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Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

Martin Seligman, the inspiration behind the positive psychology movement, identified 3 thought styles that are intimately connected to how susceptible one is to depression.

These are personalization, permanence and pervasiveness.

I recently put together this little video clip about personalization.  Hope it’s helpful.

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So, if my postings have been a bit sporadic the past few months, it’s with good reason. Much to our surprise, after 8 years of unsuccessfully trying to add child #4 to our family, I seem to be very much pregnant (due in March if you’re curious).

What’s the connection between that and a flutter of anxiety? Imagine my surprise when, instead of feeling overjoyed with the discovery, I instead promptly had a massive panic attack.

Dr. Heitler, my office-mate (and yes, my mother) has a very helpful technique for figuring out what was going on that triggered that anxiety — and where my husband and I needed a pow-wow to get on with being excited about this new development.

Dr. Heitler posted a blog this week at PsychologyToday with a very nice description of the process I found so very helpful. The one sentence summary — trace back to find the “butterfly” thought that in some sub-conscious way, triggered the anxiety.

Curious what my “butterfly” was?    Seeing our camping gear ready for a weekend’s adventure “butterflied” me to concerns that a new baby would mean we would no longer be able to do this kind of family adventure. The solution — lots of fun ideas for how to tote a baby along on family outdoor adventures — and plans for leaving baby-to-be with the Grandparents as well!

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I’ve been working with a Mom whose son is being bullied.

This poor little boy survived a horrible school year of taunting, teasing and behind-the-adults back general nastiness, only to be so happy to go to summer camp and discover that the bullly was in his group. It’s no fair. No one ever should have to put up with being treated that way.

I kept thinking that bullies don’t stop in elementary school — bosses sure can be bullies, so can co-workers. And, far too often it’s one’s spouse who can be a bully. And in all these cases –it’s not ok.

So, how does one handle a situation where someone is name calling, taunting, plotting-against, teasing or worse? Here are three Power of Two Principles.

1. Leave a situation that gets too heated. If someone or something is not treating you right, exit. Exit early — no need to stick around for more taunting. Go to a different part of the playground. Help a child find a different bully-free activity. Suddenly develop an urgent need to get some water. And all the more so if it’s your spouse who isn’t sticking to the rules. Help your spouse stop bullying by leaving the situation before it gets unpleasant. (BTW, between adults one can and should then come back to the person/topic to try to address things in a more productive manner).

2. Be better than the bully. That is, be a better person than someone who thinks being nasty is ok. Take the high road. While it may never change them, it will change you. You’ll become a better and stronger person when you handle tough situations with calm, clarity, poise and grace.

3. Be positively proactive. While there’s a time to turn the other cheek, it’s for sure time to get a better plan. Instead of getting blinded by a desire for revenge, look down the road. What can you do to set-up a better situation in the future? How can you learn new tools for calmly standing up for yourself? How can you change the situation to reduce the odds you’ll be facing bullying behaviors? Keep the focus on what can I do. Be very wary of how can I get back at the bully.

Want more information on relationship safety? Check this out — http://poweroftwomarriage.com/actions/action/special_topics-safety-dv_flash/.

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It is easy to lose focus in therapy.   Therapy can become a meandering journey, a bit of a boat adrift in the sea of life struggles — tossed and turned with each new week.

Or therapy can set a clear destination – a goal, a distant shore towards which each session in it’s own way is heading you closer.

There are several ways I like to help my clients (and me!) make sure we all know where the boat is headed and that the course we are charting will take us towards that destination.

1.  Early in treatment articulate a clear goal.  Sometimes this will be a vision of what “better” might look like.  For other people a laundry list of concerns that will be resolved.  In other situations it may be relief from symptoms like depression, anxiety or marital tension.  Every so often is a new skill set– parenting skills, marriage skills, boss-management skills.

2.  I review this goal before each session to make sure that the course I am charting is heading us towards our destination.

3.  I often encourage clients to pursue treatment in blocks of about 5 sessions.  Move towards the goal for a handful (or handful plus) of sessions, then re-group.  Sometimes the re-group is a pause in treatment.  Sometimes it is just a few moments in a session to look at where we’ve been and where we are going.

I find being clear about the destination to be particularly important to keep right at the fore when working with people who come to therapy with a broad range of things that just aren’t working in their lives and/or longstanding history of depression, anxiety or other mental health challenges.  There can be so many directions to explore, so many different ports that one might go calling in.  However, by visiting them all, one risks losing momentum.  Better, I think to pick a destination, sail to it, savor it.

And then one can always pick a new port to go calling next!

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As someone who has done quite a bit of work with both children and with parents, I often find myself trying to decide which is the more optimal point to intervene — with parents or with their children.

For example, when a teen is struggling in school,  in part because things are tense at home where is the best starting point?

Certainly getting direct help for the teen is important.  Providing academic support, an open ear, and tools for problem solving about how to keep one’s own life stable and healthy is of the essence.

At the same time, help as close to the source of the problem tends to be quite effective.  That would suggest working with the parents.  Likewise, any professional help is going to have some limited time-frame.  Parents are forever.  Thus, helping parents to get to a place they can provide the kind of help their child needs might have more longevity.

Every time I start to ponder this question, I realize the answer is the chicken AND the egg come first.  Yes, get kids direct help.  And, yes, get parents better resources too.

In the end, I think the right question is  not parent or child, but what for the parents and what for the children.  If all of us working with parents made sure to always ask “what am I also doing for the child?”  And, if all of us working with children made sure to always ask “what am I doing the parents?” maybe we’d have less cracked eggs and more healthy chickens in this world.

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Sometimes it’s not a mole hill.  It’s a real genuine mountain that is up ahead.

Somehow when one is facing a mountain, it is easier to focus on things like how angry you are that your spouse isn’t doing their part, or how anxious you are about crossing the first little stream.

There is a better strategy.  Look at the whole mountain.  Put the full problem on the table.  Map it out.  In detail.  What is the complete story?  What are all the treacherous spots you are facing?  What are all the pieces that worry you?

And most important, who is on your team.  Because if your spouse is on your team, it is so critical to remember that even when the going gets tough, they are still doing their part to climb that darned hill.

And then, start climbing.  One foot at a time.  Slow and steady. Forward and upward!

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I got an invitation this week to attend a talk by Peter Wood about his book “A Bee in the Mouth.”  While I haven’t read the book, the description caught my attention.

Why are Americans so angry? Politicians launch preemptive strikes against their opponents; journalists pursue vendettas against public figures; talking heads spit venom at each other on wrathful radio and television shows. In the past, we disagreed with others, sometimes strongly, but we heard them out. Now we want to obliterate their opinions. Our public life seems more and more dominated by expressions of ungoverned rage.

Yes, why do any of us tolerate so much anger?  Why we like it in the public domain is for Wood to explore, I’m more concerned with how much trouble anger in our private lives causes.

Nothing ruins a perfectly good marriage faster than anger.  In fact, I put together a video all about the topic a few weeks ago for Power of Two Online.

Without further ado, my top 10 ways that anger can ruin a perfectly good marriage (or any other relationship for that matter!).

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