Disorders

Are You Seeing a Good Therapist? 5 More Tell-Tale Signs

If you aren’t in the psychology field, it’s hard to know what you should expect from a therapist. After all, choosing a therapist is different from looking for a surgeon or chiropractor or dermatologist. Therapy is a unique process; one that requires you to be vulnerable. In fact, you might share things with your therapist that you’ve never shared with anyone.

So how do you know if the therapist you have or one who you’re considering is actually a good clinician?
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Depression

Suicidal? 10 Tips for Keeping Yourself Alive

I remember having my first suicidal thought at the age of 13. At that time, I had discovered that my brother was gay and my sister and father completely abandoned him because of it. I had been molested by a female when I was young, and this revelation about my brother made me wonder if I was going to be gay, too. At the time, I had no clue how a person became gay.

I went on to have tragedy after tragedy arise in my life. To name just a few, I have lost two children and both of my parents; breast cancer at the age of 40, double mastectomy, chemo, two reconstruction surgeries, discovering at the end of my treatment that my husband had been living a double life for many, many years which led to my divorce, and an almost-successful suicide attempt.

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Brain and Behavior

Mom Knows Best: Overcoming Life’s Hardships

Life bruises. For others, it cripples. And, for a select few, it empowers.

As we marvel at others’ resilience during uncommon adversity, what lessons are applicable to our lives?

On a gloomy October day, the doctor’s diagnosis numbed us. “Pancreatic cancer,” he spat out. My aunt and I recoiled. The word -- cancer -- buzzed in our ears. Shoulders slumping, our mist-filled eyes met. We were dazed; cancer happens to others. Not our familial matriarch.
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Caregivers

The Psychological Impact of Divorce on Adult Children

I recently viewed the 2013 comedy, "A.C.O.D," starring Adam Scott, Clark Duke, Richard Jenkins, and Catherine O’Hara. "A.C.O.D" showcases a serious storyline in a comedic light, while addressing the psychological impact divorce can have on adult children. While I can’t speak to such an experience firsthand, I was intrigued by the subject matter. Even though they’re no longer kids, adult children may still carry the weight of divorce and unresolved childhood issues on their shoulders.

Maybe such effects manifest in their romantic relationships. They may be wary of long-term commitment. Maybe they encounter heightened stress when they’re sifting through their parents’ leftover anger and resentment, still feeling as if they have to choose sides.

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Depression

Project Semicolon: For Lives that Could Have Ended But Didn’t

There was a girl in front of me in yoga class yesterday with a long piece of text written on her side. I was squinting to see what it said. I almost pulled out my readers, but then I realized we had mirrors in front of us so she could see me struggling to try to read her skin. I thought I’d better return to tree pose.

I find all tattoos intriguing. Even the tacky ones that cover an entire body. They always tell a story that I want to hear.

I am especially intrigued when I see a semicolon, because I know, without having to utter a word to the person who has that specific kind of tattoo, that he or she is a kindred spirit.
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General

Divorce and the Practice of Dating

Growing up, many of us learned to value and naturally imagine our futures. We fantasized about who we would become when we grew up. That included who our future mates may be and what they'd look like, and our role in caring for our imaginary children. Others fantasized about a life partner or a career while children and a family were not on the agenda. For some people, singlehood without parenthood was the path. Either way, we all hoped that when we married, our unions would be happy and perhaps lifelong ones.

Most of us, when we bond or pair with another, especially when exclusive and monogamous, want it to work. However, studies described by the American Psychological Association show that "marriage and divorce are both common experiences. In Western cultures, more than 90 percent of people marry by age 50. Healthy marriages are good for couples' mental and physical health. They are also good for children; growing up in a happy home protects children from mental, physical, educational and social problems. However, about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher."

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Anger

Safely Communicating Negative Emotions

I will never forget the last scene of the 1975 movie, “The Stepford Wives.” I was only 14 at the time, but I understood the chilling implication: Meticulously coiffed, serene ladies -- even if they had to be turned into robots -- were more desirable than the messy, emotional women who openly expressed their feelings.

Unfortunately, this exaggerated tale exemplifies a deeply rooted theme in our culture, which is still alive today. That is, women have been taught and are encouraged to keep their negative emotions, such as anger and frustration inside, while maintaining an outward demeanor of calm cheerfulness.

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Bullying

Community Building After Tragedy

My satirical policy recommendation: Bowling in every street.

You chuckle. But, in the States, we are striking out at the type of grassroots events that bind neighborhoods into communities and transform wary strangers into community leaders.

Robert Putnam’s book is more apropos than ever. In his bestselling Bowling Alone, he tackles the decline of social institutions. We don’t bowl together or host neighborhood parties. Our social connectivity is now through virtual platforms.
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Anger

How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Us

The statistics are alarming. From 2009 to 2014, the number of girls between the ages of 10 and 17 hospitalized for intentionally cutting or poisoning themselves has more than doubled. This isn't the first time I'm reading about this. But it's certainly time to talk about it.

In my work with inherited family trauma, when I see a child who injures herself, I've learned to probe into the family history. The self-injurer could well be reliving aspects of a trauma she inherited from her parents or grandparents, though this is not always the case. Self-injurious behaviors can arise for other reasons as well.

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Bullying

The Hidden Face of Mental Illness

It breaks my heart every time I see it. A morning scroll through my newsfeed only to find a GoFundMe posting for funeral services of someone I knew in high school. Sometimes it's drugs, other times, suicide. Tragedies that could’ve been avoidable. People taken too young, too fast, too soon.

Every time I see their faces, I think back to what I may have thought of them in high school. Was I mean? Did I make fun of them behind their back? Did I avoid them? Was I nice? After all these years, I can’t really remember. Though I know I did my best to treat people with kindness and respect, it’s possible I joined in on the judgments or comments others around me made.

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Brain and Behavior

Compassion Fatigue in the Animal Welfare Community

Before becoming a psychotherapist, I had a career in animal welfare. I’ve worn both the boots and the sandals -- that’s jargon for working on the law enforcement side and the shelter side -- and I’ve seen my fair share of trauma.

Whether you’re a humane officer or a shelter volunteer, a vet tech or an animal rights activist, you have likely seen, heard about, or experienced things that most people can’t even begin to understand. Long-term exposure to abuse and neglect, euthanasia, and grief-stricken clients not only can affect your work productivity and satisfaction, but it can also wear on you mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. If you feel like you care so much that it hurts, you may be struggling with compassion fatigue.
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