Anxiety and Panic

All Roads Lead to Therapy

December 2016 arrived, and I had given the year all that was left in me. Most of the year was spent cycling in and out of depressive episodes, battling severe loneliness, and questioning if moving across the country was a grave mistake. The pains of the year brought one realization to light, I could no longer go through life’s journey alone anymore. I needed something beyond that motivational speech from a good friend. I needed more than the insight that a caring coworker could provide. I needed help… I needed professional help. It was time to return to therapy.
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How to Mindfully Fire Toxic Friends & Loved Ones: A Shrink’s Guide to Setting Boundaries

"Don't cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it" - unknown 

As a Manhattan-based psychotherapist working with a high-functioning adult population, I am always surprised to encounter a repetitive theme in my office. People, no matter how smart, successful, and savvy, find it impossible to break up with their toxic jobs, relationships, and friends. Clients repeatedly walk into my practice frustrated with their life-draining, dysfunctional relationships or jobs.
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Why Are We Still Labeling Children as ‘Emotionally Disturbed’?

I'm not perfect at my job, but I know my presence makes a world of difference

I proudly landed my first school counseling job at a public school in New York City. I had been warned by fellow counselors we can never be fully prepared to take on the enormity of our role.

I admit to feeling intimidated upon hearing the label given to children of whom I would be working. The term, "emotionally disturbed (ED)" also intrigued me, but painted a picture before I even met a single child on my caseload. Not learning specific special education classifications in graduate school, I read up as much as I could about this identification. The image my mind had created included children appearing older than their natural age, possessing negativity and a toughness about them; similarly, to the many Hollywood movies about inner city kids, and contrary to the children whom I grew up with in suburban schools. And then I arrived to work on my first day, wide-eyed and with a tough exterior of my own that I anticipated I would need.
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7 More Bad, Annoying Habits of Therapists

Back in 2009, I wrote an article detailing some of the most annoying bad habits of therapists. It included things such as showing up late for a client's appointment, eating, sleeping or yawning in front of a client, or being distracted by a phone, text, email or pet.

Yes, these are all real things that happen every day in some therapists' offices. But generally, they are not signs of a good therapist, especially if they occur with regularity. (A once-in-a-while yawn is only human, after all.)

Here are seven more bad habits of therapists, habits that signal there may be a problem with your therapist's attention, focus -- or even career choice.

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Being a Contender in Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is not for the faint-of-heart. Entering therapy is a substantial risk, especially when considering there is no blue print or written guarantee that you will get better. At the same time, it is just as thrilling as it is terrifying, like a sedentary extreme sport or emotional skydiving. Based in art, philosophy, and science, psychotherapy is fierce and a force to be reckoned with, so it still surprises me when patients worry about being judged as weak for stepping up to that level of commitment.

As a licensed social worker and post-graduate fellow, I was recently ask to speak to a group of interns about entering a program for psychoanalytically-informed psychotherapy after graduation.
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Blame the Illness, Not the Patient

One of the most hurtful comments made to me during the worst of my depression was this: "You must not want to get better."

I know that person didn't intend to be spiteful or mean. She's just plain ignorant regarding mental health issues. (But I still haven't let it go, obviously.)

Comments like that are why I'm so passionate about educating folks on mental illness and eliminating the isolating stigma of our condition. Because it's hard enough fighting all the negative intrusive thoughts within our head. We don't need additional insults and negative opinions -- confirmation of our weakness -- from folks who have never wanted to die and consider all suicidal thoughts self-absorbed and pathetic.
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Brain and Behavior

You Can’t Unlearn the Progress You’ve Made

I've been repeating to myself lately something my therapist said in our session last month: "You can't unlearn your progress."

Meaning, I can take a few steps backwards in my recovery from depression and anxiety, but that doesn't erase all the lessons, skills, and wisdom acquired in my past.

Those words are consoling to me the last three or so weeks as my boundaries crumble and I go back on promises I made myself not so long ago. I know that the footprints are going in the wrong direction, but I seem incapable of making myself turn around to walk toward healing. I'm afraid that I'll lose it all -- the knowledge, the insights, the discipline that I procured the last three or so years -- as my strides reverse.

My therapist swears I won't. And I'm holding her to her word.

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The Challenge of Finding the Right Therapist

Finding the right therapist is difficult. In the last 12 years, I’ve been through half a dozen of them. I have no doubt that most of these therapists would blame me for these high turnover rates. They would say I have some sort of inability to communicate my needs or that I’m not ready to move forward.

I say that it’s simply really, really hard to find the correct fit and that the wrong fit can bring me frustration I don’t need. I would rather have no therapist than one who continually frustrates me.

A few weeks ago, I told a therapist I had gone to a handful of times that I did not want to continue seeing her. We’ll call her “Lynn.” Lynn was perfectly nice and was a good listener, but that was sort of the problem.

All she did was listen and say things like, “well, what did that feel like?” and “what would that look like to you?” Lynn was also one of those therapists who immediately wanted to delve into my family and my childhood. This approach was not at all what I was looking for. I wanted someone who would address my current situations and make suggestions.

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My Psychotherapy Story for an Eating Disorder

I live in a town where eating disorder treatment is almost nonexistent. Feeling in danger of a relapse, I decided it was time to see a therapist. She was a licensed psychologist specializing in eating disorders and women's issues. I went voluntarily, not expecting what I received.

Everything was booked and set via email. My choice. I hate calling people. She mailed me all the paperwork from her office to bring with me on my first visit. What I loved when I first met her was that she didn't even want to look at the filled-out documents during session; she was eager to get down to talking. I was nervous being there, naturally, it's sensitive material being shared with a stranger. I remember which chair I sat in and how she sat on the couch.

Eager. Ready.

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Psychotherapy Stories: Helping Angela Help Herself

It was an unseasonably warm spring afternoon, almost 80 degrees. As a new family therapist working at a home-based counseling agency, I drove toward my first client’s home, enjoying the sunshine and sipping an iced tea. I pulled up in front of the address I had been given and looked at my client’s information.

Her name was Angela, a 21-year-old single mother who lived with her parents and her two children, aged 16 months and...
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Getting by with a Little Help from My Friends — and Therapist

I came to be the client of my therapist four years ago after an intervention with two friends, older ladies from church, one who happens to be a social worker.

I had been struggling for a long time with feelings of sadness, hopelessness, guilt and worthlessness. I had been engaging in self-injury for a long time and it was getting worse. I was suicidal off and on, never committing to a plan but just worn out from a traumatic, abuse-filled childhood, and the demands of life in general.

After the intervention, my friend the social worker interviewed therapists for me and found one that she thought would work well with me. (Ordinarily I suppose I should have done this process myself, but I was too depressed to care or to think properly.)

With their support I made the appointment and went to see the therapist.

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