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Mindfulness & Stress Reduction

Do you feel stressed? Overworked? Negative? Like you can never get a handle on the tasks that pile up on a daily basis? You’re not alone. Life is busy, and it only continues to become more stressful and overwhelming as our days go by. Despite this fact of life, being stressed out doesn’t have to be the norm. You have the ability to take the steps necessary to reduce stress and anxiety so you can live a more organized and intentional life. Using Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MSRB) can help you do just that.

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MSRB) is a program that helps you learn how to calm your mind and body to help you cope with illness, pain, and stress.When learning how to use mindfulness to help reduce stress, it’s important to first understand what mindfulness is and isn’t. Being mindful isn’t “zoning out” or “turning off” but rather the act of being present in the moment. Being mindful is being able to be aware of what’s going on around you without letting your mind wander to your grocery list or the fact that you need to clean the house later. Mindfulness enables you to experience the presence without regretting the past or worrying about the future; actions that contribute to your overall stress level. Most importantly, mindfulness is intentional, active, and isn’t particularly easy to achieve. It’s human nature always to be thinking ahead and planning for your next step. However, the process of mindfulness gives you the ability to be the in the moment. Ultimately, you need to ensure that you’re controlling your mind, and your mind isn’t controlling you. This skill lets you handle stress better so when something is stressful, you’re able to process it quickly and easily.

Being able to practice mindfulness for even a few minutes a day is a great way reduce stress. Not sure how to start? A simple walk outside is a great way to begin. Start by taking note of the environment. Is it warm? Cold? Sunny? How does the air feel? Then, notice the noises around you. Are the birds signing? Can you hear snow hitting the trees? Are kids playing in the park? If intrusive thoughts enter your brain simply acknowledge them and move on. If you’re worried about work, make a mental note about it and then let the thought go. It will still be there when you’re done with your exercise, so it makes no sense being concerned with it now. Starting this practice in a place with a lot to experience (like the outdoors) makes it easier to stay in the moment. As you continue to practice this stress reduction technique, you’ll be surprised at how effective it can be.

A great perk of mindfulness is that its effects are cumulative. The more you work on being mindful, the easier it becomes to overcome stress, anxiety, and negative thoughts as they appear. Do you already have a mindfulness practice? If so, keep at it! If not, now is the perfect time to start. Simply take a few deep breaths and be with your thoughts, if only for a moment.

Counselling Burnaby Vancouver, Via Counselling & Consulting. Burnaby Counsellor Shari Wood, M.Ed., R.C.C. dedicated to helping clients begin their personal therapeutic journey. A Clinical Counsellor, specializing in helping people overcome self-doubt and build healthy relationships.


Boosting Your Self-Esteem – and Keeping It Up!

The way we tend to view ourselves has a huge impact on the way we feel. Beyond that, it can start to take over our lives in such a way that a negative image of ourselves can lead to things like depressive thoughts, poor relationships, and more. It's easy to brush away thoughts of low self-esteem for some people. Unfortunately, it's much harder for others to let those thoughts go, and they can really take a toll you.

The good news? There are so many ways to help rebuild your self-esteem. Of course, these techniques and tips are different for everyone. It all depends on why you might be feeling low about yourself in the first place. Together, we can find ways of boosting your self-esteem so you can begin to see your own value again.

If you've been trying to handle a low self-esteem mindset on your own, understand that you don't have to. Ignoring it can be extremely dangerous and harmful not only to yourself, but to your relationships. Let's take a look at a few ways in which low self-esteem can impact your life negatively.

How Does Low Self-Esteem Affect Your Life?

Unfortunately, many of the ways low self-worth can impact your life are either ignored or not fully recognized. Even if you understand some of the negative effects of a poor image of yourself, you may not be thinking of all the ways you could be damaging your own mindset, as well as your relationships. Below are some of the unexpected ways in which low self-esteem can impact your life:

You avoid social situations: Not everyone is always comfortable in certain social situations. But, if you find yourself avoiding them altogether because of how you feel about yourself, it could lead to damaging relationships. It may also eventually contribute to feelings of loneliness.

Your relationships lack intimacy: When you don't feel good about yourself, it's easy to push people away. Even relationships you've been invested in for years can start to feel distant because you're unwilling to let anyone in.

You are defensive: In order to protect yourself from feeling even worse, you may become overly-defensive toward others. If anyone says anything about you (good or bad), you might be quick to argue with them.

Underlying fear: One of the biggest ways in which low self-esteem impacts your life is bringing fear into it. A constant fear of rejection or not being good enough can really start to take over. When you're so worried about being rejected, you're likely to close yourself off even more. Again, this can damage your relationships, your career, and so much more.

Is it Possible to Rebuild Self-Esteem?

It is absolutely possible to build up your self-esteem. The important thing is getting to the root of what might be causing you to feel so unworthy to begin with. It's not enough to simply give yourself a boost here and there. It can take time and consistent effort to really rebuild your image of yourself from the ground up.

Together, we can use these skills to help you see yourself in a more positive light. It's not about a quick fix or feeling better for a few minutes. It's about a long-term solution that will allow you to sustain a positive image of yourself for life. When you start to feel better about yourself, you'll start to notice the negative effects of self-esteem don't have as much of an impact on your day-to-day life or your relationships.

Anna M. Hickey, Licensed Professional Counselor practices Counseling in Macomb Michigan. Anna's practice, Life Transitions specializes in Counseling and Divorce Mediation.


Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)

It’s not just in your head; sometimes when it rains, it pours. The dog got sick, your son forgot his backpack, you’re running late to work, and you just spilled coffee on your shirt, all before 9 am. These little annoyances can build up and lead to you getting frustrated with the people that you interact with on any given day. A co-worker, your kids, or your significant other all could be in the place you let out your aggression, despite the fact that it shouldn’t be directed toward them. This example may feel like a small part of your daily life, but for some people, these situations lead to demanding interpersonal skills and a frustrating lack of communication. Luckily, a tested therapy called interpersonal psychotherapy understands that life events can affect a person’s mood and that concise and focused treatment can help someone better handle these ups and downs.

What is Interpersonal psychotherapy?
Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) is a brief, attachment-focused psychotherapy that centers on resolving interpersonal problems and symptomatic recovery. It’s unique in the sense that it follows a highly structured and time-limited approach and is intended to be completed within 12–16 weeks. It was developed by Gerald Klerman and Myrna Weissman in the 1970s and was created to help treat major depression. It’s since then it has been adapted to help treat other mental disorders such as anxiety, postpartum depression, and bipolar disorder.

Its popularity and overall effectiveness has made it the gold standard of psychosocial treatment. In fact, IPT and Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are the only psychosocial interventions psychiatry residents are mandated to be trained in throughout the United States.

The primary goal of IPT is to help a patient improve their interpersonal and intrapersonal communication skills, develop realistic expectations in communication, and to positively react to their stressors so they can live a more balanced life. The beauty of this therapy is its nuanced nature and ability to understand that a person’s mood is a large factor in how they see and digest the world around them. IPT is based on the principle that relationships and life events impact mood and one’s mood impacts relationships and life events. The acceptance of this idea allows the practitioners of IPT to empathize with a patient and help them understand that little annoyances and stressors can truly lead to stress and overwhelm. By thoughtfully tackling how one sees the world and interprets stressors, a psychologist can help to rewire some of the instant reactions that patient experience. Bubbling anger and immediate annoyance can turn into calm understanding and thoughtful intention. A mind shift like the ones that patients experience when going through IPT allow them to be better communicators and listeners; and ultimately, better friends, partners, coworkers, and parents.

The limited timeframe of this therapy is also helpful for a lot of people as it makes them feel as if they’re completing a course or going through specific training. When someone knows that they’ll be going through a finite therapy, they tend to work more actively towards their end goal as compared to being a more passive observer.

Consider giving this useful therapy a try. A change in your mindset is on the horizon with IPT!

Dr. Takos is a Newport Beach Psychologist specializing in the treatment of adolescents and adults suffering from depression, anxiety, and trauma-and stressor-related disorders.


How is ADHD Officially Diagnosed?

Both children and adults can experience the symptoms and signs of ADHD for years without getting an official diagnosis. Sometimes, people never get the diagnosis they need, and in turn don't get the treatment they need. This isn't only a problem for the person with the disorder. It can also create issues in their personal and professional lives, affecting the people around them.

The best thing you can do if you have children is to learn the symptoms of ADHD early on. Yes, it's fair to say that some children can have trouble with attention or 'sitting still' for long periods of time. But, there is a difference between ADHD behaviors and normal childhood behaviors. If you're an adult who experiences these problems, it's worth it to get an official diagnosis from your doctor.

So, how is ADHD diagnosed professionally?

Symptoms That Go Beyond 'Average'
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder must be diagnosed by a medical professional. There is a set of criteria mental health specialists use and look for when it comes to ADHD patients, so they are treated with the right kind of care.

One of the biggest factors that allow doctors to give a proper diagnosis is looking at the symptoms themselves. If a person shows behaviors that are not considered normal or appropriate for their age, and these behaviors are consistent in different situations, an official diagnosis may be given. The symptoms must also be present for at least six months.

It's important for doctors to be able to see that the symptoms of ADHD are present in a person in different situations. With children, for example, an official diagnosis may only be given if they exhibit the same symptoms in school as they do at home.

How Do I Know If I Should Get Evaluated for ADHD?

If you're an adult who has experienced common ADHD symptoms since childhood, getting a full evaluation may help to give you peace of mind. However, one of the main reasons people go for an evaluation in the first place is because the behaviors from the disorder are disrupting their daily lives in some way.
Some problems to look out for include:

Losing jobs frequently (or quitting)
Poor work performance
Academic underachievement (or history of underachievement in the past)
Forgetting important dates or information
Chronic stress and worry
Relationship issues

As you can see, these are real-life situations that can be caused by this mental disorder. If you regularly experience any of these issues, getting a full evaluation may be necessary in order to start on a treatment plan. Keep in mind that there is no 'one test' for ADHD. It is considered to be a diagnostic evaluation and must be done by a qualified medical professional.
Different practitioners may have slightly different methods for their evaluation techniques. But, most evaluations will combine questions about family history with symptom checklists, behavioral rating scales, and tests of cognitive ability.

Whether you have shown signs of ADHD for years and are ready to determine if you have the disorder, or you're worried your child may already have it, getting a true diagnosis is the best thing you can do. You don't have to live with the signs of this disorder forever, and neither does your child. Help is available once the condition has been fully determined.

Marcy M. Caldwell, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment and assessment of adult ADHD Psychologist Philadelphia.


Are You in a Co-Dependent Relationship?

Co-dependency is not a standalone mental health problem but a learned behavior.

The term “co-dependent” was originally coined to indicate adults living with someone (usually another adult) who is an addict. The addiction can be to alcohol – and that was how the term was intended – or to drugs, gambling, sex, relationships, work, food, shopping, or any behavior that invites excess. Co-dependency may also involve emotional, physical, and sexual abuse.

Was Your Family Co-dependent?

Co-dependency can be passed down from one generation to the next, but it is not inherited. Rather, it is a set of emotional and behavioral responses learned by being part of a dysfunctional family. Children who grow up in those circumstances often copy the behaviors of other family members, and are “inoculated” to seek out other dysfunctional individuals when they grow up and start to form their own pairings.

Co-dependent relationships are largely one-sided, with the addict creating chaos and misery and the co-dependent partner so needy that he or she will put up with anger, fear, pain, or shame in order to remain in the relationship. A relationship which, however uncomfortable, is at least familiar.

Identifying the Dysfunctional Family

One of the most amazing and disconcerting elements of the dysfunctional family is that they do not “talk”. They do not acknowledge the problem, and as a result all the other normal family behaviors (feeling, needing, and trusting) are absent as well. The dysfunctional family spends an inordinate amount of time suppressing emotions and disregarding needs: only the addict is allowed to be needy, and all the energy focuses on that person. And this is how the co-dependent becomes a “survivor”, albeit inside an almost impenetrable emotional shell.

This is also how the co-dependent half of the pair “enables” the addict’s behavior, whether it is irresponsible, immature, or physically debilitating. This quid pro quo has the addictive partner taking all the help he or she can get, and the co-dependent partner glad to help because it is only through helping that he or she can feel needed and worthwhile.

You may not even realize that you are a co-dependent personality from a dysfunctional family, but there are certain traits which can help you figure it out. If you are:

Unable to set limits on what you will put up with, or unable to change those limits when it is called for

A victim of low self-esteem, even if you come off to others as thinking highly of yourself

Highly susceptible to other people’s opinions, especially when directed at you

Obsessive, to a degree where that “perfect relationship” fantasy keeps you from living in the real world

Denying your thoughts, feelings, and needs in order to take care of someone else

Having difficulty identifying and conveying your feelings, or feeling numb

Accepting the valuation of others over your own feelings of self-worth

How Can I Overcome Co-Dependency? The co-dependent personality begins forming in childhood. There are, however, a number of steps you can take to help the process. The first is facing up to your denial, in every phase of your life, from the workplace where you are known as standoffish, to the rose- (or smoke-) tinted glasses you have worn since childhood, because it was too painful to face your life head on. Once they are gone, you may be surprised to note that you haven’t done so badly for yourself, co-dependent or not.

Your friends, including the ones you may have alienated (perhaps especially those) are good sources of support. Join a support group, most of whose members are already grappling with co-dependency. Take up a hobby, maybe one you have always wanted to try but never had time for, because you were too busy being dealing with other people's needs.

Finally, learn to say “no” – a word you have seldom used. It can save your life. Also prepare for the fact that a new, non-co-dependent you may have outgrown the existing relationship, but that is okay, too.

Remember, you have the rest of your life in front of you.

Couples Counseling Boulder by Therapist Christy Weller, Psy.D. Also specializing in Psychotherapy and Psychological Assessment Services.


How to Get Along With Your Partner

There are a number of other skills that help preserve a marriage, a friendship, and even a co-worker’s loyalty. These include:

Knowing the right time and place for everything, including arguments. For example, don’t bring up the dirty clothes strewn all over the bedroom floor this morning as soon as your significant other comes in the door after a grueling day at work. How would you know it was a grueling day?

Do not argue in the heat of battle. In fact, don’t battle, because you know you will likely say things that can never be forgiven, even if the other person never brings them up again.

Make sure you have the other person’s attention. This can be as simple as eye contact, and as firm as asking that person to sit down and look at you while you explain something.

Frame all complaints and comments using the word “I”. Don’t say “You always leave you dirty clothes on the floor!” Instead say “I work late, and it’s no fun to wake up to a mess in the bedroom.” This simple reversal changes blame to need – the exact location from which to negotiate change.

Don’t sweep relationship issues under the carpet. There will come a time when you reach the breaking point, and every angry, hurtful thing you ever thought spews out of your mouth. If you can’t talk to your life partner about issues, why are you even in a relationship?

Keep the message simple – no more than three items at a time. These can be promises or problems, but it’s always best to keep the message short.

Repetition is key. The more often we hear something, the deeper it penetrates into that grey matter between our ears.

Another way to reinforce any communication is to have the other person repeat the essence of what we have said back to us. This can take the form of a verbal summary or a written one, and neither one has to sound like a kindergartner’s lesson.

Be truthful about your own needs without purposely being hurtful. If the other person is talking, learn to listen without interrupting or getting upset every time he/she says something that you would rather not hear.

If you can master these rules of communication with your husband/wife, life partner, or significant partner, you will be well on the road to an ideal partnership, which includes: being able to talk honestly about each other’s faults; being able to make each other laugh; agreeing to disagree; taking time away from each other without guilt or fear; and always having each other’s backs.

Couples Counseling Boulder by Therapist Christy Weller, Psy.D. Also specializing in Psychotherapy and Psychological Assessment Services.


Relationship Advice – How to Communicate What You Feel

Communication is the key to any successful relationship. But, communicating how we really feel about any given situation can be more difficult than we usually realize. When we aren't given the correct communication tools, or we don't do it properly, it can lead to arguments and frustration on both parties.

Thankfully, communicating what you feel, and doing it effectively, doesn't have to be extremely difficult. Use the following tips for healthier communication overall, and to make sure your partner is really able to understand how you feel when you're trying to tell them something. The clearer your communication, the less chance of conflict.
Choose Words that Don't Attack

When you're feeling a certain way (especially if you're feeling hurt), it's easy to use words that can feel like an attack on your partner, even if that isn't your intention. Saying things like "you" can instantly put your partner in defense mode. If you really want to talk about your feelings without attacking them, start statements with "I" or "we." This simple switch can help to get your point across clearly, and it will give your partner an open opportunity to listen without feeling judged.

Always Be Honest

It's easier said than done sometimes, but being completely honest is extremely important in sharing your feelings. You will feel better about your openness, and though the truth may hurt at times, in the end, it's likely to make your relationship stronger. Don't tip toe around what you're trying to say. Keep the truth as simple and as uncomplicated as possible.

Engage in Face-to-Face Conversations

In a world filled with technology, a lot of our daily communication is done via text, video chatting, email, and everything in between. Those are all fine mediums for casual conversation, but if you really have something on your mind, having a face-to-face conversation is necessary.

It's not possible to fully communicate how you're feeling if you're not looking directly at your partner. They could misconstrue what you're saying, or you won't be able to get your full emotion across in another medium. Plus, if you talk face-to-face, things are less likely to get misinterpreted, and the conversation can be resolved faster.

If you're used to communicating via mediums like text, etc., and you're worried that you won't have the right words to say in a direct conversation, consider writing down your thoughts and feelings ahead of time. Don't create a 'script,' but jotting down how you feel and some important things you want to say can increase your comfort level, and make it easier to share everything you need to with your significant other.
Share Your Feelings and Save Your Conversation Style

These simple tips can make a huge difference in the way you converse within your relationship. Expressing your feelings directly is important for your personal emotional health, and for the health of two people as a couple. When you know how to communicate what you feel properly, you'll likely experience less arguments and less frustration.

Make sure your partner is aware of these tips, as well. Two people who can communicate honestly in a relationship are always on the right track. Even if important disagreements arise (and they will), being able to be open with one another can make even the biggest problems seem manageable together.

Written by Kin Leung, MFT, providing couples therapy Burlingame


4 Ways to Cope With Work Anxiety

Everyone struggles with stress in their job at some point. Some days are just easier than others. But, it's important to realize that a little extra stress here and there is vastly different from 'work anxiety.' It is absolutely possible to feel anxious everyday at your job, for a variety of different reasons. Whether you're dealing with an unhealthy work environment, or you feel stuck in your current situation, it can lead to crippling anxiety that won't only impact your career, but your entire life.

Thankfully, getting the help of a therapist is always an option. They can help you to work through the stressors affecting your work life, and carrying over to the other areas of life. There are also several tips you can use on your own to calm the regular anxieties that might plague you on a daily basis. Use the following ways to cope with work anxiety to get through the day, until you're able to find the help you really need.

Keep Yourself Busy Around Work

Think about your daily routine. Do you get up at the last possible minute and rush out the door to the office? When you get home, do you feel drained and exhausted, so you just end up watching television or falling asleep? Reevaluating your time outside of work can be important, so you can keep yourself busy. If most of your life is just spent working and resting, it's easy to continuously get trapped in your thoughts and stresses.
Find something that you enjoy doing outside of work, and stay busy with it as often as possible. When you have something else to look forward to, it can ease the tension you might feel at your job.

Stay Active

It's been proven that exercise benefits our bodies both physically and mentally. It's a great way to reduce stress, and get yourself into a healthier mindset before going into a tough situation. Try going on a morning jog before work, or join a gym. Better yet, get a few friends involved regularly for a pickup game of basketball, etc. Regular exercise can lessen anxiety symptoms, clear your head, and allow you to feel a sense of tranquility, even in stressful situations.

Take a Break

There will always be more work to do, and if you're overwhelming yourself by not seeing an end to it, it can lead to anxious feelings. Take breaks when needed. You can answer that email after a five minute walk. In fact, utilizing a short break time outdoors is even better. Sometimes, it really does benefit to get some fresh air and experience some greenery. It usually only takes a few minutes to feel refreshed again, and far less anxious.

Figure Out What You Can Control

Oftentimes, people feel anxious on the job because it becomes overwhelming, or they feel like they have lost their grasp on their daily tasks. Instead of letting work overtake you, figure out each day what you control, and how you control it. Set up a system for project management, or figure out different tactics to answer emails, etc. Little things like this add up with time, and can make you feel like you have more power over your regular tasks than ever before.

Work can be a battle for the mind each day, especially if you're prone to stress and anxiety. Use the tips above to give yourself more peace of mind. If you're still feeling the weight of those anxious thoughts on a regular basis, help is out there.

Dr. Jeffrey Ditzel is a Psychiatrist in New York City and specializes in issues involving Anxiety and Depression.


Postpartum Depression

Why do you feel so down after having a baby?

It is "expected" that a new mom will be full of joy and happiness when she has her baby and it can be very upsetting if you feel the opposite. Roughly 40 percent to 80 percent of new moms experience a condition called Baby Blues. This emotional state of worry, tearfulness, worry, fatigue, and self-doubt starts a few days after birth.

However, if these feelings get unusually intense and last for more than two weeks, you could be having postpartum depression. One major characteristic of PPD is that daily tasks become so daunting and simple tasks seem almost impossible to accomplish, like nursing the baby or just taking a shower.

As much as 10 percent of new mothers develop PPD. However, the percentage may be higher given that a large number of women do not seek treatment. Sometimes, PPD starts before birth or even weeks after birth.

Other symptoms of postpartum depression

Feeling overwhelmed, sad, empty or hopeless
Crying regularly, more than usual and for no apparent reason
Feeling overly anxious or worrying excessively
Feeling, moody, irritable and restless
Oversleeping or unable to get sleep even when the baby has slept
Having trouble remembering details, concentrating or making simple decisions
Experiencing random bouts of anger
Eating too little or too much
Losing interest in activities that you used to enjoy
Avoiding or withdrawing from friends and family
Thinking of harming the baby or herself
Suffering from physical pain ex. muscles, joints, headaches and stomach issues
Doubting your ability to care for your child

Who is at a higher risk of getting postpartum depression?

Depression during or after a previous pregnancy
A previous bipolar disorder
A previous diagnosis of mental illness
A stressful life event after the birth, or an event during pregnancy ex. job loss, death of a loved one or illness
Having mixed feeling about a pregnancy especially if the pregnancy was not planned.
Lack of emotional support from family members or spouse
Drug abuse and alcohol problems

Any woman can experience postpartum depression regardless of the number of births she has had in the past, ethnicity, and age.

What is the treatment for postpartum depression?

There are some options available for postpartum depression. They include:
Medication - You and your doctor will decide, and most antidepressants are safe for lactating mothers and their children.

Counseling

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapy is focused on helping people recognize and change the negative behaviors and thoughts.

If postpartum depression is not treated, it may affect the health of the mother and her ability to connect with her child. The child may also have problems with behavior, eating and sleeping, so don't be afraid to reach out if you think you may be experiencing postpartum depression.

Written by Lori Ralko, M.A., RP, RSW Registered Toronto Psychotherapist


Depression Medication Explained

Depression is not a one-size-fits all mental disorder. There are many types of depression including major depression, persistent depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder, psychotic depression, peripartum (postpartum) depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder and situational depression. It is impractical to expect then that one treatment plan will be effective across all types of depression. A thorough evaluation by a psychologist or psychiatrist will help pin point the specific type of depression so that a specific treatment plan may be developed.

Patients with mild depression may positively respond to strategies that do not include medication. Lifestyle changes for example, including exercising moderately three times per week, have been proven by research to diminish the symptoms of depression. Other strategies include educating oneself about the disorder and avoiding isolation by spending time with trusted friends and family. Talk therapy may also prove to be effective. While these approaches may provide gradual incremental improvement for milder forms of depression, more severe depression may require prescription medications.

Depression is a complex mental disorder and it is not fully understood. However medical science has identified several underlying causes as follows: sexual or physical abuse, grief, drug or alcohol abuse, genetics and unexpected life events. Thyroid disorders and diseases of the endocrine system (hormones) can also cause depression. Chronic illness, including heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes may also contribute to depression. Recognizing the complexity of depression is not difficult; nor is it difficult to understand that use of antidepressants for the treatment of depression must be carefully supervised by a properly trained medical professional. An understanding by the patient as to how the chemistry of antidepressants work may be helpful.

Our brains are composed of complex communication circuits and chemicals called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters allow the chemical transmission of signals from one nerve cell to another nerve cell. You may have heard these chemicals referred to as serotonin, dopamine or norepinephrine. Serotonin is found in the brain, bowl and blood platelets. It is believed by some medical scientists to be our body’s primary “mood regulator” and an imbalance of serotonin may lead to depression. At this time science is unsure if decreased levels of serotonin cause depression or if depression causes a decreased level of serotonin. In either case, the relationship has been established and represents the basis of how antidepressants work.

You may also have heard certain antidepressants referred to as SSRIs, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. SSRIs are thought to minimize depression by increasing levels of serotonin. Said another way, they enhance nerve cell function by blocking the reabsorption (reuptake) of serotonin in the brain making more serotonin available. This class of antidepressants targets (selects) serotonin and allows the buildup of serotonin between nerve cells thereby affecting emotion and depression.

Antidepressants such as SSRI’s can take two to four weeks to produce effects. They may also cause side effects which may decrease in time. A licensed psychiatrist or psychologists can explain both benefits and potential side effects. In all cases, close supervision by your treatment provider is necessary, and if you are prescribed medication, do not stop taking the medication without first consulting with your health care provider.

Carolyn Ehrlich LCSW, CGP specializes in Relationship Counseling NYC


Stuttering Disorder in Children

What is stuttering? Most likely we’ve all encountered a person who stutters and perhaps we’ve had stuttering episodes ourselves. Stuttering is actually a speech disorder caused by “disfluencies.” Disfluencies are interruptions in the smooth cadence of speech caused by repetition of a word or syllable. Pauses between words are also disfluencies. We’ve all used the sounds “um” or “uh” from time to time and occasional use of these sounds does not necessarily impede communication. However, when a person uses too many of them, communication problems arise.

Stuttering usually begins in childhood as early as 18 months of age. In some cases the stuttering stops at age five but for other children it does not stop. Frustrated parents are left to understand the nature of stuttering and subsequent therapies to help their child maximize communication. Left untreated, an elementary school student, for example, is likely to be embarrassed by other children who tease or bully the child. Here are some symptoms to look for in the event you believe your child needs intervention:

• Child changes word or sentence structure because they anticipate stuttering
• Child avoids situations where they might be required to speak
• Disfluencies became more frequent
• Child finds speaking difficult and stressful
• Tension in the voice becomes evident

Partial word repetition occurs when the child is having difficulty moving from a consonant to the remainder of a word. An example is “G-G-Go over there.” By the third G, they are able to complete the word “go.” Sound prolongation occurs when the child again, is unable to complete a word. An example is “SSSSo why not?”

Parents can help their stuttering child by not putting pressure on them to speak perfectly all the time. They should allow communication to be fun. Using family meals to share fun conversation provides a natural relaxed setting for the child to develop confidence when speaking. Parent can also help by avoiding interruptions or harsh criticism and dictates such as “don’t talk so fast.” A more relaxed calm family atmosphere at home might also improve stuttering.

A diagnosis of stuttering may be done on a topical level by a parent or caregiver. However, a full professional diagnosis should be made by a certified speech-language pathologist. A series of tests and observations will determine the depth of the disorder and the likelihood that it will continue into adulthood. Treatments are behavioral as the child learns self awareness of their speech habits. Instruction may include breath measurements, slowing speech, lessening tension and using shorter phrases or sentences.

If stuttering continues after speech therapy fails to produce positive results, other causes should be examined. For example, could social phobia or an underlying mental illness cause the stuttering? While there is no research to support these causes in children, research is available for adults and one could infer that the adult stuttering might well have commenced in childhood. In one study (32 adults) 60% of participants had social phobia issues and in another study (64 adults) 66% had mental health disorders. While these studies claim no direct correlation between children and adult, a child that is non responsive to speech therapy might do well to seek the counsel of a certified child psychologist.

Colin B. Denney, Ph.D., is the Director of the Pacific Psychology Services Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, he is a Child Psychologist Honolulu.


The Importance Of Touch: Give A Little Love

UC Berkeley's Greater Science Center has performed enough research and experiments on the effects of touch to have a pretty good handle on what it can mean for people. Their decision, as far as an accurate description: Touch is “the primary language of compassion.”

It might seem simple, and even obvious when we actually think about touch, just how impactful it can really be. It’s one of the most natural actions in all of human nature, from the moment we’re born. A newborn baby needs several basic ingredients to live, yes, but what they really want most of all is to be held, to be touched, and to feel the love and compassion radiating from the simple and delicate touch of their parents, and people who love them. That desperate need for touch and compassion doesn’t just disappear over time. If anything, as we get older, that need continues to grow and develop.

Unfortunately, we live in a society where touch itself has become somewhat of an awkward concept. Technology has done incredible things for our world, but where it has supposedly ‘connected’ us to so many people, it’s actually done us a disservice by disconnecting us from the relationships that really matter most, and the touch that is supposed to go along with those relationships. At the end of a bad day, what’s going to provide you with more comfort? A few hours of playing around on your phone, or a compassionate, real, emotional hug?

There is no substitute for touch, or what it can provide to us emotionally. But, there is also scientific evidence to show that compassion touch actually has a positive effect on our bodies as well. Being able to break this strange limbo that touch has found itself in over the past several years is important to the overall health and wellbeing of our society, but that can be easier said than done.

When we think of loving touch, our minds usually go to the romantic side of it, which is important, but absolutely not the only form of compassionate, loving touch. Siblings, parents and children, friends, and even complete strangers can all benefit from compassionate touch at any time. Research has been shown that the simple feel of holding someone’s hand, and feeling as though they are showing genuine compassion toward you, even if you can’t see their face, can do everything from calm nerves, slow down heart rate, and offer a feeling of peace and happiness.

There is some kind of strange stigma behind touch nowadays, because we’ve been ‘trained’ to desensitize ourselves from it. With so much happening in the world all the time, it’s much easier to talk about it, post our thoughts about it on social media, rant about it, or even try to deal with these heavy concepts on our own, but that can really only work for so long before our society implodes on itself thanks to all the pressure we’re putting on our own minds and bodies.

Touch has become awkward, in a sense. Maybe it’s because you’ve never had a compassionate relationship. Perhaps your parents were loving in a different way, but never showcased the importance of touch, never gave you hugs, etc. Maybe you’ve just drifted away from physical touch because it’s easier to remain in the safety of your own world. We back away from compassionate touch for many reasons, and while there is no concrete ‘evidence’ as to why touch has fallen out of ‘popularity’ in recent years, getting it back in the limelight is certainly important for the future.

A lack of touch can make us feel rejected, unwanted, and unloved. So, adversely, imagine the greatness that comes along with even the simplest of touches from someone we love. Happiness, comfort, peace, and of course - love!

Now more than ever, as our world faces uncertain times, and it seems as though a new tragedy is showing itself every single day, we need the comfort and compassion of touch from people we care about, and from people in general. So, the next time you’re feeling blue, or lonely, or even just ‘off’ somehow, consider trading in a few minutes on your phone for a hug from someone you love. You might be surprised at just how comfortable that hug can make you feel, and you can in turn pass it on to someone else. If we all just start with one hug, it won’t take long before compassion through touch starts to fill the world again, giving us exactly what we need.

Being able to understand the past and these old, pushed away feelings and memories will help you to effect positive change in your life and not repeat what has caused suffering in the past. As a couples therapist in Pasadena I understand the obstacles and challenges that face. Donna Shanahan, LMFT Couples Therapy Pasadena, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.


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