that suggest the two most important elements in an apology letter to a friend are being: 1) genuine and 2) empathic.

Be open and honest as you could be

Make sure that everything you are saying is true to your thoughts and feelings and as open and honest as you can be. If you are really interested in re-establishing a good relationship with someone, that has to come from an honest place about what you are sorry for, how you see what went wrong, and your feelings about it.

Acknowledge that your friend may not fully believe you are sorry

Until your friend knows you understand how they feel, it will be hard for them to believe you are sorry. Let them know what you imagine they felt or are feeling. This will go a long way in communicating that know you care and that you want to make amends.

Suggest ways to make amends

Those two are first and foremost. Additionally, if you are able to suggest ways of making amends, you are showing that you want to make things right again.

“I would like to make up for this by ___. If you need something else from me, please let me know,” is an example of what seeking to make amends could look like in a letter.


Original article on

June 2020



When I was asked last month to present to the NAMI audience, the biggest problem our country was facing was that of a global health pandemic.

Many things have happened in our nation, in our town(s), and even in our families that may to some, pale a global pandemic, in comparison.
Some of these challenges have provoked conversations that we may not have felt we had to have before. Or we may have been having these conversations with family members or on social media for some time. These are the conversations that you feel like you need to be pumped up to have before they happen. And feel like you need help calming down after.

Communication skills are the most challenging to use when emotions are high. Speaking in ways that the other person will listen. Listening so that the other person will be open to returning the favor to you- these are more important than ever when you feel passionate about what is being discussed. This is when good communication skills are the most crucial to practice.

I trust that the process I lay out in my (free) virtual presentation on June 18th at 11cst can be put to use as you navigate the difficult and important conversations that you are having.

Register for this free presentation below, and share it with those who may benefit from an overview of resolving conflicts.


Contribute to the freedom of black women:

EbonyJanice Moore started The Free People Project years ago “because my heart was broken.”
I caught her on an Instagram LIVE with Elizabeth Gilbert where Ms. Moore explained how important to her it is for women of color to have a space to learn self-care. A space that is FOR women of color, not a space created for others that they can join if they wish to conform.

“The only grace you can have is the grace you can imagine!”
~Toni Morrison
Dream Yourself Free is a different approach than resistance. Dream Yourself Free is a place where women of color can freely imagine, surrounded by grace.
Please consider learning more about and even supporting this project:
June 2020





There are so many ways you can do your part to create the long-awaited changes needed in the U.S. It is much easier to say, “well, I don’t know what to do” than to do a tiny little bit of research into all the things that are available to help you help out.


Inability to attend a protest doesn’t mean you aren’t part of the change. You are needed.


Here are just a few of the many accessible ways you can practice your values of justice, equality, love, citizenship, determination and community:

Specific Things White People Can Do To Help

Vote Save America <–Get your ballot by mail so you DO NOT MISS YOUR OPPORTUNITY TO INFLUENCE OUR LEADERSHIP
-Learn what is on the ballot in your state

Educate yourself

Me and White Supremacy
by Layla F. Saad

How to Be an Antiracist By Ibram X Kendi

Beverly Daniel Tatum: Why Are All of the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?

Brittney Cooper: The racial politics of time

Youtube video to financially help BLM with no money
*JUST WATCHING THIS VIDEO donates ad money to #BlackLivesMatter

June 2020



The cool thing about resentment is

(said no one ever)

No- seriously.

The cool thing about resentment is: you caused it.

Sure, sure- it definitely FEELS LIKE they made me feel this anger about what they did because they didn’t do the thing I didn’t tell them I needed them to do


they did do the thing that I expressly did not let them know I was not okay with-

either way- you are having feelings (that aren’t awesome) that you are responsible for managing.

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation says,

“Instead of freeing us from the wrongs of others, resentment allows those people to dominate our thinking—a kind of emotional bondage.”

Well isn’t that the last thing you want to have happen- bondage to the very person who is wronging you?!

How to be free from resentment…?

There are a few pieces to consider. These include but are not limited to expression of emotions, mindfulness, taking responsibility, forgiveness, and determined decision-making. These can all be done whether or not the other party is involved. Because of course, you are responsible for your own emotions. Even when you have been a victim of bad behavior.

May 2020


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It was several years before I discovered that relationship therapy cannot dwell on surface issues like money and roles and sexual incompatibility.” ~Harville Hendrix, Ph.D.

Without understanding why we choose the partners that we do, and the fundamental ruptures in connection that our partners naturally remind us of, long-term change and improvement is possible. Some of the couples that come to my office for help with their relationship tend to start off sessions by explaining what happened that week. This is a fine way to get going, but I also wonder if all they (think they) are there to do is have a conversation in my office that they wanted to have at home, but were afraid to attempt.

I’m honestly not great as a bodyguard.

I will hypothesize that Dr. Hendrix is referring to the deeper work available to you as a consumer of couples therapy. Money and roles and sexuality and parenting and household chores and who is right and who is wrong all show up as symptoms of all the things both of you bring to the relationship from before you even met. You can rehash the week’s fight with your couples therapist, or you can work on the dynamics that make that fight happen again and again. You can get a massage each time your back hurts (I will never advise against a massage!) or you can learn how to stand and sit in an appropriate posture so that pain isn’t created day after day in your body.

Wouldn’t you rather learn an appropriate posture for your relationship so that pain isn’t created day after day?



May 2020







You are both going to change.


I mean, ideally, right?

It is important to remember that as humans, we are ever evolving. A deep connection with your partner is what allows relationships to thrive through inevitable changes. “Marital therapy” gets a bad wrap for being just about “improving communication” (though communication skills help many couples, even if there is no other intervention). But there is so much more to working with a trained systems therapist than rehearsing “I feel ___” statements. If you want to get your money’s worth, hire someone who will do more for you than referee.

More importantly, if you are preparing to get married, invest in your marriage now with premarital work. This is more than hiring someone to make sure you’ve talked about whether or not you want kids.
The Prepare-Enrich relationship assessment gives you data about your relationship: unique strengths and growth areas that you and your partner can be aware of and nurture together as a team. Research shows that it improves longevity, intimacy, and understanding in relationships and is customized for individuals’ unique cultural, faith, and financial backgrounds. Prepare-Enrich is useful to couples of all sexual orientations.

Setting yourselves up for continual satisfaction in your relationship includes embracing the dynamics of change you will endeavor together!

What is premarital work?


May 2020





As a therapist, I’ve gotten the opportunity to observe the vastly different responses that people are having to major changes in our society.

And I can see how much there is for each of us to recognize in ourselves, so that we can learn from this experience.
By observing your reactions and responses, there is so much to learn about what you really need, in order to be most effective- in your relationships, in your job, and to take care of yourself.


Pull out a piece of paper.


Write out the following:

When I’m not ____, I am ____.


When I don’t ____, I ____.


When ____ isn’t there, I ____.


These sentence completions vary so drastically from one person to another, based upon personality, living situation, and disposition.
One person’s “when I’m not driving to work everyday” could be “I am much less agitated when I start my work,”
while it could be for someone else
“When I’m not driving to work everyday, I am not able to clear my head to transition between family and my job.”

What do you recognize in yourself, as you think through the ways you fill in the blanks? With huge elements of our daily lives DIFFERENT right now, what are we able to see, that we might never have otherwise?

April 2020

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COVID-19 Resources

Austin Food Resources

Local school districts are providing meals for their students. All others should call 211 for information on where to access emergency food resources. This information has been added to the City of Austin COVID-19 website. Resources below but some may be outdated as information is changing daily.



Food Resources

Local school districts are providing meals for their students. All others should call 211 for information on where to access emergency food resources. This information has been added to the City of Austin COVID-19 website. Resources below but some may be outdated as information is changing daily.

             A group of community members sharing information about free food and sharing resources.

Vegan meals group. They are providing some free delivery of vegan meals but are running into shortages.

free coffee for anyone who lost their job–just tell them where you worked

Parkside, The Backspace, Olive & June, Vamanos, Jugo

50% off family meals for service industry workers

Free meals to anyone who needs one


Free bag lunch to anyone who needs one, no questions asked

Call or walk in and ask for a bag lunch

50% off for service workers with recent paystub

  • Westover Hills Church of Christ

will be providing food for everyone on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-3 pm

8332 Mesa Dr., Austin, TX 78759

  • Travis Co. Community Centers that are still open and providing food pantries:

  • 3/20/2020 ONLY Estância Brazilian Steakhouse offering free meals via curbside pickup, while supplies last. 3:00-5:00pm. Limit 3 meals per vehicle.

Financial/Material Resources

Ask for help, offer help. Also has tons of resources for care offering ideas, petitions, crowdfunds, etc.

individual financial assistance for Austin locals — get help paying your bills

aid for wages lost due to SXSW cancellation

financial assistance of up to $500 for artists to replace verifiable lost income due to the cancellation of a specific, scheduled gig or opportunity (i.e. commissions, performances, contracts) due to Coronavirus/COVID-19 precautionary measures

some payment locations have closed

Utility shut-offs due to non-payment have been suspended. Customers are asked to call 512-494-9400 to get reconnected.

Wellness Resources

This is the number to call for non-coronavirus health matters.

  • If you are feeling overwhelmed with emotions such as sadness, depression, anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or someone else, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

Organizations Looking for Volunteers

  • DAS CTX (South area): 512-445-5552
  • DAS CTX (SW area): 512-364-6501
  • DAS CTX (DS area): 512- 431-7472

Offering Support & Action Items

  • Resources on safely making deliveries & offering mutual aid to immunocompromised people

a collection of petitions/actions & links to many of the resources listed here

working on a spreadsheet of people who have things to offer and developing neighborhood pods/text groups/phone trees

a collection of crowdfunding initiatives


Food Resources

Financial Resources

a place to ask for/offer help, centered around reddit users

Wellness Resources

call 1-800-841-1255

Offering Support & Action Items


Mutual Aid

Food Resources

Reimbursement for people on SNAP benefits

Financial Resources

emergency assistance for bartenders

financial assistance for those in the food & beverage industry

application must be filled out on a computer or tablet (no smartphones)

application requires a statement of need, employment history, and paystubs, current lease/mortgage, utility bills.

cash assistance to restaurant workers, delivery drivers and other tipped workers and service workers

  • Restaurant Worker’s Community Foundation COVID-19 emergency fund

Email to express interest in receiving funds, they’re currently working out a distribution system



Teacher/founder Thomas Easley is offering free 30-minute acute care consultations

The school hosts a free clinic Fridays at 10AM and 2PM EST, they will try to accommodate other times

donation-based streamed yoga classes

free streamed yoga classes

Free streamed yoga classes

Donation-based interactive online yoga & movement classes



Offering Support & Action Items

  • provides relief funds for individual workers
  • provides zero-interest business loans

National Communications

Original website may be updated:

April 2020





The following is an excerpt from Scott Kelly’s article for the New York Times. Scott Kelly is a retired NASA astronaut who spent nearly a year on the International Space Station.


Being stuck at home can be challenging. When I lived on the International Space Station for nearly a year, it wasn’t easy. When I went to sleep, I was at work. When I woke up, I was still at work. Flying in space is probably the only job you absolutely cannot quit.

But I learned some things during my time up there that I’d like to share — because they are about to come in handy again, as we all confine ourselves at home to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Here are a few tips on living in isolation, from someone who has been there.


Follow a schedule

On the space station, my time was scheduled tightly, from the moment I woke up to when I went to sleep. Sometimes this involved a spacewalk that could last up to eight hours; other times, it involved a five-minute task, like checking on the experimental flowers I was growing in space. You will find maintaining a plan will help you and your family adjust to a different work and home life environment. When I returned to Earth, I missed the structure it provided and found it hard to live without.


But pace yourself

When you are living and working in the same place for days on end, work can have a way of taking over everything if you let it. Living in space, I deliberately paced myself because I knew I was in it for the long haul — just like we all are today. Take time for fun activities: I met up with crewmates for movie nights, complete with snacks, and binge-watched all of “Game of Thrones” — twice.

And don’t forget to include in your schedule a consistent bedtime. NASA scientists closely study astronauts’ sleep when we are in space, and they have found that quality of sleep relates to cognition, mood, and interpersonal relations — all essential to getting through a mission in space or a quarantine at home.

Go outside

One of the things I missed most while living in space was being able to go outside and experience nature. After being confined to a small space for months, I actually started to crave nature — the color green, the smell of fresh dirt, and the feel of warm sun on my face. That flower experiment became more important to me than I could have ever imagined. My colleagues liked to play a recording of Earth sounds, like birds and rustling trees, and even mosquitoes, over and over. It brought me back to earth. (Although occasionally I found myself swatting my ears at the mosquitoes.

For an astronaut, going outside is a dangerous undertaking that requires days of preparation, so I appreciate that in our current predicament, I can step outside any time I want for a walk or a hike — no spacesuit needed. Research has shown that spending time in nature is beneficial for our mental and physical health, as is exercise. You don’t need to work out two and a half hours a day, as astronauts on the space station do, but getting moving once a day should be part of your quarantine schedule (just stay at least six feet away from others).


You need a hobby

When you are confined in a small space you need an outlet that isn’t work or maintaining your environment.

Some people are surprised to learn I brought books with me to space. The quiet and absorption you can find in a physical book — one that doesn’t ping you with notifications or tempt you to open a new tab — is priceless. Many small bookstores are currently offering curbside pickup or home delivery service, which means you can support a local business while also cultivating some much-needed unplugged time.

You can also practice an instrument (I just bought a digital guitar trainer online), try a craft, or make some art. Astronauts take time for all of these while in space. (Remember Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield’s famous cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity?)


Keep a journal

NASA has been studying the effects of isolation on humans for decades, and one surprising finding they have made is the value of keeping a journal. Throughout my yearlong mission, I took the time to write about my experiences almost every day. If you find yourself just chronicling the days’ events (which, under the circumstances, might get repetitive) instead try describing what you are experiencing through your five senses or write about memories. Even if you don’t wind up writing a book based on your journal like I did, writing about your days will help put your experiences in perspective and let you look back later on what this unique time in history has meant.

Take time to connect

Even with <click for the last little bit of wisdom on NYT website>

March 2020


Might as well be following!
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*If you’ve been with me for more than a couple of years, you may have read this article when it came out originally in June 2018. Seemed pretty on-the-nose now, so give it a read.
Anxiety can be pretty bossy right now, so take care of yourself, use your skills, and if needed don’t hesitate to reach out

What to Expect When Everything is Unexpected

4 Keys to Manage Big and Sudden Life Changes

A friend got pregnant at 41 with her husband who’d had a vasectomy. They already had 2 boys, 9 and 11, and were about a year and a half into the long adoption process for a child from another country.

It is generally seen as a positive scenario when a pregnancy happens to a committed couple with the resources to support the new life. This friend was definitely in that scenario. But it was not what she and her family, at that point, had imagined would be happening.

They had not intended to get pregnant. And yet, here they were.

Have you encountered sudden life changes that you didn’t expect?

Viewed initially as a negative or positive change (my friend has definitely come to view her new son as a positive!) the unexpectedness of a change can wrack havoc to feeling empowered in our own lives. It may have taken tons of work to begin to feel a sense of control with our schedule, in our relationship with a child or a partner, or with our bodies. And then along comes a major life change, out of the blue, just when we thought we’d gotten it all figured out.

So now what can I do?

As with all changes, in time we learn how to manage. And often, we are able to see the positives of what we may have initially only looked “bad.” In the meantime, here are a few tips to keep you operating as your best self during the adjustment.

1. Keep what works.

Maintaining the things that do bring comfort, or if not comfort- regularity, can ease a transition.
If your morning routine is normally to get up, make your coffee, brush your teeth, then let the dog out, continue to do exactly that, if you can. If you normally do some stretching before bed, don’t let that fall by the wayside. X, Y, Z can be unexpected and crazy, but you will know that you can still count on your morning cup of coffee. Or your evening meditation. Or your weekly walk with a friend. Or whatever you may have already in place that you count on to happen regularly. Regularity provides comfort.

2. Phone a friend.

Or text. Or just prioritize your social networks. “Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” is so 5 minutes ago- we now know that depending on each other is the way we were intended to operate. And the way that we truly flourish. And really, there is no doing anything completely on one’s own, unless you are literally stranded on an island. We exist in community, so don’t underestimate how sustainable the friends and neighbors around you make your existence.

3. Embody your strength.                  

And by that, let’s remember that we are living inside a BODY. This doesn’t mean find time to embark on a new exercise endeavor. It means connect with your physical self. Breathe into your belly and feel what your lungs do against the back of your chair. Stretch your legs (see No. 1 re: stretch before bed) and notice what sensations there are when you do. If exercise is your jam, do that as much as you are able during this time of transition- now is NOT the time to let physical activity fall by the wayside. There is empowerment in feeling connection to our bodies, in knowing the vehicle we are driving.

4. Allow reliance on faith.

It can be very lonely, even terrifying, to think that I alone have to will something to happen. To think that I alone have to ensure my own or my loved ones’ well-being – how could little ME possibly assure that? Believing in the possibilities of all that is greater than ourselves can be such a relief when we get wrapped up in the mindset that I am the biggest, baddest entity in my own world. Other people do things that contribute to your success. Weather conditions affect the happenings in your day. Traffic allows you to be one place or another at any given time of day- or not. YOU alone have only a small part to play in how your life is affected. You can choose to place your faith in the goodness of all that is greater than you (it is okay to call this “God,” or “the Universe” or “Source” or whatever is the least scary) that allows you to focus exclusively on what you have control over. And therefore do your very best at that.

With major change, the last thing we usually want is more things we have to DO. Think of the above as 4 Key Focuses, during this time of change in your life. When we choose what is most helpful to stay focused on, the resulting actions end up getting us where we are focused on going.

June 2018


Three Reasons For Addressing Your Fears


It certainly makes sense why it seems easier to ignore those little fears- fears are scary! And you know, if I just ignore it, maybe it will go away…

Ignoring fears makes it unlikely that they will go away. But, you may be able to avoid the things you fear. If flying makes you uneasy- just drive places (can be difficult if you live in the middle of Texas…!). Or if you are afraid of discussing a certain topic with someone- just don’t bring it up.

Thing is- we can’t always avoid the things we fear. Austin is several hours from any other state. At some point, that difficult topic is going to be brought up by someone else.

At some point, you realize, might as well ADDRESS YOUR FEAR. Here are a few more reasons to consider doing that scary thing.

1) They won’t be your fears anymore.
When we address what we’ve been running from, it loses its power. Eventually, and sometimes even immediately, we don’t fear it anymore. This is why the best treatment for phobias is “exposure therapy.” Facing it. It makes it go away.

2) You can achieve things you weren’t even able to consider before.
When we are holding back fears, all of our energy goes to pushing them away, managing the fear, and trying to stay afloat. Once the fear has been faced, we have freed up energy and awareness to see possibilities and opportunities that the blinders we’d been wearing to survive through the fear wouldn’t allow us to see before.

3) You will have an easier time with fears moving forward.
Anytime we get practice doing a hard thing, it gets easier each time we do it. This is true too with facing our fears. Things that previously would have seemed unmanageable are effortless, because you’ve become adept at facing your fears.


March 2020


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What Unwillingness to Go to Couple Counseling Can Reveal About Your Partner


More often than not,

one partner in the couples who have come to work with me would really rather not be in couples therapy. This is to be expected. Therapy is difficult.
you are asked to face feelings that you’ve avoided
you are asked to look at yourself, even if you KNOW that the problems in your relationship are all the other person’s fault
you are asked to try to do things differently than you have done them- probably for a very, very long time
It makes sense that someone wouldn’t be eager to sign up for all of that!
And, many reluctant partners do still come to therapy because they trust that it will make things better. Or, at the very least, that it will get their therapy-hungry partner off of their back.

But when your partner isn’t willing to take a chance with you on therapy, there may be reasons why that are worth considering.


fear of being blamed

This one makes a lot of sense. When a couple is frequently in conflict, chances are there is plenty of blaming going on. Your partner may feel like going to couples therapy means volunteering for an hour (or more) of being blamed for your unhappiness.
Thankfully, a skilled couples therapist will do much more than just listen to complaints. She will help you both take responsibility for yourselves. A competent couples therapist will look at your problems as a whole, rather than your problems vs. their problems.

spending an hour being beat up on

Also very understandable. If you feel beat up on when you interact with your spouse at home, why in the world would you agree to dedicate and full session each week to getting beat up on IN FRONT OF someone else?!
Luckily, a skilled couples therapist will not let this happen. Or at least, not more than once. (Sometimes, it is helpful to see how your typical patterns play out, in order to understand what changes are required for healing.) A competent couples therapist will be working with each of you to live your values in your relationship- which will include not only teaching each of you how to stop bullying, but also teaching each of you how to request the respect, care, and acts of love that you both deserve from each other.

not having a chance to air their own concerns

At the risk of being gender-ist, I have to point out the most often, in heterosexual couples, the male comes to therapy with the mindset that, “as long as she is happy, I am happy.” And, to a large extent, this really is true for most men.
And, a skilled couples therapist will be interested in healing both parties’ wounds that you each trigger in each other. Overall, one person’s relief is not enough. A competent couples therapist views the couple as the client. Not just one of you. Everyone’s input is not only valued, it is required.

unwillingness to work on it

This one is where some concern arises. If you aren’t in a long-term commitment, willingness to work on the relationship is a very important characteristic to require, before making a long-term commitment to a partner. If you are married, or otherwise committed long-term, unwillingness to work on the relationship may feel very scary if this is what is keeping your partner from, well- from agreeing to work on it with you.
There is hope. A skilled relational therapist will work with you to make changes that can allow space for your partner to make improvements- even without coming to therapy. It is amazing how much people change when someone close to them makes positive changes on their own. A competent therapist can help you do this in individual therapy. Ask for it.


March 2020


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What To Do When You Feel Lonely

As mammals, human beings are wired to be in community. When we are disconnected from people, it feels bad. Loneliness is upsetting because on a very basic level, we need to interact with and inter-depend upon each other.

Everyone experiences loneliness, at least sometimes. Some who it can be especially difficult for are performers, who experience the thrill of audience validation, and then return home to solitude. The stark contrast can be jarring and feel empty, even hopeless.

Also prone to loneliness are those who have isolated work situations. Working from home means you probably don’t have in-person socialization automatically built in to your workday. Even if you are online or on the phone with others, day in and day out can feel more isolated than were you to go somewhere and work “alone,” but surrounded by coworkers or office mates.

For some, you work around others, but since you work alone, you may long to be part of a team.

If you decide that what you are feeling is loneliness, there are some basic options that may help alleviate it.


~find a hobby
Whether it is something you were already interested in or a new hobby, attend a meetup group. Even if it is a solo activity (crafting, painting, meditation), doing it in community can alleviate feelings of loneliness.

~make connections
Pay attention to the people you ARE around. Even if you didn’t spend time with friends or family in a given day, did you optimize your human interactions with the person in line behind you or your cashier? Did you appreciate the conversation with the customer service rep. who answered your phone call? Could you value the humanity of the person who shared the elevator with you?

~examine your relationship with yourself
We all need relationships. And, if you have a hard time being alone because it means being with yourself, loneliness may be weighing on you beyond feeling alone. It’s one thing to long for company. It is another to dislike your own company.


If loneliness has turned in to difficulties completing the tasks you need to each day, or if you notice that you are saying things to yourself about your loneliness that are berating (“who would want to hang out with me anyway?” or “I’ll don’t deserve relationships.”)  it would help to talk to someone about these feelings. Symptoms like these, or like a change in interests you used to have, change in your energy level, difficulty concentrating, and thinking of hurting yourself indicate that loneliness is at a level that calls for professional assistance. If you find yourself there, take a peek at to find a qualified professional who you can connect with or call 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) .


March 2020


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“You want a divorce…?!

Well, shouldn’t we at least go to couples counseling first?”

This is NOT the purpose of couples therapy.

By all means, if you are considering a split up and you have any sort of investment in your relationship (years of your lives intertwined, shared property or children, for example) please take the time and money to make your split in the most respectful way by seeking the support of a Marriage and Family Therapist. Or of course, seek assistance to salvage and re-build your relationship, which is unbelievably possible with the educated support that a Marriage and Family Therapist can provide.

But you will not only get incredible benefit from investing in couples therapy, you will get a stronger, more connected, more intimate relationship by working with a Marriage and Family Therapist when you are not in crisis.
There are so many misconceptions about couples therapy. 

To clear the air:
You don’t have to come in with a specific thing you want to talk about or accomplish each time.

All due respect, I do know more about improving relationships than just being a “neutral party” while you bring up the stuff that you are pissed about.

It makes sense to have a safe space to discuss things that can get too heated when you discuss them on your own. Just this element of couples therapy is a huge relief for people.
And, let’s go beyond that.
I’d like to take you to a place where you CAN have those tough conversations without them turning into a wrestling match, just because you are too polite to go there in my office. Since the work we as MFTs do is based in science and research, we can actually help you learn to be fully function on your own, so you don’t have to seek asylum in an office in order to talk about certain things.

Imagine learning how to do that BEFORE you came to a stalemate about a particular topic?!

You are wasting your hard-earned money if you are only paying your therapist to put out fires. You can use your therapist to ease the tension when you talk out a specific combative incident, or you can let your therapist guide you both to being better partners while you identify and address root injuries that make your fights happen in the first place. If your partner was someone else, you wouldn’t be fighting about the same things. You chose your partner because they trigger in you exactly what you need most to heal.
Let’s do that work.
That’s the work that will improve your relationship with your partner, with yourself, and with everyone else in your life.

All of this supports strong, healthy couples going to premarital therapy to learn these skills as they prepare for a lifelong commitment.

Here’s another article about couples’ therapy being good:

February 2020


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Master Your Anxiety in 5 Steps

Anxiety is not an easy beast to overcome. Working with a therapist trained to use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is probably the quickest solution when anxiety, fear, and worry keeps you from doing what you want to do.

Here is a taste of what CBT looks like:

1) Identifying triggers
Is there something in particular that freaks you out? Does anxiety kick-in before parties? Meetings with your boss? When your parents are coming over? Meals? Places you want to do a good job?
When we can narrow down specific triggers to your anxiety, we have clarity in healing.

2) Ranking the challenge level
Even if it feels like anxiety is just overall overwhelming, when we begin to really observe it and learn from it, we recognize that some fears are more challenging than others. Maybe you are uneasy eating out, but eating out with certain people or at a certain restaurant has seemed almost unbearable. Maybe you are fearful about doing a presentation at work. Is that a “10” on the scale of discomfort, or are there things that cause even MORE anxiety than that for you? Creating a scale of how distressing different triggers are is part of narrowing down how to overcome what anxiety is keeping you from doing.

3) Noticing your thoughts
What is anxiety telling you?
One person may stand on a diving board and hear “jumping in to the water is going to be so fun!” and another person hears “if you jump off of this board, you are going to drown.”
Which thought is more conducive to diving?
Much of the time, we aren’t even aware of what anxiety is telling us- we just believe it. Once you realize what anxiety is telling you, you have the opportunity to consider whether or not you want to listen.

4) Choosing preferred thoughts
If anxiety is telling you “if you ask them out, they will laugh in your face,” it can be really difficult to date the person you are interested in getting to know. Once you’ve identified what anxiety is telling you, you have a choice about what is most helpful to think. Maybe “asking someone out feels scary, and whatever happens, I’ll be glad I went after something I wanted” or “someone who laughs in the face of a person who is interested in them isn’t a person I want to date anyway, so might as well ask” or “I need to be honest with this person that I am interested because it feels fake to keep acting like I only want to be friends” are other ways of thinking about the situation that might be more conducive to the life you want to live. And you get to choose.

5) Practice
As amazing as it might be to do pushups and have amazing strength for the rest of the year, we just have to practice things we want to become easier. Practicing new skills makes them easier. And eventually, we don’t even have to think about them- they are just our natural way of being.

To be clear, this is a very consolidated version of what therapy for anxiety can include. Reading this article is not intended to solve mental health problems. Please study further if this information is of interest and check out if you would like to further explore the relief that is possible for you with a licensed professional who does this work for a living.

February 2020


Do NOT See A Therapist: until you’ve done these 5 things

What a relief it can be to get out of my head and into my body sometimes!

But what the hell does this phrase mean: “get in your body”???

“When I woke up in the morning, instead of noticing the racing thoughts in my mind first thing, I actually noticed the slippery, soft, sensual sensation of the sheets on my bare skin.”

Sound a little woo woo?

Reducing the endless stream of thinking/planning/analyzing and being more physically present and aware of your internal experience has loads of benefits.


Here are a few more benefits of being in your body (besides slippery sheets):

You will be calm. You won’t feel jittery, buzzy, or cloudy the way you might when you’re over-thinking and stuck in your head.

Helps you be in relationship. When your body is in relationship with someone else’s body, you’re communicating on a whole different level. On a deeper level, it’s much more fun to get it on when you’re actually experiencing your body, rather than being stuck in worries and to-do lists and thinking that keeps you from really connecting with another person.

You can trust that your body is the right size. When you’re paying attention to sensation, your food is more enjoyable, you’ll notice when your belly feels full, you’ll appreciate the yumminess of your body, and you’ll take care of your physical self based on what you actually need, rather than what an outside source insists is right for you.

Energize your intuition. When you feel your body, you’re more able to tap into gut sensations and other somatic feelings that will help guide your decisions and your actions.

Identify your boundaries. Is BOUNDARIES one of those forbidding things you know you need to be better at, but are at a loss with actually doing? Experiencing and responding to bodily sensations is how you identify what you are okay and not okay with. That sinking feeling in your chest or knot in your gut are there to protect you from energy vampires trying to suck you dry. Getting more in touch with bodily sensations helps you understand what is right for you in an experiential way.

What benefits have you experienced, or would you like to experience by being in your body?

February 2020




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3 Ways to Be a Better Girlfriend

Most women want to be better partners, but since our reference point is usually doing more of what WE want in the relationship, it isn’t necessarily appreciated by our partners the way we expect it to be.

The following points are based on research with heterosexual partnerships. Whatever yours is, consider how what you are doing may be perceived, as opposed to how YOU perceive what you give to your partner.


  • Talking about it isn’t always the solution. Believe it or not, men and women tend to need different things in order to feel connected. (It is not lost on me that this advice is coming to you from a relationship therapist-ME- who makes a living helping couples talk to each other!) My esteemed mentor Pat Love goes in depth in her book How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It. A must-read for any woman who is fed up with her partner’s disinterest in improving communication.

  • Use the impetus to nag as a reminder for self-care. Women are groomed, especially in the south, to take care of and manage others. Naturally, if a woman feels discomfort, she looks to others to change something so that she she feels better. The more you can prioritize taking care of your own needs, the less likely you’ll hear “what a nag” you are for urging your partner to change. When you satisfy your own satisfaction, you will feel better, you will become more interesting to your partner, and if you’ve been accused of being a nag, you will give your partner the space they are asking for when they make that accusation.

  • Happy wife=Happy life is legit. In so many of the couples I’ve seen, male partners have nearly no complaints other than that their female partner is dissatisfied. Again and again I have seen proof that, in (hetero) partnerships where the female is content, satisfied, and feels connection, male partners are also content and satisfied. In one of my favorite couples, the husband says, “I’m on vacation!” to describe how happy he is day-to-day, living with his wife when she is happy with him.


Most of us want to be the best we can to the people we love. Consider that “best” may mean something different to to your partner than to you.


January 2020




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It is time. 

You know that meeting with an expert would help you think and feel better.
Or, maybe you don’t know that, but your friends have suggested you find a therapist. Or maybe your friends don’t know what you are struggling with, and you’d like to keep it that way, but you can’t keep what you are dealing with to yourself for much longer.

Scheduling a first therapy appointment can be a tough call to make.

But how do you even know who is the right therapist?!

Here are a few ways to streamline getting yourself the help you deserve:

  • Where do you need your clinician’s office to be? Close to work? Close to home? Would meeting online be easiest/most discreet? Depending upon the area where you live, it may behoove you to seek out an online specialist. Rhiannon C. Beauregard’s online sex therapy practice allows her clients to work with her from any of the five states in which she is licensed, without having to show up at a sex therapist’s office.


  • Once you’ve narrowed your need geographically (or technologically), ask people you trust >if they have worked with someone they would recommend. A friend is more likely to suggest a professional based upon whether or not they felt comfortable with him or her, which says more than what letters are after the clinician’s name. Those letters are relevant because they indicate experience and education. But if you feel uncomfortable with your therapist, it doesn’t much matter how “qualified” they are.


  • price point – what can you invest in long term (if that is a factor). If a clinician’s rate isn’t feasible long-term, talk to them about affordability. Don’t let insurance dictate your care. Relief will be well worth discussing fees with your potential therapist, rather than seeing someone just so it feels worth it that you met your deductible this year.


  • have they treated your issue? Talk about abundance of expertise in Central TX- no need to settle! If you don’t trust someone to knows your issue, keep shopping.


  • don’t be a people-pleaser! This person is there to help you- even if that means helping you find a different therapist or modality! Therapists expect you to be looking for “a good fit” and won’t be offended if they aren’t it for you. If you don’t think they are, keep shopping.


  • let them know you don’t know what to expect– ask specific questions, if you have them. It is your therapist’s job to help you feel comfortable about this process (even though the process of healing isn’t itself supposed to be comfortable!). You need to feel safe with this person in order to do the tough work you will be doing. Let your therapist know what you need to know in order to feel safe in their care.





Investing in psychotherapy involves time, money, and a desire to make changes with the help of a qualified clinician.

There are, at the very least, things you can do which will move you along from where you are now. And if you so choose, will prepare you for work with a therapist and possibly make it even more quickly effective.

Do NOT See A Therapist: until you’ve done these 5 things

January 2020


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Many of us have become so accustomed to seeking outside direction on exercise and movement: you have to do this workout, at this intensity, for this duration. Very scientific. And actually, personal trainers and fitness instructors got that information, to give to you, from science.

When study participants did X for X long, they had X results.

Great data for science.

Ideally, this data is then integrated in to use with real people who want to improve their own lives, not just provide scientific data for other people. Integrating the information gained from science with real people requires acknowledging how it impacts each specific person. Studies in physiology and exercise science aren’t interested in whether the exercise was pleasurable or if it fits into subjects’ lifestyles or whether it felt good in their bodies. They are seeking biological feedback.


I know fitness professionals who DO take interest in their clients’ overall well-being. However, it is so unfortunately common to just dump facts on people about what workout will achieve what results, leaving out the vital component of how that workout interacts with the actual person doing it. How they feel doing it. How they feel afterwards. Both physically and mentally. Which is why we are working out to begin with, isn’t it? To feel better, in one way or another?

Your actual experience living in your body everyday is much more authoritative than someone who doesn’t know you, but has some great data on how to affect biomarkers.

You get to be the authority on what works for you and what doesn’t. And that may change from day-to-day.

True Health combines information we have gained from test subjects and experiences with whateer each unique individual brings to the table.  Research is important. And it must be integrated with how your body responds, how you feel about the movement, and how it affects your life overall.


December 2019

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Have you ever wondered if it might be helpful to “go talk to someone”?

Investing in psychotherapy involves time, money, and a desire to make changes with the help of a qualified clinician. Everyone has considered counseling in response to a life transition, a break-up, a death, or feeling like they have less control than they’d like.

“But can’t I get better on my own? Do I have to go to psychotherapy?”


There are, at the very least, things you can do which will move you along from where you are now. And if you so choose, will prepare you for work with a therapist and possibly make it even more quickly effective.

Do NOT See A Therapist: until you’ve done these 5 things





YAY! We completed our Therapy!

Achieving what brought you to therapy is truly cause for celebration.

But how long will that take?

One of the questions I ask new clients in their initial intake paperwork is how long they expect therapy to last. This gives me an idea of how invested they are in the level of change they are willing to create for their lives.

A 2009 Dutch study suggested that a longer duration of treatment may prevent return into mental health care. And, according to Dr. Malcolm Miller, Ph.D. “Brief Therapy” lasts between 10-20 sessions with clear, focused goals and specific assignments for the client between sessions. He stated this in an article in 2004. In my experience, most clients who are new to therapy nowadays expect their treatment (whether we call it “brief” or not) to last 4-5 sessions or less.

I want it now” is so easy to expect nowadays. And why shouldn’t it be? If I can use an app. to find a date who is near me right now, use an app. to call a car to pick me up right now, and then within the seconds it takes for me to open an app, I can tell my friends what I am dong right now, why shouldn’t I expect everything to be just as quick?

The thing is, the challenges that bring people to therapy usually didn’t happen so suddenly.

A couple I recently aided in discernment about their relationship said their problems had been going on for 3 or 4 years. Their relationship was 5 years old. Unfortunately, when couples who have been together longer than that, usually they come to my office saying the problems that brought them have been going on for even longer than a few years.

Now, I’m not suggesting that a client’s duration in therapy need parallel the duration of the problems. Each person is unique and has unique desires for what they get out of their therapy. And the things you do to continue your healing will hopefully still continue after you stop seeing your therapist. If you are coming to therapy with full intentions to make changes, positive growth will happen more quickly than the unintentional fall into problems happened.

However, attending just a few therapy sessions, so I can say, “I tried therapy!” really isn’t giving myself a chance to really reap benefits.

Some tips to getting the most out of every single session:

•tell your therapist what you think is working
If you noticed something in a session that was helpful, let her know.

•tell your therapist if you don’t like something about your sessions
The whole point of that hour is for you to get what you need. This doesn’t mean you’ll always feel good in session or immediately afterwards. But if you don’t think something is right, this is important to bring up because it will contribute to you getting the help you need. A good therapist will work to identify what you need and either provide it directly or connect you with someone who will.

•communicate your expectations about therapy
If you only have the time or money for a few sessions, let your therapist know. A different approach will be used with a client who expects to attend a few sessions. The benefits of longer-term therapy may not be possible in just a few weeks, but with that information, a therapist can make sure you get the most out of the time that you are working together.

•be up front about reasons for ending your work together
Best case scenario, both client and therapist know that the last time they meet will be the last time they meet. It is clinically important for you to have an appropriate termination and for that closure to be processed together. A good therapist will modify your treatment if cost or scheduling keeps you from coming to therapy for as long as you’d like. But only if your therapist knows your limitations.

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How Systems Theory Can Change Your Life


As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I have saved what I believe to be the best for last.

(scroll down to read preceding articles on models of psychotherapy)

Systems Theory is a way of perceiving a client’s problem through the lens of the system that they are a part. Most commonly, this means the family you grew up with, or your family of origin. But systems-minded therapists also consider current family structure, extended family, as well as other surrounding communities (your workplace, your band mates, your place of worship, etc) because these parts contribute to the behaviors and experiences of the identified patient (you).

Because in Texas, MFTs are the newest kid on the block when it comes to mental health professionals, many Texans misunderstand that a “Marriage and Family Therapist” only works with couples and families. The license title is a bit of a misnomer because it actually describes the way a client’s problems are perceived, as opposed to WHO goes to therapy.

Psychiatrists in California in the 40’s started noticing that the mothers of their schizophrenic patients had similar personalities. This was the start of this wider view of helping to heal a patient- to look not only at the identified patient himself, but also the structures and systems (s)he is a part of, who help him maintain (even if they aren’t intending to maintain) his or her symptoms.

For me, this all gets very exciting since working with the loved ones of those who struggle with addiction and other mental illness is one of my favorite things to do. When a codependent begins to learn how much power they have by re-focusing on his or her own behavior (instead of trying to get their partner/son/mother/etc to change), lives improve in mind-blowing ways.

Now please don’t misunderstand- Systems Theory does NOT state that mothers are the cause of all their children’s’ problems.



Systems theory is actually very different from the traditional medical model of: Cause –> Effect.

Systems theory understands that: a virus being present in an organism doesn’t necessarily cause sickness, because there are many other factors at play. What the organism ate, how much they slept, how long they were exposed to the virus, whether they’d been sick previously or recently, and numerous other factors influence the organism’s immune system and impact the effect that a virus may or may not have. Similarly, twins who have been born into same households have had drastically different life paths and very different mental health profiles, proving that there is never ONE cause to create an outcome. It is an entire system. It is the cumulative effect of all factors surrounding a person that contribute to his or her success and struggle.


November 2019

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How Person-centered Therapy Can Change Your Life


This one is a good one. Also referred to as client-centered therapy or Rogerian psychotherapy, this theory of psychology isn’t talked about much these days. Carl Rogers got it going in the 40’s and it seems that more active and directive forms of psychotherapy have nudged it out of vogue.

However, if you’ve ever had a conversation with someone who listened and validated the way Rogerian Therapy indicates, you probably identified some solutions for yourself without feeling like you were being guided or directed. You probably felt empowered.

Dr. Rogers’ Person-centered Therapy gets credit for your therapist calling you her “client” instead of her “patient” as Freud and Jung and others had done before him. Rogerian or Person-centered therapy sees client and practitioner as collaborators in therapy. A Person-centered therapist will be authentic and empathic. A Person-centered therapist is intentional about maintaining a positive attitude towards clients, which can be a relief for folks who are wary of feeling judged, misunderstood or talked down to.

Rogers believed that every person is a “potentially competent individual” who could benefit greatly from this therapy.  Roger’s humanistic way of doing therapy aims to increase a person’s feelings of self-worth. He intends to walk with others as they become more of who they ideally would like to be.

Who can argue with that?

November 2019

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How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life


In a yoga-centric city like Austin,

I’m not about to claim to know more about mindfulness than the next guy.

What I do know is, all the lovely action-oriented jewels that can be gained from theories like Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (see previous articles) can’t even begin to come about if we aren’t present-minded enough to stop our automatic thoughts and use some different techniques.

It may seem obvious when your couples counselor points out that name-calling doesn’t help you be a good partner.
AND, when you are irate the moment your partner does that thing that THEY KNOW drives you over the edge, you have called them a name before you even realize you’ve opened your mouth.

Enter mindfulness.

A regular daily practice of mindfulness exercises (meditation, focused breathing, or guided visualization) teaches your brain to make space for any of these other great psychotherapeutic theories that could potentially change your life. Practicing mindfulness is a key element for any of this previously mentioned stuff to work.


Do I have to go to a yoga class in order to develop my mindfulness?



No you do not.
Mindfulness can be practiced anytime, anywhere and starts with your decision to consciously focus on one thing and one thing alone.


Practicing mindfulness looks like:
instead of listening to a podcast or spotify on your run, choosing to put 100% focus on the sensations and sounds of your feet hitting the pavement.


Practicing mindfulness looks like:
instead of re-hashing the day and mentally preparing for tomorrow while you cook dinner, choosing to experience intentionally how everything you are cutting/cooking/seasoning smells.


Practicing mindfulness is actively and intentionally choosing present-moment awareness. Experiencing what is happening right here, right now. It is also, and this is very important, kindly choosing to re-direct your attention, each time you notice it has wandered, back to the present focus.
Again, and again, and again.

If you have 100,000 other thoughts, while you are practicing paying 100% attention to the smells in the kitchen, that is 100,000 opportunities to practice (that word again) returning your focus to what scents you are releasing from the food.

If you are practicing being a mindful listener, each time you notice your thoughts drifting away from what your partner is saying, you get another opportunity to practice returning 100% focus to what words are being said, the tone used, the facial expressions, the gestures, etc, etc, etc.

What I hear again and again is that people tell themselves “I can’t meditate” (which can be an intimidating word for practicing mindfulness). People say this simply because their brain did what brains do and created thoughts.

Well, duh. Brains are supposed to come up with thoughts.

The practice of mindfulness improves a brain’s ability to focus. And it gives you power over thoughts. You choose your focus. Thoughts begin to lose their ability to boss you around, insisting that you think what they want when they want. You are empowered to simply notice, “oh hey- there’s a thought that wants my attention! I’ll come back to it later…”

October 2019




How ACT Can Change Your Life


I am imagining some of you hard-working readers responding to the title of this post with, “Well of course taking more ACTion will solve my problems!

In a Do More = Have More culture, we as Americans have been conditioned to believe there is nothing we can’t pull ourselves up out of by our bootstraps, if we just work hard enough.

Which, to be fair, is a much more functional mindset than the victim stance of “no matter what I do, nothing will improve.”

But none of this is necessarily what the psychological treatment model Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is about.

My esteemed mentor and supervisor Pat Love used to recite, “Feel the Feeling, Do the Right Thing.” This is the essence of what ACT urges it’s participants to do. Accept the experience of the painful emotion or disorder that’s been plaguing you (for no-matter-how long) AND, commit to following your values in the face of discomfort.

Feel the Feeling, Do the Right Thing

This seems like an ethical way for anyone to live, right? Do what you know to be right, even if you don’t feel like it. It is what we teach our kids- it makes sense that you feel angry that she took your toy. And you need to share your toys, even if you don’t feel like it.

For someone who’s depression has insisted that they remain in bed one more day

or for someone who has felt so terrified that eating a cookie will cause massive weight gain and subsequent rejection from everyone

or for someone whose OCD has convinced them that wiping the counter one more time will keep them from the deadly disease that they are certain will overcome them,

when something has become unmanageable the concepts in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy can be game changers.


ACT has six Core Processes, each important to creating the healing changes needed for living with debilitating challenges like depression and anxiety, as well as workplace stress, test anxiety, social unease, chronic pain, substance abuse, and diabetes. The six core therapeutic processes in ACT are: contacting the present moment, defusion, acceptance, self-as-context, values, and committed action.

My clients who have studied Cognitive Distortions with me have likely heard me say that Emotional Reasoning is my favorite. An example of Emotional Reasoning is when you are feeling rejected and lonely, so even though you’ve been invited to a get-together tonight, the emotions of shame and sadness have convinced you that you aren’t really wanted there. Emotional reasoning is when our emotions tell us things are facts that are not.

So, with an appreciation for this pesky mistake our brains can sometimes make, the ACT Process of Defusion comes in great handy. Defusion asks us to look AT our thoughts, rather than through them (like they are colored glasses).

In our example with the invitation, defusing from negative thoughts, like, “they don’t really want me to come” or “I know they don’t really even like me” will loosen up your emotional grip on that belief that “I am unwanted.” It frees you up to know that “I just had the thought that ‘they don’t really like me.’ That’s interesting. What would I like to do with that thought?”

When we acknowledge that: just because I thought it doesn’t make it fact, we have much, much more room to choose thoughts and behaviors things that are in line with our values. Then, we are living in ways we can be proud of, even if our emotions are tough.

Laura K. Chang, Ph.D., LPC does a fantastic job explaining ACT at her site: Check her out if you are interested in learning more about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

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October 2019




How CBT Can Change Your Life


Not cannabidiol.

Though that can provide life changing effects to sufferers of numerous physical, mental, and emotional complications.

No- this is about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. One of the most empirically validated and most publicized forms of psychotherapy. It is straight-forward and measurable, so journalists like to do stories on it. It has its limitations for sure, but it also has some incredibly helpful benefits.


Why you think affects how you feel.

When you feel better, you act better.

The way you behave affects your how you relate to people and what other people think of you.

The way people think of you affects all of your social interactions. Which has a huge impact on how you feel.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is empowering. Arguably the most empirically validated method of treating mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, all the diagnoses that are based in depression and anxiety, CBT shows you how actively choosing more effective thoughts has a direct impact on how you feel.

When we examine your Core Beliefs- about yourself, your life, and your future, you get to choose whether or not the way you see things is helping you. Doing this, you gain the power to alter your feelings in any given situation.


You can stop feeling anxious about meeting new people and enjoy it.

You can wake up in the morning and feel eager to get to work.

You can feel empowered to make decisions and be as assertive as you’d like, rather than feeling like a victim of whatever happens to you.



Pure CBT is a pretty active way of doing therapy.

It doesn’t involve a lot of “how does that make you feel?” and passive listening and head-nodding from your therapist.

Instead, if your therapist is doing purely CBT, you will be focused on what thoughts you are thinking in given situations and choosing the most effective thoughts in those moments so that you can feel the way you want to feel- rather than defaulting to feeling crappy because you are thinking thoughts that feel crappy.


As a budding therapist while I was still in grad. school, my first practicum placement was in an elementary school with “at risk” 5th graders. These kids were lower-SES and every one of them that I worked with was smart, and creative, and adorable.

One client, let’s call her Bianca, was 9 years old, had long, wavy brown hair, and was so excited when she saw me on the days that I invited her to eat her lunch in my office for our work together.

Bianca explained how embarrassed she felt, just standing in line at the drinking fountain. Because she said, sometimes people didn’t say anything to her, even people who knew her. She had been telling herself that when her classmates didn’t say anything to her, it must be because they didn’t like her. They must not be talking to her at the water fountain because they thought she was dumb.

I asked her if there was possibly any other reason they might not say something to her.

“Um…” she thought. “Maybe, they didn’t see me…”

“Or maybe sometimes, they were already talking to someone else, so they might have seen me, but that’s why they didn’t say ‘hi.’”

Together, we came up with several other reasons a person might not acknowledge her at the water fountain- maybe they had had just gotten in trouble or taken a really hard test, and they minds were on that thing- not on seeing who was around. There were lots of reasons the kids at the water fountain might not be saying ‘hi.’ And lots of the reasons had nothing to do with whether or not they liked Bianca.

Bianca was relieved with this new way of viewing her problem. Seeing CBT in action with her and with the  other kids at this elementary school seemed magic to me. Imagine seeing these kids’ eyes light up when they realized they weren’t doomed to feeling how terrible they’d yet felt!

Working with someone who is trained in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is one of the  best ways to put it to use and make major changes in how you think, feel, and behave. When you are considering working with a therapist, you can ask if CBT is one modality that they use, and you can ask whether they think that might be useful for what you’d like to gain from therapy.



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October 2019



Are you following?




“I want us to communicate better than our parents did.”

A common request in Premarital Therapy.
Even if your parents had a great relationship, why not seek deeper intimacy, stronger communication, and more fulfillment in your own relationship?!
The long-term commitments that are able to last longer than others do so, at least in part, with the use of the following communication techniques.



Mirroring is a way for the person speaking to hear what they’ve just said, in order to check it for clarity. When my partner mirrors back what I’ve just said, sure it helps confirm he understood it, but it also lets me hear whether or not that is actually what I meant.
“So what you’re saying is….”
Mirroring helps the listener know they heard it right. And, it helps the speaker better understand their own thoughts and feelings, because they’ve been reflected back.



Validating does NOT mean agreeing with what you just heard.
It means you get what they just said, from their perspective.
I have no reason to watch war movies every week, based upon my own level of interest in the genre. And, I can validate someone else telling me how great they find the films. “You relate to the movies because it reminds you of the time you served and that honor you still feel, as a veteran. That makes sense to me!”



One of my favorite communication techniques. Empathizing  lets other people know that, not only do you hear the words they are saying, you really GET what the experience was like for them.
When I share something that was very difficult for me, and the response is, “wow- that must’ve been hard because you were already feeling hopeless,” I can tell they really felt my experience, not just heard me tell them what happened.


Eye Contact

In some cultures, looking down or away is a sign of respect. Here in The States, where extroversion is applauded, eye contact shows people you are interested in connecting. If “eyes are the windows to one’s soul” then focusing on one’s eyes is a deep and meaningful way to connect.
In fact, one great couples’ meditation is to simply share each others’ gaze for 5 minutes.
Set a timer. Look each other in the eye with out looking away (you can blink) until it goes off.
Discuss what you notice.



Really successful relationships connect physically. This means physical intimacy, which can even extend outside the bedroom. Of the 5 Love Languages, touch means more to some than others. And yet, we all need physical touch. A simple hand on your partner’s leg when you sit down, or on their back when you stand next to one another means so much for sense of connection. And without words, communicates “I care about you.”


High-fives & Back-pats 

Unless your couples’ therapist moves in with you, you have got to be your own best cheerleaders. When you navigate a tough conversation well or come to a solution or work through uncomfortable emotions and come out as teammates, celebrate yourselves! High five, dap, and pat each other on the back. Tell your partner what you notice they did well. This uses a little bit of empathy, as you get to know what feelings your partner tends to struggle with more than others. When you see him or her feel the feelings and do the right thing, let ’em know how much you admire that hard work!


These are things anyone can learn. Coming to premarital therapy to work on these skills doesn’t mean you aren’t ready for marriage (if you are “already going to counseling“). It means you are committed enough to the relationship that you are willing to improve the ways you interact with each other. This facilitates successful decision-making (“where will we live?” and “should I take this job?”), execution of life tasks (“I hate taking out the trash- can that be your chore?” and “who will pick up the kids this afternoon?”and resolution of disagreements (“I just don’t like spending every holiday with your family” and “I wish we saved more money”).


September 2019




Are you following?



No matter how tough a time Sara was having with her anxiety, she just didn’t believe that she deserved to spend the money to see a therapist.

There is a basic level of self-worth required to participate in therapy, simply because doing so requires that you set aside time and money for yourself. As a Systems-Thinker, I know that everyone in your life benefits from you improving yourself through therapeutic intervention. So your therapy is actually NOT just for you!

AND, the reason most people go to therapy is so that they will feel better themselves.

Fundamentally, do you believe you deserve to do what it takes to feel better?

Lots of people think negatively about going to therapy. I have a hard time understanding this since therapy is: one full hour (or 50 minutes) of focus on improving YOUR LIFE.

How do you poo-poo an hour of self-improvment?!

“But I don’t need help.”

What would you like to be more fun/rewarding/fulfilling/satisfying/lucrative in your life? By going to therapy, you’ve got someone there for you (who happens to be trained to help people create change) who can help you make whatever it is in your life that you want to be better, BETTER. Even if you don’t need help and you should be able to do it by yourself. (Damn American ideals.)

The sole habit of spending time each week on improving something important to you engages your sense that you are worth focusing on. Having someone who will encourage your strengths, as you are focusing on this life-improvement, will additionally reinforce the truth that YOU ARE WORTH IT.

The above are ways that a regular therapy appointment can improve your self-esteem. But these could also be achieved by spending money on a class to learn a new skill or hobby. Or participating in a group for networking or exploring a hobby.
What if the time and money you spent each week was to a person whose main focus was on noticing and highlighting YOUR personal strengths?

All of us have innate strengths and proclivities.  It’s not a value thing- like it or not, there are things that come easy to you, are rewarding when you do them, and you are natural at. Everyone has strengths. If you aren’t well aware of yours, working with someone who is training to see these things and point them out to you can really help.

September 2019



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We went to Couples Therapy!


Achieving what brought you to therapy is usually so much more fulfilling than you imagined it would be.

But how long will that take?

One of the questions I ask new clients at the onset of our work together is how long they expect their therapy to last. Some clients who are new to therapy (especially if they don’t want to be there) expect their problems to be solved quickly- sometimes in just a few sessions. Even if they are seeking solutions to problems that have been going on for years.

Dr. Malcolm Miller, Ph.D. explains that “Brief Therapy” lasts between 10-20 sessions with clear, focused goals and specific assignments for the clients between sessions. A 2009 Dutch study suggested that a longer duration of treatment may prevent return to mental health care.

And yet, “NOW” is usually accommodated in most other areas of life.

And why shouldn’t it be? If I can use an app. to find a date who is near me right now, use an app. to call a car to pick me up right now, post what movie I’m seeing right now so that all of my followers know where I am this very second, why shouldn’t I expect my anxiety to go away or my relationship to heal or my hatred of my body to eradicate just as quickly?

And, the challenges that bring people to therapy usually didn’t happen so suddenly.

Now, I’m not suggesting that a client’s duration in therapy need parallel the duration of the problems. Each person is unique and has unique desires for what they get out of their therapy. And the things you do to continue your healing should still continue after you stop seeing your therapist. If you are coming to therapy with full intentions to make changes, positive growth can and will happen more quickly than the unintentional fall into problems.

However, attending just a few therapy sessions, so I can say, “I tried therapy!” isn’t a whole-hearted effort to really reap all that consistent therapy has provided to millions of people since psychotherapy became a titled thing in the mid-1800’s.

Here is how you can get the most out of every single therapy session:

>>>tell your therapist what you think is working
If you noticed something in a session that was helpful, let her know.

>>>tell your therapist if you don’t like something about your sessions
The whole point of that hour is for you to get what you need. This doesn’t mean you’ll always feel good in session, but if you don’t think something is right, this is important to bring up because it will contribute to you getting the help you need.

>>>communicate your expectations about therapy
If you only have the time or money for a few sessions, let your therapist know. A different approach will be used with a client who expects to only be there a few sessions. The benefits of longer-term therapy may not be possible in just a few weeks, but with that information, a therapist can make sure you get the most out of the time you are working together.

>>>be up front about reasons for ending your work together
In the best case scenario, both client and therapist know that the last time they meet will be the last time they meet. It is important to your emotional and relational health for an appropriate termination to occur and for you and your therapist to end your work together collaboratively. A good therapist will modify treatment if cost or scheduling keeps clients from coming to therapy for as long as they’d like. But only if the therapist knows a client’s limitations.

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August 2019




5 Healthy Moves Every College Parent Should Make


Having a child leave for college may be the biggest life transition for a family.

You’ve been preparing him or her to launch for 18 years and now, for better or worse, the time has come for them to leave. Whether you are thrilled to see them off or tearful about the major changes that are happening, there are things you can do to make this transition better for everyone.

Here are a few:

1) Choose your days.  Something I recommend to college kids and their parents is to choose which day of the week when 1) kid will call or facetime the parent and 2) parent(s) will call or facetime their kid. Having these already designated days each week eliminates family members concern about bothering the other, “only calling” when needing something, or feeling alone. Additional calls can be made by anyone during the week, as desired. And, we all know that we will at least check-in on those days each week.
Texting doesn’t count. Start off with calls on your days and downshift, if you’d like, over time.


2) Discuss the budget. No matter how financially empowered you’ve raised your child to be, how you and (s)he exchange and spend money now will be different. How will your kid get money for food/gasoline/hygiene? How will your kid get money for clothes/fun/activities? How will your kid get money for books/school supplies/class project materials? Is there a set allowance that you’ll give and your kid is expected to budget all of their needs with it? If not, are you okay with a “call when you need more money” set up?  Is your kid going to work? Is there work study available? Talk about all of these with your kid. The idea is that they are becoming more and more financially independent from you, and able to manage money on their own. This isn’t to say you can’t help out, but choose to do so out of a plan so that everyone is on the same page and can feel more accepting of the transition.


3) Talk to your kid about their room. Maybe you’ve been eagerly anticipating turning it into a library/office/TV/crafting room. Still, for the first few visits home, it might be really nice for your kid to have their familiar room to come back to. The other end of that spectrum is that parents may intend to keep the kid’s room as-is indefinitely. Which, after a year or so, could feel regressive to your kid. They want you to be resilient enough for this life change and not like you are just waiting for them to move back home. Talk to your college student about your thoughts and plans for their room and find out what they’d like so you can adjust together, as a family.


4) Get a hobby. Your child (young adult) will feel better knowing you are doing well. They will know that, not only because your report is “everything here is fine!” but because you have things you are excited about in your life to share with them when they share things with you that they are excited about in their new life.


5) Date! Remember when you didn’t have this other human living in your house? You get to re-visit that now!
Many college parents aren’t partnered with their child’s other parent. Whether you are in a relationship with your kid’s parent, or with their step-parent, do you remember this word?
If you aren’t in a relationship, what would it be like to seek one? Now that your kid doesn’t need you as consistently, you have more time and space to do that!


August 2019



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How Meditation Will Improve Your Marriage

Mindfulness may be the most important thing you can work on for yourself if you want a better relationship.

How do I become more mindful?
(say it with a woo woo voice)


To meditate, or to focus your mind for a period of time on one thing, is also a method of relaxation. It is practice at not allowing yourself to be distracted. When you regularly choose to focus on one thing for a period of time you improve your ability to be mindful of, or conscious of, what is happening in that moment. This is really great because the more mindful a person is, the more room they have to decide how to respond to their partner.

When you undertake a meditation practice, you begin to more readily choose how you respond to your spouse, as opposed to unconsciously reacting based on emotion. When you have the opportunity to choose how you answer your spouse or what you say when they do something you wish they hadn’t, you have a chance to choose words and actions that won’t escalate the conversation to a fight.Meditation alters the prefrontal cortex in the brain, allowing us to choose our words and behaviors: how you communicate with someone, how you behave in the midst of conflict, and how able you are to be respectful, even when you are angry.

Couples can learn all the skills in the book about “good communication” and “fighting fair” but if they aren’t able to be present enough to use these skills, what’s the point?

Meditation makes this possible.


•Think you aren’t woo woo enough to meditate?

Download a meditation app. like “Calm” or “Stop, Breathe & Think” to guide you.


• “Can’t” meditate because your mind wanders too much?

Well guess what- that’s what is supposed to happen.

Each time your mind wanders is another opportunity to practice bringing your focus back to focus on your breath (or a word, or a sound) every single time you notice your attention wandering.

Expecting our brain not to think is like expecting our heart not to beat.

It is going to. It is supposed to. Practice exerting your ability to decide what it will think about and focus on.

Please forward this to someone you wish were more mindful. 

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August 2019



Are you complaining too much?

Some would argue that one complaint is one complaint too many.
Sometimes, it feels like you just can’t help but complain.

How do you know when it is too much?


1) You feel bad more than you’d like.

If I’m thinking about how amazing it will feel to lay in the sun, next to the pool, occasionally cooling off with a dip, I’m going to relish in a taste of that enlivened relaxation, simply by thinking about it. Meanwhile, if I’m thinking about how terrible the service was when I picked up coffee earlier today, I’m going to keep feeling aggravated and annoyed. And if I’m talking about that terrible service, I am thinking about that terrible service.

Our thoughts create our feelings.

Simply by shifting my thoughts (and therefore my words) away from a complaint, I won’t feel those un-fun feelings so much of the time.
Simple, though not necessarily easy, right? But it totally is do-able. More on that in future articles. Another way you can be alerted that you are complaining too much, is when

2) Things aren’t changing.

When we are focused on solutions, changes happen. Your ability to make something the way you want it to be is 100% based on your ability to see what you want. We can’t get to a destination if we don’t know what it is. Reviewing and reliving what sucked, what was dumb, what didn’t work- only keeps us stuck there.
Let’s figure out what we DO want and how to get there, rather than wasting time on how bad it is now, and keeping it that way.

Finally, another way to know if you are complaining too much is:

3) People tell you “it’s not that bad.”

People say things like this when they are uncomfortable with your discomfort. If someone else is trying to convince you that whatever you’re complaining about isn’t that bad, it is because they have had more than their fill of your complaints about it. 

Do something about it!

Here are your only three options, when you don’t like what is happening:

-change it
-accept it

These really are your only 3 options ever. Choose one and stop being annoying to everyone else.

Danielle A. Vincent has a step-by-step approach to this:



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July 2019





Are you too preoccupied with your body to focus on health?

I sat in with Registered Dieticians Kathy Kimbrough and Rachael McLellan on their by monthly Health At Every Size support group this past week.

Many great topics came up as we discussed striving for body acceptance, no matter the size or shape of the body we are living in today.

One challenge that came up was: this is a foreign idea to many people.

The concept of accepting oneself in whatever size body he or she has, though this is the most logical stance to have (I am this way, resisting it doesn’t change it- it only makes me feel bad/struggled/defeated.) it is in many cases in our society, a radical way of life.

A Health At Every Size mentality includes things like:

Respect –Celebrating body diversity and honoring differences in size, age, race, ethnicity, gender, dis/ability, sexual orientation, religion, class, and other human attributes.

Challenging scientific and cultural assumptions.

Finding the joy in moving one’s body and being physically active.

Eating in a flexible and attuned manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite.

It’s hard not to get behind all of that, right?

For more info. on what HAES is all about, check out

Kathy and Rachael are two of the most approachable dietitians I have met (though there are quite a few here in Austin!).

If you are curious about Health At Every Size,

what its like to check out the free, no-commitment, one-hour group that meets monthly,

or anything else about being physically healthy without being obsessed with looking a certain way,

you can shoot either of these friendly, compassionate women an email:

Kathy Kimbrough
Rachael McLellan

July 2019


Did you take enough ME Time on your last vaca?


You are rushing to your gate.
The relaxing couples’ vacation you’ve looked forward to is finally here. You’ve finally got tons of time to spend with each other.

Funny thing is, more and more people are deciding to schedule in Me Time on their vacations.

Is this just a self-centered, individualist- American thing? Might there be some value to taking time to yourself when you’re taking a trip?


A few things to consider:

the things that work well in your life should be happening on vacation too

People probably like conversing with you much more when you’ve brushed your teeth in the morning. Makes sense to keep brushing, even though you’ve gone on vacation, right? Likewise with any of the self-care activities you do in order to feel better when you are at home. Maybe you try a different way of being active, but if you normally workout, do something that your body enjoys on your vacation, too. Maybe you find a new place of worship, but if you  normally connect with a faith community, find time to connect with your faith- either with others or on your own- while you are traveling.


consistency & momentum in your recovery/treatment/growth

It can be truly beneficial to one’s recovery to briefly get out of the regular, day-to-day life schedule, in order to gain new perspective. No matter how mindful we may be, exploring a new place, seeing new things, and breathing fresh air gives us no choice but to be even MORE present. If you’ve been working with a therapist, it can be really useful to continue your work while you are on vacation. Having a through line- especially if you are newly sober from a substance or relationship- can be immensely valuable.


couples fight

Asked why he finds it useful to plan on having alone time while on vacation, one 30-year-old man in a relationship said, “A lot of couples get in fights on vacation because duh you are spending 100% of your time together when normally you don’t.” He agreed that keeping scheduled therapy sessions (meeting online or by phone) is a really important way to make vacations as enjoyable as possible.


We know that in order to be our best for others, we have to take care of ourselves.

It is okay to do that. In fact, it is PREFERRED that you do that- take care of yourself- whether that means time alone to read or explore where you are visiting on your own, listen to music, or even check in with your therapist. It is preferred that you take care of yourself so that you can be at your best for your loved ones.


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June 2019




68 percent of those in a recent survey reported negative attitudes about discussing finances with their fiancés.

Believe it or not, 5 percent would even call off the wedding if they discussed finances. 

I can’t think of many people (except my financial advisor colleagues) who actually delight at the idea of discussing money- with anyone. Let alone with that person you are happy to be interested in and happy to have interested in you and WHY WOULD YOU GO AND eF THAT UP BY TALKING ABOUT MONEY?!

That mentality makes total sense to me.

Except money is just paper. Money is just numbers listed in your bank account. Based on that reality, what’s the big deal?

But money is a construct that represents our values and our sense of worth. So, since that is what we are really discussing when we talk about “money,” feelings are certainly stirred.

Financial planners can be helpful in preparing to manage finances with someone else. And, since there is so much more to the idea of money management by the time we reach adulthood: regrets and hopes and certainties and uncertainties… why not have a place to address all of this stuff where

1) neither of you has to be the first to bring it up and

2) you’ve got a trained mental health professional there to help you with communication and potential overwhelm.


Premarital therapy is so so so useful for so many reasons (and fun! *See next article!)- including financial discussions. Finances may already be one of your relationship’s strengths. Why not make it one, if it isn’t already?

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May 2019


Schedule a premarital consultation.



Which reason explains why premarital counseling is Kathryn Gates’ favorite work to do with couples?

A) teaching communication skills to people who are excited and pleasant is really fun, compared to doing it with people who are at each others’ necks

B) proactive planning makes sense for career/health/vacations, so it feels good doing it with the main relationship in a person’s life

C) Kathryn is a romantic, so learning the love stories of couples preparing their lives together delights her more than almost anything else.


It’s a trick question. They are all true.
I love working with couples to strengthen the foundation of their partnership. And I can guarantee you that premarital counseling will be the most memorable part of your wedding planning.


Here are three reasons why.


1) You solve the problems that you discover during the rest of your planning.
In my early 20’s, I had a job that became invaluable to my then unknown career as a Marriage and Family Therapist. I worked as a Bridal Consultant, selling wedding gowns and accessories to brides and their wedding parties. Though I hadn’t had much to do with weddings up until that point, I couldn’t have learned more quickly how much conflict occurs during the planning of a wedding.
Mother of the Bride wants a different dress than the bride wants. The bridesmaids all hate the dress the bride has picked out (or, since you let them choose their own style of dress, someone still hates the color). “Why did you choose that date?!” “Why did you choose that location?!” “Why are you serving that at the reception?!” Never are loved ones more opinionated than in the planning of an event focused on one very specific couple that is not them!
For those who sign up for premarital counseling, you have a place not only to come vent about all of that nonsense, you have a place to actually solve the problems that arise.
There is something about the challenges that arise in the planning of a wedding and the required teamwork to navigate it all that preps a couple for teamwork in a life together. Scheduling specific appointments along the way to address what is coming up, and to have at hand a therapist who teaches conflict resolution, effective communication, and family cooperation is invaluable.

2) You learn about YOU.
The Prepare-Enrich program is sort of like a Myers-Briggs for your partnership. If you enjoy reading your horoscope, learning about your enneagram wing, or taking quizzes on social media about which Disney character you are most connected to, you will love doing this premarital work. You get to learn your relationships strengths, growth areas, how each of your families contributes to who you are as a couple and of course, specific ways to best navigate your life together using all of the information gained.

3) You investment in the rest of your life.
Unlike the cake that will be eaten, the flower petals that will be swept up from the aisle, and even the hangover that will subside the morning after that groomsman enjoyed the open bar a little too much, premarital therapy will benefit you for years and years to come.
You will lay a firmer foundation for your partnership that will benefit your mood throughout your day-to-day lives. This firm foundation you create in premarital counseling will benefit any children you have, because as parents, you’ll be on the same team and able to raise your kids with the values you’ve already identified and agreed are important to you both. And everyone you interact with- coworkers, extended family, neighbors, friends- will benefit from your relationship being cooperative, thanks to the focus you put on it in preparation for the wedding.

Who do you know that is engaged, recently married, or talking about a long-term commitment, who might benefit from these ideas?

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May 2019





Are you sure you want to end it?

by Jeff Guenther

Sometimes people end therapy instead of speaking up and asking for what they want in therapy. Your therapist is trying their very best to meet your needs, but sometimes they might be a little off. Maybe you feel like they are focusing on the wrong thing. Or they are spending too much time on your past. Or they don’t really get how you’re feeling. Or you want them to challenge you more. There are tons of things that might not be working for you that your therapist isn’t actually aware of. We therapists like to think that we can figure out what our clients need and want from therapy. But that’s not always the case. So even if your therapist isn’t asking for feedback, you should be more than willing to give it to them. Trust me, we love to get feedback on how counseling is going for you. It helps us become better. So before you think about ending therapy because it’s not quite working how you want it to, first try to ask the therapist for exactly what you want from them. It could change everything.

Do you want a different therapist?

Maybe you have tried to give your therapist feedback and it just didn’t turn out right. Or maybe you don’t feel like continuing to try with your therapist because you feel it’s not a good fit. Before you end therapy completely, you might want to give another therapist a try. Part 1 of this series will help you find a new therapist.

Even if you have worked with a therapist for a while, it may turn out that they are just not the best match for you. There could be many reasons for this. But what you need to realize is that all therapists are different. Therapists don’t practice the same way. We all have different ways of looking at things and treating issues. An amazing therapist for your friend could be a total bore for you. So before you quit for good, test out another therapist that has a different style. You may find what you’re looking for the second (or third) time around.

Maybe you just need a break

As much as I personally love going to therapy, I need a break sometimes. Therapy can be exhausting. A therapist will typically try to make sure that not every session is emotionally overwhelming. Clients would burn out from therapy if they had to do a ton of emotional work every single session. But even if heavy sessions are balanced out with lighter ones, it’s still totally fine to want a break. So check in with yourself and see if you just want to take some time off and go back later. Or tell your therapist that you’re not quite sure if you want to officially end therapy forever and that you might come back in the future.

How do you know it’s time to end therapy?

Some common reasons you might want to end counseling are:

  • You don’t feel like your growing anymore.
  • You’re not feeling challenged by your therapist anymore.
  • You solved the initial problem that brought you in.
  • You’ve met all or most of your goals.
  • It’s just too expensive.
  • There are other things you’d like to do with your time that could bring more value to your life.
  • You feel like you’re not seeing progress or getting better.
  • You want to try a different healer, like an acupuncturist or life coach.
  • You’re emotionally exhausted.
  • It’s summer and you just want to have fun and maybe you feel like avoiding your problems for a bit. (This is a totally legit reason to stop seeing a counselor).

The list can go on and on. You don’t need the best reason in the world to stop seeing your therapist. But I would really encourage you to ask yourself, and maybe discuss with your therapist, if your desire to stop is because you want to avoid your problem. Avoidance is an okay reason to stop. But it’s better to be honest with yourself and your therapist if that is the reason. Because if avoidance is the main reason you don’t want to talk anymore, it might actually be a good idea to try and get through the discomfort instead of running from it.

Read Jeff Guenther’s full article on ending therapy.

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May 2019




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5 Reasons You Should Work with an Online Therapist


How many Austinites does it take to change a lightbulb?

It takes two: one to change the lightbulb, and one to talk about how great the old lightbulb was.

That’s my favorite Austin joke.
Now, I’m not saying it was so much greater then, but when I moved to Austin at the end of ’09, traffic was not even enough to be called “traffic.” At least not for someone from Los Angeles. Sure, there would be slow moving on I-35 at rush hour. But, that was it. Any other time, you could get all the way from Wells Branch (where my first Austin apartment was) to William Cannon (where my first Austin job was) in less than 30 minutes, any time of day.

Now, not so much.

Due to the difficulty getting around in Austin as it continues to overpopulate, I have chosen therapists for myself based upon their office location being on my commute. This wasn’t necessarily the best factor in determining that a therapist would be a good fit for me. Closest proximity does not equate to highest quality. At least not in this instance.

That’s why the first reason you should be working with an online therapist is that, you can work with your therapist with ZERO commute.
Sit on your couch or at your desk, enjoy your hot coffee or cold La Croix, and log on to meet with your online therapist. It couldn’t be more convenient. You don’t have to get gas. You don’t have to factor in drive time. You don’t even have to brush your teeth.
You can also maintain your therapy while you travel. But more on that in future articles…

2.  When I worked with Eating Recovery Center, part of my job was to find outpatient therapists for those in our program. Each patient needed a therapist in their hometown so they could continue recovery after discharging from the Partial Hospitalization Program. Our clients came from all over Texas and some of them from towns where the nearest therapist was 30 miles away. Nevermind whether that therapist was trained to work with eating disorders or not.
Now let’s be clear, no part of recovering from an eating disorder is easy or convenient. And so many people do make long roundtrip drives to see the nearest professional who can hopefully provide needed support. Yet that doesn’t have to be the case. Thanks to online therapy, you don’t have to choose the closest therapist. You can be anywhere in Texas and work with the therapist who you fit with, and who is an expert in what you need support in improving, in real time, as long as there is wi-fi.

3.  I’ve worked as on online therapist for about 8 or 9 years now and one of my favorite aspects of it is the way that people are able to express themselves so differently using different modalities. Folks I’d worked with for years found themselves opening up about topics like never before when we were typing our communication. Asked about benefits of online therapy, a 30-year-old male said “there are times when I think I could maybe type something but its very hard to say.” With typing sessions, you use different parts of the brain to type than you do to speak. And even in video sessions, online therapy can bring out things that might not happen in an office. You feel differently in your home than you do in a therapist’s office. Which provides more possibilities for your growth.

4. The next reason that online therapy is indispensable is that since your online therapist likely has online scheduling, you may be able to have a session with your therapist at the last minute, without worrying whether they can fit you in and whether or not you are able to drive to their office that day.

 We all need extra support sometimes. I know there have been times in my life where, even though my regular session had already happened that week, something unexpected happened and I really wished I’d had access to meet with my therapist again. The roadblocks to that happening- a slew of phone calls or emails, finding time to drive to and from the therapy office, not to mention uncertainty about my therapist’s availability- kept me from that much desired session.
I have only heard of one counseling center, though there must be more, who advertises “Drop in appointments available.” With online scheduling, online meetings, and same-day availability, you can nearly “drop in” and work with your therapist in the same day: without phone tag, without untimely emails, and without concern that it would be putting anyone else out.

5. It’s 2019. Don’t you want someone who is at least tech savvy enough to use basic online communication helping you with your life?
As a client, I have worked with therapists who certainly knew their craft and had plenty of experience as mental health professionals. And yet, even as someone who’s lived 1/2 of my life pre-email, I still wasn’t sure how much this therapist could
understand my life, when she 1) didn’t have a website, 2) didn’t use email, and 3) checked voicemail only at her office on her answering machine. 
Certainly, each mental health professional determines the boundaries that make sense for their practice.

An online presence shows an amount of credibility and professionalism. For the clients who come to me, the ability to see me online is not only a convenient benefit, but a necessity. 


5 Reasons You Should Work with an Online Therapist

1) ZERO commute
2) access the expert you need 
3) access growth in different ways
4) last minute sessions
5) It’s 2019


Curious about online availability for a session? Click the purple box at the top of this page.

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April 2019


15 Ways to Move More

(without “exercising”)


Non-stop sitting increases the likelihood of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, several types of cancer and back and neck problems. Meanwhile, incorporating more movement into every day can increase your energy and productivity, and put you in a better mood. 
More important to your physical health than the one hour you spend at the gym (or in a class, or on the trail) is what your physiology gets to do all the rest of the hours you are awake.

Certainly, exercise is important: to strengthen our hearts, skeletal muscles and our lungs, to enjoy the activities of whatever the sport or movement is, and to produce all of the valuable neurotransmitters that make our brains function more optimally. But equally or even more important is to use our bodies all day long – letting our muscles move and stretch and our keeping us consciously connected with our physical selves.

Here are 15, incredibly do-able ways to use your body throughout your day:

1. Stand up for phone calls. Walk around while you talk.

2. Take the parking spot in the back. Let the closer spots go to those who really need them.

3. Take a walk on your lunch break. Go outside, if you can.

4. Stretch while you watch TV. No need to shut off connection with your body, just because you are enjoying a show. Or…

5. Trade foot rubs. Something else to do to increase circulation while you watch TV. Could be shoulder rubs, if feet turn you off.

6. Keep a stress ball handy to practice grip strength. And de-stress.

7. Make use of the stairs. They are usually super clean, because they are the least used method of changing floors.

8. Use your legs to move up or down the escalator. Don’t just stand there.

9. Go inside the restaurant. It is often faster than the drive-through.

10. Play catch with your favorite dog, child, or friend.

11. Get face-to-face to interact. Rather email/text/calling.12. MOVE to the music! Don’t hold back! You don’t need dance lessons to let music move you!

13. Use curb-side pick-up for your groceries only in a time crunch. Otherwise, let your body transport you to pick out your food.

14. Extend dinner dates to a walk after the meal. Carry on the conversation and enjoy the environment.

15. Use time in the car to practice deep breathing. Our breath is one way we can very directly connect with our physical selves. Especially when traffic gets stressful, practice full inhales through your nose, deep into your belly, then don’t inhale again until you’ve completely exhaled.

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January 2019

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What’s more common than a sinus infection?

Can you guess what percentage of us will get a sinus infection this year?


Approximately 12 percent of the U.S. population gets diagnosed with sinus infections every year.

Is that less or more than you expected? It is hard to say in Central Texas, where allergies affect most of us all year round.

With only a little more than 1 in 10 of us getting an actual sinus infection every year, it may surprise you to realize that 1 out of every 5 adults here in the U.S. experiences mental illness each year.
Not 1 in 5 of us EVER had mental illness- 20% of us experience mental illness every year.

•16 million of us had one OR MORE major depressive episodes- that is, at least 2 weeks of several symptoms of depression each day.

•More than 18% of us have experienced an anxiety disorder- like Post-Traumatic Stress, a phobia, or social anxiety.

To get more specific about the types of mental illness we are all experiencing, rates of addiction are higher for men, whereas issues like bi-polar, depression, and anxiety disorders are more prevalent in women.

Something that seems obvious, but is worth noting- when your body is chronically sick, depression is often an added bonus. And, when a person has struggled with depression, the immune system is not at its best, so other illness becomes much more likely.

Finally, numbing the pain of mental illness is pretty common. This is especially high in those with schizophrenia.

Many people have come out publicly about their own depression, anxiety, eating disorder, panic, bipolar, and personality disorders. Like other things that are associated with stigma, the more who talk about their experiences, the more others feel like it is okay to talk about their own experiences. But even though so many of us are talking about mental health, it is still associated with shame.

The following stats are from a 2008 Canadian study. Canadians are known for being more reserved than Americans, so take that into consideration…

  • Just 50% of Canadians would tell friends or co-workers that they have a family member with a mental illness, compared to 72% who would discuss a diagnosis of cancer and 68% who would talk about a family member having diabetes.
  • 42% of Canadians were unsure whether they would socialize with a friend who has a mental illness.
  • 55% of Canadians said they would be unlikely to enter a spousal relationship with someone who has a mental illness.
  • 46% of Canadians thought people use the term mental illness as an excuse for bad behaviour, and 27% said they would be fearful of being around someone who suffers from serious mental illness.

Additionally, 40% of respondents to a 2016 survey agreed they have experienced feelings of anxiety or depression but never sought medical help for it.

Now, if these studies don’t make it obvious that we’ve got to get rid of some of these misconceptions, if for no other reason than to allow people to operate in society, we also need to be less embarrassed to talk about mental health because that embarrassment keeps people from getting help.

There are things we can all do to lessen the shame associated with this aspect of health that we all deal with, personally and relationally.

I will continue to share more about what we can do to lessen the shame associated with emotional and mental distress. I hope you might be a little more open to the normalcy of mental illness.

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January 2019


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When I was working primarily as a personal trainer and exercise instructor, my colleagues and I eagerly anticipated January, when everyone would sign up for gym memberships, purchase training packages, and optimistically swear to prioritize their physical health.

I can’t say it is incredibly different working in mental health. One difference is that I don’t use the gimmicky pitches that the fitness industry does.


Buy 8 training sessions, get 2 FREE


First month FREE with new memberships!


For a limited time: Sign-up fees waived!


Bring a friend and workout for 1/2 price!


Do people really believe in the whole New Year: New You

I see people grow and change in my office all the time – there is no question that when someone decides they’d like improvement, that it is certainly possible to make whatever changes are desired. But I haven’t seen that have anything to do with what is happening on the calendar. 

But you know, if a couple of months of indulging more than usual is what it takes for someone to decide to prioritize his or her health, well so be it! If #NewYearNewYou is the motivation needed to change up your morning routine, or sign up for a class, or schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider, then so be it! Whatever gets a person headed in the right direction is worth it.

And please recognize that you can prioritize your health on February 1st, too.

And on March 17th.
And on April 14th.
And on November 8th.

Good on you for deciding to take care of yourself better than you did before.

And don’t worry if you don’t do it exactly the way you think you should in January.

Gyms are open all year ’round.


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December 2018

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Not going home for the holidays may be an appropriate choice for anyone,

especially if you are newly sober.

Whether or not going home may trigger drinking or using, it is wise to use every possible opportunity to practice intentional decision-making. This is how people learn to stay healthy (and sober, if that is what health looks like for you). Gaining the courage to set limits on other people is as big a part of healing as (and possibly more important than) abstaining from a numbing substance or behavior.

Certainly there may be triggering elements at home or around family, but that is only a fraction of what is so relevant about learning to set boundaries.


Learning to set boundaries is important to recovery because:


1) Not being around triggers helps protect sobriety,




2) being only in environments where I can take care of myself protects my sanity.


When newly sober, stressful environments are harder to be in, period. A person is learning coping skills. There is so much more going on than just learning how to abstain from alcohol.

If you have determined that “My health is now more important than pleasing [my parents, by siblings, my grandparents, my childhood friends, etc.], so I will do whatever I need to do to prioritize my health. Even if it isn’t what they expect/would prefer/demand” you can determine where and how you will best spend your holidays.

November 2018



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A Beginners Guide to Therapy.

what to expect in the first few sessions


Jeff Guenther, MS, LPC

Alright, let’s say you found a handful of therapists that could be a good match for you. You’ve had consultations with them. And now you’ve chosen a therapist. It’s time for your first official therapy session. Congratulations! You are entering what could be a life-changing relationship with your therapist. Very exciting. However, excitement isn’t the feeling you’re probably experiencing. It’s totally normal to be feeling anxious. Maybe even very anxious. You’re about to start spilling your guts to a stranger that you barely know and probably randomly found on the internet. That’s kind of a scary thing to do. You may even be thinking about not going in after all. I get it. I’m a therapist myself, but I’ve been to my fair share of therapists in the past. And even though I’m not a newbie to the counseling process, I still get anxious before the first meeting and kind of want to bail. I hope you don’t decide to do that. You should know that every therapist understands the nerves your feeling and they’ll try their best to soothe you and make you feel comfortable. And if all you want to talk about during that first session is how nervous you are or how much you don’t want to be there, then that’s totally fine.

On the other end of the spectrum, you may be super excited about having your first session. Maybe you feel like you’ve been waiting for something like this forever. Hurray! I’m really happy you’re totally into it.

Whether you’re full of nerves or can’t wait to start blabbing away on that couch, your new therapist will be ready for you and perfectly able to meet you where you’re at.

It’s really hard to write this article.

Every therapy session and every client and every therapist is different. So there is no formulaic way that early counseling sessions unfold. It depends on so many different things. Are you going for individual therapy or relationship counseling? What about family therapy or child therapy? Do you want to be there or are you being forced to be there? Is your problem about your fear of flying or because you can’t seem to maintain friendships? What kind of therapist do you have? Is your therapist strictly psychoanalytic, where you lay on a couch and they sit behind you and barely say a word? Or is your therapist sitting right across from you and asking a ton of questions? I could go on about all the possible variations. Suffice it to say, I would have to write separate articles for all the different types of situations that are possible. For now, this article is going to focus on one of the more popular circumstances for therapy. Which is individual therapy. Individual therapy is where an adult, most commonly, makes an appointment with a therapist to address a specific issue. And we are going to suppose that they willingly want to be there. Even if your situation is different, I urge you to keep reading because many of the things I mention in this article will still apply.

Everything you say is kept confidential. Well…almost everything.

The one thing that will be the same no matter what therapist you visit is that your counselor will go over confidentiality with you. You’ll need to sign a form that outlines what is kept secret and never leaves the office and when a therapist must make a report to the authorities. Be sure to ask as many questions about confidentiality as you want. It’s very important that you understand the laws around when a therapist must break confidentially. The intent around the conversation about confidentially is to make sure you feel safe knowing that you can talk about anything that’s on your mind, while also letting you know that there are specific times, especially when it comes to you or someone else being in physical danger, that it is the therapist’s duty and legal responsibility to communicate with law enforcement to keep everyone safe.

What exactly are you experiencing?

Therapists don’t judge. They conceptualize. Whether you’re cheating on your partner, failing out of school or getting into fights with your mom, we won’t criticize you or make you feel bad about it. We just want to understand your emotional experience. It’s important, especially in the first few sessions, that the therapist really try to understand what you’re going through.

For example, if you’re married and having an affair with a co-worker, it’s important to know how you’re feeling about it. Do you feel guilty, happy, truly alive, embarrassed, scared or all of the above? Do you feel justified in your actions and want to continue the secret relationship guilt free? Or do you feel completely horrible and want to end the relationship as soon as possible? Do you want to tell your partner or would you rather keep it from them? No matter the answer, a therapist will not judge your behavior or emotional experience. But if a therapist doesn’t know exactly how you feel about it, then it can be difficult to treat the issue.

Many times a client doesn’t really know how they feel about a situation. Especially with a topic as complicated as infidelity. There could be a ton of opposite and conflicting emotions happening at the same time and it takes a bit of work to sort it all out. The first sessions concentrate on digging in and really figuring out all the emotions that are on the surface and buried underneath. The therapist is like an archaeologist digging around and looking at all the findings with a compassionate, unbiased and scientific perspective.

Question time.

In order for the therapist to really get an idea of what’s going on and how you’re feeling, they may ask some common questions. These could include:

  • How long have you been experiencing the problem or issue?
  • What have you tried to cope with it?
  • What do you think the cause of it could be?
  • How often are you suffering from it?
  • What was your life like before this issue or problem was present?

There are many other questions that a therapist will ask once you start talking about your presenting problem. They’ll start out pretty general and get more detailed as the sessions move forward. You’ll be asked to really think about what’s going on and how you’re experiencing it. Some of it will feel really personal. A therapist needs to try and get to the bottom of certain issues in order to figure out how they can help. If you ever feel like you don’t want to answer a question quite yet, speak up and say so.

Often, a therapist will ask you what your goal is for therapy. It’s helpful to figure that out upfront. However it’s also okay if you don’t have a specific goal. There won’t be any pressure to try and define it early on.

Gathering history.

While the presenting issue that is bringing you in is often the focus for the first few sessions, there are times when it is set aside so the therapist can collect your full history. What this means is that a therapist will ask you a bunch of questions about your past, which could include your family, relationships, education, social life and employment history. This assessment could also focus on your past and current behaviors, thoughts and feelings. A therapist really wants to understand your personality and how your past has shaped you as a person. They want to know what messages and narratives you picked up along the way as you grew into who you are today. This will provide the therapist with important context regarding the issue you’d like to address in counseling. It will also provide the therapist with clues as to where the issue is rooted and how it formed.

Keep in mind that a therapist isn’t trying to blame your past for your current issues. For example, a therapist would never try to convince you to resent your parents for creating a current problem in your life. While your parents and how you were raised can be a topic of discussion, and may have contributed to your current issues, a counselor will engage in curiosity with you only to explore possibilities of how your issue first developed. A therapist isn’t looking to judge your parents or make you turn against them.

Process work.

You may want to enter into therapy just to process things that come up during the week. You may not have a specific issue in mind when you enter into therapy. You might just want an ally in your life who cares about you and compassionately challenges you to grow. In these cases there may not be a predictive script as to how the first few sessions start out. Many times these sessions are natural and organic and non-directive in nature.

You can guide it.

The first few sessions are super important and create a foundation for the therapeutic relationship. The therapist is trying to make sure that the client starts feeling comfortable and safe talking to the therapist as quickly as possible. Because of this, the therapist is trying their best to read your verbal and non-verbal signals. As the client, if you want to start sessions with something specific, then you should be encouraged to speak up. If you don’t want to talk about something because it feels too awkward or vulnerable, then you can change the subject and ask to table things. You, the client, can be the guide. Feel free to speak up about how you’d like sessions to go. It’s also 100% fine to ask the therapist to guide the sessions. If you don’t know what to talk about or where to start, then the therapist is perfectly capable and fully trained to take the lead.

Want some advice? Too bad.

It’s a common misconception that you can go to a therapist for professional advice. Therapists, however, are not advice givers. We are specifically trained not to give advice. Sorry for the let down. But I promise you’ll understand. Therapists want to help you figure out what you truly want to do about a situation and then encourage and empower you to do it. We would be of no real help if we just gave you advice and told you exactly what you should do. Plus, if we did give you advice and then our advice turned out to be horribly wrong, we would be on the hook for it.

Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better.

During the first few sessions, as you’re digging into emotions that you may not even know you have, you might feel worse than before. You should know this is a completely normal experience. A therapist will often help you identify and bump up against strong emotions with a goal of teaching you how not to get hijacked by them. A therapist will try to make sure you’re not completely overwhelmed by your feelings. You should know, however, that feeling difficult emotions is a good sign that you’re accessing important information. As you continue to talk to your therapist, you’ll eventually start feeling relief. And you’ll be happy to know that, with time and work, those difficult feelings might not pop up as often or manifest themselves in other unhealthy ways.

After a few sessions…

After a few sessions, you’ll have a much better idea of what to expect from a session and if the therapist is a good match for you. And hopefully you’ll be settling into a trusting relationship that will help you grow and find more peace. But how can you tell if therapy is really working? Next week we’ll explore that very question.

Jeff Guenther is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Portland, OR.

November 2018



How Can You Tell if Therapy is Working?

Jeff Guenther, MS, LPC

We’ll define what “working” means in just a bit. What you need to know first is that it may take awhile for therapy to start having it’s intended effect. Hopefully you’ll start seeing some traction after just a few sessions. But that’s often not the case. I like to look back at a client’s progress after the 3 month, 6 month and one year marks. When you’re active in therapy for that long, you can look back on your time and really start to see some of the changes that have occurred. Sometimes you’ll get “aha moments” and experience revelations in session. But what’s more common is that you’ll experience a slow, subtle, steady change over the course of therapy.

But what does it mean that therapy is “working?” There are all different types of therapists that could give different answers about how therapy is supposed to work. So keep in mind that I am just one therapist giving my opinion on how a client can tell if therapy is working for them.

I’ll just be focusing on individual therapy for this series. But if you’re going to therapy for something else (like marriage or family therapy), I urge you to keep reading because many of the things I mention in this article will still apply.

All the different ways you can tell therapy is working

A client may experience one or all of the following outcomes of therapy. They may even experience an outcome that I haven’t listed here.

You feel symptom relief

I think most people going into therapy are looking for relief from their presenting issue or problem. If the issue is straightforward, such as a fear of spiders or feelings of sadness, then symptom relief is likely something you can track pretty easily. At the start of therapy, most therapists will take note of how intense and obtrusive your symptoms are and they’ll probably keep a sharp eye on it moving forward. It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for a therapist to help you rank how painful your symptoms are on a scale of 1 to 10 and then revisit that scale periodically.

Something to note is that relief from your presenting symptoms may be up and down for a bit as you start therapy. You may feel a real sense of relief and optimism after you finally talk to someone for the first time. But then the hard work of figuring out ways to cope with the symptom or treat the symptoms might be a battle for a little while. You should eventually start feeling better at a steady pace as you get further away from the first session. And of course, as the cliche goes, it might get worse before it gets better. So keep that in mind. Also, going to therapy doesn’t mean that the symptom goes away for ever.

You feel more equipped to handle what life throws at you

If you enter therapy in order to treat your regularly occurring panic attacks a therapist might take a couple different approaches. They’ll probably want to get to the root of the panic. For example, they’ll want to know why exactly are you experiencing the panic, how you developed the panic and what triggers it. And just as important, they’ll want to equip you with tools and techniques to handle the panic attacks when they arise. Getting the panic to never come back is preferable, but is not always realistic. So the next best thing is to create a tool belt of your favorite coping skills that you can metaphorically carry with you just in case panic starts to bubble up and attempts to hijack your brain. Personally, I like to make sure that my clients have at least 5 different coping mechanisms that they can count on in any situation. Everything from breathing techniques to self talk to distraction methods is on the table. There are dozens and dozens of ways to cope with intense emotions. Your therapist wants to help you find the ones that work for you consistently.

Once a client has a strong grasp on coping skills, it often creates a feeling of confidence and strength. If feelings of panic start to rise, they won’t get to extreme levels because the confidence the client feels in handling it provides relief.

You feel at peace

You might have been compelled to start therapy because of a traumatic or big emotional event. Whether it’s losing a loved one, getting fired from a job, a bad break-up, an assault, or facing persecution for who you are, you could be emotionally activated and completely overwhelmed when you start therapy. While many things will be talked about and explored in session, one outcome that will hopefully be achieved is a sense of peace. A sense of peace with the world and a sense of peace with yourself. While becoming totally enlightened and at peace with everything forever isn’t a realistic goal, it wouldn’t be surprising if you felt more peace more often in your life as a result of therapy.

Sometimes a feeling of peace can be achieved when an unwanted thing, circumstance or person is more accepted. If that thing or person is accepted in your life and you let go of negative emotions around it, you’ll often feel more peace. Peace can also come from a place of forgiveness. A more general sense of peace can make a person more resilient and is a topic that is often explored in counseling.

The unconscious becomes conscious

One of Freud’s favorite outcomes of therapy was making the unconscious conscious. The unconscious mind houses all of our memories and past experiences. Our conscious mind doesn’t have everyday access to all of that information. It’s just too much to keep track of. But much of our behavior, thoughts, feelings and ideas have been created and influenced by our unconscious mind. So if you were to explore and get access to the unconscious stuff that makes you who you are, then you’d be able to make more deliberate decisions about who you want to be or how you want to experience the world. A therapist can help you get in touch with these unconscious influences. You two could work together to bring unseen influences to the surface so that you can be more intentional about who you want to be and what motivations you want to use in order to behave or think differently.

You are more mindful, aware and in tune with your thoughts and emotions

Even if you don’t specifically go to a mindfulness-based therapist, you’ll probably naturally start becoming more mindful and aware of how you feel and think. It’s just inevitable that improved awareness will develop as you start regularly talking about your internal experience. As you get to know your therapist and see what questions they ask and how they analyze you, you’ll start doing that on your own when you’re outside of their office.

Your improved awareness of how you feel and think will help you become more deliberate in what you want to think and feel. You’ll feel a better sense of balance and more grounded. You might not feel as reactive or quick to jump to conclusions. All of these things can be super handy as you grow and develop. Practicing the skill of observing and witnessing your feelings instead of automatically being overtaken by them can create a lot of liberation and freedom.

You feel less defensive

As we get older, we often feel defensive and protective as we experience life. It’s common to want to protect yourself if you’ve gotten hurt, been taken advantage of or simply don’t feel safe. At times, those defenses can build and build to the point where you don’t trust some people anymore. That can really get in the way when you’re developing new relationships. Especially new romantic relationships. A therapist can help figure out where those defenses have come from and which ones, if any, you want to hold on to. Or maybe which ones you want to make adjustments to, possibly replacing them with more healthy alternatives. Making an intentional choice about how you want to protect and defend yourself can be really important. It’s often important to be less defensive and closed off in order to more fully experience what life has to offer.

Your relationships improve

The most common issue to seek therapy for is relationship issues. I know this because I run TherapyDen’s therapist directory and I get to see what issues are being selected by clients looking for a therapist. With relationships being a major focus in therapy, it’s no wonder relationships tend to improve while talking to a therapist. Relationships improving can happen for a host of reasons. Therapy may be making you a better communicator. Or it could be working on figuring out how you want to act in a relationship. Counseling often focuses on the client’s intimacy issues so that they can be closer with people they care about. How a client has been loved and how they want to love others is a popular topic in therapy. Getting insight into all of these things will undoubtedly have an effect on important relationships in your life.

Something to note is that through counseling a client may figure out that they want to end unhealthy relationships in their lives. Ending these toxic relationships could be a sign that therapy is working.

You feel more like you

It’s hard to explain, but sometimes you know therapy is having a positive effect on you because you start to feel more like yourself again. You may have gone, or are currently going, through a tough time in your life. If that is the case, you may have become a bit withdrawn or avoidant. You may have regressed into some old behavior in order to cope with the stress. It’s understandable to behave, feel and think differently after going through a trauma or a big adjustment in life. If that’s the case, then talking to a therapist can be a very healing experience. You’ll know that healing is taking place when you feel like you’re acting like your old self again. You’ll feel a sense of freedom and liberation from patterns that have kept you from fully engaging with life.

You may also have the experience of feeling like a totally new person. You could go through an important transformation that allows you to feel and think things that you’ve never before been able to. Therapy could help you move on to the next developmental stage of your life with the proper care and treatment.

You really trust your therapist

Sometimes you know therapy is working simply because you’ve developed a close and trusting relationship with your therapist. Having a strong relationship with a therapist is usually the key to any successful counseling experience. If you regularly look forward to seeing your therapist and talking about your week, then there is probably something good going on. Your therapist being someone you feel comfortable saying absolutely anything to, and you knowing that you won’t be judged or criticized, means you are experiencing an important healing relationship. Developing a trusting and healing relationship with a therapist usually means you can do the same thing with someone outside of the therapy office. Which will set you up to create healthy and honest relationships in life.

I never said you’d be happier

I made sure not to say that you’d know therapy is working if you feel happier. While happiness is sometimes a wonderful side effect of therapy, it’s not always the goal. Therapy is meant to provide insight and analyzation. A therapist will care about you and show you compassion when you need it. A therapist will help you dig into your past, think about your future and help you be at peace in the moment. Therapy is great for feeling relief from symptoms and liberation from old defense mechanisms. Therapy will challenge you to be more honest in relationships and live as a more authentic human being. It will provide you with the support that you may have missed out on as a child. All of these wonderful things can take hard work in therapy. Counseling will challenge you to be honest with yourself and practice discipline when it comes to making big changes. It’s a therapists job to challenge you and encourage you to grow. Not to make you happy. As a therapist, I truly want all my clients to be happy. I’m happier when I see smiles on their faces. But I would rather ask you hard questions instead of tossing you happiness soft balls. You’re paying me to compassionately push you to grow and be honest with yourself. Not to make sure you walk out of every session smiling. I wouldn’t be a good therapist if that was my priority.

October 2018


Have you ever wondered if it might be helpful to “go talk to someone”?

Investing in psychotherapy involves time, money, and a desire to make changes with the help of a qualified clinician. Everyone has considered counseling in response to a life transition, a break-up, a death, or feeling like they have less control than they’d like.


“But can’t I get better on my own? Do I have to go to psychotherapy?”

There are, at the very least, things you can do which will move you along from where you are now. And if you so choose, will prepare you for work with a therapist and possibly make it even more quickly effective.


Do NOT See A Therapist: until you’ve done these 5 things



When you were getting to know your partner at the beginning of your relationship, you loved that they could do the things you weren’t as good at doing. 

He automatically jotted down the amount for the tip when the bill came, something you always disliked having to calculate.

She was natural at making plans for you both with your friends- which was great because scheduling wasn’t your favorite.

Thing is:

You’d always been perfectly competent to check and calculate the bill. Throughout adulthood, you’d done it, before meeting him.

You had enjoyed your social life, met up with friends regularly, and gotten yourself to appointments successfully. For years, in fact!

But now that you’ve been together for awhile, you notice that you’ve been telling yourself you can’t do some of the things your partner is so good at. Because “he’s the ___ one.”

This happens sometimes with siblings. Well-meaning parents can label their kids- even in positive terms:

“Andrea is the pretty one.”

“Nicole is the smart one.”

Great for parents to know these attributes of their kids. And great that parents tell their kids, and others, about how wonderful their kids are in these specific ways.
Hearing it enough times, Andrea naturally translates that she is NOT smart. Nicole gets the message that she is NOT pretty.
Image result for smart sister pretty sister
I see couples who are great matches and who, as individuals, limit themselves in this same way.

“Megan is the active one! She runs a bootcamp and is always the one walking our dog. She takes the kids to the park all the time- fitness is like, her thing.”
It is no surprise that Megan’s partner is struggling to be more active. Megan’s partner wants to exercise more and be “less of a bum.” 
This perspective of oneself as “a bum” is aggravated by deeming Megan “the active one.” So therefore, I am NOT active.

Does one person’s excellence cancel out another’s proficiency?

I have a friend who took piano lessons since she was 5 years old. Kara grew up playing piano and singing in choirs- at church, at school- anyone would look at Kara as a musician. Or at least, someone you’d associate with music more so than most people. The thing is, Kara’s husband plays guitar at a major metropolitan church. He has performed in other countries, is in a doctoral program for composition, and it known worldwide for his musical expertise.

Though I’ve known Kara for a couple of years, I didn’t even know she played piano until recently. When she told me, I asked why it almost seemed like a secret she was keeping. She pointed to her husband and said she doesn’t see fit to talk about her musical experience since it pales in comparison to his.

In what ways would you describe your partner?

Are you describing him/her this way because it is something you DON’T see in yourself? Do you describe him/her this way because it is something you wish you were better at?
Could it be possible that you are good at something your partner is great at?

All characters, though based upon attributes of previous clients, have had details changed. 


September 2018




Now that it is officially fall, and pumpkin spice/smell/flavor is popping up, it is only a matter of time until pumpkin pies/cookies/cakes will, too. So, what better time to examine the binge/restrict cycle so common in American culture? Those fall flavors are going to carry us right into Thanksgiving before you know it, so let’s think about our relationship with food before we even get there.

“How come every time I try to lose a few pounds, I lose control and eat exactly how I don’t want to eat?!”

Though according to the National Eating Disorder Association, only 10 million American women suffer from eating disorders, it is rare to find a girl over the age of 13 who hasn’t “watched what she ate” in attempts to change her size or shape.
For many, this insistence on restricting certain foods or on eating less than usual creates 1) a sense of control and 2) the likelihood that over-eating– especially on the restricted foods- is soon to happen.

I’m looking at you, too men! Though less advertised, men struggle with body image issues, obsessions with food and exercise, and feeling out-of-control when they eat.

Which of these can you relate to…

I eat differently when I’m alone than when I’m eating with other people.

Sometimes, I feel guilty when I eat.

Sometimes, I feel so guilty for what I ate, I do something to make up for it.

If I don’t eat the way I planned, it really messes with me.

Other people have expressed concern about my relationship with food/eating.

I wish I thought about food less often.

If you can relate to any of the above statements, your relationship with food is more complicated than it has to be. 

Believe it or not, many people who used to feel this way are now able to:

eat what they want and need to eat
when they want and need to eat it
and not think about it unless they want to think about it!

Obsessing about food is a waste of your brain space. Feeling guilty about food is a waste of your energy. And these problems are totally solvable.



Statistics from:

September 2018




It’s time to get over the stigma against mental health.

Did you know there is an entire organization devoted to supporting mental health and reducing the stigma against it? 

The mission of NAMI Austin—the Austin affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness—is to improve the lives of all persons affected by serious mental illness by providing support, education, and advocacy throughout the Metropolitan area of Austin, Texas to individuals and families affected by mental illness.

Why might this matter to you?

NAMI provides 100s of FREE groups and trainings to folks recovering from diagnosable mental health disorders AND THEIR LOVED ONES!
Not sure how to be around your partner/daughter/son/sister/brother, especially now that they have a diagnosis? NAMI CAN HELP!

Founded in 1984, NAMI Austin is dedicated to supporting the inclusion of individuals with mental illness throughout the organization. We will provide guidance, coordination and resources to promote communication and education in Central Texas by:

  • Combating stigma through education and raising public awareness that mental illnesses affect everyone and treatment works;
  • Joining all partners of the mental health system toward the common goal of a comprehensive, recovery-based model that meets the needs of all persons with serious mental illnesses in the community;
  • Empowering interested community stakeholders to become informed participants at the national, state, county and local level.

 August 2018


Interested in a free phone consultation?



Dr. Gary Chapman narrowed down the different ways we show love to specifics:

~giving gifts~
~acts of service~
~words of affirmation~
~quality time~
~physical touch~

Knowing what you naturally do when you want to show your affection is useful in understanding yourself in relationships. Possibly more helpful, is understanding how your partner naturally shows affection. He or she may be showering you with love without you even realizing it!

Additionally, if you know your partner’s style, you can try things that may be outside of your wheel house, which will affect your partner in ways they most readily feel the love you want to show.

Find out your style on the 5 Love Languages site.



August 2018




When being The Good One hurts everyone involved

One of my favorite topics in the work that I do, because its function is continually fascinating to me, is codependence.

Because this word is so readily assumed to refer to relationships involving alcohol and drugs, the word may not be the best way of referring to the nature of what I mean when I say “codependence.”

My own history of codependent behaviors proves how unnecessary drugs or alcohol are for  codependence to exist. To this day, I can count on one hand how many times either of my parents has had a drink, that I know of. I didn’t grow up in “an alcoholic household,” and I’m not an Adult Child of an Alcoholic. So why in the world would I do all the things listed in Melody Beattie’s Codependent No More in my early relationships?

It was thanks to eventually dating an alcoholic/addict that I pursued my own recovery. Thanks to my “qualifier” giving me the excuse to attend AlAnon because of his drinking/drugging, I was finally able to see that I was doing the same needy/martyred/controlling things with him as I had done with my previous teetotaling boyfriend. My behaviors did not have anything to do with alcohol. They had to do with ME.

This idea that part of the problem in an addictive relationship is created by the person who ISN’T USING may come as a shock. It can come as a shock to the user who, in recovery, comes to accept their culpability in the problems in their life. And it can come as a shock to “the good one” in the relationship, who has been motivated in large part, by the fact that they get to identify with being “the good one.”



July 2018





What to Expect When Everything is Unexpected

4 Keys to Manage Big and Sudden Life Changes

A friend got pregnant at 41 with her husband who’d had a vasectomy. They already had 2 boys, 9 and 11, and were about a year and a half into the long adoption process for a child from another country.

It is generally seen as a positive scenario when a pregnancy happens to a committed couple with the resources to support the new life. This friend was definitely in that scenario. But it was not what she and her family, at that point, had imagined would be happening.

They had not intended to get pregnant. And yet, here they were.

Have you encountered sudden life changes that you didn’t expect?

Viewed initially as a negative or positive change (my friend has definitely come to view her new son as a positive!) the unexpectedness of a change can wreack havoc to feeling empowered in our own lives. It may have taken tons of work to begin to feel a sense of control with our schedule, in our relationship with a child or a partner, or with our bodies. And then along comes a major life change, out of the blue, just when we thought we’d gotten it all figured out.


So now what can I do?

As with all changes, in time we learn how to manage. And often, we are able to see the positives of what we may have initially only looked “bad.” In the meantime, here are a few tips to keep you operating as your best self during the adjustment.

1. Keep what works.

Maintaining the things that do bring comfort, or if not comfort- regularity, can ease a transition.
If your morning routine is normally to get up, make your coffee, brush your teeth, then let the dog out, continue to do exactly that, if you can. If you normally do some stretching before bed, don’t let that fall by the wayside.
X, Y, Z can be unexpected and crazy, but you will know that you can still count on your morning cup of coffee. Or your evening meditation. Or your weekly walk with a friend. Or whatever you may have already in place that you count on to happen regularly. Regularity provides comfort.

2. Phone a friend.

Or text. Or just prioritize your social networks. “Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” is so 5 minutes ago- we now know that depending on each other is the way we were intended to operate. And the way that we truly flourish. And really, there is no doing anything completely on one’s own, unless you are literally stranded on an island. We exist in community, so don’t underestimate how sustainable the friends and neighbors around you make your existence.


3. Embody your strength.                  

And by that, lets remember that we are living inside a BODY. This doesn’t mean find time to embark on a new exercise endeavor. It means connect with your physical self. Breathe into your belly and feel what your lungs do against the back of your chair. Stretch your legs (see No. 1 re: stretch before bed) and notice what sensations there are when you do. If exercise is your jam, do that as much as you are able during this time of transition- now is NOT the time to let physical activity fall by the wayside. There is empowerment in feeling connection to our bodies, in knowing the vehicle we are driving.


4. Allow reliance on faith.

It can be very lonely, even terrifying, to think that I alone have to will something to happen. To think that I alone have to ensure my own or my loved ones’ well-being – how could little ME possibly assure that? Believing in the possibilities of all that is greater than ourselves can be such a relief when we get wrapped up in the mindset that I am the biggest, baddest entity in my own world. Other people do things that contribute to your success. Weather conditions affect the happenings in your day. Traffic allows you to be one place or another at any given time of day- or not. YOU alone have only a small part to play in how your life is affected. You can choose to place your faith in the goodness of all that is greater than you (it is okay to call this “God,” if that isn’t too scary) that allows you to focus exclusively on what you have control over. And therefore do your very best at that.

With major change, the last thing we usually want is more things we have to DO. Think of the above as 4 Key Focuses, during this time of change in your life. When we choose what is most helpful to stay focused on, the resulting actions end up getting us where we are focused on going.

June 2018



One of the top topics in my psychotherapy practice is WORK.

Looking at the Top 5 Reasons for Happy Employees and the Top 5 Reasons for Leaving a Job, it is no surprise to me as a relationship therapist, people want help with their workplace!

Top 5 Reasons for Happy Employees                                 Top 5 Reasons for Leaving a Job

1. Relationship with co-workers

2. Contribution of work to organization’s business goals

3. Meaningfulness of the job

4. Opportunities to use skills/abilities

5. Relationship with immediate supervisor

1. Minimal wage growth

2. Lack of opportunity to advance

3. Excessive overtime hours

4. A work environment that does not encourage teamwork

5. A boss that doesn’t allow you to work flexibly

What do you see that these have in common?


All of these fall into categories of Meaning, Purpose, and Relationships.

Interestingly, each of these categories also contributes greatly to a person’s level of life satisfaction.

Think over how you feel about different periods of your life. You are most fulfilled when

1)there is meaning in the things you do,

2)when you know you have a purpose, and

3)when you are an active participant in rewarding relationships.

No surprise that these things make or break your work life!

Which of these have you been most fulfilled by?

Which have most bothered you about your current position?

May 18, 2018




Therapy made my life do-able.

This is what I hear consistently from my own clients and from friends. My own life has been made so much more fulfilling and comfortable than I imagined it could be- thanks to the therapists I’ve seen over the years. So it comes as no surprise when I hear it from others. Though I’m continually delighted to hear it!
I can’t be loud enough about how meaningful and relevant AND NOT JUST FOR PSYCHOTIC PEOPLE psychotherapy is.
The demand that we get rid of the stigma against psychotherapy is tremendous. That’s why I was thrilled to learn that the editor and creative director of Print magazine, Debbie Millman also proclaims that

“the best investment I’ve ever made was in psychotherapy.”

In Tim Ferriss’ Tribe of Mentors, Debbie says therapy “changed and then saved my life in every imaginable way.”
She offers some suggestions to consider, when embarking on psychotherapy:

Therapy takes time. It takes dedication, stamina, resilience, persistence, and courage. It’s not a quick fix, but it saved my life.

Tell your therapist everything. If you edit who you are or pretend to be something you are not, or project who or how you want to be seen, it will take that much longer. Just be yourself. If you are afraid your therapist will judge you, tell them. All of these things are important to talk about.

There is no shame in feeling shame. Almost everyone does, and psychotherapy will help you understand it. There is nothing like understanding your motivations and insecurities to help you integrate those feelings into your psyche in the most healthy and authentic way.

Yes, it will be expensive. But what is more valuable than better understanding who you are? Breaking intrinsic bad habits? Getting over much of your shit (or at least understanding why you do it in the first place), and generally living a happier, more contented, more peaceful life?

Have you experienced the changes available from psychotherapy with the right clinician for you? What tips do you have for others who are on the fence about getting started, or who are embarking on that journey?
*Did you know you can do things BEFORE you get to your therapist’s couch? Things that might make getting started with him or her more efficient?

Do NOT See a Therapist Until You’ve Done These 5 Things

May 12, 2018




So you feel like you need a getaway.

What is it you want most from a vacation?

Fresh air?
Seeing new things?
Yummy food?

What is it that drives you to yearn for a vacation? This is a clue into what will allow you to function better day-to-day.

I have a client, let’s call her Lana. Lana talks about begging her husband to go on a road trip ASAP. As we explore her desire for in a road trip, she describes how glorious sunshine would feel. She says she’d love being in nature.

It is no irony that Lana recently started a new office job where she has no window nearby.  She does not leave work for lunch. And she starts her workday before the sun rises.

Lana has come up with some things she can try immediately. She is using this cue that she needs more connection to the outdoors- not just for a weekend, but regularly. Lana will step outside for just a moment each time she takes a bathroom break. There isn’t time to leave work for lunch. But there is a place outside where she can take her food. She’d like to try doing that a few times each week.

Hopefully, she and her husband will soon be on the road to Enchanted Rock, Port Aransas, or Big Bend. In the meantime, she can get the Vitamin D, fresh air, and a few moments to clear her mind and refocus that we all need as living creatures.

Studies have shown that taking breaks improves productivity. More is accomplished when we take breaks in our workday than if we had pushed through without stopping.

If we can take notice of what we crave most in a getaway, when we are craving a getaway, we can take better care of ourselves in everyday life. So that the getaway serves as icing on the cake instead of a way of keeping your head above water.

Other simple examples of applying your vaca craving to daily life:

Wish you were on a trip so you could justify doing nothing?

What help can you recruit in order to DO NOTHING in the comfort of your own town?

Family? Friends? A local hire? You can figure out how to get some of your tasks off of your plate without leaving town.

Wish you could leave town so you could break out of your norm and see and do something new?

There is no way you have seen all there is to see in Austin. I am a huge proponent of getting out of the bubble of one’s hometown. And when that isn’t immediately possible, find a new shop, park, museum, performance venue, or restaurant. There are so many right here in the 787 to check out.

Maybe even, venture north/south of the river!

Since day-to-day life happens more often than vacations, we might as well figure out how to use them wisely.

April 2018







Have you ever wondered if it might be helpful to “go talk to someone”?

Investing in psychotherapy involves time, money, and a desire to make changes with the help of a qualified clinician. Everyone has considered counseling in response to a life transition, a break-up, a death, or feeling like they have less control than they’d like.

“But can’t I get better on my own? Do I have to go to psychotherapy?”


There are, at the very least, things you can do which will move you along from where you are now. And if you so choose, will prepare you for work with a therapist and possibly make it even more quickly effective.

Do NOT See A Therapist: until you’ve done these 5 things